Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Honor the Codex: Pt. 3 Named Characters

Welcome readers, to the third part of my Space Marine review: Honor the Codex. Already we've discussed special rules and Chapter Tactics, as well as the Warlord Table and Relics. Today, we follow up on those discussions by examining the characters associated with each Tactic. We'll be going in the order the codex presents them in. Most of them aren't exceptional, but there's a few gems. Ultimately these characters have the problem that they're built for close combat, and that's not too much of something that your average list out of this book wants to do, leaving them over costed and underwhelming. So without further ado, away we go!

Marneus Calgar - Okay
So, as with most entries, the first thing you'll notice is that Calgar costs as much as Abbadon and Draigo. And quite frankly, he's nowhere as impressive as either of them. Sure he's 4 W and eternal warrior just like both of those, and in 2+ like both of those. But he's not T5, and doesn't have a 3++. He doesn't unlock any special troop swaps, but rather lets you bring three units of honor guard. Honor guard got better, but rarely if ever will a list want 3 units of them. He no longer re-rolls to wound, which is a touch disappointing for his bomb and storm bolter. What makes this guy okay? He lets you use a single doctrine twice. That's not bad. It's big, but not as big as you might hope, generally just giving you two cracks at tactical. Other than that, he restores combat tactics by allowing you to choose to fail (or pass) all morale and pinning tests. My biggest hiccup is how much he costs to restore that function. He's not awful, but he's going to struggle to justify his points most of the time.

Captain Sicarius - Bad
So, he's a little cheaper than last time, but he no longer helps you seize, and instead helps your reserve rolls. His dedicated warlord trait is a feat which gives furious charge once in a game. He still only buffs one tactical squad, and offers fewer options this time around. Honestly, skip this guy. Unless you're playing Ultra 2nd company and love his fluff, he's not worth it. Don't do it.

Chief Librarian Tigurius - Great
This guy has caused a bit of a schism between some of us here at Rites, and it's no surprise as to why. This character costs as much as a 5th edition librarian, plus one of the current ones. He's mastery 3, has a master crafted force staff with soul blaze, and offers a crazy volume of rerolls, as well as the codex's only access to divination. And when I say rerolls, I mean that he lets you reroll when generating powers, reroll your casting attempts, reroll your reserve rolls, and lets you, once per game twin link a single unit within 12" for a shooting phase, courtesy of his warlord trait. Initial reactions were that this guy was crazy, and stupid undercosted, largely because he gained a wound, divination, and rerolls, all while slimming about a quarter of his points. This of course comes with the understanding that he was over costed to the point of uselessness in the last book. My experience with him, and the divination table in general, is not quite as impressive as some of my colleagues suggest. Certainly, he is very good, not only because of the fact that prescience is good, but also because he does what few other HQs in this book do in that he will almost unquestionably work with your shooting army, rather than against it. At the end of the day, I think he's on point, if maybe undercosted by the amount of a combi-weapon. This still though discounts that he, and to a lesser extent Calgar, sort of serve as crutches to prop up Combat Doctrine.

Chaplain Cassius - Okay
Honestly, I want to call this guy bad, but I can't. He's negligibly more expensive than your standard chaplain, has T6, FnP, and gives his unit Preferred Enemy Tyranids. The only bad part about him is that he is a chaplain, which means he wants to assault, which is precarious in a shooting codex. If you're doing an assault Ultras list, you can do a lot worse than this guy, but he does lack the critical option to buy a bike. We will discover how important that is in Pt. 4.

Kor'Sarro Khan - Better than okay, not quite great
The first thing to notice about this guy is that wow he is cheap. The second thing to notice, is that his bike costs pittance more to cause d3 hammer of wrath hits. You will notice the fact that he gives your army scout, and you will be glad, then you will see his wargear (a sword that causes instant death on to-wounds of 6), and his warlord trait (Champion) and you will be sad. Fret not. He is not your warlord, lest you dig deep to save points. No, you're bringing him to eat challenges for your chapter master, and give your army scout, and he's cheap enough to make that worth doing.

Vulkan He'Stan - Better than okay, not quite great
Melta is still good, even if it gives you bad matchups against daemons, tide spam, and serpent spam. And it's not even total trash against serpent spam. He still brings a heavy flamer, which is great offense. Not only that, but he affords you a very tough warlord with his 2+/3++. The only thing he lost in his transition is that he no longer master crafts all your thunder hammers. Well, and his warlord trait (Iron Resolve) is mostly trash. So, he's a bit pricey, but rerolling your meltas to balance out the flamers you are bringing is totally worth it. For the right list, this guy still shines, even in spite of how steep his cost seems at present.

Shadow Captain Shrike - Okay
Honestly, despite being saddled with the worst chapter tactics in the book, and a warlord trait which is wasteful, this guy isn't the worst character in the book. Not by a mile. A pair of rending lightning claws isn't bad, even if it isn't great. He's a touch expensive, but his one big trick is worth it. His unit of jump infantry gains infiltrate and stealth. This, when paired with the RG chapter tactics, can make for a very violent assault squad (or, preferably, vanguard vets), especially when you strap a chaplain to them. You can tuck yourself almost anywhere out of sight on the table, and inform your opponent that they will have a single turn to deal with your unit before they get jumped by a 22" threat range, multi-assaulting blob of superhuman violence.

Captain Lysander - Better than okay, not quite great
Lysander kicks off our pair of Fists characters, which means he should be looked at and considered, even if only because his tactics are that solid. Lysander is halfway between a Chapter Master, and a Captain. 4 wounds, 3 attacks. Sure, his hammer is master crafted, so it means he'll usually bonk out two S 10 AP 1 wounds per round. Not only that, but he has his magical 2+/3++ with eternal warrior, as well as a company standard built in. His body got more expensive from last edition, by the price of a thunder hammer, and his bolter drill got nerfed for it, but he doesn't make your army stubborn any more, and that's pretty okay. The biggest downside to him is that he's saddled with Champion of Humanity, which sucks for as much as your paying. On the whole, if you want to play Fists and need the special S 10 thunder hammer, this guy does okay for a replacement to a TH/TSH chapter master, even if he won't get the orbital bomb or 4 attacks base.

Pedro Kantor - Okay
Then we come to our second Fists character, who is decidedly less good than the first. The big thing that usually wows players about this guy is scoring Sternguard. Scoring. Not troop swaps. Scoring only. This is a huge difference. First and foremost, scoring Sternguard are pretty bad for you. Why do you ask? Because they still compel you to take tactical squads (or expensive bikes), and don't address the codex's reliance on its elites slots. That same reliance is one of the things keeping marines down this edition. Rely on the one slot that's never going to score for you? No thank you. Past that, the other guy already needs to focus down your Sternguard, and your reliance on them to score won't help. Not only that, but Fists tactics don't apply to Sternguard, so... Yeah... Awkward. And then we get to Pedro himself. Costing just a plasma gun shy of 200 points, he's a touch on the expensive side, considering he's basically a chapter master with power fist and Primarch's Wrath. Oh. And he's only in power armor. I guess he brings a 12" bubble of 1+ attack with him, but that's not the biggest help, considering that his trademark unit doesn't want to assault and the banner won't make them amazing if the other guy has a dedicated unit to assault him with. And to top it all off, he has a warlord trait that wants him to stay in combat, and has nothing attempting to mitigate the restrictions of his orbital bomb. At the end of the day, Pedro can be effective in lower point games, in order to boost your scoring options, but outside of that capacity, avoid him if possible.

High Marshal Helbrecht - Great
Continuing moving forward, we come to our three Black Templars characters, the last three HQ characters in the book. Chief among them is High Marshal Helbrecht, and honestly, he's a big winner in my opinion. He costs just a bit less than Pedro does, but is significantly better for the function of your army. Up front, he offers a chapter master stat line, with artificer armor, but at the cost of the orbital bomb (with his function in your army, you don't want it anyway). He also brings a power sword that gives you d3 attacks on the charge, instead of just one, as well as a combi-melta in the rare instance that you need it. Why is this guy great? Because of the one awesome turn he gives to a Templar army. His warlord trait is the furious charge feat, so there's that for starters. Past that, for a single game turn he gives all Templar units fleet and hatred. Wow! Talk about your human wave tactics. Considering that your units move about 10" in the first turn, and then 6" in the next movement phase (for the footslogging crusader army), and then can hope for about a 9" charge where they'll have hatred, wow, this is huge. Even if you've lost your first rank of dudes, you're still nailing a very potent charge across the front of an opposing army. If you're playing Templar, you'll want this guy.

Chaplain Grimaldus - Okay
Sadly, though good, our second Templar character is not quite so impressive as the first (though he is still good). He costs 5 points more than Helbrecht does, and isn't necessarily more durable. He's got a chaplain stat line, including a bonus attack and wound, he's also got IWND and a master crafted plasma pistol, as well as his trusty crozius. And truth be told his warlord trait isn't spectacular, but that's because of his special ability. Grimaldus confers Zealot to all units with a model within 6", and sharing hatred and fearless for a footslogging close combat army, as stated above, is pretty big. Past that, there's an option to buy 3-5 cenobyte servitors for the cost of a combi-weapon each. These give a 6++ to all templar units with a model within 6". This is the definition of nothing to write home about, and such wastes of points should be avoided whenever possible. In summary, this guy isn't bad, but he isn't Helbrecht, and costs more than Helbrecht.

The Emperor's Champion - Bad
Just recently, on one of the various 40k groups I follow on facebook, someone had advocated using this character as a hunter, on the assumed notion that they were an excellent duelist. For starters, this character costs as much as a predator annihilator in the current codex, and has a stat line remarkably similar to that of a chaplain. I mean, he's got WS 6 and I 5, but neither of those are immensely special. Likewise, he is the only character to come with an AP 2 weapon which isn't saddled with unwieldy. However, you're either strength 4 with 3 attacks with it (causing instant death on 6's), or 2 attacks at S6 I1 with it. Because for some reason, if relic blades were unwieldy, they could be AP 2. NO. What's worse is that you're obviously paying a huge premium for that AP 2. With a chapter tactic that gives you rending in challenges. Icky and wasteful. You want to do what this guy can do? Take a captain. Give him the Blade (yes I know I said it was bad, but this is to make a point), and artificer armor. For the tax of a mere power fist, I now make more attacks and always strike at a higher strength than the black sword was ever capable of. I also have a third wound. The only reason this guy is even in the codex is because he'll confer Fearless to his unit and that still fails to justify his existence. This guy is bad. Ignore him.

Scout Sergeant Telion - Okay
Following all of the above, we have a pair of upgrade characters for the Ultras, and they're about the same as they were last codex. In fact, Telion didn't change at all. He's got a camo cloak, gives his squad the stealth and Acute Senses USR. Stealth and his gun are the main reason you take him, which is odd, considering that his gun is a heavy weapon, which kind of makes the acute senses an odd inclusion (maybe it was supposed to be Night Vision). His gun is a 2 shot sniper weapon, and his special rules make all of his shots precise shots. This unfortunately means that LoS still sticks it to him, but otherwise it's fine for picking out special weapons when your squad fires at something other than a monstrous creature. There's also the neat add on of him being able to give his ballistics skill to another member of the squad. It's not bad, but generally speaking, you never want to end up in a position where you have to fire a BS6 missile. Long story short, if you're taking sniper scouts, consider him. He's pricey but can often be worth it, even if only in bonus durability.

Tank Sergeant Chronus - Bad
Our last character is one of the few in the book which got unquestionably better with this codex. Why does he still earn a bad? Because he didn't get good enough. The TL;DR here is that he costs more than Longstrike. And he is not Longstrike. The detailed explanation follows: For the price of two power fists, he gives a tank BS5 (wasted unless he's on a predator). He also gives it the equivalent of daemonic possession and IWND. The problem is that the tank he sines brightest in, a predator destructor, just got more expensive. Specifics will be discussed in the predator review, but suffice to say, it's not worth adding half again the cost to a predator destructor to add some minor durability and firepower. Unfortunately, if you feel compelled to take him, a destructor is about the only platform where I can advocate him.

At long last, 14 character reviews later, and we've reached the end of the named character section. The prognosis is grim. Doubtless, they can certainly add distinctive personality to an army, but most of them really aren't worth looking at, either because you're paying too much for a needless trick, saddled with a worthless warlord trait, or they just generally don't help out your army. As stated in part 2, the existence of The Shield Eternal is a huge boon to build your own characters, and usually means that even after the "relic tax" you'll end up with a better mandatory warlord for your army than what almost any of these characters will offer.

Was I too harsh on anyone? Was I too forgiving? Talk about it in the comments and we'll see you next week for part 4 where we'll look at the non-named characters! See you here!


  1. just a note, you cant' put a chaplain with shrike. Other ICs can't infiltrate.
    Also, for his points, I think Kahn is great. Yes he isn't wow amazing, but he is dirt cheap for what he brings.

    And "better than ok, not quite great" is generally called "good"? Maybe make a defined scale. haha.

  2. Good catch.

    That's what most of my point about Khan was. :P

    I'm avoiding a "good" on the scale because to me it's a throwaway rating. Okay units are just that. Okay. They won't cost you many games, but they won't win you many either. Likewise, great units come highly recommended and are likely to make your life easier as a player. The in between space is sort of a "will be great when used correctly, but it's possible to use it wrong." These choices are not "foolproof" or "auto-includes" which many "greats" almost will be. Great units are easy to use, flexible, and almost always pay off, especially due to that flexibility.

    This is why only two characters got a great. Tigurius is going to do work for almost any list you include him in, and will usually overcome the "wasted points" spent on Combat Doctrine.

    Likewise, almost any Templar list looking to fully capitalize on their chapter tactics will all but certainly get better by just including Helbrecht. Khan, Vulkan and Lysander don't quite the ability to have the same said of them, in part because so much of the points you spend on the last two of those three goes into durability. This is great if that character is your warlord, but then you have an all but trash trait for them.

  3. One thing I think worth pointing out in Telion's favour, if I've remembered correctly, is that all his shots - not just those from his bolter - are Precision Shots.
    If I have remembered that right, this means you can plug him on the gun you've bought for your Aegis Line and go snipe-happy with a Quad Gun or Icarus Lascannon.

    Mr. Hidden Powerfist or Warlord can't hide even at the back of units...

    Just a small thing but I think it's worth remembering if one happens to use a Defence Line.