Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Revisiting Swiftclaw Bikers

As you might have read in my battle reports from Jolly Toys, my Tau army came up against a unit of swiftclaw bikers. They were very effective in dealing with my Tau army but as a Space Wolf player I can't say I've ever used them. I've got a small squad of them assembled but I've never been able to motivate myself to paint them. I think this due, in no small part, to me owning some thunderwolves. I'm a massive fan of the thunderwolves because they're an extremely characterful unit that's unique to the SW army but also because they can be totally devastating to your opponent.

Now I realise that writing a review of swiftclaws when the new TWC models are about to hit the shelves is probably somewhat daft but I've already talked about TWC at length and have had my third party ones for a while. That being said, I'll carry on anyway.

As both the TWC and bikers are a fair old chunk of points I can't see me ever finding room for both. I think it's important to consider the swiftclaws though as they could provide a dimension to my wolves army that I've not had before. I've mentioned them briefly before but let's look at them in more depth now.

Firstly let's talk about Space Marine bikers in general. The main attraction is obviously the increased toughness and better mobility. Having a twin-linked bolter which can be fired whilst still assaulting the target unit is also nice. The other attraction is the option to take some special weapons e.g. plasma guns, meltaguns, heavy bolters/multi-meltas and get into range with them quickly. So what's the difference between normal SM ones and our swiftclaws?

The main thing that puts people off is the fact that they're Blood Claws meaning WS3/BS3, leadership 8 and also that they're limited by the Headstrong rules. This means that they'd rather assault an enemy than fire their weapons. The obvious solution to both of these problems is the addition of a wolf priest. The wolf priest will give them Fearless (dealing with the Ld8), prevents them being Headstrong and gives them Preferred Enemy to deal with the WS3. The BS3 thing is still an issue but with twin-linked bolters it shouldn't matter, the problem comes from the special weapon.

However, throwing in a wolf priest is quite an investment so we'll have to see if it's going to be worth it. Well for starters they're going to get a huge number of attacks on the charge. Each swiftclaw has 4 attacks on the charge (1 base, 1 for two CC weapons, 2 for charging). Thanks to the wolf priest they'll be getting 3 hits on most targets. Obviously, the attack bike has 5 and the guy with a special weapon will only have 3 but you can easily see that a squad will deliver some serious pain.

Sample Loadouts
Let's start with the most tooled up squad we can and work down from there:

10 Swiftclaws w/ meltagun - 260pts
Multi-melta attack bike - 40pts
Wolf guard w/ combi-melta/PF on a bike - 73pts
Wolf priest on a bike - 135pts
Total - 508pts

Ouch that's a lot of points! However, when you consider I often field a TWC squad led by a thunderlord which comes in at 510pts it really isn't that bad! Which is better though? Difficult question. Both of these units will attract some serious attention from your opponent and I've talked before about the benefit of that.

However, I've found with the TWC that they often lose a few of their number before they ever make it into combat. The swiftclaws on the other hand have a little trick up their sleeve. In their first turn they can move 24" and claim a 3+ cover save. Couple that with T5 and it's unlikely they'll be taking many casualties. Obviously you've got to plan your move well so that you aren't in easy charge range of something but if you can manage that then you should be getting a charge in second turn at nearly full strength. At this point your thunderwolves could still be trying to get across the board if you've had some crappy run rolls and your opponent has kept his army at a distance from them.

When the bikes get to their target they'll get 44 attacks from the swiftclaws and 4 from the wolf priest. That's 33 hits and 16 wounds. Oh and the wolf guard will then swing with his fist and score another couple of wounds. Comparing that to the thunderwolves for a similar price and it's clear to see the winner. Bear in mind this doesn't include any shooting that the bikers might have done before combat with approximately 10 wounds from the bolters against MEQ.

Let's not get carried away though. The bikers will, most likely, make it into combat all but unscathed but once they get there it's a different story. Despite their T5 they're still vulnerable to anything that's higher initiative than them. Wyches will struggle to wound but purifiers won't have that problem thanks to Hammerhand. There's no option to give them a storm shield like the wolves either so expect to lose a lot of them. However, they'll still do quite a lot of damage with what's left and like any other combat unit it's about picking your targets.

Let's consider a cheaper alternative then:

4 Swiftclaws w/ meltagun and power fist - 135pts
Attack Bike w/ multimelta - 40pts
Wolf priest w/ Saga of the Hunter on a bike - 145pts
Total 320pts

A lot more reasonable but still quite nasty with a decent number of attacks. The fist is really only there for helping you survive against dreads but it could come in handing. The melta might de-mech your target but you'll probably still rely on long fangs to do that for you. However, there are two advantages to this squad over the more expensive one. Firstly, it's smaller so more likely to get ignored. Secondly, it won't annihilate a squad as easily meaning they're going to stay in combat for a phase for some protection. The downside to that is if your opponent has combat units nearby you'll be relying on a much smaller number of attacks to do the job.

Conclusion
There's a big part of me wants to run the massive squad of bikers because it would certainly be fun. However, do I want to invest in the models? Possibly not. There's a lot of potential there though and I might have to give it a whirl with proxies to see if it's worth the investment.

10 comments:

  1. In their first turn they can move 24" and claim a 2+ cover save thanks to the combination of Turbo Boosting and Saga of the Hunter.

    This is illegal, sadly. You can't take Saga of the Hunter unless you're on foot so the only way you can get a 2+ cover save is if the Priest infiltrates (on foot) and when the Bikers turbo-boost the Priest joins them to give them the 2+ save.

    Otherwise it looks good although I'd put a MM AB into the 2nd squad as it's more wound allocation, extra attacks and an extra melta for a relatively low cost.

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    Replies
    1. I knew there was a reason you couldn't do it but I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was. Cheers mate!

      You're right about the attack bike too. I'll edit the post.

      Delete
  2. I tried Swift Claws for about half-a-dozen games when the codex first came out but I struggled to make them work. Having said that I think I was trying to be far too aggressive with them. I've toyed with the idea of taking a small unit as a counter-attacking threat but that idea seems to have been sidetracked by the appearance of the Thunderwolves...

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  3. How do the swift claws get 84 attacks on the charge ? I think I did the math correctly and I only get 45 attacks (4 per biker and 5 for the attack bike)

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    Replies
    1. 44 cos of the meltagun. God knows where I got 80+ from! Edited the post!

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  4. BS melta just seems bad at this point costs.

    I was thinking 3 or 4 bikes with a priest all with melta bombs - that will scare the crap out of all tanks, and unlike another codex's bikers we actually get quite a few attacks in assault to deal with regular infantry.

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  5. I might b wrong (tho dont believe so) but Swift claws dont get a second close combat weapon... only attack bike does coz its 2 from profile 1 for charge and the gunner can use both hands so +1 from extra cc... so a normal bike has only 3 attacks on charge

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    Replies
    1. The codex entry lists all the bikers as having pistol and cc weapon. The options also state that the meltagun etc replaces a pistol and the powerfist replaces a cc weapon. That would make me think they all get both. The entry for bikes in the sm codex just lists bolt pistols.

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    2. Im sorry I remembered reading that u cant get an extra cc weapon attack ob bike in the DE codex... just read the faq
      Jason Bloodscream

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    3. You don't mean the DE codex do you? Where abouts does it say you can't get an extra attack. Don't see it in any faqs.

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