Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Forays into Footslogging: No Forgiveness

The picture should give you an idea of how the second march of the Green Knights went. The answer is 'not very well.'

Talking about it after the action, my opponent mentioned that playing a footslogging army can be a huge learning experience in terms of planning, and an appreciation for what mobility gives you.

I think he's right.


He rolled with Chaos that looked like:

Winged Nurgle DP

Nurgle Lord w/ Daemon Weapon

2 Dreadnoughts w/ Missile Launchers

Plague Marine squad w/ fist champ, 2x plasma in Rhino

2 CSM squads w/ Chaos Glory, fist, 2x flamers in Rhinos

small squad of summoned lesser daemons.


3x Oblits

3x Oblits

Scenario: 4 objectives, Pitched Battle

Things Fall Apart
So, he let me go first. This is not generosity on his part.

This is him letting me spread myself out, while he can then concentrate his forces. I have to basically take half my DZ to give guys cover, and then place the Terminators across the front. It's a matter of cover, since there are a crap-ton of plasma weapons and a battle cannon out there. I am not surprised when a Defiler gets crammed into a corner, and his Rhinos go across from my objectives.

Target Priority, what?
My gut tells me that I hate Obliterators, so instead of shooting at his Rhinos, I drop a full squad of Oblits s he is unable to make a cover save against lascannons. My Grey Knights pop the Plague Marine/Lord rhino.

This is, honestly, where the game goes way downhill for me. On the bright side, he's down three oblits, and his plague marines are walking.

On the other hand? ALL his marines should be walking, or at least another squad should be. A couple turns later, I've shot down the plague marine squad, but his lord, two CSM squads, and the Daemon Prince are in my lines. It goes downhill from here.

By 'downhill' I mean that after five turns, the remains are:

1 beat-up CSM squad in a rhino on one of my objectives.
1 squad of Oblits
Lesser Daemons on an objective in his DZ
1 Rhino minus its pintle combi-blter

Castellan w/ some of his squad
one Elite terminator squad
one initiatate (one GUY, not one squad)

The Lessons here...
As we can see, his target priority was killing my troops. Between my error in target priority and his exploitation of them, well, that was pretty much game. I did not take away his mobility advantage, and that cost me. Instead of having another couple turns to shoot at his troops (and maybe nuke a second squad) I ended up having to try to crack the transports, and then deal with his troops. Better target priority would probably have let me KO another rhino or two, then feed the Oblits lascannon death while hitting his troops with small arms fire.

Deployment is Bloody Important
In terms of movement, well, obviously I have to kind of figure out where I want my guys to go pretty much from the time I set them on the table. On the other hand, it's hard to NOT cluster up in deployment. This is painful because it'll let the enemy multi-assault, and/or abuse you with blast weapons. I'm not sure I have an answer to this, especially if there's a Battle Cannon or three in the other side's back field. On the other hand, spreading out too much means I'm not going to reinforce my line, and I'm subject to having a flank targeted and consumed.

I'm much more used to being on the other side of this kind of tactic. It hurts, I'll tell you that much from being on the recieving end. It hurts because it works; you take that much longer to respond to any development that requires repositioning forces. On the other hand, I think this is a huge lesson to pick up from this army.

Holy Stupidity and Assault
Holy Rage is really cool until someone WANTS to be in assault with you. Then, they'll abuse it. That also cost me some shooting, as my guys got indignant when shot at, then rushed into assault range, and...yeah. Another turn of shooting, lost. Holy Rage is neat against shooty armies, but painful against someone who is trying to draw you in.

And when you get down to it, a 10-man squad is a decent enough match for terminators, for the most part. If they can get the charge off, they might drop one with shooting, might drop another with assault at initiative, then it's down to three, and they might manage to make a trade of it after another phase.

Speed Kills
It also hurts when, y'know, they have higher-initative power weapons. Nurgle daemon weapons are basically +d6 attack lightning claws, and can also butcher monstrous creatures. So, of course, the Lord rolled a '6' when he got into assault, and wiped the squad. The Emperor's champion managed to shank him back (two failed saves combined with a wound from the shooting), and then he got drug down by the squad. Similarly, 5+ invulnerable saves will not actually protect Grey Knights from a Daemon Prince.

Simply put, a foot-based list does not offer a lot in the way of forgiveness. You do it right and kill the enemy's mobility really quick, or, he schools you hard. With this army, there's also the risk that the enemy will pop troop units, which means you're stuck trading lascannon fire for movement. Given Holy Stupidity, you might be moving them back into cover/on objectives anyway. That aside, this list is an interesting one, just with some idiosyncracies I'm not used to. Maybe it was not the army to take to the table after a month-long game, yes? Oh well.

Obligatory Tyranid Comment
I am really not looking forward to what a Mawloc or two would do to this army. I think the answer is 'wreck it hardcore.'

And, of course, I choose to laugh at the funny stuff and learn from mistakes, rather than cry over the pretty comprehensive beating I got. The highlights include:
-the Brother-Captain managed to put the killing wound into the Daemon Prince, avenging his squad
-the Emperor's Champion managed to get two hits and two wounds into the Chaos Lord, who promptly failed both saves
-the surviving Obliterator squad kicked out a lot of plasma cannon fire, only to see a '1' half the time, and scatter off target later on. Unsurprisingly, they switched to lascannons by the end for anti-personnel work
-One Dread fire-frenzied into the back of a Rhino, immobilizing it. It later repaired itself, though.
-Another dread charged into the squad consisting of the Castellan, 2 powerfist termies, and the brother captain. He missed all four attacks, and promptly lost his CCW. We played this out all the way, and by the end of the game he missed a total of EIGHT attacks, and ended up immobilized and weapon-destroyed.
-the Defiler survived 24 assault cannon shots (insult to injury: no damage results were worse than shaken/stunned) though had found cover.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Army lists: One Solid, or Several? Or, why I'm (probably) getting a Tyranid Army

Honestly, there is only so far that theory-hammer will get you. You know that things like redundancy and mobility are important. You can do some math-hammer in your head. However, you need to play games in order to really see concepts in action, to see them succeed or fail.

Playing the game of course involves an army list. And here lies my point: are you one of the folks that aims to have a single army list, or do you switch among several?

The Single Army List
Technically, I have a couple of 'single' armies right now. My Tau army is a Stelek army. My Black Templar are an adaptation of a Stelek army (Credit where Credit is due). The BT are also build so because I had a bunch of Termies laying around from Deathwing days, but no urge to play with the DA codex.

The goal of the single army list is, well, to get one generalized all-comers-capable list. The Tau are prone to this because the codex doesn't have a lot of options. The Black Templar are this way for me because I have no great urge to re-start a marine army.

The basic pro of the single army list for a codex is that you stop worrying about building the army and can focus solely on using your army. I've played a decent number of games with them, and most of the time after the game I'm asking myself 'How could I have used my units better' instead of 'how could I change my army build?'

In a sense, this is the major benefit of the single army list. Once you have decided on the list, you are free from worrying about changes to the list. It is a way to cut down the brainpower associated with the after-action analysis. It also increases the benefits of practice: you will gain a better idea of what each unit can do on its own and in the context of the army list as a whole.

Economically speaking, the benefit of a single army list is that you have fewer models to buy. You buy everything, paint it, acquire foam trays (or whatever your storage/transportation solution is) and you are done with the economics and logistics consideration.

Multiple Lists or the Evolving List
This approach involves changing up your list. In a sense, everyone will start here at one time or another unless you pull a solid-looking list off the 'net. You'll start with the basics, expand to a full range of models, and experiment with your list. You'll change based on your fancy.

The bright side? You start to get an appreciation for the various units of the codex. You can learn and adapt. You can take a fresh list, and take a break from another list you run. This is what I'd done with my Eldar before I started scrapping builds bit by bit, and settled on a small core (or, more accurately, got fed up with the lack of options). This allows you to own a lot of the cool stuff in the codex, even if you couldn't conceivably use it all the time.

You'll probably have a core you start from; at the minimum it'll be a couple troops units. You might change up the supporting elements, increase the number of troops choices and change, or whatnot. It's kind of an organic expansion; you decide this will be neat so you proxy it, run it, decide it works, and buy it. Once you have enough stuff, you can change your list from week to week.

Economically speaking, you're always going to have some surplus units. Why? Because your unit stock rotates. One game you might use a unit, another game it might sit out. Some stuff might get used all the time; this is usually a couple of troops units and HQs.

Some chassis might be useful all the time, but in different configurations. Marines are the prime example for configurable chassis; the Rhino body covers so many designs. I mean, with magnets you can make a Rhino chassis double as a Predator, or you can simply replace the top to make it pull double-duty as a Razorback. Similarly, a Land Speeder can drastically change roles from, say, a multi-melta/heavy flamer suicide job to a heavy bolter/typhoon fire support model.

Sometimes, it's just a squad with slightly different loadouts. You'll always want some bolter marines, but sometimes you want to switch special and/or heavy weapons, or the sergeant's kit. In this case, you'll have some spare models on a squad level, but you'll generally get a lot of use out of the basic grunt with the standard weapon. (Hey, you'll always need some bolter marines...)

Pros and Cons
The Single List
-Less effort involved in post-mortems; only ask 'how could I have done better?' instead of potentially getting distracted with 'what could I bring?' Analysis is simplified, basically.
-Easier to pack/carry
-fewer models to buy
-Easier to gain experience with a specific set of units/armies/scenarios; mastery of the list comes faster.

The Evolving List/Multiple lists
-Better idea of what any given unit of your codex can do.
-Opponents always on their toes if they're not sure what you bring
-Variety is its own reward; you can avoid being stuck in a rut

The Single List
-entirely possible to get 'stuck in a rut'; sometimes you just want a break from The List
-opponents may start getting an idea how a well-tuned version of your list works; this con's magnitude depends on whether or not they start gunning for you, as it were.

The evolving list/multiple lists
-Harder to analyze/attain mastery of the lists; you may be asking yourself 'how could I make a better list' in addition to 'how do I use my assets better?'
-More money/time involved in modeling; and you will always have some excess.
-More special rules to remember, especially if your different lists are across codices

This is one of those 'different strokes for different folks' kind of deals; I don't think there's a right answer. However, I'm more a fan of the multiple-list approach. The BT and Tau are pretty much static for me. However, between the two of them, I can radically switch the type of army I have from pure shooty to semi-shooty/punch, from hybrid to foot.

Why is this a good thing, if it makes it harder to master a specific list?

The answer is that it lets me take a break from the list. The more you play the same list, the more you adopt the mindset involved. In a sense, this is useful; you start remembering the idiosyncracies of units (IE: Eldar psychic buffs at the beginning of the turn, weapon capabilities for the Tau, all those special rules for Marines...) and making use of them.

On the other hand, it can potentially give you blinders: you start looking at everything from one POV. If you expand your point of view and know the mindset of your own army AND the army across the board from you, then you have an advantage. Knowledge is a source of power, after all.

Then, your real question is whether you want multiple lists out of multiple codices, or you want to get several lists out of one codex. Personally, I think that multiple lists out of one codex is a solid idea: if most/all of the units out of a codex are useful, then people will buy them, collect them, and get attached to the army (and thus the game). That's more of a personal opinion, though; I don't have any research to back that up.

*Any incoherency in this article may be due to the fact that I had a drink or two while blogging to celebrate A) being off for the holidays for a bit, and B) having officially picked up my MBA. HUZZAH! also, C), I have the Guinness and Irish Creme necessary for Irish Car Bombs.

Monday, December 21, 2009


No, not the Bloody-Handed god, but the movie. I'll relate it to 40k, though, by the end. Just watch.

The Movie
In short, go see it.

Now, I will tell you that you have heard this kind of story before. Have you seen The Last Samurai? Catch Dances with Wolves, if you're not really in my generation? Read something like 'Things Fall Apart' in any of your English lit classes? Then you have an acquaintance with the story. The suspense probably won't keep you on the edge of your seat.

No, it's the visual effects that you're paying to see. Frankly, I forgot that I was watching a CG-heavy film pretty much off the bat. All of the creatures move realistically.

The attention to detail in the critters is pretty astounding. Other than having a thing for six legs and long-limbed aliens (...which, in fairness, you can chalk up to a lower-gravity world), it pretty much looks like a jungle. Hell, all the stuff in the jungle looks like it belongs. There's a nod towards creating a fully believable ecosystem, for example. A lot of films just don't seem to have that kind of detail in them. I mean, I like aliens. It's part of what got me into 40k: neat aliens. (Mmm, here come the Tyran- wait, I was on another subject...). Moreover, I like believable aliens. The ecosystem of Pandora reads right.

And, well, frankly, I always wanted a pet dragon-thing, but I was always afraid to ask. Plus, I'm pretty sure feeding and cleaning up after it would be a pain. Still, if you think bird crap is bad, think about training your pet to dive-bomb a rival's vehicle.

The military hardware is also pretty sweet-looking and well done. The mechs (they're not powered armor because you sit in them...) are a believable size. They're integrated in the forces believably. Hell, given the terrain, you'd not even want to THINK about wheeled or tracked vehicles. The control system is similarly intuitive: screw the joysticks, you pretty much have gloves with some braces and wires attached for the arm controls, and presumably pedals. That way, you can take someone with some infantry know-how, train them on the controls, and then just get them to realize that they're a 15-20ft tall infantryman with a redefined version of 'handheld' weapons. All the VTOLs are neat as well.

Amazingly, Sigourney Weaver is in this one without trying to kill the aliens. Then again, the aliens aren't trying to use her body as a yolk sack for their young.

And Now, That Promised 40k Tie-in
Hey, you've all heard of Death Worlds, right? Right. Well, Pandora IS one. The atmosphere can kill you in a few minutes. Gas masks are standard issue. That also makes the atmosphere the slowest killer on the planet. The native humanoid species favors a hunting bow, and if putting a meter-long stick through your heart/lungs/other important bits isn't enough, the neurotoxin on it takes you out within a minute.

And, well, the wildlife? The protagonist's first outing on the planet kind of sums it up. He's approached by a large, six-legged hammer-headed armored rhino the size of an elephant. Mind you, he's in his Avatar body, which is about 9-10 feet tall and wielding a machine gun like mere mortals wield an assault rifle.

"So, what do I do, shoot it?"
"No, no, it's territorial! Just stand your ground! And, your gun isn't big enough to hurt it."
Jake yells and makes threatening gestures. Creature runs away.

Creature runs away because there is a 12-foot-tall-at-the-shoulder six-legged armored panther thing walking up behind Jake.

Doctor's pro tip: "No, no, this is the one you run from!"

Everything else is just hungry and/or generally inimical to human life.

On the movie technology front, if they can pull off this kind of feat, then they can bring Tyranids, Necrons, or anything else in the 40K universe to life. This, of course, assumes they have the budget involved. I believe motion capture is a bonus as well.

I enjoyed the movie. Definitely see it in 3D in the theaters if you're going to see it. The story isn't bad. The story is enjoyable, but not original. Then again, a movie sells an experience, and more movies these days are about a neat experience than they are about a heady, in-depth plot. I mean, you can do that with movies, but I honestly think books are better at giving us depth, breadth, and all that stuff.*

Go see the movie for the eye candy and the thrill. Oh, it's also about two and a half hours, but you won't notice the time unless you had a hefty drink prior to entering the theater. You won't want to leave once it spools up.

*I know there are exceptions to this, but good books like the actual Starship Troopers novel, anything Dune, anything Asimov wrote...some stuff just isn't going to make the trip from several hundred pages of novel to a couple hundred pages and ~2 hours of screen time.

Maybe I'm just getting old, but I still read. On the other hand, I think that a good TV series can pull it off, but we're talking something like 12-20 or more hours of storytelling.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eldar: Back In The Box

After some thought, my Eldar are probably going to take a break. They've been fun, but I'm starting to feel their age, and I'd initially gotten them because I could get several builds out of the codex. However, I don't much feel that's the case any more.

Maybe I just need a break from them, but I think I may be setting them down until I see a new codex for them.

Options (and lack thereof) in Builds
Frankly, I feel like the only real way to run Eldar is either fully or partially mechanized. If we're partially mechanized, then it's because we have Rangers, Guardian Jetbikes, or a Seer Council.

Once you get to that,'s all into the 'vagaries' of the mech build. Which brings me to the 'glut' of 'quality' options I feel that the Eldar have.

Eldar 'Choices' in the Force Org Chart
The Autarch? No, not really. While he's got okish saves, and a neat reserves ability, he just doesn't DO a lot on the field. He usually ends up being a high BS meltagun and a power weapon, if I bother to bring him and not something like, oh, a Vyper.

Phoenix Lords? Crap, for 200 points in a pure fighting HQ, I want to be able to eat a squad in a turn. These guys? They can't, and they don't have a real impact on the build. Sure, some of them are cool (IE: Maugan freakin' Ra), but for 190-200 points? They just don't DO much.

That really leaves me with a Farseer, a Farseer on a bike, or Eldrad. If it's a Farseer on a bike, I've committed to either a Seer Council or a Guardian Jetbike Score-Squad.

The Seer Council is a SWEET wrecking ball...unless the other guy brought psychic defenses. Then, well, you have a 600pt squad that is about as durable as space marines in cover. On the other hand, he has about a turn to hurt them before they get in his face and start killing things, so it's a gamble. While I had fun modelling and painting them, playing them gets dicier as people start learning to take psychic defenses, and soon it becomes 1/3 my army in one basket, which means if they fold without doing a lot of damage, I am in trouble. If they don't, I'm in good shape to start cleaning up.

So, we have two Fire Dragons in Wave Serpents. Really. It's pretty much mandatory if I want to actually KILL armor/monstrous creatures reliably. Sometimes they get a sixth guy, the Exarch w/ heavy flamer. Sometimes they're just five fellas with meltaguns. On the one hand, honestly, they're among the nastiest anti-tank troopers out there. On the other hand? Um. They're one use. I don't care who you're playing; unless you get lucky with placement the enemy WILL nuke them (or their ride, if not both) next turn. They're not suicide troops so much as major target priorities.

Other than that, we have...let's see, Scorps and Banshees, which both have issues launching assaults out of Wave Serpents. Then there's Harlequins, which aren't bad, but have issues with being shot at (...should the enemy get lucky and see you before you assault him, well, you have 5+ saves to keep you safe, and those will surely work...)

So, we have Dire Avengers, suicidal Storm Guardians, camping Rangers, Wraithguard, and Jetbikes.

Dire Avengers just don't do enough damage. Even with Bladestorm and Doom, you just won't drop a ton of targets if they have cover, and/or go to ground, or are Marines. Usually, the only time mine hit the board is if their Falcon pops.

Storm Guardians are spiffy with flamers, but...gee, T3 and a 5+ save will do what for you? Get you killed because you fell out of the back of a Wave Serpent? Yeah. It will do that for you, but you'll at least KO infantry in cover, which is something the eldar need help with every now and then.

Guardian Jetbikes usually mean a Farseer riding with them, and while not bad, they don't do a lot other than fire shuriken cannons at 24". Every now and then, they might torrent an enemy infantyr unit that gets close. I might also be a little jaded about that one time I had one move into cover, lose enough guys to take a morale check, and run off the board on turn one.

Fast Attack
...I run Vypers every now and then, poitns permitting? They are not bad, but still, I can't help but think of the days of Space Marines, when I dropped 70 points for an MM/HF speeder, or 90 for a HB/Typhoon speeder, and it was good. The Vyper is reasonably versatile as well, but still feels like a pale shadow of the Land Speeder.

Shining Spears, Swooping Hawks, and Warp Spiders don't really draw the attention, though Warp Spiders did at least work for me a bit here and there. Still, the AP- was a huge turnoff for versatility.

Heavy Support
I tried Wraithlords/Wraithguard. Too slow, and there's only so much durability will do for you. If the other guy can sucker punch you, well, it hurts. Additionally, there's only so much that shooting will do for you, and Wraithlords take too long to get into melee.

War Walkers are neat, but S6 only gets you so much. Additionally, they're bloody expensive; $90 a squad before tax.

That pretty much leaves me with Falcons (Scatter Laser + Shuriken Cannon + Holofield) holding Dire Avengers and a Farseer in the back and a Fire Prism w/ Shurikannon. It's a decent firebase, but doesn't make for a ton of variety.

I just feel like there's not a lot I can do with the Eldar. And, the thing is? I got into them thinking that I could do several builds with them, and purchased accordingly. Well, now I've gotten rid of the Wraithguard, the Wraithlords, and have it pared down to what I use.

I'm running 5-6 grav tanks, I'm running ~10 Dire Avengers, I'm running a Farseer, I'm running two Fire Dragon squads in Wave Serpents...and that's kind of the start of Mech Eldar. There just ISN'T that much that I can do with the codex, I feel. And, the thing is, my ranged firepower is only so-so. With a pristine army on turn one, I can crank out:
3 TL Bright Lances
2 TL Pulse Lasers
Prism shot
2 Scatter Lasers, sometimes.

That just isn't a lot of lead. It doesn't always do the trick.

I don't know. Had I gotten into Eldar with the knowledge that I'd be playing Mech Eldar and Mech Eldar alone, I think it might have been a different story. I don't necessarily want to be 'Mr. Bandwagon', but on the other hand, the new codices DO have some draw in terms of the number of builds they put out. I've enjoyed the modeling project that is my BT army. The Tau are fun, but I was never under the illusion that they'd have another real build I was into before a new codex came out.

Maybe if the new 'nids look cool, I will return to the bugs. If not, maybe space pups. Or, I might just hold tight with two armies and save my money.

/Frustration, Annoyance (Hey, it happens to all of us, yes? Yes.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On the Siege-Wing

Next post gets prompted by a comment in the post on Vindicators a few days back; a request for thoughts on 'Siegewing.'

Siege-wing is a Dark Angel build that involves filling your heavy support slots with Vindicators, and takes Deathwing Terminators as troops. Since this is a fairly specific list request, I'm going to go through a step-by-step process as I 'build' it out, and explain the logic and use of the pieces.

The Build Process
Well, since we are DA Deathwing, we have to take Belial (130 points), and I figure you might as well give him Lightning Claws and use that high initiative to maybe gut some troops and crank out a decent number of attacks.

Then, we're taking a minimum of two Deathwing terminator squads. They start at 215, and the assault cannon is, frankly, a decent choice of weapons. Walking troops don't get to use flamers by default (...please, tell me someone that will LET you walk up and use them) and the Cyclone launcher (If/when DA ever get updated to have the 2-shot regular missile launcher for it, you drop the assault cannon like a bad habit). Then, we grab a chainfist to at least worry heavy armor.

The Core
So, our start is:
Belial [130]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]

Total: 630

Core Expansion: Theme Set
We then promptly add three Vindicators with Dozer Blades; 130 each. Let's also add a third terminator squad, just to have a decent number of troops in there.

So, we have:

Belial [130]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]
Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]
Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]
Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]

Total: 1270

Fleshing Out Capabilities
We have three troops choices (that are at least fearless), and three Vindicators. The Vindies can do some lifting for vehicle-killing, but share the same range issues as our terminators. So, we'll look to Dreadnoughts to bring in some longer-ranged punch. Since we have enough high-strength attacks available in the army, we can readily get a missile launcher on the dreadnought. From there, our 'free' heavy weapon choices are:

Twin-linked autocannon
Heavy Bolter
Assault Cannon

Or, a TL Lascannon for +20 points.

I'm going to back the autocannon, here. Why? Range is one of them. You want to try to stop transports and harass smaller, faster units from as far away as possible. The autocannon does this for you. The lascannon shares the range, but cannot then be used against infantry that well, and frankly you're looking to Vindicators or Chainfists to handle heavier armor.

So, I'd go for the 135 TL Autocannon/Missile Launcher Dreadnought.

Belial [130]
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon, Missile Launcher [135]
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon, Missile Launcher [135]
Dreadnought w/ TL Autocannon, Missile Launcher [135]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]
DW Termies w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]
Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]
Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]
Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]

Total: 1675/2000

The Remainder
We have 325 points to play with. Not bad, right? Not bad. What do we have in terms of capabilities?

Light/medium long-range anti-armor (Dreadnoughts)
Fearless Shooty/semi-decent CC troops (Terminators)
BFGs on wheels (Vindicators)

Here's a brainstorm for you: a home-base scoring squad that helps give us more armor, and contributes a little long-ranged firepower:

5 Man Tactical Squad w/ Flamer [95]
Razorback w/ TL Lascannon [80]

It doesn't really move. The enemy has to spend long-range anti-tank weapons to STOP the thing, and the enemy has to worry about three AV13/11/10 guys closing, 16 terminators, and three dreadnoughts pouring on the support fire.

This puts us to 1850. We have an HQ slot open, two troops slots, and three fast attack slots.

I would propose two choices:
1) Two MM/HF speeders (75 points each; 2000 on the dot)
2) DH Inquisitor Lord w/ Hood, Emperor's Tarot, Auspex
2 Heavy Bolter Servitors
3 Mystics

The MM/HF speeders keep it pure-ish Deathwing (at least pure Dark Angels), and give the enemy some more immediate threats. The Inquisitor Lord can help you get first turn (and that important 12" move + Smoke) and if anyone Deep Strikes, well, you have an S10, AP2 surprise for them. Technically there is fire support as well, with a couple of Heavy Bolters.

Personally, I kind of lean towards the latter.

For You Purists
If you are not a fan of the Razorback score squad, I would consider still adding more troops. In a sense, a 5-man power-armored Grey Knight psycannon squad isn't a bad score-camper at range. However, they do cost you 200 points. Hopefully the enemy has other places to look.

Otherwise, you're pretty much committing to another DW Terminator Squad (250) and leaving yourself with 75 points. I would seriously consider shaving some points to add a Grey Knight Brother-Captain with Psychic Hood (81 points). At LEAST get that psychic hood in your army. Drop a missile launcher off a Dreadnought or something. Make that fourth DW Squad a Cyclone Missile Launcher and sit it at your home objective or something.

If you are really, really pure and want to stick to the DW 'dex, then you're going with a MM/HF speeder, because that's what you have points for.

Suggested List: Siege-Wing with Inquisitorial Allies
Belial w/ Lightning Claws [130]

Inquisitor Lord w/ Psychic Hood, Emperor's Tarot, Auspex [150]
-2 Heavy Bolter Servitors
-3 Mystics

Dreadnought w/ Missle Launcher, TL Autocannon [135]

Dreadnought w/ Missle Launcher, TL Autocannon [135]

Dreadnought w/ Missle Launcher, TL Autocannon [135]

DW Terminator Squad w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]

DW Terminator Squad w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]

DW Terminator Squad w/ Assault Cannon, Chainfist [250]

5-man Tactical Squad w/ Flamer [95]
Razorback w/ TL Lascannon [80]

Heavy Support
Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]

Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]

Vindicator w/ Dozer Blade [130]

Total: 2000/2000

The Logic
Advance Terminators up the field BEHIND the Vindicators. Vindicators scare things, draw fire. Dreadoughts and TL Las-Back prioritize targets that can kill Vindicators/Terminators and the enemy's mobility. Vindicators prioritize heavy armor. Terminators use assault cannons on lighter armor as it permits (more fun if you can open up shooting gaps in between vindicator flanks for assault cannon shots) and punch out tanks/non-assaulty infantry.

Note that since terminators have a 2+ armor save, but only a 5+ invulnerable, you can lose terminators to more dedicated melee troops. A few guys with decent-strength power weapons at initiative can and will make hash browns out of an expensive terminator squad, so be aware of that and prioritize accordingly.

The Inquisitor's tarot helps you get first turn, and his hood helps keep psychic powers off you. If you want, you could skip the heavy bolter servitors but I am not entirely sure what you would do with the points saved. I mean, it's 50 points in an army that spends points in large chunks.

List Pros
Decent mobility/mechanization. If you go first, you push Vindicators up and run Terminators behind them. You have decent long-range power, and decent infantry. Your forward scoring troops are Fearless; your rear-echelon guys are in a vehicle. You have psychic defenses that aren't bad, either; a Ld10 hood is almost as effective as a Rune Priest's Rune Staff (but without the pesky 24" range), but not quite as nasty as Runes of Warding.

You laugh at monstrous creatures, because of powerfists and a decent amount of high-strength shooting.

You have old-school 'glance only' smoke on your vehicles.

List Cons
You're bringing Vindicators, which are nasty, BUT also a lot more frightening then they are effective. Additionally, if the Vindicators go down or have bad shots, you're in trouble, since you're relying on them to do some of the scaring.

Terminators are, as I mentioned, not the highest-end melee troops. Higher-initiative power weapons can do nasty things to your 250pt squads. Vindicators also have to be wary of accidentally scattering onto your terminators, and I feel that's a major concern with the Siege-Wing list: you can quite accidentally help out your opponent with careless deployment/shooting and just plain bad dice on the Demolisher Cannons.

Other than terminators as troops, you're still rolling with the Dark Angel codex, which does kind of hurt your options. Compare this list to the vanilla Space Marine list at the end of the Vindi Post and...yeah. You're just shorter on options.

Model count is...decent.

Ultimately, though, if Siege-Wing is what you want, I think this is a decent enough list. I'm not sure Siege-Wing is necessarily upper-tier in terms of armies, but what the hell.

Black Templar and Friends

I kicked around the BT list I had a little bit, and realized there was one spot I really wanted to cover: vulnerability to psychic powers. Admittedly, there are some things out there that well and truly worry a foot army in terms of psychic powers; those tend to be things like Lash of Submission and Weaken Resolve, for example. Doubtless there are others, but those come to mind as "Oh, cool, say goodbye to that squad..." which gets kind of old when you don't have THAT MANY 250pt squads running around. (Ok, I'm sure 5 terminator squads seems like a lot, but when you get down to killing stuff, it's not.)

Here's the next idea on the list originally inspired by Stelek.

Castellan [110]
-Storm Bolter
-Power Weapon
-Terminator Armor
4 Sword Brethren Command Squad [215]
-Tank Hunters
-2x Assault Cannon

Brother-Captain [113]
-Psychic Hood
3 Grey Knight Terminators [163]

Emperor's Champion [140]
-Accept Any Challenge, No Matter The Odds

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-Tank Hunters
-2x Assault Cannon

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-Tank Hunters
-2x Assault Cannon

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-Tank Hunters
-2x Assault Cannon

5 Initiates [101]
-Plasma Gun

5 Initiates [101]
-Plasma Gun

5 Initiates [101]
-Plasma Gun

5 Initiates [95]

5 Initiates [95]

Total: 1999/2000

Would that I could get a Targeter on the Brother-Captain, but I can't. The Auspex is a neat little thing for 2 points, and I had it left over. I'd initially thought about a full 5 GKT in the HQ slot, but dropping one let me pick up the second psycannon, so it didn't totally dilute the long-range firepower. The psycannons drop one shot and go to S6 for another foot of range, and while I'd like them to get more range, it's what I have for shooting options. On the other hand, the GKT are a little more durable (yay, shrouding! Lead from the rear, boys...) and bring that lovely, lovely Ld10 psychic hood. They also know what I4 actually is, other than 'when they hit you'.

That aside, 18 of the 19 spare points got sunk into plasma guns. Why? Because it's either another special weapon (I could have gone flamers, I suppose, but that doesn't mix well with lascannons unless as a point-defense thing) or another power-armored body.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On the Vindicator

I had a request in to offer a review of the Vindicator. I think I should probably toss up some kind of e-mail address for the blog, in case someone wants to solicit my $0.02 on something. Thoughts on this?

The Vindicator at a glance
So, on to the big box with a gun. It's a regular tank off the Rhino chassis, which means you have AV13/11/10. You have a front hull-mounted gun, which means you have a 45-degree arc from the gun barrel. This gun is a BS4, S10, AP2 Large Blast weapon.

In other words, you're going to be driving directly at the enemy and closing the range. It means you are big and scary, and a priority target. Basically, you're buying a Demolisher cannon on wheels, and driving it at the enemy.

The Demolisher Cannon
This is what you're really buying when you get a Demolisher. S10, AP2 Ordnance sounds like serious business, but is it really all that it appears to be? I mean, AP2 means troops don't get armor saves, and S10 + Ordnance means you're a serious threat to armor, right?

Versus Infantry
If you can catch infantry in the open (especially tightly-packed, like they just got out of a transport or had it explode around them) you can annihilate them with a well-placed shot. Anything short of thunder hammer/storm shield terminators or Seer Councils are going to quake in their boots, and those two durable units don't much like the reduction in their saves.

However, cover is everywhere these days. Or, at least, it should be readily available if you play with the recommend amount of terrain on the board. With a 4+ cover save available, all a Demolisher Cannon really does to infantry is inflict instant death and force marines/terminators to take cover/invulnerable saves.

Versus Vehicles/MCs
Monstrous Creatures are probably just plain out a wound when a Demolisher cannon goes their way.

Vehicles, on the other hand...S10 ordnance can penetrate the heaviest armor; 2d6/highest gets through AV14 more often than not. However, you're not AP1, so you have a 1/3 chance of hurting the vehicle, 1/3 chance of killing it, and a 1/3 chance of...not doing much at all. On the other hand, if you're firing it at a higher value target,'s something, at least.

The Chassis
AV13/11/10 is moderately durable, provided you're shooting at it from the front. The problem is that the Demolisher Cannon has a 24" range, so you're going to have to run into midfield to use the thing.

This range means three things for the chassis:
1) If the enemy brought melta (and they should), you're driving into its range.
2) Remember those AV11 flanks? You're going to have to watch them. The other guy (or gal) certainly will.
3) You are also going to wander close to enemy assaulters, provided they are alive.

You are also a 'normal' vehicle in terms of speed, so you will have to move 12" and pop smoke on turn one, and other turns are either a 12" move, or a 6" move + big bada-boom. Those are your two speeds. You want to consider the move moreso when the enemy might be able to assault you. AV10 on the rear means S4 troops can punch you, and frag/krak grenades are also a worry. At least get the 6" move to open up the range and force 4+ to hit rolls on assaulters.

The Vindicator's Impact on Field
As I mentioned in shooting, your gun is more effective on paper than in experience. It is decent enough for maiming up infantry (and choice targets include multi-wound stuff like Nobs, Crisis Suits, and Broadsides, for example). It can threaten any vehicle in the game. However, it still gives people cover (and in some cases, wounding basic infantry on a 2+ and forcing a cover save means you are no more spectacularly effective then, say, a multi-laser or heavy bolter against low-save troops) and it is not an AP1 weapon against vehicles.

However, the Demolisher cannon IS a big gun, and it IS versatile. You only need to fire it once and have it do something epic for the opponent to worry about it. Most people will at least percieve the Demolisher Cannon as a solid threat, and if they underestimate it, well...yeah. Beat up a Land Raider with it or otherwise maim up an expensive unit (IE: Terminators with the standard 5+ invulnerable).

Additionally, the enemy is unlikely to keep targeting the Vindicator if they knock the gun off, or if they immobilize it when it is mostly out of range. If you have a neutered Vindicator, you can still use the chassis as mobile terrain and tank-shock fodder. If you have an immobilized Vindicator, there is little you can do but keep a watch for anything that wanders into range.

Kitting out the Vindicator
For regular space marines, go ahead and pay 10pts for the Siege Shield. For Chaos Marines, take the Dozer Blade, even if you can't use it when going more than 6". Why? Your gun is short-ranged. You want to be able to take the most direct path to the enemy, and not get immobilized in terrain. Furthermore, if you get immobilized early on, you're not that useful.

All other options are secondary. A second storm bolter, hunter-killer missile, or havoc launcher (for the chaos boys) will not actually make you that much more lethal. They give you an extra gun to plink with if your Demolisher cannon goes away.

This includes Extra Armor. Since it costs 15 points (...unless you're Black Templar and it's 5) and is only used 1/6 of the time for damage results (regardless of whether it's a penetrating or glancing hit), you can safely leave it at home.

The Black Templars and the Vindicator
The good ol' BT have a few different options that help make their Vindicator more dangerous than the stock version. BT smoke launchers are the old 'may only glance' as opposed to 'I have a 4+ cover save.' Not bad. Worse, though, is the Power of the Machine Spirit. PotMS can move the vehicle 6" straight ahead and fire a single weapon at BS2, even if the vehicle is shaken or stunned.

So, the BT Vindicator costs 163, but ignores shaken/stunned results, has superior smoke launchers, and the dozer blade. You get what you pay for, but you're still in trouble if they KO your gun. On the other hand, you are in a prime position to start cranking shots out on turn 2. Move up 12" turn one, pop smoke, laugh at glances, move 6" next turn, shoot. 42" of gun range over two turns, and hard to stop.

DA/BA Vindicators have access to the old-school smoke, but not the Power of the Machine Spirit.

Thanks to Dverning for pointing this out.
The Vindicator in your army
I have two basic directives for you when building an army list with Vindicators.

1) If you want to actually shoot the Demolisher cannon, bring THREE Vindicators. The thing is a huge fire magnet because of psychology. One will get nuked out of hand. Two might get a shot off between them. Three? Now we're cooking with high explosives.

2) Since you are throwing S10 AP2 Large Pie out, don't bring assault troops. No one wants to be in front of a Demolisher cannon. Your own troops are included. Friendly fire, isn't.

Rough Sample Army Lists
Disclaimer: it's been a bit since I've built up lists for marines. These are not necessarily optimized, and are intended to get you started. Feedback on them (and indeed any part of the article) is welcome.

Space Marines
Librarian [105]
-Null Zone, other power to taste

Dreadnought w/ 2x TL Autocannon [125]
Dreadnought w/ 2x TL Autocannon [125]
Dreadnought w/ 2x TL Autocannon [125]

5 Tactical Marines; Combi-flamer on Sarge [100]
Razorback w/ Lascannon, TL Plasma [75]

5 Tactical Marines; Combi-flamer on Sarge [100]
Razorback w/ Lascannon, TL Plasma [75]

5 Tactical Marines; Combi-flamer on Sarge [100]
Razorback w/ Lascannon, TL Plasma [75]

10 Tactical Marines, Flamer, Multi-melta [170]
Rhino [35]

10 Tactical Marines, Flamer, Multi-melta [170]
Rhino [35]

Fast Attack
Land Speeder w/ Typhoon Missile Launchers [90]

Land Speeder w/ Typhoon Missile Launchers [90]

Heavy Support
Vindicator w/ Siege Shield [125]
Vindicator w/ Siege Shield [125]
Vindicator w/ Siege Shield [125]

Total: 1970/2000

Rationale: Call me a little influenced by Stelek as of late, but I'm feeling a little shooty today. Vindicators lead the charge. Rhinos can bookend the charge, just to force the enemy to shoot AV13 front armor. Tacticals in the Rhinos can play cleanup or multi-melta bunker out the fire point. Dreadnoughts and Land Speeders provided a good hail of fire against infantry, monstrous creatures, and light/medium armor. The librarian rides up in one of the Razorbacks and provides psychic support. Should you meet an enemy with invulnerable saves, you feed that enemy Null Zone and as much AP2 fire as you can. You then may watch the enemy cry. (hopefully). Razorbacks serve as your backfield claiming units, and the units within can clean up infantry stragglers.

You have 30pts of spares; 35 if you drop the melta-bombs. You can pull a combi-flamer to free up 45 points, and give your Vindicators extra armor and make them that much more frightening.

Chaos Space Marines
Chaos Sorcerer w/ Mark of Slaanesh, Lash of Submission [125]
Chaos Sorcerer w/ Mark of Slaanesh, Lash of Submission [125]

4 Chaos Terminators [155]
-Chainfist/Heavy Flamer
-3 Combi-weapon

4 Chaos Terminators [155]
-Chainfist/Heavy Flamer
-3 Combi-weapon

7 Plague Marines [226]
-Powerfist on Champ
-2x Meltagun
-Personal Icon
Rhino [35]

6 Plague Marines [203]
-Powerfist on Champ
-2x Meltagun
-Personal Icon
Rhino [35]

5 Plague Marines w/ 2 Meltaguns, Personal Icon [140]
Rhino [35]

5 Plague Marines w/ 2 Meltaguns, Personal Icon [140]
Rhino [35]

10 Chaos Space Marines [215]
-Champ w/ Fist
-Icon of Chaos Glory

Heavy Support
Vindicator [125]
Vindicator [125]
Vindicator [125]

Total: 1999/2000

This one is much rougher, since I have even less experience with the chaos marine codex. The biggest problem you'll face is that CSM get all their long-range firepower in the Heavy Support section, and you're spending it on Vindicators. The Lash Sorcerer is a natural fit for the big AP2 template of happiness; if you can pull it off you can get everyone to hug outside of cover and play the game of 'how many templates does it take to make you go away?'

Past that, we have some expendable melta, we have some transports, we have a home-base scoring squad, and we have mobile reserves in the termiantors. The combi-weapons are up for debate; melta need more careful placement whereas plasma are more tolerant of placement and have a better rate of fire. If only Dreadnoughts couldn't go crazy and pump shots into your rear, I'd try to set them up as heavy support and go for the TL autocannon + missile launcher setup. They can't, though, so I'm leery of kiling my Vindicators for you.

The other thought that strikes me for the Chaos list is dropping the babysitter squad, adding a couple PM back to the big non-sacrifical squads, and then going for a few squads of summoned daemons. Why? In the rear, they're cheap objective holders. In the front, they can be cleanup units, but again run the risk of getting Vindicator'ed. Still, it's what Chaos has.

The biggest problem becomes obvious when you compare this to the Marine codex version: the marines can still bring solid long-range firepower, whereas Chaos' heavy support section is a cut-throat competition for killyness, and about the only place in the army you can get real firepower over 24 inches.

Comments and feedback welcome. I'm like as not to edit this, since I wanted to finish it before racking out for work + exam tomorrow.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Math-hammer and You

What Is Math-Hammer?
I'm going to use Math-hammer as a term to describe the rudimentary application of statistics to 40k in an attempt to figure out the outcome of a discrete round of harming the other guy.

Math-hammer usually takes the form of something like this:

Number of shots * chance to hit * chance to wound * failed saves = Number of casualties.

Let's put this neat little model into action: I fire my 10 Dire Avengers into your Imperial Guardsmen that are in cover. The pertinent facts are:
1) Dire Avengers are BS4
2) Their guns are 2-shot, S4, AP5 jobs
3) Guardsmen have T3, and a 4+ cover save.

Let's turn that crank with the following data:
Number of shots = (10*2) 20
Chance to hit (at BS4) = 2/3
Chance to wound (S4 vs T3) = 2/3
Failed saves (4+ cover) = 1/2

Ergo: 20 * (2/3) * (2/3) * (1/2) =...
20*(2/3) = 13.333 hits * (2/3) = 8.8886 wounds * (1/2) = 4.44 Casualties.

Hooray! We just killed some Guardsmen!

Except Not
So, what's the problem with this model? There are a few: namely, the dice, the laws of statistics, and template weapons.

The Dice
Dice are not necessarily impartial random-number generators. Some people suggest that Chessex dice (the default, little rounded-corner boggarts) lean towards the 1 a little bit. There are also some nasty tricks you can do to manipulate dice. My personal bias involves just playing with the Chessex dice, and the hell with the bad rolls you get. Actively trying to rig your rolls is a punk thing to do, and should realistically get you kicked in the dice bag.

The bottom line is that the dice do not always behave in a perfectly predictable manner, but we can still make some basic assumptions about how they'll act any given time we roll them.

Laws of Statistics
Think about most the times you roll dice in 40k. Maybe it's an ordnance shot or blast weapon; then it's 2d6 and the scatter dice (...just TRY running some math-hammer for scatter. It's pretty rough). Maybe it's your Predator Destructor kicking out 8 shots in a turn. Maybe it's your tactical squad rapid-firing someone with about 16ish bolt-weapon shots. Maybe it's terminators on the charge with 15 attacks.

What do a lot of these have in common? It's not a lot of dice. Statistics works best with large samples; a good statistical sample has a minimum of 30ish trials. Some units can indeed pull that off in a single action (IE: Orks shooting/charging, Fiends of Slaanesh in assault, 30-man guard squad w/ First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire), but most cannot. Some units cannot throw thirty dice in the course of the game, even if all seven turns happen.

What's that mean for you? Even through the course of a game, you cannot necessarily expect 'average' performance out of a given unit.

Template Weapons
Now, if we take a basic weapon that has fixed chances of hitting, we can run the rest of our formula from there, yes? Same goes for assault. The problem lies in predicting how many hits you can slap on a target with a flamer or blast weapon. Templates have to take into account how close models are, and the formation they are arranged in. If everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder with a 2" max coherency spread, it's a much different picture for blast weapons than if they're all in base-to-base contact with each other like a fresh Deep Strike formation, for example.

The best we can do for Blast Weapons is model their scatter, armed with the knowledge that 2d6 averages about a 7, and there's a 33% chance of getting a 'hit' result on the scatter dice. So, right off the bat we know a blast weapon will hit 33% of the time. 33% of the time, scatter will then average 7-BS, so we have some idea how far the center dot might go. About the only place we can use this knowledge is when we try to apply it to vehicles and how big their hull is; we have a better chance of landing a blast template on a Land Raider than a Killa Kan, for example.

Why use Math-hammer, then?
Why, indeed? Because it gives us a starting point for making decisions. Common sense tells us that one Guardsman is unlikely to beat up a thunder hammer storm shield terminator, but it IS still possible. On the other hand, some things get a little closer. Math hammer gives us tools to make a guess at the outcome of shooting or assault, and that's at least something to base your decision on.

The numbers are not always accurate. However, it's a darn sight better than just using wishful thinking and sacrifices to the 'dice gods' as a means of making decisions with your army's firepower.

Using Math-Hammer intelligently
Here are some suggestions for using Math-hammer to your advantage:

1) Know the limits of the stats
-You need 30 rolls to get an accurate 'sample size'; if it's below that than you're not really guaranteed an 'average' result

2) Know the limits of the dice
-Dice are not perfect random-number generators, either through manufacturing processes or human interference a la practiced rolling.

3) It's Still Math
-Math, when done right and mindful of its problems, is STILL a reasonably reliable when you follow the steps.
-At least, math is a reliable tool given an understanding of the tool. It's like a computer: it can only do what you tell it to do, how you tell it to do.

4) Know what the 'Average' means
-The 'average' result is the midway point, which means that IF you roll enough dice, THIS is what happens about 50% of the time.
-What you're really dealing with is a Normal Distribution (aka bell-shaped curve)*. You're hoping that your dice will land somewhere in the middle, but it is still entirely possible to see a given set of rolls fall way the hell away from average (hey, it's possible to see 5 1's, [0.01% chance, theoretically] and you have the same chance of seeing five 6's in a row as well)

5) Know that Things Can Still Go Wrong
-The dice are still fully capable of throwing complete outliers at you. We call this 'the wheels coming off', when you fire five bolters into a single guardsman in the open, and he still lives, for example. (Worse still, he kills 2 guys on the charge, and lives.)
-In other words, you care about math, but math doesn't give a flip about you, and can screw either of you over, or both of you, or neither of you. Crap happens. Deal with it.

6) Realize the limits of Math-Hammer
There are things Math-hammer simply will not do, and they are:
-Tell you WHERE to move
-Tell you what your opponent will do
-Gauge range
-Tell you how many of your infantry will actually be in range of your target
-Tell you a blessed thing about how many people you actually will hit with a template-based weapon

Math-Hammer CAN give you an idea on:
-How much fire you need to kill a target
-How much fire you need to force a morale check
-Whether or not you might make assault (remember, you just need base-to-base with ONE guy)
-The chances of immobilizing yourself in terrain
-The chances of you winning/losing an assault, and potential morale results

Math-hammer is a tool. No more, no less. It's not perfect, but it's a workable enough basis for making decisions about dice in the game. As such, I suggest a working knowledge of it, since this IS a dice game, and Math-hammer DOES tell us a little how the dice work. It's a more reliable basis than all the little pre-concieved notions that your brain tends to have.

Any kind of theory makes assumptions. The more you know about the assumptions, the more use you can get out of the theory. At the end of the day, theory itself is a tool. Theory simplifies the world, loses some resolution, and usually gives you a (reasonably reliable) method of making decisions and/or learning about an aspect of life, the universe, and everything.

Math-hammer just gives you a rough idea of what can happen when you throw the dice, and that's better than nothing, in my book. There are days where the average will happen every single roll, there are days where the dice will roll sub-par on a game level for you, but in the end, across enough games, the dice will roll average.**

*Disclamer: I'm being a little lazy here and linking to Wikipedia. Note that since Wikipedia is open to anyone who wants to edit it, anyone can (and in some cases, has) tweaked the data in an incorrect manner. If you really, truly want solid info, wikipedia is a good start, but then you'd better check out the sources they've listed in the article, and move from there.

**Unless you're a bloody dice cheat. Or the other guy is.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Terminator Project, Tau Pictures

The next part of the 'Flow' series will be up in time. Right now, it's one exam down and out, and another one in the pipes next week. In lieu of a writing update, you get pictures.
Here is Squad 5 of the Green Templar. The capes are scratch-cast, the tabards are all GS'ed, and the shoulders are inspired by Ron's pre-heresy shoulder pads. The burst cannon credit goes to Stelek, and the fact I have a Tau army. The green streaks on the paint job were inspired by this fellow. I'm not entirely sure that the streaks are visible in the picture, but ah well.

Speaking of the Tau, here's the last squad of Crisis Suits. I got a paycheck, and promptly blew some on the Greater Good.
Finally, here are the Piranhas. I've modified them to have the Multi-Tracker (the one on the right) and the Disruption Pod (one on the left). Mmm, scanners and ECM.
I am reasonably satisfied with how they all came out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Flow of Battle, Article 1: Basic Infantry/Monstrous Creatures

This article on the Flow of Battle will focus on basic infantry. By 'basic infantry' I mean infantry units, and infantry units with fleet of foot. In the name of brevity (and common sense) I'll touch on the faster infantry types (IE: Beasts/Cavalry, Jump Infantry, and Bikes) in a seperate article.

I also feel that infantry are a fine place to start because there's really no getting around them. Every army needs at least a little infantry in order to claim objectives. Note this movement also applies to monstrous creatures that do not have wings. I do not believe there are many Fleet monstrous creatures (The Daemons have the Keeper of Secrets and Skarbrand, and that's all I've got for fleet MCs), but there ARE some that are oversized jump infantry.

Movement Basics
Warhammer 40k is a tabletop war game. Given terrain features, there are three dimensions to the game: up/down the table, left/right on the table, and up, on terrain (or skimmer stands, or the Valkyrie/Vendetta stand, or on top of burnt-out vehicles). I'm going to touch on the more 2-dimensional movement, which is on the tabletop. Note that moving through terrain to get atop things takes 3" of movement, so you'll lose some horizontal range in order to get atop a building.

Basic Movement in the Open
Infantry can move 6" by definition. Infantry may also run 1d6 inches, which translates to about 3.5 inches per run. This picture demonstrates the 'average' infantry movement in the open, though note that the actual movement radius is 7-12 inches, depending on your run roll.

Basic Infantry and the Assault
Infantry may also assault 6", so an infantry's assault range is a total of 12". Assuming a victory in assault, there may be additional movement in the form of consolidation. Note that an infantry assault can move the unit up to 12" in a turn, and an additional 1d6 if you beat the other guy's face in.

Fleet Infantry and Assault
Infantry with Fleet of Foot differ from regular infantry only in the assault phase, with regards to movement. Fleet infantry may run, then assault. This means a Fleet unit's assault range is 13-18 inches. Now we're talking some movement, right? Note, though, that the average is about 3.5 inches in the assault, so a fleet unit's average assault range in the open is 15.5 inches. Not bad? Wait 'til we discuss cavalry.

Infantry and Terrain
Terrain is infantry's friend: lurking in terrain grants you that 4+ cover save you always wanted. Guardsmen, for example, prefer terrain to their armor. However, terrain slows you down, as you must roll 2d6 and take the higher instead of assume you'll get 6 inches.
Odds of a given outcome:
1 inch: 2.7%
2 inches: 8.3%
3 inches: 13.8%
4 inches: 19.4%
5 inches: 25%
6 inches: 30.5%
4-5 inches is the norm for a terrain move. Note that the actual range is 1-6 inches, and there's nothing like rolling snake-eyes when you actually needed to be somewhere.
This also applies to Slow and Purposeful infantry; Obliterators are a prime example.
Terrain and Movement As a Whole
You can run in order to maximize your movement through terrain, which gives you a range of 2-12 inches. This will usually be around 6 to 8 inches total, and if you are fleet and assaulting through terrain, then you'll have a range of 3-18", or around 9 inches as a rough average.
The morale of the story? Well, first, bring grenades if you want to assault through terrain (terminators with powerfists/thunder hammers are exempt...). Second, Terrain slows you the hell down.

Note that Monstrous Creatures benefit from Move Through Cover, so they are more likely to see a 5 or 6 on the 3d6.
Movement and Shooting
The basic infantry weapon is the 24" rapid-fire gun. If you want to move and shoot, you get your regular move (6 inches in the open, or about 3-4 with cover) and then a 12" double-tap. In the open, this means your effective range is 18", and with cover your effective double-tap range is 13-18, or an average of 15-16 inches.

A Warning on Rapid-Fire
12" is also the magic number for an assault in the open. If you are in cover and rapid-firing out of it, then the enemy will probably get a 6" move, and then another 3-4" into terrain, which may or may not be enough to get them there.

In other words, if you can rapid-fire into the enemy, he can probably punch you next turn (unless you kill him). Moral of the story? If there's going to be a fistfight after you rapid-fire the other guy, make sure you can WIN the fistfight. Note also that you cannot assault after a double-tap, so you WILL be on the recieving end of any charge more often than not.

A Note on Assault Weapons and Pistols
These weapons may fire even if you have moved, so use the maximum range of the assault weapon in lieu of 12" in your calculation. Pistols usually have a 12" range, though some melta pistols have a 6" range.

Shooting without Moving
Stationary rapid-fire weapons may fire once at their max range (24" unless you're a Fire Warrior or Krootox), or twice at 12". The benefit to a stationary close-range rapid-fire is that any troops who are 13-24" away still get a single shot. Or, you just might not have anything better to do with the guys. Rapid-fire guns at max range usually don't put out a lot of shots, so their ability to do damage is somewhat diminished. As with close-range rapid-fire, Imperial Guard squads with 'First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire!' are a notable exception since they get +1 shot for each lasgun.

On Infantry-Born Heavy Weapons
Stationary firing ALSO permits you to fire heavy weapons to their full range. Some infantry, such as Terminators or Obliterators, may fire heavy weapons even if they have moved.
Flow and the Game
These pictures cover a single turn of action for infantry. What can we learn from these diagrams? Infantry are not exactly mobile. The best you'll get out of Fleet infantry is an 18" move, IF there is something to assault at the end of the road. More often than not, infantry are slogging 3-6 inches a turn, and up to around 9 on average if we want to run them and not use their guns. Sometimes, you don't need them to shoot; last-minute objective grabs come to mind.

Some Numbers for your edification
Infantry in the Open Through Five Turns of Movement: 30" + 5d6, or about 47.5 inches average maximum. Not bad, until you consider that you have to do nothing but move and run all game, avoiding terrain (which may mean taking a winding path, mind you).

Infantry in Cover Through Five Turns of Movement: 5 turns of ~4 through cover, and 5d6 gets you 37.5 inches. Again, all you're doing is running, but at least you're in cover.

What's this tell us? Infantry are slow. If you're playing table quarters, for example, I can slap my objective in the back corner. If you start infantry as close as you can, you're still looking at a good 51-55 inches to get to the objective. In other words, you just may not have enough time in the game to get there, even IF all you do is move. Now, if you luck out against an enemy that's playing Pitched Battle, you might have as little as 24"-36" between you and the objective, but it depends.

Other Problems with Infantry in the Open
There's this little thing called 'shooting'. It may or may not be a problem for you. If you are Terminators and the other guy didn't bring a lot of AP2 guns, you might be fine. Or, you might have just brought a LOT of Orks/Guardsmen/'nids. Otherwise, you're probably looking at an uphill game. The big problem with moving a lot of infantry is, of course, time.

Dealing with the Speed of Infantry
As I have shown, basic infantry are just not that fast. So, what do we do about getting them where we need to go?

1) Mount Up
Vehicles are faster than basic infantry, generally speaking. Infantry in a transport are more survivable (since you have to get them OUT of it first) and of course the thing can move, barring an immobilized result.

2) Don't Move Much
Infantry camping on objectives (ideally with long-ranged weapons) don't need to move to contribute to the battle, for example. The counterassault element behind a static gunline only needs to be able to move out and punch someone in the face. Sometimes, the relative immobility is moot; you either don't need to go far or you have the range to reach out and touch someone.
As an added bonus, some stuff just gets nastier as you close with it. That lone heavy weapon is suddenly a heavy weapon with a bunch of rapid-firing friends, now.

3) Careful Planning
Foot armies that advance on you require careful advance planning. I have to point to my experience with the Black Templar list I'm running. Deployment makes or breaks you, as you WILL have to walk to the objectives. Your foot troops will be vulnerable to gunfire, and in some cases morale checks. Foot troops may also be corraled by things like assaults, tank shocks, and so on.

Foot Troop Flow Conclusion
My aim with the diagrams here is to give people an aid and example of what your footsloggers can pull off in the space of a turn. The real goal to learn via experience is chaining several turns of action together, and figuring out where that might leave you. Is it easy? No. My hope is that I've offered people some tools and/or food for thought for noticing the flow of battle.

Knowing how units may act during a single turn should give you some insight into how units can act over the course of a game.

Comments and Feedback welcome.
*As usual, thanks to readers; math credit goes to hastur first. TOO SLOW, DVERNING! Though, I completely agree with you on the infantry horde problem. It's realyl the only downside I can come up for something like pure foot guard; they'll shoot the crap out of you, and in a tourney setting you'll get ~3 turns, maybe four, just because of the setup.
**Regarding pictures, I think a radius probably IS the way to go. The problem is that without scaling it somehow, it's easy to lose definition because I'm looking at a 48" diameter for infantry stationary rapid-fire and fast vehicle movement. I think what I'll do next is try to show a sample of several turns and what they can look like for an individual unit.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shout Out, On Updates

First off, the Flow series is going to continue. I was experimenting with just doing some jpegs for illustrations, but I think it will work better with just some top-down pictures and photoshopping some lines in.

My aim is to have one of 'em up tomorrow, as a 'reward' for finishing some studying on exams. Mmm, exams.

Tau Shout Out
Well, there aren't a lot of Tau blogs out there, to be honest. We're a little bit of an off codex, and I'd like to highlight a few of them I'm a fan of.

Incunablog touches on a lot of Forge World stuff. However, he's also got an interesting writeup on Pathfinders, among other things. I'd be following him, but I can't find the button. It could just be my blog-failing skills in action.

Old Shatter Hands runs the Tau of War. There's usually some interesting tactical discussion going on. It's worth a look. I also might have borrowed the creative use of powerfists as crisis suits hands.

Adam's Warhammer Tau is also fairly solid. You'll find good batreps, and some interesting battlesuit conversions as well. Bloody sharp modeling and painting, that.

Just Plain Cool
This guy just started up, but he's putting Space Marines on Dinosaurs. Yes, space marines on dinosaurs. He's doing them as a vanilla 'dex counts-as White Scars army. The blog's not very far along, but so far it looks pretty good.

Modeling Question
For all you folks out there...a question.

I'm looking into finding about 20 guys with pistols and close combat weapons. So, my question to you, my intrepid readers...what are good kits to get them from?

Khorne Berserkers will need some filing and maybe new shoulder pads, but they're certainly an option. Do they have enough heads for me to avoid using a possessified one, though?

I'm told Chaos Space Marines have almost enough pistols and close combat weapons to get the trick done. A little bit of filing, maybe some creative use of GS to get around some icons...anyone think it could work? I am fond of the older-model backpacks with the wide-spread exhaust vents.

The Space Wolf kit...can I avoid using a bare head, and how bad are all the runes and such? And, do I have enough arms to do pistols/CCWs?

Go check these guys out. Good stuff if you're Tau, and I'm hoping Hell On Dinosaurs works out.

That aside, I am making some progress on the terminator painting; squad five of terminators is almost complete. I'm probably going to go with the Grey Knights so I can get the hood and Lascannon Number Five in there. Why? Because it's cool, that's freakin' why.

That would then put me to...Eldar, Tau, and Black Templar. I'm asking myself if I really want/need a fourth army, as I'm feeling the temptation every now and then. The Eldar, at the least, want a real Harlequin squad. The BT want their pistol/chainsword grunts.

I'm also pondering completing the Daemon Cav list, since...well, it looks neat? And it'd be cheap. I am, though, sort of tempted to do a hobby CSM list. I've seen some cool-looking Abbadon mods like this one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Flow of Battle: Introduction

The flow of battle is something I've been speaking on recently. I feel it deserves an expanded mention, as I believe an appreciation of it is an important skill in Warhammer 40k (...and, frankly, a lot of other things, but 40k has its own understanding).

Defining Terms: What do I mean by 'Flow'?
Each unit has its own rules for movement: Cavalry, Terminators, Rhinos, Land Speeders, and Drop Pods all move differently, but they all still move. They move a set distance a turn [even if that's zero inches for a drop pod on the field], and may do other things like move and shoot.

Each unit, then, behaves in distinct ways. They can do a few actions a turn, but that turns into potentially 7 turns across the game. A unit can start on one end of the board and move all the way across ( some cases, several times, potentially). Other units start in one spot and stay there all game. Most of the rest fall somewhere in between.

What Does Flow Do For You?
The Flow of Battle speaks to the movement of your units, and your enemy's, across space and time. Basically, an understanding of flow of battle allows you to plan out your next few turns, up to the end of the game. Thus, you can set up a solid battle plan, and can often read your enemy's plan by knowing their units and/or their deployment.

Flow In Armies
Slower armies need more understanding of the flow of battle for deployment. Speed leads to flow; immobility is the utter lack of flow. In other words, the Eldar have a much faster flow of battle because of their grav tanks, while space marines and the Imperial Guard have a slower flow because of their vehicles.

Foot armies are usually slower, unless they are heavy on bikers and/or cavalry.

Speed Kills
Note that most armies get (or give up) speed in exchange for other things. I will tell you, though, that it is harder to predict where an Eldar Wave Serpent will be in two turns than it is to figure out where a unit of 5 terminators on foot will be in two turns. Speed gives you options, but does require you to think a little more.

On the other hand, there is nothing quite as fun as maneuvering and denying your opponent his strategy.

More To Come on Flow
I will attempt to break down flow on a more individual basis for various types of units. Frankly, a good, honest look at the flow of battle has to be fairly in-depth, so this series of articles will take time. There will be pictures, and those will speak volumes.

A Final Introductory Note on Flow
I suspect a lot of us out there have at least dabbled in writings on tactics. I have, I'll admit it. One of the things that always kind of miffed me was the occasional line in something like my (probably very abridged, bought on a whim a while ago) copy of Book of the Five Rings. It was something to the effect of "Do this a lot and get good at it."

Man, that line annoyed me. I spent one of my customary christmas/birthday bookstore gift cards on it to LEARN something, not to be told to DO something.

There is a note of truth in that line. Now, I realize it means "learn from experience, boyo." What I write in this and the following articles should be food for thought, but to truly internalize it will take time, effort, and games. You will have to look back over a game, and look ahead in a game to really, truly get it. Once you get it, though, you should be a more effective player.

Personally, I think there's no sin in improving your game.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Black Templar List Thoughts, 2

Here's a thought for another take on the BT list I have, and have just started using. We lose a squad for Grey Knights, basically.

Castellan w/ Terminator Armor, Storm Bolter, Power Weapon [110]
4 Sword Brethren Command Squad [215]
-Tank Hunters
-2x Assault Cannons

Grey Knight Brother-Captain [81]
-Psychic Hood
4 Grey Knight Terminators w/ Psycanon [209]

Emperor's Champion [140]
-Accept Any Challenge, No Matter The Odds

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-2 Assault Cannons
-Tank Hunters

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-2 Assault Cannons
-Tank Hunters

5 Sword Brethren Terminators [255]
-2 Assault Cannons
-Tank Hunters

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

5 Initiates w/ Lascannon [95]

Total 1995/2000

It's not too different from the previous list. I free up points to go for a fifth trooper-mounted lascannon, and get a Psychic Hood into the deal. I also get some guys that actually swing at initiative, which is a novelty for a non-SW terminator army.

Furthermore, I get a psychic hood. Yay, psychic defense.

On the downside, I give up a pair of tank-hunting assault cannons for a lone psycannon. At least the psycannon has a 36" range. I probably have the points to slap a Targeter in there, for an added bonus. I don't have the DH codex near me, but I have them in spreadsheets, so yeah.

Thoughts on this? Is it worth it to drop an HQ squad for a psychic hood and lose the firepower?

Black Templar Reflections

Anyone that's been following the blog might notice I've been doing some thinking about a Terminator-heavy army, and I finally decided to go with neither Dark Angels nor Space Wolves. Instead, I went Black Templar on a variant of a Stelek list.

Castellan w/ Storm bolter, power weapon, terminator armor
4 Command Squad; 2 assault cannons, tank hunters

Castellan, lightning claws, terminator armor
Terminator Command Squad, 2 assault cannons, tank hunters

Emperor's Champion w/ Accept Any Challenge, No Matter The Odds

3x 5-man Terminator Squads w/ 2 assault cannons, Tank Hunters

3x5 Initiates w/ Lascannon

8 Initiates w/ Lascannon, plasma gun

Thoughts and Game Notes
This is based on the first game vs a buddy's mech IG.

I'll start off by noting the dice swung hot and cold both ways; throughout the game I was doing much worse than average on 2+ saves.

Alternatively, I seized the initiative, then at the end of turn one, the damage was:
1 Vendetta Immobilized (behind an immobilized Chimera and terrain, so he had ONE lane of fire for a single twin-linked lascannon)
1 Demolisher EXPLODED from a single lascannon
2 Chimeras immobilized
1 Hellhound stunned

All because I seized the initiative and advanced into gun range.

Then he killed a few terminators, and I failed my Holy Rage morale checks. Some days leadership 9 just doesn't cut it.*

As it turns out, that cost me the game. It kept me from assaulting into his home objective on turn 5, and 5-8 terminators vs 20 guardsmen with 0 power weapons = a lot less guardsmen than originally planned. Sadly, it ended on turn 5. End result was a win in VPs.

Lost 13 terminators. One command squad, 2 below-half squads, and a few squads with 1-2 casualties. Ended up giving up about 460 VP

Damaged Vendetta (70pts)
Demolisher (160)
2 Dead Chimera (110)
2 Damaged Chimera (55)
1 Dead Platoon Command [flamers] (55ish)
1 Dead Company Command [Meltaguns] (90)
1 Damaged Russ [HB/Lascannon] (90ish)
1 Damaged Hellhound, 1 Dead Hellhound (225)
1 Dead Melta-Vet Squad (100)
Total: ~900 VP

Seizing the initiative was huge; dropping most of his long-range AP2 weapons off the bat made it an uphill battle. It also hurt that his meltas got immobilized quickly. Additionally, that damaged Hellhound was down both weapons AND immobilized; I just didn't have the time and guns to spare to kill it.

Thoughts on the Army and the Black Templar
Holy Rage
On the one hand, I don't mind that casualties involve advancing on the enemy (usually, anyway). On the other hand, my opponent started trying to use that against me by canny placement of vehicles near my guys so I'd go away from where I'd hoped to be. At the least, they can nullify the advantage, and at the worst I can be running away from where I need to be.

On the other hand, if I'm on the recieving end of massed AP2 in cover, I can go to ground, grab a 3+ cover save against it, then pop back up with Holy Rage if one guy dies. It's an option worth considering if I take massed AP2 fire.

Tank Hunting Assault Cannons
Actually, they're not so bad when you can get two in a squad. It's a sufficient volume of fire to actually KILL vehicles. Given that it's my main source of light/medium armor busting...yeah. S6 to effective S7 against vehicles is hefty, and they're passable enough against AV13-14.**

Frankly, with all the Eldar I play, I forgot what it was like to have real 48" guns. I'm a little more used to it with Tau, but I'm just now starting to get more playtime in with the Tau.

S9 does a decent enough number on light armor, and it at least gives me the ability to reach out and touch someone.

As this is a foot army, deployment is huge. I have static heavy weapons, and my troops are slower. I believe playing a foot army that wants to advance will be a good exercise in learning the flow of battle, and in the need for planning.

The Flow Of Battle
This feels like a more abstract concept that comes from experience, but I'm trying to get at the concept of seeing where the battle might go. Where will troops be in a few turns? What will they try to do? What will damage do to them, and what will damage do to your mobility and ability to kill the enemy?

I think as your speed goes down, your need to anticipate the shape of battle goes up, because you have a more limited ability to react. As foot armies with Terminators are slow? Yeah. You need a much more defined plan as opposed to, say, Eldar.

The Pros of Foot
So you brought some anti-tank weapons? That's nice. Enemy anti-tank weapons that rely on rate of fire and medium-to-high strength (IE: autocannons) don't do so much to durable infantry units. Ok, they readily wound termiantors, but I have my 2+ save still.

It also wrong-foots people, I think. Most folks expect 4-10+ tanks in 5th edition, so instead...there are 25 terminators and 23 marines on the table. The ability to wrong-foot someone is fun, but there's still the mobility and it's kind of a one-trick pony. Well, one trick for each opponent. In truth, that's half why I brought it, and it was in the name of exposing someone I'm sort of training. (Truthfully, there ain't a lot left to teach; it's more in the point of him just needing to notch games and learn via experience. His lists are pretty nasty).

Concluding Thoughts
Luck played a factor in this game, since I rolled 5's and 6's for most of the first turn after seizing the initiative.

Past that, there IS something to be said for the durability of massed 2+ saves. It's a slow, brutal advance. There's more fun to be had when you punch the crap out of things with powerfists.

I feel there's some educational/shock value in playing a foot army in fifth, though I will fully admit that not all armies can really do a hot foot list. I'd say Space Wolves with T-Wolf cav, Tau, and IG would be the nastiest. I think this one lacks range and speed, and 2+ armor saves won't always make up for it.

*Not nearly as bad as one of my opponents taking 5 Ld10 checks in a turn and failing four of them. Note some of these checks are re-rolls via Icon of Chaos Glory. Note that one of these double-failures was a squad below half strength, fleeing, with his HQ attached. Mmm, Chaos Marines.

**Until you have two guys with assault cannons put two penetrating hits into a Russ flank, and then get shaken results. Or you see a 1-2 on the Rend against AV14. At least it's less guns going into me, right? Right.