Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Scout Bikers – So Sneaky You Never See Them!

I’m taking a small break from my Necron writings because, well, I want to J. I’m still in love with my Necrons and will have them painted in the relative near future and ready to play but I felt like doing another one of my overlooked unit reviews. You might remember:

Well now I’d like to focus on a unit that does not get nearly enough face time with Space Marine or Blood Angel players. The humble Scout Biker. I’ll focus on its overall strengths and drawbacks and then how it applies to both the SM and BA codexes.
Since I doubt most of you have ever seen this unit in play it’s a Fast Attack choice in both codexes. It is a unit of bike mounted scouts that have a far amount of options and some bitchin special rules which include; Infiltrate and Scout (and maybe Move Through Cover though I don’t have my book with me). The models are cheap, coming in at 20pts each with a 10pt upgrade sergeant included. They also allow you to take three rapid fire grenade launchers per unit and have the option for a teleport homer. Seems like a solid unit right?

For me it is. What you have here is an amazing disruption unit. It’s a unit your opponent will be forced to adjust his deployment for as well as his target priorities. It’s a unit that deploys after your opponent regardless and so can be used to exploit any mistake he makes. You have the ability to turbo-boost these evil little fellows in the scout phase making them a priority one target even if your opponent goes first or seizes on you. Alternatively you could outflank with them as they would have the speed to impact the board coming on from the sides.

Now people will say it’s something that is easily deterred or blocked against. We all know how to defend against first turn scout assaults by things like Storms (also rarely seen) or Demo Vets in a Vendetta. You either bubble wrap if you’re an army with lots of troops or you forward deploy a single vehicle to spread that minimum distance arc and determine where your opponent can strike. Which one depends on when your deploying and what you brought naturally but these are the common options outside of deploying counter to these type of units to take them out regardless of the scout move. **You might have noticed that the scouting unit is already having an impact on the game and your opponent*** So what makes the scout bike different? Well, they are sneaky!

The general methods for mitigating the possibilities of the scouting unit or for dictating their targets gets much, much harder when you get to deploy using infiltrate and then turbo-boost into a position between 12-18”. The infiltrate move coupled with the scout move and threat range of a unit of bikers is pretty major. This will allow you to pick the optimum point of contact and is extremely hard to defend against.

A common misconception about the unit is that it is a throwaway to eliminate a single threat. People see this unit as a missile aimed at the opponent and then calculate that the unit isn’t worth the single transport they eliminated and conclude that this unit isn’t worth it. First off while this is an option it increases your opponent’s ability to mitigate your damage potential. Secondly trading units for units is not really a good way to play the game. While it’s sometimes necessary it’s by no means the only option available.

So how do you use this unit most effectively from my perspective? It’s a flanking unit. A unit designed to pick at the flanks of the opponent, harass and disrupt. A decent sized unit (5ish) is cheap. It has firepower and the ability to engage non-CC dedicated units in combat and come out ahead. Set this unit up so that it hits a side of your opponents force. This will shield it from incoming fire but enable it, if it’s not eliminated, to destroy a unit or vehicle a turn. This in turn will take pressure off your primary forces. They can be used to tip the scales in a primarily shooty army or can be used as a disruption unit that allows more of your forces to close in a more close combat oriented force.

“But taking a unit like this gives your opponent the chance use his anti-infantry weapons that he wouldn’t normally be able to use since they aren’t in a vehicle!”. This is true to an extent. However against anything short of an entire GK army’s worth of Psybacks you should come out fine between your toughness and cover saves.

Now for a Space Marine force all the above information holds true. However there are some additional options that the bikes bring to the table for the SM book. First off is the teleport homer. Combined with your librarian gate power and the scout move you could put 10 TH/SS Termies into your opponents deployment zone on turn 1. Works well for Sternguard too. Or use it as a safe way to redeploy your forces where they are needed. Honestly that’s the only additional use for them outside of things we’ve already talked about.

In a Blood Angel force though you’ll find your taking them as a force enhancer. The speed of a more assault oriented Blood Angels force means you’ll have support much sooner than you normally would for the bikers. This changes them more from a disruption unit to an early assault unit. You’ll find you pick at the flanks less with this unit in a mech assault force than you normally would. However if you’ve taken a more shooty BA army you’ll find they fill the same role as with the SM without the redeployment bonuses.

Overall this is a unit that should see more table time but doesn’t. I’ve built a few lists around 1-2 units and think they greatly enhance them. I’d say give them a try and you might be surprised by what they offer you and the options they open up.