Sunday, November 11, 2012

Space Marines 6th Edition Codex Wishlist, Part II

Almost as soon as I made my first Space Marines 6th Edition wishlist, I realized that I had several other items to add to it:

Reasonably Priced Devastators
When I first started building my Ultramarines army, I went to a number of websites to determine the best units to field. I found that the general opinion on Devastators was fairly consistent: they're just too expensive. I was recently looking over a few Loyalist/Chaos Space Marine codices and I was surprised by the following numbers:

Space Marine Heavy Weapons Squad Costs
Item Chaos Havocs
(4th Ed.)
Space Marine Devastators
(5th Ed.)
Long Fangs
(5th Ed.)
Blood Angels Devastators
(5th Ed.)
Chaos Havocs
(6th Ed.)
Codex Date 9/200710/200810/20094/201010/2012
Unit Cost
(5 Models)
Heavy Bolter 151551010
Multi-Melta N/A151010N/A
Autocannon 20N/AN/AN/A10
Missile Launcher 2015101015
Plasma Cannon N/A252015N/A
Lascannon 3535252520

The weapons costs for the older units on the list, the 4th Edition Chaos Havocs and the 5th Edition Space Marine Devastators, are very similar. The cost of a 5 man Havoc squad is cheaper than the loyalist squad, but this is consistent with the fact that Chaos Marines are generally cheaper per model. However, a strange thing happened after the 5th Edition Space Marine codex was released; the Space Wolves' Long Fangs Packs were given significantly cheaper heavy weapons than their vanilla brethren. Additionally, they were allowed to fire at two different targets per turn. This in and of itself isn't a big deal; it's well known that GW tends to give each Space Marine army a model or models that others don't have, to give it special rules, and/or to allow it to field certain units more cheaply than others. This is supposedly to give each Marine army its own feel or style. However, when the close combat-oriented Blood Angels were also given cheap heavy weapons with their 5th Edition codex, the expense of Codex Marines' heavy weapons became harder to justify.

Why does my jack of all trades army have more expensive
heavy weapons than the close combat-focused Blood Angels?
Now we have the latest incarnation of the Chaos Havoc squad to compare to the Codex-compliant Devastators. Sixth Edition Havocs have seen a cost reduction on all heavy weapons. Flakk missiles, which Devastators still don't have, will add 10 points to the base cost of a missile launcher.

Havocs can wield heavy bolters and lascannons cheaper than Devastators can and have autocannons that are cheaper than anything the Loyalist Astartes can field. The Havoc's lascannons are an absolute steal at 20 points each. This means that 6th Edition Havocs can field a lascannon quartet for a mere 155 points whereas an identically equipped Devastator Squad costs a whopping 230 points. Heck, the "expensive" Havoc squad costs only five points more than a cheaply equipped Devastator Squad.

I can only hope that GW will give 6th Edition Codex Marines a significant discount in heavy weapons costs. I'd actually be quite happy to get the same deal as the Blood Angels, especially since I've already planned several Devastator Squad builds despite the current high costs (is there anything cooler looking than a Space Marine carrying a heavy weapon?). I've even decided to put together a lascannon quartet in the hopes that the cost of lascannons will be reasonable in the 6th Edition Space Marines codex.

Venerable Dreadnoughts
I said many times that I loved 5th Edition Venerable Dreadnoughts (many Marine players weren't in agreement). While the BS5, WS5 were nice, I don't know how many times the ability to re-roll on the damage table saved my Venerable. To me, this ability was always worth the extra 60 points. Unfortunately, the addition of hull points to 6th Edition has almost completely neutralized this advantage. If the armor is glanced, you lose a hull point and the Venerable rule doesn't help at all. If the armor is penetrated, you can still re-roll on the damage table, but it's less useful since the 6th Edition table is more forgiving with the removal of the Wrecked result. And even if you're saved from an Explodes result, the hull point is gone just the same. It doesn't even matter what result you get by the third hull point; the Venerable is wrecked. Under the new rules even I can't support the extra cost; I've been playing my borrowed Venerable as an ornate standard Dreadnought ever since.

Make the Venerable worth taking again
I think a few tweaks to the 6th Edition Space Marine rules would make the Venerable worth taking again. Specifically, I think that the ability to save hull points should be introduced. Perhaps after each glancing or penetrating hit the Venerable's owner could choose to either roll to save a hull point or have his opponent re-roll on the damage table. I see it working this way; if a glancing hit is suffered and the owning player rolls a 4+, the hull point is saved. If a penetrating hit is suffered, the owning player can choose to get a re-roll on the damage table or to try to save the hull point. If the owner really disliked the damage table result (e.g., he was immobilized during combat or it was an Explodes result) he could chose to re-roll on the damage table rather than attempt to save the hull point. Obviously the owner would choose to save the hull point if his Venerable was merely stunned or shaken. And if the Dreadnought simultaneously gets an Explodes result and loses its last hull point... well, obviously the walker was meant to be destroyed.

On that last possibility, it could be fun to give the Venerable another special rule: Noble Sacrifice. The current Space Marine codex says that during the Damnos Incident, Venerable Brother Agrippan single-handedly defended the spaceport gate from a wave of Necrons, allowing his battle brothers to escape. Once they were clear, his reactor went critical and he destroyed a huge number of the enemy. It could be fun to allow an exploding Venerable Dreadnought to chose the Noble Sacrifice option and explode with greater strength and/or a 2D6 blast radius.

Our Cabal's Ork player would hate that.

Sniper Scout Ballistic Skill
Why do specialists in precision shooting only have BS3?
Standard Tactical Marines cost 16 points per model. Space Marine Scouts are a bit cheaper at 13 points per model. For this cost, Scouts get the stats of a Marine except for having WS3, BS3, and a 4+ armor save. However, Scouts also get the Move Through Cover, Scouts, and Infiltrate special rules, as well as the ability to exchange their boltguns for sniper rifles, combat blades, or shotguns. Scouts can get a 3+ cover save if they buy camo cloaks, but by the time you've bought the camo cloaks your Scouts cost as much as a power armored Marine.

As good as Move Through Cover, Infiltrate, and Scouts are, those special rules plus a three point discount don't generally make Scouts much more desirable than full Marines. I'm not complaining so much about WS3 or the 4+ save as much as I am about BS3.

First, it makes little sense fluff-wise for a Scout to have the same ballistic skill as the average Guardsman. Space Marine initiates are supposed to be the best candidates that humanity can offer. I understand WS3 since the novices are still learning how to fight effectively and may be in the middle of the physiological changes needed to turn human beings into Astartes. But one should have a superior ballistic skill before he's even considered to be a candidate for the Space Marines, let alone after he's undergone some of the alterations and gained some experience. That level of ballistic skill isn't even superhuman since all Imperial Guard veterans have BS4. Second, one of the most popular and useful roles for a Scout is as a sniper. It's less than desirable to have a sniper with a mediocre ballistic skill on the battlefield.

At a minimum, what I'd like to see for Space Marine Scouts in 6th Edition is an improved ballistic skill for snipers. I can swallow BS3 for close combat Scouts since it wouldn't be too unexpected for novices charging into battle with pistols to miss more often than the experienced Marines. And BS3 on Scouts with bolters could make sense if the fluff specifies that they're the least experienced neophytes and are still getting accustomed to such large guns. But snipers should be experienced shooters with a steady hand and a sharp eye. I think it would make sense to give snipers BS4 while keeping their points cost the same by prohibiting them from using the Scouts special rule. After all, snipers don't generally scout ahead; they typically infiltrate enemy territory, set themselves up in a favorable spot, and wait for a suitable target.

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