Warlord Wednesdays: Knight Fighting

Warlord Wednesdays: Knight Fighting

As you may have noticed from our previous Adeptus Terrainicus articles, Goonhammer contributor and all-around great fellow Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms has started playing Adeptus Titanicus. However, he ran into a bit of a snag and asked for some advice.

One of his most frequent opponents is running a particularly nasty Knight Household list that’s been giving him a lot of trouble, and he asked us for advice. After sending us the lists in play and telling us how things usually go, we’ve put our heads together and are here with some advice on how to approach this matchup.

The Challenger

CSM is running Legio Fureans, and has a pretty broad swath of options available to him. Here’s his go-to list:

Legio Fureans Precept Battleline Maniple (1,650 points)

Warlord Battle Titan

    • Belicosa Volcano Cannon – 55 pts
    • Mori Quake Cannon – 20 pts
    • Apocalypse Missile Launchers – 15 pts
    • Princeps Seniores

Warbringer-Nemesis Battle Titan

  • Laser Blaster – 25 pts
  • Volcano Cannon – 25 pts
  • Mori Quake Cannon – 20 pts
  • Hunting Auspex – 20 pts

Reaver Battle Titan

  • Melta Cannon – 35 pts
  • Volcano Cannon – 25 pts
  • Apocalypse Missile Launcher – 10 pts

Warhound Scout Titan

  • Plasma Blastgun – 30
  • Vulcan Megabolter – 10

Warhound Scout Titan

  • Plasma Blastgun – 30
  • Vulcan Megabolter – 10
Legio Fureans Reaver
Legio Fureans Reaver. Credit: genola

All in all, this is a pretty solid list, if a little stacked toward long-ranged firepower. 

The Champion

CSM’s opponent is running a Knight Household list. Here’s the highlights:

Knight Household Battlegroup (1650 points)

Lance A (800 points)

Cerastus Knight Banner – 440pts

    • 4x Lancers
    • High King – Xenos Sympathiser
    • Raider’s Flag

 

Cerastus Knight Banner – 180pts

  • 2x Acherons

Cerastus Knight Banner – 180pts

  • 2x Castigators

Lance B (510 points)

Questoris Knight Banner – 180pts

  • 1x Melee, Thermal Cannon, Stormspear
  • 2x Melee, Thermal Cannon

Questoris Knight Banner – 180pts

  • 1x Melee, Rapid Fire Battlecannon, Stormspear
  • 2x Melee, Rapid Fire Battlecannon

Questoris Knight Banner – 150pts

  • 3x Melee, Avenger Battlecannon

Auxiliary Support Banners (350pts)

Acastus Knight Banner – 350pts

  • 2x Porphyrions

It’s pretty uncommon to see Knight Households on the table so let’s review how this one list works. Households are restricted quite heavily with list construction, having to take three banners per lance which all fill a similar role as they need to maintain coherency with one another.

Castigator Knights. Credit – Soggy

 

As a result, it’s pretty common to see lists similar to this one at this point limit. Where it gets interesting is the selection of traits, wargear and stratagem. And by interesting, we mean incredibly optimised with some questionable readings – but we’ll get to that…

The High King’s presence on the battlefield is immense. Their banner is Unshakeable, avoiding one of Knights’ biggest weaknesses, allowing them to always pull off the charge and stay at full effectiveness. In addition to this, they also get a personal trait and can opt to take Lance banners which can further amplify their power.

The Oblitus alignment gives access to easily one of the best Knightly Qualities, Xenos Sympathiser.  This allows the High King’s banner to always roll a 6+ ion save with a reroll, regardless of the strength of the weapon – this pairs with the Lancer’s Shield meaning you always get rerollable 5+ saves even against the Warmaster Titans’s Suzerains.

The High King’s banner also carries the Raider’s Flag, which gives all banners who are within 6” of the carrier  -1 hit from all attackers using short range on their attacking weapon. This is a great ability on Cerastus, whose agility gets them into close range and charging their foes as quickly as possible.

This combination puts the High King’s banner at a hefty 440 points, putting it on par points wise with a Warlord, for an incredibly fast and slippery glass cannon. If only this was where the stacking of abilities ended.

The pièce de résistance of this Battlegroup on the table is the use of the Dawn Attack stratagem, which limits opposing Titans’ range in the first two battle rounds. And even once they’re close enough to attack, those Lancers are tough to crack thanks to Xenos Sympathiser and the Raider’s Flag giving them some surprising durability.

Hang on, go back a minute – Dawn Attack?!?

Yeah, you heard that right. Normally, we’d advise against taking this strat due to how expensive it is, but here it kinda makes sense. First, Knights almost always come into a game with an SP advantage, and by taking a High King, that advantage only gets larger, so the 3SP cost doesn’t hurt as much as it might otherwise. Using it to deny a turn or two of shooting is a neat trick that could potentially solve one of the biggest vulnerabilities Knight Households have – their vulnerability to high-strength long-ranged fire.

Condit: Dawn Attack is a very cool narrative stratagem, but making a sneak attack like that isn’t very knightly…

OK. So how does Dawn Attack even work?

Good question. The strat provides that “Titans must roll (D6 + 1) x 5 to determine how many inches they can see – only enemies within this range can be targeted.” However, it’s not exactly clear when you roll: is it a single roll for all Titans when the strat is played? Or does each Titan roll when the strat is played and stick to this number? Or is the range determined whenever the Titan decides to try to fire? We think it’s probably the last option: when a Titan goes to fire a weapon, it rolls to see how far it can see in the darkness. This can be anywhere from a meagre 10” up to a somewhat respectable 35”, and you’ll more often than not be able to shoot at least 20” away. Keep that in mind, because it’s important.

Does Dawn Attack even work?

Of course, there’s something that’s even more important, which is whether a Knight Household can even take this strat in the first place. The most recent rules for Questor Oblitus Households are in The Defence of Ryza, and they tell us that “[a] Questor Oblitus Household force can purchase Stratagems available to any Knight Household and to Questoris Oblitus Households.” So what stratagems are available to these households? 

Well, Doom of Molech provides Household Stratagems, and says “a Household force may only choose from the Stratagems listed here and a Titan Legion may only choose from the Stratagems listed in the Adeptus Titanicus rulebook.” Seems pretty straightforward. Just one problem: Dawn Attack isn’t in either list – it appears in the additional stratagems at the end of DoM.

Legio Fureans Warhound. Credit – Lupe

Unfortunately, that section isn’t helpful either. The closest we come to an actual ruling is the first paragraph: “This section adds a collection of new Stratagems for Princeps to bring to battle, complementing and expanding upon those in the Adeptus Titanicus rulebook.” So as written, since Doom of Molech’s additional stratagems are an expansion to the core rulebook’s stratagems and not to the knight household ones in Doom of Molech, Knights can’t take strats in that expansion, including Dawn Attack. Right?

Well, maybe. We’re now living in a brave new world with the release of Loyalist Legios, which not only includes rules for Legio Battlegroups, but reclassifies Household lists as “Household Battlegroups,” further complicating the question here. You see, the Stratagems section of Loyalist Legios includes all of the strats available to Loyalist Titan players to date, but whether they’re available to Household players is an open question. The closest we get to a ruling here is in the first paragraph: “The next few pages list Stratagems available to any battlegroup and those available exclusively to Loyalist battlegroups.” And Dawn Attack isn’t restricted. So maybe it’s available to Knights now? But if we go back to the Allegiances section of the book, there’s a key difference in the way the stratagems bit is phrased between Titan and Knight battlegroups: a Loyalist Titan Legion Battlegroup “can purchase Stratagems available to any allegiance or any Loyalist player,” while a Questoris Imperialis Household Battlegroup “can purchase Stratagems available to any Knight Household and to Questoris Imperialis Households.” So, maybe they can’t? The Stratagem section offers some implicit support for this proposition, saying only that “[a] Loyalist battlegroup can select their Stratagems from any of those listed in this section as well as any Legio Specific Stratagems,” but is silent on whether Questor Imperialis Household battlegroups (or any other Knight allegiance, for that matter) can pick from that list. And the fact that the list includes the strats from the core rulebook seems to add further credence to the idea that these strats are not for Knights.

At this point, I’m fucking over this bullshit. Let’s just pretend this never happened and assume that Knights can take the stupid strat because trying to untangle this is reminding me too much of my real job. Fuck.

Soggy: Having a Knight Household force myself, I have often gone through the above process to justify to myself one way or another as to how this is intended to work. Knight Households were bolted-on to the system after it’s launch and have always been a bit of an afterthought. I’ve normally settled with saying that they get access to all stratagems, excluding the core versions of the strats they got their own equivalent of. That said I would normally discuss this with my opponent and make sure they are of the same reading. (There are a bunch of other very iffy reads on some KH rules, but I digress)

This all aside, if you know your opponent is going to do this particularly cheesy strat every game there is a hard counter if you want to play hardball. Take Dominant Strategist and claim initiative at the start of the first Strategy phase, play Vox Blackout and drop the mic. That said the list still has plenty of teeth without it, but it would allow you to gunline up far more effectively.

Condit: The turn-one Dominant/Vox Blackout play definitely seems harsh, but so is this Household list. It’s also got the upside of denying the Knights the opportunity for Full Stride on round one, at the cost of taking away your ability to issue First Fire or other orders – unless, of course, you happen to be playing Honorum with a Stubborn Princeps Seniores.

Soggy: Knight Households need all the help they can get, but not like this. Not like this…

Fighting Back

They get the stupid stratagem, if only because I’m too tired of their bullshit to argue anymore. Time to talk tactics, then. With only a single banner of Acastus, this list’s long-ranged options are extremely limited. In order to get anything done with most of their list, they’re really going to need to focus on melee.

Fortunately for them, that’s not going to be a huge problem. With their 12” speed and solid melee weaponry, Cerastus pose the greatest melee threat here. The Lancers are particularly strong – the High King lets them re-roll 1s to hit with their lances, which combined with their effective WS of 2+ makes them downright scary in close. Expect them to go on Full Stride orders round 1 for 24” total movement, after which you’ll need to look out for their 14” threat range on the charge.

We can’t write off the Questoris, though, as their 10” move makes them respectably quick, and their Questoris Melee Weapons, while nothing sensational, are definitely strong enough to punish someone who forgets they’re there. And with one of the banners packing thermal cannons, they’ve got everything they need to deal horrific damage to anyone they’re able to close with.

So we need to kill them before they get close. Unfortunately, the Dawn Attack stratagem gets in the way here, drastically limiting the range at which we can shoot. This is especially painful, given that two of the weapons that would usually be a go-to for this role – the mori quake cannon and the belicosa volcano cannon – are two of the hardest hit by the contracted range here. The mori in particular hates this stratagem, as it means that while Dawn Attack is still active, any shots that it does manage to get off will probably be at short range and subject to a -1 penalty. 

Knight Household of Vornherr. Credit – Soggy

Of course, the hits that do get through are going to hurt, especially due to the large number of blast templates CSM’s maniple is throwing around. If you’re playing with any significant amount of terrain, it can be difficult to keep a Knight banner spread out enough to avoid a large blast template while still having them close enough to be able to move all the Knights close enough to attack their chosen target. Take advantage of that, and do what you can to funnel them into killzones you can take advantage of.

The key here is going to be managing range. Let’s assume that your opponent starts on the line of their deployment zone. That means that, on a 48”x48” table, they’re going to be somewhere around 32” from your deployment zone. Round 1, at least a handful of them will move 24” toward you. Assuming it’s a straight shot, that puts them about 8” from your deployment zone. This is, to put it lightly, not great, but there is an upside here: remember our discussion on Dawn Attack’s range? That means that if your opponent flat-out sprints toward you, they’re going to be within range of at least one of your Titans’ weapons – probably more if your deployment leans toward one side of the board.

You can mitigate this speed with weapons with the Quake and Concussive traits, like the mori quake cannons on your Warlord and Warbringer. The Quake trait will halve the Knights’ speed, and Concussive will drop another 3” off of that stat, setting Cerastus to 3” or Questoris to a measly 2”. Consider dropping a mori on one of the other banners in the High King’s lance – dropping one of his Lancemates to 3” move is going to limit how far he can get up the table due to having to maintain Lance coherency.

On the other hand, a lot of the power in this Knight list is tied up in one model: the High King with Xenos Sympathiser. If you can find a way to snipe this model out, it’d go a long way towards knocking the knees out from under this list. Fortunately, CSM has a solid model to take a stab at this with: his Warbringer. Between the volcano cannon and the mori, he’s more likely than not to be able to drop a couple points of damage onto the Cerastus, potentially putting them at risk of losing a Knight to the laser blaster. And as long as you’re more than 12” away, its Hunting Auspex will make its shots more accurate, allowing it to make Targeted Attacks against the High King on a 5+ before obscuration (thanks, Raider’s Flag). If you can deal enough damage to the banner so that it only has one or two structure points remaining, the odds of getting a laser shot through and getting a kill on the High King aren’t great, but they’re not unreachable, either.

Condit: Lasers are particularly useful for trying to snipe out Cerastus thanks to their Shieldbane (Draining) trait, which they can use to mitigate the value of the Knights’ Ion Shields. You’ll have to push the reactor to use it, but it’s worth it to cancel out the +1 they’ll get to saves from their Ion Gauntlet Shield.

Mr. Mushrooms is particularly well-positioned to take advantage of a situation like this with his Tiger Eyes – Offensive Surge, while expensive, will let you fire your strongest weapons twice when the opportunity presents itself. If you’re looking for overwhelming firepower – and here you definitely are – there are few ways to get more of it than this. Make sure to use it when you’ve got your Warlord and your Warbringer lined up to put as much high-powered damage into your opponents as possible.

Positioning-wise, use the Warhounds to run interference for your other Titans to plug up charge lanes and either serve as a roadblock or force the Knights to take the long way around to get to your larger Titans. Use their superior movement speed to close the game and offer shorter ranged charges that they’ll have a better chance of surviving – or combine with the Traitor allegiance’s Unbridled Hatred ability for a long-bomb charge from outside even the Lancers’ impressive threat range.

Condit: In a pinch, you can also throw the Reaver in to clog things up as well, but with how powerful the melta cannon is – particularly at short range with its Fusion trait – think twice before you sacrifice this piece.

While you’re dealing with all of the melee threats, don’t let yourself get distracted and forget about the Acastus in the back. Even two of those chonkers can do terrifying things to whatever they look at, especially if they’re allowed to go on First Fire or Split Fire orders. If you’re able to get a shot off on them turn one with either the Warlord or the Warbringer, we’d recommend putting one of those and possibly the Reaver into the Acastus to try to bring one down and keep the incoming long-ranged fire more manageable.

Legio Fureans Warhound and Reaver
Legio Fureans Warhound and Reaver. Credit: genola

There are a few other tricks worth talking about here, though. First, Knights on Charge orders have to move in a straight line, a restriction that Titans don’t share. If you position carefully, you can set yourself up to avoid charges from the Knights while potentially having the ability to counter-charge if they overextend. Use blocking terrain to your advantage, but keep in mind that Knights ignore difficult terrain.

More melee-focused lists will get mileage out of stratagems like War Lust, Bloodthirst, or Great Crusade Titans. Melee weapons are great options against Knights, though Raider’s Flag will be somewhat annoying here. However, if you can pull off a long-bomb charge against them, the weight of attacks can really do some damage, potentially neutering a lance before it has a chance to strike.

While the powerful blast weapons are definitely your go-to choices for killing Knights, there are other options that can work nearly as well. The sunfury plasma annihilator is a solid damage dealer into Knights even without maximal fire, and if you upgrade it with the Overcharged Cannon stratagem, it only gets stronger. Extergimus maniples can make just about any weapon you can shove on a Warlord extremely dangerous for Knights.

Chivalry is Dead

Hopefully the ideas we’ve talked about are helpful when thinking about how to fight back against Knight Household lists. They’re definitely an unusual force to have to face, and this particular combination is one of the nastiest we’ve seen. And while we’re not necessarily certain that stratagems like Dawn Attack can be used by Knight Household lists as the rules are written, if you and your opponent want to give it a spin, you should feel free to do so. Just be aware that a lot of these stratagems don’t seem to have been written with Knights in mind, so if the interaction with the Household forces rules seems a bit odd, there’s a reason for that. That being said, stratagems like Dawn Attack can lead to some incredibly fun and flavorful games that you and your friends will be talking about for years to come.