|Gates of Morkai, where is my shoulder pad?|
Wolf Guard as pack leadersThe concept is alike to Sergeants in the other Marine armies. Basically a Ld9 character with 2A base and access to some more toys than the rest of troopers. What made it special for Space Wolves is the great flexibility in the system. So you invest one Elite slot (ouch) in a Wolf Guard unit, you give them any combination of armour and weapons, then decide before deployment if you want to detach anyone from this unit and add it to another (usually Grey Hunters or Scouts) as their leader.
Taking this concept to the extreme it meant you could have say 10 Wolf Guards with a different array of combi-weapons, power armour or terminator, some melta bombs, and depending on who you where facing, the mission, deployment, terrain... decide the best allocation. Usually this meant keeping a small core (3-4) as suicide melta hunters, and send the others to the Grey Hunters and Scouts, or even to a Long Fangs pack in certain situations. This is great in terms of flexibility but comes at the cost of an Elite slot.
Losing an elite slot aside, the main caveat with doing this is that prevented your Grey Hunters from getting a second free special weapon. Phil Kelly was kind enough to give SW a free second special only if the Grey Hunters count 10 bodies, so if you wanted to run them mechanized (which you usually wanted) then kiss goodbye to the second special. This was solved in part by loading the Wolf Guard with a 1 shot combi weapon. The benefits for doing this?
- Leadership 9: Wolf Guards as pack leaders make Grey Hunters much more reliable as midfield scoring units as they increase the base LD from 8 to 9. Might not seem much but this gives Grey Hunter a decent Ld.
- A good place for the PFist. Having 2A base means Wolf Guard are good enough to grant them a power fist. Giving a special CC weapon to models with 1A base, even with counterattack, is well, rubbish :p
Enter 6th edition. The challenges system means your 1W character is probably going to be dead before he gets to swing his powerfist in CC. On the other side, his Ld9 will be very handy to hold on objectives, as now you have to be outside of a vehicle to be able to do so.
Are Wolf Guard pack leaders still a must ?
This is the big question when it comes to Wolf Guard. What was a no brainer in 5th edition is not as clear in 6th. Let's take a look:
In CC, the Wolf Guard with PF will swing 3 times, granting 1 or 2 hits/kills when fighting MEQ. For the same cost, we can have 3 more Grey Hunters that will make 2/3 wounds so ~1 MEQ kill. The PF has a higher damage output and can deal with 2+ armour, but the concern remains to be - is he going to be alive to swing back? remember, T4 W1 3+. Chances are he won't. Some people say to give him a SS/PF, but that is still a 3++ on a 1W model that costs 68 points, then hope he passes these 3++ saves. This is far from a good idea.
Add to that sometimes a powerfist is not your best lever in CC. If you are fighting low toughness / bad armour save units, these 9 extra S4 attacks can be more useful.
Leadership 8 is a concern, that is for sure. Being able to regroup even when within 6" of an enemy is a small relief though. There are ways to minimize the Ld8, as for example giving your Rune Priest the Saga of Majesty. For 15 points you can reroll missed Ld tests as long as they are within 6" of the Priest. It's not a complete solution, but a decent patch as you should normally play with 2~4 Grey Hunters packs very close by in midfield, supporting each other. It shouldn't be too difficult to place the Rune Priest within 6" of the rest of packs.
Having a unit of 10 strong Grey Hunters gives access to the coveted second special weapon, this time for free (even a plasma gun) and with unlimited shots. In 5th I rarely found myself limited with just one melta shot after using the combi melta previously, but it is obvious that it's better to have unlimited ammo than one shot.
Finally, if we ditch the Wolf Guard for 3 extra GH has some other benefits. That is 6 more attacks in CC, 2 more wounds to get rid of the squad, and more rapid fire shots. Last but not least, it grants access to a third Elite slot. Having another Lone Wolf or Rifleman will be handy most of the times.