Since the introduction of Warhammer 40000 over twenty years prior, one faction has stood alone at the top of the game; wearing its inspiration on its slave, and setting the tone for countless sci-fi epics to follow. We all know and love them in our own special way, and it is pleasing to state first up that this is a very well balanced and rewarding codex that is sure to garner the love of all Space Marine players out there. Even as a dirty heretic and xenos player myself, I find myself drawn into the allure of the Space Marines like never before; with rules updated for 6th Edition and a major overhaul of the Black Templars to fit into the main codex, this looks to be one of Games Workshops' highest quality codices yet. My impressions of the background, artwork and - most importantly, of course - the rules have all been very positive; this is a great book and one you really should have in your claws (or fingers, some people have those too).
I will go on record though and point out that, from a strictly high-tier competitive point of view, Space Marines likely will still struggle with some of their previously most heinous counters; Eldar, Tau and the forces of Chaos - notably Daemons and Heldrakes - will still terrorize the Astartes to no end. The issue of elite troops that are removed en masse by cover and armour-ignoring weaponry with high strength has not been solved in any meaningful sense, and any kind of model that pays for extras will always have a tough time against the Eldar - who laugh at any armour save or Toughness value. Suffice it to say though, Space Marines are sure to introduce some nasty builds into the competitive environment, with White Scars, Iron Hands and Salamander builds in particular looking exceptionally dangerous. Who cares about Heldrakes when your entire army is in combat on turn two or one, and can Hit and Run out when it best suits them? How will armies strip massed hull points from vehicles that can simply grow them back, and that is before any repairs from handy Techmarines are thrown into the mix? And few, particularly those pesky Pathfinders, will want to see a dark green alpha strike consisting of master-crafted flamers and meltas popping out of orbital assault vehicles.
Ah yes, and that is what I have yet to touch on; easily the biggest change to the Astartes is the reintroduction of Chapter Tactics without the need of special characters, unlocking so many different play-styles and completely changing the viability of certain units competitively. While Centurion Devastators may not seem so great on paper at first glance, pair them up with Tank Hunters from the Imperial Fists Chapter Tactics and you have yourself one nasty unit. Regular Space Marine bikers are decent, if somewhat unimpressive when compared to their Dark Angel brethren, but when saddled (literally) with the White Scars Chapter Tactics, they become quite possibly the most effective biker (not jetbiker, sadly) unit in the game. Foot-slogging Space Marines may seem like suicide at first, but match them up with the Black Templars Chapter Tactics and a lot of opponents may find - to their probable dismay - that the time the have to whittle you down will run short very quickly. These are but a few obvious applications of the Chapter Tactics, but what it really reenforces is the concept of synergy; matching your chosen units together so that they get the best benefit from these free extra special rules. A Raven Guard army likely won't help your Devastators out all that much, but an Ultramarines army certainly will.
That each of the seven unique Chapter Tactics can completely change the function and effectiveness of a given unit or two out of a suitably packed army list provides some very interesting, and tough, decisions for a player to make during army-list construction. It is for this reason, and because I feel the codex deserves such reward for its quality, that I will be covering each unit in the army list first in the context of a 'generic' unit, i.e. how they would function individually in a force where the Chapter Tactics may not particularly benefit them. Then, I will cover each unit with the relevant Chapter Tactics in their own separate article. I will work out how to make this extra work accessible to you guys, but I may touch on the pertinent examples in the main reviews and leave the bulk to some extra articles. For example, I could cover each unit quickly in a separate "Chapter Tactics - Black Templars" article, or merely provide information on the units that it most affects.
To this end, I am imploring you - our wonderful viewers - to post your feedback on the issue; with the idea in mind of not clogging up articles too much and yet not spreading them too thin, how do you feel I should approach the different Chapter Tactics and their effects on each unit? Should I shorten and condense the articles to a few given units a time to give them the most detail, or create separate articles to cover each unit in their own respective Chapter Tactics in addition to the main Tactica? Any advice is much appreciated!
As part of my experimentation with trying to make the best articles possible - as our feedback lately has been very mixed and I appreciate and understand all of it - I would like to introduce a condensed and concise list of the major changes to a codex from its previous edition. I feel that this will be a helpful tool for viewers to quickly grasp what is new and shiny in the book, and how certain changes may dramatically affect your army lists. Let me know how it goes! So without further ado, here are my top changes to the Space Marine codex in the transition from 5th Edition to 6th Edition (not counting the rule changes in the main rulebook, such as the removal of No Retreat! wounds):
1) Chapter Tactics - Each Space Marine force now has access to one of seven different Chapter Tactics, each providing unique benefits to all or most of your infantry units and characters in an army. Some exceptions, such as Iron Hands, also affect your vehicles. This allows for an insane amount of unique builds in the codex, and without the need of special characters, it means that all Space Marine players can truly make the army they wish. You won't be seeing Vulkan in an Ultramarines army anymore!
2) Cost Cutting - While some units haven't dropped too much in points when considering point increases to certain wargear options, such as Tactical Marines, other units have had severe price cuts to make them much more viable choices. The biggest winners here are easily the Devastator Marines; as an example, a squad of ten with four lascannons would have cost a whopping 310 points in the previous book. Now, they cost a measly 230 points if you include the optional Veteran Sergeant upgrade, adding up to an 80 point difference! Throw in Tank Hunters for free into the deal owing to Imperial Fists Chapter Tactics, or even Relentless for a turn with the Ultramarines Chapter Tactics, and you have yourself some very hot gravy! Oh, and remember Predator Annihilators? They kinda dropped by 25 points. Just sayin'. A lot of army lists are sure to fit a lot more toys in now at the same points level compared to the old book, which is awesome on so many levels.
3) One Book, Two Flyers - A big problem Space Marines had with the initial edition change was dealing with enemy flyers; while Storm Talons are a big help, their rules were limited to initially a mere White Dwarf magazine, and eventually expanded upon in a costly supplement aptly named Death from the Skies. Now, Space Marines have not one, but two very useful flyers included in the codex without any need for the Death from the Skies supplement, meaning those rules you really wanted are now all found in one easy place! Not to mention, they look a lot nicer in the hardback format with fully-coloured artworks....
4) No Mixing Characters - In the 5th Edition codex, unlocking army builds related more to Salamanders or Imperial Fists as opposed to Ultramarines could only really be accomplished with the implementation of a particular special character into your army list; in either case, it was Vulkan and Lysander, respectively. This created a big theme issue, for one; say you wanted to play an Imperial Fists Fourth Company force, but had to use the Captain of the First Company to do so in a way that made the rules fit (Bolter Drill), how would you react? It would tick you off immensely. And then you had the players who weren't as fussed about fluff and more concerned strictly with making the most competitive army list from the codex, which isn't necessarily a bad thing mind. However, it led to a slew of Ultramarine, Minotaurs and countless Space Marines armies being led by a "counts-as" Vulkan He'stan. Somehow, I don't think the Forgefather would like wearing blue, nor would Salamanders enjoy fielding masses of Land Speeders with multi-meltas or heavy flamers.
Now, owing to Chapter Tactics, each of the special characters are limited to an army list that includes their Chapter Tactics, meaning no more Shrike popping up with Ultramarine thunder hammer and storm shield Terminators. Not only do I love this from a fluff stand-point, but it also makes sense in terms of rules; would it really be fair if someone like Lysander gained It Will Not Die and Feel No Pain (6+) from leading an Iron Hands army? No, it wouldn't. While it will annoy some players as it does force them to keep to a theme they may not want to, I really appreciate this change personally, and it will lead to many players adapting their armies into more thematically driven forces.
5) Chapter Masters - Oh boy, do I remember Chapter Masters in 5th Edition. While not necessarily a bad choice, what they did for your army wasn't as impressive as what Captains could do for less. An Orbital Bombardment might seem cool, but not when your Chapter Master had to virtually sacrifice their turn to use it. Having access to Honour Guard was fine and dandy, but they were effectively over-costed and inferior Terminator equivalents in their previous incarnation. That, and Chapter Masters didn't even unlock Space Marines Bikes as Troops, unlike a Captain! And hey, how come all the special character Chapter Masters - minus Pedro Kantor and Logan Grimnar - had four attacks and four wounds, but not the Chapter Masters of home-crafted Chapters or even representations of famous characters such as Vladimir Pugh of the Imperial Fists?
Happily, Robin Cruddace heard our prayers and, by not only making Honour Guard so much stronger, the boosts to a Chapter Master himself mean that there is now a truly meaningful distinction between them and Captains. Now that they have an extra attack and wound - including Pedro Kantor, yay! - they have been normalized with famous warriors such as Azrael and Commander Dante. The Orbital Bombardment no longer disallows your movement and is likely to be more useful as a result, while Chapter Masters themselves now have access to some awesome wargear options in the form of Chapter Relics; the Shield Eternal and the Burning Blade are sure to be popular inclusions. Oh, and I almost forgot that a Chapter Master on a Bike now makes Space Marine Bikers scoring as well! Hooray for White Scars and other Chapters! Oh, right, and I should probably mention the Iron Hands Chapter Master on a Bike, as unfluffy as it is - unless you play a successor, obviously. Chuck It Will Not Die and Feel No Pain (6+) on to a model that has Toughness 5 (the bike), Wounds 4 and a base 3+ armour save and 4+ invulnerable save. I'm not done; add in artificer armour to give him a handy 2+ armour save, as well as the Shield Eternal not only to buff his invulnerable save to 3+, but also to give him Eternal Warrior and Adamantium Will. Yikes! Add in a weapon of your choice and drink your opponents' tears. Herohammer is back!
6) Varro Tigurius - Let's go back in time to look at one of the most famous of all heroes in the Imperium, the venerable Tigurius, Chief Librarian of the Ultramarines. In his 5th Edition incarnation, Tigurius was a psyker that could use three powers a turn and knew all of the codex powers, two traits that were entirely unavailable to regular Librarians. He could re-roll reserve rolls and his force weapon was master-crafted. And he happened to be over twice the base cost of a Librarian, with no defences aside from two wounds and a 3+ armour save. Yikes. Understandably, despite his versatility, Tigurius was typically restricted to heavily themed army lists that weren't intended strictly for competitive use; a sad fortune for one who should be arguably the strongest Loyalist psyker. Enter the new Space Marine codex. Now, he has an extra wound; he has access to all five of the main rulebook disciplines - and is the only psyker Space Marines can employ with Divination outside of Allies - he has a guaranteed Warlord Trait that allows one of your units within 12" to re-roll their to hit rolls in shooting once per game; he can re-roll the dice to see what powers he generates; he can re-roll failed psychic tests; and last but not least, his force staff also has Soul Blaze. And he costs 65 points less. Well, I'll be the first to say tha.....WHAAAAAAT!? Even despite still lacking an invulnerable save, not only is Tigurius the most improved character or unit in the codex, he is also now arguably the best psyker in the game absolutely bar none. Wow. Ultramarine players who were disappointed that they could no longer use Vulkan? I present you with a new prize for your *cough* loyalty. Holy cow.
7) Black Templars - The Holy Knights of the Astartes have long been a bit of the odd-duck out, left behind for so long with an increasingly aging codex. 6th Edition highlighted the deficiencies in their mostly melee-oriented army, with competitive builds ironically being built around some of their nasty tricks with ranged Terminator squads and the like. Perhaps the most controversial event in 6th Edition so far was the confirmation that Black Templars would not receive their own individual codex, but would instead be rolled into Space Marines as one of the seven main Chapters for successors and variants to follow. Though this obviously led to a hefty reduction in dedicated background and unique rules, the Black Templars have nonetheless gained a lot of benefits to make up for these deficiencies. Barring Librarians, Black Templars now have access to the full arsenal of the Space Marine codex; Thunderfire Cannons, Sternguard and Vanguard Veterans as opposed to watered down Sword Brethren, Stormtalons and Stormravens - the list just goes on and on. Helpfully, Black Templars still retain access to their classic and unique units; The Emperor's Champion and Crusader Squads are available for use in a Black Templars force, while Sword Brethren are now the squad leaders for the latter unit. Helbrecht and Grimaldus survived the change thankfully as well, while the vows were replaced with army-wide special rules such as Adamantium Will and Crusader. Overall, rules-wise, the Black Templar fanbase can be thankful for the incredibly expanded range of options available, significant cost drops to their units, and retaining much of their identity from the previous book. I look forward to seeing how the Black Templars perform on the table-top; with army wide bonuses to Run moves, Deny the Witch and Sweeping Advance rolls, I feel there should be a good range of themed and competitive builds for the Sons of Dorn.
The new Space Marine codex provides a wealth of different builds and so many ways to employ the many units and characters available. I will do my best to cover all of them in as much useful detail as possible, and I look forward to continuing my work on the codex! Best wishes all! If you have any feedback for me, feel free to post a comment here or speak to me over on +Bell of Lost Souls. Happy hunting!
"They shall be pure of heart and strong of body, untainted by doubt and unsullied by self aggrandisement."
- Roboute Guilliman