Space Marine Review – Chapter Command

Welcome to the first part of a review on 9th ed Codex Space Marines. This will be deep diving into just the first part, the Chapter Command section. Read on for more on how Marines can upgrade their characters. For more awesome tactical content, check out the Tactics Corner!

Due to the size of the SM dex, I am going to be breaking up the different sections. I typically don’t like doing this, rather preferring to review the entire codex in one article. However, the sheer size of Codex: Space Marines makes this a bit too much of an endeavor.

Today, we will be looking over the 7 upgrades to the different main characters. Captain, Chaplain, Techmarine, Librarian, Apothecary, Ancient, and Company Champion. It is worth noting as well that the points values for some of the upgrades that are listed on page 98 differ from those listed on page 202. Until FAQ’d, we will work of the values on pg 202 for two reasons. First, they are more expensive, and better to work with those and adjust lists with more points available then try to squeeze in extra points. Second, Most recent always trumps, and seeing as page 98 comes before 202, the values on 202 are more recently printed therefore correct. (This is a joke people…)

Each of the Chapter Command sections follows a similar format. You pay points to upgrade the character, which gives them a new ability. Then, you may also have access to a specific Relic and War lord trait on that Character. It is also important to note that each Army may only contain one of each of these, and that as always, named characters may not be upgraded. Black Templars may not upgrade their Company Champion, nor may Deathwatch upgrade their Captain or Blood Angels their Ancient.

Chapter Master

Starting with the one most people will recognize, the Chapter Master. Seeing as Captains are limited to one per detachment, this becomes quite a hot commodity. It makes taking a throw-away smash captain a much bigger risk now. Upgrading to a Chapter Master then also allows you to take another Captain unit.

With that out of the way, let’s look at what a Chapter Master actually gives you. For a 40 point upgrade, you gain a new ability: Chapter Master (very originally named). This allows you to pick a Core or Character unit within 6″ in your command phase, and allow it full re-rolls until the start of your next command phase.

At first glance, this is a nerf from the previous iteration of it. It is no longer an Aura, but rather a pick one, and only Core or Character units. However, there are a few upsides. First, the unit does not need to remain within 6″. This means the Captain is free to move away, or the unit can pursue other objectives. This gives a bit more tactical flexibility to your army.

Second, the buff is not reliant on the Captain staying alive. I used to run a Chapter Master with Aggressors in 8th, and often opponents would charge both units, kill the Chapter Master first and my Aggressors would lose their re-rolls. Now, however, even if the Captain dies, his buff continues to work until the start of your next command phase.

Speaking of, the fact this is done in the Command Phase means the Chapter Master and the unit he wishes to buff must both be on the table at the start of the game, if they are to take advantage of this. They can not arrive from reserves, or move out of a transport and benefit from this ability on the same turn.

Additionally, with points going up across the board, you actually have less units. Which means giving his buff to only one unit is not as crippling as one might expect at first. All in all, this is a fairly solid buff, but that 40 point tax hurts.

The Warlord trait opened up, Master of the Codex, is nothing exciting but still quite solid. On a 4+, at the start of your command phase, you gain one CP. If you are planning to keep your Chapter Master as back-line support and not throwaway damage dealer, this is quite solid as a pick up. It will typically pay for itself, and over the course of 5 turns, you should gain some extra cp.

The Relic is quite nice. Angel Artifice, shamelessly stolen away from the Champion in 8th, gives your Chapter Master a 2+, as well as adding one to the wounds and toughness characteristics. This relic makes your Captain quite a good deal more survivable, and Salamander’s player in particular are salivating over this one. (Chapter Master on bike + Might of Heroes + Flame shield + Angels Artifice = T8. Practical? No. Fun? Yup).

While all of this is solid, you really need a very, very good unit that is getting the buff. Something like 10 Intercessors, or a squad of 6 Aggressors or 10 Terminators. Preferably something that can work in both shooting and assault phase to really get the most of this. I foresee many 10 strong units of Stalker Bolt Rifle squads being babysat by a Chapter Master, especially when using the 2CP Rapid Fire Strat to double shoot. Doubly so when done as a unit of Dark Angels.

Master of Sanctity

Next up is the Master of Sanctity. Ho-boy, this one is quite good. All the litanies are much the same as before, except that now they only impact Core and Character units. The other big change, however, is there is now a Chaplain on Bike model, who immediately screams out for this 35 pt upgrade. Also to note, the Benidiction of Fury relic returns and is just as good as before.

So, what do you get with all this?

Well, just for the upgrade, you can now know and attempt to bellow out an additional Litany. Much the same as before.

The Wise Orator WL trait has two parts to it. Firstly, you may add one to your attempts to shout the Litany – rocking these on a 2+ now. While mathematically slightly worse then a 3+ re-rollable, this is still quite solid. Secondly, you may use a new strat, Commanding Oratory, for one CP instead of two.

So, we must now take a slight diversion to the strats again…

Commanding Oratory, in short, lets a Chaplin that has not attempted to shout any litanies, to auto pass a single one, at any point during your turn. Need to guarantee you get Canticle of Hate off? Or Mantra of Strength? Spend one CP to guarantee this. Anything that removes variance is absolutely huge.

The Master of Sanctity is such a versatile unit, able to be built in a number of different roles. I personally love using him as a beatstick.

The specific Relic, while good, still is outclassed by Benediction of Fury. The Emperor’s Judgement has two parts to it. Firstly, attacks made against the bearer may not have the hit, wound, or damage roll re-rolled. Secondly enemy units within 6″ roll 2d6, take the highest on morale checks.

While a Master of Sanctity is good, he is not needed for every list. Indeed, bringing him requires the list to be built with a specific purpose in mind. But when that is the case, he can be a pivotal piece of that puzzle.

Master of the Forge

Next up to bat, we have the Techmarine upgrade. Clocking in at a cool 30 points, he gains the ability to heal 3 wounds at a time instead of d3.

The WL trait, Warden of Ancient, is a bit of a miss in my opinion. It gives an aura of 6″, adding 1 to Dreadnought’s str and attacks.

Due to how modifiers are applied, the str boost typically does not have an effect. Take for example, any of the dreadnoughts with a Dreadnought close comabt weapon. We are looking at a base Str of 6, doubled from the weapon, then add one from the Aura for Str 13 total. In this game, there is no difference between Str 12 and 13, as you need to be double a target’s toughness to get the difference in wounding. As (X*2)+1 will always be an odd number, this will never have an impact.

The relic, Mortis Machina, replaces the Omnissian Power Ax, and bumps the Str, AP, and Damage up by one each. Additionally, it does an extra Mortal wound per wound that goes through vs a Vehicle unit.

The Master of the Forge does not offer a ton in value, especially as many SM Vehicles are rather hard to keep alive. The Meta is so high damage, that even toughness 8 does not offer a ton of protection (although a Librarian can assist with a 5++ now).

Should the Meta swing back to more Mechanized forces, then there could be some play for a 3 wound healer, but at the moment, it does not seem worth the build.

Speaking of Librarians…

Chief Librarian

A Chief Librarian picks up the ability to know an additional power from it’s chosen table, and may deny an extra one. The Psychic Mastery WL trait allows you +1 to your casts, and the Neural Shroud Relic extends you Psychic hood out to 24″.

You are taking this for the +1 to cast and the extra deny. It is possible to get a +2 to cast, and there are a few decent relics available to Librarians. A lot of deciding to take this upgrade is going to depend on if you need the powers available. Now that Phobos Librarians don’t have access to the Librarius tree, it makes psychers a bit more specialized. The 25 pt upgrade is not to steep, although an additional cast would be quite nice…

At the end of the day though, I think if you are taking a Librarian already, you budget to upgrade him, but the Chief in and of himself won’t make you want to take one.

Unlike the….

Chief Apothecary

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing the new hotness of 9th ed, the Chief Apothecary himself!

Clocking in at a reasonable (some say under-costed) 25 pt upgrade, expect to see this guy. A lot.

So, for the upgrade, you go from being able to use his Combat Restoratives ability once per turn to twice per turn (note that the same model still may not be healed twice). So, healing two unit d3 wounds… not to shabby…

But wait!

There is more!

His Selfless healer WL trait has two parts to it. Firstly, he heals a flat 3 instead of d3 when using Combat Restoratives. Pretty nice. Secondly, when using the Combat Revival Strat, he can use it for 0 cp.

Now, as that is a new strat, it bears going over. For 1 CP normally, (Free for our man here), you may resurrect one Infantry or Bike model in a unit within 3″, and bring it back to life at full wounds. No roll. Just do it. That is powerful. Especially with Terminators going up to 3 wounds, and things like Eradicators and Heavy Intercessors being around as well. It is also worth noting that the new 8 wound ATV units have the Bike keyword, so may be picked up by this, although I fully expect GW to FAQ that pretty quickly.

It is also worth noting that Apothecaries have lost their normal ability to resurrect models, having it relegated to the strat instead. However, they also picked up a 6+++ for Infantry and Bikes within 6″. All of this combines to make Apothecaries, and Chief Apothecaries quite powerful. Dark Angles players, with their Deathwing and Ravenwing variants are dancing quite exuberantly by this point as well, while the poor space pups have been put in time out for some unknown reason.

The specific relic, Acquittal, is decent, replacing their bolt or absolver bolt pistol. It becomes an 18″ pistol 1, at str 5, ap -3 and 2 damage. Against Infantry, it becomes damage 4 and wounds on a 2+. Honestly, I like the Purgatorous pistol relic better, which he could also take. But, if I am throwing a relic on him, it is going to be something to help his survivability, cause he is going to be a big target.

Chapter Ancient

That is a hard act to follow, and the Chapter Ancient struggles even without the comparison.

Clocking in at a 30 point upgrade, this allows the Ancient to pick a single Core unit in your command phase within 6″ of himself, and let them add 1 to their melee hit rolls. Oof. If this were for all hit rolls, it’d be quite good, and even with melee it is decent… but it is not amazing.

The Warlord trait of Steadfast Example lets him give any Core units within 6″ of him the ObjSec ability. Ones that already had it count as double. This is pretty nice, but again I am not overly impressed. Likewise with the Relic, Pennant of the Fallen. It allows models that fight on death due to the Astartes Banner make two attacks instead of one.

The Chapter Ancient is definitely a single focus build unit. I am not a huge fan of counting on models dying to trigger effects though, and being limited in scope to melee whilst on a fairly squishy model seems to be to high a risk for what it costs. I am certain there can be effective builds (like using a deathwing Ancinet for example, guiding in Termaniators), but overall I would rather invest my points elsewhere.

Chapter Champion

Last, but not least, we have the Chapter Champion. For an additional 25 points, he picks up two abilities. First, he is -1 to be hit in melee. Secondly, he may re-roll wounds vs Characters. It is worth looking over his base profile as well.

With a Master Crafted Power sword base, he swings with 5 attacks on the charge at str 5, ap -3 and 2 damage. He can Heroically Intervene 6″, and may choose to do so towards a character instead of the nearest unit. He fights first when vs Characters, and has a 2+/5++ and 4 wounds. All of this is base, picking up the re-roll wounds and -1 to be hit for 25 pts.

In addition, his WL trait of Martial Exemplar, allows nearby Core and Characters to re-roll charges. Finally, his Blade of Triumph relic kicks him up to Str 7 and 3 damage. Makes him quite a threat in combat. The biggest issue I have is he is relatively squishy. But Chapter Champions are now a very strong contender for me, especially if doubling up on WL traits such as Swift and Deadly from the RG supplement, to allow units to advance and charge as well.

Next up, we will be looking at the Stratagems.

Thanks for reading, and happy Wargaming!

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4 Responses to “Space Marine Review – Chapter Command”

  1. Avatar
    Cthoss October 14, 2020 9:49 pm #

    The Chapter Master‘s whopping half a page of rules explicitly says that he does not count towards the 0-1 Captain limit. F for research.

    • Avatar
      Oxydo October 14, 2020 11:40 pm #

      Can’t use Rapid Fire on heavy intercessors either for that matter…

      • Avatar
        Earl October 15, 2020 9:24 am #

        I expect that nonsense at BoLS, not here!

      • Faitherun
        Faitherun October 15, 2020 11:19 am #

        Thank you for those catches. Reading over the codex for the firs time and typing at the same time, missed a few things. They have been corrected.

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