Friday, March 13, 2009

Death Guard Firepower

This post follows on from my previous thoughts on running Death Guard armies. It is part of my developing philosophy of playing this unique army - not necessarily the best or worst way of playing; simply an opinion.

I've talked extensively about the advantages of Death Guard marines. Hence today, I'm going to start to have a look at what they're lacking, and their negatives in general. The first one of these is sheer firepower.

Reasons for the deficiency.
Simply put, Death Guard (i.e. mainly plague marines, but also other chaos space marines with a small squad size and an icon of Nurgle) are expensive troop choices. Death Guard players simply won't be fielding as many troops as Imperial Guard players or Ork players, or even "normal" chaos space marines tend to. In that respect, they are a little bit like the Death Wing of the Dark Angels. However, unlike Death Wing, they don't have storm bolters: simply the humble run-of-the-mill bolt gun. They get out-shot by loyalist marines and other chaos marine factions with ease. Sure, their toughness makes up for it. But they just won't have the sheer number of shots per turn that nearly all of their adversaries are likely to.

Making up for it.
(1) Manoeuvre.
Death Guard have awesome staying power, but large amounts of incoming fire and a smaller amount of outgoing fire mean they need to be used strategically. When playing with Death Guard, I often ask myself if I need to expose them. e.g.: Do they really need to get out of that rhino? Do they truly need to poke their heads around the blocks-line-of-sight terrain feature? Is the turn clock approaching turn 5 when I need to keep my eye firmly on objectives? Why should I place my plague marines in the line of return fire?

In many respects, much of what Fritz practices with Saim-Hann is applicable here. The Death Guard player must choose targets carefully and not unnecessarily expose his or her own troops to return heavy fire power. Knowing when to go out in to the open to bait or engage a particular unit is half of the trick.

(2) Blasts and Templates.
Re-rolling die to hit or die to wound would make Death Guard much more deadly (perhaps along with Epidemius on the table in an Apocalypse game as well). But that situation is hard to arrange in a standard game using the present chaos marine codex.

Instead, I have moved toward the line of thought that templates and blasts can help to make up for the lack of fire-power. Why? Basically because they are likely to hit more than one target. A well placed flamer can easily account for 3 or more enemy troops - i.e. 3+ hits from one weapon. It seems a simple concept, and it is. I've taken to designing my Death Guard army lists around it. I regularly take flamers in plague marine squads (if not taking meltas for other purposes); I use vindicators (plural) in most standard games; my dreadnought has a plasma cannon (I wish I'd also purchased a missile launcher as well to be honest!); I always take havoc launchers on my rhinos and predators given the option and available points; etc.

I sometimes get an incredible gasp of un-belief from opponents when a single plague marine unit unleashes 3 flamer templates upon a terrain-entrenched enemy unit (2 flamers and one combi-flamer on a plague champion). Havoc launchers are twin-linked making them (quietly) rather good indeed in my opinion. And what's not to like about vindicators? (perhaps they're not as good as they were in 4th edition, but they're still very good!!). Adding the havoc launcher to a predator creates an impressive rate of fire combined with heavy bolter sponsons and auto-cannon for 115 points (that equals less than the cost of 8 chaos marines).

Finally, there's Nurgle's Rot for the psykers and sorcerers in the army. With a 6 inch radius, just get in to a nicely crowded close combat and watch the unlikely casualties mount without rolling to hit in the slightest. I know some folks swear by this ability. I often take warp time on a daemon prince instead for the re-roll benefits, but Nurgle's Rot is (ummm) "growing" on me. Think of it this way: even with warp time, the daemon prince is getting 4 attacks. With Nurgle's Rot, the daemon prince gets the equivalent of more attacks (potentially many more if it is a big combat), but less are going to wound.


Ryan said...

Good points. I am currently running my second Nurgle marked Chaos Marine army (The Purge, first was Death Guard with the craptacular 3rd ed codex), and they are an absolute pain to win with... but they do make my opponent work hard for his win. Ill have to invest in more templates and blasts, Id been focusing on rate of fire and AP...

Cannonfodder said...

Good read- I am just starting playing plague marines as standinrules for my dark Adeptus (see my blog for a pic) and am already experiencing the lack of damage I do. I go another way: Closecombat with as many dreads and defilers as i can.

Farmpunk said...

good thoughts. I've always liked Nurgle Marines.
I've discussed with a Chaos playing friend of mine using Thousand sons with Nurgle (he twitches, because of 4th ed codex fluff)

thousand sons for nasty fire to take things down, and plague marines to hold objectives. All of them in rhinos like you run them with havok launchers.

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