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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monstrous Creatures and Tank Shocks

A point I raised that I'd like to see addressed as 5th edition moves into 6th edition is the relationship between tanks and monstrous creatures. Specifically, the interaction between the monstrous creature and the tank during the special move of tank shock. Why? Specifically it gives tanks a huge advantage over MCs and any foot lists based around MCs can suffer a lot because of this. We've looked at this in relation to foot lists before so let's take it further and look at why the mechanic needs to be changed specifically in relation to MCs.

From the previous post we know tanks in 5th edition have a lot of advantages over infantry and one of the most keen advantages is being able to affect their placement on the tabletop through tank shocking. Infantry obviously have defenses in this through Death or Glory! and it's a mechanic that works here for a couple of reasons. Most infantry are relatively cheap so losing one model to Death or Glory isn't that bad. This is offset by only special weapons generally being effective in actually stopping tanks (and thus there is a limited supply on how many weapons can do effective death or glories). Overall however, losing a single infantry model isn't a big deal and if it was (i.e. a character or expensive trooper), one generally isn't going to Death or Glory with that model.

This is where tanks have the advantage - by tank shocking into units which cannot reliably Death or Glory (i.e. no meltaguns) or into areas without such weapons, tanks can push infantry around (even if they pass their morale checks). Being able to dictate your opponent's movement is pretty huge in a game where the tactics of a player are expressed during the movement phase. This advantage is generally offset by a couple of things such as those lovely meltaguns discussed before but the ultimate conclusion is that tanks have one over infantry.

What really balances this out however is when an army mixes both infantry (which operate outside of the tanks) and tanks. Using weapons which are effective during Death or Glory (i.e. meltaguns) as well as terrain and the player's own tanks, the effects of tank shocks can be minimised though obviously not completely overcome. The issue here is some armies simply don't have tanks as an option (i.e. Tyranids and Daemons) which are 'replaced' with MCs (we finally got there didn't we). Why is this an issue? There are no off-sets. MCs aren't cheap and plentiful, they are generally expensive because they are tough and there certainly aren't many of them on the tabletop at one time. There aren't any tanks in such lists either and many of the armies who can run lots of MCs, don't have access to melta weapons in abundance on their infantry.

This may not seem like much, afterall, most MCs are S6 and get 2D6 armor penetration. Against an AV11 vehicle that's around a 50% chance of stopping the tank in a Death or Glory action. 50% is pretty good when one thinks about it but the issue is that MC is often well in excess of 150 points and often an important part of the army. When they are trying to be the 'tanks' but are extremely suseptible to being pushed around by tanks, well the mechanic breaks down and this is why you don't see Zilla based lists (or Tyranids/Daemons) doing too well in the mech-centric 5th edition. Let's break this down further.

Two/thirds of missions require one to hold certain points in space (objectives(. NOVA based missions put emphasis on this in all missions to some degree. Foot based lists are already at a slight disadvantage against mech lists in such missions (and gain said advantage back in Kill Point missions) but Zilla based armies, particularly ones without other tanks around or meltaguns are at an extreme disadvantage as tanks can simply push them off objectives. Yes, there's a 50% Death or Glory chance to stop it but when an army has 6-10 Rhinos/Razorbacks/Chimeras/Trukks w/Rams/Raiders w/Prows/etc.? Sooner or later your MC is going to fail and those MCs generally play a bigger role in such lists than a couple transports do in mech lists.

This means the mech lists can really control the board and specifically the objectives as few players are going to Death or Glory with MCs with regularity. Certainly there are times when one can and should Death or Glory such as when they only have a couple wounds remaining or when the game is coming to a close (but thanks to the good mechanic of Random Game Length, one only knows this is happening on Turn 7) but for the most part, it's not a good idea. There are times when it's useful but those situations are rare compared to when it's not within the current construct of the game.

This is why the mechanic needs some sort of change. Something which instead of instantly killing the MC, wounds it instead. This means full-wound MCs can still Death or Glory but it's not an all or nothing approach whilst weakened MCs are still going to Death or Glory with the knowledge they may die. It won't solve the whole balance issue between mech and foot lists (especially Zilla based lists) but it will allow a unit type more options against another.

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