It seemed like it took forever, but I'm finally through all of the Chapter Tactics and associated special characters. It's time to move on to the unaffiliated options that make up the bulk of the codex.
The Chapter Master has had a turbulent history in 40K, but his latest incarnation is now the combat beast that we’d always hoped for. With WS6 and 4 Attacks, he can dish out a fair amount of damage, and 4 wounds lets him soak up a fair amount as well. Beyond his impressive statline, he also can fire a single Orbital Barrage, a S10 AP1 large blast that is fairly inaccurate. This attack must annihilate the enemy sometimes. It has the stats to destroy an important enemy unit caught in the open, and it should hit 1/3 of the time. Certainly not something to plan for, but it’s a gimmick that should viciously shift the game in your favor every few games. Somehow, I’ve never seen it actually kill anything important. Just my dice, I guess; let me know if you have any more inspiring stories about it.
Chapter Masters depend heavily on their armament. Defensively, artificer armor and the Shield Eternal make him very durable and are essential for most builds. Offensively, he’s best off with either a power fist or relic blade, though the Burning Blade is a strong, if expensive, option. Finally, he needs a way to reach combat. A Land Raider works, of course, but the cheapest and fastest option is a bike. The bike also grants Relentless, allowing the Chapter Master to fire his Orbital Bombardment on the move. Terminator armor allows this as well, so is worth taking if you're using a Land Raider. Jump packs also have potential, but they lack the raw speed and increased toughness of the bike. They do allow you to Deep Strike, if that is important to your plan.
Several of the Chapter Tactics directly benefit a Chapter Master. An Iron Hands Chapter Master is probably the best, as he becomes very, very durable with the addition of Feel No Pain and It Will Not Die. A White Scars Chapter Master will be difficult to pin in combat thanks to Hit and Run, while a Salamanders Chapter Master has the best offense thanks to a master-crafted weapon. A Black Templar Chapter Master will be excellent in challenges and can take a relic blade rather than a power fist, trusting in Rending to deal with 2+ armor saves.
The Chapter Master is an understandably popular HQ choice. He provides a flexible and reliable assault character, something that Space Marines really lacked in their last codex. Though he can get quite expensive, he will go toe-to-toe with almost any other unit.
Taking a Chapter Master allows you access to an Honor Guard. This is a unit of Veterans with LD 10, artificer armor, bolters, bolt pistols, and power weapons. They automatically include a Champion, who has an extra attack and point of WS but must issue and accept challenges. They can be upgraded with relic blades, and the Champion can take a thunder hammer to give the squad some high strength attacks.
You can also take a Standard Bearer with either the Chapter Banner or Standard of the Emperor Ascendant. In addition to the morale effects of all standards, the Chapter Banner gives all members of the squad an extra attack while the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant gives the unit Fear and every friendly Space Marine unit within 6” Hatred. For the points, I think the Chapter Banner is the way to go, bringing each Honor Guard to a mighty 5 attacks on the charge! Hatred will provide more hitting power overall, but costs almost three times as much.
Honor Guard are a very useful budget assault squad. They easily have more attacks than Terminators while having the same save, are armed with a variety of power weapons along with their bolters, and cost slightly more than half the points. They lack any invulnerable save, so they won’t be quite as durable as Thunder Hammer/Storm Shield Terminators, but they cost much less. Their main problem is delivery. Once again, a Land Raider is the best option but is quite expensive. If you want to be threatening on the cheap, you can deploy them in a Rhino or Drop Pod. While they won’t be able to assault immediately, their bolters mean that they can do some damage when they disembark.
Note: The biggest problem with taking Honor Guard has nothing to do with their rules. There are only models for Ultramarines Honor Guards, so any other Chapter is out of luck. I still haven’t found a good answer for this and am currently collecting old power weapon armed models to make my own Honor Guard. Let me know if you know of any good solutions.