Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Space Marine Codex Review: Part 7- Heavy Support

Part 7 of my Space Marine Codex review will take a look at the various options in the Heavy Support section of the book. Thanks to the changes to the vehicle rules have made many of these options much more favourable than they have been in previous editions.

Heavy Support Units
Devastator Squad
The classic Space Marine Heavy Support choice has seen some improvements in 8th edition thanks to their special rules and a general improvement in Heavy Weapons and shooting them.

The Devastator squad is pretty much unchanged for several editions; the squad consists of between 5-10 Marines, with up to four being able to take a Heavy Weapon. The Squad Sergeant has a Signum, allowing a single model in the unit to get +1 to hit when shooting. The Armorium Cherub also makes a return, allowing you to shoot with a single member of the squad once more in the shooting phase. This gives you up to 5 heavy weapons shots in a single turn, which can be pretty potent. You will probably use this on the Signum model, giving you five shots, three hitting on a 3+ and two hitting on a 2+ (in most cases).

What is different in 8th edition is that there are many viable choices for equipping your Devastator squad. Grav Cannons are no longer your only competitive option, in fact, they may now be one of the poorer options.
Missile Launchers and Lascannons are probably two of the most popular options, providing your army with some great high-strength, multi-damage shots for taking on vehicles and monstrous creatures. Equally though, Plasma Cannons can be devastating if you can overcharge their shots successfully (and have a nice source of re-rolls to hit nearby). Heavy Bolters can even supply a strong volume of fire, with some of the Stratagems allowing them to deal Mortal Wounds to enemy units.

One of the great changes for Devastators is that moving and firing Heavy Weapons is not as punishing as it once was. You can move and fire, only suffering a -1 to hit penalty, meaning that Devastators can play a more active role in the game if necessary. With a Captain or Chapter Master nearby, you can even be quite effective at firing while moving.

One of my current combinations is to put a lieutenant next to my Devastators to give them re-rolls of 1 to wound. This helps to mitigate poorer wound rolls with my Missile Launchers.

Devastator Squads are a powerful unit to add to your army in the new codex, able to perform a wide variety of battlefield roles. They also benefit from being more mobile in 8th edition, so don't always have to remain the static force they once were.

Centurion Devastator Squad
A classic of 7th edition armies, and one of the best sources of grav firepower in that edition, this unit can still have their uses in 8th edition, though the changes to the rules may mean you see more than simply the Grav Cannon/Hurricane Bolter combination that has been so common.

Centurions benefit from an additional wound in the new codex, but compensate by having a severely reduced movement of 4". Given that Centurions can no longer deploy in Drop Pods, this means your Centurions are going to be very slow on the board unless you want to buy a Land Raider to transport them.

This shorter range means that taking the Lascannon and Centurion Missile Launcher combination is a really viable choice in 8th edition. A unit of 3 Centurions with this combination can put out a serious amount of high strength firepower (6 Lascannon shots and 3D3 missile shots). The Centurions also suffer no penalty for moving and shooting and enemy units don't gain cover bonuses while the Sergeant is alive. This combination allows you to sit at the back of your deployment zone and continue to rain fire down on most of the enemy army, helping to keep the Centurions safer for longer.

The Grav Cannon and Hurricane Bolter combination is still viable, but required you to get much closer to the enemy army. Even though Grav Cannons are not as powerful as they once were, a unit of three Centurions will put out 12 grav shots. This has the potential to cause a fair amount of damage to enemy vehicles, but is still probably not as effective against vehicles as the Lascannon or Missile Launcher. The Hurricane Bolter is also a nice anti-horde weapon, with a unit of 3 Centurions putting out 36 Bolter shots at rapid fire range. The problem once more is getting into range to use them to full effect.

Centurions are still an effective unit in the game, I think. Their role has simply seemed to change to long range anti-armour firepower in 8th edition, where I imagine they will be highly effective.

Hellblaster Squad
A new Primaris squad for the Space Marines, this unit comes packed with a lot of plasma goodness to add to your army.

The squad consists of a unit of 5-10 Primaris Marines that can be armed with a number of plasma weapons. These include the Plasma Incinerator (30", Rapid Fire 1, S7 AP-4 damage 1), Assault Plasma Incinerator (24", Assault 2, S6 AP-4, damage 1) and Heavy Plasma Incinerator (36", Heavy 1, S8, AP-4, damage 1). Each of these weapons can be overcharged to give +1 strength and damage, but at the risk that the Bearer is slain if a 1 to hit is rolled.

This squad can put out a lot of high strength, armour piercing firepower at long range and short range. I have seen first hand how devastating this should can be with the right support. A unit of Hellblasters supported by a Primaris Captain and Primaris Lieutenant was able to overcharge their weapons and gun down my Corvus Blackstar in one of my first games against them. You really need the re-rolls if you are going to risk overcharging the plasma guns, as it is quite easily to lose a few members of your squad with some poor rolling.

The standard Plasma Incinerator is the cheapest option, but with only 5-10 points difference for arming a squad of 5 with the assault or Heavy Plasma Incinerator, there is not a huge points penalty for taking whichever option you think will work best for your army. The basic squad costs 165 points, which is not crazy for the amount of firepower that they put out. The only downside once more is the lack of transport options for a Primaris squad. This is not an issue for the Heavy Plasma Incinerator, but you really want to get into rapid fire range to get the most effect from the Plasma Incinerator. For this reason, I like the assault option. You get two shots up to 24" and can even advance and fire if you want to (though you probably don't want to overcharge these shots unless you want to lose a third of your unit!).

Thunderfire Cannon
The Thunderfire Cannon provides your army with some long range, indirect firepower. The basic shot is 60", Heavy 4D3, S5 -1AP and can be fired at targets not visible. This will give you eight S5 shots on average, great for taking on a wide variety of foes.

The Cannon requires a Techmarine gunner to operate, who can also repair D3 wounds on the Cannon (or another vehicle), helping to keep it alive for longer. The Techmarine is a character, so cannot be targeted by most units unless he is the closest model. However, any unit that can target Characters directly will be a worry, as the Gunner only has two wounds, and taking him out will remove the Thunderfire Cannon from play. Fortunately, as you don't require line of sight, it should be easier to keep the Gunner out of harms way and keep the Cannon firing. However, the Techmarine comes with an expensive Plasma Cutter and a flamer, both of which will be pretty useless if you are keeping him hidden.

A decent Heavy Support option for the Space Marine army, but at 135 points, I'm not sure it is worth the cost for the firepower that it puts out. For 105 points, you could take a Devastator squad with 4 Heavy Bolters. You don't get the lone range, but get a guaranteed 12 shots with the same profile.

The first of the anti-air tanks. Vehicles have got a big boost in 8th edition, going up dramatically in durability thanks to gaining a toughness value, more wounds and an armour save. You no longer have to worry about them getting destroyed in one shot, but you can see their effectiveness reduced as they start to take damage.
The Hunter is pretty durable, coming in at toughness 8 with 11 wounds and a 3+ save. This makes it incredibly resilient to most infantry, as S4 needs a 6 to wound it, and even more powerful weapons such as the missile launcher only wound it on a 4+. This means it is going to take a good deal of heavy firepower to take it out, or some serious close combat ability.

The Hunter comes with a Skyspear Missile Launcher. This is range 60", heavy 1, S9 AP-3 and D6 damage. The Skyspear gets +1 to hit against Fly units and gets re-roll failed to hit rolls. Given that most flyers are at -1 to hit, this means you are still hitting on a 3+ re-rollable if you don't move. This is very good odds of hitting your target, and you should be wounding most flyers on a 3+. D6 damage is nice, but it is going to take several shots to down even weaker flyers.

At only 90 points, the Hunter is a decent anti-flyer tank to take in your army. It is not too expensive and should worry most flyers in the game that don't have an invulnerable save.

The second of the anti-flyer tanks in the army. This has the same profile as the Hunter, so is going to be very durable against a range of enemy units.

The Stalker comes with two Icarus Stormcannons. These are 48" range, Heavy 3, S7, AP-1, 2 damage. The Icarus also gets +1 to hit against Fly units, but -1 to hit against other targets. This means that the Stalker gets 6 shots, generally hitting Fly units on a 3+, and wounding on a 4+. Assuming some poor saves, you can put 2-4 wounds on a standard T7 flyer with the Stalker each turn.

The Stalker is a bit poorer against ground targets than the Hunter, but makes up for this with a greater volume of firepower.

Of the two tanks, I think I prefer the Stalker, simply for the volume of shots and the flat 2 damage per shot. D6 damage is great when you roll high, but there is always the chance of rolling that 1 or 2 and having your shot be less successful.

The more effective Stalker is represented by its higher cost of 124 points, compared to 90 points for the Hunter.

Another source of firepower that does not require line of sight. The Whirlwind can be armed with two different types of launcher.
The Vengeance Launcher is the default weapon and the cheaper of the two. It has 72" range and fires 2D3 shots at S7, AP-1 and does 2 damage each wound. This is a great weapon for taking out multi-wound models such as Bikers and can even pose vehicles a threat thanks to its high strength.

The Castellan launcher is the other option. It has a lower strength of 6 and no AP value, but makes up for this with 2D6 shots. This is a great weapon for taking on hordes of weakly armoured models.

The Whirlwind has T7, 11 wounds and a 3+ save, meaning it has a reasonable level of durability. The best defence though is being able to fire out of line of sight, allowing you to hide the tank and hopefully allow it to survive for longer.

I think the Whirlwind will be a great addition to any army, able to take on a range of opponents depending on which launcher you decide to go for.

The much maligned Predator is back in 8th edition and is a solid addition to any list for some long ranged firepower to complement the rest of your army.

The Predator has the usual loadouts that it has been able to take for years. I think that the twin Lascannon and Lascannon sponsons could be a popular choice for a Space Marine army. This comes in at 190 points. This is 25 points more than a Devastator squad armed with four Lascannons, but you get a huge boost in durability over 5 Marines in the Predator Chasis.

The Predator has the standard vehicle stats for Marines; T7, 11 wounds and a 3+ save. As I have said above, this should be fairly durable against standard infantry and will take some serious firepower to destroy it. Given the potential range of the Predator, it can afford to deploy quite far back, allowing it to stay out of assault range for at least a couple of turns.

The Vindicator brings the big gun of the Space Marine army to bear. It comes armed with a Demolisher Cannon, which is S10 AP-3 and D6 damage. It gets D3 shots, but gets boosted to D6 shots when firing at a unit with 5 or more models. This is a really nice bonus, stopping it from being poor against medium sized elite units.

Strength 10 is a powerful shot, meaning it will be wounding most infantry and Bikers on a 2+, helping to make the most of its shots. It also gets access to a decent Stratagem, allowing it to put out a lot of mortal wounds, assuming you take a squad of 3 Vindicators.

It also gets some added durability, going up to toughness 8, meaning S4 will be wounding it on 6+.

I like the Vindicator. It is not too expensive and has the potential to do a lot of damage to smaller, elite units.

Land Raider
The big daddy of Space Marine tanks is one of the toughest tanks in the game. The Land Raider gets the great toughness of 8, as well as a 2+ save and 16 wounds! This tank is going to take a lot to put down.
The Land Raider pays for this increased durability with a decreased move of only 10", meaning it can still move faster than most infantry, but is outpaced by a lot of other tanks out there.

The standard Land Raider has a good level of firepower, armed with a Twin Heavy Bolter and two Twin Lascannons. The change to 8th edition rules means that you no longer have to waste shooting the Heavy Bolters and Lascannons at the same target, so the Land Raider can actually be a bit more effective now. You can also add a Multi-melta for more anti-tank firepower, but the Land Raider starts to get very pricey. The base model already costs 356 points, so is quite an investment in an army. A good benefit is power of the machine spirit, meaning that you ignore the penalty for moving and shooting with the Land Raider's heavy weapons, which is great for such an expensive vehicle.

Another benefit is that it is one of the toughest transport vehicles in the game. Odds are a Land Raider will keep whatever is inside safe until it can charge or shoot when it disembarks. It is also now one of the only transport vehicles that can carry Terminators or Centurions.

The big downside of the Land Raider is that it is quite easy to shut down its firepower. All you need to do is assault it, as it cannot fall back and still fire.

I'm not sure if the Land Raider justifies its high points cost, but look forward to testing it in some future games to see if it is worth the investment.

Land Raider Crusader
The Crusader variant provides you with even more transport capacity and some useful anti-infantry firepower. The Crusader comes with a Twin Assault Cannon and two Hurricane Bolters, giving you 24 Bolter shots at Rapid Fire range, in addition to 12 Assault Cannon shots. That should trouble quite a few units in the game.

The change to the transport vehicle rules also means that you can maximise the transport potential of the Crusader, as you can put multiple units in the vehicle to fill up its transport capacity of 16 models.

Even though charging with the Crusader would potentially shut down its firepower, it can have its benefits. The Frag Launchers mean that all units within 1" when you finish a charge move take D3 mortal wounds on a 4+. This has the potential to seriously harm a number of enemy units. Also, the Land Raider is great for soaking up overwatch shots before your transported unit charges in, as there are very few units in the game that will be capable of destroying it with overwatch fire.

Land Raider Redeemer
Favourite of Salamanders armies everywhere, the Redeemer comes with two powerful flamer weapons. The Redeemer comes with a Twin Assault Cannon and two Flamestorm Cannons. These are heavy D6, S6, AP-2 and 2 damage each, great for taking on tough, multi-wound infantry at close range. Combined with the Frag Assault Launchers, this makes the Redeemer a good threat at close range, perfect for causing a lot of damage before the unit inside charges in to combat.

The Redeemer has a transport capacity of 12 models, just less than the Crusader, but enough to put a full squad of Marines and a character or two.

I've never used a Redeemer or even seen one on the board, but it seems like a solid Land Raider choice.

Like much of the codex, the Space Marines have access to some great Heavy Support options. There are few, if any, bad choices and all will have a use against a number of opponents. The only problem is finding the points in your army to include them with all the other great choices available.

What I like about 8th edition is that vehicles are suddenly a lot more viable and are actually great choices to add to the army in a lot of cases.

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. Whilst I will miss the absolute joy of one-shotting a Land Raider with a deep striking melta team, I am glad to see so many great options brought back onto the table by the changes to vehicle rules. Those of us who hung on to our predators for so many years have been rewarded at last!

    It also nice to see the 'nerf' to grav cents - again it will result in a bit more variety, but more importantly will stop my riptide from crying...

    1. Yeah, I might have to start picking up some Predators and a Whirlwind.

  2. I lament the nerf to Grav Cents as they took ages to paint! And we're expensive short range area denial tools, oh well. The Redeemer suffers as it did in 7th, the Flamestorm Cannons are so short range they are useless for most of the game, it drastically needed Torrent! 18in would have been great, but alas it is the same as a handheld Flamer...

    1. They were a must-have for my army in 7th edition, but I don't see me using them too much in 8th edition.

  3. The thing with the Hunter is that it's actually a very effective tank killer and it doesn't compromise its anti-flyer effectiveness to do it. For the cost of an all-las Predator you can take two of the things and they're also tougher than the Predator for some reason. It's just worth keeping a CP or two back in case the damage roll is disappointing.

    1. Very true, two of them should be able to put out a lot of damage on a number of enemy units with some good rolling.

  4. Take another look at those las cents mate - they cost a fortune now, and when I tested them out, they are very vulnerable to return fire (imagine them getting hit by a las predator - it's not pretty!

  5. Really good review series. Keep up the good work.