Monday, November 18, 2013

Honor the Codex: Pt. 4 Generic HQ's

Hello dear readers and welcome to part four of Honor the Codex. Here we truly start to dig into the options that our new Marine codex has to offer. There's certainly a bevy of them, but ultimately the question hangs of which options are worth utilizing (especially after we looked at the relics), and which should be left in the display case. With that brief introduction, the only thing left to note is that you'll need to have read the earlier articles to keep up. If you haven't, do that now and we'll move along without you.

Before we get started, there's just one brief bookkeeping note, which in small part comes from a comment on the previous article. It pertains to my rating scale. Someone asked why I didn't have a "Good" rating for those units which are better than okay, but not quite great. Great units are units which I actively advocate taking for most lists. They're units whose inclusion will lead to a stronger list, and generally help you win more games. Bad units are the polar opposite of this. Including bad units will lead to weaker lists, and they may at times outright cost you games. Okay units will neither win nor cost you games, but almost every codex has some manner of nigh-compulsory "Okay" units which find their way into almost every list, unless a particular list has found an unorthodox way of working around what they offer. This scale leaves little room for "Good", given that such a term would require us to consider a situation around a unit, rather than considering them almost in a vacuum, which is what we're aiming for in this review. To clarify, almost every unit is being considered in a vacuum because such is a central tenant of the marine design philosophy. Every unit should be self contained and operate without need for the remainder of the list.

Chapter Master - Better than okay, not quite great
This guy is at the top of our list for a few reasons. The first of which is the consideration that he has the capacity to be the most durable infantry warlord in the game. This will cost you though. For starters, he's slightly more expensive than last edition. Because he gained a wound. And an attack. For as little as he paid for those, that should already draw your eye to him. Past that, Mounted Assault has also been extended to this guy, which really is part of what you're after with this codex right now. Bikes as troops are something even bigger for this codex this time around, but that'll have to wait for the bikes entry. If one of these guys is your only HQ and you want to make it like chewing glass for your opponent to claim Slay, buy him artificer armor, a bike, and TSE. A thunder hammer and auspex help round out his kit, which still comes with an orbital bombardment (thanks relentless, for helping me earn First Blood!). This guy is a bear at that point. Otherwise, swap TSE for the Teeth and go hunt down the other guy's warlord and murder him to death. This guy didn't change much, but the addition of TSE, Mounted Assault, and the fourth wound and attack easily make this guy one of the most improved selections from the old codex. The auspex even means you help out shooting a little.

Honor Guard - Okay
On the heels of the HQ which unlocks them, come the honor guard. People took notice of these guys when 6th edition came around, and they're certainly more appealing this time than they were in the old book. They're only a pinch more expensive than Sternguard. This should immediately get your attention. When you pay less than a meltabomb to get 2+ armor and your choice of power weapon, only at the cost of your special issue ammo, they at least deserve some play testing. In the end, they won't be quite as impressive as Strenguard, given that they can't take heavy flamers and have to endure a turn of enemy shooting (plus overwatch) before you really come into your element (which does disagree with the element of the rest of your army), but a unit of dudes in 2+ with power weapons can't really be ignored by any army. Just remember to bring them an effective transport!

Captain - Okay
Moving forward, we find the captain. Previously he unlocked two things you really wanted: mounted assault, and the command squad. Mounted assault can now be unlocked on a chapter master, who pays only a terminator in tax for his bonus wound, attack, and orbital bombardment. Uh... There's not much to be said here. Pay the tax if you can afford it, and worry about the commend squad in the command squad entry.

Terminator Captain - Bad
Then there's the odd man out. The terminator captain. Why is he the odd man out? He doesn't unlock bike troops (obviously) nor does he unlock a command squad. Why did you buy this guy instead of a Chapter Master or even just a regular Captain? This highlights the biggest problem with terminator armor. Artificer armor exists, and unless you're going to aim for a teleport homer with deep strike, there's nothing artificer armor doesn't do just as well for less. Some of you are saying "but I want to use the teleport homer and deep strike!" No. You don't. Your opponent will shoot the homer, it will die, and your deep strike will be left to come down unaided, which is very dangerous. Especially for what might well be your warlord.

Command Squad - Great
After a brief detour with the terminator captain, we get to the other half of why people used to take a captain: the command squad. These guys cost just a pinch more than vanguard veterans do, but they make up for that with exceptionally cheap upgrades. First and foremost, they can take melee or special weapons. Special weapons are the big standout here (courtesy of the FAQ), largely because this means that they can quickly saturate a flank with a potent battery of special weapons. Past that, we still have the out for the company standard, which is almost always worth the small tax, if only because it helps reduce the cost of the rest of your army by letting you skimp on the veteran sergeants. Then there comes the option of dedicated transports. Their small size leaves room for an HQ to join them in a Razorback or drop pod, even if a rhino is a bit of a waste for them. Leaving space in a drop pod is somewhat more crucial, now that the codex is down to capacity 10. The remaining options are the apothecary (mega cheap for FnP, even if he can't wield any additional wargear), the company champion (pay the price of a power weapon to get one in addition to WS5 and a 6++), and then the icing on the cake: impossibly cheap bike access. For the same price as a rhino or drop pod, you get similar mobility, and you bring cover with you. Remember how we said that mounted assault was good? And that White Scars are almost certainly top of the heap for the codex? This should certainly factor in to your decision to have your command squad ride out for victory. Even better than the bike access is the fact that chaplains and librarians also unlock these, covering the one weakness to the Chapter Master. If you have the points to run one of these squads, do so. If you don't, make the points, then take one. They're exceedingly potent.

Librarian - Okay
I'll admit, I want to give the librarian a bad for this codex. His role has shifted radically from the previous codex, and not necessarily for the better. Previously, you took a librarian for the psychic hood, support psychic powers, and to a lesser extent, his force weapon. The psychic hood has been nerfed to not quite the point of uselessness. His support powers are inconsistent, almost to the point of being nonexistent. And his force weapon isn't super reliable, given that close combat is not where this guy or your army would like to be. That said, he isn't bad. He's no longer a support character, and the ML 2 purchase boarders on non-negotiable. Instead, he's a psychic gun for the codex. Rolling the dice will discover some degree of support ability, mostly in the form of Invisibility or Hallucination, but most trees have about 2 good blessings worth trying for. The biggest problem with this is that if you don't succeed at your roll, you'll be saddled with a potentially lack luster witchfire. So, bringing this guy requires you to either drive your rhinos and bikes very quickly, or be utilizing drop pods, as well as the ability to ask your self "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

Chaplain - Bad
I went back and forth on giving the chaplain an okay, but at the end of the day, I couldn't justify it. This is because this guy, even more so than out captain or chapter master, is designed to get into close combat. There's only a handful of units or chapter tactics which lend themselves to this, and those lead to this guy being more situational and less forgiving than even the librarian. The only reason the captain earned the okay seal over this guy is mounted assault and his third wound.

Master of the Forge - Okay
After the change to librarians, this guy is the last true support character left in the codex. Bolster defenses is solid, and the conversion beamer isn't a bad gun by any stretch, assuming you're willing to park in cover with camo cloak sniper scouts. The problem with this guy is that he has no invulnerable save (fixable but at a steep price), and that he is spending points to pull the dreadnought FoC play. Don't fall prey to the trap. Dreadnoughts are okay at best, and shifting their slot only locks you out of your other valuable heavy support options, even if it does free up your elites for more of the good stuff there.

Techmarine - Okay
This guy is half as many points as the Master of the Forge and you can take one per HQ you bring. If you're playing Iron Hands combat squad razor rush, or are looking to add bolster defenses to your list for cheap, this guy isn't bad, just half of what a Master offers.

So, where does that leave the buildable HQs? It's been all but spelled out above for us. A chapter master, librarian, and command squad, all on bikes, makes for a fine use of our HQ slot. If you plan on utilizing drop pods instead, librarians make for excellent standalone considerations (looking at you here Salamanders). Past that, Iron Hands and Imperial Fists will enjoy the use of a MotF and or some tech marines outside of their Thunderfire Cannon slots. So despite problems with HQs not liking to really synergize with the rest of the army list, the generic options are alright. Stay tuned as part 5 will cover the troop slot!

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