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Monday, February 4, 2013

Space Marines in 6th Edition: Troops



Tactical Squads

Tactical squads, despite their ubiquity, have been much maligned as pretty lackluster. In 5th Edition, they were fairly survivable but that was about it. They didn’t produce much medium range firepower unless they stayed still, and even then they didn’t do too much. They needed to close to within 12” to really let loose, but then they would get charged and they were pretty pitiful in assault. This meant that they needed a Rhino to get close and a Sergeant with power fist in order to give them some bite in close-combat. This resulted in an expensive squad that couldn’t do too much compared to similarly priced units from other slots.

I am happy to say that these days are over. In 6th Edition, Tactical Marines really shine as a Troops choice. This is almost entirely down to the fact that rapid fire weapons can now move and shoot at full range, though being able to snap fire heavy weapons on the move helps too. Overwatch, combined with Tacticals high rate of close-ranged fire, makes them less vulnerable to assault. A Tactical squad puts out reliable medium range firepower while moving, allowing them to contribute to the battle from Turn 1. This means that they don’t have to have a Rhino anymore; it provides more mobility and protection, but they’ll fight just as well without it. In addition, the new challenge rules mean that Sergeants probably won’t add much in assault. Against more dangerous characters, the Sergeant will be challenged and killed before they can swing. Against weaker characters, the Sergeant will be challenged to prevent him from killing multiple models. In my experience, arming a Sergeant for close-combat is almost never worth the points. If your Tactical squads are in assault, another squad with better close-combat capacity needs to bail them out.


Taken together, these changes mean that Tactical squads are effective at a much cheaper cost. The only upgrades they really need are special and heavy weapons. Because I’m relying on shooting at 24”, I take a plasma gun as the special weapon. It’s a great gun and its range matches the bolter, so you won’t be tempted to move the Tacticals closer to the enemy. Flamers and meltaguns are great guns in other squads, but Tacticals shouldn’t be getting that close to the enemy.

As far as heavy weapons go, they’re really all good depending what target you want the squad to engage. I prefer the multi-melta because (A) it kills whatever it hits, (B) it’s free for a full squad, and (C) its range matches the bolter and plasma gun. Sometimes, a bit more range is necessary to take out enemy tanks or units that are gunning down your army. In this case, the missile launcher and lascannon both work well. I prefer the lascannon because it more reliably kills vehicles for only a few more points, but the missile launcher is free and also has frag missile for dealing with light infantry. The plasma cannon is a great weapon for tearing through heavy infantry (especially all the Terminators that seem to be on the table lately), but I tend to avoid it because it can’t snap fire. Snap fire is important not only when the squad moves (which it often has to in order to get range with their bolters or reach objectives), but also for overwatch fire. The final choice is the heavy bolter. The heavy bolter seems like a useful weapon for chewing through the hordes of light infantry that are now common on the table. However, if you can hit 4 Guardsmen or 3 Marines with a frag missile, it will outperform the heavy bolter while also being useful against hard targets.

Scouts

Scouts are not yet full Marines, so they’re only WS 3 and BS 3 and they only have a 4+ armor save. These downsides are countered by being a couple points less per model and having Infiltrate, Move Through Cover, and Scout. Combine this with the squad’s ability to take bolters, shotguns, bolt pistols and combat blades, or sniper rifles, and Scouts are flexible even if they’re fragile.  In general, I see Scouts acting in three possible roles.

The first role is the simplest: the Scouts are a cheap, mobile objective grabber. They are armed with bolters so they can contribute to the mass of fire your army puts out as they run to an objective. The squad stays small to be cheap and try not to attract attention, but they can take a heavy bolter or missile launcher so they can provide more firepower once they reach their objective.

The second role is the one I see most commonly: the Scouts are a durable squad that sits on a backfield objective. They take sniper rifles, a heavy weapon, and camo cloaks and set up on an objective in cover. In general, these squads are still the minimum 5 Scouts to stay cheap. They are hard to kill thanks to their high cover saves and their sniper rifles allow them to target the enemy even from your table edge.

The final role is the most aggressive: the Scouts take shotguns or combat blades and act as a cheap but numerous assault unit. The Sergeant takes a power weapon of some sort and the squad is bulked up to 10 strong. The squad will usually outflank in order to reach vulnerable backfield units and disrupt the enemy army, though they can simply infiltrate if there’s a good spot for them. Alternatively, a 5 strong squad can ride in a Land Speeder Storm to gain some extra speed, which will be discussed more in Fast Attack. 

Telion

Sergeant Telion is an upgrade character for Scouts, and he brings quite a bit to the squad. First, he gives the squad Stealth. The FAQ has changed the rules for camo cloaks to add +1 cover save rather than granting Stealth, which means that a squad with camo cloaks and Telion adds +2 to their cover saves. This can make a squad extremely difficult to kill, to the point that opponents just refuse to shoot at them.

In addition, Telion carries a Heavy 2 Rending Bolter, and all of his shots count as precision shots. This is great for removing upgrade models from squads, but isn’t too useful for characters any more as they can Look Out, Sir the wounds. Instead of shooting, Telion can grant his BS 6 to one other model in the squad, which is useful if you really need a heavy weapon to hit.

As you can probably tell from his special rules, Telion is a great addition to a squad of sniper Scouts, but adds very little to other types of Scout squads. While Telion is fairly expensive compared to a basic Scout squad, he is worth it if you want a very reliable squad to hold a rear objective.

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