40K Tactics and Thoughts: Chaos Bikes, Table or Shelf?

An email from Rhinocaps to BOLS sparked a thought in my mind. I'm building up a World Eaters army at the moment, but never once did I even consider using bikes. Am I right in my ignorance, or am I missing a trick?

When you compare CSM bikes to those of other races, they certainly seem to get a raw deal. One of the key things with 5th Edition are troops choices. Eldar jetbikes are cheap and extremely fast troops choices. With the addition of a character, Space Marine bikes (including Ravenwing) and Ork bikes can be taken as troops too.

On top of this, at 33pts each, compared to 25pts for their loyalist counterparts, surely they can't be worth it? Can they? They still have a number of advantages though, and I just can't seem to write them off completely. I thought the best thing to do would be to weigh up both sides of the debate. So, should they be on the gaming table, or should they be retired to the shelf?

Case for the table!

  • They have BP/CCW, so gain +1A
  • They can take Icons which are great, if quite expensive. The pick of the bunch is an Icon of Nurgle, giving your bikes Toughness 4/6, but at a hefty 50pts. All this counts for nothing against Krak Missiles though! Khorne icons are better value, but give your powerfist champion a vital extra attack. Remember that the icon can be used to get some support from some Lesser Daemons, which can be great to add some punch to your bikes' flank attacks.
  • A key advantage is that they are the fastest unit Chaos have! With no Land Speeders or Attack Bikes, CSM bikes are the only option for a 24" move in the whole chaos army. Also a great way to deliver a summoned greater daemon right into the heart of the enemy lines.
  • They have two special weapons. Two meltaguns have a 42% chance of destroying an AV14 vehicle at short range, so not too bad. Two flamers can be a big boon against units like genestealers.
  • Finally, damn, they look good! Take a look at HU 2000's Black Legion Biker Lord above. Bikers just look awesome on the tabletop. That's a big reason to take things in my eyes!

Case for the shelf!
  • No Combi-Weapons or attack bikes. Do you like melta weapons? Loyalist bikes can get a third meltagun on the veteran sergeant and a multi-melta attack bike. Unfortunately, CSM bikes can do neither.
  • A major blow is that there is no way of taking them as troops. No 24" turbo-boosting scoring units for Chaos :(
  • They're not fearless, and without the benefit of ATSKNF, small CSM bikes squads are prone to failing a morale check and never rallying due to being under 50%. 
  • Tye weigh in at +8pts compared to a loyalist bike for +1A (BP/CCW), +1Ld, but the loss of ATSKNF. Not a good deal in my eyes at all. I personally think this is a result of codex creep, and CSM bikes should be around 25-28pts.

The result of this, is that I think they are overpriced, but certainly fill a big gap in the CSM army due to their pure speed. Personally, I would leave them on the shelf for most games.

If you do bring them out to play, a few thoughts on tactics:

  • CSM bikes are more naturally suited to close combat than shooting. Give the champion a power fist and take advantage of that extra attack each. Icons of Khorne, Slaanesh and Nurgle all help in combat. Beware though, icons on bikes are very expensive! However, I have seen a khorne bike unit take out a Trygon in one turn with a combination of shooting, combat and no-retreat.
  • Remember they are relentless, so can fire their rapid-fire weapons and still charge. Don't discount plasmaguns if your opponent has little in the way of tanks. 
  • You can easily use bikes to deliver daemons to the frontline, or drop a unit of lesser daemons on a far-flung objective and then ride away.
  • Harass the flanks of the enemy, where they will struggle to bring much firepower to counter your bikes.
  • Unless you have something good to shoot at, turbo-boost. The cover save is a big bonus. Be very wary of AP3 weapons that ignore cover saves though (Flamestorm Cannons, Wind/Breath of Chaos and Collosus Mortars spring to mind!).
  • You can always keep them in reserve, in fact I would normally recommend it unless you have a specific target you want to strike early in the game.

What's your vote - table or shelf, and why? 

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