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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Analysis: The Ugly Duckling (Astra Militarum Taurox)

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Ugly and unpopular, the Astra Militarum Taurox seems to be a rare sight on the battlefields of the grimdark future, especially in serious army lists. But does this new addition to the Imperial arsenal really deserve so much hate?

Building wheeled Chimeras is a painful modelling experience, so much so that I am seriously considering adding a couple of the much-maligned Taurox to my Astra Militarum army. I am not a fan of the stock kit, but like every other model in my army, I'm not afraid of doing some conversion work to achieve a better aesthetic. But is the Taurox a worthy alternative to the venerable Chimera? I think the answer is "yes", and here is why.

When I analyse units I do so on the basis of firepower, resilience and mobility; the holy trinity of 40k. I also assume I am facing a competent opponent with a strong army list.

Resilience


The first thing I will consider is resilience, since I think most players are turned off by the front AV 11 of the Taurox compared to the front AV 12 of the Chimera. Now the difference between AV 11 and AV 12 is significant on paper, but I really think that the side AV 10 of both transports makes this difference less significant in practice. A competent opponent would not shoot a Taurox or Chimera from the front if they seriously want the kill, they would use mobility to hit the weaker side AV (or assault it).

Over the last couple of Edition changes, I have noticed a lot of players forget about the concept of 'armour saturation'. In 5th Ed, most players understood that killing ten tanks was more than ten times harder than killing one tank—if you have a finite quantity of anti-tank weapons, and your opponent is killing those weapons off turn-by-turn, you may simply run out of firepower to deal with all the enemy armour in the turns available. Mass armour went out of fashion in 6th Ed but is making a comeback in 7th Ed, and yet many players seemingly do not appreciate the special quality of quantity.

Yes, if you have a Taurox, it is not going to last very long; however, if you have a Taurox and half a dozen AV 12 hulls and maybe a couple of AV 14 hulls too—like a typical mech / semi-mech Astra Militarum army—then that Taurox becomes significantly more likely to survive the game!

Firepower


The Taurox is armed with a BS 3 TL Autocannon—cheap, spammable, mobile, long-ranged S7 firepower. With Objective Secured. This is a good deal.

Most players understand—either consciously or subconsciously—that armies with lots of mobile long-ranged S7 shooting are very powerful in the modern game. This is why Grey Knights and Necrons were so strong in late 5th Ed / early 6th Ed, and Tau and Eldar have been so strong since mid 6th Ed. The Taurox offers mobile long-ranged S7 shooting, so why is it so unpopular?

Consider the other sources of long-ranged S7 firepower available to the Astra Militarum:

  • Infantry Squads / Heavy Weapon Squads / Veteran Squads with Autocannon
  • Scout / Armoured Sentinels with Autocannon
  • Leman Russ Exterminators
I am not considering Sabre or Hydra Batteries since these Skyfire weapons fulfil a different role to normal S7 shooters.

The infantry-carried Autocannon options vary in cost and resilience compared to the Taurox, but their common difference is lack of mobility; the Taurox can move 6" and shoot at full BS, or dash 18" to grab an Objective.

Sentinels are comparable to Taurox in resilience and mobility, but the Taurox reroll to-hit makes it more efficient than either Sentinel variant; one Taurox shoots like 1.5 Sentinels, for less than 1.5x the cost. And Taurox have Objective Secured and better dash speed.

Exterminators are less efficient than Taurox but are a lot tougher—and a lot less mobile. I like Exterminators, but a Platoon with a few Autocannons and Divination/Orders buffs would be my go-to choice for slow S7 shooting.

Considering the alternatives, Taurox are actually a great way to fit some extra S7 firepower into an Astra Militarum army.

Mobility


Mobile firepower is far more valuable than static firepower; remember what I wrote about competent opponents using mobility to hit side AV? If you lack mobile firepower, your competent opponents will hide from your shooters, or present unfavourable targets (higher AV, better cover saves, tanking characters) and you will be unable to do much about it. Mobility really is king in 40k.

We've already examined how Taurox bring the most mobile S7 shooting in the Astra Militarum arsenal, but they also enhance the mobility of their passengers to a greater degree than Chimeras.

The Chimera has a long hull and a single Access Point at the rear. The Taurox has shorter hull and Access Points on either side. The Taurox can project transported infantry about 4" further forward than the Chimera, starting from the same position, assuming you don't rotate the Chimera to present its weakest AV to the enemy. Now when you're transporting Melta/Plasma Veterans, with an optimal kill zone of 12", that extra force projection is a significant advantage.

Conclusion


After all this analysis, I really do think that the Taurox is a decent option for a mechanised Astra Militarum, and a viable alternative to the Chimera.

I think a mixture of Chimeras and Taurox will work quite well; Command Squads obviously get Chimeras so they can use Orders whilst embarked, but Veteran Squads can really benefit from the better force projection of the Taurox.

Furthermore, I think Taurox could even be used as empty gunships, if bought for Infantry Squads forming combined squads or Platoon Command Squads riding Vendettas. A mobile TL Autocannon for 50 pts is not a bad deal, and an Objective Secured unit that can dash 18" per turn has good tactical value in Maelstrom missions.

I for one will be considering the addition of a couple of Taurox to my Astra Militarum army, especially as we start to see conversion kits to improve the aesthetic of the model.

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