Monday, May 27, 2013

Venerable Dreadnought as a Space Marine HQ

During our most recent game night, we decided to allow deviations from the standard Force Organization Chart in exchange for certain tradeoffs. Jon (playing Orks) felt absolutely no need to do this, nor did Bryce (playing Tau). I ended up being the only one who modified his Force Organization, exchanging one unit of Troops for an Elite unit. In many of our games I've found myself maxed out on Elites but with plenty of room in all the other slots.

I've often felt that one of the greatest weaknesses of C:SM is how packed its Elites slot is. HQs are too expensive to take more than two, I can't ever see myself reaching my Troops limit, Fast Attack is a little tighter now that we have the Stormtalon, but it doesn't feel overloaded, and the Heavy Support slot is freed up by the fact that the Land Raider can be taken as a Dedicated Transport for Terminators.

It's the Elite slot where you start to have problems. Assault Terminators are practically an auto-take since they're your close combat specialists and they get you a Land Raider as a Designated Transport. Then you'll probably want to bring one of the three types of Dreadnought. And Sternguard are very appealing with their special ammunition, especially given the sudden increase in monstrous creatures (the leaked stats of the Wraithknight are downright scary). Then... oh, I've run out of room, haven't I? There are still Tactical Terminators and two other types of Dreadnoughts left (I don't think many of us think about taking a Techmarine or the Legion of the Damned).

Tactical Terminators aren't too great compared to their counterparts, although it would be nice to have a shooty squad to soften up targets before sending in the assault experts (and a second Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport wouldn't be too bad, either). What I really want, though, is the ability to take another Dreadnought. Several Marine codexes allow Force Organization Chart changes through HQ choices (e.g., the Dark Angels have two HQs that make Terminators troops), but all C:SM has is the ability to move Dreadnoughts to the Heavy Support slot if you take a Master of the Forge. I don't really want a relatively vulnerable Dreadnought to take the place of a Predator, Vindicator, or a (reasonably priced) Devastator Squad, nor do I necessarily want to take an HQ as specialized as a Master of the Forge.

It was while reading a Horus Heresy novel, Galaxy In Flames, that I came across the character of Ancient Rylanor, an Emperor's Children Dreadnought. Despite being interred in a Dreadnought's sarcophagus, Rylanor held a significant rank and had various responsibilities outside of combat. Similarly, the Dreadnought Agrippan acted in a leadership role alongside Chief Librarian Tigurius when Captain Sicarius was wounded on Damnos. While I already knew that Bjorn the Fell-Handed is an HQ choice for Space Wolves, these other instances show that Dreadnoughts in other Chapters/Legions can also hold positions of authority. What better way to follow the fluff while opening up the Elite slot than by creating a Dreadnought HQ choice?

Ideally, a Dreadnought HQ would be a Venerable Dreadnought with boosted stats and a matching points value. For some extra character, you could allow him to join a squad in exchange for some special rules. Personally, I would like a Venerable Dreadnought to give Slow and Purposeful to any squad it joins that doesn't already have the Relentless special rule. Specifically, I'd love to place a Dreadnought HQ in a Devastator Squad to allow them to move and shoot with their normal Ballistic Skill. I think it's reasonable to suppose that a squad joining a Dreadnought would have the limitations imposed by Slow and Purposeful given how difficult it would be to fight alongside such a large machine. At the same time, the Dreadnought's steady pace and targeting systems could be used to aide its fellows while on the move.

An HQ Venerable Dreadnought's stats might look like the following:

Unit WS BS S Front AV Side AV Rear AV HP I A Ld
Venerable Dreadnought (HQ) 5 5 6 13 12 10 3 4 3 10

Special Rules: Venerable, Independent Character (can be independently targeted, doesn't benefit from Look Out, Sir!), Slow and Purposeful (if it joins a non-Relentless squad), Shield Generator (5+ invulnerable save).

Some of the above stats and rules were inspired by those of Bjorn the Fell-Handed and Forge World's Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought.

Now we have to determine an appropriate points cost. The C:SM Venerable Dreadnought currently has a base cost of 165 points while Bjorn comes in at a mind-boggling 270 points. The Venerable's cost in 5th Edition was based mostly on the durability of the Venerable rule while Bjorn has a higher front armor value and a variety of special rules, including the Venerable rule and a 5+ invulnerable save. However, the introduction of hull points in 6th Edition has significantly decreased the value of the Venerable rule. This is reflected in the 6th Edition Dark Angels codex, which charges a mere 125 points for a Venerable Dreadnought. While I previously suggested changes that could justify the Venerable's cost in 6th Edition, I expect the upcoming edition of C:SM to follow the example of C:DA and drastically lower the cost. A 20 point premium for WS5, BS5, and the ability to re-roll on the damage table (especially if you take a hit from an AP1 weapon) seems pretty fair to me.

The Contemptor Dreadnought costs 175 points. Although it has a lower ballistic skill and less attacks than my proposed HQ Venerable, it also has a rear armor value of 11, S7, and Fleet. (These are all based on the experimental rules still found on Forge World's website.) Even with these benefits, the Contemptor seems overpriced given the relative vulnerability of walkers in 6th Edition.

However, I think 175 would probably be a good base cost for the HQ Venerable I laid out above.

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