"Initiate tactical advance."
- – Tarkus
A Tactical Squad is a squad of Space Marines who are used as the flexible backbone of Space Marine chapters. Having previously served in both Assault and Devastator squads, Tactical Marines have experience in both heavy weapons and close quarters combat, and are thus ideal for any type of combat situation. Tactical Marines are armed with bolters for ranged combat and a bolt pistol and combat blade (most humans would consider it a short sword, but in Astartes hands it is a knife) for close combat even though they were trained in and spent years using a chainsword. Some members will be armed with specialist weapons like a Flamer, Grav-Gun, Heavy Bolter, or Missile Launcher. The squad's Brother-Sergeant will usually be armed with a chainsword, power weapon, or combi-weapon.
The lore supporting Tactical Marines states that they've mastered every form of Astartes warfare: they are experts who are fully versed in all of their Chapter's tactics and wargear. So, in theory, any individual Tactical Marine could slip into any other role immediately if needed. Unfortunately, the fiction doesn't usually portray them being used this way, and they can't be used that way on the tabletop at all. Some people claim that this makes Tactical Marines ineffective, but this just isn't true. In 8th/9th Edition a Tactical squad sitting in cover on an objective can be a very hard nugget for your opponent to crack, and the amount of firepower that the squad can spit out is also quite formidable. Furthermore, regular Space Marines are way, way toned down on the tabletop in order for other armies to remain competitive. If you'd like to get a sense of just how scary regular plain-Jane Tactical marines can be, check out the Astartes fan film or the old Deathwatch RPG by Fantasy Flight Games.
The Dark Angels under Lion used them best as skirmishers/black ops while most of his Marines were dedicated to armored warfare or heavy weapons or assault or fast attack or were Terminators. Basically, he did everything right as expected of the Primarch equivalent of Creed, despite being an unlikeable cunt. Tactical Squad equivalents in the Raven Guard and Night Lords were also used in a similar way.
Under a Codex-compliant Chapter, the composition of four battle companies (2nd through 5th) will include six tactical squads, while two of the reserve companies (6th and 7th) will be composed entirely of Tactical Marines who train using bikes and land speeders. Among the Space Wolves, the role of Tactical Marine is filled by the Grey Hunters, Wolves who have been promoted out of the Blood Claws and show a degree of skill at controlling the inner wolf. Among the Black Templars, the role of Tactical Marines are held by Initiates; those who have received their Black Carapace and have been assigned to oversee the training of a Neophyte.
All Tactical Marines wear the standard Space Marine Mark VII: Aquila Armour and carry a bolt pistol, a boltgun, and frag and krak grenades. They may also be armed with a variety of Flamers, Meltaguns, Grav-Guns, Plasma Guns, Heavy Bolters, Lascannons, Missile Launchers, Multi-Meltas, and Plasma Cannons.
The Space Marine Sergeant may also have melta bombs and teleport homer, and can exchange his boltgun and/or bolt pistol for a Chainsword, Combi-Melta, Combi-Flamer, Combi-Plasma, Storm Bolter, Grav-Pistol, Plasma Pistol, Power weapon, or Powerfist.
On the tabletop
As of 9th edition, Scouts have been shuffled off to the Elites section and replaced with various flavours of Primaris. This means that if you're still stubbornly anti-Primaris, you'd better get used to tactical squads. They're now your ONLY firstborn option for Troops.
Offensively, a bare-bones tactical squad is on the wrong side of mediocre. The classic bolter suffered from losing its AP in the move to 8th edition, and even bolter discipline isn't enough to offset its low fire rate, making their shooting surprisingly anaemic. They're little better in melee, where at best they can expect to dish out two S4 attacks, again without AP.
Defensively, tacs have benefitted from moving to 2W, doubling their resistance to most small-arms fire, and T4 with a 3+ save makes them reasonably durable. Unfortunately, there's nothing about them that really puts them in a sweet spot of resilience like lots of wounds, high toughness or FNP, and 9th has increased the number of weapons which are D2, so while the extra wound is nice in practice there are plenty of ways for opponents to mop them up quickly.
Beyond the classic flavour, one the main reasons to use Tactical Squads is their access to heavy weapons. Most heavy weapons have seen a points drop in 9th edition, and can be fired after moving at a small penalty when rolling to-hit. Adding a heavy weapon to a tactical squad can dramatically boost their effectiveness; for just a measly 10pts, adding a grav-cannon will more than triple your average outgoing damage against enemy marines, while either a lascannon or multi-melta makes for a viable anti-vehicle punch. Even the missile launcher is a good choice here, allowing tactical squads to remain flexible and plug holes that emerge in your offensive options as the battle goes on and more important units get wiped out. Salamanders in particular love this because their free wound re-roll is most efficient when the good guns are spread over multiple squads.
If your opponent wants to get rid of them, they need to go through 8 T4 3+ wounds first, meaning they need to focus on completely destroying the unit with firepower that could be pointed at your other, more important units - and all they're removing is a unit that isn't really all that dangerous anyway. However, if they just ignore the tactical squad, so long as you choose the appropriate targets a heavy weapon will usually more than pay for itself over the course of the battle.
Another merit the Tactical squad has over Primaris Marines is mobility. Primaris troops will need to hitch a ride in either the Impulsor or Repulsor, while the Tacs can take either a Rhino or Razorback. The Rhino is by far the cheapest option and carries 10 models, so is ideal if all you want is a cheap, speedy box with no expensive frills, while the pricier Razorback holds just 6 but makes up for it with access to heavier guns. By contrast, the Impulsor costs the same as Razorback and carries the same number of models; it's very marginally tougher and slightly faster, but has a notably weaker ranged armament. The Repulsor is most akin to a Land Raider, and like a Land Raider, using it to ferry bog-standard Troops around instead of more valuable units is a completely waste of potential and points.
Paradoxically, the main strength of a tactical squad therefore lies in the fact that it's kind of a shitty unit. For this reason, always take a heavy weapon; the worst-case scenario is that it'll be shot off the board before it can fire, and since you have to take troops as a tax anyway you're only paying the cost of the weapon, which is low enough to be expendable. Remember, every wound you suffer here is one fewer for your devastators, veterans or centurions - and if the heavy weapon marine survives then your opponent's shooting until that point is basically wasted.
- Primaris Intercessor
- Grey Knight Strike Squad
- Adepta Sororitas Battle Sister Squad
|Forces of the Blood Angels|
|Command:||Apothecary - Brother-Captain - Brother-Sergeant - Chaplain |
Chapter Master - Librarian - Sanguinary Priest - Techmarine
|Troops:||Assault Squad - Devastator Squad - Sanguinary Guard - Scout Squad |
Tactical Squad - Terminator Squad - Veteran Squad
|Death Company:||Death Company - Death Company Chaplain - Death Company Terminator|
|Walkers:||Contemptor-Furioso Dreadnought - Contemptor-Incaendius Dreadnought |
Death Company Dreadnought - Dreadnought - Furioso Dreadnought
|Transports:||Razorback - Rhino|
|Vehicles:||Baal Predator - Land Raider (Land Raider Crusader - Land Raider Phobos |
Land Raider Redeemer - Land Raider Angel Infernus)
Predator Tank - Vindicator - Hunter - Stalker - Whirlwind
|Flyers:||Stormhawk - Stormraven - Stormtalon - Storm Eagle - Thunderhawk|
|Spacecraft:||Boarding Torpedo - Drop Pod - Space Marine Landing Craft|
|Allies:||Space Marines - Primaris Marines|