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Gunough is gunough

When writing the article about the Invictor warsuit I realised I was getting way off on a tangent about weapons on modern 40k vehicles.  So much so that I realised, you know what?  I have a lot to say on that topic alone.

Older readers may recall a time when a vehicle had a listed number of crew, and you could only fire as many weapons as you had crew to fire them.  They also had vehicle damage tables and some of the results involved crew getting killed, so you might need to shuffle the crew around to ensure that the most important weapons were crewed.  So if a vehicle had more guns then crew, either by design or by accident, you had to make tactical choices.  Fun stuff.  

These days that level of detail has long since gone the way of the Dodo (for good reasons), along with fire arcs, blast markers, damage table etc.; but with it gone, GW has slowly been increasing the number of guns on its vehicle models.  As such, I’m going to take a look at a bunch of modern(ish) GW vehicles (either that I have or that I consider notable), rank them, and give them a bit of a rant or praise.

Charlie: Tom, the only acceptable response to GW design choices on weapons is praise and/or desperate headcanon justification. I’ve got GW’s back here.

S Tier - Chef’s Kiss

Gladiator Lancer

It has one main weapon, it has defensive storm bolters the driver can use to hold back enemy infantry, and it has a small, possibly automated, icarus rocket pod to give some defence against air threats that, realistically, it should not otherwise be able to engage.  Given the unknown number of crew, but certainly two or more, this is absolutely fine.  A very reasonable amount of gun on a tank.

Charlie: Correct. I want a second one. Article so far confirmed non-problematic.

Storm Speeders

Three weapons, three crew.  Regardless of which type you pick, the pilot must fire the hull mounted weapon, since only he can aim it by pointing the vehicle in the right way.  The shotgun seat has a gunner to fire the sponson weapons and probably also navigate, send spotting information back to the rest of the army and manage the playlist.  Brother Tinnitus on top fires the turret.

Charlie: In a nod to respecting GW’s wider design direction of multiple guns per person, I intend to convert this to have one less crewman, and replace Brother Tinnitus with a sensor array. Out of respect.

A Tier - Solid Pass

Questoris Knight*

This is a little dependent on which weapons you take, but most Knights have a single main weapon, with a small backup heavy stubber for cleaning up puny targets unworthy of serious attention.  In one of the books it even mentions that this is largely handled by the machine spirit. If you put a rocket pod on the roof, well now you’re splitting concentration a bit but if we assume they are fire and forget I think if anyone can cope with that it’s a Knight pilot with machine spirit assistance.  

The melta gun alternative to the heavy stubber is…  a weird choice.  If you get that close to something melta-worthy you’re probably about to hit it in melee anyway.  I never use them (and I have built 7 Knights so far).  Also the Knight with two guns (Crusader) is a bit questionable, but at least they are very different kinds of weapons so, rules aside, would probably just use one of those at a time depending on target.

Charlie: This is starting to smell like heresy. Aircraft pilots are generally alternating between two or more weapon systems. You don’t even need machine spirit assistance for this! 

Baneblade

Eight weapons and ten crew.  Easy!  Well, hang on…  The crew is actually a Commander, a Driver, three Gunners, three Loaders, a Comms-Operator and an Engineer.  So that’s actually three gunners for eight weapons.  But the surprisingly good novel “Baneblade” (turns out it’s not just a cheap model tie-in but a genuinely good book) explains it all very well.  There’s a gunner and loader for the hull mounted demolisher cannon, whilst the driver uses the hull-mounted twin heavy bolters.  Another gunner and loader operate the main turret baneblade cannon and it’s co-axial autocannon (which is intended for ranging shots rather than an independent gun but…  GW gonna GW so you can fire that in-game at whatever).  The sponson lascannons and twin-heavy bolters are operated remotely by the final gunner and loader pair, and the loader in this case is in reality a deputy gunner, so between the two of them they control two guns easy, switching between anti-tank and anti-infantry weapons as needed.  For a model with a ludicrous amount of gun this makes a remarkable amount of sense.  

Charlie: See? Any number of guns is fine. You just have to think it through. Honestly it could have more guns. Where's the coaxial mortar for the demolisher cannon and the coaxial lasguns for the lascannons? A good example of Games Workshop showing commendable restraint.

B Tier - Fire the Headcannon!

Redemptor (sometimes)

The Redemptor has a lot of guns.  But I think it is redeemable (do you see what I did there?)  Follow the arc of this headcannon.  We have our main gun, be it plasma or onslaught.  We then have our secondary/backup weapon under the fist for dealing with lesser infantry threats.  This is a bit silly if you go double onslaught, they are just the same thing in different sizes, but I guess at that point you’re just John Wooing it up.  Then you have the icarus rockets on the roof which I have to assume are just a fully automated system that fire at anything not broadcasting the right FOF beacon.  Finally you have the hull mounted fragstorm launchers (or “nipple ’nades” as we often call them), which are probably just a (mental) panic button of “oh shit there are swarms of infantry nearby” and just pop out in a predefined defensive arc, not really taking more than a second of concentration.

If you’re one of those monsters that chose to put storm bolters on instead of the fragstorm simply because the damage maths out better, well I can’t help you.  Feel free to imagine your dreadnought waving its belly around like an idiot trying to aim them.  Congratulations, you have the sophistication of an Ork Gargant.  

Charlie: Jest not about the holy bullet shimmy. A dreadnought can rotate its body 360 degrees, right? So essentially it’s a turret on legs. And you wouldn’t mock a tank turret for spinning around to fire at targets. Nipple bolters confirmed excellent design choice. That’s why they doubled down on it with the Ballistus dread and gave it not one but three weapon systems that can only be aimed by the waist.

Brutalis

More belly guns?  Ok, stick with me here.  The multi-meltas (which if you care more about numbers and than narrative you’re taking anyway) attached to the hull are less like a gun and more like a breaching tool.  The Brutalis is a melee beast, and when it charges towards a target and gets within range it doesn't really need to aim to trigger the close ranged blast of melta energy to either soften up it’s target or “Oh Yeah!” it’s way through a wall to get at the foes inside.  The heavy stubbers are just automated anti-air as above, but could probably be switched to manual mode if the Brutalis has to hold back for a while and has nothing better to do than plink away at the foe.

Charlie: What's cooler than Iron Man shooting his chest beam? An undead robot/prosthesis doing it twice.

C Tier - Really?

Repulsor Executioner

To be fair here, the change to wrap a lot of these weapons into a “defensive array” does a lot of work to help imagine how this could work, but it has a lot of guns on it.  And unlike the Lancer it’s got Transport capacity too, so it’s not like this thing is stuffed with crew.  By my count there are probably 10 different weapons here.  But let's assume the entire defensive array and the icarus weapons are automated, you’ve got the twin heavy bolter at the front that I guess the pilot uses?  The turret has a coaxial big gun and onslaught gatling cannon, which really should only be used one at a time, and then apparently someone might occasionally climb onto the roof and use a pathetic heavy stubber.  That’s just weird.  Did every other gun break?

Charlie: Which asshole converted the tank above to hide half the guns? Some sort of milsim rivet counter, probably. Doesn’t matter. Point is, real tanks like WW2 Shermans sometimes had three machine guns strapped to the turret in addition to the hull-mounted machine gun and main turret gun. Seriously Tom, just because you don’t like how it looks, doesn’t mean it’s not realistic. And hey, if a coaxial machine gun plus pintle-mounted LMG is good enough for the Challenger 2, I don’t see the issue here. GW designs now also confirmed milsim-ready.

Brutalis - oops all machine guns

Image Credit: Games Workshop, used without permission for illustrative purposes only.

Ok but…  all of these guns do the same thing.  So with just one pilot to pay attention you’d just fire all of them at the same target, so…  why have them all separate, why not concentrate all that firepower into a single system?  It works ok I guess, just point your belly and arms all in one direction and jiggle about like a moron, but it just looks like the Techmarine went nuts and glued on spare guns anywhere he could.

Charlie: Hey, woah, easy now, this is about like err homages and, stuff. Like the Gauntlets of Ultramar, but on a dreadnought. Great art has always echoed references, and as the world’s greatest toy soldier makers, it’s only right that GW should reference themselves repeatedly. Complaining that guns attached to melee weapons would suffer from repeated and explosive mechanical failures is splitting hairs and you know it. Wait hang on you weren’t complaining about that? My bad, please see my earlier point about the hallowed bullet shimmy.

D Tier - Fail

Invictor Warsuit

It makes me sad that I like and own this stupid thing.  Too many guns.  The problem here is they are all anti infantry but they all have to be aimed separately.  You have your main gun, fine, and your grenade launcher is ok as above for fire and forget.  The heavy bolter seems surplus but god damn I love it so we’ll excuse that as a backup pistol just like a Marine would have, but those heavy stubbers.  Why?!  At what point do you stop using your main gun or your backup gun to carefully aim your entire torso at someone just so you can fire your least effective weapon at the exact same target your other weapons are better for?!  Make it make sense James Workshop!

Charlie: See, look. Bullet shimmy good. Multi-barrels good because bullet spread is good for suppression. So vehicle better with more gun. That they all serve the same function really only helps, right, because you can just slave them all to one trigger and lay down some justice and/or oppression. But also, there’s so much flexibility. The autocannon is for light vehicles, the heavy bolter is for heavy infantry, and the stubbers and grenade launcher are for light infantry. This lad has a bit of everything, just like the Redemptor you managed to headcanon. So it can either spray all its bullets at one thing (hell yeah) or engage a variety of targets (all praise the Codex Astartes).

F Tier - Get In The Bin

Dominus Class Knight

Image Credit: Games Workshop, used without permission for illustrative purposes only.

Let’s be generous and count weapons, not barrels.  Seven.  S E V E N.  And they are all so different they can’t possibly be synced, and yet not so different as to be used for different targets.  Compare and contrast to the noble Warhound Titan.  Four crew.  Two guns.  Perfection.  Dominus goes right in the bin.  Unfixable, unlovable, unwanted.  I have 7 Knights already and will never own one of these abominations.  

Charlie: Long, contemplative silence.

O Tier - Orks

My beautiful Orks get a category all of their own, because whatever they do, it is correct.  On the one hand most of their models clearly depict one or more crew operating each weapon, with dedicated turrets or gunners on loads of kits.  On the other hand you have…  Ork genius.  Take the Megatrakk Scrapjet.  Ignoring the rear turret with it’s dedicated grot gunner, you have three different weapon systems.  All fixed to the hull, operated by the single pilot.  As far as I’m concerned, he fires all of them at every target all the time.  Efficacy be damned, maximum enthusiasm, maximum dakka, just as Gork and Mork intended.  

Charlie: Hell yeah.

Comments

  1. I love the serious/scientific approach backed by semi-serious ironic lawyer defence of GW in this article. Most Imperial Guard tanks kinda make sense on their ratio crew/gun in a WWI way. Actually I thought the Baneblade had a crew of 16 for some reason, maybe some old lore.

    To me it mostly show the goofy turn of more recent GW models, mostly Space Marines but not only. Also, you should do the same thing with Tau!

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    1. I hope by "goofy" you mean "holy sanctioned technology"

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  2. The real problem is the amount of ammunition required to make any of these weapon systems worthwhile. Charlie points to the CR as a platform which has one main weapon plus co-ax weapon and a pintle mount. This real world example has a fighting weight of around 70 tons and around 50 rounds for the main gun and around 4000 for the machine guns. If you look at it you can clearly see the amount of tank required for the amount of Dakka in the real world. If we just look the bog standard Knight's battle cannon it quite obviously has a maximum of six rounds in it's magazine, shit bust. A land raider crusader or redemer quite obviously has two or three bursts of fire at the most before it's exhausted. The ridiculous amounts of weapons fitted to things like the Space Marine fliers are also ridiculous high calibre, high ROF, short barrelled, high recoil weapons which are not suited to deployment on airframes and also in a flier possibly have only enough ammunition for one burst. And you can stick any analogy to a modern warplane's multiple weapon systems where the sun don't shine, these things are in no way similar. For a reasonable comparison, I invite you to compare the barrel on a modern or WW2 tank to the barrel on a 40K tank. Having said all of that, we have to remember that this is a game of make believe and if we're ok with space elves gemstone phylactories and so on, then why not the Imperial and post Imperial physically impossible weapon systems ? RTB01 bolters anyone ?

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    1. +++HERESY DETECTED+++

      You're right of course, and while I can forgive a certain amount of chibi gun proportions to make miniatures readable from four feet away, it's also a stylistic choice that bears no relation to reality. The Leman Russ battle cannon is essentially a cannon for beer kegs (see my post on reducing the caliber from years ago). Space Marines are generally depicted with only one mag for their bolters. But, BUT, this article was about the number of guns, not the sculpting style of guns making ammo considerations laughable, therefore I'm afraid I must move to have this objection quashed by Judge Skub before this heresy can go any further. :P

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    2. LRC has vast shared ammo.hoppers for the boltguns (old, metal mini) and medium ammo hoppers per boltgun (new mini).

      The advantage of older GW tank designs is that they were either limited by tech or too based on existing vehicles to stray too far from the metal box design, which could contain any amount of hoppers, loaders etc. below the surface.

      Even detailed interiors can be deceiving - we are told that the capacitors/generator for the Godhammer lascannons (never modelled) took up 4-5 marines worth of space in a standard Land Raider, depending on edition. Moving to external bolt hoppers freed up space for 5 marines or N neophytes, depending what state you wanted them in when it came time to disembark.

      Vehicles like the whirlwind or manticore used to have a limited amount of shots reflecting the missiles on the racks. Somebody used to think about this stuff.

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  3. I am forced to assume that all other Xenos vehicles are perfect in every way imaginable for reasons that have nothing to do with most of the designs being into their second or third decade on this Earth.

    One day the Vyper will be retired, and I'll be sad because I've liked that thing since release, but have no interest in space pixies, thus no reason to ever touch one.

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    1. The Eldar are truly blessed by having the most sensible amount of gun per vehicle. I'm a fan of the Tau tanks too.

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  4. Knights are 40k battlemechs, so I can kind of see pilots grouping weapons based on rate of fire etc.

    Servitor brains slaved to the targeting systems allow weapons to track assigned targets and handle convergence

    Pilot chooses how to cycle through weapon groups based on the situation and their rate of fire/recharge. Grouped meltas are a brawling weapon once you are within a knights ion shield/titans voids

    It's a goofy looking model but I understand how it *could work*

    Now I want a model of a pilot with a qwerty keyboard

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    1. See this is the kind of rationalisation I can get behind :D

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  5. As someone who both thinks too much about the "real world version" of these things, and who is also old and grumpy about the current "just roll it in the gun bin" level of modeling, I love this article.

    If you want to make this a series, covering how GW threw out the STC designs and apparently hired more and more designers who have no idea what a functional vehicle or weapon looks like would be awesome.

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