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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ride of the Valkyries, Part 1

Hey all! I've decided to break into the world of 40k blogging with a three part mini series on the oh-so-fun AirCav Imperial Guard lists. The three parts will be: 1). Hybrid AirCav Guard; 2). Pure AirCav Guard; 3). AirCav Guard Common Tactics



Now I know this may seem backwards, and logic would dictate we start with a "Pure" variant of AirCav first before delving into a Hybridized version, but I have found through trial and error (and plain old experience) that it is by far a LOT easier to create a fun/themed AirCav list that is semi competitive than it is to create a "Pure" list. The reason behind this is two fold: firstly, Pure lists are EXTREMELY constrained (i.e. all Valks/Vends and all squads....not much else), and so the problem faced is trying to make something that's powerful with very little at your disposal. Secondly, and this ties in directly with point #1, since you are so limited in what you can take, you end up creating cookie cutter or clone units, which is not only extremely dull and boring theme/fluffwise, but let's face it, it's just plan old boring to play with. Case in point: when writing this, I tried to draft up a "quick" Pure list for 2000pts. What did I end up with? 3 Valks, 5 Vends, 2 CCS's pretty much tooled up the same, and 5 Vet squads all loaded out with 3 meltas and nothing else. Sure, it had a fairly nasty bite (on paper), but it just looked...unoriginal and boring. And seriously guys, if we're going to play an AirCav list, it really should be FUN and have some life, in addition to having the ability to be competitive on the table.

As for the tactics piece, I will touch on them here and there in the next two posts, but I'm saving the crux of the tactics discussion for part three where I will lay out how to get the most out of the AirCav and their traditional lack of firepower. In essence, I'll go into how to use the principles of Mass and Economy of Force (hey I'm in the Army, this stuff finds its way into how I game whether I like it or not) to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. Lastly, I'll use this discussion to try to show that AirCav has nothing to fear of Mech Armies out there, and that even feared lists like the vaunted "Leafblower" list have weaknesses which can be exploited Who knows, that may lead into a whole new discussion later on down the road...

And so without further ado, I present, building a Hybrid AirCav Army...

Ok first things first, we need to determine a few things. Namely, how large will our troops footprint be, and thus, how many birds will we need to get them from point A to point B. Personally, I find 4 Vets squads is a solid force, especially given that the most objectives you'll ever see are 5, 4 squads gives you more than enough to grab/contest most objectives. Another key piece with these squads is function. In a weird reverse concept, in AirCav lists, Guard troops should be focused with knocking out vehicles/high T targets. Guard AirCav vehicles are there to do double duty as Anti-Tank and Anti-Personnel. So for troops let's get:

(Veteran Squad, Shotguns, 3X Meltaguns, Demolitions, PW) X 2
(Veteran Squad, Shotguns, 3X Meltaguns, Grenadiers, PW) X 1
(Veteran Squad, Shotguns, Heavy Flamer, 2X Meltaguns, Grenadiers) X 1

So we've got a nice little core for 560pts. While they are fairly "clone"-like at this point, they also have enough differences which make them unique and fun. Heck, you could (if you were like me and played this army) could even go so far as to create some background and "fluff" to why they're tooled out as they are. Moreover these difference also have a game function, for each team has it's own specific function/job. Demo Vets are primarily the "One-Hit Wonder" Boys. Get in close to tanks as quick as possible, toss a demo charge, melta some things, and if they survive the return fire, awesome! They've probably already killed what they needed to. Alternatively, they can be used to try to thin down a mass of troops, though this is a risky use for them seeing as
Demo charges are extremely fickle. As for the Grenadier Vets, their job is more focused on taking out things that have a greater chance of surviving their initial shots and can strike back, i.e. Dreads, Termi squads, Tyranid Warriors, etc. Alternatively, they can be thrown in the dedicated anti-tank role in a pinch and excel.

So we've got our troops, now we need to get them places. So let's look at what we have and don't have. We've got 11 meltaguns, so our 12" or closer AT is covered; we've got 24 Shotguns, so low S torrent of fire shots at 12" or less is covered; and we've got a Heavy Flamer so there's some close range anti-horde. In general then, we are severely lacking long range anything, though our biggest lack is anti-horde. So...let's get..

(Valkyrie, MRP ) X 2

We've now got some very nice mid range torrent of fire style anti-horde at 260pts. These guys can move 12" and pump out 4 S4 large blast plates in addition to 6 S6 shots. Seeing as they'll most likely outflank or deepstrike, you can even use them in a pinch to try and snipe some AV10 side armor,

Let's get some AT then shall we?

(Vendetta x 2) X 2

Basically get two squadrons of 2 plain Vendettas for 520pts. Why no HB sponsons you ask? Firstly and bluntly, they're a waste. Their firing arc is severely limited, due to their position under the wings, and moreover 90% of the time what you're shooting at, a HB can't hurt. And those few times you can use a HB, you'll end up wasting your TLLC shots. No, better save points and let more dedicated torrent platforms mop up the rank and file. These guys job is to basically snipe enemy armor, plain and simple. I'll get into deployment option with them later.

So what do we have now? We've spent 1340. Nice, 660 points left. So let's look at the leadership for this army. We know they're going to be up close and personal so we need to make sure the CCS is right up there with the Vet squads providing LD and any bonuses possible. So let's get

(CCS, 3X Melta, Medic, Astropath, Bodyguard, Carapace, Straken) X 1

Coming in at 270 points, we have 3 more meltas for our close range AT arsenal, bringing the total to 14 all told. Additionally we have a badass counter assault (or dare I say, Assault?) unit that bolsters those around them. They've got 4+ FNP save so they'll last longer to shooting and assault (two things which they'll face a lot of), and the Bodyguard means Straken can almost be guaranteed to get in contact. And remember, he's no IC so can't be singled out in CC, which means he can pretty much go toe-to-toe with bigger, badder guys out there and dish out the hurt. Moreover, he buffs any squad nearby with Counterattack and Furious Charge. Assuming he survives his first turn on ground (which is more than likely, unless they concentrate so much effort into killing him. In which case, so be it because they're ignoring your other threats, like those Vendettas), the following turn when he assaults (for he WILL..and so will any squad nearby) he and his CCS and whoever near will unleash a very nasty surprise upon the enemy.

Ok so 1610. Time to look at the rest of the Force Org. We've tapped out FA, and have a solid Troops selection. We could go for another Troops choice, but before we make that decision, let's add some more fire support into this mix and add in what makes this list a "Hybrid" AirCav list. So let's start off with a no brainer Heavy Support choice, what I like to describe for Army theme and for campaigns as "off board artillery strikes", the very popular Manticore.

Manticore X 1

Alright, 1770, we've got 230 left to go. Looking over the list, it needs something to fill in the gap between between long range AT and long range AP. We've got the equivalent of 12 TLLC for long range AT, and 4 MRPs and 2 MLas for long range AP control. The Manticore was one choice which fills in this disparity, being equally capable of wiping out vehicles or troops (as an aside, one reason I love the Manticore and 5th ed is everyone's reliance on putting vehicles as close together to get cover saves from direct fire weapons, that they forget all about indirect fire ordnance weapons like the Manticore which scoff at such feeble attempts at protection. Pack all those AV 11 vehicles close together? Yes please, and cry as I drop 1-3 S10 pie plates at once all over them). Moreover, we need something that can do both AND lay down a fairly large volume of fire. So...

Hydra X 2

Alrighty, 1920, we've got 80pts left. And since we have a Heavy Support slot open, and Hydras are good at what they do, and it's never a wise move to put all your eggs in one basket (i.e. both Hydras in the same squadron), let us buy...


Hydra X 1

Now some may cry, "But a true recon strike force won't have...yadda yadda yadda." Guess what? Light Infantry forces the world over have heavier vehicles in them, as do elite airborne units, so having 3 Hydras or a Manticore is completely within in the realm of "fluff" or theme for an AirCav list. There are a plethora of legit reasons and backgrounds why an AirCav force would have such vehicles supporting them (I mean, they're an AirCav force afterall and would know the importance of Air Defense). As for me, I plan on doing some high speed conversions once I get some money and turn these into some Hydras. Basically either take the Hydra Quad AC top and green stuff it on, or buy 4 FW aircraft AC's, chop off the LC's on the model and then green stuff it into place. Basically make it the AirCav's high speed, light weight, torrent of fire dual role vehicle: able to cut down swathes of infantry of light vehicles alike. Akin to the Quad .50cal Half-tracks of WWII.

Anyway this Army comes in at 1995. Not bad. So whats the end result look like?

HQ:

Company Command Squad - Vend 4
3X Meltaguns
Astropath
Carapace
1X Bodyguard
Medic
Total: 175

Iron Hand
Total: 95

Troops:

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) - Vend 2
Demolitions
3X Meltagun
PW
Total: 140

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) - Vend 1
Demolitions
3X Meltagun
PW
Total: 140

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) - Valk 2
Grenadiers
3X Meltagun
PW
Total: 140

Veteran Squad (all with Shotguns) - Valk 1
Grenadiers
Heavy Flamer
2X Melta
Total: 140

FA:

Valk Squadron (2)
MRP
Total: 260

Vendetta Squadron (2)
Total: 260

Vendetta Squadron (2)
Total: 260

Heavy Support:

Manticore
Total: 160

2X Hydra
Total: 150

Hydra
Total: 75

Total: 1995

What you've got for long range AT is: 12TLLC, 6 TLAC, and Manticore; long range AP is 4 MRPs, 2 MLas, 6TLACs (when not doing AT duty) and a Manticore (when not pulling AT duty). Close range firepower you've got 14 meltas and 2 demo charges for AT, and a plethora of shotguns for AP. Now you might be wondering, why shotguns? Simple, this army will almost NEVER be outside of the 12" attack range (barring getting shot down...which can be mitigated with cover and mobility). Moreover, this army will almost never use the FRFSRF, so there really is no benefit of having lasguns. Plus, shotguns allow you more tactical flexibility, i.e. the ability to surprise your opponent with a well timed/coordinated charge.

As for the tactics side of the house, I'll dive into more depth on that later, but for now these very basic principles should suffice: outflank the Valks and the Vet Vends. Start Strakey and his guys in their Vends on the board from the get go to provide some nice AT (and to also negate anyone who may argue that you can't use the Astropath ability when he's off the board. We play that so long as he's alive - regardless of whether on the board or not - his ability is in effect. I have heard it by others elsewhere though, that he must be physically on the board for it to take effect. So if you don't know how your opponent will play it, simply start the CCS on the board.) Basically hide the Manti in cover and use the Hydras to block movement lanes. As for the Vends, keep them off in cover and play the " Scout move turbo-boost into more cover" to ensure you can get a good shot off on your first turn. The it's a matter of holding your own for 1 turn, and then playing Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" obnoxiously loud on turn 2 as the rest of your army arrives in a flurry of TLLC shots and S4 templates.

Now this is not a be-all, end-all "Hybrid" AirCav list. It's an example, but hopefully the principles can be extrapolated by any interested parties and instituted in their own lists. It's a list type that meets both my initial criteria I laid out at the start for AirCav lists: they should be fun/unique/thematic and they should have a competitive edge.

Thoughts/musings/opinions are always welcome.

8 pinkments:

Dethtron said...

Charlie don't surf.....

but anyways, I like the idea...so much that I've been working on my own airborne force myself since last summer. I have a lot of the same ideas as you, but have you thought of dropping your vets to shotgun, demo, flamer, 2x melta, PW? that's pretty much how I'm running mine. I feel like when you add in the demo charge and meltabombs, 2x melta guns is plenty. It's nice to have that flamer there for some anti infantry insurance.

Max said...

Sounds pretty good- I'd worry that you're depending on getting first turn a little bit too much, but other than that sounds good.

I will personally disagree about the HB upgrade being a waste- definitely not a must have upgrade, but a useful one. It can still glance AV 11 and pen AV 10 (rhinos and trukks) and adds a great bit of anti-horde for such a low price. And they shoot straight forwards... where the rest of your guns shoot. Sounds good to me.

The_King_Elessar said...

Back when this shit was new, I worked on an AirCav Tactica with two other guys.

The link is here - http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AScSjfLfZjoDZGhncGc2ODlfMGdqaDRmcmR2&hl=en
if you wanna read. If you don't want me so blatantly advertising my half-finished, year old wares, just delete. :)

Roland Durendal said...

Arg! I had a whole response written but this stupid thing died on me...anyway I'll try to rewrite what I wrote...

First off thanks for replying! I appreciate the feedback. As per your questions/comments..

@Dethtron: I thought about it and have played around with it, but I decided on the current loadout primarily due to the fickleness of the Demo as an AT weapon. I would rather have that extra MG as backup in case something goes wrong with the Demo when trying to knock out a tank. Granted they're just as fickle when used as AP as well, and in such a case having a Flamer as AP insurance would make sense. Yet therein lies the dilemma: would you rather have AT insurance or AP insurance? Personally, given the prevalence of Mech nowadays (in both competitive and fun environments), I find that it is more beneficial to have that AT insurance. Moreover, though it's not the best AP insurance to have, I find 6 assault 2 shotguns provides a decent enough stopgap in the AP department.

@Max: True, but then again a lot of lists nowadays (particularly heavy mech lists from IG) rely on first turn. It seems that Alpha Strike lists are, dare I say, almost becoming the norm? Or at least very popular. The beauty of the AirCav list is that it doesn't rely on having first turn. Yes it's beneficial, but it can hold it's own even if it goes second. It really comes down to your opponent whether going 1st or 2nd is preferred. For example going against a heavy mech list (such as IG), going first would most likely be best due to the ability to neutralize or even hamper his movement (via disabling vehicles with the Hydras and Manticore). Moreover doing so will be easier because, let's face it, Mech Guard players LOVE crowding their vehicles together early on to try to work that cover save. That's fine for me, because my Manticore likes hitting multiple targets with one shot. On the other hand some Armies it's better to go second, due to either their lack of an Alpha Strike ability, or a general lack of long range AT (such as some 'Nid armies and pod SM). Here too, we're spoiled for how we wish to set up (again comes down to opponent): we can hold everything in reserve and hope the Astro rolls us on in turn 2; we can start only the ground force on; we can do the set up I outlined in the article; or we can start everything on and use the Scout turbo boost move to try and hinder his movement zones. Personally I use option 2. Granted that means your ground force will take a fire from the get go, but through the effective use of cover and firing lanes, your losses (if any) will be minimal enough to allow your counter attack to have an impact. Plus, having those guys start off forces your opponent to react to you from turn 1. I'll get into detail in Part 3 about tactics for different parts of the Army, but suffice to say for now, that one of the main roles of the ground force is movement denial, both by blocking movement lanes (by making it a risk to use them), and by physically destroying vehicles and stopping them from moving. Your opponent will usually see these nice juicy targets and know they're ability to hinder his movement, that he'll focus an inordinate amount of attention on them and neglect the fact that 12TLLC and a bunch of angry Vets with Meltas are about to arrive on his flanks.

As for the HBs, true they do have an ability to take out light mech, but I find that when it comes to AirCav, we must be frugal and extremely cautious in our expenditure of points. AirCav suffers from high points/low models, and as such we must make every point count. Everything expense must have a purpose and use, and when it comes to HBs I find that there is very little worth swapping out to have that capability. I could possibly see dropping carapace from the CCS, due to the medic granting FNP, but all other expenses truly serve a purpose and fulfill a needed niche in the Army.

@TKE: Hahah I'll look into it buddy, and no worries about your shameless self promotion :-p

#2501 said...

I like it, except for the HS slots. One Hydra+2xHydra+one Manticore seems a little scattered to me. You've got piles of Melta plus two Vendettas... why not go whole hog and have all Manti+Manti+Griffon to artillery things to death, or, alternatively, 5 Hyrdas in some ungodly combination. The all-missile-tank dealie means you'll be throwing tons of indirect fire into their back 40, or, alternatively, you'll be hosing down the weeds with a hail of TLAC shots. Plus, you'll have points left over for either HBs or HKM's (well, sort of)

Kirby said...

I think the main thing about Demolitions that a lot of people miss is they all get meltabombs. Anywho who doesn't wrap their tanks top of T1 is eating 10 mbombs.

Roland Durendal said...

@ #2501: I actually considered doing the Manti, Manti, and Medusa combo. It could work and could definitely lay a hurtin' on the opponent. It's something I'm going to try, mainly because the idea of a possible 6 pie plates raining down on one turn is too good to be true. Add that with a 'Dusa with Bastion Shells and you've got a nasty little surprise for anything out there. Alternatively, the idea of 5 Hydras is...interesting and something I never considered and will look into. If I did that I'd break it into 2X Hydras, 2X Hydras, and 1X Hydra.

As it stands though, it is a little scattered, but that's partly due to me having a vision of Manti's being long range AP support and Hydras being long range AT support. Both of your ideas though are spot on and would fit in fluff wise, so the theme of a Hybrid AirCav list wouldn't be violated in the least. 2X Mantis fits perfectly with the idea of "off board" or "Long Range Artillery" support, and the mass of hydras fits in with an AirCav force's dependence on some form of support in providing AA support. I may toy around with both of them in some upcoming games :-)

Dethtron said...

@Roland- The way I view the demo squads, I think the flamer still makes sense in the world of mech. you get two dedicated AT weapons with a pair of meltas (or 12 if you add the bombs in). 1 good dedicated AP weapon in the flamer. then you get one weapon that is ok at AP and AT, the demo chage. I think the flexibility given by the flamer would outweigh the need to have an extra AT shot. Plus, with all of the castleing and bunching up of vehicles together, 10 meltabomb guys could lay a whole of of hurt down on several vehicles at a time. it would be more important for me to make sure that they can fight off infantry in the (unlikely) event, that the vets survive long enough to see some troops than to get 1 more ranged attack in there.

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