The Dark Fortress

Dark Angels Rhino

5th Edition

Note: This tactica is now old and needs an update. Many facts will not be correct for current game. However the general gist is pitched right.

The battlefield taxi of the Space Marines is a very familiar sight on any gaming table. A shame but due to its ubiquitous nature the Rhino is almost invisible so that its true potential is often never realised. However with mobility once more being key we look at the Rhino again.

Often maligned for their paper-thin armour and previous expense points-wise, the humble Rhino has shown a significant increase in popularity within DA armies in the 5th Edition gaming environment. This has resulted in highly mobile mounted Tactical and Veteran squads supported by Predators or Devastators, hurtling forwards to control objectives or to support deep striking Deathwing squads or Scouting Ravenwing units.

A Combat squad led by a sergeant (with power fist or power sword), meltagun, plasma gun or flamer and three bolters emerging from their transport within 12" of the enemy on T2 is a bit akin to the old "Rhino rush" of 3rd edition but with a ballistic rather than an assault twist. The impact of such unit(s) combined with a mix of other fast moving Dark Angel options gives an opponent a real headache. And remember that the heavy weapon Combat squad is still hammering away somewhere behind offering its own level of support fire.

And Rhinos are great to use as 'active terrain' — that is, terrain that shoots back. More on this later.

But some people hate Rhinos — their vulnerability being the key disadvantage to them. This Tactica maybe isn't going to change the minds of those, but it might give a little insight into the extended capabilities of these vehicles to others who do use them.

So let's start from the basics…

What you get

The humble Rhino is very cheap. This makes it a very attractive proposition for full Tactical Squads. You get a tracked armoured shell with three exit points and a top hatch to fire from. It also comes with some nice free equipment:

  • Smoke launchers
  • Searchlight
  • Storm bolter
  • Repair special rule.

Of these the first two are pretty much known quantities.


This now works as per Codex Space Marines and it allows the vehicle a 4+ cover save while smoke is in use.

Storm bolter

Although it doesn't sound much on its own being able to fire this on the move is a neat little bonus, the 24" Str4 AP5 is enough to cause trouble for Nids, Eldar and Orks etc. Imagine the effect of three or four Rhinos advancing together and the impact becomes that much greater. Couple this with a special (assault) weapon firing from the top hatch… But take a view on it. Points are probably better spent on the squad inside rather then the Rhino carrying them.

Self Repair

The number of times an immobilised Rhino can fix itself is very few and far between (well 1/6 per turn), but it is very frustrating to the enemy nonetheless. Best of all though its free!!

You also get relatively thin armour as standard and this is the vehicles real downside, as it is really only proof against small arms fire. Autocannons and missile launchers are more than capable for bringing a Rhino to a halt, and these weapons (and equivalents) are pretty common in quantity in many armies. Rear armour value is a handicap if the transport is assaulted as it drags down all faces to its AV10. On the bright side, with the changes to the armour damage table in 5th Edition even if your transport is hit your troops inside are relatively safe — needing a 5 to force them out and 6 to start them making saves, plus the dreaded Entangled rule is no more. The only real hazard for embarked troops is being forced to disembark and then being assaulted by the enemy unit that fired upon the Rhino in the first place.

What options are there?

The DA Codex allows a few options for useful upgrades:

  • Extra armour
  • A dozer blade
  • A hunter-killer missile
  • A pintle-mounted storm bolter.

Extra armour

Now a significant cost. But in my view it's still well worth taking if you are using the Rhino as a pure transport, because at least you can keep the thing moving even when Stunned. However it is by no means a must-have option, the more Rhinos/vehicles you have so the more targets your opponent has to shoot at needing to split his fire, this in turn makes each vehicle slightly safer. I suppose it depends on the point size of the game being played and how much importance you place on the Rhinos' continuing forwards momentum, if you have the points extra armour is good insurance, if you don't then don't worry overly.

Dozer blade

I've never been impressed with nor felt the need to purchase this but I appreciate that many people glue them one as a standard feature and swear by them. It also depends on how much terrain you use — but in my view just keep it away from Difficult Terrain. Problem with the Rhino usually wants to move 12" a turn anyway so the blade is then useless as it only works up to combat speed (note: the Codex Space Marines blade works even at cruising speed). Still an option as insurance against getting bogged down I guess.

Hunter-killer missile/strong>

Keep well clear of this. Just not worth the points on a Rhino, well just not worth the points full stop.

Pintle-mounted storm bolter

This is worth taking. Although the Rhino gets one storm bolter as stock having four S4 shots is no bad thing. And having the Weapon Destroyed result stack is a way of mitigating against being Wrecked.

Why take them?

Quite simply it's the combination of cover and mobility that's key. You can move up to 12" per turn and you are safe from small arms fire and thelikes of Lash. Given that many game scenarios are now objective or territory-controlling based, getting your scoring troops into advantageous positions early in a game offers great benefit, as it's much easier to control an area of terrain when you are already there. And given the cost of the Drop Pod, the Rhino is now the cheapest available choice for delivering tactical troops.

Perhaps the single most interesting aspect of (any) transport is that your unit can sit safely inside it on an objective and still count as scoring or contesting (depending on the unit embarked of course). However being a vehicle it can't itself be a scoring unit — but it can contest.

The Rhino also offers a mobile fire-platform in its own right. With two Marines firing from the top hatch, allowing say, the plasma gun plus a rapid firing opportunity, or the flamer good drive-by template fun providing you are close enough. And don't forget the integral storm bolter and optional pintle-mounted storm bolters role here too, giving you four shots per turn on the move for very little outlay, a good softener if nothing else.

Of course infantry models have the option to run. However the Rhino offers a much more guaranteed way of getting from A to B plus it provides valuablecover while doing so. If you want to run, do it after you've debunked from the transport.

In 5th Edition there was one improvement that I really like for dedicated transports. That is the ability to pick up any other unit that can legally fit within it once the dedicated unit has disembarked. Something to bear in mind, with mobility (its continuation for as long as possible) is becoming ever more critical when using them as transport pick-ups.

Who should take them?

Rhinos are made primarily for Tactical and Veteran squads — both depending on their squad size can also take an attached IC. Whether you decide upon transporting combat squads with an assault-based sergeant, or a full Tactical squad, is up to how you want to use your army. Other units can make use of the Rhino too of course — Command and Assault squads. Command squads are a good choice although transport capacity is being wasted even with an attached independent character, and truthfully a Razorback might suit better.

For Assault squad marines you get the option to remove their jump packs from them and transport them in Rhinos instead, this option being a free swap. Don't. The jump pack is the best advantage the Assault marines have — without them they are very average indeed, as the swap makes them subject to terrain-based hazards as well as severely restricting their movement rates. So I am not advocating this use at all.

I have seen Rhinos bought for Devastator squads not as transports, but for cover. I am not sure this is entirely feasible as normally enough cover is available for a single Dev squad no problem, I'd rather spend the points elsewhere. And it goes without saying that when the Dev squad is transported they then wastefully lose out on turns of shooting. But as last resort as cover it is an option.

A few points on moving and firing

Moving, firing and disembarking combinations can be a bit confusing so shown here are a few basics to get things rolling.

Firing works like this:

  • If the Rhino is stationary it can fire all its weapons. In addition you can have up to two models firing from the top hatch, including the squads heavy weapon.
  • You can move a Rhino 6" (combat speed) and still fire its storm bolter and additional pintle-mounted storm bolter as they're defensive weapons.
  • You can move a Rhino 6" (combat speed) two models may fire from the top hatch but they count as moving so you cannot fire heavy weapons.
  • If it moves from 6"–12" (cruising speed) it may not fire any weapons. Nor may the embarked squad fire from the top hatch. This really is the Rhino Rush.


During the movement phase:

  • All models in the unit must be within 2" of the Rhino. If you moved you can still embark but then the transport cannot move. If you haven't moved and you embark, then the transport can move its full movement.


During the movement phase:

  • If the transport has moved you can get out but not move either transport or disembarked unit. Unit can shoot but counts as having moved so no heavy weapons. The unit may not assault.
  • If the transport has not moved the turn you disembark you can get out and then make moves normally. Unit can shoot but counts as having moved so no heavy weapons, and they may assault in assault phase. Vehicle may move off too.
  • If you want to assault, you have to disembark in the movement phase prior to the assault phase and not during it. You cannot embark during the assault phase either. You can fire when disembarking but if you moved within the transport then you count as moving.

I know it may also still seem a little hazy but I think that should clear quite a few things up. Now that we know how to properly use transports, how do we deploy them?

Rhino deployment

Due to its relative fragility, initially deploying in some kind of cover or at least out of LOS of any high strength weapon seems very sensible. Unfortunately this isn't always feasible, and considering the Rhino's role as a transport, open ground is actually what you are after for a clear run forwards. So my advice is to place them well forwards in your deployment in cover (this can be behind another vehicle for instance) or partially hidden if possible, but give yourself the benefit of clear ground in front or to one side to advance into on your own turn. The further forwards you are the closer you are to your objective, and the fewer number of turns you will be carrying troops.

If you are deploying in open ground angle the Rhino so it at least presents as much of its frontal armour to the greatest number of enemy units that threaten it.

Then trust you get first turn. If you do you are laughing and you can merrily roll forwards. If you go second just hope that some of your other armour/Dreads/other exposed units present better target opportunities for the first turn's shooting. Often I find that the Rhino is overlooked in T1 shooting — with Predators and Dreadnoughts being targeted first. Transports are more likely to be hit on T2 or T3 than any other and that is when your smoke comes into play. Once the embarked unit is out and away, the Rhino is then usually ignored altogether because it isn't point-scoring.

Dawn of War

While on deployment a quick word about Dawn of War. Remember that a Rhino counts as a single Troops choice when deploying. That means you may only deploy the Rhino and its associated unit and an HQ — thin pickings.

Rhino tactics

The battlefield taxi

Go straight forwards. Present as much frontal armour as you can at all times. Keep clear of any hindering terrain unless you have a dozer blade attached. Once you are in disembarking range pop smoke. With three exit points you have the option unloading in the enemies face and rapid firing, or round the other (far) side where LOS is blocked to your disembarking unit. Simple and uncomplicated.

Always be aware of your exit points and what's around them. As you can't disembark within 1" of any enemy units or into impassible terrain you don't want to have an emergency disembarkation on your hands and then get shot up. Worst-case scenario you're trapped inside — though this is a rarity on a model with 3 exit points.

Other tactical stuff…

The empty Rhino can still fullfill a number of roles and we'll discus those further on. But on thing it can do is become available to pick up any friendly unit that can legally fit in it — useful for collecting a stranded squad or IC stuck out from the main action.

The 'Wall of Steel'

Once it has unloaded its squad, if feasible try keeping the Rhino between any of your unit(s) and any enemy unit(s) to block them from taking shooting casualties — this is known as the wall of steel.

The Rhino occupies a fairly large footprint and can easily hide a combat squad or maybe even a full squad advancing in its wake. And if the Rhino is hit and destroyed, provided it isn't annihilated, it remains on the table as 4+ cover.

Either way, the key here is running the thing empty and keeping it moving, and keeping it between the enemy and you. They are cheap enough to lose if empty provided they distract enemy activity away from other of your units.

The armoured column

With how vehicle obscured cover works in 5th Edition it is tempting to line your transports up in such a way that each one, apart from the first, benefits from the 4+ cover save for being 50% or more covered. Works better if the front vehicle is a Land Raider. This is a narrow tactical advantage though as by default all your transported units will be in one place — that's OK if that's what you want.

Active terrain

Once your transported unit has disembarked (if it ever had one), you might as well do some damage with it. You can jam it into narrow parts of the battlefield — perhaps between two bits of terrain or the terrain and table edge — and force you opponent to either destroy it or detour around it. Either way it's time and firepower wasted on a transport that has already done its job.

Additionally plugging holes in terrain is also a good use for these walls on wheels but once in position they are largely static. This can be very useful for creating fire lanes; forcing enemy units to take different routes across the battlefield; or in Cities of Death for creating additional obstacles for enemy troops and armour to negotiate.

LOS blocker

The trick here is to roll it right up to an enemy heavy weapons unit and park it right in front, ideally blocking LOS beyond. In order to regain LOS the heavy weapons unit will either have to move (losing a turn of heavy weapon shooting) or attempt to destroy the Rhino. Either way it's a turn wasted for your opponent and less firepower coming your way.

The turretless tank

If you keep your squad in it, you can fire out of the top hatch with the heavy weapons guy. This effectively gives you a Tank with 360 degree LOS. In order to hit your weapons guy, your opponent will need to penetrate your Rhino's armour first before it can do any damage. And as it is a largely static tactic, Shaken, Stunned, Immobilised and Weapon destroyed will have no effect on the firing unit within.

And more...

Tank shocking in turns 5 and 6

In objective based games, the front end of your Rhino can be one of your greatest weapons. You can use the empty transport to Tank Shock and push an enemy unit out of scoring range of an objective. The enemy don't have to fail their morale test (but that is a bonus) to be pushed back as they have to move out of the way and remain in unit cohesion. Just make sure you are lined up correctly the turn before, otherwise you might force one or two of his models closer to the objective by accident. If they fail their morale test so much the better as they have to fall back, however against Fearless or high Leadership units pushing back is as much as you can hope for.

Remember that although the enemy unit might be pushed back, you must have a scoring unit nearby to make the whole exercise worthwhile.


The Rhino being a tank can ram, but with a frontal armour of just 11 and a maximum Ram Strength of 6 (+1 armour, +4 speed, +1 tank) it's not going to work too well except under the most ideal circumstances against similarly light(ish) vehicles and skimmers. As you'll be taking at least a Str5 hit in return, it seems like a risky thing to do so use with caution. But the full move front end of the Rhino can be a threat to anything up to AV12 — the key being getting that 12" move. Truth is effective Ramming is best left for Land Raiders.

Having said that it's great fun, very cinematic and could result in some useful damage being inflicted. A Crew Stunned result might mean the enemy vehicle can't move into a contesting position for instance. So something else to do with your empty Rhino.

Options instead of the Rhino

You have three other vehicles for transporting your troops. I shall look at each quickly with Pro and Cons, but each will be the subject of their own Tacticas.

The Land Raider/Crusader

  • Great armour protection
  • You can assault directly from it
  • Good transport capacity
  • Excellent firepower.


  • High Cost
  • For the Unforgiven it is only a Heavy Support choice, not a dedicated transport.

The Drop Pod

  • Gets to the enemy with no risk of being shot at or assaulted
  • Good transport capacity
  • An integral storm bolter
  • Pod provides good cover for emerging squad
  • It's a dedicated transport.
  • Unpredictable Reserve entry timing
  • Potentially an easy Kill Point for your opponent
  • Can't move once deployed
  • Points cost is now greater than for a Rhino
  • Subject to scattering and being forced to use the mishap table.

The Razorback

  • Relatively inexpensive base cost with a free heavy weapon
  • Upgradeable to more expensive TLLC
  • It's a dedicated transport.
  • AV values no better than a Rhino so still vulnerable
  • Reduced transport capacity so no good for full squads (until casualties allow them aboard).


As with all Space Marines vehicles — take more than one. Nothing advertises the position of your IC and Vet/Command squad more than a single Rhino transport does. So it makes sense to take two or three, and ensure other armoured targets are available too. They are far from bomb-proof, and you will lose squads for sure, but properly supported by mobile gun platforms such as Predators or Dreads there is no cheaper way of getting your Space Marines forwards quickly into scenario-winning positions.

From a modelling perspective, keep all your Rhinos looking the same. I know there is great temptation to "characterise" a Rhino either by painting or added physical details, to reflect the type of unit/character inside: for example a black Rhino for a Chaplain or a blue one for a Libby etc. Avoid this, as again you are merely drawing your opponent's attention to where your important stuff is. I realise that in competitions your opponent can ask what's being transported in what vehicle and you are duty-bound to tell him, but why help him remember?

Rhinos are there to get troops forward quickly — in this they succeed — but at a risk. Get them working properly and they can really pay for their small outlay many times over.

Hope you enjoyed the tactica.

Inkaras / Isiah


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