Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't count out the little guys!

    I was listening to The Overlords podcast out of the UK and they touched briefly on an interesting unit with great potential relative to its cost: The often ignored Ratling Snipers out of the Imperial Guard codex.   People say they aren't the strongest unit in the book, but they don't have to be.  This unit is the runt of the codex, just like this guy.

 The smaller Ratling, trying to vie for attention to make the team.

Taking a minimum squad of three is a great way to go.  They are cheap (cheaper than nearly any other unit in the game) and are fully equipped to do their job.  Taking the minimum squad of 3 models only costs the same as two space marines, but these guys shoot as well as marines and have a rending shot that always wounds on a 4+.  Increasing the squad size really doesn't help them much, as it only takes points away from more killy things in your army for little benefit. 

Every turn they fire at an enemy unit, they are putting on average a single wound on a model (before armor saves).  Every three rounds approximately, you'll end up with a single dead marine.  Opponent goes "so dead marine, what do I care?" 

Well there is a pinning test involved after that marine is killed. While the chances are relatively low of pinning a unit, the consequences of the opponent failing a pinning test for a key unit can often turn a game (how much would you pay for a chance to pin a squad of Long Fangs for even a single turn?).  Using this squad in conjunction with a psyker battle squad can make that likelihood of a failed pinning check even greater.   The potential to hamper or paralyze a more expensive unit makes this unit effective, compared to their cost

 In the old days, Ratlings were referred to as "Charlie."

If an opponent has a character or monstrous creature, you're presenting an asymmetrical threat to that model.  What I mean by that is you have an extremely inexpensive unit with the potential to do much more damage to the enemy unit relative to what the enemy model could do to that unit.  If the unit scores at least a single unsaved wound on almost any character or monstrous creature, they have done more than 30 points worth of damage to that model.  The best the enemy unit can do to them is to kill a 30 point squad, which doesn't achieve much when dealing with 1500 point or greater armies.   

Did I also mention that they can be relatively survivable in cover (thanks to "stealth" USR) and infiltrate?  This can be a very inexpensive way to deny enemies from being able to infiltrate close to your lines and to make it more difficult for enemy units to scout close to the main body of your army for a first turn assault (deff-coptas, valkyrie vet rush, etc) as those models must keep 12" away from any of your models, so if you infiltrate out into the middle of the field, you make it harder for the opponent to get a first turn assault on the unit he wants to hit.   

 For their extremely cheap cost, you're adding another unit to any opponent's already stretched target priority list.  If the opponent attacks them, it takes shots away from more valuable models.  If the opponent doesn't deal with them, then the chances increase for them to take out enemy models, wound creatures and/or characters, or to pin units.

Force Org Slot competition is not much of an issue either.  Most of the things people use in the codex come from troops, heavy support, and fast attack, leaving at least one elite slot open for this unit to be fielded.

In summary, taking a minimum 3 man squad of ratlings is an excellent cheap filler unit that has the potential to be hoisted off of the field in glorious victory!

"Ratlings, Ratlings, Ratlings..."


  1. They are a fantasy unit stuck in a 40k system.

    They remind me of Nurglings in my WHFB Daemon army... totally necessary to have or you'll have an awful hill to climb in the game because you couldn't delay 1/2 the enemy.

    They sort of combo with Psychic Battle Squads huh? Since they can tag team to bog down a target unit you don't like (like a unit of TH/SS Termis that got blasted out of their LR)

  2. Yeah they totally are a fantasy unit, but they are some of the more efficient sniper units in the game, because you're paying for a decent shooting ability (BS 4), ability to infiltrate and stealth, the sniper rifle, and that's it.

    You're not wasting points on boosting their WS, etc when it won't help much.

    Typicall with the psyker battle squad, players use the Weaken resolve power either near the beginning of their shooting phase (if they have pinning weapons), or they'll save it for very last (to use it on an enemy unit that will have to take a morale test from the results of the rest of your force shooting).

    This unit can really complement the psyker battle squad, when players use "weaken resolve" towards the beginning of a turn. If the ratlings can kill a model, the opponent is likely to fail that pinning check right away, which then can free up the rest of your force to focus the fire on other targets, knowing that the first unit is pinned.

  3. I agree with not counting out ratlings, i love using them. The only issue i have with them is with the True line of sight with them cause of there small size but other than that i love using them i normally field them as a full squad of 10.

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