My Tactics pledge: I am not the greatest player, nor a seal pup. I will endeavor to speak from my experience and always be honest about what is theory and what is play tested. Never will I assume to know better than anyone else... unless I must call out ego or pretension.
Sons of Anarchy
Chaos Bikes were once one of the worst units in the game, now have been transformed by the power of Kelly to become now one of the best units in the codex.
It may come as a shock, but when you reduce a unit's cost by 13 points, and loss else nothing you have the receipt for brokeness. But in the Chaos Space Marine codex knowing how to spend your points for upgrades is the key to everything... even Chaos Bikers.
So exactly what does it take to get the most out of your hell riders?
The first step in understanding is looking at what changed between the 5th edition and 6th edition codex. Here is a side by side comparison.
(Click to Enlarge)
From Gutter to Penthouse
- Reduced cost from 33 to 20 per model
- Loss of Leadership 9 to 8
- Changes to Marks and Icons
--Can it go any lower?--
As I mentioned before Chaos Bikers are 13 points cheaper. To put in perspective Chaos Bikers are five points less than an equivalent Space Marine Bikes and unlike Space Marine Bikers you get an extra close combat weapon. Even when you calculate most Marks you get a unit that is still under the price of a single Space Marine Bike.
--Loss of Leadership--
Once again to make way for Veterans of the Long War Chaos Bikers loss a Leadership point. The good thing is that for one point more you can get it back.
--Marks and Icons--
Mark of Khorne & Icon of Wrath
Mark of Khorne is one of the best Marks to take, not only is it cheap, but it makes Chaos Bikes into assaulting beasts. Made better because you don't have to pay extra for a close combat weapon, giving you 4 attacks on the charge for each Chaos Biker.
The real value in taking the Mark of Khorne is access to Icon of Wrath. Chaos Bikes are already fast, but being able to re-roll your charge distance is game changing. Then there is the extra strength on the charge for extra gravy.
Mark Tzeentch & Icon of Flame
Since Chaos Bikers don't get an invulnerable save to begin with it makes Mark of Tzeentch pointless and I really don't have to explain again how Icon of Flame is a waste of points.
Mark of Nurgle & Icon of Despair
Mark of Nurgle is the most expensive Mark for Chaos Bikers, but the most tempting. The allure of Toughness 6 is at times intoxicating. Mark of Nurgle makes your Chaos Bikes more expensive than Space Marine Bikers, but can they take the same amount of damage as Nurgle Bike?
Knowing what role for your Chaos Bikes is important when considering this Mark. Think about what weapons and units you will be facing, and understand that often weapons targeting Nurgle Bikes don't care if you have T6.
As for Icon of Despair another waste of points; too situational, and your better off taking Icon of Vengeance if you take an Icon at all.
Mark of Slaanesh & Icon of Excess
For more perspective, a full 10-man unit of Chaos Bikers with Mark of Slaanesh and Icon of Excess is five points cheaper than a 10-man unit of Chaos Bikers with Mark of Nurgle. Which you would say is more survivable? T6 or a second save? I think I would take the extra save, because more often than not that is a second save even turbo-boosting. Not to mention Mark of Slaanesh has you swinging first in most assaults.
Still you don't need Icon of Excess taking the Mark of Slaansesh alone is a cheap and effective way to run your Chaos Bikers especially with a Chaos Lord on Bike with a Murder Sword.
Icon of Vengeance
Unlike many units, Icon of Vengeance is a good choice for Chaos Bikers. Since Bikers are so cheap, spending the extra points on Fearless is a good idea. Especially, with the potential to be run off the board if you roll high when falling back.
It may come as a shock, but when you reduce a units cost by 13 points and take away nothing you have a receipt for one nasty unit.
Putting it all together.
What can I say about Chaos Bikers? Did I mention they are only 20 points each? I think I did...
Anyway, because of their fabulous cost and variable unit size you have many options when using Chaos Bikers. Don't forget the overall changes to bikes in 6th edition as well-- you now have the ability to assault opponents by turn two with ease. Good opponents know this, so it is imperative to not leave Chaos Bikers as your only threat on the table. Take Spawn or other fast units to take the pressure off of your Chaos Bikes if need be.
With Chaos Bikers being SO good players often fall into the trap of thinking they're invincible, when in truth they are just cheap.
Typically, Chaos Bikers will be delivery systems for Chaos Lords, this is completely mutually beneficial relationship. Chaos Lords on Bikes give Fearless to Chaos Bikers and Choas Bikers give extra wounds to a Chaos Lord. Remembering Chaos Bikes are cheap enough that being just a delivery system is fine you don't need to bloat your unit with unnecessary upgrades. The greatest assets is their cost don't throw it away.
Overlooked, Chaos Bikers can fill other roles. Since Chaos Space Marines don't have Attack Bikes you can instead spend at most 100 points and get three Chaos Bikes that can either pop tanks, decimate hordes, or cripple MSU units. There is also no shame in taking a balanced approached and using Chaos Bikers to contest or support other units.
There is an ever-present danger with Chaos Bikers is their 3d6 Fall Back, so consider your positioning carefully because one bad Leadership check can leave you falling off the board.
Another use for Chaos Bikers is flyer defense. You may ask yourself how does that work?
Well, because Chaos Bikers are often a prime target for flyers, use their ability to cross the battlefield. One of the best ways to deal with flyers is forcing them off the board. Chaos Bikers can scream up one flank to force flyers one way and then move past or across leaving them no choice, but to fly off. Chaos Bikers can also take up a large portions of the table-- denying flyers landing space.
The competitive Fast Attack slot for the Chaos Space Marines Codex makes it important you know exactly what you want your Chaos Bikers to do. Think about making a list with Chaos Bikers in mind, but design the unit last, after you look over your list to see what role you are missing.
Memory Lane: Chaos Bikers
In the 1999 codex Chaos Bikers were damn expensive, 40 points each, but you got an extra attack because of Blades & Scythes special rule. Otherwise they got the same wargear and access like a normal Chaos Space Marine troop.
By 2003 Chaos Bikers still had the extra blades/attacks, but were cheaper and got access to Marks.
Then we got to 2007 and Chaos Bikes got cheaper still, but the game had changed so much that even cheaper Bikes didn't matter. This was the low point for Chaos Bikers and the entire Fast Attack section with everything over-costed and easy to kill. To make matters worse, the extra attack from the previous editions was gone, and the model itself was actually stripped down something rarely seen in the history of Games Workshop.
--Ways to play Chaos Bikers--
Death Star Configuration: 249 pts 8-man Chaos Bikers unit with Mark of Khorne, Icon of Wrath, Veterans of the Long War, 2 Flamers, Powerfist. Take with a Khorne Chaos Lord on a Bike with the Axe of Blind Fury and boy you have 32 attacks on the assault with the Chaos Bikers alone. With Hatred against Space Marines and re-rolling your charge distance you will a mockery of most opponents.
Balanced Configuration: 237 pts 7-man Chaos Bikers unit with Icon of Vengeance, 2 Plasma Guns, Power Weapon, Combi-Plasma. The rise of Plasma brings this unit into clear focus. It has the ability to clear most MEQs with shooting alone and destroy light vehicles as well, and anything left is easily finished off in assault.
MSU Configuration: 90 pts 3-man Chaos Biker unit with 2 Flamers, Combi-Flamer. Clear late objective grab units or simply support other units. This is a very annoying unit to charge and small enough to avoid attention.
Horde Configuration: 340 pts 10-man Chaos Biker unit with Mark of Nurgle, Icon of Vengeance, 2 Flamers, Combi-flamer, Powerfist. If you want to draw your opponents attention this is the unit to go for. T6 and a lot of staying power makes this configuration that can tackle pesky blob squads or start a fight.
A Word about Allies
Chaos Bikers work well with Orks and Daemons. Chaos Bikers are cheaper alternative to Ork Bikes of any kind, so going Speed Freaks makes sense. Consider Chaos Bikers with Trukk Boyz, or any Ork unit that can assault from great distances.
Chaos Bikers also work well with Daemons, especially when you double up the cavalry options. Chaos Bikers with Seekers or Fiends really presses your opponents into a corner. Chaos Bikes also have a staying power that the fast Daemon units don't have.
Remember unlike other Battle Brothers Daemons ICs cannot join with Chaos Space Marine units under any situation.
Chaos Bikers are a great unit as I have stated many times. They pose a unique threat that very few units do in the game, and because they are so cheap you never feel like you are wasting points. They are great at flanking or providing your Chaos Lords the ability to reach the enemy's lines. Chaos Bikers are durable and even just using there Bolters can force saves on your opponent before bringing the real pain in assault.
Chaos Bikers though still can fall prey to over aggressive play, and one bad assault result is bad news bears. Also remember even if they get shot off the board you can bet your opponent used almost all his shooting to do it.
Not having a Night Lord character to make Chaos Bikes troops is a bummer, but really can you complain that much?
It's Like Tactics is rated theory hammer because these are general observations and assumptions based on only few tested games.
For tactical articles feel free to email me to continue the discussion or if you discover an inaccurate interpretation of the rules-- edits will be made accordingly.
Also check out other articles in this series...
- Getting Restarted
- Breaking Down the Codex
- Chaos Space Marine Unit Review
- Cultist Review
- Khorne Berzerkers Review
- Thousand Sons Review
- Noise Marine Review
- Plague Marine Review
- Chosen Review
- Mutilator Review
- Helbrute Review
- Possessed Review
- Chaos Terminator Review
- Chaos Bikes Review
- Chaos Spawn Review
- Raptors Review
- Warp Talons Review
- Heldrake Review
- Havocs Review
- Obliterator Review
- Defiler Review
- Forgefiend Review
- Maulerfiend Review
- Rhino, Vindicator, Predator, Land Raider Review
- Abbadon the Despiler Review
- Huron Blackheart Review
- Kharn the Betrayer Review
- Ahriman Review
- Typhus Review
- Lucius the Eternal Review
- Fabius Bile Review
- Chaos Lord Review
- Chaos Sorcerer Review
- Daemon Prince Review
- Warpsmith Review
- Dark Apostle Review
- Final Breakdown