A well needed mobile heavy weapons platform
I just finished some additional sentinels for my Elysian light drop infantry regiment. The six chicken walkers are the last vehicles I’ll have to paint for the army (at least for now!) and therefore also represent somewhat of a milestone on the road to a fully painted army of droptroopers. In this post I’ll discuss two different ways of using sentinels in an Elysian force, and how to utilize their role as mobile weapon platforms in an army that lacks some of the heavy weapon options of other guard regiments.
They say the sky is the limit but sooner or later you’ll hit that LZ.
Generally speaking sentinels are useful but aren’t exceptionally great so don’t expect them to overperform. If taken from the Guard codex you’re looking at a soft skinned walker with an armor value of 10 that starts off at 35pts and comes with the ‘move through cover’ and ‘scout’ special rules. I can definitely see the scout sentinel being a solid choice if you want to keep the points down and if you’re bringing along other elements of armor in your army. I always pay the the extra 5pts to get the armored version though, which improves your front armor value to 12 on behalf of losing the scout move and bonus dice when dashing through terrain. The reason behind this is simple: the points increase isn’t that significant in my opinion and the trade-off between mobility and survivability really comes into play when you’re facing certain units that will otherwise try to overrun your valuable veterans. A single armored sentinel can tie up a lone unit of Khorne fleshhounds for the rest of the game, and if you’re lucky enough to take out the powerklaw-wielding nob with a barrage weapon – a single steel chicken can even keep a mob of slugga boyz at bay when they get close enough. The same goes for other types of units that we’re unlucky enough to leave home without proper anti-armor equipment but still plan to ruin your day by denying certain objectives. Of course there’s always the threat of krak grenades but at least they’ll have to find those 6’s to glance you to death which should buy you at least a couple of turns to re-position the rest of your army.
What about armament? Both types of sentinels come with a stock multilaser which can be switched out for heavier weapons at a discount price (compared to heavy weapon squads). Only the armored version can take the plasmacannon but opting for a weapon that has the risk of getting hot and taking away 50% of your Hullpoints if your roll a 1 before firing isn’t a very smart choice. Taking the sentinel’s poor marksmanship into consideration, even when you get the weapon to fire you’ll end up with an average scatter of 4″ unless you roll a direct hit. The two chioces that makes this unit shine are autocannons and lascannons. The former are very cheap (at only 5pts one almost thinks there’s an outlet somewhere in the Imperium!) and grants you an average of one strength 7 hit per model, which can be a nifty way to open up softer vehicles while running the walkers along the sides of the table trying to get side armor shots on your targets. The lascannon option cost twice as much but gives you the ability to donkey punch heavy armor from across the field in return. Beware of the poor BS though as a full squadron will only hit 1,5 times unless they’re supported by psykers or other re-roll shenanigans – of which I’ll return to further down in this article. Now lets look at what happens when you issue a gravchute ranger one of these heavy duty machines.
The dauntless and dirty drop sentinels
When introduced to the regiments of Elysia both sentinel tactics and outfitting changed dramatically from the ones of conventional Imperial Guard armies. Most notably the armored cockpit had to go in order to get them on board lighter transport craft meaning no more amore value 12 up front. Secondly all sentinels we’re fitted with gravchutes in order for them to deploy on the battlefield via glorious combat drops thus jeapordizing both pilot and machine should they land off target. To further emphasize the ‘FUCK YOU’-feeling of the sentinels, weapon options were limited to either heavy flamers, heavy bolters or multimeltas. If it wasn’t for the rule-of-cool noboby would ever get in the cockpit on one of these death traps volountarily, let alone field them in any serious army. However these suicidal jumpers have several benefits to take into consideration once you get over the initial doubt.
A single Elysian drop sentinel cost 55pts a pop and comes with a heavy bolter which can be replaced by a heavy flamer at no additional cost. I wouldn’t recommend fielding them with the heavy bolter alone unless you have some sort of secret masterplan or perhaps if you play a narrative scenario because lets face it: spending 55pts for a BS3 heavy bolter is simply a waste of 55pts. The multimelta costs an additional 15pts bringing the total price up to the insane 70pts/model giving you an open topped vehicle with an armor value of 10 all around. This is more of a general problem for the Elysians rather than a sentinel problem which I have addressed before, and to be honest the prices in the current list (Imperial Armor Vol 3: 2nd ed.) are way above the current direction that the game has taken. Nobody can argue that 70pts for a mobile multimelta is a fair price when the standard codex gives you a mobile lascannon for 50 – with more armor on top of it all.
What makes the drop sentinels interesting is that they’re an Elite choice in the Elysian army thus making room for more tasty flyers and jeeps from the Fast Attack section. Furthermore they come with the ability to ‘deep strike’ onto the battlefield and make use of the ‘combat drop’ special rule available only to the Elysians. Combat drop means that half of your valkyries, drop sentinels and tarrantula sentry turrets (rounded up) will automatically arrive on turn 1 in a well co-ordinated chaotic drop manouvre. Being able to put half or your fliers (with embarked veterans) and sentinels onto the table from the start of the game is a big bonus, not to mention bypassing the risk of being stuck offboard thanks to bad reserve rolls. To make the most out of these point heavy tankbusters I bring along an Inquisitorial detachment with three servo-skulls. The servo-skulls not only deny the opponent’s ability to infiltrate and scout in the pre-game phase, but also allows friendly units to roll one less d6 when deep striking within 12″ of the Servo-skull (which can only be removed when enemies move within 6″ of it). This makes the whole combat drop procedure a whole lot more precise and reliable, allowing me to deploy either two groups of 3 multimeltas, or three groups of 2 multimeltas with next to perfect precision wherever there’s an armored threat. Sure the Balistic Skill is crappy but when used in this way at least there’s a better chance of getting a good alpha-strike on the opponent. The Inquisitor himself can also roll for psychic powers from the Divination table allowing you to cast prescience on your multimissas. If no worthy targets are in sight I simply try to drop my sentinels on the objectives to set up some sort of board control for later turns.
A new hope? Some inspiration from Cadia
The recently released Warzone Democles: Mont’Ka supplement brought along some new formations for the good ol’ Guard and all of them have been thoroughly reviewed on other blogs and channels. However all of them looked at the formations in a context strictly characterized by Codex: Astra Militarum, and to be honest in this time of Pask and/or Blob meta the only formation that stood out as equally good was the artillery regiment that allows basilisks to twinlink and ignore cover while guided by infantry Vox-casters. The rest of the formations were pretty cool but not really able to compete with the candy available to other factions. Still I would like to argue that there is one formation from the Mont’Ka book that could prove useful especially in an army themed around an Elysian light drop regiment. Enter the Emperor’s Talon Recon Company.
In order to field the Emperor’s Talon formation you have to pay the formation tax that consists of a single company command squad. Luckily enough these are quite cheap and allows you to bring some extra orders onto the table as well as special weapon options and advisors should you have the points. The formation itself consists of 2-4 squads of scout or armored sentinel squadrons, in any combination, which must consist of three sentinels each. One of the walkers gets promoted to a command sentinel (character) that can issue a limited selection of orders to other squadrons by passing a LD roll of 8. This is a flavourful little bonus to the formation that will improve it’s use over the course of the game. Unfortuantely the command sentinel cannot issue the most fluffy orders to a search-and-destroy company of chicken walkers (Tank-hunters and Ignore cover) but I guess they didn’t want to make the BS3 sentinels OP or something!? Jokes aside, the orders that you will almost always issue is the one that allows you to fire your weapons and then run in the same shooting phase, opening up for some nerfed eldar and tau trickery play.
What makes this formation interesting from an Elysian perspective is the ability to use it as an allied detachment and once again bring armored sentinels to support the troops on the ground. You’re allowed to take both scout and armored variants but I’d go with the armored ones as the extra thick front improves their survivability. The formation also allows armored sentinels to outflank, which means that you’ll almost always be able to bring your autocannons to bear against vulnerale side or rear armor of enemy threats. I’d deploy three sentinels with lascannons and their commander on the table to help the rest of the army out from the start by putting those valuable single laser shots down range early on. The second unit would then arrive from reserves to harass and catch weaker targets like pesky wave serpents and hornets off guard. The formation still suffers from only having BS3 but this is somewhat bypassed by the final bonus which grants the whole formation the ‘preferred enemy’ special rule against a single enemy unit nominated after deployment. Being able to re-roll 1’s when you’re hitting on 4’s will improve your overall hits on target – not as reliable as twinlinked but still a decent bonus. Nominating the target that’s being hunted by the formation after the deployment phase but before the game starts means that you get adaptability out of the roughly 300pts spent on silly walkers.
I hope this article has shed some light on how I make use of the combat dropping sentinels of the Elysian droptroops, as well as the new Recon Company formation for the standard Astra Militarum. There are of course better choices and more efficient ways to spend your points if you’re looking for reliable ways of removing armored threats to your force. But when the rule-of-cool is taken into consideration there’s nothing that beats the sight of a sentinel company going to a party.
Here’s a 360 spin of the sentinels: