40K Tactics: Space Marines – Vanguard Veterans
Hey guys, Learn2Eel here from Imperator Guides and today we’re going to be reviewing some of the most venerable and brutal warriors of a Chapter, the mighty Vanguard Veterans.
Only the bravest and valorous Space Marines can count themselves among the ranks of the Vanguard Veterans, for it is their swift strike into the heart of an enemy formation that can turn the tide of any battle – even at the cost of their lives. No matter how they might perish, these warriors will always acquit themselves with glory.
Overview – When one looks at Vanguard Veterans in their newest iteration, they will likely lament the changes to Heroic Intervention. After all, launching an assault from deep strike – or reserves at all – has become an increasingly rarer ability in 6th Edition with each new codex release, and it was admittedly what made Vanguard Veterans unique. Now, it allows them to launch simultaneous assaults without losing the bonus attack for charging, and the Veteran Sergeant also automatically passes Glorious Intervention tests for ‘saving’ other characters from challenges. While cool in theory, it doesn’t hold up as well under pressure. Launching multiple assaults against Tau, for example, while obviously ideal if you can actually get there, will often result in a good chunk of a squad getting obliterated by Supporting Fire. And typically, Tau offer the kind of units you would want to launch multi-charges against; of course, there are many situations against other forces where it would be useful, but it isn’t as great an ability as it could have been.
A Vanguard Veteran Sergeant, even despite access to some cool gear, is still just a Space Marine Sergeant; he isn’t going to do better than any of your HQ characters in combat. Still, it is nice to have, especially as Heroic Intervention in its old form was never going to stick around. Add in a handy points decrease and some boosted options – grav pistols are a great addition in pairs – and Vanguard Veterans are still a handy unit, if uninspiring. Compared to Assault Marines who fight for a possibly less contested Fast Attack slot – depending on whether you have Bikes as Troops – Vanguard Veterans pay quite a bit for an extra attack, point of Leadership across the squad, additional options and Heroic Intervention. I’m not sold on whether they are strictly speaking comparatively superior to Assault Marines, but that isn’t really what I am interested in.
The key here is that all the expensive weapon options and storm shield upgrades for Vanguard Veterans are still as pricy as ever, and still come on the same Veteran stat-line with 3+ armour. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but the reality is that equipping them as so immediately puts them into the points range of Terminators who sport a lot more survivability. What really seals the deal for me though is how amazing Honour Guard are now with their significant cost drop. This doesn’t mean Vanguard aren’t a good unit though, just that they aren’t really as ideal a front-line combat unit as their profile might suggest; they are ideal counter-assault units and intended to support your less combat-centric forces, such as Tactical Marines and Sternguard Veterans.
How to Equip Them – Unless you aren’t running a Chapter Master, I would almost always give Vanguard Veterans jump packs; the reason being that, as regular infantry, they are completely out-classed by Honour Guard as an assault unit. Giving them jump packs distinguishes them from both Honour Guard and Assault Terminators and thus allows them a more defined position in an army list. After this, I recommend making the most of being able to take ‘hidden’ special melee weapons in your squad; while giving the Sergeant a power weapon obviously works well for challenges and his Heroic Intervention special rule, not letting your power weapons get challenged out can be a big bonus. I would avoid giving each Vanguard Veteran a power weapon though, as by paying the same price as Captains and other HQs, they quickly become incredibly over-costed by not matching the durability or combat prowess of those models. The same is true of storm shields, even though they are handily discounted for Vanguard Veterans compared to characters. A unit of ten with power weapons, thunder hammers and power fists everywhere sure is fun, but from a competitive stand-point, it is a massive no-no as they simply eat up too many points, particularly if you want to give them any kind of boosted durability through storm shields.
Instead, trim the fat on Vanguard Veterans and compromise on their awesome kit; hand out a few power weapons and maybe one or two a power fist or thunder hammer, and give two or three – perhaps more or less depending on squad size – storm shields to soak up AP3 and AP2 wounds. Vanguard Veterans aren’t the best choice to begin with, and spending too many points on them is, quite simply, a trap. They remain power-armoured models with Toughness 4 and a single wound each, and giving them power weapons puts them very firmly in the price range of Terminators – to whom Vanguard Veterans are realistically inferior, and that is even accounting for Terminators being over-costed in the first place! The one upgrade that actually might worth taking on the entire unit is melta bombs; paying between 25 to 50 points to give each model a melta bomb can prove for a very nasty surprise against most monstrous creatures and any vehicle. As an aside, though I don’t recommend plasma pistols, grav pistols are quite valuable on Vanguard Veterans, if only for Concussive. Combine all those melta bombs with a concussed Wraithknight and you may actually find a suicide mission to be anything but.
Where to Put Them – Vanguard Veterans have a few deployment options available to them, but mostly you want them somewhere so that they can reach combat quickly, being an assault unit and all. As I noted earlier, I wouldn’t bother with Vanguard Veterans without jump packs in the first place as Honour Guard and Assault Terminators are far superior to them in that role, so I won’t cover them. With jump pack units, deploying can be a bit of a nuisance. Jumping from cover to cover is ideal, as well as starting 12″ on, but it isn’t always possible. When a game board has little terrain or a ‘death zone’ with no terrain in the middle of the board, you will have to weigh up the risks of deep striking versus being shot at while you advance. Vanguard Veterans are always a juicy target, as they are quite a nasty melee unit but one that is both expensive and, compared to the other two assault units mentioned previously, fragile per model. In that sense, you can’t really rely on target saturation to save them as they can and will be slaughtered by mass anti-infantry firepower.
Vanguard Veterans can’t bring combi-weapons, and as they lost the “assault from reserves” special rule they had, deep striking them isn’t always the obvious answer. All it takes is for a bit of scatter to land them out in the open, and a Riptide can just guzzle them up with Interceptor fire. However, moving up the board will see you subjected to those nasty weapons anyway, and more often! What works here is combining Vanguard Veterans with a character or Chapter Tactic that can provide them with Scout or Infiltrate. Shrike’s rules do seem to indicate he is supposed to confer Infiltrate, so that is a viable option – even if Shrike himself is over-costed. The Raven Guard Chapter Tactics won’t confer Scout to the Vanguard Veterans, and sadly, neither can Khan. This does limit their options a bit more than one would like, but with ingenuity and – hopefully – an acceptable amount of terrain, jumping from cover to cover and abusing line of sight should be enough to get Vanguard Veterans where they are needed.
Best Uses – I can see Vanguard Veterans fulfilling a niche of a strong and multi-purpose counter charge unit that, when equipped with melta bombs across the unit, can deal with any potential threat in an assault to your battle line. They should never move off by themselves despite their high mobility due to their inherent fragility per point; an elite melee unit with only power armour and a few costly 3+ invulnerable saves is not designed to be an anvil and should never be used as such. They aren’t the best character escort for this reason, though when moving up behind or near your transports and Bikes or other jump infantry units, they work very well to hold up potential melee threats.
Their lack of penalty for multiple charges can be very useful, but the fact that units that you generally would want to counter charge can put out so many shots – take Tau for example with Supporting Fire – it can quickly become a mistake and thus I would recommend against it unless you are sure of your chances. You can’t afford to be careless with them as they are very expensive, so make sure to abuse cover and line of sight as much as possible. Though the allure of power weapons is admittedly great, don’t spend too many points on them; a few should be enough, especially as they can’t be singled out in challenges. If you do field them as Raven Guard, I would recommend them as an escort for Shrike simply because Vanguard Veterans are your scariest jump unit by far.
Chapter Tactics – I feel that White Scars have the best Chapter Tactics for Vanguard Veterans; what is not to love with a big, expensive assault unit with mobility having Hit and Run? Raven Guard obviously gives out a big boost through re-rolling charge distances and potential Infiltration with Shrike, while the Ultramarines doctrine provides a one-use version of the pseudo-Fleet ability. The rest are mostly situational, though Crusader can be useful to make the most of their threat range.
I extend my gratitude to everyone who has supported my Tactica’ series since the beginning of 6th Edition and now to the birth of a new era for Warhammer 40000. What have your experiences been thus far with Vanguard Veterans, and how do you feel they compare to other dedicated assault units in the codex? Cheers for any and all feedback, and have a lovely day!