CONCEPTS: Mech in Early 6th

Cool Mini or Not - ebonybrush

So we are now a good few months into 6th and, from what I can gather, the initial consensus of the masses was that 'mech is dead'. I’m not so sure, but I do believe that mech has changed significantly. A few credible blogs have now given their opinions (see further reading links below), and following these I'd like to discuss the pros and cons of mech in early 6th.

Let's look at the negatives first, in order of importance (give or take) according to my own humble opinion.

1. Less durable thanks to hull points and the reduction in cover saves (including smoke).
2. Passengers being effected by shaken and stunned results.
3. Transports no longer score (grand strategy excepted, but the advantages of making a transport score over, say, a dread or unit of purifiers is…?).
4. The effective reduction of 2” when disembarking.
5. Easy First Blood (secondary objectives are especially important for Relic and Emperor's Will) and easy victory points (previously kill points in 5th) for Purge the Alien.
6. Top hatches are less useful because your tank is much easier to destroy, making drive-byes less likely.
7. No longer being able to assault out of your transport unless it's open topped or has an assault ramp.

I'm sure that there are others, but that's still a pretty long list! I can certainly see why footslogging is the better option for some armies now.

Cool Mini or Not - Ash the Flash

So why spend the points mech'ing up instead of more warm bodies on the ground?

A. Mobility - Still massively important. The flat-out move typically offers an extra 6” of movement to ground based tanks, more for fast skimmers. 18” for a rhino or razorback when you need to get somewhere in a hurry, for example in objective games or against a gun-line army is well worth considering.

B. Firepower - Transports with a (typically heavy) weapon offer an additional unit outside of the FOC restrictions (also know as the 1+1). Given that the transport is unlikely to survive the game, I think due consideration needs to be given to whether the more expensive weapons are worth the investment.

C. Mobile cover - Sure, you can buy an aegis defence line and sit behind it for the whole game, but transports can offer cheap mobile cover, block line of sight to models tanking in front of a squad and can clog movement routes/firelanes for your opponent. Wrecks and craters can still be used to your advantage too.

D. Tank shocks/Ramming - Situational, and no-longer useful for breaking and running units off the board, but still a useful tool and easily forgotten. Moving enemy units into nice flamer shaped formations is handy, assuming you have a flamer of course! With less melta around, I expect that units will find it harder to succeed a death or glory attempt. Just consider whether it's worth tank shocking/ramming when you've got one hull point left, especially in Purge the Alien...

E. Searchlights - With night fight now much more likely, having multiple seachlights can be very useful. I frequently move 12", snap fire the main weapon and light up a key target.

Cool Mini or Not - sljer king

In relation to the cons above:

1. Yeah, hull points mean that you can now reliably wreck a vehicle, but I never really liked the *random seemingly invincible but stun-locked scoring tank of irritation* situations that occurred in 5th anyway (random makes planning hard). Instead, we have transports that continue to shoot their gun(s) even with one hull point, and can still snap-fire when moving at cruising speed or when shaken. Sure they die faster, but with the global reduction in cover saves, everything seems to die faster. Cover generating psychic powers have relatively improved in 6th (e.g. Shield of Sanguinius, Storm Caller), especially coupled with shrouding.

2. Damage effecting passengers. This is a problem and requires using transports in a different way. For example, I have found that instead of deploying units in the (possibly exposed) front rank of transports (second rank deploying hull down a little behind), I put the units behind instead. If the transport survives the first turn, I still have the option to embark before going 18”, but if it gets blown up there is less collateral damage to the squad and they aren't going to be pinned, meaning that they can either move forward with the other units, or drop back for objective sitting duties.

3. In tough games, did your transports last to the end of game anyway? Not often for me, so in reality this has a smaller effect than it first seems, otherwise I might rank this as the biggest disadvantage.

4. The reduction of disembarkation moves – This hurts melta delivery, true. Yet the dominance of melta appears to have waned, as 2D6 penetration is no longer required to reliably destroy a low-mid AV transport. Also, the way that I've been developing the use of my transports, I'm either moving 6” and footslogging next to the tank to make the most of the longer range of rapid fire weapons, or blitzing 18” to get into position before my marines are forcibly disembarked.

5. First blood / kill points - This is the big one for me, and why I think current lists have generally abandoned traditional mech. In Emperor's Will and Relic (totaling 1/3 of the basic missions), the secondary missions are relatively much more significant. In these two missions, getting first blood is a huge advantage and can force your opponent to play aggressively, and therefore perhaps take more risks. It seems like players are now building their lists with this in mind and trying to avoid giving away an easy VP, and generally moving away from MSU in favour of larger, more durable units.

6. Top hatches - I used to swear by a mobile top hatch for blasting my melta hunters out of. Now? I never thought I'd say it, but I'm not really using them. it now seems to be an opportunistic . Having tried both, I've come to the conclusion that I'd much prefer a gun, because sitting in a fragile tank doing drive-by's risks getting the squad inside pinned.

7.  Assaults - This has really hurt Blood Angels. Not so much Space Wolves, although I'd prefer to have the option!

Cool Mini or Not - Wappellious


Personally, I played MSU mech Space Wolves in 5th, and have experimented, researched and contemplated how/if they transition into 6th at a competitive level. I've come to the conclusion that expensive transports (e.g. lasplas or assault cannon razorbacks) pop too easily for their points, but cheap rhinos or razorbacks don't break the bank and still contribute to the game (personally I've found razorbacks to be much more effective). 

I've also found that the Space Wolves power Storm Caller is much more useful in 6th, especially when I'm playing conservatively with my Rune Priest to preserve the Kill the Warlord secondary objective.

I'm still getting to grips with 6th, but I can see certain armies making the most of the 1+1 using cheap and effective gun tanks (Grey Knights and Space Wolves with heavy bolter razorbacks come to mind) continuing to develop, whereas other previous archetypes such as Blood Angel razorspam (of the lasplas or heavy flamer variety) just don't seem to function with the new ruleset. I wonder if cheap fliers (vendettas, night scythes) will become the new mech?

Cool Mini or Not - Tzardauker

So, why spend the points mech'ing up instead of more warm bodies on the ground?

Transports in 6th still offer increased mobility, additional firepower outside of the FOC (the 1+1), (temporarily) mobile cover and added utility of tank shocks/ramming/searchlights. There are some significant nerfs to mech in 6th (effects on passengers, first blood, kill points), but some of the apparent downsides aren't that bad on further consideration (survivability, scoring, disembarkation distances).

Overall, I think mech still has a place in various (but not all) competitive lists, and needs to be integrated and used in a way that responds to the new edition.

Further Reading (Summary of main changes) (Detailed razorback discussion) (Target priority and discussion on future of mech) (Discussion of main changes) (Good quick summary of pro's of rhinos, and by association mech) (Discussion of main changes)

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