With the recent release of the new, improved Codex Space Marines and the announcement/release of Supplements, you have to wonder if the other armies are going to get this treatment and if that would be a good thing.
Hi, you probably haven’t heard of me. I’m Sean Samuels, 40k hobbyist since 2nd edition, tournament organizer and X-Wing Judge. My perspective on this comes from not only being a long term gamer, which plays/has played multiple games, but also as someone who works in a local gaming store. I play Aeldari (mostly Iyanden, but with Drukhari, Harlequins and Ynnari), Imperial (mostly Ultramarines and Imperial Guard, but with Knights, Custodes and Sisters of Battle) and Thousand Sons (Magnus did nothing wrong!).
There are a lot of pros to releasing a re-vamped Space Marine Codex. They have added the new units from Shadowspear- the Phobos-armoured Marines. They have added the Chapter Tactics to the vehicles. New and improved Stratagems make their Command Points useful again. And all of this comes with the slight con of having to buy a new version of a book you bought 2 years ago.
The Supplements, likewise, have more advantages than disadvantages. They separate out the fluff for each of the featured Chapters, giving them a little more room to breathe, while allowing you to ignore the Chapters you aren’t interested in. This leads to a major downside; having to carry more books to play your army. You also would have to buy even more books if you collect all the Codexes.
At the moment, it isn’t clear if this will be a model going forward or if this will become the new normal. We haven’t even had all of the Supplements for the book yet, so it’s hard to tell if this will be considered a successful move. It may prove that the less popular Chapters will languish on the shelves especially if one Chapter is far more tournament-viable than the others.
You may be wondering why I would want this to be the new normal. While the upsides are obvious, I mean; when was the last time you saw so many people excited about Space Marines?, the downsides are a financial cost to the customer and an uncertainty as to how long your book will be worth the money you have paid for it. When hobby budgets are tight, and many things pull on them (Games Workshop has been producing some sweet new models the past few years), why would I advocate for something that makes the game cost more over a shorter period of time?
Other games I play have what is known as a Rotation. This is where elements of the game, largely huge swathes, become non-tournament legal (within the main format) at specific times. This serves a few purposes. It keeps the game fresh with anything verging on being too powerful having a built in shelf-life. It removes older product from consideration, keeping the must-buy pool for new players smaller and less intimidating. And, finally, it keeps enfranchised players having to buy product to keep up with tournaments.
You may have noticed that some of this sounds similar to when a new edition of Warhammer 40K comes out. Certainly the rules become improved, as the designers can learn the lessons from the previous editions. The game freshens up as new models are introduced, some of which older rule sets can’t easily support. Do you remember when the Valkyrie joined the Imperial Guard Codex in 5th edition, but used the rules for a Fast Skimmer? It also keeps money coming in as enfranchised players have to re-buy the rulebook and Codexes.
In the past, this caused a problem. Alongside the lack of schedule for when a new edition would start, the release schedule of Codexes would proceed at a snail’s pace. We all know of armies that would end up going two or more editions without a new Codex, such as Orks or Tyranids, as each edition always started with the poster boys; the Space Marines. In fact you would be lucky if you saw three Codexes in a year. With 8th edition, Games Workshop has bucked this trend. We are just over two years into the edition and the only existing army’s book we are waiting for in Adepta Sororitas which we know is coming in November. With no particular signs of a new edition on the horizon, where does Games Workshop go from here?
We have had the announcement of Psychic Awakening; a galaxy-spanning campaign that brings a series of books that each focus on two or more armies. I expect this to be an expanded version of the Vigilus books, with details on the events of the campaign and possibly more Specialist Detachments. They may even contain new units or special rules.
Eventually, you run into a problem. People are playing their armies, but the rules are scattered between Codexes and campaign books and we are back to the complaint from 7th edition where people have to bring libraries to tournaments. We are already seeing shades of this from “Soup” armies, where people are build Detachments from three different Codexes, with Forge World units and Specialist Detachment Stratagems.
The Codex/Supplement format is the answer. Each army has a Codex. This is where the bulk of their rules are, stats for their common units and information on the nature of the faction itself. This becomes an easy place to point a new player once they have an idea of what faction they like based on the model range. They can then see how their favourite models perform in game, and get an overview of the sub-factions. The “Chapter Tactic” for each sub-faction is included so they can get an idea of which one might suit their preferred play style once they get some games under their belt.
Each sub-faction has a Supplement. Here you get much more in-depth information about the sub-faction’s background as well as any rules for their unique units and characters. Expanded psychic trees, warlord traits, and more relics. Basically, everything we see from the Ultramarines/White Scars books that released this month. This also lets players dive a little deeper tactically as they explore the strengths of the sub-faction.
Then, as time progresses, you can update and re-print these. If a release like Shadowspear brings out new models, you can add them to the Codex and re-release. If a new hero comes to the fore, or an existing one changes a la the Rubicon Primaris, you can add their rules to the Supplement and re-release. The same with rules coming out of new campaign books, with certain Specialist Detachments being a prime example. You can even make rules changes to the army as you revamp the book if the army is underplayed or too powerful.
The biggest pro to this we have already seen. Space Marines were considered underpowered. With the new book, while not every problem has been solved, people are excited again. Drop Pods and Grav weapons finally have their dust removed. New units have joined the army. Not just ones that released in the interim, but actual new units like the Invictor Tactical Warsuit. If you are a Marine fan, this book is just the shot in the arm you needed to get them back on the table.
Revamping the Codexes every couple of years will stop them feeling stale. And you only have to do it if the army needs it. Drukhari are currently in a good spot, so it would take a lot to happen for them to need rule changes.
Supplements allow changes, like Marneus Calgar, that only cause the people who like that sub-faction to have to re-buy the book. Imagine if they had changed all the Chapter Tactics, brought in the Primaris special characters and made you buy the new version of the Codex. You would end up with a bunch of stuff you don’t need for the 1-ish page you do. With the Ultramarine Supplement, I can ignore Khan and Shrike crossing the Rubicon, and stop carrying around the small rule sheet/Vigilus book when I field Calgar. There is even the added benefit of Tigurius joining him.
If a sub-faction is especially underperforming, you can re-do their book without having to touch the whole army. The knock on effect is the Supplements are cheaper to buy than the Codexes, so you don’t feel as out of pocket.
Obviously, this would become easier with Digital versions of the books. You can make them so they auto-update, with warning, and possibly charge a subscription fee for the service. It would depend on how often you think the books would get updated.
I would love to see this become the model going forward, as I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s going to be interesting for people like myself who have multiple armies and bookshelves already straining under the weight. But as long as the pace isn’t too frequent, then I’m all for it.
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