Friday, January 23, 2009

Post-Game Discussion and Thoughts

I played a game last night using a new Ultramarines list against Jim, who was playing his Black Templars.

My list included 2 units of Assault Terminators, one with 8, the other with 5. Both were in Land Raiders, and the 5-man unit had Sicarius attached. There was also a 5-man unit of Sternguard in a Razorback and a couple of Tac squads with melta gun/multi-melta, one unit with a Razorback. Both Tac squads were broken into combat squads. Rounding out the backfield was a Predator Destructor and a Thunderfire cannon.

Jim's list went something like this:
  • Terminators. One assload of Terminators. Specifically, 5 units of 5 men with two assault cannons each. That's right, 10 assault cannons. Oh, with Tank Hunters.
  • 2 other units of marines/initiates.
  • A couple of HQ choices and Emperor's Champion.
We didn't get to finish the game, unfortunately, but I've got a strong feeling if he had I'd have gotten tabled. With both the LRC and the LR dead, and Sicarius and attached Assault Terminator squad wiped out, it wasn't looking good for the Boys in Blue.

Anyway, today, Jim messaged me with his post-game thoughts, and I replied. I thought the conversation was interesting as a collection of thoughts about how Codex Marines play now, so I thought I'd share.

Here's the relevant parts...
The Thunderfire is an interesting choice. It is weird that it doesn't really have any low AP mode for taking on Marines. I think though, against Marines, that it is best to shoot the Surface Detonation so that you can wound on 2s. And while looking at the book we forgot that the difficult terrain guys had to take a Dangerous Terrain test from Tremor. It even works against skimmers!
Yeah, I like the Thunderfire. Well, mostly. What it really needs is an AP1, 2 or 3 firing mode, so it would be effective against marines. Other than that, I think it'll be good for anti-horde -- especially poor armor save horde -- activities. I'll have to chalk up not knowing how to use it best to unfamiliarity, last night being the first time I've ever used it.

In my Badab army I originally had 2 squads of Assault Terminators, but I think those work work well with a shooty-based HQ like Sicarius. Even though he has some special CC attacks, I think his re-roll seize the initiative and ability to give a squad Tank Hunters and other stuff makes him more of a shooty/long range army. If you stick with him I think I'd take another Thunderfire on place of the Predator, drop one Assault Termies and put the Sternguard with Sicarius in the other LR. Might have enough points then to grab another Tac squad.

Sicarius. Yeah. Let's talk about him.

Sicarius is ok. Not good, not terrible, just...ok. He is definitely the epitome of the Ultramarine Second Company (and Ultras in general, I'm afraid) in that he is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. Is he survivable? Sure. 2+/4++, FNP and W3 aren't shabby. WS6/BS5 are good even if they are stock standard for a SM Captain. But the closer you look, the less impressive he becomes: T4, S4, A3. Yawn. Those stats really hurt his CC prowess. Sure the coup de grace thing is cool, but way too risky. They should have just given him a relic blade and been done with it. As for him being a "shooty" HQ choice...well, again, nothing special. Being able to give Tank Hunters to one whole unit doesn't really make my heart beat any faster, especially when you look over on YOUR side of the table where they're apparently handing Tank Hunters out like candy. Cheap candy! The kind you get from a guy in a panel van. Infiltrate/Scouts would probably be more useful, and had I really taken the time to think and plan a little better, I probably could have built a unit that would take more advantage of one of them. Lastly, his seize the initiative ability is OK...kind of a gimmick rather than a real ability. Amusing to attempt I suppose, but you can't build a strategy around it because you can't count on it. Sure, when it happens it MIGHT be good, but I also think if you've set up to take that first turn of shooting from your opponent you're probably not going to be in optimal firing positions (at least some or not all of your army, anyway) so you might even be better off not seizing the initiative (at least sometimes). I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel obligated to play Sicarius, since I am playing Second Company Ultras...but unless I see some much more robust performance from him I think I'm going to explore my options.


Get rid of Sicarius, keeping the rest of the stuff the same and take Shrike. Then he'll give your Assault Termies Fleet, which is nice and you can still put the Sternguard in the LR because Shrike can Infiltrate with one of the Termie squads. Plus he's I5 twin lightning claw guy, so he would go well with TH/SS Terminators.
Shrike is definitely an option. In fact, either him or Lysander are very appealing, because they actually have special rules that can alter how your army performs where it counts -- in movement and/or assault, or shooting. Lysander running around with a full load of Sternguard would be good, I think, but limited (only helping one unit). Shrike is probably the better choice, IF I decide I want to keep the 2 units of Assault Terminators.

We'll see.


I think if you then take an Assault squad and combat squad it then you can run 5 assault guys to go along with each of your Assault Terminators for a little extra punch. Or on foot and use their Razorback as a stand-alone gunboat.

I've been pondering how things went down last night and I had a few thoughts:

1. My list was basically a one-trick pony consisting of two units of Assault Termies and their delivery systems.
2. I knew -- based on knowing just how ass-kickin' assault cannons are -- that I was going to have problems with your army. Toss in Tank Hunters and you can guarantee a dead tank a turn, maybe even dead tank/turn per Terminator squad. Chances are pretty good that with 8 shots/unit you're going to get at least one rend, and when that happens it's pretty much, "good night, tankie". With my two key units depending on tanks to get them to where they need to be to do what they do...well, I knew I was going to lose both 'Raiders, I just didn't know how soon.
3. Perhaps the best counter to Terminators is...more Terminators. Had I been able to close mine with yours it would have been different, but with the range and sheer volume of fire you can generate, well, you're good.
4. I've flirted with the idea of deep striking the smaller Termie squad. If I do, then I'll need to add some Scout Bikes or give homers to my sergeants (or...something). But the truth is, riding them across the board in a LR is the superior method for getting them where they need to be. Deep strike is undependable (depending on the reserve roll), has inherent mishap risk and perhaps most damning of all, you can't assault after you arrive. It's just not a good option for a unit that doesn't carry a single ranged weapon. In fact, it's terrible option, but I must admit that being able to re-purpose a LR does have it's own appeal...
5. I really do forget what my models are equipped with when they aren't WYSIWYG. Yes, I forgot my Terminators have 2+/3++ saves. I should have just ran them balls-to-the-wall at your Terminators and had faith in my storm shields. It probably would have ended just a badly, but at least they weren't just sitting there taking it in the face.
6. Black Templars are broken. Your version of them is even MORE broken. Oh, it's broken in a succinct, ingenious way...but it's still broken. My hat's off to you for a great, powerful build!
7. My list last night was a HUGE departure from my normal Ultramarine army. I think it really showed in how I played it. Ultras -- no matter how many Assault Terminators you give them -- will never play like (or be as overall good as) CSMs, and I've been playing CSMs so much that I'm still in that CSM "mode". More than once I was wishing for my daemon prince. I really need to remember and focus on what army I'm playing at the moment so I can play them the way they need to be played.
8. Ultramarines -- even with all their shiny new toys -- are still very, very "meh". You have to spend WAY too many points to get the "good stuff" (which, honestly, you really need to be competitive). When you're done getting the good stuff -- which, honestly, you can't get enough of in the first place -- you don't have much left to build a supporting army around. At least, that's my impression after 2 whole games with them under the new codex. I definitely need to get more games in with them so I can re-learn how to play them effectively.
9. My list was lacking synergy and cohesion, and that really hurt how it performed. My inexperience with the new toys didn't help. Also, not having a counter to the sheer number of Termies you had hurt the most.
10. While the Thunderfire was good, and two of them might be better...I'm thinking for just a few more points I could have two Vindicators. My army REALLY needs some unit erasers, and Thunderfires just aren't it against Marines. The two things it has going for it -- range and multiple shots, two with special effects -- don't make up for its relatively poor S/AP and its inherent fragility. Vindicators are good against everything, not just hordes, and are probably harder to kill. The only drawback to Vindicators are their range, which means you have to put them in harm's way to use them -- which you don't really have to do with a Thunderfire. Decisions, decisions...

...and there you have it, a random collection of post-game thoughts and observations.

What do you think? Have any thoughts you like to share about recent games?