Are we playing in the era of the transport?
In 9th edition, players win games by capturing and holding objectives. There’s no getting around this fact. The primary missions are the best way to get points on the board.
And what’s more, many of the secondary missions are quite tough to get maximum points on.
Indeed, the game has become a lot less focused on simply destroying enemy units. Don’t get me wrong: players need to have ways to bring the thunder, but destroying a couple of units a turn won’t necessarily be enough to win the game.
In a game in which players must capture objectives, the troop choice is king. Objective Secured has always been a powerful ability, but in 9th edition it has become yet more valuable.
For the competitive player, then, this prompts a question: how many Objective Secured units should I take in my army?
The trade-off is obvious enough: most units with Objective Secured aren’t as powerful as other units in the codex. And this stands to reason. A strong, well-written, well-balanced codex will present players with a variety of units that have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, a strong, well-written, well-balanced codex will also offer players a handful of powerful army lists. Unfortunately, many codex books don’t offer such options, but that’s an article for another time.
In 8th edition, players could select fewer Objective Secured units in order to take the more powerful units in the codex. In the ITC, players were awarded points for both capturing objectives and destroying enemy units — hold, hold more, kill, kill more — but players in 9th no longer have this luxury.
While there is one secondary mission that awards players points for killing more units that his opponent — in the Grand Tournament 2020 book this secondary is called Grind Them Down; in the Core Book this secondary is called Attrition — it only awards three points per battle round for doing so. In comparison to the primary objectives, this offers little in the way of points scoring.
For some armies, this simply isn’t a problem. It will come as a surprise to no one that Space Marines have access to a diverse range of durable, powerful troops units that come with a variety of interesting, effective special rules. Primaris Intercessors, Incursors, and Infiltrators are excellent choices. Indeed, these units offer rules and abilities found in the elite section of other armies.
Furthermore, I’d wager that in 9th we’re going to see some very powerful lists containing mostly Primaris troops. 60 or more of these boys on the objectives are going to be very difficult to shift for most armies in the game.
But most armies can’t rely on such powerful troops. With this in mind, then, are we going to see more transports hit the tabletop in 9th edition?
It’s a tricky one. There’s really one army for which their dedicated transport is an auto-include: the Drukhari. For my money, the Venom, even with the points increase, is still one of the best transports in the game. The Drukhari gunboat list still has significant teeth. More on that later.
But what about the more humble transports in the game? Is the Chimera worth taking? Is the Devilfish worth its points?
To begin to think about this, it’s useful to consider the opportunity cost of the transport itself. The Devilfish, for example, costs 103 points. That gives us a transport capacity of 12, a 12″ move, toughness 7, 12 wounds, and a 3+ save. As tanks go, this is pretty reasonable defense at a pretty reasonable cost.
Does the Devilfish give us any offensive capability? Put simply, it doesn’t. It’s modestly armed, with a Burst Cannon and two Gun Drones. Granted, a pair of Gun Drones is a really useful little unit, but all things considered, the offensive capabilities of the Devilfish aren’t really worth factoring in to the conversation.
I should point out that there is a caveat here. The T’au player can replace the two Gun Drones for two Smart Missile Systems for an extra 10 points, bringing the total cost up to 113 points. Furthermore, we can add a couple of Seeker Missiles into the mix, bringing the total cost up to 123 points. These options do offer some interesting ways to play the Devilfish.
But let’s put that to one side for now. If we were to forgo those 103 points for a bare-bones Devilfish, what else could we take? Or, to put it another way, how many more Fire Warriors could we bring? After all, we take the Devilfish in order to protect the Fire Warriors inside, but for 103 points we could take another ten-man squad of Fire Warriors.
Which is better? 10 Fire Warriors and a Devilfish or 20 Fire Warriors. Again, this is a tricky question. In order to better think about it, let’s compare it to something else. I mentioned the Drukhari Venom earlier — what does this model offer Drukhari players?
I really like the Venom. It went up in points in 9th edition, but it still has teeth. For 75 points, Drukhari players get a model with a transport capacity of five, a mighty 16″ move, toughness 5, 6 wounds, a 4+ armor save, a 5+ invulnerable save, and a native -1 to hit rolls in the shooting phase.
There’s a lot to like here. With the native -1 to hit and a 5++, the Venom is surprisingly tricky to shift. And what’s more, with the Kabal of the Black Heart, that boy will have a 6+ Feel No Pain roll on top of everything else.
It’s also got some very respectable anti-infantry shooting. For those 75 points, the Venom is armed with a Splinter Cannon and a Twin Splinter Rifle. The Splinter Cannon is a Rapid Fire 3 weapon with a range of 36″; the Twin Splinter Rifle is a Rapid Fire 2 weapon with a range of 24″. Both have an AP value of 0 and 1 damage, but both are poison weapons, meaning they wound everything but Vehicle- and Titantic-keyword units on a 4+.
At 18″, then, the Venom kicks out eight poison shots; at 12″, the Venom delivers 12 poison shots, all hitting on 3s. Moreover, we have the fact that it is an open-topped vehicle, meaning that those Kabalite Warriors inside can add their weapons into the mix.
Let’s ask the above question to the Drukhari player: would he forgo the Venom in order to take more Kabalite Warriors. No competitive Drukhair player would do so. The Venom is integral to the way that many Drukhari lists play.
However, the same cannot be said for the Devilfish. Most competitive T’au lists don’t run Devilfish. Of course, this could change as we continue to see tournament results trickle in from around the world, but for now we seldom see vehicles in strong T’au lists.
The comparison to the Venom is useful, but it only gets us so far. While the infantry models that both transports protect have a similar defensive stat-line, meaning that when unprotected, they will likely be destroyed, the transports themselves do distinctly different things. Drukhari players can build strong lists with multiple Venoms at the core, but the Devilfish doesn’t offer T’au players such flexibility.
This much is obvious: the question of whether to take a transport is faction-specific. And like most other army list choices, it is dependent on what else is in the force, as well as a myriad of other tactical choices that the player must make as he builds his list.
Are we playing in the era of the transport? I think we might be, but it’s too soon to tell. I’m definitely going to give the Devilfish a go when I get back to playing, and I’m looking forward to developing new ways to play my T’au with a couple in the force.
And if nothing else, more tanks on the tabletop can’t be a bad thing.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!