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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, September 3, 2012

Unit Reviews: Imperial Armor Aeronautica

I had been relatively impressed with the Badab War 1&2 releases as well as Doom of Mymeara- while not without their flaws (such as the Siege and Tyrant lists), they were a real notch up in terms of rules-writing for Forge World, offering a lot of pretty decent options to players looking to do something unique with their armies without being either over- or underpowered in most cases; it seemed that FW was trending upwards in their understanding of the game and attempts to make their products balanced and usable for everyone. Unfortunately Imperial Armor Aeronautica basically wrecks that trend. Its units vary widely from incredibly broken ("Hi, I'm a flyer with a 2+ cover save!") to utterly worthless (110pts for a twin-linked Burst Cannon and a Markerlight.)

If that were the worst of it, though, it would simply be another early-type Forge World book. However, this time around it really seems that FW simply doesn't know what any of the rules do.

I get that FW is not big on balance and rules and all of that; I don't agree with the way they view it, but I can live with it. But IA: Aeronautica fails to even meet that minimal standard, as the writers refer to rules that don't exist, add rules to units in ways that are counterproductive or even useless and worse.

As an example, the Auto-Targeting rule in the book has the following text: "Weapons with this special rule ignore any cover saves or cover save bonuses provided by the Supersonic and Jink special rules, and from moving Flat Out." Which sounds really reasonable and fairly useful until you remember that the Supersonic rule has absolutely nothing to do with cover saves at all.

In fact, the Supersonic rule is one of the worst offenders in the book, as it's plastered all over all manner of units for no apparent reason.Similarly, many of the transports in the book are Supersonic, which for those of you keeping track at home means that units can't disembark from them except via Crash and Burn. While this is somewhat humorous (it makes the Aquilla less a transport and more a flying prison for criminals who they can't allow to set foot anywhere on the planet, a la Avengers), it's a colossal rules oversight that has no excuse- so many of the units in the book simply don't function at all, much less function as advertised. In a fandex that might be understandable, but a professional game company with worldwide recognition? No, I'm sorry, that's just not appropriate.

Complaints aside, let's take a look at the specifics of some of these units.

New RulesMost of these are not new, but rather old rules from the IA series slightly updated to be (somewhat) more accurate with the new flyer mechanics. With the exception of Auto-Targeting none of them are grossly mistaken, though the Heat-Seeking rule is redundant on several of its platforms (granting rerolls to hit on twin-linked weapons, etc.) Flare/Chaff Launchers are also a bit weird, as they grant a 4+ invulnerable save against Missile weapons... which, oddly, Missile Launchers are not. It also raises the issue of whether one-shot in this case means a single attack (i.e. one unit's shooting), a single hit (i.e. one missile) or a single turn (i.e. one enemy shooting phase.)

Thunderbolt Fighter
A standard AV11 airplane with 3HP and the Repair rule (exactly as per a Rhino). A TLAC and TL Lascannon simply aren't anywhere near enough for 180pts, even on a flyer- the ability to sink 40-60 more points on wing mounts doesn't help its case any. There is no real reason you'd take one of these over a Vendetta or such.

AV10, 2HP puts this in the distinctly fragile category (no tougher than a Land Speeder? wow) and it comes in at the non-insignificant price of 145pts, though it does benefit from Agile (giving +1 to cover saves from Jinking.) (Note to self: "jinking" sounds like a Roaring Twenties-era hate crime.) It has a TL Lascannon and Autocannon with extra range, but honestly if you 36" move vehicle with 48" range gun is unable to close with something, the problem isn't in the weapon's statline. Like the Thunderbolt it comes with a ton of extraneous wing point mounts that you can fill up if you hate points.
VERDICT: Better, but still not good.

Aquila Lander
Ah, here we go, the first of the colossal cock-ups that FW put in the book. The Aquilla "Lander" is has both the Hover type and the Supersonic rule, the latter of which prevents it from using the former. Oops. Fortunately, with its massive transport capacity of seven models, the inability to disembark is all but irrelevant. The Aquilla comes with a nose Heavy Bolter, but you can pay to get a Multilaser or Autocannon. Um, you can pay as many points as those weapons would normally cost to add to any other platform, in fact. But that's only fair, since it comes in dirt-cheap at... 110pts? What? For 30pts less than a Vendetta, you lose the ability to disembark, five transport capacity, one AV all around, three Lascannons and a Heavy Bolter? What the hell, Forge World?
VERDICT: Worth less than the electrons used to display this sentence.

Vulture Gunship
Take a Valkyrie; take away its transport capacity and give it Vector Dancer, Strafing Run, and a Heavy Bolter. That's a long ways from great, but it's certainly a good start- and it really is just the start, as the Vulture comes with a plethora of options. It can go with an Autocannon, Missile Launcher, or Lascannon replacing the Multilaser (all twin-linked) or it can take a pair of Multiple Rocket Pods. It can also swap the wing missiles for a variety of the standard missile/bomb options OR yet another pair of MRPs- yes, for 155pts you can have four large blasts spewing out of this thing each turn.Better yet, for the same price as the above you can swap all its weapons (except the Heavy Bolter) for a twin-linked Punisher Cannon, which is a lot scarier when you're BS4 and rerolling misses and also getting into whatever firing arc you want.
VERDICT: If you need to murder infantry, the Vulture is a go-to.

Valkyrie Sky Talon Transport
It's like a Valkyrie, but instead of carrying some troops it can carry a Tauros or two Drop Sentinels. Also it's thirty points cheaper and comes with Vector Dancer for some reason. It's not exactly great, since the ability to carry around Fast/Deep Striking vehicles isn't all that fancy, but they're pretty much the cheapest flyer you can get and they don't take a FoC slot, so there can be some silliness there.
VERDICT: Eh, could be worse.

Marauder Bomber
Weighing in at a hefty 400pts but only managing to pick up AV11 (albeit with three structure points), the Marauder is off to a middling start right from the beginning. Its weapon loadout is quite weak, with a TL Lascannon in the nose and a TL HB in the tail, but it does bring twelve bombs (each S6 AP4) to the party, which it can rain down using the Apocalyptic Blast template. It can also trade all of its regular bombs for a pair of Hellstorm Bombs, which are S7 AP3 and use the hellstorm (i.e. mega-flamer) template. The latter is probably not a very good choice, since 7"/10" AP3 blasts are a dime a dozen in Apocalypse, but the ability to drop fairly accurate AP4 barrages is more useful, if not 400pts of useful.
VERDICT: Okay if you want to pretend you're fighting WWII.

Marauder Destroyer
25pts more expensive than the regular Marauder but with the same stats and the Strafing Run rule, it trades half of its bomb payload to upgrade the Heavy Bolter to an Assault Cannon, the Lascannon for three TL Autocannons, and add a pintle Heavy Bolter. Able to pour out a fair amount of firepower and still drop a pretty dangerous rack of explosives, it still suffers from the problem of just being really, really expensive for what it does. However, thanks to both bombs and guns it has an excellent ability to deploy its firepower against whatever target is needed- there are few good places to hide from its weapon arcs.
VERDICT: Better, but still not great.

Arvus Lighter
This is another one of those units that is basically in here as a joke, like the tractors and construction Sentinels and such. It doesn't really do anything in particular (holds twelve duders) and it's explicitly terrible at combat (it can only fire snap shots ever.) There is a point cost and stuff listed, but even Forge World knows that you're never, ever going to use it. You are going to paint your pretty model- or your ugly little stub-winged box, as the case may be- and put on the shelf and be done with it.
VERDICT: How can you have an opinion if the model has no rules, Mr. Anderson?

Avenger Strike Fighter
With an unusual statline (12/10/10, 2HP) and highish cost (150pts), the Avenger is certainly worth being skeptical of. However, it does have Strafing Run and a pretty significant armament, bringing two Lascannons and a Bolt Cannon (S6 AP3 Heavy 7) as well as a rear-facing Stubber. It can also bolt on a pair of extra wing-mounted guns, either Multilasers/Autocannons for 15pts each or Missile Launchers for 20pts each; various missiles and bombs can also go in these slots. Since it comes in the HS slot of Guard and Sisters, that gives it a reasonably-unique role compared to most of the other flyers and it makes a pretty solid ground-attack vehicle, albeit a rather fragile one due to its weird armor values. Though it's expensive, I think tagging on the Missile Launchers is your best bet, as this gives you a plethora of anti-tank and options as well as the ability to hunt heavy infantry fairly well. However, if you're looking to diversify its armaments a bit the Multi/AC options are not bad, either, and can allow it to rain down some pretty enormous amounts of fire from above.
VERDICT: One of the few actual flyers that is balanced for its cost. Thumbs up, Forge World.

Manticore Air Defense Tank
Coming in 15pts cheaper than the regular Manticore, this version reverts more to the old pre-IG codex statline for the missiles (S9 AP2 Ordnance) and tags on the Skyfire and Heat Seeking properties as well. However, lacking the Interceptor rule it is not only likely to get alpha-striked out of existence but also is unable to meaningfully threaten any non-air targets. So, uh, buy a Hydra instead and save yourself 70pts. Note that because its missiles have the Ordnance rule, you effectively can't shoot more than one of them per turn (unless you want to snapfire, which is a pretty poor plan.)
VERDICT: Forget it, Sam, it's Chinatown.

Imperial Support Weapons Platform
A Hydra or Air Defense Manticore, minus the tank part. They're AV10 all around and immobile with two HP, and in return you save 25/45pts. Oh, and you can cram 1-3 of them into a single slot, in the case of the Manticore version.
VERDICT: Making a bad thing cheaper only works if you make it enough cheaper to matter.

Praetor Armored Assault Launcher
Well, it's pretty ridiculously expensive, but it does at least come with some survivability for that price, having the same armor and structure points as a Baneblade. Its armament is... less impressive, however, being a two-short Skyfire/Interceptor Missile Launcher. The ability to reroll penetrations (thanks to Primary Weapon) is certainly nice and means it stands a pretty okay chance of its hits going through even against the AV12 flyers, but on the other hand BS3 means that its two shots each turn are probably not going to do a lot. (Ask the Tyrannofex how that works out for him.) The minimal secondary armament of two Heavy Bolters does little to make up for this lacking, so in the end the Praetor is mostly just a big hulk of metal that will annoy you by missing a lot.
VERDICT: Swing and a miss.

Sabre Weapons Battery
An option to replace the Heavy Weapons Squads in IG Platoons, Batteries are artillery (giving them significant survivability in this edition) and bring one TL Heavy Bolter each with a single crewman accompanying. They are immobile (okay, makes sense) and Scouts (wait what) which means they will usually have pretty good firing positions and you have a number of upgrade options. They can add Searchlights for free, which... well, why wouldn't you? I mean, they're free and all. They can also trade the HB for two TL Heavy Stubbers (10pts), a TL Autocannon (also 10pts), or TL Lascannon (20pts) as well as adding one extra crew each for 2pts. Oh, and all of the guns are Interceptor and Skyfire, giving you a flexible and effective tool.

Comparing, for 25pts you can get a T3 two-wound Heavy Weapons team with an Autocannon, or for 42pts you can get a T7 four-wound Sabre Platform that is twin-linked alongside its ability to shoot down arriving aircraft and such. Uh... yes. Yes I will take those. The only downside is their inability to move or be loaded into vehicles the way HWTs can later in a game, but since you're perfectly free to mix the two of them that's not really a problem.
VERDICT: Imperial Guard gets another excellent anti-flyer tool. As if they needed it.

Storm Eagle Assault Gunship
See, it's like a Storm Raven but different, right? It has a capacity of 20 and the same four doors, etc, but it... wait, it's not a Transport vehicle but has transport capacity? Damnit, Forge World. Anyways, it gets the extra capacity and a free HP in the mix, but can't carry a Dread like the Stormraven can. The weapons are also notably weaker, with the nose TL Heavy Bolter backed up by some Whirlwind-style missiles (with two shots). It can buy some missiles or Lascannons on the wings for a fairly absurd price and can trade the nose gun out for a Multimelta (at +15pts for some reason) or Typhoon.

Oh, and CSM get a version that shaves 20pts off the cost and loses PotMS as well as having worse weapon options. Because, you know, Chaos has to suck at everything.
VERDICT: It's just worse than a Stormraven. Sorry, other Marines.

Caestus Assault Ram
Forge World loves to make Unique and Special Flowers, and this is one of them. See, it's 13/13/11 (basically telling all the other flyers to suck on it and incidentally having as much protection as a freaking Manta Carrier does) and is a tank that is allowed to make Ram attacks because it's so very different. Oh, and it gets to roll two dice for penetration and add +1 on the damage chart when ramming and also has a 5++ against any hits from the front and also Terminators don't count double and it has a super-duper large blast Melta and you can assault out of it and its the MOST STRONGEREST DUDE EVAR.

Unfortunately, in the process of bolting on every special rule they could think up FW once again forgot to read the actual rules of the game and thus, like several of its brethren, it has the Supersonic rule and so leaves its passengers unable to disembark. But I guess maybe that's a design feature, right? Since it can ram into something and explode and then the guys can assault, right? Right?
VERDICT: Broken, but not in the way the internet thinks.

Land Raider Helios (Hyperios Anti-Air variant)
Pretty standard Land Raider numbers and rules all around and coming in at 280pts, except its transport capacity is... six. That's not even enough for one squad of Terminators, its nominal cargo. But that's another thing Forge World loves to do, so we'll ignore it. It comes with the Godhammer sponsons and a Skyfire/Interceptor missile launcher on the top, which is kinda cute. Heat Seeker means you're almost always hitting your preferred target, making it a pretty strong little platform against most airplanes. However, the downsides of low transport capacity and inability to bolt the Multimelta onto the top are pretty annoying, so it probably isn't something you're gonna be terribly happy about.
VERDICT: On the weak side of passable. It can, you know, sit on an objective somewhere and protect some Scouts I guess.

Whirlwind Hyperios
95pts for a standard Rhino chassis with the above gun stuck on the top. Oh, this one is twin-linked, so you can reroll misses against flyers while you reroll misses against flyers (Forge World herd u lieked dat) but is otherwise a fairly trashy little thing. Again, not horrible, just a bit over-specialized; a hundred points is just too much to pay for one mediocre shot per turn.
VERDICT: guys i hav a gun can i play in ur game to??!

Thunderhawk Gunship
Apocalypse is basically a game of pulling your models off the table. Units like the Thunderhawk are basically why. See, it's pretty okay statwise (AV12 all around, 4 structure points) and can carry thirty dudes, which is a nice little bonus. And it comes with some Lascannons, bombs, and Heavy Bolters, all of which are amusing. But it has a Thunderhawk Cannon for a main gun (7" blast, S8 AP3), but you're never gonna use it because for a trivial amount of points you can upgrade to a Turbo-Laser (large blast Destroyer weapon) and you always, always will. Admittedly, it costs a fairly stupid number of points (nine hundred and then some), but there's no meaningful way to shut it down for most armies and the Destroyer gun will just kind of murder most things pretty instantly.
VERDICT: Destroyer weapons flyers- making Apocalypse not fun anymore since 2005.

Grey Knights Thunderhawk
You pay 100pts more, you get the standard array of GK vehicle rules (including Reinforced Aegis, just in case that one psychic power someone tried to use on you might have had a minute chance of working) and get the option to pay 40pts to turn all your Heavy Bolters to Psycannons. It's really not all that different at the end of the day, but its secondary guns will cause a bit more damage and be a bit more annoying to everyone you use it against.
VERDICT: Getting kicked in the balls 10% harder isn't meaningfully worse.

Thunderhawk Transporter
It's half the cost, and instead of having a gun that cleans things off the board, you... you can carry two Rhinos? What the hell is this garbage.
VERDICT: At least the Arvus is a cutie-pie; this thing has no excuse.

Land Speeder Tempest
See, it's a Land Speeder that can activate its super-engines and go rilly rilly fast so much that it flies! Except then it can't shoot or do anything else. And it costs more than twice as much as a basic Land Speeder and is only AV11. So, uh, yeah, probably not going to be making an appearance on the tables near you anytime soon.
VERDICT: If you didn't want to spend points on a Stormtalon, you can take this instead and be strictly worse.

Contemptor-Mortis Dreadnought
The big ol' Eggnaut from days of yore; it may not be great, but it does at least have some advantages. AV13 in the front and a 5++ against shooting are both pretty nice, and if it sits still it becomes Skyfire/Interceptor for the turn. Its basic armament of a pair of TLHBs is pretty atrocious, but you can get Multimeltas for free, TL Autocannons for 10pts TL Lascannons for 30pts, or six-shot Assault Cannons for 25pts (in all cases the cost is for the pair.) With BS5 and a pretty good array of guns to pick from the Contemptor is actually well-seated to shoot down most types of flyers, and the ability to bolt a Cyclone Missile onto its noggin (for the usual cost) is cute. Its main problem is that it is rather pricey overall, but no more so than a Venerable Dreadnought and it comes with a variety of advantages compared to that alternative, so I think it ends up looking favorable.
VERDICT: If you want a big egg in your army, this is definitely the one to take.

Hyperios Air Defense Battery
35pts per platform and artillery statline, except that it's T6 instead for some reason. It's only BS3, but has a twin-linked Missile Launcher with Skyfire/Interceptor (and Heat Seeker again, because FW doesn't learn), which ends up being a fairly reasonable price to pay for scaring off enemy flyers. It also has the distinction of being the first model to have access to the Split Fire rule. Unfortunately, due to Split Fire requiring a Ld test and FW being derpy, it can never pass the test and thus sadly cannot take advantage of it.
VERDICT: If you ignore the parts that don't work, these are actually pretty good.

Because we didn't have enough nearly-identical Ork aircraft quite yet, here's another one. But see, this one has, er, five Big Shootas and six Rokkits, so that's totally different! Also it can get an Apocalyptic Barrage (8) weapon instead of its BS2 Rokkits for a fairly small number of points, so maybe you ought to do that instead.
VERDICT: At a certain point, AV10 flyers with four mediocre guns on them become redundant. That point was about six chassis ago, I think.

Attack Fighta
No. No. I am not going to even bother. It has some crappy guns and bombs and is a stupid garbage plane with absolutely nothing of interest about it.
VERDICT: In the case of Blah Blah Blah vs. The State of Whatever, we find that no one gives a shit.

Flakk Trukk
Trukk stats (including 3HP) and keeps the unfortunate Ramshackle rule, but gains the ability to move Flat Out and still shoot at a flyer. They come in squads of up to three and are 75pts, which is a bit much given their armament (Flakka-Gunz, which are just a Quad Gun minus the twin-linked quality, and a Big Shoota.) Given the minimal penalty Orks take for shooting at a flyer and and the price (an Aegis is 50pts and has better numbers), one must conclude that the Flakk Trukk isn't really a particularly strong choice.
VERDICT: At least it's not another identical airplane.

Flakk Battle Fortress
Yikes. Well, um, 460pts is an awful lot to be paying, but let's keep our minds open here. It's got good AVs (14/13/12) and three structure points, so it's pretty survivable (though it is still open-topped.) Surprisingly, the only guns it comes with are three Flakka-Gunz, although you can bolt a number on for extra points. Given its fairly absurd cost, only having three weapons is... well, it's not great. Yes, sure, they get four shots each, but you're still BS2, so that's just bare compensation for Ork stats. So it's tough enough to eat up most shots from flyers and volley back in return, but you could instead take... six Flakk Trukks (which we've already established are kinda mediocre) and have twice as many guns and the same number of hull points in effect. The transport capacity of thirty is a nice add-on and since it's a superheavy you could maybe put Lootas or something in there, but at the end of the day I don't think it's really going to be that great for you.
VERDICT: You do not always get what you pay for.

Flakk Trakk
Not to be confused with the above entry that is a single letter different. Damnit, FW. So it's 15pts more than a Flakk Trukk and comes with 12/11/10 armor (which is a huge improvement) and the same traits/special rules, minus Ramshackle- looking good so far. It can carry six mans (as opposed to the Trukk, which can't carry any) and comes with... wait, two Big Shootas and that's it? That can't be right. The picture shows it with a Flakka-Gun, so we're going to assume that it has one (because it has the statline printed with it and the illustration has it and everything) because this is far from the first fuck-up FW has made. Presuming that, the Flakk Trakk is a pretty good buy, as it is significantly tougher than the Trukk and can tote some guys around (Lootas, Burnas, or Tankbustas, perhaps?) It can also reroll terrain tests when moving 6" or less, an added bonus.
VERDICT: Orks join the "we have a reasonable anti-air unit" club.

Phoenix BomberOh goody, the Eldar section. See, Eldar are supposed to basically be the kings of the air and FW certainly gives them enough toys to compete for that title, but whether or not they're good enough to hold it... well, we'll get to that in time. Anyways, the Phoenix is rather pricey at 225pts and has a shoddy statline (10/10/10 and 3HP, but at least they finally pried those damn Guardians out of the gunner's seat so it's not BS3 anymore.) It does have the Vector Dancer and Shrouded rules, which make it quite able to hit what it needs and gives it a boost to survivability above and beyond its weak statline... you're just gonna need to Evade a lot to make real use of it, which limits your firepower. Oh, and Strafing Run also, so if you're hitting ground targets... well, you're gonna HIT those targets almost all the time.

It comes with a Pulse Laser (which can be swapped to a TL Bright Lance or TL Starcannon for free, but given you're BS5 that's probably unnecessary), two Shuriken Cannons and two missile launchers. They come standard as Phoenix launchers (S5 AP3 Heavy 3) but can be swapped into Nightfire (S4 AP3 Small Blast Pinning No Cover Heavy 3) for 10pts. Its primary configuration is pretty brutal against heavy infantry and light vehicles, which taking the Nightfires will shred light infantry pretty quickly. However, in either case you are probably going to eat a lot of firepower and even those small arms can potentially bring you down, so it makes the price tag a bit tough to stomach. However, at the end of the day you're still a flyer with a lot of firepower, so bar Interceptor you're going to cause a lot of damage quite quickly.
VERDICT: Not the best, but will tear up the unprepared.

Nightwing Interceptor
Alright, this guy is what makes the Eldar air force scary. The Nightwing is an absolute monster, as will be clear in a moment here, and it comes from a wide variety of reasons. 145pts for AV10 all around and two HP is quite bad, but once again it at least gets BS4, so that's good (and 145 is pretty cheap for a flyer.) It comes with Vector Dancer (making targeting a cinch) as well as Shrouded and Agile- for those keeping track at home that means a permanent 5+ save and a 2+ save when you Evade. Since it comes with almost as many guns as the Phoenix (two Shuriken Cannons, two Bright Lances) and is 2/3 the price, the Nightwing ends up being a wonderful deal- maybe quite on par with a Vendetta, but thanks to maneuverability and a good weapons loadout it is quite capable of going toe-to-toe with one if necessary.
VERDICT: Good lord yes. What part of 2+ cover save didn't you understand?

Another superheavy with a Str D weapon, but despite its inclusion in Aeronautica, it's not actually a flyer. It gets standard Eldar tank stats, but with two structure points due to being a big honkin' thing and BS4 due to them realizing that BS3 on the tanks was ridiculous. As a superheavy it naturally comes with Titan Holofields (for a 4++) and Targeting Matrix Override (giving its primary weapon a 3+ to ignore shaken/destroyed results). It also has the Sky Hunter rule, which is what justifies its presence in the book- it can choose to Zoom just like a flyer, but isn't allowed to shoot while doing so. It comes with an underslung Shuriken Cannon (which can be traded up for any of the other Eldar heavy weapons at a cost) and a Pulsar, which is a cute little Str D two-shot large blast. If you're a stupid head you can take a Sonic Lance instead, which is an Apocalypse-sized flamer that you can throw 18" (it's AP2 and always wounds on a 3+, rolling 3d6 pen against tanks.) Since the Pulsar ignores cover saves and auto-wounds/auto-pens, the only benefit to the Lance is better accuracy- not a huge concern on Apoc tables.

Vampire Hunter
Here's where we get into the stupid stuff- more flyers with Str D guns. At 730pts the Vampire is noticeably more affordable than the Thunderhawk and comes with AV11 and for structure points, so virtually the same survivability. It's also got Strafing Run, giving it unmatched accuracy, and though its weapon complement is pretty limited in number, it can still put out a lot of hurt. A Scatter Laser and Phoenix launcher (which you may remember from the Bomber, above) are all but extraneous beside the twin-linked Pulsar, and with BS5 and rerolls it should be a rare day that you don't hit your target with at least one of the shots. With the ability to vaporize most targets pretty reliably and remain untouched itself, the Vampire will always be annoying and usually be fairly deadly.
VERDICT: Its only weakness is the army supporting it.

Vampire Raider
Like the Hunter above, but trades out minimal firepower for a transport capacity of thirty. It notes that it isn't allowed to carry MCs or vehicles, but since it's supersonic (and thus nothing can disembark) that's pretty irrelevant. Its only actual losses are the Phoenix launcher (boo hoo) and twin-linked status on the Pulsar- a disadvantage, to be sure, but not a particularly terrible one. If/when it gets errata'd to actually be able to disembark its cargo it will be a holy terror, bringing the trifecta of Str D, hit on 6s, and scoring units to the table.
VERDICT: Amazing, contingent on an FAQ document; otherwise merely excellent.

Previously a garbage variant chassis based on the Falcon, the Firestorm is merely underwhelming with the advent of the new rules. It gets stuck with BS3 still, despite everything, and has a transport capacity of six to tote around some DA or whatever for late-game, but the main "attraction" is the Skyfire/Interceptor gun on top, which is an up-ranged Scatter Laser with six shots and twin-linked. Unfortunately this leave it barely able to do anything to the main flyer threats these days, the various AV12 airplanes, but against AV11 or AV10 targets it's fairly effective, if not outstanding. Unfortunately you pay a heavy premium for all this (180pts) and thus the Firestorm is simply not a vehicle that most people are all that interested in shelling out for.
VERDICT: Bad at its job, but at least flexible.

Oh, Tyranids, Tyranids, Tyranids. For as bad as Forge World is at designing flyers and such, they're even worse at designing monstrous (and gargantuan) creatures, which means that all of the FW Tyranids are inevitably awful. The Harridan is a perfect example of this: to start with, it's 900pts, which is as much as a Thunderhawk. It's WS4 and BS3 because god forbid you actually get decent stats. It's T8 W8, which at least means it's sort of protected, but it STILL can't manage a 2+ save and it falls well behind units like the aforementioned Thunderhawk and their twelve "wounds."

But it's got something cool and awesome like the destroyer weapons on the Thunderhawk/Vampire, right? No, no it doesn't. Its combat capabilities are dual Scything Talons (which is admittedly fairly decent in a fight, though remember you can't assault when you're in flyer mode) and twin Bio-Cannons- S10 AP3 six-shot weapons. If you think that's pretty excellent, remember that it's lowly BS3 and is getting no bonus on the vehicle damage table, so while the Destroyer weapons are shearing tanks to pieces three at a time, you're having to roll to penetrate, letting the enemy roll cover, and then hoping for a six on the damage table. Derp! Oh, and you can carry a (not even full size) brood of Gargoyles, which will undoubtedly swing the course of your Apocalypse game.

Oh, and it's the only entry in the book Tyranids get. What, did you want a way to kill airplanes? Well fuck you, sir, you are the game's punching bag and you will like it. The Harridan isn't even Skyfire (it's only considered a flyer for purposes of movement and being shot at, not for its own shooting.)
VERDICT: I think having the same Ballistic Skill and Initiative as an Imperial Guardsmen says it all.

Barracude Air Superiority Fighter
Tau, like Eldar, should be one of the game's nominal "best air support" factions, but unlike Eldar they don't get any really broken choices- in fact, most of their stuff is pretty underwhelming and/or overpriced. The Barracude illustrates a lot of these problems pretty well- it's one of the AV10 2HP frames, costs 130pts, and comes with an Ion Cannon, two Burst Cannons, and a TL Missile Pod. Now, that's not actually a bad weapons setup, but it's only BS3 and isn't allowed to buy a Targeting Array for some reason. Being as fragile as it is and also not having the weapons to actually win a shootout with most vehicles puts it in a bad place- obviously it's not fair to compare it to an all-star like the Vendetta, but it's still hard to avoid mentally lining the two of them up and shaking your head.
VERDICT: Not what was advertised.

Tiger Shark
Ooops, looks like we have another Forge World screw-up here; the Drone Rack rules let the Tiger Shark's fourteen (why fourteen? that's not even a legal squad size) drones deploy "as if they were jump infantry," but jump infantry don't get any special exceptions for the disembarkation rules. Come on, FW, can't you at least try a little harder than just copy/pasting stuff over? Anyways, it's 520pts for 12/10/10, which has got to be one of the weakest statlines for a superheavy ever, and a mere two structure points. Targeting Array + Strafing Run does mean that it's pretty adept at hitting targets on the ground, but its armament of a TL Ion, TL Missile, and two Bust Cannons really do not impress. Bizarrely, it has the option of trading all fourteen drones (10pts each) for... six Seeker Missiles? That it isn't even allowed to fire on its own? Weeeaaaaaaaaaak.
VERDICT: Maybe the air caste should let the earth castebe the ones to build things from now on? Because it seems they're pretty terrible at it.

Tiger Shark AX-1-0
A significant price upgrade (660pts) over the basic Tiger Shark, the AX-1-0 does at least boast a number of upgrades that make it a lot more suited to taking the battlefield in Apocalypse. Well, okay, basically one upgrade- it trades the drone rack and Ion Cannon for a twin-linked Heavy Railgun; just like the normal Railgun it has two modes, solid shot (Str D AP1) and submunition (S7 AP3 10" blast.) Now AP1 is exactly no better than AP2 on a Destroyer weapon, but we still can't complain because it's all but guaranteed to hit and mashes things up pretty good. It's also one of the few non-blast Str D weapons, making it capable of shooting down other fliers (and, thanks to the Networked Markerlight it carries you're still going to be rerolling to hit and looking for 2s most of the time.) Its blast mode is similarly pretty devastating, although allowing cover saves means that models will sometimes live through it, pity.

The AX-1-0 is probably the only useful Tau aircraft, despite its weak armor facings, and if allowed to live and do its thing it can gun down virtually any other planes around as well as massacre troop formations. However, unlike the Thunderhawk/Raider, the lack of a Destroyer blast means that enemy armor formations on the ground are largely beyond its reach- you'll have to rely on Broadsides and the like for that.
VERDICT: Fragile, but still pretty nasty.

Note quite a joke entry, but pretty close. At 400pts and 12/12/10 with three structure points the Orca is at least not plagued by the fragility of the other Tau chassis; however, carrying a single TL Burst Cannon and a Missile Pod, it's woefully undergunned compared to... well, compared to a single Crisis suit, really. As compensation you do get a transport capacity of 57 (no vehicles allowed, suits count triple), which... well, you're probably not ever going to need it. What, exactly, are you doing carting that many infantry around, anyways? And why did you need to pay a Baneblade's worth of points to do it?
VERDICT: This is named after the "killer whale" why, exactly?

Oh, the Manta- pinnacle of wasteful-but-pretty hobby purchases. Representing perhaps the largest of superheavies around (ignoring things like the Imperator Titan that don't have an official model), the Manta weighs in at a massive 2000pts and has 13/12/11 armor as well as a resounding TEN structure points. It... it also has the Supersonic rule, because fucking Forge World- yes, let's prevent us from using those 55+145 transport slots. -_- It comes with two Heavy Railguns, three TL Ion Cannons, one TL Missile Pod, and sixteen Burst Cannon because... because I don't know why. (The Ions and Bursts, like many found on Tau flyers, are "long-barreled" variants with double the normal range, making them at least able to shoot- if not realistically affect- targets.) Oh, and there are also ten Seeker Missiles, a lone Markerlight, and most all of the Tau vehicle upgrades, because at this point, why not?

Here's the awful part, though: the Manta basically doesn't count as a flyer. It's got such a big fat butt that you roll to hit it with normal ballistic skill- you might think that something so huge and designed to fight in space battles against orbital weapons might have an AV better than measly thirteen, but nooooooooooo. It does get a 4++ to try and protect it, but given its point cost you can expect rather a lot of firepower to be coming its way. (It does, at least, benefit from the standard flyer immunities to assaults and blast/template weapons.) Oh, and FW forgot to take out a 100% meaningless rule (negates increased scatter when firing ordnance on the move) that has been redundant since not 5th Edition but 4th Edition. Forge World, you suck at your own rules. How is that even possible?
VERDICT: Why am I even reviewing this? No one who bought one cares and no one who didn't will ever use or see one.

DX-6 "Remora" Drone Fighter
Huzzah, a way to waste large numbers of points! Coming in squadrons of up to five and with the bare-minimum stats (AV10, 2HP, BS3) in addition to a 110pt cost, the Remora is here to show you just how awful a unit can be. It does have Shrouded, a long-barrel Burst Cannon, two Seeker Missiles, and a Markerlight, all of which sounds pretty impressive until you realize that all it does is put one wound per turn on a Space Marine. So yeah, it's sorta a little tough to kill... OOOOOOOR you could pay 35pts more and get a Nightwing, which has a second spamfire gun, S8 guns that don't get used up after one shot, and BS4 and also a better cover save.

Gauss Pylon
Like Tyranids, Necrons get the short end of the stick in this book with only a single entry. However, the Pylon is a bit of a monster- it's 420pts, which is hardly inconsiderable, but it's AV14 all around and has two structure points, so it's not exactly easy to drop. Living Metal helps and the Phase Shift Generator gives it any any Necron unit within 12" a 5++ save- and on top of all that, Weapon Destroyed results just reduce its number of shots and it utterly ignores Immobilized results because Necrons are assholes. The Pylon is completely immobile and can arrive by Deep Strike, pushing enemy models out of the way old-Monolith style (it's pretty clear that FW doesn't like the new Necron book, as they basically didn't use any of its rules or anything.)

The Pylon can choose to fire on either of two modes and comes with a respectable BS4; the anti-infantry mode is a pretty standard "random shots at short range" thing, getting 2d6 of them out to 18" with S6 AP3. For some reason, it's not Gauss, though. On focused mode it's Str D AP2 Heavy 3 and can cross the board, but FW also tacked on Skyfire and Interceptor so that when your fancy airplane shows up this thing blows it right out of the fucking sky, no questions asked. Problem, Imperium?
VERDICT: It's too bad the model looks like the blandest, most uninteresting thing on Earth because it's got pretty cool rules.

Raven Strike Fighter
205pts, standard DE paper plane stats (including the ever-popular 2HP) with, uh, every flyer-specific special rule they could think up: Evasive, Vector Dancer, Strafing Run, and some more. It comes with... a TL Dark Lance and a ten-shot Splinger Cannon? Seriously? That's it? The Nightwing has twice the armament for 75% the price and has better special rules to boot. Oooh, I can reroll scatter when arriving from Deep Strike if I do so near an enemy flyer!
VERDICT: It stinks.

Hell Blade
115pts, same paper stats and BS3. Wow, uh, BS3 for Chaos Marine vehicle, huh? Yeah, sure, it's "piloted by a servitor" and stuff, whatever; if that's what you've gotta tell yourself to give Chaos shitty stats on their vehicles then go for it. It does at least have a pair of Reaper Autocannons, which is sorta okayish I guess? But it's still too little armament for something that otherwise does very little and is extremely easy to kill.
VERDICT: Better than some, worse than anything you care about.

Hell Talon
Just like the above but 4HP instead of just two- which is nice, but when you're getting exploded so easily that may not matter. Also 185pts, which seems like a lot, but it does get Strafing Run and some better weapons. A Reaper Autocannon and TL Lascannon are its direct-fire weapons, along with eight bombs (S6 AP4 blast) which can be upgraded to Heavy Bombs (basically large blasts) in Apocalypse games. You can also swap the Autocannon for a Havoc Launcher for free, but I don't think you really want to.
VERDICT: It at least has some weapons on it, unlike its crappy little brother.

Hey, did you want a Drop Pod? This... this isn't a Drop Pod, but it's a little bit like one, I guess? The Dreadclaw is 85pts and takes up a nonexistant (FA) slot; it carries ten dudes or a Dreadnought. It's got the same stats as a loyalist pod, but no guns (and the Frag Assault Launchers/Assault Vehicle rules.) It has to be filled with a unit and always arrives via Deep Strike... after which it bizarrely gets a normal move. But you still can't assault from it that turn (since you Deep Struck) so you basically want to just fly around for a turn and hope you don't get shot down. Oh, did you not realize? This thing is a flyer and stuff. So yeah, pray for a turn, then go Hover mode and let some dudes jump out and punch things. I guess you can actually run around and pick up more guys if you want to, but honestly it probably won't live that long.
VERDICT: Worse than a Drop Pod, but much sillier.

Blight Drone of Nurgle
At 125pts for 12/11/10 and two HP along with BS2 the Blight Drone starts off looking kinda weak, but gets better from there. It's a Daemon (which gives it a 5++) and comes with a Reaper Autocannon and Mawcannon, which has two modes. One is a S6 AP4 flamer and the other is a non-ordnance Battle Cannon, so that ends up working out pretty well overall. Coming in the FA slot means it has no competition, although you are required to take a unit of Plague Marines to unlock it; if you really wanna load up they can even be taken in squadrons of up to three.
VERDICT: Not gonna kill any flyers, but pretty scary to most ground troops.

Looking Back
So okay, where does this leave us? I'm not going to worry too much about who got good new flyers, but who got good new flyer defense is incredibly important. And, looking at things, the field is not a whole lot better. Orks, IG, and the Marine variants (SM, BA, DA, BT, SW all got some very good defenses, and along with Eldar's new super-flyer that basically rounds up the list of who can handle aircraft. This does at least help out some Xeno, it doesn't come anywhere even close to actually "fixing" the flyer problem as many people predicted Aeronautica would- indeed, with the Nightwing, Vulture, and a few of the others around the problem is if anything worse than before.

The ratio of good-to-bad units isn't all that different from many of FW's other books, to be honest, but their sheer ignorance of the basic rules of the game and apparent unwillingness to make even the most cursory reads of units before "updating" them really makes the book feel like a particular travesty. We can only hope that this is a temporary slip, as the three prior Imperial Armor books were all quite nice

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