Featured Post

Analysis: Astra Militarum Regiment Mathhammer [Revised]

Now that most of the rules from the new Codex Astra Militarum have previewed/leaked online, it's time to start our proper Faction an...

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Analysis: The Steel Host [Revised]


How do five Leman Russes with Preferred Enemy sound to you? "Nice, but too expensive" was my first reaction to the first Astra Militarum Formation in Sanctus Reach: The Red Waaagh. But an old gaming buddy of mine recently recommended the Steel Host Formation to me and then I really started thinking about it. After all, I already have a couple of Demolisher kits and a Hydra/Wyvern kit, and my infantry-building progress has been slow, so maybe blowing 900 pts on a handful of tanks isn't such a bad idea?

Composition

The Steel Host is an Astra Militarum Formation comprising:

  • Tank Commander (2-3 tanks)
  • 3x Leman Russ Squadron (3-9 tanks)
  • 1x Hydra
While you could go all-out and build this Formation with the maximum 12 tanks (plus Hydra), if you wanted that many tanks you would be better off taking two of these Formations with 5-6 tanks each. You would have to pay the 100 pts 'tax' again, for a second Commander and Hydra, but neither of these units are bad so I would consider that small tax worthwhile for the flexibility of having two Preferred Enemy bubbles. Given that the minimum cost of this Formation is 700 pts (five Eradicators) I would expect to see it typically fielded with the minimum of five tanks.

Note that the Formation specifies "1 Hydra" not "1 Hydra Battery" and I interpret this as meaning you can only include a single Hydra in the Formation—a pity, since I think Hydras work best in pairs.

Preferred Enemy

The perk of this Formation is that all its members within 12" of the Tank Commander gain the Preferred Enemy rule. This special rule allows you to reroll 1 To-Hit and To-Wound, a very nice bonus. However, the Steel Host does not really provide any other benefits, so optimising the benefit of Preferred Enemy is going to determine the value of this Formation to an army list. This is easier said than done, since there are seven different Leman Russ variants—plus two extras from Imperial Armour: Volume Two—and Preferred Enemy benefits each to a different extent.

The reroll of 1 To-Wound is universally beneficial to all the Russes, since most of their weapons wound most targets on a 2+ naturally—they basically get Shred. The value of the reroll of 1 To-Hit varies between weapons.

Direct Fire

The Exterminator, Punisher and Vanquisher each have a direct fire turret weapon, allowing the Preferred Enemy reroll of 1 To-Hit to function naturally; however, the Exterminator inherently has Twin-Linked so Preferred Enemy has no additional benefit To-Hit.

Blasts

The Battle Tank, Demolisher, Eradicator and Executioner each have a Blast main weapon. It is debatable if Preferred Enemy benefits Blast weapons, but I currently believe they do by strict rules-as-written. This makes Preferred Enemy actually better for the Battle Tank, Demolisher, Eradicator and Executioner than the direct fire turret variants.

Gets Hot

The Executioner main weapon, and secondary Plasma Cannon available to all variants, have the Gets Hot rule, which is a significant liability to expensive tanks that are otherwise quite resilient. When you shoot a Blast weapon with Gets Hot you must first roll a D6 to see if the weapon overheats and fails to fire, also costing you 1HP half the time. Preferred Enemy allows you to reroll this test, significantly mitigating the self-destruction risk of Executioners and anything with Plasma Sponsons.


Executioner

The Executioner is a major beneficiary of Preferred Enemy since it can fire five S7 AP2 blasts per turn with little fear of Gets Hot—the expected rate of HP loss drops from 2-3 HP each game to 1 HP every second game, a massive difference!

Of course, an Executioner with Lascannon and Plasma Sponsons costs a whopping 195 pts, so five of these would push a Steel Host over the 1000 pts mark. In fact, it would push the cost up towards Adamantine Lance cost—and I know which Formation I would rather bring to the table! So I think that a good Steel Host should aim to optimise cost vs. firepower and bring a mixture of Executioners and other Russ variants.

Punisher

At first glance, the Punisher could also be considered a major beneficiary of Preferred Enemy, since it provides a conditional reroll To-Hit to its twenty-shot turret weapon. However, this reroll is not actually that good on a BS3 model—the expected number of hits rises from 10 per turn to 11-12 per turn, only a small difference.

However, on a BS4 model (i.e. Pask or a normal Tank Commander) the benefit of Preferred Enemy is slightly higher—the expected 13 hits per turn rises to 15-16 hits per turn.

Exterminator

Contrary to the Punisher, at first glance the Exterminator does not seem to benefit greatly from the addition of Preferred Enemy, since it already has a Twin-Linked turret weapon. However, Preferred Enemy still boosts the lethality of the Exterminator with its rerolls of 1 To-Wound, and it is really not a bad unit for its cost.

While the Taurox is a more efficient means of bringing accurate, mobile S7 direct fire to an Astra Militarum army, the Exterminator is a much more resilient option at only slightly lower points-efficiency. And while Preferred Enemy may not make its turret weapon any more accurate, it still does slightly benefit its secondary weapons.

Application

I would probably build a Steel Host like this:
Tank Commander [310]
Commander Exterminator with Lascannon
Exterminator with Lascannon
Leman Russ Squadron [195]
Executioner with Lascannon and Plasma Cannon Sponsons
Leman Russ Squadron [195]
Executioner with Lascannon and Plasma Cannon Sponsons
Leman Russ Squadron [195]
Executioner with Lascannon and Plasma Cannon Sponsons
Hydra [70]
The Formation costs 975 pts in this configuration; certainly not cheap, but not overly expensive for five AV14 tanks with significant firepower. Leaving out the Hydra—which I would just operate as an independent unit deep in backfield cover—the tanks would be expected to output this kind of firepower each turn:

  • 6.5 Autocannon hits
  • 3 Lascannon hits
  • 14.5 Plasma Cannon shots fired
It's hard to quantify the effect of the Plasma Cannon blasts against infantry, but if you were shooting at vehicles or Monsters on big bases then you could probably expect about two-thirds of those blasts to hit—so ten S7 AP2 hits with rerolls of 1 To-Wound.

Importantly, you could split this firepower five different ways—the three Executioners are independent units, and the pair of Exterminators can split their fire through Tank Orders. Furthermore, since these five tanks operate as four units, you can spread them out as much as required to get good firing lanes and board control; you need to stay within 12" of the Command tank to get Preferred Enemy, but if that model is in the centre of a loose formation then you can still spread over a good 24" of table space.

Example Army List

So what would I wrap around the Steel Host to make an army capable of handling a variety of threats? More anti-air than the Hydra would be my first call, and something to kill heavy armour would be my second; after all, just spamming S7 shots does not make a good army list. Some mobile Objective Secured units would help as well for Maelstrom missions. At 2000 pts I would consider fielding something like this:
Combined Arms Detachment: Astra Militarum
Company Command Squad [205]
Company Commander, Officer of the Fleet, Colour Sergeant with Company Standard, Three Veterans with Plasma Guns, Chimera
Veteran Squad [170]
Sergeant, Three Veterans with Plasma Guns, Six Veterans with Lasguns, Chimera
Veteran Squad [140]
Sergeant, Three Veterans with Meltaguns, Six Veterans with Lasguns, Taurox
Veteran Squad [140]
Sergeant, Three Veterans with Meltaguns, Six Veterans with Lasguns, Taurox
Vendetta [170]
Manticore [170]
Formation: The Steel Host
Tank Commander [310]
Commander Exterminator with Lascannon
Exterminator with Lascannon
Leman Russ Squadron [195]
Executioner with Lascannon and Plasma Cannon Sponsons
Leman Russ Squadron [195]
Executioner with Lascannon and Plasma Cannon Sponsons
Leman Russ Squadron [195]
Executioner with Lascannon and Plasma Cannon Sponsons
Hydra [70]
This list brings five AV14 tanks, four AV12 tanks, two AV11 vehicles and an AV12 flyer to the table, plus 36 infantry wielding 12 special weapons amongst them. In 7th Ed, how often do you see a 2000 pts army with 12 vehicles? I expect this army list would achieve armour saturation against a lot of opponents and simply overwhelm their capability to kill vehicles.

Conclusion

While it may cost a big chunk of points, I think that the Steel Host could be considered a competitive option for Astra Militarum armies aiming to put a lot of armour on the table.

I am yet to do a full analysis of the so-called 'Pask-star' of his super-Punisher plus a couple of Punisher/Executioner wingmen, but I think the Steel Host is really a very different style of list; its tanks can spread out, operate fairly independently, and are less dependent on a big infantry blob to bubble-wrap them from assault, which is simply devastating against vehicles in squadrons. I suspect that the Pask-star is probably more points-efficient in its damage output, but I am personally not a fan of death-star lists—especially slow ones—because a competent opponent with a MSU list will simply outmanoeuvre you and often beat you on VP, especially in Maelstrom missions.

But most importantly of all, I think I've found my way to quickly boost my initial 1000 pts of mechanised infantry into a 2000 pts army...

4 comments:

  1. Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation27 January 2015 at 22:53

    I'd love to play against an army like this. Deep striking Obliterators and fast Flesh-hounds and Juggerlords with Spawn would be in combat or behind your tanks turn 2. I suspect this list needs conscripts to bubble wrap the tanks. That would make my life much harder.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Having played full mech lists with no infantry bubble-wrap for several years I am happy to let you think it would be that easy :-) You are not going to be Deep Striking anything into rear AV against someone who deploys correctly, and would you really want to against 15 Plasma Cannon blasts per turn? As for the assault units, remember that you are never going to be locked fighting mech, or getting consolidate moves, so you will get shot back hard, and ultimately lose the battle of attrition.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation28 January 2015 at 12:20

    I string my 20 hounds out to get multi charges, hopefully including some infantry so I get locked in combat. Oblits with twin linked meltaguns don't really need to see the rear armour. Unlikely most of those 15 shots will be able to see anything as an Oblit is small enough to hide behind the Leman Russes they are hunting. I rather like it when BS3 template fire is directed at Oblits hiding among the opponents own vehicles as the scatter often does my job for me!

    I think the worst thing to face though would be Imperial Knights with those big melta pie plates, especially since the tanks have to cluster quite close to get the preffered enemy rule.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It sounds to me that you are used to playing against very static Militarum armies, such as those that rely on the infantry bubble-wrap. The critical flaw in how you think how this sort of game would play out is that you do not seem to be considering how mobile this list is. Everything will see your Oblits, because everything can move and shoot. There are no infantry in the way clogging up movement and firing lanes. And an AV14 vehicle really doesn't care if a S7 blast scatters back in its face ;-)

    As far as Hounds go, there are no infantry on the table for you to get locked with, so they are going to die after one charge. Multi-charging costs them both their extra attack and extra strength, so they become a lot less threatening; they might kill 2 or 3 tanks but when you have 12 in play, so what? It's a one-trick unit, and the beauty of a MSU list is that it can sacrifice a handful of units to the trick and still keep fighting.

    I'm not sure why you think this army would have to clump up and be vulnerable to blasts? As I wrote in the post, with the Command tank in the middle and only five tanks in the Formation, you get a lot of space to play with; in fact, you have about 450 sq. inches of table in which to place about 60 sq. inches of tanks to get PE all round, so clumping is not really necessary...

    ReplyDelete