Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Predator (Space Marine Codex)

Weighing in at a cool 60 points before upgrades, the Space Marine Predator is by far the cheapest AV 13 tank in the game. But of course the points can start to pile on once you reach for the weapon upgrades. So how can you equip your Predator efficiently, and the use it effectively on the battlefield? Read on...


The Predator is a Tank with AV 13/11/10 on front/side/rear armour. This means it is a tough nut to crack with a frontal bombardment - auto-cannons require 6s to glance, and krak missiles will need 6s to penetrate. Its the AV 11 side armour that is your biggest weakness, allowing light anti-tank guns to rip you apart if they can deploy or maneuver into the right firing position. You must protect those flanks and force your opponent to face either AV 13 or a 3+ cover save on the side armour.

Rear armour 10, shared by most other vehicles in the game, means that you are vulnerable to assault. Unfortunately for the Predator, it is most effectively utilised when stationary - and this means that units in assault are hitting you automatically! Deciding when to move and reduce your rate of fire is the key to effective Generalship with this tank. Or you can take the easy way out - Blood Angels pay a handful more points to make their Predators Fast, which is an absolute bargain and totally unfair for us vanilla players ;-) But that is for another article...

Make sure that you understand the rules for sponson line of sight before you field them on the battlefield. As far as I can make out from the rule book diagrams, line of sight is calculated from the base of the weapon where it attaches to the sponson, not the tip. Its important to understand the angles that you need in order to bring all your weapons to bear on a target.

Don't forget the option to Tank Shock if  your Predator is shaken, or in the rare circumstance that it has had all it's weapons destroyed without being immobilised. AV 13 and a 9"+ move gives you a Strength 7 attack that could do something useful!

Predators come standard with smoke launchers and a searchlight. Smoke launchers are useful when the Predator can't shoot - either because it is out of position (your bad!) or has been shaken by enemy fire. In these cases don't forget to pop smoke and love that cover save! Searchlights aren't much use, as a Predator can't start on the table in a Dawn of War scenario.

Weapon Options

The Predator comes with a single turret auto-cannon by default; an effective light tank destroyer and monstrous creature wounder. It's hard to pass up adding the optional heavy bolter sponsons - for a good price you gain a strong anti-infantry ability with 8 high Strength shots at AP4. This is enough firepower to force a moral check, or wipe out the dregs of a unit.

Of course the upgrade options do not stop there. All the above guns can be swapped with lascannons - or a twin-linked lascannon in the case of the turret autocannon. But these upgrades come at a price, and so should only be chosen if they cover a weakness in the rest of your list. Because of the vulnerability of the turret twin-linked lascannon to weapon-destroyed results, the usual choice is to upgrade the heavy bolter sponsons. Also the lascannons and auto-cannons are complementary weapons against most targets.

Other Options

Yes there are other options that can be added to the Predator - but the prices are generally not worth the extra value provided. To be honest I have never taken any of these.

You can add a pintle-mounted storm bolter, giving additional anti-infantry fire that complements heavy bolter sponsons. But it does not complement the auto-cannon, so in scenarios when you are moving and firing at tanks those points are wasted. And in any case spending so many points on a couple of Strength 4 shots is generally not worth it.

Extra armour is even less useful - its actually pretty rare for a vehicle to be stunned, and for a shooty tank like the Predator retaining the ability to move is far less important than for a transport. Give it a miss and save valuable points. You might find the occasional use for a dozer blade but once again this is a far more useful upgrade for a transport vehicle, that actually needs to get somewhere to drop off its passengers. Just avoid difficult terrain!

Finally is the hunter-killer missile option. This is a weapon that complements both auto-cannons and lascannons, and can either be used to maximise an opening salvo or saved for an efficient shot at side-armour. Not really an optimal selection, but I can see the potential in the right list. Probably something I should investigate further on the battlefield.

Example Units

Dakka (85)
Predator with auto-cannon, 2 heavy bolter sponsons
The most commonly fielded Predator configuration. Cheap and effective against a variety of targets - and three of these are cheaper than a single Land Raider! Suffers from an inability to threaten AV 13-14, but is cheap enough that this rarely becomes an issue.

Hybrid (120)
Predator with auto-cannon, 2 lascannon sponsons
The perfect compromise between the price of the Dakka and the anti-tank power of the Annihilator - but sacrifices the anti-infantry ability of the Dakka configuration. Able to move and fire a lascannon, or sit still and blast vehicles off the table, its a good choice when you need to up your armies anti-tank firepower.

Annihilator (165)
Predator with twin-linked lascannon, 2 lascannon sponsons
This is the most vicious long-ranged anti-tank configuration in the Space Marine arsenal. If it gets a chance to fire it should be able to comfortably cripple an opposing vehicle each turn. However it has giant SHOOT ME signs painted on the armour, especially that AV 11 side armour. And all it takes is one shaken result in order to stop all that shooting for a turn. Field it at your own risk!

Monday, December 27, 2010

iPhone + Toilet = Bad

Sorry about the lack of posting in the last week. Sadly I managed to throw my iPhone into the toilet, which to be honest was not the best idea. I actually write most of my posts on the phone on the train or at lunch sitting in the park, so this has put a bit of a cramp on my style until i find a replacement.

I did manage to get some software to access my backups, so I have now retrieved the articles I was working on and can get something posted soon.

All the best wishes for the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tournament Scoring: An Introduction

To start a series of articles on tournament scoring, I thought I'd get the basics out of the way.

Tournaments are in general won or lost by adding up points from four categories: Battle, Painting, Composition (Comp) and Sportsmanship (Sports). Not all tournaments give scores in every category, although there is always a Battle component. There is a fifth category of Incentives - these are points given out for handing a let in on time.

Battle measures how well a player defeats each opponent they face. Points are given for achieving the primary objective, usually with bonus points for secondary objectives, or how well you win by. This is always an objective score.

Painting actually includes the gamut of hobby skills, from basing and modeling to painting, and can include extras like display boards and props. Scoring is usually based on a number of specified criteria but can also include a subjective component that is judged.

Composition is a handicap score that is designed to encourage soft lists by giving them bonus points. It can be subjective or a list of rules, or a combination of both. This is the most controversial of the scores - a bad Comp system punishes already weak armies and is rife for manipulation.

Sportsmanship covers all sorts of behaviours that effect how enjoyable it is to game with you. Are you polite? Do you know how to play? Do you cheat? Did you bring the necessary equipment? Usually a subjective score from your opponent, but can be a checklist with questions like the above.

Most tournaments have several prizes up for grabs based on these scores. There might be a best painted, best sportsman or best general, comparing scores from a single category. You will also see combinations of scores. Judgement Day (2010) rewarded  best general based on a combination of Battle and Comp, which takes into account your ability as a general despite the army you have taken. Finally there is usually a best overall score that combines all the scores in order to determine a single contestant who has won the tournament.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Imperial (inc. Chaos) Heavy Weapons

The Imperium produces a number of bulkier weapons that require the might of a Space Marine, the teamwork of Guardsmen or mounting on a vehicle to be wielded effectively. Sit tight while I walk you through the stats for each of these weapons and their effectiveness in the current edition.

Heavy Bolter 
36" S5 AP4 Assault 3

Let's start with the humble heavy bolter. Its stats favour inflicting casualties on light/medium infantry. It has little effect on its own, but when several are combined you will consistently force saves on the enemy. The range is decent but does mean that you won't be in range some times, which can really hurt when in an infantry unit. Suffers from the low utility of AP4 when everyone and his dog is getting a 4+ cover save, and its inability to threaten most transports - although could be nice against a Dark Eldar's Armour 10.

These days you will commonly only spot heavy bolters as sponsons on Predators or Leman Russes, or mounted on a Chimera chasis. Its rare to see them carrried around on foot as they are not effective when unsupported.

Assault cannon 
24" S6 AP4 Heavy 4 Rending

The assault cannon is only available to Loyalist Marine armies, and even then it can only be taken on vehicles or by Terminators. This is necessary anyway because it's short range means that it must move forward and fire to be effective - so you shouldn't include it in a gunline. Good rate of fire and ability to rend means that the assault cannon can be a very effective weapon against vehicles - in fact it has a better chance of damaging AV 14 than a lascannon (when it's within range). It is also effective against any infantry, a good all-rounder. The king of heavy weapons in 4th edition, the assault cannon was brought into line with the Rending nerf of this edition and is now well balanced.

Assault cannons are commonly seen on drop pod Dreads as an alternative to the multi-melta (if Vulkan isn't around of course) and twin linked on the front of Land Raider Crusaders and Redeemers. The modern Terminator is more likely to be seen with a cyclone missile launcher, but Dark Angel and Black Templar Termis still prefer the assault cannon to their inferior cyclones.

48" S7 AP4 Heavy 2

The auto-cannon is like a baby lascannon, but trades in AP for a higher rate of fire. It is the ultimate imperial suppression fire weapon, with an excellent chance of damaging AV 11 and 12. With S7 it doubles as an excellent Monstrous Creature hunter. But with AP 4 it is still an ineffective marine killer.

These days the auto-cannon is a common sight on the battlefield due to it's effectiveness. Imperial guard squads will shoot them from the safety of their Chimera pillbox. Hydras and loyalist marine Dreads can rock two twin-linked 'cannons which can cause a lot of destruction! The Predator Destructor is a common choice too. Chaos marines can take auto-cannons as a heavy weapon choice unlike the loyalists, and it is a good weapon choice for their Crazy dreads too - just pop off a couple of frag missiles into the side of a nearby vehicle if you roll a 1 on the Crazed table.

Heavy Flamer
- S5 AP4 Template

When light/medium infantry are sitting smugly in cover, the heavy flamer provides the means to shift them. Ignoring both cover saves and 4+ armour saves is a deadly combination - especially against scouts that have gone to ground for a 2+ cover save! As all you have to do is wound, twin linking this weapon gives a very good chance of wiping an entire unit! Heavy flamers are usually mounted on vehicles. When that vehicle is fast you can quickly deliver that template-of- death to achieve optimal placement. Don't forget that with Strength 5 you also have a chance of damaging any light vehicles you can cover with your template.

Heavy flamers are a common site mounted on vehicles. They are especially effective on fast vehicles such as land speeders, Blood Angel razorbacks and even the Witchhunter Immolator (not actually fast), all of which can fire after moving 12". This greatly increases your ability to manoever the flamer to cause maximum casualties. Chimeras can take them instead of the heavy bolter option - the choice really depends on the rest of your army. Heavy flamers are also effective when deep struck in, which can be done by Dreadnoughts and Terminators. Finally they can be taken by Sternguard on foot, and a squad of 5 in a transport can make an effective BBQ.

Plasma cannon
36" S7 AP2 Heavy Blast Gets Hot!

Against the right opponent a plasma cannon can threaten enormous harm. Deep-striking Terminators, Marines just disembarked from a vehicle, and Blood Angels/Death Guard/Incubi with Feel No Pain are prime targets - there is the potential to remove several of these tough models from the table. There are obvious steps an opponent can take to mitigate this threat - staying in cover and spreading models out being the two most obvious - but you can use this to control their movement on the table. Don't forget that it can also be used effectively against transports if there are no better targets available. The 36" range prevents you from threatening the entire board with a plasma cannon from the deployment zone, so initial position is important. Finally, when carried by infantry there is a huge drawback - you have a 1/6 chance of not even getting to fire the cannon each round, with a chance of losing the model too.

The only infantry with access to plasma cannons are loyalist marines, but they are rarely chosen due to the problem of Gets Hot! Plasma cannons are best mounted on vehicles such as Dreadnoughts and Leman Russ or Sentinels. The Leman Russ Exterminator can launch 5 plasma cannon shots per turn - annihilating a target even if it is in cover!

Missile Launcher
krak 48" S8 AP3
frag 48" S4 AP6 Blast

Cheap and versatile, this is a commonly seen and very effective weapon with a table-spanning range. The krak missiles are great at damaging vehicles up to AV 12, and offer better value for money than the lascannon equivalent. Not so effective against higher AP though. They are also brilliant for doubling out T4 infantry with multiple wounds - Tyranid Warriors do not like them at all. Finally they are great to take wounds off monstrous creatures with good armour saves. The frag missiles are far more situational and should only be used against densely packed troops in cover. But it's a nice option to have. Don't forget the AP is only 6, not the 5 of bolter weaponry.

Missile launchers are very common in modern loyalist marine armies. They are the preferred weapon of choice for Devastator/Long Fang squads due to their value for money. Cyclone missile launchers and Typhoon missile launchers (whilst technically different weapons, they have the same stats except for an increased rate of fire) are a good choice for Terminator and Land Speeders respectively. Imperial Guard can pack missile launcher teams into their squads and on Sentinels, but in general they are less commonly seen. It's worth pointing out here the value of a missile launcher on a Chaos Dreadnought with the Crazed rule - you can shoot frags at a nearby tank with no risk of damage.

24" S8 AP1 melta

If melta is king in 5th edition, then this must be the emperor of weapons! The same ability to kill transports but with twice the range means that the multi-melta can threaten a larger area of the board. But even with the extended range this is still an up-close-and-personal weapon - you will need to think hard about how you are going to get your multi-meltas into a position where they can get that double dice penetration roll. This is made a lot easier when mounted on a vehicle - infantry with a multi-melta fill a defensive roll, protecting an area (usually the midfield) with the threat of blowing stuff up. A single shot may easily miss though - they are far more effective when twin-linked or travelling in pairs.

Multi-meltas are common in the typical Space Marine army. They are most effective on land speeders, which can even deep strike and slag a tank without having to risk being shot down before. Droppod Dreadnoughts have a similar opportunity, but cost a lot more than a single land speeder. Dreads on foot can also use multi-meltas effectively, although they may have trouble getting into range for the first turn and might be better off running. Finally, Space Marines tactical squads can take one for free, jump in a Rhino which moves forward and pops smoke, thus threatening any enemy vehicle which wants to move forward into the middle of the table. Multi-meltas are less common in Imperial Guard armies, but may be taken as sponsons on a Leman Russ. Effective indeed, but getting close enough to use them exposes the tank to the enemy's own melta weaponry and assaulters, which are its weaknesses.

48" S9 AP2

The lascannon is an iconic imperial weapon, rightly feared by xenos everywhere. It features great range, Strength and AP; none are the best possible (ie the Tau railgun), but all are close. Although it can threaten Land Raiders and other AV14 tanks, this is usually not your best option - a marine's chance of causing damage at all is 1 in 6 per shot. Enough shots might get a result, but you are better off pointing these things at light and medium vehicles. The lascannon also shares the strengths of krak missiles, and in addition is also effective against Terminators. But you often pay a hefty price for that extra Strength, so think carefully before you splurge.

From a marine perspective, expect to see twin-linked lascannons on Land Raiders, Dreadnoughts, Razorbacks, and the single version in tactical squads. Devastators/Havoks won't touch them because of the excessive price. Imperial guard get a better price for lascannons in heavy weapon squads. Leman Russes carry a front mounted one, and Vendettas have three twin-linked 'cannons at a ridiculously cheap price.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Justifications for Codex: Death Guard

(See my previous post for the codex discussed here)

First off I want to mention a few changes I made to my initial post, due to some great feedback from sonsoftaurus. I added the missing Typhus -  with the Cloud of Flies rule and a 10 point price raise. The rest of the changes were to Plague Zombies. I clarified that they are destroyed when in reserve if there is no Zombie Lord for them to be raised by, and I added the missing Join Us! rule. I also removed the ability for Plague Zombies to score. This was done partly because it made sense in the fluff, but mainly to help differentiate their role on the battlefield with the much more expensive Plaguebearers. Now they are more of a throwaway unit which was how I imagined them being used.

Now let's start with the HQs. There are two important issues with the Prince/Lord/Sorcerer: upping the cost for feel no pain, and the removal of wing/bike options. Without raptors or bikers being included in the army it made sense that the commanders would also stat on foot. Losing wings from the Daemon Prince should counter any complaints about the addition of Feel No Pain. I charged the Lord and Sorcerer less for FNP because they can't be picked out of their unit for shooting so it is less valuable than on the prince.

The reason for reducing the cost of the Great Unclean One was because you need to kill a champion to bring him in to play, and that he must enter play through reserves. I instead built his cost up from that of the generic Greater Daemon in the CSM Codex.

I had to think a bit when deciding how to handle Lesser Daemons. I wanted to use the same rules as those in Codex: Chaos Daemons (to avoid confusion), but I wanted to avoid copying half that codex, without forcing the player to purchase a second codex to play their army. So I compromised - I included Plaguebearers, who feel iconic to me, and skipped the other Nurgle themed Daemons.

The decision to make Rhinos take up a fast attack slot was motivated by fluff, not balance. The Death Guard prefer to fight on foot and have little motivation to maintain their vehicles. This won't have much effect smaller games, but will force difficult decisions when building a larger force. With nothin else besides Spawn to select anyway it won't have s large impact.

I encountered a lot of resistance to including heavy weapon squads in a Death Guard force, with claims that it was unfluffy. I dispute this - sure they don't keep heavy weapons in basic troop squads, but I'm sure they have squads dedicated to long range support. My compromise is the Pandemics squad, able to take a couple of lascannons to make an all-infantry army at least feasible.

I made the decision to make the Daemonic Possession rule mandatory across all vehicles in the army. This represents the fact that the Death Guard do not spend time on maintenance - the only reason they are still running is because of the daemons that have made themselves at home. To this end I even added the rule to the Chaos Dreadnought, despite it not being an option in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. I also changed the terrible Crazed! rule to one with a Nurgle flavour. The new rule means that your Dread will only shoot at you enemies - but it also means they will only shoot two thirds of the time. Sure I have made it better, but that's only because it is so crap currently. This way it becomes a viable option.

The Vindicator is not a pre-Heresy vehicle, so the Death Guard should no have them in their arsenal. But about of Chaos players have probably picked up a couple for their army - and the concept of a short range vehicle really suits the nature of Plague Marines. I wanted to include an alternative use for the model, so the Regurgitator was born. This is one of very few vehicles in the game that have the ability to wipe power armoured troops in cover off the board. I based the profile on the Collosus - and the improved armour and possession of the Regurgitator is balanced by the short range and additional cost.

In general I tried to avoid adding army wide rules that would require extensive playtesting. The only two needed were Cloud of Flies (which I just borrowed from Codex: Chaos Daemons) and the plaguesword. This weapon wounds on a 2+, making it great against monstrous creatures and hordes but less effective against marines than a power sword.

Hope this helps shed some light on the motivation behind the design decisions in the 'dex. So anyone out there tempted to give this a go?