Taking and holding trenches in Warhammer 40,000

So now that I’ve finally started work on my modular trench battlefield, I’ve been thinking, how best to take and hold trenches, or more succinctly which armies and units would be best for the task. My goal with the battlefield is to take Warhammer 40,000 back to its World War One influences, alas I fear no amount of carving foam will stop skimmers, jump infantry, or deep striking. To that end I think Codex Space Marine and Imperial Guard armies will do the best on this board and the mission that will go along with it. Those armies are quite versatile and have access to skimmers with transport capeability.

But what about… Eldar and Tau they have skimmer transports? Eldar in particular with all their specialized troops may do a pretty good job of taking entrenched positions, but holding them? Eldar are supposedly not geared for a war of attrition. As for the Tau, even with Kroot I’m not sure they would do a very good job at storming the trenches. Now Orks and Tyranids, they can send waves of troops at the enemy, but digging in defensively really isn’t their forte. Deamons are a total wild card and the specialty marine codices, which are getting a lot of love online, mainly bolster the offensive capabilities. Lots of jump troops may gain you the enemy trenches but holding them plus your own defensive positions? Space Wolves might do better than Blood Angels at this type of thing due to the awesomeness of Long Fangs and Grey Hunters.

While giving this all some thought I even wrote up a Codex Marine 1500 army list and looked at more obscure chapters, but since I’m trying not to buy any new minis, starting a new army, even Marines is out. So the question then becomes what can I do with my existing armies and their rule books to make them more effective on the battlefield I’m building?

My trench table is destined for next year’s Astronomi-con Vancouver. You could say I’m starting early, or you could say I’m starting too late for this year’s Astro… I currently have two painted armies in my display case, the Diseased Sons and their non-Nurgle allies the Nefarious Fire plus my old, old Ork army. The orks will see the table top again, but optimizing them for a mission isn’t a priority, just getting the units legal again is the priority. This year I am running Chaos Space Marine at Astronomi-con Vancouver, but next year I planned to run the Servants of Decay from Imperial Armour 7.

No one seems to be using that list or building an army for it. The regular Imperial Guard Codex is too good, most people are using it for their traitor guard too. Not me, I like to be different and I’m not afraid of a challenge. I made a quirky assault oriented list, knowing full well that WS2 and WS3 troops with questionable leadership doesn’t sound like an elite offensive force. While thinking how hypothetical armies would do on a hypothetical battlefield in a hypothetical mission set 40,000 years into the future, well I decided maybe I should adjust my proposed army list.

I wrote out another list, selling back some things, adding others, but I continued to avoid the option of taking plague marines. I wanted a pure traitor guard force, even though taking plaguemarines would save me money an painting time. Plus when I looked at other army list I recognized the need for elite assault troops to gain the trenches, but for my own army I was trying to make due with Rabble and Rebel Militia. Finally I said enough is enough, lets throw a squad of ten plaguemarines into the mix. Plague marines aren’t cheap pointswise, I had to sell back Rabble and Plague Zombies, as well as eventually removing my Fast Attack and Heavy Support choices over the course of tweaking the list.

Non skimmer Fast Attack I think will just get bogged down in the mud. Jump Infantry might work, I intend to try it with my Chaos Space Marine army, but they too could die crossing no man’s land. Getting rid of my lone heavy support choice may seem odd, but if you’ve read the army list, the command HQ can take a pile of heavy weapons teams. I’d already maxed out on mortars before I even thought about making my list more effective on the battlefield I’m building. Hopefully I won’t miss one or two extra heavy weapons a turn.

The army list I ended up with has Plaguemarines leading the assault. They are supported by Rabble and Militia men. The Plague marines might be able to breach the defenses and/or tie up the enemy for a turn or two allowing the Rabble and Militia to advance.  I bought my militia squad an armored personal carrier, figuring it was worth a try. If it gets stuck, they just get out and walk. The plague zombies I feel will make better defensive troops. They are Fearless and harder to kill, but they are slow. I think they work better occupying space, though they can tar pit the enemy too, if in sufficient numbers.

Before I added in the Plague marines, my command squad were my best assault troops having two models with WS 4, whoo hoo! Alas they are few and they aren’t armoured. I bought them an APC too, but they may be better served getting out and hunkering down.  I now forsee using them as a counter assault force. The leadership they potentially provide to the rest of the troops on defense necessitates them being placed centrally.

I just counted and my proposed 1500 point Servants of Decay army list with the 10 Plaguemarines, has 14 models with WS4 and 18 models with BS4. My Rabble alone have more models than that, they are WS and BS 2, booyah!

My mortars will go in my trenches or behind them. Massed mortar fire isn’t popular in 40K, but I’m still going to try it. It is historically accurate and with a little luck could pin the enemy in their trenches allowing my Rabble and Militia men to advance across the battlefield. Also to be used in a defensive role are the best troops available to a Rebel Militia commander, the Disciples of Xaphan. These are basically veterans with superior moral and access to a wide variety of guns and equipment. They have BS 4 unless they take a heavy weapon in which case their ability to aim magically decreases. This is an odd quirk of the list, it is impossible to get heavy weapons with BS 4. I think regular guard can do this, or through orders or special characters or something can improve their aim. Regardless, even with the addition of the plaguemarines, I’m still treating my Disciples as an elite unit. They are basically my sharp shooters. They’ll be deployed with the best field of fire and will pick off advancing enemy infantry.

That’s about the gist of it. Assault force of plaguemarines supported by Rabble and a few Militia men. Doesn’t sound too intimidating, most armies should either be able to out shoot my army or out class it in close quarters fighting. That’s the lot of traitor scum I guess. Even sending out almost 50 models into no man’s land I’m not too confident I can take the enemy’s position. Sending that many models to attack which is both likely necessary and historically accurate leaves my sharp shooters, my mortars, and my command HQ defending my lines, plus of course zombies.

“Using zombies to bolster your line” by Muskie McKay coming to Osprey soon.

I gave a go at making a Chaos Space Marine army list that might excel at trench warfare, but I’m going to experiment some more with it. Astronomi-con allows the use of Imperial Armour rules so that makes things a little more interesting. I still think Marines and Imperial Guard will be best for this mission, any one else have an opinion?