7 Nov 2015

Tactica Space Marines - Fast Attack

The Emperor protects all those who view His analytical works, as contrite and ill-worded as they may be. If you vow to read His prophetic musings, you will be blessed for eternity and given the sanctity of faith in illiteracy. May you take pleasure from His foul works!

Fast Attack 

Assault Squad - Even though this is arguably the one unit Space Marines fans have been the most vocal about in terms of them getting meaningful buffs, Assault Squads didn't really change on their own merits this time around. While they have received a tonne of love from the various formations, they are fundamentally still a mediocre melee unit that is reliant on outside sources to make them worthwhile competitively (namely the Skyhammer Annihilation Force). However, there are some minor changes to note here which can have a bearing on how you run the unit, the first of which is the startling fact that Assault Marines are no longer equipped with Jump Packs by default. This means that their base price is equivalent to Tactical Marines, exchanging Objective Secured in certain detachments as well as boltguns for chainswords and varying options. This is actually a nerf seeing as they could do the same thing in the previous rules but would instead be able to take either a Drop Pod or Rhino as a Dedicated Transport for free, meaning a five-man unit compared to the current version in that same configuration would be 20 points cheaper, whereas a ten-strong unit would instead be 5 points cheaper. 

This is definitely not an optimal change given that the best use of Assault Squads lacking Jump Packs was to equip them with two Flamers, place them in a Drop Pod and send them on a suicidal mission that would usually result in them making their points back instantly. There's little point to Assault Squads if they don't have either Jump Packs or transports, so thankfully in this case they are cheaper when using any other transport method such as a Razorback. Otherwise, the only other real direct change to Assault Squads is an interesting one to say the least; as the newest iteration of the model kit would indicate, one in five Assault Marines can now purchase an Eviscerator - essentially a chainfist - and thus significantly add to the effective damage output of the unit. While Eviscerators are pricey and won't turn Assault Squads into top-tier melee combatants capable of slugging it out with the real cream of the crop, it nonetheless greatly improves their ability to engage different targets such as Walkers without having to worry about the Veteran Sergeant being posthumously slain and neutering the unit as a result. They gained various minor buffs via the changes to Chapter Tactics but mostly there is little of note here other than a quick recommendation; if you want to use Space Marine Assault Squads, do yourself a favor and hunt down the Skyhammer Annihilation Force rules. You can thank me later.

Scout Bike Squad - This has always been a weird unit for numerous reasons, most notably because they infringe on standard Biker territory despite being quite dissimilar in practice. A few points cheaper per model than Space Marine Bikers sees Scout Bikes in a highly competitive match-up, but with the significant buff they received this is a more hotly contested choice than ever before. Gaining Weapon Skill 4 and Ballistic Skill 4 just like regular Scouts gives this unit a big increase to their effective damage output most notably in shooting but also in close combat to a lesser extent. This makes the comparison between the two main Biker units a truly interesting one; their stats are virtually identical save that Bikers have a 3+ armor save as opposed to the Scout Bikes' 4+ armor save, while the Scout Bikes have a better close-ranged shooting weapon by trading their bolt pistols for shotguns - though admittedly this is a more situation-dependent advantage. From there, the main difference is that Scout Bikes have the incredibly superior deployment options by featuring both Infiltrate and Scout to give them unparalleled flexibility for early movement, whereas Bikers can be turned into Troops via certain Bike-riding HQ choices and thus form the Objective Secured core of an army. 

This is made even tougher given that Scout Bikes remained the same points cost as their previous incarnation, though I guess the main deciding factor for most players aside from the slot switching is the optional wargear available to both units; Bikers get nasty weapons such as Grav Guns and Melta Guns, whereas Scout Bikes are restricted to the decent but hardly inspiring Astartes Grenade Launchers as well as other generally mediocre upgrades like Cluster Mines. Of course, Scout Bikes can serve a utility role by taking the Locator Beacon wargear that lines up so darned well with a plethora of competitive Space Marine lists; any kind of army based around Drop Pods or Deep Striking units like Assault Squads in a Skyhammer Annihilation Force gets tremendous mileage out of a Locator Beacon, especially one that can be placed so far forward which is unique to Scout Bikes. Honestly, the best thing about this unit is that regular Bikers will almost always be Troops choices, freeing up the Fast Attack slot for this awesome harassment unit; just be aware that regular Scouts can perform the same role and have Objective Secured instead while being much cheaper, and one can argue the mobility might not matter for the role Scouts usually play given that they all already have both Infiltrate and Scout. I find these arguments generally don't line up in practice as I find both Scout Bikes and foot-slogging Scouts to be fantastic units with the former being criminally under-appreciated, as nothing can really be said against such a cheap and insanely fast objective-taker that can also quickly tie up nasty ranged units in combat for a few turns and even stand a chance of defeating them. 

Bike Squad - The two direct changes this unit received seem minor at first, but one of them is definitely a stand out that has served to modify several competitive lists based around Space Marine Bikers. I am of course speaking of the fact that the capability of moving these units to the Troops slot has been reworked and improved upon greatly; now any Independent Character on a Bike unlocks them as Troops rather than just the Chapter Master and Captain, while you can field them in units of any size rather than being forced to fit the five-man unit composition criteria. Effectively this means you can now take Bikes as Troops by fielding much cheaper and generally more useful Librarians on Bikes as your mandatory HQ choices, though Chaplains also provide another interesting albeit much less worthwhile option. Another important thing to discuss here is the potential of three-man Bike units with Objective Secured that are reminiscent of the current Eldar Windrider Jetbikes, albeit not generally as good given their much reduced potential firepower and standard Bike classification. The other minor change to Bikes is a five-point price reduction on the optional Attack Bike which is appreciated even if only because it basically means you can use those spare points on useful upgrades like Melta Bombs on your squad leaders. Unsurprisingly, White Scars Bikers in particular are still amazing while Bikers in general are just a great unit; the improvements to them are mostly in terms of how they can be fielded in an army list and as such they may not make a difference for a lot of players. 

Attack Bike Squad - As my earlier mention of them might indicate, Attack Bikes received a handy five point cost reduction on a per model basis with the latest codex, a welcome change for an already generally high value unit that can sometimes have the stigma of being First Blood auteurs; they either give it up or score it themselves! Now that kill points (outside of First Blood) are only really important in one out of twelve standard mission types, Attack Bikes are a heck of a lot more valuable considering they are also scoring in 7th Edition; they are quick, decently durable and pack quite a punch with being able to pop a Multi Melta shot and then charging into a vehicle with a krak grenade. They are a great little harassment unit that works well either independently or as part of a larger Bike squad, while also being a zippy model that can get easy victory points that are based on capturing particular objectives or being in certain parts of the table. What's not to like? Well, giving up easy First Blood but...you win some, you lose some, I guess. 

Land Speeder Storm - This has forever been one of those models that players seem to unfairly ignore in favor of the more "typical" choice such as regular Land Speeders, much akin to Scouts against Tactical Marines. The Storm has forever been the domain of Scouts given that it was their only Dedicated Transport option, a choice which some have previously felt might seem odd given that Scouts already have all the deployment flexibility they could ever need, but such thoughts fail to recognize the sheer value of a Storm overall. Having a Fast Skimmer zip around with a close-combat oriented Scout unit - with their newfound Weapon Skill 4, they tend to beat down on vehicles and lesser infantry fairly easily - is always useful as it also gives you a cheap pair of Objective Secured units provided you take the former in a Combined Arms detachment and the latter as a Dedicated Transport. Additionally, it ensures the parent unit gets delivered to wherever they need to be at any point in the game rather than relying purely on their alternate deployment methods to pressure the opponent or otherwise fulfill the role you require of them. Besides, need I even mention the value of the protection a transport offers its parent unit in a game so dominated by shooting-oriented armies? It's transport capacity is limited to five models which means it is impossible to start a basic Scout Squad and Sergeant Telion in one, something that used to be possible in the old codex based on how Telion was purchased, but otherwise the Storm is still the gem it always was.

It is cheaper than a regular Land Speeder, packs on the same basic heavy bolter with the option to replace that with either a multi-melta or assault cannon, and it even natively possesses the very handy Cerberus Launcher; a Strength 4 AP6 Large Blast isn't amazing by any means, but the fact that it has Blind can make it incredibly useful against certain armies such as Necrons. On that note, the Cerberus Launcher used to be a pitiful Strength 2 and AP- meaning that it not only obviously gained a massive buff but can now more put a dent into light or medium infantry units while still retaining the utility of the Blind rule. It even possesses the ability to Scout regardless of whether it is ferrying one of the titular squads, while another awesome addition to the core Land Speeder rules is that enemies who scatter when Deep Striking within 12" of it roll double the number of dice to determine exactly how far they move off target. This makes it so much more likely that an opposing unit won't land anywhere near where their controlling player intended, while the chances of mishap similarly increase. While the "balancing factor" that stops it from being an auto-take over the standard Land Speeder still remains - the Open-Topped classification which is a potentially major issue in 7th Edition with Template weapons - it otherwise received two massive boosts with the latest codex, namely the increase to Ballistic Skill 4 that its sibling unit shares as well as making it a fully-fledged Fast Attack choice on its own. The latter might seem trivial at first but one need only remember that you can take a Land Speeder Storm equipped with a Multi-Melta for the same exact cost as a similarly equipped Attack Bike and crucially gain the Scout rule, making it an even deadlier suicidal anti-tank unit. The fact that it is also a transport for the awesome Scouts makes it a fantastic addition to any Space Marine army, albeit one that isn't necessary by any means. As an aside, the Land Speeder Storm managed to drop by five points and even saw a five point price reduction to its Assault Cannon option. Value overload imminent!

Land Speeders - Much like their more specialized sibling in the aptly named Storm, Land Speeders saw a handy five point price reduction with the latest codex to their base cost, as well as some minor adjustments to their individual upgrade costs; most of these dropped by five to ten points, the notable exception being the Typhoon Missile Launcher which remained unchanged. This leads to Land Speeders being quite a bit cheaper overall, especially if you fielded them with Assault Cannons, while the unit itself gained a hefty bonus for fielding them in squadrons of three models; a 6" bonus to their Flat Out moves is pretty darned useful as you never know when it could be the difference between capturing an objective or getting Linebreaker at a pivotal moment. This was already a good harassment unit that was made even more valuable by the addition of scoring capabilities that all (or most) models now benefit from, making their zippy nature all the more welcome. Generally speaking Land Speeders tend not to be a major part of competitive list-building given how incredibly fragile they are, but their super low cost and great firepower for a fast skimmer means you can generally find a use for them in most lists. 

Rhino - I'll keep this one as short as possible given that much of what makes this a different unit altogether to that which I reviewed in 6th Edition is down to its place in the Battle Company conjoined formation, something which I will address later. For now, there are two major changes to the Rhino itself; the first of these is that it can be taken as an individual Fast Attack slot and thus easily gifted to other units in the codex - though it still can't ferry anything that is Bulky or larger - while the second is that it gains the Objective Secured special rule if you purchase it as a Dedicated Transport for a Troops choice. Rhinos have traditionally been incredible value for points in ways that many players generally don't quite understand seeing as they don't offer any kind of traditional damage output, the fact that they ferry a medium-ranged army across the field, are decently survivable by transport standards and simply protect a given unit making them instantly worth every point of their base cost. While lots of Space Marine players seem to lament their Rhinos "not accomplishing anything in a game", veterans fully understand that the protection and mobility offered by a Rhino for an army such as Space Marines is invaluable, especially given the tricks you can pull off with Tank Shock and the fact that it now has Objective Secured in certain circumstances. If you don't want to use Drop Pods and your army is built around medium range engagements as Space Marine lists typically are, this is still the premier choice for much of the army. It bears mentioning that a number of vehicle wargear options did decrease in price, but for a Rhino this generally doesn't matter.

Razorback - Much like with the Rhino, a lot of what makes a Razorback so much better than it was in 6th Edition is how it plays into the Gladius detachment, though unlike the Rhino I would definitely say the "free" nature of these in the Battle Company is a much more needed buff. I've never really been a fan of Razorbacks as the loss of fire points, the reduced transport capacity, the average mobility for a transport, the mediocre firepower and significantly increased cost over a Rhino make it an oddball choice that never quite seems to stick to a given role and do well with it. I appreciate that they are a good unit, just one that I don't feel is anywhere near as worthwhile overall as a Rhino for the most part. You also aren't likely to field these by themselves in the Fast Attack slot as you can find much more efficient sources of firepower elsewhere, but the option is appreciated nonetheless.

Drop Pod - You know it, you love it. 7th Edition provided a gamut of positive changes to the Drop Pod, the first of which was the removal of the silly "only half of the units in the army can start the game in reserve" rule, instantly making null deployment Drop Pod-based armies fully functional once more. Add to that the potential to land on an objective and capture it, effectively locking it down permanently if was purchased for a Troops choice in a Combined Arms or Allied detachment given that it then gains Objective Secured, and you have one heck of a transport that other non-Imperial armies could only dream of using. Of course, the other major - and somewhat controversial - change that Drop Pods saw in 7th Edition was the switch to being both a Fast Attack slot and a potential Dedicated Transport option, thus allowing units that normally wouldn't be able to crew them a chance at riding down to the earth in style. This opens up certain abusive combinations with the main culprits being Devastator Centurions and allied units, but generally speaking I really like the added flexibility this adds to list-building and exemplifies everything I love about this current Space Marine codex; you can pull off almost any build you want and have a competitive, fun time with it. Getting back on topic, Drop Pods are still as amazing as ever and it is rare to see a competitive Space Marine or even Forces of the Imperium list without at least one. 

Stormtalon Gunship - If you for whatever reason think the Stormtalon is merely decent or unimpressive, do yourself a favor and realize that this is one of the strongest flyers any Adeptus Astartes codex has access to and I'm ashamed to see so few people acknowledge that. For a smidge under 120 points you get a flyer with both a twin-linked assault cannon and a twin-linked skyhammer missile launcher, outputting four Strengh 6 AP4 Rending shots at 24" and three Strength 7 AP4 shots at 48", all with re-rolls to-hit at Ballistic Skill 4 or Ballistic Skill 5 against air and ground units respectively. It is fragile as you would expect but even with just two hull points its average AV 11/11/11 facings make it tougher to deal with than a huge number of other flyers in the game, especially as new rule it essentially gained for free in the new codex gives it a +1 bonus to any Jink saves it makes for a tasty 3+ total Jink save. This same added rule also allows it to move an extra 6" when going Flat Out while Zooming, while its Strafing Run is still as awesome as ever to allow it to hunt ground targets. The loss of the Escort Craft rule does reduce its potential uses but what we got instead - especially if you factor in the significant price reductions to all of its weapon upgrades - more than makes up for it, making an already great unit that much better. Its guns are perfectly suited to taking out other flyers and are incredibly accurate given that they are all twin-linked, while its general uses against other targets are obvious given that awesome Strafing Run rule. It is absurdly cheap for what it does compared to many other flyers in the game and I really just cannot recommend it enough for a Space Marine army; if you want some anti-air coverage from the Space Marine codex, this is your best bet by far.

Thank you all for reading this article, I hope you enjoyed it! I've been meaning to get this done for a while but I've had a very....busy couple of weeks, meaning blog-time is once again on the back burner. I'll endeavor to get another post out before Tuesday as from then on Imperator Guides will be going dark for at least a few weeks while I enjoy the unbelievable amount of awesome video games dropping in November, while also working on my own Betrayal at Calth set. I'll not yet spoil which Legion I'm doing, but suffice it to say that while I am saving my Thousand Sons for when they get the Forge World treatment, they will have a counter-part Legion waiting for them when that day arrives. So long and have a nice day!


  1. I think for the stormtalon tgat zkyhammer missiles don't get re-rolls or am I mistaken? I thought only the heavy bolters, assault cannon and lascannon had twin-link options? Great article though and i aporeciated the insight on scout bikers in particular. Good one matey :)

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  3. Very nice overview!

    I love the landspeeder storm and almost always take one in my White Scars army. The ability to move 30" per turn with an objective secured skimmer is amazing in maelstrom missions.
    The Cerberus launcher is also great for dealing with horde armies such as Orks or Guard.