Thursday, 8 October 2009

Tough Tacticas: Fielding the Unloved

The original 'tough tactics' adopted by British troops heading for Burma in WW2

Do you buy/build the models and then learn to use them, or buy the models to fill a 'slot' in your army?

I certainly do a lot of the latter, but I have a strong soft spot for great looking, but codex maligned units that I take a lot of time to convert and then never ever play ... good example of this - my Ogryns or my Lictor. Bought or built in a moment of 'MUST HAVE THAT MINI', and subsequently they have spent a significant amount of gloriously painted time on the shelf.

In a similar vein I have Techpriests and Servitors, Gargoyles, Roughriders, Ogryns, Ratlings and Pathfinders, XV25 Stealth Teams, Ripper Swarms, Spore Mines and Tyranid Warriors....

Some of these units are 'Meh?', some are downright overpriced and other are worrisome and easily countered... over the next few weeks, I'll be writing up some articles on these pariahs (oh, I forgot about Pariahs ...), discussing their foibles or price weaknesses and asking if they could actually have a viable role in 40k.

You never know, we might find out something we hadn't previously thought of...

As usual, your comments and feedback will help to level the playing field and ensure we've got the data right and maybe throw us some tactical curveballs! First up: RoughRiders...

Tough Tacticas: Rough Riders

Rough Riders flank the enemy, as the Commander leads the charge.

The rough rider took a real punch to the gut with the new codex. While the horse-boys are now cheaper than ever (at 10.5 to 11 pts each), they have also found themselves in a very crowded FOC. To be fair, the only section which has simplified is the troops section, and since one of the options in there is 'bring a whole army', it hardly counts ... but I disgress.

The Cavalry are hemmed in by not just new Sentinels and Hellhound variants, but then landed on by the sparkly new Valkyrie/Vendetta skimmers. Life ain't good for the mounted troops.

In essence, the cavalry are frequently overlooked in favour of the spanking tanks ... and this is a shame, because the rough riders are a dangerous and potentially game turning unit.

Rough Rider Statistics

At first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking all the above buildup was a poor joke. After all the roughrider has an identical statline to a guardsmen! At over twice the price of a normal guardsmen, many potential Imperial Guard Generals add the points cost to the alternative FOC choices and go buy some armour... to compound the problem you have to buy the incredibly overprice 'Mongol' models or purchase pistolliers and Guardsmen for a conversion (which takes some work). Rough Riders don't get to the shelf, they actually just stay in the book.

However, there are lots of reasons why they are easily worth their points:
  1. Cavalry: they can only 'move' like normal infantry (IE: 6-12"), but this special rule grants them the combination of 'fleet of hoof' combined with a double charge range (IE: 12" in open or 2xD6 into terrain).
  2. Explosive Lances: This is what rough riders are all about ... basically a demo-charge on a stick. The rough riders benefit from an iniative bonus and strength bonus, taking them both to 5 AND these attacks are power attacks in the first round.
  3. Frag Grenades: this means that rough riders can charge into terrain and assault the enemy while keeping their I5 attacks!
  4. Krak Grenades: As standard. That means that roughriders can charge 24" and plant 5 krak grenades on a vehicle. With an average rear armour of 10, that's not to be sniffed at.
As you may have already noticed, the 24" charge is great, but the 'normal infantry; move is less so. I've tried taking rough riders on a 'glorious charge' a couple of times to significantly futile conclusions. Even with carapace armour (under the old codex) they get mullered!

The RoughRiders have several key jobs, that they excel in:

Option One: "Defending the Backfield" Anti-deepstriking patrol

I've found my biggest use for roughriders in counterattacking deepstrikers. The ability to move up to 24" in a turn means that the roughriders have a brilliant 'sphere of influence' for dettering deepstrikers.

In a recent tournament game, a chaos player planned to deepstrike his 5 Khronite Terminators behind my Guard gunline. Although I had both plasma and melta in the area (and about 30 flashlights), I knew my chances of neutralising this threat were thin. Luckily I had a squad of five roughriders in reserve 'haunting' the backline.

The combination of a 11 S5 I5 Power attacks was very damaging. At 55pts, with only three normal squads in the area (plasma and 2 melta) the cavalry unit could turn concerned into confident. The combined guardsmen fire would kill 2.52 Termies (thats a 8% chance per man, including melta/plasma - three cheers for guardsmen accuracy!) However, the Rough Riders can cause 2.44 casualties (on average) with only 5 men! This means an average kill of 4.96 Termies a turn - not to be sniffed at!

Only Straken can put out as many high strength, high iniative attacks on the charge - and he costs more than 8 rough riders! With the increase in deepstriking and flanking - roughriders can prove very useful to give an enemy pause before sending his expensive 'throwaways' into melee. Roughriders are the ultimate 'throwaways'.

Finally, its worthwhile noting that after the roughriders initial charge they 'turn into' normal guardsmen and can die very quickly. This said, if they managed their job and 'slaughtered' the target then they are largely ignored ... this is where option three comes in - anti tank!

Option Two: Defending Tanks

The Rough Riders block LoS and a 'staggered' formation of their larger bases keeps the crisis suits outside melta range.

If you want to move roughriders forwards, the best way is to trot them behind something fast, like a hellhound or a cruising chimera. The added advantage is that the roughriders (while gaining a cover save from low scrub) can supply exemplary cover saves to vehicles without raising an eyebrow. This combined with their anti-deepstrikers elites ability gives them a good detterent effect.

The ideal deployment is to use the roughriders spread out behind your armoured fist. This gives the rough riders a 4+ cover save, making them less of a target. Meanwhile, your tanks benefit from their own rear armour save from flanking Vendettas or deepstrikers.

Roughriders work very well with Hellhounds, as the hellhounds can open up at 12" after a 12" move. Hellhounds are great at 4+ opponents, but struggle with power armour or terminator armour. The roughrider can supply the high AP punch!

Option Three: "Kill that Tank!" roughriders in antitank duties

S5 is not to be sneezed at in close combat. Catching a tank 'napping', granting you 11 autohit S5 attacks on the rear armour will probably see off that tank, but roughriders are much better off saving the lances for 'squishy' targets. Once these 'targets of opportunity' are done, move the rough riders onto ambushing nearby tanks. Jumping slow or stationary tanks in close combat with krak grenades will help greatly.

To increase your odds, try upgrading the sergeant to meltabombs, meaning that even a small squad can potentially ambush any tank within 18-24" and deliver a 50-50 kill. This is much more preferable to the meltagun ... and I'll explain why.

Upgrade options: "Hmmmm choices..."

All roughriders come with lances as standard. The lance takes up a considerable amount of the +5pts you've paid for a basic guardsman on horseback. Therefore I choose my options based upon the following:
  • 5 more men: Always a good choice for that spare 30 pts as roughriders are going to spend a significant amount of time out of combat. A unit of 5 is useful, a unit of 7 can seriously tip the odds in your favour. I rarely go above 7-8 men per unit, as a roughrider unit 0f 10 cover a lot of ground and find it hard to gain cover saves.
  • Power weapon: Like in all guard units, the sergeant is a comparatively cheap close combat monster. This sergeant only gets 2 attacks a turn (new codex disallow two close combat weapons), but a power weapon can mean the 'finishing off' of a unit too big to swallow in one go. Great against T3 opponents, but I3 S3 power is I3 S3 fail against most MeQs. Additionally 10 pts for a power weapon is steep, buy another rough rider instead. Consider taking the plasma pistol instead, but gambling one S7 AP2 hit against the life of a S5 I5 power weapon hit sergeant seems silly! If you are desparate to measure the 12" before charging, use a laspistol, or if its close, why not fleet???
  • Meltabombs: As detailed above, if you're going to give a bomb to any unit, roughriders are the most likely to make use of it. Your opponent will be kicking himself when his 'safe' tank gets hit by 4 S6 and 1 S8 melta attack. A clever idea is to try to 'break the lines' in front of tanks. This way the roughriders can then fleet and charge 12" into the tank. Heroic Stuff!
  • The 'leave at homes': meltagun, plasmagun, flamer ... when you're fleet move is essential to your ability and you charge 12" - are any of these 'upgrades' useful? In my opinon no. Meltagun and plasmagun paints a big target on your guardsmen. The flamer will only be useful if you're charging something right next to you - but with a charge of 18-24" how often will you get the chance. Plus all the above options sacrifice the lance?? and ask you to pay more points at the standard rate. Keep the lance.

Mogul Khan
: I was actually half tempted to leave him in the 'leave at homes' section. As Mogul bonuses (3+D3 attacks on the charge, furious charge for squad, good weapon skill and two close combat weapons) are offset by his dubious fearless (which will get you into combat but will ensure you are all dead by the end of the round!) and his Rage - which makes him useless as a counterattack unit, and removes any strategic advantage of the roughriders and hands control to the enemy. What were GW thinking? Avoid!

Rough Riders not on the Charge: Just like harlequins, roughriders get panned if they get ambushed. You do get the advantage of a power weapon for the first turn, but only I3, S3. So unless you've been jumped by tau - consider this goodbye. Anyone getting their Rough Riders jumped deserves it though - stupid, stupid, stupid...

The Khan Approach: Just a quick example of how to throw rough riders away. They took an awesome amount of firepower to down, but died tragically and then got killed by a chaos space marine ... what a waste. Looked cool though.

Preferred Setup: Rough Rider Sergeant plus 6 rough riders, meltabombs - 80pts.

On the deepstriking defence side, the unit can kill:
  • 5 MeQ (Marine Equivilents - think assault marines)
  • 3.33 TeQ (Terminator Equivilents)
  • 6.66 CeQ (Crisis Suit Equivilents)
  • 8.33 SeQ (Stealth Suits Equivilents)
And then go tank stalking...

Tactical Deployment As frequent reader will be aware, I am currently moving my armies metagame across of mech/combined arms. This requires lots of Chimeras/Hellhounds combined with indirect fire (in my case mortars and basilisks). The rough riders are an essential part to this, giving me an effective detterent to both flanking and deepstriking high value units. The alternative would be to leave a special weapon or command squad behind with relatively dubious abilities, an unlikelihood to hit and a dubious counterattack ability.

With Roughriders, I know my mortars are safe and the whole backrow can pile out the pain, while costing peanuts!


As a guide on how to build, check out the following: the new GW horses are 5 for £7.85, BitzBox retail Empire Knights lances (which are better, less pennants) and Pistollier legs at 40p each ... That's £15.85 plus the five guardsmen in the back of your army your never take for some roughriders...

Alternatively, go the pistolliers + guardsmen approach. I managed to build 20 guardsmen and 10 roughriders for under £35 ... which isn't bad at all!

So next time you're fielding a guard army and have 55-60pts to spare, rather than buying another Chimera or Guardsmen squad, consider roughriders...


So what's your experience of roughriders, used them? Fought them? Let me know. Also, if you have any 'maligned' units that need a second look - let me know...