Vanilla Space Marine Terminator Tactica
Terminators. Probably the most commonly used unit from the Elites section and with good reason too. Useful for spearheading assaults, deep striking mayhem, HQ retinues or anti-infantry fire support. This tactica will identify the main roles of terminators and assault terminators, discuss what specific tactics to employ, and what the best setup is for each intended role. OK, this is gonna be split into two sections: Terminators, and Assault Terminators.
These guys are your ranged support unit, with access to relentless stormbolters, heavy flamers, assault cannons and cyclone missile launchers. Don’t get confused by fluff and GWS “tactics”, these guys are not
an assault unit – a power fist is a failsafe and anti-tank measure, not ideal for taking on CC specialists like Genestealers or Hive Tyrants, and a 5++ save won’t help you for long. The main role of these guys is to target troops and other infantry units, gunning them to the ground from distance. The AP5 24” standard weapon is excellent for dealing with Guardians, Gaunts, Boyz and Guardsmen, and is even better when augmented with an assault cannon or cyclone launcher at range. The one piece of wargear that I always take on these guys however, is one chainfist so I can take out heavy armour should the need arise, and at 5 pts is not too much of a costly investment.
Deep strikers – these guys want to have as much impact as possible when they enter, so I’d advise taking all PF/SB and then a CML so you have an additional storm bolter. As usual keep a chainfist at the ready. [3x PF/SB, PW/SB, CF/SB/CML]
Advancers – again, it doesn’t really matter what heavy weapon you choose, but think more towards the heavy flamer if you have plenty of missiles already for close range encounters. Multiple chainfists are also more useful here as you’re more likely to encounter tougher transports. [AC/CF, PW/SB, PF/SB x2, CF/SB]
Support – these guys camp around your side of the board, providing relentless fire support. Their main targets are infantry formations with low armour, but can also turn their CMLs on tanks if necessary. [PW/SB, CF/SB/CML, 3x PF/SB]
Numbers - with these guys, it is more practical to take a 10 man squad, and then combat squad if you are planning on taking multiple units, as you have the option for two heavy weapons at 10 models.
Meatshield - Normal terminators are very good at drawing enemy firepower, particularly when you get close to enemy lines. Basically, you want to advance these guys and take full advantage of their relentless USR, as the closer you are, the more scared they are. However, you wouldn’t want to waste a 200+ point unit, so make maximum use of cover and screening units if walking.
Hammer blow – deep striking is the classic entry for terminators, and can be used quite well. Try and land to the rear of an expensive enemy vehicle e.g. a LRBT and blow it out of the game with a Cyclone launcher or assault cannon. If this isn’t possible DO NOT just land anywhere as you’ll get gunned to shreds by mass low S firepower. Try and land behind cover, and then simply just walk out next turn. Just be careful not to deepstrike too close to enemy units or terrain as mishap sucks – locator beacons are nice but don’t often survive very long, and due to reserve rules you may be waiting forever for these guys.
Assault terminators are the defining unit of heavy hitting close combat, featuring lightning claws and thunder hammers galore. Most commonly found at the fore-front of the fighting, standing toe to toe with enemy CC elites, and with good reason too. Their excellent CC prowess makes them reliable ‘retinues’ for HQs such as special characters, chaplains or librarians, though are no less lethal when without that support. They are divided into 4 main tactic subcategories of: retinue, spearhead, counter-attack and support.
Retinue – this is when the termies are used as a form of bodyguard for a CC orientated commander such as a terminator librarian, or Lysander etc, and head straight for the meatiest opposing unit. A variant of land raider is imperative for this unit to be a success, as walking means it probably won’t see combat, and deep striking means it has the opportunity to be shot to pieces before it does anything. The best variant IMO is the Redeemer, as the AP3 flamers are much better than the pathetic hurricane bolters – however, if your require an extended transport capacity as you are running a larger terminator squad, then the Crusader is more suitable. Note that I disregard the standard land raider. This is because a) it doesn’t have frag assault launchers, which means it’s harder to assault into cover, and b) the lacannons are designed for fire support, not getting up close and personal where there is a distinct risk of melta. For this style of unit, aim to pick your target early so you can get there ASAP, and time your advance so you are getting the charge at the right unit, not being obstructed by a bubblewrap unit – this is where the Assault Vehicle rule is particularly handy, as well as the ability to tank shock. Try not to leave your terminators unsupported though, as if they become isolated it is easy to wipe them out. Also, protect their transport as much as possible (screening, cover, target saturation) as if it becomes wrecked early on then they are nigh on useless as an assault unit due to their poor manoeuvrability.
Spearhead – this works in essentially the same way as the retinue, except for without the HQ. The key difference is that this assault is supported by various other assault units such as dreadnoughts, assault squads, even vanguard squads. Therefore, this assault is much more devastating, but much more risky. By committing all these squads there is a lack of defensive capabilities, and is reliant on destroying the majority of the opposing forces as quickly as possible, then claiming objectives later. This gung-ho attitude is rarely used in competitive games, but I find the rewards are worth it if you take a risk. However, this tactic is strictly limited to armies/lists it can be used against. Anything reserve heavy e.g. Deathwing, Drop pods, DoA, or featuring fast vehicles e.g. Dark Eldar, BA mech tends to get outmanoeuvred, exposing the nice rear armour. Therefore I only find it more effective against Orks, some Nid lists, sometimes Necrons, standard SM and CSM, and non-Vendetta IG.
Counter-attack – Sort of speaks for itself, but you hold back one or two of these squads (or one, combat squadded) to deal with any CC threats that aim for your home objective. This means they have to remain within 12” of the objective, else they won’t meet the threat in time. I like to run this sort of unit in a Shrike list, as the Fleet USR means they are more likely to be an effective counter assault unit against armies like DE or BA.
Support – This is a variation on the spearhead tactic, where this time the assault termies are in a supporting role for a main assault of dreadnoughts, command squad, vanguards or honour guard. They flank the central transport with their own in order to protect it from enemy firepower, or if walking with a librarian or Shrike list. If walking, they preferably want to be a 10 man unit, as a 5 man squad would be whittled down comparatively easily. However, due to the high costs of such lists, this is only really feasible at 2000+ so is much rarer than the standard retinue tactics.
Infantry hunter – this features a squad all containing lightning claws and is a rare sight in the 5th ed. They excel at assaulting infantry units and shredding them regardless of armour save or numbers, as the I4 re-rollable, ignoring armour save attacks are completely devastating. Most useful as retinues or spearheads against armies that have lower initiatives or lack high toughness units, such as Orks, Eldar, MEQ or Sisters. They are improved drastically by having a Chaplain to re-roll failed hits, and/or a librarian with null zone to reduce the effectiveness of enemy invun saves. However, due to their minimal invun save, they really need a transport otherwise AP1/2 makes a mess of them.
Let me give you an example of a 5 man DLC termie squad with chaplain assaulting a 5 man TH/SS termie squad:
Hit Chance: 75%
Wound Chance: 75%
Saved Wounds: 5.625
Unsaved Wounds: 2.813
Models Killed: 2.813 + 0.167 from the Chaplain
Hit Chance: 50%
Wound Chance: 83.33%
Saved Wounds: 0.694
Unsaved Wounds: 1.389
Models Killed: 1.389
Heavy Hitters – basically all TH/SS and can take pretty much anything you throw at them except hordes. They work brilliantly at all tactical roles, though predominantly spearhead, and are best used against enemy elites and MCs due to the S8 Thunder hammer, and 3++ storm shield. This damage output is significantly increased if teamed up with Vulkan/chaplain and/or a librarian with null zone, but is weaker against large numbers due to the low number of attacks. A transport is not compulsory here, but walking without fleet/gate is inadvisable as they most likely won’t see combat, and they want to be in CC as quickly as possible. Try to avoid bubblewrap units as they’ll slow you down significantly and leave you open to counter-attacks.
Take all-comers – this is the compromise list if you need some initiative attacks, but also require the defensive/offensive capabilities of TH/SS. I tend to go with 3 TH/SS 2 DLC, as the lightning claws have more attacks anyway, and the TH/SS makes your squad more survivable. These guys are best at counter attack, but are good at retinue as a 5 man, or support as a 10 man. They again more need a transport due to the lack of universal storm shields, but can cope without. As they are less specialised, try to avoid the supreme CC elite, but take basically anything else.
Final important note – Never, ever, EVER deepstrike assault terminators as they have no ranged capabilities, and will most likely mishap due to scatter as the unit takes up a large area. This is of course, assuming you made the temperamental reserve rolls (unreliable), and that you don’t get shot to shit the turn you arrive.