Dear Transports: Learn your place.

Hey there folks, Xaereth from Delusions of Grandeur here once again, after a slight absence.  Today I want to talk about something related to, but not limited to, Blood Angels:  Transports and their role in assaults.  Or more precisely, the guys in transports, and the manner in which their transports allow them to interact with the assault phase.  Heh, wow, that sounded kind of technical.  Logic and critical thinking classes have apparently paid off :-p

So, I suppose we should start by making a distinction.  There are two types of assaulters in this game:

  • Transport-aided- troops that depend on transports to move them around the field, protect them, etc.  Example:  Grey Hunters in a Rhino
  • Self-propelled- dudes that can move quickly on their own, and create their own opportunities to assault, unrestricted by any other single unit but themselves.  Example:  Hellions (Dark Eldar)
This is somewhat obvious.  I generally start articles off with the obvious, since sometimes it's not something people have thought of.  Giving step-by-step logical progressions help to give credibility to the later stages in thought.  Or at least, that's what I tell myself ;-)

So, there are two different kinds of assaulters.  Big deal, right?  They both assault.  There isn't really a correlation between transport-aided troops and how potent they are in close combat vs. self-propelled assaulters.  There are plenty of examples of ultra-potent and mediocre assault troops to be found across the game.  So, at first glance, it doesn't seem to be a big deal- both options seem to have equal potential.  This isn't necessarily true, however.

If there is a single thing that is important in playing competitively, most competitive players will tell you that it is this:  dependability/consistency in your units.  This could take multiple forms, including but not limited to:
  • getting rerolls
  • rolling enough dice that it 'forces' the odds to even out
  • forcing opponents to deal with multiple high-toughness/high AV/good save units
Consistency wins games more often than good rolling does- far more often.  A skilled player will be able to understand what exactly is needed at the exact time and place it is needed, and know just how many resources are needed to achieve a goal.  This is less and less possible with inconsistent units.  There is a distinction many people miss:  consistency vs. potential.

  • Consistency tells a good player that they can do something 10 times, and know exactly what will happen 9 of those times.  An example of this is Lightning Claw Terminators in a Templar army- rerolls to both hit and to wound, followed by no saves by the opponent makes their results extremely predictable.
  • Potential means that something could really do well, if everything goes in it's favor.  An example of this would be a Power Sword on a Space Marine sergeant.  Whereas if he rolls well, he will do quite a bit of damage, he is also required to roll well in order for the sword to be worth it.  Poor or even average rolling will ensure that nothing good happens. 
Ask yourself this:  will my unit do what I want it to almost every time?  If the answer is yes, then it is consistent.  If the answer is no, then it is potential.  Don't get me wrong, potential threat is better than no threat, and can force people to react in a way they would not normally.  The two are certainly worth making a distinction of, however.

So, see how that works?  One more example before we move on:  A power fist on a Wolf Guard in a squad of Grey Hunters w/ the Wolf Standard would be considered consistent rather than potential, because of the ability to reroll 1's for a turn, and get the extra charging attack even when being charged (hoo-ray for counter-charge!).  Being able to hit more times than not, and then wound on 2's, rerolling 1's again, is something you can count on, and is thus consistent.

I'm sure that this also seems obvious to many people.  Still, I see people playing inconsistent units extremely often, and complaining when they don't meet their potential.  How many times have you seen someone defend a terrible unit like so:  Well this one time, my 30-man squad of Death Company multi-charged my opponent's entire army, and killed everything, and then I tabled them, and therefore Death Company are awesome.  Too many times to count, if I were to guess.  I figure it's worth the time to talk about.

Alright, so maybe this makes sense so far, but what does this have to do with transports and assaulting?  I suppose I can say it now:  Transports have less consistency than self-propelled squads.  For example:  Let's say that our army is a rhino-based assaulting army.  We get 2nd turn, and hide our rhinos, but find no way to block line of sight to our transports.  We fail to seize the initiative, and our opponent promptly destroys or immobilizes most of our rhinos.  Will we win the game?  Unlikely. 

Was there a way to play the game so that you could win almost every time, given those sets of conditions?  Not really- the list design itself was fundamentally flawed.

In the same scenario, but replacing the rhino-based squads with self-propelled squads (let's say... assault squads with jump packs), the opponent would certainly have done some damage, but in the next turn, we would have still been able to move the bulk of our army forward, since mobility isn't something that can be shot off of a self-propelled squad (unlike transport-aided squads)

Since in an assaulting army mobility is a must, consistency is favored over potential.  Of course, transports do a few things very well, the main attraction being that they allow good squads that would be normally useless because of how slow they are, to be able to contribute to the battle at all. Those squads are certainly useful, and have great potential.  If their transport doesn't die, they can really do a lot of damage.

So, what conclusion can we make from all of this?  Let's walk through the steps quick:
  • There are two types of assaulting units:  Transport-aided and Self-propelled
  • Both of these can be potent in assault
  • Consistency is needed to win in a competitive setting
  • Consistency is different from potential
  • Self-propelled squads are more consistent than Transport-aided squads
  • Transport-aided squads have good potential, and can still positively contribute to the game
My conclusion is this, then:

In an assault-based army, the 'main attraction' of the army needs to be self-propelled.  Other squads in transports can (and many times should be) used to support the force, but an assault army should not be predicated on only using transports, unless they can be made consistent somehow.

I've seen transport-heavy armies all too often fall to shooty (or even just balanced) armies because their assault capabilities were diminished to nothing by a single round of shooting.  Heh, I should know, I tried for a very long time to make my rhino-borne Berzerker army work, before I finally gave up.  Berzerkers will kill the shite out of anything they charge- if they can get the charge off.

My wolfstar is a good example of how this concept works well.  The wolfstar is my big, main assault unit that doesn't depend on transports, while the grey hunters support the Wolfstar- they aren't the 'main attraction'.

Hopefully this makes sense- let me know what you think.  I need some sleep, I leave for Adepticon in 4 hours.  Look out for big battle reports on my own blog.  Have a good one folks!

The pictures are all things I found when I googled 'consistency', in case anyone is curious, lol.  This last one makes me sad though:

Oscar Wilde obviously never played 40k.  Or maybe he did, and just thinks I'm a moron.

Great post as always Xaereth. Grats on winning The Feast of Blades! JB


gundog8324 said...

Didn't you Hear the new Vindicare is such a good shot that if he scores a wound on an IC with a Jump Pack instead doing a wound he can instead remove the Jump Pack?

Not Sure about Wings though I think it might be -3" per wing removed.

Thor said...

Xaereth, you've very concisely put to words what I've been coming to the conclusion of. Great post and also congrats on Feast of Blades.

ServvsUmbrarum said...

Very informative. I spend way to much time researching Warhammer 40k (apparently it gives me an advantage lol).

I'm guessing that adding a Land Raider would be more on the line of consistent? Since they are very difficult to destroy (without luck).

Xaereth said...

Servvs: Yeah, Land Raiders begin edging toward consistent- they are certainly be one of the most consistent transports out there (Falcons and KFF + Battlewagons being slightly better :-p )

Jason said...


Raiders are more consistent, but it's not a massive improvement unless your opponent forgot to bring his melta/lance/railguns.

I admit that with smart play my LRCrusader survives most games, but I only rely on it surviving 1-2 turns. That's the level of consistency I require to reliably deliver Assault Terminators to the enemy lines.
If I have to go 3 turns to reach them or they bring some good guns, then all bets are off.

tim said...

Although I agree that you should always build the base of your army for consistency (6 broadsides can reliable kill a few tanks and/or infantry a turn) I think that potential is also needed. In most cases, the units with potential (these don't include units with transports, as they start out consistent, but rather units that outflank, deep-strike, etc.) will do more damage if they work than consistent. Also, the fear-factor of my outflanking kroot, deep-striking crisis suits, etc. effects how my opponent places and maneuvers his consistent units, turning them into potential.

Rathstar said...


Excellent article. Well written and thought out with good points raised.

I think in the rhino based assault army you have to realise some transports will be popped, and maybe popped early. To mitigate this you could include extra transports for units that don't really need them, such as transports for long fangs in a space wolf list, either use a rhino to pick up stranded squads or a razorback to add firepower and pick up whittled down squads.

Another mitigating tactic is to put so many vehicle hulls on the table that some will always survive to turn 4, ie. overload their anti tank with multiple threats, eg. multiple rhinos, landspeeders heading towards his landraider, dreadnaughts heading towards squads without powerfists etc. It's still not as effective as units having their own mobility but it can help to ensure some assaulting happens.

One thing you didn't mention is that Self-propelled squads also have to be worried that they can be targeted by all the enemy weapons (anti infantry and anti tank) straight away, whereas transported troops have to be first shot out of their vehicile. If you can reduce this vulnerability (eg. BA DoA, advancing with vehicles to give a cover save, Hellions Stealth with the Baron) they will do great and very consistant.

I favour a mix of the two, with consideration of how to mitigate both types of assaulters weaknesses'. An example is multiple rhino borne grey hunters supported by thunderwolf cavalry, or DE mech supported by beastmasters and/or hellions.


Joe said...

Nice article, thanks.

The idea of consistency can also be applied to how a given unit *dies*. For example, the DE Raider is one of the most effective transports long as you remember it's made of (wet) tissue paper, is going to attract a lot of nasty attention, and play accordingly.

Add nightshields and/or flickerfields then reserve, zoom it around, make your opponent use up firepower on it, then use the wreckage for a critical bit of cover. It's not a cheap suicide, but it's consistent along the lines of the post.

ServvsUmbrarum said...

I've never been much of a dedicated assault army for my BA. I generally only have 1-2 Squads that really get into melee. My current build has a 9 man VV Squad with Chap, SP, Libby in a Stormraven. The people I play with absolutely hate that vehicle and spend way too much time trying to stop that flying box.

I do very much realize that a more senior player would have no problem in popping it but for a 1250 army I think it works very well.

Sir Biscuit said...

Interestingly, this is something that I've been struggling with with my GK. 24" is great if you can drive up and pop out, but if you end up going second and losing a bunch of rhinos, you get to enjoy a few turns slogging into range and taking fire. One of the big reasons I'm looking into a Gk deep strike list, as reserves manipulation + only D6 scatter IS extremely reliable and immediately gets you where you need to be.

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