Thursday, 9 February 2017

40k Tactical insight - the Space Marine Devastator Squad

Greetings all,
last time in my tactical article I looked at the space marine tactical squad. This time, it's the next of the 3 basic unit types that make up a battle company available to the marines, the devastator squad.

Now you're going to have to bear with me here, because this might take a while, they have a lot of options!

Mobility

In broad terms, the unit has decent mobility options, it can be deployed via drop pod, and can take either a Rhino or a Razorback so has methods of getting around the field should they need to.

In practice, there's not much movement required out of most devastator squads - their weapons are frequently of a long enough range to allow them to take up a good firing position and then remain quite static. Added to that, we have to take into consideration the fact that whilst the squad has the ability to get around the table if needed, doing so really hampers its effectiveness, since you cannot embark onto a transport the same turn you disembark, the squad would be limited to snap shooting for one turn and not shooting at all for a second, just to relocate, with the only exception to that rule being the grav cannon.

Minor rant incoming...
As an aside, I think devastator squads are an area of the codex that needs a lot of attention in the next edition of the book. I never see heavy bolter or multi-meltas on devastators, and lascannons are rare. Skyfire missiles just don't appear either.

Of all of these things, heavy bolters is the most painful for me, because it's an iconic marine weapon, and they really should see a useful role in the army. 3 shots isn't enough in the current game, and I'd love to see the 'heavier' armour of the devastators actually having a game effect too, perhaps allowing them to get +1BS if they stay still, or give them salvo with shots equivalent to a grav cannon.
Rant over...

Overall therefore, whilst the movement options for the squad are ok, I think I'm going to have to rate them as a 2/5 for the effect doing so has on their output.

Firepower

Well this is really where they should shine isn't it!

I think it's fair to say that with the options available to them, the humble devastator squad is capable of taking on just about anything it might need to face, with the possible exception of superheavies (but then you didn't really think one infantry squad without D-weapon access would take out a superheavy on its own, did you). Elite infantry killing is dealt with via plasma cannons or grav cannons, tanks by multi meltas and lascannons, hordes by missile launchers and heavy bolters, and flyers by missile launchers.

I don't think we really need to dwell much longer here, I'll just give them a simple 5/5.

Versatility

For the same (or similar) reasons to the above rating, the versatility of the unit in terms of the potential targets it can engage is extremely high, there's barely a unit in the game that the devastator squad can't at least have the potential to hurt. 5/5

Resilience

Very similar to the tactical squad in this respect, you can't really argue against the resilience of the average space marine, even if volume of fire will still tend to put them down.

One major factor in their favour however over the space marine tactical squad is that of range. Resilience to incoming fire is a combination of factors such as toughness, armour save etc, but one thing that should never be underestimated is that if your opponent doesn't have the range on their guns to shoot you, then there is no way they can hurt you, and the devastator squad brings some of the longest ranged man portable guns out there.

There is of course another thing that you can do with a devastator squad to increase their durability, and that comes from the availability of Fast Attack Rhinos in a combined arms detachment. Rhinos have 2 firing positions from their top hatch, and so a five-man devastator squad with a pair of heavy weapons can sit nice and comfortably side a rhino and pop shots off every turn. The enemy then has to take out the rhino first, before shooting your infantry, and if you can get the vehicle into decent cover itself then you can boost that durability even more! It does obviously have the potential of causing your squad to snap shoot if the vehicle takes damage, but isn't that better than not shooting at all because the squad is dead?

Notwithstanding the above, I think I still have to limit these guys to a 4/5

Courage

Well these guys benefit from the same ATSKNF rule that goes alongside all loyalist space marines, so you really can't fault their courage. Almost the only way you'll get rid of all these guys is to shoot or hack them down one by one. There's only one caveat to that - the devastator squad will tend to be located further back in the field than most of your units, and as such can be more susceptible to falling back off the table. It's simply a matter of placement, but you should always make sure that no matter how far these guys fall back, they will always rally before they reach the edge if at all possible. 5/5

Utility

Not always used or seen as the most versatile units, don't forget that every space marine comes equipped with a bolt pistol, frag and krak grenades in addition to whatever other guns they have, and a devastator squad is just as capable in combat as the same number of tactical marines (this probably shouldn't be the case, but whoever let common sense get in the way of the game rules, haha).

Ideal as an objective camper in your own deployment zone, the only thing to really avoid with these guys is using them as a mobile battlefield unit. Yes, they have a decent potential for being mobile, but you're then paying points for guns that you're not using to their full effectiveness. 3/5

Conclusions

A very good score here, 24/30, so actually higher than the tactical squad. What you'll see when looking deeper however is that their scores are more varied, inevitably concentrating very good scores in areas related to firepower, with lesser scores around mobility and utility.

If we drop those two categories as not entirely appropriate to units brought for their destructive potential alone, then we get a score of 19/20.

The devastators are an extremely effective tool in firepower terms, but they come with a big caveat. Their effectiveness is entirely dependent on having the right gun available. A devastator squad with multi meltas or lascannons may be ideal against tank companies, but if your opponent brings a table full of Ork infantry, killing 3-4 per turn is not going to worry them unduly.

My next game will be against the aforementioned Orks, and whilst I'm determined not to tailor my army to them, I have tweaked things a bit since the narrative game where I used the dusk knights against Ryan. Chiefly this is because I now have my third drop pod completed, which means that the issue of reserves I suffered in that game will not apply this time - with three pods, one of them empty, I can guarantee that both full pods will arrive on turn 1, influencing the game from the earliest possible stage.

Once this game is done I'll probably look to get another game in with the 1000pt list before expanding things to 1250. That's the likely level of the next narrative game and one where I need to get the win - given that we'll be looking at an assault style mission I think I may dispense with anything longer-range and see how much I can stuff into drop pods, jump packs or teleporter arrays!

Till next time, when I'll look at the humble scout squad,
TBE