20 Sep 2014

Tactica Astra Militarum - Sentinels

Greetings everyone and welcome to the latest - and long delayed - installment of my Astra Militarum Tactica series! Though I tend not to employ them as much as I would like to because their rules and place in my particular army lists are sadly limited, Sentinels nonetheless provide some awesome nostalgic value for Star Wars and Imperial Guard fans alike. Aesthetically it is very clear where the inspiration for Sentinels come from, but the model itself mixes that unique World War I theme in typical of the Imperial Guard range to create one heck of an awesome model. As for their in-game usage, Sentinels aren't as generally useful as everyone would like them to be but there is at the very least a niche role they can fill for all kinds of Astra Militarum builds. Whether it is to provide cheap AP2 firepower on a mobile platform or inexpensive Outflanking heavy weapons is really up to you given that both Sentinel variants - Scout and Armoured, respectively - are almost identical in terms of points cost. I hope you enjoy this article!

Note that this can be considered a review for both Armoured Sentinels and Scout Sentinels, as the two are mostly identical outside of one or two differences.




Sentinels

Overview
If there is one Imperial Guard that consciously wears its Star Wars inspiration on its sleeve, it is the Sentinel - the love-child of the AT-ST and the gritty, rugged machinations of human technology in the Warhammer 40,000 setting. Sadly, Sentinels just don't live up to their awesome models with regards to their efficiency and uses in-game. Let me first qualify this statement by saying that I don't think Sentinels are necessarily bad, but that you can invest the points spent on them elsewhere and generally get a unit that either fits the Astra Militarum play-style better or is more efficient. While Walkers did get a few direct and indirect improvements via the 7th Edition rule-set, generally speaking Sentinels do still sit towards the middle or lower end of the competitive spectrum when compared to others of their type. They are frail, allergic to close combat and provide inaccurate but admittedly cheap firepower on a small platform. At the very least, they aren't confused about their role much like a Helbrute and nor are they are prohibitively expensive enough to be reserved solely to themed lists.

The main issue with Sentinels is that they are crazily fragile and tied with Venoms for perhaps the most easily countered vehicles in the game, with the open-topped Scout Sentinels having only two hull points per model and AV10 on their front, rear and side facings. While Armoured Sentinels do somewhat alleviate this issue by replacing the open-topped special rule with front AV12, both variants are nonetheless ridiculously easy to destroy with any kind of medium to high Strength shooting. Tau Fire Warriors will literally eat Scout Sentinels for breakfast, while five Strength 7 hits are enough to destroy the Armoured Sentinel statistically. This would be acceptable if Sentinels either provided intense firepower or were useful transports, both of which are traits of the Dark Eldar Venom, but sadly neither are applicable to Sentinels. Each Sentinel is Ballistic Skill 3 and comes stock with a decent but hardly inspiring multi-laser, and its only options to increase its firepower come both with points cost and at the sacrifice of the multi-laser. These weapons aren't nearly as destructive as a pair of splinter cannons against non-vehicular opponents as with a Venom, with Ballistic Skill 3 autocannons and lascannons being the strongest shooting Sentinels can provide. If it wasn't obvious, the open-topped specification of the Scout Sentinel serves no purpose rules-wise other than to make it even more fragile than it really should be.

Of course, comparing Sentinels directly to Venoms is a little bit unfair as the former are classed as Walkers and can thus defend themselves in close combat to some extent. Sadly, their prowess in melee is limited at best with one Strength 5 attack at Weapon Skill and Initiative 3 per Sentinel - hardly the type of unit that wants to be in combat. Strength 4 units can destroy Scout Sentinels with ease, while anyone with krak grenades will have a field day against Armoured Sentinels. The key here is to understand that these units should only intentionally make it into close combat as a temporary "tarpit" given that there do exist either Strength 3 units or those lacking krak grenades, particularly Eldar infantry that don't feature haywire grenades. The problem then becomes that Sentinels are at their most vulnerable up close to opponents where plasma, bolt and really most types of 24" ranged weapons become a legitimate threat. The over-arching reality is that Sentinels provide limited melee and ranged damage output, have terrible durability and no real mobility outside of Scout Sentinels featuring their name-sake special rule in addition to Move Through Cover. Scout Sentinels are cheap enough and have some nice uses with Outflank (via the Scout special rule) but just have too small an impact in game to really justify their inclusion, and the same is true of the much more appropriately priced Armoured Sentinels. I'm not exactly sure how one would fix this unit while staying true to their background, but I think everyone can agree that Sentinels are not worthwhile for the most part in their current incarnation.


How to Equip Them
As these are Ballistic Skill 3 models, you generally want to avoid the single-shot weapons like missile launchers and lascannons because of how inaccurate they will be. Given the low cost and fragility of Sentinels you don't want to be wasting the now much rarer Prescience on them instead of using it for more damaging units such as Leman Russ squadrons or Combined Squads. This means that the stock multi-lasers and optional autocannons tend to be the best all-round bet with their good to high Strength values and decent rate of fire. After all, a lot of armies - including the Astra Militarum - tend to employ vehicles with weak rear armour that might be more easily dealt with via Outflanking Scout Sentinels popping up with three Strength 6 or two Strength 7 shots. While I wouldn't call either missile launchers or lascannons terrible options by any means especially with their low price per model, they are just a tad bit too inaccurate on what is an already fragile unit that doesn't want to spend too many points on upgrades.

Heavy Flamers might be decent on Scout Sentinels whether you make the Scout redeployment or Outflank - but preferably the latter - but being incapable of Snap Firing and relying on getting up close with AV10 all-round walkers probably isn't the best plan to have. An alternative and exclusive option for Armoured Sentinels is the plasma cannon which, surprisingly, isn't as bad of a deal as you might think. Three of these are roughly equivalent to a single Leman Russ Executioner in terms of firepower and feature double the hull points, though obviously the overall survivability doesn't really compare as well. If you want AP2 at long range but don't have the Heavy Support or HQ slots to fit in Leman Russ Executioners - though a second Combined Arms Detachment is always available! - then Armoured Sentinels possessing them aren't a terrible idea. Just be aware that you will statistically lose a hull point from a Sentinel once every four shooting phases which, honestly, isn't nearly as scary as you would think given the reputation of something like an Executioner. If I have one recommendation, it is to avoid the Vehicle Equipment list for Sentinels - both units don't want any of the upgrades and want to be as inexpensive as possible given how easy it is for any army to destroy them.


Best Uses
For Scout Sentinels, I would rather Outflank them instead of just using the Scout re-deployment as their weapons are typically long ranged anyway and you only increase the chances of the Sentinels being destroyed early on by deploying them closer to your opponent. The Outflank option might rely on reserves rolls but given the low cost of Sentinels and their status as a "chaff" equivalent ripped straight from Warhammer Fantasy, you probably won't care too much if they don't show up until turn four. Outflanking a handful of multi-lasers or autocannons behind your opponents' advancing line works wonders against mechanized lists, with Wave Serpents being at their most vulnerable (barring melee) against shooting attacks to the rear. The short ranged Leman Russ variants and most Space Marine tanks tend to have poor rear armour, and using Scout Sentinels to shoot at the rear armour of such vehicles is particularly nasty against Ork Battlewagons if you can arrive on turn two.

For every other potential use of Sentinels, the Armoured variants are superior because they have reasonably increased survivability and an extra potential weapon option. With these particular Sentinels I would be keeping them back behind your other units, particularly your infantry squads, to abuse their height and easily accessed cover even from small Imperial Guardsmen models. They can fire without obscuration against opponents but will benefit from cover themselves against most ranged attacks. Try to focus their efforts alongside your other Heavy Weapon Teams or units with similar weaponry for maximum effect; three Sentinels really don't dish out that much firepower, unfortunately, and work better as a form of slightly more competitive Heavy Weapons Squad. Avoid melee as best you can with either variant of Sentinel as any unit with krak grenades or Strength 4 melee attacks (against Scout Sentinels) will tear them apart with an ease afforded out of pity.


Thank you all for reading this addition to my long-running Astra Militarum articles; I hope you found these thoughts conducive to your efforts as a General of the Imperium! While both kinds of Sentinels could be quite a bit better given their points cost, they are cheap enough that including them won't really hurt your army list creation - even if the Wonderful Wyverns are as inexpensive as a pair of Sentinels! At the very least, they provide you with heavy weapons on a semi-mobile platform that can either Outflank or benefit from increased survivability as opposed to the frankly sub par Heavy Weapon Squads. Thank you again for viewing my various articulations on Sentinels, and I wish you all a lovely week; be sure to leave a comment below, we appreciate any and all feedback!

5 comments:

  1. I've enjoyed these articles as I'm currently getting my Guard army up and painted and need to know what to focus on - Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's a shame Sentinels are more or less useless, cuz I love the model.
    :(
    I've thought of maybe keeping a trio in the backfield behind my Stormlord and Leman Russes, to help fight off deep-striking suicide melta-type units, or Beakie Drop Pods and such, but like you said- pretty much anyone can end them with little difficulty. The points spent on 3 Sentinels w/Autocannon upgrades is probably better spent on screening troops or somesuch.
    Sigh. Cool model, but sigh.

    I've been reading your stuff for quite a while now, Learn2Eel, and I really enjoy your posts. I'd love to see this place listed on the House of Paincakes Blogroll.
    Please hit us up if you get a chance!

    http://www.houseofpaincakes.com/p/join-us.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think one thing this article didnt touch much upon was just using Sentinels as solitary units. One highly mobile heavy weapon - particularly an autocannon - is really a thorn in your opponents side. And the unit is so cheap that its easy to fit in if you have the slot. Theres not really a Guard army that wont benefit from a "maverick" Sentinel like this.

    Really sucks that you cant buy them as part of an infantry platoon anymore.

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  4. I just acquired 3 for my armoury. They are planned to be outfitted autocannons and have a role of countercharging units that break through my line, to hold for as long as possible. I see this unit as the best for the job.

    While looking stylized!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just acquired 3 for my armoury. They are planned to be outfitted autocannons and have a role of countercharging units that break through my line, to hold for as long as possible. I see this unit as the best for the job.

    While looking stylized!

    ReplyDelete