Everyone has a unit or three that really tickles their fancy- something that, beyond all mechanical effectiveness, just appeals to them for reasons not wholly known.
Maybe it was the first unit you ever bought or saw in 40K- the Dreadnought from a Dawn of War video, or a huge battleship drawn to scale with the comparatively-miniscule form of a Star Destroyer next to it. Or maybe it was a unit that you have a really great story behind and ever since just using it on the tabletop brings a glow of memory. Maybe it was a story in a codex that particularly struck a chord with you, or an illustration, or perhaps a unit name. Whatever the cause (known or unknown), most everyone has that one special unit that is dear to their heart.
This is a post to talk about those units, and invite other people to share their own examples.
I’m pretty sure that my love for the Piranha started well before I ever started playing Warhammer. I played Battletech for years before I ever got into “proper” mini wargaming, starting at a very young age, and heavily-armed light ‘mechs had always been something I fancied. Starting with the Locust and many of its variants and eventually the various successor units in later Technical Readouts, culminating in some of the Fire Moth variants and a little beast called the Piranha that was armed to the teeth with machine guns and the biggest engine that could be fit on it.
Cut to my 40K career and the start of my using Tau, during their dubious time during 5E when they were still playing with an outdated codex. One of my earliest lessons in having success with Tau, come from a rather dubious source, was that controlling the enemy’s movement was absolutely critical. With armored transports absolutely everywhere during that edition Tau were well-poised to be able to cripple an opponent’s army quickly with their S7 and S10 firepower… provided they could keep the enemy from getting right in their face and ruining them anyways. Enter the humble Piranha, an obnoxiously-fast vehicle with a large footprint that could be used to grind the enemy advance to a halt and could mount some pretty reasonable weapons on its chassis and came with a pair of Drones whose cost nearly rivaled its own. It was, in short, the 40K equivalent of its Battletech namesake- fast, dangerous at short ranges, and great for harassing slower forces.
Part of it was certainly the unit’s uses, but it was also the unit’s place in a fast, skimmer-based army that I liked so much. Of all the races in 40K, the Tau were the only ones who seemed to have much of any conception of actual warfare and the futuristic lines of their vehicles and battlesuits were a huge contrast to the blocky Imperial tanks. Anime they might be, but hey- anime was cool and the ability to field an army of sleek flying tanks with railguns and lasers was awfully appealing.
The Piranha hasn’t change much over the years, either visually or functionally- it’s cheaper now and has a few tricks up its sleeve, but at its heart it’s still the same little mobile distraction that it was before and I love that. That there’s now a formation for them specifically makes me even happier, even if the ITC’s changes to it make it significantly less effective (since apparently “full strength” means “with half the squad missing” in some languages.) I still run it, however, because being able to slap ten or fifteen Piranhas on the table and use them to harass my opponents to no end is always a great thing.
I started 40K with Tyranids, and to me the Carnifex is still the quintessential Tyranid. It’s bigger than you, nasty as hell, and customizable to do almost anything. It’s not the fightiest critter out there, nor the shootiest, nor the toughest, but even if you beat one there’s a dozen more right behind it and you can’t stop them all. You can’t reason with it, or distract it, or give it pause- it only wants to tear you to pieces and doesn’t give a single damn about anything else that happens to it or around it.
The old 2E Carnifex models also are a big part of why it’s something that I like so much, especially the “Huggafex” (or “Screamer-Killer” if you want to be more correct about it) one- it is, at the same time, both adorable and horrifying. The early models in 40K often don’t stand up well to close examination and the Screamer-Killer is no exception; it’s an ugly hunk of metal with a goofy aesthetic to it and some incredibly annoying joins. Still, for all that, it (and the internet memes it has spawned) still hold a lot of nostalgia for me.
Alright, hear me out on this one.
When I started the first bits of my Eldar collection after returning to the game, Eldar were not particularly good. This was late 5th Edition (having missed most of 3rd and part of 4th) and Eldar had been on the downslide for a long time at that point. They muddled through early 5E as a spoiler army, but by the time it was reaching its end they had long since ceased to be a competitor. I have always liked playing antagonists (if you couldn’t tell from my selection of xenos races for my first two armies) and Eldar fit nicely into that narrative- not to mention bringing a radically different playstyle than the armies I already owned. So I started to pick up a Jetbike army piece by piece, starting with a few squads and a Farseer and working out from there. It took quite some time, since I was grabbing them piecemeal where I could find deals, but it was fun. The Dark Eldar Reavers kit had just come out and while everyone was a-flutter about the possibility of Eldar getting a similar one (not to be realized for another two editions, sadly) I was more than happy to do a lot of conversion work to replace the “Easy Rider” jetbike models that Eldar had at the time.
Enter 6th edition and the ally system. Suddenly my Eldar were not only a viable addition to other forces without even needing any more models than the two dozen that I had, but they were actually a powerful contributor to many of them thanks to being able to bring cheap squads of scoring units and unique psychic powers. My Grey Knights and Tau were soon both commonly accompanied by a small horde of pastel-shaded speedsters on their flying mounts. Being able to catapult units absurd distances across the table by Turbo-Boosting can throw many opponents off balance all out of proportion with the actual effectiveness of the unit and as time went on and the options for allying continued to increase (and Tau came back into the spotlight as a primary army), they only got better.
Of course in 7th Edition Jetbikes (now termed Windriders) are wholly out of control, but that has just meant getting to field a favorite unit in an actual army rather than only seeing them in casual/local events. I can’t exactly say I’m happy with what GW has done with them, but I also can’t really be sad about it, either, since I get to put them on the table quite a lot. I have even, at various times, gotten to field them alongside a horde of Piranhas which was an absolute delight- however, if/when 8E comes about I’m hoping that they get toned down (one weapon per two or three?) so that people don’t throw a fit about them anymore.
Sometimes the reason for liking a unit is complicated and mired in history; sometimes, however, it is not. Such is the case with the Doom Scythe, which starts off strong with a really intimidating name and a pretty cool model and then seals the deal with its weapons: a Tesla Destructor and a freakin’ Death Ray.
How can you not love that? Not just a 1950’s scifi weapon to scorch your enemies with but a homage to the greatest technical genius of the 20th century, all piloted by a robot skelington. Add in the fact that the weapon functioned by a wonderfully evocative “draw a line and your laser hits those guys” mechanic when first released meant that it was basically the most amusing vehicle in 40K for quite a while. Sadly, the 7E update to it is a lot less fun to use, since it’s just a boring ol’ small blast . (There’s still the Forge World Heavy Death Ray for those with a hankerin’, though.)
Those are some of my favorites- what about yours?