Sergeant Rorik scanned the shadows of the woods that lay before his squad, his keen gaze searching for the genestealers that were cautiously sneaking up on them between the tree trunks.
When the first silhouettes showed, his squad readied their boltguns. “Steady…” he advised them, still waiting for the genestealers to decide on their course of action. As there were no reinforcements to be seen nearby, the Space Marines must have appeared to be an easy prey – the trap was all set, and Rorik wasn’t going to blow it by setting it off prematurely.
Then the genestealers leaped forward and came charging out of the shrubs’ protection. “Now!” Rorik exclaimed, and his squad turned and ran up the slope behind them, genestealers slowly catching up. “Acknowledged”, a voice answered to Rorik via comm, and the sergeant nodded contentedly.
The genestealers had almost reached them now, but the ridge was only a few more paces. As soon as the superhumans reached it they went to the ground on the other side, seeing their brethren in the landspeeders approach at full speed as planned.
As soon as the first genestealer’s head came into sight the enemy was met with a hail of heavy bolter fire, tearing through their carapace hide, spraying their insides into the air and across the rocks and killing them by the dozen. Some of the vile creatures turned for the woods, but it was too late.
Sergeant Rorik waved a powerarmored glove as a greeting to the landspeeders that sped past above his head, and he casually walked the few steps back to the ridge to glance over it and watch as the speeders pursued the genestealers on their pathetic attempt to escape.
It was over as quickly as it had begun. Soon the landspeeders’ guns went silent, and the torn bodies strewn about the slope were the only sign of the bloodbath that had occurred. Only a single Tyranid had reached the woods but it didn’t save him. The tree trunks around him were broken, branches blown off, wooden splinters all around the genestealer’s body proved that he had been safe from the bolters. But the torch marks on the plants and his burnt flesh gave testimony to how he had met his end nonetheless.
None had survived the massacre, made possible by the fast-moving heavy fire support of the Nebula Raiders’ highly-revered landspeeders. The gunboats had done it again, secured another victory for humanity…
Landspeeders are some of the most powerful units in the Space Marines’ arsenal. Toting an amazing amount of heavy weaponry for few points and being some of the most mobile weapon platforms in the entire game, the landspeeder can really put the hurt on any enemy force.
Though fast and furious, the landspeeder’s weakness is its fragility. This tactica teaches how to employ landspeeders to work around that weakness and employ them to best effect.
I have always liked landspeeders very much, personally. In fifth edition they have become quite effective on the battle-fields too, and I have played battles with almost any number of them – from none to nine.
Interestingly enough, the order of doing so was exactly that listed: I started out with none, added some, and continually added more until I finally reached the possible maximum. The reason for this is the surprising performance of landspeeders, which turned out to be very effective and devastating.
I play landspeeders out of personal liking (just love anything that’s fast), fluff reasons (they’re my chapter’s most prominent unit), and even points efficiency. I recommend landspeeders for Space Marines in every list, because they are a very good complement to almost any army build.
I will talk about the different landspeeder builds and their primary functions first. Then I will introduce some secondary uses for landspeeders.
[Note that this tactica is based on the landspeeder in Codex: Space Marines, not other codices. A lot of the data provided here may prove valuable for landspeeders or even generally skimmers in other codices nonetheless.
Also note that this tactica does not cover the landspeeder storm transport. If you ignore the transport capacity, anything listed below applies to the landspeeder storm too, but there are a lot of differences. Open-topped further adds to the speeder's fragility, scout-BS makes it little reliable, scout move allows for a first turn strike or outflanking. Moreover, the landspeeder storm needs a fast attack slot on its own and can not be squadroned. A breakdown of the landspeeder storm by the author is to be found here.]
Every landspeeder comes with either a heavy bolter, heavy flamer, or multi-melta. It may then choose to add a heavy bolter, heavy flamer, multi-melta, assault cannon, or typhoon missile launchers, but need not take any of these options.
To be effective, the landspeeder should be versatile, yet be able to use its weaponry to full effect no matter the mission, and have the potential to deliver a serious punch. The most common choices usually are the torando-pattern (with either two heavy bolters, heavy bolter and assault cannon, two multi-meltas, or multi-melta and heavy flamer), the typhoon-pattern (usually with heavy bolter and typhoon missile launchers) and the simple multi-melta landspeeder.
I shall discuss these choices and their effectiveness in a little more detail…
This build is cheap and simple, designed for one task: tank hunting. It can be a “one-hit wonder”, but unfortunately it only has a single shot to deliver that hit, penetrate and do serious damage. Therefore it needs to be fielded in multiples for reliability. It is also very close-ranged, a vulnerability that tends to cause it to be taken out after its first attempt to fulfill its mission.
This build is the same as the above, except that it isn’t as cheap. The potential of two shots may seem very appealing, but since movement is usually required to get into melta-range of the target, the actual opportunity to shoot both multi-meltas is very rarely given. Since this landspeeder is equally vulnerable due to its low effective range, making this “suicide” unit more expensive than it needs to be is not considered wise by the author.
Multi-Melta and Heavy Flamer
This is a versatile landspeeder often used in all-comers lists. It has both: devastating infantry and vehicle killing potential. Its downside is that usually only one of its guns is effective at any given task, even if the landspeeder did not move far and could use both. Its low range makes it very vulnerable.
Heavy Bolter and Assault Cannon
The classical tornado-pattern is a very versatile build, able to kill lots of infantry or tanks of any kind, and is a very effective at killing squadrons of light vehicles like enemy landspeeders, sentinels, etc. Unfortunately it is very expensive and the assault cannon’s range is decent but yet nothing that could be considered a safe distance.
Two Heavy Bolters
A very cheap and very effective infantry killer that can also take on light vehicles. Its guns’ range ensures that it needs not move so far that it mustn’t shoot both of its weapons and at the same time keeps it out of range of most handguns and other retaliation fire.
Heavy Bolter and Typhoon Missile Launcher
Rivaled in cost only by a multi-melta typhoon speeder (which isn’t very sensible), this build is the most formidable of them all due to a variety of reasons that are seldomly accounted for.
Not only does it feature superior range to all other landspeeder builds and is the best MEQ, light vehicle, and MC killer among them. It is also the only one that can use a defensive weapon: a typhoon may move 12″, fire its secondary gun as its primary weapon, and still chip in some frag missiles just in case. It is a very flexible build, able to very effectively take on anything but the heaviest armor. The typhoon launchers being mounted above the hull enables them to be fired over cover or other landspeeders’ hulls unobscured, which has often been an issue in the author’s battles. (“But I get a cover save.” – “I don’t think so. Take the laser pointer and check the launchers’ line of sight, mate…”)
The author recommends the use of typhoon landspeeders above all others. The double-heavy bolters tornado and the simple multi-melta or heavy flamer landspeeders have the potential to be very effective units too, depending on the force they are supposed to complement.
THE SPIRIT OF LANDSPEEDER USE
Landspeeders are high output, low input units. They deal a great amount of firepower, but their big -and only- weakness is their fragility. Landspeeders thus need to be employed in a way that allows for delivering their firepower while overcoming or at least coping for their vulnerability. There are three ways to go about this:
- The Gandalf-way: “keep it hidden, keep it safe”. Stay in cover and as far away from the enemy as possible, avoiding most enemy fire entirely.
- The Roadrunner-way: “meep, meep”! Move flat out, gaining a cover save and limited protection from close combat hits.
- The Aragorn-way: “for Frodo”! Don’t bother about keeping it alive, just charge ahead and strike the enemy hard before it can hit back.
Of all these, the Gandalf-way is the best for keeping the landspeeders alive, despite often being conceived as an unfitting approach for fast-moving firing platforms. While the Aragorn-way has the most potential to deliver really decisive blows, the Roadrunner-way may seem little appealing as no weapons can be fired and thus no damage done. But this should be more of a temporary solution than a tactical approach anyhow, and it serves well in conjunction with some dirty tricks.
To minimize the danger of firepower redundancy, it is advisable to use landspeeders in a single fast attack slot each as long as they are available. They will each be able to pick their own target -or the same, if they so wish- while they move independently (good for dirty tricks) and need to be targeted separately.
But using them in squadrons is equally viable. Unfortunately heavy firepower from a single unit is often able to hurt an entire squadron while they could otherwise only target a single landspeeder at a time, and landspeeders that would normally only be immobilized are destroyed. Yet squadrons can claim cover more easily (only one landspeeder out of two being obscured secures saves for both) and are harder to take out entirely, giving away less kill points.
Landspeeders should be assigned a battlefield role and used and equipped in a way to best suit it. The following two tasks are the most common primary missions for landspeeders and fulfilled sufficiently well by them:
- Fire Support: the landspeeder lays down a constant hail of fire, serving as an assistant unit to the main force.
- Line Breaking: the landspeeder spearheads the assault and tries to take out important enemy targets very early.
The author is not a fan of using landspeeders for line breaking purposes and recommends using landspeeders for fire support, but will discuss both uses nonetheless.
This tactic is pretty much self-explanatory: shoot the enemy turn after turn…
- EQUIPMENT: a fire support landspeeder should be far-ranged, the double-heavy bolters tornado or the heavy bolter typhoon landspeeders serve this purpose best.
- HANDLING: in a fire support role landspeeders should be used in the Gandalf-way. The Roadrunner-way can be used for emergency redeployment or for dirty tricks. Note that it is important to move your landspeeder every turn, even if it is only for the fraction of an inch. Any surprise assaults (outflankers and such) will only hit on a 4+ in close combat instead of automatically.
- RESERVES: reserving fire support speeders is a very viable approach, ensuring they have at least one turn of shooting before they can be targeted themselves, and enabling them to position themselves ideally after the enemy has already committed its force to certain areas of the battle-field. Deep-striking fire support landspeeders is not advisable, though.
- SQUADRONS: using entire squadrons of fire support landspeeder works very well if multiple slots are unavailable.
- ARMY TYPE: fire support landspeeders benefit any army but are best used in addition to balanced forces or forces that are in desperate need of high-output and/or long-ranged firepower.
Line Breaking enables landspeeders to deal decisive blows but involves a high risk of losing the unit. More often than not this approach leads to a suicide trade-off, attacking and hopefully seriously damaging or taking out a more expensive or valuable enemy target.
- EQUIPMENT: devastating close-ranged weaponry suits this approach best. The simple multi-melta (for tank hunting) or heavy flamer (for infantry hunting) are best used with this tactic.
- HANDLING: line breaker landspeeders should be used the Roadrunner-way until they are able to reach their target the Aragorn-way and deliver their deadly load. These units rarely survive to be used for dirty tricks later on.
- RESERVES: reserving line-breaker units is generally not advisable as you will want to deliver your blow as soon as possible. But since landspeeders in fifth edition may still fire a weapon upon having deep-struck, deep-striking multi-melta landspeeders can be very viable, not giving away where it will strike until it is too late, while minimizing the risk of being destroyed before taking its shot, and being able to easily reach even hidden targets blocked from line of sight in the enemy’s deployment zone. Since the heavy flamer greatly depends on perfect placement, deep-striking it does not seem very effective due to possible scatter.
- SQUADRONS: the author does not recommend squadroning line breaker landspeeders. Squadrons of two will work in dire situations, but it is best if each of these suicide units can pick its own target and if each of them has to be targeted by the enemy on their own.
- ARMY TYPE: line breaker landspeeders are best used to fill niches and complement forces that have trouble at very specific tasks such as a close combat force lacking tank hunting capability (multi-melta landspeeders) or a stationary gunline force unable to dislodge enemy troops from cover at a distance (heavy flamer landspeeders).
Landspeeders come in handy in various scenarios and can often be used in more than one way to surprise or at least annoy the opponent. A handful of common dirty tricks are at the Space Marine commander’s disposal, and the author has decided include some of them in this tactica.
These dirty tricks become especially attractive once your speeders have suffered shaken damage results or have had their weapons destroyed.
Landspeeders can be positioned in front of other landspeeders in the Roadrunner-way. They will count as being obscured because of having moved fast, while they also confer a cover save to the landspeeder they are shielding, which still be able to use its guns. This is especially effective when using a single shaken landspeeder to protect a squadron of two, as both gain the cover save as soon as one is obscured.
Being able to move very far and able to ignore enemy units and terrain in their way landspeeders are perfect for contesting objectives. Move into position on turn four, ready to block an enemy objective on turn five by using the Roadrunner-way to get within 3″ of the objective.
If your opponent went first, a single landspeeder suffices entirely. If you went first yourself, you may want to send two so that eventually at least one of them will survive your opponent’s attempts to wipe it away. With a cover save and being hit only on sixes in close combat, landspeeders can take considerable punishment before going down. This also draws fire away from your precious troops who will -at this stage of the game- have probably already been dangerously decimated.
If the game does go on, the speeders should not stay in position but instead use the Roadrunner-way again to contest another objective or move into safety while another speeder moves flat out to contest the objective, so that the protective measures are sustained. This is what the author calls the “merry-go-round” of objective denial and has been illustrated here.
Landspeeders can be used to shield off more important units. This is best done in the Roadrunner-way in order to claim a cover save and be safe in close combat. This dirty tricks unfolds its full potential if the landspeeders face parallelly to the direction of the wall they are building in order to block as much space as possible. Lining them up just a little less than 3″ apart will force even the smallest units to stay put or move around them, having a base diameter of 1″ and being forced to stay away at least 1″ from each of the speeders. Larger spacing may be used when confronting models with larger bases. [Note that even landspeeders in a squadron may be up to 4" apart from one another.]
This procedure creates a transparent shield: your units can draw an unobscured line of sight beneath your speeders while the enemy is deprived of the ability to close in with the protected unit(s). As soon as the enemy decides to shoot at or assault your landspeeders it is too late for them to move any closer to your protected units or assault them even if they manage to blow a hole into the wall. This is best used with cheap landspeeders, though any will do. Dedicated close combat units can suffer serious delays, as for example Eldar banshees or Tyranid genestealers are unlikely to breach the wall but are vulnerable to return fire. Same goes for Space Marine dreadnoughts, Tyranid carnifexes, Eldar wraithlords and other beasts that are easy to block off and forced to stay out of the safety of close combat for another turn, killing one landspeeder at maximum but being prone to return fire.
Cage of Skimmers
This dirty trick is a variation of the protective wall that is especially effective against transports or vehicles with dangerous hull-mounted weapons that thus have a very limited firing arc, though it requires the use of at least four speeders. Boxing those vehicles in by putting a landspeeder on either side of them only 1″ away will force them to stay put, being unable to move, disembark passengers, or even only turn.
Once the shooting phase offers the chance of destroying the cage it is already too late for the caged unit to close in, disembark passengers, or face a vulnerable target. Tanks can attempt to ram through the cage, but -being skimmers- the speeders can evade and stop the attack on a 3+, and even if they are hit, the maximum strength is five (AV 14 tank, maximum movement of 1″ which does not confer any bonus) which has only a very small chance of actually hurting the speeder.
Caging in a land raider crusader with eight assault terminators and tying them down is a very nasty thing to do, even though the tank’s assault cannons will probably take out one of your precious vehicles.
Buy the flexible typhoon landspeeders, keep them far from the enemy and in cover, even if this seems like a waste of a mobile firing platform. Once the end of the game draws near or the speeder is shaken or has lost its guns, consider some of the secondary uses. This is the most effective way to field and use landspeeders to their full potential. A very potent unit that can definitely win games.
I hope this tactica proves helpful to some. Any comments and feedback are welcome!