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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

GK Range Issues

Examining Grey Knight lists that I want to run as well as others I have seen over the past few weeks has brought up a tactical flaw in a lot of armies that I really think is worth a bit of discussion. This has to do with ranged capability within Grey Knight heavy armies.

One of the things that I want to do and what I see most people want to do with Grey Knight heavy armies is to rely on Storm Bolters and Psycanons to put out loads of bullets. The theory then is to take board center or something similar by turn 2 and start laying down a hail of shots. From here, rely on slightly above average CC capability and camp objectives.

Most lists I have seen are already admitting, as I myself have discovered, that this theory isn't really going to work once it hits tabletop because you absolutely need some long range shooting capacity for the above strategy to reach fruition.


Let's assume that you are running a a GK Heavy list consisting of a lot of MSU elements like Purifiers/Strike Squads with Psycannons, maybe some Psybacks (heavy bolter + psybolt razorbacks), Rhinos, a Librarian, who knows. In a layout like this, your average range is 24 inches, with the Psybacks giving you a decent 40 inch reach (movement + 36 inch range) with some S6 shots.

Now, provided you can take board center as you would like, the range becomes a bit less of an issue because you can cover a significant amount of the board from there with your 24 inch range. However, you have to admit that you can't cover the WHOLE board from here. Indeed, the corners, the places where people like to refuse flank or castle, will only be reached at best by your Psybacks.

This may not be an issue against a lot of armies, but against some armies it will certainly be a problem. There are some very common, very lethal, and very interesting choices that can go in those "corners", which I will now refer to as dead zones.

Long fangs, Leman Russes, Manticores, other AP2/AP3 artillery, Predators, Obliterators, and the list goes on will happily sit in those dead zones and let you have it without fear of return fire.

This creates an obvious conundrum. The above list doesn't have any outflanking, honest deep strike potential, or really effective long range shooting. So, what are you going to do? You can attempt to ignore those units in the dead zones, but this leads to fundamental issue #1:

Issue #1: Grey Knights are just to expensive to think that you can "ignore" enemy fire power. You can't "outlast" it because you don't have enough models.

Okay, no sweat, you'll just move closer to get into range of these dead zones. This is, of course, logical, but as play testing has shown me, not always feasible. Indeed, not by a long shot. The thing is, lots of other armies are quite capable of meeting you in board center, and indeed, WANT to meet you there.

Here's a couple of examples. Let's examine a quick Wolf Rhino Rush maybe with a Thunder Lord backed up by Long Fangs. So, the Long Fangs go into the dead zones to shoot you the entire game. In the meantime, you get locked into a struggle for board center by the rest of his army which is bulky and not exactly afraid of your lack of AP2/Ap3 shots. You might eventually kill them all off, but it will take many turns to "hail of bullets" that away. In the meantime, those Long Fangs are having a field day back there taking our your razorbacks, your troops if they must, and basically just uncontested aiding their assault.

How about Demons? Sounds dumb right? Not so much if they have some Soul Grinders or other semi-shooty elements in their list. The shooty hangs out in the dead zones while the rest of the army gladly will duke it out with you board center.

How about Deathwing Assaults? Those Land Speeders or whatever other support element he took hang out in the dead zones while all those Terminators tie you up in board center for a very long, protracted fight.

Indeed, the more you think about it, the more you will probably realize that just taking board center is by no means a "guarantee".

Issue #2: Assuming that you will get into board center or be able to hold board center is not a safe assumption. Lots of other armies can make a mess of it as they like board center or are more capable of taking it than you are. They can also easily push you back into your deployment.

Solution? Well, we modify our list to add some Psy-Dreads or maybe some Lasbacks? Indeed, this will let you fish those units out of dead zones provided you can get the shots off and don't get stun-locked. Without warbands, there is no long range shooting in the entire dex that isn't found on either a vehicle or a monstrous creature. The problem here can be that you can be "stun locked" off your long range shooting if you only include just a few vehicles. It's AWESOME that you can't be shaken/stunned very easily as GKs, but you can have your guns blown off, be immobilized, or just flat destroyed all of which work.

Issue #3: Can you bring "ENOUGH" long range shooting to get the job done without losing the rest of your army's ability to "take board center" and not just get "disabled"?

And lastly, more importantly....

Issue #4: Not all deployments are pitched battle. In Spearhead, the "dead zone" is guaranteed to be there unless you can DS or outflank.

I'm not making a point towards any direction other than just to add food for thought for would-be Grey Knight generals out there. I have found, thus far, that these are the weaknesses to overcome in the book.


  1. This is partly why I think more and more a stormraven or two is going to be necessary for most GK armies. Stormravens force your enemy to deal with them early, which can be very difficult for some armies, and allows you to take threatening units to any point of the table fairly quickly. This tends to give your Psy Dreads and Razorbacks a shot to get some shooting off before they become priority targets and help to better level the playing field.

    No matter what I think the average GK army is going to be Marine Light, my current build which is actually Stormraven-less is 26 marines, 10 Termies, and an Inquisitor with 11 retinue for bodies. Of that, 20 marines and the 10 termies are the only scoring models in the army.

  2. Also, GM and outflanking purifiers/termies? (with your choice of falchions, psycannons, etc)


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