Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Astra Militarum: Still Going Strong

As a big fan of the codex, I was sad to see my friend trade his well painted IG army for a collection of Tyranids, but it did get me thinking about the Codex a little bit.

One of the problems as new codex's tumble out of the chute, especially at the pace they have been, is that we stop looking for the gems in the codex's and even stop playing them in favor of the new hotness.

I was looking through the Astra Militarum book and thought "this book really has something to deal with everything"!

Let's run through it.  Anti-aircraft?  They have a tough well equipped anti-air flyer, access to the usual goodies everyone has access to and they have the Hydra Flakk Batteries.  Check!

Imperial Knights?  No problem.  They have enough STR 9 and Meltagun or meltabomb access even in their basic squads to scare any number of Knights.  From Veterans all armed with Meltabombs, to blobs sporting 5 meltaguns apiece, with Lascannons to boot and then you have the barrage weaponry to get around their shields if it all fails.

Need help cracking bikes?  Without their Jink saves they aren't so tough and the Psykers can help a very large number of angry Guardsman plow a bike Squad at a time completely off the table unless they are bike squads of unusual size.

Speaking of Psykers, you can afford to have the Psykers to offer protection to your main units, and a 5+ Deny the Witch ain't nothing.  Relic Plating helps protect the vehicles as well, at only three points per vehicle.  Why wouldn't you have the Psykers around since their powers are incredibly valuable to the ever present Imperial Guard blobs.

Having Ork issues?  Hordes had better really come with a plan because if there's one thing an Imperial guard force can do, its to wither an ork force to the bones.  The sheer volume of fire is enough to terrify.  The Priests and Psykers as well as Powers axes you can hide in the blobs are like a nuclear deterrent to almost any unit, horde or otherwise.  While certain units are very good at milling the blobs, such as Flayed Ones, the number of units that can truly break one is small given the priests Zealotry.

Monstrous Creatures just mean less models to kill and a LOT of high strength shots to get it down.

Need mobility to get to objectives late?  They have several units that can deep strike, outflank, infiltrate and even more that can drop out the back of Vendettas.  Deployment options are just so good for an Astra Militarum player who wants flexibility to be a part of his early game strategy.  Then there are the ubiquitous Chimras.

I tried to think of an army that this one could not adapt to and it was a hard thing to identify.  I think short of a boatload of Paladins and their crazed leader bashing into them, or as i mentioned, the Flayed ones getting enough into combat, there's just a lot of good things the blobs can handle and their steel sidekicks pick up the slack.

The Warlord Traits and the Special Order add even more versatility.

All in all I think the codex has really good legs, and always has just because of how adaptable to its meta that it can be.  Yet I hear them getting mediocre reviews from many and aren't seeing a ton of high level competitive play.  One wonders why.

For some reading on Militarum Tempestus, click here!

Kroot Riders

So I love these guys.  Do you?

In the latest Codex (and the rumors ARE swirling that it is in the schedule for replacement so we shall see what's next for them) almost every unit in the codex was made to work as it was meant to work.  Amazing,  Games Workshop hit a home run with the Codex as they finally lifted one of the most nonsensical restrictions to ever be perpetrated:  Stopping the Kroot Riders from coming along with their Kroot brethren when outflanking and infiltrating.

This undervalued fact has a few neat tricks.

The main one is of course that you now have something that is at least somewhat combat capable in the unit.  6+ saves are cool and all, but lets face it:  the Kroot Riders are necessary for their to be much hope of a tie combat when the unit gets hit.  Their Strength and attacks give the unit a chance to dish a little and at least not get blown out by the lesser melee units.  More competent units will rightly kill them, but thats okay, it's not like they cost much.

The Second thing i loved about this move is that the Kroot Gun when positioned by infiltration or outflanking gets GREAT angles on the enemy.  Think about it for a second.  If you can swing into the side arc of a Vindicator or a Hammerhead and hit it with a pair of STR 7 shots to stun it and start the pain off right, you're in good shape for the cost of doing so and can do it again if the enemy doesn't attend to you.  Take three Riders and you're actually talking about serious punch in the shooting phase.

The fact that Kroot can utilize Marker Lights is huge of course because now you're hitting on 2's with six STR 7 shots.  That just does not suck.  That the shooting can knock out dreadnoughts that are dispatched to end the threat or other like units is equally satisfying (not that competitive players use Dreadnoughts much but it's not unheard of).

The bag of tricks for them is REALLY interesting when you consider the Tau Pathfinders.  A Tau Pathfinder unit can mount up in their vehicle at the 12" line in Dawn of War Deployment (or even closer in Vanguard Deployment), make their scout move of 12", move flat out on their first turn and be 6" from the enemy's rear board edge.  Why does this matter?  Well because the Tau Pathfinders can carry the Recon Drone aboard and by doing so, can absolutely ensure that the Kroot can choose to come on either the side of the board the Pathfinders are on OR on the enemies back board edge.  Since the Kroot Riders are actually Rapid Fire weapons, you are talking about serious rear armor exposure for Imperial Knights etc...  SURPRISE!!!  The Recon Drone being within 6" of the side and enemy rear board edge allows them to come out either way giving the Kroot Riders the Snikrot treatment.  Pretty darn cool.  Imagine the Consternation of the Grots when their artillery batteries are threatened at point blank range by that.  Oh the irony.

I am very pleased with the deployment options of this underused portion of the Kroot unit.  I always see 10 Kroot and a hound, or 20 Sniper Kroot and a hound and so on.  But the lowly Kroot Riders possibilities are often under appreciated.  I hope this makes you consider using them more.

If you have some awesome stories to tell about Kroot Riders, lay 'em on me.

For some other Tau intrigue, read on!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Has the ITC FAQ overstepped itself?

The ITC FAQ (used for international play as well as here in the States at certain events) was released after some polling of attendees to their events. Frontline Gaming, who are as most know, the organizers for one of the biggest and certainly one of the most visible tournaments contributed heavily. In part the tournament success is due to the enterprise of Reece.

You can find the document by clicking this link: ITC FAQ

I recently attempted to make my way through the enormous document and I had to admit that I had to ask myself whether this FAQ over reached itself like the INAT did before it. We go through these cycles of FAQ's that "everyone is using" and local tournaments, in some unfortunate attempt to legitimize their events, adopt the document wholesale instead of using it as a starting point.

I chose a few excerpts that sort of illustrate the problem so that you don't have to scan the whole thing for examples. No matter your opinion on the rulings themselves, I think the real issue here is not whether you agree on the ruling, but rather whether they should have rules on these at all. These aren't just interpretations, they are in most cases flat out intentional core and codex rules changes!

Example 1:

Template and Blast weapons, and any other attacks or special rules that don’t roll To Hit, or hit
automatically (e.g. Imothek’s Lord of the Storm special rule), have no effect on Zooming Flyers
and Swooping Flying Monstrous Creatures. This is true even if the attacking unit has the Skyfire special rule.

Whuuuut? That really makes no sense at all since the actual rules on this are really clear. The Hard to Hit rule for Flyers is different than that for Flying Monstrous Creatures (very different). What was the point of this ruling? And why the frak can't lightning hit any of them? Its WAY faster than any of them! Lol. Editorializing aside, they are actively reversing a rule as written that isn't unclear.

Example 2 and 3:

For ease of tournament play, at this event, if a Blast or Template weapon would hit models on
more than one level of a ruin, the player making the attack must choose only one of the levels to hit.

This also is an absolute contradiction of the rules as written and no one would argue that it isn't! Its a For "ease of play"? No its not! All you have to do is count and roll. This is a stubborn throwback to 6th edition. I don't support an FAQ when it's a revisionist attempt and not just a "hey you're right, that rule could be a lot clearer" type of thing. Explosions go off in three dimensions and the fallout does as much damage as the blast does sometimes! Excluding multiple levels, especially when those higher levels could be smaller than the levels below (and thus have people totally non-obscured down below)... Seems a bad call.

Look at it through this lens, another FAQ:

If the Mawloc’s attacks destroy a Transport vehicle with embarked passengers, the passengers
disembark normally before attempting to place the Mawloc. This may cause the passengers to
be hit by the second blast marker or force the Mawloc to roll on the Deep Strike Mishap table.

Now here they are letting you attack essentially multiple "levels". First the tasty bottom of the vehicle and then the poor sods inside. Ease of play? Not so much. This also has some poor wording because it tells you that the models inside are placed before you place the Mawloc? and its effectively letting the Mawloc hit TWICE. Does this seem wrong to anyone? It does me.

Example 4:

Force weapons cannot cause Instant Death to Kharn the Betrayer even if their strength is double or more than his Toughness value (e.g. a Nemesis Daemonhammer).

Basically adding Eternal Warrior to a model that doesn't have it! Arbitrary as all get out. I know what they were going for, but rewriting the codex's entries isn't what I expect when I go to an FAQ... Applications of rules or interpreting them is one thing but this is actually rewriting the codex entry and just adding things!

Example 5:

Here's another one I scratched my head about and again because it singles one model out and not others like it

O’Vesa may join units like a normal Independent Character. However, other Independent
Characters cannot be joined to a unit containing O’Vesa. If a unit already contains another
Independent Character, this effectively prevents O’vesa from joining that unit.

Since I have never opted to use O'Vesa I suppose my rooting interest here is minimal. This one looks like someone got butt hurt and just said "not on my lawn!". But then if all it takes to get an FAQ like that is someones indignation over a trouncing, then we will be in for a veritable blizzard of these kinds of rulings in the future from the ITC FAQ. I can find a hundred thousand disgruntled gamers with a horror story at the ready.

The FAQ has a huge amount of good things to say so I am not dismissing it all as tripe nor encouraging a mass rebellion over the issue. Far from it. But I have to say, these were unwelcome finds.

They did the same thing on Invisibility. I suppose I do like the changes there and in a lot of places, which goes to show you that I don't find myself in disagreement that some changes were welcome. I just wonder if it has overreached itself in trying to add and subtract rules that don't need it. I know the FAQ has influenced me to think more about how I write my own FAQ's for the tournaments I run. Cut and pasting isn't going to be a part of the program moving forward, I think. I encourage others to use the ITC FAQ as a springboard, but do not slavishly follow all of it just to gain a little legitimacy. Selling out on something you don't 100% believe in isn't ever a winning strategy.