Unit Roles in 9th Edition – Position Holders

This article is part of our series looking at Unit Roles in 9th Edition. If you’ve just arrived, you might want to go check out the Introduction, which talks through what this series is about and how it’s going to work. Otherwise, read on.

Units in 9th Edition can usually be grouped into one of six roles, four “Primary” Roles and two “Secondary” Roles. The Primary Roles are crucial building blocks from which effective strategies are constructed, while units from Secondary Roles can either amplify the capabilities of other units or broaden the scoring options available to a list.

The roles are:

  • Primary Roles:
    • Position Holders
    • Brawlers
    • Elimination
    • Attrition
  • Secondary Roles:
    • Objective Utility
    • Force Multiplier

We will be running five articles that will be diving in to one or more roles, one each for the Primary Roles, then a joint piece for the Secondary Roles at the end. For each role, we’ll talk about what it is and how it’s used, some examples of standout units from it and how to play against it in the table. For each Primary Role, we’ll also take a look at a competitive army list that uses that role as the foundation of its strategy.

This is the first of those five articles, taking a look at the Position Holder role.

Primary Role – Position Holder

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

What They Were in 8th

Board Control, ObSec, Tarpit, Slot Fillers, Screening

What They Are

As their name suggests, position holders uh, hold positions. Specifically, they are units that have the ability to get onto an objective and take control of it for a meaningful amount of time, allowing you to rack up Primary objective points (or score relevant secondaries). Units you include in your list with this as their primary role generally aren’t serious damage dealers – some can hold their own against light offensive threats, but generally they’re going to lose if your opponent points serious damage dealers at them. That doesn’t super matter – these bring you value by:

  • Forcing your opponent to move valuable units to deal with them, allowing you to get your Elimination and Brawler units lined up to respond.
  • Soaking up firepower that could be pointed at your better units – good Position Holders are often either cheap and expendable or disproportionately durable for the price.
  • Raking points in when your opponent chooses to do neither of these things.

Within the role, I think there’s at least three identifiable sub-capabilities that bring different things to the table. Not all armies can do every one of these, and identifying which your Codex is good at can help shape your strategies.

  • Pawns: Units that can reliably jump straight to a midfield objective out the gate, and have a reasonable chance of lasting through a turn there, or will at least bait the enemy. Transports packed with troops and units that can “infiltrate” are great examples of this.
  • Tarpits: Your absurd bricks of wounds/other defences that might not shift even if your opponent points real firepower at them.
  • ObSec MSUs: Cheap, reasonably sturdy troops from factions that can put a lot of these down at an efficient price.

To play the objectives in 9th, you want to be able to make at least some sort of play for them out of the gate, then secure your control more thoroughly as the game proceeds. That means that a good “default” way of thinking about building these into your lists is that you’ll want some number of Pawns to take objectives out of the gate, then use either Tarpits, ObSec MSUs or units from the Brawler role to strengthen your grip.

It’s also worth saying that this is by far the easiest role for units from other roles to flex to when that’s all you need from them. Fundamentally, any unit is capable of sitting around looking pretty on an objective if anything that threatens them is dead.

Examples

White Scars Infiltrators Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

White Scars Infiltrators Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • Space Marine Infiltrators: They can start mid-table, they’re reasonably tough (being as they are Space Marines) and can wall off some of the ways your opponent might try to take a position thanks to their anti-Deep Strike bubble.
  • Beasts of Nurgle: The undisputed champions of the pure Tarpit role. Just an endless brick of wounds.
  • Battle Sisters: Cheap, ObSec, and usually surprisingly tough thanks to Imagifiers and invuln boosters (on top of their built-in 3+).
  • Serberys Raiders: Fast, highly efficiently costed, and great at avoiding the enemy’s Brawlers through Tactica Obliqua.

How to Respond

As long as your army hasn’t been completely devastated, it’s usually possible to shift Position Holders if you really want to. However, part of the value these bring to the table is that taking them out isn’t free – you have to point threats at them rather than your opponent’s Brawler and Elimination units, and may expose your own to counterattacks in doing so.

To maximise the benefits of doing so, you want to make sure that when you’re going after these, you’re actively “flipping” the objective they hold to your control, and you use your resources efficiently to do so. Taking control of objectives puts the “tempo” of the game in your hands, as it puts your opponent in the position of needing to act or fall behind in the scoring.

Primaris Vanguard Veterans. Credit: Rockfish

Primaris Vanguard Veterans. Credit: Rockfish

What “efficient” means can vary depending on the situation:

  • At a baseline, a big part of the value of Brawler units is that they can roll into Position Holders, take them out, and demand serious commitment to shift from there. Using the reach of a charge move to counterattack into enemy Pawns with Brawlers is often a great way to start the game, as it lets you start getting value from them immediately.
  • If you opponent is using a Tarpit, it may be worth considering if you can just trump their objective control with ObSec units of your own. Armies like Space Wolves that can put ObSec on super-tough units like ThunderCav can be very effective at this, and abilities that can switch off opposing ObSec are also helpful for making this feasible.
  • If Position Holders have strayed away from backup, fast melee Elimination units like Shining Spears might be able to take them out and seize the objective without exposing themselves to a counterattack. Being wary of the possibility of the counter is very important though – because if you get immediately rolled up in response, you’ve usually traded down.

Position Holders are, ultimately, speedbumps in the way of your success. Minimising the amount you have to slow down when you hit them will help you win.

Position Holders in Practice

Battle Sisters

Battle Sisters. Credit: Corrode

Most successful 9th Edition lists will make use of a mixture of the Primary Roles in building their battle plans, and Position Holders are no exception to that rule. Any of the following combinations are effective ways of deploying them:

  • Small numbers of Pawn Position Holders dash for objectives, baiting the enemy forward so that your Brawlers can get into the fray and take over the majority of objective control details.
  • Pawn and Tarpit Position Holders hold up the enemy long enough for your Attrition units to soften them up, then go in for the kill.
  • Large numbers of ObSec MSU or Tarpit Position Holders gum up the board, forcing the opponent to commit valuable units that can then be surgically taken out by your Elimination units.

For armies on the first and second options above, Position Holders are a means to an end rather than the centrepiece, and we’ll look at some armies on those plans in later articles. The last plan, however, makes high quality Position Holders much more central to the strategy, so let’s look at an army that uses that in practice.

Jordan Berresford’s Imperium

This list took third place at the Objective Secured Perth GT.

Outrider Detachment -3CP (Imperium – Death Korps of Krieg) [33 PL, 675pts, -3CP]

Regimental Doctrine: Death Korps of Krieg

HQ

Death Rider Squadron Commander [3 PL, 45pts]: Chainsword, Laspistol (-1cp kurovs Aquila)

Death Rider Squadron Commander [3 PL, 45pts]: Chainsword, Laspistol

Fast Attack

Death Rider Command Squadron [3 PL, 60pts] . 4x Death Rider Veterans: 4x Death Rider Hunting Lance, 4x Laspistol, 4x Savage claws

Death Rider Command Squadron [3 PL, 60pts] . 4x Death Rider Veterans: 4x Death Rider Hunting Lance, 4x Laspistol, 4x Savage claws

Death Rider Command Squadron [3 PL, 60pts] . 4x Death Rider Veterans: 4x Death Rider Hunting Lance, 4x Laspistol, 4x Savage claws

Death Rider Squadron [6 PL, 135pts] . 8x Death Korps Death Riders: 8x Death Rider Hunting Lance, 8x Frag & Krak grenades, 8x Laspistol, 8x Savage claws
. Ridemaster: Death Rider Hunting Lance, Laspistol

Death Rider Squadron [6 PL, 135pts] . 8x Death Korps Death Riders: 8x Death Rider Hunting Lance, 8x Frag & Krak grenades, 8x Laspistol, 8x Savage claws
. Ridemaster: Death Rider Hunting Lance, Laspistol

Death Rider Squadron [6 PL, 135pts] . 8x Death Korps Death Riders: 8x Death Rider Hunting Lance, 8x Frag & Krak grenades, 8x Laspistol, 8x Savage claws
. Ridemaster: Death Rider Hunting Lance, Laspistol

Battalion Detachment 0CP (Imperium – Adepta Sororitas) [64 PL, 1,325pts]

Order Convictions: Order: Valorous Heart

HQ

Canoness [3 PL, 65pts]: Blessed Blade, Inferno pistol, (Relic: Mantle of Ophelia ), Warlord, (trait: rightoues Rage)

Celestine [8 PL, 170pts]

Troops

Battle Sister Squad [4 PL, 65pts] . 2x Battle Sister: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Boltgun, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Sister Superior: Bolt pistol, Boltgun, chainsword

Battle Sister Squad [4 PL, 65pts] . 2x Battle Sister: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Boltgun, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Sister Superior: Bolt pistol, Boltgun, chainsword

Battle Sister Squad [4 PL, 65pts] . 2x Battle Sister: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Boltgun, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Sister Superior: Bolt pistol, Boltgun, chainsword

Battle Sister Squad [4 PL, 65pts] . 2x Battle Sister: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Boltgun, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Sister Superior: Bolt pistol, Boltgun, chainsword

Battle Sister Squad [4 PL, 65pts] . 2x Battle Sister: 2x Bolt pistol, 2x Boltgun, 2x Frag & Krak grenades
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Battle Sister w/ Flamer (5)
. Sister Superior: Bolt pistol, Boltgun, chainsword

Elites

Celestian Squad [4 PL, 80pts] . 3x Celestian: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
. Celestian Superior: Bolt pistol, Boltgun, Chainsword
. Celestian w/ Multi-melta(20)

Celestian Squad [4 PL, 80pts] . 3x Celestian: 3x Bolt pistol, 3x Boltgun, 3x Frag & Krak grenades
. Celestian Superior: Bolt pistol, Boltgun, Chainsword
. Celestian w/ Multi-melta (20)

Imagifier [3 PL, 45pts]: (-1cp Heroine in the Making), (-1cp Relic: Book of St. Lucius), Tale of the Stoic, (-1cp Trait: Indomitable Belief)

Heavy Support

Retributor Squad [6 PL, 160pts]: 2x Armourium Cherub
. Retributor Superior: Bolt pistol, boltgun, chainsword
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta

Retributor Squad [6 PL, 160pts]: 2x Armourium Cherub
. Retributor Superior: Bolt pistol, boltgun, chainsword
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta

Retributor Squad [6 PL, 160pts]: 2x Armourium Cherub
. Retributor Superior: Bolt pistol, boltgun, chainsword
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta
. Retributor w/ Multi-melta

Dedicated Transport

Sororitas Rhino [4 PL, 80pts]: Storm bolter

Total: [97 PL, 2000pts]

How It Works

This list makes use of two of the best Position Holder units in the game – Death Korps Riders, and the humble Battle Sister, backing them up with Force Multiplier units to make them even more effective in their role, and a small contingent of extremely effective Elimination units to neutralise any opposing Brawler units that are threatening to chew through the horses.

Death Riders are outrageously good in the Position Holder role because they combine extreme durability (T4, 4+, 3W, 5+ FNP) with the mobility and sheer model size to very quickly occupy large parts of the board. Squadron Commanders being able to use Move! Move! Move! on the large Rider squads lets them cover a minimum of 22″ on the first turn, getting them from your deployment zone to the fringes of the opponent’s on most maps, and easily allowing them to gum up mid-table objectives straight away. While not packing the kind of damage that will let them take on Brawlers, they are also nasty enough in a fight that you can charge them into enemy Pawns on turn one and threaten to deal some damage. Finally, in a rare bit of cross-faction synergy, Celestine acts as a further Force Multiplier for them by granting a 6+ invulnerable save, further reducing the impact early opposing shooting will have on them.

Sisters are less impressive at hustling across the board, but still extremely good at what they do, especially when loaded and supported as they are here. The combination of Celestine, the Valorous Heart trait and the Imagifier with Indomitable Belief means that they’ll be on their choice of a 3+ ignoring AP-2 or a 4++, and here that’s especially helpful because it means that an opponent who somehow leapfrogs the horses or tries to shoot past them won’t find trivial prey. The flamers also help to deal with any Objective Utility units that try and skulk round the back.

Chewing through all of this would be a formidible challenge for most armies, but the Position Holders don’t have fantastic damage output, and some forces would be able to cut through the equine tide left entirely to their own devices. That’s why this list is packing some Elimination threats in the form of the Retributors, whose key duty in the army it to delete anything that has the kind of damage output to chew through the big blocks before they can execute on that. Sisters are blessed with some of the best Elimination units in the game, with Repentia also being a popular choice in armies that aren’t using Imperium allies as the forward contingent, and being able to combine highly reliable killers with durable Position Holders is part of why the faction is one of the strongest in the game.

Necron Warriors

Necron Warriors. Credit: Pendulin

So, how would you counter this army? Obviously that’s not an easy prospect (it’s a strong and successful list) but there are some options. Armies that are very heavy on Brawlers are probably going to have the easiest time of it – the horses are tough, but the list here is a little reliant on the assumption that the opponent is going to need to try and focus them down one at a time. If you have the tools to confidently roll into them on multiple fronts at once, then you can potentially out-pressure the army, especially if what you’re using to push is ObSec, as lacking that is one of the horses’ weaknesses. I went and had a look at what list took this down in its 6-1 run at the major, and it was a Novokh Necron build fielding two big blocks of Warriors and a unit of Lychguard. All three of those units are quite comfortable striding into a pony brick and dealing massive damage with a mixture of Gauss Reaper fire and melee, and the Warriors are also ObSec and unusually resilient to Retributors on the counterattack. That’s a pretty perfect lining up of tools, but even something like the go-wide MSU Blood Angels lists we’ve seen recently can be a real headache – the five-model Death Company and Sanguinary Guard squads can take huge chunks out of a pony block, especially augmented by a Sanguinary Priest.

Let’s imagine you aren’t so thoroughly equipped to fight back, however, what then? Well – this army works by seizing the entire board, and putting too many wounds in your face to overcome, allowing it to run away with Primary scoring. To stop that, you need to carve out some sections of the board and claim them back. Identify which of the mid-table objectives this list has a less effective grip on and go for that position in force with whatever Brawlers and some of your Elimination threats, aiming to seize control of it and force the Retributors to commit. Once they do, you want to use Elimination units you’ve held back to pop them, then aim to maintain an iron grip on the part of the board you’ve claimed, and ideally sweep to at least one more objective. Don’t get over-ambitious about how much of the table you can clear, and also put a higher priority than normal on denying things like opposing Deploy Scramblers, as you have to work on the assumption that the score will be close.

Wrap Up

That’s it for day 1 – check back in tomorrow when we look at Brawlers. Comments, questions, suggestons to contact@goonhammer.com as always.

 

 

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