So here I am talking to one of my buddies the other night and we got on the subject of army lists. And he dropped a bomb that made my head explode- a melta bomb!!!
My buddy, being a very competitive gamer (even representing the US in an international tournament one year), has some pretty strong beliefs about how his armies should work. I can't lie- I typically disagree with everything he believes. It's awesome, because we are two sides of that 'gamer coin'- I'm the fluff-bunny and he's the WAAC guy (with manners). I like my armies to represent the stories while he is literally going for points efficiency and damage output. But sometimes, and this is a rare thing, he notes something that even I have to think about.
So we all know that Fire Dragons are BAUSS! My buddy always celebrates them when I decide to take them in my Eldar army. But I didn't understand why until he mentioned the melta-bombs the other day. You see, while I'm trying to outfit sergeants and characters with awesome close combat weaponry that will slowly destroy even the largest things, my buddy prefers to pay very little and 'hope'. At least that's how I thought of it before...
My Space Marine sergeant costs 14 points base, plus 10 if I want the extra attack and leadership, plus another 15 if I want my pistol to kill something (maybe even me), plus another 15 if I want a weapon that can penetrate armour, plus another 10 if I want that weapon to also be powerful enough to break open tanks. So I have a sergeant in a 200 point squad that costs 64 points by himself! But I can shoot a terminator and punch a tank to death...
My buddy takes that same SM sergeant, which costs 14 points, and adds 5 points for the meltabomb. That's right- if he faces a tank, then he's got this! It's like an auto-hit blast from a melta-gun (of course, 'auto-hit' is always debatable in my hands)! But I don't see how a melta-bomb is so much better that this 19 point guy even begins to compare to my 64 point guy.
Now boys and girls, let me remind you that it is NEVER a good idea to get into a math-hammer conversation with a tournament gamer (I used to be that guy, but I wanted friends more). Luckily, that's what my buddy is for. He explained it very simply-
First, your sergeant isn't going to survive when everyone is running around with either the same (but cheaper for some armies) or with anti-character effects (see also snipers and challenge monkies). Second, your sergeant is taking away points that could be used for real weapons like plasma guns and lascannons (or grav-guns or heavy flamers or...). And if you add up the number of sergeants that a typical force has (4-5), then you gain back enough points for a whole other unit! Thirdly, and most importantly, there's a rule that allows that melta-bomb to be used against monsters.
LIES!!! I don't believe you! That's can't be! I don't remember that!
Warhammer 40,000 7th edition Main Rulebook (III), page 181:
Unless used in assaults against vehicles, gun emplacements, or monstrous creatures, melta bombs have no effect. When used in assaults against vehicles, buildings, gun emplacements, or monstrous creatures, melta bombs have the following profile:
Range - Strength 8 AP 1 Armourbane, Unwieldy
I was totally floored. I didn't realize. I remember that melta-bombs were the only grenades that weren't usable in close combat. As it turns out, I was wrong, and this is HUGE!
Okay, so my Space Marine sergeant can take anything he wants, but do I expect him to actually turn the game? Probably not, so why not just take what he needs and get more out of the rest of the army. And then, when that sergeant does get into combat with that monster, he can still have an impact. But he'll do exactly what he's expected to- little to nothing.
On that note, there is a weakness to this strategy. A smart Space Marine player takes advantage of the ATSKNF rule by keeping their squad useless in some instances. A typical squad can't hurt a Wraithlord in close combat. That means that it can fail its test using the "Our weapons are useless!" rule on pg 53, fall back, and regroup next turn to shoot that Wraithlord to death. Unfortunately, that tactic won't work if that sergeant is rocking his melta-bomb. He CAN hurt the monster, so now the rest of the guys are stuck...
I hope this was as enlightening for you as it was for me! I don't know if I'll follow this strategy, but it's nice to know that there's options other than 'completely worthless' and 'way too expensive'. Let me know what you think!