Saturday, 29 December 2012

Death Company Tactics for 6th Edition: Weapons/Wargear/Chaplain?

Ever since the 6th Edition rules were released I have always run a squad of Death Company in my Blood Angels Army. Why? They are the hardest hitting and most survivable squad in their own right without needing Characters for special weapons, Sanguinary Priests for Feel No Pain, and random Psychic Powers for re-rolls when charging into combat when using a Chaplain.

Come at me bro!
Let's have a quick look at their strengths and weaknesses:

Weapon Skill 5, hitting on 3+ against most troops
'Furious Charge', wounding on 3+ against Toughness 4 on the charge
'Feel No Pain', now 5++ but still helpful and can now be taken against low AP weaponry
'Hidden' Special Weapons, as much like Black Templar, Power Weapons/Fists cannot be Challenged
'Rage' Special Rule, now +2 Attacks on the charge!
Grenades allow charging into Cover (many dedicated assault squads lack this option!)
Jump Pack Dangerous Terrain Tests now allow Armour and Feel No Pain saves.
'Relentless', allowing them to shoot Rapid Fire Boltguns and then charge!
Fearless, they will never run away, nor do they take extra wounds in combat in 6th!

Non-Scoring Troops
No Invulnerable Save
Expensive options inc Jump Packs
Minimal mobility without a vehicle or Jump Packs

Even a small number of Death Company can win games.
Here they are pulling the Marines off the objective in the final turn!

Compared to 5th Edition these guys have lost a little in Furious Charge now only giving +1 Strength not Initiative, and Feel No Pain reduced to 5++ instead of 4++, but the new 'Rage' rules which made them too expensive for a unit the enemy can lead around with the proverbial carrot, not to mention having them move into dangerous terrain with Jump Packs and die, are now changed to +2 Attacks with no downside!

Having always run them with Jump Packs until recently, they can get very pricey in points and still die just as easily as normal Tactical Marines with Toughness 4 and Power Armour (3+). My standard outlay, mostly dictated by the box set, is as follows:

5 Death Company, Jump Packs, Power Fist, Power Sword 215pts

With 5 Attacks at Weapon Skill 5 and Strength 5 on the charge, and Jump Packs to get them there, they quite often make all the difference in a game, as long as you are not throwing them against Terminators or wasting them on a 'tarpit' unit where they will get bogged down and slowly die. Deploying them via Deep Strike with only 1D6" scatter and a re-roll to their Reserves roll (due to Blood Angel special rules) is also a viable tactic, provided you are patient and set up a well timed charged. As a 'Linebreaker' unit with Feel No Pain they have often won games for me just by hiding in a corner late game (not at all cowardly!).

Charging an existing combat ensures no Overwatch fire against your Death Company

Boltgun vs Bolt Pistol/Chainsword?

This is a difficult one, in 5th Edition I always assumed that being an assault based unit then any extra attacks, striking at Initiative 5 due to Furious Charge, would be the best possible kit to get the job done. Now with Initiative 4 you are likely to lose models in the first round anyway, why not have the opportunity to do some damage with shooting first, then charge in using the Relentless special rule. Add in the doubling of Overwatch effectiveness, and the ability to contest and Objective or Linebreaker position with a 24" threat range and the decision is not so clear cut. I have recently experimented with some Boltgun Death Company on foot, and although the opportunity is there, rarely has their shooting proved effective except to prevent their own charge from happening due to Random Charge Length and the model removal rules. Once in combat too, the loss of one attack can make the difference both on the charge and in future turns' damage output. Lastly, why are you outfitting Death Company to receive a charge? Boltguns. You're doing it wrong.

"Jazz Hands"

Another reason for taking a 5 man squad is the ability to use a Death Company Dreadnought. With Fleet, 'None Can Stay My Wrath' and a pair of Blood Talons, this guy can reliably get into combat and make mincemeat out of large infantry squads, being careful of those Power Fist sergeants (less common now in 6th Edition). Dreadnoughts in general are going the way of the dodo due to Hull Points, and non-fearless squads can now elect to run away if they cannot win a combat, so a little more play-testing is required before this guy becomes a staple of my force. Even with a drop pod he must endure a turn of shooting before getting stuck in, ceding the advantage to your opponent and easily preventing him charging into combat as he can be charged, shot at, or moved away from. Either way you are losing the initiative and probably the game.

It's all about options! (The Dreadnought is a less than ideal opponent!)

So how do you line up those charges to make the most out of a Death Company Unit? Careful deployment, whether starting on the table or arriving from reserve, and patience. Moving through terrain is now an option as you can take your armour and Feel No Pain saves against dangerous terrain rules, while still using your jump pack movement. With pre-measuring now allowed there should be no excuse getting these guys shot up. You know the distance to the enemy, and you (should) know their range and their likely target preference. I find it best to use a 'tarpit' unit to hold up the enemy, whether it be Terminators or Imperial Guard. This mitigates the chance of losing bodies due to Overwatch, and guarantees you will get your extra Rage attacks and re-rolls (with a Chaplain) as you will be the one doing the charging!

There are some situations where even Death Company can't help you...

"On a player turn in which he assaults, a Chaplain and [his squad] can re-roll failed rolls To Hit. Models in a Death Company can also re-roll failed rolls To Wound."
Liturgies of Blood p42 Blood Angels Codex

So, like with most options in any of the news codices, we can multiply the effectiveness of a unit by adding a character, and with Death Company we have two options that drastically change the role of the unit.

Chaplain: 100pts. Invulnerable save for Challenges, pulling off power weapons and the like from pulping your squad, and the obvious re-rolls as mentioned above. Still costs the same as another 5 Death Company though, and if you are using a large squad then re-rolls are moot as you will probably wipe out the enemy anyway and then die just as easily to torrent fire. At Initiative 4 you could look at the option of a Power Fist as this guy will be swinging the same time as the Death Company but has the 4++ to protect him.

Reclusiarch: 130pts. If you are running Blood Angels as your primary detachment, then chances are this guy will be your Warlord, eliminating the "should I just take more Death Company?" question. Librarians are just too squishy to give away the "Slay the Warlord" Victory Point. At Initiative 5 I would be unhappy with anything but his stock Power Maul and weight of attacks with re-rolls on the charge to get the job done, no  matter how useless AP4 will be against most squads you want to be charging. At Ballistic Skill 5 it becomes worth it to take an Infernus Pistol in case the enemy hides away in tin boxes.

Getting charged is pretty much the last thing you want to have happen...

A little Math-Hammer...

So when should you spend the points for re-rolls on the charge? At minimum squad size of 3, adding a Chaplain seems dangerous indeed as you have little options to prevent him taking hits from shooting due to model position or sheer weight of wounds from some weapons, and paying 5 times a single model cost to have 3 others re-roll seems like bad "Math-Hammer" indeed.

Basically we need to calculate points "efficiency" when building the unit. With the ideal outcome being number of wounds inflicted when first charging, assuming all models get into base contact, we want to know the minimum amount of models or points spent to make a Chaplain effective. With the assumption of Bolt Pistol/Close Combat weapons, no Jump Packs (15 pts for 1/2 a wound due to Hammer of Wrath?) or Power Weapons due to cost, a non-Chaplain squad puts out 11.11 wounds per 100 points spent, against a WS4/T4 opponent with 3+ to hit, 3+ to wound for a 5 man squad.

Adding a Chaplain changes this fixed ratio of 11.11/100, being as low as 11.85 Wounds for 160 Points at the minimum squad size (7.41/100) or as high as 13.94/100 when spending 340 Points to achieve 47.41 Wounds on the enemy unit. The minimum squad size to make a bare Chaplain effective is 7 Death Company, putting out 27.65 Wounds for 240 Points, narrowly beating the 11Wounds/100Points target. All of this excludes the Chaplain's attacks but he will be issuing a challenge against the enemy character to reduce their damage output. For best sqaud damage output at an efficient points cost, leave the Chaplain at home.

My opinion? For 240 points you can buy up to 12 Death Company and have a squad that will last longer against shooting, hang around longer in combat, and had the ability to equip some of the only non-character Power Weapons in the game.

Concluding Notes

One painfully obvious thing I have left out of my blog post is the discussion of transports. Having no Rhinos in my army I cannot comment on their use, suffice to say that anything which reduces the chances of Death Company getting into combat, such as jumping out/bailing out of a metal box, should be avoided. Despite being a one turn charge in wonder now striking at the same initiative as most opponents these guys will not be ignored by your opponent, so whatever they are inside probably won't make it very far. Drop Pods are great for positioning deep inside enemy lines, with this scenario being the only in which you would consider Boltguns, but why are you spending 20 points a piece to drop vulnerable models with no special ranged weaponry away from the support of the rest of your army? The other option, and only viable option other than Jump Packs or footsloggers, is the Stormraven. An Armour 12 'Fast' 'Assault' vehicle that is a 'Flyer', and mounts additional ranged weaponry that can be rapidly re-deployed? Yes please. As far as points cost vs efficiency for this guy, that's for another blog post once I have a few games under my belt. Thanks Santa!

This will keep me busy for weeks!

UPDATE: You can see the latest on my Stormraven Gunship on my "Current Projects" Page!

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