Friday, May 24, 2013

Sixth Edition Melee

This article is tactical in nature and focuses on the assault phase. I am not going to argue that a melee army can beat any other army. What I can say for sure is that a melee army can definitely be a spoiler at a tournament. I am very interested to see what GW has in store for us with the upcoming new eldar. I've seen pictures of the assault Wraithguard... It made me chuckle but you never know, maybe they will be the first true sixth edition deathstar.

Assault has and always will be my favorite phase of the game. My best armies have always been very shooty with a couple of strong counter assault elements but I like pure assault armies the most. Sixth edition is all about bringing a balanced army and that means the best armies must have some melee. Let us quickly examine the new Tau as an example. They are obviously so good at shooting it's down right scary. Pure Tau have some serious problems though moving outside their deployment zone and that is their proverbial Achilles' Heel. I have seen my fair of batreps where the new Tau try to set up shop in their deployment zone and literally shoot the opponent off the the table. They can almost do it but versus sage opponents they never seem to and end up losing at the end. Sure Kroot are able to infiltrate into key positions but they aren't going to hold up a squad of enemy assault terminators charging out of a land raider (i.e., worst case scenario). Tau can bring to bare so much fire power for cheap it's easy to team up and field a strong ally that could be their counter assault element but for whatever reason so far this doesn't seem to have much appeal. I don't know, maybe people would simply rather field another Riptide and just roll more dice in the shooting phase. Sure that is fun but it's not the most competitive option either.

How to Beat the Uber Shooty Armies
I learned this the hard way in fifth edition back when I played Tyranids. Versus Imperial Guard the best way to win was to beat them on objectives. This meant having a lot of patience and playing straight to the mission - no heroics, none at all. This might seem like a boring approach but it worked quite well for me. I would primarily focus on killing their troops and eliminating their mobility to prevent them from moving chimeras onto my objectives late in the game for the win. You really have to out think your opponent in these type of matches and have a lot of patience. Armies such as Imperial Guard in fifth edition were so easy to win with that often opponents would make little seemingly innocuous mistakes throughout the game that accumulate (without even realizing it)... It could and did often end up losing them the game.

Über shooty armies must wait until towards the end of the game to move onto objectives since their troops are not resilient enough to sit on top of an objective for several turns. Deployment is another big key to success since you must box them in and eliminate their lanes of movement... Force their scoring units to all come through the same path. Invariably they will end up in the way of each other which impedes their overall movement.

The Ever Changing Effect of Fortifications
Tau have neutralized the major benefit of cover in sixth edition and this ends up as a major detriment to shooty armies. No longer is going to ground behind an Aegis Defense Line and snap firing a good ploy. You might say that Tau are in fact too good at shooting... That is too much of a good thing. Kind of funny to me and my way of thinking.

I have noticed that the Sky Shield Landing Pad has gained some popularity since the release of the new Tau and for good reason. If you stop to think about it the Sky Shield Landing Pad is solid versus Heldrake spam since your units gain an invulnerable save versus the sudden plethora of ever ubiquitous 2++ cover save. I am not a fan of purchasing cover for my army but if I were to field a fortification it would definitely be the Sky Shield Landing Pad.

How to Assault in Sixth Edition
So now we come to the crux of the subject matter... What is the best way to assault now? I have been playing pure Chaos Space Marines a lot as of late. Chaos Space Marines are a bit overcosted for what you get but overall I find the extra points to still be worth their weight in gold. So I will simply focus on Chaos Space Marines to illustrate my points since that's what I know best in regards to this edition.

Here is my typical 2250 point list. Note that I have a convergent list for 1850 points since that seems to be the most popular points level now. I can scale back my army and it still fulfills all of the same functions inherent to the parent 225o point list.

7x Berserker - Icon of Wrath
Champion - lightning claw & power fist
Chaos Land Raider - extra armor, dozer blades & dirge caster

8x Chosen - 2x power axe, power sword, flamer, Mark of Khorne, Icon of Wrath
Champion - lightning claw, boltgun & power fist
Chaos Land Raider - extra armor, dozer blades & dirge caster

7x Berserker - Veterans of the Long War & Icon of Wrath
Champion - lightning claw, power fist, melta bombs & Boon of Chaos
Chaos Land Raider - extra armor, dozer blades & dirge caster

2x Chaos Spawn - Mark of Nurgle

Chaos Contemptor Dreadnaught (300 points) - extra armor, heavy conversion beamer, Havoc missile launcher, dreadnaught close combat weapon with built in plasma blaster & Dedication to Khorne

This is a spammed army list with three land raiders. I have lost some close games but tend to win more often than not. Obviously you can't afford to make a lot of mistakes and I've only got three scoring units that must kill enemy troops and hold objectives... It's not easy.

What I have learned is the three land raiders must support each other. A pair of land raiders in position to launch an assault is more than twice as hard for the enemy to handle and greatly reduces their options to counter them. I like to hold back the land raider ferrying the Berserker squad; that way there is less chance they'll have to bare the brunt of the initial assaults and will be in a better position to hold an uncontested objective. The dreadnaught is a deterrent to enemy units attempting to engage the land raiders plus the pie plate goes a long way towards softening up enemy units in the open. I like to place the pie plate on top of enemy fire support units such as Long Fangs and Pathfinders. The dreadnaught cannot fire his heavy conversion beamer if it moves but often I find its better to forgo one to two turns of shooting so the dreadnaught can match pace with the land raiders. The two spawn support the dreadnaught in a similar fashion and they are expendable.

Land raiders are very rugged now in sixth edition plus the ability to move another 6 inches flat out means that in most missions they can launch assaults as early as the second turn. Six twin linked lascannons are really good too, even when forced to snap fire. The dirge caster is one of the big keys to success for this list and it makes the Tau cry and nerd rage. It's something no other army has and is extremely useful for assault armies.

It's important to move the land raiders in such a manner so as to take full advantage of cover whenever possible. The return of dozer blades as an option for Chaos land raiders is another key to success along with the dirge caster to make this a viable army.

If you are able to move a pair of land raiders into position to launch an assault then you'll probably find you've got some options in terms of what you can assault. The Icon of Wrath pretty much assures you'll be able to reach base contact with enemy units (i.e., third key to success). Often you'll have to decide whether or not to multi assault. Versus an army such as Tau you'll obviously want to launch a multi assault so you can kill as much as possible in one clean sweep. Versus an army such as Space Wolves it might be better to target one powerful enemy unit such as Wolf Guard with an attached character so you can take full advantage of all your charge bonuses.

Of course it's not always going to be the case that you can assault simultaneously from two land raiders for whatever reason. That's one of the reasons why I prefer to keep my heavy hitters up front. Both Abbadon and Kharn are total beasts, especially the former. Abbadon is an army of one! I had one game where he eradicated an entire squad of mega armored nobs on the charge... It's crazy. He is your go to guy for Chaos Space Marines. The champions are there to issue challenges so Abbadon and Kharn can quickly mow through the fodder.

Across the Spectrum
So it's no surprise to me that Chaos is currently the king of melee. They are very strong in the assault phase. Yes they are a bit overcosted but then again they have all the right tools. There are other armies such as Necrons that are more balanced and have some strong melee units... You've seen some of my Necron army lists here. I am very interested to see what the future holds and I think the new eldar could quickly answer that question. If the bright lance becomes popular again that will help to create a better counter to land raiders.

I've demonstrated how one particular army can excel in the assault phase and win games. Of course there are other armies that can do so as well. Maybe you can take some of my ideas and incorporate them into your armies. I'd love to hear what's working for other people.