If medium machines guns sometimes seem underwhelming on Bolt Action tables, squad based support weapons seem to suffer from not even being invited to the dice-rolling party. Squad based light machine guns are a common topic when BA players gather. A lot of the debate centers on the cost of including LMG in your infantry squads.
With a basic cost of 20 points and requiring another squad member to act as loader, LMG are not cheap. In return, you get 4 shots with a range of 36″. An increase of 2 shots over two soldiers with rifles. LMG also increase the reach of a basic squad with rifles by 12″. In game terms, the choice to include LMG will depend on what role a squad has in your army.
I often include squads with LMG in my armies. Partially this is because I tend to play Germany who, with the Hitler’s Buzz Saw national rule, get an extra shot for LMG and MMG. However, the main reason I include LMG is because they were typical of German infantry doctrine. Especially in defense, squads were mostly porters for MG ammunition. A kind of history tax paid by players who are not completely focused on list optimisation.
I toy with what rules changes could be made to LMG to encourage their use. A points reduction is tempting, but moving the value of just one weapon, especially one that appears in nearly every list, will likely have unintended knock on effects. As ever, Konflikt 47 has a nice solution, allowing squads with at least two LMG (or one MMG) to use suppression fire. This is a trade-off of -1 to hit to cause an additional pin if you do, which is handy at times and captures some of the weight of fire aspect of MG.
An alternative could be to allow squads with an LMG to split into combat teams, creating the opportunity for (historical) fire and maneuver tactics. The LMG provides supporting fire as the rest of the squad moves to assault or take ground. This idea has all sorts of headaches, the magical addition of an extra order die for starters. I suspect the most simple answer is to take slightly smaller squads to represent combat teams, and use the officer rule to pull additional dice to help co-ordinate assaults.
So, LMG: don’t leave home without them. Oh, and remember to bring plenty of ammunition.