When I first heard mention of Fanatic releasing Space Marine escorts I was excited at the premise and I looked forward to seeing their stats. I saw the models and guessed at what their stats would be. Having seen the models I figured that the smaller ship (the Hunter) would be a destroyer and the two larger ships would be frigates, which was correct. I believed that the destroyer would be one armour better than it's Imperial counterpart (the Cobras) and it would be equipped with boarding torpedoes as well as normal torpedoes, which was correct.
I believed that the frigates would both be equipped with the other two Space Marine weapons: Thunderhawk launch bays and bombardment cannons. I believed that one frigate would have one or two Thunderhawk launch bays and a few weapons and the other frigate would have one bombardment cannon on the prow and a few weapons. I also believed that both frigates would have an armour rating of 6+. This was not correct: what we actually got were carbon copies of the Sword and Firestorm class frigates.
The Gladius frigate and the Nova frigate are just Swords and Firestorms that cost 10 more points than their imperial counterparts that are 5 and 10 cm faster respectively. The only ship which got all of the notable upgrades was the Hunter destroyer. The destroyer got 5cm more speed an extra armour point (to armour 5+) and Space Marine boarding torpedoes in addition to the normal Imperial torpedoes.
The Gladius frigate, as a Sword, got 5cm of speed and lost a turret. The Nova frigate gained 10 cm of speed and also lost a turret. The point is that you for a small cost of 5 points can up grade a Cobra, Firestorm or a Sword to Space Marine status gaining all of the Space Marine upgrades such as an 8-10 leadership, Space Marine boarding modifiers and the +1 to hit and run attacks. If I was to play a game where I planned to field Space Marine escorts I would take lots of Hunters (because I think they are amazing little ships) and I would buy Firestorms and Swords and pay the +5 points to upgrade them to Space Marine escorts. I would be saving 5 points per escorts, retaining 2 turrets per frigate and losing some extra speed.
That being said, I'm not saying these frigates are worthless, the Hunters themselves are outstanding (I will later reccount a recent battle where I fielded a small squadron of Hunters and wiped a Chaos fleet off the board with them). Sometimes you will need the extra speed that the frigates can put out, especially the Nova frigate with its impressive 35cm of speed. A scenario where I believe a squadron of Nova's would be very useful would be if you wished to escort a squadron of the new Fast Clippers. The Clippers have a speed of 30cm and go +5d6 on all ahead full, and you would be forced to send them with one of the few escorts that have a hope of keeping up with them. This in my opinion would be the speedy Nova frigate: they are heavily armed and at 35cm should be able to keep up when the Clippers go on All Ahead Full.
In conclusion, the Hunters are absolutely incredible. The Nova is fast and that speed is useful in some instances, but you could do better with a Firestorm for turret defence. Finally, the poor Gladius at number 3. Always take a Sword, it's better.
Hunter Field Test
I recently played a 1,000 pt battle against a Chaos fleet. I was fielding a Jovian class battlecruiser, 2 Enforcer class light cruisers, a Space Marine strike cruiser, 4 Firestorm class frigates, 3 Hunter class destroyers, and the new Goliath class forge tender, which I was playtesting.
The Chaos forces were 6 Idolators, 2 Chaos Space Marine strike cruisers (with the misprint boarding torpedo launcher) and a Styx class heavy cruiser.
I won't do a full battle report, I'll just inform you as to what the Hunters did. I sent all of my forces (except my three Hunters) to engage the two strike cruisers and the Styx. I sent the Hunter's to engage the Chaos Idolators. All 6 of them. To support the Hunters I sent along four waves of a Thunderhawk and a fighter each. Two waves were shot down on approach. The three Hunter's fired their 3 weapons at the Idolators bringing down one shield, then they fired their 6 boarding torpedoes which destroyed four Idolators. The fifth Idolator, with it's shield down, was destroyed by long range fire from the Space Marine strike cruiser, and the last Idolator was destroyed by a wave of Thunderhawks.
The Hunter destroyers turned victoriously from the rapidly expanding dust cloud which was once a squadron of six Idolators (tee hee), and they made their way to the Styx. My plan was to launch bombers at it with my Jovian and an Enforcer (the other Enforcer had been destroyed). The Hunters moving towards the Styx fell under attack by the two crippled strike cruiser losing one. The last two remaining Hunters arrived (having mourned their losses) and fired their 4 boarding torpedoes, which hit right after an attack run by the Jovian's bombers. The two boarding torpedoes which made it through managed to destroy the Styx.
You can rest assured that from this point on, Hunter class Destroyers will have a place in my fleets.
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