Sunday, January 22, 2017

Anachronistic 40k: D-Cannon

Hello and welcome to this monthly feature where I look back on the history of iconic elements of the 40k game. This month: the Eldar D-Cannon.

Original image and blurb from White Dwarf #100.
 It first appeared in the early days of Rogue Trader in the landmark White Dwarf #100. Despite it's humble design (I never thought it looked very "eldar" even then) players encountering this thing on the table would learn to absolutely dread facing it.
The symbols under the ad copy indicate base options.
I recall the first time I ever faced one. I was playing Space Marines against Doc TSG's Eldar when this gun fired at my Land Raider. The Land Raider was wicked-tough in 1st Edition and the idea of this thing "one shot, one kill"-ing it seemed so...unplausible. After a few dice rolls my Land Raider was removed from play, or according to the background,  removed from known reality!

"Ok, what the hell was that?" I declared in bewildered shock. He passed the Rogue Trader tome to me and this is what I saw:

Snipped from Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader.

Look at that first sentence and check out all those alternate names for this thing! Each one is amazingly accurate, but most are long since forgotten. The background for this cannon states that it uses the same warping technology typical of the warp engines on a spacecraft. However the warping effects on the target, as it's shunted from reality into the warp and back again, is usually enough to tear the target apart.

Despite the instant death rules, you had a fair chance to avoid having your models killed if they were fast enough to "dive out of the way". Something you just don't see at all in the modern GW games: Saves based on speed of movement!

These original rules were pretty simple and straight forward, however by the end of the edition the rules for this weapon had evolved quite a bit. In fact, the whole thing had evolved. Jes Goodwin had re-sculpted it into the weapon platform that we more-or-less have today, and with it came additional rules for moving the piece as well. As you can see in the image below, the new gun was actually smaller but uniquely Eldar for it's time. In fact it sort of led the way to what would become "the look" for Eldar weapons and it would be a few more years before the other weapons conform to the same design. You can see the Las Cannon (Brightlance) and Scatter Laser in this pic too and they look far more like Imperial weapons. The hover platform itself was the real game changer as this allowed the support weapon to move during the game with far less restrictions that the other armies were capable of doing with their support weapons.

Let's not talk about those tripods....

At the end of the 1st edition The Battle Manual arrived and with it a far more complicated set of rules for the D-Cannon, which was now listed as the Distort Cannon on Anti-Grav Platform. It was no longer a Heavy Weapon, it was now a Support Weapon. The rules based on the target's Movement rate had been replaced by placing a 2" template and rolling a D12 for scatter. In the the 2nd Edition of the game this would change to a scatter die roll. After determining where it ended up you would scatter it a 2nd time. That would indicate the blast's final position. Whatever was below that Template would have it's fate determined by a D6 roll on the Distort Table.

The warping effects of the Distort Cannon always did something to the target, it was just a matter of determining what that was. If you rolled '5' on the Distort Test you rolled on an additional chart to see what the outcome of that result was. It sometimes wasn't pretty, but it was always interesting!

The last two results were particularly horrific as "5" usually killed the target from the fall, and "6" resulted in the target essentially turning into a Mole Mortar shell!

Ah fun times. I recall a particular 2nd Edition game where my Ork Dreadnought was struck twice by the same D-Cannon, both times resulting in it being displaced inside a small building! Each time the Dred had to spend it's entire next turn getting out of that annoying building, effectively making it worthless for half the game! It wasn't always comical though, and I usually made it a priority to take those nasty things out.

Snipped from Codex Eldar (3rd Ed ruleset).

Speaking of Dreadnoughts, in these early frontier times of the 40K game, if I ever encountered an Eldar Distort Cannon it was most likely mounted on an Eldar Dreadnought. A tougher, and arguably more reliable method for getting the D-Cannon closer to the thing you wished to annihilate. The Dreadnought tended to be a tougher target to eliminate as well, although I recall some creative ways to counter it (my Ork Weirdboy "Squishing" the pilot for example).

"I haven't been called Dreadnought since...oh before you were born!"

Third Edition arrived, and like everything else in the game, the Distort Cannon was beat down good by the proverbial nerf bat. It was now a Guess Range Weapon with only a 24" range, Str 10 AP2 using the new large Blast template. Still a nasty weapon, but losing all of it's fun and random elements. The "get out of the way" factor was replaced by the Guess Range rules, which in the hands of some people wasn't really that inhibiting! And the Str 10 AP2 equaled death to most of the things that it pointed at. Also, now you could buy these things in batteries -just in case you absolutely, positively, needed to annihilate the the crap out of something all the way down to the molecular level!

Hello gorgeous, give us a smile! 
With the 4th Edition Codex the stats and rules changed again. The gun was still a Guess weapon but now had Instant Death on 6+ when rolling to wound. This only served to make the Distort Cannon that much more effective and deadly. Also, the new model that came out around this time was simply gorgeous.

Codex Eldar (40k 4th ed ruleset).

The next Eldar Codex to come out was during the 6th edition of Warhammer 40,000. It was an impressive tome visually but the rules served to take the Eldar to a power level they haven't fully enjoyed since the 2nd Edition. By this time the Eldar family of Distortion Weapons has grown significantly. It started with the smaller Wraithcannon  as wielded by the Wraithguard back in 2nd edition as a hand-held portable and slightly less powerful version of the D-Cannon. By this time we now have D-Sythes, Heavy D-Sythes and even Heavy Wraithcannons. In various games over the years {this one comes to mind as an example of why one never declares a challenge against anyone carrying a D-Sythe!) I have had the mixed fortune of facing off against these other Distortion Weapons, but I just never see (and seriously, this isn't a complaint!) the D-Cannon hit the table any more. Eldar players like it, but in the end, they have so many more efficient killing options available to them for the points that they would sink into a D-Cannon battery, that it usually remains back on the Craftworld...probably with a tarp over it.

6th ed rules.

7th edition, which shocked the world with how fast it followed behind 6th, took a slightly lazy approach. See that profile above for 6th edition book? Somebody at the Design Studio looked at that and had an epiphany:

"Hey, we got D-Weapons in the game now that migrated over from Apocalypse, How is it that we have a gun called a D-Cannon and it isn't a D-weapon? That's really confusing...we should fix that!"

"Oi, that's a brilliant idea!!!"

So, they took an eraser to that S column and replaced all those annoying numbers with a capital D. Which (like you don't know) means Destroyer. Yes, these are all Destroyer Weapons now meaning you roll on a chart to see just how extensive your target's demise is. They're slightly nerfed with a -1 on the table, but still: Ouch! However, despite access to these junior-grade D-Weapons, I still don't ever see the old D-Cannon on the table-top. It still has the same problem that it had in 6th: for the points sacrifice I could get even more Warpspiders!

And here we are. The nasty killing machine that has had many different ways to play it over the course of 30 years. I am hoping to hear some comments regarding tales of glory and woe for those who faced or used the D-Cannon at some point.

-Till next time!

All of the images in the post are Copyright Games Workshop and are used here for the purposes of review and not as a challenge to their individual copyrights. 


Siph_Horridus said...

Very interesting, I think they should have perhaps stopped at 6th Edn St10, AP2... infantry carrying Destroyer weapons is just too OP it is silly, especially when it's a D3 x 5 Wall of Death if you try and take them out in close-combat!

neverness said...

Oh I agree. It was the biggest WTF moment of this edition: the power boosts to the Craftworld Eldar after the throttling the other Codex books released before it (*cough* Orks). Strength D D-Sythes? Really? Thanks GW. LOL

Da Masta Cheef said...

Ah yes, if only I'd thought to take a photo of the incredulous look of shock on your face when that Deff Dredd went 'KA-BOOM!'...

Duke of Earl said...

Yes. This is definitely another example of GW's "Eldar get more powerful with less drawbacks in each edition, you have problem?" philosophy.

The only point at which Marines were clearly ahead were in third edition, the age of the Rhino rush, and early fourth, before the fourth edition Eldar codex was released. Before and after that they wrecked face on everything.

Eldar are what Dark Eldar wish they were.

neverness said...

And that was before they got the D!!!