Is the Codex/Supplement model the way of the Future?   

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.

Like what you’ve read? Disagree with parts or all of it? Comment below.

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9 Responses to “Is the Codex/Supplement model the way of the Future?   ”

  1. Rob Butcher October 18, 2019 12:57 am #

    Sales => new models (often designed five years ago) => new rules => new books

    That’s been GW’s business model for over 40 years and they’re sticking to it. And SM make up over half of the models sold. GW has always been a miniature company first. The games come afterwards.

    NEW supplements are only going to be released IF folks are buying sufficient models and likely to buy the books.

    I’m glad you mentioned Drukhari need little. Quite a few armies are in a similar boat. Orks were winning the GW GT without a Codex. Tau are winning.

    The main things that the Supplements have given the SM is a distinct Chapter flavour to their armies and removing the need for SOUP to be competitive. So now knights are just walking targets.

    • Judge Lando
      Sean "Lando" Samuels October 18, 2019 1:20 pm #

      Yeah, I totally said that we don’t know if the Supplements are considered a success yet. Given the probable lead time on books, we would be unlikely to see more until after the Psychic Awakening campaign anyway. Also waiting a while after those books would give them time to consolidate some of the new things in them into Supplements.

      More benefits for going mono-Codex would be good, especially for those that have no choice like Necrons

  2. Romero October 18, 2019 12:59 am #

    I bought a digital codex, the first Space Marine codex, but it’s a clunky format and it’s rarely updated. In fact, it would have been a perfect thing to update it with the new Space Marine codex goodies. I feel like a sucker. GW’s way of releasing the rules is too constricting for the benefit of their pocket book. I turned from a player into a hobby painter because of it.

    • Judge Lando
      Sean "Lando" Samuels October 18, 2019 12:05 pm #

      I’m an old school gamer, so digital doesn’t do it for me, although I empathize. Updating digital codexes is probably a better way forward, although it’s more consumer-friendly than business-friendly. I’ve heard a few podcasts recently suggest moving the digital books to a subscription model, maybe that would be a good middle ground?

  3. Blight1 October 18, 2019 6:36 am #

    Need me a Word Bearers supplement preferably with a new expanded legion trait(and more than just better summoning strat). Though honestly while I only like a couple loyalist chapters I would buy all of the legion supplements just for fluff. I just really want to see this model applied to chaos marines (and maybe daemons). The loyalist release completely revitalized their army and injected so much flavor into them. Need that.

    • Judge Lando
      Sean "Lando" Samuels October 18, 2019 11:54 am #

      I’m in a similar boat. My Craftworld home is Iyanden, always has been. But… I’d be hard-pressed to not buy all the Aeldari supplements, to go with all the Eldar novels I’ve got.

      And yeah, Chaos needs a shot in the arm. Even a simple expansion to World Eaters and Emperor’s Children would probably see a lot of praise.

  4. WestRider October 18, 2019 1:43 pm #

    I really liked the previous time they took this approach, back in 3rd Ed. I mean, it did help that everything was skinnier paperbacks that cost half as much, but still, from a pure rules perspective, it’s always seemed like a fairly elegant solution to me, especially if they keep doing a good job of using Errata to keep the various supplements in line when the main Dex gets updated.

    I am absolutely seconding Blight1 above about Chaos Legion Supplements. I know the loyalist Astartes are the money maker, but Chaos has always been the aspect of 40K that’s made it stand out from all the competitors to me, and those are the ones that will really make or break this for me.

  5. Pyrothem October 18, 2019 4:39 pm #

    If you want to play 40k without a ton of books just play Necrons! 😀

    One book! (and CA if you have not printed off the one page and stuck it in the book)

    That is it folks, nothing has come out they can possibly use since the Codex.

    Even Nids are in the same boat if you want to stay pure but GSC really opened a ton of options for them.

    There are worst things in the world then a ton of options printed in books.

    • Judge Lando
      Sean "Lando" Samuels October 19, 2019 9:37 am #

      Lol, it’s more about wanting to play the armies we like without having to haul libraries about. Especially while units like the Phobos Marines were in another book.

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