Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

A review of past Alien Tactics by commanders during the First and Second Phase Expansion.
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J'Kaara Nan
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Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#1 » Oct 14 2009 08:22

We've all faced the "Green Tide", a ferocious squad or two of Nob bikers rolling into your gunline on turn two. Equally speaking, the brilliant minds of this site have invented, created or devised dozens of ways to not only survive, but to reverse the tide and beat the orc mobs. However, these bikers, IMO, are not only dumber, but less dangerous than another Bike mounted force.

Perhaps it is uncommon to see, but what about facing down an entire detachment of Space Marine Bikers? It looks something like this...

3x SM Bike squads w/ attack bikes
1x SM Scout squad on bikes
3x SM Attack bike squads w/ multi-meltas or heavy bolters

Captain on bike w/ retinue on bikes

Thats just the generic one I've seen, running about 1850 to 2000. What this army lacks in heavy weapons and armour, it more than makes up for in sheer speed, maneuverability and its unrivaled ability to close. In my two encounters with such a list, I've learned only a few things, both of which were not enough to pull a win out of the air.

SPEED: Unless you've seen a pure bike force, you may not understand how fast they can move. The simple fact is, unless you are playing on a board larger than 5' x 5', they will have found you by turn two, three at the latest. Their ability to move so far as well as fire twin linked bolter shots means that they can riddle you with bolter fire just before assaulting.

Another component of their speed is the turbo-boost, granting them a very nice bonus save. This will effectively negate your high strength/low AP weapons while they move at "greater than you" speeds. Not to mention that their increased toughness, combined with this save, devalues plasma and pulse rifles alike. If you have ever faced down a squad of assault marines, that is kinda like what these feel like. Except twice as fast, tougher, more heavily armed and usually packing more total attacks on the charge.


Maneuverability: Tied into speed, the maneuverability aspect of this army can almost 1000%(yeah I said one thousand) of the time force ties or last turn wins in objective games. Using aggressive deployment of main SM bike squads while laying back with the scouts and command squad allows the SM Bike player to pepper you the entire game. Then, if things look to be in your favour turn three or four, they simply zoom full speed onto an empty objective(to claim) or a contested objective(you owned) with any disengaged biker units. While they are low in number, the whole army is hard to whittle down, and its hard to eliminate enough to prevent this from happening.

Ability to Close: No other army, barring Eldar mounted armies and Nob Bikers, can close like this one can. Regardless of how or where you deploy, the SM player will choose when and where your units meet his in CC. You can not run, JSJ or backpeddle fast enough to escape an incoming bike squad. A crafty player will also be aware of your RF or Fish of Fury capability, and thus avoid it by staying just out of 18" for the turn before he charges. Regardless of whether you get a RF off or not, no Firewarrior squad, without incredible luck, will survive the onslaught. While many would welcome this for a chance to focus fire on the then isolated enemy unit, expect your said gunline units to be tied up by the other squads.

Another thing to watch out is the Command squad on bikes. The Captain on bike, who's rules allow Bike units to be taken as Troops, will most likely be joined by a command squad, or join another SM Bike squad. This character is tougher, more skilled and adds a plethora of incredible power weapon attacks.



PS: The army I faced likes to pack in three full Attack Bike squads with 2 Heavy bolters and 1 Multi-Melta each. This gives him three squads able to move far, shoot farther or with huge anti-tank strength AND they are multi-wound with increased toughness to boot. Focusing fire is useful, but in the end, the heavy bolters tore up infantry left and right, while the Multi-melta closed to 12" and ravaged any backline armour I had. A byproduct of this is while I tried to eliminate these tough, small squads, thirty Marine Bikers rolled up my flank and finished off my army.




Any thoughts/comments/ideas/etc etc? With your help perhaps I can get a write-up tactica to actually beat them...
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lostinnm
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#2 » Oct 14 2009 09:19

This is one of the few times I would recommend castling in a corner with a static army. By castling you deny the maneuverability of the bike army, and force him to face your entire army with his much smaller force.

As you mentioned before, bike armies have speed & maneuverability on their side. However the biggest weakness of this build is that in close combat, a bike squad is basically a T5 tactical squad. It's not amazing in assault. So if you can catch them, you can typically kill them. Often against this build, I'll castle in a corner, and use the positional relay to bring in a kroot bomb when the bikes get close enough to the table edge. 25+ Kroot are more than enough to tarpit & kill a squad of bikers. Another quite funny tactic if you have enough firewarriors is to assault the bikes with 30+ firewarriors so they can't get away from you. Yes marines are better in cc, but with their large bases you can easily charge them with 30 firewarriors and actually win. (Believe me I've done this to the laughter of everyone in the store and actually won). Plus by charging them, you again deny them the ability to rapid firing & then assault you dropping the squad to 10 attacks where they had 40 before.

Shas'O J'Kaara Nan wrote:Thats just the generic one I've seen, running about 1850 to 2000. What this army lacks in heavy weapons and armour, it more than makes up for in sheer speed, maneuverability and its unrivaled ability to close.

I would argue this point for the sheer number of meltaguns & multimeltas a bike army can bring. Each squad can bring a meltagun, and/or an attack bike with a multi-melta. Often you will also see Attack bike squadrons with multimeltas, or speeders. So while they may not be the most durable platform, bike armies can bring A LOT

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stillfrosty
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#3 » Oct 14 2009 09:35

Well I actually use one of these armies on a regular basis *whistles*

To be honest I have never fought one these lists but playing with them on a routine basis I can tell you what to look out for and how to counter it.

The first thing you want to do is allow the bikers to deploy first. It sounds weird, but I prefer deploy second with my bike army mainly because I can exploit weaknesses in deployment, its ideal for objective games, and concentrate my army to get the job done. By being forced to go first I have two options, outflank with my army (because I use the khan) or spread out to cover the table. Neither of which is an awesome idea for a bike army. It also allows the tau player to focus his army on one part of the table and "destroy" it then move on. With a bike army every model lost hurts but it only takes one guy to turn the game. So when shooting at the squad you should always try to completely finish off the squad, don't leave anyone left because I have overturned games with one biker.

You also want to avoid static units, broadsides, sniper drone teams, pathfinder, foot fire warriors (unless used as described below). The can't not avoid the inevitable assault from bike based army. Mobility is the key to control the battle.

The next suggestion I have is loading up on tanks. Sure they have a lot of fast moving multi-meltas and melta-guns but they aren't that common. A tournament successful army isn't going to spam melta weapons because there are a variety of threats out there. I personally take plasma guns and I want to try flamers in a 2000 point list. My 1500 point list only has 4 melta guns, 3 multi-meltas and 2 plasma guns. So over saturation of tanks will spread the anti-tank resources thin and if you mop up the squads that have them and the game is over for him. Having a bunch of devilfish and hammerheads also deny all of the bolter and heavy bolter shots the army can put out which is one of the armies' greatest strengths. It also allows for greater mobility so you can stay out of assault.

Unlike nob bikers, saturation of shots is a sure fire way to down bikes squads. As you pointed out the bikers should either be turbo boosting, hiding behind cover, or preparing to assault. So plasma at this point is useless. Quantity of shots, especially since tau have an abundance of strength 5 weapons. Once you start forcing saves they are going to go down.

Another suggestion (not in kill points games) is the use of cheap throw away units to prevent assaults on your more valuable units. Since you can't consolidate after assault, once they charge the throw away unit then you can knock the bikes out with heavier weapons such as plasma and fusion blasters. So if they choose not to assault, then you are going to be able to out shoot them and the marine player isn't capitalizing on your weakness. Just make sure that the throw away unit will die on the charge. Small units of drones or fire warriors would be perfect for this.

Overall, don't be intimidated by the sight of an all bike army. Though the speed and maneuverability can be intimidating don't be overwhelmed. Be sure to target prioritize, finish off bike squads, and keep moving.

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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#4 » Oct 14 2009 10:15

At least for dealing with the multi-wound models (the single-wound models can be killed just like any other MEQs), the trick is the same as for dealing with Ork bikers: instant death. Negate all the wound allocation nonsense and you'll remove them from the table much faster. In the Tau army, this means one of three things:


1) Railguns. Obviously very nice, but also very limited in total shot count. Unless you're running an extremely Broadside-heavy list, you just aren't going to have enough shots even if every single shot removes a model from the table. So feel free to take railgun shots when the opportunity presents itself, but you're going to need something to supplement them.


2) Fusion. You can take them in larger numbers compared to railguns, but they come with a huge drawback: extremely short range. If you don't kill the entire target unit (or at least force it to fall back) in one round of shooting, you are going to get assaulted, period. It's not necessarily a bad option, and it's one you'll probably have available if you're running an all-comers list (for tank hunting), but you'd better be very careful how you use them if you expect more than a one-shot weapon.

3) Seeker missiles. Ah, the poor neglected seeker missile. These are actually a very good option. Their strength value is instant death, their AP ignores the armor save, the long range on markerlights allows you to fire them from outside assault range, and you can take them in large enough numbers to wipe entire squads from the table. Consider the following mathhammer:


Seeker missile hits on a 2+: P(hit) = 0.83333333

Seeker missile wounds and insta-kills on a 2+: P(death) = 0.83333333

Cover save on a 4+: P(save) = 0.5 = P(failed save)*


P(kill) = P(hit) * P(death) * P(failed save) = 0.347


So for each missile launched, you have a Pk of 0.347. Take the popular pair of pathfinder squads for 8x markerlight shots, BS 3 = average four hits per squad, launch 8x seeker missiles, for a total average of 2.7777 dead bikers. Throw in another pair of markerlight hits from a Sky Ray/marker drone/etc, and you pass the magic number of three dead bikers. Say goodbye to the entire attack bike squad in one turn of shooting, in addition to all of your other weapons.


But is it worth the point cost? I hear GW frowns on posting exact point totals, but add up the cost of 10x seeker missiles and compare it to the cost of an attack bike squad, and the answer is a pretty confident "yes".

Individual points cost posting is seen as breaching GWIP, and thus ATT does not permit it either. ~ E.


*Assuming you don't get the first turn with your opponent's bikes deployed out of cover. If you get this lucky, thank every god you can think of, and wipe their army on the first turn (IOW, Pk is now 0.694, and you can reasonably expect to remove two full attack bike squads with just your seeker missiles).

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O'Shatta Hens
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#5 » Oct 14 2009 10:21

List composition aside, I figure the best way to deal with this type of army is, clever use of reserves and concentrated fire. It's important to note that most of these armies are small and contain few large units of marines.

At the beginning of the game, only deploy around 50% of your army. This force should mostly be comprised of long range weapons or as I call them, early game killers- broadsides, Hammerheads, maybe deathrain suits, sniper drones, etc. The rest of your army are held in reserve, outlfanking, deepstriking or regular reserve as per personal preference. The reserved forces should be armed with weapons that can move and fire: XV8s armed rapid-fire weapons like plasma, fire warriors kitted out to deliver an FoF, stealthsuits, piranhas, etc.

Your deployed forces castle up and form a gunline. The first turn or so, they concentrate fire on one unit at a time until it is wiped out, demonstrating their power. Because they can't be ignored, they will act as magnets for the space marine bikers. Unless your opponent is smart and keyed into what you are doing, he is going to throw the majority of his bikers at your gunline.

As he is assaulting and attacking your gunline, he's not going to be able to rely on the biker's turbo-boosting cover save, which means as your reserve forces come on, all those plasma rifles you've reserved are going to be punching through their weak Gue'la power armor. Because he has closed so quickly, you'll get to rapid fire like the dickens. You're actually using his perceived advantage (speed) against him! Concentrate your fire until you have wiped out an entire unit, then target to the next one. Rinse, repeat until he's wiped out.

With careful use of reserves, the Tau are actually very adept at wrecking armies like this.

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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#6 » Oct 15 2009 01:43

Depending on the terrain, Vespid with markerlight support works wonders on bike armies. Especially if the squads aren't capped. A full team of Vespid deepstrikers can destroy a 5 model group with some luck and some markerlights. Even if the Vespid are destroyed afterwards we have the advantage in points.

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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#7 » Oct 15 2009 02:33

I've made plenty of use of a templars bike list which is even stronger in CC and faster due to the righteous zeal movements. It's a devastating list when it hits right but there are ways to defeat it. The weakness to bike lists is that they don't have as many wounds as the nobz list if you can pile on wounds quickly it blunts their advatage pretty quickly.

On average you will get one turn of fire before they are on your line, so you need to lay down as many wounds in that round as possible. If you hold your forces in reserve they will dismantle you without much difficulty, you need all of your firepower concentrated on them at once as it's the only way to cause any serious damage before you are assaulted.

Castling in the corner is going to be the play, while it seems counter to Tau tactics that rely on a lot of movement you need to force your opponent into an area that you can pour fire from. One of the key vunerabilities that bikes have is against lots of shots and more importantly template weapons. Even when spaced out a blast template will still catch multiple bikers.

Railguns may seem to be the leading choice as they force instant death, but you are better using submunition rounds from a hammerhead or the ion cannon. Crisis suits and broadsides are also easy for the marines to chew through in combat, they can still defeat armor but it makes them work a bit more, they tend not to have many heavy weapons so they will need to rely on powerfists to damage armor and that means it will tie up their special character against the tank rather than the squad.

The template on the submition allows you to hit multiple targets giving you a chance to kill 2 or more marines on a shot where the rail cannon will only net one kill at best. The ion cannon also is AP3 so it will force them to rely on the cover save from the turbo boost, which you can negate with marker light hits.

The other important strategy is to make sure you screen your core units with a line of expendable troops, these troops must die in the assult which is why firewarriors are usually preferrential for the first screen, the marines will wound several on the way in and they should elminate the rest of the squad in the assult which is what you want as they cannot consiidate into your second line, which gives you a second turn to hammer down on them with shooting. Crisis suit flamers will also come in handy at this pointa s they can get close enough to hose the marines down but then get back over the second rank to stay protected.

Basically you want to stagger your force so they can't get to the meat of it and force them to engage single squads at a time. You need to mass fire as much as possible and make full use of the breaks created by the end of assault.

Kroot work well for the second line as by then the marines should be significantly weakened from two rounds of fire. Vespid can also be helpful because of their high AP weaponry and you'll be in close anyways. Alternately they can be used to engage the bikers advance of your front lines which can prevent them from turbo boosting, vespis are normal jump troops so move them a full 12 inches, run or assult if need be to lock up their marine advance. Like the front line troops you should expect them to die but in exchange they are buying you a turn or two of massed fire.

For example my charging templar bike squad has 27 power weapon attacks with re-rolls on misses and another 9 attacks and 2 powerfists, it will completely cleave through a Tau unit or even two if I can spread out enough to hit a second unit, you want to make those attacks come off as worthless overkill rather than allowing it to hit a second unit that way it minimizes the kills they inflict and waste a lot of their assault power.

If you hold any units in reserve I would suggest crisis suits with flamers to take down their troop choices that way they can't hold objectives.
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J'Kaara Nan
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#8 » Oct 15 2009 12:28

Thanks for the input. Heres a question. Can a biker unit turbo boost, fire AND assault in the same turn? Or if they turbo boost can they only assault, or some other restrictions? If not, this would allow them to have a 30" assault range...

One thing that hasn't been pointed out is that despite the "low" unit count, their are still an average of upwards 45-50 T5 models on the table, usually boasting either 4+ boost saves or 3+ saves in CC. In addition, they also get more attacks in CC than normal.

For a 10 man FW squad, even at RF, they get 20 shots. Thats 10 hits, 5 wounds and only 1-2 actual kills, on a good, perfectly statistical day. Now if you castle, this squad can easily run into at least two squads, and the chance of seeing one isolated biker squad is low.

What I typically see is the three biker squads moving together, ensuring that cover saves are granted to the majority regardless of turbo boost. Following these are the Attack Bike squads, clearing up "bumper" units like kroot, mauling FW squads and taking pot shots at tanks and Crisis unit squads. Now all this time, the scout unit(which may have combat tactic'd into two squads, is sitting in cover or behind terrain waiting for the objective grab) is maneuvering to either contest an objective or add its, surprisingly, potent firepower to the fight. As if this wasn't enough, the Command squad on bikes is hunting down crisis squads that simply cant run fast enough away.

Some of you have recommended "castling", and the use of kroot squads to get in the way. One problem, though, is that with a 24" inch move and a potential 6" assault, they can afford to just go around you. On the flip side, your never going to be dealing with just one bike squad assaulting your lines. You could have a kroot squad, 5 FW squads and a Deathrain XV8 team as a gunline, and 3 Biker squads numbering 27 models deep can potentially tie up everyone of those units.

Another suggestion (not in kill points games) is the use of cheap throw away units to prevent assaults on your more valuable units. Since you can't consolidate after assault, once they charge the throw away unit then you can knock the bikes out with heavier weapons such as plasma and fusion blasters.


This is ideal, and a tactic I have used in other games. However, in these situations, the unit(say a pair of full size FW squads, or some FireKnife XV8 teams) are typically tied up with the other two Biker squads.

Another tactic mentioned, ie the liberal use of seeker missiles, pathfinders markerlights and vespid looks good but I see many flaws. Namely, you have to first hit with the markerlights. Then, you have to hit with the missiles/vespid. Then you have to wound with said missiles/vespid. THEN you have to hope they fail their cover save(which they will have) or pray you have excess tokens to take away cover save. THEN if you used vespid you have to hope they can survive the ensuing charge. First and foremost, this whole process was a huge point sink, just to do minimal damage to a single squad. If you take a Pathfinder unit, you have to take a devilfish. To bring the required amount of missiles, you need at least two Skyrays, limiting your ability to bring Hammerheads or Broadside mounted railguns. If you included vespid, thats another expensive squad. All these points limit your other tactical options and unit choices, and on top of that, won't leave any room for viable troop choices in sufficient numbers. In objective based games, it becomes an easy grab for the biker player.

What I see as a problem is that, to truly "win" against this army, you have to, more or less, completely wipe out his biker squads. Even a single remaining bike can make a last minute dash to contest or claim an objective. Yet it also seems that other than extremely lucky rolls and decent hits with the markerlights, Tau don't have the weapons to do it. And face it, before you can even consider deepstriking an XV8 team, he has already reached your zone(how many boards are bigger than 4'x4', not barring the fact that hes usually not going to line up all the way across his back table edge. He/shes going to sit as far forward as they can, providing cover is abundant. AND that scout squad is going to be even closer if convenient)
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O'Shatta Hens
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#9 » Oct 15 2009 01:39

Um, no offense intended but I think you might want to go back and re-read the rules for bikes. It seems like you're not familiar with them. :fear:

If you're looking for units that are good against bikes, look for one's with a high rate of fire. Burst Cannons, missile pods, ion cannons are all great choices against bikes. They are generally small squads with large footprints. It shouldn't be too hard to score kills.

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paulson games
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#10 » Oct 15 2009 01:56

They cannot shoot or assault if they opt to turbo boost, additionally they cannot move through difficult terrain while boosting.

Also in order to gain the cover save they need to move a minimum 18 inches, if you can deny them this minimum range by forcing your expendable line into theirs you can trip them up quite a bit as it'll prevent them from recieving the cover save, that's where the AP effect of the ion connon becomes a powerhouse against them. If you can meet them before they boost you have the chance to inflict a few wounds shooting with vespid with AP3 and then by assaulting or being assaulted.

You space out the line a much as possible to creates a larger footprint, they may still be able to drive around you but you can force them to give up much of their forward movements as they are spending much of their movement mooving around the side of the unit, this also means they should be sitting in the open after movinga round your unit. You need to keep the vespid or any advance unit far enough away from you other ranks so that they cannot simply move around the unit to assult ones behind it. Force them to turbo boost around your units and that way they cannot shoot or assault you that turn.

You have to make the most out of the breaks in assault, they cannot consilidate into your lines the way you could in 4th ed and that change becomes the crucial part of your defense against them as it opens up opportunities to fire. It's still going to be a hard fight but it can be done.

Shas'O J'Kaara Nan wrote: In addition, they also get more attacks in CC than normal.

Why are you saying that space marine bikes have more attacks than normal? A marine bike only has 1 base attack and an extra attack on the 1st round of the charge so they have a total of 2 attacks, which is the same as a normal tactical squad on the charge.
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#11 » Oct 30 2009 02:07

Markerlights, Markerlights, Markerlights!

I think that many players forget the alternate uses for markerlights. You can use them to strip cover saves!

Most biker armies rely on cover saves to protect them from low AP weaponry, and most weapons that ignore cover saves don't have a low enough AP. But we have the ability to apply cover save debilitating effects to our low AP weapons : D

There are many different units that could benefit from this, and I am sure that there is a complicated Mathematical formula to figure out which one is statistically the best option. However, I am more of an "Eyeball It" kind of chef when it comes to cooking up lists, so forgive me for skipping over the numerical ingredients.

However, using some simple math, Helios-6 suits sound like they stand a good chance at being one of, if not your best bet. At a range of one foot (which is likely considering the biker army's incredible speed) you will get 9 shots, 6 of which are twin-linked, all of which will cut through the bikers armor saves. Assuming that they bikers have turbo boosted, it should take 4 markerlights to remove their cover save completely. This just so happens to be the average number of markerlight hits from a full squad of pathfinders. Any excess hits should be allocated to increasing BS. If you can manage 6 markerlights on a single biker squad, your helios-6 squad should be able to deal a RIDICULOUS amount of damage, as all of your shots (including the twin-linked shots) are now at BS5.

Round this squad out with small expendable units to use as charge-shields (such as gun drone squadrons or kroot) and you have way to keep those Bike-Melting units protected, while hopefully supplying the bikes with an all-to-easy distraction to chase away just before you blast them again... or at least, what's left of them.
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SpartanTau
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#12 » Nov 01 2009 11:24

FireTrident :
For clarity, you are talking about a Command Team, correct? If not, then you'll either need to drop the twin-linking on two of the suits, or lose some of your shots, or else right now you have four hard points filled.

Topic at Hand :
Since my own army is limited in composition by my own crazy standards and thoughts, here's what I've found to be helpful against bike armies: submunitions and pulse weaponry. Yes, you read that right. Pumping twenty-four shots into a bike squad with a Markerlight or two should get rid of them, even with their added Toughness, since squads are usually smaller due to cost and unit restrictions. The submunitions also help for me, since the added Strength helps in the wounding process, although the decrease in models hit due to the larger base size is tough... Plus healthy washes of combining fire from multiple sources, protecting your squishy troops in Devilfish and reserves, and you should be set.

Of course, I haven't faced a full-on bike army...
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lostinnm
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#13 » Nov 04 2009 01:39

After my last battle with a SM biker army, I found that static tau works quite well due to the fact that it doesn't matter whether they turboboosted or not, they still have a 3+ save. Plus he has few models, and the irritating thing for your opponent is that if you set your units up right, he can only get to one at a time. Put them in some difficult terrain, and he's lost a few to dangerous terrain tests before he even gets to you.

And if all else fails, CHARGE! Static tau can field ridiculous amounts of firewarriors & kroot. Sure you hit on 4's and wound on 6's, but when you throw 40 firewarriors or 30 kroot at 5 bikes, the odds are stacked in your favor. Plus he can't use his mobility, twin linked bolters, or attack bikes against you any more since he is stuck in close combat.

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Inq NicolePyykkonen
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Re: Dealing with Space Marine Bike armies.

Post#14 » Nov 04 2009 03:15

It sounds in general like an Imperial Guard maxim could be applied here...

"Quantity has a Quality all of it's own."

There's something to be said for throwing down a bucket of 24 rapid fire shots per squad, and having say, 5 or 6 squads of those. That's 144 shots without drones for 6 troops choices. Pretty respectable even without ML support. 72 hits, 36 wounds, that's still 12 dead marines a turn in rapid fire range even with their power armor save.

Yes, probability says that 6 maxed troops choices generates about 12 dead marines (even at bike boosted toughness!) per turn of firing without drones, with them all on the table. Those numbers may go up if you start using some Kroot instead.

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