Monday, March 17, 2014

Game in vs. Knight Titans: Practical Thoughts Moving Forward

Yes, yes this is a Dreadnought. Kind of relevant though.
Howdy folks! I just wanted to spend a few moments today to discuss a game I got in last weekend against my friend CJ's Knight Titan army. As I am sure everyone is aware, the internet is full of controversy over whether or not Knights should be allowed to be played in the tournament scene, specifically because of the hate Strength D has been getting. I personally hate Strength D and have been extremely opposed to the Escalation supplement. Going into this game, I wasn't as sure about Knight Titans - I wanted to keep an open mind, but it was difficult to fathom giving them a thumbs up given my bias against StrD.

Note: this is a mini-batrep, but is more a discussion on Imperial Knights. No pictures to speak of, but I'll give lists and a small run-through on how the game went.

So first, some background:

My friend CJ loves Titans. He's absolutely rabid in his devotion to how awesome they are. I'm disappointed that I can't find more pictures of his armies, but he has scratch-converted multiple titans, bought even more of them, and based entire armies around them.

Don't enlarge this - it's a bit too pixelated and will make you sad.

Naturally, when CJ heard that Imperial Knights were coming out, he was very excited. I personally hate Titans from an aesthetic standpoint - they're just big versions of marines, in my opinion. But, I also like things my friend CJ hates (i.e. my Red and Blue Imperial Guard army, haha!)

(Not that it's very well painted, but I personally like the Blue/Red. CJ wants to kill it with fire)

At any rate, CJ is pretty pumped about digging into the book, and I really haven't been that enthusiastic. While I would love (LOVE) it if the current deathstars in 40k took a hit, I still find myself reluctant to embrace what I see as something even worse: D-strength weaponry. While it's not really fun to play against units that won't die, I find the notion of removing models for no other reason than someone pointing at them extremely dumb. Resilient units have no place in the game when Str D becomes prevalent in the shooting phase.

But, this isn't an article about how dumb Str D is - at this point, most people have made up their minds for it or against it. The question is: do the Imperial Knights break the game with the Str-D close combat weapon?

Here are the lists we played:

My BeastStar (probably my Adepticon list, FYI):

Eldrad (Warlord)
Farseer w/ Jetbike, Shard of Anaris

20x Guardians w/ 2x Bright Lance Platforms // Wave Serpent w/ Scatter Laser, Shuriken Cannon
5x Dire Avengers  // Wave Serpent w/ Scatter Laser, Shuriken Cannon
3x Eldar Jetbikes
3x Eldar Jetbikes

6x Swooping Hawks
6x Swooping Hawks
7x Warp Spiders

Dark Eldar Allies:

Baron Sathonyx

10x Dark Eldar Warriors w/ Splinter Cannon

Beast Pack w/ 5x Masters, 10x Khymerae, 6x Razorwing Flocks

His List:

Imperial Knights (Primary)

Knight Seneschal (Warlord)

Knight Titan
Knight Titan

Legion of the Damned (Allies):

6x Legion of the Damned w/ Melta, Multi-Melta, Combi-Melta

Codex: Inquisition (more Allies):

Inquisitor w/ Psyker Level 1

6x Henchmen w/ 3x Plasma Cannon Servitors (in bastion)
6x Henchmen w/ 3x Flamers, 3x Bolters // Chimera w/ 2x Heavy Bolters
7x Henchmen w/ 3x Plasma Guns, Jokero Weaponsmith, 3x Bolters // Chimera w/ 2x Heavy Bolters

Bastion (nothing on it) - Plasma Cannon Servitors + Lvl. 1 Inquisitor in there for Prescience awesomeness

How the game went:

I won the roll to go first and gave it to CJ. We played a mission from 2013 Adepticon: Kill Points and 3 objectives, with kill points and objectives both being weighted equally. Tie-breakers were the three standard of Line Breaker, Slay the Warlord, and First Blood.

Initially, I thought to tie up his Titans with the BeastStar, and have the rest of my army pound his support elements before dealing with the Titans.

This was apparently a bad decision, as CJ was able to (in only two rounds of combat!) destroy the majority of the Beasts through Str-D attacks and ridiculous stomp attacks. He even got lucky and spiked a "6" on his attempt to stomp my Shard of Anaris Farseer, who was therefore insta-deathed. Wooo.

At this point, the Titans seemed a little stupid. Beasts have a lot of models, and are very resilient (don't do much damage though), and shouldn't just die to two Knights punching them in two rounds of combat (actually, only one was in combat on Turn 1, lol).

I hit and ran out, thinking I would lose the game due to giving up First Blood so quickly and losing such a valuable part of my army.

CJ converted this as one of his first Knight Titans. Pretty cool conversion, I think it's a counts-as Land Raider. See the little warp portal thing in front where guys come out?
I had reserved my Spiders, Bikes, and both Serpents, and deployed the Guardians w/ Eldrad, BeastStar, and both Swooping Hawk units (which went into the air on Turn 1).

My reserve rolls were awful, and I essentially just got the Spiders, who landed near some ruins and annihilated a Chimera's rear armor. The Hawks were then able to shoot down the Flamer Henchmen.

One of his Titans outflanked (that was CJ's warlord power) and the Legion of the Damned boldly deep struck near my Guardians. Everything looked a bit dismal at this point. The Guardians took a pounding, and I was left hoping that my few remaining Beasts and Guardians could slay his 6 Legion of the Damned.

I only managed to kill a few of them with shooting, and CJ rolled like a boss in combat. I decided to hit and run the Beasts away from his approaching Titans, and eventually had Eldrad join the unit too to keep CJ from getting Slay the Warlord.

After a few turns, the Swooping Hawks had charged the Bastion and thrown in their Plasma Grenades (always wanted to try that!) and destroyed the Inquisitor + Plasma Servitors. Wave Serpents ruined Coteaz' Chimera, and the ensuing explosion killed most of the henchmen inside. Coteaz decided it was an opportune time to flee, and went off the table (Beasts were there to kill them if he had passed the check).

This left CJ with his three mostly-unhurt Titans.

The problem was that Titans are pretty slow in terrain. He tried to charge my Beasts with the Titans and failed his charge, sticking them in place for a couple turns (Knights move 12" outside of terrain, but only get a maximum of 6" through difficult terrain).

My maneuverability saved my ass, and Eldrad got Doom off a couple turns in a row. Because the Titans only had one armor facing to gain an invulnerable save from, I just kind of circled him with guys who could glance the titan to death (S6, mostly) and rolled lots and lots of dice.

Swooping Hawks then charged in, and ruined the final Titan with Haywire Grenades, tabling him on the bottom of 5. I believe I killed 17 of CJ's 18 HP in Turns 4 and 5 alone.

The score was pretty uneven - CJ got 3 KPs vs. me (ShardSeer, DE Warriors, Swooping Hawks) and I had 11 or so, along with all the objectives.

Even with an unoptimized list (against Titans, I mean), and a very poor start, I managed to ruin them convincingly.

Here's CJ's Mechanicus army that he played a bunch in 5th edition - I believe he used Blood Angels rules for them. Look at the Baal Predator he converted with the Thunderfire Cannon and stuff! Haha, those were the days!

So, what's the point of this mini-rep?

I guess I was surprised at my response to CJ's army. Initially, I hated the Str D. I generally hate it when my tactics to tie up a unit go awry - tarpitting is what Beasts generally do best, and that strategy utterly failed.

However, I found that switching up my tactics was what was required - a good player can't expect to use the same tactics against every army, and this was a classic case of misreading a matchup for me. Beasts are great, but they can't be expected to rock out against EVERY unit. I am actually quite encouraged by the fact that Knights are capable of breaking up tarpitting units like that. It means that they could also break up the other stars, given the opportunity.

Finding ways to force the Knights to go into terrain was really necessary - once I did that, I could use my faster/more mobile army to surround them and crush them. At one point, I had relevant guns pointed at every single armor facing of one Knight, with Doom on him.

The shooting weapons weren't very good - large blasts that could scatter off and do no damage really don't scare me. Sure, large blasts are always scary, but nobody wins games by taking a bunch of Leman Russ Battle Tanks anymore, because large blasts just don't have the necessary stats to be super-awesome anymore.

Do note, however, that the Heavy Stubbers the Knights had were frustrating - they can shoot at separate targets with no penalty.

My conclusions:

  • I think that for their points (almost 400!), Imperial Knights are just fine for the tournament scene. With a 13/12/12 armor value profile, they're tough to kill, but really not that hard if you really want to kill them.
  • Strength D is not a fun thing to play against when it's being shot at you across the board.
    • Strength D, when contained to 3 base attacks on a WS4 Walker (WS5 on Warlord) isn't game-breaking at all. Let's look at what units they're awesome at killing in combat:
      • ScreamerStar
      • JetSeer Star
      • BeastStar
      • OveStar
      • Hordes of models, such as Orks or IG Blobs
  • What is their shooting good against?
    • Not much at all, really.
  • Knights aren't very quick - they want to get into combat, but usually need to get into terrain to get there.
    • Once they're in terrain, they're super slow. Very exploitable weakness if you're thinking much.
  • 15" explosion is ridiculous, but the 5" of Str. D isn't as bad as you'd think - most of the 5" is centered on the dead Knight anyways. When I went into combat, the 3 Hawks killed it, and died. The Spiders who shot it from 12" away only lost one model.
    • This is also aided by the fact that it's going to be difficult to kill the damn things in combat anyways - you need to bring a way to shoot it dead, or charge it to death with a small unit like Swooping Hawks.
I will keep an open mind, but at this point I honestly don't see them being an issue in this game. The various Stars will be a little sad, but isn't that what everyone wants anyways? I personally hate what the Stars have done to the 40k scene, and would love to see them loosen their grip a bit. For those who think that a 2+ re-rollable save is the best thing ever - it still rocks. It's still SO GOOD. Just learn to play around the lumbering Knights, and kill their 700 points of support units.

Seriously, not that hard.

I find myself very surprised indeed to be holding this stance, to be honest. But, sometimes we just gotta admit that we're wrong and embrace something that makes us uncomfortable.

What are your thoughts? In what way are the Knights not good for the game? I want to know!

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