Optimal Configurations - Part-One - Space Marine Tactical Squads.

When I said in the previous post that this series of articles might not be ready this Friday I may have been underestimating myself somewhat ;-)

Space Marines are fortunate in that they get a whole heap of options available to them in every Force Organisation Chart slot and a bewildering array of options for almost every unit. Of course, just because a unit can be loaded down with upgrades for both themselves and their transportation doesn't mean they should ;-)

As I need to start somewhere I'm going to make it easy for myself and start in the 'Troops' section with the ubiquitous Tactical Squad*.

* I'll be looking at the 'Normal' Space Marine Tactical squad rather than other Codices versions for this article as others like the Blood Angels have somewhat different options available to them in areas such as transportation which require more detailed discussion. I may mention them in passing, however.

So lets look at the options available and some sample units, together with their (imo, obviously) optimum configurations.

So for our initial 90 points we get 5 Power Armoured guys with Leadership 9 (due to the Sergeant) armed with a Bolt-gun, Bolt Pistol and the ever useful Frag and Krak grenades.

We also need to take a unit of 10 men before we get access to special and heavy weapons (costing another 80 points for the 5 extra bodies) though we're free to give the Sergeant a Combi-weapon or 'special' close combat weapon at any squad size.

Unfortunately the 'in-game' Tactical Marine isn't quite the heroic and invulnerable killing machine that he is when he appears in the books. A standard 5 Man Combat Squad is pretty easy to 'torrent of fire' to death and will be butchered by even a moderately decent Close Combat unit.....So what is the solution?

Well, giving them a big metal box to hide in would be a good start, lol.

We have 2 options that fit this criteria and a 3rd which,well.....doesn't. Both the Rhino and the Razorback act as protection for the unit as well as either allowing the unit to shoot from it while giving some measure of protection (the Rhino) or that comes with weapons of it's own (the Razorback). The 3rd option, namely the Drop Pod has a somewhat different use so we'll cover that in another post.

The Rhino - 35 Points.

So we have a 10 man transport capacity (not bad) and armour 11 (a bit rubbish) everywhere except the back which is Armour 10 (a lot rubbish). It has a Storm Bolter which though not particularly brilliant is still worth remembering and Smoke Launchers which will often be the only thing that keeps your Rhino in one piece (for a turn at least, lol). The really important thing is that it has 2 fire points (the fire-point being the top hatch) which enables us to fire out of the top as long as we haven't moved ('Heavy' weapons) or moved more than 6" ('Assault '/'Rapid-Fire' weapons). We also have a number of upgrade options.

Dozer Blade (5 points) - If were not moving more than 6" we get to re-roll any pesky ones from difficult terrain tests that have immobilised our vehicle. - Not a great deal of use as for the most part if were moving over terrain we'll be moving our full distance or if were doing some variation of a 'Rhino-Rush' we'll also be moving as far as we possibly can. To be honest I'd rather keep the 5 points.....

Extra Armour (15 points) - Crew Stunned becomes Crew Shaken. - There's some debate about the relative usefulness of this upgrade and I can only give you my opinion.....and here it is......
Your armour 11 which means anti-tank weapons are going to be spending most of their time penetrating your vehicle rather than glancing your vehicle and subsequently your Rhino will be spending a lot more time dead than stunned.
I can see it's usefulness on Dreadnoughts equipped for close combat or as a bit of extra insurance on your Terminator + Character 'Death-Star' carrying Land Raider but other than that I think it's an upgrade you can do without. The other consideration is that your most likely going to have more than 1 Rhino and those 15 points soon add up when you equipping 6 or more vehicles......

Hunter Killer Missile (10 points) - A S8, AP3 Krak Missile with infinite range - If your using a 'gun-line' style Marine army and you haven't got enough points for another unit then a few Hunter Killers spread across your vehicles is an okay investment. If however your charging headlong towards the enemy then don't bother.

Pintle Mounted Storm Bolter (10 Points) - Another Storm Bolter - 10 points for an extra Storm Bolter? I don't think I'll bother thanks.....

So after all that for all intents and purposes the Rhino has 2 uses.....

1) Heavy weapon bunker.
2) Space Marine delivery system.

We'll look at how best to use them for these purposes in a short while. But first.....

The Razorback - 40 points.

So our transport capacity is reduced to 6, Armour is the same as the Rhino and we still have Smoke Launchers. In exchange for our Fire Points and Storm Bolter we get a Twin-linked Heavy Bolter that can be upgraded to something better if you require. As we've covered the other upgrades in the Rhino section we'll jump straight to our weapon upgrade options.

Twin-linked Heavy Bolter (Default - 0 points) - 36" range, 3x S5, AP 4 shots at BS4 with a re-roll to hit. So you'll kill a couple of Orks/Guardsmen/Scouts etc. if they're out in the open and most likely 1 if they're in cover and might shoot a Landspeeder out of the air if your lucky.

Twin-linked Heavy Flamer (25 points) - S5, AP4 Template with a re-roll to wound - leave this one to the Blood Angels who can have it for free and can move fast enough so they might actually get to use it.

Twin-linked Assault Cannon (35 points) - 24" Range, 4x S6, AP 4, Rending shots with a re-roll to hit - adequate anti-infantry fire-power but rely's on 'rending' rolls to do any significant damage to armour or heavy infantry. Not a bad choice but still better for Blood Angels who get to move 12" and still fire which makes side armour shots more likely.

Twin-Linked Lascannon (35 points) - 48" Range, S9, AP2, 1 shot with a re-roll to hit. - A re-rollable shot that hits on 3's should enable you to punch holes in light transports almost at will and at least slightly worry more heavily armoured vehicles. It would be a toss-up between this one and the Assault Cannon if it wasn't for the next option.....

Lascannon and Twin-linked Plasma gun (35 points) - 48" Range, S9, AP2, 1 shot (but without the re-roll unfortunately) and a 24" range, S7, AP 2, rapid Fire weapon that re-rolls to hit. - So we lose the twin-linking from our Lascannon but were BS4 so it's not a massive problem and we gain a Plasmagun. This option gives us a nice balance between anti-tank and anti heavy infantry and is still capable of killing  infantry quite well should it become necessary. This is the option I'd take on a Razorback in a 'Vanilla' Marine Army and do ;-)

In case you weren't sure what I was advocating or not here's a summary based on my personal experiences.

Rhino (35 points) - Upgrades : None
Razorback (40 points) - Upgrades : Lascannon + Twin-linked Plasmagun (+35 points) - 75 points total
with Hunter Killers Missiles on the Razorback if you have 10 points (or multiples thereof) spare.

Okay now that's out of the way let's look at three examples of unit combinations which I think cover most optimal uses of the humble Tactical Squad.

Option 1

Troops: Tactical Squad (6#, 165 pts)
   4 Tactical Squad @ 165 pts (Razorback)
      1 Sergeant (Bolt Pistol; Bolter)
      1 Razorback (Searchlight; Smoke Launchers; Lascannon and TL Plasmagun)

Okay. This gives us a scoring Razorback that Lascannons things from far way and then Plasmaguns them as well when they get closer. Useful in any Marine gun-line and can threaten most armour and heavy infantry (Terminators and the like). When combined with a Librarian with the 'Null Zone' power this even worries TH/SS Terminators. If your only firing your Lascannon then always remember to move the obligatory inch so sneaky outflanking units are hitting you on 4's rather than automatically.

There's very little room for variation here. Give the sergeant a Combi-Flamer if your short on anti-horde and add a Hunter Killer Missile to the Razorback if you have the points spare. Make sure you use the Hunter Killer ASAP as there is little more annoying than having your vehicle blown up with a unused HK missile still on it.....

Option 2

Troops: Tactical Squad (11#, 205 pts)
   9 Tactical Squad @ 205 pts (Flamer; Multi-Melta; Rhino)
      1 Sergeant (Bolt Pistol; Bolter)
      1 Rhino (Searchlight; Smoke Launchers; Storm Bolter)

Commonly known locally as a 'Melta-bunker', this unit is a significant midfield threat. After driving forward on turn 1 the unit becomes a big annoyance on turn 2 to passing vehicles with it's Multi-Melta. Is capable of dealing with horde units with it's Flamer and is still a pain in the arse when shot out of it's transport as I'm sure you all know how annoying it is trying to kill 10 power armoured bodies without dedicated assault units or horrendous amounts of fire-power. Works well if you have 2 units of them and even better with 3. Becomes awesome when combined with similar ranged threats such as a standard Multi-Melta Dreadnought or 3.

Give the 'Special weapon' guy a Meltagun instead of a Flamer or give the sergeant a combi-weapon of some description. If you swap the Flamer for a Meltagun then you may need to give the Sergeant a Combi-Flamer in order to still be a threat to hordes. This variant ups the overall price by 15 points but you've obviously stopped wasting them on Extra Armour now so they might be spare ;-)

Option 3

Troops: Tactical Squad (11#, 220 pts)
   9 Tactical Squad @ 220 pts (Meltagun; Missile Launcher; Rhino)
      1 Sergeant (Bolt Pistol; Combi-Meltagun x1)
      1 Rhino (Searchlight; Smoke Launchers; Storm Bolter)

This unit takes advantage of the ability to 'Combat Squad'. 4 Marines sit as ablative wounds for the Missile Launcher Marine taking pot-shots at light transports while they're sitting on your home objective. The other half gets in their Rhino and drives forward as far as possible before killing a tank via the fire-point on the Rhino next turn.

The most obvious being the replacement of the Missile Launcher with a Lascannon which is an entirely viable option. I would however resist the temptation to give the Sergeant a Power Weapon or Power Fist as the 5 man unit will either over-run or tie-up a Guardsmen/Gretchin/Fire Warrior unit or will die to a dedicated assault unit without much 'grey area' in-between the two scenarios. The potential extra kill from the Power Weapon won't make a significant difference imo.

In Conclusion.
5th Edition is (like it or not) a world of mechanisation and Marines are more than capable of matching most armies vehicle for vehicle with the additional killing potential of the Marine unit inside. As long as that unit is equipped correctly for the role that you intended for it then any 'extras' become an unnecessary waste of points. I'm sure many of you have tales of times when that extra armour won you the game or your Power Fist sergeant killed a Daemon Prince, as I have them too. However as an average, across all the games you've played, how often has it made the difference? I'd wager that it's not as often as you'd think.
Quite often I've helped people rewrite lists and saved enough points for them to include another unit or even more than one. Personally I'd rather have the extra units.....

Thoughts, comments and suggestions for unit configurations I've completely overlooked are (as usual) most welcome.
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