Book Review: Codex: Space Marines

Cranky Old Gamer here once again with a book review from my good friend John, this time from the newest Games Workshop 40k Codex: Space Marines. Space Marines being pretty steady in the fluff and rules for years now and normally being a pretty midling powered army but with lots of model and backstory support, it’s interesting to see the new models come out, such as Centurions. With that, as well as being Games Workshop’s and 40k’s bread-and-butter army with loyal fans and grognards the world around, let’s see how the Emperor’s finest get the royal treatment for a 6th edition update to the rules for the boys in power armor.

So, better late then never, but here’s my review on the Space Marine codex.
I did not receive Warzone: Damnos yet (which I’m actually more excited
about then the Space Marine book) but am expected to on Friday.

I’ll start with my general thoughts, the discuss what’s
improved (most of these are price reductions), what’s gotten worse, what is
more of a sideways change, and the new stuff. In broad terms, I’m still
digesting the fluff, but this is I believe GW’s biggest codex, and there’s
a large amount of fluff in it, including specific info on all the first
founding chapters, plus the Black Templars. I don’t think the book changed
that much about how space marines play. The first broad change is the
introduction of Chapter Tactics. This is sort of a throwback to the older
Space Marine codex where you could choose benefits and detriments for your
army (and this was terribly max/min’ed by the playerbase). Now, you get a
series of traits based off your chosen chapter (or parent chapter in the
case of non-first founding armies), though this only applies to models with
“Chapter Tactics” unless specifically stated (Iron Hands get “It Will not
Die” on their vehicles, as an example). Your mileage will definitely vary
on this, I think White Scars have the strongest (all bikes get +1 jink
save, move through cover, all models get Hit & Run). The next major
change is the introduction of grav weapons. There’s a lot of internet
chatter on these, but I think outside of bike squads (grav weapons are
salvo so will put out a ton of shots in bike squads), Centurions (I’ll talk
more on these later) and possible on characters (looks really good to snipe
monstrous creatures before assaults, as grav weapons have concussive) I
don’t think, they’re particularly useful. Generally, you’ll have an
equivalent ‘to wound’ roll with Plasma, and Plasma can threaten light

For the improved units:

  • Legion of the Damned saw a significant cost reduction, special and heavy
    weapon cost reduction (in line with the rest of the army) and gained
    ignores cover. All of their other special rules are intact. They do
    not have Chapter Tactics, so won’t fit into every army but are vastly

  • Honour Guard saw a significant price reduction, and are now an extremely
    strong unit. The only drawback to this unit being that you have to take
    a Chapter Master to unlock.

  • Vanguard veterans saw a price reduction, a significant one for their
    jetpacks. They can still be very expensive with their options, so not
    sure if they’re useful (Personally, I’d rather field Honour Guard,
    though you don’t have to worry about a transport with the Vanguard
    Veterans). They also moved from Fast Attack to Elites, which is not
    good for me as my Elites are very crowded.

  • Scout bikers saw a point reduction. I believe you can also now include
    more grenade launchers in smaller units.

  • Bikes saw a point reduction. You can also include more special weapons
    in smaller squads (so you could field 3 man bike units with 2 grav guns,
    which look very annoying)

  • Land Raider Storms moved to being a dedicated transport to scout squads
    (which are still a troops choice). I like what they did with the
    Cerberus launcher, too (low Str, but gained blind). I might play with
    these as they look nice and disruptive.

  • Devastators and Assault marines so a slight point reduction (this might
    be limited to their gear, but I worked out my assault marine squad as
    currently equipped went down slightly in price).

  • Thunderfire cannon gained barrage, which is a huge improvement. I see
    these being fielded a lot now (and will likely pick some up).

  • Chapter Master picked up 1 wound and 1 attack, so is now a really strong
    HQ choice.

What got Worse:

  • Assault terminators now have a price cost to take TH/SS. This is a
    justified increase.

Sideways Change:

  • Space Marine Tactical Squads – Looks like they got cheaper, but once you
    include the options they run the same as the previous Codex. Having the
    improvements as options does mean you can leave out certain things to
    reduce the cost, plus you don’t need 10 men to field a heavy weapon, so
    probably improved.

I think most other things are pretty well unchanged. For the new goodies:

  • I’m not big on the two new anti aircraft tanks. I think Storm Talons
    are still the best anti aircraft in the Codex so doubt I will field
    either of these. If I want some ground based anti aircraft I will
    likely get the FW Hyperion platforms.

  • Centurions look like limited use. I like the idea of 6 assault
    Centurions in a Spartan (and might do this), but they are very
    vulnerable without an invulnerable save. The Devastator ones are
    extremely expensive if you get them a weapon upgrade. I don’t see these
    a “must have” which helps as I can ignore the terrible models.

  • The new relics are mostly bad, but there are a couple of cool standouts
    that can help make a neat character. There’s a Stormshield that gives
    Eternal Warrior and Adamantine Soul that is going to be seen on a lot of
    Chapter Masters.

The chapter tactics are a step in the right direction, but I think FW
implemented it much more strongly in the HH books. The problem I have with
the HH books is it seems like most of the units are extremely overcosted
and would be very non-competitive in a 40K environment.

One other sideways change that I missed. Sternguard went down in price,
but all of their combi weapons went up. So, people who use units with 10
combi weapons will see a significant point increase. I see it as a
positive as it will encourage use of their special ammo types, with a
sprinkling of combi weapons for flexibility rather then spamming them.

So, I did this from memory so apologies if I got anything wrong. Overall,
I think space marines remain troubled just because the game has changed,
and there’s so much more AP 2 and AP 3 weaponry then they’re used to be. I
don’t see where this Codex really changes any of that. I do think a lot of
players will be using other Chapter tactics then they’re own (it’s up there
with all marine players jumping on the Blood Angel/Space Wolf/Grey Knights
flavor of the month). And I think White Scar bike armies could be
extremely strong.

So ends Johns review – so what do you think – did Space Marines faire any better in 6th?

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