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Alright a knee jerk reaction to a quation like that is to say quality. But obviously you need numbers as well.
Now this question can apply to a range of units but I'm starting this thinking of our infantry, the DA.
Commonly around here people always take ten men units with exarc upgrades. Now there are a number of reasons why that could be a good idea.
-the exarc is "free" and so it keeps the cost of your army in dollars and pounds down
-if you're mounting them up in a serpent it's the only way to go
-if you're playing a large point battle and you've filled your FOC it's the only way to go.
But what about when that isn't the case? Such as the common case between being able to have two standard exarc w dual shuris and bladestorm vs having five, five man squads. (2 points cheaper)
Now to be up front I started using exarcless squads because my DA are converted guardians. Adding a mohawk isn't too hard (that's all the old models had that was different), but making a proper exarc stretches things a bit. However I've had great luck with them so far, and think it might actually be the better choice in general.
Advantages and disadvantages as I see them (written in terms of small squads).
-fewer maximum possible shots (57 BS 4 + 12 at BS 5 vs 50 at BS 4)
-individual units have to take Ld tests after fewer casualties, break after fewer casualties, and make last man standing rolls after fewer casulaties
-reduced chance of getting to enjoy the "If you cause more wounds than they have models you pick a model to take a save" rule.
-casualties required to put all units under 1/2 strength higher (need to kill 15 vs 12)
-draws out your deployment which should give you a better set up
-more firepower when not storming (50 BS4 vs 36BS 4 +8 BS5 means 33.33 hits vs 30.66)
-advantage of bladestorm drops as casualties are racked up.
-five more bodies on the table that the enemy has to kill
-eggs are not all in one basket. For example if a pinning weapons hits a ten man unit and they blow the roll then nine guys and an exarc are pinned. With the other set up they'd only pin four regular guys. Same issue for a range of things from being charged by a powerful cc unit to having a pie plate fired at you. You stand to lose five regular guys not 10 and an exarc.
-generally enjoy the advantage of wasted potential kills. Such as when a the enemy causes six heavy bolter wounds on a squad that only has three guys in it. Usually they won't kill just the right number.
-similarly you won't have to overkill enemy units. Such as using a whole ten man squad killing the last two imperial guardsmen from a weakened squad because you have to get the heavy weapons those two guys have off the table.
-more scoring units. And it isn't such a loss if one of them just hunkers down on a distant objective for the battle instead of getting into the fight.
-greater tactical flexibility. You have more guys in more places with more options. For example one unit could fleet to avoid a CC unit that's closing on it while another fires. A larger single unit would have to do one or the other.
At the least I'd encourage you to give it a try on the table and see what you think. Just remember to compare them to two larger units not five larger units. If two of your squads take three casualties and run off the board broken on Ld rolls of 11 and 12 don't throw up your hands in disgust. If you'd had two bigger squads with the same casualties and rolls you'd have all of them running for the board edge with no guarantee they'd regroup. Especially since whoever shot them last turn doesn't have any DA shooting at them before they get to fire again. Instead be glad because of the 15 guys you still have firing away.
Oh and I've also really enjoyed them as speed bumps (Remember in the current rules those assault marines can't shoot one squad and charge another. If they shoot one squad and obliterate them or your guys retreat out of charge range the assault marines just sit there in the middle of no mans land).
I see your point but I think I'll stick with my full 10 man squad with an exarch. The concept is not that different from using small squads of rangers to increase LoS potential and multiple pinning.
I prefer my squads to be of decent size and have a good amount of hitting power and reliablilty. One major downside which I don;t think you've noticed is that DA are not the only units in your army. While you have many cheap unit and small squads in your army that are flexible, you are also liable to be caught out and your speed bump end up to be a speed boost as assault units jump from squad to squad during assault. Also with small squads cheeks like Tau battlesuits can jump in and out of terrain knocking out a squad a turn before your net of infantry catches them whereas tougher units can take the punishment and close the distance.
These are only some of the possible scenarios from using smaller squads, if of course depends on how the player plays really.
Yeah. If anybody tries using the multiple small units make sure you don't boost enemy CC. To act as a speedbump you shouldn't give them a charge before they would get it. Instead impose them before they would otherwise connect with a more expensive unit.
Otherwise I'd just play keepaway.
As for the tau popping out I think that's actually a situation where smaller groups do better. True tau suits might be able to kill six guys totally wiping out a five man squad. But for the same points there are 1-2 more of them closing in unharmed, instead of a wounded 4 man squad.
Or are you saying that you lose a little distance if you're trying to get into melee? I.e. that with two small squads the one just a bit closer could be shot into nothing, whereas a larger unit could have removed models from the rear leaving the very closest ones where they are. I can see how that could cost you an inch or so.
Agree with heiro, there area multple issues with more avengers rather than avengers and exarch and there are multple issues with smaller squads rather than larger ones, for many eldar players they learned this lesson because they bought the batallion box which comes with 5 DA, fairley useless in most circumstances
Everything you have been told is a lie!
An exarch is essential to Dire Avenger success,
Bladestorm for mechanised armies, power weapon shimmershield, defend and bladestorm before you charge for footsloggers. An exarch gives a squad of Dire Avengers a little bit of flexibility, which is great for basic troops on top of their excellent shooting ability
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Fortius Quo Fidelius
I also prefer the ten man squads - for 2 main reasons
1) While it doesn't give me that tactical flexibility in the movement side of things, it does when it comes to holding objectives, taking objectives etc. They are more resilient, meaning that they have a greater range of targets - both enemy and objective - available and can hence perform a larger number of battlefield rolls.
2) Probably the most important reason; a full ten man squad with an exarch looks cool. That's it. They look even cooler when you bladestorm a unit with all of them; the cinematics just write themselves.
The Romans did something similar. They replaced the blockish Phalanx with the smaller Maniple. But this is still not accurate as the Maniple still had a lot of men and wa more similar to a full sized squad of troops instead of less than half a dozen. A phalanx would be forming you entire army into a square. I vote for larger squads, they have more survivability and hence more staying and attacking power. If you want more squads than lose some elites or heavy supporta nd focus on troops instead. A small squad will get killed...easily. And that goes for it's other half as well.
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I dont really care about small squads or large squads... But I never leave my basement without an Exarch. I see your point about small squads, but I play a mech. list so that would be way too expensie for me to pay for that many waveserpents. But in a footslogger list it can be irritating leaving a large unit to hold some obscure objective. For now Ill stick with large units.
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"The plan is to win, if we don't win its cause you guys didn't follow the plan!"
Eldar: 25,000 pts
Now I won't argue with the "cool" factor.
However I still take issue with the resiliance thing. Though power swords, shimmershields and defend are fun and they can be effective. Do you really think it's easier to clear three five man squads off of an object than a single ten man squad with toys?
I keep getting the feeling like people imagine using smaller squads as they would larger ones. By which I mean you imagine that if you replaced your 10 man tricked out squad with three five man squads than you'd send each small squad out to fight a unit of marines twice it's size or something. You could always simply use them in concert. If you're splitting them up I presume you have a good reason.
Maybe this thought process comes as Cheredanine mentioned from a boxed set where all you had was a single five man squad that probably couldn't accomplish anything.
the way i see this it is just common sense.
You wouldnt take tactical squads of SMs without special or heavy weapons just to afford another basic squad of these guys would you?
DA are best at full strength because with all of their tricks and equipment options via the exarch they can do alot of damage that a 5 man unit cannot. I agree that alot of people are looking at this as 10 man unit versus 5 man unit, and that they should look at the points equivalancy, however, if i charge my guys into your 5 man unit they will be utterly destroyed, i will proceed to advance into the rest of your line in similar fashion. The shimmershield/defend keeps my charging unit frozen in its tracks long enough for the rest of the army to either counter attack or reposition to destroy the chargers after combat breaks.