Space Marines are better off than most other armies in the sense that they have so much flexibility for deployment options. Between Infiltrating or Scouting units provided by characters or Chapter Tactics, orbital transports and ground armoured personnel carriers of two varieties, the Emperors' Finest can attack the foe from a staggering amount of angles. This flexibility innate to the entire army list allows for widely varied forces, and that is before even considering the utilitarian warriors themselves. Typically, their transports are both cheap and fragile while offering minimalist firepower, providing perfect synergy with the more expensive and valuable warriors they carry; an opposite to the situation offered by Eldar with their Wave Serpents, for example. In other words, though they are hardly 'amazing', Space Marine dedicated transports do the job and do it well at a cut-throat points cost. That there are three readily available to your basic squads gives Space Marines quite the edge over other armies, notably their fallen brethren!
Overview - Rhinos are one of the most under-rated transports in the game, and though the fears surrounding them are often justified, one must remember that Space Marines pay so little for these mobile carriers that it rarely matters that much. Rhinos are incredibly cheap, they are immune to most small arms fire from the front and side arcs, and they are as fast as your other standard transports. On a typical 6x4 board, having your tank move up to 18" a turn after deploying 12" on will often provide you the movement you need to get your units into position where they can unleash their nasty firepower, all in the space of a single turn. If they manage to do this, they have already done their job - your medium-ranged infantry are already close enough to the enemy. If the Rhinos manage to survive the first turn, even better! You can then use them to provide a nuisance through tank-shocking low Leadership units - such as Fire Warriors - and blocking line of sight to your own units after they have fired through clever positioning and flat out moves. With the probable 18" move on the first turn and deploying 12" on, you should be able to get away with disembarking the unit before the Rhino moves, moving up beside them and then blocking them with a Flat Out move after they have fired. This will depend on deployment type though, and obviously being that aggressive with Rhinos can be a mistake in certain cases. Now, obviously they aren't nearly as quick, durable or deadly as the amazing Wave Serpents, or even the very strong Ghost Arks. But does it matter? For Space Marines, not really; their units are durable enough to survive - for the most part - outside of their transport, so paying more points for a more survivable transport probably wouldn't work very well for an already expensive unit anyway. And besides, though they don't have pseudo-rending guns, Space Marines are still pretty decent ranged units. However, it does need to be said; Rhinos are darned fragile. A salvo from a three-strong Crisis team armed with dual missile pods will statistically put a Rhino down - assuming no cover saves - for the count without any markerlight support whatsoever. Again though, they are so cheap and can be taken in such large numbers to a point that your opponent simply can't target them all - which is exactly what you want!
How to Equip Them - Rhinos really don't need any upgrades to do their job; ideally, you want to keep them as cheap as possible. Most of the options, sadly, just aren't worth the points anyway, and that goes doubly so for a fragile transport that really needs to be taken in large, inexpensive numbers to work best. Dozer Blades are perhaps the only upgrade I would bother with as they are cheap and do serve a good purpose; going second with Rhinos on the board can be rather dangerous, so hiding behind terrain and using the dozer blades to ignore movement penalties is very advantageous.
Where to Put Them - On the front-lines! The first turn will affect your deployment in that, if you go first, you can be relatively care-free with the Rhinos and deploy them in the terrain-free movement lanes so as to maximise their early mobility. If you are going second, though, it may be smart to employ terrain to your advantage so that if the transport does blow up, the squad can at least get some cover from the probable ensuing fusillade of blast weapons. This can be risky though, as you need to minimize the turns taken for your transports to reach the opposing battle-line where they can do their job to the full extent. Rhinos should always be used aggressively; they are cheap and thus losing them isn't as much of a blow if they explode halfway across the board. But losing them when they are slowly rolling through your half of the table? Unacceptable.
Best Uses - Using Rhinos demands that at least three of them be taken at pretty much any points limit; running one or two is just far too few, presenting very easy targets for your opponent to neutralize your ground mobility. Even three I would say is the bare minimum; tanks tend to work best when there are lots of them so that your opponent has to spread out their anti-tank firepower. They are best run in a more aggressive army list, or at least one that wants to play to the strengths of Space Marines; they are an army that favours medium-ranged engagements above all else, as they are lacking at long range compared to forces such as Imperial Guard or Tau. Rhinos fit perfectly into these tactics, providing a bullet-sponge for your expensive Space Marines that is both fast and cheap. Keeping them around for line of sight blocking and tank shocking units really boosts their value, allowing them to remain useful even after they primary function has been fulfilled. Remember also that transporting a unit to one location is rarely the case; this is very much a random and objective based game, and remembering to transport your units to other locations quickly can change the game. Additionally, using Rhinos to support your mobile fire-base is integral to success against other strong ranged armies. This is done by jumping a unit out, firing, and then having a Rhino use its' flat out move in the shooting phase to drive a line of sight-blocking wedge between your unit and their target.
Chapter Tactics - As a dedicated transport, merely saying "Iron Hands are the only tactics that directly benefit the Rhino, take those" would be rather obtuse. As such, this needs to be looked at in the context of the squad inside. A Rhino will naturally favour a unit that is designed to be more aggressive, which favours White Scars, Black Templars and Imperial Fists for the most part - the last of which mostly applies to boltgun-armed units such as Sternguard Veterans or Tactical Marines. Raven Guard also find great benefit from mounting their power-armoured infantry up in Rhinos due to the Scout moves.
Overview - I'm going to be perfectly honest; I don't see Razorbacks being as worthwhile as Rhinos for the most part, not in the context of 6th Edition. Space Marines are designed around medium ranged firepower, and Razorbacks simply don't offer you the mobility needed to capitalize on this without wasting what makes them distinct from Rhinos. Their increased cost without any boost to fragility makes their loss more keenly felt, and the firepower they offer isn't that great in the first place anyway. This isn't 5th Edition where you could score while inside transports and multiple-small-units was the name of the game; the shots on offer from Razorbacks won't do too much against monsters like Riptides and Wraithknights. Their lack of fire ports and reduced transport size also don't really favour most Space Marine units that generally want to be firing - they have access to special and combi-weapons for a reason - and want to be in decently sized squads so as to have a greater chance of surviving all the nasty shooting on offer. I'm probably wrong, but I just do not see a valuable 'transport' here, at least not where its competitors are concerned; you are far better served taking the cheaper Rhino for larger Space Marine squads, and using Predators, Hunters and Vindicators as vehicular fire-bases. However, there are a few very good uses for Razorbacks that a Rhino can't perform. They are the natural transport choice for a five-strong Sternguard Veteran squad that doesn't go in a Drop Pod, providing good fire support and that needed mobility. They also work very well in tandem with Rhinos by garrisoning the short-ranged elements of other units, such as Devastators. By themselves, I don't rate them too highly, but when transporting the right units or run as part of a mechanized force alongside Rhinos, they can definitely make the most of themselves. Just be aware that the main reason I am a bit harsh on Razorbacks is that for most Space Marine squads you need those numbers - they are cheaper than ever after all - to survive in 6th Edition and make the most out of And They Shall Know No Fear and its uses in an objective-oriented edition.
How to Equip Them - Much like the Rhino, keeping the Razorback as cheap as possible so that you can take them in greater numbers is the key to being successful with them; they aren't as cheap as Rhinos, but if you are taking five-man units in them - and not a combat squad - you will still be saving points. While I don't see Razorback 'spam' combined with multiple-small-units working nearly as well in 6th Edition as it did in 5th Edition due to the greater vulnerability of vehicles and the focus on objectives, it is still a viable tactic and one of the few that really maximises on the effectiveness of this particular transport. Again, I would leave any upgrades to dozer blades, as even the extra armour is just a bit too expensive and will see a Razorback with an upgraded gun getting a bit too close in cost to a Night Scythe! As to the choice of which gun, this can largely depend on your meta. The increased base cost of a Razorback has reduced the value of its' stock twin-linked heavy bolter, while the increasing numbers of both light infantry and - for some armies - light vehicles does favour the assault cannon, it raises the question as to whether a lascannon would be better due to range. A Razorback needs to make the most of its opportunities to be worthwhile, and an assault cannon can be out-ranged rather easily in the current meta. However, a single lascannon shot isn't going to do spectacularly well, especially in an edition dominated by monstrous creatures; while sniping wounds off here and there is obviously helpful, paying so many points for it doesn't seem wise. The lascannon and plasma gun combo doesn't work as it should given that by moving 6" a turn, one of them is forced to snap fire. As a transport first and foremost, a Razorback cannot afford this no matter how much you want it for the guns. Ultimately, I think this is a tough choice with no easy answer because each has their uses, though I would favour the assault cannon if I knew the Razorbacks would have Scout.
Where to Put Them - Unlike a Rhino, you don't want to "rush" a Razorback forward, as by being a lot more expensive with a heavy weapon, it is also quite a bit more valuable. You don't want to compromise its firepower, but you also don't want to remain stationary with a unit inside that has no fire ports to shoot out of. Deploying them with greater care and behind available cover is always smart, even if you are going first, as you really can't afford to lose them early on.
Best Uses - A Razorback is designed to provide fire support to small units of Space Marines, and using it as such is really all you can do with it without wasting points. Razorbacks just aren't as valuable as they used to be, particularly when you need a lot more scoring bodies to really be successful in an objective-oriented edition. There has never been a time in recent memory where they have been so easily destroyed, and yet they remain one of the more expensive transports you can get. Their fragility means that you should really move them up from cover to cover 6" a turn - unless they are out of range with their guns - though if you feel their firepower will be ineffective, moving 12" plus the flat out move is obviously worthwhile. At that point though, you might start wondering; "why buy this tank in the first place if it won't shoot?" This is why they do work reasonably well with a twin-linked lascannon supporting a five-man squad with a heavy weapon - or four, in the case of Devastators - to maximise on your long ranged fire output while providing a transport in a pinch. However, it still doesn't justify their inclusion as much as you can get another squad like that for about the same price. Taking them in numbers of four - and that number includes Rhinos - or more is recommended to provide target saturation to your army list.
Chapter Tactics - While It Will Not Die is certainly a bit more helpful for a Razorback than a Rhino in the sense that you actually really want it to live for more than a turn, it doesn't change the fact that most opponents will be bringing enough firepower to level them in a single volley anyway. However, unlike the Rhino, Razorbacks favour a somewhat different approach with the unit inside. The firepower they offer and the reduced transport capacity means that you should rarely be moving flat out or more than 6" in the movement phase, reducing the mobility of the transport pretty severely in comparison to a Rhino. When taking this into account, the unit inside will likely have a less aggressive purpose, though it stands to reason that they would still be given a plasma gun and combi-plasma to offer that crucial fire support in tandem with the Razorback itself at medium range. In that sense, the Razorback's unit probably benefits from the same Chapter Tactics as Rhinos, but you can get away with the others as well and not notice too much of a difference. A Scout move for a Razorback can be more important than it is for a Rhino though if you don't want to compromise its' firepower, giving Raven Guard and - in a Khan list - White Scars some impetus.
Overview - Space Marines really like rubbing it in to their traitor brethren, and in few places is this more apparent than having access to so many transports, notable among them the Drop Pod. This AV 12/12/12 open-topped transport allows for safe and reliable deep strikes anywhere on the battlefield with very little risk of mishaps. They allow their associated unit to disembark immediately, giving the Space Marines almost unparalleled alpha strike potential as, barring their heavy weapons, they get to deliver their short ranged payloads at full Ballistic Skill. That really is the long and short to a Drop Pod; it gets your unit into the thick of things instantly and without needing to worry about reaching the target, allowing for maximum devastation at short to medium range with specialist weapons such as flamers and meltaguns. There are some unique traits to keep in mind though, as while they are identical in points cost to a Rhino, they do have their fair share of downsides to go with the obvious transportation advantages they bring. While giving your unit a virtual guarantee to shoot at close range without fear of not making it to the fight, Interceptor weaponry can ruin your day, particularly from its masters; the Tau, with their multiple AP2 and AP3 large blast weapons. Broadside Battlesuits, Riptides and more with Interceptor can wreak untold havoc on your orbital assault forces, and even the Drop Pods themselves - as relatively harmless as they are after the drop. Additionally, intelligent opponents can counter your reserves play by placing their forces such that your deep striking units won't be able to get as close as you would like to high value targets, such as battle tanks and the like. Imperial Guard, in particular, when played by a general of any decent worth simply will not allow you to get anywhere near their precious artillery batteries or Leman Russ squadrons as long as they have infantry platoons to spare.
Countering this ultimately comes down to mixing up your units so that you can have units drop with anti-infantry weapons or anti-tank weapons as necessary; don't bring a bunch of flamers to a fight against the Armoured Battle Company! There is also the issue of your force entering piece meal depending on how many Drop Pods are employed; if you only use one or two Drop Pods, this likely won't be too much of a concern. However, if those Drop Pods are mixed with a mostly static foot-based element, or if you take an entire force mounted in Drop Pods, you are quickly going to find that you won't be able to engage your opponent in a fair fight. The Drop Pod Assault rule is great, of course, but it will leave up to half of your army as prey to the enemy while the rest are either in reserve or in the back-field. This forces you to maximise your alpha strike as much as possible to deny your opponent this advantage; after all, this is the key theme to a Drop Pod list. You need to kill as much as you can in the first turn, or risk losing too much of your forces in retaliation to sustain a fighting chance for the rest of the game. This leads to most armies entirely mounted in Drop Pods being of the Salamanders variety and led by Vulkan, giving them maximum damage potential against both medium to light infantry and heavy vehicles. As tempting as it is to run such an army list, the risks can outweigh the benefits against certain armies and thus I would strongly consider a mixed approach. A few Sternguard Veteran squads with combi-meltas will be enough to devastate most heavy tanks as necessary, while your mobile scoring units in Rhinos can do the mop-up job on any infantry jumping out of transports or foot-slogging. Your static battle tanks and Devastator squads can then focus on other priority targets to supplement your other forces. Of course, this is just simple strategy and plays on an ideal scenario, but it is nonetheless an important piece to remember when using Drop Pods.
How to Equip Them - Drop Pods literally don't need any upgrades, at all. Ignore the Deathwind Launcher as you can't even fire it on the turn a Drop Pod arrives; though it is superior to a storm bolter in pretty much every other way otherwise, it takes a bit too much of a risk that the Drop Pod will survive. And besides, like Rhinos, you really want to keep these cheap so you can take more of them; when a pair of deathwind launchers cost almost as much as a third drop pod, you know there's a bit of an issue. As you really want to be taking Drop Pods in odd numbers, adding either upgrade is really unnecessary. In regards to the locator beacon, this is useful for the first wave of Drop Pods only, such as those that carry Ironclad Dreadnoughts or five-man Assault Squads with two flamers. It provides more reliable deep strike scatter for units such as Terminators and subsequent Drop Pod landings, though it must be said that other Drop Pods don't really need the boost due to their internal scatter-reduction system. Leaving Drop Pods bare really is the way to go, though if you do plan on using Terminators, it isn't a bad idea to give two or three of them Locator Beacons.
Best Uses - I've added in 'Where to Put Them' here as it pretty much overlaps with the best uses anyway. Undeniably, the best use of Drop Pods is as a delivery system for valuable short-ranged units such as Ironclad Dreadnoughts and Salamanders infantry armed with melta and flame weaponry. After all, you are paying the same points as a Rhino for a transport that delivers your unit far more reliably to where you need it; unless you play risky with your deep strike, it is probably the safest transport you can take. That no other transport is guaranteed to get your units in short range for maximum effect not only gives it a distinct role, but makes it quite valuable for particular army builds. Sternguard Veterans, Salamanders Tactical Marines, Ironclad Dreadnoughts, Command Squads with massed special weapons and so on make for ideal units to deliver. As for actually using the Drop Pod itself, unlike a Rhino it can't really do anything other than hopefully provide cover saves through good positioning of your other units and maybe kill an infantry model here or there. Really, you pay for that initial deployment and that is it. I would take them in odd numbers to make the most of the drop pod assault, so three or five and so on. Taking entire armies mounted in drop pods is certainly a viable strategy as it leaves your opponent with no targets to fire upon if they go first and can play some pretty nasty mind games on them as well. It allows you to capitalize on deployment mistakes better than Rhinos or Razorbacks ever could. Try to deep strike your units in relative proximity to each other where possible so that they can't be isolated and destroyed by your opponent too easily while the rest of your forces arrive - whether by ground, air or reserves. In turn, you will typically want to focus on enemy units that your opponent has left relatively isolated; gang up on units to give yourself an unfair advantage. As to the deep strike itself, try to stay 12" away from any table edge before resolving the scatter so that you don't need to worry about mishaps.
Chapter Tactics - Drop Pods have always favoured close-assault units; those with meltaguns, flamers, combi-weapons and so on. This unparalleled deployment option for such units heavily favours Salamanders above all given the affinity they have for both flame and melta weapons - the latter if Vulkan is employed. It also helps out Black Templars for getting into combat quicker, as well as Imperial Fists to make the most of their Bolter Drill. Of course, armies such as White Scars and Ultramarines who naturally have assault boosts of some kind also get a lot of mileage out of Drop Pods.
Land Speeder Storm
How to Equip Them - Storms have access to a few weapon upgrades over their stock heavy bolter, though I would generally advise against them. You want to use the Storm as an assault transport which does give you a reason to take a heavy flamer and specialize it against infantry, though being able to move 12" each turn and fire both of its guns at full Ballistic Skill is also nice with the heavy bolter. Given that a Land Speeder Storm will effectively cover 36" of the game board on the first turn - deploy 12" on, Scout 12" up, move 12" - it likely will never need to make a flat out move, unless you want to get that boosted Jink save to give it a better chance of surviving. I would avoid the multi-melta as Space Marines have much better access to anti-tank weaponry elsewhere - even on the Scouts themselves to an extent - such as from Attack Bikes or Biker squads armed with special weapons. Additionally, it wastes the Cerberus Launcher as both weapons obviously want to shoot at two entirely distinct targets. The assault cannon is strong, definitely, and it compliments the Cerberus Launcher decently, but it is expensive, and for an AV 10/10/10 two hull point open-topped vehicle, that really is not a good idea. Honestly, I would keep Land Speeder Storms stock with either the heavy bolter or the free heavy flamer; remember that the firepower isn't important, so much as just delivering its unit.
Where to Put Them - Regardless of whether you have the first or second turn, I would be aggressive in your deployment with Land Speeder Storms - ignore the terrain in your deployment zone and instead focus on those in the midfield. The reason for this is that Storms have a 12" Scout move before the game starts, giving them a huge initial movement buffer that also allows you to counter-deploy against an opponent going second. If an opponent has left a flank bare with mostly light infantry covering objectives, Scout your Storms in that direction to give your Scouts ample targets to destroy. If the midfield has even a few line of sight blocking terrain pieces, use your Scout moves to position your Storms behind or near them to limit as much of your opponents' firepower to them as possible. This is the ideal scenario for using Storms as it also lets them maximise on the crazy mobility they have, but obviously this won't always be the case. Some game boards are often left bare in the middle - heavily favouring gun-line forces - which means that you are going to have be a lot more daring with the Storms. You take the risk when moving up that your opponent will simply blast them to bits with little effort, but if you are too cautious with them, they may just end up being wasted points. If you expect to play on such a game board, Storms are going to be a bit of a weak point for your force unless you have an entirely mobile army presenting lots of target saturation. In this case, you can use the Storms to deliver counter-assault units against fast moving enemy assault Troops; Scouts aren't a premier melee unit, but they can feasibly add to an existing combat and help swing the tide. Besides, they are a cheap unit that can also act as a roadblock and put your opponent in the unfavourable position of getting shot at for another turn if you play your cards right.
Best Uses - Storms are best used not only as assault transports for melee-oriented Scout units, but as fire support for other melee forces. This is due mostly to the Cerberus Launcher and ability to fire both guns even after moving and disembarking its unit. A large blast weapon that causes a Blind check simply by hitting a unit is very nice indeed, particularly against all the low Initiative Tau, Necrons and Orks out there. While it obviously won't work so well against other Space Marines and Eldar, it is nonetheless a very handy tool to give Scouts an even better chance of surviving or winning an assault. While the Storm can be used to transport bolter or shotgun Scouts right into the fray where they are in their natural element, their limited effectiveness compared to assault Scouts makes them somewhat redundant, particularly when the Storm is used. However, it must be noted that as an open-topped transport, Scouts can fire out of the Storm at Ballistic Skill 3 provided it only moves 6", giving a bit more of a boost for boltgun Scouts than anything else. Realistically, the fragility of the Storm doesn't make this a great tactic, and it also means that you really need quite a few Storms in all cases so that your opponent doesn't easily isolate and destroy your Scouts. Using them aggressively is a given as otherwise you waste the potential of the Space Marines' only open-topped transport, but given their sheer mobility, being cautious is not unwise. They cover such ground with their Scout move and being able to fire after moving 12" that you can and should use terrain to your advantage on that first turn - unless you go second and are confident of a game turn one charge - to block line of sight wherever possible.
Chapter Tactics - As Land Speeder Storms are tied directly to Scouts and don't really get that much benefit from Iron Hands Chapter Tactics due to their fragility, this is easily determined by which Chapter Tactics work best for assault-oriented Scouts. This means that White Scars in particular give you the best possible unit in such a role, where most of the others, barring the more redundant (for Scouts) Raven Guard Chapter Tactics, give them decent boosts.
Thanks for reading this article! Did you find it an entertaining or insightful read? Let us know in the comments section below, or continue the discussion with me and other members of the community over on +Bell of Lost Souls. Have a great day! Eel out.
"Plunge into the enemy's breast like a blade, cut out his heart, and you will know fulfillment.
The Emperor has given us strength. In return, we give him victory!"
- Jaghatai Khan