Friday, June 19, 2015

Thoughts on the 7th Edition Space Marine Codex

I was pretty much done buying Marines. Sure, I might have bought a few Bikes, maybe one more Razorback, and a Thunderfire Cannon if it ever came out in plastic. But that was it since I was finally going to start on the Mechanicus and Imperial Knights.

You are not done with the Astartes until they say you are done

And then the 7th Edition Space Marine Codex came out. If GW's motive was to make the army seem fresh and convince me to buy more models, then they succeeded. And I'm not upset about this at all. In fact, I haven't been this excited to work on the army in quite some time.

The new codex is not a rehash of the last one with a few Formations added in. There are various points adjustments, stats changes, and new unit options, too. Below are some of the changes that I found the most noteworthy. Some are small and simply correct annoyances I've had in the past (especially the first one). Others are a lot bigger.

Relic Blades on Terminator Captains
Shortly after it came out, a couple of the Cabal members and I split the cost of the Strike Force Ultra box. My official motivation was to get enough Terminators to field the Strike Force Ultra Formation (which is in the new codex with slightly improved rules), but the real reason I wanted it was for the unique Terminator Captain. Although I loved the look of the model, I hated its wargear; the same underpowered storm bolter and power sword found on a Terminator Sergeant. For whatever reason, Terminator Captains have never been able to take a relic blade.

Does this look like a mere power sword?

I figured I could use it as the Burning Blade, but that would add 55 points to an already expensive model. Plus, it seems like a waste to put the Burning Blade, which isn't a Two-handed or Specialist weapon, on a model that doesn't have a pistol or a second melee weapon.

Apparently, someone at GW also realized that this was a silly oversight. Now, for a mere 10 points, a Captain or Chapter Master in Terminator armor can replace his power sword with a relic blade.

Scout Improvements
Scouts are pretty good in this codex. For starters, they now have Marine stats with no increase in cost. I've always been fond of my Snipers, but I sure seemed to roll a lot of threes when shooting with them.

Second, Telion may actually be worth his points now. Until recently, Telion was a 50 point upgrade to a Scout Sergeant. In the last edition, this meant that he actually cost 61 points since he was replacing an 11 point Sergeant. This was an absurd price to pay for a one Wound Sergeant that got Look Out Sir rolls on a 4+.

I've since updated his base to match the textured ones of my newer models.
Telion has gained an extra wound and is now an HQ and an Independent Character (he can only join Scouts, though), meaning that his 50 point cost is actually 50 points. With two Wounds and 2+ Look Out Sir rolls, he's a bit more survivable. Not only that, but now he can fill the HQ slot of a cheap Combined Arms Detachment (CAD).

The Land Speeder Storm is better, too. Not only is it BS4 now, meaning that its heavy bolter or a multi-melta upgrade may be worth something, but its Cerberus Launcher has been improved. Previously it was S2, AP-, Blind, Large Blast. Since Blind only has to hit to work, it wasn't too big a deal if it didn't wound anything. However, the weapon has been changed to S4, AP6, Blind, Large Blast. Not only can you blind a unit, but you now have a decent chance of causing multiple wounds. All this comes with a five point reduction in the Storm's cost.

Finally, the 10th Company Task Force is a very appealing Formation. It's 3-5 Scout Squads and/or Scout Bike Squads with the option of bringing Telion. The Formation has the Concealed Positions rule, which gives Stealth to each unit from the Formation that deploys using the Infiltrate Rule. Stealth is lost when a unit Moves, Runs, Turbo Boosts, Charges, or Falls Back. They also get The Trap is Sprung, which gives them the Precision Shots special rule for the first game turn.

Tank Squadrons
This one could be a game-changer. Predators, Vindicators, and Whirlwinds can now be taken in squadrons of up to three vehicles. (Dreadnoughts and Thunderfire Cannons can also be taken in squadrons now, too.) When you have a trio of tanks, the squadron gains some amazing rules: three Predators gain Tank Hunter and Monster Hunter; three Vindicators gain the Linebreaker Bombardment (replace the three S10, AP2, Large Blasts with an Apocalypic Blast with Ignores Cover!); and three Whirlwinds gain Shred and Pinning.

Now I want three.

I once said that the allowance to take a squadron of Whirlwinds would convince me to buy them. Giving them Shred and Pinning sealed the deal.

Grav Cannon Devastators
If someone had told me two months ago that I would want to put a Devastator Squad into a drop pod and actually bother to upgrade the Sergeant, I wouldn't have believed him. However, the addition of grav cannons with grav-amps to the heavy weapon options has created a build that is so different from the classic Devastator Squad that it might as well be a different type of unit entirely.

Until this edition, all weapons available to Devastators were Heavy weapons (most being Heavy 1), meaning that the squad had to remain static to be effective. The grav cannon, on the other hand, is Salvo 3/5 with a maximum range of 24". This allows the squad to remain mobile, although it limits its effective range to 12". A drop pod is the easiest way around this obstacle, allowing an Astartes player to land four grav cannons and a combi-grav (Salvo 2/3, 18") within easy range of a high value target on Turn 1. Although a grav cannon isn't cheap (each is 35 points versus the lascannon's 20 points), a 220 point grav cannon quartet with a combi-grav on the Sergeant could be expected to inflict 8.9 wounds on a unit with 2+ saves and 8 wounds on a unit with 3+ saves.

Decompressing the Elites
Three types of Dreadnoughts, Vanguard, Sternguard, Assault Centurions, and two types of Terminators have never really fit into the into the three slots allowed by the CAD. GW has fixed this with the 1st Company Task Force.

Now I won't have to run an enormous squad of
Terminators because I'm limited on Elite slots.

The 1st Company Formation is composed of 3-5 units of Terminators, Assault Terminators, Sternguard, and/or Vanguard. In other words, it allows you to bring up to half of the entire 1st Company. The models in the Formation are Fearless and cause Fear, get Preferred Enemy against a chosen enemy unit, and cause enemy units within 12" of at least three 1st Company squads to suffer -2 Leadership. The implications of fielding a Formation that causes Fear while simultaneously lowering an enemy unit's Leadership by two is obvious.

Significantly Cheaper Vanguard Veterans
When 6th Edition changed Vanguard from Fast Attack to Elites, I gave up on them entirely. The only way to make them useful was to load them up with power weapons, which made them prohibitively costly. Not only were they expensive, but they would take a slot away from Terminators, Dreadnoughts, or Sternguard. In my mind, Vanguard could only be remotely justified in a Raven Guard army, where they could use their jump packs in both the Movement and Assault phases.

With the 1st Company Task force, the issue of having enough slots for them was eliminated. Then something utterly unexpected happened; the 7th Edition codex drastically reduced the cost of power weapons for Vanguard, slashing the price of each one by 10 points.

This particular squad is now 40 points cheaper.

In 6th Edition, a Vanguard Veteran with twin lightning claws and a jump pack cost 52 points (they were a mind-boggling 60 points in 5th Edition). Although lethal and mobile, he was only as survivable as the basic Tactical Marine with his 3+ armor save. By comparison, a lightning claw Terminator with a 2+ armor save and a 5+ invulnerable save cost only 40 points. Under 7th, the same Vanguard Veteran costs 32 points, making him cheaper than even the reduced cost of a lightning claw Terminator (now 35 points). While still not as survivable as Terminators, Vanguard have greater mobility, can re-roll one or both dice when determining charge range, and can make Sweeping Advances.

A Different Way to Organize the Army
While the CAD is still an option, the new codex emphasizes the Battle Demi-Company and the Gladius Detachment.

The way an Astartes Company is organized is well known, even if the game didn't always reflect it. The Battle Demi-Company is literally half a Company and is composed of the following:
1 Captain or Chaplain
0-1 Command Squads
3 Tactical Squads
1 Assault Squad, Bike Squad, Attack Bike Squad, Land Speeder Squadron, or Centurion Assault Squad
1 Devastator Squad or Centurion Devastator Squad
0-1 unit of Dreadnoughts of any kind
If you take a Demi-Company, all models in the Detachment have Objective Secured and you get the Tactical Flexibility rule. The latter rule allows the Detachment to use the Tactical Doctrine, which is a slightly revised version of the Ultramarines' Tactical Doctrine from 6th Edition.

The Gladius Detachment is composed of 1-2 Demi-Companies (called Core choices), 1+ Auxiliaries (i.e., task forces ranging from infantry-dominated detachments to vehicle-dominated Formations that have their own special rules), and 0-3 Command detachments (e.g., Calgar and his Honour Guard). If the army fields a Gladius, it has the Tactical, Assault, and Devastator Doctrines (the Assault and Devastator Doctrines are revised forms of the old Ultramarine doctrines).

While potent, this system of organization requires the player to make some hard choices. A reasonably well-equipped Demi-Company can easily cost 1250 points (the Demi-Company in the picture above comes in at over 1400 points and doesn't even include transports). If you're used to 2000 point games, there won't be a lot of points left over for other Detachments or Formations. You can't take any flyers or tanks other than dedicated transports in a Demi-Company (which can include Land Raiders if you take Centurions). Nor can you take any Elites other than Dreadnoughts or Assault Centurions. Those other options are only available through a CAD or an Auxiliary force.

What really gets left out in the cold are Fortifications. None of the Astartes Detachments or Formations include them, leaving the CAD as the only way to field staples like the Aegis Defence Line. This may have been a deliberate decision, since most Space Marine Chapters are depicted as being constantly on the move rather than hiding behind fortifications.

The Auxiliaries
The Auxiliaries (e.g., the 1st and 10th Company Task Forces) range from decent to amazing, but the minimum number of units they require can make them pretty costly. For example, the only flyer-based Auxiliary force is the Storm Wing (this is identical to the dataslate released in late 2013). The Storm Wing is composed of two Stormtalons and one Stormraven and costs at least 420 points.

Similarly, the most advantageous way to field tanks is through the Armoured Task Force. This force is composed of 0-1 Sergeant Chronus (he's an HQ now and his tank becomes a character), 1 Techmarine (which now has two wounds and is an HQ; the Master of the Forge is no longer an option) , 0-3 units of Thunderfire Cannons, and 3-5 units of Whirlwinds, Predators, and/or Vindicators in any combination. This Formation is pretty strong, with all tanks within 6" of the Techmarine ignoring Stunned and Shaken results while the Techmarine himself has a +1 to his repair rolls. Unfortunately, the cost of entry can be pretty high when the Formation has a minimum composition of one HQ and three tanks.

The Auxiliaries are strong enough by themselves that I suspect a lot of players will simply skip the Demi-Company altogether in favor of a points-efficient CAD. At an absolute minimum, a Detachment composed of Telion and two basic Scout Squads costs only 160 points.

One Final Thought
If one disregards the points cost, the Gladius Detachment is the best way to field Space Marines. However, it's very hard to fit a Gladius into a standard 2000 point game due to the size of the Core Force and the high minimum cost of many of the Auxiliaries. I suspect that this is GW's method of surreptitiously encouraging gamers to play larger and larger games so they can fit in all their toys. I wouldn't be surprised if 2500 point games started to become the norm.


  1. Sucks to be a Blood Angel player.

    1. Unfortunately, it looks like all armies that got 7th Edition codexes before Necrons are at a disadvantage.

      The Blood Angels codex itself is now pretty underwhelming. If you count Shield of Baal, Blood Angels have some decent Formations, though.

  2. We get some cool formations, but it's annoying that our dreads have half the attacks. Even furiosos with 2 fists have fewer attacks than regular dreads.

    1. Yeah, GW doesn't think twice about releasing new Formations, but they seem very reluctant to change basic stat lines and points costs without issuing a new edition.

      It seems like GW went through a major philosophy change in the middle of writing the 7th Edition codexes. They were pretty consistent in power level at first, but from Necrons on it seems like they threw that consistency out the window.

      Until we get an 8th Edition, the only hope for pre-Necron codexes is that they get the treatment that Tyranids got with the Shield of Baal release; new units, changes to standard units (e.g., increasing the base size of the zoanthrope brood and adding the neurothrope), more competitive Formations, etc.

    2. It seems kind of strange that GW would go through the effort they did with revamping the Blood Angels just to turn around and make them out dated again less than 6 months later. Surely they knew what they planned to do with space marines?

  3. Which chapter so you think benefits most from the new codex? I've only had a brief look at the codex since my local store has been closed since the end of May but I felt That the White Scar bike armies could be particularly nasty

    1. That's a hard one. White Scars are pretty mean with Hit & Run, Skilled Rider, and +1 Strength when resolving Hammer of Wrath. The only problem is that there are no Formations that benefit a bike army. In fact, the only way to run a White Scars bike army is to use the traditional CAD with an Independent Character on a bike.

      During my last game, I found myself on the wrong side of the Raven Guard's doctrines. They can affect Night Fighting by adding 1 to the Night Fighting roll, which can be ugly when combined with their first turn Shrouded for all non-vehicle models that don't disembark from a vehicle during that turn. Their ability to use jump packs during both movement and assault phases strongly benefits the cheaper Vanguard Squads. Last week, Captain Shrike and a five man Vanguard Squad ate nearly half of my 1250 point army. I could see a lot of Raven Guard players fielding a 1st Company Task Force loaded with Vanguard.

      The ability to put tanks in squadrons goes well with the Iron Hands' Machine Empathy (+1 to repair rolls for Techmarines and It Will Not Die on all vehicles). An Iron Hands Armoured Task Force would be pretty terrifying.

      I'm biased towards Ultramarines, though. They have the Scions of Guilliman rule, which gives them all three Combat Doctrines. The new Demi-Company and Gladius Strike Force were clearly made for the Ultramarines. This is because the Combat Doctrines stack; if you have more than one rule allowing you to implement a Doctrine, you can implement it more than once.

      A Demi-Company has the Tactical Flexibility rule, which gives all models in the Demi-Company the Tactical Doctrine. Further, if you add an Auxiliary to the Demi-Company, the resulting Gladius Strike Force has the Codex Astartes rule, which gives all models in the Gladius the three Combat Doctrines. The Gladius is one of those odd Formations that allows a unit to belong to both the Gladius as well as its own Demi-Company or Auxiliary.

      Thus, on turn 1, an Ultramarines army fielding a Gladius Strike Force can use the Scions of Guilliman rule and declare the Tactical Doctrine (all models re-roll 1s to Hit during the Shooting and Assault phases while Tactical Marines re-roll all fails To Hit). This affects all models with the Ultramarines Chapter Tactics. On turn 2, the player can use the Codex Astartes rule to again declare the Tactical Doctrine; this will affect all models in the Gladius Strike Force. On turn 3, the player can use the Tactical Flexibility rule to declare the Tactical Doctrine one more time. This final time it will benefit only the Demi-Company.

      With Ultramarines and the right Formations, you get to a lot of re-rolls, which can make a big difference during the course of a game.

  4. so typical over powered and under point costed space marines then


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