Monday, January 2, 2012

An Ode to the Wind

As a newly minted Minotaur player I want to share with everyone a vehicle that is, I believe, one of the most underrated in the game.  I am talking about that little seen, rarest, and most exotic of the heavy support choices: the humble Whirlwind.  I am not suggesting that these tanks should find their way into every list.  However every marine codex can use them. They are cheap and effective for what they do.   Most people find them little more useful than a screen door on a submarine. However, they have several redeeming qualities.

These are twofold.  First, the Whirlwind is an indirect weapons system with a reasonably long range.  It is hard, especially at greater than 36 inches, to reach out and touch what you can't actually see.  This fact combined with the Whirlwind's cheap points cost leads to a degree of invisibility/ lack of concern from an opponent.  The second quality that makes the Whirlwind effective is that it functions as a boltgun that allows absolutely no cover save.  In and of itself, that doesn’t sound that great. However, when there are 20 Ork boys on an objective in cover, this can help significantly soften the target prior to assault. 

Is it as good against MEQ? No, not really.  That is the real shortcoming of this tank, and why it is not found in more lists.  In most games, I find that even though it is not destroying squads, good scatter allowing it does make its points cost back at a rate of 1 or 2 marines a turn.  Additionally, it is important to note that a Whirlwind can direct fire at units inside of 12 inches.  Some people believe that the listed 12 inch minimum range is across the board but in reality that is in indirect fire mode only. 

Essentially the best way to think of a Whirlwind is as a cheap insurance policy.  In some games you may not need it to win.  Especially against MEQs, the Whirlwind is not very effective.  However, for the points it is at least as effective as five tactical marines with bolters (about the same points) but with better range and indirect fire.  Against targets with 4+ saves, the odds improve dramatically.  Special attention should be given to the neutralization of cover saves (ie. Venomthropes, Kustom Force Fields, etc.) as things that rely on them most often have terrible armor saves. 

Perhaps the best and most reliable use of the Whirlwind is bombarding lawn chair troop units.  10 Guardsmen with a lascannon won't cut it when the wind gets to whirling. After all, going to ground is now worthless, they get no cover, and it cuts through their t shirts.  In my experience this can be invaluable in objective games.  Nothing hurts worse than suddenly discovering you don't hold the objective in your own deployment zone anymore and lack the mobility to get back there.

In short, the Whirlwind is a useful but unglamorous tank that can, if properly utilized, go a good way towards correcting several of the situations Space Marine armies tend to struggle against.  These are: large units in cover, a lack of long range anti-infantry fire, and lack of indirect weapons systems.   Points and build allowing, the Whirlwind should be considered as a useful tool in the toolbox of any balanced Space Marine list.    

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