40k 6e Space Marines: Supports

spacemarines-6e-codexHaving played a few more games and studied the book a bit more, I have a couple more thoughts on the new 40k 6e Space Marines codex.  Previously I had some notes on Core Dudes, Librarians, and Vulkan.  Up now are some supporting units, specifically Vindicators, Whirlwinds, Thunderfire Cannons, and Landspeeders.

Vindicators

These have not changed except for dropping 10 points.  The Vindicator is obviously useful when it gets good shooting opportunities, but it’s always seemed handicapped to me by the low position and fixed mount of its cannon.  Combine that with the short range and it just spends too much time blocked by terrain.  I always get the feeling that it was a more commanding unit in earlier ages of 40k when there was generally a lot less terrain, universally less mobility, and a lot more of two gunlines just shooting at each other and slowly advancing forward.  Vindicators might be attractive again with how much faster vehicles got in 6e, but I’m not super sold on that yet.  Between the range and fixed angle there’s still too much need to be right up in your enemy’s face.

Whirlwind

I love the Whirlwind model and have always wanted to get and field some, but could never justify the cash or points.  The single-shot blast template made it not particularly reliable at hitting anything, the weaponry isn’t particularly killy to counter that unreliability, and its not particularly survivable at a standard Rhino chassis AV 11/11/10.  Sixth edition Marines though makes it pretty attractive to my eyes though.  The big change is a switch to large blast templates, which means it could really deliver some death to weaker infantry and is much more likely to at least hit MEQs.  It also dropped from 85 to 65 points, making it much more attractive for how likely it is to get popped.  Now I can definitely see putting a Whirlwind or two in the backfield pinging away, and look forward to acquiring some over time.

Thunderfire Cannon

First off, it has to be said that the Thunderfire is a really really terrible model.  It looks ok, but it’s not cheap and every piece is really warped, impossible to fix as it’s a metal model.  It’s shockingly difficult for such a simple model to get it to all stick together.  It would be really nice if it were redone in plastic.

That aside, I liked the Thunderfire in 5e as a game unit and found it pretty useful.  You set it up on top of a piece of terrain with a clear line of fire and just shoot away.  It wasn’t terribly survivable if anything got a shot at it with 5e’s AV 10/one-shot-kill artillery rules, but with 60″ range you could set it far enough back that it could last for a while provided you could keep outflankers at bay.  The Techmarine himself is also useful even after the gun dies, with the Servo Harness and Artificier Armour giving him reasonable street creed at both near-range shooting and close combat.  The ability to buff cover saves from any piece of terrain can also be a big boost against some opponents.

The Thunderfire correctly realizes it would be more useful shelling the boardgamers in the corner than the oncoming IG horde...

The Thunderfire correctly realizes it would be more useful shelling the boardgamers in the corner than the oncoming IG horde…

Sixth edition makes the Thunderfire even better.  Same points and shots but the new codex gave it barrage—awesome!  Now you can really set it out of the way and/or hit anything on the table, even dudes cowering behind high terrain.  With four shots a lucky series of hits can really land a lot of hits on a target, and stands a good chance to hit something even with reasonable scatter on the first shot.  Perhaps more importantly, the revised 6e artillery rules make it a T7 W2 3+ model.  That’s actually really survivable and a huge buff to the unit even before the new codex hit.  I’ve been rolling this a fair bit in recent games, and it’s been doing really well.

The one thing I would have liked to see from this unit is the ability to field squadrons of them.  It just seems like it’d be a natural for that kind of deployment, and it’d be really handy to be able to organize three into a single FOC slot for larger games.  Personally I would work it so that a single Techmarine could shoot or move any or all of them provided they were each in standard unit coherency—he’s controlling them all as networked slaves or something like that.  Multiple Techmarines would make it fairly expensive points-wise.

Landspeeders

I love me some Landspeeders and almost always field two or three in every size of game.  In 5e these were immensely valuable for flaming infantry, melta-gunning vehicles, and swooping in to deny objectives.  It’s worth noting though that they’re better at lower point value games.  The more points in play the more bad guys there are standing around with nothing better to do but take a potshot or two at a ‘Speeder, and even a Bolter can take it down.  At lower points there are fewer enemy units just standing around with no higher priority target, and the tactical flexibility of high mobility, Flamer, and Multi-Melta is very valuable with fewer units in your own force.  They are also much stronger at objectives-based missions than kill points.

The new codex changes their basic stats just slightly, namely that Typhoon Missile Launchers and Assault Cannon options got quite a bit cheaper.  That’s interesting as it’s definitely a valid, popular, standoffish way to run them.  I always roll the Heavy Flamer and Multi-Melta though to capitalize on the buffs from Vulkan and the Salamanders’ traits.

The 6e core rules however change the ‘Speeder in significant and complex ways.

First off, Jink for Fast Skimmers is a substantial buff to the survivability of the unit.  You just need to remember to always move; sometimes I’ve forgotten as I had spent a fair amount of time trying to coach myself to sit back and use the full range of the Multi-Melta, and thus didn’t have to always move.  The new Fast rules are also helpful, really letting the thing fly all over the board.  More shooting with a 12″ move, and the ability to cover a ridiculous 30″.  The latter is actually a notable improvement beyond just the raw movement.  The increased speed makes it even easier to fly on from Reserves rather than Deep Striking into an unfortunate, exposed position, or deploying on the table and risking first turn shooting.

Oooh yeah.

Oooh yeah.

In a basically neutral but slightly positive point, ‘Speeders didn’t really change much in survivability.  While other vehicles became more predictably killable with the introduction of hull points, Landspeeders were dead easy to kill to begin with.  If anything they became more survivable because glancing hits can’t do the same kinds of damage as before, it’s guaranteed to still be a useful unit after the first glance.

On a related but somewhat neutral to negative change though, squadrons now simply break off and leave behind immobilized vehicles rather than destroying them.  That sounds maybe kind-of sort-of useful as the damaged model can in theory now still shoot at stuff, particularly if you’re rolling the longer range Typhoon or Assault Cannon.  In reality though, that model then becomes a separate unit and yields up an easy kill point to your opponent when it is finally destroyed.  I would probably rather just have it destroyed if I choose to leave it behind and not give up the point.  This new rule is really only beneficial for vehicles with turret-mounted, barrage, and other weapons with more targeting flexibility that remain useful when immobilized.

A more negative change in 6e is that movement doesn’t give vehicles nearly as much help in close combat as it used to.  The protection from movement is minimal with the new WS 1 rule, and high speed literally doesn’t improve that at all.  Once an enemy assault unit finally catches up to the ‘Speeder, something that’s almost certain to happen with the shorter range loadouts I use as it gets mixed into the thick of things, it’s pretty much done for.

Much more troubling is that vehicles are no longer denial units in any of the missions, they can’t contest objectives.  That’s a major tactical role of the fast moving Landspeeder that’s been completely eliminated.  There really isn’t anything more to say about that, it’s just a critical thing they used to be able to do that they just can’t do directly anymore.  The one upside is that other enemy vehicles won’t be able to claim either, so overall there just isn’t the same kind of 5th turn race to the nearest objectives, but it’s still a major net-negative change.

All in all, Landspeeders probably got decreased in value because of that one change.  They’re probably slightly better for the bulk of a game, so certainly still worth using, but their utility in the endgame has declined dramatically as their typical largest impact role has been eliminated.

Summary

Except for the Landspeeder, all of the supporting units above became slightly to much more valuable with the new codex and 6e rules.  Certainly none of them are overpowered, but all more efficient, and in several cases much more effective.  The Landspeeder is no longer the game changer it frequently was in 5e, but it’s still a worthwhile unit if it matches your style and you’re prepared to risk the kill point(s).  For my part I’m pretty excited to have a couple of the neglected and so-so units refreshed into newly viable options.

40k 6e Space Marines: Core Dudes

Games Workshop put out a new Space Marines codex last week.  Recently I started creating army lists and am posting thoughts as I go.  Previous thoughts were on Vulkan and Librarians.  Up now are the core dudes of any Kingbreakers force: Sternguard, Tacticals, and Transports.

Sternguard

Sternguard got kind of a funny set of changes.  The first five went down a point each, but any additional veterans went down three points each.  Unfortunately Combi-Weapons went up five.  That’s a little problematic for me as I’ve previously relied on a good number of Combi-Meltas.  So my 5-man Combat Squad with 3 Combi-Meltas went up 10 points while a 10-man full squad with 6 stayed the same.

Tacticals

Tacticals have a similar story going on.  Dudes got cheaper but a bunch of their stuff got more expensive.  In general it works out to be kind of a wash.  I guess the motivation was to drop equipment price lists from individual units and allow many of them to use the same armoury listings without really changing the overall unit prices from 5e, but that seems kind of a silly, unnecessary reworking.

You also need to pay to upgrade Tactical Sergeants to Veterans and get a second Attack and boosted Leadership.  Personally I think the Veteran upgrades are probably worth paying for unless the squad is really not going to wind up in combat at all.  Two base attacks plus a bonus third for wielding dual close combat weapons can be pretty decisive against a variety of opponents.  In general I’m all for a la carte upgrades—if I don’t want it, why should I implicitly pay for it?—but these might be pushing it a bit.  In particular, I think they create an opportunity for minor mistakes and abuses.  E.g., I usually upgrade my dudes but one game I don’t to shave points, and I totally forget I didn’t and roll the extra Attack and +1 Leadership all game.  Similarly, a large game could easily have ~4–8 Power Armour squads with the option.  If I only upgrade my front line, I could easily “forget” and roll on the upgrades when my Devastators wind up getting assaulted, and many opponents aren’t going to catch that in the heat of battle.

Transports

One big difference for some lists is that Razorbacks went up 15 points, to 55.  Rhinos and Drop Pods stayed at 35.  I’m not sure how reasonable this is.  Razorbacks seem to have a pretty solid built in tradeoff versus a Rhino: Carry half as many dudes, but be able to shoot stuff.  Paying 5 points for the privilege seemed reasonable, but a 38% premium seems overkill.  This seems to be aimed directly at neutering the Razorspam lists floating around in 5e, but I didn’t think they were that prevalent or overpowered, and mostly seemed to be a Blood Angels thing anyway.

Another significant difference is that Drop Pods were reduced back down to a transport capacity of ten, having been able.to carry twelve in 5e.

Kingbreakers

One of the things I had to learn in the previous edition was that cheap Special and Heavy Weapons are a strength of the Marines.  Plasmacannons for 5 points were a bargain that had to be taken advantage of; ditto free Missile Launchers.  The points changes make it feel like the weapons aren’t a good bargain anymore, at least for Sternguard and Tacticals, but the lesson probably still applies.  Similar goes for the Sternguard Combi-Meltas.  At first I thought my loadout was going to be too costly, but when you do the math a 10 man squad actually comes up 10 points cheaper.

I do usually bring a Razorback or two, but not enough of them to make that increase super punitive.

The Drop Pod transport capacity decrease is a huge deal for the Kingbreakers though.  I can’t get super worked up about it because it just brings them back in line with the other codexes.  But 10 Sternguard + Vulkan or a Terminator Librarian coming down in a Drop Pod was a keystone of my battle tactics.  The Sternguard have fairly flexible armoury options so it wouldn’t be a huge deal in terms of equipment to cut them down to a squad of 8, whereas Tacticals would miss out on a fancy weapon.  The real loss is not being able to Combat Squad that unit anymore.  I thought it useful to be able to split up coming out of a Drop Pod, either dividing up existing targets or trying to pop a transport with one and frag the occupants with the other.  Not being able to do this with one of my heroes along for the ride isn’t the end of the world, but it’s unfortunate.

40k 6e Space Marines: Librarians

Games Workshop put out a new Space Marines codex last week.  Yesterday I started putting together some army lists and will be posting thoughts as I go, opening with Vulkan and continuing on now to those crazy bibliophiles: Librarians.

Psykers

To my mind, the 40k 6th edition Psyker rules in general have some strong upsides, and some very unfortunate downsides.  In general the Mastery Levels/Warp Charges scheme seems superfluous at first, but it handles a lot of different corner cases and weird tradeoffs in power and character character design elegantly, and is largely how I always hoped the system would be streamlined.  A major negative aspect though is rolling on spell lists at the start of a match to determine powers.  This kind of thing is tragically a core part of Games Workshop’s general game design philosophy and I absolutely hate the mechanism.  It’s one thing if you’re rolling to see how some Chaos power manifests for a turn.  It’s another to have a critical part of your army—namely Psychic Powers and Warlord Traits—unknown until game time, and largely out of your control.

This lack of control makes it much harder to plan an army around.  I’m sure they’d argue it forces you to play better because you need to be able to utilize whatever powers your Psyker comes up with at the start of a game, but that’s silly.  The opponent and dice will provide more than enough randomization.  If I want to concentrate on a particular power combo or build army lists around specific special abilities, I should be able to do that.

Taking that farther, the randomization mechanism doesn’t even contribute to narrative play, ostensibly one of GW’s primary focuses.  Alongside the usual Space Marine hate and wrath, my Kingbreakers’ Librarian is full of self-doubt, instability, and a strong disconnect from other people and real world consequences.  That externalizes as explosive self-destructiveness and high stakes gambling.  For me, the Vortex of Doom and its significant risks played to that—more than once has he managed to obliterate a huge fraction of my own army through risky play, just as more than once he’s swung the tide of battle in favor of the Kingbreakers with a critical hit.  Now I can’t roleplay to that characterization because much of the time he’ll roll some random, much more passive ability.

All these random lists say to me is that GW’s designers can’t be bothered to put in the effort to balance powers and traits enough such that there aren’t one or two clearly dominant choices that everyone would settle on.  It’s super lazy and a detriment to all of their games.

In any event, overall it’s fairly clear Psykers in general have gotten much more powerful due to the proliferation of crazy spells available to them, alongside somewhat of a reduction in available counter-abilities, e.g., more constrained Psychic Hoods.  However, this strength is tempered a bit by them becoming more random and more difficult to synergize with the rest of an army list.

Librarians

Those main rulebook changes along with the new codex have changed Librarians a fair bit.  Previously a default Space Marine Librarian could use one power per turn but knew two.  Under the new Master Levels and Warp Charges scheme,  default Libbies now only know one power, Master Level 1.  In addition, they’re actually no longer able to cast at least one of their previous spells: Vortex of Doom (an S10 Blast) was originally in the Space Marine codex, able to be wielded by any Librarian, but has since moved to the Telekinesis list in the main rules and become Warp Charge 2, rendering it inaccessible to a base Librarian.

Setting all that aside for a moment, in terms of raw points Space Marine Psykers got a massive discount, dropping from 100 points for a base dude in Power Armour to 65.  Terminator Armour and a Storm Shield brings them up to 100, as compared to the previous 140 points.  That’s a pretty substantial change, and I think the reduction was made to recognize that they’re not super killy or survivable in & of themselves and they’re more random now.  In general the designers are also pushing Psykers this edition so a discount’s not surprising.  Power Armour Librarians are now very reasonably priced for a lightweight supporting HQ, probably even cheap for how survivable they are and what they can do.  The Terminator variant is looking really reasonably priced.  In both cases, but especially the former, they’ve gone from enough points to maybe risk not bringing, to being basically an auto-include in every army list.

Notably, the boys in blue got an even bigger boost, with the Ultramarines’ Tigurius dropping to 165 points.  He’s Mastery Level 3; takes powers from all the lists; re-rolls his powers so there’s high odds you’ll get ~2 of the 3 you want; re-rolls Reserves as before, re-rolls failed Psychic Tests, and has an extra fancy Force Weapon that’s also Strength +2 and Master-Crafted.  The only thing he’s missing is any kind of invulnerable save.  That’s admittedly a big deal, but I still think Ultramarines players would be crazy to not take him.

Kingbreakers

For my guys I’m definitely bummed about the increased randomization but otherwise feeling pretty good about my resident master of the Warp, Librarian Rorschach.  Most recently I’d been playing him with Terminator Armor and a Storm Shield.  I’ll probably upgrade him to an Epistolary—Mastery Level 2—in order to hopefully get and be able to use Vortex of Doom as I had been, but he’ll still wind up 15 points cheaper and able to cast a second spell to boot.