Ah, troops. The centerpiece of every army (thanks to the FOC). Most of the time people will choose troops that are cheap and fit in their list just so they can add more Hammer units (as mentioned in the Elites Mojo post) to pound the ever-living crap out of the other army. While this tactic can be great (not so much for the opponent though) giving thought to what Troops you are choosing can be even more valuable. Fifth Edition, as we all know, pushed the emphasis on Troops more than ever because only they can capture objectives. When the rulebook first came out many lists just started to Troop-spam which, as they found out, wasn’t a great idea. When you take too many troops (this is not true for some armies but is an apt generalization) you tend to weaken the potential of your list. When you take too few troops you risk doing the exact same thing. Well, then, where’s the balance? That’s not a question that has a single answer. Like everything in your list it depends on the purpose and how the troops will be cohesive with your army. If you haven’t noticed yet, cohesiveness is a MASSIVE part of list building and the more you recognize how one unit performs alongside another, the sooner you will be able to create a perfect list for your needs (remember, though, list building is only a small part of playing games. Experience and generally good tactics are far more important, but a good list helps compliment those two things).
Most basic troops are pretty mediocre. They don’t have the muscle that Elites do, they don’t have the speed the Fast Attack units do and they don’t have the fire power that Heavy Support has. Why on Earth would you ever take troops? Well they are the backbone of your army. Sure, they may not be as powerful as Unit X or Unit Y, but their skill lies in their versatility. For example, I can make a Guard squad anti-tank by giving them a Melta gun. Boom goes the dynamite. Obviously that’s a simple example. Now something I like to do with my lists (that many people will cringe at) is throwing an anti-tank and anti-infantry weapon into each of my Tactical Squads. Sure, I kind of go against the “what is the purpose of this unit” rule but it allows for massive tactical flexibility on the table so every squad can fill any role that’s needed based on the situation. This is something that I feel Troops choices excel at. They have a great ability to be flexible on the unit-based level so depending on what type of game you’re playing and what type of list it is, you can always fill a needed role. What some people will claim is that if I have a Melta Gun and a Heavy Bolter in my squad and I’m shooting a tank, that Heavy Bolter is going to waste. They’re right. But so do the eight other Bolter shots. And if I had a Multi-Melta, sure I’d have more of a chance to kill the vehicle but what if I’m against a horde Ork list? The Meltas are useless and I sure would be wishing I had that Heavy Bolter back. This of course is just my play style and not something everyone should follow, just an idea worth tossing around while thinking up a list. Some armies simply don’t work like that, but others, Space Marine especially, can do very well this way.
Besides the ability to have unit-based flexibility, you can also craft specially-designed roles for them. Are they going to camp and objective? Give them some heavy fire power. Are they going to rush an objective to clean-up after the Hammer squad swept through? Give them a transport. Are they going to be a sacrificial unit that is shielding a more important squad (such as Heavy Weapons teams or Dark Reapers)? Give them some Close-Combat weapons. The possibilities are endless. You Troops will almost never be the most efficient unit at the job you give them, but they can definitely be incredible strategic assets if you use them in the right way in your lists and in game. They key to Troops selection, just like any unit you will take in an army list, is determining their general purpose. From there you can figure out what wargear to give them and then whether or not you want to make your squad malleable (the can perform wither Task A or Task B) or hardened to one specific purpose. Without Troops, even the strongest list can crumble.
Like always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you guys do when you select Troops?