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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

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Imperial Armour 10 Review: The Badab War, Part 2

So, having finally gotten my hands on Imperial Armour 10 once more and having time to actually read through and assess it all properly and write up a review, so I'm gonna do this. IA9 was definitely one of their better books, my thoughts on Space Marines aside; it's got good rules (aside from the Secessionist side of things) and is reasonably interesting, but the fact that it's only half the war- and the less interesting half, at that- meant that I was only moderately impressed with the fluff side of things. However, the fact that FW had managed to put out a good set of characters that brought a lot to the game and were balanced for normal use was a huge point in its favor- if IA10 can manage the same, it will end up being a very cool book.

Unlike the last book, I'm going to go a little more in-depth on some of the non-rules stuff here, because frankly it's more interesting to me. A lot of people complained that I "missed the point" by focusing on the rules side of things with the other reviews, but really I think that is itself missing the point- good rules and good fluff are in no way mutually prohibitive; in fact, they dovetail nicely with each other- good fluff with crappy rules is just discouraging, since your cool and awesome guys end up getting killed like punks. Likewise, good rules with bad fluff can be uninspiring and bland, making it hard to muster the energy to devote oneself to the ordeal of assembling and painting a complete force. There is no excuse for poor rules writing in FW- the company is hardly on a demanding schedule in terms of book releases and they are experienced players, albeit probably not terribly competitive ones. However, I find it strange to think that they cannot find even a single person amongst their team who can make good rules assessments or at least read on the internets what is good and what isn't- indeed, they could probably get hundreds of nerds who would jump at the chance to assist them for free, and some of those would even be competent at what they do.

So yes, I do hold FW to a standard for the rules it produces- not as high of one as GW, because FW products are hobby-oriented and rarely legal in tournaments, but they aren't a tiny niche company anymore, they're widely-known and popularized all across the world. At a certain point, you stop being able to use the "hey, we're just some guys!" defense and have to act like a real company.

Backstory and Fluff
The book gives a quick summary of the events of the first half of the war and then moves quickly into the new developments, most notably the shifting of the Loyalist chapters deployed; for many, this will be the big draw- the Space Sharks, Salamanders, Executioners, etc all have varying degrees of popularity, in most cases well above those of the chapters in the previous book. Once again full profiles of each of the new chapters is provided, including history, assessments of tactics and forces, etc, as well as sample paint schemes and lots and lots of illustrations. Thankfully in this respect FW has moved away from the "take a picture of some models and add Photoshop" method, which always looked kinda glaring and awful to me; most everything is illustrations of one kind or another, tending mostly towards the simple three-view samples of vehicles and infantry- not exciting, but very helpful for those looking to looking to paint their models up "correctly."

The story of the war itself is also a lot more interesting- admittedly, the previous chapter was hardly bad and gave a very good explanation of the setup and development, but to be honest that stuff is only moderately interesting; we aren't playing 40K because we want to hear about galactic politics, we're playing because WAR ONLY WAR ALL THE TIME WAR. In that respect IA10 definitely delivers, with massacres, betrayals, and brutal, over-the-top assaults abounding- to spoil things slightly, in the assault on Huron's stronghold, they throw a (part of) a star at his fortress. THAT is some 40K lore right there. We get to see lots of righteous rage and Marines being angryface at each other and it's written to a standard that doesn't make you stare in blank confusion at the nonsense in front of you, so everything works out pretty well.

They also include lots of little details from the war itself- messages from the field, after-action reports, etc, that give you a good picture of what's going on. One thing I do miss from the earlier 40K books is the "personal" perspective- the 1st-person and 2nd-person stories about events from a particular trooper's perspective that we rarely see in codices anymore. However, even lacking this we get a pretty good picture of the effects of the war and a significant portion of the end of the fluff chapter is dedicated to talking about the aftermath of the war and its effects on the chapters and sectors involved, something that often gets left out when talking about climactic battles.

The section finishes with the usual talk about the various Space Marine vehicles, which is mostly old hat at this point, but for those that don't own the other IA books it will still be interesting.

More Space Marines
Like the last book, the rules section is broken up into a couple bits; first, additions to the Space Marine list (some of which are also fieldable by alternate codices), second a "unique" list that can be used on the table in its own right (although it requires the SM codex to use) and third a section with custom missions and other expansion rules, such as Apocalypse. I'll go through and talk about each of these sections in turn, discussing the pluses and minuses of each of the respective units. To keep the article from becoming even more ridiculously long than it already is I'll only be briefly reviewing any of them, but there are some in here that can really give a SM army some major options.

Captain Pellas Mir'san: Well, it's another Captain guy. I can't get too angry about that, but neither am I gonna get too excited, either. Lessee, a mediocre special rule about fighting other characters? Check. An ability that applies only to the squad he's joined to and doesn't really change things? Check. A "unique" weapon that isn't special in any way? Check. Yeah, this guy is the definition of bland. You won't feel too bad about using him, but he's never gonna be very impressive, either. Huh. He has his named Power Weapon and a normal one as well, that's kinda weird.
Verdict: Meh.

Bray'arth Ashmantle: Isn't that cute, Forge World has apparently got their shit kicked in by Meltaguns enough recently that they decided it would be cool to stat putting immunity to double-pen/lances/etc on everything they can find. Yeah, that's really nice FW except for those armies that DON'T HAVE ANY OTHER OPTIONS. You know, like Tyranids- and how AV13 is a pain in the ass to kill with S6? Or Dark Eldar? You know, those non-Imperial codices they release? So that aside, he's a Venerable Furioso with two Heavy Flamers that can combine to shoot as a TL Meltagun. He can also give up one attack in CC to hit everything in B2B with a Heavy Flamer. Not bad, helps deal with the hordes that are sometimes a problem for Dreads. However, he costs as much as a Land Raider, so I wouldn't expect to see him on the field terribly often. (Oh, he's an HQ choice for an army, which is sorta cute.)
Verdict: Badly overcosted, but will still be annoying when he shows up.

Ahazra Redeth: He's a Librarian, but he gets a couple relevant stat bumps (like I5, for example) and a Chapter Tactic- Infiltrate, but it doesn't work for anyone with Terminator Armor or a transport. It does, however, work for bikes, which could be extremely amusing. He also gives a reroll on Seizing and penalizes enemy reserves by -1, both of which are quite solid. On top of all that, he gets a 5++ and may reroll one psychic test per turn, so it will be extremely rare for him to take a Perils wound. The real kicker, however, is his powers- he gets Mirage (he and the squad/transport have defensive grenades and enemy must check Night Fighting), but he also gets one additional power from the normal SM list, which he can change every game. Although only getting one power is slightly unfortunate, the fact that you can pick the one that is most useful against any given opponent is pretty nice, and he can cast two per turn so you can potentially Might of Ancients -> Force Weapon and other such tricks.
Verdict: For 165 pts, you get a ton of utility. A solid buy, bordering on excellent.

High Captain Thulsa Kane: A Captain that DOESN'T get I5- that's not a good way to start things off. Chapter Tactic is Stubborn, like half the friggin' chapters out there. His squad is Fearless and can reroll No Retreat wounds, which is meh- the real disadvantage to Stubborn/Fearless is being unable to get out of a fight you don't want, not taking a wound here or there. He's got a Relic Blade, Artificer Armor and Eternal Warrior, which makes him okay in a fight and he does the usual Chaplain deal of rerolling misses on the charge, but he also lets anyone within 12" reroll all '1's to wound, which is kinda nice.
Verdict: 175 is really too expensive for what he does, but not tragically so.

Chaplain Ivanus Enkomi: Alright, we get it Forge World, you have a raging boner for Chaplains. Now stop making them. He comes with Void Armor/Jump Pack (your choice) as well as an Auxillary Grenade Launcher and all the usual Chaplain jazz and his squad gets +2A for charging rather than +1. Yawn. Oh, he's also got I5 and a Power Fist in addition to his Crozius, so you have options, but you're never getting the +1A from an extra weapon.
Verdict: Generic Chaplain + generic special rule = not actually very good.

Lord Asterion Moloc: The usual statline for a leader, Chapter Tactic is Preferred Enemy for all Loyalist Space Marines, which is kinda cool as you'll fight those a lot. He also has Terminator/Storm Shield, which makes him a pretty tough customer to bring down combined with his four wounds and Eternal Warrior. Oh, and like every other guy he and his squad get Fearless and assault grenades. (Protip: this is meaningless.) Last but not least, he's got a Relic Blade with a one-shot 12" S8 AP2 gun in it, which isn't completely terrible. However, all of this is packaged together on a foot unit with nothing particularly impressive or stand-out and costs you 235 pts.
Verdict: More-differenter Marneus Calgar isn't good, either.

Tyberos, the Red Wake: Space Sharks forever, fuck "Carcharadon Astra." Captain Statline, Terminator armor with a combination of Lightning Claws and Chainfists, used as you choose each turn. Also a Teleport Homer. He gives your guys Furious Charge, which is pretty decent, but once they win a fight they also gain Rage, which is extremely shitty. He also makes one squad of Termies with LC a troop, which is sorta neat. Anyone can also trade their Boltgun for a Close Combat Weapon, so you can pretend to be Space Wolves if you want, except that the book isn't built for it and you have Rage. He weighs in at a hefty 190pts, which ends up being a lot, but he does at least unlock some army options- probably not good at lower points values, but by 2K he enables a cute "assault" SM variant.

Captain Silbas Alberec: Hrm. Well, Captain statline again, all the usual gear, and comes with an MC Thunder Hammer that auto-wounds psykers and daemons. Oh, and they threw in a Teleport Homer for some reason. He actually gives a decent army-wide bonus (reroll pinning checks) and has FNP himself, so he's reasonably survivable. Any psychic power aimed at his unit/transport is negated on a 4+- not as good as a Hood (since it can't stop the enemy's buffs, only debuffs/attacks on you), but at least protects his ride and (presumably) stacks with a Hood, so it's not worthless.
Verdict: He's not too expensive and has some decent stuff, but probably not "worth it" compared to other options. Still, he's usable.

Captain Zhurkhal Androcles: Captain statline as always, comes with a Combi-melta and a Fist. He or one other unit within 6" can get +1 to all rolls on the damage table for a turn, which is pretty damn handy- the damage table is the big thing that makes vehicles survivable, and with Melta and his bonus you're killing on a 3+ (2+ against open-topped.) He also lets you take Devastators as Elites, which isn't awful but not a big deal, either; you already have Riflemen and Sternguard in Elites.
Verdict: Entirely usable.

Vaylund Cal: Okay, this guy is weird- he loses a WS, I, and A, but gains +1S and +2T compared to the usual dudes. He's got 2+/4++, a servo-harness, a Hammer, Fearless, and can repair vehicles. His chapter tactic is Fearless and your Devs gain FNP, which any BA player will recognize as pretty handy (though they have to be modeled for it, not a big deal.) Oh, and he sits on a 40mm base (which, for the first time ever, they actually specify in his entry) and counts as a Master of the Forge, so you can take Dreads as HS. However, he's got a big fat butt and won't join you for less than 215, so I'm a bit leery of him.
Verdict: Characterful, but I think he's too expensive. Wonky combat-ish guy who wants you to take fire support is also a little confusing.

Siege Assault List
Okay, so this is supposedly an "upgraded" SM list that lets you take a bunch of better units, but to compensate your opponent gets an objective in their deployment zone that you MUST capture at the end of the game or you can't do better than a draw. Umm, that's pretty balls. It's really, really easy for your opponent to contest an objective that's sitting deep in his deployment zone, so the rest of the list had better have some really awesome stuff to compensate, right? Yeah, about that...

(Unless otherwise noted, the Siege Assault List has access to everything a normal SM list does, except that its non-named characters may not ride bikes and its squads may not arrive by Drop Pod.)

Siege Master: Our first unique entry, this guy ranks up like a normal Captain, but he comes with Artificer Armor. He's got pretty much the same gear options as a Captain, sans jump pack and the like, but he has a nifty Siege Master special rule. The wording is a little poor- it says you can reroll reserve rolls in Battle Missions; if this means any normal mission, that's totally sweet and amazing. If it's only the special missions in the Battle Missions book... not so good. Assuming it works the former way, he is a real boon to a SM army, as he's the only way (outside of the overpriced Tigurius) to improve your reserve rolls- and he can reroll successes AND failures, which can be handy. He also gives one infantry or tank unit the Tank Hunters or Furious Charge rule at the beginning of each game, which is pretty nice- we'll go into that a little more later, but suffice to say that Predators are a good choice. At 135pts, he is none to shabby of a deal, although it's a shame he doesn't come with a power weapon of some sort.

Land Raider Prometheus: A dedicated transport option for Terminators and other folks who can take Land Raiders. Holds ten dudes, comes with four TL Heavy Bolters, two per sponson, and has the usual special rules. No pintle Multimelta, though. It gives -1 to cover saves when shooting and has Acute Senses and adds a non-cumulative +1 to reserve rolls. Unfortunately, with its mediocre armament and high price tag (270pts), it's a pretty poor buy no matter what you want to use it for.

Siege Dreadnought Talon: Well, first of all, it's Dreads in the Troops slot, which is kinda wacky. You can take one FoC of them for every two other troops you have, and each Talon gets you three in any combination of Ironclad (135) and Siege (120). Siege pattern, for those not familiar, is a standard Dread with a DCCW/Heavy Flamer on one arm and a Flamestorm Cannon on the other; its DCCW gets 2d6 penetration and on a successful pen against a transport or building, it hits everything inside with the Flamer (only once per round, tho). The Talon operates independently from each other, which is probably good, but if half or more of the total Dreads in your force go down, all the others immediately gain Rage. Which, for reference, is a very bad thing. So we get some space in our Troop slots for toys, but we can only use it on melee Dreads and they can't take Drop Pods. Overall, not something that is going to be a big deal- Master of the Forge usually eats up enough of our points as is, though if you REALLY want to spam them, you can cram thirteen Dreads into a SM list now (3x2 Troops, 3 EL, 3 HS, and the named Sally Dread in HQ.)

Tactical Squad: Just like usual, but for 50pts/squad, you can give guys on foot Siege Mantlets- basically, big ol' shields that allow them to reroll failed armor saves against shooting, but can't make Sweeping Advances, Run or ride in transports. Decent, since it means the enemy REALLY needs heavy weapons to bring you down, but since you can't take a transport, probably not an option. Oh, if you want to be completely off-the-chain survivable, it could be amusing to take them with the IA9 guy who makes all your sarges Apothecaries.

Siege Assault Squad: Whaaaaaaaaa? Pseudo-Assault Marines, in my Troop slot? It's more likely than you think! You pay 175 for the full ten guys, no more no less, and get almost exactly the same options as BA do; however, the sarge can't get Hand Flamer/Infernus (duh) and the two rank-and-file guys have an option for Power Weapons in addition to shooty things, which is not amazing but it's something. They can get Meltabombs on everyone for 30pts, none too shabby, and Combat Shields for 25- they're still terrible, so don't do it. Finally, they can reroll Sweeping Advance tests to cut down enemy units (but not to escape), so they end up being okay at that I guess? Now, unfortunately they have no Jump Packs, but they are discounted slightly compared to BA ASM (15pts cheaper), so it's not a huge loss. Weirdly, their only transport options are the various Land Raiders, so they're gonna end up being a very pricey squad. Because of this they can't fill the same "hold the midfield" role that Grey Hunters do, so even though there's nothing wrong with them numerically, we're probably going to have to pass them over.

Caestus Assault Ram: 275pts, always has the Firefury battery on it. Otherwise identical to the preview version. Gambling your army on a one-shot trick still isn't worth it.

Predator Tank Squadron: Yes, squadron; like IG, you can now spend absurd numbers of points in your HS slots if you want! I think Dakka Preds (AC+HB) will be the good choice here, as having a ton of shots only gets better in numbers, but really the other variants weren't all that worthwhile before, either. However, with respect to the Siege Master HQ, you can give one of these squads Tank Hunters, which means you can be putting out a TON of (effective) S8 and S6 shots if you want- not a bad deal at all. Some will undoubtedly try Autolas or Trilas this same way, but I think that's gambling too many points on the chances of not getting a glance -> Immobilize result. Remember, you always check squadron facings from the nearest vehicle, so you can b effectively 13 on all sides in many cases.

Whirlwind Support Squadron: Do you really hate yourself this much?

Vindicator Tank Squadron: If you went "OMG NINE VINDICATORS!", you are a bad player and should feel bad. Vindis are terrible tanks.

Land Raider Achilles: This thing practically deserves its own article, but we'll try and summarize. It's 325pts. Its guns are nice, but not amazing. Its transport capability is miniscule. It has two uses: sitting on an objective and growling at people or trying to pretend it's a real Land Raider and advancing. If the former, it is really only firing one gun because Multimeltas are often going to be out of range/LOS of anything useful, though it does actually provide a platform for the Thunderfire that doesn't die instantly. It's also going to be 400+pts to hold one objective... which is not a good deal; your opponent will just take the other three and contest yours. If you send it forward to mitigate the short range of its guns, you have to find something to put inside it. Lessee... Vanguard Vets and... Honor Guard? Really, that's it? Yeah, no, both those units are bad. And yes, this vehicle is practically unkillable- even Railguns have trouble bringing it down, and virtually nothing else has any chance at all. You know what, Monoliths are unkillable, too, that doesn't save them from being trash. Like Achilles, it is a huge trap there to try and tempt yourself into doing something very, very stupid.

Land Raider Helios: 260pts, Lascannons and a Whirlwind? Jeez, talk about weird setups. Oh, and another "I only have room for six mans" variant, so it's trash.

So yeah, that's it. That's the "awesome" list that they give you to make up for the fact that you're crippled on objectives. Now, maybe you'll run a weird triple-Caestus reserves list that throws TH/SS in their face and gets lucky, but back in the real world we call that "a bad plan" both competitively (too much reliance on luck, no backup) and casually (not a lot of fun to play against, will steamroll lists that don't understand how to beat it). So, while fluffy, the Siege Assault List is probably not very good because of the way it gut-punches you at the beginning of the game. Thankfully, however, that is very easy to solve: just make it so that you merely have to have a scoring unit within 3" of the siege objective to potentially win, even if the enemy is contesting it. That seems in the spirit of things (you still pushed into their zone and tried to take it) while not unduly punishing you for wanting to play an alternate list. Even if you chose to leave it as-is, this is still a much, much better list than the Tyrant's Legion one from the previous book, so I really can't complain too hard.

Only one mission was included in this book, which is somewhat unfortunate. It's pretty playable and doesn't unduly punish any kind of army, so I guess there's that.

Other Things
Stats for a number of Battlefleet Gothic vessels are included, including the Raptorus Rex, the huge supership fielded by the Fire Hawks. Can't really say anything since I don't play BFG, but it's nice that they're in there in case you want to do a REALLY in-depth campaign.

There's also some Apocalypse formations for the new units- one for the Caestus, one for the Achilles, and one for the "ancient" Dreadnoughts (Ironclad/named/Siege/etc). Nothing really special, but usable.

Overall Thoughts
This is definitely one of the better Imperial Armour books they've put out- the copy I handled, at least, didn't have any damage to the spine or printing errors I'd seen in some of the earlier books. However, it's all about Space Marines. Space Marines, Space Marines, Space Marines. If you don't like big hairy men from space, there is absolutely nothing of interest inside; if you do, there is some very reasonable fluff about how internecine conflicts in the Imperium happen as well as a bunch of new characters to try out. Perhaps not as cool as IA9 in that respect, but the "unique" list is better and the fluff is definitely more appealing/interesting.

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