Food For Thought: FOC Swaps and Allies

Thanks to Godfrey at Rites of Battle for putting up this interesting article discussing Force Organisation Chart (FOC) swaps in 40k.

The main question is whether or not they are a good thing. Personally, I love FOC swaps for the same reason I love allies - options. Anything that allows me to create different lists with loads of synergies and tactics makes me very happy (one of the reasons I also enjoy MTG). It also opens up a lot more variety and the possibility for characterful armies. The tricky thing is that more options makes balancing a game system harder and some companies are better than others at this!

I think that there will always be more powerful options than others and the competitive scene in any game system will always strive to seek out and use the best of these. It's the nature of competition and is to be expected in an environment where players are trying to win rather than play casually (neither is right or wrong). But this would be the case with or without extra options. I'd prefer to see more choice than less, as apart from anything else it allows more depth of options to choose from when looking for counters.

I don't think GW primarily introduced allies to help balance out weaknesses in the main codex. GW have repeatedly stated that they are a model company first, so I think it's more likely that the decision was made as it allows more models to be sold, enabling second/third/more armies to be build up incrementally. I welcome this, as starting a new army and getting it up to regular game size (1500-2000pts) is a huge undertaking. Being able to play with new stuff in larger battles straight away is a good thing!

I'm not saying the balance is or ever will be perfect (as much as I want it to), but I think 6th is a richer playing environment for casual and competitive play thanks to FOC swaps and allies.

List-Fu: Inquisition vs Marines


I thought I'd post up a list that I've been working on since the rumours of Codex: Inquisition started to trickle in, but first a little bit of background...

Since the GT Heat in October I've been thinking a lot about marines in 6th. 'What marines in 6th?' you may well ask, and that's kind of the point. From what I've seen over the past year or so, many of the top performing lists have been devoid of any flavour of marine as a primary troop choice. Sure you get some examples that prove this isn't always the case, but if you look back I'd suggest that xenos and GEQ equivalent codexes have done really well. Necrons scythe/wraith wing, IG blobs and air support, Deamon Flying Circus and now screamer-star, any combination of Tau and Eldar, Chaos marines with helldrakes but cultists instead of marines... you get the idea.

Now this isn't any sort of complaint and I actually think it's great to see such a variety of armies doing well over a comparatively short space of time, compared to say half a year at a time of 'counts as' the latest marine codex. It's hard to say if this pace of change will continue and I'm not going to go into some of the theories about why GW are doing this, but at this time I guess most would agree that seeing large numbers of marines is fairly rare on the top tables at tournaments.

Coolminiornot - Helldrake (GW) - wingsmoothpainting

I think it's already been well documented that this is considered to be due to the increase of low AP cover ignoring weaponry kicking about in 6th. Baleflamers and markerlights are top contenders here, but there are a number of other ways of getting ignores cover, not least being the brilliant Perfect Timing in Divination. I think others reasons include the massive reduction in the use of mech and the resultant move towards plasma over melta. Again, not new ground here, but I've never found footslogging large groups of marines across the table to be particularly effective and I think drop pod lists leave you too exposed and static for my tastes.

So how does this relate to the recent Inquisition release and what I want to run in my lists? Henchmen. But perhaps not in the way you'd think.

Acolytes are crazy cheap at 14pts for a body and a special weapon. I'm used to having one special per 5 marines, so to be able to take 3 specials on three bodies at 42pts compared to 85pts for 5 grey hunters with a plasma gun is a massive increase in offensive potential and points efficiency. And yes I'll take the heavy bolter razorback with psybolt ammo, thank you very much. What has held me back until now is how squishy the 3 man acolyte unit is compared to a unit of 5 hunters, but as you may have guessed from the first few paragraphs, 5 power armoured dudes aren't as survivable as they used to be.

This got me thinking if there was a variation on my GT list based on acolytes rather than hunters, so I started to put together a few lists with GK primary with my fire and scoring support IG allies to see where it led. We'll get to the list in a minute, but essentially pre-Inquisition this combo offered a significant increase in quality fire power at the expense of (slightly?) more durable troops and losing battle brothers. I'm still going to have to try out the list to see if the durability is an issue or not, but I know that losing prescience on the thudds results in a serious drop in efficiency.


Enter the Inquisition! Cheap access to divination, the ability to choose a generally more useable warlord table and two sweet, sweet pieces of wargear - servo skulls and the psyocculum. Being battle brothers with imperial forces opens up a lot of possibilities, particularly carpet bombing Imperial Guard. The scout/infiltrate denial is a big bonus for a shooting army if it can buy another turn to whittle down an aggressive force before they hit your lines but reducing scatter by 1d6 is a significant increase (even if it's only for a turn or two before they are chased away) for Guard.

The second item, the psyocculum, makes the bearer and their unit BS10 against units containing a psyker. Situational? Yes, but let's think about how often this situation crops up. A lot of the most powerful combinations in the game use some kind of buff-psychic powers, especially deathstars. Farseers, heralds and Tigerius are good examples. For the cost of a powerfist, adding this kind of increase in accuracy combined with, oh lets say, barrage sniping means that targeting and putting wounds on lynchpin models much more reliable. I find that with prescience up I average about 3 hits per template from the thudds. 4 is not that uncommon, especially against a slightly clumped up unit, but I usually assume 2 to be on the safe side. So that's ~36 S5 hits. That's a lot of Look Out Sir! rolls to pass. Otherwise the increase against units with brotherhood of psykers/sorcerers or even individual psykers such as deamon princes, dreadknights and tervigons can be really quite handy.

So for comparison, let me give you my GT Heats list and then the work in progress inquisition list:

1650pts Space Wolves and Imperial Guard 40kUK GT Heat 2 List
Rune Priest, Jaws, Living Lightning
(IG) Company Command Squad, Master of Ordinance

4x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), plasma gun
2x 5 Grey Hunters, Razorback (Heavy Bolter), melta gun
(IG) Platoon;
Platoon Command Squad, 2x flamer
2x Infantry Squad
2x 1 Sabre Defence Platform, lascannon (IA 2 2nd Ed)

3x 2 Hyperios Missile Launchers (IA Aeronautica)
(IG) Vendetta [130pts]

(IG) Heavy Quad Launcher Battery (3 guns with 9 crew) (IA 2 2nd Ed)



1650pts Grey Knights, Imperial Guard and Inquisition WIP list
(GK) Coteaz
(IG) Company Command Squad, Master of Ordinance, mortar
(INQ) Ordos Hereticus Inquisitor, level 1 psyker, psyocculum, 3x servo skulls (warlord)

(GK) 3x 3 Acolytes, Razorback (Heavy Bolter with psybolt, searchlight), 3x plasma gun
(GK) 2x 3 Acolytes, Razorback (Heavy Bolter with psybolt, searchlight), 3x melta gun
(GK) 3 Servitors with plasma cannons, 2 Acolytes
(IG) Platoon;
Platoon Command Squad, 4x flamer
2x Infantry Squad, mortar
4x 1 Sabre Defence Platform, lascannon (IA 2 2nd Ed)
1x 3 Sabre Defence Platforms, each with lascannon, one with extra crewman (IA 2 2nd Ed)

(IG) Vendetta [130pts]

(IG) Heavy Quad Launcher Battery (3 guns with 9 crew) (IA 2 2nd Ed)


Coteaz goes with the servitors and noble bullet catchers (surprise!). The inquisitor usually sits with the quads or occasionally the command squad if an accurate ordinance blast is needed vs psykers - even better with the Burner of Worlds (orbital large blast) or Witch Hunter (preferred enemy: psykers) warlord traits!

This list punches harder with lots more special weapons - an extra 5 plasma guns, 4 melta guns and 2 flamers. Plus S6 razorbacks, more las-sabres over hyperios launchers, 3 plasma cannons and 3 mortars. Throw in better warlord traits, scout/infiltrate lockdown, more accurate blasts and Coteaz and I'm very tempted by this build...

I'm not sure just how fragile the 3 man acolyte squads will be and if they are worth the gains in firepower. Possibly too glass hammer? Weaker scoring, but there are still a lot of units thanks to the MSU build and the sabres score too. I've also lost the rune priest's anti-psyker, but to be honest he's usually tucked in the back to avoid giving up warlord and only works 50% of the time, I don't think this is a big loss.

Play testing is required. I've only tried henchmen once, so I'm interested to see how they work out. Any thoughts welcome!

A rules question for you all before I sign off - How do you think multiple barrages work with orbital blasts like the Master of Ordinance or the Burner of Worlds warlord trait? Page 34 of the mini-rule book states that the closest blast is placed first, then the others flip off via a scatter dice. So say a mortar is placed first (ideally with BS10 using the psyocculum) and the others flip off. Does this circumvent the 'orbital' or equivalent rule which states that this blast always scatters (for example) the full 2d6? Answers with page numbers appreciated!

Food For Thought: How Far is Too Far?

40k War Zone

How far would you go to win a game? This is the excellent question that Spicerack asks over on 40k War Zone.

This is an easy one for me. Cheating is too far. Everything else with in the rules is fair game on one condition - that both players are truly playing to win based on the rules.

I enjoy 40k most when I'm trying to win, so I like competitive play. Sure, I enjoy those epic moments when something cinematic happens and I will never forget my first tournament playing with a fully painted army. But nothing beats crafting a list and pushing as hard as you can to win (this includes pre-game prep too). The winning bit doesn't actually matter to me as much, and placing in a tournament is a measure of my development as a competitive gamer. For me the fun bit is trying as hard as I can to see how good I can get.

There is a fantastic book by Sirlin called 'Playing to Win' (free on his own website). One of the fundamental points of the book asks players to look at what holds us back as gamers from playing by the game's rules, contrasting this against players who use a self imposed set of rules (e.g. I only play with X army, that would never happen in the fluff, claiming that something's not fair because they didn't make the effort to learn the rules properly, etc.) and then judging others for not following their definition of winning.

For me it's really important to agree what kind/style of game I'm going to play with my opponent before the game starts. If it's a relaxed, low-powered game than that's cool (although I still enjoy hardcore more!). If it's an experimental 'I don't know if this is good or terrible but I want to give it a go' game then great. My favourite is still a 'no-holds-barred no-mercy given none asked hardcore' game. I'll add here that all of these can be done in a polite and non-confrontational way!

I will play anything really (still a strong preference for hardcore), but I want to avoid a situation where players do not agree on what 'winning' is, resulting is neither player having a good time.

Competitive tournaments should be an environment where everyone has a common definition of winning (as defined by the basic game rules or tournament variations). In this situation we should be applauding anyone who earns their win fair and square. And then keep on trying to beat them next time!

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that nobody really wins if you're not playing the same game. So check first!

Food For Thought: How to Beat Tau on 3++


Some of my favourite posts on other sites are the 'how to beat army X' articles. If you don't have access to players or clubs where the latest power builds are played, being able to read up on how they work and how to approach them gives you a much better chance of forming a plan on how you're going to tackle them.

For Tau, recognising their typical weaknesses, such as limited mobility outside of jump suits, general reliance on riptides or allies for contesting/scoring distant objectives, vulnerable ethereals giving up a potentially game changing VP (think Relic and Emperors Will) and relatively squishy troops, means that you can consider how best to place objective markers, deploy your army and set up your target priority through the game.

Matt-Shadowlord does a great job of discussing these points and more over on 3++ here and here. Well worth a look if you haven't already!