They’re a cornerstone of almost all 40K armies, and probably even more important in Epic Armageddon – the ubiquitous transport vehicles, from Chimeras and Rhinos to Wave Serpents and Land Raiders. But how big a role do these icons of Warhammer really play in-game?
In Epic, vehicles tend to die far more quickly – there’s no knocking off hull points or anything for your average Chimera. As such, when I’m looking at transport options I tend to like the smaller, faster vehicles rather than lumbering behemoths for their speed. Generally, most of the Epic games I play tend to really kick off in the second turn when both of us have moved our units into position, and so apart from the odd late-game objective grab transports don’t really play much of a role past that. There’s certainly the point that weaker transports can offer easy kill points in combat, but – to take my Thousand Sons as an example – it’s not too hard to simply keep the Rhinos behind the Rubric marines and summoned daemons, where they’ll have to take fewer hits thanks to the wall of Reinforced saves in front of them. I’ll certainly consider Land Raiders for a particularly important unit, but on the whole that slightly better armour save & weaponry isn’t really worth the extra 65pts per model I pay.
I’ve always thought that speed matters a lot more in Epic than, say, its larger cousin 40K. In 40K, it doesn’t really make a difference to me whether my Thousand Sons roll up in a Rhino or a Land Raider. Heck, the board is small enough that I don’t usually miss the different speed between my Eldar Wave Serpents and the aforementioned Rhinos – I think the only vehicle that I actually notice as being significantly different to others is the Monolith, with it’s walking-pace speed and penchant for getting imobilized on the first piece of terrain it sees. In Epic, on the other hand, I’ve found that speed really can matter – I tend to prefer taking Rhinos over Land Raiders purely for that extra 5cm movement. It doesn’t sound like much, but of course that’s 5cm per move; and in Epic a unit can potentially move up to three times in one turn if it marches. That’s now an extra 15cm of movement, which given the short weapon range of my Rubrics inside can really make a difference. I don’t want to sound callous, but often my transports don’t really have much of a role past turn 1. It’s nice to keep them around, of course, but they’re by no means a priority when it comes down to ‘units I don’t want to die this game’. As such, I sometimes treat my Rhinos almost as a ‘slingshot’, or a way to move my slow infantry into position quickly. This works particularly well with Thousand Sons given their inhuman staying power, but is no less applicable with other forces – given that hard cover such as ruins offers a 4+ save, even Imperial Guardsmen or Eldar Guardians can hunker down and survive a surprising amount of damage once disembarked from their transports. While it is good to try to keep transports alive – a formation with transports can double to an objective to contest or claim on turn 3, for example – I personally tend to take more dedicated units for this (Disc Riders, Falcons, Jetbikes etc.), and so this frees up my transported formations to act as the ‘rock’ of the army.
Finally, I thought I’d touch on the individual attributes of the main transports I use and / or face off against. (Chaos) Space Marine Rhinos are the staple, standard transport and really only used for their maneouverability – each Rhino boasts a poor 6+ combat and firefight value. They do, however, have a fairly decent armour of 5+ and a good move of 30cm, allowing them to move quickly across the board with a maximum move of 90cm in one turn. They’re also usually dirt cheap, and are the main transports I’m not afraid to sacrifice if need be. Imperial Chimeras, on the other hand, boast a slightly better firefight and seem to work well as supporting units in combat – whereas the Rhino pales in comparison to the Space Marines surrounding it, a Chimera is more of an asset to the weaker Guardsmen. It’s also got actual ranged weapons, which can help to lay blast markers etc. Finally, I have to mention my favourite transport; the Eldar Wave Serpent. To be honest, the fact it’s got a Reinforced Armour save of 5+ is enough to make it a potent unit in its own right, and that’s before you consider the 35cm speed, Skimmer special rule and AP4+ Shuriken Cannons! Of course, you do pay far more per model than you would for, say, a Rhino, so it comes down as usual to the Eldar style of small, elite forces.
Thank you as always for reading, and please do leave a comment with your own thoughts on transports in the grim dark future – I’d love to hear them :) I’m looking forward to a few well-earned days off work this week, where my plans mostly revolve around going to the gym, playing computer games (Team Fortress 2 and Total War: Rome 2, I imagine) and painting whichever of my recent orders arrives first!