Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Space Wolves: Lone Wolves

Since everyone and their brother seems to be playing Space Wolves these days, I thought I might jump on the bandwagon... Oh, wait, already there. Some of my Wolves are old enough to buy cigarettes and others are pushing drinking age.

As I also have a penchant for over analyzing everything, I thought I'd start by taking a gander at the new Lone Wolf. Likely this will be the first in a series of unit reviews.

Some basic thoughts:
1. Elites. So he's competing with Wolf Guard, Dreadnaughts, Iron Priests and Scouts for slots. Ouch, but not a deal breaker. This also reduces potential spamming; ironically something that their kit and battlefield roles support too. I approve of this.
2. WS5, Beastslayer, Feel No Pain, Eternal Warrior, and a partridge in a pear tree. There's a number of special rules here. It'll be a trick just to remember all of them.
3. Cheap... until you start adding upgrades.
4. Gives up a Kill Point in KP games... only if he LIVES. Okay, that's just an awesome tie-in with the Fluff.
5. Stuck on foot. However, I don't think this is really a problem... With Run, you should be able to get them where you need eventually. The only time I see this being annoying is Dawn of War. Plus, they're perfectly capable to mech up in someone else's spare ride. I think this unit is viable no matter the supporting force.

Aside from close combat weapons, there's 5 upgrades to consider:
1. Termie Armour: Better saves, better weapons... but more cost, lose your grenades, no CCW/pistol bonus, no Sweeping Advance, and Mark of the Wulfen get neutered. If you're just keeping him cheap, don't bother. But if you're paying to upgrade his weapons, it's worth it.*
2. Combi-weapon: Only purchasable by a guy in Termie armour, but cheap if you're doing it anyways. This is a nice option to give some anti-tank to an anti-infantry build or vis-versa.
3. Fenrisian Wolves: They're cheap, give you a few extra attacks and best of all... Ablative wounds for those shots that ignore armour. These are crucial to survival for all but the cheapest builds.**
4. Storm Shield: My first, second and third thoughts on this... expensive. With all of the other things this guy has going to keep him alive, it's a lot of cost for what you get. It's really only worth it if you know he's going to be hunting Monsters AND you want him to survive as long as possible. Even then I'd opt for a pair of Fenrisian Wolves first.
5. Melta Bombs: Mostly a waste of points. A guy in power armour still has Krak Grenades. Termies usually have other, better options against tanks. But if you're running a Termie with no other anti-tank, it might be worth it. Personally, I'd save the points and waste the tank with someone else before it's ever an issue.

*Why do I say it's worth it? Well, less the difference in cost for the weapon, the Termie Armour is only costing you 10 points. But isn't the point to have him die, lest you cede a Kill Point for him? Well, the mechanic of him giving up a KP if he lives is awesome. It's nice to see in-game drawbacks for not playing the character to Fluff. However, this drawback is only applicable in games that use Kill Points. So it's only going to apply about 1/3 of the time. You KNOW this from before deployment and can play towards offing him the entire game. We all know that a Termie will eventually fall if forced to make enough saves. So throw him out in front of all your guys, run him at the enemy as fast as possible, and throw him on their spears! Even if he does survive and cost you a KP, he'll likely earn you a few along the way. Then when you take this guy and draw a non-KP game? You have the extra protection to keep him alive and viable that little bit longer.
**There's currently a great little debate going on regarding Fenrisian Wolves bought as wargear. Side A says they're just wargear upgrades for the character that happen to have models and take up Transport space. Side B says they're models that are automatically attach to the character and form a unit. Sadly, the RaW doesn't clearly support either. Side B has a slight advantage in that their interpretation follows the rule of next closest applicability. However, the "Pack of One" rule would forbid the Lone Wolf from taking Fenrisian Wolves at all, when they're clearly an upgrade option for him. This is what leads me to believe that Side B's stance is incorrect. Hopefully there will soon be an official FAQ to clear this up.
Update: The official Space Wolves FAQ came out and ruled for Side A, as I predicted.

Now let's look at his weapons... how likely is he to hurt someone? All of these are posted as images rather than columnar data to preserve my sanity. (Complex tables in HTML suck...) Click for larger versions. Since we're looking for best-case scenarios, the charge is presumed. The spread looks a little something like this:
Or for those of you who prefer a graphical format:
What does this tell us? That the Frost Blade's the most killy against light to medium targets and that the Power Fist is the best for heavy targets. No real surprises there. Mark of the Wulfen also hangs fairly tough... if you roll well.***

So then let's factor in cost. This is based off just the normal guy in Power Armour:
Or graphical:
What does this tell us? Well,notice how all of those lines follow generally the same general pattern? See how there's not many that consistently rise above or fall below very far? This tells us that the pricing is actually fairly balanced internally...

But are we going to just want a guy in power armour? How do things compare if we pay for the extra protection of Terminator armour? Note that this upgrade removes the additional CCW bonus for most cases, so the spread now looks like this:
Or as a graph:
While the cost-efficiency is...:
And as a graph:
Again, everything tends to be about the same profile. Curse you, internal consistency! Notably, Wolf Claws have taken top marks against low-end targets, though this costs you your shooting and ability to take a Storm Shield. The Power Fist holds supreme for big targets, though a Thunder-Hammer or Chainfist isn't far behind. Their special rules might be worth the extra pittance.

***Mark of the Wulfen (MotW) is an interesting item because of the random factor involved. This causes it to be an outlier for BOTH most and least "killy". It's average performance is also just on the low side of things. Where it gets interesting is when you factor in cost.
The MotW on a guy in power armour is the worst of the lot if you roll a 1. But the average 3.5 roll sits firmly in the middle or even upper reaches of things. Meanwhile the lucky 6 actually outshines almost every other option else in the list. If you're willing to take a small gamble, these are pretty good odds for what you get.
Then the problem with a MotW Termie is that he's paying for the cost of the power weapon too. The way MotW works, it's wasted points. So while you do get d6+1 attacks, Rending and a 2+/5++... you're also paying a premium for it. When you look at the cost efficiencies here, even the lucky 6 attacks struggles to compete with the other options. Even an average roll is typically bottom of the pack. This is why I would not suggest a MotW Termie.

In the final analysis, the Lone Wolf is remarkably balanced internally and externally. It's a fun, Fluffy choice that looks to be very popular. I see three forms of Lone Wolf becoming common on the table. Note that the first two are choices made for cost-efficiency and slyness. I doubt you'll often see them until the new codex syndrome has worn off a bit.
1. The Bezerkergang: Mark of the Wulfen and a whole lot of attitude. He's mainly a speed bump and distraction that banks on getting lucky for quantity of attacks rather than quality. Favorite targets are going to be IG, Orks, Eldar and lesser Tyranids. Fenrisian Wolves optional, but possibly passed for sake of cost. He's a disposable unit design best for smaller points games or board and is just as useful singly or spammed.
2. The Champion: Wolf Claw or Frost Blade, Combi-Melta and Terminator Armour. The upgraded speed bump, I see this version becoming popular as his favorite target is Space Marines and there's backup anti-tank too. He's hits hard enough to be a serious threat and is durable enough to take some opportunistic fire. But he's not an apparent enough threat for most players to dedicate optimal targeting too, so he's that much more likely to get somewhere and do his thing. His biggest advantage is that he's not going to be a common choice, so many opponents will make mistakes on how to best deal with him. This is my preferred choice when you only have slots to take 1 or 2 Lone Wolves.
3. The Giantslayer: Powerfist, Storm Shield and Terminator Armour. This is your guy who goes hunting for enemy characters and big targets. Optionally geared with a Chainfist for more Dreadnaught & tank hunting, or a Thunder Hammer for Monster hunting. Expect to see this build all over the place for a while. But while he's tough, he's almost too much so. If you take only one, a canny opponent will just ignore and avoid or pop him with a mass of light fire before he closes. If you're going to go this route, it's probably worth the investment of points and slots to take 2 or 3.

Cheers for reading this far... hopefully it was worth it.


  1. I like the idea of Lone Wolves ... though I'd probably stay away from Terminator armour... they are looking for a glory death, after all. I get penalized if he's still alive at the end of the battle. ;)

  2. I actually find it kind of odd that these guys even get the option for Termie armour. That's a Wolf Guard upgrade... yet these guys are aspiring to get into the Wolf Guard or die gloriously trying. So many other things on their rules are consistent to the Fluff, but this one isn't.

    All my analysis and I spaced on addressing the KP item. Fixed and added. Thanks!

  3. From a fun perspective: I want to roll three of them with Chainfist/Storm Shield/Termie armor.

    I think the durability is their biggest asset. Terminator Armor + FNP + Small Arms = a LOT of small arms fire required. You want about 6 wounds to get one to stick through the armor, or 12 to get through the armor and FNP, so 24 regular wounds to drop 'im.

    The Storm Shield makes the enemy think twice about just diverting a little bit of heavier firepower and stopping him cold; the 5+ means you want three plasma/las/melta shots. The 3+ storm shield means you need six lascannons/melta/dreadnought CCWs to the face.

    I think I'd go either the full uber-giant-hunter, or just keep him cheap with something like Wolf Claws or Mark of the Wulfen.

    I think you can justify the Terminator Armor as him wanting to do something epic on the way out, but I agree it's a bit curious as to why they'd give a suicide trooper this stuff. Maybe it's a chance to earn it?

  4. trying to play 1850 points, but only at 1815? Lone wolf with MOTW should do the trick. I like the units, but I need my elite slots. Wolf scouts are super good tank hunters if you get on the right side of the map and can be realy fun with sniper rifles as well. Sniper pinning = hard to run from my puppies. Wolf guard are a must for squad leaders. I never see myself using more than one wolf guard really. If I have the points to put two or three in at the end of my build, I'm going to choose something else instead. two lone wolves w/MOTW < whirlwind against an ork army. Two lone wolves w/ terminator armor, p.fists, and shields is just too expensive. I can get 10 more grey hunters or blood claws in my build for that price. I'll spend my tank/monster hunting points elsewhere. Maybe a B4D4$$ rune peiest w/jump pack and some cool gear to lead my swiftclaws instead.