Sunday, 27 August 2017

8th ed Space Marine codex review part 4 - single model elites

Greetings all, welcome to part 4 of my Space Marines codex review - the single-model elites choices.

Company/Chapter/Primaris Ancient
Right, let's get started with these guys then - and let's also start out by grumbling that GW have now started calling banner bearers ancients, because that's how I used to refer to my dreadnoughts! Grrr. Right, that's that bit over, let's have a look at what these guys do then shall we?

First up, these are as I said above, the standard bearers for the space marines, so in fluff terms these are the guys around whom the warriors gather when fighting to the last, and who inspire their comrades to greater acts of valour in general, so how do we represent that in the game?

Simply, each of these guys comes with the same ability, which comes in two parts. The first grants units that have members within 6" of the ancient an extra point on leadership. Pretty decent in general, but with a re-roll and small squads, you shouldn't really be taking casualties from morale anyway (at least not unless your rolling is horrendous) so their real worth revolves around the second part of that ability. Models within 6" have a 50/50 chance of either shooting or fighting again before being removed as a casualty. Now in fighting terms it makes a single attack, and with shooting it can fire one of its weapons (so no firing 2 lascannons and a centurion missile launcher if one of those guys succumbs). That's a pretty nice bonus to be honest - certainly nothing to sniff at - at least if your opponent does take out something near these guys then you have the opportunity to make their deaths mean a little more, even if they die on turn 1.

Of course, strategically that means you need to think very carefully about where you want to place your ancient, particularly since their wargear options can be somewhat limited. Let's look at the different options then.

Primaris - this guy comes with an extra wound and an extra attack in comparison to the other two and brings the standard primaris bolt rifle. The longest ranged of the ancients therefore, this is the guy to stick with devastators, and quite frankly the extra attack is mostly going to be wasted, cos you don't want him up close and personal.

Chapter - the chapter ancient is rocking 2+ armour, and an extra pip of leadership but aside from the normal grenades only carries a power sword, with no option to switch it out, so this guy is absolutely the one to accompany assault troops.

Company - Ostensibly the weakest of the three in terms of having the least wounds, worst save and fewest attacks, but he's also the most versatile, since he can actually switch out the bolt pistol he has as standard for a different kind of pistol, any melee weapon or a combi weapon.

Basically then, if you want him to stand near your devastators to give them a chance of shooting again before they die, take the primaris or the company ancient (and in the case of the latter, give him a plasma combi). If you want him charging forward at the front of your lines, take the chapter ancient or the company ancient (with a melee weapon) and if you're not sure, take the company ancient.

That being said, you'll have to decide for yourselves if the 50% chance of getting that attack or shot is going to be worth the points investment. Personally, I don't think it is.

Apothecary / Primaris apothecary
The apothecary has always been a bone of contention in terms of list building. You almost always saw one in command squads in 7th edition for the feel no pain, but his status always bugged me. By accompanying a command squad he clearly had veteran status, and he also had a veteran's statline, but he wasn't allowed any of the options open to veterans in command squads, which I always felt was a little weird. Yeah, none of that has changed!

What has changed though is that now he's a character independent of a unit, he can wander round the battlefield giving his attention and dispensing his benefit as and when he sees fit and to whom needs it most. At least that's the theory!

However, in practice, what happens is that your apothecary (who can only be on foot by the way, no jump pack option) has to be fairly near to whoever is chosen to receive his ministrations, since even in a transport tank he would have to disembark before it moves and therefore at best, he would have to start the movement phase no further than 12" from his target. But I'm getting ahead of myself again - what's his ability?

Pretty tasty actually - he can either heal D3 wounds from an infantry or biker model, or he has a 50/50 chance of reviving a 'dead' model (doesn't matter how many turn ago the model died though!). The first part of that is great - keep your warlord next to him for his own personal restorative draught, and to be honest, your warlord is probably the only person you'd save this ability for. The second option cannot apply to individual character models (at least, not the way I read it, since you have to be within 3" of the unit and a dead character model is removed from the table prior to your turn) and allows him to restore a previously slain model to the table with a single wound (which he could in theory then increase back to more of its original wounds in the following turn). This ability is most definitely most useful for things like centurion devastators, where their potential damage output from being restored to the battlefield is vastly in excess of the apothecary's initial cost.

In conclusion, he's cheap, he's immensely useful, but as with the ancients, you really need a strategy as to who he is going to protect before the battle starts, and don't be tempted to stray too far from that, otherwise the odds are that the dice gods will desert you and he'll end up just out of range as your warlord takes a fusion blaster to the face.

The primaris apothecary brings all those assets and flaws to the fight, though he's a little more resilient, and has better guns (both pistols, which as I read the rules he can fire both of them in the same turn).

Chapter/Company Champion
These guys are the cocky sods of the army, thinking they can take on just about any enemy of the chapter and beat them in single combat. So, how does that bear out in their stats?

Hmm, well in stat terms, the chapter champion has an extra attack and an extra pip of leadership (though that will rarely matter as morale tests don't apply to single models). He also sports 2+ compared to the 3+ of the company version, however the company champion gets a combat shield that the chapter champion doesn't, so rocks a 5+ invun save! The company champion also carries a master crafted power sword, which does 2 damage per wound. In comparison, I find the chapter champion's equipment rather lacklustre. He has no invun save, but pairs a normal power sword with the 'champion's blade'. This grants an extra attack, but only a single point of damage per hit, so in total the company champion can kick out a potential 6 damage per turn whilst the chapter champion can do, erm, 5? What? Yep, that's right, you heard me! Against a 3+ armoured opponent of equal toughness, the company champion should realistically average a couple of wounds in a turn, whilst the chapter champion gets about 1.5 (those are ready-reckoned figures rather than accurate mathammer I should note) and whilst his armour isn't as good so he's more vulnerable to volume shooting, he's actually much tougher against high powered shooting as he actually has that invun.

Their other ability is that they must make an heroic intervention if they can, and can re-roll failed hits in combat against characters (really I'm not impressed by this, both hit on a 2+ anyway so aren't exactly gaining huge benefit from the re-rolls)

To be honest, I don't think I'll be taking a chapter or company champion anytime soon in my lists. That sort of damage output hardly matches the fluff, so if I want some kind of champion in the ranks, I'll go with black templars and take the Emperor's Champion, who actually looks very good indeed!

Ok so now we're into the heavy hitting part of the elites role. Dreadnoughts are the nearly-dead interred remains of former battle brothers, jacked into their walking tombs and gifted with a variety of heavy weaponry with which to continue the fight against the enemies of mankind. In the fluff they are rocks around which the forces of the astartes can anchor themselves, so how do they hold up in game terms?

The basic type of dreadnought (the so-called "dreadnought") has WS/BS 3+, same as a marine, an enhanced strength of 6, 7 toughness and 8 wounds. he then kicks out 4 attacks, with a leadership of 8 that you probably will never need, and a 3+ save. If you forego shooting that turn then once per game he can force opponents to hit with a -1 modifier, though why you'd decide not to shoot with this guy is a mystery (furioso dreads yes, normal dreads no!).

In combat, his dreadnought close combat weapon makes him S12 (crucially this means he won't wound most vehicles on a 2+) but with 4 attacks and WS3+, and damage of 3 per wounding hit he's still perfectly capable of punching the noggin off most things he ends up facing (hint, knights are not in this category). It's in the variety of shooting weapons however that we see the dreadnought's versatility and value. Twin lascannons and swap the close combat weapon for a missile launcher and he's perfectly capable of kicking out significant firepower at range. A multi-melta and combat weapon if you want to go tank hunting (though with the way multi meltas work now, and the fact that dreads can no longer deploy in drop pods, the twin lascannon is by far the better anti tank choice) or a heavy plasma cannon if you have a death wish.

You can also change the underslung weapon attached to the power fist, though you'll rarely use the heavy flamer in my experience, and if you do it's because the enemy has something capable of killing the dread charging it in combat, in which case the heavy flamer probably won't help you much.

Finally, you can keep the basic assault cannon and combat weapon arrangement. In my experience, this is best for all-round effect. The assault cannon has enough shots to worry hordes (especially if you supplement it with the underslung storm bolter at short range) whilst the power fist can turn most tougher things into so much junk, blood and bone.

To be honest, the dreadnought only has one major issue - other dreadnoughts!

Venerable Dreadnought
Exactly the same as the standard dreadnought, but with WS/BS 2+ (halving your number of misses) and a 6+ feel no pain equivalent, which should increase its survivability by 1-2 wounds, but crucially without the diminishing profile that normally comes with).

In fact, venerable dreadnoughts only have one major issue - the other dreadnoughts (excluding the basic dread)

Ironclad Dreadnought
The ironclad is officially the best combat model in your entire arsenal, bar none (no, don't argue, I have spoken!)

Made to crack sieges, this thing is built to be tough! It rocks that magical Toughness 8 (interesting how T8 is the most significant value in, erm, 8th edition 40k!) so is very hard to bring down. It also puts out a lot of damage when appropriately equipped!

4 base attacks like all the dreads, but with two close combat weapons you can automatically re-roll 1's to hit without needing a captain around. Sadly it only hits on 3's and there's no option of making it venerable, but a potential 12 damage from the close combat weapon is nothing to be sniffed at. It gets better though - it can have a dreadnought chainfist, which boosts that damage to 16 with no negative hit modifiers! Or if you want to be a bit riskier, the standard seismic hammer it comes with does 5 damage per wound, so a potential 20 damage in a single turn, though that does come with a -1 to hit.

You can put underslung weapons on both sides, so taking 2 heavy flamers or mix them up with a meltagun and/or a storm bolter, or for horde clearance you can swap the standard dreadnought fist for a hurricane bolter. The ironclad can also take a couple of hunter killer missiles for some anti-tank capability, and if equipped with assault launchers, has the potential to start the combat phase with D3 moral wounds if it charges and rolls a 4+ before the combat starts - that ups the potential damage output up to a whopping 23 wounds in a single turn if everything goes your way!

Don't be fooled by the weapon loadouts though people - without a doubt this dread is meant as a combat beast, don't swap in the hurricane bolters and don't bother with the h-k missiles, run as fast as you can, use your smoke launchers and then charge!

Contemptor Dreadnought
Ancient technology beyond those available to the normal dreadnoughts, venerables and ironclads, the Contemptor is a cut above, and now we see the first degrading profile of the codex.

We start out pretty buff though, with 10 wounds, T7, 3+ save and a 5+ invun. In terms of wargear we're 'stuck' with the standard dreadnought close combat weapon, but as the contemptor rocks a base strength of 7, that weapon means that in a fight, your punches are more effective than a standard dreadnought, wounding T7 on a 2+ instead of 3+. The combat weapon also comes with a built in combi bolter, so once you get up close no matter what other weapon you have you'll have a little bit of infantry killing volume. At range, you have either the choice of a kheres assault cannon or a multi melta. Both come with the same range, but whilst the multi melta has only one purpose (anti tank) the kheres cannon is a true all-rounder. 6 shots at S7 and hitting on a 2+ if you don't move means that it's certainly capable of doing some damage to most targets - it's not ideal for taking on vehicles, but it can certainly help, and even taking off a couple of wounds means that that close combat weapon has a bigger chance of taking down a vehicle in one hit.

Bottom line, contemptors are awesome, your opponents can't ignore them but equally they're tough enough to withstand a fair bit of punishment on the way in and once they get into combat your opponent is going to wish they'd shot them a bit more!

Redemptor Dreadnought
So now we get to the new kid on the block, super-sized super-charged and super-scary!

So where do we start? I guess with the stats. It's got a degrading profile with movement, BS and WS the stats that get the treatment (8, 6, 4 and 3, 4, 5 for WS/BS). Elsewhere it's strength and toughness 7 with 13 wounds, 4 attacks and a 3+ save. So it's a substantial increase in survivability over most dreadnoughts, with possibly only the contemptor being comparable (the invun save is significant though, since anything with a -3 armour penetration will make the contemptor more survivable). On the offensive side however is where the redemptor really shines.

As standard, this thing has 5 ranged weapons and a combat fist (with the S14 that the contemptor gets, but D6 damage instead of a flat 3. On average, a few more wounds over the course of a game, but nothing major). The ranged stuff  is quite changeable though, so rather than go through them all, I'll just detail the key builds as I see it.

With most of the ranged weapons being supporting fire for the main gun, your big choice is between the 12 anti-personnel shots of the heavy onslaught gatling cannon and the macro plasma incinerator. The heavy onslaught gatling cannon can be supported however by a normal onslaught gatling cannon, and storm bolters that gives a potential damage output of 29 shots, though with fragstorm grenade launchers instead of storm bolters that potential goes up to 33 (though the reliability of the number of shots goes down). It has a built-in icarus rocket pod, designed to hurt flyers, though with D3 shots and S7 but only 1 damage it's not a major threat to them. The other main gun is the macro plasma incinerator - sounds awesome? Yeah pretty much, D6 shots (so 3-4 on average) with a base S of 8, it can be super-charged to S9 doing 2 damage each, but if you roll any 1's to hit each does a mortal wound to you.

For my money? Thanks to the advent of split fire on all units, it's no longer so clear cut - in 7th edition I'd have said take the gatling cannon no arguments, as the other shots would be wasted, but what sells it for me here is that the plasma incinerator isn't written to take stuff out in one hit (potential 12 damage, but accounting for average rolls, more like 4 with a reasonable chance of hurting yourself too). I'd still go with the heavy onslaught cannon therefore, also due to the fact that as both are heavy weapons, the onslaught cannon gives you redundancy of more shots if you move, which you probably want to since that fist it carries can wreck stuff quickly (with the right rolls this thing can take out an imperial knight in one turn, and that's without shooting it first).

So there you have it - another monster post, but next one should be easier from that point of view - fast attack and there are only six datasheets to review there (I might even include flyers then!).

Till next time, hope you enjoyed reading and as ever please leave any comments below!