Saturday, 18 February 2017

40k Tactical Insight - the Space Marine Scout Squad


Greetings all - welcome to the third of my tactical insight articles - this time I'm turning the burning eyed gaze on the space marine scout squad.

Much maligned for a long time (by me if no-one else, haha) these guys got a significant boost in the last codex - how has that affected them?

As ever with my tactical insight reviews, I'll be assessing the scouts on the basis of a 30pt scale, under six headings. Mobility, Firepower, Versatility, Resilience, Courage and Utility.

The scores for the previous two units assessed are:

Tactical Squad: 23/30
Devastator Squad: 24/30

Let's get right down to it then!

Similar to the tactical squad, the scout squad has the ability to perform in several different roles on the battlefield, and therefore I'd expect their scores to be reasonable in all areas, as opposed to the heavy bias we saw from the devastators in certain sections.

Mobility

The scouts are more limited here than their power armoured brothers in the troops slot - they only bring a single dedicated transport option, the Land Speeder Storm, which can only accommodate 5 scouts rather than the 10 available to the Rhino. The Storm is also an open topped vehicle, making the scouts much more vulnerable when riding it, and the landspeeder itself is more lightly armoured than the rhino. Interestingly, unlike other dedicated transports, the Storm is also not available as a fast attack choice, which is a shame because I could easily see them appearing in lists if that were the case. On the other hand, it remains innately more mobile than any of the other dedicated transports in the codex due to its nature as a fast skimmer. You can guarantee that this vehicle can deliver the scouts where they want to be (provided it doesn't come under a lot of heavy firepower).

Add to that, scouts get the infiltrate and scout special rules, so they have excellent deployment options available to them as well, meaning that there are few places on the board that the unit can't get to. The biggest downside being that they are comparatively fragile while they're getting there.

Solid, 4/5

Firepower

This is the area where they got the biggest boost, when they were (rightly in my view) given BS4 in the latest codex. Previously I had despaired at ever using my sniper scouts again when a unit of 5 rarely caused more than 1 wound damage to my enemy. Their firepower is also pretty good, with heavy bolter or missile launcher options available to the squad, alongside standard bolters or bolt pistol and close combat weapons. The scouts also have the only access to shotguns or sniper rifles in the codex, and so they are eminently capable of putting out a respectable amount of firepower (indeed in terms of sheer damage output, scouts are much better value than their more heavily armoured brothers because of the lower points cost.

As with the devastator squad the variety in armament makes it a little difficult to really measure firepower output, but the pistol loadout is probably its weakest, and 5 bolt pistols won't achieve much (but then if you use that loadout you're not expecting it to because it's more of a combat unit). Shotgun units are ideal for taking on horde style armies, letting rip with them first before charging in to put the rest to the sword (ok, knife) in the combat phase. Bolters become a more long ranged support unit, and sniper rifles of course are now useful (though I would still prefer some kind of poisoned ammo for better than a 4+ to wound) and much longer range.

A fully maxed out unit therefore is perfectly capable of bringing down a typical 3W monstrous creature in a single turn without needing outrageous rolling.

In absolute output terms, the scout unit is pretty comparable to the space marine squad I think.

3/5

Versatility

Well as indicated above, the weapon types available to the scout squad give them lots of potential for engaging different types of units, and they bring both frag and krak grenades to increase that versatility (albeit only a little due to the 1 per phase rule).

They are still mainly limited to anti-personnel duties (one krak missile does not make a squad an anti tank unit normally) but with the different weapons allowing them to engage all different types of infantry unit I can easily be confident about giving them a score of 4 on this one.

4/5

Resilience

They're just as tough as their power armoured brethren, though the armour they wear is not. And that's not just a problem as regards an increased percentage of failed saves, it also means that they won't get to take their save more often (just as an example, heavy flamers, heavy bolters and assault cannons are all AP4, as are autocannons, Tau Ion weapons etc). Heavy flamers are absolutely the bane of scouts, particularly if they are postioned poorly, since they ignore both the scout armour and any cover they might claim.

Against all other weapons however, the scouts have an ace up their sleeve over the normal tactical squad, in terms of the humble camo cloak. Cover saves increase by 1 and they get a 6+ in the open too - a scout squad therefore is able to go to ground in many pieces of cover for a 2+ save, making them actually more resilient than the tactical marines, albeit at the expense of their shooting in the next turn.

I can't in all honesty score them higher than tactical marines for resilience, but I must also consider them to be more resilient than the average model for the same reasons.

4/5

Courage

As with all space marines, they benefit hugely from ATSKNF, and so there's really not much to debate - they have the same leadership score as the tactical squad (which I still think is a little on the low side) and therefore I can't really do anything but give them the same score.

5/5

Utility

These guys are not meant to form the fighting core of your army (despite being in the troops section I firmly believe that) but to support the advance.

On that basis their fire is not intended to be the absolute worth of the unit, they are there to harry, to support and to be a nuisance without becoming the sole focus. In this respect they absolutely perform as you would expect - they can do damage to just about any target given the right weapons, but they are not intended to operate independently of the rest of your army.

For that reason, I'm going to have to mark them down a little, since they are a support unit rather than one capable of destroying enemies without assistance.

3/5

Conclusions

So, an overall score of 23/30 puts the scout squad on a par with the Tactical Squad, which is certainly borne out by its use in lists I see on the tabletop.

however

there are differences in there, with the tactical squad scoring higher in utility, but lower in mobility. This gives you an indication also into the different roles the two units are intended to undertake.

The tactical squad forms the backbone of your army (or should according to the fluff) whilst the scouts operate around the fringes. This is a point that's actually been reinforced to me simply by writing this post - looking back at myself I would often put scout squads in positions where I'm expecting too much of them, and they'd become isolated and destroyed without achieving much. Using them as bait is fine, but be aware that's what you're doing, don't just stick them somewhere and expect them to perform without support (in actual fact, they are the support unit more often than not).

My advice (and my use of the squad in future) would therefore be to use the scouts squads in your army to amplify the damage your other units are doing - if a tactical squad's fire isn't quite enough, support them with long range sniper fire, or finish off the remnants of a unit with some combat scouts. Most importantly however, be realistic about what they can achieve - 5 of them with sniper rifles aren't going to take down a rhino without help!

I love scout squads, hopefully this article will help you (and me) to use them more effectively in your games.