Saturday, 23 April 2016

Angels of Death supplement review Part 3 - Imperial Fists

Welcome to part 3 of my Angels of Death supplement review - this time I'm looking at the Imperial Fists, plus the Warlord Traits for both of their successor chapters, the Black Templars and the Crimson Fists.

Right, so last time we looked at the Raven Guard, and as part of the Kauyon book, they got a huge number of formations that were clearly aimed at them, albeit able to be taken by any space marine chapter. Not so the Imperial Fists (well, you could argue the siegebreaker cohort is very much aimed straight at them, but it was still introduced into the main codex), in fact none of the Chapters not already given some love by the main codex or campaign books got any kind of unique formations in the new book, which is a shame in my view.

Not to be deterred however, I'll plough on - what do we associate with the Imperial Fists then? Well they're second only to the Ultramarines in their dedication to the Codex Astartes, so we shouldn't expect anything too unusual for them, but their particular speciality is in siege warfare, as both defenders and attackers. It's fair to say that the unique stuff they do get reflects this preference, which is unfortunate for them really since I rarely see fortifications taken in games of 40k.

Let's start then by looking at what they get - we all know the basic chapter traits from the main codex, so I'm not going to go into those again here, but in addition to those, the supplement allows you to take devastator centurions as an elite choice and assault centurions as a fast attack choice. This is a little strange these given the lack of need for the CAD, but hey it's a free bonus so it may come in handy for some army building purposes. I've never seen anyone use assault centurions, and rightly so, but taking devastator centurions as elites would free up the heavy support slot nicely for some of the other heavy hitters in the codex.

Right, so the unique detachment for Imperial Fists is called the 'Sternhammer Strike Force'. As with the Raven Guard, I think this definitely falls into the category of cool, so I like it already!

As for command benefits, it gives units in the detachment stubborn if the warlord is alive (nice, not huge, but ignoring combat modifiers ain't bad) and boosts the standard bolter drill from re-rolling ones to re-rolling failed hits with basically any bolter weapon (including the special ammo, which is nice). Finally it gives units +1 to armour penetration rolls against buildings. As I said before, I don't see many buildings being brought as part of lists, but it's nice to know it's there if you do face one. It may be worth checking the rules in relation to a void shield generator, though I doubt it would apply.

Not a bad set of benefits, but not stellar, the real winner is obviously effective twin linked on all bolter weapons, which means one of two things, depending on how you want to build your lists.

  1. Take more bolter weapons, because they're far more effective in Imperial Fists lists. 
  2. Take less bolter weapons, because you don't need as many to achieve the same results.
Now I'm sure someone more enthusiatic about maths than me will run the numbers and figure out just how much more effective the imperial fists bolter is compared to a normal marine, but I'm just gonna leave it that you probably won't need as many tactical marines as before.

Core formations
Let's get down to the nitty gritty then shall we? The sternhammer requires at least 1 core formation, but has no upper limit. Now in most games that's not going to matter, because taking 3 core formations is exceedingly costly in points, but in larger games the Sternhammer certainly allows you to bring much bigger quantities of Tactical Squads.

Two core formations are available, the Battle Demi-Company, and the Siegebreaker cohort. Now I'm going to break from my own standard practice here and actually review the siegebreaker formation because quite frankly I think I've maybe looked at it once before now, and then immediately moved on.

Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort
Yup, that's why, you need a minimum of 2 units of assault centurions, and can take up to 4, plus a unit of Ironclad Dreadnoughts. Having never seen one unit of assault centurions used before, I think 2 is probably unlikely to see the table, and 4 is in unicorn riding blindfolded on the back of a dragon territory. In terms of benefits they're not bad with re-rolls to penetrate buildings and additional damage to the occupants if they destroy buildings/vehicles, but the cost implications of getting them into combat in the first place are horrendous given they can't take drop pods (in this detachment anyway).

Battle Demi-Company

Nothing much to say here that we don't already know about except, ya know, objective secured on everything, so pretty huge right there.

Command Formations
As for command formations there's nothing we wouldn't expect to see, only a single slot per core choice, but the standard three are all there, Strike Force Command, Reclusiam Command Squad and Librarius Conclave. Obviously the last of these is the standout option now, especially since if you really want Lysander he can be taken in the core formation.

Auxiliary Formations
Right, plenty to talk about here then, as usual I'm not going to go over the standard marine codex formations, except to note that the 1st company task force is in here, which is great since that formation works brilliantly well with the bolter drill rules. Between 1 and 10 Auxiliary choices can be taken per core formation, and this is the detachment where you might actually get close to needing a second core formation!

Imperial Fists are certainly where it's at though in terms of flexibility of units to bring along in these detachments, as the Sternhammer no less than five army list entries that can be taken without the need for a wider formation. And yes, these are some of the stars of the codex.

The Thunderfire Cannon
Just an absolute beast of a unit, and a steal at the price, it's only really bettered I think by the Astra Militarum wyvern as an artillery piece.

A unit of Centurions
Ok, let's be honest, a unit of devastator centurions. The only drawback here is that because there are no generic 'fast attack' slots, you can't take a drop pod for them. Whilst those of you who favour grav centurions will no doubt be howling at this point, I would strongly recommend you look at Lascannon/Missile Launcher centurions instead. They don't need the pod, they're cheaper and they actually get a benefit from the Tank Hunters rule. I rocked a unit of these guys with my Iron Fists for a long time and they're absolute solid gold, they never let me down.

A unit of Vindicators
Best tank in the marine arsenal? Possibly, especially if you manage to fire off the big template from using a unit of three of them. I'd be more inclined to split them up in honesty though and use them in units of one, and this selection method allows you to do just that.

A unit of Devastators
Ok so if you're bemoaning the loss of your beautiful devastator centurions, try this one for size instead, 4 grav cannons with grav amps in a drop pod, add in a biomancy librarian with the power that grants relentless and they are actually cheaper and more effective than a grav cent unit (though more fragile of course). Even without the libby they can still spit out 12 grav shots when they arrive.

A unit of Ironclad or Contemptor Dreadnoughts
So I've never used a contemptor before and I can see they're pretty expensive, but boy can they pack a punch with that Kheres assault cannon, and with an invulnerable save to boot they're definitely worth considering.

Warlord Traits
+1 to the building damage table. Nothing really to shout about for the reasons mentioned before.

Warlord has it will not die. Well I wouldn't complain about this - granted I've proved it's perfectly possible to go a whole game without passing one of these rolls, but that doesn't make it a bad trait to have.

Modify reserve rolls by one, pretty handy, though I would tend to suggest that as Imperial Fists you may be more inclined to work with a more static style of play anyway, concentrating on heavy guns. still, I wouldn't complain to have this, as I often have something in reserve.

Fearless and Counter Attack for the warlord and his unit if they don't move. Well I have to say the fearless part shouldn't be much of an issue if you're taking the Imperial Fists detachment, since you get stubborn anyway and your Warlord is likely to be Ld10, but the counter attack element is certainly useful, particularly given that static gunline potential I mentioned.

Deduct 1 from any building damage rolls against a building your warlord is embarked on. Hmm, at least with this one you have the option of taking your own buildings (though not as part of the Sternhammer as there's no fortification choice in it. Not one I'd be happy about though.

Your Warlord gets an orbital strike as per the chapter master entry in the main codex. I'm not clear if your warlord happens to also be a chapter master whether or not they get to make a second strike with this trait. Logic would say they do, but who knows?

Tactical Objectives

Choose 3 objective markers and score points in the following turn for holding those markers. I really like this one, it really suits the Imperial Fists 'hold until relieved' mentality, and the potential benefits for achieving it are huge (up to 6 points). With objective secured on anything in your demi company it's well worth the effort.

Score a point for embarking on a building or firing a gun emplacement. It's such a shame there isn't a fortification slot in the Sternhammer, the cards and benefits all point towards it being beneficial and it would certainly help shift the models!

This is a gambling card. You pick the number of points you'd like to score and have to destroy that number of enemy units in your shooting phase. If you fail, you score nothing and discard the card. I love this, it's original, very fluffy in terms of the Imperial Fists mantra, and rewards adventurous, aggressive play.

Score a point for issuing or fighting in a challenge. Easy enough to achieve normally, and again very fluffy considering the Imperial Fists was Sigismund's legion before he founded the Black Templars.

Score a point for losing a unit, but discard the card if you fail a morale check before scoring it. Another one I really like, even though it's entirely up to your opponent to allow you to score it, discouraging them from killing one of your units is never a bad thing.

Score a point for destroying a gun emplacement or building claimed by the enemy, or D3 for 2.

All in all a bit of a mixed bag. Some great ones but again the introduction of building based cards without a fortification slot in the detachment irritates me.

Black Templars Traits
Add 1 to your warlord's WS and A. Certainly has potential, Black Templars are heavy combat focused anyway, so playing that style I'd be happy to get this.

If the Warlord's unit fails a morale check they 'fall back' towards the nearest enemy instead. Certainly gives you scope to get into combat quicker but I'd rather not take enough casualties to need to take the test in the first place. It's not a bad silver lining if you do though, but it could certainly mean you getting charged instead of getting the charge yourself.

Warlord gets hatred and preferred enemy towards psykers. Ok so I'm conflicted about this one, it's pretty good against them, obviously, and ties in neatly with the adamantium will chapter tactics, but will often be utterly useless. Thankfully in this regard (though not in general, cos I love them) the Black Templars don't have their own detachment, because it means they'll be using the CAD most likely, and will therefore be able to re-roll this if it's not required.

Re-rolls for failed charges for the Warlord and/or his unit. Nice, nothing screws up a combat army's day more than getting your prized stabby unit into place only to fail the charge. And it happens way more than the averages would suggest!

The Warlord is fearless and can re-roll failed hits in a challenge. Reasonable. Fearless isn't quite the bonus to marines it is to other armies. but it can still be helpful to stop you potentially breaking off from combat and becoming a target in the shooting phase.

Warlord and friendly units in 12" re-roll failed morale, pinning and fear tests.  I think I actually prefer this to fearless. the application to other units and the pretty reliable result based on marine leadership wins out for me, though I'd be happy with either.

I'd say therefore that there are 3-4 decent traits in here, though none that I'd be really hoping for above any of the others.

Crimson Fists Chapter Tactics

Now this is an interesting one for me, since when you look at codex space marines, the only crimson fists unit in there is Pedro Kantor, and he has the Imperial Fists chapter tactics... Go figure!

Technically therefore, I can see some people arguing that Pedro can't actually use this table, but those are the sort of people you probably don't want to be playing anyway.

Warlord has feel no pain. Never a bad thing!

Warlord and his unit have counter attack and stubborn when within 3" of an objective marker. I like this, it may not come into play all that often, but when you have to hold that objective in the face of the enemy, getting counter attack and stubborn if they're charging at you is definitely a bonus. It's a bit situational but not useless by any means.

Hatred (Orks) and preferred enemy (Orks). Probably the worst one in the chart, unless you're playing Orks of course! Fluffy but 90+% pointless.

Donate your warlord's BS to a friendly model within 12" if he doesn't shoot. Decent if you're in range of a really good gun, but it's unlikely to change the game.

Warlord has eternal warrior. Like feel no pain, you'd never complain about this, unless you've paid for the shield eternal of course!

Warlord and friendly Crimson Fists units within 12" have fearless. Kind of the best of both worlds from the last two traits in the Black Templars set. I sure as hell wouldn't complain.

I think with this chart there's probably 4-5 here that I would be perfectly happy with, and only the Ork related one would disappoint me, but then if you're playing Crimson Fists you probably don't like Orks anyway so you wouldn't mind drawing it in a friendly match. Equally as you are likely to take Crimson Fists in a CAD then you'd be able to re-roll anyway.

Conclusions

Whilst initially I had a few misgivings about the Sternhammer, I think it takes a bit of perspective. If you look at the command benefits that it grants then it's pretty underwhelming, with only the superior bolter drill really likely to affect the game all that much. However, when you add that benefit to the ability to take so many heavy firepower army list entries, this strike force does firepower in a way that no other marine army can achieve, and with those bolter re-rolls, plus tank hunters on devastators and devastator centurions these guys have a lot of redundancy built in with re-rolls. If you want to play gunline marines, this is the way to do it.

I like the rules on the whole, and I'll definitely be building the dusk knights along these lines initially, even if I may look to expand them later on to take advantage of the Raven Guard tactics (Delta Company???)

Next time, Salamanders, but only after I take a look at a comparison between the CAD list I wrote for the Dusk Knights and the revised list using the Sternhammer.