So, the new Space Marines Codex is finally released. The first codex in 8th edition. So, let’s look into it.
New design is nice. The book looks respectable and it’s a pleasure to leaf through the pages. Background part has really increased – just as promised. It seems like almost every part of previous books found a place here. Moreover, there are a lot of new stories. For example, Crimson Fists were almost extinct, but now they are restored using primaris marines. There are a lot of old and new arts, schemes and all that stuff. The book is even bigger than 7th edition codex.
However, I didn’t like the modest design of the units’ entries. They really should put something, showing how the unit looks near it. There are arts in the background section, but not for everything. It’s ok when you are experienced player, but a novice will have to turn to the web in order to tell the difference between Cataphractii, Tartaros and the usual terminators. There are assault marines on the page with Cataphractii. And it’s not the only example. I don’t mean that GW should return to the old style. There are arts, portraits, and quotes on these pages – so simply arranging them in a more appropriate way would do the trick.
Another thing that bothers me is primaris marines everywhere. Every color scheme is demonstrated on them. They prevail on arts and photos. They are new great miniatures – it’s fine. But they said that they are supportive units with their own special functions and don’t substitute usual marines. Also, background says that there are not so many of them. Unfortunately, you can’t say this looking at this book. Other design and arrangement aspects are pretty fine, and the book looks great – worth putting on the shelf.
The rules and units have changed slightly. The point cost of some went down. There are some strange things like Primaris and usual Librarian at the same price, though. Our favorite TFC has got -1 rend, which is really great – now it’s not that useless. These changes don’t affect the overall balance and look more like correcting mistakes. Interesting thing – bike options for everyone, but the captain, some units like Tyranid war veterans or dreadful Terminus Ultra are gone. Don’t think anyone will miss them, but you can still take their profiles in the Index. (or not)
The most interesting part is the things added in the codex – chapter tactics, warlord traits, stratagems, and magic.
Tactics are really interesting. As it was promised – they are more versatile than they used to be and can be used in more situations. In general, they are a kind of re-thinking of the ones from 6th and 7th editions considering 8th’ realities. Even if you are using the same gaming style, you might find useful different tactics. Even classic 8th-edition-stand-and-shoot will work well both with Raven Guard and Imperial Fists. (However, sportsmen will take Guilliman anyway) Only Salamanders look not so convincing – there are situations where one roll may change everything, but they are far less frequent as the ones where you need re-rolling charge distance or ignoring cover. Also, in addition to this, space marines troops gain a kind of good old Objective Secured – they can hold the objective even if there are more enemy models.
There are 19 stratagems for everyone and one for each chapter from this book. The choice is really wide. In general, most of them are old formations and units’ special rules. For example, super-shot from 3 vindicators or predators, orbital bombardement, a chance to shoot or hit in close combat twice, and so on. Stratagems strengthen certain units – so almost everything can be useful depending on what miniatures you have in your army and what tactics you use. This arsenal is always with you – the main thing is not to forget about them and use right when you need it most. Be careful – you will always lack command points. So, that’s a nice way to use Battle Forged armies.
By the way, there are no formations. But you can easily substitute them by using special detachments from the rulebook, which can be used almost for everything, and by spending command points from them on stratagems for these units. Some kind of do-it-yourself formation. Great improvement!
The most interesting stratagems are the chance to make your Captain a Chapter master for 3 command points and a chance to take 1 or 2 additional relics. The first one is not very effective since all that it does, is changing re-roll of 1-s to re-roll of everything. It’s useful, but you have more interesting things to spend 3 command points on. The second one is more interesting – and it demonstrates us that now you can take only one relic per army. A significant change. It won’t change space marines playing style, but for example, CSM will suffer from it, since legion relics used to be the best way to create a strong character.
There are a bit more relics – the ones from chapters are now in the main list. One for each chapter. The names and function are mostly the same, so those who have already torn away the shield from the cataphractii captain - hurried. By the way, all relics are now free(!). This explains the 1 per army limit. And the method of giving them has slightly changed – now a character has to have specific wargear before he can take a specific relic. So, again, you can’t choose the most or the least useful one. This is the main condition for the list of free items – equality. And now relics are not such powerful as they used to be – the main point is that unlike many usual weapons they are not random and have damage 2 or 3 instead of D3. So, now relics are more like a nice bonus than the army-building point.
Unfortunately, magic is not that balanced. There are 3 new spells in addition to the 3 we had in the Index. Classical game of leaderships – does the same damage, as usual, smite, but with many conditions – so, useless. A totally random beam that only deals one mortal wound per unit. And Fearless with 4++ against mortal wounds inflicted by spells – may be useful, but too situational to choose instead of the old ones. So, in general, we have the same 3 psychic powers as we did before.
Now you can choose warlord traits. And you have 6 standard and 1 special for each chapter which is a must for the named characters. If you don’t want to use «Guilliman & the gunline» tactics. The choice strongly depends on your strategy. There are ideas for everyone, which can be combined with stratagems and relics. For example, you can get -1 to rend if you have 6 to hit near the warlord – so, a usual primaris marines squad with AP-1 bolt rifles, with this bonus and different rerolls can become a fearsome enemy. So, don’t be afraid to try something new.
All in all, the codex has added the depth, we all wanted. Now you have a lot of abilities, which can be combined in different ways for different tactics. And most of them are useful. It’s great that GW listens to the players and changes the stats of some units.
There is a problem in something else. In friendly games, you surely can use anything. But when it comes to sport, SM is still a costly and not numerous army, poorly adapted to the 8th edition realities. And this codex doesn’t fix it. Dropppods are still ineffective, gravguns are not what they used to be, and the magic is only supportive. So, there’s the only choice left – heavy weapons under rerolls. Let’s hope that new abilities will expand the tactics and create some other ways to play SM on the competitive level. Playtests will show.