Having played a few more games and studied the book a bit more, I have a couple more thoughts on the new 40k 6e Space Marines codex. Previously I had some notes on Core Dudes, Librarians, and Vulkan. Up now are some supporting units, specifically Vindicators, Whirlwinds, Thunderfire Cannons, and Landspeeders.
These have not changed except for dropping 10 points. The Vindicator is obviously useful when it gets good shooting opportunities, but it’s always seemed handicapped to me by the low position and fixed mount of its cannon. Combine that with the short range and it just spends too much time blocked by terrain. I always get the feeling that it was a more commanding unit in earlier ages of 40k when there was generally a lot less terrain, universally less mobility, and a lot more of two gunlines just shooting at each other and slowly advancing forward. Vindicators might be attractive again with how much faster vehicles got in 6e, but I’m not super sold on that yet. Between the range and fixed angle there’s still too much need to be right up in your enemy’s face.
I love the Whirlwind model and have always wanted to get and field some, but could never justify the cash or points. The single-shot blast template made it not particularly reliable at hitting anything, the weaponry isn’t particularly killy to counter that unreliability, and its not particularly survivable at a standard Rhino chassis AV 11/11/10. Sixth edition Marines though makes it pretty attractive to my eyes though. The big change is a switch to large blast templates, which means it could really deliver some death to weaker infantry and is much more likely to at least hit MEQs. It also dropped from 85 to 65 points, making it much more attractive for how likely it is to get popped. Now I can definitely see putting a Whirlwind or two in the backfield pinging away, and look forward to acquiring some over time.
First off, it has to be said that the Thunderfire is a really really terrible model. It looks ok, but it’s not cheap and every piece is really warped, impossible to fix as it’s a metal model. It’s shockingly difficult for such a simple model to get it to all stick together. It would be really nice if it were redone in plastic.
That aside, I liked the Thunderfire in 5e as a game unit and found it pretty useful. You set it up on top of a piece of terrain with a clear line of fire and just shoot away. It wasn’t terribly survivable if anything got a shot at it with 5e’s AV 10/one-shot-kill artillery rules, but with 60″ range you could set it far enough back that it could last for a while provided you could keep outflankers at bay. The Techmarine himself is also useful even after the gun dies, with the Servo Harness and Artificier Armour giving him reasonable street creed at both near-range shooting and close combat. The ability to buff cover saves from any piece of terrain can also be a big boost against some opponents.
Sixth edition makes the Thunderfire even better. Same points and shots but the new codex gave it barrage—awesome! Now you can really set it out of the way and/or hit anything on the table, even dudes cowering behind high terrain. With four shots a lucky series of hits can really land a lot of hits on a target, and stands a good chance to hit something even with reasonable scatter on the first shot. Perhaps more importantly, the revised 6e artillery rules make it a T7 W2 3+ model. That’s actually really survivable and a huge buff to the unit even before the new codex hit. I’ve been rolling this a fair bit in recent games, and it’s been doing really well.
The one thing I would have liked to see from this unit is the ability to field squadrons of them. It just seems like it’d be a natural for that kind of deployment, and it’d be really handy to be able to organize three into a single FOC slot for larger games. Personally I would work it so that a single Techmarine could shoot or move any or all of them provided they were each in standard unit coherency—he’s controlling them all as networked slaves or something like that. Multiple Techmarines would make it fairly expensive points-wise.
I love me some Landspeeders and almost always field two or three in every size of game. In 5e these were immensely valuable for flaming infantry, melta-gunning vehicles, and swooping in to deny objectives. It’s worth noting though that they’re better at lower point value games. The more points in play the more bad guys there are standing around with nothing better to do but take a potshot or two at a ‘Speeder, and even a Bolter can take it down. At lower points there are fewer enemy units just standing around with no higher priority target, and the tactical flexibility of high mobility, Flamer, and Multi-Melta is very valuable with fewer units in your own force. They are also much stronger at objectives-based missions than kill points.
The new codex changes their basic stats just slightly, namely that Typhoon Missile Launchers and Assault Cannon options got quite a bit cheaper. That’s interesting as it’s definitely a valid, popular, standoffish way to run them. I always roll the Heavy Flamer and Multi-Melta though to capitalize on the buffs from Vulkan and the Salamanders’ traits.
The 6e core rules however change the ‘Speeder in significant and complex ways.
First off, Jink for Fast Skimmers is a substantial buff to the survivability of the unit. You just need to remember to always move; sometimes I’ve forgotten as I had spent a fair amount of time trying to coach myself to sit back and use the full range of the Multi-Melta, and thus didn’t have to always move. The new Fast rules are also helpful, really letting the thing fly all over the board. More shooting with a 12″ move, and the ability to cover a ridiculous 30″. The latter is actually a notable improvement beyond just the raw movement. The increased speed makes it even easier to fly on from Reserves rather than Deep Striking into an unfortunate, exposed position, or deploying on the table and risking first turn shooting.
In a basically neutral but slightly positive point, ‘Speeders didn’t really change much in survivability. While other vehicles became more predictably killable with the introduction of hull points, Landspeeders were dead easy to kill to begin with. If anything they became more survivable because glancing hits can’t do the same kinds of damage as before, it’s guaranteed to still be a useful unit after the first glance.
On a related but somewhat neutral to negative change though, squadrons now simply break off and leave behind immobilized vehicles rather than destroying them. That sounds maybe kind-of sort-of useful as the damaged model can in theory now still shoot at stuff, particularly if you’re rolling the longer range Typhoon or Assault Cannon. In reality though, that model then becomes a separate unit and yields up an easy kill point to your opponent when it is finally destroyed. I would probably rather just have it destroyed if I choose to leave it behind and not give up the point. This new rule is really only beneficial for vehicles with turret-mounted, barrage, and other weapons with more targeting flexibility that remain useful when immobilized.
A more negative change in 6e is that movement doesn’t give vehicles nearly as much help in close combat as it used to. The protection from movement is minimal with the new WS 1 rule, and high speed literally doesn’t improve that at all. Once an enemy assault unit finally catches up to the ‘Speeder, something that’s almost certain to happen with the shorter range loadouts I use as it gets mixed into the thick of things, it’s pretty much done for.
Much more troubling is that vehicles are no longer denial units in any of the missions, they can’t contest objectives. That’s a major tactical role of the fast moving Landspeeder that’s been completely eliminated. There really isn’t anything more to say about that, it’s just a critical thing they used to be able to do that they just can’t do directly anymore. The one upside is that other enemy vehicles won’t be able to claim either, so overall there just isn’t the same kind of 5th turn race to the nearest objectives, but it’s still a major net-negative change.
All in all, Landspeeders probably got decreased in value because of that one change. They’re probably slightly better for the bulk of a game, so certainly still worth using, but their utility in the endgame has declined dramatically as their typical largest impact role has been eliminated.
Except for the Landspeeder, all of the supporting units above became slightly to much more valuable with the new codex and 6e rules. Certainly none of them are overpowered, but all more efficient, and in several cases much more effective. The Landspeeder is no longer the game changer it frequently was in 5e, but it’s still a worthwhile unit if it matches your style and you’re prepared to risk the kill point(s). For my part I’m pretty excited to have a couple of the neglected and so-so units refreshed into newly viable options.