Tuesday, 8 April 2014

My brain hurts - thinking hard about tactics

Hi all, I've been pondering today on the topic of chapter tactics and how they can influence our games - from both a fluff and tabletop efficiency perspective.

In particular I was tinkering with list ideas for a 2000 point game I'd arranged (this particular shining idea hit me at half four in the morning as I was trying to get back to sleep while snuffling with Nurgle's Rot)

Now I've always taken Imperial Fists tactics with my Iron Fists army, as fluff-wise they're descended from that progenitor. This gained widespread surprise at my club, since I mainly use bikes, which negate half the chapter tactics due to having twin linked bolters. I do this however because the main hitter in my army is the centurion devastators with twin lascannons, and being able to re-roll failed armour penetration with these guys is great.

On to the topic at hand then, and the game. 2000 points vs Chaos, would there be the dreaded Heldrake? Could I afford to take the risk? I decided i couldn't, but rather than my usual stalker (which lacks the interceptor rule) decided to go with a bastion with Icarus lascannon (I don't have the model for a quad gun) as that meant if no flyer turned up I could still make use of it against tanks. One shot though is always risky, I always seem to roll a 2 when intercepting, so I wanted something with BS5. That either meant a captain (who then couldnt be on a bike, meaning my bikes wouldn't be troops) or some other sneaky method. What I hit on in the end was a five man devastator squad. The sergeant's signum would make the gunner BS5, and as devastators, they would also re-roll any failed armour penetration attempts (and glances if I chose) thanks to the fists chapter tactics. Added to that, the bastion would act as a good hiding place for my tactical squads if I failed to bring the Heldrake down.

So this of course got me thinking about what other chapter tactics could produce unusual but highly effective combinations.

Let’s look at the Ultramarines first then.
Tactical doctrine. Re-rolling ‘1’ to hit. This means any weapon, so aside from being useful for increasing the damage output from your squads, this is the perfect time to let rip with those plasma weapons (remember it won’t affect the plasma cannon though, as the gets hot roll there is not a ‘to hit’ roll). Got a combi-plasma’d up sternguard squad? Declare this at the start of your turn when they arrive and you’ll be much safer from overheating weapons.

Devastator doctrine. Devastator squads gain relentless, though it’s unclear whether this would affect say for example a chapter master who’d joined them, I’m inclined to think it wouldn’t. However, the more relevant part of these tactics to my mind is that all units can re-roll snap shots, including overwatch fire. This has two benefits, if your opponent has lots of flyers then non-skyfire units double their chances of hitting them (almost). More importantly though, if you’re facing a massed charge from your opponent, being able to re-roll your overwatch fire can make a massive difference (and when I say massive, in the last two games I’ve played, both Astorath the Grim and The Sanguinor have died to overwatch fire thanks to it being twin linked. If I were to play Ultramarines therefore, I’d keep this doctrine in my pocket until the enemy had lined up a few charges.

White Scars
I don’t think born in the saddle really leads to too many sneaky tactics, at least not ones that aren’t obvious! Where I think there are advantages to be found are in the hit and run ability, and in running certain types of units that give bonuses on the charge (I’m thinking chaplains here!) In fact, the potential for damage from attaching a chaplain to a unit is so good I really wish they could still be taken as elites. Let’s get one thing straight (and yes, it’s a topic I’ve raised several times before). Marine assault squads are not good. Three attacks each on the charge is average, and because for some reason GW in their wisdom(?) decided chainswords can’t ignore even the thinnest armour, you’ll need a lot of attacks to get through to cause wounds – Some numbers to back that up? 10 assault marines on the charge against other space marines will cause on average 2 unsaved wounds. Add in a Chaplain for that charge and the numbers go up to 4 unsaved wounds(ish). Give those units hit and run (and the chaplain), and a combat that would (on average) take many combat turns to resolve (assuming break tests are passed) can be over in just two, even without chainswords having an AP value.

Iron Hands
Again, The Flesh is Weak is quite simple and doesn't lend itself to any sneaky tactics. Machine empathy however does pretty much guarantee that your vehicles will keep running until they explode, as only a couple of servitors means you'll be repairing those results on a 2+.

Flamecraft I would simply expect to result in lots and lots of flame weapons from these guys, and sternguard units in drop pods maxed out with heavy and combi flamers (re-rolls to wound benefit not only offensive fire, but again keeping those combi flamers for defending charges would be a real discouragement to most opponents, particularly lighter armoured foes such as gaunts or wyches). Master artisans also can make a big difference, and the rules don't limit the master crafted to a particular type of weapon, so it could (in my opinion) be used on, for example, melta bombs, there's nothing more infuriating than charging a vehicle with melta bombs and failing your roll to hit.

Raven Guard
Bearing in mind that bulky units (ie bikes and jump infantry) can't benefit from the Strike from the Shadows rule, and that the scout move happens before the movement phase of turn 1, the most useful part of this rule allows your heavy weapons to reposition to get the best line of sight they can on turn 1. Don't forget though, that this rule also means that transports can outflank, giving you a great way of getting firepower into your opponent's deployment zone. Combine this with winged deliverance and you have a very fluffy looking set of options, mixing lots of jump infantry that are moving quickly across the table and hitting pretty hard, with scoring units then arriving later on in the game to secure objectives, and unusually you have a space marine army that plays the game in the opponent's table half.

Keep your eyes peeled later for a breakdown of the forgeworld chapter tactics