Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Evolution of a Space Marine Army

My vanilla marine army has changed significantly since I re-entered 40k at the end of 4th Edition. I had been out of 40k for about 5 years; 5 years spent mostly playing Warmachine. Warmachine was getting crushed under its own rules bloat, and Privateer Press seemed too focused on other endeavors to fix the problems. I started longing for the old familiarities of my first war-game. The first 5th edition rumors were flying around, and I liked what I was hearing. I still had my old Eldar army, but didn’t feel like playing it. The new codex rendered most of what I owned uncompetitive, and I didn’t want to build a 4e Eldar army to have to rebuild it a few months later for 5e. Generally though, marine armies handle edition changes fairly intact. As long as I didn’t build an army around the units and abilities that the rumors said where getting nerfed, I figured I could build a basic marine army and be fine.

So, I started collecting Marines. I focused on a core of Tactical Marines, specifically 6 man Las-Plas. I also had this notion that Apocalypse was cool, and was collecting towards a full battle company. 4x Missile Devastator squads were also a common factor in my lists. My typical 4e list:

Captain w/PF, Iron Halo Storm bolter
Venerable Dread w/Las Cannon, Heavy Flamer
4x 6 Man Las-Plas Squad
10 Man Assault Squad
10 Man Devastator Squad w/4x Missile

Total battle-force garbage. I was playing in an environment with other new players, so my games went fairly well despite my poor list building skills.
5th Edition came out and the first thing that occurred to me was I needed more melta and vehicles. The Venerable dreadnaught became two MM dreads, and I started running MM/HF speeders. About this time I found out about G2D4 and started playing there. I got better competition and more games than at the Danger Room in Anderson. 5th edition was still new and even the G2D4 players were figuring out what worked and didn’t work in the new edition. I think I was a little ahead of the curve based on running significantly more melta weapons than other players.

The new marine dex came out soon after. I didn’t really know what to do with it at first. I had banked on Honor Guard being the new hotness and had converted a full squad of them up. Unfortunately they turned out to be a big expensive boondoggle. The core of my army shifted to 3 ten man tactical squads with Lascannons and melta guns. My HQ tended to be a Master with twin LC’s. I Experimented with drop pods briefly and was unimpressed. I still didn’t have an impressive win factor. I tied for most of my games. I started reading Stelek’s dakka posts and blog at this point, and as a result rushed to convert some Sterngaurd with combi-meltas. G2D4 regulars where still light on good 5e armor killing weapons, so I started running 2 or 3 raider lists. At first they were just filled with Tac Squads camping out, and later to deliver Assault Terminators. It was a brick army and I got quickly frustrated with my raiders getting popped by single lascannon shots on the first turn. This gave rise to the light mech marine build that has been the core of my lists up to the present day. Its first incarnation was for a G2D4 tournament:

5x Sterngaurd W/5 combi-meltas, Razorback
2x Full Tac Squads W/Melta, Multi-Melta, Rhino
Full Scout Sqaud W/Cammo-cloaks, sniper rifles
2x MM/HF Speeders
2x MM Attack Bikes
2x Whirlwinds

Sicarius was overpriced, but his abilities helped at least once in every game. I finished with middle of the pack tournament results. By the next tournament Sicarius had been replaced by a Fusion Beamer Master of the Forge, the attack bikes where gone, and I added 2 MM dreadnaughts. Sill finished with middle of the pack results. I really like playing the army, even though I couldn’t hit with a melta to save my life, and kill points was almost an auto loose. My army usually had 12 or 13 kill points. Tell me how losing a game where I killed 75% of my opponents army to only loosing 50% my own is fair? Eventually the MoF was swapped out for a Librarian and the scouts where dropped for a third dread and another speeder. G2D4 regulars had started meching up, so the Whirlwinds were swapped out for AC/HB Predators.

Now the list that will live in infamy:

3x AC/AC Dreadnaughts
2x Full Tac Squads W/Flamer, Multi-Melta, Combi-Melta, Rhino
Full Tac Sqad W/Melta, Lascannon, Combi-Melta, Razorback
3x MM/HF Speeders
2x AC/HB Predators

I took this list to a tournament at the Greenwood Game Preserve. I finished last. I had bad luck with my meltas, and every scenario was primarily or secondarily determined by Kill Points. As an added bonus, my three dreadnaughts got my comp scores tanked. I did not have fun, and worked on my Eldar exclusively for a few months after that. I didn’t even want to look at my Marines. I dragged them out for one G2D4 tournament during that time. I did average. I lost my first game in that tournament against the eventual winner. It was Kill Points and another instance of killing as much or more of my opponents army, but not hitting the right KP spread.

Now there’s another G2D4 tournament on May 1st. It’s a 1750 point tournament, so I had to rethink my list a little. I decided on using Shrike with 5 Assault Terminators . This required me to drop one of my Dreadnaughts. I also added a shooty command squad to ride in my razor back. I tried the army out and had mixed results. I decided that I really need some longer ranged anti-tank, so I went back to the drawing board and this is what I came up with:

Command squad w/ 2 melta guns, 2 power weapons, Las-Plas Razorback
5 TH/SS Terminators
2x AC/AC Dreadnaughts
2x Full Tac Squads W/Flamer, Lascannon, Combi-Melta, Rhino
5 Man Tack Squad W/Combi-Melta, Las-Plas Razorback
2x MM/HF Speeders
AC/HB Predator

The free multi meltas in my tac squads where not doing anything for me. You can’t move the rhinos and shoot them, and you don’t want the things that they need to kill to get anywhere near 12 inches of your tac squad. I could have gone with missiles, but they are only ever going to glance armor 14. That brought me back to the trusty old lascannon. I don’t have to rely on my speeders to hunt the big armor now; I can use the two razorbacks and the Rhino lascannon bunkers to threaten land raiders and lemun russ tanks earlier and with better volume of fire. Shrike and the Terminators are there to draw fire from my weaker small units. The Command squad is meant as a countercharge unit. While not very good against dedicated CC units, they can help turn back anything else that gets too close to the core of my army.

Overall this list keeps the good close range anti-tank and long range light armor busting of my old list and adds some long range anti tank and close combat problem solvers. I think it solves some of the problems my lists have had, and I have high hopes for it. Still has 15 KP though.


  1. To be fair, I think Marines are probably the worst book in 5th to actually try and build a good all-comers list with. Orks, IG, and Nids just have so much flexibility in comparison.

    It also doesn't help that the first lesson anyone learns is how to beat Marines. Honestly, if it wasn't for the tactical options opened up by all the special characters (which the comp bunnies hate), the book would be pretty hopeless.

  2. Vanilla Marines are pretty good at everything, not superb at anything. It can make them a challenging army to start.

    given that, Space Wolves and Blood Angels have more specialization, and less generalization than vanilla, and I think might be easier because their strengths point you to particular tactics.

    I would have some trouble playing Marines, but BA's would fit my current style. I'd miss my inducted guard though.