Saturday, 29 March 2014

Macca on Tactica, Army Lists (and a great wall of text)

G'day all, it's Macca here, and I am going to be a bit bland on the visual side today by discussing some tactica. First off, what is tactica? Well, to me, it's a word which means a combination of tactics and synergy, that is, how units interact with one another. This post isn't aimed at the painting enthusiast, it's just an attempt to reconcile a few tactics and combinations I use in 30/40K in order to achieve certain end results, ranging from winning games in a competitive environment, to introductory games, to just trying to have as much fun as possible, which is honestly the best game possible. I will provide some visuals throughout these in future as well, drawn by myself, with a very simplistic style in order to illustrate specific points.

So, where shall we begin? I think the best place to start is with the basic army list. List composition is the bees knees of this game. You can take the best codex, and lose games with the wrong units, you can take the worst codex and win games. Conversely, you can build a powerhouse list, such as Eldar Serpent and Wraithknight spam or Taudar, and whilst you will win games, you're taking the competitive nature out of the hobby. To use a chess analogy, you've now built a force which has queens instead of pawns. You've got the game won, without lifting a finger, where's the fun?

Ok, so, first up, I like to start with an army. Let's go with Horus Heresy, we'll take Book II, and aim for 1000 points. I like Iron Hands, they are very popular now, and a lot of lists are floating around. I'm going to make a pair of lists, fluffy, and a bit cheesy.

For this post, I'm going to focus on fluffy and the design considerations for a well rounded, fun tournament list. I am going to use colours to denote what I term as tactics, and what I term as synergy. I am doing this so that you can pick up where I am choosing something because it aids my game, and where I choose something because it enhances how I do that.

So for the HQ, I am going with a Praetor. No surprises here, you need to have some kind of character killing unit. At 1000 points you aren't looking at seeing primarchs, but there are a load of special characters and other HQ's that can mess up your day. You can't try and compete with the likes of Kharn, or jetbike praetors with paragon blades, so instead, simple is key. I'm going to pick digital weapons, a thunder hammer, and an Iron Halo. The +1 attack from digital weapons is great, and it makes up for the lost attack from the thunder hammer, a specialist weapon. The Thunder Hammer itself bottles down to this: If you take a paragon blade, and come up against another praetor, you're equals, you strike at the same time, you have the same saves (2+/4+). This is a slog fest, and you don't want that. The thunderhammer means that in the event you survive long enough to strike, (you have pretty good odds here unless you're against units like Kharn, in which case, you're screwed due to sheer weight of attacks) you will instant kill, or at least wound and stun them (due to the concussive special rule) if they are on a bike, which gives you a 2nd chance to strike them next time, which a power-fist will not.

Troops. This is simple. At 1000 points, you can't go past numbers. 2x 10 man units of tactical are great. You spend not even a third of your points here, and you get 20 marines, and all the juicy bolter shots that come with it and coupled with the Iron Hands Legiones Astartes rules, (Inviolate Armour: -1 to shooting against you, Legiones Astartes may always rally) you have some survivability that you would normally try and get by adding more men. I find that if you go for units like Breachers, outside of Zone Mortalis, they are not worthit due to the high cost/gain ratio. Same goes for special weapons squads, 10 plasma is a great concept in theory, but in reality, you're paying more for 5 guys with plasma then 10 regular tactical marines, also, you can't fill out compulsory troops slots with them, which means you would need two troops squads AND these guys, it's just a massive points sink at 1000 points. (I'd like to point out, this is fantastic rules balancing by Forge World, yes, they have made some cheese in the past, but saying that you can take a powerful unit, and giving it purchasing criteria rather then just the assigned points value is an ace idea.)

Now, you're free to add the killing aspect to the list. So, what are Iron Hands good at? Well, they are good at synching their wargear and their aggression, in the form of bionics, feel no pain etc. How do you translate this to a game? Well, you know you're fighting other Legions. That means power armour. It also means Armour. You need units that can deal with both aspects. Most legion units do one job well, tacticals have lots of bolters, tactical support have losts of special weapons etc. This is important, because you can't rely on units to fulfill multiple roles.

So, we need marine killers. I like dakka, it's a really Iron Hand thing. What dakka? At 1000 points, you're looking at a 4x4 table, so basilisks and other heavy artillery is out, you simply will be in struggle town in the close in game. So, I'm going to go with Legion Outriders, with twin-linked plasma guns. 3 of these guys are the cost of one of our tactical squads, but you gain the advantage of speed, relentless, twin-linked on the plasma guns, which is far better then the Tactical Support squad, for the same points you lose two guys, gain a jink save and you have far, far less chance of killing yourself with your own plasma AND you get a scout move! Also, at Toughness 5 and with that Iron Hands rule, bolters will only wound you on a 6! Two squads of these guys, and you can deal with both power armour AND terminators, as well as light vehicles and elite units wearing artificer. Point to note here, is that you can't have more bikes then you have troops due to the Iron Hand rules.

For those playing at home, we're sitting at about 800 points here. So, with the remaining points, I'm going to aim for a unit which is just fantastic, the Sicarian Battle Tank. I am going with armoured ceramite, and lascannon sponsons. The Lascannons allow us to take on heavier armour, such as Land Raiders and Dreadnoughts. The armoured ceramite means that pesky melta shots are far less deadly. Finally, the main gun is a rending twin-linked auto-cannon with 6 shots that ignores jink saves. This weapon is FANTASTIC, and is one of the best all-rounders I know of.

So to recap,

Praetor with Thunder Hammer, Digital Weapons, Iron Halo
2x10 man Tactical Squads
2x3 Legion Outrider Squads with twin-linked plasma guns
Sicarian tank with armoured ceramite and lascannons

This list is tough, but it's also fluffy. You have good survivability, despite the lowish number of models, an you can deal with every kind of opponent, without relying on 'death stars' or special characters to buff the army. To me, (and this is subjective) this is how you build a list. You could go softer and fluffier by giving the HQ a cortex controller and ditching a squad of bikes to take thallax instead. That call is yours, and if you were playing friendly, that's exactly what I would do.

So, "how do you use this army Macca," I hear you ask. Well, I would run the Praetor with a tactical squad. He gives you the option of increasing the unit's leadership, as well as providing a rock for the enemy to break against in CC. You would usually put him on the squad that you think is more likely to suffer, such as the one closer to their assault units, or on a vital objective. If you are aggressive, he can go in your assaulting squad, moving up and using them as meat shields and to act as the delivery system to get him into close combat.

The standard play for the tacticals is going to be seizing ground and holding it, using their bolters at range, and using their 'Fury of the Legion" (doubles their firepower at the expense of not shooting again for a full game turn) in order to deplete enemies that get too close.

The Outriders are going to use that scout move first up, you want to get them as close as you can to the enemy, or out of their line of sight/possible line of sight, without wasting a turn turbo-boosting to get into range. The Plasma needs to be used early on to cause casualties, as 30/40k is all about exponential loss; that is the more guys you lose, you actually lose exponentially more potential from the unit.

Warning! Macca's crazy logic alert: an example of this loss is that if you lose 1 guy from a 5 man squad, you have lost 20%. Meh. Next turn, if you lose another, you've actually lost 25% of what's left, so whilst the number of the squad is down by 40%, the tactical efficiency of the squad is at -45% (20% manpower loss at first casualty, 25% loss on second casualty, combined gives you efficiency loss). Yes, with this logic, I am a witch, but it is actually how it works, you can't say that a 3 man unit has 60% of the starting potential, it losses more and more of a percentage of what it can do for the same relative damage done to it. A unit becomes combat ineffective after a certain amount of damage is done to it. Take 4 devestators shooting at a Storm Raven flyer with missiles (not the AA kind). Math hat on: 4 guys snap firing is just over a 66% chance of a hit, and a 50% chance of that can be damage. So all up, that's just over a 33% chance of some kind of damage. If you lose 75% of the unit, you are not 25% effective. You are looking at a 16% chance of a hit, and still a 50% chance of damage. That's an 8% chance of damage. losing 3 of 4 men is 75%. However, the missile is doing less then 25% of the 4 man potential..... crazy witchcraft right? When a unit has lost 100% tactical efficiency, it is deemed combat ineffective. It can still be used to hold and contest objectives but it no longer has the combat effectiveness it once had at full strength. In a 5 man unit, it's 20%, 25%, 33%, and 50%, so by the time you hit 1 man, you've lost OVER 100!

We now return you to your normal blogging.
Now, crazy logic aside, back to the Outriders. You want to spread them out, so that if they have units which can deal with the bikes (such as their own bikes, possibly with plasma), they can't focus on an area, and instead they have to decide "do I cover that side, or that side?". You want to create a lose/lose situation for them. In warfare, this is known as tactics, and it is very different to "I have more wave serpents then you, I am just going to sit here and roll dice till I win".

Finally, you use the Sicarian for two roles:
1, area denial. Nobody wants to expose themselves to the Sicarian, it'll mess up most things it touches. When you do this, you want to find a 'fire lane', that is a path that the enemy is going to want to go through, and then as you are parked there, they find that if they try to more through, you can dump rounds into their precious units. This is going to force the enemy to re-think their tactics and how they are going to get from point A to point B.

2, killing stuff. Your Sicarian is a great killer. Use it to do just this. You want to pic kthe bbiggest, baddest thing they have which is an immediate threat. Ok, I hear you saying, but Macca, killing is just simple, how's this a tactic? Well, because you want that immediate threat. As an example, a Primarch that is 60" away from your army is not a threat. A trio of Basilisks is. Yes, you need to kill the Primarch, but he's not going to get near you for a while, so use this time to pop the things which can hurt you. This is also known as target priority, and I will expand upon it in later posts.

Now, as a note on killing 'stuff' with a Sicarian: You aren't a Land Raider. If you move, you don't have Power of the Machine Spirit to help you, same if you're stunned. If you move, or are stunned, always pick the main gun. That auto-cannon is designed to just chew things up, and as it ignores jinks, you can pop units that would normally be sorta-survivable against you (bikes, fliers, skimmers)

Well, that's it, I'm at the end of my Tactica on a fluffy list. I thank those of you patient enough to stick with me for the long slog, and I would love to hear your feedback, whether you think I am wrong, right, or made some mistakes, any feedback is good feedback and it can only improve what I can deliver in future. Cheers gang.


  1. It took me three goes between baby duties to get through it but it certainly gave me thought for playing 30K as opposed to 40K.

    The Sicarian has a third thing going for it - its sexy resin - it looks brutal, and it looks like it fits.

    I'm not much of a play at all costs to win player so fluffy is my cup of tea - I owuld have taken the Thallax over the other Bike squad - but thats just my opinion based on how I like to play.

    Looking forward to future articles mate.

    1. I totally agree with that, well, everything but the baby duties....

      Tomorrow I am looking at posting the 2nd list, the more 'power gamer' one with a brief look at why some people cheese it up.