Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the Sternguard Veteran squad, a unit that puts out a lot of firepower and benefits from the new Codex Stratagems. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.
The Sternguard Veteran squad are the firepower elite of the Space Marine army. They have lost their Special Issue Ammunition from 7th edition, but gain an incredible Special Issue Boltgun to make up for it, and have access to an awesome Stratagem that makes their firepower output even more power. They have a huge number of customisation for their ranged weapons, but you are probably better sticking with their standard armament for most situations. The squad consists of 1 Veteran Sergeant and 4 Sternguard Veterans, with the option to increase the squad size up to 10 models. Each Sternguard Veteran comes in at 18 points each, including basic wargear. The Sternguard have a standard Veterans profile, so a Marine profile with an additional attack and point of leadership.
- Special Issue Boltgun- 30″, Rapid Fire 1, S4, AP-2, damage 1.
- Bolt Pistol
- Frag and Krak Grenades.
- The Veteran Sergeant may replace his Bolt Pistol and Special Issue Boltgun with items from the Sergeant Equipment list. He may also replace the Bolt Pistol with an item from the Sergeant Equipment list.
- Up to two Veterans may replace their Special Issue Boltgun with a Heavy Flamer, Special Weapon, Heavy Weapon or Combi-weapon.
- Any Veteran may replace their Special Issue Boltgun with a Combi-weapon.
- And They Shall Know No Fear
- Combat Squads
- Keywords: Imperium, Adeptus Astartes, <Chapter>, Infantry, Sternguard Veteran Squad.
The Sternguard provide a potent source of high volume, good AP firepower for the Space Marine army. The standard Special Issue Boltgun is a great weapon to have on a unit. It has an increased range of 30″, meaning that you can get an extra few inches distance between yourself and the enemy army and increase the range of your rapid fire range to 15″. This allows you to still get into rapid fire range and decrease the risk of the unit you are targeting from charging the Sternguard in reply (with a standard move of 6″, most infantry will need a 9″ charge if you are at the extreme of rapid fire range). The Special Issue Boltgun is also AP-2, which is a great boost against almost any enemy unit in the game. Reducing the armour save of other Marines to a 5+ means that you will be doing double the number of casualties compared to a standard Boltgun, making this unit great for shredding units of Marine equivalents.
The Special Issue Boltgun gets even better when paired with the Masterful Marksmanship Stratagem. This Stratagem gives you +1 to wound for your Special Issue Boltguns for a single shooting phase for only one command point. This is a bargain and gives you much greater damage output for your Sternguard unit. This Stratagem actually allows you to take on a wide range of targets to great effect, wounding most vehicles on a 4+ and reducing their armour save to 5+. You are not going to take out any vehicles in one volley, but you should take 4 wounds from a standard vehicle with a rapid fire volley on average, giving you a chance of finishing off a damaged vehicle or taking it down a tier in effectiveness.
With two attacks each (three on the Sergeant), the Sternguard can hold their own in combat against weaker units, but you really don’t want the Sternguard locked in combat, as most of the time it will waste their firepower. If you are worried about assaults, you can arm the Sergeant with a Power Weapon, Lightning Claw or Thunder Hammer to try and cause some extra damage to the enemy unit and get out of trouble. Alternatively, a charge from the Sternguard after a volley of Bolter fire can be enough to finish off weakened enemy units and allow you to swarm an objective.
Although two Veterans can take a Heavy or Special Weapon, and any Veteran can take a combi-weapon, in most cases it is simply not worth it in my opinion. If you want a squad armed with extra combi-weapons or Special Weapons, go for a Company Veteran squad instead. You can take more Special Weapons and don’t waste the option of taking the Special Issue Boltgun.
There is only one weapon option that is a good alternative choice for the Sternguard Veteran squad. Every member of the squad can take a Storm Bolter for only 2 points, the same cost as the Special Issue Boltgun. You get less range (24″) and no AP, but you do gain double the number of shots. Crunching the numbers, this is actually a solid option for a Sternguard squad. However, you don’t get the benefit of using Masterful Marksmanship with the Storm Bolter. Let’s look at some of the numbers for the Special Issue Boltgun (SIB) vs the Storm Bolter (SB) for unsaved wounds against a range of units. In each example, we will assume we have 10 Sternguard Veterans firing at Rapid Fire range and hitting on a 3+, and with Masterful Marksmanship (MM) for the SIB. The number of casualties you will cause on average on the following units will be:
- Marines (T4, 3+ save): SIB- 4W, MM- 6W, SB- 4W
- Guardsman (T3, 5+ save): SIB- 9W, MM- 11W, SB- 12W
- Orks (T4, 6+ save): SIB- 7W, MM- 9W, SB- 11W
- Eldar (T3, 4+ save): SIB- 7W, MM- 9W, SB- 9W
- Vehicle (T7, 3+ save): SIB- 3W, MM- 4W, SB- 3W
As you can see, in most cases you do more wounds with the Storm Bolter squad than with the Special Issue Boltgun. However, when you factor in the Masterful Marksmanship stratagem, you do roughly the same number of wounds with each. This means you could take Storm Bolters for the whole squad and do more damage and save yourself a Command Point in the process. Against units with a fixed invulnerable save (such as Daemons or Necron Wraiths), the Storm Bolter squad is much better, as the improved AP of the SIB generally has no effect, so volume of shots is more important in this situation.
However, when you factor in the effects of cover, the Special Issue Boltgun becomes the better choice. Against a unit of Marines in cover, the SIB will do 3 unsaved wounds on average (4W with Masterful Marksmanship), compared to only 2W with the Storm Bolters. So your choice of SIB or Storm Bolter will really depend on what army you are likely to face. If you are likely to be facing lots of static infantry units in cover, you are probably better off with the Special Issue Bolter. If you are going to be facing lots of invulnerable saves or hordes of lightly-armoured infantry, the Storm Bolter is probably your better option for volume of shots. Just remember, you don’t get to use Masterful Marksmanship, as this only applies to the Special Issue Boltgun.
My favourite way to run a Sternguard squad is a bare-bones 10-man unit in a Drop Pod. The pod keeps them safe until you want them to arrive (can’t shoot them if they are not on the board) and gives them a great deployment option and almost guarantees they will get into rapid fire range with their first shot. The squad deploys where and when you want and can target an enemy unit with a punishing volley on the turn they arrive. The only downside of this is that they are quickly targeted for reprisal by the enemy army and can be easily wiped out if they are out in the open, or assaulted to tie them up in combat. Having a 10-man squad also gives you maximum benefit from any Stratagems used.
How you use them will depend on your opponent’s army and set up. If you are facing Orks or Nids on foot, you may want to take the Storm Bolter squad and sit them on your backline. The infantry will be coming to you and you will be able to do extra shots at range and really punish them when they come in for the charge. Against faster moving or heavily armoured forces, you probably want them in a transport vehicle to catch up with the foe and use the Special Issue Boltguns to pierce the enemy armour.
Obviously, any source of re-rolls will greatly benefit the Sternguard Veteran squad. Adding a Lieutenant, Captain or Chapter Master to the Drop Pod, or having them nearby will boost your firepower and effectiveness. A Chapter Master giving you full re-rolls to hit on 36-40 Storm Bolter shots is going to do a lot of damage on lightly-armoured infantry models. In addition, having a Warlord with the Storm of Fire warlord trait (6+ to wound has additional -1AP) nearby will really help the Sternguard cause extra casualties with the Special Issue Boltguns. It is good to note, that this means you get the bonus AP on a 5+ when you use Masterful Marksmanship, turning these guns into essentially Plasma Guns for a fraction of the cost.
The right application of Chapter Tactics will boost the effectiveness even further.
The Ultramarines Chapter Tactic is great for keeping the Sternguard firing, even if they are assaulted in the previous turn. In addition, the Scions of Guilliman stratagem can be used to boost their accuracy if you don’t have a nearby re-roll bubble. There is nothing to stop you using Scions and Masterful Marksmanship in the same phase to really boost your damage output on the turn that they arrive.
The White Scars Chapter Tactics is less effective for the Sternguard. Getting to fall back from combat and still assault is not really an ideal use of their abilities. You are better off just staying in combat and shooting your pistols at your opponent and using your two attacks to try and wear them down, than eating a turn of overwatch fire. The only benefit is if you want to shoot at the unit they are engaged with with other units in your army and still get to assault, or to leave combat with one unit and assault another unit with the Sternguard.
Imperial Fists Chapter Tactics are a great choice for the Sternguard. Ignoring the effects of cover means that your -2AP Boltguns are always being used to full effect, or you can go for Storm Bolters without reducing your effectiveness thanks to cover. In addition, the Bolter Drill Stratagem can be killer with Storm Bolters. You get an extra shot for each 6+ to hit, so with 40 shots, you should be getting an extra 6-7 shots on average.
Black Templars will also be a less effective Chapter Tactic. You generally don’t want the Sternguard charging into combat, so re-rolls to failed charges will be less effective. The one bonus is the Abhor the Witch Stratagem, which gives you a defence against any Smite attacks or other psychic powers that may be coming your way.
Salamanders Chapter Tactics could be of limited usefulness. Unless you are taking combi-weapons on the squad, a single re-roll to hit and to wound will maybe help you cause some extra damage, but is unlikely to have a huge impact.
Raven Guard Chapter Tactics are another awesome bonus for the Sternguard. Thanks to the extra range of the Special Issue Boltguns, you can actually be in rapid fire range and still benefit from the -1 to hit. This means any fire coming back at your squad will be less accurate, forcing your opponent to move in order to get within the 12″ range. In addition, Strike from the Shadows is a great Stratagem for getting the Sternguard into optimal position without having to purchase a transport vehicle for them. The only downside is that if you don’t get first turn, this can leave the Sternguard vulnerable to attack before they get a chance to fire.
Iron Hands Chapter Tactics will be useful for keeping the squad alive for a bit longer, but is not the best of the options.
As you have probably guessed, I rate the Sternguard Veteran Squad quite highly as a unit to add to your Space Marine army. The right use of Chapter Tactics and Stratagems can really boost their effectiveness, and there are few units in the Space Marine army that can put out 40 Bolter shots for only 180 points.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!