The 75mm main gun is firing.

The 37mm secondary gun is firing, but it’s traversed round the wrong way.

The Browning [machine gun] is jammed. I am saying, ‘Driver advance’ on the A set, but the driver – who can’t hear me – is reversing.

And as I look over the top of the turret, and see 12 enemy tanks, just 50 yards away, someone hands me a cheese sandwich”.

Lieutenant Ken Giles, North Africa, 1942

Even the toughest infantry die horrifically to the brutal firepower on offer to either side during the Horus Heresy. Even the humble Rhino has its limitations. In these trying times, the Astartes turn to the Land Raider and Spartan Assault Tanks. This pair of heavily armoured beasts are designed to advance through the most wilting of fire and deliver their cargo; or firepower where required.

Core Rules

There are multiple platform types within the Land Raider chassis itself in-game. Each has their own benefits and detractions, but they’re all viable. The Spartan Assault Tank is a singular platform, effectively larger and more sophisticated than the Land Raider – something which we will go into later.

VariantBSFrontSideRearHPType
Land Raider Tank Chassis41414144Vehicle (Tank, Transport)
Land Raider Chassis Stat Line

Having multiple choices of platform, the Land Raider costs the following:

  • Land Raider Phobos – 225 points.
  • Land Raider Proteus – 180 points.
  • Land Raider Achilles – 275 points.
VariantBSFrontSideRearHPType
Spartan Assault Tank41414145Vehicle (Tank, Transport)
Spartan Assault Tank Stat Line

The Spartan Assault Tank costs 305 points. This means that both the Land Raider and Spartan Assault Tank are all more expensive than Predators and Sicaran type vehicles by quite a margin. This is partly due to their latent ability, partly due to their offensive output and partly down to their defensive arrangement. Let’s be clear here, though I’ve mentioned them as being significantly more expensive, these aren’t line tanks; their roles are inherently different.

Both the Land Raider and Spartan Assault Tank have the Tank type. This comes as no shock to anyone I’m sure, but what does that keyword provide them?

Tank provides them with the rules Tank Shock and Ram. Tank Shock is an interesting mechanic to simulate the heavily armoured platforms forgoing the use of their weapons and simply becoming the weapon. To start, you don’t move the platform, instead, pivot it in the direction it is going to move in. Note that once you start the Tank Shock forward movement it cannot make any more pivot moves. Instead, it moves forwards until it reaches the distance declared or an enemy unit. This rule is the exemption to the fact that enemy models may not be moved through, though this does not apply to friendly models – you also can’t Tank Shock units that are in combat. Any enemy unit other than a vehicle that is encountered must then make a morale check, if it fails then it immediately falls back, if it passes, the tank moves past with no undue effects. If by the time the tank reaches its set distance or cannot move any further any models end up underneath the tank, then they are to be moved out of the way leaving at least 1”between them and the tank and maintaining coherency; any that cannot are considered crushed and immediately removed from play. Ram is a special form of Tank Shock that sees the Armour Value of the tank halved (rounded up) on the striking face. Any vehicle with the Tank type (such as Land Raider or Spartan) add 1 to this result. If it is a Super-heavy or Building then it adds 2. Note, that if you add a Dozer Blade you add a further 1 to this result. You then calculate armour penetration and apply the results.

These rules have their moments, but they’re not seen terribly often in play from my experience. As a last ditch, you could chance getting an Explodes! result to try to ping Hull Points from an enemy tank. It does show how thematic and narratively driven the system is that this is a rule though.

Both the Land Raider and Spartan Assault Tank have the Transport rule, though this gets complicated with the plethora of sub-types of the Land Raider. The Land Raider Phobos can transport 10 models and has the Assault Vehicle rule, allowing units to charge on the turn they disembarked. The Land Raider Proteus can transport 10 models, but notably does not have Assault Vehicle and the Land Raider Achilles can transport 6 models and also does not have Assault Vehicle.

A Spartan Assault Tank of my Death Guard

The Spartan Assault Tank can transport 25 models and has the Assault Vehicle rule. The rather hefty transport capacity increase is why you see Spartan “Death Star” so often; you can really fit quite a lot of nastiness in them.

It’s clear then that the real niche of the Land Raider and Spartan is to bully through defences or trench works and deliver their cargo. This isn’t the only trick up their sleeve to differentiate themselves from line tanks however.

Machine Spirit is common across all of the Land Raider and Spartan as a built in core rule, enabling a platform that has neither moved flat out or used its smoke launchers to fire one more weapon at full Ballistic Skill than normally permitted. This is a solid enhancement of the base firepower in the platform; if you’re not needing to cover the distance and more content with trundling across the table and shooting instead. Let’s not forget that Machine Spirit is a costly upgrade to Rhino Chassis Tank platforms and isn’t available on Sicaran chassis vehicles (because they’re Fast) so to have it baked in is really nice.

Any Land Raider or Spartan can take a Hunter Killer missile for +5 points. This Unlimited range, S8 AP3 missile is Heavy 1 and One Use Only; however they can be really useful for a Hail Mary or even concerted Hunter Killer fire across the board. I’ve seen this done with Javelin Attack Speeders with great success; bombarding a high value target into submission. Whilst you won’t be able to mass the amount of Hunter Killer missiles that Javelins do; they are worth the +5 points if you have them going spare.

With regards to manoeuvre, both chassis have a plethora of options to mitigate against mobility kills; Dozer Blade is a +5 point option to allow rerolling of dangerous terrain tests and Auxiliary Drives cost +10 points to allow an immobilised result to be repaired on a roll of 4+; keeping your army moving forwards, avoiding accidental immobilisation, even if the enemy score some decisive blows.

Whilst AV14 is good, there are a few options available to the Land Raider and Spartan to make them better. The first and common to almost every platform is Armoured Ceramite. This is a +20 points upgrade and is used to mitigate against weapons with the Melta rule; they don’t get to roll the additional D6 for Armour Penetration. That’s actually pretty savage as most Melta weapons are Strength 8, so they’re only able to glance when Armoured Ceramite is in use. Extra Armour is where the two chassis types diverge. The Spartan comes with it, but most Land Raiders have access to it for +5 points (those that don’t come with it baked in). Vehicles with Extra Armour count results of Crew Stunned as Crew Shaken. This means you retain the ability to pivot and move, but only fire snap shots if the enemy rolls 1-4 on the Vehicle Damage Table instead of not being able to move.

Land Raiders and Spartans also get access to the usual pool of Pintle mounted weapons; but these I find of dubious utility. These aren’t Rhino platforms that you can provide quite a significant threat with a cheap upgrade. These are fully fledged combat platforms with far better, more viable main weapons. Whilst Machine Spirit is a thing, you’re not going to actively choose the optional Pintle mount over a Lascannon for instance, unless things are going very badly.

Frag Assault Launchers from the options common between the Land Raider and Spartan. This effectively treats any unit that disembarked and charged into combat as having Frag Grenades. It’s +10 points and frankly I don’t think it’s overly worth it, especially when I’ve already highlighted the importance of Auxiliary Drives, which also cost +10 points.

The Land Raider, when in a Squadron has an upgrade that can be taken; Squadron Command Tank. This is a +35 point upgrade that allows the tank it is equipped on to ignore the effect of Crew Shaken on 4+ and when an entire Squadron fires at a target within 24”, they all gain Tank Hunters and Monster Hunters. This further makes the Land Raider a brutally effective platform for anti-tank duties. You do however have to buy into the Squadroned play style for this, which can be problematic considering the points costs.

The Spartan Assault Tank has access to a Flare Shield for +35 points. This reduces the strength of incoming weapons by -1 from the front arc. It also reduces Blast weapons by -2 from the front arc. This alongside Armoured Ceramite is the most commonly seen upgrade to the platform. It’s quite effective and rewards players who force front-on engagement. AV14 and a -1/-2 modifier here are no joke, which is why they’re quite a meta choice. This shouldn’t dissuade you from using them, as they’re priced correctly for their advantages.

The final rules common across the Land Raider and Spartans is Searchlight and Smoke Launchers. The Searchlight is useful when Night Fighting is in effect, by illuminating both itself and the target, effectively removing the bonus to Cover provided by Night Fighting to both in the process. Smoke Launchers are useful for when you’re caught out and need a defensive boost. You sacrifice firing weapons, but you gain a 5+ cover save instead. I’ve only seen Searchlight used once (against myself) and it’s genuinely quite useful. If you play against Night Lords often, the inclusion of this is nice.

So the basic rules for both the Spartan Assault Tank and the Land Raider are quite nice. The wrap around AV14 provides a fairly solid defensive boost over most of the other “line” armoured units. It means you won’t be getting Penetrated by Strength 7 weapons like those fitted to the Sicaran Battle Tank and Predator Tanks. Of course, there are more powerful platforms out there with strength 8-10 weapons (Vindicator Laser Destroyer/Sicaran Venator) but they’re also of a lesser AV than yourself in most cases – so it’s a case of hit them before they hit you – taking advantage of Machine Spirit. If it all goes south, pop smoke and hope you roll 5+ saves. Don’t be dissuaded by “meta” choices. They’re priced accordingly and have their place.

Weapons and Additional Sub-Platform Options

It’s safe to say that both the Land Raider and Spartan are more than just tanks. They’re also more than just transports too. This makes them sound “Jack of all trades” – but they’re not. They both have the ability to pack worrisome firepower and can operate as gunboats quite effectively – but there are sacrifices that each platform has made to specialise. The Land Raider chassis has three sub-platforms, each one sacrificing elements of its transport capability to equip other powerful weapons or capabilities.

A Death Guard Mark IIB Phobos Land Raider
Land Raider Phobos
WeaponRangeSAPType
Twin-linked Lascannon48”92Heavy 1
Twin-Linked Heavy Bolter36”54Heavy 3

Outfitted with two Twin-Linked Lascannons, the Phobos is able to bolster your anti tank capability fairly resoundingly. Remembering too that Machine Spirit allows you to move and fire one weapon more than normal at Full Ballistic Skill and you have a solid platform for causing a ruckus as it transports its infantry to their target. It’s the most “vanilla” of the Land Raiders, but it also is the most field-able as a result; this is commonly seen as a Dedicated Transport choice for Legion Specific Terminators, especially if a Spartan is not allowed as one.

Land Raider Armoured Proteus. Credit: Forgeworld.
Land Raider Proteus
WeaponRangeSAPType
Twin-Linked Lascannon48”92Heavy 1

This is a notably lesser loadout than the Phobos; but it is cheaper by default. You lose the Twin-Linked Heavy Bolter and Assault Vehicle; but what do you gain? The Proteus has a configurable centreline hull mounted weapon point (should you wish it).

Land Raider Proteus Options
Weapon/OptionRangeSAPType
Twin-Linked Heavy Bolter36”54Heavy 3
Twin-Linked Lascannon48”92Heavy 1
Twin-linked Heavy FlamerTemplate54Assault 1

The Heavy Bolter and Heavy Flamer options are +20 points. They’re ok choices, but the real fun sits with the +30 points Lascannon. Ok, this takes the Proteus up to 210 points, but you have a solid option to provide resilient Anti Tank capability. Of course, any movement will mean one of those Lascannons will inevitably snap shoot if you move it at combat speed, however without Assault Vehicle, you aren’t necessarily looking to push it up the table as soon as possible, thus, giving you a gunboat/mobile emplacement that is able to bring down heavy fire on key targets whilst protecting its cargo until the necessary moment.

The Proteus has another trick up its sleeve. The Exporator Augury Web is a +50 point upgrade that grants Scout (and thus Outflank). Whilst this is powerful in itself – after all an outflanking Land Raider is no joke; the real punch lies in the Augury modes. Whilst the vehicle is on the table, at the start of the controlling player turn but before reserves are rolled, the controlling player must declare whether the Augury is operating in Distruption or Relay mode. Distruption forces a -1 penalty to enemy reserve rolls, whilst Relay allows you to reroll your own reserve rolls. This is quite useful for when you’re facing an enemy with a high reserve count such as Alpha Legion or a Drop Pod/Flyer heavy army. It gives the ability to potentially dictate the pace of the battle and swing the battle in your favour.

But what if you’re after something more artillery focused?

Land Raider Achilles. Credit: Forgeworld.
Land Raider Achilles
WeaponRangeSAPType
Quad Launcher (Frag)12”-60”55Heavy 1, Twin-Linked, Barrage, Large Blast
Quad Launcher (Shatter)36”84Heavy 4, Sunder
Quad Launcher (Incendiary)12”-60”45Heavy 1, Twin-Linked, Barrage, Large Blast, Ignores Cover Saves
Quad Launcher (Splinter)12”-36”24Heavy 1, Twin-Linked, Barrage, Large Blast, Rending
Quad Launcher (Phosphex)12”-36”43Heavy 1, Barrage, Large Blast, Poisoned (3+), Crawling Fire, Lingering Death
Twin-Linked Multi Melta24”81Melta
Note: these are Playtest Rules from FAQ 1.1, Page 22. On page 2, the non-Playtest FAQ rules for the Quad Launcher (Frag) are Heavy 4, Barrage, Blast. Speak to your group to confirm what rules you are to use.

If it isn’t clear from that list, the Achilles is a fire support monster. Note that although it comes with a Quad Launcher, the ammunition isn’t all free. It comes with Frag and Shatter shells as standard, but Incendiary cost +5 points and Splinter cost +10 points. If the Achilles is in a detachment with a Siegebreaker Consul then you may take Phosphex shells for +20 points. This makes the Achilles quite flexible to your tactical needs.

Whilst it doesn’t look amazing from the stats, it’s quite effective with the sizeable templates covering entire squads and forcing the enemy to roll multiple saves. Alternatively, there’s the possibility of the Shatter shells causing Instant Death if the enemy fails to make a save due to them being S8. Personally, the Phosphex shells are attractive for me, especially as some Rites of War require Siegebreakers, and they’re not a bad HQ to include in your army if you have Heavy Support Squads regardless.

If you’re not willing to invest in an additional HQ, or there’s no requirement for one, the Incendiary ammunition is certainly worth looking at. It’s fairly cheap and will definitely do some work on entrenched and potentially problematic infantry.

It also gains Ferromantic Invulnerability – a rule which makes it immune to the effects of Lance and Melta. Additionally, it reduces the effect of a roll on the Vehicle Damage Chart caused by a Penetrating hit (it has no effect on Destroyer weapons) by -1. This makes it quite resilient, especially against the likes of Mechanicum or Salamanders who have a fair amount of Lance and Melta weapons. Even when you aren’t facing those forces, you’re getting what is normally a +20 points upgrade included into the platform base cost.

It’s a nicely performing platform, but it is 275 points base; which is no small amount. I’ve always thought that the Achilles is one of those platforms that you either fit into your army because you want to run one, or you run a Phobos or Proteus instead.

This leaves one final Land Raider to discuss. The Achilles Alpha.

Land Raider Achilles Alpha. Credit: Forgeworld.

Listed entirely separately from the other Land Raiders in the Astartes Red Book, the Achilles Alpha takes the standard Achilles and amps it up to 11.

The reason it isn’t included with the others is because it’s not able to be Squadroned; this is a singular platform Heavy Support Choice. The Alpha costs a whopping 300 points base, with no real upgrades to speak of outside of the ammunition for the Quad Launcher. This cost is mostly due to the fact it has Extra Armour and two special rules; Enhanced Ferromantic Rites and Galvanic Traction Drive.

The Enhanced Ferromantic Rites, this is pretty much identical to the Ferromantic Invulnerability of the standard Achilles, except it’s -1 effect is applied to the AP of the weapon instead of the final result. AP 1 would only gain +1 on the Vehicle Damage Chart for example. The Galvanic Traction Drive is a rule that means the Alpha must reroll failed dangerous terrain tests. You’re effectively getting a +5 points Dozer Blade for free.

Finally, those +25 points over a normal Achilles buy you two Twin-Linked Volkite Culverins.

WeaponRangeSAPType
Volkite Culverin48”65Heavy 4, Deflagrate

This turns it into a genuinely terrifying prospect for Infantry to face off against. Coupling the Volkite Culverins with the Quad Launcher ensures that virtually no hiding place can be found. Whilst you lack Assault Vehicle and only have a transport capacity of 6, it does offer a suitably defensively and offensively equipped chariot for your Warlord. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the Achilles Alpha is no longer in production. That said, neither is the standard Achilles. Both can be converted fairly easily with patience, a Rapier Quad Gun barrel and a Telrac Volkite Culverin kit.

So, to recap the Alpha; you gain Volkite Culverins, Extra Armour, the Galvanic Traction Drive and Enhanced Ferromantic Rites for the princely sum of 300 points. A Phobos in similar options would cost 225 points base + 20 points for Armoured Ceramite + 5 points for Extra Armour + 5 points for Dozer Blade. Even so, at 255 points, you aren’t protected from Lance effects, so that armour is effectively AV12 now, and you’re still geared towards Anti Tank than Anti Infantry. You would have a bigger transport capacity, but hey. This should show that it’s very much a “horses for courses” decision; if you need an Alpha, you’ll run an Alpha.

Night Lords Spartan Assault Tank “Perennial Nightmare”.

The Spartan Assault Tank doesn’t have much more available to it over what we’ve already discussed as common to the Land Raider and Spartan chassis except for Laser Destroyers. These are a free upgrade to the Quad Lascannon sponsons.

WeaponRangeSAPType
Laser Destroyer36”92Ordnance 1, Twin-Linked

Though not commonly seen, they are viable. You do lose a shot per side over the Quad Lascannon array the Spartan comes as standard with. However you do get a solid bonus. Ordnance allows you to roll 2D6, selecting the highest result for Armour Penetration. The other downsides to this is that your other weapons are snap firing as standard if you fire the Laser Destroyers. This means you’ll probably want to move it at Combat speed, firing one at full Ballistic Skill and using Machine Spirit to fire the other one at full Ballistic Skill too. This means the centreline weapon is snap shooting; not necessarily a problem.

Weaknesses

As with everything, there is a weakness. Both the Land Raider and Spartan are easily countered by highly focused Anti Tank assets such as the Arachnus Lascannon equipped Deredeo or the fearsome Kraken Penetrator missiles on the Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter. Large squads of Veterans with Machine Killers and Melta weapons will most definitely cause paint to those not running Armoured Ceramite. Finally, let’s not forget those Legion Terminator Squads with Chainfists; whilst not what you’d call reliable Anti Tank, they make that Flare Shield entirely redundant.

The worst weakness of these platforms though, above all, is if they’re unable to do their job of transporting their cargo. Immobilised Land Raiders and Spartans are a woeful sight, so Auxiliary Drives should be considered an auto-take in my opinion; it avoids having a large amount of points walking across the table.

Finally, consider that their points cost can be a serious weakness. By the time you’ve put two or three of these in a list, you’re starting to eat large swathes out of your total points cost. This adds into the fact that they represent a serious threat. Players will focus their efforts on the Spartans and Land Raiders as whatever comes out of them is normally worth the effort of focus firing them to destruction. Sometimes, those unassuming Rhinos are the better choice to mount fast moving and vicious assaults from – using their speed and smaller size to manoeuvre in cover, something neither Land Raider or Spartan are really capable of.

Summary

The Land Raider is a venerable platform, and quite potent in most situations on the table. The lack of a Flare Shield can often shield its innate defensive capability of all round AV14 and 4 HP. Machine Spirit allows them to move rapidly up the table whilst bringing down withering fire. The Phobos is generally seems as the “go to” due to the fact it has Assault Vehicle and has a transport capacity of 10 – as well as the fact it’s commonly a Dedicated Transport. This means you can fit in your Warlord and elements of a Terminator Command Squad neatly or a 5 man Legion specific Terminator squad; ready to burst out of it and into melee immediately.

The various sub-platform types of Land Raider are very much a case of personal choice – as each has their own distinct bonuses and limitations. These have niches in Armoured vehicle heavy Rites of War and also in general play as an unexpected threat. Indeed it is perhaps the versatility of the Land Raider chassis that is its biggest bonus.

When it comes to mass transport, the Spartan is king. Whilst it cannot compete in terms of outright capacity with vehicles such as the Mastodon Super-Heavy Tank, it excels at tactical movement and deployment of troops or elite shock elements. Even equipped in the “meta” style with a Flare Shield and Armoured Ceramite, it’s cheap at 375 points.

That said, there are other delivery systems that are worth consideration. Caestus Assault Rams and Kharybdis Drop Pods can both move ten-strong Squads of Terminators to their objectives, more cheaply and are better protected by their nature (flyers).

Both platforms are good at bullying their way through defences or across open ground, absorbing damage and delivering their effect. Once that’s been done, they have the resilience to hang around and cause carnage using their ranged weapons or just Tank Shocking or Ramming whatever is in sight.

In short, although the meme of highly effective Flare Shielded and Armoured Ceramite Spartans, or Land Raiders with specialised loadouts might be incredibly attractive; they’re not auto-include. However, when you do want to run them, they’re in the Red Book, with plentiful configuration options, ready for you and they’ll perform their intended job with aplomb.