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Why you shouldn’t put lascannons in infantry squads
Many times I have heard people express their want to place their anti-tank capabilities (namely, lascannons) in infantry squads. The idea is that, for a few more points, you get 9 “juicy” bodies to protect the gun against enemy attacks. I believe that this is a myth, and that putting lascannons in an infantry squad is a grievous waste of points. First, let us consider the infantry squad.
For half of ten dozen points, you get 10 dudes, one of which can take a shotgun if he’s badass enough. The rest, well, they get lasguns. What you get when you buy a squad, then, is an anti-light-infantry unit, as lasguns aren’t good for a whole lot else. Then, if you so chose, you can upgrade a pair of lasguns to either a special or heavy weapon. Note that this means that at least 80% of the firepower of a squad is still aimed at killing light infantry.
Some heavy weapons support the other 80% such as flamers, grenade launchers and heavy bolters. Some weapons allow you to give you the option to take out different targets without horribly wasting the rest of the shots, such as a plasma gun, and, depending on what you target, the autocannon. Some weapons totally negate 80% of your squad’s firepower by causing you to shoot lasguns at things that lasguns can’t hurt, such as shooting at a tank with a meltagun or lascannon.
Thus we can conclude that taking a lascannon, a weapon which doesn’t help much at all against light infantry, and seriously impairs the firepower of the 90% of the squad that doesn’t have the lascannon, is a weapon that works against the purpose of an infantry squad.
Now, it might be reasonable (rather than horribly foolish) to waste almost all of your firepower if you have the points to make up for the firepower that you lose in the squad. This, then, means that we should consider how much it costs to add a lascannon to your army by this means.
Given that a lascannon always costs the same, no matter who gets the upgrade, we must look at who gets the upgrade. To give a squad a lascannon, you must pay 85 pts. at minimum. Now, most people get special weapons (usually a plasma gun in this case), and sometimes, they give their squads doctrines (that cost points). This can cause the price of a lascannon to cost up to 100 pts. Furthermore, for every few squads that you purchase, you must purchase an officer with his retinue, costing you at least another 50 pts. If you give the officer and his retinue a mere 5-10 pts. of gear, and you give an officer to every two squads, a lascannon in a squad costs, on average, 125 pts. per lascannon, even if you don’t take doctrines.
Allow us, then, to briefly look at other options for lascannon placement. In an anti-tank support team, you get 6 men and 3 lascannons for 110 pts. If you put lascannons on sentinels, you get 2 lascannons on 2 sentinels for 110 pts. (plus all of the advantages of sentinels, such as being independent lascannons, always being present on the battlefield, making free movements, and being able to shoot and move in the same turn). If you put it on a Leman Russ, you pay 155 pts (assuming you don’t get sponsons), with the advantages of a vehicle, that is AV14 in the front to boot.
I will not here expouse the benefits of placing lascannons on vehicles, but rather get to the point. It is said that it is good to place these guns in infantry squads because they are more reliable (specifically, than an anti-tank support squad), so we will compare the two squads to each other.
Remember first, that a squad does not need to be killed for the gun to be silenced. If a squad is pinned, which is invoked by a single model killed on either type of unit, the lascannon is silent the next round. Furthermore, if a squad runs away due to morale failure, 2/3rds of the firepower is wasted as it will take at least a turn to regroup, and probably another turn or two to reposition themselves so that they have a good target again. Finally, if a unit runs while it is under half strength, it is out of the game for good (note that even if you have iron discipline, you might well find yourself needing to move officers to make it effective (or buy more officers, driving up the price), which may cost even more turns).
Let us then consider what it takes for each unit to run away. In a 10 man squad, 3 men must be downed to make a morale check. In a 6 man anti-tank squad, you must kill 2. It stands to reason, given the lack of toughness in either soldier or armor, that that whichever kills 2 guardsmen can kill 3. After the first chance to run, the infantry squad must take 2 casualties to run, while the anti-tank squad must take one. Once again, that which can kill one can kill two. Finally, after an infantry squad is reduced by six (the ammount to completely wipe out the anti-tank squad), the squad must make a morale check every time that another guardsman is lost.
There are two principle advantages to the infantry squad lascannon. Firstly, the squad must take 5 casualties, rather than 3 before their rout becomes permanent. I hardly consider this an advantage, given the sheer carnage that opposing forces can cause with an exceeding diversity of weaponry. Secondly, an opponent must kill 10 men to silence the lascannon rather than the 6 of the anti-tank squad.
At first, this may seem obvious, but I hold this point in low esteem. Firstly, it has appeared to my experience that when an enemy sets out to destroy any group of guardsmen, they will invariably kill it completely, regardless of the number (save conscripts, perhaps). Unless you have exceptional cover, it seems to me that an extra 4 “wounds” on our low-resilience infantry won’t give an excessive amount of extra protection.
Secondly, an anti-tank squad is better able to remove threats before they become threats. For example, if an enemy tank is lining up to lay a squad to waste, the squad has a mere single shot a turn, over what is likely to be few, if not one turn. Given the accuracy of an average guardsman, it is unlikely that the squad will be able to consistently remove the threatening vehicle, if it even damages it at all! An anti-tank support squad, on the other hand, is statistically guaranteed to at least hit the offending vehicle, if not twice, leading to a very good chance that damage will be done. In this example, the squad with the lascannon is very likely to perish to the enemy vehicle, while it is the opposite case for the anti-tank squad. Which, then, is more resilient?
In the case that the squad is approached by infantry, the propensity of fire laid on either lascannon squad will likely remove the squad. With the infantry squad, if it must defend itself with it’s lasguns, it will be at a loss to fire it’s lascannon for at least a turn, whereas with an anti-tank squad, you can structure your army to place units that are good at killing infantry in the role of killing infantry (which it will do better than a squad with a lascannon), leaving your anti-tank squad to continue to shoot at enemy vehicles.
In conclusion, don’t take lascannons in infantry squads. It costs more for fewer guns that are not considerably more resilient while wasting dozens of points of firepower.