5 Oct 2013

Tactica Space Marines - Unique Characters Part Two

Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel and this is my Codex: Space Marines Tactica! Today, I will be looking at a handful of the greatest heroes amongst the Adeptus Astartes; warriors and leaders that have scribed their names into legend through valour and skill. I hope you enjoy this article!

Space Marine players have access to the most extensive roster of unique characters in the game, providing so many diverse play-styles and inherent advantages that encourage players to experiment with a wealth of differing army lists. Unlike some other codices, few of these characters are solely based around damage potential; instead, they provide ground-breaking support abilities and potential for thematic army creation that you simply can't find anywhere else. Though they are restricted to their own Chapter Tactics now, the advice given in the previous Space Marines codex very much rings true to this day; these are templates for mighty heroes to lead your forces, built to give you something you simply cannot find from a kitted out regular character. Where Marneus Calgar allows you to control the morale aspect of Warhammer 40000, Kor'sarro Khan provides free early movement to an entire force, allowing them to dominate positioning and deployment. As Helbrecht is the lynchpin for an army-wide massed and devastating assault, Vulkan He'stan gives you the means to make a Salamanders army the true masters of anti-vehicular warfare. It is such that you cannot judge these characters on the merits of combat or martial prowess alone, but on how they allow for incredible strategic flexibility in the army list creation phase, and in tactical adaptability through their considerable, palpable aura on the field of battle. These Space Marines count themselves amongst the finest heroes in all of the Imperium, and each has their own mark to leave on your army.

Due to the extensive array of unique characters in the codex, Part Two of the Unique Characters section solely covers Ortan Cassius, Torias Telion and Antaro Chronus. Part Three and Part Four will cover the remaining Unique Characters, and you can view Part One here.

Ortan Cassius, the Master of Sanctity

Overview - Where one sees purity, another sees the stain of corruption. Where one sees faith, another sees only a mask of lies. Such is the fate of a Chaplain, and few are more venerable than Ortan Cassius, the Ultramarines' Master of Sanctity. A veteran of the Tyrannic Wars, Cassius is one tough nut to crack, and really, that is the main reason you would want to bring him over a regular Chaplain. The difference between the two is the price of a Terminator, and one must always ask if taking the cheaper option would be more worthwhile, as Cassius is less adaptable and doesn't quite bring the same game-changing army-wide support abilities that Calgar, Sicarius and Tigurius do. Chaplains are by no means a great choice in 6th Edition, due firstly to their cost, their relatively low survivability and damage output, as well as the generally mediocre benefits they provide specifically to Space Marines. They don't compare at all well to the cheaper Librarians or similarly costed Captains, fulfilling a rather iffy middle role between the two divergent characters. Space Marines lack great assault units, and often even those expensive units - such as Honour Guard or Assault Terminators - still don't stack up to Flesh Hounds, Daemonettes and monstrous creatures, regardless of the addition of a Chaplain or not. Still, in this case, Cassius does have a lot of perks that disassociate himself from regular Chaplains in a pretty big way, and first up his survivability. With a Toughness of six - no joke - and the Feel No Pain special rule, on top of power armour and a 4+ invulnerable save, Cassius is truly a tough nut to crack for a lot of enemies; many blows will simply bounce off his Toughness, and getting through his saving throws isn't easy. He is immune to the most common form of Instant Death, though it must be said that with only two wounds, you can't afford to throw him against tough opposition with little thought. Most monstrous creatures will still slay him in a single round of combat, and many nasty combat characters - such as Chaos Lords with the Axe of Blind Fury, or even fellow Chapter Masters with the Burning Blade or a Thunder Hammer - that are seen commonly will smash him to bits with ease.

This is the illusion that must be broken with Cassius; he is tough enough to wither a lot of blows from low Strength sources, such as regular power swords and the like, but trying to use him as a combat beat-stick simply will not work. Four attacks on the charge with a power maul and similar stats to a regular Chaplain do hurt quite a bit overall, but not as much as a Captain kitted out with a thunder hammer and artificer armour for a similar price would be. Cassius has the advantage of survivability, but the Captain will still beat him to death in record time. Importantly, what really undermines his Toughness is the majority toughness rule, effectively dictating that any squad he joins will imprint him with their Toughness of four (or five, in the case of Centurions). While he still benefits from Feel No Pain, any benefit to that boosted Toughness he pays for will be lost when outside of close combat, and trust me, you don't want him to be out in the open or left with but one ally in the unit either. This makes it a bit harder to justify for his cost, as that boosted Toughness looks great, but doesn't help all that much unless you can join him to a unit with lots of mixed Toughness values. When that is also what he really pays for, it makes me very iffy on taking him in a competitive sense; if you wanted a Chaplain in the first place, keep them cheap and save yourself 40 important points. Outside of causing Fear as a guaranteed Warlord trait - which is mediocre at best - his damage output and boosts to a unit are no different to a standard Chaplain, save that he also has Preferred Enemy against Tyranids. Of course though, if Cassius gets into a challenge with a monstrous Tyranid character, or even a Tyranid Prime, there's a good chance he will be butchered anyway; they are one of the few armies that don't care about high Toughness values through all of their poison! Against a non-character monster like a Trygon, or even generic Warriors and the like, this is obviously quite useful though and should not be forgotten.

Still, it must be repeated that outside of his higher Toughness only working in challenges - where he admittedly wants to be, though not many Space Marine units really want to - his advantages over a cheaper Chaplain really are quite few indeed. However, it would be unfair not to mention the Chapter Relic he bears into battle; Infernus, a master-crafted flamer that also incorporates hellfire rounds into the bolt shells. The combi-flamer is very handy as a defensive weapon, or to help soften up an enemy unit before a charge. His combi-bolter, on the other hand, while certainly nice with its hellfire rounds has the big issue of preventing him from charging, unless he is joined to a Slow and Purposeful unit such as Centurions. In that sense, it isn't really a great tool, and certainly not one that redeems him from mediocrity, but it is nonetheless quite useful for those instances where a flamer comes in really handy; in 6th Edition with the changing meta and shift to light infantry, these are becoming more common by the day.

However, I simply cannot justify Cassius in a competitive sense. As good as he was compared to a regular Chaplain in the previous codex, between the majority toughness rules, the nasty combat characters that will simply eviscerate him, the ridiculous melee units that will eat whatever he is giving Zealot to, the general lack of improvement from And They Shall Know No Fear to Fearless, and his high cost, I would mostly avoid Cassius outside of Tyrannic War Veteran army lists. Even then, you must always ask yourself; why pay so many more points for a Chaplain that doesn't even really get that much benefit for the rules he pays for? Even then, why take such an expensive support character when Tigurius can be had from the same Chapter Tactics for only a pittance more?

Maximising their Abilities - Cassius' main uses are to be found in dedicated melee units transported in Land Raiders, Drop Pods and so on, or as part of midfield ranged units like Sternguard to give them the extra punch needed to ward off mediocre enemy combat units. He won't give even Honour Guard the buff needed to save them from massed Seekers of Slaanesh or a 'Screamerstar', so don't bank on his unit charging right into the enemy formation and causing havoc wherever they go. Instead, use Cassius' unit to take out vital enemy units that require similar attention to those nasty combat units, such as Broadside Battlesuits and Riptides. Be wary of Fearless and its applications, so be sure to stay away from Wraithknights and Great Unclean Ones with Iron Arm who will eat Cassius and his squad for breakfast as they can simply tie the squad up and soak up any damage they cause. Otherwise, Cassius can be used in a less risky fashion by joining up with Tactical Marines or Sternguard, giving them the edge against lesser melee units such as Plaguebearers or other Space Marines.

Torias Telion, Veteran of the 10th Company

Overview - With characters such as Karanak becoming fully-fledged HQ choices, unique upgrade characters to units such as Telion are becoming increasingly rare. In a 6th Edition context, you don't see such models often because you are usually better served with just the regular sergeant so as to invest more points into upgrades such as heavy weapons for the unit, or other units instead. This is, unfortunately, largely the case with Telion, but he does have his uses that make him quite a bit more valuable than at first glance. The way he is purchased means that you don't have to pay for a Veteran Sergeant first which is quite handy; when you look at his gear and profile, you take away the Veteran Sergeant and Camo Cloak costs from him to see just what you are getting. He has an extra point of Weapon Skill - not that it will really matter, of course, as he lacks any real close combat weapon - and a nasty Ballistic Skill of six. He holds a stalker boltgun that is a two-shot sniper rifle at 36", he gives Stealth to his unit, he has the equivalent of a Signum from Devastator Sergeants, and his shooting attacks are always Precision Shots. That is a lot of extra taste, but how much of it is worth your time over simply keeping a regular Sergeant? First up, that he provides Stealth to his unit means that you don't need to bother paying for Camo Cloaks on them, though if you do, it gives them 5+ cover saves in the open and 3+ cover saves in area terrain. This is a great buff to the durability of Scouts and pays off more for larger units, where his boosted Leadership really comes in handy to keep them fighting.

The Ultramarines Chapter Tactics don't really benefit Scouts more so than most others, though the re-rolls of ones to hit for a turn as well as the re-roll assault ranges if you use them in a Land Speeder Storm are really quite helpful. In that sense, taking Telion doesn't really restrict them anyway, as the Ultramarines Chapter Tactics are arguably one of the strongest overall when taking a mixed force. Now, as for Telion's shooting capabilities, they actually aren't all that impressive; but there is a big catch that you will really want to look at. A two-shot sniper rifle with a good range is not at all a bad thing, though you get the sense that - as with Illic Nightspear - such a character might have a better gun to really make the most out of Precision Shots all the time. With Look Out Sir! rolls able to be taken against those shots, it does mean that he is better off trying to get rid of plasma gunners and so on in squads, neutering them so that they can't harm your vehicles or Terminators as handily.

However, the catch I mentioned earlier rears its head when you see that his Eye of Vengeance does not specify he has to use Quietus to get the Precision Shots. See that Aegis Defence Line with a quad gun or Icarus lascannon? Grab it as an Aegis Line is always useful, put your Scouts and some other valuable units behind it, and make sure Telion mans the gun. A lascannon or four-shot autocannon that always allocates their wounds to models you pick? Though it usually won't work, how does sniping an Ethereal out of a Fire Warrior squad and thus leading to massive reduction in efficiency for so many enemy units sound - just use a quad gun and force those bodies to get in the way! Or killing a Chaos Lord in a single shot with a lascannon when they roll that inevitable one? Hilariously, if Telion's squad paid for Camo Cloaks, they will have a permanent +2 cover save behind the Aegis Line - no need to go to ground! This gives you a tough scoring unit, and a pretty damaging and reliable shooting array as well that provides you with some handy Skyfire goodness. Make sure to give this squad sniper rifles so that they can all fire at long range.

Telion's Voice of Experience is generally best used to boost the Ballistic Skill of an Initiate wielding either a heavy bolter or a missile launcher, though given what Scouts usually are armed with, I would probably go with the former as Scouts lack Split Fire. A Ballistic Skill 6 heavy bolter either bare or armed with hellfire shells is nothing to sneeze at whatsoever. However, are these uses worth that pretty hefty tax you pay over a regular Veteran Sergeant? Generally speaking, the answer is no as Scouts really aren't the kind of unit to put extra points into; you want to keep them cheap as they are not designed as your main front-line scoring bodies. However, if you want to integrate Telion into your list through one of the above strategies - preferably the one involving an aegis line - then I definitely think he is a worthwhile purchase. The key with any upgrade character is to give them the means to use their tools most effectively, and those two afore-mentioned areas are where Telion truly makes his mark.

Maximising their Abilities - Telion is best used in long-ranged Scout units that want to sit in cover, either from a fortification or in regular terrain. This is due to his two key special rules that give him permanent Precision Shots and the ability to boost the Ballistic Skill of an Initiate by sacrificing his own shooting attack. These are best served with gun emplacements found on aegis defence lines and bastions, or with missile launchers and heavy bolters that want to keep the enemy at a safe distance. Even with his boosted Weapon Skill, Telion is no melee expert and so you should still keep the squad safe out of combat; if you want them there, save the points on Telion to instead get a Land Speeder Storm. I think Telion will find best use in a sizeable Scout squad with sniper rifles behind an aegis line with a quad gun, giving you an all-round solid firing unit that is very difficult to shift without AP4 or AP3 ignores cover weaponry. Give them camo cloaks and pray you don't face those pesky Tau!

Antaro Chronus, Spear of Macragge

Overview - Inspiring such characters as Knight Commander Pask and Longstrike, Antaro Chronus is a decently expensive tank commander that gives you a lot of advantages for his points. Available only to Ultramarines - not that it really matters in the case of vehicles - Chronus is very valuable, providing a host of beneficiary rules to his chosen tank. He can command any tank in the army list provided it is part of an Ultramarines detachment; Predators, Vindicators, Land Raider variants, even Razorbacks or Rhinos - though you should probably shy away from that last one when as a tank for Chronus to command. Like Telion and other upgrade characters, you need to maximise his abilities as much as possible to really justify his cost over a standard tank commander - i.e. not Chronus!

Now, he gives his vehicle It Will Not Die, ignoring both the Shaken and Stunned damage results, while also letting it use his Ballistic Skill 5. Obviously, this means he is far better suited to a battle tank rather than a straight transport. It Will Not Die provides a pretty big survivability boost to more heavily armoured vehicles that are less likely to suffer frequent glancing or penetrating hits, such as Land Raiders or backfield Predators with adequate cover for their side armour. Ignoring Shaken and Stunned is quite useful on a battle tank, though it is usually far more important for your expensive transports that absolutely need to deliver their cargo as quickly as possible. Again, the Land Raider is a prime choice for this ability, though it also greatly helps Vindicators that are almost useless if they can't fire. As for giving out Ballistic Skill 5 to a tank, this is obviously best suited to a Predator more than anything else; Land Raiders carry almost exclusively twin-linked weaponry, while one inch less on scatter probably won't make too much of a difference for a Demolisher Cannon. Predators, however, typically put out lots of shots and very few if any of them are twin-linked. Overall, this leads me to the conclusion that Chronus is best served being put in a Predator, preferably the Annihilator variant; triple lascannons is nasty as hell, and for anti-infantry you are generally better served with Thunderfire Cannons or Whirlwinds than a Destructor variant. However, a Land Raider Crusader would probably be my second bet; it is the best of the three Land Raiders as far as transport goes, where ignoring Shaken and Stunned becomes absolutely pivotal, while Ballistic Skill 5 on so many shots does actually help quite a bit more than it would on a standard Land Raider.

One of Chronus' unique traits is that unlike some other such tank commander characters, if his vehicle is destroyed then Chronus himself actually jumps out - provided you have a suitable model - and gets to run around with a servo arm. Though he is only a power-armoured character with a single wound, it is still something to remember; laughably, he provides three power fist - effectively - attacks on the charge against a vehicle or enemy character. As he is an Independent Character, he can join units to save you a potential victory point in Purge the Alien or Big Guns Never Tire where he is classed as a kill point, and even issue challenges to provide a nasty surprise to those poor challenge scape-goat Chaos Champions. Though it isn't anything special, you can think of him as a 'free' Techmarine that can't repair vehicles or provide a boost to cover saves in a particular piece of terrain.

The big question is, of course, if he is worth it, and I think that while he probably is worth his points, you should only take him if you actually have those points spare that you can't put anywhere else. The reason for this is that most Space Marine tanks do their job pretty darn well without the need for a tank commander; like Telion, he is only really best used in specific circumstances when you have those points spare. Otherwise, you should probably just save the points for other units.

Maximising their Abilities - Chronus should probably go either in a Predator sitting at a comfortable 36" range or so, depending on its weapon configuration, or a Land Raider Crusader to really make the most of his three key abilities. Giving It Will Not Die and Ballistic Skill 5 to his vehicle obviously suits tougher vehicles that are less likely to lose all their hull points - or be destroyed in one shot - such as the AV13 front tanks or Land Raiders. Ignoring both Shaken and Stunned is quite a bit more useful for assault transports than it is for battle tanks, as you can't really afford to lose a turn of transport movement as opposed to shooting. The best overall tanks for Chronus to command are thus the Predators - lacking in twin-linked shooting - and the Land Raider Crusader, the latter of which gets the best of all three abilities overall.

Did you find this an entertaining and insightful read? Cheers! If you have any feedback for me, feel free to post a comment here or speak to me over on +Bell of Lost Souls. Happy hunting!

 "They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them. They will have tactics, strategies and machines such that no foe will best them in battle."
- The Emperor

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