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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Marine codex 'review' (#2): HQ's.

Chapter master: bad.

Masters start out expensive, and the more things you give him, the worse the inflation gets.
Virtually identical to captains, this is the book's one and only dud unit. For a character with such an epic name, you'd expect him to be the most killy unit you could ever put on the field, but no - you get a bomb, and that's all you have over captains.

The 'bomb' is a strength 10, AP1 large blast, that your master must remain immobile in the movement phase to use, and scatters a lot. Because of this, it's a serious danger to your own army, and since the master is a combat character, you really don't want him to waste time sitting still.

Rather than doing something useful, such as allowing a single squad of terminators to count as troops, he unlocks honor guard.
This is a very expensive, small, and not that powerful combat unit, which still doesn't get a land raider transport, and lacks the flexibility of the captain's command squad. When things cost almost as much as assault terminators, yet manage to be a million times worse, you know someone screwed up somewhere. For obvious reasons, we don't talk about honor guard in public.

Options for the master are identical to the captain, and will be discussed in his entry. Overall, masters are toy units, and do little that captains can't do for less.

What makes it good: durable, even without extra gear. Can be made very killy.

What makes it bad: overpriced. Doesn't have any good passive abilities. Strictly a damage dealer, with no fun unlocks or powers. Is also quite clearly not a captain.

-

Captain: good.

Reasonably priced, and very customizable, captains are just as killy and durable as masters, yet cost 25 points less, unlock the utility command squad, and if you give him a pair of wheels, he graciously takes care of all your troop-related problems.

Like masters, captains can be made prohibitively expensive, and studded with more bling and gear than you'll ever remember to use.
This, of course, isn't a smart thing to do.

Traditionally, captains were called 'force commanders,' and outfitted with a power weapon, plasmapistol, artificer armor, and an iron halo. You know, like Sicarius.
This was the gold standard for almost seven years, and some players still take it out of habit. For better or worse, the game has moved on, and 5 armor-ignoring attacks at strength 4 is no longer considered impressive, or even all that useful.
Because 40k has shifted away from marines being ultimate badass combat monsters, you'd think captains would not be all that useful up close. Fortunately, you're very wrong.
Since Mat Ward loves you, he gave you much, much better tools than marines have traditionally had access to, and though you're still only be 3 attacks base, those 3 attacks will now hurt more than ever before, while return blows are less likely to hurt you - let alone outright kill you.

Combat is really where the captain belongs, but ranged options are cheap, powerful, and actually useful for once. Since your primary combat implements (relicblade, powerfist, thunderhammer) don't give an extra attack with a pistol, you really want your captain to lug around something shooty.

Speaking of implements, let's looks at his hurty options.
There's the usual list of bad stuff (plasmapistol, combi-plasma, jump pack, etc.) and then there's everything else, which is great to moderately useful.
Unless he's carrying a stormshield, your captain will love you if you give him a combi-melta.

140 points gets you a captain with a relicblade and combi-melta. This equals 3 armor-ignoring attacks at strength 6, and a single ballisticskill 5 melta-shot. In addition to this, he's got a fairly beefy profile, and starts out with a 4+ invulnerable save from his built-in iron halo.
This combo is called 'old faithful,' and has largely replaced the ancient 'force commander' setup.

For 140 points, there's very little to complain on.
It's often said that replacing the 'blade with a powerfist or a thunderhammer 'wastes' the captain's initiative of 5, but this is not so.
Upgrading (downgrading?) to either lets you instant-kill a lot of very annoying things - something that should not be underestimated.
While initiative 1 is normally a really bad thing, the captain has much less to worry about than other characters who do this, because he's got three wounds, weaponskill 6, and his iron halo to rely on for protection, and many of the nasty things you're gonna put him up against either have initiative 6+, or are too 'ard to fear the 'blade's strength 6.

Of course, you can tool him up with twin thunderhammers, auxiliary grenade launcher, artificer armor, meltabombs, and a jump pack if you want to. We all know this, and what a waste it is, so don't.
If old faithful's not your thing, two other valid options are terminator captain, and the much loved bikerboss.

Unlike chaos terminator lords, terminator captains are actually worth their points, being more reliable, durable, killier, and usually cheaper. However, there's a significant drawback to terminator armor: no relicblade. It could be argued that this is made up for by the chainfist, and in a sense, it kinda is.
Because your captain is smarter than Belial and all templar commanders ever, he doesn't discard his iron halo when you dress him up as a terminator. Remember this.

The bikerboss is what it sounds like - captain on a bike.
His presence unlocks bike squads of no less than five models strong as troops, which nicely solves the tactical dilemma, and opens up the possibility for an all-mounted biker army. Unlike weaksauce ravenwing, who are only worth it in one specific build, biker marines are powerful.
Since bikes are stand-off shooting units, you need to include a biker command squad (more on this later) to get the most out of his combat powers.

Default bikerboss is bike plus relicblade - 165 points total. Cheap and effective.

In addition to all his weapons and dress code, he gets some bling.
2+ armor save, 3+ invulnerable (consumes one of his two weapon slots), meltabombs, half range grenade launcher, poisoned 2+ shooting attacks with combi-, standard-, and linked bolters, and if he's not on one a bike or in terminator armor, you can give him a jump pack.
Jump pack is bad, stormshield is potent, but sacrifices shooting, and the others are good if points allow, but not mandatory picks.

"Is this thing over yet?" No.
We've still got the command squad to cover.

Essentially, the command squad is a mixed combat/shooting unit that doesn't consume elite slots.
It can be geared up for pretty much anything - including mass plasma, hardcore biker assault unit, character delivery system, midfield holder, firebase protector, tanking anvil, or a combination thereof.
Including the command squad also lets you put another rhino or razorback on the table, which is always useful, even if you have no plans on using it to transport the unit itself.

Thanks to feel no pain, the command squad is an excellent platform for plasmaguns. The fact that they can take up to four helps, too.
Bikes are an expensive upgrade, but necessary in a biker army. Without the biker command, your army will not have any serious combat units - much like ravenwing.
Stormshields are an interesting option. Unlike most other units that can pick them, the command squad doesn't trade any weapons for the shields, so it's possible to have, for instance, stormshield, thunderhammer, bike, and a plasmagun.

Default combat implement for the command should be lightning claw - this because you're likely to carry around a gun, so won't get extra attacks, and the power weapon costs the same points, yet does less.
Their flag is largely a waste of points, but a company champion is worth it if you're gearing up for combat.

All in all, any marine army benefits from the presence of a captain and his command squad. The main factor limiting their popularity is the standard points limit being largey locked at 1500 points, and the fact that there're better options. Hard to believe, yes? We'll get there.

What makes it good: durable, killy, and not that expensive for what you get. Command squad is pure utility, doesn't suck away a valuable elite slot, and happens to be the best infantry platform for massed plasmaguns in the codex. Captains solve the tactical dilemma, and unlock the biker army. Also happens to be the most killy, unnamed model you can field.

What makes it bad: easy to go overboard with bling and gear. While command squads are worth their points, it adds up quickly, and limits your army in smaller games.

19 pinkments:

Rupert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rupert said...

A very interesting read mate, the more I read about bike command squads the more I want to run them, damn 1500/1750 pt limits in UK!

VT2 said...

It can be crowbarred into 1750 points, but you'll be missing some useful tools, and the list will be very, very tight.

Chumbalaya said...

Yeah, I don't see any point to Masters. Command Squads are just better than Honor Guard.

Nathan said...

Hm, I'd have to say that Honor Guard are, in and of themselves, a great buy. Unfortunately, you have to either get Marneus, Pedro, or a Chapter Master to get them.

I'm not seeing how honor guard are "a million times worse" than assault terminators. They are 5 points cheaper, have the same armor save, same number of attacks as LC terminators, and, in addition come with bolters and bolt pistols so are more versatile at need. As well, they can sweeping advance. Their champion model is WS5 and can have be quite deadly with a relic blade against ICs. On top of that, for 15 points you can have a banner that gives the whole squad +1 attacks for a nice 5 attacks on the charge. As well, since they aren't in terminator armor, you can fit more in a Land Raider, so you project a more intimidating unit. Only drawback is no invul save and no TH/SS and the afore-mentioned need to bring a chapter master of some kind.

That's my only quibble in this article.

Kirby said...

Problem with no invul = you suck in combat. LCs are only taken in BT armies for a reason (re-rolls to hit and wound at I5!? okay!), because 5++ = fail. If you catch these guys out in the open, you can wipe the unit with an appropriate salvo whilst other rock units (i.e. generally 3++ units) are a lot harder to get rid of.

For 5 points more I'd rather a 3++ and not be able to sweep.

Sage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VT2 said...

5 assault terminators = 200 points.
3 honor guard and naked chapter master = 240.

fluger said...

Yes, like I mentioned, the issue is you have to have a chapter master to get them, but if you take Pedro (who I think is alright), Honor Guard are a decent option.

I disagree that no-invul automatically meaning you suck in combat. Again, I look at this from an Ork or Eldar perspective. I take out 2+ armor save units with volume of fire not AP2. In that regard, the stormshield is irrelevant.

6 TH/SS vs 6 Honor Guard with Relic Blade on champion and +1 attack banner are the same points cost. Even if the TH/SS terminators assault, the Honor Guard should kill 2-3 terminators before they even swing. Sure, the remaining 9 or 12 attacks should do ~4 or ~5 wounds to the honor guard, but that's not that bad (especially since with the banner, they count as doing an extra wound and don't run as often). Flip it around and the Honor Guard charges the terminators and kills 3 most likely, while the terminators return with 2 or 3 dead, losing the combat by either 2 or 1.

Run the numbers on what 6 HG with banner and relic blade on the champion can do against most units and you'll see that they are just as potent if not more so.

TH/SS are great against things that have few, high-strength attacks, but against units that shell out lots of attacks, its nice to cut down the numbers before they swing, and that's why honor guard are effective.

Lyracian said...

What happened to Librarians and Chaplains?

Default Bikerboss does not loose shooting with an added Storm Shield, just can not take the Combi as well.

I think I would add the Hellfire rounds on to the default Captain for that little extra punch.

VT2 said...

The other three will be up later today.

No invulnerable does mean you suck in combat.
If you're facing orks, why do you need the honor guard or terminators in the first place? Sternguard beat boyz down on their own. Unless you're gonna face nobz, you don't need a dedicated combat unit - and if you do face nobz, your honor guard will go poof because they have no ++ save.

When things cost 35 points apiece, weigh of numbers isn't possible.
This is why terminator squads are rarely more than 5, and rarely why they need to be more than 5. Things can only be so dead, and after a terminator charge, there's not often a lot left to sweep, so the lack of it doesn't matter.

fluger said...

I'm not saying that the honor guard applies weight of numbers, but that my foe would put volume of fire into them and kill them as easily as TH/SS terminators.

Sternguard are certainly an effective unit in many regards, but they aren't beating most Ork units in combat unless they are charging.

Facing Nobs means they go poof? Hmmm, lets test this theory. Again, lets put this all in a happy vacuum for fun.

Lets use units of 6 as described above even though they are way cheaper than most Nob units.

In fact, for our purposes, lets assume they are meganobz who get power klaws since they get those at a discount compared to regular Nobz.

6 honor guard as above would do ~10 wounds on the charge and ~7 wounds if charged. If you were fighting equivalent points of Meganobz (6), then if the HG charged, they would only get 3 attacks back for 1.5 dead HG, they win the fight by 9-10 wounds. If they were charged, the remaining 3 Mega Nobz would do 5 kills, which equates to the Nobz losing by 3 (remember the banner).

TH/SS terminators would do: 7.5 (14-15) wounds on the charge, wiping the unit, but would take 2-3 casualties. If they get charged, they kill 5 MegaNobz, but take 3-4 casualties.

In either case, both perform roughly the same.

The numbers actually get WORSE for TH/SS terminators if they are fighting regular Nobz with Waagh Banner and lots of S5 attacks at I4, whereas the Honor Guard get better.

fluger said...

Actually, I wanted to run through that. And I guess I was wrong.

Lets do a unit of 5 Nobz with just basic attacks, and 2 with power klaws and a waagh banner, all of them have 5+ invuls. Comes to 240 points.

If the honor guard charge: They do 5-6 wounds, assume that they only lose one regular Nob and split the wounds up elsewhere. If the honor guard is charged: they do ~4 wounds, which can be divvyed up.

The Nobs would do ~4 casualties back, losing the fight by 2. If the Nobz charge: they do ~6 casualties, wiping the honor guard.

TH/SS terminators on the charge: Lose one terminator before he swings, then do ~4 wounds killing 4 nobz with 8 wounds, and take another casualty; winning by ~6. If the TH/SS are charged: they lose 3-4 terminators and do 2 wounds to the Nobz, becoming 4 either tying or winning by one.

It comes down in that case to the wound allocation shenanigans that Nobz can do being more effective against the single-wound HG attacks and not the Instant Death of the Terminators.

But, going back to your earlier assertation about TH/SS terminators only needing 5 models because they kill so much, against most units 5 terminators on the charge only do ~6 wounds if they are unharmed. Lots of models can drag one down before it swings and lots of units can absorb 6 wounds.

Gunn Bot Mk IV said...

Orks aren't the only army in the game though. If you're bringing a CC unit, you need it to be an "all comers" unit. The honor guard are just fine against some targets, as you've shown. However, what happens when your opponent has some harlequins, or a lashwhip hive tyrant, a Trygon, a Daemon Prince, BA or BT terminators w/ furious charge, etc. Things that go before I4 with power weapons simply wipe out an expensive honor guard unit with no chance of reprisal, where the str 8 and storm shields make the TH terminators much more dangerous against a wider variety of foes.

-willydstyle

fluger said...

Harlequins: would rather have more attacks, or the ability to pop up and SHOOT them with double tapping bolters.

Hive Tyrant: Yes, TH/SS is better.

Trygon: Yes, TH/SS is better

DP: TH/SS is better

Terminators: If they are running LCs, then yes, TH/SS is better. However, if I am assaulting them?

TH/SS terminators are WORSE against single wound T4 or less units than Honor Guard are. TH/SS are great against the big nasties of the world (as you've mentioned already). I find TH/SS terminators to be more one-dimensional than a unit that can shoot or assault.

VT2 said...

Shooting boltpistols before you charge is far from impressive.
Tacs can do that, too.

Laying down a barrage of bolter shots, at 35 points a guy, is a bit of a waste, too.
Overall, power weapons at strength 4 aren't impressive in this edition, and when your combat unit has no ++, it's kinda bad mojo.

The terminators will beat down anything: infantry, monsters, elite units, beater units, armor, characters...
Honor guard are good at clearing out lots of infantry, but are useless against things with high toughness, or higher initiative, while the terminators don't really mind anything.

Weaponskill 5 is cute, but you have to consider all things, not just mathhammer.
So your honorguard has WS 5, and does 59168916 wounds to a unit. Okay, great - the unit is now dead twice over.
You're paying a premium for all these attacks, however.
Assault terminators kill you once. That's why you only take 5 of them. How dead do you need your target to be?

Having a combat unit that's not limited to crushing a single type of target is incredibly useful, especially at 40 points apiece.
It's why assault terminators are the most feared combat units in 40k.

Then there's something that has to be said, because it applies to everyone who's running two rocks or more.
Vulkan.

fluger said...

WS5 is only on the champion and he has a relic blade, so he's S6 with 4 attacks base with the banner. That's useful against MCs as well as most vehicles (the other guys have krak grenades as well).

Terminators most feared? Really? By whom? 5 TH/SS shouldn't worry nearly anyone other than MCs or Dreadnoughts or tiny infantry units or anything T4 or less with multi wounds. I bowl over them with my Orks or any horde unit for that matter. 2+ only goes so far, and if you're always attacking last...

I'd say LW/BS Shrikes/Warriors with toxin sacs would/should be the most feared. Especially shrikes with a screen of gargoyles in front of them (for the cover save and also to dictate what they fight against).

Yes Vulkan makes them better, no doubt.

fluger said...

Ooh Ooh! Death Company dread coming from a Stormraven with Blood Talons. That's scarier as well!

Kris said...

It's too bad Honor Guard aren't as good as the Command Squad, because the models for them are rather nice.

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