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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Marine codex 'review' (#4): troops.

Tactical squad: bad.

People love stacking these, and then whine they can't win. The first mistake of all new marine players: building their armies around tactical squads.
As we have touched upon already, marine armies don't have 'cores,' or 'supporting elements.' Your grunts are just as self-contained as your elites, and aren't on the table to act as the core, support, meatshield, or anything but their own units.

In addition to their cost, tactical squads have a couple problems. If you want them to do anything, you need ten men. If you have ten men, you can't fit the unit and a character inside a rhino, or even use the full unit effectively with a razorback. Once you add up the cost of bling, gear, the five extra men, and your ride, you'll come out at least at 205 points. That's a lot for what most consider a glorified scoring unit.

In a balanced 2000 points army, you aren't likely to ever need more than two full tactical squads. In fact, all marine armies not built around a biker boss or massed razorbacks NEED two full squads.
However, just as there is a law of conservation of ninjutsu, there is also a law of conservation of full tacs. Essentially, there is only so much power inherent in full tactical squads, but what there is ends up split evenly between all squads present. Therefore, the less of them you take, the stronger your individual squads will be.

Note that while tactical squads are bad, being 'bad' is very far away from being 'useless.'

Your stats and gear let you soak and tank quite a bit of punishment, and the squad is good at causing heavy real-estate damage to enemy light infantry.
Most of the truly good stuff is 'free:' multi-melta, flamer, missile launcher. Putting a multi-melta in both your squads is almost mandatory, because it provides an invisible forcefield aura that tells enemy armor to stay more than 24 inches away, and should any vehicle try and tankshock you, it's likely to get slagged right then and there.

For added melta goodness, you can equip the sergeant with a combi-melta. If you're giving him anything at all, always give him a combi-melta in addition to his other gear. It makes your unit that much more useful to you.
It's sometimes worth it to upgrade your free flamer to a meltagun, too. Remember, this increases your anti-armor capabilites with a factor equal to the anti-infantry you give up.

Another option, which is a lot less useful, more expensive, but far more popular, is massed plasma. Combi-plasma, plasmagun, plasmacannon. Not really a wise thing to run in 5th edition.

The popular consenus is that tactical squads suck - which they honestly don't.
It's a limited unit, yes, but it's powerful enough, reliable enough, and flexible enough to work on its own alongside your other mounted infantry and armor, and in addition to this, it's a scoring unit. This is someting that cannot be ignored.

Tactical squads will never measure up to troops such as grey hunters, imperial guard veterans, most tyranid troops, or even plague marines, but those units don't have the pleasure of being self-contained, or even half as reliable as what you bring.

That said, unless you want more plasmabacks or assbacks, you'll get a lot more bang for your buck from other units.
Don't sink more than the necessary points into tactical squads - full ones, especially.

What makes it good: it's a scoring unit. Always brings armor saturation. Free multi-melta scares enemy armor into submission, bolters plus flamer and/or combi-flamer tear chunks out of light infantry, and extra melta weapons allow you to kill armor quickly and effectively.

What makes it bad: expensive for what you get. Because of the fixed 'one special, one heavy,' you're likely to end up with one marine shooting his pistol, and the other using a support weapon. Heavy weapons in tactical squads are more for sniping than active use.


Scouts: bad.

These were formerly very good, but are now a whole lot less so.
With a significantly weaker profile than their big brothers, scouts don't really do anything that well, and unlike tactical marines, they don't bring a big box of tools, or a transport. Even their starting gear is weaker - trading power armor for carapace.

This is all really bad, but there are redeeming qualities.
Instead of a toolbox, scouts have a huge list of handy special abilities. Like you'd expect from the name, scouts are indeed scouts, and bring both infiltrate and move through cover.
You can gear them up with shotguns, bolters, sniper rifles, or really large knives, and it won't cost you a single thing.
Shotguns make your scouts into short-ranged dakka units. In essence, the kids are pretending to be sternguard. Knives let you pretend you're an effective combat unit, and bolters are available everywhere else in the army, too. It's all really fluffy and cuddly, but not worth your time.
Another option rarely worth your time is 'camo cloaks.' This gives the unit the stealth rule. You can also splash points for inaccurate missiles, or 'hellfire shells' heavy bolters. Both should mostly be avoided.

Then there's the rifle.
Note that scouts are the only available platform in your army for these.
Sniper rifles give you disruption and long range. Sure, they still won't hit much, but infiltrate them close to an unsupported flank, scout move them into some terrain, and they'll sit there for the entire game, killing or pinning the occasional small unit, plus probably rending a wound or two from a monster.

Unlike other books' disruption, yours doesn't automatically die from regular flamers, and can fight the small units usually sent in to flush disruption out.
Also quite unlike most other disruption, yours are troops, and thus scoring units. This puts pressure on many players, and even allows you to secure homebase, while both tactical squads go on the offense.

While they're not killy, at all, they're still capable of beating enemy support units in combat. Lootas, devastator equivalents, heavy weapon squads, and etc. all fall to your scouts' rifle buttstocks, knives, and pistols. If you bring scouts, take advantage of this fact.

In other words, even your bad units bring something useful to the party, and should you ever feel that your two mandatory tactical squads aren't quite enough - or you desire disruption - add some scouts.

What makes it good: it's a scoring unit. Fairly priced disruption, all things considered. Some armies have problems getting multiple small scout squads off objectives. Rifles let you rend wounds off monsters, and occasionally, you'll even pin a squad. Despite junky stats, still a combat threat to the support units fielded by many races.

What makes it bad: not killy at all. Utterly useless against anything with an armor value. Fears AP4.

13 pinkments:

lyracian said...

No mention of Telion? I find him a bit weak, but so much fun when he works. Some games he kills nothing others he kills all the PF's in squads.

I like to back my Terminators up with Snipers, especially at lower points where I struggle to fit two full tac squads.

Tachikoma said...

Can you infiltrate and then scout move? that seems weird.

AbusePuppy said...

No reason you couldn't. Unless you're out of LOS it still won't get you a charge, though (18.1" away -6" move x2 ).

Kirby said...

This line:

"The popular consenus is that tactical squads suck - which they honestly don't.
It's a limited unit, yes, but it's powerful enough, reliable enough, and flexible enough to work on its own alongside your other mounted infantry and armor, and in addition to this, it's a scoring unit. This is someting that cannot be ignored."

Is I think the summary of Tac squads but is lost in a bit of the dislike there VT2 :P. They aren't great but they are a long-shot better than most Troops out there and provide the mainstay of an SM army by forcing your opponent to make choices every time they shoot.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

How about DA and BA Tacs?

Any good, or no CT means they lose whatever UM Tacs have that make them okay?

VT2 said...

DA tacs don't have combat tactics. Fail.
They can buy an assault weapon even at 5 men, but that doesn't really make up for it.

BA tacs? Why would you want to run them? Take assault marines in plasma- or assbacks instead.

'Special characters' were covered in a separate article:

AbusePuppy said...

BA Tacs have their uses in the army. Assault Marines don't get heavy weapons and don't really want to be sitting on an objective the way Tacticals do. Yes, you can run Devastators that don't suck, but you can also run tacticals as well to give you more weight of fire.

(Keep in mind that ASM are also more expensive than Tacticals, and even their transport discount only barely makes up for this- if all you want is an objective-sitter, BA Tacs are better than ASM.)

Wysten said...

This series of reviews only considers Space Marines, other codexs would be considered different.

That being said, I consider DA inferiour for not having combat tactics and having no extra resistances in combat. So they end up forsaking their natural power with bolters aside from the first turn, just to take more wounds if they are losing. The only real benfit over tacticals is that the resulting tieup may keep them long enough to get a specialist unit there, but inferiour to backing off and shooting them. DA are worse space marines.

BA relitity inferiour for the same reasons, though it is more durable with support and could probably slip into a more mechinised Rhino army more easily.

VT2 said...

The thing is, a rhino squad still only gets the two guns out of the hatch, and being a red marine doesn't change this fact.

As a red marine, you have a far, far superior troops choice in assault marines, and you army as a whole functions very differently to regular marines.
Red assault marines pack dual specials even at minimum-size squads (sergeant gets a mini-flamer or mini-meltagun), get a points cut for transports, and if a priest is close by, they become useful combat units.

Red marine meltabunker: 220.
Red marine plasmaback with 2 meltaguns inside: 180.

fluger said...

Finally, we agree.

Guillermo Llosa said...

I notice that 'camo cloaks' were listed as not recommended. I was thinking to take them for my 'sniper scouts camp home base objective' squad. Are they worth it just to make it impractical for the enemy to shoot them off the point? You get a 4+ terrain save, the cloaks make it 3+, then going to ground gets you into 2+ territory, which is kind of hard to remove via shooting, right?

Kirby said...

Camo cloaks are gret on scouts which are objective holders, especially if you have a MotF and there are some ruins about.

Dark Mechanicum said...

I'd like to see tactical squads getting a tweak as they just don't seem effective enough at the minute, other than maintaining a melta threat range with MM, melta and combi-melta.

Personally I'd like to see them drop by a point, get combat knives and possibly the ability to take one special weapon for every 5 marines. This could be any of the options in the list. Tac marines would be much more effective if they could take 2 missile launchers or lascannons or 2 melta/plasma guns. It would make them much more versatile as you could tailor them to fit the role you wanted in the army, as a tactical squad should be.

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