Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The temptation of new toys

Hi all, those of you who read my post yesterday will know I've got some 500pt games arranged at the end of April, so today I thought I'd post up a few thoughts about tactics and list building in smaller games.

First things first then, what games do you play at 500pts? Well you may not realise it, but there's actually a special mission in the rulebook designed just for this game size (it's at the back of the hardback version) it takes most of the normal rules and applies them to a 4'x4' table, with objectives only counting for 2 victory points each.

So what do you pick in a 500pt army?

First things first, the army selection rules don't change, so you still need 1 hq and 2 troops. Of course that's easier for some armies to achieve than others within the points limitations, imperial guard for example will find it much easier to accommodate this and still have room left for bigger toys, but I'm going to talk about marines, since a) that's what I'm using and b) I know very little about the guard codex in particular and horde codices in general.

Clearly cost effectiveness comes into this, as it will throughout the list building stage, but basic cost irrespective of damage potential is also important, since some options could cost 40-50% of my points! Special characters then are largely out, with only a couple of options cheap enough to be viable in a force of this size. Realistically I'm left with a choice between a chaplain, a captain or a librarian. I'm leaving out the Master of the Forge for two very important reasons, 1) I don't have one, nor a model that I can easily convert, and 2) I haven't looked in much depth at the unit entry since I first read the marine codex last september.

The chaplain is handy for making a unit fearless, though marines generally suffer less in this area than most. He also brings an invulnerable save, though with only 2 wounds to support it, it's not viable for tanking particularly (Cassius is more capable in this regard as his high toughness means lascannons etc can't instant kill him). The chaplain's biggest drawback though to my mind is that his benefits are mainly combat based. Even with two min sized tactical squads, that gives me very few points to get a good enough combat unit to make the most of the bonus. (I'll explain this more later).

Same cost as the chaplain, and also comes with a 4+ invulnerable save but has an extra wound. Where the chaplain boosts those around him however, the captain's benefits are all focused on himself, with more wounds and better stats making him a very solid choice in games of this size, good enough to make  other armies take note. Therein lies the problem though, he's likely to draw attention to himself, and whilst you can boost his save to make him very survivable, his main benefit is still in combat, so he suffers the same issue as the chaplain.

Well the librarian is (initially) the cheapest of the hq options, and whilst he costs the same as the rest if you make him level 2, the flexibility to spend those points elsewhere is a definite bonus. That being said, I would always take the upgrade if possible to give the librarian some options in terms of powers. The librarian doesn't have a great statline, and has no invulnerable save so needs the protection of a unit but the potential benefits of their psychic powers are significant, both in outright damage terms, and in game management through blessings and maledictions. 

In the end I plumped for the librarian, my concession to spare points being taking the primarch's wrath for him to boost his firepower if I ended up with short ranged powers.

As ever, marines have two basic units to choose from here, the tactical squad, which in the background forms the backbone and main fighting strength of the chapter, and the scout squad, which doesn't. There are two big differences here, essentially being damage dealing, and resilience. The scouts of course are cheaper, allowing more points to play with elsewhere, but the big sticking point for me is their ballistic skill, it's the same as a guardsman. Irrespective of the fact their guns are better than guardsmen's, the additional numbers you need to take to get the same damage as a tactical squad means I'm not inclined to base my force around them (at least not without cover and camo cloaks!) especially as the bonus in points terms is not significant enough to bring me a game changing unit.

I also have to bear in mind that in order to win the game, I need to have troops units around at the end and as tempting as a hybrid army sounds, with a scout squad supplementing a full tactical squad, I think the comfort of two full tactical squads is substantial, particularly as a place to hide my librarian.

So with two tactical squads chosen, I had to decide how to spend the remainder of my points, including weapon upgrades for those squads. Now I'll admit, I did toy with the idea of a storm talon here, dropping half a tactical squad to fit it in, but time and a bit of sage advice from Ryan the Undefeated persuaded me against the idea, its damage output and potential fragility not justifying its inclusion.

So there we have the basics, what to take for that x-factor? Well I'll be up against two guard armies, a Necron force  and marines so whatever it is would need to deal with most of those options. As ever, it came down to a trade off, the unit that immediately stood out was the vindicator, tough front armour and a devastating cannon would destroy just about anything it hit, but in order to afford it that meant no real weapon options for my tactical squads, and possibly my game winner getting totaled by a lucky shot in turn one. Next up then was my second favourite heavy choice (well, third, but there was no way I was affording centurions in this list), so in came the whirlwind. It's two different weapon configurations meant the guard wouldn't be able to hide from it, either in cover or out of sight, and quite possibly wouldn't even be able to see it, whilst it still gave me a good damage dealing option against Necron warriors. Only the marines would retain a save against its power, but the large blast would still mean it has good damage dealing potential as statistically half a dozen wounds would give me a couple of casualties. The big down side to the whirlwind is its armour, meaning it would have to stay well protected out of sight. 

So there will be four objectives to play for in these games worth 2 pts each, plus linebreaker, first blood and slay the warlord for a total of 11 points. 6 would be the guaranteed winning margin therefore, meaning i would have to hold 3 objectives, or at least contest them. With that in mind, and also bearing in mind the ranges of the weapons I've chosen for my tactical squads, I'll keep one at full strength, with the other splitting into combat squads to hold and contest one objective each. Needless to say the flamer unit will be the one advancing in most games.

My Librarian will look to supplement the abilities of the units around them if possible, or weaken the enemy. Consequently I'm hoping to get Enfeeble or Endurance from the Biomancy range, though Iron Arm, Warp Speed, Life Leech and Smite are also really good backups, the only one I'm not so impressed by is Haemorrage. Depending on the opponent and/or how I'm feeling at the time, my backup power would be Pyromancy, though that discipline is more direct damage than the boosting powers I'd like. Telepathy may be an alternative in this regard, particularly if there's a nasty looking unit nearby that I'd like to get rid of.

Priority targets will be the enemy's troops units, dropping whirlwind missile barrages on their heads to slow them down through pinning whilst the tactical squads focus their firepower on eliminating units (remember, even one man from a troops unit can hold an objective, focus firepower and wipe them out first). To achieve this I'll need to remember one maxim above all else. Fire the big tactical squad first, if there's anything left then the smaller units can take turns, but there's little more frustrating than to use a small unit to shoot an opponent, almost wipe them out and then have to waste a full unit's shooting to kill one or two men.

Till next time, here's a quick pic of the almost-finished Epistolary Noboru

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