Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Let's Talk Tactics: Alternatives to Mechanized
It is pretty obvious these days that Mech is King. King of the competitive scene, at the least. All competitive lists I have seen in the past half-year or so have been at least semi-mech if not completely mechanized. It seems to work, if used properly, but why is it so popular? Let's investigate.
What makes transport vehicles desirable? In the real world, the answer is obvious: it puts a layer of steel between you and the bullets, and gets you where you are going without you having to hoof it. The tabletop reasons are much the same: it provides extra protection for the troops being transported as well as gets them where they need to go faster. Since a lot of transports are not especially durable, it can be assumed that it is more for the second reason of maneuverability rather than the first reason of protection.
Maneuverability, in objective games, allows you to position your troops onto objectives easily. This in turn allows your troops to dig in, utilize cover, break out the heavy weapons, etc. The faster you can take the objectives, the faster you can make use of defensive positions. In annihilation games, maneuverability can let you run circles around enemies. This can give vehicles protection against assaults, or units with longer ranged weaponry can outdistance their foes to stay a step ahead.
So, now that can assume to know what the main benefit of Mech lists, how are some ways we can mimic the benefit?
1st: Fast running- Tyranids commonly make use of this by including lots of units that have Fleet of Foot or Move Through Cover. They can cover the distance quickly from friendly deployment zone to hostile deployment zone, and everywhere in between. This benefits them directly since they are primarily assault-oriented (the units that have those USRs, that is) or close-distance-shooters.
2nd: Deepstriking- Tyranids, SM, and Daemons can all make extensive use of this deployment strategy. The unit can come down anywhere on the field, which has obvious benefits, but the drawbacks can be severe. First, the randomness of the final deepstrike position can prove problematic if you are relying on short-range weaponry like meltaguns. Unless the unit has a "failsafe" rule that prevents mishaps, like the SM Drop Pod, this deployment can be a gamble. Sometimes you lose the bet. It really hurts your strategy when a fully-kitted terminator squad materializes inside a rock and the entire unit is lost...
3rd: Bike or Jetbikes- These units are blazingly fast, especially when used in conjunction with turbo boosters. The downside is that they can be blazingly expensive! They do benefit from some increased durability, but there are also risks involved when navigating any sort of difficult terrain (except for jet bikes). Another benefit is that some of these units can mount heavy weapons like Heavy Bolters or Multimeltas. What is even better is that they can use them on the move, due to bikes having the Relentless USR conferred. These units are great, and White Scars or Ravenwing players will swear by them, but they are just too few in number to base an army on in my opinion.
4th: Jump or Jet Packs- Here is where the Blood Angels come into their own. Somewhat more expensive than their footslogging brethren, Jump packs enable consistent movement at double the infantryman's normal rate. Most jump packs also confer the Deepstrike special rule, making them useful for alternative deployment strategies as well. Jet packs, used by Tau, also confer the Relentless USR like bikes do. The humble jump pack, however, is cheap enough to be widely distributed across an army without reducing its numbers too significantly. Furthermore, with the release of the new Blood Angels codex, it can be added to some very effective units to make a highly-mobile strike force. Sanguinary Guard utilize 2+ saves, and when coupled with Jump Packs this enables them to move from cover to cover quickly, making for some very effective assault units.
What are some benefits to using alternatives to Mech in this current trend? It really depends on your chosen codex and the alternative being used, but here are some common factors:
A) Lots of Mech lists make thorough use of anti-vehicular weaponry. With an alternative list like one of those listed above, those anti-vehicular weapons such as Meltaguns have less effect. They can only kill a single model at a time, normally, and this will not deter a normal infantry unit.
B) You cannot be immobilized or shaken if you do not use transports, meaning that your movement will be a lot more consistent. Your opponent would have to destroy, route, or pin an entire unit to prevent it from moving.
C) All of your units will have an opportunity to fire, not just what can see out a fire point.
D) There's no risk of an exploding transport damaging the units carried within if you utilize an alternative list.
E) You don't give up killpoints for thinly-armored transports.
To be fair, here are some of the downsides to neglecting transports:
A) There is less protection from small arms fire. Even the lightest-armored vehicle is immune to lasgun shots, but the same is not true for most of the alternative unit types listed above. Transports that utilize heavier armor (like the Valkyrie, or the new Storm Raven) are even better off in this department. A Land Raider is immune to anything below S8, which makes them pretty attractive as pillboxes.
B) A lot of transports can mount heavy weaponry and fire them even on the move. It is hard to argue with the payload that can be mounted on a Vendetta, or the new Storm Raven. This makes the transports dual-purpose, which can be a better expenditure of points and a better distribution of the killpoint. It also enables them to support the unit they are transporting by doing more than just drawing fire.
C) In some situations, it can be beneficial to deploy the "transportee" separate of the transport in order to get more units on the table. This can be done for a number of reasons, such as to provide cover for weak units, block LOS to other units, or simply present more targets for the enemy to divide fire between. You cannot do this if you don't have the transports to separate from the cargo.
So with these thoughts in mind, I set about creating a Jump-Pack spam list with the new BA Codex. I intend to utilize the "Descent of Angels" special rule to maximize my maneuverability while minimizing the available killpoints (which is the bane of my mech IG) by limiting vehicle use. Here is what I have so far, based on the models I have:
Mephiston (Has a psychic power that enables him to move as if a jump pack)
Jump-equipped Honor Guard with some upgrades
Sanguinary Guard with some upgrades
3 Assault squads with 2 meltaguns each, full 10 man squads.
That's right, count them... 6 killpoints total, 9 maximum if I combat squad the assault squads. 30 Scoring marines, which is as good as any marine list normally is, and a total of 6 meltaguns and 2 infernus pistols. I can combat the assault squads if neccessary to give me more scoring units, but they're pretty tough in full size squads. This list is definitely designed to drop in the opponent's face and kick the enemy square in the... Baals. Mephiston is a monster all of his own, and I intend to keep him out of sight until I have some supporting units to assist him. He is interchangable with Dante in this list, in case I decide I need the Sanguinary Guard to be scoring or I want to utilize his pin-point deepstrikes. It is similar to a Deathwing list, with a low model count, but it is much more maneuverable and aggressive.
So, in closing, what kind of alternative lists have you come up with to counter the mechanized trend? What reasons do you stick with Mech over an alternative for?
Please, gentlemen, feel free to discuss.
Until next time,
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