Sunday, 2 June 2013

Tactical Analysis: Beasts of Nurgle

Beasts of Nurgle
 Today we will look at the third of the Elites choices which as I'm sure you've noticed by now (and if not then you probably haven't been able to read this intro line) is the Beasts of Nurgle. These are pure and simple assault troops and I say this because they have no ranged attack nor do they have access to one via rewards and the like (so I finally won't have to tell you not to upgrade because you can't!!). I will however say that they're an assault unit with a twist but like all good twists I'm going to tell you that it's coming but not tell you what it is until later... Aren't I just the king of suspense?

Not sure whether to be scared or not
The Beasts of Nurgle have quite an interesting profile; naturally they can't shoot and their BS reflects that by being a huge and massive 0. As a Nurgle Daemon (more on that later) they're slow so they have an Initiative value of 2 so they're probably going to be hitting last in each and every assault. "So how will they survive long enough to hit back?" I hear you ask, well the answer lies in their Toughness and Wounds. They have a Toughness 5 and 4 Wounds so they're difficult to kill without high strength weaponry and if they take a wound they can still carry on fighting (again, more on that later). They have the standard Leadership value of 7, a Weapon Skill of 3 and a Strength value of 4. What is interesting with the Beasts is that their attacks are pretty much completely random in that they have a value of D6+1 so they have a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 7 (8 if they make the charge and get the extra attack). So you're definitely going to get to attack but the Gods of the Dice will decide whether your one Beast unit is capable of taking on a unit of Marines and winning or just pointlessly flopping against their armour and just hoping that they decide to leave. I guess they do have a decent strength value and some decent special rules (see below) but the only way to counter the low side of the random attacks is to take a large unit and at 52 points per Beast they are pretty pricey. That 52 points gets you a single Beast; the initial unit composition is a single Beast for 52 points. On base points alone they are the cheapest unit in the Elites to field but you will get far LESS bang for you buck than with the others unless you're willing to invest a few points. And by a few I mean a lot. We're talking 468 points for the maximum sized unit, which is 9 Beasts. Not trying to discourage but even with their pretty awesome rules (yes I promise I'm getting to them soon) they are a hefty investment.

Special Rules
I told you I'd get to them, have a little patience!! Anyway we'll start off with the standard rules that all Daemons have. Firstly they're Daemons so they have that special rule (if you don't know that then maybe this isn't where you wanted to be?) and they have the Daemonic Instability and the Deep Strike Rules.They also have the Daemon of Nurgle special rule which grants Shrouded (+2 cover save at all times), Slow and Purposeful (Can't run but counts as stationary even if moved) and Defensive Grenades (Stealth rule against shooters within 8" which stacks with Shrouded for a +3 cover save at all times and robs the enemy of their extra attack if charged and the beasts aren't busy or anything). 

Before I move onto the rest of the rules I'm just going to very quickly throw in their unit type which is a new one for my blog because the Beasts are, as you'd expect, Beasts. Going through this quickly they can move 12" in the movement phase (so losing Run isn't too much of a big deal) and they're not slowed by difficult terrain. They can Fall Back 3D6" like the Flamers and have the Fleet and Moves Through Cover special rules (can re-roll a D6 from a Run or Charge move but they can't run so probably a Charge move and gets an extra D6 when moving through Difficult Terrain. Also automatically passes Dangerous Terrain tests).

Now onto the meat of these troops; their special rules. Firstly they have the Very Bulky rule which means that for Transport purposes they count as three models which would be problematic if Daemons had any transport options but unless you're a Herald then just forget it. Next is Poisoned (4+) which means that any hits will wound automatically on a 4+ and also the model with this rule can re-roll failed to wound if their strength is twice or higher the enemy Strength value. As they're Strength 4 then they will only need to re-roll against Toughness 1 or 2 values. What that means is that when you're fighting T1 or 2 units you're going to wound, no ifs and no buts you are going to wound because the only way to fail is to roll a 1 and if you can re-roll it then you're pretty much going to wound.Trust me on this.

Now this is where things start to get interesting so we'll take it slow. Firstly the Beasts have a Slime Trail which makes charges made against them into Disordered Charges which takes away the bonus attack for charging. Now I'm assuming here that this covers the weakness of the Defensive Grenades in that they only work with a unit not engaged in combat and they're pretty specific on that point whereas the Slime Trail rule doesn't mention being in combat or not. My guess (and it is just that until there is an FAQ so GW come on already and stop leaving us Daemon players hanging!!) is that it works all the time so if the Beasts are in combat and are charged then the Slime Trail kicks in. Next up in the Rules charts is It Will Not Die. This is a brilliant rule that will massively affect the survivability of the unit. This kicks in at the end of each friendly turn and allows a Beast that does not have all of it's Wounds to roll a D6. If a result of 5+ is rolled then the beast regains a lost wound and this is where having multiple Beasts will really pay off. By spreading the Wounds around the unit and then rolling for It Will Not Die makes them far more likely to survive the battle because you're effectively not losing a single model. Naturally this strategy will work far better with larger numbers in the unit but this has to be balanced against such a high unit cost; can you really justify almost a quarter of a 2,000 point allowance on this unit, even if it can be (theoretically) immortal? Granted you'd need to be pretty lucky on the dice to never lose a single model but it is theoretically possible. 

Now the Coup de Gras of their special rules; Attention Seeker. This is a particularly nifty little rule that effectively grants a counter charge but the greatest part of this is that you get this IN THE ENEMY'S TURN!!! Oh yes, re-read that and then feel free to continue when you get over your disbelief. Don't worry, I'll wait. Are we ready to continue? Excellent, right then now I'll explain the rule. When an enemy unit makes a successful charge in their turn within 12" of the Beasts, so long as they aren't already in combat they can declare and resolve a charge against the enemy unit. If there are multiple charges within 12" then the Beasts can choose who they assault. Now I'm not sure whether they can move the full 12" automatically or whether they simply roll for distance as usual and if anyone can clarify that for me please do but I'll assume that it gets rolled for. This rule is awesome because you effectively get a free attack and if the Attention Seeker charge is resolved first then you could potentially be saving the hide of another Daemon unit. There are many of ways this can be useful and I'll cover a few of them a little later.
So that was the twist, the Beasts are an assault unit but a supportive one. You can exploit the Attention Seeker rule to help protect your weaker units (I'm thinking Horrors) and I think that's actually how they were used in the White Dwarf battle report when the Daemons were released earlier this year. Of course there is always the option to just fling them into the thick of battle and watch them wreak as much havoc as possible but for that to be effective you'll need more than one. As a result Beasts probably aren't that helpful in smaller battles because they have a hefty price tag for a single model. When they will really shine is in larger battles because their points can be absorbed more easily (larger units become a viable option as opposed to an "eggs in one basket" scenario) and their various rules can be better exploited. Look at it this way; what will be more scary, a single model with a decent amount of attacks (dice depending) or a unit of four charging at your unit in your own turn with a very nice amount of attacks (again, dice depending)? Even if they roll badly for their attacks they are tough enough to weather the next turn and do some more damage next turn. As straight up assault troops they are best against Infantry because of their Poisoned attacks and can make an effective tar pit against characters and leaders with a pretty good chance of killing them but as an assist unit they can increase the survivability of your more fragile units. They can be used in this capacity as meat shields until a unit gets charged and then they're off like a dog on a racetrack but personally I'd suggest mixing the two. I say this because they are not as good at pure assault as the Bloodcrushers who are specifically designed for that so let them bound around and cause some mayhem but keep them close to more fragile units so that they can quickly give assistance in the form of a very cheeky counter charge. There's also the fact that using a ridiculously expensive unit as a meat shield is literally a waste of points. If you want a dedicated meat shield and tar pit unit then get some Nurglings because they're cheaper and better suited for the job. Where the balance lies will depend on the type of enemy you're facing; if you're against someone like Tau or Imperial Guard then you're not going to be countering many charges but against armies such as Tyranids or Orks then there will be charges aplenty and the Beasts probably won't make many charges of their own.

I'll leave you now with this thought on their tactical usage; their Codex entry compares them to excitable puppies and so they should be treated as such by which I mean let them go and explore but keep them on a lead so that they don't go off too far so that they're not useful any more.

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