Part I: The shooty variants
There are about as many ways to customize a Tactical Squads as there are Space Marine players in the world. You can vary the squad size from 5 to 10, you can choose from a large number of special and heavy weapons, you can choose traits to give your squads veteran skills and for a reasonable price, the Sergeant gets Terminator Honours and gains access to most of the armoury.
However, there are some squads that simply work better than others. Cost effectiveness is a major part of the deciding process – or "most bang for buck". You don't want to shell out points from your dear list only to find out that your Tactical Marines are dying before they can make back their points in some way, either because they are spammed with wargear or because they are underpowered – most likely due to a too small squad size.
In this article, I will cover the shooty variants and their different configures and tactics. First up is an old friend/enemy that is loved by a lot of tournament Space Marine players and hated by a lot of opponent:
The Las/Plas squad:
The Las/Plas squad gets its name from the weapon configuration. More often than not, the squad is equipped with a Lascannon and a Plasma Gun. The Lascannon can be swapped for another Heavy Weapon if it's desired, Missile Launchers are also popular, and even Plasma Cannons – which can also be considered fluffy by Dark Angels successors for example, and thereby not quite as cheesy as the others. The most important aspect is the squad size, above the two Marines carrying the real weapons. It'll need 4 ablative wounds as well, to take some hits before you start removing the cool guns.
These squads are often taken in numbers of 3-4. These squads forms a solid firebase for the rest of your army, and should be deployed with overlapping fire lines if possible. Preferably in cover too, since the armour save will only go so far. If you can find ruins or a nice wall that provides a 4+ cover save for the Marines, your opponent will have a hard time even forcing a morale check – since a lot of the weapons that will really threat your Marines are – albeit powerful with a good AP and long range – single shot, and the cover save will keep your squad standing and shooting a long time. For everything else, there's the power armour. A good HQ for a list with these squads would be a cheap Master or at least a Captain – since he'll provide a Ld-boost across the board, and you won't have to spend points on Veteran Sergeants.
What makes this squad a popular choice is first because it's generally very cost effective. Without veteran skills and gear for the Sergeant (which isn't recommended anyway), the squad weighs in at only 115 points, something that is very cheap – considering it has the firepower to deal with anything in the game.
Now, these types of squads are often referred to as being "min/maxed" which generally means that you have a maximum firepower while paying a minimum price. Using these will bring frowns to your opponents and I do not recommend stocking up on these in your friendly lists.
The Missile Launcher is – as previously noted – another good choice for the Heavy Weapon slot. If you add the Tank Hunters veteran skill to the mix, you'll essentially have a Lascannon, but a more effective Plasma Gun to back it up. The Missile Launcher is also more versatile, since it can fire frag missiles at hordes of lightly armoured foes (most notably Gaunts of various kinds, Kroot and Orks in Ork body armour). The squad is a bit more expensive though, but on the other hand, can deal with more threats.
The following variant isn't a pure shooty one, but it is geared mainly towards shooting.Tactical Squad
The regular podded squad uses Cleanse and Purify to get 2 Plasma Guns – since you'll need more shots on the land. It also contains a Veteran, which means that the army isn't dependant on having a Commander as HQ, and he swings a Power Fist, making the squad more reliable in the subsequent turns. The weakness of the squad is that it is sometimes forced to pod in a sub-optimal place or will have to go up against a lot of enemies unsupported, if you roll bad reserves rolls.
All right, that'll be all for this article. In my next one, I'll cover the assaulting variants of the Tactical Squads.