Sunday, 14 January 2018

Tactical squads overview and tactica - part 2

Hi folks, this is the second part of my guide to tactical squads in 8th edition. First part found HERE. Enjoy. 


There are 6 ways to get around in the new codex, and they are pretty much the same as in the old one. Drop pod, rhino, razorback, Land-raider, Stormraven or on foot. Note you can't use the Repulsor as apparently new and old marines don't share any of their toys. 

The good news about 8th edition for transports is as follows:
·         You can assault out of them now.
·         Mixed units are allowed in a transport.
·         They got a whole lot more survivable.
·         You can fire heavy weapons on the go a whole lot easier.

Now for the bad:
·         They pretty much doubled in price for basic transports.
·         You have a 1/6 chance of a mortal wound if it dies while you're in it.
·         No more shooting out of hatches.
·         You have to disembark before it moves but can then act normally.

Now, I'm going to discount the non-dedicated transports for now as you shouldn't be using land raiders or stormravens to ferry tactical marines around really - they're much more suited to carrying Elite and harder-hitting units. This leaves us with the trusty drop pod, rhino and razorback. Drop pods are coming down in price a lot since the Index but still aren't viable to use en-masse. Two 5-man units in a pod held in reserve and dropped into the right place at the right time could be lethal for grabbing objectives or bolstering a line where needed. Rhinos are tough and for only 8 points can be given an HK missile and extra storm bolter making them pretty well-armed. Don't forget to combat squad the marines in advance (or simply load with 2 5-man units) for maximum utility. 

Finally, a smaller unit in a Razorback can also be lethal, especially if it's a 70:30 split or accompanied by a character. The changes to twin weapons made the Razorbacks armament lethal. Let's not forget that both tanks are now useful to charge into combat and soak up overwatch fire if you are trying to charge, plus the rhino can drop off one squad while ferrying the other to another location. To sum it up, drop pods if you want 10 men in the right place at the right time, Rhinos to protect and move 10 men where you want them and Razorbacks to provide fire support and ferry around smaller squads.  


All tactical squads have the same two rules which are 'and they shall know no fear' (reroll failed morale checks and 'champions of humanity' (ability to hold objectives even if non-troop enemies also within 3") However, each chapter has their own tactics which will also benefit tactical squads and we will take a look at them in turn now:

Black Templars - righteous zeal allows you to reroll charge rolls. While useful for many other units (including Crusaders) there it not much benefit to tactical squads, who get one attack each in combat and at best pack one model with a decent melee weapon.

Blood Angels - red thirst can turn even the humblest marine unit into a combat monster by adding +1 to its wound rolls in the fight phase. This applies only if charging or charged that turn, so beware prolonged combats. This will mostly mean that against GEQs you wound on a 2+, 3+ against MEQs and even the T8+ nasties can be wounded on a 5+. Tactical marines are pretty much the most basic marines you can get and so this makes them that little bit better if you do charge or get charged, especially if your Sergeant is packing a decent melee weapon. 

Dark Angels - grim resolve has two effects. The first limits casualties due to failed morale checks to a maximum of 1 - not all that useful if you are using 5-man squads anyway. The second and more useful part allows you to reroll all shooting to hit rolls of 1 (including overwatch) if you remain stationary - excellent for gunlines and objective camping but again pretty useless if you intend to be on the move.

Imperial Fists - Siege masters. On the rare occasion your opponent has a building then you can reroll failed to wound rolls, which could be useful for weapons such as lascannons, multi-meltas and Thunder hammers. The main appeal of the tactic is to remove the benefit of +1 to enemies saving throw for being in cover. This is excellent for tactical squads as the flexibility of weaponry you possess means that infantry, Monsters and vehicles alike will be equally vulnerable regardless of whether or not they are hunkered down. It doesn't add any advantage to you, but it removes a big one for them which will add up over the course of a game. 

Iron Hands - the flesh is weak provides a 6+++ 'feel no pain' for every tactical marine to be that extra bit more survivable. It might not add much over the course of a game but if you fielded 30 tactical marines you'd expect to save 6 of them that would have died otherwise and also gives you at least a chance of surviving mortal wounds.

Raven Guard - shadow masters means that your opponent must subtract 1 from shooting to hit rolls at over 12". This has pros and cons for Raven Guard Tacticals. It's great for improving the survivability of ranged squads that camp on objectives or hold the backfield, at least that is until the enemy closes with them. For tacticals wanting to take the fight to the enemy, to be in effective range of much of their weaponry (24" rapid fire, meltas, flamers) you must forego your advantage.

Salamanders - Master artisans (who don't own as many heavy flamers as the Blood Angels apparently) grants a reroll to hit and to wound each time you shoot or fight. This is an awesome little tactic that will benefit small, 5-man tactical squads the most. Each time you shoot your special ranged weapon or roll the dreaded 1 to wound with a meltagun you get to reroll it for free. This is also handy if the Sergeant has a decent melee weapon. firing heavy weapons on the move, assault weapons while advancing and using 'unwieldy' melee weapons suddenly doesn't look so bad. With regard to the 'shooting' part of the rule, I would read that to mean that if you shoot overwatch when charged you can also use it to try and get that melta hit.

Ultramarines - Codex discipline grants +1 to leadership (again pretty useless in small squads) but, importantly, allows you to shoot at -1 on a turn in which you fell back. This is extremely useful for tactical squads, especially smaller ones that have been charged and only have decent models remaining or larger ones that have been tied up in combat. Not many non-fly units have this ability and so it prevents your falling back units from being useless.

Whitescars - Lightning assault allows you to add 2" to your advance rolls as well as enabling you to charge in a turn in which you fell back. The extra advance helps to add a bit of pace to models that would otherwise be quite slow, for example if you needed to grab an objective. The charge after falling back, like the Ultramarine tactic, is great for allowing you to not be useless on a turn you duck out of combat. For example if your small squad had been reduced to only 3 models after being charged last turn, you can then remove yourself from combat, allow something else to shoot your former combatants, then charge something more palatable. Situational but useful. 

Let us now compare to the other troop choices in the codex. Scouts are 2 points each cheaper but with a differing selection of weaponry and a 4+ save as opposed to 3+. Crusader squads are the same price and stats but have slightly different ways of accessing weapons, higher maximum number per squad and have to be Black Templars. Lastly, Intercessors are 5 points per model more, better stats/guns with the same squad sizes but have less options/transports available.

Scouts - 2 points per model cheaper and following the same unit size, basic equipment and Sergeant model as tactical marines. Scouts do however gain several wargear options and the concealed positions rule, sacrificing 1 point of armour and access to special weapons/most heavy weapons in return. The Sergeant doesn't get access to melta-bombs but is otherwise identically equip-able to his power armour equivalent. You can add camo-cloaks for 3 points to make them as durable as tactical marines while in cover, though at this stage you are paying 1 point more per model. 

Access to sniper rifles makes them the only marine unit able to target characters, although the chances of doing significant damage to a character with sniper rifles is slim. Like crusaders, they can take a bolt-pistol and combat blade for an extra attack and there's also the option of a shotgun should you so wish. Concealed positions allows you to deploy in 9" of the enemy deployment zone/enemy models - this can be good for objective grabbing or speedbumping units such as genestealers. Scouts fill a very different role to tactical marines and are usually the bare-bones squad of choice.

Crusaders - no combat squads ability and have to take black Templar tactics but other than that crusaders are the ultimate jack of all trades. Containing anywhere from 5-20 models, the unit can be tooled as either a minimum squad of 5, which can possess a Sergeant equivalent (with all the options a Sergeant gets save for melta-bombs), a special weapon and either a melee or heavy weapon. Perfect. On the other hand you can turn them into a blob squad of 10 tacticals and 10 scouts (neophytes, note they have Ld 6 compared to scouts ld 7), all of which can replace their boltguns with chainswords/combat blades for the extra attack. Just beware morale checks with a unit this size. The go-to troops choice for black Templars allowing ultimate flexibility of builds.

Intercessors - the new kids on the block have a few tricks up their sleeves, but rather nicely fill a different role to tactical marines. At 18 points a go you have an almost 2:3 ratio with tactical marines, and for this you get 5-10 models with an extra wound and attack each, plus a longer-ranged boltgun with -1 AP. The Codex marine and Dark Angel Sergeants (again a free upgrade with 1ld and attack over a regular Sergeant) can take power swords instead of a rifle, and the Blood Angel squad can take a chainsword instead. Instead of access to heavy and special weapons, Intercessors can all exchange their rifles for either a longer ranged/better AP heavy 1 version (stalker) or a shorter ranged/worse AP assault 2 version. 

For every 5 models you can take an auxillary grenade launcher granting 30" range to your grenades. These chaps are designed to be the badass workhorses of the marine lists, destined to footslog unless you pay for a Repulsor tank. Not as easily tailored as tactical marines and more vulnerable to multi-damage weapons, they are nonetheless more formidable in an assault and more durable on an objective, but with wargear restrictions limiting their effectiveness in specific roles.


I'm only going to discuss characters common to all 3 books and am not going to go into special characters, warlord traits or relics as things will get too complicated. Aside from Black Templars, Librarians are common to all 3 armies and have a variety of offensive and defensive ways to bolster squads, though arguably these are better used on more elite squads. Chaplains can bolster nearby Ld by 1 point more than a Sergeant not that it will benefit small squads that much. He can also bolster your to hit rolls in the fight phase - only really of some use to the Sergeant if melee equipped but better used on dedicated assault units. 

Captains and lieutenants are the real go-to combo to cluster your firebase around, not only boasting a fearsome armoury and stat-line themselves but also granting rerolls of 1 to hit and wound respectively for units in 6". Apothecaries/Novitiates can revive a single model from a unit on a 4+ but chances are your decent models will be the last ones to die so he is probably better off regaining D3 wounds to characters automatically and without a penalty for failure. Lastly, Ancients allow a model to make a last shooting/melee attack on a 4+ when it dies - again a good option for a firebase of tactical models and devastators.


As above, I'm only going to discuss the stratagems common to all of the 3 books being covered and not go into specific ones for fear that this article will go on forever. Auspex scan can be deadly if used by a devastator or suitably equipped tactical squad to decimate units hoping to drop in and surprise you with a round of shooting or melee. Wisdom of the ancients can benefit nearby tactical squads, effectively making the Dreadnought a Captain for a turn. Tactical flexibility is pretty moot as you most likely won't be taking 10-man squads anyway - if you do though it allows you to split them mid game so long as they are still full strength. Honour the chapter is expensive and allows a second round of fighting - not worth it on even Blood Angel tactical marines. The last 2 are particularly relevant (although better on devastators as you can also use the signum) - hellfire shells and flakk missiles. Both allow a chance at D3 mortal wounds on a target for a single shot as an alternative to regular shooting.


Phew, well that was a lot longer than intended but hopefully was comprehensive. I love tactical squads and even in armies such as Whitescar bikers and Raven Guard scout lists I always include at least a couple. In fact, aside from Whitescars, Sons of Orar (Pure Primaris) Templars and Crimson fists every Codex marine army I own contains 3 tactical squads. They remain the most flexible workhorse of a marine army and IMO should form the core of one every time. The one thing I am changing in my list building (which you may have picked up) is having 5-man squads to increase the amount of command points available to me and maximising the free Sergeants and their wargear options. Thanks for reading.

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