Saturday, September 14, 2013

6th Edition Space Marine Codex, Part II: What I Didn't Ask For (But Will Take Anyway)

Last time I covered whether or not the new C:SM fulfilled the items on my three part wishlist. I only got a few of the things I wanted, but as is often the case, sometimes you don't know what you want until you get it. Here are several things that the 6th Edition C:SM gave us that I didn't even know I wanted.

Who would have guessed that the Astartes would get Broadsides? I didn't ask for them, but I'll be taking at least three of them anyway. The assault versions seriously step on the toes of Assault Terminators and lack the invulnerable save that is a virtual necessity for such expensive units operating in that role (a Warboss with a power klaw could wipe out the entire squad in a single round of combat). The Devastator versions make a lot more sense, although their role also seems to overlap that of other heavy weapons platforms. To be honest, I mostly want them because I love their neo-Roman look, which just screams "Ultramarines" to me.

While the heavy weapons models are designated as "Devastator Centurions", it seems like they're competing with Predators rather than with Devastators themselves. In fact, along with the Riptide and the Wraithknight, Centurions seem like an attempt to compensate for the damage 6th Edition did to vehicles in general. As long as Gauss and haywire weapons can destroy the heaviest vehicle with relative ease by stripping off hull points and AP1 weapons can explode a vehicle on a 4+, there will be a need for units that are tougher than basic troops carrying heavy weapons while also being difficult to destroy with a single shot.

"Astartes smash!"
(yes, I've used this joke before)

While I think Centurions will work well against most armies, I worry about using them against Tau. With cover save-denying marker lights and plenty of armor penetrating weapons, the Tau can annihilate a Centurion Squad in one turn of shooting, Aegis Defence Line or not. If the Astartes get the first turn, they may be able to reduce the number of threats. But if the Space Marines go second, the Centurions better be in reserve, in a Land Raider, behind line of sight blocking terrain, or on a Skyshield Landing Pad. Fortunately they have Slow and Purposeful, so they won't be limited to snap firing if they come out of a Land Raider or from behind a wall to make a shot.

Chapter Tactics
Honestly, the primary reason I'm in this game is because I love the story. I enjoy the modelling and like the game, but if there wasn't a great sci-fi story behind it all I wouldn't even bother with it. Up until the release of the new codex, standard Space Marines had no variety despite the fact that numerous codexes, novels, etc. state that each Founding Chapter and their successors have certain specialties or characteristics. Sure, you could change up a few things if you took a special character, but the changes were usually minor and the character was expensive. (I was particularly disappointed by the weak and flavorless bonuses that extraordinarily expensive Ultramarine characters gave to the army.) The new Chapter Tactics make each founding Chapter unique while encouraging army lists that reflect the characteristics of the Chapter.

For example, despite the points reduction, I'm still reluctant to take Vanguard. They now take up an Elite slot that I'd rather fill with Terminators or Sternguard. The Raven Guard, on the other hand, are supposed to be a stealthy, fast striking army that uses an unusual amount of jump infantry. Thus, Raven Guard squads with jump packs have the Winged Deliverance Chapter Tactic that greatly increases their usefulness. With Winged Deliverance allowing them to use jump packs during both the movement and the assault phases, their jump troops can be in close combat very quickly. Thus, it only makes sense for Raven Guard players to take as many Assault Squads and Vanguard Squads as possible. In fact, if I were to play Raven Guard, I think I might eschew Terminators altogether in favor of Vanguard Squads.

The most effective combination, and one that I think Bryce will be slaughtering us with in a few months, would be a Vanguard Squad led by Captain Shrike. Winged Deliverance, combined with Shrikes' Stealth and Infiltrate rules, would make the squad a nightmare to face.

The Ultramarine Chapter Tactics, on the other hand, give one turn-only boosts to different types of squads. In one turn you can declare the Tactical Doctrine to effectively twin link your Tactical Squads while allowing other squads to re-roll ones. During a different turn you can declare the Assault Doctrine to allow assaulting units to re-roll charge distances while giving Assault Squads and bikes the Fleet special rule. And during another turn you can declare the Devastator Doctrine to give your Devastator Squads the Relentless special rule while other squads can re-roll snap shots and overwatch.

When 40K Radio first leaked the Ultramarines Combat Doctrines, they neglected to mention that you don't get to choose a single doctrine and use it throughout the game. At first I was disappointed when I found out that I wasn't going to have perpetually twin-linked Tactical Squads. Then I realized that being able to continuously use a single doctrine would be contrary to the Ultramarines' practices. The Ultramarines are supposed to be the ultimate generalists; pretty good at just about everything but the best at almost nothing. The brilliance of GW's approach is that it encourages Ultramarine players to diversify their army lists in order to take advantage of each Combat Doctrine. In other words, their armies will reflect the Ultramarines' generalist philosophy.

Chapter Relics
This is another brilliant addition that has annoyed quite a few non-C:SM players while exciting us Astartes fans.

With the new codex, GW has finally given each Founding Chapter and their successors unique rules to give them their own flavor. In exchange, you can no longer use a special character that has a different set of Chapter Tactics than the rest of the army (there goes my counts-as Lysander). This means that several Chapters are entirely unable to take special characters (e.g., Iron Hands) while others have a single character. With Chapter Relics, any Astartes player can create his own character complete with wargear befitting of a Chapter Master or 1st Company Captain. I've also noticed that they take some of the sting out of losing a beloved counts-as character. My Captain Agemman may not be able to use Lysander's rules anymore, but with the Shield Eternal I can give him the Eternal Warrior rule that was the reason I wanted a Lysander stand-in in the first place. Now I'm even happier that I decided to model my recently completed Terminator Sergeant with a standard Terminator-issue storm shield while only Agemman has the larger, fancier shield. Allowing only one character to carry the larger shield makes it easier to pass off as a relic.

The codex suggests that the Burning Blade
may have belonged to the Emperor himself
Other relics aren't much better than already existing weapons but are immensely characterful. For example, the Teeth of Terra is only a little better than a Relic Blade, but who wouldn't want to model a S6, AP3, obsidian-toothed chainsword? I love the Burning Blade with its plasma weapon-like stats (complete with a vicious form of Gets Hot) and would have liked to pair it with the Shield Eternal. Unfortunately, the wording of the codex seems to indicate that only one relic weapon can be taken per character. I know there's a lot of debate over this, with some believing that "replace one weapon with one of the following" means only that it's a one-for-one exchange. However, until GW says otherwise, I read it to mean that only one weapon can be exchanged for a relic. The combination of the two is so ridiculously powerful that I can't imagine that GW meant for a single character to be able to carry both.

I love the relic idea so much that I'm considering modelling an artificer-armored Captain Agemman (Calgar has two sets of armor, why not the Veteran Company's Captain?) who will carry a different relic. Some of the bits in the new Sternguard kit are almost too ornate for simple Veterans, but would work great for a 1st Company Captain in artificer armor. This Agemman would carry the relic blade and storm shield bits from the new Vanguard kit (which is a great source for melee weapons). I'm hoping to figure out a suitable fiery effect to represent the Burning Blade.

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