Hey everyone, Corrm here to take a look at one of the most popular choices in the Space Marine Codex, the Space Marine Bike Squad.
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The Bike squad has always been a popular choice in Space Marine armies, with the last two codices introducing special rules that have made them even more popular in 6th and 7th edition.
A Space Marine bike squad provides a fast moving unit with increased durability and firepower over a Tactical squad. It has become a very popular choice in both competitive and casual army lists thanks to its wargear options and special rules. The basic squad consists of two bikers and a Sergeant, with the options to increase the squad size to up to 8 models and the option to include an attached attack bike.
- Bolt Pistol
- Frag Grenades
- Krak Grenades
- Space Marine Bike
- Heavy Bolter (for Attack Bike only), can be upgraded to a Multi-melta
- Up to two bikers may take a Special Weapon
- The Sergeant can take any Melee Weapons or Ranged Weapons and can take meltabombs
- Chapter Tactics
- Combat Squads
- Mounted Assault- allows the bike squad to be taken as a troops choice if the detachment includes one Independent Character mounted on a bike.
Space Marine Bike squads combine all the benefits of regular tactical marines, with the added durability, maneuverability and firepower of being mounted on a space marine bike.
The basic biker is a solid choice. Toughness 5 with a 3+ armour save and the ability to Jink makes the biker a very durable unit, able to bear the brunt of most small arms fire in the game. Being mounted on a bike means a move of 12”, with the option to turbo-boost a further 12”, making the unit extremely mobile for getting where it needs to be on the battlefield. It also provides the biker with Relentless, which is great for most of the special weapons the unit has access to. The bike also provides the unit with Hammer of Wrath attacks in combat.
If taking large number of space marine bike squads, a bike-mounted Independent Character in the same detachment is practically mandatory. This allows the unit to be taken as a troops choice, not only freeing up additional fast attack slots for other choices, but boosting an already great unit with Objective Secured (assuming you are running a Combined Arms Detachment). In fact, bike units make a fantastic compulsory troops choice for a Space Marine army and they are cheaper than tactical squads. They are more expensive than Scout units, but come with increased durability and speed as described above, as well as access to greater special weapons.
Each bike squad has access to two special weapons, even in the minimum squad size. This already makes the bike squad a better option than the tactical squad, which can only ever take one special or heavy weapon (and only one of each in a ten-man squad). A very popular competitive build for the bike squad is a three-man squad with two grav guns and a sergeant with a combi-grav. Relentless on the bikes gives the squad a full 3 shots with the grav gun each turn, with a 30” grav threat range on the unit. This squad comes in at a very reasonable 103 points, an absolute bargain for the mobility and firepower on the tabletop.
Taking Melta Guns in the unit also allows the bike squad to engage in an anti-tank role, the maneuverability of the unit once more helping the squad get into optional range and position to target enemy vehicles.
I like to run my bike squad in a 5-man unit, with two Grav Guns and a sergeant with Melta Bombs. The two Grav Guns allow the unit to take on most targets, while the twin-linked Boltguns of the unit can make short work of lightly armoured foes or units which the grav guns are less effective against. The Melta Bombs allow the sergeant to take on enemy vehicles in combat to greater effect.
You have the option to add an attack bike to the unit and to combat squad the unit at full strength (8 bikers and an attack bike), but this option is rarely used. A full strength unit still has access to only 2 special weapons. You would be better simply fielding two separate, smaller bike squads and have access to double the number of special weapons than fielding one unit in combat squads.
You can upgrade the sergeant to a Veteran Sergeant, with the option to take Melee weapons. I would generally not bother with these options. Despite having toughness 5 and hammer of wrath, Space Marine Bike squads are not great in combat. With only one base attack each, they struggle to put out a lot of damage in combat and can easily get bogged down in a protracted combat with a more numerous or more powerful opposing unit.
Chapter Tactics add a lot to certain units in Space Marine armies, and without a doubt, the White Scars Chapter Tactics greatly benefit Bike Squads. The White Scars Chapter Tactics give bike squads access to Skilled Rider and strength 5 Hammer of Wrath hits, as well as Hit and Run.
Skilled Rider is a great bonus to bike squads, not only providing a 3+ jink save, but allowing them to automatically pass Dangerous Terrain tests. This is amazing, giving your bike squads much greater mobility on the battlefield as they don’t have to go around difficult terrain or risk going through it and killing themselves as can happen to other Chapters’ Bike Squads.
The strength five hammer of wrath attacks are a great bonus for using Bike Squads in combat and Hit and Run helps reduce the chance of your bike squads being bogged down in long combats. This actually makes bike squads more viable in combat against weaker infantry units and units lacking AP3 combat weapons. You can fire at a squad at close range with your twin-linked rapid fire bolters, then charge them to get your S5 hammer of wrath hits and combat attacks. Your T5 and 3+ armour should provide some protection against weaker infantry squads, stay locked in combat for your opponent’s turn to stop them shooting at you, then Hit and Run out of combat in your opponent’s turn to begin the process again.
As might be expected, the new White Scars formations give an additional boost to Bike units. The Hunting Force has the Thunderous Assault special rule, giving a bike unit double hammer of wrath hits as long as the squad has 5 or more models. An automatic ten S5 Hammer of Wrath hits (if using the White Scars Chapter Tactic) is a great bonus for the start of any combat. The Scarblade Strike Force (the White Scars version of the Gladius) also gives bike squads re-rolls to wound on hammer of wrath if they charge at least 8”.
Iron Hands also make great Bikers as their Feel no Pain bonuses take a durable unit and make them more durable! Particularly in Command Squads and with Characters such as the infamous Chapter master with either the Gorgon’s Chains or Shield Eternal, these can be ultra durable units.
For all these reasons, Space Marine Bike squads are one of the best troops choices in the Space Marine Codex and will find a useful place in any casual or tournament list.
You can also pick up some cheap models in our Second Hand Shop. Some of these gems are quite rare, sometimes they’re fully painted!