40K Tactics: Land Speeders 101

Land speeders are one of the units in the marine list that have fallen in and out of favour more times than I care to remember. Like Eldar Vypers, they are made out of wafer thin armour, and fairly expensive to upgrade, but they combine a level of firepower and mobility that is almost unrivalled in the marine list (only the attack bike comes close, if you want to compare the two, look at Jawaball's article on the subject). Having said all this, they are one of my favourite units, so I thought I'd spend a few minutes sharing my opinions on them.

Land Speeder Basics
First, the bad news! Almost every unit in the game has a way of taking out a Land Speeder. It's fragile AV10 all round means it can be hurt by bolters, pulse rifles, shuriken catapults, sniper rifles and so on. So, there only real protection is their agility.

The key to keeping the Speeders alive is the use of cover saves. The ability to move 12" and still fire your main weapon means you should be able to keep cover between you and the bulk of the enemy, just leaving a corridor to fire your chosen weapon. Alternatively, you have option to move flat out and gain a cover save that way, but this will prevent you shooting. With the amount of firepower on a Land Speeder, plus the cost of any upgrades to justify, this is rarely a good idea.

Let's look at the options available to us. The base speeder comes with a heavy bolter which can be exchanged for either a heavy flamer, or for a small points increase, a multimelta. You then have the option to add an assault cannon, heavy bolter, multimelta, heavy flamer or typhoon launcher. The typhoon launcher is simply a missile launcher that is Heavy 2. So, there is a good mix of anti-tank and anti-infantry in there, but no defensive weapons other than frag missiles, so you need to slow down to 6" in order to maintain full firepower. On this note, you should always move if possible, so your opponent doesn't automatically hit in combat. Also, I would always recommend getting a second weapon, as for 10pts, it may make your speeder survive one more shot, and effectiveley doubles you firepower!

Land Speeders can be employed in one of three ways. Firstly as a sacrificial unit, killing what it can before being shot down, almost like a kamikaze pilot. If it can take out a land raider, monsterous creature or that last scoring unit, it's probably been a worthwhile investment. Secondly as a late-game objective grabber, contesting that vital objective to force the win/draw. Third, that of the gunship, either with a specific task or as an all rounder. Let's look at the loadouts I would recommend for various situations.

1a) Sacrificial Anti-Tank Unit - 2x Multimeltas - 80pts
If your opponent likes Land Raiders or Leman Russ, that this is the loadout for you. This unit has an effective anti-tank bubble of 24", increasing to super-anti-tank within 18". Essentially, your aim is to get to within 12" of your target to get the 2D6 Melta bonus. Hide behind the best cover available, and jump over it, fire and hope! If you can get to within 18", so you only have to move 6" to fire, then you get twice the chance of doing the deed. An alternative is to deep strike the land speeder, but this is always very risky as you may find yourself scattering out of range, or worse, destroyed before you fire a shot. The big problem with this unit is that once your target has been hit, your land speeder is probably going to die. Your best bet is to position your target between your speeder and the remainder of the opponent's force, so if it gets wrecked you will have some cover. If you blow it up though, you're a sitting duck!

1b) Sacrificial Anti-Infantry Unit - 2x Heavy Flamers – 60pts
Are genestealers your worst nightmare? Infiltrating Camo-Cloak Space Marine scouts? Kroot in cover? This loadout can cause a lot of damage in one turn, but is a waste against power armour, so it not a good one to use against other Space Marines or Chaos. This is the shortest range of any land speeder, and it will only get one shot at this, so choose your target well.

2) Late Objective Grabber – 2x Heavy Bolters – 60pts
This loadout is interchangeable with #2, but this poses a threat at range. I often use this loadout on an inducted Land Speeder in my Daemonhunters army. I keep it back, use it to whittle down infantry squads early on, and then in turn 5, I will go flat out to contest an objective, and pray for the game to end. If it doesn’t, your cover save should help against shooting, and the need for 6s to hit should protect you in combat. The key to this, like any such gambit, is having the second turn, that’s where an Inqusitor’s Emperor’s Tarot comes in handy!

3a) Anti-Infantry/Transport Gunship – Assault Cannon, Heavy Bolter – 90pts
One of the two ‘standard’ tornado patterns is a good all rounder. Indeed, I have two of these in my Raven Guard army. The assault cannon glances AV11 on 5s, the heavy bolter on 6s, but with 7 shots, stands a good chance of getting a rhino a turn. The assault cannon penetrates AV11 and AV12 on a 6 due to Rending, and even stands a chance of penetrating a land raider. It's an expensive build though, and has to get within 24" to be effective, which leaves you open to small arms fire. This is also a poor build against power armour, since both weapons are AP4, and statistically you will only rend once or twice a battle.

3b) Anti-Character/Tank Gunship - Typhoon Launcher and Multimelta - 100pts
The most expensive build here, but in my eyes is one of the most versitile. With three S8 weapons, this is the bane of Tau Crisis Suits, Ork Nobs, Marine characters, Attack bikes and other T4, multiwound models. It is also very good against monsterous creatures, particularly the new Tyranids who have little in the way of 2+ saves any more. It's downfall is its cost, and the short range of the multimelta. Here's this build in my pre-heresy world eaters, where it adds some seriously needed anti-tank to support my mechanised infantry (photo courtesy of Pacific).

3c) All round Gunship - Typhoon Launcher and Heavy Bolter/Flamer - 90pts
If you don't know what you're up against, this is a great build. Facing a horde? You can then pepper them with frag missiles from afar. Facing a mechanised army? Two krak missiles should get a rhino per turn. Facing a huge swarm, then use the heavy flamer option, use the speeder like example 1b, but moving 12" and firing both the heavy flamer and two frag missiles. This is also a good build against other skimmers, with the long range krak missiles being ideal against Vypers, Pirahnas, Raiders and other land speeders!

So there you go. You may ask "Where's the other classic tornado pattern?", the one with Multimelta and Heavy Flamer. While both these weapons have shorter ranges, they are diametrically opposed to one another when it comes to function. I find that this loadout rarely does very well, as you only use one weapon or the other. Decide on a role for your speeder and use builds 1a or 1b instead.

To finish, here are a couple of little tricks you can play with your speeder, especially if it's weaponless:

Dirty Trick #1 - If your speeder is weaponless, and you are playing a game where kill points or victory points are not being used, then don't forget about ramming with your speeder! It will probably destroy the speeder, but with a chance of getting a S8 hit, you might just take something with you! The ultimate Kamakaze!
Dirty Trick #2 - Afraid of your gunline being charged by an enemy just within charge reach next turn? Move your speeder in the way of the advancing unit. They can't go within 1" of it without assaulting it, so it might just mean they have to take a big enough detour to be out of reach for another turn. If it's a vehicle and it decides to ram, then you have a good shot of 'jinking' out of the way.
Dirty Trick #3 - Think you've got a good shot at destroying a falcon or devilfish with other parts of your army, use a flat out move to get the speeder to block the access point, forcing an emergency disembarkation.

So guys, have you got any other uses for this great unit in the marine list? Anything unusual that I haven't considered? Consider the floor open!

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