Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of one of the more infamous releases from GW, the dreaded Codex: Deathstar! Space Marine Edition!! Now with added Psychic Powers!!! For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.
These army reviews are intended as tongue in cheek looks at popular army builds in 40k. No digs at any playstyles or players are intended, it’s all just a bit of fun! (This one’s for Reece!).
Codex: Deathstar was first released as a supplement in early 6th edition, brought about by the return of the allies chart into regular 40k. It was available for most armies, but had a strong focus on armies of the Imperium thanks to their newly introduced Battle Brothers allies, part of GW’s “here Space Marines, just have all the rules” policy. Codex: Deathstar is quite unusual amongst all the other 40k codices in that it contains absolutely no background section. There was no attempt to explain or justify the composition of the army, the Codex simply launches into the rules of the army and how to use it.
You can generally recognise a Codex: Deathstar army by the suffix “star” added to the name. For example, you have Wraithstar-star, Wolfstar-star, Barkstar-star, Super Friends-star, and the very common, “you’ve got to be f@!cking joking”-star.
There is a very common misconception that players that run a Codex: Deathstar list are Win At All Cost (WAAC)-type gamers, who just want a crushing victory in their games with no regard as to whether their opponent has any fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those that use Codex: Deathstar are consummate artists. They spend a great deal of time carefully crafting their lists, and lavish loving attention on each model in their army to create an impressive force. They share an empathy with their army that cannot be matched by any other army in the 40k universe. It physically pains them each time they have to remove a model from the board, so design their army to ensure that this heinous tragedy never has to occur.
Another common misconception is that you actually play a “game” against an army from Codex: Deathstar. Don’t think of it as a game against a Deathstar army, it is more of a modern art “performance piece”. The job of the opponent of the Deathstar army (more accurately known as ‘The Observer’) is simply to remove models from their army as the Deathstar moves around the table in its dance of death, and to roll dice. The dice don’t actually do anything or have any meaningful impact on the game, but they add a nice staccato rhythm to the performance piece as it proceeds. Once the Observer understands his part in the performance, it leads to a far more enjoyable gaming experience for both sides.
The actual units in Codex: Deathstar are wide and varied, too varied to review here. There are, however, some common trends that are observed in many of the armies. These include:
- Chief Librarian Tigirius
- Librarius Conclave
- Wolf Priests
- 300+ Fenrisian Wolves
- Command Bike Squads with all the grav
- Grav Centurions
- Assault Centurions
- Inquisitor Coteaz
All of them. All the special rules.
The way a Deathstar army plays is quite nuanced compared to many other competitive army builds. There are two main ways to use the army from Codex: Deathstar. These are:
- Get the first turn. Cast Invisibility and miscellaneous other psychic powers. Win the game.
- Don’t get first turn. Enemy army pours all firepower into the unit before you can cast Invisibility and miscellaneous other psychic powers. Lose the game.
The Librarius Conclave is an almost mandatory unit selection in Codex: Deathstar.
All armies from Codex: Deathstar come with Invisibility as standard. There are a myriad of other useful psychic powers that can be added to the unit to make them even more unkillable. The addition of the new Space Marine psychic powers have greatly benefited Codex: Deathstar as well, adding even more to the unit synergy. Popular powers include Veil of Time (for save re-rolls), Warpmetal Armour (for +1 toughness), Electrodisplacement (for teleporting 2 feet and still getting to charge), Phase Form (for ignoring line of sight and cover saves, because why should anyone else be allowed special rules) and Shifting Worldscape (for sheer insanity).
Players should not be too complacent about casting these powers. Yes, the Librarius Conclave gives you a nice boost on casting the powers on a 2+. However, many of these powers are warp charge two or three, meaning you will need to throw at least 4-5 of your 37 power dice to ensure that they can be cast. In 8th edition, all these useful powers will be consolidated into the one Discipline, the new “What the actual f@!k” Discipline (Space Marines only).
Azrael is also a valuable choice in Codex: Deathstar. Much is spoken in the 40k universe about Azrael’s tactical genius and zealous pursuit of the Fallen, but little is mentioned of his important and charitable work for the ESPCABH (the Emperor’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Burning of Heretics). Azrael travels to many far worlds rescuing Fenrisian Wolves that have been abandoned by their owners and providing them with a valuable 4+ invulnerable saves as they run in one massive, unkillable pack around the battlefield.
Another Dark Angels Veteran, Sammael is also a significant choice in Codex: Deathstar. After the loophole was closed, negating chapter tactics for units comprised of models from several Space Marine Chapters, Sammael stood on hand to grant Deathstar units Fearless, Scout, Skilled Rider and Hit and Run in a loophole of his very own. This helps ensure that Codex: Deathstar armies maintain their grip on all the games’ special rules.
Inquisitor Coteaz also makes a frequent appearance in Codex: Deathstar. Allowing the Observer to gain first turn frequently leads to false hope and Coteaz’s inclusion, and the Seize the Initiative re-rolls he provides, helps to mitigate this troubling development. Other members of the Inquisition are also sometimes deployed to bring along Servo Skulls. These awesome pieces of wargear shut down your opponent’s Scout and Infiltrate moves. This is very useful, as any opportunity to restrict the opponent’s ability to do anything in the game simply hastens their progression from the opponent to the Observer and leads to a more enjoyable game for both parties.
As well as being well versed in the performance art that is a Codex: Deathstar game, many expert Codex: Deathstar players quickly become masters of comedy too, particularly Deadpan comedy. Veteran players are able to audibly complain about how overpowered Stomp is after a single roll of a 6 on the Stomp table kills half their unit. The same unit with a 2+ re-rollable armour save, 3+ re-rollable invulnerable save, 2+ Feel no Pain save, that is invisible and has just travelled 30” across the board and charged on the first turn. With a straight face. It truly is a work of art.
Some players are not true disciples of the Codex: Deathstar way. They include other units in the army that are not part of the deathstar. These players are too overly concerned with trifling matters such as tactics or winning the mission and do not appreciate the true art of the Deathstar- tabling your opponent, making them cry and vow to quit 40k altogether, and gaining full points for the tournament round.
Since its release in 6th edition, Codex: Deathstar has been adding to the game of 40k immeasurably. There is nothing quite like firing an entire army’s worth of shooting at a unit and not causing a single unsaved wound that gives both players an immense sense of satisfaction. Other armies try to do Codex: Deathstar justice, but it is truly the Armies of the Imperium that best adapt to the supplement’s playstyle.
I hope you are enjoying this series of articles. What spoof codices would you like to see reviewed?
You can also pick up some cheap models in our Second Hand Shop. Some of these gems are quite rare, sometimes they’re fully painted!