Escalation: Lord of Skulls Review
Today marks the beginning of a new series, aimed at taking a look at the various Super Heavy units now available to everyone through Escalation. I will be talking about them in regard to a standard sized game of 40k, 1750-2000, and giving my thoughts and opinions about their damage capability, resilience and overall effectiveness. I will also mention how to kill these nasty things by pointing out any specific weakness they may have. To begin with, I've decided to go with the Lord of Skulls, partially because it's the one I have the most experience with, but also because I just love the model!
What does it do?
The Lord of Skulls is a big nasty beast who is supposed to excel in combat, but instead is actually a big scary gun platform that can smack MC's who get too close. It's primary weapon is it's Gorestorm cannon, which is a Hellstorm template at S8 AP3 and re-rolls to wound/pen, it can be upgraded to Daemongore Cannon with S9 Instant Death for considerably more points (though it suffers from Gets Hot), and if you're feeling foolish, it can be upgraded to an Ichor Cannon which is effectively a Large Blast plasma cannon. Invariably I equip this with it's Gorestorm Cannon, or the Daemongore Cannon, absolutely never the Ichor Cannon.
The second weapon in it's arsenal is the Hades Gatling Cannon, which is nothing more than 3 Hades Autocannons taped together. It's not bad, but it's nothing exciting. For a chunk of points however, it can be upgraded to the Skullhurler, which offers a S9 AP3 large blast that re-rolls to wound and forces opponents to re-roll saves... now we're talking business! Unless I'm strapped for points, it gets the Skullhurler upgrade every time.
Lastly we have it's beatstick, the Great Cleaver of Khorne, which makes it a destroyer in combat. Sadly, the Lord of Skulls only has 4 attacks, though each HP it suffers, it also gains an attack. Sadly, even if it suffers 8 HP of damage, 12 attacks is going to struggle to get it out of combat with cheap hordes of infantry. To effectively use the Lord of Skulls, you should focus on using it's weaponry to wipe out infantry that will gum up your tracks. Interestingly, while it lacks Stomp, it is able to make a Thunderblitz attack, which could potentially wreck a transport before you blast apart whatever is left inside.
How do I kill it?
The first, and possibly largest weakness of the Lord of Skulls is the fact that it's a Super Heavy Walker, meaning it can be locked in combat. Additionally, it lacks the ability to stomp, meaning it's restricted to it's standard attacks for taking on any enemies it may be facing. You wouldn't think that combat would be the weak point of a model with a Destroyer melee weapon, but when you remember that an unharmed Lord of Battles has a mere 4 attacks, it starts to look grim. My preferred method of handing the Lord of Skulls is to get it in combat by any means necessary. Often times players who are in command of these behemoths think that rushing them forward is the best plan. Wrong! A unit of 30 gargoyles will hold it up for many, many rounds of combat.
If you're not inclined to let it even get that close, then you're going to have to shoot it. With AV 13/13/11, it's going to take more than a few S7 shots to take down, on average 91.125 Serpent Shield shots, including being twin-linked, so clearly, don't waste your time shooting them, instead you need to use dedicated anti-tank firepower, as to be expected.
Lastly, there's always the chance to drop pod some melta toting Sternguard, but that's pretty much a solution to everything.
What's the verdict?
While the Lord of Skulls seems impressive on paper, lacking AV14 and stomp attacks makes it a huge liability. On top of that, it costs more than a Warhound Titan! Of the super heavies available to Chaos Space Marines, this is probably the least effective for the cost. In most games, this unit will consume over 50% of your points, especially once upgraded to it's most potent weaponry. That said, it is still a super heavy and can do some serious damage in the right situations, just keep it away from infantry at all costs!