Friday, February 6, 2009

Thinking of Plague Marines as Pseudo-Terminators

A while ago, I demonstrated one basic advantage of a plague marine: he is three times hardier than a standard marine. After I wrote that posting, I started to think of plague marines more and more as being just a little below terminators. It then occurred to me that a pure Death Guard army has many similarities to the Dark Angel's Death Wing: few models that are expensive (etc.). Thinking in this mindset has helped me play a little better with Death Guard armies. Today, I'm going to try to justify why I often think of plague marines as a (slightly poor) equivalent to terminators.

Comparison against standard shots.
As with the previous article, we're firstly going to look at the number of standard shots (=bolter rounds fired by a marine) required to kill a terminator. For a plague marine, we already know that it takes 27 standard shots to statistically remove the model.

For a terminator, a standard bolter round will hit on a 3+, that is 1.5 standard shots to hit. They wound on a 4+, making 3 standard shots to wound. A terminator has a 2+ save, so only 1 in 6 shots will remove the terminator. Hence a statistical mean of 18 standard bolter shots are required to remove a terminator. That extra point of toughness on the plague marine is just wonderful! Moreover, the power armour combined with the feel no pain special rule is statistically the same as a 2+ save. So, against small arms fire (like bolters): plague marines are superior to terminators.

Against standard plasma shots.
Let's face it, almost every army out there will take something more than bolters in their squads. For marines, plasma guns, meltas and flamers are all common special weapons. Heavy weapons include the missile launcher, heavy bolter, lascannon, plasma cannon and others. Let's have a look at the ubiquitous plasma gun first since it has the same range as a bolter.

It hits terminator and plague marine alike on a 3+. It wounds both on a 2+. With AP2, a plague marine gets no save (nor feel no pain) and will be removed -- that's 1.8 standard plasma shots for either. A terminator will have to use its 5+ invulnerable save to survive. This means 2.7 standard plasma shots are required against a terminator compared to 1.8 for a plague marine. Here, terminators have a narrow margin over plague marines. Still, if plasma guns are only 1 in 5 (or maybe 1 in 10) per incoming shot, plague marines and terminators have approximately equal survivability rates.

What they lack.
Terminators, whether traitor or loyalist, have superior weaponry to plague marines. Plague marines simply cannot pump out as much damage as terminators can at range. They really fall behind terminators in close combat where the standard armaments are power weapons and power fists. They can, however have dedicated rhino transports to get around in (much cheaper than land raiders) but they don't deep strike.

Once it dawned on me that playing Death Guard is similar to playing Death Wing, I stopped worrying so much about leaving my troops out in the open. I only worry about incoming combats from power weapons and the like, alongside rounds fired from weapons that either ignore their high toughness or deny them both their 3+ save and their feel no pain special rule.


suneokun said...

That's a really well put article. The only problem with high toughness usually is that it attract all the 'tasty' firepower. So your wraithlord or Hive Tyrant becomes a bullet magnet. However, when your whole army is tough (like Nob or Smurf bikers) you negate this problem.

Are Deathguard actually T5 or T5 (4) ie do S8 weapons instantkill?

Deathguard are a real problem for standard guard (who are only able to wound on a 6!), but anyone facing deathguard would take a lot of ordinance and autocannons (although you'd get a save) hidden behind a pincushion of plasmaguns...

The biggest problem for deathguard is reach ... what I mean is the ability to do maximum damage at extreme range. A such deathguard (unlike terminators) are a subsequently defensive force.

jabberjabber said...

Hi Suneokun: Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments, much appreciated. Yes - Death Guard are T5(4) - so S8 will instant kill them given a chance.

You're spot on about the bullet magnet concept versus hordes of T5 troops - with multiple squads of Death Guard running around (especially in Rhinos), it's sometimes hard to know which to target preferentially.

Reach can be an issue for Death Guard, I completely agree. Their range is mostly 24". I try to get around this by taking various template weapons (plasma cannons on a dread, vindicators, havoc launchers on rhinos) so I don't have to worry so much about rolls to hit. I think that's another aspect of my Death Guard philosophy - I have to make up for a lack of sheer fire power and range *somehow*, hence template weapons seem to be an effective way forward in that regard. I might make a second full post about that philosophy at a later date.

I don't mind playing them defensively - it works remarkably well in 5th edition. Just sitting a squad in a rhino with the rhino on top of an objective can be a huge problem for opponents to dislodge. With a vindicator in front of them, not too many troops make it to a rapid fire range to cause much damage.

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