The Dark Fortress

Mini Tactica: Deathwing Terminators

4th Edition

Note: This tactica is now old and needs an update. Many facts will not be correct for current game. However the general gist is pitched right.

Written by: Ezzeran, a Deathwing commander

Now, I play Deathwing, so my thoughts are very much bent in the direction of that army list. I can't tell you what proportion of Terminators to use in your regular marine forces. That I leave you to decide. But I can tell you about what I know regarding how I deploy my terminators. What I can tell you from my limited analysis of power-armor forces is that it's probably to your benefit, points wise, to take your terminators as part of a command squad and not use an elite choice for them. Why?.

Command squad Terminators

The Command squad and regular squad are two different beasts, and don't let anyone tell you differently. The command squad allows you to take four terminators instead of the usual five, (the 5th model is your HQ character). Now, for victory point purposes, your IC is always counted separately from the squad! This includes checking to see if they've taken 25% casualties, etc. So a five-man squad only needs to lose three models to be below 50%, which is no different than if the squad started with four models. To get above that, you have to add in a 6th model, plus the IC, to make is a strong scoring unit. That hardly seems worth it to me. Keep the squad at four men. Give it two heavy weapons and attach your character to it. Your character is going to want to get to where it can do the most damage, and that's where terminators excel anyway. In the end, don't use these guys for scoring. Use them to beat on things. Let your tac squads and speeders do the objective claiming thing. What I mean is that the incentive is there to use them more aggresively than a regular Terminator squad for two reasons:

  • Characters excel in close combat. Given the choice of having a Command squad as opposed to a regular Terminator squad in assault, you want the Command squad.
  • Since the Command squad can take less casualties than the regular squad, and the regular squad is pretty beefed up toughness wise (needing to lose four models out of a six model squad before it is no longer a viable scoring unit) the command squads almost become more 'expendable' than the regular squads.

Moreover, I think the new codex makes two HQ's viable, each with their own Command squad. The idea is to use them to pressure the enemy aggressively while reigning in the rest of the troops, holding them back to score or counter assault. Give your enemy a lot to worry about in the sheer in-your-face presence the Command squads can muster and that means he'll have to shift firepower away from your scoring units, thus increasing their survivability.

Tactical terminators taken as elite choice

However, Terminators taken as an Elite choice have a minimum squad size of five models. Therefore you'll always want to add in an extra man to make it six men. Keeping it at five serves no useful purpose. There's no reason why a Terminator squad should go into a regular Land Raider, especially with the new transport rules. These guys should be deep striking or footslogging across the board, firing every chance they can get. Remember they have effective firepower out to 30". Use it.

Assault Terminators taken as elite choice

Terminator Assault squads are now a risk in a pure Deathwing force. As for power-armored marine armies, regular assault squads can probably get the job done for a lot less points. Assault Terminators pretty much need to have a transport (Land Raider or Land Raider Crusader) to get them to where they need to go, and that effectively doubles the cost of the squad. The only thing the Land Raider really has going for it is that it counts as a scoring unit too, but it has to surivive the game. Terminator assault squads also tend to rip things to shreds. They're almost too good at what they do, so you may find them without a target after they do their initial skull cracking. Personally I think regular Terminators are more useful in most every respect.

Assault cannons — the weapon of choice

In almost every case, you should simply add 45 points to your terminator squads for the following reasons: 2 assault cannons and 1 chainfist. The assault cannon is THE weapon for v4 marines. Terminators are THE platform for them, second only to Tornados. Yes, you could spend more and use cyclones: that's what your Dev squad is for though. Heavy flamers are great, but extremely limited. Stick with the assault cannons and you'll never have to worry about making your points back. The chainfist is also a must have. Look at it as an inexpensive insurance policy. It's 3 attacks WILL get rid of what it hits (short of a Monolith, of course).

Veteran skills

I have a few points about veteran skills. I think that Furious Charge is wasted on regular terminators taken as an elite choice. They don't affect the power fist's initiative, and there's not much difference between Str8 and Str9 against infantry. On the other hand, Tank Hunters is an excellent choice. It doubles your ability to threaten both AV10 and AV12 with your storm bolters and assault cannons respectively. Additionally, against vehicles, Tank Hunters does the same thing that Furious Charge would: +1 armor penetration.

For Command squads, however, Furious Charge is a more attractive choice. It helps the sgt, but more importantly, it helps your HQ unit. Yes, your regular Terminators don't really benefit, but look at it this way: if you will pay the points for Terminator Honors on your character, will you pay the same points to give him +1Str and +1I on the charge? I would think so. So Tank Hunters for regular, six-man Terminator squads, Furious Charge for the four-man Command squads.


Final tips and tricks for list building… well, a teleport homer is obviously a good idea somewhere in your army. If you have points to spend, you might want to consider bionics on your models that can take them. Not killing a Terminator-armored model will frustrate your opponent greatly. But while those are nice, you might want to consider the often maligned combi-weapon. A sergeant with a combi-flamer loses very little firepower, and can get in a very nasty surprise before a charge, for a small expenditure of points. Likewise, on your BS5 characters, a combi-melta, while expensive, can give you that desperate tank killing punch, or an auto-kill on T4 or less models. Gimicky? Yes. Useful? In my experience, yes. Still, you probably have better things to spend your points on.


There is an art to using Terminators, whether you're playing a pure Deathwing force or not. You have to put them in a certain light: In one expensive model, you have a single trooper who can outperform just about any other single trooper in the game. He's more survivable, has more firepower and unparralled mobility. In close combat, his only detriment is that he strikes last, but when he does strike, he will lay low his target. A single Terminator is a powerhouse, and you pay a premium for his abilities.

Unfortunately, this perception leads many people to treat them like mini-tanks, throwing them into situations recklessly. Terminators are ELITE choices, NOT Heavy Support choices! Keep that in mind and use them like a scalpel, not a battering ram.

First off, deployment. Always deploy your squads out of the line of sight of your enemy's heavy weapons. In fact, you probably want to conceal them behind as much terrain as possible. Don't be afraid to deploy them further toward your enemy, though. terminators excel at short range. Deploying them forward also gives you room to fall back when you need to.

I mentioned deep striking before, and it's certainly a viable option. A pure Deathwing force with the whole army deep striking is a huge gamble, and I don't recommend it. However, in a mixed DA force, the ability to call them down where they can do the most damage against your opponents lines can give you a real edge. DA armies are primarily shooty and can be somewhat static. Deep striking Terminators gives them a mobility advantage, a precision strike and a huge headache for your opponent. And don't just think that only Command squads can teleport in, regular and Assault Terminator squads can as well, regardless of mission! This is a huge boon to any space marine player, especially in a drop pod style force. Sudden strikes and unparalled mobility have now truly become the Space Marine's forte.

The one rule you should remember, on deployment and throughout the game, is to expose your Terminators to as little return fire as possible. The threat to Terminators comes from two places: AP2 weapons, and mass small arms fire. If they force enough armor saves, you will roll some 1's. Keep them moving behind terrain. Try not to move them into much difficult terrain. They don't need the cover save and it will slow them down. Use area terrain to block line of sight and move from piece to piece. Use everything you can to screen your Terminators. That includes Dreadnoughts and other vehicles. Your Terminators are always more valuable, points wise and effectiveness wise, than your screen.

The primary advantage Terminators have is their mobile, heavy firepower. A six-man squad can pump out eight storm bolter and eight assault cannon shots per turn. That's absolutely devastating. Use your movement to your advantage. In effect, you have an additional 6" of range. You can assault after you've fired. Dance between blocking terrain and gauge your distance to set up charges after firing. Once you're in hand to hand, you can't get shot. Also, try to gauge the firepower you project so that, when you get into close combat, you don't win it on your turn! You want to end as many close combats as possible on your opponents assault phase. If you win in yours, he gets free shots on your Terminators on his turn. If you win in his, you get to move, shoot and assault all over again. This is extremely tricky to guage, but if you can pull it off, you're in business. Terminators don't like enemy power weapons. Try not to find yourself in hand to hand with them.

Above all

Scalpel. Not battering ram. Control your movement, exposure to fire, and aggressive weapons use. Don't be afraid to NOT shoot all your guns at a squad if you can charge it.

One last thing

Stubborn. Deathwing Terminators cost 5 more points per model for this little ability. It is, quite simply, a godsend. People have complained about the outnumbered in combat, fearless units taking wounds rule. I say you will almost never have to worry about it. If your terminators lost a round of close combat, they shouldn't have been there anyway. At all other times, the only thing you have to worry about is being pinned. Your Terminators are solid. Use them to take objectives, anchor positions and raise hell in your enemies backfield. They won't break.

So I hope that helps. Terminators are a tremendous force multiplier if used correctly, and v4 makes them even better.


Feedback and commments

Given the choice between another Terminator squad or a Land Raider, I'd take the Terminators. Sure, a LR is still an AV14 vehicle. But if your assault lynchpin is based around delivering an Assault Terminator squad into the heart of the enemy via land raider, you've got golden eggs in a golden basket. You're looking at a minimum expenditure of 450 points. In an 1850 point tournament list, that's fully 20-25% of your total force.Every army has plenty of decent ways to get rid of vehicles. A player that doesn't include those options in his army is simply a bad player, but if you're banking your Land Raider on playing bad players all your gaming life, you're going to be very disappointed. One penetrating hit on that land raider and your terminators are in the open or, worse, entangled. Entangled assault terminators are just about the worst thing that can ever happen to you. Take the Assault Terminator/LR combination for fun games, and take it with your eyes open.

Regarding weapons and HQ squads, your best bet for taking down a nasty Daemon Prince if you are unlucky enough to get into hand to hand with it is the Librarian's Force weapon, plain and simple. The key is to have better Initiative than the DP, and Librarians can easily do this with a Familiar.

On the other hand, Terminator Librarians don't get that option, so you're left with Furious Charge. Now, timing the charge against one of these beasties is nasty, admitedly, but it's the best choice you have. The fact is, you'll be using your Force Weapon in close combat everytime as a power weapon at the very least. Giving the Librarian a shooting weapon is kind of a waste, so your options become a power weapon, power fist, thunderhammer or storm shield. In my opinion the best option is the storm shield. That is the one item that can make a difference against monstrous creatures in close combat. It's also the least expensive of the above options.


Wayland Games
Element Games affiliate advert
Contact us to advertise
Contact us to advertise