Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Apocalypse ~ Formation: Deathstrike Vortex Missile

This week rather than go on about a general subject regarding Apocalypse, I thought I'd go into detail and give thoughts and a sort of review for a formation. So here we have the Deathstrike vortex missile..

Of all the myriad of weapons at the Imperium's disposal, few are as revered or as devastating as a Deathstrike vortex missile - a doomsday weapon of truly apocalyptic proportions. When the missile's warhead explodes, it tears the very fabric of reality, creating a raging maelstrom of destruction that destroys anything and everything it touches. So rare and valuable are these weapons that Segmentum Command must nominally sanction their use, but unleashing such a battlefield asset can swing the course of a war.

Sounds deadly, but before I go into thoughts and opinions I'll go through the rules.

Formation Makeup
The formation consists of a Deathstrike Missile Launcher, a single Lord Commissar and a minimum of one Infantry Platoon although you can add additional Infantry Platoon's if you wish.
This together with the expensive 200pt price tag of the formation upgrade, puts the formation at 560 points without additional wargear or special/heavy weapons on the units.

Formation Rules
The formation has special rules, the first of which being a restriction rather than advantage.
As with a lot of formations the restrictive rule is 'Strike Force', in this case all the units must be deployed within 6" of the Deathstrike Missile Launcher or enter the table within 6" of the point it does.
The second special rule is that the formation gains the Camouflage strategic asset (Units gain a 5+ cover save and vehicles count as obscured for the opponents first shooting phase), unfortunately by the wording only those units which make up the asset gain the bonus, not the whole army.
The last two special rules regard the Deathstrike Missile Launcher itself, firstly gaining a +2 bonus for determining when you can launch it as one would expect a higher level of maintenance and preparation compared to a standard Deathstrike missile. The second is of course the effect of the missile itself.
The missiles stats are completely different from a standard Deathstrike missile, its range has a minimum distance of 48", extending to unlimited (however if you use the house rule limiting such ranges to 72" then I strongly suggest allowing the 960" range of the normal missile for fairness). It is still treated as a one-shot ordnance barrage weapon (which is still unable to fire directly), however it uses the 10" apocalyptic blast marker.
Once the weapon has been fired and the blast marker placed however, you simply remove all models and removable terrain features that touch it (with the exception of flyers, gargantuan creatures and super-heavies). Unlike Destroyer weapons, this ignores eternal warrior, all forms of saves and other special rules etc and does not require a roll of vehicle damage charts at all. Gargantuan creatures take D6 wounds with no saves of any kind allowed and super-heavies lose D3 structure points.
Last but by no means least, you leave a 3" marker in place which acts like the Vortex Grenade strategic asset.

Thoughts, Opinions and final Review
While I've actually built up this formation for fun I actually feel it to be very lacking. On first glance and basic calculation it is immensely powerful and I expect a lot of people who have seen the formation list or read the above are thinking it to be so, perhaps even exclaiming it to be overpowered.
Before explaining my dislike I'll clear up the parts that I do, obviously the fluff and background behind it are wonderful and the vortex missile will forever be considered an iconic weapon for many players. I also really like the formation makeup, as I've never felt it right to field super-heavies or similarly powerful vehicles without a number of infantry to protect it, both fitting real-world ideas acting as spotters against ambush in battle and the gameplay role of preventing opponents getting within melta range or close combat. The Lord Commissar watching over the vehicle to prevent trouble in the ranks fits wonderfully.
Why don't I like it then? Well in truth the weapon is extremely flawed, firstly while it does gain a bonus for determining when it can fire, it still cannot fire on the first turn and at best has a 3+ chance of happening on the second allowing the enemy plenty of time to prevent it firing at all (especially when flyers, flank-march asset users and suchlike exist on the battlefield). This also restricts your tactics, as you'll have to keep your units distant from the area near your intended target for several turns.
Secondly, the Camouflage asset. With the 48" minimum range you'll be distancing yourself from the enemy and will have armed the Infantry Platoon for range accordingly. As such, terrain permitting, you'll have deployed in cover anyway and the Deathstrike itself has Smoke Launchers, so in truth the special rule is really only sparing you a turn of using smoke.
The range is also punishing, since you cannot fire on the first turn. Even if the opponent doesn't have units able to strike at the launcher before it can fire, he has the option of simply getting his most valuable units within 48" in the turn or two before the weapon is able to shoot.
Lastly is the points cost, no matter how powerful it is you cannot deny that since the Commissar & Platoon will be trying for actual cover all the points are going towards the Deathstrike Missile Launcher itself resulting in a single tank for 360pts. For a one-shot weapon that can be taken out by a reasonably clever opponent before it can fire, it being only armour 12/12/10, that is a lot! At best you can hide it behind other friendly tanks (remember that the missile itself does not count as part of the hull and is ignored for determining if the vehicle can be shot) but that doesn't help against flyers etc.
As for the power itself, unless the enemy is cramped together or you happen to get a shot at a formation command unit (Masters of the Chapter, Ulthwe Seer Council etc) you're unlikely to actually make up the points.

End Result
I'm not saying it isn't extremely powerful, just that it is far from reliable if against a clever opponent (or even with bad luck as you can simply miss since its barrage). I would have expected the formation to be cheaper or having something extra but there we are.
Very fun to use but once word gets around, you'll likely never get a chance to fire it again.


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