40K: Combat Squads for Squad Combat

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With the release of Codex Space Marines “Soon,” let’s talk about Combat Squads.

Let’s talk tactics. Well–Tactical Squads at any rate. In the days of yore, I’m told, they would tromp around the battlefield in 5 man squads–or two squads of 10 which could split up so that they could fire on separate units and make excellent use of the fact that they were two units in one. You could effectively give yourself some extra tactical flexibility with heavy/special weapons. Hence Tactical Marines.

But what about now? In 8th Edition is that still even necessary? I’m not so sure. So let’s take a look at the way things are. In the Imperial Index 1, you can find all the current stats for Space Marines. From Space Marines in Power Armor to other different Space Marines in other different Power Armor, this book is full of that. And under Tactical Squads we find the following:

The old familiar Combat Squads rule is there.

Before any models are deployed at the start of the game, a Tactical Squad containing 10 models may be split into two units, each containing 5 models.

But the question is–what exactly does this rule do that you can’t already do? Units can already split fire and take no penalty for it. Units with multiple weapons can all fire at different things, even. So there’s no extra flexibility gained by splitting up your heavy and your special weapon. I mean, sure, they can move out of coherency with each other–but you can already accomplish that by just taking two five-man squads and then picking whatever weapons you were going to equip them with.

Oh wait…we have to pick from the Space Marines list of special weapons. Right.

And filling out the Force Org chart is even easier–run out of room? Take another detachment. There are cheap enough hq choices and you get more Command Points for use on the awesome stratagems. And by the time you’re running out of room for Troops you’ve already got an impressive force to begin with.

Especially since the splitting is done before deployment. You’re either hindering your chances of going first a little more than they already are (remember, the player who ends their deployment first, goes first), or you’re just having a squad of 10 tactical marines. So other than the fact that this is a rule that’s been around forever–what does it add?

My theory is that you could split up your marines and keep both weapons with your sergeant–but if this rule is factored into their points cost, I’m still not sure that’s quite worth it. Perhaps, with the release of Codex: Space Marines we’ll get a glimpse of something different. Maybe there are specific chapter rules, or stratagems that rely on you having a Combat Squad out there. But as of right now–I’m not sure what role it serves.

I leave it to you, the Internet. Are Combat Squads still worthwhile in the game as it stands right now? How would YOU change them to reflect their intended purpose in the new edition?

  • Agent of Change

    The easiest way to fix it, make it useful, tactical, and flexible:

    As it is being deployed, a Tactical Squad containing 10 models may be split into two units, each containing 5 models.

    Done. You don’t “add” any units to your list to affect your going first and depending on the battle field situation you gain teh flexibility to deploy a single large unit or two smaller units when you put them on the table. It’s a minor ability but still gives you some interesting choices and a added flexibility. Bonus: It can also simply be fixed in a FAQ

    • Nyyppä

      Why would you do that? Sergeants are free now. As a CSM player there is literally no sane argument for bigger squads than 5. Min squads with heavy or special weapons and what ever for champions is the way to go. The other option does not give me any benefit at all and the same goes for marines. Bigger squads only lead to morale problems and since you get all the toys with minimum manpower with no extra cost….why would you ever do something other than that?

      • orionburn

        Larger squads matter for objective grabbing. Not disagreeing that it doesn’t make a ton of sense to use this rule very often. You could have one squad stationary to fire the heavy weapon with no penalty, but that isn’t worth the points cost of taking a 10 man squad.

        • Nyyppä

          Nope. 20 marines cost just as much in 4 5 man squads as they do in 2 10 and a 20 man squads. The smaller the unit the more utility you have. No point in taking large squads, non at all.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            Unless you’re forced to play attrition by a list with stronger shooting or more dangerous assault units (like Tau, Necrons, Eldar, Nids/Cult, Harlequins).

          • Nyyppä

            The 20 man blob dies a lot faster than 4 5 man squads.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            Kinda hard to waste shots on a blob of infantry, yes?

          • Nyyppä

            On top of that the blob suffers from morale problems unlike the 5 man squad.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            Only if they lose models.

          • Nyyppä

            That’s pretty likely since big units make juicy targets. Easy to kill and so on.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            Removing 6 models from a unit a turn is easy; removing 6 models a turn that actually matter to the battle from a unit, not so much, especially with how wound allocation works now.

          • Nyyppä

            All you got to do in most large unit cases is to kill half. The morale test will take care of the rest.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            For Marines, traitor or Loyalist, 6 is the threshold for guaranteed Morale casualties. If you remove at least 3 less than the highest Ld in the group, on average at least one additional model is going to run.

          • Nyyppä

            Yes, and that is easy to do. That is very unlikely occurence with msu. Msu is therefore always better than big squads.

      • Agent of Change

        to quote you: “Marines get their rules for free.” So functionally the rule should be something that might at some point do something but otherwise not be worth all that much in most situations. I think it hits that bar.

        Also not everybody plays to to min-max lists, you could simply call this an ability that only ever has play in a more narrative setting.

        • Nyyppä

          Oh, I would not say that being practically immune to morale, getting 2+ shots for free and such are something that “might at some point do something”.

          You don’t have to play min max. Regular devastator squad pumps out heavy weapon shootings out of which 2 hit on 2+.

      • Sure

        Good luck surviving a ‘nid or ork horde. They nasty.

        • Nyyppä

          CSM squad with missile launcher is 90p. You can stack on those. Rapiers with heavy bolters are almost free and bring 36 shots per slot.

          It can be done.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            And so many of your bigger models have multi-shot pistol weapons or can otherwise shoot while in close combat with guns that can actually hurt.

          • Nyyppä

            Bigger models?

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            Dreadclaws, Kharybdis Pods, Brass Scorpions, 2 of your Arch Daemons (Mamon and Aetos’Rao’Kheres), and just about every other Lord of War choice you have, save the 2 big planes, can shoot out of combat.

          • Nyyppä

            They cost too much. Kharybdis is ok but the rest can’t be justified.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            Most of those models are Lord of War choices, so unless you want to run 3 of them and nothing else, the cost is hardly an issue, especially when compared to FW Imperial Superheavies, which are hampered by having a Baneblade/Knight/Guilliman tax.

          • Nyyppä

            Tax or not, the charybdis is the only justifiable one there.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            because?

          • Nyyppä

            Because the others codt way too much points for what they do.

          • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

            How is half again as many points for extra shooting, extra passengers, and extra Strength wounds and attacks more points efficient?

          • Nyyppä

            Because it’s at least double everything that matters but wounds with only 50% cost increase and it’s less units than 2 dreadclaws.

        • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

          My Bug-eating Achilles named Bob says, “Hi.” As do my flaming, hungry Predators.

  • Nyyppä

    Marines get their rules for free. Look at CSM. Essentially the same unit as tacticals. No added benefit if you do not count the highly situational extra attack on 6+ against imperials. Same cost. Tacticals get combat squads and atsknf. No, it’s not factored in to their cost.

    • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

      True, but the presence/absence of ATSKNF is less of a game-breaker compared to previous editions, considering the death of Sweeping Advance, Ld-focused special attacks that Astartes are plot-armoured against, and Fear in general.

      • Nyyppä

        True, now it makes almost no difference at all since min squads don’t care about morale either way.

    • AircoolUK

      The cost of a unit takes into account the rest of the faction to which it belongs, as well as how it compares to other units in the game.

      Marines do not ‘get their rules for free’.

      • Nyyppä

        Ok, so, tell me what makes CSM so awesome that marines need those rules to be roughly as good.

  • NNextremNN

    Wow you made me read the whole article just to tell me you have no clue for what it can be used? How about you add a TLDR to your articles?

  • JD Robertson

    It’s pretty clear that not all rules in the book are there for competitive play. Power levels and all that. This rule costs nothing and gives some flexibility to narrative players who want to run fluffy full-strength marine squads.

  • Calgar

    I would say it gives you options to tweak your force to fit the mission. Need to control lotsof objectives, split your your squads. Playing the kill points mission, keep em together.

    Plus it lets you control who gets the first turn. I have actually played for turn 2 a few times. Since rhino is no longer auto first blood if you go second, there can be benefits in going second.

  • Chris Hilliard

    I guess you could split the squad in response to the terrain? Leave your heavy weapon in cover in the deployment zone while your other team move to the objective?

  • Keith Wilson

    combat squads give tactical flexibility with respect to multiple objectives

  • Brother Eldrian

    It’s quite easy. Your enemy brings a Knight with the gatling thingie. His 12 Shots will hit 5 of your men instead of 10. Of Course he may splitfire his other guns, but he can’t divide his Gatling Shots between Units.

    • Bootneck

      Not much of a benefit in that example as 12 shots is only just enough to kill a 5 man squad with typical rolls.

      8 hit, 5.33 wound, 3.56 die ish.

      Of course you potentially could kill them all or even a larger squad but we dont play 40k for what if rolls else we’d all be orks!

      • Brother Eldrian

        Statistics is good and well. Actual rolling differs a lot from the average roll though. I don’t know how often I rolled a yahtzee of 1s while defending. There are ridiculous amounts of dice on the table now that twinlinked is gone.
        On top of it you can hold 2 objectives instead of one. Half of your squad rides the razorback, while the others do the infantry thing. Combat squads are fine as always.

      • Sure

        Saves you from bothering with leadeship/morale tests.

  • Bootneck

    The only real benefit has already been mentioned with the potential deployment advantage.

    But I don’t think we will see much use for them other thank minimum troop/point choices in competition lists and even then there is likely to be better choices.

    Even more so with the Primaris marines, which will probably end up being auto takes.

  • Bigalmoney666

    If your playing with power levels, then a squad of 10 is cheaper than two squads of 5.
    I’m pretty sure this is mentioned below, but with I-go-you-go deployment, you can stall in deploying your heavy weapons?

  • pokemastercube .

    there are several weapons out there that get more hits or rolls on random number of hits against larger squads, so combat squads will limit that

  • rtheom

    Morale checks. I assume the rule treats them as separate squads, in which case they’d be taking their own morale checks. In a 10 man squad, you can lose more from combat and end up losing more from the roll as a result. It’s not a huge advantage, but it could be useful.

  • Koen Diepen Van
  • James Regan

    It has the potential to add more in tournament play- against a single oponent, there’s no point at all, as if you want 10 men squads you can have them and if you want multiple 5 man squads you can have them- but if, due to things like objectives, there are some time where you want 5 man squads and some when you want 10 (e.g. kill points or against an enemy that derives some benefit from killing an entire unit) in a tournament, you can’t change list, but you can blob up those combat squads into 1 big one. I mean, it’s probably not likely in the current meta, circumstances and general missions used etc, but the rule allows flexibility of being either MSU or 1 big squad on demand during a tournament setting where you can’t just change your list

  • MeAnd SomeRandoms

    What about charging and overwatch ?

    If one 5 man squad gets charged in the enemy phase 5 models can give overwatch and 5 models can fight in the melee phase. The other 5 man squad does nothing until it is your turn again. If a 10 man squad gets charged 10 models can give overwatch and all 10 can fight in the melee phase. That can make a difference in combat I would imagine ?

    • MeAnd SomeRandoms

      Also if you want to play with mobility. When your squads advance 2 squads can roll different advance rolls and one stays behind the other. If you have just one big squad they always advance the same distance. Just another difference it makes that comes to my mind.

  • Josh Felstead

    “Oh wait…we have to pick from the Space Marines list of special weapons. Right.”

    …Finding the dig at poor rules writing/TFGs very amusing.