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The Tiger Roars
Guest Commentary: Legionis Tacticum
Tactical articles

Legionis Tacticum: Space Marines by Patrick Eibel
“…And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how do I work this?’…”

With the release of Codex: Space Marines, one of the core armies of 40K got some of the bells and whistles that other, more recent, codices had been given. Space Marines are one of the most versatile and popular armies in the game, and you can easily tailor your force to your style of play. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind as you build your army.

Strengths: Good overall stats, Chaplains, Chapter Traits
Weaknesses: Relatively expensive troops means usually being outnumbered
Wargear:  Iron Halo, lightning claws, terminator armor, assault cannon

Tactics: Since the Space Marines are pretty good all-around, they lend themselves to a variety of tactics. For the purposes of this analysis we will focus on the two I think are most effective: shooty and balanced.

The “Shooty” Army
Aside from Tau, Space Marines are the best shooters in the game and have a variety of potent weaponry to choose from. The lascannon may be the best non-ordnance weapon for killing vehicles and is available for Dreadnoughts, Veteran Squads, Tactical Squads, Devastator Squads, Predators, Razorbacks and Land Raiders. On the other hand, the heavy bolter and the newly improved assault cannon are two of the most reliable troop-killing weapons. Missile launchers are versatile in that they can be effective against moderately armored vehicles (krak shot) or light armored troops (frag shot). There are many players that love plasma cannons: I am not one of them. It is one of the most expensive weapons, Strength 7 is frequently not enough to get the job done, and the risk of frying yourself is just not worth it.  

For a typical shooty army, you will want to take smaller Tactical Squads. For instance, a 5-man squad with a heavy bolter and plasma gun is 90 points; with a lascannon and plasma gun is only 100 points. The small squad size will make you vulnerable to enemy shooting, but you can offset this by volume. In a 1,500 point force, you could have two 5-man Veteran Squads with lascannons, six 5-man Tactical Squads with lascannons, two 5-man Devastator Squads with heavy bolters, and still have about 400 points for vehicles, Traits and characters.

As for Traits, I would take Suffer Not The Work Of Heretics and either Purity Above All (to help keep your small squads alive) or See, But Don’t Be Seen (to get everyone in range from the start of the game). You could also opt to take Honor Your Wargear, but I think there will be enough heavy weapons floating around without the extra Devastators. If you choose Suffer Not… and Purity Above All, you will only need to take one major drawback (I suggest Eye To Eye). Any other combination will require one major and one minor drawback (use Die Standing, the least painful of the minor drawbacks).

The Balanced Army
A balanced army will pack a decent amount of firepower, but will also be able to hold its own in hand-to-hand combat. While the shooty army will find itself vulnerable to an all out charge from a Tyranid swarm, the balanced army will be able to counter charge, and hopefully hold their own.

The goals for the balanced army are: mobility, flexibility, and survivability. To this end, you will want to take transport vehicles and heavy vehicles such as the Predator (for mobility); a variety of troop types, including Scouts, Assault Squads, and possibly even Terminators; and larger squads (to withstand enemy shooting and charges).

For this army, the most essential Trait is Trust Your Battle Brothers, as it will give almost every Marine the ability to countercharge someone and smack them with his bolter. You could add See, But Don’t be Seen or Be Swift As The Wind, which are also in the Courageous Trait list, or Take The Fight To Them or Blessed Be The Warriors from the Zealous Trait list.

As you would expect with a balanced force, the general tactic is for the shootier units to provide cover fire while the assault-oriented units get into position. Use mobility to get the support units into position and use Land Speeders and Predators to target specific enemies such hard targets (vehicles, Terminators, monstrous creatures).

As Games Workshop likes to tout, “there are over 1,000 chapters of Space Marines in the universe,” and by the same token, there are almost as many different ways to play them. The two examples given above are merely suggestions on how to build a successful force. Feel free to experiment with other unit choices and character combinations to suit your style of play. Of course, once you collect your Space Marine army, you will have to think of a color scheme and a name, but those are subjects for another time.

Related Pages
Introduction to the series
Other articles in this series

© Copyright Patrick Eibel, May 2005. Used with permission.


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