Thursday, March 28, 2013

Heresy! Ultramarines Captain Lysander Agemman

I've been using my Black Reach Captain since I started bringing my own painted figures to the table. I usually play him with artificer armor and a relic blade for 145 points. I often use him as a human shield for a Tactical Squad and, more recently, for a stand-in Sternguard Squad. However, once my opponent breaks out the AP2 S8+ weapons, my Captain doesn't have much confidence in his 4+ Iron Halo save and is content to let his loyal subordinates throw themselves in the line of fire. The same goes for when he's down to a single wound. This is fine when the subordinate is a Tactical Marine, but less so when the Marine is a member of the Sterngaurd. In a recent game against Bryce's Tau, I let 50 points of Sternguard die before I finally declared that the Captain was a coward and should be taking his own saves.

Thinking that a Captain with a 3+ invulnerable save would make a better human shield, I recently gathered the parts to build a relic blade-wielding, storm shield-carrying Captain. With artificer armor, the model would cost 160 points. Before I could start building him, though, it occurred to me that 160 points was a lot for a model that can still be instantly killed by melta weapons, railguns, lascannons, etc. if he doesn't make his 3++ save. Even more disappointing is the fact that a plain Captain doesn't do much more than shield the other members of his squad: no nifty abilities, no modification of rules, nothing. A Librarian has various powers while a Chaplain is cheaper and gives his squad Liturgies of Battle. So what does a plain Captain do for you?

In that moment of doubt, the seeds of heresy were sown.

Shielding a Tactical Squad is all well and good, I thought, but I'm starting to field Sternguard. Not only do I want to protect them, but I want to buff them too. Isn't there a character that can do that? At first I thought that the one I wanted was Pedro Kantor, but all he does for Sternguard is to make them scoring. Our group tends to play annihilation games, so making units scoring doesn't matter too much. As I looked through the codex, I found who I was looking for: Captain Lysander of the Imperial Fists 1st Company.

Does he come in blue?
For a mere 40 points more than my proposed relic blade/storm shield Captain I could get a four wound Captain with Terminator armor, a storm shield, and a master-crafted thunder hammer that hits at Strength 10 and adds +1 to rolls on the vehicle damage table. He brings his Bolter Drill rule to any unit he's with, meaning that the squad re-rolls failed to hit rolls for any bolter-type weapon. Sternguard special ammunition looks even better when their bolters are effectively twin-linked. Lysander's Bolster Defenses rule could help out just about any squad, especially Sergeant Telion's snipers. Finally, Lysander has the Eternal Warrior rule; weapons that inflict instant death mean little to him.

My problem was that Lysander is the Captain of the Imperial Fists 1st Company. Although the codex specifically allows you to rename a character and use his rules for any Marine Chapter, I had previously vowed only to use known Ultramarines characters. (I have all the named Ultramarines in pewter, although only Telion has been finished). Early on I intended to quickly finish Sicarius, Captain of the Ultramarines 2nd Company, and to field him as my HQ. But with a Captain already done and my army desperately needing reinforcements elsewhere, Sicarius got pushed back. Now I'm not in any hurry to finish his model; although he has some interesting abilities and rules that can affect the entire army, I don't feel that any of them would significantly improve my game right now. Although artificer armor and feel no pain make him more resilient to small arms fire than almost anyone, he only has a 4++ Iron Halo save and can still be instantly killed. I don't think I'll be investing 200 points in Sicarius until I have a Command Squad with a couple storm shields to protect him.

Lysander, on the other hand, doesn't really need protection and has some amazing wargear and abilities that I envy. Out of curiosity I googled "Ultramarines Lysander" and found that a lot of players were using the model's rules to depict Agemman, Captain of the Ultramarines 1st Company. Other than his name, the fact that he was promoted from 2nd Company Captain to 1st Company Captain after the Battle of Macragge, and a few other snippets from a handful of novels, we know little about Agemman.

I love the idea of fielding the Captain of the Ultramarines' Veteran Company, even if I have to borrow another model's rules to do it. Since GW hasn't given us a description of Agemman's wargear and abilities (although some rumors suggest they might), here's my homegrown backstory to justify using Captain Agemman as a Lysander stand-in:

Armor and Resilience: At the time of his death defending Macragge's Northern Fortress, 1st Company Captain Invictus was wearing a suit of armor known simply as the Regent's Armor. This suit of Terminator armor had been passed down within the Ultramarines Chapter from 1st Captain to 1st Captain for millennia. Like Captain Sicarius' Mantle of the Suzerain, the Veteran Company Captain's armor had been known to enhance the resilience of the wearer. Upon recovery of the armor, Chapter Master Calgar requested that it be restored by the Ultramarines' Master of the Forge himself.

While Captain Agemman has been known to wear a suit of artificer armor when mobility or agility is essential, he typically wears the Regent's Armor both for the honor associated with it as well as for its enhanced protection. The Regent's Armor, combined with Agemman's natural resilience, grants him four wounds and the Eternal Warrior rule.

Weaponry: While Agemman wears the armor of his predecessor, he has chosen not to wield a power fist as Invictus did. Shortly after receiving the Regent's Armor, the Captain chose a set of wargear from the Ultramarines' armory that befit the commander of a Veteran Company. While the storm shield he chose was an ordinary one, the thunder hammer was found to be different.

While many heroes of the Astartes wield legendary weapons with portentous names, Agemman merely refers to his weapon as Malleus (i.e., "hammer" in High Gothic). Originally believed to be a standard (although somewhat ornate) thunder hammer whose origin has been lost, Malleus was found to strike with unusual strength and effectiveness. Whether this is due to some long lost technology incorporated into its design or because the weapon has found a worthy owner is unknown. Malleus is a master-crafted thunder hammer that strikes at S10 and adds +1 to rolls on the vehicle damage table.

Bolter Drill: Agemman expects more from his Veterans than he did from his rank and file Marines in the 2nd Company. Bolter-type weapons are some of the most basic and characteristic weapons of the Space Marines; Agemman expects his men to show more than simple proficiency with them. This is particularly the case with the Sternguard Squads since special ammunition is too precious to throw away with missed shots. Agemman therefore requires all his squads to perform regular bolter drills while personally running similar drills on those occasions where he finds himself leading members of other companies. He has found that very few Marines are willing to disappoint the 1st Company Captain. Any unit Agemman joins can re-roll fails to hit with any bolter-type weapon.

Bolster Defenses: The Ultramarines and the Auxilia spent the bulk of the Battle of Macragge trying to hold their ground against the Tyranid swarms, suffering heavy losses. Although the 1st Company inflicted irrecoverable losses on the Tyranids during the battle for the Northern Fortress, the Veteran Company was annihilated in the process. Agemman has vowed that his Veterans will never meet the same fate as their predecessors. With the help of the Chapter's Techmarines, the 1st Company Captain has learned the art of reinforcing defensive positions. Thus, Agemman has the Bolster Defenses rule.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Telion, Scouts, and Cover Saves

Yesterday morning I was preparing for the second half of our Cabal's 1250 point mini-tournament that was to be held that evening. (After a brutal bloodbath, Jon and I ended up in a draw.) Part of my force was a five man Sniper Scout Squad led by Sergeant Telion. While I was reading through several forums discussing the use of Scouts, I found something that I had completely missed.

Prior to the release of 6th Edition, the description of the camo cloak found in both the Space Marine and Imperial Guard codexes said that "A model wearing a camo cloak has the stealth universal special rule." Camo cloaks could be purchased for Scouts at 3 points each. However, a player had the option to upgrade his Scout sergeant to Sergeant Telion. Telion didn't have a camo cloak as part of his wargear, but he had the stealth rule. As the 5th Edition FAQs clarified, if a single model with the stealth rule were part of a squad, the rule was conferred to the whole squad. Thus, bringing Telion made camo cloaks redundant. As long as the Sergeant was still alive, all models in the squad benefited from +1 to their cover saves per the stealth rule.

Of course he has a camo cloak.
That's not just a fancy cape.
Shortly after the release of 6th Edition, the revised FAQs made a few changes to both camo cloaks and Telion. The one I noticed at the time was "Add Camo cloak to [Telion's] wargear". This made no sense to me; the FAQ hadn't deprived Telion of the stealth rule, so why add a completely unnecessary camo cloak? What I had missed was the redefinition of the cloak's effect. Both the Space Marine and Imperial Guard codexes had been revised to say that "A model wearing a camo cloak has +1 cover save".

It wasn't until yesterday that the implication of these changes hit me. The camo cloak doesn't confer the stealth rule anymore, it improves a model's cover save by 1. Instead of being a redundant piece of wargear on a model that already has the stealth rule, the effect of the cloak is to improve cover saves that have already been modified by the stealth rule. The result is a model that has +2 to its cover saves. When GW added a camo cloak with the revised wording to Telion's wargear, they effectively gave him the shrouded special rule. Thus, if Telion takes cover behind a wall, he gets an impressive 2+ cover save. When I wondered why they didn't just give him the shrouded rule, it occurred to me that they didn't want Telion to confer shrouded onto his Scouts; they want us to pay for it.

Now here's where it gets really crazy. Since Telion confers stealth to his Scouts, and since a camo cloak now grants +1 to a model's cover saves instead of giving it the stealth rule, you can purchase camo cloaks for the rest of Telion's squad and give them the same awesome cover saves as their sergeant. Telion doesn't simply replace camo cloaks now, he can make them better. However, if you need to save a few points you can forgo the camo cloaks and settle for +2 to Telion's cover saves and just stealth for the Scouts.

Apparently, the stacking cover saves for Sergeant Telion and the fact that his squad can benefit from them too by purchasing camo cloaks has been relatively well known since last summer. I don't know how many games I've played since then in which Telion would have been saved by the revised rules. He benefited from his improved saves for the first time last night, but his men had to go without cloaks since the Cabal's tournament lists were locked in two weeks ago.

Under 5th Edition, I found a lot of people who considered a Scout Squad, particularly one with Telion, to be too expensive. Although they had the scout and infiltrate rules, Scouts had a poorer weapon skill, ballistic skill, and armor save than a Tactical Marine while costing 13 points versus a Marine's 16 points. Once you added a camo cloak, a Scout cost exactly the same. If you took the base cost of a five man Scout Squad (75 points) and subtracted out the cost of four Scouts, you'd find that a basic Scout sergeant cost 23 points; a mere three points less than a Tactical Marine Sergeant who has identical stats but is equipped with power armor. When you bought the 50 point Telion upgrade, you ended up with a 73 point model with some awesome special rules but only a single wound, a 4+ armor save, and a 3+ cover save in most circumstances.

By changing the definition of a camo cloak and adding one to Telion's wargear, GW gave the Sergeant a 2+ cover save in many circumstances without increasing his cost. And since the effect of cloaks now stacks with stealth, his Scouts can also have 2+ cover saves behind walls and ruins for only three more points per model. The icing on the cake is the ability to purchase fortifications and emplaced weapons in 6th Edition. A 50 point Aegis Defence Line can give your Scouts a 2+ cover save in a location of your choice. For 50 points more you can put Telion on a quad-gun, making it BS6 and giving it precision shots. Or, for a mere 35 points, you can give Telion a 96" range Icarus lascannon for sniping enemy HQs or other important targets (with BS6 he'll be hitting over 86% of the time). The cost of Scouts in general, and Telion's cost in particular, seems a bit more reasonable now.

Immediately on the heels of the FAQ, the following setup started bouncing around the Internet:

10X Scouts (8 with sniper rifles): 140 points
Sergeant Telion: 50 points
9X Camo Cloaks: 27 points
1X Missile Launcher or Heavy Bolter: 10 points
Aegis Defence Line: 50 points
Icarus Lascannon: 35 points
Total: 312 points

Now this is a fairly high price tag, but it makes for a pretty impressive firebase that's manned by ten models with 2+ cover saves, eight 36" range sniper rifles that wound anything on a 4+ and can rend, a missile launcher or heavy bolter (with Hellfire shells), and a BS6 sergeant who always makes precision shots and who will be hitting his chosen targets with an extra long range lascannon 86% of the time.

I look forward to testing this build out, although it obviously has a few weaknesses. Most apparent is the fact that you'd have to keep certain units away from the defence line. Heavy flamers or equivalent would eat this squad alive if allowed to get close.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Misunderstanding the Stormtalon Escort Rule

In a previous post I stated that the Stormtalon's Escort rule made little sense in the context of 6th Edition flyers. Under the impression that the Escort rule worked somewhat like a teleport homer or a locator beacon and that an escorting Stormtalon had to arrive within 6" of the escorted unit, I said the following:
The flyer's minimum movement of 18" complicates the requirement that it arrive within 6" of a unit of infantry or a ground vehicle coming in from the table edge. The flyer can't come on to the table from the same point as an infantry unit since it would outpace them. If it accompanies a vehicle, the vehicle has to move at cruising speed to keep up with the Stormtalon and is therefore of limited use. If the Stormtalon comes onto the table some distance away from the escorted unit's entry point in order to end its movement within 6", it will most likely have to stop at an angle that could leave most of its weapons facing away from the enemy.
I've found a number of forums where posters also assume that the rule requires the flyer to stick close to the escorted unit.

However, when I read the slightly revised Escort rule in Death from the Skies and then reread the rule in White Dwarf, I realized that I had misunderstood it. Here's what the "Aerial Assault!" issue of White Dwarf said about the Escort rule:
If this is done [i.e., escorting], do not make reserve rolls for the Stormtalon. Instead it arrives at the same time as the unit it is escorting. The Stormtalon must move onto the board within 6" of the point that the unit it is escorting entered by. [emphasis mine]
The phrases "must move onto the board" and "the point that the unit it is escorting entered by" indicate that the rule has nothing to do with where the Stormtalon or the escorted unit end their movement, but with where they begin their movement. In the rulebook, a phrase such as "move onto the table" refers to the beginning of a unit's movement as it arrives from reserves. And "the point that the unit it is escorting entered by" is so obvious that I'm embarrassed that I misunderstood it. I had been reading the rule as if it said 'the Stormtalon must end its movement within 6" of the escorted unit' when the models could actually end up relatively far apart as long as their starting points were within 6" of each other. My prior complaint about escorting infantry or vehicles was invalid.

Now that I understand the rule, I can see why the revised version found in Death from the Skies prohibits the flyer from escorting outflanking units. I found on several forums that some players had been assigning a Stormtalon to escort an outflanking unit and then using the Escort rule's requirement that the two points of entry be within 6" of each other to allow the Stormtalon to outflank as well.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...