Vroom Vroom... Pew Pew! - Building a Minervan Force
Sometimes you are just sick of running squishy little flesh sacs and you just want to run full metal at the enemy. Minervans are great for this purpose, giant piles of metal death to grind up the Emperors foes. Below are just my thoughts on how to put them together, as always feel free to leave comments as you like especially if you have an alternate build that works.
Leman Russ exterminators - some will disagree with me with me on this point but for me the exterminator is the best of all the Leman Russ options for Minervans. Standard Russ have bigger and better guns with better range but in my mind are let down by their ordinary FF values and engagement is so important in Epic. Demolishers are great but too short ranged so for me the exterminator is the middle ground. I also really like executioners for that macro shot, great stuff. When you factor in that Minervans characters also give the extra FF shot in engagement the 3+ FF value of the exterminators is brilliant.
The tactic you should be aiming for with Minervans is the iconic 1-2 punch where you drive up the fat tank unit and do some damage to a unit then retain and use another unit to engage with to take advantage of the fantastic support fire. Warhounds make for an outstanding unit to initiate the engage move because of their 1+ activation but I've done it with great success using salamander scout units that include a commissar and do a clever clipping assault with their huge movement values.
Shadowswords - The key question is not if but how many you should include and in what form. I've run them as units of 3 before and as singles and in hindsight generally prefer them in singles but each to their own. The only problem with having them in 1 unit is the all eggs/one basket issue but the advantage is boosting core numbers to get more support options which can be great.
Salamander Scouts - I'd consider these a 1-2 option in a standard 3000 point list because the biggest risk to your tank units will be BC engage from things like teleporting terminators or wraith blades etc. No scout cover is just a recipe for disaster. Not to mention that Minervans can be a fairly slow force overall so having these guys can be fantastic for late turn objective grabs.
Hydras - can't get enough of these guys. Embed them into every core unit where possible, take them in units of 3 if you like. Mix it up as you like but don't leave home without them. Also don't neglect the amazing amount of shots they can punch out in units and their speed, I've grabbed many objectives with a timely move of the 150pt formation which has been sitting behind a forest all game previously.
Commissars - one advantage Minervans have is that you will probably not have much more than 6 activations so you can basically just put one in each. If you had more than 6 options where they could go the priorities would be core russ/super heavy formations, salamanders (for sneaky engages), support super heavies (fearless Shadowswords are amazing) and then other units like hydras, artillery etc.
Warhounds - these are the perfect support option for core russ formations. Everything that Russ can't do like moving rapidly these guys can do beautifully. A general pattern would be to aim to blast away with the plasma in turn 1 and go for a supporting engagement in the next turn while the plasma recharges. I run 2 as a minimum and often run 3 based on points.
Thunderbolts - another awesome unit to give you some flexibility, smacking down some already broken units, attacking scout screens to make way for you're awesome russ formations to hit what they need too etc.
Other super heavies - some of these are really awesome and just not used enough, especially in big units. Baneblades I understand, for their points they really are garbage when you look at what else you can have but can I suggest that you give Stormswords a go at some point. That unit with its 9BP ignoring covet disrupting barrage can really be amazing for Minervans who often lack decent template support. Solid FF support values as well. I just wish I could thrown in ogryns like in Steel Legion!
Artillery - when I first started loved artillery, basilisks never appealed but manticores where you fire 2 in turn 1 and then 1 in the second turn so you can get a 4BP barrage. These days I'm not so keen, because I find that many opponents will just kill one or suppress them and suddenly I'm down an expensive activation etc.
Death strikes - everyone whose gone against Deathstrikes has that story of how they wiped out some amazing something. Everyone who has used them has 100 stories of how they've rolled nothing but 1's. Work out if they work for you and swap out a Shadowsword if that floats your boat.
Marauder bombers - nobody really runs these guys competitively and fair enough but any army without some sort of blast template is giving the opponent a big advantage. So if you don't want to run the Stormswords or an artillery option they might be worth consideration.
General strategies and objectives.
Objective placement and general strategies
With Minervans it's really all about maximising the output of your super powerful core units so activation order is so important. Shadowswords are amazing for what they do but they will kill a single guardsmen just as effectively if you activate at the wrong time so you really need to think ahead and have a plan, you are not a flexible or reactionary force as say marines or Orks can be because you just don't have the speed. So you think about some of the following
Minervans are generally a slowish army but with plenty of hitting power. It's usually in your interest to have everything grouped up so that you can drive forward and focus on tearing the guts out of the enemy so for me the objectives I place will be pretty close to the enemy Blitz. Often my opponents will space theirs out and try to use speed to outmaneuver me.
BTS - Thanks to fearless commissars Minervans have some of the best BTS options that exist so keeping yours alive shouldn't be too hard. You also have plenty of hitting power so most enemy BTS formations are a reasonable option for you to take on.
Hold the line - I find this one really tough for Minervans. You can't be everywhere and if your opponent is clever they will spread out the objectives they place to stop you concentrating your forces so my priority would be more about stopping the enemy getting 2/3 of the ones in my half than actually holding all 3 of them.
Take and hold - definitely one of my key priorities. Drive forward in a metal tide and smash all before me. Ideally one of those 2 will be the enemy blitz but betwee tanks to grab the closer ones and Warhounds to grab the blitz I think it's a solid priority.
Blitz - Absolutely you need to design your list to achieve this one. Warhounds and salamanders are both fantastic to give you options to take the enemy Blitz down. The other big issue that Minervans can have is actually holding their own. It's so easy to focus on the huge push into enemy territory only to watch a sneaky thunder hawk full of stuff steal yours away. Artillery units can be ok to Gaurd the blitz, hydras as well or a sniping Shadowsword for example.
They shall not pass - again as a fairly slow army holding your half is easy enough but be conscious of putting something into the enemy half!
Where to buy?
Gaurd vehicles can be found pretty easily on eBay if you want originals but there are amazing proxy ranges around too. A dig through the Vangaurd website will reveal some nice looking proxies for standard vehicles and Warhounds. Gregsters lab has beautiful alternate super heavies. More recently Trolls under the bridge have launched a new Leman Russ proxy and that's where I sourced more of my models. My 'exterminators' are technically 'destructors' with twin lascannons in the turret but hell in 6mm nobody notices. I've noticed at time of writing they are about to release a minigun looking turret that would be sensational.