Space Marine Review: Fast Attack: Bike Squad

SpaceMarineBiker

Hey everyone, Corrm here to take a look at arguably one of the most popular choices in the Space Marine Codex, the Space Marine Bike Squad. For more battle reports, reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

The Bike squad has always been a popular choice in Space Marine armies, with the last two codices introducing special rules that have made them even more popular in 6th and 7th edition.

Overview:

A Space Marine bike squad provides a fast moving unit with increased durability and firepower over a Tactical squad. It has become a very popular choice in both competitive and casual army lists thanks to its wargear options and special rules. The basic squad consists of two bikers and a Sergeant, with the options to increase the squad size to up to 8 models and the option to include an attached attack bike.

Ultramarines Bike Squad

Wargear:

  • Bolt Pistol
  • Frag Grenades
  • Krak Grenades
  • Space Marine Bike
  • Heavy Bolter (for Attack Bike only), can be upgraded to a Multi-melta
  • Up to two bikers may take a Special Weapon
  • The Sergeant can take any Melee Weapons or Ranged Weapons and can take meltabombs

Special Rules:

  • ATSKNF
  • Chapter Tactics
  • Combat Squads
  • Mounted Assault- allows the bike squad to be taken as a troops choice if the detachment includes one Independent Character mounted on a bike.

Salamanders_Bike_Scout_Yumochka

Tactics:

Space Marine Bike squads combine all the benefits of regular tactical marines, with the added durability, maneuverability and firepower of being mounted on a space marine bike.

The basic biker is a solid choice. Toughness 5 with a 3+ armour save and the ability to Jink makes the biker a very durable unit, able to bear the brunt of most small arms fire in the game. Being mounted on a bike means a move of 12”, with the option to turbo-boost a further 12”, making the unit extremely mobile for getting where it needs to be on the battlefield. It also provides the biker with Relentless, which is great for most of the special weapons the unit has access to. The bike also provides the unit with Hammer of Wrath attacks in combat.

If taking large number of space marine bike squads, a bike-mounted Independent Character in the same detachment is practically mandatory. This allows the unit to be taken as a troops choice, not only freeing up additional fast attack slots for other choices, but boosting an already great unit with Objective Secured (assuming you are running a Combined Arms Detachment). In fact, bike units make a fantastic compulsory troops choice for a Space Marine army and they are cheaper than tactical squads. They are more expensive than Scout units, but come with increased durability and speed as described above, as well as access to greater special weapons.

Bikers

Each bike squad has access to two special weapons, even in the minimum squad size. This already makes the bike squad a better option than the tactical squad, which can only ever take one special or heavy weapon (and only one of each in a ten-man squad). A very popular competitive build for the bike squad is a three-man squad with two grav guns and a sergeant with a combi-grav. Relentless on the bikes gives the squad a full 3 shots with the grav gun each turn, with a 30” grav threat range on the unit. This squad comes in at a very reasonable 103 points, an absolute bargain for the mobility and firepower on the tabletop.

Taking Melta Guns in the unit also allows the bike squad to engage in an anti-tank role, the maneuverability of the unit once more helping the squad get into optional range and position to target enemy vehicles.

I like to run my bike squad in a 5-man unit, with two Grav Guns and a sergeant with Melta Bombs. The two Grav Guns allow the unit to take on most targets, while the twin-linked Boltguns of the unit can make short work of lightly armoured foes or units which the grav guns are less effective against. The Melta Bombs allow the sergeant to take on enemy vehicles in combat to greater effect.

White Scars

You have the option to add an attack bike to the unit and to combat squad the unit at full strength (8 bikers and an attack bike), but this option is rarely used. A full strength unit still has access to only 2 special weapons. You would be better simply fielding two separate, smaller bike squads and have access to double the number of special weapons than fielding one unit in combat squads.

You can upgrade the sergeant to a Veteran Sergeant, with the option to take Melee weapons. I would generally not bother with these options. Despite having toughness 5 and hammer of wrath, Space Marine Bike squads are not great in combat. With only one base attack each, they struggle to put out a lot of damage in combat and can easily get bogged down in a protracted combat with a more numerous or more powerful opposing unit.

Chapter Tactics add a lot to certain units in Space Marine armies, and without a doubt, the White Scars Chapter Tactics greatly benefit Bike Squads. The White Scars Chapter Tactics give bike squads access to Skilled Rider and strength 5 Hammer of Wrath hits, as well as Hit and Run.

Skilled Rider is a great bonus to bike squads, not only providing a 3+ jink save, but allowing them to automatically pass Dangerous Terrain tests. This is amazing, giving your bike squads much greater mobility on the battlefield as they don’t have to go around difficult terrain or risk going through it and killing themselves as can happen to other Chapters’ Bike Squads.

white scars

The strength five hammer of wrath attacks are a great bonus for using Bike Squads in combat and Hit and Run helps reduce the chance of your bike squads being bogged down in long combats. This actually makes bike squads more viable in combat against weaker infantry units and units lacking AP3 combat weapons. You can fire at a squad at close range with your twin-linked rapid fire bolters, then charge them to get your S5 hammer of wrath hits and combat attacks. Your T5 and 3+ armour should provide some protection against weaker infantry squads, stay locked in combat for your opponent’s turn to stop them shooting at you, then Hit and Run out of combat in your opponent’s turn to begin the process again.

As might be expected, the new White Scars formations give an additional boost to Bike units. The Hunting Force has the Thunderous Assault special rule, giving a bike unit double hammer of wrath hits as long as the squad has 5 or more models. An automatic ten S5 Hammer of Wrath hits (if using the White Scars Chapter Tactic) is a great bonus for the start of any combat. The Scarblade Strike Force (the White Scars version of the Gladius) also gives bike squads re-rolls to wound on hammer of wrath if they charge at least 8”.

Iron Hands also make great Bikers as their Feel no Pain bonuses take a durable unit and make them more durable! Particularly in Command Squads and with Characters such as the infamous Chapter master with either the Gorgon’s Chains or Shield Eternal, these can be ultra durable units.

For all these reasons, Space Marine Bike squads are one of the best troops choices in the Space Marine Codex and will find a useful place in any casual or tournament list.

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secondhandstore

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About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

18 Responses to “Space Marine Review: Fast Attack: Bike Squad”

  1. v10mega August 5, 2016 8:02 am
    #

    Its funny that you posted this right when I was about to purchase a bike army. I do have some questions if you don’t mind answering.

    1. I know black knights are very good but is it bad to fell that the white scars are better just for one fact? I think Obsec is just too good to pass up. So what would you do in this situation?

    2. If bikes are so good why are they not seen as much? When I look at the top players in an event I rarely see a full bike army. (we exclude BAO winner)

    3. Any tips for a full biker army that will be played in tourneys?

    • Threllen August 5, 2016 8:24 am
      #

      One reason you don’t see too many “full” bike lists is because Battle Company is a thing. Before Battle Company, you saw A LOT of full bike White Scar lists at tournaments. They’re still very good if you just load them out as 3-man grav squads – maybe just not quite as good as the BC. Putting them with a chapter master on a bike or a libby conclave is a pretty good combo.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr August 5, 2016 9:55 am
      #

      Glad to help if I can:

      1. Black Knights are incredibly strong, They are really durable with the re-rollable cover saves, have great firepower and are great in combat. But they are the elite of the Ravenwing and over twice the cost of a regular Space Marine biker, so pay a premium for being awesome.
      Getting objective secured on the White Scars bikers is brilliant and has been a game winner for me many times.

      I actually have a White Scars bike army and a Ravenwing bike army. They are both really good, but obviously have different strengths and weaknesses. I think the White Scars slightly edge it for me in tournament play. They have access to the better units in the Space Marine codex such as the Grav Centurions and the ability to take tooled up bike command squads.

      2. I still think bikes are very popular, but the Battle Demi-Company is very strong at the moment. Plus, if you come up against a lot of ignores cover, bikes really do suffer. I don’t run a full bike army myself. The core of my White Scars is definitely 3-5 squads of bikes, but I use a lot of other support elements such as Grav Centurions, Scout Bikers and Scouts and Landspeeder Storms.

      3. If you are going full biker, I would recommend a tooled up Command Squad as a must. I run mine with Apothecary, Banner of the Eagle (White Scars relic), 4 grav guns and 4 Storm Shields. The squad is expensive, but they can tank a lot of firepower and combined with the Hunter’s Eye, can make a mess of most units in the game.
      I tend to run my bike squads as 5-man. It gives me a couple of extra wounds to not lose my special weapons first. Also, give all your Sergeants meltabombs. Great for vehicle hunting and taking on Knights, etc.

      A full bike army is going to be tough. I generally will only run full bikers with my Ravenwing as they are much more durable than the White Scars with the addition of the Darkshroud.

      I have taken my White Scars and Ravenwing to a few tournaments and generally done pretty well (win at least half my games and place in the top half). You can find all the battle reports and reviews of my tournament army on my blog: http://standwargaming.blogspot.co.uk/

      Hope that helps.

      • v10mega August 5, 2016 10:19 am
        #

        Thank you 🙂

  2. Rob August 5, 2016 8:12 am
    #

    Most likely we don’t see them as often because of battle company I’d suspect.

  3. Alex r August 5, 2016 7:51 pm
    #

    Iron hands command squad from the fist of medusa easily get a 2+ fnp

    • Lord Krungharr August 5, 2016 8:03 pm
      #

      Definitely a 3+, but I think only if they get Endurance can they get a 2+. The Captain or Chaplain with Gorgon’s Chain starts out in the Fist detachment with a 2+ though, pretty dang awesome!

      Gotta chuck in a few Techmarines too for metallic-fluff 😉

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr August 6, 2016 4:06 am
      #

      Yeah, the Iron Hands command squad is certainly incredibly durable. I still like the White Scars though, your other bike units get a bonus to their jink and more, importantly, get to ignore dangerous terrain tests. I find my Ravenwing bikers will sometimes still kill themselves on forests and ruins.

  4. Lord Krungharr August 5, 2016 8:05 pm
    #

    To go with my theme I gave my biker sgts. a lightning claw and melta bombs, but I think a combi-grav makes so much more sense for the same points. They always seem to leave 1 hull point left on whatever vehicle they try to hit. And usually only kill one dude in combat, half the time. Good recommendation. Then I’ll have a pair of claws for someone else.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr August 6, 2016 4:07 am
      #

      I never see lightning claws that much on the table, will need to try them at some point.

      • Dakkath August 6, 2016 10:59 pm
        #

        The main reason you don’t see lightning claws or power sword a lot is because they’re “only” ap3.

        [sarcasm]Apparently the only thing that ever gets assaulted is massive blobs of terminator equivalents so if any weapon isn’t D, ap2, or at least rending with lots of attacks then it’s “worthless”.[/sarcasm]

        • Michael Corr
          Michael Corr August 7, 2016 12:27 am
          #

          Ha. In fairness, it is rare to see special melee weapons of any variety on sergeant models these days. Back in 3rd-5th edition, most of my sergeants were armed with a power sword or power fist.

        • Threllen August 8, 2016 5:23 am
          #

          The main reason you don’t see a lightning claw or power sword is because you’re putting 15 points onto a model that already costs a lot. 21 points for a biker. Throw on 10 more for veteran sergeant. Throw on 15 for a lightning claw/p-sword. Are AP3 attacks bad? No. Is it really worth throwing 46pt (or more) into a single sergeant who is essentially just a tactical marine with 2 base attacks? Probably not.

  5. AngryPanda August 7, 2016 5:31 am
    #

    I very much hope bikes get reworked with the next edition. It should not be exclusively an advantage to drive into battle on a motorcycle, that is nonsense even by 40k standards.
    I’m not talking balance, just concept here. The advantage given should be massive speed but sitting on a bike i na fire fight isn’t protection, it’s a liability. And the choise for characters who want to punch things in the face should be jump packs, that’s what they are for.
    I feel like I’m craddling my second edition here and telling all these kids with their bikes to get of my lawn…

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr August 7, 2016 7:03 am
      #

      Weren’t all bikes and transport vehicles just death traps in 2nd edition?

      • AngryPanda August 7, 2016 7:08 am
        #

        Oh yeah. I’m not asking back for the “glory days” or any such nonsense. But I did like that they made fun of the idea of someone on a bike wileding two weapons and a storm shield.
        If they’d use bikes for mobile firepower and assault troops for close combat there would at least be a role for both.

    • Threllen August 8, 2016 5:25 am
      #

      Bikes are a bit ridiculous at the moment. “Somehow I’m going to bash people’s heads in with melee weapons and this storm shield all while keeping my hands on the handlebars so I can steer this thing.”

    • westrider August 8, 2016 6:30 am
      #

      And then there are the RavenWing, who do all that stuff while wearing long flowing robes. I swear, half the RavenWing training has to be “How to ride a bike without getting your robe wrapped up in the rear axle and crashing horribly”.