Thursday, November 24, 2016

Finished Assault Squad

Months ago, in my last post, I complained how real life can get in the way of the hobby. Having broken my leg just over a month before, I fell behind in my modeling. Unfortunately, breaking my leg proved to be relatively easy compared to the next event. Only three weeks after I wrote about the Deathwatch, our three year old was diagnosed with leukemia. Thankfully it's the most treatable form of leukemia, but it's still heartbreaking when your child has cancer, even the "easy" one.

Our family's faith and a fantastic team of doctors have been getting us through this, while 40K and a newfound interest in the X-Wing Miniatures Game have provided me with some distraction. However, I've had a hard time mustering much energy for blogging.

Anyway, I eventually finished the Assault Squad I started so long ago. I'm pretty happy with how the squad turned out:

I'm a big fan of the earlier marks of armor, equipping one Marine in a full suit of Mk VI plate and giving him a bionic arm for extra character. I'm irrationally proud of the small Assault logo I painted freehand on the Mk VI shoulder pad.

For those who less obsessed with the minutiae of Astartes power armor than I am, the left shoulder pad of a suit of Mk V or Mk VI armor is completely covered in studs rather than the Chapter logo as found on other marks of armor. Thus, the right shoulder pad shows both the Chapter logo as well as a smaller version of the squad logo. Since the right shoulder pad is also rimless, the Marine's Company is represented by something other than the color of the rim. I followed the example of the old Insignium Astartes and denoted the Company number with an Arabic numeral to the left of the Chapter logo.

From left to right: 2nd Company, 2nd Tactical Squad; 2nd Company, 7th Assault Squad;
2nd Company, 9th Devastator Squad; 1st Company, 3rd Veteran Squad

Except for the bionic arm, which came from the Space Marine Commander kit, the Mk VI Marine was assembled entirely from bits from the newer Assault Marine box. Another Marine ended up with a pair of Mk IV legs from the Betrayal at Calth kit:

I've been very happy with the figures in the new Assault Squad kit; the two-part legs allow much more dynamic poses and the arms have a lot more variety.

I've been trying to get the Ultramarine army in a good place so I can start my next one (I'm serious about it, this time). As I said in my last post, I was very excited to be finally be able to field a Deathwatch Kill Team. Who would have known that less than a year later GW would give us an entire Deathwatch army? As much as I love the Ultramarines, I've long wanted to model Astartes from other Chapters; the Deathwatch is the perfect opportunity to do it. For several weeks I've been collecting Dark Angels, Black Templars, Blood Angels, and Space Wolves bits, sprues, and boxes to give my Ordo Xenos Marines a lot of variety. I've also been reading up on the various First Founding Chapters as well as the more colorful Ultramarines successors (e.g., the Silver Skulls, the Mortifactors) and selecting the bits and pieces that best represent their style and culture.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Deathwatch in 40K

It's always sad when real life interferes with 40K. Between my last post and early February, I neglected the blog in favor of trying to finish the Assault Squad. Unfortunately, on February 9 I slipped on a patch of ice in my driveway and broke my ankle. Within a week I had a steel plate and eight screws in my leg and doctor's orders not to put any weight on it for six weeks. Between the pain killers and the need to keep the leg elevated to reduce swelling, I was in no position (literally) to do any modelling. Instead, I've found myself dreaming of future modelling projects and keeping up on the latest hobby news.

That brings me to the new Deathwatch box. I've been interested in the Deathwatch's backstory for several years and was very exited to hear that I would soon be able to field them on the table. As with Execution Force and Betrayal at Calth, I had no interest in the board game itself and bought the box entirely for the models. I split the box with one of my fellow Cabal members, Jake, who is working on a Tyranid army. Obviously, I ended up with all the Marines and he took the Genestealer Cult.

The Models
As usual, GW has done a great job on the models. They're all highly detailed with most having been molded in suitably dynamic poses. I'm particularly excited about the variety of Chapters represented by the kit, each model reflecting the particular aesthetic of his Chapter. Given that GW has started to produce plastic models in Heresy-era armor, it's notable that the Iron Hand Marine, Ennox Sorrlock, is wearing a suit of Mk III armor.

Since the Deathwatch are supposed to have access to non-standard weaponry, GW has given a couple of the models some unusual wargear. The Imperial Fists' representative, Rodricus Grytt, has the fantastic man-portable Deathwatch frag cannon (it fires as an Assault 2, S6, AP-, Rending template or a 24" range, Assault 2, S7, AP3 solid shell), while the Salamander Terminator, Garran Branatar, has a meltagun mounted under his power fist.

The Rules
As I'm sure many hobbyists have done, I bought the board game so I can use the models in games of 40K. As far as I can tell, the Genestealer Cult's rules are pretty good. While the individual units aren't especially powerful, when combined into the Broodkin Formation with its various special rules, I think the Cult becomes a potent force that could significantly boost a Tyranid army.

Unfortunately, the Deathwatch is the opposite. Individually, the Deathwatch Marines are pretty impressive. With the exception of the two Ultramarines and the Imperial Fist (who isn't equipped with a bolter anyway), each model possesses the special traits of his respective Chapter. All models with bolt weapons are equipped with Sternguard Special Ammunition, even those with bolt pistols and the twin-linked bolter on the White Scars Marine's bike. And the unique Deathwatch weapons, the frag cannon and the Terminator's meltagun, are a nice touch. However, the organization of the individual units and the Kill Team Formation itself are nonsensical. I strongly suspect that the Kill Team provided in Deathwatch was designed to given players a wide variety of model types for the board game, with little thought being given to how the units would work in 40K.

The only way to get all eleven members of the team on the table at one time is to run Kill Team Cassius. In this Formation, the entire team forms a single unit; none of the models are permitted to separate from the group, even if they have the Independent Character special rule. This means that a Raven Guard Vanguard Veteran, who can use his jump pack in both the Movement and the Assault phase, has to maintain unit coherency with a Salamanders Terminator who can't even make Sweeping Advances. Other than being able to field the entire unit, the only advantage the Formation gives you is the allowance to re-roll To Wound and armor penetration rolls of 1. That's not much of a consolation prize for forcing two jump pack Marines and a biker to foot slog alongside a Terminator.

[Update 3/13/16: After thinking about it, it occurred to me that the allowance to re-roll To Wound and armor penetration rolls of 1 (which I incorrectly referred to as Preferred Enemy) is not the only benefit of Kill Team Cassius. Most of the special rules possessed by the various team members have the "A unit that contains at least one model with this special rule..." caveat. Thus, the full team would benefit from the following special rules:
Zealot (from Cassius)
Stubborn (from Gydrael)
Shrouded for the first turn and Stealth for the rest of the game (from Setorax)
Heroic Intervention (from Setorax and  Delassio)
Fearless (from Branatar)
Hit & Run and Split Fire (from Suberei)
This is a pretty impressive list of special rules and might compensate for the disadvantage of mixing model types.]

With the Kill Team Formation [possibly] being less than ideal, the only other way to field members of the Kill Team in a Battleforged army is in an Allied Detachment. That means that a lot of models will be left at home while others will be poorly supported. For starters, there are two HQ models: a pre-Battle of Macragge Chaplain Cassius (who is pretty unimpressive without his bionic enhancements and the Infernus combi-flamer) and Blood Raven Librarian Jensus Natorian. Natorian is a Mastery Level 2 Psyker who generates his powers from the Biomancy discipline. Which of the two will sitting out the battle is pretty obvious; when most of your assault-oriented units have jump packs or a bike, you have little need for a foot-slogging Chaplain.

The single Troop choice, Squad Donatus, would be the highlight of the Detachment. The Sergeant, the Ultramarine Donatus, is equipped with a bolter and the Precision Shots rule. The Space Wolf, Redblade, has a boltgun, two close combat weapons, and the Counter-attack rule. The Imperial Fist, Grytt, has the aforementioned frag cannon. The Iron Hand, Sorrlock, has a combi-melta and Feel No Pain (6+). Finally, the Dark Angel, Gydrael, has a plasma pistol, a power sword, and the Stubborn rule. Since all five Squad members are characters, the appropriately-equipped Gydrael can handle any Challenges.

The only complaint I have about this supercharged Sternguard Squad is that they don't have a Dedicated Transport. Unless your primary army is providing Donatus and company with a transport, the unit won't last long on the average table top.

The Allied Detachment only has one Elites slot, meaning that you have to chose among the Deathwatch's three options. There are two Marines with jump packs: Edryc Setorax of the Raven Guard and Antor Delassio of the Blood Angels. Setorax has a pair of lightning claws, Stealth, and the Raven Guard-specific rules, effectively making him the Kill Team's assassin. Delassio has the less-impressive hand flamer, chainsword, and the Blood Angels' universal Furious Charge rule. The third Elite, Branatar, wears Terminator armor and has a heavy flamer, a Master-crafted power fist, a Master-crafted meltagun, the Fearless Special Rule, and Feel No Pain (4+) against Flamer weapons.

Oddly, each of these three models makes up its own unit of one. Since none of them is an Independent Character, each model has to go solo. This is not a good recipe for survival. If I had to choose a single model, I'd probably choose Branatar, who can be brought in with a teleport homer to provide crowd control with his heavy flamer or to attempt to take out a vehicle with his Master-crafted meltagun. After that, though, he is an expensive one-wound model with almost zero support. It's unfortunate that I have to make the choice at all; I really like the jump pack models and would hate to have to leave them at home.

The lone Fast Attack entry is in the same boat as the Elites. White Scar Jetek Suberei is equipped with a power sword, a teleport homer, a Space Marine bike with a twin-linked bolter, and the host of special rules White Scars bikers get. Again, Suberei is a one-model unit without the Independent Character rule, meaning he's unlikely to survive for very long. Suberei's gimmick is that he carries a teleport homer, allowing him to bring Branatar or a Terminator Squad from another Detachment safely onto the table.

Ideas for a Future Deathwatch Book
I think a lot of us are hoping that the Deathwatch will get more models and an expanded ruleset in the future. I have a few ideas that I think could make a fully developed Deathwatch work better than the initial offering.

First of all, I think Squad Donatus is a pretty good example of what a Deathwatch Troop unit should be. The fluff suggests that Deathwatch Kill Teams are never particularly large, so their squads should be limited to five or six well-equipped models. The unit definitely needs a Dedicated Transport, though, with the Razorbacks seeming like the ideal vehicle. As a plus, GW could release an Inquisition upgrade sprue, with icons and symbols that could be added to any Deathwatch, Grey Knights, or Inquisition vehicle.

Second, Deathwatch fluff suggests that they have few Marines in Terminator armor. Thus, Terminators may often be part of a squad dominated by power armored Marines. The background of the Deathwatch board game states that, because of his slow pace, Branatar is typically teleported in when necessary. To represent this, a unit like Squad Donatus could include a single Terminator as a member. For a small upgrade cost the Squad could have a teleport homer and a special rule circumventing the usual Reserves rules, allowing their bulky squadmate to arrive at the end of a Movement phase when close quarters support is needed. The Terminator could arrive in unit cohesion with his Squad and remain a part of the unit for the rest of the game. Since Razorbacks can't accommodate Terminator armor, teleportation would allow the rest of the team to use a Razorback as a Dedicated Transport until they disembark and get into close range combat.

As for jump pack Marines and bikes, GW could release more such characters and allow them to form small units. I would love to put Suberei in a group with other fast attack-oriented Marines; e.g., a Ravenwing biker, a Raven Guard biker). Alternatively, jump pack Marines and bikes could be grouped into mixed units given that jump infantry and bikes move somewhat similarly.

However, if GW intended to keep Deathwatch in a support role only (which would be keeping with the fluff), an expanded ruleset could treat Deathwatch specialists like Branatar, Setorax, Delassio, and Suberei as "advisors". Unlike Independent Characters, they would be attached to a specific unit at the beginning of the game and would remain a part of the Squad throughout. In turn, the unit would benefit from the Deathwatch member's special rules and wargear. For example, an Ultramarine Vanguard Squad with Setorax attached to it would be Shrouded until the second turn, after which it would have Stealth.

Friday, December 18, 2015

First Assault Marine

The release of the 7th Edition Space Marine codex threw my whole modeling schedule for a loop. Just as I was ready to start on a Tactical Marine-heavy list with a cheap Librarian at its head, GW introduced the concept of the Demi-Company and the Gladius Formation and I lost all interest in fielding a solitary CAD. Models that I felt no urgency to build suddenly became necessary additions to the army while certain other models (e.g., Librarians) found their futures in question.

The Assault Squad ended up on my must-build list, not only because it fills a position in the Demi-Company, but because I completely lack any fast attack units. (That's right, I've been playing the game for over four years and I've never taken any units in the Fast Attack slots.) I don't know how many times I've found myself in a mission where I was too slow to grab objectives in time.

Although I already had Assault Squad bits that I bought a few years ago, I grabbed up a new Assault Squad box immediately after its release. The kit has a good variety of bits in it, including normal backpacks and torsos without jump pack straps for those who want to build a foot-slogging squad. It even has a Mk VI backpack (the first ever in plastic, I believe), allowing you to build a Marine in 100% Corvus armor.

My first Assault Marine is a Veteran Sergeant with dual lightning claws. Unfortunately, the model is a tremendously expensive 57 points with these upgrades (a Vanguard Marine with the same exact wargear and stats is only 32 points), but it looks great.

The legs are from the new Assault Squad kit, the right shoulder pad, torso, jump pack, and lightning claws are from the Vanguard kit, the left shoulder pad is from the Commander kit, and the head is a Mk IV helmet from the Betrayal at Calth box. (Yes, I said I probably wouldn't buy Betrayal at Calth, but it was a great value and Bryce and I split the cost.)

I'm very happy with how the model turned out. The Mk IV helmet looks great and I'm fairly proud of my hand painted laurels. The Assault logo on his right shoulder worked out pretty well, too. After cutting off the bottom third of the transfer, I used my usual technique to apply it to the shoulder pad. Once the decal was dry, I used a razor to scrape away the bits of stray decal from the Imperialis on his shoulder pad.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Plastic Heresy-era Armor On Its Way

It's been much too long since I've posted on this blog. Fortunately, I've been inactive because I've been getting a lot of modeling done.

It's been eight months since we first started hearing rumors that plastic Horus Heresy models were going to be released. A few months ago, leaked images showed a sprue of Mk IV Maximus armor and a sprue with two HQs: one in Mk IV armor and another in Cataphractii Terminator armor.

Additional photos have since confirmed that GW will be releasing Betrayal at Calth, a board game set during the Horus Heresy. Pictures of the back of the box show that the game includes multiple infantry models and a Dreadnought:

Although these models are supposed to be part of a board game, it's apparent that GW has much bigger plans than a single game. Space Hulk, which was obviously meant to be a one-off board game, had beautiful models but a minimal piece count and fixed weapons options

By contrast, the Mk IV Marine sprues are part of a full-blown multi-piece model kit with multiple wargear options (in one of the photos you can make out a plasma gun, a meltagun, a missile launcher, and several combi-weapon bits). From the look of them, the Mk IV parts are almost certainly compatible with other plastic power armor kits.

The Cataphractii Terminators are also from a multi-piece kit with a lot of options. It looks like there five pairs of lightning claws (I love the long-fingered Heresy-era lightning claws), five power fists, five chainfists, five combi-bolters, a heavy flamer, and a power sword.

The models on the HQ sprue have the least poseability (i.e., none) or wargear options (a plasma pistol and a power maul on the Mk IV model and a combi-melta and a chainfist on the Cataphractii model). I think most of us have gotten used to having limited options in our plastic HQs by now, and you could do worse than a Terminator Captain with a combi-melta and a chainfist.

Finally, the Contemptor Dreadnought is a little disappointing compared to the infantry sprues, although it's a step up from the usual starter kit Dreadnoughts. The pose is pretty static, but at least it gives you the option of arming it with a multi-melta or an assault cannon (Kheres pattern?).

(Most of these images come from War of Sigmar.)

It seems obvious that GW is trying to get more players into Horus Heresy. Personally, I'm still not interested in playing 30K, especially since the vehicles are likely to remain in resin (but give me a plastic Sicaran Battle Tank and I'll think about it).

Unless some of my fellow Cabal members decide to split the cost, I probably won't be buying Betrayal at Calth. I really want some Mk IV armor for my Tactical and Sternguard Squads, but I don't need nearly as many models as are included in this kit. If and when a 10 man kit of Mk IV Marines is released, I'll be the first in line.

As for the Cataphractii, I was on the fence until I saw the sprue. Now I'm willing to overlook the fact that I already have more Terminators than I can practically field in a standard game. I'm sure I could find a way to fit five Cataphractii Terminators into my army.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

1st Company Task Force

Almost two years ago, I wrote about the changes that the 6th Edition C:SM made to my army lists. Other than encouraging me to build up my Tactical Squads and giving me the option of Centurions, the change from 5th Edition to 6th Edition had a relatively small impact. Right up until the release of 7th Edition, I was working on an army that fit into the standard Combined Arms Detachment (CAD). However, Seventh Edition C:SM practically abandoned the traditional Force Organization chart, shredding all my plans. The new codex still allows you to use the CAD, but the benefits of the Demi-Company and Auxiliaries encourage players to use it as a secondary Formation, at best. The CAD is where you cram the units that don't fit into the other Formations.

This is your main force now, Marine players.

After working out some Demi-Company and Auxiliary lists, I've started prepping models for priming. Although I look forward to being able to fill out some of the new Formations, I may be most excited to field a 1st Company Task Force (i.e., 3-5 units of Vanguard, Sternguard, or Terminators). I'm a big fan of the Veteran models and the rules for the task force seem like they have a lot of potential.

First, all members of the task force have the Fearless and Fear special rules. Second, they have the Extremis Level Threat rule:
At the start of the game, before deployment, nominate one unit in the enemy army. Units in this Formation have the Preferred Enemy special rule when making attacks against the nominated unit.
Finally, the Formation has the Terrifying Proficiency rule:
Enemy units subtract 2 from their Leadership whilst they are within 12" of at least three units from this Formation.
It doesn't take too much to make a squad run when it's inflicted with -2 Leadership and takes a fusillade from Sternguard and/or shooty Terminators. And, unless they're Space Marines or are Fearless, the hit to their Leadership means that most units will fail their Fear test if they get into close combat with 1st Company Veterans.

It would be unfortunate to fail a Fear test against these guys.

I'm not too far from being able to field the task force. A lot of my current army's points value is already tied up in thirteen models: eight Close Combat Terminators and five shooty Terminators. With two more models I could meet the three-unit minimum. However, since the 1st Company Task Force's Terrifying Proficiency rule only takes effect when at least three Veteran Squads are within 12" of an enemy unit, I want to have more than those three units. Ideally, additional units would provide effective shooting given that the task force will cause many units to fall back simply by inflicting 25% casualties in the Shooting Phase. Clearly Sternguard are the best unit for this purpose.

I've since primed the necessary Terminator models and I've recently started prepping a couple squads of Sternguard. As I was working on the models, it occurred to me that Combat Squads can be used to maximize the effectiveness of Terrifying Proficiency. The rule for Combat Squads states that "A unit split into combat squads therefore is now two separate units for all game purposes [emphasis mine]". Thus, a 1st Company Task Force composed of three 10 man Veteran Squads could act as six total units if each squad were broken into two Combat Squads.

Even more devious is the argument I've seen regarding Dedicated Transports within the 1st Company Task Force. Since the task force's drop pods, Rhinos, Razorbacks, and/or Land Raiders are part of the unit that purchases them, and therefore part of the Formation, the Transports themselves would count towards the three units needed to activate the Terrifying Proficiency rule. Assuming this interpretation is correct, a drop pod that offloads a ten man Sternguard Squad that breaks into two Combat Squads would provide the necessary three units.

All of a sudden, it seems absurdly easy to get at least three units from the Formation within 12" of any particular enemy unit.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Adeptus Mechanicus War Convocation List (~2000 points)

Recently I was asked to post the upgrades to the theoretical Adeptus Mechanicus War Convocation list I summarized last month. The War Convocation list is pretty big, so I figured I'd give it it's own post it rather than put it my comments section.

Remember that all weapon and wargear options taken by units in this Formation are free. While this doesn't mean too much for the Cult Mechanicus or Knight units, it benefits the Skitarii units immensely. I haven't listed any default wargear.

Cult Mechanicus Battle Congregation
  • Tech-priest Dominus: Phosphor serpenta and Uncreator Guantlet
  • Kataphron Destroyer Squad (3 servitors): 1 Servitor with heavy grav cannon and cognis flamer
  • Kataphron Breacher Squad (4 servitors): 2 Servitors with torsion cannons and hydraulic claws
  • Kastelan Robot Maniple (1 Datasmith, 2 Robots): Anzion's Pseudogenetor (Datasmith); both Robots have TL phosphor blasters, one has a carapace phosphor blaster
Skitarii Battle Maniple
  • Vanguard Squad (10 men): Omniscient Mask, radium pistol, taser goad (Vanguard Alpha); 3 plasma calivers, enhanced data tether
  • Ranger Squad (10 men): Arc maul, arc pistol (Ranger Alpha); 3 arc rifles, omnispex
  • Ruststalker Squad (5 men): Prehensile dataspike (Ruststalker Princeps)
  • Infiltrator Squad (5 men): Infoslave skull (Infiltrator Princeps)
  • Ironstrider Squadron (1 Ballistarii): TL cognis lascannon
  • Onager Dunecrawler Squadron (2 Onagers): 2 neutron lasers, 2 cognis manipulators
Imperial Knight Oathsworn Detachment
  • Knight Crusader: Rapid fire battlecannon, Ironstorm missile pod

Onagers are definitely better in trios
I wasn't entirely happy with this original list. First, it didn't quite make it to 2000 points (that's a minor complaint when you're getting hundreds of points worth of free wargear). Unfortunately, the list is hard to tailor to a specific points value since the only way to change the size of the list is to add or subtract units or models. Second, I didn't feel like it took advantage of certain abilities, the most obvious of which being the fact that two Onagers in a squadron only generate a 5++ protective field, whereas three Onagers would generate a 4++ field.

My final issue was that several units or wargear options required me to buy more models than I planned to field. For example, the Vanguard/Ranger box only provides one of each special weapon; to take three I would have to buy three squads while only being able to field two. The list also had me buying three boxes of Kataphrons (nine models total) just so I could field seven.

Here's a revised list:

Cult Mechanicus Battle Congregation
  • Tech-priest Dominus: Phosphor serpenta and Uncreator Guantlet
  • Kataphron Destroyer Squad (3 servitors): 1 Servitor with heavy grav cannon and cognis flamer
  • Kataphron Breacher Squad (3 servitors): 1 Servitor with torsion cannon and hydraulic claw
  • Kastelan Robot Maniple (1 Datasmith, 2 Robots): Anzion's Pseudogenetor (Datasmith); both Robots have TL phosphor blasters, one has a carapace phosphor blaster
Skitarii Battle Maniple
  • Vanguard Squad (10 men): Omniscient Mask, radium pistol, taser goad (Vanguard Alpha); 2 plasma calivers, enhanced data tether
  • Ranger Squad (8 men): Arc maul, arc pistol (Ranger Alpha); 2 arc rifles, omnispex
  • Ruststalker Squad (5 men): Prehensile dataspike (Ruststalker Princeps)
  • Infiltrator Squad (5 men): Infoslave skull (Infiltrator Princeps)
  • Ironstrider Squadron (1 Ballistarii): TL cognis lascannon
  • Onager Dunecrawler Squadron (3 Onagers): 3 neutron lasers, 3 cognis manipulators
Imperial Knight Oathsworn Detachment
  • Knight Crusader: Rapid fire battlecannon, Ironstorm missile pod

By cutting out one Kataphron Breacher and two Rangers, I was able to fit in a third Onager. The list comes in at 2003 points.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thoughts on the 7th Edition Space Marine Codex

I was pretty much done buying Marines. Sure, I might have bought a few Bikes, maybe one more Razorback, and a Thunderfire Cannon if it ever came out in plastic. But that was it since I was finally going to start on the Mechanicus and Imperial Knights.

You are not done with the Astartes until they say you are done

And then the 7th Edition Space Marine Codex came out. If GW's motive was to make the army seem fresh and convince me to buy more models, then they succeeded. And I'm not upset about this at all. In fact, I haven't been this excited to work on the army in quite some time.

The new codex is not a rehash of the last one with a few Formations added in. There are various points adjustments, stats changes, and new unit options, too. Below are some of the changes that I found the most noteworthy. Some are small and simply correct annoyances I've had in the past (especially the first one). Others are a lot bigger.

Relic Blades on Terminator Captains
Shortly after it came out, a couple of the Cabal members and I split the cost of the Strike Force Ultra box. My official motivation was to get enough Terminators to field the Strike Force Ultra Formation (which is in the new codex with slightly improved rules), but the real reason I wanted it was for the unique Terminator Captain. Although I loved the look of the model, I hated its wargear; the same underpowered storm bolter and power sword found on a Terminator Sergeant. For whatever reason, Terminator Captains have never been able to take a relic blade.

Does this look like a mere power sword?

I figured I could use it as the Burning Blade, but that would add 55 points to an already expensive model. Plus, it seems like a waste to put the Burning Blade, which isn't a Two-handed or Specialist weapon, on a model that doesn't have a pistol or a second melee weapon.

Apparently, someone at GW also realized that this was a silly oversight. Now, for a mere 10 points, a Captain or Chapter Master in Terminator armor can replace his power sword with a relic blade.

Scout Improvements
Scouts are pretty good in this codex. For starters, they now have Marine stats with no increase in cost. I've always been fond of my Snipers, but I sure seemed to roll a lot of threes when shooting with them.

Second, Telion may actually be worth his points now. Until recently, Telion was a 50 point upgrade to a Scout Sergeant. In the last edition, this meant that he actually cost 61 points since he was replacing an 11 point Sergeant. This was an absurd price to pay for a one Wound Sergeant that got Look Out Sir rolls on a 4+.

I've since updated his base to match the textured ones of my newer models.
Telion has gained an extra wound and is now an HQ and an Independent Character (he can only join Scouts, though), meaning that his 50 point cost is actually 50 points. With two Wounds and 2+ Look Out Sir rolls, he's a bit more survivable. Not only that, but now he can fill the HQ slot of a cheap Combined Arms Detachment (CAD).

The Land Speeder Storm is better, too. Not only is it BS4 now, meaning that its heavy bolter or a multi-melta upgrade may be worth something, but its Cerberus Launcher has been improved. Previously it was S2, AP-, Blind, Large Blast. Since Blind only has to hit to work, it wasn't too big a deal if it didn't wound anything. However, the weapon has been changed to S4, AP6, Blind, Large Blast. Not only can you blind a unit, but you now have a decent chance of causing multiple wounds. All this comes with a five point reduction in the Storm's cost.

Finally, the 10th Company Task Force is a very appealing Formation. It's 3-5 Scout Squads and/or Scout Bike Squads with the option of bringing Telion. The Formation has the Concealed Positions rule, which gives Stealth to each unit from the Formation that deploys using the Infiltrate Rule. Stealth is lost when a unit Moves, Runs, Turbo Boosts, Charges, or Falls Back. They also get The Trap is Sprung, which gives them the Precision Shots special rule for the first game turn.

Tank Squadrons
This one could be a game-changer. Predators, Vindicators, and Whirlwinds can now be taken in squadrons of up to three vehicles. (Dreadnoughts and Thunderfire Cannons can also be taken in squadrons now, too.) When you have a trio of tanks, the squadron gains some amazing rules: three Predators gain Tank Hunter and Monster Hunter; three Vindicators gain the Linebreaker Bombardment (replace the three S10, AP2, Large Blasts with an Apocalypic Blast with Ignores Cover!); and three Whirlwinds gain Shred and Pinning.

Now I want three.

I once said that the allowance to take a squadron of Whirlwinds would convince me to buy them. Giving them Shred and Pinning sealed the deal.

Grav Cannon Devastators
If someone had told me two months ago that I would want to put a Devastator Squad into a drop pod and actually bother to upgrade the Sergeant, I wouldn't have believed him. However, the addition of grav cannons with grav-amps to the heavy weapon options has created a build that is so different from the classic Devastator Squad that it might as well be a different type of unit entirely.

Until this edition, all weapons available to Devastators were Heavy weapons (most being Heavy 1), meaning that the squad had to remain static to be effective. The grav cannon, on the other hand, is Salvo 3/5 with a maximum range of 24". This allows the squad to remain mobile, although it limits its effective range to 12". A drop pod is the easiest way around this obstacle, allowing an Astartes player to land four grav cannons and a combi-grav (Salvo 2/3, 18") within easy range of a high value target on Turn 1. Although a grav cannon isn't cheap (each is 35 points versus the lascannon's 20 points), a 220 point grav cannon quartet with a combi-grav on the Sergeant could be expected to inflict 8.9 wounds on a unit with 2+ saves and 8 wounds on a unit with 3+ saves.

Decompressing the Elites
Three types of Dreadnoughts, Vanguard, Sternguard, Assault Centurions, and two types of Terminators have never really fit into the into the three slots allowed by the CAD. GW has fixed this with the 1st Company Task Force.

Now I won't have to run an enormous squad of
Terminators because I'm limited on Elite slots.

The 1st Company Formation is composed of 3-5 units of Terminators, Assault Terminators, Sternguard, and/or Vanguard. In other words, it allows you to bring up to half of the entire 1st Company. The models in the Formation are Fearless and cause Fear, get Preferred Enemy against a chosen enemy unit, and cause enemy units within 12" of at least three 1st Company squads to suffer -2 Leadership. The implications of fielding a Formation that causes Fear while simultaneously lowering an enemy unit's Leadership by two is obvious.

Significantly Cheaper Vanguard Veterans
When 6th Edition changed Vanguard from Fast Attack to Elites, I gave up on them entirely. The only way to make them useful was to load them up with power weapons, which made them prohibitively costly. Not only were they expensive, but they would take a slot away from Terminators, Dreadnoughts, or Sternguard. In my mind, Vanguard could only be remotely justified in a Raven Guard army, where they could use their jump packs in both the Movement and Assault phases.

With the 1st Company Task force, the issue of having enough slots for them was eliminated. Then something utterly unexpected happened; the 7th Edition codex drastically reduced the cost of power weapons for Vanguard, slashing the price of each one by 10 points.

This particular squad is now 40 points cheaper.

In 6th Edition, a Vanguard Veteran with twin lightning claws and a jump pack cost 52 points (they were a mind-boggling 60 points in 5th Edition). Although lethal and mobile, he was only as survivable as the basic Tactical Marine with his 3+ armor save. By comparison, a lightning claw Terminator with a 2+ armor save and a 5+ invulnerable save cost only 40 points. Under 7th, the same Vanguard Veteran costs 32 points, making him cheaper than even the reduced cost of a lightning claw Terminator (now 35 points). While still not as survivable as Terminators, Vanguard have greater mobility, can re-roll one or both dice when determining charge range, and can make Sweeping Advances.

A Different Way to Organize the Army
While the CAD is still an option, the new codex emphasizes the Battle Demi-Company and the Gladius Detachment.

The way an Astartes Company is organized is well known, even if the game didn't always reflect it. The Battle Demi-Company is literally half a Company and is composed of the following:
1 Captain or Chaplain
0-1 Command Squads
3 Tactical Squads
1 Assault Squad, Bike Squad, Attack Bike Squad, Land Speeder Squadron, or Centurion Assault Squad
1 Devastator Squad or Centurion Devastator Squad
0-1 unit of Dreadnoughts of any kind
If you take a Demi-Company, all models in the Detachment have Objective Secured and you get the Tactical Flexibility rule. The latter rule allows the Detachment to use the Tactical Doctrine, which is a slightly revised version of the Ultramarines' Tactical Doctrine from 6th Edition.

The Gladius Detachment is composed of 1-2 Demi-Companies (called Core choices), 1+ Auxiliaries (i.e., task forces ranging from infantry-dominated detachments to vehicle-dominated Formations that have their own special rules), and 0-3 Command detachments (e.g., Calgar and his Honour Guard). If the army fields a Gladius, it has the Tactical, Assault, and Devastator Doctrines (the Assault and Devastator Doctrines are revised forms of the old Ultramarine doctrines).

While potent, this system of organization requires the player to make some hard choices. A reasonably well-equipped Demi-Company can easily cost 1250 points (the Demi-Company in the picture above comes in at over 1400 points and doesn't even include transports). If you're used to 2000 point games, there won't be a lot of points left over for other Detachments or Formations. You can't take any flyers or tanks other than dedicated transports in a Demi-Company (which can include Land Raiders if you take Centurions). Nor can you take any Elites other than Dreadnoughts or Assault Centurions. Those other options are only available through a CAD or an Auxiliary force.

What really gets left out in the cold are Fortifications. None of the Astartes Detachments or Formations include them, leaving the CAD as the only way to field staples like the Aegis Defence Line. This may have been a deliberate decision, since most Space Marine Chapters are depicted as being constantly on the move rather than hiding behind fortifications.

The Auxiliaries
The Auxiliaries (e.g., the 1st and 10th Company Task Forces) range from decent to amazing, but the minimum number of units they require can make them pretty costly. For example, the only flyer-based Auxiliary force is the Storm Wing (this is identical to the dataslate released in late 2013). The Storm Wing is composed of two Stormtalons and one Stormraven and costs at least 420 points.

Similarly, the most advantageous way to field tanks is through the Armoured Task Force. This force is composed of 0-1 Sergeant Chronus (he's an HQ now and his tank becomes a character), 1 Techmarine (which now has two wounds and is an HQ; the Master of the Forge is no longer an option) , 0-3 units of Thunderfire Cannons, and 3-5 units of Whirlwinds, Predators, and/or Vindicators in any combination. This Formation is pretty strong, with all tanks within 6" of the Techmarine ignoring Stunned and Shaken results while the Techmarine himself has a +1 to his repair rolls. Unfortunately, the cost of entry can be pretty high when the Formation has a minimum composition of one HQ and three tanks.

The Auxiliaries are strong enough by themselves that I suspect a lot of players will simply skip the Demi-Company altogether in favor of a points-efficient CAD. At an absolute minimum, a Detachment composed of Telion and two basic Scout Squads costs only 160 points.

One Final Thought
If one disregards the points cost, the Gladius Detachment is the best way to field Space Marines. However, it's very hard to fit a Gladius into a standard 2000 point game due to the size of the Core Force and the high minimum cost of many of the Auxiliaries. I suspect that this is GW's method of surreptitiously encouraging gamers to play larger and larger games so they can fit in all their toys. I wouldn't be surprised if 2500 point games started to become the norm.
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