Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ready to unleash 15 barrels of hell!

So, I took a look at the Escalation rules a while ago and quietly watched the great storm of criticism that it kicked up. And I decided to jump in. Of my armies, the least developed is my Imperial Guard, and I figured that was reason enough to give them a nice big push in the form of this:

Nooo, not a Baneblade, as many are wont to exclaim. A Hellhammer; the Baneblade's brutal, close-range cousin. I reasoned that the Baneblade, iconic though it is, is somewhat wasted in 1,750 pt games on a 6' x 4' table. The Baneblade cannon has a range of 72", while its Demolisher cannon has a range of 24". That's a bit mismatched, and suffers the IG big-gun flaw of being a big (10"!!!) template which still lets the opponent have a cover save. Not much use to me. The Hellhammer, however, carries a gun that does what no other big, nasty gun in my army does - it ignores cover. And with a 36" range, that perfectly adequate for wading right into a 6' x 4' battlefield and wreaking all sorts of havoc. So, meet the newest addition to the Red Thunder...

Big daddy has arrived!

Loads of little details on this magnificent machine... 

Now that I look at it again... There's a hell of a lot more to do. Moar paint means better luck with the dice!
For sponsons, I elected to use twin-linked heavy flamer sponsons rather than heavy bolters, reasoning that this is a tank for getting close and personal anyway. So, theoryhammer aside, I picked it up last Sunday and a week later, it's mostly painted up and I just got 2 games in. Read on for a quick overview of how they went...

Game 1 - vs Jin's Tau, 1,750 pts

I'd faced Jin's Tau once before, using my Chaos Marines. Now, I consider my CSM army list to be a pretty solid, well-rounded TAC list, and in my scrap with Jin, I managed a draw, just by the skin of my teeth. That said, if I hadn't taken the first turn, and if my Warlord hadn't had the trait which allowed me to infiltrate some of my units, things would almost certainly have gone very badly for me.

Jin fields 6 railgun Broadsides and 2 Riptides. That's a monstrous amount of firepower and must be engaged with care. That said, though, it's not very maneuverable, so he'd have trouble getting round to strike at my weaker side armour. Against the Red Thunder, that proved to be a fatal flaw, as he couldn't deal enough damage in time before the Hellhammer mauled a large swathe of his army. In the end, he was left with 2 teams of Firewarriors and a Hammerhead minus its railgun against my 2 remaining Leman Russes and the remnant of my Armoured Fist platoon. Since the mission was The Relic, the game was mine.

In this game I wielded the Hellhammer very aggressively, hurling it straight into Jin's lines. This proved to be a mistake, as the Riptides got close enough to blast the Hellhammer's sides with their fusion blasters, dealing quite a lot of damage that could otherwise have been avoided. The Hellhammer later fell to missile pods from the side.

Game 2 - vs Chris' Tau, 1,850 pts

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of this one. Chris' Tau list is pretty fearsome, to say the least. He fielded the double Riptide deathstar (Riptide, O'vesa, and a Tau allied commander with the full suite of nasty sensor bits), Farsight, and, Shas'vre Ob'lotai 9-0 (the Broadside character). Oh, and Longstrike. 4 teams of 4 Pathfinders made sure whatever needed lighting up was lit up at all times. It was actually quite impressive to witness in action.

The Riptide Deathstar was something I found to be quite impervious to my Hellhammer's firepower. With nothing to get past invulnerable saves, the volume of fire was not enough, and my first salvo claimed only 1 shielded missile drone. Seeing that, I quickly changed tack, and sent my Hellhammer after his squishier right flank, where Farsight and the bulk of his infantry was hiding. 2 turns of shooting later, almost his entire right flank was blasted to ruin, but alas, I couldn't stop his Riptides, and that pretty much settled it.

The final Victory point count actually stood at 11 to 3 in Chris' favour, though it could very easily have been 5 to 3, if it weren't for some unlucky dice rolls for my Catachans.

Right, I've inflicted the Hellhammer on 2 very different Tau armies, and there's 2 things I have to say:

  1. Game balance-wise, the rock-paper-scissors nature of 40k is hugely magnified. 
  2. The amount of violence that occurs is also massively intensified.

On balance: Now, I know a LOT has been said about the Revenant titan. 4 D strength blasts does seem like an insane amount of firepower to pack into one model. I suppose with the release of the list of other Escalation-approved models, the Warhound and the Reaver are now under similar scrutiny. Especially the Warhound, given that it bears almost as much firepower as the Revenant for a significantly cheaper points cost.

The thing is, at 1,750 pts, a Lord of War is a pretty big investment. The more I look at the Revenant, the more vulnerable it looks, with armour to match a Vendetta gunship. At 1,750pts, I daresay any army can pack the tools necessary to take down any Lord of War. The problem is, taking said tools usually means you're not as well-equipped to take on other things. For example, a Chaos Marine player can spam large numbers of high strength, high rate-of-fire weapons to take on that Revenant. But, doing that leaves them in trouble when a Baneblade trundles their way. Choosing any one Lord of War nudges your army sharply in a particular direction, with the accompanying strengths and weaknesses. For instance, my own Hellhammer dishes out massive amounts of firepower, but is still a single vehicle, vulnerable to teams of melta weapons or monstrous creatures. One lucky salvo from a team of 10 Sternguard with melta weapons can very suddenly leave the Hellhammer a smoking crater.

Now, when you put Titans into the equation, that's when things get really nuts. multiple D-strength large blasts is an unreasonable amount of firepower. 40k loses a lot of its fun when it's reduced to a game of who shoots first. Seriously, as a recent game of Apocalypse has proven, at 1,750 pts, when each side has a Warhound, whoever gets the first salvo into the opposing Titan wins. What's the bloody point, then?

Now, in the two games I played today, the Hellhammer was a lot of fun, both in unleashing its firepower, and in giving my opponent a truly mighty beast of a tank to slay, with a commensurate reward in Victory Points. That said, the carnage was such that about 3 turns in (which is about as long as the Hellhammer survives) both sides were diminished to something like less than half strength. I never got the sense that the Hellhammer was an overwhelming force that could he hurled willy-nilly into the enemy, but, like any other unit you choose to put in your list, it's a weapon, to be wielded with care and supported by other units in order to be effective.

All in all, I loved fielding the Hellhammer. It was loads of fun, but while I definitely look forward to fielding it again, I can't help but feel a little trepidation at what effect the Titans will have on the meta...

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