The Dark Fortress

Mini Tactica: Devastator squads by Inkaras

3rd 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.

Devastators, or Space Marines with big guns as I like to call them. They are basically just your typical marine Tactical squad with the option of more heavy weapons.

Weapons chosen depends largely on the tactics used. I think most would agree with this statement and so it's one I will tend to hold to in this MT. You've got five choices with heavy weapons. The heavy bolter, missile launcher, plasma cannon, multi-melta, and the lascanon. Each has its own strengths as well as their own weaknesses, and what should and should not be mixed together.

Unit size

I prefer 6 to 8 men per squad, including heavy weapons. Also when allowed it's a good idea to add a Techmarine with a signum to allow your shots to be more accurate. Veteran sergeants are ok but not really needed, and always equip him with a bolter (the more shots at a longer range the better). After all these guys are meant to shoot not go into close combat! You can also take a transport (Rhino or Razorback), these can be extremely useful. While you don't want to move to often (or not at all), when you do need to move you want to do it fast. The Razorback can also give you added heavy weapons and protection from enemy fire if need be. It can often be equipped with similar weapons to your Devi squad and so if you don't mind a max of six men in a squad and you've got the points I recommend this one over the Rhino.

Weapon options

Heavy bolter

Probably the weakest (strength wise) in the group, however it's also the cheapest and puts out the most shots. It also has an incredible long range. By now you should know this is an ideal weapon versus troops, preferable lightly armoured, but even against space marines it can be very effective. Many players like to use this weapon in fours due to its cheap cost and the fact that you'll dish out 12 shots with four models alone in one turn. I however like to mix and match, it's not often that I say this but in the case of Devi's I do. By adding a missile launcher or plasma cannon to the mix of heavy bolters I feel as though you can cover several bases and still be as effective if not more so then having 4 heavy bolters. Both these weapons either use or are able to use the small blast template, which not only covers more ground (and more troops) but both are also able to give the added strength that the heavy bolters do not have, making the unit able to take out the enemies transports or tanks if necessary.

Missile launcher

Probably the most versatile of all the weapon choices. The second cheapest to field, and can be matched to the lascannons range, nothing to scoff at mind you. But what makes it the most versatile? You've got the option of firing a frag missile (small blast template with a lower strength), or firing a krak missile a single shot at almost the same strength of a lascannon. Perfect for massed troops or heavy armour. Once again (I've seen this a lot) taking 4 of these is tempting, however I am still convinced and recommend mixing it up in the unit. Being that it's the most versatile, you can add another of the other heavy weapons and not loose an of the effectiveness of that unit (the multi-melta aside, but more on this later). For more versed infantry, try the heavy bolter (above), light tanks or heavier infantry the plasma cannon can work wonders, and for those heavier tanks you can always rely upon that of the Las cannon. The bottom line is that the missile launcher will add an element of flexibility to any of the weapons combinations making he unit as a whole better.

Plasma cannon

The largest downfall here is the 1 in 6 chance of getting vapourised, however it's a chance that's worth taking (and after all you still get your staggering 3 up save). With its long range, and with the better then average strength and its blast template your enemies are facing a dangerous weapon. Capable of taking out light to medium armour. The real surprise though is verse troops, most all (with the exception of space marines) won't stand a chance versus its strength, and not only do you hit with the blast template but it's AP2. Which is bye-bye to just about any infantry out there. Only melta weapons have a better AP, and this one can even cook Terminators well. Once again you could take four in a squad, but that would be insanely expensive and of course your increasing your chance of getting those melt downs, so this is in my opinion a must mix weapon. Most any of the other choices as listed above will work well with this weapon. It's really a choice of what you want to accomplish with it, or who you might be facing.


With great strength and its long range this sucker is made for blowing tanks apart. Again you could take four and that would be great but it's point cost will probably want to make you not to. So once again I recommend the old mix and match. Two lascannons and say a few missile launchers and you've got a nice tank hunting squad, or the plasma cannon is also a good match, however you're still going to pay about the same, but then you get they nice AP2 weapon. I don't recommend the heavy bolter here as they are opposites.


I've saved this one for last and for good reason. This is the weapons you'll see the least used. It's very difficult to get a handle on, and to use in general. It does have the best AP, and really good strength, not to mention that at half it's range you get 2D6 penetrate. But with its elevated cost and relatively short (bolter range) it's a difficult weapon to use and so it's often strayed away from. After playing Salamanders for sometime as my first marine army I've become a bit accustomed to using this weapon and made it work of sorts. It's not easy and it will take practice but can still more then pay off for itself. There are a few tips I can give when using a squad with these. Some will tell you not to mix — hogwash — mix away but be sure what your mixing with. As it's already expensive you may only wish to have two of these in a squad, three max; however you can add heavy bolters (you're standing still anyway right) and your greatest threat is that they are all heavies and you must stand still and so enemy fire and assaults will often do you in. So either add more basic marines to take the hits and initial impacts, or a few more cheap heavies to really mow those threatening troops down. The rest of the tactics for this weapon will come later.



Basically, get in a good spot, sit, and shoot. Line of Sight (LOS) is one of the most important things with these guys, if they can't see they are useless. When deploying you need to consider a few things, LOS is one of them, the second being cover. It's always best if possible to be in some, after all you will get some good return fire on your position as soon as the enemy can bear it on you. You want them protected but more importantly you want LOS, it will greatly depend on the situation but sometimes it's more important to have the initially protected rather then having that good shot. A hill with ruin or a forest is the ideal place to put them, however this is not always available and so it depends on the game.

hth and moving

Like I've said before, don't move. And don't get into hth unless totally necessary. Avoid both of these things at all costs. However it's better to charge then be charged, and it's better to move then sit there with nothing to shoot at. Also a point of interest when moving is get them there quick and set up. Devastator are pretty simple, they take little thought to use. You'll spend more times considering which weapons to use and how much the unit is going to cost then their actual use. Cover, LOS, sit, and shoot No close combat, no moving unless necessary and only when necessary.

Multi-melta squads

These guys differ from all other Devi units. Because of their close range you need to move, and move often. You don't need 4, and two will usually do it. You can add a heavy bolter or two in a squad of 6 if you like, however I tend to use two to three of them in a squad and go with regular marines the rest of the time. This keeps the cost down and gives them the necessary protection and mobility you need. A transport is necessary, in particular a Razorback (again because it gives that added weapon fire power —perhaps rying the MM here would also be good, but the TL bolters is also popular as it will deter those troops closing on your unit). I purpose of this squad is to hunt tanks really (or those super heavily armed troops). Use the extra models as fodder to protect your units, as well as using the transport as protection for the squad as a whole. It's not easy to do or use, but with practice you should be able to make these guys very effective. Most players will see this squad as useless or near useless and so won't focus on it to much. Especially if they can take the razorback from you early. Best advice I can give is never give up on the squad and they will perform, perhaps with great difficulty but they will perform.

Hope you enjoyed the MT.


Feedback and comments

It's a nice piece overall, although I do disagree on some proposed weapons combinations. Read all about my opinions in the Devastator squad thread in this very forum.

I will make my case against the multi-melta here, because we did not discuss it in the said thread. (This is not meant as an attack upon your work, but to offer the readers a more complete view on the issue.) Basically, its not the best weapon for the devastators, and I'll explain why.

  • Short range. Combine the 24" with having a screening squad in front (6", including the "buffer zone"), and you are down to 18". (not screening a devastator squad is as good as charging it at the enemy) A Rhino-mounted squad can drive 12", disembark 2", and charge 6". That's more than the 18", rendering the multi-meltas useless.
  • How often will you actually have a tank within 12" that hasn't killed you already? Not very often. At longer range, it's the same as a missile launcher (against tanks).
  • Points cost. You are paying 35 points for what is almost identical to a lascannon and a missile launcher. The lascannon also costs the same, but has higher strength and twice the range. The missile launcher costs 15 points less, and lacks a point of AP, but doubles the range.

The author replies

Re-read the devi thread and have a few things to add.

Mixing squads' weapons makes them less effective

While I can see your point to this I disagree. Here is why, While the missile launcher is a good weapon and in my mind the most flexible, I feel as though mixing it with other weapons enhances its flexibility.

For example let's see how it mixes with the following weapons:

Heavy bolters

Add a missile launcher or two and now not only can you effectively still deal with troops but if need be you can also deal with armour.

Plasma cannons

While the ranges may be different it's not that big a difference where it should trouble you. Often times you won't have a clear 48" shot and so this should not be that big a deal. Both can deal with armour light to mid (the missile launcher some heavy armour) and both can deal with troops light to heavily armoured (though actually the plasma cannon deals with this better).


I actually would prefer not to mix this weapon with the missile launcher but it's still not a bad fit. Ranges are the same and the missile launcher is only 1 Str different. Not only that but if need be you could deal with incoming assaulting troops.

5-man squads

I can't say enough how bad an idea this is. I listed above why but basically you take one or two hits and not only are you eating into your heavy weapons but your also running high tail out of there and they are now useless. Not only that but you've used two Heavy Support slots.

Plasma cannons are not a waste

Sure versus armour 14 they aren't going to be effective and they weren't meant to be. However they are good versus any type of troop, and a good number of them they can instant kill, not to mention that most enemy armour doesn't get to 14 in the first place and so it's still good in most situations.

Screening Devis with Marines?

Are you nuts? not only is this easily countered but those are wasted marines. Most of the time your Devistator squads will be in places further away then most other units and so the screening units will spend most of the game doing nothing.

The four Tactical squads with lascannon theory

Because you like to assess different targets? Well if you shoot four las cannons at four separate target I would bet that more then 50% will do nothing and now that turn of shooting has been wasted. want to do it again next turn go a head. any vet knows and has done and seen this happen a million times. more then 1/2 our units could do this all game and be ineffective not to mention immobile. bad tactic overall. Tactical units were not meant to sit and shoot all game. devis are, they have more heavy weapons and so are more effective at the heavy shooting.

I could go on and on, but it's not really the point of this Mini Tactica to do so. While I will be more clear in the final revision (seems I need to be even for myself) mixing weapons when done properly adds to the unit, it doesn't take away from it. However it's easy to add in the wrong weapons and so it's more important to make the proper distinction between them rather then argue that 4 MLs are the best and all other options suck. (which just isn't true). Something someone told me once which still holds true today: missile launchers while good and versatile, are not the best at anti-troops nor tank-hunting. they are the medium and should be treated as such. Perhaps you disagree but look at the profile of the weapons, there are better options to kill troops, and certainly there are better tank-hunting weapons. However the ML does both of these pretty well but certainly not the best.


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