So to mix things up a bit from my barrage of Warhammer Fantasy Battles articles for A Tale of Two Armies I thought I’d take a look at the new Codex Space Marines. Written, as it goes, by Robin Cruddace who wrote both the Empire book and Warriors of Chaos.
The good news is that Robin Cruddace collects Space Marines so he hasn’t completely shafted the army like he did the Empire. The bad news is that it’s the most boring iteration of any Codex Space Marines I’ve ever read. And I’ve read them all. Robin’s strength isn’t creative writing. And that’s fine, we can’t be good at everything, but his lack of flair means that much of the background is lack lustre or just copy and pasted from previous iterations. The worst bit being that none of the background except the Raven Guard entry reflects any of the stuff written in the Horus Heresy novels. Seeing as they’re canonical* that’s really rather poor form and a bit of a slap in the face. It also reads like he was terrified of offending someone as just about every Space Marine chapter mentioned in the book is a brotherhood of warriors without peer with more victories than any other. I defy you to read the book and tell me I’m wrong. The funniest one being the Howling Griffins which he collects and he may as well have just written, in crayon, these ones are the bestest. It’s all just so unnecessary. It’s also rife with typos, some sentences with multiple errors which really pisses me off and goes to show how little care was shown. Yes I make mistakes and use the wrong word from time to time, but I don’t charge you for it.
The good news is that, for the first time ever, the first founding codex chapters actually get proper sections now, which makes for a very thick book. And despite the average writing there’s some good stuff in there and it’s nice to see those chapters finally getting a mention rather than the book being Codex Ultramarines by any other name. As an Ultramarine player I did feel like something was missing but that’s just me being spoilt. The book is lovely. Much of the artwork is from previous books, which isn’t a complaint as it’s in colour for the first time which is nice to see. There’s a full-page piece of art of a Raven Guard Thunderhawk which is superb. So kudos to the art studio.
As has been established, the Space Marines new kits were in the form of re-releases and Centurions as well as the official additions of Storm Talons and Storm Ravens. I was slightly disappointed about the latter as I never had a problem with an army or armies having exclusive units. That said, they will undoubtedly perform a vital battlefield role and give Codex Chapters a real edge over…well everyone. As does a lot of the new gadgets and gizmos. The graviton guns are a new weapon option that wasn’t needed and will spank Chaos Space Marines. The army that frequently kicks Cruddace’s Griffins about the board all the time.
The Centurions I was a bit mixed on at first. I know a lot of people have slated the models but I kinda like them. And I kinda like what they’ll do for Space Marine armies. Their addition to the Codex is a little on the woolly side but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. They’re nasty buggers that’s for sure and actually with the right force composition could be really nasty. The Devastator Centurions are, on paper, better than a Devastator Squad thanks to being able to move and fire. Assuming they make it into range. The Assault variation will need a transport because both types are slow and purposeful. But if your opponent lets them get into combat then things will bleed. A lot. At 190 points for 3 they’re not a casual addition but the strength & toughness of 5 with 2 wounds is a real consideration and potential performance verses points they’re actually pretty good value.
There’s a few subtle changes throughout Codex Space Marines. Vanguard Veterans don’t get to assault on the turn they deep strike any more which is a real shame as that was their one big advantage and offset the horrendous points cost. So in terms of assaulting they’re a bit worse than Warp Talons now. But they’re now much much cheaper which is good because it means you can juice them as much as you like. They are Elite choices now though which is shit. And there’s still no way of fielding a first company outside of robbing rules of the Dark Angels which is massively disappointing. But even if it was, having Vanguard & Sternguard together makes fielding the Ultramarines 1st Company impossible. Which is a real shame I suspect grouping them together was a convenience thing rather than it being a carefully thought out decision.
There’s also been plenty of points changes throughout the book. So Captains are cheaper, as are Space Marine Tactical, Assault & Devastator squads. Which is a massive deal as across a 3,000 point game you’re going to gather up, across the army, quite a few spare points. Some weapons have gone up in price, almost arbitrarily, and assault cannons have got much more expensive. Because they’re amazing in 6th edition. It’s a shame someone noticed as I rather enjoyed taking advantage of that.
Big changes in the Codex, or changes back, is the flexible squad sizes with special or heavy weapons in tactical squads. Which is great news for the less conventional armies. Being an Ultramarine player I shall still be taking the full ten men as Guilliman intended. Squads that have split into combat squads now get to occupy the same Rhino which game changing. It means that for the first time since Second Edition you can move a squad up the field and then send them on their separate ways. It gives Space Marines a massive tactical advantage over everyone else and will actually mean the kind of flexibility you read about in the books.
But the biggest change/reversion by a mile in Codex Space Marines is the introduction of chapter tactics. They’re actually very good – which makes up for the fairly average warlord traits – and reflect the personalities of the armies incredibly well so full marks to Cruddace on that front. Ultramarines and Imperial Fists seem to benefit the most with their traits being very much performance enhancing across the entire army, which rather does reflect the personality of the chapters. That’s not to say the others aren’t without teeth they’re just far more specialist. Again, as one would expect. The Raven Guard’s ability to infiltrate everyone is pretty bad ass.
It’s a real shame that the background isn’t as strongly written as the rest of the Codex. There’s some good stuff buried beneath the average writing – and it really comes down to someone needing to take a firm hand. The repetition phrases and poorly constructed sentences is embarrassing. However, the army list, chapter traits and tweaks and new additions are actually pretty spot on with the exception of making the Vanguard, cheaper, in the wrong place and shitter.
The Centurions do, after some consideration, fulfil genuine battlefield roles that is more than just dreaming up something new for release. Well, actually, no it was dreamt up for release but it works is my point. And it gives players – particularly Iron Hands and Imperial Fists – a different way of fielding an army whilst still making it competitive. You may notice I’ve not really commented on the new anti-air Rhino variants. And that’s because they’re a necessary unit and they are what they. They shoot down flyers. Hooray. The rules for them are actually pretty nasty and they’re pretty good value for points but they’re Space Marine anti-air guns, there’s not much more to be said.
Overall Codex Space Marines is a good book. The background isn’t terrible, not by a long chalk. It’s just not as well written as it should have been and would have taken little more than a couple of proof reads to make it better. This said it’s tolerable enough that those new to Space Marines or only got in to collecting Space Marines with the previous Codex will still enjoy reading it. The rest of the book is pretty sound and the army list works. The point adjustments are for the most part valid and the chapter traits and flexibility in army selection is a welcome change and will make a lot of gamers very pleased. And interestingly thanks to the subtle change that you can now take Techmarines as part of your HQ choice, you can free up an Elite slot in battle company list. Which is rather handy. And it may just be in the shape of some Assault Centurions. And the free Heavy Support slot may just have to feature a Storm Raven. Just saying…
Codex Space Marines is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.
*A heated discussions has erupted over my use of this word which I’ve deleted because I felt it was inappropriate. This isn’t censorship but avoidance of an argument that simply could not be settled on a comments board and shouldn’t take place there either. I’m all for healthy debate but when there is a fundamental disagreement that cannot be resolved there is little merit in making it public. My use of the term may have been incorrect but refers to the simple truth that the games developers reap a tremendous harvest from the ideas and characters in the BL novels. To say they’re non-canonical is as inaccurate as saying, apparently, they are. Equally the Forge World Horus Heresy books rely so heavily on the novels for material it would be a great injustice to the series, the writers and those that have enjoyed reading them to condemn to little more than fan fiction.