Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it is a scout-outflanking Flyer gunship with Hover mode that can act as a Fast Skimmer and is an infantry transport.
Depending on its mode and speed it can fire four, two, none or all weapons at full ballistic skill, or fire two missiles (but unlike other Flyers, only one at full BS), or fire all weapons at BS1.
And since everybody and their pet-squig is considering allying one into their army, the above should be enough to convince you that it's high time we take a look at the rules and see how they actually work in 6th Edition.
Starting with the basics, Valkyries and Vendettas are now Flyers with Hover mode and 3 Hull Points. Flyers with the hover rule can decide to act as skimmers at the start of their movement phase, counting as fast skimmers, so since it took a surprising amount of effort to track down all the rules from the IG Codex, IG FAQ and scattered in sections all over the BRB I’ll present them in easy-to-digest bullet points to save you the effort.
IN FLYER MODE
- The Flyer has a Minimum Speed 18” (or crashes) Maximum speed 36”.
- Can move flat out instead of shooting for an additional 12 to 24”, giving a maximum distance of 60” in a single turn.
- Can only turn once, up to 90 degrees at the beginning of the turn, then moves in a straight line.
- Can fire up to four weapons at full BS, any remainder snapfire.
- Enemy units firing at the flyer use BS1 unless they have Skyfire rules. All flyers have Skyfire.
- Models cannot embark or disembark from a flyer (unless they have rules that give them an exception)
- Cannot be assaulted.
- Can choose to evade enemy shooting and gain a 5+ jink save, but then can only fire snap shots in their next shoot phase.
- Can travel over and even rest on difficult, dangerous and impassable terrain without penalty.
IN HOVER MODE
- Can change their orientation freely during their move
- Can move 6" and fire all weapons, counting as stationary
- Can move up to 12" and fire two weapons at full BS, while the remainder snap fire
- Can Move an additional 18" flat out instead of shooting, giving them a maximum move of 40" (pg 83)
- Embark or disembark infantry, counting the entire base as the access point
- Be assaulted by enemy, hit automatically if stationary. A skimmer that has moved is hit on a 3+ regardless of how far.
- Be hit by enemy shooting using standard ballistic skill, and be hit by templates and blast weapons
- Have a 5+ jink save against shooting attacks as long as they moved, with no penalty
Starting in Reserve
Because they are classed as Flyer (Hover) they can no longer start on the table, and must begin the game in reserve. Fortunately reserves now come on more reliably (on a 3+ on turn 2, instead of a 4+) and are guaranteed to arrive turn 4, but players will need to factor in missing a chunk of their fire power for at least one turn. The ‘Alpha Strike’ ability of an army that uses them is severely diminished. For example, losing the firepower of 9 Twin Linked Lascannons for at least one turn can make a big difference to a Vendetta-heavy Guard army, and that’s before you factor in the old ‘Scout Move and Demo-Vet charge’ tactics of the old rules.
Advantages of ZoomingFlyers usually only make a special move are called Zoom.
- Zooming gives a combat speed of 18” and Cruising speed of 36”
- Zooming flyers can fly over all intervening terrain and units, and don’t take dangerous terrain tests even if they start or finish in dangerous, difficult or impassable terrain
- Zooming fliers can fire up to four of their weapons at full BS whether they have moved at combat or cruising speed. This means they can fire up to 4 at full BS even after a 36” move, and any remaining guns at BS1.
- Hard to hit – unless enemies have skyfire weapons, they only hit zooming flyers at BS1, and can’t fire blasts and templates at them.
- Flat out moves are an additional 12” to 24”in a straight line in the movement phase. That means a Flyer can move 36” plus 24” for a total of 60” in a single turn.
- Evade – A Flyer can choose to evade enemy hits before penetration rules are made, giving it the jink rule (a 5+ save) but they can then only fire snap shots until the end of their next turn. This is in contrast with the Skimmer jink save (See below) that is an automatic 5+ save without disadvantages as long as the skimmer has moved.
- Zooming flyers cannot be assaulted.
- Flyers can choose to use the Skyfire rule on all weapons, firing at other flyers and skimmers with full ballistic skill.
- If a zooming Flyer suffers an Immobilised result it does not become immobilised or even stop moving; instead it has its velocity locked. This means it must continue to zoom at whatever speed (Combat or Cruising) it was travelling at for the rest of the game. It can no longer evade (so no more Jink Saves) or move flat out, but this seems a small price to pay compared to being immobilised or crashing out of the sky.
Disadvantages of zooming
- A Flyer can never ‘zoom’ less than 18” or it will be wrecked. *thank goodness Flyers with Hover mode have a Plan B available.
- Only a single pivot of up to 90 can be made before the move, and then it moves in a straight line. (There is an exception for other Flyers with the ‘Vector Dancer’ rules that allow a second pivot at the end of this move)
- Models cannot embark or disembark (Exception: Valkyrie Grav Chute Insertion, see IG pg 56)
- If a Flyer’s move takes it off the board edge, it goes into Ongoing Reserves (pg 125). While this means it automatically reenters next turn, it loses at least one turn of firepower.
- If a flyer is wrecked or explodes, any units transported suffer a Crash and Burn (see next point) and an S6 AP- large blast is scattered 2D6” onto any units below.
Disadvantages of zooming transports: Crash and Burn!
Any models inside a zooming flyer that is Wrecked or Explodes takes a S10 hit with no armour – note that this is not just for the rare roll of an ‘explodes’ result on the damage chart but is also for wrecks caused by losing hull points or even not being able to move at full zooming speed of 18”. Any survivors are placed within 3” of the location of the Large Blast template that scattered when the flyer was destroyed, not the Flyer’s former location.
This will cause a hit on everyone, but it’s very important to note that a Sergeant or Character can make a ‘Look Out Sir!’ roll to re-allocate it (using a squaddy's body to cushion the officer’s landing is very Cinematic). A 10 man squad that has a sergeant use LOS! on a 4+ has a reasonable chance of having two models make it out of the fiery wreckage, which while devastating to a MEQ player sounds quite acceptable to the Imperial Guard. Send commiserations to the 28mm mothers of the rest of the squad, but who cares – the tiny remnant is still scoring.
Models with invulnerable saves or high Toughness suffer a lot less from this damage. For example, Mephiston in an exploding Stormraven would simply have an 83% chance of taking a single wound. Even our own Commissar Yarrick would just casually dust himself off, keep calm and carry on.
The Ride of the Valkyries
Valkyries have not done nearly as well out of the transition to new rules as their stable-mates the Vendetta. Apart from the growing popularity of 2+ saves and the obvious appeal of twin-linked lascannons to deal with them, there are two main reasons for that.
Valkyrie Rocket Pods offer no movement advantages
VRPs used to count as defensive weapons (as they are S4 blasts), allowing the Valk to move 12” and fire the pods plus a multilaser, giving it a different, faster moving role that did a good job of distinguishing it from the Vendetta.
However, there are no ‘Defensive Weapons’ any more, and on top of that Rocket Pods fall foul of the blasts rule meaning they cannot be fired as Snap Shots.
As a Fast Vehicle (when in Hover Mode), the Valkyrie can move at combat speed (6”) and fire all weapons or move at Cruising Speed (12”) and fire two weapons at full BS and the rest as Snap Shots. For a Valkyrie, this means moving 12” and using full BS to fire two rocket pods, then snap shots from the multilaser. That gives it less firepower when moving at this speed than under the old rules where it could move 12" and fire one weapon at full BS (the multilaser) and the blasts as defensive weapons.
The Valkyrie's former edge over the Vendetta in being able to fire all weapons while moving at this speed meant that it lost nothing to ensure it was only hit on 6s in assault. Now both are hit on 3+ at any movement speed.
Valkyrie Hell Strike Missiles remain bad
Flyers have a new rule for Missiles that allow a maximum of two one-shot missiles to be fired per shoot phase, counting towards the total number of weapons fired (pg 81).
This rule applies to the Hell Strike missile carried by the Valkyrie. However, because the Hellstrike is classed as Ordnance, until/unless FAQed the Valkyrie would fire one Hell Strike at BS3 and then all its other weapons (including the optional second Hell Strike) as BS1 (last paragraph pg 71). Believe it or not this is better than under the old rules, where one ordnance missile meant firing nothing else, but it is still far from ideal.
BombsNeither of the IG flyers get them but in a nutshell bombs are dropped during movement (not shooting), using a D6” scattering blast marker placed over any model the flyer has passed over. Bombing counts as firing one weapon, and the Flyer cannot move flat out later in the turn.
The new Squadron rulesThe squadron rules are much more generous than in the previous edition of the rules (page 77), and make taking squadrons of Skimmers much more appealing.
Skimmers in a squadron still have to remain in 4” of one another and fire on a single target, but with the following changes:
- Speed is judged individually, so assuming coherency is maintained it is possible for skimmers to move at different speeds and fire with different Ballistic Skills rules.
- Flat out is declared individually. For example, if one skimmer is stunned, it can leapfrog over a squadron mate to get a 4+ save while its comrade fires at full BS. (Since squadron-mates can see through one another without granting a cover save, you can fire your weapons through the open doors on the side of your comrades Valkyrie. It’s Cinematic).
- The closest model takes all the hits until dead. All skimmers in a squadron as still vulnerable, but this is a big improvement over the hits being evenly ‘spread’ across a squadron immediately. The same applies for damage taken in assaults, so while a skimmer can still be damaged by enemy infantry that aren’t actually in base contact with it when they assault one of the skimmer’s squadron-mates, it is more likely that a single skimmer will get a lot of damage results.
- Abandoning Squadron-mates. If a skimmer in a squadron is immobilised, instead of it being immediately destroyed it is instead abandoned and becomes its own separate unit, immobile but alive and capable of firing at different targets.
Disadvantages:There is only one disadvantage I am aware of.
- Purge the Alien Mission (page 127) “At the end of the game, each player receives 1 Victory Point for each enemy unit that has been completely destroyed”. This means a member of a squadron that becomes a separate unit and is then destroyed counts as a Victory Point.
Immobilising a skimmerImmobilised results are a lot less kind to Flyers that were in Hover mode rather than Zooming. If immobilised after moving flat out in this turn (usually due to terrain, but possibly also friendly fire or interceptor guns) or the previous turn (usually due to enemy shooting or assaults), the Skimmer is wrecked.
If it was not moving flat out, the immobilised Skimmer has its base removed if possible, or can hover in place incapable of further movement.
Softer Grav-Chute Landings
If a Valkyrie/Vendetta has moved flat out, passengers may disembark using grav-chute insertion to any point the skimmer travelled over. If they scatter they take a dangerous terrain test, and if any can’t be deployed the entire unit is destroyed.
Two things to note about this:
- Firstly Airbourne Assault Storm Troopers can reroll these dice, and while they are not scoring units they are Denial and Linebreakers.
- Secondly, armour saves are now taken against difficult terrain, increasing survival rates –especially for Storm Troopers, but even for flak armoured models.
Other rules to know
- Skimmers have the jink special rule all the time (page 83) – this means as long as they moved they have a 5+ cover save, and unlike Flyers there is no penalty for taking this. It is always available to the player. If the model moved flat out or turbo boosted, the save is 4+.
- No model can claim a Jink save against shots fire by the Hydra (IG FAQ)
- Skyfire – note that Flyers with hover mode that decide to move as skimmers remain classed as Flyers, so do not lose the skyfire rule. Page 81
- If a Flyer chooses to use Skyfire rules, all its weapons must use it for this turn; ensure any opponents with POTMS Stormravens are aware of this.
- If you moved in Hover mode, opponents can ram or charge your Skimmer’s hull or base or both.
- A skimmer can move over friends or enemies, but not end a move on either
- A skimmer can move over all terrain, ignoring all penalties except for taking a dangerous terrain test if they end a move in difficult, dangerous or even impassable terrain.
- Outflanking has always given a better chance of scoring side shots and rear armour. Now it also gives more options for a longer ‘zoom’ flight across the board laterally, so will almost always be better than coming on from your board edge.
- I highly recommend an Astropath in any army that has more than one Vendetta. You can’t afford to have them arrive late, and often need to pick the board edge. It's not a 30pts tax, it is an insurance policy.
- I am currently using cheap troops in these Flyers; SWS with flamers or Infantry squads with a flamer. If you get tempted to spend a lot, re-read the Crash and Burn rules.
- I am also experimenting with a squad in the rearmost of a vendetta squadron of two, which gives decent survivability. That would be a safer option for a more expensive squad (eg Meltavets).
- If you come up against another army with Flyers, seriously consider the most counter-intuitive thing possible: going second against a shooting-orientated enemy. If your flyers come on second and shoot skyfire first they have a much better chance of surviving.
- Most Imperial Guard players I have spoken to have never used 'Grav Chute' insertion due to the risks. In 6th edition, where boots have to be on the ground to score/deny/break lines, grav chuting men in flak armour needs to become an accepted part of the game-plan, at the very least as 'Plan B'.
- Remember they can come on in Hover mode, they are not required to arrive as flyers. Moving 12” and firing two weapons at full BS is a big improvement.
- Flyers move so fast and fire all guns that I’ve found myself having more success bringing them on from the left flank to target units on the right and vice versa; this frequently nets clean shots with no cover saves.
- Your skimmers start to arrive on turn 2. By that stage, I find I have already had a good chance to kill enemy skyfire units (if any). I then try to get two turns of Flyer mode out of them, while I kill the enemy’s best ranged Anti Tank. After that, I plan to drop all Flyers into Skimmer mode simultaneously (and Cinematically!) so they can move freely and mop up the enemy.
- That last point takes some planning (I mean actually planning the routes before bringing models onto the table) but by this stage, most of the enemy’s anti-tank should be dead, and the remainder will be overwhelmed by targets. If done right this is much more likely to be successful than having one at a time engage skimmer mode.
- Some players have avoided the Heavy Bolter upgrade on Vendettas because of a perceived clash with its anti tank role. However, with outflanking being more common since they are forced to start in reserve, chances rear and side armour hits where HB are relevant go up. Besides, if you play right your opponent will soon run out of tanks, and the Vendetta really benefits from HBs when it switches to an anti-infantry role. Nine shots is more cinematic than three.
- This may be stating the obvious, but if moving 12” and targeting light infantry it is much better to use full BS on Heavy Bolters and snapfire TL-LC.
- Do not over-estimate Flyers survivability. My worst experience was losing 3 vendettas in the immediate turn after they came on to the board to three large squads of Ork Lootas. Massed low-ballistic skill shooting is not impressed by snap fire rules.
- IMHO the Vendetta is currently the best unit in the Imperial Guard codex. It is also very Cinematic.
- Vendettas have never had better rules, and even so a lot of players will load up on these non-scoring, non-denying models and lose games.
- A Vendetta will probably never again be as good as it is right now, and while it is likely to be a good choice all through 6th Edition its 15 minutes in the sun won’t last past the ‘Summer of Flyers’. Don’t remortgage your house for Skimmers until you see what’s in the pipeline to shoot them down.
- At the same time, the Valkyrie’s special role as a fast moving skimmer has unfortunately declined in purpose as it can’t drop troops after moving more than 6”, doesn’t gain “6+ to be hit” in assault by doing so, and while it can choose its large blasts as the two weapons fired while moving more than 6” the Vendetta can also now also fire 2 weapons at full BS at that speed. It's one saving grace is a lower basic cost, but I don't see it as a real competitor any more.