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A must in every Necron army!
A good complement to every Necron army.
A very viable choice for most Necron amies.
Very helpful against some opponents, quite useless against others.
Not very effective against most opponents.
A points sink in the majority of games.
Not even worth thinking about fielding!
I can't quite make up my mind.
I see a lot of scarabs scrabbling about in most of the army lists out there. And I hear a lot of voices defining the rule of thumb saying that one scarab swarm is to be included in every Necron army. I strongly disagree with that and aim to explain why.
I do see how scarab swarms can be immensely useful. But I also do see how awfully inefficient they can be. My friend keeps fielding scarabs though they don't do very well against the type of army I play, and every time he does I throw a party (maybe that's why he keeps doing it... hm) and look forward to those easy victory points.
Let me sum up, what -in my eyes- scarabs do, and what they don't do.
Possibly intended usage
Scarab swarms -in my experience, which certainly is not exhaustive- serve one of the following purposes:
1) going after armour with their high speed and disruption fields (bought for expensive extra points);
2) tying up an enemy close combat unit to delay its arrival at critical destinations (your warriors, for example);
3) tying up an enemy fire support unit to avoid its deadly ranged weaponry with the rest of your army.
All of these can work very well against certain opponents, but none of these are viable tactics in every case (which -of course- is true for everything else). In fact, there are a lot of ways to counter all these approaches in the army list and in on-battlefield-behaviour that will turn the points you invested in scarab swarms against you.
[I will only rarely refer to other armies throughout my explanations, as most of my thinking originates from the perspective of my army, which is the space marines. So some considerations may be very specific for MEQs, sometimes even more specific for space marines as the Necron army's foe.]
General problems concerning scarab swarms
Apart from problems concerning the scarab tactics mentioned above, the swarms come with some other problems.
*) Scarab swarms use up a (for Necrons very) precious fast attack slot.
*) Scarab swarms use up precious points you could invest in units with the "Necron" special rule and greater damage potential.
*) Scarab swarms are vulnerable; their many wounds are deceptive as higher strength or template/ordnance/blast weaponry is readily available (as is mass AP5 weaponry the rest of your army laughs about).
*) Scarab swarms will very likely not earn their points back in kills alone (definitely true against MEQ).
What scarabs effectively accomplish
In the following I will refer to the possible ways of employing scarab swarms as mentioned and named ("1)", "2)", etc) above.
1) Who on [insert random Necron tomb world here] would offer the enemy an opportunity or even possibility to reach his tank in close combat without intervening infantry when scarab swarms with disruption fields are in the game? Honestly, it's bad enough an idea to even field a vehicle against Necrons in the first place (and at least MEQs definitely do not have the need to do that).
Unless your opponent is very naive you can assume the tank, if a long-ranged fire support vehicle, will be shielded by at least one squad of infantry. Even if it is very weak infantry and can be scared away because they happen to lose the close combat your enemy, if reasonable, will charge you with something else in his turn that is to follow. In case of up-front skimmers: they will keep clear of your scarabs or at least shoot them some (160 points definitely are worth it) before they charge, and even with a full ten of them managing to become engaged with the skimmer it's only a single glancing hit you score on average.
So what do those scarabs accomplish that three destroyers wouldn't? The latter save you points, up your phase out number, strengthen the durability of your other destroyer units, have the same mobility, count as a scoring unit, fill the same slot in the force organisation chart and will definitely do a lot more damage.
As mentioned above: 160 points are definitely worth shooting at, if so easily killed. Yes, this does keep fire off the rest of your army. But consider suitable weapons like a single plasma cannon. If it gets lucky it will fit 6 warriors under its template. Statistically, 5 of them fall and -after WBB- 2.5 of them are dead. With the scarabs perhaps only four bases are touched by the blast marker. Still, this will kill 6.67 bases on average (at double your effective assault range)! You can now compare the cost of the casualties or that of victory points made by this hit: none in case of the warriors, 80 in case of the scarabs. Of course the scarab swarm of 10 scarabs could -in this example- save you five warriors, but for the points you could also buy 8.89 more warriors!
Of course not every weapon is as effective against scarab swarms, but the enemy will choose with what to shoot them. Now consider an assault cannon instead of the plasma cannon: .61 warriors are dead (after WB, while 2.33 scarab bases would be lost. Or consider a 6-man tactical squad with a plasma gun (100 points) in assault range (18") of your scarabs. They move forward to rapid-fire, killing 2.96 bases, earning half their points back in a single shooting phase.
Scarabs can be offered protection, though. Either by turbo-boost or by cover. Turbo-boosting them will save some of them but still make you lose more points then you win by them drawing fire or killing enemies. Remember, though, that in order to qualify for turbo-boost you will have to cover enough actual distance and you may not enter difficult or dangerous terrain. Putting them in cover will make them a lot more durable but will also make your approach route a lot more complicated and will cause your scarabs not to be shot at, as will completely hiding them from the enemy's guns. Thus they will not keep any fire off the rest of your army, and since they won't earn their points back as far as kills are concerned (or scoring, because they can not score for you). So how will they be any good, not to mention better than all those things you could buy instead?
We must not forget, though: despite them probably not killing any vehicles and being a real points sink with disruption fields there still are the unupgraded scarab swarms ready to tie infantry. So let us see to 2) and 3)...
2) Yes, there are armies like the Tau, who can only instantkill your scarab bases in close combat with krootox riders. And when the chaos marines say that their khorne berzerkers' aspiring champion "is better off with a power sword instead of a power fist because of his high strength and initiative" it is the time for you to say "hooray, my army is better off with scarabs"! Against enemies without any instantkill potential scarab swarms last really long in close combat as they have a lot of wounds, automatically pass their morale tests, and are not easily outnumbered.
Yet the way I play (and I am neither overly experienced nor some kind of genius - I learned a lot of my knowledge here at LO, so I am sure I am not alone with this procedure) every close combat squad is equipped in such a way that best fits its potential. And this means, as dull as it is effective, a power fist on every veteran sergeant; a weapon that eats scarab swarms for breakfast.
A full unit of scarab swarms charging a standard MEQ close combat unit (7 marines with bolt pistol and chainsword plus a veteran sergeant with a bolt pistol and power fist) will suffer a lot of wounds (probably killing at least one base) before it even strikes. Then it will only kill a single marine (the dice have to be much in favor of the Necron player to make that two). Then another 2 scarab bases are removed. Of course: if the squad is left without help it will take its time to hack and slash through all those scarabs and probably lose another marine in the process, but in the end he has still got his scoring unit that just earned him a lot of victory points.
Of course the time bought by this maneuver can be used to shoot the remains of the enemy army or capture objectives. But if your opponent has any wits he will hide behind the close combat or -even better for him- charge into it with his other units in order to sack in those victory points while not giving you the time you hoped to receive.
It's even worse with terminators. If you ever considered delaying those dangerous troops with scarabs: forget about it. Even if you do manage to kill a single terminator on the charge with your full ten scarabs your enemy will remove the useless power sword along with the sergeant carrying it and then kill 4.44 scarab bases even with a small 5-man (now only 4-man) squad. If you're lucky your scarabs will completely die in their second assault phase (after your enemy's turn) so you can shoot those terminators again in your turn, but more probable is that they will kill the last scarab base after your turn and say thanks for 120 victory points you sacrificed in order to buy one turn of time off a single unit of terminators, along with the option of fielding another highly prized dangerous, scoring and phase-out-pushing unit.
3) Charging into close combat with that devastator squad may seem like a good idea. Their sergeant doesn't have a power fist, every marine in there has but one single attack and they won't be able to shoot your troops. Well: try it, if you like. But if there's any common sense left in your opponent's sane mind he didn't forget to field a countercharge unit.
Again take the example of a standard 8-man devastators squad and an 8-man counterassault unit (see above). Your full unit of scarab swarms will get its first base at least wounded before it strikes and kills 1 or 2 marines. Next assault phase the countercharge unit comes in for help. While the devastators manage to kill off the 1 base they already wounded all by themselves the counterchargers kill another good 2 bases. The remaining scarabs then kill another 1 marine and the power fist eliminates good 2 more bases. It's the end of your next turn then and the counterassaulters and devastators kill another 2 bases while your scarabs do nothing and the power fist kills another 2. That leaves one base, outnumbered by more than 4:1 wounds, thus receiving 3 more wounds and left dead. The magic's gone.
Again you paid 120 points to keep off one turn of enemy shooting from a single enemy unit and reducing it to 2 out of 4 meat shields. Of course this could have saved your unit of destroyers (only 2 out of 4 dead, for example, instead of the other two being killed off by the devastators' krak missile, denying any possibility to WB. But you would have done even better than by making the unit of 4 destroyers to two units of 3 each and adding another warrior to your army, instead of using the scarabs.
Of course two units of scarab swarms can do much more harm by simultaneously binding different units (for example countercharge unit and heavy weapons infantry), but remember that this would mean you would not be able to field any destroyers or wraiths to their full potential (with single units bearing the large threat of becoming extinct thus preventing WB, you would have even less points to field units with the "Necron" special rule to provide against phase-out and you have another unit less to score with.
Scarabs, with or without disruption field, will not earn their points in kills (at least against MEQ armies). Against a decent enemy they will also not be able to do any good delaying important enemy units for very long. They will be killed quite easily and earn the enemy a lot of victory points, whilst taking from you the option of fielding another squad of wraiths or destroyers as mighty support units that can score and push your phase-out number and do a lot more damage on the battle-field.
If the enemy is smart enough to field S6+ close combat weaponry and to not field vehicles (or bar any access routes with shielding infantry), and witty enough to seek the safety of close combat against your scarabs with as many units as possible, thereby also reducing the amount of time needed to get rid of them by a very large amount, then your scarab swarms will have a hard time being efficient.
Scarab swarms are nasty little beasts. They can be quite annoying and most probably useful in a number of given situations against given armies (/army lists). Yet there are easy ways to reduce their efficiency for a lot of armies, most especially the MEQ ones. In my opinion, destroyers are a much more versatile and reliable alternative to scarab swarms benefitting your army on many levels.
I certainly don't want to say that scarab units do not have their place in an army list. And I certainly don't want to tell all those out there who prize their scarabs that they are doing something wrong. If they work out for you: that's fine!
But it doesn't for my opponent. And whatever kind of list I play (bikes / drop pods / stationary fireline / etc) I am happy for every single base of scarabs my opponent fields. Against a decent space marine player fielding at least the one or the other power fist they really are not much more than a points sink.
So don't take this little essay as the reason the ban scarab swarms from all Necron lists, as I didn't go about to talk of those situations where scarabs can make all the difference. But at least keep what is written here in the back of your mind when considering your army composition. See it as an incentive to think it through for yourself...
Much like "WBF" presents a new approach to Necron army composition without claiming the resurrection orb was obsolete, my remarks here are supposed to offer a wider perspective on scarab swarms without declaring them a no-go. The only thing I am trying to teach here, is:
Scarab swarms are certainly NOT a must in every Necron army and can -indeed- even turn out to be a quite fatal choice!
Will actually change this when I get home...got caught at school on the forums;?
JOIN MY SQUAD IN THE SONS OF THE LIBRARIUM THREAD, I NEED TACTICAL MARINES! I PLAN TO CONVERT UP A SQUAD TO "COUNT AS" LoTD IN MY SMarine ARMY
I have used the Scarab swarms pretty effectively against WH in tying up units that would otherwise be shooting at me. It took me a while to come up with a use for them. Before they were simply sheilds for the Tomb Spyders, but re-reading the codex I realized that they have the jet bike movement. That handy 24" 2_ Inv save helps get them in place while my warriors trudge along.
(On a side note I can't remember what the initials MEQ stand for.)
i love these little buggers. i run a swarm of ten (no d-fields)and they scare my friends to death! they always tie up havocs, genestealers, have killed dark reapers, held up an avatar and due to bad rolling wiped the floor with a big 15 man chaos squad.
nothing like turboboosting these guys behind cover 1st round to set up a sweet round 2 charge. 40 attacks!! you are bound to cause a few wounds and they can't make them all.
that and you have to kill them all to get out of combat. i'll take them over wraiths or destroyers any day.
[I use "MEQ" to designate armies based on power armor or some equivalent (3+ armor saves).]
If scarabs work for you: congratulations! Go on using them.
All I'm saying is that if your opponent takes more than one of his turns (and two of yours, so three assault phases) to finish up your Scarabs it is his own fault.
Yes, against imperial soldiers a full squad of scarabs wrecks havoc when charging into them. And those that lack the strength to finish them up in close combat, like the Tau, will have their problems, too. But a Space Marine player, heretic or loyal, shouldn't have a problem (except for that one wasted round for one shooty squad - but is that worth 120 victory points for the enemy and losing the ability to field another squad of units with the Necron special rule to you?). A power fist (readily available to all space marines) or a squad of terminators, grey knights or ogryns will make short work of your scarabs, while they won't cause any serious harm.
If your scarabs work well against those opponents too, then maybe they should come here and read this. Might help them more than you!
And about that invulnerable save: nice thing. But unless I've got an assault cannon or plasma cannon free to shoot at them I just go for close combat. Any other shots are pretty much wasted at them! Invulnerable save or not...
Edit: posted simultaneously with ian smith. 40 attacks are nice, true, but only 1.48 marines will fall from them. Not mentioning that 1 base will probably be killed before it can strike.
meh, the old stat and number game. well that makes sense but it all comes down to actual dice rolls. i've seen many rolls that should have statistically been made fail. i'll take one marine for a base of scarabs. heck,the combat alone blocks line of sight for my advancing warriors. that keeps them from being shot to pieces for a few rounds. the warriors can them mop up/rapid fire into the remains of whatever the scarabs were fighting.Edit: posted simultaneously with ian smith. 40 attacks are nice, true, but only 1.48 marines will fall from them. Not mentioning that 1 base will probably be killed before it can strike.
I agree. Stats are great but I have seen buddies roll some pretty incredible things. I would also say that I do not like your scarabs. I would suggest dropping them from your army, throw them away, and never think about using them again.
So about statistics: they are laws of large numbers. Nothing prevents a die from rolling a six 10 times straight, or even 1000 times straight. And after those 1000 sixes the chance of rolling another six ist still 1/6 - not more, not less. 10 is nothing against 1000000, and 1000 is nothing against 1000000000000.
BUT any calculations you make using statistics are about probability. And probability at least gives you something to plan with, to weigh up risks. You don't take only your mandatory HQ and troops choices and go battling against a 2,000 points army because statistics may fail you and it's all about the dice and chances are you will win the game if the dice roll well. No, because it is less probable that you win than if you play with a full 2,000 points.
So of course: statistical considerations guarantee nothing. But they significantly up your chances of winning the majority of games once you play a lot of them...
Yes, the close combat is something your warriors can hide behind. Good point. But again I have to say: poor opponent that plans on defeating you with ranged weaponry but places his squads behind one another so that a single blockade will deny all his lanes of fire!
About coming close and shooting what is left: if your opponent countercharges the unit of scarabs you tied up his squad with it will very likely be a close combat squad. And since it will likely end the close combat at the end of your turn (at least in the case of a space marine squad with a powerfisted leader the numbers suggest this as the most likely outcome) the first thing he will be doing is shoot your warriors and then charge into at least one of those squads.
It is of course a matter concerning so many variables that a universally valid answer whether scarabs are useful or not is impossible to give. But that was at no time my intention. If you read my posts again you may find that all I care to do is to warn that scarabs are not in all cases a good decision.
Though I would never take any against MEQs myself I leave it up to other players to decide what they do (well, I don't have a choice, do I ). But there hasn't been much talk on the danger of scarabs turning out as a mere points sink, so I thought I'd be well advised to bring up the topic.
It's a warning with some calculations and considerations that prove the seriousness of the topic. If you heed it or not is up to every one of you out there...
yes i'll do that...wait you're lew. i know you!!