Monday, January 31, 2011

Full Frontal

This is the first of my 'which is better' articles.  I personally love the game and think the rules are pretty neato, but 40k does have some obvious winners and losers.  At least to me.  In this article, I'll show the merits of each of the 'versions' of something, and tell you why I think one or some are better than the rest.  Let's get this started...

Land Raider
These are the most powerful vehicles the space marines have at their disposal.  Once produced in such high quantities that every Imperial force could have them, this tank has become so rare that only Astartes chapters even have access to them now.  Some chapters maintain entire companies of Land Raiders- sometimes to transport the first company and other times to be 'armored spearheads'- while other chapters only have a half-dozen or so in their entire inventory.
All Land Raider patterns share certain common traits.  They all have the thickest armor available to non-starships (that's a 14 all around) with no obvious weaknesses.  They have fully-sealed compartments, allowing their crew and troops to traverse any form of environment.  They all have assault ramps and assault doors, allowing disembarking troops to launch straight into hand-to-hand combat.  But most importantly, they all have a machine spirit, known as 'deus ex machina'.
This machine spirit is another intelligence, not to be confused with artificial intelligence, which can control functions of the vehicle even when the crew are debilitated.  There are even recorded instances where a Land Raider's machine spirit was responsible for solely defeating an enemy or evacuating non-able crew.  Although the Tech-Priests of Mars keep the secrets of this machine spirit completely hidden away, the Space Marines can always count on it as they can any other battle-brother.

Land Raider Phobos

This is the standard pattern of Land Raider, used by all chapters of Space Marines as far back as history records.  Undergoing significant upgrades over the milennia, the basic structure and purpose of the Phobos remains the same.
It is armed with two twin-lascannons, great for busting tanks, and a twin heavy bolter, useful for suppression of nearby enemy troops.  This pattern is the most common, and provides anti-tank firepower AND heavily protected transport for troops.

Land Raider Crusader
This pattern was developed by the Black Templars chapter, needing a siege tank.  This pattern replaces the lascannons with hurricane bolters and the heavy bolters with the more-powerful assault cannons.  The Crusader lays down massive amounts of firepower as it speeds its cargo straight into enemy lines. 
In addition, the Crusader has an expanded transport capacity.  The Black Templars make great use of this with their 'mob' squads, while Space Wolves and Terminator assault squads also take advantage. 

Land Raider Redeemer
This is a relatively new addition to the Space Marine armories.  The Redeemer is a converted Crusader, utilizing the same principles, but replacing the hurricane bolters with redeemer flamecannons. 
While not enjoying the same expanded transport capacity as the Crusader, it does enjoy all the other benefits.  The redeemer flamecannons are especially scary as they work at very short range, a Land Raider's favorite.  In addition, the fury of the flames is such that even power armor is no protection.

Land Raider Helios
The Helios is a very specialized Land Raider variant.  Using the same chassis as the Phobos-pattern, the Helios replaces the twin-heavy bolters with an advanced targetting system, and adds a missle artillery launcher.
It has given up some of it's transport capacity, but the Helios is still a capable firebase, using the twin-lascannons to engage armored targets, and the Helios launcher for two main roles:  long-range barrage support and anti-aircraft.  Using the same missles as the Whirlwind artillery tank, the space marines add valuable artillery support, and can quickly re-arm to engage flying targets.

Land Raider Prometheus
This version was first invented by the Salamanders chapter, and then adopted fully by the Ultramarines.  Still rare amongst the chapters, the Prometheus mostly serves as a mobile command post.
It is armed with four sets of twin-heavy bolters, allowing the Prometheus to lay down a punishing amount of firepower.  Although deadly to most infantry and even some light vehicles, the most important part of the Prometheus is the expanded command and communications equipment.  With the additional command capabilities, the Prometheus allows more accurate and timely reinforcements, making the space marines even more lethal.

Land Raider Aries
Records on the Aries are rare, at best.  In appears that
this pattern was quickly converted and may have only served in one battle.  It appears that the Dark Angels chapter needed a heavy siege tank to execute their strategy, and the Techmarines had the brilliant solution to adding a demolisther cannon into the transport compartment, while replacing the Crusader's hurricane bolters with twin-multi-meltas. 
Not having any transport capacity at all, the Aries had one purpose only- to completely eradicate any physical barrier the marines might encounter.

Land Raider Achilles
Little is known of the Achilles at this point.  The only chapters that appeared to have utilized them have their records sealed so tightly that even the Inquisition has a hard time gleaning any information.
The pattern appears to replace the twin-foward weapon with the dreaded Thunderfire Cannon, giving the mobile armored vehicle a frightening destructive potential.  In addition, the side sponsons have been armed with twin-multi-meltas, useful for clearing obstacles as well.  The Aries has a very small transport capacity, relegating it to an 'armored spearhead' role.

So, who wins?
Well, I've had the joy of being able to play with almost every version of the Land Raider over the years.  In fact, I can honestly say that my own collection has been graced with more than a dozen Land Raiders itself! (Although not at the same time.  At my peak, I had 6 spread through 3 different armies.)  Each of the Land Raiders have a given role, specializes in specific situations, and scares the pants off oppenents (except Necrons, who scoff at all vehicles).  And here's what I think of them all:

Aries- COOL!!!  But I can get a Vindicator for half the cost, or two Vindicators for the same cost (or less).  If the point is to get a demolisher cannon onto a Land Raider, then the mission is complete, but not pretty.  The Aries ranks okay, if only because of the cool-factor.

Helios-  Waaaaaay back when the VDR (Vehicle Design Rules) came out, my LGS ran a competition where we had to develop the coolest AND the silliest vehicles we could think of.  My joke was a Land Raider with a whirlwind launcher on top.  Everyone laughed and we all agreed that it was dumb.  Then Forgeworld came out with their version.  You know what?  Still dumb.  I don't care if you do get a cool artillery piece that can't be killed easily, it's dumb.  The Helios ranks dumb. 

Achilles-  Is almost kinda cool an answer?  I like the Thunderfire (although I don't think it's worth 100 points), and I like Land Raiders.  But to give up most of the transport and arm the sponsons for such short range- I just don't think it works.  The Achilles ranks okay.  But it does look pretty sweet.

Redeemer-  So let me get this straight, we're gonna do what a Crusader does, but replace the side weapons with something that's shorter ranged and can't usually be fired together, as well as DECREASE the transport capacity?  Yeah, that sounds like a fail.  I know fire is cool and all, and the heroic Space Marines are always happy to light something aflame, but c'mon.  The Redeemer ranks dumb.  

Prometheus-  That's alot of pew-pew, and it allows my drop pods and reserves to come in faster?  Yes, please.  The only real failing to the Prometheus pattern is the slot selection, being an Elites choice now.  Emperor knows that Space Marines don't need MORE elites options.  But it has a substantial amount of firepower AND a substantial impact on the army as a whole.  The Prometheus is ranked 'sweet as ballz'.

Crusader-  Arguably the best version of all Land Raiders, it has the transport capacity and a dubious amount of firepower to mark it out as one of the best.  The biggest failing to the Crusader is the hurricane bolters.  Overall, the tank has just slightly less firepower than a well-armed Tactical Squad, making it more effective as a transport and less as a main battle tank.  Luckily, that is exactly how most armies use the Crusader.  Therefore, it ranks awesome-sauce.

Phobos- And it all comes back around.  The Land Raider Phobos has been around forever, and has proven itself in all that time.  Space Marine armies tend to lack anti-tank firepower (unless they're gunlines, but those don't use Land Raiders anyway), and the Phobos guarantees at least a hit a round, usually an effective one.  The average Terminator squad fits perfectly into a Phobos, and the points cost (although average compared to the above list) seems to be perfectly balanced.  Overall, I think the Phobos takes the cake as the best of all the patterns, ranking it First Amongst Equals. 

For those of you that need all this in a simple list format, the ranking from best to worst (in my opinion) is:
1.  Land Raider Phobos
2.  Land Raider Crusader
3.  Land Raider Prometheus
4.  Land Raider Aries
5.  Land Raider Achilles
6.  Land Raider Helios
7.  Land Raider Redeemer

As a final thought-  There are an aweful lot of gamers out there that complain that GW's prices are too high, and the quality of models doesn't justify that.  Well, we have the pictures of the modern Land Raiders above.  What did they used to look like when they only cost $30?
Yep, that's pretty ugly, if you ask me.  I happen to like the new $60 versions just fine.  Unless we can get the old versions to look this this:
Gotta say, that is a pretty sweet conversion...


  1. The best, for me, will always be the good old Godhammer. Nothing can beat it for it's sheer terror inducing, tank busting, Terminator delivering bulk.

  2. Pretty much agree on your summation and ranking with one exception, the Redeemer. I think that tank is incredible! Granted it's range IS rather short but with Machine Spirit you can move 12" and still fire one flame cannon. With it's AP3 and ability to ignore cover I've often found that one is plenty. I routinely wipe out entire MEQ squads with one shot and then assault another. True, the transport capacity is less but it's still plenty to carry a Termie Assault Squad with an attached IC, and unless you're running a Templars or Space Wolves army you can't have a squad larger than 12 models anyway. I guess it depends on what else is in the army.

    I totally agree that the good 'ole Phobos pattern is #1 though, especially with the added Pintle Multi-Melta. In the current 'meched up' 5th edition having a tank that can engage two separate vehicles with good anti-tank firepower is paramount.

    I just wish the front turret didn't mount the underpowered Hvy. Bolter assembly. With a shared gun mounting of the Razorback it would be great if you could choose to upgrade the Hvy. Bolter to any weapon system that a Razorback could mount. Imagine a Phobos with another TL Lascannon or a Lascannon + TL Plasma Gun. How awesome would that be?

    Oh well, maybe when 6th edition rolls around...

  3. :-)
    also, note that I fixed the Achilles transport stuff. Credit where it's due: Good catch, Mike!