Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Five Commandments of the Space Marines

Hello and good day dear readers! As some of you may have noticed, a new space marine codex just released a short while ago. Thumbing the pages of it has taken me back to 2010, when VT2, over on 3++, published his space marine codex review. Not long after its publication, users across various forums began referring to it as the "Space Marine Bible." Reading it had a profound effect on my perception of not only my space marines, but of 40k in general. I sought to construct my Necron review in similar fashion, and with the release of the 6th Edition Space Marine codex, I believe I'll try my hand at hoping to construct a review capable of earning such a title, as lofty a goal as such may be. Beginning such an undertaking starts by laying a solid foundation. Thus do I pen the five commandments of the Adeptus Astartes.

1) Honor and know thy codex. - Our first commandment feels very general, and likewise, feels very obvious. This means that it is beyond crucial. The marine codex is easy to understand and hard to master. First and foremost, it is a shooting codex. Deep down, most marine codices are shooting codices. Yes, each have their own special units which they love to get into assault with, but the core of your army, not unlike the core of 6th edition, centers around the shooting phase. If you don't believe me, go to your wargear section of your armory. Then, check the wargear on every model. You like to shoot, and that's a good thing. Failure to acknowledge this and compensate accordingly will cost you games. Not just that, but your army, unlike others such as Tau, Eldar, or Tyranids, contains no core. Your list should have no single linchpin whose removal causes your army to collapse. The remainder of the commandments will help expand and expound on this notion, but so long as you commit the first to mind, the others will fall into place.

2) Honor and know thy list. - Our second commandment is a direct consequence of the first. Knowing your codex, and all of its strengths and failings, should deeply influence your list construction principles. Example: knowing that finding ample anti-infantry firepower is easy for space marines, one should seek to find outlets to anti-tank and monstrous creature fire power. Or another example: your models are too expensive and shots too high quality to simply be wasted on your opponent claiming cover whenever you deny their armor save. A good list should grapple with these questions and demand an answer. Only once it has, can you say that you have honored your list.

3) Honor thy tactical squad. - That's right. It's a commandment. After a whole edition of hating the Tactical Squad, honoring it makes its way onto my list of commandments. And what's more, nothing really changed about it with the new codices. The care and feeding of the tactical squad, that's what's important. There's a few really important, but mostly simple rules, to making them not suck.

  • The first, buy a transport. If you wanna talk about it or read about it, see the fourth commandment. This is not negotiable.
  • Next, don't waste points on your sergeant. Depending on your local meta and the purpose of the specific squad, you might want to consider meltabombs or a combi weapon. Spending points on more than these two items begins to add up quickly though. Your model, without veteran upgrade, costs less than a plasma pistol. Even though I find the veteran upgrade totally worthwhile, it still doesn't change how the guy shoots his gun. This should usually be a cardinal rule for almost any model short of a crisis suit. Never spend more points on toys than what your body cost. You'll be sad every time you do.
  • The third, fourth, and fifth rules all hinge on the second commandment: honor and know thy list. Have a purpose for each tactical squad you bring and never bring too many cover our third and fourth rules. Having a purpose for each tactical squad is fairly easy, as long as you consider the mantra of heavy, special, and transport. Keep than in mind and it's very hard to go wrong.
  • Our fourth rule seems contradictory to the commandment, but I assure you, it is not. When playing space marines, it is important to be aware of your codex's internal balance mechanism, hence the first commandment. In marines, this means that you have relatively expensive troops (200~ points for an effective tactical squad with transport), but your other units are fairly cheap to make up for this. Furthermore, your troops come equipped with an exceptional special rule, called combat squads, which allows them to turn into two units should the mission require that you hold more points than you have troops choices. Thus, for your average list, even up to 1850 points, I will strongly recommend that you keep yourself to 3 troops at most. Generally speaking, your troops are durable enough, and your non-troops killy enough that if an opponent tries to just kill your troops and win by denying you the ability to hold objectives, you'll kill them faster.
  • This does bring us to our fifth and final rule about tactical squads, know when not to honor the tactical squad. Yes. It comes full circle. If you've obeyed the first two commandments, and know your meta, know when to field an army of troop swaps and run zero tactical squads. They simply don't work for some lists and environments.

4) Honor thy transports. - I can already hear you. "This isn't 5th edition. Vehicles suck now." That's neither here nor there though, given that this is a commandment I will not budge on. Your models are relatively expensive, and vulnerable to being drowned in dice, be they good or bad. Not only that, but the most of their quality firepower is short range (here's looking at you heavy flamers!). The solution to this? Buy a transport! You should want to anyway. 6th edition rewards mobility, they're dirt cheap, and they absolutely let you get the most out of every squad you field. I prefer not to use razorbacks, as they either kick out half your squad, or force you to only buy 5 guys. Remember: the benefit of combat squads is that you don't have to decide if you need more troops until you see the other guy's list, and the mission. Razorbacks cost you this. Outside of that, we here at Rites have compiled articles to break down every aspect of both rhinos and drop pods. Check them out for specific points on each of those options. Some builds and units don't need these transport options, but even devastators can get some benefit from tossing an extra rhino into a list. But this is about the most straightforward commandment I have. Don't mess it up.

5) Honor thy battle. - Another no brainer. After carefully considering and meditating on the four commandments above, and constructing a list which will see your enemies driven before you, you have to play the list. And in this regard, you must honor your battle. Many people are of the  misguided notion that marines have the luxury of disregarding terrain. Just because it is unlikely that I will ever be able to claim a cover save does not give me an excuse to ignore the table I'm playing on. In fact, in some ways, due to their need to deny cover through combination of wargear, positioning, and assault phase, marines need to pay more attention to the table they are playing on. With armies having access to an Aegis Defense Line, many choose to set up that in the best location and castle up. The Aegis is directional and with your use of transports, you will slip behind it and purge the xeno and the heretic! Play to the strengths of your list, prey upon the weaknesses of your foe, and have fun. But mostly have fun.

There we have it. The primer post to my review of the 6th edition space marine codex. Hopefully you'll all join me as I seek to compile the best review out there.


  1. A good read!
    "Never spend more points on toys than what your body cost."
    This I think is the golden rule that can be applied to a lot of codexes out there.

  2. Absolutely. This article is fairly general, in that there's a grain of everything that most players can gain from each commandment, even thought I wrote it with space marine in mind.

    Heretic also liked my comment: "Your list should have no single linchpin whose removal causes your army to collapse."""