Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vanguard Vets (re-)Visited

I have a confession to make. There's a little power-gamer lurking in me that wants to find something broken and crush my opponents with it in a relentless onslaught. I'm not proud of this, mind you, and in fact I'm not terribly happy making this confession, but there it is.

Part of me thinks that maybe it comes from living in Austin. You see, I've heard from several sources that Austin has a very -- how shall I put this? -- competitive gaming community. I believe it. There are some very, very good players here, and you either learn to play, and play well, or you learn to lose. A lot. I still lose a lot. :) But that's OK, because I feel lucky to live in a city with such a vibrant, active gaming community. I feel like I'm becoming a better player in the long run because of it. I don't mind losing, because I feel like every time I lose, I come away with more knowledge of how this game is played, what my army can do, and how I can become a better player.

What does that have to do with Vanguard Veterans? Well, it started a couple of nights ago. I was playing my CSM army and unloaded a unit of 10 Khorne Berzerkers out of a Land Raider and charged with them. They did what they do best -- they wiped out the squad they assaulted and that was that. I made the comment, "Oh yeah, Khorne Berzerkers, they're the reason I wanted to play Chaos in the first place. I think -- point for point -- that they're the best CC specialists in the game." Abe, one of BFG's employees piped up with, "One of the best. But point for point, I think the best CC specialists are Vanguard."

Hmm. This got me to thinking, "Vanguard Vets? You mean those over-costed, super-expensive models in the new marine codex? Bah. Marines don't get effective CC specialists, never have, never will." Since I try to never make decisions based on opinions when there's some facts to be had, I thought I'd run some numbers and consider some options.

First off, I'm still of the opinion that Vanguard with Jump Packs are simply too darned expensive.

But you don't have to give them jump packs.

In fact, where Vanguard really shine is in the other options you can give them.

Let's take your bog-standard unit of 10 Vanguard Vets, no upgrades: 225 points. For those 225 points you get 30 attacks -- 40 on the charge -- of which 3 (4 on the charge) are power weapon attacks. That's not too shabby. For comparison, let's consider 9 Khorne Berzerkers and a Skull Champion with a power weapon: 240 Points. Granted, for 15 points more you're getting WS5 and Furious Charge -- and that means that on the charge, the Berzerkers are definitely going to be the better unit. However, without the charge, they're nearly even, and 15 points cheaper.

Now let's make things really interesting.

What makes the Vanguard special is the options you can give them. Consider that you can give every model in a Vanguard unit a power weapon. For 10 Vanguard with a power weapon, you're going to shell out 360 points -- certainly not cheap, but for that extra 135 points, you're getting 30 power weapon attacks (40 on the charge), and this is something that Khorne Berzerkers don't even have the option to do. Run Pedro Cantor with these guys and you've going to get 50 power weapon attacks on the charge. That's officially a wandering band of close combat rape.

Want to make the ultimate band of roving CC slaughter? For a cool 1065 points you can field 10 Vanguard Vets, all with a pair of lightning claws, Pedro Cantor, and a chaplain with Crozius and Power Fist riding to the slaughter in a Land Raider Crusader with EA. That will net you 59 power weapon attacks on the charge that re-roll to-hits, with 50 that re-roll to-wound (with a paltry 47 attacks without the charge, 40 of which re-roll to-wound). Crazy? Yes. Expensive? Oh my yes. Worth it? Probably not. But the fact remains that you can do it.

The only problem I can see with the 10 model unit all armed with power weapons is they'd probably be a little too good at what they do: charge, kill everything in sight, and then be sitting there, power-armored buttcheeks flapping in the breeze, ready to take a turn of fire from probably every available unit your opponent has. This will result in a large pile of very dead -- and very expensive, points-wise -- Vanguard. They do, after all, die like normal marines.

I'm thinking a much more reasonable configuration would be to give half of them power weapons. The sergeant comes with one, so upgrade 4 of them with power weapons and you're looking at a more-than-reasonable 285 points. That nets you 15 power weapon attacks (20 on the charge) and you're only coughing up 45 more points than you would for 9 Berzerkers and a Skull Champ. Toss in a LRC with EA and your total comes up to 550 points -- again, reasonable, for what you're getting. Consider that I used to field a command squad that cost way more than 285 points and got less attacks and less power weapons, I'd say this isn't a bad deal.

I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions on Vanguard -- or any other close combat specialists you'd like to compare and contrast them with. I'm interested in how they compare with, say, Harlequins...