Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Life

Greetings Gentlereaders,

I want to wish you all a happy new year.  I'm sorry no one got around to wishing you a merry Christmas, but we were generally busy with family ourselves.  So I'm hoping you all had a good holiday season and are ready to get the new year by the horns and tell it what for.  As far as new year's resolutions, the closest I can offer is that I want to have a painted tournament army by the end of the year, preferably my Tau.  I'll post up some photos regularly if you'd like.  But until then, I'm wondering if one of the underrated units in one of the more underrated codices is actually good.  Fitting with tonight's theme of fireworks, let's talk Thunderfire Cannons.

Fire at will brothers!
The thunderfire cannon is one of the few artillery units in Warhammer 40k and thus has some of the rarest unit types in the game.  Designed in fifth as an armor ten vehicle that had to randomize hits between cannon and techmarine the change in unit type rules has made it both more durable and more comprehensible.  Rather than being a mixed vehicle and infantry unit, it is now a unit that has a techmarine and a toughness seven, two wound, power armored cannon.  Now that it is an infantry unit, the cannon can take cover easily and grants the techmarine a major toughness boost.  The techmarine's bolstering ruins means that the cannon can relatively easily expect to have a 3+ save against any weapon firing at it.  This unit is now a genuinely symbiotic combination, with both partners benefiting from each other's actions.  The question is whether the army can benefit from the thunderfire cannon.

The probability of any blast fired by a  ballistic skill four model, like the techmarine, deviating no more than one inch is 0.5648.  While this isn't great, it generally means that you should expect one out of every two blasts to stay generally on target.  Most blast weapons are single shot, so you can't expect a consistent sample because of your small sample size, the the four shots of the thunderfire cannon means a much larger, and thus more consistent sample.  Your single blasts may all hit or all miss, but the mass of blasts means there will be about the same number of near-hits and scatters, but also that you can predict more easily what you can expect.

Scatter, hit more targets
The thunderfire cannon was a specialist unit in fifth edition, dedicated to bringing down infantry in an environment where the vehicle rules promoted fully mechanized infantry.  This has changed somewhat with sixth edition and the increased applicability of blast weapons against vehicles, no longer needing the center of the blast marker to remain on the hull to maintain full weapon strength.  The initial focus on infantry meant that the thunderfire cannon's shells aren't especially high strength, topping out at strength six.  The necessity to penetrate a vehicle to kill it that was felt in fifth edition has been reduced in sixth, though penetrating hits are still better than glancing hits.  The advent of hull points means you can destroy a vehicle by glancing it.  The strength six with an expected two hits has a 0.556 probability of stripping a hull point from an armor eleven target, with the (small) possibility of exploding it.  Again, this isn't great, but for something operating out of its element, that's not bad.

If your playgroup has shifted away from transports, then you should definitely consider the thunderfire cannon.  It has a shot that can instantly kill IG heavy weapons teams outside of cover, a shot that can wound ork mobs on a 3+, and a shot that can do little damage, but force any unit hit by the template to move as if in difficult terrain during its next movement phase, possibly reducing the movement to 1D6 if the unit is already in difficult terrain.  It's versatility is hard to match when you want to kill infantry units, and outside of Tau and IG, it's range is almost unmatched at 60".  Light infantry heavy armies should rightly fear these cannons, but so should marine hordes, especially those units who have had their transports exploded by other weapons and are packed tightly.

Coming from the blue codex heavy support with it's rightfully maligned devastators, three cannons can fortify three separate ruins and bring mass anti-infantry firepower for the price of two missile launcher devastator teams.  They are still competing with dakka predators and vindicators for their FOC slot, but I think they have a set of skills that has become more valuable with the edition change.  They don't benefit as much as they would have had they been barrage weapons, but they still have benefited on the whole and I believe you would benefit yourself if you consider this underrated unit.

I'm Underground Heretic and I Get to Live with that Every Day!

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