A little while back, I had a debate with another IGMB member about outfitting Russes.
His suggestion was to put Plasma Cannons on a pair of Russes for a list. His logic was that this makes your Russes able to deal with most anything they run across, thus spreading your effectiveness out and meaning your tanks can handle anything.
My suggestion was that he take a Vanquisher and a Russ with HB Sponsons. My logic was that this allows the tanks to kill intended targets with greater ease, and allows you to always hit infantry and armour effectively every turn.
The person who had asked for advice went with my suggestion, and it worked like a charm. You can read the thread here.
Now, the question is why? Here are a few reasons why, with the IG, specializing Russes (and infantry as well) is a good idea.
1. We aren't Space Marines. We can't always hit on a 3+. Thus, I find it useful to kit out a Russ or Squad with all sorts of AT weaponry if I want it to pop tanks, or AI weaponry if I want it to paste infantry. That way I'm throwing a lot of the right kind of ordinance down range, and WILL kill something. Compare a Russ with HB sponsons to a Russ with Plasma. The former has 10 shots, while the latter has 6. Also, those templates have less of a chance of hitting the target then an HB (50% chance for normal weapon, just over 33% with templates if you factor in the BS). Yes, there is a chance the template will hit something else, but in my experience, it ends up being nothing but the table.
2. We aren't Space Marines, Round Two. Because all of our infantry is so firggin cheap, we can afford to roll 2-3 Russes in 1500-2000pt lists. That means that we don't have to have a single Russ that has to do everything. We can roll several that can be tweaked to do one job well. Yes, that means you have all your eggs in one basket if you lose a tank, but...
3. We have Infantry support. There is no reason whatsoever, with cheap HWs for your even cheaper infantry, for you to have to rely on the Vanq to do all the AT work. Likewise, The Exterminator isn't the only AI unit you should be throwing down. Taking a Lascannon or Missile Section (or both, or two of one type), and placing HBs in your squads ensures that, no matter what happens to your armour, you're still putting out a lot of AI and AT with good range. While the Russes are the stars of the show, the whole performance would fall flat on it's face without the supporting cast, the Infantry.
4. Jack of all Trades, Master of None. Consider the Plasma Russ. Yes, it's great for killing MEQs who are foolish enough to venture into the open, but it struggles with AV 13. Also, as mentioned above, it doesn't put out the same amount of shots as the HB Sponson Russ, and the shots are less accurate, thus making it less effective against line infantry. So, while it can do all jobs (except serious AT work), it does none of them very well.
5. Cost. The "Do it all" Russ is actually 20pts more expensive then either the Hull Las Vanquisher OR the HB Sponson Russ. So, not only are you taking up an FOC slot for a unit that doesn't do any job it's supposed to do very well, but you're paying more then you should for it.
So, there you have it. Here are a few suggestions for Russ build outs.
Basic Three Russes (These are great for fielding in almost any game)
Vanquisher w/ Hull Lascannon- Best tank buster out there. I always take one, and usually slap on camo netting.
LRMBT w/Hull HB and HB Sponsons- The best "All purpose" build, it's good against just about anything on foot.
Exterminator w/Hull HB and HB Sponsons- Great for dealing with IG, Tau, Eldar, Orks, and, well, anything that isn't an MEQ. It's also a living nightmare for light Transports.
Three Fancy Russes (Use these only when the situation warrents)
Leman Russ Eradicator w/Hull HB and HB Sponsons- Very much Anti-Infantry, it will put out a LOT of pain against non-MEQs. The reason it's here instead of as a basic Russ is that it's more expensive then the Exterminator, and doesn't have the same Anti-Transport capability. I would only take one of these.
Leman Russ Executioner w/Plasma Sponsons and Hull Las- VERY Expensive but VERY good at killing MEQs, it's main gun essentially combines the shot of a Plasma Cannon with the RoF of a Heavy Bolter. Flinging a whopping five Small Blast templates around also helps to offset the fact that you aren't rolling to hit. Still, it's very expensive, and that Russ+Plasma Sponsons combo is a cheaper solution.
Leman Russ Demolisher w/Anything- This is when you want it dead. Period. They're expensive, though, and it's usually a good idea to run Plasma or Melta Sponsons on it. Again, one or two would be all you need, and it should go after the biggest, baddest, hardest target your opponent throws down.
There you go guys. Any thoughts? Do you mix your roles, or specialize?