The Space Marine Troops choices are remarkably elite by a lot of other faction’s standards, carrying good stats at a heavier price cost. There are not many choices in this section, just Tactical squads, Scout squads and the Black Templars Crusader squad, but as always, they are jacks of all trades, but masters of none.
The cornerstone of the Space Marine army. The definitive Space Marine. This is a squad of your standard, power armour wearing, bolter wielding Space Marines. They come in at a lower points cost than they used to and can put out decent amounts of fire power whilst still being decent in close combat. They have a wide array of weapon options, able to take a single special or heavy weapon if the squad numbers less than ten models, or a single special and a single heavy weapon if the squad numbers ten. They also benefit greatly from the Combat Squad rule, a rule available to Space Marines which allows squads of ten models to split into two units of five before the game as this allows you to put a heavy weapon with four normal, bolter wielding Space Marines somewhere on a rear objective whilst the other five, including the sergeant and special weapon, march forwards and try to take land from the opponent. The sergeant, whether upgraded to a veteran or not, can take items from the Melee Weapons or the Ranged Weapons lists in the armoury, as well as melta bombs and a teleport homer. I won’t go through every possible combination of weapons that you could take in a Tactical squad or I would be here all year, though near enough anything can work. My personal favourite weapons are plasma guns and meltaguns for the special weapons, lascannons and heavy bolters for the heavy weapons, then using the Combat Squads special rule to split them up as I outlined earlier; the heavy weapon squad provides covering fire for the short range squad advancing up. I usually do not give my sergeants any melee or ranged weapons, though will likely take a few teleport homers if I plan on using lots of Deep Striking Terminators. This is because a Space Marine sergeant is no match for a lot of other characters in the 40k universe, so they will usually be called out in a challenge and killed before they can even swing. Though I guess since most people play Space Marines, most sergeants would be able to at least swing. It’s down to personal preference, but I’ll pass on the point sink and place the saved points into a Dedicated Transport or other units.
Speaking of Dedicated Transports, all of the options are good for Space Marines. If you want to Deep Strike a close range squad, take a Drop Pod and land right next to your target. These go very well with other units in Drop Pods, such as a full Drop Pod army, though I will talk about synergies and army ideas in another article. The Razorback is a nice choice if you want some extra fire support, especially if using small squads or Combat Squads as it then also provides the mobility that a Dedicated Transport brings. Finally, the Rhino is good if you either want to move a big squad around, or if you simply do not wish to take any of the other two options. It is so cheap at 35pts and can capture objectives, block line of sight and be a general annoyance.
Not the unit that I loved back in 4th edition, Scouts have been reduced in both points cost and effectiveness. Me and a friend always laughed about the fact that the only models in the entire codex that can take sniper rifles, weapons that are used by marksmen, can only be given to the only models in the codex with a Ballistic Skill worse than 4. Since dropping to Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill 3, Scouts have lost a lot of their appeal to me. It makes sense, I guess, that the recruits and trainee Space Marines would not be as skilled as those who have finished their initial training, but it hurt me, who used to love taking a single unit and watching them perform with pride. Now, I do not see them having the same appeal, though I can definitely still see their uses. They have the Infiltrate special rule, meaning that they can be set up slightly ahead of the main force. This can either have two uses: either you use the Infiltration to set them up after your opponent has deployed and place them in a commanding position where you can counter his or her high Toughness targets with sniper rifles, or you deploy them forwards with close combat weapons or shotguns for some close range shock troops.
With their lower Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill I would be inclined to use them as close range specialists as it costs more points to give them sniper rifles and camo cloaks at which point they start to lose their appeal as a cheaper unit. With close combat weapons they have two Attacks each, three on the charge, at Strength 4 for a measly 11pts. Due to their lower points cost and relative effectiveness, they make a great annoyance unit, a unit that your opponent would rather not have to deal with but will have to instead of some of your more expensive units. If you are taking Terminator units as well you can always give your Scout sergeant a teleport homer to infiltrate with. Now it is an annoyance unit that really has to be dealt with or their larger, meaner brethren are going to start appearing nearby.
Another potential use for them is to imitate a Dark Eldar army with them and take lots of squads in their Dedicated Transport option: the Land Speeder Storm. It is a cheap-as-chips open topped land Speeder with a transport capacity of five Scouts, a deep strike defence (enemies scatter double dice when within 12”), a heavy bolter and what is effectively a grenade launcher that fires blind grenades. The heavy bolter can be swapped out for a heavy flamer (I wouldn’t due to the Land Speeder Storm’s delicate nature. I play Dark Eldar, I know all about the wonders of Armour Value 10, open-topped vehicles with only 2 Hull Points), a multi-melta (very useful as it gives your Scouts, who can only really take anti-infantry weaponry, some anti-vehicle support) or an assault cannon (not worth it for the points. You want this to be cheap). With this build you take five Scouts with either bolters or close combat weapons and drive around the board harassing your opponent. As the Land Speeder Storm is open-topped, it counts as an Assault Vehicle, meaning you can disembark your Scouts and charge in the same turn, a wonderful aspect of this build as Scouts only have a 4+ Armour Save, as opposed to the prevalent 3+ in the rest of the codex. To top it all off, they are all Troops and so gain the Objective Secured special rule if you run them in a Battle-forged list. This is the Eldar player’s method of playing Space Marines though as it gives you a decent damage and harassment potential, though it is very, very delicate compared to the rest of the codex. I will go through an army idea that uses this concept later on as I do love this method of running Space Marines.
The Black Templars equivalent to both the Tactical and Scout squads, the Crusader squad is a mix of power armour and scout armour, Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill 4 and Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill 3. As is the Black Templars prerogative, this squad is a lot more close combat orientated than their codex brethren, every model able to replace their bolters with close combat weapons as opposed to just Scouts (though Black Templars call them Neophytes, full-fledged Space Marines are Initiates and the sergeant is a Sword Brother). This effectively gives you a potential 20 models with bolt pistols and chainswords. One important thing to note is that you cannot take more Neophytes than Initiates; you must always have a greater than or equal to number of Initiates.
If running them as a large close combat death squad, it would be a wise investment to purchase a Land Raider Crusader as a Dedicated Transport, allowing them to cross the board without getting shot to pieces, though it should be noted that you can only carry a maximum of sixteen models, so a 20 man death squad, whilst awesome, is largely impractical. The best way to run it would be either sixteen models (10 Initiates, one upgraded to a Sword Brother and 6 Neophytes) with close combat weapons, with one carrying a power fist as Crusader squads can take a power weapon or power fist instead of a heavy weapon, the Sword Brother with a power weapon of your choice and one Initiate with a special weapon such as a meltagun, just in case a vehicle gets in their way. Or run a fifteen man squad (same as above, minus 1 Neophyte) and give them a Chaplain to lead them so that they re-roll all of their To Hit rolls in the first round of close combat, as well as gain the Fearless special rule. All inside a Land Raider Crusader gives you a pretty decent death star unit that does not break the bank too much. It’s still expensive, very expensive even, but as far as death star units go, it is cheaper than others (though slightly less intimidating at the same time. You get what you pay for).
The other way to run them is, funnily enough, a high fire power variant. I remember in the 4th edition codex I would take 5 man Tactical squads with a heavy weapon (usually a lascannon as Devastator squads back then were horribly over-priced) and a special weapon (usually a plasma gun) and then I gave them a Razorback transport. That was gotten rid of in the 5th edition codex and was still removed for the current, 6th edition one. However, the Crusader squad retains the ability to do it, so you can take five Initiates, give one a heavy weapon such as a lascannon or plasma cannon, give one a special weapon such as a grav-gun or a plasma gun and then give them a Razorback transport with your choice of weapon (more lascannons or heavy bolters in my opinion). This tactic will win you games, especially considering how much AP2 fire power you can get out with this build paired with the fact that most people play Space Marines or vehicles in this edition, but not friends as it allows you to leverage more heavy and special weapons than most Astra Militarum armies (which is a lot of weapons), whilst also maintaining decent mobility as every single unit has a Dedicated Transport and as they are all counted as Troops choice,s they all gain Objective Secured in a Battle-forged list. Ironic that one of the close combat oriented Chapters can also take the heaviest fire power Troops choice.