SM Bike Tactica I: What you need to know about bikers
I have always been a fan of Space Marine Bikes. Fast, tough and powerful. That’s what drew me to the marines in the first place. Needless to say I was astounded to find that the community as a whole considered bikes useless. Now I will concede that in 3rd ed, they were not particularly impressive unless you were a White Scar (Indexus Astares 1). But with the release of 4th edition Space Marine bikers have become not only a force to be reckoned with. In this article we will look at what bikes mean to characters as well as each of the bike types and the traight “Be swift as the wind”.
What bikes mean to Characters
The point I am going to start with is all impotant for this section. It deals with the reason people do not like to put bikes onto Characters so read it very carefully.
In 3rd edition, a character on a bike was required to have one hand free to drive the bike. This rule was stated in the bike and jetbike section of the 3rd edition rulebook. What this meant was that most characters had to do without the extra attack from a close combat weapon if they wanted to ride a bike.
This is not the case in 4th edition.
Biker and Jet bike rules no longer incorporate this. Aside from the point cost, there is no negative to mounting your precious HQ on a bike.
Now as to whether you should use a bike, I definitely believe so. I am sure that anyone who has played Warhammer 40k will agree that being able to move 12” as apposed to 6” is a fantastic ability. Just look how popular assault squads are. So you ask why not take a jump pack for 10 points cheaper?
While a jump pack lets you go over terrain effectively ignoring it, there are many things you get from a bike that a jump pack just can not offer. Consider the following:
24” speed boost in movement phase, turns normal armor save invulnerable.
+1 toughness, although not for the purposes of auto killing.
TL bike mounted bolter. Mounting on bike removes Rapid Fire negatives.
For starters the 24” Boost allows a second turn charge. Now that the disembarkation rules have been scaled back, quick assault methods are ever so precious. It also comes pre-packed with the invulnerable save to keep your character alive. Im sure I don’t have to spell out that a librarian on a bike in artificer armor (now he has a 2+ invulnerable save) has about as good a chance as you can get in this game of surviving. Add in the other defensive bonuses he has or equipment he could be given and smile when you calculate the odds. I have heard many people say that the inability of the model to shoot or assault after boosting invalidates it as a tactic. Well, to those people I say that had you moved normally you most likely would not have gotten a shot anyways. Boosts are most used on the first or second turn of the game where these units are just to far from the enemy to do anything, or at the end of the game to grab table quarters or mission objectives. So I get there faster, putting my guys to use a turn or two earlier then otherwise AND I have an invulnerable save for the one turn I am a sitting duck. Well, better a sitting duck with a big shield then a sitting duck buck naked.
Any character with a bike adds +1 to their toughness value. I know I know, what’s +1 right? Well, it’s a lot. Especially since we are dealing with 6 sided dice here. Consider: a marine is tough; the majority of armies need a 5+ (33% chance) to wound a marine in close combat (due to a strength of 3). When you add the +1 toughness ALL armies have this less then effective chance of wounding you in close combat (even other marines!). In addition those who have strength of three now need a 6+(16.5% chance) to wound! I am sure at this point you are coming to appreciate what a boon a bike can be to a character.
As to the TL bolter, it’s fantastic. You see the fact that it is TL is not so important. It is nice, especially for the bike squads but with a ballistic skill of 5 your character doesn’t really need it. What is especially good is the fact that regardless of whether you want to move or assault or both you may fire the bolter in either of its modes, once at 24” or twice at 12” range. Normally firing rapid fire weapons stops you from assaulting on the same turn. Moving, by the same token, keeps you from firing at 24” range. Both of these restrictions are removed so you can suddenly move 12” fire into a squad twice and then assault it. You must remember of course that before that one round (yes that was all done in one round) you will be able to fire on this squad with the 24” mode all the while moving forwards. The only exception to this is boosting, as it does not allow you to shoot or assault afterwards.
Ah the bike squad, the most underrated conveyance of the Emperor’s wrath. We have already gone over the benefits of a bike and they apply to these units to. They come outfitted with frag grenades and unfortunately lack any way to give them the extra attack for having 2 close combat weapons.
Now because of the boost ability obviously they make a great entourage for a character. I do this in nearly every game I play and love to give my sergeant a power weapon, bolt pistol (strictly for the extra attack) and a combat shield (5+ invulnerable save for 5 points, gimme!) note he has terminator honors in order to allow him access to this equipment in the first place. In addition I like to outfit 2 of the bikers with melta guns. The short range of the melta gun is nearly meaningless with the maneuverability of the bikes and it is an assault weapon ( as opposed to the plasma gun) so will not stop you from assaulting your enemy. This combo works great against transports, blow it up within 6” with the melta guns and then charge the squad it disgorges. I am sure that is why they come with frag grenades, it all works to nicely together otherwise. Flamers also work fantastically on bikes as you can really get to that sweet spot where you’ll engulf the most models.
The most common complaint I hear is that they are expensive. While they are not cheap costing a little more then double a standard marine they are more then worth it. They last longer, move faster, shoot more and assault better (they come with frag grenades, remember) then a normal marine. You will be the final judge but in my opinion they are well worth the points and I urge you to give them a fair trial.
The bike squads little brother. With an armor save one worse then standard bikers and the scout ability to make a free move before the game begins for nearly a 1/3 drop in points is well worth it. Needless to say that the lower armor save does have a greater effect here then on normal scouts. The fact that between the free scout move and the 24” boost these will in all likely hood be well ahead of the rest of your army. Then again, with a 2 turn charging range of 54” (scout + boost + move + assault) you can have them in the most unlikely places. It’s a good thing it is a little easier to loose them due to their lower point value as the 4+ invulnerable they get from boosting just wont save them most of the time. That’s not to say they wont make it, but plan on loosing a couple if you do use them.
Just like standard bike squads they have the option to be upgraded with melta bombs on the cheap. This makes them even more useful in reaching out and touching someone.
Attack Bikes in standard Bike Squads
Fantastic, amazing, stupendous. Adding these bad boys to your bike squads really gets that extra firepower you need. An extra TL bolter and heavy weapon, not to mention 2 more attacks on the charge. Do not underestimate 7 TL bike mounted bolters and a heavy bolter. That is maneuverable enough and more then enough firepower to take out a squad. By the same token a bike squad containing 2 melta guns and a multi melta will slice through vehicles like a knife through hot butter. Considering how most people in general like Attack bikes I am not going to spend more time on them. The community as a whole knows the value of them and I am sure that says more then my tactica ever will.
Attack bikes in squadrons or alone.
Be very careful here. After just saying the community likes attack bikes I am going to tell you not to use them in squadrons or alone. The reasons being they no longer have a 2+ save. They have been given a second wound but that wont help them if they are auto killed. This will be the case nearly every time you play, I assure you. At least if they are in a squad you have the squad as protection. 1 – 3 of these will die horribly and are too expensive to leave so vulnerable. I love them, but getting them killed is not the idea here. If you need those particular weapons and just want one unit, go with a speeder (and look for my upcoming speeder tactica!) it will survive better all by itself.
The Traight “Be Swift As The Wind”
This section is strictly to inform you that ANY bikers can be used as elites or as troops. Bike squadrons, scout bike squadrons and attack bike squadrons. This info can be found on the GW forum in an interview with one of the developers.
Because bikes are pricey if you want a large bike squad I would recommend using a scout squad (not a scout bike squadron) as your second troop choice. Reason being that if you spend to many points on 2 squads, your army will be short on its headcount and will not have enough targets to present.
As to the veteran squads, they are fantastic. You MUST pay for the furious charge ability but this is truly a boon.
I could have spent this time telling you what to do with your bikes as well as what to put on them. The reason I did not do this is because there are still far to many people who do not understand that bikes are a fantastic troop. Look for my next article; SM Bike Tactica II: What to do with bikes. I will cover various strategies and tactics that your new found friend the bike squad excels at.