27 Oct 2013

Forge World Chapter Tactics Impressions

Howdy there everyone, I am Learn2Eel and today I'm here to talk some more about the awesome Space Marines! Between the recent Space Marines codex and an edition shift, Forge World has had to release a lot of updates to their existing material so that they can function within the context of 6th Edition Warhammer 40000. The most recent of these was the release of not only a Space Marine Characters FAQ, but a Chapter Tactics FAQ - and the latter of which is what I will be focusing on today. I hope you enjoy this article!
Just a bit of a heads up, I've been "hard at work" at my local gaming store, and I'm going all out on the Troops article for Space Marines. One form of it or another should be up two days from now at the absolute latest.

One of the best introductions to any 6th Edition codex so far has undoubtedly been the Chapter Tactics special rule, which is essentially a free "choice" that gives distinct benefits to an army list based on the chosen Chapter Tactic. Such is its amazing potential for rewarding, themed and competitive list-building that I honestly can't wait to see similar applications of it for other codices, such as Tyranids or Imperial Guard - think of Hive Fleets with a focus on different units, or rules for Steel Legion that contrast with Catachans. In any case, Forge World has responded with a massive update to their exclusive Space Marine armies, including entirely new Chapter Tactics. This is a great move as it means players of those armies no longer need to employ special characters to attain their Chapter traits. For ease of viewing, I will cover each Chapter Tactic individually and go over how they fit into the Space Marine codex - unfortunately, I don't have many of the Imperial Armour books and so I can't really comment on those Forge World exclusive army lists, such as those in the Siege of Vraks. A note that I am only covering the unique Chapter Tactics introduced in the update.

The Chapter Tactics

Red Scorpions - The chief benefit for Red Scorpions is definitely replacing their Tactical Squad Sergeants and Veteran Sergeants with Apothecaries for free. Provided you are using an army with a lot of Tactical Marines, you will get some pretty major defensive boosts across your force. Ten-strong Tactical Squads en masse with Feel No Pain won't save you from Strength 8 AP3/2 templates, but it will save you from Heldrakes and so many other weapons! The other ability is also very useful, allowing Red Scorpions to re-roll failed Pinning tests. I can't talk enough about how important this is with how 'useless' a unit becomes for a turn while Pinned, especially in a game where objectives are everything. Unfortunately, they can't voluntarily go to ground and they can't take camo cloaks, so they aren't great for last gasp objective sitting, nor are their Scouts going to get those handy cover save boosts. I think Red Scorpions have pretty decent Chapter Tactics, though they obviously favour Tactical Marines in large numbers which may be a turn off.

Carcharodons - Being saddled with the very situational Fear ability does leave the Carch'ys in a bit of a pickle, as Fear really isn't that great when most armies either ignore it or are easily beaten in combat anyway without its' use. However, being able to swap Tactical Marines' bolters out for close combat weapons for free can be a decent ability, if a bit less useful than what is readily available in the codex through Crusader Squads - who have speed bonuses from Crusader and Land Raider Crusaders as dedicated transports. However, what is a very good addition is taking an extra close combat weapon on those Tacticals for only 1 point per model, which is 1 point cheaper than it is for Chaos Space Marines and the like. Seriously, as if Chaos Marines weren't suffering enough! The Carch'ys also get Rage when they destroy or force an Infantry unit to flee in combat, which is pretty handy when combined with their cheap extra combat weapons. The Chapter Tactics also prevent the Carch'ys from allying with non-Imperial armies, and treat those Imperial armies as Desperate Armies. This is disappointing as Space Marines enjoy some great synergy with Tau and Imperial Guard as Battle Brothers. These Chapter Tactics are ok, but giving Tactical Marines a close combat focus while sacrificing some incredibly potent allied combinations just doesn't seem like a smart choice competitively.

Raptors - These guys share the Scout and Stealth special rules with their Raven Guard progenitors, which is obviously handy mostly for 'Rhino-rush' builds, though they get a unique ability instead of the jump pack focus. The 'Legendary Marksmen' trait grants bolters, bolt pistols and the bolter part of a combi-weapon the Rending special rule if the unit holding them didn't move in the movement phase. This is a pretty darn nasty ability that, with the good range of bolt weapons, gives Space Marines a bit of a leg up to counter Bladestorm from Eldar. While Dire Avengers have Battle Focus and 18" range, the Tactical Marines would - for example - have 24" and their 'Rending' would also work against vehicles, letting them reliably threaten light vehicles. This is a great ability that gives Raptors a good reason to include those under-rated boltguns. The only issue here is that those guns do become Heavy - which makes sense with the no movement penalty - but means that bolters, for example, wouldn't get two shots at 12" as per usual. I think with the Scout redeployment, this may actually give Raptors a reason to Scout foot-sloggers depending on the typical game board they play on; a 30" effective range with Rending bolters on turn one is an extra option. However, I don't think it is reliable enough to justify losing both the extra shots and the ability to move. In that sense this is a cool ability, but not one that will have quite the impact as Bladestorm did - due to mobility, easily obtained re-rolls and the like.

Mantis Warriors - The big draw for Mantis Warriors seems to be giving their infantry both Move Through Cover and Hammer of Wrath, as well as Furious Charge when they charge out of cover. This seems cool at first, but given that the only Space Marine non-bulky - bulky or larger models don't get these bonuses - infantry that are really worth running into combat are Honour Guard, it really isn't that useful an ability at all. However, as has been pointed out to me - because I still haven't got it down that Land Speeder Storms are dedicated transports! - Scouts with close combat weapons actually work pretty darn well for Mantis Warriors. They make for a cheap and decent combat unit with an assault vehicle, getting some good benefits out of Furious Charge; having assault transports and extra close combat weapons makes it far more likely both that they will actually charge, and that they will do decently in combat. Where the Mantis Warriors really get their biggest advantage from is the second ability, allowing them to re-roll their attempts at seizing the initiative, and to take Divination on their Librarians. Now, having two chances to Seize is pretty handy, but having Divination for Librarians in an army featuring the points intensive Sternguard Veterans and deadly assault units like Honour Guard is simply awesome. Really, taking Mantis Warriors just to have the amazing Divination psychic lore for Librarians is likely to be a goodusage of them, even though I think they are quite middling otherwise.

Executioners - These guys ignore any negative modifiers to their Leadership first and foremost, which is useful mostly for one reason; staying in combat when you need to. Space Marines don't really suffer penalties for fleeing from combat, unless they flee on their own turn as it leaves them vulnerable to enemy shooting. They also ignore those annoying penalties from Brainleech Devourers and some Pinning weapons, which I think can be pretty important. Their second ability gives their characters instant death on to wound rolls of a six - much like Moonfang or Axes of Khorne - while in challenges, as well as forcing the character with the highest Weapon Skill in their unit to issue challenges in combat. As Chaos Space Marine players will tell you, being forced to challenge at all tends to be pretty bad as you have no real control over combats against character monstrous creatures for example. The potential for Instant Death is nice, but I'm not sure it makes up for the removal of choice with challenges. These are decent Chapter Tactics, nothing too shabby at all, though the character trait may be a big worry.

Angels Revenant - These are interesting as the army uses a certain trait depending on how you theme the list, which is very cool indeed. The first trait for fighting Necrons gives them Preferred Enemy and Hatred against the space-faring undead; while this does give the army a massive boost in damage potential against Necrons, that Chapter Tactics are always written on the army list means it is impossible to know if you are fighting Necrons in, for example, a tournament. In that case, these should be reserved for friendly games where you know who your opponent is. The second trait is more generalist, though I don't think it is all that useful; when half of the army is destroyed, what is left over gets the Fearless special rule. Now, Fearless is pretty nice and all for any force, though for Space Marines in particular, I think it can be considered a bit of a mixed bag. You will never run off of objectives, but you also can't get out of combats you don't want to be a part of. What happens when a Trygon pops up and kills five Marines in a single round of combat? The Marines, as Angels Revenant, will stay there and do nothing at all; if they weren't Fearless, they would probably fail a Leadership test, get out of combat and then move and shoot again. That it only starts working when half the army is dead - which is usually a big warning sign anyway - really seals its place as a sub-par Chapter Tactic.

Red Hunters - Probably the most unique Chapter Tactics we've seen come from the Red Hunters, but not because of having Adamantium Will. As with Black Templars, a boost to deny the witch saves is always helpful, but it won't really help against all those blessings that really give Hive Tyrants/Seer Councils/Screamerstars their strength. They can also ally with Grey Knights and Sisters of Battle as Battle Brothers - provided you have an Inquisitor somewhere in the overall army - which opens up a slew of very nasty combinations. But where things start to go awry are in the subconscious battle doctrines each Red Hunter is programmed with. Once per game and at the start of a turn, you consult the turn number and select that many units in your army with Chapter Tactics, with the exception that Dreadnoughts are also potential targets. These units all get a single special rule for a single game turn - the wording implies that one choice is made for all of the units, meaning no diversifying - including Counter Attack, Hatred, Interceptor, Monster Hunter, Skyfire or Tank Hunters. There are so many potential applications of this special rule that, much like the Ultramarine Chapter Tactics, being a smart general that can readily apply such breadth of choice will be key to making the most of them. As it is, freely giving two units Skyfire after your opponents' flyers have arrived on turn two alone is very worthwhile, particularly when those units are Devastators with lascannons or Sternguard with massed combi-weapons! These are probably some of the stronger Chapter Tactics, what with extra allied potential through the Grey Knights and Sisters of Battle, Deny the Witch boosts, and the wide tactical uses of the Redaction Protocols.

Star Phantoms - As I am quick to point out, I feel Salamanders are by far the best Drop Pod army for Codex: Space Marines; however, I think the Star Phantoms may give them a bit of a run for their money. They re-roll reserve rolls of a 1 when arriving by deep strike - meaning they re-roll 50% of their failed reserve rolls for such units - which is pretty darn useful for a Drop Pod Assault army or one that includes lots of Terminators or Land Speeders. However, what really lets them compete with Salamanders is that, once per game - importantly, this includes the first turn - you can declare a Hail of Destruction and count all of the Assault, Heavy, Rapid-Fire and Salvo guns carried by models with the Chapter Tactics as twin-linked. Wow! Competitive Salamanders lists often pay for Vulkan to master-craft all their meltas, but these guys get that for free and it applies for one shooting phase up until the start of their next one. It still affects their flame weapons, but it also gives weapons such as combi-plasmas and bolters a lot of love, and it even gives Devastators some leeway. Most importantly though, of course, is how it affects Sternguard with both their special issue ammunition and their combi-weapons. The question is, is free twin-linking for pretty much every gun on the turn you arrive with a Drop Pod Assault worth taking over the all-game bonuses provided by the Salamanders and Vulkans to a lesser range of weapons? I think it definitely is, though it places the impetus on getting as many Drop Pods as possible to do as much damage as you can in the alpha strike; the Salamanders win hands down after the first turn attack, of course. These are tailor made for reserve heavy lists, particularly Drop Pods, but really aren't worth it otherwise.

Minotaurs - These guys don't have to take morale checks when they lose 25% of their unit to shooting unlike other Space Marines, which is a pretty awesome ability. Too many times you will see Space Marines fall back off on an objective - or anywhere really - at the worst possible time. Like Red Scorpions, they also re-roll failed Pinning tests, but unlike the other Chapter, Minotaurs can still voluntarily go to ground and take camo cloaks. These two abilities combined give Minotaurs a lot more control over the Leadership aspect of play, letting them more effectively keep their Troops where they need to be and not cowering on the ground. Like Black Templars, Minotaurs also get the Crusader special rule which gives them a bit of a mobility boost, though they sadly don't have those cheap extra close combat weapons like Carcharodons to take full advantage of it, nor the Crusader Squads of the heirs of Sigismund. Another little helpful ability that suffers the same issue is adding an extra inch to their random charge lengths when inside the opponents' deployment zone. These Chapter Tactics are quite decent actually, as they effectively give Minotaurs a free, watered-down version of Marneus Calgar's amazing God of War special rule.

Fire Hawks - Another army that favours a fast, hard assault, Fire Hawks have some nifty little abilities, such as giving +1 Strength to their hand flamers, flamers and heavy flamers but only on the turn in which a unit using them arrives by deep strike. I haven't run the numbers, but I'm pretty sure that outside of potentially being able to damage units you normally can't hurt with those weapons, the re-rolls to wound and penetrate armour on the same weapons carried by Salamanders are statistically better against all possible targets. However, Fire Hawks do get +1 Strength on their Hammer of Wrath attacks with jump pack units, which is a decent if uninspiring ability simply because jump pack equipped units in the codex tend not to be as competitive as their bike-mounted equivalents. Fire Hawk characters also get access to Hand Flamers which is nifty, though I generally prefer combi-weapons on characters, if I would even use a hand flamer on one. For Tactical Marines - as an example - I always prefer a combi-plasma or a combi-melta depending on how I deploy them. However, Fire Hawks do get a pretty nice ability to make up for their comparative deficiencies to Salamanders; scoring Assault Marines and Vanguard Veterans! Though not making one or both of them outright Troops choices is disappointing, making those often derided units scoring automatically gives them a lot more value. I think these are ok Chapter Tactics, though I'm personally not too big a fan of the jump-pack focus.

Astral Claws - Much like the Dark Angels, all Astral Claws are Stubborn but can't choose to automatically fail a morale test. Though this is decent and usually won't penalize them, it is the equivalent of signing a death warrant when charged by a Soul Grinder or an Ironclad Dreadnought, both of which are very popular in their respective codices. In addition, Bikers in the army get Skilled Rider, while their Land Speeders get the Scout special rule. Scoring Bikers with Skilled Rider are amazing in the new codex - as so many will attest after either using or facing White Scars - and Scouting Land Speeders can be pretty darn devastating. Obviously, the Claws favour a more mobile force, but unlike Fire Hawks for example, I feel the competitive army lists will be more afraid of these units than Assault Marines and Vanguard Veterans, for example. These are pretty good Chapter Tactics and a more than welcome addition to the forces led by the Tyrant of Badab.

So those are my thoughts on the Chapter Tactics introduced by Forge World to their previously covered Space Marine forces. Do you agree with my assessments or feel that my assertions are incorrect? Please let us know in the comments below; we appreciate any and all feedback! Thanks guys, and have a great day! Eel out.


  1. Played using my Mantis Warriors the other day and I can tell you that Assault Scouts benefit tremendously from gaining hammer of wrath and furious charge.

    Still, divination librarians carried the day as expected.

    1. Ah, you can tell the codex is new when I still forget that Land Speeder Storms are dedicated transports! That one change pretty much makes Assault Scouts so much better. Cheers for pointing this out!

  2. Hello, just a quick question regarding this sentence: "infantry that are really worth running into combat are Honour Guard"

    What about assault and vanguards squads without JP. They are infantry and in proper positioning they should be quite interesting assault units. What do you think? Even Drop-poding them in certain games should be interesting.

    Anyway thanks for this tactica articles, they are quite helpfull.

    What I plan is Primary Detachement of Mantis Warriors and Secondary Detachement of Mantis Religiosa squad (perfectly recognisable by the painting) as Blood Angels Death Company in drop pod...