Your Deployment Sucks: The One-Drop Army

If you’ve ever wanted to be worse at Warhammer, or waste someone’s time instead of playing a real game, I have a new Bit you can do. We’ve done the one-box army, we’ve done Blunderdome, and now Goonhammer is proud to unveil our newest technological breakthrough in willfully being a dumb piece of crap moron: what if your entire army list was built around minimizing your deployment phase?

I came by this idea honestly. The original thought was around traveling, and whether I could cram a full 2000 point Strike Force list into a single KR case without buying any new foam trays. Aside from the vagaries of the airlines, I was drawn to the elegance of one unit of storage containing precisely one unit of Warhammer. I wouldn’t be writing this if that was as far as the idea went, and if you know anything about me you won’t be surprised that the concept quickly curdled into something far less reasonable. One of the armies I tried to build out was a fully-mechanized Deathwing – I’d just gotten a new plastic Spartan, and have a couple of regular Lands Raider. That didn’t really work for what I’d originally planned, but it did give me an idea: is it possible for a given codex to construct an army that deploys in one single drop? 

This is, in case it weren’t clear, not a good idea, but I’m concerned with whether we can do it, not whether we should. There is absolutely no reason you should be putting all your metaphorical eggs in one literal basket. It’s asking for trouble, it won’t save much time on the chess clock, and even the old bonus to the first turn roll for finishing first doesn’t exist anymore. If you did accidentally construct an army that could deploy clown car style, there’s still no value in actually doing it. The same models would basically always be better off being placed separately. 

So, none of this is going to set the meta on fire. It’s not even going to make you any more successful in casual games. It might be “good enough” to put on the table, but even that I kind of doubt. It might be fun to play around with, as a thought experiment (read: Bit), but that’s all I’m willing to commit to. 

Also, no Forge World. We all know that you can throw a Warhound or a Manta down and be done, and there are enough gigantic resin transports for the Space Marines that the exercise becomes trivial, but while those are valid by the letter of the Bit, they go against the spirit of the Bit.

Ignatum Warhounds. Credit – Lee Marshall @TheForgeofMars

I’d like to also give an honorable mention to Genestealer Cults, the lovable losers and gutter-tier jerks who technically get away without deploying anything during deployment. Your stupid blips are a big waste of everyone’s time, no one likes you, and it sucks how you split up the phase all weird. GSC can all go to hell, for the damage they have done to this game, and deserve every lopsided beatdown they get.

So how feasible did this end up being? Results were, to put it mildly, mixed. If we’re being completely honest, this was a bad idea from the start. Not because it’s stupid – it is, obviously – but because it just doesn’t work. You can’t really do it. It makes no sense. The One-Box army was at least possible, if not recommended. This was neither. Sometimes you start on a Bit and it clearly isn’t ever going work, but you still have to play it out, I guess. I won’t lie to you Reader, there is some element of sunk-cost fallacy here, where I’d already written a bunch of words before I figured out that this was a waste of time. Still, we may yet salvage something from this, so let’s run it out and see what we come up with.

Things are easiest, as you’d expect, in Combat Patrol, but still not that easy. It turns out a lot of Codexes are simply missing the three key components that have to be present to varying degrees: expensive troops (or expensive upgrades to cheap troops), oversized transports with extra seats beyond a single Troops squad, and ready access to single-model Elites and HQs. 

T’au, for example, can’t participate. A Devilfish and a unit of Fire Warriors only takes up half the points total, and at that point you’re basically out of seats to stuff in any expensive characters . Not that you have any in the first place – Shadowsun would be a good pick, but her enormous hovering battlesuit can’t fit through the doors. Astra Militarum are also out, because their troops are just too cheap, though they will appear later, in maybe the most freakish example I came up with. Orks, with a 20-seat Battle Wagon, might be able to get there, but honestly I’m not trying to be exhaustive, and I don’t know anything about Orks.

Space Marines have a few options, because their book is horrifically bloated. The nice round numbers and lack of wargear on Primaris marines make things easy: a Primaris Librarian and some Intercessors (Assault or Regular), neatly occupying all six places in a Repulsor Executioner. You’d get more mileage out of a techmarine, to fix the tank, but who cares about that, I’d rather zap dudes with my brain. 

Black Templars Repulsor Executioner. Credit: SRM

For Secondus marines, it has to be a drop pod. Not having an extra rumble seat for a character hurts, but I would simply lean into it, make the plasma cannoneer and his best friend stay home, and give their chairs to the two most expensive characters (Azrael and Ezekial – it was always going to be Dark Angels) that are still short enough to ride the ride. This is probably a very bad “army” but I love the theme of it. Just dumping half the chapter command behind enemy lines all at once. Incredibly powerful tactic. Land Raiders also exist, if you want to go that way.

Elf Bullshit? You know we have Elf Bullshit. Wave Serpent, Guardians, Autarch, and the Phoenix Lord of your choice, done. I hate this.

Wave Serpent. Credit: Rockfish
Wave Serpent. Credit: Rockfish

No one really cares about balance in Combat Patrol, which is the land of wild skew, but I think some of these might actually have legs – a plasmatic RepEx in 500 could do work. Worst-case, play two of these against each other. Early turns are a variation of Moon Race Klaisus, and then when the transports pop and the rich creamy filling spills out, you get a good old-fashioned dustup.

What about bigger games? On the one hand, we’re no longer required to run a Patrol, which opens up a lot of options. On the other, it’s obviously more points to fill out, and not necessarily any more chairs. 

I can only think of two realistic options here, that even start to look like a real army at once everyone disembarks. One involves a Spartan (I said no FW, but this is plastic now). With 25 seats and only 600 points to spend filling them, it’s easy but not particularly exciting to cram in two squads of Terminators, an HQ, and some kind of Elite character. 

White Scars Spartan Assault Tank. Credit – Soggy

Then there’s the Astra Militarum Stormlord, which can be sponson-ed out to 500 points by itself, and has a whopping 40 transport capacity.  Even with half our points wrapped up in the tank, and all that room for activities, Guard units are so friggin’ cheap that space is somehow still an issue. Fortunately this is another over-stuffed codex, with plenty of weird garbage in it that you can chuck in the back of the truck. I’m sure it’s possible to fill it a million ways, but what worked for me was a mix of Bullgryns and Scions, with some Commanders and Heavy Weapons Teams. 

Credit: Robert “theChirurgeon” Jones

I will now break my own rule, and allow a single large resin model. I am doing this because it’s been my white whale of a model for a long time, one I have wanted for years but never gotten my grubby little mitts on. You can’t buy it because it’s no longer in production and you can’t play with it because the rules are in Legends. It technically might never have been “sold” at all, in the sense of money changing hands and a casting being delivered to a paying customer, based on the fact that I’ve never seen one in person, up for sale on eBay, or ever heard of anyone seeing one in the flesh. Offered for sale, yes, but actually purchased, by a human being? Maybe not.

It’s the T’au Empire Orca dropship. With room for 6 battlesuits, two infantry squads, some characters, and their drones, it’s possible to wedge a 1250 point army into one fragile and under-gunned flier. 

Past that, I’m not sure you can really do this. Strike Force just isn’t happening. It’s possible with a Mastodon or Thunderhawk, but if we’re sticking to what’s available in plastic, I have yet to find a combination of transport and contents that get there. Two drops is easy – the Guys In a Land Raider modality is fairly straightforward to double up on, or you can stuff a transport with bodies and then toss in your faction’s most expensive Lord Of War to cover the difference – but one drop doesn’t seem to want to happen.

Escher and Van Saar clash on Cargo-8 Ridgehaulers during a race to the death.

Maybe Votanns will have a Vo-trainn that works here, or we’ll get 40k rules for the Necromunda trucks and they hold like a hundred Howling Banshees in a shipping container, but otherwise the dream appears to be dead.

So what did we learn? What was the main idea of this experiment? Bluntly, I think nothing of value was uncovered here. Of all our bonkers army construction articles, this is by far the worst. It’s both less practical than the Least Army and less endearing than Blunderdome.

If I were forced to mine a diamond from the rough on this one, it’s probably just that there’s a weirder and more interesting game out there than most people know. If none of these ideas seem worth exploring on their own merits, if you never want to play with or against an army like this, if the very idea of this type of thing makes you puke, I don’t disagree. The upside to mining Codexes for idiotic gimmicks, if there is one, is that it forces you to look in some of the darker corners of the army, and maybe you find something in there that actually is valuable, with the caveat that I am fairly certain it isn’t this

Try it yourself, as a thought experiment: come up with a stupid idea and see if the laws of gods and men will allow it. Make an army with no characters, or one that’s entirely CORE, or has absolutely nothing with CORE. Max out starting CP, or start with none. Get real weird. Warhammer is shot through with stupid ideas, laying in wait for the right maniac to stumble across them. We haven’t tapped out that rich vein yet, and god willing, we won’t.