The amount of choice we are presented with when starting a new army, or first getting into the hobby, is simply astounding; so much so, we can overlook some of the more important details - such as really planning our army out before we purchase; we have two articles with helpful tips on this process here and here. One very important choice is the colour scheme and the theme of your army, regardless of whether you are a competitive player or a fluff bunny - we can take the (seemingly) easy route of just using a pre - existing scheme, or we can develop our own.
Click the 'read more' link below to get our tips and analysis on this matter.
I suppose the real conundrum facing a new Space Marine player is just what kind of army they should be playing, and what kind of colour scheme they should choose to really help emphasize the personality of their force. There are at time of writing, a total of six separate Codex's to choose from, with three of the these containing colour schemes for a few dozen more Chapters with some back story to go along with them - that is an overwhelming amount of choice when you consider that each of these books will really dictate the kind of army you can field; with numerous different options for troops as well as specializations and unique war - gear. The most common choice is utilizing the Vanilla Marine Codex to represent the poster - boys of the 41st millennium; the Ultra Marines. You've all seen it, the hordes of young boys with their poorly painted blobs of blue tactical marines that all inevitably have either Marneus Calgar or Cato Sicarius leading their random company; this isn't necessarily a bad thing - it is done quite intentionally; they are the most popular because they're everywhere you look.
Space Marines are bad - ass in every way, period. There are about 1000 chapters to choose from, but only a small amount of those chapters have been named - and only a few have canon colour schemes attached, and even fewer have solid back - ground information. The first thing you should consider when trying to choose a chapter is whether you want to represent an already existing force or invent your own.
When you invent your own chapter, you have free reign to create an interesting back story, true freedom in army selection, a choice of 7 Codex's to use (Chaos Space Marines can occasionally be a valid choice) and the ability to create a unique colour scheme; making your army entirely your own. This is awesome for those of us who like to spend a lot of time heavily converting and personalizing our forces - as there will never be another army out there that exactly mirrors your force and you can take pride in your creation; it really indulges the inventive and creative spark we all possess. A bonus is that you can never be accused of sacrificing fluff for the sake of a competitive army; as it is entirely your own army and only you can dictate what should be present in your force.
I believe the satisfaction one can achieve from creating an interesting and fun Home Brew Chapter can easily justify the huge amount of work that can go into making such a force work; and there is a lot of work can go into making a Home Brew Chapter. One major caveat is that there might not necessarily be a tutorial out there covering the colour or techniques you've chosen, and even then - it is much easier to find a relevant article on painting Ultra Marines then it is to to find articles on individual components of your model. There is also the mind - boggling amount of time & effort one can invest in really fine - tuning their scheme and refining their theme.
The other alternative is to choose an established Chapter and emulate the theme and colour scheme as closely as you desire - this has many implications on the nature of your force and the methods you evaluate it; and unfortunately, how others will evaluate your force. I find that having an army composed of the Imperial Fists 5th and 1st Company tends to draw a lot of attention from other people eager to get a look - as it bespeaks to the fluff in a way a Home Brew never will - which is both a blessing and a curse. Positive feedback is nice to have; yet what happens when you deviate from someone else's view on what your army should be like? Nerd - Rage. "What!? Salamanders with 9 Land Speeders and Vulcan leading the fourth Company!? That is not a Salamanders army!"
"Yes it is! They have the Forge World doors and the icon's and the colour scheme - and I'm only using Vulcan's rules as a stand in to use the chapter tactics rules!"
"But they're bloody Land Speeders, Salamanders don't have Land Speeders because Nocturne's gravity is too high, and..."
You don't think that can happen? It can - and it will; no matter what you do or try - there will always be some overly out-spoken basement dweller telling you you're wrong. That person does have a point according to their interpretation of the fluff - but that's the army you chose and the colour scheme you chose, what is the problem? Due to the nature of existing Chapters - you are somewhat restricted by popular opinion on what you can field. To build a fluffy, cool army - you need to stick to popular conceptions about that Chapter - which is restrictive in a demeaning way; any attempt to justify your outside - the - box choices will be met with snide remarks and outright hostility from others. You might be able to justify your choices with some inventive piece of background information that isn't canon; but people will merely see Salamanders with Land Speeders and call you a tool.
I have no Vindicators. I play Imperial Fists. You have no idea how many times I get asked why my Imperial Fists have no Vindicators; they are meant to be a siege army after all. How many bloody sieges do you play in Warhammer 40,000? Is it impossible to conceive Imperial Fists attacking things that are outside of walls? One bonus is that regardless of what people say, I can choose to ignore them - a skill which is necessary in all interactions with strangers. But if its all so much trouble, and people can be so picky - why would you bother playing an established army? The thrill, the pride I take in my faithful (contrary to what some think) recreations of my favourite Space Marine Chapter - I look at my collection and really feel that they are the Imperial Fists 5th Company, and that means something to me - it won't mean something to everyone, but to a fluff bunny such as myself - the feeling is unmatched and it keeps my motivation high. There is also the loop hole involved with picking a specific company from a Chapter - if you choose one that hasn't been documented in the fluff, you essentially can do what ever you like in regards to your HQ's and army composition.
There are a few other issues associated with picking an established Chapter - such as the fact that you may not want to do an army that your friend is also doing. An example is my interest in the Minotaurs Chapter - right up until one of my mates started up an army complete with Forge World enhancements. So...no more Minotaurs for me huh? There is also, inevitably the fact that because you're using established things - other people out there will judge your work in comparison to the works of others. Some of you may have heard something like the following; "Oh wow you have Ultramarines! I have Ultramarines too - but you should see Steve's Ultramarines - he won Golden Demon with some of his models - your's are OK though. What's with the bronze trim...?"
Not only can this be immensely disheartening to you, it can be extremely aggravating. All is not lost though - it is much easier to find tutorials on how to paint up your Chapter of choice and to a good standard, as well as a lot of pictures, models and artworks to use as inspiration - the value of this is immeasurable. Using an established Chapter also makes it easier to decide on a theme and stick to it, as well as making background information much easier to create - you also don't have to (sometimes) go through the pain of creating a Chapter icon, and you might even have access to transfers/brass etch stuff to make things easier.
You can always go half - way and pick a Chapter that has little - to - no background information or even an established colour scheme - this means you can be more flexible, be slightly more original with your forces and basically do what ever you feel like, yet still have a recognizable name and some established fluff to build off - which can be a fun undertaking in and of itself; good Chapters for this (as an example) are; the Viper Legion, the Tauran, the Night Hawks, the Death Spectres and the Exorcists.
On the whole, I think both styles of army are valid choices, both with their fair share of issues when compared to the other - It really is up to the player, however; if you're not sure which one is for you, then I'd advise writing up some army lists and try and squeeze the units in that you like the most - then try and find a Chapter that fits that, if you don't like the colours or can't find anything that you really connect with - then make your own! Either way, you'll still end up with an army of ultimate blood - drinking, venom spitting, sterile bad - ass super soldiers to tear armies apart with. We will be posting articles to help you go more into depth with the two choices in the near future, with some helpful tips for both kinds of armies - as always, feel free to comment here, on Facebook or over on the +Bell of Lost Souls Lounge and let us know what you think, or what you'd like to see in future articles!