Razorbacks by Andrew Ovel

14 Mar


These trusty Space Marine tanks can be found in army lists everywhere. In fact, the Razorspam list is a highly popular choice amongst the power-armoured masses, and I’ve been thinking about exactly why I, and many others, like them so much.


How are you going to get that humble tactical marine across the board and onto your opponent’s objective; by running? Scouts can outflank, and (unsurprisingly) scout, so they have less trouble getting up the board. Even a Deathwing army, with its scoring Terminators, can Deep Strike onto an objective. The lowly tactical marine is going to be walking unless he can grab a ride (borrowing a LandRaider seems a little excessive to me), and this is either in a Rhino, a Razorback or Drop Pod.  Now, the Drop Pod may initially seem like the best answer to the manoeuvrability problem ─ guaranteeing half of them arrive in the first turn right into the heart of the enemy. Well the only problem is that once you’re in, you’re in, and that’s that. The Drop Pod becomes immobile after it enters, and your troops are delivered (stranded) wherever they end up. Remember, Deep Strike isn’t without its own risks, as anyone who regularly uses it can tell you, even with guidance systems avoiding impassable terrain. Now, there is nothing wrong with a Drop Pod, but that’s a whole different army list built around an Alpha Strike, and I’ve always felt this was rather unreliable, especially if your opponent has reserved his army so that he can come on (in Razorbacks) and annihilate you.


The Rhino and Razorback offer continued flexibility of movement that the Drop Pod doesn’t. I will always try to give my transports ‘dozer blades, as this will help to continue to keep them manoeuvrable as they try to cross difficult terrain. This can become all too common if you run many Razorbacks, and you have to drive over the burnt wreckage of your battle brothers’ tanks. Being able deliver your troops where you want, when you want, can give you a massive tactical advantage, which can pay massive dividends as the game progresses. In fact, having your own pimped-out ride (okay, a ‘dozer blade) can be a big help for your scoring units when they need to get somewhere. A scoring unit is good, but if you can get them on an objective for the last turn, they can win you the game.


Late Game Scoring

I really appreciate the flexibility that troop transports bring to my late-phase game, presuming they haven’t been blown up by theenemy already. When it gets to turn five, it can be nice to be able drive on to an objective at full speed, and park my scoring unit right there on top of the objective, perhaps even tank shocking as it goes. This can stop you having those panicky last-minute runs across the open battlefield under enemy fire, where you find yourself praying for a good dice roll to win the game.


If you have units placed in reserve, waiting off the board, then you have the added option of coming on fast and hard, using that manoeuvrability we’ve talked about, to place your units in a mission-critical position. A unit of Devastators can be moved into a choice position for a firing lane, which they may have otherwise taken two turns to reach, potentially giving you extra turns of shooting. Perhaps they can even shoot at a unit that’s sitting on objective itself. This is something that good Dark Eldar plays will excel at, so try to learn something from them if you can.



Why bother taking a Razorback over a Rhino? When changing from a Rhino to a Razorback, you will drop your troop carrying capacity, from ten to six, and swap a Storm Bolter for twin-linked Heavy Bolters, which can in turn be upgraded with other options. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you are already taking a small unit (I often take a five man squad, for instance; which, with an independent character, will fit into a Razorback), maybe you don’t actually need that extra capacity, but the extra shooting could be useful.


In the Space Marine Codex, you need to take a ten man squad to get access to a heavy weapon or assault weapon, and if you’ve take a five man squad you can mitigate this by having your heavy weapon on your Razorback. Even if you do take a ten man squad, which I do sometimes, you can then split them into two combat squads. The five men with the heavy weapon can sit at the back, and the five men with the assault weapon and their Sergeant can jump in the Razorback.


One of the best features of this approach is that the heavy weapon mounted on the Razorback can move and shoot; this is another feature of that manoeuvrability we talked about earlier. A foot unit like Longfangs must remain immobile to shoot their heavy weapons (unless a friendly special character has made them relentless), so an enemy can move behind terrain to dodge your fire. You can easily find yourself frustrated by the lack of shooting opportunities as your opponent can use line of sight blocking terrain (ever had a Devastator squad that hasn’t really shot all game?). This becomes much harder to do if you can move into position to take your shot, staying in cover in your own turn, and then moving out for your shooting. For those blessed with fast vehicles, this gives even more advantage, as you have even more options to choose the right moment and place to strike.



It’s hard to believe that Armour 11 transport makes your unit tougher (I wish it was 12 or even 13). Once you’ve moved your vehicle into position, and hopefully have it in cover (or popped smoke), it takes a surprising amount of firepower to blow it up. Firstly you need to hit it, penetrate it (it will have to be at least S5 to get a glance, so you’re safe from Lasguns), take your cover save and then roll something decent on the damage table; now that’s a lot of rolls. I’m not saying they are invulnerable, and sustained transport busting specialists will take them out (think Ork lootas), but they will normally soak up more firepower than five Marines sat in cover would alone. Another factor is the Space Marine T4 and 3+ save. This means when they do explode, you hopefully won’t get wiped out (but we all roll a one sometimes). Even once the tank explodes you can put down a crater, and then you will have them in cover with all the benefit that brings


Melta is king, but you don’t need to be royalty to pop a Razorback!

As I said, they are tougher than five men all alone, but don’t go thinking it’s a Land Raider. I never expect my Razorbacks to last past turn two; if they do, it’s an added bonus. You really need Melta weapons to ‘pop’ an Armour 14 monster, but anything with strength of six or more could potentially penetrate a Razorback’s front armour. There are a lot of weapons out there in 40K that are strength six or more.


Your Razorbacks will die, deal with it now!

If they do survive, then count yourself lucky, but don’t rely on it. One way to mitigate the fact that they will explode when your opponent uses strong language on them is to take a tip from nature, and travel in large numbers. Fish swim in shoals because larger predators can’t eat them all in one go, and the same can be applied to your tank formations. Taking lots of Razorbacks offers protection ─ by giving your opponent target saturation, you can ensure that some of those Razorbacks survive, because he just hasn’t got enough firepower to target them all at once.


Weapon Options

I have been trying out the weapons options, and considering the various options:


Twin-linked Assault Cannon: Probably the coolest choice of the bunch. I love this option for its flexibility, and the number of shots you can get off; they can kill troops, wound monstrous creatures and even have a chance of penetrating a LandRaider if you’re rolling really hot. The only issue is that the range is only 24”, which, for me at least, is getting a little too close for comfort with all the melta that’s about these days.


Twin-linked Lascannon: This can provide reliable, long-distance, high-strength and low-AP shooting. You should ideally save this for reliably ‘popping’enemy transports; those pesky high Armour 14 vehicles should be taken out with Melta. The fact these Lascannons are mobile, and can therefore move to a better position to take out enemy tanks, gives you great flexibility; perhaps you can move to get side armour, rear armour or no cover?


Lascannon plus twin-linked Plasma Guns: If you can’t make up your mind between close range and long range elite killing options, you could end up with a worse choice than this. The Lascannon is not as reliable as its twin-linked brother (the twin lined rerolls means you hit about 89% of the time, rather than 67%), but you trade that for the twin-linked Plasma Guns. You won’t be firing both weapon options very oftenif you are moving, but if you get a weapon destroyed result it does give you the other weapon as a backup (redundancy), something the other optionsdon’t have. The high-strength and low-AP of both of these weapons make it an excellent choice.


Twin-linked Heavy Flamer: If you are planning to drive up into the enemy’s lines (and even Tank Shock him) then the Heavy Flamers can be devastating. The short range of this option means you will need to be very aggressive to use it well. The nature of its weapons (having a template, ignoring cover and the rest) means when you position the vehicle correctly, this should be a devastating first strike, before the true assault from the troops inside is unleashed on the enemy.


Twin-linked Heavy Bolter: You are looking at paying 35 or 40 points to upgrade the weapons on a Razorback that only costs 40 points in the first place; so you have doubled the cost of the vehicle. Some would argue that it makes more sense to stick with the original Heavy Bolter load out and take two Razorbacks instead. You will increase your firing options (two tanks can fire at two targets), you will have more shots, which could be more effective against low-toughness hordes with poor armour saves; yes, Eldar players, I’m thinking of your Guardians and a load of your aspect warriors squads here. Also, as mentioned previously, you are making your opponent have to think before choosing his target, and hopefully increasing their survivability. I have a theory that the more you make your opponent have to think, the more you are winning the game. The Heavy Bolter is a really good, cheap and flexible option. Yes, you won’t kill many heavily-armoured behemoths with it (and that’s not what it’s there for, you need Melta for that), but you stand a good chance of killing most cheap infantry, you could wound monstrous creatures, and even have a reasonable chance of getting a glance on some armour 10 vehicles.


My army, my rules

I use Razorbacks in my army to provide extra heavy weapons fire, that I feel I’m lacking in the rest of my army. I hate to buy the full 10 man squad just to have half of them standing around watching one chap fire a heavy weapon: that doesn’t seem very heroic to me. I wonder what the other four guys do; clap him, get a brew going? By having Razorbacks for my Tactical and Devastator Squads, I feel I have more control over the board, because I can place them into better tactical positions as the game develops. If I have to reserve my units, I can bring them onto the board at speed, and again choose a better position for them to end in. I like, and use, all the upgrade options for the weapons, but if I’m being honest, I love the twin-linked Assault Cannons. Partly it’s emotional, because they are really cool (and scary by reputation), but I also find them very effective in the game, and can be a bit of a magnet for enemy fire too. I use twin-linked Lascannons, and the Lascannon plus twin-linked Plasma Guns on my Devastator squads, as these will tend to hold back more than my tactical squads, so the extra range is good. I don’t really use the twin-linked Heavy Flamer load out, I’m just not that aggressive in my play style, but I could see this being a devastating option for other players. I can see this having a crippling effect on a massed army of Armour 4+ troops or worse; I would like to hear from anyone who has tried them against Necrons, perhaps?


I like to think that I use my army a bit like a sturdier Dark Eldar force, with all of my units kept manoeuvrable because either their special rules give them movement options, orthey are in a vehicle, or are a vehicle themselves. A lot of 40k is about how, when, and where you place your units, and the more flexibility you can bring to this, the better. To use an analogy, think about why the queen is the most powerful piece in chess. A pawn can take a piece in only two positions; either of its front diagonal squares, but the queen has incredible amount of options available all around the board. This is what makes it the most powerful piece in the game.



5 Responses to “Razorbacks by Andrew Ovel”

  1. Arnie1 March 16, 2012 at 10:16 #

    I have been starting to think that there are so many guns, (hydras, long fangs, GK dreads) that can deal with armour 11 that they have been dying out. I’m not saying they don’t have a place just that they are easily countered.

  2. Mark Perry March 16, 2012 at 10:17 #

    Heavy bolter razorbacks always seem such a waste to me. Flamers are potentially useful in certain circumstances but they really need to outflank to make it worthwhile and 25 points more than the HB seems a bit steep. Compare it to say the free upgrade on a chimera for instance.

    I do think the assault cannon is really good – heavy 4, rending and twin-linked. Just a shame it’s not AP3 to boot. Only issue is 24″ range, so if you take it you need to build the rest of the army on this basis – so LR redeemer maybe filled with assault termies? If I wanted gunline then I would go las for the range if nothing else.

  3. Andy Ovel March 16, 2012 at 11:45 #

    You can tell I like Razorbacks, but I still have to admit they have there issues, and that’s as it should be.

    Everything in this game should have a unit, weapon or tactic that counters them; it would be a pretty boring game if that wasn’t the case. So the trusty Razorback falls apart when you look at it funny, with anything stronger than S6! If you don’t like it take a Landraider but be prepared to pay the points, and take the risk that it gets “popped” just like your Razorbacks, because even the worst general rolls 6’s sometimes.

    @Arniel – Yep they die! We know there is a lot of high strength weapons out there (it doesn’t even have to be Melta weapons) so you cant expect them to live very long , so use cover well, position your units well, work out target priority, roll 6’s and sometime…just sometimes…..

    @ Mark – I agree with you on the pointing for the weapon upgrades it doesn’t make much sense to me either. I LOVE the twin-linked Assault Cannons (I’m so biased) but the range is always going to be an issue if you don’t move up the board aggressively with them. Even an Eldar Guardian squad with a missile launcher could sit back with impunity and just “ping” missiles off the Razorback till it “pops”. I like Landraiders too but that would be a whole different article for another day.


  4. VectHale March 18, 2012 at 19:36 #

    The GK heavy bolter razorbacks are quite possibly the best in the game. They can affect the game from long distance and have that all important added point of strength. The assault cannons are good but they need to get in range and I am just not sure with that added movement step or the points that need to be invested whether they are not quite the optimal choice.

    • Andy Ovel March 20, 2012 at 15:03 #

      I know! That 24″ range is a pain, but you can’t have everything, and with a 6″ move it gives you a ‘threat bubble’ of 30″ which while not brilliant is not terrible, if you deploy well. I really wish the AC had a range of 36″, but that could make them a little too good.

      I don’t play GK, but I know from reputation they are very good, but as I don’t play them I felt it best to skip over the GK Razorbacks and stick to what I know, Vanilla Marines. 🙂

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