Hey everyone, Reecius here from Frontline Gaming to discuss a funny fact of 40k: many of the scrappiest armies in the fluff are awful on the tabletop!
It’s always struck me as funny how far the fluff is from the rules in 40k in many instances. Nowhere is this more evident than in some of the so-called assault armies of the game. A good melee army needs the following:
- The ability to reliably get into combat. Almost always this means speed, and often durability.
- The ability to fight any other melee army on relatively even terms.
- Morale control.
Let’s take a lock at a few examples of so-called “melee” armies that lack the above, shall we? Let me know if you disagree with me on any of these. I’d love to learn some new tricks on how to turn my assault army frown, upside down!
I love my Orks, but I play them enough to know a few things:
- Orks actually do pretty dang well in the delivery category. Trukks are cheap and fast, Battle Wagons are cheap and fairly durable, and Ere We Go! + WAAAGH! are great rules for a melee army.
- No access to invul saves in melee, low armor saves and strength 3 for most of your Boyz means that in melee you are at an immediate disadvantage to almost every other assault army that does have these things. Your heavy hitting units will lose a fight vs. another heavy hitting unit with a good invul save almost every time, making a fight vs. another dedicated assault army extremely lopsided. Orks really only trounce units that are not actually good in melee which is a bummer. A single unit of Thunderwolves with Stormshields can walk through hordes of poor Orks, and a Dreadknight, my goodness, the stuff of Ork nightmares! Even the modest Chaplain with a Crozius and Rosarius will beat the snot out of any Ork not wearing Mega Armor. Le sigh.
- Mob Rule stinks, lol. It helps your opponent to remove models from the table faster. Mad Dok can only be so many places at once!
Orks basically fight like bullies: pick on the weak, run form the strong! This goes with the fluff a bit, which I can appreciate, but Orks look for strong opponents to fight, too! Simply giving them access to melee invul saves (make the KFF work in melee for Orks, too, perhaps? Make Cybork Bodies a 5++ again?), altering Mob Rule to be a hair less punishing and beefing up their walkers a bit will go miles to making Orks scary in melee. Particularly the Gorka and Morkanaut. Instant way to increase sales on these bad boys by 1,000%? Make them Super Heavy Walkers as they should have been from day 1 and he goes from dud to stud overnight. Profit!
My Night Lords forgot what the outside of the miniatures cabinet looked like =/
- Chaos really struggles with delivery of assault units. Not being able to assault out of a stationary Rhino is a major blow to them, not having Drop Pods also stinks, their Land Raider is incredibly underwhelming and they themselves are slow. Spawn are the notable exception to this rule and while they don’t hit so hard themselves, they can do some work with a character added in.
- With an MSU stat line at an often inflated price point, Chaos don’t have the ability to punch many units to death at all, despite being stone cold killers in the fluff. They simply lack oomph in combat and will need some cool formations or basic statline revamps to make them at all scary in combat. With the notable exception of some of the HQ choices and Plague Marines (who are still solid, if a bit pricey), Chaos simply falls very far short of the mark in melee.
- Morale is the true weakness of Chaos. Having to challenge with an Aspiring Champion you have to pay for who often then causes the unit to break and subsequently get run down is just not fun nor conducive to being anything other than a joke in combat. Expensive units that are designed to go into combat where they often commit suicide is just poor design. We’d all love to use the gorgeous Warp Talon models but…well, you know.
I remember when a Berserker was actually scary in combat…..those were the days. Chaos needs a MAJOR overhaul to be anything close to good in melee. Outside of a handful of units, they are exceedingly poor in melee. Even in a Khorne Daemonkin army–which is an awesome book, IMO, and does assault well–you never see Chaos Space Marines outside of the obligatory Bikers for the Gorepack formation or the occasional Chaos Lord. Changing some core rules such as no longer having to challenge and providing some means of morale control outside of a very expensive banner that can be removed form the unit would go a long way to helping. Not requiring the purchase of an Apsiring Champ, and providing Chaos with a solid means of getting into combat would be huge benefits. And besides, Chaos deploy via Drop Pod in the books all the time. Slap some spikes on that kit and let’s get ‘er done, GW!
Codex Flyrant, er, I mean Tyranids, also are rarely seen engaging in Fisticuffs. They are often seen flying through the air with the greatest of ease, spitting strength 6 worms of death everywhere but that’s about it.
- Tyranids can deliver the lackluster melee units into combat fairly well such as Gargoyles, Homragants, Tyranid Shrikes and Ravenors due to their speed and buffs from units like Venomthropes, but sadly, these guys don’t do much once they get there or are too pricey to justify taking. The harder hitting MCs tend to be quite slow and not resilient enough to get across the table in many cases.
- Like Orks, Nids have very few options for melee invul saves. This combined with few to no assault grenades and often low initiative, attacks and armor mean they tend to get trounced by most things in combat. An Imperial Knight, for example, can just smash TMCs with ease. Even simple Tactical Marines with Krak Grenades can take on many TMCs and stomp on them, such as the Crone. Those units that do hit fairly hard, such as Genestealers, whiter to any type of firepower, suffer greatly with a low armor save and no assault grenades and just cry in the face of Overwatch. Cheapo Carnifexes taken in bulk can sometimes get it done, and dropping a nasty unit like a Dimchaeron in a sPod sometimes works, but is fairly unreliable in general terms. Even old Trusty, Swarmy McSwarmlord, just isn’t the bad ass he used to be and will often go down like a punk to much weaker foes.
- Morale is usually not an issue due to Synapse, but if you do lose Synapse, the wheels just fall off the bus. It’s brutal.
Tyranids need a little help and it can come in several ways. Assault grenades for high initiative units like Genestealers and Hive Tyrants, for one. Increased speed for TMCs for another. Yeah, make that Haruspex move like a Beast and all of a sudden, he’s beastly! Make something like Onslaught an aura ability from a support Bug so the Gribblies can run and shoot to cross the table quicker. Hell, the entire Eldar army gets a better ability automatically, lol! Give Tyranids access to Telepathy and Biomany, again. Powers like Iron Arm and Endurance would be really cool for Tyranids, there was no reaosn to take it away in the first place to be honest. Also, invul saves in some fashion would help a ton. Again, make it an Aura ability so that it requires tactics to implement. TMCs are surprisingly squishy, having an ability to buff their defense a bit would go miles. FnP only does so much as many things in the game now deny it, such as D weapons.
Now, to be fair, Dark Eldar are not billed as an “Assault Army” per se, but many of their assault units are SO bad. Like, wow bad.
- Dark Eldar actually do have excellent delivery methods for their assault units. Venoms and Raiders are really solid and Dark Eldar infantry themselves are quite speedy with Fleet.
- This is where the wheels come off the bus. Dark Eldar simply don’t win fights. So many units that need to swing first to even hope to win a fight, such as Incubi, don’t have assault grenades for some unfathomable reason. Their Characters lack the options they need to become viable combatants or to help make their units better in combat. And Wyches….wow. Arguably the worst unit in the game. Some of the units feel like they could be good but just fall short in too many ways. There are a few notable exceptions thankfully, the Cronos and Talos (particularly in the Corpse Theif Claw formation) can be powerful fighters, if slow. Reavers can do work with their Bladevanes but neither is a truly feared unit on the tabletop (outside of the Corpse Thief claw).
- Morale is also a big problem. Yeah, they get Fearless as the game goes on, but that doesn’t help an assault unit that wants to be in melee as soon as possible.
Dark Eldar could be awesome in melee with some small tweaks. For one, just give the poor buggers grenades! Give them the means to boost morale with stubborn or fearless, too. An expensive, fragile melee unit is a huge liability. And Hellions, geez, give them Move Through Cover, please. An expensive model that needs to be in cover to survive, that potentially kills itself everytime it moves through cover is not a great game plan! Wyches,…just give them all the option to take Haywire Grenades and they become good. If the bleedin Swwoping Hawks can do it, plus move 18″ plus yo-yo hop around the table blasting fools, and oh yeah, assaulting flyers with said Haywire grenades, too, the poor Wyches can have them, too says I!
So there ye have it! Am I being a big cry baby and simply lack the tactics to make these armies work as they are supposed to or do you all agree with me that they could use a little help?
What units do you think most need a boost in combat ability to match their fluff?