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Sternguard: a Tactical Analysis


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DarkGuard

DarkGuard

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Hi there all. I think there's no secret of the fact that Sternguard are my favourite unit in Codex: Space Marines. The idea of an elite shooty unit with access to so many different weapons, duking it out against the enemies of the Imperium not with a wimpy thunder hammer or storm shield is fantastic. Indeed, they have until recently been a mainstay of my army, and are only beaten by the Honour Guard due to their lack of inherent combat potential. However, I have long wanted to write up a tactica on their use for a while now, and finally I have done so.

This tactica will include a briefing on their strengths and weaknesses, evaluations on their weapon options and transports, examples common builds and a discussion of what characters best suit them. It will not include an in-depth analysis on the merits of different special ammo types, as there is already a guide on that in the Librarium. I hope you all enjoy this tactica, and please take the time to comment and critique, especially where grammar and spelling is involved!

 

PLEASE NOTE, THIS TACTICA WAS MADE WITH AN EARLIER EDITION IN MIND. THAT EDITION IS NOW PASSED, SO NOT EVERYTHING IN THIS TACTICA WILL NECESSARILY APPLY. REGARDLESS, SOME ASPECTS OF IT MAY STILL HOLD RELEVANCE. READ AT YOUR OWN ACCORD

Sternguard - a tactical analysis

Sternguard, veterans of the First Company, described by Codex: Space Marines as being the very image of what every Space Marine aspires to become. In fluff and on tabletop they are described as the elite ranged warriors of the Chapter, preferring to use boltguns and other special weapons to take down the foe from range. This is contrast to their rivals, the Vanguard, who use close combat weapons and jump packs to get close to the enemy in combat.

On the tabletop, Sternguard use up an elites choice, and come equipped with special ammo, allowing their boltguns to fire with four different profiles dependent on the situation. They can also take two special or heavy weapons, including weapons not normally accessible to power armoured Marines, such as the heavy flamer. The Sergeant can also take a combat weapon for backup, and the squad can take any of the dedicated transports.

This Tactica will be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of Sternguard Veteran squads, in addition to looking at favoured load outs and tactics used with these veterans.

Strengths:
Marine statline – seems a bit odd that after describing them as shooty specialists, I start here. Well that’s because this is the basics, and if you get shot at or in combat this is what will save you. They have a Marine statline, which means that the fours are left right and centre, literally! Toughness 4 and power armour in particular makes them more survivable than many xenos elite specialists, and just as durable as a Marine, which is actually quite durable! Specialist weapons are needed to take them down reliably, so if your opponent has basic weapons you should be able to put up with some firepower.

Veteran statline – let is also be noted that these guys not only have a Marine statline, they have a Veteran statline. This means they have an extra attack and point of leadership over normal Marines, meaning they’re less likely to run if the Sergeant dies, and are better in combat.

Shooting – now we come to it, shooting, the Sternguard’s biggest strength. Each Veteran comes with the standard equipment of a Tactical Marine, except that his boltgun has Special Issue Ammunition. In practise this gives the squad the ability to fire one of four boltgun profiles each turn, ranging from hellfire which is a 2+ poisoned round, to the cover ignoring dragonfire rounds, the 30” range, AP4 kraken round, and the Vengeance round, an 18” AP3 Gets Hot! boltgun.

Pathfinders in cover? Use dragonfire. Marines in the open? Vengeance rounds for the best. Big Tyranid creature? Hellfire. In general the decision on what round to use is a hard one. There’s a fantastic guide here which helped me a lot with making my mind up. In general if you can beat their save and not grant cover, go with the relevant AP round (hellfire for armour 5-6+, kraken for armour 4+, vengeance for armour 3+). Bascially, use the round that will take away all their saves, if you can't do this use hellfire. The only exception are high toughness units, in these instances causing more wounds with hellfire is preferably to relying on luck with the lower AP round. So in general, if use hellfire, you haven’t made a mistake, it is by far the best round out there.

Also remember that in addition to special ammo every Veteran can take a combi-weapon, which keeps special ammo and gives them a free special weapon shot per game. If you’re looking to specialize you can also take special weapons like the plasma gun or heavy flamer, or heavies like the plasma cannon and lascannon.

Combat – what’s this, first shooting, now combat? Is there nothing these people cannot do?! Well, sort of. It’s not their strong point, but a strength of Sternguard Veterans is that they can do combat reasonably well. With two attacks each and a power fist on the Sergeant, they can do the damage in combat, especially as most of the time the squad they’re fighting would have been reduced by their rapid fire the turn before. Not a major strength, but one none the less.

Versatility – even before you put them on the tabletop Sternguard are incredibly versatile thanks to their special ammo. Indeed, the only things they can’t deal with reliably are vehicles, in particular walkers and Land Raiders, as they do have krak grenades for everything else! But when you get round to arming them you can make them more versatile. Meltaguns and combi-meltas make them good against tanks. Flamers, heavy flamers and combi-flamers make them better against light to medium infantry while still being able to tackle the heavier stuff. Plasma weapons make them able to more reliably take out Marines, Terminators and vehicles. You can even give them conflicting weaponry, or long and short range weaponry and combat squad then, getting two squads from one! Take advantage of this, it’s a major strength of theirs.


Weaknesses:
Price – all these strengths come at a price, quite literally! Weighing in at 9pts more expensive than a basic Tactical Marine, these guys can be as much as 30pts each if you give them all combi-weapons. That’s expensive as LotD! (You know, the unit everyone misguidedly declares as horribly expensive). And as will be elaborated on below, they don’t get more durable than Tactical Marines, only more killy. Expect even 7-8 man squad of Sternguard in a Rhino taking up 300pts. That’s 2-3 guys less than a Tactical squad in Rhino which can cost around 205pts, nearly 100pts difference. In short, these guys are be expensive, by careful with the upgrades!

Marine statline – ah, so this is a weakness as well. Sadly it is, as due to certain weaponry in today’s metagame, having a T4, 3+ save doesn’t mean much. Plasma guns punch through their armour, while power weapons can take out entire squads. Weight of shots will make them fail saves as well, if you roll 30 armour saves you should be losing even the biggest squad. Sadly, this weakness is emphasised more than the Tactical squad, as Sternguard are more expensive, even before giving them upgrades. These guys aren’t Terminators, they can’t whether a hail of boltgun fire, so don’t use them as such. As shown above, the prices make them very much a glass cannon when compared to Tactical Marines, even when they are as survivable with them. Take care of them to get the best use out of them.

Combat – yet another strength that is also a weakness. Yes Sternguard can do combat, reasonably well. But, they are not combat specialists. Only one model can carry a special combat weapon, the rest have to rely on their two base attacks. They have no invulnerable saves, so power weapons take them out easily. Furthermore, every turn they’re in combat is a turn where they’re not shooting, wasting their true potential. Therefore, only charge weaker units you’ll wipe out in two turns, and only when you absolutely have to. Avoid combat specialists like Honour Guard and Banshees, these will rip you apart, often with no casualties. You bought a transport? Use it to protect them, because combat is not what these guys were intended for.


Weapon options:
The Sternguard Veteran squad have a wealth of weapon options that they can pick and choose from, special weapons, heavy weapons for two members of the squad and combi weapons for the rest. The Sergeant can even take a melee upgrade! Here I will detail the pros and cons of taking each one.

Combis – combi weapons are a massive strength of the Sternguard squad. For 5pts a piece you can keep your boltgun and special ammo and get a onetime use special weapon on top of that. Bargain! The choice of combi is a tricky one, dependent on your list. Lacking anti-tank? Take combi-meltas. Lacking a way to kill tough, elite units? Take combi-plasma. Or perhaps you need a little horde control. In this instance, combi-flamers are the best. Or, if you’re not sure, you can mix and match them, making sure you have the right tool for the job. The choice of combis can be a hard one though, so I will go into more detail below:

  • Combi-flamer: for 5pts you can fire a flamer once per game. Short ranged but guaranteed to hit, most of the time it will hit multiple bodies. The fact that is ignores cover saves is largely redundant as dragonfire rounds do that and at greater distance too, so the thing the flamer has over them is auto-hitting. This can be a good thing, especially when attempting pile on lots of wounds, but there are better choices, especially as massed dragonfire round can do the job. Best against hordes or in a Vulkan army.
  • Combi-melta: This is the go to combi for most people, and given what it can do, it's easy to see why. In this mech orientated edition it's nice to have multiple tools for taking out tanks throughout the list, and this is one of the best. At close range it will destroy any tank, at full range it will threaten most. It also has uses against multi-wound T4 models, MCs and TEQ, although plasma is typically a better option for the latter. However, the small squad sizes of most of them will mean that mass combi-melta can do the job. Bascially, your special ammo covers everything except that list and vehicles, combi-melta just fills that in.
  • Combi-plasma: the last combi option, not seen as much as melta, but still deadly in the right hands. This weapon is great at destroying MEQ, TEQ and MCs, and is good against light vehicles, although these tend to be better handled by melta. And as Vengeance can take care of MEQ (although not as well), that leaves TEQ as the main target for combi-plasma. So it comes down to metagame or gameplan, if you run against a lot of Terminators then this can be a fantastic choice. Or if you have a plan for it that fits in with your list they're a good choice. Also remember that out of the combis they can fire up to 24", although most will prefer to wait until 12" range for maximum effect. A good choice that again fills in many of Sternguard's weaknesses, the choice comes from your priorities, would you prefer more anti-elite or anti-tank?

Remember though that the combi weapon is one shot, and so you need to use it wisely. If you’re unsure about what combi to go for, I find that thanks to special ammo, you can never go wrong with combi-meltas, as these let your squad deal with any target, but all of these are solid choices.

Flamer – for a small cost you can trade out your special ammo boltguns for flamers. This allows you to take out more infantry, ignore cover saves, and assault after shooting as well if you bolt pistol everyone else. However, their job is more or less covered by dragonfire, so for versatility combi-flamers just about beat them. Also pales in comparison to another special weapon I will be talking about later.

Meltagun – for small cost you can give your squad a couple of meltaguns, allowing them to consistently tackle vehicles. Seemingly useless when you consider combi-meltas allow them to take out vehicles while keeping special ammo, meltaguns are surprisingly a good choice. A couple of meltaguns and a handful of combi-meltas turns your Sternguard squad into a good anti-tank team that can also handle anti-infantry well. When all the tanks are gone, just allocate wounds on the meltaguns. Also means that they can take on MCs and Terminator squads more reliably. If you’re looking to fill in anti-tank with something durable, this isn’t a bad place to look.

Plasma gun – for a more expensive cost you get the plasma gun. Not entirely impressive as for cheaper you can get multiple combi-plasmas, allowing you more shots in a given turn. Considering Sternguard are fantastic against all infantry bar Terminators anyway, you only really need one volley of plasma fire to take out things like Terminators and Carnifexes, so it’s often best to spend less and keep versatility. It's useful against Nidzilla, Deathwing and Loganwing lists, so consider using then.

Heavy flamer – I’m not going to lie, the last special weapon option is my favourite. Where else can you get a power armoured model with a heavy flamer? The answer, nowhere (Legion of the Damned don’t count, they don’t have power armour). For the same cost as a plasma gun you have a S5 AP4 template. And you lose your versatility. Sounds worst considering the drop in strength and AP compared to the plasma gun, but is so isn’t. In fact, the increase in strength over the flamer makes it fantastic at hurting anything, even Marines, while it’s AP means that anything not in power armour is toast. Its assault nature means you can lay down so heavy firepower before charging as well. Two heavy flamers are also nasty, and fantastic in large squads. Considering that the nature of Sternguard are anti-infantry, I feel that this is a fantastic choice for any squad, as it makes them more powerful in that role. Whether it’s worth giving up special ammo is down to the player, but I sure think it is.

Heavy bolter – I’m sorry, they're just not worth it. You’ve got kraken bolts, which have the same AP, nearly the same range, and while they shoot less, they are more mobile and free. Heavy bolters need to be in threes and preferably fours before they shine, you can’t get that in a Sternguard squad. A shame, because I like heavy bolters.

Multi-melta – a fantastic choice in Tactical squads, but not so fantastic in Sternguard squads. Sternguard squads typically rely on being defensive with long-range weapons, or offensive with rapid fire and short range weapons. The multi-melta is neither, it is a midfield weapon, and considering the points we spend on Sternguard that’s best left to the Tactical squads. Could be useful, but meltaguns would be better in must circumstances.

Missile launcher – if you want a demi- Dev squad or a backfield objective holder with Pedro this isn’t a bad choice. Keep with their versatile nature, allowing them to take out tanks and infantry, and cheap, not much can go wrong with this weapons option.

Plasma cannon – typically considered over-priced on Devastator squads, and under-priced on Tactical squads, the plasma cannon is perfectly priced with a Sternguard squad. While not as versatile as the missile launcher, is handles its job better than the heavy bolter and can take out Marines as well. Kraken rounds with their long range complement this weapon as well. Very good if additional firepower is needed, or if you want to babysit an objective.

Lascannon – same as the plasma cannon in price costs, this weapon is a powerful, single shot weapon capable of turning tanks inside out. While only one strength higher than the missile launcher, that extra point of strength is often invaluable, and at a reasonable points cost there’s no reason as to why you shouldn’t pick this over the missile launcher, unless you want versatility of course.

Sergeant wargear – just a quick rundown on the Sergeant’s wargear. In almost all cases it’s best to trade out his bolt pistol, so you keep the boltgun and special ammo (the only time to trade out the boltgun is for a combi-weapon). This therefore means that the plasma pistol and power sword are bad choices from the go. Plasma pistols are just expensive and the combi-plasma will be better, while if you're not keeping the bolt pistol you won't get the bonus attack for two weapons when using the power sword, making the lightning claw immediately better.

So instead, the real decision is about the lightning claw or the power fist. The lighting claw is better against low toughness targets, while the power fist is a better all-rounder. Both are invaluable to a squad that will be targeted a lot on combat, allowing them to take the enemy out. This choice does become simple if you’re running Pedro with the squad, use the lighting claw instead then, as you’ll already have a power fist on Pedro. Another argument in favour of the lightning claw is the use of meltabombs for cheaper than a power fist. Very useful against infantry and tanks, the Sergeant suffers against walkers and MCs. In reality the lightning claw is only really better against infantry with T3 or less, so if you can spare the points is often best to go for the power fist, which offers more to the squad than the lightning claw does, especially when you consider their shooting can effectively do what the lightning claw does, take out infantry.

Storm bolters – just a brief mention on storm bolters for the squad. That is all. No, seriously, storm bolters are good, just ask a Grey Knight player. They let you move full distance and fire to full effect up to 24”, not bad. And they’re cheap! Unfortunately, this piece of wargear is useless, as special ammo only works in a boltgun or combi-bolter, not in pistols, not in heavy bolters, and not in storm bolters. Therefore, leave alone. If you want a storm bolter unit, pay the extra 15pts per model and get Terminators with a better save and power fist attack each, letting them be better at being in the open.

So, in summary, if you want a close ranged squad combi-weapons and maybe a special like a meltagun or heavy flamer is good, as is a combat weapon. If you want a long ranged squad then take less men, no combis or combat weapons, and just a couple of heavy weapons. As you can see, these weapons options means that Sternguard aren’t just flexible on the tabletop, they’re flexible before you get to the tabletop!

Transports:
Sternguard have a choice between three dedicated transports, the Rhino, the Razorback, and the Drop Pod. The pros and cons of each transport has been discussed elsewhere, I will talk in relation to how they benefit Sternguard instead.

Rhino – while not packing the heavy armament of the Razorback or the shock factor and superior transport capacity of the Drop Pod, the Rhino is reliable, able to pack in a decent sized Sternguard squad and ferry them across the battlefield to where they’re needed to be. The top hatch allows drive by by flamers to be a good tactic as well, and the tank itself protects the Sternguard squad. Some people use it for heavy weapons squads, protecting them and firing out of the top hatch. While it keeps them alive, the more than likely occasional shaking of the Rhino will prevent them from shooting all game round, so there is a trade-off. Rhino upgrades, as ever, are best kept at a minimum, as you want it to be moving 12” at most times, meaning weapon upgrades aren’t that good. Consider the dozer blade to allow the Rhino to attack through terrain, and if you have points left over extra armour so that your Sternguard are always moving.

Razorback – lack of transport capacity is made up with a heavy weapon, so it’s best used for small squads that can benefit from the extra heavy fire, as well as backfield squads that don’t need transporting, but could do with an extra heavy weapon. Options include choice of weapons. The heavy bolter is cheap and therefore good. The heavy flamer isn’t bad, but pricy and short ranged, often it’s better to have a bigger squad with 2 heavy flamers in a Rhino. The assault cannon is fantastic for advancing Sternguard squads thanks to its high rate of fire and strength. The lascannon is consistently outperformed by the las/plas turret; both are good for backfield squads.

Drop Pod – high transport capacity allows you to fill out your squad and still add ICs to the unit. Fantastic for bringing your superior firepower to bear quickly, it does leave your unit exposed and vulnerable to counter-attack, turning them into little more than a glorified suicide unit. Still can take out a large portion of the enemy’s army before they die.

Land Raiders – OK, this isn’t a dedicated transport, but you can still buy them a Land Raider of any type in the Heavy Support section. Indeed, I’ve seen some lists using Sternguard in a Land Raider. Given that the best use of the Land Raider is for its assault ramp, and considering the Sternguard are not an assault unit, it’ seems weird to use them in here when a Rhino is cheaper, and used correctly just as durable. However, when accompanied by Pedro, Lysander or Vulkan is could be well be worth it. With some heavy flamers, combi-flamers and a power fist or lightning claw they can be frightful in assault, while the Land Raider’s weapons makes up for not using most of their own weapons. Still not the best transport for them, or the best unit for the transport.

Common builds:
There are quite a few common builds on my Space Marine 101 guide, but here I shall look at some of my favourite ones in depth.

5-10 men, barebones - often still in a transport depending on squad size, this unit can be deceptively cheap, 10 men in a Rhino comes to 285pts, compared to the unit below which can come in at many more thanks to upgrades. Still a fantastic unit non the less, able to shoot to death pretty much every infantry unit in the Codex, and can even handle tanks (not walkers or Land Raiders etc) with krak grenades. Not a bad budget option to enable you to fit more units into your army.

7/8 men, power fist, heavy flamer, combi-meltas, Rhino – comes in at around 300pts. A fantastic unit to ferry a HQ unit around, this squad is incredibly versatile. The heavy flamer enhances their anti-infantry, while the combi-meltas allows them to deal with tanks, MCs, and TEQ. Their special ammo means they can handle anything. If the heavy flamer is less than useful, simply take it off first. The power fist allows them to handle combat very well. My favourite HQ model for this is a Libby or Vulkan, as both give a bit more combat and allows the use of another powerful flamer weapon. The reason for 8 men is to allow someone to ride with them, and because they become too pointy when you put 9-10 men. In most cases, forward squads want 7-8 men in total.

7/8 men, power fist/meltabombs, 2 meltaguns, combi-meltas, Rhino – an anti-tank squad that can also hurt infantry. The combi-meltas work differently to the previous squad, where they’ll often be unleashed at once. Instead, you stagger their use, allowing you to consistently get 3 or even 4 melta shots off with your squad. This allows you to consistently hurt and cripple tanks and MCs. Against big TEQ squads and tanks that need to die then the melta bombardment can be nasty. Power fist helps in combat against tanks they don’t kill, meltabombs can also do the job as well. Perhaps consider a lightning claw to even up the squad with some more anti-infantry.

5/6 men, 2 plasma cannons, Razorback – a demi-Dev squad, or backfield objective holder with Pedro, the plasma cannons here gives them lots of anti-infantry and anti-MEQ firepower. While they can take out tanks, it’s best to let other units do this so you can drop plasma templates on top of the occupants inside. Choice of transport is up to you, the Rhino gives you immunity from small arms fire while shooting out of the top hatch, the Razorback gives you an extra heavy weapon. IMO the Razorback is the better choice, as it lets you poor more heavy firepower from afar, and ensures your unit can always fire, if the Rhino gets stunned or shaken your unit isn’t firing for a turn. No combat or combi weapons are needed, and less men are needed due to not being on the frontline.

5/6 men, 2 lascannons, Razorback – basically the same principle as the above squad, except using lascannons for taking out tanks, as opposed to lascannons for taking out infantry. The best transport for this squad is the las/plas Razorback, which gives you an additional lascannon shot, although the TL-LC isn’t too bad either.

10 men, 2 heavy flamers, (3 combi-flamers), 5 combi-meltas, (power fist), Drop Pod – the definition of Sternguard suicide unit, this unit takes advantage of combat squads and their multitude of weapons to present multiple threats to the enemy when dropping down. The unit splits into one with heavy flamers and combi-flamers if taken, and combi-meltas in the other. Power fist if taken goes wherever. The combi-meltas target tanks, looking to cripple Hammerheads, Land Raiders, and even just transports with elite units in them, while the heavy flamers take out infantry. They can also combine their fire, with the combi-meltas taking out a transport and the flamers torching the units within. Don’t expect these guys to live. Another version will include two meltaguns and 8 combi-meltas instead, splitting into two squads with 1 meltagun and 4 combi-meltas, allowing you to take out two tanks at once. Either way, the split into two squads makes it harder for your opponent to take them out. Very expensive.

These are just some Sternguard builds, and many others exist! I’d implore you to tinker about with them to find a build that suits you, but if you’re unsure you can’t go far wrong with one of the builds above.


Characters:
This section will include both generic and special characters, detailing the better ones to accompany Sternguard, and ones that can change the way they play. First, the generic choices.

Captain – sounds a little weird, given he’s a combat character, but he’s still a good match for the Sternguard. With artificer armour and 3 wounds he can take a few hits, while with a relic blade he boosts their combat potential. A storm shield also helps protect them from plasma weapons, while you can also give him a hellfire round boltgun to complement their own shooting. Worth considering.

Librarian – the go to choice for many people, the Librarian is a fantastic choice that can work well in Sternguard. I won’t go into much depth about his powers, but the Avenger in particular complements a short-ranged Sternguard squad, while Gate of Infinity, eliminates the need for a transport and lets them react to nearly anywhere on the board, although it is often better used as a backup to a transport, keeping them mobile even after their Rhino has died, and also being able to pull them out of combat or even travel further than they would have been able to, setting up a surprise attack or counter attack. Null Zone in a Rhino also has a long range. While he’s not amazing in combat, he has a power weapon and at least 3 attacks at WS5, so not too shabby either. Might also lets him attack at S6, and with 2D6 armour pen he can complement a power fist well when attacking tanks. For the points cost, a fantastic choice.

Master of the Forge – another odd choice, but with a servo-harness and combi-weapon, he can put out a decent about of firepower to complement the Sternguard. Special close combat weapon and servo-arms means he can help out in combat, while his artificer armour can turn aside some blows. Another one worth considering, especially if you want to use a lot of Dreadnoughts and Sternguard squads, his force organisation ability means you can take the Dreads as Heavy Support while taking Sternguard as Elites.

The Chapter Master is typically taken for Honour Guard, and so the Captain is the better choice in that regard, while the Chaplain benefits combat squads, which the Sternguard aren’t. Neither are good choices to accompany Sternguard.

Now onto the special characters:

Chapter Master Pedro Kantor – I’ll start with Kantor, as he’s the obvious choice. His Chapter Tactics allow the Sternguard to score, making them even more useful, and turning them into some of the best objective takers and holders in the game, let alone our Codex! Also gives them Stubborn, making them harder to break in a fight, while his Inspiring Presence rule makes them much, much better in combat. We're talking about 3 attacks each without charging, 4 if you do. And this benefit includes all squads within 12", not just the Sternguard! And he's got a double RoF, kraken round (effecitvely) storm bolter, just to complement their shooting. If playing a fluffy Crimson Fists army, or if you just really like Sternguard and want them to do more than Kantor is a solid choice, just leave him in the Rhino if you can, with a 3+/4++ and no EW he's a bit fragile.

Forgefather Vulkan He’stan – The other, massive special character that can boost Sternguard, Vulkan boosts them not in making them scoring or fight harder in assault, but by twin-linking their flamers and meltas. As these weapons are the best at taking on infantry and tanks respectively, this vastly increases their damage output. Very accurate meltas means more chance of hitting and taking a tank out. Re-rolling flamer weapons means that infantry are more likely to die in droves. Vulkan himself does well in a Sternguard squad, giving them another heavy flamer, bringing them up to a potential of three, and also bringing a resilient character who’s hard hitting in combat. Not a bad choice as all. And if you’ve read Firedrake, you’ll see how fluffy this is in a Salamander army.

Captain Darnath Lysander – while he can’t fit in a Rhino with them he can fit in a Land Raider or Drop Pod. The Drop Pod is the preferred transport, as it allows a horrible alpha strike unit to hit the ground, with re-rolls to their rapid firing boltguns making them devastating. Also makes them a lot harder in combat, thanks to a 2+/3++ save, four wounds, eternal warrior and a S10 thunder hammer meaning he can dish out the damage, and absorb a lot of wounds that would otherwise kill Sternguard. Also, fun fact, use him with Pedro for scoring Sternguard with better combat and better shooting. You take Pedro's Chapter Tactics as it's Stubborn and scoring Sternguard, while Lysander's bolter drill is a special rule, so he can still use it. Lots and lots of points though, but potentially fun.

Chief Librarian Varro Tigurius – basically our super Librarian, Tigurius becomes less fragile when he has another wounds or so to hide behind. Best used in a gating squad, he can take the squad to where they needed most, throw up a force field, and even lend a hand in the shooting. His flexibility allows the Sternguard to do a lot that they couldn’t do otherwise, while also meaning that reserves will arrive when needed.

Chaplain Cassius - what?! DarkGuard you said no Chaplains! I did, but I'm making an exception for this guy. First of, many people will tell you if you take a foot Chaplain you take him, 25pts extra nets you FnP, T6, and a master-crafted combi-flamer with hellfire rounds, not bad. And that's also the reason why he does well with Sternguard. FnP and T6 means he can take some hits that the Sternguard wouldn't be able to take. Like krak missiles for example. He gets his invulnerable save and FnP against it, Sternguard would just die. He can also complement their shooting with a master-crafted hellfire round bolter and combi-flamer, and if you do charge with them you get all the usual Chaplain stuff. Also means your Sternguard won't get pinned and won't run, which can be painful. Worth a look, though competes with the Librarian, and also fluffy in an Ultramarines list, just stick Tyranid heads to your Sternguard first.

Putting it all together – Army Synergy:
So, here’s the army synergy section by popular demand. I’m not normally that amazing as this sort of thing, so forgive me if this isn’t so good.

So, Sternguard are a fantastic unit, truly. They are flexible on the battlefield and before the battlefield and so can therefore be built to adapt to any situation or to perform any role needed in an army. Now while no units should ideally be thrown into a list as an afterthought, doing so with Sternguard is certainly more forgiving than other units due to their multi-purpose nature. So here’s a few roles they can perform within your army, and the best units to perform these roles in tandem with.

Spearhead – no, not the mission deployment. The Sternguard are a very killy unit thanks to their special ammo. Indeed, if they only had hellfire ammo they’d still be a very killy unit. And this killy unit, when put in a Rhino, makes a fine unit indeed to spearhead an attack, especially if you don’t want to pay points for Terminators and a Land Raider. Take around 8 men, give them a heavy flamer or two and some combi-meltas, plus that power fist, and drive them at the weakest point in the enemy line, with the goal to break through and let your supporting units take a foot hold. Supporting units should include Tactical squads and/or scoring bikers for taking objectives and just providing more bodies, while an Assault squad or equivalent is handy to help punch through the enemy line. Long-range units are also good units to support this tactics, particular long-range anti-tank.

Counter-attack – counter-attack, not counter-assault, means here that you have the capability to counter your enemy’s movement. In this role the Sternguard are used to support your other units such as your scoring units and firebase units, moving in a Rhino or with a Gate Libby to intercept or neutralise enemy threats. The best load out is typically the one shown above, although if you Gate them the heavy flamer might as well go. Depending on what you’re reacting to combi-plasmas could be handy as well, especially if you see a lot of Nidzilla or Terminator armies around the place, otherwise stick to combi-meltas for taking out tanks. Again, support this unit with long-range anti-tank etc, but keep in mind that this isn’t the main killing unit, but rather a counter-attacking unit, and should be used with care lest you want to have your key units vulnerable.

Dedicated anti-tank – the previous two choices assume that the Sternguard are primarily anti-infantry, although to be honest you don’t need much dedicated anti-infantry units in a Space Marine list. However, you do need anti-tank units, especially with mech, and if you don’t trust those fragile fast melta platforms then this is the unit for you. The minimum requirements are at least two meltaguns and a transport, preferably a Rhino or Drop Pod, but combi-meltas will be very handy as will a fist or meltabombs. Basically use these guys with their lots of melta shots to open your opponent’s vehicles, letting units like Tactical squads and Honour Guard get at the guys inside. Also very handy at taking out battle tanks, Dreads and Carnifexes before they mush your backline. Because they are taking out the tanks they won’t be able to focus on infantry so keep something nearby that can take them out, like a dual flamer Tactical squad. Rhino is more reliable than the Drop Pod and allows them move on, but the Drop Pod allows for alpha strikes.

Alpha strike – different to the above in that this unit should always be in a Drop Pod with 10 men and a mix of flamers and meltas. When they arrive split the unit in two, letting the meltas tear apart a tank while the flamers incinerate the infantry inside if it’s a transport, or just any nearby infantry if there isn’t. If you face a lot of mech then just take loads of melta and take out two tanks when you come down. This unit is essentially a suicide unit so don’t feel obliged to shoot it, although having Typhoons, dakka Preds or thunderfire cannons etc would be helpful as they can kill the guys that come out of transports that the Sternguard blow up, or indeed the guys that get out transports to blow the Sternguard up.

Firebase unit – Sternguard can also add to your firebase, as they are able to take cheap heavy weapons and even a Razorback if needed. In these squads you want either two plasma cannons or two lascannons, depending on what you want taking out, infantry or tanks. Pair them up with something that can the job they can’t do, such as another Sternguard squad for example, and you’ll then be able to take out your enemy’s transports and infantry in the same turn. Good units to support your Tactical squad’s advance, they will need another unit nearby to help them out in combat as you want them shooting. For this think Dreadnought or Assault squad, although you could take a 10 man Sternguard, give half of them combi weapons and a fist and break off in deployment, with the heavy weapons firing and the other guys deterring.


Conclusion
Well, I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading this article, and I hope it’ll help you get more out of using your Sternguard. Then again, I know that most of you know exactly how to use your own Sternguard, but I simply felt the need to put my own thoughts on paper, especially as they’re my favourite unit. I hope I didn’t bore you too much, and thanks for reading!

DarkGuard.


Edited by DarkGuard, 20 July 2016 - 10:35 PM.

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#2
Marine Errant

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Hi mate. Great overview, thanks for that. Believe it or not but in 24 years of playing marines I have never used any elite units, be they terminators, vanguard or sternguard. However, your overview has given me a few ideas so this may be changing in the near future ;-)


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#3
nurglephill

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As ever Dark Guard sir thank you :D

Another excellent thought provoking post I am very grateful to you for!

Just so you know the [link] you posted doesn't seem to be a link....

Thanks again

Phill
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#4
Ming

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Also check the accuracy on description of special rounds....
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#5
Koremu

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FWIW, the rule of thumb on Special Round use is that if you can take away all of the enemy saves, you should do so, otherwise you should always choose to wound on a 2+

The only exceptions are beasties with T6+ and T5 with a 4+ save, which you should always wound on a 2+ against.

Edited by Koremu, 09 June 2011 - 05:07 PM.

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#6
thade

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FWIW, the rule of thumb on Special Round use is that if you can take away all of the enemy saves, you should do so, otherwise you should always choose to wound on a 2+

The only exceptions are beasties with T6+ and T5 with a 4+ save, which you should always wound on a 2+ against.

^This.

I've only ever given my sternguard combi-weapons; their bolter ammo is, imho, their real strength. I can get heavy weapons elsewhere in my list.

One exception is the heavy flamer, which is hard to get in SM lists these days. It has some nice applications.
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#7
DarkGuard

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Thanks for all your kind words guys.

@nurglephil, I remember where I put that now, it was simply a place holder till I posted but forgot all about it, will sort that out.

@Ming, I'm pretty sure my rounds are fine, but I'll double check.

@Koremu, that's pretty much what I wrote, and what the guide in the Librarium I will link to wrote as well (fantastic guide as well). Do feel it needs to be clearer though?
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#8
Chapter Master Ignis Domus

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I like it. I kept thinking "You know, he seems to be missing x", and then blam! it appears. Any chance you could add an overall army synergy section for them?
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QUOTE (shortysl @ Jul 2 2012, 03:58 AM) [url=index.php?act=findpost&pid=3104914]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/url]
It makes sense to me that if the Tactical Marine intercepts the bullet with his face then the Captain really shouldn't lose his Iron Halo. Not unless Captain and Battle Brother were hugging at the time, in which case it's: bullet shorts out shield and then kills Marine. Captain looks on shocked as Marine slides down his body, then sinks to his knees shouting "nooooooooooo" with his hands in the air.

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#9
ShinyRhino

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One very minor correction...Hellfire isn't Poisoned. It simply wounds on a 2+. If it were Poisoned, it would grant rerolls to wound against targets with a Toughness less than the weapon's Strength value.
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#10
thade

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Combat – yet another strength that is also a weakness. Yes Sternguard can do combat, reasonably well. But, they are not combat specialists. Only one model can carry a special combat weapon, the rest have to rely on their two base attacks.

You know, I think about this a great deal. I have charged with my Sternguard before and they pack a reasonable punch with base 2 attacks...but really it's like they're just an assault squad without jump packs. Nothing special. Only reason to charge with them is if you fear the counter charge; otherwise, special bolter ammo is a better route.

I often wish the sternguard could have some unique bolter-upgrade, like a "power weapon bayonet" or something. Would be too good to be true, I suppose.

Good write-up, DG!
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#11
Chapter Master Ignis Domus

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Nope:

Type
Rapid Fire, Poisoned (2+)


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QUOTE (shortysl @ Jul 2 2012, 03:58 AM) [url=index.php?act=findpost&pid=3104914]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/url]
It makes sense to me that if the Tactical Marine intercepts the bullet with his face then the Captain really shouldn't lose his Iron Halo. Not unless Captain and Battle Brother were hugging at the time, in which case it's: bullet shorts out shield and then kills Marine. Captain looks on shocked as Marine slides down his body, then sinks to his knees shouting "nooooooooooo" with his hands in the air.

On vacation.

#12
DarkGuard

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Nope:

Type
Rapid Fire, Poisoned (2+)


And

The profile of Hellfire Rounds and Hellfire Shells should be
changed by replacing ʻStrength Xʼ with ʻStrength 1ʼ.


So I suppose against T1 stuff we'll get our re-rolls :D.

I like it. I kept thinking "You know, he seems to be missing x", and then blam! it appears. Any chance you could add an overall army synergy section for them?


I'm glad I kept you on your toes then, good to see I've covered nearly everything. I'll look into the army synergy section for them. I hadn't planned to do so, but now you mention it it would round off the article nicely, so I'll work on that over the next few days. Thanks for suggesting that.

@thade, I think a lot of people both underestimate and overestimate a Sternguard squad's assault capabilities. Against most troops choice they'll do well, especially if they have a flamer and character. But if you were to charge, say Honour Guard, or Banshees, don't expect to come out on top. So, like Tactical Marines, it's very much shoot the assaulty, assault the shooty, although I suppose it's also shoot the shooty more!
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#13
Shadowstalker Grim

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A well written article, as always, DarkGuard! Very informative! One day I want a squad of sternguard (articles like this only fuelling the desire!), but I think i'll try and convert the whole squad to look unique and dramatic....may sound silly, but perhaps something similar to 'noble squad' from Halo:Reach...I think it could work nicely and look cool :D
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#14
thade

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So, like Tactical Marines, it's very much shoot the assaulty, assault the shooty, although I suppose it's also shoot the shooty more!

I love special ammo. Punch a few clean holes through that Demon Prince? Yes, please. I almost always shoot over assaulting with the Sternguard. More of a "nice surprise" when people charge them and I get two-swings back per model.

Edited by thade, 09 June 2011 - 08:45 PM.

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#15
Paulochromis

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A few things:
-- firstly, I'm surprised at your choice of razorback for the pseudo-dev squads, firing the heavy weapons from the top hatch of a rhino makes them more durable and allows you the option to position them midfield as well as backfield.
-- secondly, Pedro's +1A aura makes a BIG difference in combat potential, especially since it can affect multiple squads.
-- you ignored the power weapon CC upgrade, focusing purely on the lightning claw. Since you're planning to keep the bolter, the LC is a better choice (no +1A for two CC weapons anyway), but it's probably worth stating.
-- when/if you address whole army synergies, the fact that you want to fill the FOC with sternguard makes the MotF attractive since you can now take dreads as heavies (and the sternguard can be equipped as pseudo-devs).

Great article.
Cheers, Paul.

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#16
Shadowstalker Grim

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A few things:
-- firstly, I'm surprised at your choice of razorback for the pseudo-dev squads, firing the heavy weapons from the top hatch of a rhino makes them more durable and allows you the option to position them midfield as well as backfield.
-- secondly, Pedro's +1A aura makes a BIG difference in combat potential, especially since it can affect multiple squads.
-- you ignored the power weapon CC upgrade, focusing purely on the lightning claw. Since you're planning to keep the bolter, the LC is a better choice (no +1A for two CC weapons anyway), but it's probably worth stating.
-- when/if you address whole army synergies, the fact that you want to fill the FOC with sternguard makes the MotF attractive since you can now take dreads as heavies (and the sternguard can be equipped as pseudo-devs).

Great article.
Cheers, Paul.



I think that razorbacks are tacked with the psuedo-dev squads because they are already a small squad and are probably going to be stationary and the extra gun could come in handy, I quite like the idea of a smaller squad in a razorback zipping into the fray and unloading a regular squad, but 6 members wont last too long on the front line. I see your point with the top hatch, but I guess its nice to include the razorback too!

Also, when looking at whole armies and synergising, thats a real challenge! A very big ask, I think the idea with sternguard is that you can effectively use them in any role when correctly equipped. This way they fit into your army as a sort of swiss army knife to address different issues as they arise, able to pick up any slack left by other units.....

Some good points though :)
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#17
DarkGuard

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A few things:
-- firstly, I'm surprised at your choice of razorback for the pseudo-dev squads, firing the heavy weapons from the top hatch of a rhino makes them more durable and allows you the option to position them midfield as well as backfield.
-- secondly, Pedro's +1A aura makes a BIG difference in combat potential, especially since it can affect multiple squads.
-- you ignored the power weapon CC upgrade, focusing purely on the lightning claw. Since you're planning to keep the bolter, the LC is a better choice (no +1A for two CC weapons anyway), but it's probably worth stating.
-- when/if you address whole army synergies, the fact that you want to fill the FOC with sternguard makes the MotF attractive since you can now take dreads as heavies (and the sternguard can be equipped as pseudo-devs).

Great article.
Cheers, Paul.


Hi, thanks for the comments. These are especially helpful as it means know where to have a look at and touch up on.

1) Well I did mention the strengths and weaknesses of both. IMO, if you're using a heavy weapons squad you don't need too many men in the squad, and therefore don't need the transport capacity. So it comes down to the extra heavy weapon vs the top hatch. Now the top hatch is fantastic, and I use it extensively with my midfield squads and heavy flamer Sternguard. It's great for drive bys in particular. However, when you're sitting your Sternguard with heavy weapons you want them to be firing all game long. If you stick them in a Rhino they can fire out and be protected, but if that Rhino gets shot at there's a chance you won't be able to fire next turn, either because its been shaken or stunned, or because you may have been pinned etc. Therefore, you're missing a turn's shooting, which isn't great. In these instances, the heavy weapon may useful, and as Grim says it helps to make up for the lack of numbers somewhat. If you only take 5-6 men you don't need the transport capacity of a Rhino. Do you think it needs to be clearer?

2) Very true about Pedro. I have stated that the power weapon isn't really an option thanks to the fact that you're trading out the bolt pistol, and so therefore the lightning claw is more beneficial. Again, do you think it needs to be clearer?

3) Noted, that's a very good point, and I may add that to the HQ section as well.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's helping to iron out the creases.

EDIT: I've just gone over those points anyway, so hopefully my thoughts on those issues are now clearer.

Also, while I will work on a synergy section in the future, my next project will be a write up on Tyranid psykers for Shadowstalker Grim's psychic power 101, so it may be a little while before I put the synergy section in.

Edited by DarkGuard, 10 June 2011 - 06:54 PM.

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#18
DarkGuard

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OK then guys, here's the moment you've been waiting for, the synergy section!! I must confess I may have got the wrong impression, but I like it so it'll probably stay. Basically it draws a little from everything before it and gives them roles that they can perform in an army, and will mention the general purpose of that role, plus the units they'll be supporting or might support them. There's plenty of room for people to make up their own minds on their own specific role and supporting units though. I hope you guys like it, as always let me know where I'm wrong or can improve.
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#19
maturin

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Great section, Darkguard.

I've found that pairing a Sternguard unit up with a CC-capable unit is about as synergistic as you can get. Whether running the two units as a spearhead or as counter-attack (the same thing in my army list, depending on tactical situation), have the Sternguard shoot first. Then in the assault phase have the CC unit charge in.

The reason this works so well is because rarely will shooting alone (even from Sternguard) be enough to kill an enemy unit completely. And if they don't run away, then the Sternguard will likely get charged the next turn. And while the Sternguard can hold their own in CC, they're not great at it. Furthermore every turn they're in CC is a turn they're not using their special ammo. Having a CC unit to "clean up" allows the Sternguard to move on to the next target.

Having had the target unit softened up does the same for the assault unit - they're likely to win CC all the sooner, and be ready to hit the next target next turn. Working individually, your chances of having the two units tarpitted is much higher.

#20
DarkGuard

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I agree completely with that. Today I was running Sternguard and Honour Guard up against a Grey Knight army, the Honour Guard in a Rhino, the Sternguard gating. Unfortunately they didn't do as much damage as I would have liked, I'm thinking a Rhino would be better for them. But they did draw a lot of firepower away, weakening units, while the Honour Guard counter-charged units that got too close. So it's something I'm working on in my own lists.
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#21
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What do you think to a unit of sternguard supported by vanguard with jump packs (crazy I know!) but it'd only be a small unit to leap over the rhino to counter charge...
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#22
DarkGuard

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What do you think to a unit of sternguard supported by vanguard with jump packs (crazy I know!) but it'd only be a small unit to leap over the rhino to counter charge...


I think that'll be a fine choice. You will only need a couple of melee upgrades as the Sternguard should do the bulk of the damage with their shooting, you just need a unit that can jump in and clean off enemy units.
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#23
Cmdr Shepard

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I have a doubt about the selection of the "special weapons upgrades" for Sternguard squads.
Currently I have limited the chioces to three options: Heavy Flamer, Multi-Melta and Meltagun. It appears that every mentioned weapon can play a relevant role.

1. Heavy flamer is supremely qualified in dealing with hordes, giving the smaller sternguard squad a chance to reduce enemy ranks. However in order to use it you must be very close to assault range and despite their stats even sternguard can be in trouble if they are charged by a mod of orks. It will be extremely useful in the "charge or be charged" situations but we'll have to not fire boltguns.
Beside Sternguard will remain out of assault whenever possible since they are far more qualified in shooting. The heavy flamer risks to remain unused for the entire game.

2. Multi-melta would increase considerably the range of anti-thank fire. I plan to give three combi-melta to every squad but their function will be situational (single shot, range 12", melta rule range of 6"). MM will give the squad a constant stream of 12" anti-thank fire( assuming we count on melta rule range) and a single 24" shot that will wound most models on 2+, ignore any armour save and inflict istand death to many model. However it will require the squad to remain stationary.

3. Meltagun would retain suveral MM properties at loss of 12" range but granting the squad the capability to fire after movement. The meltagun will be unable to match boltguns maximum range but it will match boltguns two shots range.

What do you suggest?

#24
Shadowstalker Grim

Shadowstalker Grim

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anti-thank


Not quite sure what the antithesis of thanking is.... B)


Cmdr Shepdard, you make a point that flames are only really useable up close, which is perfectly true, however melta weapons are generally in the same boat. Admittedly its against a vehicle, but you still have to move right up close to get the best out of the gun.


What you equip your sternguard with is really a matter of personal choice, a the heavy flamer and multi melta can help deal with hoardes and with tanks respectively and can give the sternguard a much needed boost in those departments, possibly even making them dedicated to a certain role if you chose. The combi-weapons are cheap and allow the sternguard to retain their flexibility. Its all a matter of personal choice, generally combi-meltas are the favoured choice....
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#25
Cmdr Shepard

Cmdr Shepard

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anti-thank


Not quite sure what the antithesis of thanking is.... :P

Well you know there is an entity called "typing error". You just encounter one of their kind. ;) Since I usually type in very busy conditions typing mistake are sadly common. An adverse effect of multi-tasking. :P
We can assure a self-destructive person will "thank" the vehicle for trying to kill them. My SM show the antithetical behaviour..... it was a joke, of course ;)

Cmdr Shepdard, you make a point that flames are only really useable up close, which is perfectly true, however melta weapons are generally in the same boat. Admittedly its against a vehicle, but you still have to move right up close to get the best out of the gun.


What you equip your sternguard with is really a matter of personal choice, a the heavy flamer and multi melta can help deal with hoardes and with tanks respectively and can give the sternguard a much needed boost in those departments, possibly even making them dedicated to a certain role if you chose. The combi-weapons are cheap and allow the sternguard to retain their flexibility. Its all a matter of personal choice, generally combi-meltas are the favoured choice....

I agree about the combimelta: for their cost they are a mandatory upgrade for a fair number of sternguard models. I believe the choice highly depend on the enemy you are going to fight, provided you are aware of it. If you are going to fight a mach list maybe heavy flamers won't serve you well.