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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Armies in 5th: Grey Knights Part 5: Ranged Support


Your standard Grey Knight army is all about midfield. The majority of units within the codex come with weapons you can move and fire to great effect up to 24". Add in their MEQ statline and Force Weapons and they aren't slouches in combat either. They use this combination to be more capable of counter-assaulting and mopping up small squads than their Tactical Marine counterparts but other than specific units, are pretty poor over protracted combats (1A base does that). With this in mind they aren't really a combat force though do have the capacity to poke you with big sticks in combat. Sounds great right? You dakka someone and polish them off in combat, the ultimate one-two punch. It's not all sunshine and roses however. The problem with this midfield orientation becomes two-fold.

Firstly, against aggressive armies you are doing part of the job for them - getting closer to your opponent. When many aggressive armies move a minimum of 12" in a single turn this doesn't give you much wiggle room with your reliance on 24" firepower. You can of course not move forward as much but it comes down to the fact that your opponent can cross that 24" gap quickly.

Secondly, against gunline/backfield armies, you are out-ranged and often significantly. If your opponent deploys directly opposite you can quite easily get within that 24" range but your opponent isn't dumb and isn't going to do this often. This means you have to advance through a couple of turns of firepower to actually get in range. Against mobile armies the same concept can apply but they can use their much higher rate of movement to keep shooting at you and move away. You will get there eventually but they've had more time to shoot you and weaken you before you reach them.

Now none of these are death knells for a 24" based army, it's just a significant weakness. Look at Vulkan lists, they do fine and I still hear of them complained about and are 24" based (though they do have more capable 12" move and shoot platforms in Attack Bikes and Land Speeders). There is of course a relatively easy solution - get firepower beyond this 24" range and luckily, Grey Knights have some excellent options in this regard (specifically the Psyfledread). By taking these units, the Grey Knights army does not have all of its firepower concentrated into a set 24" range. By taking units with 36" and 48" range guns, it can slow aggressive armies from Turn 1 and exchange shots and minimise the incoming firepower with mobile/backfield/gunline armies. They can be obvious targets when the rest of the Grey Knights are out-ranged  early in the game but it gives that aspect of the army time to move into position and bring their firepower to bear.

When you don't take this type of firepower you run into the issues outlined above. Again, these aren't going to make the list terrible but when you have the option to take cheap ranged firepower such as 135 point Psyfledreads, 50 point Psybacks or 80 point Fortitude LasPlas, you better have a good reason for it. By using the ranged firepower options available to Grey Knights, you give the army more options and whilst it still operates primarily within that 24" bubble, you are not restricted to it. This needs to be emphasised though. Whilst you can run lists with lots of firepower outside of this 24" (i.e. 6x LasPlas RBacks, 6x Psyfledreads + Grey Knights) you'll often find your list lacking in that 24" firepower that so defines Grey Knights, yet not the same calibre of firepower other ranged armies like Imperial Guard or Tau can put out. What you need to remember then is Grey Knights do operate primarily around that 24" and the ranged firepower is generally brought in to support this.

Regardless, shooting beyond 24" is generally going to be a serious limitation of Grey Knight lists. Again, you can run lists which look to increase this but often at the cost of your 24" firepower and that firepower is where some of the best anti-infantry and anti-tank in the game resides. Do this at your own peril. Running such a list without ranged firepower also brings its own issues and in the end it is a balancing act between the two that will lead to a Grey Knights force fighting effectively on the tabletop.

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