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40K: What Makes Assault Units Work?

5 Minute Read
Mar 15

Assault Units in 8th are in a strange spot – some work and some just don’t. So what are the signs of a good Assault Unit? Let’s chat.

The Assault Phase in Warhammer 40,000 8th edition can really swing the tide – if your Assault Units are used correctly. There are a handful of units that perform really well in assault and a a great many more that just don’t. Today, let’s talk about some of the identifiers and subsets of Assault Units and what makes the good ones good and the bad ones bad.

Defining The ‘Good’ and The ‘Bad’

First off, let’s chat about a few units that most folks will agree are pretty good assault units. Genestealers, Ork Boyz, and Khorne Berzekers are all considered pretty good options if you want to assault. What else is great about these units is that they can end up in the troop slot depending on your army, too. If we wanted to look at other units outside of the Troops slot, we also have Blood Angel Smash Captains, Daemon Princes, and even Lords of War like Mortarion.

There are lots of other units that folks would consider good in Assault, but lets focus on these units because, overall, they fit in different archetypes. Genestealers, Ork Boyz, and Berzerkers can all get a bucket of dice when they attack. Smash Captains and basically guided missiles. daemon Princes are better all-arounder-types. And Mortarion is a great switch-hitter thanks to his dual profile attack options.

So what about some units that are just bad? And let’s get specific – I’m talking about units that were designed to fight in the assault phase but just don’t cut the mustard. Assault Marines come to mind first off. Reivers are a close second. And what about Assault Terminators? Juggernaughts of Khorne? And probably another two-dozen units that I’m not even going to bother to list because you know what I’m talking about already. Why are these units considered bad?

We use to be awesome. What the heck happened?

Close-Combat Ain’t What It Used To Be

When we’re looking at units folks consider to be good, they generally fall into one of those categories above: Lots of Attacks, Missile Inits, All-arounder, or Versatile. But that’s not the only thing these units have going for them, they also have other efficiencies they can lean into. The Ork Boyz, for example, are cheap and there are a LOT of them. The Genestealers are stupid-fast and can charge after advancing. Khorne Berzekers can ride in transports that can help them GET to the fight, then they can double attack that turn.

Smash Captains dish out an obscene amount of damage-per-hit. They are Missiles designed to take out the big scary unit your enemy has (like a Knight). They typically either eliminate their target and die next round to shooting, or are smashed first. Daemon Princes are solid in Close Combat but also can tap into Psychic Powers for added benefit to your army. And units like Mortarion do things like Daemon Princes but also command a lot of attention on the tabletop, freeing up your army to do other things.


Even still, with all the benefits these units have they can’t do it alone. Ork Boyz still need more Orks to back them up. Genestealers need other units to tie-up enemies or at least soak fire. Berzerkers benefit greatly from a transport. But those are all things you can bolt-on to your army and still get use out of. For the units that are bad? That’s where things get awkward.

Assault Terminators seem like a great unit at first. Then you play a game or two with them and realize they have some serious short comings. They are too slow, and don’t have enough attacks to clear out a tarpit. They can deepstrike in, but if they fail that charge (and they don’t have great odds anyhow) they are sitting ducks. Assault Marines haven’t been able to punch their way out of a wet paper bag in how many editions now? And Khorne Juggies seem good – but they have to walk across the tabletop and they WILL draw all the fire and die.

Juggernaughts – much better in AoS!


At the end of the day, the bad units are bad because they don’t fulfill their combat role. They rarely make their points investment back and when you factor in all the other points/CPs you have to spend to make them effective, they definately don’t have a very good return on investment. That’s really what it comes down to. The good units on the other hand have ways to earn their points back.

Smash Captains acting as Anti-Knight Cruise Missiles is absolutely worth the suicide run. Sling-shotting Genestealers deep into the heart of the enemy line and letting them tear units up 100% worth the investment. Big Mobs of Orks running at you? Sure, you’ll kill some of them – but there are a handful more coming to punch you in the face! These units can do the following:

  • Get To Combat
  • Kill Stuff
  • Make A Return On Investment

The Bad units typically fail at one or more of those areas. Assault Marines can get there – but they can’t really kill stuff. Assault Terminators can totally kill stuff – but have trouble getting there and even if they DO they can’t always make their points back. You can go down the line, unit by unit, for the ones folks consider “Bad” and point to one of these three issues.

What about Harlequins? You tell me…


But I USE That Unit And It Works For ME!

Hey if it works for you, great – do your thing. However, I’m talking about the overall meta of the game and what the data shows us on the tournament scene. It’s VERY clear that 8th edition is a shooting-heavy game right now. Assault has fallen out of fashion in favor of more dakka. And that means Assault Units have to really be worth it to even show up on the competative scene. If you can take your lists that runs Reivers, Assault Marines and Close-Combat Terminators and win at a major event, well that’s quite the feat. And if that’s true then we’d love to showcase your list on our Weekly BCP Top List feature.

What Makes An Assault Unit Work For You?

I want to kick this one back to you, dear reader. What do you look for in an Assault Unit? What do you consider good and why? Do you have more categories you consider? How many CPs or Points do you invest in an Assault Unit to make them viable? Drop us a line in the comments – we want to hear about it!


It wasn’t that long ago when assault reigned supreme. Things are MUCH different now…


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