Close combat is a thing of the past. A dying breed of army, inferior to the gun-toting variety. "What? Are you smoking something?" I can feel the critics now. Burning holes in my plastic Space Marines. Doesn't matter, you cannot fight this fact. A great many will deny what is truth, but perhaps one day, they'll see the light.
Got your attention didn't I? Good. First of all, I'm not saying that close combat as a whole is dead. It is still an effective way of destroying your opponents. Generally speaking, close combat is a living and breathing beast. In other armies. Armies that don't say Black Templars on their codex (or Tau, Necrons, Witch Hunters, and Dark Angels). What? Blasphemy right? I'm the king of BT controversy after all. Let's get something straight. I started Black Templars when they were released in Codex Armageddon years ago. They had the feel, theme, and skill at close combat that I wanted in my Space Marines. I still love the same things. I want to be able to play close combat armies with the Black Templars.
What are you getting at Laeroth? The point is, between the changes to 5th Edition and our outdated codex, our options are extremely limited in what we can do with close combat armies and compete on the board. Many of these armies amount to trick "rock" armies (e.g. Dual-Terminator LRC lists), but some make good attempts at balance. But are they really competitive? Not really. Let's look at the problems we have. Assume we've taken the 'Accept Any Challenge' vow.
Assault Terminators are expensive as hell and ultimately require LRCs to transport them to where they need to go. If you don't take more than one unit, they are easily neutralized by your opponent. I don't think I need to go into why here do I? That expense gives you very little room to play around for the rest of your army. But guess what? You have to fit in two troops units and the EC. At MINIMUM, you're looking at 450 points for those three things and the troops are going to be pretty basic. If you are shooting for the more useful shooting or CC-support Crusader squads, you just jumped that price up at least another 100-150 points. And your scoring units are exceptionally easy to kill with only the two. You can see where I'm going with that. So Assault Terminators are out of competitive armies.
What about basic Sword Brethren? They have a veteran skill, have access to terminator honors and some pretty nice combat weapons. The problem is, if you buff these guys out, they start approaching the price of terminators but lack the durability that terminators have. By now, everyone should know how easy it is to torrent down a single unit of marines. Especially when targeted early in the game. Poof! There goes your 300 point investment. So we need to keep them cheap. Dang, that causes another problem. They aren't effective at close combat! In the end, Sword Brethren doesn't do much more than a Crusader squad does anyway, except that its not scoring in 5th Edition. Big problem. Sword Brethren are out.
Assault Marines. Oh god. Where to start with these guys. Perhaps the lack of power weapons? 22 points a pop and you'd think we'd get more than one power weapon/power fist in a supposed close combat army. Now, we used to be able to use them as effective assassination/tarpit units in 4th Edition because they are so mobile, but that has all changed now. The difference is every army you'll be facing (barring Tyranids) has plenty of firepower to quickly and effectively eliminate your small Assault Marine unit. True line of sight hurts boys and girls. "But...but...but...my squads are bigger than 5 guys! They'll survive to get to close combat!" Why on Earth are you spending all of your precious points on an unit with no power weapons? That can never embark a transport for protection? That is ALWAYS exposed to incoming fire? That doesn't deep strike accurately? That isn't affected by Righteous Zeal? I'm not sure either. :/
So that leaves our Crusader squads. The unit itself is quite good, because it has lots of variations and the ability to field special/heavy weapons at the squad size minimum. It also has the ability to add in Neophytes to eat wounds, which is important with the wound allocation rules. So what is the problem here? Can you guess? Its a common theme. To arm them "effectively" for CC, you're looking at a minimum 225+ point expense (mine comes to 231 points). That is a full 10-man unit, complete with a couple Neophytes, meltagun, and power fist. Remember, we're fearless in close combat so we need to be able to kill walkers so the power fist is almost always necessary for these large squads. Unfortunately, the guy only has a base one attack. Unless you're charging, he's going to do pretty blah. We need more power weapons in the squad. Another theme. AAC simply cannot do all of the work for us. Its only real effective on the charge, with a full unit. Even then, we're only going to kill ~4 MEQ (assuming no losses). Lame. Efficiency sharply drops when we start losing guys and the ability to kill units dwindles with them. You pretty much need to buy a power weapon wielding HQ to run around with them, costing you even MORE points.
The fact of the matter is, mechanization is king. But I'm willing to make a bolder statement. Redundancy is "god". That usually means MSU or a great many of one type of unit. CC-oriented BT lists can usually only afford to get 3, MAYBE 4, Crusader squads. 3 or 4 sub-par CC squads. Is anyone else seeing a problem here? That is not true redundancy. But I'll tell you what they are. Easily dealt with units. 3 or 4 units can have their transports neutralized easily across the board by long range weaponry. 3 or 4 units can barely kill speed bump units and usually won't kill tarpits (i.e. Dark Eldar Wyches). That isn't even counting an accidental fall back via Righteous Zeal. And they certainly will have a difficult time killing harder targets. Then we come to real close combat units like TH/SS terminators, DE Beastmaster packs, DE Incubi, Sanguinary Guard, Thunderwolf Cavalry, etc. Or even any Grey Knight unit with their force weapons (roll over and die if they are armed with Halberds). Then our Crusader squads are gone faster than women in dude-funk filled games stores.
What is my point? The point is we need to get over our pre-conceived notions that Black Templars "do" close combat. Unfortunately, they simply don't anymore. At least not in the normal fashion. The BT suck at it. We, as a community, need to get over it. I talked a little bit about this in my "Making CC work for the BT" article series. I've found that the only way that we can make CC effective for us is if we're using it in a secondary fashion. Close combat cannot be the focus of the list. Using MSU crusader squads as a counter-assault element? Sure. It works because those units are cheap, you can put lots of power weapons on the board for nearly the same points cost for half as many full-sized crusader squads. If you lose one? Big deal. A squad got tied up in an assault? Big deal. You've got lots of little units to cover your objectives or contest others. You've got redundancy. If Plan A fails, guess what? You had the foresight to have a Plan B (i.e. close combat). Good job. :D
So if you're going to a tournament, or want to win your games, do not leave your guns at home. Make sure that each and every one of those bolters are full of bolt ammunition. Charge those las-cells and stock up on missiles. The enemy will have to feel your wrath from a distance for another 6 months or so. Its a sad situation we're in, but its not hopeless. Learn to read the writing on the wall, adapt, and start winning again. ;)