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


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






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


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.