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My views are not unique, but my experiences with 8th ed.
In 7th I almost always ran a unit of 18 spears, sometimes 24 if expected prolonged combat. Spears were the way to go. I played a lot of games in 8th with my typical spear blocks (albeit larger units) - but over time I find myself gravitating to the hand weapon/shield combo.
In larger games I have been putting down a block of 30 with hw/s and a block of 30 with spears. Typically in 6x5 or 5x6 depending on what army I'm facing. In my experiences the hw/s warriors seem to be a better option. First, a the hand weapon unit is cheaper (30 pts in my case), and they last longer compared to the spears due to the 6+ ward. Especially with all the high strength great weapon attacks being thrown around generally negating our modest 4+ armor save. Because of the formation I'm running, all I sacrifice is 5 or 6 supportive attacks from the 3rd rank. In my opinion hand weapons are better. Of course, if you are running a horde 10 wide maybe you do spears, but at 11 or 12 points for our infantry we're not quote a horde army.
In games of 2500+ points, I will now be running two blocks of 30 hw/s and my standard 20 temple guard with slann.
Have people had luck with different unit sizes of saurus? Debating whether to reduce blocks to 24 (6x4) or 25 (5x5) to gain a few more points. If I do that with both units it's almost two more salamanders...
My experience has been about the same as yours. I now usually run a couple of blocks of 30 with hw/s. Sometimes, I even run one of the units larger (36-40), especially if I want to run a slann in it. I have gotten away from temple guard as well.
I am right 94% of the time, why worry about the other 3%.
I certainly only ran units of 18 with spears back in 7th, they were really really powerful.
In 8th, its been more difficult to find and optimum level. I've generally been using units of 20 with hand weapons. They are large enough to take some damage and keep fighting but not so big that it is difficult for them to earn their points. They also neatly form 250 point blocks for calculating core allocation. However, in 8th there is so much points denial going on that its often better to have large units, so units of 30 have become quite useful too.
Im convinced hand weapons are the better choice in this edition. Which, kinda sucks for me, as I have to use all my saurus as counts as, having spent several $$$ converting my 3 generations of Saurus to all have spears and modelled them all into units of 18...
I love both, I guess it all depends on who you are up against, I was playing the dwarfs last night and I had a unit of 26 Saurus Warriors hw/s, He had 2 units S3 T4 4 ranks each with a lord and my one block did not break, this unit just had FC with no Hero, I was dropping about 3 units a turn to his lord and 1 to his rank and file models...
NEEDLESS TO SAY I LOVE ME SOME SAURUS WARRIORS!!!