Deathwatch Review: Troops: Biker/Vanguard Veteran Kill Team

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of another Deathwatch Kill Team, this time the Kill Team based on Deathwatch Bikers and Vanguard Veterans. For more reviews and analyses, check out the Tactics Corner.

Overview:

The Deathwatch Veteran Squad has a huge amount of variety in the Deathwatch codex, able to take a range of Wargear options and mixed build units thanks to the Kill Team rules. In the first part of my review, I took a look at a general overview of the Deathwatch Veteran squad and how they perform on the tabletop. With these Kill Team reviews, I am going to break down what I think will be popular builds for the Kill Teams and what tactics might be effective for them. The format of these reviews will be a little different, without a list of wargear options and abilities at the start. To get an idea of these, check out the Deathwatch Veterans Review. This review will assume you are familiar with many of these rules.

If there are any specific Kill Team builds you would like to see reviewed or analysed, please comment below.

In this review, I will be looking at a Kill Team composed of Deathwatch Veterans, Bikers and Vanguard Veterans. I envision this Kill Team being composed of 5 Deathwatch Veterans, 3 Bikers and two Vanguard Veterans. You will most likely be combat squad-ing this Kill Team into a unit of 5 Veterans and a unit comprised of three Bikers and two Vanguard Veterans.

This gives you a highly mobile unit that can benefit from the overlapping special rules of the Kill Team, as well as shore up some of the deficiencies of the Biker and Vanguard Veterans. You also get a 5-man Veteran squad that you can kit out as you wish. The main focus of this review will be on the mixed Bike/Vanguard Veteran squad.

I would rate this Kill Team as Efficient. It gives you a solid unit with good mobility and strong firepower that is hard to tie down. They perform well as a nuisance unit, harassing weaker enemy units, or tying them up in combat to stop them from shooting. Due to the way the Kill Teams work, the Biker/Vanguard Veteran unit simply doesn’t have the numbers to be big damage dealers to tough enemy units, so they need a lot of support to be effective on the tabletop.

Tactics:

As I mentioned above, the main focus of this review will be the 5-man Biker/Vanguard Veteran squad that you can form in the Kill Team. The 5-man Veteran squad is simply the “tax” you pay to gain access to this squad. Not to say the Veteran Squad is bad, it can be equipped to do a variety of roles in your army, working as a deep striking assault element, or a backfield objective holder.

For this Kill Team, you are going to want 5 Deathwatch Veterans, 3-4 Bikers and 1-2 Vanguard Veterans (up to 10 models in total). The mixed unit rules means that you can use the highest majority toughness for the unit against enemy attacks. For this reason, you always want the Bikers to outnumber the Vanguard Veterans, allowing you to make the squad T5 against enemy attacks.

The Deathwatch Biker unit is a solid choice in the army. It is fast and has a lot of potent firepower, with each Biker having a Twin Boltgun that can use Special Issue Ammunition (SIA). This gives each Biker four shots at rapid fire range, able to take on a variety of enemy units thanks to the SIA. One of the biggest disadvantages of the Bikers is their durability. While they are T5, 2 wounds and a 3+ save, from previous experience, it doesn’t really take much to wipe out a unit of Bikers. There is a large amount of S5-6, multi-damage firepower in many armies that will shred Bikers with ease.

This is where the Vanguard Verterans can shore up the durability of the Bikers a little bit. You can arm the Vanguard Veterans with Storm Shield, an option that regular Bikers lack (the Biker Sergeant can take one though). This gives the Bikers a valuable invulnerable save to help protect them from high strength, high AP, multi-damage weapons that would cause them serious harm. In return, the Vanguard Veterans also get the benefits of T5 from the Bikers to make them a bit more durable.

The mixture of Bikers and Vanguard Veterans also gives access to some more special rules in the Kill Team. While the Vanguard Veterans are still alive, the unit can Fall Back and still shoot. While the Bikers are still alive, the unit can Fall Back and still assault. This gives a combined unit that is very hard to tie down in combat, as they can fall back and still perform at great effectiveness on the battlefield.

This helps to shore up the weakness of Bikers, as their firepower can be neutralised from being stuck in combat or falling back. Now, the unit is free to fall back and still fire to full effect in the shooting phase. It also helps the Vanguard Veterans, who can fall back, shoot, and still charge again.

The other benefit is because this unit is part of a Kill Team, they gain Defenders of Humanity. This gives you a fast-moving, “objective secured” unit that can be used to steal objectives from enemy units that lack such a special rule.

Equipping the Kill Team

For me, the best load out for the Kill Team is three Bikers and two Vanguard Veterans. This gives you a bit of a buffer for losing a Biker and still being T5, or losing a Vanguard Veteran and still getting to fall back and shoot.

I would arm both Veterans with Storm Shields. For only 10 pts for two Storm Shields, this is a bargain and effectively doubles the number of invulnerable saves the unit can make. You can arm all the Bikers and Veterans with Chainswords for free. This gives the unit 15 attacks in combat, which is not amazing, but can be useful to finish off a weakened squad if you want. The cost of this half of the Kill Team is 133 pts.

You also have the option to give each member of the squad a Power Weapon, or arm the Vanguard Veterans with a Thunder Hammer or Lightning Claw. It can actually be worth giving the unit a few melee weapon upgrades to help them out. You normally want to keep the Bikers out of combat, but the ability to still Fall Back and shoot and assault means that you can afford to charge into weaker enemy units to try and damage them, preventing them shooting in their turn, without too much penalty to your unit in your own turn.

Taking Power Weapons on all models can get expensive, especially if you are running multiples of this Kill Team, so it just depends on whether you have the points to spare.

Alternatively, the Vanguard Veterans have access to a number of useful Pistol weapons, such as Hand Flamers, Plasma Pistols or Inferno Pistols. The Plasma and Inferno pistols gives the unit a bit more punch against enemy armour, so can be useful additions to the unit. The unit has the mobility to get in close to use the Inferno pistol to good effect against backfield enemy tanks.

Uses on the Battlefield

I see this unit as a valuable squad for harassing the enemy army, using their firepower to kill or damage small squads, or tying up units in combat to stop them from firing in their next shooting phase.

The Kill Team can serve as a way to take out screening units in the enemy army before your reserves arrive on turn 2. Given the potent firepower of some of the Kill Teams you can build, it is essential for the Deathwatch to get these units into optimal position to target big threats in the enemy army. The Biker/Vanguard Veteran squad can be useful in this regards. Given their speed, they should be able to get into rapid fire and charge range of many front deployed enemy screening units. A good round of firepower and assault attacks could eliminate these screening units, or doing enough damage to allow your deep strikers to arrive in the following turns.

The other benefit of the squad is that they are a fast moving unit with Defenders of Humanity. This allows them to move quickly around the battlefield and grab objectives from units that are of a smaller size or units that lack such a special rule. Another use for the Kill Team is to pounce on maelstrom objectives or end of game objectives, as they are one of the few fast moving Marine units that has access to this form of Objective Secured.

Despite the improved durability of adding the Storm Shield to the Biker squad, they are still susceptible to being wiped out quickly by enemy attacks. As they are likely to be ranging ahead of your main army, they can be easily taken out by Smite or other attacks that deal mortal wounds.

I find Bikers to be in a weird place in 8th edition. They are very fast on the tabletop and can put out a lot of potent firepower. However, I find that they are simply far too easy to kill. Most of my opponents have no trouble eliminating a squad of Bikers with just a couple of units shooting at them. This makes them a bit less effective on the battlefield, as it really doesn’t take too much effort to wipe out the squad, even with the extra wound they now get.

As such, I wouldn’t expect the Kill Team to survive too long. They tend to go after a significant target on the first turn, then are quickly taken out by the enemy army. They do have the benefit of taking firepower from other portions of your army, but it is a pretty expensive squad to simply act as a distraction to the enemy army for a single turn.

Alternatively, you could try to hold the Kill Team back as an end of game objective grabber. The combination of their high mobility and Defenders of Humanity means that they have a good chance of stealing objectives from your opponent later in the game. The problem is keeping them safe till the end of the game, or keeping them out of line of sight for most of the game and negating their firepower.

Overall

I think the Biker/Vanguard Veteran Kill Team is an interesting unit. On paper, they have a lot going for them. They are fast, have strong firepower and can hit reasonably hard in combat, especially when tooled up with enough power weapons.

The addition of a couple of Storm Shields to the unit from the Vanguard Veterans can help to boost their durability. However, even with the addition of an invulnerable save, I find that the unit still has issues with its durability for its points costs, and they rarely survive past the opening turns of the game. Despite their short lifespan, they can still find a place in your Deathwatch army.

Given the change to the rules for reserve (in the Beta version), they are one of the few units that can harass the enemy army in their deployment zone from turn 1. Their high mobility means they can usually bring their potent firepower to bear, and even have the potential to make it in to combat on turn 1. This can give you a unit that your opponent is forced to deal with, as they can do a lot of damage if left alone. This gives the other, slower moving elements of your army time to get into position for the subsequent turns.

As I said above, I find that Biker units do struggle in 8th edition. The lack of an invulnerable save and abundance of high-strength, 2 damage weaponry means they are quite easy to kill before they can achieve much on the tabletop. This Kill Team could find a place in a competitive list, but needs a number of support elements to get the best out of them.

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

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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.

9 Responses to “Deathwatch Review: Troops: Biker/Vanguard Veteran Kill Team”

  1. Whiskie June 17, 2018 8:15 am #

    Hey man nice article. I’ve been toying with the idea of running this sort of unit but I’m just not sure that they’re worth the cost compared to the storm Bolter Veteran squad you mentioned in the previous article or a unit of Intercessors. I’ll have to try them out a few times to see how it goes.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr June 17, 2018 3:04 pm #

      I don’t really think they are worth the points cost at the moment, to be honest. I’ve played a few games with them and they rarely survive long enough to have much of an impact on the game.

  2. WestRider June 18, 2018 1:05 pm #

    I think I overestimated them because I still haven’t really internalized how lethal 8th Ed is. 8 Wounds at T5 3+Sv feels pretty solid, and would have been great in previous editions, but anymore, yeah, that’s kind of flimsy.

    Thank you for actually testing them out and putting some actual play experience on the TheoryHammer.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr June 19, 2018 7:46 am #

      Yeah, in previous editions they would have been very useful. However, I’ve not had much success with Bikers in 8th edition for any of my Marine armies so far.

  3. Robert Nathan June 19, 2018 8:08 am #

    I’d be interested in how you feel a unit with stalker bolters or frag cannons would do 🙂

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr June 19, 2018 8:28 am #

      I’m a big fan of both units. I’ll put together a couple of reviews of the units, thanks for the suggestion!

      • Reecius
        Reecius June 19, 2018 8:30 am #

        Having recently played against the Stalker bolters, I have to say, they’re really good for holding backfield objectives.

  4. Whiskie June 19, 2018 10:14 am #

    I’ve been toying with the idea of running some 8 man Veteran squads with 4 heavy bolters and 4 Stalker bolters as backfield units to punish enemy infantry and sit on objectives. I’m not decided yet if heavy bolters are actually worth taking in Veteran squads since Stalker bolters with Kraken bolts are as good if not better against most targets than heavy bolters lacking special issue ammunition are. It seems like when it comes to Deathwatch your best two options for backfield objective/fire support are 5x Vets with Stalker bolters or units of Intercessors.

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr June 20, 2018 6:59 am #

      I don’t think the Heavy Bolter does much for the Deathwatch. The special issue ammunition pretty much has them covered for dealing with all the threats the Heavy Bolter could take care of. I would maybe consider just taking one Heavy Bolter to access the Hellfire Shells stratagem. Otherwise, I think Stalker Bolters are the stronger option. Cheaper, only two shots, but you can wound on a 2+ and still get -1AP.

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