Whether you came to the army because of a love of the lore, (and a desire to play one of the armies closest to 'the good guys' 40k has to offer) a love of the aesthetics, (we have one of the easiest paint schemes in the game) or a love of the rules, (flamers and meltas oh my!) the Salamanders can be a rewarding force to play. However, any way you slice it, you will eventually want to win a few games with Salamanders, and hopefully, this guide can help you to do that.
Let's start with a unit breakdown. In many cases, I'm not going to grade a unit, or tell you it's better or worse than any other. There will always be a wide variety of tactics available to the Salamanders player, and it isn't one of those armies that pins you into a specific role. So, I'll try to go through some of the different ways you can use the units at your disposal.
Salamanders Rhino by Slinky
Transports are, despite what you may have heard, still quite viable. Your Tactical Squad is one of the better units available to you, but they don't do you any good if they don't get to your opponent. Mobility is key. Being able to advance on a Tau gunline (or pack up and retreat from a wall of Tyranids) can mean the difference between win and loss.
My personal favorite. The Drop Pod gives you mobile deployment without the danger of being blown out of your tank en route. When making your list, I highly recommend figuring out which of your units will make the initial drop, and give their pods Locator Beacons.
Also a fan favorite. Since combat squads can travel in the same dedicated transport now, the Rhino has become more viable for delivering multiple small units. An Assault Squad divided down, with one flamer in each squad, could potentially engage two enemy troop units at the same time. The Rhino has always been a fragile vehicle, though, and despite my confidence in them vehicles DID take a hit to survivability in this edition. (Just not to the point of being unusable.)
For delivering a single squad, or a single squad plus an HQ, the Razorback is yet another good choice. It brings a small amount of anti-horde with it, which can be replaced with any number of weapons options to suit your personal taste. Sternguard or Command Squads can both be mounted in Razorbacks for pinpoint delivery, and the tank itself can add a little bit of dakka to an army that needs some shoring up on one side of the anti-tank/anti-infantry spectrum.
Vulkan He'stan by Impossibrutality
The Chapter Master just doesn't appeal to me. I admit this might be some transference from 5th edition, but the Captain is my preferred commander if you need to go with one of these guys. The Captain's retinue is better, and he's cheaper. They both have the same equipment options, and both unlock bike armies. For the additional forty points, you're getting an extra attack, extra wound, and the Orbital Bombardment. Unless you give the Chapter Master Relentless (which DOES allow him to fire the Orbital Bombardment in this edition) I don't think he's the best choice, and even then, I think he'd be best suited on a bike with someone else's Command Squad.
If you need a 'Champion' character, someone to engage the enemy one-on-one, I recommend terminator armor or artificer armor, a storm shield, (the Shield Eternal if you're feeling saucy) and a beefy power weapon to taste. (Thunder hammer or relic blade, but I prefer the hammer.) A combi-weapon wouldn't go amiss. If I need to use one of these guys, I see no reason not to treat him like a jumped-up sergeant.
If you're fielding a small points army, the Librarian remains an awesome choice. If you need a secondary commander, he brings a lot for a small amount of points. He can go in with either bike squads or jump pack squads, which is nice, and he also unlocks the Command Squad now. While regular Librarians cannot take Divination powers, Biomancy and Telepathy are both very good options. If you want to pick up Telekinesis, there are a couple of good options in there that would make him a huge boon to a Sternguard squad. (Particularly Gate of Infinity and Telekine Dome.) Gate of Infinity meshes nicely with a Drop Pod army, since it can benefit from those Locator Beacons.
If he's going to be joining a unit of heavy hitters, such as some Assault Terminators, then some termie armor of his own would not go amiss. If he's your main HQ, the Armor Indomitus or Shield Eternal can dramatically increase his survivability, but absent some Feel No Pain, I just don't feel comfortable spending that many points on upgrades to a two wound model. Although I wouldn't do it unless I had points to burn, as long as you're equipping him, there's no reason not to squeeze another combi-melta or -flamer into your list...
In smaller point games, the Chaplain is another great HQ. Not quite as amazing as in the last edition, his rules have undergone some name changes, but he's largely the same. He makes a fine addition to an assault terminator squad, or an assault oriented Command Squad. He has a much more narrow focus (assault) than some of the other HQ's, which means you might struggle to find a place for him in games where you really shouldn't be the one charging across the board (like, against Tyranids, for example). Still, so long as he and his squad pick their targets correctly, they should still be able to be useful.
I love him in terminator armor, if I'm honest. If you're putting him in terminator armor, you might as well give him a combi-weapon, since you've lost the additional attack the pistol was giving you anyway. Alternatively, he would make a fine addition to a bike squad.
Master of the Forge
While a MotF on a bike with a conversion beamer might carry some nice mobile surprise value, he's really not our most optimal choice. You may be able to come up with a gimmick list incorporating him, but I can't really think of a standard way to make the most use out of putting him in one of your limited HQ slots. Save for that last little bit, the same goes for Techmarines.
Big Poppa is back with some new tricks in this edition. First, he gives Master-crafted to all melta weapons in his detachment, regardless of whether or not they have Chapter Tactics. This also applies to the bolter portion of a combi-melta as it's currently written. Although it's a matter of semantics, his digital weapons have been rolled into the Gauntlet of the Forge. The only other new addition is that Vulkan is required to take Iron Resolve, possibly the most lackluster Warlord trait on our table. It may prove to be better than I see it, but so far it hasn't impressed me.
Since 6th dropped, Vulkan has undergone a little bit of a role shift. He no longer ignores 2+ armor like he did in 5th edition, which means he is less useful as a champion unit. Most enemy champions are going to have 2+ armor, the ability to inflict Instant Death, or a Toughness high enough that Vulkan can't ID them, all of which adds up to him being second tier at best when it comes to hero-on-hero combat.
Instead, he can perform quite adequately as a weed-whacker. I like to run him up the field riding along with my Assault Terminators in their Land Raider. Vulkan can always leap out to handle whatever delicious target of opportunity we pass, mowing through enemy troop units with shocking speed and ability. Challenge enemy sergeants (especially ones who can't match his initiative) in order to make it less likely you will either A) catch a surprise power fist from behind a wall of meat shields or B) kill the squad so quickly as to leave Vulkan the newest citizen of the nation of Buttinthebreezia.
They can be very fun, but the points can rack up awful quick. Since the FAQ, they can take special weapons, so you can drop up to four (or five, depending on where you fall on the 'Can the Apothecary have upgrades?' question) meltaguns or flamers in a single squad, and for a Salamander, that's almost too tempting not to try.
Gravgun wielding bikers are already shaping up to be a popular build, and while I personally prefer the reliability of a meltagun, I'm not going to tell you the gravguns are going to be a worse option. Lower chance to wound most things and far worse on vehicles, but triple the shots (even if you can't reroll misses) is nothing to sneeze at.
Just don't forget that your Apothecary is a character, which means he gets the same Mastercrafted weapon of his choice that your sergeants get. (As well as Look Out, Sir! rolls in case enemies try to snipe him out of your squad.)
Not quite as expensive as in the last codex, but without the option for auxiliary grenade launchers, ostensibly one of their best features, I take a pass on the Honor Guard now. You might still squeeze a couple of them into a Drop Pod for a surprise unit that's shockingly hard to kill, unless your opponent brought either grav or plasma weapons, in which case they become your army's most expensive speedbump. With no access to Salamander signature weapons, I firmly leave these models in the box.
The workhorse of my army. I take two of them in lists up to 1500, and at least three beyond that. Easily one of the best units in the codex, they excel at the versatility that is the biggest asset the Space Marines have.
I take a lightning claw, combi-weapon, and melta bombs on my sergeant, as well as the veteran upgrade. The Tactical Squad needs to be able to apply critical pressure to where the enemy is weakest, and I have been in too many situations where I needed either a lightning claw or a melta bomb and didn't have it to forego them anymore.
The rest of the squad gets a special weapon and a multi-melta. Both the special weapon and the combi-weapon can be divvied up between melta and flamer as you prefer. My personal pick is flamer and combi-melta, but the needs of your local meta may differ.
When deploying, combat squads are extremely useful. The ranged squad (with the multi-melta) can take cover, and with Vulkan, even has a decent chance to do something, even while on the move. Since they are frequently the lower priority target in comparison with the more immediate threat of the sergeant's squad, the ranged squad can often do some reasonable damage in subsequent turns. The other squad can pop tanks, roast exposed infantry, or take cover so they can charge vulnerable targets.
Scouts don't offer much of a way to capitalize on the Salamanders' Chapter Tactic, but they can still have some utility in your lists. Snipers still offer one of the best solutions against monstrous creatures, and a good way to try and eliminate enemy special weapons. The other advantage they offer is the Land Speeder Storm, which allows you to bring a multi-melta to the table fairly cheaply, (considering that you also get a skimmer as a vehicle platform along with it) along with a scoring unit. If used with a drop pod list, you can Deep Strike the skimmer for a precision strike, allowing the Storm to engage enemy armor, while the onboard scouts engage enemy troop formations. If you're going that route, there's no reason you can't give the sergeant a combi-flamer, and the choice between shotguns and bolters will of course be up to you at that point.
Little to no utility. They can't take flamers, can't take meltas, and while you might be able to give them some melta bombs to go out hunting monstrous creatures or vehicles, they just don't have much to offer the boys in green.
Here's the big money! Sternguard are one of my favorite units for Salamanders. Since Vulkan Mastercrafts BOTH halves of your combi-melta, you should definitely think about maxing out on them. Once again, I prefer combat squads, so in every group of five, I like to go four combi-meltas and one heavy flamer, just in case I've got some horde-related troubles. In the past, I went with one melta, three combi-meltas, and one combi-flamer in every five Sternguard, so you may consider that as an alternative loadout if you need it.
If you have the points, you might consider giving the sergeant a melee weapon, since they are a fairly valuable investment. I usually don't, even though I give them out to my basic sergeants, since I might consider charging a Tactical sergeant into melee, but would probably never do the same with a Sternguard sergeant.
Once again, the Drop Pod is my preferred method of delivery, but there's something to be said for a Rhino or Razorback as well. The dual firepoints of the Rhino could easily be used to spray fiery heavy flamer-related death in separate directions, which could come in handy. If you plan to attach an IC, such as a Librarian, then a squad of five and a Razorback might seem like a more attractive option.
Dreads lost some of their oomph in this edition. While they can still benefit from Vulkan's buff, they no longer get the chapter advantage, and that hurts them. Dreads (especially Ironclads) in Drop Pods can still be a nasty surprise, but there are other options that are going to be easier for you, as a player, to learn to use well. If a limited model collection forces you into fielding them, then last edition's loadout of multimelta and heavy flamer with a close combat weapon is probably going to be your best bet. The Drop Pod is highly recommended.
Legion of the Damned
Here's a pick that got much better for Salamanders with the changeover. Although they were a bit overpriced in the last codex, their ability to take three flamer or melta weapons made them a nice unit to bring for a sucker-punch. There was also nothing stopping an Independent Character from Deep Striking in with them, so Vulkan could bring their complement of special weapons up to wall-of-horror levels.
Alas, he can no longer roll with his homies in this edition, nor can they benefit from the Salamander Chapter Tactics. Vulkan still remembers his buddies, though, and Mastercrafts their meltas accordingly. Even in a five man group, they can still get three melta shots off on arrival, and unlike your other squads, the multi-melta doesn't have to rely on a rerollable snap shot to be useful on arrival. Great for pesky skimmers, bikes, or flyers, since they completely ignore cover now, even with their special weapon shots. All in all, not your go-to elites choice, but a definite useful unit.
Salamanders Terminators jesscoughtry
Tragically, Games Workshop wasn't so foolish as to allow us both Thunder Hammers AND Heavy Flamers on the same squad of terminators, like the Dark Angels get. On that note, the hits just keep on coming to the terminators, since their hammers got more expensive, and are no longer Master-crafted. They're STILL the best way marines have to kill monstrous creatures though, so don't discount them.
These days, I run five or six Assault Terminators in a Land Raider Crusader. I prefer a 3-2 ratio between hammers and claws, and of course let the shield bearing termies take the lead. If you really are suffering for a lack of anti-infantry, you might consider a heavy flamer bearing unit of regular ol' Terminators, but you could probably get more firepower (albeit with lower armor) out of some Sternguard.
Damn, I want to like these guys. I've dreamed of multiwound marines for years, and now they not only get here, but come with 2+ armor to boot? Oh, if only they weren't so vulnerable to AP 2 fire. In addition, while either of their arm-mounts can boast one of our signature weapons, they're both Twin-Linked already!
If I was going to a tournament where I knew, for sure, that I was going to face lots and lots of hordes, I might be tempted to throw a handful of these guys in a Land Raider, possibly with a Librarian for some additional durability. Other than that, they just don't seem worth the points (or the slots) to me.
I wasn't too thrilled about these guys until one of my fellow Dakkanauts (I cannot track down who pointed it out to me, if you remember who you are, please PM me and I will properly credit your insight!) brought it to my attention that five Assault Marines in a Drop Pod with two flamers only comes in at 95 points. You could always add in melta bombs for the sergeant to make it an even one hundred, on the off chance that they survive long enough for him to charge something worthwhile. You might be tempted to give them jump packs for greater mobility after deep striking, but the jump packs, ironically, don't give you as much mobility on the initial arrival, which is when you'll probably get the most use out of it.
Bikes and Salamanders go together now like KISS and spiky bits. Not only do the bike squads have access to one more special weapon than do tacticals, you can also field the Assault Bikes by their lonesome. Although they took a five point price hike, three multiwound models with Mastercrafted multimeltas (an amazingly accidental alliteration...) are still a potent force, for a fairly small amount of points. Compare them with the slightly tougher, but much slower, Assault Centurions, and you're coming out way ahead on firepower, for a fraction of the cost. Granted, they don't do as well in assault, but you've got people for that. (Preferably, people in tactical dreadnought armor!)
As far as bikes go, kit them out the same way you would a tactical squad, with the addition of a second special weapon. I like dividing them into combat squads, and putting a meltagun and the attack bike (with a multimelta, of course) in one squad, with the other special weapon being a flamer, with a combi-flamer on the sergeant. I miss out on the Mastercrafted bolter, but his bike has a Twin-Linked one anyway, so who's counting?
With only access to a single, one shot use of our big chapter benefit, the Scout Bikes don't get a whole lot from the Salamanders. We get a whole lot from them, however. Remember how I keep touting Drop Pods? Scout Bikers offer the only other way for our codex to get a Locator Beacon on the table, which is an absolutely invaluable tool for a pod army. Not only that, but they INFILTRATE it, which is even better. If you're going to use them for forward spotters, make sure to keep them alive long enough to benefit from the beacon. Cluster mines are no longer deployed secretly now, which makes them a little bit better, if limiting in their role, since your opponent knows exactly where the minefield will be, and you can predict his movements accordingly.
Since vehicle flamers no longer benefit from the Salamander chapter tactic, the most efficient use of your points now is a dual multimelta Land Speeder. (Which I officially dub the 'Dragon' pattern Land Speeder.) Deep Strike a couple of Dragons in, and you can make pretty swift work of enemy armor. If you're a Deep Strike heavy army anyway, you can even benefit from your Locator Beacons to negate that pesky scatter.
The Stormtalon is a versatile, useful unit, albeit one that doesn't benefit at all from being fielded in a Salamander force. Nevertheless, it's one you can make use out of, especially if you're in need of anti-aircraft units. Honestly, the biggest downside for me is how hideous the model is on the table.
Assuming you don't suffer from my elitism, then the Stormtalon is one of the rare units that can tackle anything, depending on the loadout. Loaded with options for high strength, low AP weapons, it can easily support whatever area you find yourself lagging behind in. Definitely something to consider. Just beware its fragility, it's tied with the Land Speeder for lowest Hull Points in the codex.
Salamanders Land Raider by Pyriel-
Oddly, the traditional roles of the devastators (either anti-horde or anti-tank) are really well covered in a Salamanders army. This is one of the few cases where I advocate avoiding our signature weapons. A four multimelta squad could put out an impressive amount of anti-tank fire, but your fast attack slots offer cheaper and more durable ways of blowing up vehicles.
Instead, you might consider them in an anti-elite slot, which is a role that, while not strictly necessary, is largely lacking in our armies. With the high volume of fire and low AP, plasma cannons are the loadout that I think you'll get the most out of for your army.
I really enjoy these guys, but they seem a little redundant in Salamanders list. They can put out a significant amount of fire, especially if you upgrade them to lascannon/missile launchers, but ultimately there isn't anything they do that another unit can't do better. Bring them in as allies if you need them that badly, so they can at least benefit from a Chapter Tactic that will augment their already high cost.
My lists tend to be fairly melta-heavy, and the Thunderfire Cannon brings some much needed support to the anti-horde side of the army. There isn't a whole lot to add to what you already know about them- stick 'em behind an Aegis Defense Line or a piece of augmented terrain and plug away at enemy blobs.
There's nothing these guys bring that you can't get elsewhere. The slightly decreased durability of vehicles coupled with the fact that they lack access to Salamander signature weapons puts them on the back burner. All of them can provide some impressive shooting, but unless you are backed into a corner by a limited model collection, I'd leave them off your Salamander lists.
Anti-aircraft units are something our army, and in particular our codex, has been sorely lacking for some time. These units are just as fragile as the Predator, but they at least offer to make up that gap a little bit. They also have a very low cost going for them. If your local meta is filled with flyers, I would definitely consider one.
Some people have dismissed the Land Raider in this edition, due to the increased fragility of vehicles in general. If I'm honest, I can count on one hand the number of times I've lost a Land Raider in 6th edition, and one of those was due more to incredible stupidity on my part than the fragility of the tank.
Bottom line is that for an elite group of combat nasties who need to explode out of their tank and directly into melee, the Land Raider is one of the best transports available, competing only with the Stormraven. The Land Raider will get your men into combat faster, and has more durability, with a higher armor and hull points.
Personally, I'm a fan of the Crusader, although that multi-melta is a must-have, in my opinion, regardless of type you get. I've found the Redeemer has an unhealthily nasty reputation, and my Redeemers get more negative attention than my Crusader ever does. If the unit you are transporting is small enough then there's nothing wrong with the vanilla Raider, of course. Just don't forget to add the Extra Armor upgrade- nothing worse than a taxi that gets pinned down by enemy fire!
In a vicious battle for Assault Vehicle supremacy, the Stormraven is a close contender with the Land Raider. While it lacks the high armor of the Raider, it DOES have the ability to transport a dread in addition to its normal complement, which can include Jump Infantry. Any unit arriving by Stormraven won't be in assault until turn three at best, so it isn't getting its unit into combat as quickly as the Raider is capable of doing, but the 'Raven makes up for it with much greater firepower once it DOES arrive.
Unless you are running a list that uses ongoing Deep Strikes (such as Gate of Infinity) the Locator Beacon on the 'Raven isn't going to be as useful as the ones that get on the board first turn. If you have an absurd amount of Reserves, it might be something to consider, but I personally leave it off. Extra armor isn't really an upgrade I would bother with here either, since you can still move with a Zooming Flyer even if the crew is stunned. If you've got the five points to burn, of course, then it's always a savvy investment.
When it comes to weapons, I say plasma cannon and multi-melta, but that's just me. There's no point in not picking up a free multi-melta, while the plasma cannon is my personal preference, and could just as easily be taken up by the assault cannon, depending on your personal taste.
Salamanders Army by Slinky
No man is an island. It takes two to tango. Misery loves company. Any way you want to put it, everything goes better with a partner, and 40k is often no exception. If you want to pick up some friends for your Salamanders, there's lots of options to pick from.
The first and most easily accessible is other marines! Many units in the codex would be even more useful if allied in from another chapter. With the arrival of cheaper HQs and points reduction to all of our troops units, the ante cost for allying Space Marines got much lower, making it a more attractive option.
If you want to go outside of the traditional codex marines, then Blood Angels are also a reasonable choice. Their scout squads can take Locator Beacons, which can be a huge benefit to your units arriving by Deep Strike, especially if you play a pod list. Coinciding with that are their Vanguard Veterans, who have not yet been changed to lose their ability to assault on arrival. A Locator Beacon to negate any dangerous scatter makes them far more dangerous than they appear at first, and would make a nasty surprise.
If you want to focus on the short-to-mid range firepower that Salamanders specialize in, then Tau or Eldar might be a choice you could consider, since both of them have a rewarding amount of long range shooting to boost your offensive capabilities. Along a similar line, Imperial Guard tanks can make up where yours fall short, since even a single FOC choice can include up to three of many of their most potent armored vehicles.
Grey Knights and Space Wolves are focused in the same areas that our army is, and don't bring anything to the table that we aren't really already doing. (At least nothing we need!) Necrons and orks suffer from the same problem, but bring an additional downside: since both armies operate at the same range, their desperate ally status will offer a serious chance of some of your units sitting around twiddling their thumbs every round.
Sisters of Battle and Dark Angels could add some surprise value to your lists, although they don't synergize well with our army. Still, the profusion of Dark Angels Deep Strikers can all benefit from the Locator Beacons in a Drop Pod list, while a Darkshroud could provide some much needed protection for your Rhinos and Razorbacks.
I like using our signature weapons right off the bat. Here's a couple of ways to use them, in case you're struggling to figure out the best way to go about things. Feel free to experiment and come up with your own way, of course.
If you play Drop Pods, you're already used to seeing vulnerable tanks bubblewrapped by smaller, weaker units of troops, who, in a bizarre role reversal, provide a valuable cover save to the armor behind them. In this maneuver, two combat squads deploy from the same vehicle, be it Drop Pod, Stormraven, Land Raider, or Rhino. Squad one (probably with one or more flamer attacks) takes out the bubblewrap, squad two (preferably with your melta weapons) hits the vehicle. This is especially useful against Imperial Guard, to whom the humble flamer is a unit-killer.
Kind of the opposite of Bubble Pop!, the Final Destination is where two combat squads deploy against a transport. This time, the melta-laden squad blows the vehicle up, while the flamer squad hoses down the passengers with burning promethium while they're still struggling to undo their seatbelts. Works best when you blow up the transport, slightly less better if you only wreck it. Between your melta shots, your krak grenade (You know? the one every power armored marine squad is entitled to throw during the shooting phase?) and your bolters if you have rear armor, getting the vehicle open is relatively easy. Just beware of catching the flamer bearer in the explosion, which is always a possibility.
This one is pretty simple. A Land Raider or Stormraven bearing both a close combat squad and an HQ barrel down on their intended target (probably a unit of enemy elites or a monstrous creature). As they pass by a squishy enemy troops unit, the HQ bails out the side door and plows into the troops. Vulkan works well in this role, and it isn't hard to kit out some other HQs to do the same both reliably and cheaply.
This one requires some explanation, but bear with me. Let us assume that your Tactical Marines have advanced on an enemy position, represented by the picture below. Behind the Aegis Defense Line, you'll notice an immediate array of hills, upon which a squad of Guardsman is spread out.
Please forgive the crudity of this model, I haven't had time to build it to scale or to paint it...
This is the exact sort of situation the Focus Fire rule is made for. If you choose to Focus Fire on models with no cover save, you can easily wipe out the entire squad. Here's how. You allocate the bolter rounds first, which tear the Guardsman on the hills to shreds. The leftover flamer wounds are allocated to the models behind, who receive no cover save from the flamer, and are roasted into oblivion.
Hopefully, that should be enough to get you started. If you have your own tips, tricks, or ideas, feel free to PM them to me, and if I think they could add something to this article, I'll be happy to add them! Until then, keep your flamers loaded and your thunder hammers handy!