Hi folks. To kick off the new year I thought I would put up an article about everyone's favourite unit, the humble tactical squad. Well, they aren't everyone's favourite unit now are they? In fact I see many lists that don't include them at all in favour of other troops choices or just other detachments. This article will attempt to pick apart the role for tactical squads in the current game by looking at options, builds, chapter tactics and synergy with HQs, stratagems etc. I will include dark angels and blood angels in the article for completeness, and while I will draw some comparisons with other troop units from those books (intercessors, scouts, crusaders) I won't be branching out further to compare with grey hunters, chaos marines or other troops choices, nor will I be talking about Forgeworld units/rules.
Let's start at the beginning. Tactical squads are one of 4 troops choices available to Space Marines and, as per the original codex astartes should make up 6/10 of the 4 battle companies, and 2/3 of the remaining 6 companies. That's 440/1000 marines per full strength Chapter or roughly half, although it would be incredibly rare for an Astartes Strike Force to be made up of that proportion of Tactical Marines. Guillemans tweaks to the codex has buggered things about somewhat with battleline squads and 20x5 Marines per Company rather than 10x10, but things are still pretty much the same.
In terms of gameplay, the troops will cost you 13 points a Marine and come in unit sizes of 5-10. I won't really talk about power levels as I don't use them but these chaps are 5 power basic and 4 power extra for the full 10-man squad. All marines come with frag/krak grenades as standard as well as a bolter and bolt pistol. As always, 5 marines allows you to take a Sergeant for free, who can swap either of his guns for Sergeant equipment. In the previous few editions, the Sergeant the same stats as a battle brother and could be upgraded to a veteran Sergeant for 10 points. Now, however, he is a free upgrade to a squad, as with most squad leaders, with one extra attack and point of leadership. As a side note, veteran Sergeants still exist but they are 1st Company only and boast a further extra attack and point of leadership. Lastly, a 5-9 man squad allows you to take either a heavy or special weapon and the full 10-man squad allows both. Note that all codexes grant the ability to reroll failed morale check.
Now, I always bring tactical squads as I stick to the codex layout and in the past have been known to favour 10-man squads, occasionally breaking them down into combat squads. However, I will confess that Robbie-G has a good point with this whole 5-man squad thing and so I will go through a few ways to build squads with pros and cons. As a general rule Brigades will grant you 9+3=12 CPs but are difficult (though not impossible) to build at 1500-2000 points due to the amount of requirements there are. Battalions + specific detachments are easier to build and still give you some command points. Always try to build your list around as many detachments as possible for maximum CPs. (i.e don't put 3 elites, and 3 heavies into a Battalion if you can give them an HQ and form a separate detachment)
The bare-bones - will cost you 65 points and give you 5 basic bolter-toting marines. The Sarge can swap out to bolt pistol and chainsword for free. The benefit of building squads this way is that it is dirt cheap to get yourself either a brigade or double-battalion detachment for those juicy command points. Don't expect miracles from it as you will only have 6 attacks (7 with the chainsword) and 9-10 bolter shots at <12". Having said that, victory points win games - if you're short on points a cheap tactical squad in cover for a 2+ save may just hold you that valuable objective. Then again it may be a relatively easy target for your opponent to simply pick them off and gain a victory point of their own.
The bare bones XL - same as above but with 10-men rather than 5. I can't think of many reasons to take this squad - if you were wanting to sink 130 points into a squad then you should at least be tooling it up with some weapons for your investment to increase its damage output. If you plan on combat-squadding it from the start then you should take 2x5 man squads to fill an extra troop slot and get a second sergeant upgrade.
1x10 vs 2x5 - not a build as such but I thought I would address this here. The question is, should you take one or the other, and I would argue it is almost always better to take the 2x5 option. Reasons are as follows:
1. Unless you're playing power levels, there is no points difference.
2. If you planned on combat-squadding anyway, you've now gained yourself a free sergeant (and the upgrades he permits), taken up an extra troops slot and have access to 2 special weapons or 2 heavy weapons rather than having to take 1 of each.
3. Effectively immune from morale, whereas a larger squad suffering heavy casualties may lose further models.
We should also consider benefits to taking the 10-man squad in the argument, and those are as follows:
1. More staying power with 10-man squad.
2. More models will benefit from powers/stratagems etc that benefit the unit.
3. Can spread models out further and still benefit from 6" reroll bubbles that affect units rather than models.
4. Can combat squad at the beginning of the game or partway through if still at full strength and using a stratagem.
I still think the 2x5 is the winner here on balance.
The in-betweener - however you equip the squad, taking a model count somewhere between 6-9 models is possible especially if you have leftover points to spend. Of course you will benefit from more bodies, attacks, shooting etc but it does nothing to improve your access to an additional special/heavy weapon and does not give you combat squads. Taking greater than 6 models will restrict you option of a Razorback also.
The 50:50 split - the old way of running a 10-man squad was to split them with a backfield squad containing the heavy weapon for an objective sitting ranged unit and to put the special weapon and Sergeant in a mid-field position. This is still viable if not that efficient (see above) and made even better by the changes to combi-weapons and being able to target separate units for different weapons now.
The 70:30 split - another take on combat-squadding is to leave your 5 bare bones marines sitting in the backfield while putting the Sergeant, special and heavy weapons in a Razorback and taking the fight to the enemy. Particularly devastating with triple melta/flamer weapons.
The babysitters - a 5-man squad with a heavy weapon sitting in the backfield with a cheaply tooled Sergeant for counter-charge potential. Good for objective camping and cheap heavy weapon inclusion at less than 100 points.
The hunters - a 5-man squad with a special and combi-weapon - less scary than the 70:30 split squad but you don't pay the 65 point tax this way. Not as lethal as Company veterans or Sternguard in the same role but cheaper for sure.
To start I should say that the errata added combi-gravs to the Sergeant weapons list and melta-bombs as an entry to the datasheet. The Dark Angel and Codex marine options are therefore identical, with the Blood Angels having additional access to inferno pistols and hand flamers for the Sergeant and heavy flamers as a heavy weapon option. Let's go through the weapons categories one at a time.
Basic equipment - as mentioned everyone has a boltgun, bolt pistol, frag and krak grenades - it's worth me mentioning a few things now that I frequently forget in-game:
1. If you are within 12" don't forget one member of the squad can throw a grenade. This is especially useful on a Sergeant only packing a bolt pistol or dual melee weapons. Both grenades are better than a pistol and arguably better/equivalent to a rapid firing boltgun.
2. Speaking of which, don't forget that rapid fire weapons now no longer prohibit you from charging after firing, for maximum damage output from a squad you should be aiming for rapid firing followed by a charge. There is now no reason to fire a pistol over a rifle when charging into combat. Speaking of which....
3. ..... should you be locked in melee during your turn, don't forget that you can fire your pistols at the enemy now. I always forget.
Melee - cheaper than in the previous edition, melee weapons are available in their entirety for the Sergeants and they can technically take 2 of them should they so wish. The line up is power sword/ maul/axe/fist, lightning claws(s), chainsword and thunder hammer. In the case of lightning claws it is worth taking them as a pair for the extra attack, but no other weapons benefit from a second identical weapon. Should you wish to forego ranged weaponry you can take a chainsword for an additional basic attack in addition to another melee weapon.
Pistols - Bolt pistol comes as standard to all members of the squad, but the sergeant can take one or two pistol weapons in any combination. Grav pistols and plasma pistols are available to all with Blood Angels also gaining access to inferno pistols and hand flamers. All pistols are fairly cheap now and worth considering if you can't stretch to the arguably better combi-weapons. Summaries are below under special weapons.
Melta bombs - Sergeant only and not usable in melee any longer, melta bombs are devastating at S8, -4AP and D6 damage rerolling to wound against vehicles. Consider them if the sergeant has no decent ranged options and is expecting to get up close and personal.
Combi-weapons - This list also includes a bolter if you wanted to go dual bolter for free. For 3 points though you could take a storm bolter and still have room for another weapon. All the other combi-weapons are pricey now as they are no longer one-shot only and can be fired at the same time as the boltgun component with a -1 penalty. As you don't get a bonus to your attacks for a melee and pistol weapon anymore there are no disadvantages to combi-weapons save for the price. Options are flamer, melta, grav and plasma as below.
Special weapons - The now standard fare of flamer, melta, plasma and grav. Flamers are short ranged but don't need to roll to hit, instead relying on a D6 roll for the number of attacks. Useful for hordes and overwatch. Plasma is limited by only being damage 1 unless you overcharge and risk killing yourself, though its range works well in concert with bolters. Melta is, as always, your go-to character/monster/vehicle killer and, being an assault weapon, allows you to get in range and shoot when you advance at a -1 to hit penalty. Lastly, grav is S5 AP-3 damage 1 with 18" range (so worse than plasma) but against anything with 3+ or better armour can inflict D3 damage - decent against MEQs, TEQs and tanks/walkers/monsters.
Heavy weapons - pretty much the same as the above with better range and profiles (though only Blood Angels get access to heavy flamers) except for the additional heavy weapons in the form of lascannons, heavy bolters and missile launchers. The former is the go-to ranged anti-tank weapon, until you roll the dreaded 1 for damage that is. Heavy bolters are pretty decent and the cheapest heavy weapon, whereas missile launchers cost the same as a lascannon but with AP-2 rather than -3. This is compensated by the additional anti-horde profile and the option to use a flakk missile as discussed below under stratagems.
Phew. That's all for part 1. I will post part 2 next week. Thanks for reading.