Thursday, 28 August 2008

Hell Hath No Fury

The Hellhound goes to work
Art & Imagery© 2005 Games Workshop Ltd.

Flamer and Hellhound Tactica
by Suneokun

The hellhound is a rare beast in the Imperial Guard codex. It's a tank that actually works! In fact, alongside the basilisk, it is often regarded as the most feared tank in 40k. With the introduction of 5th edition a series of rules have made the Hellhound essential:
  • Objectives: these cheeky critters (such as the fabulous 'rending pony') have a natural affinity to densely covered areas. From a fluff perspective it fires the imagination more to be fighting over a bunker or burnt out building than 'that bit of open ground over there ... no right a bit ... gottit!' - you see? Secondly, with valuable troops holding the ground in the open the opposition will target every available and appropriate weapon in their direction. Even vaunted Space Marines fear the wrath of plasma and lascannon - and these are the weapons brought to bear - because of all the above - cover rules ok.
  • Going to ground: I haven't actually used this rule to my advantage, but for that final round survivability boost, GtG has it all. It's takes the Smurf's plasma denied 3+ saving throw and hands it back to him as a cover save ... for guard it'll give a cameoline cloaked armoured fist team a Terminator's saving throw: never were troops quite so durable.
  • Kill every last one of them: No longer can you whittle that combat squad down to two men. Even just one Imperial Guard can contest an objective (as long as he hasn't routed!), so inversely, it's not satisfactory to kill some - kill all.
So, with the above in place we face a particular situation - the chance of capturing an objective (not just contesting that objective, any numpty can do that!) is significantly reduced. Getting your guard into position is one thing, their new ability to 'run' makes them a little quicker, but Chimera's are the ultimate taxi now. Once in place however, holding an objective for guard can now take on many new forms:
  • Platoons: Cheapish and cheerful. A selection of squad armed with melta or plasma can offer some serious opposition, forcing the other player to make a break for and charge the opposition through the hail of fire. Particularly powerful if backed up by a counter attack or fire power (GL, Plasma) command squad. As mentioned before, camo gear becomes essential as it covers a 3+ or even 2+ saving throw. Remember that unlike conscript you can 'trip and fire' these squads (ie: sacrifice one squad while you line up 5 flamers to kill the enemy at point blank range).
  • Armoured Fist: The last minute tactical grab - prone to misadventure, especially if someone's already waiting. This tactic is further improved by the new ability for tanks to move their entire allowable move and then deposit troops. Generally works better for skimmers than tanks, but who's complaining (ED: Err, you mostly!).
  • Conscript Platoon: Nothing is quite as hilarious as the look of exasperated disbelief when your opponent realises just how many turns it will take him to plow through 50 conscripts. Don't waste a doctrine on Independent Commissars, just take Ibrahim Gaunt or Commissar Yarrick for 50 fearless numpties with a powerfist. Oh, and don't forget the flamers.
So with all the rule changes above, shooting at people around a cover rich objective is a wasted opportunity. Your chances of clearing that ruin are significantly reduced and in any case you need to be within 3" of the objective to claim it. This path then forks down two opportune routes which both deny this pesky cover save: Close Combat (H2H) and Flamers...

Close Combat: The guard are often underrated in close combat, after all your basic trooper costs the same as an ork, but with less WS and less attacks. However, as a wise man on IGMB (Imperial Guard Message Board) pointed out. Point for point, a basic guardsmen unit beats anything else. They're likely to die, but they actually have a better life expectancy than when under fire. Conscripts are even more satisfying, an Ork's BS2 is a real handicap, but a conscripts WS2 still means he hits most things on a 4+. In combination with "warrior weapons" - where every conscript gets a laspistol and close combat weapon - that's 150 attacks on the charge - go one terminator squad, how many 1's can you roll?!? However, guard aren't meant to win in H2H, at best they're meant to slow down the opposition so that the rest of their platoon can secure the objective. While I love the satisfaction of mashing up Harlequins and Striking Scorpions with my plasma pistol toting command squad. I could buy two more troops units for their cost - they're only value is in fluff and personal hatred.

Flamers: Guard rock when it comes to flamers, we can overdose on flamers. What we lack in powerswords and powerfists, we make up for in an abundance of cheap special weapons - and rightly so! Don't go overkill on flamers though. Nothing is an frustrating as sitting your flamer and melta command squad in cover, knowing you could make the difference - but also knowing you're shish kebab as soon as you step out of cover. I would recommend the following:
  • Conscripts and flamer: No brainer really - it's the only thing they'll actually hit something with and on the charge 5 flamers up front can cut the odds nicely. Plus the enemy will have to kill 45 other dudes to whittle them out.
  • Command squads and flamers: I have previously shied away from these beasts, but with the new 'behind another squad' cover save, the inability for enemies to 'roll up' into your flamers from the last attack and the option to flank makes this viable. I've secured the wholesale massacre of a 20 strong guardian avenger squad with 3 flamers and they are the bane of Harlequins and Pathfinders (cover save, what cover save?), not to mention their effectiveness against Orks and Tyranids. Hmmm ... food for thought. The frustrating thing is that you have such fire potential from a command squad with grenade launchers, plasma or melta - why waste it on flamers...?
  • Flamers in Squads: I don't use flamers in squads as usually I need as much fire power as possible. I'm a big supporter of putting plasma and melta in squads as a disincentive to tanks, while offering covering fire from command squad grenade launchers.
  • Chimera Flamers: Ok so you lose a heavy bolter or (heavens above!) your multilaser. But at Strength 5 and AP4 the Heavy Flamer can really clean up, as mentioned before in "Stroll on ATST - Sentinel Tactica" Flamers are a cheap and very effective option on Chugs - Especially for Orgyrns, Armoured Fists or Grenadiers trying to take an objective.
  • Sentinel Flamers: highly effective if in range, but sadly unlikely to get there - only really an option via their ability to flank. However you're better off taking "Light Infantry" doctrine and flanking your troops options with a flamer command squad.
Toasting Bacon - Hellhounds

What's not to like? For 130 points for get a tank with smoke, heavy stubber, heavy bolter and an Inferno Cannon. Unlike other ordinance tanks (ie everything else except the chimera) you can fire everything, every turn (except if you move 12"). A heavy stubber and heavy bolter offer significant firepower on the drive in, but lets give the Inferno cannon it's due - it's unbelievably awesome.

Burn baby burn, Disco Inferno.

This has got to be up there as one of the most terrifying weapons to face and the most pleasurable weapons to use. The inferno cannon is probably the best gun in the game, up there alongside the Assault Cannon, the Scatter Laser and the Shokk Attack Gun. The difference is, this one is fun AND very effective.
  • Range: what's the flamer's biggest weakness? The fact you have to be eyeballing the enemy before they're effective. Naturally, this is not the Imperial Guard's comfort zone as it leaves you vulnerable to being charged (I'd charge first if I were you!) or pin cushioned before you get to the elusive range. For the Inferno Cannon, this offers no problem, allowing you to keep pesky melta and plasma weapons at arms reach as you cook the enemy.
  • Template: One of the tricks of the flamer is getting your man lined up 'just so' to hit all 5 space marines. With the Inferno Cannon not such problem exists as you can maneurve the template into the 'optimum position' as long as one part of the template is within 24" - this is especially effective against clustered up troops in cover as it allows you to hit as many at 9 or 10 with each shot. After all the bigger the target, the bigger the impact.
  • To Hit: this gun comes with an automatic reroll to hit - on a S6 gun shooting multiple guys.
  • Strength: Don't forget that this weapon is also lethal against walkers and especially open topped vehicles like Ork trukks, jetbikes, Deffkoptas and bikes. The S6 denies them their toughness.
  • Armour Piercing: AP4 is a pretty reasonable troop killer. Eldar, Orks, Tyranids, Tau - only the Smurf and Spiky Smurf can aford to laugh in the face of this gun.
  • Ignores Cover: That's what's got them quaking in their boots. The Inferno ignores cover, allowing you to pillion Ork bikes (usually with a smoky 4+) save, or grill whatever is hiding in cover.

Such a pretty tank, but the Hellhound kinda sucked in Dawn of War.

Fry suckers, Fry!!!

So with all these advantages in it's main weapon, plus a healthy rapid rattling rifling of Anti personnel machine gun fire, the Hellhound is optimum placed to kill a whole squad of 10 Dire Avengers hiding in cover, in one pass. This unfortunately, makes the tank deeply unpopular and sadly puts the Hellhound in multiple gunsights from turn one. So here are my suggestion for survivability:
  • Numbers: One Hellhounds vulnerable, two's a charm, three will make your opponent sweat. After all, hellhounds are great value for money and multiple targets ensure you reach yours. Plus if they al make it, that ensures the enemy are really really dead.
  • Reserves: Stating the obvious, why not leave the hellhound in reserve until required. Let your durable Heavy weapon teams and flanking or deep striking elites tie up the enemy firepower, this leaves the door open for your fire hounds.
  • Support: Not only do you need to kill them all, but also you need to capture that objective. Hellhounds work well as part of a flanking column with chimera support, this gives them staying power, allows them to deliver to objective and then move onto other targets o opportunity.
  • Saving throw: No more 4+ glancing rolls! The Hellhounds profile is low and small. Hide it behind over or even take a stripped down Demolisher along for the ride. In any event, always pop smoke...
This leads me neatly onto the next section:

Essential Vehicle Upgrades

The advantage of Hellhounds is relatively inbuilt. They're cheap, small, and very effective - as such I'd only recommend taking a maximum of three (or four cheap ones) of the following:
  1. Smoke Launchers: Absolutely essential, cheap as chips. That 4+ save will give your tanks real survivability and cut all offensive potential in half. Remember to cycle your tanks if you can, popping the smoke alternatively to give maximum impact.
  2. Heavy Stubber: With a 36" range and S4, the ability to fire this defensive weapon every turn makes it essential. A selection of heavy stubbers also allow fast moving tanks some aggressive action.
  3. Extra Armour: Great, as for 5 points you can keep your tank moving in spite of incoming fire.
  4. Rough Terrain Modification: Every Hellhound needs a bulldozer blade. At 5 points this is essential. Your objective as a Hellhound driver is to get to your target ASAP. If that means driving through stuff - do it! You'll be closer to the 4+ cover save (ie: in it), you'll be making best progress, and what's the chances of rolling two 1's in a row (for me quite high, but hey?) ...
  5. Hunter Killer Missile: This one is great if you need to give your hellhound an antitank punch. A only 10 points, they're very tempting but (and its a big but) I've failed to kill anything with them yet - they do give you the chance of maximising fire for one turn, but the weapon of a desperate man.
  6. Track Guards: Theoretically great, but at 10 points I'd rather have a HK missile. Only gives you a 4+ save and you're stunned that turn anyhow, ie: you are dead next turn and there little you can do about it!
  7. Improved Comms: it's 20 points but you only need one per army - put it on something durable (like a hidden basilisk), worth taking if you're maxing out reserves, but not worth putting on your hellhound (due to life expectancy).

So get out there and secure some Hellhounds, this is arguably the Guards best tank, you're other fast attack options are Sentinels (pah!) and rough riders (don't even get me started on rough riders - grrrr!), so there's no downside.

As they say in the Fantastic Four - "It's CLOBBER TIME ... Flame on!"
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