Friday, October 9, 2009

Space Wolves: Wolf Scouts

Veterans of countless wars, social misfits and grizzled loners... there's something visceral in the imagery of the Wolf Scout. But what about the rules? Are they worth it?

Now the easy thing is to compare their choices against that of a stock Marine Scout. It gives a nice baseline of the familiar from which to start. It's also a completely stupid thing to do. The battlefield role of the Wolf Scout has little to do with that of the Marine Scout. Yeah, you can give them a Heavy Bolter or Missile Launcher, then flesh the rest out with Bolters or Sniper Rifles. You can even pat yourself on the back about how this is almost comparable in price but you're getting BS 4 and better CC. Big deal. Wolf Scouts lack the extra defensive options of Camo Cloaks and Bolster Defences; they're going to be a LOT less effective in a firebase or gunline role. Even more so, they're not Troops... so they're not great for camping an objective either. They should leave the Bolters and Sniper Rifles at the Fang and concentrate on their strengths.

So what's their strength? They get one thing nobody else does: Behind Enemy Lines (BEL). Your normal Outflank has a 67% accuracy to come in on the flank you want. That other 33% of the time you're stuck 72" away on the opposite side of the board. There's ways to mitigate this, such as the mobility of a Land Speeder Storm... too bad Wolves don't get them. But BEL balances via extra accuracy. Now you have only a 16.7% chance of a "wrong" board edge. Even better, the 67% allows you to come in via ANY board edge... including the opponent's or your own. This allows the Scouts to deploy for maximum efficiency no matter when they happen to arrive.

So they've got great ability to enter anywhere, what can they do with it? Here's where the unit fails.
Anti-tank? Well, you can get A meltagun or plasmagun, both of which are great for shooting into the back of tanks. There's also the option of buying some over-priced plasma pistols too. If you whiff your shooting, they also have Krak Grenades and the option to pay too much and get the whole squad meltabombs. The problem is, your Scouts are delayed due to Reserves. They're not coming in until Turn 2 at the earliest. The type of target they're best against has usually done it's job by that point; ala Transports moving forces forward or artillery batteries pasting your lines. While hitting from BEL CAN be useful, it's not universally so. The Wolves have other options that are more durable and/or more effective at this role.
Anti-Troop? Flamer, a couple over-priced power weapons, a Mark of the Wulfen... and Scout Armour. Cute, but not exactly a durable assault unit. Plus, there's just so many other things in the Wolf armoury that can fill this role.

Still, I see four major templates for Wolf Scouts:
1. BEL Anti-tank. 5 guys, Meltagun, and possibly a couple plasma pistols. Despite my reservations, I suspect this unit will still be popular. They wander in mid-game and pop a vehicle or squadron. At least it's cheap...
2. Infiltrating Anti-tank. 5 guys and a Missile Launcher. They hope to Infiltrate, pop a shot or two off into the side armour of a tank, and maybe distract the enemy for a bit.
3. Disposable Plasma. 5 guys, Plasmagun, 2 Plasma Pistols, possible Mark of the Wulfen. Runs BEL and looks to hit rear armour, Plague Marines, Termies or anything else that doesn't like Plasma. Again, more of a distraction that a solid threat.
4. Suprise Assault. 10 guys, Flamer or Meltagun, 2 Power Weapons, Mark of the Wulfen. Looks to charge enemy infantry from Reserves. Downside: How often do you see enemy infantry on foot and within 12" of a board edge? Might be useful for smacking down hordes or mucking up a gunline, but those aren't really competitive builds anyways.

But WAIT! Dweomer, you're always talking about army synergy! Aren't there other units that can benefit these guys? Yes, there are... somewhat. The problem is that those units are hampered by rules issues and/or are better off elsewhere.
Battle Leader with Saga of the Hunter: Gives him Outflank and Stealth. Stealth is cute, but only applies him and doesn't transfer to the unit. Outflank is NOT the same thing as Behind Enemy Lines. Since BEL doesn't transfer to him, why would you want to limit your Scouts to short edges only? He's a CC monster that can be better supported and used elsewhere. UPDATE: Thanks to the new FAQ, the squad would lose Outflank too. More reason not to bother.
Wolf Guard: Doesn't have BEL, Infiltrate or any other "Scout" special rule. So by adding one to your Scouts, you're forcing them to deploy normally. I suspect this will eventually get FAQ'd, but you're SOL until then. UPDATE: As predicted, the FAQ now allows him to join to the unit and BEL or Outflank. That's nice, but you still have the timing issue. Plus, he's really not THAT big a boon except maybe to a surprise assault unit or as an extra combi-melta. Save your Wolf Guard for units that need them.
The High King, Mentor or other Special Character buffs: Really? There's better places to use these.

In the final analysis, the Wolf Scout unit has a lot of potential. And in the astute words of my high school English teacher, "Potential is a French word that doesn't mean ***." Wolf Scouts are a gimmick; a threat only against the static, inflexible or unprepared. They're not utterly horrible and worth taking for a friendly list. A single unit might find it's way into a competitive list just to rock the boat or provide some insurance. Multiple units might make it into a gimmick list that goes heavy into Reserves. But these will be the exceptions and not the rule for competitive play. Space Wolves just have too many other useful choices for Elites.

Cheers and hope you enjoyed.

**Image gleefully obtained from the Cub Scouts...***


  1. I want to like them, and the image is admittedly sweet. It's a whole MOB of genetically-engineered cold, psychotic warriors.

    Hopefully, Wolf Guard won't disable their Infiltrate option. That's the only way to get some teeth (IE: second melta shot via combi-melta, and a powerfist) to the unit.

    It just doesn't have the chops to get the job done unless they're maiming up a claiming unit that's sitting too far back. I mean, you can optimize them for maybe hunting infantry in the back with a power weapon and flamer, but still.

    I'm with you in the end: there are just better elites.

    At best they can hunt infantry that are unlucky enoug hto be stuck in the backfield. If you can get a Wolf Guard in there you can get that second melta.

    Lone Wolves and Wolf Guard are just too cool and more reliable in comparison.

  2. @Raptor1313: The funny thing is, they're not BAD. Just not good. I can certainly see Scouts as a useful foil or gimmick, but they're just not quite the same as other Elites.

    Even were WG able to Infiltrate or BEL, I don't think the second melta shot would make that big a difference though. Yes, it does certainly reduce the risk of only shooting once. However, you still have to get them into position. Infiltrating might put them somewhere useful... or it might not. There's too many unknowns in that to make it worth counting on. More than likely they'd just be a distraction or speed bump. And entering BEL or Outflank is even worse. A 50/50 enter on Turn 2 isn't strategy, it's gambling. They aren't reliable for showing until Turn 3, yet the kind of targets you want to melta should really be dealt with sooner. And while having any board edge to enter from is nice, they're still stuck on foot; limiting secondary targeting among other things.

    Despite this, and especially if WG get to Infiltrate or BEL, I suspect that we'll still see people take them as a melta anti-tank unit. It's the kind of bad idea that people will call a "tactic" even though it's really just an inefficient gamble.

  3. I'll second the notion that people will call gambling a tactic.

    Then again, the Daemon army's major 'tactic' IS gambling, so whaddya do? (Other than avoid playing demons).

    If I weren't going to go triple Lone Wolf, I'd probably think about a scout unit or two just to keep folks honest.