Monday, 20 April 2009

Unit overview - Week Two

This week, I'll be breaking down the Thunderfire Cannon. Again, I'm going to be listing the Pros, then the Cons of the unit, with a more detailed analysis of how these compare and the relative worth to the army after that. So, without further ado, onto the Pros!

Pros -

1) Heavy 4, Blast. This makes it potentially the single most devastating weapon in the Space Marine arsenal against lightly armoured hordes, such as Gaunts or Ork boyz.

2) 3 Different fire modes. This allows you to selectively target threats according to priority, as you are likely to have a shot for each situation, perhaps the most important of these being the Airburst rounds that ignore cover.

3) Nostalgia. Okay, this isn't really fitting in an objective analysis, but it must have been a factor in GW's decision to produce the thing. Second Edition players all (probably) miss the incredibly cool Thudd Gun template that came in the box, and the convuluted but hilarious rules for Thudd Guns, Mole Mortars, and, the thing it resembles most physically, the Rapier Laser Destroyer. Without anything as 'far future artillery' -y to play with, GW decided it was apt to introduce one for the Space Marines again. In a way, it is nice to see the option, although I'd rather have seen them release a Mole Mortar battery for Apocalypse. (Note to self - write 2nd Ed artillery Apoc datasheets!)

4) Drop Pod. Unlike any other artillery I can think of, the Thunderfire Cannon comes with the capacity to take a Dedicated Transport. This allows for a theoretical level of redeployment that surpasses all other artillery. It's worth pointing out at this point that by artillery, I refer to units that are treated as Artillery as defined by the rulebook, not Basilisks, Whirlwinds etc. They are Mobile Artillery.

5) Crew. It's crewed by a Space Marine. Better yet, a Techmarine! Having a Techmarine as a crewmember means you not only get the BS of 4 that artillery pieces, and Blast weapons especially, crave so, but you also get the best possible Armour Save, making him highly resistant to small arms fire. It's worth remembering also that he effectively is armed with a tl plasma Pistol and a Flamer, in addition to his 2 Power Fist attacks, making him highly effective at short range.

Okay, I think that's a pretty concise summary of the Pros. Now, the flip-side.

Cons -

1) No anti-tank capacity. Quite apart from the fact that template weapons are more efective against vehicles, the strongest shot you can muster is S6...against AV12 and above you're actually more likely to damage the vehicle with the Dangerous Terrain Test brought about by the Subterranean Blast's Tremor rule.

2) Not a Barrage weapon. So, it cannot fire indirectly. Which is completely pointless, despite the 60" range, on most boards, due to points 3 and 4.

3) Crew. YES, he's a T4 2+ save guy. But, he's also got one wound. With the wound allocation rules for Artillery pieces being different (see BRB page 55) he'll only be hit 1/3 of the time...but a single hit from an AP2 gun, eg a Plasma gun, and he's toast and your Cannon is toast.

4) Artillery. Without doubt the single worst troop type to be. The Thunderfire can't move, only pivot, or it can't fire. 2/3 of the shots that hit the unit get taken by the cannon. The Techmarine can't fire his own guns, or assualt. If he falls back he's automatically caught. Trying to move through terrain is stupidly suicidal, as you are both slowed, and take a Dangerous check. Most importantly, a single glancing hit is enough to destroy the weapon. With an AV of 10 all around, it can be taken down by a lucky Bolter round. Finally, it has no mobility whatsoever, which, since it can only contest objectives (in the VERY unlikely event it lasts that long) makes it as dull as ditchwater tactically, and useless at responding to your opponent's moves.

5) Cost. It costs more than a Whirlwind. Whirlwinds do the exact same job, without getting shot to shit. They are possibly slightly worse at the job, but, per point they are more efficient, and, against Hordes...the things you take these units to kill...more survivable. Predator Destructors are also VASTLY superior due to survivability and per point effectiveness.

6) Heavy Support choice. Yeah. So it competes with Devastators, Vindicators, Whirlwinds, Predators, Land Raiders (of which there are three) and occasionally Dreadnoughts. It's ludicrous.

To sum up - the Thunderfire Cannon isn't bad at what it is. As an Artillery piece, it's probably the best, due to the short range of the D-Cannon and the unreliability of the Zzap Gun. The crewman is more survivable than any other crew, though hamstrung by being alone. It's overcosted though, and serves no purpose taking up a slot on the FO chart. It's better than Shining Spears...but there's no good reason to ever take a TC in a proper game of 40k. In Apocalypse, sure, they can Overwatch! But if it's Apoc, an anti-infantry item shouldn't be your first concern. This is a firm 5/10 unit - it can do its job, but there's just so much better out there...
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