Saturday, December 3, 2011

How to Neuter a Wolf by D. Gargant

I felt as though my previous post lacked the gravity to really be worthy of the readers.  It was merely an attempt to explain my background before launching into deeper matters.  So now I will make a real post.  Today we will talk about an army that is very common on the tournament scene and is commonly decried as being overpowered.  This army is, of course, the Space Wolves.

The Space Wolf codex is renowned for its cheap (but really great) troops, good psychic powers, and all around points effectiveness.  Space Wolf lists come in several common flavors, most notably Thunderwolf, various Loganwing iterations, and what I like to refer to as “fundamental” lists.  The most competitive of these in my opinion is the fundamental list and this will be the one that the article will be centered on today. 

First, let us begin by defining a fundamental Space Wolf list: a list of any point level that consists primarily of as many Grey Hunter and Long Fang packs as the opposing player can cram in alongside a support unit or two and an HQ choice or 3 (they are Space Wolves after all).  This sort of list like all template lists is very effective points wise and, in particular, this list is also effective on the tabletop.  Additionally every Space Wolf list has at least a few of these units, and so this is the variety of list most valuable to the reader to discuss.

So how does it work?  This list works by creating a big kill box in the center of the table which is then swarmed by cheap and very effective masses of Grey Hunter while Long Fang provide supporting fire that hinders and restricts their enemy’s advance.  As the game continues, the swarmed kill box is yielded to the Space Wolves as their enemies are destroyed by local and sometimes even table-wide numerical superiority.  Everyone knows how this scheme works.  We all have Google.  In practice however Space Wolf execute this “swarm under cover” so well that they are difficult to shift and/ or overcome for most armies. 

This is normally the part of the article where the author suggests sticking with your plan of attack and just riding it out to win.  However in this instance, I believe, this sort of thinking is exactly what the Space Wolf player is relying on for their own victory.  Grey Hunters are simply too reliable at close range and Long Fangs provide pretty overwhelming firepower. Confronting it head on is too difficult for most armies in the timetable allotted while taking significant casualties from both the Grey Hunter and supporting Long Fang firepower.  Hence, Space Wolves often win. 

A better way to counteract this strategy would be to make adjustments just for dealing with this sort of “squeeze”.  This may entail making allowances within the list to be used against the Space Wolves or, more likely an adjustment of tactics used on the tabletop.  First, one must analyze the tactics being employed, then decide how best to disrupt the plan of the enemy.  In this case, one area of the press must be disrupted:  either the midfield swarm or the supporting fire or some solid combination of both.  To that end, let us look for weak points in the units involved on the Space Wolf side.

First, the Grey Hunters.  These are cheap, can counter charge, and can load up on special weapons both for ranged and close combat fighting.  Weaknesses:  They have little beyond a 12 inch range firepower, low leadership, and a tendency to foot slog when denied their rhinos.  The best way to disrupt them is to either stop them from swarming the midfield en masse, or reduce their effectiveness within the kill box.  To stop the swarm, disabling some but not all the Rhinos should be first priority.  Then your own support fire can turn to eliminating the Space Wolf fire support. 

Disabling some, but not all the Rhinos I have found to be more effective as it forces the Space Wolf player to make a decision where both options are unappealing.  First, he can strand the newly pedestrian Grey Hunters and advance with only part of his force. Second, he can hold the functional Rinos to a foot pace to ensure a mass arrival in the assigned kill box. If he splits his force, you can take on the isolated Grey Hunters individually. If he keeps them together, you have more time to pump fire into the Grey Hunters before you have to engage them.

Even isolated and robbed of mobility, the Grey Hunters are very effective at close range and that’s where you’ll most likely have to take them on. Key to their effectiveness is the Wolf Standard.  This little puppy lets these bad men re-roll all ones for an entire close combat round.  Getting this bad boy out of the way is essential.  As it has to be declared at the end of the previous shooting phase, the best method is to trick the player into believing they are about to be charged.  Then they can pop the standard during your shooting phase, and you can charge another target or hold back to receive their charge, lacking their Wolf Standard.  Additionally, you can do are the usual shenanigans with model placement to bring few models in when the standard is popped with more to follow in subsequent combat rounds, though this will be difficult unless you can force the Grey Hunters to spread out. 

Second on the disruption to-do list is the giant Long Fang convention that is no doubt meeting up in the back of the Space Wolf player’s deployment zone.  They are easier to disrupt as they are crotchety old men.  A good idea is either to 1) force them to move somehow 2) employ out flankers or deep strikers to catch them and murder them where they stand (watch out for the epic round of fire the deep strikers will take) or 3) employ your own long range anti-infantry firepower, especially indirect fire weapons, to kill them over the course of several turns.  Indirect fire is very frustrating as Long Fangs hate dying to things they can't shoot back at. 

In all, the fundamental Space Wolf list is the most difficult of the common Space Wolf builds to deal with and is a “fundamental” part of every Space Wolf list.  Being able to achieve victory against it is a requirement for any tournament hopeful, regardless of codex or unit selection.  This is especially true when all-comers lists are a necessity, as they are in a tournament. While beating Space Wolves is great and all, somehow Orks always end up on the top tables and I am not the guy letting them through. 

I hope this article has helped at least a few people to see the chinks in their proud Fenrisian armor. If nothing here strikes you as useful let me know and I will attempt to either explain it further or rectify poor advice.                       

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