Welcome back to Goonhammer’s series for aspiring Praetors. We know that the Horus Heresy system can seem intimidating to players unfamiliar with its particular quirks, but this series aims to equip you with everything you’ll need to play out epic clashes on the battlefields of the far future with your very own army. In this series, we’ll be walking you through how to build your force and command it to glory, including everything from units to tactics to lead your army to victory.
In this mini-series we’ll be taking a look at all of the units that every Space Marine army can field, how they operate, how you might want to equip them and what you want to point their guns/combat weapons at on the table.
Today we’re looking at the Fast Attack options available to a legion army. Like Heavy Support, an army can take up to three of these, though many lists won’t find themselves completely filling this slot.
You might imagine that you’d find aggressive-looking guys with jump packs and sharp things in this section, but the core list doesn’t actually have anything like that. Instead the units in this section tend to be designed to get into position to deliver a burst of melta fire and a variety of one-shot missiles before exploding gloriously in your opponent’s next turn. This can be useful because almost every Heresy player now owns at least one Spartan and lots of Fast Attack units give you ways to kill one, perhaps before it can drive its cargo across the board.
Legion Seeker Squad
A squad of 5-10 (with a hefty discount on the second 5) BS5 guys with Infiltrate, Precision Shots (4+), Marked for Death, and Kraken bolters. They have a lot of the same weapon options as a Reconnaissance squad, and the standard vexilla, scanner and vox options most infantry get, but they aren’t Line – which is of course a huge deal. If you want snipers then go for the recon squad. Seekers should instead either stick with their Kraken bolters or upgrade to combi-meltas.
With kraken bolters you’ve got effectively a mobile sniper squad, just without pinning. Interesting, but not super-efficient in terms of kills/point. They can operate at 24” range and pick out Apothecaries, sergeants and even the occasional independent character. A 5-man squad is actually a lot cheaper than a Recon Squad with nemesis bolters so this isn’t a bad option at all. Most of their rounds are Assault, so in theory you can charge stuff after firing it – though not especially effectively as these are not melee monsters. It’s a shame they don’t come with shroud bombs, meaning that they might suffer quite a lot of losses to return fire.
But the more fun thing is to give them combi-meltas, which Seekers use better than anyone. They can infiltrate and hit a Spartan with a few melta shots before it and the 10 Cataphractii inside leave their deployment zone. No Spartan to melt? Cool, just use your precision shots to melt holes right through the enemy Praetor. They only get one shot with their meltas but given that they’re likely to be standing on their own in front of a whole army that’s not exactly a big issue.
You can give a Seeker Sergeant a combi-disintegrator if you’ve had the old “Imperial Space Marine” in your pile of shame, which I did. Yay!
Seekers are a capable unit. They’ll really add some utility to a Legion that can’t infiltrate for itself. The combi-melta squad is actually cheaper than an equivalent tactical support squad and will often be a better option.
Legion Outrider Squadron
Here’s a unit of 3-10 speedy Marines who can Scout, armed with combi-bolters, pistols, chainswords and no grenades. Options include swapping the twin bolters for twin special weapons, swapping chainswords for expensive power weapons or free shotguns and getting hand flamers or volkite serpentas, both pretty cheaply. They’ve got Hit and Run, though it’ll probably be quite rare for them to live long enough to use it.
The most obvious use of these guys is probably as another short-lived melta squad, rather like the Seekers. Instead of infiltrating you can use your Scout move to get somewhere relevant and then zoom in on turn 1 to kill something. But they’re really quite expensive in this role so I think there are better options. Similarly, I think a basic Assault Squad is considerably better if you want to assault stuff, thanks to having Line and a far lower price per model.
Outriders look weak unless their Legion gives them serious buffs, which most don’t. White Scars can get in to shoot up a target and then get everyone back out again with their advanced reaction. Salamanders and Death Guard can swap those hand flamers for far more offensive alternatives. But all of that is also true of jetbike squads, which are only a little bit more expensive and clearly far stronger. Make your bikers into a Command Squad instead, creating a fast Line unit with a good melee threat and a huge upgrade in durability.
Legion Spatha Attack Bike Squadron (Extended)
Here we have arguably the worst unit in 30k, so far. For only 5 points less than a Land Speeder you can have one of these things, somehow contriving to have 1 T4 wound despite there being 2 guys on it. There’s never been a 30k model for these things so hopefully not too many people are going to be upset by this but I am. I spent quite a while converting this little tankette thing for my Fists, several years ago, using a TFC and a hundred bits of plasticard. Move along, nothing to see here.
(Editor’s note: The tankette is adorable and deserves better rules)
Legion Sabre Strike Squadron
These speedy little baby tanks are easily the cutest thing in the Legion arsenal. They have weapons that are mostly short-ranged and not stunningly effective, which unfortunately means that you can generally find another unit that does their job better. The neutron blaster is quite good, so a squadron of two would be an interesting alternative to a Sicaran Venator. It’s sad that Sabres are only allowed wickle baby missiles instead of proper grown-up HK missiles – weird when even land speeders can have HKs. Overall I think Sabres are usable and cheap enough that you aren’t seriously disadvantaging yourself by taking one or two.
Legion Sky-hunter Squadron
Here’s a unit of 3-10 guys on jetbikes, for only 20 points more than 3 Outriders. They get 2 wounds each and heavy bolters, losing Scout but gaining Deep Strike. Much better! Upgrading those heavy bolters to plasma cannons, volkite culverins or multi-meltas pushes the price of these things up to where I’d be a bit worried about getting insta-killed, and where I’d sooner have Javelins instead. A White Scars Chogorian Brotherhood with a couple of units of these would make a great allied detachment, using these as shooty Line units with the speed to pick their fights Unfortunately the generic sky-hunter RoW is horribly restrictive, making it much less attractive.
Before I could review either type of Land Speeder I had to spend really quite a lot of time flicking through books trying to work out what their rules even were. They are an oddity – Cavalry with their own unique Harbingers of the Legion special rule among several others. I think they work sort of chonky, floaty infantry, covered in guns, so:
- Like infantry, fleshbane works on them but haywire, grenades and so on do not.
- None of their weapons are defensive so everything must target the same thing (bad if you have something like a multimelta and heavy flamer).
- They can do any reactions and fire all their weapons if they return fire (ouch!).
- They can charge things, which may occasionally be a good idea. They might tie up a unit for a turn and then hit and run away but…
- They are not Fearless. They can break from shooting and be run down if they lose melee. All cavalry are immune to Pinning though.
Legion Javelin Squadron
This is a straightforwardly good unit, comprising 1-3 chonky “cavalry”. Javelins are surprisingly tough thanks to being T6 (so difficult to instakill and almost immune to bolters) with 4 wounds. Harbinger of the Legion means that shrouding will negate more than half the damage you suffer if you evade or you can return fire very effectively. Just hope you don’t meet a Typhon.
Javelins can carry an arsenal of heavy weapons and can outflank if you like, lining up side shots at things. They’ll probably even live through interception fire when they arrive. If tagged in melee they can hit and run. The standard cyclone is a very versatile weapon but you can upgrade to a pure tank hunter with lascannons and a multimelta for budget prices. You may as well chuck in a couple of HK missiles for 5 points a pop, though note it only has firing protocols (4) and can end up with 5 weapons. They are heavy so they can’t run, react a bit slowly and you can’t deploy them with the Recon Company Rite of war (though you can have a Kratos, Falchion or whatever, which is silly). It’s interesting that they can now take volkite sponsons as there’s no model for these, so it’s just possible there’s a plastic model on the way.
Use these to hit targets nice and hard from a tough, fast-moving platform for a reasonable price. Great stuff.
Legion Proteus Land Speeder Squadron
Here’s a slightly cheaper and generally much worse type of land speeder. At base they’re only 2/3 the price of a Javelin but that’s a bit deceptive because they only come with a heavy bolter, while the Javelin is fully-loaded. The weapons for a proteus speeder cost a little bit too much – such as paying 20 points to upgrade its heavy bolter to a melta when the Javelin only pays 10. A Proteus with two multimeltas costs as much as a javelin with two lascannon and a multimelta. Having one less wound and only T5 makes them far less durable.
They do get to get more weapon options though. One unique option is taking paired grav guns, with which a squadron of 3 could fairly reliably crush most vehicles and upset dreads too. It might actually be a way to get rid of a Spartan early on and survive to tell the tale – especially as difficult terrain will now slow the target down.
Flyers (so many flyers)
Before talking about individual flyers I wanted to say that I think the jury’s out on whether they’ll be useful. The interceptor reaction, and particularly the quad-las Contemptor with helical array, might mean they just die before firing. I don’t know if serious AA firepower will be something everyone takes but it could stop planes working unless they’re taken in very large numbers to overwhelm defences. There are things you can do to prevent things from intercepting (e.g. killing them or having a telepath tell them not to) so you might be able to build your army to make flyers work.
Then of course you have to wait for your plane to turn up. The enemy’s Cataphractii may already be happily bashing in your army before a plane arrives to kill their transport. There are advantages to coming late too though – the enemy will likely be committed and you get to apply some force where it’s needed.
I’d be particularly concerned about flying transports arriving late, so I’d never put an expensive melee unit in one. Even if they arrive straight away on T2 the people inside can’t disembark if it zooms. That means no melee before T3, assuming you don’t go down in flames before then, likely killing most of the passengers. You can deep strike in hover mode if you want but then troops that disembark can’t assault and the enemy don’t even need skyfire to ruin your day by interception.
So anyway, let’s look at all these planes.
Legion Storm Eagle Gunship
Here’s a quite tough 4hp plane with 12 armour all round and a massive capacity for 22 passengers, tempting you to put something really expensive inside. It comes with limited firepower but the rubbish tempest rockets in the wings can be upgraded to decent HKs or twin-linked lascannon and you can replace the nose heavy bolter, resulting in a plane with quite a bit of punch and a significantly higher price tag. The vengeance launcher is surprisingly good though and, as a defensive weapon, can fire at some infantry while its main guns engage a vehicle or something.
Overall the storm eagle is a useful unit to have in your army. I wouldn’t put anything too expensive inside but it will let you deliver a scoring unit somewhere now and then, while just shooting things up in most games. And if you want to have five of these roar on in turn 1 to launch a hundred world eater despoilers at the enemy with the Angel’s Wrath RoW, go right ahead because that’s awesome.
I definitely wouldn’t want to have to build five of them though. One was more than enough.
Legion Xiphon Interceptor
This is the cheapest plane you can buy and, arguably, the most efficient at killing other planes. The basic package looks great with two twin-linked lascannon and the rotary missile launcher all chucking out S8/9 AP2 twin-linked shots, for the price of a las/melta Javelin. That’s pretty great value and none of this stuff has limited ammunition, so it can keep killing things until somebody kills it.
The big news here is the Talons of the Legion rule which lets it enter a special “Combat Air Patrol” reserves. There it waits for an enemy plane to arrive, sets up straight after it and sprays fire in its general direction. This all happens in the enemy movement phase before the plane can shoot and they can’t use reactions against you because it’s their turn. Sounds cool, right?
Unfortunately there are two problems with this. Firstly, aircraft can only skyfire in the shooting phase, so your Xiphon will only fire snap shots in this, the enemy movement phase. I don’t know if this is intended or an oversight but I hope we get a FAQ to clear it up. Secondly, arriving during the enemy movement phase means it’s about to be their shooting phase, so your Xiphon might be heading back to its case after only a brief time on the board. You’ll generally fly on, miss or do superficial damage, then get shot down – though at least not by a “free” reaction shot. If they get to skyfire on arrival then Xiphons will be an incredibly hard counter to almost any enemy plane and also an efficient ground attack plane.
Legion Dreadclaw Drop Pod
The main draw here is a drop pod that you’re allowed to buy for almost any unit. Normal drop pods aren’t usually available without taking a Rite of War and can’t transport anything bulky but Dreadclaws are much more flexible – and expensive. They can also take off and fly around after dropping off their cargo, or perhaps even ferry units around, acting as a fairly fast skimmer transport. Not every army needs one of these but they serve a purpose. It’s a shame they aren’t assault vehicles. Units can’t generally assault the turn they get out of a deep-striking vehicle but troops inside this thing still can’t, even after it switches to hover mode. For that you need a Kharibdys and be using the drop assault RoW. On the plus side you can heat blast things as you hover around, which is actually pretty good at stripping hull points off vehicles with any AV10 faces.
Legion Avenger Strike Fighter (Extended)
If this lightly-armoured plane lives to its shooting phase it’ll do pretty serious damage. Its avenger bolt cannon is defensive, so it can strafe infantry while the avenger fires lascannons and devastating hellstrike missiles at a hard target. It can take skystrike missiles too, in theory. These are more expensive and, unusually, don’t have any rules – making them particularly difficult to review. Hellstrikes are fantastic against planes anyway, so they probably aren’t needed. You get a backwards-firing heavy stubber too, which you can find rules for in the new Liber Mechanicum… but don’t bother.
Legion Thunderbolt Fighter (Extended)
Tougher than the Avenger and with the same lascannons and missile options, swapping the bolt cannon for four autocannons, the Thunderbolt looks like fun. The S7 autocannons aren’t defensive but you’ll hit one target harder. All the guns are centreline-mounted though, meaning you have to point the Thunderbolt directly at whatever it’s trying to kill. You’ll have no problem doing this on the turn it arrives but aiming a plane directly at things isn’t always going to easy after that.
Legion Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter (Extended)
The Lightning is the worst of the three extended fighters. It has weak armour and only two lascannons, which are centreline-mounted. For some reason the Lightning gets to carry slightly better missiles than the others… at vastly greater cost. A volley of six S8 armourbane Kraken Penetrator missiles will cause enormous damage but then your Lightning will cost nearly 300 points, which is madness. Way too much to pay for a flyer that’s effectively a one-shot weapon.
Legion Tarantula Sentry Gun Battery (Extended)
It isn’t obvious to me how Tarantulas with their movement stat of “-“ qualify for the Fast Attack section but here they are. I think I’ve probably spent longer trying to understand how these things work than whoever actually wrote their rules, bless them.
You’re buying 3-5 little turrets with a couple of BS2 guns that can’t move, don’t score and have to shoot the nearest thing. It’s not quite that simple though. Firstly, they aren’t fearless and they have LD5 meaning that they’re pretty likely to run for the hills if one dies. Clearly they could move after all then, if given sufficient encouragement.
There’s other weird stuff: Independent characters can join them but Techmarines and Apothecaries can’t because they don’t have the Legiones Astartes (X) rule. They always have to fire at the nearest enemy regardless of whether they’re equipped with heavy bolters, lascannons, or AA Hyperios missiles. You can buy them all Augury Scanners, but they can’t intercept because they can never make reactions. Searchlights might be worth it because otherwise they’re totally useless in the dark (which they are, of course, scared of).
Despite all this weirdness Tarantulas are… ok. You can guard your gunline from infiltrators with a fairly cheap unit in a FA slot you probably weren’t planning to use. In that screening role their cowardice and fragility are almost virtues, as you’ll never see the enemy locked in combat with them during your shooting phase. Definitely better than the attack bike.
As you may have gathered, propelling yourself rapidly towards an enemy army might let you do some damage but it isn’t a long-term survival strategy. That’s fine, if it makes enough of a mess of your opponent’s plan to win you the game. The Heresy was a brutal conflict and none of its commanders would have hesitated to sacrifice troops if necessary to achieve whatever noble or heretical objectives they were pursuing that day.
That’s not all that these units can do for you though. Quite a lot of Fast Attack units can use their speed to try and stay out of trouble rather than rush headlong into it, looking for ways to hit the enemy without being hit back. Such units can find and kill enemies that would be hidden from a static gunline, but need to watch out for speedy enemies who can catch up to them.
Right, I’m off to polish some chrome and paint flames on something.