A brief £48 and a short chat with Mark, my Guard 'partner in crime' at GiftsforGeeks and I'm the proud owner of a ShadowSword. After a quick search online, I've bottomed out the technique (which appear blindingly obvious really: Have a look at Weemen for the formula) for deploying any of the 6 Shadowsword Variants...
A read through the GW article (not that I set much strength to that) also had me thinking ... which variant do you think I should field in my first game. So I've decided to air my views on superheavies and most importantly asking on the poll opposite ... which one's best?
The Shadowsword comes in two main flavours ... out and out Gun Decks, or the seemingly weaker Fighting Deck. The Gun Deck variants are: Shadowsword, Banesword, Stormsword (get the theme here?), whereas the Fighting Deck Vehicles are the Banehammer, Doomhammer and the Stormlord (no relation...) and unlike the Gun Deck these guys sacrifice a little fire power for carrying some troops. This would appear a little odd ... but is incredibly tempting to me!
PART ONE: Gun Deck - "FIRE WHEN READY!"
Unlike the Baneblade variants, these guys generally have an upgraded main gun and sacrifice some of the secondary goodies (like the forward mounted demolisher cannon). In all cases they can have pintle mounted lascannons and dual heavy bolters/flamers. This is titan weapon territory, with little to no sacrifices ...
Banesword - A great big Basilisk
One game with this and I can tell you I hate it. This is basically a big-ass Basilisk, and just like the Bassie it suffers from an excess of 'meh' when it comes to killing tanks or troops. In Apoc you will be consistently hitting superheavies and tanks with AV13 and AV14 frequently. S9, even ordnance S9 isn't there. The other problem is that this tank requires significant 'defence' as it is very vulnerable to close assault. Anyone inside it 24" minimum range is only facing lascannons and heavy bolters ... that means that 'cleaning terminators' off the bonnet requires significant assistance.
Alternatively, the indirect does offer a side armour chance against certain vehicles (Ork Battlewagons for example) AND it doesn't lack reach at 180". But for 450pts, you could field nearly 4 Basilisks, And I don't see this adding much.
Stormsword - King of City Fighting
Now, I know this is a big favourite with old school EPIC players, and I can see why. Ok, so it lacks in range - 36" ain't great. But that 10" Blast that ignores cover is pure delight. Definitely a support 'SHT' (Super-Heavy-Tank), but a cracker. The AP1 also means that it can hit any vehicles it can see in range, ignore the 4+ cover save and put +1 on the damage roll. Plus Killing swathes of troops as AP1 and S10 drops the instant-kill all round.
In a 12k+ points battle, I'd guess you'd barely notice this fella. Plus, with a 10" template he could comfortably drop a point blank shot at 5" ... fairly secure in missing his own bonnet - but still slaughtering the Terminators on the front porch!
Unlike the Shadowsword and the Banesword, this fella only comes with heavy flamers and twin-linked heavy bolters/flamers ... but the 20pt upgrade to lascannons is worth it!
Shadowsword - Titanic Terror
This is the 'badboy' of the group and offers some 'nasty' options. The Volcano Cannon is pure Titan killer weapon. It's a Destroyer weapon, which means that it can deploy a slightly smaller 5" template that autowounds/autopenetrates anything under it.
Vehicles under the central hole of the template get hit hard with an auto-penetrate with a +1 on the damage chart. Any other vehicle it touches pushes an auto-glancing hit. This means this weapon can seriously hold up the line, stun vehicles and blow the opposition to bits.
Just to make it worse, a Destroyer weapon ignore armour AND cover saves, with only invulnerable saves helping at all.
Slightly worse at infantry killing, the Shadowsword is the ultimate anti-titan or Superheavy weapon... that said, it a lot of points on a single shot. a 5" template is good ... but I remain unconvinced by this one. My motto is always quantity over quality ... and this looks like ALL the eggs in one big combustible basket.
I've fielded these once, and am yet to be 'overawed' by the D. In my opinion, any superheavy is pretty dead if the whole opponent's army levels their guns at it. The D stat might as well be a big X.
Gun Deck Round-up
The Stormsword wins a close victory over the Shadowsword, with the Banesword running a poor (and yet overpriced basilisk) third. I like the anti-personnel and antitank options involved with the Stormsword. Plus a D might as well be an X in Apocalypse, as the Shadowsword is a real fire-magnet.
PART TWO: Fighting Decks - "Prepare to Repel Boarders!"
The first advantage of these Tanks is that they can house troops. My understanding is that Superheavies can house multiple squads. In addition these squads can fire any weapon they like from the Superheavy and potentially EVEN if its moving!
The upshot is that the potential of these vehicles can be considerably increased by adding multiple Lascannon, Autocannon or Missile Launcher teams to the 'Fighting Platform' (This is actually suggested in a GW online article!) and let the fireworks begin.
Banehammer - Tremors from below
This is one tank that makes no sense, but I have a sneaking suspicion I'd love to try it. In the world of mech, this gun can offer you serious 'irritation' factor by offering a difficult terrain test on any vehicle or person within 14" (average) of its target (destroyed or whole). The fluff on the Fact sheet lists the Banehammer's usefulness against the Nids... but I think they forgot to read their own rules that day.
For nids, the Banehammer is a slight distraction. S8 7" template is slightly worse than S10 AP1 10" ... slightly. Additionally, most nids that are charging your lines get move through cover ... so a drop to 'normal' doesn't really bother them much (it reduces 3D6 to 2D6) ... and most really nasty nids can pop up behind these bothersome objects.
But, this cannon is pure hell against Space Marines. S8 AP3 is instant kill territory for all but the terminators, and the difficult/dangerous terrain tests are genius.
Imagine dropping a 7" pie plate on the advancing rhinos/vindicators/land speeders/chaos bikers or troops of a chaotic horde. Imagine the amount of 1's that could be generated in a 14" space around, or the number of Death Guard stumbling forward an inch.
Plus the Banehammer can compliment its firepower with up to 10 additional firing heavy weapon teams. That's some serious dakka. Imagine autocannons, Lascannon, missile launchers and other ordnance pouring out of this tank. Nice.
Doomhammer - "Shadowsword Lite"
As you may have guessed from my previous post, I really like the Doomhammer. 60" S10 AP1 5" is solid enough, let alone adding in the other heavy bolters and lascannons. However the Doomhammer drops the 'no cover save' of the Stormsword in exchange for better range. This is another 'below the radar' purchase. With a S10 AP1 Ordnance blast, it'll have a field day on exposed vehicles and is perfectly capable of anti-titan duties.
Add in the 10 guys shooting in the back, and this 'fighting deck' will be pumping out the rounds. Of the three, I prefer the design of this one (even over the stormlord) as it's fairly unprepossessing ... and therefore potentially lethal.
Stormlord - "Dakka Dakka Dakka Dakka"
The Stormlord is probably the coolest build of all. The Vulcan Mega Bolter beats the Guards Annihilator in both Power and AP. Of all the weapons on show here, this ones got nothing to do with scatter. As such you're only going to hit with half your S6 hits, by the time your cover saves can impacted - you're looking at a bare 3-4 kills. Pretty rubbish. Oh, and you can fire it twice if you don't move... Great.
But all is not lost. Despite the Stormlords lack-luster gunnery skills it does boast the largest fighting platform of all. At double the size of the other 'Fighting Deck' SHTs, the Stormlord can have 20 models shooting from the top.
So it could pump out 22 Lascannon shots or 46 Heavy bolter shots. Or 20 mortar shells a turn. Using the mortar as a discussion, you could field 6 mortar teams (thats 18 shots a turn) plus two platoon with flamers at 460pts.
18 mortar rounds landing throughout the Nid horde could then be followed up by 9 Heavy bolter shots and 30 Vulcan Mega Bolter shots ... anyone left?
Fighting Deck Round-up
Depending on your opponent and your allies, either one of these makes sense. Against the hordes of Orks or Nids, the Storm Lord offers superb options. It's main weapon can slaughter MC's, while the fighting platform allows a perfect light artillery deck for lining up the enemy. The Lascannons can then pick off heavier vehicles etc, while a group of flamers play standby to 'repel boarders'.
The Banehammer offer sincere anti MeQ options, killing indirectly more than it kills directly. Backed by considerable Leman Russ, Basilisk and other anti MeQ weaponry, this tank can cripple the speed of the marines.
The Doomhammer is probably the 'best' standalone of these three, as the others are pretty specialised. The Doomhammer offers a serious antitank weaponry, albeit not quite super-heavy territory. The Doomhammer compensates for this lack with its crew area and low (potentially) threshold.
Overall, I think the Doomhammer tips the edge, offering standalone durability and versatility.
With so many options to choose from, its a joy and a curse. The Gun Deck variants all offer devastating 'APOC level' firepower, but are vehicles that require escorts and backup to keep the enemy off. The 'Fighting Decks' have the awesome ability to give real standalone firepower, but their armoured platforms allow troops to disembark and counter attack.
But what do you think? Banesword or Shadowsword, Doomhammer or Stormlord? Have I missed a trick here ... vote on the right ... and let me know!