Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tactical Squads

The Tactical squad is the undisputed foundation of any Codex Marine army, and it has long been the foundation of Blood Angels armies. In our 5th Edition codex, our Tactical squads got a significant upgrade with free or discounted special and heavy weapons, and access to combi-weapons on the sergeant. Even so, they are generally supplanted by Assault squads in the current codex.

Assault squads can take a special weapon at 5 marines, and can take two when at full size, giving them superior firepower on the move at all sizes. In addition, Assault squads get a discount on their transports, while Tactical squads have to pay full price. This means that Assault squads fill many roles better than Tacticals. However, Tacticals do one thing that no other squad in our army does: it’s a resilient scoring unit that can hold an objective and provide reliable firepower. This is something Blood Angels lists often lack.

First off, Tactical squads should always be taken at 10 strong. At less than 10 strong, the squad can’t take either a special or a heavy and you’re better off taking an Assault squad.

There are enough options for heavy weapons to fulfill any of your army’s needs. Of the free options, the missile launcher gives you the ability to take on armor and troops reasonably well. The multi-melta is by far the best option for dealing with armor, and works well if you are planning to use the Tactical squad to hold mid-field objectives. The heavy bolter is a good option for dealing with enemy infantry, but you can generally get heavy bolters on more mobile and cheaper platforms. The plasma cannon is an excellent option if you’re worried about heavy infantry, especially deep strikers. The lascannon is a good choice for long ranged anti-armor, which is great if you’re planning on holding backfield objectives.

Special weapons present fewer options. The flamer is free, and provides some protection if enemy infantry tries to assault the squad. The meltagun provides a similar defense against enemy walkers. However, both of these weapons are very short range guns, and tend to be better used by the more mobile Assault squads. The plasma gun is the most expensive option, but also has the longest range as well as high enough strength and AP to be threatening to both light vehicles and heavy infantry. The flamer and meltagun are good choices for squads that you want to advance into midfield, while the plasma gun is the best choice for a backfield squad (though the flamer is a fine choice here if you just want to keep the squad cheap).

The sergeant can take the standard upgrades. The combi-weapons give you an extra shot when you really need it, and are a good upgrade to a shooty squad. The power weapon and power fist give the squad some close-combat threat, but Tacticals really don’t measure up when assaulting. In general, a special close-combat weapon will only act as a deterrent to enemy assault troops, or allow them to charge in to support a more dedicated assault squad. They’re a worthwhile addition if you have the points lying around, but they’re not required.

In a mechanized army, a Rhino or Razorback is a required buy for the Tactical squad. The Rhino allows the squad to remain intact and advance to take midfield objectives. The Razorback gives you more firepower, and can transport the combat squad with the sergeant and special weapon while the heavy weapon combat squad stays back to shoot.  If you need the full squad to hold an objective, then just use the Razorback for extra firepower.

In a mostly jump pack army, you can still use a Tactical squad to hold backfield objectives. In this case, a Rhino is generally not worth it. It provides a target for enemy anti-armor firepower and they generally don’t need the mobility. They should just deploy as close as possible to the objective you want to secure, and run toward it and start shooting.

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