Why I’m Keeping My Old Codices

Tomorrow poor Mister Postie will be lugging an awful lot of very heavy boxes to the front doors of a lot very over excited geeks.

I am, of course, referring to the release of the much-anticipated and much debated 8th edition of Warhammer 40,000.

In addition to crippling postal workers across the globe (Dark Imperium weighs a stonking 2.5kg), the new edition of 40k is about to change the game and the background in some very dramatic ways.

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Anyone who follows the Warhammer Community page on the Facebooks will no doubt have seen the rule changes, the new – erection inducing – Primaris Space Marines and the galaxy map showing how royally fucked the Imperium is.

In the same way that Age of Sigmar rewrote (read erased) the Warhammer Fantasy universe, 8th edition Warhammer 40,000 is about to do something similar to the canon we know and love.

For new gamers this is no big deal. Total novices will enter Warhammer 40,000 with the galaxy already looking like someone spilt ink on a picture from Hubble. Or they’re new enough that the universe doesn’t mean as much to them as it does to more experienced gamers.

For us venerable old war dogs who have invested countless hours learning about the background – and 7 previous rule sets – we’re about to feel more like old dogs given new tricks.

That’s not to the say that the changes aren’t exciting (I actually knew about a lot of this for some time but more on that another day). I’m really pleased that the story is finally moving on and the freedom that can bring for narrative game play as well as future novels.

However, the background that I’ve spent the last 28 years learning is amazing and really rather precious to me so it seems a shame to cast out my old codices and supplements just because the rules aren’t relevant any more.

For me the background serves as a prologue for everything that comes next. Games Workshop have already stated that the previous books are still relevant from a background perspective.

The Gathering Storm books are especially worth hanging on to as they detail a lot of what’s referenced in the new book. Reading those before diving into the new edition will no doubt answer a lot of questions for the veterans gamers taking the leap from 7th to 8th.

I’m a little late to that party if I’m honest so let’s just acknowledge the fact that I turned up at all.

But there’s a few really simple reasons why the old codices and other books are worth keeping:

The Background is (in most cases) Really Good

The background has always been what made 40k and so walking away from that just seems crazy to me.

Change is good (you may as well embrace it because you’ve got no choice) but so is the journey so keeping a record is well worth it.

They give 8th Edition Context

The old source materials – particularly books like The Wrath of Magnus of the Gathering Storm trilogy – help to ground the new fluff so being able to refer back to that will be helpful.

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Plus according to a few sources there’s some easter eggs in the background that allude to all the mental shit that goes down. Finding them is proper nerdy fun.

The Books were Expensive

Let’s not kid ourselves, the rules, codices and supplements represent a significant investment.

I don’t begrudge that investment because a codex, per use, works out as one of the best value books you can own but that doesn’t mean you should just bin them every 5 years.

7th Edition isn’t Dead

As far as I can tell, the Horus Heresy will still be using the 7th Edition mechanic so there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t throw in some Orks or Eldar into your HH games.

We know the Imperium tussles with the other races of the galaxy before everything goes tits. To be honest, I’d love to see some games along those lines but I appreciate it would rather dilute the concept.

 

I cannot wait for my copy of 8th edition, or for the new Indexes or the new models. I’m excited to see where this is all headed and how many Primarchs will be returning to the fold.

But I’m also going to be looking back and marvelling at how far it’s all come and just how much fun it was getting there.

Codex Adeptus Astartes – A Review

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I must admit, when I saw a new Codex Space Marines had been released I had to check the date of my last review to make sure I wasn’t going mad. The previous edition was just 2 years old. Now I’ve never been one to stand in the way of progress (stop laughing) but that does seem a little soon and understandably makes people nervous about committing to a £35 book if it’s going to be replaced just 24 months later. It’s little wonder the illegal download underground is getting bigger all the time.

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As with other, more recent, Games Workshop publications, the by line is absent. Presumably to stop the bilious tirade directed at any one person that ensues when a new codex comes out. Bringing a new book so soon is bound to cause a certain degree of justified gnashing of teeth.

As with the previous book it’s just lovely to look at. From the cover art to every picture on every page is glorious and much of it, if I’m not mistaken, is new. Which for us old buggers is a bit of a treat. But there’s also a couple of images realised in colour that I’ve only seen in black and white, which is nice.

The quality of production has been increasedThe lining paper is a better fit and feels less luck it was stuck down by PVA. The hateful fold-in reference sheet is gone and with it the embarrassingly shonky folds.

Sadly the increase in quality doesn’t extend to the writing. There are fewer typos than the last book and they weren’t on the first page but they are still there. There’s also some stellar mixed metaphors, the worst of which is in the opening gambit. The background of Codex Adeptus Astartes feels, if I’m honest, nearly as lacklustre as the previous version. There have been some improvements for but the overarching theme doesn’t have any of the sense of urgency, drama or presence that previous books sweated from every surface. This book kinda feels like the Codex equivalent of the Amazing Spider-man 2: it’s drips with obligation rather than inspiration. It’s fulfilling of an intellectual property requirement rather than a promise of excitement, heroism and valour.

So Codex Adpetus Astartes isn’t worse than the 2013 Codex Space Marines. Hooray! Although I’m fairly certain there’s a smaller word count despite it being a thicker book (200 pages to 180). The artwork, splendid as it is, occupies a half page apiece on average. Sometimes more. The timelines in the previous edition were not only far prettier to look at, but more substantial. Each of the first founding chapters got fluff and timelines, that’s all been replaced by three of four paragraphs. It’s shame because the Ultramarines end up dominating the book more than they did before which does nothing to smooth over the – by this point – fairly mean-spirited bitching and belly-aching that is abound within the 40k community towards them. It would be good news for Ultramarines if the their background was written with any personality what-so-ever.

That said there’s some interesting tweaks to the background, one of which actually makes the Iron Hands interesting. Like: Horus Heresy books interesting. Like they’re all a bunch of repressed, self mutilating, sociopaths that are all one tin-man joke away from losing their shit and killing everyone. It’s brilliant. The best bits about the Heresy Salamanders is also evident, emphasising their compassion and their place as leaders of humanity rather than rulers. So whilst Codex Adeptus Astartes does condense, it does work harder to draw gamers towards the more exotic adherents of the Codex Astartes.

Overall though the layout of Codex Adeptus Astartes is strong and brings it in line with Codex Orks, which is a fantastic book. The army list is long but clear. The variety of Space Marine units available means there’s going to be a fair bit of flicking backwards and forwards for the purposes of army list writing but the upside it that you shouldn’t miss any notes or special rules with everything right there in front of you.

It does get a bit woolly in places and the Imperial Fists and their successor chapters are relegated to tertiary chapters whose histories focus around Lysander, Helbrecht and Grimaldus. But the good news for Black Templar players is they get an apology by way of really good Chapter Tactics. The Black Templars used to piss me off royally with their bullshit list of special rules. Whilst this list is thankfully a thing of the past, they still fare far better than most benefiting from bonuses to running, bonuses to Deny the Witch rolls, they get Counter Attack and Rage and all its cost them is the use of Librarians.

The rest of the rules are largely unchanged with a few points changes here and there. There’s been a subtle push towards flyers and anti-flyer units as the Stormtalon’s weapons systems have been halved in points and they get +1 to their jink save when hovering which makes them a massively more appealing option albeit at the cost of the Escort Craft special rule (this has been thrown into a formation instead). Equally the Stalker’s gun has lost a shot but can now split fire with its remaining three shots at Ballistic Skill 4 or, if it shoots at a single target it’s twin-linked. That’s nasty.

One of the changes that’s tickled me and is up there with equipping Havoc squads with plasma guns and a rhino as something to try is you can turn Tactical Squads into Wraightknight hunters. All you need to do is equip the squad with a grav-cannon, grav-gun and a grav-combi bolter. Although you could do similar with Devastator squads in a Rhino. You’d need to pick your moments wisely but it’d certainly make a real mess.

Master of the Forge appears to have gone the way of the Dodo and instead the humble Techmarine has had a 15 points increase but got an extra wound for their trouble with the option of all the cool and groovy upgrades. This is by no means the end of the world as you can still have a Techmarine leading your army but you’ve saved 25 points and it’s cost 1 point of Ballistic Skill.

The formations are no doubt what will get many hot and hard as it affords lots of big delicious bonuses for taking certain combinations of models. I deliberately missed out the word ‘expensive’ because it was obvious. Unfortunately it’s those with the deepest pockets or the biggest collections (they’re not necessarily the same thing) that will really benefit from these formations and they’re bonkers special rules.

Regular readers will know that I have two full companies of Ultramarines – 1st and 5th. This means I can, and often do, field a full battle company. This means I get all my transports for free. Hurrah! I can also field a Land Raider Spearhead the bonuses of which means I get to ignore everything but immobilised and vehicle destroyed results on the damage table as long as they stay in formation. Oh, and re-roll failed rolls to wound or for armour penetration. I mean really? I would actually feel embarrassed fielding that. I mean I’m gonna, but I’ll blush slightly as I kick the shit out of whoever I’m playing against.

Although there’s still no way to take a legal 1st Company army list which is such a shame, especially as the 1st Company formation feels more like they’re trying to push expensive models than because it’s accurate. It’s not the end of the world as gamers can just use an unbound list, it just would have been nice to give the option.

The hobby/showcase section in this Codex is huge. A fairly indulgent 43 pages compared to the previous 28 pages. So 15 of the extra pages in this version have been given over to pictures basically. Although I shouldn’t be surprised as most of the pages in the book have been given over to pictures. That said, because of the way the images are presented it’s going to make painting and marking Space Marine chapters are less painful experience now which is an extremely good thing. Thinking back to my staff days, one of the hardest things younger gamers had to deal with was getting that stuff right and it’s nice to see the book written inclusively rather than targeted at one audience or the other. I just wish it wasn’t quite so much of the book.

The reality of Codex Adeptus Astartes is that it’s essentially the second edition of the previous one. The background is blah rather than bad. The rules have had a review and there’s been a few interesting changes. Some subtle, some not so much. The presentation of the army list is clear and concise. The irritating things about the old book, like the folded reference sheet, are gone. It’s a nicer, better put together book.

I do still yearn for the days of Chapter traits because they made them all far more interesting. The tactics are fine and being an Ultramarine player I certainly can’t grumble but it still doesn’t quite grab me by the hobby spot. This said, there is still some improvements in there that’ll please one or two of the wargaming community. Unfortunately this book is, again, very much aimed at gamers that use Codex chapters. It doesn’t mean there’s nothing in there for Salamander players etc but there’s just not as much. Actually I’m pretty sure there’s less than before but I suspect that’ll be remedied with supplement books.

Overall Codex Adeptus Astartes is an average offering fixing many of the bugs in the previous books whilst introducing some interesting – albeit Easter egg sized – changes that will have far more impact than some appreciate. The formations are interesting enough that people will want to take them and broken enough that they’ll feel guilty doing it. But with some of the combinations out there, they won’t be alone. The background is a little stale but it is better but there’s still huge room for improvement. It is, end to end, beautiful. It’s also a big book about Space Marines.

Codex Adeptus Astartes is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

Grey Knights Codex – A Review

 

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One in a million. That’s how many recruits survive Grey Knight boot camp.  And if you consider that those recruits are the top percentage of those already chosen from their home worlds as being the top specimens on their respective planets, the numbers start to get a little crazy. The entire population of Earth would probably yield barely a single Grey Knight – rounding up. That’s a whole lot of sacrifice for a single marine in silver armour, but then who else is going to remember the ever-changing names of every Daemon in the Warp and throw it in their faces?

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The new Grey Knights Codex describes such details to give you a better understanding than ever before of lengths the Imperium has had to go to in the endless war for its soul.  On reading through the background of the frankly beautiful book, I was surprised at the number of excellent additions to their background – a stellar map showing the locations of the known daemonic  incursions and Warp storms throughout the galaxy, a detailed breakdown of the Chapter’s fighting strength, descriptions of all the Brotherhoods,  plus the names and duties of each Grandmaster and their second in command Brother Captains, a double page spread on understanding their Heraldry with examples and ideas on creating your own. It goes on and on and all works to impress upon you just how few and individual they are, and the magnitude of the task they face.

Their Chapter breakdown reads with some very specific numbers, such as 44 Purifiers and 98 Paladins – in the entire galaxy. Even when reading the same lists for marines you’re still somewhat safe in the knowledge that there are at least another thousand or so other Chapters out there to lend a hand if someone screws up. It’s all wonderfully compelling  knowing just how close humanity teeters on the edge of its doom, and the individuality the book enables you to impart on your small army of ‘man’s greatest, and fewest, heroes’ creates a firm link to the consequences should you fail.

The fantastic new artwork does a much better job of portraying their supreme fighting ability (the first double page piece is particularly impressive) and lends itself well to the idea that they are extremely proficient at killing daemons – but constantly under threat of being overwhelmed by the never-ending hordes they struggle to hold back. Usually only barely a handful of Grey Knights will be sent to deal with a potential incursion which their prognosticators can foresee (kind of like ‘Minority Report’) which enables them to show up at the right time with the minimum of force to get the job – so precious is each and every Knight – and only the greatest and most threatening of incursions warrants the mustering of a full brotherhood.

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If I’m honest, I was disappointed with the photography.  Someone got a little carried away with the lighting effects and there was no showcase of individual models which is always one of my favourite sections of an army book – I’m unsure if this is consistent across the new format Codicies but it’s not a change I’m happy with as I get a lot of inspiration from the individual efforts of the ‘Eavy Metal team.  There‘s also what look to be not one, but two non ‘Eavy Metal, and I guess ‘reader/staff submitted’, armies used in the photography and the quality just isn’t there.  They are great armies that anyone would be proud to own (although I’m not sure about the one with all the trophy racks, seems very Chaos) but in a premium book I expect premium quality throughout.

Onto the army list and there’s quite a bit of change, and you can expect a mixed reaction from existing Grey Knight players. They had a reputation as one of the stronger armies in 40k and everyone was expecting them to be toned down – and this has indeed happened.  All the Inquisitor stuff has gone completely – even down to the fluff, with only a slight link to the Inquisition being maintained. Most of the equipment and upgrades has been wiped away, no more Psycannon Bolts, or Rad grenades, or Brain Mines, it’s all gone along with all the Grey Knight specific Vehicle upgrades. It’s a bit of a shame as not only is there  still a mention of the more exotic pieces they use in the background, but it seems a lot of the army identity has now gone into the Psychic phase removing most of the choice you had in how you played with them.

Non Grey Knight players will be happy to hear the (now) Lord of War choice, Kaldor Draigo has had his wings clipped. He’s still a beast but no longer strength or toughness 5 – again, as much as this was perhaps needed, it’s still a shame to see perhaps the greatest Marine in the Galaxy reduced to a majority stat line of 4’s [I think most Space Marine players would argue that point by go on… – Ed].

You’ll be kept busy re-learning the points costs of the basic elements of the army as there’s ups and downs all over the place.  Some changes of note are Grand Masters have gone up slightly and trade-off their Grand Strategy for psychic level 2, whereas Librarians have gone down by a whopping 40 points – and a further 25 less for a level 3!  Strike squads have gone up but their equipment options have gone down so you’re still better off, and Terminators have gone down significantly but lose out on the changes to the Nemesis weapons – which is swords now have no benefit beyond being a Nemesis Force weapon and Halberds are +1 Strength instead of +2 Initiative – so the Terminators are now either less durable in combat or a lot slower. Purifiers went up slightly and the Apothecary for the Paladins is now a massive 55 points less – which equates to a free Paladin! Other highlights include special weapons now being consistently priced, which actually makes equipping one on your HQ a feasible option, and the Dreadknight has been given the sales boost treatment as you can now take a tooled up teleporting monstrosity for, on average, 70 points less!  The Vehicles are largely unchanged.

Generally the list seems to be pushing you to take more from the troops choices which is a good thing as there were some big errors in the last codex which made taking Purifiers over Strike Squads a no brainer. And with Terminators getting worse but cheaper, it’s now a harder decision to choose between the two troops choices.  However, the adjusted force organisation means you only need one as a compulsory choice and gives you an extra Elite slot at a cost of one less Heavy and Fast Attack – go figure.  I said before, it’s a shame to lose all the toys and although the Relics are some consolation, it’s taken away some of the individuality from the HQ’s that the background did such a job of adding to them.

With less being spent on your HQ and generally cheaper units overall you’re army should be larger but will rely even more on the Psychic phase to assert itself with a number of units now having access to multiple powers – and a Librarian should still be the first name on the team sheet.  Beyond him and perhaps the Dreadknight, the army balance is a lot better with more of the choices being just that, rather than easy hits and misses, and I’m looking forward to getting some more models on the table – but man am I going to miss those Rad Grenades.

-Lee

Codex Astra Militarum – A Review

warhammer-40000-logo With their name changed for reasons unknown, or at least unconfirmed *cough* copyright *cough*, here comes the Star Army – or Astra Militarum in High Gothic.  Or just the plain old Imperial Guard to those of us who will always know them as such (it even says so on the title page). Astra Militarum Codex We’re mostly all familiar with the new format Codex’s so I’ll just say it’s on par with the best of them.  The artwork is beautiful, it’s full colour (although I still reserve my love for the monochrome inks) and top quality throughout, everything you expect from the hardbacks. I’ve been quite looking forward to seeing what [insert authors name here as Games Workshop won’t tell you anymore] has done for the Imperial Guard as I wasn’t a big fan of the last codex, I don’t know why. Maybe because it was crap (in my humble opinion). Specifically, I didn’t like how the orders worked – the 6” range for Platoon Command squads was just unworkable, Vox Casters didn’t give you extra range to issue orders which just seemed plain stupid to me.  Seeing as how the orders system was supposed to be the Imperial Guard’s ‘thing’, I didn’t feel like it was executed properly as it wasn’t inclusive of most of the list, and forced you to either play in a very limited way, always take Ursarker Creed, or join the Valkyrie party like everyone else who wanted to occasionally win a game. So addressing the orders first, you’ll be happy to know they have changed for the better – not perfect, but definitely better.  It’s a blanket 12” range for everyone now unless stated in a special rule – and this can be extended out to 18” through the Warlord Trait table. The Imperium can send a message trillions of miles across the galaxy, but still can’t send one from one side of the battlefield to the other, so Vox Casters still don’t affect range – granting you the re-roll to the leadership test for the order to be carried out instead.  There are more orders now for total of nine – three of which are still for senior officers only, defined with an additional special rule over the new ‘Voice of Command’ rule which is what enables you to issue orders in the first place.  But a few of the old orders have gone (like go to ground) so a lot of the list is actually new – and also better accommodates things like Storm Troopers, I mean Storm Army, I mean Militarum Tempestus. Damn copyright. The Storm Troopers have changed considerably, now taken as elite platoons in the same way as standard infantry, with the officer able to issue orders to them and so actually including them in the whole army ‘thing’ this time round whereas before they just…weren’t really.  This is a good thing as it removes some of the reliance on the Valkyries as it becomes difficult to move an entire platoon around in flyers and is not really feasible points wise now the Valkyrie/Vulture points cost has gone up massively – which it needed to, as they were a bit too good.  And this leads into the primary reason for the new Rhinox Transport coming into being: it’s a cheap, heavily gunned transport able to negotiate difficult terrain – essentially a poor troopers Valkyrie on tracks – and now the go to method of moving around your expensive Storm Troopers without inviting the dangers of deep strike. It’s also worth noting Storm Troopers have now lost their Hellpistols and so are significantly worse in the assaults they often find themselves in, what with being so daring and everything. I’m unsure of the reasoning behind this, but the cynic in me is looking at the Ogryn shaped other new kit that came out and is now the only unit which can actually do anything in an assault without placing your Command units in harm’s way. Which is a shame because, for as much as Storm Troopers had a definite lean towards shooting, they are still supposed to be special forces bad asses who could mix it up in an assault too. A big plus is the addition of Tank Commanders, enabling you to do proper armoured companies with Veteran Grenadiers mounted in Chimera’s still acting as your troops.  The tank orders, whilst not amazing, encourage you to race your Leman Russ’ around the board terrifying your opponent, which sounds fun.  But while this is good if you are doing an armoured company, it may not be so desirable if you’re sticking with some foot sloggers. The orders also revolve around taking squadrons of tanks which again, is something that would typically appeal to armoured companies over everything else – in short, standard Tank Commanders only makes sense if you’re doing an armoured company.  Everyone else can take Knight Commander Pask –who’s got even better, and cheaper, and he now has a different effect depending on the type of tank he’s riding in (whilst also clearing up any ambiguity over what he could ride in for the pedantic souls amongst us). Take him with an Executioner and you can fire a single large blast instead 3 small ones, or give a Punisher Rending? Yes please, thank you very much, don’t mind if I do, much obliged….you get the picture, he’s cool. Very cool.

The Paskinator - now with added Rendingness
The Paskinator – now with added Rending

Some of the Tanks have got cheaper (although a couple did go up a bit too), most notably the aforementioned Executioner – which I’m guessing is to compensate for the fact it tends to glance itself to death with the inevitable overheats that come from firing three plasma cannons a turn.  But at least that can part pay for Pask, and then if you’re only firing a single large blast the chances are even slimmer. Conscripts also made it onto the reduced points list and are now very cheap – presumably in line with the Chaos Cultists who are identical. This makes horde armies more appealing now and if you can get your Commissar ‘Voice of Command’ via two of the Warlord Traits they can issue orders to them too – as long as they are your only HQ choice that is, which is a nice bit of character making its way back into the list.  And I think that’s where the book triumphs, it brings the character of the army back and away from the special characters you were forced to take previously.  There are of course casualties in doing this (poor Marbo) and it will never have the full flavour of a list dedicated to each world (still a possibility?), but it’s enough for you to generally field the army you want in the way you want. The book is a big improvement on its predecessor. The unit choices are generally cheaper and work better with each other, giving you a little more flexibility in what is an otherwise clunky army.  The improved order system keeps the flavour of the army intact and rewards you for holding your nerve and timing them right for maximum effect. It’s methodical, organised death – just the way the Imperial Guard should be.

Codex Astra Militarum is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

-Lee

Codex Imperial Knights – A Review

warhammer-40000-logoBeing a very lucky boy, I got to review the Imperial Knight kit. So, it seemed only right and fair that I took at look at Codex Imperial Knights as well. Sure is tough being me some days…

Knight-codex-coverCodex Imperial Knights is the most original codex from the Games Workshop since the introduction of the Tau back in third edition even if the content isn’t entirely original. It’s a welcome to change to be looking at something not only fresh but a facet of the Imperium that hasn’t ever been fully explained until now. That’s not to say the book doesn’t have the usual vagaries one has come to expect from the background but the ambiguity is what allows for variety on the table. Although there is perhaps less vagueness than normal in this codex. I think it’s got everything to do with the fact that the Imperial Knights occupy a very unique position within the Imperium and that needed to be explained carefully lest gamers get the wrong end of the stick.

As with all of the new codices it looks gorgeous with stunning artwork and the livery of the Knightly houses rendered in all their glory. And like most of the new codices it’s an interesting read. Whilst it’s a thin book it possesses a wealth of background about the Knights, the houses and their loyalties. It’s also an interesting twist that they seem to exist within the Imperium yet apart. They have their own laws and codes of conduct that can often lead to two houses going to war with one another. Despite the obvious loss of men and material the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus seem largely fine with it. Which is amusing if not odd.

It also hints a lot about the rivalry between the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus. There’s all sorts of stuff in the background and Horus Heresy books about how the Emperor engineered events so the Machine Cult would come into being, and the nice reference from Mechanicum, all go a long way to do more than the usual hints we’re used to in this book.

The rest of Codex Imperial Knights isn’t so much a let down as predictable. There’s a lot of photos. Granted they’re all way cool but 16 pages of photos in a 64 page book seems a little much. And then there’s the two entry army list. Whilst, at present, there’s only the option to build the Errant and the Paladin we know Forge World are releasing the Lancer, and there are other Knight variations. I don’t think it would have been a huge ask to include the rules for those. Hell, even if they don’t release the other variants, we’re an industrious bunch – we can and will do conversions.

That aside, there’s plenty to gush over in the Codex as well. The timeline is nicely done with lots of nice references. The galaxy map is gorgeous and it’s quite fun identifying which Knight Houses would most likely fight with which Space Marine chapters based on location. I was slightly disappointed when I found out the one nearest Ultramar painted their Knights blue. Oh for a little contrast…

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As for the Imperial Knights army list (such as it is) there’s plenty to get excited about. The special rules for one thing. The list includes Fear, Hammer of Wrath, Move Through Cover, Relentless, Smash & Strikedown. Knights also get to stomp, their Reaper Chainsword gets the Destroyer special rule and to really rub salt into the wound of non-Imperial players…it also has the Invincible Behemoth special rule making it even harder to kill on top of its Ion Shields. And decent armour.

The fact that you can field them as allies or as a force in their own right is awesome the latter being done because it’s an amazing idea. Sure the Games Workshop will make a pretty penny from anyone doing it but 4 Knights is, depending on variant, comes in at 1500 points. And that right there would be a lot of fun.

I also like the fact that the Imperial Knights are allies of convenience with Grey Knights. I like to think that their mind wiping habits makes the Grey Knights dishonourable to the Knightly houses. It isn’t that, I just like to pretend.

Oh, and the Imperial Knights get Warlord Traits. Just in case they weren’t bad ass enough…

Codex Imperial Knights is a great read. Aside from the ability to take bonkers warmachines of bonkerishness (that may not be a word) it provides enough new fluff to be worth having in its own right. But the fact that it does give you the ability to field bonkers warmachines of bonkerishness just makes it all the sweeter.

Codex Imperial Knights is available from Firestorm Games priced £22.50.

Orks: Coping with an Outdated Codex

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I first started playing 40k when third edition came out. Phil had convinced my Dad to get into it and I shortly followed. I made a vague attempt to collect Imperial Guard but they weren’t for me, despite the awesome old metal models. They felt too structured. Too…sensible. I fell out of love with 40k for a while after, before a couple of years ago Jeremy gave me the Ork contents of the 5th edition 40k boxset as a birthday present. Phil followed that up with a copy of the Codex. And so began my journey collecting an army with the same level of finesse and sophistication as me…As a collector of Orks I am happy to say, without any prejudice what-so-ever, that it doesn’t matter what army you collect and what species they are: I hate them.

The answer to why this is, quite simple; it is partially because its fun to hate every other army, it makes them easier to kill, but mostly down to jealousy. I’m jealous of your guns, technology, your ballistic skill, reliability and your initiative. So why bother collecting Orks? Well they are just so different. It’s not just their great background and their rules but it is the general character of the whole army. You can guarantee that even if you play the same way every time, no two games will ever play out the same.

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However, considering they are an army with such great variety, for the Orks, nothing has changed in a very long time and this is making it harder and harder for them to remain a competitive force. I know they are not the only army still waiting on a new 6th edition codex, and I know their current book is very well written (which is probably why it has survived all of the games rule changes over the years), but the fact of the matter is the Orks have not had a new codex since the 4th edition of Warhammer 40,000 way back in 2007. For the last 2 editions of the game I have seen other armies getting shiny new guns, units and some brilliantly devastating new rules and this leads me back to the whole jealousy thing.

A week or so ago I agreed to play a new member of our group using Phil’s Ultramarines, using the new Codex: Space Marines and 6th edition rules. As far as the armies in the Warhammer 40K universe go, I have always reserved my most bitter animosity for the Space Marines. I have always felt that as cool as they look and their background is, they are the 40k Universe’s equivalent of that guy we all knew at school who never put any effort in but passes every test, always wins and as well as this, somehow gets the girl… Not that the Space Marines have any desire or need for such things. They are in fact the kind of army that make me want to run full speed across the battlefield towards them, shouting at the top of my lungs, and hit them hard in the face with something quite sharp or heavy (or both). Luckily for me this has always been the most effective way of winning, especially as an Ork will usually find that even in Power Armour, if you hit them hard enough (and enough times), they are just as squishy as anyone else.

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When preparing for the battle it was plain to see that on paper, just as they always have, the two forces look completely unbalanced with the Orks seeming to be completely out matched. The Marines can shoot further and far more accurately and even their base guns will ignore most Ork Armour, so there is no point in getting into a prolonged gun battle with them. The Space Marines are also as strong and as tough as most Orks and most importantly they are far less likely to run away. This of course poses a problem as unlike most other armies, even if you beat them in combat they are not going anywhere. To remedy this I plumbed the extensive green skin archives and consulted with some of the finest Ork tacticians, to come up with an almost fool-proof plan.

The plan was an old one but a classic. Overwhelm your opponent with sheer weight of numbers and grind them down. Then combine this with getting to them fast, or better yet very fast. Revolutionary! Granted it’s not the most elegant of plans but this is Orks not Eldar, and I have always found in the 5th edition of 40K that when in doubt this has proven to be the only way to really go toe-to-toe with and stand a chance of beating Space Marines.

I took large mobs of Boyz, some fast troops like Storm Boyz, Deff Koptas  and some trucks, plus a few special troops to deal with the inevitable well armoured tanks. Killa Kans and Tank Bustas specifically. I then ensured that set up my army in a good Waargh! formation; a wide line mixing fast vehicles in amongst the mobs to make sure I could hit his line in 2 waves. It got off to a good start as I lost fewer casualties than expected to gunfire and got my first units to the Space marine lines within 2 turns, but that is where the 6th edition changes made a difference and it all went wrong.

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(Some of the currently unpainted Waargh!)

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Warbosses and Nobs are now more vulnerable than ever, as instant kills have to be double the target’s toughness, not more than double. This is a game changer, as there are a good number of strength 10 weapons a space marine force can take. When I finally made it into combat I came across the next game changer. Furious charge is no longer as effective as it used to be. And the new overwatch rule means that some of the edge has been blunted from an Ork charge. Granted hitting on 6’s does limit the risk but rapid-firing boltguns will mean on average two Ork boys will drop. Seeing as you take from the front that can make the difference between a charge being successful and not. Which makes deployment, how you move mobs through the space and how you and when you choose to attack your targets more important than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, Orks do still dish out plenty of pain but the rule changes impact noticeably. Overwatch has the potential, given enough fire power and enough luck, to render your charge impotent. Which kinda sucks considering the assault phase is my thing. Between those changes and stuff like initiative being used  to determine whether or not a defeated unit runs, and a new Space Marine Codex, means that I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board.

The new Ork Codex can’t come soon enough and you better believe I’ll be getting it day of release and Believe me when I say I am looking forward to the new codex and I hope to be reviewing some great new rules or stat changes to level up the playing field a bit.

Codex Inquisition Cover Revealed

The Inquisition are on the move. And they have pointy sticks and fiery torches to shove up heretics’ bottoms. And here’s the cover…

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It rather lacks the gravity of the main Codex releases but you still wouldn’t mess with him.

 

Codex Chaos Daemons – A Review

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So how to describe Chaos Daemons as an army? Well, random I suppose is the best word. But random in a way that can be pretty much mitigated if you know how and are willing to pay the points. Playing a Chaos Daemon army is a bit like being an accountant.  A daemonic one. So like an accountant. Figuring out the best margins, cost to risk ratios and how to spin the random tables in your favour is half the fun of this book.

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But let’s start with the basics before I get too ahead of myself. It’s a very pretty book. Finally having a codex in full colour gives the artists and designers full licence to go to town on how much craziness they are allowed to inject into an otherwise pretty standard codex template by this point. Each section for the four Gods has slightly different border designs and the inclusion of a fold out with a summary of most of the salient points of the Codex is particularly useful, given the number of tables a player will need to roll on pre, and during, a game.

Another new (or at least something I at least haven’t seen for a while) addition is designers notes in a vein similar to Privateer Press’, that clarify points that may not be immediately apparent. With a lot of arguments about things like “Rules As Written” and “Rules As Intended” on the net, its nice to see Games Workshop’s designers spending the time to clear up some points that, due to the loose nature of 40k’s rules, may seem ambiguous otherwise. I just wish it was for everything rather than just a few entries, as my first glance through revealed some pretty broken combos if the interpretation is taken as RAW rather than RAI.

There isn’t much additional background text added to what exists unfortunately, though with the colour text and illustrations it’s still of a pretty high calibre, if not great compared to what came before in my opinion.

What does seem to be becoming clearly defined now is how Games Workshop view the Chaos Gods. In the past they were sort of loosely defined as omnipresent and unknowable beings that existed in the warp. Now it seems that there is The Warp, as controlled by Chaos Space Marines and other renegades like Daemon Princes and the Traitor Primarchs.  Then there is a deeper part of The Warp which has fantasy realms controlled by the Gods (as in, not planets, just plains) where the Gods literally reside in structures created by their whims.

Though in the past it was easy to see these as allegorical in some way: someone’s mind entering the warp and trying to make sense of it. Games Workshop are clearly trying to re-sculpt a lot of the Gods of the 40k Universe as more of the Greek and Roman variety, prone to squabbling amongst one another and capable of very human emotions, if admittedly emotions that can result in entire worlds being destroyed. In the end it’s a personal preference and whilst I don’t quite like it, I can see many more people quite liking Gods they can engage with as maniacal villains, eyes poised over the galaxy like hungry sharks.

As for the list itself, well it’s pretty solid, if nothing exactly stands out. The many new additions seem to add a lot of options to the army without overpowering it significantly (though the idea of  Plaguebringers being jumpack cavalry sounds like something I will have to check out), with perhaps the only dud being the Skull Cannon of Khorne. Even then, that’s just because it’s outshone by the far more appealing Slanneshi chariots. In the end, it’s just nice that mono God armies finally have more options to their lists than the prior codex, which will reduce a need to have mixed God armies for those that would rather not.

There’s also been an effort to make Daemonic Heralds a real alternative to their Monstrous Creature counterparts, as Heralds are now able to grant abilities to units via Locus’. Whilst this may anger some long time players, as many of these Locus’ were what units came with as standard in the past, I see it as an advantage. Now each unit has a wealth of new options open to it depending on what Locus is selected by the Herald and each unit is a part of a larger piece of the army. To this end you can now take four, yes four, Heralds per HQ choice. At a base cost  of all four without upgrades being just under the cost of a single Greater Daemon, you may find they will aid your army a whole lot more than just one monster.

Of course some units, like Bloodcrushers and the ever reliable Greater Daemons, can eat squads a turn, but you will pay through the nose for them. Now it’s probably much better to have one of those units and have lots of smaller squads to help them achieve that. There are token efforts to combat fliers by giving Soulgrinders an anti-aircraft weapon and making the winged big beaties Flying Monstrous Creatures. As always too, Tzeentchian squads are more predisposed towards psychic powers and shooting. But overall, most of your squads will be racing across the board to get stabby as quickly as possible. As Deep Strike is no longer mandatory either, it’s a lot easier to set up plans for a game, instead of hoping that a single dice roll goes in your favour.

However, this is where the fun starts. Characters no longer buy equipment, but instead buy rolls on tables. The default choice is usually an okay close combat weapon (an AP 2 master crafted weapon for 10 points is pretty nice), with the better rolls allowing for stat increases, psychic powers or things like the ability to summon more daemons. The default roll is useful in that when tailoring a unit a certain way you can have a backup in case your roll something not usable to the model. Still, it would be nice to know that when you are spending 50 plus points, something useful will come of it!

Add to this the Warlord trait rolls, the mission rolls, the Warpstorm table that is rolled each turn and as you can see there’s a lot to keep track of at any one time. This reliance on randomness has, unfortunately, left an army list with few additional options. Thanks to Phil Kelly’s deft touch, key designer Robin Cruddace has managed to avoid making any one unit a must buy and I can see many different types of list coming out of this Codex. It’s just 60% of those lists will amount to a core of multiple, almost identical units due to a lack of afore-mentioned options.

In the end the Chaos Daemons book isn’t what I would call a crowning achievement, mainly due to the reliance on being lucky at rolling on tables. Those who have played Chaos Daemons for a while will be used to this though and I’m sure will be hitting the top places of tournament tables soon enough. The codex has also opened up a lot of new options with the addition of just a few new units. I just wonder if said reliance on random may put off new players from what is otherwise a really interesting army with a unique hook. I’m certainly going to be adding a few units to my Word Bearers force soon, which in time will bloom into my own miniature daemonic incursion.

Now, how to explain to the misses that, yes, I DO need another 60+ models…

Codex Chaos Daemons is available from Firestorm Games priced £27.00.

Codex Space Marines – A Review

warhammer 40000 logoSo 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.

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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.

A Diet of Supplements

So far this year, we have seen the release of three of the new Codex Supplements for Warhammer 40,000. Of the three, two (Iyanden and Farsight Enclaves) have been generally well received. On the other hand the Black Legion supplement seems to have had a more mixed reception.

I was initially quite sceptical about the Codex Supplements. This is probably due to my negative memories of the ‘mini-codices’ of 3rd Edition 40k which were deeply uninspiring little pamphlets (though in all fairness the main codices were pretty meagre in those days too). Also, it seemed vaguely unfair that some gamers were having to pay extra in order to get the core codex and the additional mini-‘dex.

In most respects, allowing ‘off-shoot’ armies like Space Wolves or Blood Angels to have their own full codices seems like the ideal solution. That said however the onus then falls upon the folks at the Design Studio to make that army genuinely different enough to justify the separate codex. The fate of Black Templars being reabsorbed into the main Space Marine Codex demonstrates the importance of introducing some genuine distinction that works on the table top and in terms of fluff.

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So I was hostile to the Codex Supplements at first – especially when it became clear that they would be the same price as a real codex. But my feelings mellowed when it became clear that no one needs to buy the supplement in order to do, say, an Iyanden style wraith construct army, the supplement merely allows you the option to further emphasise and deepen the theme and character of your chosen force.  This is really important, as in the past variant lists like Iyanden or White Scars were made possible by artificially limiting the main list – so it was only until 5th edition that Space Marine Chapters other than the White Scars got to deploy their bike companies (which they almost all have) to the table top. So you can still do an Eldar wraith army or a Tau army led by Farsight without the Codex and you only have to buy the supplement if you want to take the theme up to eleven.

Of course, the supplements also bring you scenarios, and extra stuff to enhance your games of Apocalypse and/or Cities of Death. Obviously the appeal of those sections will depend on your own views of those particular game variants. I never had much time for either (though I can imagine a few people being swayed out of the desire to try out something in the supplement).

The question hanging over this issue is whether any current Space Marine armies might be relegated to a mere supplement. Obviously Dark Angels already have a 6th edition codex, and the Space Wolves are probably too distinct for this to work, but one does wonder about the Blood Angels. In some respects this might be a helpful as it would prevent some of the inter-Astartes rules clashes that developed over previous editions (eg what save does a Storm Shield grant?) and reduce the need for FAQs about whether existing books get the latest shiny toys in the core book (eg, can Dark Angels take Hunters?).

So surprisingly, GW seen to have hit the right level here rather than make the supplements a blatant cash grab, allowing the journeyman gamer to stick to the main codex and the more dedicated fluff gamer to choose to upgrade their gaming experience with the supplement. Choose wisely which path to take, as it’s a £30 decision.