Sunday, October 31, 2010

Plague Marines

When I got back into 40k in 2007, it was the Sons of Nurgle that had drawn me back in. I love these guys - they are oh so tough and can bring the pain too if you use them correctly. You can build an army around them that will frustrate your opponents as they shrug off shot after shot - assuming you are good at rolling high and hugging cover!


Let's start with comparing their statline with that of the standard Marine. Firstly of course they have +1 Toughness. This makes a huge difference to survivability against small arms fire, halving the wounds taken from S3 weapons. Even Fire Warriors only have a 50/50 chance of wounding when they hit. Note that this bonus is ignored for the purpose of determining instant death - which matters because of the Feel No Pain rule (see below).

To compensate, they take a penalty of -1 Initiative. This is significant, as it means that other Marines hit you first and that lesser soldiers usually get a chance to hit you simultaneously. They will take more hits in close combat than is usual for a marine - but this is mitigated by their amazing survivability (and blight grenades - see below).

Finally, they have the Leadership 9 and Fearless that is shared by all the cult Chaos Space Marine troops. With the fearless rule you will almost never need to take a Leadership test anyway. The great thing about Fearless is that it means you can rely on Plague Marines to always hold an objective - they will never run off it from shooting in the final turn of the game. Your opponent has to kill them all - and with Plague Marines that is a lot of shooting. In close combat they take extra wounds if they lose combat - but like Terminators they only have a 1/6 chance of not saving against it.

As if Toughness 5 wasn't good enough, they come with the Feel No Pain rule, giving them an additional 4+ save against most wounds. This combination makes Plague Marines three times more difficult to kill with bolter fire than a standard marine. Make sure that you understand the details of this rule: you can't take the save against any attack that would cause instant death (such as S8 krak missiles), or any attack that no model is allowed a save against (AP1 or 2, rending attacks, power weapons etc.).  Plague Marines are the toughest thing to kill in your Chaos Space Marine army. The combination of Toughness 5, 3+ save and Feel No Pain is awesome.

Now is an appropriate time to talk about Plague Marines and cover. Cover is as important if not more important to these guys than other units in the Chaso Space Marine army. Why? Because their specialisation is in not dying, but AP1 and 2 weapons, and krak missiles, ignore all the extra abilities you have paid so much for. You must keep them in cover so that they can do their job (frustrating the enemy while you thank the blessings of Nurgle) throughout the entire game. Unless you want your opponent to be shooting his anti-tank at them instead of your Rhinos of course!

Like the standard Chaos Space Marine, Plague Marines come equipt with power armour, a bolter, a bolt pistol and a close combat weapon, and frag and krak grenades. In addition they have blight grenades, which count as defensive grenades. Defensive grenades remove the bonus attacks that an enemy gets from assaulting you. There are three rules complications with defensive grenades that should be addressed at this point:
  1. Certain units get multiple bonus attacks when assaulting (eg Blood Claws). They do not get any of these bonus attacks when assaulting Plague Marines.
  2. Defensive grenades have no effect on other bonuses that a unit gets for assaulting, such as the +1S +1I from the Furious Charge rules.
  3. If a Plague Marine assaults a unit with the Counter Attack rule, then the assaulted unit does not get the bonus attack from the Counter Attack rule. This is controversial, but the Counter Attack rule says the model gets +1 A "exactly as if they too had assaulted that turn". My point being that if they had assaulted that turn, they wouldn't have got +1A. When you're playing a Space Wolf or Straken Guard opponent, make sure that you clear this up at the beginning of the game.

Weapon Options

Plague Marines are the only power armoured troop squad in the game that can take two special weapons in a five man squad. This is especially powerful when you consider the 2 fire points of a Rhino - extra weapons and extra bodies are a waste when you are snug inside that protective box. So what can they take? The standard imperial fare: melta, plasma or flamer. This option is so good that I have never taken a Plague Marine squad without two special weapons.

Firstly, always choose the same special weapons for both marines. There is really no exception to this, and its a rule that applies to most units in 40k. Each turn you want to maximise the impact your squad has on the game. That second weapon makes a big difference in reliability. Trust me! I often see people take 1 melta and 1 flamer. 1 flamer can be effective against basic troops in cover. However 1 melta is not enough to be considered serious anti-tank - I'd rather take the second flamer so that the squad can potentially put a serious dent in a cheap and nasty horde unit. Don't water down the unit's effectiveness in its primary role.

Plasma and Feel No Pain are a marriage made in the warp. Plasma is generally considered overpriced in 5th edition, but the extra chance to save against the Gets Hot rule makes the plasma gun worth its points in the hands of the Plague Marine. Plasma suffers from the number and strength of cover saves available, but is still a very effective weapon, able to threaten marines on foot and light vehicles like the Rhino. It is an especially strong choice in low point games, where there are less vehicles and those that exist will usually have lower armour. As it has the longest range of the weapons available to you, it is the obvious choice for a unit on foot.

Melta is the of course the special weapon of choice in 5th edition, and Plague Marines are a great way to deliver it. Vehicles are hard to kill and a couple of melta guns have the potential to cut through the toughest armour like butter. Unlike other units that deliver melta guns into enemy lines, Plague Marines have a good chance of standing up to the contents of whatever transport you just blew up. Two meltas have approximately a 50% chance of destroying a Rhino when 6" or less away.

Flamers are the final special weapon available. It's a more specialised weapon, great for digging troops out of cover and for thinning out larger units of horde troops before they overwhelm you. They can be a useful tool to have in your toolbox, but you won't need more than one flamer equipped unit in your army. Use them if you are concerned about your ability to handle horde armies with lots of foot troops (eg Tyranids).

Oh yeah I nearly forgot - you could take 2 plasma pistols instead of special weapons. Never do this. Plasma pistols suck.

Other Options

The Rhino is ideally suited to the nature of the Plague Marine unit. As I have mentioned above, the 2 fire points matches the two special weapons they can carry (Note: the codex says that the Rhino has only 1 firepoint, but this is a misprint and corrected in the FAQ).  Secondly, the Rhino provides a great deal of protection to the unit inside it. When that unit is Plague Marines it becomes incredibly difficult to kill. Thirdly, all the weapon options for the unit work best up close within 12" of the enemy - and the Rhino can get you there. Finally, the Rhino can take a combi-weapon that can complement the weapons chosen for the unit - such as a third melta shot when you move up into the killing zone.

More than anything else, the purchase of a Rhino will define the role of your Plague Marine unit. Without it, the unit is really only able to sit in your deployment zone and hold an objective. Without long ranged weaponry, this might result in the unit taking little part in the battle only to have the objective contested in the last turn by a fast moving unit it couldn't reach. I won't go into detail about the Rhino's options here - it deserves an article of its own and this is getting long enough already!

A difficult decisions to make when building a Plague Marine unit is whether or not to take a Plague Champion. Purchasing a Champion gives you an additional attack in close combat and an additional (basically useless) point of Leadership. The only time a plain Champion makes any sense is if you have also purchased a Greater Daemon. It is also not worth it to buy the Champion just for the chance to get a combi-weapon. That is what the Rhino is for. For the points I would much rather take an additional body.

What the Plague Champion does provide is the chance to add a power fist to your squad. The power fist gives the chance a much better chance against walkers in close combat, otherwise any squad that gets in combat with a walker will be very lucky indeed to survive (krak grenades mean you are hitting on 6s, glancing on 6s, with one attack per model). They also given a good chance to lay some wounds down on a monstrous creature. This is what you buy them for. Power fists do also give a good chance of busting up other vehicles, but krak grenades allow your normal marines to do so anyway. So - only take a power fist on a squad or two, and only if you don't have enough other units that can handle walkers for you. He makes the unit a lot more expensive.

Note that if you shell out the points for a Plague Champion, he can also take a combi-weapon (either matching the squads load out, or perhaps a combi-flamer). A combi-melta pushes your chance of killing a Rhino up to around 65% - but you need to get out of the tank to use it. My motto in these situations is "never get out of the tank", so I'd usually suggest that there is somewhere else in the list your points could be better spent - or maybe take a combi-flamer for late game objective mop up duty.

There are other weapons that a Plague Champion can take (power weapon, plasma pistol, twin-linked bolter, melta-bombs) but none of these are very effective (especially the I3 power sword) and should be left at home.

Finally the personal icon is used to allow deep strikers and daemons to enter near your unit without scatter. You can use this to drop a screen of daemons down to protect your plague marines from assault. Whether or not you take it depends on the other selections in your list. Note that it doesn't need to be given to the Champion - any marine can be equipped with it.

Example Units
There is a variety of ways to build an effective Plague Marine unit - you could spend anywhere between 115 and 400 points on the squad! Here are some of my preferred combinations.

The Melta Squad (180)
5 Plague Marines with 2 meltas, Rhino with combi-melta
3 melta shots without getting out of the Rhino. Once the transport gets busted they can move towards objectives or control the movement of enemy vehicles in the vicinity. You should take at least 2 of these.

The Assault Squad (322)
9 Plague Marines with 2 meltas, Plague Champion with power fist, combi-melta, Rhino with combi-melta
Just enough room left in the Rhino so that they can be joined by a Chaos Lord or Sorcerer. This squad moves forward and can successfully assault enemy close combat specialists. Even on foot it can survive several rounds of intense shooting whilst delivering its payload if you use cover correctly. You could switch the Champions combi-melta for a combi-flamer if you are better than me at hitting with meltaguns!

The Horde Thinning Squad (216)
7 Plague Marines with 2 flamers, Rhino with combi-flamer
Ideally they tank shock one side of a horde unit to bunch them up, then jump out of the Rhino and toast them with the three flamers.

The Cheap Objective Holder (145)
5 Plague Marines with 2 plasma guns.
If you can't find the room in your list for that final Rhino, then this squad can do a good job of holding an objective in cover in your deployment zone. They can even provide fire support once the enemy gets into your lines.

Thanks for reading this far. There is plenty of army level strategy I have intentionally left out. I may publish an article on pure Nurgle Chaos Space Marine tactics in the future. I hope that my thoughts have perhaps led to you rethinking some of the strategies and load outs you have been using with your Chosen of Nurgle!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Building a Travel 40k Set

I don't have much of a budget to spend on my hobby. When you combine two children with a large mortgage it doesn't leave much left for the finer things in life. So I have to be smart when it comes to making hobby purchases. Most of my armies have been carefully scraped together from the scraps off other gamers' tables. It can actually be a lot of fun to use my conversion skills to take a pre-loved model and turn it into something that looks good on the table.

Like most of us I have this secret desire to build an army or three for just about every codex out there. Army ideas come a lot faster than finished projects! So after lusting after the idea of a jetbike Seer Council, and adding up how much it would cost me even in second hand models, I had the idea to build some armies using magnetised Epic miniatures. I must admit I had thought about this a couple of years ago, but it was placed on the hobby project back-burner. Well now is the time for me to give it a go and see what eventuates.

The idea is to build a Travel 40k set - a board and terrain that it sprayed with metallic paint. I will then magnetise the model bases, so that the board can be folded up into a case and transported around! You could easily play part of a game, then pack it up in seconds - great for the busy father. My intention is to base the smaller minis using fridge magnets so that they don't hold on so tightly that they get snapped in two.

The first thing I did was hit google, and I was suprised that there wasn't very much out there. I did find two brilliant forum links that are well worth having a look at:

So it can be done! Well I worked my eBay mojo and managed to snag 20 Eldar jetbikes, 10 Vipers and most of an Eldar Warhost sprue - this has all the aspect warriors and other eldar foot models. Also in the deal were 3 Fire Prisms and 2 Falcons. The package arrived from England this week, and I was very impressed by the quality of the models given their scale. With a bit of attention I hope to paint them half as well as these awesome Grey Knights.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Playing with Kids

When I turned up for my weekly 40k game this week everyone had already paired up. Then a younger player, say 12 years old, turned up looking for a game. As a father of two I was happy to give him a game and maybe teach him something in the process. We played a 1000 point game and I had to help him out quite a bit with both rules and tactics, but I could see that he was interested and learning.

I let him take back bad movement decisions even a turn after they were made, when he could see that they had not been the right decision. I also made a few suboptimal moves myself so that he could see what happens to a predator that gets assaulted by terminators. This helped to keep the game competitive! However he also had luck on his side: when I assaulted his tactical squad with my 4 power fisted terminators, he did two wounds and I rolled double 1s before I even got to hit back!

Thinking back to when I was that age, I was playing the Dragon Warriors RPG with my fellow geeks and just starting to get into BattleTech. It would have had a blast to be mentored by a friendly adult gamer. Kids soak up any information you give them and learn so quickly, and can love the hobby every bit as much as we do as adults.

Anyway I wanted to give him some advice on his list and how he could modify it to make it a more cohesive and effective force. I'm going to approach this in two phases: minor tweaks, and buying new models to flesh out the army.

Original List (930 points)
1 Captain - power sword (105) with the Terminators
1 Chaplain (100) with the 5 Tactical Marines
5 Terminators (200)
10 Tactical Marines - flamer, missile launcher, serg with chainsword, plasma pistol (185)
5 Tactical Marines -  serg with chainsword, plasma pistol (105)
Predator - twin-linked lascannon, heavy bolter sponsons, storm bolter (140)
Dreadnought - multi-melta, storm bolter (105)

Hmmm that doesn't even add up to 1000 mate! Also we forgot the plasma pistols during the game, that could have made a difference. The Chaplain was wasted with the small tactical squad as they never even got into combat.

First off I'm going to do what I can without him needing to buy any additional models.

Better List (1000 points)
1 Captain - bolter, relic blade, artificer armour (135) with the 10 Tactical Marines
1 Chaplain (100) with the 10 Tactical Marines
5 Terminators - chainfist, cyclone missile launcher (235)
Dreadnought - multi-melta, heavy flamer (115)
10 Tactical Marines - flamer, missile launcher, serg with chainsword, plasma pistol (185)
5 Tactical Marines - serg with bolter (90)
Predator - twin-linked lascannon, heavy bolter sponsons, storm bolter (140)

OK this is just a few minor changes that will bring your list up to 1000 points, and some advice on using the units together.
  • To make a chainfist, you can just cut off a chainsword and clue it to a terminator's power fist. It means your termi's can take down a land raider!
  • The dread is much better with a heavy flamer. I have seen one in the bits box at our local store.
  • I have seen a great cyclone missile launcher conversion done with the IG sentinel missile launcher. I'm sure you could find enough missiles in the store bits box to do something
Your big tactical squad needs to move and run forward so that it can rapid fire and/or assault. Put the captain and the chaplain in the squad, and put wounds on them as if they fail their save they have multiple wounds to lose. Always keep it in cover from shots that ignore your armour. Use the Termi squad to provide cover for your tacticals above.

Alternatively, join the Captain and Chaplain to the Terminator Squad and keep the tactical squad back in cover, firing missiles and bolter shots at 24". This build puts all your assault eggs in one tough basket.

The small tactical squad should guard an objective or stay out of the way. They should always be in cover, and should go to ground if needed to get a 3+ cover save. They actually did this job OK.
    Now, a new improved list with a few new purchases required. I am not trying to make a kick arse MSU net list here! Just a well balanced army that can hold its own against other friendly lists. He said that he wanted to buy the Devastator box, so I want to include this squad, even though it is not a top tier unit. You have to buy the models that inspire you. And I don't want to get rid of models he is already using.

    Devasator List (1250 points)
    1 Captain - bolter, relic blade, artificer armour (135) with 5 Tactical Marines
    1 Chaplain (100) with 5 Terminators
    5 Terminators - chainfist, cyclone missile launcher (235)
    Dreadnought - multi-melta, heavy flamer (115)
    10 Tactical Marines - flamer, multi-melta, Sergeant with bolter, rhino (205)
    5 Tactical Marines - Sergeant with chainsword, plasma pistol, razorback with twin-linked las-cannon (180)
    6 Devastators - 2 missile launchers, 2 plasma cannons (185)
    Predator - autocannon turret, heavy bolter sponsons, storm bolter (95)

    So there you go, he will need to buy 2 Razorbacks and a Devastator box in order to build the above list - I know he had at least one extra marine. Note that I say 2 Razorbacks because all the bits for the Rhino come in the Razorback box, and they cost the same price!. Its a bit of an outlay, but should make an army that is fun to play with in my opinion.

    With the above list I have designed the Devasator unit to use the weapons that come in the box as best I can. All the weapons can take out light tanks, and all can be used effectively against massed infantry. All the Devastator weapons are overpriced by at least 5 points, the plasma cannons and las-cannons  especially so. This is the best I can do.

    When playing this list, the Devastators should stay in the back field in cover and take out enemy transports. The 10 Tactical Marines can move forward in their Rhino, hopefully to sit near an objective on your side of the table and threaten with the multi-melta anyone who comes close. The Predator, Dreadnought, Razorback and Terminators, against a gunline foe, can all move forward 6" a turn whilst firing. You have enough close combat ability to threaten Tau and Guard.

    This list has an obvious weakness - only one and a half scoring units. At this points level I would usually include 2 Tactical squads in Rhino's, but they really are quite a dull unit. I thought it more prudent to include as many toys as possible for the younger player to learn the game and have fun doing so.