8 Dec 2013

Tactica Space Marines - Fast Attack Part Two

Hey guys, I am Learn2Eel, and I am here today with a look at the Fast Attack slot for Codex: Space Marines! The loyal progeny of the Emperor have always been masters of all aspects of warfare, and when the big guns and over-powering strikes aren't enough, they can rely on mobility and precise counter-strikes to cripple and destroy the important cogs of any enemy war machine. I hope you find this to be an interesting, or at least helpful, read!

Space Marines have access to a pretty diverse Fast Attack slot, even if it isn't quite as heavy as the Eldar equivalent. It provides you with one of the most cost-effective flyers in any of the 6th Edition codices, used well as either an escort gunship or a primary anti-air fighter, and a great harassment unit that has fantastic synergy with deep striking elements in the form of Scout Bikers. And then there are the tougher choices, the ones that provide heavier firepower albeit at greater expense; Attack Bikes with their potent anti-tank or anti-infantry guns, or regular Bikers that are amazingly cheap, versatile and tough and can receive irrational advantages from certain Chapter Tactics. Land Speeders and Assault Marines round out the slot, providing somewhat more fragile destruction either at medium or close ranges, but they are still good options that are a bit more specialized in their usage. There is a lot of value to be had here, particularly as Bikers make for such a fantastic Troops choice in a more mobile army list that isn't based around vehicles. A note here that this is the second part of a series of two articles; the first part can be viewed here

Bike Squad

Overview - Bikes bring the pain from either the Fast Attack or the Troops slots based upon your choice of commander, and at such a low cost that you might honestly be deceived into thinking tricky Eldar are at work! You get a twin-linked bolter, the lovely Space Marine profile, the usual grenades, Toughness 5 and the beauty of 12" moves, Hammer of Wrath and Jink saves. This all comes at half again the price of a Tactical Marine, giving you exceptional value over the regular Infantry - though of course, Tacticals do have their own roles to fill. Bikes work so well in any mobile or aggressive army list due to a combination of high durability and versatility; their krak grenades and special weapons, particularly grav guns, allow them to take on pretty much any target that their twin-linked bolters can't handle. In the 6th Edition meta of high Strength weaponry, some might say Bikes are just more expensive Tactical Marines that die just as fast to Ion Accelerators with Ignores Cover. While that is true in a sense, it doesn't account for all the small arms fire and heavy damage they soak up through their higher Toughness and innate cover saves. They are actually a decently strong melee unit because they don't need to pay for a transport to get there, and they can reliably chase down Wave Serpents and other skimmers and latch krak grenades onto their rear armour. They bring inherent mobility that Tacticals simply can't enjoy, and they also make the most of grav weaponry due to Relentless as a product of their unit type. They are a great unit that receives ridiculous buffs from White Scars Chapter Tactics, and they are one I simply cannot recommend enough.

How to Equip Them - Generally Bikes are best given weapons that your regular Tactical Marines can't make as effective use of, or at least if you aren't using them as your sole Troops choice. Bikes are more valuable models with far greater mobility than Tacticals, and thus plasma guns aren't as useful for them. When you combine them with Scout or even just their stock movement speed, Bikes work really well with meltaguns and even flamers; the latter is particularly useful for a unit charging and counter-charging enemy infantry on the fly. Combine that unit with Hit and Run and you will have a hilariously dangerous offensive unit that just sweeps any non-heavily armoured infantry before them, what with the Wall of Flame and the usual template fire. However, arguably the best weapon choice for Bikes is one that Tacticals really don't get much mileage out of; the newly christened grav guns. A squad of Bikes paired with Scout from Khan and armed with these can reliably get into range of even long-range enemy monstrous creatures, such as Riptides or Wraithknights, and take an average of three or so wounds off of them.

Alternatively, the grav guns have a very decent chance of simply immobilizing an enemy vehicle. The best possible scenario is to have a single Bike squad with grav guns immobilize a Land Raider or other high value transport, and the fact is that no matter the vehicle, whatever their armour value or hull points may be, the grav effect does not discriminate. They are weapons that discourage high-value targets of all kinds, and the Bikes have the advantage that they can always switch to their twin-linked bolters to shoot at lowly armoured models such as Ork Boyz. Combi-weapons and power lances - particularly for White Scars with Hit and Run - are all very good options for a Bike Sergeant, and as before, I wouldn't bother with the Veteran upgrade unless you want the extra attack for a power weapon. The Attack Bike is a model I would definitely recommend adding if you can fit them in, though they aren't really necessary unless you want an extra multi-melta shot to compliment either your grav guns or meltaguns. They are high value regardless, but Bikes are good enough that you shouldn't feel compelled to make up the points to fit them in. For Biker squad sizes, I definitely wouldn't waste just how awesome a Troops or Fast Attack choice they are for the points, nor would I want to risk an easy First Blood with them. With that in mind, I find five Bikes to be the minimum squad size for a unit that actually wants to stick around and not be an easy first turn target. However, when given Scout from Khan, small three-man units with a pair of special weapons can also do really well to cause suicidal havoc in an enemy's backline, targeting the rear or side armour of Skyrays and Manticores.

Where to Put Them - When you take a Tactical Marine, give them in-built mobility, greater durability and twin-linked weaponry, you end up with a model that does many of the same things better, and can perform other roles as well. Bikes, whether used as scoring Troops choices or as Fast Attack choices, are the more aggressive option over Tacticals; they don't require a transport to get them within a viable range for shooting, and they aren't as frightened of death from AP3 weapons due to Jink saves and Toughness 5. Simply out, like most Tactical Squad builds, you do not want to leave Bikes in the back-field; they belong on the front lines, where they can pull off charges into a wide range of targets and expect to win, or simply be a nuisance that threatens most enemies at range. You want them to be part of a hammer alongside Rhinos, Land Raiders and flyers, not a holding unit that sits back to baby-sit objectives or other precious squads. As such, for the most part, you want to be deploying them forward and their versatility means they can get away with firing or charging at most targets.

Where you really need to be cautious with your deployment is against Tau, Eldar and Imperial Guard; each of which puts out unrelenting masses of high Strength shooting that counters your Bikes, with a spice of ignores cover thrown in for good measure depending on the army. You will want to be out of sight of Medusas and Riptides if your opponent plays first, though a well saturated army list with a Land Raider or two should provide enough targets that your opponent doesn't immediately gun for the Bikes. White Scars make the most of this with Scout from Khan as well as pseudo-Skilled Rider; they don't worry nearly as much about moving into terrain or facing down AP3 or AP2 weapons, and the Scout move lets them get into position early on. Bikes are murder for most infantry units to deal with in combat outside of elite or dedicated melee units, and their mass of krak grenades, potential specialist weapons and cheap meltabombs on the Sergeant allow them to rip apart Wave Serpents and Skyrays with ease. They are tough enough that you shouldn't be too worried about return fire, but their higher base cost than Tacticals does make their loss more keenly felt. Don't rush them out in the open and expect results; unless you have that 4+ Jink save, you should still hug line-of-sight blocking terrain as much as possible, particularly if you go second. Outflank is also a great special rule to give to Bikes, particularly those packing either flamers or meltaguns, for delivering high damage to either infantry or vehicles from an unexpected angle.

Best Uses - I've found the best use of Bikes to ironically be as a Troops choice, not a Fast Attack choice. They are an even more flexible and effective unit than Tactical Marines, they end up being cheaper for the most part due to not needing a transport for mobile variations, and they are also quite a decent combat unit that wants to be joined by melee characters. When you add guaranteed scoring on to them, it isn't hard to see why many players opt to use Bikers instead of Tacticals as their primary Troops choices. However, to simply say "they are better" would be both ignorant and wrong, and so I will instead say that they fit into certain builds more effectively than Tacticals. White Scars give insane buffs to Bikers, particularly with Khan, while Raven Guard favour Tacticals in Rhinos more, for example. If you play a mostly static army list, Bikes probably won't be as good a fit either. What counts is that they are one of - if not the most - cost effective Bike units in the game, and given the leeway granted now by Dangerous Terrain and Jink saves, having such an honour is to be lauded. They can work as small specialist weapon delivery squads akin to Attack Bikes, save with flamers, grav guns or plasma guns. They can be bulky units designed to gun down infantry with their many twin-linked bolters and melee attacks while being a threat to vehicles with krak grenades. No matter what role you use them in, they also have their high Toughness to back them up. Grav Guns tend to be my preferred weapon choice, and using Bike squads of at least five or more with these en masse make them very cost effective threats to nearly all targets in the game. This is my preferred squad build, and if you have the points, add an Attack Bike as well with a multi melta.

Chapter Tactics - To address the elephant in the room, yes, White Scars provide the most undeniably advantageous benefits to Bike units of all kinds. If you run Bikes, they will be best when run as White Scars, especially if you combine them with Kor'sarro Khan due to his Scout ability. There aren't any other real obvious beneficial Chapter Tactics, though Salamanders combined with Vulkan can make for some nasty flanking flame or melta-delivery squads.

Attack Bike Squad

Overview - Attack Bikes are an altogether different beast than regular Bikers for a number of reasons. They have all the same juicy stats and special rules that make Space Marines so great, but Attack Bikes have both an extra wound and an extra attack to account for the second rider. Additionally, instead of sporting a twin-linked bolter, they come armed with a heavy bolter that can be further upgraded to a multi-melta. They are limited by their squad size, however, with a unit limit of up to three. Like Bike Squads, Attack Bikes are very difficult to kill, particularly when you throw on that extra wound; as much as Wraithknights are a dominant unit right now, Strength 10 AP3/2 weapons just aren't that common nowadays, giving Attack Bikes a lot of value for that second wound. Even though Attack Bikes might thus seem like more expensive but 'improved' Bikers, the reality is quite different; Attack Bikes serve an entirely distinct role, serving instead as more of a support unit than one of your primary aggressive lynch-pins. They provide light firepower at cut-throat prices, much like Land Speeders, and are even commonly used to the same effect with multi-meltas; even without Scout from Khan, Attack Bikes are still quite capable of annihilating most vehicles during the first player turn. While the heavy bolter isn't commonly used for Attack Bikes, it isn't necessarily a bad weapon to have, while the multi melta is always there as a cheap upgrade. Considering the limitations of their wargear options, Attack Bikes are mostly defined as a cheap 'death-brigade' that rushes towards a high value vehicle or monstrous creature with the aim not of harassing it, but of destroying it in one or two salvos. They are relatively inexpensive for this purpose, provided you make sure not to just blindly rush them into a field of hungry, hungry Termagants and Tervigons*.

*A notice to all Attack Bike operators; if this situation occurs, the Emperor does not offer forgiveness.

How to Equip Them - I feel that Attack Bikes are always best used with multi meltas simply because they provide you with a strong alternative to Land Speeders in that role. Bikers provide you with a mess of twin-linked bolters, and so the heavy bolters themselves aren't really necessary; additionally, the Land Speeders with two heavy bolters each are only a bit more expensive per model. The real value in Attack Bikes comes from being an extremely mobile and pretty resilient model that can provide a multi-melta shot, and unlike standard Land Speeders, they even receive Scout benefits from Khan. This virtually guarantees they will get into "melta" range on the first turn regardless of which player won the roll off, giving the Space Marine player a very nasty anti-vehicular tool. For squad sizes, I would always recommend running Attack Bike squads either in pairs or trios; one Attack Bike is a bit too easy to kill for my tastes, even with White Scars Chapter Tactics. It is too easy a target for First Blood and won't put out enough reliable firepower; with a multi melta, for example, there is a 33% chance they will miss when going for a "suicidal shot". Those are odds that you don't want to risk for a unit that really is built around being a support unit that strikes a high value target and takes punishment for other units.

Where to Put Them - As Attack Bikes are generally used on suicide runs, I prefer to place them either on the edge of my deployment zone or behind cover while remaining as close as possible to the enemy. This is because Attack Bikes really don't give a rats about dangerous terrain tests with two wounds per model, and as that speed for their initial strike is so crucial. Keeping them safe from your opponents' initial fusillade is a smart idea if you are going second or if your opponent has boosts to their Seize the Initiative roll. From here, don't be afraid to send them riding into a place of no return; Attack Bikes are there as a cheap distraction unit that is designed to cause havoc and soak up return fire. While not every competitive use of Attack Bikes will involve their probable deaths, they are one of few units you can afford to lose, and subsequently, to throw into the fire. Trying to be edgy or cautious with them is unnecessary unless there are no viable targets for them to annihilate. They are a road-block that your opponent can't simply speed over, so use that to your advantage by pushing them up with your other mobile elements as a hard counter to their well armoured vehicles. Outflanking Attack Bikes through the use of Khan is also a very strong option; it is sometimes more beneficial against Skyrays, Manticores and other cover-camping or barrage-hiding tanks to Outflank because they will either gun down the Attack Bikes or simply stay out of range for too long anyway, risking the Attack Bikes unnecessarily.

Best Uses - While Attack Bikes can be used to lay down light anti-infantry firepower through their heavy bolters, the reality is that regular Bikes are a more efficient source of shooting against such targets anyway. Even then, the majority of the weapons found in a typical Space Marine army do such a role anyway. If you field Thunderfire Cannons, Whirlwinds or even masses of Tactical Marines, heavy bolters don't really provide your army with much that couldn't be found elsewhere. This isn't to say such use of Attack Bikes is bad though, as they aren't too expensive for that kind of shooting and are tough and mobile enough to be an active annoyance for your opponent because of their krak grenades and two wounds each. Still, I see Attack Bikes instead as a substitute for melta-armed Land Speeder squadrons; Attack Bikes are a cheaper and, in some cases, tougher variation to the skimmers. They can be uniquely given Scout and Skilled Rider in layman's terms from Khan and the White Scars Chapter Tactics, meaning they get a huge boost to mobility, they aren't worried about dangerous terrain tests and they are tougher to boot against weapons that don't ignore cover. A pair or trio of Attack Bikes in one squad - or multiple - can prove to be a real thorn for the opponent, slicing them just enough so that they are more than a simple nuisance and will be perceived as a genuine threat regardless of their actual performance. Even a squad that fails to destroy or even cripple their quarry on the first turn will likely serve their purpose in that the opponent will have to divert some or quite a bit of their resources to eliminating them.

Chapter Tactics - Attack Bikes do get some great buffs from White Scars, but if you use them as suicidal melta squads then Salamanders led by Vulkan are also a great contender. Imperial Fists also provide a nifty boost for heavy bolters in the unit due to Bolter Drill.

Scout Bike Squad

Overview - Scout Bikers are a bit of an oddball choice that, much like regular Scouts, requires a more precise use or specialization to really make the most out of them. They share the same stat-line as a Scout, with Weapon Skill, Ballistic Skill and Initiative 3, and 4s elsewhere aside from Leadership 8, albeit with the added boost of Toughness 5 from the Bike. They are only a handful of points cheaper than regular Bikes, and have a worse armour save by a pip. In a straight up fight, obviously, they aren't quite as good as regular Bikes, especially as Scout Bikers don't keep the extra close combat weapon like their foot-slogging brethren. Instead, they are stuck with shotguns that probably won't see much use because of the twin-linked boltguns mounted on their bikes. This is disappointing and while it does limit their use as a melee unit compared to a Scout squad in a Land Speeder Storm, they are still more than able to run over light infantry units simply because Toughness 5 is very hard to crack for most infantry. Just don't expect combats to go as smoothly or quickly as they might otherwise have gone. No, where Scout Bikers really find their niche is in helping out as part of a reserve heavy list based on deep-striking units, like Drop Pods or both Terminator variants, because the Sergeants can carry locator beacons. This makes them a very valuable addition in such an army list, particularly with both Infiltrate and Scout added to the mix, allowing for precise deep strikes pretty much anywhere you need them. While 4+ armour saves and Toughness 5 have arguably more to fear from Ignores Cover weapons than 3+ armoured models, Scout Bikes are still valuable enough in the right kind of army list to be worthy of an inclusion. Just don't mistake them for the all purpose regular Bikers and there shouldn't be a hitch.

How to Equip Them - I would almost always give Scout Bikers a locator beacon as I see that being their main role next to the amazingly cost-effective Space Marine Bikers, particularly in a White Scars list where regular Bikers gain one of the Scout Bikers' advantageous traits. Regardless of squad size, they are a cheap and tough unit that, with Scout, can allow for a reliable Drop Pod Assault at a specific section of the enemy battle-line. Ideally, you could combine Scout Bikers with combi-melta armed Sternguard Veterans to reliably nuke a Land Raider on the first turn, something that would have been far less likely without the locator beacon. Deploy 12" on, Scout forward 12", the Drop Pod arrives within 6", the unit deploys 6" out, and assuming a standard game board and an aggressive opponent - you rarely keep Land Raiders back - and you should be able to guarantee "melta" range for your toys. Or hey, you could just avoid all of that and simply Infiltrate and then Scout to be 12" away from the opponent before you even move! Apply this thinking to other possible combinations with units such as Assault Marines armed with two flamers or even maximising the second turn assault range of an Ironclad Dreadnought and the Scout Bikes will more than justify their inclusion.

I've not found booby traps to be particularly useful, as dangerous terrain is far more forgiving for both models with wounds and skimmers in 6th Edition. While having the option to choose which terrain piece is booby-trapped after deployment is certainly an advantage, I still don't see the majority of opponents really being affected by it either mentally or in terms of losing models. At best, it can slow their advance down or kill a few unlucky models, and while for how cheap it is that might not seem like a bad trade, those are points that could be put to better use elsewhere. Astartes Grenade Launchers are decent enough, though the lack of twin-linked can be a bit of a nuisance with the Scouts Ballistic Skill of 3. The reality is, to perform their stated role, Scout Bikers really don't need much in the way of upgrades or weapon options. If you have the points spare, giving the Sergeant melta bombs is a very smart choice; they have Scout stock and, paired up with lots of krak grenades, they can really put the hurt on most vehicles. My ideal Scout Biker unit size as a Locator Beacon delivery unit is five or so, sitting firmly on the lowest triple digit number. The mobility you have both with deployment and Scout means you should be able to get into or behind cover to protect them if your opponent has the first turn. However, larger unit sizes are certainly viable; just be aware that, for the most part, Bikes really are more cost effective than Scout Bikes, particularly when White Scars and Khan more severely affect the former.

Where to Put Them - The Scout and Infiltrate rules for the Initiates allows them to deploy and counter-deploy as you see fit provided your game board has an acceptable level of terrain spread throughout. Infiltrating 18" away from an enemy unit and then Scouting into or behind line of sight blocking cover in the midfield is ideal, but just be aware that their 4+ armour save does make Scout Bikers more prone to wounds caused by failed dangerous terrain tests. This also obviously isn't always ideal or possible, what with the random nature of terrain placement and its' potential lacking; add to that the 30" bubble of "I don't need to see you" Smart Missile Systems and it can be a bit of a nuisance using Scout Bikers in such a way. Ideally though, Scout Bikers are going to be your locator beacon or cheap 'melee Bikers', and as such, their low cost combined with the nature of their roles probably means you won't be too fussed if they perish on the second player or game turn. As long as they allow for one or more accurate deep strikes, or they force your opponent to shoot them or risk letting them loose on exposed infantry - Fire Warriors despite Scout Bikes just as much as anyone - then they will have performed their role.

Best Uses - I generally see Scout Bikers as the somewhat less efficient but more specialized equivalent of regular Bikers; the latter is tougher, better in a fight and has more specialist weapon options. However, Scout Bikers have the advantage in that they have great utility in a reserve-heavy army list; locator beacons can be pivotal for guaranteeing the success of drop pod assaults, while they also find great use with all kinds of Terminators. When you give a decent melee unit that certainly holds its own against most standard infantry from other armies a bike in addition to Scout and Infiltrate, you have yourself a recipe for success. Scout Bikes are punishing when taken in large numbers against all kinds of enemy infantry, and having krak grenades gives them a great edge against vehicles even without plasma guns or meltaguns. They are probably the quickest assault unit in the army, and they will beat down Fire Warriors, Guardians, Guardsmen and many others with little difficulty. Whether you use them solely as a cheap delivery system for your reserves, or as a cheap and more than decent assault unit - or my personal favourite, both - Scout Bikers should always impress, even if they don't quite get the same accolades as the regular Bikers.

Chapter Tactics - Scout Bikes do still get the most out of White Scars Chapter Tactics even if Khan doesn't affect them, even if their option for locator beacons combines very well with Drop Pod Assaults, such as those provided by Salamanders or Crimson Fists.

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.

"Give me a hundred Space Marines. Or failing that, a thousand other troops."
- Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists

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