Friday, May 22, 2015

Tactica Leman Russ: Battle Tank

I've decided to write a few articles about my favorite unit in the IG codex, the Leman Russ. Each will focus on a single flavor of these tanks, including (ultimately) the FW variants. Today we look at the Battle Tank.
Damn the alpha hull is pretty

Since this is the first tactica, it's worth taking a moment and examining the traits that all Leman Russ tanks have in common. First, they're all Heavy Support choices that can be taken in squadrons of 1-3 and you can mix types within the squadrons. You can also take them as an HQ choice, but you have to take a minimum of two with one being designated your tank commander. The tank commander gives you a rather nice BS of 4 as well as some orders that only work for his squadron and require what is essentially a Ld9 roll.

All Russ have a front and side armor of 14 and 13, respectively. Most of them, the Battle Tank included, have a rear armor of 10, so watch it back there, while a few have 11. All of them are Heavy vehicles, which is important to the because it limits their movement to only 6" while also allowing all of their weapons to fire every turn.

They all also come with some base equipment, specifically smoke launchers and searchlights.

On the topic of smoke launchers, you'll probably rarely use them. Leman Russ tanks need to be shooting as often as possible to earn their place in the battle line, so you don't want to give up a turn by using them. That being said (typed?) there are still times when you want to pop some smoke. Is your tank stunned? Is it on an objective that you NEED to hold? Are there no enemies in range or worth shooting at? All of these are excellent times to give your tank a little extra toughness and hope for a better role next turn.

With regards to searchlights, these are often forgotten. They allow you to illuminate a unit that you've shot at so that it no longer benefits from Night Fightings...after you've shot at it. This is kinda a mixed blessing. While getting ride of the cover save is nice, you probably want to do it with something else and then shoot with the Russ, otherwise the enemy might just shrug off your shooting from the Russ. In standard IG lists, this means using Chimeras first, the following up with some heavier shooting. Still, some Russ have good excuses to use their searchlights. Eradicators ignore cover anyway and a Demolisher might be out of range except for a single heavy bolter. Both great excuses to use them first and then follow up with other shooting.

Now, onto the Battle Tank.

Like most Russ, the Battle Tank is characterized by its turret weapon. In this case it is the Battle Cannon, a beastly weapon that is Str 8 and AP 3, making it a marine killer. It is a large blast weapon, benefits from ordinance, and has more than enough range to get the job done at 72".

The nicest thing about the Battle Tank is that range. You can tag any target that you can see. This means that deployments is extra important for this tank because it can really avoid a good degree of risk through good firing lanes that keep it the hell away from meltaguns and chainfists.
Russ + Meltaguns
Place it back and make the enemy have to go through as much of your army as possible to get to it. This will also make that rear armor hard to get to if you're on the table edge.
i.e. Don't be this guy
The cannon is a marine killer. That is your ideal target, marines in the open (preferably clumped together but how often is the enemy that make them be. Mechanized armies still exist and disembarking is limited after you're had your transport taken out from under you. Work with another unit to setup good shots. Have another tank take out a rhino and then blast half the tactical squad that was inside of it to the afterlife.

Combats are also great for this. Have a conscript blob with priest duking it out with assault marines? Great! Challenge their sergeant with your priest on their turn. You'll probably lose your priest, and the whole blob, to a unit that might only gain a 1" move to scatter. Suckers. Avenge those poor whiteshields you let die with some battle cannony goodness.

This weapon does have some severe limitations though. It, talking frankly, sucks against vehicles and monstrous creatures. "But helmet!", you might be saying, "I keep hearing about how the battle tank is such a great general purpose tank!" You keep hearing lies. Lies propagated by the fact that they were true in past editions.

Take vehicles, for instance. Your weapon, that you forked out 150 points for, is a krak missile that get two tries to penetrate the enemy armor.
Not worthless, albeit, but nothing to write home about. Depending on your target, say a rhino for example, a chimera has better odds. To be fair, it is an accurate krak missile, thanks to that large blast, and might even take out some nearby models thanks to scatter and large blast, but the most you can hope for is to strip a hull point and stun the enemy so it cannot fight back. Not ideal by a long shot and more of a consolation prize if not suitable enemies are in sight (or on the table.)

It gets worse against monstrous creatures. Here, it really is just a krak missile since ordinance doesn't mean squat against MCs. Best case scenario is taking a single wound...assuming they don't pass a cover save from your one shot. Far, far, from ideal.

Stick to what you're good at and slaughter some infantry.

Other weaknesses can be summed up as +2 armor saves. Now its a glorified multilaser. Avoid shooting at +2 save units unless they also have a +3 invulnerable (Assault Terminators), at which point you're relying on stacking on wounds anyway, or you have no other targets, at which point consider the afore mentioned smoke launchers first.

Time to talk about upgrades!
...because who doesn't love toys?
I'll be honest. I could go on about the costs, benefits, and issues involved with weapon upgrades, ranging from hull/sponson weapons to hunter-killer missiles and printle-mounted guns, but they all turn out the same way, DON'T. Ordinance means that all other weapons are snap firing and your main gun has the range to always shoot every turn. You just won't get the return on investment you'd want for the points you spent.

The exception is the hull mounted heavy flamer, because its free.
And because fire is kinda cool
The heavy flamer has a few advantages over the heavy bolter, especially in light of the fact that the heavy bolter will, again, be snap firing if your main gun is also shooting. The biggest advantage of it is that you can use it against enemies that get close enough that you're uncomfortable using your battle cannon. Do you face drop pod armies often? Aspect warriors constantly in your grill? Angry that everybody plays White Scars in your part of the woods? Take a heavy flamer and have some fun. However, remember that you cannot fire the heavy flamer AND your battle cannon so you need to decide which is more important. The heavy bolter, on the other firearm, has a 50% chance of giving you at least one hit per shooting phase and target a lot of the same things that the battle cannon likes to target. If you're always facing enemies down range, stick to the battle cannon.

The other upgrades are a bit more situation so I'll handle them one at a time, though I'll be honest, I almost never take any of them since their points add up over time:
Relic Plating - Are you regularly hexed or targeted by witchfires? Yeah, me neither.
Dozer Blade - Unlike some other Russ, this guy needs to do the least moving so...pass.
Recovery Gear - Very situational and, like the Dozer Blade, potentially irrelevant. Pass again.
Extra Armor - If you're stunned than shaken is not really much of an improvement since you're not shooting either way. Pass (noticing a trend?)
Fire Barrels - Cool idea but meh execution. How often will this really matter? Some I've seen swear by it but I don't get charged enough by things that will care about this.
Camo Netting - Finally, a potential winner. With the battle cannon's range you might be able to plunk this guy behind cover and enjoy a nice +3 save (ruin +1) for the game. It kinda makes this tank nearly indestructible when combined with AV14. However, this is a movement based edition so it will rarely be that simple. I still pass but I'd hardly recommend it with certainty.
Augur Array - The ultimate in situational wargear. You only need to ask one question: how often do you want accurate deep strikes in your back field? If you say anything other than 'never' then consider this.

For a guy that owns seven Russ models, none of them are battle tanks. Three of them used to be but I repurposed them. The other tanks are either better at more effective at a specialist role (Vanquishers and Executioners) or better at general purpose (Demolisher and Exterminator.) Result may vary and I'm looking into, eventually, getting some alpha hulls that I'll magnetize as both battle tanks and vanquishers.


  1. A nice read, I always like reading different views on russes. I've been playing around with the FW armoured battle group list lately, so have been trying out several different russes.

    The battle tank is definitely an odd choice these days, other variants just seem to do something better. I have been using a squadron pair of them, usually in the opposite corner of my deployment zone from the rest of my forces. The range they have means they can protect the army from afar, especially when facing 3+ bikes and drop marines. They also make decent bait to keep things away from the warlord.

    Looking forward to reading about other variants. My favourites are demolishers and vanquishers, as I love huge guns.

    1. May I ask why you squadron them? I'm incredibly a big fan of not squadroning so I always like to hear from people that squadron and try to understand why.