Speeder Bikes are Imperial special forces focused on forward scouting and hit and run tactics. Using their incredible speed they can reach the enemies soft targets easily and get out before the enemy has a chance to retaliate. The 74-Z is the Empires first Support unit option and is common in lists that don’t have high point-cost units.
Base Unit Summary: (80 pt unit comparison)
Damage Output - Ranged: Below Average: 3.75
Damage Consistancy - Ranged: Above Average: Impact 1
Damage Output - Melee: N/A
Damage Consistancy - Melee: N/A
Damage Resistance: Below Average: 33.4%
Wounds: Average: 6
Threshold: Below Average: 50%
Range: Average: 1-3
Speed: Above Average: 3 + Compulsory Move
Speeder Bikes are your fast flankers, best used to hit the sides and back of your opponents forces taking out their support and weaker units.
Base Unit Analysis:
74-Z Speeder Bikes are below average in both damage output and survivability, however they are incredibly fast and mobile (best in the game for speed and mobility) and have some other factors to take into consideration that bring them back into expected efficiency. First they are Speed 3 and ignore terrain height 6” and below plus a compulsory move, meaning that they must move at least once every turn but the first move doesn’t use one of their actions so they can move up to 3 times in a row enabling them to cover an incredible total distance of range 4.5 in a turn. Their damage output is natively 3.75 which is just slightly below the expected 4 damage of an 80 point unit, however from a certain point of view their free compulsory move action can be looked at as a free aim token making them just slightly above average at 4.2 - more importantly however their speed and mobility allows them to often mitigate a targets cover raising their damage output to well above average compared to a unit that couldn’t. Their Survivability is also below average however they inherently have cover 1 meaning that if the enemy can’t remove their cover they become average and if they have a dodge token they become above average - although keep in mind that because they are vehicles they can’t benefit from barricades and thus getting heavy cover can be more difficult for them. Their Attrition and Threshold also balance out to be average even though they have the average 6 wounds expected for an 80 point troop unit, because those wounds are split between 2 members and not 6 they essentially aren’t affected by the first 2 wounds they take unlike regular troop units, however unlike vehicles their damage output drops as they take damage and does so at 50% instead of an average vehicles 75%. Because they are below average when looked at as one type and above average as another we will average and say they are on par for attrition efficiency.
Unique Upgrade Analysis:
74-Z Speeder Bikes have no unique upgrades at this point.
74-Z only have a Comms upgrade slot, and all of the comms options are good on them, however if you are running multiple the upgrades can get expensive fast. Comms Jammer is a great option for bikes who want to run up a flank, keeping enemies at a distance except for their target, ensuring that the target doesn’t get a chance to retaliate or recover before the bikes can finish them off. HQ Uplink and Long Range Comms serve similar roles of letting the bikes receive orders while they are far from a commander, which they often will be. But in general the most efficient bike unit is the one with no upgrades.
Wave 2 Update:
With the addition of wave 2 expansions the Speederbikes now have access to several new and useful upgrade options such as HQ Uplink.
74-Z Speeder Bikes can be a complicated unit to play. Their multiple below average stats are expecting you to be able to take advantage of their incredible speed and positioning to overcome, and when you do they become a truly powerful unit, however it takes preplanning and lots of practice to maneuver them properly - and until you have the timing and movement down speeder bikes can be very underwhelming.
Often the biggest mistake people make with the bikes is rushing them towards the enemy to start taking shots early - however doing this gets your bikes too far away from your main forces and allows your opponent to focus their attacks on the bikes which they will not survive. Instead the bikes are best used being held in reserve at the back of your forces, either making a long sweep towards the enemy or doing circles in your back line until it’s time to engage. Generally the best time to engage is turn 3, any sooner and the opponent will not be focused enough on your other forces and can kill the bikes, any later and they might not have enough time to do the work they need to do. The best way to engage is to sweep around one of the sides so that the enemy will have less units that can retaliate against the bikes. Generally bikes prefer to target units that have already been worn down by your main forces ensuring they are more likely to finish the unit off and not take retaliatory fire. They do have impact on their main weapon so they can do some damage to armored units if they have to, however it is generally a less efficient use for of the bikes than cleaning up troop units.
If the opponent is using one of the less survivable commanders, it can sometimes be beneficial to open the game by sacrifice the bikes to try and kill their commander, rushing them forward to attack. Generally these commanders cost as much as a unit of bikes, and it will take at least 2 units of bikes, probably a a couple shots more, but the ability to remove their command cards and commander courage bubble early is often game deciding and more of an advantage than the points of bikes you lose. Don’t attempt this against commanders with red defense dice, if the opponent has Guardian units, or if the commander is behind cover you can’t mitigate.
The most important thing to remember when playing the bikes though is to not make them a prime target - if they are in range and there is nothing else to shoot the bikes will die.
When playing against speeder bikes it is a good idea to keep your forces more tightly packed than you might normally. If your units are spread out then the bikes will be able to pick them off one at a time with little chance of retaliation, however if you keep your units close together often your other units will be able to eliminate the bikes after they come in to strike their target. It is also important to plan ahead and predict the bikes movements - because they have a fixed arc and compulsory move this is easier to do than with most units - also because their compulsory move has to be the first thing they do and they have to move the full disctance, you can often set a unit or two on stand by who will then get a chance to attack the bikes after they move into range but before they get a chance to dodge or attack.