As promised, I am continuing my coverage of the Space Marines in an attempt to assist Wallshammer with his Escalation League list.
Today I am going to focus on HQ's. I'll talk about all of them in brief, but likely spend most of my time on the Librarian, as it is both a personal favourite of mine and probably the most effective HQ at the moment.
Let me start with the most iconic of HQ's: the Chapter Master and the Captain. I'm putting these two together because they full-fill the same role, only the Chapter Master is more expensive and receives a very lack-luster Oribtal Bombardment. These guy are good at a lot of stuff, but don't excel at anything. And certainly not for their price. They can be good in combat, but not combat monsters. They can be good at shooting but don't have access to any really good guns. Really their problem is that they don't bring a lot to the table for the price they cost. Which is why you almost never see them on the table any more. The only reason I can think of to take a Captain would be to unlock Bikes as a Troops choice.
There is also the iconic Chaplain in the HQ section. Chaplains do bring something to the table. They are good in combat, and they allow the unit they are attached to a lot more combat punch. However, these chaplains are mostly being attached to units that have a mixed arms approach, and so while you can make that unit good in combat, you're not making it great. Meaning you are attaching a character to an already expensive unit that still will be no match for Khorne Berserkers or Genestealers, or any one of a number of other close combat specialist troops. Really it's the lack of attacks that is the deal-breaker. Dedicated close combat troops usually wade into combat with 3 attacks base. Almost nothing in the Marine list can do that right now. And those few that can are too expensive to preform that role well. Still, a Chaplain can find a place in an Assault Terminator squad, packed into a land raider to make those good troops better. But we're talking a major investment of points. Which is what takes the Chaplain out of contention for those coveted HQ spots.
Before we get to the Librarian, there is one other unit to discuss. The Master of the Forge, a new HQ as of this codex, but not a new idea. It's a beefed-up Techmarine. This is a great choice for a themed-list, and not a bad choice if you are running mech-heavy but are worried about losing vehicles. But as far as an HQ goes, there's not a ton there. You are paying for a lot of tools and abilities that you really have to work to make function well within your army. So for me, this is another unit that should sit on the shelf, at least when you're trying to be competitive.
So finally we get to Librarians. As far as I'm concerned, he's a staple of every Marine list I'd play. Librarians were the unit that got me into Marines in the first place. And currently, they are a unit of immense versatility. Obviously they have their psychic powers, but even without those, they are still bringing a lot of great abilities to the table. First and foremost is the psychic hood. Anti-psyker is important. As the codex creep continues, the psychic powers get better and stronger. You'd be crazy not to have some psychic defence nowadays (boy I feel sorry for Tau players). Sure it's only 24", whereas in previous versions it was table-wide, but all anti-psykers gear has been limited to that range now (except Eldar, but expect it when they get a new book), but that's a bubble where you stand a better than average chance of negating those powerful game-changing powers like Jaws of the World Wolf or Blood Lance (or Blood anything for that matter).
On top of that they come standard with a Force Weapon. Never underestimate the power of a Force Weapon. A successful leadership test and instant-death? Awesome. One-shotting any monstrous creature in the game. More awesome. Taking out dangerous characters? I could go on. Did I mention it's also a power weapon? It's the gift that keeps on giving.
Then of course there are the powers. In the grand scheme of the game, there aren't a lot of really good powers in the Marine list. Most of them are utility or lack-lustre. Most of the attack powers can be skipped over, as their range is usually terrible and they lack any real punch. Avenger is probably the only exception to this, as it's a very strong template weapon, but you need to be in flamer range use it. Much like the rest of the units, I think they are better out of combat, using small arms fire to get squads to manageable sizes, then charging in finish up. I usually don't want to be that close.
But some of those utility spells are golden. I'll focus on my favourite three: Force Dome, Null Zone and Gate of Infinity. Force Dome is as straight forward as it gets. Give you and your squad a 5+ invulnerable save. More resilience, never a bad thing. This power works best when the librarian is with a unit that doesn't normally get an invulnerable, so I wouldn't recommend putting this on a unit of terminators, for example. It's great for Sternguard though, as it helps keep those expensive models on the table longer. Null Zone is great, and is probably my favourite of the powers. It forces all enemies in 24" to re-roll successful invulnerable saves. This is invaluable, given how many invulnerable saves are out there nowadays. I would always take this. Now if only it worked on Feel No Pain (my least favourite rule in the game). Lastly we have Gate of Infinity, which id a great power to up your squad's mobility. This works well with any support squad, as it allows you to quickly redeploy via deep strike and get those guns where they are needed most.
So the questions then becomes: How do I field a Librarian? Do I give him Epistolary? I's say the 50 points is worth it. That 2 powers a turn, or 2 force weapon attacks, or one of each. It gives your Librarian more options while playing.
And how do I protect my Librarian? Well personally, I'd stick him with an Elites choice, either Terminators or Sternguard. You need those ablative wounds, and his abilities work best in support of another unit. He's not very good all by his lonesome. So give him terminator armour and stick him with Tactical Terminators, or give him power armour and Force Dome and stick him with Sternguard. Both units will keep him safe and he can help get the most out of those units.
Again, these are just my opinions, and my style of play isn't always the same as everyone else's. But I do feel that these choices are the ones that make the most for the overall army, and emphasize the strengths of the list. Tune in next time, when I'll discuss Fast attack choices. Blah, blah, blah, don't sue...