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Sunday, June 20, 2010

How to: Space Marine Bikers Part 1: General Overview



So, here I go at a article for all of you out there that want to do a Space Marine Bike list using the Space Marine Codex. From how I've scoured the 'Net, I and Kirby (and our inspiration: Froggage from Yes The Truth Hurts.com) have a different view from the majority, so take note of this, and take from us what you will and feel free to debate/ ask questions in the Comments.

First of all - Why Bikes over Mechanized?

Bikes have the advantage over a Mechanized list for a few reasons - First and foremost is that your mobility as a Biker isn't hindered until you die, unlike a Transport, the Bike can't be shot from under your feet.

Bikes also generally have more mobility while firing. Sparing few exceptions (Eldar, Dark Eldar, Blood Angels and new Imperial Guard Chimeras with 5 Firing Ports.) Not many armies can keep mobile and keep the firepower up and running. They gotta move slow, sometimes not even at all to keep their firepower active. Bikes? You can all go 12" a turn and plug away just the same.

Sheer mobility wise, Bikes are up their in the speed department, with a 24" Turbo Boost available to you nearly every turn (providing you aren't in Difficult Terrain) you should have no trouble finding your way around the Battlefield. And keep in mind! This Turbo-Boost does NOT have to be in a straight line, so get canny with your movements like I do, and you soon see the merits of this awesome mobility, and is why a list like Blood Rodeo works. (Kirby will go into that later.)

I cannot stress this enough, if you have a huge grasp on the Movement Phase with a Biker army, you are in GREAT shape already with your Biker army.

And lastly, nothing gets more looks at the local game store than a substandard list. You can feel proud you are truly understanding that 5th Edition is a game of mobility, and push it to the whiners that it isn't "Tankhammer" because, frankly, you have no need for tanks!

So now:

Why Codex Space Marine Bikes and not Eldar Jetbikes/Chaos Space Marine Bikes/Ravenwing/Ork Bikers?

Codex Space Marine Bikes benefit from 3 key things -

1) Combat Squads - A full Space Marine Bike Squad (Numbering eight plus one Attack Bike) Combat squads into 2 units: One of 5 Bikers, one of 3 Bikers + Attack Bike.

This is a great tool for not only achieving more Scoring Units but only helps set up sacrificial squads and achieves maximum potential firepower spread with your weaponry. Sure, there are times where you are better off just focus firing your available forces at certain locations (And usually is best for a Biker army.) but against a opposing fully mechanized force, you want to be able to spread your Melta firepower as much as possible to cripple them as much as possible. The whole "Shoot the Transports then charge the Passengers" rule is a major boon to this style of play and is almost essential vs. these kinds of lists. (Especially Mechanized Imperial Guard, who should always be one of your more tougher oppositions when using any list.)

2) Combat Tactics - I reinforce this everywhere I go to try to promote SM Bike Tactica, and still people refuse to see it, so here I go trying yet again. Being able to choose to fail any Morale Check is a major boon to this army, which 99% of it HATES being in Close Combat and getting caught into it.

Combat Tactics, with good maneuverability and knowledge of your foe's potential charge range, limits the enemy's close combat effectiveness greatly.

Combat Tactics also enables your army to "Redeploy" several times throughout a game. Of course, this is providing you don't get shot up to death before you get to use it, but use Cover and your Toughness 4(5) is a smidge above average (Actually pretty good above average if you go against units that clearly aren't ready for Toughness 4(5), it shows quite fast when you start rolling dice.)

Combat Tactics practically enable Going to Ground to be a effective constant 3+ Cover Save to little to no penalty, seeing as in smaller bike units 1 casualty will give you a Morale Check to take, and you just use Combat Tactics to auto fail and Fall Back. This *CAN* be detrimental if your enemy is trying to cut you off with speed of their own, but play smart and foresee this happening, you CAN see it coming and you can judge accordingly. Know the Fall Back rules well too, particularly that your own units count as Impassable Terrain in this movement, and with clever positioning of your squads, you can dictate how your Bikes will Fall Back, and though this could be seen as very underhanded and tricksy, it is in my humble opinion, ESSENTIAL.

3)Specialty Weapons - Bikes can choose to take gear that will help them with roles they otherwise wouldn't really consider to be good options. Meltaguns stand out here, as the common weakness of Biker armies is their ability to dish out the pain to units with a Armour Value. Meltas, combined with the Bike's mobility, make this a very viable dual role option (Your Bike's Twin-Linked Bolters are very handy for any other kind of threat you might consider coming across and you can ALWAYS choose to use those over your Meltas if you wish.)

Flamers are a option, though recommended by other sites as a steadfast option, it is not in my book to always take 2. Flamers on Bikes have helped me only vs. 1 army of note thus far in my year or two of playing a Biker army, and that's a Tyranid army with a few Tervigons. (Since you have no way to Tank Shock past the waves of Gaunts generated, you need a method to A) Hit multiple units at once and B) Pile on the hits to make Catalyst a little less effective.)

Plasma are also eye catching to many newer Biker players, mostly due to the Biker's Relentless status allowing you to Rapid-Fire the Plasma Gun and charge in the same turn if you wish to. I myself avoid Plasma at all cost for a simple reason: A few bad Get Hot! rolls and you're losing your specialty weapons you need so much in those bikes units.

The squad's Sergeants also can carry specialty Combi-Weapons and Close Combat Weapons. While I personally take neither in my Dual Command Squad Bikers (@2k) varient, I can see why having another Melta shot or Power Fist to help take on Monstrous Creatures/Dreadnoughts is a good thing. Bikers hate MC/Dreads and sometimes, you need that extra pinch to tide it over, and this helps when you need to get the job done and you're tired of running, so to speak.

Now, what makes the other Armies worse than SM Bikers at this?

Orks: Ork Bikers are a grand anti-infantry option with their lovely bike-mounted guns and their amount of attacks, but slack in Leadership, flexibility, and killy power in prolonged assaults (Note though, that last bit is a overall biker weakness.) They can be Scoring with Wazzdakka Gutsmek around, but it doesn't make them any bit better in handling a unit they can't handle already. Nob Bikers can be Scoring and have been a problem in the past, but nowadays they shouldn't be. They are quite easily trumped by some focussed meltagun fire and if a Command Squad on Bikes (Your own hammer, properly equipped of course.) charges them rather than the Nobs you. (And you can control this providing you're patient.) You are sure to tear them a new one. If they charge you instead though, it's almost a even fight, though your Command Squad does have the superior survivability in the end.

Eldar: Eldar Jetbike army has been possible for a long time, but it slacks in supporting firepower/assaulty power, lack in individual unit duality possibilities (A Witchblade/Singing Spear and a few Shuriken Cannons is NOT enough.) Makes it lackluster, and the fact that none of the Troops can handle a charge worth squat makes the army very hard to play keep away with when a army like the SM Biker force can just Turbo-Boost onto their face (Deployment Zone), weather the storm in retaliation, and simply mass charge to win that game. (Amazingly simple, takes balls to do granted, but it is simply that 90% of the time, same as Footdar.)

Chaos Marine Bikers: Simple - They're not Scoring, more expensive, and fewer numbers. Marks don't help their case at all as it makes 'em cost even more.

Dark Angels Ravenwing: This one is a matter of playing and seeing/experimenting before you pass judgement, and this basically boils down to that Fearless is bad for Bikes. You do not like Assault one bit most of the time, and when a enemy CC unit does reach you, you are stuck in there till you somehow miraculously win, or die in trying. Love the models though, definitely recommend those Dark Angels Ravenwing Battleforces for starting these kind of forces. Also, this is not to say Ravenwing is completely boned - It is capable of a real nasty Alpha Strike at the cost of...Well after 1st turn Ravenwing is usually done for if all in the enemy's face.

White Scars with Khan: Simply - You lose Combat Tactics, you gain Outflank (A ability your bikes shouldn't need and make your limited numbers even worse possibly.) and you gain the ability to make your super unit even more super duper. Not a good trade at all. It's a completely different army style, one that I believe is better off spamming Razorbacks or Transports and Flanking with all of those.

Blood Angels: Simply had to go into it: BA Bikers lack Combat Tactics and the ability to make Bikes scoring (Would be silly!) Add in that the Rodeo in particular (Because I play it too now) is a completely different "in your face" mindset than the "dance" that is a Combat Tactics Space Marine Bike Force. Though, Feel No Pain/Furious Charge Bikers are the sexiest bubble wrap I can think of at the moment, it's just not the same regardless.

6 pinkments:

grav said...

Nice writeup. I run a single command squad with combiflamers in my sargeants. They do taunt me to too in close to use them though.

I'm very interested in the specifick tactics you describe. Can you not fallback between your own models or do you make a wall with gaps <1"?

Chumbalaya said...

Good stuff Smurfs {^}

Ravenwing doesn't really work on its own. Fearless is too crippling. Adding in Deathwing to fight in assault or loading up on Speeders for standoff firepower is a better idea.

Auretious Taak said...

I just want to point out about the turbo boosting that it is a 24" move but it has to be a minimum of 18" from the starting point, so whilst weaving can work unless you are 18" away from that point in a direct line then you cannot turbo boost. Just thought I'd point it out as some people take what they read online a gospel and don't refer back to the rules as often as they should.

Another advantage of Vanilla Marines over other biker armies is the fact you can take Scout Bikers with both Cluster Mines and Astartes Grenade Launchers. Those 3 Astartes Grenade Launchers represent 3-6 (Rapidfire) str 6 AP 4 shots (or str 3 AP 6 blasts for hordes!) coming in at biker speeds from an outflank straight into the side of your opponents support armour and at times even into the rear armour. Cluster Mines also mean that you can act to control your opponents movement through terrain and also approach behind said terrain to try and coax a reckless move through that terrain and thus taking Cluster Mine hits before reaching you. Cluster Mine work when the unit moves so if it deploys in the piece of terrain where the mines are, so long as the unit doesn't move then they are fine, but as soon as they move (make sure to wait till your opponent is happy with moving them as some opponents will be dicks if you mention that as they are moving the cluster mines go off and they'll sy Oh no I'm not moving then, so avoid arguements wait till they've moved) then they get hit assuming nothing else has moved through the terrain before them.

Lighter then Bikers for sure but they also have their place.

Auretious Taak.

Smurfy said...

Pretty much Grav, here's a step by step visual process:

http://s209.photobucket.com/albums/bb19/yWizePapaSmurfy/?action=view&current=Formation.jpg&newest=1

This is the general formation, one I often find myself using in the first turn/second turn push.

Usually the enemy is concentrating more of their firepower on the would-be Teal Squad - It's the closest and usually about to hit a vital target of theirs next turn.

I get shot up quite a bit, but thanks to the durability of a 3+ Cover Save and Toughness 4(5) and staying out of most of the opponent's 12" firepower, I only lose 2 bikes. Morale Check is due.

Here, since I usually leave center open, Combat Tactics comes to it's use so I Fall Back, though not quite directly back to keep pace with the rest of the bikes:

http://s209.photobucket.com/albums/bb19/yWizePapaSmurfy/?action=view&current=Retreat.jpg&newest=1

So I am still pretty much in the biker wad and protected by overlapping coverage still.

My Turn, I regroup the Bikes via And They Shall Know No Fear and Turbo Boost down the new flank to pincer the enemy:

http://s209.photobucket.com/albums/bb19/yWizePapaSmurfy/?action=view&current=Redeploy.jpg&newest=1

And the bikes that didn't fall back can pressure on the left flank while this lil' team "sneaks" it's way to threat anything that tries to get out of the "trap"

Add in you have a lotta squads doing this, it's pretty daunting for the opposition.

Hope that helps. :)

Smurfy said...

And yes, if you need the Cover Save provided by Turbo Boosting, yes you need to go 18" straight, but most often, using Combat Tactics, Unit Screening and Going to Ground, you get that 3+ Cover Save anyway.

The point was - You can move 24", and weaving and waving your way through your bikes/terrain is often a very good way to control your movement.

As for Scout Bikers - Will get to the unit choices later.

grav said...

About the turbo boosting, When I read the rulebook it seems that the coversave is granted on a bike-by-bike basis. The book refers to "the bike" instead of "the unit".

This would mean that when a character boosts to join a units that moved 12" only the char gets the coversave and the units can still shoot?


I find that when I don't have the first turn I just end up reserving everything and boosting onto the board. Depends on the opposing army ofcourse. Usually my army takes it on the chin for a turn before it gets to deal damage.


I'm very interested in how one would deal with fast-assault armies because the weapons are all somewhat short range. Armies like deamons, blood angels, speedfreak orks etc.

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