When deciding on the equipment for my Thunderlord & Thunderwolf Cavalry I got to thinking about the benefits of the thunder hammer over just a plain powerfist. Granted the thunder hammer will always be infinitely cooler but is it worth the extra points?
On the face of it both weapons fulfil a very similar niche. Both double the wielder's strength and reduce his initiative to 1. They also require a pair to be able to gain an extra attack for two close combat weapons. For Space Wolves the power fist is 25pts and the thunder hammer is 30pts. You may be thinking 5pts isn't very much but it may be that you have 3 models in your army that wield them and by switching to a powerfist you get 15pts back and that's an extra grey hunter. Not only that but it may give you the flexibility to change things around elsewhere in your list. As I've mentioned before choosing your list is an essential part of the game these days and being economic with points is vital.
For our 5pts extra we get the ability to take a multi-wound opponent down to initiative 1. Also for vehicles we inflict a crew shaken result in addition to any other damage result. Sounds worth it initially but when you think about it is it really that great?
Unless the multi-wound opponent has eternal warrior then chances are a strength 8 unsaved wound will be enough to cause instant death. This is even more likely when you think about thunderwolves with S10 hammers. That's assuming you get into combat with a character anyway. Therefore this is only really going to affect eternal warriors and monstrous creatures (or anything T6. A lot of monstrous creatures are initiatve 1 anyway but it's still going to be useful against the likes of trygons or avatars.
Against most vehicles who's rear armour is AV10 you're likely to penetrate. If you roll either a 1, 2, 5, 6 (or for single weapon tanks a 3) then the additional "crew shaken" result that you get doesn't really achieve anything. It's only any good if you immobilise the vehicle. Oh and if you don't stop it moving do you think it'll hang around waiting for your thunder hammer to strike again?
Therefore, for me the only advantage is reducing opponents to initiative 1. As we've discussed this is pretty situational so in my opinion it isn't worth the 5 points. This leaves me torn. I really want to give my models thunder hammers because they'll look much better with them. The hobbyist in my wants hammers and the gamer in me wants power fists. Given that I've got thunder hammers from Arjac and another terminator I think I'll go with the fists. What do you reckon?