Sunday, December 8, 2013

Escalation and 40K Formations

Just over a week ago I jotted down some preliminary thoughts on Escalation. Now that people are finally getting their copies, we have a little bit more information. My biggest question has finally been answered, and it wasn't the answer I was hoping for.

Army Detachments and Lords of War
As is obvious to regular readers of this blog, I play an Ultramarine army. Although the Space Marines don't generally have direct access to Baneblade or Shadowsword variants, Super-Heavy tanks operated by the Imperial Guard or a PDF often accompany the Astartes into battle. In the story of the Battle of Macragge, we're told that the Ultramar Auxilia had a Baneblade called the Pride of Hera that was eventually destroyed by a Carnifex brood.

Although the Baneblade and Shadowsword variants are Imperial Guard Super-Heavy tanks, I had hoped that Astartes armies would be allowed to bring one as their Lord of War choice. Barring that, I had assumed that I would be able to bring an Imperial Guard Allied Detachment (which I would depict as the Ultramar Auxilia) that would supply the Lord of War. Unfortunately, the word is now out that a Lord of War can only be provided by the Primary Detachment.

Before this month, I wouldn't have been surprised by how strict Escalation is. For the sake of balance, it would have made perfect sense to me that only the Primary Detachment would be allowed to supply the Lord of War, although I still would have been disappointed that my Ultramarines would only have access to a prohibitively expensive model. However, it's hard to explain the relative conservatism of Escalation in light of the no-holds-barred nature of the recently introduced 40K Formations.

40K Formations
For those who are unfamiliar with the new 40K Formations, the idea is that, in addition to the Primary Detachment and any Allied Detachment, an army can also take along an additional detachment composed of a specific group of units. This Formation interacts with the Primary Detachment according to allies rules (e.g., a Space Marine detachment would treat a Tau Formation as Battle Brothers) but it is otherwise unaffected by normal Force Organization rules.

One word: "Broken"
Our Cabal is pretty open-minded, but Formations immediately worried us. The concern lay in the fact that they completely bypass the Force Organization of an Allied Detachment. The only thing that had previously limited allies was the fact that you were required to bring an HQ and at least one Troop. Once you had paid this "price of admission", you were limited to selecting a single unit from each of the remaining slots. This forced the player to make some hard choices about what tradeoffs he was willing to make and prevented him from loading up on only the best units from another army.

However, Formations eliminate most of the drawbacks deliberately designed into the allies rules. The first Formation revealed, Tau Firebase Support Cadre, consists of a Riptide Battlesuit and six Broadsides. It doesn't require a player to sink points into an HQ or Troops that he doesn't necessarily want. Instead, as long as he has the points and the relatively liberal Allies Matrix allows it, he can add a very powerful Elite choice and two Heavy Support choices to his Primary Detachment. Unless an opponent has brought some Formations of his own, it could be a very uneven and unenjoyable game for him.

I appreciate that GW wants to open up their rules for those who want more options (they seem to be producing a small-scale form of Apocalypse), and I'm sure that there are plenty of players who will have a lot of fun using Formations, but the Cabal has made a gentleman's agreement not to use them just to keep our games friendly.

Back to Escalation
As I was saying, the philosophy behind the Escalation rules and the concept of Formations seem to be at odds. In a game where my Ultramarines can take a Firebase Support Cadre free of any of the usual limitations that come with an Allied Detachment, why can't Marines with Imperial Guard allies bring a Baneblade? Not only is this inconsistent from a gaming perspective, but it's entirely contrary to the fluff.

I was really hoping to bring this in an allied force

I have two theories on why GW might have decided to go this way. My first is that the writers of Escalation and the writers of the Formation rules weren't quite on the same page. I assume that the authors of the former actually wanted to limit Allied shenanigans (e.g., no Tau Primary Detachment accompanied by a minimal Eldar force and their Revenant Titan). It's also possible that they wanted to increase the diversity of units on the tabletop. Given how inexpensive Baneblades and Shadowswords are (both monetarily and points-wise) and since IG can ally with just about everyone, a huge number of Escalation games could easily end up with both sides bringing some form of Baneblade.

My second theory has to do with business. Obviously, the primary intent of both Formations and Escalation is to make money. I'm sure that the rules writers and model designers also want us to enjoy the game, but at the end of the day they like to eat and have a roof over their heads, too. I previously suggested that the point of introducing Super-Heavies into regular games of 40K was to increase the demand for large plastic models. I think that the restrictions of Escalation support this idea and may indicate the imminent release of additional models.

With its high points value, the
Revenant Titan is bargain
If I worked at GW and were asked to increase demand for large plastic models, I think I would come up with something like Escalation. Not everyone has the time or the money to play huge Apocalypse games, so I would introduce Super-Heavies into the regular game. And what if the company was interested in releasing plastic versions of existing resin models, but didn't want to proceed until they were certain that there would be sufficient demand? Since many of those who play an army without its own plastic Super-Heavy (e.g., Space Marines, Tau, Eldar) would simply bring an IG allied force with a Super-Heavy tank if given the option (and might even be reluctant to buy their faction-specific Super-Heavy when it was finally released), I would require that the Lord of War be specific to the Primary Detachment.

Escalation and the Legendary Plastic Thunderhawk
To be able to compete in Escalation, some players might end up buying a resin Super-Heavy from Forge World. Fortunately, the new supplement limits armies to bringing only the "smallest" Super-Heavies. At the current exchange rate, the Tau Tiger Shark is $244, the Eldar Revenant Titan is $319, and the Tyranid Harridan is $384. These prices are much higher than the $160 GW charges for a Khorne Lord of Skulls or a Necron Tesseract Vault, but I can actually see many serious gamers saving up for them.

After looking over a few of my 2000 point lists, I've calculated that the total monetary value of the models in each list is around $650. That means that the price of most Escalation-legal Forge World models is about half that of a 2000 point Space Marine army. (And who owns only 2000 points, anyway?) At $319, the 900 point Revenant Titan turns out to be a pretty good value. It costs about 50% as much as a 2000 point army while its addition to that army would increase its total points value by 45%.

Where we really run into a problem is with the Lord of War for GW's most popular faction; i.e., Space Marines in their various incarnations. The Thunderhawk is worth 685 points and can reach a value of 775 points with the Turbo-laser destructor upgrade. The model, while admittedly much larger than many other Super-Heavy models, currently sells for over $650. That's more than twice as much as a Revenant Titan and four times as much as GW's most expensive plastic model. An upgraded Thunderhawk would cost as much as an entire 2000 point army but add only 39% to the points value of the army. In other words, Escalation limits players of GW's most popular armies to the resin-only model with the least bang for their buck.

When it comes to 40K I'm pretty stupid with money, but even I can't justify a $650 price tag for a single 775 point resin model.

Why would GW limit C:SM players to the Thunderhawk?

I think the primary reason why GW limited thousands of Space Marine players to fielding the prohibitively expensive Thunderhawk is because it won't be that expensive for much longer. My theory is that Escalation and its restriction against Space Marines taking an IG Super-Heavy in an Allied Detachment will have finally created the demand GW wanted/needed to justify making their largest plastic kit ever (which will still be smaller than some of the model airplanes I put together as a kid). I wouldn't be surprised if we saw the mythical plastic Thunderhawk by the first anniversary of Escalation.

What Do We Do Until Then?
I predict that many Astartes fans who want to participate in games using the Escalation supplement will choose to field a single Guard Command Squad and two squads of Veterans as their Primary Detachment just so they can play with a cheap Super-Heavy tank. Their preferred army will be represented by a maxed-out Allied Detachment. In fact, about a week ago I made a theoretical 2500 point IG list that included a Super-Heavy tank and Ultramarine allies just in case the Lord of War was restricted to the Primary. Even with a Baneblade or a Shadowsword, the minimized IG Primary Detachment only took up about 35% of the total points value.

Bryce has already offered to buy my Baneblade and Shadowsword models for his own Steel Legion. If I knew for certain that a plastic Thunderhawk were on its way, I would strongly consider it. Right now, though, I'm actually rather fond of the Guard Super-Heavies and will probably end up buying a minimal Guard army just so I can use them.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Land Raider Crusader WIP, Part I

Although I already knew that foot slogging my new Close Combat Terminators wasn't going to be very effective, the disastrous results of the past few games have only proven it. A large squad of Terminators marching across the board is going to get a lot of unfavorable attention, which meant that my latest models regularly ate so much firepower that they were very nearly toothless by the time they finally reached their target. More often than not, the bulk of the squad was lost to massed AP5 fire rather than AP1 or AP2 weapons. The answer to that, of course, is protecting them inside a Dedicated Transport. Although I'm very excited to start on my new Sternguard models, building the Land Raider Crusader has become my top priority.

Here's the Crusader thus far:

It doesn't look too impressive, but it was a major feat to get the Crusader to this stage. It's late November in Idaho, which typically means cold temperatures and high relative humidity. I've been following the weather forecast for weeks looking for a window in which I could prime the model. Unfortunately, the best times were usually in the early afternoon on a weekday while I was at work.

Finally, the weather service predicted an unusually warm and dry day yesterday, which I had already decided to take off in preparation for Thanksgiving. The temperature was below 30°F (-1°C) with 67% relative humidity up until 10:00AM and it didn't look like conditions were about to get much better. However, around 2:00PM the Emperor smiled upon me and we got a sudden spike in temperature. By 2:30PM the temperature was about 48°F (9°C) with 36% relative humidity. Since the temperature inside my garage tends to be a few degrees higher than the outdoor temperature, I hauled out the Crusader, my trusty Rust-Oleum Camouflage, and a can of Army Painter Ultramarine Blue.

I finished spraying by about 4:00PM. The Fates gave me a couple more hours of good weather to allow the primer coat to dry before the temperature dropped below freezing again and the relative humidity rose.

I might try to get a few more models prepped for their primer coat since it's predicted that we'll have a few more days of good weather. This could be my last chance to spray until early spring; by this time next week we're predicted to have a high of 22°F (-6°C) and a low of 6°F (-14°C). In my eight years living in Idaho, I've learned that once the weather starts to turn that cold, there's a good chance we might not see temperatures more than a few degrees above freezing for a few months.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thoughts on the Upcoming Stronghold Assault and Escalation Expansions

Apparently the 40K community will soon be able to get its hands on two new game expansions: Stronghold Assault and Escalation.

Stronghold Assault
Apparently, Stronghold Assault allows players to incorporate fortifications into their army lists much more extensively than is possible with the current rule book. Rumor has it that the expansion will allow individual fortifications to be grouped into one giant fortification; e.g., two bastions and an Aegis Defense Line can be combined into an Imperial Strongpoint. This expansion is also supposed to finally give points values and rules for the Wall of Martyrs.

While I find the idea of this expansion interesting, other members of the 40K Cabal and I worry about the lack of balance that it could introduce into our games. As pointed out by Bryce recently, an Aegis Defence Line isn't particularly valuable for durable armies like Space Marines or Tau. Sure, with Sergeant Telion my Scouts get a 2+ cover save from it, but the majority of my models already have a better save than they can get from the wall. The 4+ cover save is nice when they're getting hit by AP1, AP2, or AP3 weapons, but the armies I have to worry about with that kind of armor penetration in abundance are Tau (who can easily deny cover) or Imperial Guard (who are often firing over the wall).

On the other hand, fortifications are worth their weight in gold to lightly armored armies like Orks or Guard. For a mere 50 points, Orks can effectively upgrade a couple squads of Lootas from a 6+ save to a 4+. And without a significant number of barrage weapons or the kind of cover-denying abilities that Tau have, they can be difficult for more elite armies like Sam's Necrons, Carl's Grey Knights, or my Ultramarines to dislodge.

The thought of fielding extensive fortifications on the Cabal's tables is appealing from a storytelling point of view, but the disproportionate advantage that fortifications could give to a minority of our players makes some of us a bit uneasy. For now, it's just as well that only a few of us own even a single Aegis Defence Line.

Now this is the expansion that I'm really interested in. This expansion is supposed to emulate a feature of Forge World's Horus Heresy game in that it adds a single "Lord of War" force organization slot to 40K. According to the rumors, the Lord of War slot can be filled with one of 16 Super-Heavy vehicles or Gargantuan Creatures.

I really want to get this onto the table
Earlier this year I bought a Baneblade and a Shadowsword in preparation for the upcoming Apocalypse 2.0. Unfortunately, the Cabal is far from being able to actually play games of Apocalypse, meaning that my new Super-Heavies have remained untouched on my hobby shelves. Escalation may finally give me a reason to paint up the tanks and get them on the table.

My only real concern is that I might be forced to paint up an Imperial Guard Command Squad and a Veteran Squad before I can field either of the tanks (and that's assuming that an allied force can be the one to fill the Lord of War slot). When I first heard about Escalation, I had hoped that it would function like a mini-Apocalypse and that the Ultramarines could field an Imperial Guard Super-Heavy tank as their Lord of War. However, the rumors I keep seeing seem to suggest that the only Super-Heavy that Astartes can take directly is the Thunderhawk Gunship.

Some rumors suggest that D-weapon
will be downgraded to S10, AP1 for 40K
Ironically, GW's move to put more Super-Heavies on the table emphasizes the fact that the sole Super-Heavy vehicle their flagship army can field is only available in the form of a $650 slab of resin from Forge World. Of course, along with the rumors about Escalation we've also heard rumblings about a plastic Thunderhawk. Since this rumor has circulated off and on for years, it has been met with extreme skepticism. I think the probability that we may soon see a plastic Thunderhawk has increased, though.

It may be wishful thinking, but I suspect that GW's intent with regards to Escalation is to increase the demand for larger plastic models, thus giving the company a financial justification for producing more of them. As things currently stand, I assume that many 40K players are like our gaming group; we would love to get into Apocalypse but none of our armies are currently large enough for it, nor do we really have the time to regularly play large games. Because of this, I'm the only one in the Cabal who has actually bought an Apocalypse model. But if we were each allowed to take a single Super-Heavy in regular games, I think I can guarantee that my fellow gamers would become a lot more interested in some large models of their own.

Given the huge number of Space Marine players and an increased interest in fielding Super-Heavy models, it would only make sense for GW to finally produce the mythical plastic Thunderhawk. Even though I already own a Baneblade and a Shadowsword, I would certainly add one to my army.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Close Combat Terminators WIP, Part III

It took an embarrassingly long time, but the Close Combat Terminators are finally done:

The eight man Terminator Squad with Captain Agemman

As I've mentioned before, the squad is composed of eight Terminators: three with thunder hammers and storm shields and five with lightning claws. The unit was sized to fill a Land Raider Crusader, although it will probably consist of seven Terminators or less in most games to allow room for an HQ in Terminator armor.

Nine Terminators are noticeably more imposing than a full Tactical Squad

I'm pretty happy with the models overall; definitely happier than I am with the Black Reach Terminators I painted a couple years ago. Unfortunately, I've found that Terminators aren't the most interesting models to paint, in part because they're relatively featureless compared to models in power armor. I tried to break up the monotony here and there with script.

The Terminator in the foreground with the outstretched hammer is my favorite

This squad has finally convinced me that I shouldn't focus on more than five models at a time. My practice of doing most of my painting prior to assembly and the use of mass-production techniques mean that I usually don't have a playable squad until all the models are completely done. With the Terminators complete, I've turned my attention towards Sternguard and Tactical Marines. Fortunately, five man Sternguard squads are reasonably viable while the 6th Edition of C:SM has made five man Tactical Squads useful again.

"Give me a hug"

My only problem with the lightning claw Terminators is that the positioning of their arms is somewhat awkward and static. The lightning claw arms provided with the new Vanguard Kit are a lot more dynamic and characterful. The Terminators look like they don't know what to do with their hands while the Vanguard Marines' arms mesh very well with the poses of the models.

Vanguard lightning claws have much better poses

With the Idaho winter quickly approaching, I don't have much time left before I'll be unable to confidently use spray paint in my garage. My next project will involve prepping a lot of parts for priming before the weather becomes too cold and humid. At the top of my priorities is the Land Raider Crusader that will ensure that my new squad won't have to footslog through too many games.

"When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a xenos skull"

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Close Combat Terminators WIP, Part II

An Unwanted Vacation
Finally, I've made some progress! As I mentioned before, I had a tonsillectomy and a septoplasty late last month. The night before the surgery I was able to finish the fourth member of the eight man Close Combat Terminator Squad I started this summer.

I finished the lightning claw Terminator the night before the surgery

It turns out that a tonsillectomy is rough on an adult and I ended up taking hydrocodone regularly to control the pain. This meant that my head was never very clear and it left my hands unsteady. Additionally, the septoplasty affected the ability of my sinuses to properly drain. Merely leaning forward left me dizzy and feeling ill. Things got even worse when I started having bleeding problems that eventually ended in an emergency surgery to re-cauterize the wound.

Thus, despite having three weeks free of any obligations other than recovering from surgery, I was completely unable to work on my Close Combat Terminators. However, the last Friday night before having to go back to work I felt well enough to finally return to the hobby desk. I was able to put a good three hours into the fifth Terminator, meaning that I'm on track to finish the squad before the Cabal's next game night.

Terminator number five (I forgot to include the helmet in the picture)

The Assembly Line
Once again I've neglected to photographically document my modeling process so I'm stuck describing it verbally. I began with the bases since they seemed to be the logical starting point. I then moved on to the most onerous processes just to get them out of the way; i.e., the helmets and the shoulder pads with the free-hand Ultramarines logo.

Terminator helmets in various stages of completion

Next I base coated the legs, torsos, and arms in Mordian Blue, the stone areas (i.e., the Crux Terminatus, various decorations, and the center of each storm shield) were base coated in Codex Grey, metallic regions were base coated in Leadbelchers, and bundled power cables were base coated in Steel Legion Drab. I went back and finished the stone areas by giving them a Nuln Oil wash and dry brushing them with Fortress Grey. The metallic regions received a Nuln Oil wash and were dry brushed with Chainmail. Bundled power cables were painted with Tin Bitz, washed with Devlan Mud, and then dry brushed with Hashut Copper. The tiny wires running to each lightning claw blade were painted with Hashut Copper.

The chest decorations were base coated with Codex Grey and then painted with Ceramite White. I tried to replicate the effect I achieved with the helmets by painting Drakenhof Nightshade into the crevices, but the thick coat of Ceramite White obscured the details and the wash ended up going where I didn't want it. I cleaned everything up as well as I could with Skull White and then attached various Crux Terminatus medals and purity seals to dress up my partial success.

A nearly complete lightning claw
Up to this point I had been working on the models in an assembly line fashion. Since I prefer to do most of my painting prior to final assembly, each Terminator consisted of a pile eight parts (for the lightning claw Terminators) or eleven parts (for the thunder hammer/storm shield Terminators). It's because of this particular habit that I never field bare plastic squads.

The Final Stage
I'm currently in the final painting and assembly steps, which is where I focus on a single model at a time. The first thing I do in this phase is cleanup. All the dry brushing I do on the cables, metallic areas, and stone areas leaves copper, metallic, and gray streaks on the power armor. Thus, I carefully clean up these areas with Mordian Blue, usually with my trusty Atlas 970-3/0 brush. I then wash all blue regions with Nuln Oil, taking care not to re-wash the previously detailed areas.

Once washed, I dry brush the power armor with Macragge Blue. This gives raised details and edges a mild highlight while also lightening the armor and giving it a worn appearance. I prefer this approach over GW-style edge highlighting since I've never been happy with my own attempts at edge highlighting while I generally like the effect that simple dry brushing produces. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who struggles with highlighting, either. For every attractive highlighting job I've seen on the Internet, I've seen at least two or three models with heavy and/or inconsistent highlights that adversely affect the model's appearance.

Only now, when the painting is practically done, do I fully assemble the model. Although I built model airplanes using model cement for years before getting into 40K, nowadays I much prefer superglue. Superglue doesn't mar the plastic nor does it care if you don't fully scrape the paint from parts that you're about to join.

I start by gluing the legs to the base and giving the assembly a decent amount of time to dry before attaching any more parts. More than once I've had the problem of superglue fumes leaving a white residue on parts of the feet; leaving the other parts off makes it easier to repaint the feet as necessary. Next I do a dry fit of the torso to the legs and of the arms to the torso. This lets me see how I want to position the arms and how I should orient the torso to get the effect I want. I then glue the torso in place followed by the head. The arms are next and then I finish with the shoulder pads. Once everything is dry, I scrape away any glue that seeped out and touch up those areas with a little paint and some wash.

Since they had a slightly more complex paint job and a few fiddly parts that weren't exactly easy to glue into place, I finished the three thunder hammer/storm shield Terminators first. I've since moved on to the lightning claw Terminators and have one finished and another halfway through the final stage. With a little diligence, I should have all eight Terminators ready for next week's game.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On Space Marine Centurions

I'm a contrarian with regards to the Space Marine Centurions. When their introduction was met with widespread scorn and criticism, I was immediately interested in them. While I wasn't a big fan of the Assault Centurions and their comically large drills, I was very excited by the Devastator Centurions. I particularly liked the Roman-style armor, which matches my Ultramarines quite well. (I'll admit that they clash with the style of other armies such as the Black Templars, though.)

GW really piqued my interest with these new units, both with regards to the models' capabilities as well as to the story behind the Centurions themselves. As I'm currently recovering from a tonsillectomy and septum reconstruction surgery and have too much hydrocodone in my system to actually work on any models, I might as well spend some time overanalyzing the new toys that GW gave us.

The Rules
What Kind of Centurions?
Recently I've been working on ways to incorporate them into my lists. I've found that I simply can't justify the Assault Centurions. While multiple S9, AP2 attacks that strike at initiative are tempting, their lack of an invulnerable save puts them at the mercy of the majority of dedicated close combat units. With his absurd number of S10, AP2 attacks, Jon's ubiquitous power klaw warboss would make short work of any Centurion Squad. Plus, Assault Centurions take up an Elite slot, which is already comically overstuffed. In my mind, Assault Centurions simply cannot replace Close Combat Terminators.

Devastator Centurions make a lot more sense. Two wounds and T5 isn't too shabby when your most common enemy will be plasma weapons and lascannons and you have cover available. They take up a Heavy Support slot, which became more crowded this Edition, but the ability to take any type of Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport makes up for it.

How Should I Arm Centurions?
In my mind, only one very specific build is actually worth it. While Centurions' basic armament is the twin-linked heavy bolter, there's little point in paying for such an expensive model just to bring yet one more example of the Astartes' most common heavy weapon. The grav-cannon is tempting, but it's a highly specialized weapon that's designed for killing Terminators or their equivalents. Its range is so short that by the time you're close enough to actually do damage to your target, your intended victim is very nearly on top of you. Twin-linked lascannons, on the other hand, have the range and strength to smash tanks and heavy infantry at a safe distance.

Then you have the secondary weaponry, which is a no-brainer. A hurricane bolter is simply three twin-linked bolters. It's only really effective at 12", making it a lousy companion for any of the Centurions' other weapons. And since Centurions are Slow and Purposeful, you can't even use it for overwatch. The missile launcher upgrade is the only way to go.

Protecting Centurions
Once I had settled on a long-range, tank-killing Devastator Centurion Squad, I become horribly aware that I intended to field a powerful unit that was going to attract most of my enemy's heavy firepower. That's not excessively worrisome when I'm playing against Sam's Necrons, Carl's Grey Knights, or Jon's Orks. Those armies don't field enough S10 weapons to make me worry about Instant Death. And a little bit of cover should protect my Warsuits from the limited number of high strength, low AP weapons that their armies field just long enough for them to do their job.

But Bryce's Tau are a different story.

I hate this guy
Bryce fields an impressive number of marker lights, all of which would be directed at my Centurions. It's also common for Bryce to field two Hammerheads (one with Longstrike), a Riptide, and three Broadsides. It would take a grand total of eight successful marker light hits to allow all four of those units to ignore the Centurions' cover. A few more marker lights and each of those units is shooting with BS5+. My three Centurions are as good as gone once those units have line of sight. If I'm lucky, the Warsuits might survive a turn or two. If I'm very lucky, I might be able to take out a couple threats and give the Centurions a fighting chance.

Taking a Land Raider as a Designated Transport
Here's where the Centurions' ability to take a Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport comes in handy. Hammerheads may be one of the biggest threats to a Land Raider, but the fact remains that S10 penetrates AV14 only 33% of the time (Longstrike increases this to 56%). The Riptide's S9 (which can only be achieved if the Tau player risks Nova-Charging the main weapon) will only penetrate AV14 16.7% of the time, while the Broadsides' S8 can only glance the Land Raider on a six. Although putting your Centurions in their AV14 metal box isn't a guarantee of survival, it does give them a decent chance.

In my mind, the allowance to use a Land Raider as a Designated Transport for Devastator Centurions has given the vehicle renewed purpose. Previously, the classic Land Raider was a odd unit that made little sense either as an assault vehicle or as a dedicated weapons platform. Although its guns are powerful, it doesn't produce enough shots to significantly whittle down the target unit that an embarked squad is about to assault. The Land Raider Crusader, with its vastly higher rate of fire and increased transport capacity, is a much better choice for transporting an assault unit. The Crusader's anti-infantry abilities complement the assaulting squad's anti-infantry role. I've discussed the concept of complementary units in a previous post.

Although the combination of durability, Power of the Machine Spirit, and two twin-linked lascannons make the Land Raider a tempting weapons platform, it has a hard time competing with the Predator Annihilator. Not only is the Predator now a full 110 points cheaper than its big brother, but a Land Raider's two twin-linked lascannons will make an average of 1.78 hits on its target, {2*[(2/3)+(2/3)*(1/3)]=1.78}, while the Predator will land an average of 2.22 hits, {2*(2/3)+[(2/3)+(2/3)*(1/3)]=2.22}. As a dedicated weapons platform, the Land Raider's transport capability is squandered and much of its value is wasted.

However, as a Dedicated Transport for a Devastator Centurion Squad, the standard Land Raider isn't forced into an assault role for which it's poorly suited, nor is its transport capability wasted by using it solely as a weapons platform. When the enemy turns up the heat, the Land Raider can shelter the Centurions from the enemy's long range firepower. When the Astartes get the chance to return the favor, the Centurions can disembark and fire (unlike their less mobile counterparts, the Devastator Marines). The Land Raider's twin-linked lascannons then complement the Warsuits' own lascannons. With this arrangement, it seems like the Land Raider and Devastator Centurions were made for each other.

"You got Centurions in my Land Raider!"
"You got Land Raider on my Centurions!"

The Fluff
This wouldn't be an Atomic Spud post without a ludicrously detailed discussion of the fluff as well as the rules. Despite early gripes about ruining the fluff (I truly wish that 40K hobbyists would complain less, especially when all they have are a handful of leaked photos and nothing else), I think GW did a commendable job of integrating Centurions into the Astartes' history. To me, it feels like the existence of Centurion Warsuits was revealed rather than awkwardly crammed into the storyline.

The Nature of Centurion Warsuits
According to the Codex, Centurion Warsuits have been in use for about 5,000 years. They aren't suits in the same way that power armor is, but more like walking vehicles that are categorized along with bikes and Land Speeders. They are often used to access tight areas that Predators or Ironclad Dreadnoughts can't.

The C:SM very explicitly states that Warsuits are not piloted by 1st Company Veterans. The suits don't interface with the Black Carapace and thus don't have the mobility and dexterity afforded to power armor or Terminator armor. Veterans are expected to be generalists and thus require the mobility of more traditional forms of armor. The Warsuits are instead considered to be specialist gear and are therefore piloted by specialists: Assault Centurions are piloted by a Chapter's Assault Marines while Devastator Centurions are piloted by Devastator Marines.

The fact that Assault and Devastator Marines are the ones piloting the Warsuits makes it even more interesting that Centurions Squads are still able to take a Land Raider of any type as a Dedicated Transport. This makes them the only non-Veteran Squad among the Codex Chapters that are allowed to so use the Land Raider, which is typically identified with the Veteran Company.

An Assault Centurion's left should pad
Centurion Honors?
The markings on Centurion Warsuits are a point of interest. On most suits of armor, a Marine's Chapter symbol is typically found on the left shoulder pad while other markings are found on the right. The left shoulder pad is considered to be the place of honor since it's the shoulder that an enemy is most likely to see when a Marine charges into combat. The primary exceptions to this rule are ceremonial (i.e., the Marine bears some honor that is held in higher regard than even the Chapter symbol) or practical (older marks of armor had reinforced left shoulder pads that prevented logos from being displayed on them).

On a suit of Terminator armor, the stone crux terminatus is displayed on the left shoulder pad since it is held in higher esteem than the Chapter logo. Notably, Centurion Warsuits also bear a large seal (often portrayed as being made of stone) on the left shoulder pad. The squad logo shares the left pad with the seal while the Chapter logo is found on the right shoulder pad. The position of this "Centurion Seal" suggests that it is in fact a very high honor analagous to the crux terminatus.

Centurion Warsuits, Land Raiders, and Vehicle Markings
As I mentioned earlier, Centurions are the only non-Veteran squads within a Codex Chapter that can take a Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport. Up until now, I had tended to think of Land Raiders as being more or less permanently assigned to the 1st Company since a) they're the Veterans and have priority and b) Terminators don't fit into any other Space Marine land-based transports. Thus, I had every intention of marking my still unbuilt Land Raider as if it belonged to the 1st Company. However, once I decided that the classic Land Raider is most useful supporting Centurion Warsuits, I decided to model the Land Raider as one that is assigned to Sicarius' 2nd Company.

I once said that with the 6th Edition C:SM "everything old is new again". It's interesting to see how much information from older works such as the Insignium Astartes has made it into the Space Marines 6th Edition Codex. For example, the new codex is more explicit than the previous codex about the fact that most Astartes vehicles are assigned to a Company as the need arises. Like the Insignium Astartes, the codex states that vehicles are marked with roundels whose color and numbering indicate which Company the vehicle has been assigned to. To show how the roundels are used, the Insignium Astartes included sketches of various vehicles, including a Land Raider:

The 3rd Land Raider assigned to the 2nd Company

The yellow roundel with the Roman numeral II indicates that the Land Raider is assigned to the 2nd Company. The Roman numeral III indicates that it's the third Land Raider assigned to the Company. Presumably, Land Raiders that are being used for Centurion transport and support duty will have been assigned to the Company prior to the mission, meaning that a properly labeled Land Raider model will bear the roundel of the Centurions' Company (in my case, I'm modeling the 2nd Company).

The roundel is easy enough to replicate; you can either paint it yourself or, if you don't mind the fact that all the roundels on the decal sheet are 2nd Company-yellow, you can use the decals. In the case of the Land Raider Crusader that will be carrying my Assault Terminators, I'm going to be painting the appropriate white roundel with a Roman numeral I.

As I was contemplating how to properly mark my Land Raider for supporting my 2nd Company Centurions, another detail that I'll have to take care of occurred to me. Do you see it?

How about now?

That's right, there's a crux terminatus molded right onto the side of the Land Raider model. While this logo wold be perfectly acceptable on a Land Raider that's transporting Terminators or other Veterans, Centurions are specifically not Veterans. They each bear a Centurion Seal, which appears to be some kind of honor, but they haven't earned the privilege of wearing the crux terminatus. I would assume that Veteran markings would normally be removed from a Land Raider that is assigned to a non-Veteran company.

When I finally get around to building it, I'm going to remove the crux terminatus from each side of the Land Raider and replace it with an appropriate logo. While just about any Chapter or Imperial logo would do, I'm considering using these two bits from the Centurion kit:

While the leftmost symbol is relatively generic, it resembles several symbols found on the Centurion Warsuits themselves. The rightmost symbol, on the other hand, is a replica of the Centurion Seal itself. I think these will be appropriate logos to display on a Land Raider carrying Centurion Warsuits.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tyrannic War Veterans WIP, Part III: What Now?

Before the rumor of a plastic Sternguard kit had been solidified, I had pieced out the entire Tyrannic War Veteran/Sternguard Squad. Except for a late addition, all the parts were primed along with the Close Combat Terminators and the Ironclad Dreadnought. I decided to piece together a final model after I converted a highly prized combi-weapon, which wasn't until after all his squad-mates were primed.

Finding the Parts
I had had a lot of fun dredging up parts from multiple kits and a pile of sprues that Bryce gave me almost two years ago. I spent several hours going through the Commander, Tactical Squad, Assault Squad, Command Squad, and Devastator Squad boxes to gather the bits I wanted. Since I was building a squad of experienced Veterans, I wanted them to look the part.

Helmets with the Iron Skull badge were easy to find, and I was able to collect nearly a dozen of them. I got a lot of great Veteran bits from the Commander and Command Squad boxes. At the time, the Commander box was the sole source for a plastic Imperium-style combi-melta and combi-plasma. The two boxes were also my source for several unique or rare shoulder pads. I got a number of power armor-sized Crux Terminatus shoulder pads and several Deathwatch shoulder pads.

Since Veterans often wear older patterns of armor, I gathered together the bits for Mk V and Mk VI armor from various boxes. These included Mk VI Corvus helmets and Mk V/VI studded shoulder pads. Mk V torsos (i.e., the ones with power cabling instead of the Aquila) and Mk VI legs (i.e., the legs with greaves instead of knee pads) were relatively plentiful. I was able to get a prized Mk IV helmet from the bits Bryce gave me.

I was rather pleased with one Marine I pieced together who had Mk VI legs, a Mk V/VI studded shoulder pad, a right shoulder pad with the rim scraped off to match the plain right pad of Mk V and Mk VI armor, a Mk V torso, a Mk VI Corvus helmet, and one of the more ornate Mk VII backpacks.

But my proudest achievement was the construction of seven Sternguard bolters with box magazines:

and a combi-flamer of my own design:

And Then...
Pictures of the new model kits started to leak:

The Vanguard kit alone was very impressive; the helmets and shoulder pads were far more elaborate than any I had found before and were exactly the kind of thing I wanted for my Sternguard. At the same time, the rumors were saying that the Sternguard kit was even better. In fact, it was said that the Sternguard kit built 5 Marines but had 120 components; that's an average of 24 parts per model. The high piece count meant that the Sternguard kit was going to be loaded with extra bits. Many of these bits were supposed to be combi-weapons; the plastic bits that had been so hard to find in the previous edition. Finally we got to see what the new Sternguard looked like:

... and all of a sudden my Sternguard conversions assembled from a hodgepodge of Marine bits looked pretty paltry by comparison. When photos of the new Tactical Squad box leaked, I found that we now had access to two Mk VI torsos and a pair of Mk IV legs; bits that had never been available in plastic before. I had to have these parts for my squad.

What Now?
For starters, the revised points values of the C:SM 6th Edition and the greater availability of plastic combi-weapons changed my plans for the Squad. Originally I was going to build a 10 man squad carrying the few combi-weapons I could scavange or convert; i.e., one combi-melta, a combi-plasma, and a combi-flamer. I was also going to build one Marine with a heavy bolter and one with a plasma gun. All told, I would have 12 models for list-building flexibility. When I heard that the plastic kit would have more combi-weapons, I figured that I would equip nearly all the Veterans with combi-weapons.

40K Radio eventually revealed that the cost of combi-weapons was going to increase from 5 points to 10 points each; a five point change that more than negated the 3 point per-model decrease that Sternguard received in this edition. Additionally, I realized that I get the most out of a Sternguard Squad that's geared towards a generic anti-infantry role, meaning that the one-shot combi-meltas are of little use to me and that combi-gravs are a bit too specialized. I dropped the plasma Marine when I realized how silly it is to add a 15 point weapon to a model that's already paying a premium for special ammunition. Finally, the heavy bolter fell by the wayside when I soured on using heavy weapons in any squad that's supposed to maintain mobility.

Here's the revised plan:
10 Man Sternguard Squad: 230 points
1X Lightning Claw: 15 points
2X Combi-Plasmas: 20 points
3X Combi-Flamers (two from the kit plus my conversion): 30 points
Total Cost: 295 points

The Bits
As much as I love the new Sternguard models, I didn't want to spend an extra $50 to buy two kits. Not only do I want to be able to take advantage of some of my earlier work, but I also feel that bits in this new box are too distinctive to have two copies of each part without drawing attention to that fact.

Some of the bits in the Sternguard kit actually seem a little too ornate for mere Veterans. For example, the robed torso looks like it belongs on a Captain rather than a Sergeant. And the enormous Aquila found on the left shin of one of the pairs of legs is more commonly found on the armor of a Commander (e.g., Calgar's artificer armor). Thus, I'll be repurposing the robed torso and the legs with the large Aquila for a model of Captain Agemman in artificer armor. Since there's an extra torso in the kit, this leaves me with five Sternguard torsos and four pairs of legs.

This guy is dressed more like a
Captain than a Veteran Sergeant
I'll be able to get several pairs of Veterans' legs by raiding the Vanguard kit. While I felt compelled to buy the kit upon its release, I knew that I would never use it to build an actual Vanguard Squad since they now take up an Elite slot. The squad is justifiable in a Raven Guard army with the Winged Deliverance rule, but it just doesn't work for an Ultramarine army that already has too many Elite choices as it is. However, the Vanguard kit is a great source of parts, including running legs that look great on any kind of model. I'll be saving the most ornate pair of Vanguard legs for an Assault Squad's Veteran Sergeant, but the other four will go into my Sternguard Squad.

The Vanguard kit will also supply the lightning claw for my Sternguard Sergeant, as well as several helmets. I'm particularly fond of the helmets with the molded laurels. And given how much I love the look of a Marine firing a bolter one-handed, I'll be using some of the Vanguard's straight arms as well.

This leaves me with five Sternguard torsos, four pairs of Sternguard legs, and four pairs of Vanguard legs. I'll take one of the Mk VI torsos from the new Tactical box, along with the torso with the laurels in place of the wings. The three remaining torsos will come from the models I've already primed. The final two pairs of legs will probably be the Mk IV legs and the Mk VI legs with the studs from the new Tactical Squad kit.

This mixture of parts will produce a pretty varied squad of Veterans. Four will be more ornate than the others, particularly with the full-length loincloths (for obvious reasons, I won't be putting combi-flamers on any of these guys). The four pairs of running legs will be a bit fancier than the two pairs taken from the Tactical Squad, although the latter have the advantage of being from older Marks of armor.

As much as my obsessive-compulsive personality would have liked to make the Veterans a bit more uniform, it seems reasonable that there could be a lot of variety among the members of a Squad. Among the Ultramarines, you would find experienced Marines who were promoted to the 1st Company shortly after the Battle of Macragge completely annihilated the Veteran Company. Others may have been Veteran Sergeants who had been seconded to other Companies and returned to the 1st to help rebuild it. These Marines may have been Veterans for many years by this point and would probably wear armor that's picked up any number of awards, trophies, or decorations over their years of service. Some Squad members may have achieved Veteran status through subsequent wars with the Tyranids, their simpler armor indicating the recent promotion from one of the Battle Companies. Others may have been made Veterans through unique experiences, such as serving in the Deathwatch. At least one of my 10 Sternguard will be wearing a Deathwatch pad as proof of his service on the Vigil.

As for the Rest of the Converted Models...
The latest plans for the Sternguard Squad don't make use of most of my primed models or the converted Sternguard bolters I put so much effort into. However, I've been inspired to try something new by the recently released Apocalypse: War Zone Damnos. Included in the book is a Deathwatch formation that consists of 2+ Sternguard and/or Vanguard Squads and a Space Marine Captain. These Deathwatch Kill-teams have the Preferred Enemy special rule against a single Xenos codex chosen while determining their Warlord Traits. Additionally, Kill-team members with bolters or combi-bolters are able to take a type of anti-Necron round in addition to their usual special ammunition.

Although I obviously won't be able to give them the Preferred Enemy special rule or anti-Necron rounds in a normal game of 40K, I've decided to paint my extra models as a five man Deathwatch Kill-team, complete with a Watch Captain. I'll build the Kill-team as a simple (and relatively cheap) Sternguard Squad with a heavy flamer while the Watch Captain will give me an excuse to model the Teeth of Terra relic. I like the Deathwatch fluff quite a bit and this gives me a chance to add some variety to my army. Even better, although they're effectively Veterans, the members of the Deatwatch wear relatively inornate armor, meaning that my original Sternguard conversions won't look out of place.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What's 6th Edition C:SM Done To Your Lists?

I'm an engineer by profession, which means I'm a planner. (I'm a much better planner than a doer, unfortunately.) Shortly after I got into the 40K hobby in the summer of 2011, I planned out multiple 2000 point lists to help me determine what models I should buy and in what order I should build them. Of course, the release of the 6th Edition Space Marine Codex has significantly changed those lists. Fortunately, I'm stupid with money and have bought enough Marines to accommodate those changes.

Playing to your Army's New Strengths
I'm sure there are plenty of C:SM players with collections large enough to take advantage of their Chapter's newly acquired Tactics. Unfortunately, while my Ultramarines definitely benefited from the Tactical Doctrine in their first game with the new codex, the other two Doctrines were effectively wasted since the units that most benefit from them have been relatively low on my list of priorities. Between the so-so capabilities of Assault Marines and the outrageous cost of Devastators in 5th Edition, these two units have sat unbuilt on my shelves for quite some time. With Longstrike exploding my tanks left and right, 6th Edition Devastators have definitely moved up on my list of squads to complete.

The biggest change is in my Tactical Squads. Not only does the Ultramarines' Tactical Doctrine encourage the fielding of more of them, but the revised costs and rules for Tactical Squads has caused me to seriously rethink how I use them.

Tactical Squads In 5th Edition
Bryce has been playing the game since 2nd or 3rd Edition. Before I started playing and we formed the Cabal, Bryce hadn't played Space Marines regularly since C:SM's 4th Edition. He was shocked by 5th Edition's Tactical Squads and railed at the requirement that a Squad number ten Marines before it could take a special weapon. Additionally, 5th Edition effectively required you to pay for upgrades, whether you wanted them or not. The Sergeant's Veteran status wasn't actually free, nor was a flamer or a missile launcher. The cost of all these things had been incorporated into the base cost of the Squad.

Bryce has long preached the concept of complementary units; i.e., units that do one or two things well and avoid being a wasteful Jack of all trades. The 5th Edition Tactical Squad was diametrically opposed to this philosophy. First of all, you were forced to pay for the Veteran Sergeant whose primary strength was an extra attack and higher leadership. This gave you a melee-oriented character in a Squad designed for mid-range shooting. Being forced to pay (at least partially) for the special weapon wasn't a bad thing given that it often complemented the majority of the Tactical Squad's other weapons. It was the heavy weapon, though, that was the biggest offender.

Since you had already paid for (or subsidized) the heavy weapon, you felt obligated to bring it. However, in most cases there is a significant disparity between the strength, range, and capability of a heavy weapon versus a bolter. This meant that nine Marines (or four, if you had broken them into Combat Squads) were often left without a target while one guy shot at something that was either too far away or too tough to handle with the other Marines' weapons. Alternatively, the heavy weapon's shot was wasted on lighter units that were more effectively handled with bolters. Even worse, a heavy weapon was only useable (under the 5th Edition of 40K) or reliable (under the 6th Edition of 40K) when holding still, meaning that the rest of the Tactical Squad was stuck in place while one weapon took its shot. If the Squad remained mobile, as a Tactical Squad should be, the heavy weapon became useless, or very nearly so.

Before the release of the C:SM 6th Edition, I had 15 fully painted Tactical Marines: a modified Black Reach Squad (I had converted the Sergeant to carry a plasma pistol) and five additional Marines from the starter paint kit. I had recently primed a Sergeant with a power fist, two Marines with bolters, and a number of Marines with heavy and special weapons. These new models, combined with the five from the starter paint kit, would allow me to field a second 10 man Squad while also providing plenty of list-building flexibility with regards to special and heavy weapons. I had also pieced together several additional Sergeants, each geared towards melee combat. I made sure that I had enough Marine bits to be able to build a third 10 man Tactical Squad. Although I recognized that these generic Squads were inefficient, that was simply how Tactical Squads were organized in 5th Edition.

The 5th Edition Tactical Squad: Jack of all trades, master of none

Tactical Squads In 6th Edition
With 6th Edition everything old is new again and the five man Tactical Squad is back. Although individual Marines are all 2 points cheaper than before, the fact that special and heavy weapons are no longer subsidized and that the cost of a Sergeant's Veterancy is no longer incorporated into that of the Squad means that upgrading it into a 10 man, 5th Edition-style Tactical Squad won't save you any points. However, the ability to forgo the extras combined with the option to field a five man Squad with a single heavy or special weapon give you the flexibility to field cost-efficient specialized units.

With Devastator Centurions and cheap Devastator Squads available, there's little reason for any Tactical Marine to bring a heavy weapon. You can save a full 15 points by simply leaving that nearly useless missile launcher at home. And since you're not required to pay for the Sergeant's Veterancy and his extra attack, you can trade them for an equally priced combi-weapon that complements the Squad's special weapon. The end result is relatively inexpensive unit that excels at mid-range shooting, which is especially effective for the Ultramarines and their successors.

Although not a necessity, the melee-oriented Veteran Sergeant will still show up occasionally in my Squads; a forward deployed Tactical Squad can easily get tarpitted by a small but tough unit unless they have a model that's properly armed to break the impasse. I'll also continue to field at least one or two 10 man squads, although they won't be carrying heavy weapons. I see these larger squads and their Veteran Sergeants entering play via drop pods in turn one, breaking into Combat Squads upon disembarking, and using the Tactical Doctrine to do as much damage as possible early on. The Combat Squad with the Veteran Sergeant and the assault weapon, if included, would try to make a charge in turn two while the shooty Combat Squad fires at targets of opportunity.

In the meantime, the 10 man Squad(s) would be supplemented by two or three inexpensive five man Tactical Squads, each with a special weapon, a combi-weapon on a non-Veteran sergeant, and a Razorback. Each squad would be somewhat specialized: an anti-horde squad could have a flamer, a combi-flamer, and a standard Razorback with the twin-linked heavy bolter; an anti-Terminator/monstrous creature squad would carry a grav gun, a combi-grav, and a Razorback with a twin-linked lascannon; and a less specialized squad could have a combi-plasma, a plasma gun, and a Razorback variant.

The 6th Edition Tactical Squad: small, efficient, and focused

When the 6th Edition of 40K was released and the rules for rapid fire weapons were revised, I had the impression that Tactical Squads could become a much more important part of my army. With the release of the 6th Edition of C:SM, Tactical Marines saw a general reductions in points, increased flexibility in organization, and (for the Ultramarines) the introduction of the Tactical Doctrine. Now I'm actually excited about the increased potential and effectiveness of my army's basic Troop choice.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

6th Edition Space Marine Codex, Part II: What I Didn't Ask For (But Will Take Anyway)

Last time I covered whether or not the new C:SM fulfilled the items on my three part wishlist. I only got a few of the things I wanted, but as is often the case, sometimes you don't know what you want until you get it. Here are several things that the 6th Edition C:SM gave us that I didn't even know I wanted.

Who would have guessed that the Astartes would get Broadsides? I didn't ask for them, but I'll be taking at least three of them anyway. The assault versions seriously step on the toes of Assault Terminators and lack the invulnerable save that is a virtual necessity for such expensive units operating in that role (a Warboss with a power klaw could wipe out the entire squad in a single round of combat). The Devastator versions make a lot more sense, although their role also seems to overlap that of other heavy weapons platforms. To be honest, I mostly want them because I love their neo-Roman look, which just screams "Ultramarines" to me.

While the heavy weapons models are designated as "Devastator Centurions", it seems like they're competing with Predators rather than with Devastators themselves. In fact, along with the Riptide and the Wraithknight, Centurions seem like an attempt to compensate for the damage 6th Edition did to vehicles in general. As long as Gauss and haywire weapons can destroy the heaviest vehicle with relative ease by stripping off hull points and AP1 weapons can explode a vehicle on a 4+, there will be a need for units that are tougher than basic troops carrying heavy weapons while also being difficult to destroy with a single shot.

"Astartes smash!"
(yes, I've used this joke before)

While I think Centurions will work well against most armies, I worry about using them against Tau. With cover save-denying marker lights and plenty of armor penetrating weapons, the Tau can annihilate a Centurion Squad in one turn of shooting, Aegis Defence Line or not. If the Astartes get the first turn, they may be able to reduce the number of threats. But if the Space Marines go second, the Centurions better be in reserve, in a Land Raider, behind line of sight blocking terrain, or on a Skyshield Landing Pad. Fortunately they have Slow and Purposeful, so they won't be limited to snap firing if they come out of a Land Raider or from behind a wall to make a shot.

Chapter Tactics
Honestly, the primary reason I'm in this game is because I love the story. I enjoy the modelling and like the game, but if there wasn't a great sci-fi story behind it all I wouldn't even bother with it. Up until the release of the new codex, standard Space Marines had no variety despite the fact that numerous codexes, novels, etc. state that each Founding Chapter and their successors have certain specialties or characteristics. Sure, you could change up a few things if you took a special character, but the changes were usually minor and the character was expensive. (I was particularly disappointed by the weak and flavorless bonuses that extraordinarily expensive Ultramarine characters gave to the army.) The new Chapter Tactics make each founding Chapter unique while encouraging army lists that reflect the characteristics of the Chapter.

For example, despite the points reduction, I'm still reluctant to take Vanguard. They now take up an Elite slot that I'd rather fill with Terminators or Sternguard. The Raven Guard, on the other hand, are supposed to be a stealthy, fast striking army that uses an unusual amount of jump infantry. Thus, Raven Guard squads with jump packs have the Winged Deliverance Chapter Tactic that greatly increases their usefulness. With Winged Deliverance allowing them to use jump packs during both the movement and the assault phases, their jump troops can be in close combat very quickly. Thus, it only makes sense for Raven Guard players to take as many Assault Squads and Vanguard Squads as possible. In fact, if I were to play Raven Guard, I think I might eschew Terminators altogether in favor of Vanguard Squads.

The most effective combination, and one that I think Bryce will be slaughtering us with in a few months, would be a Vanguard Squad led by Captain Shrike. Winged Deliverance, combined with Shrikes' Stealth and Infiltrate rules, would make the squad a nightmare to face.

The Ultramarine Chapter Tactics, on the other hand, give one turn-only boosts to different types of squads. In one turn you can declare the Tactical Doctrine to effectively twin link your Tactical Squads while allowing other squads to re-roll ones. During a different turn you can declare the Assault Doctrine to allow assaulting units to re-roll charge distances while giving Assault Squads and bikes the Fleet special rule. And during another turn you can declare the Devastator Doctrine to give your Devastator Squads the Relentless special rule while other squads can re-roll snap shots and overwatch.

When 40K Radio first leaked the Ultramarines Combat Doctrines, they neglected to mention that you don't get to choose a single doctrine and use it throughout the game. At first I was disappointed when I found out that I wasn't going to have perpetually twin-linked Tactical Squads. Then I realized that being able to continuously use a single doctrine would be contrary to the Ultramarines' practices. The Ultramarines are supposed to be the ultimate generalists; pretty good at just about everything but the best at almost nothing. The brilliance of GW's approach is that it encourages Ultramarine players to diversify their army lists in order to take advantage of each Combat Doctrine. In other words, their armies will reflect the Ultramarines' generalist philosophy.

Chapter Relics
This is another brilliant addition that has annoyed quite a few non-C:SM players while exciting us Astartes fans.

With the new codex, GW has finally given each Founding Chapter and their successors unique rules to give them their own flavor. In exchange, you can no longer use a special character that has a different set of Chapter Tactics than the rest of the army (there goes my counts-as Lysander). This means that several Chapters are entirely unable to take special characters (e.g., Iron Hands) while others have a single character. With Chapter Relics, any Astartes player can create his own character complete with wargear befitting of a Chapter Master or 1st Company Captain. I've also noticed that they take some of the sting out of losing a beloved counts-as character. My Captain Agemman may not be able to use Lysander's rules anymore, but with the Shield Eternal I can give him the Eternal Warrior rule that was the reason I wanted a Lysander stand-in in the first place. Now I'm even happier that I decided to model my recently completed Terminator Sergeant with a standard Terminator-issue storm shield while only Agemman has the larger, fancier shield. Allowing only one character to carry the larger shield makes it easier to pass off as a relic.

The codex suggests that the Burning Blade
may have belonged to the Emperor himself
Other relics aren't much better than already existing weapons but are immensely characterful. For example, the Teeth of Terra is only a little better than a Relic Blade, but who wouldn't want to model a S6, AP3, obsidian-toothed chainsword? I love the Burning Blade with its plasma weapon-like stats (complete with a vicious form of Gets Hot) and would have liked to pair it with the Shield Eternal. Unfortunately, the wording of the codex seems to indicate that only one relic weapon can be taken per character. I know there's a lot of debate over this, with some believing that "replace one weapon with one of the following" means only that it's a one-for-one exchange. However, until GW says otherwise, I read it to mean that only one weapon can be exchanged for a relic. The combination of the two is so ridiculously powerful that I can't imagine that GW meant for a single character to be able to carry both.

I love the relic idea so much that I'm considering modelling an artificer-armored Captain Agemman (Calgar has two sets of armor, why not the Veteran Company's Captain?) who will carry a different relic. Some of the bits in the new Sternguard kit are almost too ornate for simple Veterans, but would work great for a 1st Company Captain in artificer armor. This Agemman would carry the relic blade and storm shield bits from the new Vanguard kit (which is a great source for melee weapons). I'm hoping to figure out a suitable fiery effect to represent the Burning Blade.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

6th Edition Space Marine Codex, Part I: Did I Get What I Wanted?

Almost a year ago I posted my 6th Edition C:SM wishlist. A month later I posted part II of the wishlist. And this May I posted part III. These are among my most popular 40K posts ever, with almost 9,000 pageviews between them.

Now the Codex is upon us and even those Astartes fans that don't have their codex yet already know almost everything in it thanks to a constant stream of leaked information from 40K Radio. Several posters on BoLS who received their books early have confirmed that 40K Radio did indeed have an accurate copy of the 6th Edition C:SM.

My copy is still in the mail, but we've gotten enough information to see how much of my wishlist I got.

From Part I
Agemman and the Ultramarines 1st Company: Not Granted
It doesn't look like we Ultramarine players will be getting an Agemman model, nor will we be taking Sternguard as troops. I didn't have my heart set on this, though, so I'm not particularly disappointed. I can still hope that an Ultramarines Supplement might give us something along these lines, possibly by labeling the Sternguard as Tyrannic War Veterans.

GW gave us an amazing kit with the Sternguard

The High Cost of Relic Blades: Partially Granted
I loved relic blades in 5th Edition, but their effectual downgrade to AP3 made their 30 point cost unreasonable. I suggested that HQ relic blades be priced closer to 20 points. Apparently relic blades for HQs will now be 25 points. However, the Teeth of Terra relic (a chainsword with relic blade stats plus Rampage and Strikedown) and the Burning Blade relic (a power sword with the Blind rule and plasma weapon stats, complete with a nasty version of Gets Hot) are actually a lot more tempting. That and both weapons sound like a blast to model.

More Tanks, Please: Not Quite Granted
I would have liked a mid-sized Space Marine tank. While Forge World has since made one for the Horus Heresy, GW will only be giving us the anti-flyer Hunter and Stalker tanks. While I expect these tanks to be the bane of flyers everywhere, our Cabal makes little use of flyers right now. I'll pass on this tank until our micro-meta catches up.

Not quite what I wanted

Give Me a Reason to Take a Whirlwind: Not Granted
Stronger weapons, multiple blasts, anti-air capability; something to justify the presence of this tank in my army. Sorry, a 20 point deduction isn't enough to encourage me to fill a Heavy Support Slot with one. If I could have a squadron of three it would be a very different story.

I'd Like to take a Thunderfire Cannon, But...: Not Granted
My original wishlist didn't take into account the improved durability of 6th Edition artillery, leading me to suggest that a Thunderfire version of the Vindicator be produced. I'd still love to see a Thunderfire Vindicator, but the current Thunderfire Cannon is a lot better than it had been under the previous artillery rules. Apparently it also gained barrage in this edition. At the same time, I refuse to buy a $56 resin model of the cannon. I'll buy it the day it comes out in plastic, though.

From Part II
Reasonably Priced Devastators: Granted
Vanilla Devastators have been lacking from many gaming tables due to their absurd price. In addition to the two point per model price drop that Tactical Marines and Scouts will also receive, Devastator weapons are now supposed to cost about as much as Dark Angels Devastator weapons. The Dark Angels' weapons are reasonably priced, which makes this C:SM player very happy.

I bought several boxes over the past couple
years hoping they would come down in price

Venerable Dreadnoughts: Granted In a Different Way
I would have loved the ability to regenerate hull points on Venerable Dreadnoughts. However, I was willing to settle on a points reduction; I'm simply not going to pay a 60 point premium under 6th Edition's hull point rules. Now it's supposed to be a 25 point upgrade to make a standard Dreadnought (which will get a 5 point reduction) into a Venerable. BS5, WS5, and the ability to force a re-roll on the damage table is definitely worth 25 points in my opinion.

Sniper Scout Ballistic Skill: Not Granted
Apparently Scouts will be getting a 2 point per model reduction. Sniper rifles will be a 1 point upgrade but camo cloaks (which I almost always put on Snipers) will be 1 point cheaper. Other than that, Scouts haven't seen any changes.

From Part III
More Dakka: Granted (depending on Chapter)
I asked for more firepower and it looks like I got it in the form of the Ultramarine Combat Doctrines. During the turn in which the Tactical Doctrine is applied, Tactical Marines re-roll fails to hit while other units re-roll ones. The Devastator Doctrine gives Devastator Squads one turn of Relentless while allowing other units to re-roll snapshots and overwatch. Imperial Fist players get it in the form of the army-wide Bolter Drill; allowing them to re-roll ones with bolter-type weapons.

Sternguard Heavy Bolters: Not Granted
It doesn't sound like there are any changes to Sternguard heavy bolters. Or to heavy bolters in general. If GW was indeed play testing new rules for heavy bolters, they decided against using them. That's a shame; I would have liked to have more mobile heavy bolters.

Supporting Fire: Not Granted
Other than some points modifications and a few tweaks along the lines of C:DA, Tactical Marines haven't gained any new abilities.

Shooty Terminators: Not Granted
Shooty Terminators' assault cannons and cyclone missile launchers will be getting a much needed 10 point cost reduction. Other than this, there is no change. And with the exception of a 5 point increase for models equipped with thunder hammers and storm shields, Assault Terminators didn't see any changes either. As cool as it would be, there won't be any way to mix Shooty and Assault Terminators.

As a side note, I'm not exactly happy that thunder hammers and storm shields had a points increase, but I had accepted long ago that it would probably happen. The change in wound allocation rules made storm shields so useful that it only made sense to increase their cost.

Next time I'll cover things I didn't even think to ask for but am happy to have anyway.
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