Lets begin with what we know about the land raider. It has an armor value rating of 14 on all faces, making it the 2nd most armored vehicle in the game (Monolith being 1st). The LR also has the wonderful special rules 'Assault Vehicle' and 'Power of the Machine Spirit'. The first allows a squad to disembark AFTER the LR has moved that turn, and still charge into combat. This is a huge advantage for a tank and the squad embarked, allowing its passengers to effectively have up to a 18" movement that turn. The latter special rule is extremely important, allowing for an additional BS4 shot to be taken on top of those normally allowed by the tank. If your vehicle gets hit and you become 'Crew Shaken', PotMS will fire one weapon for you. Or, if you already fired the maximum amount of weapons allowed (but still have some left to fire) at one squad, PotMS will gladly smite a different enemy squad if you would like it to. Standard included upgrades for the LR consist of smoke launchers and a searchlight (which might find limited uses, but are there if the need arises). However, it can be upgraded with a Pintle-mounted Multimelta, extra armor, storm bolter, and a hunter-killer missile. I would strongly advise looking into fitting the multimelta onto any LR variant you pick for added anti-mech capabilities. The last big shared trait all land raiders share is the ability to transport terminators. It is the only unit in the SM army that allows this, so if you want some additional protection for your Veterans, the LR is their chariot of death.
Now lets take a more specific look at each land raider beginning with the original Land Raider. Like all of the LR variants, AV14 is essential to protecting both the cargo and weapons layout of the tank. We find a hull mounted twin-linked heavy bolter and two sponson twin-linked lascannons. It is also able to carry a squad of 12 models into battle for the cost of 250 points. When the average SM player looks at this tank, he or she says: "Wow! This is an excellent tank killer! Two twin-linked lascannons?!? Thank you, may I have another?" To this, I make the response: "NO!". The original Land Raider is not a very good tank killer, and this is why. On any given time on the battle field, 'True Line of Sight' comes into play when shooting. Unfortunately for our friend the LR, its a big tank. Really big. Even with the size of the lascannon, the sponsons are mounted on the tank in such a way that its not able to direct both sets of lascannon at a target in front of it. Each sponson is only allowed an arc of sight of only 180 degrees as it would fire into its own armor. As such, unless the enemy is a large vehicle and DIRECTLY in front of the LR, you only get one lascannon shot per vehicle. Now, if you are incredibly lucky with your rolls, I would agree that this LR is able to kill far more total tanks than anything else because of PotMS, but lets face it, the dice never play fair. Whats more, you can only fire two of the three weapons at a squad for the same reason (although PotMS will allow you to fire at a different squad with the other one). Sporting the heavy bolter, I would contend that this does not effectively kill either vehicles or infantry. And with a transport capacity of only 12, there are better options.
This brings us to the Land Raider Crusader. It has all of the options of the original LR, plus it also has Frag Assault Launchers and transports a whopping 16 models. The FAL system may seem redundant as most units in the Space Marine army already come with them as per standard. However, the main payload you will be taking across the board is likely to be terminators, who are conveniently without them. The weapons layout is quite a bit different from original LR. It no longer comes standard with the Pintle-Mounted Multimelta or extra armor as was the case in 4th Edition, but as with the other LR variants, it may be upgraded with it. The hull mounted weapon is a twin-linked assault cannon and the sponsons house the Hurricane Bolters (3 twin-linked bolters that fire as one weapon). Best of all? The Hurricane Bolter counts as a defensive weapon so you may always fire both unless you have moved at cruising speed that turn. Unlike the original LR, the Hurricane Bolters sponsons may be modeled to the front of the tank, allowing for a much much larger firing range. Unfortunately, the Crusader doesn't do a very good job at taking out enemy vehicles. It will have limited success against light armored tanks at best, but its real advantage comes when it concentrates on infantry. With a combination of the two Hurricane Bolter sponsons and the assault cannon, you can put out a potential 16 shots with rerolls to hit! Say good bye to that hormagaunt or gretchin squad! Perfect for softening up a target squad for assault. Needless to say, with the transport capacity of 16 models (or 8 terminators), 16 shot potential, and frag grenades...its likely whatever you are driving at will be slaughtered. It is, however, the most expensive of the variants at 265 points.
The last variant is the Land Raider Redeemer. This new LR has seen recent popularity, but I'm not convinced it isn't due to the new and shiny policy many players take with new Games Workshop releases. The Redeemer also has the FAL system but only can transport 12 models. This beast is armed with the deadly hull mounted assault cannon and the new sponson weapons Flamestorm Cannons. This is a new template flame weapon with Str 6 and AP 3. Sweet MEQ killer right? Well, if you place a template out from the weapons as if you were actually firing it, you will see that it has an extremely limited range. The only viable option is to take its cargo straight into the enemy, and get as close as possible (aiming for a broadside if you are able). This is highly situational and your enemy will know that venturing too close to these cannons mean death so will likely remain largely out of range for most of the game. Fortunately, this weapon is extremely useful against horde armies such as 'Nids, Orcs, or Imperial Guard as its often too hard to maneuver out of range of the Flamestorm Cannon by the time it hits the line. On the plus side, this variant costs only 250 points.
So in summary, don't ever take the original Land Raider in your army lists. If you need a dedicated anti-tank unit, the Triple Lascannon Predator is a much more affordable and effective option. If you need transport capabilities, you'll be taking a LRC. On that vein, the LRC is the king of transports. Able to take 16 models into the fray with a reasonable chance of survival, you force your opponent to actively try and eliminate the LRC or face the deadly squad inside. Plus, this vehicle is exceptionally adept at killing infantry with its high volume of fire per turn. Lastly, the Redeemer. You wouldn't take it solely for its transport capabilities (though you would over the original LR!), but if you know you'll be facing a horde style enemy the flamestorm cannon will be brutally effective. Unfortunately, you often don't know who you will be facing in advance, so you will find the Redeemer nearly useless in many battles. Now, knowing all of this, which LR variant do I take into battle? The Crusader every time.
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