Saturday, June 22, 2013

Who's a good doggy?

"Rar!  Space Wolves!  Smash the Eldar!  Rar!"
Space Wolves may have taken the biggest hit in the changeover from 5th to 6th edition.  Grey Hunters and Long Fangs are the epitome of cheap, effective power-armored units, and for years they made the Wolves top dog.  It's indisputable that the game has shifted away from troop transports and toward a boots-on-the-ground strategy, so why aren't Space Wolves dominating the tournament scene with their usual tail-wagging fervor?

The problem is mobility; five of the six scenarios in the rulebook are objective-based, which makes mobile scoring units more important than ever before.  Filling up Rhinos with Grey Hunters is essentially wasting the best tactical marines the game has to offer; those AV11 vehicles won't make it across the board alone, and large squads of foot-slogging power armor units have never been more vulnerable than they are now - they're just begging Heldrakes to single-handedly turn a game from a balanced tactical contest to a blowout.

With most armies I think it's important to shore up weaknesses by adding carefully-selected allies.  In the case of the Wolves, though, I don't think that logic applies; they have access to great units that excel against pretty much every opponent, and their primary weakness is more closely related to the structure of the game itself than interactions with their opponents.  Here's the list I put together for the Golden Throne GT:

Wolf Guard Battle Leader, Thunderwolf Mount, Power Fist, Storm Shield

10 Grey Hunters, 2 Plasma Guns, Power Axe, Wolf Standard, Drop Pod
10 Grey Hunters, 2 Plasma Guns, Power Axe, Wolf Standard, Drop Pod
5 Grey Hunters, Razorback with Twin-Linked Assault Cannon
5 Grey Hunters, Razorback with Twin-Linked Assault Cannon

Fast Attack
5 Thunderwolf Cavalry
5 Thunderwolf Cavalry
5 Thunderwolf Cavalry

Heavy Support
6 Long Fangs, 5 Missiles, Drop Pod
6 Long Fangs, 5 Missiles

This popped up on the first page of my Space Wolves image search.  Serendipity!
This list is incredibly tightly focused one a very specific aspect of the game: putting fast, scary units in your opponent's face before they can muster a response.  Your big first turn play is to deploy the Thunderwolves aggressively and drop both of the Grey Hunter pods in the center of your opponent's formation.  The Hunters are an immediate threat that can't be ignored, and their plasmaguns and bolters can do some serious damage to tanks and infantry alike.  The best part is that, if they're about to be charged, you can use your Wolf Standard to reroll all 1s during the Assault Phase - including any you roll during Overwatch.  Factor in their Counter-Attack and they're capable of more than any tactical marine equivalent in the game.

Running behind the pods are the Thunderwolves, and they're a significantly larger problem than the Grey Hunters.  With six attacks each - plus Hammer of Wrath - on the charge, all of which are rending, these guys will obliterate just about anything in their path.  The 6th edition rules for cavalry have made them infinitely better than previous editions, as they now move twelve inches during the Movement Phase, ignore difficult terrain and have fleet for charge distance rerolls.  With their speed they can reliably hit close combat by turn two, and their general is a bona fide bad ass: the Wolf Guard Battle Leader hits like a Mack truck at Str 10, boasting a Thunderwolf mount of his own and a storm shield to protect him long enough to cross the board and eviscerate your opponents.

How do you think this list would do at the Golden Throne GT?
The two smaller Grey Hunter squads in their Razorbacks are going to be tertiary targets for your opponents.  The pods and Thunderwolves will do a fantastic job of drawing fire in the early turns of the game, leaving the Long Fangs and Razorbacks to harass strategically important units without drawing much fire in return.  Keeping centrally located objectives clear of opposing models is their primary function, and in the late game those Razorbacks will deposit the smaller Grey Hunter units onto those objectives to clinch the win.

The final inclusion in the list - and one that makes me a little bit giddy - is the Long Fang's Drop Pod.  It serves two purposes: first, to stack the two Grey Hunter pods onto the board turn one; and second, to slide under the radar as a cheap scoring unit during Big Guns Never Tire scenarios.  Deploy the Long Fangs as usual in those scenarios, but when your pod comes in from reserves aim for an objective -- the special rule in Big Guns that makes Heavy Support scoring specifically notes that it applies to vehicles, making the pod itself a scoring unit that a fair number of opponents will completely ignore.  

In calling for advice on building this army I heard a lot of suggestions for Drop Pods, but very few for Thunderwolves.  What do you think of this list?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to win with Blood Angels

Blood Angels intrigue me.  Once upon a time they were an assault-specialized army, and that's what their fluff supports.  The real strength of the army in 5th edition, though, was access to cheap, fast transport vehicles with heavy firepower.  Today vehicles are seeing less play than any time in the past five years and there are multiple power-armored armies whose close combat choices put assault marines to shame.  Where do the sons of Sanguinus fit in?

Maybe the answer is the same thing that made 5th edition Blood Angels so effective: points efficiency and the ability to place intense, unrelenting pressure on your opponent.  

It's time to get prepared for the Golden Throne GT!

The Golden Throne GT 2013 is 2000pts and allows Warhammer 40k-approved Forgeworld units.  Each scenario is straight from the rulebook, with very few tweaks to the basic rules of the game.  Here's the list I've come up with for that tournament:

Blood Angels - Primary Detachment
Librarian, Shield of Sanguinus, Unleash Rage
5 Man Assault Squad with Melta Bombs, Razorback with Twin-Linked Lascannon
5 Man Assault Squad with Melta Bombs, Razorback with Twin-Linked Lascannon
5 Man Assault Squad with Melta Bombs, Razorback with Twin-Linked Lascannon
2 Platform Hyperios Air Defense Battery
2 Platform Hyperios Air Defense Battery

Space Marines - Allied Detachment
Chaplain in Terminator Armor
10 Man Terminator Assault Squad, Thunder Hammers & Storm Shields, Land Raider Redeemer
10 Man Tactical Marine Squad, Lascannon
Stormraven Gunship, Twin-Linked Multi-Melta, Twin-Linked Assault Cannon

Aegis Defense Line, Quad Gun

My work-in-progress Imperial Fist assault terminators.

The emphasis of this list is on points economy, something that power-armored armies aren't always very good at.  The Aegis Defense Line, tactical marines and two pairs of Hyperios Platforms are the firebase we'll establish at deployment.  The Three Razorbacks hold our forward-moving, objective-grabbing troop units while augmenting our long-range firepower.  

Those Razorbacks will advance relatively slowly, since the five-man squads inside of them are relatively fragile -- it's important that their boots don't hit the board until late in the game.  Front and center in that advance is the Land Raider Redeemer, boasting a marine-murdering flamer, a combat-squad half of a terminator assault unit and a chaplain in terminator armor.  While long-range fire support is breaking apart tanks, the terminator squad will be decimating any unit that's dismounted from them.  

The final hammer comes from the second combat-squad half of the terminator unit in the Stormraven.  The 'raven can handle any tank or flyer, puts a big hurt on infantry squads and delivers a payload that hits like a brick.  It's scary to put infantry inside of flyers, since they're not allowed armor saves when the flyer wrecks -- but these guys are equipped with storm shields and can handle even a worst-case scenario.

The concept here is to cherry-pick the most points-effective units from each codex (assault terminators are cheaper for Space Marines than Blood Angels), hit all of the list-building areas required in a successful list, and inject the flavor of the Blood Angels into the way the army plays.  How do you think we did?