Next up in the Sergeant Series is the humble sergeant of the Tactical Squad. I'm going to go out on a limb and describe the Tactical sergeant as the most common model in a Marine army. While he might be common and ordinary, I feel the Tactical Sergeant is the hardest one to kit in the whole codex.
The root of the problem is the Tactical Squad itself. The squad is designed to be flexible and durable, but able to be honed slightly towards a specialized role. Marine players have debated the role and merits of the tactical squad for years now, with no clear winner. Typically, a sergeant will complement the role the squad has been given or make up for its failings.
There are so many ways to design a Tactical squad that the best way to look at a sergeant is by analyzing all of his options and deciding which situation each is appropriate for. There is truly no bad option for a tactical sergeant, though there are bad combinations of individual upgrades or upgrade/squad combos.
I'll start with mentioning the teleport homer. Tactical sergeants have had access to this for a while, and all it does is allow a unit in Terminator armor to deepstrike within 6" of the sergeant without scattering. It only works for Terminators! Not drop pods, not units moving by Gate of Infinity, or any of that garbage. I'm so happy they cleared up the language on this one, so we don't have people claiming that Gate is a "teleport because there's no definition of teleport in the rulebooks! NYAH!"
It's a limited utility item that you won't see a lot. First, because the sergeant has to be alive to use it. Second, because the most popular Terminators are still Assault Terminators, who can't do anything but run after the arrive from deepstrike. With the amount of AP2 firepower in the game today, it's an even worse idea to deepstrike Assault Terminators than it used to be. It'll work better with Tactical Terminators who can shoot, but the standard range of stormbolters makes that a dicey choice.
It can be done if you have a specific plan, like dropping the TDA unit behind a Rhino in which the Tactical Squad is riding, or behind terrain features.
Tactical sergeants, like just about every other sergeant, can take meltabombs. They serve the same purpose as mentioned in previous articles. They're cheap insurance upgrades that can put a major dent in armored units. It's cheap enough to tack on to any other upgrade, and not identically redundant to any of the upgrades available to the Tactical sergeant.
The ranged weapons available to a Tactical sergeant are plasma pistols, grav pistols, storm bolters, and each flavor of combibolter (grav, plasma, melta, flamer).
The ideal range for a Tactical squad is 12" in order to put as many bolters on target as possible. That's also a great range for pistols. Ok, it's the ONLY range for pistols. If you can stomach the steep points cost of a plasma pistol or grav pistol, they're pretty solid options. I'd take them alongside special weapons of the matching type. Grav gun+grav pistol, or plasma gun+plasma pistol. An interesting side note: Tactical sergeants are able to take two pistols by trading their bolter for a chainsword, and then their bolt pistol and the chainsword for plasma or grav pistols. So the tactical sergeant is now the gunslinger, while the Assault sergeant, who could reliably get range for those weapons, is not. Of course, double pistols would be usable when leading a drop pod squad...
Alternatively, you can go with the combibolter for fewer points, but a single usage. This more closely matches the special weapon in the squad, but just the one time. Some players argue that a Tactical squad will only ever get one chance to fire is special weaponry, and combis fit exactly with that "one is all you get" mindset. However, the conflicting view point contends that the idea of "one is all you get" is incorrect. The big decision for people who think this way is [I]when[/I] to use the combi part of the weapon. Do you burn the flamer at the first opportunity, or wait from an ideal moment? It's a decision that becomes easier with practice.
A storm bolter is an ok choice for a Tactical sergeant. It ensures you always get two bolt shots from him, regardless of whether you moved or not, and all the way from 24" to 1". I haven't built a sergeant with a storm bolter yet, but I have plans to do so. I think it's a nice touch for a unit that won't be driving upfield much. One of my favorite plans is to run Cato Sicarius, and give one Tactical squad Counter Attack. This squad is a pure objective holder. They pour out bolter fire into oncoming infantry, and then when the wave hits they roll a Ld test and double their attacks when charged. The plan requires the squad to be armed with a heavy bolter and a flamer, and a sergeant with a storm bolter would slot in nicely there. Of course, a regular bolter or combiflamer will still fit in this squad and do just fine. but the storm bolter puts out two shots all game long, both of which are subject to Precision Shots. If you believe in long odds, the storm bolter gives you greater chances to put bolt shots where you want them.
Melee upgrades should be planned alongside your shooting upgrade, if you're taking a shooting upgrade. Tactical sergeants have access to the standard field of melee options: power weapon, lightning claw, power fist, and thunder hammer. You can also take two of any of the options by trading bolter for chainsword, and then boltpistol and the chainsword for the two melee weapons.
You can either go with the complimentary selection if you're into specializing an entire squad for one task, or you can elect to try the gap-filling selection if you like your squads to be able to do a little of everything.
An example of complimentary armament would be taking a power sword or lightning claw in a squad geared towards killing infantry, with a missile launcher or heavy bolter and flamer. An example of a gap-filling selection would be taking a power fist in a squad armed for heavy infantry work with a plasma cannon and plasma gun. The idea behind the first is to add more power of the selected type to a single target type. The idea behind the second is to make up for the shortcomings of the unit so it cannot be taken advantage of by specific enemy units.
I've been known to use both methods, depending on my feelings for the day and the composition of the rest of my army. For example, if I have multiple units with power fists, I probably won't take one on the Tactical squad.
I've never been a fan of loading up a single sergeant with tons of war gear, and that goes double in the age of Precision Shots and challenges. A sergeant tricked out with a thunder hammer, combibolter, meltabombs and Veteran status is sniped out of a squad just as easily as a sergeant with a bolt pistol and chainsword. I like to keep purchases at or under the 20-point mark for Tactical sergeants.
Next up is Veteran status. On a Tactical sergeant, veteran status depends on the overall role you've envisioned for the unit. If it's a unit designed to advance forward, a Veteran Sergeant improves the odds of the squad passing morale tests to KEEP moving forward, as well as adding an extra attack should they get stuck in combat. If the unit is supposed to hold a rear objective at all costs, the bonus Leadership is helpful to keep you from failing morale tests, and thereby running off the board. A general all-rounder squad might not need Veteran status to accomplish its mission.
There are a few Chapter Tactics that directly affect Tactical sergeants. Ultramarines is pretty obvious, giving you rerolls to shooting for a turn when using the Tactical Doctrine. This can help you get combibolters on target when they're most needed.
Imperial Fists gives a sergeant with a storm bolter or bolter better odds of landing hits.
A Black Templars sergeant (yes, they CAN take regular Tactical Squads) will make better use of melee upgrades doe to rerolls to hit and the addition of Rending when in a challenge.
So, to sum up, Tactical sergeants are as flexible as the squad they lead. You can use them to help the squad shore up a deficiency, or to further hone the fine point of a specialized squad. these guys can really do almost anything, within reason.