Monday, 1 July 2013

IntrAspection: Striking Scorpions

It’s difficult to review the Scorpions without comparing them to the other Assault aspect competing for the Elites slot: The Howling Banshees.  Back in 5th, they definitely came off as the weaker choice.  They were the same cost, more heavily armoured (at the cost of Fleet) and struck at a higher strength but lacked the power weapon angle to deny armour saves.  Given the near-ubiquity of power armoured armies, that particular foible cost them dearly.  The only enemy they were better at were lightly armoured ones, but they lacked the numbers to effectively deal with horde.  They could infiltrate and gain stealth, but these were expensive, as they were only available as Exarch upgrades.  Has the balance of power shifted here?  I can’t say.  I’m just going to limit the comparison to a simple before and after.

One thing to notice is that these guys are a now a point more expensive than they used to be, which may not seem like much, but so much is cheaper throughout the new dex that it’s worth noticing.  As they’re more expensive are they better though?  I would say yes here.  A brief rundown of the changes and improvements will duly follow.

The mandiblasters have now changed a little.  I can’t say whether that’s for better or for worse though.  Instead of just giving them a bonus attack, they now give an I10 S3 bonus attack.  So you lose a point of strength for the additional attack but get that hit in first.  Against enemies like Genestealers and dark Eldar, this is definitely a good thing, certainly given that a lot of DE assault units would have been striking first normally, and they’re still brittle enough that the pre-punch could have a significant impact.  Against marines and such, it’s a bit of a let-down, but no-one wants to field scorpions against marines anyway do they?

A new big deal is that they now have fleet, although fleet has been reduced from what it once was, it’s still nice to have as an option certainly whilst twinned with Battle Focus, although you’re still just firing shuriken pistols.  Another plus is that they have Infiltrate and Stealth as standard, rather than paying the exorbitant amounts for the Exarch upgrades.  This ties in perfectly with what the aspect was meant to be and more than justifies the minimal price increase on its own.  Packing in Move Through Cover is also really handy, helping you get the most out of the Scorpion’s movement.

Equipment wise, they are the same as they were (bar the mandiblaster alterations, of course).  Their armour is basically power armour and the close combat weapon still adds an extra strength and also a little AP bump to get through 6+ saves.  Nothing to write home about.  Plasma grenades are also present, and the same they ever were.  The upgrades to the Shuriken pistols should go without saying for now.

The Exarch, as ever, is where things get interesting.  Your three powers are Monster Hunter (rerolls to wound vs MCs, useful every now and again), Crushing Blow (+1 strength) and Stalker.  Stalker is an odd one.  It only works during a challenge, but allows an Initiative roll-off with the challenger/challenge.  The Scorpion stands well placed to win this and if he does, he gets to reroll all failed wounds versus his opponent which again is very nice.  Not sure if I’d invest a whole 10 points in though.

The three specialist Exarch weapons are back again.  The biting blade is the cheapest and has taken a major streamlining from its somewhat complicated earlier incarnation (+1 strength per hit you score) to a straight +2 S bonus and an AP of 4, but takes up both hands to wield.  Good thing it’s cheap.  It should be decent for cutting through lighter vehicles as (combined with Crushing Blow) allows the exarch to strike at S6 with 3 attacks flat-footed.  It wouldn’t be my go-to weapon by any means, but I can see uses for it, especially if you’re on a budget or want to fight some Spawn or Grotesques.

The next option are the chainsabres, which are cool.  They basically give the exarch  a full shuriken catapult and a pair of Rending +1S close combat weapons. Combined with some wound rerolls, the rending can be very nasty and with Crushing Blow they will also be handy for vehicle disposal.  Also, they are only 5 points more expensive than the Biting Blade.  Frankly, if you’re on that kind of budget, I would really go for the sabres instead of the blade.  They are so much better and less restrictive.  The last weapon is the Scorpions Claw and, yeesh, this has taken an upgrade.  It used to be a power fist with a built-in catapult.  Now, it’s a power fist with a built-in catapult, but with all the penalties of a power removed.  It’s not unwieldy, it’s not even a Specialist weapon so you can squeeze the most out your Exarchs attacks.  Kitted out with one of these and a power or two, this guy’s challenge machine.  Very scary, but you certainly pay for that, as the weapon costs more than the Exarch wielding it.  The Claw is a whopping 30 points, so you’ll definitely want to plan to get the most out of the purchase.  Given the choice between the claw and the sabre, I’m genuinely unsure of what I’d pick.  The claw is objectively better, but the cost may well be a touch prohibitive in a lot of lists.

Well, that was a lot to get through!  I think I’ll do an extra bit of chat about the role of these guys in the battle field later.  Just listing all the changes took a thousand words!  I probably should have just drawn a picture…


Nick said...

I think you're spot on with everything here. I'm just as unsure about the difference between the claw and sabres. I do like the rending and extra shots on the sabres though.

I do think getting all the new USRs is a really nice deal, having them lurk in cover with Stealth, infiltrate and Move through Cover can make them a nice little speed bump.

One thing that I have noticed about the Mandiblasters is that it has to hit a model in BtB. Or, in other words, it's a potential sniping tool. It's not massively dangerous, but it could be used quite aggresively to take out specific guys.

Meatshield said...

Don't forget, outflanking with a wave serpent is also really nice. I'm pretty sure you can still do that. I see their role as either a speedbump or backfeild assassin. They're just about dangerous enough that they can't be ignored and just about resilient enough that you have to dedicated a decent amount of firepower to remove.

Anyway, potential tactical talk will come later in the week.

Gladyou're enjoying the series!

Nick said...

Yep, enjoying the series a lot. It's an interesting Codex, but one that I'm finding difficult to analyse. There's no one lever to it, such as Necron's or Tau, and it's really good to see someone else's thoughts on the 'dex.

The idea of outflanking a skimmer with a bazillion s6-7 shots is one the most evil ideas I've heard of in a while. Scatter Laser War Walker are almost obsolete with them around!