Thursday, 28 April 2016

Angels of Death supplement review Part 4 - Salamanders


Hi all, welcome to part 4 of the Angels of Death supplement review. Today I'm going to look at that chapter that I used to see on the table all the time but haven't for a while. I think though that we could be seeing them again a bit more as a result of these rules! I introduce to you, THE SALAMANDERS!

Now, what do you think of when you think about the Salamanders? Yup, me too, FIRE. And I don't mean fire in the Crazy World of Arthur Brown sense (though believe me, that is rattling around my head whilst I'm writing this).

The Chapter Tactics for Salamanders in the codex, but on this occasion I'll repeat them here since they affect all models within a Salamanders detachment as I read the supplement rules.

4+ FNP against flame wounds, and a re-roll to wound when using flame weapons.
Option to master craft (for free) a single weapon carried by each character in the army (unless it's a relic) even if that's an upgrade.

Nice, I hear you say, and often combined with Vulkan He'stan's special rules allowing meltas to re-roll to hit this guys are really reliable with anything that uses heat as its method of hitting/wounding you.

Add to this the new detachment rules for the Flameblade Strike Force and you get +1S on all flamer weapons carried by models with Salamanders Chapter Tactics. You also get a free personal warlord trait in addition to your normal one, and your models become fearless if they didn't move in the movement phase (until their next movement phase, so through your opponent's turn).

Ok so the personal trait is a nice bonus, but no so great it justifies taking the detachment. The flame weapons however is a huge difference maker - S5 standard flamers and S6 heavy flamers? Ignoring cover? These guys are going to be brutal up close, especially against anything that utilises open topped transports (my poor Dark Eldar...).

Enough crying (tears of joy or sorrow, depends on what army you play), let's get on to the detachment itself.

Fairly standard beans here, you must bring either 1 or 2 core formations, at least one auxiliary and up to 3 command.

Core Formations
Either the standard battle demi-company or the Stormlance Battle Demi-Company. Essentially they are almost identical composition wise, except the stormlance loses the ability to take centurions. All non jump pack or bike units however must start the game embarked in a rhino or razorback. In terms of benefits you trade objective secured and the chance to use the tactical doctrine once, for re-rolls to hit against targets holding objectives, and the option to move after shooting. This prevents the unit from charging, but crucially allows you to re-embark on the transport if you can get into position to do so (within 2" of a hatch).

In my view, there's a real decision to be made here - the benefits of the Stormlance are significant, but so is objective secured. I think the biggest determining factor for me here is the question of how mobile you want to be - and with Salamanders that's a massive thing, since their rules encourage the domination of melta and plasma in their lists. Personally for me, I think the option to bring drop pods gives them a better alpha strike firing platform than Rhinos/Razorbacks, and that's what (in my view) Salamanders need. Cripple a Rhino/Razorback, which isn't too hard, and you've already limited the effectiveness of the Stormlance.

Command Formations
Not a huge amount to say about the Command stuff, except that Vulkan can be taken on his own as  strike force commander or in place of the captain in either of the demi-companies, thus giving you maximum flexibility to stick him in your list and still bring a captain with relics (see the section later as you might want to do this).

Apart from this, you get the standard reclusiam command squad and the librarius conclave (which is of course what's causing all the wailing online at the moment, but that's for another post I think).

Auxiliary Formations
As with the other reviews, I'm not going to discuss the option for formations you get from the main codex as they have no doubt been reviewed to death when they were released. I will note which ones you can use though, so you get the Armoured Task Force (which combines nicely with the stormlance demi-company for a mechanised force), 1st Company Taskforce (lots and lots of meltas and flamers), 10th Company Taskforce, Storm Wing (just don't), Anti-Air defence force (may be useful if flyers become more common thanks to Death from the Skies), Suppression Force, Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort, Land Raider Spearhead, Strike Force Ultra, Raptor Wing and Ravenhawk Assault Group (see my Raven Guard review).

In addition to these you get the Stormbringer Squadron, which was introduced in Kauyon, and the Flamebringers, which is a unit entry comprising a Land Raider Redeemer (note, it doesn't specify 'a unit of', so in my view you could only include 1 per choice, though you obviously have as many of these choices as you wish).

So what's the stormbringer squadron do? Well, it's 1-3 units of land speeders, and 1-3 units of scouts, which must take a land speeder storm as a transport. The scouts units (but not the transports) get objective secured, and can deploy from the storms even if they move up to 12", and the Land Speeder Storms get +1 to jink if they're within 6" of a normal land speeder from the formation. Quite honestly I don't think there's a huge amount here - objective secured scouts in land speeder storms are nice but you can bring plenty of them in a demi-company if you want. the +1 to jink for the storms is nice, but it's easy enough to disable or destroy landspeeders anyway, or just flame the guys off the top of it, so the big contributor from this formation is the 12" movement then deploy. As an open topped vehicle it counts as an assault vehicle, so you've got a massive assault range from these transports, but that's countered by the fact that you can only mount 5 scouts in them, and scouts aren't the greatest combat threat.

I've used this formation a few times with my Iron Fists list, and to be honest, it's ok, mainly because it's a very cheap way of fulfilling an auxiliary choice to make the detachment legal. There will probably be other auxiliary formations you'd prefer to use however, so it's by no means a game winner.

Flamebringers is certainly a fluffy option, and gives you an easy way to get land raiders into the detachment without having to resort to the Spearhead, but to be honest I've tended to find Land Raiders a bit underwhelming in the games where I've used them, as my opponents rarely allow them time to do what they do.

Warlord Traits
Warlord gets a +1 bonus to his strength. Nice, but not fantastic.
Warlord gets a 2+ FnP against flame weapons. Again, very nice but anyone trying to flame a salamanders warlord to death probably isn't playing the game very well anyway.
Add 3 to the roll to see if the game ends. Wow, you're guaranteed to play six turns if you want to and pretty much guaranteed to see turn 7. Can't argue with this one, you don't have to use it so it's perfect for grinding out results and making use of a resilient force to swing the game late on.
Warlord has It Will Not Die. Useful, but probably annoyingly won't happen on the occasions you really need it to.
Warlord can re-roll all failed to hit rolls with master crafted weapons, including relics. Yikes, seeing as salamanders characters can choose a weapon to master craft this is pretty tasty. I would expect to see it most on combat weapons however.
Warlord and friendly units in 12" are stubborn and can re-roll failed leadership tests. Interesting, this would even apply to Psychic Shriek as I read it, though I suppose you could end up with a considerably worse result the second time round. Situational given the fact they have and they shall know no fear, but certainly not pointless.

Relics
Drake Smiter - basically a master crafted thunder hammer except it can be used to make a single strength D attack in combat. As it's master crafted this will also come with a re-roll. This would be awesome if it weren't for the fact that in most Salamanders armies you tend to see Vulkan as the HQ option. I can certainly see this being given to a Chaplain though, and gives Salamanders a practically unique solution to superheavies in the marine book. One we could be seeing a lot of!

Nocturne's Fury - essentially a super-flamer. it has two profiles, the standard flamer one, and a heavy version that gains the torrent rule. don't forget that with the Flameblade Strike Force this would become S5, so all in all a pretty decent flamer, though to be honest, the points cost is too high for me to say it's a must take, when it's four times the usual cost of a flamer.

Salamander's Mantle - grants eternal warrior to the bearer. Definitely useful, and would allow two characters in the army to benefit from this rule if you take the Shield Eternal. It's costly but for avoiding ID on characters I'd take this in basically every list if I could.

Tome of Vel'cona - only taken by librarians, it grants a free pyromancy power and gives them +1S on all pyromancy witchfires. This will definitely make pyromancy a good option for Salamanders librarians, though I fear with all the fuss over the new psychic powers we'll rarely see it used to full effect.

Vulkan's Sigil - only taken by chaplains, it grants an extra attack to the chaplain and his unit. Thankfully this doesn't seem to combine with Drake Smiter, and for the cost I'd say it's probably not going to hit many lists.

Wrath of Prometheus - the usual artisan bolter that makes it into relic lists. This one is S5, master crafted and rending. but is still the price of a meltagun. Probably only for use as a filler really.

Tactical Objectives
Score a victory point for destroying a vehicle with a melta weapon. Fluffy, relatively easily achievable, every Salamanders player should be happy to draw this, and if they aren't, they should try using a different chapter.

Score a point for making a charge and not taking casualties on overwatch. Interesting one this, since I'd say Salamanders are not an army that really wants to charge much, despite them having a real aptitude for short-ranged firearms. It's fairly simple to achieve, especially since they get uber FnP against flame weapons, which are the biggest threat on overwatch. I wouldn't mind drawing this, but wouldn't necessarily want it as a Sallies player.

Score a point for having three units within a set range of your table edge and destroyed an enemy unit that was in your table half. Hmm, it's quite a lot to ask for a single point this one. Probably the sort of card I'd be happy to draw if I were able to score it that turn, but not one I'd be looking to keep unless the other cards in my hand were a pile of shite.

Uber Recon - D3 pts if all objectives have been identified and you control more of them than your opponent. Reasonable, though I'd have liked to see 2pts for it instead of D3, given the potential to only roll a single point.

Score a point for destroying a unit within 6" of a sallies unit, with a multiplier effect for killing more units like this. Very fluffy given what I said before about sallies wanting to get close, and stacks across the turn rather than a single phase. Should be fairly easy to achieve the multiplier thanks to that, and given most meltas want to be in 6" range anyway.

Score a point for completely destroying a unit with a flamer weapon, with multiplier for more units destroyed this way. At first glance this seems easy, then you read it again and realise that it's the flamer weapon that must destroy the enemy unit, not a unit using a flamer weapon. Whilst that's fine for cheap command squads packing 4 of them and targeting squishy troops, it's not so easy in many situations, so I'd actually say this could be fairly difficult to achieve, particularly if you're going for the multiplier. I could easily see the more 'rules lawyery' players trying to argue that because of the wording 'completely destroyed an enemy unit with a flamer weapon' then even casualties from bolter wounds prior to a flamer wiping the unit out would actually prevent you from scoring that card. Not sure I'd want to go that hard against it myself, but I'm sure there are those who would.

Conclusions

So, some more love at last for the Sons of Vulkan, and I have to say whilst they're nowhere near up there with Raven Guard or Iron Hands, I think there are some pretty solid things in this part of the book. It'll certainly encourage people to play Salamanders again I think, and we'll start seeing lots of flamers in those armies. Heck, if I were them I'd even be tempted to bring a Redeemer along to the party!