Friday, March 2, 2012

Space Marine Army Planning: Scouts

For me, much of the fun of 40K is planning the army. (I have plenty of time to plan since it takes me so long to make the models.) Since the primary reason why I play the game is because I like the fluff, I tend to plan my army around its backstory as much, if not more, than I plan around practical considerations. I know there are some players that look down on this approach, but I have the good fortune of playing in a buddy's basement with a great group of guys who are there to enjoy themselves first and foremost, even when they lose.

As I've been building my Ultramarine force, I've been looking more and more at Scouts due to their impressive degree of flexibility. All have the Scouts and Infiltrate special rules. They can choose between boltguns, shotguns, sniper rifles, or bolt pistols/combat blades with no increase in point cost. For only ten more points a Scout Squad can have a heavy bolter or missile launcher without being limited by the ten-man minimum requirement that the Tactical Marines have. For a mere three points per model (or by bringing along Telion for 50 points) a squad can have the Stealth rule, giving them a 3+ save in most cover.

The primary reasons why I'm considering a Scout-heavy force are a lot less practical than weapons variety or special rules, though. As cool as the power armored Marines are, I really like the look and style of the Scout models. Even more important for me is the fact that, per the fluff, the Ultramarines have one of the strongest recruiting bases of any Space Marine chapter. They should therefore be capable of fielding a larger number of Scouts than any of their brother chapters. The Ultramarines even boast the best-known Scout trainer of all, Sergeant Telion, who is frequently seconded to other chapters to aid in their training programs.

When I first started playing 40K, Bryce emphasized the importance of dedicated squads, warning me that a squad which tries to do everything could easily be good at nothing. For that reason, I've decided to use the flexibility given to Scouts to build a variety of squads, each with a dedicated combat role. When our cabal starts playing larger games (i.e., ones in which we could actually fill all six troop slots), I plan on bringing two 10 man Tactical Squads while filling the remaining four slots with these specialized Scout Squads. Additionally, I plan on fielding a Scout Bike squad to fill a fast attack slot.

Squad I (75-140 points):
[Models by Games Workshop]
1st Squad will be a five man close combat squad with bolt pistols and combat blades. Although Scouts were slightly weakened between 4th and 5th editions when their Weapons Skill was lowered from a 4 to a 3, I actually think that it makes sense fluff-wise that neophytes without power armor have a slightly lower Weapons Skill than their more experienced battle-brothers. Using Bryce's models in the past, I found that the extra attack a bolt pistol/combat blade combination gives them tends to compensate for this and makes them more useful than Tactical Marines in a melee. Their superhuman Strength 4 and Toughness 4 give them reasonable survivability and the ability to inflict a good deal of damage on weaker races (e.g., Tau, Eldar). Although their armor save isn't as good as that of full Marines, it's still equal to or better than the saves of most other armies' troops.

I intend to use the close combat Scouts as a quick-strike, opportunistic force intended to attack light armor and heavy weapons troops as well as to slow down enemy forces until reinforcements can arrive. Since the squad is intended to deliver as many close combat attacks as possible, I may eventually expand it to a force of ten Scouts. They wouldn't require any heavy weapons due to their specialization, nor would they require camo cloaks since they would spend little to no time in cover. In other words, the 1st would be an inexpensive (and largely disposable) squad.

Squad II (100 points):
[Models by Games Workshop]
2nd Squad will be a five man mid-range squad with four bolters and one heavy bolter. Until I can prove otherwise in practical play, this may be the squad with the most questionable value since they seem to be little more than a Tactical Squad with a lower Ballistic Skill. I must admit that I'm somewhat depending on 6th Edition to restore the Scouts' BS 4. While I can see Scouts as having a lower Weapons Skill than full-fledged Marines, I would think that the genetic enhancements and training the Scouts have already received should give them the same Ballistic Skill. (The fact that Scouts with sniper rifles only have BS 3 is even more inexplicable.)

However, I think that the mid-range Scouts can still fulfill a useful role. First and foremost, they can field an inexpensive heavy bolter regardless of their numbers. The Scouts and Infiltrate special rules allow them to be placed within bolter range immediately. And since their camo cloaks give them a 3+ save in most cover, they would have greater survivability in a firefight than even power armored Marines (our group seems to have a lot of AP 2 and 3 weapons on the table, nowadays). I see 2nd Squad as a nuisance force meant to whittle down the enemy early in the game. Given that much of the 2nd's advantage over a Tactical Squad would lie in being able to take a heavy bolter in a five man squad, it's unlikely I would ever expand the 2nd into a 10 man force.

Squad III (148-200 points):

3rd Squad is the six man sniper squad I finished recently. The 3rd is equipped with Sergeant Telion, four Scouts with Sniper rifles, and one Scout with a missile launcher. The snipers have already proven to be a useful asset that I intend to employ on a regular basis. Telion's ability to pick out individual models that would normally be hidden in a squad is indispensable, as is his ability to lend his BS to another member of his squad (I can think of quite a few situations where I would have appreciated a missile launcher with BS 6). Since Telion gives his whole squad the Stealth rule, his presence eliminates the need to buy individual camo cloaks. Thus, I may expand the 3rd to a total of nine Scouts led by Telion, which would save me 27 points worth of cloaks.

Squad IV (100-180 points):
[Models by Games Workshop]
In my opinion, the range and abilities of the sniper rifle make sniper Scouts some of the most useful units I can field. The rifles wound anything on a roll of 4 (making them useful against Carl's Dreadknight or Bryce's Wraithlord) and are rending and pinning. Thanks to the rending rule, a sniper rifle can glance armor as high as 12, which should make Kevin's Dark Eldar nervous. And sniper Scouts can use Infiltrate to place themselves in an ideal sniping location after the enemy has set up, making it harder for him to predict where the threat will be coming from.

Given these advantages (and the fact that Bryce has explicitly said that the idea makes him nervous), it only makes sense for me to have a respectable number of sniper Scouts on the table. 4th Squad would be a five man sniper squad with four sniper rifles and one missile launcher. In larger games, 4th Squad could see an increase to ten Scouts.

Squad V (95-145 points):
[Models by Games Workshop]
5th Squad would be a three man Scout Bike squad equipped with two Astartes grenade launchers. One bike would retain its twin-linked bolters while the sergeant would carry melta-bombs. I began to see a need for such a unit while playing against Bryce's Imperial Guard, whose long-range heavy guns blasted any anti-tank forces to kingdom come before they could cross the table. However, like Scout troops, Scout Bikes benefit from the Infiltrate and Scouts special rules. These abilities, combined with the Bikes' 12" move and Turboboosting special rule, could allow a Bike squad to reach a tank within the first turn. If a straight run at a tank can't be achieved, the Bikes can still attempt to outflank the opponent and approach from the side. Although the Astartes grenade launcher is powerful enough to penetrate weaker armor, the goal is to use the Bike's speed to assault the tank quickly and plant melta-bombs on its hull. Even if such tank-killing strikes prove to be suicide missions, a three Bike squad is cheaper than most tanks and should be able to earn back its points.

On top of tank-destroying duties, Scout Bikes also have a number of other useful advantages, equipment, and tactics. If three Scout Bikers prove to be useful, I may choose to expand the squad to five Bikes. Given the limit of three grenade launchers per squad, I doubt I would expand the 5th much farther.

Now if only I could actually build this many models within a reasonable amount of time.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad to see someone else who loves scouts as much as I do. I have a 10man sniper squad with Telion of course and I am working on a second squad as well.


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