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Monday, September 5, 2011

Armies in 5th: Space Wolves Part 6: Ranged anti-infantry

Tabletop Geeks

And so we reach what is perhaps the main 'weakness' of Space Wolves in terms of army list building - ranged anti-infantry. This isn't huge as Space Wolves do have excellent anti-infantry ability - the issue is taking out squads at range. Space Wolves have lots of options for massacring infantry in their normal lists such as Grey Hunter bolters and combat ability form Grey Hunters, Wolf Scouts, Thunderwulf Cavarly, etc. but all of these options have very short ranges which whilst effective, minimises their application to certain situations. Otherwise their ranged anti-infantry options are rather limited compared to other Space Marine armies. Whilst the options are there, they are generally less efficient (i.e. Attack Bikes, BolterBacks) or compete directly with trademark units for Space Wolves.

For example, Space Marines generally deal with ranged anti-infantry quite easily with Predators though other options such as Land Speeders, Dreadnoughts, Razorbacks, Sternguard/Stormbolter units, etc. exist. For Space Wolves, all of these options exist as well but they have different opportunity costs. Taking Predators for example means you're not taking Long Fangs and if all your Razorbacks are being run as BolterBacks, you're putting a lot of emphasis on Long Fangs for fire support unless you're taking Typhoons and/or Rifledreads (and once again, moving away from Space Wolves' unique units).

In the end, whilst Space Wolves do have some army building options for ranged anti-infantry firepower, it's not going to feature prominently in their lists. Either the army will just have to deal with infantry the old-fashioned way (with bolter and chainsword) or use inefficient firepower, such as anti-tank weapons, to kill them at range. Long Fangs themselves are no slouches at ranged anti-infantry when equipped with missile launchers - 12-15 small blasts a turn will wreck even Marines when bunched up. The trick of course is to clump your opponent and this is no truer than when units have been disembarked from transports (voluntarily or forcibly). When the opponent has small units which are spread out though, the advantage of multiple blasts quickly diminishes. How for example does a Space Wolves army plan to deal with other ranged infantry units such as Long Fangs, Devastators, Broadsides, etc.? Missiles are quite often inefficient in these cases and there is minimal gain from launching blasts at models 2" apart.

Unfortunately though, this once again places a huge burden on Long Fangs. Not only are they being asked to drop transports and deal with heavier armor at range (if necessary), when larger infantry squads get shot out of their rides they are also expected to lay down a bunch of blasts to generate lots of wounds. They are great at all of these tasks but they can only do so much - they aren't super durable themselves and are quite a high priority on your opponent's list of targets. The trick then is to support the Fangs with other types of firepower from range without compromising the aggression of the Space Wolves army. Replacing Scouts/Wolf Guard/Lone Wolves/TWC with Speeders or Rifledreads for example once again leaves the Grey Hunters pretty much alone in midfield and whilst they are certainly capable, you're putting a lot of pressure on your scoring units to deal with anything that gets close to them.

This balancing act is seen throughout the codex as units are bought to support and surround the key elements of Grey Hunters and Long Fangs and sometimes not all elements can be covered. Ranged anti-infantry is generally one of these and whilst you can work some dakka in such as some BolterBacks or Stormbolter Wolf Guard, Space Wolves for the most part rely upon shorter-ranged warfare to deal with infantry or mass blasts from missile launchers. It's a minor weakness but something which should be exploited by opponents at all opportunities. As a Space Wolves list builder, don't be afraid of having limited anti-infantry application outside of these options but focus on the strengths of your army. If you can bring in a bit of extra dakka without compromising the strengths, then by all means do so but otherwise it is just something you'll have to live with.

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