Monday, 10 October 2011

Rules Rant: Howl Like a Wolf If You Saw This Coming

Lukas by skeenoman

Do you own a Space Wolves codex? Ever noticed the massive blank spot on the bottom half of page 89? Right below the Grey Hunters' entry? Yes, that peculiar shaded area. You might have wondered what was meant to go there and so I'll answer that for you.

Oftentimes when our brains see something very traumatic or strange the mind does it's best to suppress the memory of it. What hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars worth of therapy might reveal to the recovering gaming mind is the Blood Claws entry in all its loathsome overcosted-ness.

Blood Claws are a peculiar unit in game design terms. Fluff-wise they are meant to be inferior to their more seasoned Grey Hunter brethren but in game terms they have been costed the same indicating that what they lack in experience they make up for in sheer savagery. Let's take a look.

15 points per model for stats that are identical to Space Marine scouts but with power armor trying and failing to make for a riot of useful special rules (infiltrate, move through cover, scouts). They have a Bolt Pistol and Close Combat Weapon… so they have less weapons than their Grey Hunter equivalents. They have the oft-taken-for-granted special rules that all space marines enjoy, namely ATSKNF and something to replace Combat Tactics (in this case Counter-Attack and Acute Senses).

In the options section we find they can take the same special weapons as the Grey Hunters… for the same points? But with Ballistic Skill 3? What's more they can only take a second weapon if they number 15 strong ruining almost any attempt to keep their Headstrong rule at bay by placing them in a transport and raising the cost in points to a ridiculous level.

The lack of special weapon shouldn't affect us all that much anyway since there's a great chance they'll never get to use them. The wonderfully inconvenient Headstrong special rule disallows us from shooting if the squad is within 6 inches of an enemy. Yes that does mean that if you're standing next to an enemy Land Raider with a humming meltagun prepped and ready to go you have to assault it instead. Don't worry though! The Headstrong special rule makes it very clear that you'll still benefit from the Berserk Charge special rule! Phew!

Speaking of the Berserk Charge rule, this is what really gives the Wolf Claws the edge when compared with Grey Hunters. It gives each model +2 Attacks for charging rather than the usual +1. Naturally this rule helps not at all when being charged but that's cool since you have… that thing… that one thing that makes it easier for you to assault instead of being assaulted. Fleet maybe? No, they don't have that… Oh! A dedicated Land Raider so you don't have to lose out on Long Fangs! No, they don't have that either. Well maybe… No. Heck at least the Wolf Standard will make those charges even more devastating!
Crap.

Never one to quit quickly when beating a beast of burden I say we should take a look at the Wolf Claws' very own upgrade character, Lukas the Trickster. Luke has a mediocre HQ's statline which makes him good for a hidden troop character. The fact that you could get another whole squad off of his points cost alone will not deter us in examining his fail further.

When Codex: Space Wolves had first come out I remember everyone going on about how amazing Luke's Last Laugh rules was. He could kill anything just by dying! What an excellent mechanic - good thing they didn't make this guy cheaper - he would be the bane of heavy hitting IC's everywhere! Just imagine! Luke's squad is going toe to toe with a beast like Thrakka. Perfect! Thrakka's owner rolls his attacks, 4 hit and one gets allocated to Luke! But what's this? "All successful To Hit rolls allocated against Lukas… must be re-rolled." That's right, Luke's cloak makes him impossible to hit. 3 Blood claws still die though and the unit breaks (Luke has Ld 8 just like a normal BC - wouldn't want him buffing the squad by accident!). Next turn the unit is shot at by a mob of Lootas. It's depleted and so wounds wrap around and kill Lukas. He's still in base contact with his own squad since they've just fallen back from CC. The two players roll a die and the squad disappears. Awesome, Lukas' Last Laugh special rule doesn't specify enemy models - just take out whatever's touching Luke at the time and make a note to stick another pin in your GW playtesting department voodoo doll.

Man these Blood Claws are something else. Restless and Headstrong to no end. They're so out of control they couldn't even be trusted to keep their bad design to the troops section. They've infected the Fast Attack slot as well with their Skyclaw and Swiftclaw nonsense. Just because you're on a bike and it might kill you doesn't mean you shouldn't assault whatever's closest, in terrain or not! Superb!

There's a reason whenever someone tells me how much better the Space Wolf codex is than the regular marine codex I never run short of arguments to the contrary. And if you're having doubts yourself, why dear reader, all you need do is flip to the Wolf Guard entry and see how many points it takes to make your swiftclaws remotely useable. Boner-breaking special rules for the win!

-Atrotos

10 comments:

Alex Kostyuk said...

If i remember correctly the only time models should be in base to base contact , its during an assault phase, when theyre falling back they can still be up to 2 inches appart, so lukas killing his own guys while falling back could rather hard to accomplish :)

Ahrimaneus said...

Except for the fact that SW does what C:SM does just a little bit better, and cheaper in points cost.  Longfangs are cheaper, and have better utility with their split fire rule.  GH's are cheaper than a tactical marine, with counter-attack and they remembered to bring their bolter, bolt pistol, AND chainsword, making them not-total-pushovers in CC.  Combine these basic principles with things like multiple rune priests with Jaws, Living Lightning, and Murderous Hurricane, along with Scouts that come in from the opponents table edge, and you've just about rounded out how SW trumps SM in nearly every FOC category.  Now, this doesn't mean the SM equivalents are bad, or that they can't be played well, but getting more bang for your buck across the board gives you a few extra units that can really turn the tide on the tabletop.

Oh, but I do agree that Blood Claws are absolute garbage.

Master_Bryss said...

Being as I am a non-Space Wolves player, I may be missing something, but Berserk Charge does not activate when you Counter-Attack? That sucks.

I've always wondered why the cost of combat weapons goes up with GW's favourite thing to make expensive, Strength, and yet the same doesn't apply to ranged guns and BS. I really am going to have to write a Strength article at some point.

Atrotos said...

If they were in base contact during the assault and the fallback move was done correctly they're still in contact. The move is a straight line, there's no chance to spread them. 

Atrotos said...

You know I don't really agree with SW being outright better than SM. Mechanic for mechanic they are completely balanced - only the Grey Hunters are undercosted in my mind. The long fangs seem too good because devastators are overcosted in the SM codex - their true points costs are evident in the BA codex (cheaper weapons).

Atrotos said...

Moreover weapon upgrades aren't adjusted for opportunity cost. A plasmagun costs the same for a Storm Trooper as it does for a Veterans but the ST trades a hot-shot lasgun (which he's already paid for) and the Vet loses only a flashlight. 

The Antipope said...

Haha, an entertaining and infomative read (just finished playing Space Marine online in case you are wondering what I am doing up so late). Young pups indeed do suck although a deathstar with 15 of them and a wolf priest inside a Land Raider could work in the right circumstances.

Master_Bryss said...

My personal favourite of those came from the old DE 'Dex. 'Up to two Incubi may swap their S4 power weapons of doom for a Blaster for +10 points.' I'm sorry, I'm playing to take away my power weapon attacks?

abusepuppy said...

SM has Combat Tactics and Combat Squads, both very relevant abilities. SM also has TH/SS, which trump most other "elite" combat units in the game, including TWC. Heavy weapons in its troop slots make it better at being a "stand and shoot" army than SW, who must play aggressively (and risk troop units) to use Meltaguns.

SW is different from SM, not just better in every way. Tacticals are certainly feeling their age (they should get specials at 5man, really) and SM Devs are hilariously overcosted (BA gets the "correct" prices), but the codex can still hold its own.

abusepuppy said...

The FAQ specifies that only attacks made specifically against Lukas are rerolled, not just any attacks against the squad that are allocated to him, so his ability only functions when the rest of the squad is dead.

But otherwise, yeah, the whole unit is friggin' terrible.