A Company of Heroes

The other day I talked about the benefits of fielding Battle Companies over the more traditional hodge podge Space Marine armies that are little more than delivery mechanisms for Terminators. Today I thought I’d discuss Veteran only armies.

The 1st Company of most Chapters represent are not only the most experienced and capable warriors but also the most inspirational. To earn a place in the 1st Company is to have accomplished deeds so great that they attract your chapter master’s notice – a great honour in itself.

But being in a company of heroes means facing the very worst that the galaxy can throw at the Imperium of Man. As I said in my last post although I accept that elements of the 1st may be made available to Battle Companies, within the background it has long been established that a Battle Company is more than capable of conquering a star system. As such the 1st, when called upon does so to face the vilest of the Emperor’s foes. Evil that only the most resolute and pure of spirit can hope to face with their sanity intact. To be in the 1st Company is an honour with a hefty price and as we saw with the Ultramarines 1st Company on Macragge, it some times requires the ultimate price.

But how do you field a 1st Company on the table top? Well, strictly speaking…you can’t. At least not if you use Codex Space Marines. So, what you’ll have to do is borrow the rules for Belial, Master of the Deathwing from Codex Dark Angels. His special rules allows you to take Terminator squads as troop choices. His stats, equipment and special rules are also about right for fielding any 1st Company Captain. In my case, specifically, Agemman. He also allows you to field a Terminator command squad. It’s mental, FYI that you cannot take a command squad in Terminator armour in the standard codex.

The composition of your 1st Company will vary massively depending on the Chapter you collect and how loyal you are to the fluff. Some Chapters have very few suits of Terminator armour and so the army should reflect that. The Ultramarines, as far as I can tell have half their company in Terminator armour, the rest make up Vanguard and Sternguard squads.

It’s rare that you’ll get to use an entire 1st company. At around 500 points a squad, a fully pimped company stretches in the Apocalypse size games which presents its own issues and faffs, but, for argument’s sake, assume you’re playing a standard game. However, if you do the important thing to remember, as mentioned in my previous post, Veterans die just as easily as a normal 16 point Space Marine, except that each casualty is even more acutely felt because of the skills/effectiveness they represent. A dead Vanguard armed with a power weapon and a plasma pistol represents are far greater investment in points no to mention the potential damage it can inflict compared to a normal assault marine.

My 1st Company contains Captain (Angry-man) Agemman, his Terminator command squad mounted in a Redeemer, 3 sqauds of standard Terminators (if such a term can be applied to Terminators), 2 squads of Assault Terminators, 2 squads of Sternguard, 3 squads of Vanguard (one sans jump packs), a drop pod, 2 Dreadnoughts (although I can only field 1 if I play a standard game), 2 Crusaders and a standard Land Raider.

My approach is simple, endure. I hold my Terminators and 2 Vanguard squads in reserve and so my total deployment on turn 1 is 4 Land Raiders and a Dreadnought (or two). And that’s it. The plan is simple. Close with the enemy whilst laying down what fire I can – targeting close combat monsters and vehicles capable of taking a part Space Marines with ease. And then…strike. Everything deep strikes onto the board. Vanguard Veterans can assault on the turn they deep strike which is crazy awesome. A lucky roll can mean your bods are in combat, straight away with 41 attacks a squad with a bevy of power weapon and a few power fist attacks in the mix.

Terminator squads are able to fire which means, with 30 of them, combined with 20 Sternguard and the Land Raiders you can bracket the enemy on both sides and severely diminish the combat effectiveness of return fire or counter attacks. And, don’t forget, if you’ve timed it right, your third Vanguard squad and Captain Angry-man and his command squad will be in assault range too. So, potentially 35 tooled up close combat nasties slamming into combat on a single turn, delivering somewhere in the region of 130-140 attacks.

Assuming there’s anything left alive after all that the Terminators will get their turn to put the boot in during the next turn whilst the Land Raiders, Dreadnought/s and Sternguard form a cordon around the combat, taking care of tanks and any other units that haven’t been engaged.

I’m the first to admit it’s a gamble but it should be. The 1st Company is only ever called upon to tackle the most hated of foes and so their vengeance should be swift and absolute. Plus, Veterans are too expensive to risk walking them over open ground or putting them in anything other than Land Raiders and as only the Daughters Sons of Sanguinius get to take Land Raiders as dedicated transports, you’re restricted in the number you can take to 1 for Captain Angry-man as his dedicated transport and 3 heavy support choices. This rather forces you to adopt the tactics I’ve described. Or at least a variation.

However, there are things you can do to improve your chances. Sternguard and Vanguard without jump packs can take Drop Pods as dedicated transports. But you don’t have to put them in there. Seeding three of four empty drop pods amongst your enemy’s lines will not only prevent your units from scattering when you deep strike them onto the board, but it, if your opponent is clever enough to realise that’s your plan, he’ll divert weaponry that could be pointed at your Land Raiders and Dreadnought/s into destroying them. Either way it’ll benefit you just in slightly different ways.

Fielding a Veteran Company of any composition is gamble. High value units with little or no additional protection means that whatever you do, you cannot afford to be hesitate or allow yourself to be pinned down. If you haven’t broken the back of the enemy army by the end of turn 3 chances are you’re about to get overwhelmed.

In a game as large as the one you’d need to deploy the 1st Company in its entirety the numbers argument just doesn’t wash. 107 Veterans is a scary thing to face, I make no bones about that, but against any other force you’ll be facing two or three times that number. You can take almost two Battle Companies for the same points, to put it in perspective. Every decision has to be decisive and every tactic as bold and as heroic as the warriors represented on the board.

They’re a company of heroes after all.