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Friday, September 24, 2010

Marine codex 'review' (#11): speeders and attack bikes

The most bitter rivalries come about as a result of hard competition for a spot on a winning team.
While supposedly similar in purpose, these two have been fighting for supremacy since 3rd edition, and there's still no clear winner.
Much like pirates versus ninjas, the debate's never gonna end, ever, but let's take a look at what's on offer, so a new generation of marine players can pick their side in this most immortal of all conflicts - that of speeders versus attack bikes.

Attack bikes: great.

Fast, cheap, easily screened anti-tank or anti-infantry.
40 points buy you a single heavy bolter, bolted onto a marine biker with two wounds. Like the razorback, this is a good deal, but more so, because attack bikes are small enough to hide behind rhino chassis, aren't shakeable, and will pretty much always have a cover save if people can even see them.

If you're thinking this is the best platform for non-linked heavy bolters, you're correct. Attack bikes can redeploy extremely quickly, engage most targets at will, plus are cheap for what you get, so you can fit in a whole lot of them. Thanks to their mobility, range, and speed, they easily get in side shots on light armor, and will harass infantry pretty much forever, unless heavy weapons get involved.

Heavy bolters aside, there's something that most will argue makes them even better: the multi-melta.
It costs a mere 10 points to swap out heavy bolters for these, and while they reduce the attack bikes' flexibility, they also make them extremely good at tank-removal. Basically, trade your generalist nature out for a more focused role.
So 50 points gets you a very fast, very mobile and relentless unit, that's easy to hide - let alone get cover saves for - and with zero problems getting multi-melta side shots on armor? Why, yes, this is indeed so. And people still whine over assault terminators.

Because attack bikes outright kick ass, and are so straightforward to use, any build you can possibly think of will increase in power if you add some.
Heavy bolters put wounds on infantry and threaten the sides of light armor, multi-melta destroys elite infantry and all kinds of armor. Choose your destiny.

Best fielded in units of two or singles, for smoother concealment, less overkill, and saturation. Your own mechanized builds love it when you keep attack bikes around, but enemy armor hates it so hard.

Yes, toughness 5 and two wounds isn't hardcore awesome for durability, but when ran in lists with lots of armor, people have problems even engaging the attack bikes. That's really how you keep them alive and firing.
Still, bikes are bikes, and enemy small-arms isn't exactly a massive threat to you, even if someone gets the drop on the squad.

It's not uncommon for people to shift in serious anti-tank to try and neutralize your attack bikes once you start killing things. Use this to draw fire, and control what your opponent shoots at.

What makes it good: pretty much everything.

What makes it bad
: only one big gun per bike. Fast attack slots limit you to a max of three squads.


Landspeeders: great.

Being the fastest unit available to you, speeders are the other white meat.
Attack bikes are cheaper, but only have a single weapon that matters. Speeders can take two for utility, are actually faster, and if you want to engage a unit with speeders, there's very little the opponent can do about it.

A base landspeeder is a massive 50 points. Notice a trend yet?
It's an armor 10 skimmer, blessed with the ability to deep strike, and the 'fast' sub-type. This means it's a very, very good unit, but fragile - though less so than ever before, due to 5th edition's general buffing of vehicle 'ardness.

Standard armament is, of course, a heavy bolter, which is decent enough on speeders. The problem is, attack bikes and razorbacks do straight-up heavy bolters better, so let's check what else we can take.
For nothing, you can replace the 'bolter with a heavy flamer. "So I can have deep striking template units so cheap, it doesn't really matter if they mishap?" That's correct.
The heavy bolter and 10 points trade in for a multi-melta. "DEEP STRIKING MULTI-MELTAS FOR ALMOST NOTHING!?" Also correct.

But wait, there's more.
For a very generous points cost, you can put both the above guns on your speeders. Yeah, both multi-melta and a heavy flamer. Where you been?
So in case you need to slag a vehicle hidden behind enemy lines (manticore), but also want something to deal with clumps of infantry in case you survive, you can have both on the same vehicle.

Naturally, there are lots more options. In addition to your base heavy flamer/multi-melta/heavy bolter, you can add an assaultcannon, a typhoon launcher, or as has previously been hinted at, another of your 'base' guns.
Now, dual heavy flamers and the one assaultcannon and a heavy bolter are cute in theory, but not really effective. In fact, dual anything isn't effective, because you want your speeder to move 12 inches a turn, and this prohibits you from using both your guns, with one exception.
See, the typhoon launcher is a heavy 2 missile launcher. That means strength 4 blasts, and strength 4 and less count as defensive weapons. Unfortunately, it's not cheap, and if you do take it, you're doing so primarily for the krak missiles - not the frag blasts.

What this means is, you can kit your flying chairs out for pretty much anything your imagination allows, but unless you're willing to move slow and go without the speed and mobility you're paying for, you'll rarely be firing more than one gun a turn with them.

Lots of builds available, but not many of them are effective, in other words.
The classic tornado pattern is heavy flamer and multi-melta. It's a flexible unit, capable of killing lots of infantry, and hurting armor. You can - and probably should - make a habit of deep striking these. They're also cheap, at 70 points.
Classic typhoon pattern (heavy bolter, typhoon launcher) is your army's main source of actual missiles, and if you need to deal with light infantry, you can use the heavy bolter and frag templates while moving 12 - a fact that brings peace to the soul. At 90 points, this isn't all that expensive, but it limits their numbers some.

While you can take squads of up to three, this isn't adviced. The way 5th edition works, vehicle squadrons are actually more vulnerable than lone vehicles. Yeah, if you want pretend-extra armor on your speeders, you need to squad them, but do you really need or want to trade durability for that? Most of the time, no.

As a rule of thumb, only squad speeders if you're taking typhoons, and try limiting it to large games, where fast attack slots are in demand, and you really need the extra missiles this lets you put on the table.
Tornadoes should deep strike in alone, or run disruption as solo vehicles.

Speaking of tornadoes, this is the build that kills the whole idea behind drop pods. Why blow almost 200 points on a unit of infantry in a pod, when you can take 3 heavy flamer and multi-melta speeders instead?

Speeders, like attack bikes, are an invaluable asset to your army. Make use of it, and watch the magic as people start complaning about almost untouchable 'free killpoint' armorslaying bikes, and BBQ'ing 'free killpoint' light armor - both of which suddenly got their free killpoint status revoked.

What makes it good: pure utility and damage. Choice of deep striking templates and multi-melta, or lots of missiles. Cheap for a marine unit.

What makes it bad: can't realistically use both its guns at the same time. Tornado duty is almost suicidal. Fast attack slots limit their numbers. Not durable, at all.

8 pinkments:

Snugger said...

I thought I should point out that the Attack Bike carries a Twin-linked relentless bolter that can be fired at the same time as the heavy weapon., since it was never explicitly stated (although it was obviously implied; I'm not saying VT2 forgot anything). It's just one of those things rookies forget about (myself included).

Borkai said...

Just wondering, you can't get a cover save for moving fast and fire any guns right? You kinda hinted you can. The advantage of flatout (more than 12 and up to 24) is awesome, and great for blocking.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

MM HF Speeders are crucial for my Templars.
Being light on for SW, Crusaders don't really bring it like SW or BA.
These Speeders help somewhat.

MM in Rhino is clever, but having them on Dreads and Speeders goes a long way in offsetting their only weakness - lack of range.
MM are really powerful and give Imperial armies an edge over their vile foes. The more the merrier!

Vulkan Tornados ftw!

AbusePuppy said...

I am still not sold on... well, just about anything that mounts a Heavy Bolter as its only weapon. 40pts for three mediocre shots? No thanks, I'll take basically anything else instead. Autocannons kill MEQs about as well, hordes with comparable efficiency, and MCs/transports infinitely better. They seem to lack any useful role and only exist to play second banana to another, better gun on the same platform; when the platform lacks a primary gun, I simply don't see the point.

MM/MM speeders are occasionally warranted, but generally not. They can put out a ridiculous amount of tank-killing for their price, but the trick is getting them to where they're needed (since you can't move 12" and fire both.) But usually they're inferior to the flexibility of the MM/HF version.

Remember that Typhoons can move 12" and fire all their guns if shooting down infantry, as Frag Missiles are defensive weapons. They are best when you have other targets to distract the enemy from their expensive, fragile frames.

Snugger is quite right about bike shooting, although it is virtually never relevant. Bikes are allowed to shoot one gun for each person they have on board, and Attack Bikes are the only model that can actually use this rule.

VT2 said...

No, I'm an idiot who mixes up 4th edition with 5th a lot, and do too much ranting for my own good.

The goal was to say 'you pay lots for the ability to move all over the place,' but then I got started on cover saves from skimmers moving.
Fixing now.

I've seen a lot of people who houserule it so bikes can shoot two guns period, and not just if they have multiple riders.
Guess someone, somewhere, decided to put multiple nobz on every bike, and the rule was declared to be stupid.

VT2 said...

The thing about heavy bolters is, once you've got your three predators and maybe a rifleman or two, there are no more autocannons to get, so you start looking at fast attack for more guns/utility.
3 strength 5, BS 4 shots isn't all that bad against light armor (side shots almost guaranteed), and works nicely versus light and heavy infantry.

fluger said...

One thing to remember about attack bikes is that they also have krak grenades. Not super useful, but sometimes getting a quick strike to blow up some vehicles in melee is pretty handly. A minor bonus for them.

Personally, I like Land Speeders best. I'm a firm believer in the Typhoon ML + Heavy Bolter, versatile, and at range.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

Also being able to assault with the ABikes gives you an extra 6", which can take them out of assault range of something else, or set them up for next turn.
That 6" is half of a normal move, and means you can cover good ground whilst still shooting. Solid.

Just like with TWC, even if they don't have a TH, they get a burst of 12" by assaulting that Rhino, etc.

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