Monday, April 27, 2009

Tactica: Armored Sentinel

I'm a newb to both 40k and to Guard especially so I didn't think that I would be knowledgeable enough to present a tactica. But then I remembered that no one is very familiar with 5th ed guard yet, and that goes doubly for what is possibly my favorite unit (and probably one that I love far more than I ought to): the armored sentinel.

Many players look at this unit and scoff, and I can see why. It costs 20 points more than the arguably already overcosted scout sentinel and loses the ability to outflank (and the ability to Move Through Cover, but I classify that as more of a wash). The loss of scout is generally the point at which other generals stop considering the AS, as if you can't point your inaccurate lascannons at rear armor then what good are they?

Armored sentinels do, however, have four very important advantages over their lighter cousin. The AS is a) closed topped, b) comes with extra armor standard, c) can carry plasma cannons, and d) has front AV 12. This can be grouped into two general categories: Offensive and Defensive improvements.

Defensive Improvements
Thanks to all of the extra armor that the sentinel is carrying it is now an extremely survivable unit. Glances no longer have a chance of killing (unless you squad them up) and any weapon under str 6 will have to flank the walker in order to even have a chance of taking it down. This makes the opponent face a tougher choice than with the scout sentinel, as s/he will either have to do some tricky maneuvering with their weaker squads to get off a good shot or will have to focus anti-tank fire power in order to get rid of your walker. Either way, the opponent is using large quantities of resources to deal with a relatively inexpensive unit, while all the while your infantry/tanks are facing less incoming fire and can concentrate on annihilating the opponent.

Offensive Improvements
This can be subdivided into two parts. On the one hand we have the addition of the plasma cannon to our armory. Very good for MC, MEQ, TEQ, heck, any EQ hunting and even usable against light vehicles if you don't have a better target. With the amount of cover saves available in today's game the low AP might be a little wasted, but we can use the AS's superior defensive capabilities to maneuver into place for the perfect shot. And really, who doesn't love plasma blasts that won't actually harm your model on a 1?

On the other hand, the AS has front AV 12 and Extra Armor. "But Max, isn't better armor a defensive improvement?" Yes, but it also makes for one heck of an offensive gem due to the fact that walkers in close combat use front AV. The extra armor enables the sentinel to get into combat much more regularly, and the AV 12 stops any assaulted unit with strength 5 or lower cold in its tracks. Even models with strength 6 or more (save monstrous creatures) will still have to get pretty lucky to down a sentinel. I have seen a single armored sentinel hold an entire squad of genestealers (who have rending and therefore a chance to harm the AS) in close combat for 3 turns (that's 5 rounds of combat), buying me precious time to gun down enough other stinking tyranids to win the game. In another case one assaulted on to an objective, also giving me the win. (Both the same model, BTW- say Hi Stompy Jr!)

From 2k Surprise

The sentinel will almost never actually win the assault, so don't expect to get it back. It will, however, buy you enough time for the rest of your army to get the job done. This is especially useful in my play group, as rampaging berzerkers and stealers just love to eat squishy, squishy guardsmen, and I imagine they'd do a fair number on orkses as well.

So, how can we abuse the armored sentinel? One way is to create a very tough "sniper" squad using the camo netting upgrade (adds one to vehicle's cover save). With a 3+ save and hopefully AV 12 facing the enemy a squad of AS's in cover will be able to either draw a lot of fire for little result or sit happily churning out kill after kill with their weapons. Even without the upgrade, a 4+ save will be enough to protect them from too much undue harm. And if it comes to assault... well, I believe we already have THAT covered.

Another tactic that we can use is to move our sentinels slowly up the flanks, taking potshots at enemy units when possible and in the endgame charging whatever troops are on rear field objectives. This will serve to either distract the enemy or successfully sneak a very dangerous unit into their rear lines. This can be especially dirty if the sentinel assault manages to pull the enemy troops far enough off of an objective that you can sneak in with your own troops and seize it.

Similarly, we can use them as mobile cover, stalling assaulting armies and giving your back field some much needed relief from everything from deep striking melta squads to outflanking genestealers (have I mentioned I run into a lot of genestealers?). Mostly useful with a gunline army (though slow rolling assault is not out of the question), the walkers will take potshots early game and perform their cover/counter charge duties when needed.

A third general principle that we can use is operating our sentinels independently. Granted, with the myriad lovely fast attack choices in the new codex you might not have enough slots to pull this off, but it is important that our AS's are actually more survivable on their own than in squads thanks to Extra Armor. This way you can distract the enemy's fire even more, as well as providing sturdy counter charge units along your line for minimum cost. You still might not want to do this in annihilation, but you'd be surprised how many opponents will ignore the moderately tough kill point in a single sentinel to focus on more hard hitting units.

Why yes, that chainsaw is superfluous. And yes, I am going to charge you with it.

These are of course only a few of the options that we can use with the Armored Sentinel. I generally see th AS' main strength vs the scout sentinel in its versatility. The SS is a one trick pony- outflank and shoot rear armor. A good trick, but one trick still. The AS has many more options available to it thanks to superior armor and firepower. The AS is not a game winner in and of itself, but it serves a valuable role in making sure that the rest of your army remains unmolested and it can throw out some impressive amounts of firepower on its own. No matter what situation it's in, whether it be assault or shooting, early or late game, the AS always has a purpose and, if you use it correctly, will always be worth its points.

Comments, criticisms, and calling me completely crazy are always welcome and appreciated (especially the latter- it means you understand me!)


Simon said...

Great tactica - it's certainly made me reconsider the AS over the SS.

Lord said...

how many do you play with? I used to use three sentinels with autocannons in my 1500 List, as they are a fantastic force, for knocking round, annoying people, and decimating light vehicles.

I have always found that Autocannons are the best weapons guard have, being much more reliable than lascannons or even missile launchers(which I hate!)

Matthew said...

You're crazy.

Max said...

@ Simon: Thanks!

@ Lord:
I have yet to try autocannons on my AS', as I always find that its vehicles and MCs with low armor saves that I need firepower against. They do represent a very cheap option, however, and they must be better than the heavy flamer at least. I agree on hatred of the missile launcher; even when playing space elves (which has a better blast option by far!) the things sucked.

I so far have used 2 or 3 in my lists and have no other fast attack, allowing me to deploy them in singles to better cover my flanks with counter-chargers/solid firing platforms. That's the great thing about the AS- you don't really need all that many to really improve your list, and they're fairly cheap to boot.

Max said...

@ Matthew: You've known me long enough, I think it's a given by now.

Anonymous said...

I use two ASs' with camo cloaks and Plasma cannons in my 400pt combat patrol list. And they never fail. Here some interesting math hammer you might like.

Chance of a PENETRATING hit in cover against av12 (with camo netting):

str 7 2.8% 3.7%
str 8 5.6% 7.4%
str 8 melta 13.9% 18.5%
str 9 8.3% 11.1%

Of course this doesn't take into account cover affecting abilities like "fire on my target" etc.

Great tactica BTW ^^

Anonymous said...

Sorry that didn't come out right*
str 7 2.8% 3.7%
str 8 5.6% 7.4%
str 8 melta 13.9% 18.5%
str 9 8.3% 11.1%

Max said...

@ Anonymous: Glad you liked it, and thanks for the mathhammering! 3+ cover saves are wonderful... now I know how a marine player feels :)