Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Big Crunch (Pt. 2)

Last article for us saw a documented list of some of what ails our true blue friend. As indicated previously, we shall widen our gaze from the cost of a single tactical marine and examine the tactical squad and the options of the codex on the whole, though this article specifically focuses on the expanded options available to tactical squads.

Hello new disembarkation rules!
Let's begin with the transport options available to the tactical squad, as your preference in transport, or lack thereof, will oftentimes all but dictate your choice of special and or heavy weapons. First, there's the rhino. The classic cheap mainstay. This even got a huge boost with 6th edition, as both halves of a combat squad can hang out in a single rhino. Unfortunately, with the advent of the first blood secondary victory point, these, much like their cousin, the razorback, have dulled a bit. Admittedly, much like in 5th edition, these can still function en masse, but thankfully, some balancing factors have been applied. The rhino is a flexible generalist still but given that much of the focus of this series stems from my frustration with being over-generalized, I wouldn't expect to see me fielding a swarm of rhinos any time soon. They get you to midfield with small arms immunity if they survive an opposing opening salvo, but that's about it. If you've got a way to manipulate or ensure your chances of going first, these get better, but they're not perfect. Next comes the razorback. If you plan to combat squad and, say, take Sicarius to bolster the leadership of those squads, these are definitely worth considering. Again though, they're rhinos for the most part, burdened with the same advantages and disadvantages, only more so. They can't protect your whole squad, and you end up paying a premium for a potentially fragile gun. If you wanted to combat squad anyway, don't be afraid of these as they can splash in a little bit more dakka on the cheap, but remember that at the end of the day, you want to go first to avoid giving up an easy blood.

Our last transport option is the drop pod. To me, these are the best way to go regarding transport options, as long as you don't kill yourself assembling them. They can function in small or large numbers, depending on your specific list, and they all but guarantee that your cargo will make it where you want them to go, especially in the wake of the current disembarkation rules. Mate those rules with the innate capacity of the drop pod to control its deep strike and you've  got yourself some very reliable positioning, for a reasonably cheap price. For the right units or the right list, these are winners. This isn't to say that marines can't hoof it though. This option will usually lend its self to sitting at home or combat squadding, which will be discussed further with weapon descriptions. Footing it isn't bad in low point games, or in areas where DA and IG don't saturate the field with shots that ignore your expensive armor save. In fact, if you're willing to ally yourself with Guard, running without tanks is a great way to free up points and bolster the front of your lines, as most of the shots which could ignore your armor will likely be occupied elsewhere.

Talk about showing your age...
Next, we move on to the weapon options available to the tactical squad. First you have your special weapons: the basic flamer, the 5th mainstay meltagun, and the dangerous plasma gun. Its hard to go wrong with the flamer. After all, as stated last time, a tactical squad is awesome at chewing through lesser infantry, and the flamer eliminates the one place where such things could hide: cover. Where the flamer loses is in "elite" environments or if you didn't bring a transport. Its a free weapon, but to utilize it, you'll want to cross the gap quickly. In that regard, a razorback can at times be the best mate to a flamer wielding tactical squad. Between the other half of the team having a heavy weapon and the car having one as well, you'll have reasonable odds of getting to use the flamer on the tightly bunched sardines you just removed from their can. This means the flamer isn't completely "free" but it can be successful, especially when mated with a combi-flamer. Next comes the meltagun. This weapon was the reigning king in 5th edition, and unless you're looking to keep your distance and hold the home point through the use of a plasma gun, or live in an area infested with 'nids, orks, and guard, which would greatly bolster the utility of the flamer, the meltagun is almost certainly the way to go. Kills indiscriminately. Terminators, marines, nobs, tanks, everything. Causing instant death to all but the worst offenders and the biggest of bugs. It, like the flamer, reinforces the use of a transport, but it doesn't necessitate the use of one, especially if all you need to do is crack rhino equivalents. It's stronger, more penetrating, and cheaper than plasma, all without the risk of blowing your head off. When you're unsure of what to take, take one of these. Finally comes the plasma gun. This got better with the dawning of the new edition, especially for any squad looking to stay at home or kill non-paladin terminators (and possibly the occasional rhino). Otherwise, avoid this. Its an expensive generalist, (just like the guy holding it) and can kill its self, usually at the most critical moment. The flamer and meltagun I can recommend, the plasma gun I cannot.

Maybe there's a reason one of the weapon options isn't pictured?
From there, we find the heavy weapons options. Five options, 3 are free. Working in the same direction, there's the heavy bolter. Long and short of this weapon, its great if you're in a xeno environment and want to sit at home. Otherwise, take something else. In fact, I'd say that if rumors hold out and tactical squads get heavy flamers, this weapon will go the way of the dodo. Models with it look cool, but that's just not enough. Following that, is the missile launcher and the multi-melta, both of which were 5th edition mainstays. And its not hard to see why. The missile launcher is a mostly successful generalist. The frag template is a little weak, and in the wake of the alteration to vehicle damage, there's finally a significant gap between it and a lascannon when shooting a tank. For the free price tag, it does well enough for its self. And for what may be a few modest points, this could give you some manner of flier defense. If you're combat squadding, don't be afraid of this weapon, but if you're going for a rhino or a drop pod, take the other freebie, the multi-melta. Its a double range meltagun. Since you can snap fire it, it doesn't nail you down quite so badly. The same is true of the ability to move selective models. It's good and functions at the same ideal range as the rest of the squad. Then for a few points, you can bring a plasma cannon. If you want to hunt terminators or feel like dark angels, go for it. Otherwise, its still plasma. Usual caveats apply. Finally comes the option to spend even more points and get the lascannon. This is the sit back and tank bust weapon, and it even instant deaths T4 multiwounders, and rips through terminator armor. If your list needs them, the tactical squad is the cheapest place to get them. Because they cost more than a Damned Legionnaire if you want them on devastators. Ouch. That's killer. So, if you need this, go for it. Otherwise, look into the missile launcher or the multi-melta.

Really, the tactical squad can be built from any direction, either transport or firepower, depending on your tastes. Usually though, regardless of where you start, there's only likely to be a few places where you end. The first place I started with 6th edition was the plasma gun and lascannon. I loved the lascannon in 5th and the fact that it got super-charged got me really jazzed. Alas, as I  played more games and came to feel that 4 troops were almost necessary in 6th, massing squads like this wasn't practical, given that they simply weren't mobile enough without a transport and combat squadding. Not only that, but my plasma guns were inconsistent, often failed at crucial moments, and had issues against T4+ multiwounders and massed opposing tanks. This isn't to say that one las/plas team can't work, but rather to take the one team and leave the others at home. Although, in that regard, I'd almost rather take a sniper scout team for that task. They're salty, but interesting with 6th, especially when mated with a quad gun.

Another option for foot marines was utilized by Godfrey's former Crimson Fist army, which fielded a dedicated melta team and a dedicated plasma team. They hoofed it across the table and generally offered the opponent a choice of damnations. They can either spare their mech, by decimating your melta squad, or save their infantry, by hammering your plasma team. Admittedly, the failing here is having only two troops on the table, but the concept remains viable.

From there, if you want a rhino or drop pod (I've filed them together because both are 35 points, bring a storm bolter, and give you the flexibility to combat squat or stay whole as needed), I'll almost always recommend the multi-melta for your heavy weapon. As you bring your guns closer to their face, the multi-melta really and truly starts to shine, due to the fact that it operates at most within range of everything else in the squad. Furthermore, as was mentioned in the comments from part 1 of this series, bringing these types of transports allows you to "combat squad bubble wrap", as well as get some good use out of all those standard bolter marines you pay so much for. Split 5 bolter dudes away from your combi-sarge, snap firing multi-melta, and your non-flamer special weapon, and watch enemies drop. Just remember, you can throw krak grenades now. As for whether you want drop pods or rhinos falls to your preference and your build. Both give and take from one another, and both are worthwhile in their own way.

In summary, there are a few ways to kit your tactical squad to maximize their potency. And with 6th edition, they don't suffer from the law of conservation of tactics quite so badly as I felt they did in 5th. The tactical squad is capable of being finely tuned, if expensive for such things, but what about the list surrounding it? Stay with me as I examine what to surround your tactical squads with to help make them work.


  1. "Admittedly, the failing here is having only two troops on the table"

    Admittedly, you failed to mention the scout snipers and scoring Sternguard that shored up the scoring presence on the table.

    1. In addition to missing that the army, through use of such support had a winning record. In fact, much of that list's potency remains with the current rules set, though it has tarnished some. (Lightning claw terminators and power fist Sargents)