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Talk To Me About Grenade Launchers
Kakapo42
So during my bouts of hobby time while I wait for paint to dry I've been doing some brushing up on my Imperial books. It started in anticipation of finally starting on that Witchhunter army that's sitting in my backlog (coming 2022 with any luck), then branched out into thinking about what to do with any Space Marine models I come into as part of rescuing 3rd Edition starter boxes (Kakapo needs Jungle Trees and Battlefield Accessories badly)... then escalated from there.

Recently as part of all this buzz, my thoughts have turned again towards one of my age-old great curiosities of the Imperium in 40k: Imperial Guard Grenade Launchers.

See here's the thing. I want to like Grenade Launchers. I really do. I love that they're there as a nifty special mostly-unique alternative to the bog standard assault weapon trio of flamers, plasma guns and meltaguns. I can appreciate the concept as a cool nod to modern armies in Real Life. I get a profound sense of heritage from looking at all of the GW studio photos of all the different Imperial Guard infantry models and squads with them.

But when it comes to pondering what I'd ever do with an Imperial Guard army, I just can't seem to find a place for them outside of a token assault weapon gunner here and there for the sake of variety and lore-friendliness. In pretty much all circumstances I feel like I'd rather have the additional strength, AP and template attack of a flamer, or the tank-busting power of a meltagun, or the heavy infantry can-opening edge of a plasma gun.

I get that points are a thing, and the grenade launcher is fairly cheap, but then I go back to the flamer (no doubt in part at least from my Witchhunter perspective), which hits harder, auto-hits, ignores cover and has a moderately bigger template... all for two points less than a grenade launcher. Sure, the range is problematic, but if I'm moving my infantry forward to seize table quarters and attack the enemy in rapid-fire range firefights anyway then it doesn't strike me as that much of a drawback.

The crazy thing is that this is all in stark contrast to the grenade launcher's bigger brother, the missile launcher. I LOVE missile launchers. The only thing stopping them from being a staple for my Witchhunters is them not being a part of the bolter/melta/flamer trinity. In my eyes they are the perfect heavy weapon for a unit of troops, where they can contribute frag missiles when shooting opposing infantry and threaten tanks with krak missiles when needed, and they only seem even better in Imperial Guard Infantry Platoons where you can get them in enough numbers that you can guarantee at least one or two will be able to draw a bead on the side armour of whatever vehicle you want dead.

But those few little extra pips of Strength and AP seem like the 3% DNA difference between a human being and a Chimpanzee - not much, but it REALLY makes a difference.

Especially in Imperial Guard forces, where the baseline standard weapon is a Strength 3 lasgun. Compared to that, a Strength 3 frag grenade doesn't feel that valuable even with a blast template. A Strength 4 frag missile, on the other hand, feels more worth it in a unit of mostly lasguns. Likewise, a strength 8 AP 3 krak missile can knock out models in power armour or threaten vehicles, which lasguns can't really do, but a Strength 6 AP 4 krak grenade? I struggle to think of a situation where I wouldn't rather have a plasma gun instead, or a meltagun if I'm facing down something with Armour Values.

Like I say, I want to like grenade launchers, they seem so cool and flavourful, but something just isn't clicking in my head about them, and I still don't quite seem to be able to get them.

I've been pondering this for a few days, and tried looking to google for answers, but it seems like most of the discourse around them that's relevant for 3rd and 4th edition 40k has long since been buried. That was when it occurred to me that, well, there's this site here that's nominally focused on 3rd and 4th edition 40k (when it comes to talking about Warhammer 40,000 of course), and that it might be worth starting a dialogue about it.

Is there something I'm missing with grenade launchers? Have any of you had much experience with them? And if so, what's the secret ingredient to making them work, what genius tactical trick is there to getting the most out of them?

Or should I just give into my Witchhunter instincts and stay true to the righteous power of the flamer and meltagun instead?
Death to metaplots!
Naked Metal - my very own hobby blog. Go on, give it a visit, don't be shy!
 
Just Tony
There's a lot to be said about style over efficacy. My Miinotaur army is a testament to that.
Father, soldier, musician, Transformers fan, masochistic junior moderator type thing.
 
jonathan e
There's not a great deal left to say: you answered your own question. One more pip of Strength, and the krak grenade would have good odds of wrecking transports short of the Chimera. One more pip of SP, and it would pose a serious threat to those good ol' Marine Equivalent Kills. With neither, it's in that odd niche where it threatens other odd, niche picks.

My personal favourite special weapon for line units will always be the plasma gun. Same range band and fire type as the boltgun and lasgun, so the unit behaves cohesively on the field; lends extra wallop to a round of shooting against infantry, or can divert fire to light vehicles when necessary. Upsets Terminators and similar nasties, and that alone is worth the cost of entry. Minor risk of self-detonation deemed acceptable. Flamers and meltaguns have their place but to me they belong on pistol-slinging units that want to be closer in anyway.
SIXTH EDITION WFB STATS
VC original run: 20 / 6 / 21
VC comeback tour: 5 / 0 / 4
WE fresh start: 1/-/1

THIRD EDITION 40k STATS
to be confirmed...
 
https://maledicton.games
Kakapo42
Honestly even one more pip of Strength in the frag grenade would be enough for me to take them without hesitation, since that would at least make them an interesting alternative to the flamer (worse AP, but better range, needs to roll to hit and doesn't ignore cover, but has an interesting anti-AV10 secondary fire).

But when they hit more or less as hard as a lasgun or autogun, of which the Imperial Guard infantry squad already has an ample supply of? And they cost more than a flamer that kills infantry better? It starts getting harder to sell me on them.

As far as special weapons go I'm a very strong advocate of flamers and meltaguns. Meltaguns especially, because of the awesome in-universe write ups they got in the 4th and 3rd edition rulebooks, because I like my units to be multi-role in... well any strategy game really (it started with RTS titles where it was a long time before I mastered number groups), and also because they make a very helpful Dreadnought repellent that can also nuke Terminators and their ilk in a pinch. It also helps that the meltagun in Firewarrior is a lot of fun for all the 10-15 seconds its ammo lasts.

Of course if the squad has some kind of anti-big-thing heavy weapon already that changes the equation, and there I'm more inclined to favour the humble flamer - always hits, has enough kick to worry most infantry, doesn't care about cover and the template upsets the kind of massed swarms of light things I'm likely using anti-infantry shooting for anyway. And the write-up for them in the 4th edition rulebook was cool too. Also come on, it's a frelling flamethrower -they're always fun.

Or I just say "Why choose" and take both (or rather one of them and the bigger heavier counterpart of the other). Did I mention one of my main armies is Witchhunters/Sisters of Battle?

I can certainly appreciate the merits of plasma guns (it helps that they too are very fun in Firewarrior and got a cool writeup in a rulebooK), but the lore-bunny in me can never bring myself to take more than a modest smattering of what's supposed to be a rare long-lost relic of a more civilised age.

And it's the same inner lore-bunny that's a major lobbyist driving me to find some use or niche for grenade launchers. Because normally I'm all over rule of style/rule of cool choices, and these days tend to take no small amount of satisfaction from finding ways to make them work. Warhawk Riders were instrumental to my victory in the last Warhammer game I played, and I've managed to comfortable find viable plans for just about every ship in Battlefleet Gothic, including many long since written off by most. These days I'm delving into more and more of the close combat options available to Witchhunter armies.

So I find it particularly frustrating that grenade launchers continue to baffle me so. Because my experience has left me sure tehre must be some hidden trick or ploy that makes them shine, that the GW writers must have left them in for some reason beyond aesthetics/fun/style. And they look so spiffy, especially those old-school ones in the metal regiment ranges with their bright 1990s colour schemes.

So I suppose the question I'm really asking - and, in hindsight, what I probably should have opened with - is this:

I'm playing an Imperial Guard army in 3.5 or very early (ie 3.5 era codexes only) 4th edition, and for whatever reason I'm stuck with a bunch of grenade launchers in my infantry squads. Maybe they were the only assault weapon models I could find, maybe it's a loaner army from a person who really loves grenade launchers, maybe I've specifically modeled the army to fit a theme that makes extensive use of grenade launchers. Whatever the reason, I've got an abundance of them in my infantry platoons, I can't proxy them as anything else, and there's nothing I can do to swap them with anything else.

In the above scenario, how do I make the most of them? How do I fight with this grenade-launcher filled army and win? What are the insane ways I can make these square pegs fit round holes?
Death to metaplots!
Naked Metal - my very own hobby blog. Go on, give it a visit, don't be shy!
 
jonathan e
That's fair enough: I approach these things in the context of a Chaos Space Marine army, so everything is a barely functional relic of a war fought and lost ten thousand years and change ago. When one is among the moderns, one must surely think differently.

I think, then, that the chief advantage of the grenade launcher is that it's essentially another S3 antipersonnel gun with a decent range, and thus doesn't detract from the overall purpose of the squad lugging it about. If your army's antitank firepower is coming from dedicated units - weapon teams, Sentinels and whatnot - you have your bases covered and your squads are able to unload without worrying that the thing you paid points for is out of range/not aligned with a favourable target/wasted on blatting a Hormagaunt. And you can take potshots at a carelessly placed light transport if you need to, which is a bonus.

I don't recall much of the 3.5 Guard codex, and I don't wish to pick at the "theatre of rules" scab again (we did that last time), but I do wonder if there's not a suitable... what is it the Guard Codex calls them? Doctrine? I'm sure somewhere in there you can find some options that enable a grenadier regiment.
SIXTH EDITION WFB STATS
VC original run: 20 / 6 / 21
VC comeback tour: 5 / 0 / 4
WE fresh start: 1/-/1

THIRD EDITION 40k STATS
to be confirmed...
 
https://maledicton.games
Kakapo42
No luck with Doctrines unfortunately. The Grenadiers Doctrine in the codex goes along the 'elite soldiery a cut above the rank and file' connotations rather than the 'soldiers who carry a lot of grenades' meaning, and simply allows 0-3 Stormtrooper squads to be taken as Troops choices. If there is a Grenade Launcher focused Doctrine, it's out there in White Dwarf/Chapter Approved, and I haven't encountered it.

It sounds to me, then, like Grenade Launchers might occupy a similar niche to Stormbolters in Battle Sister squads? I can certainly understand the logic behind Stormbolters there - a little bit of extra antipersonnel shooting that gels with the bolters in the rest of the squad and can fire to full effect at maximum range while moving has its uses, especially in 3.5 where infantry shooting is heavily compromised by movement. It's largely wasted in my aggressive 'grab 'em by their belt-buckles' playstyle with Witchhunter armies, which tend to work better with flamers as an antipersonnel special weapon, but I can still appreciate why Stormbolters exist as an alternative.

If that be true, then I suppose Grenade Launchers would similarly work a little better in a more defensive role, where you're sitting somewhere important while the other side comes to you, since they can start dropping templates before a flamer can.

I'm still curious if there are any anecdotal tales out there of people who worked wonders with them in games, or better yet still do work wonders with them in games...
Death to metaplots!
Naked Metal - my very own hobby blog. Go on, give it a visit, don't be shy!
 
jonathan e
Kakapo42 wrote:
It sounds to me, then, like Grenade Launchers might occupy a similar niche to Stormbolters in Battle Sister squads? I can certainly understand the logic behind Stormbolters there - a little bit of extra antipersonnel shooting that gels with the bolters in the rest of the squad and can fire to full effect at maximum range while moving has its uses, especially in 3.5 where infantry shooting is heavily compromised by movement. It's largely wasted in my aggressive 'grab 'em by their belt-buckles' playstyle with Witchhunter armies, which tend to work better with flamers as an antipersonnel special weapon, but I can still appreciate why Stormbolters exist as an alternative.

If that be true, then I suppose Grenade Launchers would similarly work a little better in a more defensive role, where you're sitting somewhere important while the other side comes to you, since they can start dropping templates before a flamer can.


That makes a lot of sense, and it correlates with the Guard army I remember opposing at the time. If it had to move, it was almost in formation - one squad advanced, one squad rapid fired, then vice versa - but in an ideal world the infantry would take up a covered position while three Leman Russ and a Kasrkin squad did the groundwork. I forget what the special weapon preferences were there, though: it was all so long ago.
SIXTH EDITION WFB STATS
VC original run: 20 / 6 / 21
VC comeback tour: 5 / 0 / 4
WE fresh start: 1/-/1

THIRD EDITION 40k STATS
to be confirmed...
 
https://maledicton.games
Kakapo42
I suppose then that it may also be relevant that I've been largely thinking about all this in the context of a No/Minimal Vehicle Imperial Guard army - No Russes, no Chimerae, just a solid mass of platoons with maybe a squadron or two of Sentinels. If I could find it in me to squeeze them in amongst the Rough Riders.

Optimised? Goodness no. Competitive? Maybe, but I could care less about that. Interesting and fun? Oh yes.

Under such a paradigm, which would see Infantry Platoons doing a lot more leg-work, I suspect the relative utility of the various special weapons might change somewhat compared to mopping up after 3 Leman Russes and co.
Death to metaplots!
Naked Metal - my very own hobby blog. Go on, give it a visit, don't be shy!
 
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