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Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Bolterback: Works for Space Wolves?


A while ago AbusePuppy and Hulksmash, amongst others, had quite a long discussion about the Bolterback being useful in Marine armies. I believe this largely stemmed from the increased use of the Psyback for Grey Knights where for an extra 10 points over the regular Bolterback, they gain S6 and Fortitude. Obviously this is a great buy and they were seeing widespread use which saw a lot of people think about using regular Bolterbacks in their army which prompted the ensuing discussion. You can see the article here.

I'm not going to reference that article much as I think it works fine alone. Both individuals and others raise excellent points. What we're going to look at specifically is the Bolterback in Space Wolves. Now Stelek has recently updated his 2000 point Space Wolves list and the major change here is Wolf Guard units and Bolterbacks over LasPlas Razorbacks. More firepower overall but a reduction in average strength and AP but a massive increase in ranged anti-infantry potential. 

This has always been something Space Wolves were never fantastic at - particularly the 'common netlists' seen about. They aren't crap - they after all have all those missiles with dual firing modes and lots of small blasts wreck guys just out of transports. It isn't however their strength and they rely more on their short-ranged Grey Hunters and assaults to deal with masses of infantry. They of course do this very well so we have to consider is this really an issue? Yes and no. You have the basic numbers to beat hordes and deal with the usual number of infantry you see. The combination of your normal ranged anti-tank shooting, missile blasts and Grey Hunters ensures this (not to mention Wolf Scouts, Thunder Wolf Cavalry, Land Speeders, etc.). At the same time, you are restricted tactically in not really having effective anti-infantry outside of double-tapping bolters and combat. Certainly mass missiles blasts will hurt clumped up squads but what if said squads are spread out? For example, opposing Long Fangs are going to get hit by one blast a turn so you have to either take their firepower until you get Grey Hunters/Wolf Scouts/etc close or shoot them with anti-tank firepower. Not ideal either way.

Now, Wolf Scouts can obviously help with this being able to get into your opponent's backfield. They however aren't a 100% thing. Not only can the dice say no but your opponent can wall off their backfield with ranged tanks and deny the Wolf Scouts access to your Long Fangs. Some short ranged dakka later and they are history though you have saved yourself from some firepower for a turn and changed your opponent's deployment - both good things. The question then becomes, if we want ranged anti-infantry, which we acknowledge is important, where do we get it from?

Space Wolves have limited options compared to other armies. They are using their Heavy Support for Long Fangs so cannot go for Dakka Preds. There are no Attack Bikes which to buy in squadrons or even regular bikers of any decency. No heavy weapons in their Grey Hunter squads. No Sternguard. They don't have fast tanks or Baal Predators. They don't have easy access ordnance. No mass storm bolters on every guy. They are really restricted in what they can bring to handle infantry at long ranges to Land Speeders, Dreadnoughts, Razorbacks and Wolf Guard. Land Speeders in anti-infantry formats (2x heavy bolters) will put out a bunch of wounds but aren't too flash and Typhoons which have decent anti-infantry, have the same problem as the Long Fangs - blast reliance. Dreadnoughts don't really pack a lot of ranged anti-infantry weapons into a single platform and aren't super cheap (unlike say the Land Speeders). Wolf Guard are a great option in terms of flexibility and have heavy weapon choices (Cyclone Missile Launcher) and the very effective storm bolter which helps with anti-infantry up to 24". None of these are fantastic for putting the hurt on infantry at large ranges however. Wolf Guard with stormbolters certainly help improve it and expand the range but Grey Knights as an army have storm bolters and can struggle with this.

So we look to the Razorback. At 40 points base it's cheap. It's easily accessible (we already have squads) and easily spammable. With twin-linked status it's reliable and it has the 36" range to help poke infantry far away. With only three shots it's not that scary but if you take 4-5+ of them, those shots add up. Ask Grey Knight players with Psyback. Is it great? Personally no. It's reliable extra wounds but you are losing 2-3 AP2, higher strength shots by not taking LasPlas. In Stelek's list he has obviously increased his overall ranged firepower with more missiles to offset this which is good and increased the ranged anti-infantry the list has massively over the previous incarnation. Both are obviously very important for getting maximum use out of the Bolterback.

Ultimately this is why I think, whilst still not a fantastic unit, the Bolterback may have some place in the Space Wolves army. Not having played it myself I cannot currently comment to its tabletop efficiency but I can say that Grey Knights love their Psybacks. Whilst Bolterbacks don't have the utility against tanks the Psyback does with S5 guns nor the ability to instant death T3 models (bloody FNP), Space Wolves can often need help dropping non-clumped infantry units at range (think MSU Marines). By altering lists so the Bolterback can be included, this can alleviate a weakness of many Space Wolf lists. You don't want to overdo this though and LasPlas RBacks should still be the 'go-to' choice to help generate more fire support for your Long Fangs. 

And before we end, credit needs to be given to players such as Spaguatyrine from the back 40k and Hulksmash from They Shall Know Fear whom have been running the Bolterback in Space Wolves for quite a while now. You aren't cool anymore guys, Stelek made it mainstream ;). I'm sure others have as well but we all care about who did it first! *nods sagely* So let's hear it. Do you think the Bolterback is a good way for Space Wolves to improve their anti-infantry or are there better options and how? Or do they not even need it? I know some people are against it *waves to TKE* so let's get some discussion going.

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