Friday, February 18, 2011

Foot Armies, Mobility, Random Thoughts

So, things have been kind of interesting in the blog-o-sphere of late.

It's nice to see Stelek back, s'alls I'm sayin. Keeps things interesting.

But not going to address that directly at the moment, just going to talk about mobility in foot armies.  Warning, this is just a sort of meandering stream of consciousness so feel free to tell me I'm full of shit if I am.

The first inspiration was Kennedy over at 40k For The New Professional. He talked about whether Tyranids are a "slow" army. I think he hit the nail on the head here - they are not a slow army, but they are not a fast army. They are a "normal" army in terms of mobility, that benefit from fast elements (as most armies do).

Then I was reading some discussion over on YTTH, from which Stel links this Dark Angels army (which I happen to like quite a lot). Reading through the comments I see this comment from Dug (if that is his real name!):

In straight kill point games I think this would do alright but in any kind of objective based mission the lack of mobility will just hurt too much. If you focus on the bikes you can this work on isolating deathwing squads on objectives you can pull the last minute contest shenanigans. I like the idea, and with a bit of polish it could be scary but in it’s current form I think the lack of mobility is too much of a hindrance.

And I recalled that he said something to the same effect in the YTTH forums when I was discussing the Logan-wing army I took to the Seattle GT. Ok, no more linking, I promise. Anyways, Dug had mentioned something about mobility being a problem with my Logan army as well.

Ok, let's talk about this. Mobility. Wikipedia tells me that this is "the state of being in motion." That doesn't mean moving fast, it just means being able to move. Some armies/units are more mobile than others, of course. But let's think about what that really means in this context.

Foot armies that have to stand still have very limited mobility. Think Guard blobs with heavy weapons teams. They face a choice: move or shoot. Many times they will stand and shoot, and that build is not particularly strong as a result. As soon as you give up the maneuver phase entirely you surrender momentum to your opponent. He can pick and choose when and where to fight you, and often there's little you can do about it other than throw dice at him and hope for the best. Not a great place to be.

Now, take that same Guard blob and replace those heavy weapons with meltaguns, throw power weapons on the sergeants and add a Commissar, and we are looking at a totally different animal. Moving every turn, and often getting ordered to Run, Run, Run, that unit can cover ground like nobody's business. And on the turn that you want to actually shoot something, you can do so with meltaguns after moving and then assault. It's a very dynamic unit.

Loganwing armies are also mobile. Some build their Loganwing with Longfang squads, and they have the range that they don't need to move. But everything else in a Logan army can move and shoot to full effect, and very likely wants to assault you afterwards. This results in a lot of ground being covered over the course of a game. A Wolf Guard squad with a Cyclone and Stormbolter is moving and shooting to full effect every turn, either at infantry or vehicles. That means you don't have to CHOOSE whether you move or shoot. Thus - mobile.

In some ways the Wolf Guard squad is even more mobile than say a standard Las/plas Razorback. The Las/Plas has to stand still if it wants to engage with all weapon systems. The Wolf Guard squad is NEVER faced with a situation where their performance is improved from staying still.

The same applies to Deathwing, of course, but now you've got the added benefit of Deep Striking off of scouting Teleport Homers to position them exactly where you want them. And then every turn after that they move and shoot you and probably assault you. Plenty of mobility there.

And finally the Nids. Everything in a Nids army can move and shoot. Monstrous Creatures are relatively unslowed by Terrain, and the army is helped still further by being able to bring its own cover with it so it can if it wishes stay out of terrain entirely. (Feel No Pain on the forward gaunt screen, everything else stays behind them properly "stacked" and Gee... everything's got "cover.")

From my experience, all foot armies benefit from being relatively elite and with good ranged firepower support. Nids and Loganwing both operate best when they play in a tight cluster near the center of the table, and I suspect Deathwing is not that different albeit with Ravenwing elements zipping around behind them and darting forward to zap key targets. Everything needs to be close enough to be mutually supportive.

When I say "relatively" I mean elite enough that you can get them all in a good tight supportive structure without turning them into blast bait. Foot Orks fail in this respect because there are so damned many of them you have to spread them out too far to support each other in a brawl, or else lose them 40 models at a time to blasts and/or flamers. Foot Orks don't suck because of their lack of mobility, per se, but rather because they have too high a model count and too low a suppressive weapon count.

The only really stand out high-mobility champions are the Dark Eldar. Most everything else loses out significantly if the move more than 6" - so they often won't. Dark Eldar lose nothing for moving fast other than embarked shooting, so they are the "most mobile" army. Eldar are fast but their good shooting requires them to either dismount or move at 6" (for Falcons) so... not as good as their dark cousins.

So, in summary, foot armies are "mobile enough" if they can get to where they need to be by the end of the game. Often this means that they are packing assault or relentless so they can provide the suppressive fire they need to slow down the enemy's mobility and firepower.