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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sisters of Battle Codex Review: Part 7 - Heavy Support


Heavy Support was used in two ways in the previous rendition of the codex - to provide more Immolators, specifically for Stormtrooper Troops or for ranged fire support in Exorcists. With the advent of Allies and an improved Imperial Guard codex, this latter role was often used through that system for a number of reasons and most of those reasons stand still as the Exorcist hasn't changed at all. The Sisters codex doesn't have the option for Imperial Guard allies now and no Immolator option in Heavy Support... Let's see how things look now.

Exorcist -

This tank is the exact same as before. Same strengths. Same weaknesses. Same everything. You get a Predator hull with BS4 and AV13/11/10 for 135 points with a S8 AP1 weapon punching shots up to 48" away. Unfortunately that weapon is D6 shots so isn't reliable and as ever with single weapon tanks, extremely vulnerable to being weapon destroyed. Since they are your opponent's only ranged threat they need to deal with, it's very likely Exorcists are going to be shake-locked for most of the game if not utterly useless. Heavy four would have been a much better statline for the gun as now it's just too unreliable on a chassis which isn't going to allow it to shoot too often. When it does shoot, you're not sure how many shots you're going to get which makes them only a so-so choice for getting the first strike in (i.e. first turn or reserving).

If you're in desperate need of ranged anti-tank busting, well the Exorcist is the Sisters of Battle's best bet. Nothing else has the range in the army to match it and whilst it doesn't have the punch of a melta-weapon in melta-range, that range be really important to help a Sisters army advance. However, considering the limitations of the weapon, you either need to grab at least two if not three to force your opponent to shake at a minimum, three tanks a turn (and keep them back to maximise their AV13 fronts) and maximise your chances of getting off a good salvo or two.

In the end though, I think it's just best to forego this option and have an army which is limited by range in terms of raw anti-tank. For what it does, the Exorcist is just too expensive and too unreliable. If you do take them, they certainly aren't a bad choice but don't count on them being able to fire that often or fire at full effect.

Retributors -

These nuns with big guns are the likely inheritors of the Heavy Support slot thanks to their heavy weapon cheapness, ability to take four heavy weapons at any squad size and keeping the Divine Guidance faith special rule (though with some modifications). Retributors have access to the usual heavy weaponry of Sisters of Battle - mutli-meltas, heavy flamers and heavy bolters and with Divine Guidance chucked in, one of these options is really good. Multi-meltas not so much, short-ranged and static they are a decent denial weapon but without anyway to become relentless, scout or score you'd rather get your MMs elsewhere (and Divine Guidance does diddly really). Heavy Flamers love Divine Guidance since you ignore armor and cover saves with template weapons but at 20 points per weapon, are very steep. Heavy Bolters on the other hand are a paltry five points, have the number of shots where Rending can take effect and due to this, can affect both infantry and armor at range.

This is important, the ability to impact the battlefield at range. With the nerf to Immolators with twin-linked heavy flamers, Sister armies have less ability to put lots of wounds on enemy infantry quickly. Yes they still have lots of bolters and flamers but for those units to be in optimal firing range, they have to expose themselves in some way whilst using 12" moving Immolators previously, you were far less exposed. By bringing four Rending Heavy Bolters to the battlefield for 85 points per squad, you not only gain 12 S5 shots which can rend armor but torrent away infantry at range - something Sisters in their current incarnation will have trouble with. Don't rely on the unit being able to damage tanks (unless they are AV10) as Divine Guidance isn't always going to go off (nor will you always have the Faith for it), but for such a cheap unit it does bring in some excellent duality and ranged punch. In terms of application on the tabletop it is nearly the exact same as a Dakka Predator but with the associated advantages and disadvantages of being an infantry unit.

With this in mind I see these units becoming the 'staple' Heavy Support choice simply for their efficiency and ranged punch they add to the army. Other upgrades are really not needed on the squad though extra squad members to boost durability isn't a terrible idea if you have points leftover. They also have a dedicated transport option which is great to bring more firepower to the table or allow another unit such as Repentia to hijack their ride.

Penitent Engine -

The wanna-be Dreadnoughts/super Killa Kanz. At 85 points per model these walkers are simply too expensive, no other way around it. Whilst they can do horrendous damage on the charge with three-eight attacks on the charge plus the additional attacks for each unsaved wound they inflict, they are paper thin and hard to control. With Rage your opponent can easily lead them about the nose and with their height plus inability to hide them inside a transport, there is no easy way around this. Watch as your opponent leads them on a merry chance after a pretty pony. This also really hurts their ability to bring their Heavy Flamers to bear as your opponent can make sure they rarely get close to infantry. Add in AV11 with open-topped and they aren't very durable at all, particularly if you put them in a squadron and there's no Kustom Force Field around to generate easy cover for them.

That being said, if the Engines do get into combat they will wreck face. Mass S10 attacks which ignores armor scares everyone, even at WS4/I3. The problem is getting them there and you are paying for this massive damage potential but not getting a very durable chassis for it. Whilst they can wreck face I would generally leave these guys at home for competitive lists. Other units like Repentia or Battle Conclaves are going to make better counter-assault/aggressive units anyway and don't cost you both your arms and legs.

Conclusion -

The Exorcist still has its place as the "I need to kill armor at range" tank with all the issues it had before - one gun and reliability. If you're really desperate for a platform which can take on tanks at range and deal with them assuming you don't roll three or less continually, Exoricsts can be a great help. Your opponent knows this however and will generally be able to deal with them accordingly so don't expect too many salvoes. Engines on the other hand are still just as bad as they were before. If they get into combat they can tear a hole in anything - the problem is getting them there. With AV11 and open-topped combined with Rage, they aren't durable and you don't have 100% control over their movements. A smart opponent will make sure they don't close or if they do, they are left in the open to be blasted by meltaguns and the like. Retributors on the other hand have really stepped up with Divine Guidance, points decrease and the decrease in effective anti-infantry across the Sisters' army. Whilst anti-infantry is never going to be an issue with an army based on flamers and bolters, being able to deal with infantry at range without exposing your short-ranged nuns is a huge tactical benefit. The fact that Diving Guidance gives them utility against tanks is just gravy.

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