Category: Comparison

Mathammer: Tactical Squads Suck, The Part That is 300% More The Third Part Than Part 1 Was (How’s That For a Title, Eh?)

Greetings, fellow Verka Serduchkas! Once again I find myself doing more mathammering in response to (some of the) comments from my previous article on the much maligned Tactical Squad.

In this iteration, I (finally) tackle how Guardsmen perform when Morale is factored in. I also look at how cover and negative to-hit modifiers affect the equation. In the conclusion, I also adress some of the points brought forward with regards to the balance between Tactical Squads and other Troops as well as the possibility that chaff troops are too good and its them that need to be nerfed rather than Marines being boosted.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

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Offence/Defence Equilibrium in List-Building and Unit Composition

Greetings, fellow Survivors, Wolves and Saviors! An article for you today on offence/defence balance in list/unit composition. This article is aimed primarily at newer players, but it may put words on notions that more experienced players have come to instinctively apply without necessarily fully understanding. Indeed, one of the key concepts to implement when building a list is to seek balance between resiliency and damage output, both on an individual unit level but also across your army taken as a whole. What I mean by the is that you have to ensure your army is able to deliver punches but is also able to withstand them, and vice versa. If you concentrate too great a portion of your points on high-damage but fragile units, you will be able to deliver a mean alpha strike, but your ability to be alpha’ed yourself and not fold right there and then will be poor. Conversely, an army composed uniquely of units that are extremely efficient tarpits like Brimstone Horrors will be nigh unkillable, but will hit like a wet blanket.

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Shooting – Why is it even better than in 5th?

samshootWe all know 40k has been shooting dominated for a long time now but it’s not always clear why. Particularly important are the changes from 5th to 6th which have not only reinforced this but hammered it into your face. A lot of people continue to be upset by armies which are billed as combat armies (i.e. Tyranids) which come out and don’t actually allow an effective combat army to be fielded where other armies quiver in fear. This isn’t an issue of the individual armies (they come elsewhere) but of the game mechanics. Unless an army gets around those mechanics, you’re not going to overcome the paradigm developed by the ruleset.

That’s not to say the ruleset doesn’t ignore combat – it’s still a very important part of the game but it’s generally always a very distant second fiddle to a competitive army’s shooting capacity. While combat has a lot of uses which will determine who wins games, it has become harder and harder to effectively do this and a lesser tool one usually has access to. It’s still a tool though and that means it can do things.

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Release Schedules – A Comparison

With the “recent” courtroom decisions handed down between Chapterhouse Studios and Games Workshop (and during the hearings really) we’ve seen a couple of significant shifts from Games Workshop. All of these have been geared to keep profits associated with their product within house – nothing wrong with that; they are a business after-all and we shouldn’t really begrudge them of this. Despite this, their actions appear to be having a profound impact on the community and ultimately their bottom line.

Let’s have a gander.

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The old vs the new – Tau

tau2One of my favorite things to do when a new book drops is look at the old ‘standard’ army compared to the new as it gives us a good idea of what concepts of ours need to change. This is particularly true for older books who had mono-like builds prior to their release. Tau are no exception here and with only a few new units being included, such a direct comparison is quite easy. So let’s take a look at an old 2000 point list from the 4th edition book (used in 5th/6th) and how it equates points wise to the new 6th edition book.

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Comparison: Assault & Shooting in 6th edition

I’ve seen a lot of funny comments around the Intertubes which is suggesting the relationship (and who’s wearing the pants) between shooting & assault isn’t really understood. Particularly given the transition we’ve gone/are going through. This relationship is pretty much the same as what it was in 5th edition and this is what’s sparking the confusion bubbles over my head in very cartoon like fashion. Enough preamble – let’s decide who’s wearing the pants!

Shooting – 

In 5th edition cover was easy to get and a universal 4+. This made shooting at things hard to remove but kept your heavy weapons alive. Wound allocation through torrent of fire could see them disappear however. With 6th edition, cover is harder to get for basic infantry and generally lower at a 5+. It’s easier to get for vehicles and monstrous creatures however and ruins + fortifications (which you can buy) provide equal or better covers compared to before. Add in that you can manufacture squad placement to ensure your heavy weapons are the last things to die unless you get flanked (and thus likely have other issues) so the reduced cover in these terms is somewhat mitigated.

So like in 5th edition, in 6th edition torrent of fire is the way forward with shooting. You need lots of guns and lots of shots and they will do damage. On top of this – there are a very wide range of weapons which allow you to ensure the shooting does what it needs to do and most units are capable of bringing some form of duality to the table where they can affect more than one unit type efficiently.

Shooting also happens from further away than assaults and when I shoot you – you don’t get to return fire against me (waits for unit which can now do this; no I’m not including the TWO! reflection abilities out there currently). It’s simply a one-way street for the most part – I shoot you and you either die or live. This is has led to the fallacy of course that whoever goes first wins as they get to shoot first. We’ve hopefully debunked this and it should hold true for this edition, too. This makes shooting harder to stop – you can’t block it easily or make the unit go around an obstacle and basically remove it that turn from the equation – it can still maneuver around it and…shoot! With deployments also putting armies at a minimum 24″ apart – and two-thirds of standard deployments now allowing much greater distances to be achieved, shooting has that extra bit of wiggle room in terms of keeping assault options at arms bay.

In essence, shooting is about winning the game while you maneuver to keep doing it. And it’s reliable and effective.

Assault –

Assault is just as deadly in 6th edition as it was in 5th edition if you’re looking to wipe out units. With a huge reduction to Leadership if you lose and whole units being swept away in sweeping advances, losing combat is a very dicey proposition. However, with new Fearless rules and Allies to spread ATSKNF + the usual stubborn goodness abound, getting those sweeping attacks off is harder or sometimes impossible. If you want to kill a unit though – close combat can do a very good job of it as most models have a greater damage potential in combat (particularly on the charge) than via shooting. There are obvious exceptions to this…

The run rule introduced in 5th edition is a mechanic which helps assault units get to where they need to go faster. This hasn’t changed but the disembarkation and cover changes have affected their ability to get into combat. With cover reductions assault units can be a bit weaker by the time they get to the opponent, particularly with poor save units like Hormagaunts or Orks – less so for tougher units like Paladins obviously or units which generate their own cover (Bikes). The Run rule still helps here, as well as any other forms of movement you can get in the shooting phase (i.e. Turbo-boosts). Which of course ties into…

Random Charge Length. Previously the best you could do was 6″ unless you were Cavalry or Beasts – then you could go 12″. Now everyone can go 12″ though it’s unlikely, even with Fleet. Statistically speaking the most common results are going to be between 6-8″ though in terms of reliability, the 3-4″ range through open ground and terrain is where most charges will go off (i.e. 90% probabilities). Either way, longer charges are going to happen. Even those extra couple of inches is going to cause more combats to happen even with the advent of Overwatch trying to stop such from happening. And some units just couldn’t give amusing object here about Overwatch and thus can really benefit from the increased charges RCL brings in – especially if they have Fleet.

Bringing it all Together –

Shooting got better – cover is worse, torrenting is still the king of the hill here though AP2 weapons are now more important and will see more use (thus making high armor save assault units also rue the decreased cover saves) and there is greater capacity to move and shoot. Assault units are more vulnerable because of this but they can charge from greater distances – it’s just a matter of getting them in a position where they can (i.e. not in a transport and alive). Their transports can also move faster than before to get them into advantageous positions but you can no longer assault when coming on from the board. This puts onus on having a unit which can survive at least one round of shooting before assault or which doesn’t require a non-assault transport. New combat abilities like Hammer of Wrath and ability to eliminate an opponent but force combat to continue without them getting to attack improves the damage capacity of assault units. Challenges as well can be used to snipe characters or force them out of fights, etc. who are otherwise very protected in combats.

The main issue here, and has been for an edition now, is unless you stay in combat for your opponent’s shooting phase, the combat unit takes a bunch of close range firepower to the face as you cannot consolidate into a new combat. With the way rallying works as well – the squad you just half destroyed can turn around and still shoot you in the face. The issue here, and has been, you want to limit your damage the turn you engage in combat when that’s your most damaging turn more often than not. Against a tough as nails unit, ya go for it, but against a unit you’re going to win against you want to win small the first round and crush them the second round. This was much easier in 5th edition and still not a reliable thing. With RCL this is harder to due to the randomness – you don’t know how far you are going to assault and with Overwatch, stringing out your squads is riskier. Yes terrain in 5th force this upon you but could get one model within an inch and a minimum of two others in max assault range (i.e. 6″) and thus still pull punches. You could also decide to multi-assault after the fact, etc.

A lot of stuff which isn’t covered here though is defense against assaults. It’s a lot easier to defend against assaults with options like blocking, bubble-wrap or by simply denying super strong units the ability to wipe out multiple units (space them out) and forcing massive overkill. You don’t really care if you lose one tiny squad of plebs or a cheap transport to the 700 point deathstar if the rest of your army is functioning smoothly – particularly since that rest of the army can now lamb-blast said deathstar if it wants or it can just continue using delaying tactics. It’s a lot harder to defend against shooting because it happens at a distance – you can mitigate its damage through cover or killing it yourself but stopping entire units from shooting at an entire portion of your army is very hard to do on a proper board (unless you’re playing against a static gunline of course).


All in all, assault is the weaker option compared to shooting despite assault really getting a bit better in 6th edition – longer charges are possible (and if you consider most charges are roughly the same as they were through terrain previously, there is more randomness here but more gains to that randomness than losses), new rules like Hammer of Wrath, vehicles much less durable in combat, etc. it’s not always about killing as much as you can. This is very much the case with most combat options and whilst they can tear through units – its the aftermath which hurts them the most. Basically, you MUST bring shooting to the table to enable your assaults; the reverse is not true.

Now this isn’t to say assault options are bad or it’s a useless concept within the game. VERY far from it. Rather, an army composed entirely or built around, assault options is going to struggle in some ways compared to an army built around shooting. That’s not to say primarily shooting lists always win. They didn’t in 5th and are unlikely to in 6th. Even one combat unit can be a scary proposition for the opponent if it breaks into their lines – it may die but they have to deal with it whilst other elements continue shooting it. Even beyond this, aggressive armies like Space Wolves or Jumper Blood Angels can still get lots of mileage on the tabletop.

Comparison: Tesla & Gauss

Chaos Dwarfs

Because Necrons aren’t getting enough attention currently, right? In 5th edition, running your Immortals with Tesla was generally the way to go but several rule changes have muddied the waters a bit. Let’s take a look at both options now and whilst the obvious place this comparison takes place is on Immortals, it can be applied to the rest of the Necron army as well.

Tesla Weapons –

With BS4, you averaged more hits than you were actually shooting thanks to Tesla’s special rule (any To Hit rolls of 6 generate two extra hits automatically). Throw in twin-linking and you’d get roughly 1.3 hits per model. That’s pretty awesome and made Tesla weapons the infantry option of choice since they were Assault 1 24″ range weapons – they could keep away from combat and do damage to infantry pretty well. They weren’t great at hurting vehicles though due to AP – but thanks to the removal of such a ruling and the inclusion of Hull Points, Tesla weapons are more capable of inflicting lasting damage on low AV vehicles by stripping hull points. They aren’t going to drop a vehicle by itself (unless it’s a two HP AV10 vehicle like a Venom or Vyper) but they can help strip hull points off weakened vehicles due to this new system.

Tesla is also very good whenever snap firing is involved as every time they snap fire and hit, they get three hits. This means they are much more effective than other units at dealing with flyers or in churning out Overwatch firepower – particularly if they have a twin-linked ability in there. This doesn’t make them great at dropping flyers or assault units but they are a more viable option compared to straight up firepower. Remember though, they cannot deal with AV12 flyers or Dreadnoughts so their improvements in this area mean nothing against such foes.

In the end Tesla are really what they were before but with anti-vehicle improvements at lower AV values – a medium ranged weapon which is decent at affecting light vehicles and infantry on the go.

Gauss Weapons –

In 5th edition, Tesla had the mobility and range advantage being Assault 24″ weapons. They could move 6″ and still fire at max range but with most Gauss weapons on Infantry being Rapid Fire, any movement stopped shooting at max range. This has changed with 6th edition meaning Gauss can actually firing on the move at range now – a huge step up compared to before if it wasn’t mounted on a relentless platform (i.e. Phaeron Overlord). This doesn’t make Gauss as good as Tesla at range – Tesla still generates more hits and benefits more from things like twin-linking but it means Gauss isn’t infinitely outclassed at 18-30″ by Tesla weapons on basic infantry models.

Otherwise Gauss still has a lot more damage potential when you get in actual double tap range – the shots are doubled, shockingly, and this means lots more damage but it puts you in range of enemy assaults, etc. where Necrons generally fold quite easily. The extra damage potential is there but it’s not something you want to be running towards your enemy to use. It’ll more often be used defensively when the opponent gets closer but remember – the average model can now assault outside of Rapid Fire range with RCL. Be wary.

However, Gauss still has more trick up their sleeve. Hull Points. With Hull Points now making every glance a reduction in a vehicle’s durability, Gauss as actual anti-vehicle weapons is a viability. Every six they roll to penetrate automatically counts as a glancing hit so even your basic Gauss Flayer can drop the mightiest of tanks. To get lots of sixes though requires lots of shots and even a 10-man Necron unit with Gauss is only going to inflict just over two Glances at double tap range. Not enough to blow a vehicle away and you’re putting yourself in danger of the opponent’s retaliation. With the new Rapid-Fire rules though, this ability makes Gauss based Necrons a lot more effective at range at both anti-infantry and anti-tank. They’re not going to drop a tank by themselves but they can take off that final HP a more dedicated anti-tank unit may leave on a vehicle.

Conclusion –

Gauss has really stepped it up with the inclusion of Hull Points making them a more applicable anti-tank option than Tesla across a variety of AV values whilst the changes to Rapid Fire means this can happen at range similar to Tesla weapons and still be useful against infantry. Tesla is still the better option at range against infantry though and against low AV vehicles. With the average extra shots Tesla does more damage against both targets – it’s when the AV creeps above 12 that Tesla can no longer damage it or when Gauss moves into Rapid Fire range that their output becomes better. Tesla is also the best option in regards to anything involving Snap Fire – Overwatch or shooting at flyers; yes it’s even better than double-tapping Gauss.

So which one to use? There’s not really a clear winner here and it more depends how you want the rest of your army to work. I’d generally take Tesla on larger foot units and Gauss on units in transports. This also makes Warriors more viable as their damage is now comparable to Immortals for only a few points less.

Comparison: The Weapons of 6th?

With 5th edition fast fading into obscurity behind us, the main question is what will become the heavy and special weapons of choice for most armies? Considering the majority of armies out there use a basic Imperial weapon system and most of the recently released armies are based upon this paradigm, we can look at some of the more common weapon loadouts and make some generalisations across armies. For example, 5th edition was all about the meltagun, autocannon and missile launcher. Not 100% accurate but seeing those types of weapon loadouts across from you (and their non-Imperial equivalents) wasn’t uncommon.

To start…

Heavy Weapons:

The autocannon brought rate of fire and a good medium strength combination – this allowed for easier suppression against vehicles. Missile launchers, particularly in groups, brought that extra strength to cause instant death against T4 multi-wound models, damage AV12+ more reliably and bring some anti-infantry in the case of small blasts. Other options like the lascannon, heavy bolter, etc. were left in the dust due to being too expensive or too ineffective against vehicles. Have things changed?

Yes and no. Autocannons are still an excellent choice, especially in they can be twin-linked like in Imperial Guard Heavy Weapon Teams or Space Marine Dreadnoughts. They were suppression machines before, now they are hull point eating machines. They’re going to struggle against the higher AVs but they still take a hull point off 33% of the time – not bad considering you get two shots per weapon. For comparison, a missile launcher only takes a hull point off 50% of the time – and has half the rate of fire. Chuck in the twin-linking options and they’re not bad at dropping flyers either – takes a lot of them to do so but lots of shots and re-rolling all dice for 6’s is about the best you can do without flyers of your own. Autocannons also get the most out of snap firing due to their increased rate of fire – if the infantry have to move they have a higher chance of doing some damage if they aren’t running as well.

Missile Launchers are still the jack of all trades with their small blast and high strength single shot but with the changes to the vehicle damage chart and missile launchers being a single shot, AP3 weapon, they are no longer as effective at destroying vehicles. They are still decent at suppression due to their higher strength and when push comes to shove, they can pack some wounds on infantry as well but their general utility as an anti-vehicle weapon has gone down. However, if in the future an FAQ comes to play allowing some (or all) missile launchers across armies having Flakk  missiles (a missile which has Skyfire), missiles will re-emphasis their jack of all trades card and still be a good middle ground choice which can do a little bit of everything.

The lascannon is the next obvious choice – generally maligned in the past for being too expensive and not gaining anything of particular note against vehicles, Lascannons are now an improved option RELATIVELY speaking compared to other weapons thanks to AP2. This basically keeps the lascannon on par with what its damage capacity was before but with reduced cover saves it becomes slightly more effective.

The other options are much more restricted in their use. Heavy bolters have seen improvement in being more capable of destroying vehicles thanks to hull points but they still aren’t a heavy weapon of choice. Just the occasional times you have heavy bolters (i.e. Dakka Preds, hullmounts, Typhoons, etc.) they are more useful. Mortars for Imperial Guard are a bit more plausible as options with their ability to snipe models from far away. It’s unreliable though and is still just S4 wounds but its some utilty. Plasma cannons like-wise got a two-fold buff, they are better at dropping vehicles than before (blasts always count as full strength) and taking off hull points whilst the AP2 blast has to contend with lower cover in general. Multi-meltas are still the star of the show when it comes to taking down tanks and have really lost nothing in their application – when on vehicles or relentless platforms (i.e. Attack Bikes, Speeders, etc.). Multi-meltas on infantry models are far less an appetising proposal and really only fit in certain units (i.e. MM Rhino Bunkers) and snap fire helps them be a little more useful on the turns they need to move. Still a fantastic weapon on other platforms though.

Special Weapons:

Special weapons were a little less varried than heavies in 5th edition. Meltaguns was generally the first and last option people reached for – it was the best way to drop tanks and dirt cheap.

Things haven’t really changed with the meltagun itself. It’s still the most potent anti-tank vehicle when everything works in it’s favor; it still bypasses most armor values at close range and has a 50% chance to destroy a vehicle when it penetrates and it’s still dirt cheap. Chuck in a general reduction in cover (specifically, man-made cover like smoke launchers) and meltaguns are arugably better than they were. Unfortunately though, the most common platform for them, infantry inside transports, have had their threat ranges reduced by ~3″ thanks to the new disembarkation rules. This threat range loss is of course gained only at the extreme and often would put such infantry in a place to get blasted to bits next turn (aka over-extension) but this option is now hindered just that bit more. Furthermore, the 3″ lost still leaves the current infantry squad exposed as they must disembark and then move 6″ – you can no longer move the transport 12″ and disembark behind it to gain some protection. Expect to see these mostly on mobile units (i.e. jump infantry, bikes, etc.) though taking them in transports isn’t bad, it’s just not as flexible as in the previous edition.

The big change of 6th edition is of course the potential for the plasma gun to become much more popular. With a reduction in cover and changes to rapid fire weapons, the low AP of the plasma gun can come into play more often (forcing multiple 5+ cover saves is a lot better than multiple 4+ cover saves) whilst the rapid fire changes allow the plasma gun to have an effective 30″ threat range. The addition of hull points to vehicles also make plasma volleys a scarier proposition – consider them a more power autocanno volley at short range. They can take off hull points of lower AVs but thanks to their AP2, they are also a little bit better at actually causing Explodes! results on any penetration they do generate. They are expensive though, but their increased rate of fire makes them effective at both anti-vehicle and anti-infantry duty (though obviously they are inefficient against horde like units). For units replacing their meltaguns with something else, the plasma gun is generally what people will be reaching for.

The flamer hasn’t changed much – it’s always been a bit of a niche weapon on infantry. Like the meltagun it really suffers from the new disembarkation rules and the general weakness of tanks. Throwing a tank forward for some tank shock “I get to move your models” fun is riskier than it used to be and not always worth doing to drop some templates on individuals. That being said, a couple of them in a squad can be killers on Overwatch duty against lightly armed units. Any unit of Orks or Termagants or Guardsmen, etc. isn’t going to want to charge (or multi-charge) a squad with a couple flamers in their midst. They’re still generally dirt cheap and having a couple in your army for clearing infantry or charge defenses isn’t a bad thing but they aren’t going to be popping up everywhere.

The plasma pistol has everyone jumping up and down currently as well but really, it’s the same cost as most plasma guns yet only gets one shot and only at 12″. Yes you can take two with gunsliner to effectively have an old rapid-firing plasma gun but it’s +30 points. It can certainly be useful as it gets you more raw firepower in a unit already maxed out but it’s not exactly efficient. Hand-flamers for Blood Angels though will likely see a bit more use – like flamers they are a niche role but the free Overwatch hits is a pretty decent buy. Infernous pistols, also for Blood Angels, are like the meltagun but hit more by the threat range reduction. Again, expect to see them mostly on Jumper units.

Conclusion –

The three major heavy weapons (autocannon, missile launcher, lascannon) are all still decent choices though I’d say if you had the option for an autocannon, I’d be leaning to them every day of the week over missile launchers. Unless missile launchers do get that skyfire option for an additional cost, well then each of those three heavy weapons does something a little better than the other but neither one is completely over-shadowing the other when compared to their points cost and options where they can be taken.

Special weapons are where we are more likely to see a turnaround. Meltaguns are still good but the gap between melta and plasma has closed dramatically and in an edition where AP2 and number of shots matter, the plasma gun is ticking both of those boxes. Expect to see more but not as much as we saw in the LasPlas days of 4th edition.

Evaluating Bad Units: Assault Cannon Razorbacks

Welcome to the second wonderful installment of our little series here. This time around we’re going to talk about a more unusual choice in the list of sub-par options: the Razorback with twin-linked Assault Cannon.

“But that’s not a bad unit!” some of you are undoubtedly rising from your chairs to shout. And you’re right- when fielded by Blood Angels, where it benefits from aggressive mobility, or Grey Knights, where it gets upgraded stats, immunity to suppression and support from other mid-range forces, it’s quite good. But when Space Marines or Space Wolves field them, it is decidedly underwhelming.

However, let’s follow our usual pattern and talk about things in a more organized manner here first. Keep in mind that, for the purposes of this article, we are ONLY talking about the versions available in the vanilla Space Marine and Space Wolves books, not the other variants. We’ll discuss the hows and whys of those at the very end of this whole mess.

The Good

In a lot of ways, the TLAC Razorback showcases the strengths of a dedicated transport in 5th Edition. It is reasonably survivable thanks to the AV11 standard and the vehicle damage table; it brings a fairly effective gun to the table (which we’ll talk about more in a moment); and it comes paired with whatever unit you can cram inside it, which has a number of possibilities. It’s a nice little generalist tank, able to punch through even the heaviest armor in the game (except Wave Serpents) and putting out enough shots with high-enough strength to scare most anything.

The TLAC is, in fact, a quite effective little shooting weapon; BS4 and rerolls to hit give it unmatched accuracy and S6 lets it wound virtually everything around quite consistently. Add in Rending on top of that and you have a weapon that can pour out significant damage very consistently. In fact, its only real downsides are the mediocre AP4 (which Rending helps compensate for) and range of 24″ (but most Marines want to be moving into midfield anyways.) Realistically, the only downside to the weapon is the cost- 75pts for an AV11 hull isn’t great, but considering how many roles it fills that’s hardly an unfair cost and you can still bring them in abundance in most lists if you care to. What’s not to like?

The Bad

A couple of things. First, the aforementioned fragility- even the vehicle damage table only gives you so much protection and when you start spending large chunks of points on things that are no more survivable than a normal Rhino, you have to consider what you’re getting. One glancing hit can render the tank useless for the rest of the game- either an Immobilize before it moves into range or a Weapon Destroyed at any time. Oh, sure, you aren’t COMPLETELY worthless from either of those, but when 4/6 of the damage table from a penetrating hit renders you useless, things are definitely starting to be a bit less impressive.

That range we talked about above is also a big factor. 24″ is a number many people are familiar with from fighting GK or other armies- it means that most of the time you will not get any shots at the enemy during your first turn, since you can only move 6″ and still shoot. GK can get around this with driving full speed and unloading troops to do the damage early on; Tyranids bypass it by simply being so tough it’s hard to cut them down before they’re in range (and by Onslaught.) SM/SW don’t have these options- more often than not, T1 your expensive tank just doesn’t get to participate in the battle.

Now we get to the third point- the effectiveness of the gun once you manage to get in range. Let me preface this by saying the TLAC is not a bad weapon, but it does have a critical weak point: it’s not that great against AV11. AV10, AV12, heck, even AV13 and 14 to a degree? It’s pretty golden. On the low end of the scale with AV10, its large number of shots and strength make it into an Autocannon of sorts, using rate of fire to compensate for a middling chance to actually go through. Against AV12 the guaranteed penetration on a Rend stacks up fairly reasonably with other guns- to be honest, AV12 just isn’t that easy to break, especially with those S7/8 guns that predominate in many armies, so the Assault Cannon isn’t in a bad spot comparatively. AV13+ tends to be rarer (although not so much with Necrons now) so you won’t have to expect to face down a dozen of them the way you will with other tanks. But AV11 is in that perfect breakpoint of “you’ll often see a lot of it” and “but my numbers don’t work out that well.” Just like with AV12, you need to roll a 6 to penetrate- Rending doesn’t do a damn thing for you. But with 6-10 AV11 hulls on the field, you tend to have a lot more work cut out for you against such targets, and that’s bad news for the Assault Cannon.

The anti-infantry firepower is also not a ringing endorsement. While the TLAC does force a good number of saves on most targets, tougher targets (MEQs, Terminators, FNP) will be able to shrug these hits off with little effect and larger beasties (like Tyranids) will similarly laugh off anything except a Rend- and Rending is notoriously unreliable. So you have the ability to do some torrent shooting against infantry, but both codices (SM from Dakka Preds/Typhoons and SW from Frag Missiles and assaults) have plenty of ability to deal with infantry models without the need for such a tool. In short, the anti-infantry the TLAC brings to the table is unneeded.

The Competition

Now we come to the next critical factor: the other options. Or, more accurately, option, since there is really only one, the ubiquitous Lascannon/twin-linked Plasmagun Razorback. Virtually all of the TLAC’s weaknesses this chassis bypasses; it has an excellent long-range shot, capable of killing both tanks and other targets. It has two weapons and the aforementioned ranges, making it less vulnerable to being glanced into uselessness via Damaged results. Its guns are perfect against not just heavy infantry (a common problem target for many enemies) but also, if it fires both, superior against AV11 and AV13 as well, giving you a variety of good options not really found elsewhere in the codices. And, of course, it is vastly superior against point-blank targets that you will often encounter when driving into midfield carrying a scoring unit.

Why are these factors different for GK and BA, who can use the Assault Cannon effectively? Well, Blood Angels are a highly aggressive army and have the Fast status on all their tanks. The former means they will often want to be jumping in the enemy’s face and the latter means they will usually be able to manage to get to a shooting position on turn 1- and if not they can Flat Out with Smoke and be completely assured of a good shot, as no deployment should leave you more than 18″ out of position unless you really screwed up. Space Marines don’t really want to be getting into fistfights and Space Wolves, while they are fine in melee, can’t effectively bring the TLAC to bear as quickly as is needed- having 200+pts of your army doing nothing for a turn can spell the end of a game in many cases. If we compare Grey Knights and how they use the TLAC, they have not only Fortitude (which is a pretty ridiculous power) but also the ultra-cheap upgrade option of Psybolt Ammo, which turns the main gun into a Psycannon in practice, if not in name. This upgrade doubles the number of penetrating hits you’ll average against AV11, giving you a critical boost against your most common foe.

So as you can see, even when a unit is statistically all but identical, a variety of other factors can make very important differences to the uses it sees and how competitive it ends up being. The SM and SW variants, while stastically not really all that different than their BA and GK counterparts, suffer from poor synergy with their respective armies and competitions from other, more effective units that fill the same role. The TLAC Razorback is not bad in and of itself, but its lackluster performance compared to other alternatives and poor fit with some armies leave it usually unable to keep pace, metaphorically speaking, with your other choices.

Comparison: Land Speeders & Attack Bikes


I got a recent e-mail about this and it was mentioned in the comments here so I thought I’d do a quick comparison between these two very similar units. The two main questions where in which cases were Attack Bikes better than Speeders (and vice versa) and which option was more durable. We’ll look at both these points and the general gist of each unit.

Durability –

This can be a bit tough as Attack Bikes and Land Speeders are different unit types – ones based on an infantry statline and the other is based on a vehicle statline so comparing them isn’t exactly easy. We can run some mathematics to see which is more durable (which have been done lots of times on the Internet so I’m not going to do here – little homework for you if you want :P) and the end result is Land Speeders come out ahead – barely. Let’s break down this analysis though without actual numbers.

Land Speeders are virtually immune to light arms – S3 doesn’t hurt them at all and you need a lot of S4 shots to reliably put through suppression damage on AV10. Even then, only S5 has a statistically significant chance of dropping a Land Speeder and it doesn’t start to get close to ‘good’ until you’re looking at S8+ like with most vehicles. Obviously S5-7 is more effective than AV10 compared to other vehicles but it still requires a lot of shots (which most of these weapons have anyway).

Attack Bikes however can always be wounded. They are tougher than your average Marine with T4(5) but even S3 is going to be able to hurt them and they don’t like seeing poisoned weapons which bypass their higher than average toughness or weapons with AP3 or better to bypass their better than average save. With two wounds they are comparable in toughness to Land Speeders but with only T4(5), they can be instant deathed relatively easily by S8+ firepower – and we know that’s common to deal with vehicles like the Land Speeder.

In the end, both units are of a similar durability – they both die to S8+ weapons relatively easily with Land Speeders having a greater durability edge but are easier to suppress.

Army Inclusion –

You can’t really decide based on durability then if you want to include such units – they are too similar and although they have different durability strengths and weaknesses, fine combing over them isn’t going to net you the best result. Rather, looking at how they fit into your army list will.

At their core, Land Speeders & Attack Bikes are fast melta delivery systems and this is what we’ll be focusing our comparison on (there are other options for the Land Speeder in particular but we’ll discuss them later). Attack Bikes are more efficient at 50 points each compared to a Speeder’s 60 but you get the extra movement options with the Land Speeder and that tiny increase in durability. This is one of the main factors you need to determine when including Speeders or Attack Bikes – how they move with your army. This is also something not included in the durability comparison – we assume the unit being shot can always be shot but Attack Bikes are a lot easier to hide.

With this in mind Attack Bikes work really with with mechanised lists where they can hide behind Rhino/Razorback/Predator hulls until they need to fire – this gives them optimal working environments and if we use the V- or Tri-Rhino movement tactic, well they’re firing to full effect with the opponent having limited options in return. There is also the juggling of firepower your opponent must accommodate if there are both instant death infantry targets and tanks which require his S8 firepower – it’s all nice and well when Attack Bikes can be shot down by S3 firepower unlike Land Speeders but that’s often inefficient. If the opponent is then throwing missiles at the Attack Bikes, they aren’t going into the other vehicles. For this reason, Attack Bikes as squads aren’t great inclusions in foot lists (i.e. Bikers) due to their ability to be singled out by S8 firepower which doesn’t have other targets in such lists.

This same saturation can be brought forth for Land Speeders as well however – they are literally vehicles so including them is going to cause saturation against such weapons. The important part here is Land Speeders are more mobile and capable of shooting over Rhino hulls (cover can sometimes not happen however). The trade-off here is better ability to bring firepower to bear (harder to block, can move over terrain, shoot over things, etc.) but without the ability to hide as easily (more reliance on terrain for this). This can be mitigated by the ability to reserve and deep-strike though ultimately the Land Speeder is more capable of being shot down by your opponent earlier.

The Ultimate Question – which one?

In the end it’s really a matter of which army you’re running – Space Marines or Blood Angels? Space Marines are generally going to be better with Land Speeders and Blood Angels with Attack Bikes if you’re looking for a melta delivery system outside of a metal box. Why? Both units pay for their mobility and Attack Bikes really shine when they can move with Rhinos/Razorbacks and shoot. Space Marine vehicles cannot move 12″ and shoot (thus losing firepower) which negates part of the Attack Bike’s positives (mobility). Land Speeders on the other hand are more capable of operating interdependently with that little bit of extra durability and movement options. On the other hand, Blood Angel vehicles are fast however which means they can move and shoot 12″ with the Attack Bikes operating at peak efficiency.

That being said, this isn’t a black and white answer. Blood Angels can still get use out of Land Speeders and Space Marines out of Attack Bikes – their roles will just modify slightly with what is needed. Land Speeders in particularly are capable of being more than just a melta delivery system – they have several weapon loadouts which are effective (i.e. Typhoon or MM/HF) which provide beyond the “I’m a Fast Melta!” tagline. The above is really where such units fit nicely and are able to work the best as a cohesive whole – Attack Bikes in Space Marine armies might have Rhino babysitters to shuffle them around or can use such early game to prevent shooting at them and split off when they can use their mobility to their advantage, etc. It’s all about what you want the unit to do for the army and how it will do so. Just remember the slightly different strengths and weaknesses of each unit and apply that in list building and game-play. The ultimate answer really is they will often both work – as long as you play to their strengths.