As I poked the embers of my old Space Wolves army, I noticed a rule nuance that bears mentioning, something I know I’ve played wrong in the past. It has weighty consequences on the use of a particular piece of wargear, namely, the wolf pelt. Fellow sons of Russ know this as a cheap way to give a character or wolf guard +1 attack when the squad gets charged. Maybe I’m just the last to know, but after I reviewed the specific counter-attack rules as written in the USR section of the rulebook, it appears that wolf pelts might be a little harder to use than I previously thought, especially for a drop-pod force like mine.
First of all, according to the counter-attack USR, only unengaged models from a unit that has been charged can move the 6” to get into BTB with an enemy model. “Engaged” models are defined as those being either in BTB or 2” away from a friendly model in BTB with an enemy. So a model with a wolf pelt would not be able to counter-attack, and thus get the +1 attack, unless it was farther than 2” away from an amigo in BTB. Unless you’re getting charged by only a few models, which seems like a foolhardy thing for anyone to do against space wolves, it will be difficult to keep your pelted model from being immediately engaged and having their wargear short-circuited, wasting *gasp* all of 3 points, but more importantly, an extra attack with a power weapon/fist. In previous games I was just moving characters/wolf guard into BTB and granting myself the +1 attack just as long as he was not personally brought into BTB by the initial assault (which, I now realize, was actually illegal).
It doesn’t say that you actually have to make it into BTB with your counterattack move to get the +1 attack, so it appears the main issue is to keep a pelted model more than 2” away from anyone in the squad who would come into BTB with an enemy assault. This might be a simple matter with a big spread-out foot squad of blood claws, but with a drop pod you only have so much deployment space to begin with, and keeping your choppy pelted guy far enough away to counterattack could be a problem. Taken with the fact that an IC has to be personally in BTB to even join the combat, and that he only gets a 6” move to do it, it appears that you have to be pretty tricky to actually benefit from the pelt.
Example 1 – A squad of asscan/boltplas terminators led by some kind of pelted character, in this case a Wolf Priest. I don’t see how you can ever keep the character unengaged by an enemy assault, pretty much regardless of size. Even if you put him on the end of the line, around the drop pod and possibly out of range/LOS for his shooting, he’s easily going to be within 2” of a friend in BTB when an enemy assaults them and therefore missing out on the +1 A. You really need to spread them all out 2” away from each other around the pod, with the character as far away from a charging enemy as possible, and your assault cannons and powerfists closest to the character. The larger terminator bases will help. Now I’m starting to think that I should drop my potion pouring, plasma pistol waving Wolf Priest that I had been running with my terminators and bring back my old black helmed WGBL with lightning claws. If he’s not going to be in LOS to shoot, he might as well be able to reroll wounds when he comes running around the other side of that pod (plus he’s much cheaper!).
Example 2 – A 10-strong squad of grey hunters led by a pelted wolf guard. Placing the guard on the farthest side of the drop pod from a nearby enemy might put him far enough away to stay unengaged in the oncoming assault, but that leaves him and possibly several other models out of range for shooting. Again I see folly in giving him anything other than a bolt pistol for a gun if I want to get the pelt love on the counterattack. I had given the Grey Hunters’ wolf guard a plasma pistol for one more AP2 zinger (to make a total of 5 plasma shots from the squad). The question is: what’s more important, +1 attack with a power weapon/fist if and when they do get charged, or an additional plasma shot (that costs 15 points and might overheat and kill him anyway)? My instinct tells me trying to get the extra counterattack is better.
Example 3 – A squad on foot. As I stated before, it might be simpler to keep the character/squad leader out of engagement range if they’re part of a big spread out squad. But against any hack shooting army on a board with 25% cover, this seems like suicide. I changed my wolves to be more mechanized for a reason: they were constantly getting caught out in the open and mowed down before they could have any effect on the game’s outcome. As it is, if I consolidate all the elements into one big push, I can sometimes hit real hard FTW, but any halfway mobile army can just stay out of the big push’s way and pick off squads at their leisure.
I haven’t actually played with my wolves in ages, but having gotten a little burnt out on Witch Hunters (except for my assassins, I still love you guys!), I think I’m ready to pick them up again. I need to really rethink my general strategy, retool some wargear loadouts, and I’ll definitely have to take a moment to think before placing anyone with a pelt in order to give them the best chance of actually using it. I’ll report back on my experiences as soon as I get a few games in.