Dark Angels Review: Fast Attack: Ravenwing Bike Squad

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the mainstay of the Dark Angels Ravenwing forces, the Ravenwing Bike Squad. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

Overview:

The Ravenwing Bike squad is a highly mobile fast attack choice that can put out a considerable volume of firepower if armed correctly. They bear a number of similarities to the Space Marine Bike squad, but do receive a nice durability boost from their Jink save, which can be quite effective in keeping them alive for longer. They are still an effective unit on the tabletop, but have lost some of their “must take” value from 7th edition.

The Ravenwing Bike Squad consists of one Ravenwing Sergeant and two Ravenwing Bikers. The unit can be expanded up to 8 Ravenwing Bikers and can include an Attack Bike. Each Ravenwing Bikers costs 27 points (including wargear), with the Attack Bike costing 47 points. They have a Space Marine’s stats, but with an extra wound and T5.

I would give the Ravenwing Bike Squad a Situational rating.  The unit on its own is not a particularly competitive choice, with with the right battlefield role and boost from the rest of the army, they can be an effective part of a strong Dark Angels list.

Wargear:

  • Bolt Pistol
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • Twin Boltgun
  • The Ravenwing Sergeant may replace his Bolt Pistol with an item from the Melee weapons or Pistols list.
  • Any Biker may replace their Bolt Pistol with a Chainsword
  • Up to two Ravenwing Bikers may take an item from the Special Weapons list.
  • The Ravenwing Attack Bike has a Heavy Bolter, that may be replaced with a Multi-melta.

Abilities:

  • And They Shall Know No Fear.
  • Jink- If the unit Advances, they gain a 4+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks until the start of your next movement phase.
  • Turbo-boost- When the unit Advances, they automatically add 6″ to their movement characteristic rather than rolling.
  • Combat Squads- Before any models are deployed at the start of the game, a Ravenwing Bike Squad containing 9 models may be split into two units; a unit of 5 models (including the Attack Bike) and a unit of 4 models.
  • Grim Resolve- The unit may not lose more than a single model due to a failed morale test. In addition, if the unit does not move in its preceding movement phase, it can re-roll 1’s to hit for shooting attacks.
  • Keywords: Imperium, Adeptus Astartes, Dark Angels, Ravenwing, Biker, Ravenwing Bike Squad.

Tactics:

The big bonus of the Ravenwing Bike Squad is that they are fast, and can put out a reasonable level of firepower. With a 14″ move and automatic 6″ Advance, they can quickly get around the board to get into position or to grab objectives in maelstrom games. They can’t go over intervening terrain like Jump Pack troops, but they can move a lot quicker and can generally get around most difficulties with ease. Since you know exactly how far they can move in a turn, they are much more reliable for getting to objectives, as you don’t need to hope for a decent Advance roll to have a chance to grab an objective.

They also have a decent level of durability. Toughness 5, two wounds and a 3+ save does well to keep them going against small arms fire from standard infantry. It will take a decent level of firepower for a Bolter or Lasgun to wipe out a unit of Bikes. They will still fall quite easily to higher strength and multi-damage weapons, but the Ravenwing do gain a nice bonus in this regard from their Jink save. Jink gives them a 4+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks if they advance. This gives them a great durability boost against any shooting weapons with high AP, and can really frustrate your opponent if Lascannon or Meltagun shots are simply bouncing off of the unit, forcing them to expend more firepower to deal with the Bikers. They essentially get this rule for free, as the Ravenwing Bikers cost the same as their Space Marine equivalents now. They got a huge points reduction of 10 pts from the Index, which was absolutely necessary, as they were simply far too expensive to be effective before that.

Bikers can also put out a decent level of firepower in this edition. A twin Bolter on each Biker means that at Rapid Fire range, each Biker is putting out 4 shots. A unit of 5 Bikers can put out a considerable amount of firepower that is going to worry most infantry units that are not in cover. They can also be given two Special Weapons to boost their firepower. One of the downsides of the Ravenwing Bikers over Space Marine Bikers is that the Ravenwing Sergeant cannot be armed with a Combi-weapon, thereby increasing your Special Weapons to three in a unit. The choice of Special Weapon is really up to you, as all now how their uses in 8th edition. Plasma Weapons are incredibly strong in the game, and can be boosted even further by some of the Stratagems available to the Dark Angels, such as the awesome Weapons From the Dark Age, which adds 1 to their damage value. Flamers and Meltaguns are also a solid choice for the unit. As these are Assault Weapons, they allow you to still maintain a level of firepower even if the unit Advances (thereby gaining the Jink save). The Flamer is particularly useful as it allows you to hit automatically with its shots, whereas the Meltagun will have a 50% chance of hitting after advancing in most cases.

Another interesting difference with the Ravenwing Bike squad is that the Special Weapon does not replace the Biker’s Bolt Pistol. This means that all Bikers in the unit can either still fire their Pistol shots in combat, or can replace them with Chainswords. This means each Biker will get 2 attacks in combat, as well as being able to carry a Special Weapon, a nice little bonus for the Ravenwing Bikers. I would recommend giving the squad Chainswords. If they do get stuck in combat or need to go for a desperate charge, the extra attack could prove useful to help get you out of trouble.

Grim Resolve is unlikely to have much impact on your Ravenwing Bike Squad. You are unlikely to be fielding the Bikers in large units, so morale is not going to be much of an issue for them thanks to ATSKNF. Also, you are unlikely to be staying in place long to benefit from the re-rolls of 1′ to hit in the shooting phase. However, there may be situations where you want to sit on an objective or get maximum firepower against an enemy unit, so it may come into effect every once in a while.

Stratagems

The Dark Angels codex features a whole host of Stratagems that can boost the effectiveness of the Ravenwing Bike Squad on the battlefield.

Speed of the Raven allows a Ravenwing unit to advance and still shoot and charge in their turn. This is a great stratagem for a unit of Ravenwing Bikers, allowing them to move up to 20″ in a turn and still shoot and assault to full effect. The stratagem doesn’t say whether the unit suffers the -1 to hit penalty for advancing and shooting assault weapons. Hopefully, this will get an FAQ, but I would argue that the spirit of the rule would not have them suffer the penalty, as other weapon types are allowed to advance and fire without any additional penalty. This is useful for gaining your Jink Save, but also getting to fire your Bolters and Special Weapons to full effect.

Weapons from the Dark Age is another useful stratagem for boosting a unit of Ravenwing Bikers if they are armed with Plasma Guns (or even a Plasma Pistol on the Sergeant).

The use of these Stratagems can be useful, but in all honesty, you are probably not going to waste command points on a unit of Ravenwing Bikers in most cases. However, there are certain situations where it could prove to be beneficial. I’ve certainly used Speed of the Raven on occasion to move a unit of Bikers into position to grab a maelstrom objective and still get to shoot with them.

Unit Synergy

Certain unit in the Dark Angels codex can help to boost the effectiveness of the Ravenwing Bike squad.

As the Grand Master of the Ravenwing, Sammael provides some great benefits to the Ravenwing Bikers. Getting a 6″ bubble to re-roll all failed To Hit rolls for Ravenwing units with Sammael really improves the damage output of the Bike Squad.

The Darkshroud makes another great support unit for the Ravenwing Bikers. It grants them a -1 to hit against enemy shooting attacks if they are within 6″ of the skimmer. Added to the 4+ invulnerable save from Jink, this really improves the durability of the Bike Squad and helps keep them in the game for longer.

A new addition to the army, the Ravenwing Talonmaster adds some great buffs to the Ravenwing BIkers. A unit of Bikers within 6″ of the Talonmaster will get re-rolls of 1 to wound and enemy units will not get cover save bonuses from the Knights’ shooting. This can be useful for your Special Weapons, or great for your Bolters for clearing infantry from cover.

Again, much like the Stratagems, these units are probably going to be used to cover a hard-hitting unit, such as Ravenwing Black Knights, but they can be useful to keep in mind as the game goes on and you find yourself losing units to enemy fire.

Uses of the Ravenwing Bikers

I think that the fact that the Ravenwing Bikers are not such a competitive choice makes them a valuable addition to a Dark Angels army as a distraction unit. In an army comprised of Ravenwing Black Knights, Azrael and Hellblasters, a unit of Ravenwing Bikers is not going to seem like such a big threat.

A unit of three Ravenwing Bikers comes in at 81 points. This unit can be great for going around the table and grabbing objectives or harassing enemy tanks and units, charging them and preventing them from shooting in the following turn. While the Scout Bikers are a little cheaper and have more firepower, they lack the Jink save that improves the durability of the Ravenwing Bikers.

You can add special weapons to the squad to improve their firepower or battlefield effectiveness. Flamers are good, allowing you to shoot to full effect after advancing, and the squad still comes in at under 100 points. A lot of the time your opponent is likely to ignore them in favour of your bigger threats and they will only get fired upon if there is no other choice target.

They can also be useful as a support unit for Characters with Jump Packs. The Ravenwing Bikers can act as a screen, preventing your opponent from targeting the hard-hitting character. Again, their Jink saves can be crucial, blocking enemy attacks that are almost guaranteed to wipe out the Bikers thanks to your invulnerable save.

In my all Ravenwing army, the Bike squads act as opportunistic attackers. The heavy lifting in the list is done by Sammael and the Black Knights. The Bike Squads are there to distract my opponent from these key units, adding their firepower when they can and going after the objectives in maelstrom games. The Black Knights may be the units that crush the enemy army, but frequently it is the Ravenwing Bikers that win me the games, amassing maelstrom points or grabbing the objectives at the end of the game.

Overall, I still think the Ravnenwing Bike Squad is a valuable unit for the Dark Angels army. A couple of units of 3-man Squads with or without Special Weapons can be great for annoying your opponent or grabbing objectives, at a very reasonable cost. They are highly mobile, can high quite good durability with Jink and can even put out a reasonable level of Bolter fire when required.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!

secondhandhsop

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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.

6 Responses to “Dark Angels Review: Fast Attack: Ravenwing Bike Squad”

  1. Joe December 30, 2017 10:15 am #

    As I understand the flow chart, Sarge can still take a combi-weapon. In the Index, he can take a combi-weapon (or pistol or melee weapon). From the flow chart, he can then use the Index wargear option and pay the codex points.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr December 30, 2017 11:34 am #

      Yeah, that is an option at the moment. You can use the index options to buy the combi-weapon for the Sergeant as you have said.

      • Joe December 30, 2017 1:10 pm #

        I get the “only use what’s in the box” approach. But combined with the “legacy” approach from the Indexes, it’s a little frustrating to be using multiple books for things like this.

        • Michael Corr
          Michael Corr December 30, 2017 1:13 pm #

          I completely agree! It is annoying to have to go through at least 3 books just to build a valid army list using what I want.

          • Dakkath December 30, 2017 10:41 pm
            #

            3 books and all the accompanying faqs.

  2. Fulcrum January 3, 2018 2:02 pm #

    3 model bike squads with triple flamers are pretty competitive specifically in that configuration. 20″ move, 4++, & 3d6 auto hits + bolters & chainswords. Just hide them behind cover, near a darkshroud & pop them out when you need them.

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