This is part 2 of my examination into the units in the 4th edition Codex Space Marines. This part features the Elites and Fast Attack sections of the force organization chart. For the overview of what all of this means, see the original article. Therein you will find my analysis of the HQ, Troops and Transports. For Heavy Support and Special Characters, stay tuned for Part 3.
Terminator Squad: B+
Great armor, great firepower, good in close combat, the ability to deep strike or drop pod, and take veteran skills. Make no bones about it, terminators are very good. Sure they cost a good bit. But there’s a reason that your opponent tries as best as he can to aim every low AP weapon at them or to avoid them like the plague. The trick with Terminators is that you have to deploy them and move them very carefully. If you go with the strategy of advancing them down the center, in the open, then they will die very quickly. But if you use terrain to your advantage and bring them into sight of one or two enemy units at a time, you can wreak havoc on those units and expect to survive any return fire. This unit, like the dreadnought, is best used (in my experience) as a counter-attack unit – hiding behind cover and poking out to eradicate an enemy unit that gets too close. Of course, you must take 2 assault cannons if you use this unit. If you don’t, they are much less effective, maybe only average considering their point cost.
Terminator Assault Squad: C-
This unit is the best close combat unit in the codex…and utterly useless outside of close combat. They need to be in close combat to be effective (and to be safe from enemy shooting), but they move too slow to get there easily. Unlike veteran squads, which can ride in transports, or assault squads, which have jump packs, this unit must lumber around the battlefield, waiting for some enemy unit too stupid to stay away from them. The only really effective way to use them is to mount them in a land raider crusader and charge at the enemy…but I usually prefer not to place all of my eggs in one basket, as they say. The lack of any shooting hurts this unit in more ways than one; not only can they not damage anything with ranged attacks, but there is no incentive for enemy close combat specialists to assault them. At least with the regular terminators, an enemy might wish to engage them to silence those assault cannons. No such incentive for these guys.
Veteran Squad: B
Believe it or not, I like veterans. This unit reminds me of the power armored command squad in that it is very flexible, and if you avoid the terminator honors they are actually pretty cheap. A 6-man squad armed with a lascannon and a plasma gun makes an excellent anti-vehicle unit once you factor in the tank hunter veteran skill (that would be a Str. 8 plasma gun and a Str. 10 lascannon!). Alternatively, arm them with 2 powerfists (one on the veteran sarge) and a special weapon and infiltrate them, as they will have much more punch and staying power than scouts. And if you want to smash something, give them furious charge and put them in a land raider – more bodies than a terminator squad yet comparable damage output. This unit has something for every type of space marine army.
It seems like I take one of these in every army. They are not particularly durable (except for the Venerable ones), but they pack decent firepower at an affordable price. The best weapon configurations, in my opinion, are 1) twin-linked lascannon & missile launcher + venerable, and 2) assault cannon & dreadnought close combat weapon. The first gives you good long range anti-vehicle firepower, and the other gives you another assault cannon at a cheap price. Both will serve you well. Just don’t get too attached to your dreads, because your opponent will destroy them, over and over again.
This unit is bad. Really bad. Ok, ok, fine, a techmarine without any servitors is all right, like, a C. But a techmarine with a servitor retinue is horrible, the only ‘F’ in the whole codex. By himself, the techmarine is a decent, but not great, support character. I would rather have a chaplain or a commander. The problem is that he can’t be built or utilized to make use of all of his abilities in the same game. If you make him good at close combat, he won’t be able to repair vehicles or help shooty units with his signum. Alternatively, if you make him stay back and provide support, he won’t be able to use the extra attacks from his servo arms, nor will he make much use of his flamer or plasma pistol. He’s just not as good as the HQ units, and he takes up an Elites slot – which I always seem to have a greater need for than HQ slots. And servitors are just terrible. They are weak, not well-armored, and carry expensive guns, and there are no ablative wounds with this unit – unlike Devastators. I can hardly conceive of a build using a servitor squad that I would prefer to one using a devastator squad. In the end, the Techmarine averages out to a D.
Assault Squads are below-average compared to assault specialists from other armies, but they are better at assaulting than most other space marine units and do an adequate job in that role. Their greatest asset is their maneuverability, as jump packs not only increase the amount they can move, they also can move over difficult terrain. A veteran sergeant with a power-fist is a must, and it is wise to take plasma pistols and/or flamers depending on the enemy. The frags and melta-bombs are a nice touch, and help to mitigate the measly one attack (base) per model.
One of the best units in the space marine codex, land speeders combine good firepower with excellent maneuverability, and come at a reasonably cheap point cost. Just to compare, a land speeder with a heavy bolter costs 50 points, while a razorback with twin-linked heavy bolters (about the same firepower) costs 70 points – and the land speeder is far more maneuverable and survivable. Yes, yes, they have an armor of 10. But they are skimmers, which insulates them from most close combat attacks, and when properly utilized can hug terrain so that only one or two enemy units are exposed at one time – minimizing any return fire. Land speeders are also great at claiming objectives, particularly at the end of the game. While the standard land speeder is a pretty good unit in its own right, it is the Land Speeder Tornado that really shines. Tornadoes, if rated individually, would get an A+. The Tornado adds another gun over the standard land speeder armament, doubling the firepower for less than double the price. Even though the heavy bolter & assault cannon variant is the most popular, the other variant of the Tornado (multi-melta & heavy flamer) is also very good, as it works well against both light armored troops and heavily armored vehicles. In fact, using both variants of land speeder Tornado (in separate units, obviously) will ensure that you have all of your bases covered. The land speeder Typhoon, on the other hand, is not as good, as the typhoon missile launcher is just not that great of a weapon. Plus, who would ever want to take a Typhoon over a Tornado? At least with the standard land speeder you save some points.
I’ve never really liked bikes. It seems like they are ok at a lot of things, but not good at anything. I prefer assault squads when I want to get in hand-to-hand, as the assault squad can move over cover and will have more models. In terms of mobile shooting, land speeders are clearly better, although the bikes can assault something if you want them to. And don’t let the toughness 5 fool you; this unit is not that durable. Still, they are not bad as far as bike units go, particularly since they can include an attack bike within the squad – an ability that most other bike units from other armies cannot mimic with their own equivalent unit. I suppose they are average when it is all said and done.
The problem with attack bikes is that they fill the same sort of role as land speeders, and are much worse at it. They can’t move over terrain and don’t get any sort of defensive bonus for moving unless they move so fast that they can’t shoot. Unlike land speeders, which get both. Additionally, there are so few options with attack bikes. Unlike land speeders, which have many. Absent the comparison to land speeders though, they seem fine. Too bad that comparison is hard to ignore.
They are like regular bike squads, but with worse armor, no special weapons, and no attack bike. Yay! At least they are cheaper than regular bikes. The fact that they have the Scouts special rule doesn’t make up for the difference, even considering the reduced point cost. Why pay premium points for a unit that can deploy in escalation when it isn’t a good unit? I’d rather have more infantry. Some players use them as expensive cannon fodder, using the scout move and charging them straight into the enemy’s lines to tie them up for a turn or two. But isn’t “expensive cannon-fodder” an oxymoron?
Space Marines have a good selection of Elites to choose from, both in terms of the number of units and the various uses of those units. Terminators, Veterans and Dreadnoughts are all very good units, and each will fulfill a different role on the battlefield. In fact, the elites section may be one of the strongest in the codex. The Fast Attack section, by contrast, leaves something to be desired – with the notable exception of the land speeder. On many occasions, I have found that I have so many extra Fast Attack slots that I can take three land speeders as separate units instead of one larger unit. Nevertheless, there are enough fast attack choices to get the job done, even if they aren’t the best units in the codex.