13 Sept 2015

Tactica Space Marines - Unique HQs

Greetings all and welcome to my Unique HQ choices article for Space Marines! The Adeptus Astartes have more named characters to choose from than any other faction in the game, and while not all of them are that useful, that most are built to support your army gives them each their own special place in a given force. I hope you enjoy this article!

Unique HQs

Before we begin, I would like to clarify that each mini-review will first state the name of the character in question and then display their Chapter in brackets next to their name for ease of determining which character belongs to which Chapter.

For clarity, these Overview articles will serve as the general review equivalent of each character from previous articles, then I will be releasing individual articles aimed purely at how to make the unit in question work in-game. This will make the review process a lot smoother as well as completely removing any possible negativity from the actual tactics-oriented articles. 

Captain Sicarius (Ultramarines) - This particular Captain of the Ultramarines has been built up story-wise as the successor to Marneus Calgar but never really seems to match that position on the table-top, having been fairly mediocre for a number of editions running. I'm glad to see then that he received a ten point price reduction in the new codex, though the rest of his "changes" leave me with a raised eyebrow. His preset Warlord Trait from the previous codex and Mantle of the Suzerain have been removed in name only as he still has both Furious Charge and Feel No Pain, though the former special rule now applies only to himself albeit with no one-use-only restriction. His new Warlord Trait, Rites of War, is very uninspiring (ironically) for the many reasons I mentioned in the last Space Marine article, though what bears mentioning is that it is merely a redressed version of his old unique special rule of the same name. He also still provides the bonus to Reserve Rolls and the free special rule provision to a single unit of Tactical Marines, meaning that his seemingly changed rule-set has merely just been simplified for ease of viewing. Basically, Sicarius provides everything he used to even though a few of the unique rules for him seem to have been removed at first glance, meaning the only actual change he received was the aforementioned price reduction. Ultimately, I still don't think he is worth his points if only because he pretty much embodies all of the problems players have with Tactical Marines; he is decent at many roles but not great in any of them and he isn't priced in accordance with that. Sicarius won't stand up to any truly nasty melee unit in combat and he lacks Eternal Warrior to make for a great wound tank, while his army buffs are quite poor compared to other characters in the army outside of his uses in a reserve heavy list. I like him more than most players who tend to ignore him completely as I do believe he isn't in any way terrible for his points and is actually a fairly tanky Warlord option and brings a lot of different bonuses to the table, but one has to admit he will never really be that crucial to a victory either.

Chief Librarian Tigurius (Ultramarines) - Oh Tigurius, how we all love you so dearly. The prior best value HQ choice in the Space Marine codex not only managed to remain at the top of the pile but somehow even increased the gap between himself and his fellow compatriots. The new psychic phase makes Tigurius an absolute nightmare for opposing armies to deal with if they lack psykers of their own, while his preset Warlord Trait the Storm of Fire improved out of sight with the new codex. It bears mentioning that he also has access to Daemonology if you so desire its' use while the way in which powers are cast in 7th Edition makes his re-rolls utterly ridiculous, and it helps that Psychic Focus gives him a passive bonus for sticking to one discipline just like any other psyker. Competitive Ultramarine armies - whether taken as the primary force or as Allies - should use Tigurius in their lists; there is never a situation in which he won't be useful for all of the same reasons as in the previous codex, and his much improved Warlord Trait only makes him even more of an auto-include. He is by far the best HQ choice in the Space Marine codex and one of the most proficient psykers in all of Warhammer 40,000; you want and need him!

Chaplain Cassius (Ultramarines) - One of the more badass characters in the Space Marine characters as far as background is concerned, Cassius is in a weird position in that he is designed to be the generic codex' super Chaplain but he actually does nothing more than a regular Chaplain save being far harder to kill. Toughness 6 with 2 Wounds and standard Chaplain saves on top of Feel No Pain make for a fairly durable Warlord option, though generally speaking this isn't going to matter against most dedicated melee combatants; don't be fooled into thinking Cassius can take on someone like Draigo. He hasn't changed all that much which means my previous review of him remains largely relevant; if you want to take an Ultramarines Chaplain as your Warlord option or mandatory HQ to buff a combat unit, Cassius is a somewhat justifiable upgrade because of his improved durability. Otherwise, his poor preset Warlord Trait (which was thankfully buffed) and weak weaponry make for a poor HQ choice at his price-point as he does nothing to really buff his force beyond what a regular, cheaper Chaplain provides.

Sergeant Telion (Ultramarines) - The first thing that jumped right out at me with Telion is that he no longer replaces a Scout Sergeant, meaning that his unchanged price is deceiving in the sense that you get an extra model out of his points cost. Being a HQ choice also has its' benefits as he can now fulfill a mandatory slot for a detachment cheaper than any other Space Marine HQ, whereas before he was merely an upgrade character that forced you to also take a HQ to fulfill your mandatory Force Organization requirements. This might not seem like much in practice but it means that unless you are actually having problems with fitting in more than two HQs, Telion can save you a mess of points compared to his previous incarnation. As to the venerable Scout Sergeant himself, his profile also saw some handy improvements; he gained an extra Wound so that he isn't as easy to kill as your average Scout Sergeant and even - hilariously - received the brutal Storm of Fire Warlord Trait. While he is restricted to joining Scout Squads and lost Acute Senses, to say anything other than Telion was buffed massively would be wholly disingenuous; he might not be Tigurius but he sure as heck ranks as one of the best value HQ choices in the codex, especially considering Scouts themselves are far better than before. About the only other thing to mention here is that his sniper rifle was weakened by the changes to Sniper weapons in 7th Edition, but this certainly doesn't affect his overall competitive place in the codex considering he is worth his super low cost just for the Warlord Trait alone. 

Sergeant Chronus (Ultramarines) - Much like Telion, one or two simple changes serve to boost this characters' place in a competitive sense significantly as he can now be used to fulfill a mandatory HQ slot and even become your Warlord. Before I address one rather amusing issue with the redesigned Tank Commander, I'll review the rest of his abilities; he gained a Wound for when he inevitably has to disembark his vehicle of choice and is now treated as a character while in vehicle form - though I don't actually know if this affects a squadron he is a part of in any way. He is still not worthwhile for your cheaper vehicles such as Rhinos and Razorbacks as you may as well just take another of them for the same or less points, but he excels when given some type of Land Raider or any of the Heavy Support Rhino-chassis tanks to work with. The popular choices tend to be the Land Raider Crusader, Predator Annihilator and even a Stalker from my experience, but generally speaking he works very well now when you consider that he can be part of vehicle squadrons.

Now, here's where it gets a little bit weird; not only is Chronus now capable of getting a Warlord Trait given that he is a character, but the vehicle he commands also becomes a character (remember, the two are technically separate which is what stops Chronus' tank from being an Independent Character). Take a moment to think about this; there is no rule stopping Vehicle Characters from being the Warlord, though usually any examples of such units are restricted to using certain Warlord Traits or their own codex chart - the Furioso Librarian, Bjorn and Astra Militarum Tank Commander come to mind. In the case of Chronus' chosen tank, none of these restrictions apply....which, unless I am quite mistaken, means his tank can be the Warlord - again, it is separate to Chronus but is a character so long as Chronus is in the army - and can also generate a Warlord Trait from any of the five charts available to Space Marines (one from the codex, four from the rulebook). Do I sense broken rules? Many potential traits simply won't work as a vehicle lacks the characteristics necessary for the trait to function such as Leadership, but others work brutally well.

Take a squadron of Vindicators led by Chronus' tank for example; you could get Outflank on them via Master of Manoeuvre, Infiltrating that unit via Master of Ambush (the restriction on non-vehicle units is specifically speaking of units other than your Warlords') or perhaps even re-rolls to hit of 1s for a Predator squadron. I'm surprised this hasn't been picked up on yet by the internet but I've checked through all the relevant rules and I've found nothing to circumvent this, though competitively I'm not sure I would bother - save for that one game where making your Warlord a Land Raider variant would lead to hilarity on the part of your opponents' jaw dropping to the floor. Now, the reason I mention this is because per the rules-as-written Chronus himself doesn't actually benefit from his Warlord Trait while he is "joined" to his Tank of choice as his profile and special rules are only ever used once his vehicle is destroyed, and he is only treated as a passenger for the purposes of the vehicle being destroyed. I'm assuming this is why the rules designers allow Chronus to be the Warlord as his trait wouldn't matter while he is part of a vehicle (squadron), but obviously they didn't realize that the tank he commandeers could circumvent those limitations and make from truly game-breaking (and I mean breaking the rules, not being over-powered) combinations. If I'm wrong, please let me know and comment with your thoughts on this!

Kor'sarro Khan (White Scars) - A lack of any major changes to this character save for a few tweaks here and there will make this review thankfully short; he is a fairly priced Captain given his wargear and addition of Furious Charge, but his true value lies in all of his unique special rules much like before. The change to his Warlord Trait is actually an addition once you notice that his Master of the Hunt special rule now includes the bonus victory point clause for Khan slaying the enemy Warlord without requiring the Khan himself to be the Warlord, while his actual preset Warlord Trait now gives him and all friendly Imperial units within 12" the ability to re-roll most types of failed Leadership tests. This is obviously a very nice buff that makes the Khan a great asset for Space Marines as well as Allied Forces of the Imperium, though his unique power sword also received a stealth buff; it now wounds regardless of Toughness on 6s to-wound while still inflicting Instant Death, meaning he can actually hurt - and slay - tougher enemies such as Wraithlords without having to charge. This is a minor buff but a helpful one nonetheless, though obviously Khan's best rule remains his ability to confer Scout on all Bike-mounted White Scars as well as any mounted in Rhinos or Razorbacks; this has been nerfed slightly as it used to affect all units in Dedicated Transports, though I'm sure most users of him won't mind at all. He's still an insanely good HQ choice that is all but mandatory for competitive White Scars army lists simply because almost army-wide Scout is ludicrous on a naturally medium to short-ranged army that also plies its trade fairly well in the assault phase, though the Khan himself isn't really all that impressive for his points outside of that particular ability - the few buffs he received do help to make him a stronger choice than he was which some might reasonably argue was unnecessary.

Vulkan He'stan (Salamanders) - Another character that doesn't seem to have changed at first glance, Vulkan received one minor buff to make him even more incredible for his points cost than before; on top of being a better beat-stick and unit buffer than most of the other special characters in the codex, his already very strong wound tank capabilities were buffed by his preset Warlord Trait being changed to confer the Feel No Pain special rule. Whether you feel the trait itself is all that good or not is insignificant given what it replaced, meaning the Forgefather remains one of the strongest HQ choices in the book for over three editions running now. He makes most other special characters look poor by comparison regardless of his unique special bonus for melta weaponry simply because he has an optimal wargear set outside of lacking an AP2 melee weapon, something that makes a big difference in determining the relative worth of these models.

Shadow Captain Shrike (Raven Guard) - How else can I start this review than by saying "poor Shrike"? He was very popular in 5th Edition when he could Infiltrate squads of Assault Terminators right into the enemy lines and said unit was at its' most terrifying, but since then his competitive worth and usage have been hit repeatedly by a consistent train of nerfs. Unlike most of the other unique characters - and especially someone like Vulkan - Shrike lacks in value with regards to his equipment and doesn't provide any useful special rule bonuses to his army or even any single unit to justify his high price point. A set of Rending Lightning Claws is not as impressive as it might seem initially as Shrike himself has to make do with the profile of a stock Captain and lacks any bonus rules to improve his combat efficiency, while his preset Warlord Trait is undeniably the worst in the codex even if it did get a nice boost with the new codex. I have to ask myself, what is there to really recommend the Shadow Captain? I guess that he can Infiltrate with a unit of Assault Marines or Jump Pack equipped Vanguard Veterans....but wait, thanks to the most recent FAQ ruling this doesn't work either! Yes, Shrike cannot confer Infiltrate to other units and is thus forced to Infiltrate alone, but given that he can only join Jump units in deployment and does not deploy normally, this means you always have to deploy Shrike by himself unless you somehow manage to find an Imperial Jump Infantry unit that can Infiltrate. Does deploying an expensive and fragile character that lacks for effective damage output by himself sound amusing to you? If you answered yes, Shrike is the one for you! For everyone else that isn't a masochist, avoid this horrible HQ at all costs; he was not worth your time in the old codex and the fact that he was given what amounts to a broken rule set is one slap in the face Raven Guard players certainly did not deserve.

Captain Lysander (Imperial Fists) - The chief beat-stick character of the Space Marine codex remains at the top of the pile as expected and yet somehow managed to get even hardier in the transition to 7th Edition, though this only applies if he is your Warlord - if you play in games that are tight on victory points though, making this guy your Warlord may as well be an automatic decision. Lysander works much the same as he used to - he is nearly impossible to kill conventionally and hits like an absolute monster in combat - but with the addition of Feel No Pain to his repertoire, making him the toughest he has ever been and nigh on unstoppable in a melee. He still provides what amounts to the new Champion of Humanity bonus to friendly Imperial Fists and strikes at Strength 10 with his special AP! Thunder Hammer, though something curious to note here is that his Fist of Dorn no longer has a set Strength value. Functionally he still fights as normal at Strength 10 but this now means he can be affected by psychic powers or abilities that reduce his Strength value, something which he uniquely ignored in previous editions. Ultimately I don't think this matters nearly as much as gaining Feel No Pain does, especially given that his Warlord Trait was incredibly situational; my experiences with it usually ended with the enemy Warlord denying Lysander's challenge in the few occasions the two actually met in combat, leaving me incapable of getting the bonus. Basically, the age-old Icon of Obstinacy is even more obstinate than before (I'm so sorry) and thus worth your time if you want what effectively amounts to a named version of the "Eternal Chapter Master".

Pedro Kantor (Crimson Fists) - My personal favourite Space Marine hero due to my adoration of the Crimson Fists, Pedro received a wealth of delightful buffs which rocketed him into the list of top tier HQ choices for the Space Marine codex, the first of which is that he finally gained an all important 2+ armour save. Pedro was oddly the only Chapter Master I'm aware of without a 2+ armour save and I'm thankful Pedro finally gained this, making one fairly durable HQ choice; that his Warlord Trait was changed to confer Feel No Pain as well ensures only characters packing Eternal Warrior can outshine him in this regard. What is also truly notable here is that Pedro's commendable melee capabilities were also given a boost with his Oath of Rynn now affecting himself, meaning the leader of the Crimson Fists packs a whopping six Strength 8 AP2 Unwieldy attacks on the charge. When you consider that he also now has Artificer Armour and Feel No Pain, the new codex effectively turned Pedro into a melee monster that is only superseded by far more expensive characters like Marneus Calgar and Darnath Lysander. Heck, his Sternguard bonuses were also made more valuable by the fact that said units benefit from Bolter Drill with their Special Issue Ammunition in the new codex, while Objective Secured is very strong in the context of 7th Edition. I always thought Pedro was a good or even great choice in the prior codices but his new rule-set absolutely packs on the value and the comparison to Shrike at the same price point is both staggering and sad, but I'll just put him next to a generic Chapter Master instead to make it fair. A Chapter Master equipped with Artificer Armour, a Power Fist and the Primarch's Wrath (a close approximation for Dorn's Arrow) actually ends up being 10 points more than Pedro and lacks all of Pedro's unique rules, including Feel No Pain, an army-wide Preferred Enemy (Orks) bonus, a 12" bubble of +1 Attack and Objective Secured for Sternguard units. That he is so valuable with regard to his base equipment and still doles out so many rules for your army while effectively acting as a living Chapter Banner is just amazing and makes for one heck of HQ choice to lead your armies.

High Marshall Helbrecht (Black Templars) - While Pedro received an inordinate amount of buffs in the new codex, the other Chapter Master of an Imperial Fists' successor in the codex saw no such honour unfortunately even if he wasn't left wholly untouched. Where Helbrecht differs from his prior incarnation is in non-direct changes made to the codex rather than his own profile, resulting in a mixture of improvements and declines to his competitiveness. Most notable of these is the change to the Black Templars Chapter Tactics, meaning he no longer re-rolls to hit or has Rending in challenges which obviously makes him worse for those specific engagements, though he can instead gain the benefits of Rage or Counter-Attack in the first round of combat he joins. This overall makes him a weaker combatant than before but it is countered by the buff to his Warlord Trait meaning he and his unit always have Furious Charge rather than having it only once per game, leading to Helbrecht being a stronger unit buffer than before and particularly brutal when combined with Honour Guard. That basically sums up the changes he received and I would thus still say he is ideal for assault-based Space Marine armies which sadly aren't all that competitive at the moment, but what stands out to me is how he is contrasted next to Pedro at roughly the same points cost. Pedro hits way harder, is tougher to kill, provides better overall assault bonuses for an army and gives Sternguard Veterans the super-powerful Objective Secured special rule all for a handful of points more. It's no surprise that Black Templars players are dissatisfied with their High Marshall, even if he is actually decent enough for his cost.

The Emperor's Champion (Black Templars) - Billed as a character assassin that operates best in challenges, the Emperor's Champion was an overpriced option in the previous codex and it seems the rules designers tried their best to address this. Don't let the changes to the Black Templars' Chapter Tactics dissuade you from this character killer; he now has his own rule to provide re-rolls to hit while fighting in challenges while now also benefiting from the new version of the Chapter Tactics. What really stands out here is the fact that the two differing sword stances you had to choose between have now been rolled into this duelists' base profile, meaning his Black Sword is now always a +2 Strength AP2 melee weapon - which is amazing! - and any to-wound rolls of 6 he makes in a challenge inflict Instant Death, rather than having to pick between the two. Of course, this doesn't solve the core problem with the Emperor's Champion that he is expensive for what he does and only has 2 Attacks base meaning he isn't even that good at the one job he was designed for. You have to rely on the potential Rage bonus from his Chapter Tactics to get the most out of him, though admittedly he is pretty darned brutal in that situation; four attacks on the charge at Weapon Skill 6 and Initiative 5 that are Strength 6, AP2 and have the potential to inflict Instant Death with one re-roll to hit sounds nice to me! This is enough to smash medium-tier combat characters - a good example of this would be Pedro Kantor - despite being much cheaper than them, while he also cuts through Terminators and other elite units efficiently. Of course, he is still super reliant on his good Initiative value and potential to inflict Instant Death against characters like Pedro as his lack of Eternal Warrior and low number of Wounds make him far too easy to kill despite his strong saving throws. He is in a far better spot than he was but I still wouldn't really recommend the Emperor's Champion as he is just too expensive for what he does, though admittedly he is quite a bit cheaper than most other combat-oriented characters in the codex and just as if not more efficient in terms of damage output.

Chaplain Grimaldus (Black Templars) - A whopping 35 point price reduction stands as the largest cut any character in the codex received, something that immediately earmarks Grimaldus out as having improved significantly with the new rules even if his other buffs are noteworthy themselves. His equipment and base stats remain identical, while his core function of being essentially an Interrogator Chaplain with a Zealot bubble rather than being limited to just one unit is unchanged and alone makes him a better choice than Ortan Cassius. His Warlord Trait and accompanying Cenobyte Servitors also had some helping hands with the former now granting Grimaldus' Leadership 10 to all friendly Black Templars on the battlefield rather than just within a 12" radius, while the Servitors confer Feel No Pain to friendly units within 6" rather than a paltry 6+ invulnerable save, though this is balanced by the Servitors being 5 points more expensive per model. Interestingly enough, the way Servitors are purchased for Grimaldus is different now; you can take a minimum of one instead of three, and rather than they being a separately purchased unit they are now purchased as part of Grimaldus' "unit". This raises a few interesting questions; do they count as part of Grimaldus' "unit" given the Unit Composition and wording on how to purchase the Servitors, or are they treated as a separate entity much like any other regular squad? It is important because it could potentially mean several things like whether Grimaldus and his Servitors can all join a separate unit, if Grimaldus can actually leave the Servitors behind to join another unit and so on. In any case, Grimaldus definitely ranks as the best value character among the three unique HQ choices for Black Templars given his awesome buffs for a combat army and even the strong defensive bonuses he confers throughout multiple units, all the while being a decently strong melee combatant himself with acceptable durability due to having It Will Not Die.

Thank you all for reading this article! I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the Space Marines' Unique Characters, though obviously this list doesn't include the famed Chapter Master of the Ultramarines for reasons pertaining to his new Force Organization slot. If you have any thoughts or feedback to share then feel free to leave a comment for me and have a lovely day!

1 comment:

  1. Par for the course for GW, it seems like there are a number of unique yet still significant ambiguities in the rules that they didn't address; more of those "well I want this guy to work this way because it would be cool" but no thought to what happens when players do something else instead.