Thursday, 20 May 2010

Why play scouts?

For those who don’t know me I’m an ardent scout enthusiast and have been for some time, on the back of a few in depth discussions on scouts following the release of the 5th edition codex.
In this article I want to discuss why we use scouts in favour of other options, the ‘fluff’ or back stories behind them and how it affects army composition of an all scout force, and finally what constitutes an all scout force.
Now this is not meant to be a tactica, but I hope it will serve as a guide to army/unit selection as we delve into the reasons why people use scouts.

Scouts as a cheap troops choice

Brother Tual quote
This is, I feel, as to why people fail with scouts or begin to dislike them - Scouts are a valid selection in their own right. They abilities and drawbacks that seperate them from almost all other selections in the codex. Building a list that uses units that work well with each other and then dropping one of those units for scouts to spare points in order to build on one of the stronger units is only going to leave you with an un-balanced and easily identified key units.

It seems to me that most space marine players see scouts as a gap filler, a cheaper option when they want to spare a few points so they can add a unit of sternguard to their lists. This is true to a degree, a unit of ten scouts with no upgrades is 140 points, but under the new 5th edition codex you can get 10 tactical marines for 170 points with a complimentary flamer and heavy weapon. When this reduction in cost for tactical squads was first discussed it was put forward that 5th edition was meant to bring back the importance of the humble troops choice, and I would agree they have succeeded in this endeavour, which is why we shouldn’t underestimate the scouts. Sure if it were a choice between a unit of tactical marines with bolters and a unit of scouts with bolters we would all choose the marines, but scouts offer a different ‘flavour’ to the 40k world in the form of unique weaponry and skills.


The biggest reason to take scouts is the fluff, sure we can put effective armies on the field, and I have had some success in this area, but im still unsure as to whether or not they are up to the task in a competitive environment. So why then take them, like most people I chose scouts because they are cool models, because they have access to fancy gear and toys and because I love the story behind them, they are an army within an army, sneaking around behind enemy lines, killing enemy sentries and mining area terrain, its just so cool.Everyone loves the underdog.

Army composition

If your going to collect scouts as an army it would be a shame to ruin the fluff behind them, sure it’s the players choice as to what they take, but all too often I see scouts taken in with mass raider lists just to appease the force organisation requirements.
Personally I find it distasteful and full of cheddar.
If you want to add a land raider to a scout army then just write up some backstory as to why its there, the thing with scout forces is there are no right or wrong answers, my credo is if you can write it and it sounds believable then go with it.
I have received messages asking me if I thought an LRC in a scout army is detriment to the fluff, and the answer is definitely not, I have used them before.
My reasoning is I take the master of recruits model (I use counts as Khan rules), for fluff purposes he needs a command vehicle as despite being a captain of the scout company, he is not a scout himself. And whenever the scouts meet in force he needs to be with them to organise and issue orders, hence the command vehicle.
I have also used dreadnoughts in the past, under the reasoning that scouts mark enemy positions for deepstriking units to destroy, whenever I used them I had them in drop-pods to stay within the fluff, but its not a long stretch to explain they were podded in before the battle and take them on foot.
Also support units like the thunder-fire cannons fit in perfectly with the scouts and its ability to be drop podded adds weight to our fluff explaining its allocation in our lists.
When thinking of your army composition, there are many factors to consider, but usually you will fit into one of four groups:

1: Pure scouts: so nothing else except the required HQ.
2: Mostly scouts: all troops choices are scouts, with other elements added in with decent reasoning why they would be there to fit in with the fluff.
3: Some scouts: mostly used to fill force org spaces and run with expensive elite units
4: Single units: a few snipers for support.

I would consider myself either a number one or a number two, I plan on collecting a pure scout force, but will probably run with a single LRC as a way to utilise my favourite special character (Khan), having him leading scouts from a land raider should make a lot of guys stop and think.

Scouts playstyle

I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussion tactics, but as an overview its worth noting that to be successful with scouts you have to play with the right style, whilst I’ve heard that people play well with an all out aggressive list with Shrike and all ccw units getting first turn charges, it’s a little like a one trick pony, there are too many things that could go wrong, like not getting the first turn for example.
Scouts play best when they take control of a game, with the whole army getting infiltrate and scout moves, you effectively determine when and how you clash with your opponent, in my opinion they are best used a water army.
The new toys available to scouts enables them to use tactics that seem alien to standard space marine players, with armaments and equipment that are unique, scouts are often underestimated and in my experience this is our greatest weapon.
There have been various discussion topics asking whether or not certain units are worth taking, strangely I found myself vehemently defending the scouts against 80% of other posters who claimed they were poor or were a ‘one trick pony’. Eventually it dawned on me that I shouldn’t argue, I should just let these people have their beliefs, that way when I come up against them ill make them wish they had paid more attention to my comments. Scouts use a lot of tricks, a big part of this is psychological warfare, the ability to mine an unknown (to your enemy) piece of terrain can play havoc with your opponents game plans.

Using scouts

The most common usage of scouts is to add a unit or two of scout snipers in with your space marine force as a way to help take out high toughness monstrous creatures. With the addition of Telion under the new codex a lot of players are throwing in this unit equipped with camo cloaks and a heavy weapon.
But thinking about it, this is a 230 point unit, that’s a lot of points for a unit that misses 50% of its shooting attacks.
Of course one school of thought would be to take a 5 man unit if your going to include Telion, firstly this keeps the point cost down and secondly it makes them a smaller threat when your opponent is considering target priority, not to mention they can take a heavy weapon at a five man squad whereas tactical marines cannot, however ten scouts are more effective than 5 so its up to you.
I generally take scouts at the base cost, figuring scout snipers don’t need to be in close combat so I wont bother taking a power weapon, of course this is a basic thought process but you would be surprised what turns up in some peoples army lists.
I generally don’t take camo cloaks either, mainly because you cant always guarantee there will be enough cover, I have seen scout lists where guys have added cloaks to at least four of their units, this sets me back a little, firstly that’s almost enough points for another ten snipers and secondly where do you find 4 decent terrain pieces on the average gaming table. It’s a common misconception that you need cloaks to keep them more survivable, here are some tips that I would like to share:

Snipers have a much longer range than most armies basic weaponry, keep them at the back of your deployment zone and they should stay out of harms way, of course this wont always work if you run a gunline for example as they would be considered a big enough threat to warrant some special attention. I guess the key is to use them in a support role, nibbling at the soft parts of your opponents forces whilst your more savage units do the real damage and attract all the attention.
Never set them up in cover just for the sake of being in cover, I have frequently seen people place a unit of snipers too close to the enemy lines simply to make use of the terrain feature, even if there is an objective there its better to keep them at long range as a single heavy flamer could ruin your day especially if they are sporting camo cloaks. Infiltration doesn’t mean they have to set up closer to the enemy, just that they set up last.
If you do take cloaks only take them on a single unit, when determining target priority your opponent will more likely target an easier to kill unit, and more importantly if your relying on your saving throws to win games your not doing your job properly.
Its easy to forget that no basic weapon has AP4, so your still saving 50% of all saving throws.

Replacing existing units

As I previously mentioned scouts have a vast array of uses and can be compared to units that are frequently used by space marine players.

Assault troops: A ten man unit of assault marines comes in at 190 points with no upgrades, all space marine players have used them at some point and some of us have had great success with them, but for 140 points we could take a ten man scout squad with pistol and ccw to do the same job.
Sure the jump packs have a longer reach, but scouts start closer to the enemy and will often be in combat in turns one or two.
Any upgrades to the assault squad can be taken at the same cost to the scout squad, power weapons and fists etc, flamers can be taken by the assault squad but in my experience only get used the once, in the case of the scouts a combi-flamer does the same job, of course an assault squad can take plasma pistols, but a combi-melta on the sergeant gives them an instant kill ability that the assault squad is without, plus I never advocate plasma on scout squads, to lose the sergeant to a gets hot roll would be to lose the linchpin in your scout unit.
Also the scouts get move through cover rule, whereas the assault squad risks serious injury if they 'fly' through cover.

Tactical squads: Sure in a straight choice we would all choose the space marines, but if like me you want a pure scout army then we have the option of putting a lot of bolters on the board. At 30 points cheaper than their counterparts you will notice the difference when you buy in bulk.

5 man squads: Scouts excel in many ways when compared to regular space marines, when taking a 5 man squad of scouts you have the option of taking a heavy weapon, whereas the tacticals cannot, also they don’t get their ‘freebee’ weapons unless they are taken as a ten man unit.
Often we will see a 5 man or combat squaded space marine unit in a razorback, scouts have their own version in the form of the landspeeder Storm, and armed with shotguns make an excellent drive by unit, which is both effective and very cool.
I mean who doesn’t like the idea of 5 guys hanging out the back of a fast moving vehicle shooting shotguns at anyone stuped enough not to run away, its so Hollywood.

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