Monday, May 25, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Raven Guard Darkwing Pattern Storm Eagle Gunship

On Kiavahr, the technological guilds have not yet ceded control of their Manufactoria to the Mechanicum. This means that the Raven Guard are the sole beneficiaries of various stealth technologies that they produce as these guilds hold a lot of affection for the XIX Legio, and the other legions (presumably with the exception of the Alpha Legion) have not managed to get their grubby hands on these kits. One of these bits of kit is the Darkwing Gunship.

In short, the Darkwing is an upgraded Storm Eagle Gunship. Its base cost is more than for the other craft that shares its name, but what do those extra points give the Raven Guard player? Well, firstly it is an assault vehicle with Stealth and Outflank (a very nice 3+ jink save here!). Naturally, this is very fitting for the Raven Guard. But on top of this, it loses some transport space, but gains some new weapons systems. Firing eclipse missiles that are S4 heavy 2 and large blast with concussive is very nice, but has its limitations. Clearly this weapon system is supposed to be fired prior to an onboard unit charging in and finishing off its target. But the target has to be selected carefully. No point firing at terminators who were always going to go last in combat already and who have a 2+ save.

The main weakness is the reduced capacity of transport. It cannot take a full 20 space marine squad, but it can take almost that number. Of course, this depends on whether the transported marines are bulky or not. Hence we can't be taking a full terminator squad or anything of the sort here. It has to be limited in number. And presumably ready to follow up on the targets that have already been fired at with the eclipse missiles. Hence, a small Dark Fury Squad would seem very appropriate.

There are very few builds here. The basic Darkwing is perfectly viable. The only question is whether it needs to have Armoured Ceramite (how much Melta is there knocking around in the local meta?), a search light (if facing Night Lords in particular!), and extra armour (just to be sure). These are all dependant on taste and one's local meta-game to some extent, so pick and choose accordingly.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Dark Fury Assault Squad

Leaping on to the battlefield from aerial support sections of the legion, the dark fury squads - a specialist type of Raven Guard assault unit - specialise in getting in to the right position at the right time, using all available terrain, to perform the decapitation strike where it is most required.

The major difference between dark fury squads and regular assault squads are both their use of lightning claws and their special rules that enhance their use. To my mind, they sit at the mid-point between assault squads and the chaos space marine Warp Talons. They don't have any blinding effects when they come in to play, but they do gain a cover save for the single turn that they arrive by deep strike. This is important as they will be reliant on it to survive for one turn since they cannot assault directly after deep striking.

Their second advantage over assault squads is that they gain one bonus initiative point on the charge. This can be amazing as they're now going to be striking first against most other legions and squads at improved initiative. Therefore these squads are ones to use in a very specialised manner: they must come in, survive for one turn and charge on the next turn. And they must choose their targets well. Don't forget the Raven Guard legion rules as well which means they they will also have furious charge.

Although the sergeant (known as the Chooser of the Slain) has artificer armour and the Raven's Talons, the rest of the squad are basically standard space marines with jump packs. They are just as vulnerable as regular assault squads. The significant draw back here though is the complete lack of ranged weaponry. They must get in to combat to have any effect whatsoever.

There really are not too many builds to consider to be honest, since there are not too many options to pick between. Here are just two. Either way, they're great, and highly points efficient. Just remember: no ranged weapons.

5 Dark Furies (175 points)
The vanilla flavour squad. Nothing special here, but they don't need much. They should be headed  (nay: charging) directly to their target after deep striking and running.

10 Dark Furies, Chooser of the Slain with melta bombs (330 points)
The fully kitted-out version of the squad. Probably a bit overkill to be honest, but it is slightly cheaper than having two lots of the above version. At this level, I might be preferring a regular assault squad, but it depends on your preferences between ranged weapons being deployed quickly and assault-tuned jump pack squads. Equally, put a chaplain with them for bonus kills and be happy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Mor Deythan Strike Squad

The Mor Deythan are the Shadow Masters of the Raven Guard. They have inherited a quantum of their gene-sire's talent for blending in to the background and becoming invisible. Just as the Librarius of a legion sometimes takes recruits and indoctrinates them in to using and expanding their psychic potential, the Mor Deythan operate a parallel structure: recruiting novices who display a strong tendency of inheriting Corax's unique abilities and training them up in their own ways. That said, the vast majority of these men are the true veterans of the Lycaeus uprising and are truly the masters of their arts.

Their unique ability is to declare a Fatal Strike once per game from the start of any given shooting phase. This gives members of the squad not only twin linked on their weapons, but also yields rending. If they're using rifles, the rending rule improves by one pip above normal. This clearly calls for the squad to be involved in an alpha-strike as early as possible.

Beyond this, they have access to shroud bombs as well as gaining scouts and stealth.

Not too many weaknesses exist here. Think of them as recon squads with better rules and you can see why they're popular. To be perfectly honest, I think they're a great target for the Alpha Legion's Coil of the Hydra rite of war as well. Obtaining that fatal strike special rule is awesome for any alpha-strike (pardon the pun) army that is running around. The combination of infiltration and scouts is particularly devastating to enemy armies (for either Raven Guard or Alpha Legion fans).

That said, these marines are still regular space marines. They need to watch out for vindicators, power swords and the like. Plus they don't have access to power weapons. And they can get expensive at larger sizes. Other than that, one must evaluate if the loss of things like outflank balance out the gains of stealth. If not, then head to recon squads instead. I believe that the Mor Deythan are totally worth it though, even in slightly larger squad sizes. Go for them - I don't think anyone will be especially disappointed by their ability to kill things.

There are a good number of configurations to consider here. I'll provide some of the more popular ones (and ones I personally like).

10 Mor Deythan, all with sniper rifles, shade with melta bombs (280 points)
This is a sniper squad ready to take advantage of the Fatal Strike special rule from turn one. Use it before this squad gets annihilated as they will certainly be a target. Halve the number for a still effective, but cheaper squad (which incidentally costs the same as a recon squad).

9 Mor Deythan, all with combi-flamers (268 points)
Wow. This squad is totally deadly. All those flame shots with rending spells certain doom for whatever they decide to target in the fatal strike turn -- which should also be the first turn. Take a relic and artificer armour on the Shade for extra close combat fun. There are 9 members of the squad here simply because I see it as an effective squad for carrying a stealthy HQ choice in to close combat. Take 10 otherwise. Drop pods with the Raven Guard rite of war and I think you can all but wipe out a full enemy tactical squad using this set up.  Replace with combi-meltas for taking care of heavy armour (which is not a particular strength of the legion, to be fair).

6 Mor Deythan, 2 with missile launchers, 4 with combi-plasmas (203 points)
It has to die? No worries, the Mor Deythan can do that job for you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Raven Guard Legion Rules

Background Material Evaluation
Born out of the rebellion of Deliverance, the Raven Guard are known to use stealth, assassination and highly targeted operations to cause as few casualties as possible to achieve their goals. They're keen on jet packs, drop pods, and alpha strikes, perhaps even more so than the Alpha Legion. Indeed, they are somewhat between the Alpha Legion and the Night Lords in terms of their operations. They are quick moving like both, but don't rely on fear unless necessary and certainly aren't in to the mutilation exhibited by the Night Lords. They pull apart their enemies and use infiltration tactics, but not usually for sport or with the amount of cloaked secrecy, and they certainly don't leave behind rubble and ruin, like the Alpha Legion.

Extermination paints a picture of the Raven Guard as a legion that is equal parts night and day - dark and light. Combining lightning strikes with directed target assassination (particularly against dictators and negative rulers that need to be dealt with to advance the Great Crusade), they're very effective at what they do. Yet they do not seek out the limelight. As pale as their skins and as dark as their eyeballs, they are the ghosts of the Legions when required to be so.

Legion Rules Review
Their primary rule is entitled By Wing & Talon. This is a result of how Lord Corax shaped his legion and the units contained within it. Depending on the type of unit in question, each unit gains a further unique rule. For infantry, this is infiltration plus fleet. This makes them at least as good as the Alpha Legion where required.  For jump infantry and fast moving elements like bikes, as well as terminators, they gain furious assault.

These two rules combined suggest a close assault orientated army. Sure, they're no slouches in the shooting phase, but these rules enable them to both get close and to have a close combat advantage that begs to be utilised.

The second rule is Flesh over Steel. This one is a draw-back to counter-balance the above rule. In short, they cannot take more tanks than Astartes units. If anything, this reinforces the above conclusion about having to field a close combat orientated army. It is going to be one that is orientated toward getting close and using the pressure of its troops to cause the damage where required. Unlike the Alpha Legion (which is comparable in these regards), the Raven Guard of the XIX legion has a more distinct disadvantage than their brothers in the XX legion. It means that they cannot field every type of army, even if they wanted to.

For those models with lightning claws, they can be upgraded to The Raven's Talons which are super powered versions. In short, they're master crafted as well as rending. Although a little pricey, I can see them being purchased for some squad sergeants (e.g., assault squads). For some squads, upgrading every model to these talons would be an option. But it starts to get terribly expensive and unless its a death star unit, I can't advise it.

Characters in the army can be given an infra visor at a very modest cost. These are worth it when you know you're going to up against armies like the Night Lords, or in general anticipate some night fighting. Equally, they're going to be at a disadvantage against blind grenades and similar effects. They're probably worth taking on a shooting orientated HQ selection like some of the consul types.

Cameleolines can also be purchased for character models. These in general depend on the nature of the HQ in question. For many of the stealthy and infiltrating (see: By Wing & Talon, above) this can be a great boon and should be taken. But for others, perhaps not.

Rite of War
The Raven Guard's specific rite of war is the Decapitation Strike. This means the gain of preferred enemy against enemy independent characters (note: not squad sergeants, but full independent characters). They can also re roll die for deploying first and going first, as well as selecting drop pods for most types of infantry based squads short of terminators. On top of this, the potentially devastating Deathstorm drop pod can be used as an elites slot as well as heavy support.

Summing Up
The rite of war combination (and even without it, in fact) suggests the deployment of some back field units who watch a bunch of Deathstorms coming down (or other area-clearing units), only to be followed up with regular marines inside drop pods. All the while supported by whatever elements are creeping up the field with infiltration. The rules seem to be geared particularly to getting not only first blood, but also slay the warlord. Grab these two, and then try to enact an Alpha Strike to get the enemy done for, and the army will thank you for it. I think that if the game starts to get a bit longer though, the legion could get in to trouble due to lack of rhino-based mobility and other tanks to support their troops. Therefore, the Raven Guard player should be thinking ahead about what their tactics are going to be after the first turn or two. Do they need to take objectives, or can they go for a full-out rout and slaying of the enemy? The lack of tanks and potential mobility after the drop pods have struck are an issue that merit pre-planning.


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