Friday, June 19, 2015

The Domino Dance And What It Teaches

Many tournaments have moved to fairly standardized terrain setups to maximize fairness in the match ups overall or to gain a certain motion to the game.

In the typical setup there is an LOS blocker in the center and fairly equidistant runs or other major terrain features with battlefield debris strewn here and there for flavor.

So let's think about this tactically because terrain doesn't get enough attention on any blogs.

Logically there are going to be between 2-6 objective markers in the normal games of 40K, whether they are Maelstrom or they aren't.  In certain missions, killing specific things or just more things will also factor in but let's face it:  every army is built to kill and so we can lave that PART of the mission objectives out of this discussion.

Where I'm going with this is, I find the dance around the battlefield (or as I call it, the Domino Dance) and the way that it looks at the end very interesting.  It cuts the crap and the Internet rhetoric over what's important and how "obvious" it is to do X, Y or Z.  It tells you how often those things worked and how often it didn't.

Think about it.  Apply ANY question of 40K strategy OR tactics to the final picture of battles and you get the idea of whether those pearls of wisdom have a damn bit weight or not.  

For example I recently received this pearl of wisdom from someone on a site that shall remain nameless:  "If you have Chaos Raptors or jump troops in general, then you're better off deep Striking and running to spread them out so the enemy only get's one turn of shooting and then can do nothing to stop them afterwards.  It's better than getting them shot up trying to cross the field."

Okay.  SOUNDS good.  It makes a few assumptions i probably wouldn't make but it sounds good.  Looking at the top down photos for 8 games I played, deploying the Chaos Raptors and crossing the field, do you know what I discovered?  At least one Raptor unit is there at games end in all but two and there are two Raptor units alive in 4 of the pictures.  More interesting, all 8 are wins.  The pattern I saw was the raptors more or less pushing out from the center of the enemy deployment zones center at games end, assumedly after coming right down the pipe.  In all six pictures where the Raptors survived, you can see that the Raptors are few in number in some of these pictures, so they were busy doing work but they were apparently successful.

When you look at the Domino Dance of these Raptors, staying with our example, you can see the path they likely took given the Domino setup, was up the gut to use the LOS blocker as cover in most cases, though that cover wasn't always large enough to hide them completely as you'd imagine.

So these final picture say a few things to me.  For one, I was under utilizing Rhinos as mobile cover (which I promptly fixed) in a list like mine because I was too busy worrying about slowing the Raptors down.  But I could see after the fact that they  could abut the pieces of the Domino to provide a longer more continuous line to the sides just as easily and I could probably skip shoving two together, instead opting for 1+Terrain as my way to protect and obscure them on the way in.  This little nugget was a great help.

I also noticed that there were often enemy units outside the "box" of the pincer move and that enemies often were getting line breaker.  In 5 out of eight games, the enemy got Line breaker.  That's too many.  It occurs to me that this was happening because of all the saturation I was bringing to the front lines and I made the decision to more rarely load the Rhinos up with Chaos Marines.  This really helped because with that information, having those tiny 5 man Chaos marine squads in reserve and walking them on later to deal with line breakers was way wiser.  The added shots from the Chaos Marines was so often Snap shots when in the Rhinos anyways since I pushed them all up for the use of their Dirge Casters.  This way I still could and losing a few nap shots from firing points was no great loss.

The Domino Dance before I made changes and then after looked different because there weren't nearly as many units "breaking containment" and getting free to harass or line break with really nothing I could do about them.

So for those interested in an experiment, start taking pics of the end of your battle and the lists you used.  E-mail them to  I don't need the entire battle reports, though those are fun to read.  Just the list so i can see what you started with and what was left and where it was.  I'd love to be able to look at them and see what other nuggets I can glean or what questions I can answer tactically by seeing more.  I have only done the experiment on Chaos Marines because it was such an interesting puzzle, but will be doing it more and more.

Thn when I ask a question like "Am i getting enough anti-tank in the list, and is that even my lists real problem" I can look at the end results dispassionately and answer that and probably other questions and what-ifs also..

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Adepta Sororitas in 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000 vs. Mothra

The trick, as every new codex comes out, is to figure out how to keep the oldest ones competitive.

The Adepta Sororitas have (wrongly) been maligned since the very brief days before the WitchHunters codex.  Before that it was an EXTREMELY short lived book that got swallowed up by the new 3rd Edition of Warhammer 40K and effectively was no more than a unit entry that was basically a unit you could take with Space Marines.

The longest running iteration of the Sisters of Battle to date was the WitchHunters codex, which lasted eight years and is by far the most recognizably cogent version.  A White Dwarf version came out which diverged SUBSTANTIALLY from the Witch Hunters, eliminating its connection as an Inquisition force (a mistake in my opinion).  Finally the recent codex came out for 6th Edition.

So how do we keep this codex competitive in the face of things like Space Marine Battle Companies, Necron Decurions and Eldar WraithKnight spamming?

First and foremost we have to recognize the primary threats against it.

Foremost is the possibility of facing the ridiculum that is the WraithKnights, the Mothra of the 40K world right now.  One on its own is annoying but more become overwhelmingly effective.  The army has to be able to handle the threat of this and also handle the Imperial Knights.

Let me do some math for you.  Assuming you can bring it to bear at all, you'd need 18 wounds to kill three Wraith knights.  Assuming STR 8, that means you have to get 36 hits on average to kill three of them.  Starting to sound daunting?  At BS 4 that means 54 of these STR 8 shots.

I know what you're thinking:  WTF.  Accompanying these WraithKnights will no doubt be a fusillade of STR 6 Jetbikes trying to pop your Rhinos.

The threat of this one build ties the hands pretty good doesn't it?  The shocking news is, Adepta Sororitas can do it.  Here are 60 STR 8 AP 3+ shots that can help you drop the WraithKnight, in two Combined Arms Detachments.

2 x Combined Arms Detachments of the following:

80pts  Canoness (Infernus Pistol)

135pts 5 Dominion (4 x Meltaguns, Veteran Dominion Superior w/ Combi-Melta, Simulacrum Imperialis)

70pts   Immolator (TL Multi-Melta, HK missile)

135pts 5 Dominion (4 x Meltaguns, Veteran Dominion Superior w/ Combi-Melta, Simulacrum Imperialis)

70pts   Immolator (TL Multi-Melta, HK missile)

135pts 5 Dominion (4 x Meltaguns, Veteran Dominion Superior w/ Combi-Melta, Simulacrum Imperialis)

70pts   Immolator (TL Multi-Melta, HK missile)

90pts   5 Sisters of Battle (Meltagun, Meltagun, Sister Superior w/Combi-Melta)

50pts   Rhino (Hunter Killer Missile)

90pts   5 Sisters of Battle (Meltagun, Meltagun, Sister Superior w/Combi-Melta)

50pts   Rhino (Hunter Killer Missile)

1950 Pts
22 Kill Points
62 models

So if you were wondering if this force could defeat the meanest model out right now, the answer is: probably.  Don't miss.

The second thing you have to be able to do is take out hordes.  Board control units like Canoptek scarabs and ork hordes can quickly catch you in a box and disallow you from doing anything but take the multi charges that will tie you up and whittle you to nothing over the course of the game.  Sisters of Battle like this just aren't going to survive melee well against anything decent.

Well the reality is those Rhinos are going to be the only target at first and if they assault the Rhinos, they are officially in the sights of 60 meltas.  Most Swarms and such will melt and of course most anything will melt come to think of it!  The enemy will rapidly whittle the meltas the following round but any remaining enemies will then be out in the opening for the rest of the meltas and tank shocks.  Of course there are also Bolters, which do all the work in 40K anyways.

So could it be that even a horde would do poorly in the face of certain death weaponry in this quantity?  Would you be interested to see it in a Battle Report?

Such an army as this loses nothing to move everything a maximum distance and snap fire at flyers and sheer volume will work where accuracy will not.  So hording the vehicles around if the enemy has significant air support is not a bad idea.

Adepta Sororitas are always going to be at a disadvantage it seems, but there are answers if you can afford them.  

The lack of Formations for the Adepta Sororitas does hamper their ability to compete.  For example the Space marine codex that just dropped has a web bundle and with it comes a Formation that essentially gives the Space Marines free transports.  Looking at our list, we are paying for TEN transports!  So clearly the latest codex has driven a dagger deep into our power to compete, so time will tell whether or not the scales of justice are balanced again.  Until then, fight the good fight and make them pay for every bloody inch!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Adeptus Mechanicus: Cult Mechanicus

It looks so cool...

I purchased the Cult Mechanicus codex because it had robots in it that reminded me suspiciously of awesome robots from comic books (and Games workshop knows who I'm talking about…).  I was immediately intrigued of course. not only by the similarities but also by the theme.  It's been a dream for a lot of players to see the Adeptus Mechanicus become a reality and now it has in the form of the two Codexes.  The Cult Mechanicum in particular made me take notice aesthetically speaking.

Does Size Matter?

My first observation is that the units as you'd be likely to gear them pretty much all come in at least at 300points.  So this is an elite army and you're not likely to crest over seven or eight units and that includes your Warlord.  That isn't to say that you could not, but that you probably won't as the way the force fights becomes more clear.  For those who don't like elite armies or low model count type risks, this army will scare you mightily.  In Maelstrom missions, I have the feeling that this force could struggle right out of the gate if a canny opponent focus's fire on the easier to kill units to reduce the number of scoring units to a dangerously low level earlier in the game.

The number of models is actually a bit misleading because the Troops and the Heavy Support, which will eat up a bulk of your points, are all multi-wound models and pretty tough as well.  Kataphrons (both Breachers or Destroyers) cost as much as a Heavy Destroyer, have two wounds, act as if relentless and can fire both weapons.  Their weapons are mean.  Breachers focus on anti-armor type duties while Kataphron Destroyers are much more anti-personnel oriented.

Devastting Offensive Power

No army I can think of has the absolutely devastating array of weaponry this force can boast on its basic troops.  One Kataphron Destroyer, a Troops choice, can fire two Plasma Cannon shots plus the dreaded Cognis Flamer which is a flamer that also automatically gets 3 hits on Overwatch!  The Kataphron Destroyers can also take on a Heavy Grav Cannon if you don't like the Plasma Cannon shots.  How does 6 Grav shots sound instead?  It has other options as well.  BS of 3 is somewhat of a counterbalance.

Now imagine a unit of 6.  I don't care who you are, that is a frightening amount of firepower. 

Kataphron Breachers come with better armor than the Destroyers and their Torsion Cannons are silly pants awesome.  They will drop armor dead in its tracks.

The force also has some really fun Electro Priests you can take, of two varieties in fact.  These look like they are out of the Mad Max movie, and again if one didn't know better one might question whether GW might have been scoping out some new movie releases while they sculpted.  Anyways, they come as either Fulgurite or Corpuscarii Electro Priests.

The difference between the two is the Fulgurites are WS 4 and melee oriented while the Corpuscarii are BS 4 and shooty.  They both can come in units of 20 and the Corpuscarii shooting is a really impressive Twin linked Assault 2 weapon at STR 4.  Both kinds get Hammer of wrath.  Both effectively ignore terrains effects on charges and they both get a bonus to their str in melee.  So overall a pretty scary couple units but they become far MORE scary once you view them through the lens of the Army wide Canticles of the Omnissiah chart which we will discuss.

Death Robots From Outer Spaaaaaaaace!

The last piece of the codex concerns the aforementioned cool looking Sintinels…. I mean Kastellan Robot Maniple unit.  Ahem.  Yeah that's it.

Anywho, These are bad mamma Jammas.  They are as expensive as Talos, and in fact are similar in a lot of ways stat wise (not QUITE as strong but that’s made up for using the Canticles).  They are like Meganobz in combat with their large number of Power fist attacks, only they actually have an invul save and FnP; so entirely better in that way.  They are accompanied by a Cybernetica DataSmith which has Artificer (2+) armor which they can use to "tank" wounds they don't want to take.  EACH Kestallan Robot can fire off 6 (or 9 if using the Kastellan Battle Protocols, see below) vicious str 6 AP 3 shots apiece, 3 of them twin linked, should you build the robots without their power fists.  Who needs the Power Fists anyways since they are Monstrous Creatures that can have their STR augmented through the Canticles when it matters.  In short they are killing machines of the most brutal sort, able to be ordered into close combat in which case they smash through resistance and leave no survivors or else they can be programmed to battle at range and make paste out of a sound majority of the enemies they might fear.

Kastellan Battle Protocols allow the Datasmith character leading the unit to either Double their attacks, gain Feel no Pain OR stay immobile but fire one of their Carapace mounted weapons again.  Interestingly this is DECLARED at the end of the phase but does not take effect until the beginning of your next phase as the Datasmith diligently removes and replaces your protocol chips.

Formations and Force Multipliers

In newer codex' we all know that it’s the army wide special rules and formations that can be the scariest manifestation of the armies potential so let's talk about it.

First is the Cohort Cybernetica.  If you take two sets of Kastelan Robot Maniples (Maniple is what they call the robot units as a whole) with a Tech-Priest Dominus (the HQ choice the book provides) the Dominus can make the Kastellan Battle Protocols take effect IMMEDIATELY.  That’s powerful because you could have fired everything using the extra shots, and then activate the "double attacks" protocol in anticipation of being charged for example!  In addition you could charge someone and then revert to the "added shooting" protocol" which will increase overwatch if you feel that’s wiser.  In addition the Datasmiths in the unit can allow Split firing  with this Formation!  The Canticle (see below) I can see helping this unit the most given that they are Monstrous Creatures, is the Invocation of Machine Might which can add as much as +3 to their STR.  This Canticle will allow you to take shooty robots without really losing anything in their melee ability when it matters most.

The Elimination Maniple Formation is cool too.  By taking 2-3 Kataphron Destroyer units, and 1-3 Robot maniples (and why would you not?) you can use this formation.  That means that if the Robots hit a unit and cause an unsaved result of some kind with their "Luminagen" weapons (which reduces cover saves by one) then the Destroyers in the Formation Ignore Cover instead and gain +1 BS against the "lit up" target!!!  Kinda' like Markerlights, only the Robots have markerlights that actually do damage.  You want this to count when it happens so the Canticle called Benediction of Omniscience will allow them to re-roll missed shooting attacks.

The Numinous Conclave is great if you dig the Electro Priests.  By taking an even number of both types (minimum 2 each) You gain one of the funnest abilities I've seen in a codex in a while.  As my readers know, I am a big fan of synergies so this one is quite excellent to me anyways.  What happens is they essentially empower each other when the two types are within 6" of each other.    The shooty Corpuscarii gain yet ANOTHER shot with their electricity as they leech power from their Fulgurites fellows who aren't using it yet.  And their attacks ELECTRIFY the enemy unit weakening it, thus allowing the Fulgurites to re-roll to wound rolls against the electrified lot of them!  Too cool.  They gain Crusader also which makes their sweeping advances pretty awesome.  This formation bnefits from several Canticles, possibly all of them in equal measure at different times in the game.  As the Electro-priests are not tough I would venture that giving them Stealth and/or Shrouded as they come into the open is probably the best Canticle for them, which is called ShroudPsalm.  The Litany of the Electromancer is straight up sick on a large unit of these guys as well, giving them as many as 4 additional attacks at INIT 10.  Yes really.  Even Flayed Ones will cringe.

The Holy Requisitioner Formation is for the Breachers so they can shine.  A Tech-Priest Dominus and his Breacher buddies get to flawlessly Deep Strike, on a single roll, within 6" of an objective.  They gt Counter Attack and Zealot which is great because their job is to kill tanks and they WILL be charged right after they drop in all likelihood.    They also benefit a lot from ShroudPsalm on the Deep Strike as there isn't always cover to hide in.

The force multiplier for the list comes in the form of the Canticles of the Omnisiah, of which there are six.  Each one is intoned at the start of the phase and may be used only once.  Each one utilizes a table that will parcel out an ability based on the number of units you still have alive.  GENERALLY these decline in value as the number of units diminishes and the Flames of Industry are extinguished!  Though I won't go through the whole thing here, suffice it is to say there are certain Canticles I can see helping certain units a great deal which I have made some mention of here.

Some Thoughts

After reading through the Codex I think that every unit is good enough to take into battle.  It's flavorful enough that long standing fans of the concept will really be aesthetically pleased.  The true test will be on the battlefield.  Nothing in the codex is cheap so you REALLY have to milk every opportunity and give strong consideration to how you would play it.

Tactically there are some worries about it.  It's not a fast army by any stretch of that definition.  Everything in the force walks like infantry, even the Kataphrons who look like they are on treads but don’t let it fool ya'.  They are just infantry.  So pure toughness will have to overcome that disability.  Hugging terrain and cutting off the parts of the battlefield you're not ready to engage will be a key skill for its players.

I almost feel like the Holy Requisitioner Formation is going to be a must in many armies.  How can you really look at hitting dead bang on target with anything but joy in a Maelstrom contest and/or in almost any contest?  That ability is found in VERY few places outside this codex.  Swooping Hawks have it and the Living Tomb Formation has it in a way. but it is by and large hard to find and a welcome answer to the seeming frequency you will be without the ability to get anywhere on foot.

That brings up a list building point.  In general it may be wise to save points on a couple of Kataphrons weapon options and treat them as they they are "going to die".  Upgrading them, especially if they choose the shoter range weapons may simply prove a waste.  So understand that in such an army loses will be inevitable and losing a bunch of upgrade points across multiple units mounts up in elite type forces.  So always eyeball opportunities within the list to have a "Carl" whose job is simply to lead the charge, but we all know how that ends for Carl.  No sense sending him with any expensive equipment while he's at it.

I also think that because of the lack of mobility, you're going to struggle between your wish to be able to maximize the Canticles (which again are based on how many live units you have left) and the simple math of attrition.  MSU will seem the way to go with this force probably to some.  I might respectfully suggest that ten units should be your cap.  The entire army can only benefit once from a Canticle and I'd rather have twenty STR 6 Electro-Priests than 10 benefiting at a time from a combat, if you see my meaning.  UNtil I see this army played more I'll be a bit of a waffle on that list design issue but ten feels like the absolute most you should attempt to bring to the table.  Just an opinion.  Holding an objective is hard to do with tinier units and at games end I am guessing you will need every body you have left to complete the game. 

Your thoughts are welcome as well.  Any questions, comments corrections or concerns, post eem here and thanks for reading!