Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chaplain vs. Librarian: The Showdown

Welcome all to the first installment of a new series I shall be attending for Rites: The Showdown.  This series will take two units, usually sharing some similarity and breakdown in-depth what it is about them that shines.  And having had been made to suffer the presence of the witch we all know as Corvus, the Templar in me has decided to breakdown the uses of the Chaplain vs. the Librarian for the first showdown.

WARNING: the following is based completely on my views as a player, and I recognize bias is ever an issue with opinion/observation-based articles.  As such, take all that you read with a colossal size grain of naturally occurring, flavor enhancing crystal.

So as it is probably easy to recognize, these units are both HQ choices presented in just about every Space Marine codex.  A few exceptions are that some codexes refer to these units with different names, such as the Blood Angel "Reclusiarch" as well as their chaplains found in the elite slot. The Space Wolf "Rune Priest" and "Wolf Priest."  The Black Templars have no Librarians at all, so they will only be contributing for the men in black.  Regardless of name, I will be looking into the HQ version of each codex for this comparison.  So lets get down to business.

Stat Line
While the blue codex differs much in this regard, for the most part we have seen a difference in the stat line provided by these two units, with the chaplain walking out with a slightly elevated line.  Some of the prominent differences found on the most recent example (Dark Angels) are that of the Ballistic Skill, Wounds, Initiative, and Attack profiles, in all of which the Interrogator Chaplain has one additional point.  There is a regular chaplain also available for 20 points less with the same stat line as that of the Librarian... but this is where things become a little muddy.

With the Interrogator chaplain, there is a powerful stat line to back it up; and I suspect much like that in the Black Templar codex, most people will want to take the more resilient choice as this is meant to be a close combat-oriented unit, and a bulkier stat line usually means better results.  However, it is important to recognize that the points are adjusted appropriately as it is a 20 point increase for a total of 4 stat line increases.  This fits in line with the G.W. idea that for the most part, a single stat is worth around 5 points over the price of most base line models per army.

Generally speaking, most codexes which contain chaplains offer two verisons.  This is seen in Black Templar, Blood Angels, and Dark Angels.  Standard C:SM offers only one chaplain, as do the Space Wolves.  Librairans are usually kept at a single choice per codex, but in every case, they have a chance to add to their utility with the Epistolary upgrade.  This will be covered later.

As it stands, I have to give Chaplains the victory in this regard.  They have outlets for higher potential in terms of raw stats.  This gives the Chaplains a choice of how to use their points, with a cheaper route just to get the model and the rules on the table, or a bulkier version to have some added presence on the board.  They do loose a few points for their overall as their stats aren't quite the best, but for the most part, pretty good for a Space Marine hero-type.

Chaplain:     8/10
Librarian:    5/10

Special Rules
Here we see a the two start to make their differences known.  The Chaplain uses his rules to bolster the moral and combat prowess of those in his squad, while visa verse, the Librarian is meant to use his powers to fill in the needs of the army by taking powers more tailored to a general need.

When 6th dropped it made the Librarian a much more versatile machine.  Prior to 6th, Librarians chose from powers specific to their codex, and in most events, these powers were chosen at list construction phase.  Now they have a much broader choice of powers from which to choose, and it is something randomly done before each game.  But I digress.  Lets take a look at the rules specific to each one.

A chaplain comes with the following unique touches:
  • He/his unit are Fearless
  • The first turn of any combat, he/his unit re-roll failed to-hit dice. (based on the new use of Zealot USR)
  • Grants the unit "And They Shall Know no Fear" should they not be space marines. 

A Librarian comes with the following:
  • Psyker
  • Grants the unit "And They Shall Know no Fear" should they not be space marines.

I'll say the granting of ATSKNF is a wash, considering they both have it.  The Chaplain does offer his unit a few consistent perks of fearless and combat re-rolls.  The Librarian however does have a chance to offer more given the broad outlet to the psychic tables.  While this does change dramatically with the choice of codex, and therefor what powers are granted, these can be pretty game changing, or at the very least an interesting ability.

What I feel to be the big difference here is the fact that the Chaplains only ever (with a few very rare exceptions covered later) help the squad they are with.  A Librarian however can not only help the squad they are attached to, but they can also help other squads if the rolls go well enough.  The crucial sentence of this comparison is this

Chaplains always help decently, Librarians can help immensely more if the rolls go well, but can be less useful should their rolls go poorly. 

That said, a Librarian is never completely screwed.  In most cases they have a primarus power worth taking, especially if they get to roll on Divination.  That distinction alone causes the Librarian to be worth more practically by itself.

If the Librarian has access to Divination, it will immediately be better than the chaplain based on what it can do with Prescience alone, not to mention possible chances to get stuff like Perfect Timing which disallows cover saves.

It's hard to determine who comes out ahead here, as the two units do very different things.  But I give it to the Librarian, as his potential to greatness is often not left to chance as much as the balance might dictate it should.  Given that every Librarian short of C:SM has the divination outlet.

Chaplain:     5/10
Librarian:    7/10

I will preface the next statement by saying it is somewhat bias, as it is observation from my time playing 40k.  This is where we start to see the Chaplain fail.  The fairly staggering difference in wargear is immense in my opinion.  We see that some of the difference is a wash, but where I notice a fairly sizable difference in power is with the choice of optimal weaponization the Librarian has.

The Chaplain comes with:
  • 4+ Invulnerable Save
  • Power Maul

Librarians have the following:
  • Psychic Hood
  • Force Weapon

Okay... The 4+ invulnerable save is good, I can't say it isn't.  Same is true of the psychic hood.  They both have extreme positives, and a few negatives.  Both of them suffer from the "well if they don't A. get hit with a weapon that negates my usually good armor save or B. cast maledictions or witchfires at me (except Space Wolves who still just deny all on a 4+) then I'm useless."  This to me is fairly a wash, though I will a grant the 4+ invulnerable save is generally more applicable to most games than the hood, but I'd wager not by a huge amount these days, given the rising use of psychic powers.

When it comes to the weapons... there is flat out no contest, the Librarian wins. Not only does the Chaplain have little to no choice with his only alternative being to spend more points to get a power fist or some such, he's wielding a standard maul.  The Librarian is not only wielding his choice of any weapon... it's a force weapon.  It does apply some opportunity cost as to the number of other powers he can cast that turn, but it gives him the ability to shut down multi-wound models hard.  Coupled with the fact he can have it on his choice of weapon (maul, axe, or sword) he can really be a huge deterrent to enemy units.

While this in in of itself will not make the Chaplain worthless by any means, I find it quite strange that the difference in weaponry is as meaningful as it is here.  Librarians are given a lot of freedom of choice that Chaplains just don't have; and what little they do have is fairly cost prohibitive.  I will say though, that if a Chaplain does spend the extra points for the fist he is a force to be reckoned with; as he can face most anything short of a Monstrous Creature with some assurance of victory.

That said, Librarians often do not want to venture into close combat.  While they aren't worthless (as I've mentioned above) they don't excel there like the Chaplain can.  This means they want to sit back in a unit... in cover.  This element of the game makes that lack of invulnerable a little less damning, as it is hard for just about anyone to cross the 24" gap with a relatively in-tact assault force.  While this means they can't use their force weapon more extensively, it does allow them to cast their powers from a relatively safe distance, while still having the force weapon as a deterrent to enemies wanting to charge their unit.

Chaplain:     6/10
Librarian:    8/10

The Points
As I mentioned before, the chaplain offers a high level of versatility with it's point costs.  The choice of two alternate units with varied stat line power allows the Chaplain to be useful in many situations.  I do like the ability to be more or less expensive depending on the preference of the player.

I will counter slightly with a point in the Librarian's defense.  Again, using the latest installment of the Power Armor-clad fellows, the Dark Angels.  Librarians are astoundingly cheap clocking in at 65 points base.  This can be augmented by the ability to purchase epistolary, knocking them to an even 100 points.  Where the Chaplain does have some variability in his points, the less of the two still bottoms out at 90 points.

While the Librarian can't have the choice to spend more points to gain resilience, it does have the outlet of costing next to nothing for a space marine hero-type.  As this will be a large factor in the next point, I reason that it comes in at a high rating overall, as the game is trending to favor more things on the table, rather than smaller, more elite-ish armies.  (Potentially my next Showdown article)

Chaplain:     8/10
Librarian:    9/10

Use as Allied HQ
Okay, there is little to no contest in this point, as Chaplains are not exactly renowned for their social skills.  So much so, much of their power derived from their special rules is not able to be shared with those not of their chapter.  Because of this, the Chaplain makes for a fairly limiting choice when it comes to bringing them along with another force.

It is entirely possible, however, to justify them as a solid choice as in many cases you may only be bringing a single marine troop as an ally.  Because of the Chaplain's ability to really improve that one squad, it makes him a decent... but sadly very one denominational choice as an Allied Commander.

On the other side of this coin, the Librarian is extremely capable of being a multitasking leader on the field.  Because psychic powers are able to be utilized on friendly units, given the right choice of ally, they can help not only the squad they are with (by granting the non-marines ATSKNF), but also spread psychic powers to them, and possibly other allies nearby.  Alternatively they can be used with their own chapter brothers to bolster their strength as well.  Perhaps using prescience on devastators, or just slapping them with Assault Marines in the case of Blood Angels.

Regardless, the simple fact is the Librarian can be used to great effect in a fairly large number of ways, where the Chaplain is limited to being the leader of (more than likely) some of the assault-oriented marines your bringing along.  Because of this, combined with the note that the Librarian can be a much cheaper mandatory unit if you're looking to bring the allies for a specific unit that is not the Librarian itself, the Librarian wins this category with a fairly large margin over the Chaplain.

Chaplain:     4/10
Librarian:    9/10

Character Choices
The best way I can think to close this comparison is to see how and where each is penultimately represented by the fluff in G.W.'s eyes.  Yes, the men in Black vs the Men in Blue as represented by the characters of each codex.  These are the best of the best at what they do, so I'm going to buzz through each of the codexes and quickly state which is better between the characters of each internal conflict, and then briefly state why I said so.

Tigerius > Cassius.

Cassius is cheap and tough as nuts to kill, but at the end of the day, he's still only a chaplain.  Tigerius offers every codex power, or three roles on any table he has access to.  On top of this, he offers the codex reserve manipulation.  This grants him the win here.

Blood Angels
Mephiston > Astorath

Lets face it, Astorath's big trick is allowing for more Death Company to be used.  Apart from them being expensive, they're troops that can't hold objectives, in an edition where 5/6 of the games involve objectives.  And beyond that... Mephiston is practically a god.

Space Wolves
Njal > Ulrick

There's not much to say here.  This is basically true of the entire codex... rune priests are just so much better than wolf priests, and these characters depict why so vividly.  Njal does so much and has the option to be in terminator armor (solving his lack of invulnerable save).  Ulrick is just... bad.  So, so bad.

Dark Angels
Ezekiel > Asmodia

Seriously... if you though the competition in Space Wolves was one sided... you haven't seen these two.  Ezekiel is so damn good, and a steel at 145 points.  Asmodia is nothing more than a regualar Interrogator Chaplain with a crappy weapon with AP - and causes Instant Death.  It's pathetic how much better Ezekiel is.

Black Templar
Grimaldus > No Contest

Grimaldus is hands down the best Chaplain in 40k.  His stat line is only so so, but his ability to stand back up (if even only once), combined with his expanded Unmatched Zeal special rule for the Black Templar make him almost a mandatory for anyone thinking about trying the army.

That said... there are not Librarians to compare him to.

Grey Knights
... = ...

Ok, there are no characters of either type here.  However, in terms of non-characters, the Librarian wins hands down over the Brotherhood Champion.  But in a codex devoted to psykers... I'm not exactly surprised.

So there you have it... The only book in which a Chaplain character is superior... is in the only Space marine codex which is devoid of a Librarian to compare to.  Sad how unbalanced the power level is between the two in this regard.  At least the Black Templar know how to represent! (totally non-bias statement of course >.>)

Chaplain:     4/10
Librarian:    9/10

Final Verdict
Chaplain:     35/60
Librarian:    47/60
In many ways this is not a surprise to me.  The Librarian takes the cake by sheer virtue of being more widely useful.  Argument to be made that if perhaps Divination's primarus was not prescience, the power level difference might be slightly closer.  That said, in most of the categories, the Librarian won out by sheer volume of options.

I find it slightly strange that the Chaplain has been relegated to roughly the same role it received in 3rd edition, where they originated from.  They have received very little in terms of new abilities (actually none save the tweak from their charge re-roll to Zealot USR).  Meanwhile the Librarians have seen several changes from getting their own codex power list to choose from, to the 6th changes making them so abundantly more optional in terms of play-styles than their counterparts.  I'm not sure why this disregard for the Chaplain has occurred, but I hope that it does not last.  Perhaps with the Black Templar re-release (if it ever happens), the Chaplains will finally see some love... as their are no Librarians to make over the top ridiculous there.

So there you have the first in the Showdown series.  I'm interested to hear feedback on this.  Did you like the read?  What can be done to improve the Series?  What were your thoughts on the content?  Will Corvus ever stop being a witch, and see the error of his ways?  Find out next time.



  1. Good read I always enjoy seeing compare and contrast articles. Though one thing that I feel should be noted (Doesn't really change things overall to much but still should be on the record) is the general nerf to the psychic hood in 6th edition in that it does not affect the casting of blessings. In the greater majority of games that I have played or seen played most of the psychic powers that are being cast have been blessings be they the amazing divination powers like prescience or the biomancy powers that nids regularly bring to the table in droves (even telekinesis has some big winners here in invisibility and hallucination).

    1. I actually did mention that in the wargear comparison. Both the hood and the 4+ invulnerable are capable of being denied usefulness if the right circumstances don't come up. That said, I did still give credit to the 4+ for being used more frequently these days.

      "Okay... The 4+ invulnerable save is good, I can't say it isn't. Same is true of the psychic hood. They both have extreme positives, and a few negatives. Both of them suffer from the "well if they don't A. get hit with a weapon that negates my usually good armor save or B. cast maledictions or witchfires at me (except Space Wolves who still just deny all on a 4+) then I'm useless." This to me is fairly a wash, though I will a grant the 4+ invulnerable save is generally more applicable to most games than the hood, but I'd wager not by a huge amount these days, given the rising use of psychic powers."

    2. Both of the telekinesis powers you mentioned are WC 2, meaning you'd have to buy the second mastery level to access them, which only helps the chaplain in this argument, since buying the second mastery for Dark Angles causes them to be 10 points more than the basic Chaplain.

    3. The powers mentioned come from Telepathy just for clarification.

      While they are mastery two powers, they are massively game changing powers should they go off, and one of them is a blessing. And either way, the powers cant be taken by those who don't snag the upgrade, so it can't be worthless as the psyker can use it. Yes it means they have less overall number of powers used, but if either of those go off... it's gonna be a big deal.

      It does mean that they did purchase the upgrade making them less cheap overall, but it does effect their ability to perfom on the table should they want to take that route. And much like the Chaplain, I'd wager most players will take the upgrade to be more helpful on the table, and to mitigate the "randomness." The cheapness argument is there for the simple fact they have the option to do so if they desire to save the points.

  2. As far as bringing up the Invisibility power specifically I was referring more to other armies not specifically a librarian being able to use the blessing powers and the hood no longer being able to stop it. I was more so trying to counter point you point about the applicability of the hood vs the invulnerable save since a lot of the breadwinner psychic powers are blessings which the hood does nothing to prevent.

    1. Sure. I again have stated that the 4++ is more applicable in most circumstances. Not sure you've seen my numerous attempts to show that :P>

      My point has been that with every new codex we're seeing more and more psychic powers introduced, and with that comes a rise in the number of them are witchfires and maledictions. Even so, the psychic rolls are random, so the more there are, the more chances you might roll into some.

  3. With the dark angels it's surprising how lopsided it is considering how important chaplains are to their fluff

    1. Honestly, Chaplains can make Deathwing Knights sing.

    2. I felt the same way Will. I was more than a little upset with what felt to be a complete lack of effort on GW's part with Asmodia. His model is a basic looking plastic cop-out, and his rules are non-existent.