Space Marines Chapter Tactics Review

Hey everyone, Reecius from Frontline Gaming here to discuss the new Space Marine Chapter Tactics. As always, for more tactics articles, check out the Tactics Corner!

So, the new book is here and I absolutely love it! I think it is a great mix of the old book (which I thought was great) with some fine tuning to bring it back in line with 6th, and some fun new units and rules thrown in to make what is the most customizable book in the game right now.

So, my last article on BoLS and Frontline went over my broad impressions, this time I am going to look a little deeper at the Chapter Tactics themselves as for one, that will inform the rest of your list building decisions and two, where most of us will start. With previous books I would write a pretty comprehensive single review, but this sucker is big and the amount of choices and variables is so high I feel it would be a disservice to just skim so instead I will give it the attention it deserves and hit it in sections.

So, Chapter Tactics. I absolutely love the concept! With the success of the Horus Heresy novels and games, I think GW saw the popularity of giving attention to ALL of the Legions, not just a few. The last book gave us the ability to customize our force by taking special characters which was awesome, but it limited builds to revolving around certain models that you would subsequently see all the time. And, furthermore, we would see combinations of characters from different chapters frequently which was a bit odd from a fluff perspective. Like hey, let me borrow your best dude but leave the rest of the chapter at home. I like the idea of chapters working together, as they do in the books frequently, but not just a single (and often highest ranking) member of the chapter. So, with Chapter Tactics and allies within the book, yes you can have Tigerius teaming up with Vulkan, but they both have members of their respective force with them.

So, what this means is that you can have a cool army with units from two chapters for a fun, themed force AND from a gaming perspective you can cherry pick those units and Chapter Tactics you feel will best be able to build you the exact force you want. I am of the opinion that Space Marines are going to be able to put an incredibly flexible force on the table and really set the bar for a TAC list.

As for the Chapter Tactics rules themselves, I think they are all great. Truly, I like them all. The only slightly disappointing Chapter Tactics are for the Raven Guard, whom can not give Scouts to anything with the Bulky or Very Bulky rule (which means Jumpers, Bikes, Termies, Centurions, etc.) which I feel was an oversight as infiltrating Assault Marines is kind of their shtick, and the summary in the back of the book directly contradicts the ruling on pg.78, but it is what it is. The other half of their Chapter Tactic is Stealth on the first turn but with the amount of Ignore Cover units in the game, that is really nothing to get excited about. Now, in theory it is pretty cool, you infiltrate Scouts, Sternguard, Devastators, Tacticals, Honor Guard, etc. forward turn 1, and then they have Stealth for that turn to mitigate damage, but in reality with Tau, Eldar, Taudar, Chaos, Divination, etc. so popular at the moment, it really doesn’t count for much. When it does help, it helps a lot, though. And, the ability to outflank any of those units is nothing to discount. That said, I feel that Raven Guard do suffer a bit in comparison to the others and simply allowing Bikes and Jumpers to also Scout would be both characterful, fun and level the playing field, IMO.

Raven Guard also get to use their Jump Packs in both the movement and assault phases of the game. Nice one! Assault Marines really struggle to earn their keep in the current meta (and have for a long time, honestly) as a Marine stat line and point cost just doesn’t hold up to the true assault units of the game such as Daemons and Nids, who will thrash them in combat for less points. Assault Marines have been relegated to the bullies of the playground, picking on weak backfield units and blowing up vehicles (which, admittedly, they are really good at). The point being, if you build a list around Assault Marines, you are not going to have a fun game if you play armies that swing first, ignore your armor, and cost less points which, unfortunately, there are a lot of. That said, this little buff the Raven Guard get really helps a LOT. Rerolling the charge distance is critical in 6th ed to consistently making your charges. The Hammer of Wrath hit is actually super useful as it auto-hits, and you reroll the wound roll if you fail. That is deceptively good as it is really like getting 4 extra attacks at In 10 for models that get the attack. If you were charging a tough 4, WS 4 unit with Assault marines, attacking normally, you would average 1 wound per 4 attacks (1/2 hit, 1/2 wound) but Hammer of Wrath gives you an auto-hit (equivalent to 2 attacks on average), and a 3/4 chance to wound. These averages obviously get better if the target is weaker or has lower WS. So, with the above comments that these guys should be attacking relatively soft targets in the first place such as backfield shooting or scoring units, that extra attack is actually really good. My opinion is that Assault Marines should be run cheap, 2 flamers and melta bombs, and sent into the backfield either via Deep Strike or hopping up the field, and then to attack weak units and vehicles where they will do great, Wave Serpents particularly, fear them.

White Scars! These are the fellas everyone’s got their eye on right now, and for good reason. This often neglected legion (and a shame too, I love the Mongolians in space imagery) is going to be VERY popular. Why? They got some ace Chapter Tactics.

Born in the Saddle, the first half of their rules, allows their bikes to auto-pass Dangerous Terrain roles, add 1 to their Jink Saves, and to hit with Hammer of Wrath at strength 5! Nice! They essentially have skilled rider and those deceptively useful Hammer of Wrath attacks are even better. The cover save bonus is again, only situationally useful, but really good when it comes in handy. Obviously, passing dangerous terrain is huge for these types of units as in 6th, you take the test EVERY TIME you go through terrain, including pile in in combat, etc. it can really grind a unit down and when you have small units of bikes, every casualty hurts.

The second half of their Chapter Tactics is the real kicker, though. Hit and Run. Wowzers! Almost ever infantry model in the army has Hit and Run, that is crazy. We’ve never seen anything like this, typically it’s a USR only 1 or 2 elite units get. Now, you have an entire army (almost) that can leave combat at will (assuming you pass the I check, of course). That is so good. Hit and Run is game winning and combined with ATSKNF, you can keep your army fluid and mobile the entire game. Combo this with the great scoring unit that Marine Bikes have always been, add in the new Grav Weapons which work best on relentless models, and the ability to build a totall bad ass character on a bike and you have a winning combo. The White Scars really did get some awesome rules and I think the boys in White are going to be popping up all over the place in the near future.

Imperial Fists. I really like these Chapter Tactics. These are the most obviously potent offensive rules and you can make a list that consistently pumps out damage. Bolter Drill allows you to reroll 1’s with Bolter Weapons (but not with Special Ammunition) which means a huge chunk of your army has Poor Man’s Prescience, which really increases the average output of damage of the army.

Siege Masters gives Devastators and Centurion Devastators Tank Hunters and get +1 to damage rolls against buildings. Boom! That is really, really slick. It means your devs are just punishing against vehicles (including with Heavy Bolters which also reroll 1’s to hit). Also, this confers onto weapons the unit fires, such as Quad Guns and Icraus Las Cannons which is very helpful in clearing the skies of enemy flyers. The Imperial Fists are really straight forward in their rules: they shoot very well! haha

Iron Hands! Wow, they actually get some attention at all which is awesome. I always liked their fluff and after reading Wrath of Iron, I liked them even more. So, it is great to see them get some love and I feel that their Chapter Tactics are exceptional! The Flesh is Weak is the first half of their rules, and it is REALLY good. FnP 6+ army wide is great! It increases the durability of your army by 16.6% which is awesome. Not only do you die slower than other marines, you get a save against things like Plasma, Grav, Rending, etc. whereas other marines would just get slaughtered. This is one of those rules that is deceptively good.

Machine Empathy is another gem. All Characters and Vehicles get It Will Not Die. Wow! That makes your army even harder to take down. If you take a Chapter Master kitted out (or any character) they will prove to be so hard to kill as they regenerate wounds and deflect them with their 6+ FnP. And, Iron Hands just cry out for a mechanized army as your vehicles regenerate. Combine this with the +1 to repair vehicles with Masters of the Forge and Techmarines that they also get and you can have some seriously resilient armor and walkers! I just love these Chapter Tactics as they are both characterful and EXTREMELY good. I predict a lot of iron Hands in our future and the new paint scheme with some white thrown in is pretty sweet, too.

The Salamanders are only slightly changed from what we had before. That is by no means a bad thing, though. They are still very good. The primary difference is that they now lose some offense (Meltas and Multi-Meltas are not twin linked unless you take Vulkan, and T.Hammers aren’t master crafted but flame weapons still are) but gain some defense (reroll failed saves vs. flame weapons) and gain the ability to master Craft any weapon, even a purchased weapon, on all of your characters for free. That is a fair trade, in my opinion as you don’t HAVE to take Vulkan (although he is still really good) and the Master Crafted weapon for all characters is deceptively good. I feel that every Sallamander sarge should now have a Combi Plas! And it means your beat stick characters get even better with their powerful weapons, at no additional cost. Nice!

The Black Templars got some good Chapter Tactics, too. Accept any challenge lets them reroll all failed to hit rolls in a challenge and they get rending. That is pretty solid as with the rules in mind, you can kit up your characters for challenges. Perhaps not the greatest ability as Space Marines are not the best stat line, but, your beat stick characters will strongly benefit form this.

The second half of their Tactics is Adamantium Will and Crusader. Those are really good. Adamantium Will gives you +1 to your Deny the Witch rolls which, with all the Eldar, Daemons, Nids, etc. running around debuffing you, is very helpful as it doubles the odds that you stop the power. And, while BTs can’t take Libbys, it seems that they can ally with them and join to units with them, which would further increase their DtW rolls. Crusader lets them roll 2D6 for run moves and take the highest, as well as add D3 to their Sweep rolls. That is really nice if you are running the big Crusader squads as it really increases their average speed up the table and lets them run down high In units like Eldar and Nids after combat. it is also great for those last turn objective grabs by increasing their speed.

And finally, the boys in blue: Ultramarines. I at first read was iffy on the Ultramarines Chapter Tactics but after a conversation with my buddy Tastey taste, and a deeper reading of their Chapter Tactics I now feel that they may actually have the BEST Chapter Tactics for the right player. Why? Flexibility.

The Ultramarines have 3 different once per game abilities that are really good. Tactical lets you reroll 1’s to hit and Tactical Squads are totally twin linked. Assault lets you reroll charge distance and Assault and Bike units get Fleet. Devastator lets you reroll Snap Shots and Devastator squads get relentless.

Each of those is VERY powerful, however, you have to declare which you are using at the beginning of your turn and you can only use one per turn. That means you have to be a player that can see what is coming in advance. If you are good enough to use each of these abilities at the right time, you can force multiply your army a great deal. You can make your offensive punch very powerful, dramatically increase the odds of getting a critical charge(s) or make assaulting your army a much scarier proposition and/or increase the odds of dropping flyers with ground units. However, if used poorly, these are the worst Chapter Tactics as they are one use only. Calgar allows you to use one of them again, though, which is nice.

Ultramarines I think can be fantastic when used by an expert player that sees a turn or two ahead and plans when to use each ability to best effect. For example, a Drop Pod army comes in, you use your Tactical ability to twin link and gut punch your opponent. You then use your Devastator ability to reroll overwatch the turn you get attacked. Later in the game, you use your Assault ability to get those critical assaults off, or to use Fleet on your Assault and/or Bikes to get out and grab or contest objectives. Nice! Plus, Ultramarines have really good characters.

So, there you go, a break down of the Chapter Tactics. Don’t forget you can combine them with allies to get those certain abilities you need to really fine tune your army!


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

51 Responses to “Space Marines Chapter Tactics Review”

  1. jciscon September 12, 2013 8:21 am #

    ahh damn are bikes bulky/very bulky? I couldnt find in the brb so I was hoping bikes might get scout from ravenguard as an option for ma chapter tactics.

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 10:07 am #

      Yeah, they are Very Bulky per the BRB FAQ

  2. dr.insanotron September 12, 2013 8:23 am #

    I totally agree that the Ultramarine in The right players hand can be devastating. I was thinking about a Ultramarine drop pod list with a ton of tacticals. Twin link them turn 1 then reroll assualt turn 2 could be devastating

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 10:06 am #

      Yeah, and Tigerius and Calgar are really flippin good.

      • Fulcrum September 17, 2013 3:45 am #

        Better with sternguard & 3x honor guard squads.

  3. Hotsauceman1 September 12, 2013 8:49 am #

    I have a wondderfully painted White Scars army. I always played them as a static force though because bike armies are pretty tugh to learn. these new Special rules are amazing. It makes me giddy. And with the new Chaptermaster I can have a majorly hard to hit/beatstick beatstick.

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 10:09 am #

      I think Bike Armies, or at least Bikes as troops, will rock face.

  4. Sean Ireland September 12, 2013 9:12 am #

    It’s such a fantastic codex, once again Space Marines are the champs when it comes to number of builds you can do out of a codex.

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 10:07 am #

      Yeah, AND there are multiple effective builds.

  5. KingCro September 12, 2013 10:21 am #

    I’m an Ultramarine player and i am VERY happy with what the Ultras got. Makes them play like the jack of all trade master of none chapter that they really are.

    But this codex is just full of so many fun and cool builds that i just want to play all the chapters! I mean a bad ass biker army of mongols lead by a chapter master for white scars. A dual land raider iron hands list with tech marines running around on bikes hiding behind the land raiders fixing them up. An imperial fist army loaded with centurions and devastators sitting behind an Aegis just pouring firepower into the enemy. All the possibilities are just so coool and i want to try them all haha.

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 11:20 am #

      How about Iron Hands MoF IN the LR, fixing them! haha

      • KingCro September 12, 2013 12:32 pm #

        … god didn’t even think of that… so ridiculous lol

      • Gordy September 12, 2013 5:45 pm #

        Iron Hands Chapter Master with the Shield Eternal.

  6. Adam September 12, 2013 11:09 am #

    You think a combi-plas for salamander sergeants? If you’re taking Vulkan, they’ll probably be in a squad with meltagun and multi-melta, so I’d think a combi-melta would be better. It is nice that you can master-craft a combi-plasma, but I wouldn’t let that make you overlook the advantage that you already have. If your squad doesn’t have a meltagun, then you’d still probably want to go flamer + combi-flamer I would think.

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 11:22 am #

      I look at it this way: if you are in a Drop Pod or a Rhino, you can’t assault the turn you jump out to shoot. Then, the Combi Plas has more shots and your average target these days is an MC or light vehicle or infantry. The Plas is better against all of those in most instances.

      • Adam September 12, 2013 12:06 pm #

        Hmm… that is an interesting point.

        • Reecius September 12, 2013 12:09 pm #

          I’m not saying it’s the ONLY way to do it, but I think it is a nice little bonus!

          • Adam September 12, 2013 1:52 pm

            Yeah, definitely… I think we’re going to see a lot of master crafted chainswords though, haha.

          • Adam September 13, 2013 4:02 pm

            Here’s a retarded thought…

            Vulkan’s rule master-crafts all combi-meltas, so if I give sergeants combi-meltas they can also master-craft their combat weapon… Not huge, but something to think about.

          • Reecius September 13, 2013 6:52 pm

            Super Chain Sword!

          • Adam September 13, 2013 4:11 pm

            Oh, and that also means that combi-meltas on sternguard are master-crafted, so they can re-roll their bolter shots with special ammo… say what?!

          • Reecius September 13, 2013 6:53 pm

            True, or just go Ultras and reroll 1’s!

          • Adam ( September 13, 2013 10:18 pm

            Only once per game though!

  7. Gregorius42 September 12, 2013 4:00 pm #

    Hmmm… I am glad I ordered my 80 White Scar shoulder pads from Frontline Gaming in August, before the Codex was released.

    Thanks Reecius and Frankie!

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 5:00 pm #

      Haha, yeah, that turned out to be a bit prophetic!

      And as always, happy to assist!

  8. eriochrome September 12, 2013 5:26 pm #

    Funny where you talk about “With the success of the Horus Heresy novels and games, I think GW saw the popularity of giving attention to ALL of the Legions, not just a few.”

    Chapter Tactics is just Chapter Traits from the 4th edition codex just better because those you had to pay for and usually came with disadvantages but GW design is pretty much all candy now anyway. Fewer Chapters got treated since they drop Blood Ravens and BT had their own codex. Chapter Traits also allowed more customization for homebrew chapters but with the upgraded Tactics here that would be totally unbalanced.

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 5:53 pm #

      Well, yes and no. The 4th ed book had chapter traits that you picked and that was a lot of fun but this is a different animal. Similar for sure, but it is definitely different. I like it as it keeps the flavor of legions. And when were the Blood Ravens ever in the book? I can’t remember them ever having any rules but I could be forgetting.

      • eriochrome September 12, 2013 7:48 pm #

        Blood Ravens had See and Don’t Be Seen (Add Inflitrate to Tac or Devs without Transports +3 points plus Acute at +1) and Trust Your Battle-Brothers (Command, Tac, Assault, Dev squads can add counter attack and true grit for +3 with a cc weapon). They had Flesh over Steel as Drawback (0-1 Total Landraiders, Predator Destructor, Whirlwind and Vindi) and no LR Crusaders and Annihilator plus transports use fast attack slots.

        It is really not that different. They just made the abilites them better and/or free with no drawback but no customization.

        Imperial Fists could get Tank Hunters,

        Raven Guard could take Assault as elites and add furious assault to units.

        Salamanders could swap tac heavy weapon for a special weapon.

        Whitescars could take bikes as elite with tank hunters or furious charge or as troops without skills. Bikes could add expert rider.

        Crimson Fist: Preferred Enemy Orks for everything.

        Iron Hands:Dreadnoughts as heavy or elite where elites need to be venerable. Techmarine HQ and Terminator Armor wargear option. for sergeants and veterans.

        So probably more FOC changes and standard skills as opposed to more special rules.

        • Reecius September 13, 2013 6:56 am #

          Man, I usually have a really good memory for this stuff, was that in the 4th ed book? I just remember the Chapter Traits you could take.

          • eriochrome September 13, 2013 9:06 am

            Straight from the 4th ed Codex. I had it out of storage since I was interested in compare point and ability shifts. I also had my 3rd ed Rulebook since that had army lists for everyones basic list in it.

          • Reecius September 13, 2013 11:03 am

            Nice one, thanks for the reminder. Been a while since I’ve looked at the old boy.

  9. Gordy September 12, 2013 5:49 pm #

    Raven Guard is a little sad, but not because it’s weak. I think that you could make a pretty brutal army with Scout and Stealth on a ton of Sternguard, Tacticals, etc. It’s just sad because you’re leaving out all the Assault Marines and stuff you’d normally think would be in the army.

    Not really a fan of Black Templars, either. Their CT is better than nothing, but I think it’s pretty underwhelming.

    And why do Sternguard Storm Bolters still not benefit from Special Ammo? And WTF do they not benefit from Bolter Drill, for that matter?

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 5:55 pm #

      Good points. I don’t think Raven Guard are bad either, at all, but they are definitely the most shoe horned into what they can do in terms of lists and it would be nice if Assault Marines could sneak up without Shrike as he really isn’t that good, honestly.

      • fluger September 13, 2013 9:43 am #

        Exactly this. You can still do Ravenguard-y things, but they just aren’t as powerful as the others IMO. Them and Iron Hands got the biggest shafts IMO.

        I’m PRAYING that they get errated to have scout on jumpers.

        • Reecius September 13, 2013 11:04 am #

          You think Iron Hands got shafted? I think they’re boss! We tried them out and they bring the heat.

          • fluger September 13, 2013 11:58 am

            I guess in terms of being more resilient isn’t all that exciting compared to the increase in damage potential of other Chapter Tactics. That is my thought.

          • Reecius September 13, 2013 12:53 pm

            There’s a reason Fortune is 2 Warp Charge and Guide is 1 😉

          • fluger September 13, 2013 3:30 pm

            I am the first to be an advocate of resiliency, it’s why I thought Orks were good in 5th. It is why I like large numbers in my armies.

            I can see an Iron Hands force built around LOTS of tacticals being effective. Heck, they are the only MEq that get a save against Heldrakes! 😀

            I think people are underestimating how good 6+ FnP is, but at the same time, I think all the sexiness of the other Chapter Tactics are better.

            I think the thing I dislike the most is that Techmarines and Masters of the Forge get IWND already.

            I could see going with tacticals in Land Raiders as pretty fun too.

  10. Jadedknight September 12, 2013 6:52 pm #

    Hmm I wonder how relevant my Ravenwing army is now strictly in terms of competitive lists.

    Seems the only real differentiator is the BoD but on top of pricier bikes with the Sammy tax.

    Black knights are good but a regular command squad with grav rifles is a strong substitute.

    • Reecius September 12, 2013 7:24 pm #

      Raven Guard aren’t bad at all, it’s just that White Scars can do what they do better! Haha, if you take Khan, you essentially have Raven Guard and White Scars.

      • fluger September 13, 2013 9:47 am #

        Ehem, RavenWING.


  11. fluger September 13, 2013 9:46 am #

    I am SOOO happy that White Scars got some love. They are my second favorite SM chapter mostly because I LOVE the Mongols (my firstborn’s middle name is Temujin).

    I just am REALLY bummed about Ravenguard. I expected the rumor rules to be true and finally give base SM a true Assault Marine chapter. Oh well. No luck. 🙁

    • Reecius September 14, 2013 12:17 am #

      Your middle name is Temujin? No way! That’s awesome. They are super bad ass though, the White Scars came out looking pretty.

      • fluger September 14, 2013 7:56 am #

        Not quite, I firstborn son’s middle name is Temujin. My secondbord’s is Alexander. Conqueror middle names FTW.

        • Reecius September 14, 2013 9:54 am #

          You sir, are a bad ass! haha, that is awesome.

  12. Gaynelle Corkill September 14, 2013 2:53 am #

    The advice is extremely useful.|

    • Reecius September 14, 2013 9:57 am #

      Glad it was helpful!

  13. Vidar September 14, 2013 6:18 am #

    Double FOC Iron Hands loaded with Vehicles and Walkers. Preds and Vindicators 3 each. Walkers in DPs. Wall of Steel.

    • Reecius September 14, 2013 9:56 am #

      I totally agree, Iron Hands scream out to go mech. They will rock at it, too, I think that will be a really fun army to play, and really good, too.

  14. Fulcrum September 17, 2013 3:55 am #

    Do you see this as a codex that will compete for top dog with the current taudar meta?

    • Reecius September 21, 2013 9:37 am #

      Yeah, I think they will for sure.

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