Friday, September 17, 2010

The Joy of a Hot DP

I haven’t had much first-hand experience with the phenomenon personally (that I’m aware of), but as far as vehicles go, I starting to think demonic possession is the cat’s pajamas.

On paper it looks like a crappy trade: spend 20 extra points to keep a 35 point vehicle from being “shaken” or “stunned”. And as a bonus, you lose a point of BS as well. I’ll admit that this argument mirrored my own thinking previously.

But this sort of ‘sheer numbers’ approach really only holds water if you are playing a tit-for-tat point trade game, a strategy which has been rightly dismissed by most interwebz tacticians regardless of what army you play; all the more so for the more overcosted, older codices, of which Chaos most certainly is.

To understand why possession is worth the 57% point increase, let’s think about the purpose of the rhino, which as I see it as threefold:

1) Act as a ‘shield’ against nasty template weapons (AP 3 or lower), or at very least, negate the first hit from them.
2) Get troops to where they need to be, namely objectives.
3) Act as a harassment (tank shock, Havoc launcher, objective contest) unit in the mid-to-late phases of the game.

As I see it, DP assists the rhino in all three of these functions, making the crappy AV 11 transport imminently less crappy. True, DP is no fool proof: penetrating shots still stand a 50% chance of effectively neutralizing your tank, and more than one hit with a melta gun will still more likely than not turn your vehicle into a juicy puddle of rhino sauce. What it does protect against however, is against the type of fire rhinos commonly encounter – those annoying single shot missile-launcher, autocannon, or high volume S6 shooting. Call them ‘shots of opportunity’ if you will. In these scenarios, when the rhino is facing only one penetrating hit or several glances, the DP makes a huge impact.

True you still run a 50% that your tank will be immobilized or worse. But with DP what changes is what happens the other 50% of the time. Without DP, rhinos not only get destroyed 50%, but the other 33% of the time they are rendered incapable of moving and shooting. For an AV 11 vehicle whose only job is to move, that’s a big deal. In my own experience, the situation I often encounter is one where my rhino will end up paired against an enemy unit whose sole defense is a scatter laser, lone missile-launcher, etc. In this case, even when your tank ‘survives’ it reality it just sits stunned until A) the same unit finishes the job next turn B) something bigger comes along. Either way, you are left not only with a 35 point tank which is useless, but more importantly, whatever unit is inside is ALSO useless.

Put differently, the purpose of DP is not to make the rhino survive, its to make it survive 1-2 turns longer. Just assume the damn thing will be scrap by turn 4 or 5 anyway regardless of what you do. The goal here is to use smoke launchers and DP to give the rhino the best possible chance of not getting wasted on turn 1 or 2. Without DP, a rhino coming under even light fire cannot be reliably be expected to survive more than one round, and that’s why, IMO, you need to upgrade, especially if you are running only 2-3 troop choices in your army (as many Chaos lists do). As long as the rhino makes it to its destination with its cargo intact by turn 3 before it dies, that’s okay. If the thing actually manages to squeeze off a few havoc rounds, or tank shock some enemies after that, consider it a bonus. Should the thing be alive by turn five, in an objective mission, your foe is now forced to turn heavy fire to it to prevent a contest. If you’re playing annihilation, your ability to avoid “stuns” may be the difference between being able to escape out of line of sight (or least into cover) and staying midfield waiting patiently for some turd with a plasma gun and delusions of grandeur from wiping it out.

So is it expensive – hell yes. But if you are using rhinos to ship 150-300 point units around the board, you really can’t afford not to buy it.

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