Sunday, 21 November 2010

Codex: Squat Stronghold (or, ‘Going Ballistic’)

Hello again, and welcome to a completely biased review of Codex: Squat Stronghold, as recently developed by... me! The Codex is an attempt to bring the Squats back to the 40k universe in a playable and practical way, as opposed to some of the rather clunky re-hashes of the old second-edition list.

So where did I start? Well, I began last December with the latest incarnation of the Imperial Guard codex. This seemed to me the obvious army to use as a straight ‘counts-as’ list. From there, I started tinkering. I wanted to give the Squat army their own unique feel and character, so I considered what were the iconic units from their 40k and Epic history. Being old enough to remember the original Rogue Trader as a playable game, I was at an immediate advantage! The units that jumped out to me were the Warlord and Ancestor Lord, their Hearthguard entourage, Thunderer and Warrior infantry units, and of course war-bikes and trikes. But what really excited me was the chance to get some big vehicles on the table! The Epic Squats had some great war-machines; Termite transports, Overlord airships and my favourite, the Land Trains. Obviously these would need to be scaled down a bit from Epic (or should that be up?!), but the solid core of a viable army was taking shape.

In terms of fluff, the Squats are an offshoot of humanity; colonies of explorers, with access to all manner of high-tech mining gear, isolated from Terra for millennia by warp-storms. During that time, the high gravity and poor conditions shaped the Squats physically, mentally and culturally. However, despite the isolation, worse was to come for the diminutive race – the Tyranids! It is widely known that the bugs have been the scapegoat used to explain away the disappearance of the entire race, but I find it hard to believe that a few insects can eradicate one of the most hardy of all the races in 40K. Personally, I blame the Imperium for not protecting their erstwhile genetic siblings!

So, the theme of the army, I originally thought, should be closer to that of the fantasy dwarfs; that is a strong close-combat army with some good heavy support. However, after some preliminary playtesting (both on-the-table and on paper) the assault-based army fast became unfeasible – the stat-line of the basic Squat that I had settled on (modified IG Veterans) had Initiative 2, which meant that even with the Furious Charge special rule, the Squats were striking last. Couple this with a slow run rate (D3”), and you have an army begging to be charged and wiped out before they could even raise a hammer in retaliation!

So, the second iteration of the army more closely followed the IG doctrine of ‘Dig In Deep and Shoot’. I didn’t actually change the Codex at all, rather I re-analysed my unit selections to suit a more ballistic approach. In essence, my army selection is now a core of lasgun-armed Warriors, plus a multitude of heavy support – a Skylord airship with plasma cannons, a Land Train engine and carriage, plus some heavy- and special-weapons infantry teams.

As for stats, I decided early on that they should be based on a modified human, so I chose the IG Veteran as a template. In general, I decided their character should be tough and unflappable. Therefore I swapped the WS 4 for BS4, as I think Squats should be good in assault, though tempered by the fact they are small and thus at a slight disadvantage, reflected in dropping their initiative to 2. I increased their leadership and toughness too, and so raised the cost up to 8pts each for a basic warrior.

So what units actually make up the codex? Below is a brief description of each, along with my ideas on what they might achieve in a full army:

HQ

The HQ options are largely based around the IG Company Command squad; I added in Straken as the Warlord, but stripped off his ‘Man of Adamantium’ power and strength 6 to save precious points. Accompanying the Warlord are four Hearthguard, which gives the army a much-needed assault unit as well as protecting the commander and his useful ability to give orders.

In addition to the Warlord, the other must-have HQ choice is the Ancestor Lord. Apart from anything, he is a wonderful piece of fluff and a great link back to the Squats’ old Rogue Trader and second edition history. In this list, the Ancestor Lord is based on the Primeris Psyker, though with a couple of changes to his stat-line.

Free-of-Charge

The IG codex includes a couple of free choices, which are very handy in making some of the lighter infantry units work effectively. Of interest to the Squats fluff-wise is the Techpriest, who of course became the Engineer Guildmaster. At the moment this character is an extra, though I could be tempted to make him a true HQ choice instead.

The other free choice is the Ministerum Priest; this character grants a re-roll to hit on the first turn of a close assault. This massively boosts the Squats’ ability to counter opposition infantry, and compliments the ranged units perfectly.

Elites

I struggle with Elites. I tend to pick armies based largely on Troops choices, backed up with as many heavy weapons as I can afford. Therefore, I often overlook the Elites slots, and so proved tricky for me to design in this new codex. To be honest, I’m still not happy with what I have come up with. The units I decided on are Guild Engineers with the Repair ability (based on Servitors), deep-striking Stern-Hammers (Storm Troopers) and Long-Beards (veteran special-weapon infantry). However, in the games played so far, none of these units have even been selected, so I’d welcome opinion on this slot in particular.

Troops

This is the meat-and-potatoes slot of this army. I want to field large numbers of Squats, and the platoon structure allows an IG player to have around 360 infantry if he chooses. This should suffice for me!

Each platoon is lead by a Clan-Lord and four of his entourage. This unit is almost identical to the IG platoon command unit. As for the troops themselves, the IG regular infantry, special-weapons and heavy-weapons units are retained (renamed Warriors, Dragons and Thunderers respectively). In addition, I have created an all-new Troops unit called Berserkers. These are Warriors with close-assault weapons, and to give them some bite, I’ve given them Furious Charge. Combined with the rerolls to hit granted by an attached Forgemaster (aka Ministerum Priest), this is quite a strong, though fragile unit. If they get the charge, they will take out almost anything. If they get charged, however, they are a pushover. Unpredictable and fun to play!

Transports

There was only one choice for transport, and that was the Termite. We’ve been through a fair few versions of this vehicle, but I’m finally happy. The Termite starts in reserve, and deep-strikes (from below) as per the standard rules. When it surfaces, the resultant cave-in causes a strength 6, AP6 large template attack on anything unfortunate to be caught! Once the vehicle is on the table, it is free to move like a normal tank.

Fast Attack

In the Squat army, the fast attack slots are made for bikes and trikes! In addition, I’ve come up with another couple of ‘character’ units – the Iron Eagle Gyrocopter and Iron Claw Gyrocopter. The former is based on the old Epic flyer and uses the Valkyrie rules, whilst the latter is intended as a mobile one-man flying gun-platform. I’ve used the rules for the Armoured Sentinel, but swapped the ‘Walker’ type for ‘Skimmer’. The model I have in mind is to be based on the Dwarf gyrocopter, but with a roll-cage and big fan-blades for lift and drive.

Heavy Support

Now we come to the main event! Heavy weapons and big war-machines are what the Squats are all about. In particular, I had to get an airship and a Land Train in there, to really give the army a strong focal point.

The Land Train and carriages are basically squadrons of Leman Russ tanks, with all the weapons choices of those tanks. In addition, I’ve added a Berserker carriage, which gives the Squats an Assault vehicle. The other ‘feature’ unit is the Skylord, which is the Epic Overlord’s smaller, but faster, little brother. This vehicle is based on the Valkyrie, and is armed with twin-linked plasma cannons – perfect for taking on heavily-armoured infantry.

Also in the Heavy Support slot I’ve added three other units – Gun-Tower, Stronghold and Eagle's Eye Observation Balloon. The former two add nicely to the Squat fluff – the race is known for their stoicism and steadfastness, and nothing symbolises this better than a great big Stronghold (or even a gun emplacement, if you’re a little short on points). I like these units as they really evoke the sense that the Squats are a defensive army, especially after being supposedly written out of continuity by the predations of the Tyranids!

The last Heavy Support choice is the Observation Balloon. As a largely ranged army with BS 3, I decided to give the army a Tau-esque spotter vehicle which would allow ordnance and barrages to be directed with greater accuracy.

Super-Heavy

Finally, no Squat list would be complete without some mega-machines, and the Super-Heavies are a perfect reflection of this. In this section are the Colossus, Goliath Mega Cannon, Thunderfire Cannon, Overlord Airship, Mole, Hellbore, Cyclops and Leviathan. These rules for these vehicles are as-yet unwritten, however I’m looking forward to getting stuck into them once I’ve played a few more games with the regular army!

So, the codex can be found here:

http://swcomlink.website.orange.co.uk/

Please take some time to have a look through; even have a go at knocking up a list of your own and share your ideas!

Graham.

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