Lost with all the Codex: Escalation tirades is the other supplemental release; Stronghold Assault a rulebook summary and expansion of Fortifications for Warhammer 40k. As GW has made clear Stronghold Assault is a companion to Escalation, but it easily stands on its own.
Coming in at a lite 48 pages this addition is still meatier than the Apocalypse cut and paste of Escalation. The Fortifications rules are updated and flesh out with new upgrades and arrangements available. Let us dive right in and look at what this expansion has to offer. Stronghold Assault deserves more exposure and hope this review can help.
He turned to see a giant, plague-bloated Daemon stride towards the bastion. Heavy Weapons tore chunks of diseased flesh from its body, but the Daemon just chuckled before vomiting a stream of bile through the Bastion's fire port, drowning the 8th Squad in filth.
Stronghold Assault Contents
8 Pages of Fluff & Fortification History
10 Pages of addition rules and options
18 Pages of old and new Datasheets
9 Pages with 3 new missions
3 Pages of Summary
The first portion of the book is typical Games Workshop fare; a few pretty pictures followed by a chronology of major battles involving mighty fortresses. The only juicy part in this section is short Imperial Guard force vs. an Nurgle Daemon incursion story. Title the Siege of Fellguard tells the story of Castallan Blakov leading the Cadian 39th.
Blakov and his Cadians are attempting to retake a capital city from traitors, to only have Daemons show up and only Blakov personal heroics are necessary to end the threat. This story does an adequate job setting up the rest of the supplement, as your about to get knee-deep in Bastion loving titillation.
The next section titled Additional Rules is just that additional rules, and is the second most important portion of the book. The first page has the rules for Massive Fortifications, Mighty Bulwark, and Fortification Networks. Massive Fortifications are nothing more than AV 15 buildings and mirrors the Lords of War you find Escalation. All Massive Fortifications have Mighty Bulwark which is -1 penalty to results on the fortification damage table. The most intriguing portion is Fortification Networks. This is GW way of selling more fortifications, as you can now take like groups of fortifications in your one available FoC fortification slot.
The next couple pages are copied Apocalypse rules for Destroyer Weapons and Apocalypse templates. Next is meatier things: Updated Building Rules. The best part of this section is the designer notes; where the designers explain why they made these rules choices. If GW did more of these little insights for their products it would go a long way to improving people perceptions on how they design books. It also is clear for at least Stronghold Assault the rules were play-tested at some level.
The updated rules themselves are clearer; like what a battlement exactly is, and how to claim a building. As for occupation it is nice to see Jump and Jet Pack Infantry are able to enter. The other notable update is you can now charge out of any building unlike your average transport vehicle.
After the Building update we get Fortification Upgrades! Th section is broken up into building upgrades, obstacles, and battlements & battlefield. The building upgrades go from the tactically feasible Escape Hatch to the useless Booby Trap. The upgrades have reasonable price points and like the Ammo Store can make a statistical difference.
Then we move on to obstacles which as you later discover can be taken in groups. There are only three obstacles currently available.
Tanglewire is a cheap difficult terrain barrier and provides 6+ cover being behind it.
Barricades are instant 4+ cover obstacles, but makes it easier for anyone to charge units behind them.
The best of the obstacles, tank traps create impassible barriers for tanks to cross. It doesn't effect skimmers, but makes it much harder for Orks and Land Raiders to get off assaults when being blocked by tank traps.
The Battlement and Battlefield has the same items you can find in basic book (Quad-Gun, Icarus, Relay) with one addition the Ammo Dump. The Ammo Dump provides 5+ cover and anyone within 2" gets to re-roll 1s. The problem with these upgrades, they come only one to a Fortification.
The next section is the Fortification Datasheets. Here we get easily to understand rules for all fortifications available. Most fortifications will be familiar, but keep in mind all of them can get additional upgrades not found in the basic rule book. The variety is great to see and having rules for literally every terrain kit out now. Let us go over just the highlights. Besides access to the new universal upgrades, few specific changes occurred to the rule book fortifications, the biggest exception being the Skyshield Landing Pad with the "Ready for Takeoff" 5pt upgrade.
This is the only way to have a Flyer start on the board for the first turn. If you have a Flyer with Hover access, simply place it on the pad without putting it in reserve. If you are going first you get a flyer ready to head back to zoom mode and rain havoc on the enemy. Even if you get seized on you can use the Skyshield 4+ invulnerable save.
- Aegis Defense Line
- Fortress of Redemption
- Honored Imperium
- Imperial Bastion
- Macro Aquila Strongpoint
- Promethium Relay Pipes
- Skyshield Landing Pad
- Void Shield Generator
- Vortex Missile Aquila Strongpoint
- Wall of Martyrs
- Firestorm Redoubt
- Wall of Martyrs Imperial Defense Emplacement
- Wall of Martyrs Imperial Defense Line
- Wall of Martyrs Vengeance Weapon Battery
- Imperial Strong Point
- Wall of Martyrs Imperial Defense Network
- Void Relay Network
What about the upgrades though, well building upgrades can be purchased based on the size the building, for instance a Bastion can get two upgrades. As for obstacles, any fortification can get 6! That means your Aegis Line can have layered Barricades and Tank Traps to easily slow your opponent down. Now most upgrades are cheap, but once you start piling on the upgrades it can easily get out of control.
Speaking about points piling up, we have the Fortification Networks even in 1500 point games you could potentially create a fortress of Aegis Lines and Bastions. From a tournament perspective this sort of thing isn't game breaking, but logistically don't expect to see it coming to an event near you. If you take the Imperial Strong Point (up to 3 Bastions, 5 Aegis Lines, 1 Landing Pad, 1 Honored Imperium) for instance the rules are pretty loose and I am sure people could find ways to exploit it.
We finally get rules for the wonderful Wall of Martyr's kits. As expected, these kits are nothing more than cool looking Aegis lines providing cover and have to be connected. The weapon platforms from those kits are also inside, but besides getting access to things like Punisher Cannons, really suffer from being automated platforms. It is also interesting to see the Honored Imperium, sadly GW didn't have the foresight to make it available to more than just imperial armies. Imagine a Chaos Altar giving Stubborn to Chaos Space Marines!
The "Super-Heavy" fortifications are in and provide another way to get Strength D weapons into your army. It is easy to lump them in with the Escalation rules, so don't expect to see these either at a tournament near you.
Finally, the best and worst part of the book comes in the form of the Void Shield Generator and Promethium Relay Pipes. These two dynamic additions to the 40k universe open up a host of great tactical possibilities. Let us start with the least controversial of the two: Promethium Relay Pipes.
Promethium Relay Pipes provide 4+ cover and can explode on you, but the main bonus is they give Torrent to any flamer weapon. Units like, Burnz Boyz, Retributors, and Chosen now have a way to deliver ranged flame attacks to the enemy. It also makes it unlikely an opponent can get off an assault without getting torrented at least once before charging
Then we have the Void Shield Generator, which provides the best anti-alpha strike defense in the game. Void Shield Generators create bubbles of shooting protection. Any enemy fire must penetrate/glance an AV12 shield that can regenerate every turn on 5+. A generator can get up to a total of three shields for 100 points. The Generator itself is also a 13 AV impassable building. This a game changing piece of terrain. It has already been hailed as the Strength D solution, more importantly, it protects assault armies. In a world of volume of small arms fire reigns, a 12" bubble means your assault units are that much closer to getting up close and dirty with the enemy. The opposite though is true for shooty armies like Tau; now you can hide your Riptide in a shield bubble and protect it decently from most AP2 fire.
The main problem with both these new fortifications is the lack of a model and or any good description. For the Void Shield Generator it means an abusive player can make a 20" by 20" wooden box and call it a shield, besides looking lame, it would also create a massive bubble for his army to hide in. Until this is cleared I cannot see Void Shield Generator being looked upon kindly. Still, the conversion possibilities are endless and from that stand point I cannot wait to see what people come up with.
Stronghold Assault ends with three unique missions that are clearly narrative in design and focus. Called Siege War Missions these missions are defender-attacker based with a different FoC for each side.
Siege War Force Org Chart
The missions look fun designed to create cinematic stories.
Bunker Assault: has as the defender defending a weapons array he controls calling down orbital type strikes. The attackers goal is to occupy the defender fortifications, destroy the weapons array, or claim it.
Breakthrough: is an alternative mission throws in with almost all extra mission packs. The Attacker tries to cross the board alive and settle in the defenders deployment zone or exit the board. The defender just has to get enough KPs to claim victory.
The Last Stand: This mission looks the most exciting to play. As defender, you start with limited units hiding in fortifications trying to hold out. The defender has a delayed reserve chart and the attacker gets more victory points for killing those units who started on the board in the first turn.
You can see GW really trying to develop a new kind of player with this book and missions. If allows you to create armies with almost 50% of your points dedicated to Fortifications. GW has some great kits, so you can see it appealing to certain players. It doesn't hurt that Fortifications are easy to paint and assemble. Stronghold Assault, does a great job of incentivize players to buy terrain kits. If you think about the amount of players with display boards, why not have your display board with actual in-game usable features? Only if Stronghold Assault becomes accepted can we see the potential realized. With the terrible roll-out of Escalation, Stronghold Assault has been kinda thrown under the bus with it. It also doesn't help either, when the best Fortifications don't have models or clear rules. The biggest problem with Stronghold Assault though is the lack of Xenos Fortifications and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon.
Overall, the new rules are good and I hope event organizers really take a look at using this supplement. Stronghold Assault also clarifies a lot. As for casual play this is ready to go with really nothing need to be tweaked. Once the Super-Heavy storm blows I hope to see people take a second look back at Stronghold Assault because there is a lot to see!
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