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Fighting Tiger Tactics (pg 2)
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I hold a few axioms regarding Space Marines. Some relate more to picking an army, some relate more to fighting the battle, but I believe they are all interconnected. They are:

For Space Marines, emphasize quality over quantity
Points you spend on your army are like dollars you spend in real life: you have to get the most value for your money—even if you have to spend a little bit more—because “cheaper” is not always “better.” And trust me: there is no such thing as a cheap Space Marine. 

Of course, it's possible to go to the other extreme and over-equip all your units. Just because your HQ units can take all kinds of expensive toys doesn't mean that they should. You'll have to strike a balance: think about what you need, not what you can have, and spend wisely. In the discussions of each unit, I provide examples that you might find useful.

If they’re going to give you free stuff, take (and use) the free stuff
As I said, Space Marines are expensive, so if the codex is going to give you free stuff, take it. For example, Tactical Squads may add flamers, missile launchers, and heavy bolters for no additional points costs, so if you can, include those in your Tac Squads. Other freebies include smoke launchers and searchlights on many vehicles: they’re assumed to be there, so make sure you use them to good effect during games. 

No Space Marine is expendable
The cheapest guy in the Space Marine army is 13 points, which is way more than an Eldar Guardian, a Termagant, or a Gretchin. Space Marines, even Space Marine Scouts, cost too many points to casually sacrifice them, use them as cannon fodder, or be reckless with them.

In every battle, at least one Marine is going to die: make sure that those who died did so for a good reason. 

Leaders lead
This might not make perfect “game” sense, but it is definitely in character for Space Marines. Let's say a Bloodthirster is bounding toward my lines and I have the choice of throwing a Chaplain or a Tactical Squad in its way, knowing that either one is probably going to get chewed up and spat out in hand-to-hand combat. Now of course, I don't want any of my Marines stepping in front of an angry Bloodthirster, but if I had to, I'd send in the Chaplain every time. 

Why would I “throw away” such a valuable and expensive unit? Mostly to be in character. I can't imagine a fearless Tiger of Varuna ordering his men into certain death to save his own skin; instead I see him ordering the squad to lay down some cover fire and
then save themselves while he holds off the monster.

When you think about it, though, this does make some “game” sense. If I charge a Chaplain at the Bloodthirster, my guy will attack with a power weapon and have an Invulnerable Save to help protect him. Is he going to beat a Bloodthirster? I'd say “no” at least 19 times out of 20, but when the Bloodthirster wins, it's only taken out one Marine. One exceptional Marine yes, but I still have 10 Tactical Marines who are alive and can keep shooting holes into that big red bastard. And the way the game is set up, 10 ordinary Marines are almost always more valuable than one exceptional character.

Mobility, mobility, mobility
If you can't move, you lose. It's really that simple. Granted, some elements of your army (notably Heavy Support) are best when they don't move, but the rest needs to be able to go to or get away from the enemy quickly. You'll notice that I have a lot of transports for troops as well as plenty of jump packs, bikes, and teleporting troops.

Don't sweat the big guns, sweat the little guys
Unless you're playing against a tank-heavy Imperial Guard army, don't worry too much about how "big guns" (vehicles and characters) are going to hurt you, worry about all the "little guys" in front of the big guns. While a Leman Russ or a Hive Tyrant is bound to get your attention, what's probably going to beat you are the hordes of infantry you ignore. Big, bad vehicles and superheroic characters are nice but they almost never win games by themselves. The reverse is that rank-and-file grunts aren't flashy but they almost always carry the game for you. Don't look at the Force Organization charts and moan, “Damn, I have to take two Troop units”; instead, look at the charts and say, “Hot damn! I get six Troop units—and if I take another detachment, I get six more!”

You can't count on shooting, but hand-to-hand combat will win you the game
While 40K is, after all, it is a game played with a lot of guns, some of them quite large, the Assault Phase is still critical for many reasons: 

  • When you assault, you get to move further up the field;
  • By charging enemy units, you can prevent them from shooting in subsequent turns;
  • You can wipe out whole squads in a single round by inflicting more casualties and catching them as they fall back;
  • You can’t kill enemy units in your opponent’s Shooting Phase, but you can in his Assault Phase.
I think you get my point: shooting is flashy and sexy and has its place (I certainly love it), but as in football, you usually win the battle on the ground, up close and personal, based on little more than maneuvering, brute strength, and aggressiveness.

One man's cheese is another man's brilliance
It doesn't matter what units or wargear you include or don't include in your army, some idiot out there is going to accuse you of being cheesy or beardy. I’ve been told that my Land Speeder Tornadoes are cheesy, my HQ with lightning claws is cheesy, even that my fondness for taking lots of Scouts is cheesy. I just ignore these people and resolve not to play them again. Arguing about cheese/beardiness is a waste of time, because for the vast majority of gamers, cheesy is always what someone else's army is, never their own. I say if it's in your codex and you can legally use it then it's not cheesy. If you're interested, I have more to say on this subject.

Redundancy is good
In reading through this Tactics section and various army lists, you’ll see that I have and often bring several of the same time of unit. Why? Because if one of something is good, two is better, and three or more is better still. Taking multiple units may not be very exciting (some gamers call this habit “making ‘cookie-cutter’ lists”), but it is very effective. As an example, it’s relatively easy to stop one Rhino loaded with troops from reaching its objective; it’s considerably harder to stop four or more Rhinos. It’s difficult to knock out a vehicle with one shot from a missile launcher; it’s much easier to do that if you fire multiple missile launchers. 

Redundancy is not just for Space Marines: every army in 40K can benefit from it. If you look at the descriptions of my other armies—Dark Eldar, Necrons, Chaos Marines, Kurindans, “Space Dwarves”—you’ll find I use certain units over and over again in their respective lists. 
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Related Pages
Putting an End to "Cheesiness"

Last updated April 2009 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle