Friday, August 6, 2010

It's all coming back to me...

Though I'd like to I'm not talking about the world's most famous bent stick weapon, an old cartoon network spin off nor a great Magic card. No, this is just putting out my thoughts about an interesting trend in the 40k Metagame that I've seen around the Keep and the internet to some degree: the return of the foot based army.

Now some people, most vocally Stelek, have proclaimed foot armies dead, long live mech! For the purposes of this article Mechanization will refer to the idea of mechanized infantry, units of foot soldiers in some type of transport. Mechanization has some serious advantages and disadvantages that our own Loki has covered recently, but I am here to neither to bury mechanized armies nor to praise them. A relatively new member of our group plays one of the nastiest foot based lists I've seen and looking at how he runs it will help me illustrate what I think a good foot based army needs to bring down King Mech.

First let's look at what the list included (before it incorporated vehicles): twenty or thirty harlequins, three wraithlords, pathfinders and a farseer and Eldrad. The most apparent advantage that mechanization provides an army is protection from shooting and assaults, but there are ways around this. Harlequins are a fantastic example of how this is not necessarily exclusive to mechanization. The Shadowseer's Veil of Tears rule can almost entirely protect the unit from shooting by forcing units to roll 2D6x2 for a spotting distance to shoot at the unit while their initiative 6 means they strike before most anyone else. But let's say you don't have such an amazing rule; how do you keep your units alive then?

Well, having a high toughness value helps. Toughness 4 is just about par for 40k, but there are a lot of units like bikers, plague marines and wraithguard that can rely on their higher toughness to protect them from most small arms fire. This is the simplest way to avoid getting hurt by small arms fire while getting across the board, but can be very restrictive if this is how your troops plan to survive as these units are usually rather expensive, both in dollars and points. The more common approach is illustrated by the pathfinders.

While they do have special rule that allows them to take peculiarly great advantage of cover, any unit can be moved in such a way as to generally get a cover save. A guardsman is usually easy to kill but if that guardsman is standing behind a conscript they can be almost as difficult to kill as a space marine if they go to ground. A well built board should have at least 25%, some say more, of its area declared difficult or area terrain in order to provide cover saves. This gives a foot army a place to stay if they want to gain some protection while slowing them, and most anyone down.

The other advantage of mechanization is mobility, which effects shooting armies and assault armies differently. An assault foot army can use bikes and jump packs to move just as fast, and in the case of bikes faster, as they could in a mechanized army. Admittedly, these units usually use assault or open topped transports so they can assault out of it, gaining about two inches from their disembarkation. Until they are in assault range, these units and any others can forgo their shooting to run D6 inches. The Black Templar have their own twist on this as their Righteous Zeal allows them to "run" in the enemy shooting phase if they take a casualty. Usually running means that the unit cannot assault, but several codices have access to units with the Fleet USR that allows assaults after running. Against another assault army, congratulations, whether mechanized or on foot two assault armies will help each other get closer and mobility for the foot assault army becomes less important.

For a shooting army mobility is important not to necessarily defeat enemies, but usually to escape from them or to take midfield objectives in Seize Ground games. Getting assaulted is not a horrible thing if you can control who gets assaulted. For the Tau and Imperial Guard the Kroot and Conscript squads serve the same role of meat shields. If done properly, an assault unit will assault this unit, kill it and promptly be shot with rapid fire shots from the rest of the shooting army. These units will provide cover saves going either way until they die, but that is a worthwhile trade off to prevent the first assault hitting units that actually matter. A foot shooting army does not need to necessarily be mobile, at least not more than to get a squad or three onto a point late game. They stand and shoot, rinse and repeat until the enemy is off the table or they are.

I hope this long winded article has given you something to think about in regards to the viability of a foot based army list in the current 40k metagame landscape where you play. I would love to hear what you think, even if you think I'm an idiot for thinking foot armies are still viable.


  1. Here's the problem I've got. You've written an article about "How Foot Armies Are Making a Comeback and Beating Mech." And then this is what you gave me:

    1. Be Eldar and have this specific awesome unit with this specific awesome special rule that no other model has.

    2. Tell your models to quit being pussies and get better toughness stats.

    3. Be Pathfinders and have awesome rules for cover.

    4. Go to ground. Because there is absolutely no disadvantage to doing that.

    5. Depend on something beyond your control (cover) and hope the people who ARE in control don't shaft you, or spend points bringing your own cover save (cheap infantry to provide conver saves).

    6. Be Space Marines and take bikers.

    7. Be Black Templars.

    With regards to the IG and Tau tactic of "bring meatsheild..."

    I feel like that's depending a LOT on your opponent doing what you expect them to do.

    Anyways, I'm not convinced. I feel like the examples you've given in this article are, at best, the exceptions that prove the rule: mech is awesome. Foot Schlogging isn't. That's how it is.

  2. Mech is awesome, footslogging is a valid alternative for some armies and the only option for others.

    1, 3, 6, 7. Those are valid points when you say that only those armies have those specific advantages. I just wanted to point out how some armies can do well footslogging. Some units can have stealth which, while not as good as pathfinders, can really help a unit stay alive in cover.

    2. Admittedly, not much you can do there, but there are ways to make units more durable, especially for your army. Being able to give one unit per turn Feel No Pain can, barring it being disallowed, give your unit a 4+ after a possible cover save or armor save.

    4. I didn't mean to advise going to ground except as a defensive technique. I can't remember advising it, but trying to move so you can use cover I think can really help. Or if you're IG, go to ground and use Get Back in the Fight and there are no disadvantages except not being able to move.

    5. I would recommend talking with your opponent about the board before you begin the game. Look at how much terrain is on the table and if you and your opponent don't think it's enough ask to borrow from another table or proxy some terrain with things you have laying around. If nothing else the Keep has left over MtG cards that could represent area terrain.

    With IG and Tau, neither can really do assault all that well especially compared to their ability to shoot. If your opponent wants to assault you, which has been my experience except when playing IG, you are prepared to counter their attack. If they want to have a shoot out, that's your area of expertise so have fun.

    I'm not saying that non-mech lists are king, but they and hybrid lists can give mechanized lists a run for their money if done well. This was just my idea of how to start off thinking about a foot list.

  3. Foot armies... meh

    Mech... meh

    Jump packs armies is where it is at

  4. While I agree that in a lot of cases mech currently has the advantage over a footslogging army. While yes you can do a lot of things to mitigate this in a number of armies most of the options are not as viable...

    I do agree that our local eldar players has one of the best footslogging eldar armies I have seen for a long time it still has some very exploitable weaknesses.

    Mech is going to be the primary way to go probably until Something like a Embarked unit effecting Doom, or 6th edition hits the scene. Thus is the ebb and flow of the game. One Rulebook edition tells you mech is way too risky, the next one says mech up.

    Can a foot slogging army beat a mechanized army.. yes.
    But in the current rules who's gonna have the easier time. The mech

  5. Putting aside the fact that my own army (the Templars) can do either quite effectivly, I will put in my own two cents.

    Any army (and I mean any) can do foot armies pretty well. Different armies excel in some areas and therefore push the army to do that. For example, Blood Angels and the Black Templar codexes push the player to assault, as they do it very well, and have army rules that assist in that; but that does not mean either army can not do shooting. It is possible to do that and do it well, the only issue being there will be little help in the way of army rules to aid.

    Back to foot vs mech, I'd argue any army can build an exceptional version of both. 5th edition does not reward players for using mech any more than it hurts them as I have addressed before. mech brings with it risks that foot does not, while it offers aid that foot lists wont have. The only army I can really foresee not having a good mech list is tyranids for the obvious reason of a lack of mech (spores being the closest thing, but not truly a vehicle)

    In the end, a player should make the decision to incorporate or not to incorporate mech into their list based on their style of play. You play what you like, and that's that. I would defiantly recommend that players try a lot of variations in their lists even after they find a list they enjoy if for no other reason than to spice up the game for themselves. I never ran mech in my old army, and that is why it was the first list i built for my current army... that being said I have played many games with almost as many variations to my list. It's been a fun adventure and I strongly urge all players to look outside their comfort zone and experiment with alternative units now and again. Don't always play to win, play to experience the thrill of playing :D

  6. As a Tau, player I always felt mech armies have a lot of diversity and character to draw from. I've noticed many folks who play 40K are so obsessed with winning that they forgot to have fun and ultimately ruins the game for the loser. I like winning as much as the next guy, but for me building an army that matches my character is more important than building THAT ULTIMATE ARMY LIST!!! With my Tau, I added some new Forge World units that seem to "keep up with the Jones'" with regards to the other new Codecies being released. I like these new units and I hope they are incorporated in the next Tau Codex. I've also experimented with the Farsight list with decent results. I just play around and find the "right fit" with my personality. As far as the mech vs footslogger army goes, pick the one YOUR happy with, and most importantly, your most comfortable fielding.

  7. The problem I've always had with Foot vs Mech arguements (and both articles here that have been written about said arguement) is that most peopel seem to be on one of two sides:

    1. Mech is ungodly unstoppable broken and needs to be nerf'd immediately.



    ...and I feel like both sides trying to make their arguement has resulted in said arguements only getting worse (and getting further from the truth).

    It's kind of like argueing about which army is better. I was going to elaborate on that point a little more, but I feel like I'd hurt feelings and open up another arguement. And that's no fun.

    The truth as I see it is that Mech (pretty clearly, from my standpoint) gets an easier time with regards to rules, but isn't overpowered to the point that it needs to be immediately nerfed, either. And I feel like the way Mech vs Foot arguements always seems to go would make that kind of obvious. But I dunno, maybe somewhere, someone will try to argue that foot armies are overpowered and need to be nerfed. But I dunno, I haven't really seen any.

    The problem comes from discussing this imbalance. It seems like people who argue "ZOMG, TOTALLY BALANCED" are so dug in on how balanced their army is, and how they are absolutely and in now way taking overpowered units, because the logical conclusion to that, as they see it, is that it makes them less of an awesome player, I guess. Really, it just means they recognize good units when they see them and then play with them.

    People who'd argue that Mech is overpowered got that way because they've made they are overstateing the extent to which mech is overpowered. And they have to out of nessesity, because it seems like otherwise, the only people who listen to them are people who agree with them, but ultimately they haven't changed/done anything. And in the next edition, footshlogging armies probably could use a little help. But honestly, Mech isn't overpowered to the point that they need an ZOMG IMMEDIATE NERF.

    I'd also like to point out that IRL armies are meching up, because IRL mech is good and IRL footshlogging isn't. So maybe Warhammer mech NEEDS to be overpowered. But SAY: Hey, it's probably overpowered, but, y'know, there's kinda a good reason for that, and they're not invincable.

    But telling me that it isn't overpowered, and is in fact balanced is, from my standpoint, insulting to my intelligence. My stance is that Mech is undeniably overpowered, but not SUPER overpowered. A more skilled footshlogging player could probably beat a less skilled mech player. He just might have a bit of a tougher time doing it is all.

    "5. I would recommend talking with your opponent about the board before you begin the game."

    Which is great in casual games. My feelings about "this is overpowered, that isn't, whatever" go out the window when it's just two people hunching over a kitchen table, or it's another Saturday at the keep. I was talking about less casual games. I probably could have made this clearer in my first post.

    4. I didn't mean to advise going to ground except as a defensive technique. I can't remember advising it, but trying to move so you can use cover I think can really help. Or if you're IG, go to ground and use Get Back in the Fight and there are no disadvantages except not being able to move.

    I suppose my point #4 should be revised, then, to: "4. Play IG. Use this specific rule they've given you."

    Anyways... ultimately, no one really has an impartial judgement they can make. So all the argueing is for naught. xD

  8. Long winded, but well put. I think both styles of any army has the potential to be great.