The Dark Fortress

Assault cannon or cyclone anti-tank for Terminators by HAG

29 November 2012 | 6th Edition

Advancing Land Raiders
"Of course I can see it. But what do I shoot it with?"
Image: ©Games Workshop

Below is HAG's take on the choice between these two weapons reproduced from with thanks. I've added my own conclusions as I see it in affecting DA list building choices.

OK, so maybe it isn't THE question, but it is definitely A question. With 6th Edition 40K upon us, my initial thought was "Power weapons are AP3?" quickly followed by "Terminators are going to be stupid good!". The next question then becomes how to arm them for anti-tank work now that they have been restored to their proper place as lords of the 40K battlefield. In 5th Edition, the cyclone was the clear winner, but with some of the changes in 6th, I wonder if that will continue to be the case.

Let me just state a personal opinion that wrecking vehicles from hull point reduction is the way of the future, not necessarily rolling on the vehicle damage table. I look at a penetrating hit as knocking off a hull point with potential for additional mayhem.

History of the assault cannon in 40K play

Games Workshop has a time honored tradition regarding assault cannons. What is this tradition, you may ask? Fear not, an explanation is here! For the mighty assault cannon, its power level swings like a pendulum.

In 2nd Edition, it was a sustained fire die, krak missile firing piece of equipment that had many a non-marine player wailing and gnashing their teeth (bonus points if you were wealthy enough to equip every Wolf Guard Terminator in your army with one).

With the advent of 3rd Edition, the pendulum swung the other way and it became a middling anti-infantry pop gun, inferior even to the lowly heavy bolter.

4th Edition heralded the 4-shot, 6's to hit rend-o-rama that aspired to the assault cannon's former glories. And with two allowed per terminator squad these were glory days indeed.

5th Edition ('Missile Launcher Edition'), stole its thunder with the change to the rending rules, high points cost and the increased rate of fire for the cyclone. Now that 6th is here, how are we to look at the assault cannon now?


  • For the purposes of this article, we can add 6 inches to weapon ranges as Terminators are relentless, or in the case of the DA Codex, as good as
  • First, the assault cannon's stat line: 24" range, S6, AP4, heavy 4, rending
  • Compare it to the cyclone's stat line: 48" range, S8 (S4 blast), AP3, heavy 2
  • Assault cannons are more expensive than cyclones.

On the surface, they seem fairly well balanced against one another, with the assault cannon winning the anti-infantry and rate of fire battle and the cyclone taking the range and strength, and cost categories. But looking at their anti-tank capabilities, the waters get a bit tougher to navigate.

Range issues

While initially it may seem obvious that the cyclone is the clear winner here, the fact that now Terminators not only do not fear close combat like they once did, but in many cases they WANT to get into combat means that capitalising on the obscene range advantage of the cyclone may not be necessary. A caveat — Dark Eldar. I think that with pre-measuring, Night Shields will be experiencing a bit of a renaissance, making the cyclone considerably more appealing against them as Dark Eldar have plentiful answers to Terminators.

Performance against vehicles

S8 > S6. Lets look at some mathhammer:

Cyclone AV10 AV11 AV12 AV13 AV14
% Bounce 22.23 44.44 66.67 88.89 111.11
% Glance 22.23 22.23 22.23 22.23 22.23
% Penetrate 88.89 66.67 44.44 22.23 0.00
% HP Loss 111.11 88.89 66.67 44.45 22.23
AC AV10 AV11 AV12 AV13 AV14
% Bounce 133.33 177.78 222.22 222.22 237.03
% Glance 44.44 44.44 0.00 15.12 14.80
% Penetrate 88.89 44.44 44.44 29.63 14.80
% HP Loss 133.33 88.89 44.44 44.75 29.60

Taking ROF into account, as far as anti-tank goes, getting penetrating hits is a bit easier with the cyclone versus AV11 while the assault cannon does better against AV13 and 14 (AV14 can only be penned by the assault cannon thanks to the rend).

The assault cannon performs either on par with or better than the cyclone in the hull point reduction arena — which is really the way to go for wrecking vehicles — against all armor values with the exception of AV12 (though the rate of penetrating hits remains equal between the two).

AP issues

With the exception of rending hits giving AP2, the printed AP values of both weapons are non-pertinent, at least in this particular article. See the effect of AP2 here: How AP Affects Your Ability to Kill Vehicles.

Rate of Fire

Heavy 4 > Heavy 2. Nuff said.

Initial conclusion v vehicles

As we can see, the assault cannon is superior to the cyclone versus vehicles thanks to these factors:

  • Wrecking vehicles via hull point reduction easier with greater volume of shots
  • Exploding vehicles via penetrating hits with AP2 bonus
  • Cyclone range advantage being mitigated by Terminators being relentless and with the improved survivability of Terminators in general.

Codex context

Additional things to think about are how either of these weapon systems will work depending on which codex you are using.

Dark Angels

My guess is that any one Deathwing Terminator squad will be armed with a ton of thunder hammers and storm shields, one model with have a cyclone attached to the top. There is almost no place for the assault cannon in that scenario. This is totally the product of the mixed weapons approach that the DA Codex allows; giving up the protection a storm shield to hold a weapon 10 points more expensive than the cyclone doesn't compute.

However, if more than two Deathwing squads are being used, there is a case for one squad being armed with an assault cannon purely for the higher ROF and the chance to rend.

Conclusion: go with cyclone.

Black Templars

The whole reason you play BT is to get access to Tank Hunting Terminators with two heavy weapons per five guys. With the Tank Hunter re-roll being more efficient with the greater number of potential hits with the assault cannon and it being cheaper than the cyclone for them, the choice is a bit of a no brainer.

Conclusion: go with assault cannon.

Blood Angels

Easy access to Feel No Pain and Furious Charge puts their Terminators into a more in your face mode, making the assault cannon's shorter range less of a potential problem.

Conclusion: go with assault cannon.

Space Wolves

Farming out a Terminator Wolf Guard with a cyclone to Long Fang Squads leads to take any AP3 hits using the Look Out, Sir! Rule is a tried and true tactic that I don't see losing much steam with the new Edition. The assault cannon on Wolf Guard is less enticing as the list has many other, more efficient anti-tank units.

Conclusion: go with cyclone.

Vanilla Marines

If you want to have shooty terminators in a vanilla list, turn to the allies. Having no built in offensive enhancements (Tank Hunters) and the inability to take advantage of defensive enhancements (Blood Chalice) make them an inefficient choice.


Hopefully this will help inform you as to the best way for you to arm your terminators in an anti-tank capacity. Of course these same stats can be applied to Land Speeders to help you determine which targets they should direct their ire against depending on their chosen armament.



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