Space Marines have access to a pretty diverse Fast Attack slot, even if it isn't quite as heavy as the Eldar equivalent. It provides you with one of the most cost-effective flyers in any of the 6th Edition codices, used well as either an escort gunship or a primary anti-air fighter, and a great harassment unit that has fantastic synergy with deep striking elements in the form of Scout Bikers. And then there are the tougher choices, the ones that provide heavier firepower albeit at greater expense; Attack Bikes with their potent anti-tank or anti-infantry guns, or regular Bikers that are amazingly cheap, versatile and tough and can receive irrational advantages from certain Chapter Tactics. Land Speeders and Assault Marines round out the slot, providing somewhat more fragile destruction either at medium or close ranges, but they are still good options that are a bit more specialized in their usage. There is a lot of value to be had here, particularly as Bikers make for such a fantastic Troops choice in a more mobile army list that isn't based around vehicles. A note here that this is the first part of a series of two articles.
Overview - The leaping predators born from the Space Marine Chapters are above average close quarters fighters that have the benefit of being quite cheap for what they bring. Compared to Tactical Marines, they lose a lot of options and their boltguns, but gain both a close combat weapon and a jump pack to compensate. Throwing in that they are only a scoring unit in one of the five objective-based missions is important to note, but it is unnecessary to the role you will be using Assault Squads for. Assault Squads pay for substantially increased mobility without the use of a transport, as well as all the extra rules jump packs provide such as Hammer of Wrath or re-rolling charge distances based on how many inches you covered in each movement phase. They can even take their jump packs off and take a free dedicated transport, including a Rhino, Razorback or Drop Pod. The former two have their uses for larger and smaller squads respectively as part of a target-spam mechanized list, while the latter is best reserved for deep striking beefy melee or suicide units. Added on to all of this is the always awesome Space Marine stat line with fours across the board, albeit with two attacks base from their extra close combat weapons for three each on the charge. When combined with Hit and Run from White Scars or the ability to move 12" and still re-roll their charge distances from Raven Guard, this turns a decently cheap melee unit into a nasty and reasonably tough annoyance for your opponent.
Where Assault Squads fall down a bit is in their durability when juxtaposed against their role. An assault unit in 6th Edition has to contend with more mobile gunlines, higher rates of punishing firepower, and the defensive boosts provided by Overwatch and the loss of bonus attacks with a multi-charge. The best assault units in the game, such as 'Seerstars', 'Screamerstars', Flesh Hounds and flying monstrous creatures all have both the durability and speed to make it to combat without suffering significant losses on the way, as well as the flexibility to engage and destroy most targets. Assault Marines certainly are quick, but they can't reach the same bracket as any of the aforementioned melee units. They also aren't any tougher than your regular Space Marine, outside of a greater movement range that allows them to jump behind or in intervening terrain with greater ease - though that of course carries the risk of dangerous terrain. A Riptide that locks horns with them through the barrel of an Ion Accelerator buffed by Markerlights will still annihilate them just as easily as a Tactical Squad, and Assault Marines are more expensive than the Tacticals to boot. And unlike Tacticals, Assault Squads can't afford to sit at range and out of the more intensive rapid fire and defensive shooting. As a dedicated melee unit, they really need to be charging to get the most out of them, and suffice it to say, Assault Squads still are a strong melee unit against most front-line infantry simply because they are Space Marines with a boat load of attacks.
Their krak grenades as well as And They Shall Know No Fear give them melee capabilities beyond what many others could hope for, combining reliable weapons to crack vehicles with a more well-rounded alternative to Fearless. If you can get them into combat or use them as a decently priced cog of a mostly mobile army list - consisting either of Bikes or transported infantry as the bulk of the force - they can be a strong and, most importantly, flexible assault unit that can still take quite a bit of punishment. Just don't throw them into a fight they can't win, use clever positioning instead of being overly aggressive, and they shouldn't let you down.
How to Equip Them - If you are using Assault Squads as small or large units in Drop Pods as part of a suicide drop, I recommend two flamers every time as the damage they can do in the Drop Pod Assault against Infantry is pretty crazy. In general though, I've never found plasma pistols to be worth the points; paying the same price for a plasma gun has always rubbed me wrong, especially on an already costly unit that can take up to three when including the Sergeant. If you want to take those optional weapon upgrades, I would advise sticking to the flamers and think instead about a grav pistol for the Sergeant. The reason for this is simple; if you are forced to charge a monstrous creature or solo character, knocking them down to Initiative 1 is priceless for a high-cost assault unit that has the potential to severely damage or even kill a monster on the charge. Melta Bombs are always an upgrade that I would take if you have the points spare, particularly for an Assault Squad that is more likely to get close to vehicles in the first place, though they are hardly necessary. A Combat Shield, similarly, is cool for a bit of extra defence - particularly in challenges - but it is more of a points-filler than anything else, I've found. Of course, combining its' 6+ invulnerable save with a 6+ Feel No Pain roll from Iron Hands is actually quite decent. Additionally, you can take a special melee weapon on the Sergeant, though I would reserve this for a Veteran Sergeant because the extra attack is always worthwhile. I recommend a power weapon over a power fist simply because the Sergeant can be challenged and singled out, though I've not found an Assault Sergeant even needs a special melee weapon simply because the unit puts out more than enough attacks on the charge anyway, particularly if Hammer of Wrath is thrown in.
Where to Put Them - I would be most comfortable putting Assault Squads in Drop Pods to act as a suicide unit, but that probably isn't satisfactory for most. Rhinos and Razorbacks make good transports for them as well, it just so happens that they synergize so well with a Drop Pod and provide one of the codices' best sources of Pathfinder-clearing. Really, that is their main duty! If they can latch some krak grenades on a Fire Prism or a Manticore, that is a bonus more than anything else. For traditional Assault Squad builds with jump packs, I tend not to deep strike them simply because the Drop Pod is far better for that reason; you trade having a 12" move the turn after deep striking for reliable, safe scatter and a guaranteed first turn drop. On foot, I keep them behind or in terrain such as forests or ruins at the start of the game; Dangerous Terrain tests really aren't that bad anymore given you can take your 3+ armour saves against them. On that note, a squad of ten will statistically lose one model for every eighteen dangerous terrain tests the unit makes. Just something to remember. As much as AP3/2 Ignores Cover is the name of the game for some armies - like Tau and Colossi-heavy Imperial Guard - you still don't want to forfeit your Space Marines if you can avoid it. Keep to cover when moving up; you have a 12" jump pack move, or a re-rollable charge distance. You can afford to wait an extra turn to charge if it means you don't run out in the open and get promptly slaughtered by a pair of Vindicators.
Best Uses - The best use of Assault Squads by far is, unfortunately, one that doesn't really conform to both their noted role and standard models. When you exchange their jump packs for a Drop Pod with no cost, you are left with the happy situation of being able to get yourself an incredibly cheap melee unit with safe deep striking. However, what really abuses this is giving the Assault Squad a pair of flamers; put them in the first turn Drop Pod Assault and watch the hilariously cheap carnage they bring, particularly in a light-infantry dominated meta-game. Salamanders make the most of this tactic, obviously, especially when you combine other suicide melta units with Vulkan. It makes for one of the more brutal and efficient alpha strikes in the game. If you don't want to go this route though, I've found that trying to run Assault Squads up the field mandates them jumping either into or behind terrain. Sure, Tau don't give a rats about cover, but it makes a big difference against Eldar and other armies.
Small units of Assault Marines are too easy a target and will die from both reactionary shooting on the opponents' turn and through Overwatch, though you don't want to make them too obvious a focal point. This is where they work best as part of a target saturation mechanized or scouting list; combine them with several other beefy units, such as scouting White Scars Bikers, Tactical Squads in Rhinos, Honour Guard or Assault Terminators in Land Raiders, and so on, and just explode your opponents' plans through sheer mass of units to shoot. Assault Marines are still quite cheap, and though they aren't the best assault unit, they will still beat down most enemies you run into in a fight anyway. They can't take on 'Screamer-Stars' or 'Seer-stars', but they cost significantly less. Use that to your advantage to flood the board with mobile units and beat those death-stars down through attrition, or ignore them completely; Assault Marines are quick enough to at least force the death star to chase them, provided you threaten their support units early on. The reality is, Assault Marines aren't that expensive at all to take, particularly if you skip the needless upgrades. Use them to put pressure on your opponents' support units and flanking units, notably units with Markerlights, as well as any vehicle with a rear armour of 12 or lower.
Chapter Tactics - Assault Marines get the largest direct benefit from Raven Guard, where they can dart 12" in the movement phase and still use their jump packs to re-roll their random charge lengths. For a dedicated assault unit, this is a really big boost and one that combines exceptionally well with Shrike who can Infiltrate the squad forward. Ultramarines also give them the same benefit, albeit for one turn, though I would suggest that even having 'Fleet' for a single turn is usually enough to get the Assault Squad where you need them, usually on the second or third game turn. White Scars provide a significant advantage with Hit and Run, simply one of the best special rules for any melee unit to have, even if the Assault Marines can't benefit from Khan's Scout move unless they lose their jump packs and hop in a transport. The others provide more minor boosts, though the Salamanders in particular allow for the most effective use of 'suicide' drop-podding Assault Squads. Take a squad of five, arm them with two flamers, and launch them into a Drop Pod Assault. The re-rolls to wound with their flamers, as well as a few pistol shots, should ensure some incredibly cheap carnage on the first turn.
Land Speeder Squadron
To make up for this, Land Speeders bring you cheap sources of heavy weapons that can be taken in squadrons with the option for Deep Striking. They have a multitude of gun options, including doubling up on heavy bolters, heavy flamers and multi meltas, or taking one of a typhoon missile launcher or assault cannon. Land Speeders can be used to savage effect against highly valuable enemy vehicles such as Land Raiders and Leman Russes when loaded out with multi-meltas that, provided their owning player goes first, have an effective melta range of 36" on the first turn, or a 48" regular shot range. This obviously factors in their deployment, and unless you are mostly certain of going first, keeping the Land Speeders hidden or at least giving them a static cover save is almost mandatory due to their fragility. Their speed means that it shouldn't be much of an issue, and this is particularly true of long ranged builds featuring a typhoon missile launcher. They are a good unit that stays cheap provided you don't mix and match conflicting weapon upgrades, and they tend to work best in pairs rather than singles so as to not so easily give up First Blood. A squadron size of three is certainly viable, but just be aware of the ticking points cost for the unit.
How to Equip Them - There are many ways to equip Land Speeders, but generally you want to keep them as cheap as you can for whatever role you need filled considering how fragile they are. For this reason, if you want long range anti-tank, I would keep the stock heavy bolter and take a typhoon missile launcher. The heavy bolter has the big range advantage over the multi-melta, allowing the Land Speeder to comfortably sit at range without wasting a gun, and it also saves a few points as well. If you want a short-range anti-tank 'suicide' Land Speeder, a pair of multi-meltas is cheap and efficient enough, particularly when combined with Vulkan's master-crafting. Alternatively, you can use heavy flamers for a more balanced Land Speeder build, one that can toast assaulting melee infantry or those pesky light infantry from Tau, Eldar and Imperial Guard. Pathfinders won't look twice before trying to shoot them down on the first turn! There are other variations including assault cannons, double heavy bolters and so on, and they can certainly work too. The key with Land Speeders is to not over-do it; keep them cheap, specialize them, and let them do their job.
Where to Put Them - Unless you have the first turn and are very confident of not getting 'Seized', always deploy Land Speeders where they can get a cover save. Ideally, this is done by placing them behind an obscuring terrain piece that is on or near the edge of your deployment zone. Ruins and buildings can also block line of sight completely if you are facing Wave Serpents or Hydras. If no such options are available, or the enemy can circumvent your defences - Smart Missile Systems and Hive Guard come to mind - then don't be afraid to Deep Strike the Land Speeders. If the enemy has Interceptor weapons, such as Quad Guns, then you will want to weigh up which is the safer option. There is almost never a guarantee of either player going first, and if your opponent shoots at the Land Speeders on the first turn, it could pave the way for more valuable targets - such as a Land Raider ferrying a hard-hitting melee unit - to get to the enemy instead. For this reason, I tend to prefer having the Land Speeders on the board. As much as everything seems to die so easily in 6th Edition, having target saturation is still a big part of the game, as one bad or unlucky roll can force your opponent to dedicate more anti-tank shots to the Land Speeders or risk losing their prized Skyray or other valuable tank. Land Speeders with Typhoon Missile Launchers should follow these principles, though if you have the short table edge deployment, they can afford to sit back further and abuse their 12" move-and-shoot to keep both out of sight and out of range of enemy fire on the first turn.
Best Uses - I've not found much stock in heavy flamer Land Speeders, simply because a five-strong Assault Squad in a Drop Pod with two flamers does the job quite well and is far more likely to get close enough to use their guns. Of course, if the Land Speeders pair heavy flamers with an anti-tank weapon, it is a bit of a different story, though I haven't been a massive fan of these builds of late simply because they try too much to be versatile when really they get destroyed for the most part after popping - or trying to - a high value tank, wasting one weapon or another. If you want multi-meltas, take either just the one melta or two of them for each Land Speeder, as those extra shots are well worth it to ensure they actually destroy their target. For short range Land Speeders, you really need to focus on one thing, otherwise their fragility means you will likely just be wasting points. Land Speeders armed with Typhoons are actually quite good because of their range; they can comfortably sit outside the 36" death ranges of Tau and most other armies while still taking shots. This is an invaluable tool to have, particularly on a standard or larger than normal game board that actually takes advantage of this with an acceptable amount of terrain. If you are playing against Wave Serpents or Dark Eldar dark lance-boats, make sure to deploy out of sight if you can; Serpents will gobble Land Speeders up with zero difficulty, and Dark Eldar can easily get into range with their 36" anti-tank guns on the first turn, ignoring your 12" advantage.
Chapter Tactics - Land Speeders are just about the last vehicle to get any benefit from It Will Not Die, even in squadrons, and - depending on their role - they have mixed synergies with a wide range of army builds. The range of equipment choices means that you can just about fit a Land Speeder squadron or more in any army list, as long as you aware of how quickly they get destroyed when focused on.
Overview - The Stormtalon provides Space Marines with a cheap, fragile and yet reliable flyer that is far more favourable than most introduced in 6th Edition. This is not only because its' competition for Fast Attack slots isn't as fierce as in other armies - particularly with Bikes able to be moved to Troops - but because it actually performs its role quite well. With a stock assault cannon and the option to add one of three weapon options, including the skyhammer missiles, twin-linked lascannon and typhoon missile launcher, the Stormtalon provides efficient firepower against light and medium vehicles. Against most flyers, the Stormtalon does the job of a fighter more than capably, providing four Strength 6 shots and a few extra high Strength shots depending on the optional weapon choice. Though this might seem like it is comparable to the over-costed Nephilim Jetfighter, the Stormtalon has a significantly lower points cost and can actually specialize its anti-tank weapons instead of being stuck with almost exclusively Strength 6 or 5 weapons. Though a Stormtalon is unlikely to best a Heldrake or Vendetta in a straight dog fight unless it manages to get in a Heldrake's rear arc, as incredibly unlikely as it is, it should do just fine against most other flyers.
Of course, the low points cost with decent firepower does have a downside, and that is apparent in its fragility. The Stormtalon has AV11 on all sides, which is respectable enough for a flyer, but only two hull points. This means that Evading and smart positioning become far more integral to their use as, despite being cheap, they are both flimsy and eat up enough points to ensure you can't waste them in a suicide attack run. A Ballistic Skill 4 model manning a quad gun will average two hull points of damage on a Stormtalon, either forcing it to Evade on the turn it arrives or restricting its movement and subsequent firing lanes. A cheap Night Scythe outputs slightly higher damage as well, and trying to take on something like a Crimson Hunter if it isn't already on the board is sheer folly. To actually take on most flyers, outside of most bombers or even the afore-mentioned Nephilim, a Stormtalon needs to be moved into line of sight blocking terrain if it arrives first, or arrive second to guarantee an alpha strike. This always leads me to take the cheapest secondary weapon choice, the skyhammers, to keep the cost of a Stormtalon down while maximising their firepower. The skyhammers are a very cheap upgrade and still compare quite favourably to the typhoons, so if you do expect your Stormtalons to take some flak but want them to do damage in return, keep them cheap and go from there. This also leads me to stress the obvious; don't be afraid to go into active reserves with your Stormtalons - and other flyers in general - if it means saving them from a turn of inactivity or potential destruction!
How to Equip Them - This is an interesting topic for debate even several months after the release of the Space Marine codex; which of the secondary weapon systems do you take alongside the twin-linked assault cannon? I've not found the twin-linked heavy bolter to be too useful as a Stormtalon really wants to be kept versatile to deal with any target your opponent can put down on the table short of Land Raiders or Terminators. The cost of the upgrades does vary quite a bit, with the Skyhammers being the cheapest by a big amount, and the twin-linked Lascannon being a few points short of the most expensive option, the Typhoon Missile Launcher. So how does their damage output compare? Against AV11 vehicles - the most common for Marine armies for ground vehicles, and the standard for most flyers - assuming no open-topped or other modifiers, the Skyhammers are the best pick. Against higher armoured vehicles and models like Tyranid Warriors and Raveners, the Typhoons are stronger. I've personally found that AV11 vehicles are much more common, particularly in the case of flyers, so I always prefer to save points and take the Skyhammers. If you have the points though and expect enemies such as Necrons with their AV13 ground vehicles, then the Typhoons are likely going to be the better investment. Just remember that the Stormtalon is fragile and so keeping it as cheap as possible is always a good idea, which makes me give the Skyhammers the overall edge.
Where to Put Them - Stormtalons are best at the 24" to 36" ranges where most of their weapons operate, though considering both their fragility and low cost, you can get away with keeping them out of range with the assault cannon simply to harass light vehicles. As much as having rear AV11 is great for ignoring annoying glances from standard infantry, you still can't afford to put the thing right near most enemy units. AV11 is not that crash hot, and neither is two hull points. Don't take chances unless you want to use your Hover Strike on the rear armour of an enemy vehicle or squadron; a good case for this would be attacking the vulnerable backside of two or three Leman Russ battle tanks, or going all out for one of those Wave Serpents. If your opponent has flyers, try to react to this by either putting your flyer in a spot that they can't shoot - the enemy backfield is valid if there aren't any units near the particular spot you want to take - or by forcing the opponent to expose the flyer to return fire if it wants to go after the Stormtalon.
Best Uses - I've found Stormtalons to be efficient sources of medium to heavy firepower, at least in terms of a flyer, so my best bet is to put them up against enemy flyers and AV10-12 vehicles wherever possible. Those are generally their preferred targets, and make no mistake; though they are more fragile and have less total guns than a Storm Raven, a pair of Stormtalons for a roughly equivalent cost will bring a far more balanced and effective anti-air defence. In fact, a pair of Stormtalons can do very well against enemy flyers; just don't expect them to take on a fully fledged air brigade such as massed Vendettas, Valkyries or Night Scythes. Quad Guns are an obvious issue for Stormtalons though, as are other massed fire Interceptor weapons, so as a result I've always wanted to balance Stormtalons with good firepower overall against low cost. They get wrecked pretty quickly against any dedicated anti-air unit, and even with an immunity to boltgun fire, ground targets can still make a meal of them. The advantage for the Stormtalon here is its' great range on almost every weapon it has, bar the assault cannon. Don't be afraid to use this as often as you can; if you only move on 18" and can't fire the assault cannon, use your other weapon to soften a target for a ground unit to clean up. A 'living' Stormtalon is a good one, so don't waste them on some one-shot tactic that will likely result in their destruction. Their firepower is never going to be based on the principles of melta weaponry, and thus they work better as flyers in attrition wars if you maneuvre them behind line of sight-blocking terrain or out of range of most skyfire weapons.
Chapter Tactics - Stormtalons obviously only get a direct benefit from the Iron Hands Chapter Tactics, but with only two hull points and AV 11/11/11, it is unlikely it will get to make the most out of an It Will Not Die roll.
Thanks for reading this article! Did you find it an entertaining or insightful read? Let us know in the comments section below, or continue the discussion with me and other members of the community over on +Bell of Lost Souls. Have a great day! Eel out.
"Your honour is your life. Let none dispute it."
- Captain Navarre of the Black Templars