Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Space Marines 6th Edition Codex Wishlist

As rumors leak out and new codices are released, I think some of us Codex Marines players are beginning to wonder a) when we'll get our codex (yes, I know we're luckier than Xenos players who often don't get a codex for each edition) and b) what goodies we'll be getting for this edition. Here's a wishlist of what I'd like to see for the faithful followers of the Codex Astartes:

Agemman and the Ultramarines 1st Company
A couple months ago a list of supposed models that were to be released in 2013 ended up online. On this list was Agemman, the captain of the Ultramarines 1st Company. I'm really hoping that this rumor is true given the cool things that GW could do with Captain Agemman.

With any other captain (e.g., Captain Sicarius of the 2nd Company), it makes sense to field a core of Tactical Marines belonging to his company along with various Dreadnoughts and vehicles attached to the company. Support would be provided by units from specialized companies such as the 10th Company's Scouts and/or squads from the 1st Company such as Sternguard, Terminators with their Land Raider transports, and Vanguard.

Sternguard could count as
troops for the 1st Company
I wouldn't expect such a mix with Agemman's company, though. While I can see Veterans providing support for other companies, I can't really imagine the Veteran Company relying on units from non-Veteran squads. Thus, it only makes sense that an army led by Agemman would be able to fill its troops requirement with veterans. Presumably the 1st Company Captain would allow Sternguard to fill this role. Terminators could remain in the Elite slot (Terminator armor is still a rarity, after all), and Vanguard (which desperately need a cost reduction to make them competitive) could fill the Fast Attack role. If I were to make a 1st Company army, I would probably give Venerable Dreadnoughts preference (maybe Agemman could give them some sort of advantage like allowing them to form squadrons). All the vehicles available to the other companies could also be used by the Veteran Company.

The High Cost of Relic Blades
30 Points for AP3?
Despite their high points cost, I love relic blades. It only makes sense for your high cost, high initiative Captain or Chapter Master to carry an S6 power weapon that allows him to strike at initiative. Unfortunately, the Space Marine FAQ has since given the relic blade an AP value of 3. While the relic blade is still a good weapon choice, I have to question its cost now that it can't deny armor saves to Terminators and the like.

The relic blade and the thunder hammer both cost 30 points and both deny the +1 bonus attack for having two close combat weapons. Under 5th Edition, when the armor penetration value of a power weapon was a de facto AP2, it was reasonable to trade the thunder hammer's slightly higher strength and Concussive rule for the ability to strike at initiative. However, now that the relic blade is only AP3 while the thunder hammer is AP2, it makes little sense for the relic blade to cost so much.

I think there are three options: give the relic blade AP2 in the 6th Edition codex, retain its current stats and reduce its cost, or give it the Rending special rule. While it could make sense, fluffwise, to make relic blades AP2, I would actually prefer to see a cost reduction. (Personally, I agree with GW's decision to disadvantage most AP2 melee weapons by making them unwieldy.) Given that the abilities of the FAQ'd relic blade falls somewhere between that of the 25 point power fist (S8, AP2 with the disadvantages of being unwieldy and denying the bonus attack for two close combat weapon) and the 15 point power maul (S6, AP4 with the advantage of striking at initiative, allowing the bonus attack for two close combat weapons, and having the Concussive rule), the relic blade would be better priced at 20 points. However, I would gladly continue to pay 30 points for a relic blade if it could rend. Not only would the weapon occasionally be able to penetrate Terminator armor, but it could also effectively terrorize vehicles.

More Tanks, Please
Also on the list of rumored models is something called a "Land Avenger". If true, I really hope that this is a medium tank.

How about a middle-sized tank?

Since I started playing 40K, I've felt like the Astartes lacked an intermediate tank. Given how new most of us are to the game, our Cabal tends to play small to medium sized games (500 to 1000 point games with the occasional 1250 point game). As much as I love my Destructor-Pattern Predator, the AV11 side armor is an enormous liability. Unfortunately, the alternative is a Land Raider, but its high points cost is prohibitive and its AV14 is sometimes unnecessarily high, especially in smaller games.

A middle-sized tank, perhaps something with armor 13 on the front, 12 on the sides, and 11 on the rear (a tank of decent size should not be glanced to death by Ork Boyz) would be appreciated. A base cost somewhere between that of a fully equipped Destructor-Pattern Predator and a Land Raider (maybe 150 to 175 points) would seem fair. A transport capacity would also be nice, perhaps with the option of trading capacity for weaponry like the Rhino versus the Razorback or the Land Raider Crusader versus the Land Raider.

The biggest question is what kind of weaponry could you put on such a tank? Marine vehicles tend to have a wide selection, although with only a couple exceptions they don't usually get ordnance or barrage weapons (that should probably remain the specialty of the Imperial Guard). I would like to be able to customize such a vehicle for horde killing or for anti-tank duties. Perhaps we could have two hurricane bolters and a twin-linked heavy bolter (essentially a Land Raider Crusader-Lite) for the anti-horde option. A variant with a longer range template weapon like the Hellhound's Inferno Cannon would be pretty cool. An anti-tank version could have a twin-linked lascannon and twin-linked multi-melta sponsons.

Give Me a Reason to Take a Whirlwind
Whirlwinds could have a lot more potential
Marines aren't meant to be a barrage-heavy army, so I understand why all we get is the Whirlwind to fill that role. Unfortunately a single S5 AP4 large blast per turn just isn't that effective. A large blast with a relatively low strength suggests that it's supposed to be a horde killer, but you're not very likely to earn back the cost of the tank if all you get is effectively a heavy bolter with wide area effects, especially if your opponent is savvy enough to spread out his horde. And with so many better Heavy Support options available (e.g., a Destructor-Pattern Predator with heavy bolter sponsons) why would you take up a Heavy slot with a Whirlwind?

I really do like the Whirlwind model, but I simply can't justify taking one. I think the following changes would make the Whirlwind a must-have (or at least a tempting option) for many Astartes players:

1) For the current points cost, allow an un-upgraded Whirlwind Multiple Missile Launcher to land two large blasts per turn.
2) For an added cost, allow the Whirlwind to trade in its Vengeance and Incendiary Castellan missiles for Krakstorm missiles, which are currently available only on the Fortress of Redemption. Such an upgraded Whirlwind could land an S8 AP3 large blast up to 96" away per turn. This would effectively give the Marines a longer range version of the Leman Russ's Battle cannon. I understand that inexpensive barrage weapons and tanks are supposed to be the Guard's hallmark, so pricing a Krakstorm Whirlwind at about 150 points (i.e., the cost of the heavily armored Leman Russ Battle Tank) while only having AV11 on the front and sides seems fair.
3) For a few more points (15 to 20 points?), allow the Whirlwind to carry Helios missiles in addition to its other missile(s) and to fire two per turn (or maybe one twin-linked shot) with the Skyfire and Interceptor special rules. A 165 to 170 point Krakstorm/Helios Whirlwind would cost about as much as an Annihilator-Pattern Predator, which is probably a pretty fair price for what it could do.

Earlier this year, GW jacked up the price for the Whirlwind model to a mind-boggling $57.75, which is the same as a Predator. Unfortunately, the Whirlwind's current rules can't possibly justify that price. However, I might be willing to pay that much for a Krakstorm/Helios Whirlwind.

I'd Like to take a Thunderfire Cannon, But...
The glass cannon
When I first started playing 40K, I would often use Bryce's Thunderfire Cannon model. The gun proved to be relatively effective when on the offensive, but was often a glass cannon (and if GW thinks I'm going to pay $56 for one, they're crazy). In addition to making a plastic model for the Thunderfire, GW should give it a durable chassis as Forge World did when they mounted it on the Land Raider Achilles. A variant of the Vindicator seems like the most logical vehicle to carry it.

Too bad this one's Photoshopped
With a little help from Photoshop, I found that the width of the Thunderfire Cannon that comes with Forge World's Land Raider Achilles is similar to that of the Vindicator's Demolisher Cannon. The Vindicator's forward bulkhead could potentially be used without modification. It seems like GW could simply add a sprue to the existing Vindicator model that would include the Thunderfire Cannon (and a new bulkhead, if necessary). Heck, they could retire the current Vindicator model altogether and release a Demolisher-Pattern Vindicator/Thunderfire-Pattern Vindicator set with an extra sprue. I think I could guarantee that it would sell (well, I'd buy it, at least).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Astartes vs. Orks Lessons Learned

The weekend before last, Carl, Jon and I got together for some Astartes-vs-greenskins action. Carl and I each brought 1000 points of Grey Knights and Ultramarines, respectively, while Jon fielded 2000 points of Orks. The game was pretty long and I was too tired to remember it well enough to recount it with my usual level of detail, so I'll simply put down what we got out of it.

The game was pretty much a wholesale slaughter and we called it at around 12:30 AM. A quick count showed that, cumulatively, Carl and I had about 500 points on the table compared to Jon's 600 points. Although Jon had more points left, it was hard to declare anybody the winner or even to guess what would have happened if we had time for one or two more turns. Most of Jon's remaining points were in two Loota Squads and his Blitza-Bommer. At the time we called the game, Carl's remaining Grey Knight troops and my undamaged multi-melta Dreadnought were one turn away from engaging the Lootas. Meanwhile, my fully intact 5 man Scout Squad was taking potshots at them. On the other hand, the Marines were limited in what they could do to the Bommer thanks to the range of the weapons they had left. The only option for a Marine victory would have been to wipe out the units on the table and to wait until the Bommer ran out of room and had to leave.

"I Lost as Soon as I Made My List"
Well, the subheading is probably an exaggeration, but I wasn't too pleased with my list when I finally got to the table. For starters, I brought my lascannon Razorback. This is typically a decent choice and a good way to bring a twin-linked lascannon to the table. However, I only had 1000 points to play with and I knew that I would be facing Orks. You don't need a 40 point vehicle with a 35 point lascannon to take down Ork armor when much cheaper missile launchers will easily pop a Killa Kan. Heck, now that troops can land grenades on walkers based on their weapon skill, I could easily have brought down Jon's Killa Kans by assaulting them with Tactical Squads. The 75 points I spent on the Razorback would have been better spent elsewhere.

I also brought a five man Tactical Squad to increase the number of bolters on the table. Given that a standard bolter round needs a 4+ to wound even Boyz, I clearly should have skipped the Razorback and the small Tactical Squad and rolled the points into a stand-in Sternguard Squad (the Cabal is pretty forgiving of substitutions). Hellfire rounds would have made short work of Jon's mobs. Similarly, I skimped on my Captain by giving him a power sword rather than a relic blade. A Space Marine Captain's stats may be pretty good, but when his strength 4 means that he needs a 4+ to wound lowly Ork Boyz, he's going to be overwhelmed pretty quickly. I lost 13% of my total army when the Captain fell. He probably would have lived longer if I had spent 15 more points for a strength 6 attack.

Carl's list was a bit more effective. He skipped on the Terminators to be able to put more troops on the board. His Interceptor Squad was able to neutralize one of Jon's three Loota squads by teleporting immediately behind them and dismantling the mob within a couple turns. Carl's only regret was that he didn't have ten Interceptor troops so he could combat squad them and really give Jon a hard time.

Wrong Airplane
Jon has built his Ork flyer so he can play it as a Dakkajet or a Blitza-Bommer. He's often tempted to play it as a Blitza-Bommer so he can drop a bomb during the movement phase and then turn his guns on something during the shooting phase. Unfortunately, he has rarely been able to pull this off effectively. In fact, I can't remember his Bommer killing a single model that night. Jon regretted not bringing the Dakkajet for this game.

Astartes that Stay Together, Slay Together
Carl and I had won the roll-off for first turn, so I spread the two Combat Squads formed from my 10 man Tactical Squad and the troops in my five man Tactical Squad across my half of our deployment area with the intention of making any approaching mobs take heavy fire during the entirety of their march. Unfortunately, Jon successfully seized the initiative and was able to get two mobs of Boyz a respectable distance across the table before even taking a casualty. A nagging voice in my head said that I should consolidate my Marines and that I should concentrate my fire on the nearest mob while slowly retreating from the farther group. Ideally, this would neutralize the closest mob and keep my troops at full strength for the inevitable assault by the second mob.

Instead of paying attention to that voice, I divided my fire between the two mobs in the hopes that I would wear each one down enough to survive close combat. Some less than stellar dice rolls combined with the swiftness of the Ork's approach meant that each squad was quickly swamped. Jon took heavy losses, but my Marines were decimated.
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