Sunday, April 17, 2011

Space Marines, an Edition Behind?

Lets talk about the good old Space Marine. Being the 5th edition codex, it's been a while since it has been on the radar of most discussion boards, and perhaps for a reason other than just it's age. Apart from the drastic overhaul of the game's core rule set, 5th edition has created a large increase in power across the board with the new codexes much like the old "hero-hammer" characters of old. As I said in my review on the Land Raider, the power of most basic units has certainly improved from 4th to 5th, and with it we see some pretty powerful combinations. However, looking at it from one who did indeed play the codex for it's first 2 years, the Space Marine Codex (Codex Blue Marines) is looking a bit old, and it's not showing it's age well.

A few folks down at out FLGS look at Marines as the favored child of GW. I can't argue this fact, as the Space Marines often get them most love when it comes to new codexes. Perhaps this is because the Marine (along with the variant marine codexes) make up almost half of the playable armies out there. The other reason may be that the Blue Marine codex is always the first to be redone with the coming of ever new edition, and are always in the starter box. And while these "perks" may seem nice at first... a closer look reveals at least to me a few problems tat can come out of these.

First and foremost, the boxes themselves are an issue. The Standard Marine boxes are approached and made in what I consider a purely market standpoint. Considering that the sprues themselves are rather lax in both detail and quantity of bitz... they seem underwhelming as compared to the newer more detailed sprues of 5th models. I know the boxes can't be smothered in iconography as they do encompass a rather large number of possible chapters, but perhaps the addition of some new, more detailed items that should be there in the first place (power fist, special weapons etc.) as well as new more elaborate extra bitz to make the models a little more flashy than they currently are (and have been for the last couple editions) would be nice :)

Currently however, in order to build the army in the manner in which you want... it almost always forces you to purchase unit boxes you may not want or need. A good example is the Dev box. While the unit itself costs more to field than other, new codexes, the box itself is one of the only ways to get a power first. Now this alone says something, as who in their right minds puts a PF on the Devastator Sergeant? Why this particular bit couldn't be added to the tactical squad box is beyond me. The heavy weapons options are in a similar boat, as you only get the missile launcher with the Tactical Squad box itself, and again must purchase the devastator box for your needs.

The next problem is power on the field. Units in the Blue codex have the lovely Combat Tactics trick to get out of a tight spot. While I defiantly see it as a neat trick... it requires the unit be forced to take a moral test. This indicates they have already lost 25% casualties, and are at this point hurting in terms of damage output. This trick also isn't as reliable as straight up benefits like some other armies' special rules, as it can be difficult to make it away from a close combat from more smashy units.

Of course the inclusion of named characters can of course alter this to allow for a more stylized and sometimes specialized force... it replaces their first trick to do so... this is an issue to me. No other codex mandates that their nifty trick be replaced when you include a character to increase their power even in the new variant marine codexes. Logan Grimmnar doesn't remove counter attack to make Wolf Guard Troops, and Stracken most certainly doesn't remove the order system to give units around him Furious Charge and counter attack. I guess this just doesn't seem that the upgrade systems are on the same level playing field as they should be (at least to me).

Now is the codex itself bad... no. I can't sit here and say it's is the worst. We have Dark Angels (- Deathwing and Ravenwing which are both actually pretty decent these days), and if we're looking at 5th only Tyranids take that cake (which makes me sad as I think the bugs deserve a little more than they got). But the codex isn't much fun anymore. This is where that edition behind comes in.

As we know the Orks were written so late in 4th, they were really designed for 5th. Though this is true, we still see a little bit of a waning in power by this codex just due to it's age. Blue Marines fit in a similar boat.

When a new edition rolls around, the marines spearhead the new armies. However, they can't be overly good or they become unbalanced and overpowered as compared to the old edition codexes. We see similar things to this in other walks of life. In events utilizing judging, they are often a little more conservative with the scores they give out to early competitors, so they don't set the standard too high. It's much the same with Space Marine codexes. The codex itself has to bridge the gap of old edition codexes and the new codexes... and they can't offer up some of the better units that eventually are released in later armies. The Storm Raven is a good example of this.

Look at the power (and the new boxes) to come out in 5th. The nifty toys and tricks allowed by other armies are generally missing here, and while the Blue Marines did get new units, they are quickly overshadowed by similar units down the road. The Ironclad Dreadnought as compared to the Furioso for example.

Again, the codex does work... but I sometimes wonder if the codex isn't truly balanced with it's current edition competitors until it is redone for the next edition. At least that's the way I feel concerning the current edition and the Blue Marines.



  1. The SM Codex was one of the best 4th Ed books at the time. Now, it's the oldest book in 5th Ed, and it shows. Not because it's not good, but because it has so few good options up it's sleeves at this point.

  2. I completely agree with you Wienas, especially when you compare it to its newly redone variant marine competition. There are few things the Blue Marines can do that a different codex couldn't do better, and often doesn't require a named character to do so.

  3. Really?
    Marines are still very competitive. While I agree that the BA and ESPECIALLY the Space Wolves have some advantages over the blue marines, the marines still stand WELL above ANY Xenos book. Try comparing them to Xenos instead of Space Wolves and also be glad they ALWAYS have a 'current' codex (instead of being one or more editions behind like so many Xenos books).

  4. Again, I know the codex works, and can defiantly win. There's no contesting that fact. But what my point is that the Blue Marine codex doesn't really stack up that well against most 5th edition re-writes. For instance, the Dark Eldar (a xeno book re-written for 5th) has many more options and viable list construction oprotunities than that of the Blue Marine. Yet, other 5th edition Marine books stand a much more interesting and albeit better chance in that fight.

    A bigger problem I have is that Blue Marines don't have any real way to get around the limitations of the minimum 2 troops. The scout squads aren't exactly the best (not bad...) but there isn't much choice when the only options are scouts and Tactical Squads.

    While yes, the Xeno races still set in 4th defiantly have a hard time... once redone (which is the point of the article [basing the Blue Marines against later 5th codexes]) I feel they will have a hard time keeping up with said re-written codex, be it Tau, Necron, or Eldar.

  5. No options open to the Smurf player? Lets go through the list of builds I can come up with off the top of my head:

    Ol' Faithful: Librarian w/ Tactical Squads, Speeders and Predators

    White Scars /Khan

    Pedro Kantor Sternguard

    Shrike Terminators


    6 Dreadnought shooty-fun

    6 Dreadnought drop pod-fun

    Thunderfire Cannon lol (nod to Ishmael here)

    Marneus Calgar Honor Guard (didn't say it was good lol)

    I could list some more, but the point is there.

    If you want to talk about terrible bits options and how BS it can get in regards to finding upgrades, I present Tyranid Warriors. You mean I get one of each upgrade but the entire squad must have it to form a legal unit? Sign me up.

    You can't compare Smurfs, or anyone, to things in the Guard and/or Space Wolves codex. That isn't fair. Everyone knows those two books get everything, so its sort of a moot point lol.

    Combat Tactics works, in my experience, by failing your moral test, moving back, having another unit shoot/engage the "killy" unit while having the now damaged squad fall back to an objective or contribute with shooting. Besides, if you want to talk about killy units, the Smurf book has the most killy unit in the game so I don't see whats wrong here lol.

    Replacing Combat Tactics is a good thing because it makes you THINK as a player. Its not the "lol so I guess I get everything" mess that is the Space Wolf codex etc. Are Smurfs not supposed to be the somewhat more tame and middle-of-the-road chapter of Space Marines? If they were as killy as GK and SW or as survivable as BT and BA what would be the point of the book? What would make them unique?

    No way is the Smurf book lacking in power. Any army that can put down 40 power armor guys and 10 durable vehicles with excellent firepower with great psychic defense/powers at 1500 is far from underpowered. No one who plays Smurfs around here takes advantage of that though, they would rather just pick some special character and roll with them. Nothing wrong about that, but you have to think outside the Muncie area when it comes to these things.

  6. And while I can see what, and in fact agree with what your saying in a lot of ways, it's not the point being made by the article.

    The point is to compare this 5th edition codex (Blue Marines) with other 5th edition ones. That is why a comparison to Space Wolves and Blood Angels was made, as they too are 5th edition marine codexes. I don't think it's a fair argument to just claim it's unfair to compare them because one gets everything... that's the whole point!

    And at no point did I ever claim that Blue Marines don't work, or couldn't make good lists. My claim was that the options presented to them is a little more limited than those you see in other codexes.

    And finally, as for the replacement of Combat Tactics... I agree with you. It does make people think, which I also agree is good for the game as a whole. But my problem is why is it the only codex to do this? Why do Blue Marine players have to choose which abilities they want (which also don't stack with other characters [Chapter Tactics]) while other codexes allow you to take characters to bolster their army's power as well, but without mandating a removal of something else as we see here.

    I agree that the way it is in Blue Marines is better as a whole, but being the only codex to have this rule is what I find strange.

  7. @Meister_Kai: We're talking about characters and the blue codex and I find it interesting that of the 9 lists you've mentioned, 5 use characters to drive them.

    To me, this conveys the point brilliantly. It isn't that the codex can't work. We all know it can. But for your cries of blue doesn't need a character, you seem to contradict yourself a bit

    If you've seen Combat Tactics work or used it personally, more power to you. In my experience, it has rarely, if ever, proven its self useful. it either leaves you with a kneecapped squad falling back, or forces fearless saves when there may have been capable of passing with a roll of the dice. Never mind that with the mobility that some armies bring to the table, you may find yourself in very real danger of being forced into continual running.

    Also, regarding the librarian list at 1500, I am loathe to call a land speeder durable. Admittedly my play with them is limited but in that time, they've rarely lived.

  8. The key phrase was "I could list some more, but the point is there."

    Would it of done any good to list up to the 20 or so builds I have seen that feature Chaplains, Chapter Masters, or Librarians just so someone who doesn't read my entire point, gets the point? Nah not really.

    If you play against one of the approximately 3 armies that have a real shot at running you off the board (Eldar, DE, BA) and get ran off after you would of lost combat through combat tactics, you either misused CT, were going to die anyway, or a combination of the two.

    Its almost as if you have to really consider the pros and cons of your decision to use the ability, what implications it might have. Its infinity more complex than LOL FEEL NO PAIN and LOL COUNTER ATTACK.

    Most Smurf players (the few that hasn't jumped ship) rarely, if ever use combat tactics. I know of some that doesn't even know what it does, or how it works. This is the beginning player army as we know.

    If you want to play armies that are easier to play, I welcome you to play Blood Angels or Space Wolves. Most people enjoy their stay, I'm sure you will too.

    3/10 of the vehicles in that list would be Speeders, so unless you think 3 Predators and 4 Rhinos aren't durable, I would say that point stands as well. Two of those speeders have Typhoons and would be hugging cover all game, one would perhaps drop down and kill a Land Raider.

  9. Well Loki, if you want to compare Smurfs side-by-side to other 5th ed codices, lets do it:

    I' leaving out Guard and Space Wolves. If this somehow invalidates my point then I raise you the notion that you will never be satisfied with any codex, as I don't see any touching these two books anytime soon. I consider them flukes and in the case of Space Wolves, not well designed. In short, LOL I GET EVERYTHING is NOT good codex design IMO.

    Vs Tyranids: I won't go into it. The only 5th ed codex with a right to bitch, ever.

    Vs Dark Eldar: Dark Eldar have plenty of builds, but suffer from lolt3 and lolAV10. While Dark Eldar have plenty of builds to choose from, with HQs whose army wide rule mostly consists of "can take these as troops" with not much more major besides that, I consider the comparison a wash. Its not like DE don't already have design constraints, how many lists without Ravagers do you honestly see?

    Vs Blood Angels: More expensive, but faster vehicles. Assault Marines as troops, Baal Predators. Looks like a landside in BA's favor right? Not so fast. Nilla Marines still have the best Drop Pods. Nilla Marines still have better scouts. For all the ho-ha about BA combat superiority, C:SM still has the game's best killy combat unit. The Smurf player also has superior horde killing ability in HB/AC Predators, ample acess to bolt-weaponry, and troops that don't need to be in assault to cause damage (who takes Tacticals with BA, really lol). Also rage can be both good, and terrible.

    Vs. Grey Knights: Well, the internet is already complaining about how this army is "boring" and lacks creative builds (which is lol-not true when considering henchmen) but many builds are in fact hamstrung by needing either Crowe, Coteaz, or Draigo. Therefore it basically has the same "problem" you accuse the Smurf book of having, I'm not sure what to tell you. Especially when you consider that outside of henchmen the army doesn't believe in Melta or Storm Shields, and needs to basically hunker in midfield to use its impressive firepower (whilst Smurfs can combat squad in half, send the double melta-bunker in midfield while the missile camps on an objective).

    I feel, and have hopefully convinced people thereof, that Smurfs are on the same level as everyone but basically IG/SW. Just because Smurfs don't have as much Mephiston-brand LOL I MURDER YOU doesn't make Smurfs worse, but different, which is really important.

  10. I will opt to disagree in some cases, but that is my opinion. :P