Thursday, 17 August 2017

Space Marine Codex Review: Part 2- Relics, Stratagems and Librarius Discipline

Part 2 of my review of the new 8th edition Space Marine Codex will look at the new Relics and Stratagems that are available for the forces of the Adeptus Astartes. 

Much as in previous editions, Space Marines have access to a number of interesting Relics for use in their army. Interestingly, these Relics don't cost any points values themselves, but you are generally limited to only one per army. The only associated points cost is that some of these Relics replace an item of wargear, which means you need to purchase that item of wargear for your character before you can replace it with a Relic, but most of these are not too expensive as to prohibit their inclusion. I think the limit of only one Relic per army (without the use of a Stratagem, which we will cover below) is a useful counterpoint to the lack of points costs associated with most of the Relics.

The Armour Indomitus- Get a 2+ armour save. In addition, once per game you can activate the armour to give you a 3+ invulnerable save till the end of the turn. A decent bonus, giving you one of the few ways to get a 2+ armour save on your character outside of Terminator armour. The bonus invulnerable is nice, giving you a 3++ for one turn without having to carry a Storm Shield. Nice, but I think it is outdone by the next Relic.

The Shield Eternal- The old favourite of 7th edition is back in a new form. This replaces your character's Storm Shield. They retain the 3+ invulnerable save, but more importantly, all damage against the character is halved, rounding up. This is now the 8th edition version of Eternal Warrior, I suppose. This is a really nice ability to have, meaning that your character is more likely to survive a  volley from a Lascannon or Missile Launcher. It also makes overcharging Plasma weapons less effective and gives them a better chance against multi-damage combat weapons. I think this is a really solid choice that should see a lot of use.

Standard of the Emperor Ascendant- This is for the various banner-carrying Ancients in the army. This means that on a 3+, any model that is slain within 6" of the banner can immediately shoot or fight in assault before it is removed. In addition, all Astartes units within 6" of the bearer automatically pass morale tests and enemy units are -1Ld. This banner seems crazy good. I've heard from a few sources that it is simply too good. Put next to a unit of Devastators or Centurions and this will be amazing. Expect to see this a lot in Marine armies until it maybe gets toned down.

Teeth of Terra- A Chainsword that gets D3 bonus attacks at +1S, -2AP and damage 2. I actually think this is pretty good for a Chainsword, plus it won't cost any points to give to a character. I like any combat weapons that do multiple damage with each wound, making them more reliable against multi-wound models or Vehicles.

Primarch's Wrath- A Boltgun that is Rapid Fire 2, S5, AP-1 and 2 damage. Again, a pretty solid and not overpowered weapon choice. S5 is great for wounding on 3's and the 2 damage is awesome again for taking on multi-wound models with a single shot. Could be useful against weaker vehicles such as Trukks, Raiders, Venoms, etc.

Burning Blade- A power sword that is +2S, AP-5 and 1 damage. Brilliant for taking out armoured units. This sword will pretty much ignore any armour save in the game (only a 2+ armour save that gets a +1 bonus from some means will get a 6+ save). The strength bonus is nice, but you will generally still be wounding most things on a 3+ and vehicles on a 5+. It would be nice to have more than 1 damage, but this does make it a difficult choice between this and the Teeth of Terra. I would be inclined to go for the Teeth of Terra for the bonus damage and cheaper cost to take. However, if you expect to go up against a lot of 2+ armour saves, this is a solid choice to have on a combat character.

Tomb of Malcador- Your psyker knows one additional power from the Librarius Discipline. Useful if you only take a single Librarian and want that extra power. I don't think the Librarius powers are all that amazing, so I think there are better Relics to take in your army.

The Salamander's Mantle- Salamanders characters only, increases their toughness by 1. This could be pretty useful under some circumstances. Good for a model on foot so that most models are now wounding you on a 5+. Less useful on a Bike, as the change to wound rolls means that against S4 you are not really getting any bonus. Useful on a Bike against S5 or S6 to give you a bit more durability.

The Axe of Medusa- Iron Hands characters only. Replaces a Power Axe, but gets +2S, -3AP and 2 damage. I really like this one, seems to be a big boost to an Iron Hands combat character. You will most likely be wounding on 3's, reducing your opponent's save to 6+ or negating completely and doing 2 damage. This would be a pretty effective combat weapon.

Raven's Fury- Raven Guard only, replaces a Jump Pack. The character can advance and charge in the same turn, and can re-roll failed charge rolls. Combined with the warlord trait preventing overwatch, this is a really effective combination, giving you a much better chance of getting into combat and protecting more fragile units from the overwatch fire of the enemy. I can see this being very popular with Raven Guard players.

Mantle of the Stormseer- White Scars psykers only. Gain +1 when casting Smite. Pretty good, giving you a better chance of casting Smite. Would have like to maybe have seen +1 wounds when casting smite instead. Pretty decent, but not sure I'd take it over any of the better Relics in the army.

The Fist of Vengeance- A Crimson Fists power fist. This is x2S, -3AP and damage 3. This is a solid option for a combat character. Three damage is great for taking on other characters or making a mess of vehicles. I think one of the big bonuses is no longer being at -1 to hit. This means Captains will be hitting on a 2+ re-rollable with a Power Fist, sure to get a whole heap of attacks punishing enemy units.

The Sanctic Halo- Ultramarines Captain only. Gives the Captain a 3+ invulnerable save and allows them to deny one power each turn as if they were a psyker. I really like this one too. Gives you a solid invulnerable save while still taking a shooting and melee weapon. Getting to deny a power can also be useful, saving you from Smite attacks on your units or Captain.

The Crusader's Helm- Black Templars characters only. Increases any aura ability by 3". This is fantastic. Getting a 9" aura ability on most characters is going to greatly increase the range of effect for many of the models in your army. I can see this one being very popular with Black Templars players.

The Spartean- Imperial Fists only. A Bolt Pistol that gets an extra shot, -1AP and 2 damage. In addition, it can target characters even if they are not the closest model. Nice for potentially sniping a few wounds from a character. Not great, but decent.

A really solid set of Relics for the Space Marines. I can see the Shield Eternal and Standard of the Emperor Ascendant being very popular choices. Once again, I think the White Scars get the short end of the stick, with many of the other Chapter-specific relics being better choices. I would probably stick to the generic Relics over taking the Mantle of the Stormseer. 

Space Marine armies now get a dramatically expanded selection of Stratagems to spend those precious Command Points (CP) on. If you have been listening to Signals from the Frontline or reading the articles on Frontline Gaming, you will know that this is where the flavour and variety in the different armies is coming from in 8th edition. 

The Codex features a huge number of Stratagems, some of which are Chapter-specific, but with a lot of interesting combinations and options possible.

Relics of the Chapter- Take one extra Relic for 1 CP or two extra Relics for 3CP. Given the usefulness of the Relics above, this is a solid Stratagem. I think taking one extra Relic could be useful, but I doubt I would spend the points to take 3 in one army. You can't give multiple Relics to one character though, so no dumping the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant and The Crusader's Helm on one character for a super-zombie maker!

Linebreaker Bombardment (1CP)- Used to shoot three Vindicators at the same target. You choose a point within range of the shot and all units within 3" suffer 3D3 mortal wounds on a 4+. Bonus if the squad is bigger than 10. A solid option if you happen to field 3 Vindicators in your army. You might have to spend another command point to make sure you roll a 4+, but 3D3 mortal wounds will make a mess of many units in the game.

Killshot (1CP)- Used when you have 3 Predators in close proximity. All Predators gain +1 to wound and +1 damage against Monsters or Vehicles. This would be brilliant on triple Lascannon Predators. A unit of 3 would put out 12 Lascannon shots that are hitting on 3's and wounding on 2's, doing D6+1 damage each. That is going to make a mess of just about any Vehicle or Monster in the game. You are not limited at shooting at the same target, so this has the potential to devastate a number of enemy units in your shooting phase. Even more effective if you add a Captain for the re-rolls to hit. Almost makes me want to buy a few Predators!

Chapter Master (3CP)- Upgrades a Captain to a Chapter Master. This allows you to re-roll all failed To Hit rolls within 6" of the Chapter Master. This is seriously good. The Deathwatch Watch Master allows full re-rolls and I can say this is an incredible ability to have in the game. A bit pricey at 3CP, but still worth it I think.

Scions of Guilliman (1CP)- An Ultramarines Infantry or Bike unit can re-roll failed to hit rolls of 1 in the shooting or fight phase (full re-rolls if Tactical Marines or Intercessor Squad). A nice bonus for getting a few more hits with your units.

Orbital Bombardment (3CP)- Once per game shooting attack if your Warlord did not move. Select a point and roll for each unit within D6". On a 4+ they suffer D3 mortal wounds. I'm not seeing the appeal of this Stratagem, especially at the very pricey 3CP! Realistically, you are not going to hit too many units with the bombardment, unless your opponent is really bunched together. I'd probably give this one a miss.

Cluster Mines (1CP)- Used when a unit of Scout Bikers falls back. One enemy unit within 1" before they move suffers D3 mortal wounds on a 2+. This is pretty awesome. Doing pretty much automatic wounds on an enemy unit is great. Plus, if they are White Scars, they get to assault again after falling back!

Born in the Saddle (1CP)- Allows a White Scars Bike unit to shoot and assault after advancing. This is awesome and one I see myself using a lot. Moving 22" and still shooting and assaulting is a great bonus, pretty much guaranteeing a first turn charge. I may have to start fielding full strength Bike squads to take advantage of this tactic.

Masterful Marksmanship (1CP)- Adds +1 to all wound rolls for Sternguard using Special Issue Boltgun. A nice bonus, allowing you to wound on a 3+ in most situations. Add in the -2AP on the Bolters and this should make a mess of most enemy units.

Abhor the Witch (1CP)- Use when an enemy psyker uses a power within 24" of a Black Templars unit. On a 4+, the power is negated. This is awesome for shutting down that psychic power that your opponent need to get off or for blocking a devastating Smite attack against one of your units.

Empyric Channelling (1CP)- A form of the old conclave rules. When within 6" of two other Astartes Psykers, you can manifest an additional power and get +2 to casting. A nice bonus if you run a psychic heavy force.

Datalink Telemetry (1CP)- A Whirlwind automatically hits if the target is within 12" and line of sight of a friendly Land speeder unit. This is another solid Stratagem, 2D6 automatic hits is not to be underestimated. It also allows your Whirlwind to move if it needs to and not suffer the penalty for doing so.

Hellfire Shells (1CP)- When shooting with an Infantry Heavy Bolter, only make one to hit roll, but do D3 mortal wounds if you hit. Useful for finishing off an enemy character or unit with a single volley. Will be useful if near a re-roll to hit bubble to ensure that you don't waste the command point.

Bolter Drill (1CP)- For Imperial Fists infantry units, allows you to make an additional attack each time you roll a 6+ to hit for any Bolt weapons. A useful stratagem, especially if you can somehow access a bonus to hit in the shooting phase.

Machine Empathy (1CP)- For Iron hands vehicles, they can ignore the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons or advancing and firing assault weapons. Very useful on getting maximum hits from your vehicles. You could use this to retreat from the enemy army and still fire at full effect, or for advancing a vehicle to get into range to shoot assault weapons.

Flamecraft (1CP)- For Salamanders only, as you may have guessed from the name. Add 1 to the wound rolls of any Flamer weapons the unit fires. Very effective against a range of units. Getting to wound with a Heavy Flamer on a 2+ is pretty good, especially as you hit automatically anyway. You will want to load up on flamers with this a unit using this Stratagem.

Strike From the Shadows (1CP)- Allows a Raven Guard infantry unit to deploy anywhere on the battlefield more than 9" from enemy models. This looks to be very powerful, and is not limited to only one use, unlike many of the other Stratagems. This still allows the unit to move in the first turn, meaning you can pretty much guarantee a first turn charge or a devastating round of rapid fire shots. A great stratagem that could be game winning in many circumstances.

Auspex Scan (2CP)- Allows an infantry unit to fire on enemy reinforcements arriving within 12" of them, but at -1 to hit. This is an incredibly effective Stratagem that would benefit from having a nearby Chapter Master for the re-rolls to hit. Sick of Plasma Scions deep striking in and wrecking your day, not you can mitigate it somewhat by getting a shooting phase at them before they can attack. Also useful for units that want to assault from reserve, giving you a good chance of causing some serious damage on them.

Tactical Flexibility (1CP)- Allows you to split a 10-man unit into two 5-man units when an enemy reinforcement unit arrive within 12". I can see some use for this Stratagem. It would force your opponent to split fire at both units instead of just firing a volley at a single unit and hoping to wipe them out.

Flakk Missile (1CP)- Used for an infantry missile launcher attack against a unit with the Fly keyword. You make a single hit roll at +1 to hit, if hit, the target suffers D3 mortal wounds. Pretty effective at negating the -1 to hit against enemy flyers or for finishing off a skimmer on a few wounds left.

Armour of Contempt (1CP)- A vehicle gains a 5+ save against a mortal wounds for the rest of the phase. Pretty good if you are likely to be suffering a few mortal wounds for one of your vehicles in one phase.

Only in Death Does Duty End (2CP)- Used when a Character is slain. The Character can immediately shoot as if it were the shooting phase or fight as if it was the assault phase. I think this will be more useful on a combat character. You could combine it with the combat interrupt ability to attack twice with the character in one turn (assuming they are slain) or to still strike with a Character if they are charged and slain before they can strike.

Honour the Chapter (3CP)- An Infantry or Biker unit can immediately fight again at the end of the fight phase. This could be very useful for a unit of Vanguard Veterans tooled up for combat or a unit of Terminators hoping to finish off an enemy vehicle or Imperial Knight. Pricey at 3CP, but could be extremely useful in the right circumstances.

Wisdom of the Ancients (1CP)- All units within 6" of a selected Dreadnought can re-roll failed To Hit rolls of 1. A great source of re-rolls if you have a Dreadnought anchoring your gunline army.

Death to the Traitors! (1CP)- On a roll of a 6+ to hit when targeting a Heretic Astartes unit, you can make an extra attack. Useful if you find yourself in a tough combat where you are rolling a lot of attacks. Quite situational though.

Tremor Shells (1CP)- For a Thunderfire Cannon. Wound rolls are at -1, but if you hit the target, halve its movement, advance and charge rolls in the following turn. Very useful for seriously slowing down an enemy unit that is poised to charge you next turn or move to grab an objective. Doesn't affect Fly or Titanic units though, so no slowing that Imperial Knight down (unfortunately!).

As you can see, a lot of very useful and greatly expanded Stratagems for use with your Space Marine army. The only problem will be trying to remember them all and gaining enough command points to use them during the game! This should add a lot of variety to your games with Space Marines.

Librarius Discipline
The new Codex brings 6 psychic powers to use with your Space Marine Librarians.

Veil of Time- Casting value of 6, allows a unit within 18" to re-roll charge and advance rolls and they always fight first in the Fight phase. Very useful for assault-based units or for allowing you to strike first in combat.

Might of Heroes- Casting value of 6, gains one model +1 S, T and A. Probably more useful on characters, making them more durable or more of a threat in combat.

Psychic Scourge- Casting value of 6. An enemy unit and the Librarian roll a D6 and add their leadership values. The enemy unit suffers Mortal Wounds based on whether the score is equal or the Librarian scores better. Useful for selecting which unit to do mortal wounds on as opposed to smite, where the closest visible unit is always targeted. You still need to beat the unit's roll, so may not be effective all the time. Smite is more reliable and easier to cast, but the option of choosing the unit is a nice bonus.

Fury of the Ancients- Casting value of 7. Draw a line between the Librarian and a model within 3D6". Each unit under the line takes a mortal wound. Good if your opponent has a lot of units lined up or a bunch of vehicles in a row.

Psychic Fortress- Casting value of 5. An infantry unit within 18" automatically passes morale tests and gets a 4+ save against mortal wounds from psychic powers. Pretty good for keeping one of your units around in battle and if they are likely to be facing a lot of Smite attacks or similar attacks.

Null Zone- Casting value of 8. Enemy units within 6" cannot take invulnerable saves and halve the result of psychic tests. This is short ranged, but could be very effective under the right circumstances. Very useful against an army with a lot of invulnerable saves, such as Harlequins, where simple Bolters will shred them easily without their invulnerable save.

A decent set of powers, nothing stands out as amazing, but all could be useful under the right circumstances. I'd probably go for Null Zone and Veil of Time in most games.
Space Marine Codex Review
Part 3- HQ Units
Part 4- Troops
Part 5- Elites
Part 6- Fast Attack
Part 7- Heavy Support
Part 9- Flyers


  1. As always Mike, a very insightful review. One other element of utility I did think of for Tactical Flexibility is reducing the number of units you need to deploy at the start of the game - but then still splitting them up on the tabletop. Not going to be quite the game changer once chapter approved hits, but if you're not using those rules until then going first is still a massive advantage so this has the potential to help you out (assuming you're taking larger units, which I don't think is the best route to go down with marines).

    1. Cheers Nick, looking forward to your own reviews and seeing what insight can be gained from someone who has actually played Marines in 8th edition!

      My only reserve about Tactical Flexibility is that it relies on your opponent to set up reserves near your Tactical Squad in order to use it. If you were able to use it at any point, then it would be a lot more useful, I think.

  2. Pretty sure Killshot is actually +1 to Wound and +1 Damage. I actually really like the idea of it with Dakka Predators. Heavy Bolters Wounding T8 on 4+ and doing 2 Damage each? Autocannon Wounding T7 on 3+ and T6 on 2+, for 3 Damage either way? I'll take that. Even makes Pintle Storm Bolters potentially scary, especially against the T6-7 stuff.

    Psychic Scourge: There are actually quite a few good targets for this, once you move away from the MEq stuff. Look through Index Imperium 2 and Index Xenos 2 in particular. Plenty of juicy Ld5-7 targets there.

    1. You're right, it's +1 to hit and +1 damage. Thanks, I'll change it above.

  3. Good stuff as always Mike, keep them coming and I wont have to buy the book!

    Having watched a few 8th edition batreps online now, a common deployment ploy seems to be to bunch up behind whatever LOS blocking terrain happens to be in your DZ to avoid being shot off the board T1. In these circumstances I can see Orbital Bombardment being awesome, as long as you don't require line of sight to use it?

    As for relics, I think White Scars and Imperial Fists both drew the short straw for their chapter specific ones - thank goodness for the teeth of terra, I can see myself getting a lot of it.

    1. Fists tactics are a lot better than they sound - unless you play on the proverbial planet bowling ball then preventing your opponent from utilising buildings, craters etc is very useful - trust me, I've benefitted from it in both games I've played since the codex hit. Not saying it's better than the others, but it certainly isn't lacklustre, especially when your opponent forgets about it and spends ages carefully setting up havocs in ruins for no benefit whatsoever.

    2. I think he was referring to the Relics being a bit lacklustre, as opposed to the Chapter Tactics. Wasn't too impressed with them.

    3. Indeed, it was only the Imps relic that I found a bet meh - the chapter tactics are pretty decent imo.

      Lots of people seem to be suggesting that cover is much more difficult to use in 8th, therefore the Imps CTs are not that good, but I think this is a hang over from 7th style terrain setup where you generally had two LOS blockers and few bits dotted around so you didn't spend all your time taking dangerous terrain tests (and watching your rough riders run off the board when they lost three guys tripping on a bush...)

      I think 8th is specifically designed to allow lots of terrain on the board, allowing games to be way more interesting visually and tactically, as well as giving the Imps their edge back :)

    4. I totally agree. With the terrain rules being much simpler, it's great to see more interesting table set ups. Line of sight blocking terrain is looking to be vital in 8th.

  4. Awesome review, thanks a lot! I hope Dark Angels can use Hellfire shells as well, I use to love using them with my Scout squad.

    1. Cheers, Marc! Yeah, looking forward to seeing how they go with Dark Angels. Hopefully, we won't have to wait too long for the codex.

  5. Doesn't the white scares mantle also increase the likelyhood smite will get the D6 wounds? It's more than just increasing the odds to manifest smite.

    1. It does increase it slightly, but you still need to roll a 10 or more to get D6 wounds with the +1.