Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Stun, or Not to Stun

by Anonymous Foodie

Of late I've come across a few discussions about Hellions, and the infamous Stun Claw upgrade.  For those unfamiliar, what this lets you do is basically grapple an enemy IC and pull him out of the squad.

A slightly more detailed version is that after a successful Hit and Run move, you have an equally good chance of pulling a character along with you.  The hapless foe is then encircled by screaming Hellions and (at least, so the Dark Eldar player hopes) eaten alive by the skyboarding gangsters.

While this may sound hilarious and fun (which it is) and even effective (which it can be) there are always drawbacks.  As it turns out, I have prepared a list of pro's and con's to the use thereof, and shall henceforth put it down for your perusal.


The Stun Claw is a weapon upgrade.  Ie; taking one means no Power weapon, no agoniser, not even a venom blade.  As a result, the general killiness of the squad suffers.  With no shooty upgrades (other than a potential 6" blaster pistol shot from the leader) this leaves you with no way to deal with heavily armored infantry, other than banking on mass attacks, which Hellions don't have any more than your average joe assault unit.

Only effective against IC's.  If, for whatever reason, your opponent has no IC's, or none joined to units (less likely), then it's a waste of an upgrade.  Further, if such IC isn't worth pulling out of the squad (as in, if the squad as a whole is easy enough on its own to kill with standard tactics) then again, the upgrade isn't going to be worthwhile.


It's about as cheap as weapon options get, for one.  Even if you never use it in a game, it's not something you'll be kicking yourself for taking (unlike, say, a Phantasm Grenade Launcher, which will run you 20-25 points or so, depending on who's carrying it).

You get the same strength bonus as with the Glaves, and since you get to tote a pistol along with it, you don't lose out on any attacks, either.  So at the very least you're not giving up any of your stock CC ability (and you even gain a poisoned pistol shot).

You get to mess with your enemy and pull IC's out of squads they've joined.  There are two basic tactics for this maneuver, and lo and behold, they shall be discussed below!

Maneuver the First:  The Weak IC

This is what you want to pull against IC's that are either there to support a unit/army (read; Sanguinary Priests), or those that are not combat oriented (such as a Farseer).
Taking the first example, the idea would be to charge a unit of Blood Angels (with attached Priest) with both a squad of Hellions (the silly) and a squad of Wyches (the killy).  A slew of S4 attacks from the hellions and whatever the Wyches are slinging (due to drugs, pain points, what have you) will do some damage, and then the BA's have to choose between putting the hurt on the Hellions or the Wyches (or just mix and match).

As combat resolves, the Hellions pull their Hit and Run (laughing maniacally, of course), and drag the Priest along with them.  As the rules dictate, they are then moved to surround him as best as possible, and are locked in combat with him during your opponent's turn.

During said turn, the priest dies horribly, being a lone marine against a squad of combat druggies.  The wyches continue to plink away at the Marines, who now gain no benefit from Feel No Pain.  Sad panda day for the marines.

Now, you may ask yourself "Why is this better than just killing the priest in the first place?  As an IC you can direct attacks against him anyway!".
A valid question, but as usual you are wrong.  I kid.  Seriously, though.  There's a reason for it.
First off, you have to be in Base to Base with the priest to attack him, so it's easily possible that not enough attacks would get to him to finish him off reliably.  6-8 remaining Hellions against one marine, though, and that spells out doom (in his blood, of course).
Secondly, it's not a tactic that your opponent will have to deal with against any other opponent.  This means, while it may not come as a complete surprise, it will be something new to deal with.  You get to mess with his head, what with his IC's not being safe in their squads anymore.

Some more indirect benefits:

Pain Points.  Currently, if multiple squads are in combat with the enemy, any kills (ie, pain points that would be given to the DE player) must be assigned randomly.  So you could get 2 to the Wyches, 2 to the Hellions, or 1 to each... but you don't choose.  This way, the Wyches get the BA point (if they win) and the Hellions get the Priest point (nice ring to it, yeah?).  Controlling who gets these points along the way is a tactic in and of itself, and while I tend to let the cards fall as they will, if you can manipulate it, you can get big benefits from it.

Movement.  H&R gives you a potential 18" move in whatever direction you want, and Hellions have the added bonus of ignoring terrain for it.  An average of 9-10" in any direction is not usually seen as a bad thing.  Think of the objectives you can close on, the next-turn-assaults you can line up.  The cover you can get behind.  This, friends, plus the extra d6" you're likely to get after the opponent's assault phase, is nothing but a good thing.

Perfect Timing.  DE love to assault you, kill most of you, and then finish you off in your own assault phase so that they're safe from a turn of shooting.  Granted, most things love to do this, but being a base T3 5+ save army means we *really* love it.  This move sets you up about as perfectly as you could ask for to make this work.

Maneuver the Second:  The Strong IC

Marine Commanders (particularly any in Terminator armor), or anything a bit tougher or with more of a close combat specialty, will fall into this group.  Word to the wise, though, don't expect the Hellions themselves to fare so well after pulling this one off.

The idea is the same, for the most part.  The main difference is that the Hellions want to Hit and Run at the end of the opponent's assault phase as well (as you don't expect them to kill this guy off).  There's a decent chance that they'll be falling back instead - again, this can be more of a trade, and many will tell you only to do this with a squad that's meant to be sacrificial in the first place.

In the end, though, after two successful H&R moments, what you are left with is an enemy IC, out in the open, at the top of your turn.  Enter the Dark Lance.  Exit enemy commander.  Gone is the noble death of combat, but present is a smoldering slag crater that used to be your hero.  If you absolutely need that shot at the enemy commander, then this is the ace up your sleeve.  You can pull a librarian out of a squad to shut down his powers for the rest of the game (who needs a psychic hood?), or just get that uber-deadly CC HQ monster taken care of with relatively minimal losses on your end (one squad is better than 3, as they say).

Not a tactic for the weak of will (or stomach), but a tactic nontheless.

Of course, you could just take an Agoniser.  In the end, both have their uses... and in the end, I like the idea of pulling a commander away from his buddies, kicking and screaming.  But that's just the dark side talking.


  1. Huh, that is something for me to think about as a non-DE player... It's always good to know these kind of strategies so you can counter them!

  2. I can think of a couple of more reasons to pull out the stun claw vs. a Sanguinary Priest type of unit-buff character.

    1) It's possible for a canny player to keep a Sang Priest out of harm's way by moving him away from the enemy before the unit that he's attached to assaults. After the charge, this puts him at the back of the blob where it's harder to get models into combat with him, but he's still giving FNP to the squad.

    Grabbing him out of the squad is an effective way of isolating/killing him where it would be difficult otherwise.

    2) If the character in question is giving the unit he's attached to a higher leadership than normal (or stubborn/fearless) and you want that unit to run after it's beaten in combat. Pull him out and then wail on them. Such as Yarrick or a Lord Commissar leading a squad of Ogryns.

    Or maybe you don't want Dante leaving combat and then charging back in with his full squad of Honor Guard/Sanguinary Guard.

  3. @Sandwyrm
    Keep in mind, with the recent core rules update, it is much harder to keep your ICs OUT of the fight by hiding in the back now. The rest of the squad has to move out of the way to make room for them on the front line, so you get at least one dude in base contact. One dude isn't a reliable kill by any means, but it's still danger.

  4. @Dino

    That update makes it very difficult to keep an IC out of danger if the squad he's in is receiving a charge. But it's still possible to keep an IC out of combat for a turn if you're the one assaulting and you can move the IC far enough away in the movement phase to make it work.

  5. The only Pro I see is that the Strong IC can then beat down the hellions and be exposed in the DE turn of shooting. Any IC I carry would probably pummel them pretty quickly.

  6. @ Spaguatyrine

    Very true. Harder characters are more likely to have a hayday with the Hellion squad during your own assault phase - but in this case they are probably likely to have done it in the prior assault anyway.

    This way, either the Hellions (magically) win combat (or at least - and still magically - hold their ground) and can H&R, or they fall back and/or just die, and either way you're out in the open, with at best a cover save. Most IC's will still drop from a S8 weapon to the face, so if it's a matter of let some big nasty run through my warriors' ranks, or have one unit take it for the team so that my big guns can have a pot shot, I know which I'd be voting for.


out dang bot!

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