Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tactica tactical marines.

Some nice looking marines from by Ed209b

I was inspired on this post by Jake over on his blog Holy Cathedral when he posted a general tactica on tactical marines, the cornerstone of my marine forces. I wrote some lengthy comments on his post to add specifics on how to best use these humble troops and figured that it would be a useful way to add a post to my blog (as well as send some traffic his way).

So tactical marines. I generally will run a list with 20 tactical marines if I'm playing with the Grey Knight Deathstar (plus 5 scouts) but without that unit I might bump it up to 30. It's quite something to bring a wall of power armoured bodies to the field and see your opponents recoil as they see the sheer number of tough, armoured, well-armed, ridiculously morale resistant superhuman warriors. Of course, you need to know what to best do with Tactical marines to make the most of them and let them work well with the powerful killing sections (Elites, Heavy support) of your army.

I'm going to be lazy and just post my comments from Jake's blog here since I'm tired of typing :-)

That's a pretty good overall tactica Jake but it could do with some more specifics and detailing on the aspects of tactica marines.

- Heavy weapons. When a squad gets to 10 marines they get a free Missile launcher, Heavy bolter or Multi-melta (or pay a bit more for a Plasma/lascannon). These weapons add such versatility that it's almost never worth leaving home without them (with 10 marine squad size). You only lose a single bolter shot at range if you don't move and gain a heavy weapon attack. If you do move, then the bolt pistol can shoot out to 12" in any case. The flexibility that these weapons add are really important.

- Special weapons. A flamer for free, meltagun for 5pts or plasma gun for 10 can add some more punch to the squad. The flamer is great for those times you're close to getting assaulted by a big squad as it can land plenty of hits, or can burn out orks/guard/termagents from cover. The meltagun is commonly taken with the shift to mechanised forces in 5th edition and can always be turned on a regular enemy if need be. The plasma gun and melta are also well suited for knocking out well armoured troops. Adding a few AP 1/2 wounds to terminators will really help your marines do the damage to these foes.

- Grenades. I don't find too much use for the frag grenades in general but remember that they can be used to stop your opponent gaining initiative on you when you charge them in cover. Krak grenades are winners when you remember that every marine has them, they hit at S6 on vehicles, and most vehicles are rear armour 10. I've taken out hammerheads, rhinos and vindicators with this technique. Scouts also have this and it is one way for them to really pay your opponent back for ignoring them.

- Combat squads. Tactical marines can be divived into two 5 man squads at the start of the game (or when the disembark in the case of drop pods). This can be a liability in annihilation missions as they become 2 kill points but it adds lots of flexibility. You can now keep the heavy weapon static, with 4 bolter marines for ablative wounds or fire support, and send sarge (for the CC ability) and the special weapon in close where they can take the fight forwards. Also, this will let you hold two objectives with one troop choice. The weakness is that the squads can be dropped relatively easily because they are small. Still, if just one survives then the opponent must waste lots of fire to bring that last one down, or risk a single model contesting/claiming a vital objective.

- Dedicated transports. The humble rhino gives you an armoured box to take your marines to their obejective and protect them from fire. If it survives after they have been dropped off then it's time to use that vehicle to block assaults to your marines or box in enemy vehicles by denying them movement.
The razorback is somewhat similar but can only carry 6 marines. In this case you'd probably send the close-range combat squad up forwards and then use the razorback as mobile fire support and blocking, like with the rhino. Some do add TL-lascannons to their razorbacks though and leave these on the rear lines with the other heavy weapons. At 75pts for a TL-LC shot, this can be nasty, though expensive. Alternatively you can give them TL-assault cannons and turn them into Baal Predator wannabes that can shred light (and sometimes heavy if your rending rolls well) armour or troops.
I don't use drop pods but there could be great utility in sending a wave of dreads in on turn 1 to mess up the enemy while your main force advances. After they foe is knocked around and has moved to counter your attack, your tactical marines in pods come in and land on the enemy objectives at full strength.
Another nasty trick is to stick a combat squad in a Land Raider and have it sit on a home objective. You can still blaze away with the big guns and your enormous brick of a tank is now scoring. Nasty...

- And They Shall Know No Fear. This is a real key for marines. They automatically regroup even under half strength (as long as there are no enemies within 6") and can move normally or fire. Note also that they don't count as moving when they rally, which means you could stand still and unleash the heavy weapons if you need to. This is a great ability as you can almost always count on your marines getting back in the fight. I found out in a recent game that there is a 3" move allowed when you rally too so you can even set up your heavy weapon shots without counting as moving.

- Combat tactics. This is underutilised in my view, perhaps because of the popular special characters that replace it with other army buffs. It allows you to choose to fail a morale test. This is great if an assaulting enemy shoots you and causes 25% casualties as you can run out of assault range, auto-rally and then hit them up next turn. Or you can run after combat if you lose in the enemy's turn. As long as you roll higher on the initiative test, you will get away, auto rally again and can shoot them next turn.

- Assaulting. I would generally not assault with my marines unless I'm facing something that will outshoot me or gains a boost from assaulting. If there was a smallish squad of orks, I would probably move in, bolt pistol them and then assault as you deprive the orks of their furious charge (now only 33% of hits will wound you rather than %50) and the bonus attack for charging. I play against tau a lot and they can be quite easily tied up with tactical marines, even if you don't win. Broadsides are great for this as you can lock them in combat for the rest of the game sometimes (2+ saves keep them alive though) and stop the railguns from messing up the rest of your army.

- Special characters. While I don't like to use the special characters in the codices, you should be aware that they bring some great changes to the way tactical marines play.
Pedro Kantor changes your marines to have stubborn rather than combat tactics. This doesn't do so much for me but then his key point is making sternguard scoring so he has less of a focus on tactical marines. He does give a +1 attack bubble within 12" though so your tactical marines holding the objective are now that much tougher to assault off it.
Kayvan Shrike. Makes your marines fleet instead of combat tactics. This doesn't really work for my use of tacs but then his boost is for other troops (like assault terminators).
Vulkan He'Stan. Makes your flamers, heavy flamers, meltaguns and multimeltas count as twin linked. This can be fairly potent as your tactical marine firepower with these weapons just went up a serious notch. Even if the tactical marines are moving, the threat of TL melta on the next turn will be a good deterrent for the enemy.
Khossaro Khan. Outflanking marines. Give them rhinos/razorbacks and let that mech madness roll into the enemy's backfield at high speed.

Those are just some extra thoughts on the core unit for marines that you might consider adding to the tactica (and future ones). It's much more of a specific use guide rather than an overall descriptor and hopefully it will give some good help to newer marine players.

So there are some thoughts. Comments are welcome as always and I reserve the right to change my opinions after playing tomorrow night. I think I'll be matching up against Ravenwing so we'll see how my hybrid list handles fast moving bikers.


  1. I read this and it started up a conversation with my roommate (who really doesn't like tactical marines much and tends to go with mass sniper scouts) that I think might make my life more difficult :)

    He's now looking at it as splitting a 10man squad into a small assault squad and a small devastator squad. It really isn't a terrible way of looking at it.

    Luckily he already has a bunch of scouts and is playing Raven Guard (which he says use a lot of sniper scouts anyway) so I don't have to worry about the sudden appearance of more missile launchers and power weapons.

    Nice write up :)

  2. It's easy to overlook tactical squads but the more I've been playing with them the more I think that GW got some well rounded rules in that give them solid use. They aren't as easy to use as some other more killy parts of the marine army but your friend will probably find that tactical marines surprise him if he thinks about how to play with them.

    The mini devastator/assault combat squad split is an easy and nasty one that I use in many games. I need to up my sergeants to carry powerfists or something nasty though as I struggle in assault. Still, since I prefer to shoot than to assault, I don't come up against it often, just against OSH's broadsides mostly :-)