For a variety of reasons I've decided to make a series of articles focussing on the units in the new Imperial Armour 2 second edition book I recently acquired. These reasons are to further my understanding of the units and their capabilities, to gain insight into how balanced they are and also (as I didn't see anything similar when I searched) to inform others about what units there may be out there for their armies, as unless you have access to the books there's no way to know exactly what the units can do.
Part one - land raiders.
This section of the book discussed the famed land raider and it's variants in superb detail, with cutaways, colour side profiles, background, vehicles of legend and, of course, rules. Here I will summarise the key points:
Land raider phobos / crusader / redeeemer
These guys are all mentioned in passing but are obviously covered in the main codex so won't be discussed further here. (though I will use the standard land raider phobos' points value to indicate the relevent points values for the variants discussed below)
(note, with the exception of the Prometheus all of the variants are heavy support choices and cannot be taken as dedicated trasports)
An interesting variant that comes in at a few points more than a standard land raider. It sacrifices transport capacity (6) and a TL heavy bolter in favour of a whirlwind launcher. Other than this all rules and armament are the same as a standard land raider. On the face of it, this doesn't seem anything special and, aside from the option for a dozer blade, doesn't bring anything to the game that the standard land raider does not already (it can take a dozer blade however).
One reason I can think to take this variant would be if you had a smaller unit (say captain and command squad) that you could use the assault ramp to good advantage with. The twin lascannons can be used for the usual tank-busting duties, while the whirlwind launcher deals with softer infantry thanks to PoTMS. Useful if you are short of heavy support slots as the Helios seems to be a jack-of-all trades and master of none. There is a saving grace, however, in the form of the Helios upgrade.
The Helios launcher costs a bit less than a power fist and is a savvy 48" S8 AP3 shot. Add to that Skyfire, Interceptor and heat seeker (allowing rerolls to hit against flyers, SH flyers and fast skimmers) and you have a half decent AA weapon. Of course there are other ways to purchase the launcher in this book but none are as survivable as a land raider.
In conclusion I would say that if you are considering a land raider in your heavy slot to transport a small squad of non-bulky models then this is a good alternative to the standard raider. The TLHB versus either a whirlwind launcher or the Hyperios seems like a no-brainer, but a balanced trade considering the relative points costs and lost transport capacity.
The old-school amongst us will remember when all land raiders in 40k looked like this. Reinvented by FW, the Proteus is now a different beast to it's more popular cousin the phobos. Coming in at 4/5 the cost of a phobos, the main difference is the lack of an assault ramp and thus the assault vehicle rule, plus the lack of a TL heavy bolter. Now, although you can pay just under the cost of a power fist to add the heavy bolter (or a heavy flamer) back in, you're still left with the lack of an assault ramp, which considering it may be the main reason most people purchase a land raider in the first place, is a big deal.
Then we come to the explorator augery web - a hefty 50 point upgrade that is almost mandatory to make the proteus worth taking. Not only do you gain the scout USR (and thus can outflank if need be) but each turn you may choose to use the web in either disruption or relay mode, which lasts until your next turn.
Disruption: -1 to your opponents reserve rolls.
Relay: you may reroll any reserve rolls.
Reserve manipulation is pretty significant, and of course if you are going second you can opt to disrupt your opponents turn 2 reserve rolls while boosting your own. Or alternatively, attempt to delay your flyers until your opponents have already arrived. There is of course a down side to this in that the transport capacity is reduced from 10 to 8, meaning you can't transport terminators and the like.
I'm not sure what to make of the proteus. I love the model/homage but don't feel it fulfils a role that has many uses. Being able to scout but not use the assault vehicle rule seems somewhat redundant, and although the augery web has potential, it is expensive points wise and could potentially be useless if there are no reserves in play (or even if there are).
Now here's a points sink if ever there was one. Add the cost of 3 power fists to a phobos and you have the most expensive land raider in the armoury. But, comsidering what you get for your points it may be worthwhile. The Achilles has extra armour as standard, a pair of TL multimeltas on the sponsons and a thunderfire cannon built in! It has the same downsides as both the above combined however - no assault ramp and a transport capacity of 6. There's one more positive to the beast however - ferromantic invulnerability. Ignore the special effects of both melta and lance weapons and in addition reduce all rolls on the damage table by -1.
Effectively, this is to land raiders what Custodes are to Space Marines. It can take a hammering from all but the heaviest ranged fire and shrug off hits from weapons that are ordinarily the bane of the land raider. unfortunately it suffers from the same issue as the Proteus in that it can shrug off most firepower as it advances yet once it reached the enemy lines it can't disgorge any troops into an assault. It effectively becomes a fire magnet. For the points you could buy a thunderfire cannon, a pair of multimelta land speeder and a squad in a drop pod to disgorge up close to the enemy. I wonder if the Achilles may be better in a defensive role holding objectives with a scoring unit safe inside until later in the game. The range of the thunderfire adds merit to this and the multimeltas will discourage any enemy transports getting too close. It does seem rather controversial to use a siege tank in such a way though.
In conclusion, the Achilles is a land raider I want to love but can't quite justify the points for. It suffers from the same issues the other variants do in that it has an identity crisis, unable to perform its task ideally compared to the other siege tanks, namely the crusader and redeemer.
Finally we have the land raider Prometheus which retains both the assault vehicle rule and transport capacity of 10. However, the hull heavy bolter is again absent and the sponson lascannons have been replaced with effectively quad heavy bolters. For just under a power fist in cost more than the Phobos, the Prometheus doesn't pack much of a punch. Although it should be noted that it can put out as much firepower as a devastator squad armed with heavy bolters, is twin linked, relentless and can target two units thanks to PoTMS. Not bad, but not perhaps the punch you would hope for from a land raider.
Then there are its special functions: Improved comms and battle auspex. Improved comms allows you to add +1 to your reserve rolls and the battle auspex grants night vision and the ability to -1 from cover saves to the prometheus. Again, not game changing, although relative to the costs of a Phobos pattern it sounds like a reasonable deal. Certain armies with an abundance of 4+ saves will suffer from the fusilade of heavy bolter shells and reduced cover, while you will still retain the ability to use the land raider as an assault vehicle. The reserve roll bonus may also prove useful. One last point is that, unlike the other land raiders, the Prometheus is an Elites choice and thus does not take up a heavy slot.
In conclusion, the Prometheus seems to have a better defined role than the other variants with the exception of the Helios. I would still say the Helios wins as my preferred choice of variant, with the Proteus coming in last place. The loss of the assault ramp seems such a fundamental violation of the land raider's role that I can't quite resolve in my head. However, for those players who like to use multiple units I can see 3 Achilles with a minimum scoring unit in each and an HQ being a terrifying prospect to face across the battlefield.
I hope this article has been useful - it's certainly helped me to sort out a few things. Questions and discussion welcomed as always.