Monday, September 27, 2010
And They Shall Know No Fear: Heavy Support Part 1 the Tanks.
First let's name off the choices you get for Heavy Support (ignoring the Master of the Forge for this article). Devastator Squads, Vindicators, Predators, Land Raiders, Whirlwinds and Thunderfire Cannons. All of these choices are legitimate choices to take with one exception, the Whirlwind, they all have strengths and they all have weaknesses. The other important thing to bear in mind is that no single choice is necessarily "required" for a C:SM player to win games. In fact I spent the first year and a half playing and winning with Salamanders from the day the codex came out with out owning/fielding a single Heavy Support choice. So if they aren't necessary to win why take a Heavy? For starters they can be extremely useful depending on your army build, second they put out a lot of heavy fire (duh), and third long range weapons are very useful in a game that has become short range obsessed.
Vindicators are an interesting tank. They can do a huge amount of damage but are a single shot that can deviate off target, are are more fragile than any other choice for Vanilla Marine players. I used to run 3 with my old Marine army and I would often take 2 plus some oblits for my CSMs. There is a common rule of thumb with Vindicators that is almost universally observed, in my experience, you have to take 2-3 of them. There are several reasons you need at least 2.
1. They are very deadly and are therefore prime targets for turn 1 anti-tank shooting.
2. They are more fragile than any other Marine tank. A result of weapon destroyed, immobilized, or even stunned can be catastrophic for Vindicators. They have one, important, gun with a short range and small arc of fire, this makes them brittle.
3. The chances of two 5 inch blasts scattering completely off target are worse than having just 1, and if the first hits dead on and wipes the unit it hit then you have a second shot for another target. Win-win.
In a nut shell you need 2-3 Vindicators in a list to make up for its shortcomings. This begs the question, which gets asked a lot, "if they have such harsh failings that you need multiples to insure they do their job then why take them at all?" It is a decent question and for a lot of 5th ed with C:SM there hasn't been a lot of people using them, until recently, and I think they will see a lot more use in the near future. A str 10 ap 2 5 inch template is a deadly, deadly weapon, and I believe the advent of Thunderwolf Cavalry have a lot to do with the resurgence of the Vindicator. They are also excellent and taking out Sanguinary Guard which, trust me, you don't want to let assault you. A few Vindicators in a castled up Marine force will make deep striking armies like BA, Daemons, Logan Wing, and Drop Pod Marines think twice about dropping in too close to your front lines. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Grey Knights are going to be a very, very tough army. very high in points cost but hard hitting and ultra-survivable. If you ask me, it wouldn't be totally crazy for every Grey Knight to have a 2+ armor save which means AP2 weapons that can kill them in droves will be useful. Pure speculation of course but it is worth thinking about.
Predators are the second most versatile choice in terms of armament, second only to the Devastator Squad. With different turret and sponson options you can build anti-infantry Preds (Dakka Preds) or anti-tank preds, you can even mix and match weaponry for some added versatility. I have personally never liked using predators. I have owned and fielded 4 Marine armies now and never once have I used a predator, I just always seem to find a better way to spend my points. That being said I understand the utility of the tank and I understand it's uses. I have often found myself starring across the table at 3 predators with Autocannon turrets and Las Cannon sponsons knowing my poor Rhinos and Razorbacks aren't going to get past midfield if I am not careful/lucky. The thing I like about predators is that you can reposition them easily, unlike devastators, to get new firing lanes and acquire new targets. I really think the net has done enough promotion of the predator and most people understand it is a decent tank so I don't need to go on and on about it here.
Whirlwinds are, in my opinion, the only real unit in C:SM that is simply not worth taking. In forth edition I often fielded 3 of them equipped with the mine field laying missiles. The new missile options just don't make the grade. They are low strength, somewhat inaccurate, have no anti mech ability, and there is always a better choice for that heavy slot. Your experiences with Whirlwinds may vary but in my experience so far with 5th ed they just aren't worth it.
Land Raiders are the behemoths of the 40k world. In a non-apocalypse game of 40k the only vehicle more likely to survive shooting/assaults is the Necron Monolith. Until recently I didn't own any Land Raiders for my Salamanders. When I decided to buy/build 3 of them for my Wolves I bought a 4th Crusader to use with my Salamanders because everyone else I saw using C:SM seemed to be using them and I wanted to try it out. I am still having mixed feelings about my LRR running alone but when used in conjunction with the Godhammer LR I just added to my Salamanders I like it a lot better. Like the Predator; Land Raiders have been the constant focus of 5th edition lists and threads on the internet so I won't go into too much detail but let's look at a list of reasons Land Raiders are taken in a lot of Marine lists.
1. AV 14 all the way around means they are really survivable.
2. They can transport TH/SS terminators into the thick of battle.
3. You can move the tank 12 inches and still fire a weapon AND assault out of it!
4. Power of the Machine Spirit means you can actually fire one weapon at a different target than the rest.
5. They are a powerful bluff unit, you can force your enemy to avoid it or make him get in close to try and destroy it.
6. With 3 variants you have the ability to choose a weapon load out that fits your army and play style.
7. If you take them as a dedicated transport they won't eat one of the Heavy Support slots.
1. It is a huge fire magnet, if your opponent has melta weapons galore this tank is probably toast.
2. No dozer blades (I have immobilized my LRR on terrain in every game I have used it in except the one where it got popped first turn by deep striking Wolf Guard).
3. They are expensive (both in points and $!!)
4. You almost always have to build your list around them and the unit they are carrying.
Codex Space Marines has some truly powerful options for the Heavy Support choices. When contemplating any heavy support choice ask yourself what role do you want this tank to fill? Do you think it will be effective at that role? Would taking more than 1 increase the effectiveness of the tank and my army? Do I really need this unit at all? If you can answer all of those questions in a satisfactory way then the tank probably has a place in your list. But ultimately remember this; if you want to use a unit use it, try it out. It may work better for you than it did for someone else, it may fit your play style better than another persons, or maybe you just really like the look and feel of the unit. Take what makes the game fun for you, whether is be the most optimized list so you can win every game or a list with one of each tank so you can try them all out.