Friday, 13 October 2017

The lesson learned. Characters are key. Keeping them alive is more so!


Greetings all, I've played a few games recently, and as such have a wealth of material to choose from for this post! I've gone for the impact and importance of characters however, and I'll also have a little look at how their use has changed into 8th edition.

Changes to characters

40k has been through many transformations over the years, going through a few iterations of 'herohammer' when characters not only dominated the battlefield but frequently destroyed the opposition without any help from the rank and file troops supporting them. 7th edition was very much heading along these lines, with many powerful characters dominating the tables, usually used in combination with other characters to stack effects to make some kind of Marvel's Avengers style group. That's fine in the movie industry, but not such fun to play against on the tabletop, so GW took the bold decision to change drastically how characters now work in 40k.

In game terms, there are a few key factors that have changed.

1. Characters can no longer 'join' units.

As you can imagine, this has the potential to be a huge 'game changer', making them considerably more vulnerable to units targeting them to take down. However, GW anticipated the result of that and so they brought in a second change.

2. Characters can no longer be shot unless they are of a certain size (in terms of wounds) or they are the closest target. This doesn't stop people targeting them in combat, but it does prevent guns like lascannons sniping away at your warlord. This is the single biggest change I think, meaning that guns that are allowed to ignore the targeting restrictions (such as sniper rifles) now have a significant purpose once more, whilst your characters can, at least in theory, wander round with impunity knowing they're not going to be a target unless they get too close to the enemy.

This is the point of today's lesson. With characters now generally bringing aura abilities to the party, they all become significant buffing units to nearby squads and vehicles etc. They pay a premium for those auras and so you absolutely must take advantage of it if you want to bring a game-winning strategy to the table.

As an example, I use Pedro Kantor a lot in my lists. He provides a flat re-roll misses to hit to all my units within 6", which is normally at least 2 devastator squads, often a couple of razorbacks and some snipers. He brings other benefits too but the important thing is that he buffs my shooting a lot, making overcharging plasma weapons much safer to boot! He's not a bad combat character, but if I throw him forward to make use of that then I'm not really making best use of his other attributes. Consequently I make sure he stays at the back of my deployment zone where he can't be targeted by the enemy, with overlapping layers of units to make sure that doesn't change, and if the enemy does happen to get up into my face he's there to repel them. In my game last night, there was the perfect example of differing uses of characters, one using them to amplify my army's abilities and my opponent, who threw his characters forwards not accounting for where he ended up and what could then happen.

Kantor sat back, buffing my shooting (although my re-rolling was awful all game), and smashing down a Deffkopta and 3 Meganobz that reached my firebase. Ghazghkull on the other hand, charged forward with the meganobz, taking out a contemptor on the way, but then getting stranded as the meganobz pushed forward faster than he could go, and the large unit of boys that could have protected him got left behind. Cue my Stormhawk arcing its flight, putting a pair of krak missiles and two las talon shots down his throat, taking the last few wounds that the contemptor should have stripped from him (I decided not to use a command point to re-roll a failed wound, and when we checked afterwards he failed his invun). At that point, I was able to then concentrate on stripping out the meganobz in combat without any fear of thraka piling into the combat and taking down Kantor.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect! Over on the other side of the table, having failed in his attempt to use Da Jump on another big unit of boys, I dropped in my vanguard, captain and librarian to take him down (which they did) and they then ploughed through the boys unit towards the centre of the table. The captain and libby then took out a unit of flash gitz while the vanguard defended an objective for me. Problem was, that left the captain and libby nearest to the Killa Kans, who shot the libby to death and then pounded the captain into the dirt. The vanguard attempted to come to his rescue but too late, and his sus-an membrane kicked in, requiring him to be evacced back to the waiting strike cruiser (dead? Course he's not dead, it's just a flesh wound!).

So, the short version of today's lesson?

Characters can be incredibly powerful, but poor placement and consideration of the enemy's abilities will result in them being exposed, and a good opponent will take every opportunity to take them down at that point, because not only does it take out a powerful unit in its own right, it usually hampers the rest of their army as well!

Lesson learned.