Oh… hello there. I didn’t see you come in! Welcome, to our discussion of the Space Marine Thunderfire Cannon. Scuba Steve here, and I’ll be giving you a brief walkthrough of what you can expect when you field on of these things and a few ways you can use them to great effectiveness. As always, for more great articles be sure to check out the Tactics Corner!
Space Marines are some of the bravest warriors in all the galaxy. For ages and ages, the Imperium of Man has expanded and triumphed thanks to their incredible bravery and thundering guns. Let’s talk briefly about the most thundering of all those guns – the Thunderfire Cannon. As I do with all of my articles and whenever you sit down to review a unit critically, it is best to break down all of their abilities and special rules, so you can see the truth of their value on the table top.
- Thunderfire Cannon (Good): Any weapon that can be fired with a few different profiles gives you options, nobody ever says that flexibility and options are a bad thing. The gun has multiple profiles that you can choose to use when you fire the weapon (it is good to note that you cannot mix n’ match the types of shots you use when you fire the unit as a battery): The first profile is the most basic (Surface Detonation: 60″ range, Str 6, AP 5, Barrage) – The second profile is good tool for getting rid of units that require a decent cover save (Airburst: 60″ range, Str 5, AP 6, Ignores Cover, Barrage), and the last profile makes use of the Strikedown special rule (Subterranean Blast: 60″ range, Str 4, AP -, Barrage, Strikedown). When you look at the effectiveness that the Thunderfire Cannon will have in your army, consider that regardless of profile, the cannon fires 4 times (each of which is a small blast). For the rookies out there, if you do choose to use this unit, I would urge you to brush up on the rules in the BRB for firing barrage weapons, they fire differently than your basic blast weapon.
- Bolt Pistol, Frag Grenades, Krak Grenades (Good): *Techmarine only* – He’s a Space Marine, all of these are standard issue and surprisingly effective.
- Servo-harness (Good): *Techmarine only* – Servo-harness is effectively equivalent to a twin-linked plasma pistol, a flamer, and a pair of power fists… yeah… not bad at all. Additionally, it allows the Techmarine to fire two weapons in the shooting phase, either both servo-weapons or one servo-weapon and a Thunderfire Cannon.
Special Rules (Techmarine)
- And They Shall Know No Fear (Good): Yup, this is a crazy good rule.
- Blessing of the Omnissiah (Just Okay): The rule itself is solid, you can use it to repair vehicles, etc… however, if this Techmarine is shooting the cannon, you likely won’t have any time to play mechanic.
- Bolster Defences (Good): This is great! Considering that this artillery unit will likely not be going anywhere very quickly, you can set the unit up in a piece of Ruins terrain and give it a better cover save. It’s a great addition to a primarily stationary unit.
- Chapter Tactics (Good): The Chapter Tactics for this particular model don’t really matter a great deal, however there are two notable chapters that synergize well with Thunderfire Cannons: Raven Guard and White Scars. Raven Guard tactics will give the Techmarine shrouded on the first turn of the game, giving him a 2+ cover save (in all likelihood), especially when you combine it with Bolster Defences. White Scars are good because you give the entire unit Hit and Run (not too shabby for a unit you really DON’T want locked in combat).
- Convergent Targeting (Just Okay): People will argue with me that this is a great ability, however there is a cost to getting +1 to an already high Ballistic Skill. The cost of THREE Thunderfire Cannons is FAR too high to justify a small step from BS 5 to BS 6.
- Drop Pod (Just Okay): The issue with this options is that you give up your first round of shooting with the cannon because of having to move out of the transport and get into position. Additionally, you likely won’t be using your Bolster Defences ability to its maximum potential – if you’re using a Drop Pod to deep strike artillery into your own deployment zone, you’re doing something really wrong.
Alright, definitely a great line up of special rules and wargear. We have the makings of a truly awesome addition to almost any army, so how can we best put this thing to use?
On a side note… I wondered if humans ever tried to build a Thunderfire Cannon… apparently we did!
A little old school… but hey, it’s vintage – you gotta respect that… look how many Techmarines it took to man the gun back then! We’ve come a long way!
A Serious Case of Thunder Clap
I have found that there are two really effective ways to use/abuse the Thunderfire Cannon. of course – feel free to express any of your personal strategies in the comment section below and get your tricks and tactics out to the community!
- Tiggy-fire Cannons: The premise of this strategy is a simple one… put Chief Librarian Tigurius in a unit of Thunderfire Cannons and rain hell upon your enemies. There are a few reasons why this works so well: 1) You make Tiggy your warlord and then use his Warlord trait to give the unit of Thunderfire Cannons Rending until the end of the turn – not only is this incredibly reliable, but even a unit of two cannons become ludicrously deadly when you’re dishing out rending all willy-nilly. 2) Tiggy can assist the cannons by using powers like Prescience and Perfect Timing to make them hit more reliably and make their Str 6 shots ignore cover. This strategy is really easy to do and incredibly effective, one of the better “two-piece” combos I can think of.
- On Walk-a-bout: This is also a really easy “two-piece” combo that make Thunderfire Cannons just a little bit better. Now, thanks to their incredible range, you may not need to take advantage of this very often, however it is worth suggesting because it can be very useful in a tight spot. If you include in your army a Terminator Captain in Catiphractii Armor, you can bestow the effects of Slow and Purposeful on a unit of Thunderfire Cannons by simply joining the Captain with the cannons. This gives them the uncanny ability to move and shoot unhindered – even though the cannons are barrage weapons, tricks like this could assist in avoiding firing their weapons indirectly or if you need to work your way to an objective and still be on the offensive.
Unfortunately, there are very few places where the Thunderfire Cannon fits into most lists of today. The reason for this is because it doesn’t fit very well into the Gladius Strike Force (or any other of the “Decurion” style detachments, for that matter). The only formation that allows it to be included is the Armored Task Force… and I cannot think of the last time I saw a Battle Company player use that as their auxiliary for the Gladius. It is a damn shame too, having it so limitied to particular detachments has really cut in to how often you see it on the table top. Now, hypothetically, if it were a stand-alone choice for an auxiliary option, or if there was a Formation made up of Thunderfire Cannons, I think that you’d see them much more often… until then though, they are just a little too hard to stuff into a list.
I think that the Thunderfire Cannon is an awesome unit and I believe that it has a place on the table top in a competitive setting – it just got a raw deal when GW starting dishing up Formations. The new list building strategies and mindsets started to do away with units that aren’t included in the latest and greatest detachment or formation. However, it is a really big and effective gun… and we can all make room for that, right? As I do with all of my articles, I challenge you all to test of some of the strategies I laid out above and experiment with your own! If you come up with anything really gnarly, be sure to post it below for us all to see and gawk over.
Scuba Steve, Signing Out