Good day, fellow apex predators! Today I do a bit of math-hammering to figure out why it is that my Tactical Squads perform so poorly on the tabletop. While I am using Tactical Marines in my calculations, I believe much of what I’m about to write could hold true for a lot of elite infantry units.
If you’ve read my last post, you will already know I’m in a bit of a sour mood lately as far as 40k is concerned. Aside from the issues I brought up in that maudlin essay, one thing that has bugged me a lot is how badly the infantry in my army (Space Marines, in case you weren’t tracking) has been performing – and Tactical Squads chief amongst those.
Now, don’t get me wrong: not ALL Marine infantry sucks. Scouts, for example, are a great unit – though even then, the reason they are good has a lot more to do with the impact they have over your overall survivability (by denying a huge amount of real estate for enemy Deep Strikers) than with any other intrinsic qualities the unit possesses.
Tactical Marines have long been one of my favourite units – at least conceptually. In practice, though, they have pretty much always been kind of (or a lot) lackluster. For a brief period in 7th Edition, the Battle Company meta-detachment made them shine, and that was only because it piled on SO MANY special rules unto the humble squad that it was almost impossible not to do well with them.
These days, that’s all gone, and we find ourselves in a new meta that is dominated by horde/chaff infantry. Conscripts held the crown of best chaff unit for a while, but Cultists, Poxwalkers and Brimstone Horrors have also been doing pretty well. Meanwhile, my Tactical Marines have been really struggling… and I think I understand why.
“Well, they just cost too much, duh!”
Well yes, of course. After all, anything can be good if it’s costed appropriately. The more interesting question is: why? What is it that makes them overcosted? That is what I’ll attempt to elucidate for you.
Tactical Squads are pretty basic. What I mean by that is they don’t really do anything special: they can’t deep-strike, or infiltrate, or move rapidly, or cast Smite, or fight twice in the Fight Phase. Ergo, getting their point cost right doesn’t necessitate taking into account a lot of complex variables. Indeed, it pretty much comes down to how survivable they are, and how much damage they can push out. While And They Shall Know No Fear is a thing, bear in mind that Tactical Squads usually operate in 5-man squads; ergo, it doesn’t really warrant too much of a thought because its impact is limited.
With all of that in mind, I’m going to compare them to Infantry Squads, because their overall mechanics are similar (i.e. they shoot things and then die) – the big difference is that Infantry Squads are just do it a lot better overall. I initially wanted to compare them to Conscripts but with the Chapter Approved points change, I think Infantry Squads are probably going to be seeing a lot more play than ‘Scripts.
On the damage-dealing front, things are bad straight off the bat:
- At 24 inches, a Guardsman firing at a Predator (T7, 3+ AS) causes 0.0069 Wounds per Point (hereafter referred to as WPP for brevity’s sake): 1 shot, hitting 50% of the time, wounding 16% of the time and going through the tank’s armour 33% of the time will do 0.027 wounds, which is then divided by the model’s cost (4 points), giving us 0.0069 WPP.
- At the same range, a Tactical Marine will cause 0.0056 WPP to the vehicle: 1 shot hitting 66% of the time, wounding 33% of the time and defeating the tank’s armour 33% of the time causes 074 wounds, which is then divided by the model’s cost (13 points), giving us 0.0056 WPP.
If you’re even the least bit good at math, you will have already calculated that the Guardsman does over 20% more Wounds per Point that a Tactical Marine against the Predator.
“Well, so what? It’s not like shooting at tanks is what Bolters are supposed to be good at, anyways!”
True, but the bad news is that it only goes downhill from here:
- At 24 inches, a Guardsman firing at a Chaos Marine (T4, 3+ AS) will cause 0.0138 WPP: 1 shot hitting 50% of the time, wounding 33% of the time and going through the armour 33% of the time will cause 0.055 wounds. Divided by model cost of 4 points leaves us with 0.0138 WWP.
- At the same range, a Tactical Marine will cause 0.0085 WPP to his heretical counterpart: 1 shot hitting 66% of the time, wounding 50% of the time and going through the filthy corrupted armour 33% of time will cause 0.111 wounds; divided by 13 points, we get 0.0085 WPP.
So, that’s over 60% more WPP against the Chaos Marine for the Imperial Guardsman. Ouch.
“Hmm… well ok, that’s bad, but bolters have always been best at shredding light infantry anyways!”
Hang on to your hat, my friend!
- At 24 inches, a Guardsman firing at another Guardsman will cause 0.0416 WPP: 1 shot hitting 50% of the time, wounding 50% of the time and going through the armour 66% of the time will cause 0.166 wound, which is then divided by the model’s cost of 4 points = 0.0416 WPP.
- At the same range, a Tactical Marine will cause 0.0227 WPP: 1 shot hitting 66% of the time, wounding 66% of the time and going through the armour 66% of the time, divided by a model cost of 13 pts = 0.0227 WWP.
That is over 80% more WPP in favour of the Guardsman! Holy smokes!
“Well, ok, Tacticals don’t do a lot of damage, but at least they are durable, right?”
Are they really, though? Let’s take a look:
- A 4-points Guardsman will suffer 0.66 WPP from a Chaos Cultist (BS 4+) firing an autogun (S3 Ap0) at him from 24 inches away: 1 shot hitting 50% of the time, wounding 50% of the time and bypassing the flak armour 66% of time will cause 0.16 wounds, which is then multiplied by the model’s cost (4 points), giving us 0.66 WPP suffered.
- A 13-points Tactical Marine will suffer 0.72 WPP from the same Chaos Cultist: 1 shot hitting 50% of the time, wounding 33% of the time, bypassing the Marine’s armour 33% will cause 0.05 wounds, which multiplied by 13 (points), gives us 0.72 WPP.
So the Tactical Marine will suffer about 8% more WPP than the Guardsman will in this instance. That’s unbalanced but within the realm of the tolerable. The thing is that once again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
- When shot at by a Chaos Marine (BS 3+) wielding a Boltgun (S4 Ap 0), our Guardsman loses 1.18 WPP: 1 shot hitting 66% of the time, wounding 66% of the time and bypassing the Guardsman’s armour 66% of the time causes 0.29 wounds, which multiplied by 4 points gives us 1.18 WPP.
- In the same situation, our Tactical Marine will suffer 1.44 WPP: 1 shot hitting 66% of the time, wounding 50% of the time and bypassing power armour 33% of the time will cause 0.11 wounds, which multiplied by 13 points gives 1.44 WPP.
In this scenario, our Tactical Marines suffers over 20% more WPP than the Guardsman! And if you think that’s bad, just wait when we introduce a weapon with a good AP into the mix!
- When shot by a Tempestus Scion Stormtrooper (BS 3+) with a Plasmagun (S7 Ap -3), a Guardsman will suffer 2.22 WPP: 1 shot hitting 66% of the time, wounding 83% of the time and completing negating his armour will cause 0.55 wounds. Multiplied by 4 points gives us 2.22 WPP.
- In the same situation, our Tactical Marine will lose 4.81 WPP: 1 shot hitting 66% of the time, wounding 66% of the time and bypassing the armour 83% of the time will cause 0.37 wounds. Multiplied by 13 gives us 4.81 WPP.
That is a whopping 216% more WPP when shot by the (not even overcharged) plasmagun! Sweet Lord Almighty!
So in summary, you have a unit that not only does less damage per point than a unit of Guardsman does, but it also extremely vulnerable to high AP weapons will still being worse against standard small arms.
Now, if only the special and heavy weapons the Tacticals had access to were able to compensate for the disparity in cost effectiveness of the basic models, one could argue that said disparity wouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, the Infantry Squad’s plasmagun is more than 45% cheaper than the Tactical Squad’s while only hitting 25% less. The Lascannon is less advantageously priced at a 20% discount while still hitting 25% less, but say you take both a plasmagun and lascannon, the equivalent Tactical Squad will spend a combined 48% more on a combi-plas and lascannon for only a 33% increase damage output.
Where is the silver lining supposed to be? Krak Grenades?
Now, as I said, this article looked at the math behind Tactical Squad in detail, but a lot of the same can be said of a fair bit of the game’s elite infantry. Indeed, pretty much all of the Marine infantry falls into that category (lol Assault Marines) and without having run the math, Eldar Dire Avengers seem pretty pricy at 12 points a pop. Hopefully, someone at GW is going to take a long hard look at how these are costed and make some changes, but given that Chapter Approved 2017 just came and went, we may have to wait a while…