Dark Angels Review: Formation: Hammer of Caliban

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Hey, everyone.  Chandler here with a look at everyone’s favorite secret Space Marines, the Dark Angels and their Formation, Hammer of Caliban.  For more reviews, analysis, and battle reports check out the Tactics Corner.

Dark Angels are arguably one of the strongest armies in the game right now thanks to their updated Codex. Just look at the results of this year’s Bay Area Open or the Hammer of Wrath GT for examples. Brandon Grant has been tearing up the ITC this year with his Dark Angels Lion’s Blade battle company list and is 2nd overall in the standings as of this writing.  While Brandon hasn’t been running the Hammer of Caliban (at least to my knowledge) it is just one example of how strong the army is. There are a lot of great detachments and formations in the codex which make Dark Angels a true powerhouse on the table top.  The Hammer of Caliban, while expensive, can make a nice addition to your Dark Angels force.

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Overview:  The Hammer of Caliban can be taken as a standalone Formation or included as an Auxiliary choice for a Lion’s Blade Strike Force.

The Hammer of Caliban:

Restrictions: This Formation’s units of Predators, Whirlwinds or Vindicators must include three models

  • 1 Techmarine
  • 1 unit chosen from the following: Land Raider, Land Raider Crusader, Land Raider Redeemer
  • 1 unit chosen from the following: Predators, Whirlwinds, Vindicators

Special Rules: Every vehicle in the Formation comes with the Monster Hunter and Tank Hunters rule as well as the following:

Hammer of Heretics: The Techmarine must begin the game embarked on the Formation’s Land Raider (or Land Raider variant). While embarked the Ballistic Skill of the vehicle is increased to 5.

Might of the Lion: All vehicles in this Formation must form a single Vehicle Squadron, however this squadron counts as 2 units for the purposes of calculating Victory Points if it is completely destroyed.

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Tactics: The Hammer of Caliban Formation can be a very expensive addition to your force, but if played correctly, is capable of being quite devastating.  All of the vehicles, when combined into a squadron, can lay down some heavy firepower.  Predators, when taken as a squadron of 3, already gain the Monster Hunter and Tank Hunters special rule, so adding a unit of these into the Formation isn’t really adding any of the Formation benefits.  That doesn’t mean they are bad additions to use, but not really the best of the 3 options.  Whirlwinds when taken in units of 3 give their missile launchers Pinning and Shred, which can be quite useful, especially against Xeno armies that seem to dominate the table top these days.  Throwing down a bunch of large blast pie plates that Ignores Cover and has Shred can be very useful, just ask any Astra Militarum player who runs Wyverns.  In my opinion, the best unit to use here are Vindicators.  When taken in units of 3 they can combine fire one Apocalyptic Blast sized template that Ignores Cover.  Throwing down a giant sized STR 10 AP 2 pie plate that Ignores Cover is pretty amazing.

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The reason you don’t see triple Vindicators a lot is because, while devastating, once a single Vindicator goes down, or loses its ability to fire the Demolisher Cannon, the unit no longer gets to benefit from that Apoc Blast pie plate.  The Hammer of Caliban gives you a little more insurance because of the Land Raider.  Because the Formation counts as a single vehicle squadron, you can position the Land Raider to provide an AV 14 wall on a weak flank.  AV 14 is still a hard nut to crack for a lot of armies and it buys you maybe an extra turn or two of laying down that devastating pie plate from the Vindicators.  Because the entire Formation is one big squadron, you want to position the Land Raider so that it takes the brunt of the enemy firepower, giving you 4 hull points to work through before the Vindicators are impacted.  The Techmarine here helps keep the Land Raider alive with his Servitor buddies.

Running a Techmarine with a couple of Servitors embarked means you can keep repairing hull points on that Land Raider every turn on a 3+ giving it even more survivability on the battle field.  As to the Land Raider itself, the basic Land Raider is the best choice here.  With a Heavy Bolter with Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter it gives you a little more versatility when dealing with light tanks like Rhinos and Land Speeders and the two Lascannons work well at giving you some mobile fire power with Tank Hunter on some heavy armor. Using Power of the Machine Spirit means you can shoot one of those Lascannons at a different target than the rest of the Formation, adding a little more versatility to the unit and with the added bonus to Ballistic Skill from the Techmarine, suddenly your Land Raider is hitting on 2s.  It’s not a bad idea to add a multi-melta to the Land Raider as well to pop open some pesky transports with Tank Hunters letting you re-roll the penetration if you fail.

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The Formation is very pricey, however, which is the one downside to running it. With a Land Raider with multi-melta, Techmarine with 2 servitors, and 3 Vindicators it comes up to a little over 700 points, which is a large chunk of any army.  Clever positioning of the Land Raider combined with the Techmarine’s ability to repair it, means your Vindicators can survive a little while longer and very few things can survive an Apoc Blast pie plate at Strength 10 AP 2 with Ignores Cover.  The key to using it effectively is target selection. You want to maximize the devastation you can lay down on the enemy. For this reason, the Formation really works well going against hard targets to kill like Iron Hands Bike Stars or even Cabal Stars.  Large infantry units are also vulnerable to the unit.  Throwing the Apoc Blast template at a few units that are clustered up, for example, can cripple your opponent.  This allows you to have a little more board control as he will inevitably be cognizant to this and try and spread his forces out to minimize the impact the Formation can have on his army.

You can even go the extra mile and throw Azrael from a slot in another Detachment in the Land Raider to give it a 4++ Invulnerable Save, but again that is an even more expensive addition to an already expensive unit.

If you decide to use the Predator unit, it’s best to equip them with Autocannon turrets and Lascannon sponsons.  It’s only slightly cheaper than the Vindicator unit in this setup but gives you 6 Lascannon shots and 6 Strength 7 Autocannon shots all with Tank Hunters and Monster Hunter.  That’s a lot of dakka to sling every round.  Again, it’s all limited to a single target but very few targets can withstand that much firepower especially with the added bonuses from the squadron.

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The Whirlwinds offer you 3 large blast pie plates that either Ignores Cover or hit at Strength 5. With the added squadron bonus, you can lay down some heavy Pinning firepower with Shred. It’s a great way to deal with pesky light infantry units that like to camp objectives and Go to Ground! every turn.  It is by far the cheapest way to run the Formation, and an argument could be made for using it over Vindicators, if only because of the ability to clear infantry off the table en mass. For less than 550 points you can run this Formation with Whirlwinds giving you plenty of objective control.  You can easily hide these bad boys out of Line of Sight because of their Barrage weapons making them even more difficult to kill.

Overall, the Hammer of Caliban is a very interesting and fun addition to any Dark Angels army.  The big downside is the price point. That’s a large chunk of your army that can only fire at a single unit per turn.  Certainly not the best competitive option, especially in a Lion’s Blade Strike Force build which relies heavily on maximizing the use of firing Overwatch army wide at normal Ballistic Skill, but definitely a fun unit to add to your Dark Angels force.

And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

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About Chandler

Sometimes I play 40k. Sometimes I drink beer. Oftentimes I do both. I host an annual ITC Grand Tournament, Come the Apocalypse GT, as well as a podcast called Come the Apocalypse - a Warhammer 40k Podcast which you can find on iTunes or the Google Play Music store.

2 Responses to “Dark Angels Review: Formation: Hammer of Caliban”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius December 15, 2016 8:49 am
    #

    If only many of these vehicles were better in this edition of the game =(

    • Dakkath December 15, 2016 8:17 pm
      #

      How I’d change vehicle damage rules for 8th:
      Glances don’t remove Hull Points, instead roll on the chart with a -2 penalty
      Vehicle damage chart goes something like 1-2 shaken, 3-4 stun, 5 weapon destroyed, 6 Immobilized, 7 explodes
      If you roll an immobilize and the vehicle already is, change it to a weapon destroyed; and vice versa. If you roll either and the vehicle is immobilized and has no weapons left, remove an additional hull point.