Thursday, January 13, 2011

Suicide Squads

Hey there folks!   Today I wanted to talk a little bit about the often-maligned Suicide Squad, and what it can do for you.  It's certainly not always the *best* option to take, but I think that oftentimes it can be useful.  If you keep in mind that it's somewhat of a gimmick that won't work every time, that's half the battle.  You either want to make sure that you can use the squad in ways other than the 'gimmick' of suiciding, or make sure you can always use the gimmick itself.  Since the latter isn't possible, we'll have to stick with the former.

In a game where people stress take-all-comers lists (I do it as much as anyone), I still think that a limited number of role-players in a list are needed.  For instance, the ability to kill tanks is a good one, and you should have multiple units that are versatile enough to kill them, as well as other units that might qualify.  However, against Land Raiders, some armies need specific units to be able to stand a chance.  Eldar are a good example of that- they take Fire Dragons because none of their other weaponry can really be dependable against AV14.  Whereas Fire Dragons can also kill other units as well, they really aren't going to be worth their points except against that specific target (or maybe against MC's).  To be competitive in a tournament setting you need to be able to kill Land Raiders consistently, and therefore you find Fire Dragons in every tournament list out there.  This is a good example because whereas Fire Dragons are Eldar's only realistic way of dealing with Land Raiders (since lance weapons are overcosted), they can still work against other lists as well (though usually less effectively).  Killing vehicles is nice, and multi-wound T4 infantry (Nobz, Warriors, etc.) is good too.  Anything they shoot at is likely to be hurt, really.  Likely there are better options in the Eldar book to deal with these things, but the fact remains that Fire Dragons can be used as more than just a 'gimmick' vs. Land Raiders.

Lots of times, role playing units can take the form of suicide units (as the Fire Dragons usually are, lol).  This is likely the 'best' use for these sorts of units, honestly.  Here's my reasoning:  if your opponent has a specific game plan involving some key models, it will seriously throw his game for a loop when you kill these 'key' units.  Whether it's static gun fire (dev squads, lootas, etc.) or simply a humble combat-squad of Tac marines to hold an objective, you can seriously disrupt the way he plays the game by removing that small squad.  If you're paying equal points for squads removed (your suicide squad vs. his 'key model' squad), then you're actually coming out ahead in the exchange.  Whereas your gameplan at the beginning was to simply remove his key units and not depend further on your suicide squad, his plan was clearly different. 

Even if you pay a few points more for your suicide squad than he did for his 'key unit', your models have a certain amount of points equity that can't really be measured- for example, how many points is it worth for your opponent to make an incorrect move that costs him the game?  You can't measure that in points, but you would certainly pay points for that exact thing if you could.  The same goes for taking a unit out of the equation that he was depending on, forcing him to play differently.

Forcing your opponent to change his plan can really be beneficial to you- it might remove his ability to pop tanks, or might force him to use yet another squad of troops to hold his objective instead of backing up his other units further up the field.  It might force him to divert a squad to somewhere he can't properly support them.  One way or another, if you let your opponent play the way he plans to, you stand a good chance of losing.  Disruption is therefore to be desired.

If you spend say, 200 points on a disruption/suicide unit, and they end up only killing about 150 points, it may seem that your opponent is getting the better end of the deal.  I would posit that while they very well may be (depending on your target selection, and the manner in which 'the suicide' is carried out), they oftentimes really aren't.  As previously stated, forcing your opponent to change the way they play the game really doesn't have a point value, but it's usually worth it.  For example, a Space Wolf player's Long Fangs get jumped by a squad of your Vanguard Veterans.  He's able to finish the VV pretty quick, but now he's unable to kill tanks quite as well.  Instead, he now has to rely on his Grey Hunters to jump out of their tanks and use their meltaguns, exposing them in a way that was previously unnecessary.

So, what is required for a successful suicide squad?  A few things.
  • High percentage of it actually working- as in, if you want to kill a tank, having a great chance of actually killing it on your first try.  By nature (and definition, lol) a suicide squad won't get a second shot at it.
  • Something that is plausible- if it sounds cool but isn't realistic, it isn't worth the points.  Period.
  • Your army struggles against a specific thing- this is a great reason to take a suicide squad.  When you can't deal with x, using something that will take that variable (x) out of the equation is often desirable.  It certainly levels the playing field a bit.
  • Versatility- the squad needs to be able to do other things than simply 'remove x'.  If your opponent didn't bring x (and they often won't, in a tournament setting), then it's a complete waste of points to bring the squad.  Making the squad more viable to suicide against a wider range of things, or giving them another role in the army is essential.  For example, Vanguard Veterans can start on the table and provide assault power later in the game if it isn't viable to deepstrike them onto a target.
  • Emotional detachment- if you can't bear the idea of losing the squad you're suiciding, then don't do it.  The whole point is to trade one piece for another in a manner favorable to you, and if you won't accept that (looking at you, people who put storm shields on Vanguard Veterans :-p), the point is entirely lost on you.
Remember, if it's going to be worth the points, it needs a very high likelihood of succeeding.  I can't stress that enough. 

That's about all I got.  I hope you found this article interesting at least.  What's your take on Suicide Squads?  Are they useless?  Helpful?  I'd like to know!  I'm excited to use my own suicide squads in my Wolf army soon- Wolf Scouts!  Should be funtimes had by all (well, at least had by me :) )


Thor said...

Nice article. You really nailed it with saying you're forcing your opponent to change his plan. Most often I think people see suicides squads as units that serve only to distract, units that a good opponent will overlook and not bother with, thus they see little value in them. But, as you said, if you can get in and do your job well then you can completely alter your opponent's approach to the game and that's priceless.

Jeffery said...

I honestly don't really have any 'suicide squads' for my Blood Angels. But if did it would be my Predator (Auto-Cannon Only). I know it sounds weak but my group doesn't know how to deal with that big bad 13AV lol. I tend to move 12' and shoot, once close enough to the masses I like to tank-shock.