This week we take a look at the iconic entirely-too-fast Imperial support unit, 74-Z Speeder Bikes.
Fast, killy, and with lots of dakka, speeder bikes are everything any respectable mek could ask for. Er, this is a Legion blog, right?
Seriously though, these things are good. Veers, 6 troopers and 3 speeder bikes is a thing for a reason. They can reach practically across the table and zoom around your opponent’s cover.
Unfortunately for us, however, there are no weapon options to analyze. That’s a big part of what we do here, so this article is going to be a little less in depth than the previous trooper and AT-RT articles. Luckily there are still plenty of other interesting stats to look at.
There are a ton of excellent pure tactics articles out there on Speeder Bikes. My favorite high-level tips are from Yavin Base, where Endless gives some tips to Imperial players who want to learn to use Speeder Bikes good, and who want to learn to do other stuff good too.
- They are quite fast
- Very respectable firepower for their points; at full strength
- Some innate protection with Cover 1
- They’re fast
- Did I mention the speed?
- Fragile when focused
- Vulnerable to units with Sharpshooter, Melee or Blast
3 health (per bike), white/surge defense, Cover 1. 6 total health for a 90 point unit is pretty squishy, but at least the Cover 1 makes this palatable. 3 health per model also means you can take 1 or 2 wounds and it won’t effect your output at all.
Speeder 1. Ignore terrain height 1 or lower, and perform a compulsory move. This is what makes bikes so fast and mobile.
Speed 3. The biggest, longest movement tool. A little beyond range 1 on the range ruler.
Surge to hit. Good stuff, combined with their solid dice. A full two bike unit hits just as hard as the doubly expensive T-47.
EC-17 Hold-out blaster. Hopefully you can avoid using this, because it’s obviously worse than their main weapon. Two black dice per model with surge isn’t terrible, though, if you find yourself in a weird position.
Ax-20 Blaster Cannon. One red, one black, one white per model with surge, plus Impact 1 (which doubles to Impact 2 with a full unit). These things hurt. How much? Let’s move on to the main event…
Sadly, there is only one weapon to look at here. It’s a good one, though.
Not quite that good.
Let’s start off with some good old fashioned efficiency charts, Empire style.
This is with no cover, sorted by weighted efficiency (explanation for which can be found on the Empire Charts page).
Hot dog, look at that. Who’s No. 1?
It is a little unfair to put speeder bikes with an aim token on here and compare them to a bunch of stuff without aim tokens. It’s worth knowing, though, because speeder bikes have a really easy time getting aim tokens, due to their compulsory move.
Even without cheating you still only have to go down just below DLT Storms to find Speeder Bikes. They hit hard for their points.
If you look at just Impact efficiency, Speeder Bikes clock in at second on the Empire list, just below the HH-12 with .029 Impact hits per point (.033 with Aim).
If you isolate their non-impact efficiency, Speeder Bikes are not quite as good. Their non-Impact hits per point are .042, which is still respectable but not as good as a five man DLT-19 unit.
How about their absolute output? Here are the wounds by target chart for various situations we’ll discuss, sorted by average hits.
Wounds by target
Without aiming, you can expect some decent damage; 3.75 normal hits and 2.65 Impact hits. The latter is quite good for such a fast unit, and rather efficient as noted above. Given the exhaust on the HH-12, Speeder Bikes are probably your most efficient source of Impact damage available on the current Empire roster.
As with all weapons, cover makes a big difference. Luckily your speeder bikes can often zoom around cover and flank their target to get a clean shot.
Speeder bikes get a long compulsory move (range 3) and thus a free, fast movement action. This means you often have an extra action to either aim or dodge. We’ll look at the latter under defense.
Below are the probability charts for Impact and non-Impact hits, with and without aim. The percentages shown are cumulative; that means, for example, you have an 87% chance to get at least three non-Impact hits, without an aim token; and you have a 99% chance to get at least one hit.
Aim makes a big difference for non-Impact hits; it nets you about an extra hit across the board.
The difference is much smaller for Impact hits. If you are shooting a vehicle, you probably want to just take a dodge token instead of the aim token.
Why are we even talking about these things? Hopefully you never have to use them.
Suppose you have a situation where your target is out of your front arc after your compulsory move. You could either A) Take another move action or a pivot and get the target in your front arc, or B) take an aim token and shoot the target with your holdout pistols.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the answer is A). I was curious, though. It’s not the end of the world if you have to use the holdouts.
Let’s look at another, much more common, situation. Your target is behind cover. You could either A) take an extra move action to flank them and deny cover, or B) take an aim token and shoot through the cover. Which is better?
Again it should not be surprising, but it is quite a bit better to A) take the extra move and deny cover.
Let’s move on to defense.
Speeder bikes have an innate Cover 1, which helps them quite a bit as they have a hard time getting heavy cover with their flying stands. Note that a new clarification of the rules explicitly excludes the peg/base of a flying stand from being used to test if a unit is obscured, which in practice means Speeder Bikes are never going to be able to get cover from barricades or anything of similar height.
With their Cover 1 and saves, a unit of bikes has 12 effective wounds, which is decent but not great for 90 points. (see the Effective Wounds article for how I arrived at this).
How much does that Cover 1 actually help them? The color scales in the below charts are inverted, so red shows most damage/most dangerous.
The numbers are average wounds, so these account for the Speeder Bikes’ saves (and for Pierce where relevant). Also note: the Flamethrower numbers shown are for two target minis.
Cover 1 gives your bikes about a 20-30% benefit, depending on their attacker. It shouldn’t be surprising that what is most dangerous to you are the units/weapons that ignore cover; either via melee, keywords (blast/sharpshooter), or sheer weight of dice (Fleets and AT-ST). Friends don’t let friends get murdered by laser swords. The bikes are fast; you shouldn’t be caught in the threat range of Luke or Vader if you can help it.
I want to specifically highlight two things on this chart: Coordinated Bombardment and Maximum Firepower. As players realize how dangerous bikes are, they are prioritizing chipping wounds off them with these cards. This can really hurt your bikes as it brings them nearly to losing that key first mini before the battle even starts. Coordinated Bombardment is particularly devastating if you are running triple bikes, as it can hit all three and there isn’t much you can do about it. It’s really difficult to hide from something with unlimited range and Sharpshooter 2.
If you are really worried about a first turn Coordinated Bombardment play to hit your bikes, you can counter with Evasive Maneuvers. This also allows you to control the activation timing of your bikes on the first turn in addition to giving them some preemptive protection. Evasive Maneuvers won’t do as much against Maximum Firepower, as you only get two orders and the opposing Veers would logically just shoot the unit without the dodge token.
To dodge, or not to dodge
Whether to dodge or aim with speeder bikes is a highly situational question, but one where it pays to know the benefit of dodge. Sometimes you can do both, as with Veers’ Evasive Maneuvers, which gives its order recipients a free dodge token and allows them to cancel crits. It’s no coincidence that speeder bikes are the art on this card; it combos particularly well with them. If you are really in a pickle you can play Evasive Maneuvers and then take a dodge action, which gives your bikes two dodge tokens. Combined with their innate Cover 1 that is pretty spicy.
How much of a difference does it actually make if you dodge?
Here is the same defense chart as above, but with Dodge added:
Dodge helps a lot; 30-40% depending on the target. Consider dodging over aiming if your bikes are in a sticky situation (or plan to be). Additionally, if you are shooting an armored target with your bikes on a given turn, there is little downside to grabbing the dodge token as the aim token barely benefits your Impact damage.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Speeder Bikes is the hit they take when that first bike goes down. It cuts their damage in half. Refer again to the wounds be target chart above. One Speeder Bike is averaging 1.87 hits, which is rather paltry.
Below is the damage degradation chart we’ve previously looked at for the trooper units, with Speeder Bikes added for comparison:
Boy, that is quite a drop off when you lose a bike. That shouldn’t be surprising but it is nice to see graphically.
On the plus side, a unit of bikes can take two wounds before losing any output.
- Use Speeder Bike units in packs (two or three)
- Don’t rush in your Speeder Bikes. They are fragile for 90 points, and significantly less threatening at half strength.
- As a general rule, Aim against non-armored targets, and Dodge if shooting Armor.
- Don’t underestimate Speeder Bikes’ speed. Flank and surround your targets, or reach targets your opponent thought were safe. Just don’t be reckless.