Saturday, May 8, 2010


Lately I've been noticing a lot of flamer love, and it seems like a lot of it is somewhat misguided.  Flamers have a pretty specific use in competitive 40k, as I see it.  This is a mini-tactica on how I think flamers should be used, and when they aren't going to be worth it.

The Melta Factor
This is the first thing that people usually need to consider.  Gamewide, almost always when a unit has the option to take a flamer, they also have the option to take a melta.  Weighing the possible uses of a simple flamer vs. melta, most of the time a melta wins.  Flamers can't kill vehicles, monsterous creatures, or well-armored troops, whereas flamers only really excell at one thing: killing a cluster of low-armored guys.  I don't want to get into a rave of how amazing melta is, since this is a flamer tactica, but it will suffice to say that generally people are wise when they choose melta over flamer- generally being the key word.

Recognizing the need for Flamers

I touched briefly on this before- flamers are primarily used to kill clusters of low-armored guys.  The army a flamer can get the most use against is a horde-type list, and is the only realistic reason you should take flamers in the first place.  Very briefly, let's go over basic tried-and-true methods of killing hordes (there are really only two options, lol):

-High Volume S3-6 Shooting
-High Volume (durable) close combat

If your army lacks either one of these 'needed' options, flamers will give you much-needed leverage against a horde-style list.  An example of this would be my Imperial Guard- my list has a lot of melta and a 'high volume' of anti-tank shots, but a relatively small amount of midrange strength shots.  I would be overrun by every horde army I played against, simply because of my inability to deal with 4 squads of 30 boyz ambling toward my lines.  11 las cannons are awesome against tanks, not so great against 120 orks.  So, I added flamers.

An example of not needing flamers is my Chaos Berzerker army.  My guys do so well in combat already, that it would almost be a waste to take flamers.  When your list can comfortably have a single squad charge 30 boyz or gaunts and expect to win handily, you don't need flamers.  40 S5 I5 attacks at WS5 is better than about any number of flamers.

I suppose it should be noted that there are plenty of flamers out there that do lots of nasty things to well-armored troops as well, and have more diverse niches to fill in an army.  They can basically use the same principles I'm using in this article, however.

Which One?

Perhaps you're thinking 'well, my codex allows me the option for both flamers AND high-volume of attacks on the charge, what should I choose?  Why shouldn't I take both, wouldn't that be better?'  The answer is this:  if your squad can already do one thing well, why not take something else that makes them more versatile?  As previously stated, if you can take a flamer, you can usually take a melta.  In a competitive setting, the person with the most options is usually the favorite.  It's overkill to take flamers on a high-volume-of-attacks squad. 

Two is always better

If you have the option, two flamers are always better than one.  Maybe this seems obvious, but let me delve a little deeper here into why two (or more) is always better.

In a typical squad, you have 10 men, 3 or 4 of which hold almost ALL of the 'real' power of that squad.  Special weapons, power weapons, melta bombs, whatever, those 4 models make up the vast majority of the 'threat' that squad is.  A guard player with a vet squad typically has 3 meltas, a squad leader, and maybe a demo-charge guy.  If you kill the other 5 guardsman in that squad, the guard player doesn't care.  That squad exists to kill tanks (or heavy infantry) and the other 5 aren't helping in that at all:  they're simply 5 wounds you have to chew through before getting to the 'meat' of the squad.

So let's say you're in a perfect situation, where you destroy their chimera, and have a flamer able to hit every man in the squad.  With 10 hits, you'll kill about 6 guys, meaning the guy can choose to keep 3 meltas and the demo charge around.  You didn't really do any damage to that squad, and they'll just go along their merry way tank-popping if you were depending on killing them with a single flamer.  If you happened to take 2 flamers in the squad, however, you just caused 12 wounds, and all of them die.  It makes an enormous difference.

Against marines, 2 flamers are also much better than one.  If you can cause enough wounds to make the 'special' guys take an armor save, you stand the chance of neutering that squad.  A marine squad without a special weapon or powerfist is a somewhat useless squad.  Ask anyone.  (that isn't to say every marine squad should have a PF... but I don't want to get into that right now)  When the option permits, take as many in a single squad as you can.  'Equipment sniping' can be a very useful tool against armies that flamers aren't usually optimal against.

What about Twin-linked?

Good question.  As good as twin-linked is, I think it's sort of a gimicky thing.  Sure, whatever you're flaming is going to die, most likely, if the AP is better than their armor.  You have to realize though, that a single twin-linked weapon isn't going to realistically be able to get an entire squad under one template.  If you had say, 2 templates you could use, you could easily fry the squad.  This goes back to two being better than one.  Sure, twin-linked is nice to have, and in a lot of cases is still a great choice because it's cheaper than other options (like on Razorbacks), but it isn't going to be the way your army can deal with hordes.

Combi-flamers are too expensive, right?

Wrong, I think.  While I think the points are usually going to be better spent on melta, if you decide you need a squad with a flamer, but can only get one, you should get the combi.  If you want the flamers to actually do something, you need 2.  You need 2 you need 2 you need 2.  Please, get the second one.  Removing a squad from play is much more important than forcing a leadership check they're most likely going to pass anyways.  /shrug

What units should have flamers?

It's easy enough, I suppose.  Mobility with flamers is key.  The ability to move your squad 12" or more in a turn is going to be the main factor.  Footslogging infantry squads shouldn't have anything to do with flamers.  The fact is, that if the unit you want to torch is within the 6" move your squad has available to them, they would have charged you last turn.  You need to be able to get the flamer somewhere in a hurry, or it's useless.  The same largely applies to other assault weapons.

Some tips with Flamers:

Here are some useful ideas for once you've decided whether or not you need flamers in your army or not:

Useful tip 1:  Tank-shock

It's pretty simple, and I'm certainly not the only one who has thought of this.  Simply drive your tank into a squad, forcing them to get out of the way, bunching them up next to other guys in the squad.  Then, take your flamer (s), and apply burnination center mass.

Useful tip 2:  Vehicle Wall

This tactic isn't as widely used as you would think, after having heard it.  It involves hiding some guys behind a wall of vehicles that the horde can't move past in a single turn.  Rather than try to go around the wall, most hordes will simply assault the vehicles.  Regardless of damage results to your own tanks, the horde will be all bunched up (because they can't consolidate after combat with a vehicle) and ripe for the torching.

Useful tip 3:  Aim from farther back

It's always surprising to me when someone gets their flamer within 1" of my squad, and then they try fruitlessly to cover the entire squad with their flamer.  The farther end of the template is bigger, and if you apply a little patience, it might just make your flaming experience a little more enjoyable.

Useful tip 4:  Don't shoot other weapons into cover

If you followed my advice and grabbed a second (or third or fourth!) flamer for your squad, this is going to be key.  When you're shooting into a squad that is in cover, and your flamers will most likely be able to kill all of the guys in cover, please please please don't shoot your boltguns into them as well.  Your opponent will just choose to take their cover save on the important models, and simply allocate the flamer's wounds away to the 'useless wounds' they have.  I'm not sure how many times someone has shot their redeemer at a squad of my marines, and would have killed 4/5 of them, but instead they shot their assault cannon at the squad as well, and I ended up able to allocate enough that they only killed 2 or 3 of my (least important) models.

Useful tip 5:  Don't mix and match

If you have a squad that can have 4 of a certain type of special weapons (like a Company Command Squad, Blood Angels Honor Guard, etc.) don't try to mix the weapons in the squad up.  4 meltas might seem like overkill against a transport, but against a land raider or monsterous creature, 4 is never really enough.  Same with flamers:  2 may seem like it's enough for some jobs, but 4 is always much much better.  To make dice behave, you need overkill, many times.  Also to be noted is that if you mix special weapons, 2 of your weapons every turn will be inefficient.

Useful tip 6:  Flamers are assault weapons

Remember they're assault weapons.  Lots of times, it's going to be better to charge in after a flaming, than to just stand there in the open.  It's clearly situational, but just keep it in mind.

Useful tip 7:  Flame First

It's easy to get excited about shooting everything in your army at a squad that is threatening you.  Remember that if you flame first, you'll get more hits, and have a better chance to hurt the squad.  It seems like common sense, but people (including me, at times) forget it.  Also note that if you flame first, and kill the 'unimportant' guys in the squad, your other, more 'quality' shooting will have a much higher chance of killing something of worth.

And that's it!

What do you think of flamers?  Do they have a place in your army?  What did I miss?  Thanks for reading :)

1 comment:

Chumbalaya said...

I think flamers rock, but their usefulness depends on how your army is set up and where you stick the flamers.

My Marines have flamers in Rhino Tacs, Dreads and Speeders. They have the mobility to get into range, need the help against infantry, and can allow their targets to bunch up, usually from assaulting. They also sport melta to make them versatile.

IG, on the other hand, can sport flamers on every tank as added insurance against assault. Free flamers are a wonderful thing.