Dec 20, 2011

Neophyte Bob Wins! ...sorta.

Finally, we have a guess at the question of how many Heavy Weapons can you have in a Crusader Squad, by Neophyte Bob in the comments of the RAW vs. RAI article (two below this one). And he is right...mostly.

The mostly part is that if you take multiple Heavy Weapons on a guy the first thing your opponent is going to say is, "Cheater!", or something along those lines. Of course, you can point it out to him, but unless he is one of those who follow RAW closely, he probably isn't going to go along with it. On top of that, even though it is strictly allowed (as per poor-wording), it isn't very sportsman-like. It's kind of a gimmicky thing that could prove useful but is neither necessary nor friendly unless your opponent thinks that it is neat to have that option.

However he did nail all of the things I was looking for, though I would like to add two things. The first is that you can only fire one at a time, as per the main rules pg. 15 (you have no idea how hard it was to find that sentence that I knew was in there). So even though you may equip an Initiate with both a Lascannon and a Missile Launcher, he cannot fire both at a Rhino at the same time. However, what you can do is equip a model with a Multi-Melta (for great short-ranged Anti-Tank) and either a Lascannon (mid- to long-range Anti-Tank in a Shooty squad) or a Powerfist/Power Weapon (for an Assaulty squad). But again, unless you've got a casual opponent to play with (because I consider this to be one of those things you do in casual play, because then things are looser) who likes the idea of it, you probably shouldn't in practice.

++++++

On a different note, I have just recently joined the From The Warp blogger group, hoping that I might get some more readers and perhaps have some discussion in the comments once in a while (between more than just three of us). There should be the FTW image somewhere on the right before too long, and hopefully we'll get some more traffic through here.

Dec 17, 2011

We can top Blood Angles in mobility, and we can top their Deathstars too.

Earlier today I came read one of Stelek’s fan-favorite articles about a Blood Angels Deathstar unit. He gave three common ones and then he gave his and asked three questions.

The common ones he gave were pretty predictable: Librarian and Priest with 5 Assault Terminators in a Land Raider, Librarian and Priest with 5 Assault Terminators and Furioso Dreadnought in Stormraven, Dante and Furioso in a Stormraven… But his unit at first seemed a little odd. A Chaplain with Jump Pack, Librarian with Jump Pack, Priest with Jump Pack, and ten Assault Terminators without a transport. His three questions were:

1) What are the key differences between the other units, and my unit? List both.

2) What rules do you use to make full use of this unit? List both.

3) What tactic do you use to extend the threat range of this unit? Describe it in detail.

I was curious since the Jump Packs can’t really be used while in the same, slow unit of Assault Terminators, they are vulnerable because they are without a transport, and it is just really, really expensive (coming in at 800+ points). Then I started reading the replies, and it all opened up to me.

FNP plus 3++ saves means that these guys are hard to kill. The Chaplain makes them fearless and gives them re-rolls to hit when they charge. Not buying the Transport means more points spent on bodies, which also means more attacks and harder to bring down (and less weakened by losses). You can move one of the characters 12”, another 10”, and the third 8” with the Terminators rushing up 6” behind them, which strings out the unit and allows that front character to assault (with the entire unit) something 18” away, and you can compare that to the 21.5” that the Land Raider would allow. On top of all that, since there is no reliance on a Transport to get them places, a lucky Lascannon shot or a Melta-Hunter team means very little. And there were other rules, such as a fear psychic power and combat squading, which had their own benefits.

So I thought, “Can we do something similar for Black Templars?”. Why not?

Alright, we need three Independent Characters with Jump Packs. Scratch that, we need two (if you work it out, the base sizes of those two make up the distance that the third gives, minus .01”). We need one of those guys to be a Chaplain for the Fearless and re-rolls against vehicles on the charge, but what about the other one? Should it be a Techmarine or Commander? The Techmarine comes in with more gear than the Castellan, which means that he is also cheaper unless you don’t want those Power Weapon attacks (or the extra Powerfist attack, and even then you’re only saving 10 points). I’m going to go with a Techmarine, adjustable if the list needs that Ld10 that the Marshal gives. Okay, so a Chaplain and a Techmarine.

How about gear? Jump Packs, obviously, and they already have Power Weapons. Give the Techmarine a Storm Shield so that he has a good Invulnerable Save; the Chaplain already has his Rosarius, so he doesn’t need one. We still need Melta weaponry, so that we can crack Transports and then assault their occupants. Hand out Combi-Meltas and we should be done. Oh wait, also grab Frag Grenades and a Bolt Pistol for the Chaplain to give him an extra attack; the Techmarine already has two weapons so no pistol for him (I should make a note here that you could elect to give him a Plasma Pistol instead of the Combi-Melta so that he maintains his Tank-busting shot but also gets an extra attack; except for using the pistol against a vehicle more than once, this isn’t as good of an idea).

What about the Assault Terminators? Half and half with Furious Charge sounds nice, but since we don’t have the Frag Grenades from the Land Raider Crusader that I5 isn’t going to be quite as useful; it is also hard to keep 12 models from moving through any part of difficult terrain, so let’s avoid that. Stelek’s deathstar had two with Lightning Claws and eight with Thunder Hammers, and that seems reasonable as you still have plenty of those 3++ saves but you also can kill some stuff before it attacks. I’m going to hold off on a Veteran Skill for now, as Furious Charge would be mostly wasted and Tank Hunters would only help if the Melta failed (plus, that’s 30 points for that Veteran skill).

And here’s the unit that we have:

Reclusiarch: Bolt Pistol, Combi-Melta, Jump Pack, Frags

Techmarine: Combi-Melta, Storm Shield, Jump Pack, Frags

Assault Terminators (10): 2 PoLC, 8 TH/SS

Total:-613

Expensive? Absolutely. Plus you don’t have the option for taking more than one other Elite choice, and you’ve only got one HQ slot left (which you shouldn’t be using, as this costs enough for you to need all of your points on Predators, Typhoons, and Troops). So the question facing us is, “How far can we trim it down before we have lost something important?”.

We have two minimums. The first is enough Close Combat threat to kill anything and avoid being Tarpitted. The second is enough bodies that after taking expected losses, we still meet the first minimum.

Let’s start with bodies. Do we really need 12 guys smashing things? Let’s consider, how many Terminators do you usually lose before you can get them into Close Combat? For me, in my limited experience, about 4 when the enemy concentrates on killing them; let’s assume 3 because of all the Storm Shields and the small arms fire that can be directed to the multi-wound guys. Okay, so we need high enough Close Combat power to be a major threat. I’m going to say that killing an average of 12 marines on the charge should be enough when you consider that that’s how much a standard unit of 5 Assault Terminators has. Once we find how many we need to do the damage, just add three to that and we should be good. Starting at 2 Terminators, and going up until we have enough, what do we score for the entire unit?

2 Terminators:-7.7 (not even close)

3 Terminators:-9.6 (getting there, but not yet)

4 Terminators:-11.5 (that’s more like it, but what if we added one more?)

5 Terminators:-13.4 (nope, that’s overkill and, at 40 points each, let’s try to avoid that)

Okay, so 4 TH/SS Terminators. Add three ‘fodder’ Terminators (one with a PoLC) and you have the same unit as above, but only 7 Terminators instead of 10; which puts the cost at 493 points.

On the one hand, a 500 point unit is incredibly expensive (one of the big reasons that Assault Terminators aren’t a good unit in general); on the other hand, how is your opponent really going to stop it? You could even pay the 30 points for Servitors as cheap losses for Righteous Zeal to (hopefully) increase Mobility. The real determining factor is if it is a better unit than the 5 Assault Terminators in a Land Raider Crusader.

Now, let’s see if we can make a list that uses this unit.

Start with one, add the Emperor’s Champion, and two Las/Plas squads in Rhinos for Objective holding with the requisite wing of Typhoons. 1,201 points so far and we’re light on both scoring and fire-support. We need some support in Close Combat, so take two Close Combat Crusader Squads (you know, 8/2 with Powerfist and Meltagun in a Rhino) to bring us up to 1,643 points. 3 Predators maybe? Darn, that puts us 58 points over. There isn’t a whole lot we can do here without dropping an entire unit (which I would rather not do). How about reducing the numbers of our Close Combat Crusader Squads? Take out an Initiate and a Neophyte from each and we are only two points over. I’m very tempted to say just drop the Frag Grenades from our Independent Characters, but I know that they are important. Okay, change one of the Initiates over to a Neophyte, which nets us 6 points, 4 away from the maximum. Grab Krak Grenades for our Reclusiarch and Techmarine so that they have a chance against Vehicles in Close Combat.

And here’s the list:

Emperor’s Champion: Vow (Accept); -140

Reclusiarch: Bolt Pistol, Combi-Melta, Jump Pack, Frags, Kraks; -134

Techmarine: Combi-Melta, Storm Shield, Jump Pack, Frags, Kraks; -123

Assault Terminators (7): 1 PoLC, 6 TH/SS; -280

Crusader Squad (6/2): BP/CS, Powerfist, Meltagun, Frags; Rhino: Extra Armor, Smoke; -207

Crusader Squad (7/1): BP/CS, Powerfist, Meltagun, Frags; Rhino: Extra Armor, Smoke; -213

Crusader Squad (5): Bolters, Lascannon, Plasma Gun; Rhino: Extra Armor, Smoke; -159

Crusader Squad (5): Bolters, Lascannon, Plasma Gun; Rhino: Extra Armor, Smoke; -159

Land Speeder: Typhoon Missile Launcher, Heavy Bolter; -70

Land Speeder: Typhoon Missile Launcher, Heavy Bolter; -70

Land Speeder: Typhoon Missile Launcher, Heavy Bolter; -70

Predator: Autocannon, Lascannon Sponsons; -125

Predator: Autocannon, Lascannon Sponsons; -125

Predator: Autocannon, Lascannon Sponsons; -125

Total:-2,000

DMS:-18.53

DMCC:-30.48

DRPG:-48.99

DLRPG:-9.21

Okay, so it has trouble with vehicles, but I wasn’t counting the melee Anti-Tank that the Terminator unit can do. My biggest problem is against Land Raiders, but there I don’t need as much because I’m less concerned with what’s inside them (because I can kill it). Not getting charged is going to be something that will be a little difficult, but with those two supporting Crusader Squads, I should be alright.

I’m going to be getting a game in with this list sometime next week, but are there any thoughts until then?

Last thing: no one wanted to answer how many Heavy Weapons a Crusader Squad can take? I'm disappointed. So I'm going to hold off on the answer until the next article. But I'm still looking for guesses!

Dec 11, 2011

RAW vs. RAI

So how do you interpret rules? (Cue smart-alik comments like “by reading them”. You know what I mean!) I know that there at least used to be a big controversy over interpreting rules in a Rules as Written (RAW) or a Rules as Intended (RAI).

RAW was strictly how the rules were written, regardless of any strange consequences. RAI was how the writers intended the game to be played, so any of those strange, unrealistic things that were possible under the RAW were things that you couldn’t do, because the writers did not have that intention in mind.

A fantastic example of these differing views involves turning vehicles. The Dark Eldar vehicles are long and narrow, and some people discovered that if you deployed them side-ways, right up against the edge of the deployment zone, you could turn them straight on your turn and instantly be a few inches closer without expending any movement. At least, that was the RAW ruling. The RAI crowd screamed WAAC as they are opt to do and cried out in unison against such jerk moves.

Now, while there are some problems with the RAW method (mostly that you can find all sorts of ways to abuse the rules if you are clever), RAI is no better to me. Now, rather than allowing people to abuse the game system, you are claiming that you divinely know how the rules should actually be interpreted and what they actually read as is irrelevant.

For a while I sided with the RAW because, despite its flaws, it removed subjectivity from rulings and thus could be most counted upon as consistent (plus with RAI you can still have clever jerks who simply find a way for anything they don’t like to be against how the rules ‘should’ be). Recently(-ish), however, I’ve gradually come to the decision that you should be using a mix of the two.

To do this you begin with everything being RAW, but don’t allow anything that isn’t plainly stated in the rules. Now, of course this can be subjectively done, especially when you consider how confusing the multi-assault rules can get (who goes first, what can each model attack, how do we decide Combat Resolution, can I make a Sweeping Advance, etc.), but you don’t run into quite so much as RAI has.

To illustrate what I mean, I’m going to point to the same thing that Algesan used when he was illustrating Occam’s Razor: the discussion about the assault rules that went on over at B&C for a while.

If you look at the rules, they seem pretty straightforward. You cannot assault a unit other than the one you shot at, except for any passengers if you shot and killed a transport (pages 33 and 67, mid right-hand column for both, specifically the clause beneath the bullets and the Note, respectively).

RAW though, you need to notice two things. The first is that the Clause (from pg. 33) is beneath the header “Disallowed Assaults”, so it must, at some point, disallow you from assaulting. That would be when you shoot and kill a unit. You cannot assault any other unit (because of the clause), nor can you assault the unit you just shot (because it is dead), so you cannot assault at all (hence, disallowed). Then you look at the Note (pg. 67) and we see at the end that it says that you may only assault the passengers if you are allowed to assault.

So, you shoot and kill a Rhino with your Meltagun and are all ready to assault the Las/Plas Squad within. You can do that because of the Note, right? Wrong. Since you killed the unit you shot, the clause disallows you from assaulting and thus, you cannot assault the passengers (since to do so you would need to be allowed to assault, under the restriction in the Note).

There are two explanations from this point, either the entire second half of the Note is self contradictory and pointless, or the Clause does not apply when you kill the unit you shot at (make up a reason for why, but that is the most plausible explanation that makes sense with both the Note and the Clause). Since the Note being useless makes no sense, it must be that the Clause does not apply if you killed your target with shooting (and thus may assault anything you please).

RAW, this is what you get. And this is my problem with a straight RAW interpretation of the rules. Here, when you follow it through, what you end up with is something that directly contradicts what the rules appear to be saying. Instead, you get to this conclusion by assuming something that is not in the rules, verifying it with a phrase from something that is not directly connected to the Assault Rules but, by virtue of not being a rule, drastically changes how the Clause is to be understood, and all the while a single line added to the Clause would make the meaning straightforward and clear.

This is why I am wary of a straight RAW reading of the rules. You need to begin with the assumption that what the rules are written with the intention that you can understand them on a first read through without having to get all technical on certain phrases or words. Or, alternatively, you need to find another interpretation if the one you’re using could be much more easily stated in the rules. This isn’t to say that there is no RAW answer to the above problem, it just isn’t necessarily as plausible in a RAW sense.

For the purpose of a counter-point to the above, I’m going to detail the different assumption that I make to get what the rules appear to say. When confronted with the discrepancy within the Note, I assume that the phrase at the end (specifically, “if it is allowed to assault according to the Assault Rules.”) does not apply to the Clause. That’s it. While the reason for the assumption doesn’t matter too much (because it is an assumption and thus does not need definitive supporting evidence), you could claim that first the Note removes the status for the Clause to disallow an assault (thus it does not trigger the restriction on the Note, although this does require the Note to be considered an Assault Rule, and you could make that case), or you could claim that, despite being under the heading “Disallowed Assaults” the Clause does not actually disallow any assaults. Like I said, not perfectly in line with the RAW, but aside from that more plausible.

And that’s pretty much all I have on the subject. I’ve been working on a number of Vassal games with lists that I haven’t really touched in months, and it is looking to be an interesting experiment that I should have ready in, oh, about a week or so (finals the next few days may postpone that, but we shall see).

Oh, rather than risk forgetting. Trivia: How many Heavy Weapons can you put in a Crusader Squad? I’ll see any attempted answers and give my response in my next post.

Dec 7, 2011

Black Templars Fluff, Part 2

Last time I systematically went through the codex in order to find all of the points about the Black Templars as they actually are depicted in the codex. Don’t worry, I go through all of the information gathered and then I include a better look at each point (for those curious, I am going in backwards order, and I did leave off two unnecessary ones).

I just want to make a disclaimer before we begin that I am ignoring everything in the rules sections. Why? Well, for a variety of reasons, including an article I read once about there being two different versions of Warhammer 40k, and that I consider all of the actual rules about how things work are the Crunch, rather than the Fluff I’m working on. Also keep in mind that, while there are other sources of Fluff, I’m only considering the Codex to be cannon for this (because if I include one author’s interpretations, I have to include them all, which range in various levels of similarity to what the codex says).

Now let's get started with a note that I missed about Neophytes:

  • New members of the Black Templars are first trained and given some of the implants, then are individually taken in by a single Initiate who will train and teach them during battle.
    • This relates to a point lower down about not adhering to the Codex Astartes. If we were to extrapolate this, we could make the claim that it also relates to Black Templars having stronger bonds to other individual Initiates than other chapters do, going hand-in-hand with squads fighting together out of a sense of camaraderie.
  • Black Templars are the most independent from Imperial Authorities out of all Space Marine Chapter, on the verge of being a rogue element; and like all Space Marines they do not consider themselves subject to Imperial Rule, though they may answer calls for aid, such as at Helsreach.
    • Okay, so they are very independent. This is echoed by the circumstances of their origination (they did not want to split until civil war threatened to once again ensnare the Imperium).
  • The first tactic that the Black Templars use is to come down and surgically eliminate threats by using Drop Pods and Thunderhawk Gunships, leaving the enemy unable to retaliate. The second tactic that the Black Templars use is to maneuver at speed behind a screen of Bikes and Land Speeders, smashing through the weak points in the enemy line, armored columns slashing left and right before eliminating the remaining enemy strong points; they use this tactic if they can land heavy armor.
    • Notice that Black Tide isn’t mentioned? Also notice that Bikes are only used as auxiliary forces? Black Tide and masses of ‘mounted’ Templars are what people want to see, rather than what is actually in the codex. You want your Fighting Company or Crusade to be like that? Go for it. But also accept that it isn’t the norm, just like female Space Marines or traitor Templars.
  • Black Templars renew a Vow before each battle, focusing on a particular aspect of their duties, encouraging extreme bravery, ruthlessness and sacred revulsion at the foe.
    • They renew one of their Vows. This does give weight to the idea that we should be able to choose which Vow we take at the outset of each battle. For example, there are several witches in that army, so we are going to renew our Vow to Abhor the Witch. This also echoes back to the Knightly themes some hold, just like praying for victory before a battle in medieval times, but to the Emperor.
  • Black Templars hate to run and are only spurred on by their own losses.
    • They are Zealots. They don’t like getting shot at and they want vengeance when their buddy is killed. Makes sense, even if it isn’t always a good idea to do so.
  • Black Templars prefer Close Combat to Ranged Warfare because Sigismund preferred it and so that you can make sure your enemy is truly dead, earn glory, and fight with the noblest ideals of valor.
    • Okay, this is a big point of contention against Gunlines. On the one hand, it is a good point; on the other, it isn’t completely accurate. Now when you think of Close Combat, you immediately think of what that means in the game, specifically assaulting into Combat. But what about the very next words? “…preferring close combat to ranged warfare.” Huh, that’s a strange way to say ‘shooting’. As a matter of fact, why didn’t they just say “prefer charging into the enemy rather than shooting them.”? Wouldn’t that have been more theatric and exciting? Well, ranged warfare can mean two things in game terms. The first thing it can mean is just ‘shooting’. The second it can mean is ‘long range’. As in, ordinance, snipers, artillery, exterminatus; you know, ranged warfare. In the Soldier’s Creed of the United States Army it specifically mentions Close Combat. Are those soldiers rushing the enemy with their knives or clubbing them with their guns? And if Black Templars have this Gunphobia that some believe they have, why does the codex list the Bolter, but not the Chainsword or any Special Close Combat weapons in the Fluff? (See text box in upper-right hand corner of page 11.) So what does this actually translate into? It means that the term ‘Close Combat’ when used here, is much more general than ‘in close combat’. It means ‘short range’. So rapid firing and actual assaulting used as the situation calls for it. That is a much more accurate assessment of how Black Templars fight. Not Charging Maniacs, but simply Short Range. Can individual groups be different? Of course they can, but they aren’t the majority according to the codex.
  • Groups of Battle-Brothers fight together out of a sense of comradeship, rather than imposed organization.
    • Okay, fighting out of familiarity rather than being told ‘you go here with these guys’. As a side note, if you wanted to make a truly fluffy army, you would need to have almost random numbers for squads to represent this. As I mentioned before, this points back to how Neophytes are trained. If they impress an Initiate, then that Initiate takes them in; compared to each Neophyte being assigned to an Initiate. Templars fight when and where and with who they want to.
  • Black Templars are utterly ruthless towards anything that they perceive as a threat to the Emperor, mercilessly exterminating entire populations to remove heresy and going into a raging bloodlust for vengeance simply by a witch being present on the battlefield.
    • All of those ideas of Honor and Valor? Yeah, this throws them all out the window, practically. Innocents? Innocence proves nothing. A single heretic on the entire world? We must wipe out all of the Inhabitants from the sight of the Emperor! I have to admit, there are some things about Black Templars that I don’t like, and this is easily the first and foremost (I’m pretty sure that any other things I think of come straight from this too). If there were one major change to the fluff that I could make, it would be this. It is the epiphany of the over-zealous and over-strict ideals that represent the Inquisition and all the evils of the Imperium. Shocked by Grey Knights killing the Sisters of Battle who held out alone on a planet ruled by Daemons? Yeah, that is exactly what this is. This says that Black Templars are not the glorified crusaders, they are the more accurate crusaders who would kill and plunder because there was no one to stop them and hey, they would be forgiven anyway just for being on this crusade.
  • Black Templars are Zealots and have no Librarians due to their mistrust of anything to do with the Warp. It is thought, however, that those Astropaths and Navigators who are sanctified by other organizations and are repentant of the curse of psychic powers are accepted by the Black Templars.
    • I can more easily get behind this, because while it is zealotry, you can claim that it has a reason behind it. The Emperor outlawed Psychic usage and he did so for a reason for it. This is just the Templars doing what the Emperor has directly commanded. Sure, they are stricter than other chapters, but that really isn’t much of an issue as they are probably in the right here and it doesn’t involve the murder of innocents for little to no reason.
  • There are as many as five-to-six thousand Black Templars.
    • This is what makes me think of them as reminiscent of the original Legions. They may not be 10,000 strong, but they are more than half-way there. Now, they could still be massive with two-thousand, but no, they have to have near three-times that.
  • The Black Templars are Fleet-based.
    • This isn’t quite such as big of a thing as some people think. The history mentions that all of the chapters chose a home-world, a fortress, or a fleet to be based from. Black Templars choose two of those.
  • The Black Templars do not follow the Codex Astartes.
    • What, you couldn’t guess from units fighting together because of familiarity and there being no regular units, such as Tactical Squads? You couldn’t guess from their long opposition to it or the fact that even after 10,000 years they still refuse to go down to a thousand members? Yeah, they’re independent.
  • The Black Templars began with suspicion against them and are on an eternal crusade to dissuade that suspicion. Every High Marshal has sworn an oath to never rest in their Crusade against the enemies of the Imperium and, thanks to both this oath and their long history of no traitors the Inquisition mostly leaves them alone.
    • We were questioned at first, but an oath was taken and we’ve never been doubted since, even on the number of Battle-Brothers we have. We have also never given the Inquisition cause to look into our affairs, similar to the Grey Knights. They should be proud to be so much like us.

Okay, but this is all just a bunch of text, how can we make this briefer? With this:

‘Black Templars are an over zealous, fleet based Space Marine chapter from the second founding who cause concern to the Imperial Authorities by their independent ways and rumors of the immense numbers within their chapter, but by their energy in serving the Emperor and their long history of loyalty they remain unmolested by Inquisitors. They prefer close-ranged warfare using a shock assault of Drop Pods followed by Armored Columns striking where the enemy is weak. Refusing to use unnecessary psychers or follow the Codex Astartes, Black Templars are on an Eternal Crusade to mercilessly destroy the enemies of the Emperor.’

Did I leave anything out? I did ignore some small stuff, but nothing worth worrying about unless I wanted to include such trivia as their original chapter or the actual numbers of battle brothers. The important thing though, is did I add anything in? Not that I can see, but if anyone sees anything that shouldn’t be there, give a shout.

Okay, now what, if any, benefit can come from this beyond an exercise in typing for me? Well, not a whole lot actually. You could use my summation as a quick explanation of what the Black Templars are in their Fluff, or you could take it as your basis when deciding how to make your Crusade personalized (for example you could pick two or three things to add to the above, and there you go).

Possibly the best thing you could do is recognize that while there are many opinions about the Black Templars and few of them seem to match (we are one of the best Gunlines, we are one of the best Close Combat armies, we are Horde, we are best using Deep-Strike, we are best using a mix, etc.; all of which I have heard) there is a certain depth which you could get to from the codex. Once you go beyond that, you don’t have a whole lot of support. However, who reads the fluff more than once or twice? What about regularly?

Really, the codex isn’t a great read. The Crusades can be fun and exciting, but the main body of the codex is pretty bland (unless you are super-excited, like I was when I first got it). With this you can get a refresher that critically looks at various points in our codex. Hopefully that will be fixed with the new codex (and more attention given to the Crusades) and hopefully you have enjoyed these two articles.

Nov 29, 2011

Black Templars Fluff, Part 1

Black Templars Fluff, what is it? What themes make up the Black Templars? Now, I know that if I asked this question on B&C, I would get maybe a dozen definite answers; along with a vaguer ‘the fluff is what you want it to be’. While the latter kind of answer is true to a certain extent, neither it nor the former answers are completely accurate most of the time.

Why? Because they are often tinged by personal opinion based on connotations of certain key words or personal wishes that blow up to be the dominate factor in ‘the Black Templars Fluff’. Great examples of this are claims that Black Tide is fluffy or the ideas that are the root cause to both of the Fandexes on B&C containing Bikers with Power Lances.

Okay, back to the point about those vague answers being true to a certain extent. The reason for this is that, while the fluff itself is incomplete and subjective enough to justify pretty much any army that you can come up with, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t general truths about each army pertaining to the fluff, for example Black Templars do use tactics like Drop Pod assaults and Armored Spearhead; you aren’t going to justify that, on the whole, they don’t.

Now, we’re going to start with my statement of my own preconception of their fluff and what they’re like. After that, we’re going to go through the codex systematically and examine what is actually supported in there. (Something I should point out now is that, while some consider every single picture or story related to Black Templars to be cannon, I don’t consider them to be on par with the codex itself, just like the fluff for my own Crusade isn’t.)

What I think of the fluff is that Black Templars are Space Marines, essentially. Except, rather than adhering to the Codex Astartes, they are more like the original Legions. The fight like they always have (except where they have improved), and are organized the same way they have been since their founding. The Tactics they employ are begun with an orbital drop, or ‘Death from Above’, followed by Armored Spearhead until their goal is reached, perhaps with extra support from space. Because they are still strongly attached to the old ways, they don’t employ the newer machines very much (we don’t have Whirlwinds, etc.).

(Side note here, with the Chaos Legions coming out around-ish the same time as the Black Templars, I am really excited to see if GW makes some things that are similar to these two Codices. It also makes for some almost clich├ęd battles between what have become of the Legions; contrasting the Servants of Chaos, with their Marks and hyper-elite status, and the Champions of the Emperor, with whatever spiffy stuff they get. And I might as well add that I am convinced we’re going to get some spiffy stuff because that’s what has been happening for the past three codices and it is going in a great direction as far as giving each codex a distinct playstyle and pros/cons.)

The codex begins with paragraphs such as ‘Why collect a Black Templars army?’ and ‘Space Marines’ (well, technically it begins with a cool picture, and page 1 is actually the table of contents and credits, but you know what I mean). This part is almost all metagame and has little to no fluff in it aside from the general knowledge about space marines. Next!

Page 4 is titled ‘Warriors of Legend’, but it actually begins the background about the Space Marines, the Horus Heresy, and the founding of the Black Templars. As the founding and the circumstances could have some impact on them now, we’ll take a look at that.

Okay, Dorn didn’t want his Legion spread throughout the galaxy. It almost came to war, but he finally relented and the Black Templars were formed with Sigismund leading them. Seeking to prove his loyalty to the suspicions against the Black Templars, Sigismund swore an oath that he would never rest prosecuting the enemies of the Imperium and every High Marshal since has renewed that oath.

Page 8 begins what I would consider the actual fluff, as opposed to background. Okay, there’s going to be a lot here, so I’m going to switch to a bullet-point format, beginning with the points from the background.

  • The Black Templars began with suspicion against them and are on an eternal crusade to dissuade that suspicion.
  • Every High Marshal has sworn an oath to never rest in their Crusade against the enemies of the Imperium.
  • The Black Templars do not follow the Codex Astartes.
  • The Black Templars are Fleet-based.
  • There are as many as five-to-six thousand Black Templars.
  • Black Templars are Zealots and have no Librarians due to their mistrust of anything to do with the Warp. It is thought, however, use those Astropaths and Navigators that are sanctified by other organizations and are repentant of the curse of psychic powers.
  • Black Templars are utterly ruthless towards anything that they perceive as a threat to the Emperor, mercilessly exterminating entire populations to remove heresy and going into a raging bloodlust for vengeance simply by a witch being present on the battlefield.
  • Groups of Battle-Brothers fight together out of a sense of comradeship, rather than imposed organization.
  • Black Templars prefer Close Combat to Ranged Warfare because Sigismund preferred it and so that you can make sure your enemy is truly dead, earn glory, and fight with the noblest ideals of valor.
  • Black Templars hate to run and are only spurred on by their own losses.
  • Black Templars renew a Vow before each battle, focusing on a particular aspect of their duties, encouraging extreme bravery, ruthlessness and sacred revulsion at the foe.
  • The first tactic that the Black Templars use is to come down and surgically eliminate threats by using Drop Pods and Thunderhawk Gunships, leaving the enemy unable to retaliate.
  • The second tactic that the Black Templars use is to maneuver at speed behind a screen of Bikes and Land Speeders, smashing through the weak points in the enemy line, armored columns slashing left and right before eliminating the remaining enemy strong points; they use this tactic if they can land heavy armor.
  • Black Templars are the most independent from Imperial Authorities, almost a rogue element; and like all Space Marines they do not consider themselves subject to Imperial Rule, though they may answer calls for aid.

And beginning on page 10 we get into things that are more for Hard Sci-Fi, rather than Fluff. It talks about how a Space Marine is made, what the different types of Black Templars are (Neophytes, Initiates, Sword Brethren, High Marshal, Marshals and Castellans, The Emperor’s Champion, Techmarines, Dreadnoughts, Apothecaries, Chaplains). Now, of course this stuff is connected to the Black Templar fluff, but it isn’t defining what the fluff is, only how it relates to specific units.

Page 19 begins the Crusades of the Black Templars. Mostly it highlights what has already been mentioned about Black Templars, but the Jerulas Crusade on page 43 does illustrate something new:

  • Black Templars not only refuse to flee, they refuse to give up and will continue regardless of their own losses.
  • Black Templars are not actually suspicious of new-found technology and vehicles.

Everything else in the codex is rules-oriented, not pertinent, or just enforcing much of the same things (Honor and Zeal is good, serve the Emperor, destroy heretics and mutants and witches, etc.). Although I did notice a few things that are contradictory, and some things I really liked, and some that I didn’t.

Contradictory things include the phrase “Wisdom is the beginning of fear.” on page 53 when on pages 49 and 23 wisdom is shown in a good light and almost expected in experienced Black Templars. Another one that I noticed is in the Vow ‘Suffer not the Unclean to Live’, the third line which reads “Lead us to Hid Strength and an eternity of war”. Doesn’t that really strongly imply that an eternity of war is the goal? Shouldn’t the goal be the victory at the end of the Crusade, or do they actually enjoy Crusading so much that they never want to stop, regardless of what the Emperor would want? Well, I suppose you can’t expect the whole codex to be perfectly written.

Okay, next post will be taking all of this information and trying to build a coherent summation of what Black Templar fluff actually says about them.

Nov 28, 2011

Typhoons

Okay, so I had an idea. I know that Squadrons of Typhoons aren’t as efficient as single Typhoons. While you still get two Missiles and a Heavy Bolter for each 70 points you spend, after the first three they aren’t as good. Taking more could still be worth it, as that really isn’t much cost for what you get, but generally I like to stay away from such things in my lists like Plaguebearers.

My idea involved making a bunch of calculations and see how the increased chances of killing something, like a Rhino, compared to the increased cost. My thoughts were that as you add more Typhoons, the less each one is actually worth. Here’s what I came up with on the chances for each number of Typhoons to kill a Rhino in one round of firing:

1 Typhoon: 21.9%

2 Typhoons: 44.9%

3 Typhoons: 70.2%

And what it should be, based on the assumption that two Typhoons should be twice as likely to kill a Rhino:

1 Typhoon: 21.9%

2 Typhoons: 43.8%

3 Typhoons: 65.7%

Okay, so larger Squadrons are, in fact, more efficient once you factor in getting three results of Immobilized/Weapon Destroyed, but not really enough to worry about as along with the reduced efficiency, they are more likely to kill what they shoot at which means that you can move on to the next target which, technically, is a strike against it as when you need to spend two turns shooting at a Rhino that refuses to die, you are wasting more with a larger unit; or is that balanced out by the smaller chance of having to spend extra turns shooting at a single Rhino. Regardless of the exact worth, in this area the differences are irrelevant because they are so small between what they should be and what they actually are, especially if you only take two.

So a dead-end there, which made me wonder how much of a loss in durability you get from being in a Squadron. So I ran those numbers specifically on the chance of a weapon getting a Wrecked or Explodes result in one shot, and the percentage increase that a Squadron risks:

Squadron Single Ratio Difference

S4 2.8% 0.0% N/A +2.8%

S5 11.1% 5.6% +100.0% +5.6%

S6 19.4% 11.1% +75.0% +8.3%

S7 27.8% 16.7% +66.7% +11.1%

S8 36.1% 22.2% +62.5% +13.9%

S8AP1 65.6% 48.6% +35.2% +17.1%

S9 44.4% 27.8% +60.0% +16.7%

S10 50.0% 33.3% +50.0% +16.7%

Yes, I wanted to be thorough. And by AP1 I also mean in Melta range (should not really affect the Difference). Now, what do we see here? Here we see the reason to not take Squadrons. Yeah, Bolters being able to kill them isn’t a very big problem, but how often do Bolters get shot at Land Speeders? No, Land Speeders attract the firepower that is low enough that people prefer to use it against Land Speeders than Rhinos. S5-7, with higher weaponry if they deem the Typhoons more of a threat.

Okay, Heavy Bolters double in effectiveness against a Squadron, and an extra two-thirds chance is nothing to sneeze at for Autocannons. Plus there’s the chance for multiple penetrating hits, which means that you could lose multiple Typhoons to one gun.

And what do you get for this huge loss of Durability? More shots. So when deciding whether or not to take Squadrons you have to decide where the balance is; at what point do Typhoons lose their efficiency? It really looks like it would be at taking two of them. The units still aren’t overly expensive, coming in at a similar cost to a Crusader Squad or a Dreadnought, slightly above a Predator. In exchange for temporarily decreased durability, you almost double your chances to kill a Rhino, and you probably aren’t going to lose both to one shot.

On the other hand, single Typhoons have the advantage of being dirt cheap units that can still fulfill their role. They attract less attention, in addition to only being inconvenienced by Immobilized results. These attributes make them wonderful supporting units, rather than ones that are meant specifically to kill stuff, like Predators. Personally, I’d rather spend those 200 extra points on another Crusader Squad as I then have more units as well as more scoring ability.

But I think one of the greatest benefits that my calculations have shown me is that, while I might be troubled by non-identical units, if I have an extra 70-ish points I can grab another Typhoon with almost no downsides. Not something to apply to every list, but something that I can keep in mind.

Nov 20, 2011

Drop Pod List Customizations

Okay, so all of my recent thinking about my Drop Pod list and Marshal Learoth’s Drop Pod list has brought up what I think are interesting ideas for how to personalize or change the standard optimized Drop Pod list.

And yes, I’m still stuck on the Drop Pod lists. Don’t worry; I’m going to try to get a bunch of play-testing with my Best of Black Templar list which can be seen over there==>

Anyway, I’m going to be assuming you start with Marshal Learoth’s because Meltaguns are actually a better choice than Plasma Guns 90% of the time (the only times that I can think of are against something that was heavy on tough infantry, such as Blood Angels Jumpers or Deathwing).

Now of course you could do something drastic like drop a couple of Crusader Squads and fit in your favorite Independent Characters, but I’m talking about changes that keep most of the list intact.

First off we obviously have changing the Heavy Weapons. Unless I’m horribly mistaken, having a double Melta threat isn’t a valuable as a more balanced approach or a more versatile unit. Two main contenders come to mind, the first is Missile Launchers. Think about it, a blast to use against Hordes, 48” anti-tank to deal with those pesky skimmers, it isn’t a bad option unless you lack the important Meltagun. And then we have the other option, even though it’s more expensive; Powerfists. Make every Crusader Squad into a mini-Dreadnought by having both a Melta and a way to attack vehicle in Melee, plus some Close Combat ability allows you to kill things by assaulting them, rather than just tying them up as well as the perceived threat you create with every unit and some anti-Infantry firepower just for kicks (well, that and because we can’t replace it with something else). The problem with the Powerfists is: where do you get the extra 30 points you need? I have an answer.

I have three thoughts about the Heavy Flamers on the Dreadnoughts. One the one hand, they’re ten points to replace a Storm Bolter; the opportunity is there so why wouldn’t you take one (same reasoning for always taking a Plasma Gun on a Lascannon Squad that is usually out of range, also partially the same reasoning I used when I wanted to take Heavy Weapons in my squads)? But then again they don’t exactly do much in my experience: Marines make their save, Vehicles are too tough, and why are you sending your Dreadnoughts against blob units which will slow them down and negate their effectiveness? However without them the Dreadnoughts don’t have many options against a large unit of Orks/Imperial Guard/Tyranids so it’s a useful purchase. Basically, I’m not going to be dropping them, but they are an option if you really need those points elsewhere (such as for Powerfists).

I’ve also wanted Accept Any Challenge. The problem is I don’t really have anywhere to get the points from and it would really only help out my Dreadnoughts when I need to smash my way through a 10-man Crusader Squad. Furthermore, if I make the changes to Powerfists and no Heavy Flamers it becomes even more beneficial (quicker damage to those Infantry units from the Dreadnoughts and better effect from the Powerfists). But that’s yet another 30 points. Technically, you could go with Power Weapons instead of Powerfists, or you could go with Krak Grenades and just Meltaguns to retain that Assaulting Vehicles option.

Then again, the Crusader Squads don’t often have the chance to assault a Vehicle, and when they do they are usually on an Objective. Okay, so just Power Weapons will work, you get those 30 points from the Dreadnoughts, and you have yourself Preferred Enemy.

That’s all for my rambling thoughts about possible customizations for the DDP list. If anyone has any other thoughts feel free to share. I’m not going to specifically say what I’m going to have next because I inevitably think of something else I’d rather do and I get stuck into a corner, so next post will be a surprise.

Nov 8, 2011

Battle Report 1. Drop Pods vs. Gunline

And here…we…go!

I’m afraid that I neglected to take any pictures before most of the Deployment was over (okay, half way through Turn 2), but that was partially because I forgot to start taking them and partially because I decided that I should skip boring parts (it doesn’t matter how they moved and what path they took as much as where they ended up, it also isn’t necessary to take a picture at every half-way point when only two units do anything).

The game was against Marshal Learoth’s NOVA Gunline list. I have to admit, I was somewhat concerned that my Drop Pods would quickly be eliminated by the sheer amount of firepower in his list, and we’ll see how accurate that fear was.

Drop Pod got first choice; since I had more Scoring units than the Gunline, I felt that it would be best to go for Objectives rather than my otherwise preferred Kill Points (and I wanted to change things up a little). The Gunline didn’t want Dawn of War, because it needed to spread out, and it didn’t want Pitched Battle, because then it would either be taken apart piecemeal or it would be too clumped together to stop me, so it chose Spearhead. By random chance, the Gunline went first.

NOVA Terrain set-up (though less difficult terrain; two hills that just block LoS unless you’re on top of them, two ruins that are difficult terrain, two small pieces of Impassible terrain, and a road which didn’t come into play) with 4 Objectives in the quarters and 1 in the middle, all in Terrain pieces; Gunline set up to send a Predator and a Crusader Squad for the center objective, one Crusader Squad in reserve to take his other Objective, and two Crusader Squads plus two Predators on a hill holding his home Objective. The two Terminator squads and the Typhoons spread out between the forward units and the home units to prevent Drop Pods from coming down and getting rear-shots (and to maximize the room available to maneuver in once the Drop Pods do come down). The main strategy was to grab three objectives and prevent the Drop Pod list from boxing them in too badly. After Deployment, stuff generally moved forward but kept the same positions in relation to each other (you’ll see in the picture). The Drop Pods were fired from the ships.

Next turn saw the reserved Crusader Squad come on, so they pushed up towards their destination. Stuff moved forward again, and now the Gunline holds two Objectives (almost three), while the Drop Pods have yet to come down. And then they do. In one of the best ratios they could hope for (somehow, they almost always seem to get those ratios). Two Dreadnoughts, a Command Squad (Castellan led), all three Typhoons and a single Crusader Squad (without Emperor’s Champion); the Crusader Squad claims the objective that the reserved enemy Crusader Squad was going for, the Command Squad comes down inches from a home Predator with their Drop Pod protecting them from the Terminators, one Dreadnought comes down near the center objective and sets up for a side shot on the near-by Predator, the other Dreadnought comes down just like the Command Squad but for the other home Predator and still protected from Terminators by its Drop Pod, and the Typhoons come down between the main force of the Gunline and the other claimed objective. This may be confusing, but it looks like the below:

I hope that isn’t too small to see, but the units with red on them are the Gunline guys. The two objectives claimed by the Gunline are on hills, the two nearby corner ones are in ruins, and the last one is on a road, the other terrain is just impassible, but never came up as Blocking LoS or not. The yellow Rhino is just a wreck, not actually a unit.

And now the Shooting phase begins. The Command Squad targeted the Predator, which got Immobilized and Stunned; the green Dreadnought fired at the Predator, and whiffed; the other Dreadnought fired at the Predator near-by and blew off a Lascannon; the Crusader Squad fire its Plasma Gun at the Razorback but did nothing, and the Typhoons fire a few shots and Stunned another Typhoon as well as destroying the Weapon on the stunned Typhoon and that Razorback in the middle of the board. Assault Phase was uneventful.


Turn 3 and by most theory (the major arguments against Deep-Striking armies) the Gunline should have had a big advantage, lots of firepower against a very small portion of the enemy army. Well they shift around some (at this point I realized that I would need to go for 4 Objectives just in case I couldn’t hold one of them), and their firing destroyed the Command Squad’s Drop Pod, killing two of the Command Squad, wrecked the green Dreadnought’s Drop Pod, Shook a Typhoon, Shook both Dreadnoughts (Extra Armor is a steal at 5 points), Destroyed the Storm Bolter on the Crusader Squad’s Drop Pod, and did very little else. At this point I realized that the Terminators were going to be very dangerous unit, since they packed a lot of firepower plus could kill anything I had in Close Combat plus would be hard to take down unless I dedicated several units to that task, but since they had killed the two things they shot at, they were unable to assault.

The other Command Squad came down, along with 4 Crusader Squads (including the Emperor’s Champion), but the Dreadnought remained in reserve along with one more Crusader Squad. The Command Squad went to help the Dreadnought with the Center Predator, the Crusader Squads moved to claim/contest/support Objectives (the bottom right, the top right, the center, and the top left) with the Emperor’s Champion in the center Crusader Squad. A Typhoon went to support the two Crusader Squads in the upper right and the Squad going for the upper left took a risky move and dropped behind everybody in the corner.

So what you see is the Strategy for the Drop Pod list beginning to take shape. The Squad in the lower right isn’t going to be moving until their Drop Pod is destroyed (which reduces how many shots the Gunline can spend on the near-by dangerous stuff, known as the Distraction units); the upper-right objective is definitely going to be mine as I’ve got about twice the amount of power there, some of which can easily be re-deployed once it’s finished and the rest isn’t needed beyond taking that objective; everything in the upper-left corner is getting congested and hard to maneuver in (the Terminators can still move around but their paths are limited both by my guys and their own).

Various things shoot and kill/damage stuff, I believe another Razorback loses its turret, the Gunline’s bottom Typhoon gets Stunned, the Crusader Squad and Razorback in the upper-right is taken out entirely, the center Predator is exploded by the Command Squad, and then we get to assault. One of the home Predators gets wrecked by the Dreadnought, the other just gets Stunned again by the Command Squad, the Razorback on the center objective gets wrecked by the Dreadnought, and then we are done.

At this point, in the aftermath, it’s obvious that the game is over and all we need to decide is if the final call is 2-1 or 3-0. The Gunline has nothing left to make a chance at Victory except the two Terminator units, which are otherwise indisposed in trying to do just that. Of course, the Typhoons and Razorback turrets could cause some damage, but only one Typhoon is in any shape and only one Razorback has its turret left. The center objective is about to be taken, the upper-left is still heavily fought over, but I solidly control the two on the right and there is nothing that the Gunline can do about it except annoy them. I’ve got the units to make sure he doesn’t hold two objectives, and I even have enough to make sure he doesn’t hold any. Even so, it isn’t worth quitting at this point because there are tactical things to do, even if there are no strategic changes that are going to take place.

The light-blue Terminators shoot into the Castellan-led Command Squad and kill all but one guy, the green Terminators begin moving around the wrecked Drop Pod to get at the Dreadnought (now looking at the map, I think they could have assaulted it between the Predator and the Drop Pod, but it didn’t look like it at the time), the home-Crusader Squad disembarks to begin a shootout with the corner Crusader Squad, the Marshal’s Drop Pod gets rammed (no effect) and the Razorback full of Crusader Squad heads for the un-claimed Objective, and that’s about it. The light-blue Terminators charge the single Meltagun Initiate from the Command Squad, he tries to glance the Predator and does nothing; 15 Powerfist attacks, 3 hits, 1 wound, his dies. Yes, I rolled so badly that the full Terminator Squad almost failed to kill a single guy. Think of if there had been two.

For the Drop Pods they get their last Crusader Squad and Dreadnought. The Crusader Squad claims that lonely corner Objective, the Dreadnought comes down and blocks the Razorback that still has its passengers. The Dreadnought that killed the Predator moves to tackle the light-blue Terminators (ideally with support from the other Dreadnought and that near-by Crusader Squad), Typhoons move and work on killing the enemy Typhoons, the Emperor’s Champion led Crusader Squad charges into the enemy Emperor’s Champion led Crusader Squad and, because of careful placement of the Emperor’s Champion, is able to annihilate the Crusader Squad itself in a couple of turns and then get support from the Dreadnought to kill the other Emperor’s Champion (my own Emperor’s Champion and a single Initiate remaining), the Command Squad helps with the Typhoons, and the Gunline Crusader Squad holding the upper-left objective gets totaled (shooting plus charge from Dreadnought).

The turret-less Razorback zooms forward to contest the lower-left objective and blows smoke, the other nearby Razorback gets Stunned, with the center Objective held the Dreadnought pulls back to keep out of range of the green Terminators who have turned around and started heading their way, the top Dreadnought gets wrecked by Krak Missiles and the light-blue Terminators are trying to take out that Crusader Squad while the Crusader Squad from the Stunned Razorback hops out to try and claim the objective. The green Terminators assault the Emperor’s Champion, who somehow survives all of their attacks after splitting away from his Crusader Squad so that the single Initiate doesn’t get hit by Powerfists, because that would be bad (the Champion even kills one of the Terminators). We come to Turn 5 ready for the Drop Pod list to go, and there isn’t a whole lot left.

The Command Squad shoots at and then assaults that Crusader Squad, the upper-right Crusader Squad moves to claim the objective, the Dreadnought to the left destroys the weapon of the Razorback, the bottom Razorback (with smoke on it) gets Immobilized, the two remaining Typhoons get wrecked, the Emperor’s Champion dies, the Initiate near him moves away from the Terminators (and claims that objective), and the Dreadnought assaults the Terminators. Bottom of Turn 5 and the Drop Pods have claimed all 5 objectives but the Terminators are contesting one of them.

Okay, the game could end here but it doesn’t. The two remaining Razorbacks get taken out, two of the green Terminators get killed, the Dreadnought they are in combat with gets wrecked, the upper-left Crusader Squad gets slain by Terminators, the Command Squad remains locked in combat with the Crusader Squad, and that Immobilized Predator finally bites the dust. End of Turn 6, 4-0 (the Dreadnought’s sacrifice plus some shooting prevents the Terminators from contesting that objective) and the Gunline surrenders.

This is what I mean when I say that I prefer Kill Point games, just to add them up the Gunline lost 3 Crusader Squad, 4 Razorbacks, 3 Predators, 3 Typhoons, and the Emperor’s Champion. The Drop Pods lost 2 Dreadnoughts, 5 Drop Pods, 1 Crusader Squad, 1 Command Squad, 1 Castellan, and the Emperor’s Champion. The Drop Pod list scored 3 more Kill Points than the Gunline did, and annihilated them in Objectives. If you wanted to check Table Quarters then, well, I’ve got three of them, maybe four. In other words, this was not a close victory, this was a massacre.

Why was it such a clear victory? Neither army got significantly luckier than the other. The terrain hardly made a difference (okay, it reduced the number of targets for the Typhoons on occasion and it limited the movement of the green Terminators slightly), the craters left by exploded vehicles had more of an impact. Technically, the Drop Pod list’s Typhoons were able to fire first, but they were also forced to come down where they had few targets which limited them, so that shouldn’t make a massive impact. Was it the lack of Melta in the Gunline? Of course, that may have helped on occasion, but given the circumstances so would Power Weapons or Powerfists and at several points they needed the Plasma Gun more than the Meltagun because they were targeting Infantry. Reserving a single unit had almost no negative impact; it was how the unit was later handled that caused it to fail. And a fair portion of the Drop Pod list didn’t even have a big role in the game, one Crusader Squad did nothing by claim a single objective (and that wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome), another claimed an objective (again, not tie-breaking) and fired a couple of shots. A Command Squad (my second most expensive unit) was only able to do some damage to a Predator and slow down a Terminator unit for a turn but definitely not a whole lot.

It’s because of the sheer number of Drop Pods which prevented the Gunline from moving, from selecting the best targets, and from acting as a whole that made the difference. The Drop Pod list’s units are quite capable of working on their own (every unit has exceptional Duality) and they don’t need to work in conjunction aside from all aiming for the same goal, the Typhoons provide support where needed and that’s about all the direct synergy there is (okay, I need to use multiple Drop Pods to do things, but still).

So, as the Drop Pod list, what would I have done differently? The upper Dreadnought wouldn’t have moved forward, he would have tried to stay out of sight until the Terminators were closer (or had assaulted and killed the Crusader Squad) so that he could move out, shoot them, and then get the charge off so that he could do as much damage as possible. I may have been able to not send a second Crusader Squad over to help claim that upper-left objective, but there wasn’t really a better place to send it.

As the Gunline, what should I have done differently? Gone out earlier to take the lower-left objective; I also probably should have used the green Terminators a little differently, they spent several turns moving and shooting a little bit when they should have been targeting and eliminating major threats. I probably also should have put more fire into those Typhoons, they lasted the whole game and did a fair amount of damage, but I got distracted by the more pressing, if less ideal, targets closer to me (the Distraction Units). Aside from that, I probably should have brought the reserved Crusader Squad on closer to the rest of my force so that it didn’t get isolated.

That’s pretty much all I can take out of that game, though any questions or comments would be greatly appreciated, so long as you realize that I did leave out a few details (I remember the two Crusader Squads in the upper-right taking pot shots at something in the center, but I can’t remember what it was or what they did). I know it’s really, really wordy, and that’s something I need to improve, maybe next time.

Unfortunately, except for maybe a few games against various Tyranid lists and one (or more if I feel it necessary) against my Best of list I think I’m going to leave my Drop Pod army alone for a while. I already know the outcome because it’s been the same for the past 4-5 games I’ve played with it. Instead I’m going to try and get games in with some of my other lists, and especially some of my Tyranid lists, maybe set up some sort of tournament to try and find the best list I’ve made, maybe. Aside from that, unless I get any questions I’ve got some thought on personalizing the DDP list which I’ll try to get to by the end of the week.

Nov 2, 2011

List changes.

So I’ve come to a problem with my list (you can find it in the bottom link to the right->), specifically related to something I’ve noticed.



My Terminators don’t seem to do much. They usually kill something, they do damage, once a single unit of them held up and destroyed two Predators, keeping them from affecting the rest of the battle (a battle that I almost won but failed in a couple of points on target priority and taking what I could get). But they usually die, they don’t seem as reliable as the Dreadnoughts, and they are kind of expensive to field. If they get charged it’s by a Close Combat unit which tends to beat them up pretty badly.



Compare that to my Dreadnoughts, which kill several things, eliminate multiple enemy units, survive the whole battle, and quite effectively draw enemy fire away from other things like my Crusader Squads and Terminators and Drop Pods. They’ve gotten assaulted, a couple of times, but always come out fine and when they get off the Assault they gradually trim down the unit they’re fighting until it’s dead.



So why should I keep a 285 point unit when I could instead have an equally effective or better 160 point unit? I could really use that 125 extra points, so I’m making that change to my list.



There’s another question though. Terminator units don’t really shine for me, mostly because they have Assault Cannons instead of a Multi-Melta (the difference between reliably killing anything, and reliably hurting most things). The Assault Cannons are Tank Hunting but still. Granted the Assault Cannons have a 46% chance to kill a Rhino compared to a 31% chance, so 148% chance for 178% cost. What if the Dreadnought could get two Multi-Meltas? Well, not a Dreadnought, a Command Squad. The question that I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph is: Is a Command Squad a better purchase than a Terminator Command Squad?



I already know that, while the Terminators are more deadly in Close Combat, they aren’t deadly enough to be worth comparing there. The first and most important difference is comparing two Meltaguns to two Tank Hunting Assault Cannons. Again, 46% chance for the Assault Cannons to kill a Rhino; 48% chance for the Meltaguns to kill a Rhino. Let’s go farther and compare the chances to do anything: 94% to 87%, respectively. So the two are virtually the same, what about against Land Raiders? 18% to 38% and 60% to 73%. Okay, so against Rhinos the Assault Cannons are more reliable (the advantage that Suppression weapons have) but against Land Raiders the Meltaguns are not only twice as likely to kill them but also much less likely to fail. You could argue that I’m already doing fine against Land Raiders, and it is Rhinos that I need to concentrate on, especially as far as doing at least something goes. So the percentage difference (yes, I’m very into statistical comparisons in this paragraph) between the Meltaguns and the Assault Cannons is: 114% chance to Kill a Rhino, 92% chance to affect a Rhino, 207% chance to Kill a Land Raider, and 122% chance to affect a Land Raider. So basically, better overall; especially when you consider the lowered price.



A Command Squad led by an unequipped Castellan with two Meltaguns in a Drop Pod costs 195 points. A Terminator Command Squad led by an unequipped Castellan with two Assault Cannons and Tank Hunters in a Drop Pod costs 310 points. If I drop the Terminator Command Squad I have (which actually costs 313 points) and add the extra 125 points from changing to a Dreadnought from a regular Terminator Squad I get 438 points to play around with. Get a Command Squad and there’s 243 points left-over. What can I do with 243 points? Get another Command Squad. Okay, 48 points left. I could get an Apothecary for each squad because FNP is good; 18 points left. You know, I don’t need those Smoke Launchers on the two original Dreadnoughts; they were just to spend a few left-over points anyway, so I’ll drop those for an extra 6 points. 24 points.



And here’s my problem. That problem I mentioned at the beginning of the article? Yeah, it wasn’t about the Terminators, they just led to this one. 24 points allows me to upgrade all six of my Crusader Squads to having Meltaguns instead of Plasma Guns. And now I’ve got Marshal Learoth’s DDP list. Exactly his list, point for point.



Now this isn’t to say that his is bad, it’s actually as optimized as it can get (unless, for some reason, there’s a better place to put those 24 points or the Plasma Guns are somehow a better choice or something). But the point is that it’s his. When I began to work on my list I put in Terminators for two reasons. The first was because I wanted an excuse to fit Assault Cannons in (I originally had Assault Cannons on the Dreadnoughts as well once I put them in); the second was because I wanted something to set my Drop Pod list apart from Marshal Learoth’s (I had no Dreadnoughts in the first couple of versions, mostly because they were in his and I thought I could get by without them). This may sound stupid, but I want my own list, not one that’s the same as someone else’s (this is not why I made those adjustments in the Casual versions of my list, if you were wondering; no, I am not paranoid, so stop watching my house).



So how do I overcome this problem? I don’t want to intentionally make a negative change to my list just to make it different, and I’m not really sure that I want to just have the difference of where I put those 24 points. Potentially I could take Missile Launchers instead of Multi-Meltas in my Crusader Squads so that I would have a weapon to deal with those pesky Dark Eldar should they run away from me, but I don’t think that would work unless I also took Meltaguns in my Crusader Squads which doesn’t fix the problem and in fact makes it worse by not being able to differentiate where those 24 points go.



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Okay, to change the subject really quick, this is a perfect example of why I have a blog. Remember that the purpose of my blog is for me to get my thoughts into written form, rather than just wondering and then my mind drifting off to something else. Were this blog to help others (that is not the primary goal, it is a much-sought-after side benefit) then I would have ended it here with another paragraph asking for advice. But because I have forced myself to give my thoughts form, I have come to my own conclusion. Now, back to your regular programming.



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But what’s wrong with Marshal Learoth’s DDP list? It isn’t like he gave it his own flair that I’m copying (unless you count being optimized as his personal flair, in which case I am a horrible plagiarist), he just practiced the concept and refined it, improving it until he came with the best list he could make. It’s on his website, which means that it is the best form of the list he can make, rather than his personal form. It doesn’t have anything that is there because of personal preference (bias maybe, but not preference); it is just simply the most Optimized list of that archetype that he can come up with. It isn’t quite his list; you could make a better argument that the Defensive Drop Pod Archetype is his archetype because, so far as I know, he is the first and most prominent to come up with a really good version of it.



And my version does have my own personal preference in it, Plasma Guns, and with those 24 points I can upgrade one of the Castellans to a Marshal (+1 Ld army-wide) with Krak Grenades, give the Castellan Meltabombs (retain some threat to vehicles in melee) and give both Commanders Bolters. There’s not a whole lot you can do with 24 points that gives an actual benefit (a special skill in one of the Command Squads or a Fighting Company Champion wouldn’t be notably better than what I’ve done, and I prefer the benefit to be army-wide rather than just to one unit), but the upgrades I’ve picked are Fluff based, further making my list my own. The Marshal [will be] Devjon, currently the Castellan I use, and the Castellan will be the leader of the Sisters of Battle contingent of my Crusade. I could go a little farther and make one of the Squads all Brother Initiates and the other all Sister Initiates (Marshal in the former and Castellan in the latter), but we’ll see (aka, no). I don’t get to field Terminators, but I am able to more accurately portray my Crusade and I should be able to (fairly) easily convert this to the casual version. So it’s a list that I’m happy with, it has my own personal tastes in it, and it is still nearly optimized. Here it is:



Emperor’s Champion: Vow (Abhor the Witch…), -110


Marshal: Bolter, Kraks; Command Squad (5): Bolters, 2 Meltaguns, Apothecary; Drop Pod; -228


Castellan: Bolter, Meltabombs; Command Squad (5): Bolters, 2 Meltaguns, Apothecary; Drop Pod; -216


3x Dreadnought: Multi-Melta, DCCW, Heavy Flamer, Extra Armor; Drop Pod; -160x3


6x Crusader Squad (5): Bolters, Multi-Melta, Plasma Gun; Drop Pod; -126x6


3x Land Speeder: Typhoon Missile Launcher, Heavy Bolter, -70x3


Total:-2,000


In a few days I’ll update the page with my lists on it, for now I want it available to see the original list. Next up is going to be an actual battle report (still deciding who against though) and I hope that it won’t be another 5 days or so until I get around to posting it. Sometime I also want to get a post up about how to win, we’ll see when I get the chance to do that.


EDIT: I forgot to mention that I have already tried scaling this to the Casual version as well as a 1,500 point version and it seems to scale remarkably easily. For both (as well as scaling the Casual to a 1,500 point version) there were almost no extra points left over from having to drop units (It fit exactly).

Oct 29, 2011

Target Priority

It’s something you need to be able to do accurately during a game, and it’s something you want to make difficult for your opponent. But how do you actually go about it?

I had thought up until recently that simply getting a bunch of units out would be sufficient to take care of that. Using principles like MSU and Kirby’s 1+1 to maximize the threats that have to be dealt with by my opponent. Also, limiting how much you mix Foot and Mech units. If all you’ve got is vehicle hulls for your opponent to shoot at, you can virtually ignore any Anti-Infantry fire he’s got whereas a mix allows him to use each of his guns against the target it is most effective at hurting.

However, that’s not truly what is meant by giving your opponent Target Priority issues. Look at the 1+1 again. The goal of it is to not only have units which threaten your opponent, but also Transports for your units which do the same thing. Up until recently I had considered that this meant basically only things like Razorbacks or Rhinos and either dropped off their passengers and then zoomed to make your opponent’s life hard with things like Blocking (either Movement or LoS), tank shocking, maybe even ramming something or having a big gun and putting out nearly the same firepower as the squad it carries. But it doesn’t stop at those two kinds of units. I had assumed that Drop Pods were unable to achieve 1+1 because they had no serious weapon (or Ballistic Skill) and no way to do more than temporarily inconvenience one or two of your opponent’s units. With a good number of Drop Pods this assumption is wrong.

One of the most devastating parts of my (and probably any similar) Drop Pod list is the sheer number of Drop Pods that come down; 10 in mine, 11 in Marshal Learoth’s, all AV 12 and all blocking something from your opponent. It could be movement, it could be a LoS to one of your units, or it could be both. That many Drop Pods makes for a hard decision your opponent has to make. Do they target the Drop Pods, which are not doing any damage but until they are destroyed he cannot complete his strategy, or do they target those Dreadnoughts, which pose a threat not only to Vehicles but to Infantry in both shooting and assault? Both are AV 12 on most sides, both poses a threat, the Drop Pods protect the Dreadnoughts not only by forcing your opponent to make this decision but also by denying your opponent chances to target your Dreadnoughts with some of his weapons. Of course, Mobility could potentially overcome the latter difficulty, but there are so many Drop Pods and Dreadnoughts and dead vehicles that you can’t get anywhere unless you’re a skimmer (and even then you have to move Flat Out). There is really no way of dealing with these units. Sure you can take down a Crusader Squad or damage a Terminator Squad, but the Dreadnoughts laugh at your attempts to kill them while they destroy the only things you have available to hurt them reliably.

And the key to Target Priority is right in there. There are two parts, one part you can control before the game and during deployment, the other part you need to achieve during play. First you can give your opponent a hard time by having too many viable targets for him to deal with when you build your list. Second you can place them to emphasize vulnerability over actual threat and force your opponent into making decisions that you want him to make. During the actual game you need to deny your opponent a way to do the same to you. You need to figure out which units are the most dangerous to you and balance that with how easy it is to kill them as well as how dangerous they can become. More than that, you need to not make choices that your opponent wants you to, especially if he plans on you making that choice.

If you can upset his plans, you have taken an advantage. Now you may need to compare that advantage with whatever disadvantage you have by making the less optimal choice and disrupting your opponent’s plans. Almost always, upsetting your opponent is greater than whatever negative effects you suffer, but experience tells you which is more important.

And that’s the best way to master Target Priority, experience. I have countless hours spent reading and discussing and arguing tactics, units, unit load-outs, equipment, list building philosophies and rules, but when I began to get some experience playing Vassal everything started to fall into place. Other people’s experience doesn’t quite cut it, and battle-reports are either insufficient or badly done and yield almost no chances to gain any real understanding of what’s taking place.

Now don’t get me wrong, other people’s advice is vastly important and very valuable, assuming that it’s educated experience. But it does not replace your own. Your experience and other people’s experience compliment each other and compound the benefit you gain from each, but you can’t have just one and still play to your best potential.

So that’s the first bit of advice that I have for anyone wishing to improve their game. Play some games. Play against good lists, ideally good opponents. You don’t want to get completely stomped, you want to have a tough game, a game where you can see different aspects of your list working to various success. But I just said something wrong. You don’t want to play a game; you want to play several games, against the same opponent. Then you should get several more games against a different opponent, preferably against several opponents, each playing several games. You also want to play against different lists; still good ones, but different kinds. Playing against the same type of list all the time will lead to the same problems that playing against the same opponent or on the same terrain all the time will lead to; you aren’t actually learning very much that can be taken beyond this particular terrain/opponent/type of list. Placed in a new situation and you’re suddenly not in a comfort zone that you’re familiar with; with a wide variety of experience you won’t get put off by being in an unfamiliar setting or against a new opponent, so you’re more prepared for things like Tournaments.

Target Priority is overwhelming your opponent with tough decisions (namely decisions about which units to try and kill) as well as being able to spot the best units of his to kill (not just the most dangerous/vulnerable, but also considering what your opponent expects you to do). To master this you need experience against many different opponents and lists, preferably multiple times each to remove the chance for random nature to force its way in and taint your experience.