Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pushing 40k towards realism - making assault armies go home crying

So here's a thought....what if guns in 40k were closer to realistic in their range?

My reaction? The assault armies would be torn to shreds most of the time.

A real railgun doing its thing.

Let's put together some simple numbers. A space marine is 28mm high and in the fluff is portrayed as just over 2 metres tall (7 feet give or take). One inch is about 25mm and so it's reasonable to determine that compared to a marine, it represents about 2 metres (he's slightly taller than that but is 28mm so close enough).

That means that a boltgun has an effective 'real world' range of 48 metres (24 inches). That is not a long way by any means. In fact, most modern pistols would be more than capable of hitting a target at that range, albeit with some accuracy challenges.

Some quick googling suggests that rifle weapons might typically engage at 300 yards max (http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/range.html) so we can knock that down to 200m just for the rounding and to represent the marines typically engaging at closer range because of their style of combat. However, these are the finest soldiers who are geneticall. enhanced, equipped with the best technology and conditioned to fire with deadly accuracy. Still, we'll keep it to 200m to play safe and easy.

200m/(2m/inch) = 100 inches.

That's right, the range of a boltgun should be 100 inches!

Now we can mess around with this for all sorts of other guns too. The lasgun should be similiar, Tau pulse carbines a little longer perhaps, snipers would be the terror of the battlfield by firing at 200inches and the big ordnance guns are just crazy.

Let's bring it around to my other army of the Tau. Our railguns have a range of 72 inches, which reaches out to a measly 144 metres. Even pistol rounds could go that far, albeit with low stopping power and accuracy.

Taking the rather groovy picture that opened this article into account (that flame is plasma left by the sheer energy of the railgun round passing through the air), we'll use the US weapon's development style of pushing a 2kg projectile to 3000 m/s as a rough idea of what our hammerheads and broadsides can do.

At 3000 m/s, the railgun will put a shot into a tank at 1km distance within .33 seconds. That's pretty nasty. Given that the M1Abrams tank engaged Iraqi tanks effectively at 4000m (http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/m1.htm) during the first Gulf war, I don't think it's unreasonble to use 3km as our railgun's engagement range.

So my broadsides have a 1500 inch range for this game, all good?

When you step up to the Basilisk, you start to realise that certain models should almost never be fielded on a 40k table. The damn thing has range in the 10's of km. Ideally you should be able to call down artillery fire from the IG player whose playing on the tournament table at the other end of the hall. Of course, to make the most use of this kind of ranging, you would have to agree to play 40k on much much bigger boards. I think that the use of cover would quickly become more prevalent than it already is.

So who's interested in playing some nasty, shooting 40k with my Tau army now?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tactica tactical marines.

Some nice looking marines from coolminiornot.com by Ed209b

I was inspired on this post by Jake over on his blog Holy Cathedral when he posted a general tactica on tactical marines, the cornerstone of my marine forces. I wrote some lengthy comments on his post to add specifics on how to best use these humble troops and figured that it would be a useful way to add a post to my blog (as well as send some traffic his way).

So tactical marines. I generally will run a list with 20 tactical marines if I'm playing with the Grey Knight Deathstar (plus 5 scouts) but without that unit I might bump it up to 30. It's quite something to bring a wall of power armoured bodies to the field and see your opponents recoil as they see the sheer number of tough, armoured, well-armed, ridiculously morale resistant superhuman warriors. Of course, you need to know what to best do with Tactical marines to make the most of them and let them work well with the powerful killing sections (Elites, Heavy support) of your army.

I'm going to be lazy and just post my comments from Jake's blog here since I'm tired of typing :-)

That's a pretty good overall tactica Jake but it could do with some more specifics and detailing on the aspects of tactica marines.

- Heavy weapons. When a squad gets to 10 marines they get a free Missile launcher, Heavy bolter or Multi-melta (or pay a bit more for a Plasma/lascannon). These weapons add such versatility that it's almost never worth leaving home without them (with 10 marine squad size). You only lose a single bolter shot at range if you don't move and gain a heavy weapon attack. If you do move, then the bolt pistol can shoot out to 12" in any case. The flexibility that these weapons add are really important.

- Special weapons. A flamer for free, meltagun for 5pts or plasma gun for 10 can add some more punch to the squad. The flamer is great for those times you're close to getting assaulted by a big squad as it can land plenty of hits, or can burn out orks/guard/termagents from cover. The meltagun is commonly taken with the shift to mechanised forces in 5th edition and can always be turned on a regular enemy if need be. The plasma gun and melta are also well suited for knocking out well armoured troops. Adding a few AP 1/2 wounds to terminators will really help your marines do the damage to these foes.

- Grenades. I don't find too much use for the frag grenades in general but remember that they can be used to stop your opponent gaining initiative on you when you charge them in cover. Krak grenades are winners when you remember that every marine has them, they hit at S6 on vehicles, and most vehicles are rear armour 10. I've taken out hammerheads, rhinos and vindicators with this technique. Scouts also have this and it is one way for them to really pay your opponent back for ignoring them.

- Combat squads. Tactical marines can be divived into two 5 man squads at the start of the game (or when the disembark in the case of drop pods). This can be a liability in annihilation missions as they become 2 kill points but it adds lots of flexibility. You can now keep the heavy weapon static, with 4 bolter marines for ablative wounds or fire support, and send sarge (for the CC ability) and the special weapon in close where they can take the fight forwards. Also, this will let you hold two objectives with one troop choice. The weakness is that the squads can be dropped relatively easily because they are small. Still, if just one survives then the opponent must waste lots of fire to bring that last one down, or risk a single model contesting/claiming a vital objective.

- Dedicated transports. The humble rhino gives you an armoured box to take your marines to their obejective and protect them from fire. If it survives after they have been dropped off then it's time to use that vehicle to block assaults to your marines or box in enemy vehicles by denying them movement.
The razorback is somewhat similar but can only carry 6 marines. In this case you'd probably send the close-range combat squad up forwards and then use the razorback as mobile fire support and blocking, like with the rhino. Some do add TL-lascannons to their razorbacks though and leave these on the rear lines with the other heavy weapons. At 75pts for a TL-LC shot, this can be nasty, though expensive. Alternatively you can give them TL-assault cannons and turn them into Baal Predator wannabes that can shred light (and sometimes heavy if your rending rolls well) armour or troops.
I don't use drop pods but there could be great utility in sending a wave of dreads in on turn 1 to mess up the enemy while your main force advances. After they foe is knocked around and has moved to counter your attack, your tactical marines in pods come in and land on the enemy objectives at full strength.
Another nasty trick is to stick a combat squad in a Land Raider and have it sit on a home objective. You can still blaze away with the big guns and your enormous brick of a tank is now scoring. Nasty...

- And They Shall Know No Fear. This is a real key for marines. They automatically regroup even under half strength (as long as there are no enemies within 6") and can move normally or fire. Note also that they don't count as moving when they rally, which means you could stand still and unleash the heavy weapons if you need to. This is a great ability as you can almost always count on your marines getting back in the fight. I found out in a recent game that there is a 3" move allowed when you rally too so you can even set up your heavy weapon shots without counting as moving.

- Combat tactics. This is underutilised in my view, perhaps because of the popular special characters that replace it with other army buffs. It allows you to choose to fail a morale test. This is great if an assaulting enemy shoots you and causes 25% casualties as you can run out of assault range, auto-rally and then hit them up next turn. Or you can run after combat if you lose in the enemy's turn. As long as you roll higher on the initiative test, you will get away, auto rally again and can shoot them next turn.

- Assaulting. I would generally not assault with my marines unless I'm facing something that will outshoot me or gains a boost from assaulting. If there was a smallish squad of orks, I would probably move in, bolt pistol them and then assault as you deprive the orks of their furious charge (now only 33% of hits will wound you rather than %50) and the bonus attack for charging. I play against tau a lot and they can be quite easily tied up with tactical marines, even if you don't win. Broadsides are great for this as you can lock them in combat for the rest of the game sometimes (2+ saves keep them alive though) and stop the railguns from messing up the rest of your army.

- Special characters. While I don't like to use the special characters in the codices, you should be aware that they bring some great changes to the way tactical marines play.
Pedro Kantor changes your marines to have stubborn rather than combat tactics. This doesn't do so much for me but then his key point is making sternguard scoring so he has less of a focus on tactical marines. He does give a +1 attack bubble within 12" though so your tactical marines holding the objective are now that much tougher to assault off it.
Kayvan Shrike. Makes your marines fleet instead of combat tactics. This doesn't really work for my use of tacs but then his boost is for other troops (like assault terminators).
Vulkan He'Stan. Makes your flamers, heavy flamers, meltaguns and multimeltas count as twin linked. This can be fairly potent as your tactical marine firepower with these weapons just went up a serious notch. Even if the tactical marines are moving, the threat of TL melta on the next turn will be a good deterrent for the enemy.
Khossaro Khan. Outflanking marines. Give them rhinos/razorbacks and let that mech madness roll into the enemy's backfield at high speed.

Those are just some extra thoughts on the core unit for marines that you might consider adding to the tactica (and future ones). It's much more of a specific use guide rather than an overall descriptor and hopefully it will give some good help to newer marine players.

So there are some thoughts. Comments are welcome as always and I reserve the right to change my opinions after playing tomorrow night. I think I'll be matching up against Ravenwing so we'll see how my hybrid list handles fast moving bikers.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sometimes the dice just go your way. Battle report vs OSH.

Poor sidestriker. The dice were not kind to him.

So last night was the clash of my new 1850 marine list vs Old Shatter Hand's 1850 list. We played at Dream Wizards among the masses of MTG players and some other 40k/Warmachine folks. I noted the prevalence of Deff-Rollas among the ork players now that the FAQ has ruled that they can hit vehicles ;-)

So my list was a heavy tank-deathstar-hybrid sort of thing.
- Captain with Powerfist
- 5 Terminators with Cyclone Missile Launcher
- Multimelta dreadnought
- TL-Autocannon dreadnought
- 10 Grey Knights with 2 Incinerators
- 10 Tactical Marines with Missile launcher and Meltagun
- 10 Tactical Marines with Missile launcher and flamer
- 5 scouts with bolters
- Land Raider
- Land Raider Redeemer

Old Shatter Hands brought
- Fireknive Shas'El with 2 bodyguards (target arrays, a target lock, 2 drones)
- Fireforge (Fusion/Missile) Shas'El (target array)
- 3 Deathrains
- 10 Kroot with 5 kroot hounds (converted from LOTR Wargs, great idea).
- 9 Fire Warriors in Devilfish
- 9 Fire Warriors in Devilfish
- 3 Piranhas with fusion
- 2 Hammerheads with railguns and SMS
- 3 Broadsides with Target arrays, leader with target lock

We rolled up pitched battle deployment and annihilation as missions. In many ways, this feels like the most original way to play 40k to me. Basically we line up and kill each other.

So the game can be described in two ways and it looks very different based on which way you consider. We have the game result and the tactical part of the game.

Game result: A strong victory to me (7 kill points to 4, with the chance of adding more kill points if we played another turn and not many chances for OSH to get more).

Tactical result: A close fought battle.

So what happened to lead to these divergent results?

Basically OSH deployed with a central firebase of the Deathrains, Broadsides and hammerheads, sent his piranhas out wide and put the rest in reserve. I played cautiously with my Land Raiders by putting them on my far right so that they were out of the way of the railguns in the early turns. In the centre I sent my dreads and Grey Knights with the captain. The tactical marines combat squadded and took supporting positions.
As I advanced up the centre with my Deathstar and went to my right flank with the Land Raiders, Old Shatter Hands swung his forces to the opposite flank and kept up a strong rate of fire. The broadsides stayed as an anchor so that they could fire and also so I would continue to come forwards to assault them as there was a big difficult terrain block to my left that would have left my Grey Knights in the open if they'd tried to change direction.
I responded by continuing my sweeping manouvers and gradually caught up with a battered the Tau forces. Overall it gave me a strong win as I dropped a lot of troops and didn't take too many casualties. Tactically speaking, OSH played well and used the Tau strengths to put me in tough positions over which units I would expose to fire.

On the other hand, the dice completely killed him....

I managed to make roughly 90% of all cover saves on my vehicles (from smoke or terrain), his attacks routinely failed to penetrate (even the broasides rolled 1s vs the dread) and when they did, the damage rolls were weak. I had one dreadnought immobilised and with no autocannons and the other lacking a multimelta but it had taken 5 turns of shooting to get them to that point. The Land Raiders were impervious to the few shots that came their way and if I hadn't immobilised my Redeemer on dangerous terrain then I could have been even more aggressive with my heavy armour. I rolled well on shooting in general, really well on assault attacks against OSH's vehicles and generally had a great game. I even started to feel bad by the end as it seemed so stacked in my favour for this game. Only the kroot did well on their rolls as I tried (in vain) to blast them out of cover and claim another kill point.
I'm sure we'll have a rematch where the opposite will occur and I have to thank OSH for remaining a great opponent even when it was all going wrong.

As far as his list went, I think it is fairly solid. The tournament he's looking at is 2000 pts so we talked about adding pathfinders, dropping one FW devilfish (they can use the PF one) and using the points to add another piranha. This would give him 2 units of 2 fast fusion blasters and the markerlight support he will need to deal with heavy cover saves.
In any case, a great (albeit lucky) game for me and I've already offered to swap sides and take Tau against OSH's blood angels soon.

PS: On a side note I met the local Press Ganger (Warmachine/Hordes intro guy) who has offered to show me some cool Cygnar stuff next week if I make it to DW again. Yay for steampunk walkers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Deathstar Battle Report

Well, the deathstar got its outing last night against Old Shatter Hands' Tau Cadre. I was trying out a big assaulty unit as a spearhead and OSH was giving pathfinders and firestorms a go.

We played a 1330 points game because I grabbed models in a hurry took more than 1250. My list was:

- Captain with powerfist leading 10 Grey Knights (2 Incinerators)
- MM Dread
- TL-AC Dread
- 10 Tactical Marines (Missile launcher and flamer)
- 10 Tactical Marines (Missile launcher and meltagun)
- Land Raider

And OSH brought:

- Old Shatter hands (Fireknife) with two gun drones
- 3 Fireknives
- 3 Firestorms + 2 Gun drones
- 12 Fire warriors with a devilfish
- 12 Fire warriors
- 8 Pathfinders with a devilfish
- 3 Broadsides with Targetting arrays and 2 shield drones.

The table setup was an urban board and we set it up so that basically I was going to head for OSH's gunline. There was one roadway space for the Land Raider to deploy in and the Tau had plenty of barricades. I was aiming to get as many troops as possible inside OSH's deployment zone. He chose to hold back his crisis suits to deepstrike while OSH and the Broadsides anchored the central barricade. I was nervous setting up my LR in front of the broadsides but there was no choice and I figured that fear was not becoming for marines :-)

So how did it go?

....in short, aggressive movement and poor rolling for OSH meant it was a slaughter of the Tau.

Slightly longer:

I was lucky in my first turn as I moved forwards on all fronts (LR with deathstar in the middle, one combat squad on the right, one in the middle, dreads and full tac squad on the left) and didn't do much firing. OSH used his pathfinders to boost the broadsides and take away my smoke cover save but the railguns only managed to stun the raider. Turn 2 I dropped my deathstar and moved them up. Two incinerators (S5,AP4,no cover or invuln. saves) later and the pathfinders were gone. My other forces carried on sweeping around.

OSH gets both crisis teams in but they both scatter into buildings. He rolls three 1s on the dangerous terrain for the fireknives and loses and wound on the other squad too. One set of fire warriors jump out of the devilfish to rapid fire the deathstar. They are joined by OSH, the broadsides firing SMS and the fireknives. By putting as many plasma shots as possible on the captain, having cover and good rolling, I lose 4 Grey Knights and a wound on the captain. The firestorms don't have much luck on the flanking combat squad either.

What follows is basically a series of nasty assaults from the Captain, Grey Knights and Dreadnoughts to wipe out the centre of OSH's lines. The Land Raider keeps popping shots into the devilfish and Fire warriors, and my full tactical squad sweeps into the deployment zone of OSH. We end the game after 4 turns. I lose 6-7 Grey Knights, my captain and 5 marines. OSH loses himself (bizarre but true), 4 crisis suits, 3 broadsides, a devilfish and a few fire warriors.

Lessons from the match:

- A basic MEQ deathstar is actually quite vulnerable. If OSH had rolled better, or I rolled worse (passed 7 saves on the captain in one turn) then the Grey Knights would have been badly thinned out. Also, their combat success was against Tau forces. A real assault opponent would have been tougher, though striking at S6, I4 is still powerful.
- Land Raiders can be really mean once you have taken out threats to them. By the end of the game it was literally invulnerable to OSH's shots.
- Railguns are not as powerful against AV14 as you might first think. We talked about their effect (or lack of) and then decided that they were possibly better used against Rhinos as they will always glance at the worst. Still, bad luck on this unit was the problem for this game.
- Pinning can sneak up on you. OSH's devilfish popped a tactical marine with a gun drone and the squad then hit the deck, giving me one fewer missile shots during the game.
- Markerlight support is a really key element for many units in the Tau codex. OSH was unlucky to get roasted by the heavy flamer equivalents that Grey Knights have as just boosting his shooting by a little might have spelled the end for my deathstar.
- OSH is one of the most gracious and fun guys to play against, win or lose. We had a fun time and it was so easy to play with someone who knows the rules, doesn't argue over awkward points and just wants to enjoy a game of toy soldiers.

Thanks for the game OSH.

PS: I may have unintentionally cheated at one point. My fearless Grey Knights were joined by the captain when they got shot up. I believe that the addition of such a character removes their fearless status and so I should have taken a leadership check when they got shot up. My bad.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Trying out a Deathstar unit for the first time. Will Grey Knights fit the bill?

Well good morning folks.

I've had a busy last week so sorry for no updates. My wife and I will be moving to a new apartment next month and so things have been busy at IKEA (getting model kits for grownups) and desperately working every extra shift at starbucks to help save up.

Good news though:
- The Krylon primer I got went on a dream and I really like it.
- I've been painting a whole bunch in my free time and the pile of 'to-do' miniatures is slowly shrinking
- All of my orders from Ramshackle Games have arrived (yay Curtis) and I have loads of new models to play with.
- I managed to get free tickets to a Muse concert last night and the show was incredible. You have to love working at a radio station!

Anyway, the point of the post is about using a Deathstar unit as I'm playing Old Shatter Hands tonight. For those who don't know, a Deathstar is a unit that is incredibly powerful, hard-hitting and usually very expensive. It works by forcing the opponent to concentrate on it entirely because left unchecked, it can usually smash apart their forces and swing the battle. Examples include:

- Marine maxed out TH/SS assault terminators led by a chaplain, in a Land Raider. This will hurt when it hits you and takes so much to kill.
- Ork Nob bikers kitted out to abuse wound allocation with a painbody to add FNP. This moves fast, eats almost anything and has to take a huge number of wounds before even one dies.
- Eldar Jetbike Seer Council. Fast moving unit that hits so hard and can benefit from all sorts of deadly farseer powers.

There are many others but that all share the same principles of focusing your opponent's attention and forcing them to react to you rather than follow their own plan.

Now I don't go for the big power plays (like above) but I do want to try out a nasty assaulting unit since I'm normally a shooty kinda guy. Luckily I got two boxes of Grey Knights when I was making my army (loved the Ben Counter Grey Knight novels) and so a lightbulb went off.

I'm planning to run the following:

- Captain with a powerfist.
- 10 Grey Knights with Justicar, 2 have incinerators.
- Land Raider

Now mine don't look quite this good but you get the idea :-)

Having a squad like this that can put out 16 storm bolter shots and 2 heavy flamer equivalents per turn is nasty. They can keep moving and firing too which is great in the current game setup. Then when they charge into combat you have 14 S6 attacks, 4 S4 attacks, 3 S6 power weapon hits and 4 S8 powerfist attacks. Given that all but the captain will strike at initiative, that is some pain right there. Vehicles will largely go down against this many high strength attacks as well (they are basically krak grenades) and the captain allows for some real hitting strength. Bringing them up the Land Raider stops them getting shot so much and allows me to control line of sight to them via an AV14 mobile bunker. Any real threats to the GK will face lascannons from the LR too.

Still, this is an expensive unit at ~670 points as I have it kitted out, but I'm hoping that OSH's Tau will not be able to deal with it in time to prevent their lines getting overwhelmed by scary assaulting marines. They are fearless too, which helps me to avoid morale checks or pinning. Of coures, I'd need to detach the captain for that but they can still charge the same target if need be.

What are people's thoughts? Deathstar units any good?