Space Marine Review: Troops: Tactical Squad

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the core of the Space Marine army, the Tactical Squad. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.


The Tactical Squad is designed to be the backbone of the Space Marine army. They are the core of the Adeptus Astartes, armed to deal with any situation that the enemy can throw at them and come out on top. On the tabletop, they are the standard Troops choice. All other units in the game are generally compared to a Tactical Marine when discussing their effectiveness, with their ability to kill or survive a Marine attack as a basic unit of measurement.

In most Space Marine armies, the Tactical Squad loses out to the cheaper Scout Squad. They have much the same profile, but at a lower cost and with some great additional special rules. However, the Tactical Squad is still a solid option to take in a Space Marine army. They combine combat effectiveness, durability and a great selection of wargear options to allow you to build a squad to suit many tactical requirements. The squad consists of 1 Space Marine Sergeant and four Space Marines, with the option to increase the squad to up to 10 models. Each Space Marine costs 13 points each (so 65 pts for the base squad).

I would give the Tactical Squad the Competitive rating. While they may not be as good as the Scout Squad in some areas, the greater wargear options and their own useful special rules means that they still can find a useful place in a competitive Space Marine army.


  • Boltgun
  • Bolt Pistol
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • The Sergeant may replace his Bolt Pistol and Boltgun with items from the Sergeant Equipment list.
  • If the unit contains less than 10 models, one Space Marine may replace his Boltgun with an item from the Heavy Weapons or Special Weapons list.
  • If the unit contains 10 models, one Space Marine may replace his Boltgun with an item from the Heavy Weapons and one Space Marine may replace his Boltgun with an item from the Special Weapons list.


  • And They Shall Know No Fear
  • Combat Squads- Before any models are deployed at the start of the game, a Tactical Squad containing ten models may be split into two units of 5 models.
  • Defenders of Humanity- In a battle-forged army, all Troops units in range of an objective will control that objective, even if there are more enemy models in range of it. If the enemy unit has a similar ability, the objective is controlled by the player who has the most models in range as normal.
  • Keywords: Imperium, Adeptus Astartes, <Chapter>, Infantry, Tactical Squad.


The Tactical Squad is supposed to be the core of the Space Marine army, with the army comprised mostly of Tactical Marines, back up by other elements of the Chapter. In game terms, the Tactical Squad has not been used as the core of the army for several editions. Scout Squads are generally fielded in preference to the Tactical Squad, as they are cheaper and have access to more special rules in many cases that make their inclusion more worthy. I’m not going to argue that Scout squads are not better value for points (check out the Scout Squad review for more detail), but I do think there is still a role for Tactical Squads in a Space Marine army.

The Tactical Squad is a solid troops choice. They have WS and BS 3+, so are pretty competent in shooting and attack. With S4, T4 and a 3+ save, they have some decent durability against small arms fire, with even more powerful attacks still giving them an armour save in most instances. With Ld 7 (8 on the Sergeant) and ATSKNF, a 5-man Tactical Squad is fairly safe from the effects or the morale phase. The Boltgun is also a solid basic weapon, with good range of fire and rate of fire at close range.

One of the benefits of the Tactical Squad over the Scout Squad is the range of wargear options available to them. You will mostly be fielding the Tactical Squad with 5 members (to mitigate morale losses), so you will gain access to one Special Weapon or Heavy Weapon. The flexibility of weapons options is a great boost for the squad, allowing you to arm them for a number of battlefield roles.

The Lascannon and Missile Launcher provide you with some strong anti-armour punch in the unit. This is great for a squad that will be sitting in your deployment zone and not moving much. For me, the Missile Launcher is a strong option. For most vehicles and monsters, you will still be wounding on a 3+, with only the toughest of enemy vehicles forcing you to wound on a 4+. It also has the benefit of being able to fire a Frag Missile for more shots against horde units. Another benefit is being able to access the Flakk Missile Stratagem. This allows you to fire on a unit with the Fly keyword, getting +1 to hit and doing D3 mortal wounds if you hit, for only a single command point.

This is a great stratagem for finishing off an enemy flyer to tough flying unit. It works particularly well for units with the Fly keyword that do not suffer the -1 to hit (such as a Daemon Prince, skimmer vehicle, etc), as you will be hitting on a 2+. With the easy access of re-roll of 1’s to hit buffs that Space Marines can access, this gives you a reliable way of putting mortal wounds on an enemy unit with the Fly keyword.

The Heavy Bolter is also a great option for improving the rate of fire of the Tactical Squad. The changed to the rules for moving and firing Heavy Weapons also means that they can keep a decent rate of fire up on the move. It also gives the squad access to the great Hellfire Shells stratagem. This gives the Tactical Squad another way to deal mortal wounds to enemy units. You do need to hit with the shot (usually on a 3+), so it does help to have a source of re-rolls to hit around to save you wasting the command point (or using another on a re-roll).

Plasma Weapons are also a great choice in this edition, being able to put out a lot of high strength, high AP firepower. As said above, Marines can access a number of re-roll mechanisms, so overharging the shots in range of a Captain is no longer such a big risk, and you can really pile on the damage with an overcharged Plasma shot.

The Meltagun and Multi-melta give you some strong options for taking out enemy armour at short range. You will generally want some form of transport option with these weapons unless you know your opponent will be coming to you. Getting into melta range for the chance of doing a higher damage roll is one of the key features of these weapons.

Flamers are also a great choice for firing on the move. Advancing with the Tactical Squad still allows you to fire the Flamer and hit automatically, so can be useful for advancing on an objective and trying to clear some infantry from it.

Where once, Grav weapons were almost the mandatory choice for a Space Marine squad, they have reduced a bit in 8th edition. They are still powerful weapons, but there are generally better options to take in the squad. The benefit of the Grav Cannon is that it still has a high rate of fire compared to other heavy weapons the Tactical Squad can access. This is generally better suited to going after heavy infantry or Bikes, where you can cause D3 damage with each shot, but are still wounding on a 3+ or 4+. I find that they are less useful against vehicles now, as you are wounding on a 5+, so it is more difficult to cause a lot of damage with just a single Grav Cannon. A Plasma Cannon is more useful against vehicles than the Grav Cannon, as you will be wounding on a 4+ in most cases.

The Sergeant can also benefit from taking a combi-weapon or melee weapon. Again, it will depend on what role you want to use them in that will determine what you will arm the unit with and how effective they will be. That is one of the benefits of the Tactical Squad, their flexibility means they can be armed to fulfil a number of battlefield roles that you could use them for.

Battlefield Roles

One of the best uses for the Tactical Squad and one that I use them for in 8th edition is as backfield objective holders and board control units. Board control is a key part of 8th edition. It allows you to grab objectives, block your opponent from deploying deep striking units from reserve and creates safe zones for deploying your own reserves.

A unit of three Scout Squads and three Tactical Squads (enough to fill the minimum requirements of a Brigade Detachment) can give you a huge amount of board control on deployment for less than 400 points. I use the Tactical Squad to fill out a deployment zone and block the enemy from surprising my back lines with powerful reserves units. When combined with infiltrating Scout squads, you can force your opponent to have to deploy reserves far back from the bulk of your army, potentially forcing them to take an extra turn or two to get their guns into rapid fire range or to get into assault.

I use the Tactical Squad to protect the more valuable elements of the army, such as Devastator Squads, vehicles or a Thunderfire Cannon. The Tactical Squad has some benefits in this role over the Scout Squad. The 3+ armour save is a big boost to the Tactical Squad against small arms fire. If you can deploy the unit in cover, you can get a 2+ armour save, which the Scout Squad cannot access without Camo Cloaks (which makes them more expensive than the Tactical Marines). This can make the unit quite hard to shift without some dedicated firepower devoted to them (more so with the Raven Guard or Iron Hands Chapter Tactics).

The better armour save is also great in close combat. If these units are being used as screens, they will likely get into combat at some point. This will give them greater durability against enemy units in some cases, and may make the difference between continuing to hold an objective or passing a morale test. Now, Tactical Squads are not invincible by any means. It doesn’t take a lot to go through a 5-man squad, but if your opponent is putting a lot of effort into going after the squad, then your more valuable units in the army are a bit safer as a result. Thanks to Defenders of Humanity, if your opponent wants to take an objective from your Tactical Squad with his elite units, they will need to kill every last member of the squad (unless his own troops choices can easily get to the objective and take out or outnumber the Tactical Squad).

In this role, I like to arm the Tactical Squad with a Heavy Bolter or Missile Launcher. This gives them some useful firepower on the battlefield to supplement the rest of the army, allowing them to be a long range threat in case you deploy them to cover the back of your deployment zone. It also gives them access to the Hellfire Shells or Flakk Missile stratagems, allowing them to deal mortal wounds to selected enemy units, if needed.

You can also use the Tactical Squad as a forward objective grabbing unit. Thanks to Defenders of Humanity, the Tactical Squad can steal objectives from any enemy units that are not Troops choices, regardless of their size. For this role, the squad really benefits from some form of transport option, such as the Rhino, Razorback, or even the Drop Pod. This allows the squad to quickly close with the objective in relative safety.

In such a role, some of the special weapon options are a great choice. The Flamer gives you the option to clear out weakly armoured infantry from an objective. Taking a Flamer and Combi-Flamer on the Sergeant will give you 2D6 automatic hits against any enemy unit, which could cause a lot of damage if you roll high enough. This close range allows allows you to get the most out of the rapid firing Bolter, giving you a lot of S4 firepower. Backing them up with a Twin Assault Cannon Razorback or a Rhino with two Storm Bolters will give you some additional firepower to back up the unit.

The Meltagun will give the squad the ability to damage enemy armour that is sitting on an objective. It can also be backed up by a Twin Lascannon Razorback to give you more chance of crippling or destroying an enemy vehicle. In addition, as most enemy tanks lack a form of Objective Secured, you can always assault with the squad to steal an objective from your opponent. Remember, you can charge in their transport vehicle first to soak up any dangerous overwatch firepower and keep the unit safe.

If you are going for a close role with the squad, it can be worth arming the Sergeant with a melee weapon. Given how cheap power weapons are in this edition, you can easily fit one into your list, with the extra AP or strength helping to give you a boost in combat.

The versatility of the Tactical Squad means it can be used for a variety of battlefield roles, depending on their armament and composition.

Unit Synergy

Obviously, the Tactical Squad will benefit from the range of re-roll options available from Space Marine characters such as the Captain or Lieutenant, or those with other abilities, such as the Ancient. However, most of the time these important characters will be focusing on more powerful units in your army, like Devastator Squads, Hellblasters, etc. The Tactical Squad can benefit from these characters if they happen to be in range, but will rarely be the focus of such units.

Bear in mind that a Dreadnought can be a nice support unit for a Tactical Squad. He can provide some additional firepower or close combat deterrent support, able to counter charge units that threaten the Tactical Squad in your turn. It also gives them access to the Wisdom of the Ancients Stratagem with a Dreadnought close by. This stratagem allows you to re-roll 1’s to hit in a single phase if they are within 6″ of the Dreadnought for 1 command point. You are unlikely to use command points on this every turn, but it can help you out in selected crucial phases to cause more damage. For example, if you were to use the Auspex Scan stratagem to fire on an enemy unit arriving from reserves, using Wisdom of the Ancients could help you maximise your damage output for that phase.


There are a number of Stratagems that could be used to benefit the Tactical Squad. While you will probably be fielding the squad in 5-man units most of the time to mitigate the effects of morale, a unit of 10 Tactical Marines can have a big benefit from maximising the effects of certain stratagems.

As has been mentioned above, the Hellfire Shells and Flakk Missile stratagems can be useful on a unit armed with a Heavy Bolter or Missile Launcher, respectively. This can be a useful way to put mortal wounds on selected enemy units.

Auspex Scan can be useful for targeting enemy units arrriving from reserve. While it costs 2 command points, it can have a big impact on damaging enemy units before they get a chance to strike. Units such as Plasma Scions, Electropriests, Infiltrators, etc, can be seriously depleted with a round of Bolter shots, especially from a 10 strong Tactical Squad. If you are using your Tactical Squads as a screen for other, more valuable unit in your army, they will generally be the units benefiting from this stratagem.

Chapter Tactics

The application of Chapter Tactics can further improve the roles of the Tactical Squad.

Ultramarines is a strong Chapter Tactic for the Tactical Squad. The +1 Leadership makes the squad even more resilient to the effects of morale, allowing you to field them in larger squads if you so wish. In addition, if they are operating as a forward attack or screening unit, the ability to fall back and still fire is a powerful ability to have on the Tactical Squad. Scions of Guilliman is also a useful stratagem, giving the unit a key turn of full re-rolls to hit in either the shooting phase or assault phase.

White Scars Chapter Tactics can be useful for a Tactical Squad. While they may not seem as powerful as some of the others, they can have their uses in the game. The extra 2″ to advance moves can really improve the mobility of the Tactical Squad for grabbing objectives or for getting into range to fire Assault weapons. Falling back and still getting to assault can be useful in the right circumstances. While more powerful with Jump infantry units, it can still be powerful in the right situations. For example, you can use the Tactical Squad to move in and tie up an enemy vehicle. By careful model placement, you can often prevent backfield tanks from falling back, thereby forgoing their shooting phase. You can then fall back with the Tactical Squad in the following turn, and go after another enemy target. In that time, you may have been able to bring up some more powerful melee or firepower units (units with a Melta weapon, for instance) to take out the tank.

Imperial Fists is another useful ability to have. Ignoring cover is great for taking on other enemy units holding an objective in terrain, increasing the chances that they will fail an armour save. Bolter Drill is also a useful stratagem on a Tactical Squad, especially those with 10 models. Getting extra Bolter attacks can be really useful against weakly armoured enemy units.

Black Templars Chapter Tactics are useful for forward ranging Tactical Squads, giving them a better chance of getting into combat. Abhor the Witch is also a useful stratagem to employ. If you are using the Tactical Squad for board control and screening, they will frequently be the first to be targeted by Smite, so you can help to minimise the damage this powerful psychic attack can cause. You may not see Tactical Squads as much in a Black Templars army, as they can access the Crusader Squad, allowing them to take a Special Weapon and a Heavy Weapon in a single 5-man squad.

Salamanders are a brilliant Chapter Tactic for a Tactical Squad. Getting a single re-roll to hit and to wound on a squad each turn really maximises the damage output of your Heavy Weapons and special weapons. This Chapter Tactic saves you on crucial command points from re-rolls and is like having a Captain nearby for your wargear upgrade weapons. It is great when using the Hellfire Shells and Flakk Missile stratagems. The Flamecraft stratagem is also great for those units armed with Flamers.

Raven Guard is also a solid Chapter Tactic. If your Tactical Squads are at range and in cover, then enemy firepower at -1 to hit and with a 2+ save will take some dedicated firepower to shift from an objective. You can also use the Strike From the Shadows stratagem to get the unit closer to the enemy to grab objectives, but I think you are less likely to use the stratagem on a Tactical Squad.

Iron Hands is useful for improving the durability of your units, giving them a 6+ save against all wounds. On an army-wide scale, this can save you a number of wounds over the course of the game, frustrating your opponent and forcing them to devote more firepower to taking out your Tactical Squad.


The Tactical Squad is a strong addition to the Space Marine army. They are unlikely to win you the game on their own, but can provide valuable support to the rest of your army, either through use as hardy screening units or backfield objective holders. Your opponent is unlikely to perceive them as a major threat and likely to focus on more powerful elements of your army. However, the odd Missile Launcher or Lascannon shot from the Tactical Squad can make them take notice of them and the damage they can do.

I think that used in conjunction with the Scout Squad, the Tactical Squad can help you further achieve a lot of board control with the Space Marine army, providing a tougher unit to protect your deployment zone, while the Scouts range ahead and do their job.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

23 Responses to “Space Marine Review: Troops: Tactical Squad”

  1. Asmodai March 5, 2018 9:09 am #

    Would you consider adding Dark Angels and Blood Angels to the Chapter Tactics section? At least for Dark Angels, the shared units weren’t covered in the DA tactics threads from December.

    • Reecius March 5, 2018 9:36 am #

      We certainly will but we just have to work through a limited writing staff and limited hours competing with a very rapid release pace.

    • Michael Corr March 5, 2018 9:55 am #

      Hi Asmodai, I could possibly add a little to the Chapter Tactics for the Dark Angels and Blood Angels. I feel that the Chapters with their own individual codices could benefit from their own article, as they often have access to a number of different support units and stratagems than the Space Marine codex equivalents.

      As Reece said, we are a bit limited by how quickly we can get these articles out. Most of us do this for fun in our spare time, so it is hard to do more than a couple a week, if even that many.

      • Asmodai March 6, 2018 7:28 pm #

        I’ll take anything you offer! You certainly don’t have to provide anything, and please don’t take this as a complaint.

        • Michael Corr March 7, 2018 12:16 am #

          Cheers. I am planning on playing more games with my Dark Angels in the coming months to prep for a tournament, so will hopefully get more reviews out as I get used to the units.

  2. Reecius March 5, 2018 9:38 am #

    Great review, Mike. I know not everyone is a fan of Tactical Marines but I love mine. They are awesome for holding the backfield and rear objectives, are reasonably tough (especially in cover) and cheap.

    • abusepuppy March 5, 2018 9:46 am #

      I think Tacticals are generally better than people give them credit for, but in terms of flexibility and utility they suffer heavily compared to Scouts while not being all that much tougher or more capable. I can envision a reason to run a single squad of them over Scouts/Intercessors, but anything beyond that feels a bit gratuitous.

      • Michael Corr March 5, 2018 9:58 am #

        I still think Scouts are the better option in many cases, but I do like having a good block of Tactical Marines to back them up. I like the better range of wargear options for the Tactical Squad over the Scouts (though the Scouts still get access to arguably the best Heavy Weapons).

        I’ve not tried any of the Primaris stuff in my games yet. Currently working on getting a small force to add to my Dark Angels, so will see how they perform.

        • Reecius March 5, 2018 10:12 am #

          Scouts are indeed just better in general but I have found for backfield defense the Tacticals are were it’s at. They work best in conjunction with Scouts and/or Intercessors, IMO.

          • Reecius March 5, 2018 10:13 am

            Although, I do have to add that I have had some good results running Salamanders Tacticals aggressively with a Combi-weapon and Heavy Weapon (typically a Multi-melta) as their CTs and Vulkan make them very reliable even on the move.

          • Ytook March 5, 2018 2:51 pm

            Yeah I’ve used Salamanders tacticals both backfield and offensively and I think they’re really quite good. 4 Melta and combi-plas in 2 rhinos probably ain’t gonna be top table and I go with them for fluff reasons more so but it’s a lot of fun, and not having to rely on being near a character for the re-rolls needed to be effective is very freeing.

            Something about Salamanders that isn’t exclusive to tacticals that some people I think don’t piece together is the auto re-rolls to hit/wound on your powerful weapons leaves you free to use the stratagem re-roll on damage, which has helped out a lot.

          • Reecius March 5, 2018 3:00 pm

            Yeah, exactly. They’re super efficient.

          • abusepuppy March 5, 2018 10:47 pm

            I can definitely see the argument for Tacticals with the Salamanders CT- the two-weapon squad becomes a lot more valuable at that point. I’m not sure if I would prioritize it over the Scouts (who can deploy more aggressively and gain most of the same benefits, albeit with a smaller set of Heavy options) but I can see the value there, at least.

          • Michael Corr March 6, 2018 12:13 am

            Yeah, Salamanders are definitely strong. It’s so annoying when you use a command point re-roll to wound with a Lascannon or Missile Launcher, only to roll a 1 or a 2 for the damage. Getting free re-rolls essentially is a great boost for them on the Heavy and Special Weapons.

  3. John March 5, 2018 5:38 pm #

    Scions of Guilliman gives full to-hit rerolls to tactical squads, not just rerolls of 1s.

    • Michael Corr March 6, 2018 12:14 am #

      Thanks for spotting the mistake. I’ll change it in the text.

  4. GhostValley March 5, 2018 7:03 pm #

    I’ve been using 2-3 tacticals in my Salamanders Brigade since I read the Reece Salamanders article a while ago. Consistent lascannon hits and wounds while holding objectives has worked out just fine

    • Michael Corr March 6, 2018 12:15 am #

      Yeah, it’s an incredibly strong backfield force. Great for holding objectives and still pumping out the damage.

  5. Don Tomaso March 6, 2018 12:01 am #

    After experimenting a-plenty I am ditching scouts for 5 man tacticals instead. The cheap 5 man lascannon tac copypasted all over the place sitting on objective in cover is simply put too good with the salamander chapter trait.

    A better (while resilent for their points) and reliable SM anti tank unit is hard to find while cheap enough to act as a deepstrike screen if needed. Scouts are good but can really not be relied on doing any damage what so ever.

    Some say tacs are bad as they cant do anything really well and in a mixed army that is kind of true but you can actually do quite strong lists as long as long as you go all in on tacs. With a chapter master bubble and a dread for the venerable strategem plus a lieutenant or two 90-100 tactical marines all tooled up and sprinkled with the odd melee dread for safety can be pretty horriffic for the opponent.
    Its not a tournament winner but still quite decent and fun as hell to use.

    • Michael Corr March 6, 2018 12:18 am #

      I think the combination of Tactical Squads and Scout squads provides a very effective screen for a Space Marine army. I like the Scouts as it gets you out of your deployment zone and can force enemy deep strikers back even further. I’ve been using 3 squads of each in my White Scars army and can pretty much cover half the board with a deep strike blocking screen.

      That does sound like a tough list to get through. My only concern would be the lack of mobility for maelstrom missions or certain ITC objectives, but you can always choose the ones to suit your army best.

  6. Anggul March 8, 2018 2:50 am #

    I feel the change to heavy weapon movement penalty has made tactical squads a lot better. They can stay mobile without totally losing their flexibility.

    • Michael Corr March 8, 2018 3:48 am #

      I agree. While snap firing was nice, it was not something that could be relied on. The -1 to hit makes them a bit less accurate, but still gives you a good chance with multiple shot weapons.

  7. Don Tomaso March 11, 2018 7:32 pm #

    Wonder how horrible termies STILL are when mathammered.

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