Wednesday 5 April 2017

White Scars Tactica: Part 1- Army Overview and HQ units

Welcome to the first part of a new series of posts on the blog, my very own Tactica articles. The first in the series will take a look at my main tournament army, the White Scars. 

This Tactica is designed to give you a look at how I construct and play my own White Scars tournament army, which units I favour and some of the tactics that I employ while using the army. This is not to say that this is the best style of White Scars army available, it is simply what I play and what I have had success with. If there are any tactics that I don't cover or something you think is missing, leave a comment and get the discussion started. 

Before we get into the bulk of the army, let me give you a quick overview. I have been playing the White Scars since the beginning of 2015, starting with the Chapter Tactics that were introduced in the 6th edition codex. I have taken them to 7 tournaments in that time, ranging from small events, to doubles tournaments, to larger national events. At tournaments, I tend to win about two thirds of my games (about the same as in casual play). As a result, I often place in the top third of the tournament listings, with my best finishing being second place at Stronghold V, a sixteen player 1250 pts tournament in Glasgow. I think I have a pretty decent tournament record, I have played and won some very tough matches, but have come up against better players who have stomped me at some events. 

My preferred tournament list has a strong focus on Bikes and MSU (Multiple Small Units). This makes it a great army for objective-based missions and maelstrom missions. My army can generally put out a lot of damage in the shooting phase, but can suffer in Kill Point-type missions as it tends to be made up of multiple, smaller, fragile units. 

This first article will take a look at the White Scars rules, my favoured builds for constructing the army and the HQ units that I favour in the force. Future articles will look at the other units in the army, some hints and tactics on using them, and a look at how to face different army builds in a tournament setting, and how to plan for different mission types. Some of this information may seem obvious to seasoned players, but it is useful just to put down all the info so that newer players can see where the army influences come from. 

Army Overview
This section will take a look at what I favour in my army and how I construct a force. 

White Scars Chapter Tactics
First, I want to look at the Chapter Tactics that are available to the army. The White Scars Chapter Tactics gives the army Hit and Run. In addition, all White Scars Bikers gain the Skilled Rider special rule and their Hammer of Wrath attacks are resolved at strength 5. 

In my opinion, the White Scars have the best Chapter Tactics available to any Space Marine Chapter in the codex. 

Hit and Run
Army-wide Hit and Run is a fantastic special rule. The shooting phase is one of the most powerful in the game, with Space Marines having a wide range of powerful weapons available to them to help them out even further. Hit and Run gives you a chance to not have your important shooting units tied up in close combat with enemy chaff or units that are far too powerful for them. Giving almost all your units a two-thirds chance of escaping from combat to shoot in the following turn is a huge boost for the White Scars. Independent Characters in unit give them a better chance of passing the initiative test, with the White Scars detachment giving an even greater bonus to hit and run rolls (more on this below). 

It is not until you play other Space Marine Chapters or other armies that you truly appreciate how good of a rule Hit and Run is for the army. The standard Space Marine is one of the best basic infantry units in the game, but they do sometimes struggle to put out a lot of damage in the close combat phase. There are plenty of times I have had my Deathwatch Bikers tied up in close combat for several turns against an opponent they should have finished off in one turn after fluffing my dice rolls. 

Given that all units get a 3D6" move for a successful Hit and Run move, this is a great way to move infantry models a significant re-deployment move from combat, potentially preventing another charge in the following turn. Given an average dice roll, you can hit and run between 9-12", move 6" in your turn and run an average of 3-4". This means a unit on foot can move between 18-22" on average (overall, you will move between 10-30"). This should prevent another infantry unit from charging you in their turn and will increase the odds that a faster moving unit will have a tougher time reaching combat. 
One of the biggest boosts for the White Scars in 7th edition was that Hit and Run applies to Centurions now (it did not in 6th edition). This means it is tougher for your opponent to tie up Devastator Centurions in combat and stop them from bringing their potent firepower to bear. 

Bike Bonuses
The White Scars Chapter Tactics gives some fantastic bonuses to Bike Squads. As a result of this, Bike units generally form the focus of most of my tournament armies. 

Getting Skilled Rider gives two major bonuses to a Bike unit. The +1 to Jink saves means you will be getting at least a 3+ Jink save, fantastic for shrugging off two-thirds of enemy shots. One of the biggest bonuses to White Scars Bikers is automatically passing dangerous terrain tests. This allows the Bike units to zip around the board, moving through cover to grab objectives or get into firing positions without the risk of killing themselves on some trees or a rock. Skilled Rider is key for getting my units into position to grab the objectives throughout the game, moving through ruins and other terrain pieces without fear. 

The bonus to Hammer of Wrath attacks is also a great bonus for the army. As I have mentioned above, a Marine unit can be pretty mediocre in combat, so getting an automatic S5 hit for each Biker that makes it to base contact on a charge is great. There are some White Scars specific formations that make this bonus even better, as will be discussed below. As a general rule, I will try and keep my Bike Squads out of combat (charging vehicles are the exception to this), so this bonus get used less often than the others, but is important to keep in mind. 

Formations and Detachments
This section will look at what formations and detachments I use to build the army, namely the Combined Arms Detachment (CAD) and Scarblade Strike Force. 
I know the the White Scars Gladius Strike Force is an incredibly powerful tournament army, especially with the free Transport vehicles in the dual Battle Demi-company. However, I have never used this army and it doesn't really suit my play style, so I won't be covering it here. 

Combined Arms Detachment
For me, the CAD is the best way to build a White Scars tournament army. The reason for this is that it gives you access to one of the best special rules in the game- Objective Secured. 

This one special rule has helped me win a large number of tournament games, as most of the more powerful formations and detachments lack this rule, allowing you to easily steal objectives from the enemy army. I'll get into this more in the section on Troops, but objective secured Bikers are one of the key units in my army, allowing me to easily capture objectives or maelstrom points with these fast and tough units.

I can easily build an 1850 pts White Scars army using a single CAD. This is useful as many events do not allow multiple CAD's for the same army. Later articles in the series will take a look at some of my tournaments armies that have been built using the CAD and analyse how successful they were.

Scarblade Strike Force
The other detachment that I have taken to a tournament is the White Scars specific Scarblade Strike Force. This detachment gives some nice bonuses to the formations that make it up, many of these formations favouring Bike-heavy armies, so suiting my style of play.

The best benefit of the Scarblade Strike Force is Lightning Assault, giving you a re-roll on failed Hit and Run tests. This is a great bonus, giving you an almost 90% chance of passing a Hit and Run test with a standard Marine unit and around a 97% chance of passing it with most Independent Characters. This bonus greatly increases the chance of a successful Hit and Run roll, almost guaranteeing that you will pass. This is obviously a big tactical advantage in combat.

The Ride Like the Wind special rule gives you a bonus move when your Bikes or Vehicles turbo-boost. This is quite a situational bonus and in all honesty, I tend to forget about this special rule in most of my games.

Maximum Impact gives you Hammer or Wrath (or a re-roll to Wound if you already have it) when charging at a unit that is at least 8" away. Again, a nice bonus, but very situational and I don't think I have ever used it. Generally, if I am wanting to assault an enemy unit, I will be as close as possible, and will not risk a charge over 7" unless it is vital or a Hail Mary attempt to win a game. Given the mobility of Bike armies, it is rare that I am ever going for a long charge on the enemy, but it does happen. Usually in these circumstances, I forget about the special rule anyway.

I will now take a look at some of the useful formations in the Scarblade Strike Force.

Hunting Force
The Hunting Force is a great formation if you wish to run a Bike-heavy force. This consists of a Captain on a Bike (a Chaplain on Bike can also be taken), 2-5 Bike Squads, 1-3 Attack Bike Squads and 1-3 Scout Bike Squads and 0-1 Command Squads on Bikes.

The biggest bonus for the Hunting Force is double hammer of wrath hits if the unit contains at least 5 models. Getting 10 automatic strength 5 hits at the start of combat is a huge boost to a Bike squad, helping to greatly increase their damage output in combat. This makes the Bike squads effective at taking on a range of opponents.
In one of my tournament games, it was very effective for taking on other Bikers and units of Black Knights. The re-rollable Jink saves of the Black Knights made shooting them quite ineffective, so combat was the best way to deal with them. However, Black Knights are a pretty potent unit in combat, so getting the chance to remove one or two as casualties before they could strike was key to beating them in combat. The additional Hammer of Wrath hits are also great for taking apart weaker infantry such as Guardsmen or Gaunts. When taking units in the Hunting Force, I like to go for squads of at least 6 Bikers. This way the unit can afford to take a couple of casualties before they lose their additional attacks.

Another benefit of the Hunting Force is the Hunter's Prey special rule. This gives the units in the formation re-rolls to hit and to wound against a HQ choice, then a secondary choice when the HQ is dead and a tertiary choice when the secondary is dead.

This sounds great on paper, but in practice I find that it is hard to get the bonus at tournaments. Most of the time your opponent will be keeping their HQ unit safe from harm to avoid giving up Slay the Warlord, or the unit may be part of a Deathstar, meaning they will generally be too tough for the army to deal with.

Stormbringer Squadron
This formation is my pick for the auxiliary choice in the Scarblade Strike Force.

I normally field it with a single unit of Scouts in a Landspeeder Storm and a single Landspeeder. The formation bonus allowing the Scouts to deploy after the Storm moves up to 12" is great, allowing them an even greater charge range than normal.

The Landspeeder tends to go after enemy tanks, as I arm it with a multi-melta and typhoon missile launcher. The formation gives some nice benefits, but I mostly take it as it is a cheap auxiliary for the Scarblade Strike Force.

Stormlance Battle Demi-Company
I have only used this formation a couple of times. It is nice, but I generally prefer the Hunting Force.

The big benefit of the formation is that it allows you to disembark from a transport vehicle, fire, then get back in the vehicle with a special run move after you have shot. This makes it great for getting the full firepower of your Tactical Squads and Devastator Squads, plus getting the added protection of the Rhino transport vehicle.

I normally arm my Devastators with Grav Cannons, but then they have to stay put in the Rhino, as moving them halves the range of the Grav Cannon shots.

Overall, I prefer the Hunting Force to the Stormlance for competitive play. Bikers are simply faster and more durable with their 3+ Jink save.

HQ Units
In this section, I will take a look at the different types of HQ unit that I take in my White Scars army and my thoughts on their uses.

Kor'sarro Khan
Khan is pretty much a must include in any competitive White Scars list. On paper, he is a Space Marine Captain with a Power Sword that can cause instant death on a 6 to wound. A decent model, but not overly impressive on his own. However, it is the buffs he provides to your army when he is the Warlord that ensures Khan has a place in almost all White Scars lists.

Scout Moves
The biggest boost to a White Scars army is that having Khan as your warlord gives all Bikes, Rhinos and Razorbacks the ability to Scout. Scout is a fantastic special rule and is a game winner in many situations.

The ability to move my Bike units 12" up the table is phenomenal, allowing them to get into very close range with the enemy army on turn 1, putting the pressure on your opponent almost immediately. This helps to ensure that your Grav guns and rapid firing Bolters are most likely going to be in range on turn 1.
This will obviously vary from game to game, but in most situations, it is almost always better to Scout with almost all the units in the army. This allows you to position your army well for grabbing maelstrom objectives in your turn, as well as getting closer to the enemy army to unleash your firepower.

Having Scout also allows you to keep units in reserve to Outflank. This can be potentially useful in some games. If you are facing a potent alpha-strike army, keeping your precious units in reserve can help them to survive for longer to deal with the enemy units when they arrive. It also allows you to come on from the side edges, possibly grabbing backfield objectives or harassing enemy units in their own deployment zone.
If you are playing a maelstrom mission, I would not keep too many units in reserve. You want to be racking up the maelstrom points from turn 1, so having too many of your mobile units in reserve is wasteful, you really need them on the board and scoring.

As I said above, sometimes it is not always the best idea to Scout. If you are facing a Drop Pod or reserves heavy army, it is sometimes best not to use your Scout move. The reason for this is that you cannot assault after Scouting. A Drop Pod army will most likely be coming to you, so being able to counter them with an assault or to assault the Drop Pods to take them off of objectives is a useful tactic.

Other Uses
While Khan may not be the best combat character, he is still good against most basic infantry or Marines.

He should always be taken on his bike- Moondrakkan. This not only gives you access to Bike units as troops, you also get D3 Hammer of Wrath hits when you charge. Strength 5 hammer of wrath attacks are actually a big bonus for the White Scars, so don't forget about them.

Khan's Warlord Trait also helps out nearby units given them a re-roll to failed morale tests (as well as other tests). This can be useful if your units lose combat or take casualties from enemy firepower. Even though "And They Shall Know No Fear" gives Space Marines less to worry about in combat, a failed morale test can still be devastating if your unit flees off the board. In addition, Hit and Run is generally better than fleeing from combat, with Hit and Run you get to choose the direction of movement and get to potentially move further.

Another favourite of mine is a Chaplain on a Bike. I will generally take one and put him in a Command Squad with Khan. This gives the unit Fearless, as well as his Zealot re-rolls in the first turn of combat, which can make the difference between winning and losing a combat.

The other big bonus of the Chaplain is that he can take The Hunter's Eye. This Relic is seen in just about every competitive White Scars army and with good reason. For a mere 20 points, you give any unit he joins Ignores Cover. I will tend to run him in a Command Squad armed with 4 grav guns in order to benefit from the Ignores Cover to very powerful effect.

Another bonus of the Chaplain is that he gives you an extra character with an invulnerable save in the unit. At a pinch he can accept challenges that Khan does not want to fight to stop your warlord from being slain, though the downside of this is that you might lose the Hunter's Eye.

I've never had much success running a single Librarian in a list. He lacks the invulnerable save and buff abilities of the Chaplain for pretty much the same cost (upgraded to level 2).

As a result, I rarely take a single Librarian in my tournament force. Without any boost to manifesting powers, he is simply too unreliable to make a significant impact on the game in most cases. If you are facing a psychic heavy army, he is simply shut down too easily. If your opponent has no psykers, he can usually cast his powers, but I find they don't have too much impact on the game.

There have been some games where he is useful. In my final game of Stronghold V against an Eldar army, the Librarian managed to roll up invisibility. This was brilliant for allowing my Centurions to hold the central objective for several turns, racking up victory points in the special scenario.

If you plan to take a single Librarian in your force, I would recommend the following for his powers; roll on Telepathy. If you manage to roll Invisibility with your first roll, take your other power from Telepathy, along with Psychic Shriek. If you fail to get Invisibility, take Psychic Shriek and then roll on Divination. You can then choose to take the power you roll (if it would be useful) or swap it for Prescience. This way you can close to guarantee the powers you will be getting each game and can manage your tactics to suit them.

Chapter Master
The Chapter Master on a bike can be a potent unit for tanking wounds on your Command Squad. The general build is a Bike with Artificer Armour, the Shield Eternal and a Power Fist/Thunder Hammer.

This gives a model with 4 wounds, 2+ save, 3+ invulnerable save and Eternal Warrior. This is actually pretty potent for blocking incoming wounds on the unit, especially if you have access to Feel No Pain as well. The downside of this is that you cannot take the Hunter's Eye on the Chapter Master, so it will not appear in the army (at least if you are using a CAD and take Khan as well). I think if you are planning on taking the Chapter Master you just take that hit and stick with the Shield Eternal. The model is too expensive to risk being taking out with a single Instant Death attack.

I hope you have found the first part of my Tactica useful. It may help with your selections if you wish to play a bike-heavy White Scars army in competitive games.

The next section of the Tactica will take a look at the Troops and Elites choices that I favour with the army.

If you have any suggestions or tactics of your own to add, please comment below. 


  1. Nice review match. Many good points I'm certainly thinking on for my possible army as I may do a White Scar CAD for the North West Open in August

    1. Hopefully, 8th edition won't invalidate all of the advice in the tactica!

  2. Great analysis! I really started liking White Scars at the same time as coming across your blog, and with all the batreps I soon had to get my own White Scars army. I've always looked forward to your reports and sure learned a lot, so thanks for that!

    There's one thing you have missed though regarding the Hunting Force:

    Q: In the Hunting Force Formation from War Zone Damocles: Kauyon I nominate an enemy HQ unit after deployment. If their HQ unit is attached to a unit or embarked on a vehicle, do I get the Formation benefits from The Hunters’ Prey against the unit and/or Transport, or does it only apply
    once the HQ unit is alone?

    A: You get the bonus if the HQ unit is attached to a unit when attacking that unit. The bonus does not apply to any Transport while the HQ unit is embarked inside.

    So yeah, that special rule is FANTASTIC imo, and the reason I field a Stormblade over a CAD most of the time. Combined with outflank you can reach most enemy HQs fairly easily unless they hide inside of a building, but any mobile or beatstick HQ is much easier to bring down now. It might be a meta thing but only our Guard player hides his HQs, so yeah, this alone has helped me quite a lot when I fielded my Scars.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Chris!

      In casual games I have found the re-rolls to be effective. However, in my tournament and competitive games, I frequently find that the HQ is not the biggest threat that has to be targeted, or is heavily defended and difficult to take on (such as in a Deathstar). As a result, I find that I rarely get to use the re-rolls on a regular basis.

      When you do get to use it though, it is very effective.