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The Tiger Roars
Guest Commentary: Da Orcboy Pays Up

Being Different, Example 2: Orcboy’s Exodites  (Fourth of 11 articles)  by Ken Lacy

At first glance, it’s difficult to see what this army is about. Once you get past the crazy conversions, this is just an Eldar army with dinosaurs substituted for bikes and vehicles.  There are so many disparate units, including Jetbikes and Vypers and even foot troops, that most opponents simply decide that this is just another Eldar shooty/assault army and plan accordingly.

Editor’s note: Read more about Ken’s tournament-winning Exodites

Composition

  • Avatar
  • Farseer on Jetbike w/ Mindwar and Fortune
  • Five Wraithguard and Warlock w/ Enhance in Wave Serpent
  • Twenty Storm Guardians w/ two flamers and Warlock w/ Enhance
  • Ten Storm Guardians w/ two fusion guns
  • Four Jetbikes w/ one shuriken cannon, Warlock on Jetbike w/ Destructor
  • Four Jetbikes w/ one shuriken cannon, Warlock on Jetbike w/ Destructor
  • Two Vypers w/ starcannons
  • Two Vypers w/ missile launchers
  • Three Shining Spears, including Exarch w/ brightlance
  • Wraithlord w/ brightlance
Total: 1850 points

Design...and Tricks
The list is unusual (it’s a Saim-Hann army list), and so many players who use it field a shoot-and-hide army with plenty of crystal targeting matrices. This sort of army usually can be surrounded and overwhelmed, although it’s highly annoying to play against in the meantime. Ultimately, though, it’s quite fragile.

My version, however, contains a number of “bait” units instead, and no crystal targeting matrices. Between them, the Wraithlord and Avatar constitute a very real (if slow-moving) threat, particularly when escorted by a swarm of Storm Guardians. Because this was a themed army, one compromise I made was to use Storm, rather than Defender, Guardians. The trade-off is with Fleet of Foot: the Storm Guardians can use it to more quickly move forward and “tie up” enemy units. Plus, Storm Guardians also have access to fusion guns and haywire grenades. Bwahaha!

One loophole/trick I used (it has since been closed) was to accompany the Guardians with the Avatar. Although he could not Fleet of Foot, they still could so long as they kept in coherency with him. When the front group of guardians reached close combat, they then effectively became Fearless, as the Avatar also counted as being in combat. The Avatar furthermore got “free” pile-in moves into combat, and as he counted as being engaged, could not be shot at. Using the army now, I wouldn’t be able to Fleet of Foot the Guardians the turn they engage in melee, if the Avatar has joined them by then, but ultimately it’s important that the Avatar not be an exposed target for a turn or two, and also important that the Guardians not be thrown in by themselves—they simply cannot do well enough in combat to go in on their own.

Regardless, all this was simply an elaborate decoy measure, even the Wraithlord. They were a credible threat, and thus a distraction, but could not really do all that much damage by themselves.

No, the power of the Exodites is their 18" move with bikes: shoot and scoot. Plus their access to Vypers—these are cheap, highly mobile weapons platforms.

I kept the Jetbike units small, and included a Warlock in each. There is no point in having units bigger than four or five, including the Warlock. Jetbikes are large models, and hard to screen, and once stuck in combat they almost always will lose. They’re best sniping at medium range with shuriken cannons (recommended—using shuriken catapults requires getting a bit too close for comfort to your opponent!). But the most effective weapon available to Jetbike squads is…the Warlock! With Destructor and a witchblade (with the clarifications, he can't have a singing spear anymore while on a bike), the Warlock becomes a brute against both swarms (S5 flamer!) and a real threat to vehicles, and with a few other bikes around to “catch wounds,” he can stick around for a while.

(The other three Warlock powers aren’t worth much on a bike. Jetbikes can’t win close combat, so Enhance is pointless. Bikes are better off hiding behind cover and not getting shot, so Conceal is a waste of points—especially for small units. And Embolden? Why?)

Vypers are the “shooty” heart of the Saim-Hann army, so I took four. Yes, more would have been shootier, but I was sticking to a theme here! Because they’re a measly BS3, you’re best off with rapid-fire weapons, not brightlances or missile launchers (this is the voice of experience speaking). Farseers with Guide can help squadrons, but I’d still recommend starcannons or (as a very distant second choice) multilasers. 

Since their primary purpose is to shoot, I get them spiritstones, which helps them stay (a) mobile, and (b) shooty! It’s very rare that you will play on a table with enough terrain to use crystal targeting matrices to your total advantage—people who think otherwise are really playing very lax with line-of-sight rules (which doesn’t happen in my neck of the woods), so the hideous expense isn’t worth it in my book.

Skydrake, a converted Vyper
Above: A "Skydrake," one of Ken's converted Vypers

The strength of the Vypers was that, as cheap as they were relatively, they were largely expendable, and yet they had the ability to move 24" to capture terrain if they had to, and best of all, as vehicles, they could screen my bikes if I needed to move in the open!

There were also two units in my list that were less than effective, but which I kept for fluff reasons. The list, and its compatibility with my tactics, would probably have been improved with different units, but this was a “themed” army to start with, so I stuck with these units, long after realizing how ineffective they truly were.

For 210 points, I got three Shining Spears that basically were a BS2 brightlance with three Wounds that ignored terrain and had a 3+ Invulnerable Save on the last wound. Still, even with BS5, the thing misses 1 time out of 6, so it’s not as reliable as one would wish for its high cost, and the unit is VERY pricey. If I didn't like the models so much, I would have traded them out in a heartbeat for more Vypers. I tried to make Shining Spears work, I really did, but as they are, they’re just far too pricey a unit.

I also fielded five Wraithguard in a Wave Serpent. Again, this was included purely for fluff reasons (plus the models looked great). They were used as my primary anti-tank and close-combat roadblock. In the final analysis, a unit of Striking Scorpions with grenades, an Exarch (with powerfist) and a Farseer (with Fortune) would have been far, far nastier and more effective. So would a unit of Fire Dragons with an Exarch, and a Farseer with either Fortune or Guide. Mmm...Dragons...  But the Wraithguard worked “good enough,” so I didn't sweat things too badly.

Finally, no discussion of Saim-Hann would be complete without mention of Nuadhu “Fireheart.”  I don’t usually go for special characters, but this guys is only the coolest cheap-ass special character ever. He’s just like a Saim-Hann Wild Rider Chieftain, only he is:

(a) cheaper, 
(b) tougher, 
(c) stronger, and
(d) a Fast Attack choice instead of an HQ slot. 
Nuadhu, you see, is basically a flying Dreadnought. And while it would be a mistake to rely on him to do spectacular things, in a pinch he makes for very valuable close-combat support. Plus, at a mere 75 points, he’s totally expendable if you need to tie up a nasty enemy unit for a while. Having an armor value and being totally Fearless is quite nice. Finally, he’s an Independent Character, which makes him an untargetable vehicle (!) if you're careful enough with his placement. When I've used him, I’ve traded out a unit of Guardians and had him accompany the rest of the “decoys.”

Some of Ken's fabulously converted Exodites
Above: Some of Ken's fabulously converted Exodites, using Warhammer (fantasy) models

Tactics
With my Exodites, it was always a patience game. I could not win a shoot-out, nor a battle of attrition, nor a full-out assault. So instead, I used my one major advantage: mobility.

Most of my units could cripple transports (S6+) and avoid long-ranged return fire by hugging or hiding behind terrain. Others could tie up enemy units and damage them in the process, giving the rest of my army time to “gang up” on a few isolated enemy units without being shot or assaulted by the rest of the enemy.

I avoided assaults when I could, but when I had to assault, I made sure they were as decisive as possible—I would either beat my opponent and/or tie him up for several turns, and either result would again limit his mobility.

At the end of the day, however, it was all about the missions. I only rarely had a chance of winning a straight-up fight (the one exception was when I outshot a Ranger-heavy Alaitoc army), so instead I focused on winning the game by going after objectives, all the while working to prevent my opponent from doing the same.

And I used terrain! I hid around the corners of terrain, jumped back and forth in front of it and back behind it again, and made sure never to give my opponent any targets if I could help it. Even the “decoys” were always in cover or otherwise well-protected while they were advancing: not only does that make them more believable a threat, but they also will hang around longer if you look after them!

I always made sure to go after the biggest enemy threats over the long-term, and not simply the “juicy” targets that came up turn-by-turn. Those “big threats” were things like fast-moving units capable of tying up my forces, denying me of my only advantage: mobility. Things like tanks were only a problem if I put myself in a situation where my units could get shot at (which is to say, they were only a problem if I was stupid and careless!).

Finally, I took calculated risks. The big benefit of all that mobility is that you often will be in a position to do so! If a “big threat” also turns into a “juicy target,” then go for it. Nothing is more satisfying than blocking all the exit points of a fully-loaded Land Raider Crusader with Vypers moving 24" and Storm Guardians piling onto the front, planting haywire grenades, destroying the Crusader, a fully-loaded squad of Marine Veterans, and two pricey characters to boot. POW!!!

Result
The biggest mental advantage this army gave me, when done right, was that it was made up of so many obscure different unit types that it became hard for an opponent to keep track of what all my units could do (this was one reason I ultimately didn’t scrap my Shining Spears and Wraithguard for more effective units—most people just had no idea what these guys could do!). Of course, this meant that I had to practice often so that I could remember what all my units did!

The biggest game advantage is its mobility. Played well, a Saim-Hann army will dominate in movement and corners-based games. “Recon” was my favorite mission with this army, and I would always win that mission by a ridiculously lopsided score. Because they are a mobility-dominant army, they present a challenge that few opponents have faced or know how to respond to (most mobile armies in 40K are designed to get into combat ASAP, not to avoid it). 

If you learn how to use these tactics of mobility, then you will perform very well with this list. You will also do well with Ravenwing and White Scars, although ultimately these two lists trade a little mobility for a good deal more durability and close-combat punch.
 

Next page: Orcboy's Swarm
 
 

Related Pages
Exodites: Ken's Themed Army Idea
 
Posted September 2004. Used with permission.
 

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Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle