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?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?