Wednesday, 30 August 2017

8th ed Space Marine codex review part 5 - Fast Attack

Greetings - welcome to the next part of my space marines codex review - this time we're looking at fast attack choices, probably one of the more limited sections of the book (ironic since space marine are supposed to excel at lightning assaults eh?).

Without further ado, let's get into this then shall we?

Bike Squad
Formerly the absolute 'go to' choice within the space marine codex thanks to the massive benefits white scars could bring to the table, in the fluff bike squads are far less numerous than seemed to be the case in 7th edition, mostly being restricted to the 2 close support units of each battle company.

So, looking at the stats, they're incredibly fast, more than twice as fast as a standard infantry marine, whilst they also get an extra point of toughness, and an extra wound.

As for abilities, the only one they get in addition to the typical marine stuff is that when they advance, they always go an additional 6" instead of needing to roll for it. Given the speed of the bikes anyway, this isn't going to be a huge deal in many situations, but it's certainly not to be sniffed at and will allow the bikes to undertake sweeping moves to get into position before launching their power into the enemy.

In terms of wargear, the bike squad is, and has been for some time to my mind, a bit of an oddball, and that's essentially I think due to the way they're sold. The basic squad has three models in it, a sergeant and two other guys. Both of those others can swap their bolt pistol with a special weapon to boost their firepower and you really do want to do that because you can now fire these weapons in addition to the bike's guns, which means that the basic pistols they come equipped with really aren't worth keeping, as these have to be used instead of those guns. The sergeant can also exchange his bolt pistol for an item from the sergeant's list, which includes combi weapons. Thanks to the changes to these weapons, you should definitely do that, and choose a combi that compliments the weapons the others have taken.

Any models could also swap out the bolt pistols for chainswords, whilst you can include an attack bike in the squad as well, and add bikers to make the squad up to 8. Given that chainswords are free, you might as well take them instead of bolt pistols, as that way you'll at least get an extra attack in combat.

Don't be fooled though - bike squads are not combat units. My personal recommendation would be to keep them at 3, match up all the weapons and go hunting. Take more unit like this if you want, but don't waste the points on non-upgraded models.

Assault Squad
Descending from the heavens on contrails of raging fire, the assault squads are the classic image of the angels of death, so do they live up to that image? Or did they just bring their practice swords to a live fire exercise?

These guys of course get the same basic statline for all 'normal' space marine infantry, and come as standard with a bolt pistol and chainsword. Two attacks each from the squad with chainswords plus an extra for the sergeant is ok, but it's hardly going to rock anyone's world as far as combat damage is concerned, especially as they hit with the basic strength of a marine and don't have an ap value. So, it's all about the upgrades and abilites then is it?  First up we have the standard option for assault squads to take jump packs, which is always worthwhile in my eyes, which lets them deep strike onto the field, which is incredibly useful.

They're still going to be lacklustre as a combat unit however, so let's have a look at weapons options. two can get either flamers or plasma pistols. Nice, but I can get both those things better elsewhere. Eviscerator - great little weapon, and as I read it, it can be taken by the sergeant, which would be a must since one of the normal guys with only a single attack isn't going to make the most of such a weapon. That being said, if you take the eviscerator on the sergeant, you're paying an extra 10pts for just an extra pip on armour penetration. With the other options, you're essentially saying that you don't want the eviscerator because what you're taking is better. Yeah, that's not happening, the only one I'd think of that's worth doing is the power fist as I said above.

To be honest, as much as I want to love these guys (and believe me I really really do) they haven't been all that dominant for a long time and the new rules haven't really changed that in my view - yes if you want to spam them then you can, but they won't survive all that long!

Land Speeders
Fluff-wise the land speeders are intended to act as a mobile fire reserve, supporting the main line where the enemy are strongest and using their speed to force an opening where they are weakest. As with most vehicles, land speeders got a boost to their survivability this edition so let's see how they hold up shall we?

Basic statline key points are toughness 5 and 6 wounds, with a 3+ save. As you'd expect, pretty lightweight though I'll be honest I was expecting toughness 6. With the standard move of 16" they certainly live up to their reputation of being quick though!

Looking at its abilities, there is one of interest, which is that if the unit contains 3 models (the maximum) then you move 20" instead of 16. That's nice, but for reasons you'll see soon, I wouldn't expect it to kick in too much!

Wargear options, the speeder comes with a heavy bolter as standard, which can be swapped for a multi melta, and in addition to this it can choose to take a heavy flamer, assault cannon or typhoon missile launcher. Of these options, I don't really think the flamer is ideal, it's so short ranged that unless you're looking at putting enough fire (haha) into a unit it's completely wiped out, your speeder will get charged in the next turn and probably won't survive it. To my way of thinking that leaves two possible builds - the first is the anti tank version with the typhoon missile launcher combined with the multi melta, which nets you 3 S8 shots per turn each doing D6 damage, whilst the anti personnel version with the assault cannon and heavy bolter puts out 9 shots each likely to wound their targets on 2's or 3's, with a -1 save modifier. On it's own, that's not bad, in a squadron of 3 that's getting to be very nasty indeed.

The only problem with the land speeders therefore is their cost - 101pts for the anti personnel version and 147 for the anti tank. If I'm honest, for the toughness and wounds they have, they both seem quite expensive to me based on their targets, and a squad of 3 is just hideously expensive whichever loadout you choose - even 27 shots per turn are going to struggle to take out 300+ points of troops in a game, particularly stuff like conscripts or ork boys, whilst the typhoon squadron would need to take out something roughly knight sized to earn their points back.

In conclusion, the land speeder is most certainly a characterful unit, and if you choose to go with the target specific loadouts they'll be good, but probably not good enough to warrant the outlay to bring them along in the first place. That's quite the shame really, since I have three kitted out with assault cannons and heavy bolters! I'll certainly be using them in games, but I won't be expecting miracles from them.

Attack Bike Squad
Attack bikes bring the heavy fire support for the fast-moving elements of the space marine army.

Believe it or not, these fellas are just as tough as a land speeder (see what I mean about it's toughness being surprisingly low?) though they only bring 4 wounds to the party. They have the standard ability common to bikes of advancing 6" rather than D6", though actually a squadron of three can put out some decent anti infantry fire - at 12" range the attack bike will output 4 bolter shots and 3 heavy bolter shots. Pretty nice! Multi meltas are equally good on this platform thanks to its speed of 14", meaning that if an enemy puts their vehicles on the front of their deployment zone, then the attack bike will be in half range for that multi melta when it fires.

I'd be tempted to say that the anti infantry version is the better value unit here, and a squadron of 3 is perfectly capable of putting out quite a lot of fire for the comparatively low points investment. By the same rule though, a squadron of 3 multi melta attack bikes can really put the hurt onto vehicles, and still have a reasonable amount of anti infantry firepower to deal with any supporting units that are protecting their charge. Definitely something I'll be looking into for the Dusk Knights!

Scout Bike Squad
Scout bikes were one of my favourite units in the last edition of the game, and in the fluff they're used as long range reconnaissance and disruption units. I used to love taking three astartes grenade launchers in a small unit, kicking out 6 S6 shots at close range before charging in and then using hit and run to travel the board rapidly. Do they still work the same or have they changed at all?

In stat terms, they pick up the extra wound that all bikes get this time round, and the extra point of toughness, but they keep the standard 4+ save that scouts have in the army. As with other bikes, they can turbo boost 6" when they advance, though intriguingly their combat squad split option takes them down to units of 3, and can split a full squad of 9 into three units rather than just 2.

3 scout bikers (not the sergeant) in the unit can take astartes grenade launchers, though these have now dropped from a rapid fire profile to an assault type, though it's still a really good option. Interestingly of course, the limitation preventing the sergeant from taking the grenade launcher means you'll only be able to include 2 in a minimum sized unit. These guys are still a great harassment unit in my opinion, not cheap, but equally with a couple of grenade launchers in there they are capable of doing significant damage to their target. Interestingly, the scout bikers also come with an astartes shotgun as standard, meaning that if you fancy getting in close they'll have a couple of S5 shots to add to whatever else they are shooting (you can shoot all weapons a model is equipped with except pistols and grenades, and they carry the shotguns as standard). They also bring a combat knife meaning that they are just as powerful in assault as the full marine bikers.

In my view, these guys are definitely worth including in your army, especially if you bring enough command points to make use of their stratagem (find out about that later).

Inceptor Squad
Last of the units to be reviewed in this section, the Inceptors are one of the new Primaris units.

Stats wise these guys are wearing gravis armour, so come with an extra point of toughness and the standard 2 wounds that all primaris get. A 10" move ensures that they can get around the table quickly (which is good thanks to their weapons) though I do have a few concerns about a unit size of 3 and only 2 wounds each.

This is an interesting unit - it's sitting there in the Fast Attack slot, but the weapon options are distinctly ranged, albeit short ranged. Now traditionally the fast attack slot was kept to really quick units or combat stuff, and this doesn't really sit well with either (yes, it's fairly quick, but not significantly more than some non-fast attack units - a contemptor for example moves 9" base!).

As for wargear, they come with assault bolters (2 per model) so kick out 6 S5 AP-1 shots each, which is pretty nasty against light troops. Against a marine equivalent however that's not so impressive, without buffs you're looking at 4 wounds. It's decent, but not likely to shred a whole section of the enemy, and that's best case scenario, assuming no cover saves or other bonuses.

The alternate weapon choice is the plasma exterminator, which outputs D3 shots each, so would average 4 shots per model. Not quite the same rate of fire, but the -3AP of the plasma weapon combined with the potential for S8 and 2 damage each make this the clear winner in damage output terms. Using the above example, we get 5 kills from the standard profile, and 7 from the stronger version, which is also useful against multi-wound targets. I would certainly not recommend using the supercharged profile though unless you've got re-rolls available, because losing one of these guys to an overheat would be extremely foolish.

The Inceptors also have a couple of other tricks up their sleeves. The first allows them to deploy anywhere on the table more than 9" away from an enemy unit, so if you're worried about them being targeted early you can keep them off the board and only bring them in when it's necessary in game terms. The second ability allows them to cause mortal wounds on the charge (essentially a version of the old 7th edition Hammer of Wrath rule). That's not going to win them any combats they should be entering into anyway, though as these guys have the fly keyword one sneaky trick you can do is to charge a combat-inept vehicle unit and then fly off in your next turn without suffering a penalty to your shooting. If you do decide to do this however, be very careful about how much other shooting the enemy has nearby, as it can certainly be worth their falling back with their unit to focus fire on the inceptors in their turn.

These guys took a big points drop in the codex compared to the index, and the assault bolter version is now relatively well priced. The plasma variant will set you back a lot of points though, so best make sure you're well-versed in appropriate placement and usage strategies before you even think about bringing them to your games!

Till next time, when I'll look at flyers I think!