This guide constitutes my attempt to outline the use of Drop Pods both singly and as an army-wide tool for Codex: Space Marines. Other armies have access to Drop Pods, but they have wildly different usages and synergies that fall outside the realm of this guide. So, without further ado – the Drop Pod.
What is it?
AV12/12/12 Open Topped with 3HPs and Storm Bolter.
This profile tells you that it is conditionally equally as tough as a Rhino, gaining a point of AV on all facings (2 on the rear) but is more vulnerable to the Damage Chart by being Open Topped and Assault due to being Immobile. With the new Objective Secured rule in 7th Edition the category of Dedicated Transport enjoyed a significant buff, allowing them to claim objectives even away from other infantry units provided they are non-Troop. This means you can freely claim objectives far and wide using Drop Pods purchased for Troops, unrestricted by movement considerations or deployment zones - certainly worth keeping at the forefront of your mind while choosing table sides and deploying Objectives at the start of the game. It can send mediocre harassment firepower at weedy Troops units up to 24" away, or go for desperate last-gasp wound removal on Monstrous Creatures.
Dedicated Transport for 10 Models, a Dreadnought or Thunderfire Cannon.
The following units can take a Drop Pod:
Honour Guard, Command Squad, Tactical Squad, Crusader Squad, Vanguard, Sternguard, Dreadnought, Ironclad, Assault Squad, Dev Squad, Thunderfire Cannon. Ultimately, the nerfing of Assault into the ground, along with the absence of Assault Ramps on these transports means that the bulk of your heavy lifting is going to be done by close range shooting, not actual charges (with the exception of Ironclads and Chapter Masters) so you can safely ignore Honour Guard, Assault Squads, Crusader Squads (because they don't have a decent HQ as you'll see later) and Vanguard.
Can take a Deathwind Missile Launcher for Marine+1pts.
S5 Large Blast 12” Range. This upgrade can be considered for those Pods you’re going to be landing in someone’s face, but the 12” range means they’re often going to be shooting at a target close to the unit that just disembarked – and scatter dice are unkind to those who take unnecessary risks with them, as I’ll come onto later in the guide. However depending on how you use your pods, they can certainly be considered. A S5 Pie Plate can add a lot of wounds to your total, especially once they start stacking up.
Can take a Locator Beacon for Marine-minus-4pts.
Generally speaking best used on a Pod that will be arriving in Wave 1 to maximise it’s effectiveness for Wave 2 and any other Deep Strikers that may be arriving. This one basically depends on how much attention your opponent pays to your army list. If you take one in every Pod, those points add up very quickly when they could be better spent on more models or guns, however if you only take it on one Pod then frequently that Pod will be the first one to get blown apart after arriving. Also given that other Pods already have scatter reduction built into them, this basically limits the Guidance System usefulness to non-Pod Deep Strike units such as Terminators on foot, Jump Marines, Storm Raven embarkees and so on. None of these are amazingly attractive choices.
Inertial Guidance System – Never mishaps unless it scatters off the table edge, but must still be placed legally.
The best anti-scatter rule in the game, bar Swooping Hawks. Provided you remain 12” or more away from table edges, this rule means your cargo will always land safely. More than that, it means that if you place the pod in a ring of enemy or friendly models and terrain, you can frequently ensure that you do not scatter at all, because any distance rolled is reduced to nothing if need be. This means a ~4” gap in enemy lines can be filled at will by a Pod – just remember that the contents of the Pod still need to be able to disembark, otherwise they will be destroyed. You can use this to aid very aggressive placement of your pods, or alternatively to hide very effectively behind terrain.
Drop Pod Assault – Half of your Pods (rounding up) MUST be designated to arrive on Turn 1, with the remainder rolling to come on as usual.
This means that armies using Pods will frequently have an odd number of Pods, to allow itself to be weighted towards the first wave – 1, 3, 5 or 7 pods are the usual numbers to be seen. This allows 1, 2, 3 or 4 pods to arrive Turn 1 with a minimum of investment in other units to arrive in a less reliable fashion. Plan carefully which units will make up each wave – generally speaking you want your hardest hitting units on the table as soon as possible, with “Filler” pods rolling later on.
So what can you use them for?
There are two basic ways to use Pods in a Space Marine army. The Lone Pod approach and the Army-Wide approach.
Lone Pod Approach
Most frequently seen due to the practicalities of carting around multiple Pods in shoeboxes and the cost of the models themselves, the Lone Pod approach is used to deliver a single important unit, reliably, to where you want it to be. Common units include Sternguard and Dreadnoughts/Ironclads, and more rarely, Command Squads. Often to get said units into Rapid Fire range of Special Ammunition or half range of Meltaguns/Combi-Meltas.
I’m going to perhaps annoy some people here by rebuking the concept of the “Sternguard bomb”. The “bomb” is a concept developed originally in 5th Edition and consisted of 5-10 Sternguard with Combi-Meltas in a Drop Pod coming in Turn 1 and nuking the biggest target the enemy had. This got a buff from the ability to Combat Squad out of Transports, allowing two units to be targeted instead. So if your opponent was idiotic enough to park two Land Raiders a dozen inches apart then you could trash 500pts of the enemy first turn. All it required you to do was effectively sacrifice 3 Kill Points and 305pts of your own army. And that was BEST CASE scenario – that the enemy had two viable targets and you were able to destroy both of them. Here’s a tip for you that it’s important to remember when writing lists – if you’re relying on your enemies army to contain a given type or number of units, you’re writing a bad list.
If you assume that every enemy will have hordes of guys, a Tri-Raider or all-Flyer list will ruin your day. If you assume the enemy will have lots of Rhinos then a ‘Tide Ork or Nid army will cause you real problems. The Sternguard bomb relies too much on your enemy having a good target to aim for, and sacrifices a very expensive unit far too casually. Don’t do it, unless you’re playing Apocalypse.
are a better way to deliver Melta, in my book. They’re more survivable than an equivalent points value of Sternguard, and come with a Multi-Melta allowing them much broader choice when picking a good landing zone, and being much harder to bubblewrap against. The downside is that you only get 1 shot with a 66% chance to hit when you arrive – not an ideal gamble, but one that can pay off in the right circumstances and the correct backup weapon (generally an Autocannon or TL-Lascannon). You just need to be very careful about where the enemy has positioned his weapons capable of damaging an AV12 Walker, and plan accordingly. Use cover and the Pod itself to your advantage. Alternatively, a Deathwind Drop Pod with Twin Linked Heavy Flamer/Heavy Flamer Dreadnought is 165pts of absolute death in a box to any kind of infantry. Even MEQs are going to go down under that volume of wounds, and you can duff up the rest in combat with a Power Fist if needed.
are under-used in my opinion, costing 20pts less than Sternguard for a similar job description of Special Weapon bodies, taking up to 5 Special or Combi-Weapons, and gain FnP for only 15pts to boot! In a unit that is unlikely to survive the battle, every point you can cut while maintaining effectiveness is important, so being able to run a quad flamer squad (for example) at a 40pt discount over Sternguard is significant.
Having been so down on the Sternguard
bomb earlier, you may think that I don’t support putting Sternguard in a Pod at all – you’d be wrong. I think Sternguard are a very nice unit to have in a Pod, although often I feel a Rhino or Razorback will do a similar job, better. The trick is to avoid the trap that many players fall into, which is thinking that just because you CAN arrive right next to the enemy then it follows that you MUST arrive right next to the enemy. You really don’t. One strength of the Pod is to allow you to be their face Turn 1, granted. However an EQUALLY IMPORTANT strength of the Pod is to allow you to REACT and ALTER your game plan in response to the enemy – for example if you deploy first, or something happens to alter where you need your bodies to be. To this end, even on Turn 1, it can often be worth dropping more towards the middle of the table, or your flanks, rather than in the enemy deployment zone. While this means you only get 5-10 shots from your prize unit, it means that over the next 3+ turns, they contribute in a much more effective ongoing way to the battle as it goes on. You can use the distance and cover available to you to keep them safe from harm, and effectively lock off a section of the battlefield to your opponent. For example, say you’re playing against a Daemon army, and he’s got a nice fat Bloodthirster deployed. You *could* drop Turn 1 12” away, and *maybe* kill it (dying even if you do), but perhaps it would be more effective to drop 24” away, loose off half a dozen shots, and render a 24” bubble of the table effectively impassable to him, for fear of losing such an expensive model to Rapid Fire should he enter?
The last reason
to take a solo pod has come in with 7th Ed – for 35pts you get an AV12 3HP (Objective Secured?) box to claim a Tactical Objective turn 1 that you otherwise couldn’t, which can easily be a free VP you otherwise wouldn’t have. If you’re playing your cards right, it might even sit there unmolested for the rest of the game, since the enemy likely has his hands full dealing with the rest of your army, which is busy (hopefully!) taking him apart.
Potential Builds for Solo units
Dreadnought with MM and Autocannon + Pod – Use for threatening Flank and Rear shots on enemy vehicles.
Ironclad with 2x HKMs + Pod – Fuck you, Manticore et al.
Ironclad with 2x Heavy Flamers – Fuck you, Lootaz.
Quadded up specials on Command squads, or Combis on Sternguard, just remember how many points you’re spending on the unit, and how much they are realistically going to kill. Does your enemy even have a good target to use them against?
Army Wide Approach
A whole different ball game to the Solo Pod shenanigans, this is where you drop a boatload of power armour in your opponents face and see if he’s got the ability to deal with it. Nominally 7 pods are ideal here, as 9 is a target that can be difficult to reach in a normal size game and usually means you’re making compromises on effectiveness vs numbers that you shouldn’t.
Traditionally, this type of army has been the preserve of the Space Wolves for several reasons: Double Special Weapons, 2x CCWs and Counterattack being the top three. However with the new codex apparently removing the CCWs from the equation to a degree, then there is potential for Vanilla Marines to hit level pegging, especially given abilities such as Tactical and Devastator Doctrines, Bolter Drill, and Flamecraft are now a thing.
This kind of army is basically a juggling match between boots on the ground, number of targets you present to the enemy, and what you’re going to use in support of your initial wave – because although your initial drop is liable to be very aggressive, there are going to be some targets you just can’t deal with using Pod capable units. Things that require Anti-Air to take down, for example. Especially since you need to make the choice between firing your Melta/Combi-Melta at a tank, or up to 18 bolter shots at infantry. You also need to take into account that since you’re landing very close the the enemy, units that use Blast Weapons such as Thunderfire Cannons, Missile Launcher Devs, Typhoon Speeders, Whirlwinds etc are going to be of limited usefulness, as the last thing you want is to see your own Marines getting fragged by bad scatters. On the other hand, dropping 4 Pods in between your deployment zone and the enemy is a good way to comprehensively give every enemy unit a cover save, if not block line of sight entirely, so expensive single-shot weapons that are affected by cover (such as Lascannons) may find it hard to pick out a target.
A purpose-built Pod army might look something like the following –
– All of these offer significant benefits to a Pod army – Sicurius granting a Tac squad twin linked Tank Hunting Melta for a turn, which is pretty much the most reliable anti-tank out there, as well as +1 to the rest of your Reserves. Tiggy offers rerolls instead of +1, and the ridiculous Psychic powers that he generates. His Storm of Fire as a trait is just gravy. Kantor gives you Bolter Drill and Objective Secured Sternguard if you’re going Sternguard heavy or hate Ultramarines (who doesn't?).
- If you can't live without Plasma, take it on these guys, because for 15pts you can give them a 33% better chance of surviving the inevitable Overheat(s) that happen when you Rapid Fire 4 Plasma Guns. Alternatively, just let them die to leaky equipment without losing precious Sternguard with their pimp ammunition.
Tactical Squads in Pods
– Either 10 man or 5 man, personally I would run them as Special + Combi with no Heavy to keep points down, but throwing in a Heavy Bolter or Multimelta couldn’t hurt too much, ‘specially with the Chapter tactics. Generally one of two types:
1. 5 men, Combi-Special and Special
2. 10 men, Combi-Special and Special and Heavy. Combat Squad the Heavy + 4 Men so they’re deployed at the start of the game, drop the Pod with 2x specials Turn 1. On the plus side, gives you more long ranged punch. On the downside, more points spent, and takes away bodies from your initial drop wave.
– Used to focus on particular targets, generally Monstrous Creatures with their Hellfire rounds, as enough Bolters and Meltas will take care of other things. Also useful for focussed Melta platforms, but I think Command Squads do a better job.
– Go all-Flamer to allow your special weapon Tac squads to focus on Vehicles, or go Melta/HKM/Autocannon to remove harder targets. My preference would probably be to use them as Flamer platforms.
Stormtalons and Storm Ravens
– Both benefit heavily from the Reserves Manipulation of Tiggy or Sicarius, and both offer high strength firepower that can easily see over the top of Pods, and the flexibility to get the fire lanes they need. If feeling particularly ballsy (or daft) then you can even fly over and drop off some guys from the Raven near a Beacon-equipped pod. They also offer excellent anti-air. My default loadout would be TL-AssCannon and Skyhammer on the Talon, and TL-MM + TL Lascannon on the Storm Raven.
I’ll add some pictures of basic tactics once this is posted up and I can format properly.