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Tactica: Drop Pods-
5th edition update by Mathlete
Obviously it would be great if Forged would give me his blessing for this tactica - I haven't asked his permission to edit this, but he's a good guy, and seeing as he didn't want to update this tactica for 5th edition, I'm sure he won't mind someone else doing it.
As a little aside, this tactica in 4th got me back in to Marines; I only hope I've done this tactica justice.
Finally, if I've missed anything obvious, please add to this. If anything is outrageous or wrong headed, let me know, I'll edit it.
In the words of Forged; "This tactica is quite long, you may find it easier to read it in sections."
Drop Pod Assaults;
The new codex allows a player to select half (rounding up) of their drop pods to land on turn one. The ability to tailor the force that will land has made drop pod lists much more reliable than in previous editions, allowing a greater degree of pre-game planning.
Furthermore, the ability to split ten man squads into five man combat squads in a boon to any drop pod players; you can keep the squad in coherency, but splitting them in two allows you to select two targets per squad, for example.
Who can use drop pods?
- Honour Guard
- Command Squads
- Tactical Squads
- Sternguard Veterans
- All Drednaughts
- Jump Pack-less Assault Squads
- Jump Pack-less Vanguard Squads
- Devastator Squads
- Thunderfire Cannons
Who should drop pod?
There is one rule with drop pod squads that should be taken as golden; versatility is key. There is a reason that tactical marines are the best drop podders, while devastators are a struggle to use successfully.
Speaking of devastators, they are really the one unit unsuited for drop pods. As a squad may not fire heavy weapons on the turn it arrives, devastators won't be able to fire heavy weapons until at least turn 2, possibly even later. Like everything, there are exceptions - Drop Pod delivered Mulit Meltas can be an awesome tank killer with good placement and a little luck. However, it is my contention that this role can be better suited to tactical marines. A multi melta/meltagun combo in a combat squad can be almost as successful as four mulit-meltas, as well as more flexible due to the meltaguns ability to move and fire; furthermore, the unit can take and hold objectives, as well as counting towards your troop allowance.
Vanguard marines can be a struggle to use from a drop pod, much in the same way Veteran Squads were in the previous codex. In very large games Vanguard can add assault power, but their points cost is prohibitive in less than 1500 point games.
The best drop podders are tactical marines and Sternguard. With a drop pod, the marine bolter is suddenly a formidable weapon. With the rapid fire rules, the bolter can really lay down a hail of shots when you're close to the enemy. Combined with Sternguards great special bolter rounds, you can easily wipe out even the toughest of opponents.
Sternguards deserve a special mention. Earlier I stated that the key to drop pod squads is versatility, and Sternguard are by far the most versatile unit in your roster. I've seen them take down a carnifex, wipe out entire Bezerker squads and take down eldar pathfinders in fortifications. Sternguard are among the best anti-infantry tools at you're disposal - and with the combi-weapon options available, they are even more flexible. Sternguard also have access to a wide range of heavy and special weapons - personally I'd rather leave nearly all of them behind - I may take the special weapons in certain situatios - two extra meltaguns, or plasmaguns are useful, but you lose the special rounds that make Sternguard great. I'd rather have the standard bolter, or a combi-weapon. I've been asked to give a special mention to the heavy flamer - it is a wonderful assault weapon, but I'd rather see it on my drednaughts as opposed to a rapid fire squad.
Dreadnoughts are another fine unit to drop pod, when kited correctly. Assault cannons again are great choice, as are heavy flamers. I'd suggest not using the other heavy weapons, as you'll find your dreadnought in combat very quickly, so you'll only get at best 2 turns of shooting. In my your best bet with dreadnought is to pair them, taking at least two. Finally, if you can, upgrade the basic dred to a venerable or ironclad. Ironclad's are wonderfully nasty, giving you a close combat monster who can go anti-infantry (due to his twin heavy flamers) or tank hunting (due to melta weapons, chainfists or seismic hammer).
How many drop pods should I use?
Typically if your planning on using drop pods, use at least 4. More is better, depending on point limit. At 1500 points, I see a lot of lists with 6-7 drop pods. A first turn deployment of 3-4 drop pods works well.
What upgrades should I give my drop pod?
Drop pods do not have access to standard vehicle upgrades. This is no loss as none of the upgrades have much effect on a drop pod. Deathwind launchers are a bit of a point sink, as the drop pod is effective because its cheap reliable transport.
The increase in BS of Machine Spirit, as well as the new template weapon rules, deathwind launchers are now much more successful - however they bump the cost of the drop pod up but over 50%, so I'd rather leave them at home.
A drop pod is also a pretty reliable deep striker, and unless you have a very specific landing need, I'd recommend also leaving your locator beacons behind.
Where to deploy arriving drop pods?
The first rule of thump is to keep your drop pods at least 12 inches from the board edge. So long as you do not fall off the board, there is no possible way for the pod to be destroyed before it delivers its deadly cargo. This includes landing on your own units, as they're treated as impassible terrain. In this way, you never risk losing units to deep strike.
Drop pods provide huge advantages when placing. First your invulnerable to landing on the enemy, so place your pod very close to the desired target you wish to kill. Often placing a pod one inch away from the enemy unit you want to shoot is a good idea. This ensures that even if you scatter away your maximum distance, you should be able to fire with half your marine squad, with 2 inch deployment. This is one way to make dreadnought heavy flamers useful.
How to deploy arriving drop pods?
Drop pods allow you to dissect your opponent's formation. Try to find a weak spot. When placing keep your forces together, I can't stress this enough. Keeping your forces together will force your opponent to fight a large section of your army all at once, instead of individual squads.
Typically, you should get roughly half your army on turn 2 (or at least half of your army should be in the fight by now.) When placing, place so that you can only fight a small section of your opponent's army. And thus, your opponent can only fight you with a small section of their army.
This can be done several ways. First, simply deploying all your forces on one flank of the enemy will leave many enemy squads out of range, or their LOS blocked in some manner, possibly by their own vehicles or terrain features.
Next, terrain; there is no penalty for drop podding into cover, or behind it, so use this to your advantage. Terrain is definitely your friend when using drop pods. For example, the enemy might find his force divided between a large forest, or building. Drop podding inside such a piece of terrain will allow you to face only a small part of the opponent's army, and you will get a cover save.
Finally, your most reliable source to hinder the enemy's attack against you is the drop pod itself. Always remember the drop pod is a shield as much as anything. Exploit this to its maximum effect. You can prevent some tanks, such as a predator with three lascannons, from firing at full effect by landing a pod in front of it, or a dev squad from firing heavy weapons effectively.
Also, remember that pods can be grouped together to form larger walls on the field, assuming you've got a bit of luck with the scatter dice, or with clever use of locator beacons. Utilising this tactic will take your disadvantage, that your army arrives in only small sections - and turn it into an advantage, as you pick your enemy apart by engaging only small sections of his/her army at any one time.
Hoards can be a problem. However, if you can land so as to outnumber the hoard army in a small section of the board, they will surely fall before your marines. Super fast hoards makes attacking a small section of the force more difficult, because they can respond faster. However, their speed will often leave them more spread out, allowing you to find a weakness.
For example, you may be facing a hoard of Tyranids. The gaunts might move up to take some objectives, while their synapse struggles to keep up. Suppose you drop pod your whole force in-between the nearest synapse and the gaunts. Half your armies combined firepower should be able to take down pretty much anything, even a hive tyrant. This cuts off the gaunts from synapse, and now they are separated from the rest of the 'nids force. They won't have much game effect beyond this point, unless they pass some lucky LD5 tests. Then it's a matter of simply mopping them up with some bolters as they fall back.
However, you should not pick such a small section of the opponent's army that you destroy everything in sight/range and are unable to fire at maximum effect. You want a few things left over, so your opponent wont opt to run away from you. You want him/her to have a little bit left so he/she attempts a rescue. You do not want him/her to start heading away from you, possibly with large guns now pointed at your foot sloggers.
Drop pods afford you first strike, meaning you will get to shoot first. This is a huge advantage; close range fire support is key to successfully using drop pods. You want to break your opponent in the opening hail of bolter fire. Because of this, bolters are often more effective then bolt pistols and close combat weapons when drop podding. Secondly, if you opt to go second, you will have 5 game turns to attack your opponent, while they will only have 4 to put up a counter attack.
Pure drop pods
Pure drop pod armies can be fantastic. Several advantages are that your opponent will know nothing about your force until its up close and personal. Secondly, an all drop pod force will mean you get the largest number of troops arriving by reserves on turn two on average, as opposed to mixed lists.
Your anti tank should largely come from meltaguns. These same squads should also form your assault heavy squads. Drop pod melta squads should always be given a power fisted veteran sergeant since this squad will almost certainly see close combat. You need 10 marines to have any descent chance of scoring with the unit and to get the melta, since simply killing the enemy isn't enough; you must also have units to win the mission with.
Plasma guns make great anti heavy infantry. Use them to take down isolated elite units.
Flamers have taken a major jump in usefulness in 5th - not only are cover saves much better and much more prevalent, flamers are free to full 10 man squads.
The same problems for Devastators apply to the Tactical Squad heavy weapons; it's not advisable to pay for one. This is because you wont be able to shoot it until turn 3 or later, and the squad will likely see Close Combat, meaning you'll have even less turns to shoot it. Finally, at 12 inch range, a meltagun can do almost anything a different heavy weapon could. However, you've got the free upgrade choices, so it doesn't hurt to choose a Heavy Bolter, Multi Melta or a Missile Launcher.
Generally, your plasma squads also want a powerfisted veteran sergeant. These two squads should make of the majority of your force. If you have the choice to favour a unit, favour melta guns, as they are more versatile than plasma guns.
A librarian makes a great leader for this army; Gate of Infinity allows rapid redeployment for a squad, allowing you to stay out of close combat and keep your short range fire power mobile. Avenger and Smite are both powerful close range elite killers.
Chaplains are fair, but really aren't being used to their best effect in this type of army, as most opponents will deny you the ability to charge with your Chaplain since they already know what a bummer it is to be charged by one.
Since Company and Chapter Masters are now close combat beasts, they've earned a much stronger place in your force. However, I think that you're better off taking a special character instead - Pedro Kantor seems the best choice - he makes turns you're Sternguard from a great unit to an indispensable unit, due to his ability that makes them scoring, and all combat tactic units stubborn. I've also seen successful use of Lysander with Sternguard, giving them re-rolls to hit.
Command squads can be tricky like veterans, but have some bonuses; They also don't use an elites slot. Because this squad can include an HQ, bolt pistols and close combat weapons become more attractive. This hurts your overall first strike, but might help out later in the game. Additional unit upgrades might be useful for this squad, such as a company champion. In larger games of 2000 points or more a standard bearer may also be useful. Limit this squad to one melta gun, so it leaves them with a bit of first strike capability, but doesn't limit the number of attacks the squad gets.
Another way to use a command squad is to simply make them a glorified tactical squad, Use melta guns instead of plasma, as your HQ will needs to charge from time to time. Melta guns can still shoot and charge, making them the proffered choice for squads with HQs in them.
Mixed drop pods
This type of army uses the same core force as the one above for pure drop pods; meltagun or plasma gun infantry squads drop podding form the backbone of the force.
However, instead of relying purely on pods, small fast units are also added. Sometimes a Chaplain led assault squad and several land speeders. Bikes could also be used, possibly led by a librarian. This force could also include Whirlwinds, as your opponent wont have an easy time destroying these, since you can hide them.
These fast units stay out of Line of Sight on turn one, then pop out as your drop pods arrive. When they do, your main assault unit should be in range. This allows you to shoot a huge volley at the opponent with the drop podders, and then assault him/her with a powerful squad. This can be a game breaker.
Remember to drop pod at least 4 squads, even in a mixed army. Because of this rule of thumb, mixed armies are better left to a minimum of 1500 points, otherwise the drop podding squads, or the small fast squads, wont have enough points to be fleshed out properly.
The advantage to having a mixed drop pod force is that your opponent will be less tempted to bunching his force up in one spot on the battle field. (Anti drop pod tactics generally include keeping a force in tight formation.) They might also allow you to pull off an assault the same turn your drop pods arrive, using a force already on the ground, like a Chaplain led assault squad.
Small deadly fast ground forces can confuse the enemy and encourage him/her to spread out, maybe even send units after this small detachment. He/She may or may not take this bait. A spread out army is easier to dissect than a bunched up one.
Countering Anti-drop pod tactics-
Analyse your opponents force. You'll have a good 15 minutes to really study what he/she's got before anything in your army is threatened. Staying in close formation or bunching-up an army is considered the best way of countering drop pods. If your opponent is bunching up his/her units, it should be obvious. Figure out what types of units this player is using. Fast units often tend to be fragile, where as slower units tend to be tough. For example, Eldar lists tend to be mobile, but fragile. Chaos lists are often slower, but much tougher.
Fast units will be fragile. Figure out which units can hurt you the most and destroy them as you land. Typically, fast things cannot survive much firepower, such as a Vyper or Dark Elder Raider. Go face to face with the opponent, but land a bit more spread out then normal, so that they cant simply get away in one turn. Your first strike will inflict far more damage on this type of army.
A slower army that is bunched up is easily countered by simply going for objectives. Land your pods in front of the objective and sit your marines behind it. Now its already at least turn 2. If you've gone second, your opponent only has 4 turns to get you off what ever you're holding. After you've secured a majority of objectives, say, table quarters for example, send drop pods to land in your opponents lines. This will force them to either kill your space marines and stop making forward progress, or ignore them and march on. Ignoring 8-10 space marines is usually a painful idea. Even if the opponent is tough they still need to stay 1 inch away from you, so if nothing else, you've forced them to walk around you.
This will of course be the most difficult to counter. You will be taking a 50-50 chance that your first strike will break the army, or that there army can't catch you and wont be able to destroy your squads holding objectives. You might just decide this based on what their army is famous for. For example, Space Marines are famed for toughness, so are probably slower. If its Elder, then they are probably faster.
Last edited by Mathlete; November 9th, 2008 at 09:21.
I've only skimmed your article but here are a couple of points-
You also haven't mentioned the dire danger of fighting another deepstrike army. Whoever gets first turn in these games is at a dire disadvantage.
You also might want to discuss the value of a drop pod triplet. 3 pods means 2 arrive first turn (tac squad + dread is a good combo) and the third can be used to support the attack or go after another objective if things are going well at the first drop point.
No more NG spearmen, thanks! Now I need some pump-wagons!
A most excellent write up sir! One thing I personally noticed, and I mention this because of your special mention of Sternguard, is that they can take heavy flamers which are assault weapons. You mentioned the dread making use the heavy flamer, well the Sternguard can take advantage of it too! :-)
Some wonderful advice, and a few new things learned thanks to that tactica. ;D Thank you! ( ^^)b
However, the only upgrade I'm likely to take with my Pods would ever be Locator Beacons, Deathwinds cost a lot (compared to the pod itself) and mostly likely isn't going to get more than one or two shots off anyway, and against MEQ armies, the most it's going to do is take out the odd unlucky model, or simply scare the opponent into shooting at the pod. For someone who usually uses the pod as cover anyway, I rather sink the points for the Deathwind elsewhere.
... That and I want to use them for a conversion. xD
Iron Swords 3rd Company - We are the swords which reap the bodies of our foes.
Train of thought will be terminating at.. edible murder weapons!
RE; Terminators - I hadn't even realised that terminators couldn't get drop pods - egg on my face.
RE; Deathwind - I talk about the positive changes to the deathwind, but it's not for me - however, you do make a good point.
I've done a little edit - hope this is better. Cheers for the replies guys!
If forged approves, I will sticky this up at the top, in place of the original.
That would be great Canew.
As an aside, I watched a game today where the Space Marine player used Deathwind launchers phenomally well - against tau with a half drop pod army, he deployed two drop pods in turn one, both with deathwind launchers, wiped out a squad of fire warriors with his tac marines, a squad of kroot down to 4 models (from twenty) with both deathwind launchers, and a squad of broadsides with a Ironclad dreadnaught. Not even with that great rolling, just great placement. The guy won easily with kill points, something like 7-1.
So alot to be said for Deathwind launchers there.