Part 2: The Old School
A continuation of Leman Russ Tactica: Part 1, looking in more detail at the Standard, Demolisher and Vanquisher patterns of Leman Russ tank.
The Leman Russ (Standard)
This variant (if you can call it such) can be summed up quite nicely in 2 lines.
“A Battle cannon (arguably the best all round weapon in the game) mounted on an AV 14 Vehicle that can move and shoot for 150 points? Yes please!”
The Battle Cannon is a weapon to be feared for good reason. With a whopping 72’’ range, an AP of 3 and use of the large blast template it is death incarnate to Space Marines of all types, no matter where they are on the board. With a bit of luck you can quite easily kill a tactical squad sized unit a turn, making your points back in one shot! It’s hard not to love.
Often overlooked as well is the tank-killing ability of the Battle Cannon. Being an ‘Ordnance’ weapon it rolls 2D6 Armour Penetration and picks the highest roll. With a Strength of 8 this means that (assuming you hit the side or rear armour of the vehicle you target), you’ve got a 50/50 chance of killing most other main battle tanks quite easily; transports and skimmers even more so.
The biggest downside of the standard Leman Russ however is there aren’t really any good sponson weapons that compliment it. This is because in a turn where the Battle cannon fires, every other weapon has to snap-fire. Plasma Cannons and Heavy Flamers are therefore redundant choices as they cannot snap-fire, leaving only Meltas and Heavy Bolters to fire at a BS of 1.
Personally then I wouldn’t bother with either, preferring to keep the cost of the tank low and it’s hitting power high. The extra damage you cause snap-firing sponsons is not worth the cost of equipping them. As for the Hull-Mounted weapon (which is mandatory or I wouldn’t take that either) I would always go for the Heavy Bolter. For a start it’s free, but because it has 3 shots rather than 1 you stand a better chance of hitting and/or grounding a flyer. You never know, you may just get lucky…..
The Leman Russ Demolisher
This variant shares many things in common with the standard Leman Russ above. It’s all about the Boom!
Essentially the Demolisher Cannon sacrifices mostof the range of its cousin (24’’ instead of 72’’) to get a much bigger hit: strength 10 and AP 2!
The advantages of this are obvious. You’re not only going to cause all sorts of hell for terminators and some Toughness 5 Monstrous Creatures, you’re also going to start causing problems for Land Raiders and other armour 14 vehicles. You have the 2D6 penetration as before, but you also get +1 to the damage charts for being AP2.
Really your only hope as an opponent is to either destroy it before it fires, hide in heavy cover or tool everything up with invulnerable saves. 24’’ is not even that short a range, not short enough to cause any issues in a standard game anyway. I’ve heard many people complain about the short range being a disadvantage but I’ve got no idea what they’re talking about. It’s been my expereince that you’re very likely to fire from turn one onwards, and at only 165 points you’re going to make a return on that investment very quickly.
The other advantage the Demolisher has is that it’s Rear AV is increased by 1 to be 11 rather than 10. This means you can be slightly more reckless with charging off somewhere, as small arms fire and basic melee weapons can’t hurt you. Demolishers are best used as sheilds for infantry formations, providing cover with their bulk by advancing slowly forwards.
When it comes to sponson and hull options I feel the same applies to the Demolisher as to the standard tank above. I might be persuaded to take Meltas if I’m using the Demolisher in a dedicated Tank-hunting role (which it is very good at, arguably better than the Vanquisher) but I’d rather keep the points down.
The Leman Russ Vanquisher
This is my favourite Leman Russ variant and has been for a very long time, but sadly its power has been lessened over the editions and I feel it is now one of least useful Leman Russ variants available.
Let’s look more closely.
The main weapon looks amazing at first glance; it’s basically a 72’’ range Melta weapon. It’s strength 8, AP 2 and Heavy 1; rolling 2D6 for Armour Penetration. Whatever vehicle you hit, is almost certainly going to be penetrated, with a +1 modifier on account of being AP2.
Therein lies the problem though, it’s got to hit.
While BS3 is great for ordnance weapons and for weapons with lots of shots, when you’ve only got one you’re relying on that 50/50 chance. In my opinion it’s just not consistent over the course of a 6 turn game.
Similarly, the other big problem with the Vanquisher cannon is that while it may be amazing against vehicles (if it hits), it’s next to useless against anything else. You can cause 1 wound at most to Monstrous Creatures and it’s pathetic at killing infantry. While you can compensate for this by giving it anti infantry sponsons like flamers, plasma cannons or Heavy Bolters, you’d be much better off just buying a standard pattern Russ or a Demolisher, the difference in tank hunting ability isn’t that great anyway. After all, the Demolisher can hit and destroy multiple vehicles in a single shot if your opponent deploys sloppily or in dense terrain.
In terms of tabletop tactics I’d tend towards using my Vanquisher as a dedicated tank sniper. I’ll deploy up on a hill where I can see most of the battlefield, providing cover for the flanks of Heavy Weapon Teams or artillery, but otherwise just stay in one spot trying to pick off the biggest threats safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to be out of range. For 155 points it can still be considered cheap too.
Ultimately though, in 6th edition there is only one way I’d ever field a Vanquisher, and that’s by asking my opponent if I can use the rules from the 3rd Edition Imperial Guard Codex instead. The Vanquisher was more expensive in points back then (nearer 190 if I’m not mistaken) but was A: BS4, and B: you could choose between types of shot you fired, treating it either a standard Battle Cannon OR like a special ‘Vanquisher Round’ in any given turn. It gave you a versatility you otherwise didn’t have.
On that note, several of the Forge World varient turrets (The Gryphonne and Ryrza pattern one) have co-axial weapons built into the cannon, to give it some anti infantry hitting power. I’m looking at doing this conversion myself in the future, but until I do my Vanquisher is staying on it’s shelf.
As a final point, when it comes to the Hull-Mounted weapon I always opt for the Lascannon. The Vanquisher is a tank hunter, and given that the Lascannon can fire using full BS at the same target as the Cannon it’s undoubtedly the best choice.
Ranges of standard Battle Cannon and a mistake concerning the armour value of Demolishers, Executioners and Punishers have all been corrected, hat tip to Matt Calow]