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Friday, July 1, 2011

Fallacy 40k: Suicide Melta


We all have heard the term suicide melta but perhaps have never really looked at what it truely meant. It's one of the major criticisms of the Chaos Space Marine codex as a whole yet all too often you see other armies such as Imperial Guard or Space Marines doing the exact same thing...throwing their melta units forward. Now, there are times and places for this, much like there are times and places to trade units. Suicide melta however is a unit you can willingly sacrifice at any time for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's not important and this means it's not a Troop choice because in two out of every three games, they are important. Secondly, it's decently cheap. Look at the whole Sisters of Battle codex outside of actual Sisters of Battle. Cheap melta and non-scoring. Suicide melta.

Does that mean the unit has to go forward as fast as possible to slag a tank? Certainly not, the name is a misnomer really but as nerds we do love our colloquialisms. In the case of suicide melta, or any sort of suicide unit, the point is not to sacrifice it but in the correct situation it can willingly be sacrificed. Rather, the unit itself acts as a regular old melta unit advancing up the table and bringing melta range to bear without overextending. This overexentsion is what generally leads such units to die and thus the term suicide melta. Again, there are times when the game calls for this but it is not a necessity. This is one of the issues of CSM codex. Since there is very little anti-tank outside of Obliterators, it falls upon the meltaguns to pop tanks and since meltaguns are at their most efficient on Troop choices and Chosen, you're often putting your Troops in harms way when it is unnecessary to do so. The same can be said of Imperial Guard lists with lots of meltavets. They are a great unit but they shouldn't be rushing forward willy nilly but rather advancing up the board at a steady pace together. Why? It's all about threat ranges and their proper application.

Threat ranges are the maximum distance a unit can effectively hurt your opponent. Beast units for example have a threat range of 24" whilst a meltagun unit inside a transport has a threat range of 21" for melta range and 27" for just being in range. What's important to remember is these are the maximum ranges at which the opposing units can reach you. A beast unit is unlikely to actually assault 24" as they need a six on their fleet roll. By assuming they will roll this six however, you aren't up fudgemuffin creek when they do. At the same time you know they have a minimum assault range of 19" so have a certain amount of leeway if you want to gamble. The same goes for melta and we must think back to the trading units post. If I want to maximise my threat range I'm going to drive forwards and disembark, preferably within melta range. However, this puts that unit at extreme risk of not only being shot but assaulted. If we use our own tanks to block these assault lanes, the threat range of the melta unit has already been reduced but is still vulnerable to return fire.

Where is this all going? You do not need to always maximise your threat ranges. By simply having those larger threat ranges they are influencing your opponent. For example, your melta units can threaten up to 27" and sometimes it's a good idea to send some forward to engage at this range. Your opponent knows this (or rather, should know this) and that means if they make a mistake or you're feeling gutsy, you have the potential to punish them greatly for it. More often though it's better to push that potential into your opponent's lines steadily (thereby increasing the area you can take advantage of their mistakes) so you can bring the threat range of the melta unit inside the tank to bear. Thanks fire points! This is a much smaller 18" (or 12" for 2D6) but importantly does not expose the unit to any firepower whatsoever. That's a huge change and a very important distinction.

And this is where the fallacy of melta units and specifically suicide melta comes in. The units do not have to be in melta range ASAP. Waiting a couple of turns to ensure they aren't a sacrifice is quite often more viable, especially if said unit is a Troop choice (hi meltavets). At the same time, pushing meltaguns forward early can often bring rich rewards (i.e. alpha striking) and suicide melta units are the best to use in this function (rather than more valuable or expensive units). The important thing is to choose when you do this. Just because the unit can sacrifice itself and potentially slag a tank doesn't mean it should.

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