Thursday, August 1, 2013

Striking Scorpions

We've looked at Swooping Hawks, we've looked at Shining Spears. Let's mix things up with an assault unit: Striking Scorpions!
But assault is nerfed! There's no point in running assault units because assault sucks! Farseer Fail why are you wasting time with melee units?!?!?! Blah blah blah! Ah shut up. Eldar are the hammer today, but all of that could change with the next codex release, so don't be lazy. It always pays to be aware of your options, no? Arguments? I thought not.

Okay, I'll concede a point on motivation. I have a nicely painted squad of scorpions - with a matching Karandras. They aren't the old "2-dimensional" scorps of 2nd/early 3rd ed, nor the  "I'm a mini-Predator GRR" of the 4th ed model release, but the spindly, goofy, duelist-looking interim scorpies.
Huzzah! Avaunt, ye low-borne monkeigh!

See? ( Image ruthlessly stolen via Google image search; all props to the painter of this fine squad)

I was actually surprised that The Kelly took a step backwards in time with the scorpions. Rather than mandiblasters granting an extra attack, they grant a piddly S3 AP- attack but at Initiative 10. I'm not really clear on how well this works in practice. It seems weaker, but anything that occurs automatically at I 10 is probably a good thing these days.

The scorpy chainsword now grants +1 S and is AP6, so great through ripping through... anything with an already-crappy armor save... hm? Not exactly a minus, but I'm stretching here to see exactly what AP6 buys me. I guess roughly they will inflict 1 in 6 more wounds than normal vs. Orks, Kroot and ... I don't know what else.

Well it's not all doom and gloom! They benefit from Battle Focus and Fleet like other Eldar units; that's a first. They also get Move Through Cover, Fleet and Stealth. So deploy last and up close OR outflank, roll extra d6 though cover, ignore dangerous terrain, and +1 cover save. This will let at least let them start the game in a position where they can at least resist any first turn shooting.

1. Mini-squad

Your 85 points buys you a pretty solid little assault unit that can pump out a fair number of attacks, roughly equivalent to a five-man Assault Squad (minus the power fists and special weapons). Five mandiblaster attacks followed by 15 chainswords at AP 6. That's not bad when you take into account that a small squad like this can easily be placed pretty far forward and in cover thanks to Infiltrate, Stealth and Move Through Cover.

In this configuration they are a pretty cheap speed bump unit, or can be used to create assault blobs or distractions during the early game. Alternately you could use them to protect the flanks of your gun line. As a cheap support unit to counter an enemy's assault unit, you could do a lot worse. Storm guardians might be cheaper, but IMHO guardians are far more useful for hopping out of wave serpents and claiming/contesting objectives.

The traditional role of the scorpions has been as assault, but that T3 is working against us now, even with their heavy aspect armor. So it's almost better to let them catch an assault in the teeth so they can fire off their shuriken weapons on overwatch, an I10 mandi attack and 2 CC attacks at high initiative. Almost. 

And think of the annoyance factor of having a squad of scorpions move up through cover, pop off their shurikens, then melt back into cover again with that re-rollable Battle Focus move. Taunting you, I am!

2. Maxi-squad

Double up to 10 models and 170 points and you get more of the same. At this point it will be harder to hide a unit on foot simply due to their size. If you don't have sizable terrain to hunker down in, you're better off putting them in a wave serpent. Of course your damage output is now higher and a full-sized squad will pour out 10 mandis and 30 chainsword attacks. This unit will weather overwatch a bit better (again due solely to size). Taunting works better as well (more shots!), so overall you're more likely to launch an assault successfully.

In this case I'd say that 170 points and more models buys you more 'per point' than the 5-man squad.

3. Exarch

Gosh where to start? The exarch costs you 10 points over the regular scorpion with the usual benefits; a slightly pumped up stat line. And since those pumped scores all directly affect assault, it's worth it to bring an Exarch on that basis alone.

Exarch Upgrades: The scorpy exarch has three choices of powers; Monster Hunter, Stalker, and Crushing Blow. Stalker is the only challenge-specific ability, giving you the chance of re-rolls on wounds in a duel. Monster Hunter is straight out of the book; re-roll on wounds vs. monstrous creatures, while Crushing Blow just grants a straight-up +1 Strength. 

Exarch Equipment: Three choices here aside from the pistol/chainsword. The scorpion exarch weapons have always (IMHO) kinda sucked.  Biting Blade gives you  S5 AP4 like a power maul, but at the expense of the extra attack because it's two-handed. Chainsabres up the ante on the standard scorpion profile; 2 shuriken shots and a bonus attack. But Scorpion's Claw is a great-looking option despite its high cost - a power fist at high initiative? Yes please! Oh and it's not a "specialist weapon" so you will gain the benefit of having two close combat weapons. No wonder it's 30 points!

My favorite options are going to have to be Crushing Blow and Stalker with a scorpion's claw; S8 AP2 power fist at Initiative 6. It works on just about everything and no IC or character in their right mind is going to want to get anywhere near that in a duel (if they have a choice).

The upgrades and equipment don't make a whole lot of sense to me. Two out of three options from both the Upgrades and Equipment tend to gear the exarch toward monster hunting. But if you go monster hunting with your scorpion exarch, what are the other guys supposed to do except die in droves? I suppose they can take look out sir rolls or contribute the odd wound with bladestorm rolls from their pistols, but other than that these monster hunter builds don't really cut it to me. No pun intended.

4. Phoenix Lord

Karandras is a tank, big surprise. He carries a scorpion chainsword and a scorpion's claw (pow!) as well as an improved mandiblaster (S6 auto-hit at I10). He's not someone you want to tangle with in close combat. He'll be swinging away with a base of 5 power fist attacks at I7, and should make short work against almost anything. At 230 points, is he worth it though?

Unfortunately he suffers from the same sort of weapons/options gearing problems that exarchs do. With six power fists on the charge striking at his incredibly high initiative and re-rolling wounds vs. MCs and probably ICs in duels, he's really set up for monster hunting. Stalker let's him He grants Night Vision, which is no real help when the entire unit has a range limit of 12". I suppose you could stick him somewhere else with a ranged unit, since the Disciples rule has been repealed, but that's not terribly fluffy. I like the idea of PLs leading their aspects into battle.

Ultimately he's going to add some serious bang to a full squad of scorpions, if only because they will be providing him lots of extra Look Out Sir rolls as they sprint across the field into the thick of the fighting. He also takes the place of an exarch, since there would be too much overlap to make an exarch of that much use unless you have a particular special use for him.

That's a flat 400 points for  35cc attacks (5 power fists) and 11 mandiblasters (one that auto-hits at S6) on the charge and will make short work of any low-armored unit. They are not terribly susceptible to overwatch with their 3+ save but will be taxed in combat when going up against other units with a 3+.

The key to making a unit like this work for you is to make maximum use of its NON-combat abilities; Infiltrate, Battle Focus, Fleet, Stealth. Positioning the unit correctly - preferably in cover and close to the front line so that they face a minimum of fire going in and can get to their target while only dealing with overwatch before they get stuck in. Wave Serpent support could be useful if you're trying to get at uncontested or unprotected assets, or in a grouped attack with another unit supporting it.

In any event, I could easily see a use for scorpions. Even at low points value they can be an effective harassment unit, running interference and taking irritating pot shots at passing units in hopes of drawing them in. At higher numbers they are a decent assault unit, particularly with an exarch or Karandras.

Until next time!

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