1 Sept 2014

Tactica Astra Militarum - Ratlings

Hello there everyone, I am Learn2Eel and I am very happy to bring you the latest installment of my Astra Militarum Tactica series. Today ushers in my review of the appropriately titled Ratlings, models that are as miniature in proportion as they are in....well, the fact that they are "miniature miniatures"! Excuse my poor humour, but this specialist sniper unit is one that is intended more as a squad to spend throw-away points on because of their tiny minimal squad size and relatively inexpensive price per model. They may be vertically challenged but they sure do know how to punch below the table with their always annoying sniper weapons. Will the terrible and obviously unintentional puns continue in my review? Grab a pint and read on to find out; I hope you enjoy it!

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When discussing Ratlings I think it is pertinent to note that comparisons to Scout Snipers will always end in favour of the latter unit given that they have all of Toughness 4, better saves, thrice or more the number of deployment options, Objective Secured in a Combined Arms detachment and all at a roughly equivalent price point on a per model basis. Ratlings really don't compare all that well to other specialist sniper units with a pathetic Toughness 2, 5+ armour save and the Stealth special rule making them amongst the most fragile infantry squads in the game. They also cannot defend themselves in close combat as a result, especially with one attack each at Strength 2 even despite a higher than average (for a human or sub-human species) Initiative 4. Leadership 6 will also see them flee quite easily once fired upon and what is worse is that they are just not worth purchasing a Commissar or Ministorum Priest for so as to fix this issue given how fragile they are. Their Ballistic Skill 4 and ability to Infiltrate are nice for a specialist sniper unit even if the latter rule shouldn't be used to get them closer to enemies that can kill them with impunity through some token bolter shots of all things. The small stature of the models means they are a pretty easy unit to miss while their firepower is limited enough to be an inconvenience, so much so that opponents will often ignore them in favour of more sizable threats. If a titanic Wraithknight manages to somehow get sight of their miniscule frames then it will probably just coldly "laugh" at them and shoot the Basilisk hiding underneath or behind them, though somehow I think anything is an easy target behind a unit such as Ratlings.

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Their unique special rule "Shoot Sharp and Scarper" that allows them to shoot and then run in the same shooting phase really isn't that useful given that traditionally the best use of such a rule - using the Eldar's Battle Focus as a barometer - is to fire and then flee out of sight or range of the opponent. If you try to hide with a unit carrying sniper rifles after they shoot then you will practically forfeit their next shooting phase as they will be forced to move back into position so they can have line of sight to the target. Still, provided you don't have them just sitting in a ruin or building this might actually be useful if only to try and run on to an objective when necessary to fulfill either the Maelstrom of War or Eternal War mission requirements. Honestly though the rule just doesn't work all that well for a squad that already has a 36" range and doesn't want to move whatsoever save to try and get out of assault range of nearby enemy units. Ratlings are cool for trying to pick out important characters like Commissars or special weapon holders in enemy units but with the change to sniper weapons and their severely reduced usefulness against vehicles I just can't recommend this unit at all. A bare-bones Infantry Squad is a far better "minimalist scoring unit", and the points spent on a Ratling unit to actually make them be able to reliably pick off a model or two will almost always be far better spent on a Wyvern that is roughly the cost of six or seven Ratlings. There is nothing a sniper weapon can do that a Barrage weapon can't do better now that the former has lost Rending against vehicles.

Best Uses
These guys will shine against blob-based Astra Militarum army lists because of how easily killed a Commissar or Ministorum Priest is, especially as both are single wound models and the former is not an Independent Character and thus only benefits from a 4+ Look Out Sir roll. Otherwise, you want a squad of probably around five to just be an irritation by trying to pick our Tactical Marines wielding plasma guns, Sergeants, carriers of "Chapter Banner" equivalents and so on. The unit lacks the hitting power to actually do any serious damage to a squad either through lack of rate of fire or the middling profile of sniper weapons. Use their unique special rule to move backwards if you are situated on flat terrain or near a ruin and have an encroaching enemy assault unit, though this won't really work if you place snipers where they usually want to be - in the high reaches of a ruin or building. Treat them as an annoyance and throw away unit that doesn't need any real support abilities to function and they should do alright for you, even if spending those same points elsewhere in an Astra Militarum list will usually yield better results.

I thank you all for reading this delightfully short article and I am sure that it was most helpful to your plans to expand the size and scope of your influence on the battlefield. While Ratlings fill more of a niche role that can only really be performed by a select few units elsewhere in the codex, that they are specialized to that role can sometimes make them more alluring than their larger human brethren. I guess size really doesn't matter after all, that or Ratlings really do know how to compensate for their small stature with such big sniper rifles.

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  1. Very punny of you :P

    "... despite a higher than average (for a human or sub-human species) Initiative 2"
    Typo. You mean initiative 4.
    Regarding "shoot sharp and scarper": I agree that the ability can't be properly used as a shoot-and-run-away ability ("hit-and-run -lite"?). You've already mentioned the reasons. Why, then, did the developers include it? I think that it was [baseless speculation] intended as a way to let the ratlings to move around at all (albeit at a rate of D6 inches instead of 6 inches) while still firing their "Heavy" sniper rifles at full ballistic skill (cf. the use of "Forwards, for the Emperor" by some players in order to redeploy heavy weapon squads). [/baseless speculation]

    An option for those who like the fluff of snipers but don't want to play with space-hobbits: A 6-strong special weapon team with 3 sniper rifles costs the same as 3-and-a-half ratlings. The humans don't take up an (admittedly plentiful) elite slot, has nearly twice the models, higher toughness, and (if you want to have them sprint towards an objective) has the "Objective Secured" special rule. Most importantly, though... no space-hobbits! :)
    Remember that a model with BS 3 would get fewer hits than a model with BS 4... but the same number of precise hits (because you get a precise shot on a role of 6)*.

    *If you decide to twin-link a weapon (via Prescience or the like), you'll actually get a higher number of precise shots from a lower ballistic skill. This is because the lower your ballistic skill, the more misses you get, so the more dice you'll re-roll, and so the more 6s you'll get. I mention this to highlight the counter-intuitive way that Precise Shots are calculated, not as a valid tactic (why are you wasting Prescience on a tiny unit of snipers instead of a set of battle tanks?).

    1. Cheers, I'll fix that Initiative part up in a second. I'm guessing that was the point of Shoot, Sharp and Scarper as well but being able to move D6" a turn on a sniper unit still isn't anything special I feel.

      That's exactly right on both fronts, hence why I still feel Kroot Snipers are probably the best of their kind.

  2. Wouldn't you say they're useful against high toughness models as they always wound on 4s regardless of toughness (which tend to be more frequent with ratlings due to their higher ballistic skill compared to scouts). I know that's how I use when I get them my spare points :)

    1. Oh of course, ten Ratlings will average something like two unsaved wounds (one Rending, one failed armour save) on your typical 3+ armoured monstrous creature from 36" away. That's quite decent for 100 points but given the army with the most 3+ armoured monster (Tyranids) counters light infantry ridiculously, I'm not sure Ratlings will ever get more than a few shooting phases out.