Monday, 2 December 2019

Surrey 40k Tournament: White Scars Army Review

I recently attended a three-game Eternal War tournament in Surrey with my White Scars. This is the first time I had taken them to a tournament since the start of 8th edition, and the new codex game them a lot of useful tools to use in a new list. 

In the tournament I managed two wins and a draw. I was really pleased with that, given how few practice games I had with the White Scars before going to the event. This article will take a look at the army and what changes and improvements I would make to the list for future events. 

My army consisted of:
My White Scars army consisted of:
Battalion Detachment
Khan on Bike- Twin Bolter, Khan's Spear, Chogorian Storm, Master of Snares, Wrath of the Heavens
Librarian- Jump Pack, Force Stave, Mantle of the Stormseer, Ride the Winds, Storm-wreathed
5 Tactical Marines- Bolters, Heavy Bolter
5 Tactical Marines- Bolters, Plasma Cannon
5 Tactical Marines- Bolters, Power Sword, Flamer
5 Scouts Bikers- Twin Bolters, Shotguns, Combat Knives
5 Bikers- Twin Bolters, 2 Meltaguns, Force Stave
5 Devastators- 4 Grav-cannons, Combi-grav
Rhino- Storm Bolter
Rhino- Storm Bolter
Drop Pod- Storm Bolter

Battalion Detachment
Captain- Bike, Twin Bolter, Teeth of Terra
Lieutenant- Jump Pack, Power Axe, MC Bolter
5 Scouts- Bolters
5 Scouts- Bolters
5 Scouts- Bolt Pistol, Combat Knives
10 Vanguard Veterans- 5 with 2 Chainswords, 5 with Chainsword and Plasma Pistol
5 Sternguard Veterans- Special Issue Bolters
Thunderfire Cannon- Techmarine Gunner with Flamer, Plasma Cutter, 2 Servo-arms

1750 pts.

This was not an optimal army by any means. It was simply some useful units that I had in my collection and some options that I wanted to try out with the new codex and supplement.

Army Thoughts
Overall, the army worked pretty well, but there are definitely some improvements that could be made.

The army has some good mobility on the tabletop, with the Bikers and transport units. Getting to advance and charge is great, allowing the army to move very fast around the board, especially the Bikes and Scout Bikers. This gives the army some great mobility for going after enemy units and objectives.

I really like the White Scars Chapter Tactics. The ability to advance and charge and fall back and charge is really powerful on the army. With the correct wrapping tactics and charge moves, you can potentially tie up enemy units to stop them from firing in your turn, or charge an enemy vehicle to keep your enemy units safe from harm, and then still fall back and charge in your turn.

The bonus to White Scars in the Assault Doctrine is a big boost as well. I was a little underwhelmed when I first read it, as you need to wait to turn 3 before it is activated. For me, many games would be over by the third turn, so I didn't see this as a huge boost to the army.

However, in practice this was an incredible ability once activated. I found that even basic infantry going up to 2 damage and AP-1 in combat was fantastic against a range of enemy units. It was particularly useful against vehicles and Biker units, as each unsaved wound caused a lot of damage. This was particularly evident in my second game, where the 2 damage attacks helped me to take out a ton of Venoms and Jetbikes in my third turn, gaining me about 10 kill points in a single turn and swinging the game in my favour.

This ability is very powerful when used correctly. The only issue is keeping your hard hitting units alive long enough in order to take full advantage of it. Much of the terrain and my opponent's armies didn't afford me the opportunity to sit back till my third turn and then go in for the kill. The use of progressive scoring in many missions meant that you can't sit and hide for two turns and allow your opponent to score for free. In addition, many tournament games, you can sometimes struggle to get past turn 3 or 4, depending on your opponent. This means that hiding for half the game is not always going to be feasible, as you will probably just lose the mission anyway. This is especially true in maelstrom games, where you need to go out and grab objectives or deal with enemy units.

I also noticed that the army is very command points hungry. I was frequently spending all my command points by turn 2, most of them were going in turn 1. With no way for non-Ultramarines to reliably regenerate command points during the game, this means that I was stuck with what I started with most of the time.

Much of the command point use was wasted in hindsight. I frequently fired the Thunderfire Cannon twice, without really needing to do so during the turn. I also wasted a lot of CP on the Scout Bikers to buff them, for not much return on investment in most cases. Command point management with the army is something I will need to look at in the future, so that I can afford to use some of the tasty new stratagems in future games.

As much as the new Marines hit very hard, they are still pretty fragile when targeted by enemy fire or combat. The Bikes, Tactical Marines and Scouts fell pretty easily in many of my games, with only the characters having a good level of durability to enemy attacks.

I'll now take a look at the individual units and see what worked and what changes can be made.

Khan on Bike
My warlord was a Khan on Bike. He comes with some reasonable combat prowess, with the Khan spear making him S8 on the charge, hitting with a 2+ re-rollable, AP-3 and D3 damage. The Chogorian Storm warlord trait gives him +D3 attacks on the charge or heroic intervention, giving him between 6-8 attacks.
He has a 2+ save against melee weapons and a 4+ invulnerable, making him pretty durable in combat against most opponents.

I gave him the Relic jetbike, allowing him to move 16" and ignore terrain and enemy units in the movement phase, though not in the charge phase, which is important for his positioning during the movement phase.

I also gave him the Master of Snares warlord trait, which is incredible. This allows you to stop enemy units from falling back on a 4+, and has been a game winner for me in many games with the White Scars.

In my games, I played the Khan very aggressively. He would advance 22" towards the enemy army, usually supported by the Scout Bikers. The Librarian would then cast Storm-wreathed to stop enemy overwatch from targeting the Khan, as well as Ride the Winds to give him +2 to charge. This allows him to charge on the first turn in almost all my games, with only Hammer and Anvil proving to be difficult if your opponent deploys deep.

With the Storm-wreathed power activated, the Khan can attempt a charge on multiple enemy units without having to worry about firepower. This allowed him to target his attacks against one enemy unit and have multiple chances to keep enemy units locked in combat in the following turn. The Khan was a great addition to the army, doing a lot of damage to most infantry units in combat and having good odds of keeping enemy units in combat in the following turn.

With the Relic jetbike, it is very difficult to wrap him in combat, as he gains the ability to move over enemy units, allowing him to fall back and charge again in my turn to get the bonus attacks.

One area where the Khan does suffer is the variable damage of the Khan's spear. This made it difficult to take out multi-wound models and do a lot of damage to enemy vehicles. In addition, on a turn where he does not charge, he is only S5, meaning his damage output is lower in the enemy turn when he is locked in combat.

I would probably switch out the Khan for a Captain on Bike with Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield. This would allow his damage output to stay high, while also improving his durability with a 3+ invulnerable save. I would keep the other aspects the same; the Relic Jetbike, Master of Snares and Chogorian Storm, as this is a powerful combination on the warlord.

The Librarian is key for doing well with the Khan in the list. The White Scars have some fantastic psychic powers, with Storm-wreathed and Ride the Winds being the best in my opinion.

The ability to shut down enemy overwatch is a very powerful ability to grant to a White Scars unit, allowing you to potentially charge and tie up multiple enemy units, stopping them from firing as you charge in more units to combat.

Ride the Winds is also great for helping you make the charges, giving you +2 to the range. With both powers on the Khan, you can afford to declare a charge on multiple enemy units, in case you can roll well on the charge and get to tie up further away enemy units.

The Mantle of the Stormseer is useful, allowing you to cast both powers on a 5+. It would be nice to give the Librarian some form of invulnerable save, in order to keep him alive for longer, but the bonus to casting is very useful. There were a few times when I rolled a 5 for my test and didn't need to spend a CP to re-roll and get the key power off.

I would definitely take the Librarian again.

Captain on Bike
I also took a Captain on Bike with the Teeth of Terra relic.

This gives him 8 attacks on the charge that are AP-2 and 2 damage each. This is a great tool for taking out Primaris units and other infantry squads in the enemy army. A lot of the time, the second Biker Captain held back with the Bike Squad to go in as a second wave.

I think the Captain did well, but my army doesn't really struggle against infantry, so the Teeth of Terra is a bit redundant in the list.

I think I might give the Captain a more powerful combat weapon for going after enemy monsters and vehicles.

Devastators and Drop Pod
I took a unit of five Devastators with four Grav Cannons and a Combi-grav on the Sergeant (simply as it was modeled this way). With the Gravitic Amplification stratagem, I thought this unit would provide some great firepower for taking out enemy vehicles or heavily armoured units.

However, in practice, I found that they really didn't deliver much to the force. It didn't help that I was facing Aeldari and Ynnari in my first two games. In my first game, my opponent was able to play Lightning Fast Reflexes, meaning that I was hitting on a 6+ with the squad. In the second game, I was hitting on a 5+ when the same stratagem was being used, as well as bouncing off of the 4+ invulnerable save of the harlequins.

In my third game, they were unable to take out a unit of Immortals, though did do a lot more damage since they were hitting on a 4+.

This unit rarely survives past turn 1 in most of my games. This could either be due to bad positioning or choosing poor targets to go after.

The Drop Pod was fine for deployment, but I don't think the turn 1 deep strike is really necessary for my list in most cases.

I could easily drop this unit from the list and I don't think it would make a whole lot of difference.

Scout Squads
I took three Scout Squads; two with Bolters and one with Bolt Pistols and Combat Weapons.

The Scout Squad is still one of the best options for Space Marines, in my opinion. The ability to deploy out of your deployment zone is still a huge bonus that many armies do not have access to. They do have more competitive with the Infiltrators, who are a lot tougher and come with more special rules, but are more expensive.

I use the Scouts quite aggressively, as the ability to advance and charge almost guarantees you a first turn charge with the Scouts, allowing you to tie up enemy units or go for a first turn kill with your unit.

The Bolter Scouts can add to the firepower of the army, thanks to Bolter Discipline. The Combat Scouts can actually put out a fair bit of damage thanks to Shock Assault, going up to 3 attacks each on the charge (or if they are charged).

I am a little reckless with the Scouts and they rarely survive long enough to get to the Assault Doctrine.

I think the Scouts are a solid option in the codex and like to include them in my army. I might try adding some Infiltrators to see if they can do more than the Scouts, as well as the ability to block enemy deep strikers.

Tactical Squads
I took three Tactical Squads to fill out my battalions, armed with a variety of Heavy Weapons and Special Weapons.

I mostly used the Tactical Squads for backfield objective holding. As a result, I spent much of my games hiding them out of line of sight, so the Heavy Weapons were pretty useless, as I rarely fired them in my turn. If I was taking the squad again, I would probably drop the Heavy Weapons.

One squad had a Flamer and Power Sword, and went in a Rhino to get them up the table. The Rhino was great for protecting them from harm, but I don't think the squad did much work when I got them up the table.

I will probably be dropping the Tactical Squads from a future list and try out some Intercessors. The extra wound and AP bonus on the Bolt Rifle should help them out for backfield firepower and improve their durability in cover.

Sternguard Veterans
I took a squad of 5 Sternguard Veterans to try out the squad with the new Doctrine rules for the extra AP. The squad performed much like a Tactical Squad, useful in the list at times, but didn't really add to much in the army. One possible reason is that I came up against a lot of units with invulnerable saves, so the extra AP of their Bolters didn't have much of an impact on the games.

I think I'll be dropping the Sternguard Veterans in future lists, I don't think they add much to the list.

Vanguard Veterans
I took a single squad of Vanguard Veterans, which I combat squad into a unit of 5 with Plasma Pistols and Chainswords and a unit of 5 with dual Chainswords.

My thought behind the squad was to bring them in on turn 3 to get the bonus of the Assault Doctrine and do some damage with their AP-1 and 2 damage attacks.

In practice, the Plasma Pistol squad was doing more work. The 9" charge from reserve is a risky prospect in many cases, and the Vanguard Veterans did not seem to make their charge much of the time. By turn 3, my Librarian was dead in most games, not allowing him to use his psychic powers to boost their odds of making a charge.

I want to try the Vanguard Veterans in a few more games before deciding on them. I might need to add a second Librarian to go with them in order to cast Ride the Winds on them to allow them to get a bonus to their charge roll.

Thunderfire Cannon
The Thunderfire Cannon was pretty effective in my games, but I think I wasted its potential in a couple of them.

In the first game, I decided to target the Shining Spears to try and whittle them down before they could do much damage to my army. As it was, I spent 2CP to get it to fire twice and only managed to kill one or two the unit. Not really worth it.

I would have been better using it to target the Dire Avengers and get first strike in my turn instead. I was quite wasteful with CP in my games; spending too many on my Bikers and always firing the Cannon twice, even when it wasn't necessary.

I did much of the same in my second game, but this time the invulnerable saves of much of the army meant the Cannon struggled to do much damage in the game.

In the third game against the Necrons, it was far more effective, helping me to get first strike against the Immortals and helping to whittle down the Necron Warriors over several turns.

I didn't get a chance to use Tremor Shells any of my three games. The reason for this is that I was mostly coming up against targets with Fly, meaning the stratagem couldn't be used against them. I still think it is a very effective stratagem, but just didn't really do much in the match ups that I had.

I will definitely be taking the Thunderfire Cannon in the list again. It is simply too good not to take in a list.

Scout Bikers
The Scout Bikers were chosen to act as a fast screen for my Khan on Bike, as well as providing some firepower and combat support.

The Scout Bikers are very fast on the tabletop, able to move 22" while advancing and still being allowed to charge after.

However, I found the damage they could inflict to be pretty low during my games. They can put out a lot of firepower with their Bolters and Shotguns, but I didn't really notice it doing much during my games. The same with their combat ability. On paper it is decent, but I don't really recall it doing much in my games.

Another issue is that I was wasting too many CP on the unit. In my games, I would use Born in the Saddle to allow them to shoot when advancing, as well as skilled riders (for 2CP) to give them a 3+ invulnerable save against shooting. This second one was a complete waste most times, as I tended to charge them in with the Khan, tying up a unit and keeping them safe from enemy firepower in the next turn anyway.

However, it did come in useful in game 1, allowing me to survive a lot of firepower from the Aeldari flyer and keep going.

I will probably use the Scout Bikers again, as they are a nice screen for the Khan on Bike, but I will limit the CP I spend on them and temper my expectations for them going forward. A Power Weapon on the Sergeant might help to improve their damage output in combat a little.

I also took a unit of Bikers with two Meltaguns and a Power Axe on the Sergeant.

I don't really recall this unit doing much in my games. They have some decent firepower, but die far too easily in the game to make them worth the points cost.

I will most likely drop them from the list in future games. A shame, as I really like Bikers, but they do struggle in the current edition of the game.

The new codex is great for the White Scars, giving them some powerful boosts and abilities. The army performed very well in my games, even without the army being optimised.

Luckily, I have another tournament coming up soon with which to test the new list. My plan is to drop the Bike squad and the Tactical Squads. I am going to add some Primaris Marines to the list, as well as a Chaplain, in order to test his new abilities. 

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