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Friday, August 19, 2011

Armies in 5th: Space Wolves Part 2: Aggression & Fire Support

Anything But Ones

We've established Space Wolves are different from Vanilla Marines. They are also different from Blood Angels, Grey Knights, Dark Angels and Black Templars. They may all have a similar basis and can look or feel the same but there are very key differences and this generally comes through in how they approach their opponent. Space Wolves are much more aggressive than Vanilla Marines but not so aggressive as Blood Angels. They don't have fast transports, FNP or FC after-all. What Space Wolves do have however, are Troops with boltguns, meltaguns/plasmaguns, counter-attack, two close combat weapons and combat upgrades. What this means is the core of their army, the Grey Hunters, is very good at dealing with the enemy at short-range and this affects their army lists and how they play on the table a lot.

Compare this loadout to Vanilla Marines who want to avoid combat for as long as possible. Compare this to Blood Angels Assault Marines who want to get into combat. Compare this to Grey Knights who want to shoot for as long as possible and then charge you. Grey Hunters sit in the middle of all this thanks to counter-assault. They don't have ranged firepower but aren't excellent in combat and are just as good when they are assaulted as when they assault. Denying opponent's the bonuses of the charge is obviously important but being able to use meltaguns and bolters to full effect is as well and thus counter-assault can be very, very beneficial. This affects the Space Wolves army more than anything else as it forces a large part of their army forward to a certain extent. Not as aggressive as Blood Angels but far less passive than Vanilla or Grey Knights.

This increased aggressive nature impacts a lot upon the other choices Space Wolves have, many of them unique. Units such as Thunderwolf Cavalry, Wolf Lords/Iron Priests on Thunderwulf Mounts, Lone Wolves, Dreadnoughts, Wolf Scouts and Wolf Guard all have increased combat potential and whilst Space Wolves do not have access to a unit with the rock nature of TH/SS Terminators, as a whole their army is more capable of combat. All of these are generally good choices and whilst not all lists will incorporate all of them, most lists will include some of them. This combination of units plus the Grey Hunters ultimately determines where a lot of the Space Wolves army fights - midfield.

Now this is common of most Space Marine armies. When your army is based upon good solid statlines and 12-24" ranged weapons, it tends to happen. But as we discussed in the initial paragraphs, the deposition of Grey Hunters influences a lot on how Space Wolves behave in midfield. This is reinforced with their increased choice in combat units to support Grey Hunters and further exemplifies how they are played. Whilst Space Wolves are often thought to have excellent shooting through Long Fangs and Razorbacks, the core of their army lists need to be understood under this aggressive principle. Having cheap firepower available to you in the form of Long Fangs and Razorbacks is excellent. It's cheap, reliable and hurts your opponent but it's not the core of the army and this is where a lot of Razorwolve armies come undone. Sure, in an exercise in complete spam, Space Wolves are perhaps the best army to drop as many LasPlas Razorbacks on the table with the added benefit of lots of missile firepower to  back them up and whilst this army is certainly good on the tabletop, a more balanced Space Wolves list is going to take advantage of the aggressive nature of many of their units.

This certainly doesn't mean running headlong into the enemy but rather manipulating threat ranges of Grey Hunters and other units, especially Thunderwolf Calvary with their 19-24" threat profile. Being able to sit in midfield with fire support and pressuring your opponent with meltaguns and both offensive and defensive combat is something few other armies can do well. This is where Space Wolves armies excel and although you can make lists outside of this paradigm (Loganwing for example), be very careful when you do otherwise your army may be severely limited.

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