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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comparison: Super Units vs Posers

This is a pre-face article which can stand alone. Lucky it. I'm currently working on an article for both 3++ and HOP on balanced armies. Before we get to that though and prompted by a post and some discussion over on BoLS, I thought we'd look at what a super unit really is, how to put one together and how they generally work but most importantly, what a super unit is not and why. We've covered how to counter super units before here so this is an extension in the other direction. Before we dive in, super units have multiple names. Rocks, deathstars, over-powered, etc. are all common labels for super units but we shall stick with super units for this article.

Before we go any further let’s do a rundown of what a super unit is and why some of the more popularly believed super units aren't actually super units. The primary purpose of super units is to freak your opponent out psychologically. Whilst the savy and veteran amongst us shouldn't be freaked out, in the heat of the battle (game), this can get the better of us at times and certainly freaks out the newer player (one of the reasons I believe the label super unit is just handed out). Whilst no one likes TH/SS Termies romping through your lines, a canny opponent will understand how his/her army is capable of dealing with it and unless s/he screwed up or the dice disfavoured him/her (sacrifices are needed), s/he shouldn’t be ‘psychologically affected’ by these units. This is where the majority of super units fall. They freak your opponent out psychologically. However, many of them fall short of actually being a super unit. What a real super unit does beyond this is a combination of the following:

  • crush face
  • survive 
  • point efficient
  • not gimmicky
  • multiples without compromising list balance
A real super unit is generally all of these and importantly isn't the only key to an army's success (this is where the article on army balance comes in). If a super unit dies and your army is unlikely to win, it's not a super unit. It's a poser (point-sink, eggs in basket, etc.). So why aren't posers super units? They generally do not fulfil the above criteria and specifically aren't as survivable as they could be for their points, are very expensive or rely on a certain roll/ability (such as a psychic power, Fateweaver, etc.) to ensure their defensive or offensive ability. Let's take a quick look at what some posers are and then briefly discuss why they are posers and not super units.
  • Chaos Terminators
  • Wolf Guard
  • Bike Seer Councils 
  • Nob Bikers
  • Blood Crushers
  • Tyranid Warriors
  • C'Tan 
  • Meganobs
  • Vanguard Veterans
This isn't an exhaustive list but gives you an idea. Let's look at some of the most common ones and show why they aren't super units. We will start with Seer Councils as these bad boys were one of the better super units out there not so long ago. Point wise they aren't super cost efficient but a 3+/4++ re-rollable save on a jetbike with a 2+ wounding weapon which hits tanks at S9? Super-survivable and certainly dish out the hurt (oh ya, did I mention multiple S5 templates?) and with appropriate juggling of points, one can fit two into an army whilst still having support around them. However, with the advent of Rune Priests and the general upswing in psyker defenses (finally), Seer Council's are far less reliable in their defenses by not being able to get Fortune off every turn. Whilst one can take a single Council w/two Farseers, you then run into the problems with a single unit (being blocked, tarpitted, etc.). So whilst these guys certainly aren't as terrible as tooled out VV, they do rely on getting Fortune off which is no longer as reliable as it used to be.

The next poser which you commonly seen touted as a super unit is Nob Bikers. These guys are hugely point inefficient (especially when people play around with wound allocation; i.e. not cheat), roll over to the right weapons and find it difficult to create a balanced list around. Whilst these guys can certainly be used as smaller crack combat squads, they aren't super units. Whilst T4(5)/W2/4+*/5++/FNP is pretty good, S8+ ruins them and anything that ignores saves in combat (especially S8, ignore save attacks) is generally going to do more damage to them which makes these guys horribly point inefficient when you consider their cost. Their also relative inability against Mech is a down-side as well though this is highlighted by their codex rather than the unit themselves (the Ork codex also having anti-mech issues).

And finally before we get on to what some of the super units are, Chaos Terminators/Wolf Guard. They are pretty cheap for a 2+/5++ unit with power weapons, decent mobile firepower and decent attack numbers but that's where their goodness stops. Whilst Wolf Guard are useful units in their own right, they aren't super units by a long shot and Chaos Terminators got the suck stick. 5++ for a combat unit = BAD. And I mean bad. Wolf Guard are capable of getting 3++ but kitting the whole squad with them is very expensive (compare to TH/SS terminators @ 40pts a pop) and they become very point inefficient. Whilst they are capable of killing a fair amount and you can take multiple units, their lack of survivability is huge. Being able to shoot these guys down pretty easily with plasma or take their punch in combat with real invuls and then punch back (or punch first) and remove a lot of models is not the hallmark of a good super unit. Wolf Guard are a good unit though in their codex, just not a super unit.

What are some super units then? Here’s a quick, non-exhaustive list of some common super units:
  • TH/SS Terminators
  • BT Terminators
  • Command Bike Squads
  • BA Honor Guard
  • Tyrant Guard + Tyrant
  • TWC + Wolf Lords
All of these units are capable of crushing face and can generally take a beating as well (the BT Termies are an exception but 4A each @ I5/S5 w/re-rolls to hit and wound = awesome) whilst not breaking the bank. Balanced army lists (you're just waiting for that article aren't you?) are capable of fielding multiple (generally 2 but sometimes 3) of these units whilst still having enough points leftover for proper army support. Although these lists still have a number of points invested into these super units, stopping or delaying these units doesn’t guarantee you a win thanks to the balance built into the list (I’m just advertising my other article aren’t I?).

These units also bring something ‘unique’ which makes them particularly effective at what they do or how they affect your army function. Tyrant + Guards force everyone else to strike @ I1 whilst having T6. TH/SS have 3++ saves for a measly 40 points whilst throwing around 2-3A S8 TH hits each. TWC have a threat range of 19-24” and due to the number of attacks can threaten vehicles on the move. Command Bike squads are mobile, survivable, can beat things in combat and pack a bunch of meltaguns. Etc. However, the key factor which all of these units have over the other units besides being part of a balanced list (you hate me right about now, yes?); reliability. I know that I can count on these units to do a job. Whether it’s absorb a lot of my opponent’s firepower and/or attention leaving the rest of my force to go to work or actually killing these things, most games these units will do this. Posers on the other hand, not so much. Although Nob Bikers/BloodCrushers/Councils/ChaosTermies/etc might be able to whack around things in close combat it’s far less likely they can get there or that their support cast can win games if they are focused upon.

Super units, rather than being the lynch pin of an army like posers are an integral cog which makes up the whole army. If they falter, the rest of the army is capable of picking up the slack whilst if the rest of the army is neutralised, the super units can dish out the hurt.

I hope that makes it a bit clearer what a super unit is and why some units which are bandied about as super units actually aren’t. I also hope it whets your appetite for the balanced article (which focuses a lot on de-bunking the myths of balanced lists) which may come out in a year or so knowing my track record with requested articles (how long did a Blood Rodeo How To take?).

10 pinkments:

VT2 said...

Even a real super unit ('THUNDERSHIELD DEATHSTAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG! POWERGAMER WAAC CHEEZ!') isn't that viable in today's 40k.

It's not hard for balanced armies - or even proper armies in general - to deal with them.

Dezzo said...

*Scratches head*

Does IG sport any Poser or Super Units?

Behemoth said...

Poser is the straken blob.

Like they need a real super unit, lol.

Good article!

VT2 said...

Straken blobs, lord commissars with maxed ogryn, Stalin and his ten million conscripts.

Every book has at least a few.

DavePak said...

Great post, thanks for detailing things out.

I can say a few of the "posers" are very subjective...its pretty hard for many armies to negate or impair the Seer council, especially with their move rate.

I have to have my librarian close, or my shadow of the warp nid close, and with the eldar bike move, that ain't easy early game (not every nid player runs deathleaper).

Not to mention Necrons or Tau (yes, I play Necron and Tau, yes, I know thats part of the problem...but I like them...what? No, I am not too bright...).

Anyway, thanks for the post!


Kirby said...

@VT2; certainly super de duper units are a thing of the past (just like herohammer) but with the advent of being able to take 3 small squads of TWC, Thunderbubble, double Command Bikes in Biker lists, etc. you can put a very scary (and balanced) list down which has twin+ rocks, etc.

@DavePak; Seer Councils are still a decent unit, when not against psychic defense. The problem is every army which can take psychic defense, should take psychic defense (with a couple of exceptions such as Immo Spam, Vanilla Bikers, etc.). In terms of competitive play outside the exceptions the only armies which can't take psychic defense are DE and Tau.

What this essentially does is make the Council very hit and miss against these armies and when you sink 400-500 points into a unit, you don't want it to get rick-rolled on a 4+.

Tau don't really have a problem with councils. Mass S6+ firepower FTW. Sooner or later the Seer will fail a save and you can torrent them away. Tau are also a good list if built right, check the armies in 5th posts and How To on Tau (links top left).

Black Blow Fly said...

Put each super unit up against each and see which one will end up on top - Crushers everytime.

Kirby said...

Well ya if we threw units in a vaccum at each other regardless of points, mobility or army, sure crap units come out good.

Desc440 said...

Why are Honour Guards super-units while VV are not?

SnaleKing said...

Crushers tend to not get charging bonuses, since they aren't cavalry, or fleet even. Nor can they get grenades, assault or defensive. And they need the charge bonus. The lack of Khorne stuff having assault grenades is an absolute kick in the pants. Notice how most assault troops in most armies are fast? Jump pack marines, fleet banshees (I know banshees aren't wonderful) BC's, not so much.

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