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Thursday, September 8, 2011

GWvsJohn talks Chaos: Plague Marines

Averuns in Miniature
Now it's time to look at the forum fanboys' favorite unit the Plague Marines. If you aren't too familiar with the Chaos Codex, you might be rubbing your eyes. No, you aren't being deceived. This is an actual good unit in the CSM book. Now you're probably thinking, "But GWvsJohn, surely a codex with a good troops choice, can't be that bad, right?" Alas, the codex actually is that bad despite the wonderfully purulent sons of Mortarion. Let's go into the pros and cons of the unit, why it can't save the CSM codex, and how (and how not) and when to use the boys in green.

This is a unit with some serious pros. First, let's talk toughness. T 4(5) with 3+ and FNP makes them virtually immune to small arms fire and non-pw CC attacks. A bolt shot (from a marine, obvs) has a 2/3*1/3*1/3*1/2 = 1/27 shot to land a wound. A full double tap from a tactical squad will probably cause 1 wound to a Plague Marine Squad. This leads into the next pro, which is FOC slot. Super toughness plus a troops choice makes for a fine unit. It will take dedicated CC units or mass heavy/special weapon fire to take them off an objective. Next let's talk arms. Standard is bolt pistol, bolter and CCW (anyone else remember the tiny little plagues knives on the 2nd ed plastic plagues?) or as like to call it "marine plus." So your default is to shoot like a tactical marine and fight like an assault marine, very flexible. Next is the option that makes everyone go "omg, OP!!!" and one of the reasons many overrate the CSM book. Two specials in a five man squad. Don't get me wrong, it's a very, very good option, but it's hardly game breaking, especially when CSM only have a 10 man transport. Then comes fearless. It's a big upgrade from your standard CSM. A big knock on CSM is that it's relatively easy to break and then either sweep or escort the entire squad off the board. This will never happen with Plague Marines. Don't forget that fearless is almost always worse than ATSKNF, so fearless is a relative, not absolute pro. Final pro is the true "+1" rhino as discussed previously.

There's always cons :). First is cost. Yes, 23 per model is probably the right amount for a MEQ with +1T, FNP and fearless, but it's still 115 for the basic squad, so now chance of a "cheap" squad. Not a huge con, but it must be mentioned. Next con is, IMO, the big one. No heavy weapon option and thus no range. Lack of range is one of the biggest problems with the CSM codex and your "best" troops choice only exacerbates the problem. Finally, there's CC. I3 can be a real killer in 2 ways. First, against other MEQs with power weapon, you go down before you get to strike and no FNP. T5 helps, but it can't save you. Second, should you face non-pw MEQ, it's easier for them to flee and regroup, leaving your plagues stranded in the open. Taking CC a step further, there's no real way to make the unit any "good" at assault. The champion costs almost 40 base, he's only i3 so a power weapon is useless, and once you add the fist, you're looking at 63 points for a single 1 wound model. That's too much. Plagues can be a big detriment in CC.

So, how to field them. I think there's only 1 efficient way. A lot of forumites will advocate a 5 man squad with 2 plasmaguns to act as a "ranged" unit. That's almost 150 points for 2 immobile s7 24" shots. I wouldn't call that great. The only real special weapon option (like most units) is the meltagun. Bring 2 and be happy you get even that in the crappy CSM book. The champion upgrade is just too pricey to make a bad unit slightly less bad at CC. Leave him at home. Note that since the PM squad can get 2 special on its own, and is fearless, it has no need for the 25 point champion combi-melta, unlike your standard CSM squad. In terms of numbers, I see no reason to take more than the minimum. At 5, you already have the majority of your threat in the 2 meltas. 5 Plague Marines can hold an objective almost as well as 10 regular Space Marines. A 5 man double melta PM squad is about as good as the CSM codex gets. Add a Rhino with your choice of weapon and call it a day. 180-185 points for a tough, double melta, scoring unit with some added firepower from the transport.

So just bring 6 and call it a day, right? Not quite that easy. Without question the Plague Marine squad brings a lot more to the table than the Chaos Space Marine squad. It's also 25 points more expensive. That might not seem like much, but this is your Troops choice as well as a big (if not the sole) part of your mech saturation. You're bringing 6 of them. Now that 25 becomes 150. That's 2 Obliterators, or a Terminator squad or a Dread, or a Raptor squad or a Daemon Prince. The PM and the CSM squads do the same thing, the Plagues just do it better and are a lot more durable. Those other units do things your Troops can't and your overpriced CSM list needs points to bring those "support" units to even think of competing. My recommendation is to start building your list with the basic 155-160 points CSM squad I described previously. After you factor in everything else, and you have "spare" points, start "upgrading" the normal marines to Plague Marines. I think you'll build a better list that way.

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