40K: Blob Squads vs MSU In 8th

What squad size will reign supreme in 8th? The Massive Blobs or will MSU be king?

Games Workshop has just dropped the teaser for how characters will function in 8th. Plus, we’ve seen how Large Models, Infantry and wounding will work now as well. These changes have a pretty big impact on the game as is but it also has us wondering how to build our squads now: MSU vs Blobs

Now before we go to far, let’s define our terms so we can all be on the same page with this one.

MSU – Many/Multiple Small Units. Think tons of combat squad style marine lists or tons of minimum sized units

Blob Squads – Max unit sizes, could include upgrades or not. Think tons of bodies on the table in huge units (Ork Mobs, Guant Hordes, Guard Blobs).

Quick Note – Yes, I know not all armies have the option to do both and some squad sizes teeter that line (10-man Tac squads, where do they fit, for example). But let’s not split hairs here, we’re talking in broad strokes, okay?

The Blob

Nothing can stop the BLOB!

Pros:

  • Fewer units for setup – This one may or may not be a huge deal, it depends on how first turn works. If 8th borrows the mechanic from AoS (and it’s already borrowing a LOT) then the player that sets-up first also chooses who takes the first turn. That could be very powerful. With fewer, larger units your “unit drops” should go quicker and the potiental to dictate who gets the first turn goes up.
  • Hard to kill – I’m sure this one will get folks talking especially with the Morale penalties, but stick with me. Really, it’s simple math – the bigger the unit, the more wounds that unit has to take before it’s dead. Now, it might be easier to wound a larger unit vs a super tough single model, but 50 wounds is still greater than 5 wounds. If a blob unit of 30 boys is camping on an objective it’s going to take a lot more firepower to knock them off than a 5 man unit of cultists. Plus, if only infantry can take objectives, this might be something to consider.
  • Large Footprint for board control – If you want to corral your opponent having a big squad or two will help dictate where the battle will happen. And you can string them out in a line or bunch them up depending on how you want to impact your board control.
  • Easy to buff – Getting back to the way Characters work, it’s a lot easier to string out a big unit and have a model within 6″ with 30 models vs 5 models. I’ve seen this happen in games of AoS and it’s the difference between getting 20 attacks or getting 30 attacks. Plus, the larger the unit the more they benefit from whatever buff you’re able to provide them.
  • Shooting with Split Fire – Because Blobs can split their shooting up now, it makes a lot more sense to take them. When you can direct your shooting where you need it in a tactical manner, that’s perfect for Blobs. No longer will you have to forgo shooting your lasguns for a round just to direct your lascannon fire at a tank – those 30 guardsmen can soften up the on coming horde while your big guns focus on the big stuff!

The Son of Blob however…

Cons:

  • Hard to manage – Look, moving 4 units of 30 models a turn isn’t exactly fast. Sure, you don’t have to worry about templates any more but it can really bog the game down. If you want to run a horde, get a second set of hands to help you move and practice moving that many models. Trust me on this one. This goes double in tournament play!
  • Move like a tidal wave – Because of that lack of mobility and large foot print, Blobs tend to move in very specific manners. You can see them coming from a mile away. The “Tidal Wave” might dictate where it’s going to crash, but the targets can try to minimize the splash zone.
  • Easy to charge – Blobs are a big, BIG target. And because charging units strike first, getting charged isn’t go for your long term health. If you’re about to get nailed from a charge, I hope your blob is big enough to take the hit and swing back…
  • Susceptible to Overwatch – If you’re going to charge with a Blob, you’re probably going to multi-charge and catch as many units as you can. Hey, you swing first, right? But you have to be able to weather that Overwatch fire first. Good thing you brought those extra bodies, right?
  • Morale Issues – Folks brought this up with the Morale preview. If you manage to lose 20 models from one unit in a round, I don’t care what your leadership is, you’re going to end up losing a TON more models when the Morale phase kicks in. That’s going to be a problem for Blobs. Will there be ways to mitigate that? We don’t know yet. As for now, it’s not looking great.

 

MSU Time

Small, Elite, Deadly…They were the best of the best.

Pros:

  • Easy to manage – It is WAY easier to move a bunch of smaller units around vs massive blobs. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.
  • Adaptable to battlefield situations – MSU can react to the changing battlefield quickly. If you need to stall a unit you can toss a speed bump out there. If you need to double down on an objective, you can park another unit on it.
  • Tougher to target (priority) – It’s harder for your opponent to choose which unit needs to die when there are 10 of them and they all pose the same threat. This can cause a lot of inexperienced players to stumble and try to kill everything. They end up scratching the paint off every unit without actually removing any threat, however. But even if they focus down a unit at a time, you’ve still got plenty of back-up on the table top. Decisions, Decisions…
  • Easy to charge with – Personally, I find it easier to get MSU into close combat on my terms. It’s easier to stagger my units and only offer up one unit as bait. I can speed bump with one unit and then counter-charge with 3 more on my turn. Or they don’t take the bait and I charge with 4. Works for me!
  • Easy to score objectives with – This is probably what MSU does best. If you need objective takers MSU gets the job done.

…Until they weren’t

Cons:

  • Individually easier to kill – If you’ve ever played a Kill Point game then you know what I’m talking about. MSU can cause you, or rather, can allow your opponent to wrack-up the Kill Points. 5 wounds is much easier to deal with than 50. That’s just science.
  • Characters must stay really close for buffs – I should say that Character must stay closer to danger to provide buffs. This might not be terrible in 8th, but it’s harder to keep 6×5-man units within range of a character than 1×30-man unit.
  • Setup takes longer (unit drops) – Now, we don’t know for sure how this will pan out in 8th – but if GW does borrow the same setup rules from AoS this could sting a bit…
  • Susceptible to Overwatch – Wasn’t this a con for Blobs? Yes. But it’s still a Con for MSU. But for a different reason: They might actually get wiped out when charging a unit. Again, it’s easier to deal 5 wounds than 50. So the Blobs might take a it on the chin via Overwatch before they make it, they will still make it into combat.
  • Weak charges individually – This isn’t always the case (looking at you Assault Terminators) but most of the time 5 models charging into a unit isn’t that scary. I can’t remember the last time I was concerned about a combat squad of marines charging into my forces. No, I was probably thinking “Oh look, a snack.”
  • Needs more coordination – MSU lists require a bit more finesse to pull off. It’s a dance of moving up, taking your shots, and getting out before taking the hits back. Not everyone likes this play style and not every player can pull this off. If you’ve ever seen some one try it and fail miserably, it’s because it takes a lot more work. MSU is not for everyone and with the changes in 8th we’ll have to see how it pans out for it’s fans.

There are probably a dozen more pros and cons for each. Personally, I think it’s going to ultimately come down to the army and the player. It’s still really early to tell which direction the Meta is going to push it. I’m leaning more towards Blobs for my Nids but I’m not sure how I’d run marines yet. Time will tell!

 

Which play style do you prefer and which one do you think will end up winning out? What other Pros/Cons do you think will impact the outcome?

  • Xodis

    Or the more likely scenario, both will have their merits and situations for both to shine.

    • Kinsman

      I agree. I think it would make more sense if these articles were written via an AoS perspective and not an older 40k view.

      8th appears to have a lot more in common with AoS than with 7th edition 40k. MSU vs blob isn’t really a thing in AoS. Some cheaper, easier to kill units are usually run as bigger blobs. While hardier units will likely run smaller.

      Looks the same, but not really the same.

      • Vachones

        Wait, so you are saying the answer is not one or the other, but it depends?! Crazy talk!

      • Charon

        If you want it from an AoS perspective. Blobs win flat out. You basically just got rid of deathstars to be replaced by deathballs. Already a thing in AoS and 40k just got rid of the mechanic that kept units form just pining up withing buff ranges…. bye templates/blasts, all hail the deathball.

        • Ironheaded Painting

          I’d like two orders of deathballs, please… with extra cheese… and few spams on the side… and a large diet-coke for that fatass over there.

        • Nazdreg

          You can’t compare 40k and AOS due to the different units and missions. In a close combat game with no objectives, you are right. But slow bunched up infantry can be outmanoeuvred pretty easily. Think of Jetbikespam, they will crossfire the deathball to where it belongs.

          • Charon

            new40k and AoS are not so different
            Also this is not different to current deathstars. Just bigger.
            Have a look at Sylvaneth for an example of this (2+ rerollable)
            “bunched up” doesnt mean slow anymore.
            Especially with movement stats.
            You are also alking of current jetbikes, which may (or will) as well take a major hit.

            The actual counter mechanic to just piuning up in one spot was difficult terrain AND blasts/templates. Both are gone.

    • Basti Schreyer

      That seems sensible.

      I think it will hugely depend on the individual armies.
      Some (think Nids, Orks etc.h might get a horde bonus, actively encouraging blobs while others with a more elite playstyle dont get them.

      Also player preferences could be a factor when both tactics are similarly viable.

      As it stands GW seems to want to discourage MSU somewhat. Seeing how it was rather prevalent in 7th I appreciate the intent of trying to make blob armies viable again. We shall see about the execution.

  • BClement

    I don’t agree with all your points, but the picture captions made up for it. Well played.

  • Iron Father Stronos

    MSU = AOE and zone control. Think summoning zone denial for AOS

  • Camisa

    dont think that BLOB will work. 30 units in a squad, Ld7, i shoot them down heavelly, kill 10, they make Ld teste, 1 D6 plus 10…. how many more will die??

    • Basti Schreyer

      It comes down to how much firepower you have to invest. If your whole army manages to delete one blob a turn but your opponent brought five or six you might not be able to delete enough of the blob before the rest reaches you, backed up by all the IC’s buffing them while being protected from your fire.

      8th really doesn’t seem to feature the same potential to just delete big units. After all infantry weapons can’t ignore light armor outright any more and D is supposedly gone.
      (I’m really curious how they replaced big template weapons of say Basilisks or Vindicators)

      Then one has to consider transports. Popping them will be harder than previously it seems. Think of a motorised ork army. Ten wounds per buggy and fifteen for the battlewaggons could easily mean fifty or sixty wounds you have to strip before you can touch a single boy.

      • If you can’t remove 6 blobs, you can’t remove 24 MSUs either. Morale-penalties are still on the side of MSU.
        Note that I don’t make any predictions what will be better in 8th. Just pointing out a few things to consider.

        • Blinghop

          In this regard though, the addition of split fire will make the targeting and removal of MSUs a little easier since you will have more targeting options than before

        • Basti Schreyer

          Of course everything we do now is guesswork based on the carefully selected facts available.

          What you should keep in mind though is that fielfing a lot of MSUs will be capped by the amount of units the new CADs allow for. As a result playing a bigger CAD that allows for a lot of MSUs might lead to diminishing returns.

          Every small unit of five gets eradicated by the same volume of firepower needed to kill five of a twenty man blob. Since GW likes to autoinclude a Sargeant in every unit you might have to pay for them as a sort of tax when using MSUs. That might seem miniscule but does make a difference.

          Buffs afforded by ICs might be much more relevant. A blob can be buffed more easily and yields bigger returns by virtue of having more models to profit.
          The impact one five man squad of regular troops has is much smaller. Especially in CC.

          One of the biggest factors however might and should in my opinion be the army you play. Every one to their strenghts. In a reasonably balanced system horde armies can field hordes while elite armies field small strike teams. The challange is to make both strategies viable.

          7th saw heavy use of MSUs because a lot of shooting was overkill anyways. The inflation of the availability of heavy weapons (think scatbikes) and &weapons in general meant that there was zero benefit to having a unit of ten instead of five if any one enemy unit causes twelve wounds. Overall big units could not compete outside of the frankly ridiculous deathstars.

          With splitfire now being available to all units a skilled general (read: one knowing about mathhammer) could be able to reduce overkill to a minimum. The question then becomes just how much you want to compensate for RNG. Truly a new facette to the whole process of target selecction.

          In the end I hope that 8th will allow for both small strike teams and blobs for the appropriate factions. Having one style dominate over the other would be less interesting.

        • Drpx

          Bring back the old chain-reaction panic rules from Fantasy and morale won’t be on their side again.

      • Ish

        Bear in mind that AoS gives units +1 Bravery for every ten models in the bunch. We also learned in today’s teaser that Commissars will enhance the Leadership of nearby Guardsmen in unspecified ways. Imperial Guard Infantry platoons may be a lot harder to shift than you think.

        • Basti Schreyer

          Interesting. It really does look like GW makes an effort to prevent MSU strats from dominating. As they should. A game in which only hordes or only small squads are viable is less desireable.

          Army choice should be the main factor for how big you wand your units to be.

          • Ish

            The accepted wisdom in AoS is that small units of heavy hitters (e.g., Stormcast Paladins, Orc Brutes) are best on offense and aggressively pushing into the enemy; While large units of lighter guys (e.g., Stormcast Liberators, Orc Ardboyz) work best defensively and holding objectives.

            Obviously the specifics vary based on individual army composition and player preferences. Soulblight (Vampires) and Varanguard (Über-Chaos Knights that are more elite than even Chaos Knights) literally have no option other than MSU play outside of stupidly big games. Skaven and Goblins, obviously, rely heavily on large blobs of individually crap troopers.

  • Basti Schreyer

    Ok what I really don’t get is the 20 die, ten flee argument.
    I do realize that it is bonus damage but I feel most people underaestimate how difficult it can be to lay down such a massive barrage.
    Especially with D being gone and standard infantry rifles working on more of a volume of fire basis rather than ignoring light armor outright.

    Also you have to consider that you also need to fit your MSU army into one of the new tables GW teased already. Having enough slots to fit an MSU-heavy army might be tricky.

    • Karru

      It’s actually very easy to dish out that much damage.

      An Ork Boy now has a 5+ save, as one can expect that the save modifier will be +1 from Cover. A unit of 30 Boys is very hard to hide, so the enemy can shoot it a lot. We also have no idea how old Barrage Weapons work and how much they will do in terms of shots. Let’s say they made the Thunderfire Cannon 3D6 shots, one of the ignoring Cover outright. A single Cannon would be able to remove around 5 Boys per volley, 10-11 shots, around 7 hits, 5 wounds, probably AP -1 so no Save for the Boys. That’s already enough to make the unit lose D6-2 Boys at the end of the turn. Add a couple volleys of Bolter Fire into the mix and suddenly you are looking at D6+6 extra models lost.

      The advantages of MSU is something to consider, even with armies that are considered “hordes”. This is purely based on two things. First of all, RNG blasts. Since they no longer get fixed amounts of hits and instead do XD6 hits, it will be that much easier to stack the smaller units behind cover or out of line of sight if one wishes to do so. Large Blobs cannot do this as well. Then there is the Moral Check. While losing a handful of models in a single volley can be bad for the MSU, it’s still easier to negate the possible concentrated fire they might receive. The enemy might not risk shooting at a unit of 3-4 models, instead opting to “risk” the Moral Check at the end of the turn to finish the job.

      With Blobs, taking down the unit even by half could mean a death sentence to them. A unit of 30 brought down to 15 means they’ll be rolling with a +15 modifier, which means that even with Ld 5-6 which will most likely be the Ld for “horde” armies, they are taking D6+9 models in extra wounds. Roll that 6 and pop goes the weasel.

      • Basti Schreyer

        You have a good point.

        Now I really want to know how artillery translates into 8th. Not just with regards to damage but also point costs.

        Having XD6 random hits seems like a really bad replacement for templates. Not only does it remove the tactics involved with templates. It also makes artillery horribly unpredictable. Especially the big guns don’t work well in that context. And they are incredibly hard to balance.

        The Wihrlwind Scorpius from 30k comes to mind. It has a mechanic that lets it shoot 1+D3 small templates a turn. That gets incredibly swingy most times. But it also makes it really hard to assign sensible points costs.

        Something like a Basilisk could easily be like that. A weapon that strong causing between say 2 and 12 hits regardless of player skill is a really bad way of handeling it.

        From experience I can say that it infuriates all kinds of players.

    • AircoolUK

      But if your units don’t have much to shoot at besides a huge blob, they’re just gonna shoot at the blob.

  • Ronin

    Aren’t there rules in AoS where you get +1 LD for every 5 models or something like that?

    • Kinsman

      Depends on the army.

      • Ish

        No it doesn’t. Everyone gets +1 Bravery for every gen models. It’s a core rule.

        • AircoolUK

          Whilst some do get an extra bonus on top of that, and not just for Bravery.

          Wanna take 20 Bonesplitterz arrer boys? No, you’re going to want to take 30 because a unit fires twice as many shots if it’s more than 20 models.

          So, you’re much more likely to see a blob of Bonesplitterz arrer boys than MSU’s, regardless of any meta.

  • ZeeLobby

    Well, with no longer having templates, footprints can be as large or small as you want. I’m guessing we’ll see very tightly packed blobs hugging terrain everywhere.

  • grim

    this article is based off playing 40K 6-7th edition. If you’re going to evaluate anything in 8th thus far you should brush up on the game most of you hate around here 😉

  • Blinghop

    I touched on this in another comment, but doesn’t the inclusion of split fire bring a huge con to MSU? Decent size squads can now split off fire to multiple small targets where it used to focus on a single one. With the morale change, they don’t necessarily have to aim to wipe out the whole squad either.

    • Basti Schreyer

      I have a similar thought. By allowing units to split their fire you indeed can now administer appropiate doses of firepower to multiple units. With some skill or the help of a mathhammer app you can reduce overkilling to a minimum.

      It used to be advantageous to have MSUs because you forced the opponent to waste a lot of his damage potential. Now you can devide your fire much more effectively. Even if RNG strikes the chance that the one or two survivors of a squad have a big impact later is slim. Of course you’d still want to eliminate them if they hapen to carry the squad heavy weapon. But that much is obvious. And again you don’t have to invest a whole other unit’s firepower.

  • BrianAWC

    I’m not assuming that it will even be an option to take small troop units. I’m guessing that units we can currently run as 5 man (tac squads) are going to be brought up to “box size” of 10 as the minimum.

    • Rabid Wombat

      Unlikely, because I don’t see GW killing small unit transports like Venoms or Razorbacks. Hypothetically, GW would rather sell you a tactical squad and two Razorbacks than a squad and a single Rhino or Drop Pod.

  • eldannardo

    Man, we have entered 8th ed article AoS (Age of Speculation)

  • Nyyppä

    Simply looking at the info we now have we can assume that there is some sort of choice between the 2 that most likely is not that different in power level but may change the type of tools abailable by a lot. MSU gives easier access to command points. Blobs are likely to get bonuses from unit size.

    At least to me that makes sense. Not sure about GW. It all seems promising but they have a bad enough track record that I’m reluctant to get hyped about this just yet.

  • bob82ca

    Shooting armies will want MSU. This is because it gives CC armies a rough time. Now that you can just run from combat, shooting armies can always shoot at their opponent on their turn. In 7th, the fact that you could not fire at an enemy in CC is what gave them much of their staying power and overall threat. CC armies however might want blobs because they will do heavy dmg when it is their priority to strike. I’m surprised nobody is really talking about it to be honest. That the ability to run units from combat severely nerfs CC units. You think armies like Tau were annoying before…at least you could tie them up eventually and make them sweat. In 8th they get a “get out of jail free” card, or sorry–might get peppered by a couple bolt pistol shots (lets face it, most CC units don’t carry scary firearms and won’t benefit from the rule to shoot at retreaters).

  • Way too early to determine which will be better. I hope it’s a mix of both but may largely depend upon army makeup.

  • Corsair6

    Or you can just use a mix ….. No need to go all in on one formation. I like to run two maxed out dark eldar troop units with two to three raider units. More flexibility and responsiveness to scenarios