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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spearhead Gives Players the Shaft?

If you haven't seen the rules for GW's newest 40k supplement, Spearhead, yet I have posted a quick rundown of the important bits over on the Chamber Militant forum. Now of course you have to understand before reading this post, I've yet to get in a game using the Spearhead rules, but feel like I'm still qualified to pass some kind of judgement on them.

Being a treadhead (30ish IG tanks assembled/painted and counting) I started sporting a 24/7 raging hard-on as soon as I heard that Spearhead was coming out (there's probably another dick joke in there somewhere, but I'll give you guys the comments section to see how many dick jokes you can make- homework: make dick jokes in the comments). Once the blood started rushing back to other parts of my body and I could think clearly I started mulling over what a vehicle-centric version of 40k might look like. This brought me to thoughts of the games I've been playing over the last 2 years or so with 5th edition. Then it came to me- we're already playing a vehicle-centric game of 40k. Or well at least those of us that at least partially understand 5th edition and can afford the models are. If I bust out my IG and don't have at least 12 vehicles on the table in even a small game, I'm doing something wrong.

Well what then could Spearhead possibly have to offer? Well it's got new missions, this usually isn't a bad thing when they're kept simple. We get a new 3x3 grid that looks pretty solid actually. No obvious 'fuck you X army' moments that I can recall. I'm not sold on playing the game lengthwise on the board, but that probably has more to do with the physical layout of my gaming dungeon than anything else.

We also get new rules for scoring units, in that everything is scoring. This is welcome news for me, as I understand why the current scoring rules exist, but don't appreciate them or feel that they apply to real life. It's nice to blow the lid off of this and finally say that 'yes that big fucking tank sitting by your flag probably has shit locked down pretty tight- objective scored.'

But wait, that's not all. We also get to alter the FOC slightly. No minimum restrictions on HQ and troops gives you some room to play around with bizzarro builds. Being able to play around with the FOC is always fun and keeps things from getting stale.

Now last we get to the biggest and most unfortunate change- the Spearhead. Much like the apocalypse formations before them, we get the ability to take crazy amounts of vehicles and slather them with extra rules. We can also do this without taking up any FOC slots (why bother even having an org chart at this point?). For a nominal points cost you get to take the vehicles or other units you wanted anyway and amp up their power. As with the last few supplements, there seems to be way too much emphasis laid on creating a story based game. This creates a distinct lack in worrying about balanced mechanics on the part of the game designers. The net result is that your game is likely to favor certain armies or players with bigger wallets.

Go download the spearheads from GW.com and you'll see what I mean. As always several formations are so bad that they're not worth taking (crusher spearhead and outriders spearhead)*, while others are so good that they will be the only things played (armoured spearhead and tankhunters spearhead anyone?). Don't even get me started on allowing super heavy vehicles in this. Taking a titan or a baneblade in a low points game pretty much means you will beat anybody who doesn't have a super heavy of their own. Woohoo, lopsided shit, sounds fun.

Speaking of lopsided- if you have the ability to take vehicle squadrons, you get a huge advantage over anybody else. The spearheads are pretty much a big fuck you to anybody who can't squadron their vehicles. That 50 points you paid to give a formation a 5+ invulnerable save is a lot more efficient when you're IG and can put it on 9 vehicles then when you are playing Smurfs and drop it on 3 predators. Now look at Archeotech (30 points) and Tank Hunters (60 points). Sweet, they both do essentially the same thing, but one of them costs a trivial 30 points less and blows up your vehicles when you use it. Sure tank hunters only applies against vehicles, but that's most of what you're going to be seeing anyway. If your weapons aren't already hurting infantry then you've got problems. Plus on some vehicles it will essentially give you S11 shots (demolisher cannon- roll 2d6 +10+1 and pick the highest....yes please).

So the jury is still a little out over here. I may try and get in a couple of games with the spearhead rules this week, but my hopes are a little low for what that experience will look like. What do you guys think? Is there any benefit to be gained playing this over regular 40k? What's the best Spearhead related dick joke you can come up with?


*crusher spearhead on a fast vehicle like the Devil Dog might be kind of fun, though. It would certainly make your opponent laugh.


GMort. said...

I've had a couple of games using the Spearhead rules and to be honest I wasn't particularly impressed.
My friend took an IG army and basically used every Spearhead formation he could crowbar in. I took a pretty standard 2000 point Space Wolves Mech. army with the 'Turbo-boost and still shoot formation' on 3x2 Landspeeders with HF+MM.
We rolled the 3 objective mission and the deployment where you have to deploy 3 units or a Spearhead formation and everything else goes into reserves.
Unfortunately for him I got virtually my whole army on turn 2 and his turned up piecemeal which made it easy for me to pick it to pieces.
The previously mentioned 'Turbo-boost and still shoot' formation isn't very well balanced. Neither is the 'Tankhunters' Spearhead as S8 Hydra Squadrons are a pain in the arse.
After giving the whole thing the benefit of the doubt we had to conclude that it was really poorly balanced and not suitable for anything you might call a competitive game.
You just know that some bastard is going to suggest a Spearhead game and then turn up with a Reaver Titan and some bubblewrap troops...

Brent said...

Who you calling lopsided - where are you coming at me from with that thing? You expect me to bend over and take it?


Sorry, I got nothing today.

(Good article)

Ishamael said...

"Listen up maggots! See that column of tanks? Feel that? That's your dick movin'!" :P

I'm no fan of the supplementals. Period. I am a dumbass and bought Planetstrike, and was sorely disappointed. I don't care about Battle Missions, and I don't see Spearhead doing anything new, unless you count the aforementioned advantages of squadrons. The base game is fine. Why does GW feel that they should bring out supplementals when people wait over a decade for a new codex?

My "tanks" are Rhinos. I have two Hammerheads. Rawr!

And superheavies are bullshit.

Chumbalaya said...

My Vindicare Assassin's turbo-penetrator will meet your spearhead in head to head combat, balls to the wall swordfighting action.

Spearhead is just an excuse to make dick jokes. Length becomes a much more important issue, as discharging a salvo of hot stick plasma from 36" isn't as good as busting your nut from 120" away and still getting it in somebody's hair.

Joke's on you, fuckers. I have a Deathstrike missile spearhead. Beware the 69th Compensators.

SandWyrm said...

This article pretty much sums up my feelings about Spearhead.

Now, what they should have done is simply made the spearheads a 3 vehicle super-squadron that any army could take in an otherwise normal game. With a max limit of 1 per army. That would have mixed things up and allowed anyone to take more tanks without totally throwing out the balance of the normal game.

They could even have gotten creative and given us a "Captured Equipment" spearhead that would allow say, Guard to take 3 Eldar Grav tanks or some Baal Predators with a chance of them breaking down each turn. That would at least have given us some cool new modeling opportunities.

Dethtron said...

I think this is all about me overcompensating for still not being able to take an armored company. Where are the command tanks at? Now that I think of it, what the hell happened to the salamander? Probably could have put that in the codex and squeezed the parts into a gryphon frame.

Anonymous said...

"Oh I'll show you a spearhead!"
Or how'bout "I'll spearhead all over your face..."

kennedy said...

To be honest, my first thoughts on Spearhead were "Those fucking pricks at GW want me to play more apocalypse? Screw them." My second thoughts were "This is very poorly balanced for most forces and benefits IG a whole hell of a lot more than damn near anybody else." My third thoughts were "I spend nine fucking dollars on this shit." Then, I stopped thinking about Spearhead.

The_King_Elessar said...

What's long, hard, and in your mum? My dick.

Does that count?

How about 'Jervis shafts competitive players, putting his Spearhead in their faces...' ... 'trying to play with a spearhead without bubblewrap, or similar protection, is liable to be messy' 'Spearhead is designed to be open-ended' Jervis: "If you don't like Spearhead, kiss my nuts!"

Hoagy said...

I really wanted to be witty and have a comment that referenced the article and would let me use 'ham javelin', 'Gentlemans relish' and 'filthy yoghurt', but alas I haven't had my coffee this morning. :)

SandWyrm said...

So the um... Thrust of his article is that Spearhead was Circumcised by it's tendency to give Eldar the Shaft because IG can fit more in a Slot?

(I'm much more awake today.)

Anonymous said...

Uh...what a lot of people are forgetting is that 9 Leman Russes cost about 1500 points, whereas 3 Fire Prisms with holo-fields cost about 500 points.

IG can fit 3x more in a formation, but it costs 3x as much. It's just a question of how many points you want to put into tanks, as opposed to the rest of your army.

SandWyrm said...

That's true Anon, but in this case the cost of the Spearhead formation buff (+1 Str, whatever) is fixed. While the number of tanks you can take with that buff varies wildly between codices.