Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Space Marine Codex Review: Part 1- Special Rules, Chapter Tactics, Warlord Traits

Welcome to the first part of my review for the new 8th edition Space Marine codex. This section will take a look at some of the special rules for the army, the Chapter Tactics and the new Warlord Traits in the codex. 

Special Rules
The codex contains the special rules for the forces of the Space Marines, one of which should make a big impact on the game going forward. 

And They Shall Know No Fear
The quintessential Space Marine rule has been updated for 8th edition. This rule allows you to re-roll all failed Morale tests.  
This is actually a pretty decent rule, allowing you to survive the worst effects of the morale phase for a number of your units. Previously, Space Marines were pretty much immune to the consequences of Morale in the game. They automatically rallied if they fell back and could not be wiped out in combat from a sweeping advance. 

Now, however, they are as affected as most other units in the game. The re-roll can be pretty useful to stop you from losing your expensive Marines to a poor morale roll. With a standard Leadership of 7, you need to lose at least 2 of your squad to fail a morale test. Having the re-roll improves your odds of not losing another squad member to an inopportune roll of a 6 on the test. With a Sergeant in the squad, their Leadership goes up to 8, further boosting the chances of passing the test. As most Marine squads seem to be run in unit sizes of 5, having the re-roll is great for keeping the last members of the unit alive, as you pretty much need to lose most of the unit to have bad odds of failing the Morale test. 

Defenders of Humanity
This is a great special rule and should have a big impact on missions in 8th edition going forward. This new rule is essentially Objective Secured from 7th edition. If your army is battle-forged, then all Troops units control an objective marker if they are in range, even if they are outnumbered by the enemy unit. If the other unit has a similar special rule, the unit with the most models in range of the objective then control it. 

Objective Secured was a key special rule for me in 7th edition, winning me plenty of games over the course of its use. Having a similar rule in 8th edition is going to be great, I think. I think this is a great addition to the army (and the game) and should help to balance out some of the more ridiculous armies that can be taken if GW are careful with which units such rules are applied (I don't think anyone want to see Conscripts or Brimstone Horrors gaining such a rule). I look forward to trying this out in my games and seeing if it is as effective as it has been in the past. 

Chapter Tactics
These have returned to help add some flavour to your Marine army and to differentiate them from all the other Marine armies out there. 

Ultramarines- Gain +1 Ld and can still shoot after falling back, though at -1 BS. 
A fantastic Chapter Tactics for the sons of Guilliman. Going up to Ld 9 on a Sergeant is going to be a great boost for your units, as you will need to lose at least 4 models before you even have a chance to fail a Morale test. Even then, with the re-roll, you are going to have to be very unlucky to fail it. 
Getting to fire when falling back is great too. I think that Marines are still strongest in the shooting phase, so getting to do so even when you don't have the Fly keyword will be a big bonus. I see this as being very effective for vehicles. A lot of the times, units will charge vehicles simply to stop them from shooting the following turn, rather than with real hopes of taking them out in combat. Now, you will be able to fall back and still have some semblance of shooting attack on the enemy army. I say some semblance, as realistically, you will probably be hitting on 5's if you are firing Heavy Weapons from the vehicle. A great Chapter Tactic that will probably see a lot of use (especially given how powerful Roboute Guilliman has been in 8th edition).

EDIT- Of course, vehicles don't get access to Ultramarines Chapter Tactics, so this does not apply. Thanks to Nick for pointing this out to me!

White Scars- Units get to advance an extra 2" and can also charge in a turn they Fall Back. 
White Scars were arguably one of the strongest Chapter Tactics in 7th edition. In 8th edition, they may be one of the weakest available. The extra distance on advancing in nice and could be useful for grabbing objectives in the game. Assaulting after Falling Back is a nice bonus, but I feel that shooting after falling back is the better of the options. There are few units in the codex that excel in assault, with most units being better at shooting, so this could be a situational advantage at best. Falling back could be useful if you want to shoot at the enemy unit again, but most of the time you are better staying in combat rather than risk another round of overwatch fire. Could be useful if you get a bonus from charging (such as the ability Khan gives). 

Imperial Fists- Units don't get a cover save bonus when you shoot at them, you can re-roll all failed to wound rolls when targeting a building. 
Pretty much just the ignores cover bonus for these, as I still think that buildings are going to be rarely used in 8th edition. Ignoring cover is actually a pretty good bonus, especially when you go up against other Marines. Boosting a Marine squad to a 2+ armour save is a great boost to their durability, so stopping your opponent from getting this bonus should double the number of casualties your basic Bolter will inflict on the enemy army. It also stops guns with higher AP values from being partially negated, so your Heavy Bolter will still be reducing their armour save to a 4+. 

Black Templars- Re-roll failed charge rolls. 
This is a pretty good Chapter Tactic as well, and will obviously work best for units that are assault orientated. This will be great for saving your command points from being used on re-rolls. 

Salamanders- You can re-roll a single failed to hit roll and a single failed to wound roll with each unit each time it shoots or fights. 
An amazing Chapter Tactic and one of the best available, I think. This is going to be brilliant for all your units, whether it is getting that extra Bolter wound or for getting maximum damage from your Devastator Squad. The majority of my Command Points get spent on re-rolls as it is, so saving those re-rolls for failed armour saves, charge moves or for better Stratagems is going to be huge for Salamanders players. I can see this one getting used a lot, given how incredibly powerful it could be. 

Raven Guard- Your opponent is at -1 to hit when shooting at one of your units more than 12" away. 
Tied with Ultramarines for the second best Chapter Tactic, in my opinion. This will greatly reduce the firepower coming your way and will be great for backfield objective holders that are in cover. Getting -1 to hit and +1 to your save will be great for boosting the durability of these units. 

Iron Hands- a 6+ FNP against wounds.
This works against all wounds, even mortal wounds, so is great for boosting the durability of your units. Add in to your warlord with Tenacious Survivor, and this is a great way to keep your warlord alive for longer. 

As I said above, I think the Salamanders have the best Chapter Tactic, but they all seem very good in certain situations. I'm a little disappointed with the White Scars tactic, so will need to see how it works out in practice. 

Warlord Traits
The new codex allows you to take one of the 6 generic traits in the book, or can take a Chapter-specific warlord trait if your warlord belongs to that Chapter. 

Angel of Death- All enemy units within 6" of your warlord subtract 1 from their Leadership. A nice bonus for maximising the damage that Morale tests will do on enemy units. 

The Imperium's Sword- Re-roll all failed charge rolls for your warlord, who also gains +1A if he charges. Great for a combat character, for getting them into combat and doing damage while in combat. A Captain with a pair of Lightning claws will be getting 6 attacks on the charge, enough to trouble most enemy units. 

Iron Resolve- Your warlord gets +1W and ignores wounds on a 6. Like a bonus Tenacious Survivor, getting 7 wounds on a Captain is really going to boost his durability. 

Storm of Fire- Each time you roll a 6 to wound for a friendly unit within 6" of your warlord, the AP of your attack is increased by 1. This could be a really powerful ability when used with a large number of units, and could increase the damage your army causes in the shooting phase. 

Rites of War- Friendly Chapter units within 6" of your warlord automatically pass morale tests. I think this one will only be useful if you are running units of Marines above 5 models, as the ATSKNF re-rolls should help you avoid the worst effects of Morale for smaller units. 

Champion of Humanity- Your warlord adds +1 to hit and wound when fighting characters. A pretty decent bonus, but not one I see being used too often. 

The Chapter-specific warlord traits are as follows:
Ultramarines- While your warlord is alive, each time you use a command point, you regain it on a 5+. This is pretty awesome too. Command Points are fantastic in your games, so re-gaining a third of them during the game is a great bonus. 

White Scars- When you warlord finishes a charge move within 1" of an enemy unit, the unit suffers a mortal wound on a 4+. A situational bonus that forces your warlord to get into combat. It would be nice if this was an automatic mortal wound, but a 50% chance is pretty good too. 

Imperial Fists- Friendly chapter units within 6" of your warlord get +1 cover save against attacks with an AP characteristic of -1. This is great for keeping your 2+ cover save against weapons with -1 AP such as Heavy Bolters, Assault Cannons, etc. This should really boost the durability of units near your warlord. 

Crimson Fists- Your warlord gets +D3 attacks if there are 10 or more enemy models within 6". Great for taking one hordes or the potential for devastating smaller, elite units with your warlord in combat. 

Black Templars- Your warlord can make a Heroic intervention at 6" instead of 3". This is really good for making sure your warlord gets into combat and gives you a better chance of getting into range for their buffing abilities with your units in combat. 

Salamanders- Your warlord gains +1S. This will encourage you to equip your warlord with a Power Fist or other strength-boosting weapon. As the bonus is applied to your characteristic, most characters will be striking at S10 in combat, meaning they will be wounding most infantry and Bikes on a 2+. Add in the re-roll for being a Salamanders unit, and this could be a very potent combination. 

Raven Guard- Enemy units can't fire overwatch at your warlord. This could be a really effective chapter tactic for your warlord to have. Raven Guard also have access to a jump pack that allows you to re-roll failed charges, making this combination very useful, especially against enemy units that get automatic hits from overwatch fire. 

Iron Hands- Your warlord gets to make an extra attack when he rolls a 6+ to hit. Useful for adding on additional attacks for your warlord in combat, but you are probably better off going for the Imperium's sword trait for a guaranteed extra attack. 

Some very useful warlord traits in the codex. I see the potential for use in a lot of these. I'm not overly wild about the White Scars warlord trait, but it could be useful if you manage to get into combat with multiple units. 

So, that is the first part of my review complete. Any thoughts on the rules discussed?
The next part will take a look at the new Relics and Stratagems available to Space Marine players.

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. Hi Mike, I'm tending to agree with you on most things, though I'm not quite as sold on the Ultramarines tactics as most seem to be - there are definite advantages to taking them, but I don't think the CT are one of them, though the extra pip of leadership is always welcome.

    A couple of things I noticed, you seem to imply in the Ultramarines CT bit that vehicles get them - they don't, they only apply to infantry, bikes and dreadnoughts, which is one reason I think those tactics are less powerful.

    Also, the recently released vid from warhammer community on the chapter approved book coming in December would suggest that all troops units will be getting a version of obsec. Ok, we'll need to wait to see if stuff like conscripts are excluded (I agree they should be) but for now I think we have to expect that they'll get obsec at christmas if not before.

    A lot of people seem to be underestimating the Imperial Fists tactic. I know cover is 'more difficult' to get than it used to be, but in just my last couple of games, I've had one opponent not bother taking stuff like camo cloaks because he knew it would be worthless, and another where several units of fire warriors/pathfinders weren't getting the benefit of hugging buildings, meaning my fire was much more effective as a result.

    I have to agree though, salamanders seem to have the most powerful tactics, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them taking the 'classic' multiple tactical squads to exploit it where other marine armies will I think be quite light on tactical marines.

    1. You are right of course Nick, vehicles don't get the benefit of Chapter Tactics! This does make the Ultramarines CT less useful than I am suggesting.

      I knew that "objective secured" will be making a comeback with the release of Chapter Approved, a good move in my opinion. Will be interesting to see how more balanced armies may compete with the crazy lists.

  2. looking forward to the rest of this. i have my first 8th tournament in october and need as much info and practice as i can get.

    i am going to be running a vulkan list (similar to my 5th ed list)

    vulkan, 2 tacts, raider rhino, assault cents raven. currently trying to figure out how to spend the last 70pts. extra HQ allows 2 patrols so an extra CP, but another rhino can add extra survivability

  3. Cheers Toonboy! As a gut feeling, I would say go for more Command Points. Part 2 of the review up tomorrow, and as you will see, Space Marines have access to some fantastic new Stratagems. I think some of these will really shake up the way the army plays!

  4. Good stuff Mike, a great breakdown as usual.

    My Imperial Fists are a bit miffed at why their CTs are so poo-pooed on by the wider 40k community (looking at you BoLS). Bastions are still a thing, and rerolling wounds for Lascannons or missile launchers are a great way of one shoting your opponents own personal LOS blocking terrain in the first turn!

    It's also going to be helpful to your deep strikers if they are trying to dig out objective huggers in cover, especially if your warlord is with them and takes the storm of fire trait. OK, maybe a bit situational but on a captain those rerolls are all going to stack up and deliver some pain.

    Anyway, haven't actually played a game of 8th yet so this might be wishful thinking on my part, but looking forward to getting to grip with the new marines soon!

    1. Me too! Hoping to get a lot of games in with my White Scars in the coming months.