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Friday, November 4, 2011

Space Wolves Codex Review: Part 4 - Special Characters Part 2


Finishing off the special characters from Space Wolves. Last post looked at Njal, Canis, Ulrik and Lukas the trickster leaving Logan, Bjorn, Arjac and Ragnar this time round. Let's hop to it!

Logan Grimnar -

He's the enabler of the codex in that he switches up the Force Organisation Chart by moving Wolf Guard to Troops. FoC movements are a hallmark of 5th edition with most of the books so far having at least one character moving things around. Nearly every one of these movements is good. Why? It opens up new builds as you can more Troop choices and importantly, frees up the slot they were originally from. In this case, Wolf Guard leaving Elites unblocks that slot a bit more and with fantastic unit choices such as Dreadnoughts, Wolf Scouts, Lone Wolves and Iron Priests (who can take Thunderwolf Mounts) this is quite important.

Furthermore, Wolf Guard become Troops which opens a lot of options in this regard. Grey Hunters are an aggressive unit - there's no way around it. They don't have long ranged guns and the combination of bolters, meltaguns/flamers/plasmaguns and a rather annoying proficiency in close combat, they want to get up close to the enemy. Wolf Guard have options outside of this such as Storm Bolters, Terminator armor and associated Heavy Weapons like the Cyclone Missile Launcher. Having these guys as the mainstay of your army therefore opens up a completely different way to run a Space Wolves list - great for owners of the codex and great for Games Workshop sales. We'll discuss Loganwing in more depth in separate posts as it really does deserve whole posts dedicated it to it alone.

Beyond this...well Logan isn't just a FoC mover and for his points, we wouldn't expect to him to be. First, he's quite decent in combat. He comes with a 2+/4++ and Eternal Warrior so Power Fists aren't ganking him easily. He also adds Stubborn to whatever squad he leads and has five attacks base which can be split between Power Fist and Frost Blade attacks - very nice. Add to this, once per game Logan can inspire every unit within 18" of himself to gain +1 attack for the rest of that player turn. Very nice on the charge when you really need to break units.

Finally, Logan can hand out a USR to the unit he leads each turn including Fearless, Tank Hunters, Relentless and Preferred Enemy. Each has their own uses. Fearless will keep a big unit of Wolf Guard from running away (i.e. tank shocks, sitting on an objective, etc.). Tank Hunters will increase the ability of any weapons to damage tanks - specifically Lascannons or Missile. Relentless is great with Long Fangs as they can now move and shoot. Many people run MM Long Fangs in a Drop Pod with Logan this way. And Preferred Enemy is obviously the go to choice when the unit is stuck in combat. This flexibility allows the Space Wolves army a lot more flexibility in how it operates - and they are already pretty flexible to begin with. He also comes with Saga of Majesty to help with leadership issues the army may have. This is less useful with Logan though as most of the units in his army are going to be Ld9 but still a nice bonus to have.

Overall, Logan is a good choice but the main reason you take him is for his ability to move Wolf Guard to Troops. Not taking advantage of this makes Logan very expensive at 275 points. He's good - but not THAT good. When making the Loganwing list though...well he's worth every penny.

Ragnar Blackmane -

Ragnar Blackmane is a Wolf Lord missing his Thunderwolf mount. He's geared for close combat, particularly with Saga of the Warrior Born allowing him to rack up attacks quickly but he's expensive and doesn't add much to the army. At 240 points you really need your character to kick butt in combat like a Wolf Lord of Thunderwolf or Mephiston and whilst Ragnar is certainly capable of this - the Wolf Lord is more durable thanks to the Thunderwolf and stormshield and has more damage potential with the increased strength. Ragnar is also susceptible to being ganked by powerfists without eternal warrior and only a 4++.

What Ragnar does bring though is the ability to make your army that much better on the turn they assault. Once per game Ragnar gives any Space Wolves unit within 12" of him Furious Charge. This is a great way to make Space Wolves an offensive assault force but they aren't a very good sustained force. This means they really need to sweep the enemy before them on the turn this charge is initiated. This is Ragnar's only real army buff and while it's nice, I'd rather a better beatstick in the Thunderwolf Lord or a better army buffer in Logan.

Finally, Ragnar improves his own unit by allowing +D3 charge attacks instead of +1. This would be of most use in a tooled out Wolf Guard unit or Thunderwolf unit but he cannot join said Thunderwolf unit and tooled out Wolf Guard are generally better off with a character running Saga of the Hunter which makes them a better midfield unit.

Overall, Ragnar brings a couple things to the table but there are other models who do them better. For his points he's just not worth it as he's not that great a beatstick and doesn't give enough army buffs.

Arjac Rockfist -

Arjac isn't an HQ but an upgrade to a Wolf Guard squad. At 170 points he's not a cheap two wound character and he brings...well extra combat to the table. Arjac is great at killing characters and MCs as he gains re-rolls to hit against said targets. With five S10 attacks on the charge thanks to his massive shield, he's going to hit like a battering ram and will very likely take down whatever he targets.

The issue is...this is all he really does. Sure he throw his Thunderhammer up to 6" for a S10 Ap1 hit which is nice but 170 points? That's two Thunderwolves with Thunderhammers + a little bit extra and they have double the wounds and attacks. And this really is the story of Arjac. He's super durable with 2+/3++ and super killy with 5 S10 attacks but not for his price - 170 points is a bucketful too many and there are way better places to spend these points. If you want a Wolf Guard unit to be a rock, well he's a good addition but Wolf Guard units aren't going to be doing rocks too well unless you fork out a ton of points for Terminator Armor and Storm Shields. Once again, point inefficient...

In the end I'd leave Arjac home. He has some uses including sniping characters/MCs, improving the rock nature of a Wolf Guard unit and throwing his hammer out of a drop pod but he's about 40 points too expensive to really be considered a good choice.

Bjorn the Fell-handed -

Bjorn is silly survivable with front AV13, venerable status and a 5++. This means in combat a Power Fist needs a 4+ to hit, 6 to pen, have a 5++ fail and then roll 5/6 twice. Good luck. Bjorn is otherwise a very expensive Venerable Dreadnought with an increased statline (WS/BS 6, Strength 7, AV13 front, attacks 4) though with an oddly lower initiative than normal. He comes with a Plasma Cannon standard which with BS6 is pretty reliable and the usual Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon for S10 in combat. For 270 points though...he's expensive.

Beyond being a super hard to kill Dreadnought, Bjorn allows the Space Wolves player to re-roll the die to see who goes first. This is nice as it offers the Space Wolves player a higher chance of choosing who gets to go first - this choice is always very valuable and important. Space Wolves however, are an army which don't always need this choice. That's not saying they wouldn't prefer to have it or are so good that they don't need it but rather they are an army that will generally operate very well against most armies going first or second. It's just the nature of their build. Is this re-roll worth 270 points then?

Finally Bjorn has the Living Relic rule. This is one of those cutesie rules that shouldn't make it into a codex. It's great for campaigns and fluffy games and the like but for competitive gaming? It's tripe and not needed. When Bjorn dies he counts as an objective in an objective game or D3 extra kill points if the Space Wolves don't have a model in base to base with his wreck at the end of the game. Yay? I'm paying points for this?

Which brings us to answer the 'is he worth it question.' The simple answer is no. At 270 points he's too expensive. Sure he's durable but a meltagun will erase that durability pretty quickly. If he gets to combat he's going to be very hard to shift and opponents know that and will strive to not let him get there. He's not exactly quick and if he's running, he's not firing his shooting weapon. Even when he gets to combat, he's not going to carve through units as he's maxed out at four attacks when not charging. A squad can hold him up for a long time like most squads do against Dreadnoughts. His re-roll ability is nice and if he didn't have the Living Relic rule and was a bucketful of points cheaper, he'd be a great option. As it is, he's just too expensive and has a rule which isn't all that great when he dies. Keep him for themed lists (like Iron Hands counts-as) or fluffy/campaign games.

Conclusion -

We can quickly see most of the special characters are pretty blah. Njal and Logan are about the only really good choices and they are still quite expensive and thus aren't easy pick-mes! Logan is only really going to find use in enabling the build Loganwing whilst Njal is always going to bring a bunch of utility, his FAQ nerf made the decision in whether or not to bring him harder. Everyone else is either a sub-optimal choice with some benefits or just not a good choice with a regular HQ bringing more efficient abilities.

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