Grimaldus and the Skyhammer Annihilation Force

One combination which creates a highly versatile assault force goes as follows:

-Chaplain Grimaldus with 2 Cenobyte Servitors
-Command Squad with Banner of the Emperor Ascendant and Drop Pod
-Skyhammer Annihilation Force with:
*2 x Devastator squads, each with 10 Marines and 4 Grav Cannons, Drop Pod
*2 x Assault squads, each with 5 Marines, Jump Packs, an Eviscerators, and a Vet Sgt with PF/LC
-2 x Scout Bikers with Locator Beacon, 5 Bikers

-2 x Assault Centurion squads with melta guns

-2 x Fast Attack Drop Pods

Attach Grimaldus and Cenobytes to Command Squad and their Drop Pod (I am working off the assumption that Cenobytes count as “Wargear” and so Grimaldus can still attach to other units with them in tow, kind of like Iron Priests with Cyber wolves can attach to other units; this is controversial and some don’t agree with this interpretation, but for now, I am going to go with it).

Use the Scout Bikers to bring in the Devastators, Assault Marines, and Grimaldus Command Squad precisely where you want them. Make sure the Assault Marines are within 6″ of Grimaldus, his Servitors, and the Banner. With their ability to charge turn 1, they combine quite handily with the +1A, Zealot, and FNP handed out by the Grimaldus, Servitors, and the Banner. This means that the Assault Marine squads each get 4 x S4 AP- attacks, 5 x S4 AP3, Shred attacks, and 3 x S8 AP2 Unwieldy, Armourbane attacks on the charge. Throw in Zealot for Fearless and re-rolls to Hit and Feel No Pain for better survivability and these units should be able to roll up even very tough opponents in close combat.

Devastators combat squad to provide four different units that each put out 10 x Grav shots a turn to deal with hard targets and the Scout Bikers provide fire support, objective grabbing, and even the ability to charge and add some more weight in combat when required on later turns.

Finally, the Assault Centurions provide vehicle popping power with their melta guns and Sieg Drills, plus they benefit quite a bit from Grimaldus, Cenobytes, and the Banner to make  them more durable, potent, and reliable.

Tactica: R’varna Battlesuit

Everyone is quite familiar with the “normal” Riptide as one of the (now) iconic Tau units, but I think many players are not as familiar with the R’varna variant offered by Forgeworld:

The R’varna has the basic same stats/5++ save as a normal Riptide, but gains +1T/+1W (so T7 and 6W, respectively). It also loses Jump Pack Monstrous Creature (it is just a “normal” MC) and has a different variation of Nova Reactor (can choose to gain a 3++, set off a 6″ EMP “nova” around itself, gain Fleet and run 2D6″ for a turn, or shoots its weapons twice at the cost of not shooting next turn). It can also take up to two Missile Drones (just like normal Riptide) and is limited in Wargear to taking a Positional Relay and/or a Stimulant Injector.

What really makes the R’varna stand out, though, is its unique weapon systems: two pulse submunition cannons. These each shoot a S6 AP4 Large Blast out to 60″ and have the Cluster Fire rule, as follows:

“Cluster Fire: Very Bulky models, as well as those with the Bike/Jetbike/Beasts/ Cavalry type, suffer two hits each from this weapon at an increased Strength of 7. Extremely Bulky and Artillery/Monstrous Creature/Flying Monstrous Creature/Vehicle (any type) models and specifically targeted buildings and fortifications suffer 3 hits each if they are hit by the weapon at an increased Strength of 8.”

So, basically, the R’varna is particularly effective at dealing with hordes (up to 4 x S6 AP4 Large Blasts a turn, which can Ignore Cover with marker light support), with massed bike/cavalry armies, and with massed light-medium vehicles (i.e. like a MSU Space Marine Battle Company with tons of free Rhinos/Razorbacks). In particular, the R’varna’s ability to inflict 3 x S8 hits per vehicle struck by its pulse submunition cannon blasts gives its the capacity to reliably take out AV12 and lower transports on a highly efficient basis especially given its tremendous range and staying power.

Finally, with its high toughness and wounds and ability to get FNP from Stimulant Injector, the R’varna can be an excellent “meatshield” unit to absorb the enemy attention and shooting away from the rest of the army. For example, a BS4 Plasma gun would take 6-7 shots to cause a single unsaved wound (or about 41 shots to kill the R’varna outright), while a BS4 Krak Missile Launcher would take about 20 shots to cause an unsaved wound (or about 120 shots to kill it outright). Even in close combat, the R’varna has 3 x S6 AP2 attacks, so it is not completely helpless if charged and it high T7 means that even PFs are only wounding it on a 3+ (and almost everything else is wounding it on a 6+).

The biggest threat to a R’varna is, naturally, Grav Weapons, since they ignore its high Toughness. If the rest of your army can deal with the Grav threat effectively, then the R’varna should be able to operate with high resiliency and effectiveness all game long.

Astartes Quad Mortar Support Battery

Looks like FW just released another Rapier Battery “variant” for use in both Horus Heresy and regular 40K:

Looking at the rules, you can take 1-3 Quad Mortars in a single unit, with each one costing 12 MBs and coming with a crew of two Space Marines (so that is between 4-12 x T7 wounds, all protected by 3+ armor saves). The mortar/crew get ATSKNF and Chapter Tactics, just like any SM non-vehicle units, and each Mortar can fire with one of the following two profiles:

1 – Frag Shell — 12″-60″ S5 AP5 Heavy 4, Barrage, Blast (3″), Pinning, Shell Shock
*Shell Shocks makes target enemy units take pinning check at -1 Ld

2 – Shatter Shell — 36″ S8 AP4 Heavy 4, Sunder
*Sunder gives re-rolls for failed armor penetration rolls

As you can see, right out the gate this unit is quite versatile, being able to engage light infantry with multiple S5 Small Blasts or take on light-medium vehicles with lots of S8 shots (with re-rolls to glance/penetrate). Given than a battery of 3 Mortars only costs 36 MBs total and takes up a single HS slot, this is a great deal from an “economics” point of view when building an army list. It is also available to Space Marines, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, and Space Wolves, so plenty of options for Astartes armies (GKs of course are the exception).

Where this units really shines, though, is when you force-multiply its capabilities with other elements of your army:

1 – Storm of Fire WL Trait — If you use Calgar, Tigurius, Tellion (all who have Storm of Fire automatically) or another SM HQ that rolls it on the WL table, then you can cast it on a Quad Mortar Battery, making all of its Shooting Rending. This means that Frag Shells suddenly become deadly to even heavy infantry and MCs and that the Shatter Shells even have the ability to deal with AV14 armor, if they roll well.

2 – Psychic Buffs — Prescience for better accuracy, Perfect Timing for Ignore Cover shooting, Shrouding for a 2+ cover save behind an Aegis Line, Endurance for FNP(4+), Relentless, and EW, Levitation for redeployment of the battery an extra 12″ each turn, Fire Shield for a 4+ cover save in the open and enemy moving in Dangerous Terrain nearby, Aversion for neutralizing enemy shooty units that could threaten the Quad Mortars, Living Lightening for additional shooting support, Shield of Sanguinus for a 5++ save, etc.

3 – Chapter Tactics — UM tactics for re-rolls of 1s in shooting, WS tactics for Hit and Run (to get out of combat, which Artillery units definitely do not want to be in), IF tactics for increased damage against buildings, BT tactics for Adamantium Will, IH tactics for FNP(6+) (or FNP(3+) if you successfully cast Endurance on the unit), and RG tactics for first turn Shrouded.

4 – SM Command Tanks — The Land Raider Excelsior can “cast” one of the following on a friendly Quad Mortar battery: Counter-attack, Fearless, Hit and Run, Interceptor, Preferred Enemy, Skyfire, Tank Hunter, and Split fire. Of these, Interceptor, Preferred Enemy, and Skyfire all stand out, with Interceptor giving the unit the ability to smoke check DSing enemy vehicles or massed infantry as it comes it, Preferred Enemy increasing the damage of Frag Shells and the accuracy of Shatter Shells, and Skyfire allowing the battery to become an exceptionally potent anti-flyer unit for a turn (i.e. 12 x S8 shots, all with re-rolls to penetrate). Alternately, the Rhino Primaris can make the unit Fearless for a turn or allow it to shoot its Shatter Shells at full BS for Snap Shots, further increasing the versatility of the unit.

5 – Attached ICs to “buff” Quad Mortars — Ulrik gives the battery Preferred Enemy, Lias Issadon gives it Shrouded, Grimaldus/Servitors give it Zealot and FNP, DA character with Eye of the Unseen Relics gives it Preferred Enemy, Sanguinary Priest gives it FNP, Ahazra Redth gives Interceptor and Night Vision, Tech-Priest Dominus with Autocaduceus Relic gives the unit IWND, Coteaz gives unit Stubborn and “I’ve Been Expecting You,” Inquisitor with Psyocculum gives Stubborn and BS10 when shooting at Psykers, etc.

Dark Reapers in the current Meta

While it really is difficult to find a bad unit in the latest Eldar codex, most of the attention has been on Wraith units (with D weapons), Jetbikes (with max Scatter Lasers or Shuriken Cannons), Wave Serpents, and formations likes the Seer Council or Crimson Death.

One unit which I think has become much more valuable in the current meta is Dark Reapers, particularly if they are taken as part of an Aspect Host (for BS5 shooting). With 48″ S5 AP3 Hvy 2 shooting for each model, they have unique anti-MEW capability out the gate. Add in Slow and Purposeful (for the ability to move and still shoot), Reaper Rangefinders (for the ability to ignore enemy Jink saves), and a special rule that makes their shooting Twin-Linked against anything that Turbo-boosts, moves Flat out, Swoops, or Zooms, and suddenly you have a unit that “counters” many of the competitive units in the game right now:

1 – Ravenwing Bikes/Black Knights or White Scar Biker Armies — With the ability to ignore their 3+ (or even 2+) Jink saves, plus S5 and AP3, Dark Reaper shooting is the ideal counter to a Bike heavy opponent. With BS5 (from Aspect Host formation), a 5 man Dark Reaper squad inflicts an average of 4-5 unsaved wounds against a normal Bike units, which is enough to kill most “typical” bike squads in a single volley, all at a distance of 54″ (6″ move + 48″ range) starting turn 1.

2 –   MSU Marine squads — With the shift toward MSU, both due to things like Demi-companies and things like massed D-weapons, many players are fielding lots of 5-6 Marine squads to maximize their damage output and minimize their vulnerability. Dark Reapers can hunt these MSU MEQ squads with ease, allowing Eldar players to “thin” the Power Armor hordes from long-range, even before other Eldar units get inside Shuriken weaponry range to deal with these threats.

3 – Necron Phalanxes and support units — With long range, multiple shots, and AP3, Dark Reapers can attrite down Necron Warriors, Immortals, Flayed Ones, Triarch Praetorians, Deathmarks, Destroyers (all types), and Tomb Blades and allow the rest of the Eldar force to deal the finishing blow to these units.

4 – Tau Crises Battlesuits — With standard MEQ profiles, but multiple wounds and high mobility, Crises Suits are often the “flagship” unit around which Tau battle groups are built. With their long-range, shoot and move ability, and high accuracy, Dark Reapers can focus down threatening Crises Teams. For example, a 5 man Dark Reaper squad gets 10 shots, 8-9 hits, and 5-6 AP3 wounds, which is enough to kill outright (or critically damage, at least) even a full Crises Team, especially if the Reapers can fire from an angle to focus on the Suits and not their protective drones.

5 – Eldar/Dark Eldar/Harlequin Jetbike units — With their ability to ignore Jink and 3+ saves, Dark Reapers are the perfect counter to fighting enemy Eldar jetbike spam (of any variety). Take an Aspect Host of 3 x Dark Reaper squads and they can reliably gun down three Jetbike squads a turn, which means by turn 2-3, you should have eliminated pretty much any MSU Jetbike threat there is out there.

6 – Skimmer Tanks — With high BS, the ability to take Starshot (i.e. S8 AP3) missiles as an upgrade, and ignoring Jinking, Dark Reapers can be a strong counter to Wave Serpents, Raiders/Venoms, Devilfish/Hammerheads, Annihilation Barges/Ghost Arks, Land Speeders, Flyers in Hover mode, etc. etc. They also are half-way decent anti-flyer unit when equipped with Starshot missiles, since they re-roll to hit against any Zooming units/Swooping FMCs, meaning that they have about 30% accuracy against flyers and FMCs even when snap shooting.