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Send in the Marines: Reviewing the New Codex  by Kenton Kilgore
Wooooot!  The new Space Marine book is here!  Wait: does anyone still say, “Woot!” or am I stuck in 2003?  Eh, who cares?  Let’s tear the shrinkwrap off and took a good look at the new instruction manual.  Like my other reviews (the last one I did was for Codex: Chaos Space Marines), I won’t discuss everything, just the stuff that jumped out at me.  Ready?  Off we go!

What I Like, and Why
Codex: Space Marines
Has Got The Right Fluff.  I’ve been playing 40K for a long time: this is the 5th version of this book that I’ve bought.  Previous books either skimped on background material (aka “fluff”) or went overboard.  I’m happy to say that this one strikes a perfect balance, with enough information to fully ground you in the heroic milieu of the Space Marines without belaboring the point or engaging in hyperbole.  This fine balance has been one of Games Workshops’ strengths for a while now (overlooking the wretched excess of the latest Codex: Necrons), and they pull it off again here.

Artwork and Presentation.  GW always has fantastic art in its books, but they’ve outdone themselves this time.  The cover is really striking, and it just keeps getting better as you go through the codex.  While the artists maintain the “grimdark” style that we’ve come to know and love, it’s surprising—and refreshing—to see how much color there is.  For instance, in the illustration on pages 4 and 5, the yellows of the Imperial Fists and the blues of the Ultramarines pop out at you, in a good way.  I can’t describe the big, two-page spread for “Making of a Space Marine” on pages 10-11 except to say, “freaking awesome.”  Half-page boxed areas for depictions and discussions of Successor Chapters (such as for the Genesis-, Aurora-, Sons of Orar-, and Iron Snakes Chapters on pages 30-31) are top-notch.  We’ve been spoiled by good artwork for so long that we forget just how good we’ve had it; this book reminds us.   

Not Just Blue Marines.  As you’ve no doubt heard already, this book is like getting several smaller books in one.  Page 8 lists the table of original Space Marine Legions, and if you take out the Traitors, the Space Wolves, the Dark Angels, and the Blood Angels (all of whom have their respective codices), this book describes the rest: White Scars, Imperial Fists, Iron Hands, Ultramarines, Salamanders, and Raven Guard (plus, you get Black Templars).  Previous versions have sometimes focused almost exclusively on Big Blue (the 2nd Edition version was called Codex: Ultramarines), but the other Chapters get plenty of love in this one.  You’ll find quite a bit of fluff, illustrations, photos of models, and rules for the other guys.  Speaking of rules….

6e Chapter Tactics.  You’ve also no doubt heard that each Space Marine Chapter in this book has its own special rules.  Time was, it didn’t matter what color you painted your guys, because the rules, for the most part, treated them all the same (Salamanders received some differentiation in Codex: Armageddon, back in the 3rd Edition era).  All that’s changed.  Ultras fight differently from Raven Guard, who fight differently from Iron Hands, and so on.  Successor Chapters use the Chapter Tactics of their parents, and DIY Chapters get to pick from the six in this book. 

If, like me, you are loathe to saddle your morally righteous guardians of humanity with Allies such as piddly Imperial Guardsmen or—heresy!—foul xenos filth, you can turn to a Chapter from this book that uses either different Chapter Tactics.  Because what’s better than Space Marines?  More Space Marines!    

Lots of Units are Cheaper.  Several units stayed the same points cost; a few units here and there have gone up: the Chapter Master, for example, is 130 points base vis--vis 125 under the previous codex (read more about the Chapter Master under “Lots of Units Are Better”).  But a lot is cheaper: Tactical Squads are 80 points for a Veteran Sergeant and 4 bolter guys as compared with 90 points under the old book—and you can save 10 more points by taking a regular Sergeant (identical stats as the bolter guys) instead of the Vet.

Captains: 10 points cheaper.  Assault Squads: 15 points cheaper.  Scouts: 20 points cheaper.  Bikes: 27 points cheaper.  Vanguard Vets: 30 points cheaper.  Venerable Dreads: 40 points cheaper.  Librarians: 35 points cheaper.  Et cetera, et cetera.  These values are for basic units, and in the case of the Assault, Scout, and Bikes Squads, you’re getting savings by having a Sarge instead of a Vet Sarge.  But every little bit helps, nicht wahr?  

Lots of Units Are Better.  The Chapter Master can move and even charge the target of his Orbital Bombardment, rather than just stand around saying “Come at me, bro” as he did under the previous codex.  I think you as a player have to possess yarbles the size of basketballs to call down an Orbital Bombardment on anything within charge range, but fortune favors the bold, and all that….

Techmarines no longer suck up a valuable Elite slot, but are bonus HQ you can take that don’t count against the Force Organization chart.  They can restore lost Hull Points (thanks to Blessing of the Omnissiah) and Bolster Defenses (up to 3+ cover save) with any one piece of terrain, not just ruins, as under the previous book.  Interestingly, the write-up of Techmarines on page 92 says that only Masters of the Forge may have servo-harnesses, but the army list entry for Techs on page 166 says they may upgrade their servo-arms to –harnesses for +25 points.  I expect that there will be an FAQ on this PDQ.

I was gonna ask if he needed a hand carrying all that stuff, but he said, "Nah, bro, I'm good."

Five-man Tac Squads can have a special or heavy weapon, and if they number 10, they can have both, a more-than-welcome change from the old book, which said you had to have 10 to get any goodies at all.  It’s a nice compromise between the rigid 5e squad configuration and the “baby Devs” with three bolters + special weapon + heavy weapon you could make under previous versions.  I still pine for the option to field two special weapons in a Tac Squad (under the 4e book), but that’s just me….

As I alluded to before, most of what makes Vanguard Veterans a much better unit is that they are so much cheaper, with, for example, jump packs for them costing only 3 points each as opposed to 10 previously.  The tradeoff is that Heroic Intervention is totally different now: instead of charging after Deep Striking, Van Vets ignore penalties for disordered charges, and the Van Vet Sarge automatically passes Initiative tests for Glorious Interventions.  I’m not pressed with losing the old version of Heroic Intervention, because Van Vets were so expensive that I rarely took them, anyway.  It was like having heated seats on a luxury car I couldn’t afford to own.  

"Yay! We get to come out of the figure case!"

Tactical- Scouts-, and Devastator Squads got much better, but that falls under our next category…. 

Special and Heavy Weapons.  For about as long as I can remember, special- and heavy weapons had different costs depending on who used them.  In the last book, a missile launcher was free to a Tactical Squad, 5 points for Sternguard, 10 points for Scouts, and 15 points for Devastators.  All that’s changed now.  Special- and heavy weapons cost the same no matter what squad uses them (the exception is that a heavy bolter costs 8 points for Scouts and 10 for everyone else.  Don’t ask me, man: I just work here). 

So, yes, depending on what special- or heavy weapon your squad takes, they might cost more.  Flamers were free for Tac units, now they cost 5 points (but the base price for Tac Squads is lower).  But some weapons are much less expensive.  A 5-man Dev Squad with four lascannons ran 230 points under the previous codex; the same unit under the new book (I’ll even spend the 10 points to make the Sarge a Vet so we can compare apples-to-apples) is 160 points. 

Also, as you might expect, missile launchers can take flakk missiles, for +10 points.  Flyers?  Who cares about Flyers?    

Flyers and New Tanks.  Oh, you say you like Flyers?  Well, the new book (again, as you might expect) has the Stormtalon and the Stormraven, the rules for which were previously published.  I don’t buy White Dwarf or any of the latest game supplements (Planetstrike pretty much soured me on the latter), but I know many of you do, so I won’t waste your time gushing about old news.  I’ll just say that I heartily approve of the two Marine Flyers, and we’ll move on…

It might be good on the table, but it still looks awful

…To, say, the Hunter and Stalker tanks.  They’re designed to kill Flyers, and though I haven’t played them yet, it looks (on paper) like they would serve that purpose nicely.  With front and side AV of 12, each fills the gap between Whirlwinds (AV 11/11) and Vindicators/Predators (AV 13/11).  I find it difficult to choose between the Stalker’s Icarus stormcannons and the Hunter’s Skyspear: both are just lovely, lovely weapons.  I’m fond of the idea of the Skyspear blowing—or at least chasing—Flyers off the table with its Savant Lock, but if you put a melta gun to my head and make me pick, I tend towards the Icarus.  Four twin-linked S7 shots at 48"?  Or I can target two units with 4 shots each (not twin-linked, and at BS2)?  Seems superb for dealing not only with Flyers, but with light transports and Skimmers, the latter especially if they’re in squadrons.

Oh, hells yes, Daddy loves you.  Yes, he does!

No More “Wanna-Be’s”.  I’m probably the only one who feels this way, but before I go on, I must explain.  The previous codex had an option where you could take a Special Character from one army, rename him, and have him lead another army.  Thus “Marneus Calgar” could be leading the Salamanders, or the Raven Guard, or your DIY Chapter (“The Righteous Sons of Zanzibar”) under a different name (“Ferndock Creel,” perhaps, or “Bob Nostril”).

All of which I found to be cheapening the concept and character of each Special Character, particularly when they were chosen for their abilities and not for the fluff.  Well, no more “Wanna-Be’s”: if you want Calgar, you have to play Ultramarines; if you want Pedro Kantor, you have to play Crimson Fists.  I’m not a “fluff Nazi” by any stretch of the imagination, but it just seems right to me (see “Special Characters,” below, however).     

What I Don’t Like, and Why
No 5e Chapter Tactics
.  The previous Codex: Space Marines was my second-to-least favorite version (the 2e Ultramarines book was the worst, but then, Second Edition itself was a mess best forgotten).  However, the previous Chapter Tactics rule was superb.  It said:

A non-Fearless Space Marine unit with this special rule can choose to automatically fail any Morale check it is called upon to make.

Meaning, that if a squad of yours was charged by some nasty hand-to-hand unit (Genestealers, Black Templars, Khorne Berzerkers), your guys could take their lumps (most likely losing the combat), fall back, and unload at point-blank range (and charge, if they weren’t using rapid-fire weapons). 

I can’t tell you how many times my Tactical Squads would get bum-rushed by my friend Pat’s Orks, only to step back, wash the clumped-up Greenies with a flamer and the Vet Sarge’s combi-flamer, then mop up with doubletapping bolters.  Pat didn't like it much, but I never got tired of it.  You can do something like that if you take the new White Scar Trait (Hit and Run), but it’s just not the same.  

Centurions.  Ok, these are just stupid.  Stupid concept (“Let’s put a Marine in power armor in more power armor!”), stupid models (someone told me they look like Fisher Price Little People figures), stupid points-cost (60 points a pop, 20 more than a Terminator), stupid armor (a 2+ but no Invulnerable save, huh?), stupid mobility (Slow and Purposeful, no Deep Striking, no Drop Pods, but hey—you can have a Land Raider transport!). 

You gotta be [pooping] me, hoss.  You can't expect me to take these seriously.

No, I don’t care about how many cool guns and doodads you can take to make these hideously overpriced eggshells-with-hammers even more hideously overpriced.  They’re just stupid.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.     

No New Psychic Powers.  The 6e Chaos Marine Codex has a bunch of funky, characteristic, army-specific psychic powers for their guys to use.  The latest Eldar book does, too.  The Tau one doesn't, but screw them: I hate the skinny blue-grey bastards.  The new Space Marine book does not have any new powers, not even for whizz-bangy dudes like Tigurius.  The hell?   

And worse, this guy always has a naked flying cyborg baby following him.  That's not creepy or anything.

What I’m “Meh” About
Special Characters
.  The Space Marine Cool Kids are pretty much the same as they were in the previous codex, at pretty much the same point cost (notable exceptions: Tigurius, who drops 65 points; and Kor’sarro Khan, who loses 35 points).  As mentioned above, you can only take a Special Character with that individual’s army: no Shrike leading your Imperial Fists (though your Fists could Ally with Shrike’s Raven Guard for a nice one-two punch).

Special Characters are fun to play and GW can charge a buttload for each: at the time of this writing (September 2013), each figure goes for about $20 on the GW website.  They have all kinds of cool wargear and powers for themselves and/or their followers.  Taking Vulkan He’stan as your Warlord, for example, makes every melta weapon in the Salamanders army master-crafted (re-roll failed “to hit” rolls). 

My issue with Special Characters is that if you play an army that has such a character (like, say Salamanders and Vulkan), you’re a chump not to take them.  So every Sallies army you see is going to have Vulkan, every Raven Guard will have Shrike, etc, as if that wasn’t already the case.  I find this boring, but I’m certainly not going to begrudge anyone exercising this option.   

Grav-Weapons.  They’re are the “oh-so-cool” toys in the new Space Marine book, but they don’t do much for me.  For the same price as its plasma equivalent, you get a weapon with equal (pistol versions) or shorter range that’s really only good against Marines and equivalents (Orks guffaw and Dark Eldar titter at grav-weapons).  If you want to kill vehicles, there’s no beating melta guns and multi-meltas; if you’re fighting hordes, you’re [poop] out of luck.  And the grav-cannon?  Only available with the sucktastic Centurion Devastator Squads.  No thank ye.   

So, yeah: grav-weapons are kind of fun and would be great against your friend’s Grey Knights, but other than that….  I have plenty of special weapons in my overly-large SM collection already; I don’t need to make room for grav-weapons.  

The new codex is certainly a big improvement over the previous one, and is a lot better than, say, the latest Codex: Chaos Space Marines.  I don’t mean to damn with faint praise: quite the opposite.  Disregarding the colossally asinine Centurions, the new book offers a lot of interesting options, breathes new life into older units, and is presented so well that I find it well worth the 60 some-odd bucks I spent on it + shipping/handling.  I consider it money well-spent.  I’m looking forward to revamping my Fighting Tigers with the new codex, and smiting some enemies for the Emperor!    

But seriously, tell these guys to GTFO of here... 


Posted September 2013. All images are copyright 2013 by Games Workshop and used for review purposes. 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle