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The Tiger Roars 

What to Do About Bikes 
Okay, I have stopped deluding myself and have finally admitted what everyone out there already knows: bikes are simply not worth the points cost. At least some bikes aren’t: in particular, I’m thinking of Space Marine bikes and Dark Eldar Reavers, two units I’m most familiar with.

Space Marine bikes each cost more than twice as much as a regular Tactical Marine, are only available in smaller-sized units (meaning they can’t take casualties as well as a Tac Squad), and have, in my opinion, less effective upgrade options. Sure, they get Toughness 5—but against most heavy weapons, Toughness 5 is little to no advantage over Toughness 4. Sure, they can turbo-boost—but are you gonna turbo-boost towards Orks or Nids or into rapid-fire range of Imperial Guard or Tau? Sure they can upgrade their Sergeant to a Vet and give him wargear—but are you really going to take an expensive unit and make it even more expensive?

(As an aside, let’s not spend any time contemplating the worthlessness of Scout Bikes, shall we? “I know, let’s take a regular SM bike, lower its armor save, and give it fewer upgrade options! Yeah, that’ll ROCK!” ).

Dark Eldar Reavers are Wyches on jetbikes—but they’re Wyches that cost about twice as much as usual, can’t have second weapons (gotta hold onto those handlebars, you know) can’t have wych weapons, and can’t number more than 10. “Mmm, mmm, good,” as the soup commercial used to say. Well, no, that’s not good, actually. 

If you’re going to have a unit at half the size and double the cost of a comparable unit, it needs to be at least as good as that comparable unit in shooting and/or close combat. But neither Space Marine bikes nor Dark Eldar Reavers do that. Which is shootier: Tac Marines or bikes? Which is a terror in hand-to-hand: Wyches or Reavers? With bikes, all you’re getting is speed, and though I firmly believe in mobility, mobility, mobility, I don’t think you’re getting a good return on your points investment.

Lots of players already know this, of course, and have stayed away from bikes. To some extent, I knew it, too, but I bought bikes anyway for my SM and DE armies. Why? Because they looked cool. And for many, many years, that was good enough for me. But now it isn’t: now, I want my bikes to do something more than just zip around the board and hand my opponents easy Victory Points. 

I am loathe, however, to simply chuck or shelve or sell fully-painted models. The only remaining option (aside from doing nothing and living with the suckage) was to make my existing models more effective. In pondering what to do, I first looked at what I own:

Bike Squad 1: 
  • Three regular bikers (bikes have twin-linked bolters);
  • One biker w/ flamer;
  • One biker w/ meltagun; and,
  • Attack Bike w/ heavy bolter
Total: 226 points

Bike Squad 2:

  • Three Attack Bikes w/ heavy bolters
Total: 150 points
Bike Squad 1 is just about as shooty as it could be: sure, I could swap out the meltagun for another flamer, or vice versa, but that still would not be enough, in my opinion, to justify the points spent. Bike Squad 2, on the other hand, is just ducky: 150 points to pump out nine heavy bolter shots and six bolter shots (re-rolling misses) each round? Keembobo!*

*keembobo (pronounced “keem” like “keen”, “bo” like “dough”, “bo” like “dough”, with the accent on the first syllable). Interjection. Informal.—Used to express great happiness. The first syllable may be extended (“keeeeeeeeeem”) to convey extreme happiness. 

The answer was literally right under my nose: convert the regular bikes to Attack Bikes. Converting five bikes and adding them to the four Attack Bikes I already had would give me nine Attack Bikes, conveniently divided into three squadrons of three each. I decided to take the flamer off one biker and build two squadrons of Attack Bikes with heavy bolters. The biker with the meltagun is a pewter figure and it would be difficult to remove the weapon, so I decided to arm that biker’s squadron with multi-meltas—the meltagun would become decoration. 

By converting the regular bikes to Attack Bikes, I increase the total points spent (150 + 150 + 195 = 495 points for nine Attack Bikes vis-à-vis 226 + 150 = 376 points for Bike Squads 1 and 2) but I believe the investment is well worth it, as I’ve dramatically increased the firepower of these nine models—particularly against tanks, a foe against which my army often has problems. My bike-mounted character Raja Shamshir Talatra can accompany the new Attack Bikes into battle.

Bike in the process of being converted to an Attack Bike
I've already started converting my basic Bikes to Attack Bikes

Turning my attention to the Reavers, I noted that I had the following figures:

  • Six jetbikes w/ splinter rifles;
  • Two jetbikes w/ blasters; and
  • Two jetbikes w/ shredders.
One can make a case that twin-linked bolters on Space Marine bikes are formidable weapons: I agree, but the squad size is so small that you aren’t getting off a lot of shots (my former Bike Squad 1, detailed above, could get off 12 shots [re-rolling misses], provided it didn’t use the meltagun and flamer. Compare to the 20 shots a full Tac Squad with nothing but bolters could fire). 

However, there isn’t enough crack on Earth to make me believe, even for a moment, that a bike-mounted splinter rifle is anything but crap. My first inclination was to try to make Reavers more effective by somehow jacking up their hand-to-hand ability—they are, after all, a “sub-sect of Wyches,” says Codex: Death Twinkies. As with SM bikes, the only way to make Reavers better in close combat is to upgrade their leader and give him wargear—in short, make an already-expensive unit even more expensive. And they still won’t be as good as Wyches.

I decided to go the other route and max out their firepower. Following the axiom of “Use small squads for shooting,” I divided the ten models into squads of three, three, and four. The new Squads 1 and 2 will each have two blasters and one splinter rifle: these units are now tank-hunters. The new Squad 3 has two shredders and two splinter rifles: with Strength 6 and a blast template, shredders are decent at killing infantry. This squad will accompany my bike-mounted Archon, firing their weapons into enemy foot troopers before carving them up in close combat. 

Converted Reaver jetbike with blaster
Above: Converted Dark Eldar Reaver jetbike with blaster

The new Squads 1 and 2 are but 95 points each; the new Squad 3 (without the Archon) is 130 points. Like most of my DE, they’ll be deployed through a webway portal to avoid enemy fire: thus, the small squad sizes don’t matter much. 

So which bikes—if any—are worth their point cost? Chaos Bikes are definitely worth it, especially if you zoom up and summon daemons off them. Ork Warbikes, too: at the very least, folks will be shooting at your guys (and their kick-ass big shootas) and not the rest of your army. Necron Destroyers aren’t really bikes per se, but they’re close enough and they’re tough and shooty. 

Notice what those bikes have that regular Marine bikes and Reavers don’t: good hand-to-hand ability (Chaos Bikes), good shooting ability (Necron Destroyers), or both (Ork Warbikes). In upgrading my bikes in my Marine and Dark Eldar armies, I chose to upgrade the shooting ability by increasing the number of heavy or special weapons I could take. It cost more money (about $70 for the parts through Games Workshop Mail Order) and points and will take time to convert and paint, but I think it’s worth it. 

Related Pages
Bikes Aren't So Bad--A rebuttal

© copyright Kenton Kilgore, December 2005 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle