Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Alpha Legion Brainstorming - Possessed - Part 1

I've about got my Iron Hands where I want them - so of course next up is "what do I want to do with my Alpha Legion?"

There are a couple things I want to build around, after talking to friends, looking at the 'net, and reading various things.

First up - the previously-maligned Chaos Posssessed, and in a later post, the Lord of Skulls - because it got a cost cut.

Chaos Possessed
So first up - the 'free hugs brigade', AKA Chaos Possessed.  Why?  Because throwing twenty durable jerks across the field into the enemy's lines on the first turn is FUN, that's why.

First question - why not Berserkers?  I'll go into it a little later, but the short answer is going to be durability.  'serkers are going to crank out a stupid volume of attacks, but aren't going to be nearly as hard to clear off the board after the charge.  Trust me, twice the wounds and a potential extra -1 to hit is a big deal.*

The Basics
Possessed are a bit bulkier than the average marine.  They have a nimble 7" move.  They'll hit you at S5, AP-2 on a 3+, and they'll do it 1d3 times.  With respect to durability, they've got two wounds on T4 with a 3+/5++.  You can bring up to 20 in a unit, and you can pick whatever Mark of Chaos you want. 

So on average, a Possessed will swing twice, hit on a 3+, and then wound most infantry on a 3+.  Base strength 5 means you'll wound all vehicles on a 5+, and when you manage to wound - they're probably looking at a 5+ armor save or so.  This is a decent start.

Supporting Models
So you're a melee unit - this may simplify the support side of things.  Possessed have the DEMON keyword, they're INFANTRY, and they have their pick of the four Chaos Gods.

First up - the Greater Possessed.

Bringing one and keeping it close to your Possessed unit bumps them up to S6.  S5 to S6 is a significant bump vs T3 (light infantry), T5 (bikers, lightweight vehicles) and T6 (most vehicles).  It's almost, but not quite, +1 to wound.  As a bonus, this guy is a little more accurate and cranks out damage 1d3 attacks.

Second - The Dark Apostle
He's the new guy on the block, and he's got some good stuff in his book.  You were going to bring at least one Battalion in 2k anyway.  This guy and his two friends with a book mean you get your prayer off at the start of the round on a 2+, which is pretty reasonable.

The default prayer is 're-roll misses in melee' so if you get down-range close to your new friends, you're probably using that.  3+ with a re-roll bumps you from 66% accuracy to ~88% accuracy, which is noteworthy.

Benediction of Darkness is your money-maker here - it's a -1 to hit vs. ranged attacks.  If you go second, your nasty melee boys are easily going to be at -2 to hit.

Soul-tearer portent isn't bad, per se - it's worth +1 to wound - but you're giving up the -1 to hit.  You have to get into melee first, which means being alive to move and assault.

Also, honestly - I'm skipping the Litany of Despair (morale isn't always super-relevant, and making the enemy Fall Back out of melee is just fine) and the various self-buffing power of the apostle because frankly, if I wanted a beatstick, I'd take a beat-stick, not a buff-bot that can double as one.

Third up - Psychic Support
We're chaos, we have good psychic powers - we should bring them.  The Dark Hereticus discipline is a lot more useful for assaulty units.  There are powers that you get access to with Marks, and some regular powers.  The Dark Hereticus discipline at least offers options with respect to psyker choices.  I would suggest Warptime and Miasma of Pestilence at a minimum.  The biggest challenge here is prioritizing the powers.

Warptime - I feel like this is a no-brainer, but moving another 7" for free is pretty useful.  I'd say this is probably the most important power - you have to get into melee.  14" move plus charge is probably going to get you there.

Miasma of Pestilence - If you're willing to take the Mark of Nurgle on the sorcerer and the Possessed, you can grab another -1 to hit.  Hello, durability.  This one works all the time, unlike the Alpha Legion trait.  If you REALLY want to be a jerk, stack this with the Dark Apostle's prayer for a -3 to hit vs. ranged attacks (or -1 in melee, which still matters).

Weaver of Fates & Delightful Agonies - note that all the god-specific chaos powers help durability.   Weaver of Fates means you take the mark of Tzeentch and can get up to a 4++, whereas Delightful Agonies means you take the mark of Slaanesh and get to ignore damage on a 5+.  Neither of these are bad powers, per se - however, you can stack the to-hit penalties as Alpha Legion and I'd rather play to that synergy.  Also, math-wise, I'd rather mess up hit rolls - the earlier you screw up rolls, the better it tends to play out.

Diabolic Strength - +2 strength, +1 attack.  You're an assault unit.  This is kind of nice, obviously.  Between this and the Greater Possessed, the regular Possessed is hitting at S8 - which is awesome.  You wound Marines on a 2+, you wound most vehicles on a 3+, and you're wounding the heaviest of armor on a 4+.  If you really need your possessed to mess up a Knight, Land Raider, or something else, there's Veterans of the Long War.

On Death Hex and Prescience - look, these are legitimately good powers.  Death Hex doesn't do quite as much for a -2AP weapon (outside of something like Terminators w/ Storm Shields, most of the time your invuln save is a fair bit worse than your armor save).  Prescience is solid, but you still want to get there - Warptime and Miasma of Pestilence do that for you very well.

Regarding the Master of Possession

This guy gets an honorable mention - if he can keep up with the Possessed, he could theoretically give them +1 to their invulnerable save (via the Cursed Earth power) and give them an aura of 're-roll 1s to hit and wound (via the Infernal Earth power).

If you're taking one psyker - it's definitely a Miasma/Warptime guy.  If you're taking a second one - either you're going with Prescience/something else to buff whatever, or this guy is running along behind the Possessed blob and buffing them.  Note that if his powers go off, he's basically giving you Weaver of Fates while pretending to be a Chaos Lord, AND he's somehow a Lieutenant for that unit.

There are a handful of stratagems you'll care about for your Possessed and their supporting models.

Veterans of the Long War - you know it, you love it.  +1 to wound for a phase.  Be aware of it if you need it.

Grandfather's Blessing - eh, if you decided you like the Nurgle approach for durability, you could pay 2 CP to get a guy back or heal a wounded one.  I don't think it's going to be that useful on the regular, though.

Chaos Familiar - Keep this in mind if you think you messed up on a supporting psychic power.  Or if you want to economize - remember that you can trade Smite out for a supporting power for one CP.  Alternatively, if you want to take a Demon Prince and want two support powers, this is how you get it.

Fury of Khorne - if you skipped out on all the durability-enhancing options by taking the Mark of Khorne, you can fight twice.  Note that if you got a Warptime-enhanced charge off and you daisy-chained a large unit together, it won't be hard to outpace your support.

Forward Operatives - We're Alpha Legion here - we set up away from everyone else.  Not bad, but remember to stay near that Dark Apostle and Warp Time psyker.

Warlord Traits
First off, remember that "I Am Alpharius" is funny, but more of a trap than anything.

Master of Diversion - you can redeploy three models.  This is a nice, tricksy little trait - but note that your core module has several components - the Possessed, 1-2 support psykers, a Dark Apostle & book carriers, and a Greater Possessed for a total of 6-7 pieces.  You can daisy-chain a large unit of Possessed, but you'll have to think about who has to start near whom (the Dark Apostle & friends) versus who can afford to advance (everyone else but the Possessed, really).
     Alternatively, this can always be used to redeploy other supporting aspects of your army as well.

Most of the rest of the Alpha Legion traits aren't bad, but they also don't scream out to support the Possessed blob like Master of Diversion can.

What Do We Start With?
At this point, I'd say the smallest version of the Possessed starts with a Battalion that looks like this - 

Chaos Sorcerer with Jump Pack 
-bolt pistol/force sword
-Mark of Nurgle
-Warp Time
-Miasma of Pestilence

Dark Apostle w/ Benediction of Darkness

Greater Possessed w/ Mark of Nurgle

20 Possessed Chaos Marines w/ Mark of Nurgle

2 Dark Disciples

10 Cultists
10 Cultists
10 Cultists

You have the possessed blob with the ability to go up to -3 to hit on turn one, and -1 to hit subsequently.  You've dropped around 700 points on this module.

You're not done, though - and neither am I.  At this point I've got the ability to get the Possessed down the table, between Warptime, Miasma of Pestilence, and Benediction of Darkness.  I've got the no-brainer Greater Possessed in there - so I've got to figure out what more killy support I want in there.  It may be another jump sorcerer with Prescience and something else - it might be a demon prince with re-rolls and prescience, or it might be a cheap jump lord with a thunder hammer.

What else do we need?  

We need guns.  We need to be able to clear a screen on turn one - it's a waste to dump a huge unit of choppy fiends into the scout squad, cultists, or guardsmen standing in front of a juicier target.  Chain cannons, Obliterators, and Noise Marines come to mind as options.

We also need more threats - that's not going to be hard to do with another ~1300 points available to spend.  Regardless of how many wounds and the minuses piled onto the Possessed, they can't be the sole threat in the army.    

Up Next
I'm going to stare at a spreadsheet and offer some brainstorms - I feel like this is a reasonable starting point for a list around Possessed, as it's got the basic building blocks and the logic behind them.

*Why Not Berserkers?  It's Math
To keep the math easy and demonstrate differences, we're going to go with boltguns and chainswords here, with no re-rolls to hit or wound, standing in the open.  Yes, AP makes a difference (once AP gets more than -2, the Possessed have a marked advantage because of 5+).  Damage makes a difference if it's 2+, since the Possessed have 2 wounds.

Berserkers are -2 to hit 20 wounds vs. shooting. Just 20 wounds vs. melee
I need 360 boltgun shots to kill the 'zerkers. (360 shots hit on 5+, 120 get through.  4+ to wound mean 60 wound.  3+ save mean 20 wounds go through, squad dies.)
I need 180 chainsword swings to kill them. (At melee range I hit on 3+, so 180 swings means 120 hits - I wound on 4+, so I get 60 wounds.  They fail on 3+, so I get 20 wounds through.)

Possessed - I'll do shooting twice - with and without psychic buff.
WITH Miasma - You need 1,440 boltgun shots from marines.  (They hit on 6s, so they get 240 hits.  That turns into 120 wounds, and Possessed 3+ armor means that they take 40 wounds and die).
WITHOUT Miasma - You need 720 boltgun shots

Possessed melee - we'll factor in Miasma here because you almost certainly had a chance to cast it -
I need 480 chainsword swings hitting on 4+. (They hit on 4+ - that turns into 240 hits.  Wounding on 4+ turns into 120 wounds, and 40 of those get through the 3+ armor).

What I'm saying is this - they're not just twice as hard to kill.  And the long they're on the board killing stuff and tying up enemy assets, the better.  

Monday, April 27, 2020

Alpha Legion - Paint Recipe Part 01

Squad place-holder, ready to sit in the back.
 If you're like me - and prone to the occasional break from things like painting - it may pay to keep a log of how you actually paint your guys.  Or, if you want to make sure a project remains consistent - it pays to keep a log.  In the event anyone else wants to know one of the many ways to do an Alpha Legion paint job, here's what I essentially 'borrowed' (blood raven style) from the way Forge World does theirs.

The opening picture is a finished product with basing and transfers.  The green detailing on the bolters, melee weapons, and fabric serve as squad markings.  These guys are a minimal choice for a battalion or brigade - they exist to fill out a troops choice and provide fire support.

Recipe Part 1 - From Primer to Blue
This part of the entry is going to focus on the alpha legion metallic blue  We'll go from bare mini to "ready for the brush part" here.

Airbrush & associated place, gear to use it
Metallic silver primer
Tamiya Clear Blue
Tamiya Clear Green
MIX of Tamiya Clear Blue and Green (80/20 blue to green)
Flow improver

Step 01 - Prime
Kind of self-explanatory
 Public service announcement - metallic spray paint fumes will go straight to your head.  There's a reason it got used as cheap combat drugs in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Step 2 - Two Coats of The Blue Mix
Hey man, how old is that wash jug? Does it have to be so close?
 This is your real base coat.  You want to be thorough.  A touch of flow improver is your friend with the air brush.  I am not particularly worried about getting this on other parts of the mini that will be other colors.

Step 3 - Green From Below
What did I step in?
 Time for a little depth.  Make sure the first coat is dry and the airbrush got a good cleaning in between everything.  The green exists to help make stuff pop.  When you apply the green, it goes to the bottom bits of the mini.  Honestly, you just about hold the thing upside down and spray it up.

Step 4 - Blue from on high

I'm over the sound of the compressor
After cleaning up and letting the green dry, it's time for the blue.  This is basically the opposite - point the nozzle at the top of the mini - the blue comes straight down, hitting the upper part.  The blue and green serve to add some color and depth to the blue.

End Part 01
At this point, you can kiiiind of see the contrast in the blue.  And that's fine - but if you're seeing a mostly-blue blob after a lot of cleanup, that's normal.  Where this is going to ultimately pop is when the trim goes on.

Note that the trim is also kind of when some of the crying starts.  (Especially if you have new Chaos Marine kits, or want to run multiple Lords Discordant, because that's a small model with 3 square feet of trim.)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Terminators vs. Obliterators - The Actual Comparison

So, there has been a fair amount of math and analysis on both terminators and obliterators in other posts.  I've point out some of the individual pros and cons of those units in those posts, and how legion traits interact with them there.  This post will compare/contrast the units with each other in order to help you pick what you want for your list.

So What's the Difference?
The biggest difference between the two is the gun, followed by the footprint and the durability. The gun is the most obvious difference, and frankly the one that I suspect most people hone in on first.

Difference #1 - The Guns
Terminators should be rocking ten combi-plasma whereas the obliterators are going to pack three Assault 6 guns that have randomized strength, AP and damage.

The terminators are significantly more reliable than obliterators, no questions asked.  S8, AP-3, 2 damage is a lot easer to plan around than S6+d3, AP-d3, Damage 1-d3 - you're not saving CP for re-rolls to damage.  Sure, the oblits can do more damage if they end up with mini-lascannons, but the terminators don't worry about that.

However, there's one big thing the oblits have going for them gun-wise - terminators need to be in rapid-fire range in order to do the most damage.  Obliterators get all their shots from 24 inches out.

Terminators win on reliability and volume of shots - Obliterators win when it comes to range.

Difference #2 - The footprint
Obliterators are three guys in 50mm bases.  Terminators are ten guys on 40mm bases.
Note that of course you can string the terminators around if needs be - but they do take up a little more space in general. (My Chaos terminators are still soaking in simple green, so I used what I had.  Don't judge too much.)

Difference #3 - Durability (on paper)
Both units have 2+ armor saves and 5+ invulnerable saves.  Terminators are a bunch of T4 guys with two wounds, whereas Obliterators are a trio of T5 guys with 4 wounds.  A full ten-man terminator squad has 20 wounds, whereas the obliterators have 12 wounds.

Bonus Difference - Melee
Let's be clear, you're not bringing these guys for melee.  In the terminator article, I'm recommending 8x chain axes and two guys with chainfists.  In the first round of combat, that's two dozen swings at S5, AP-1 and then another seven at S8, AP-4, 2 damage swings.  Obliterators are going to throw a dozen S6, AP-1, damage 1d3 swings out.

The Sum of the Differences
Remember, the point of both of these units is to drop in and do as much damage as possible.  Terminators need to drop in within 12", whereas obliterators can hang back 24" away.  

Damage and buffs
Both units can really use the buffs.  Terminators are more reliable in their damage output, but really, REALLY want to avoid rolling 1s - 1s blow up guys.  Obliterators want to hit as well, but aren't in the habit of spontaneously killing themselves.  Note also that terminators that kill themselves on the drop don't produce more shots when you use Endless Cacophony, and that's two less wounds that the enemy has to chew through.

Terminators absolutely NEED to have screens shot out of the way -  if there's a unit that's four inches between them and their target, they're going to be outside of rapid-fire range.
Pictured - sad terminator stand-ins, a lucky knight, and me missing a tabletop setup
It doesn't take a lot to screen out targets from 12" - also beware of any units that have an innate "thou shalt not arrive from reserves within 12" from me" rule.  Terminators ALL need to arrive within 12" of the target - so  that footprint starts to matter. 

Screening someone with a 24" range is an altogether different beast.  You need a unit like Primaris Infiltrators (with their 'no reserves within 12 inches' rule) a foot away from your target in order to screen out a 24" range.  Or you just need to not be seen.

Reprisal and Durability
Terminators are dropping in rapid-fire range.  They probably just smoked something large and impressive, if not two somethings.  What happens next?  If the answer is anything other than "terminators are dying and/or getting tied up in assault" you've probably won already.

Your opponent can't let them get a second turn of productivity.  They're absolutely in Smite range, and naturally they're in rapid-fire range.  Your terminators will absolutely draw fire, but you knew that already - they will make the enemy predictable.  You're looking at most small arms wounding you on a 4+, and any AP is liable to matter.  You aren't slouches in melee, but melee specialists probably have the AP and damage to get through your 2+ armor (assuming they're around).

On the flip side, Obliterators are more likely to get a second turn of shooting.  They are less likely to be in rapid-fire range one turn later, and they may have had the luxury of deploying into cover as well.  T5 means that small-arms fire is going to wound them on a 5+, and most anti-tank weapons are going to wound them on a 3+.  If you have other beefy units in your army, then the enemy has to choose between the obliterators and other stuff.

Conclusion (at long last, after multiple posts)
Terminators win for reliable damage - Obliterators edge them out when it comes to durability and the part where they won't kill themselves on 1's.  Terminators are easier to screen, but absolutely command that your opponent play around those screens and subsequently murdering your terminators.

If reliability matters more to you, I'd build around screen removal and terminators - that being said, Obliterators are a reasonable choice in their own right, and may be more troublesome in a longer fight.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Terminators vs. Obliterators - Part 2 - Obliterator Anaylsis

First, let's take a moment and be grateful that Obliterators got a resculpt.  I took a look at Terminators earlier, and decided this was going to be two posts because of the amount of math.

Obliterators, the short version - your gun is random (but not as bad as you think) - but a 24" gun is hard to hide from when it comes out of deep strike, and hard to retaliate against.

The Assumptions
I'm keeping my assumptions from last time.  They are -

1) Take the Mark of Slaanesh so we can shoot twice via Endless Cacophany
2) Assume Prescience (or some other to-hit buff; Obliterators don't blow themselves up with plasma so avoiding a '1' isn't as big a deal - but you'd be silly not to bring a buff)
3) Assume we have the CP for Veterans of the Long War because +1 to wound is great
4) Legion Trait - I'm going with Alpha Legion because I run that, but I'll discuss other legion traits as well.

Obliterators Part 1 - The Gun, at a glance
In a way, this is simpler than Terminators because there's only one gun.  

Fleshmetal Guns - Assault 6, S6+d3, AP -d3, Damage D3 at 24 inches.

The special rule that's going to make us all hate math in a minute is Fleshmetal guns - you drop a D3 when firing to figure out your final strength your AP, and your damage.

This means you could have S7, AP-1 shots that do one damage, OR you could get S9, AP-3, 3 damage shots, or anywhere in between.

It also means you're going to hold onto a CP to potentially re-roll one of these D3, depending on the target you're after.

On the bright side, a 24 inch range means it's much harder to screen targets - a 9" buffer zone is fine.  If you want to screen out a 24" range shot, you may be looking at specialists with a "no deployment within 12 inches rule" or multiple screens and/or breaking line of sight.  You also have the luxury of dropping in outside of easy charge range.  If someone does charge you, each Obliterator has three S6, AP-1, 1d3 damage swings - so you CAN punch something to death, but it's a mop-up operation instead of something to rely on.

A full unit of 3 Obliterators is 385 points - which is pretty close to terminators in the previous example.

Obliterators Part 2 - On Randomness
So here's where it gets interesting - the guns are random as all get-out.  Strength is 7-9, AP is -1 to -3, and damage is 1-3; you have no idea what you're getting until it happens.  I absolutely advocate shooting your Obliterators first so you can keep a command point available to re-roll any of the D3 - but note that you roll the dice one after the other, so you pick strength, AP, and then damage.  

Remember that on average, you'll get a '2' - so only re-roll for the max value if it really matters, because you can always drop to a '1' instead.

The D3 you're going to re-roll is going to depend on your target.  I would worry about strength and damage most of all; the AP can be frustrating but you need to wound your targets, and the multi-wound fellows (IE - Primaris Marines, for example) really really want you to roll a '2' on damage - when you need multi-wound infantry dead, doing 1 damage a wound just won't cut it unless the unit has already taken a beating.

Re-rolling strength depends on your target's toughness - so it matters on T4 (S8 is your break point), T7 and T8.  You'll always wound T3 on a 2+, and you'll always wound T6 on a 3+ before Veterans of the Long War (VoTLW).  In a pinch, VotLW can overcome this if you're firing against multi-wound infantry.

Re-rolling AP matters if you already got the strength you want, and you don't care about damage.

Re-rolling damage really depends on the target.  It doesn't matter if you're chewing up high-value single-wound targets, but once you get to heavy infantry and vehicles you REALLY want to make sure you're doing at least two damage.

My gut says that if anyone skips over Obliterators at this point, it's because doing the math hurts.

Obliterators Part 3 - The Math
The math is where things get real fun, and we break out the spreadsheets.  Assuming prescience goes off, we get 15 hits.  That's the last of the easy assumptions.

In order to actually provide something consumable and usable, I'm going to do math for the final outcomes - IE, what value do you need to wound a target, and what's the target's final save.  We can do to-wound math easily, and once we know the final save (be it an invulnerable save, or the save after AP, cover, etc.) we know the number of wounds that went through.  And if it's a single big target, we can then figure out the damage depending on our damage roll.

Obliterators when wounding on 2+
This category includes T3 infantry, OR T4 infantry with S8+, or Veterans of the Long War when you'd normally wound on a 3+

I'd say your biggest pie-in-the-sky number here is the 5+ save vs. wounding on a 2+ - that's your golden scenario vs. T8 superheavy that can pick up an invulnerable save.  

A more reasonable benchmark is the 2-damage output vs. a 4+ save - on average you should still clean out two-wound primaris marines, and VotLW means you should be able to delete dreadnoughts, etc.

Obliterators when wounding on a 3+
This bin includes T4 infantry when you roll S7, T5-6 targets all the time, T7 targets when you're S8 and T8 targets when you're S9.

Assuming you can swing average AP and damage rolls with this, you can still put some solid damage (average 13.3) on something like a Knight, and still probably take out a tank.

Assuming you get two damage and so-so AP, even S7 means you can still probably nuke most or all of a two-wound T4 infantry squad unless they're in hard cover.

Obliterators wounding a on 4+
This category is slimmer - it's T7, 8, and 9 targets when you roll strength equal to their toughness.

Frankly, this table is a little disappointing - you need good AP to do decent damage to heavy targets.  

Obliterators wounding on 5+
You should have used VotLW, or re-rolled strength if you have to hit a target that you wound on a 5+.  You get 3 wounds off that, which isn't going to do a blessed thing.

What Do These Numbers Mean?
Ok, let's be real - that's a large wall of math and text to get through.  

Obliterator Perks
-24" range on the gun means you can stay out of counter-charge range, if applicable, to do your damage.
-24" gun range means that the only safe place is out of line of sight
-Obliterators are durable - T5, four wounds, and a 2+/5++ mean that they can soak a LOT of bullets.
-Unlike terminators, you don't run the risk of blowing yourself up.
-From a tabletop perspective, you can actually batch roll faster because a '1' doesn't kill your model.
-Randomness of the gun means you might kick out a half-dozen S9 AP-3 three-damage shots per guy, which is HILARIOUSLY nasty
-You don't need a huge footprint to drop in on with three models, even if you do have heftier bases.

Obliterator Drawbacks
-Randomness on the gun is the major flaw here, and you have to think about whether or not it matters.  Against line infantry, it's not a big deal - but you're kind of wasting yourself if you do that. 
-The AP of the gun is (to me) the biggest drawback - low AP vs. hard targets (most vehicles have a 3+ save) can hamper you, and it's the roll you're least likely to end up wanting to influence.
-The strength of the gun may matter, depending on the target.
-The damage is where it can get you - rolling a '1' for damage against heavy duty targets is just wildly disappointing.

A Note on Legion Traits
Alpha Legion - your 24" range lets you drop in far enough away to benefit from the -1 to hit.  If someone does charge you, you can drop 1CP for Feigned Retreat, walk away, and shoot again.  You probably have the range to use Conceal as well, which means no one is shooting these guys unless they're the closest target.

Black Legion - the trait is irrelevant.  You have a couple of stratagems to get re-rolls without nearby support, such as Let the Galaxy Burn - or Tip of the Spear if you ARE somehow the closest to the enemy.

World Eaters - you lose out on Prescience and Endless Cacophony.  Skip unless you're die hard pure World Eaters.

Word Bearers - you don't really care about the trait.  Malevolent Covenant can let you auto-pass the psychic test  for Prescience and won't let someone use Deny the Witch on it.

Night Lords - you definitely aren't close enough to use the trait yourself.  You can get -1 to hit vs. enemy shooting for 1CP via In Midnight Clad.  Leadership 8 may make you a candidate for Prey on the Weak - getting +1 to hit is never bad.

Iron Warriors - you're (potentially) light on AP, so ignoring cover is helpful if you're going after infantry or the odd vehicle that can get cover.  The Tank Hunter stratagem is good for rerolls vs vehicles.

Emperor's Children - Your legion trait doesn't really do anything.  I suppose you could use Combat Elixirs to go up to T6, but that seems excessive.

Renegades - There really isn't a huge perk for the initial volley here.

In Closing
The Obliterator gun is hilariously (and obnoxiously) random - however, it's still capable of dishing out some solid pain.  The benefit is that the 24" range means that it's difficult to hide from unless you're out of line of sight, and it's on a pretty durable platform.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Terminators vs. Obliterators - Part 1 - Terminator Analysis

Few things are more fun than dropping onto the table out of reserves and shooting - especially because a gun's range is a lot more predictable than a charge roll.  Chaos Space Marines have a couple of nasty shooting options with built-in deep-strike capability - Terminators and Obliterators.  The problem is that you're probably only going to have room for one of these.  So, of course, the follow-on question is 'which one?'  Given the versatility of terminator weapon loadouts, and the random nature of fleshmetal weapons, it's not the easiest question to answer.

UPDATE - had a buddy remind me of the stratagem 'honor the prince' - Emperor's Children terminators become a sub-species of "probably get stuck in after shooting" which is more fun.

Given the amount of math and space involved, I'm going to break this into two posts - the Obliterators are here.

Terminators, The Short Version - Combi-plasma and cheap melee is your most reliable loadout.  Save CP for Veterans of the Long War and Endless Cacophony, and you can theoretically delete a Knight or other superheavy in a turn, and also guarantee that you're going to see most of the other army pour into your terminators.

Also, sorry World Eaters - you lose out on a couple of crucial pieces of this and just aren't going to be as effective, but you got Red Butchers, so lean into that instead.

Baseline Assumptions
No unit performs in a vacuum.  You're going to be hitting the field on turn two with some high-powered guns - so you're going to bring support.  By and large these units want the same thing, so we'll assume that they have it. What is 'it', you ask?

 1) Assume we give them Mark of Slaanesh so we can use the Endless Cacophony stratagem and shoot twice.

2) Assume we have an accuracy buff in there - either Prescience for +1 to hit, a nearby Chaos Lord to re-roll 1s, or possibly both - maybe you got a Demon Prince into position.  I kind of like the Lord/Prince aura because the only way to turn it off is to kill the guy, whereas psychic powers can fail or be denied.

3) Assume we are willing to drop Veterans of the Long War if we need the +1 to wound.

4) Legion Trait - I'm using the Alpha Legion trait because, y'know, I'm Alpha Legion - so we force a -1 to hit penalty against shooting if you're more than 12" away.  I'll discuss other Legion Traits in an addendum.

Terminators Part 1 - Loadout
I lean towards plasma guns and chain axes on terminators, with a chainfist or two in a larger unit.  For 390 points you can get a 10-man unit with combi-plasma, two chainfists, and 8 chain axes.

Why plasma guns?  You have access to the following guns for terminators -
Combi-bolter - fine for bargain-bin distraction terminators (26pts for combi-bolter/chainaxe - not bad) but it's a totally different roll.

Combi-flamer - you're deep-striking out of range.  Pass.

Heavy Flamer - see above, and you get 1 per 5 terminators.

Reaper autocannon - great range and volume of fire - four shots at S7, AP-1, 1 damage - but you get one per five guys, and you take a -1 to hit when you land.  Skip.

Combi-melta - here's our contender.  S8, AP-4, d6 damage?  That's pain.  Note that you get one shot at 12", though - you better hope you hit - you are vulnerable to screening (especially against units like Primaris Infiltrators and their 12" denial bubble), and odds are that you won't be able to utilize the 'shoot twice' stratagem with the melta profile unless you went after some HUGE target and/or had choice positioning.

Note also that as long as you have an accuracy buff, you're really competing with the plasma gun's overcharge mode - an extra AP at this point is mostly academic.  AP-3 or -4 are either up against an invulnerable save, a 5+ armor save max (outside of cover special rules), or you're going clean through it.  When it comes to damage, 2 damage and volume of fire wins against basically all infantry compared to melta shots, but the meltaguns do have the potential to out-damage plasma guns - they'd need a 5+ damage roll to beat both shots in rapid-fire range, and outside of 12" they're just sad.

Combi-plasma - Here's our money-maker, thanks to its range and versatility.  You get S7, AP -3, 1 damage, OR you super-charge for S8, AP-3, 2 damage.  You have a 24-inch rapid-fire gun, so in a perfect world you drop at 12" and unload, supercharging if necessary.

Note also that the 24" range means that you can still contribute if someone does still have deep-strike denial in play, OR if you nuke your first target and still want to abuse Endless Cacophony, you have options.

Why chain axes?
Really it's easy - let's keep it cheap - the chain axe / combi-plasma combo runs you 35 points a guy.  You're not here for melee, but you're probably going to end up in it.  Giving everyone power weapons is at least another 30 points or so - and understand that after the first round of shooting, no one wants to let these guys do it again.

I do recommend a chainfist on the champion (go ahead and abuse his 3 attack profile) and maybe one more in a max unit, just in case you have to punch something big to death.

Terminators Part 2 - The Damage
So, we have our ten terminators with combi-plasma.  Let's assume we drop in rapid-fire range, and get Prescience off.  That's twenty shots, and with a 2+ to hit we're going to land 16.66 shots.  Damage wise we should consider stuff with and without invulnerable saves.

Vs. T3 infantry OR T4 infantry with overcharge - Veterans of the Long War (VoTLW) is irrelevant
Wound on 2+  - 13.88 wounds
Saves vs AP-3
4+ or worse in the open - 13.88 wounds go through it
3+ in the open - 11.5 wounds go through
3+ in cover OR 2+ in the open  OR 5++ - 9.2 wounds go through
2+ in cover OR 4++ - 6.9 wounds go through
Vs. 3++ saves - 4.6 go through

The above math applies for T5-7 targets as well, assuming you use VotLW to get down to a 2+ to wound again - and it's very much worth it.

Next, let's look at the hardest targets - T8.  You are ABSOLUTELY using VoTLW so you can wound on a 3+ here with your shots.  Anything else is just a waste.

Wound on 3+ - 11.11 wounds
4+ or worse in the open - 11.11 wounds, 22.22 damage
3+ save in the open - 9.25 wounds, 18.5 damage
3+ save in cover OR 2+ in open OR 5++ - 7.4 wounds, 14.8 damage
2+ save in cover OR 4++ - 5.55 wounds, 11 damage
3++ save - 3.7 wounds, 7.4 damage

Just double that for average output w/ Endless Cacophony.  The good news is that you can do a serious number on large targets - a good deep strike, Prescience and 3CP will probably kill you a knight.

Terminator Perks -
-Plasma is pretty nasty.
-Plasma is pretty reliable, and S8 hits important break-points versus heavy targets.
-You do have the ability to split up fire in a fairly granular matter if needs be and you have the appetite for math.
-You can focus a LOT of buffs on one unit fairly easily.

Terminator Drawbacks - 
-You HAVE to drop within 12" to get the most out of your guns.
-You probably blew up 300+ points of the enemy army and you're like 12" from it - life's about to get rough.
-You have a pretty reasonable footprint - you really want guns on the ground turn one to clear a screen.
-If you don't get a to-hit buff or a way to re-roll ones, you're asking to blow up terminators.

A Note on Legion Traits
Alpha Legion - you aren't necessarily going to benefit from the legion trait based on your 12" range, but if you get charged and LIVE, you have the stratagem Feigned Retreat to fall back and shoot for 1CP.  Expect anyone who knows about this to make an effort to severely weaken you and tie you up in melee, if not kill you.

Black Legion - the trait is irrelevant. You can get some re-rolls, though, via stratagems - Let the Galaxy Burn is 1CP to re-roll 1s.  Tip of the Spear is 1CP to re-roll hit rolls for a Black Legion unit as long as it's the closest the enemy, which you probably are.

World Eaters - Skip.  You lose out on Endless Cacophony because you're stuck being marked as Khorne, and you lose Prescience because you hate psykers.  If you want terminators, run Red Butchers as S5 base melee terminators.

Word Bearers - Legion Trait is largely irrelevant to the terminators.  Of note is the stratagem Malevolent Covenant, which means you auto-pass a psychic test (Prescience, anyone?) for 1CP and a mortal wound on the psyker.  It can't be subject to Deny the Witch, either.

Night Lords - Legion trait is again irrelevant.  The stratagem In Midnight Clad is 1CP for -1 to hit vs. shooting, which can actually help.  Prey on the Weak is 1CP for +1 to hit IF your Terminator's Leadership 9 is higher than the target's - this can free up VotLW for someone else, potentially.

Iron Warriors - Ignoring cover is situational as a legion trait, but worth remembering if you're hunting heavy infantry in cover.  You do have some stratagems worth remembering - Iron Within, Iron Without is a cheap 'ignore wounds on 6+' and Dour Duty reduces the AP of enemy melee attacks, which may help you live through the drop.  Tank Hunters is about your only real damage buff, but gives you a re-roll to wounds vs. vehicles.

Emperor's Children - your legion trait is more about punching than shooting.  However, for 2CP you could use Combat Elixirs to make your terminators T5, which might be funny.  For you, anyway.  EDIT - perhaps of more importance is the stratagem 'Honor the Prince' - for one CP, one dice is a 6.  For your charge.  Can you get one 3+ on 2d6?  If so, then for one CP, you're in melee, kids!

Renegades - the Scourged get overwatch on 5+, which may help.  Otherwise, nothing really jumps out.

In Closing
The combi-plasma alpha strike is pretty sick - save it for hard targets, and make sure you clear a drop zone 12" away from the enemy to abuse it.  Save CP for Veterans of the Long War and Endless Cacophony.  Your legion may or may not offer much extra, but as long as you can get accuracy buffs and clear out ~500pts of your list for the terminators and an HQ, you're good.