Mathammer: Tactical Squads Suck, Part Deux

Good day, fellow wolves in sheep’s clothing! Today I’m going to address a few of the points that were brought up by commentators on my piece about the suckitude of Tactical Squads. I don’t address every single thing that was discussed up but I tried to cover what I felt needed more indepth analysis. I may revisit this topic again sometime in the future, though. Without further adieus:

Buff Auras

Many peeps have brought up the fact that Marines have awesome buff auras available to them and that leaving them out of the equation in my article was distorting reality. Normally that would be a valid point, but it leaves out the fact that I did not take into account any sort of buff for the Guardsmen (such as FRFSF, Yarrick’s aura, Cadian doctrine, etc) either. In any case, I went back and did the math, and I have some bad news for you if you thought Captains/Lieutenants were going to save the day…

  • At 24 inches, a Tactical Marine supported by a Captain upgraded to a Chapter Master as well as a Lieutenant will cause 0.0354 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.0132 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0088 WPP to a Predator.
  • At the same range and without any support, the Guardsmen will do 0.0416 WPP to a fellow Guardsman, 0.0138 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0069 WPP to a Predator.

So the Guardsman STILL performs over 17% better against GEQ and 4% against MEQ even with the deck stacked against it. The Tactical Marine does perform considerably better against the Pred (27+%), but that is hardly much comfort given how bad it is in absolute terms at killing tanks. Let’s also not forget the fact that I did not account for the cost of the Captain and Lieutenant in any manner in my calculations.

So… that’s not great, but just for giggles, let’s see how Lord Guilliman affects the equation:

  • At 24 inches, a Tactical Marine supported by the freaking Lord Commander of the Imperium does 0.0405 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.0170 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0126 WPP to a Predator.
  • At the same range, and without even the loving care and support of his elderly, osteoporosis-afflicted mother, the Guardsman does 0.0416 WPP to another Guardsman, 0.0138 WPP to the Chaos Marine and 0.0069 WPP to the Predator.

So the “good news” (which is very relative a term, here) is that the Tactical Marine does a healthy 23+% more WPP to the Chaos Marine than the Guardsman does, and a whopping 82+% more WPP to the Pred. The bad news is that even with a “free” Guilliman, the Guardsman STILL does 2+% more WPP to another Guardsman than the Tactical Marine does.

Let me restate that so it sinks in: EVEN WITH SUPPORT FROM A 385 PTS MODEL, THE TACTICAL MARINE IS STILL WORSE AT KILLING GEQ THAN THE GUARDSMAN IS.

Guardsmen Are Too Cheap

Another common refrain is that perhaps it’s not that Tacticals are too expensive so much as the fact that Guardsmen are too cheap; after all, it doesn’t make sense that a Conscript is the same price as a Guardsman while being objectively worse in all respects aside from the fact that he can come in squads of up to 30 (which does have downsides as well as upsides). A lot of posters have floated 5 pts a pop as a more appropriate cost for a Guardsman.

Well, let’s roll with that, shall we?

  • A Tactical Marine will suffer 0.72 WPP from a BS 4+ Lasgun, 1.44 WPP from a BS 3+ Boltgun and 4.81 WPP from a BS 3+ Plasmagun (not overcharged).
  • A 5-pts Guardsman will suffer 0.83 WPP from the Lasgun, 1.48 WPP from the Boltgun and 2.77 WPP from the Plasmagun.

So the Tactical Marine is still massively (73+%) more vulnerable to the Plasmagun, point for point, but at least is now roughly equivalent against Boltguns and is even a fair bit better against Lasguns. Therefore, bumping the Guardsman to 5 pts still leaves us with some disparity in terms of survivability, but at least it would be a step in the right direction.

That said, survivability is only half the equation:

  • At 24 inches, the Tactical does 0.022 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.008 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.0056 WPP to a Predator.
  • At the same range, the 5 pts Guardsman does 0.033 WPP to the Guardsman, 0.011 WPP to the Chaos Marine and 0.0055 WPP to the Predator.

So for those at home without a calculator handy, that’s a marginally better performance (less than 3%) against the Predator for the Tac Marine but a much more significant residual advantage against MEQ (30%) and GEQ (46+%) for the Guardsman.

All in all, the performance of the 5 pts Guardsman is a lot closer to the Tactical’s (point for point) but there is still a pretty significant gap, overall.

What About Intercessors?

I have to admit, I REALLY hate the Primaris Marines from a fluff standpoint. I also hate their unit design which runs contrary to how 40k (vice 30k) Marines have always been portrayed: jack of all trades, masters of none. Plus, Gravis armour looks goofy AF. I mean, look at how dumb Aggressors are, what with the super awkward placement of their guns on their power fists.  And the less said about the Inceptors, the better…

So I was initially kinda glad that they mostly sucked balls on the tabletop. I had run the math on the Intercessors when they first came out and they were just flat out worse than Tacticals in every aspect except survivability to small arms. I didn’t think much of the 2-pts price cut they got in Chapter Approved because I didn’t think that would be enough to make a difference.

Turns out, it makes more a difference than I initially thought. Unfortunately, the end result is pretty much a sidegrade rather than a straight-up improvement:

  • The Intercessor will cause 0.020 WPP to a Guardsman, 0.009 WPP to a Chaos Marine and 0.006 WPP to a Predator.
  • The Intercessor will suffer 0.5 WPP from a BS 4+ Lasgun, 1 WPP from a BS 3+ Boltgun and 3.33 from a BS 3+ Plasmagun (not overcharged).

Compared to the Guardsman, the Intercessor does better than the Tactical did against the Chaos Marine and the Predator, but worse against the Guardsman (which is probably more important at the moment for your overall chances at victory). That said, the Intercessor still does worse overall than the Guardsman on all counts: 11+% worse against the Pred, 33% worse against the Chaos Marine and 50+% against the Guardsman.

On the flipside, the Intercessor actually does SOME things better than both the Tacticals and the Guardsmen. Compared to the Guardsman, the Intercessor will take 25% less casualties per point against BS 4+ Lasguns and 15% less against BS 3+ Boltguns but 50% more against the non-overcharged BS 3+ Plasmagun (which is still better than what can be said for the Tactical) but here’s the kicker: if someone is going to shoot at your Intercessor with a Plasmagun, fair chance he’ll overcharge it and cause 8.33 WPP, which is 3.75 times more the Guardsman (and also worse than what is true for the Tactical)!

So yeah, sidegrade. Bit better than Tacticals against MEQ and tanks, bit worse against GEQ, more survivable against small arms but a lot more vulnerable to 2D and up weapons. And I’d say still considerably below Guardsman performance, overall.


That’s it for now. As I mentioned in the intro, I may do yet another article on the subject in the future, but I’ve spoken my piece for the time being. Ciao!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Prometheus
Guest

You still should figure for morale.

Craig
Guest
I think the whole WPP outcome you present us does not yield any usefulness. According to your WPP scenario, Grots are the most WPP when wounding MEQ and the Predator as they've got the same chance of hitting/wounding/armour as Guardsmen but are more cost effecient. They can even be fielded in huge blobs and are kind of imune to moral due to the squighound eating d3. The whole morale phase seems to be neglected and should be taken into account, because in 8th edition you lose models when you fail instead of falling back. E.g. a MEQ unit causes 8… Read more »
Robert Butcher
Guest

I totally agree with you

and a dead guardsman wouldn't be firing back

No One
Guest
"I think the whole WPP outcome you present us does not yield any usefulness. According to your WPP scenario, Grots are the most WPP when wounding MEQ and the Predator as they've got the same chance of hitting/wounding/armour as Guardsmen but are more cost effecient." …Except grots are 12" pistol 1 vs 24" rapid fire, and drop to BS4+ once they lose less than half the squad. So less output (as well as less range as an intangible). They're also T2 6+ vs T3 5+, both of which make a large difference. For 1 pt less. They don't win on… Read more »
Dude163
Guest

So would a sister of battle compete with guardsmen ? 9 pts for a 3+ and bs 3 ?

Nomis
Guest

Bring in Eldar Guardians 5+ save and 3+ BS, 12" range and substancially higher cost or Dire avengers and see disparity in WPP's compared to guard and cultists.

Stefan
Guest
That is a very interesting article, thank you! For me the Intercessors seem to be slightly more what you want from Marines, but I see that they are still not performing amazing. However, I find it fair that they suffer much more from plasma, since it is meant to be against MEQs. I would like to point out one thing in addition: In my opinion both Warhammer Fantasy and 40k were always giving massive advantages for units with high durability and high damage output at the same time. And this was almost independent of points cost. This means that 10… Read more »
Robert Butcher
Guest

WPP is a pointless unit of comparision

Andy
Guest
I would disagree with this, whilst WPP cannot be the only measure by which a comparison is made it is fact an excellent starting point which is easily understood by the layman as to why it measures up. Certainly the only real method of comparison is playing the game, but remember Desc has just come back from a tournament where his Tactical Marines massively under performed in his estimation and is trying to work out why. The use of WPP as a measure of comparison that is simple to understand metric that does show the space marines have anaemic damage… Read more »
No One
Guest

"Conversely it shouldn't be taken as an absolute measure of a unit, where range i feel becomes the defining thing, if range is low a unit better have good movement options and survivability to make up for it."
And when the units you're comparing have the same movement and (at least with stock weapons) range? That's when mathammer becomes very useful indeed.

_Garnet_
Guest
"I also hate their unit design which runs contrary to how 40k (vice 30k) Marines have always been portrayed: jack of all trades, masters of none." Erm, Assault and Devastator Marines don't really fit that rubric. Assault Terminators definitely don't. They have one trade, and they better be a master at it! Also, given how IG perform against Intercessors as well it's starting to look less like Tacticals being that bad under your system but more that IG are too efficient. They're better than Marines; what other basic troop units are they better than? Are there any that your system… Read more »
Kadeton
Admin
Yeah, I'll join the "not fond of WPP" crowd. It's a measurement entirely devoid of context. The main thing it doesn't take into account is the combination of survivability and damage output. The longer a model survives, the more damage it will put out in a game. A unit of Guard is certainly cheap damage, and you won't have lost many points' worth if they die… but if they're dead, they definitely won't be contributing any further. Basically, what WPP obfuscates is that the 1.44/1.48 WPP versus bolters, for example, means the Marines will only suffer about 1/3 the casualties… Read more »
No One
Guest
"The numbers can only tell you what that metric has been designed to tell you. But if you put equal points of Guard and Marines up against each other, I'd suggest the average outcome will not go the way you'd expect based solely on WPP. " Nope, agrees completely. What a surprise (not) that the mathammer agrees with the mathammer…When unit A beats unit B in both damage _and_ survivability, I'm not sure why you think it'd win when you combine the 2 metrics… Marines lose hard: Even with marines going first optimally (i.e. starting in rapid, marines get first… Read more »
Kadeton
Admin
Now that's a much more interesting discussion. Do you mind outlining your method? For instance, are you accounting for overkill on 5-man units of Marines, and are the Marines selecting targets to maximise Morale casualties? If you're in double-tap range then the Marines are going to be trying to get into melee, is that included? There are a lot of complex factors that determine a unit's effectiveness beyond what you can tell from simplistic stats, is all I'm really saying. Those are the "intangibles" that keep getting mentioned in this discussion… but despite being statistically difficult to measure, they do… Read more »
No One
Guest
"Do you mind outlining your method?" Just a simple Excel spreadsheet: how many are you expected to kill, take that from the total left. It's an abstraction, but it should be pretty valid. "are you accounting for overkill on 5-man units of Marines" No, but considering only 6 die on average at the optimum level, it's probably hard to do: certainly harder for the guardsmen to overkill than the marines, especially if you're trying to go for morale kills (i.e. guardsmen can split fire pretty happily between marine squads: if marines want to cause high morale casualties, they've got to… Read more »
Kadeton
Admin
No, but considering only 6 die on average at the optimum level, it's probably hard to do I think one of the things this suggests is that both these units are actually pretty terrible at killing anything. If 300 points of Guard can only kill 6 Marines a turn, that feels a lot to me like "What's the fucking point?" 😛 As a related: one big factor here is range. They're, of course, going to be in range. But all in rapid is a lot harder: all in rapid of the _same target_ (which is really what you need for… Read more »
No One
Guest

Good points.

Completely unrelated, how do you do the indented quotes?

Kadeton
Admin

There are certain html tags you can use in comments – to quote, use the blockquote tag. < blockquote > Good points. < /blockquote > becomes:

Good points.

Edit: but I haven't figured out how to get angle brackets to display nicely, since it tries to 'help'… just remove the spaces in the tags 😛

No One
Guest

Edit: but I haven't figured out how to get angle brackets to display nicely, since it tries to 'help'… just remove the spaces in the tags 😛

Tah. (Angled brackets instead of square brackets is going to mess with me so much).

Desc440
Guest

"means the Marines will only suffer about 1/3 the casualties that Guard do from the same quantity of bolter fire."

…right but then there are more than 3 Guardsmen for every Marine, so…

Kadeton
Admin
The relative numbers don't matter, because that's the (only) thing that WPP is taking into account. What it's not accounting for is the fact that you're not paying the model's points every time they shoot, you're paying the points once for their entire lifespan. If a Marine lives three times as long as a Guard on average (against incoming bolter fire, for example), then over the course of their lifespan they will get to shoot three times while the Guard only shoots once. You can say "Yeah but there are three times as many Guards"… sure, but three times as… Read more »
MidnightSun
Guest
This is a really good point – I can't really do much with the numbers, and it's all a bit stream of consciousness, but I'm sure someone can draw conclusions from them being posted. To kill a Guardsman, you need to do 1 wound. To get 1 wound through a 5+ armour save, you need 1.5 wounds. To get 1.5 wounds on T3 with a Bolter, you need 2.25 hits. To get 2.25 hits, you need almost exactly 3 shots. As such, a Tactical Marine will kill a Guardsman every 3 turns he shoots at 24" away, and would take… Read more »
MidnightSun
Guest

There's a factor in there for the chances that 1 Guardsman can kill a Tactical Marine with one shot on the first turn, but a Tactical Marine can't possibly achieve the reverse, but I don't think anyone needs to be told that sometimes the dice fuck you up!

Prometheus
Guest

I don't agree that WPP is "pointless", exactly, but it's certainly not as useful as Desc is making it out to be.

To use GK, Strikes I'm sure are waaaaay higher in WPP than paladins. Thing is, they die, though, usually not long after deepstriking. If you could take paladins as troops I think you'd see nothing but.

MidnightSun
Guest
And certainly not long after Deep Striking if the Space Marine player uses an Auspex Scan, which almost doubles the Tactical Squad's output over the course of a game turn as they fire in their opponent's movement and their own shooting phases. But then Tacticals plummet in performance against Chaos Space Marines because Guardsmen with Vengeance for Cadia go through the roof. But then Marines go back up to good again shooting at Terminators, because they get more Grav hits than Guardsmen get Plasma hits for the equivalent wounds. Tacticals don't do much damage in their shooting phase, but they… Read more »
David
Guest

If you forced tac squads to be 10 man I think 9 pts would be about righto

The one way I have found to make tacs work is to run salamanders and spam them with Dev squads with each bring one Las cannon only

MidnightSun
Guest

God no; it's hard enough to deal with 180 Boyz, a 2000pt game fighting against 150 Tacticals with some support sounds nightmarish.

Andy
Guest
Hey Desc, i have a friend who wanted some help with his Ultramarines army (i'm sure you are aware of my utter disdain for pure codex armies) so i put my thinking cap on and came up with a possible solution for him. RG + Tiggy + 6 man aggressor squad. I know right original, but its better than it looks! The aggressors are -1 to hit permanently cos of Tiggy and they are blistering fast so make a perfect screen for RG as he moves into centre. Futhermore RG counters their two weaknesses, they can't hit in melee, and… Read more »
casperionx
Guest

you can tell any story you want depending on how you play the numbers. Statistics in that regard is one big lie. It lets you tell the story you want to portray. Taking into account things like morale unit size ballistic skill and armour save among other things you will never get the whole story. So yes this article doesn’t really tell the whole story

Nukacola
Guest

So… use scouts instead?

Kadeton
Admin

Hmm, I think there's some kind of internal disagreement going on between IntenseDebate and WordPress' comment systems. Internally there's only one of each of these comments, but two get displayed on the page (one in the appropriate place, one at the bottom in a new thread). I'll see if I can sort it out.

I apologise in advance if I delete any comments by accident!

Stefan
Guest

Is there any obvious solution to the problem of Tacticals being bad?
I would not make them much cheaper, because this would undermine their Elite nature. Does it help to give them AP -1 and 2A each? I don't think it will be sufficient. However, if you put their cost to something like 10 points, what would Sister squads cost?

Scuzgob
Guest

so whats the solution without "fixing" tactical squads? piles of Scouts? or just ignoring troops and going for vanguard/spearhead detachments?

Andy
Guest
Focus on the tools you have that are good, aggressors are just massively upgraded tacticals. 5 times the firepower (10 times when standing still), twice the wounds, higher toughness and free power fists. This at less than three times the price. Just grab a ton of them, a couple of squads of scouts to screen then see how many plasma mounted on tanks your opponent can field, cos if your army is 40 aggressors, there's seriously limited options to deal with it, and any infantry your enemy has are completely pointless. I am quietly confident aggressors will go back up… Read more »
Stefan
Guest

1.) 40 Aggressors cost 530 euro. (whatever dollars or pound…)
2.) They have to go quite close to be effective. Probably you can do this walking up the field with the free advancing and shooting without penalty, but some of them will die without any retaliation. I assume that Ravenguard would be massive with a lot of aggressors though.

Andy
Guest
Yeah they are expensive, and they will die, but points wise they are amazing. I think like most stuff, as soon as you find something good, spam it enough that it overloads a certain type of firepower, in this case the weakness is to Grav and Plasma, but you can price most of this out the game, so as long as you are still getting decent effect for your unit (hard not to when its worst stat is being as good in melee as a terminator) then i think just keep spamming. If you go ultras with RG flyers aren't… Read more »
Draaen
Guest

One thing I think is often overlooked is how much easier it is to get small squads fully into cover. My 5 man intercessors or fire warriors sitting in cover with 15" rapid fire range can influence the game and are relative to their point costs difficult to remove. Blobs of guardsmen have a harder time fitting into terrain and taking advantage of LOS blocking terrain.

Kadeton
Admin

Also how cover actually affects those models! Going from a 3+ save to a 2+ is significantly better than going from a 5+ to a 4+, in terms of the resilience boost. It's a weird quirk of 8th that Marines in power armour are more strongly encouraged to cower in cover than flak-armoured Guardsmen.

AngryPanda
Guest

This may be a bit naive. But apart from a very short flare-up due to battle company formations Tactical Squads have always been shit. What made anyone think it would be different this time?

Wenrun
Guest
In previous editions, my usual SM force (Iron Hands) included 3 10-man tac squads. 2 in rhinos and 1 hoofing it. I used them for short-range firefight infantry clearing and objective grabbing. They were never stellar, but they did their job and usually required a bit of effort from my opponent to remove. This edition, the rhino's are way more expensive (although overall more resilient), but it feels that anything with an AP value kills Tac marines very quickly. Their armor doesn't protect as well with all the modifiers. Throw in re-rolls and the humble tac squad disappears quickly. Sadly,… Read more »
Kadeton
Admin
The fundamental decision that I'm never sure why they took (though I assume it's mainly about sprue design) is giving Marines fixed and restricted equipment. It's pretty well established in the fluff that every Marine has a huge personal arsenal of weapons to choose from, and can outfit themselves more or less for any battlefield role. In which case, it makes no sense for most of them to just bring a bolter, unless bolters are actually the most appropriate weapon for their assignment. If there was just one "Space Marine Tactical Squad" choice, and you could give any model in… Read more »
Jason
Guest

Thanks. I intuited that Tactical squads are basically crap a long time ago, which is why I only field detachments that allow me to avoid them altogether, but it’s nice to have my prejudices confirmed.

Because points have kept going down since third edition basic infantry lacks granularity in points cost.

The only Primaris worth taking are Hellblasters.

The only Tactical equivalent worth taking are Sternguard.

Instead of bikers take bike Command Squads. More special weapons, and a free chainsword can be added for greater melee ability.

Assault squads can’t. Take Vanguard instead.

Jason
Guest

At least using the Spearhead detachment I can take Hellblasters instead of Intercessors. Army full of plasma guns? Me likey.

highwind
Guest
"EVEN WITH SUPPORT FROM A 385 PTS MODEL, THE TACTICAL MARINE IS STILL WORSE AT KILLING GEQ THAN THE GUARDSMAN IS." Uhm, no, he isnt worse… he is better, much better infact – he just isnt POINT EFFICENT in doing so! This might sound like a mood point but it really isnt… effectiveness and efficiency is something totally different and when making statements about efficiency dont use terms that describe effectiveness (worse is such a term) because it is either misleading or people might think you aint got no clue of what your talking about (and dont get me wrong:… Read more »