„By the Dark Gods, what is this?“ Kerak inquired harshly in his low, mechanically-enhanced voice, listening tightly to the weak humming sound in his ear. “What, my Lord?” someone asked naively. The room fell silent immediately, heads turning toward the young cultist that had spoken out of turn.
After a brief moment of silence –the looks on everyone’s faces bearing testimony to their wondering what business this unworthy worm might have here among them– the man’s eyes widened in terror as Kerak’s hand shot forward to close around his neck. With his power-armored arm, Kerak slowly lifted the puny human from the ground, ignoring his victim’s choking and struggling until he abruptly snapped its neck with a quick turn of his wrist.
As the body dropped limply to the floor, Kerak met everyone’s gazes, then bellowed: “Tell me what it is!”, and a sudden hectic rush filled the room as everyone hurried towards a viewpoint or the bunker door.
The darkness of the night outside was lit by myriads of muzzle flashes as the defense guns starting firing in panic. The low hum had already increased to a full-grown roar as Kerak threw open the blast door sealing the bunker’s entrance. It was too late, the enemy was already upon them.
Kerak watched in disbelief as dozens of Space Marines on bikes raced in circles around the camp, taking turns darting through the center, bolters blazing, chainswords slashing left and right. One by one his underlings were mowed down, trying to train their guns on one bike that just raced past them as another was already charging out from the darkness behind them, shooting them unsuspectedly in the back.
Panic and confusion was everywhere and the camp was quickly overwhelmed. Hope returned to Kerak as he saw the searchlights of the reinforcements, illuminating the camp from afar as the line of armored transports rolled toward them from the neighboring strongpoint. He lifted his axe and shouted a savage cry of war that died down as quickly as it started when the darkness behind him lit up briefly to unveil an entire wing of Typhoon-pattern Landspeeders firing their missiles.
Only seconds later there were several detonations among the searchlights, enveloping them in balls of fire until –once again– darkness reigned. Those that had survived the wrecking of their transport vehicles struggled towards the skirmish on foot and were greeted by a battery of heavy bolters and frag missiles tearing them apart.
Kerak stood abondoned, before him the evidence of a respectable bloodshed – the first he had ever witnessed without having a part in. “You have failed me, Kerak...” a menacing voice echoed inside his mind...
Speed prevails on every battlefield, especially on those of 5th edition Warhammer 40.000. The focus of the game has shifted from hacking, slashing, and shooting, to moving, positioning, and dominating the battlefield. In theory, two thirds of all encounters could be won without firing a single shot, having only a single model survive the game.
Ever since mobility has become key, the superior mobility of bike armies makes them most competitive despite being fragile and mediocre fighters.
As space marine bike armies continue to become increasingly popular, more and more players of Warhammer 40.000 start to collect white scars, ravenwing, or successor chapters –official ones or homegrown– each day. This bears testimony to the fact that these armies are very competitive, and I welcome that development as well as every player joining in.
On the same account, the development worries me. Not only because opponents adapt to bike armies as they cease to be rare and special, but for the greatest part because inexperienced players often fail at using such armies successfully and thereby compromise their reputation. Hopefully, this tactica will help.
I have formerly played a variety of space marine builds. Gunline, drop pods, mechanized, and bikes. Since 5th edition, I have been playing my bike army almost exclusively and collected a reasonable amount of experience with them.
And when I was overwhelmed by requests from several new bike army players to give them advice, I soon realized that I am unable to spare the time to tutor each of them individually. Thus I have decided to write this tactica to cover at least the most basic ideas about space marine bike armies and help new players establish themselves.
Note that this tactica was devised in regards to armies based on the rules of Codex: Space Marines. Bike armies using Codex: Dark Angels as well as fast armies using entirely different codices may benefit from this tactica as well, but probably to limited extent.
Feel free to contact me with any questions that the tactica fails to answer. And of course I will help you out with your army lists. Just remember that I rarely find the time to skim through the army lists at random, so be sure to drop me a note in case you require my aid.
In the meantime: here are the results of my effort to write Tactica: Space Marine Bike Armies. Read, learn, and enjoy!
Divide et Impera
The spirit of bike armies is that of all swift armies: divide et impera (latin), divide and conquer. This is the foremost key to success.
Nearly all swift armies share the same mechanics: they are few, they are fragile, they are neither the best shooters nor the best assaulters; and if they fail to implement their superior mobility to cope for their shortcomings and gain a decisive advantage they are lost. This is true for space marine bike armies to full extent. Because of their drawbacks, bike armies can not charge the enemy head-on like other space marine builds.* They are too quickly outnumbered, outspecialized, and -in the end- overwhelmed.
Employing their inherent speed, though, bike armies can –while being globally inferior– locally outnumber an enemy force, or gain local superiority in either firepower or assault strength. In order to be successful, bike armies must force the opposing army to spread out, isolate splinter forces that can not be supported in time, and use their superior mobility to prey on that target with their entire army, pulling it together to pounce on the target and withdraw and disperse before the enemy can react.
*) Many inexperienced players view bikes as fast-moving tactical marines and play accordingly. This is the most prominent reason for them ending up disappointed. The approach may work against certain list builds (mostly Tau or Imperial Guard gunlines) where the fast head-on charge happens to strike right at the enemy's greatest vulnerability, but generally it will fail.
In order to play them successfully, commanders must realize that bikes are not mere delivery systems for their marines, but instead an entirely different sort of unit with its very own physics.
Charge the Long-ranged, Withdraw from the Short-ranged
The second pillar of the bike armies' spirit is an extended version of the 'shoot the assaulters, assault the shooters'-principle.
Space marine armies in particular are all-rounders. Because their units are decently trained in all variants of warfare, they can hold their own in a variety of situations. And yet we pay the price in points for our well-trained personnel and are thus often ountnumbered and outspecialized. Space marine armies can overcome this drawback with their flexibility: while other armies are forced to take the course of action that benefits them the most, space marine armies can take that course of action that benefits their opponent the least. Shoot the assaulters, assault the shooters.
For bike armies and their awesome mobility, this principle must be extended. To a greater extent than their brethren on foot, space marines on bikes can not only decide how to fight, but also when, where, and what to fight. With the ability to close in or retreat at will, bike armies dictate the course of the game. You decide where to strike and when to strike - and for the most part also where and when to be struck. Bike armies can get close-up and personal with long-ranged enemy forces, or stay at a distance and evade short-ranged enemy forces. This ability, above all, makes bike armies competitive.
Once you have grown to understand those two principles, knoweth that from this point on you carry within thyself the spirit of successful bike army warfare.
What has been said here is the very heart all knowledge about these armies, and could –in effect– be called Tactica: Space Marine Bike Armies in a nutshell. Everything else said within this player’s guide is derived from and founded on the two principles explained above.
What you need to know about space marine bikes.
Obstacles are the bane of speed. Terrain is the greatest and worst enemy of bike armies for two reasons.
The first reason is that every single time a bike squad makes a move into, inside, out of, or through terrain, it loses a sixth of its models on average. Unlucky rolling on your dangerous terrain tests has the potential to obliterate an entire formerly fully functional squadron. This should be avoided as often as possible.
The second reason is that bikes are not permitted to climb up to the higher levels of above-ground terrain features. Enemy fire support units hiding there can not be assaulted by bikes, and objectives at least two levels above ground can neither be contested nor claimed by them.
In order to prevail with a bike army, it requires some means of dislodging enemy units from cover as well as deal with enemy units and objectives above ground.
Beware of Deep-Strikers
Deep-striking units are able to make a sudden appearance just about anywhere on the battlefield and then act before you have a chance to react. This is generally very dangerous, but even more so for bike armies, as they are fragile and because deep-striking circumvents the bike armies’ greatest advantage: choosing when, where, what and how to fight.
The same considerations apply to other forms of surprise attacks such as space wolf scouts or ork kommandos with Snikrot to name but a few. Against all of these, bike armies need to at least attempt to apply protective countermeasures in order to prevail.
With the 5th edition Codex: Space Marine came the Combat Tactics special rule. A rule that –in combination with the And They Shall Know No Fear special rule– was highly revered among space marine commanders until they had to realize that it is only half as useful as it appears to be – to infantry, that is.
A fallback move of 2D6” averages at 7”, a consolidation move of D6” averages at 3.5”. If the consolidation move is used to pursue the retreating space marines, they end up with an enemy unit within 6” – the only regrouping restriction they are not permitted to ignore. Thus they are unable to regroup, fall back another 2D6” and are probably more or less out of the fight this turn. Bikes fall back 3D6”, averaging at 10.5”. Enough to stay away far enough from pursuing enemy units in order to automatically rally and act as normal, either turbo-boosting to the other side of the playing field or moving towards the pursuing unit, rapid-firing it, then assault the remains to kill it off.
Many players are worried about having so few models. And –granted– bike armies are fragile. But bikes are a lot more durable than most people think, and that extra point of toughness as well as the cover save are not to be underestimated.
The majority of weapons on the battlefield are S3-S6. Only heavy weapons have S7+ and kill bikes just as quickly as tactical marines. From those smaller guns, though, bikers are able to withstand a greater amount of punishment than space marines on foot. While S6 weapons are (compared to when shot at space marines on foot) only 80% effective against bikers, and S5 only 75%, small-arms fire from the most common handguns are only 66.7% (S4) or even 50% (S3) effective.
Lasguns require double the number of shots on average to kill a mounted space marine than they would need to kill a space marine on foot. This already makes up for the reduced numbers (about 64%) in bike armies, but there is an additional advantage. While bikes will take care not to go into terrain unless necessity forces them to, they carry the potential for one of the best cover saves in the game, activated simply by moving fast. This cover save can be rivaled by space marines on foot only in heavily fortified positions.
Combined with bikes being most adept at closing in quickly without being shot at very much, or disengaging quickly to avoid enemy fire or assault, all that makes bikes indeed a lot more durable than most people think or fear.
Do not bemoan the loss of a few bolters when switching from tactical marines to bike-mounted ones. You do not happen to lose any firepower, most curiously the exact opposite is true!
The first thing to note is that bikes have the Relentless special rule. This means they can always fire their weapons as if they had remained stationary. Bikers can shoot their bolters –even after moving up to 12”– up to the weapons’ maximum distance of a full 24”. This means that they will be able to make use of their bolters far more often and far more safely than marines on foot. Taking into account that bolters on bikes are also twin-linked, this greatly increases the output. Furthermore, bikes are permitted to assault even after rapid-firing their bolters, thus a bike squad –while having far fewer models than a tactical squad– will be able to whittle down an enemy unit more effectively before assaulting it, as five rapid-firing twin-linked bolters still deal more damage than ten bolt pistols.
The second thing to note is upgrade special weapons, of which bikers have twice as many as marines on foot. While tactical squads can never be specialized to an extent great enough to justify assigning them one specific battlefield role such as tank hunting, bike squads with two melta guns and one multi-melta can very well be considered such, much the same way as a bike squads with a heavy bolter and two flamers can be considered a specialized infantry hunting unit. These upgrade special weapons –flamers, melta guns, or plasma guns– do not replace the bike’s twin-linked bolters. Though only one weapon can be fired per rider mounted on the bike, this adds to the flexibility nonetheless. Why waste a melta gun shot at a unit of termagaunts if rapid-firing the twin-linked bolter will kill more of them? Why risk killing your own model with an unlucky plasma gun shot when shooting at Eldar guardians where the dangerous weapon does not really confer a considerable advantage? Why forgo firing just because the flamer is out of range?
Special weapons are also much more effective on bikes than on marines on foot. The greater moving distance enables flamer models to be deployed more effectively in order to cover more enemy models, it allows melta guns to close in more quickly, coming within effective melta range earlier, and it makes plasma guns Relentless, able to move and still take a shot up to its maximum range.
For all these reasons, bikes are very shooty armies, their firepower unrivaled by that of tactical squads.
BUILDING BIKER LISTS
Bike armies are armies that use (mainly) bike squadrons as Troops choices. If you have read all the way up to here without assuming or realizing this, I apologize for not making it quite clear from the beginning.
Since we want bikes as Troops, one of our HQ choices is pretty much fixed: we need a mounted captain for our army – either Kor’Sarro Khan of the white scars, Master of the Hunt, on his bike Moondraken, or a generic space marine captain mounted on a space marine bike. A very common question among new bike army players is whether to take Khan or not, and this issue shall be addressed here first.
Kor’Sarro Khan versus Generic Biker Captain
Personally I reommend using a generic mounted captain. Khan can be quite nasty as well, but he is hardly affordable at the lower points levels, especially because he almost requires a biker command squad in order to make best use of his potential, which will divert even more points from your Troops and fire support units.
- Khan comes with Furious Charge for his unit.
Nothing to argue about here, this is pure goodness. Especially in combination with a tooled-up biker command squad. Which is expensive, though, and thus only becomes increasingly interesting at high points levels.
- Khan comes with Hit&Run for his unit.
This is good as well, but it isn’t exactly as useful as seems to be. With assaults being very deadly and very quickly decided, it must be an especially tough combat if you are caught inside it for more than two assault phases. You rarely want to use Hit&Run at the end of your own assault phase so as to not be prone ranged attacks throughout your opponent’s turn, so you will still have to be in close combat at the end of your opponent’s assault phase to make use of this special rule – a long time for a fight, and those which do last this long you probably should have avoided getting into... It isn’t bad though.
- Khan enables a great part of your army to deploy via Outflanking.
For bike armies, however, this is not an advantage. Bike armies have few units and will arrive from reserves piecemeal. This is dangerous enough without the additional random factor of a third of the few units that arrive coming onto the board on the side opposite of where you want them to be.
Bikes can reach any point on the battlefield within two moves at the most, when coming in from reserves on their own table edge. Here you can choose which side of the board (left or right) to arrive on with all your units, not just two thirds of them on average. Here you can arrive along with your support units instead of being disconnected from them. Here you can’t as easily be blocked off the battlefield as compared to the short table edges, where the opponent can easily cause all your units attempting to enter from there to be automatically destroyed and then take on the rest of your units that arrive from the opposite side at range despite the purpose of your outflanking having been to get close. Also consider that bike units are not dedicated close combat units and do not necessarily want to be right in the enemy’s face – in contrary you will often want to avoid exactly that.
- Khan’s sword has a chance of inflicting Instant Death.
That makes his power sword less of a waste, but still not as effective as a relic blade. Apart from monstrous creatures which you should rather kill at range anyhow, the most multi-wound models are T4 and less, against which the relic blade is at least as effective as Khan’s blade. Keep in mind that the vast majority of targets will be single-wound, and the relic blade is far superior there. The relic blade even has the advantage of automatically inflicting Instant Death on swarms and other T3 multi-wound models, while having far better chances of damaging vehicles.
- Khan rids your army of awesome Combat Tactics.
This will require your squad leaders to be equipped with power fists just in case because they will be unable to flee combat on purpose. The fists are pretty much a waste as a sole defensive measure but not quite enough for a real offensive measure, making your bike squads much more expensive without conferring a considerable advantage. You will lose the ability to perform some nasty trickery, as detailed in Come And Get Me below.
- Khan comes with fixed equipment and costs a lot.
HQs are usually less for their points than you would get if you invested the points into other units. Since you are required to invest in at least one, though, you should equip it as much as necessary in order to be an effective unit, but also keep it as cheap as possible. A generic captain can be customized towards the need of your army (and take the awesome relic blade) and still be a smaller investment than Kor’Sarro Khan. Thus, especially at lower points levels, the generic captain is to be recommended based on this consideration alone.
A Captain’s Equipment
The space marine bike is mandatory, no argument there. On top of that, to make your captain an effective choice, he should be made a monster in the assault. This is easily done by purchasing a relic blade. Now he can go hunting on his own or with a squad: he will definitely be a beast in close combat, and I recommend this as a biker captain’s standard equipment.
Anything else is considered a bonus. Among these bonus items are primarily any of four things: artificer armor, combi-weapon, hellfire ammo, storm shield. Artificer armor makes him more survivable and helps with wound-allocation shenanigans detailed below. Combi-weapons make use of his high BS (so don’t take combi-flamers, give those to the sergeants) and in case of combi-plasmas even of his many wounds (you won’t have to fear killing yourself) and really enhance your firepower. Hellfire ammo on a Relentless twin-linked BS5 bolter is actually worth it as a points filler, not outrightly winning you games but definitely tipping the balance in your favor. And a storm shield –despite the captain already having his iron halo and 4+ invulnerable save– makes him even more survivable, especially against most instant-killing weapons like melta shots or MEQ power fists, well worth it if you plan on your captain doing a lot on his own without being attached to any squad.
Now that we have acquired the permission to take bike squads as Troops, we shall discuss how they are best equipped.
Bike Squad Loadout
First thing to add to a bike squad –always– is an attack bike. Compare it to two standard bikes: it can possibly suffer Instant Death (which is a threat to attack bike squadrons, but not to an attack bike within a bike squad as proper wound allocation will guarantee that the attack bike does not suffer hits from weapons able to inflict Instant Death), and it has one attack less on the charge, while it costs less and has far superior firepower, and can lose a wound without being reduced in effectiveness. Just like independent characters with power fists, single attack bikes or attack bike squadrons are vulnerable, but like a hidden power fist on a sergeant within a squad, an attack bike hidden in a bike squad is win. It adds much needed additional range to bike squad firepower, anti-infantry with the heavy bolter or anti-tank with the multi-melta.
Because bike squads can only be taken as Troops choices once the squad has a minimum of five models, the next thing to add is another bike. Three bikes standard, attack bike, additional bike – there is our minimum Troops size.
Third thing is what makes our bike squads more than just effective objective-grabbers: the upgrade special weapons. A bike squad should always be upgraded with two special weapons, because they enhance your bike squad’s effectiveness by much more than they increase its cost. Those upgrade weapons should be of the same type to maximize on specialization within your already flexible unit, so as to waste as little potential as possible at any task.
This is basically it. Anything on top of that is a bonus, and you should be sparse with those. An additional bike –or maybe two of them– are okay, but certainly not more. Bikes without upgrade weapons are nothing more than meat-shields for your important bikes, and you don’t need to many of those. Taking full bike squads is not a good idea, as those squads are far too big to handle effectively, or –if split into combat squads– too fragile and too ineffective because they lack the upgrade weapon density of five or six model bike squads.
If you have spare points, upgrading biker sergeants may not be a bad idea. Unfortunately, biker sergeants only have a bolt pistol to replace, thus can only take a single upgrade weapon. This can either be a power sword or fist, though these are expensive on your bikes who shouldn’t see combat with anything they require power fists against, and often these upgrades just make you tie a combat with heavy losses which you would rather break from with combat tactics. Other possible upgrades include combi-weapons – either one matching the upgrade weapons of the squad or a combi-flamer, which can be a viable choice for any bike squad.
Having discussed the mandatory choices, we can now move on to all the optional choices left for us to pick from to complete our bike army list, going through all the units in the codex successively.
- Flamer squads are clearly anti-infantry. Since they will be shooting weak targets, the bolters in there aren’t as useless as in other kinds of bike squads, and since they have to get close-up and personal to use their weapons, they are very likely to see close combat. For these reasons, flamer squads may by trend be a little larger, for example six or seven models, while this is by no means a necessity. The attack bike in flamer squads should keep the heavy bolter to suit the squad’s role best, while the sergeant –if upgraded at all– should receive either combi-flamer or power sword to fit the role of killing soft targets, but maybe even power fist if you insist.
- Melta squads are clearly anti-tank (or can double as anti-MC). They will have to get close in order to shoot, but as far as assaults go, these bikes will probably only initiate ones against a vehicle they shot but failed to kill. You may get assaulted in return, but this will likely be a combat you don’t want to be in – unless your opponent plays in your favor. Thus, melta squads have a tendency to become suicide units, and for this reason they should be kept small to minimize the loss. Of course the attack bike’s main gun should be upgraded to a multi-melta, doubling the squad’s anti-tank range and maximizing its effect. Sergeants may be upgraded with either combi-melta, combi-flamer, or a power fist for vehicle killing and self-defense.
- Plasma squads are fire support. Plasma weapons are expensive and dangerous, but Relentless plasma guns are very effective and have by far the greatest range among the upgrade weapons bike squads can choose from. They are also very flexible, able to deal with anything but the toughest vehicles: heavy infantry, monstrous creatures, light vehicles are all perfect targets. The attack bike should stick with the heavy bolter for mass output of the fire support squad, though the more expensive multi-melta is fine as well, shifting the squad’s focus by reducing its range and effectiveness against light and medium infantry, while increasing its effectiveness against heavy infantry and vehicles. Sergeants of plasma squads should be the last to get upgraded.
Remember that we want these units to suit our needs and meet certain requirements. We do not want to compromise our army by slowing it down with slow units or using units that can only deal damage close-up, because then we forgo the strengths of our army as explained before.
Foot-sloggers are worst. Deep-striking foot-sloggers are only little better, because despite being able to appear wherever they choose, they are close to stationary thereafter. Mechanized units are reasonably fast but not quite able to keep up with the speed of a bike army, while they can also quite easily be stripped of their mobility. Jump infantry is still not quick enough to compete with bikes, but at least they preserve their mobility down to the last man. Fast skimmers and other bikes are the kings of mobility, of course, and these are the units you should mainly look to include as support units to handicap your army the least.
Lacking mobility isn’t as much a problem if the unit can be used at extreme ranges and will be able to support the rest of your army no matter where it is. But units like drop pods are only effective close-up, and while they can get there fairly quickly, you will either have to leave them there to die on their own, or move your bikes in to support them, tying you down. Adding drop pods to a bike list is generally a bad idea, drop pods serve the purpose of a quick delivery system, but remember that bikes do not.
We start with additional HQs. HQs usually aren’t a good bargain, you are usually better off buying non-HQ units for the points. Unless you purchase an HQ that adds unique abilities to your army, enabling you to accomplish things you could otherwise not. And always keep in mind that we are talking about bike armies.
Over-expensive foot-slogger. Forget about him.
Expensive foot-slogger. I would not recommend using him.
Expensive foot-slogger without invulnerable save. Don’t take him.
Cheap unit, but a foot-slogger. Unless you really choose to include mechanized assault terminators don’t use him. And even if you do choose to use mechanized assault terminators in your bike army I would not recommend paying for Cassius as well.
Foot-slogger. Unless you really choose to include mechanized sternguard don’t use him. And even if you do use sternguard in your bike army I would not recommend paying for Kantor as well.
Expensive foot-slogger. I would not recommend using him.
Expensive. Unless you choose to use an assault squad don’t use him. And even if you do use an assault squad in your bie army I would not recommend paying for Shrike as well.
Expensive foot-slogger, though he can provide serious advantages to bike armies. For very melta- and flamer-heavy armies at very high points levels it can be a viable option to include Vulkan and lose Combat Tactics. Though even in this case he needs some kind of mechanized unit to ride with, effectively increasing his cost.
Inefficient foot-slogger. Forget about him.
Psychic powers are gaining popularity, many of the newer armies rely heavily on them. Means to block them –for example with the help of a psychic hood– are becoming increasingly important. For this reason the librarian is indeed a viable choice as a secondary HQ.
While other armies can use allies with unlimited range on their psychic hoods, in a bike army these foot-sloggers would be unable to keep up. A librarian on bike offsets the low range on his psychic hood, though the lack of an invulnerable save is a liability.
Additional equipment on a biker librarian is a waste of points. As far as psychic powers go, all of them are fine, though the popular Gate of Infinity power is not very useful and very dangerous for bike armies.
Of course you can attach a foot-slogging gating librarian to an otherwise not very mobile squad for use with a bike army. But remember that this will only make sense with close-ranged squads, squads that –because they will be close to the enemy– will still require support and therefore tamper with the freedom of your bikes.
Chaplains are a potent support HQ, but bike armies rarely include units worthy of this support. The exception would be a tooled-up command squad which will cost very much and make including a chaplain on top of that seem impossible without punching holes into your army somewhere else.
Thus, biker chaplains are not really a viable option in fifth edition. If you include a non-biker squad worthy of chaplain support (mechanized assault terminators, for example) you should have a look at Cassius.
Master of the Forge
A cheap support HQ, and its conversion beam is all the more awesome in combination with a Relentless bike.
And yet he requires a biker bodyguard which will not be able to accomplish anything at all at the ranges the forgemaster is effective at, and while his gun is unique, it accomplishes nothing which could not be done by other means.
Thus he is not a very viable choice in competitive armies, as in his stead you could have another bike squad or some sort of hard-hitting support vehicle.
Over-expensive foot-sloggers, more so because you would require a chapter master to use them. Forget about them.
If you want a really hard-hitting biker squad, a command squad is your best bet. They have triple the number of attacks in the assault compared to a standard biker, and they benefit from the apothecary’s narthecium and a load of special equipment.
Though they are a very serious points invesment, biker command squads can well be worth their points. You should refrain from using biker command squads at points levels lower than 1,500 points. And personally I would go as far as suggesting you do not use them below 1,750 or 2,000 points. To maximize the effect of wound allocation shenanigans, each model should be equipped differently.
[On a nasty side note: there is nothing in the rules that would disallow buying a dedicated transport for a command squad on bikes. If you have a need for a cheap rhino, razorback maybe even with upgraded turret, or even drop pod, you may choose to go for it.]
- The first upgrade a command squad should get is the company champion – for the price of the power weapon you also hit on a 3+ in close combat against MEQ and you gain a free 6+ invulnerable save in close combat that might –one day– actually prove useful. If you want to be really hard-hitting in close combat you should add a power fist (to deal with vehicles, monstrous creatures, multi-wound models, and just generally be effective against anything with T4+) and maybe a lightning claw for good measure (which is superior to a power weapon on veteran, see here (Power Weapons out of power!)).
- The best ranged weapon option for biker command squads is the plasma gun. It is a very versatile and relatively long-ranged weapon, and thanks to Feel No Pain the danger from the Gets Hot! rule is halved. Flamers are fine as well, though, as biker command squads will usually want to be close-up and personal. Even melta guns are okay, making the command squad viable tank hunters, though this rather seems like a waste.
- Storm shields are a viable upgrade options too, though turbo-boosting will protect the command squad from armor-piercing attacks at range. As far as close combat goes, two storm shields should suffice for a reasonable amount of protection. Be careful with them as they make your already really expensive biker command squad even more expensive.
Now we shall focus on Troops. As a general rule of thumb, your Troops choices should account for about one third to one half your army’s points in sum, that should suffice for one Troops choice base plus one additional one for every 500 points in your army.
Including one mechanized tactical squad in your army can make sense. Their transport will probably be more cover than troop carrier, but the unit is perfect for keeping it in reserve to claim your home objective later in the game.
The transport can tank shock enemy units near your table edge, the unit can draw some fire and provide a little fire support. In case of emergency, this unit is also able to seize higher ground, clearing the upper levels of ruins or simply dislodging an enemy unit from terrain.
Equipped with a flamer, a power fist on the sergeant, and either a plasma cannon (if you have the points and are otherwise low on AP2- weaponry) or missile launcher they do their job best. And of course a mobile transport: rhino or razorback depending on your spare points and your thoughts on combat squads.
And yet these units are expensive. A fully equipped tactical squad usually costs about the same as almost one and a half bike squads. And they are slow and have little offensive potential. I used to include one tactical squad in my army standard until I jumped to the conclusion that I am better off without.
The only scout squad build that makes sense in conjunction with bikes is a squad of sniper scouts with a heavy weapon.
They can Infiltrate to a good firing position (top levels of ruins are generally a good idea) far enough from the enemy to stay safe for as long as possible, hopefully at the same time guarding an objective. After that they must hold their own, but that is okay for two reasons: they have the range to support your bikes no matter where they are, and they are not a huge points invesment.
And yet sniper weapons are not the most effective guns in the game. Merely the pinning effect is worth taking them, but a disturbingly small number of armies is actually vulnerable to that – most have too high a Ld value or are Fearless. They might not be worth their points against all-comers. Adding Telion, however, can add an entirely different aspect to those squads and make them worthwhile even against armies largely immune to pinning.
Units of scouts equipped for close-range firefights or even assaults can be mounted in landspeeder storms, fast enough to keep up with the rest of your army. And yet these squads simply accomplish nothing really useful for you. As awesome as the models may be, the unit is ineffective. Prove me wrong.
Moving on to Elites, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support.
Shooty terminators require little support and can move and shoot. And yet they are a big points investment and a threat that can easily be avoided. Unable to deliver an impressive punch at range, standard terminators are not a serious option for us to consider.
Assault terminators on the other hand very dearly require a land raider for a delivery system, otherwise they are too easily avoided.
And while a land raider in a bike list is semi-viable as a mechanized unit, and while bike lists can definitely benefit from a hard-hitting assault unit that can also enter terrain, assault terminators and their land raider –and maybe even a support HQ– are one big pot of points. Too expensive to be considered in anything below 1,750 points, and even in these cases such a unit would be a fourth of your army – fancy upgrades not included.
Sternguard are best deployed in drop pods, which are a no-go for bike armies. Since they are a short-ranged unit, can easily be stripped of their transport and therefore their means of redeployment, and are not scoring unless you take Kantor, they are not a very sensible addition to a bike army.
If you choose to have them anyway, you should make it a small squad in a razorback, probably armed with lots of combi-flamers and -meltas to be of some use to you.
(Venerable / Ironclad) Dreadnoughts
Close combat dreadnoughts need to be deployed by drop pods to be competitive, where –I say it once again– they can’t be supported by the bikes. Dreadnoughts, especially ironclad ones, are tough units, though, and can hold their own. Thus, against certain enemies they can still prove devastating with their potential for a decisive alpha-strike. And yet the inflexibility of Drop Pod Assault makes drop podding dreadnoughts in bike armies a non-viable idea against all-comers.
Fire support dreadnoughts are able to move and fire and can be equipped with long-range weaponry in order to be able to support the bikes. And while it may seem like a nice idea to have a fire support dreadnought in your bike army, especially because they could also take up the task of engaging units in cover or on the top levels of ruins if need be, such dreadnoughts are expensive and generally not the most efficient fire support units out there.
One build that works reasonably well with bikers is a master of the forge (mounted on a bike, of course) and maxed out number of dreadnoughts – three for Elites and three for Heavy Support. And then again: that is rather a special case that requires a very high points limit and is more of a dreadnought army supported by bikes than the other way around...
Though they can be mounted on bikes, they generally don’t accomplish much for us.
Legion of the Damned
Over-priced foot-sloggers. Though they can deep-strike, hold their own, as well as move and shoot, a minimum squad is the same as a squad of bikes, which will certainly serve you better.
Apart from bikes, jump marines are the ones that suit the speed theme the best. They also can’t be stripped of their mobility and they cope for bike armies’ lack of hard-hitting assault power.
And yet they are unable to claim objectives and have problems of their own with terrain. And most importantly: they block those precious Fast Attack slots we dearly need for our speeders, as detailed below.
In low points games such a unit makes sense, at higher points levels you’re probably better off with something else.
Over-expensive overkill unit.
In bike armies –which generally tend to be fragile– your vanguard will get shot up even more quickly than in other armies, and while Heroic Intervention is an option, the unit is very expensive and –again– will be left unsupported. Not a good idea.
Finally: here we are. Landspeeders are the only space marine vehicle unit able to keep pace alongside bikes. At the same time, landspeeders can provide what bike armies dearly need and can’t have on other mounts: heavy long-range firepower.
Landspeeders should be the main support choices in your bike army, and your best bet is the typhoon landspeeder. See Tactica: Landspeeders for reference. On top of that, landspeeders can be your emergency units for contesting objectives on the upper levels of multi-level structures where your bikes and tanks can’t go.
Don’t use only few of them, because only spamming them will provide for what you require: an independent wing of support vehicles, able to engage an entire enemy flank on their own. It doesn’t help to strip one or two wounds off a tyrannofex with one speeder and then take return fire, having accomplished no tangible decrease in effectiveness of the enemy unit. A wing of three or two squadrons of two each, killing that tyrannofex outright, have their place however.
Typhoon landspeeders should account for a quarter to half your army’s points, depending on how much and what kind of support you have on top of them.
Bike Squadrons (as a Fast Attack choice)
No need to take those in bike armies, always take them as troops. The ability to score is priceless, especially when combined with such amazing mobility.
Attack Bike Squadrons
Usually a solid choice –especially when suicide-tank hunting with multi-meltas– attack bike squadrons are not a good choice for bike armies.
Bike armies can make use of the attack bikes’ deadly firepower from within the protection of bike squads making them much more effective similar to a hidden power fist, and they can have them as part of a scoring unit. Bike armies should have the means to kill light and medium vehicles from afar, and if something requires the attention of melta weapons, bike armies can send a melta bike squad to do the job – no need to pay for both seperately: a scoring unit and a tank hunting unit. Moreover, those Fast Attack slots should be reserved for the longer-ranged and higher-output landspeeders.
Nice idea, nice model, useless rules.
If it was a dedicated transport for scouts, it would be a viable option. But requiring a fast attack slot for a single fragile skimmer which can only transport five scouts who can accomplish only little, this unit is just not worth the trouble. I can hardly say how unfortunate this is and how much I regret to say it, but I can’t change the truth.
The best thing about landspeeder storms is the potential of a devastating alpha-strike, sweeping an important enemy fire support squad with a unit of scouts on turn one. But it would be a suicide mission and not a solid choice against all-comers.
You can read more on the landspeeder storm in this breakdown (Landspeeder Storm - a breakdown).
Scout Bike Squadron
Again, the best thing about them is their ability to alpha-strike, hitting assault on turn one. But –just like scouts on foot– scout bikers don’t really accomplish anything for you. They are too weak to be of any real use, and you are better off investing your points elsewhere.
Unfortunately. If they could be taken as scoring units in bike armies as well they might be worth a try, but with things the way they are: Infiltrate and Scouts are no necessity at all for bikes - they move fast enough to get wherever they want easily and swiftly. First turn charge is nice, but the scout bikers aren't exactly a good assault unit (even worse at it than normal bikes - a lot so) and will be unsupported, making them a suicide unit. Locater beacons are cool, but expensive and without purpose in bike armies. Cluster mines? Nice gadget but not really effective.
You want the grenade launchers? A heavy bolter attack bike squadron has better firepower and is cheaper, more durable, and has better range. The armor save is just weak, low BS makes them unreliable, low WS means they won't hit GEQ on 3+ but will instead be hit on a 3+ themselves by MEQ, etc. They are not that much cheaper than bikes but can't be scoring. Viable support unit for other armies maybe, but just not worth it for bike armies, however cool the models and fluff may be.
Are not particularly points-effective while being a big investment, they are furthermore stationary and vulnerable. Not a good idea for bike armies.
Stationary, vulnerable, useful only against specific armies. If you play the right opponent, have a ruin to fortify and hide them in in your deployment zone, and the deployment type is not dawn of war, they are a very viable choice. But since you can hardly count on that: don’t take them in bike armies.
Land Raider (Crusader / Redeemer)
These moving fortresses are mobile and can even still fire a weapon at cruising speed, though they will still fall behind if the bike army moves at maximum speed, and despite adding firepower, they are not exactly points-effective weapons platforms.
The main problem of the land raider is its cost, more so because it still is merely a transport, and what makes it most threatening is most often its cargo. If you invest in a land raider, you should also invest in a hard-hitter squad it can transport. This will consume a great amount of your army’s points, and thus only be a viable option if you have fulfilled all of the more basic needs already. Don’t think about it before you hit 1,500 at all, and probably not before you hit 1,750 to 2,000 and more.
If you choose to go for a land raider, the classic dual-lascannons godhammer-pattern model is the way to go for bike armies. It provides long-ranged hard-hitting firepower able to stop enemy transports or artillery without having to close in. Crusaders are okay as well if you already have lots of other long-range firepower and want some more anti-horde but multi-purpose firepower. The redeemer is the worst choice in bike armies, but can still be viable under the conditions mentioned for the crusader.
The predator is a tank and therefore mobile. It must forgo the majority of its firepower on the move however, thus being a rather stationary firing platform nonetheless.
While the predator annihilator is just too expensive, the destructor or dakka pred (autocannon and heavy bolters) is quite cheap. And yet it can’t quite keep up with bike armies (can only either provide mobile cover or shoot) and adds no new quality to your army at all: you can already have lots of heavy bolters on more mobile platforms, and the typhoon missile launchers will be of much greater use than an autocannon.
Not recommended for use in bike armies.
The whirlwind is a very fragile tank, but it can fire indirectly and hide from sight. Despite its weaknesses, the whirlwind can indeed be a viable option for bike armies.
Hidden from sight, the whirlwind does not pose a viable target for your opponent’s army and can well be left unsupported. Other units can easily be killed from afar and thus do not require taking a unit out of play to go after it. A hidden whirlwind can not, however, and the enemy must either ignore it, or commit more points to going after it than it is worth, wasting time and resources – and you can still opt to intercept the unit sent after your whirlwind before it arrives.
Unfortunately, the whirlwind’s firepower is not as awesome as it appears to be. And yet it adds a new quality to your army: that of shooting units hidden from line of sight, that of possibly pinning a target, and that of ignoring cover. The ability to dislodge units from cover from afar is very precious to bike armies. And remember that unless the enemy is within area terrain, even the non-cover ignoring whirlwind ammo denies cover save, because intervening units or terrain features do not count for indirectly fired barrage weapons.
The whirlwind thus is a viable choice, especially so against certain opponents, those mainly being eldar, imperial guard, tyranids, or tau. Because it can hide from sight, it also suffices to take only a single whirlwind, despite the usual need for redundancy.
The vindicator is a decently armored mobile tank that doesn’t lose any of its firepower when moving at combat speed. It can thus provide mobile cover and fire support for bike armies, which is very valuable. Moreover, its gun adds a new quality to your army: the ability to kill land raiders and monoliths from afar more or less reliably, as well as the ability to mass-pierce 2+ armor saves, to mass-intant kill multiple wound models, to mass-ignore Feel No Pain, and simply to mass-hit and mass-wound a lot of models.
Simply put the vindicator is able to harm anything and everything, though quite naturally it is better at killing certain types of units than at killing others. And yet the vindicator is priceless, because it is a mobile, flexible, durable unit that poses such a large threat, that you can mind-control your opponent with it. He will be ready to commit great amount of resources attempting to kill it, thus drawing fire away from your valuable and fragile bikes and speeders.
As perfect line-breakers, vindicators are the ones that blow the holes into strong enemy formations and split them up to be isolated and picked off by your weaker units. This is invaluable for bike armies who are good at clearing out leftovers, but bad at taking on closed fronts. Think of the vindicator as your sheepdog.
This unit –apart from bikes and landspeeders– is probably the most useful in bike armies. As a moving shield for your landspeeders who can shoot over it but gain a cover save from it, and as a distraction from your bikes, the vindicator is a very good support choice. And if that squad of Feel No Pain meganobs is threatening you, you could either waste a tremendous amount of firepower to kill them, or take care of that problem with a single hit from a demolisher shell...
Remember that you should not take a single vindicator (unless in very low points games). Redundancy is a very important principle. Not only will it help to guarantee you get that demolisher shot off at those meganobs, but it will also change the quality of how your opponent chooses to deal with your vindicators. If your opponent faces one, he knows he can shoot it. If he faces two or three, he is more likely to realize that he wouldn’t be able to stop them all in time, and may instead try to keep the distance to them or sacrifice important key units to kill them off. Moreover, multiple vindicators can use their smoke launchers and armor facings to give each other cover, getting cover saves more often and protecting each other’s vulnerable side armor. This will make them much more survivable, and taking three vindicators instead of one will not triple their effectiveness, but instead raise it to the power of three, figuratively speaking.
The dozer blades are a very viable addition to vindicators, as they will let you more or less ignore terrain, enabling you to tank shock units in cover, cross rivers unhindered, drive over hills, through scrub, and so on. The siege shields will give you certainty instead of leaving you with a one in thirty-six chance of being immobilized, but for double the price I recommend sticking with the small risk.
Having discussed every unit type independently, we can now jump to a conclusion...
The most effective basic Space Marine bike army should consist of a cheap but effective captain on bike, cheap but effective bike squads worth about a third to half your army, and typhoon-pattern landspeeders and maybe vindicators to support them for the rest of the points.
Spamming the latter two to their maximum is a perfectly sensible thing to do: because they are able to deal with any threat in the entire game effectively and can hurt and kill virtually everything, spamming them will not at all over-focus one niche while neglecting another. This gives you a very strong army core ready to take on anything, and once you have that you can flesh it out to your personal likings.
Here are some quick examples for 1,000 / 1,500 / 2,000 points, lists built using the guidelines given above. They are far from being the only options, however, even when sticking to the above-mentioned guidelines to the word. They give you an idea of how an effective bike army might look, but many other possibilities exist just as well.
Captain w/ bike, relic blade, artificer armor
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x melta guns, attack bike, multi-melta
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x plasma guns, attack bike, multi-melta
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x flamers, melta bombs, attack bike
Landspeeder Squad w/ typhoon launchers
Landspeeder Squad w/ typhoon launchers
Landspeeder Squad w/ typhoon launchers
Captain w/ bike, relic blade, artificer armor
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x melta guns, attack bike, multi-melta
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x melta guns, attack bike, multi-melta
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x plasma guns, attack bike
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x flamers, attack bike
Landspeeder Squad w/ extra landspeeder, 2x typhoon launchers
Landspeeder Squad w/ extra landspeeder, 2x typhoon launchers
Vindicator w/ dozer blade
Vindicator w/ dozer blade
Captain w/ bike, relic blade, artificer armor, storm shield
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x melta guns, power fist, attack bike, multi-melta
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x melta guns, power fist, attack bike, multi-melta
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x plasma guns, attack bike
Bike Squad w/ extra bike, 2x plasma guns, attack bike
Bike Squad w/ 2x extra bike, 2x flamers, melta bombs, attack bike, multi-melta
Landspeeder Squad w/ 2x extra landspeeder, 3x typhoon launchers
Landspeeder Squad w/ 2x extra landspeeder, 3x typhoon launchers
Landspeeder Squad w/ 2x extra landspeeder, 3x typhoon launchers
USING BIKER LISTS
The basic strategy with bikes is staying alive, that is usually all you need in order to score a victory.
The reason for that is simple. No army other than an Eldar jetbike one is faster (or even only as fast as) yours, or –in the case of fully mechanized Dark Eldar– can easily be stripped of their speed. This gives you an edge in objective missions: while the enemy has to commit to certain objectives early on, your army is flexible until the very last turn as to which objectives to claim, and it usually has plenty of units able to contest any of the enemy-held objectives on the board, even those 27” away, or 51” on the previous turn. As long as a bike army is not deprived of all its troops and/or all its contesting units (landspeeders, but even those tanks and other units will work), it is more or less bound to fare well in objective games. In annihilation, bike armies lack transports which usually are easiest kill points, and generally have fewer units than most other armies. Combined with the heavy long-ranged anti-transport firepower, as long as you survive your bike army should do well in annihilation missions.
Thus, the key is to stay alive.
In order to do this you should keep in mind that troops are primarily objective-claimers, not fighters. Your support units should be the working horse of your army, while the bikes should try to stay safe, only participating in desperate situations or to finish off isolated forces if they are weak enough to overwhelm quickly.
Don’t worry if your bike squads seem to be sitting around accomplishing nothing (just don’t forget about those heavy bolters on the attack bikes that may still be able to do some good). Their time will come towards the end of the game. If they are out of range while only the rest of your army fights, remember that most of the enemy force will be unable to do any damage as well. If you close in with your bikes, you come within range of your guns – and also the enemy’s. If you made the right decision by attacking from a distance you will have superior ranged firepower – thus the enemy will be at a greater loss than you are if you stay away.
Consider reserving your entire force. This provides you with several advantages.
Since bike armies have no units that require to be stationary in order to be effective, entering play form reserves does not put them at any disadvantage at all.
- Firstly, your opponent will lose at least one turn of shooting at you, two turns if you went second. This is great for your survivability.
- Secondly, you will always be able to react to your opponent’s deployment, even if you go first. Again this helps with your suvivability, choosing where on the board you enter play, staying far away or closing in quickly without being shot at much (the latter being especially effective in spearhead deployment), and also enhances your offensive effectiveness.
- Thirdly, you will always have first shots, even if you go second. Again helping you with your survivability. If you go second and that imperial hydra is threatening your typhoons, it is a blessing to be able to stay off the board on turn one and then come on from reserves somewhere where you can hit the hydra in side armor and kill it before it can down your speeders.
- Fourthly, and one of the most important, it offers protection against alpha-strikes and those mean deep-strikers. The scout-moving valkyrie is not an issue, neither are Shrike and his infiltrating terminators. Drop pod or deathwing or daemon armies will have to drop half their army on the board without even knowing where you will be coming from, either castling up and giving you the opportunity to pick them apart from afar, or spreading out and giving you the opportunity to kill them off one-by-one piecemeal. If you go second, half of the rest of those armies’ deep-strikers, or any other army’s deep-strikers or outflankers or space wolf scouts or Snikrot kommando orks, will waste their potential, arriving in the open without any targets.
- Fifthly, opponents going second lose the benefit of being able to react to your deployment.
Sometimes it may well be better to deploy everything, however. Facing a Tyranid army, for example, you may want to be able to start shooting at them from turn one before they have a chance to close in, and most importantly kill off that hive guard quickly before it is within range to down your valuable speeders. You should either reserve everything or nothing – going half-half is little effective. (Deploying one or two units for a feint and reserving the rest may be a viable option, though, as may be deploying your main force but reserving a Troops unit you definitely want to keep alive. In annihilation it may also be viable to reserve your weak targets while deploying those units that can snatch easy kill points from the enemy.)
Reserving everything is especially effective when you go second, which also helps maximize your objective claiming and contesting potential.
Despite all the warnings at the beginning of the tactica, the key to surviving (and thus winning) may sometimes also lie in a head-on assault of the opposing force. Consider a bike army’s nightmare: an Imperial Guard force with tons of collossi to kill your bikes and vendettas to kill your speeders. You can’t hide from them, you will never gain superiority at range. Your only hope is closing in as quickly as possible and taking them out as quickly as possible.
Space Marine bike armies are very flexible in their playstyle, and this is one of their strengths. You have to adapt your playstyle to your enemy and mission in order to win. To adapt –in this case– means to identify your enemy’s weakness and exploit it, to identify its strengths and guard yourself against them.
Though your force is usually much smaller, your strength is that of being able to bring yours to bear more effectively. Tell me what to prefer: 100 units at 25% effectiveness, or rather 60 comparable units at 50% effectiveness?
Gaining superiority is an issue of extremes. If you are superior at range, then try to eliminate the enemy’s ranged firepower first and just keep evading the rest. If you are inferior at range, turbo-boost towards the enemy head-on with your entire force and crush it. Don’t lose focus. Never “close in just a little”.
If you choose superiority at range, kill off enemy ranged weaponry. If you choose to kill the enemy in the assault, shoot their counter-assault units first to gain superiority in the assault, etc...
Gaining superiority is all about target priority. Think ahead, but never lose track of the present. If you need to stop a rhino full of khorne berzerkers and you have only succeeded in stunning it on your first attempt, then you may seem tempted to think the threat is still there, because the unit is not destroyed. And yet, the unit –which indeed is still there– is not the threat, its mobility was. And this mobility has –at least for the present– been dealt with and the unit will be unable to do anything to you at all for the moment. Thus if there are other targets worth shooting at, shoot them first.
Remember that it is about surviving. Generally, your bike squads are the most important, your typhoons the second most. Everything else is expendable. And while you need your troops at the end of the game, also keep in mind that you won’t accomplish anything without the working horse of your army. If you have four bike squads and you need to sacrifice two and a half of them in order to save your typhoons from being destroyed on turn two, do it. One and a half bike squads are enough to win the game, but playing most of the game without your most hard-hitting weapons is probably not. If you need to sacrifice three of your four bike squads, though, or the entire decision is brought up in turn four, probably don’t do it.
Also note that this priority is reversed in annihilation. Your typhoons suddenly become the most important unit in the entire game: they can get you the most kill points and offer the easiest to the enemy. Your bikes here have no real job and are entirely dispendable. Especially flamer and melta squads will perform well as hard-hitting suicide units, dying after completion of their strike, but taking out important enemy units in the process.
Correct placement of objectives helps a lot to pave the way to victory. Where do space marine bike armies want their objectives?
- As far apart as possible.
Slower opponents have to commit to objectives much earlier, thus are forced to spread out to cover the distances to the various locations of interest. This is exactly what we want to exploit.
- In the open.
We do not need protection because we will not be sitting on the objectives for long, only at the very last instant. Moreover, we can claim objectives in such a way that we have a cover save superior to that of any natural cover available. (Don’t worry about that cover only lasting a single turn: in case the game goes on there is still the Merry-Go-Round (Merry-Go-Round Objective Contesting (bikes, fast vehicles in seize ground)).) Moreover we do not want enemy units sitting on those objectives to be protected by cover, and we do not want to risk dangerous terrain tests when claiming that objective. Turbo-boosting into cover is not possible, by the way, which is another reason why objectives in cover are really bad.
- Near multi-level structures.
This is a tricky one. We do not actually want that for the sake of having objectives close to multi-level structures, we just don’t want any objectives above ground level in such structures. Since objectives must not be placed within 12” of each other, placing our objectives near such buildings deprives the opponent of placing his inside – a mere pre-emptive measure so to speak.
Boost For Cover
Using the Turbo-Boosters special rule grants your bikes some of the best possible cover saves in the game. Using these while moving in front of one of your other units that require protection can be of great use.
In conjunction with your vindicators, for example it is possible to maintain a clear line of fire on the demolisher cannon while at the same time granting a cover save to the vindicator.
Bikes have an extraordinarily long footprint. This enables them to space out into very long lines which can be of great use. A single five model bike squadron can cover a distance of more than 18”.
- This means you can be in two places at the same time. You could, for example, claim an objective and at the same time shoot a plasma gun at an enemy unit up to 55” away from said objective.
- Two squads of at least twelve models in sum can block an entire short table edge and auto-kill any outflankers arriving there, while three of at least eighteen in sum could even block a long one.
- Surrounding an enemy transport while wrecking it will kill its contents automatically. Don’t fear explosions, remember that your bikes are only half as susceptible to explosion damage as marines on foot. Simply surrounding a non-tank non-skimmer enemy transport (Ork trukk, for example) will effectively deprive it of all its options except for shooting, while surrounding an immobilised tank or skimmer will force its cargo to stay embarked.
- Doing something similar to your own tanks can –if done correctly– grant the tanks a cover save while at the same time granting one to your bikes, while both units may still shoot. (You must take care to place the important weapons in such a way that they can see their target, though.)
- The Queue also offers great protection from template or marker weapons of any kind, especially multiple blasts.
- You can also much more easily perform multiple assaults, because while the rules tell you which models you must move into contact with, they do not tell you in which direction to align your bikes, thus enabling you to cover much greater gaps while retaining coherency.
- Putting your vulnerable speeders towards a corner or table edge, leaving a little space, and then filing your bikes in zig-zag queues enables you to cover a lot of space. Deep-strikers will not be able to land there safely, thus staying further away from your fragile speeders and possibly being unable to down them effectively if they are short-ranged which is often the case.
Your bikes and speeders can each cover enormous distances in a single move. And since they comprise just about your entire army, you can relocate your entire force very quickly. This can be employed to perform various feints, if that is what you like to call them, or in other words just stay flexible in where you strike and let you perform maneuvers which in chess you would call forks.
Examples: capture and control mission, the objectives are diagonally opposed to each other. The slow enemy force starts moving toward you. To keep up the illusion of holding your own, you stay put until the enemy attack force is barely in range. Then you disengage away from your objective into safety and from there launch your attack on the enemy’s objective, surprisingly attempting to claim that one and contest your own. Or you have superiority at range but go (and deploy) first and your opponent sets up directly opposite to you. You just move away along your table edge the maximum distance on your first turn, buying yourself more than the one turn of shooting you just lost. Or deploying one bike squad on a flank and advancing it towards a vulnerable fire support unit. If your opponent moves in to guard that unit your bike squad will swing back towards your main force in time to support it, if the enemy ignores your maneuver, take the fire support squad apart.
The Swing Wing designates the ability to quickly relocate parts of your force, and there are many subtle uses for it.
The approximate 2” height of the rhino chassis is just enough to cover half of the landspeeders’ hulls, granting them a cover save while they have unobstructed line of fire. Parking or advancing your landspeeders behind any such vehicle is a very good way of getting cover while retaining the ability to shoot unimpaired.
Come And Get Me
Your bike squad is about to be assaulted, but your opponent makes the mistake of shooting at it first, inflicting 25% casualties. Make a fallback move at the end of the shooting phase using Combat Tactics and leave the assaulters stranded!
Wound Allocation Shenanigans
Your bike squads will have a variety of differently equipped models and thus be heavily subjected to wound allocation rules, which is a good thing.
The first model to allocate a wound to is the captain, especially if he is equipped with artificer armor. Even if he suffers a wound, he will still be alive and undiminished in his effectiveness. The very same is true for the attack bikes, which are the second models to be allocated wounds to. They effectively offer the possibility to lose a wound without reducing your squad’s effectiveness by even a tiny amount. Naturally, neither your captain nor the attack bike should be allocated any S8+ wounds or others which would impose Instant Death. But especially the certain wounds (AP3 or AP2 ones) should go to the captain (who has his invulnerable save) and the attack bike, until they are down to a single wound, at which point you should spare them for as long as possible.
After that you should allocate your next wound to your generic biker meat shields, thereafter either to the sergeant or your special weapons, depending on their equipment and its importance in the current game. Try to avoid allocating second layer wounds to a group of equal models. Example: your two melta bikers and your biker sergeant have each already been allocated a first wound, now you need to allocate another one among any of them. If you allocate it to the melta bikes they will have to make three saves, and failing two of them will kill both. If you allocate it to the sergeant and the sergeant fails both saves, the surplus failed save will have no effect.
So Wound Allocation Shenanigans is the art of wounding the multi-wound models first so as to lose wounds without losing models, and then stacking wounds on single models not part of a group. If you suffer various hits from different weapons, try to stack all the dangerous hits on one model. Example: a necron lord with a staff of light is attached to warriors and shoots at your bike squad which suffers two AP3 and six AP5 wounds. You allocate both AP3 wounds to the same single model (not the attack bike, please) making one obsolete, while the rest of the models only suffer one to two (depending on how many models are in the squad) AP5 wounds each.
Play hide and seek, harass the enemy from afar or do whatever necessary to gain superiority and keep your Troops alive. On turn four begin to position your units so that you can claim and contest a variety of objectives, on turn five move into positions.
Try to claim easy kill points with your best-ranged weapons and keep the rest in safety, using unwounded units to shield others, and always disengaging wounded or damaged units as soon as possible. Once you have a good headstart, disengage your entire force and hide if possible.
Proper Tank Hunting
The typhoons' missiles eat AV10 and AV11 for breakfast, and used in squadrons they can even reliably disable AV12. With their ability to catch shoot side armor (use multiple squadrons to impose a crossfire on the enemy force, or just use your 12" move and still shoot - there are ways to avoid a vehicle's front) there aren't many tanks that can withstand the constant barrage of your gunboats.
There are some really tough tanks in the game, though, the ones that are AV13 and AV14 - mainly land raiders and leman russ variants (and monoliths, which are a different case and should either be ignored, shot with vindicators or a long-ranged conversion beam, or taken down with a lucky wrecked result on a glancing melta hit if you are extremely desperate). These hard targets, and maybe some AV12 tanks which you need dead at all costs, are the prey of your melta bikers, which mainly serve this one purpose. Get them as quickly and close to the target as possible on your first run (using the Turbo-boosters special rule) but try to avoid counter-assault, and then close in some more and shoot your melta goodness at point blank - two melta guns and a multi-melta within 6" should definitely do the trick. If not, try your luck on rear armor with your krak grenades and maybe power fist (or in case of personal preference: melta bombs) in the assault.
These are suicide commandos. Don't mourn them. Your melta squad may have been a little more expensive than the tank, but that maneuver is still worth the sacrifice, seriously. It helps you gain superiority and win the game from there. And think about how much firepower will go into your melta squad in order to kill it off, sparing the rest of your army. Don't worry about it - it has done a great job. You don't sacrifice your melta squads easily -remember the typhoons are your working horse- but in these cases don't hesitate.
Unfortunately, this tactica has taken longer to complete than initially intended. A new job stealing away my entire spare time and making it almost impossible to visit LO and/or think about W40k between weekends, this tactica has not been completed to the extent which I would have liked. But in order to not stall its publication any longer, I now publish these fragments and reserve the right to add to it as soon as circumstances allow. I apologize for careless phrasing and formatting.
To summarize the tactica in the words of an old friend: “Red Archer is just an Eldar player trapped in a Marine players body” (Prince of Excess). Play your space marine bike army like this and you will win.
Edit1: added zigzag anti-deep-striking protection to The Queue.
Edit2: added Proper Tank Hunting in the General Guidelines section.