Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Assault Squads

The Assault squad is the most popular Troop choice in a Blood Angels army, and with good reason. On the surface, they are very similar to the generally unpopular Space Marine Assault squad, but a few extra options make a tremendous difference.

First, Blood Angels Assault squads are Troops. Even with none of the other added options, I imagine most Codex Marine players would love to have a mobile Troops choice that is reliably capable of taking objectives by assault. In addition, our Assault squads have access to meltaguns and plasma guns. Meltaguns are a particularly big deal, as it means that your squads can reliably destroy tanks in addition taking on infantry. Finally, our sergeants have access to infernus pistols and hand flamers, giving our squads even more firepower. A full Assault squad can carry three melta or template weapons.

If that weren’t enough, the Assault squad meshes very well with our Sanguinary Priests. Correct use of Priests grants your Assault squads furious charge and feel no pain. This means that they can take on more dangerous enemy squads and that they’re resilient enough to cross the table without the protection of a transport.

I have used Assault squads in three configurations. Keep in mind that these are all in a primarily jump pack army, so I don’t use the more common mechanized configurations. The most common configuration that I use is ten strong, with two meltaguns and sergeant with a power weapon or fist. If my enemy has heavy armor that I need to take out immediately, I combat squad the unit and deep strike it. The squads with meltaguns drop within melta range and take out tanks while the squads with the sergeants cluster together and drop within 18” of enemy squads, looking to assault them during the next turn. If there are no important enemy tanks that really need to be taken out, these squads deploy as a whole unit, either normally or by deep strike. In both cases, I keep Priests with power weapons with the power weapon (or fist) wielding squads. I’ll often keep a single full squad together, regardless of the enemy, and join it with a Priest and either a Librarian or a Reclusiarch. Between the many power weapon attacks, furious charge, and re-rolls on the charge, this squad will chew through any enemy with less than initiative five.

The second squad type that I use is five strong, with a meltagun and sergeant with a power weapon and infernus pistol. This is a cheaper squad that is more capable of acting independently. It can destroy armor on the drop or assault non-combat squads without the aid of a Priest. These aren’t hammer units, but they excel at taking out shooty tanks and sweeping up enemy firepower or small Troops squads.

Finally, I have had good success with a five strong Assault squad in a Razorback with a plasma gun. I give the Razorback the best gun I can afford (I’ve had particular success with the lascannon and twin-linked plasma gun configuration) and use this squad to hold objectives. My jump pack squads don’t do a very good job of holding objectives, and generally have to make a dash for objectives in the last couple turns. This squad gives me a reliable objective holder and provides some ranged firepower that can crack transports, for fewer points than a Tactical squad producing similar firepower.

I wanted to say a few words on the choice of weapons. You’ll notice that I heavily favor meltaguns. This is because Assault squads provide more than enough anti-infantry hitting power in my army. However, I need to be able to destroy tanks and, perhaps more importantly, open transports so that they can assault the squads inside. Flamers can be useful (especially since we can have three per squad) as they generate enough hits to even kill marines. Even so, I’ve found that I need the meltaguns too much to sacrifice them for flamers. Of course, plasma guns should be avoided on any squads that you intend to assault with.

I used to prefer to give any squads accompanied by Priests power weapons, but the wound allocation rules have made me re-think this. In the case of my ten strong Assault squad with power weapon accompanied by a Priest with power weapon and Librarian, I get 12 power weapon attacks, which is great. However, I get 25 normal attacks at the same initiative. This allows the enemy to allocate the power weapon attacks on the same couple models and rob me of a few kills. This makes the power fist more appealing, just because it strikes at a different initiative from the rest of the squad, meaning it can’t be swamped out.

This has led me to use a power fist in my large squad that will be accompanied by a Priest and HQ. I still stick with power weapons on any independent characters because they can be singled out and need to be able to get in their attacks as early as possible. Power weapons are great for small squads and any squads that might be combat squadding, as the lower number of normal attacks means that it’s less likely that the power weapon wounds can be stacked on the same model.

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