Some love for the humble grenade launcher
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The answer is typically the same…There are better tools out there for the job. Noob.
I will not disagree with this statement even though a few rule changes in 5th ed have improved the effectiveness of this weapon. If you're hunting MEQs or Terminators, the plasma gun stands out as the most effective method of removing models. Against massed hordes of Orks, Gaunts, or other Guardsmen Flamers (I'd say Heavy Bolters, but let's just stick to special weapons on this) are a very efficient method of clearing the riffraff off of the table. Armor is most efficiently hunted with the trusty meltagun. So, where does the humble grenade launcher fit into this sea of specialization? After all, its krak grenades lack both the strength and armor penetration of plasma or melta and the frag variants are unlikely to land as many hits as a flamer as well as lacking that notable template beast's strength and armor penetration as well. The grenade launcher's strength lies in its power as a weapon of opportunity against many varied opponents, the relative lack of risk that it provides to its user, and an opponent's likelihood to overlook it as a threat.
Effectively Equipping Your Grenade Launcher
The grenade launcher is a special weapon that can be equipped to Hardened Veterans, Storm Troopers, an Officer's retinue, Special Weapons Squads, Conscripts, and your standard issue Imperial Guardsman in an infantry platoon. Before you go spreading them around, however, there are a couple of factors that need to be taken into consideration. First of all, one single grenade launcher is much less effective than multiple grenade launchers. While this is true of all the special weapons, it is especially true of the grenade launcher where one bad scatter roll with a frag grenade can mean the difference between zero and seven hits on a densely packed enemy squad.
Hardened Vets: This squad can equip three grenade launchers and carries a higher BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skillthan the normal trooper giving you more hits per launcher on average. Their infiltration and outflanking abilities give you the opportunity to bring the weapon to bear against good targets like hidden weapons teams or a pesky tank's rear armor. This squad is a good home for the grenade launcher.
Storm Troopers: Storm Troopers are noticeably more expensive in points than normal guardsmen and can only take two special weapons. Despite their higher BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skilland survivability, you are really better off taking advantage of the Storm Trooper's ability to deep strike or infiltrate to bring more specialized weapons to bear against an opponent.
Officer's Retinue: This squad can pack in a whopping 4 grenade launchers and has added leadership benefits tacked on to boot because of the officer. Watch out, though. The Officer adds both points cost and an additional Kill Point to this frail squad. Many opponents will view this squad as a threat even if it only contains lasguns and will work to wipe it out quickly. Bottom line: it's a good home for the grenade launcher if you can keep the squad safe.
Special Weapons Squads: Though this squad is relatively inexpensive, the cost of the grenade launcher goes up significantly for these guys. That's because you're spending extra points for anonymity. With no attached characters, your opponent will most likely be worried about many other threats before this small squad and you will be more likely to be able to use the grenade launcher effectively. This squad can pack three grenade launchers and is a great home for this weapon.
Conscripts: Tons of meat to protect your invested points, but their bad BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skillmakes this squad a poor home for the grenade launcher. These guys work better with flamers.
Standard Guardsmen: Average BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skillfor the army and squad mates to take wounds in his place, but as mentioned above the grenade launcher's performance increases dramatically when you can have more than one in a squad.
Regardless of where you place it, the grenade launcher's decent range and status as an assault weapon will allow you to fire on the run as you position your squad to take advantage of exposed elements or cower behind cover.
The Grenade Launcher and Target Priority
The grenade launcher provides effective firepower against a variety of opponents. Let's break down both ammo types.
Krak: Very nice strength and decent armor penetration are hallmarks of this weapon. It is perfect for serving up a nice hot bowl of Instant Death to Farseers, Guard Officers, or any other T3 opponent with relatively soft armor and multiple wounds. Heck, even hard armored targets will fail a save eventually. Some of the lower toughness Monstrous Creatures such as Tyranid Hive Tyrants are good targets as well due to the fact that the grenade launcher will at least force some armor saves.
The krak grenade can also do very well against armor in some circumstances. It tends to do well against AV 11 and really shines against AV 10. This makes it a perfect weapon hitting rear armor or busting open Rhinos so that your more expensive and specialized weapons can ravage the marines inside. The krak grenade's absolute best target, however, is a weakly armored vehicle squadron such as Landspeeders, Sentinels, War Walkers, or Piranhas. Vehicles in squadrons treat immobilized results as vehicle destroyed and thus every time a Guardsman with BS Definition: Battle Sister or Ballistic Skill3 pulls the trigger on one of these squadrons there is a 25% chance that you'll be rolling on the damage table and your penetrating hits will carry a 50% chance of a vehicle destroyed result. A volley of 3 or 4 krak grenades against such a squadron can be absolutely devastating and will often earn back the points spent on grenade launchers many times over. The best part is that your grenade launchers are extremely unlikely to be the target of these types of units. They can easily be lured into traps where your grenade launchers can pound them into oblivion. "But Monochrome" you say, "I can do the same with plasma guns and they have even higher strength!" This is true, but they can't hit from 24 inches away while on the move and without the risk of frying your own guys which is amusing but not particularly helpful to the future damage output of the squad.
Frag: Everyone knows how to use blast templates. Look for densely packed troops, especially those with low toughness or armor. Taking multiple grenade launchers in a squad will allow you to take advantage of opportunities that involve these variables. Your best targets here are infantry squeezing through a tight spot, that have just disembarked from a vehicle (or been forcibly removed…possibly by some of your other grenade launchers), have just used Deep Strike to enter play, or have just assaulted a vehicle and are still tightly clustered. Frag shots trade off strength for a large number of hits. The new 5th ed rules for blast weapons make frag grenades much more accurate than in the past and if you pick your targets well from the above list you will find that it is not uncommon to land more than 20 hits on a single squad with a volley of four grenades. Even against terminators, this can lead to a daunting number of armor saves. As with krak grenades above, the grenade launcher provides opportunities that may not be available with other weapons due to the fact that your opponent will be putting a lot of effort into keeping vulnerable and tightly packed troops away from your Battlecannons or other high strength template weapons and can easily overlook or discount the danger from your grenade launchers.
Grenade Launchers are Often Ignored
As I have mentioned a couple of times, many opponents will either ignore grenade launchers as not being a threat or be worried enough about your seriously big guns that they may be overlooked. This is a huge advantage as this weapon can deal some serious damage if positioned and used correctly. I have been using grenade launchers for years just because I like the look of the weapon and have found that that even some veteran players will look at a Special Weapons squad full of grenade launchers that I have just deployed and ask "Seriously?" This is to my benefit because it tells me that my opponent is not afraid and will likely not consider the unit a threat.
Use your opponent's lack of fear to your advantage and position your launchers where they can inflict the most damage. After 2/3 of a Landspeeder squad and has been destroyed by weapons that cost almost nothing is a good time for your opponent to start worrying. Force thirteen wounds on that Dire Avenger squad that is trying disembark out of sight of your Hellhound (my personal best). Or yank the wheels out from under a bunch of Rhino mounted marines out in the middle of a deadly firing lane. Whatever you do, don't underestimate this valuable and rock solid gun.