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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Space Marine Tactica, Part One: The Lowly Tactical Marine

In an effort to give Wallshammer some assistance with his Marines, I did a bunch of research last night while I couldn't sleep.  I'm going to break it up one unit at a time to make it more digestible, and I'm starting with Tactical marines.

The Tactical Marine is, of course, the signature unit for Space Marines.  Everything is based around the idea of ten lunatics in power armor trudging across the field, kicking ass and taking names.  Or at least that's how it goes in the stories.  On the tabletop, things are a little different, and I've come up with a few things to help you get the most out of your Marines:

Read the list after the break:

1. Never fight a fair fight.  Back when I ran Marines, I started every list with 4 Tactical squads in Rhinos.  Why?  Because I always ran my Tactical squads in pairs.  There are very few units in the game that can actually do everything themselves.  And something that can't be accomplished by a single Tactical squad can usually be tackled by two.  Run them in tandem, dump them out at the same time.  Rapid fire with the first team.  If they've caused enough wounds, the second team might be able to move on to a second target.  If not, and this is more than always the case, the second squad finishes them off.  Yes, you might have committed close to 500 points to kill a single unit that is worth less, but that 500 points will be able to move on and grab objectives or kill something else, because it wiped it's target off the field and doesn't need to fear retaliation.

2. Transports, transports, transports.  Mobility is one of the most important aspects of 40k.  In an objective-based game, you need to be able to get to the objectives relatively undamaged.  If you foot-slog for four turns to an objective, losing a few marines every turn to standing out in the open, then guess what?  When you get there, you aren't going to be able to hold that objective.  A transport gets you there faster, and safer.  Yes, this only perpetuates the 'meta', but if you think about it, it makes sense.  Modern Warfare seldom sees ground infantry marching for miles in a combat scenario.  It usually sees them transported into the hot-zone.  I can't imagine things being that different in the far, far future.  And really, this isn't the 'meta' because you're not running a parking lot with a single guy hanging out the top firing your one heavy weapon.  You're using your transport as a transport and not a bunker with treads.

3. Speaking of transports, choose when to disembark.  Those Rhinos have smoke launchers for a reason, use them.  Turn one, rush forward, pop smoke.  Turn two, if the enemy is close enough, disembark first, then move your Rhinos.  This counts you as stationary at the beginning of the turn, so you can assault if you need to.  This ties back into point one, where if you have two Tactical squads together, you rapid-fire with the first squad, then can pistol shot with the second and move in to assault.  You deny your enemy the charge, they should be massively softened up, and you can use the wipe out of that unit to whip you forward, likely on to an objective.  Best of all, they have a team for cover fire right behind them.  However, if you need something dead, and you're pretty sure your bolters can take it down (or it's still far away, but really needs to die), then you move 12", jump out, and rapid-fire for all you're worth.  No, you can't assault, but if you kill it with holy bolter fire, then you don't need to.  Plus, careful positioning of your rhinos denies assault and line of sight to other units, further allowing you to pick your fights.  Transports were designed for two reasons: to get the infantry to the fight, and to keep them safe, and a Rhino does an amazing job of both.  Razorbacks might be 'sexier' in the 'meta' but the Rhino is still the most under-rated transport in the game.

4. You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.  Combat Tactics, combined with And They Shall Know No Fear is almost game-breaking good.  Let's go back to the previous example.  You double-tapped a unit with one squad, charged with the other.  You wiped out a unit.  However, on your opponent's turn, he counter-charges that unit that has sprung forward.  You fight, but without those bonus attacks for charging, you're not going to win this one.  So you use combat Tactics and automatically fail your morale test and break from combat.  Here's where it gets fun: you roll-off on initiatives to escape.  If you win, you run, and automatically regroup.  So you can rapid-fire that unit that just charged you, then pistol with team 2 and charge them (again, this is why they work so well in teams).  If you lose the roll off, you take armour saves, and stay in combat instead of being run down!  Now you can take your second squad and charge in to bolster the assault (or get the Heck out of Dodge if it's a hopeless cause).  This little trick will save Marines.

5. Always take a power fist, and give the sergeant a bolter.  There is no point putting a bolt pistol on your sergeant.  He doesn't get a bonus attack for having a pistol with a power fist, so give him that bolter, for the exact same cost, and allow him to have 2 shots at 12", or 1 at 24" if they are stationary.  It ups your fire-power, and you need every shot you can get.  Plus a power fist is another one of those great, all-around weapons.  It can punch out a Hive Tyrant, or rip apart a Leman Russ.  The extra attack you lose over something like the power weapon is easily compensated by your ability to deal with tanks, instant death anything toughness 4 or less, and put the hurt on big monsters.

6. Speaking of which, remember your heavy weapon Marine still has a bolt pistol.  Again, ringing out every shot in your unit is important.  If you moved before you shot, he can still contribute a single shot at 12", which is the range all your guns are firing at on the move any ways.  If you didn't move, then you can take that important heavy weapon shot.  Now maybe I'm a little old-school, but I think every Marine squad should have a missile launcher.  It does anti-tank AND anti-infantry.  Perfect for a specialist unit.  This same argument can be made for a plasma cannon, but it costs you more and isn't as good at anti-tank.  So I go missile launcher every time.

7. Going back to the 'meta', right now a meltagun is pretty much mandatory too.  This gives the unit mobile anti-tank (as opposed to the missile launcher, which is stationary anti-tank).  The plasma gun will definitely be better against heavy infantry, and the flamer against light infantry, but the mass of bolter shots should do adequate against those targets, especially when you tag-team your Tactical squads.  A meltagun ensure you can threaten any unit on the field, whether man, beast or tank.

8. Support them!  I have probably made Tactical Marines sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread.  And while, in a sense they are (still pound-for-pound one of the best Troops choices out there), without back up they are going to get crushed.  Even in teams.  This is what your Heavy Support and Fast Attack and Elite choices are for.  Provide covering fire.  Get rid of those armour-negating blast weapons.  Vindicators, Land Speeders, Dreadnoughts and Terminators.  You need back-up.  A Tactical Squad isn't going to win you the game, it's a very important cog in a much bigger machine.  Naturally I have an Eldar-ish slant to my game-play.  Everything supports everything else.  Never use any unit in isolation.  Always try to think 'if I send in unit X, unit Y can pin down the enemy (as an example) to keep X safe.  Never just charge a single unit into a single unit and hope for the best.  I'll talk more about these support units in another post.

9. Ignore the literature.  If you believed the Black Library, or the fiction in the codex, then one squad of Marines should be all you'd ever need to buy.  They should be able to take out 1000 guardsmen, a legion of Chaos, and an entire Hive Fleet at the same time.  But just like with our modern soldiers, the fiction pumps them up more than they can actually perform.  You can't send in 4 ex-soldiers in a black van and expect them not only to take out an entire compound of enemy soldiers, but to not get a scratch.  I'm not saying that Marines don't live up to a standard, far from it.  Marines are friggin' awesome.  I'm saying that the stories told about Marines might give you a false impression of what they can do on the battlefield.  Marines perform exactly as they should on the field, don't let stories of Marneus Calgar falcon-punching an Avatar make you think that Marines aren't living up to their tasks.

10. Ignore the Internet.  Ah, irony.  Here I am telling you not to believe everything you read on the internet, on the internet.  But it's true.  The internet is full of people.  However, only the loudest voices ever get heard.  And those with the loudest voices are often the people with the most extreme views.  "Marines suck."  "Just play Blood Angels."  "Don't use unit X."  I'm sure at one point or another, you've heard these things on forums and blogs.  Most of it isn't true.  Or at least it's been blown out of proportion.  You can win with Marines.  Hell, you can win with the old Necron book if you put your mind to it.  What I'm talking about in this case is block out the negativity and the polarizing opinions that are prevalent on the internet.  Play the game at your speed, not theirs.

A final thing to consider: these are my opinions.  They are not fact.  Everything I have said is based on anecdotal evidence from my own experiences, and not from some strange mathematical formulas or scientific method.  If you want to play an all-scout army, more power to you.  If you hate Tactical Squads (then why are you playing Marines?), that's your choice too.  But based on all the games I've played, and tournaments I've won (and I won more tournaments with my Marines than I ever did with my Eldar or Tyranids), this is how I've squeezed the most power of a Tactical Squad, and why I think they are such a solid Troops choice.

Next time I'll discuss Elite choices, and how they can supplement your troops.

Oh, and all the images in this article are copyright someone who isn't me.  I just wanted my article to look pretty.  Don't sue.


  1. Fantastic and I hope more people read and discuss this. I demand more!

    Shooty Termies and Scouts are particularly of interest to me.

  2. One thing I forgot to mention:

    Never forget your Rhinos! After you've dumped out your troops, move them 6" or so every turn and use that Storm Bolter. I can't even count the number of times those 2 shots have finished off a unit that bad rolling on my bolters didn't. And don't be afraid to use them as shields. That's a 35-point investment in the protection of your unit. Use it for the whole game, whether they are in or out of the transport.

    Oh, and while I usually get my marines where they need to go and then keep them in the fight, don't be afraid to re-embark and scoot them around. This can be to support a collapsing flank or to take some pressure off a unit in trouble. Stay fluid. Tactical Marines aren't meant to stand there and do nothing while the rest of the army does the heavy lifting either. Marines have more versatility than any other unit in the game. Use it to your advantage. Yes there are a lot of units out there that assault better, or shoot better, or hold objectives better, but no unit does every role in the game as well as a Tactical Squad.

    1. Hey Mate,
      I LOVE YOUR GUIDE! I kept getting absolutely drilled as Space marines until I started following your guides.
      I know its a year or 2 past when you created this guide but I had a question I was hoping you would be able to help me with.
      Q. Is taking 10 Terminators a good idea? I planned to put my Librarian in Termi Armour in there too, But should I roll with the Standard Terminator Squad with Power Fists and Storm Bolters with a cyclone missle launcher, or should I go Assault Terminators?

  3. really helpful love the input thanks a ton.

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