Space Marine Tactica: Fast Attack

Fast Attack is a section that I love, which is unsurprising considering my choice of armies (Eldar, Dark Eldar, mechanised Imperials etc.). To me it is one of the best parts of the Space Marine codex, containing some pretty great units with something that a lot of Imperial armies seem to struggle with: mobility.

 

Assault Squad

I love Assault squads. I took them back when they were 22pts per model and I will certainly take them now at their 17pts cost. This is your go-to cheap close combat unit and makes for a great counter-initiation unit or bodyguard for a jump pack wearing HQ choice. Their stats are the same as a generic Space Marine, though their equipment is where they differ, using a jump pack and chainsword instead of a boltgun to allow them to both get to and fight in close combat better. Their options for weapons are designed to go along with their mobility, allowing two Assault Marines to take a flamer or plasma pistol to replace their bolt pistol and restricting the Sergeant to only a grav-pistol or plasma pistol as options to replace his bolt pistol, as opposed to other Sergeants who are also allowed to take a storm bolter or combi-weapon. The Sergeant can also take a combat shield, where others generally cannot. I generally prefer plasma pistols for ranged weapons over flamers as flamers sometimes have a tendency to kill too many enemy models and negate a charge distance, whereas plasma pistols help against larger enemies, such as monstrous creatures or vehicles. For the Sergeant I would usually upgrade him to a Veteran Sergeant for the extra attacks and give him a power weapon or power fist as well as a combat shield. If the Sergeant takes a power weapon, then I would give him melta bombs, just in case.

How I would run Assault Marines is largely due to the type of army I run, but it is a solid tactic nonetheless. I keep them close to my ranged blob and use them as a counter initiation unit, using their jump packs to pounce on any unit that gets too close to my relatively fragile, small ranged squads or any unit that threatens to tie up my Devastator squad. The problem that Assault Marines is that they will lose to the dedicated melee troops of other races, much like their Vanguard Veteran brothers. Howling Banshees will tear through Assault Marines like they were made of paper; Genestealers will not even break a sweat against them; Wyches will destroy them through numbers. Point for point, Assault Marines are not the best melee troops, so they need to either be defensive or use their mobility to pick on a ranged unit. Playing honourably will get them killed; play smart instead!

The other way that I would run them is, as I said, to prey on powerful ranged units that are not great in close combat. You can use the mobility of the jump packs to pick your targets, able to go after units such as Devastators or Chaos Havocs, units with a lot of fire power, but very little close combat potential. There are plenty of units that fit this description, such as almost the entire Tau codex, but if doing this you have to be careful of your opponents counter initiation units if they have any, as they could end up drawing your Assault Marines into a trap. Remember, Assault Marines are still Space Marines, they’re tough, but not invincible and they are still expensive!

You can also remove their jump packs to give them a free Drop Pod or Rhino, treating them as Infantry. You should never do this. Ever. It’s just not worth it as Drop Pods and Rhinos are not Assault Vehicles, meaning that you will likely be shot off the table before you can charge.

 

Land Speeder Squad

I love Land Speeders. Potentially my all time favourite unit in the Space Marine codex, I have always adored Land Speeders. They are fast, they pack a lot of fire power and they are cheap. In every army, Land Speeders could bring benefits in the form of a lot of fire power. There are a few builds that I would say are the best.

Firstly, the build that I use: a heavy bolter and an assault cannon. This gives you a highly mobile gun platform that can shred infantry units with contempt. It is not great against other vehicles, though it can attempt to take them on if things get desperate with its assault cannon, however this is inadvisable as it is definitely not its best strength. One thing that this build has to worry about is being in range of small arms fire, such as bolters, as the assault cannon only has a 24” range and the vehicle itself only has Armour Value 10 and 2 Hull Points; it is very easy to kill one of these with simple bolter fire! However, the strength of the Land Speeder’s mobility as a Fast Skimmer means that you can move it where you need it. This Land Speeder load out would also probably work with two heavy bolters, rather than the heavy bolter and assault cannon combination, though it will not deal as much damage, however that build can stay out of range of small arms as well as being cheaper. It really depends on preference.

The second build is a kamikaze style unit where you give them two heavy flamers. This build is not a very survivable one as it places your fragile Land Speeders into the midst of the enemy lines if used aggressively. It can, however, be used defensively like Assault Marines, keeping the Land Speeders behind your lines and racing up to deal with anything that gets too close. This unit can only go up against infantry, due to the weapon load out, but due to sheer number of potential wounds it can deal with any infantry through volume of dice; even Terminators will eventually fall to the number of heavy flamer templates.

The third build is the one that I see a lot of people running: a typhoon missile launcher and either a heavy bolter or heavy flamer, depending on preference. This is undeniably effective, capable of hovering around the back lines and pummelling the enemy with missile shots, whether frag for lighter infantry or krak for heavier infantry or lighter vehicles. However, this load out is not great against heavier vehicles, though it can push out a lot heavy fire power against units of your choosing as a 48” range is very forgiving.

The final build I will go into is dual multi-meltas. There is not much that needs to be said about this build as it is only really good at one thing: killing heavy vehicles. The manoeuvrability counteracts the relatively short range of the multi-meltas and the low points cost means that you can get a decent number of them, enabling you to push out enough melta shots that would make the Tau jealous. If running a Salamander army with Vulkan, then all of these multi-meltas will become twin-linked. Ouch!

 

Stormtalon Gunship

The lighter flyer in the Space Marine codex, the Stormtalon is a cheap and cheerful method of getting air power onto the table. It comes with ceramite plating, meaning that melta weapons do not get double dice when in half range, only ever rolling a single dice for armour penetration. It has a special rule that allows it to accompany another unit coming in from reserve, letting you roll just one dice to get both it and the unit it is escorting on the board; they do, however, have to arrive within 6” of each other if this is done. It also has a special rule that gives it +1 Ballistic Skill against ground targets. It starts armed with anti-infantry weapons: twin-linked heavy bolters and twin-linked assault cannons, though the heavy bolters can (and should) be replaced with one of three options: a skyhammer missile launcher, a twin-linked lascannon or a typhoon missile launcher. In my opinion, the best options are the skyhammer missile launcher or the typhoon missile launcher, as the twin-linked lascannon adds some redundancy to the assault cannon as the assault cannon is good against infantry and light vehicles, where the lascannon is good against heavy vehicles. With the skyhammer missile launcher it gives a very similar gun to the assault cannon, a weapon that is good against infantry and light vehicles and so works well alongside it, targeting the same sort of units, but also gives it an almighty 60” reach. The typhoon missile launcher gives it a more powerful missile launcher, able to fire the slightly more powerful krak missiles or the infantry shredding frag missiles. The drawback to this is the lower range, although 48” is still a respectable range, and the higher points cost. If you have the points, the typhoon missile launcher is worth the points, however the skyhammer is very nice if you want to keep the points cost low.

 

Bike Squad

I will be up front here and say that I am not too keen on bike units in general. I know that this may come as a shock, considering I am an Eldar and Dark Eldar player, but I cannot bring myself to like them. This is probably because so many people run them these days. In Eldar armies they have become one of the best Troops choices and Reaver Jetbikes have been a solid choice for Dark Eldar for a very long time. I have seen plenty of White Scars all Bike armies that work wonders on the tabletop, as well as their Ravenwing counterparts in the Dark Angels codex. Bikes are a very, very solid choice, do not mistake my dislike for condemnation. I just do not like them personally.

So, Bike squads are useful objective grabbers for the Space Marines. Why? Because they are Toughness 5 with good mobility and decent mid-range fire power. Two Bikers can be upgraded with special weapons, which I would advise to be either meltaguns or grav-guns. Meltaguns make your squad great at popping tanks as the mobility given by the Space Marine bike allows you to harass the enemy vehicles quickly and get into the half-range double dice armour penetration to allow the meltaguns to pop any armour value on the table with contempt; double points if you also include an Attack Bike with a multi-melta. Grav-guns are also useful as they give your Bikers more capacity for taking out heavy infantry. Bikes give the Space Marines the Relentless special rule, meaning that the Salvo rule for the grav-guns always treats them as stationary for the purposes of determining how many shots they get, meaning that they can move and still get out a very decent number of grav-gun shots. If face with something that has a terrible armour save, you can always use the twin-linked bolters on the front of the bike instead as those do not magically disappear when a grav-gun is taken.

I have already alluded to the capacity to take an Attack Bike in the squad and, in my opinion, unless you absolutely need the extra melta shot, it is not worth it. If you want Attack Bikes, they should be taken in their own squad, as I do not feel that they add much to the Bike squad’s capacity at fast harassment for their points cost; they do, after all, cost more than double the points of a normal Biker. I also believe that upgrading the sergeant to have fancy wargear is a bad idea as well, as the points can be better spent elsewhere; if your bikers are getting bogged down in close combat, they are not doing their job effectively. You could give him melta-bombs if you’re paranoid about getting tied up by something like a Defiler or Dreadnought, but beyond that it’s not worth it for the points.

The usefulness of Bike squads multiplies when running a White Scars list and they start gaining rules like Hit and Run, as it allows them to disengage from close combats that they do not wish to be in (always do it at the end of your opponent’s Assault Phase!) though that will be for another time.

 

Attack Bikes

This is a decent unit. It’s nothing special in my opinion, being a bit too expensive for what they provide. They are effectively a heavier version of normal Bikers with a bigger gun. The choice of heavy bolter and multi-melta is uninspiring and I believe that, for similar points, a Land Speeder will do the job better, especially now that vehicles can also score objectives, leaving the Attack Bikes out there in between Bikers and Land Speeders; similar to both, but not as good at anything.

Someone will probably call me out on this, but I do not believe that Attack Bikes really have a place outside of a themed, Biker army. At a much lower point cost, maybe, but not in their current state. At least they are not as useless as Centurion Assault squads!

 

Scout Bike Squad

The cheaper alternative to normal Bikers, though they cannot fill the same roles as their power armour wearing brethren. Firstly, they can only reliably go up against infantry targets as their weapon options cater towards killing infantry as opposed to vehicles or monstrous creatures. They are, however, better suited to the task in my opinion. Firstly, they cannot take special weapons, so things like meltaguns and grav-guns are out of the window. What they can take, however, are three Astartes grenade launchers in the unit. These replace the twin-linked bolters but are so incredibly worth it for the five points. It’s a rapid fire grenade launcher, capable of either Strength 3 AP6 small blasts or Strength 6 AP4 shots. For the five points, this is definitely a worthwhile investment!

They can also take cluster mines for 20pts. It’s a nice upgrade to take if you have the points, but it will likely not do anything other than deter your opponent. What they do is allow you to nominate a piece of area terrain (not sure how this will work in 7th. I’d just say “use common sense.”) and booby trap it, making it dangerous terrain for enemy models. If there’s an objective in terrain, this could really annoy your opponent as he or she will have to risk taking losses when moving onto the objective. It works better against swarms of weaker units than larger ones as 30 Ork Boyz are going to take a lot more losses than 5 Terminators going into dangerous terrain.

However, one of their strengths over normal Space Marine Bikers is that Scout Bikers are still Scouts and thus gain the Infiltrate and, appropriately, the Scouts special rule. This allows you to outflank them if you wish, which can really cause headaches for your opponent. Nobody wants a mobile, Toughness 5 unit with lots of anti-infantry fire power appearing in their flank whilst they are trying to deal with the main bulk of your army. Trust me, I would know about the wonders of outflanking. I love to do it!

Again, it’s not really worth giving the sergeant anything in particular. Melta-bombs allow you to take out vehicles if you need to and a teleport homer can turn your outflanking headache unit into an absolute nightmare when Terminators start dropping onto the board right next to your opponent without scattering.

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