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I've been playing marines for a while now. I love my Ultramarines, and I have, so far, managed to shrug off the temptations of traits and six-man las-plas squads. But, when it comes right down to it, a marine army without no traits and no under-strength squads isn't very good compared to armies that do use traits and more efficiently designed units.
Now, I know that, sooner or later, drop pods are going to come out, and I'll be able to play ten man squads with power fists and plasma that will be good--with only barely perceptible twinges over the fact that they could be slightly better if I could pay a little more for two plasmas per squad.
Still, though, I find myself wanting, every now and again, to play a slightly cheesier army. Something with a little more bang. I could go to six-man las-plas squads if I wanted, but I think we can all agree that this incorporates an undeniable element of lameness. I could pick up some traits, but, while they could make my army slightly better, I can't quite come to terms with the idea of violating the Codex Astartes for a mere modicum of tweaking.
The upshot is, I'm thinking about bikes. I could paint an army of bikes in blue and steel (Ultramarines Eighth Company colours) and adopt a minor deviation in order to "Be Swift as the Wind," (along with whichever minor disadvantage seemed most appropriate--most won't have any significant game effect anyway) and not feel too bad about my slacking devotion to the words of Guilliman.
The bike army seems fun, it seems acceptably un-cheesy, but, looking at the possible bike-focused armies one might field, I begin to wonder if it's any good.
Bikes are fast--a bike army is basically going to be faster and more maneuverable than any other army in the game.
Bikes are tough. They're toughness five in fact--and I think we can all agree that toughness five is quite tough. They get invulnerable saves easily, and this makes them even tougher. Unfortunately, they're only invulnerable when they're not doing anything. You might laugh heartily and bounce krak missiles off your massive power-armoured pectorals while you're speeding across the field, but when you actually stop to shoot, assault, or what-have-you, you get murdered by (insert whatever weapon the army you're facing usually uses to murder marines and marine equivalents) just about as easily as any tactical marine on foot.
They're expensive. They cost more than twice what a marine on foot costs, and they put out almost identical damage. Their guns are slightly better, being twin-linked, but the difference between hitting two out of three shots and hitting eight out of nine shots is only an extra two shots out of every nine hitting--an extra 22% of your total shots. Actually, as I write that, it strikes me that 22% is not as negligible as I originally thought. Of course, when compared, to the two bolters carried by the two tactical marines you could buy instead, the bike's ballistic ability seems somewhat withered.
Speed is for getting into combat. Let's face it--that's what we're doing when we're going fast. We're going towards them in order to charge them. Sure, you can dally around taking shots, but your model count is so low that you'll be out-gunned by virtually every marginally competent shooting army. Against armies, you can't afford to charge, you also can't afford to really put those bolters to use by rapid-firing them, and against armies you do want to charge, I really wonder whether your speedy approach will make up for a model-count (and subsequent number of close combat attacks) which is so far below that of a standard marine army.
So, what do you fine fellows think? Is the bike army worth pursuing? Does it hold its own compared to other marine armies? Is the thrill of zooming your bikes all over the place sufficient to make up for any lack of strength the army might have? Or should I be looking for an entirely different way to come up with an alternative marine army?
...and I'm officially an idiot. Would some kindly moderator (I know, I know--you all hate me =P) please move this to the Space Marines general forum for me? I'd appreciate it.
Last edited by Bean; March 2nd, 2007 at 03:19. Reason: stupidity
Bike armies really depends on the user of the bike army. They can be incredibly good, or the worst army one could field.The bike army seems fun, it seems acceptably un-cheesy, but, looking at the possible bike-focused armies one might field, I begin to wonder if it's any good.Hold everything. In a bike army, speed is your weapon. You win and lose the movement phase.Speed is for getting into combat.On the whole sure, but with low model count and incredible speed, your bikes can easily attack isolated sections of the enemies lines. And thus outnumber/gun/assault them in small areas. While their army is slow to respond by comparison.Sure, you can dally around taking shots, but your model count is so low that you'll be out-gunned by virtually every marginally competent shooting army.Well, you might get 22% more hits, however these bolters are far more likely be in rapid fire range. So each bike will shoot more, and hit with more shots then normal marines.actually, as I write that, it strikes me that 22% is not as negligible as I originally thought. Of course, when compared, to the two bolters carried by the two tactical marines you could buy instead, the bike's ballistic ability seems somewhat withered.You cant get a first turn charge unless the opponent infiltrates - and then only if its out of LOS. So one is better of denying the first one or two turns of shooting by the opponent - depending on if you go second or first.Let's face it--that's what we're doing when we're going fast. We're going towards them in order to charge them.
If you deploy your bikes out of LOS, then turbo boost diagonally on the battle field, behind a second piece of terrain you can keep them safe pretty easily, hopefully 12 inches up the field. Thus placing you half way across the table, on a standard board. Next turn your probably in assault range. Skilled riders is a must, as you might need to move through the terrain feature. Secondly your likely going to charge units, some of whom will be in cover. Thus this is the most important upgrade for a bike army.
Another tactic is to set half your army up on one flanks, and the other half a little over 24 inches down field. Send each force forward - but out of LOS of possible. Then instead of proceeding to assault into the enemy you take this turn to consolidate all your forces on one flank or the other.
Most armies will need two turns to respond, you'll give them one and hit hard. By the time they can do anything about it, its already to late.
Bikes are one of the best armies around if you know how to use them.
Pure bike armies will have a tough time overcoming all types of armies, particularly hoards, and chaos.
Useful units that can accompany bikes are landspeeders, drop pods, and WWs.
I can agree with ForgedInTheFurnaceOfWar. He has explained much and all I can add is my personal experience: I have been starting out with a shooty Space Marine army (incorporating some of those "cheesy" 6-man Las/Plas Tactical squads) and soon turned to playing a BeSwiftAsTheWind bike army. Maybe some of its success is due to me playing a Necron opponent very often, but let me tell you that my bike army has been very effective. Of course there are armies you'd be far better off with a different list, Forged did speak a warning there already.
But I can assure you that bikes are still very shooty (a full Tac squad can fire more Bolters - but when will it get the opportunity, and will it be able to choose its target? That may be true for drop-podding squads [for whom I still suggest traits, not necessarily Cleanse&Purify but rather TrustYourBattleBrothers], but not for footslogging ones) and their mobility is their strength (remember that they can move 12" and still fire the Bolters at 24", if need be). They may be costy and you may thus have very few models on the field, but the better you can hide your troops from enemy fire and engage when it is time.
I do not have to go into detail on this because it has been said before. I only disagree with the "must" for SkilledRiders as I got along pretty well without it so far (and it's not that we use little terrain in our games, it's just that you can still go around), but of course that depends upon how your tables look like and how your opponents play. The point of all this is to say: hey, bike armies rock the table (beware only of certain opponent armies...) and they do not suffer much from counting very few models. If you use their speed they make excellent tank-hunting units, close combat units and even plain shooty anti-infantry squads. You are fast, so you decide where to shoot/assault, what to shoot/assault and if you can be shot/assaulted. BeSwiftAsTheWind armies are all about initiative, and there's a few nasty tricks they can pull off if need be...
And if you decide to jump up onto the train and try it out yourself then I may confirm the advice Forged gave you (well... you should believe him more than me anyhow, as for experience) and further advise you to hand out Attack Bikes to every single squad, if possible (I tend to fill up a squad over its minimum bikers only after having included an Attack Bike). They enhance your firepower so much and function as an additional two bikes. Look closely: you have the same number of Wounds (only beware of instant kill, but then all you have to do is allocate the hit from the instakilling weapon to a standard biker), the same number of attacks (well, you lose one on the turn you charge, compared to two bikes) and get more firepower (because you have a standard twin-linked Bolter and another one "upgraded" to a Heavy Bolter - suddenly more shots with more impact and better range!) - all that at the cost of only about 1,5 bikes! And - as mentioned - the attack bike can boost your maximum number of models per squad. Powerfist your Sergeants.
And along with the other unit types Forged has already mentioned (Landspeeders, Whirlwinds,...) I can also recommend teaming the bikes with Terminators. I always thought Terminators overpriced and unrewarding when I started playing 40k, but in combination with some Teleport Homers they can deep-strike in safely right where you need them most, and as such they are - at least as I have found - a superb compliment to your bikers. They can help you eradicate isolated forces before enemy reinforcements come charging in, they can watch your bikes' backs and keep off the enemy reinforcements if sweeping an isolated enemy force takes longer than expected, they can hold objectives... And per se, the Terminators share very much with the bikes: they are fully mobile and still pretty shooty but also excel at close quarters and they are durable. Okay, they may be much slower than bikes, but they have other strengths - and deep-striking them makes speed seem secondary. I like to think of them as a slowly shifting wall... Of course it is a sort of gamble just when they will arrive, but your Sergeants are Veterans already anyhow, and Teleport Homers do not cost the world. With a handful of those on the field your reinforcements WILL be of some use. I can not count how often one or two small squads and their Stormbolters and Assault Cannons saved my day or turned a Solid Victory into a Crushing one or even a Victorious Slaughter...
[Edit: as an example battle I shall refer to a raid my bikers conducted during the Medusa V campaign. A small spaceport had been overrun by Necron forces and my bikers were called in to prevent the port's destruction (a special Space Marine Mission offered on the Medusa V website). I managed to get 1,300 points of Necrons to phase out while all I had lost was three bikers, two of them melted by backfire from their own plasma guns. All my units were over 50% strength (no VP for the opponent) and the two ends of the runway (the bomb sites for the opponent) had been successfully protected. Of course the dice had been a great help (some good shooting and some good armour saving - but on the other hand the plasma bikers shouldn't have died on their first and only shots either, so...) but much of it was just due to the bikes. Instead of putting them in reserve and sneaking ahead around the sentries I deployed the bikes from the beginning. Of course I was detected immediately, but I was halfway across the field by then, and the opponent's reinforcements came in only drop by drop...]