Victory Is But The Prelude To The Next Battle
The Space Marines are perhaps the most iconic of the races in Dawn Of War II, although not by much. Most players will be familiar with them from the campaign, which makes them a good race for those starting to get into multi-player. But the Space Marines are far more than a beginner’s race. Their extremely tough units make the Space Marines a much tougher foe to take down in a straight-up slug fest, which is great for beginners and even better with those who know how to exploit this strength to their advantage. But Space Marine units are also much more expensive than the units of other races, meaning that losing a squad you could have saved is a major blow.
This guide should provide a good framework for effectively using the Space Marines. Because of the equipment upgrades available in Dawn Of War II, and also because of hero units, any attempt to encompass all possible strategies would end up the size of a novelette. But this guide will keep you on the right path, allowing you to develop your own tactics while avoiding common pitfalls.
Bread And Butter
If you’re playing Space Marines, then you need to become familiar with your Tactical Marine Squad. No other race has any unit that is quite like it. The Tactical Marine Squad is a group of elite soldiers who can, at tier 2, be upgraded either Plasma Guns or Missile Launchers, which respectively make them extremely effective against either infantry or armored vehicles. Given that they cost no power, and they are among the toughest infantry units in the game, it is no surprising that they are an important part of any Space Marine assault force. They are so effective that some players will engage in “Tac Marine Spam”, which simply means that they’ll use Tactical Marine Squads and nothing else. This is usually not a good idea against a good player, but it can be more effective then you’d expect.
Since you will likely be using quite a few Tactical Marine Squads, you need to know how to use them. The most important thing to remember is that despite being as tough as railroad iron, Tactical Marines are still ranged units. Their melee damage isn’t good, and Tactical Marines are easy to surround. Never lump two Tactical Marine squads together, because doing so will make both squads vulnerable if enemies engage in melee. Instead, stagger units so they cover each other. Also remember that because Tactical Marine units are a strong ranged unit, you’ll want to use cover whenever possible.
In essence, you should always remember that these guys, tough as they are, are Tactical Marines. If you use them in a way that is not tactically sound, you will lose them. They do not lead charges, they do not run into melee brawls, and they do not stand in the middle of fields picking their noses. They should absolutely always been positioned in a way that is tactically advantageous. If you do this, you’ll be set, as Tactical Marines are nearly impossible to dig out of an entrenched position.
Know Your Scouts
While Tactical Marines, supported by Assault Marines or Devastator squads, will be your main strength, Tactical Marines are poor for map control. While Tactical Marines are great fighters, they are also extremely slow. Because of this, you’ll have a hard time keep your control points from enemy squads with only your Tactical Marines. You’ll basically be playing whack-a-mole, and you’ll also be in a constant position of reaction.
That is where Scouts come in. Scouts are poor combat units in most cases, but they are you fastest unit, and when upgraded with Shotguns they can fend for themselves against basic infantry squads. You start with one Scout squad, and you should use it well. The Scout Squad should never be idle. It should always be moving from one point to another, constantly threatening enemy control points. This ensure that your army will not be constantly split trying to take strategic points.
Generally, you should keep your Scouts away from combat. But if you do get into combat, remember to use the tools they have. A Scout squad that is dedicated to capping points should be equipped with Shotguns, which are good against most infantry. The Shotgun upgrade will also give you the infiltrate ability, which allows you to hide your scouts from an overwhelming force. Infiltrate isn’t just for hiding, however, because it provides a passive defense bonus when it is activated.
Get used to switching between your Scouts and your Tactical Marines. This can take some getting used too, because Tactical Marines and Scouts are such different units. But you’ll have no choice against skilled opponents. The Orks, Eldar, and Tyranids will all be fielding more units and faster units then the bulk of your army, and without your scouts you will never be able to keep map control.
There Is No Honor In Pointless Defeat
While Space Marine squads are also the toughest of all the races, the high cost of each squad means that each squad is more important to you. The Eldar, for example, can afford to lose a Guardian squad, as they cost a little over half of what it costs to build a Tactical Marine squad.
This means that, despite the Space Marine’s reputation for being intergalactic bad-asses of unparalleled strength and bravery, retreat is always a good option. Losing a Tactical Marine squad without taking out at least two enemy squads is simply unacceptable, and will lose you the game if you make a habit of it. The same goes with every other squad except for Scouts, which are inexpensive due to their fragility.
Knowing when to retreat can be hard to judge. It is easy to panic and retreat too early, or to over-estimate your strength and retreat too late. In general, you should retreat your units once they have lost about half their total hitpoints, although you may have to retreat sooner if your squad is taking heavy fire. You should almost always retreat a squad if they’ve gone into melee combat and you have no other unit that can cover them, with the exception being Assault marines and Tactical Marines using And They Shall Know No Fear.
You must also remember that your squads are individuals, and should be judged individually. Even when facing over-whelming odds, you should try to retreat tactically. If you have a forward squad that is taking heavy damage, get it out of harms way. Enemies will likely follow it, and those foes will quickly be taken down by Tactical Marines with Plasma guns, or a Devastator Heavy Bolter waiting in ambush. Armored units are even better at covering a retreat, as the fast units which will be trying to chase down your squad are also likely to be most fragile.
Onward To Victory
In summary, the three lessons I can provide for Space Marines are these. First, learn to use Tactical Marines in a way that takes advantage of their toughness and their great skill in ranged combat. Second, learn to have your Scouts constantly on the move, constantly capping points. And third, don’t be afraid to retreat, as your units cost a great deal and every squad lost is a severe blow. These three rules can be considered a foundation. Following them will not win you every game, but they create good habits that should provide useful when attempting to execute more advanced and specialized strategies.