The Falcon Grav Tank
Plenty of people malign the Eldar Falcon Grav tank on the various internet hot spots I see, not to mention in person. At a casual glance you could be forgiven for agreeing. The Wave Serpent is cheaper in general, carries more models and is more durable while the Fire Prism has a longer range, access to linked fire as a stratagem and has a seemingly better main weapon… but is all that fair?
A closer look at each is needed! I will also add that we won’t delve into the underslung weapons on these chassis – none of them have any difference in selection, effectiveness or cost so that’s a wash straight away.
I’ll start by getting this out in the open right off the bat – the Wave Serpent is likely point for point the single best transport in the game (at the time of writing). It’s fast, well-armoured, well-armed and very well priced not to mention an above average transport capacity. It can be armed in a multitude of ways to fit the army needs as well though the turret weapon selected is always a pair. To compare it accurately with the Fire Prisms options for fire modes – we need to select the Aeldari Missile Launchers as its main weapon.
A wave serpent with twin missile launchers is 157 points (not including the underslung weapon)
Where the Wave Serpent is a transport, the Fire Prism is the opposite – it’s there to shoot things! It’s still fast, well-armoured and armed but lacks any transport capacity. Its main weapon, the tanks name sake, features 3 separate fire modes to deal with multiple targets that may present themselves. Dispersed is to engage units of single models, Focused is a decent option for heavier infantry as well as light and medium vehicles while lance is the single shot damage dealer. If it remains stationary or moves less than half its movement it can also fire twice!
A fire prism is 155 points (not including the underslung weapon)
The Falcon sits in a curious middle ground between the 2 vehicles mentioned above. It’s got half the transport capacity of the Wave Serpent on the same hull as the fire prism. Its main turret is always armed with a Pulse Laser and one other heavy weapon. The pulse laser will be detailed later but it’s easiest to compare it to a 2 shot bright lance (less damage per shot mind you). The secondary weapon is your choice but again to keep the comparison fair, we will arm ours with an Aeldari Missile Launcher alongside the Pulse Laser to reflect the flexibility of the Fire Prism.
A falcon with Aeldari Missile Launcher and Pulse laser is 150 points (not including underslung weapons)
Let’s start with some weapon stats so we all know what we are talking about.
The missile launchers mentioned above have 2 fire modes
Sunburst – heavy D6, S4, -1ap, 1 damage, 48” range
Starshot – heavy 1, S8, -2ap, d6 damage, 48” range
The prism cannon has 3 fire modes
Lance – heavy 1, S12, -5ap, d6 damage, 60” range
Focused – heavy d3, S9, -4ap, d3 damage, 60” range
Dispersed – heavy d6, S6, -3, 1 damage, 60” range
The pulse laser has only got a single profile
Pulse laser – heavy 2, S8, -3ap, 3 damage, 48” range
All the tanks in question are BS3+ so that’s nice and easy. If they move, all the weapons are heavy so again they all take the same penalty and all have access to the crystal targeting matrix to negate that penalty if you target the closest enemy. We will ignore the CTM for this as we can simply use the BS3+ probability ranges to reflect the effect of this item. The Fire Prism can also fire twice which we will take a look at – simply doubling the damage inflicted in the below results for stationary and moving half distance (bs4+ in this case) gives us that data easily.
We have selected 4 fairly typical targets in the game across a range of durability for this test.
A squad of 10 Tactical Space Marines – T4, 3+ saves
An Astra Militarum Chimera transport – T7, 3+ save, 10 wounds
An Imperial Knight Paladin – T8, 3+ save, 24 wounds
A Space Marine Land Raider – T8, 2+ save, 16 wounds
These targets should give us good comparison points for other units as well. On to the weapons vs targets! We have used Mathhammer8thed to generate the basis for these examples and have been generous in the rounding in the summaries.
Assessment vs 10 Space Marines.
On the surface the fire prism should have this in the bag… until you realise the other 2 tanks also have d6 shot weapons. The maths suggests that the fire prism comes out on top by a fraction assuming it gets to fire twice but as soon as that situation changes the Falcon is the most effective. The wave serpent brings up the rear in terms of kills.
Assessment vs Chimera.
The choice to Focus or Lance is largely irrelevant for the prism. They wound at the same rate and deny the target a save. The choice then is d3 shots with d3 damage or 1 shot with d6. The D3’s win out most of the time in this case but it’s the falcon that deals more damage and more consistently. The guaranteed 2 shots at -3 and 3 damage alongside the 1 shot missile at -2 and d6 mean it averages out at over 3 unsaved wounds a volley. Once the Fireprism is allowed to fire twice it swings back towards the prism but not by a huge margin – around a single point of damage in its favour. Again the wave serpent languishes in the rear.
Assessment vs Imperial Knight.
The big boy himself… and one you would think is ideal for the prism cannon. It’s not! Even firing twice the fireprism will struggle to keep up with the falcon in terms of damage dealt. The 3 damage pulse laser is in its element here – its 2 shots guaranteed, wounding on 4+, forcing you to use your invulnerable save and then dealing flat 3 damage. The prism cannon with its random shots and random damage is simply too unpredictable to be counted on. Surprisingly the double missiles on the wave serpent are not that far behind.
Assessment vs Land Raider.
The higher save on the land raider but lack of an invulnerable sees the weapons of the fire prism and falcon come up almost a tie. Again the serpent isn’t really in the hunt. The double shot is all that lets the fire prism keep up!
So how is the Falcon able to keep up?
2 words – Pulse Laser. This weapon is nothing short of amazing. It’s a shame it’s not available on other chassis. The combination of 2 shots guaranteed, good strength, solid ap modifier and flat 3 damage mean that its reliably doing 3 wounds to a target pretty much every time it fires. The prism cannon is simply to inconsistent. There will be times when it fires 2d3 shots, rolls 6 shots, 6 hits and wounds and BAM! But most of the time its shooting 4 shots (only 1 more than the falcons pair of guns), its strength and save modifier are a little higher but not enough to make a huge difference but it’s the lack of consistent damage that hurts it the most. The fact it has to be stationary or move very slowly to match the pulse laser/missile combo adds yet more salt to the wound.
What about Link Fire?
Once you roll in and burn command points for linked fire, the whole thing changes in favour heavily towards the fire prism. The rerolls to hit and wound mean that the tanks consistently perform above the other 2 chassis. It has its downsides though. First off – it’s a finite resource. It’s not a huge big deal but it can be in a protracted game. Secondly you need 2 (or more!) fire prisms to make it work which means as soon as you lose the supporting tanks then the stratagem can’t be used – there is no such worry with the falcon. Lastly, the stratagem is only resolved at the end of the shooting phase for at least 1 tank – so you can’t use it to fire them all at once and guarantee you pop open a transport to then destroy the contents.
So we should all buy Falcons?
Well sort of. The falcon chassis is a great little tank. Its firepower is solid, it’s cheaper than its competition and it does reliable damage. It doesn’t use other resources to function either which is a plus. The problem lies in the mixed role it has. With only 6 spots for troops to sit you can’t carry guardians or wraithguard units at all and only smaller aspect warrior squads. The lack of serpent shield and slightly lower wounds combined with the half size capacity mean the serpent is clearly the winner for getting troops where they need to be safely. The serpent is also not hampered by other choices in its slot being dedicated transport rather than heavy support like the falcon.
If you want a gun boat that can double as a mini transport – the falcon is as solid as it gets. If you are short on CP and need to shoot down the enemy, the falcon is an admirable asset. If (like me) nostalgia keeps you using the oldest tank in the Aeldari arsenal, feel safe in the knowledge its far and away from being a bad choice!