The Space Marine Devastator Squad finishes the triad of original basic marine squads. Where as the Tactical squad featured flexible armament and the Assault squad raw melee combat, Devastators pack heavy metal firepower in one package. Today, we’ll look at how they function and what strengths they bring to the table.
A Devastator squad starts with 4 marines and a sergeant. You many include up to five additional marines. The marines in this squad start with the usual bolt pistol, boltgun, and frag and krak grenades. The squad’s sergeant may exchange his weapons for a variety of combi-weapons, pistols, or melee weapons. A Devastators power, however, comes from swapping up to 4 boltguns for a pick off the Heavy Weapons list.
The list is quite sizable for regular chapters with the grav-cannon, heavy bolter, lascannon, missile launcher, multi-melta, and plasma cannon. Additionally, members of the Deathwatch and Blood Angels may also choose a heavy flamer.
The size of the Devastator squad does not effect the number of heavy weapons. In a 5 marine or a 10 marine squad, Devastators have 4 marines with boltguns to swap out. You might be tempted to take just the minimum. However, those 5 other marines have two other uses. First, they serve as extra wounds that must be chewed through to reach the heavy weapons. Keep those weapons in the game and keep pummeling your enemy. Second, if you don’t need the extra wounds, you may Combat Squad them out into a separate unit. Thus adding some tactical flexibility back to your arm
Before we get to discussing heavy weapons, we need to take a closer look at two special piences of unique wargear; the Signum and the Armorium Chereb. The sergeant carries the Signum. While a separate model, the Armorium Chereb may not be targeted and serves only to mark that the squad has one available to use.
Signums assist Devastator marines by improving accuracy. If the Sergeant is part of the squad, a single model may increase their Ballistic Skill to 2+ for the phase. Obviously, you’ll want to assign it to one of your heavy weapon marines. Which marine depends on how your unit is armed and what targets have priority this turn.
A single purpose servitor, the Armorium Chereb carries a stock of ammo for the Devastators. Once per battle, once this unit has shot, a single model may shoot again with one weapon. Combine this with your Signum marine for the best effect. The Chereb is a valuable, but cheap upgrade.
Consideration for Weapon Selection
Devastator squads are hammers looking for nails. You’ll want to equip them with the right weapons for their targets. I’ve covered the heavy weapon in detail with the Tactical squad post, so we’ll go with shorthand descriptions here. However, other valid considerations include range and whether your squad carries the same or different weapons.
Do you want your squad to carry all the same heavy weapon or diversify? With the same heavy weapon, you’re tempted to concentrate on a single target a turn to completely overwhelm it. This is a valid strategy.
If you’re carrying different heavy weapons though, you’ll engage varied targets. While not as deadly to each one, different weapons help multiple other squads to finish off the reduced target. Providing support in this way is also valid, but harder to implement on crowded boards.
So good so far? Decide how far away do you want to engage your enemy? Since Devastator squads lack close combat capability, you usually want to stay as far from melee threats as possible. Weapons with a range of 30 to 48 inches are optimal. Weapons with ranges shorter than that need special consideration before use.
Your choices for weapons fall into two broad categories; anti-tank and anti-personnel. Within those broad criteria there are several choices.
Anti-Tank weapons all share high Strength, AP, and Range. They go after the bigger targets in your enemy’s army.
Lascannons have the best Strength and Range, but a low rate of fire.
Multi-Meltas have the best AP, good Strength, and better damage than either of the other options. However, a 24 inch range limits their utility. With a two rate of fire, multi-meltas are useful, but not intended for anti-personnel work.
Missile Launchers feature great range, high Strength, but poor AP and rate of fire. They try to make up for it by also having an anti-personnel profile.
Anti-Personnel Weapons have lower strengths, damage, and ranges than anti-tank weapons. Designed to engage squads, these weapons feature higher rates of fire than anti-tank.
Plasma Cannons excel at damaging tough, armored infantry. Their supercharged mode makes them emergency anti-tank weapons. Downsides include random rate of fire, only a D3 which is mitigated some by Blast, and the chance of removing your own model.
Heavy Bolters are good against multi-wound, lighter armored infantry. High rate of fire allows some use against heavier infantry.
Grav-Cannons excel at eliminating heavy infantry with bonus damage against 3+ Saves. They shoot 4 times in a phase, but at slightly shorter range than other anti-personnel weapons.
Missile Launchers have a weak anti-personnel profile with random hits. Blast mitigates the rate of fire issues against units. A Jack-of-all-Trades weapon best employed en masse.
Heavy Flamers a 12 inch ranbged weapon perfect against light armor and charging enemies. Unpredictable rate of fire, but always hits. Rarely seen in Devastator squads because of chapter limits and range.
Even if you Combat Squad your Devastators, your sergeant and his Signum want to stay with your best heavy weapons. Given the ranges of heavy weapons, compared to his boltgun, you’ll want to trade that in. Combi-weapons are always my preference. You lose not bolter capability and add a flexible special weapon to the squad’s mix. A combi-flamer makes a great choice to stop or weaken a charge. Alternately, a combi-melta gives your men some last ditch anti-tank capability. Likewise, losing your pistol for a melee weapon makes good sense. When, not if, you’re charged a power weapon or fist helps inflict more casualties and get your squad back to shooting sooner.
I’ve included a pair of sample loadouts for a Devastator Squad.
Please note that the Devastator squad box comes with 2 each of the heavy weapons, except the heavy flamer. You’ll need two boxes for some of these samples. Add a Tactical squad for the extra bolter bodies.
Squad 1 – Tank snipers (2 boxes)
Sergeant with boltgun and Astartes chainsword
4 Devastators with lascannon
This squad is intended to deploy in a position with good sight lines and cover. They then never move for the rest of the game. Each turn they engage vehicles or monsters trying to bring them down one at a time.
Alternately, take 2 Devestators with lascannon and 2 Devestators with missile launcher. Your anti-tank punch is diluted a bit with the missile launchers, but you have some switch hitting with the frag missiles. Upsides, it only takes one box.
Add a few extra marines with boltguns to soak wounds if you have the points or power level left over.
Squad 2 – Anti-personnel
Sergeant with combi-flamer and power sword
2 Devastators with heavy bolter
2 Devastators with grav-cannon
This squad maximizes the use of one box with minimal loss of effect. The heavy weapons throw 14 Strength 5 attacks down range each turn. Against opponents with bad saves, you’re dealing 1 (grav) or 2 damage with almost all wounds getting past armor. Against good saves you’re dealing a consistent 2 damage, but the heavy bolters bounce about half the time.
Upgrade the squad with 5 devastators with boltguns. Since you’re closer to the enemy, you’ll get targeted by more fire. The bodies help keep the heavy weapons in play while providing more anti-personnel fire.
Other Posts in This Series
Space Marine Tactical Squads Loadout
Space Marine Sergeant Options and Wargear
Space Marine Assault Squad, Jump into Battle
and for their Primaris brethren
Space Marine Primaris Core Choices, Troops
Gods of War, Primaris Heavy Support for Devestators closest competition