I like making reviews of things, it helps me sort out my thoughts and writing it settles down my ideas, so I share it in hopes of it helping other people too. There have been some Warhammer reviews that have completely changed my way of looking at a unit, and I am an avid reader of them who searches for Warhammer articles when taking a bus, but there is a thing that I don’t like about reviews… They are very subjective, it is the opinion of a guy after all that you’re reading, and humans are sometimes wrong, even when they’re famous tournament players (I’m taking the risk of assuming that the guys who write articles are humans, but I might be wrong…). So that is why I like to base what I write in objective data, in numbers essentially, because yes, it is still my opinion and it is me who is interpreting the numbers, but you readers can see those numbers too, and can judge what you read based on them. So when I decided writing an article about one of the units that I’ve been using the most in 8th edition, Noise Marines, I decided to run some maths to see how they REALLY are, to see if they’re really efficient, and to see what targets they’re best against in truth.
The first option you have when kitting out NM is giving them Chainswords, Boltguns or Sonic Blasters. Chainswords make little to no sense, this isn’t a CC unit, in terms of sheer assault power both Noise Marines and Khorne Berzerkers cost 16 points with a chainsword and Berzerkers have higher strength and get to hit twice. So the choice is between Boltguns and Sonic Blasters, because even though SB have an obviously better profile, they also cost 4 points more per model. Let’s see:
As expected, Sonic Blasters do thrice as much damage as Boltguns, so let’s look at the Offensive Efficiency Factor (OEF), a term that I use to calculate if an option is worth its points using the total average damage divided by the model cost, multiplied by 100 (to avoid it being too small) and then rounded to the second number so that I don’t get too complex results. What we see here is that the Sonic Blaster has an average OEF of 2, which is more than double than the Boltgun, and is specially efficient against GEQ, which is very good in Chaos Space Marine armies, in where we struggle when dealing with horde armies. Conclussion, take the Sonic Blaster, they’re the special thing of Noise Marines and are actually quite good, if you want Boltguns take regular CSM.
However, the main reason to take Noise Marines in last edition wasn’t their ability to use Sonic Blasters, but their special equipment option, Blastmaster and Doom Sirens, which were truly fearsome weapons.
As you can see the Blastmaster is still cool, the average OEF of it Single Frequency profile, which is the one that you’ll use most of the time, is higher than the Sonic Blaster and, while it is less efficient against GEQ and the same against MEQ (note that in both occasions it deals more damage on average, but a NM with Blastmaster costs more than the double than one with a Sonic Blaster), we can see that it is more efficient against TEQ and REQ (Rhino and EQuivalents, with the unification of “big things” in 8th you can no longer say AV or Anti-MC), which is where it should be shooting. However the Single Frequency mode is Heavy, which means that you have a -1 when moving after shooting, and that is why I included a table for it after moving, as well as for the Varied Frequency mode, which is Assault, so you could even advance and shoot. Here is where we can see that, unless targeting GEQs, it is still better to shoot in Single Frequency even if you move the unit, and you should never target GEQs with a Blastmaster, that is the job for your Sonic Blasters. This means that Varied Frequency mode should only see use when you advance, but we will discuss that later.
The other special weapon option we get for Noise Marines is the Doom Siren! Famous for its ability to screw marine units and make NM very dangerous in overwatch… Or at least it used to be.
Now as you can see it struggles to kill a single marine. You can see that it is more efficient that a Sonic Blaster on average, but there is one things that the OEF doesn’t take into account, the range. A Sonic Blaster has a range of 24″, while the Doom Siren only has 8″ which, if combined with its decreased lethality and the disappearance of the Emperor’s Children legion rules and special detachment that encouraged you to get into CC, makes the Doom Siren a pretty lacklustre weapon for 22 points.
If we look at the defensive capabilities of Noise Marines they aren’t spectacular, but they’re still power armoured T4 guys, so they can resist some punishment.
To calculate how efficient a unit is defensively I do take into accounts the cost of the enemy that is attacking them, as it is important to see how many points are needed to get rid of them, so I use the Defensive Efficiency Factor (DEF), which is the average wounds that the unit suffers divided by attacking model’s cost and multiplied by the target model’s cost (in this case, the 20 points of a Noise Marine with SB), which gives us this chart, showing that guardsmen (and other cheap hordes) are specially efficient at killing them, as they deal them more than half the damage than a boltgun does but cost four times less than a Space Marine, but are needed in huge numbers (17 to kill a single marine, on average). While plasmaguns and lascannons are more dangerous to NM than regular Boltguns, they’re also much more expensive, so they’re equally efficient, meaning that if they target your Noise Marines with those weapons they’re not targeting a unit that is worth enough for them.
Now, let’s speak about distances and threat ranges, one of the biggest changes of the Noise Marines:
The PIR stands for Point per Inch of Range, while the PIM stands for Point per Inch of Movement, and shows us how much a unit is paying for moving and how much a weapon is paying for its range. Noise Marines aren’t a fast unit at first glance with a movement of 6″, aren’t specially cheap (the PIM of a regular marine is 2,2) and the ranges aren’t great either. What we do see here is where the Doom Siren really fails, you are paying A LOT for such a short ranged weapon, while the unit gets no other short range weapons to sinergyse with it, so it makes little sense to take it.
However Noise Marines have something that most other units lack: all of the Sonic Weapons are Assault. This means that NM have the option to move, run AND then shoot with a reduced accuracy, making them the fast bastards that a servant of Slaanesh should be. Let’s run some new numbers:
Now we see that when they run (average move of 9,5), Noise Marines have a PIM lower than the one of a regular marine, even when equipped with a Sonic Blaster, and they cost 7 points more! This means that to take maximum benefit from this unit, you should be running around with them, grabbing objectives and shootimg their assault weapons. However, how are their weapons if you run? How does the -1 to the BS affect them?
Well, as shown in this chart the Sonic Blaster goes from an average 0,4 wounds to 0,3; while the Blastmaster goes from 0,7 to 0,5 reducing the gap between the two. This added to the Sonic Blaster being always more efficient than the Blastmaster when fired on Varied Frequency mode makes me think that Noise Marines are better without special weaponry at all… I know it is a pretty important change since last edition, but Noise Marines should now be mobile units that fire on the run, and Sonic Blasters at -1 BS are still better than Boltguns with full BS, so they also outclass marines in firepower.
This role will put them in a pretty risky position, as now cover only affects you if you’re INSIDE of it, a thing that is difficult to achieve if you’re running between objectives, but there is when their unique ability comes in, Music of the Apocalypse. The enemy will have to think twice before attacking your Noise Marines units, because before dying, each of them will fire back! The damage they deal individually isn’t great, but enough to give a surprise or two to your opponent, and is better than simply dying. We all know how good being able to attack out of your turn is, the whole Ynnari faction works around that after all!
So, in conclusion, Noise Marines are great units for chaos players in 8th edition, and a great way to fill troop slots with the Emperor’s Children legion. They are very versatile, being able to fill the roles of anti-infantry, mobile-objective grabbers or even gun platforms if given a Blastmaster. However the most efficient option is running them only with Sonic Blasters, and an additional Combi-Bolter on the champion if you have 2 spare points (he can still fire both). Try to keep them out of CC as they aren’t as useful in there, but don’t fear getting exposed as you’ll always get the chance to retaliate. I hope you enjoy using them in-game, they’re such a badass unit in every aspect!