I have never much liked Space Marines.
The super human angle didn’t do much for me, and I found them to be slow and clunky on the table. I have always preferred to play faster moving armies, starting with Tyranids at the tail end of 3rd and getting much more into the game in 4th, picking up Dark Eldar along the way. 7th ed saw me pick up Craftworld Eldar and Harlequins to add more options to my Eldarii toolkit.
8th ed did nothing to encourage me to change my view point. Primairis units felt shoe-horned in and lacked options, and the army as a whole seemed over costed for how easily they died and how little offensive threat they had. Their biggest sin, in my eyes though, was how interminably slow they were… and they forced you into a few play styles… and they didn’t have many good stratagems or combos to use….
Ok, I had a few issues with them…
Over the course of the two years since 8th first launched saw a number of changes made. Bolter drill saw their basic units gain some more flexibility. Not a lot, but some. Primaris units started getting options and upgrades, and Phobos units got added into the mix. With the drop of the new Codex for marines in 2019, a lot of the issues with the Primaris range of models were addressed. They felt more thematic, and there were options! Including being able to run your own successor chapter, complete with rules for it. I absolutely loved the bonuses for a ‘pure’ marines army as well. I could go on for quite a bit about how good for the game I feel that is.
Then, the supplements hit. Ultramarines and White Scars, and both upped the power level but, more importantly, changed completely how the units played and how the army felt. Between those and successor chapters, it really felt like marines could fit to a myriad of play-styles. That being said, none of the styles the Ultramarines and the Scars really spoke to me. Not in a narrative lore way – I can make the lore fit just about any way I want – it is a made-up world after all – but in a rules and play-style kind of way. Until Raven Guard dropped.
And then I heard it. The call. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I literally would wake at night to play on BattleScribe ideas that I had. Combinations I could do. But I hated marines! I have actively said for over a decade I would never play them….
But they never played like this before.
The movement shenanigans. The sneaky shots I could get on unsuspecting foes. The true feeling of making a surgical strike. The stratagem combinations and the unit synergies. All of this is theory hammer at the moment though, because as of time of writing I have yet to get a game with them (but I am getting ahead of myself). I could not get them out of my head. For two weeks. And I realized something as well. As much as I enjoyed my Eldarii, I was getting bored with them. From a hobby standpoint, and from a game-play one. More from a game-play point though. I found several things that drew me towards Raven Guard:
- They would be a lot easier to build and paint. I often dread painting my Eldar due to the small details all over every model. I am not the strongest of painters, and that turns what is a less-appealing part of the game into an absolute chore. Marines, however, are a lot easier and nicer to build and paint. That means for me, it will be easier to get units on the table that look decent.
- My Eldar, regardless of how I play them, are CP hungry during the game. They have some amazing stratagems, around which they can turn as an army. Space Marines also have some amazing stratagems, but a lot of them are pre-game. This means I can spend a lot before the game, and leave myself with a handful of CP left to make re-rolls or play one or two key stratagems I am looking for. This can free up my army to play more evenly throughout the game, instead of front loading their damage. With my Eldar, it was not uncommon for me to burn through 10 CP by the end of turn 1. I also feel this will reduce decision-fatigue as I am not having to constantly evaluate the cost of playing this 2cp strat now, or holding that back for another strat I may need later on. That is not to say Marines don’t have some very good stratagems to play in game – quite the opposite. But, the Raven Guard list that drew me in allowed me to not have to play that way.
- The customization. Both in a lore and game-play way, and the fact that I can make the lore have an impact in the game-play. I will touch a little more on the lore in a moment. But the fact that I can use the same set of models in very different ways – that really spoke to me as well. Let me give an example. Let’s say I take a unit of 6 Boltstorm Aggressors and a Chapter Master with the Master of Ambush warlord trait. If I know I am going first, I can bounce them up to my opponent’s line and open up. If I am going second, I can still bounce the Aggressors, but now to a nice piece of cover to hunker down in, or even out of Line of Sight. But, let’s say I want to be a bit more… aggressive (see what I did there) with them. Most people are well aware of the rule that lets them double shoot if they don’t move, but the Relentless Advance rule doesn’t seem to get as much discussion.
Now, Raven Guard, like many chapters, can give a Warlord two traits. If I give him the Swift and Deadly trait as well, now these Aggressors are quite a threat in shooting and combat. This level of flexibility, and able to choose that trait pre-game with the exact same units is insane.
It finally feels like marines are playing to how the lore says they should. And, like that, I was hooked. I committed to playing in the Doubles of Warzone Atlanta with them. My partner will be running Salamanders (without their supplement – it did not make the cut off). When I wrote this, it was before Warzone, and I had a bit of play testing to do, but I already had a 1k army built and painted in the two weeks I decided to jump on over. Which is insane. I have never, in 18+ years of playing, put an army together so quickly before. And, as I mentioned above, I have a bit of custom lore to them. I won’t bore you with that here, except for this: After the Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V, this group of marines swore to never again blindly trust in the Imperium as a whole, dubbing themselves The Nevermore.
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