The demise of the Sentinel Walker
As a fairly well seasoned 40k gamer (ED: eh, what? Lightly sprinkled with herbs of experience, slight undertone of roasted garlic!) and a passionate professor of Imperial Guard in all their many numbered might, I'm really sad about the Sentinel.
Like many of my generation, I rewound my VHS recording of Starwars and watched Luke kill the Deathstar again and again until you could practically see the holes in the magnetised tape! I lived and breathed starwars. Empire strikes back was the best of the three, its darkened tones giving a subtle counterpoint to the righteous New Hope and the OTT Jedi. After growing up on a scifi spread of BattleStar Galactica, Ulysses and Buck Rogers. Starwars was surprisingly ... well ... realistic!
The spaceships weren't shiny, they were well used and scuffed and battle scarred. The Millenium Falcon only worked if Han begged it and the snow-speeders had seen better days and needed modifying because they couldn't work in the freezing night of Hoth. By the time the Imperial walker stomped onto the scene I was well past sold. And then, during the overall derge that is Return of the Jedi, two bright sparks appeared: Speeder bikes and the ATST Scout Walker.
Everything from its wicked guns to the dinosaur like movements was brilliant. I had a second hand ATST toy scout walker with a push button that initiated jerky turkey movements. I loved it.
So ever since I got into Warhammer 40k and realised that there was a wider universe than the mucous clusters of Advanced Space Crusade - I've craved sentinels! I think I would go as far as to say that they are one of the core reasons why I chose Imperial Guard as my army.
However, like many a player, after finally purchasing my cadre of 'stalkers' last Christmas and bringing them to the fore, the question needs to be asked: why are sentinels so pants?
The weaknesses of the Sentinel are multiple. They lack the armour of a Dreadnought (well fair enough), but they're expensive - unreasonably expensive for their fragility. That would be fine if like other light vehicles like Eldar war walkers or landspeeders, they come with some awesome kickass firepower. But they don't... they ummm suck really badly. And it's making me sad.
Saving the Sentinel: Tactics
5th Edition has creaked open the door of opportunity to the broom cupboard of despair that the Sentinel had found itself in. The first crack of light has been the introduction of new cover rules, the second ray comes from the worsening impact of close combat and the third (and real) hope is the opportunity to flank.
- Cover Rules: give your sentinels a hope in hell, get behind the cover. The new vehicle cover rules make a Sentinel more like a giant trooper and this has the added advantage of move and fire with a heavy weapon, exploit the cover and give your boys a fighting chance. Also don't forget that the majority rule also applies to vehicle squad, keep 1.5 sentinels in cover and gain a cover save for all. Exploit your ability to run now and run from cover to cover.
- Covering Fire: As most imperial guard players will attest, the new line of sight (LOS) rules have made heavy weapon teams all the more effective. Now a heavy weapon platoon has both the durability (in cover) and the firepower to shatter an advancing assault squad. So what if they get a 4+ invulnerable save, last edition you couldn't even 'see' them! One problem still persists tho'. As every guard player knows, heavy weapon teams are notoriously static, there's just no advantage in moving them. They are therefore not the best at covering of the line of attack that the enemy troops are flooding down. A squad of three Sentinels can offer a great supporting fire squad for your heavy weapon teams, and with a 4+ save and armed with lascannons or autocannons they can play havoc behind the lines.
- Close Combat: Another advantage of the tactic above is that if properly equipped, the Sentinel can offer reasonable close combat response. If you choose to take hardened fighters, the sentinel has 3 x S6 attacks on the charge. This makes Sentinels very handy against Ork boys (who with only S3 can't glance them), but watch out for powerfists, S4 troops or even boltguns at this range. The opportunity to slaughter a squad in close combat is highly tempting, but kill the powerfist sergeant first with your vindicare assassin. Approach close combat like Deamonhosts, pick your fights carefully. The advantage of having a vehicle squad in combat is that Shaken results count as stunned, and any multiple loss make no odds as you don't retreat and the hits multiple doesn't count - Nice.
- Bunch of Flankers: this takes two flavours. Anti tank and anti infantry. The ability to flank has given the sentinel a new lease of life, allowing them to deploy three lascannon pointing directly at the rear armour of most vehicles. This mid game 'surprise' option is invaluable. As the Sentinels life expectancy beyond that fist volley is non-existent. Best weapon: Lascannon or Autocannon (depending on your confidence and luck). For anti infantry flanking, place an objective near the short board edge, wait until the objective is held by 4+ saving throw troops, flank and toast using heavy flamers. Rinse, repeat, charge if dead etc. The Sentinels are sacrificial, they'll probably die, but let them take as many with them as possible! Best Weapon: Heavy Flamer.
The poor maligned Sentinel is still the butt-end joke of the Guard. At 150pts for three fragile autocannon turkeys to could buy two fully equipped guard squads, a well equipped armoured fist, a hellhound or even a leman russ battle tank - what would you count on? The fact of the matter is the Sentinel is underpowered, overpriced and under-armoured - making it one of the most cherished, but least used units in the Guard arsenal.
So what could improve the situation, well I have a number of thoughts for upgrades, some original, some available at forgeworld:
- The Missile Launcher Sentinel. Available with indirect fire for whirlwind type action.
- Give us more guns. Twin (not twin linked) Heavy Bolters, Autocannons or Multilaser for some equality with War Walkers.
- Twin Linked Lascannons, we only hit half the time after all!
- Armoured Sentinel (is AV11 too much to ask as an upgrade?)
- Close Combat Sentinel (what else is that giant chainsword for?) - give us some real punch.
And that's it, an epiphany (or derge) to the most desired and least use vehicle in W40k. Please GW, bring back our scout walker!