Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Dark-Horse Challenger - Astral Claws Corien Sumatris (plus tactics)

While not my most extensive GW conversion, I think Captain Sumatris might be my favorite.


First, the conversion itself started with the Forge World LE Boarding Marine, which I thought looked pretty great, and like character material, to begin with.

Being both a special character and a captain, I thought he needed a back banner, which was a first, in that I stole it from a winning painting entry (my earlier captain got demoted, largely because he's got terrible equipment for a captain and was too blinged-out for a sergeant- he'll be back in a while, though, with a different job).

I decided that the model's helmet didn't fit because it would interfere with the interest of the banner,and the hammer was just plain incorrect gear, so both of those got left off. Goldenfang is IIRC Azrael's Black Sword, with the hilt of a FW power sword. The head is from the multipose captain mini, whose head is based off the old power axe/combi melta LE captain from ages back- the original was one of my favorites, so I was happy to use the same basic head on another captain.

His basically superfluous Spectre-pattern bolter is some random bit (IIRC a servitor's part?) and a modified bolter, and took a ton of experimenting before I felt it looked both unobtrusive and actually able to shoot (even if with a limited range of movement).

I felt I nailed the paint job with a mix of ornate and almost gaudy details, with a plain sword and the visible and clearly functional form of the Iron Armor below (which was largely why I chose not to give Corien a captain's cape like almost all captains have, these days).

I also feel like the colors got a good mix of both Dark Angels' (including their sword) and Ultra Marines' sensibility, which works to tie him in with the two supposed parent chapters.

I've experimented a lot with the Astral Claws' signature red obscuring of heraldry, and this was the first that I feel really hit the mark: The red is applied sloppily so it doesn't just look like an "x" or the later chaos mark of the Red Corsairs

Rules
So, along with liking his story and having a lot of fun with his model, I also think Sumatris has pretty great set of rules for his cost.

He of course doesn't have the flexibility of a normal character, but I think a comparison is appropriate between him and the vanilla Captain he's based on.

Starting with the Captain, plus buying a Storm Shield and a Master-crafted power sword with digi weapons (roughly equivalent to a lightning claw), and calling his special bolter equivalent to a bolt pistol (2 shots but worse ballistic skill), he costs 165 points vs. 120. So, what do you buy for 45 points?

First, he has Rage, which is pretty nice with his above-average (though by no means great) weapon. If you want to put a price on that, that's 5-10 points' of upgrade.

Second, reinforcing the emphasis on charging, he has and gives his unit Furious Charge, which is pretty strong, especially since he can tag any squad he joins with it (compared to a static upgrade). This also makes up for him not having a stronger weapon (such as a relic blade) though doesn't do anything to help his weapon's only average AP of 3. (At least another 10 points' of bonus value here.)

This theme is repeated in his warlord trait, which is highly variable based on the opponent's force, which gives you bonus points for hunting characters, instead of buffing your army like many traits tend to.

However, this minor shortcoming is made up for multiple times over, in that he (at WS7 instead of the standard 6) and any non-characters in the entire Astral Claws army gain +1 WS while within a foot of him. Considering this is units, not models, you're talking about pretty easily covering your entire line with this buff if he's near the middle. Considering the above deductions, you're only paying around 20-30 points for this huge buff.

Tactics
I don't have enough games to speak authoritatively on this, but a start on theory (

As with many special characters, in very small games, he's probably not worth the investment. He'd make a decent proxy for a generic character, but is just too expensive.

I'm thinking, in small-ish games (around 1,000 points), he's best used as a conservative support commander. He'll probably give your whole army a buff, but Astral Claws aren't great at melee to begin with (without any phenomenal choices or strong tactics offerings). His unit will get even stronger, so what I'd tend towards is focusing on this as a counter-assault force/deterrent. The correct direction appears to be picking a reasonably well-rounded army, with maybe giving a more couple sergeants power weapons than you might otherwise take (in order to take advantage of his WS buff), and probably give him a dedicated squad to run with, if you have the points. Unfortunately, the bargain of a company champion is at odds with his warlord trait- just something to be aware of.

He doesn't have the speed to keep up with fast assault options, which are expensive anyways, so I don't think he's a great choice to build an assault army around. One noted benefit is he makes up for the lowly Scout's low WS, and their low cost means you'll have a larger portion of models benefitting from said WS buff. While it's not very fluffy, there's definitely the argument to bulk out on Scouts in small games, which is also likely the best melee option.

In larger games, I'd tend towards taking another model as your warlord: he obviously doesn't have psychic powers, and many generic warlord traits (and Huron's and Valthex's) are better than his, so you can potentially see two buffing auras. Finally, he's just not exceptionally durable.

Playing to Astral Claws' strengths, I'd again go for a more well-rounded force emphasizing though not specializing in shooting, taking advantage of their bike rules if you want, and noting that the other worthwhile special characters have a ranged emphasis.

Unless you have a reason not to, throwing Sumatris in with Assault Terminators seems like a very strong move: you'd be buffing your strongest melee option, and Lightning Claw terminators benefit from the added strength and accuracy with their high volume of attacks, while thunder hammer terminators are even better at taking heavy things out, and share his strong invulnerable save. If you wanted to be more conservative, you could have him lag behind the assault line to hand out the WS buff without risking him as much...

With Imperial Guard allies (singled out as fluffy, since taking Tyrant's Legion is like shooting yourself in the foot, though other ranged allies work on the same principle), Sumatris could fulfill a similar role as buffing a melee counterassault force to back up a shooting army, while also reinforcing the shooting army's main goal, since Marines are reasonably good at range, anyways.