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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Marine codex 'review' (#12): hell's angels.

No, that's not a twisted version of the ravenwing banner, or the emperor's children wing.
That's the original GW ripped off, and until 2008, it was in terrible taste, and not appropriate at all.

Why, you ask? Because bikes sucked so hard, no one ever used them. Not even dark angels fielded theirs in a serious fashion, and they have a dedicated, hardcore, closed, and very secretive brotherhood of extremely skilled, fearless bikers. Looking back on things, this was probably GW's way of saying 'biker gangs are not cool, and winners don't do drugs.' Shortly after this proclamation, it was reported that Gav Thorpe and Jervis both sped off into the sunset on their heavily modded choppers, smoking joints rolled from one pound bills, discussing the future of codex design.

Thank the stars those days are all over now, and will never return, for the true masters of fail have been sacked or made into living ancients, who're now forced to write articles for white dwarf, and ruin GW's official tournaments.

With that out of the way, let's look at something people have been waiting for, and which was formerly a very bad unit.

Bike squad: good.

On their own, this isn't that great a unit. It competes with speeders and attack bikes for slots, and seems rather expensive for what you're getting - which is true. This is for a reason.

You're really not meant to take these as fast attack in 5th edition, but instead run them as troops.
Bikes combined with a bikerboss solve the tactical dilemma quickly, effectively, and very nicely.

You trade bodies you'd normally not use for lots of speed, more dakka, and greater mobility.
All this for the low, low price of armor and meltabunkers. Good trade? It seems light, but it's not, and comes down to how you want your army to play - rather than what kind of scoring units you're actually getting.
Bikermarines are an entirely different beast to mechanized marines, technically being a foot or hybrid army that works in Tankhammer 40,000.
This is normally unthinkable, but because you're on bikes (toughness 5, fast, mobile), get multiple support weapons, are marines (dangerous small-arms, solid stats in general, power armor, gear), and don't cost all that much, it works like a charm, and plays very differently to mechmarines.

In fact, bikers are a build exclusive to the vanilla codex. Dark angels and black templars wish they could run an army like this, but don't come anywhere close. Dark angels, in particular, are very sensitive, and don't like being reminded that their bikers are inferior to yours - being more expensive, worse equipped, fearless, and having costlier upgrades.

The way it works is as follows: under normal circumstances, bikes are bad fast attack, but if you include a bikerboss, you have the option of fielding bike squads of five or more models as really good troops.
Base squad is two bikers and a sergeant, at a mighty 90 points. So the same cost as 5 tactical marines, and immensely better straight out of the box? Yes.
Squads can add up to 5 extra bikers, a single attack bike, and two dudes can replace their boltpistols with the usual suspects of special weapons. "More attack bikes? Double specials regardless of squad size!?" Correct - and yes, the sergeant has the standard list of gear, but can't take more than one option.
This is exceptional for a troops unit.

For fun and games, bikes get combat squads, and it's a glorious thing on them. The 15 stealth points charged for sergeants add up quickly, so it's nice being able to split full squads into two effective units.

When it comes to gearing your bikers up, it gets more complicated. Being an obvious stand-off unit, your first instinct is matched plasmaguns. This's expensive, not truly effective unless you're within 12 inches, and gets hot puts your bikers at risk. As we've established already, plasmaguns belong on razorbacks and command squads - nowhere else.
Flamers have issues on stand-off units, but in a small, fast army, putting out lots of templates and linked bolters when you want - against what you want - is a very effective way to get rid of light infantry. Nothing's forcing you to drive within knife range every turn, and bikers are faster than infantry, so you can dictate when flamer range is an appropriate thing, as well as when it's not.
Meltaguns are what they are, and you want a lot of them. You'll spend a lot of time hanging back against infantry, but armor needs to be dealt with up close. Load up.

No, don't give your sergeants combat implements with the intent to beat face. They don't want to be stuck in combat, and they and their squad will either be falling back with combat tactics, or poofing instantly against elite infantry that's decided your bikers must die.
Any and all combat needs, plus most plasma needs, are taken care of by bikerbosses and their command squads.
While your biker squads are killing people at range, doing their very best to make it impossible for the enemy to charge or engage them for real, your commands will destroy the enemy in combat from the flanks, or wedge and split his army down the middle.

Bikes and the boss add a completely different flavor to the 'boring and vanilla' space marine codex, one that few other armies out there can even measure up to. Thanks to your book being good, hybrid mech is just as viable as pure bikers and pure mech.

A more in-depth look at bikermarines will follow once the marine review's completed.

What makes it good: dual specials. Extra attack bikes, without consuming fast attack slots. Solves the tactical dilemma. Reliable stand-off, and a completely different way to play marines.

What makes it bad: only pretend-fast attack. Reduces armor saturation. Very bad at combat. Not really functional below 1750 points.

9 pinkments:

Lyracian said...

I think the first line should read "Bikes: Weak (as Fast Attack) Good (as Troops)".

Bikes, Like Daleks and Beasts, can not climb stairs. Which can be an issue in objective games. I prefer to have a Sgt with Fist to help win small combats and kill tanks.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

A bit of theory hammer, but I'm thinking that mobile shooty armies trump SW.
If the mobile shooty army has a bit of mêlée hidden in it, they can rush an Objective.
Flamers in 'assault' squad. Yes.
Tooled up Captain. Yes.
Chaplain as well?....

Perhaps 2 Pods. One rifleman dread [who doesn't pod] That comes down on T1. The other, Sternguard, who rip the excellent Longfangs apart.
The Rifleman suits the bike army, who certainly need mobile LRAT firepower.
By taking out a Fangs pack, the Sternguard might even be in a good spot to contest a SW objective.

What do you think?

Marshal Wilhelm said...

Oh, meant to say,
the Sternguard come down later so that hopefully the majority of the Wolves have moved into midfield, and the Sternguard wont just be an easy kill for the Wolves.
As GH are bad for backfield work, it could just be a lone Fangs pack you can isolate against.

The bikes leads the Greys on a merry dance.

GreyICE said...

Gets Hot is a drawback on Power armor roughly 1 game in 4.

I don't think it's that important. Other reasons not to take plasma, but if, say, Melta had "Gets Hot!" you'd still take it.

Doug said...

I disagree that dark angels can't do this list.
The following is the list i'm probably running next tournament in NZ

Beliel (Lightning Claws)

3x Bikers, 2x Meltaguns, Attack Bike
3x Bikers, 2x Flamers, Attack Bike
3x Bikers, 2x Flamers, Attack Bike
3x Bikers, 2x Flamers, Attack Bike
3x Bikers, 2x Meltaguns, Attack Bike
3x Bikers, 2x Plasma guns, apothecary, Attack Bike

5x Lightning Claw Termy's, Deathwing Banner

1750pts and remember that all the bikes have locator beacons, and scout... Whats that? you have a 3++ first turn, oh and you are in melta range first turn? guts, oh and are those terminators in my face too! (Deathwing assault they pop down first turn)

Kirby said...

DA do Bikers differently but will never matchup in terms of punching power. 2x Command squads greater than > DW termies. DA Bikers have a couple of things going for them. They can get 9 squads. Don't need 5 men+ to be Troops and when you spam small squads, your opponent has to kill them to remove them (fearless). This sucks when combat rolls around but for shooting protection is great. GW needs to keep this (+ scout & teleport homers) and add in decent (but not TH/SS style termies) to the book for it to be a really good build.

VT2 said...

Lies. Daleks now have levitation beams.

DA don't do bikers well at all. That's closer to the truth. You pay a fortune for 3 to 6 bikes, and your one combat unit is gonna be the master of plot convenience. In larger games (1750+), you can add a couple terminator squads or dreads, which isn't a big deal. I can do that, too, and mine are much better.

If you want to hybrid bikers, mech is really the thing to tag it with.
Rhino sternguard, predators, dreads...

Doug said...

The only thing DA do well is bikers.. sure you are paying an extra 30pts for your three bikes but you are forgetting what you gain. Scout, which gives you a 3++ first turn and if you have first turn gets you in melta range first turn.

Yes bikes are terrible in combat, but when you move 12" and can boost away do you need combat capabilities?

As Kirby pointed out you don't need 5 to become troops, so its 120pts vs 140...

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