Monday, 30 October 2017

Codex: Astra Militarum - Heavy Support units

The real hammer of any guard list and where all the big boys live (not including the super heavies obviously!). Its is hear that the really big guns can be found, either in terms of artillery or tanks, both of which you have an abundance of choice with. First up though are the babies of the section, the humble heavy weapons squad.

Heavy Weapons Squads
The good old heavy weapons squad, relegated from the infantry platoon and the troop section to the heavy support options. This has left it with two main problems, one its no longer a troop choice and therefore is no longer objective secured and cannot camp at the back and claim an objective, secondly it now has to compete with a number of option that can do a similar job quite a bit better then it can. its not all doom and gloom though, as now you can field a HWS with veterans or in support of Scions, without having to take several infantry squads as tax. However, the main advantage of the HWS is that they are cheap, not as cheap as they were with the latest price rises, but they are still cheap. They have seen a 50% rise in the base price of each team, but they really are still cost effective. They can bring a range of weapons and with the new rules, bringing composite squads with a mix of weapons makes sense, although bringing all the same weapon does mean you have some redundancies when you inevitably miss. The choice weapons for the squads remains as the mortar, for its low cost, and the autocannon, for its versatility. Some will argue that the autocannon is no longer the go to weapon and that other weapons are just as good, such as the heavy bolter, but the autocannon is still the best all rounder. As for including these in your army, its always looking at including one or two is you have the slots and again mortars are a excellent choice, as they can provide a real pain to you opponent, with no needing line of sight to shoot. This means that those hidden objective campers in your opponents back field are not quite as safe as your opponent thinks they are. Oh, and remember they also come with a lasgun, so you can fire that as well under the new rules.

Like many of the Chimera based artillery weapons, these have gained a power point. however, with the other recent changes to the Earthshaker gun, it is still a very potent weapon and with the option to roll two dice (discarding the lowest) to determine the number of shots, you are guaranteed a reasonable number of shots most turns. I like the basilisk, its a good weapons platform, but I have always though that it was a little over the top for a normal game of 40k, at least now there is no minimum range, and I imagine that firing one on over watch must be fun! This is a good, powerful unit, but with the random number of attacks (even with rolling two dice) you can end up with only a couple of attacks, which with a BS of 4+, your not going to hit much and with d3 damage, you may not even kill what your hitting. A good weapon, but to random for my liking, as there are other weapons that can do similar things more reliably.

Again,the Wyvern has picked up a power point, but this time it extends across the board, with each additional model getting more expensive as well. This weapon site on the opposite end of the spectrum to the Basilisk, as its a high volume, low strength weapon. With so many dice, 4d6, you can be pretty confident of getting enough shots to do some real damage, simply through forcing saves. This is my preferred weapon of choice fro my support and has always proved useful to me, I would have liked to have seen it increase in strength or ap, to make it a heavier mortar than the hand wielded one from the HWS, but as it stands its the same weapon, just 4 of them. The thing with the Wyvern is that it does not offer much over the mortar armed HWS, as armed with a heavy bolter its just a few points cheaper than 9 mortar teams, that's 9d6 verses 4d6 with rerolls to wound, and you can order a heavy weapons squad if you wanted, but you can order a Wyvern (although the Master of Ordinance can help). I think that upping the strength or dropping the ap by 1 would do a lot to the system and give it a more defined roll. Having said that, I still lake it and will still be keeping my 2.

The Hydra has a bit of an odd deal with points, as it has risen by a power point but it has dropped in points. However, it still does a good job in the anti-flyer roll, which is good as its the only option that the guard really have these days. While its not quite as good as it once was, many codices ago, but with a +1 to hit and a good number of autocannon shots, its got a fair chance of doing damage to a flyer. Personally, I have never used a hydra, relying on my vendetta and flakk missile squads to do the job for me and with the changes in rules, I think that a couple of MRP and lascannon armed Valkyries will do a fair job. This doesn't mean that I don't rate the Hydra, because if you have one, then I would take it, as despite the -1 to hit ground targets, there are still loads of valid Fly keyword targets out there, and your likely to come across some in every army. So, basically, if you have one, I'd field it.

As per all the other entries, its gained a power point. The Manticore has, as far as I can see, lost quite a lot of power from the previous editions, granted its still good, with good stats to the rockets, but the loss of templates has hurt weapons like this one. This is due to everything being on a d6 roll now and there is a chance that you could only be taking out 2 models, if you manage to actually hit them. Its a fun weapon to field but you'd be better off with a Basilisk or a Leman Russ. Field one if you fancy, but one wont be appearing on my tabletop for a while yet.

The only unit not to have seen any changes, which is understandable as its not exactly a great first on everyone's list. The Deathstrike is a iconic weapon, one that pretty much everyone knows about but no one has ever seen fielded, mostly because its kinda rubbish. So its got a great weapon and could easily wipe out most units in the game in one go, if you can get the dam thing launched. You can never launch till turn 2 and more likely it will be turn 4 or even turn 5 before it get fired, by which point your enemy will be spread out and the full effect of the weapon will not be felt. This is a fun weapon, one best used in a narrative mission I think and not for a competitive game.

Leman Russ Battle Tanks - grinding advance, plasma vents,
The biggest change in the whole codex is right here. Not only have there been point changes, but whole profile, including ability, changes. The profiles for the Leman Russ Battle Tank and the Leman Russ Demolisher have been rolled in to one profile. This makes sense as the both profiles are the same now, with no additional armour for the demolisher variants. I would have been good to keep the extra toughness for the demolisher variants, as they do tend to get closer to the enemy and are therefore more exposed to some of the stronger, short ranged weapons on offer. With this new combined profile comes a combined points tags, with both variants dropping power points and standard points to put them on to a leave playing field. In addition to the lower points there have been a couple of updates to the profile itself. Grinding Advance got amended to include the option to shoot its turret weapon twice, if you move under half speed. In general this is going to be the case, as most of the weapons, except maybe the Demolisher and the Punisher cannons, have the range from the off to hit most parts of the table. Once you get in range of the Demolisher and the Punisher cannons, then you'll be able to unleash a pretty devastating attack. This really makes the LRBT's a real threat on the table top, more so than they have been for a while. The second change is to Emergency Plasma Vents. Instead of doing multiple mortal wounds per 1 rolled, you now get just one per 1 rolled and you can still fire the weapon. This means that the Executioner is a viable option again, as are plasma sponsons. Its definitely an option that I will now be looking at for my Demolisher, that and the Punisher.

The main issue with the LRBT is that there are so many versions its difficult to choose which one is best. Granted there are some that stand out from the crowd, the main ones being the Vanquisher, Executioner and standard LRBT. The Vanquisher is the only dedicated anti-armour and monster version, kicking out a powerful shot designed to do lots of damage, its drawback has been its single shot, but with the new grinding advance, this has been reduced, plus add in a lascannon and you can effectively have 3 shots. The Executioner really benefits from the new plasma vent rules, and can put out a lot of shots and is a primary target for tank orders. Combined with plasma sponsons, you can kick out a lot of shots, potentially up to 12 plasma shots! The standard LRBT is still a vey good choice, kicking out a good number of shots with a strong profile, and is still a tank to be feared by pretty much any player. The other tanks in the range also have there place, things like the Punisher are unrivalled in there ability to take out hords, the Exterminator can take down most heavy infantry and light vehicles easily and the demolisher can really put some hurt on to any tough high wound models, with even a couple of hits having the ability to kill off a model. The one version that still seem to be the odd one out is the Eradicator. With its short range and similar profile to the battle cannon, although being slightly weaker, it struggles to justify itself, even with the ignores cover rules. I really don't see why you would take this instead of the regular battle cannon. Its hard to say which version of the Leman Russ you should look at taking (apart from the Eradicator) as they each have a very different roll to play and which one you take depends upon what you intend to use the tank for. My only suggestion is that if you are looking for an all rounder, then the original is still the best, as it has all the elements, high numbers of shots, good strength and ap, with a good damage output. I will generally be fielding a LRBT (old skool fixed weapon model), a Vanquisher and a Punisher, although the Executioner and Exterminator will see the table top on occasion.

So that's the Heavy Support option for the codex, and while there are a number of options, some don't seem to be particularly good choices, namely the Manticore and the Deathstrike, however, there are also some great options, namely the various Russ versions. The others, the Basilisk, Wyvern and Hydra are solid choices and will depend upon what your looking for in a list, where as the HWS will no doubt be in most people lists, in one for or another.

Next up are the Super Heavies, the big boys of the playground.