Obliterators are one of those units you almost always want to bring in a fight.
With terminator stat line (but duble the wounds!) and with an enormous firearms selection, they compensate high cost with sheer versatility. They can deepstrike, they can take some punishment, they have an answer to every unit in the game, they can powerslap enemyes in melee...it's like 5th edition over and over, when you couldn't get outside without some Obliterator love!
Let's analize in detail their use:
Versatility at a price:
Obliterators have an answer to whatever worries you. They can sport a lascannon, a plasma cannon, an assault cannon, a multi-melta, a TL plasma gun, a TL meltagun, a Heavy flamer, a TL flamer..wew..that was long. Also, they have a stock power fist, so no joking in melee. This versatility justifies partially their steep cost. However, a sad rule oblige the obliterator to cycle weapon each turn, meaning that no two consecutive turns will see the beasty shooting with the same weapon. It has to be noted, however, that some weapons are comparable and will not affect you too much if you switch from one to another:
Assault cannon / TL plasmagun
-similar strength, AP 2 or rending. Of course plasmagun is better, but with more dice rolled, even the assault cannon can threaten terminators and vehicles.
TL meltagun / Multimelta
- the bigger meltarange of the multimelta makes up for the lack of TL, making this one of the optimal weapon cycling configuration
Heavy flamer / TL flamer
thanks to the TL on wound rolls, those two weapons are almost identical and mean you can keep flaming like an happy puppy turn after turn.
The Sideckick syndrome
The abovementioned "cycling-rule" gives the Oblit a supporting role, more than making him the king of heavy weapons: since you can only shoot that 48" lascannon once in two turns, the best way to use them is as a "Sidekick" to more reliable units, and to advance them on the field, following your melee units. A trio of obliterators will cost almost as 2 units of Autocannon Havocs and not even partially will the Oblits be able to compete in fire output. However, pair a couple of obliterators with those havocs and you have a nasty firebase, capable of gnawing trough light armours, hordes, heavy armoured models and even surprise that AV13 model with a nasty lascannon or melta peppering. Also, the Obliterator should get slowly near the enemy, since its better weapons have a 24" range or less. Starting them lined up with your heavy support and having them walk the board to get better shooting angles or to unroot some idiots in cover is they way to go. Also, as a sidekick, they are far more performing if joined by a big character that makes up for some of their weaknesses.
Not tough enough, not brave as you might want
Let's be clear: the amount of high Strenght weapons in the 40th millennia is too damn high!
A T4, multiwound creature can rest assured a big deal of power fists and krak missiles are already flying in his direction. Instant death is a problem, when you spend so many points in a single model. Shure 2+ armour and 5+ invulnerable will weather some shots, but its inevitable that an obliterator unit will take a casualty, and since you are limited to a maximum of three models...each casualty is a morale check! This is huge, given the fact you are relying on a meager Ld 8 as base. Also, every Ld penalty will work on them, as will any other effect like pinning etc. etc. In my opinion, this is the worst part of the deal, when talking about Obliterators, 'cause it force you to patch this situation and this means spending more point on the unit. Mark of Nurgle is mandatory. Seriously, MoTzeentch is overcosted for what it does, and if you can explain me why i'd want to take MoSlaanesh or MoKhorne on this unit, i'd be grateful. Simply put, the only mark worth the effort is the Stinky Mark of Nurgle.
It will protect you from small arms fire and will keep you safe from that lascannon shot of Instant death... About the Leadership issue, if you are set in using a full unit of 3, then you almost have to babysit them with a Fearless character or (better still) buy a not-so-cheap upgrade named Veterans of the Loooong War. This will boost them up to Ld 9, making it a bit harder to flee. Kitted this way an Obliterator is 80 pts each...OUCH!
Leave me alone, I'm playing with myself!
If you consider what has been said before, it's clear that obliterators want to be left alone. They really want to be alone. Probably doing nasty stuff to kittens...as gross as it can sound, if you field them as a lone model, you can save some points, you can save them from being obliterated (ah, the irony) from a single vindicator blast, you avoid the risk of seeing the survivors fleeing the board after their pal is dead, you can use them more tactically and shoot a different weapon with each,every turn. Of, course this will mean that you are going to deplete your heavy slots very fast. A couple of single obliterators and a unit of havocs are perfect for a 1500 - 1850 pts game, though.
Stand still while i come at you
Obliterators are friggin' slow. They can't run, they can't have a dedicated transport, they can't sweeping advance, they can't , oh my God, thay can't OVERWATCH! They are so slow you might want to use their Deepstrike rule. Sometimes there is no other way to obliterate (
) an enemy vehicle, parked deeply behind protection. On the other hand, not being able to use your nasty weaponry when charged means that you almost always want to charge. If you are so near an enemy unit you fear of being charged, then, i'd say even if its suicidal, you might as well shoot them and charge. If you can get them, they will get you, and you will just loose 1 attack and much glory. Also, consider that with 3 attacks each, oblits can still pack a punch, especially against MCs or small elite units. If you manage to somewhat buff them, maybe with a Biomancy sorceror or a babysitter Chaos Lord , they are a force to be reckoned with even in melee.
So, to end this wall of text, here's some proposed configurations:
3 Obliterators, MoNurgle, VotLW (240) High investment, low chance of fleeing the board
3 Obliterators, MoNurgle (228) joined by "token" Chaos Lord with power sword (80), max investment, extra melee punch, fearless
3 Obliterators, MoNurgle, (228) Terminators sorceror, balestar of mannon (115), divination boost the oblits incommensurably, and having a +1 Ld from sorceror and potential ID weapon in the mix is gold.
3 Single Obliterators, MoNurgle (218 pts), minimal investment, MSU at its best, super versatility and tactical use.
2 Single obliterators , MoNurgle (152) acting as support for 4 Havocs, 4 Missile launchers (135), good range, good ranged strenght and horde control in a pinch
Honestly, the last two configurations are the best. You can see how oblits on their own can well stay in the 220 pts range, while supported or babysitted they go up to 312 pts.
What do you think?