But first, and English lesson!
I keep confusing myself...is it Flier, or Flyer?
Google to the rescue!
I found this handy article, which tells me, in so many words, that as an American, I should be using Flier, but everyone else in the world uses Flyer. So, I guess I'll try to stick with Flier until someone complains. :)
So, why are fliers such a big deal? Well, a quick review of the flier rules is in order:
- All firing at Fliers is done as a "snap-shot". No templates or Blasts.
- Fliers can not be assaulted.
- Fliers always start in Reserve.
- Fliers may make only one change of facing at the start of their move, up to 90deg. They then must move at least 18", and may move up to 36".
- Fliers may fly off the table, in to 'ongoing reserve', coming back on their next player turn.
- Fliers may gain the Skyfire rule for all their weapons if they choose to.
- Fliers with the Hover rule can give up being a Flier at the start of their turn, instead being a Fast Skimmer.
- Fliers can choose to 'Jink' went shot at, granting a 5+ cover but all firing next turn is Snap Shots
So now the question is, when they come on and hit, how hard do they hit?
The short answer...pretty hard.
Let's look over some of the fliers you might say zooming across the table at you, and what they'll be unloading on you:
Depending on which MEQ faction you're playing, they may come slightly different, and they're very customizable. From the 'humble' TL-Heavy Bolter and TL-Assault Cannon, to TL-Lascannon and TL-Multimelta, along with a compliment of missiles (note that the GK missiles will destroy psykers with ease...hang on, Swarmlord!) makes these things very ferocious. These can Hover. They are AV12 around, immune to melta, and can carry a number of infantry, AND a Dreadnought. These clock in at well over 200 points, nearing Land Raider territory, so they'll seldom come in vast quantities.
The Imperial Guard Air Force makes them strong! AV12/12/10 makes them really hard to scratch, and come stock with Extra Armor to keep them zipping along. The three TL-Lascannons give them a VERY hard punch, great for knocking out enemy vehicles. They can carry a small herd of infantry. And thanks to a very low cost (the same as about 7 Space Marines!) will likely come in large numbers!
The other IG flier...instead of triple Lascannons, this guy has a focus on taking out infantry, with Multilaser and Large Blast missiles. This guys carries a herd of infantry as well, and is actually cheaper than the Vendetta!
The new Space Marine airplane. A reasonable cost and a versatile armament (TL-Assault Cannon, and Skyhammer Missiles (60", S7 AP4 HVY3) is my favorite) gives him lots of versatility. He can choose to "hover" (which is different from the normal Hover rule...of course!) where he doesn't move, just change facing, but gains +1 BS when shooting at "ground targets! BS5 is no joke!
A reasonably costed (~13 Dark Eldar Wracks) flier that lives up to its name with up to 18 S6 TL shots at BS3! Yeah, Orks that can shoot...scary! S6 isn't the greatest, but it's not a bad choice. He gets the huge number of shots on the turn the Waaagh! is called, normally he shoots 9 times. Still, not bad at all! AV 10 all around makes him vulnerable to small arms fire, which is a tremendous weakness I feel.
A ground-attack Ork flier that focuses on Napalm-like attacks that ignore cover, both bombs and missiles, with a small amount of Dakka thrown in with one Supa Shoota and one Big Shoota. Limited number of shots from the bombs and missiles, but shots that ignore cover are interesting...
Another ground attack Ork flier, with a few hard-hitting bombs that excel at penetrating armor (S7 + 2d6). In true Orky fashion, there's a random table to roll on when he tries to drop his bomb, with potentially disastrous results. Has a small amount of dakka-shooting as well, like the Burna with one Supa Shoota and one Big Shoota.
The Necron flying troop transport, this guys is a steal, costing only 10 Wracks, able to hold a vast number of troops, and sporting the tremendously scary TL-Tesla Destructor. It has special ability to allow its passengers to disembark while moving at full speed, either at the start or end of its moving, giving it tremendous power to put troops exactly where they're needed completely safe. AV11 around make it immune to small arms.
The Necron ground-attack flier has the same fearsome TL- Tesla Destructor it's troop-carrying cousin has, but instead of troops it packs the awe-inspiring Death Ray. Basically you pick a point on the ground in the weapon's arc within 12", pick another point 3d6 inches away, and every single model touched is automatically hit by a S10 AP1 hit! Wow! I mean, even if you had to roll to hit each model it would be good, but that's just great! He's also AV11 around.
A Dark Eldar 'multi-role' flier. With AV10 all around, 2 Dark Lances, and a splinter weapon. It also comes with 4 missiles, with many upgrade options, but all are primarily infantry busting. A bit more expensive than other fliers, with a base cost of 145. Flickerfield upgrade for 10 more points lets it avoid Jinking.
A slightly upgunned Razorwing, for the same initial cost the 2 Dark Lances are upgraded to Void Lances (S9!), and the splinter weapon is replaced with a S9 AP2 Blast Bomb. Missiles can be added on, significantly increasing the cost (the cheapest missiles are 10pts each). AV11 around makes him quite a bit more resilient, and the flickerfield option keeps him in there shooting as normal instead of relying on Jinks.
Clearly some of these are more "betterer gooderer" than others, and I don't want to rank or score them, just give ideas of what's coming at you.
I will say this though, one of the most potent weapons you can use to kill an enemy flier is a flier of your own, particularly one with a good anti-vehicle loadout...and I will discuss what I think the better choices are here.
As said earlier, any Flier can give itself Skyfire, so the Snap Shot thing is gone, fliers that choose to do so will hit enemy fliers on their own normal BS. That being said, fliers with the most potent anti-vehicle weaponry will do the best. The Vendetta is a stand-out, in my opinion, as is the Stormraven (though it costs so much!). The Necron Scythes will do well with their TL Tesla Destructors. The others will struggle vs. AV12 fliers, though the Dakkajet might put out enough shots on the Waaagh! turn to take one down, and the Stormtalon will do extremely well vs. AV11. Fliers. The Ork Bommers are virtually useless vs. fliers. The Razorwings 2 S8 shots aren't horrible, but the Voidravens 2 S9 shots are of course considerably better. The AP2 on the Vendetta and Razor/Void are respectable, increasing the chance of a single pen giving you good results significantly.
So why do you want a Flier in your army?
Put simply, they are extremely hard to kill if your opponent doesn't have the tools to deal with it, so can spend the game happily blazing away with impunity.
Moreover, a flier of your own is the best counter to an enemy flier! (And really, the visual of a dogfight over the battle is pretty cool, right?)
What you want out of a flier will of course depend on what flier your army has access to (either organically or through allies). With few exceptions, I can't see a flier ever being a complete waste, as long as the inclusion does not 'break' your army.
What do I mean by that? Well, the example I'll give is my Dark Eldar, where I've had my Ubiquitous Three Ravagers forever now. The first turn Dark Lance shots from them are a staple of the army, helping it function. If I replace those Ravagers with fliers that aren't there on turn 1, and possibly not until far later, can I still do ok? I'm skeptical...Voidravens put out (arguably) more devastating firepower, but if it comes too late then it's worthless!
Another possible use for a flier is to keep your troops relatively safe until later in the game, when they're dropped on to objectives that you've already blasted the enemy off of...and with their extreme maneuverability this can keep the enemy guessing until it's too late to react. Necrons excel at this, I think. The Vendetta/Valk is no slouch here either. Hell, the Stormraven is great at this too. Any transport that can carry troops will add a completely different dimension to how you can play!
If you've not got access to a Flier, and you're unwilling or unable to ally to gain something, then you really need to have a strong anti-flier element in your army. As of now, there isn't really much that's great. Anyone can take a Quadgun with their (now ubiquitous) Aegis Line, but it's not that hard to kill, will assuredly be targeted early, and just one isn't going to cause anyone much concern. The only other thing that's got a decent chance at hitting on those 6s are Twin-Linked weapons...or their equivalent, that are at least S6, preferably higher, of course.
TL Autocannons are not a terrible choice; a Psyker with the Diviniation Primaris power can TL anything (maybe a unit of Long Fangs with Missiles?); IG have access to Hydras, which have no other purpose now than Fliers.
(Why is it IG have the best-valued Flier AND the only anti-Flier ground vehicle?)
The only other option is something that shits out just an incredible number of shots...I'm looking at you, Lootas! 15 Lootas will average 30 shots a turn, that should average 5 hits, that should get you 2-3 hull points, and force your opponent to consider Jinking, which might be enough to save you from getting blasted next turn. Three units of Lootas will put some serious fear in to an enemy Air Force! Other options might be Scatter Lasers (with Guide, or TL), or the good ole Grey Knight Gunline with Psybolt Ammo TL-Hvy Bolter Razorbacks and Dreadnoughts.
Fliers are going to drastically change things, and I'll be a conspiracy theorist here...GW does this to make us buy their new toys. Fliers are really good, so we all want to go buy the new shiny fliers...then they'll start releasing anti-flier ground forces, and they'll be really good too, and we'll all go buy them too.
It's horrible to be an addict, isn't it? :)
Happy Flying, my friends!