Friday, October 26, 2012

Don't DEFILE me, brah!!!

I was talking to one of my good buddies, who happens to run a Hobby Center right now, and he pointed out to me that Defilers have been sitting on his shelf for some time without moving.  I asked 'why?' and he replied that the new Daemon-Engines are whooping its ass!  Between aesthetic and points-cost, I can understand.  But I must come the defense of the original and pimp it for a bit.

The year was 2003 (or maybe it was '02, I don't remember).  All us 'sergeants' sat in a crowded room and listened for two days as our bosses told us that we needed to do our jobs and get more hobbyists and actually sell something.  Then the third day rolls around and we finally got what we came for- our 'future product briefing'.  At the time, we were informed of what was being released up to a year later and then told to keep it hush-hush.  Most of us did.  Some black-shirts decided to ruin it for the rest of us.  But in this meeting, we got introduced to the 13th Black Crusade and all that would entail- a new codex, completely new Chaos Marines, a gazillion new kits to match the new loyalist crap, and then the thing that angered me- this new Heavy Support choice that was a vehicle with spider-like legs of iron and crab-like claws of craziness. It also had a torso with a weirdly-placed helmet on top and a cannon loaded into it's chest.

Wait, Chaos Space Marines would now have their own artillery!?  NOOOOOOO!

This was back in the day when I was staunchly loyal and hated everything about the renegades.  And now the Development Team decided to fix the one hole in the book- artillery.  I left HQ very upset that weekend.  But alas, I returned to my shop and begrudgingly sold the hell out of these new models upon release, months later.  Eventually, I decided to revisit my ancient Word Bearers army and I decided that Abaddon would have gifted a few of the war machines to the XVIIth Legion.

You see, the original storyline was that Abaddon decided to have his Dark Mechanicus thralls design and build him a war engine capable of imprisoning a Daemon-spirit as well as blast mighty gouges into enemy lines. The Black Legion was exclusively seen with these, fortifying the idea that Abaddon sanctioned their creation.  Eventually, the Defiler was seen with all liveries and with every type of renegade warband imaginable.  I grew to appreciate this.

The novel "Storm of Iron" was released and BLAM! the Defiler was included and described in detail.  Not only was the book one of the best ever written from Black Library, but the inclusion of the mighty war engines only stoked the fires of desire that much more.  So I bought one.  Then I sold it to a buddy.  Then I bought one again.  Which I gave away to a new kid.  A couple years ago, I acquired three from a friend shipping off to join the military (yay good luck!), of which I gave one to a novice friend last year.  But I still have my remaining two.  And I stare at them everyday in my garage, er, workshop.  That might be because they're prominently displayed...  But I digress.

I didn't really like the model itself and most hobbyists believe that it's too big and looks too different from everything else.  I was more than inclined to agree.  That is until this year, when the new daemon-engines hit the shelves.  Now the Defiler is not much larger (height-wise, in any case) and actually matches the original aesthetic of the Chaos Marines much better than the new stuff.  On top of that, the look actually grew on me over the years and now I see the machine as an impressive 'living vehicle'.  The spider-leg construct has become my favorite part, leading me to want a Necron army like there's no tomorrow (but I'm poor, so the Defilers will have to sate my mechanical desires for the time being).  All-in-all, the Defiler is a beautiful 'ugly' war engine to me now.

I do have to mention my grand plans for the Defiler, though.  At one point, I had decided to convert my Defilers to match my army.  Everyone knows I'm a Word Bearers guy and have been for decades, so I have that desire to have 'cathedrals' and 'cursed sanctuaries' throughout my army.  You see, waaaaaay back in the day GW had the fluff for the XVIIth Legion noting them as 'cult creators' and builders of massive halls of worship to the dark gods everywhere they went.  A little slave labor and some heretic love equals lots of daemons.  In fact, my original army saw all my characters with building tools as weapons (buzz saws, rock drills, pretty much all the Necromunda pit-slave weapons) as they were supposed to represent an 'engineering company'.  The characters have been given away and that old army is long lost to the warp, but my idea for the Defilers was born later and stuck.  What I wanted to do to exemplify this theme was tear the turret-torso from the machine and replace it with a Warhammer Tower (obviously involving some conversion), which would then have an inset cannon and the parapets manned by cultists controlling the other guns on a Defiler.  It was, and still is, a brilliant idea.  Unfortunately, I've recently (within the last four years) realized that I'm lazy and don't want to do that much work.  So, alas, the standard model it is.

MY 1st Defiler, now bloodied on my Dark Angels too often.
Now that I'm done talking about how the thing looks, let me talk about why I like it in the game.  I'm hoping that someone will read this and actually forgo one of the newer engines and grab up the mecha-spider-blasty-claw monster for their army instead.  Let's see if that works...

For the same cost as a Chaos Land Raider, you get a much less resilient model.  Or is it?  It has 4 Hull Points, just like a Land Raider, but it only has armor 12.  If only it had an invulnerable save or something to make it at least almost as survivable.  Oh, wait, it does!  Ah man, it's only a 5+, so that only counts it as +1 armor in the math-hammer world.  I wish maybe it could regenerate or something so at least it stays on the table for some amount of time.  Oh, wait, it does!!!  Therefore, you get a vehicle that is ALMOST as survivable as a Land Raider, notwithstanding that all-too-easy-to-get lucky shot.  But I've now seen a Defiler manage to survive 13 consecutive turns of fire and not die, which is a far difference from the old days.  I've also seen a Land Raider die to the first shot too many times, so the comparison is pretty apt, I think.

What can it do?  I mean, it's really nothing more than a glorified Dreadnought, right?  It has two Power Fists (strangely, there's no such thing as a 'Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon' in the Chaos Codex, so I see a conundrum that the blogosphere has conveniently ignored), so comes with a fair number of high-strength attacks.  It can also take the Power Scourge, which reduces any enemies in combat by D3 WS.  This is something I don't think people have really thought about yet.  Imagine that sergeant with the Power Fist needing 5's to hit in close combat because your Defiler rolled a 5 or 6 on that die.  That can really frustrate a loyalist, you know?  Does the Scourge add an extra attack?  (Yet another conundrum that the blogosphere has ignored.)  If the Power Fists get blown off or destroyed, then the Scourge is still a Str 8, AP 2 CCW.  That's rather nice.

What else can it do?  It's really nothing more than a renegade version of a weaker Leman Russ, right?  Well, it does have a Battle Cannon (which used to be able to fire indirectly, but some design guy pointed out the obvious contradiction in that), and also packs a twin-linked weapon of some sort.  Most people would want the Lascannon, but I'm perfectly content with the Reaper Autocannon.  This is for two reasons- a)Lascannons are no longer necessary to breaking armor as armor is much rarer and certainly weaker than it used to be, with exceptions, and b)multiple shots from a weapon that is generally only going to snap-fire anyway is obviously more efficient.  This is a very big point, too.  Let me explain.

You may have noticed that Flyers have made a bit of a cameo in this edition.  If you're one of the very few that's ever played against a flyer, you've probably found that killing them can be rather difficult.  I believe that the Defiler sans its Battle Cannon would make an almost efficient anti-aircraft weapon as long as it's packing that twin-Autocannon.  But Jay, the Lascannon will have an easier go at breaking that flyer's armor!  Let's do some mathhammer-
-A Lascannon firing at a flyer has a 16% chance of hitting a flyer, 33% if it's twin-linked.  Then it has a 66% chance of glancing the armor (avg 12), which means nothing to a flyer, so let's go with the 50% to try and penetrate it.  Then, with that 'ol armor penetration roll, you have a 33% of immobilizing or destroying it, upped to 50% for the AP bonus.  That adds up to around 8% of the time expecting to knock a flyer out of the sky.
-An Autocannon firing at a flyer has a 33% chance of hitting once or an 8% chance of hitting it twice (as opposed to a Lascannon having a 0% chance of hitting twice), which is increased to 66% to hit once and 16% to hit twice with twin-linked goodness.  Then you have a 16% of punching through the armor per shot (remember, 'penetrate', not 'glance'), and a 33% chance of immobilizing or destroying it.  This all adds up to a 6% chance of knocking it out of the sky, twice.  What's higher- 8% once or 6%, twice?
Add to that the possibility to killing TWO Land Speeders in a turn (versus a Lascannon's ability to only kill one), and the Reaper Autocannons obviously become the better choice, especially considering that they're WAY cheaper!

I must note here that I HATE Math-hammer.  Not only is it a complete waste of think-time, but it assumes that dice actually follow the Laws of Probability.  As the good Emperor decided not to gift me with an abundance of good luck, I know this not to be true.  But Math-hammer can be a fun exercise to reinforce some pretty common-sense ideas, such as 'More shots are better than stronger shots', something we REAL humans learned in WWI.  In any case, please don't think this is my normal routine, I play the game because it's looks cool.  Math-hammer is for people who don't have real lives.  And if you're offended by this, I really don't care (although I truly don't mean to be mean).  I've had decades of dealing with this from people only to see them get frustrated and throw dice when the math didn't pan out on the table.  It's a game, people.  Not homework.

More weapons to note- the Power Scourge is really an upgrade from the Heavy Flamer (really only useful for Overwatch and coincidental enemy units being nearby) or the Havoc Launcher (even less useful since it's a blast weapon and can't be used in Overwatch nor fired along with the Battle Cannon).  Sadly, these weapon options aren't really attractive, so going balls-out and taking the Power Scourge is pretty enticing.

In addition to that, don't forget about a move-and-fire Battle Cannon that saw some big improvements this edition.  What are those improvements?  The biggest is that the weapon's Strength is now static for the whole large blast template, meaning that killing 'parking lots' has become a possibility again.  The cannon is also mounted high enough on the turret that it can see over even Land Raiders, giving it greater opportunities to fire because of the 'True Line of Sight' half-rule.

And if all that's not awesome enough, don't forget that the Defiler comes with the 'Daemonforged' rule, which allows the model to reroll armor penetrations and wound rolls with the slight risk of losing a Hull Point (which it can regenerate later if it's lucky anyway!).  Oh, and it ignores 'Stunned' and 'Shaken' results most of the time because Grandpa Daemon is too crotchety already.  Oh, and it's Fleet, just in case you really want to get it into combat.  But wait, there's more!

Unlike any of the other Daemon-engines, the Defiler is able to take vehicle wargear.  Extra armor is useless. Pintle-mounted Combi-Bolters and Havoc Launchers are useless wastes of points, and Warpflame Gargoyles are all but redundant.  Taking a combi-Plasma or Meltagun may be a decent choice, but the only real option here is a big one- the Dirge Caster.  Why is the Dirge Caster so important?

The loudspeakers of a Dirge-caster scream disorienting prayers and soul-rending chants at the enemy, stopping them from being able to fire on Overwatch if within 6" of the vehicle.  Normally this won't matter as a Defiler, with Fleet, is going to charge from much further away.  But what if the Daemon-engine is actually escorting a unit of Marines towards the enemy?  What if the Marines charge first and take advantage of the enemy not being able to react?  What if the Defiler IS close enough to use this as it charges in?  That's a really nice way to stop that rapid-firing Plasma Gun from getting that one lucky shot off and killing the excited machine at the most inopportune moment.  Like I said, it shouldn't play a large role very often, but for only 5 points it could make a HUGE difference!  Can the other engines get this?  NOPE!  Take that, new hotness!

At the end of the day, the Defiler is the infantry-killing maching of the Chaos army.  It's expensive, powerful, and too large to hide for long.  It simultaneously fulfills the role of Dreadnought and Battle Tank.  It certainly is a force on the battlefield.  I can go into more detail and start theory-hammering why I think the Defiler is superior to alot of other things in the codex, but I hate that already and my hands are getting tired of typing.  :-)  Let me know what y'all think and whether you're convinced to add one to your army now.  Just hope that you get to hear your opponent someday cry out, "Not a Defiler, man!!!"  I can't wait for it to happen to me...

Happy Gaming!