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Monday, September 6, 2010

Comparison: Tactical Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Grey Hunters and BA Assault Marines

Over on Warseer some type of post about Tactical Marines sucking crops up at least once a month. You can go through the rest of the 40k forums online and find topics about this as well. A little further digging through race specific ‘tacticas’ and you’ll find people blasting Tactical Marines as crap and supporting their respective Troop, etc. Hell, you can see it on this blog ^^. I don’t wish to be naïve enough to believe this post is going to shut up all of that stupidity but it will at least give me a link to link back to rather than engaging in countless arguments. What this post is going to do is take a look at the most basic of 3+ save Troops which are often compared to the Tactical Marines in the context of their codex. Barring CSM who are meh, Tacs, GH and ASM are all very solid and good Troops for their respective codices. Whilst one can argue the merits of them in relation to each other virtually endlessly, we’re going to look at them in comparison to each other objectively to show there isn’t some huge divide between Tactical squads and the rest of 40k’s Troops like is commonly believed.

Just to be clear, this is a not an article about which Troop is best but to show Tacticals aren’t as bad as they are commonly believed. In all honesty it’s hard to separate which is the best Troop in the game and GH, ASM and Tacticals are all good Troops for their codices. Whilst GH probably have the most flexibility and GH and ASM are much better at MSU armies than Tacs, this is based on codex design and the Vanilla book simply builds different styled lists because of it. Just so it’s fresh in your mind, this is not saying Tacticals, GH or ASM are super bad or super good but rather to show Tacticals are not as bad as they are believed to be.

All of these Troops (CSM, Tacs, GH and BA ASM) revolve around the same premise. WS/BS/S/T/I 4 with a generally solid Ld, 3+ save and capable of carrying two or more extra cool weapons (yes combis are included). Each squad then has a more specific purpose defined by their wargear and codex. We’ll review each of these now and relate them all back to the Tactical squad.

Tactical Squad:

The biggest con with these boys in blue/white/yellow/purple/whatever, is you need to take 10 to get access to any significant specials. Although the Sarge can always take a combi-weapon of some description, you need to pay the full 170 points to get access to a special and heavy weapon. When one wants to utilise MSU this is problematic for Tactical marines because they have limited access to special weapons. Whilst combat tactics alleviates this somewhat, Tactical squads generally aren’t good MSU platforms. Major problem for most people? Special & heavy rather than special/special. I will be very clear here, this is not a problem. Space Marine mech is far less aggressive than SW or BA Mech/Hybrid variants because their Marines suck in combat (this shouldn’t be news to anyone by now) and don‘t work as well as MSU units. The heavy weapon therefore becomes very useful as their Troops control mid-field a lot more reliably and for longer periods of time than their counterparts.

That being said, 10 models + special and heavy for 170 points is pretty point efficient for a jack of all trades unit with T4/3+. Add in a cheap Rhino for 35 points and you’re paying 215 with 3 special/heavies which is capable of inflicting damage from the get-go thanks to its heavy weapon. Once it moves up into midfield removing 10 Marines is no simple task whilst also increasing it’s firepower. However, for 215 points this isn’t a lot of firepower and is quite easily shake locked. Against dedicated assault units or even mediocre assault units, the Tac squad isn’t going to fare well unless saved by something else. This is where the rest of the SM codex comes in, particularly in a mech SM force. Filling out the rest of your FoC with units like Dreads/Speeders/Sternguard/Termies/LR/Preds synergies very well with Tacticals in Rhinos because of their heavy weapon and rather low threat value.

This forces your opponent to make target priority decisions every time they shoot. Do they go for your objective holders who can damage your mech and infantry or do they go for the actual firepower of the SM list? Whilst spending 215 points on this isn’t fantastic (like using Vindicators as fire magnets), in 5th edition it’s a great bonus to have.

Another key component of tactical squads is combat tactics and combat squads. Whilst I won’t go into detail on these concepts here, they give the full tactical squad some much needed flexibility and aren’t automatically dead in combats they cannot win. The key point of Tactical squads is they are flexible, generalists who excel in mid-field at max strength squads.

Chaos Space Marines:

Before Grey Hunters came along, Tactical squads were always compared to CSM and found wanting. Unfortunately, the general consensus here was plain wrong (ya I’m doing an ordering here. Bite me). We’ve reviewed chaos troops briefly here but we’ll focus a bit more on CSM here. What makes them worse than all SM variants is the lack of ATSKNF. Although their LD is generally better and they can get re-rolls with Icons, ATSKNF makes SM Troop variants very reliable in mid-field (especially in combat and when fleeing). Add in the extra cost CSM have over regular Tacticals in price and they simply don’t compare.

Why then were they considered so much better (and still are considered this at times)? Two reasons, double specials and pistol/ccw/bolter. We’ll cover the latter first. Tacticals are bad at combat, we know this. CSM aren’t much better and whilst their minor improvement in that area gives them a bit more flexibility, it still doesn’t make them anywhere decent in combat. Yes they are more able to torrent weak units in combat but they are also much more vulnerable thanks to no ATSKNF. They get more attacks but they still aren’t good combat units and should not be used in this way. They are better than Tacs but that’s not saying much.

The other reason the internet believes CSM are better than Tacs is the ability to take double specials. Whilst CSM also have the option for special/heavy, the lack of MM and increased cost of these weapons generally sways people to double special. Double special is great but is a different role than special/heavy and much more aggressive. Your main-stay Troops are almost relegated to suicide melta squads and this is generally bad. With CSM not being very good at combat (see above) and their codex over-priced across the board, this aggressive nature doesn’t suit them or the army well.

In a direct comparison then they fall short of Tacs, mainly due to an inflated price and lack of midfield reliability. Within the context of their codex though, CSM are even worse due to the general lack of competitive choices in other FoC slots. CSM have minimal good combat units and lack ranged anti-tank which CSM don’t really help in either fashion.

Grey Hunters:

CSM buffed. These guys are how CSM should be and what many players wish they were. They are actually decent at combat due to ATSKNF, being cheap (no huge costs for champs, weapons, upgrades), multiple combat upgrades (read: 3) and counter-assault. This fits their nature of being able to take double specials backed up by their codex being very aggressive. You can take double specials and drive these guys close and know your army isn’t throwing away their Troops. The big problem? Ld8 and this needs an ‘expensive’ upgrade to reach Ld9 and lose of the second special (replaced with a combi) but ups the combat potential of the squad.

In terms of their codex though, GH have a lot more options because they can get a special every 5 men (and a combi whenever). This means they are capable of running 6 man mini double special units which are still decent in combat with 2-3 combat weapons, counter-assault, BP/CCW/Bolter and using RBacks or Rhinos. This is the key difference between Tacs and GH. GH do MSU much better due to Wolf Guard and their special weapon load outs (1 per 5) and their army list is generally more aggressive thanks to combat units like Lone Wolves, TWC, Lords and more access to special weapons. This is often why you see SM touted as the better pure Mech force because MM Tactical bunkers support mech a lot better than MSU Lasplas/Rhino GH squads who need to cover their weak Ld with Wolf Guard.

What this generally means is Tacticals have a stronger midfield presence than GH if supported correctly as the GH either suffer from Ld issues or are easier to torrent off the board (smaller squad sizes). This is generally mitigated to an extent however by having more units, better combat potential (different from midfield presence) and cheap and effective shooting (ask SM how their Devs are doing).

Blood Angels ASM:

The final MEQ unit of the day, BA ASM. Out of all of the units these guys are the best ‘combat unit’ because of their codex. Whilst they are on par with CSM in terms of actually combat damage (30A on charge + single special weapon) they are a lot more mobile (and therefore more likely to get the charge) and even with their increased cost due to Jump Packs, cheaper and more point efficient than CSM. They also have the awesome ability to carry around 3 significant special weapons thanks to their Sarge. So what really makes this unit somewhat decent at combat? FNP/FC bubbles. It makes these guys a lot more survivable and a lot more powerful on the charge thanks to S/I5. This still doesn’t make them a combat unit but much better than the other MEQ troops listed. This supports the aggressive nature of their codex very well as their Troops are much more able to support the serious combat units.

ASM also do MSU much like GH (but minorly less effective due to no Wolf Guard) with the added benefit of having Fast Razorbacks. This allows them to play very much like mini-Eldar but with better statlines and guns. The ability to take one special per 5 guys + a special on the sarge makes these guys almost as capable as a full squad in shooting potential but less effective at combat (must MSU armies also do not run force multiplier FNP/FC bubbles because of the dilution which further reduces the squads effectiveness at combat). The lack of extra combat special weapons makes ASM suffer as MSU in comparison to GH but are on equal footing in terms of shooting and are far more mobile thanks to their Fast transports.

The drawback of ASM is obviously needing to be within range of the FNP/FC bubble. Tactical Marines have the luxury of being able to roam anywhere by themselves. This also increases the overall cost of the ASM as one has to factor in the extra points paid for the force multiplier. Their combat nature also means they have less midfield presence than Tactical squads as they are more likely to get bogged down in a combat. Although they are often more survivable thanks to FNP, ASM are a gross over investment for sitting on objectives whilst Tactical squads were designed to do this.


So we didn’t really compare directly to Tacticals all the time but one hopes you’re able to make all the inferences. Didn’t want to make this an essay did I…? So to summarise. CSM are well behind the bell-curve in terms of competitive Troops. Over-costed and less reliable than their loyalists counter-parts, they suffer from an old codex and a mis-match of roles in a codex that suffers across the board. Tacticals are the ultimate in reliable and solid midfield holding force thanks to their high standard Ld and heavy weapon but don’t do very well at combat or as MSUs. As full squads in a mechanised force, GH and ASM fall short of the Tactical squad’s midfield prowess due to their divergent natures and in terms of mech lists, are often better as MSUs. GH do MSU combat units very well in being able to take 2 specials and 3 combat weapons on 6 men whilst ASM are a more mobile and shooty MSU unit. ASM are also one of the better combat Troops (without using FoC changes) but rely on force multipliers.

Again, Tacticals, GH and ASM are all excellent Troops but dictate the style of list you want. There are trade-offs for using each codex to try and get the best build you want and one of the major components of deciding which SM variant book you should use are the Troops.

13 pinkments:

Anonymous said...

No Templars *sadface*

Kirby said...

A cross between CSM and Tacs :P. When their points are streamlined they'll basically be Tacs who can poke things in combat.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

It doesn't count if it's not in the article.... *sits next to BroLo and drinks tea*

sean said...

as a noob a quick question...
which is better...
10 man tac squad, combat squaded with a missile hanging at the back and a melta/combi-melta in a rhino/razor cruising forward.
multi-melta and melta/combi-melta all hanging out in the rhino bunkering up?
Is it one of those tings where it depends on what else ya running?
Oh and love the blog kirbmister its like steleks but with actual 40k advise :)

VT2 said...

Bunkered tacticals.
You want two, and that's all your mandatory troops.

Basically, no matter what else you have in your army, the two bunkers will make your army better.

Raptor1313 said...

I still prefer a flamer in the bunker squads just to roast gribblies that get nearby. You can sit still and pop melta, or drive by and suggest the enemy bathe and do the burny dance.

I'd rather the versatility than the choice between driving up and shooting melta or sitting and shooting melta.

Kirby said...

flamer/MM/rhino/comi is certainly the most versatile of the outloads for Tacs. Designing a squad specifically to combat squad is never a good idea as you lose flexibility. Squads which can combat squad effectively give you that choice.

For example, against a list where you need bubble-wrap you can combat squad your flamer/MM/combi squads and save the weapons you need the most (or all of them if you wish) and use the rest of the Marines as bubble-wrap. A squad which is designed to split though (i.e. long-ranged heavy weapon + rback + 10 men) suffers in terms of you not having a very efficient squad if you don't split.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

So.... Crusaders....

Marshal Wilhelm said...

So are you saying Crusaders are like Tac with Heavy Weapons but no bolters [unless you want them poor in close combat, which seems silly....]
so they cannot light arms fire infantry, but can beat them up in close combat.

That is a confused unit ~ which is why I'd like some 3++ input :D

Kirby said...

Crusaders are overpriced and confused. They are kinda decent in close combat thanks to re-rolls (we are assuming proper EC usage here) and 2A base but then are terrible at holding midfield. They don't MSU well for assault because they can't max out combat weapons like GH can or zoom around the field like BA ASM can but can run lasplas at 5 an assault based army.

Their best bet is basically running around as Ld9 Grey Hunters with double melta and jumping out as necessary to support the Terminators in assault. They give you some good torrent thanks to 3A on the charge + re-rolls but doublemelta combat troops aren't great midfield holding and scream "kill me" to your opponent.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

*claps* :D

Okay. So options, with Rhino unless noted:
MM Mg ~ as you suggest
MM Flamer ~ as per Tacs - shoot tanks, whoosh infantry

LC Pg ~ shooty squad [perhaps with LasBack instead]
LC Flamer ~ my invention and I <3 it [with LasBack] Plasma gun doesn't work with LC imo. LCs are not brilliant, but 48" is gold. As I deploy them deep [on my Objective], not much of the TT is within 24". If the baddies do try to evict me, the flamer is golden at trying to kill as many before you charge, something a small squad needs.

PF Mg ~ I use them in a bigger squad, for taking objective. I feel the PF is of more help in this aggressive roll than the MM.

So for *midfield holding*, you need more anti-infantry shooty? [from within the Rhino, of course]
How about ML as a multi use weapon? [I don't like them as a single HW choice though]
PC as an AI choice against all comers
HB [if your list has enough AT already] ~ gunning enemy infantry down is always nice and for 5 pts, is it much worse than the 20 pt PC?
As for special weapons, the Pg gives you reach and works against most things, whilst the Flamer is a good deterrent weapon and so helpful in keeping the midfield.

How would you try to mongrel make a Crusader holding squad?

Steve said...

When you talk about "holding midfield" what do you mean exactly?

It seems like driving a Tactical squad to the actual middle of the field (meaning 24" from the table edge) is playing them pretty aggressive.

Or is it meant more to head to your nearest objective and just park there for the game?

How do you then protect them from the assaulting units of the opposing force? I'm used to playing keep away with my Tau and wrapping with Kroot, but Space Marines don't really have anything like that.

I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around how you advance your mechanized Space Marines around the field.

Kirby said...

Midfield is really the no-mans-zone between the deployment areas. The middle 24" area of the board where most armies excel. Opposing assaults generally have to go through this area to get into combat quickly, shooty armies shoot through this area, objectives are generally in this area, etc. so being able to do well there is critical.

Holding midfield doesn't mean blindly driving forward and parking your Rhino but rather being able to significantly affect (and most likely at the end of the day, be the the unit to literally hold midfield) whatever happens there. Whether it's delaying assaults, shooting at units coming towards your or in the backfield, generating cover, capturing objectives, etc. If you can do these well then you're a good midfield unit.

Space Marine Tactical squads do all of that well. Their statline + combat tactics generally means they aren't going to roll over in combat (though they certainly aren't punching back either) but with their wargear are very capable of bringing the smack to infantry units whilst threatening tanks as well.

Essentially what they force your opponent to do is remove them. They are a threat because of their proximity and swiss-army knife usage and because they score but there are other more threatening units in your army (Dreads/Preds/Speeders/Termies/Sternguard/LandRaiders/etc) so it becomes an opportunity cost for them.

Look at some of my battle reports with marines and you might get the gist of what I mean a bit more. If not send me an email and I'll try and address your opints more closely.

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