Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Terminator armour - is it worth it?

Ask anyone that’s played me about my terminators and they’ll laugh. I just can’t seem to pass their saves consistently, ‘1’s turning up with alarming regularity. If dice rolling were a skill then I’d happily admit it’s just not something I’m good at, but I’m not aware that it’s something you can really get wrong through a lack of talent. It’s made worse by the fact that in other instances my dice can be absurdly good, I’ve spent a whole game where my Dark Eldar’s flickerfields failed me once. Similarly, passing power armour saves doesn’t seem to be a particular problem, and I’d probably say I pass more than averages suggest I should.

That got me thinking, is paying the premium for terminator armour worth it, what are the benefits it brings and would it be better to spend the points elsewhere?

So let’s look at the basic maths behind it, I’m sure it’s something we’re familiar with but you’ve got to start somewhere after all. Against weapons that allow power armour saves, the armour will protect you 4 times out of 6, whereas terminator armour does that 5 times out of 6. You get 5 terminators for 200 points, whereas you can get 14 ordinary power armoured marines for the same price. On that basis, it’ll take 30 wounds to wipe out a terminator squad, and 42 to kill the equivalent number of power armoured marines. When you add in space marine toughness and ballistic skills of those shooting at them, I reckon you could rely on the terminators needing at least 120 shots to wipe them out (assuming BS and weapon S of 3). The power armoured marines on a similar basis would require 168 shots. So in pure defensive terms, the maths suggests that terminator armour is a bad investment, as sheer weight of fire will bring them down quicker than if you’d spent the points on ordinary guys.

This is further compounded when you look at the weapons that remove the saves of power armoured marines as opposed to terminators. From shooting, I’m struggling to think of too many weapons that are AP3 besides krak missiles and the Heldrake. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples out there but my point is this, the majority of weapons that remove a power armour save also remove terminator saves (demolisher cannon, plasma weaponry, anything with the rending special rule etc) and so the points premium for terminator armour relies on their 5+ invulnerable option, but I don’t think that saves enough wounds to make up the difference either since its only used when the 2+ save is ignored.

The next option therefore is the fact that it gives you relentless, so those terminators can advance whilst laying down a curtain of fire at maximum range. Whoopee, they mainly carry assault weapons anyway, so that’s nothing that an appropriately equipped unit of sternguard couldn’t do just as well, again considerably cheaper than the terminators. It does help with heavy weapons, but then you’re paying a 160 point premium to have a guy that can move and fire a heavy weapon. And quite frankly, the missile launcher has such a good range it rarely needs to be moved, and whilst the assault cannon synergises well with the other weaponry in the squad, you’re basically paying a price for an extra two shots and a small chance of getting some AP2 wounds.

The conclusion I’ve had to come to therefore regarding ranged matters is that whilst terminators have an aura about them on the tabletop, you’re probably better off spending the points on more tactical/devastator/assault marines, as you get so much more for the points, with only a small drop in ability, particularly since that aura means that your opponent is likely to focus their fire on them.

So from that point I come onto assault. Here’s where I think the termies will show considerably more promise, as that armour save really comes into its own. Other armies rarely bring much in the way of AP2 weaponry that strikes before you do (watch out for Incubi though, those Klaives strike at Initiative so you really need to bring them down early, or stay in cover and hope they didn’t bring an archon with assault grenades) so the 2+ save makes a big difference. Power swords/mauls etc won’t touch it, with only axes really doing the job, and they’re just as unwieldy as the power fists you brought. I’m sure there are other examples of AP2 close combat weapons, but I’ve got limited access to codexes other than DE and Marines so forgive me.

What does all this mean? Well, as some of you have probably already worked out, it doesn’t bode well for the humble ‘tactical’ terminator, their shooting is underpowered and inefficient, and whilst combat performance does boost this somewhat, the assault terminator variant is considerably better at that. Added to that, the vaunted protection of terminator armour is only proof against high powered weaponry, and massed fire of weak weapons will see those elites brought low unnervingly quickly.
Personally I’d say that allowing the terminator to use their invulnerable save in addition to their normal save would make a massive difference to their survivability, you’d then be looking at 180 shots to take the squad out, and it would also give you a little bit of redundancy against those freak rolls where lots of ‘1’s arrive all at once (I once failed 6 out of 8 terminator saves from a single guard squad in one turn).

My solution therefore is a simple one, and comes with two options. Don’t take terminators – but I’m a hobbyist first and foremost and I love the terminator models. So the second choice is this, take the assault terminators instead, and stick ‘em in a landraider. There are several flavours of land raider, but for this job the redeemer is probably my favourite, those big flamestorm cannons and the power of the machine spirit combining to make the tank itself a threat, added to which a kitted out captain inside with a squad of 5 terminators will make a decent sized dent in anything you happen to want to charge. Add to that the sergeant in the termie squad means even if you’re challenged you can turn it down and your captain can still fight in the ensuing combat.

That’s my thoughts on terminator armour therefore, please feel free to comment on anything you think I’ve missed or if you disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Till next time, remember this:

Chuck Norris puts the ‘laughter’ into ‘slaughter'