40K: Supersonic Flyers Done Right

Has Games Workshop finally fixed Supersonic Flyers in Warhammer 40,000?

In the previous two editions of Warhammer 40k, Flyers were a mixed bag. On one hand, you had an incredibly difficult to hit and sometimes game-winning unit that could table an opponent by itself. If you played during the “Reign of the Heldrake (pre-nerfs)” or the “Necron Croissant of Doom” Era then you know what I’m talking about. On the flip side, because they were still a vehicle, one lucky shot could ruin your plans for air superiority.

After a few rules changes and an increase in access to AA weapons flyers seemed to take a back seat almost entirely. But then a new Flyer issue popped-up involving FMCs…that’s something we won’t get into with this article however. No, I want to focus strictly on those old school flyers – the ones that got fancy kits and then suddenly disappeared from most tabletops. Let’s talk about the “Supersonic” flyers and how Games Workshop may have finally found a solid middle ground for them in Warhammer 40k 8th.

The Mechanics of Flight

We touched on the rules of flyers in a previous article. But I wanted to revisit one particular “cut out” of those rules:

When I’m talking about “Supersonic” Flyers, I’m referring specifically to flyers with these 3 rules. Now, not all Flyers have these rules – check your Datasheets! But the addition of these 3 rules helps to make Supersonic Flyers viable AND they helped to curb the issues with FMCs at the same time (again, something I’m not going to explore in this article).

Airborne has a few big rules to go through:

  • This model cannot charge,
  • can only be charged by units that can FLY,
  • and can only attack or be attacked in the Fight phase by units that can FLY.

I wrote the rule out that way in particular. I know there are folks that are going to want to argue about comma placement, British English vs American English, or perhaps even the Oxford comma. But by my interpretation, it really just means that unless a unit has FLY it can’t really interact with this unit in the Fight phase. After-all, Flyers shouldn’t be charging into close combat to begin with – there attack stats are generally terrible (there are always exceptions however).

Supersonic dictates the way a model with this rule moves. When this model moves:

  • First pivot it on the spot UP TO 90°
  • Then move the model straight forwards.
  • When this model Advances, increase the Move by characteristic 20″ – note: check your datasheet for the exact distance.

I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory. Keep in mind most of these Supersonic Flyers DO have a minimum move distance. We talked about that before, but I wanted to bring this up because I really like this rule for a few reasons. If a Supersonic Flyer can’t meet those restrictions then it leaves combat airspace. It translates from the lore to the tabletop fairly well.

Now, I still think it’s a little silly to have these aircraft in a battlezone that is relatively tiny to their range – but I can suspend my disbelief  because of the extra movement restrictions. These restrictions also account for the flyer’s need to leave the combat airspace due to positioning – perhaps it was low on fuel. Or maybe it stalled out or was recalled from the airfield. What ever reason you come up with narrative-wise, in game it’s gone from the fight.

Hard to Hit is a MUCH better version of the rule in the previous edition where attackers shooting only hit on 6’s. This negative modifier to the attackers shooting is a deterrent to even shoot at the Supersonic Flyer. At the same time, it’s not so much of a penalty that units won’t even bother to do it. This dilemma causes both players to make tough tactical choices in the game. “Do I risk my flyer and just go in for the kill shot?” “Do I want to dedicate my shooting at the Supersonic Flyer because it’s fast this turn or do I need to stop that other unit?”

It’s those types of decisions that make the game interesting and Hard to Hit really works well for that.

Vehicle Changes

The last thing I want to talk about briefly is how the new changes to vehicles also help with Supersonic Flyers.

First off, there are no more firing arcs to deal with. If a vehicle can draw line of sight to a model, it can shoot at it and vice-versa! I’m totally fine with this change.

Secondly, no longer will a single lucky shot down your flyer (in most cases). On the flip side, just putting wounds on Supersonic Flyers is a lot more consistent. Anything can do damage on a 6, combine that with the removal of Jink and flyers feel like they are in a good spot. They aren’t impossible to deal with but they aren’t super fragile either. It’s that more balanced position combined with the benefits and restrictions above that really make Supersonic Flyers in 8th work well.

So if you swore off flyers or if you just haven’t used your models in a while, pull them out and give Supersonic Flyers a shot – you might enjoy the new changes to them from BOTH sides of the table!

 

What do you think about the state of Supersonic Flyers in 8th? Are you happy with where they are at or would you like them to swing one way or the other?

  • Deathwing

    Supersonic Transports are freaking amazing right now.

    fly to your target spot first turn, be hard to hit and survive, infantry get out at top of turn 2 and flyer burns it out to gun away for rest of the game.

    • Adam Hyndman

      Only real issues besides leaving the combat airspace pretty much all the time is the issue that flyers are armed with baby weapons. Which means -1bs if it moves . Flyers must move. Which means their bs on their sheet is at a constant minus one. If youre the likes of guard that means the weaponry is essentially surplus to requirements, as you’ll never hit with it

      • John Henry III

        Anything you’d want to buss around in a flyer can now deep strike without scatter anyways.

        • Deathwing

          Blood claws and grey hunters, wolf guard, pretty much anything wolves.

          • Horus84cmd

            and that fits their background of not liking flying!

          • euansmith

            “Ah am pityink ze foolz.”

          • lorieth

            Until the Thunderhawk touches down for extraction… then it’s all “Shut up and drink your milk”

          • Deathwing

            thunderhawks cant transport Twolf cav or dreadnoughts anymore either.
            (and that was the entire reason i had a Thawk to begin with lol. gave a whole new meaning to the work “air cav”, or at least it did)
            Thunderwolves and a contemptor dread charging out of a thunderhawk was brutal. now i gotta find a new gimmick for apoc 8th

          • Deathwing

            the heck does background have to do with playing the game? And i use wolf rules for my diy chapter, dragons like flying.

          • Horus84cmd

            HA HA HA Seriously? What does background have to do with playing the game? HA HA HA HA.

        • Koonitz

          Dreadnoughts in a Stormraven due to not being able to use non-Forge World drop pods any more?

          • AnomanderRake

            Seconded. A Dreadnaught pod is PL5/100pts, and a Stormraven is totally worth the extra 10PL/~200pts you’re paying on top of the cost of a pod, plus not eating a units-in-Reserves slot if you wanted more Deep Striking units.

      • Horus84cmd

        They won’t leave air space most the time if you consider your movement properly. A pivot 90° should mean you can turn out of most situations safely.

    • Supersonic transports would be even better if not only Space Marines and Necrons had them.

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    They should handle them like Bolt Action.

    Put flyer anywhere on table, facing any direction.

    AA weapons fire.

    If flyer not destroyed or driven off, fire its guns.

    Remove from table.

    • ZeeLobby

      Totally agree.

    • Horus84cmd

      Great so the chances of destroying one is ridiculously low or non-existent if your arm doesn’t have AA weapons.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        Almost like real life.

        • ZeeLobby

          psh, it can’t be real! This is space ninjas!

        • Horus84cmd

          Except these days Jet typically are not used to suppress infantry apart from with missiles at higher altitude.

          As it stands in 40K units still need to be in range to shoot. Most small arms fire will do very little damage and its still the big, long range weapons that will do the damage.

          • Except A-10’s. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing those let loose. 😉

          • Horus84cmd

            Hence the use of the word “typically”… there are always exceptions 😉

          • Helicopters have largely taken over that role due to a lack of air to air combat over the last 45 years or so. There isn’t much in modern times to compare a game of 40k to. The type of force on force engagement the game is based on has been exceedingly rare. Considering how badly helos have faired in battle at Mogadishu, Shah-i-Kot, and Karbala, adding an enemy air presence would make their use as air support unlikely. In other words, outside of the modern trend toward asymmetric combat, jets are still going to be critical for ground support because only aircraft that can defend themselves in the air would be suitable for the role.

    • Richard Mitchell

      Personally, BattleTech’s Abstract Aerospace System is the best I have seen for modeling how non-rotary based aircraft interact with the battle field.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        How does that work?

  • Crablezworth

    “First off, there are no more firing arcs to deal with. If a vehicle can draw line of sight to a model, it can shoot at it and vice-versa! I’m totally fine with this change.” of course you are…

  • mathhammer

    flamers are great for knocking these aircraft from the sky.

    • Horus84cmd

      Indeed! Burn baby burn!

    • ZeeLobby

      sigh…

      • Horus84cmd

        What? It represents shooting at the flyer as it swoops low to fire at infantry – which planes need to do to do that! The weapon still needs to be in range, which for flamers tends to be short. Its not like flamers are every going to do a huge amount of damage. A wound here a wound there

        • ZeeLobby

          I’m starting to think you’ve never seen a flying vehicle…

          • Horus84cmd

            Humans have flying vehicles? I guess you’ve read the accounts and tactics of ww2 where soldiers would use their machine guns to target low flying crafts as the AA guns can be lower enough to target them…OR in Vietnam where planes dropping napalm had to be care with their drop heights or risk getting hit by the their own bombs flames…

          • ZeeLobby

            lol, yeah, what about all those stories of troops on the ground bringing down airplanes with flamethrowers! (sigh…)

            I think you’re drunk my friend. Walk it off, take a nap, and lets revisit this in the morning.

          • Horus84cmd

            I never said its a viable tactic (indeed as I mention about the odds of doing significant damage with one is very low), but its not beyond the realms of fantasy either.

          • ZeeLobby

            I mean it’d be the type of thing that would happen in Die Hard 8: Die Hardier which would relegate it to the trash heap of ridiculously dumb movies… Personally I think it’s a silly misrepresentation of the weapons purpose on the tabletop. Never have templates seemed like such a better idea.

          • Horus84cmd

            What? 2d shapes representing 3d effects? That make as just as much sense.

          • ZeeLobby

            Yup, better than what we got. Flamers on the battlefield were anything but inconsistent when they worked. If there were 5 guys in a bunker, they were all fried. If there was a plane, you didn’t hit it. Now what? We just randomize everything and suddenly it’s shooting fireballs in the sky?

          • Horus84cmd

            Again, by today’s, real world, standards they may not be seen as practical (although they were rightly fear during WW1, 2 and Vietnam for a reason). However in a fictional futurist world which is dialed to 11 I don’t see it as a issue. As I’ve mention in games term the odds of doing a lot of damage is low as well. Odds are if you’re using flamers to try and take out planes then something has probably already gone awry.

          • Koonitz

            I believe FW provided an answer to this with their super heavy flyers. Weapons need a 12″ range or higher to be able to fire at them.

          • ZeeLobby

            Hey, I’m fine with that. It at least makes sense.

          • Really? Which flyers exactly? The Vampires don’t have that. Is that yet an Imperial bonus only again or did I miss something?

        • euansmith

          The real world tests proved less than impressive. See the section marked “Trials and Operation”.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagonda_flamethrower

          However, I was very impressed by the look of the Heavy Cockatrice. Very Mad Max, and this back in the 1940s.

          http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bc0709cd5851117cded16ab336d317b980de3fdab0f967d77d2d0c05ef0bd1ac.jpg

  • Ronin

    God no. Every game I’ve played, I’ve seen my stormraven blown out on turn one because it’s such a huge target that’s impossible to hide or take cover. The best way to run flyers is if you either run multiple or you run a mech list and throw down multiple threats of a similar type so that your opponent’s anti tank doesn’t focus on it. Adding one in for the sake of flavor like I did is a recipe for you to lose a huge chunk of your points and the mobility of the unit it was transporting. Flyers are now just another skimmer again. If they had the option to come in from reserve, they’d be a bit more viable, but I’m pretty sad to say that I’m going to be shelving mine unless I run a mech list.

    • Koonitz

      Hold it in reserve and bring it on, turn one? That way you don’t suffer an enemy first turn target priority until you’re nice and close.

      • Ronin

        Are you allowed to do that in matched play? The way I read the rules, you can’t do that anymore unless they have an ability that lets them.

        • Koonitz

          I admit I haven’t read through the rulebook yet as mine took a while to arrive from GW and I lacked the time to fully read it.

          I’m fairly certain I read something that mentioned reserves when I skimmed it, but it wouldn’t have been in the Matched Play section.

          Might be worth going through to find out for sure to make sure I’m not taking 7th Ed reserves combined with 8th ed mechanics.

          • Ronin

            Yeah, it was something I had to scour around to check if I could hold things in reserves because it was something I really wanted to do for my stormraven, but the only mention of that ability is in narrative play. Matched play seems to have left it out.

        • Horus84cmd

          Spot on. Units need to have a rule on their datasheet that allows them to set up as a reinforcements. In match play the “Tactical Reserve” comes into play which make you set up 50% of your army on to the battlefield.

        • KingAceNumber1

          This is correct. You cannot reserve unless given the option on your datasheet.

  • Nightwalker

    For me, Flyers have 2 issues that need to be ironed out;
    1) why do all (most) fighters take a -1 to shoot other flyers? My Razorwing Jetfighter cannot fight jets (effectively).

    2) -1 to hit on heavy weapons is brutal to the likes of Valkyries. I think that needs to be fixed, as they are useless with weapons now (I thought everything was supposed to be balanced and usable?)

    • Ronin

      Wow… That is such a huge oversight on GW’s part. I thought Valkyries had a similar rule to Power of the Machine spirit which let them fire and move on the go without penalty. I’m definitely taking them out of my guard list now.

    • Horus84cmd

      1) How easy, exactly, do you think hitting a target moving at supersonic speeds with a aircraft also moving at supersonic speed? I tell you what try driving a two F1 cars around Monaco and see if one can hit the other one easily with a paint gun.

      2) See point one.

      • Ronin

        Thing is it doesn’t have to move at supersonic speeds. It can slowly hover an inch forward and still count as moved and has to shoot on 5’s. If you’re keeping your valkyrie stationary just to shoot at BS4+, you might as well have taken a Leman Russ.

        • Horus84cmd

          Shock! Stop the press! You have to think a little and use tactics in a game of tactics.

          • Mira Bella

            …game of tactics… xD

      • Nameless

        That would be why at no point in history any country has developed fighter jets to intercept and take out other fast moving vehicles. I’m so glad 40k has dropped this silly idea…

    • 1) Those that are meant to be skyhunters got special rules to get a bonus when shooting other flyers. I’m not sure if a Razorwing is actually supposed to be a skyhunter or more of a ground-attack-type.
      2) Flyers which should be able to move and shoot (due to having a minimum movement range) got an increased BS to compensate for the -1 when moving. Those that didn’t aren’t meant to.

  • Oliver Hathaway

    Flyers have terrible attack stats?
    I guess I’ll put away my winged hive tyrants…

    • adamharry

      When I’m talking about “Supersonic” Flyers, I’m referring specifically to flyers with these 3 rules. Now, not all Flyers have these rules – check your Datasheets! But the addition of these 3 rules helps to make Supersonic Flyers viable AND they helped to curb the issues with FMCs at the same time (again, something I’m not going to explore in this article).

      Wing Hive Tyrant’s don’t have Supersonic. I wasn’t referring to them in this article.

  • RAKSHA

    any flyer with power of the machine spirit can fire all weapons on normal ballistic skill..so where is a problem?..they still very good if you use them properly..

    • Nameless

      all the flyers that don’t have power of the machine spirit? it might surprise you, but there are non space marine factions in the game

      • RAKSHA

        I didn’t know all rules for flayer..sorry

  • lemt

    My “headcanon” is that the why flyers now work is that it represents the aircraft doing bombing runs over the target, and if you leave the battlefield the pilot (you) has been unable to correctly maneuver. The position where you place the flyer would then be the closest it ever is to the battlefield itself, and that’s why you measure to to that point in space to shoot it down. Their range when shooting, again, would represent the area it can aim at as it zooms in for the kill.

  • AnomanderRake

    Personally I think they should have put the all-guns-are-at-12″-longer-range rule from pre-5e Flyers and the current FW “massive Flyers” into Supersonic, keep flamers from auto-hitting against Flyers and make them a little harder to hit with small arms, but as they are they aren’t bad at all. Fast, flippy, and reasonably durable, most of the time, rather than the 7e-vintage planes that showed up, popped their load, and died immediately if they weren’t AV12.

    • Where is this “massive flyers” thing coming from exactly? Eldar Super Heavy flyers don’t have it. And those are massive imo.

  • Fab4fuN_be

    – can only be charged by units that can FLY,
    – and can only attack or be attacked in the Fight phase by units that can FLY

    Unit with jump pack can charge or attack a flyer (jump pack give “jump pack” and “fly” keywords)

  • Carey_Mahoney

    Kinda cute. This article tries to make us think that target priority is still a thing in 8th, despite split fire for everyone.

    • Horus84cmd

      Eh? What are you talking about. Of course priority is still a thing. If you’re splitting fire e.g. using a heavy weapon to shoot a tank and the units other guns to target infantry then you’re PRIORITISING what you’re unit is doing. In fact there is more scope for priority because of the split fire rules and that you don’t have to charge what you shoot anymore!

      • Carey_Mahoney

        You have to make much less decisions, partly for reasons that you stated (chargng vs. shooting). 8th ed. is so much less tactical.

        • Horus84cmd

          Well have to agree to disagree here. Along with: splitting-fire and the changes to charging; you got things like managing area effect buffs from characters; use of psychic powers to buff/debuffs; use of reserves; the synergy between units with different battle field role; the application of timely command point use; and I could go on.

          The tactics are different, but the game is certainly no less tactical than previous editions.

          • Carey_Mahoney

            Still a strategy game, sure, but not as complex and tactical as before. Especially split-fire and charging whoever makes it much more forgiving, same for the physical placement of the miniatures – with the omission of all templates and obstructed models in a unit still being targetable, there is quite a chunk of considerations that are rendered obsolete in 8th ed., sadly, in my opinion.

          • Savayan

            So your idea of ‘tactical’ is unloading your assault rifle into a tank rather than the infantry beside it just because the guy with the bazooka fired at it?

          • Carey_Mahoney

            What??

          • Carey_Mahoney

            Never said it’s not a tactical game anymore. But I insist it’s a lot less tactical than the previous edition.

          • Carey_Mahoney

            I’d be in for more realism, be my guest, but in fact that’s a senseless debate, as with random charge range, omission of templates or one single Termagaunt out of cover denying the cover for the 29 covered buddies in his unit (just to name a few instances why arguing with realism is more pointless than ever).

  • KingAceNumber1

    I’m extremely excited to field flyers in 8th. I always wanted to run an air superiority force, and now I can do that without being a jerk. I’ve got my list together for NOVA, Kayvaan Shrike / 2 Hawks / 4 Talons / 3 units of Inceptors. Should be a good time.