Friday, July 20, 2012

Reserve Armies in 6th Edition

There were several army builds in 5th Edition that relied on remaining mostly or even completely in reserve. These included Descent of Angels Blood Angels, Webway Dark Eldar, and Genestealer heavy Tyranids. In 6th Edition, a few changes have forced radical alterations to these style armies. These changes are:

1) Only half of an army may be placed in reserve. A unit and its dedicated transport count as a single unit when determining this, and units that have to start the game in reserve don't count. However, Independent Characters count as a unit regardless of whether they join another unit or not.

2) If an army has no models on the table at the end of any game turn, it automatically loses the game.

3) Reserves arrive on a 3+ on Turn 2 and 3, and automatically on Turn 4. Reserves are this far more reliable now.

So reserves are more reliable but you can only put half your army in reserve. This requires much more careful planning to run any sort of reserve army. Since I'm most familiar with Blood Angels, I'll be discussing them in detail. However, I hope it'll be helpful to other reserve armies.

The main concern is really that the army must be divided into two roughly equal halves: one, a more conventional force which will be deployed on the table, while the other will act as your more mobile reserve wing. It is particularly important that the conventional force is durable enough to survive until the reserves arrive. Given the usefulness of Blood Angel Devastators, I've been taking them as the base for this force, though tanks could work just as well. Tactical squads or Scouts could both provide some more firepower and bodies to this half of the army, while also giving it some scoring presence.

The reserve force is much trickier. I used to support my Assault squads with a Reclusiarch and one or two Sanguinary Priests. Since Independent Characters count toward units deployed in reserve, this isn't really feasible. For example, my old standby of a full Assault squad with Reclusiarch and Priest now counts as 3 units held in reserve! That's really hard to counterbalance and the hitting power isn't really worth it compared to two Assault squads and a Priest. Thus, it's now more important that units kept in reserve are self-sufficient.

I still see Priests as very useful in the deep striking wing, as they can support multiple units. Assault squads provide bodies, but without re-rolls to hit or the hitting power of an HQ, they're hardly going to provide the necessary killing power. Vanguard Veterans are still useful for dropping directly into assault, and are more likely to be able to assault with longer average charge lengths. However, Vanguard Veterans are too expensive to kit out as true hammer units. To really do the damage, four units stand out.

First is the Death Company. Now just as reliable as any other unit and gaining +2 attacks on the charge, they are a solid unit even though they cost a lot of points. They already have Furious Charge and Feel No Pain, so they're unconcerned about being near a Priest. They do greatly benefit from the presence of a Chaplain, but Lemartes provides an answer here. For only a bit more than the standard Chaplain with a jump pack, Lemartes is more dangerous and doesn't count as an extra unit since he's an upgrade character.

Next on the list are Sanguinary Guard. They certainly have all the hitting power you need, and are much more survivable now that power weapons just bounce off their artificer armor. They do really need to have a Priest around to even further increase their survivability, but you should be taking one anyway.

I've long touted the advantages of Terminator Assault squads in DoA lists, and it hasn't changed. They are still tremendously durable with great hitting power. Again, now that 2+ saves are more durable, standard Terminators are also a viable choice here. They do the same amount of damage in close-combat but have vastly superior shooting. However, they will still crumple agains units with power fists, warscythes, or monstrous creatures. Assault Terminators can still hold up to these foes.

The final unit worth mentioning is the Honor Guard. Their damage output for the points is the lowest of the units considered here, but they have the advantage of bringing a Priest without costing an extra unit. Thus, the Honor Guard provide a compromise between taking a separate Priest and a truly dedicated assault unit. If you want another Priestly aura, consider taking an Honor Guard instead.

Those are my thoughts so far, based on planning quite a few lists along these lines. I'm planning to test one out soon, using both Death Company and Sanguinary Guard. Maybe too much placed into small assault units, but I want to try the units out more than make the best list.

What are your thoughts on reserve-heavy lists?


  1. Any unit arriving by deepstrike doesn't count toward the total number of units being placed in reserve...

  2. I've heard this interpretation before, and I really can't get behind it. The rules say that units that must be kept in reserve are not counted toward the total, and some people argue that deep striking units must be kept in reserve.

    However, most deep strikers have the choice to deploy on the table. Drop pods and fliers MUST be kept in reserve. There's no choice to deploy them on the table, so they don't count. Deep striking jump units or terminators as well as outflanking units don't have to be placed in reserve, just have the opportunity to. By my reasoning, that means they count toward to the total.


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