Friday, June 19, 2015

My Favorite Things about the New Space Marines (and a few bits I'm not crazy about)

Space Marines are back, and they've gotten quite the overhaul. The changes to units are relatively subtle, but the changes to army structure are pretty massive, and overall quite fluffy. Without further ado, lets jump in!

Things I like:

A basic Executioners Battle Demi-Company

The Gladius Strike Force and the Battle Demi-Company: This is the new Space Marine Detachment. It's based on a Demi-Company consisting of a Captain or Chaplain, and optional Command Squad, 3 Tactical squads, an Assault squad, Bike Squad, Land Speeder squad, or Centurion Assault squad, a Devastator or Centurion Devastator squad, and an optional squad of Dreadnoughts. Beyond that, it can take a variety of support Formations, including detachments from the First and Tenth Companies and the Chapter Armory. Altogether, these will produce forces that really fit the background, rather than a unit of Centurions and Characters supported by two squads of Scouts.

This Detachment wouldn't be worth discussing if it didn't come with some good perks to make people play with it. The Detachment allows your army to use the Tactical, Assault, and Devastator Doctrines each once, and the Demi-Company allows you to to use the Tactical Doctrine again (though it only affects members of the Demi-Company). When combined with Chapter Tactics, these will make for some pretty impressive forces. Ultramarines won't be left out, either. An Ultramarine Gladius Strike Force will be able to use all three Doctrines twice, and the Tactical Doctrine a third time. That is a boatload of re-rolls.

On top of all that, all members of the Demi-Company are Objective Secured. This is pretty huge, as it includes non-Troops. In my army, this means that my Captain and mounted Command squad are Objective Secured. They've always been brutal, but now the can take enemy objectives too. This really turns Space Marines into a great army for playing the mission. They still have the capacity to kill the enemy, but they will hold onto objectives like no other army in the game.

Weirdly, this is the first Detachment that I've seen that doesn't grant a re-roll on its Warlord Trait. I looked all over but can't find this anywhere. Let me know if you find it and I missed it somewhere. The lack of this ubiquitous re-roll is kind of bizarre.

Finally, if you take two Demi-Companies (i.e. a full Company), all of the squads can take a transport vehicle for free. That's an astounding amount of points savings, and I expect it to make its way to the top tables of tournaments with some regularity.  In order to fit into standard point games, you'll need to limit your squads to 5 marines, but that works well with massed Razorbacks, which are the most efficient way to spend the points.

Grav Cannons are now available as basic heavy weapons, meaning that Tactical and Devastator squads can take them now. I'm not sure how common they'll be seen on Devastators, as I think that Devastator Centurions still perform that role better. However, it's a huge boon for Tactical squads as it finally provides them with a heavy weapon that is effective on the move. It's very expensive (almost twice the cost of a lascannon) but I still think it's a worthwhile choice.

Scouts are WS and BS 4 with no increase in cost. I was already a big fan of Scouts, and this makes them even better. If you take the Scout Formation, they also get Stealth until they take an action and gain Precision Shots for the first game turn. These aren't major buffs, but the Formation is cheap and easy to take, so definitely worth it.

Vehicle Squadrons really open up our Heavy Support slots. In most cases, the unit gets a significant buff when you field three of them, but only as long as there are three on the table. For example, Predators gain Tank Hunter and Monster Hunter while Vindicators can fire a single Ignores Cover Apocalyptic Blast. However, these squads will cost a lot and will lose their snazzy special rules when they lose a single model. I think the big beneficiaries are our cheaper tanks, like Whirlwinds or Stalkers. Before, they were worth the points but not the slot. Now a unit of 3 Stalkers provides serious anti-air firepower for a low opportunity cost, while 3 Whirlwinds cost less than 2 Thunderfire Cannons and do a very competitive amount of damage.

Terminators have dropped 5 points a model. I'm not sure if it makes them terribly competitive, but it substantially reduces the cost of a squad. It's nice to be able to field Terminators without feeling like I'm handicapping myself. Assault Terminators also dropped 5 points, but thunder hammers and storm shields increased in cost to compensate.

Thunderfire Cannons went up to BS5 and the Techmarine got 2 wounds. These are obviously nice improvements, and it means that Techmarines should stand in front of their guns from now on. As an added bonus, if you take 3 Thunderfires in a squad, they go up to BS 6. You won't be missing much then.

Dreadnoughts all go up to 4 attacks, making them respectable assault units for the first time in forever.  The biggest winner is the Ironclad, as it's a dedicated assault unit, but even the standard Dreadnought is a force to be reckoned with it if it reaches assault.

Vanguard Veterans got much better. Heroic Intervention still allows them to ignore the penalties for disordered charges, but now it also allows them to re-roll one or both dice when determining charge distance. We finally have an assault unit that can reliably make a charge! Also, they get a 10 point discount on all special close combat weapons. A unit loaded out with power weapons and lightning claws is now a very viable choice. I'm thinking my Executioners will need a squad soon.

Pedro Kantor finally has artificer armor. It doesn't make him great, but it's an obvious improvement to his survivability that he desperately needed.

Imperial Fist Bolter Drill applies to Sternguard special ammunition! This is one that I've been waiting for, and I'll be taking Sternguard again because of this. Vengeance rounds will be amazing with the ability to re-roll 1s.

The Librarius Conclave finally allows Space Marines to compete in the psychic phase. With the ability to take 3-5 Librarians (which can use any of the psychic disciplines), and allow them to harness Warp Charge points on a 2+ if they all stay close together, Space Marines go from the bottom of the psychic pile to being able to compete with Eldar in the psychic phase.

Things I'm not too happy about:

The Gladius Strike Force is quite restrictive.  Want to take a second Assault or Devastator squad? You have to take a second Demi-Company. Want to add a Predator to your army? You have to add at least 3 tanks and a Techmarine. Unlike the Necron and Eldar Detachments, there are no options to add single units. You have to add a whole formation for everything. Fortunately, most of the Formations are reasonable in size and come with decent to good abilities, but it really limits your ability to customize an army. Of course, the upside of this is that it results in armies that fit the background.

White Scars have only gotten better. All of their models get Hit and Run (Terminators and Centurions used to be excluded), they can re-roll their dice when making Run moves, and any HQ on a Bike unlocks Bike squads (which no longer need to be at least 5 models) as Troops. That's right, White Scar grav spam got even better. Even so, I do expect other Chapter Tactics to make more of an appearance now for a few reasons. First, almost all of them got a bit better. Not as good as White Scars, but the gap is closing. Second, a White Scar bike army cannot fill out a Gladius Strike Force, as there's no option to take Bike squads in place of Tacticals even if they count as Troops. If you want to take advantage of its perks, you'll have to limit your Bikes to one squad per Demi-Company.

Lemartes is angrier than usual.

My Blood Angels feel very left behind. Now I know how Dark Angels always feel. I don't begrudge Space Marines having their own units. I don't even mind that their Tactical squads can take grav cannons. Blood Angels can take Heavy Flamers, so that seems like a fair trade. I'm more bothered by the disparities across identical units. Why are Blood Angels Terminators more expensive? Our Scouts less skilled? If Blood Angels Vanguard Veterans had the rules and options of their Space Marine counterpart, they would actually be a good option. I know GW had to make a change between books, so some players have to feel left behind. Even so, the release windows were so close together, I would hope that some of the rule changes for Space Marines would have leaked over to Blood Angels during development.

I'll continue reviewing the Codex as I get the chance to delve more deeply into it, but these were the highlights from my first pass. Did I miss anything that you're excited about? Let me know.


  1. I agree with everything you said here. I've digested this book a thousand times over and I'm not unhappy in the slightest. The only real problem I MIGHT have with the book is that my Ultramarines are once again the worst option in their own book (ONLY because everyone else gets to 'steal' their ability and have their own unique one with proper formation love), but that's not saying much considering that they don't suck (it just means Iron Hands and White Scars are even better!).
    Where I definitely agree is the comparison to the other books. I think that it's not fair that Space Marines have better trained Scouts (maybe the BA have to 'refill' so fast that they lose out on training time?), more ferocious Dreadnoughts (so even the SW ancients are just 'slower'?), and squadrons everywhere (because IG didn't to be unique in any way whatsoever from Eldar, Marines, and everyone else, plus my Orks have been wanting Dread Mobs for so long that FW even produced a list! But we still don't get it while the Astartes do...). But, and this is a big deal, it's just proof of the game 'scaling up' and it's not really game-breaking (especially compared to what's coming out after DA, who still suck but now have formations to prove it). I LOVE this codex!!!

  2. I really don't think Ultramarines are the losers here. Sure, any other Chapter can get access to Doctrines, but Ultramarines can get access to another full set.

    Let's be honest, the Tactical and Devastator Doctrines are the most important giving how predominant shooting is in 40K and in the Space Marine Codex specifically. Ultramarines using a Gladius Strike Force can use the Tactical Doctrine 3 times and the Devastator Doctrine twice. That means that your whole army has some sort of re-roll when shooting for 5 turns out of the game (rather than the 3 any other Chapter would have in the same situation). There's a 1/3 chance that that's the whole game.

    I would put that up against most of the other Chapter Tactics. I certainly think it stands on its own against the Imperial Fists that I use. I do agree that White Scars really stand out as the best Tactic, but they won't get access to any Doctrines if they take the bikes they need, so maybe it balances out.

    1. Absolutely! I'm not complaining that the Ultrasmurfs suck by any means. I just enjoyed being 'unique' for a book. As far as the Gladius and all that jazz, honestly the Ultramarines are the only ones that would really use it. All of the other Chapter Tactics are outstanding and really need CAD to be able to take full advantage of (imagine squadrons of Dreadnoughts as Iron Hands or Raven Guard jump-spam). It doesn't mean that other Chapters won't use the Gladius, but they won't need to. The UltraBoyScouts- well, why wouldn't we? Three Tac-pops because THE Lord of War showed up is AWESOME!

      So yeah, I do agree with you. :-D

  3. BTW, hate to rain on the Blood Angels Parade even further, but space Marines have heavy flamers on their weapon weapons list now too. so SMs can take heavy flamers on their tac squads. course to get the bits we'll need to buy the blood angels tac squad. still depending on how the bits hammer out, it might be more efficant to buy that squad if you're planning on using the Ultramarine upgrade kit anyway

  4. The heavy flamer is in the Space Marine heavy weapons list, but it has a footnote that it's only available to Sternguard and Legion of the Damned, so it's available to the same units as last codex. Blood Angels Tactical squads still maintain a little bit of uniqueness.

    I wouldn't pick up a Blood Angels Tactical squad for any other Chapter unless you want to use a lot of wings and blood drops in your iconography. They're absolutely covered in them, and cleaning them off without damaging the models would be quite a chore. If you're looking for heavy flamers, I would suggest



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