Friday, July 23, 2010

No Pants Friday: Close Combat is Scary

Well, its Friday and we all just got done reading the latest FNIF. Sow hat to do now? Well, if you don't want to spend undo time considering the warped nega-verse that Not Brent probably comes from, you can always hang out here. With no pants on!

That's right, its another No Pants Friday here at Laubersheimer Industries!

What to blather on about... what indeed. I was going to do something on the ridiculousness of trying to apply classic military philosophy to wargaming. But... I missed the relevance boat by a few months and I don't want to write an actual paper. Then I thought about doing something on the merits of Kill Team and Combat Patrol... but i want to write about it more often than once. So how about...

The Relative Awesomeness of Hand to hand Attacks vs. Vehicles

A subject I'm sure to be partially wrong on... or not. YOU decide!

Right, so among a lot of other authors out there its becoming increasingly common to dismiss or overlook hand to hand attacks as a way to destroy vehicles. Its not usually stated outright, it just comes up in conversation or in an incidental way. I'm sure that it's not even intentional - its just that CC and its flaws tend to be discounted and overlooked in the dialogue.* Now, as more and more new/noob players make there way to the various tactics and strategery blogs that are exploding everywhere, I think the down-playing of hand to hand effectiveness is detrimental to the learning experience.

While making a strategy out of close combat tank hunting is hardly what I'd call easy, rewarding or even possible for many codices - it exists and it will bite you in the ass if you're not ready for it. This is especially true in the face of the increases in the number of truly nasty CC monsters that the 5th edition codices have brought. Compounded by the fact that more and more weener units are coming equipped with grenades (for free).

Now lets get some bullshit outta the way: The Land Raider and the Monolith. They're AV 14 all around and virtually impossible to kill in close combat. These two (the LR in particular) are constantly being trotted out as things that automatically trump the idea of using CC to destroy vehicles. Primarily, beacuse their AV14 asses get to ignore anything that isn't strength 8 or rending. Well, the LR is a problem, but lets face it - its not the most common vehicle in the world. For all of the greatness of the Land Raider, you don't see one in every army. And, the more Land Raiders you see in an army, the less of the other stuff you see. So while its scary, the Land Raider just doesn't automatically invalidate anything. Chances are, your army has something else around that could be employed in an anti-land raider role.**

I guess the point of all this is to impress upon the new guys (who may or may not be aware that I exist) the fact that close combat is actually an effective (if not easy) means of killing tanks.

First and foremost, all CC attacks hit the rear armor of the target. Which is usually terrible. AV10 for the most part. That means that even the lowly frag grenade can get a glancing hit. If the target hasn't moved, then all those attacks hit automatically. What makes this all very, very nasty is the fact that if your opponent charges your vehicle on his turn and then you fail to move on yours (for whatever reason) then there's a second round of auto-hits in your CC phase. On top of that, a successful penetrating hit, has four good results on the table. Two of them destroy the tank, and 2 of them set you up for another go. Plus, its pretty easy to multi-charge groups of tanks.

Even if all you do is keep the tank stunned for a turn or to, how is that any worse than the idea of using autocannons for suppression fire - to the exact same effect?

Beyond the raw destructive potential of CC, there's also the fact that it can fuck with movement and target priority. Often both at the same time. If you want to avoid the ass beating that unit of Marines is going to deliver to your tank line with their 'piddly' krak grenades, then you have to shot them down, or move. Frequently both at the same time. Especially if you simply cannot afford the chance that any of them might survive and might torch your tank.

Now, the other side of the coin:

I'm under no illusions that CC is the best way to go about tank killing. Shooting is still the preferred method for most of us, more options, more range and better probabilities. Give me a melta any day. So as much potential as CC tank hunting has, it also has some serious hurdles. Hitting fast moving tanks on a 6 is pretty improbable - especially when you're stuck with a single grenade attack for each guy. So is actually making it into combat with a vehicle moving like that.

Any kind of bubble wrap, unit pad, space cushion or some other impediment is going to keep you off of the metal boxes. Distance is extremely important and canny players know this. Shooting you down on your march over or even making sure that there's always space between you and them are all very common, easy to implement and hard to avoid strategies. You will see them used. Further, since infantry outside of a tank tend to get killed really quickly (especially when doing something useful), a unit isn't going to be given many turns to run around causing mayhem. Don't count on those 5 assault marines to be around for long once they start causing trouble.

The whole point of all this is that the effectiveness of CC against tanks is often lost in the noise of what is considered best practice. It's not perfect or even 100% effective, but then again, nothing is. Just be aware that despite all the nay saying that goes on about CC's relative merits in this regard, it can and will fuck you up if you aren't paying attention.

Also keep in mind that there are a number of armies who are more reliant on CC than the all so common marines and IG. Daemons, Tyranids, Space Wolves, Orks - all of these guys are extremely happy when one of their CC guys gets onto an enemy tank. To make matters worse, these guys are also better at this then the other armies. This makes it extremely dangerous when you don't pay enough heed to CC as a threat. Do not laugh at a powerklaw Nob or rending Slaanesh Daemon just because the armies they're in are considered 'uncompetitive' or because someone glossed over the finer points of close combat and its relative value.

In short: CC is a another tool in you and your opponents' toolbox. If you have better options, then by all means use them. Hell, plan for better options if you can. Just don't write off close combat in a game involving luck. Forewarned is forearmed.

------[Foot Notes]-------------------------
*I'm sure the really advanced players know how to deal with CC, but it often doesn't come up in the various posts. Just an off handed reference to CC being crappy and its taken for granted that people know the whys and hows of dealing with it.

**Even if its just to glance it into uselessness. A neutralized threat is a neutralized threat.


  1. first thing's first. worst picture ever. Moving on, one issue you forgot to mention is that when successful, CC v. vehicles tends to result in a 6-explodes! result at some point because you get so many damn hits. That will mess up your assaulting unit but bad.

  2. Or at least in games against you. El oh el.

    I totally DID forget to add that. Good call. But it does tend to depend on the quality of the troops who are doing the assaulting. Its only a str 3 hit. Against marines, it barely matters. Against guard - that's another story.

    Still, its a factor.

  3. I've given up defending my Daemons against the hatery out there, but one thing I get all the time is this idea that mech auto-trumps my army.

    My favorite is, "I'll castle and then..."

    I have Bolt in every spot I can, but my most efficient anti-mech is in close combat. The Fiends, of course. Which means I love it when people castle up because I can multi-charge!

    Of course, having tanks blow up on you is no fun, but you take what you can get.


  4. A quality article, I think all of us without pants can enjoy. Even those of us WITH.

    I'm sad to report that my Skimmers ALWAYS get hit plenty of times by Grenades, however fast they move. Sigh.

  5. Excellent article!

    I may steal some content if that's ok Lauby. No snowmobiling I promise!

    One thing you didn't mention was assaulting the transport vehicles to block exits. I'm not going to mention the utter drivel that was just re-produced over on Dick Move, but I'm sure we all know of one example of this.

    But I completely agree, vehicle assaults is something I do very regularly, even without kraks *sadface*

  6. totally fine, BroLo. Feel free to use it. Also, feel free to send traffic my way.

    Good point on the access hatches. I had totally forgotten about that. i think it skipped my mind since it can be such a bear to pull off. Or is made irrelevant by Dethtron's exploding tank problem.

  7. Agree with Dethtron re: the horrible picture. You owe me knew corneas Lauby.

    Also agree with Brent re: Daemons. Immobile vehicles sitting close together = you're fucked.

  8. Good article, horrible picture.

    Thou another thing you forgot to mention that ranged has over cc for tank busting is if you assault a transport with an assault unit in it then you are most likely going to be charged in your turn.
    This does depend on if you can surround the transport completely and on what unit your using and whats in the transport. It's just something to keep in mind.