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What are the strengths and weaknesses of both? Which is better overall?
The Helblaster, I have used quite a few times, and I have to say- it's a lot of fun to use. It can unleash a crapload of shots at a high Strength, and is great for killing almost anything, especially if said target has T3 and doesn't benefit from a -6 To Hit modifier. Its weakness is its unreliability. With BS3 crewmen, it's vulnerable to what's commonly known as the "bad hit roll virus", and the amount of Artillery dice you'll roll means you are almost guaranteed to Misfire sooner or later, and the Misfire chart is nasty.
The Rocket Battery, I know little of, from having not used it yet, but it's something I want to have a go at. What I know about it is its amazing ability to clear out masses of infantry/annoying skirmishers with one well-aimed shot. Weaknesses are similar to the Helblaster in that it can be a bit dodgy with hitting, and the Misfire chart is probably one of the nastiest in the game. Oh well, it's the price for using experimental weaponry. Another weakness I'd pin on it is the long-ranged nature of it. If anything gets too close, you'd best hope your piece is well supported.
Helstorm Rocket Battery will either destroy 3/4 of a unit or it will miss. It has a large template so against multiple ranked units (hordes &VC) it will usually hit something.
It shoots like a cannon, scatters like a stone thrower. It won't misfire as often and you've got a 1/3 chance that it won't scatter at all, so it usually performs really well. There have been multiple posts about these guys in the past (several of them heated) so you could catch up on some reading in the old posts. The model lends itself to being made into both weapons so you might as well buy the kit and try both of them.
If you're good at guessing ranges, the rocketbattery will serve you well. If you want something that you just point and shoot (and hope you roll well) get the Hellblaster. With BS3 and a misfire chance 3x a turn, I can't even stomach taking the thing in a list.
Both are invaluably scary.
More often than not, the rocket battery will miss, but when it does land even remotely close to where you want it to, its worth every point. My last game with it, it took out an entire unit (spare 3 or 4) of black orcs in one shot.... which is a little better than a helblaster could hope to achieve.
True, the Helblaster is prone to misfiring, but I still prefer it to the rocket battery. I know I run the risk of exploding with it, but at least I know where its going to end up killing things should I hit with it. The Helstorm is reliable only on the first turn or two, as after that your opponent is going to be close enough to you that you become more and more likely to nuke your own units. The helblaster, provided it doesnt blow up, is useful the entire game. I miss the old codex rules for it, but even with the new rules, it regularly will kill its points worth. I find it essential in my army (but I take no missile fire other than warmachines much of the time).
Hope this helps.
I think the difference between the two that really interests me is the range - Helblaster is "average" range, helstorm rocket battery is long ranged. Does this make a significant difference?
I have only used a Rocket Battery once, and it was incredible, sending a unit of Dark Elf Witches scarpering like nothing i've seen before (and a BSB and Assassin with it).
Despite this, I usually take a volley gun as, even if it misfires, you still have a good chance at getting something away, and the -3 to armour saves will REALLY make a mess of things.
Overall, against anything with lots of heavy armour, i'd go for the volley gun, against weak rank and file, i'm not so sure.