8 Sep 2015

Tactica Space Marines - General Overview

Greetings all and welcome to the beginning of a new series of Space Marine articles! This particular entry will be on the shorter side but I hope it serves as a prelude to something far greater; the Seven Days of Glory are merely one part of what I have planned for the Adeptus Astartes. I hope you enjoy this quick look and summary of the Space Marine codex!

In keeping with my other codex summaries, this will be a quick look at any of the significantly reworked wargear options, special rules and so on as well as a brief summary of the various Warlord Traits and Relics. To say this is one heck of a flavorful codex would be an understatement!

Army Special Rules

Chapter Tactics - While not all of these saw significant changes, most or all saw a few minor tweaks or effects on their functionality with the latest rule-set.

Ultramarines - The Combat Doctrines changed significantly - mostly in the form of buffs - but regardless of how one perceives them now their value increased exponentially with the Skyhammer formation and other such combinations making the "free" inclusion of the Combat Doctrines far more worthwhile.

White Scars - Functionally Bikers stayed roughly the same for White Scars save that the actual Jink rules themselves were reworked for 7th Edition, making Jagatai's Legion far more difficult to kill but forcing them to compromise on shooting attacks for that improved durability. What really stands out though is the fact that all White Scars now benefit from Hit and Run, rather than preventing Terminators and Centurions from benefiting from it - importantly, this means Dreadnoughts can Hit and Run too; yikes! They even gained a "footnote" passive ability to re-roll the dice for determining Run moves which is nice but ultimately a questionable inclusion considering most would agree White Scars have had the best Chapter Tactics for two editions running.

Imperial Fists - The major modification here was to allow Sternguard Veterans to benefit from Bolter Drill with their special issue ammunition, a change that serves to make that unit utterly ridiculous - especially with Pedro Kantor. Otherwise, vehicles and buildings have increased in popularity with 7th Edition thus making the Tank Hunter and specific anti-building rules even better where the two Devastator-type units are concerned; what is important to note is that these units now also re-roll their armour penetration rolls against buildings as well which is a very nice buff.

Black Templars - The changes to the main special rule provisions for Black Templar are mostly superficial with Adamantium Will being made arguably worse with the introduction of a Psychic Phase and the insane capabilities of psyker-heavy armies to force powers through, though sadly their characters did lose re-rolls on to-hit rolls and Rending in challenges. To make up for this Black Templars instead received a more fluffy rule benefiting the whole army; suffering wounds to Shooting or Overwatch provides them with Counter-Attack or Rage, respectively, which makes the melee prowess of the force as a whole much better. They still have arguably the weakest Chapter Tactics with respect to the current competitive meta but I feel like they are better off than they were before.

Iron Hands - The addendum to the Feel No Pain bonus that it can stack with other sources of Feel No Pain was a change most agreed with, though certainly those that have been on the receiving end of a "1+" Feel No Pain rolling Chapter Master would beg to differ. Elsewhere, the greater emphasis on destroying vehicles via hull point removal plus all of the various vehicle squadron and formation bonuses make Iron Hands so darned jolly to play with nowadays.

Salamanders - The one change here is an unusual one in that instead of re-rolling failed armour saves against "flamer" weapons, Salamanders now instead gain Feel No Pain (4+) against those attacks. Strictly speaking this isn't as good as it used to be given that most flame-type weapons don't ignore 3+ armour saves and many of those that do are - for whatever reason, like the Heldrakes' Baleflamer - not classified as "flamer" weapons. Ultimately, you want these Chapter Tactics for their offensive and not defensive bonuses so this is more of a footnote than anything else.

Raven Guard - The other unfortunate prior contender for "weakest Chapter Tactics", Raven Guard got some nice bonuses; all of their non-vehicle models now have Shrouded on the first turn rather than a more restricted Stealth bonus, while the Night Fighting dice roll bonus is handy enough. Their Jump Infantry remained identical, but one glaring problem quickly made itself evident; they lost army-wide Scout, the only thing that made them even remotely worth taking over the other Chapters competitively. An army of Scouting Space Marines can be terrifying - see Khan-led White Scars - if played well, so removing that to instead provide a stronger defensive bonus that applies only on the first turn and won't matter against many armies like Eldar and Tau seems downright silly.

Combat Doctrines - All three of these have either received straight buffs or were reworked entirely to coincide with the fact that all Chapters can now potentially benefit from them if they use certain formations and the Gladius Strike Force. Ultimately, these make your army incredibly efficient in any given turn at the job you need the force to accomplish and they are darned awesome in certain builds such as the Skyhammer, though some might complain these have been "homogenized" to remove their unique traits.

Tactical Doctrine - This went from providing re-rolls of 1s on to-hit rolls to the army and re-rolls of all to-hit rolls for Tactical Squads in the Shooting Phase to providing the same bonus but for both the Shooting and Assault phases, effectively giving your army half the benefits of Preferred Enemy for an entire player turn. While the Assault phase bonus might not seem like that big of a buff, one has to remember how much of a difference any kind of re-rolls can make to any given combat scenario; it even makes Tactical Marines somewhat capable of defending themselves in a melee.

Assault Doctrine - I would say that being able to re-roll failed to-hit rolls of 1 in close combat for the force and re-rolling all to-hit rolls for Assault Marines instead is a pretty massive change from being able to re-roll failed charge rolls and providing Fleet to Assault Squads, Bike Squads and Attack Bikes. Generally speaking this is better for the units that already have the means to reliably get into combat such as your dedicated assault units that use either transports or wargear such as Jump Packs and Bikes to get into combat, but one can't deny the value of a re-roll for failed charge length rolls. I've found the re-rolls to be better for the most part as usually I'm not reliant on making super-long charge ranges with Space Marines, though that may just be down to my specific army build.

Devastator Doctrine - Just like the Assault Doctrine, this got a major rework; rather than provide re-rolls on to-hit rolls of 1 for Snap Shots to the army, it instead gives them re-rolls of 1s in the Shooting Phase for to-hit rolls which I'm sure most would agree is far better. Additionally, the provision of Relentless for a Devastator unit that specifically hasn't jumped out of a Transport was generally seen as underwhelming given that most Devastator units that were already outside of a Transport would almost never have a reason to move anyway; allowing them to now re-roll all failed to-hit rolls in the Shooting Phase can make for some incredible firepower efficiency and also combines ridiculously well with the Skyhammer formation.

Warlord Traits

Like most everything else in the codex, most of these stayed functionally similar to their original incarnations but were improved significantly as has been the theme of the post-Necron codices. While the rulebook traits are still generally the best bet for all armies, two of the Warlord Traits here are absolutely worth rolling for on the Space Marine chart and the rest are generally decent albeit uninspiring.

1) Angel of Death - Causing Fear on 3D6 might not be the most useful rule to have but it is definitely better than just having the standard version of Fear; unless you have a Warlord equipped for melee and are facing an army that lacks And They Shall Know No Fear or Fearless in abundance, the buffs to this still don't make it worthwhile to keep if you have the option of a re-roll.

2) The Imperium's Sword - Permanently granting Furious Charge to the Warlord and his unit as opposed to providing it only once a game with the downside of having to declare it at the start of that phase (meaning you could potentially waste it with a failed charge) makes for a much better Warlord Trait that is pretty darned handy for a character and retinue built for combat. I love this bonus with Honour Guard as it turns them into the ultimate blenders, while I would argue Assault Terminators with the near-mandatory Thunder Hammers and Storm Shields gain the dice-rolling equivalent of overkill when combined with the trait.

3) Iron Resolve - Unless you are playing a game where the victor is somehow decided by one point of combat resolution, exchanging that for Feel No Pain on a Space Marine Warlord option is almost always a favorable trade. As any Iron Hands player will tell you, having the "Eternal Chapter Master" with this trait is downright hilarious though ultimately it's nowhere near as useful as a more army-centric buff. It might just save your Warlord's life but generally you probably want a more impactful Warlord Trait.

4) Storm of Fire - This is undeniably the best Warlord Trait in the Space Marine codex and it makes for some crazy combinations if you apply it to the right units in conjunction with psychic powers - Tigurius, anyone? A one-use-only version of Prescience with a 12" range that only affected Shooting was still a good Warlord Trait in 6th Edition, and this newer and far stronger version is just insane; each turn, you get to provide Rending to a units' ranged weapons for the duration of one Shooting Phase. This turns even the basic Boltgun into Dire Avenger Shuriken Catapults with a further improved range, while providing it to a unit of Imperial Fist Devastators wielding Heavy Bolters is hilarious for mowing down vehicular and non-vehicle models alike. These are some of the "lighter" examples; I've paid witness to a "Riflemen" Dreadnought squadron paired up with Storm of Fire obliterate a Land Raider from across the board in a single salvo, while a numerically maxed-out Crusader Squad puts out an ungodly amount of damage when affected by it. If you are rolling on the Space Marine Warlord Traits chart, this is the result you want.

5) Rites of War - This functionally does the same thing of giving your army the Warlords' Leadership value in place of their own, but rather than being limited to a 12" radius it now affects all units in your primary detachment regardless of their proximity to the Warlord. This is a decent trait that would be far better served in another codex like Astra Militarum or Tau Empire (both of which have their own versions in other forms) but isn't all that useful for Space Marines given they already have And They Shall Know No Fear. Sadly, it is made even less worthwhile given that the final trait in the Space Marine chart fulfills the same purpose but does it far better, making this mostly pointless.

6) Champion of Humanity - This has been reworked from providing victory points for killing the enemy Warlord with your Warlord in an assault to instead providing re-rolls of all failed Morale, Pinning and Fear tests for Imperial units within 12" of the Warlord. The chances of the Warlord duel ever working in your favor or even occurring were so minimal that it automatically makes the new version of the trait far superior, and the reasons this stands above Rites of War are numerous. For one, a re-roll on failed Leadership tests is always better than a Leadership bonus for an army that is universally Leadership 8 or higher as it is, while the fact that it affects all Imperial units rather than just the Warlords' detachment means it is extremely useful when you are allying in armies such as the Adepta Sororitas, Adeptus Mechanicus or Astra Militarum. If you have Allies of any sort that are also Battle Brothers, this is the one Warlord Trait you want after Storm of Fire and the other good reason to roll on the Space Marine Warlord Traits chart.

Armoury of the Space Marines

I'm only covering three of the wargear choices here as I feel the rest have generally stayed the same, at least to a degree where I don't think reviewing them would be worthwhile.

Icarus Stormcannon Array - While it might seem like this was changed for the worse at first glance, an actual in-game test reveals some crucial improvements to this anti-aircraft weapon system. First of all, losing a shot on the single-target profile is well worth it given the inclusion of Interceptor which automatically makes the Stalker one of the strongest dedicated anti-air options available to Armies of the Imperium, and the same is true of the dual-target firing mode. Speaking of firing at separate targets, the Stalker now shoots one less shot at each of the two targets but it does so at full Ballistic Skill rather than at Ballistic Skill 2, while the twin-linking for shooting at a single target remains. This makes these decidedly brutal against flyer or skimmer heavy armies such as Dark Eldar or Elysians, though ultimately gaining Interceptor with the bonus of Ignores Cover when used in a squadron of Stalkers is the most important buff here.

Skyspear Missile Launcher - The changes to this are a little confusing, so here is my attempt to rationalize them; the "Savant Lock" rule now only applies for one turn before the "miss" is discarded, meaning that you can't have up to six missiles following a target at the end of a seven-turn game. However, this is offset by the fact that the Savant Lock now affects Skimmers and Jetbikes which is a handy little buff that assists Space Marine players in dealing with the more heavily armoured Skimmers such as Wave Serpents which they often struggle to deal with at range. Ultimately, the fact that this lacks Interceptor and still doesn't have a higher Strength value than the Icarus Stormcannon Array ensures the Hunter remains the inferior kit-sibling to the Stalker; I'm guessing the rules designers think that Stormravens and other heavy flyers are more numerous than they actually are?

Siege Drill - This particular weapon features one of the "stealth" changes to the codex that I truly believe needs to be circulated; rather than treating its' wielders attacks as Strength 9, it now doubles their base Strength value. For Assault Centurions - the only unit that uses these - this means they now hit enemies at a jaw-dropping Strength 10, resulting in them crushing anything that has an armour value with impunity while also inflicting Instant Death on Toughness 5 models which is obviously pretty incredible. It does come with the drawback that negative Strength modifiers such as Enfeeble will affect them now but generally speaking I find the positives definitely outweigh the negatives here.

Chapter Relics

The Armour Indomitus - I considered this to be the weakest of the Chapter Relics in the 6th Edition codex due to its' incredibly high cost for something that functionally is less useful than just paying for Artificer Armour and a Storm Shield, and yet somehow it managed to get even worse in the new codex. It remained identical in every way - including the exorbitant price - save for the removal of the Relentless special rule, a change that is both banal and downright stupid. The Armour Indomitus was not worthwhile at all in the last codex and it is even less so now due to a direct tweak, making it utterly pointless as a sole Relic choice for a character; just get Artificer Armour - or Terminator Armour if it is a Librarian - and be done with it.

The Burning Blade - This did not change at all, meaning it is still an incredibly expensive albeit undeniably powerful melee weapon option you should reserve for a Chapter Master alone. While some might say it is overpriced I generally think it is worth it if you absolutely need melee AP2 attacks with a high Strength value for taking on tough 2+ armoured foes, but the problem therein lies with the fact that the widely-available Graviton weaponry is far better served to your AP2 needs. Generally, a Thunder Hammer does the same job but much cheaper while still allowing the user to wield the crucial Shield Eternal; if you specifically need a weapon for hunting characters or monsters that would otherwise kill the character before he can strike with a Thunder Hammer, the Burning Blade should be your weapon of choice. I just don't think those scenarios will be common enough to really justify using it.

The Primarch's Wrath - This has not changed one bit even with the meta and core rule changes wrought by 7th Edition, meaning users of it should be content while its' detractors will be equally dissatisfied in contrast. I think it is worth its price point when compared to the cheap ranged weapon Relics from other codices but to say it will make a huge difference to your war effort would be a lie; it does its job of punishing non-vehicular models with weak armour reasonably well while being capable of taking a wound off of the tougher foes semi-reliably. As a Salvo weapon, you want it on a Terminator character; a static character model with a 24" range Strength 4 gun likely isn't going to worry anyone.

The Shield Eternal - Much like the Primarch's Wrath, this hasn't changed whatsoever; it is still a phenomenal upgrade for a Chapter Master and combos with a number of upgrades to make for one of the nastiest beatstick characters in the game at the 200-250 point price mark. It won't always be useful as many armies don't bring Strength 8 or Strength 10 attacks in either shooting or close combat, but it is undeniably the best upgrade you could hope for if such a situation arises.

The Standard of the Emperor Ascendant - This received a 5 point price reduction and some pretty darned useful changes, though I still think it is an exorbitantly priced wargear option for the already pricey (but valuable) Honour Guard. Instead of providing a 12" bubble of re-rolling failed Morale and Pinning tests to friendly Space Marines drawn from the same Chapter, it now confers the Fearless special rule upon those units which is obviously a straight buff so that your army never runs away for any reason. Additionally, rather than conferring Hatred and a single bonus point to all combat resolution scores for the same units within a 6" bubble, it now gives friendly squads within 12" as well as the bearers' unit a +1 attack bonus which is also better in every way due to the doubling of the range and the fact that more attacks beats out those lesser bonuses when accounting for multiple rounds of combat. While the price does put me off somewhat I can't disagree with how potentially powerful this can be now that Honour Guard are an Elites choice; you can use those in high volumes alongside Pedro Kantor to make for some of the most ridiculously powerful melee squads in the game per point spent, though obviously this involves going all-in on a melee-centric strategy.

The Teeth of Terra - This might not seem like it changed at all as most people use it for cutting through hordes and power armoured enemies so much so that they likely wouldn't notice the one tweak it received, but it definitely isn't an insignificant one. Swapping Strikedown out for Concussive makes this a pretty darned useful tool for taking on other beatstick characters and monstrous creatures, though obviously against such enemies you usually want Eternal Warrior from the Shield Eternal instead. Nonetheless, this was already a well priced weapon that effectively amounts to a greater value Relic Blade and this remains the case in the new codex very much so.

Tactical Objectives

This marks the first time I have ever reviewed the unique Tactical Objectives native to a specific codex, but I felt that if I were to buck this trend then I may as well do it with the mighty Space Marines. Like many of the other codex-exclusive Tactical Objectives, these are generally very easy to accomplish for the parent army which obviously makes them super valuable to draw.

Death From Above - While accomplishing this with Jump units requires you to be using Assault Marines or Vanguard Veterans - both of which are unpopular to say the least - the Deep Striking specification of it makes this very useful, at least provided you get it in the first two or three turns of the game. Any army that includes Drop Pods and the weaponry to capitalize on their massive alpha strike potential should easily score this card.

Honour Your Chapter - This one is fairly easy to get provided you have some kind of beatstick character, though obviously a savvy opponent will simply deny challenges against them then accept in their own turn where the card has no effect. Space Marine characters can be surprisingly powerful so you shouldn't be surprised if one of your basic Sergeants manages to snag this.

No Mercy, No Respite - This is as easy to accomplish as any of the standard "Kill a Unit" cards, save that it also activates if you manage to force an enemy unit to fail a Morale test; if three or more units are destroyed or fail a Morale test, you get D3 victory points instead of the usual one. This is one of the easier cards in the game to get the bonus points for due to the fact that it is based around achieving two fairly standard outcomes that can be done in any of the phases, making it one of the best cards you could draw in a Maelstrom game.

For the Emperor! - I'm not sure if this card was designed as a "gimme" but I think it goes without saying that getting a victory point just for successfully charging an enemy unit is stupidly easy to accomplish, while it even confers D3 points if you manage to repeat the trick with two other units. Most Space Marine armies absolutely adore this card, and those that don't....well, it's still a "gimme".

Lightning Strike - This might not be as good of a card as the previous two but it is still one you should accomplish fairly regularly against most opponents; most players will leave at least one or two units in their deployment zone to protect their backfield and potentially score objectives in that zone. Alternatively, you could look at this from the perspective of a player using Drop Pods; easy mone...I mean, victory points!

The Emperor's Retribution - This one is the most "fluffy" of the Space Marine exclusive Tactical Objective cards, fitting right into what they are designed for; planetary invasion and securing objectives for the greater Imperial forces to move in for the killing blow. In practice, it's not as difficult to accomplish as you might think; you need to control an objective your opponent controlled at the start of the turn, meaning all you have to do is move an Objective Secured unit next to an enemy unit that lacks it and is holding an objective to claim the card. Otherwise, it fits in quite well to the mobile strike force engagement style of most Space Marine armies; that it provides D3 victory points for doing this one and D3+3 for achieving it thrice is the cherry on top of the fluff bunny cake.

Thank you all for reading this lengthy first look at the Space Marine codex! I am eager to hear your feedback on the beginning of the new series and I hope you have a great day!

1 comment:

  1. Great article. Glad too see your back and giving Space Marines a decent look over.

    There is two points that might be worth considering though. One is that ultramarines doctrines are cumulative with those provided in a Gladius Force (should you choose to use Ultras in the gladius anyway).

    The second one is one that is still debated over and that is the possible change to iron hands. Due to how chapter tactics are defined and the fact that dreadnoughts are the only vehicles with chapter tactics, that no other vehicles (unless its faqed) get It Will Not Die anymore which is a shame really for mech armies that enjoyed that perk.