LEGIONES ASTARTES: LEVIATHAN SIEGE DREADNOUGHT TACTICA

“Towering over later Imperial walker patterns, this heavily armoured dreadnought is savagely powerful. It was designed for siege warfare and primarily armed with close combat and support weaponry that can rend buildings, vehicles and flesh alike; though it is no less effective when armed with the powerful and esoteric short ranged weaponry uniquely developed for it.”

Legiones Astartes Army List, Leviathan Siege Dreadnought Datasheet.

Our third entry in the Legiones Astartes Army Tactica sub-series discusses a unit that is quite frankly as ubiquitous as the Spartan Assault Tank and Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter in Horus Heresy. The Leviathan Siege Dreadnought was a design created in secrecy on Terra and is an alternative development strand to the Contemptor chassis. The reason for the secrecy in design is unproven, but many in the Mechanicum uneasily see the Leviathan as purpose-designed to destroy Mechanicum battle-automata – in some unforeseen future crisis.

Leviathan Siege Dreadnoughts were by design of the Warmaster, limited to Traitor Legions and those few Loyalists who had access to Terra. Even so, both of those forces did not receive a multitude of the chassis and had to utilise them carefully, or like carrion feeder, salvage the damaged chassis from battlefields.

In game, Leviathan Siege Dreadnoughts are often a one-stop shop for a player needing some significant weight of firepower on the table. Rightly so, as the Leviathan is an absolute brute of a unit. However, it’s costly and despite its defensive capabilities; can be felled with concentrated Melta or Las fire.

Basic Rules & Core Capability:

Leviathan Siege Dreadnoughts come in the form of a Talon of 1-3; same as most (bar the Deredeo and Mortis) Dreadnoughts. Starting at 270pts, you will have Vehicle (Walker) with two Leviathan Siege Claws with In-built Melta Guns, two torso mounted Heavy Flamers (note no twin linked here), Smoke Launcher, Searchlight, Frag Grenades, Extra Armour. So it’s fairly well equipped out of the box.

It’s WS 5, BS 5, Strength 8, Front & Side Armour 13, Rear Armour 12, Initiative 4, 4 Attacks (the bonus close combat attack is already included in the profile) and 4 HP. This means that it’s actually quite the capable beast in both ranged and melee combat. Furthermore, it hits at a high enough Initiative and more than enough base attacks that it’ll worry anything that is forced to step in at Initiative step 1. Something to remember is that for every Leviathan Siege Claw with in-built Melta Gun you replace with another weapon – you lose 1 attack. It’s something that from time to time gets forgotten.

That’s not all though – there are four special rules that start to make this into a truly monstrous platform. Reinforced Atomantic Shielding grants the Leviathan a 4+ invulnerable save. No definition between shooting and melee here – it’s just a flat 4+ base invuln save. As a downside, if the Leviathan suffers an Explodes result, add D3 strength and D3″ to the radius of the blast. So if it’s starting to look like its going to die, get some space between you and it!

The second special rule is Crushing Charge. This takes the base Initiative of 4 and gives it a nice little +1 boost and also inflicts two Hammer of Wrath attacks in the Assault phase of any turn in which it has charged. It’s nasty and it’ll pretty much assure devastation ensuing in the fight phase unless you’re rolling incredibly poorly.

Move Through Cover is a neat rule that helps most legions out with getting stuck in. A unit with Move Through Cover rolls an extra D6 when rolling to move through difficult terrain and is not slowed by charging through difficult terrain. So, you’re pretty much rolling 3D6 and picking the highest roll to see how far you get – and then ignoring completely for charges. Finishing this rule off, a model with this rule automatically passes Dangerous Terrain Tests.

Finally, we have Dreadnought Talon which was eluded to in the opening gambit. This effectively means that you must deploy Leviathans in a Talon together and must be within 6″ of each other. After deployment, they operate independently and are not treated as a Vehicle Squadron. So, if you’re taking them as a Talon, you need to be cognisant of where they’ll need to be, tactically, or you’ll find yourself with 1-3 Leviathans being kited.

Rounding out the rules – a Leviathan Dreadnought Talon numbering a single Dreadnought may take a Legion Dreadnought Drop Pod or Kharydis Assault Claw as a Dedicated Transport. Owing to its size, it cannot be transported in any other Drop Pod, however, it can fit inside a Sokar Pattern Storm Bird – taking up 10 models worth of space.

Warhammer 30k - Iron Warriors Leviathan by Dagahaz on DeviantArt
A Leviathan is very much its namesake – able to both deliver and receive huge amounts of firepower. Credit: Dagahaz, DeviantArt.

Primary Weapons Systems:

Much like the Deredeo, the Leviathan is able to equip itself with a multitude of weapons to suit different missions. The oddity with the Leviathan is that there isn’t really a bad choice you can make when it comes to outfitting – which is partly why it’s such an expensive unit.

Twin-Linked Volkite Calivers, 5pts. Remembering that the Leviathan has two Heavy Flamers in it’s chest mounts, either (or both) may be replaced with a Twin-Linked Volkite Caliver. Heavy Flamers are template weapons, Strength 5, AP 4, Assault 1. So you’re dropping two templates each shooting phase. Note, these aren’t Twin-Linked, nor are they Torrent however they do have Ignores Cover and Wall of Death meaning that instead of firing overwatch, you automatically inflict D4 hits on the charging unit. This is a good starting point, made better by Legion specific things like Chem-munitions for Death Guard (gain Shred, Gets Hot). However what if you’re not too fussed about roasting the enemy to death?

Well, the Martian death ray that is Volkite, aka the Choom train, is there to answer your call. This gives you a 30″ range, Strength 6, AP 5, Heavy 2, Deflagrate weapon that is Twin-Linked. If you spend 10pts to replace both sides, then you’ll end up with with Heavy 4, Deflagrate. That’s enough to start to seriously worry infantry squads – remembering that Deflagrate generates additional hits when you successfully wound with Volkite. To me, unless you’re running Death Guard, this is a solid upgrade to the Heavy Flamers. Strength 6 is also enough to start harassing light armour like Rhinos with. Internally balanced by the AP 5, Volkite is a fun weapon to use, even in a lighter concentration as fitted to the Leviathan and can help out with anti-infantry even when you fully gear your Leviathan to counter tanks.

Leviathan Storm Cannon, 10pts. Face a lot of armour up to AV13 mixed with heavy infantry deloyments? Then the Leviathan Storm Cannon may be for you. 24″ Range, Strength 7, AP 3, Heavy 6, Sunder marks this out as a strong weapon to bring to bear on infantry. If you pay 290pts you are able to drop Heavy 12, Strength 7, AP 3, with Sunder allowing you to re-roll failed armour penetration rolls. It’s quite expensive then, but 12 Strength 7 shots are nothing to sniff at. It’s balanced by the short range and the fact it loses two of its attacks in melee, but still – for those needing some outright brutish firepower to rain down on light to medium armour and to tear apart infantry, it’s a valid ranged choice.

Grav-Flux Bombard, 20pts. Short ranged at 18″, with a single Heavy 1 shot and with no inherent Strength, it’s easy to dismiss the Grav-Flux Bombard when viewed alongside the other weapons options. In fact, it’s not often seen fitted predominantly because people view it as an inferior choice.

However, that Heavy 1 shot is actually a Large Blast 5″ with Pinning, Graviton Collapse, Torsion Crusher, Ignores Cover. Basically, any unit you hit will be required to take a Pinning Test. If they fail (Leadership Test), then they are immediately pinned and must Go To Ground. This means the unit affected cannot move, run or charge and can only fire snap shots. Unlike normal Go To Ground rules, the unit does not benefit with cover save increases as the weapon discharge causes it and therefore it is too late!

Instead of rolling to wound models caught under the blast marker, the opponent must roll equal to or under their Strength on 2D6 or suffer a wound. Against targets with an armour value, roll 3D6 for armour penetration – due to Torsion Crusher the amount of hull point damage caused is doubled. After the weapon has been fired, the marker is left in place and that area now counts as Difficult Terrain and Dangerous Terrain for the next turn due to the gravity flux.

Immediately, the provenance for mushing up Infantry leaps to the fore, whilst you’re not necessarily going to be tearing apart armour with it. However there is another use for it that isn’t immediately clear. Clearly, being a Large Blast template, this weapon has the ability to scatter. This means that aiming to the front of blobs of infantry and vehicles can be just as effective as dropping directly atop them.

Regardless of casualties taken, you create pools of 5″ Difficult Terrain and Dangerous Terrain, effectively forcing two tests to occur. Difficult Terrain is 2D6, select the highest result and Dangerous Terrain forces the player to roll a D6 for each model entering, moving through or leaving it, on a 1, that model takes a wound (the model may make armour or invulnerable saves, but not a cover save). Once a model has taken a Dangerous Terrain test for a particular scenery model, it does not test again in the same phase, this means there’s scope to seriously harass and control the enemies actions throughout the phases until the Gravity Flux dissipates.

If you haven’t already seen where we are going with this, you effectively can slow and direct an enemy with your shots from a Grav-Flux Bombard. Even one of them has the ability to cause significant concern to an enemy manoeuvre plan. Those Legions or Armies that have notable fear factor assigned to them such as Custodes can be held at bay with well placed Grav shots and slowly whittled away by moving through Grav Flux areas as the game phases go on.

It’s certainly not a “meta” choice, but still damn good fun.

Cyclonic Melta Lance, 20pts. Finally, we reach the most common outfitted ranged weapon, the Cyclonic Melta Lance. At 20pts, it isn’t cheap, but you get 18″ range, Strength 9, AP 1, Heavy 3, Melta. This is the primary tank buster for the Leviathan. Melta rule means you roll an additional D6 when rolling to penetrate at half range or less (so under 9″) – although Armoured Ceramite will nullify that result. Still at Strength 9 you’re looking for 5s to glance and 6s to penetrate AV14 and AP 1 adds 2 to the vehicle damage result. All round it’s a serious Anti-Tank capability, with the ability to deliver a death blow at range to characters that find themselves out of place.

Despite the prevalence of Armoured Ceramite this weapon is still an absolute beast. 20pts might be expensive, but when you consider that it can still destroy anything sub-Super-Heavy or Reinforced Structure if one penetrating hit converts to a 5+ on the vehicle damage table, it is pretty much a solid choice.

Melee Weapon Systems:

Leviathan Siege Claw with in-built Melta Gun, free. Included in the cost of the Leviathan, this melee claw gives Strength x2 (to a maximum of 10), AP 2, Wrecker, Severing Cut. This means that it is fairly adept at chewing up AV14. Severing Cut takes care of the infantry side of things too. Each time a non-vehicle model suffers an unsaved wound, roll a D6. On a 4+ the model suffers an additional D3 wounds with must be saved separately using the weapons profile. Those wounds don’t then roll into another round of D3, but this does mean that deployed well, no character is safe. The claw is the most common melee weapon outfitted because it does everything well and Severing Cut is genuinely good.

Leviathan Siege Drill with in-built Melta Gun, 5pts. With the Leviathan Siege claw being a solid, performer, one might question why the Siege drill even exists. Well, the 5pts remove Severing Cut, but add Armourbane. It’s focused primarily on assuring the penetration of armour, rolling 2D6 to penetrate whilst retaining Wrecker and the Strength x2, AP 2 stat line. It’s genuinely a solid counter for AV14 and above.

Chassis Modifications:

Armoured Ceramite, 20pts. As with most expensive options, the counter-armour to Melta weapons is a 20pt option. You’re better off taking it too as quite frankly, most players will devise a way to get the Melta weapons in range to take advantage of the Melta rule or the fact you may be deploying deep into enemy lines. It’s cheap, when you consider the cost of a Leviathan and the effects on your army of losing it to a single Melta shot at half range.

Phosphex Discharger, 15pts. Clouds of Creeping Death! No longer broken as it once was, Phosphex is still a nasty weapon. 6-18″ Range, Strength 5, AP 2, Heavy 3, Barrage, One Use Only, Blast 3″, Poisoned 3+, Crawling Fire, Lingering Death is a solid ruleset that will cause utter devastation to infantry, wounding on 3+ regardless of toughness. Crawling Fire means that even if you’ve scattered, you can move the blast marker up to 2″ in any direction so long as it would cover more models than previously. In short, you get a bit of flexibility in the way the phosphex “clouds up”. Lingering Death causes the blast marker to be left in play for the rest of the game and the terrain treated as Dangerous Terrain for all models with a Toughness value and Open-Topped Vehicles. Effectively, this allows you to do similar to what was discussed with the Grav Flux and slow or deter the enemy advance. Internally balanced to be One Use Only, this is an effective weapon, even with scattering factored in.

Dedicated Transport, Legion Dreadnought Drop Pod, 100pts:

As mentioned previously, the Leviathan Siege Dreadnought Talon can purchase a Dreadnought Drop Pod if there is only one Leviathan in the Talon. Pods have BS 4, All round armour 12 and 3 HP. It’s classed as Vehicle (Open-Topped, Transport) and has a number of special rules;

Drop Pod Assault. Drop Pods always enter play using the Deep Strike rules and at the beginning of a controlling players turn, they must choose half their Drop Pod units (rounding up) to make a Drop Pod Assault. This means that Turn 1, you can, should you choose to, Pod in your Leviathan and start shooting. As per normal rules however, you will not be able to charge on the turn it arrives.

Immobile. Once a Legion Dreadnought Drop Pod has deployed it cannot move again and counts as having an irreparable immobilised result (without losing a HP).

Inertial Guidance System. Should the pod scatter on top of impassable terrain or another model then reduce the scatter distance by the minimum required to avoid the obstacle.

Burning Retros. The Drop Pod and its contents (as long as they remain touching a part of the Drop Pod structure (including doors) gain Shrouded special rule (gives it a cover save 2 points better than normal, so a 5+ in the open) on the turn it arrives (this also applies to any Interceptor fire it may encounter). The doors of the pod immediately open, allowing the Leviathan to be targetted by shooting attacks, but not charged. This is a good rule, although the Leviathan has an Invulnerable save of 4+, the Pod doesn’t so for that first turn it gets a 5+ cover save, even if it’s right next to the enemy shooting at it.

Assault Vehicle. The Dreadnought may charge on the same turn it disembarks the Drop Pod, although it may still not assault on the same turn the pod arrives from deep strike.

Overall, it’s a nice, fairly cheap method of getting your slow walking Leviathan into the enemy lines. It should be noted that some Rites of War such as Death Guard’s The Reaping limitations mean you cannot use the Drop Pod. It’s therefore critical that you understand the limitations your chosen Rite of War imposes.

The other method of Dedicated Transport this Dreadnought can take is the Legion Kharybdis Assault Claw. It bolsters the HP to 5, has Vehicle (Flyer, Hover, Transport) ruleset and adds five Kharybdis Storm Launchers with Independent Machine Spirits (24″ Range, Strength 6, AP 5, Heavy 2, Pinning, Twin-Linked that can target independent enemies), a Melta Ram (allowing it to conduct ram attacks as if it were a tank when using Hover), Heat Blast (allows it to conduct a 3″+D3 radius, Strength 6, AP 5 hit with no cover saves and vehicles being struck on their weakest armour) and Frag Assault Launchers for 235pts. This does mean that you can effectively deploy, kill targets, redeploy with your Leviathan, but is also a far bigger unit and more difficult to place than the Legion Dreadnought Drop pod

My Night Lords Leviathan Siege Dreadnought with Cyclonic Melta Lance, Siege Drill and Dreadnought Drop Pod. Credit: the30kchannel

Summary:

The Leviathan is an absolute monster of a unit and most players tend to have one, even if it isn’t played often in their army. It’s high armour values and solid 4+ invulnerable are the cornerstone to its defences, whilst being universally Skill 5 for Weapons and Ballistic make it fearsome.

It’s innate short range is it’s true weakness, being unable to stand off and wield its high powered weapons at minimal cost to itself. Walking or podding in at any significant distance, the best counter is to engage it with focused fire of high powered weapons before it gets in range of you – immobilised Leviathans are utterly useless, especially in the controlling players deployment zone.

If it arrives via drop pod, close in, things become far more difficult. Focused fire will probably bring it down, but consider road blocking it with a disposable unit (or the most disposable you have in the vicinity) whilst you look to reposition or target other high priority threats on the table.

It’s short range is also it’s core strength. The firepower it can put down, close in, is truly horrific. As is the variety of weapons systems that a Leviathan can mount. Every choice of weapon has genuine utility against an opponent, just varying degrees of capability to deal with specific threats and targets.

This is pretty much the reason that Leviathan Siege Dreadnoughts are so prevalent. Circa 330pts (loadout dependent) makes it a big commitment to include one, especially with a Drop Pod, but the tactical remit it provides you with is outstanding.

There are other big Dreadnoughts, Fast Attack and Heavy Support choices that can perform equal roles, so you potentially won’t be taking a Leviathan every game, however they certainly are a force multiplier that takes some reckoning.

In the next iteration of Legiones Astartes Army Tactica, we will be taking a look at the Xiphon Interceptor.

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