Death from the Skies: The Sternhammer Strike Force and Drop Pod Sternguard to the Max!

I have been struggling for some time to figure out how to best employ the Imperial Fist unique “Decurion-style” detachment, the STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE. As most people are probably aware, the STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE requires 1+ Core choice (Battle-Demi Company or Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort), 1-10 Auxiliary choices per Core (Armoured Task Force, 1st Company Task Force, 10th Company Task Force, Storm Wing, Anti-Air Defense Force, Suppression Force, Land Raider Spearhead, Strike Force Ultra, Skyhammer Orbital Strike Force, Skyhammer Annihilation Force, Raptor Wing, or individual units of Devastators, Centurions, Vindicators, TFCs, or Ironclad/Contemptor Dreads), and 0-1 Command choice per Core (Strike Force Command, Reclusiam Command Squad, and Libarious Conclave).

If you meet these requirements, then all units in the detachment get +1 to their armor penetration rolls on buildings, get Stubborn as long as the WL is alive (and chosen from this detachment), and get Superior Bolter Drill if they have Imperial Fist Chapter Tactics (i.e. re-roll ALL to Hit rolls for any Bolter Weapons, including when shooting with Special Issue Ammunition).

Looking at this, I think the best units to make use of these benefits are Sternguard, since this makes the most of their elite status and further amplifies both their superior shooting and leadership abilities. Looking at the STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE, the only way to get access to Sternguard is via the 1st Company Task Force, which also fills the mandatory Auxiliary slot. This formation also gives all its members Fearless/Fear USRs, lets them choose one enemy unit to have Preferred Enemy against for the entire game, and debuffs enemy unit’s leadership by -2Ld if they within 12″ of three or more units from this formation.

Taking all this into account, I think the most efficient way to take the 1st Company Task Force looks something like this:

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt

 

While there are no “frills” on these units, they do have the ability to deal with pretty much any kind of non-vehicle unit (even TEQs, using massed Hellfire rounds) except perhaps GMCs, they have the MB to give them some chance against vehicles in combat, they have Drop Pods to get them exactly where then need to be (don’t forget, Drop Pods from this formation count for the -2Ld debuff rule on enemy units), and they can Combat Squad to minimize the impact of enemy return fire and to engage up to eight separate targets themselves (thereby, maximizing the efficiency of their own shooting). Finally, they get permanent re-rolls for all their Bolter shooting (without any requirement for Psychic tests) which, combined with the versatility of their Special Issue Ammunition, makes them very effective against all kinds of enemy threats.

 

Now, with the 1st Company Task Force set, there is still a mandatory core choice, so looking at what would complement what I already have, I am thinking of a Battle Demi-Company (with all of its Objective Secured units) that looks like this:

-Cataphracti Terminator Captain (with Shield Eternal relic and Power Fist)

-5 man Tactical Squad with Grav Cannon/Amp and Drop Pod

-5 man Tactical Squad with Grav Cannon/Amp and Drop Pod

-5 man Tactical Squad with Grav Cannon/Amp and Drop Pod

-2 Biker Attack Bike Squad with Heavy Bolters

-5 man Devastator Squad with 4 x Grav Cannon/Amps and Drop Pod

 

So, this provides us with 10 Objective Secured units (also, don’t forget, one free use of the Tactical Doctrine for the units from this formation), including three MSU Tac squads with Grav Cannons to take Objectives and provide fire support, a fast-moving Bike squad to chew up hordes with its TLed Heavy Bolters, grab Objectives, and/or tie enemy units in combat, and a “assassin” unit comprised of the Grav Cannon Devastators and the Cataphracti Terminator Captain for taking our critical enemy units like Wraithknights, Stormsurges, various close combat deathstars, LOWs, etc. (the Cataphracti Terminator Captain makes the whole unit Slow and Purposeful, allowing it to fire at full effect when it arrives in its Drop Pod, and also “tanks” for the unit/provides close combat ability).

Now, looking at everything together, this 2000 point army has eight Drop Pods (so four guaranteed to arrive Turn 1, plus another four to “mop up” on later turns), 60 MEQ bodies (plus the Warlord Cataphracti Terminator Captain, who makes the entire detachment Stubborn as long as he is alive, and two Attack Bikes), the potential for up to 22 separate MSU units/squads, and the ability to put out the following firepower per turn:

-6 Heavy Bolter Shots, 20 Storm Bolter shots, and 24 Bolter shots (at 12″ Rapid Fire range), all permanently Twin-Linked

-35 Grav Cannon/Amp shots at 24″ range, provided the unit did not move (or has Slow & Purposeful)

-80 (at 12″ Rapid Fire range) Special Issue Ammunition shots per turn (choosing between Ignore Cover, Poison (2+), long-range AP4, and short-ranged/Get’s Hot AP3 ammunition types), all permanently Twin-Linked

While this will still struggle against certain armies, especially heavily mechanized forces (outside of Grav weapons and MBs, there is not a lot to deal with armored forces) and very mobile forces (once the army Drop Pods in, it is basically confined to footslogging 6″ if it needs to get anywhere after that, except for the Attack Bikes), overall I think it would make for a fun, thematic/fluffy, and powerful alpha-strike style army that makes competitive use of the Imperial Fists traits and the benefits of their unique STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE formation.

 

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