This week’s Hammer of Math makes a comparison between two of the Big Boys of Space Marine forces: Terminators and Aggressors.
When Warhammer 40k first came out, the Terminator was the iconic heavy infantry. 2nd Edition featured them having a 3+ save on 2D6, and in later editions when AP was a gatekeeping effect (AP 3 penetrated anything with a 3+ save or better) the 2+ save was invaluable. When Aggressors were revealed in 8th Edition, the expectation was that they would effectively become Primaris Terminators. Instead Terminators and Aggressors have continued to coexist, and with the release of the new book it’s worth examining how they hold up across the various detachment options.
Coming at at 110 points for 3 models, Aggressors are 3 wound T6 models with a 3+ save and 5″ of movement. Most of their options, melee and ranged, have the [TWIN-LINKED] keyword which is helpful given the changes to Oath of Moment. For melee they get 3 power fist attacks (WS 3+, S8, AP -2, D2) and for ranged attacks you have two options which both hit at S4, AP 0, and deal 1 point of damage. The first ranged option is flamestorm gauntlets, which have a range of 12″ and inflict D6+1 attacks with [TORRENT] and [IGNORES COVER]. The second ranged option is auto boltstorm gauntlets and a fragstorm grenade launcher. The auto boltstorm gauntlets and get 3 shots at BS 3+, while the fragstorm grenade launcher gets D6 shots with the [BLAST] trait but is not [TWIN-LINKED]. Their unit ability is Close-quarters Firepower and increases the AP of ranged attacks against the closest eligible target by 1.
In terms of available leaders there are a few options. Marneus Calgar and his Victrix Honour Guard can tag along and allow the unit to Advance and charge. Tor Garadon allows units to [IGNORE COVER] with their attacks. Iron Father Feirros grants the unit Feel No Pain 5+. A Captain in Gravis Armour provides Rites of Battle to the unit while also being very hard to kill. An Apothecary Biologis grants [LETHAL HITS] to the unit and can be attached to a unit that also has a Captain or Chapter Master.
Aggressors benefit significantly from the Firestorm Assault Force, where their weapons gain [ASSAULT] and +1S when attacking targets within 12″. They are perfectly suited to apply the Immolation Protocols Stratagem for 2CP, which allows all of those shots to benefit from the [DEVASTATING WOUNDS] ability. Plus the Stratagem is a Battle Tactic which makes it viable to use a Gravis Captain’s Rites of Battle ability to ignore the cost. The Gladius Task Force remains strong when the boltstorm Aggressors are combined with an Apothecary Biologis carrying the Fire Discipline Enhancement. In the Devastator Doctrine those shots will all gain [LETHAL HITS], [SUSTAINED HITS 1], and perform a Critical Hit on a 5+. They can also have a lot of fun with a Vanguard Spearhead, where The Blade Driven Deep allows them to Infiltrate. An Anvil Siege Force can also effectively get the equivalent of Close-quarters Firepower via the Battle Drill Recall Stratagem for 2 CP, in addition to the bonus to hit when remaining stationary.
A squad of 5 Terminators is 185 points, while the Assault Squad is 195. Both units have a 5″ move, and a T5 profile with 3 wounds and a 2+/4++ save. In addition to Deep Strike, Both units have the Teleport Homer ability which has you place a marker on the table and allows you to perform the Rapid Ingress Stratagem for free so long as you set up the unit within 3″ horizontally of the token and not within 9″ horizontally of any enemy models. The Assault Squad forces every enemy unit within Engagement Range of them after a Charge move to take a Battle-shock test, while the Terminator Squad gets to add 1 to Hit rolls against the Oath of Moment target. In terms of weapons, Assault Terminators can either roll with twin lightning claws (5 WS 3+ [TWIN-LINKED] S5 AP -2 D1 attacks) or get an extra wound while wielding a thunder hammer (4 WS 4+ S8 AP -2 D2 [DEVASTATING WOUND] attacks). Regular terminators are armed with storm bolters with an option for either a power fist or chainfist (the chainfist loses 1 WS to gain ANTI-VEHICLE 3+). For ranged one in 5 models can replace their storm bolter with an assault cannon, heavy flamer, or cyclone missile launcher (and a storm bolter).
Terminator Squads can be lead by Darnath Lysander, which reduces the Wound rolls of attacks with a Strength characteristic that is greater than the Toughness characteristic of the unit. A Captain in Terminator Armour provides Rites of Battle while also allowing the unit to re-roll Charge rolls. A Librarian in Terminator Armour gives the unit Feel No Pain 4+ against Psychic attacks and [SUSTAINED HITS 1] for all their weapons. A Chaplain in Terminator Armour allows the unit to add 1 to Wound rolls in melee and gain Feel No Pain 4+ against mortal wounds. An Ancient in Terminator Armour adds 1 to the Objective Control characteristic and provides a bonus to Hit and Wound rolls depending on how depleted the unit is; it can be attached to a unit that already has a Captain or Chapter Master.
In addition to all of the benefits to Aggressors listed above (minus the egregious opportunity to inflict carnage with Immolation Protocols), Terminators can benefit from the 1st Company Task Force Detachment where every Stratagem available applies to them. One particularly interesting option here is Orbital Teleportarium for 1 CP, which removes the unit from the battlefield at the end of the opponent’s Fight phase and allows them to Deep Strike in the Reinforcements step of the next Movement phase. They can use Heroes of the Chapter for 1 CP to recreate the effects of a Terminator Chaplain’s bonus to Hit and Wound rolls, or Legendary Fortitude to reduce the damage of incoming melee attacks for one unit.
For the charts below I compared 6 Terminators to 6 Aggressors. For the Aggressors I looked at both the auto boltstorm and flamestorm gauntlet options, while for the Terminators I took 5 storm bolters and an assault cannon. For each option I looked at the baseline as well as an optimized configuration. For the boltstorm gauntlets this mean a Gladius Task Force attack with a Apothecary Biologis and Fire Discipline against the Oath of Moment target. For the flamestorm gauntlets I used Immolation Protocols. For the Terminators I added Oath of Moment but did not use the 1st Company Task Force detachment rule, as it’s only usable once per battle. I could have used the Anvil Siege Force and applied Battle Drill Recall, but unfortunately it was late and I forgot about it.
First up we have some comparisons against a typical heavy infantry target; each other. The two things that are evident are that the improved Save of the Terminators makes them slightly harder to kill than the Aggressors against this attack, and that the optimized configurations give a massive boost to the output of the Aggressors. The combination of [LETHAL HITS] and [SUSTAINED HITS 1] gives the boltstorm Aggressors the edge over even the ones equipped with the flamestorm gauntlets. The reason for this is the sheer magnitude of the number of dice being rolled. Every hit result of a 5+ is an automatic wound in addition to a wound roll, and the optimal strategy is to absolutely re-roll any Hit roll result of a 4 or less. The flamestorm aggressors do very well, and have the advantage of only needing a single Stratagem to pull the effect off. It’s entirely possible that some sicko out there will field two Land Raider Redeemers each with 6 Aggressors and one Captain and just set everything on fire.
Against a T12 target the optimal configurations still perform pretty well, dealing a median of 10 wounds for the Gladius combination and 8 wounds for the Firestorm configuration. Given the mobility available to the Firestorm unit that’s a pretty devastating and flexible option, and shows exactly how difficult it can be to balance Toughness and Saves against specialized units which can exploit particular combinations.
While melee has certainly taken a back seat to shooting in 10th Edition, both Aggressors and Terminators have a melee option. The chart below compares the melee output against a T12/2+ target, which historically has been the kind of challenging opponent meant for being punched by an energized fist/claw/hammer/chainsword. The results below show something interesting; the Aggressors outclass any of the melee options available to Terminators… even the Terminators in their optimal configuration of using chainfists against a vehicle.
Aggressors sacrifice survivability for lethality, and in the right combination that lethality can be absolutely brutal. A unit of 6 Aggressors pouring out of a Land Raider can inflict a significant amount of damage against anything within range, particularly when the unit is bolstered by the right combination of Enhancements or Stratagems. In contrast, Terminators really suffer from not being able to deal much damage with their storm bolters and power fists. Their primary benefit exists in being able to secure a location and withstand enemy attacks with their 4+ invulnerable save, although their utility in this role is limited by the fact that they’re still OC 1.
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