Over the course of the years since the existence of Terminators, AKA Termies, there has been much debate over their usefulness in battles. The purpose of this article is to review their effectiveness, their options, and how to use them to their maximum effect.
Points versus effeciency
Obviously, you can’t use terminators in a 250 pt game, but who would want to? Terminators cost a lot of points, often taking over 250 in a Space Marine list, but here’s how you should really look at it. To kit out a sergeant to be like a terminator, including
terminator armour, storm bolter, and a powerfist, it would cost 60 points. 5 of them would be 300 points. You should take comfort in the fact that 5 Terminators only cost 200 points.
If you compare points vs effeciency, two Tactical squads could be made for the sole purpose of wiping them out, and then the Terminators won’t live up to their points potential. In a 500 pt game, that’s half of your force gone, putting you in a rediculous
state to fight back.
The verdict: Terminators use up a lot of points, so it is imperative that you make them get every single point back, and make sure they aren’t the core of your army.
We’ll start with the first thing you see when you look at the entry in Codex: Space Marines. The main differences between these and those of a Space Marine are the Ld, Attacks, and armour save. Models with terminator armour automatically get +1 attack and Ld, as with terminator honours. The big thing, though, is that remarkable armour save and the free invulnerable save that comes with it.
Terminators are the calcium of your army list diet. Yes, 5/6 of the wounds suffered will be saved. The chance of surviving an AP 1 or 2 weapon, however, is only 1/3. Therefore, it is very important to keep your defenders of the imperium out of harm’s way.
This is described later in the mobility section.
The biggest threat to Terminators in the shooting phase is getting hit with lots of small arm’s fire, and requiring 2+ on 30 dice isn’t all that nice. If you field these guys, rest assured your opponent will pour a huge amount of fire into this squad. Therefore,
against armies like Tau, Imperial Guard, and Necrons, where it isn’t uncommon to be hit with twenty shots, Terminators are most effective where the opponent rolls the least dice: Close Combat. More on that later.
The +1 attack is handy, especially since the storm bolter is 2-handed, denying an extra attack from having 2 weapons.
The +1 Ld is definitely useful, since you will generally be fielding these guys in relatively small numbers. In a 5-man squad, only 3 kills are required to lose -1 to the Ld when checking for morale.
Obviously, you don’t want a ten man squad in a 1,500 pt game. Usually, terminators are effective at squad sizes of five, since they have good protection, and five is the minimal you can have anyway (except with Command squads). If you have more than five, the squad will become a large target for AP 2 weapons. Five is the best amount because it keeps them as small a target as possible. If you Take a Land Raider Crusader, you could take eight, and have the same protection that five would get from a regular Land Raider, but It becomes a much bigger target.
Terminators, like all other basic Space Marine Troops, can only move 6” a turn. Let’s say you are playing a 6-turn game, and the enemy is 36” away. You wouldn’t get in combat for at least 5 turns. That being said, if your goal is combat, use the two alternative modes of transportation (actually 3).
1) Land Raider or Land Raider Crusader. These are generally saved for games over 2,000 pts. They have the best AV available for vehicles. They can go up to 18” a turn (given that there are some roads), and the nastiest thing they have is the ability to spit troops straight into combat.
Regular Land Raiders have TL lascannons and heavy bolters. If they move 6”, they can shoot one TLLC and the heavy bolters, plus the other TLLC with the machine spirit. This can be useful if you plan to dump out the Terminators near a vehicle with a blast weapon of AP 2 like a Vindicator and its demolisher, which the lascannons will make short work of. Yeah, people say that a Predator Annihilator with lascannons is better for less points, but they forget that a Predator will normally have to move in order to get a sight on a target, making the side sponsons useless. With power of the machine spirit, 2 lascannons can be fired.
The Land Raider Crusader offers assault cannons, hurricane bolters, and a Multimelta. This vehicle has a good balance of weapons, combining antitank (melta) and anti-infantry (Assault cannons and hurricane bolters). It also lets a unit that charges out have free frag grenades, and can carry 3 more Terminators than a regular Land Raider.
Both vehicles will be top priorities for the opponent to destroy, so position them away from S9 or higher weapons. Necrons and Eldar have a few tricks up their sleeves to destroy these vehicles, such as gauss weapons and bright lances. It is imperative to avoid such things. Monstrous creatures pose a major threat when charging vehicles, so back off and shoot away.
2) Deep Strike. The best way of getting up close and personal. Also the most dangerous. If you get too close to the enemy, you can say good-bye to 250+ points that have amounted to nothing, other than target practice for the bad guys.
If you Deep Strike Terminators, be cautious of where your opponents’ weapons are. The best weapon against deep striking terminators is a plasma cannon, which can annihilate a squad just like that. Keep away from AP 2 or 1 weapons, especially if they are template weapons.
Don’t get too close to impassible terrain or enemy soldiers. If you come within 1”, you’re dead. It also stinks to be in the range of thirty bolters.
Don’t be too far away, either. It’s even worse if you end up 24” away from the bad guys. It gives the bad guys plenty of time to get themselves in a perfect shooting position.
The solution: When you roll 2D6, the average roll is 7. Therefore, it is a good rule of thumb to keep about 8” away. At most, it will take them 2 turns to get into combat, and the chances of hem running into the bad guys is slim. The other solution, and now the
much more effective one, is to use the third mode of Transportation.
3) Drop Pods. Essentially the same as #2, except that you arrive with a vehicle that can have a 5” blast weapon, and you can’t get wiped out for landing on the enemy (you move the minimum necessary to get them out of harm’s way). This only costs 2-Space-
Marines-worth of points, and guarantees safety upon landing. It is an excellent choice, and give the opponent two units amongst their own to worry about.
Teleport homers are a popular way of teleporting Terminators. It lets Terminators that deep strike near a model with a teleport homer stay where they are without scattering. This is a potentially lifesaving device for our heavily armoured friends, and offers
the same safety as a drop pod. The only problem is getting the model with the teleport homer close enough to be effective. A popular tactic is using scouts to infiltrate and give the Terminators a good position to go to. Another issue is if the model with
the teleport homer is killed. An excellent tactic is getting the scouts into combat, and teleporting the Terminators right behind them, using the combat as cover from shooting attacks. Another tactic is turbo-boosting bikes right up where you want the
Terminators to go, giving the enemy another big target to worry about, and making them take a morale check in order to to shoot past the bikers. Both methods are equally useful, but if you are trying to save points, scouts equipped for combat are the way to go.
Foot slogging (a term for moving on foot with no transportation) is not encouraged, since you will probably be shot at long before you have the opportunity to fire. However, Terminators can move and fire heavy weapons, so if you equip them with Cyclones, they have a 54” shooting range in the turn they move, maximizing their usefulness in the shooting phase. Furthermore, giving them the Tank hunters skill gives them an extra edge against vehicles.
Don’t let the Terminator’s great close combat ability become more important than shooting. Terminators are some of the best shooting units we have. The next thing to be discussed will be the effectiveness of weapons used by the Terminators. Note that you can have two of these, doubling the Terminators’ effectiveness in the shooting phase.
Heavy Flamer. Probably the most useless weapon for Terminators. Worthless unless they pop out of a vehicle, or against enemies that don’t move much, such as Necrons or Tau. Do NOT use them against Tyranids. Most Tyranids have leaping fleet, so at most,
you will use the Heavy Flamers once (if you’re playing against an inexperienced general) before you are charged. Read the flamer tactica “To Flame or not to Flame.” The template is only 8” long. If you are going against something like Tyranids (which can Assault up to 18” a turn), it isn’t likely that you will use it more than once. The Storm Bolter, with a better range, ensures that you can hit something.
Assault Cannons. An amazing weapon, spitting out 4 rending shots. Excellent against anything; rending makes it possible to blow up a Land Raider or wipe out enemy models with good armour saves. Excellent deep strike weapon. Don’t forget that Terminators
can move, shoot heavy weapons, and still assault. Also excellent against models with a 4+ armour save (Karskins, Tau). And, with a Strength of 6, you can insta-kill Toughness 3 models (Scarabs, Imperial Guard).
Cyclone Missile Launchers. Better than they seem, since you can move and still shoot them 48”. If you are going against an army that stays back to shoot (Dark Angels, Tau) and deep strike isn’t an option, this is an important weapon, so that you can use it
every turn (assault cannons are only 24”). Also doesn’t replace the storm bolter like the Assault cannon and heavy flamer do, so with five Terminators and two cyclones, you still get ten storm bolter shots plus the two cyclones.
Note: In the new Space Marines codex, you do not lose the powerfist when you get a cyclone. In 3rd Ed, you lost the powerfist ability for a targeter, but this is not so with the new Terminators. It is a good Idea to use the extra chainfists that came with the
new Terminators to replace the targeter on metal models, to avoid confusion amongst opponents. If you don’t want chainfists, you can just cut off and smooth down the chain part. Also note that you lose the storm bolter when you get an assault cannon or
Storm Bolter. Not much different from a Bolter, except that you can shoot them twice up to 24” and assault. If you move, they have an effective range of a Tau Pulse Rifle, except that they can shoot twice. Note, however, that it is not a single-handed weapon, so you do not get an extra attack in close combat.
Terminators can be completely devastating in close combat. However, they can also be obliterated before they get the chance to hit. At initiative 1, they are slow. They will therefore hit last against almost everything.
A good advantage is the 2+ armour save. They will shrug off most of the attacks that hit them. Not to mention, the average strength (3) needs a 5+ to wound them in combat. This gives good survivability until they can hit with their powerfists. Despite a great armour save, there are many things that can obliterate them. Your biggest fear should be power weapons and heavy close combat weapons.
Power weapons deny you of your 2+ save, forcing you to use an unreliable 5+ invulnerable save. Imagine your five Terminators get charged by ten Howling Banshees and an exarch. All of the Howling banshee attacks go before yours. You get hit with 34 S3 power weapon attacks. 18 of them will hit, and about 6 will wound. With your measly 5+ invulnerable save, 4 are still killed. Your one remaining Terminator will kill one Howling Banshee before he realizes that he is seriously outnumbered, and then he will fall back. Will he survive another turn? Unlikely. The worst part is that the Howling banshees will cost less than your terminators.
Heavy Close combat weapons force you to roll a 4+ instead of that wonderful 2+. half of your saves will fail. Orks and Khorne are the main bad guys with these.
Aside from the above two examples, Terminators will annihilate pretty much everything. Imagine 5 Terminators charging a unit of 12 Fire Warriors. With 15 attacks on the charge, ten Tau would die. The remaining 5 would flee, but would be caught and destroyed.
Terminators can also be great against multi-wound models. In a combat against Scarabs or Crisis suits, a single round of combat is all that’s needed to wipe out the opposition.
A minor drawback is that the sergeant is armed with a power sword. He is therefore worth less than the others. You could give him a powerfist from the Space Marine armoury, but for the same cost, you could have another space marine.
If you are fighting someone like orks, whose heavy close combat weapons force you to roll a 4+, you could choose to not use powerfists against them.
If the Orks went first, which they would, because you are using powerfists, you would probably die. However, you could choose to fight like a normal model would, without the powerfists. Therefore, you would go first, fighting with strength 4 with armour saves
allowed. Since you are fighting Orks, their 6+ armour save is already terrible, so the only drawback is that you wound on a 4+, and they have a 1 in 6 chance of saving it.
Nevertheless, if you are fighting Orks, i is best to stay back and shoot with weapons such as Assault cannons and Cyclones (frag missiles deny their armour save).
Command Squad. Basically the same as a regular Terminator squad, with the exception that you can have only 4 Terminators if you want, and Characters are attached to it. It also doesn’t take up space on the Force Organization Chart. An advantage is that
when determining casualties in combat, the Independent character counts as a separate unit. Therefore, if you had to check their morale (say the IC dies), and you only had 4, you would have to be down to one to be below 50% of starting strength. In a 5 man
squad, if you were brought down to 2, you would still be below 50%. Has all the normal upgrades and options as a normal squad.
Terminator Squad. What we’ve been discussing this whole time.
Terminator Assault Squad. This is basically a Terminator squad suited for close combat. They have either Thunder hammers and Storm shields or Lightning Claws. The Thunder hammers are basically an advanced powerfist, and can stun vehicles, and slow
down units in their next assault. They are not much better than a regular Terminator to make up for the lack of a Storm bolter, however, so if you do choose to use them, only have about one for every four Lightning claws. The Lightning Claws, however, are
terrific. They give the model an extra attack (2 weapons) and re-roll failed dice to wound, as well as counting as a power weapon. Against models with a good armour save (Terminators, Space Marines, Necrons, Chaos Space Marines), they are deadly in close
combat, usually wiping out a squad in a single turn. A squad of eight Terminators with Lightning Claws charging out of a Land Raider Crusader could wipe out twenty Necrons in a turn, while taking no casualties in return.
The disadvantages of a Terminator Assault Squad are moving and shooting. As such, Assault Terminators have no shooting weapons of any sort. In 3rd Ed, you could mix and match storm bolters/powerfists and close combat weapons, but this is no
more in 4th Ed. Now, they have no guns of any sort, unless you attach a character (mind you, a chaplain attached to a Terminator assault squad can be nasty). Therefore, they will walk around the battlefield until they assault something.
Obviously, you could give the squad a Land Raider or LRC, but as this makes a big target, your opponent will shoot it until it blows up. A lucky ordnance hit will destroy the vehicle and the crew, wiping out 500 pts worth of models!
Deep Strike is suicide for Assault Termies, since they will be left for a turn with no defense whatsoever aside from their armour. A squad of ten Space Marines with a Plasma Cannon and Plasma gun could wipe out five Terminators in one turn.
If you choose to walk these guys up the battlefield, a good general will avoid combat with them entirely in assault.
The best way to get these guys into combat is obviously a Land Raider, but for obvious reasons, you shouldn’t include them in games of under 2,000 pts.
Terminators can take either Furious charge or Tank Hunters skill.
Furious Charge. Gives the unit a bonus in Strength and Initiative when the unit charges. Great with Assault Termies, so always give it to them. Note that Powerfists don’t get the Initiative bonus, since the Initiative reduction of Powerfists comes into effect after any bonuses like furious charge. Useful in a Command squad to give the IC an edge in combat.
Tank Hunters. Gives the unit a bonus with armour penetration rolls. Give it to Terminators with Cyclones, as it effectively turns them into Lascannons. Without the Tank Hunters, you will have a 1/6 chance of damaging a Land Raider, whereas with Tank
Hunters, it is 1/3, with a chance of penetrating. Almost useless with assault Termies, unless you choose to use Thunder hammers to destroy Tanks, but then again, a tank could easily outmaneuver by a the Terminators (12” vs 6”). Stick to the Cyclones if you
choose to use this ability.
The Deathwing are the Terminators of the Dark Angels. They are all stubborn, and can be fielded as an army of nothing but Terminators, which sets them apart from other armies. They can obviously be used as Elites choices from a regular Dark Angels
list, but a pure Deathwing army is composed of nothing but Dreadnoughts, Terminators, and Land Raiders (including LRCs). All HQ characters must have Terminator Armour (duh!), and everyone is stubborn, including HQ. Deathwing armies will always be
outnumbered, even against Grey Knights. A Deathwing Terminator costs the same as a Grey Knight Terminator. It is very important, therefore, to balance out your army as best you can.
Dreadnoughts should be shooty, since with Deathwing, every single unit must kill something each turn to be effective. Every time you miss a chance to kill something, it is another chance for your opponent to kill you. Deathwing is a shooty army anyway.
Deep Strike isn’t encouraged. If you Deep Strike, the squad misses at least a turn of shooting. The more units you deep strike, the more firepower you opponent can focus on the rest of your army. However, you could Deep Strike a command squad with a
Librarian to use the Psychic Power Fear of the Darkness, which originated from the Dark Angels power, weaken resolve. This is especially excellent against Tau or other Armies which have a disadvantage with morale. Other than this deep striking squad, stick to Cyclones, whose long range guarantee for them to do something by turn 1. If you want to assault, then you have something that can shoot the whole way until you get there.
You should definitely be focused on making sure that your Terminators make up each and every single point they have taken up. Putting them in situations that passing morale checks is beneficial, however, you should avoid being seriously outnumbered in
Conclusion, how to rely on them and when.
Obviously, Terminators have it tough with maneuverability, their greatest weakness. Also, if you choose to field them, make sure you have some back up. The greatest blunder a commander can make is putting way too much points into a single unit and
having it decimated. Therefore, a Terminator squad should not be used as the core of your army (unless you are playing an all Terminator army, that is!). So use the following guidelines:
1) Keep them mobile
2) Do something with them every turn
3) Don’t foot slog
4) Don’t assault enemies with power weapons, unless you go first