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Friday, March 18, 2011

Guest Article: Psychic Battle Squads: To mech (or not)?

By Jasconc

Psyker Battle Squads regularly appear in my army, and they are fantastic to use. Both of their abilities are great, but there are a number of additional applications that are worthwhile considering. I recently went to Cancon which was heavily comp’d, and the regular comments criticising my army were that the PBS were too hard to take out when fielding them in Chimeras. So at Cancon, I only had one Chimera in my army (carrying my veterans) and I ran all my PBS on foot. However, I realised they were arguably *more* effective on foot then in the Chimera’s themselves, with a few neat tricks. With some of these in mind, it can thus be very worthwhile not to mechanise your PBS’, though there are advantages to both. Firstly, the powers themselves.

Soulstorm – large blast, str +1 per psyker, AP d6. Soulstorm is probably the most efficient use of psykers, as the ability to put out a 36 inch range battle cannon shell significantly adds to your firepower. The range allows you to move outside of most psyker defence such as Nids and P. Hoods (particularly when placed on your army’s flanks). This is significant since the psykers are only Ld 9, thus a hood more easily stops your powers.

Weaken Resolve – subtracts leadership of enemy unit for the rest of the turn per psyker in unit. Great secondary power, giving you the ability to easily pin enemy units, make them fall back from your lines out of assault range, or even fall off the board. I particularly like this in my army when I can pop an enemy transport carrying troops that are guarding a home objective – being so close to the board edge, this power typically kills the troop as well.

Important note which I think was missed. The whole squad isn't lost on perils which makes a full ten-strong squad quite happy to cast through things like Runes of Warding/Shadow in the Warp. They have the wounds to suck it up.

Psykers inside Chimeras. This is probably the most common; having 6-10 psykers in a chimera for the added protection and ability to move 12 inches to better firing lines (moving to where your opponent doesn’t receive cover). It gives you another chimera on the table (and we all love mech). Your opponent can’t shoot your psykers without blowing up the chimera, and the chimera is on the back of your table edge. Your opponent won’t fire at your chimera generally as they’ll be focusing on your vendettas and what not. So why not put them in a Chimera?

Psykers outside of a Chimera. Consider a few things – psykers don’t really need to move forward at all; at 36 inch range, they are virtually always in range of what you need to hit (particularly when you have multiple units). But conversely, your opponent will have a lot of trouble hitting your psykers from such a long range away – and anything short of rapid fire the Psykers can generally shrug off (particularly when they go to ground). In fact, I believe the only 2 things that killed a psyker squad at Cancon (in 8 games, with 2 squads in my army) were a deepstriking/rapid firing dark elder unit, and a long fang squad maxed out with heavy bolters firing for several turns. So the defence granted by a chimera is nothing special - in fact your chimera, on the other hand, is not too hard for your opponent to hit/explode, which is probably the easiest way to hurt your psykers from range.

A note here as well. The easiest way to hurt infantry on foot at range is ord barrage which no transport makes these guys very vulnerable to. The added protection of the Chimera is certainly there and whilst an explosion hurts, not as badly as some other weapon options. Also remember if the Chimera is shaken/stunned, the Psykers have the option of jumping out and still shooting unlike many heavy weapon based fire point units.

Now consider orders. Psykers are great with a senior command. Being Leadership 9, they regularly pass these tests. You can make your str 10 ap d6 blast twinlinked vs vehicles. Your psykers can go to ground and be ordered to stand back up (further increasing survivability and giving your opponent something else to shoot at). You can make your str 6-10 ap 1-6 blast force your opponent to reroll cover saves; considering that you have a 50/50 chance of ignoring marine armour, how cool is that? Let alone hitting bunched up guard squads, kroot, nids, orcs, etc. And you can’t give orders to a squad that is in a chimera.

At Cancon, my psykers killed probably more enemy models than anything else in my army, and orders made that happen. And I got an awesome Comp score because I didn’t bring Chimeras.

One other small point - psykers all have CCW and Pistols; in a pinch, being leadership 9, they can hold something up for a turn or so, or even kill something tiny. I successfully killed a single terminator with TH/SS because I was able to charge him with a PBS giving me 30 attacks before he could strike (30 = 15 hits = 5 saves). Not terrible! And even if he would get to hit/wound, I'd probably only go to leadership 7, which you will pass on average. On a similar vein, I charged an enemy dreadnought, which regularly did 1-2 wounds to me in combat per turn, but took 4-5 rounds of combat to go through my PBS due to their high leadership. This helped greatly with deep striking dreadnoughts and the like when my meltas failed miserably.

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