Mini Tactica: Land Speeders
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 latest incarnation of Warhammer 40K has seen several changes that now make the previously average Land Speeder into the best fast attack choice of the Index Astartes — indeed maybe even the most cost-efficient / weapons / killing platform within the whole Space Marine armoury.
Hopefully this Mini Tactica will enhance their popularity. So why are they not too popular among players? Perhaps it's their vulnerability, when a properly placed bolter can bring it down in one hit, it seems like a waste. So the question then is how to properly use them for a better effect then landfill and wasted points.
So why are Land Speeders so good?
Land Speeders should be considered the Divine Breath of the Emperor, destroying the Heretic, sweeping away the Zeno and driving the Chaos back into the Warp.
Grand Master Jael [former commander of the Ravenwing]
Think of Land Speeders as something akin to the current day Apache Attack helicopter or similar and you won't go far wrong. You can see that these machines have devastating manoeuvrability, firepower and 'Fear Factor'. They can get anywhere on the battlefield fast — then unleash massive ground-support fire. Use this firepower to advance under or to clear tough opposition early in the game before the ground forces catch up. Primary targets would include indirect-fire that cause trouble but cannot be hit any other way. Secondary targets are mobile heavy support vehicles and transport, heavy weapons units, then, go for assault troops.
The other trick is to use Land Speeders to rush out and capture table quarters (or other objectives) right at the end of the game — the 'Speeder Rush' — that is assuming they have survived!
Movement and more movement
Land Speeders are classified as Fast Moving Skimmers so it seems obvious to keep them moving all the time. Movement is the Speeders' lynchpin — it creates tactical uncertainty in your opponents as well as a degree of self-protection as any hits taken count as glancing if it moved more than 6", so don't sit about. This gives you an almost compulsory minimum move distance then and with a maximum of 12" (in order to fire weapons) or 24" without firing — they can cover a lot of ground. They have the unique capability to pass over impassable terrain and troops.
Weapon choices and variants
The basic Land Speeder
These come with a heavy bolter as standard but with an upgrade you can exchange this for a multimelta. No prizes for guessing what the main target group is for each type. And this is where the first problem starts because since each type is highly specialised for either anti-armour or anti-personnel weapon choice is largely dictated by the type of opponent you will be facing. For me this always means a compromise and this is not ideal in 40K. The good news is that as a Fast Vehicle the skimmer can fire either of these weapon as long as it moved no more than 12" during the same turn so increasing it's reach up to 48" (using the heavy bolter variant). This means it can dominate, or threaten to dominate, a wide tract of the battlefield.
Whatever weapon is selected, if you are fielding squadrons, then keep all weapons the same — do not be tempted to mix and match — as there is a range difficulty that makes their placement troublesome. Consider that the multi-melta needs to be under 12" range to gain the penetration bonus dice, whilst the heavy bolter functions up to 36" so you can stand off and avoid lethal rapid-fire weapons.
For general use the heavy bolter is good enough. A squadron of heavy bolter Speeders can make a real mess of infantry, or against vehicles/walkers penetrating armour up to AV10 (glancing AV11) with lucky throws. This is why they are so deadly.
The Land Speeder Tornado
This is a must-have upgrade to the heavy bolter Land Speeder as you can now get hold of the excellent assault cannon on the cheapest chassis in the Space Marines armoury. This is the variant to field. Add this to high mobility and your Tornado is now a potent killing machine with a weapons mix that works against both armour and infantry. Furthermore both weapons are strength 6 or less so may fire after movement up to 12", chucking out an insane 4 x Str6 AP4 (rending) and 3 x Str5 AP4 per turn.
On the multimelta skimmer you get to add a heavy flamer. This is the cheaper Tornado option but yields a weapon mix that to be effective must be used at close range, too close for my liking. But the multi-melta does give you the option of a 'fly-by' tank-bust where your mobility has positioned the skimmer ideally for aiming for the rear armour. I am not so sure of the flamer on a Land Speeder, but at least the template means you don't miss and it ignores cover saves, so useful against infantry but at the risk of being assaulted or caught by rapid fire weapons.
The Land Speeder Typhoon
Well it's cheaper than a Tornado but nowhere near as deadly. The twin-linked Typhoon missile launcher looks good on the model, firing a long-range blast template, but really for a one-shot weapon is quite weak so making this a risky purchase. The heavy bolter on the basic Speeder is only marginally less powerful versus infantry but it gets more shots — and the blast template is nowhere near as effective in 4th Ed as it was in the 3rd. For tank busting it's worse than the assault cannon. So my advice would be that unless you have an overriding urge to use a Typhoon, leave well alone.
The Land Speeder Tempest
Available from only from Forge World (and using the rules from Imperial Armour Volume 1) you aren't going to see many of these around. In game terms they are nearly three times the cost of a basic Speeder and come armed with an assault cannon and a twin-linked missile launcher and with slightly better frontal armour (yay).
The assault cannon is great, the missile launcher (firing Krak or Frag) is a known quantity and does have great reach and being twin-linked can re-roll a miss which is always useful. It could make a great tank hunter with this weapon payload, but actually the disparity in weapon ranges poses a problem. Do you standoff and fire the missile launcher or get in close with the assault cannon and put your trust in that frontal armour?
To be honest I wouldn't do either, for a total of only 10 more points I'd use a Tornado and a basic Speeder in two separate squadrons and take the greater flexibility as well as an additional point scoring unit. From a modelling and rarity value Tempests are interesting but from a gaming point of view they are a bit of a point sink in most Space Marine forces. The White Scars Chapter make the best use of this variant as they are fielded as a Heavy Support choice, lightweight flying tanks.
The Ravenwing options
Just a quick note on the configuration of Speeders in this frighteningly fast firepower-dominated army. RW Speeders come equipped with a heavy bolter as standard and these can be upgraded to Tornados with the addition of the assault cannon as noted above. But uniquely they can be upgraded to use the tankbusting multimelta with an assault cannon too — so they get the best of anti-troop and anti-armour in one package. This creates a devastating speeder that can hit anything hard and fast with a great certainty of success.
Due to the Ravenwing's recon/hit and run nature, Typhoons may not be taken (considered too heavy) but oddly the more heavily armoured Tempests can. This is not the place for a full Ravenwing Tactica, but I will also mention their unique Jink save. This is effectively a saving throw for an AV vehicle. Yes please.
Formations: what size squadrons?
An interesting dilemma that will be largely decided by what sits in your other Fast Attack slots simple as that, but there are a few things to say about your options.
For me single is best. Why? A single speeder can be effective and has many advantages — easier to hide for a start — over a larger squadron. Single-squadron speeders are more flexible tactically as they can move with total freedom and independence, selecting and shooting at separate targets, converging upon the centre of the board from either flank. Additionally they can be game-winning if they can claim three different table quarters in the last turn.
Two speeders are still able to take cover and are better at dishing out the dirt. The only time I ever use three is when adding a different weapon type (especially a multi-melta to a heavy bolter duo) this will give the unit a better chance versus more heavily armoured foes. However with three and a weapon change, it will make your manoeuvring that much harder and change your effectiveness as well as your weapon engagement ranges.
It is important to remember that when in large squadrons your Land Speeders are actually more vulnerable, as any surplus hits taken on one model overflow onto other models in the unit. If models are fielded individually this isn't a problem. Another drawback to squadrons is that a single damaged Speeder can hold back all the others. You can of course opt to abandon it (it then counts as destroyed) but it is a decision that either yields victory points o your opponent or hamstrings the remainder of the squadron.
But if your FA slots are filling with assault troops and or bikes then a squadron is your only option.
Deployment, protection and tactics
Always start Land Speeders in cover as you are at most risk during the first turn as you can't claim the 'glancing hits' safety net from a previous move. So pray you get to go first and hit something before it hits you. At this stage long range high strength and template weapons are to be feared.
Not only do you want to place them behind cover your also need to keep mission and game objective in mind. Place Speeders in such a way that they can support your battle plan and are able to get to their objectives quickly. With their vast movement you can really tuck them away and bring them out at the most critical juncture, or just snipe with the heavy bolter until the end game then zoom out and capture objectives, or whittle enemy troop units down below point-scoring sizes. When engaging the enemy remember the ange of your guns! You do not have to get too close to hit targets (unless sing meltas). So always keep this in mind: you should be able to out-manoeuvre and out-shoot your enemy — the second you don't, you will more then likely loose a speeder. Yep you can play dirty with Speeders.
Beware of rapid-fire weapons as probability points to them scoring so many hits that you will almost certainly suffer damage, glancing or not. And this is the crux of the real weakness with Speeders, that of their fragility. Anything above Armament Destroyed on the Vehicle Damage charts is a complete disaster for a skimmer resulting in destruction or immobilisation. The 40K battlefield is covered with good strength rapid-firing nastiness not too mention high strength anti-armour guns and they are all out to get YOUR Speeders! For all of the Space Marines gung-ho you really need to play your Speeders with Kid gloves, with precision and focus. You can't just chuck them forward and hope for the best, that's the way to Land Speeder disaster.
A new option is to deploy via deep strike. This seems a fantastic way of getting behind that Stealer horde, Battlesuit team or keeping your precious speeders out of small arms fire until the last moment. Unfortunately, the turn they deploy the Speeder is considered to have moved more than 12" meaning no firing on landing. This presents difficulties unless you can deploy behind cover then sneak out next movement phase. And, like all reserve deployments, you risk not appearing until the fourth turn — this for me is too much a waste of potential assault or heavy bolter firing. So give deep striking careful consideration.
Hope you enjoyed the MT.
Feedback and comments
The Land Speeder is, in my opinion, the only tournament-worthy fast-attack choice currently worth taking. They can do amazing things and get you out of hot spots like you wouldn't believe. Their quarter-capturing/denial power alone is worth the points you pay for the model.
Versus Tau, for example: heavy bolter speeder: kill 5+ Firewarriors while awaiting for the final turns of quarter/objective grabbing… pays for itself everytime.
Multi-melta Speeder: go suit-hunting with this fellow, if you nail a Crisis, it just paid for itself, if it you nail two or more Crisis… well… . I only really recommend the use of the standard Land Speeders, I find the variants to be excessively expensive for what they do.