Tuesday, January 15, 2013

6th Edition Ravenwing over Marine Bike Army?

As I mentioned on my last post I’ve been looking over the Ravenwing option for my Marine biker army.   

There are some big differences you get if you want to play Ravenwing over normal Vanilla bikes army. This is by no means an exhaustive review of Ravenwing either, but really my observations as someone who is interested in moving from a Marine biker army over to the Ravenwing.

I would break the key differences down to the following for simplicity:

·       Sammael vs Captain
·       Free Skills!
·       Ravenwing Combat Squads
·       Supporting Cast

So first in order to make any Bike army we need to pick the HQ to unlock the bikes as troops.  There is no Captain on a bike option for the Ravenwing, which is a bit of a shame.   Azrael will unlock bikes as well as terminators, but I’d argue that’s the blend you really want there of both units.  So if we want a pure Ravenwing army it is all about Sammael.

Sammael is no slouch for sure.  First there is a Speeder option that is 14/14/10, a 4++ save, and TL Assault Cannons and TL HB.  This is nice, but really I want him on his jetbike so he is able to join and lead a unit.

His jetbike is nice over a normal bike in and of itself, and has a Twin Linked Storm Bolter (instead of twin linked bolter) and a Plasma Cannon.  The later is really cool since we do love us some Plasma in 6th edition.  He also gets an AP2 sword that is Master Crafted, so he can get through anyone’s armor though the lack of a Str boost is a downer compared to say my typical Captain with a Power Fist.

Sammael always has the Rapid Maneuvers skill that essentially means that he can give his unit an extra d6 to any turbo boost.  This is pretty great in a bike army though I wouldn’t really want to count on it for that last minute objective grab knowing my penchant for rolling 1s.

His stats are very captain like and he boasts a 3+/4++.  This is respectable given the bike makes him T5, though my normal Captain would boast a 2+/3++.  He does gain Eternal Warrior, so Str 10 and Force Weapons are not a threat.  Does this come up?  Yes, it actually came up in my last Biker game (curse you Typhus!) but in reality T5 shrugs off most of the threats to Instant Death.  So this seems almost wasted on Sammael instead of the other HQs like Belial or Azrael.

He has a number of skills like Hit and Run and Scouts that other Ravenwing Attack Squad bikes have, but the big one is Skilled Rider.  Skilled Rider let’s you auto pass your Dangerous Terrain but many people forget that you also GAIN +1 to your Jink save.  This means a 4+ jink save with normal movement or a 3+ Jink if you turbo boost.  Don’t forget that he CONFERS this skill to his unit if they don’t have it, which is pretty sweet in my opinion!

It is also important to note that Sammael, like the other HQs in the book, have the Inner Circle rule to boot.  This gives him Fearless, which is great, but also preferred enemy Chaos Space Marines.  Remember that Preferred Enemy confers to the unit he is with as well!

In the end I think the Captain edges out Sammael in survivability due to his saves, but for the extra 10 points the amount of tools that Sammael brings to the table makes the trade off more than worth it.

There are some big skills you gain on the Ravenwing Attack Squad over regular Marine Bikers:  Grim Resolve, Hit & Run & Scout.  When I say Free Skills that is exactly what this is all about.   The cost of 3 RAS bikes is 10 points less that the marine equivalent of 3 bikers.  You do lose the LD 9 2 Attack Sarg the marines would have, whom you can upgrade to for 10 points and is called a Vet Sarg (see how that works out to be the same essentially?).  I’m not sure how worth it that 10 points is for the Vet Sarg in the end so you may get some point savings there.  However is also worth nothing that the Attack Bike w/ MM is 5 points more.  But for the sake of argument the unit costs about the same when we just look at the bikes themselves.  That means these skills are essentially FREE.   Let's go through these all a bit and figure out how much this is really gaining us in the bike themed army.

Grim Resolve is the new DA gimmick, but it is essentially stubborn on you can auto fail morale checks.  It sounds neat, but I question is this is huge improvement of ATKNF?  With my current bike army I am usually avoiding assaults.  Once in combat I’m usually either dead or in some kind of stalemate.  If I’m losing bad enough where stubborn would be helpful that usually means I’ve only got a bike or two left.  I think this might be neat for other units but less so for bikes, especially since we’ve got ...

Hit & Run is wonderful and I think trumps Grim Resolve for usefulness for bikes.  I know I've been tied up in combat I want to get out of in a hurry.  This lets you leave combat to try to get away and save your scoring units, or line up more plasma/bolter death and another possible charge.

Lastly the RAS bikes get Scout which is something these guys have had going in the past.  For my mobile shooty bikes I don't know that it adds a lot, as I usually don't want to get too close to the enemy.  I think there are some CC options and range limitations for a few units in the Ravenwing (Black Knights) that might encourage you to move up a bit or just redeploy around terrain to maximize your formation.  However if the name of the game is scoot and shoot this is not so helpful.  However outflanking a small unit could indeed be helpful, which leads directly too…

Dark Angels Battleforce
Ravenwing Combat Squads are different than what we see in the Marine Codex.  You start with 3 bikes.  You can add 3 bikes, and with that total of 6 bikes you can combat squad into 2x3 squads.  Neat, though maybe only practical for sending a few small squads into outflanking mode.  3 bikers tend to wilt on a sunny day, though there is some help we’ll get into in the Supporting Cast.

The other bit here is your attack bike is ALWAYS a separate unit.  This makes him a bit vulnerable being out there on his own (and a possible easy first blood), so I’d argue he almost always might as well go and try to do some outflanking on any army that plays with vehicles parked in the backfield.   

Ravenwing Combat Squads also let you pick up a speeder in your troop section.  He can’t score and he’s always on his own.  The plus side is you aren’t giving up a bonus point in the Scourging.  The downside is he isn’t scoring in the Scouring, and you can take a unit of 5(!) in the Fast Attack slot.  So I’m not sure how needed he is here in the troop section, which brings us to our supporting cast for the Ravenwing.

Let’s talk about the supporting cast around the Ravenwing.  I’ll start with one difference between Ravenwing and Space Marines: there are no Attack Bike Squadrons for the Fast Attack.  This isn’t new to Ravenwing players but my own current biker army usually has 6 of these guys running around for tank busting.  As 6th edition progresses we have seen less and less heavy tank lists, so I’m debating how much losing these squads is going to mean to me.

Thankfully there are some other great options we should cover that add some depth to the Ravenwing force.  A few really stand out to me so I’ll cover those; there are more options in the book that might tickle your fancy.

Ravenwing Command Squad
Ravenwing Command Squad- Limited to 3 guys is a bummer that we need to start off talking about a bit. These guys start off not cheap and can get real expensive.  They gain Skilled Rider over normal bikes so a bit of survivability there, plus you can upgrade an apothecary if you choose.  These guys are armed with the new courvus hammer (+1 Str, Rending) and the Plasma Talon (18” Str 7 AP2 Gets Hot, Twin Linked, and Rapid Fire if you go by the digital version of the book and the back page summary).  The gun is an interesting take on a Plasma Gun in that Twin Linked is helpful as is rapid fire if only at 9" to double tap.  Still this could be helpful to take down light fliers and makes overwatch pretty deadly to the enemy.

Where these guys can really earn there keep is with the banners.   For instance there is a banner that can give FNP and reroll failed morale and pinning tests to Dark Angels within 12".  WOW!  The downside is of course the banner is 85 points (yikes!), and you have to keep your guy (did I mention there were only 3?) alive to make this work.  Still I think there are some really interesting things that can be done with this unit to keep your normally low model count bike army alive!

My first look over these guys and I think you either keep them cheap with a banner, or go whole hog building them out and adding HQs (techmarine on a bike anyone?) to make some kind of super unit.   I'm not sure the super unit really works out better than other options, so I'll be going cheap!

We should also at this point mention the Ravenwing Grenade Launcher.  These have 4 ‘modes’ but two of them fall under a similar Frag and Krak like you would see with normal grenades but a 24” range.  The two other modes are Rad Shell and Stasis Shell and both are only 12” range.  The Rad shell has a Str3 blast where every model in a unit hit (not wounded) suffers -1 T.  The Stasis shell is also a blast that every model in a unit hit suffers -1 WS and -1 I until the end of the turn.  So those really aren’t about killing guys, but instead debuffing a unit before an assault.  I'm not so sure I'd plant one on the Command Squad but how about...

Ravenwing Command Squad
Ravenwing Black Knights- These guys are pretty much equipped like the Command Squad, but the big benefit here is these guys can go up to 10 guys.  If these were troops we’d be loving it, but it can get expensive as a fast attack choice.  Still they can shoot plasma death and hit pretty hard in CC, and with skilled rider the jink save can help them shrug off low AP weapons a bit better than the troops.  This unit is pretty much your only CC answer, so a grenade launcher in a unit of 5+ guys I think makes sense.  Overall I’m very interested to see how these guys play on the table top.

Land Speeder Vengeance
Ravenwing Darkshroud- This thing is relatively cheap though it isn’t going to kill much.  It is also an AV 10 skimmer so that is always a concern.  It has two basic functions.  First it gives +1 to assault results to Dark Angels within 12”.   I’d say this is situational as best for the Ravenwing army.

What makes this guy shine is he is always shrouded and units with 6” have Stealth.  That means this guys jink save is normally a 3+ and tuboboosting a 2+.   Units around him gain +1 to the jink, but I think this would stack with skilled rider, which would be great (turboboosting Black Knights have a 2+ jink!).

The challenge here is going to be keeping one of these near several units to get the most out of it.  I’d probably keep him turboboosting around to try to keep him afloat and then have to work the units around him to be most effective.  This could prove challenging on a heavy terrain board but on most tournament type boards which usually are more limited on terrain this might be workable.

There are a few other things I’ll mention in the supporting cast.  I mentioned the speeders already and these are a great and cheap way to get some long range fire support going.  When supported by a Ravenwing Darkshroud their survivability does increase.  There is also the Land Speeder Vengence in the underused Heavy support slot.  I find this a bit expensive for the Plasma Storm Battery’s limited range of 24”.  I think we can find plenty of AP 2 elsewhere in the army to pass on this guy.

Ravenwing Dark Talon
Lastly there are the fliers.  Both look interesting and points expensive.  I find I’m running out of points in every list I’ve built for Ravenwing.   I’m a little worried about fighting heavy flier armies so the Nephilm probably has a place, but I’m wondering if the army packs enough Str 7 shots to hopefully bring down one or two fliers.

I also am really interested in adding a Librarian on a bike with Divination.  We all know Divination is great, though the Primaris power is less useful since we have so many rerolls for shooting.  It is still nice in CC, but I'd really only sub it out if I felt Scrizer's Gaze (the 6th power) would not be useful.  All the other powers are pretty wonderful really.

SO, where does that leave us?   Well here is the first list I’d like to run to see how it does.

Ravenwing Command Squad, Banner of Fortitude
Librarian, Bike (Divination)
Ravenwing Attack Squad- 6 Bikes, 2 Plasma, 1 CombiPlasma, Attack Bike MM, Typhoon
Ravenwing Attack Squad- 6 Bikes, 2 Plasma, 1 CombiPlasma, Attack Bike MM, Typhoon
Ravenwing Attack Squad- 6 Bikes, 2 Plasma, 1 CombiPlasma, Attack Bike MM
6 BlackKnights, 1 Grenade Launcher

This comes out to just under 1750.  The Libby will almost always go with the Command Squad to give them a bit more 'beef' and Sammael could join there or go with a RAS to give them skilled rider as well.  There are two Typhoons for some long-range support, and you could always choose to put these in the fast attack squad as a unit if you choose.  The Darkshoud is there to boost the jink save of everyone who can stay close.  You have potentially 9 scoring units when combat squads break down, and at the least 6 thought 3 single attack bikes aren't usually going to hold objective all game long.  I’d probably always drop the attack bikes to outflank against an army with a few tanks in the backfield.

There aren’t a lot of bodies but if you can get moving on turn one and have good positioning you can play scoot and shoot with a 4+ jink save and FNP on the bikes.  I’m not sure I’m still dying to combat squad down to 3 man bike squads even with this extra fancy support, but it is an option that probably works until those key pieces (FNP Banner and Darkshroud) start going down.  Even if that only lasts a turn or two I’ve got to think you’ve got the firepower to be picking apart the enemy forces.

I think there is an interesting army here though I think it will take some practice to maneuver to gain the maximum benefits of the units.  It is by no means flawless and there are weaknesses to the army but this isn’t unfamiliar to any bike army general.  For instance a few helldrakes will ruin your day, but the same could be said for a normal Space Marine Bike Army!

What do you guys think?  I'm certainly going to try to give it a whirl though I think for the next month or two I'll be sticking with my current Marine bikers for tournament play.


  1. drop the Standard of Fortitude and take Devastation instead to make all the twin linked bolterssalvo 2/4. Thanks to Relentless they always count as stationary when fireing salvo weapons. The extra points can be used to give the typhoons MMs.

  2. I'm not sure about the plasma guns on the regular attack squadrons.27 pts per bike + 15 for plasma gives a total of 42. Oh wouldn't ya know? same as a black knight. I do realize that the attack squadron will be cheaper overall and an objective capturer but with the ability to make attack squadrons into 3 different scoring units gives you plenty of objective capturing for some room to take more knights. I usually run 2 6-man attacks fuly equipped with melta and multi-melta attack bike. Then 1 or 2 6 man squads with just 2 flamers in each (take away the 2nd squad based on points), then I fill the rest with black knights, usually in squads of 4 with 1 nade launcher. Being able to reduce the toughness of 3 units can be very deadly, throw in a banner of dev. on the command squad and you're set. Here's what I run with and it has yet to lose

    Sammael - 200

    Command Squad x 4 - 225
    1 GL
    Banner of Dev

    Bikes x 6 - 240
    2 x melta
    Attack w/ MM

    Bikes x 6 - 240
    2 x melta
    Attack w/ MM

    Bikes x 6 - 170
    2 x flamer

    Knights x 4 - 170
    1 GL

    Knights x 4 - 170
    1 GL

    Darkshroud - 90

    Scouts x 10
    Camo Cloaks

    After all of this it comes to a total of 1645, about 200 pts to spare for the average 1850 game. This leaves room for a few situations. If expecting to see some air I usually throw in a squad of scouts with an ADL, gives some AA while also giving a sit back obj capturer. Anothe roption is to add more ravenwing and put another 6-man bike squad in.

    However here is my strategy.

    First Infiltrate my scouts into a position roughly 20-23" away from important opposition infantry. First turn I bring the banner of dev up to the scouts as well as most the other attack squadrons to utilize the banner, keep range and fire away.

    My 2 knight squads which dont hold the banner usually go up both flanks, dropping down any units toughness I want and absolutely shredding through things as most the heat goes towards the banner bubble in the middle of the field. Another point is that sammael will be with the banner squad to make them more survivable and the drkshroud will almost certainly follow the banner bubble.