Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Emperor's Angels of Death

A few days ago I suggested to Bryce that he post on why he chose the Imperial Guard as his primary army. I would then follow it up with why I chose Space Marines in general and the Ultramarines in particular.

When I first started playing 40K, Bryce didn't even have an IG army. I'm a pack rat and have to overcome severe inner struggles to get rid of anything. Bryce, on the other hand, doesn't keep anything he doesn't use regularly. Since he was rarely playing 40K at the time, and because it was nearly unbeatable and drove away potential opponents at the local game store, Bryce sold his Death Korps of Krieg army mere months before I finally agreed to give the game a chance. After we started playing on a weekly basis, he decided to build a new IG army; i.e., his Steel Legion. What Bryce didn't mention in his last post is that he has recently added about 1000 points of Eldar to his collection.

Although he didn't have a Guard force at the time, Bryce still had Tyranids, Tau, between 1000 and 1500 points of Space Marines, and the beginnings of a Grey Knights army. Before he even directly invited me to play, he was trying to get me to decide on an army. One night he left me a mysterious message on Facebook asking if I preferred 'aliens or Space Marines'. My response was "uh, Space Marines?"

And they shall know no fear
As explained in the oldest post on this blog, I finally agreed to play the game once in the hopes that he would leave me alone about it after I had given it a try and told him that the game wasn't for me. When I arrived at his home, I found a small force of Raven Guard Space Marines set out for me while he had set out another small group of Tau for himself. It didn't take me too long to figure out that he had handpicked the Tau force to allow me to win pretty handily. Even then, Bryce's plan worked perfectly; after one game I was hooked on 40K.

I quickly developed a preference for Space Marines during that game and those shortly thereafter. Just about every aspect of the Astartes appealed to me: they're genetically engineered neo-medieval troops in enormous suits of armor covered in parchments, wax seals, ancient relics, and trophies. Their suits make them look like the love child of Darth Vader and Iron Man, they drive around in ancient tanks covered in ribbons and banners, all their equipment is painted in bright paint schemes that say "come get me!", and they decorate everything with gold eagles and skulls. The worst armor save you get is a 4+ on models that still have toughness 4, a single Marine can carry weapons that other armies have to mount on carriages and vehicles, and many HQs can take on a Hive Tyrant three times their size and kill it with only a little luck. Their elite troops are more survivable than most tanks and carry giant energy-spewing hammers. Space Marines can enter combat by dropping from orbit, teleporting in, infiltrating, or descending from the sky with jump packs. It's like GW took real world marines (awesome in and of themselves), hosed them with testosterone, and gave them weapons dreamed up by wild-eyed, caffeine-fueled pulp sci-fi and fantasy writers. It's pretty hard to top that. On a different note, I liked the sense of brotherhood among the Space Marines. Even the titles used among the Astartes reflect this; e.g., "Brother-Sergeant". For this same reason I often think that the Clone Troopers of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, who treat their fellow clones as brothers, have some of the most interesting storylines and are easier to relate to than the overly aloof Jedi.

The cannon in his left hand is considered a pistol

So, why did I choose the Ultramarines? After that first game Bryce gave me a box of unpainted Marines, many of them built using the Black Templar upgrade parts. (Apparently Bryce will often keep armies around for the purpose of giving them to friends and thus luring new players into the game. The fiend!) However, I had never done the kind of detailed painting that 40K figures require and I didn't want to practice on the upgraded models. I was also intimidated by the idea of painting pre-assembled figures. I'm not particularly good at painting around corners and I seem to have a psychological need to paint surfaces that you can't even see. Thus, I decided to gain some experience by buying the Games Workshop starter paint set that includes five Space Marines with Ultramarine markings. My original intention was to build a Black Templar force and to include the five Ultramarines whenever I needed more troops.

Closer! I want to hit them with my sword!

As I built and painted the figures, though, I found that I really liked the paint scheme of the Ultramarine's 2nd Company; i.e., blue armor with gold trim and white inverted omegas. My wife has pointed out that the Ultramarines' colors are similar to those of our alma mater, Brigham Young University, and has suggested that there may have been some sort of subconscious influence. Additionally, I was still unsure about how much I wanted to get into the game and was reluctant to spend money on Black Templar upgrade sets on top of the already substantial cost of the base models. Given how much I've already spent on my Ultramarine army, and how much I plan to spend in the future, this concern over the expense is laughable now. The real clincher, however, was that GW has given the Ultramarines a lot of attention in the form of numerous named characters and a relatively extensive history. It was the backstory that got me interested in the game in the first place, so I ended up choosing the Marines about whom we know the most.

Could the Black Templars be next?

Ironically, as I begin to look for my next army, I've found myself looking at the Black Templars again. I like how different their organization is from Codex-compliant Marines and the blessed hulls of their Land Raider Crusaders (which make them immune to the lance effects of Kevin's dark lances and Bryce's bright lances) could prove useful. To top it off, the armor of the Black Templar officers and elites is some of the most ornately decorated of any Marine chapter and would look pretty sharp on the table. My final decision will probably depend on the quality of their inevitable 6th edition codex.

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