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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...

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Army List: Astra Militarum 2000 pts Armour and Artillery


In response to my review of the new Astra Militarum content in War Zone Damocles (now also published in its own digital-only supplement), I was asked how I would build a list using the Cadian Battle Group Detachment and an 'Armour and Artillery' theme. I started sketching out a few list ideas, and quickly realised how challenging it would be to much such a list competitively viable. Can it be done? Read on to see.

Challenges

The galaxy in the 41st millennium is a harsh and unforgiving place for ordinary human soldiers, even those sheltered by the thick armour plating of Imperial war machines. If we limit ourselves to an 'Armour and Artillery' theme using the Cadian Battle Group then we face the following challenges in a competitive environment:
  • Deep Striking Grav and Melta is gonna hurt
  • Fast-moving Grav and Melta is gonna hurt
  • Flyers are gonna hurt
  • Monsters are gonna hurt
  • Punchy deathstars are gonna hurt
  • Psychic deathstars are gonna hurt
  • Lack of Fortification slots for Void Shield Generators is gonna hurt
  • Lack of Objective Secured is really gonna hurt
Ok... challenge accepted!

Command

A Cadian Battle Group must include at least one Command choice, which may be a Company Command Squad, Tank Commander or Lord Commissar. Whilst the trolltastic best Astra MSU list is twelve CCS with Plasma or Melta or Flamers mounted in twelve Tauroxes, that is not what we're trying to do here today, so let's stay focussed on-theme.

A Tank Commander may be the most on-theme choice for an 'Armour and Artillery' list, but I think a CCS in a transport is an acceptable alternative. After all, there's one of those in the Artillery Company Formation we'll inevitably include. A Company Commander chosen as a Command choice in a Cadian Battle Group gets three Orders per turn at 24", and Orders within the Detachment are resolved using 3D6 discarding the highest, so a CCS is a much more effective (and cheaper) choice than a vanilla Tank Commander.

We'll flesh out the rest of the list before we come back and configure our CCS, but we will definitely mount it in a Chimera for both effectiveness and theme, so we've spent 125 pts so far.

Armour

The Core choice for this Detachment will be an Armoured Company. Obvious reasons are obvious.

While the Steel Host pays a 70 pts Hydra tax and gets a Preferred Enemy bubble, the Armoured Company pays only a 40 pts Enginseer tax and gets a +1BS bubble, and a 'Venerable' bubble from the Enginseer as an added bonus. While the Steel Host likes to exploit the favourable interaction between the Preferred Enemy and Blast rules (all blast weapons get a straight reroll To-Hit), the Armoured Company is better off taking direct-fire weapons such as Exterminators and Punishers (no, not Vanquishers).

Let's start off with the cheap and nasty (in a good way!) configuration of five Exterminators for a total of twenty Twin-Linked BS4 S7 shots per turn:
Formation: Armoured Company
Tank Commander [290]
Command Exterminator
Exterminator
Tank Squadron [130]
Exterminator
Tank Squadron [130]
Exterminator
Tank Squadron [130]
Exterminator
Enginseer [40]
720 pts
Given we're taking a CCS that can keep pace with our Russes, we can give our Company Commander the Relic Kurov's Aquilla to get a Preferred Enemy bubble anyway. We'll also mount up the Enginseer (an Independent Character) with the CCS in their Chimera, so it confers a 'Venerable' bubble too. This really helps against Melta, but unfortunately not against Grav.

Artillery

We probably should include an Artillery Company as an Auxiliary choice, again for obvious theme reasons. However, the Cadian Battle Group is limited to specific unique units, and General Odon (a Cadian special character from Imperial Armour 11) is not listed—I really wish GW and FW would sync-up on these sorts of rules. I think General Odon would be a great addition to this list, so what can we do to sneak him in?

The answer is pretty simple: include an Artillery Company as a regular Formation in our list—outside the Cadian Battle Group Detachment—and upgrade the Company Commander to General Odon.

Odon is fantastic in an Artillery Company because he issues three Orders per turn, instantly solving the 'three Artillery units, only two Orders' dilemma. He also has an excellent unique fixed Warlord Trait that allows "his controlling player to reroll any dice rolled to attempt to Seize the Initiative". Rerolling your Seize attempts is obviously great for a list that wants to alpha-strike, but by Rules-As-Written, this Trait also allows you to reroll your opponent's Seize attempts too, making Odon functionally identical in this regard to the evergreen Inquisitor Coteaz.

For the bargain price of only 55 pts, Odon is an auto-include in any Artillery Company not bounded by the Cadian Battle Group Detachment restrictions. However, the downside of taking an independent Artillery Company is that it no longer benefits from resolving Orders on 3D6 discarding the highest, making their default Ld8 very unreliable.

We mitigate this unreliability by giving our vanilla Company Commander (in the Cadian Battle Group) the new Relic Volkov's Cane, a.k.a. 'the Ld11 Orders pimp cane'. Problem solved!

But what about the actual Artillery composition of our Formation? Given that Odon gives you three Orders per turn instead of the usual two, I would take two Basilisks and a Manticore for maximum benefit from Ignores Cover. With effective Ld11 conferred by Volkov's Cane, and Preferred Enemy from Kurov's Aquilla conferring effective Twin-Linked (without Vox) and Shred (against T7 and below), this Artillery Company is a whole lot of nasty:
Formation: Artillery Company
Company Command Squad [180]
General Odon
Chimera
Basilisk [125]
Basilisk [125]
Manticore [170]
Enginseer [40]
640 pts
The Enginseer jumps in the Chimera with Odon's CCS so he can face-tank wounds on his 3+ save if your transport explodes and they are subsequently exposed. Remember that an Enginseer can confer Power of the Machine Spirit to one vehicle within 12" each turn, so your Artillery can move 12" and still fire their Ordnance, letting you surprise an unsuspecting opponent with the mobility of your big guns! The Enginseer from the Armoured Company, riding with your vanilla CCS, can pull this trick too, so it may even be worthwhile buying a third Enginseer just so your entire Artillery Company can fire on-the-run. The third Enginseer should be purchased in the Armoured Company since it then gets the 'Venerable' bubble free bonus.

Auxiliary

We're up to 1595 pts so far, and we have a whole lot of accurate S7 direct-fire backed-up by accurate Ignores Cover S9 AP3 and S10 pie plates. However, we lack anti-air, anti-monster, anti-heavy-armour and anything to block/stall/defeat any kind of deathstar or other credible assault threat. We really will need that reroll to Seize to get the alpha strike!

Here are a few options on which we could spend our remaining 405 pts:

  • An Imperial Knight of some type, to cover most of the aforementioned weaknesses
  • A bunch of Armoured Sentinels with Preferred Enemy Plasma Cannons in a Recon Company Formation to cover anti-monster and anti-non-invisible-deathstar, and to screen higher-value vehicles from Podders
  • A Culexus Assassin to hide amongst our many hulls and provide anti-deathstar
  • An Inquisitor or two with Servo-Skulls to hold back Scout bikers and make our already-accurate pie plates even better
If we're only playing 1850 pts then we will have to go with some combination of Sentinels, Assassins and Inquisitors.

So here is our list :
Detachment: Cadian Battle Group
Command Unit: Company Command Squad
Company Command Squad [195]
Company Commander with Kurov's Aquilla and Volkov's Cane
Chimera
Core Formation: Armoured Company
Tank Commander [290]
Command Exterminator
Exterminator
Tank Squadron [130]
Exterminator
Tank Squadron [130]
Exterminator
Tank Squadron [130]
Exterminator
Enginseer [40]
Enginseer [40]
Formation: Artillery Company
Company Command Squad [180]
General Odon [Warlord]
Chimera
Basilisk [125]
Basilisk [125]
Manticore [170]
Enginseer [40]
Plus either:
Detachment: Oathsworn Detachment
Knight Errant with Icarus Autocannon [405]
Or alternatively:
Auxiliary Formation: Recon Company
Armoured Sentinel Squadron [150]
Command Armoured Sentinel with Plasma Cannon
Armoured Sentinel with Plasma Cannon
Armoured Sentinel with Plasma Cannon
Armoured Sentinel Squadron [150]
Armoured Sentinel with Plasma Cannon
Armoured Sentinel with Plasma Cannon
Armoured Sentinel with Plasma Cannon
Detachment: Officio Assassinorum Detachment
Culexus Assassin [140]
(Cut the second Enginseer from the Armoured Company) [-40]
2000 pts

Tactics

The Knight version of our list only has ten manoeuvre elements, and the Sentinel version has twelve, so we really don't have a MSU list and won't be reaping all the associated benefits.

Given the importance of proximity to the Command Tank for +1BS on our other tanks, and proximity to the vanilla Command Chimera for Preferred Enemy, 'Venerable' and Ld11 on Orders, we can expect this list to play very 'castled-up'. This can be a good thing against shooty lists, since the outer shell of direct-firing AV14 confers cover and potential LOS blocking to the squishier underbelly of indirect-firing AV12; however, it can also be a very bad thing if you are facing a punchy list that can easily multi-charge and curbstomp your conveniently clumped vehicles. For this reason I generally prefer the Knight version of the list.

If your local metagame favours deathstars and assault threats then the Knight is the way to go; if your local meta favours Podders then Sentinels provide your 'castle' with a much-needed 'moat' against Melta, but not so much against Grav. If you're expecting to face nasty Invisible deathstars then the Sentinel version with its Culexus Assassin should do fairly well, as long as you can time your movement to strip their buffs with a devastating shooting phase.

Neither version of the list does particularly well against Flyers, but I haven't seen many good Flyer-heavy lists recently.

Remember to use Power of the Machine Spirit from the Enginseers and Full Throttle from the Tank Commander to make your castle as mobile as necessary—it may even be worthwhile finding 20 pts somewhere for Kabe's Herald so all your Russes can Full Throttle together if you're expecting to play lots of Maelstrom missions.

Conclusion

So there you go, I hope this demonstrates how to build a competitively viable themed list. I certainly wouldn't rate this as the most competitive Astra build around—CCS spam or Knights plus Artillery are much stronger—but I expect this list will give tread-heads a reason to smile!

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