The debate between Spartan and Caestus is certainly a regular one, and a very difficult one to decide on so I totally understand and appreciate the desire for clear answers. I have broken down my opinion into the information below, which is built from my experience, rules analysis and general feedback from talking to others about it. It isn't gospel, nor is it unfounded, but it is opinion so take it with a pinch of salt; contents may differ from those on the package and your mileage may vary from the floor model...
- AV14 with 5HP means the Spartan is going to be tough to shift, especially if you take the frankly auto-include holy trinity of Dozer Blade, Ceramite and Flare Shield (If you don't take these then you shouldn't really be using a Spartan, stick to a Land Raider instead).
- 2x Quad Lascannons kick out a decent amount of firepower with great range, and the twin-linking makes them very reliable for dealing with irritating vehicles, yolo-shooting at fliers fishing for those 6's to hit or killing lone HQ choices who decide to cause problems for you (like Moritats and the like).
- Fairly good speed if you sacrifice shooting; 18" of movement a turn assuming no immobilization occurs when blitzing through walls and stuff is very good and can get you into prime position by the end of your 2nd movement phase and ready for a good charge if you do it right.
- When this thing dies, everything inside has a strong chance of surviving as you don't have to recreate that scene from World War Z and engage full Brad Pitt mode to survive the oncoming crash. Spartans just fall apart gracefully and quietly and let you emerge from the wreck in true badass fashion.
- Getting hold of a Spartan is ezpz - you just go onto Forgeworld, hand over a bag of money and they send you a brick in return. Neat.
- First turn alpha strike can delete a Spartan very easily, as Peltasts/Hoplites in Termites or Machine-killer Veterans in pods exist and can deal with a Spartan fairly easily (Peltasts just delete Spartans whereas MC vets need a bit more luck to obliterate one)
- Spartans are vulnerable to immobilized or stunned results early, and given the 5-turn argument, any turn where it can't move is a real blow to where it can end up in some games. This also applies to unfortunate luck with Difficult Terrain, but Dozer Blades or the right Legion/RoW can mitigate that somewhat.
- It's really easy to box a Spartan in, as they are quite big so deploying units to minimise its movement is really key. I've seen people do drop lists where they bring down 2 or 3 tactical squads purely to box the Spartan and stop people getting out of it, as the access points are easy to wall-off and you can't disembark if you tank shock your way through the rabble.
- Everyone runs a Spartan with a deathstar unit in it. Seriously you can almost set your watch with how many you see at events ferrying a Primarch into battle. Don't be one of the herd, be your own special snowflake and run a Primarch in a Land Raider, or a Mastodon, or even a Stormlord if you're feeling fruity. I respect the player who swings a Kharybdis out with a Primarch in, they've paid the iron price for building that thing and most likely have enough of their blood in that model to call it a relative...
- Hard to hit, Jink, Invulnerable save on the front arc and decent AV/HP's for a flier makes this thing surprisingly resilient when in zooming mode. Only the toughest of AA options will threaten this monster when it arrives.
- Infinitely faster than the Spartan, and can go from one deployment zone to the other in a single turn if it turbo-boosts in the shooting phase rather than firing. Outflanking this or deep striking is a real boon to it as well, giving you lots of options and flexibility.
- Onboard weaponry is crazy good, a large blast (albeit short-ranged) melta cannon means that you can either go tank hunting with this thing, or (my personal favourite) delete entire units of terminators if you get a good set of rolls. The option for 2 krak missile launchers is really nice as well for supplementing any tank hunting roles you want this thing to do.
- Machine Spirit is infinitely more useful on the Caestus than the Spartan, as being able to do constant barrel rolls while firing your melta cannon is not only comical, but very effective. Jink all the time unless you really really need to fire those 2 krak missile shots into something as well. On the occasions where you don't jink, fire the missiles at an unlucky rhino and the melta cannon at an even unluckier terminator unit in front of you.
- Late-game arrival is quite common, unless you're playing a Legion like Sons of Horus (with the reserves bonuses) or have a Damocles on standby.
- Lower AV than the Spartan means something like a Deredeo can turn you inside out if you roll badly, but to be honest you still shouldn't be mortally afraid; a 4+ jink or 5++ on the front can still do a lot to save your bacon.
- When you crash in zooming mode, everything inside suffers critical existence failure, as having to tank S10 AP2 hits on each model is really punishing as you'll more often than not have an expensive terminator unit in there so every loss will suck.
- Good luck getting a model for this unless you have a very generous friend (Josh you're a lifesaver if you're reading this), or have a kidney to spare to go hunting on eBay or you simply wish to embrace the skills from the East and go to a recaster for one.
- Primarchs are not allowed onboard; they are too tall to ride. The only exception is Alpharius because he can pretend to be one of the boys and ride shotgun. This needs addressing by Forgeworld (particularly for the Primarchs in Artificer armour).
In my personal opinion, the Caestus is the winner in terms of flexibility and application, but I'm a Sons of Horus player who likes using sneaky outflank and "engage on all fronts" style of play so that may affect my opinion. I'm also in the lucky position of owning 2 good-condition and legit Caestus'/Caestii and not owning a single Spartan so I guess that says more about my style of play than any of my opinions ever could...
I hope my summary helps when making your decision on what to field, they're both solid units with upsides and downsides and it really depends on your meta, what army you run and what you want to field. Happy hunting!
Edited by The Ironic Warrior, 06 April 2021 - 10:30 AM.