Thursday, 27 September 2012

Super Heavies Scalped by Sixth?

Having played my first apocalypse game of sixth edition on Sunday (with no str D weapons in any army, so no chance to test the idea of making D less the auto win gun) I have discovered that super heavies are not all they once were...

Sure, they're still durable as hell. You can still chain reaction one to death if you're lucky, but the odds aren't good. Being able to whittle them down a little by gradually glancing away the structure points makes them easier to deal with (slightly) though you can of course use techs and meks to repair some of those hull points. No what I found was that they were far easier to effectively take out of the game.

Assuming you aren't snap-firing...

For the uninitiated, super heavies used to have their own damage table. low results would stun a gun or the driver. mid table would knock off a gun or give a half-immobilised result. And the high results would take off structure points. The big guns, your primary weapons, had a 4+ save against stunning and damaging. The enemy would generally shoot at the big thing and when you failed a 4+ on the big gun they may think "ok that will do that's a lot less damage it can do to me next turn, I can finally shoot something else"

Move forward to sixth, and they use the same damage table as basic 40k. The only difference being immobilised is drive damaged (so half immobilised, takes two to stop it) and that explodes is remove a structure point and roll again, without modifiers. For killing the things it seems to be on a par with before. A succession of 6s can instant kill, but it's unlikely. But for shutting the super heavy out of the game, all it takes is one penetrating hit. You roll and get a crew shaken or stunned result, and your job is effectively done! Why? Because it effects ALL the guns at once. You still get a 4+ save for primary weapons, but taking the baneblade as an example, you've just lost your demolisher cannon, your two lascannons are hitting on 6s, the 3 twin linked heavy bolters likewise (though weight of shots and twin linked means they aren't as effected as the lascannons) and you're one bad dice roll from losing your mega cannon. Statistically two hits and all you have is a bunch of heavy bolters for 450 points. The enemy doesn't have to chuck masses of firepower at them anymore... as soon as it's shaken they can move on to other targets. Part of the benefit of super heavies would be their nature as bullet magnets, allowing the rest of your forces to advance unmolested. Will this still be the case? It also puts more of an onus on the first turn - if you go second you may never get chance to fire your super heavies... at least going first you have chance to fire them at least once!

I have no solution to this issue, and I am not looking for one. I can just see the nature of apocalypse mutating to make super heavies far less effective than they once were. Are Games Workshop going to rely on people rarely playing apocalypse and thus not noticing? It seems unprecedented for them to make a massive kit like the baneblade less effective than it used to be, unless they are relying on people just simply wanting one without thinking about when or if they will ever field it...

Do note, that this does not affect my previous article on Str D weapons. That was about balancing the warhound options out to make viable choices of all weapons and I stand by it. If anything this issue makes the new rules for Str D better as they'd still be able to fire while snap firing - a titan armed with plenty of old str D and nothing else may find itself easy to shut out of a game.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Problem with Strength D

The gun that can do anything...
With an apocalypse game approaching I was discussing the subject with the local GW manager, and he expressed a bit of a dislike for apoc (I consider him a friend so won't be grassing him up :oP) as he says it's too easy to break the game just by taking lot's of Strength D weapons. And he does have a point. I have made the claim before that the amount of super heavies you have isn't nearly as telling as the amount of Str D you have. I once played a game where my five super heavies took on my opponents two... however when it came to Str D he was putting out 5 shots per turn to my 1, and with him holding his supers in reserve and walking them on turn 1 (careful planning strategum) he killed my Str D before it could fire. From then on he was ripping through me with Str D while my Str 8 or 9 shots just bounced off his tanks, or barely scratched them. The combination of Auto Penetrate and the +1 on vehicle damage meant that he was taking structure points off with half his shots, and tearing through my tanks. Now this is what they are for fair enough, but once he'd finished those off, he found they were equally good at annihalating infantry. And THAT I think is the problem with Str D - there is no downside. They're good at everything, the jack of all trade weapon. Why would you take any other gun when this one does everything anyway?

An unfamiliar titan... one with a variety of guns!
This has lead to some rather boring titan loadouts where someone brings out a forgeworld reaver that has two laser destroyer arms and a laser destroyer shoulder weapon, putting out a formidable 8 Str D shots per turn. Now from what I remember of the fluff the titans were usually armed with a variety of weapons to deal with a variety of foes, cos let's face it they aren't the easiest things to swap a gun on. The turbo lasers were for killing enemy titans, but they'd have maybe an apoc launcher for dealing with enemy infantry and a plasma blastgun for tagets that are classed as "in-between." But how often are such varietous loadouts seen on titans? Why bother, when Str D does everything better than the rest anyway?

In discussion, we thought that it might be best to take away the blast rule to make the weapon less effective against infantry. My friend said that in his opinion, the only reason it was blast in the first place was so that it would be better at hitting larger vehicles than small ones - a large blast can feasibly miss an ork truk, a land raider is a harder thing to miss, and a baneblade damn near impossible to miss! So to try to keep that effect in place, I suggested increasing the BS when shooting at larger targets. After all, you can't say that a solitary guardsmen would be as easy to hit as a baneblade. So perhaps +1 BS against vehicles (and monstrous creatures too?) with a further +1 (that stacks) against super heavies and gargantuans. Meaning a Baneblade is still practically impossible to miss, a land raider the odds are you're gonna hit it, while a guardsmen you just fire in roughly the right direction and hope to hit near enough to fry the guy.

Consulting with a friend who actually uses titans (and therefore my theoretical hard sell on this issue) he said that he wouldn't want to see the Str D completely useless against infantry, but could see we had something of a point. He agreed that having to make a tactical decision between the different guns would be more interesting than just taking Str D as it does everything. He came up with the rather good suggestion of two fire modes - focused or dispersed, similar to the Tau Hammerhead shooting mode.

After haggling between the three of us I decided the following would be a good new profile for Str D weapons

focused mode - Str D, NO BLAST, +1 BS against vehicles, +2 against super heavies/gargantuan
dispersed mode - Str7, AP2, Large Blast.

The dispersed mode would still wound most things on 2s, but allows cover saves. It doesn't instant death T4, or disregard FNP for T4. Basically, it'll still kill marines in the open, but if it's a tough unit (Paladins, nob bikers) it won't brutalise them.

I need to look into it a little more to be sure - I believe there may be one or two Str D weapons out there that currently don't have blast (the daemon shell strategic asset springs to mind, though don't quote me on that I need to check) and I don't want to GIVE them an anti infantry capability they aren't designed to have, they can stay as they are. But I may try experimenting with it as a house rule to see how it takes.

There is an upside for the titan lovers... with it no longer being blast, you can potentially snap fire. Those pesky flyers you've been unable to touch? sure they'll be tough to hit... but if you do hit them, bye bye...

Monday, 3 September 2012

Remembering The Mission

I managed to get a couple of games in today after a far too long interlude from gaming (and blogging... and socialising... and sleeping) due to work commitments. I pulled off a win in both cases despite a bad start, and in both my opponent made the same basic mistake - they forgot about the mission. They got focused on killing a target or rampaging through my army and missed the fact that I was in a position to win the game when turn 5 rolled around.

Game 1 - Orks vs Orks

The first game was orks vs orks. Now the bad start in this was when my opponents lootas (10) opened up on wazzdakka and his biker boyz. Now he got 3 shots each, fair enough, lucky him. 30 shots should be 10 hits, about 8 wounds and 4 dead bikers. He got 20 hits. 17 wounds. I passed two 4+ cover saves. Squad and character dead, or a quarter of my army (and first blood) before I'd even had a turn!

At this point I decided to focus on killing his scoring units. Now this was Big Guns Never Tire so he had 3 looted wagons, a unit of grots, two 30 strong unit of boyz and a 10 strong unit of meganobz. I figured it'd be best to try to avoid the mega nobz and take out the rest, and I managed quite well. Picked off two of the wagons, my burnas took out one of the squads and the grots, one of my ork mobs (20 strong from a battlewagon) took out his other squad. At one point though it got to the stage that I could no longer ignore the meganobz. Now his warboss had broken away to deal with one of my grot squads, so I took the opportunity to charge. I'd picked off a couple during the game to this point. Now the attacks put out by 19 boyz on the charge should put 3 wounds on nobs. I was lucky, I put on 5. My nob fluffed his attacks though only adding an extra 1. In return though the nobz only killed 3 of mine, giving me the win, and leaving them on an Ld 4 test which they failed, and were run down. Hence why I struck when the warboss was away. This swung it in my favour as by this point I still had three scoring units (plus 2 remnants if some fleeing units rolled snakes for me) to my opponents one. I kept trying to pick off his last one while hunkering down on two objectives. In the end I had a unit gone to ground on an objective (so not claimed this turn) and a scoring unit in a scoring battlewagon on another, with a unit contesting the solitary hull point looted wagon on his. With both warlords slain, and my linebreaker making up for his first blood, victory was mine. I think further turns he could have perhaps clawed me off his objective and off the central one, but he was very unlikely to get better than a draw.

Where did my opponent go wrong? He didn't seem to notice that I was systematically targetting his scoring units. He left the grot squad to get slaughtered by the burnas and laughed that his tankbustas were safe. Sure... except you can't win with the tankbustas buddy. If you'd kept those grots back behind your other units to move up for objective grabbing late on, I'd never have got to them. Was I lucky in beating his meganobz? A little. By the odds I did about one wound more than I should, though the fact that the wounds came earlier in the initiative steps than averages say they should probably saved a few more boyz. But I gambled at that time because I could afford to get locked in that combat and finish both our scoring units on the next turn - I still had a scoring unit safe on my right flank.

Ironically I may have made similar mistakes if I hadn't received such a drubbing on turn one. Losing such a large part of my army in spectacular fashion made me focus my attention swiftly, and become lean and aggressive. Without that I may well have gone for the ultimate showdown in the middle of the field and potentially lost badly while doing so. I'd like to think I'd have still kept my eye on the mission, but perhaps overconfidence from such early success weakened my opponent in that game.

Game 2 - Necrons vs Space Marines

The overconfidence is not a cause in this second game. My opponent feared my necrons before a die was rolled. Now he got a bit of a lucky break in that a solitary lascannon shot managed to kill my Doomsday Barge before it had even got warmed up, but that didn't fill him with confidence. Neither did my utterly unsuccessful attempt to get a first blood point by teleporting next to a couple of "easy" transports inspire my opponent either (a single hull point from 20 Gauss shots, on each. Even if I'd combined fire I'd have failed! This was the start of a bad game for Gauss, as I managed to do only 8 hull points from Gauss shots throughout an entire 5 turn game!) No with this opponent it was a lucky streak from some lychguard that was his undoing - it became a personal mission to kill them, to the exclusion of most other things. He didn't seem to notice the unit that had so spectacularly failed to kill a razorback then had a lucky escape from a vindicator as they retreated into cover... then slowly scaled a building towards an objective. The immortals that took up a good firing position that just happened to be near a second. In this mission the objectives were worth different values and my opponent had the 4 pointer right in his deployment zone... but I'd started on a 3 and crept into position on a 2 and a 3 giving me a solid lead despite his first blood point. He realised his mistake late on and made a rush for some extra points, and in the end I had an 8-7 advantage - his first blood point being countered by my linebreaker point. However if his squad that sat camped in a rhino waiting for turn 5 to claim a 1 point objective had advanced the 12" to my position, they could have booted me off my 3 point objective quite easily. However most of his attention was focused on my lychguard, and that proved to be his undoing.

Admittedly, they were remarkably tenacious. He should have had them early on. They killed a few assault terminators (thunder hammers and storm shields) but then braced themselves for the reprisal - he fluffed all 6 attacks. His men then fled and while I couldn't catch them, the immortals did sterling work in finishing the termies off and wounding his captain. The lychguard meanwhile chewed up his tactical squad, and then while there were only 3 of them and a lord left, they proved to be incredibly annoying. The highlight for me was bouncing the landspeeders missiles into the dread, killing it. Then bouncing the hits from the vindicator into the wounded captain, killing him. And to finish off splitting up with the lychguard finishing off the squad and the overlord killing the vindicator. Those guys carved a hole through the centre of the enemy lines and more than made up for the rest of the army doing sweet fa apart from sitting on objectives and yelling "hey we count!"

If my opponent had concentrated less on the lychguard, and perhaps moved the tactical squad in to claim the objective I sneaked on to. If he'd made more use of his scoring landspeeders, beyond providing fire support to the "kill the lychguard mission" If the land raider had been used more aggressively to purge me off objectives. He could have got the win. But he bent all his will to killing that unit, and not only did he fail, he lost the game.

So remember, it's good to have a fun game, and both my opponents enjoyed these games, as did I. But keep the mission in sight. My second opponent realised in turn 5 he was heading for a loss and reacted late but couldn't stop me getting the win, though he did bring it close. My opponent from game 1 had been barrelling along killing stuff so much that when I pointed out I'd won he just looked shocked and baffled. If you don't have any idea if you are winning or not, then you're probably not.