Posts Tagged ‘tactical waffle’

Hum, well, I did get a game of 40K in this week, but as usual the table-shortage at GW Oxford meant that rather than getting a table for a ‘proper’ game we ended playing a doubles game. In hindsight this was possibly a good thing as the guy I’d agreed to play turned out to be rabidly competitive (too competitive for my tastes, to be perfectly honest; rather than playing a game it felt like we were actually having a fight). An odd combination of forces and scenario meant that a mission called Strategic Withdrawal resulted in the ‘withdrawers’ (Tau with Ork allies) actually mounting a highly aggressive and not especially strategic assault on the two Space Marine armies and virtually booting us off the table. The high point for me came before the game proper even started when my Space Wolf ally and I decided to refight the traditional ritual duel which occurs between these two forces whenever they fight together. The Grand Master, against my hopes and the dice, managed to hack the head off Canis Wolfborn and his doggy chum. Alas this was pretty much the last time anything went my way for the rest of the evening. I was tabled by the end of turn three and departed while the last Space Wolves were going down fighting. ‘Where the hell are you going?!?’ shouted my ally. ‘Hold the fort till I get back,’ I riposted wittily and left for Burger King.



So I’m not going to bother with a batrep on the whole sorry proceeding. (I’m half-inclined to volunteer to help set up a proper local games club for central Oxford, just to guarantee being able to get a decent game every week.) In its place I will share the thoughts that are slowly accumulating in my head on the subject of playing with a Deathwing army.

A few weeks ago I wrote on the topics of winning ugly and losing pretty. An all-terminator army, on paper, looks like a winner in terms of both theme and gameplay, especially given the Deathwing’s first-turn teleportation special rule – the uber-elite of the Imperium materialising on the battlefield en masse, gunning down the opposition in droves with storm bolters and assault cannons before smashing them in an assault with power fists, power swords, thunder hammers and lightning claws.

Well, ha, is all I can say to that. Let us look at this ideal again bit by bit:

Materialising on the battlefield:

As I believe I’ve said before, you really don’t want to be teleporting your entire army onto the table, or even a sizable chunk of it. The moment you start putting stuff into reserve you’re at the mercy of the dice, which needless to say can be cruel masters.

Teleporting in on top of the enemy mob-handed sounds brilliant, but you’ll never be guaranteed to get more than half your army doing that on the same turn. What’s more likely to happen is that you’ll end up getting one squad a turn. If you deep strike in close to the enemy you’ll kill a few, but then the inevitable massed counterfire and assault will devastate or destroy the unit. And if you just deep strike into your own deployment zone, you may as well just have deployed there normally.

This is before we even get to the issue of deep strike mishaps. Needless to say you can’t afford these in an army this points-intensive. Which leads us on to:

En Masse:

Throughout this I’m talking in terms of a pure Deathwing army, where all the models are attached to either the Deathwing or the First Company of an Unforgiven Chapter. Basically, this means characters in terminator armour, Deathwing squads, venerable dreadnoughts and Land Raiders, none of which are especially cheap. With the Deathwing, et al., we are in the realms of the super-elite army.

Standard game size these days seems to be about 1750 points, which means that once you’ve taken the Grand Master you’re left with 1620 points. Just taking bare Deathwing terminators you’re only going to get 36 models, with about 100 points left over.

But you’re not going to take bare Deathwing squads. Once you’ve sprinkled a few assault cannon, missile launchers and chainfists across them, you’re looking at only six squads (with enough points left over for a regular dreadnought or some scouts – you’re basically obliged to go non-purist if you want to spend them all).

I am usually outnumbered at least two-to-one. On one occasion, against a Tyranid horde army, I was outnumbered five-to-one (the game didn’t go that badly, by the way). Provided the save dice stay friendly this isn’t necessarily a problem as the army can soak up vast amounts of ‘regular’ firepower (plasma guns, lascannon, railguns, and the like are a different kettle of dead terminators, of course). The problem comes when it’s time to shoot back.

Gunning Down The Opposition in Droves:

The humble storm bolter is an above-average weapon compared to the regular bolter, lasgun, pulse rifle, etc. You’re never going to get more than eight shots from a squad, though, because you’re going to give one guy a heavy weapon. Which one should this be?

Well, heavy flamers are all very well but you’re unlikely to get more than one shot off before you’re in combat. The assault cannon is an excellent gun even in its current powered-down form, but it isn’t a reliable anti-tank gun and has a rather short range. My own army was built in 2007 when assault cannons ruled the world and I don’t have any cyclones in the force. I am aware this may be a major flaw in my force as the cyclone missile launcher is the only long-range anti-tank weapon available to Deathwing squads.

Anti-tank duty in my army usually falls to a 3rd company Dreadnought on attachment to the 1st Company, packing a lascannon. Recently in 1750-point games I’ve been using a Land Raider Crusader, which can be effective at short ranges. In really small games Scouts with a missile launcher (try to) do the job. None of these are especially effective, as they automatically become prime enemy targets. Armies with more than two or three heavy vehicles in it usually give me serious problems (even more than other armies do).

And so the question must be: how do you deal with enemy tanks with a ‘pure’ Deathwing army? The obvious candidate is a regular Land Raider, carrying two twin-linked lascannons. This is another high-value model, but the fact it can sit back and shoot at long range makes it a little more survivable than a Crusader, although railguns and lascannons remain a bit of an issue. The fact remains that one big tank costs the same as a full Deathwing squad so even taking only two (perhaps a regular LR and a Crusader) in a 1750-point army effectively limits you to fielding only 20 infantry models. I’m not sure this is enough to be viable.

The safest way to avoid getting shot at by enemy tanks is, of course, to get into combat before they can do so. This, inevitably, is not without its own problems.

Smashing Them In An Assault:

First of all, how do you get into assault? It seems to me you have three options – teleporting in, footslogging up to them, or being delivered by a Land Raider. Well, guess what: I’m going to say ‘hmmm’.

Okay, teleporting in: we’ve talked about this. You teleport in on the first turn with half your Deathwing, and as a result are tremendously outnumbered. In a regular game you can’t assault on that same turn, so you have to weather a turn of enemy fire and possibly receive an assault yourself – it makes sense for him to do this as it will rob you of your charge bonus. Even if your opponent doesn’t fancy that, he can use this turn to attempt to redeploy away from at least some of your army and avoid your own assault. Unless you risk teleporting in extremely close to him (I can’t believe you would, but it is possible), this may not be particularly difficult. Teleporting in piecemeal in subsequent turns is an even worse idea.

Footslogging across the table to your opponent isn’t much better, inasmuch as you’ll be getting shot at all the way. The only upside is that you can do this with your entire army rather than just half of it. Your opponent will probably have transports and fast assault troops and so combat will happen on his terms, when he chooses it.

Armoured assault out of a Land Raider Crusader seems like the best bet, giving the Deathwing some much needed mobility, but you need to get there fast as everything capable of cracking it open will be shooting at it. Two Land Raiders, each loaded with a squad, supported by two other squads on foot, sounds like the basis of a viable army-build, though it’s not one I’ve ever attempted to use.

(There is of course a fourth option, which is to wait for your opponent to assault you. He almost certainly will – most armies contain something capable of dealing with terminators in close combat.)

Once you’re in combat, it all boils down to what you’ve tooled your terminators up with. Basic choices are powerfists, chainfists, thunder hammers and lightning claws (sergeants may retain their power sword). Before talking about these, some general thoughts on the Deathwing in combat:

They need to get there, really, as soon as they can – it fits the background, for one thing, and gets you out of the gunsights of railgun operators and the like, for another. Even given the presence of the occasional power sword and power fist, the majority of close-combat opponents the Deathwing face will be wounding them on a 4+ at best and not negating their 2+ save. However, you need to be sure of delivering some damage in return…

I’ve been playing against Orks a lot recently and possibly have a bit of a neurosis about seeing my troops get worn down by bucketloads of attacks before they can swing their remarkably cumbersome powerfists in response.

Powerfists are effectively overkill against regular infantry opposition, chainfists even more so (they’re effectively the same, chainfists are just slightly more expensive), but they have the advantage of letting the Deathwing keep their storm bolters. Thunder hammers are once again the same, but storm shields do make the Deathwing much more resilient against lascannons and the like. Against characters and vehicles they get a few extra whistles and bells, but set against this they lose the storm bolters.

Lightning claws break the mould, somewhat, in that they allow the Deathwing to strike at their full Initiative of 4, with 3 basic attacks (4 on the charge), re-rolling wounds and thus potentially generating a lot of wounds. Once again you lose your storm bolter, of course. You get to keep it with a power sword, of course, but you lose the reroll and the extra attack.

So which should I take? I’m starting to think lightning claws are the way to go. The storm bolters don’t quite pay the rent, and, as I say, combat is where the Deathwing want to be. A chainfist is still probably mandatory as dreadnought insurance, on the heavy weapons trooper. Second choice would be a thunder hammer just to get the 3+ invulnerable save.

And so to conclude:

It seems to me that the Deathwing is an utterly terrifying, completely merciless and unforgiving thing to contend with. It may even be capable of giving your opponent a few scares in the right circumstances, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You need to know what everything’s there to do and tool it up accordingly.

Given all the preceding ramble, here’s the 1750 point list that springs to mind:


Grand Master (130 points)

Interrogator-Chaplain in terminator armour with combi-flamer (150)


Deathwing Squad – 4 x lightning claws, 1x heavy flamer & chainfist, Deathwing company banner (255)

Deathwing Squad – 4 x lightning claws, 1 x heavy flamer & chainfist (225)

Deathwing Squad – 4 x thunder hammers and storm shields, 1 x thunder hammer, storm shield and cyclone missile launcher (235)

Deathwing Squad – 4 x thunder hammers and storm shields, 1 x thunder hammer, storm shield and cyclone missile launcher (235)

Heavy Support:

Land Raider Crusader (250)

Land Raider Crusader (250)

Total: 1730.

The thinking here is that the lightning claw squads are in the Crusaders, barrel forward into the opposition (smoke popping on the way) and jump out. Megadeath overkill assault duty goes to the squad with the Deathwing banner, which is accompanied by the two characters. On the charge this squad generates 10 I5 S4 attacks, 20 I4 S4 attacks rerolling wounds, and 4 I1 S8 attacks, all of them ignoring armour saves and rerolling to hit. I hope that will put a dent in anything that’s not a vehicle or T8+.

The other lightning claw squad goes in the other Crusader and is obviously rather less hitty but still quite dangerous. The two thunder hammer and cyclone squads footslog forward in support trying to take out things like dreadnoughts and super-tough monstrous creatures and draw fire away from the Crusaders (the storm shields should make them even harder to thin down).

(Alternatively the Interrogator-Chaplain could be swapped out for a Venerable Dreadnought with lascannon, combat weapon and heavy flamer, which would give me another anti-tank shot and another model to draw fire away from the Crusaders. The squad with the Grand Master and the standard-bearer probably doesn’t need the re-rolls to hit, unless they’re ploughing into a full-size Ork mob or the like…)

The Real Trouble with the Deathwing is

…this isn’t the army I own. To be able to field this force I’d have to buy the Chaplain and a second Crusader (no big deal), two new Terminator boxes for the cyclones and heavy flamers, and three new Assault Terminator boxes to get all the hammers and lightning claws. That’d effectively mean buying the army all over again, and not using the majority of the models I currently own.

I’m a little reluctant to do this. (Especially as I suspect even this list is a one-trick pony with minimal tactical flexibility, and not very easy to use effectively.)

All things considered I think I’d rather battle on with the guys I currently have and, in terms of an army which is both thematically and tactically pretty, either try to rehabilitate my Eldar or look somewhere else entirely. Hey ho. At least this was fun as a thought experiment.

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