Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Big Crunch Pt. 1

In a recent article, Godfrey mused that marines, despite having received basically the whole of the updates last edition, are in one of the worst positions this edition. Many of you may be thinking, "How can this be? Matt Ward would never allow the Imperium of man to fall! Not after 5th edition!", and I'm here to say that the Imperium hasn't fallen, but it has certainly tarnished (not that that's completely a bad thing). Herein, I'll list the various talks Heretic, Godfrey and I have had regarding the state of 6th after its first half a year, and specifically how the Emperor's angels of death fare in current conditions.

At length, the staff here have found that at present, armies exist in an almost 5 point spectrum. The far ends are Terminator armies (Deathwing, Sangiunary Guard, Pallies, GK terminators, wolf guard) and hordes ('nids, orks, guard). The other three points span across MEQ, midrange (eldar and necrons), and near-horde (sisters, tau and dark eldar). The way this scale was established was by looking at the cost of the most basic, essential troop on a per-model basis. Horde armies pay about 6 points a dude, near-hordes pay around 9 or 10, midranges are at 13 or 14 points per, MEQ is 16(ish), and terminators are 40 or so. The divisions get a little grey in the middle and may blur for some readers more than others, but we felt there were some pretty clear lines in the sand between various classes of army build. This isn't to say that a codex only fits into one place (see 'crons, GKs, or BA), but merely to indicate where and what we constitute each bracket as containing as far as the list is concerned.

The way you get what you pay for is pretty direct and efficient, the more expensive your dude is, the better at killing and living he generally is. Now, as we saw last edition (and to a lesser extent still see this edition) Terminator armies are very capable. They bring good guns, the best armor save in the game, an invulnerable save which is as good as basic cover, solid close combat capacity, and the ability to deep strike. The weakness to these armies, especially in 6th, is the fact that they bring between 20 and 30 bodies, making every single 1 rolled punishing. This is the polar opposite of the horde mentality, which seeks to drown probability in dice and bodies. Match ups between the two philosophies tend to be very interesting, generally resting on the tactics as much as dice. The point to all this documentation is to note the points discrepancy across the 5 army types.

The difference between either end point and the next step in is huge (relatively speaking) considering that it doubles (or halves) the points cost of your dude. The question is, what does that buy you? Let's look at things from the bottom moving up first. By spending 5 or so more points on your "raw" dude, you get better armor: hopefully granting a save you can actually claim, better weapons: ones that will deny some save, and wound marines at least half the time, better statline: one that keeps you in the fight, or helps you better use those shiny new weapons. All these are fine and dandy. Generally speaking, you earn much of the same at each subsequent step along the way. Logically, there is a bit of a logarithmic decay to the benefits gained. This hits marines hardest.

Where other armies have units that are either dedicated to shooting or assault, the marine philosophy dictates that every model be capable of both. This unfortunately boils down to a 6 or 7 point gap of "wasted" stats. Take for example the difference between sisters(10 points) and marines(16 points for a tactical marine). The sister saves 6 points and only loses one point in one practical stat, toughness. Sisters even keep most of the marines' crucial wargear: boltgun, power armor, flamer, and melta. Melta weapons are still exceedingly good. They're functional at the same potent range as a boltgun, and scare off tanks while still causing instant death to MEQs. Flamers are also amazing, both heavy and otherwise, especially when you consider the wall of death when you overwatch.

Alternately, consider the difference between a necron immortal(17 points) and a tactical marine if you feel it more applicable. 10 immortals will run you less than a potent 10 man tactical squad. They've traded in their "worthless" I4 for base Ld 10, which helps cover their lack of ATSKNF. The immortal sacrifices the bolt pistol to gain a gauss blaster, which is a point better than a boltgun with regard to both strength and AP. Furthermore, the entirety of the squad can fire at a single target, where they can be expected to rip off two hull points, or cause a slew of wounds. When the enemy goes to return fire, they'll have to kill every single immortal, or risk a third of their work getting undone by resurrection protocols.

Arguably, marines, outside of red and black, are designed to be shooting armies, which have some close combat capacity. While the stat line of a marine helps to adhere to fluff, it means you have close combat stats on a shooting model. As we have seen, that gets expensive. That expense is further compounded by paying for weapons which are either unnecessary, or ineffective. The clearest case of this for a tactical squad is in the mandatory bolt pistol. Though it allows marines to be well rounded, (you can't charge after firing a rapid fire weapon) the shoot and smash option will generally pale in comparison to shooting your boltgun twice. That's just the way marines are designed and the way the charts work. In an era where marines could still buy close combat weapons, perhaps these had a place (see the CSM 'dex) but in a shooting focused edition, they serve to fill fluff in an expensive and useless fashion.

Last, we examine the way wargear is distributed to marines, in terms of quantity, quality, and cost. Due to 6th edition's greater focus on objectives, troops have become more crucial than ever. On the one hand, marines don't mind this. Using their combat squads special rule lets you fake having brought more troops than you actually brought and moderate durability usually means they'll stick around to try to hold whatever point you send them off to. Unfortunately, combat squadding is not without its drawbacks, and on the whole, relative to other troops choices, the tactical squad offers little to offset its mandatory expense. If you are a tactical marine, you had better pray to the God Emperor that you have 8 other friends and a Sargent willing to lead you. If you don't, don't expect to get any wargear for your squadmates. With almost every codex in the game having the flexibility to get options on their troops starting at the minimum purchase amount, this gets very restrictive, very quickly. Not only that, but given the steep prices on weapons for devastators in blue codex, you'll usually find yourself bringing anti-tank weaponry in your troops choices. This, though a smart choice, means that you "waste" a lot of what you're paying for with a tactical squad: dudes who are good with their boltguns. And don't even get me started on how some of the more high mobility (or mass artillery) armies out there can already waste those expensive meat shields.

All of this goes a long way to say that marines, despite being among the most up to date codices out there, are really showing their age, or at least the blue ones are. Stay tuned for the next series of articles about the crunch, as we seek to examine what potent builds blue can do. Got suggestions? Shout it in the comments box.


  1. While I agree with the focus of your article, there are a few things I would like to point out in reply.

    1. Marines are under-costed point-wise. This mitigates the 'wasted points' you hihjlight to some degree. And I would say they are under-costed by more than 6-7 points.

    2. Marines have more options than any other army in choosing how they arrive on the battlefield. Rhino, Razorback, Land Raider, Drop Pod, Foot, Storm Raven(depending on codex colour). And they don't even have to arrive in their vehicle.

    3. Combat squads allows Marines to maximize their target potential, it's just no-one does it that way. Lets say a squad has a combi-whatever sarge, a special and a heavy weapon. How do most players combat squad? Heavy+4 dudes and the rest in the other squad. To Maximize target potential, place all 3 special weapons in one squad, say to nuke the vehicle and the 5 bolter guys in the other, to shoot what spills out. This way there is no loss of effective firepower. It's just noone does it that way.

    Even without allies, I am not having problems playing marines. At all. And the blue book still offers one of the best smash all units in the game.

    1. 1. I'd love to see the math on how marines are undercosted per model. I covered how much marines pay relative to similar models, both immortals and my misquoted sisters cost.

      2. Much of the arrival issue with be touched on in the forthcoming parts of this series. Great foresight!

      3. The thought of combat squadding in such a fashion has come to light between the authors here, and is more practical in some instances than others, largely hinging off transport and range. The issues it presents though are in that the range between the heavy and special weapons vary wildly, meaning your heavy weapon is snap firing, or your specials are not firing at all. Furthermore, this puts all of your eggs in to one basket so to speak. Your opponent has a single target to fire at which will easily remove your potentially expensive weapons. Again, some squads (tactical or otherwise) can do this better than others, especially depending on transport option, but on the whole, I wouldn't advocate this option.

      I've used allies sparingly (red + blue marines) but I usually find myself underwhelmed, due to the cost of what I "need" for a successful list. Hence the series of articles. I'm aware that the thunder bubble is still regarded among the best smash options, but it's not without issue. Stay posted for the continuation of these articles! I look forward to further discussion.