Sunday, December 19, 2010

Land speeder vs Wolf Scouts - Sticking up for the Little Guy(s)

I read this post last night by Adam from the Space Wolves Blog. It's started a strong debate in the comment form about land speeders being superior to Wolf Scouts. I was originally going to join in the debate on the comment form but then I found I was writing far too much so here I am.

As you tend to find with most debates on t'internet about 40K, they focus around a single situation and then argue about which unit is better. What I'd like to do is explain the pros and cons of both so that you can make a proper decision and not just go with the crowd. I'll try not to show any bias but I think it'll be clear which I prefer (though I often take both).

For starters to anyone not so familiar with the Space Wolves army it may seem like a strange debate. Why are we comparing an elite choice which in other armies gets used as cheap firepower to a fast attack choice which is often a deep striking anti-tank platform? Well the Wolf Scouts (unlike any other SM scouts) get to outflank behind enemy lines (OBEL) which gives them the opportunity to come in behind your opponents line of tanks and hit the rear armour. Hopefully you're still reading if you found that a bit patronising.

Equipment and Costs
So people tend to equip the land speeder with a combination of heavy flamer and multi-melta for a piffling 70pts. This means that you can nearly always squeeze a land speeder in without sacrificing anything else. Very few people use the other Fast Attack options (but I'll discuss them in another post anyway). The scouts on the other hand have to compete with some rather nice units for their Elite slot (the likes of terminators, dreads and lone wolves). If we're going to use the scouts in an anti-tank role (and I'll discuss other options too) I'd use the following loadout:

5 scouts w/ meltagun, plasma pistol, mark of the wulfen and 4x melta bombs.
= 135pts

Clearly that's nearly double the cost of the land speeder so the scouts lose out in this round! It's worth noting that since they already have krak grenades the melta bombs aren't essential but they're nice to have incase you need to wreck a land raider. However, let's now consider what may happen in a game situation. I'm not going to mathammer since I've already expressed my opinions on that but I will briefly mention some probabilities because it's unavoidable in a game based on dice rolls.

Getting to the target
Equipped as they are you're pretty much always going to deep strike the land speeder and OBEL the scouts. Depending on density of terrain (and we use quite a lot) the land speeder may struggle to get in at all. It has a 2/3 chance of scattering which potentially could put it out of 12" range to make the most of the multi-melta.

The scouts have a 2/3 chance of coming on from any table edge of your choice. Most of the time if you roll a 1 or 2 then there's a chance you'll find a target providing it's early on in the game. The scouts must walk on from the table edge meaning the target has to be less than 12" from the edge for the melta gun to be effective and for any assault to be possible.

Bring it down!
The land speeder that's just deep-striked (deep-struck?) can only use one of his weapons thanks to his speed. If you're near a tank then it's obviously going to be the multi-melta. I don't know about you but whenever I roll a melta shot I feel like I'm going to miss and indeed you have a 1/3 chance of doing so. There's nothing you can do if you miss except die a little inside.

The scouts come in and assuming they're in range they also have a 2/3 chance to hit the target and the same chance of blowing it up but again it's wasted if we miss. The difference is we also gave them a plasma pistol which against AV10 (like the rear of a lot of tanks) you have quite a good chance of doing some damage. Let's assume for the sake of argument that we fail with our shooting. This is where we have an advantage over the land speeder, because we were in range for the melta shot we know we can charge too. That gives us 4 melta-bombs and potentially 8 Wulfen attacks that could rend. If we didn't take the melta-bombs the krak grenades will have a 50/50 chance of hurting AV10 rear armour. Bear in mind that if there's two tanks close by or a unit of tanks then you might be able to kill more than one!

The other advantage here is that should we find ourselves behind a tank with occupants e.g. an eldar falcon and we manage to blow it up with the shooting we can possibly charge in and make a mess of the occupants too. The land speeder won't have that option and may take hits from the no doubt angry occupants.

Living to Fight Another Day
Both units will aim to pick something juicy and pay for themselves by blowing up more than their points value. Clearly this is easier for the land speeder as it's so cheap. Successful or not it'd be nice to move on and cause some havoc but your opponent get's a turn before we can do that. Both units will attract some attention especially if they're just blown up your opponent's trophy tank. This isn't always a bad thing as it can draw attention away from your other units and it's surprising how much punishment both units can take sometimes.

The land speeder that dropped out of the sky will gain no advantage against shots but will only be hit in combat on 6s. If you picked your target well there'll hopefully be no troops around to cause a problem but if there are (or some angry occupants like I mentioned) then they're likely to have some S4 or better shots at you. With AV10 all the way around it's unlikely this will go well as most damage table results go against you. The only result that isn't a total loss is Crew Shaken which allows you to move away. Obviously we need to factor in cover but since you're probably in the middle of their army most things will make a mess of you. Your opponent may even try a charge if he's got a unit with a decent number of attacks or a power fist etc. If you do survive then your impressive speed means you can either blast across the board at full tilt and get yourself a cover save as you move to another target or maybe move a full 12" and be in range of something else that's juicy.

It's a bit more complicated for the scouts. If you were forced to charge in, or you were particularly close when you shot, then there's every chance you were caught up in an explosion. It's quite likely that one of your scouts will be claimed by it. If you lose a couple then you might run away. If there wasn't a big bang then you're gonna take some hits from the rest of the army. You may be in cover (since you're able to pick where you come on) but again you're unlikely to have much left. There's a lot of things that can punish a unit with T4 and a 4+ save. In combat at least you might counter-attack and do some damage which obviously the land speeder can't do but you may get annihilated or be stuck in combat for a while. If you survive then you better hope there's another target nearby (which there should be if you picked your spot right) because if not it could be a long and treacherous walk to your next target.

What if there aren't any tanks for me to hit?
The land speeder is equipped with the heavy flamer for just this reason. It can make a mess of bit hordes of orks/guard/nids and gives you an alternative against armies that don't have a lot of tanks.

The scouts on the other hand can really excel even when there aren't tanks. A lot of armies have heavy weapons teams (devastators, broadsides, lootas etc) which you can disrupt with a well time assault. The land speeder might be able to flame them but the survivors will still shoot whereas the scouts can keep them locked in combat.

Both units have a good shot at contesting objectives too but the land speeder's ability to cover ground makes it better in this situation.

Final Thoughts
This has turned into quite a wall of text so I best draw to a close. As I've said before the units you take are dictated by the way you like to play. Both of these units complement an army which assaults or one that sits and shoots. As I mentioned in my list building post they're the kind of units which distract your enemy. They mean that your opponent will see them on your list and play differently because they're there. If they've got any sense they'll space out their tanks and in the case of the scouts they'll probably try and keep them away from the table edge. This means you're more likely to be in range with your long fangs which is good.

At the end of the day both units have their advantages and both can easily slide into to your army. I like both of them for different reasons. Your list will be a lot more potent with at least one of them involved. It's also worth thinking about what you could do with the spare 65 points you'd save by taking a speeder instead of scouts. Either way these units are a bit of a glasshammer. They might do a lot of damage but they won't last long after that.

The important thing to remember though is to try them for yourself and not rely on what I say (or anyone else says). If they don't suit you then don't use them but I'm not going to say either is pointless. We probably all have a set of scouts since I suspect most of us who've only recently got into SW bought the Battleforce so give them a go!

7 comments:

  1. A nice little write up on the strengths and weaknesses of both units.

    I personally find the Land Speeders better due to their speed and survivability against small arms fire.

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  2. I think you have to consider both of these units as "throw away" if you are going to make the most out of them. They both have the power to strike with precision and potentially take out a high value target, whether that value is in points or nuisance to yourself.

    I also think the value in both units is more than just earning their points back. There's a psychological element to the threat they pose which will have your opponent considering them when they deploy and move so you are already altering their game-plan just by having the units in your side.

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  3. I'll tell you why Speeders are better.

    Bang-for-buck, speed, survivability.

    Whilst Mg, Pp and MB are all good things, they all lack range and the Mg is your only great anti-tank weapon.
    If you can assault for the MBs, you are already within MELTA range. Sure it is not automatic, but very good. Then you assault the vehicle with your MB. The vehicle explodes and kills your 4+ save Scouts *sad face*

    You are paying a whopping 15 points for the Pp. Yeah they are decent against rear AV, but that is a lot of points for the privilege. Then you only have the 4+ to save you from gets hot! I know guys who don't like plasma on 3+ Marines!

    So MB and Pp, both expensive items, and less effective than the Mg, put the Scouts in danger just from using them. Bad enough you have to get close enough for the Mg, let only helping to kill your own men off with their own weapons.

    The Mg, whilst a solid gun, is on Infantry. 6" MELTA + 6" move compared to 12" MELTA + 12" move. Are we even comparing the same fruit here? :)

    When your Scouts have just assaulted a vehicle, they are in a delicious clump, whether or not the blow the vehicle or not. Guess what my shooty squad has as its special weapon? Flamer. Thanks for the bunch up, I appreciate the help :P

    Okay, so the Scouts OBEL into the right position and don't end up on the other side of the table [1/6 chance of that happening and another 1/6 if I haven't deployed my tanks next to a short edge]
    The Speeders don't have any worry of turning up in an irrelevant position.
    What happens when you play Bloods and they just fast away from the edge but also away from your normal guys? The scouts are left running like those dogs with stumpy little legs, trying to catch up.
    Anyway, back to the scouts turning up into the right position. They pop a tank. Then what? Your foe has his other firebase a long way away. D'oh!
    Meanwhile the Speeder uses its 24" threat bubble to attack another vehicle.

    We all know how Mech is great. Speeders comply to that philosophy. Sure it is AV10. But it is still AV. Bolters are hopeful and even when they do glance you, chances are it will just be a stunned and you can flat-out to *move-block* something. Meanwhile the scouts are dying.

    If you are having regular success with your scouts, your foe knows they are coming, and you are still getting attacks against his Armour the turn you come in, maybe your foe needs to wise up a bit. It is much easier to counteract what the scouts will be doing because the are so much more *predictable*

    Speeders have obvious targets, yes, and so are also predictable, but how can you really protect all of your tanks from something that can turn up anywhere, has a threat range of 24" and can boogy 24" to completely relocate? You can't. Unless your whole premise is around move-block and cramming a lá Tau.

    If you are using scouts, enjoy using them and are having success with them, great. Don't stop using them. But you will not convince me they are as good as Speeders from what you have said. Hopefully that does not come across as rude. I am looking forwards to Abuse Puppy's counter. I am always open to being taught something.

    **Scouts can assault Devs, etc. That is something the Speeder cannot do and so the scouts get full marks in that category.

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  4. @Marshal I'd like to address all your points individually so I hope you can forgive me for the forum style point/counter-point response.

    "Bang-for-buck, speed, survivability."
    I genuinely believe that the scouts have more chance of survival. Neither unit is going to last long but without going into stats I'm sure most units would find it easier to deal with a speeder.

    "Whilst Mg, Pp and MB are all good things, they all lack range and the Mg is your only great anti-tank weapon."
    The point is that you have options if your melta weapon misses. If I can spare the points I might also include a combi-melta/PF wolf guard too. The land speeder misses and it's wasted that turn which, like I said, happens a third of the time.

    "Then you assault the vehicle with your MB. The vehicle explodes and kills your 4+ save Scouts"
    A vehicle explosion is only S3. If it hits all 5 of your scouts it'll only wound 1 or 2. So odds are you'll fail one save. The the effectiveness of the squad isn't really damaged.

    "You are paying a whopping 15 points for the Pp....Then you only have the 4+ to save you from gets hot!"
    It's a 1/12 chance of your guy dying. Yes they're expensive but you don't have to have them. If you have points to spare then why not?

    "The Mg, whilst a solid gun, is on Infantry. 6" MELTA + 6" move compared to 12" MELTA + 12" move. Are we even comparing the same fruit here? :)"
    Obviously the multimelta is superior but it's your ONLY option. Miss and then what?

    "When your Scouts have just assaulted a vehicle, they are in a delicious clump, whether or not the blow the vehicle or not. Guess what my shooty squad has as its special weapon? Flamer. Thanks for the bunch up, I appreciate the help :P"
    You kill my 135pt squad and I've just killed your land raider/long range tank/heavy weapons team. Not to mention you're firing at my scouts which is keeping you where I want you.

    "The Speeders don't have any worry of turning up in an irrelevant position"
    If you scatter (which you will 2/3 of the time) you could potentially end up out of range. I have exactly the same chance of getting where I want with my scouts. Yes you can deploy to stop me but then I'll just move them to another target like an objective. Plus I've made you deploy the way I wanted.

    "What happens when you play Bloods and they just fast away from the edge but also away from your normal guys?"
    They've just moved into range of my long fangs. Nice of them! Oh and the same Bloods will make mincemeat of your land speeder with their meltas and furious charge.

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  5. "They pop a tank. Then what? Your foe has his other firebase a long way away. D'oh!"
    The speeder still wastes a turn getting to its target and risks being shot (with a save of course). Meanwhile your opponent decides the scouts are no longer a threat so ignores them for a little while. Your opponent is now all bunched up on one "firebase" and you close in for the kill.

    "Bolters are hopeful and even when they do glance you, chances are it will just be a stunned and you can flat-out to *move-block* something. Meanwhile the scouts are dying."
    There's a 50/50 chance that your speeder will be rendered useless for a turn by a successful glancing hit. Plus move-blocking is hardly its intended purpose.

    "...how can you really protect all of your tanks from something that can turn up anywhere, has a threat range of 24" and can boogy 24" to completely relocate?"
    The same way you deal with any deep-strikers. If you aren't coming for my tanks with your landspeeder then I don't care. That means I can protect them and leave my other units in safety. Against scouts you've got to worry about anything being too close to the edge.

    "Hopefully that does not come across as rude...I am always open to being taught something."
    Likewise I hope you don't think this is a personal attack. I mean all this comments in the spirit of a reasoned debate. If they've come across otherwise I apologise :)

    As I said I firmly believe both have a role in any SW army. As I also said it's down to your play style. I think speeders are best supporting sit back and shoot armies and scouts are better for the in your face assault armies. Thanks for the comments.

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  6. + The thing is your Speeders are on the table whilst you still have your transports, hopefully. This gives the foe the tyranny of choice. Do I shoot the Speeder or the Rhino with 200 points of Grey in it. The foe will only have x amount of guns that are good enough to legitimately suppress AV. However, the foe should have more than enough small arms to point at the Scouts, especially if your Greys still have intact transports.


    + Whilst redundancy is a great thing, the Speeder costs 70 pts. Mg, Pp, Pp Scouts with MB and a Wolf Guard with combi-Mg is 163 pts for a 5+1 strong pack. I could have 2 Speeders and change for that amount.
    Also remember overkill. A Pred 'overkills' a Rhino with its 3 guns. Long Fangs split fire and engage 2 Rhinos. We all know Fangs are the best DevEq due to being as cheap as Bloods Devs AND having split fire.
    That second Speeder lands somewhere else and targets a different unit. Plus you have 2 rolls for reserves, which is more reliable, imo.

    + The Speeder is not exposed to that at all. Yes it is a small risk, but the Speeder does not have it.

    + Hang on. First, this is *another* chance of the Scouts helping the foe be rid of them. Secondly, you say it is expensive, and is actually more expensive than the much better Mg.
    If you are crafting a list, imo, you "shouldn't" have 15/30 spare points lying around and then say, hmmm, yeah why not?
    I go over my lists and tighten and re-tighten them for, imo, perfection ~ at least as good as I can muster anyway :P

    + I can have 2 Speeders to one Scout pack.

    + But I wouldn't have my tanks within 12" of the board edges. Yes that *is* a win to you by causing something that is desirable, but your squad turns up and gives me something that is not too hard to kill, as I don't have units by themselves. The Speeder doesn't worsen its survivability after MM something. Scouts do when they assault.

    + Yes that is true, however, the Scouts can only threaten something within 12" of a board edge. The Speeder can land anywhere on the table.

    + The Speeder may well end up just as dead. However, it should nearly always have a chance of getting a shot off. The Scouts are stuck running, therefore not killing anything. The Scouts move 7-12" and do not shoot. The Speeder mpves 12 and can MELTA something another 12" away.

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  7. + Providing that the other firebase is not <36" away, yes the Speeder has to flat-out to get there. But averaging 9.5" a turn by running, that takes the Scouts three turns to relocate. The Speeder can also flat-out behind cover [out of TLOS] and the hop over it. The Scouts just don't have the range to consistently move through cover and Mg something.

    + Yes bolters can stuff the Speeder. 6s to glance and then 50% means the Speeder relocates next turn.
    But Speeders *can* move block, another advantage of being Armour. I used it just this past weekend, and I was right next to my foes long table edge.

    "...how can you really protect all of your tanks from something that can turn up anywhere, has a threat range of 24" and can boogy 24" to completely relocate?"
    The same way you deal with any deep-strikers. If you aren't coming for my tanks with your landspeeder then I don't care. That means I can protect them and leave my other units in safety. Against scouts you've got to worry about anything being too close to the edge.

    + I think it is much harder to protect against something that can a] turn up anywhere b] has a longer range c] is available in two separate units if we are talking similar points & d] is far more mobile

    I think Speeders work even better than normal in Mech lists as do Scouts work even better in Foot lists.

    I feel that I have shown the Speeder consistently pip the Scouts in all categories bar mêlée.
    For a parallel; yes, rifleman dreads are great but Fangs are greater, if you catch my drift.

    *I found it hard to include all our posts within the word limit and so got rid of all of it.
    Healthy and respectful debate is always a good thing :)

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