by Thomas Setzer and Erik Setzer
HQ | Elites | Troops | Fast Attack | Heavy Support | Tactical Advice
In the following I will begin by setting forth the strengths of the different squads and vehicles. I will not be telling you how to make cheese combinations. I will try to set forth sound tactics for using the troops of Codex: Space Marines. I will describe how the troops are best used on the battlefield.
The Space Marine army's HQ choices come down to Commander, Chaplain, or Librarian. Each has its own strength, so you'll want to pick the one that works best for your army. The Commander has the ability to increase the Leadership of his entire army just by being alive on the table. This can help your army stick around despite taking casualties, which is always a good thing. A Chaplain makes a unit Fearless and gives them the ability to reroll missed to hit rolls in the first round of combat, which makes him a good candidate to lead assault units. Librarians are support models, which can add extra long-range abilities or boost the assault capabilities of a unit in combat.
Command squads can be added to any character. In some cases they can be very useful, particularly for the extra firepower or assault capabilities they bring to an army. Apothecaries are nice if the squad is going to be involved in combat, and if you're assault oriented you'll want a Standard Bearer, as well as a Company Champion. In addition, a Chaplain or Librarian can also be added to a command squad, giving it a bit of extra "oomph" without taking up another HQ slot.
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For Elites choices, there aren't many choices to pick from. Terminators come in two varieties: regular and assault. Terminator Assault squads are good at killing things up close and personal, but don't bother unless you've got a Land Raider to get them into combat. Regular Terminator squads have power fists to beat on things, but they also can lay down some serious firepower. With assault cannons and cyclone missile launchers, you can do nasty damage to troops or vehicles, which is backed even further by the ability to take Furious Charge or Tank Hunters for the unit for just a few extra points. Veterans are another flexible unit with the option to pick up skills and carry some nice firepower, but might not be worth the extra points for some people. Dreadnoughts are good tough infantry support that can carry a variety of weapons. Making them Venerable is worth the extra points to make them tough to kill and give them a bonus, such as Tank Hunters.
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If you want value, you'll find it in the Troops section. Tactical squads can be small or large, with just a single assault weapon for mobile short-ranged firepower, or a heavy weapon as well to let them pick on troops or tanks at range. Heavy weapons are very economical for Tactical squads, so you should explore both options. Scouts are support in all their forms. They can be support in an assault, snipe opposing units to pin them, or just plain distract the enemy. Don't ever let the sniper rifle's armour penetration rules keep you from taking shots at a light armored vehicle, because even 2D6 can sometimes penetrate 10 or 11, or even glance 12.
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Fast Attack is speedy support for your army. Bikes, Scout Biks, and Attack Bikes are very mobile, very hard to kill, and provide plenty of firepower that can be redeployed quickly and efficiently. Land Speeders are similar in their mobility and firepower, but are somewhat fragile. Use a combination of these units to give covering fire to the portions of your army that need it, and don't be afraid to zip their full 24" to get somewhere else that they're needed. Assault squads also fall under the Fast Attack heading, but they are more of a spearhead than a supporting unit. That said, if you don't support them, they will quickly die.
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Heavy Support comes in two flavors: troops and tanks. Devastator Squads shouldn't be discounted for "tough" tanks, because they can withstand a lot of firepower and dish out even more. Devastators are also high customizable. You can have a squad with heavy bolters for anti-troops, a squad with lascannons to kill vehicles, or a squad with missile launchers to do double duty. Don't try to mix and match, because then you dilute the usefulness of the unit.
As tanks go, the Predator is probably the best choice, for its own versatility. It can be kitted against tanks, troops, or both. If you're looking for a big gun that hits hard, pull out a Vindicator. Need to kill hordes of light troops? The Whirlwind's your tank! The big choice for many people will be whether to take a Land Raider. They are expensive, but their heavy armor, firepower, and ability to carry troops and deliver them straight into an assault make them very tempting indeed. If you take one, weigh its usefulness to your army. A basic Land Raider will carry most squads and can pop armor. A Crusader carries more troops (which is generally useful for carrying larger Terminator squads) and can rip through lightly armor troops.
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It's hard to give specific advice for an army with so many styles of playing it. The typical style will involve a base of Tactical and Devastator squads laying down fire as the rest of the army moves about to find victims or supports this core. Even within the basic listing, with no divergence, the army can see different styles of play, as someone takes mobile Tactical Squads and uses Terminators, Bikes, and Land Speeders to provide fire support. What's more, the codex allows you to create a series of different styles of army, too numerous to count, much less discuss them all.
One point to remember is that you will often be outnumbered. Don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by how bad you're outnumbered. Concentrate your fire and reduce threats to a manageable level. If a unit of 30 Hormagaunts is coming at you, reduce them in number to 10 or less, then move on. You can handle that number in an assault, and it's important to reduce further threats to a level your units can handle.
The best advice that can be given is to know your units' roles, and play the style that works for you. If you prefer firepower, take "Honor Thy Wargear" and build an army that sits and shoots, and has some assault to back it up. If you want a mobile army, go for "Swift As The Wind". Play to your strengths, and the Marines will work for you. They are possibly the most versatile army in the game.
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