[40K] Allies fur Alles – Stratological Approaches

I know some of you don’t like Yes The Truth Hurts, but I’ve found Stelek’s postings on Allies to be quite restrained and helpful. In particular, there’s this one on the importance of mixing and matching different statlines across your detachments, with a suggestion for how many troops, vehicles and flyers of varying types it might be advisable to take.

As I’ve said a few times now, I don’t tend to take Stelek’s suggestions wholly on trust for actual gameplay, not least because he plays for big e-cred stakes while I play for peanuts and bellybutton fluff. That said, the way he thinks about army lists and the advice he gives on what’s needed at different points levels can be good for blowing away the cobwebs and thinking about things differently, like it was for my Cryx way back when. It’s certainly helpful for collection planning, as you start to ask yourself “right, so how many dudes who can shrug off autocannons and heavy bolters do I have? how many cheap dudes who I don’t really care about? how much mobile cover can I throw out? how far can I get up the board in one turn?” I also think I agree with his assertion that Allies are for 1750 points and up, unless you have a very cheap, very focused Allied contingent that’s just there to plug a hole in your army’s tactical capabilities and cost not lots.

As for what actual stuff to take in those slots, Mr. Stelek’s general approach would seem to be ‘stuff you couldn’t normally get, in sufficient quantities to force choices‘. The list he’s showcasing uses its Allies to provide cheap and flexible long ranged firepower, with the Tau capacity to point, click and delete a couple of vehicles per turn supplementing the antipersonnel firepower and melee threats of the Chaos force. Like the man says, the list in itself probably isn’t viable, but the idea is that you look for something that your Allies do better and then take enough stuff to do that well. That’s why I look at the Necrons and think “cheap blobby Troops that can sit at the back and not waste perfectly good gauss shots”, “guns with decent ranges”, “stuff with decent Initiative and Attacks scores” and “psychic powers”.Maybe Skyfire too, since Night Scythes are indeed the bomb but I don’t own any yet and £70 for two is a bit steep for the pocket at present.

via theruleslawyers.com
Perhaps some inexpensive proxies…

Another approach that I’m quite interested in is the idea of the strike package, as mooted by Tallarn over at still practicing; the Allied contingent as a self-contained force that’s tough, mobile, dangerous and adaptable to whatever target you need dealt with. I say ‘mobile’ as opposed to ‘fast’ because it needs to be able to bypass enemy blob squads, awkward terrain and so on and so forth – getting to where you need to be isn’t just about speed, it’s about actually being able to reliably project force onto the target regardless of what defences have been erected. This is totally how I’d use Grey Knights if I were the sort of person who used Grey Knights; an airborne strike force with a psychic character, a unit that can beat face in melee and project something worthwhile at range, probably a Dreadnought of some sort, all strapped into a Stormraven. Fly in, engage and destroy key target, then attack targets of opportunity. Very thematic, and very effective. I’m not quite sure how I could do this with Chaos allies, since mobility really doesn’t seem to be the Chaos Marines’ thing. Ironically, it would work very well the other way around, with a couple of Night Scythes allied into anything that can have them like everyone and their dog seems to be going for. Perhaps it might end up being the role of the primary Necron detachment, with the Chaos allies (who, in this scenario, would most likely end up costing more than the primary detachment) being relegated to the groundwork?

This idea of an Allied contingent which outweighs the primary detachment (either in points or numbers) essentially exaggerates the previous two approaches. I imagine it to be worth a go if the primary detachment was mostly comprised of poor stuff, but had something in its non-Troops slots which had great appeal when fielded in multiples. These might be pieces which don’t come in convenient “1-3 separate models as one choice” list slots, and/or which become redundant and awkward if fielded as one big squad (like how I’d always choose two separate Obliterators over one unit of two, just because that means they can engage two separate targets if that becomes necessary). It might also be worth doing if there’s some rule in the primary army that only kicks in if they are the primary army – a warlord trait, FoC swap or army-wide special rule that’s too good to miss out on but involves you attaching yourself to a poor choice of primary detachment. In this scenario your ‘primary’ army is top-heavy; two minimalist Troops  and a whole lot of niche and specialist stuff, the stuff which makes you want to keep playing them even though you know the army as a whole is a bit crap. Meanwhile, you use your Allies to provide the bread and butter of a sixth edition list – the force-multiplier HQs, resilient scoring Troops, flyers and things that kill fliers &c. &c.

via games-workshop.com
The scoring Troops choices of a modern, successful Eldar army.

Obviously this sort of thing is most useful to people whose Allies are of an Imperial persuasion, Imperial books being to date the only ones where two Troops slots yield between four and twelve scoring units with dedicated transport options for each one. For me, on the determinedly Xenochaotic axis of the forty-first millennium, there’s less of an immediate lure. However, if I had taken to heart the recent pissing and moaning about how Chaos Space Marines have the Worst Troops Choices Ever because Dark Angels still have ‘And They Shall Know No Fear’ and combat squads, and never mind that they have done since combat squads were actually a way of mitigating quite serious disadvantages, back in second edition, most Xenos armies were better at what we now call Multiple Small Unit builds and the Codex Astartes was actually an inflexible and aggravating document which demonstrated the faults of the Imperium’s steadfast adherence to strategic dogma… sorry, I’m rambling. The point is that since third edition loyalist Marines have had two things which Chaos haven’t and we’ve put up with it since 1998, so we might as well shut up about it now. No, that’s not the point!

The point is that if I thought Chaos Troops were irredeemable rubbish I might see fit to field a list which had, say, two units of Khorne Berzerkers, a Chaos Lord to make them Troops, and Huron Blackheart to guarantee them some Infiltration capacity and get them closer to the enemy objectives it was their desire to take by force. Look, this is the strategic post, all right? That means rules first background second. We’ll do the other way around next time. Anyway, I might then field some of the desirable stuff from the Chaos book (three solo Obliterators from Heavy Support and, err, for the sake of argument let’s say three solo Mutilators in case I have some cunning plan like having a fast Chaos HQ with the Dimensional Key try to kill something on turn one or two and help the buggers Deep Strike in). Anyway, that’s eight single models and two decent-sized Troop blobs; my Necron Allies would then come in packing two big Troops units in Night Scythes, a third fast HQ option, and maybe Tomb Blades or Destroyers for a third mobile firepower squad. We’d be talking forty-plus Necrons Allied to maybe just over half that number of Chaos Marines. It’s not as apt a demonstration of the principle as eight Battlesuits, twelve Fire Warriors and a hundred Guardsmen would be, but I hope it shows how the numerically smaller ‘primary’ detachment is making use of the extended Force Organisation chart while the ‘boys before toys’ approach is taken with the Allies, who’ll do the Mission heavy lifting.

via wargamingtrader
They’re Chaos Androids at heart anyway.

So, bottom lining it all; what Chaos stuff would I be adding to my collection if I took the purely strategic approach?

If I were looking to supplement tactical capabilities by adding unit types which are flat-out absent from my collection, I’d be after a Sorcerer in HQ (no psychic powers at present), and Cultists in Troops (there’s nothing quite so cheap and forgettable and unlikely to achieve anything but score in the Necron book). The other slots would be given over to scary melee stuff and long ranged shooty stuff. In Fast Attack, Warp Talons with the Mark of Slaanesh seem expensive but plausible, or Raptors with the Mark of Khorne if I wanted something a bit cheaper and a bit more dual-purpose with the two special weapons. Or there’s always a Heldrake. In Elites I’d probably be looking at Khorne Berzerkers or maybe Chosen; again, it’s the choice between melee specialism or broader special weapon options – plus Chosen could shoot things on the way in, and they have that nifty quirk of being able to take good melee weapons on someone who isn’t obliged to challenge things that can rip him to shreds, so their lightning claws can rip squads apart instead. In Heavy Support, the legitimate choices are Havocs (I’m torn between flakk missiles because I currently lack any Skyfire or Flyers whatsoever, and lascannons/plasma guns because that’s what I could build with the bitz packs), Obliterators (although I’m not the world’s biggest fan of three-man units, they’d certainly add a variety of firepower), or either of the Fiend variants (my gut instinct is saying ‘Maulerfiend’ but I can’t quite say no to two souped-up autocannons and a plasma blasting belch). It would also be tempting to take a defence line with that Skyfire autocannon – some Cultists could lurk in that and fire the autocannon instead of messing around with their own puny guns.

If I were looking for a strike force, I’d probably be inverting the armies’ roles since the Necrons have access to a greater range of mobility tricks. My Chaos ‘primary detachment’ would probably have a Sorcerer again, a Dark Apostle and two big Cultist blobs – one to be Fearless and Hateful thanks to the Apostle, one to sit back and camp objectives. Heavy Support would be the solo Obliterators of yore, and I’d stick small melee squads in the other slots if I could afford them. That leaves the Necrons to supply mobility; bit awkward since I own no Scythes, but there’s a gimmick with the Skyshield Defence Pad, a Deep Striking Monolith and some Necrons left in Reserve that I want to try out at some stage. You’ll notice that both these plans involve Fortifications. They’re another part of sixth edition with which I have yet to come to grips, and another thing that benefits from my choice of Chaos Allies. The reason they benefit, however, is tied up with narrative and aesthetics and things which are not strictly stratological, so they’ll have to be the province of a later post.

5 thoughts on “[40K] Allies fur Alles – Stratological Approaches

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  1. If you wanted to, you can actually get up to 13 scoring units per Troop choice for Imperial Guard:
    – Platoon Command Squad
    – 2-5 Infantry Squads
    – 0-3 Special Weapon Squads
    – 0-3 Heavy Weapon Squads
    – 0-1(?) Conscripts squads
    I don’t have my codex to hand, so I could be slightly off, but you can easily get over 20 scoring units in an Allied Imperial Guard Detachment.

    1. Ah, forgive me. I never could find my way around a Guard codex, and I haven’t even looked at one for years.

      The point is, there’s a frightful amount of scoring units that you can wrangle from one Allied Troops choice. It’s just, er, more frightful than I’d realised!

  2. Ok, I’ve been thinking about the whole Allies affair in 6th edition, and I’m finding myself resistant to it. At first I thought “you’re just a grizzled and bitter luddite, get over it”, and that’s almost certainly true, but I do have a few reservations about allies as a game mechanic, which I might put here so you can critique them (some are flimsier than others and probably deserve tearing apart):

    -I don’t like the possibility of allied armies becoming the norm. Part of the joy of playing an army is to experience its individuality. Taking an Ork horde comes with tactical strengths and weaknesses, which presumably informed the player’s decision to play as Orks rather than something else. Taking allies to support their weaknesses sounds like a sound strategic move, but takes away part of the army’s distinctiveness. Orks don’t sub-contract unless they really need to, surely?

    -A small and extremely cynical part of me thinks its a result of GW saying “how do we sell Space Marines to people who don’t play Space Marines?”

    -The previous point, while largely hysterical, may inform this one. Might the possibility of widespread alliances cause a drop in the quality of future Codices, or even allow GW to postpone new codices whenever they like? Play an army that doesn’t function? Not a problem: just ally in an army that does!

    I’m biased of course, being a Tau player: we haven’t had an update in seven years, and I for one haven’t heard of anyone being in a hurry to fix that. You suggested after your recent victory over my army that, to improve my army, allies would be a good idea, but that doesn’t sit well with me. If the codex can’t deliver in the new game, allies only put a veneer over the problem: that the codex needs replacing. It’s saying “sorry we don’t care about the army you’ve chosen, why don’t you buy stuff that doesn’t suck while you wait for us to care?”

    At my local hobby shop, a recent 40k tournament consisted of fourteen players: one Necron with Space Marine allies, and thirteen Space Marines. This seems to be a normal occurrence everywhere, unless there’s a secret Xenos brotherhood somewhere I’m not aware of. If the only way to keep playing is to put more bloody Space Marines in every single army, surely that’s a sign that the game itself is very sick, and needs to be either drastically redesigned or consigned to oblivion?

    I’m not against Allies as a Thing, but I don’t see why it can’t be used to encourage multiplayer play, rather than being one step closer to “In the grim darkness of the far future, there are only Space Marines, trillions upon trillions of the things, mooching around an otherwise empty galaxy looking for something, anything, to fight.”

    Wait, this has turned into a rant, and I’m not sure it’s all relevant, but I don’t want to delete it, so I’ll leave it now, as is, and let you refine my logorrhea into something more coherent.

    1. Well, you -are- a bitter and grizzled Luddite and you -do- need to get over it… but that doesn’t mean you’re entirely wrong.

      First thing. Long ago, in a distant land, there was a thing called Second Edition – you remember it, I know, because you were there, and I was there. And in that time of darkness, absolutely -everyone- could take up to 25% of their force as allies… and I don’t recall any kvetching and moaning about the character of people’s armies being compromised then. Granted, a few core principles of the game were different – for those in the audience who weren’t there, save modifiers were a thing, so while power armour still saved against things that’d go straight through flak, it did so with notably less efficiency, and the need to worry about which weapons negated what saves was… less apparent. But anyway, the point is that this idea of armies as absolutely distinct and unique snowflakes is very much a third edition construct. Back in the day we had Genestealer/Chaos Cults, Stormboyz of Khorne, Eldar Farseers leading Space Marines around by the nose… and nobody seemed to think that Genestealers or Tyranids or Orks or Space Marines were in any way diminished by being involved and entangled with other factions in the game. I thought it made the galaxy a less monolithic and more plausible place, to be honest.

      Second thing. Technically, it’s not Space Marines. It’s ‘scoring models that aren’t worried about antipersonnel firepower’. For a variety of reasons – the tendency of high-rate-of-fire weapons to cap at AP4 being the most significant – that does tend to be Space Marines, but you’ll notice that I didn’t recommend the Astartees to you. I recommended Guard, whose lack of concern for the AP4 gun is more down to the sheer ruddy numbers of them than it is to the wearing of power armour. Off the top of my head, Necron Immortals, Ork Mega-Armoured Nobz and Eldar Wraithguard all have the magic 3+ save and the capacity to occupy the Troops slot (with Orks admittedly they have to be the primary detachment, but that’s no bad thing if it means you can load up on cheap artillery, deffkoptas etcetera). Ork Boyz, Imperial Guardsmen, the humble Termagant and Chaos Cultists are cheap enough to pull scoring duty through sheer weight of numbers. I think the number of Marine codices, and the obvious solution they offer to the problem of How To Not Get Your Troops Murdered, may be blinding people to the existence of mechanically plausible alternatives. Not having access to something with a 3+ or better within your own book -is- a problem, though, and a problem only amended by the provision of Allies or extremely cheap, high-weight-of-fire scoring bodies in-list.

      Third thing. I suppose we’ll see. The first not-power-armoured Codex of sixth edition -is- going to be an interesting read. I do concur that it really sucks being a Tau or, to a lesser extent, Eldar player right now; you’re rocking the oldest books in the range, books dating back to fourth edition, with flimsy Troops too expensive to serve in a world where the quad-linked autocannon is a thing, and transports designed to work with different rules for vehicle damage and firepower. I also concur that the GW release pattern is a crock of shit – the best thing about third edition was the release of army lists for every current faction in the core book, and the rapid release of the very skeletal Codices designed to get the rules on the ground as fast as possible.

      Local tournament. See point above, in ref. Keeping Your Troops Alive. It doesn’t have to be power armour, but apart from the Necron Immortals, the viable alternatives are ludicrously expensive, and even the Immortals are pushing it a bit (£20 for 5 or thereabouts?). This is the point of yours that I’m most in agreement with; that the core mechanics of 40K have, since 1998, been fundamentally quirked in favour of models with saves of better than 3+, and that the army where everything has a 3+ save comes in waaay too many flavours. A drastic redesign in favour of gazetteer-style Codices and modifiers on die rolls would, I think, do the game a big favour. That would provide more of a niche for armies whose thing isn’t numbers or armour but quality of weaponry. It’s a shift from binary (save or no save) to sliding-scale (save… but not as well as usual) design. Imagine a Tau army where the pulse weapons inflict a -2 save modifier, and where rail weapons might be rocking a -4 or even -5 (and firing single shots, and being Heavy weapons, but being available to six-man squads). That’s an army that can worry Space Marine players without being so crude as to say “Marines go home” in the same way that the Chaos and Dark Angels books do.

      Also, my local league has… let’s see now… nine Marine primary armies to eleven non-Marine primary armies (three of which Eldar, one Dark Eldar, none of which Tau or Tyranids, which does lend weight to your observation that some books are effectively defunct or at least very unattractive in sixth edition). To the best of my knowledge only two of the players involved are rocking Allies – one of the Guard players and myself are both flirting with Chaos, and I’m only taking, like, six actual Chaos Space Marines.

      Closing remark. I think Allies don’t just have to be a stratological thing. They can be an opportunity for multiplayer play; they can also be an opportunity for people who are engaged with more than one faction but don’t have 1500 points for all of them. Remember, the big draw for me isn’t strategic; it’s the excuse to own some Chaos and maybe some Orks one day and put them on the field while keeping the size of the projects to a manageable scale. Which, now that I think about it, needs to be an Allies Fur Alles post all of its own at some point.

      And now it’s time to do some work.

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