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Friday, November 25, 2011

Space Wolves Codex Review: Part 9 - Heavy Support

Tabletop Geeks

Most people forget Space Wolves have actual choices in Heavy Support other than Long Fangs and with the discount Long Fangs get...well it's hard not to see why. Not only are there Long Fangs but the usual Vanilla assortment of Predators, Land Raiders, the Vindicator and Whirlwhind. Yet few see use - why? This post is going to look more at this question rather than reviewing each individual unit as we again reference you to VT2's Space Marine review which covers them all quite nicely.

Long Fangs -

First though, we need to do a proper review on Long Fangs! Long Fangs are essentially Devastators but are always small in squad size (3-6 in size), do not easily gain access to ablative wounds (limited to Pack Leader, any attached characters and Wolf Guard pack leaders), can split fire and have access to appropritately costed weaponry (i.e. cheaper than Vanilla Devs, same price as BA Devs). Despite losing the signum (one BS5 shot), combat squads, ablative wounds and any other individual advantages the other Devastators may have, Long Fangs are without a doubt, one of the most point efficient units in the game when equipped with missile launchers.

Long Fangs are therefore one of the premier MSU units of the game and importantly can utilise the 1+1 concept (unit + transport). This ensure they are still bringing mech saturation to an army and since they are quite cheap themselves, aren't breaking the bank in buying a unit full of heavy weapons and a transport tank. Having those extra tanks such as LasPlas Razorbacks provides the Space Wolves army with more ranged firepower and importantly draws firepower away from Long Fangs in that they are not the only unit with long-ranged firepower. Adding such transports gives saturation on two levels then - mechanised and fire support.

So let's look at the actual options Long Fangs have. They are the standard Space Wolves equipment but importantly are Ld9. This means they are quite sturdy in combat with counter-attack and thus when attacked by backfield assaulters (i.e. outflankers, fast moving units, etc.), are often durable enough to give them a fight. They're not going to win anything unless they get really lucky or the unit assaulting them is just ass but they are more likely to survive for longer. This increased combat effectiveness over regular Devastators makes them a more valuable asset to the Space Wolves army as they are less likely to be taken out of action by such disruption units. Their ability to split fire whilst in a small squad is also huge - particularly at no extra cost. Suppression fire is a key element of 5th edition and by being able to split fire, you ensure as many damage results possible are inflicted. Furthermore, with split fire engaged, you're maximising your chances of damage potential and are less likely to stack destroyed results on tanks. Whilst split fire isn't always going to be used, the basic premise of the ability is fantastic and should not be forgotten. What's important here is to not design a unit where they must use split fire to be effective (i.e. some anti-tank and some anti-infantry weapons). Use it to increase the effectiveness and raise the damage potential of the unit rather than being part of what makes the unit operate.

Which brings us to weapons. The best weapon by far is the Missile Launcher. It's cheap, can hurt tanks and has a small blast option to provide some ranged anti-infantry options. Mass blasts are very useful in taking out infantry recently disembarked from transports. Heavy Bolters are also cheap and can be used if you are in dire need of extra ranged anti-infantry but with the ability to get Heavy Bolters on Razorbacks (which are twin-linked) and lack of ranged anti-tank options elsewhere in the army, these aren't really a good choice. Lascannons are an improvement over the missile launcher in terms of anti-tank potential (and bring some nice AP2) but lose the anti-infantry duality and are more expensive. A couple of these isn't going to hurt if you have the points but they will find their best use is with Logan to gain S10 with tank-hunters. Plasma Cannons are likewise expensive and whilst they have the duality options of Missile Launchers, their anti-tank is far less reliable as it is based on a S7 blast. With cover being so prolific in 5th edition and the cannon being expensive, they aren't the best of choices (not to mention the 1/6 chance of overheating). Multi-meltas are another less than stellar choice but can again be quite useful with Logan who can make them relentless. Either using a Drop Pod or transport as a delivery system, they can bring some initially mobile MM to the table - something Space Wolves lack in respect to their Battle Brothers. This is a one unit only thing though.

Overall, the Missile Launcher is your best choice. It's cheap, dualistic and will make use split fire to maximum effect. Taking a unit of five or six (with four or five missile launchers) is the norm and gets you a sturdy backfield unit on the cheap which puts out a lot of firepower. The unit suffers from a lack of ablative wounds but it is generally not recommended to provide them through excess Wolf Guard unless you really do have lots of points to spare.

Why not the Others? -

So why are Long Fangs always used over the other units? Predators with heavy bolter sponsons are great for their points for example and would provide an excellent source of ranged anti-infantry whilst still being useful against tanks. Ranged anti-infantry is something Space Wolves can struggle with as well. The Vindicator and Whirlwind aren't great choices (as explained in VT2's review) but the Land Raider Crusader is certainly an expensive yet excellent platform. Why don't we see them then?

The answer is simple - Long Fangs are so damn point efficient and they are one of the few places the Space Wolves army can get ranged fire support en masse. Without Long Fangs the Space Wolves army would rely solely upon Razorbacks, Typhoons (who have opportunity costs) and Dreadnoughts (who have opportunity costs) for their fire support and whilst units like the Dakka Pred provide extra ranged firepower, the Long Fangs provide better firepower whilst not being that much more expensive. By not using Dakka Predators the Space Wolves army often suffers from a lack of ranged anti-infantry but there are still the blast options and in 5th edition, one often has to kill tanks first - then deal with infantry. Long Fangs are much better at cracking tanks than anything else available in the Space Wolves army.

The Land Raiders likewise see little use as there is nothing for them to carry. Blood Claws are pretty bad and tooling out a Wolf Guard unit becomes expensive fast and you're not getting the point efficiency of something like a TH/SS unit from Vanilla Marines or Blood Angels. The best combat unit Space Wolves have available to them cannot even ride in the Land Raiders and is often more mobile as they are harder to block and have beast (which includes fleet) status. Their threat range might be lower than that of a unit in a Land Raider but Thunderwolves are much cheaper and often have a lot more punch behind them as one has not spent 250+ points on the Land Raider. Without a good unit to carry around and the opportunity cost of losing the ranged firepower support from Long Fangs, Land Raiders don't see a lot of use. Those 250+ points are paying for the AV14 exterior, power of the machine spirit and assault ramp. They can bring a nice amount of firepower to the board but it's not exactly efficient.

Conclusion -

Whilst the Predator and Land Raider Crusader may be good choices in a vacuum, within the context of the Space Wolves army, Long Fangs are just far more important as they do something few other units int he army can. Furthermore, they do this so efficiently it's almost criminal not to take them. Back this up with their ability to bring a transport tank along with them and they aren't taking away from mech saturation either. 

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