Monday, 15 June 2015

Space Marine codex review part 1 - release overview and army rules

Well, after weeks of build up we are finally here. The leaks have happened, the models and book are more or less all released and we can see what we're faced with. This will be a multi-part review looking at all aspects of the new codex, what has changed and how the new book will play. It's a big one to get through so bear with me and if I do make any errors please point them out. Cheers. 

The release
So we got the usual codex (now bigger than ever), special editions, painting guide and cards, plus a whole lot more. Not only were we treated to a host of model releases, but also we got access to 3 huge transfer sheets for not only Ultramarines, but Blood Angels and Dark Angels also. Nice to see the non-codex chapters getting a little something to got alongside the release (more on that later). We also got a few WD and web exclusive rule-sets to accompany, which will also be talked about later. The cards and transfer sheets were very nicely done I must admit (picked up the DA one) and, although pricey, it's good to have the option there if you want them. 

The book:
Hmm, one fence about this one. Love the cover and the new-style embossing and overall I'm a fan of the 7th edition format with datacards and reference at the back. However, I must admit I preferred the previous books layout in the front half of the book and just found there was more info in it. I'm not a huge fan of the CGI art they've taken to using for colour schemes etc in these books - it looks much more basic and simplistic to what they used to use. So overall, despite thinking the changes in the book are for the best, I'm not confident the book itself is an improvement over its predecessor.

The models:
Overall positive releases. Starting with the weaker offerings, the assault squad seems to be a boost in price but not a heck of a lot more for your money. You get some new heads and better posed arms/legs plus optional base decorations and an eviscerator. Definitely and improvement on the old kit but just not that awesome especially considering the Vanguard costs the same. The next mediocre offering is the Terminator Librarian - a bit bland TBH with limited weapons options. Still, an improvement on the old FC one.
Now onto the more positive offerings. We have been treated to (what I can only hope is the beginning of a trend for Marines/Chaos) upgrade sprues for the big 4 chapters, offering the opportunity to add new shoulder pads, a few heads, weapons and parts. Relatively inexpensive and great for adding more flavour to your armies. Last but far from least the real star of the show is the Devastator kit. A price jump for sure, but the kit now boasts 50% more heavy weapons (2 of each including the new Grav cannon), retains 6 sets of legs (complete with 2E style suspensors) and also has a host of heads, melee weapons and bits, such as a cherub and some servo skulls. Really nice set that is a welcome addition to the SM range.

The rules:
Now for the difficult part - this will take some time as not only are we going through the largest codex, but we also need to compare to the previous book. Bear with me.

Maelstrom Missions

Space Marines:
1 - Death from above - 1VP if enemy unit destroyed by jump unit or a unit arriving by deep strike.
2 - Honour your Chapter - 1VP if enemy character killed in challenge
3 - No mercy, no respite - 1VP if enemy unit failed morale check or destroyed (3+ = D3)
4 - For the Emperor! - 1VP if 1+ units made a successful charge (3+ = D3)
5 - Lightning strike - 1VP if one enemy unit in their deployment zone completely destroyed
6 - The Emperors retribution - D3 VPs if you control an objective controlled by your enemy at the start of the turn (3+ = D3+3)

1 - Vulkan's gaze - 1VP if you destroyed an enemy vehicle with melta
2 - Weather the storm - 1VP if you made a successful charge and lost no-one to overwatch
3 - Legacy of Istvaan - 1VP if you have 3 units in 18" of your table edge and destroyed an enemy unit in your table half.
4 - Vulkan's task - D3 VPs if all objectives revealed and you control more than your opponent.
5 - Look them in the eye - 1VP if you destroyed an enemy unit within 6" of a Salamander unit. (if 3+, score D3)
6 - Fires of Nocturne - 1VP if you completely destroy an enemy unit with a flamer weapon. D3 if 2 units, D3+3 if 3+.

Warlord traits

Space Marines:
1 - Angel of death - Warlord has fear and enemy units locked in combat take fear tests on 3D6. (Cassius, Shrike)
2 - The Imperium's sword - Warlord and unit have furious charge. (Helbrecht)
3 - Iron resolve - Warlord has feel no pain. (Vulkan, Lysander, Kantor)
4 - Storm of fire - Each turn, one friendly nominated unit (same Chapter) in 12" has ranged rending. (Tigurius, Telion)
5 - Rites of war - All models in Warlords detachment use his leadership. (Sicarius, Grimaldus)
6 - Champion of humanity - Warlord and all Armies of the Imperium in 12" must reroll failed fear/pinning/morale. (Khan)

Crimson Fists:
1 - Pain is for lesser warriors - Warlord had FNP
2 - Tenacious defender - Warlord and unit counter attack/stubborn in 3" of objective.
3 - Rynn's World veteran - Warlord and unit have hatred and preferred enemy: Orks
4 - Expert instructor - If Warlord doesn't run/shoot, one friendly unit in 12" can use his BS
5 - Refuse to die - Warlord has Eternal Warrior
6 - Scion of Dorn - Warlord and all Crimson Fists in 12" have Fearless

Black Templars:
1. Master Swordsman - +1 WS and A.
2. Furious Indignation - if Warlords unit fails morale check in psychic/shooting phases, move 2D6" TOWARDS enemy.
3. Abhor the Witch - hatred and preferred enemy: Psykers
4. Honour demands combat - reroll failed charge rolls for warlord and unit
5. Oathkeeper - fearless and rerolls failed to hit in a challenge
6. Unyielding determination - warlord and all friendly units in 12" reroll failed morale/pinning/fear.  

So the Warlord traits got a double boost this time around. Not only did a lot of changes occur (for the better) with the generic Space Marine Warlord traits, but now also (courtesy of white Dwarf) we are treated to unique traits for both Templars and Crimson Fists, all of which are very well suited. With regard to the improvements in the generic table, Angel of death now means fear tests in melee are on 3D6, Imperium's sword is now furious charge all the time, Iron resolve is now feel no pain, Storm of fire now grants rending each turn instead of a one-off reroll to hit, Rites of war applies to all models not just those in 12" and Champion of humanity is now an LD boost rather than granting D3 VPs (now built into Khan's rules). Excellent boost all round.

Chapter tactics

Some excellent ideas were introduced in the last edition of the book, which IMO was a fantastic codex. Chapter tactics still exist for all 7 of the featured Chapters, but some changes have taken place. Let's compare old with new:

They still get 3 doctrines to use once each per game same as before but with changes. Tactical doctrine now gives rerolls to hit of 1 in both shooting and assault phases, which increases to rerolling all for tactical squads including attached ICs. Assault doctrine has changed to be effectively the same as the tactical one but only works in the assault phase and assault/bikes/assault centurions (plus attached ICs) get to reroll all. Likewise, devastators now effectively get the old tactical doctrine and so all units can reroll 1s to hit in the shooting phase, with devastators/devastator centurions rerolling all to hit. A vast improvement over the old system with the tactical doctrine standing out as being the best of the bunch, though due to the units affected with rerolling all dice the other two are hardly shabby. Best bit (which I'll come to later) is that it's not just the UMs that can access these doctrines, and the smurfs can use them more than once under the right conditions.

White scars:
A few positive changes here. Born in the saddle has been simplified to simply grant skilled rider as well as the +1S to HoW hits. FIght on the move has changed to apply to ALL models now, so every unit in the army with CTs can hit and run plus, as a new bonus, can reroll run rolls. This makes Whitescars an impressively mobile and speedy army who are hard to pin down and should play out exactly as the fluff describes.

While Master artisans remained the same (master crafting one weapon on each character), flamecraft got a subtle change. While the reroll to wound/pen/glance is the same, rather than being able to reroll failed armour saves from flamer weapons, you now get feel no pain 4+ instead. While at first glance this may appear a nerf, getting a 4+ rather than a 2, 3 or 4+ reroll (depending on the unit), there are actually benefits to this. Not so much for terminators/artificer armour, but certainly for power armour Vs flamestorms (sadly baleflamers aren't listed in the rulebook) and scouts Vs them and heavy flamers, you now actually have a 50/50 chance to survive such attacks where before a wound would have meant certain death, re-roll or not. A net improvement and more fluffy way to represent Salamanders IMO, though we still didn't get those bloody heavy flamers!

Imperial Fists:
A few changes for the better here. Bolter drill changed to specifically include special issue ammo, making IF sternguard a great choice now, especially with the points drop. The other rule to chage slightly is siege masters, which before gave devastators/devastator centurions tank hunters and +1 on the damage table Vs buildings. Now, ALL models can both reroll to glance/pen Vs buildings and ALL units get the +1 on the damage table.  Devastators/devastator centurions retain tank hunters. Including all units makes much more sense as does granting the re-rolls to special-issue ammo. I can see lots of heavy support and sternguard being popular amongst IF armies.

Iron Hands:
Mostly the same, but a few subtle tweaks. The flesh is weak now grants +1 to feel no pain rolls, giving everyone a 6+ but also bolstering apothecary-containing squads to have a 4+ FNP. Command squad sounds pretty tempting right now. Machine empathy remains the same, and now simply states that all Iron Hands vehicles have IWND and techmarines +1 to BotO rolls. So overall a slight boost.

Raven Guard:
Hmm, went from relatively powerful chapter tactics to slightly below par I'd say. Winged deliverance remains the same, but strike from the shadows no longer grants scout and stealth in the first turn. Now it simply grants shrouded in the first turn, but that applies to any non-vehicle units. (so no bulky restrictions any more) Also, you get to add +1 to the roll for night fighting, so have a 2/3 chance of gaining stealth anyway. So, on the plus side you go from having a +1 to a +2/3 cover save on the first turn, but the trade-off is losing the ability to scout. This is probably a better reflection on the Raven Guard fluff tbh but may mean you have an extra turn of vulnerability before being able to strike. Drop pods may counter this, but the other, wider problem is that you are limited on assault troops in the Gladius strike force and thus can't easily have both that and gain maximum benefit from their chapter tactics.

Black Templars:
Thankfully still involved and with some fairly big changes. Holy crusaders replaces crusaders, and is effectively the same, while omitting to mention about the Crusader squad being BT specific. (though obviously it still is due to the Chapter tactics on their unit entry) The lost Librarius retains the old fluff of not being able to take Librarians in BT armies, which was previously in the army list not Chapter tactics. Righteous zeal means that if you suffer a casualty to either shooting or overwatch, the unit gains both rage and counter-attack until the end of that turn. So good in either situation (charging or being charged) really and may even put enemies off shooting/overwatching you prior to combat. Alas, despite the positive changes, accept the challenge is now gone meaning no more re-rolls/rending for characters in challenges. A shame as I really liked that rule. Still, win some lose some.


Most things have stayed the same but a few have changed either in terms of rules or points. I'll mention those bits of wargear specific to single units in their entries but though it best to summarise key changes here:

Cerberus launcher - now S4 AP6
Icarus stormcannon array - several changes summarised under Stalker
Skyspear missile launcher - savant lock changed - see Hunter.
Thunderfire cannon - subterranean blast lost tremor, now strikedown.
Siege drill - now Sx2.
Armourium cherub - one use allows reroll to hit for one model in that unit.
Teleport homer - 5 points cheaper across the board.
Terminator combi-weapons - now 5 points.

Armour Indomitus - Lost relentless.
Burning blade - same
Primarch's wrath - same
Shield Eternal - same
Standard of the Emperor Ascendant - completely different - now only bearer has fear, and friendly models from that Chapter have +1 attack and fearless while in 12" of that model. 5 points cheaper.
Teeth of Terra - has concussive instead of strikedown.

Well that's it for the first part - I'll be posting more of the review every day this week so be sure to check back. Cheers.


  1. Looking forward to your next set of summaries Jimbo! Thanks for doing this!

    1. Hi Greg, my pleasure - always happy to talk space marines!

  2. Not got Codex yet so it's good to read a thorough review.
    Can't wait for part two.

    1. Hi TKH, Don't get me wrong it's still a great book, but whereas I thought the overall look of the Eldar one was an improvement over the 6E one, this one I'm not so sure about. Will post every evening this week so should give you a good idea of what its all about by the weekend.

  3. what do you think of this codex being completely inconsistent with the BA one that was released only six months ago? don't you find silly that Blood Angels have ws3bs3 scouts, dreads with half attacks, the same exact terminators as everyone else but more expensive, and NO grav weapons. isnt it like BA are playing a different games, or maybe BA are not astartes anymore.

    1. Hi HG,
      Oh, don't get me started! I've already written a chunk about it (won't be posted til Friday) but overall it's pretty frustrating they didn't get this new format nailed at the start of 7E - that way GK/SW/BA would all be up to scratch and next month so would DAs. Blood Angels, who are the closest to the codex marines, are especially bummed with dreadnoughts, vehicle squadrons, scouts, termies and vanguard weapons. I'd hope for an FAQ but they don't seem to be putting them out much lately. Really crappy.

    2. Could be worse. You could compare an 11 point scout to an 11 point ork shoots boy in avy armor.

    3. Could be worse. You could compare an 11 point scout to an 11 point ork shoots boy in avy armor.

  4. looking forward to read it then :)

  5. yeah greg you are right, but we are not comparing two different codexes here. eldar are way better in any respect than blood angels now, but i don't complain about it. what's really crap is that now we have two astartes codexes that are completely different in point cost and ability. it doesn't make any sense at all if you see what i mean.

    1. I hear you. I also remember when black templar players complained about the exact same thing. You saw what that resulted in....

      Be careful what you wish for. You'll get it.