Saturday, 30 December 2017


So the year has come to an end and we have seen all kinds of things in many different tournament settings.  I have done a little digging around and have found 20 different tournaments over the last year and I have looked at the winning list.  There are some serious similarities that lie in many of the lists, some of which are issues that we will not see again due to rules changes.  Now I will not go over the tournaments, the mission pack that was used, or even the specific lists used to win.  No, what I am going to be focusing on is trends.  What mechanic made the lists strong, and what the list exploited to make it even stronger.  Make no mistake, there were some serious exploitation.

Lets start with an easy one to talk about, something that we actually don't have to worry about as much any more.  That would be fliers.
No, not them...well, maybe them too.
In the earlier tournaments the winning lists were dominated by Stormravens.  Now it's not really hard to see why, the amount of guns it can take and the firepower it can dish out is astonishing.  Not to mention that they are also harder to hit, have 2 movement modes, and can carry and keep safe other units.  Several of the armies had over half their points dedicated to fliers and all of them were Astartes in nature.

As I said, that is not something we really have to worry about any more as the "Boots on the Ground" rule has made it so that fliers cannot hold objectives.

Our next common thread, found in nearly half of the lists, is Celestine.

So this is not exactly a theme, its not like a bunch of lists had other characters or units that operated just like her, 8 of the 20 lists actually had her in them.  Of course why the fuck would you not take her.  For 250 points you get 11 wounds, 12 attacks, a 2+/4++, with the ability to (essentially) regenerate 2 wounds per turn, and once she dies comes back to life and it all happens again.  Now Chapter approved did increase her point cost by 50 points, but it decreased the cost of the Geminae by 25 each.  I did not see a list in which she showed up alone, so the cost of the unit did not actually change at all and she would still be a solid choice at a higher points cost.
How do you deal with her?  Well I have seen her die twice in the same game to an Alpha Legion Lord on a Juggernaught with the Hydra Blade.  So a shit load of multi wound attacks, twice.  Not much help I'm afraid but she is scary as hell.

On to an actual theme that you will encounter in your upcoming games.  Re-rolls.  Half of the lists that used actual shooting as it's main focus for damage uses re-rolls to great effect.  3 of them feature Guilliman, who gives all the re-rolls, and while he is paired with a bunch of fliers in those particular lists, he can be teamed up with any huge firepower oriented army to great effect.  Yarrick shows up in a couple lists as Astra Militarum is really strong in the artillery game.  Chapter masters in general are another good choice for re-rolls, Shrike showing up once, and although Azreal doesn't show up in any of these lists I have no doubt that we will see him in the future.
It's not just these big important characters that are handing out all the re-rolls as there are several Astra Militarum lists that focus on Scions dropping in with plasma, they are accompanied by a Tempestor Prime who's handing out re-roll orders like they are Tic-Tacs so the suckers with the guns don't blow themselves up.
In most cases, there isn't really a way to stop the re-rolls from happening.  In the case of the normal characters like the Chaos Lord and Chapter Master you can potentially snipe them out, although that method is fairly unreliable.  You can rush them and get a charge off and hope to assassinate them but you will need to get past all kinds of bubble wrap and counter charge units and then you will still have to deal with the character himself, who in most cases is not going to be a pussy.

Sorry, but that's all I really got for you on that topic.  Best bet is to kill at the stuff that benefits from the re-rolling.

However, that topic did bring about 2 other top tactics found in first place lists, Alpha Strike and bubble wrap.

This is a very versatile theory that generally consists of things that can kill other things very well very quickly.  They don't have to be durable, mobile, or good at anything else because the premise is that there is nothing left once the alpha strike has struck.  There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle and they each perform a slightly different way of killing shit.
The fliers, mentioned above, can deploy at the very back edge of the table, in relative safety, and move long distances to show up where they need to be on the table and hit what ever needs to be hit.  However because they have a large footprint, and they do still need LOS to hit you, it is possible to hide from them and mitigate their landing spots.
Massed Taurox Primes also seem to be pretty popular, a vehicle that can put out an incredible amount of firepower for it's relatively low cost.  This is a potentially mobile vehicle, but because of the shooting penalty when it moves, it's much more effective when it stays still.  Again LOS issues plague this rather static firepower and if you can get close and force them to move then they loose their effectiveness.
Solving that LOS problem, several of the lists had artillery.  Big guns that don't need to see what it shoots at.  Mortars and Wyverns were the most popular as infantry can hide much easier than larger vehicles or monsters, but Manticores made a decent showing as well.
Another solution to getting around LOS blocking terrain is Scions with plasma guns.  They put out very potent damage and with them starting in "deep strike reserves" they are both safe and able to arrive nearly anywhere.

So how do we protect ourselves from these?  Abilities that increase the hit requirement help a lot and, as was mentioned, LOS blocking terrain.  Really any kind of terrain that can give you a boost to your armour is a huge boon.  Even mortars and Wyverns have a hard time punching through a decent armour save and if they can't hit you they can't hurt you.  However, you can't really hide from drop plasma, which bring us to another very common theme found in 2/3 of the lists...

Bubble wrap is a tricky thing to do just right, but the theory is simple.  Use cheap ass units as cannon fodder and protection.  How do these units protect you you ask?  By creating a bubble of "no drop zone, keeping those pesky scions on your front lawn instead of smashing in your back door.  The last tournament I played in I was able to use 3 units of 10 cultists to completely protect my back field preventing anyone from dropping anything behind me.  Keep in mind that you can actually have an 18" gap in between your units and enemy units can't drop in that space as it's 9" from each of your units.  The rule of 9" is not not fool proof because there are a few unlikely units that don't abide by the 9" rule like the Mawlock and a Warptimed Magnus/Mortarion so you will have to plan accordingly.
Another method is against an assault heavy army, you layer the large units of bubble wrap so that charging units have to kill one at a time, giving you time to fall back and shoot the crap only before they crash into the next line of chumps ready to die in droves.  Keep in mind that you need to keep at least enough distance between units so that the enemy cannot pile in or consolidate into the next layer of wrap.
There is another dirty trick that Alpha Legion Traitor Astartes can pull, kind of a reverse bubble wrap where instead of wrapping their own units in a layer of cultists, they can spend 2 CP and place a unit of cultists on the table before the first turn starts.  This mean that they can take a 40 man unit and completely surround your army preventing you from being able to move out of your deployment zone.
Conscripts are the most common, due to their super cheap cost and large numbers they are ideal, at least until the Chapter Approved adjusted their cost and unit size.  Time will tell whether or not they are still worth taking as they are now the same cost as a regular guardsman.  So the thought now is to take 2 units of 10 guardsmen instead of 1 unit of 20 conscripts.  However cultists and brimstone horrors are used in the few cultist units and the couple ork armies just use more orks.
Dealing with them is pretty straight forward, kill them.  Kill the fuck out of them.  They are typically pretty damn squishy so they should fall like wheat to a scythe.  Now you just need a scythe...

Our last common thread that shows up in half the armies is...

...and when they use Smite they go fucking hog wild on that shit.  The biggest offenders are the few Chaos lists which include Magnus, Horrors, and the Forge World Malefic Lord.  However the Imperial version includes a bunch of Astropaths and Primaris psykers, and we can't leave out the mass of Wierdboys the orks use.  The use of this "tactic" is fairly simple, place your models where they will do damage and have them Smite til they die.  Mortal wounds are becoming more and more prevalent in the game and are nearly guaranteed to hurt something.
So how do we stop them?  Well you can either have an ass load of your own psykers to counter some of the casting attempts AND smite them back.  You can also use bubble wrap units to eat the smites and take all the damage just as they are meant to do.  As a third option, you can use "chaff" units to draw the smite powers.  Those of you who played old school Warhammer Fantasy will understand the idea of this unit and it works similar to bubble wrap.  Since the psychic phase takes place before shooting, and because smite automatically targets the closest enemy unit, you can rush out a couple swift moving and cheap units that can take a couple smites before dying.  As a Traitor Astartes player I find that spawn work well for this, but anything that's fairly cheap and able to get out front of your other units and take the hits will work.  Even things that are not that cheap, but expendable when it comes to losing something else to the power of smite, a Necron destroyer, an Ork kopta, Space Marine attack bike, a crisis suit, all of these could be an acceptable sacrifice.
The biggest problem is that most of the things that cast smite are characters, so killing them is tricky as you can't target them unless they are the closest target.  Of course unless you have access to snipers.  Most people pooh-pooh sniper scouts and ratlings, but I have to say that if you can pick off a couple casters (who tend to be rather weak) over the course of a game then that makes them worth it.

Well, that's it in a nutshell.  Alpha strike, bubble wrap, smite, and re-rolls.  If you can find a way to deal with ALL of those while not taking all of them, (cause that's what your opponent it thinking) then you might stand a chance at winning a game or two.

Until next time, keep them dice rollin.

Now for the mandatory plugging...

So that escalation league they got going is up to 40 players.  Even if they get half the games each month that is pretty damn awesome.  This weekend they had a mega battle ice breaker event for the first month of the league and decent showing turned out.

He also sells stuff!  Comics, action figures, card games, pick a table top miniatures game he's got it, and loads of other geeky shit.  Check out the web page and Facebook page, I've got them both linked in the sponsor's section on my front page.  There are other leagues going on too, Magic the Gathering, Shadespire, Necromunda plus the monthly hobby seminars that always draw a crowd.  People that don't even play table top war-games find themselves in there with a free mini they can paint and take home, all supplies are supplied.

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