However, due to the fast assault orientated nature of the Space Wolves army, a Dreadnought may find itself left behind if not deploying via drop pod or equipped with heavy weaponry to provide long range support while holding a vital position.
So we're going to take at a look at all the options for the Space Wolves Dreadnought and its battlefield roles. As always, we're going to be tight with the points and demand the very best we can get whilst spending as little points as possible! Fortunately, the Space Wolves Dreadnought comes with an assault cannon right arm as standard.
Replace Storm Bolter with Heavy Flamer - Do it!
Assault Cannon - it's good and it's free!
Twin Linked Heavy Flaner - It's free, but there are better weapons
Multimelta - It's free and it's a short range tank killer
Twin linked Heavy Bolter - I'd rather keep the Assault Cannon
Twin Linked Autocannon - Reasonable range, mid strength and 2 shots. Not bad.
Plasma Cannon - Reasonable range, mid strength, AP2, small blast. Like it.
Twin Linked Lascannon - Long range, high strength, AP2 and reroll to hit. Expensive!
Twin Linked Autocannon (left arm) - great when paired with another twin linked autocannon!
Missile Launcher (left arm) - Versatile, but expensive for a missile launcher.
Extra Armour - A good choice for Dreadnoughts likely to get into close combat with enemy squads.
Wolftooth Necklace - Makes you hit better in close combat, but anything you need to hit better will have a higher initiative and most likely rip the Dreadnought apart before you can strike.
Wolftail Talisman - Not worth it, even for 5pts.
Venerable - It's a lot of points for what it does and it's not going to save you from a close range melta gun. I think those 60pts could be better spent, even if it boosts WS and BS.
The way I see it, there are two types of Dreadnoughts. Those that get in close and make a big mess and those that sit back and shoot.
The classic builds of Dreadnought are:
Dreadnought 1: 105 points
Assault cannon, dreadnought close combat weapon with storm bolter, smoke launchers, search light
The basic Dreadnought without any upgrades. He's cheap, he's cheerful (perhaps even jolly!) and he can emerge from a drop pod or waddle up the field behind some tanks or amongst some infantry.
Dreadnought 2: 145 points
Twin linked lascannon, missile launcher, smoke launchers, search light
The standard long ranged Dreadnought that's proved very popular over the years. The twin linked lascannon takes out the tanks and the Missile Launcher is there if things don't quite go to plan.
I've decided to use these two Dreadnoughts as the basis for balance against my Dreadnought weapon configurations. While there's no denying the cheapness of Dreadnought 1, there's plenty of room for improvement. And while no one can dispute the effectiveness of a twin linked lascannon, Dreadnought 2 is rather expensive, especially when the missile launcher doesn't seem that good. I think that you should be fielding so many melta guns in your Space Wolves army that twin linked lascannons should be the last thing on your shopping list -especially when they cost 30pts!
Dreadnought 3: 115 points
Multimelta, dreadnought close combat weapon with heavy flamer, smoke launchers, search light
Deliver him in a Drop Pod and you've got a close range monster on your hands. He's not quite an Ironclad Dreadnought, but with his Multimelta, he should always leave a vehicle as a smoking wreck, even if his Drop Pod scatters a little and the Heavy Flamer is there to mop up troops.
Dreadnought 4: 125 points
Plasma cannon, dreadnought close combat weapon with heavy flamer, smoke launchers, search light
Designed for holding the line with your troops and tanks, this Dreadnought has the heavy flamer for when the enemy gets too close and a plasma cannon for heavily armoured troops. Plasma cannons are quite rare in the Space Wolves army, so I'd be very tempted to take this Dreadnought.
Dreadnought 5: 125 points
Twin linked autocannon, twin linked autocannon, smoke launchers, search light
Cool factor aside, for the points, this is a good mobile weapons platform that puts out 4 fairly accurate hots at mid to high strength. You may be tempted to swap the second twin linked autocannon for a missile launcher to get a single higher strength hit with lower AP, but it's far less accurate.
You're not going to get any easy kills with this configuration, but you can certainly give enemy transports and anything up to armour 12 a hard time.
It's obvious that I think dreadnought 1 could be made better and Dreadnought 2 is too expensive. Dreadnoughts 3, 4 and 5 are the units I would choose to field and I'd ALWAYS upgrade the storm bolter to a heavy flamer whenever possible.
For my in-your-face assault, deploying from a drop pod Dreadnought you can't beat a multimelta and heavy flamer. It's like having an Ironclad, except your guns are bigger. You're a little more vulnerable due to having just armour 12, but when coordinated with other drop podding units, this could be a real kick in the teeth -either to dissuade an opponent from deploying any units on the table or reinforcing as part of a drop pod 2nd wave. If this Dreadnought is firing at a tank up close, that tank is going to die. The same goes for a squishy squad of Orks and anything with an armour save of 4+ or less. Then the Dreadnought needs to hold out for as long as possible and kill as much as he can!
Many people like to run a Dreadnought on foot as part of their slowly advancing line, taking on a mid-field role. For this, I would favour the plasma cannon and a dreadnought close combat weapon with a heavy flamer. The plasma cannon has the strength, range and a small blast, as well as low AP to take on virtually any targets with a great degree of accuracy. Other weapons could be taken instead, like a twin-linked autocannon. But if you're choosing just 1 weapon, the plasma cannon seems to have the best value for your points. It also provides a weapon that's quite rare in the Space Wolves army at a comparatively small cost.
Finally, for added long ranged firepower, a 'rifleman' Dreadnought with a pair of twin linked autocannons provides range, accuracy and mid to high strength shots for wounding infantry, monstrous creatures and causing any vehicle with an armour value of 12 or below some problems. A twin linked autocannon will never match up to the awesome power of a twin linked lascannon, but it is a third of the cost.
But in 5th edition, the real anti-tank gun is the melta gun and your Space Wolves should be carrying plenty of these.
So in conclusion, the only weapons really worth taking on Dreadnoughts should be more multimeltas (if you're leaping straight down your opponent's throat!) or the weapons you have limited access to so you can increase the flexibility of your force. Plasma cannons and autocannons spring to mind.
Note on Extra Armour
Some people swear by extra armour on their vehicles, others don't. While I'm one of those who doesn't, extra armour certainly has its place on a Dreadnought where it not only counts 'Crew Stunned' results as 'Crew Shaken', but in doing so means that you never lose attacks in close combat for being Stunned and can only be hit with grenades in close combat on a 6. However, if a Dreadnought is Stunned or Immobilised, grenades will be attached using the normal Weapon Skill comparison (see page 73 of the rulebook for more).
If you've got the points to spare, extra armour is certainly worth taking on your close-up and mid-field Dreadnoughts. Those who are more economical may choose to run Dreadnoughts without it.