Hear Me Out, Rob: Big Yellow Tank

There’s more to 40k than just grinding out endless RTTs and rolling on endless Maelstrom tables for wacky results. In Hear Me Out, Goonhammer authors explore building offbeat lists and playing with new concepts, and put those concepts to the test in a game environment. This week, Jack “BenBooley” Hunter is rather excited by the points drop the Astraeus got in Chapter Approved 2019.

Welcome to my first trip through this craziness, but far from my first crazy list. I like big tanks (and no, I cannot lie), so I just finished painting up my second Astraeus tank, this time for my Imperial Fists. The last few months have seen the Astraeus getting an awful lot of improvements, first getting access to chapter tactics and the doctrines in the updated Codex: Space Marines, and then a 100 point drop in Chapter Approved. This week it’s time to toss one in a list and take it for a spin.

Imperial Fists Astraeus Super-heavy Tank
Imperial Fists Astraeus Super-heavy Tank. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Astraeus needed an awful lot of help – it was overpriced, underdefended, and not particularly powerful offensively. As Imperial Fists, I’m getting a lot of extra damage – outside of the lone storm bolter every weapon is heavy, giving me a lot of improvement from my doctrine. The main gun alone is an increase of 12 potential damage. A Master of the Forge Techmarine doubles up on defensive and offensive improvements, boosting it to BS 2+ and healing 3 wounds a turn.

The List

+++Jack’s Imperial Fists – 2,000 points+++

Imperial Fists Battalion Detachment (+2 CP)

HQ: Primaris Chapter Master w/ Plasma Pistol, Relic: Fist of Terra, Stratagem: Sentinel Of Terra: Indomitable & Hand of Dorn (-3 CP)
HQ: Primaris Lieutenant w/ Master-crafted Stalker Bolt Rifle

Troops: Intercessors x10 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles, Thunder Hammer
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles, Power Fist
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles, Power Fist

Elites: Terminator Squad x5 w/Cyclone Missile Launcher

Imperial Fists Battalion Detachment (+2 CP)

HQ: Techmarine w/ Storm Bolter, Power Axe, Servo Arm, Stratagem: Master of the Forge, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter: Master of Machines (-2 CP)
HQ: Librarian w/ Bolt Pistol, Force Stave, Relic: Tome of Malcador (-1 CP)

Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles, Power Fist
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles, Power Fist
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles, Power Fist

Heavy Support: Whirlwind w/ Vengeance Launcher
Heavy Support: Whirlwind w/ Vengeance Launcher
heavy Support: Eliminator Squad w/ 3x Bolt Sniper Rifle

Imperial Fists Super-Heavy Auxiliary Detachment (+0 CP)

LoW: Astraeus Super-heavy Tank w/ Plasma Eradicators, Twin Heavy Bolter, 2x Ironhail Heavy Stubber

+++Total CP: 7+D3+++

Jack's Imperial Fist Army
Jack’s Imperial Fist Army. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Theory

  • The Astraeus puts out a ton of damage. With Tank Hunters it can wound pretty much anything in the game on a 3+ or better, has enough AP to force things onto invulnerable saves, and each shot hits hard enough that it doesn’t take many to kill things. The profile on the main gun is also great against heavy infantry.
  • I’ve got enough range that I can at least start the game with the Astraeus hanging back near the Whirlwinds. I can keep all my bonuses hitting both of them for at least a turn or two, giving me a chance to use them to take out light armor or targets out of line-of-sight.
  • At -3 to charge distance I can anchor an entire flank with the Astraeus. Even a Blood Angels Slam Captain coming out of deep strike will need to think twice about making that charge, so my Intercessors can focus elsewhere.
  • 35 stalker bolt rifle Intercessors are great at clearing out heavy infantry and T7 vehicles, so the Astraeus can concentrate on the tough targets – or they can peel the last few wounds off something the Astraeus didn’t quite kill.
  • The Librarian mostly exists to toss Might of Heroes on the Astraeus, pushing it up to T9. That’s a huge break point against common antitank options like Battle Cannons and Lascannons, keeping it in the fight as long as possible. Tome of Malcador gives me one power from a different discipline he has access to – so depending on the game I can either take two from Librarius and one from Geokinesis or vice-versa.

    Imperial Fists Librarian
    Imperial Fists Librarian. Credit: Jack Hunter
  • Terminators can either anchor the list against hordes with the highest volume of fire in the army, or be held in deep strike to take rear objectives or score linebreaker. I built this list with Chapter Approved 2019 missions in mind, and a lot of them encourage mobility.
  • My biggest worries are trying to take out hordes and lists with the firepower to take the Astraeus down in one shooting phase. It’s big enough that it can be very tough to hide entirely out of LOS, and if I’m going second I don’t have time to get Might of Heroes up.

This list is really all-in on the Astraeus. Either it works and tears up antitank quickly, then becomes untouchable, or it dies immediately and leaves me on the back foot. In theory I should be able to have it sitting on the back of the table with the Whirlwinds, and I can start taking units off the table immediately. My biggest fear is having to play the Ascension mission – my characters aren’t going to find themselves on mid-field objectives very quickly, and I don’t have a good way to deal with someone else’s character camping an objective from the beginning of the game. I’m going to need to be careful with my deployment of my Terminators to counter that possibility.

What say you, Rob?

Rob: Hell yeah! Now I’m the one giving list advice. This will absolutely not be a bad idea in any way and I’m sure everything will work out great.

In all seriousness, it’s an interesting concept. It may not surprise you to find out that you aren’t the first person to think about the Astraeus in a competitive setting since the new Codex: Space Marines dropped, and with good reason — previously, the tank just didn’t pack enough firepower to really get there, making it just another overpriced Lord of War option. But give that thing an extra 1 point to the AP of all its guns and now we’re talking. Shave another hundred points off the cost with Chapter Approved and you’ve even got an option that’s starting to look real tempting. 

 When we started tracking army compositions back in November, I ran across two Marine lists that placed in the top 8s of major events or went 4-1 or better that ran the Astraeus. Both were Iron Hands/Iron Hands Successors; one was Kieran Howlett’s Iron Hands List, which placed 3rd at the Middle of Nowhere GT in early October. That list used pre-nerf Feirros and the Ironstone to make the tank near-indestructible, filling out the rest of the list with Scouts and Invictors. The other list was Erik Damborg’s Red Scorpions (Iron Hands Successors) list run at the Malmö Wargaming Weekend IV GT, where he went 4-1 with a list that packed Intercessors, Eliminators, and a Relic Leviathan as supporting fire. Those both did well prior to the Iron Hands nerfs, but it’s not as though the Astraeus sees a massive benefit from running as Iron Hands or Successors. The re-roll on hit rolls is great, but unlike the Jet-heavy list, keeping up with the Astraeus isn’t so big an issue and it already has Power of the Machine Spirit. So I like the idea of moving it over to Imperial Fists, where it may lose the ability to nearly always act with a higher profile and some heavy-duty healing, but instead gains +1 damage to all its guns when firing in Devastator Doctrine at Vehicles and you can make up for the BS 3+ and degrading BS by dropping Tor Garadon next to him, so you’re always firing at full Ballistic Skill. And as you pointed out, you can also throw the Tank Hunters Stratagem on the thing to get it wrecking vehicles even more.

Full caveat before I drop my list here, though: I’m much less sure of myself when it comes to running Marines than I am with Chaos. That said, I think I’d cut the Terminators (who never seem to do enough) and favor something that lets me take out threats from every angle. The goal isn’t to castle completely, but rather to dominate a section of the table with really nasty overlapping fields of fire from the Intercessors, the Astraeus, and Thunderfire Cannons, which can be hidden behind the Astraeus in a pinch. I also worry you might be spending too much CP on pre-battle upgrades. This list is high on drop counts, but if we’re playing with the new CA19 missions anyways, that doesn’t matter. In ITC or at NOVA, I might try and pare it down a little bit.

+++Robert’s Imperial Fists – 1,996 points+++

Imperial Fists Battalion Detachment (+4 CP)

HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield, Relic: Master-Crafted
HQ: Librarian in Phobos Armour, Force Sword, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter – Hand of Dorn

Troops: Intercessors x10 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles
Troops: Intercessors x9 w/Bolt Rifles
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles

Imperial Fists Spearhead Detachment (+1 CP)

HQ: Phobos Lieutenant, Warlord: Target Priority

Heavy Support: Eliminator Squad w/ 3x Bolt Sniper Rifle
Heavy Support: Eliminator Squad w/ 3x Bolt Sniper Rifle
Heavy Support: Thunderfire Cannon
Heavy Support: Thunderfire Cannon
Heavy Support: Thunderfire Cannon

Imperial Fists Supreme Command Detachment (+1 CP)

HQ: Tor Garadon
HQ: Lieutenant w/MC Bolter + Chainsword
HQ: Techmarine w/Bolter + Chainsword

LoW: Astraeus Super-heavy Tank w/ Plasma Eradicators, Twin Heavy Bolter, 2x Ironhail Heavy Stubber

+++Total CP: 9+D3+++

Jack: There are some aspects of that list I’m a big fan of, and a few things that concern me. Keeping 24 Intercessors in, even with the smaller squads, is great to keep my body count up, and the 9 man squad having regular bolt rifles helps me control larger squads. I might split the 10 man squad into 2 5 man squads, which would help me hold additional objectives. I’m unlikely to be spending the 3CP to turn them into snipers. The Eliminator and TFC battery is going to give me a ton of board control from cover, especially with the eliminators being able to ignore LOS if needed, and the Phobos lieutenant can buff one of the squads up to hit on 2s. That said, the Astraeus is the only real antitank in the list, which worries me. While Imperial Fists have a ton of ability to hurt armor, lacking much shooting at at least strength 7 will leave me open to the vagaries of the dice more than I’d like.

Rob: That’s a fair point, though you have the Smash Captain to take out heavily-armored targets that get too close. The biggest issue I think my list will have is probably dealing with double-thermal Chaos Knights lists, which is the major area you’re going to find lots of T8 targets to worry about. Swapping out the TFCs for Whirlwinds would likely be a fine play too.


The Test

I met up with Cristian, running a mix of Astra Militarum and Dark Angels, to give this list the first test. He was rolling with a fairly standard Emperor’s Fist tank company, a battalion of Guardsmen, and a squad of Ravenwing Knights in a Land Raider. While I was celebrating at seeing a Land Raider on the board, he did have an awful lot of T8 tanks for me to chew through.

Cristian's Astra Militarum Army
Cristian’s Astra Militarum Army. Credit: Jack Hunter

Cristian’s List

+++Cristian’s Guard – 2,000 points+++

Armageddon Battalion Detachment (+3 CP)

Stratagem: Operative Requisition Sanctioned (-2 CP)

HQ: Company Comander w/ Boltgun, Chainsword
HQ: Company Comander w/ Boltgun, Chainsword

Troops: Infantry Squad w/ Plasma Gun, Sgt w/ Boltgun
Troops: Infantry Squad w/ Plasma Gun, Sgt w/ Boltgun
Troops: Infantry Squad w/ Plasma Gun, Sgt w/ Boltgun
Troops: Militarum Tempestus Scions w/ 2x Hot-Shot Volley Gun, Tempestor w/ Bolt Pistol, Chainsword

Elites: Astropath w/ Laspistol, Nightshroud
Elites: Astropath w/ Laspistol, Psychic Barrier

Heavy Support: Heavy Weapons Squad w/ 3x Mortar
Heavy Support: Heavy Weapons Squad w/ 3x Missile Launcher

Dedicated Transport: Chimera w/ Heavy Bolter, Multilaser, Storm Bolter
Dedicated Transport: Chimera w/ Heavy Bolter, Multilaser, Storm Bolter
Dedicated Transport: Chimera w/ Heavy Bolter, Multilaser, Storm Bolter

Catachan Spearhead Detachment (-1 CP)

Stratagem: 1 Additional Relic (-1 CP)
Specialist Detachment: Emperor’s Fist Tank Company (-1 CP)

HQ: Tank Commander w/ Hammer of Sunderance, Heavy Bolter, Storm Bolter

Heavy Support: Leman Russ Demolisher w/ Demolisher Cannon, Heavy Bolter, Storm Bolter
Heavy Support: Leman Russ Battle Tank w/ Battle Cannon, Heavy Bolter, Storm Bolter
Heavy Support: Leman Russ Conqueror w/ Heavy Bolter, Conqueror Battle Cannon

Dark Angels Vanguard Detachment (1 CP)

HQ: Master w/ Heavennfall Blade, Storm Shield, Jump Pack, Warlord: Brilliant Strategist

Elites: Deathwing Ancient w/ Pair of Lightning Claws
Elites: Ravenwing Apothecary w/ Bike, Plasma Talon
Elites: 5x Deathwing Knights

Heavy Support: Land Raider w/ Storm Bolter, Twin Heavy Bolter, 2x Twin Lascannon

+++Total CP: 6+++

I’m prepping this list for a tournament using the Chapter Approved 2019 missions, so we rolled up an Eternal War mission. As I mentioned earlier, my biggest fear is playing Ascension… so of course that’s what I rolled. I was the Attacker for this mission, which meant I was deploying first and going first (unless, of course, he managed to seize). This is pretty much what I want, assuming I can’t deploy second and go first – while he’d have a chance to deploy out of LOS, the Astraeus is huge and moves 12″, so I could likely get whatever target I wanted into sight.

I was most worried about his Master w/ Jump Pack. High movement on it would let him grab an objective early and I wasn’t convinced of my ability to push him back off it, since I couldn’t deploy in response to him.

We ended up with Dawn of War deployment, and both of us put our objectives about as close to the center as possible, just over 15″ away. I picked one end of the board to go heavy on, mostly determined by where the Astraeus would fit and what would give me decent sight lines, though unfortunately it left my objective more exposed. In hindsight, I should’ve traded the sight lines for starting near the better blocked objective – even as I cleared screens I had a lot of trouble targeting the units holding the third objective.

My Deployment
My Deployment

Turn One

I thankfully don’t get seized on, so I’m all set up to start shooting. I want to keep the Deathwing Knights away from me as long as possible, so my priority target is to take out the Land Raider. Popping Tank Hunters I unload everything from the Astraeus on it, and it explodes before I’ve shot anything but the main gun. A waste of some firepower, but I really wanted to get that done. I shot my whirlwinds at his Tank Commander, but only got 3 wounds on him despite using Suppression Fire. They don’t have enough shots to make shooting up into a 5+ to-wound viable, and I didn’t make that mistake again later in the game.
Half my Intercessors did great things and took out a Chimera on their own, a perfect example of why Imperial Fist stalker bolt rifles need to cost more than $free. The other half all rolled ones and twos for their advances to try to make it to objectives, leaving me holding just one objective instead of the three I’d intended.

Cristian’s turn had saw his Tank Commander and regular Leman Russ take shots at my Astraeus for a grand total of 3 damage, with the Demolisher stuck slightly out of range and taking shots at the Terminators along with the Conqueror. The Deathwing Knights weren’t stuck as far back as I’d been hoping, and managed to get a charge off on the Intercessors I’d pushed up to grab a turn 1 objective, killing them with little difficulty and conssolidating into my remaining terminators, who hit with 0 of their power fists.

We both scored for First Strike and holding one objective (with him holding his with a character)

Score: 2-2

Turn Two

Imperial Fist Intercessors stare down a Chimera
Imperial Fist Intercessors stare down a Chimera. Credit: Jack Hunter

With psychic powers giving the Tank Commander +1 armor save, -1 to hit, and an additional -1 to hit from using the Shoot and Shroud order during his shooting phase I disregarded trying to kill it, even though it was the tank I was most concerned with. Instead, I (de)focussed my firepower on the Conqueror and Demolisher, putting the main gun + Tank Hunters into the Conqueror, and the plasma + incidental weapons into the Demolisher. I left the Demolisher at 1 wound, and the Conqueror found itself extremely evaporated.

The Intercessors continued doing fun things in finishing off the damaged Demolisher and another Chimera. I was now set up confidently on two of the three objectives, but worried about his character sitting on the third. My terminators were nearby, flailing ineffectually at the Deathwing Knights, but as soon as we hit the fight phase they ended up dead. I charged an intercessor suqad into the blob of guardsmen to distract them off my objective, unfortunately wiping it with morale instead of attacks so I couldn’t consolidate further in.

His second turn rolled better for damage onto my Astraeus, bringing it down to 16w (the most damaged it would get through the game). The Deathwing Knights continued their rampage, hitting a squad of my Intercessors and wiping most of the squad. I lost 4 members of my aggressive Intercessor squad to shooting from guardsmen, after which the remaining sergeant got charged. Happily for me, they were entirely unable to kill him, and he started laying into them with his power fist.

His Master continued to stand on the objective he’d held the previous turn, scoring him two points for the single objective.

Score: 4-4

Turn Three

An Imperial Fists Astraeus lines up shots on renegade Leman Russes
An Imperial Fists Astraeus lines up shots on renegade Leman Russes. Credit: Jack Hunter

At this point the majority of his army had departed the mortal realms, with the Tank Commander, standard Leman Russ, one Chimera, half the Deathwing Knights, and some guardsmen remaining. I repeated my actions on the previous turn, using the Astraeus to remove both the tanks and taking out the Chimera with Intercessors. Without any remaining light tanks or significant units hiding in cover I was free to turn the Whirlwinds on the Deathwing Knights, and some lucky rolling bagged me half the squad. My brave sergeant continued to be unkillable by guard melee, so once again I hold two objectives without contest.

His guardmen stepped back from my intercessor, and ordered by their commander disregarded their flight, lasgunning him to death. Cristian’s Master continues with the exact thing that terrified me at the start of the game, standing on an objective while being too screened for me to get to him. He would now score three points while I only scored two.

Score: 6-7

Turn Four

All I’ve got left to shoot at are Guard squads,Scions, Deathwing Knights and characters (and a mortar team hiding in a building, but they didn’t have any significant game impact). Instead of keeping my Librarian with the Astraeus I moved him towards the Deathwing Knights, where I could try to blow them up with his brain. I rolled boxcars for Chasm, doing three wounds to the Librarian himself, but also rolled high enough to put three mortal wounds on the Knights. A quick cast of Smite luckily left his brains firmly inside his head, and finished off the Knights. I drove my Astraeus forward as far as I could, getting me LOS on the Master, but I’d need to work through a Scion squad and two squads of Guardsmen before I could actually shoot him. Sadly, despite my best efforts, there were still a few Guardsmen alive when it came time to activate the Astraeus, so it had a little fun with overkill.

I needed that Master to be taken off the objective, so my last option this turn was to charge him with the Astraeus. I’d managed to get pretty close – only needing a 6″ charge, and it’s not half bad in melee. Sadly I mirrored my earlier psychic test, rolling snake eyes, and wasn’t going anywhere.

Without many units remaining, his Astropaths shot laspistols my Astraeus while his mortar team lit up an intercessor squad of mine running for linebreaker. The Master was still standing on his objective, continuing to outscore me.

Score: 8-11

Turn Five

With almost nothing left alive on his side, my Astraeus was finally able to kill the Master, and my Whirlwinds took out the mortar team. Some running Intercessors secured Linebreaker, and I was able to have a a character sit on an objective for multiple turns, so I was confident I could come back from my points deficit.

As his last remaining model, his Company Commander tossed a krak grenade at my Astraeus then charged it, where he was quickly evaporated by Overwatch.

Final Score: 14-11


The Results

Although I had a commanding lead on the table, I struggled a lot to actually score points, as I’d expected in this mission. I was lucky that I was able to force the three squads of Guardsmen away from the center objective, if I hadn’t been able to hold it for most of the game I’m not sure I would’ve been able to come back even after wiping out Cristian’s army.

  • The Astraeus rips. I was never concerned about its ability to kill anything I pointed it at. It took out two Russes a turn no sweat, and on the first turn I could most likely have taken out the Land Raider + a Russ if I’d had a better idea of what the main gun does.
  • Imperial Fist Intercessors are great. Although they don’t have a whole lot of shots, their versatility to shoot T7 vehicles let me keep the Whirlwinds shooting targets out of LOS. Against larger units I could always charge in to take advantage of having three attacks per model.

    Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad
    Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter
  • Terminators are useless. Their weapons are mostly Rapid Fire, which doesn’t synergize with the doctrine I want the rest of my army in, their one heavy weapon degrades when they move, and they don’t have any melee reliability.
  • A single squad of Eliminators in ineffective. I need to be taking multiple squads to make them effective. Just three models can’t reliably eliminate characters quickly, and doesn’t absorb enough firepower to make a great distraction.

I’m quite happy with how this list worked out. I’m going to experiment with dropping the Terminators for something else that fills a similar role, as I want to keep some ability to pressure from a different angle than the rest of my army. One idea I’m tossing around is dropping one of the Whirlwinds or the Eliminators to let me take a pair of Invictors.

I like that so far you’ve managed to keep up the tradition of not losing like a chumpass mark when playing with your Hear Me Out list. I mean, what kind of clown-ass nobody would spend all that time theorizing and building a list and fielding it only to then go lose their test game and then write 3,000 words about it? I like that the Whirlwinds put in work for you, and I think I agree now that they can be a better call as support for your Astraeus than Thunderfire Cannons, which may be overkill on the anti-infantry guns. I wanted the Terminators to work out for you, but I’m not surprised they didn’t, and I think adding a pair of Invictors is a strong play.

It would be really awkward if I put all this effort into a list just to have it fail. People might think I’m from one of the Dakotas or something. While I don’t actually have either two Invictors or everything from your list painted up at this point, I have made a few tweaks to this list to create generation two. I’ll be attending a tournament running this list on Saturday, check back next week for a report of how it went. The tournament was unfortunately sold out, but I did get in a practice round with the revisions to this list. Check them out in part two! As always, if you have any questions, comments, feedback, or vitriolic abuse, hit us up in the comments below, on Facebook, or fire it off to contact@goonhammer.com and we’ll respond in kind.