Playing to your Army's New Strengths
I'm sure there are plenty of C:SM players with collections large enough to take advantage of their Chapter's newly acquired Tactics. Unfortunately, while my Ultramarines definitely benefited from the Tactical Doctrine in their first game with the new codex, the other two Doctrines were effectively wasted since the units that most benefit from them have been relatively low on my list of priorities. Between the so-so capabilities of Assault Marines and the outrageous cost of Devastators in 5th Edition, these two units have sat unbuilt on my shelves for quite some time. With Longstrike exploding my tanks left and right, 6th Edition Devastators have definitely moved up on my list of squads to complete.
The biggest change is in my Tactical Squads. Not only does the Ultramarines' Tactical Doctrine encourage the fielding of more of them, but the revised costs and rules for Tactical Squads has caused me to seriously rethink how I use them.
Tactical Squads In 5th Edition
Bryce has been playing the game since 2nd or 3rd Edition. Before I started playing and we formed the Cabal, Bryce hadn't played Space Marines regularly since C:SM's 4th Edition. He was shocked by 5th Edition's Tactical Squads and railed at the requirement that a Squad number ten Marines before it could take a special weapon. Additionally, 5th Edition effectively required you to pay for upgrades, whether you wanted them or not. The Sergeant's Veteran status wasn't actually free, nor was a flamer or a missile launcher. The cost of all these things had been incorporated into the base cost of the Squad.
Bryce has long preached the concept of complementary units; i.e., units that do one or two things well and avoid being a wasteful Jack of all trades. The 5th Edition Tactical Squad was diametrically opposed to this philosophy. First of all, you were forced to pay for the Veteran Sergeant whose primary strength was an extra attack and higher leadership. This gave you a melee-oriented character in a Squad designed for mid-range shooting. Being forced to pay (at least partially) for the special weapon wasn't a bad thing given that it often complemented the majority of the Tactical Squad's other weapons. It was the heavy weapon, though, that was the biggest offender.
Since you had already paid for (or subsidized) the heavy weapon, you felt obligated to bring it. However, in most cases there is a significant disparity between the strength, range, and capability of a heavy weapon versus a bolter. This meant that nine Marines (or four, if you had broken them into Combat Squads) were often left without a target while one guy shot at something that was either too far away or too tough to handle with the other Marines' weapons. Alternatively, the heavy weapon's shot was wasted on lighter units that were more effectively handled with bolters. Even worse, a heavy weapon was only useable (under the 5th Edition of 40K) or reliable (under the 6th Edition of 40K) when holding still, meaning that the rest of the Tactical Squad was stuck in place while one weapon took its shot. If the Squad remained mobile, as a Tactical Squad should be, the heavy weapon became useless, or very nearly so.
Before the release of the C:SM 6th Edition, I had 15 fully painted Tactical Marines: a modified Black Reach Squad (I had converted the Sergeant to carry a plasma pistol) and five additional Marines from the starter paint kit. I had recently primed a Sergeant with a power fist, two Marines with bolters, and a number of Marines with heavy and special weapons. These new models, combined with the five from the starter paint kit, would allow me to field a second 10 man Squad while also providing plenty of list-building flexibility with regards to special and heavy weapons. I had also pieced together several additional Sergeants, each geared towards melee combat. I made sure that I had enough Marine bits to be able to build a third 10 man Tactical Squad. Although I recognized that these generic Squads were inefficient, that was simply how Tactical Squads were organized in 5th Edition.
|The 5th Edition Tactical Squad: Jack of all trades, master of none|
Tactical Squads In 6th Edition
With 6th Edition everything old is new again and the five man Tactical Squad is back. Although individual Marines are all 2 points cheaper than before, the fact that special and heavy weapons are no longer subsidized and that the cost of a Sergeant's Veterancy is no longer incorporated into that of the Squad means that upgrading it into a 10 man, 5th Edition-style Tactical Squad won't save you any points. However, the ability to forgo the extras combined with the option to field a five man Squad with a single heavy or special weapon give you the flexibility to field cost-efficient specialized units.
With Devastator Centurions and cheap Devastator Squads available, there's little reason for any Tactical Marine to bring a heavy weapon. You can save a full 15 points by simply leaving that nearly useless missile launcher at home. And since you're not required to pay for the Sergeant's Veterancy and his extra attack, you can trade them for an equally priced combi-weapon that complements the Squad's special weapon. The end result is relatively inexpensive unit that excels at mid-range shooting, which is especially effective for the Ultramarines and their successors.
Although not a necessity, the melee-oriented Veteran Sergeant will still show up occasionally in my Squads; a forward deployed Tactical Squad can easily get tarpitted by a small but tough unit unless they have a model that's properly armed to break the impasse. I'll also continue to field at least one or two 10 man squads, although they won't be carrying heavy weapons. I see these larger squads and their Veteran Sergeants entering play via drop pods in turn one, breaking into Combat Squads upon disembarking, and using the Tactical Doctrine to do as much damage as possible early on. The Combat Squad with the Veteran Sergeant and the assault weapon, if included, would try to make a charge in turn two while the shooty Combat Squad fires at targets of opportunity.
In the meantime, the 10 man Squad(s) would be supplemented by two or three inexpensive five man Tactical Squads, each with a special weapon, a combi-weapon on a non-Veteran sergeant, and a Razorback. Each squad would be somewhat specialized: an anti-horde squad could have a flamer, a combi-flamer, and a standard Razorback with the twin-linked heavy bolter; an anti-Terminator/monstrous creature squad would carry a grav gun, a combi-grav, and a Razorback with a twin-linked lascannon; and a less specialized squad could have a combi-plasma, a plasma gun, and a Razorback variant.
|The 6th Edition Tactical Squad: small, efficient, and focused|
When the 6th Edition of 40K was released and the rules for rapid fire weapons were revised, I had the impression that Tactical Squads could become a much more important part of my army. With the release of the 6th Edition of C:SM, Tactical Marines saw a general reductions in points, increased flexibility in organization, and (for the Ultramarines) the introduction of the Tactical Doctrine. Now I'm actually excited about the increased potential and effectiveness of my army's basic Troop choice.