I decided to get started on my next challenge commitment for the 2014 Hobby Progress Challenge. After floating my options on the forum, we (the collective voices of reason on the IC Forum) decided that since I was getting things done at a fair rate another Tactical Squad was in order.
The next question was what sort of Tactical Squad to assemble. The options are quite versatile, and here are my basic thoughts:
(i) Classic Tactical Squad: Flamer and Missile Launcher combo. This tries to be the all rounder, the versatility of the missile launcher as either vehicle hunter or infantry killer theoretically works well with the flamer. The problem is that you have to keep moving to get the flamer in range, and the missile launcher can't shoot if you move, so I suppose while it is useful as an all comer unit, I question the wisdom in picking a unit that doesn't do at least one thing well.
(ii) Tank Hunter/Bunker Buster: Multi-Melta and Flamer/Melta Combo. Quintessential aggressive Tactical Squad. These guys assault a position and should clear anything they encounter. I can imagine them hitting an artillery emplacement or a dug in tank, or breaking open a fortified bunker.
(iii) Fire Support: Plasma Cannon/Heavy Bolter and Plasma Gun. This unit a medium range fire support unit, Devastators would fulfil the long range role in my mind. The idea is to take up a position, preferably in good cover and unload a hail of fire. Nothing should realistically survive a fusillade from this unit at short range.
Some Infantry Tactics
Now, please bear in mind that all my thinking has absolutely nothing to do with the way 40k actually plays. I haven't played since third edition. What it is however based on is my understanding of infantry tactics, as an infanteer in the British Army. The notion is that you always operate in twos, preferably threes, whether at platoon, section or firing pair level, with each unit filling a role when trying to dominate ground.
Assault Unit: One unit, whether section or platoon, they are just different magnifications of the tactical situation, will be the assaulting unit. Their role is to make the actual attack on the enemy position, close with the enemy and either drive them off or destroy them at close range. Grenades are usually involved.
Fire Support Unit: A unit that focusses on suppressing the enemy with overwhelming fire. The objective is to pin the enemy to their position and at the same time reduce their ability to return fire. This should have two objectives, firstly the enemy unit is firing sub-optimally as they take cover, secondly, they are distracted away from the moving assaulting unit as they focus on the more imminent threat.
Reserve Unit: A tactical reserve which is usually situated behind the fire support to be deployed where they are needed most. This unit will normally follow up the assaulting units position after they have taken it and become the new, fresh, leading edge for the continued attack.
The way that I understand 40k, and the Space Marine Codex in particular, there are separate units for each role. Assaults should be carried out by Assault Squads, Fire Support by Devastators, and the Reserve should really be a tactical squad as it can theoretically do both. The issue arises though that 40k to my mind lacks enough detail, tactically, to allow for a tactical reserve to be of any value, they merely become idle assets. Furthermore, the ability to equip the tactical squad with vehicles or drop pods mean that they could actually be an assault or fire support asset. I suppose therefore that Assault Squads and Devastators become your lock in options, and Tactical Squads a necessary all-rounder.
What this means for me going forward is that as I am trying to build a Fifth Company Dark Angels Army, I need to be mindful of the fact that I will have Company Assault and Devastator Squads, but that realistically in 1000 point battle, the ability to field these squads is diminished as they quickly become very expensive. As a result, my aim it to try and build, eventually, six Tactical Squads that have a function that parallels those of the Assault or Devastator Squads, simply in lesser measure.
Whether this actually works on the table top is largely irrelevant to me. Now this might sound strange, but I like things to look right on paper and on the table even if it doesn't equate to victory. To my mind the Fifth Company has limited assets, and must choose carefully how to deploy said assets, and this is how I will build my army going forward. The benefit of the Tactical Squad load outs that I listed above is that even though they try and fulfil a particular role, they can, in a pinch, adapt to complete the objective even if it is a poor fit. The fact remains that Assault Squads won't win fire fights, and Devastator Squads lose their value by moving, so ultimately I need to retain an element of flexibility. Having listened to many discussions surrounding the perceived uselessness of the Tactical Squad in the last edition of 40k, I am going to try my hand at approaching them differently.
Back to the HPC
So, after discussing the issue with the collective wisdom of the IC forum I am going to be building Tactical Squad Gabriel, equipped with a Heavy Bolter and Plasma Gun, who will dispense torrents of the Emperor's Mercy. I have surprised by the pace of my progress and hope to have some pictures of completed figures to share very soon.