Friday, August 12, 2011

Executioners Tactica: Part 1: Troops

I've been doing a lot of product reviews and posts showing off painting, so I thought I'd start a new series on tactics and army selection. Of course, it will be interspersed between other posts on painting and reviews on hobby supplies. I'm trying to be a well rounded blogger.

I will be playing my Executioners using Codex: Space Marines, and I’ve gotten quite a few stunned looks when I tell people this. There is a widely held belief that Space Marines are inferior on the table-top compared to the Space Wolves, Blood Angels, and Grey Knight, and even compared to the older Dark Angels and Black Templar. While I do believe that Codex: Space Marines is showing its age and the fact that it was the first 5th Edition Codex, it still has quite a few advantages over the newer codices. I’m not going to go over C:SM quite as thoroughly as I did the Blood Angels, just because I think I only have one 30 page codex review in me per edition, but I will discuss what I see as the high points.

Note: Those of you playing BA or planning to play Executioners as counts as BA might benefit to looking through the older posts on my blog. There are extensive reviews for every unit and articles on army building and tactics that I hope you will find useful.

However, before I discuss them, I’d like to discuss the main reason many players see the newer marine codices as superior: Troops.

Space Marines have two Troops choices: Tactical squads and Scout squads. Scout squads aren’t bad for what they are. They tend not to kill much, but they’re good at sitting on rear field objectives while plinking away with sniper rifles and a heavy weapon or outflanking and disrupting enemy fire support squads. Given camo cloaks, they’re really survivable in cover. However, it’s hard to build an army based entirely around Scouts.

Another option is to take a Captain on a Bike, which unlocks Bike squads as Troops. This is definitely the strongest of the Space Marine Troop choices, with excellent mobility, durability, and the ability to pack two special weapons and a heavy weapon on an Attack Bike. Their only major failing is close-combat, and even in that case they are very good at locking enemy units in combat. They just don’t cause any damage. I firmly believe that Space Marines make a very strong bike army, but Executioners don’t make much use of bikes, so I won’t be discussing bikes much further. 

Anyone that plays 40K is very familiar with Tactical marines. They are the benchmark against which all other Troops choices are compared. They’ve got a solid statline, power armor, and the ever reliable bolter. However, it’s their options that let them down. They can’t take any upgrades except on the Sergeant until they reach 10 strong, at which point they get a discounted special and heavy weapon. Therein lies the problem. One special and one heavy aren’t very reliable. The special weapons require you to get close, and should they miss or fail to do enough damage, the squad is left vulnerable. The heavy weapon is less of an issue because it seldom puts the squad in danger, but the minimal cost for a Tactical squad with a heavy weapon is 170 points. For 10 more points, you  get two Land Speeder Typhoons putting out four missiles rather than one and staying mobile while they do it.

Combat squadding goes a long way to helping this because it allows you to leave your heavy weapon in a good firing position while advancing with the special weapon and sergeant. Still, these squads are really expensive for what they can do, and five marines are not that hard to kill.

Compare this to Grey Hunters, which are 1 point cheaper, have close-combat weapons, counter-attack, and can take a special weapon at five marines and two at ten marines, or Blood Angels Assault squads, which get jump packs or a discounted Fast Rhino, the same access to special weapons as Grey Hunters, and can be made into a credible assault threat with a Sanguinary Priest. It’s even more embarrassing to compare them to Grey Knights, who pick up storm bolters, force weapons, and two psychic powers for 4 more points, as well as access to psycannons.

How do Space Marines overcome the inherent handicap associated with Tactical Marines? First, never take too many of them. Two full squads should be enough for almost any army. Other options provide more hitting power; Tactical marines provide durable scoring units best suited to midfield objectives. Use them as such and support them with units that can deal more damage to the enemy.

In my 1,850 point list, I am taking two Tactical squads with meltagun, multi-melta, power fist, combi-melta, and Rhino. This is an expensive squad at 235 points, but it has the capacity to reliable kill at least one tank after moving by firing the meltagun and combi-melta, and it can advance into midfield and threaten any enemy tanks with its multi-melta. It won’t get out of its Rhino unless it is destroyed, I need it to destroy an enemy tank after moving 12”, or I need its full firepower to clear infantry late game. The power fist makes it a credible, though not good, assault threat. I will also be taking a small Scout Sniper squad with missile launcher to reliably hold backfield objectives.

It’s important to note that I’ll be taking my Executioners using Fist characters, so they will swap Combat Tactics for Stubborn. If your army keeps Combat Tactics, save points and don’t take the fist. Use Combat Tactics to fall back from enemy assaulters and shoot them.

Another way to make Tactical squads more reliable is to take Vulkan Hestan. He makes all your meltas and flamers twin-linked, which suddenly makes your Tactical squads limited access to special weapons much less of a problem.

Well, that was a kind of depressing start to my discussion on how to use Space Marines to compete with their newer brethren. Next, I’ll start examining units that I think allow Space Marines to compete against their newer brethren despite their weak Troops choices.

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