Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Codex Review: Space Wolf Troops

[This article is part of the Codex Review: Space Wolves article series.]

You may be surprised that I am doing back-to-back publishing days with my blog.  Luckily, I am able to take a few weeks of paternity leave to help the wife as she transitions back to work.  Thus, I have quite a bit more free time on my plate, which I am loving.  Hopefully, this will translate into a denser content publishing schedule.

So, today we talk about Space Wolf troops.  There are two, which is fairly standard throughout most of the codexes these days with only a few notable exceptions.  The choices a Space Wolf general has to select from are Blood Claws and Grey Hunters.  Let's dive in and see what we have here.

Blood Claws are an interesting unit.  A Blood Claw costs 15pt and for that you get a sub-optimal marine.  I say this because Blood Claws have standard marine stats with WS and BS 3.  Yep.  That's right.  So in many, if not all cases, they will be hitting on 4's and be hit on 3's.  Not too fun.  A Blood Claw model comes with power armor, close combat weapon, bolt pistol, and frags and kraks.  Essentially they are assault marines without jump packs (yet). Blood Claws may take a flamer, meltagun, or plasmagun, and if the unit is 15 models strong, it can take a second one of these weapons for free. This brings up an interesting point.  Blood Claws are one of the only marine units in the game that can be taken in units of more than 10.  I think of Black Templar Crusader Squads and Blood Angel Death Company as other examples. Aside from the special weapons, another Blood Claw can pay to take a plasma pistol and another may purchase a power weapon or power fist.  Also, as mentioned in my Named Characters review, one squad can take Lukas the Trickster.

Blood Claws have two unique rules that may or may not be a blessing.  The rules are Berzerk Charge and Headstrong.  Berzerk Charge makes Blood Claws look better than they are.  It gives them +2 attacks on a turn that they assault (but not counter attack) instead of +1.  Again, this looks good, but since they are WS3, it isn't as flash as it sounds. 

Headstrong is the rule that can get them in trouble.   If Blood Claws are within 6" of an enemy model, during the shooting phase, they must forgo shooting, and have to assault in the assault phase, if they are able.  This negates their ability to plink off extra wounds in the shooting phase befoer assaulting in, which I think definitely hurts them.  The underlined portion of the rule is the only loophole.  Either keep them just out of 6" from units you don't want to assault or run them in the shooting phase.  Otherwise, a canny opponent may call you out and you will be forced to assault into a unit of halberd toting paladins or hammernators.  Another way to counteract this rule is to add in a Wolf Guard pack leader or IC.  If you have one, this rule is voided. Unfortunately, having a required babysitter for the unit also makes it more expensive.

I have never run Blood Claws.  I simply don't like them.  They seem too risky and inefficient.  That said, I have seen them used before and heard of other uses for them and this is what I have seen.  In most cases, they are run in units of 15 and also have either a Wolf Priest(for rerolls and fearless), Ragnar (for a possible +3 attacks and furious charge on the assault), or both.  They are placed in a Landraider Crusader or Redeemer and hope to get off devestating assaults where they torrent close combat wounds. This will run you anywhere from 615 to 855 points and is, in my opinion, a crappy excuse for a deathstar unit. That said, Blood Claws are fluffy and seem amusing to play with, but are simply too unpredictable and inefficient for competitive gaming.

One of my Grey Hunter Squads with Wolf Guard pack leader
On the other hand, you have Grey Hunters who are the accepted bread and butter of Space Wolf armies.  They cost the same amount per model as Blood Claws (15pt.).  Yet another reason not to take Blood Claws.  Another thing that makes Grey Hunters shine is that they come with not only a close combat weapon and bolt pistol, but also a bolter for the base cost.  They also have power armor and frags and kraks.  Units have access to special weapons, and at 10 models can get an additional special weapon for free.  Grey Hunters also have access to power weapons, power fists, and plasma pistols.  Additionally, a model can take a Wolf Standard which allows the unit to reroll all 1's in close combat for a single turn.  This can be game altering.  I recommend the wolf standard when you start taking units of 8 or more Grey Hunters. Small units won't benefit from it as much.  Finally, a model can take a Mark of the Wulfen which gives the model D6 attack and rending. 

Like most other Space Wolf units, Grey Hunters are only LD8 and will want that Wolf Guard pack leader or an IC to bolster their leadership. 

Oddly enough, Grey Hunters have no unique rules.  What sets them apart besides cost and the dual special weapons is their combination of counterattack and bolters.  Essentially, Grey Hunters are wonderful counterattack units.  They allow you to whittle down units throughout the game, let the unit get into range and then shoot it with rapid fire bolter shots, only to get counter attack when they are assaulted in the next assault phase yielding them 3 attacks apiece with ccw and bolt pistol.  Grey Hunters don't care if they are charged and in fact in most cases benefit from being charged as that allows them to rapid fire their bolters first and then handle the reminents of a unit afterward. 

Grey Hunters generally appear in one of three ways, though again, I am sure variations occur.  These are just the ones I have noted. 

1) Minimum size in a razorback with a pack leader.  This unit is 5 marines strong and totes a special weapon, usually a melta or flamer.  It gives the 6th seat in the razorback to a Wolf Guard pack leader who usually bolsters the shooting by taking a combi-melta or combi-flamer and a power fist to aid in combat.  I see alot of these taken in Las/Plas razorbacks. This setup will run you a measly 198pt and is fairly useful in most situations. This unit is often the mainstay of the razorspam army.

2) Almost max size for guard duty in a rhino. This unit is 8 strong and takes the first special weapon, but also takes a possible special close combat weapon, wolf standard, and mark of the wulfen, or any combination of those.  It leaves two spaces open for a Wolf Guard pack leader and an IC, usually a Rune Priest.  This entire crew travels around in a rhino and is generally used fairly agressively.  The larger squad size makes it far better in close combat.  The squad plus pack leader runs around 228pt. (with melta, power weapon, and wolf standard).

3) Full on stand alone squad. This squad is like the one above, but forgoes all outside help to be a 10 man squad with two special weapons, generally two of the same kind, a special close combat weapon, a wolf standard, and possibly a mark of the wulfen.  This yields maximum wound allocation.  They unit rides in a rhino.  This will yield you a unit that is very viable in combat and can reliably take out mech or damage infantry based on the special weapon loadout.  This costs around 240pt fully kitted out (taking 2 meltas, powerfist, mark of the wulfen, and wolf standard). 

Grey Hunters are more reliable, better at counterattack, and generally less risky than Blood Claws.  Thus, you will see them taken the vast majority of the time. 

That wraps up my thoughts on troop choices.  Again though, these are based on my experiences and thoughts, so feel free to add in what you can via the comments section.  Next up are our fast slots.  Again, there appear to be some clear front runners in this section of the codex. Stay tuned to find out what they are (as if you don't already know). 

Other Space Wolf articles:
Space Wolf Stealth Cheese Part Deux
Wolves vs. IG
Light Mech Space Wolves and 'Ardboyz

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1 comment:

Lord Rao said...

Agree on all points: GHs are superiro in every way to BCs.

One additional way to run GHs is the simple, cheap, but ubiquitous full foot squad. Just 10 guys, fully tooled up (dual special, standard, MotW, PF) is very good value, especially for onbjective camping. If you add in any WG pack leader and/or an IC (preferably the rune priest) that's just a very mean unit that can dare anything to charge it. Obviously works best if deployed somewhere halfway up the table so the 24" guns can actually hit something. Also great if you, like me, often run out of rhino/razorback models but have infantry left to spare.

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