Monday, April 11, 2016

Heavyweight Champions

What's better than big?

Super big.

One of the things that's most awesome about Warhammer 30k is the proliferation of Lords of War. While it's now true that Warhammer 40k armies can also take Lords of War, thanks to Escalation being folded into the basic rules set, the way rules and points work in Horus Heresy makes it even easier. Games tend to run larger, and larger games can be played in less time.

On the other hand, this has led to a number of players struggling to figure out which superheavy to invest in, as this thread over on H30k can attest to. I figured while I'm not exactly an old hand, I've certainly read the rules enough that I can opine freely.

Of course, which giant badass creature you've got access to depends on which army you're playing. Lets take them on in an entirely arbitrary order.

Note: I'm not going to go into the mechanicus knights right now, because they're weird and complicated and I don't feel like it. If you want to write them up as a guest post, drop me a line, and I'd be happy to have you join me.

Auxilia and Militia Superheavies

The Solar Auxilia has access to all the Imperial Guard superheavies that we know and love: the baneblade, stormlord, shadowsword, stormsword, stormblade, and stormhammer. Militia lists can only take baneblades and stormhammers. Interestingly, the legions can also take stormblades, so Astartes players shouldn't neglect this section entirely.

What do these vehicles - sometimes referred to as the "baneblade chassis" family - have in common?
  • BS 3 (even the legion one, though it can be upgraded to a Space Marine crew, which gives it BS 4) 
  • 14/13/12 armor. 
  • 9 or 10 hull points 
  • Most of them have the options to add one or two sponsons with a lascannon and a heavy bolter (or heavy flamer) apiece. 
  • Options to mount a hunter-killer missile. 
  • Options to get armored ceramite (immunity to melta). 
  • Options to become a command tank. 
  • Various pintle-mounted weapons. 

The real meat of the variation between these badasses is in their weaponry.

The baneblade is a bit of a jack-of-all trades. It's got a baneblade cannon, which is your standard huge blast high strength low AP deathgun, a demolisher cannon, an autocannon, and a couple of heavy bolters. At the same time, with the autocannon and between two and four lascannons, it can also reliably pop vehicles of all kinds, in all directions. If you just want to throw giant pie plates of destruction at extreme range (or slightly smaller, slightly stronger pie plates at close range, if anyone manages to get close to you), this is the guy you want.

The stormhammer is very similar to its cousin - so similar, in fact, that if 40k wasn't quite as bloated a game as it is, I doubt it would even exist. The stormhammer is a bit more focused than the baneblade. It's main gun is a little better (slightly smaller blast, slightly shorter range, but adds both Shred and Pinning), has a two-shot battle cannon instead of a demolisher cannon, has a single lascannon instead of a single heavy bolter, and has a butt-ton of multi-lasers coming out of its sponsons and turrets. However, unlike the baneblade, it can't take any lascannon/heavy bolter sponsons. In other words, at the end of the day, the stormhammer trades a large number of high quality guns for a larger number of okay guns, with a similar but slightly superior main gun. The baneblade is good at wading into the middle of an enemy formation and blasting out in all directions; the stormhammer is better at focusing on one chunk of the enemy at a time, preferably at range.

Now, I have to admit to having a special soft spot for the stormlord. In fact, I'm probably going to start a Solar Auxilia army just to field one of these assholes. The stormlord's main weapon is the balls-out absurd vulkan mega-bolter. While it doesn't have the strength or AP value of the baneblade or stormhammer cannons, it's got a ton of shots (Heavy 15!) with decent stats for killing, say, marines (Strength 6, AP 3) and it can fire that gun twice if it doesn't move. And that's not all! This motherfucker can also carry up to 40 infantry models, who can belong to any number of different squads. 20 of these guys can shoot out of the troop bay in the back, adding to the vehicle's firepower. As if that wasn't stupid enough, the infantry can also deploy as though the Stormlord were open-topped (this may or may not allow them to assault - here's a thread arguing about it - we're hoping that Forgeworld or GW will clarify this matter soon). If you're looking for a superheavy that will support your infantry (by literally carrying them around), acting as a force multiplier and doing more to help you score, this is the guy you want.

Another fan favorite is the shadowsword. This guy is pretty basic for a baneblade-chassis vehicle, except that instead of a turret bristling with guns, it's got a single volcano cannon, which is you standard ranged D weapon. If you want to reach out and give your opponent the D from far away, you want a shadowsword. What the shadowsword gains in a game-breaking monster gun it loses in flexibility. It's got no other impressive guns to speak of, and the volcano cannon is hull-mounted, so it can't swivel to engage multiple opponents the way the baneblade, stormhammer, or even stormlord can.

Similar, but slightly less impressive overall, is the stormsword. Instead of a volcano cannon, it's got a stormsword siege cannon, which is a huge, strong pie plate of death that Ignores Cover. Arguably more reliable, since its blast is larger, the stormsword's weapon is still conventional, not D.

If you really, really like plasma, you want to check out the stormblade. It's another specialized, focused, single-direction gun platform with a huge-ass plasma cannon that can fire either two slightly weaker blasts or one stronger big giant blast. I haven't got a lot to say about this one. It's a little more versatile than most of the single-focus, hull-mounted monsters of the family, because the gun has multiple firing modes, which is nice.

If you're in the market for a banebladey tank, it really depends on what you want. Do you want a multi-purpose deathdealer? You probably want a baneblade or a stormhammer. Do you love infantry and really just want a bigger transport that will end up carrying like half your army? Stormlord. Do you really just one a big giant amazeballs gun? Invest in a shadowsword, stormsword, or stormblade, depending on whether you'd rather bring the D, a gun that's just kind of really good, or something plasma-themed.

Legion Heavy Tanks

These guys are built on the same chassis as the spartan, but are super-heavies (instead of just being really-heavies, I guess) because of their big giant guns. Forgeworld keeps them balanced by giving them another hull point - bringing them to 6 - but that still leaves them more fragile than most super-heavies. Fortunately, these guys are priced and organized to match - they're among the cheapest and it's possible to cram more than one of them into a single slot.

Like the spartan they're based on, they're well armored (14/14/14 on the typhon, 14/14/13 on the cerberus), BS 4, and can mount various pintle weapons and take armored ceramite. Unlike the spartan, their sponson weapons are optional and they can chose between heavy bolters and lascannons. Like most superheavies, they're really distinguished by their guns, though they've also got some additional perks that help them to excel in their chosen roles.

The cerberus heavy tank destroyer is - as its name indicates - a dedicated tank destroyer. Its neutron laser battery has excellent range, fires between one and three Strength 10 AP 1 shots, and has the added benefit of causing anyone who takes a penetrating hit to fire snap shots for a turn - even superheavies! On the other hand, it's got weakened rear armor, explodes even worse than your typical superheavy when it dies, and sometimes takes damage if its weird-ass neutron laser fails to wound or penetrate. So, this is clearly a tank designed to hang out in your backfield and shoot shit dead.

The typhon, on the other hand, has the all-around armor of a spartan and, while it will explode when it dies, it doesn't do so with any unusual strength. It has the added benefit of getting +1 on the thunderblitz table when it rams or tank shocks, which gives you the impression that it's meant to charge directly into the middle of enemy formations and blow shit up. The dreadhammer siege cannon mounted on the front supports this implication, being a massive cover-ignoring high strength blast that suffers from shortened range as long as the tank is moving.

If you're looking for a "pocket superheavy" that you can field in smaller games (1500 to 2000 points - small for Heresy) and scale up simply by adding more tanks of the same category, these guys might be right for you. As far as which one you want, the choice is pretty clear. If the rest of your army is long range and shooty, you probably want a cerberus. If your army is close range and/or assaulty, you probably want a typhon.

Malcador Tanks

In 40k, malcador tanks are odd ducks. In 30k, however, they fit right in with all the other odd shit that's running around. Named after the only guy ballsy enough to call the Emperor on His shit, Malcador tanks are another class of pocket superheavies. Also, they're fast. Really fast. Not just Fast tanks - faster than that.

Like the Auxilia and Milita stormblade described above, the malcadors have crossover appeal. Space Marines can take malcador assault tanks, as can the Auxilia and Militia (though the cheeky mortal assholes call them "heavy tanks," can take them as Heavy Support options, and have a couple of different options).

For the Astartes, malcador tanks are in the same class as the typhon and cerberus described above, and can be taken as part of the same multiple-superheavy Lord of War choice. It's a Fast superheavy with BS 3, 13/13/12 armor, and 6 HP. It's got a battle cannon (can be traded for a twin-linked lascannon) and an autocannon (can be upgraded to a demolisher cannon) and a pair of heavy stubber sponsons (can be upgraded to a variety of non-shitty weapons, from heavy bolters up to lascannons) and has some pintle options. You can make up for the weak-ish armor with a flare shield. Like the legion version of the stormblade, you can replace the human crew with Space Marines to give it BS 4.

What makes the malcador special, other than its cheapness, is its incredible speed. In addition to being Fast, it can move Flat Out and also fire its lascannon or battle cannon at full BS (but not the other weapons) before or after the Flat Out move. This is, theoretically, incredible. You can do a number of things with this tank, including rocketing up the field to engage the enemy directly, flanking maneuvers, or even dashing forward, firing, and then dodging back behind cover.

In fact, this thing is so awesome that I'm kind of considering getting one... and until I started writing this section, I'd dismissed the malcador entirely. Now I'm thinking I can get one for my Salamanders, paint it in Auxilia colors (since even in a legion list, it's meant to be a tank seconded to the Astartes from the Auxilia), and use it with both my Salamanders and my Auxilia, when I start them...

Legion Fell-Tanks

The fell-tanks - or, more properly, the "fellblade chassis" family of tanks - are the Legion answer to the baneblade. Like the tanks we've discussed so far, these dudes are mostly differentiated by their guns. What they have in common is:
  • BS 3, upgradeable to 4 (except the glaive, which starts at 4). 
  • 14/13/12 armor. 
  • 12 hull points. 
  • Sponson-mounted quad lascannons (which can be traded for twin-linked laser destroyers). 
  • Options to mount a hunter-killer missile, take armored ceramite, and add various pintle weapons. 
The falchion is basically a space marine shadowsword. It's main gun - hull mounted for reduced versatility - is a twin-linked volcano cannon. Like the shadowsword, this is for giving your opponent the D at range.

The fellblade, on the other hand - the original of its class, which is why they're all named after it - is pretty much a space marine baneblade. It's got a turret-mounted cannon that can chose between huge blasts of anti-infantry shrapnel and smaller blasts from armor piercing shells. Like the baneblade, it's a versatile tank intended to fill a wide variety of roles, depending on what you need.

And finally, you've got my personal favorite (I own one) - the glaive. The glaive's turret-mounted gun is basically the biggest and baddest volkite weapon in the game: 48'' range, automatically hits everything in a line with a Strength 8 AP 2 hit that ignores cover, Deflagrates, and has Haywire. Also, if it penetrates a transport it hits the guys inside with d6 somewhat weakened hits. And if it hits a superheavy or building, the beam stops and turns into 1+d3 hits. The glaive is an army-killer, not a super-heavy dueler, though its beam's ability to score multiple hits means that it can harass true superheavy and seriously threaten "pocket" superheavies like the malcador, typhon, and cerberus.

Like the other varies-by-gun superheavies described above, if you're trying to decide which of these you want, the choice is pretty clear. For D to hunt titans, you want the falchion. For all-purpose death-dealing, you want the fellblade. For weird-ass rules and wiping out swathes of your opponents' army, you want the glaive.

    Legion Thunderhawk

    For a long time, thunderhawks were the only space marine superheavy, so the community at large is pretty familiar with them.

    Thunderhawks come in two varieties: the gunship and the transporter. Like most subvariants, they have a lot in common, including...
    • BS 4.
    • 12/12/10 armor (can be upgraded to 12/12/12).
    • Armored ceramite.
    • Four twin-linked heavy bolters.
    • Options to add a variety of special flyer upgrades.
    • Hellstrike missiles: the gunship has six standard, whereas the transporter can buy up to six.
    The transporter is, frankly, stupid. It can carry fifteen models in its main hold as well as either a single land raider or two rhinos. As a result, despite being a "transporter" it can only carry a total of twenty-five models. Additionally, it can't do any of the neat tricks that the gunship can do with its transport capacity, like transporting jump infantry, bikes, and dreadnoughts. This means that it's actually less good at transporting than a a gunship. The only possible exception would be if your battle plan relies on carrying land raider or rhino style vehicles, not actual transports. That seems to me like a corner case of a corner case.

    The gunship, on the other hand, is awesome. In addition to its thirty model capacity, ability to carry bikes, jump infantry, and dreadnoughts, heavy bolters, missiles, and a pair of lascannons, the gunship can mount either a thunderhawk cannon - basically a huge blast battle cannon - or a D-strength turbolaser. And if you feel like it, you can trade your missiles for heavy bombs.

    The thunderhawk is a beast.



    Titans are another classic of Warhammer.The hugest and stompiest of a game full of huge stompy robots. They're available to space marine and Mechanicum armies, of course, because they technically represent a completely separate faction, the Legio Titatnicus, a largely independent subfaction of the Mechanicum (because, seriously, are you going to try to boss these motherfuckers around?).

    These badasses have a number of complicated rules in common, including going completely nuclear when they explode and a number of different limitations and advantages based on their size. They've also got a number of void shields, which are AV 12 force fields that have to be glanced or penetrated to drop them and may regenerate.

    Titans are extremely customizable, which is awesome. They come in three basic varieties, based on size, which can be further individualized by different weapon combinations.

    Your smallest titans are your warhounds, who are Strength 10, 14/13/12 9 HP robots with two void shields. They have a pair of hardpoints for arms and can mount a vulcan mega-bolter, a double-barreled turbo laser destructor, a titan plasma blastgun, or a warhound inferno gun. Your mid-sized titans are called reavers, who are 14/14/13 and have four void shields and 18 HPs. They have three hardpoints, one on each arm and one on the top of its carapace. The arms can take reaver gatling blasters, reaver laser blasters, reaver volcano cannons, reaver melta cannons, reaver power fists, or reaver chainfists, while the carapace can take an apocalypse missile launcher, turbo laser destructor, warhound inferno gun, vulcan mega-bolter, or a vortex support missile. And then, finally, you have the biggest, baddest, stompiest motherfucker currently available: the warlord. This asshole of a walker is Strength D, has 15/15/14 armor, 30 HPs and six void shields. It's got the same number of hardpoints as the reaver - two on the arms and one on the carapace - but its weapon options are even better. The arms can take bellicosa pattern volcano cannons, sunfury plasma annihilators, saturnyne lascutters, arioch titan power claws, or macro gatling blasters, while the carapace can take two apocalypse missile launchers, two double-barrled turbo-laser destructors, two twin-linked vulcan mega bolters, two reaver laser blasters, two reaver melta cannons, two vortex missile banks, or two incinerator missile banks. And as if that wasn't enough, it's got two ardex-defensor bolt cannons to the front and two ardex-defensor lascannons to the rear (these are guns that can fire Overwatch at BS 2, even though superheavy walkers normally can't fire Overwatch at all).

    Phew. I think I need a cold shower.

    Let's take these weapons on one at a time, shall we?
    • Vulcan Mega-Bolter - Same as the one on the stormlord, except that it doesn't get to shoot twice while stationary (that's a special ability of the stormlord, not the gun). That is to say it's Heavy 15 6/3. Any titan with one or two of these is going to be great at shredding infantry, with enough shots to seriously threaten vehicles up to AV 12, which it can easily glance to death.
    • Turbo-Laser Destructor -The turbo-laser destructor is your standard two-shot large blast D weapon. Give 'em the D.
    • Titan Plasma Blastgun - A versatile two-mode giant plasma gun that can shoot two massive blasts or one slightly stronger enormous blast.
    • Warhound Inferno Gun - A hellstorm template monster of a flamer with a marine-killing Strength 7 and AP 3. Not to be fucked with.
    • Reaver Gatling Blaster - Six shots, large blast, Pinning, marine-slaughtering Strength 8 and AP 3. Definitely a solid choice.
    • Reaver Laser Blaster - In order to compete with the "mere" double-barreled turbo-laser destructor mounted on a warhound, the reaver has got to have something better. This gun throws out three, not two, large blasts of D.
    • Reaver Volcano Cannon - If you'd rather have one big D than several smaller Ds, the reaver volcano cannon is for you. It's a 7'' D blast.
    • Reaver Melta Cannon - The biggest blast in the set - 10'' - but "only" Strength 10. Oh, and it has Melta. So if you want to use your reaver to fuck up, say, another titan, this may be the one for you.
    • Reaver Power Fist and Chainfist - It's a shame that these weapons aren't all that good, because they are all that awesome looking. The power fist gives your reaver Strength D in close combat; the chainfist gives it Strength D and Machine Destroyer.
    • Apocalypse Missile Launcher - A five-shot apocalyptic barrage weapon, definitely good if you want your titan to be versatile, contributing to the battle all over the board no matter where it goes.
    • Vortex Support Missile - Do you want to shoot a large blast D-strength missile that spawns a mobile black hole that randomly scatters around the battlefield gobbling up whatever it touches? OF COURSE YOU DO. The two vortex support missile banks of the warlord can each do this twice.
    • Bellicosa-Pattern Volcano Cannon - This is the warlord's answer to the reaver's measly volcano cannon, with a 10'' D blast that also has Machine Destroyer.
    • Sunfury Plasma Annihilator - A 4-shot apocalyptic barrage, Strength 9, that forces its targets to reroll successful cover saves. Better hope you're wearing something with an invulnerable save.
    • Saturnyne Lascutter - A versatile weapon that can mess you up in close combat or at range. The former is Strength D, Machine Destroyer, and the latter is a Strength 9 hellstorm template; both iterations have Instant Death.
    • Arioch Power Claw - If you're a warlord titan, you've already got Strength D. This giant claw gives you +1 attack and confers Machine Destroyer.
    • Macro-Gatling Blaster - Do you think that the reaver's gatling blaster doesn't go far enough? Then you'll like this one. It's the same, only Strength 10.
    • Incinerator Missile Banks - One of the weakest guns on paper (only Strength 6), this one is actually quite useful. It's a one use, 10-shot apocalyptic barrage that ignores cover. When you want to wipe out everything in one quarter of the board, this is the thing you want
    How do you actually want to gear up a titan? That depends on what you want it to do. If your titan is going to support you by threatening other titans, you want at least one weapon with a high rate of fire and enough strength to threaten AV 12, to drop your target's void shields and another strong weapon - preferably a D-weapon - to actually strip hull points. Titans are big, so your D-weapon should also prioritize number of shots over size of blast.

    For a warhound, that probably means a mega-bolter (with 15 shots, you're actually pretty likely to glance a lot of void shields away) and a turbo-laser destructor. For a reaver, that's probably a reaver gatling blaster, reaver laser blaster, and a turbo-laser destructor. And, for a warlord, you probably want two macro-gatling blasters on your shoulders and a bellicosa-pattern volcano cannon on each arm.

    On the other hand, you might just want to maximize the D. Maybe you trust the rest of your army to take down the void shields, maybe you want your titan to specialize in taking on large vehicular targets without void shields, or maybe you just like the phrase "maximize the D." Either way, if you want to get the largest number of D shots out of your army, this is what you want to do. Your warhound gets a pair of turbo-laser destructors, your reaver gets two laser blasters and a turbo-laser destructor, and a warlord gets a bellicosa-pattern volcano cannon on each arm and a reaver laser blasters on each shoulder.

    If you want your titan to wipe out swathes of infantry - I'm not entirely sure this is a good idea, since lots of things can already do that in Horus Heresy - you want a large number of shots, big blasts, and the ability to ignore the cover that your opponents space-mans will certainly cower in. An anti-infantry warhound is probably going to take a pair of warhound inferno guns. An anti-infantry reaver will also take a warhound inferno gun, on its back, and a pair of gatling blasters for arms. An anti-infantry warlord probably wants incinerator missile banks on its back, a sunfury plasma annihilator on one arm and a saturyne lascutter on the other.

    Alternately, you could equip your titan for melee... this is probably stupid, but definitely awesome. Warhounds need not apply, because that would be just too dumb to contemplate, but a melee reaver with a pair of chainfists, while the carapace may as well take a vortex missile. The warlord is going to take two arioch power claws and a reaver melta-cannon on each shoulder.


    Obviously, I haven't got a lot of experience with these models. What do you think I am, made of money? However, I hope that this post is at least slightly useful to anyone out there with a chunk of change burning a hole in his pocket, trying to decide which super-heavy would be the most fun.

    Me? I'm going to be buying myself a malcador some time soon...

    If you've got anything to add, don't hesitate to put it in the comments!

    1 comment:

    1. Great article mate, if I eventually get a Lord of war apart from Vulkan I would get the glaive 👍🏻