Space Marine Review: Fast Attack: Drop Pod

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Corrm here, welcome to my review of the Space Marine Drop Pod, stalwarts of the Adeptus Astartes. For more reviews, battle reports and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

Space Marine Drop Pods are one of the iconic vehicles of the Space Marine army. The image of hundreds of pods raining their deadly cargo down on an unsuspecting planet appears in the fluff and imagery of the 40k universe many times. Given how iconic the vehicles is in the game, it is surprising how long it took for the humble drop pod to get an official model.

The drop pod is the ultimate transport vehicle for Space Marines, able to get your forces almost anywhere on the table cheaply and with an improved degree of safety and accuracy.

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Overview:

The Drop Pod is a transport vehicle that can either be purchased as a dedicated transport for many of the units in Codex: Space Marines on in a Fast Attack slot on the force organisation chart. It’s purpose is exactly what it is in the background; to get your space marine forces into optimal position on the tabletop to help win you the game. It comes with several special rules that can help you achieve this aim.

The drop pod is a vehicle with armour 12 all round and three hull points.

Wargear:

  • Storm Bolter
  • Option to replace the Storm Bolter with a deathwind launcher
  • Can take a locator beacon

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Special Rules:

  • Open-topped
  • Immobile- Once deployed, the drop pod counts as suffering an Immobilised result (though it does not lose a hull point).
  • Drop Pod Assault- Drop pods (and the units embarked in them) are held in deep strike reserve. On turn 1, half of the drop pods in reserve (rounding up) arrive automatically. The rest of the pods roll for reserves as normal. Once landed, all passengers must disembark and no models can embark on the drop pod.
  • Inertial Guidance System- If the drop pod scatters on impassible terrain or another model, reduce the scatter distance by the minimum to avoid the obstacle. It can still Deep Strike Mishap if the pod scatters off the board.

Tactics:

The Drop Pod is a fantastic unit that has made its way into many Space Marine armies and is a strong and competitive choice.

The drop pod is an easy and safe way to deploy most units on the board. Thanks to the Inertial Guidance System, the only way for your pod to mishap is if it goes off the board. As long as you deploy far enough from the board edge, your unit will always arrive safely (barring any enemy Interceptor fire). Remember though, if landing in difficult terrain, the drop pod will lose 2 hull points on failing a dangerous terrain test as it is already immobilized when it lands. It is a 1 in 6 chance it will occur if you land in terrain and will make the pod much easier for your opponent to destroy.

GW Space marine drop pod box art

Generally, you shouldn’t bother with any upgrades for the drop pod, keeping it as cheap as possible. The Deathwind Launcher can provide a nasty surprise to some opponents though, as a S5, large blast weapon can cause quite a bit of damage to some units in the game. The short range of 12″ though does run the risk of your shot scattering back onto the unit that deployed from the drop pod or that the drop pod will scatter out of range on deployment to be able to fire the deathwind launcher. I would generally just stick with the storm bolter and taking the odd pot shot at your opponent, as it can be quite funny when the drop pod actually kills something.

The drop pod will work well in synergy with any unit or wargear that prevents it from scattering on deep strike (such as the Homing Beacon on Scout Bike Squads).

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Alpha Strike

The drop pod is also favoured as an excellent alpha-strike platform. As half of your drop pods will arrive on turn 1, you can ensure that units with strong firepower can arrive at the start of the game and generally within range to strike a crippling blow on the enemy army.

You will generally want to deploy a unit with strong firepower in the drop pod for maximum effect on turn 1. Popular choices include Centurion Devastator Squads armed with grav cannons (with attached Librarian for Prescience), Devastators squad with grav cannons and attached Cataphractii Terminator Captain (to confer Slow and Purposeful), Command Squads with 4 or 5 special weapons, as well as Sternguard squads armed with combi-weapons.

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The benefit of the drop pod is that even if you don’t get first turn, the unit can arrive at full strength (barring any Interceptor fire) to strike at your opponent. There are several formations that can boost the abilities of your squad in drop pods, some of which will be described below.

The drop pod improved greatly in the 7th edition codex, where it moved from a dedicated transport option to also being available as a Fast Attack choice. This allowed units that could not previously embark upon a drop pod to gain access to them, opening up some new tactical options for the Space Marine player. This meant that powerful units such as the Grav Centurions to no longer have to foot slog their way into range of their guns and hope that they were not taken out in an alpha-strike before they could fire.

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Objective Holder

Another use for the drop pod, as well as transporting your units, is to hold objectives. If the pod is purchased for a unit that has Objective Secured, it too will gain Objective Secured. This makes drop pods a great unit for planting on objectives, forcing your opponent to deal with them or give up precious victory points and maelstrom points. With armour 12 all round and three hull points, a drop pod can actually be quite difficult to destroy for most infantry without any dedicated anti-tank weaponry.

Just bear in mind though, as the drop pod is immobile, it will be hit automatically in combat and will suffer additional damage when hit with grav weapons. Also, as it is open topped, any melta or other AP1 weapons will only need a 4+ on the penetrating hit table to destroy the pod in shooting or assault.

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Useful Formations

There are several Space Marine formations that feature drop pods and give some great bonuses to the units embarked.

The Skyhammer Annihilation Force features two squads of Devastators in drop pods. This formation was decreed as game breaking when first introduced, thanks to the special rules it grants. One of the key special rules is that the Devastator squads gain Relentless on the turn they arrive, allowing them to fire their heavy weapons to full effect when deployed. This is obviously a very strong ability, allowing a squad of Devastators to pump out 20 grav cannon shots the turn they arrive or 4 Lascannon/multi-melta shots at an enemy vehicle. The two drop pods do not count towards the Drop Pod Assault rule, allowing you to bring on at least 3 drop pods on your first turn automatically.

The drop pod has also found great success with the Battle Demi-Company. This formation will grant any drop pods purchased for the tactical squads, assault squad or devastator squad objective secured. In addition, taking a dual Battle Demi-Company in the Gladius Strike Force will give you the drop pods for free! Most armies would struggle to deal with 10 drop pods, never mind the addition of the units embarked in them. This has found great utility in tournament lists, with the drop pods landing on all the objectives and presenting too many units for the opposing army to deal with.

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In Conclusion

The drop pod is a cheap and cheerful transport vehicle for Space Marine armies. It doesn’t do a whole lot on its own, but its power comes from being used in combination with the more powerful units in the Space Marine Codex. It used to be that drop pods were even more popular, as the Battle Brothers rule allowed incredibly powerful combinations such as drop pods full of Astra Militarum Veterans toting Meltaguns or Adeptus Mechanicus Kataphron Destroyers armed with heavy grav cannons to embark in them. The new GW FAQs seem to have put an end to this, no longer allowing battle brother to deploy in other transport vehicles.

Despite this, the drop pod is and will remain a strong choice for any Space Marine army.
And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

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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.

12 Responses to “Space Marine Review: Fast Attack: Drop Pod”

  1. westrider August 6, 2016 1:11 pm
    #

    If you’re running a bunch of Pods (and thus have several in Reserves) and/or other Deep Striking Units, adding Locator Beacons to a couple of the ones coming in first can be incredibly helpful for the later game. If I have some Pods with ObSec and some without, I put the Beacons on the ones without, hopefully making my Opponent’s target priority a bit more difficult.

  2. Alex r August 6, 2016 5:02 pm
    #

    After playing game after game with pods in the end the stormlance formation with the humble rhino is the best

    • AngryPanda August 6, 2016 10:55 pm
      #

      Which one is that? It has gotten a little hard to keep track.

      • Dakkath August 6, 2016 11:02 pm
        #

        Requirements: 1 Captain or Chaplain, 0-1 Command Squad, 3 Tactical Squads, 1 Devastator Squad, 1 unit chosen from the following list: Assault Squad, Bike Squad, Attack Bike Squad, Land Speeders Restrictions: Any non-vehicle units from this Formation that are not equipped with jump packs or Space Marine bikes must start the game embarked on a Rhino or Razorback. Special Rules: Clear and Sweep:Units from this Formation can re-roll failed To Hit rolls in the Shooting Phase when targeting an enemy unit that is controlling an Objective Marker. Mobile Firebase: Units from this Formation equipped with Space Marine bikes or jump packs can move 2D6″ immediately after they shoot in the Shooting phase. Other units from this Formation can move D6″ immediately after they shoot in the Shooting phase, and may embark on their Dedicated Transport if all their models end this move within 2″ of one of its Access Points, even if they disembarked in the same turn. Units that move after shooting cannot charge in the subsequent Assault phase. Source: War Zone Damocles – Kauyon

        I’m pretty sure this is a white-scars-only and does not have the rules combo to get free transports.

        • Michael Corr
          Michael Corr August 7, 2016 12:24 am
          #

          It was introduced with the White Scars rules in the Kauyon supplement, but is available for any Space Marine Chapter (the Captain can be replaced by most of the special character Captains in the codex).
          It is a very good formation, it just lacks objective secured.

        • AngryPanda August 7, 2016 5:34 am
          #

          Ah yes that one is pretty tasty. I think if you play it with White Scars you also get rerolls to hit and run + rerolls to HoW wopunds or something. As if they needed more of a boost.
          I especialy like the idea of turning every 3″ zone arround an objective into a buffed firezone that the enemy needs to think careful about entering.

          • Michael Corr
            Michael Corr August 7, 2016 7:01 am
            #

            The re-rolls to hit and run and hammer of wrath are the benefits for the Scarblade strike force (in which, the Stormlance can be taken).

            The Hammer of Wrath re-rolls only kick in if you charge a unit that is at least 8″ away. I don’t think I’ve ever used it, as my bikers can generally ensure I am looking at a charge below 5″. I would much rather have the certainty of making the charge than risk going for a long charge just to get re-rolls on HoW.

          • Dakkath August 8, 2016 8:34 am
            #

            I think the wording mean it kicks in based on the charge distance you roll, not necessarily the distance you need to charge.

  3. AngryPanda August 7, 2016 6:52 am
    #

    Outside of formations the Drop Pod seems far superior to any other form of transportation and it makes nornal deep strike look like a joke. I feel like those things are a bit too good compared to what everyone else has to go if they deep strike. Getting half of them first turn is a massive advantage, but combined with the ability to compensate for scatter by just walking another 6″ and basicaly being immune to mishaps is just a bit much.
    Normal deepstrike realy needs something to keep up, at least the ability to walk a bit after landing.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr August 7, 2016 7:02 am
      #

      Yeah, drop pods are incredibly powerful for deep striking. I don’t really see much deep striking outside of them for the reasons you list.

    • Threllen August 8, 2016 5:29 am
      #

      I don’t think normal deep strike needs anything, I think Drop Pods just need to be toned down. The randomness of deep strike (not sure when you’ll get in and can’t exactly pick your landing spot) is what makes it balanced and what makes sense thematically. Drop pods just tip the scales because they cannot mishap, half of them come down turn 1, and the walk distance makes the scatter essentially meaningless. That’s a lot of bonuses for a very cheap transport.

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