Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Talos Tactics - an in-depth review

Morning all, welcome to the second of my in depth reviews, this one looking at the options and tactics for the Talos heavy support choice. I'll also look at the role of the talos in the formations detailed in the coven supplement, namely the dark artisan and corpsethief claw formations.

First up then, what are the obvious strengths of the Talos?

Well for starters it's very strong and tough, tougher than tyranid monstrous creatures and as strong as a Heldrake.

It's also fearless and comes with a power armour equivalent save. It's no slouch in combat either, with WS a point higher than a standard marine and the same initiative, and it also comes as standard with feel no pain.

Unlike most of the rest of the army however, the Talos doesn't have fleet, and has no transport options so isn't going to be going anywhere quickly.

Generally speaking, I don't think the talos is likely to charge many things, unless they're happy in combat anyway and come to you, or you manage to manoeuvre your opponent into a trap.

So what else does it have to offer the budding archon, if it's not going to chase units into a corner?

Well first off, the talos has an in-built survivability because of the high toughness, good armour and feel no pain combination. It is therefore extremely good at holding objectives, especially those in cover. This survivability also grants the Talos a usefulness in terms of providing a board presence for minimal deployment lists. If you want to keep the majority of your army in reserve, then you're likely to need something solid to soak up 1-2 rounds worth of shooting from those enemy units that are in range and line of sight. A couple of Talos will do that with ease against most opponents, and will easily soak up fire long enough for your reserves to arrive, especially if you throw a Cronos in there to boost their feel no pain.

Second, it carries the most reliable shooting in our entire army. Short of adding wargear, the Talos is the only way to get a twin linked weapon in this codex. Now don't get me wrong, a Talos is an expensive way to get any of the weapons it carries (except the stinger pod of course, since nothing else carries it) since for 1 Talos with a twin linked haywire blaster, you can pretty much buy a fully equipped squad of 5 scourges with 4 of the same weapon. That's not the point though, you don't take the Talos for the gun, you take the Talos for other reasons, but the guns are a pretty nice bonus.

Third, it's a close combat threat to pretty much anything short of a high armour walker (you can go with smash, but now it's just 1 attack I'm dubious as to its effectiveness). I realise that I mentioned earlier that I don't consider the Talos to be likely to charge anything, and I maintain that it's difficult. On the other hand, you can't discount that close combat threat and ability, I've had Talos take down a Trigon Prime in a single fight sub-phase, strip enough wounds from a Hive Tyrant to leave it hanging by a raggedy thread, and on the other hand, I've also had them fail a charge and then get psychic shrieked to death.

So the main focus of the Talos then falls around three strands.
1. Survivability
2. Reliable shooting
3. Threat

So how do we best use the talos to take advantage of these three elements?

Well first up, let's look at deployment - this is a key part of the talos' battlefield role. We want the talos to be survivable and tough to take down - it's got that in spades against normal mid strength shooting, but there is a bit of a problem when it comes to heavier weapons. Anything AP3 or better is going to be stripping that save away, and a lot of weapons of that nature are also pretty high strength so are quite likely to be wounding on 3's at worst. That leaves you with just the talos' feel no pain save, so ideally you want to be deploying it in cover to give it two bites at the cherry. Preferably deploy it in a ruin since you then get an automatic 4+ without having to worry about actually obscuring any of it.

That's all well and good, but the talos in a ruin isn't a threat if that ruin is in the corner of your deployment zone, it doesn't bring enough firepower to warrant digging out on it's own, so you need to make it threatening too. On that basis I tend to place my talos as close to front and centre as it can get, provided it's not out in the open, even if that means only a 5+ cover save.

That also helps with the second part - how to get the talos in the game! Deploying front and centre gives you a good chance, and don't be afraid to forego a turn of shooting to 'run' with it if that's going to get you better placed in future turns - better to run and not shoot and be in combat in two turns than to shoot but take three turns to see action. Remember, shooting is only the secondary part of the talos' job!

Lastly then if your opponent is likely to be aggressive, that's the only time I'd deploy a talos defensively, perhaps on an objective to make use of its toughness while being a nuisance with its guns.

Speaking of guns, that's my next topic - which gun do you use on the talos?

My first answer, as cryptic as ever, is 'it depends'. Don't worry though, I have a philosophy you can apply!

Splinter cannon - great gun, the twin linked version should ensure you score at least five hits in a turn.
Why do you need more splinter fire? Gunboats, venoms, missiles, heck even massed lose combat attacks are things in plentiful supply in the dark eldar armoury so I would always question why you're leaving the gun as the basic loadout. With one exception (there's always one you know). That's tyranids - there's just no point upgrading against them (yes, footslogging wraith armies are another potential here though in their case there's an argument for heat lances) as the splinter cannon is the best bet.

Heat lance - lovely weapon, hate the range limitations. We've already identified that the talos is slow as a sloth on a day of rest, so the odds of any half competent opponent letting you get within 9" of their precious tanks? Slim to none. There's only one occasion when I'd take a heat lance, and that's in a dark artisan formation with a Webway portal.

Haywire blaster - oh yes, now that's more like it. Against most armies you'll find a use for haywire blasters, even if it's just clearing those pesky drop pods. Their range is good enough that they're usable even with the talos' speed issues, and they are the most reliable source of hull point removal we have.

Stinger pod - the what? I can honestly say I've never ever seen anyone propose to use one of these on a talos, and I look at a lot of army lists online and tinker about with plenty of my own. The reason for that is simply that a small blast template isn't going to catch many models, and although S5 is going to be better than poisoned in many circumstances, it's still largely an anti infantry weapon same as the splinter cannon, but less effective.

So, in terms of shooting my favourite tactic with Talos is to use them to support the rest of my anti-tank choices by stripping a couple of hull points as and where necessary.

Next matter then, is close combat - I'm not going to look at the liquifier here because I just don't see it as a sensible option for the Talos (or at all, it's unreliable in what it does, and is generally pretty expensive too).

Chain flails - granting re-rolls to wound is useful, no doubt, but quite frankly the only occasions it's going to be really worthwhile is when the Talos' inherent S of 7 isn't enough. Generally speaking, if something is that tough then you should be shooting it with poisoned weapons anyway, or taking the ichor injector.

Which has the fleshbane rule so ignores the toughness value of your opponent, and grants instant death on 6's. Add to that, the fact that Monstrous Creature attacks come in with an innate AP of 2, the ichor injector is the standout candidate for me, and its benefits far outweigh the few occasions when not having re-rolls to wound is significant.

Now there's definitely an argument to be made that actually the close combat upgrades aren't great value given how often the Talos will actually make it into combat, but I personally like to take them, they're not expensive and go towards providing that threat we discussed earlier, plus when they do get into combat they multiply the threat of the Talos many times over.

So in normal units then, my advice for using the Talos is this - give it a haywire blaster for annoying shooting, deploy it in cover but close to front and centre, and take an ichor injector to make it a substantial threat against anything else. Keep it away from nasty walkers though, limiting it to a single smash in close combat means it will struggle to deal with things like ironclads etc.

Dark artisan.
So how does that apply to a talos in the dark artisan formation then? Well in my opinion, there's only really one thing to change in your tactics, and that's only if you take a webway portal for the unit. If that's the case, then I'd be very tempted to take a heat lance instead of the haywire blaster, as you can guarantee yourself being in close range for the shot. Other than that, tactics in the dark artisan remain exactly the same as for individual talos units, deploy to soak up fire (knowing your feel no pain save is even better now) and threaten enemy units. Move aggressively and don't be afraid to forego shooting to get into a better position if necessary.

Corpse thief claw.
So I'll preface this with the admission that I've never used this formation, though it's something I plan on doing when I have the models available!

The first thing that immediately springs to mind is the investment (points wise) that has to be made to bring it to the table - this is not a formation for low level games!

Second is that despite all those points and all the potential damage the unit can cause, it's only going to hurt 1 unit per turn in your opponents army. That means that they aren't going to win you the game through damage output alone, especially given their speed. 

What they can do however is become a monstrous fire magnet capable of soaking up almost anything thrown at them, so with their scout move I see great potential in missions of capture the relic or anything where a very big, very tough unit will make things difficult (purge the alien for example?)

I would be tempted with this unit to deploy, scout and move it in such a way that it threatens your opponents most treasured model/unit - it'll be such a large threat that the rest of your army will have things easy!

So there you have it, my views on tactics for equipping and using the talos in your games.

As ever, comments are welcomed, and if you think I've missed anything, do let me know!

Till next time,