We have all had one. Its that one car, truck or SUV that never died. It still worked for you even though the seats were trashed, it held oil about as well as a pasta strainer, and power steering was still a dream that this car would never see. No matter what however, this vehicle never failed you. It was always there for you when you needed it, which was often. Thats how I see the space marine rhino. While it doesnt have the biggest armor value or weapons payload, its always there to get your troops across the battlefields of the 40k universe. You could use them for decoys, to block line of site, to keep troops safe while holding objectives, or just annoy somebody with the stupid stormbolter on top. It may not have lasted till turn 7, but it was there when you needed it 8/10 times. What else could you use to move your guys across the board while creating a mobile firing platform and ensuring that pesky low level massive amounts of firepower cant widdle down your troops, AND only cost 35 points?! This vehicle is such a mainstay in most 5th edition space marine armies, and I think that sometimes it gets overlooked when it comes to new tactics and strategies. It is such a versatile vehicle that it can do a multitude of different things, but dont get too careless with it, becuase for all its advantages it can still be blown up with a single shot.
The first massive pro for this vehicle is the points cost. With no add ons, the rhino comes in at 35 points, which is a cheap and awesome way to provide extra protection and mobility for a squad. The rhino can be used as a mobile firing platform, almost turning the squad inside into a mobile pillbox. While heavy and rapid fire weapons are effected if the rhino moves, it is still a great way to shoot down close troops, or wait until next turn and fire a squad's multi-melta or fire their bolters at maximum range while still sitting comfortably inside. The rhino can also help deliver your men to an objective or point of interest while ensuring that they will be alive and ready for the fight. The fact that the rhino lets two passengers fire from the top hatch is a nice perk, and may draw some fire away from other units, especially if the passengers embarked have some gross weaponry. Another huge positive is that the rhino has the REPAIR special rule, meaning that the rhino has a chance of fixing an immobilized damage result. It has to be done in the shooting phase instead of firing a weapon, and a roll of 6 is needed, but we all have seen people roll "box cars" before, and it can keep your troops moving towards the enemy. Being able to keep a 35 point transport in the game even after the enemy thought they had nullified it can be quite frustrating for your opponent, especially now since he has to divert more firepower at this one extremely low cost vehicle that may have a very important unit inside. The rhino also forces the opponent to blow it up before being able to assault the troops inside. Low strength weaponry/units will not be able to shoot or assault the troops, leaving them helpless as it barrels by. The rhino also has the ability to move at cruising speed, increasing the roll to hit needed if an enemy wants to assult the vehicle. This is a very frustrating tactic, and one that I see quite often at The Forgotten Chapter from a certain salamanders player. Needing 6's to even hit with a strength 4 model can make you rethink how your going to deal with the rhino, possibly diverting a stronger unit to deal with it instead of devoting that specialized unit to a specific (and probably more important task). There are some basic tricks that experienced space marine players use when it comes to maneuvering and deploying such an adaptive vehicle.
One such trick involves blocking line of sight/path of movement. Two rhinos are needed, and the deployment of both needs to be quite perfect. The space marine player puts both of the rhinos next to each other front to back, and bring the backside rhino around to create an inner angle of greater than 90 degrees. The units inside are then deployed, and made sure that they can all see out of the small triangular fire point created by the back side rhino being postioned slightly off from the front one. This inner fire point allows all of the space marines disembarked to be able to fire, while eliminating much of the line of sight that the enemy will have on the squads. Even if the enemy can see one or two units, the majority of the squad is in cover, and will make sure that you get a cover save. This tactic can also be used to make sure that the inner squad wioll not be assaulted until after the rhinos have been moved or destroyed. If deployed correctly, the player can force the enemy to move around the rhinos to assault the units, maybe forcing them into difficult or dangerous terrain, and can possibly stop the ability of the oncoming unit to reach the space marines.
One tactic that I have only seen once, but I feel can be quite effective if used correctly. This tactic also involves two rhinos, and they need to be deployed close together. During the movement phase, the rhinos will advance on a given position, and then one rhino will pull in front of the other, followed by the back rhino making a parallel move. The front rhino uses its smoke launcher to give it, and ultimately the rhino behind it, a cover save. The next turn, both rhinos pivot to face the desired location and they move once again, this time the back rhino will move in front and turn sideways followed by the other rhino. After this movement, the front rhino now uses its smoke launcher to create a cover save for both rhinos. This is an effective tactic of giving two advancing vehicles the benefit of a cover save without having to hide them in terrain or behind something that may slow their movement. It also grants the vehicles a cover save for two turns, making it all the more possible to get the rhinos even closer to their intended targets.
A favorite tactic of mine requires the unit inside to have regular meltaguns or plasma guns. This tactic increases the range of the model's weapon, but can be a very risky endeavour. Make sure that you have as many melta/plasma guns in this squad as you can, and hope that you hit whatever your target is. The rhino moves towards a vehicle or unit with an armor value. After moving, the rhino pivots so that the back of the rhino is now facing the target. The squad then deploys, using its 2" disembark move, then fires on the vehicle. The extra pivoting of the vehicle, as well as the 2' disembark move can get your much needed melta or plasma gun in range for them to do the most damage as possible. I have used this tactic before and have had much success, and if the unit fails to hit or destroy its target, it forces the opponent to address the threat of that squad, which may now be dangerously close to an important vehicle or unit. while this tactic is highly situational, it is nice to know that you can get some extra range on a melta or plasma gun when you really need it. The mobile Rhino can also be used to get a troops squad closer to an objective, and can even keep them safe while they are holding it or preparing to move in place to capture or contest it. Rhinos make ideal troop transports, but for all their positive characteristics, they can still be easily destroyed if not properly taken care of.
The rhino's biggest flaw is that it is only AV 11 front and side armor with AV 10 in the rear. This means that anything with a strength value totalling strength 4 or more can glance/penetrate it if a rear shot is taken, and anything with a strength value of 5 or more can do the same thing to the front and the sides. This leaves many weapons and units able to blow up or cripple this transport, forcing the controlling player to be bold yet very cautious. DONT be careless with thses vehicles, cause they can easily be turned into a waste of 35 points, and can even end up hurting the units inside when the vehicle explodes, causing armor saves and a pinning test to be made. The rhino is also not as fast as some other transports. It is not a fast vehicle or a skimmer, meaning that it is effected by difficult terrain and can get stuck while trying to advance. The farthest the vehicle can move in any given turn is 12", which is not horrible, but is no where near fast enough when your trying to race across the battlefield before the enemy shoots at its armor that sometimes seems to be no thicker than a sheet of aluminum foil. Depending on deployment, a rhino can also turn into a road block for your own forces, especially if you have inadvertantly bottlenecked yourself with a couple of rhinos that soon get immobilized or wrecked, causing the vehicles behind to move around them or take dangerous terrain tests. A rhino is not very big, and can be easily surrounded by a horde stylized army. If an experienced player completely surrounds the rhino with the intent of blowing it up, then they can change the vehicle into a death trap for the inhabitants. Upon destroying the rhino there is no way for your forces to "emergency disembark" from the vehicle since it is completely surrounded, instead your forces are IMMEDIATELY destroyed, without any armor saves and regardless of toughness. A rhino sadly carries just a storm bolter as its weapons payload, and makes it less desirable to the enemy unless there are troops embarked. It also limits the versatility of the rhino to that of a pure transport vehicle, and not a separate weapons platform with the ability to perform important battlefield functions without the embarked models. This leaves the rhino as a virtually useless "shell" after the models have disembarked. While it can still tank shock, contest objectives, and shoot at low toughness units, it lacks the tactical "importance" or potential to always be a game changing vehicle all by itself. The rhino should be used with caution, and should never be thrown into a battle without tactical preparation being made first. This vehicle can still be quite a deathtrap and can really be hard to strategically deploy and maneuver without proper consideration and planning.
The rhino can be both a rugged mainstay or a waste of 35 points depending on the army deployment, vehicle utilisation, and tactical preparation made by the controlling player. The rhino can be the best way to get your troops to where they need to go, but dont leave all of them vulnerable at once. Try and use different tactics to keep the opponent guessing on how your going to use this potentially versatile vehicle. Most opponents expect to see these vehicles come barreling at the enemy line or cruising to the nearest objective, so make sure to mix it up and keep them guessing on what your rhinos are going to attack next. At the very least, keeping your opponent guessing on what your rhinos will do next will force them to devote more time and energy on stopping the transports, instead of trying to bring down your Stormraven or Land Raider. By forcing your opponent to change their strategy, and by keeping them guessing on how your going to utilize such a versatile vehicle will hopefully keep them frustrated, while providing you with the tactical freedom to do what you want, when you want. Hopefully you can have fun fielding such a vehicle, and your enemy will have fun trying to blow them up!