Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Hammer of the Emperor

Like so many other people, I now have a copy of the brand new Imperial Guard Codex. It's a nice piece of work and all that, as the latest codices have been.

I'm going to start by sharing thoughts on the newer, shinier units that are getting a lot of press.

Psyker Battle Squad
I think a lot of folks are seeing this one and drooling. The ability I've seen the most drool over is 'Weaken Resolve', where one squad within 36" and LOS gets their leadership reduced by the number of psykers in the squad, to a minimum of 2. This lasts until the end of the turn.

The other ability is Soulstorm, an S = to psykers in the unit, AP d6, Large Blast single-shot attack. Also nasty, but not likely to kill more than a few folks under the template. However, at BS3 with a large squad, it can possibly damage vehicles.

So, what're the cons of this unit?

Well, 'Weaken Resolve' doesn't do a lot to a vehicle. Second, you pretty much have to max out the squad, which means it really costs 110 points. Not bad...Then add 55 points to that for a Chimera. Make it a Chimera with a turret multilaser and hull heavy bolter, because it's not going to move at all.

Leadership 9 is a sliiight balancing factor, as it means they're not the top psykers. Really, though, if you're mechanized the unit's that THAT big of a deal.

Considering the elites section, though, it's about the only thing worth pulling in from it. Bottom line? Psyker Battle Squad is nasty on troops, but not so much on vehicles. If and when you do spill them out, they're as durable as the average guardsman. They also fall prey to all the other 'screw with psyker' abilities, like psychic hoods.

The Valkyrie
It's a damned fine kit.

Too bad the tabletop performance won't match it. It's an AV12/12/10 vehicle on a 5" stand, aloft. It's NOT going to hide.

Basic loadout is a multi-laser and a couple of one-shot krak missiles that get the Ordnance special rule. It can pick up heavy bolters for 10 points, and then you get a vehicle that can move 6" and crank out a good 9 BS3 anti-infantry shots.

The real unique offering that the Valk has is the 'Grav Chute Insertion.' It can move flat-out and drop troops at any point during that move. They roll 2d6 + Scatter, and if it's not a hit, they scatter and take dangerous terrain tests.

What does this mean? You can pay 100+ points to give any squad the provisional ability to deep strike, with the extra risk that you might lose the transport and that they'll take dangerous terrain tests.

The weapons that benefit from such 'precision' insertion are by nature short-ranged, like meltaguns, flamers and plasma weapons. For 100 points, you can get a vet squad with triple meltaguns, triple flamers, or 2 flamers/heavy flamer. It's cheap enough that you won't miss it, and it's got some firepower.

Anything else in a Valk is really not worth it, considering that a Chimera is half the price, much easier to hide, and so on. And, out of the box, the Chimera can actually crank out more shots. The best way to actually get FIREPOWER out of a Valk is to get sponson heavy bolters, and the Hellfire missiles are just icing on the cake. Or, you ca really try to turn the Valk into an infantry hunter by paying another 30 points for a pair of multiple rocket pods, that fire at S4, AP6, large blast.

Then you're paying 140 points for a transport that can hunt infantry. I mean, I freely admit that it's cool, but I'm not so sure about its utility.

The Vendetta is neat, as it turns the Valk into a tank-buster. Three twin-linked BS3 lascannons on a skimmer for 130 is fairly nasty, but doesn't solve any of the durability issues.

Understand I'm hitting the 'durability' issue from the POV of someone who's run a half-dozen grav tanks in a good number of games in the past couple of months. AV12 does not last. Even the Energy Field special rule for Wave Serpents isn't going to keep you alive.

The Leman Russes
Damn if we're not spoiled for choices, here. We can get:
-The good ol' Battlecannon
-Heavy 4 twin-linked autocannon
-Vanquisher rounds (S8, AP2, 72" shot, roll 2d6 for penetration)
-Nova Cannon (S6, AP4, Large Blast, No Cover SaveS)
-Demolisher Cannon (24", S10, AP2 Ordnance)
-Punisher (Heavy 20, S5, AP-)
-Executioner Plasma Cannon (3 plasma cannon shots)

And for sponsons? We can get heavy bolters, heavy flamers, multi-meltas, OR plasma cannons.

We can also seriously jack up the price for a Russ to 200 easy. The base is 150 for 14/13/10, though the Demolisher, punisher and Executioner go up to AV11 rears.

What's the real moral of the story? The Russ wants to be at range. It will die in assault.

The Russ is also slow. Lumbering Behemoth means it can move 6" and pop the turret and one other main weapon, but it also means that 'cruising' speed is 6+d6 instead of 12". With that, there's pretty much no reason to ever really want to move a Russ, but if you do, move it 6" and fire a couple of guns.

Out of the guns, a couple catch my eye...
The Battle Cannon is a good, cheap (...comparatively) general-purpose gun. Given that there's lots of cover out there and that vehicles are plentiful, I'd think about just tacking heavy bolters onto it for a price tag of 170.

Similarly, if I took the Exterminator, I'd go with heavy bolters. Sit there, crank out a lot of anti-infantry shots, hunt light armor in a pinch. Still, the Exterminator makes you look at Hydras (AV12/10/10, but a pair of twin-linked 72" autocannons for 75...), and if you really want to nuke infantry, you look at Hellhounds.

The interesting. It's a nasty way to get long-range anti-tank fire out there. Most I'd do to it is probably slap a lascannon on the front and let it cost 170. S8, AP2, 2d6 penetration is pretty nasty, and the only thing that'd make it better is AP1. Still, it's something worth mentioning.

The Eradicator is purely anti-infantry. Nova Cannon, sponson heavy bolters, and a 180pt price tag mean you can make unmounted infantry qual in fear. Of course, you do spit to vehicles, but it can kill the infantry.

The Demolisher...demolishes things. It's the short-ranged Russ, or the keep-away-from-me Russ. It falls down against cover, but nukes vehicles and anything out in the open. It IS a bit short-ranged, though. It means the Demolisher wants to move, but wait...moving is not the Russ' strong point. The only defensive weapon a Russ can get is a pintle heavy stubber. (Technically it can get a storm bolter for the same price, but S4, AP5, 2 shots to 24" vs. S4, AP6, three shots to 36"? Not a choice at all). The Demolisher gets to trundle forth, fire some anti-infantry shots, and hope it gets a shot off with the big gun. And, like the other Russes, it CRIES if it gets a 'weapon destroyed' result.

The Punisher gets a cookie for looking badass, but not necessarily being badass. 180 base. Everyone drools over Heavy 20, but S5 is only so-so and AP- means it's unsuited for taking out vehicles. The Big Gun is also only effective to 24", which means again that it might have to close in. Add in the requisite heavy bolters and heavy stubber and the tank costs about 210.

Then again, are you willing to pay 210 to drop 32 dice off one vehicle? It's dead sexay against smaller, more elite folks relying on armor saves (because the 16 hits and ~10 wounds means more when it kills 3-5 space marines) than sheer numbers. Though if it gets people in the open...yes, laugh like a maniac.

The Executioner LOOKS the coolest, but also costs 230 to kit out with 5 plasma cannons. I suspect I'm going to try taking a couple of these in a larger force, but it's more of a 'cool' factor than effective, but if you were relying on FNP or a good T5-6, well, sorry. Sucked to be you. Ultimately I think the cost will be a killer for the Executioner.

Camo Net Tricks
For 20 points and Chimeras, you can get your Russ's AV14 ass a 3+ cover save. Is it bullshit? Yes. Will people still do it? Yes. What do you do? Pop the Chimeras or meltagun his ass.

Russ Summary
Gut says that the vanilla Russ is a solid choice for cost. The basic battle cannon is decent against armor, MCs and troops alike. The Heavy Bolters it can pack are more firepower, and for 170? Not bad. I'm not sure about the real utility of pintle heavy flamers or multi-meltas. Flamers REALLY need a move to get into position, and you get to fire one. Multi-meltas are neat, but short-ranged and very dedicated in their role. Plasma Cannons are cool, but at 40 a pop, well...don't expect to see them too often.

Deathstrike Missile Launcher
Why are you taking an ICBM launcher in a regular game? It is exceedingly cool if it goes off, but for the points, you could have a REAL threat that has to be dealt with.

Hydra Flak Tank
I kinda like these guys. 72" range, two twin-linked autocannons, and a middle finger to cover saves? Solid anti-light-tank/skimmer, and 75 a head? Keep your flanks covered and it's all good.

Ordnance Battery
Immediately add 15 to the price you see, because all of these are open-topped. Or, alternatively, commit to Camo Netting + Chimeras for cover saves.

On to the guns...

Basilisk? 36-240 inch range. That's a fairly hefty minimum. I'll have to check the rules, but if the Ordnance Barrage rules don't let me shoot in that minimum directly, then the Basilisk stays at home. Otherwise, it's an S9, AP3 ordnance shot. More effective at KOing vehicles, but at least it makes even power armor folk grab cover.

Medusa? 36", S10, AP2 ordnance shot. Nothing subtle there; it's a lighter alternative to a Demolisher russ. At 135, though, you're trading a lot of armor for the points. Also gets access to 48", S10 AP1 2d6 penetration small blast. With BS3, that's a lot iffier.

Colossus? Damn near the price of a russ. 24-240 range, but it's S6, AP3, Large Blast, middle finger to cover. In other words, if you're in the open and you're infantry, it'll pulp you.

Griffon? The accurate one of the bunch. Can't fire directly, but it's a 12-48" shot. The accuracy comes from the ability to re-roll the scatter dice. The shot itself is only S6, AP4.

On Vehicle Squads
I'm going to have to read over the 'firing a shit-ton of ordnance from the same unit' to see how that works, but I believe the gist of the rules involves the first shot hitting, then the second and/or third shots scatter off it.

The other note? Yes, you CAN get 9 Russes in an army (at a cost of 1350 minimum, assuming no sponsons and only the basic 150pt model). BUT, they can only engage 3 targets a turn. Additionally, with smaller targets and the like? You might not get the hits you really want. Against vehicles, it's going to be difficult to get more than one direct ordnance hit.

Against infantry? Smaller units will only eat one ordnance hit.

Honestly, I'm thinking in terms of 3 Russes being plenty for an army anyway, since with sponsons it's a good 500-600 points.

With other choices, a vehicle squad isn't necessarily so firepower-inefficient. 3 sentinels? That's 3 multi-lasers or 3 autocannons at a target, all BS3. Not so terrible, since you're looking at 3 autocannon hits or 4-5 multi-laser hits. Hellhounds? Still not bad, since you still have to wound 'em. Might get dicy for the Banehounds, but that's life.

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