Abuse Puppy Brings us his first thoughts on the Space Marine Codex! Be sure to check out the Tactics Corner for more great reviews!
The new book is an absolute brick of fluff and other text, which is definitely nice to see (especially compared to the pre-Eldar codices of 7th edition, which were decidedly anemic in terms of fluff), so I’m not even gonna try to touch on all of that stuff. Suffice to say that it is a very big book with a lot of stuff in it and that’s a good thing.
The real thing you’re here for, though, is the rules. Since this isn’t a full codex review, I’m not gonna try and do a complete analysis of things- these are just my thoughts on what stuff in the book is like overall.
The Gladius is, for the most part, middling-decent (but we’ll come back to that one part in a sec here); ObSec for all of the units in the Core selection is a fairly alright thing, as is getting access to all of the Doctrines (and Tactical an extra time.) The Auxillary detachments are actually surprisingly limiting; while some of them are quite cheap, most involve combinations of multiple different units and can be very awkward. We’ll touch on the formations themselves in their own section, but unlike Necrons, Eldar, and Daemonkin, SM do not have any “just bring a specific unit” choices in the Gladius- you HAVE to bring along one of the formations, and like other unique detachments the Gladius denies you the use of any of the Forge World units, which can be awkward.
However, let’s point out that one little thing we skipped earlier: the Battle Company. Consisting of two Demi-Companies (the core choice) but not actually a formation, it would normally be illegal for inclusion under ITC army guidelines, but Reece and Co. have decided to allow it anyways because… well, I don’t know why, but they have. So every squad in your company can get a free transport (though they still have to pay for any upgrades to it, such as weapon swaps) giving you a minimum of twenty ObSec units that the enemy has to deal with. Does that sound like bullshit? Because it is. It’s bullshit in the same category as Scatter Bikes, and you can expect to see it pretty regularly at tournaments. Get your 5th Edition pants back on and brush up on the Tank Shock rules, ’cause the Battle Company is gonna be all over the place.
Doctrines are a port from the 6E codex; they’re similar to the old Ultramarines tactic, but have been pared down and other chapters can also get access to them (though Ultras are still the best at it.) There are three Doctrines- Tactical, Assault, and Devastator, with each benefiting the appropriate type of unit a bit extra. Tactical Doctrine is simply better than the others- it allows rerolls of ‘1’ to-hit in the shooting and assault phases, with Tactical Marines getting to reroll all misses with it. Assault Doctrine is for assault phase only but otherwise the same, with ASM, Bikes, and other FA units getting the “maxed” benefit of it. Devastator Doctrine is likewise shooting only, with Devs/Dev Cents getting the max benefit.
Doctrines have to be enacted at the start of the turn and only work on your turn, but as army-wide buffs they are fairly solid (on par with Skitarii Doctrinas and Mechanicus Canticles), especially since they can take effect in multiple phases of the game. It’s possible to get more than one of a Doctrine that you can use, though, especially via formations and characters.
Chapter Tactics are very similar to before, with a few small additions and updates. The book clarifies that units of mixed types (a White Scar model joined to a Black Templar unit, for example) are “counted” as being neither type- however, as most Tactics give benefits to models, not units, this very rarely matters. It does, however, give us some precedent as potentially how to apply other “mixed units” for other purposes in the game, the first one yet. How TOs will treat it, however, remains to be seen.
White Scars are still the big winner in most respects; Hit and Run for everyone (even Terminators/etc) and Skilled Rider (rather than an identical-but-different version) for all bikes is absolutely huge. Pure WS units can also reroll their Run distances, and they still get +1Str on HoW hits. Nothing but improvements here. Imperial Fists are also identical but now can use Bolter Drill with special ammo, which is a nice little gimme. Black Templars trade their bonuses in a challenge for instead gaining Rage/Counterattack if they take shooting casualties in a turn- a cute trick against Overwatch, pre-assault shooting, and your own Plasma accidentally exploding. Iron Hands can add +1 to FNP rolls if they get it from somewhere else, which can stack up pretty quickly; 4+, 3+, or even 2+ are possible even without enemy shenanigans. Salamaders get FNP(4+) against flamers rather than rerolling saves, which generally works out a bit better, and otherwise keep their other bonuses. Raven Guard are completely different now; they get Shrouded on the first turn if they aren’t a vehicle/in a vehicle and add +1 to rolls to see if it’s Night Fighting. They can also use Jump Packs in both phases and reroll Hammer of Wrath hits with them. Ultramarines get all three Doctrines once per game in addition to any other uses you’d get of them.
So most of the Tactics got slightly better all in all; White Scars are still very strong, Iron Hands are generically useful, Fists have amazing Devastators, and Ultras get pretty good one-shot abilities. WS will probably remain the premiere choice for armies, but expect to see a small increase in the use of others (if only because more non-Bike armies will be around.)
Alright, now for the meat of things. It’s a big codex, so we’re gonna try and do this relatively quickly. Buckle those seatbelts, kiddos.
Sicarius is cheaper and adds +1 to Reserves rather than rerolling Seize. He only hands out his Leadership if he’s your warlord now. Still not worth it, but closer to being not an embarrassment.
Tigurius is the same but now Storm of Fire is even better. He’s a total beast.
Cassius is still not very helpful and has the worst warlord trait.
Telion is an HQ and at 50pts, he’s the cheapest of them. He can only join Scouts, but he does get Storm of Fire for a trait which is quite good.
Chronus is also an HQ and comes with any one vehicle (but not Drop Pods/Speeders) that gets BS5, IWND, and ignores Stunned/Shaken. If it gets killed he disembarks as a two-wound IC. Interesting guy, though none of the SM tanks are so good you’re biting at the bit to improve them.
Vulkhan is identical, but has FNP as a fixed warlord trait.
Shrike is a fucking mess. He is not allowed to join anything but Jump Infantry squads before the game… but due to the GW FAQ, he can’t join any of them (they don’t have Infiltrate and he does), meaning he has to stand around like a big, dumb idiot with a moron face.
Lysander is essentially the same, and has FNP as a fixed trait. Still really pricey, but a beater.
Pedro is slightly cheaper I believe?
Otherwise pretty much the same. Oh, neat, he gets a 2+ and his +1A aura applies to himself.
Emperor’s Champ is S6 AP2 MC’d all the time and in challenges gets to reroll misses with 6s causing ID. Better, but still probably a bit more than you really want to pay.
Captains get an Orbital Strike now. Otherwise the same. No they don’t. Still no reason to take one other than being forced to.
Librarians get access to all disciplines, including Divination. Fuck you, SW and BA psykers, we’re just better than you!
Master of the Forge is just the Techmarine now, with BS5 and W2 and everything. Still can get Conversion Beamer and all that other stuff. Servitors are still derps.
Chaplains are identical. Note that one is required (along with the Captain) to make a Battle Company.
Tacticals are pretty similar, but like all squads they have access to the Grav Cannon/Grav Amp pair for their heavy choice. At 35pts it’s very pricey, but it does give you something to do when spilling out of a Drop Pod.
Scouts are WS/BS4 now. Huh, wow. No price increase or anything, either. Makes them into some very, very efficient scoring units, especially with the formation. Also makes paying for Sniper/Missile/HB a lot more attractive.
Crusader Squads get the same buffs as Tacticals/Scouts, but are otherwise unchanged. Still just better than a Tactical unit, unless you’re Combat Squadding. Heavy/Special in a 5man is nothing to sneeze at.
Fast Attack Units
Rhinos and Razorbacks are the same but available as FA choices, along with the Drop Pod, just as we expected. Note that the Razor is 55pts base with 20pts for the gun upgrades (TLLas, TLHF, LasTLPlas) which makes the Battle Company even more efficient.
Assault Squads come as just Tacticals with BP/CCW now and can take either a transport or Jump Packs (paying 3pts per on the latter.) Odd way of doing it, but more functional than the previous method.
Scout Bikes benefit from the Scout WS/BS adjustments and a 5pt drop on the Locator Beacon, which was their main purpose. Seem okay.
Bikes can be taken as troops still and don’t require a Captain/Chapter Master- it can be ANY character on a bike, basically. Also no more 5man minimum. Not sure whether min-sized squads with double-special and an Attack Bike is the way to go, or if you want a bit more resilience.
Attack Bikes are still a thing. Ayup.
Land Speeder Storms get BS4 but are still cheap (40pts!) They can carry Telion if there’s room, but there’s only room for five so rarely gonna happen. Cerberus Launcher is now S4, so can actually do some damage.
Land Speeders came down 5pts, as did bolting on an extra weapon (except the Cyclone/AC I believe?) If you have three of them you can move an extra 6″ when going Flat Out, wheee.
Stormtalons get cheaper gun upgrades (115 for the Stormhammer, still your go-to I think) and move further Flat Out as well as getting +1 Jink when Hovering. Protip: Don’t go into Hover mode unless you need it to win the game, you’ll probably die. Unlike other vehicles, they and the Stormtalon can’t come in squads.
Command Squad are an Elite unit, as with other codices. Still can get five specials and an Apothecary (or Bikes if you want.)
Honor Guard are also Elites, and unchanged. Not needing a Chapter Master to unlock them is a bit of a big deal and really gives them a chance to shine as a cheap counterassault unit. We’ll see how they do overall.
Assault Centurions can “steal” a pod now, but I think they’re still pretty mediocre. Good at killing superheavies, but serious why do they not have Veterans inside these things?
Vanguard Vets are 19pts, but get a 10pt discount on melee weapons- so 5pts for a Power Maul or Axe. That’s pretty rad.
Sternguard are 22pts still, with the only real change being the addition of Grav Cannons. Heavy Flamers are still to rare and precious to give to anyone else, because metal tins full of gasoline are a forgotten technology.
Dreadnoughts are four attacks base now, so they’re actually kinda scary-ish in a fight, and youcan take them in squadrons. Unlike every other unit in the book, though, there is no benefit to doing so.
Ironclads and Venerable also got more attacks. Only Ironclad seems like it has any chance of surviving to use them, though.
Legion of the Damned can’t take Grav Gun/Cannon, but are still really good. Ignores Cover is a fantastic rule.
Terminators of both types are 35pts per body, with +10pts for TH/SS. I don’t think this is even close to enough to make them good, but it’s at least a step in the right direction and may herald something nice for Dark Angels.
Heavy Support and Lord of War Units
Devs get the new Grav, a very helpful upgrade if you’re looking for a mech or Drop army, and also get the Armorium Cherub for 5pts, which lets you reroll a to-hit roll once.
Centurion Devs are slightly cheaper, but Grav is slightly more expensive. Works out the same in the end.
Thunderfires got a stealth buff when the Techmarine got better (+1BS/W) and to boot can be taken in squads now. If you get three, you can be BS6! Three TFCs with a Librarian attached are murder for anything on foot.
The basic Predator is still too expensive, but AutoLas and TriLas are fine. Gaining Tank/Monster Hunter with three of them is a bit of hilarious overkill, but maybe not completely awful? Nah, it probably is.
Whirlwinds being in squads is actually very useful (so you aren’t burning all your HS slots on them) and Pinning/Shred with a unit of three is interesting, but the TFC is kinda just better.
Vindicators are still the same jank… but with three of them, if they all shoot it’s a 10″ blast with Ignores Cover. Oh jeez. However, all three of them do need to be able to shoot for that to work, so no Stunned/Shaken, you need to be in range, have to have the right facing, etc. It’s brutal if it works, but it’s gonna be tricky to get it to work. Note that you can use the squadron rules to your advantage to give you a larger AV13 facing on your sides, at least until you are getting ready to shoot.
Hunters still don’t have Intercept, so pretty mediocre as AA. Squads of three can reroll misses with the “chase” missiles, which is amusing but pretty meh.
Stalkers also have Intercept and fire three TL shots at one target or three regular shots at two different targets. A squad gives them Ignores Cover. Also note that because of how their fire-splitting works, you can shoot four things with a full squad of them (all three shoot one target, each splits to a different one.) Seem a lot more viable than the Hunter, but they are competing with Hyperios Platforms, which are dirt cheap.
Stormraven is identical. So are the Land Raiders. Yawn.
Calgar is 275, can pick any SM warlord trait, and can use one Doctrine an extra time. His Gauntlets strike at initiative now, which is pretty brutal, and he can trade his regular armor for Terminator that doesn’t stop him from Sweeping (though he loses his grenades in the process.) However, and this is a big one- you can’t choose to pass/fail morale for the army with him anymore, so he’s trying to be more of a combat beast and less of a utility guy. I don’t think it works in his favor overall.
The Demi-Company is the big one. A Chappy or Captain (or their named versions), three Tacticals, an Assault/Bike/Attack Bike/Speeder/Assault Cent squad, a Dev or Dev Cent squad, and optional Dreadnought and Command Squads. Everything gets ObSec and you can use a tactical Doctrine once per game regardless of how many Demi-Companies you have. It’s okay, but the Battle Company makes it insane. It’s a lot of ObSec bodies that will be annoying to get rid of, which in ITC can be a very real problem.
Anti-Air Defense Force is two or more Stalkers (in one unit) and one or more Hunters. It gives you +1BS if your Hunter hits with its missile on an air target. Eh, it’s a cheap way to bring some AA in I suppose.
1st Company Strike Force is 3-5 units of Vets or Terminators and gives them all Fear, Fearless, and anything within 12″ of three or more units of them has -2Ld. You can also pick one target for them to have Preferred Enemy against. Not awful, but not all that interesting from a competitive perspective.
Strike Force Ultra is basically too many big, expensive models embarked on other big, expensive models. They get to fire extra and do more punchy and they’re the BEST GUYS in the WHOLE IMPERIUM! Pow pow, pew pew! Bam! Ker-blooie! Yeah. Just hope that your opponent doesn’t bring… well, anything, really.
Reclusiam Command Squad is a Chaplain and his buddy team in a tiny little clown car. They give out an aura that won’t matter because the other player shot your AV11 transport down and then murdered the guys inside to deny you bonuses.
10th Company Task force is 3-5 units of Scouts or Scout Bikes and an optional Telion; it gives Stealth to all your units so long as they Infiltrate, until they move/shoot/etc. It also gives them Precision Shots for the first turn of the game. I’d call it mediocre, but it’s very cheap as a way to fill out a Gladius Strike Force and Scouts are a relatively okay unit now, so it goes up a c ouple notches.
Stormwing is the same. Need some airplanes? This lets you bring them along.
Centurion Siegebreakers are a lot of melee models that… probably you don’t have enough Drop Pods for. And that are kinda slow. And whose special rule does vague extra wounds when they kill a transport. It’s pretty hard to get excited about.
Land Raider Spearhead is three Raiders of any type and they get to pretend to be superheavies (i.e. ignore everything but Explodes) as long as they’re within 6″ of each other. They can also reroll wounds/pens against superheavies and GCs. I guess if you want to bring LRs, but you spent all your HS slots on actual good units like Thunderfires?
Librarius Conclave is 3-5 Librarians, potentially including Tiggy. When within 12″ of each other, you can have them all “pool up” their powers and let any one guy cast for them all as well as get a +1 bonus to harvesting Warp Charge for each guy beyond the initial one (so potentially a 2+.) They get Maelific, Telepathy, and Divination. You can preserve whoever is the important one by letting the chumps take Perils for him. You can reduce chances of Perils and maximize dice by casting on super-low numbers. Yeah. This formation is, shall we say, quite good.
Armored Task Force is a Techmarine, 0-3 TFC units, and 3-5 units of any of the gun tanks (Pred, Vindi, Whirlwind), with optional Chronus. You get +1 to repair them and ignore Shaken/Stunned when within 6″ of any kind of Techmarine (including the gunners.) Rather pricey in most cases, but pretty solid.
Suppression Force is a Land Speeder unit and a unit of at least two Whirlwinds; if the Land Speeder is within 18″ of something (and didn’t move Flat Out), you can reroll misses with the Whirlwinds and ignore range to the target. Again, it’s cheap, but feels rather shoddy.
Warlord Traits and Relics
The Warlord traits are better, though that’s not saying a lot since before it was arguably one of the worst in the game (down there with Tyranids.) Angel of Death still gives Fear, but on 3d6! Rarr, most units are still immune and don’t care! Imperium’s Sword gives FC to the warlord and unit, which is an okay buff. Iron Resolve gives FNP, which is pretty garbage for a trait overall. Storm of Fire gives one unit within 12″ Rending with its shooting attacks, which is REALLY good. Rites of War lets you share your Leadership with your detachment, which is reasonable but not huge when you already have ATSKNF. Champion of Humanity lets you reroll Leadership within 12″ of the warlord for ALL Imperial units, which is significantly better- rerolling Ld8/9 is far better than using Ld10. It’s probably still a worse table than Strategic (as most everything is), but at least most of them are useable now and actually do something.
The Relics are the same, but you are now definitively limited to carrying only one (whereas before it was a bit arguable.) Eternal Shield is great, Burning Blade is good, Teeth of Terra and Primarch’s Wrath are okay, Armor Indomitus is stinky garbage.
The SM book changed surprisingly few things, but we did see bumps to a number of weaker units, which is good. There’s still more than a few stinkers in teh codex, but no longer are they so egregious. You’ll see a lot more diverse SM armies now, especially in terms of the Chapter Tactics people use. Squads of units are very relevant in a few cases (TFCs, Vindicators, Stalkers) and mostly otherwise ignorable, but they’re a cute incentive to make folks buy more.
The Gladius is gonna be a HUGE thing for the competitive scene and in casual games it’s… just really unfair. It’s an amazing amount of bodies and tanks to try and drag down, as even before SM could be a right pain to actually get rid of all of their stuff. With objectives being so critical in ITC (especially because of new Maelstrom increases), expect to see a lot of SM at the top tables. This isn’t actually a change for anyone familiar with big tournaments, but maybe this time around folks will actually recognize how strong the SM book is.