The Space Marine Assault Squad is an unusual unit. They are meant to be the main assault force of the Space Marine army, but while they have the mobility to get into range of the enemy army, they lack the assault prowess when they get there to do much damage to all but the weakest of enemy units. However, used in the right role, they do have a place in a Space Marine army and can be an effective unit for taking out specific enemy threats or for board control and objective grabbing.
The squad consists of one Space Marine Sergeant and four Space Marines for 65 points base (80 pts with Jump Packs), with the option to increase the squad size to 10 models.
I would give the Space Marine Assault Squad a rating somewhere between Situational and Efficient. While they are far from an auto-include in a Space Marine army, I think that is they are used in the right role and/or sufficiently supported by the right Characters, they can be a valuable unit to bolster the mobility of your force.
- Bolt Pistol
- Frag and Krak Grenades
- The entire unit may take Jump Packs (increases Move to 12″ and they gain the Jump Pack and Fly keywords).
- The Sergeant may replace his Bolt Pistol with items from the Melee Weapons or Pistols list, and may replace with Chainsword with an item from the Melee Weapons list.
- The Sergeant may take a Combat Shield for 4 pts (provides a 5+ invulnerable save).
- The Sergeant may take Meltabombs.
- Up to two Space Marines may replace their Bolt Pistol and Chainsword with a Flamer, or replace their Bolt Pistol with a Plasma Pistol.
- For every five models in the unit, one model may replace their Bolt Pistol and Chainsword with an Eviscerator (Sx2, AP-4, D3 damage, -1 to hit).
- And They Shall Know No Fear
- Combat Squads- Before any models are deployed, a unit of 10 Assault Marines may be split into two units of 5.
- Jump Pack Assault- During deployment, if the entire unit has Jump Packs, you can set them up in reserve. At the end of any movement phase, the unit can be set up anywhere on the battlefield that is more than 9″ away from any enemy models.
The key strengths of the Assault Squad are their mobility on the battlefield, their deployment flexibility, and their strong firepower when equipped with Plasma Pistols. My standard way of running Assault Marines in 8th edition is a 5-man unit with Jump Packs and three Plasma Pistols (two on Marines and one on the Sergeant).
I think the Assault Squad should always take Jump Packs. On foot, the Assault Squad is pretty limited, needing a transport vehicle to get them into combat, and being slow to respond to enemy threats if you are using them as a deployment zone counter-attack unit.
With Jump Packs, you get a big boost in mobility for the unit. In 8th edition, being able to move over cover without penalty and assault up levels without penalty to your movement is a key ability. While Bike Squads and Scout Bike Squads are faster, they lack the ability to go through walls in ruins and to assault units that are not on the ground level (in most cases). This is one area where the Assault Squad wins in the mobility stakes.
The other bonus is the ability to “deep strike” as a deployment option. Jump Pack Assault is a great option for the squad, and one to strongly consider for use with your Assault Marines. It helps to keep them safe until you are ready to deploy them, as your opponent cannot shoot at them if they are not on the table. The other advantage is that it gives you flexibility as to where and when the squad will strike.
I find that the Assault Squad is great for grabbing unattended objectives on the board, as well as scoring maelstrom cards (such as Behind Enemy Lines) or ITC objectives (such as Recon). They can also be useful for grabbing end of game objectives, thanks to their mobility and deployment options. Even though you need to deploy them on turn 3 at the latest in matched play games, you can use their jump pack assault to go after objectives that your opponent has neglected, or moved his forces away from during the game. At the very least, you can hide the squad behind some line of sight blocking terrain, then use their ability to move over the cover without penalty to grab the objectives on the final turns.
While this may be a waste of the potential of units such as Vanguard Veterans, Bike Squads, Death Company, etc, a minimum squad of Assault Marines is only 80 pt, so a unit or two simply for objective grabbing is not going to take too many resources out of your army. You are probably not expecting much from the Assault Marines in the game anyway, so keeping the unit hidden for much of the game is not a huge loss in many cases.
When it comes to arming the Assault Squad, I think Plasma Pistols are the strongest choice in 8th edition. The Flamer is a useful weapon, but it cannot be fired after Jump Pack Assault due to its reduced range. The Plasma Pistols can fire from deployment and are pretty potent weapons. A unit of 5 Assault Marines with 3 Plasma Pistols only comes in at 101 points, and have the potential to disrupt your opponent’s plans. This squad has the potential to do 6 wounds on landing to a powerful enemy unit. When supported with a Jump Pack Captain and Jump Pack Lieutenant, the risks of overcharging are minimised, giving you a better chance of causing substantial damage to a key enemy unit.
Using the mobility of the squad and Jump Pack Assault, you have the option to exploit any deployment errors by your opponent to target their backfield vehicles, fire support units or any characters that are left exposed. This chance increases as the game goes on, as units are more likely to move out of position or advance on the enemy army, giving you more places to place the deep striking unit. I have had some success with the Assault Squad grabbing objectives in the enemy deployment zone and severely wounding or killing enemy characters after my opponent has left them exposed in their back lines.
The mobility of the Jump Pack Assault Marines can also be key for moving over screening units without penalty to target characters that are supporting them, either firing your Plasma Pistols and/or assaulting them to try and finish them off.
Now, the combat ability of the Assault Squad is not great. With only 2 attacks each with the Chainsword, no strength bonus or AP bonus, you really can’t expect much out of this squad in combat. In addition, when deploying out of Jump Pack Assault, you will need a 9″ charge to get into combat, which can’t always be relied on, or you may not wish to waste a command point on the re-roll to try and get the Assault Squad into combat. I wouldn’t even bother with the Eviscerator. One attack that hits on a 4+ is not a great investment, certainly not for 22 pts. I probably wouldn’t even bother arming the Sergeant with a more powerful Melee weapons. As I said, you really can’t expect much out of the squad in the fight phase.
However, that doesn’t mean you should never risk an assault. They squad can be great for clearing small enemy units from backfield objectives if they lack some from of Objective Secured. For example, they can be useful for taking on units such as Havocs, Devastator Squads, Astra Militarum Heavy Weapons Teams, Dark Reapers, etc. You can use the unit to deploy close to them, fire off some Plasma Pistols and Bolt Pistols for hopefully a few casualties, then charge in and try and finish off the survivors. Even if you don’t kill them, just stopping such units from shooting for a turn can be game changing, or you can always try and outnumber them to steal an objective. At the very least, the squad can function as a sacrificial unit to soak up overwatch fire before your key unit charges in.
Having the Fly keyword also means the unit can fall back and still shoot. This can make them useful for firing their Plasma Pistols, charging in to combat to try and stay safe from enemy fire, then falling back in the following turn and shooting again.
Remember, as you can move over enemy models without penalty, you can get into positions where three Marines can consolidate around a single enemy model and stop them from falling back, helping to keep the Assault Marines safe. This can work really well on vehicles that are deployed at the back of your opponent’s board edge. Surrounding them on three sides makes it impossible for them to fall back, so your squad (and any support characters) cannot be shot at in your opponent’s turn. As they are pistols, they can still be fired in the shooting phase at units you are in combat with if you choose not to fall back.
As mentioned above, support characters can boost the damage output of the unit. I frequently use two squads of Assault Marines (with 3 Plasma Pistols each) with a Jump Pack Captain and Jump Pack Lieutenant. Starting in reserve, all units can normally deploy together and go after a key enemy unit or character.
Six Plasma Pistol shots that are overcharging and re-rolling both 1’s to hit and to wound have a good chance of causing serious damage on any units that are T4 or lower, or taking a number of wounds off an enemy vehicle or Monster. I’ve had situations where the two units have been able to snipe out an enemy character without the support of the characters.
While you could support the Squad with a Chaplain, I think he is better suited going with a harder hitting unit such as Vanguard Veterans (who can take more dedicated melee weapons) or those with more attacks.
There are a number of Chapter Tactics which improve the abilities of the Assault Squad.
I think White Scars Chapter Tactics are one of the best choices for the Assault Squad, playing to their strengths on the tabletop. This gives the squad the ability to fall back and still charge (as well as +2″ to advance moves). When armed with a Jump Pack, this allows the squad to fall back and still shoot and charge. This is a huge boost to their abilities, making them close to impossible to tie up in combat. A great use for them is to charge a chaff unit, stay locked in assault to stay safe from enemy firepower, then fall back over the squad to get to target more powerful enemy units and characters and still fight to full effect. I’ve been having a lot of fun running them in my White Scars army.
Imperial Fists Chapter Tactics can also be useful for the Assault Squad. Ignoring the effects of cover will make any Plasma Pistols woulds more likely to make it through enemy armour saves.
Black Templars are also a solid option for the Assault Squad. Getting to re-roll failed charges gives them a better chance of getting into combat from Jump Pack Assault without having to use command points on them.
Salamanders are also great Chapter Tactics for getting the most out of their firepower. This can save you using command points or support characters to make sure your shooting and assault attacks are more impactful.
Raven Guard Chapter Tactics can be useful in the right circumstances. If you are using them for securing and defending remote objectives, then the -1 to hit against enemy firepower can help keep them alive for longer to hold the objectives at the end game.
Dark Angels Chapter Tactics are less useful for the Assault Squad in most situations. The morale boost of only losing a single model for a failed test is great if you are wanting to take larger units, but unlikely in most cases. The re-rolls of 1’s to hit will be less useful as the unit will tend to be on the move, but it could come in handy every once in a while if you want to shoot while in combat, or want to stay in place to make overcharging shots more valuable.
Blood Angels Chapter Tactics are a solid choice for the Assault Squad too. Getting +1 to wound when charging or charged should allow the Assault Squad to wound most enemy units on a 3+ or even a 2+. This can get you those extra wounds you need to finish off a weakened enemy unit. You can also access some great stratagems for improving the combat efficiency of the squad, such as a 3D6″ charge. However, in most cases the Assault Squad is simply outclassed by the Death Company, so you are unlikely to see them all too often in a Blood Angels army.
The Space Marine Assault Squad is not the first option you think of in the Space Marine Fast Attack slot. They often lose out to the Bike Squad or Scout Bike Squad. It’s hard to argue against this, these two units have more raw speed on the tabletop and certainly have far superior firepower for a similar points cost. When it comes to filling fast attack slots or going for fast objective grabbers, it can be hard not to completely overlook the Assault Squad.
However, one key difference is that I often find my Bike Squads and Scout Bikers targeted very quickly be the enemy firepower and eliminated in the first couple of turns. The Assault Squad tends to be neglected until the other threats are dealt with first. The fact that you and your opponent may not expect much from them can be a key point of their role. If you don’t use them too aggressively, they can be used to secure maelstrom objectives or end of game objectives in relative safety. Alternatively, when armed with Plasma Pistols, they can provide a nasty shock to enemy units or characters if properly supported or if you get lucky with your rolls.
They are not the best unit in the codex, but can find a useful place in a competitive list to be a useful surprise unit, and are worth taking every once in a while to see if you can exploit their strengths in your army.
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