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Sunday, August 22, 2010

You've Got Another Thing Coming: Catachans in 5th ED Part 2

Hey again! After some good feedback from Taak and VT2, we're back with Part 2 of bringing the Catachans into 5th ED. My initial idea for part two was convoluted and quite...difficult. Taak helped me refine my idea in an effort to truly keep to my intent of Keeping it Simple. Part of that scrapped initial plan was to show how we could use the plain old Catachan 'dex and just rewrite all prices to reflect that of the new Guard 'dex. I realized that would end up being more of a hassle for players than a boon, so instead this is going to focus using Codex: Catachans as is for 5th ED. Of course there are a few minor tweaks that need to be made on account of certain rules / abilities that are no longer present in the game, in addition to the removal of Army War gear lists. So before I go into a brief unit by unit overview, a playstyle discussion, and an example army list, here are the few minor tweaks which would need to occur to streamline the Codex for 5th ED:

Special Rules:
- Replace the "move through jungle/forest terrain as if clear terrain" with "Move Through Cover"
- Remove the "units gain a 4+ cover save for being in jungle / forest terrain" (since everyone gets that now)
- Remove the reference to moving/shooting through 12" of jungle / forest terrain.
- Under the "Ambush" rules replace "must be set up in jungle or woodland terrain" with "must be set up in a piece of terrain".
- Under "Deathworld Veteran Snipers", remove "Camouflage" and replace with "Stealth".
- Under "Catachan Devils" remove "Hardened Veterans" as it no longer applies in game.
- Under "Deathworld Veteran Assault Team" replace "Gung Ho!" with "Fearless".
- The Officer in the "Deathworld Veteran Command HQ" has the same wargear options as the Officer in the HQ Command Squad from Codex: IG. The "Platoon Commander" of a "Deathworld Infantry Platoon" has the same wargear options as the "Platoon Commander" in Codex: IG.
- "Medi-Pack" under the "

As you can see, most of the changes to the Catachan Codex are rules related, as many of the rules from 3RD Ed either no longer apply, or have a new name in 5th ED (example: "Camouflage" was updated to a USR "Stealth"). Thus, much of the extraneous rules and wording of rules were either out and out removed, or adjusted to reflect the same capability in 5th ED. This way, everyone is on the same page and is discussing abilities/capabilities in 5th ED lingo.

Now that that is out of the way, let's take a quick look down memory lane and talk about the units that comprise the Deathworld/Catachan Army list. Afterward, I'll translate how that applies in game terms to their playstyle.

HQ: There is very little difference in HQ's from C:C and C:IG. The only noticeable difference is the throwback to buying a different grade of officer (i.e. Captain vs. Colonel), and paying for the vets in the squad. Upside, the officers are actually half decent, getting WS5 and BS4 standard (and I4 on the Colonel). This means they have a half decent chance in CC. On account of that, I'd go for a Colonel and give him a PW to make use of his high WS and I.

Elites: There are only 3 choices, and all three are solid for what they can do.

Catachan Devil Squad - Think C:IG vet squad only pimped out (and sadly more expensive per Vet). They're WS/BS4, and for +1pt can get either a shotgun (in addition to their lasgun) or CCW/Laspistol (in addition to their lasgun). Throw in the usual 3 special weapons and the ability to "Ambush" and thee guys are a nasty surprise. Luckily (for the other guy) they're 0-1. These guys are where I don't mind dropping serious points to make a nice squad. Use C:IG "Veteran Squad" Sergeant upgrade costs /options for this squad's "Veteran Sergeant" choices.

Deathworld Veteran Assault Team - basically a Special Weapons squad that is "Fearless". They have their uses.

Deathworld Veteran Snipers - What C:IG should have done instead of using those useless abhumans. Snipers that can be set up separately, can re-roll "to wound" rolls, and have Stealth = awesome in my book. Great for pinning down exposed squads (like Devastators and Long Fangs) or for knocking wounds off that MC.

Troops: The basic unit is the Veteran Infantry Platoon, which sounds good at first, until you realize these Vets have WS4 and BS3, which doesn't make much sense, as you don't want these guys in CC. Then again it fits in with their theme/fluff, so it makes sense that way, but not in game play mechanics. Anyway, They're basically a slightly more expensive Infantry Squad from C:IG. They get 1 Special and 1 Heavy. These guys are a must that you MUST take at least 2 of them per platoon. Additionally each platoon can have 1 Support Weapons Squad, with either AC's or HB's. Not really worth it. Actually nor is the final Troops Choice: Ogryn Squads. They're 0-1 and have none of the Deathworld Special abilities...and we all know that footslogging is 4th ED and without the means to make up for that (i.e. infiltrate and/or outflank) they're useless.

Fast Attack: Our selection opens up a bit here with Sentinel Squadrons and Veteran Patrols. I'll spend no time on Sentinel Squadrons as they're the same in C:IG, except these ones only get HF and a bonus attack in CC. Not worth it for being open topped AV10, and costing nearly twice as much as the same vehicle in C:IG. Leave it at home.

Deathworld Veteran Patrols - These guys, on the other hand, are totally worth their weight in gold. Small, highly mobile, can Ambush, they are the perfect suicide "Surprise" anti-tank unit. Give their Vet Sergeant a PW and MBs and what they fail to surprise kill in shooting, let him take care of in CC (and in this case I mean vehicles).

Heavy Support: Heavy Weapons Squads armed only with mortars = not really worth it, but can have a place as a suppression weapon. Otherwise...

Booby Traps - Worth it. Their trigger mechanism can be hit or miss, but their real role (and in effect that of any Deathworld Force) is terrain denial and mobility restriction. How, you may ask? Firstly they are set up like Ambushes which means pretty much anywhere on the board. Additionally, when they detonate they automatically hit rear AV. Couple this with the basic charge which is a S7 hit for +20pts, suddenly everywhere you move could be deadly. "That's pretty powerful" you may think. Well that's where the quirky rules for setting them off comes in to balance them. They only go off if you roll doubles for your difficult terrain test while in their grid square (non-vehicles) or you roll a 1 for your difficult terrain test (vehicles). While this takes them from "Awesome" to just "meh" it will definitely make your opponent think twice before entering into terrain.

Playstyle - As I mentioned above, the playstyle of Codex: Catachans is heavily based upon two key factors: terrain denial and Ambush. Stelek wrote an excellent article here about Ambushes in Warhammer and I agree with his overall discussion. Yet, while his is broader in scope and discusses how to set up your units in order to create kill zones and lay linear vs. L Shaped ambushes, the concept of Ambush is much simpler in the Catachan army for one reason: you've got the Special Rule! This basically allows you to set up in any 1'x1' grid square on the board (except your opponents deployment zone) so long as they have a piece of terrain they can be set up in. Additionally, they arrive when you want them and only a handful of enemy units can actually "scan" for them (the units listed in C:C, with the addition of Guard "Veteran Squads" and "Ratling Snipers", Space Marine "Librarians" and "Stern/Vanguard Veterans", and units with "Acute Senses"). Unless the other army is actively searching for ambushes (which means that unit/model may not fire any weapons), you have the freedom to appear whenever you want and to move/shoot/assault as normal. This means that even if the enemy has passed by your hidden team, the ambushing team can STILL pop out behind them to hit them from the rear. This is key, as you can effectively shut down movement corridors with the mere threat of popping up in a nearby terrain piece.

The tricky part is actual ambush set up. The reason behind that is an ambush is heavily reliant upon the set up of terrain on the board. It is fairly obvious that the more terrain there is, the more opportunities exist to hide units in Ambush. You then must couple this with the enemy army and what they're bringing to the table and what their capabilities are. Then you can actually start planning your ambush. Do you want to go for several independent Point Ambushes (i.e. hitting one target at one place) or do you want to do the coup de grace and hit several units, almost simultaneously across a broader area (i.e. an Area Ambush)? A nice example of this latter idea is ambushing one unit in one grid square, and wreaking enough havoc that the opponent in his next turn begins moving another unit over to support the ambushed unit, and in doing so moves them right into another one of your kill zones. Ambush 1 hits the target unit and Ambush 2 hits the unit moving in to support. 2 coordinated point ambushes executed in the same area = successful Area Ambush. Terrain also limits how you actually, physically set up your ambush. If the terrain is perpendicular to your kill zone you'll only be able to pull off a condensed Linear Ambush, and you leave yourself vulnerable to counter attacks and blasts. Yet if the terrain runs parallel to your kill zone, it is much easier to set up a spread out Linear Ambush, allowing you to bring max firepower to bear. L-Shaped Ambushes I won't really get into, as they are about as difficult to pull off on the tabletop as they are in real life.

The ability to "Ambush" leads directly into the second key feature of a Codex: Catachan playstyle - Terrain Denial. When you have the option of appearing whenever you want in a given terrain piece within a given area, you insert yourself into your opponent's decision making cycle, whether they're cognizant of it or not. Suddenly, every terrain piece could be a possible ambushing squad or booby trap. Every movement corridor is suddenly a potential kill zone, every ruin a death trap. The opponent must decide which is more important: moving his units into or near terrain in order to gain a cover save and to shield his units from observation and fields of fire by means of cover & concealment, or leave them more in the open and potentially exposed to longer ranged fires. You are forcing an additional consideration upon your opponent when he decides to move his units and make question every piece of terrain. The end result is that his is hesitant around terrain and cover and he will submit to you the overall control of terrain on the board. By forcing his hand and getting inside his decision process, you end up denying him the ability to effectively utilize terrain. Ergo, terrain denial.

So what would a decent Catachan list look like? Well it'd be one that fully capitalizes on the concepts of Ambush and Terrain Denial. Here is an example one I drafted up:

18th Elysian Long Range Recon Company

HQ: Colonel, 4X Vets, 2X Melta, 1X H. Flamer, Medic, Frag Grenades, PW, Comm-Link
Total: 165

Catachan Devil Squad, Vet SGT & 9 Devils, CCW/LP, Krak, 2X Melta, 1X Flamer, PF
Total: 233

Deathworld Assault Team, 6X Vets, 2X Melta, 1X Demo
Total: 94

Deathworld Snipers, 3X Snipers
Total: 60


1st Recon Platoon
Total: 50

1st SQD: Vet SGT and 9X Vets, 1X MG, 1X ML, Vox, MB, PW, Frags
Total: 153

2nd SQD: Vet SGT and 9X Vets, 1X MG, 1X ML, Vox, MB, PW, Frags
Total: 153

3rd SQD: Vet SGT and 9X Vets, 1X MG, 1X HF, Frags, Vox, MB, PW
Total: 153

2nd Recon PLT
Total: 35

1st SQD: Vet SGT and 9X Vets, 1X MG, 1X ML, Vox, MB, PW, Frags
Total: 153

2nd SQD: Vet SGT and 9X Vets, 1X MG, 1X ML, Vox, MB, PW
Total: 153

3rd SQD: Vet SGT and 5X Vets, 1X MG, 1X HF, Vox, PW
Total: 102


Deathworld Patrol "A", 1X Vet SGT 4X Vets, 1X MG, Frags, PW, MB
Total: 89

Deathworld Patrol "B", 1X Vet SGT 4X Vets, 1X MG, Frags, PW, MB
Total: 89

Deathworld Patrol "C", 1X Vet SGT 4X Vets, 1X MG, Frags, PW, MB
Total: 89

3X Plasma Charge
Total: 60

2X Spring Mine
Total: 50

Mortar Squad, 4X Vets (2 Teams), 2X Mortars
Total: 116

TOTAL: 1997

5X teams that can ambush and 5X booby traps. Technically this army can put something in 10 different grid squares, meaning wherever you move outside your deployment zone could hold a nasty surprise. Personally though, since booby traps can be set up in the same grid as an Ambushing Squad, I'd actually only really make 6-7 grids truly dangerous, and have some of the booby traps in the same zone as a squad. That way if anyone tries to outflank or move up in support of an ambushed unit, and I can't get them in an Area ambush, then the last resort booby trap may hit them and slow them down a bit. Additionally, this entire Army can infiltrate and/or outflank if needed. What that means is even more uncertainty for the enemy, as he won't know where they'll be set up (if at all!) until after he has already placed his army. The downside, of course, to this army is their lack of mobility. The only way to truly grab objectives is through infiltrate and outflanking, meaning a smart opponent could set up in such a way as to deny you the ability to use these two options to your advantage to grab objectives.

That's it for the Catachan in 5th ED series. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this Army and what your take on the Catachans in 5th ED would be.

3 pinkments:

VT2 said...

If it was me, I'd remove ambush completely, and replace it with scouts. Essentially, you can buy scouts for a single unit selection from troops, elites, and fast attack. The way it used to work - with the little map, all the measuring, and generally not ever getting to use it, because of forests always being crowded, just isn't good for the army, or the game.

Assault teams, patrols, and devils all need infiltrate, so you can set up some early crowd control with your light infantry. Devils should be stubborn, and have preferred enemy: tyranids, orks.

Booby traps were never worth it, and would be kinda bad these days, too, or very, very powerful.
Limit them to only terrain pieces, so there's no need for a map, at all. If anything moves into the terrain, roll d6. 2+, the trap is triggered. 1, it was a dud.

Plasma charge should be a small blast, located d6+scatter from the triggering model.
Add a melta charge, so you can actually kill vehicles - not just hurt them. One hit, strength 8, AP1, 2d6 penetration.
Flamer, pit, and lesser bomb trap all rolled into one anti-infantry. Make it a strength 3 large blast, with no AP, pinning, centered on the first model in the unit to enter the trapped piece of terrain.

All traps obviously ignore cover saves, so they can be used.

Roland Durendal said...

Good stuff VT2. I agree that the old ambush and booby tap mechanic is a pain in the ass, due to the whole "divide this board up into little 1'x 1' squares". I'm torn though as to whether the best solution for making it more 5ED compatible would be to do as you recommend and allow Scouts to be purchased as an upgrade, or to re-word ambush so that there is no longer the need for 1' x 1' squares and instead you just need to anchor the unit in a piece of terrain, ala Ymgarl Genestealers. The issue with using thislatter course of action is that there's only so much terrain they could be placed in, and it could become pretty...strong if allowed. For example, in that draft list of mine, having 4 squads and a total of 7 meltas mystically appearing in 4 different terrain pieces (to include ones in your opponents DZ) could be seen as overpowered. The counter would be to have them appear like Ymgarl's, so they are in "reserve" and must be rolled for. The alternative (as you mentioned) would also work, and could lend itself to a very nasty first turn Alpha-Strike if pulled off. Downside would be, of course, not getting first turn.

Interesting options. I personally favor the idea of anchoring them in terrain (akin to what you mention for Booby Traps - another idea I wholly agree with), and have them be "Hidden" and appear once they've been rolled for from Reserves, with the usual caveat that they: must be 1" or more away from the enemy; must be entirely in the terrain piece; any models that fail these two requirements die. Using the list I made, that's at most 4 terrain pieces that would hide a unit.

The upside with the army as is, is that infiltrate is already Army wide, which does allow you to set up early to hinder/deny mobility options as well as provide crowd control. I do like the idea of giving Devils Stubborn and PE in place of "Hardened Veterans", though I am unsure that is an accurate 1 for 1 swap. It would definitely make them much more attractive (especially if you take the old Straken which allows you to take Devils as Troops choices), though would the cost remain the same or would it warrant an increase? What do you think?

As I said, I agree with the booby traps and I like your idea. Anchor them in a piece of terrain, when an enemy moves into the terrain roll a d6 and on a 2+ it's triggered, on a 1 it's a dud. Good stuff VT2, I think that is a much more feasible alternative to the convoluted system in place now.

As for the booby traps, it's funny you mention the Plasma Charge, as when I was doing my initial tweaks and draft for these articles, I wrote up the same stats for it: S7, AP2, small blast. The added bit of the d6+scatter you mention is a good add on as well. On account of the small blast addition I re-priced it to 30pts per charge to offset the ability to hit more targets with the blast. A solid AT option would be nice, and I think a melta charge would fit in with the theme nicely. Something along the lines of:
S8, AP1, Melta = 40pts per

I also concur with rolling all the weaker traps into one Trap option, as right now the two best traps in the codex are the plasma charge and the spring mine. Reworking it as you say is a good trap, and can make it fairly cheap at 10pts.

The rules for booby traps would remain unchanged, i.e. ignore cover, hit rear armor on vehicles.

All in all good stuff VT2. Next step is for fun playtesting and to see if it can be semi-competitive in this new world of 5th ED.

VT2 said...

It can be very competitive.
You just need to give them the tools necessary to compete, without tacking on stuff that makes the army too expensive to field in an effective, meaningful way - ie, the way their old paperback was written.

Scouts and infiltrate both help you bring your frail infantry into positions where they can do some damage.
Stealth adds much needed survivability, and makes it harder to shift them.
Stubborn on elite units mark them out as being elite, without increasing profiles beyond human limits, adding tons of gear, or similar.
Allowing the old style of 5-10 men for each infantry squad lets you take more of them, for more saturation.

100% infiltrate is very, very bad, and was removed for a reason. It needs to be at least partially limited, or we end up with entire armies popping up right next to people after they've deployed again.

The background has evolved a bit since the paperback, and catachans now get actual access to some armor.
Not much, but it's something, and it fits nicely with the whole 'only bring proven, reliable stuff.'

Helicopters of both types, limited transports, armored sentinels, and basiliks are all fielded by the 'expanded' catachans.

Helicopters should probably be heavy support, without the option for squadrons.
This lets you 'scout' some more infantry, if you decide to bring them.

Transports for command squads and platoon commands. Important people need to be kept alive, and improved comms lets you coordinate better - even if you're Rambo.

The theme is light infantry, but light infantry will not win on its own.
You need light armor with your light infantry, or you're going to suffer a lot in 5th edition.

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