Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Honor the Codex: Pt. 1 Special Rules & Chapter Tactics

Good day students, and welcome to the first official part of my Space Marine codex review, Honor the Codex. With this being the first piece in the review, we're going to start with the foundation that will lay the ground rules for our assessment of the units contained herein. For those of you who missed the primer to this, go read my Space Marine Commandments. It's fundamental to understanding the rules and the book. Once you've read that, come back here and away we'll go!

When we turn to the special rules, we're greeted with a few general ones up front. There's combat squads, which was largely covered in my commandments. Long and the short of the rule is that it's good (because you're paying a fraction of a point for it), even if it is of limited use most of the time. Next after that is And They Shall Know No Fear. Almost anyone who plays this game will tell you that this is quite possibly, bar none, the best rule in the game. It's the ultimate catchall for every bad thing that can happen in a game. Your squad broke? Consolidate for free. Move normally after consolidation. You squad lost combat and is about to get swept? Not a chance! You will not be run down. And as icing on the cake, you are immune to the new Fear USR, which is pretty cool. The best part about this rule, is that all you have to do is remember it, and it will save you from bad plays or bad dice. There's literally no downside to it, unless you want to be swept (combat stats you're paying for say you don't).

Moving along from those two general marine rules, we come to the big one: Chapter Tactics. This rule doesn't do anything other than denote which units in your army claim the benefits of whichever Chapter Tactics you might select. When drafting your army list, you select your Tactic, and away you go. Your choice of Tactics unlocks the appropriate characters for that chapter and its successors, and generally speaking, the book expects you to play to your paint scheme and founding chapter. For those of you playing homebrew, or whose founding is shrouded in mystery, do whatever you like. So, from here, I'll tackle them in the order they're presented in, assessing them first individually, then conclude with a broad spectrum analysis. Away we go!

Ultramarines - Combat Doctrine - Okay (But the characters help!)
This rule gives you three doctrines to use, one turn each and only one full game turn of each. Up front, this is already kind of problematic. You get enough rules to help you for half of a tournament length game. Other rules in the game might be situational (supporting fire) or just downright bad (grim resolve), but rarely are you told that your rules will only ever help you for exactly half of a game. The first doctrine is Tactical. This twin links your tactical squads, and lets the rest of your armies re-roll their 1's to hit while shooting. This is almost always your turn two rule, the thing you want to use the turn you have the most of your tactical marines alive and in rapid fire range. Great rule for a shooting army, but its a pity that there was no middle ground between getting this every turn and getting this only one turn. The next doctrine is assault. This will be wasted most games unless you build for it, or are playing against Tau or Eldar. It, as the name suggests, lets your army reroll their charge distance, unless they are assault marines, or bikes, which instead gain fleet. Again, if you build your army to utilize this, or end up against either of the aforementioned armies or Guard, it's nice to have, but its otherwise probably not going to get used. The final doctrine is devastate. It gives your devastator squads relentless, which is good if you're bringing devastators instead of centurions (you probably shouldn't). Otherwise, it twin links your snap shots, which is cool if you need to bring down a flyer in a pinch or need to hose down the other guy before he charges. More useful than assault but generally not spectacular. On the whole, the rule isn't bad, but it wouldn't be top tier without the character support it has. If you want the most out of it beyond tactical doctrine, you'll have to build to it, and that's not what you want to do. Take this for the utility and flexibility, but otherwise, don't sacrifice your list to it.

White Scars - Born in the Saddle, Fight on the Move - Great
We'll start with Fight on the Move. Grants you Hit & Run. Miss Combat Tactics? Don't wanna bring Calgar? Hit & Run gives you back the most of that. It's pretty great, even if it isn't super killy. Next comes Born in the Saddle. Your bikes get +1 to their Jink saves, automatically pass dangerous terrain tests, and their Hammer of Wrath attacks are S5. If you want to bring bikes, and didn't much care for Dark Angels, this is it. The rule is straightforward, exceptional, and helps you against just about anything short of Tau (marker lights), or Heldrakes. Again, you'll want bike troops to get the most out of this but odds are that you probably want those any way.

Imperial Fists - Bolter Drill, Siege Masters - Better than okay, not quite great
Bolter drill says reroll your 1's to hit with non-sternguard bolt weaponry. Cool, and easy to get a lot out of. It helps you feel like the reliable old bolter is trying to keep up with gauss, bladestorm, and the strength 5 of pulse weapons. Even if your sternguard hate missing out, your tactical squads, and extra wounds for your dev teams definitely appreciate the help. Siege Masters give your devastators and centurion devastators tank hunters. As long as you didn't want to build an armored company and bring predators, this rule is another great freebie, all but guaranteed to help you out. All in all, these two rules are the easiest to use, and the ones that most space marine players can already take advantage of. In that regard, this really is a strong contender for default tactic. It's just that user friendly.

Black Templars - Accept Any Challenge, Crusaders - Okay
These rules, along with the characters they unlock, and the crusader squad very quickly and radically change the codex from a fairly basic shooting codex, into a fairly unique and potent close combat army. Raider rush or just run for the other guy's face. But you have to want to punch the other guy in the face. And prefer these rules to those of, say, Blood Angels. Long and the short of it, you gain re-rolls to hit in challenges, rending in challenges, adamantium will, and crusader special rules. Take the swords or mauls in challenges, and leave your power fists out of challenges. These rules are more about your list and playstyle than the rules themselves, so we'll dig deeper into them when we examine the crusader squad.

Iron Hands - The Flesh is Weak, Machine Empathy - Okay
Army-wide bionics, and giving your tanks and characters IWND is good, but never quite as good as you might hope. The bionics in theory grant you about 2 extra dudes per tactical squad, and boil down to about 100 "free" points per list, which isn't bad at all. IWND is highly overrated on tanks. It is. All your opponent has to make sure they do is focus down a tank at a time, which isn't super challenging. Rhinos are cheap because they're flimsy in the grand scheme of transports, not because they're amazing. At the end of the day, if you're playing a mech heavy list, give these a shot, but you may not want to rock with them long term. There are about 3 or 4 better tactics in the book, even for mechanized lists.

Salamanders - Flamecraft, Master Artisans - Great
Flamecraft twin links your fire, and twin links your armor against it. Awesome. Almost beyond awesome. Remember in my commandments when I said that a problem for marines was finding enough fire power that would deny cover? These guys maximize what you do manage to find. That's not to be ignored or under valued. Master Artisans master grafts one piece of wargear on every character in your army, like all your Sergeants. Combi-weapons, meltabombs, power fists, anything. Usually the going rate on this is about 5 points, give or take what you're trying to master craft. Given that the average army will include about 5-8 characters, this nets out to 25-40 points. Not nearly as huge as the Iron Hands rule, but again, depending on what you master craft, it can be amazing. For the sculpted list and experienced player, the two halves of this rule make it one of, if not the most potent in the book. It's closer to White Scars than Imperial Fists in that regard, but the rewards are well worth it. It's almost equivalent exchange in that regard. Greater effort required on the front end, greater reward on the tabletop.

Raven Guard - Strike from the Shadows, Winged Deliverance - Bad
Strike from the shadows gives all models without bulky (terminators), or extremely bulky (bikes, centurions), scout, and stealth during the first game turn. This could be impressive. If not for the fact that Khan will give you scout, stealth is wasted in half your games (yay night fight), and a first turn only perk is even worse than what the Ultras give you. Not only that, but you'll notice what else is bulky. Jump infantry. Which is a kick in the stones for the fact that the other half of your rule, Winged Deliverance, tells you to take lots of Jump Infantry, because they get to use their jump pack in both the movement and the assault phases. I don't know if it was just oversight from Cruddace, or just general hate from GW, but man does this kick assault marines in the nads. Not only can they not be troops (pending supplement), but they can't scout. Meaning your just okay in CC dudes can't assault until your second turn, forbidding that you bring Shrike. None of the other chapter tactics are this schizophrenic and force your list in two directions at once. If you play Raven Guard, I am so sorry. But this rule is just bad compared to every other rule in this book.

In summary, Play Imperial Fists, unless you build to maximize White Scars or Salamanders. If you plan on utilizing either of their characters, or specifics of their builds, Black Templars and Ultramarines offer good outs. Iron Hands can be worth experimenting with, but usually won't live up to the big 5. And then there's Raven Guard. This is all opinion, and I'm certainly open to criticism on it, but from where I sit, that's the analytic breakdown of the standings for each chapter. If I'm wrong, hit me in the comments! Thanks for reading.


  1. I personally would switch iron hands and imperial fists in their ratings, but thats it. Also, very good formatting. I like it.

  2. I would if not for having seen the Fists in action, and thinking long and hard about the hands. I could be wrong, and I'd be totally okay with being wrong, but I'm fairly confident that volume of tactics seen will largely reflect my thought here (hopefully).

    I'm glad you liked the format! I was leery on giving hard ratings, but it's good to see the payoff.

  3. I agree. Iron hands are a pretty tough nut to crack with their rules. The IWND on your multi-wound characters is pretty fantastic, giving your HQ's 6+ FnP + IWND for free.... not bad.

    And the +1 to the Blessing of the Omnissiah for your army's Techmarines and MotF not being mentioned was a pretty hefty oversight. Combine the change to how the Techmarines are taken as free slot HQ's, their utility in the Auspex and the Harness, and the additional firepower, characters for challenges, and the 4+ repair rolls makes them great well-rounders for units, and combines with the 5+ IWND rolls makes your heavy mech... and even your light mech pretty much a "kill me... or I refuse to leave." Given the meta of hull pointing out enemy mech these days... that's pretty good.

    I think these guys are tough as nails and gain more defense for this tactic than the more offensive tactics give offense. But that's my opinion.

  4. FnP is always better than nothing at all, even if it is only 6+... it's free.

    INWD stacked with the 3+ repair rolls means they are redundant systems. It means if one fails, it has a backup. Just because they can accomplish the same goal doesn't make it inherently bad. Additionally, the techmarine can choose to repair a broken weapon or immobilize result, where IWND does not.

    Techmarines add points to their unit, but they offer a pretty dependence amount of options. I'll gladly forgo his shooting to make my bloters and what not degrade cover for IG. It also works when firing at jinking skimmers and bikes for that matter as well. Makes your specials and combies a bit more productive.

    It's salty... but no where is it bad.

    And defenses you aren't paying for as nice. The offensive power you get from other tactics are not that great in my honest opinion. Saving a few bolter shots or their equivalents isn't all that wonderful.

    I also think it;s fair to note I think Iron Hands use the most of both sides of their chapter tactics. Almost every other chapter have tactics that are wasted a fair bit of the time.

  5. I'll agree that it's easier and better to get the most our of Iron Hands than almost any chapter besides Imperial Fists.

    Likewise, free defenses and the points they protect are always a boon.