Sunday, November 24, 2013

Honor the Codex: Pt. 5 Troops & Dedicated Transports

Hello students and welcome to the fifth part of our study of the Space Marine codex. Today, we elaborate on some of our fundamentals that were covered in our primer. Today, we look at the necessary evils which define our power armored friends, tactical squads and dedicated transports. If you've already forgotten those precious commands, worry not. I'll reintroduce them. Brace yourselves, and we'll catch up on the other side of the break.

Tactical Squad - Okay
Naturally, our first troop service is the epitome of not only the Space Marine design philosophy, but of my previous comment about inevitable "okay" units forming the backbone of some codices. The tactical is strictly okay, and probably always will be. The biggest thing holding it back is the Marine mentality. Forcing each and every unit to be self contained and capable of anything is expensive, both in terms of being capable of any single thing, and in terms of raw points costs. Considering the tactical squad in a vacuum causes us to come to terms with a few things. The first is that bringing a heavy weapon is problematic, and boarders on wasteful. Unless you bought the multi-melta, your heavy weapon has between time-and-a-half and twice the range of the rest of your dudes guns, special weapon not withstanding. However, the heavy weapon does help us round out our package, helping conquer anti-tank capacity (unless you bought the heavy bolter). Likewise, our choice of special weapon will largely help us with the same thing, forbidding bringing the flamer. But the heavy weapon costs us points, and mobility, and in order to maximize any of the specials, other than the plasma gun, we become increasingly reliant on our transport. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just a thing to be conscious of. With these things in mind, it's best to remember: all thing in balance. Your army needs to maximize the amount of firepower which ignores cover, answers monstrous creatures, and deals with tanks. Remembering the lessons of the grav versus plasma showdown, retain the strength of the holy trinity of imperial firepower: flamer, melta, plasma.

And then, after all that, there's the matter of the sergeant. It's not too complex a matter, but it is important to discuss. The sergeant has a bonus attack and a point higher leadership. As I stated all the way back in our primer, the bonus attack in no way helps you shoot your gun better. Similarly, your squad has ATSKNF, reducing the desire or need for that bump in leadership. So, if you're going to buy a melee weapon and one of the two special weapons which allow for assault after firing, then you can consider buying the veteran sergeant. The biggest issue here is that you'll be spending a fair chunk of points to enable this. Points which could be saved to spend on a command squad, or for TSE for your warlord. If you need to get into close combat, there are options for that, but not really with your tactical squad.

The thing keeping the tactical squad from a great rating is that firing on a vehicle wastes your bolters, but when firing on infantry, your bolters just aren't that impressive. Almost all the flavor for this unit is tied up in your choice of chapter tactics, most of which don't have nearly the impact or scope of other troop choices' special rules. There are worse units in the game, but there are a lot better.

Regardless of the above assessment, and the hullabaloo over bikes (which will be covered in part 7), almost every list has room for at least one tactical squad. Though still a pricey troop, they enable what was discussed in the commandments. They're tough to dislodge, and every shot dedicated to them is one which isn't going after your other units, which are very very killy. Just remember, don't bring more than three of them, and stick to the essentials with upgrades, lest the strength of your list suffer.

At the end of the day, the tactical squad is easy to use, and hard to master.

Scout Squad - Okay
Don't let the section header fool you. Outside of a few limited cases and uses, these guys are strictly worse than a tactical squad. For shaving off a few points, you lose a point of WS, BS, and most crucially, save. What then are the circumstances which allow for scouts to outshine their fully initiated counterparts? The first is as a cheap, native objective sitter. No allied HQ tax, and they give you the chance to pin a unit or snipe a wound or two off a MC over the course of a game. Sure, a heavy flamer will waste them, camo cloaks or no, but that's true for just about any infantry unit in the game. Past that, they make for a solid enough unit to outflank into the opposing deployment zone and assault an enemy fire base, or score you line breaker. The point of these guys is to be cheap though. Don't lose sight of that, or you'll find yourself scratching your head as to where your list construction ran out of points.

Land Speeder Storm - Not quite bad, but worse than okay
This unit entry is chasing the scouts for a very good reason. It's their unique dedicated transport. Previously a fast attack choice, being moved into the dedicated troop slot has helped make this unit more viable, but it's far from perfect. Its flimsy, as in Dark Eldar, fly the paper airplane closer to them, kind of flimsy. It gives some real deep strike protection if it lives, and access to another multi-melta, as well as the blinding large blast. If you're able to live long enough to blind some fire warriors or guardsmen, it might pay off. But outside of that, since its inclusion mandates bringing scouts, maybe leave it at home.

Rhino - Great
For the cost of less than a terminator, I buy immunity to all small arms fire (except Tau and Necron glances), and at least increase my durability against those shots which would normally wound me on 2+ and quickly overwhelm my 3+ save on volume of dice. Not only that, but it increases my mobility in a pinch, and still has the fire points to let both my special and heavy weapon fire. If you need a detailed breakdown of how to use the rhino and why it is so great, head here to Son of Horus's Rhino tactica. Otherwise, take me at my word that these are great, even after the edition change and the codex's lessened need for 10 man squads.

Razorback - Okay
Remember all that great stuff I said about the rhino? How it was cheap, spacious, and left you able to fire your important guns? Forget most of that. The razorback trades both its fire points and four of its capacity to bring a gun. The biggest issue here is that the chassis starts at time-and-a-half that of the rhino and brings only a twin linked heavy bolter or heavy flamer for those points. Upping your points cost to more than double that of the basic rhino gets you a twin linked assault cannon, lascannon, or plasma gun with single lascannon. The lascannon toting options are solid for areas where you really need to down monstrous creatures, but the heavy flamer is probably the worst option on the menu. You're simply neither fast nor durable enough to capitalize on it. This leaves the assault cannon, stranded in no man's land. It's solid against infantry, and can make a good try against monsters, but ultimately it relies too strongly on the rend to push through vehicle damage. It can succeed against rhino chassis equivalents, and the rend can help you in a panic matchup against Necrons, but against the dominant AV12 meta of wave serpents, devilfish, and heldrakes, it misses the mark. So, though expensive both in points and in restrictive play style and capacity, the razorback is far from useless. It's just very squarely the loser between drop pods and rhinos.

Drop Pod - Great
There's some personal bias here, but I'll just come out with it. You're going to have to try awfully hard to justify why you're not including at least one of these in your list. Using even one allows you to almost immediately bring a unit to bear on first turn and almost exactly where it will be most effective. It does all this for the same cost of a rhino, while keeping that same key unit safe and away from the enemy's alpha strike, should they have gone first. If you need to know more about drop pods, head here to my drop pod tactica. Even if you choose to tote around most of your boys in boxes, bringing in some help from above is still almost too potent to ignore.

Well, there we have it. A sizable discussion on the inevitable facts of life for the Space Marine codex. You should field a unit of tactical marines, and you should field varying numbers of rhinos and or drop pods. It's not fun, it's not unique, but it's life, and playing with the ratios can help you find an enjoyable list that works to fit your play style. Bikes are fast attack and will be discussed there. Elites are up next week. Anything I missed out on? Let's have a chat in the comments. You guys have done a great job on fostering great discussion so far!


  1. I think there is something to be said about volume in terms of Tactical Marines. I feel they could make a fairly potent armada-style army, capitalizing on higher resiliance to back up combined firepower.

    Due to points it will never be as efficient as the Taumada, but it's something. While not by too much, the squad got cheaper, and the capability of a 9 man unit to actually be a thing now makes them versatile units for the HQ Independent Characters (which could number up to 4 if you bring some Techmarines (as you should :D ).

  2. I won't advocate armada marines. Tau or even Eldar can make an armada work because their transports are more durable and their structure allows their troops to concentrate on anti-infantry fire while other slots focus on anti-tank or anti-MC.

    Even with Imperial Fists chapter tactics, your bolter fire will not live up to Tau or Eldar point for point. Eldar get rending, Tau get to bring 3 dudes for every 2 dudes you get /and/ they have Ethereal access. Past that, eldar get to add in the dakka from their serpents, fire warriors get to outsource their tank and MC kill to broadsides.

    The whole point of the tactical squad is the special weapon. The heavy just sort of exists. When you stop utilizing that special weapon /and/ take more of them, you weaken your list and lose sight of the point of the book you're playing. If you really want to try armada marines, try Chaos, or Wolves, or even DA (whee dakka banner in a drop pod after we already piled out of our rhinos in prime position).

  3. Hey Corvus - just a quick question for you; I'm currently running a Drop Pod list (obviously pleased to hear you rated Drop Pods so highly!), but your Drop Pod article was obviously written with 5th ED in mind.
    Any chance there's a 6th ED one in the pipeline? :)
    (Not meaning to be picky, just I love me some meta....)

    Also, whilst I don't play Templars I couldn't help but notice there's no Crusader squad mentioned here. Any particular reason?