Love it or hate it, super heavies are part of the main game now. Here’s how to deal with them.
Welcome to my weekly article, Level(ed) Playing Field, where I examine the shifting meta of Warhammer 40,000 and the growing presence of Gargantuan Creatures and Superheavy Vehicles on your local tabletop battlefield. You may be familiar with my previous pseudo-rant article, “You Don’t Know Better.” If so, this is very much in the same vein, so be warned.
First off, let’s get one thing out of the way: love it or hate it, super heavies are part of the main game now. You may have your old school “things were better in 3rd edition” mentality. You may think the GW design team has lost its collective mind. You may ban superheavy vehicles and gargantuan creatures at your local store. But they are not going away any time soon. They’re part of the game, not just an optional Escalation supplement anymore and no longer reserved only for Apocalypse, so get used to it. I will be using this article to examine superheavy units individually, and dissecting their presence in normal games of 7th edition Warhammer 40,000 as well as Apocalypse.
While Superheavies and Gargantuan Creatures are the next big thing for Games Workshop, what do you do when your army hasn’t gotten any love on that front yet? GW is known for leaving armies in the cold for extended periods of time- just ask any Dark Eldar player who started in 3rd edition, or current Sisters of Battle players. I myself have started a Militarum Tempestus army, which is weirdly undergunned when it comes to fighting anything with AV 14 or better. So the question I posit today is thus: what do you do when you don’t have access to superheavy units?
The Easy Answers
There are of course two easy answers to this question: Allies, and Forgeworld. Allied armies are fully legal (in most gaming circles), allowing you to take multiple detachments with forces in certain allegiances towards each other. In my particular case, I could 100% legally and easily run Astra Militarum/Imperial Guard alongside my Militarum Tempestus…making them…the Astra Militarum Tempestus- or Space Storm Army….which kinda sounds cool in a “GW only knows how to use six interchangeable words when naming things” sense. Anyway the allies approach is of course a flavorful (usually) and narrative (again, usually) way to fill gaps in your army. With my Militarum Tempestus example, I’m in dire need of one very important thing: anti-tank. Scions and their few available units top out at the S9 AP1 Lascannon mounted on Valkyrie Assault Carriers…..everything else that qualifies as a “big gun” is in the S7-8 category with Autocannons, Meltaguns, and Taurox Battle Cannons. The army is in desperate need of a titan-killer. Taking an allies Imperial Guard detachment with a Baneblade or Shadowsword adds that punch when it comes time to tackle Imperial Knights or Tyranid Bio-Titans.
The other easy answer of course comes in the form of Forgeworld. Forgeworld offers Warhound Titans or the superheavy Marauder Bomber to placate any perceived weaknesses in Imperial forces. Xenos have a few options of their own- of course we already mentioned the Tyranid Harridan, a Forgeworld model since they don’t have a superheavy yet (rumored for the new codex though!), while Eldar get the Cobra and Scorpion to pad out their ranks. Chaos players get a bevy of options as well with the Brass Scorpion of Khorne, Kytan Daemon Engine, or superheavy guard vehicles for renegades. Regardless of your army (unless you play Dark Eldar…), it’s easy to find a superheavy solution on Forgeworld’s store.
Stepping Up Your Game
If you feel like keeping to one Codex, and not relying on Forgeworld- which can be a wise choice given that some gaming clubs forbid Forgeworld models from use- then your next best option is to go Unbound, or build your army list around as many heavy hitters as you can manage. Unbound is the lesser option here, many people are against playing it for the sheer spammability it imposes- an army of ten Riptides or a force composed of nothing but Heldrakes is, pardon my English, a dick move. It’s not hard to understand why many miss the old fashioned force organization chart. If you decide on keeping your list clean, however, that doesn’t mean you need to play nice. When you’re on the other side of the board from an entire force of Imperial Knights or a huge Ork Stompa, you’ll need every single turn of the game, and every weapon at your disposal to scrape a victory (and believe me, you WILL be scraping. Nobody wins hand over foot against superheavies). So here are your real options:
Leman Russ squads, Sentinels, groups of Hammerhead Gunships, Killa Kans and Deff Dreads, etc. Many armies have access to groups of vehicles, and these can be extremely useful for wittling down the big bad superheavies they go up against. Multiple S8+ guns from a single squad are truly powerful, and taking multiple squads capable of laying down this kind of firepower can be truly devastating against an unprepared opponent. Be warned, however, that this has certain disadvantages. Multiple squads of 3 Leman Russ tanks (or even an entire IG Tank Company using a Forgeworld list) borders on spam/cheese in many peoples’ minds.
They don’t call them “heavy support” choices for nothing. Monstrous Creatures are often expensive, burly beasts that can lay the hurt on almost anything in the game. A step below vehicles in the current editions, with most MCs having a 3+ armor save and T6-7, with a rare T8…most still crumble quickly to concentrated firepower, sheer volume of wounds put on it, poisoned weapons, or S10. Though it’s rare these units will be insta-killed, you’ll still struggle to get the most out of them in many cases. Tyranid monstrous creatures especially seem to have some poor balancing issues, too slow to catch their prey in melee, too inaccurate to hit the foe at range, and with no invulnerable saves to keep them from taking wounds. However….against superheavy vehicles and gargantuan creatures, the lesser monstrous creatures can really come into their own. Striking at low initiative is less of a hindrance against Gargantuan Creatures or Imperial Knights (vehicles…y’know….it doesn’t matter). All monstrous creatures can Smash, doubling their strength and halving their attacks, and always attack at AP2, meaning they can and will lay the hurt on heavy armor or pile some wounds on an enemy GC, often striking at the same time. Using multiple MCs or even squads of them- such as Carnifex(…es?…Carnifexen? Carinifii?), Kastelan Robots, or Canoptek Spyders, can level the playing field against superheavy vehicles and their ilk.
Big Guns Never Tire:
If you’re light on vehicles, don’t want to use monstrous creatures, or just love the poor bloody infantry, there are still options, even (for once) for Dark Eldar! Heavy weapons units are relatively plentiful for most armies. Whether you’re talking three squads of Dark Reapers for Eldar, multiple Dark Eldar Scourge units, or a metric ton of Thunder Hammer/Storm Shield (or even Chainfist-toting) Terminators, there are options for almost every force. While the large blast weaponry or stomp attacks of a Superheavy Walker might spell doom for many units, the more you take, the more potential hits you can get in, stripping hull points and wounds. Units with invulnerable saves are best for tackling big superheavy threats, even regular Terminators are quite survivable and pack power fists for hammering dents into AV14 threats. Even Devastator squads packing lascannons or grav guns can provide a relatively cost-effective solution to combating heavy armor.
If you want to get in on the Superheavy game yourself, or need to combat against a superheavy-rich meta in your area, consider any of these solutions to your particular problem.
Remember: Superheavies are part of the game now, if you’re not prepared for them, you’re likely to pay for it.