In an unprecedented move, Games Workshop has released a new Codex: Space Marines – and it’s the second book of the edition, after Codex: Tyranids a few weeks ago. Putting aside the fact that this few weeks’ delay is clearly a slap in the face to all of the loyal Space Marine players whose purchases prop up lesser factions, let’s take a look at what this new book contains.
We would like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy of the Codex.
The Space Marines are the Imperium’s warrior elite, genetically engineered to live lives of constant warfare. Their thousand Chapters are all independent fighting forces, and with decades of lore behind them the most famous ones are well-known for their distinct fighting styles. As you might expect, these form the basis for the detachments found in this book – though in a break from the past, these are no longer labeled as “Salamanders” or “Iron Hands” with the strong hint that you should be playing them if that’s how you painted your army, but instead are genericised and offered as a flexible range of alternatives for how your Space Marines might choose to fight. The book now represents Marines as flexible generalists, switching between styles depending on the situation – even if their lore suggests they prefer a particular approach if they can find a way to use it. As we covered in our review of Codex: Tyranids, this choice of detachments is the main thing that codexes offer now for changing up how your army plays – and so we’ll cover them in detail momentarily. First, though, let’s take a high-level view of what’s hot and what’s not in the new codex, starting with the good:
- New detachments: The new detachments are a big success, and each one is an interesting spin on playing Space Marines in different ways – list variety should massively increase, and there’s something here for every Marine faction and playstyle – including the divergent Chapters
- Primaris/Firstborn split mostly gone: There’s some specific hang-ups about who can get in Rhinos/Razorbacks and Impulsors still, but the character datasheets have all been unified
- Power level: Our initial read is that this is a book which will slot into the existing meta and hold its own without massively upsetting things, which is where we want a codex to be
And the not so good:
- Codex compliance might suffer a bit: The marketing is very keen to emphasize that the divergent Chapters are meant to be able to play with these rules, and as you can from our thoughts above we think that’s overall a good thing – but there’s some cases where doing that adds significantly more options than the baseline Codex allows, like adding Space Wolves units into the Stormlance Task Force. There’s a risk here that you simply get more than you otherwise would for very little cost, with few incentives to run an army out of just this book
- Legends: There’s a ton of clean-up of datasheets and culling of the excesses of the extensive model range, which is a good thing for reducing the clutter and duplication of units – but no matter how rational a particular unit being cut might be, it’s never a great feeling for people who already owned those models
- Points: Similarly to Tyranids, there’s a full set of points in this book – but some of them look wildly wrong compared to the most recent Munitorum Field Manual, and presumably the latter will overrule them, so it’s hard to get a gauge of how new units stack up until we see the ‘real’ points costs
Oath of Moment
The Space Marines’ army rule returns from the Index, with one important change – it now allows you to re-roll Hit rolls, but not Wound rolls. This is a significant downgrade, substantially reducing the rule’s power, though there’s some mitigations throughout the codex – some weapons are [TWIN-LINKED], some datasheets have a built-in Wound re-roll (or re-rolls) of their own, etc. We’ll talk more about these as we encounter them throughout the review.
Much like the Tyranids, the main rules changes in this book come from the addition of several new detachments for Space Marine players to utilize. These are broadly themed around what Chapters did in 8th and 9th edition, but are no longer explicitly locked to particular factions – instead they’ve been genericised, so that your Iron Hands can have a go at being sneaky, or your Ultramarines can go just as fast as White Scars. Your options are:
- Gladius Task Force: The Index (and, thematically, Ultramarines) detachment is largely unchanged, featuring the same Combat Doctrines, Enhancements (Bolter Discipline is now Fire Discipline), and Stratagems as before.
- Anvil Siege Force: The Imperial Fist derived detachment makes all weapons [HEAVY] and weapons that already have this trait gain +1 to wound when the unit Remained Stationary, and encourages you to sit still and unleash a hail of firepower.
- Ironstorm Spearhead: Inspired by the rich lore of the Iron Hands, which is so deep and thoughtful that we couldn’t even get a different noun, this detachment provides a re-roll for every unit, and the Enhancements and Stratagems are heavily focused on Techmarines and supporting Vehicle units.
- Firestorm Assault Force: The Salamanders detachment is surprisingly mobile, giving every ranged weapon [ASSAULT] and +1S when attacking within 12” while featuring Stratagems which provide a lot of flexibility to transports.
- Stormlance Task Force: White Scars players will be happy to charge after they Advanced or Fall Back, and there is a lot of support for MOUNTED units.
- Vanguard Spearhead: The sneaky detachment for Raven Guard are harder to hit beyond 12”, and feature a lot of sneaky options including the ability to sabotage objective markers.
- 1st Company Task Force: This detachment is aligned towards First Company units like Terminators, and provides a lot of interesting Stratagems while allowing the detachment to re-roll wounds against the Oath of Moment target once per battle.
Each detachment comes with a selection of Enhancements and Stratagems, plus a Detachment Rule. We’ll look at each in detail below, but it’s helpful to note at the start that in every detachment one of your six Stratagems is Armour of Contempt, which remains as in the index a 1 CP Battle Tactic, which allows you to select one of your units and reduce the AP of all incoming attacks by 1 for a phase.
Gladius Task Force
If you have played Space Marines in 10th Edition then you are likely already familiar with the core detachment from the Index. Just as strong as ever, the detachment allows players to pick one of three Combat Doctrines once per battle each for a benefit to their entire army: Devastator Doctrine, which allows units to shoot after Advancing; Tactical Doctrine to shoot and charge after Falling Back; or Assault Doctrine for the ability to Advance and charge. Combat Doctrines provide an army-wide level of flexibility that can provide a major advantage at a crucial moment in the battle. They also interact with some of the detachment’s stratagems, letting you lean even further into their theme for a single key unit.
The Enhancements are unchanged. You can boost a model with a 2+ Save and a 5+ Feel No Pain via Artificer Armour, boost a model’s melee proficiency with The Honour Vehement, allow a unit to be in the Tactical Doctrine courtesy of Adept of the Codex, or provide a massive increase to lethality through Fire Discipline (formerly Bolter Discipline). The latter of these is the main attraction here, Aggressors unleashing a withering hail of firepower thanks to the support of an Apothecary Biologis with Fire Discipline are a common sight in Gladius Task Force detachments, and for good reason.
Aside from Armour of Contempt, the other five Stratagems provide a variety of benefits, and a few of them get even better if you’re in the corresponding Doctrine. Honour the Chapter is a Battle Tactic that gives melee weapons the [LANCE] trait, and if your army’s in the Assault Doctrine they gain an extra point of AP. Storm of Fire, another Battle Tactic, allows ranged attacks to ignore cover and increases their AP in Devastator Doctrine. And Squad Tactics allows a unit to move D6” in the enemy’s Movement phase, or a flat 6” if you’re in Tactical Doctrine.
If you need a unit in a different doctrine, whether for the added mobility or to get the most out of one of these stratagems, Adaptive Strategy allows a unit to enter the Doctrine of their choice instead of the one the rest of your army’s in, even if you used it in a previous turn. The last stratagem, Only In Death Does Duty End, allows a destroyed model to fight back before they die in the Fight Phase.
Honour the Chapter and Storm of Fire are the main attractions here, as they offer solid benefits that only get better if you line them up with their matching Doctrine. But don’t sleep on Squad Tactics–even knock-off Phantasm can be pretty good in the right situation, and it gets closer to the real deal if you happen to be in Tactical Doctrine. Taken all together, the Gladius remains a strong option that encourages flexible, “take-all-comers” play, and we expect to continue to see a lot of it at events going forward.
Anvil Siege Force
The Gladius’s movement tricks with its Combat Doctrines are cool and all, but sometimes you just want to plant your feet, stand tall before your foe, and just start blasting. The Anvil Siege Force is tailor-made for those moments. Its detachment ability, Shield of the Imperium, gives all your units’ ranged weapons the Heavy ability. If a weapon already had that ability, then in addition to adding 1 to hit if it Remained Stationary, it adds 1 to wound as well. Several of the stratagems in this detachment offer other benefits to units that Remain Stationary, letting your force dish out some punishing firepower at the cost of not being able to move around the board. That said, the lack of mobility could be a killer: be careful that you don’t get behind in VP trying too hard to take advantage of the detachment’s rules.
The Siege Force’s enhancements come in two varieties: two of them improve your defensive capabilities, while the others help out on offense. On the defense side, Indomitable Fury goes on a Gravis model, and lets you roll a d6 the first time the bearer is destroyed. On a 2+ it not only stands right back up, but does so with all its wounds remaining. While there aren’t that many Gravis characters available, this enhancement is absolutely screaming to be slapped onto a Gravis Captain: his solid defensive profile combined with a datasheet ability that halves all incoming damage means that killing him once can be a challenge, let alone twice. Your other choice, Stoic Defender, can go on any character you bring, but is helpful to the whole squad: every model in the unit gains Feel No Pain 6+. In addition, battle-shock isn’t as effective against the unit, dropping its OC by half, rather than straight to 0. If you’re looking to add a little more durability to a squad you plan on holding a key objective with, look no further.
The more offense-oriented enhancements likely aren’t as powerful, but Fleet Commander is a re-imagining of Orbital Strikes from editions past, and hot damn is it cool. Once a game, you can pick a point on the battlefield at the start of your shooting phase. Put a marker down, and just leave it there. It doesn’t do anything right now, but make sure to point at it occasionally and taunt your opponent about it for maximum psychological impact. Then, at the start of your next shooting phase, you drop another token anywhere you want that’s within 12” of the center of the first one and draw a straight line between their centers. Any unit that the line passes over takes d3 mortal wounds on a 3+. While it’s not likely to result in a ton of mortal wounds, it’s almost certain to trigger on at least a handful of units, and it’s reasonably reliable when it does. It’s also aggressively priced at 15 points, so while it may not be the best enhancement available, it’s not going to break the bank to take it in a game against friends.
The last enhancement, Architect of War, gives a unit Ignore Cover. At 25 points, it’s on the pricier side, though it could be useful on the right unit, as it will frequently wash out to be equivalent to adding 1 AP to the unit’s ranged weapons with how cover works. Unfortunately, though, it just doesn’t really stand out from the pack given what your other choices bring to the table.
Rigid Discipline is a bit of an odd one at first glance, but could be useful in the right situation. Use it at the end of the fight phase to let a unit that’s engaged with an enemy unit fall back up to 6”, so long as you end up either within range of an objective or wholly within your deployment zone. And the fact that you’re falling back during your opponent’s turn means that not only is the enemy unit you left behind exposed to fire, but the unit you fell back with is now eligible to shoot. Neat!
The remaining stratagems are a bit more obvious in utility: Battle Drill Recall gives a unit Sustained Hits 1 in the shooting phase, and gives it Critical Hits on 5+ if it remained stationary. An excellent option on units like Desolators or tanks set up to cover long firing lanes. Hail of Vengeance lets a unit that lost at least one model fire back at the unit that shot it, letting you squeeze a bit more firepower out of a unit before your opponent finishes it off. No Threat Too Great lets a unit shooting at a monster or vehicle re-roll all wounds, and Not One Backwards Step doubles the OC of a unit on an objective, but forces it to remain stationary that turn.
The rules for this detachment create an interesting tension in most games, as most games using the Leviathan mission pack not only incentivise you to move forward and take objectives in No Man’s Land, they tend not to reward you for holding the objective in your own deployment zone. As a result, you’ll need to find a balance between moving units forward to play the mission and staying put to hose your opponents down with withering salvos of enhanced firepower.
Do you like tanks? How about Dreadnoughts? Of course you do. They’re incredibly cool, just like you. And so you’ll be wanting to take a look at the Ironstorm Spearhead, which is chock-full of enhancements and stratagems that let you get the most out of the biggest pieces available to you in the codex. But it’s not only for the vehicles: everyone gets to benefit from its detachment rule, Armoured Wrath, which gives every unit its choice of a single re-roll to hit, wound, or damage every phase. As ever, this effect is a welcome upgrade to your force’s reliability, and it meshes particularly well with units like the Gladiator Lancer and Ballistus Dreadnought that bring high damage, low shot-count firepower and can really squeeze the value out of every re-roll.
Unlike the other detachments, most of these enhancements don’t really do anything for the model you equip them on. Instead, they give your character (usually a Techmarine) an aura that buffs nearby vehicles. The standout, Target Augury Web, is pricey at 40 points, but gives all weapons on any vehicles within 6” of your Techmarine the Lethal Hits ability. The other Techmarine upgrade, Adept of the Omnissiah, lets you blank the incoming damage from a single failed save once per battle round, so long as the target is a friendly vehicle within 6” of the bearer. And if you want some more flexibility in moving your armor around the table, look no further than Master of Machine War, which lets any vehicle within 6” of the bearer shoot even if it advanced or fell back. As an added bonus, this last one can go on any character, so you can slap it on a Lieutenant with combi-weapon to keep it on a model that has Lone Operative even if he’s not standing next to a vehicle.
The last enhancement is the odd one out, but also one you’ll likely see fairly regularly. At 10 points, The Flesh is Weak is priced to move, and it gives the character of your choice the Feel No Pain 4+ ability. If you’ve got 10 points in your list, consider slamming this on a character you’d like to keep around a little longer after his Bodyguard gets nuked.
Most of the stratagems on offer here are focused around vehicles as well, though there’s a few tricks for other units in your army as well. When your vehicles start taking fire, the Power of the Machine Spirit lets a vehicle fire back at the unit that knocked it down to below half-strength. And if it’s destroyed, check out Vengeful Animus, which lets you automatically trigger its Deadly Demise ability without having to roll for it. And for your Dreadnoughts (well, units with the WALKER keyword, really), Ancient Fury ups their Move, Toughness Save, Ld, and OC by 1 for an entire battle round, and adds 1 to all hit rounds while it’s at it.
If your infantry’s feeling left out, never fear: the other three stratagems work just fine on them. Armour of Contempt is here, and it does what you expect. Unbowed Conviction helps out a friendly unit that’s below starting strength by letting it ignore any or all modifiers to characteristics, rolls, or tests, with the usual exception for saving throws. This is most obviously useful on vehicles that are bracketed, but it’ll also let units ignore the Death Guard’s new Skullsquirm Blight or shoot at targets benefitting from the Stealth rule without penalty. Mercy is Weakness, on the other hand, punishes wounded enemies by giving one of your units Sustained Hits 1 any time it attacks an enemy that’s below starting strength. And if the unit you chose to shoot with was a vehicle, all the better: it’ll find itself scoring Critical Hits on 5+. Pair this nasty little trick with Target Augury Web and watch the damage rack up.
Firestorm Assault Force
There are two types of 40k players in this world; those who want to methodically dismantle their enemies through plodding and thorough applications of force, and those of us that want to go fast and burn things. If you belong in the latter group, then this is the detachment for you. The Firestorm Assault Force is incredibly powerful–it’s certainly in the conversation for strongest detachment in the book. It provides extra mobility and close-ranged punch for your entire army by way of the Close-Range Eradication detachment rule, which grants Assault to all of your ranged weapons and an additional +1 strength to those weapons if your target is within 12”. So load up on your flamers and meltaguns: this ability, combined with a series of powerful stratagems meant to augment shorter ranged engagements and transports, really plays well into marine lists meant to outmaneuver opponents without giving up damage efficacy.
The Firestorm Assault Force enhancements are a mixed bag: they’re all generally useful, but aren’t the big selling point of the detachment. As this is the ‘Salamander’ aligned detachment, the enhancements here are meant to show off their penchant as artisans and don’t necessarily jive as much with what the rest of the detachment is doing. Champion of Humanity can only go on a Tacticus model, but provides the powerful bonus of allowing the unit they are leading to ignore any and all modifiers to their characteristics AND any roll or test made for them (excluding saves, as usual), and clocks in at a mere 10 points. War-Tempered Artifice can be a bit more lacklustre, giving an Infantry model +3 Str on all of its melee weapons. But it’s potentially useful for getting thunder hammers or power fists up to strength 11, potentially letting a Gravis Captain punch well above his weight, but it’s generally nothing awe-inspiring.
Adamantine Mantle goes the more defensive route, reducing all damage done to the selected character by 1, and in the case of Torrent and Melta weapons, changing the damage to 1 instead. This is particularly interesting on a Gravis Captain, since the datasheet ability would first halve the damage before this enhancement subtracts one, making them a pretty stalwart option to backstop a critical area. It should also be said that this can be placed on any Adeptus Astartes model, so nothing is stopping you from slapping it on a Talonmaster if you’re playing Dark Angels. Finally, Forged in Battle lets the bearer’s unit change a single Hit roll or Saving throw to a 6 after seeing the result every turn At 15 points this is a steal if you put it on the right squad.
This is where all of the fun is to be had. The Firestorm’s stratagems are absolutely wild and provide a lot of opportunity to make some great plays on the tabletop while still leaning into the idea of a hyper-mobile short-range assault force. Also of note is that 5 of the 6 stratagems here are Battle Tactics, so you can get a lot of flexibility by bringing a Captain or two. Really the only problem here will be balancing your CP usage.
First out of the gate–and the most straightforwardly powerful–is Crucible of Battle, a Battle Tactic stratagem that gives one of your units +1 to wound against the closest eligible target within 6” in either the shooting or fight phase. Simple and extremely effective, the fact this also works in melee really jazzes up the Aggressor blocks that had already become a staple in marine lists, but it’s just as nasty applied to anything else you plan on bringing.
If you enjoy transports (and let’s face it, everyone wants to run a Land Raider these days anyway), then this is the detachment for you: it gives you access to 3 stratagems that tee off having at least 1 of them in your list. Onslaught of Fire is a battle tactic that gives any model that hopped out of a transport this turn +1 to hit if they target the closest eligible target within 12”. If any models are destroyed by these attacks then you can select a unit one of those models was in to take a battle-shock test. A bit boring, and really the closest thing to a dud in the bunch. Burning Vengeance, on the other hand? Absolutely incredible when you get to use it. Another battle tactic, it allows you to have a unit disembark from a transport after an enemy unit has resolved its attacks against that transport, and it can then shoot at the enemy unit that had the gall to fire at their ride. Free movement on your opponent’s turn is always amazing, but free shooting in the bargain? Incredible. This can lead to some real game-defining scenarios if you play your cards right: it can flip objectives, force poor targeting choices, or even allow a unit of Hellblasters to fire 3 times in a round. And the Rapid Embarkation strategic ploy gives you yet another option for out-of-sequence movement: it allows an infantry unit within 6” of an empty transport at the end of either Fight phase to hop inside so long as they are not in engagement range of an enemy unit and did not already disembark from a vehicle this turn. And if the stars align, you could even combine this with Burning Vengeance to swap the contents of a friendly transport for a different unit when it’s not even your turn.
But if you thought that was good, we’ve saved the best for last. At 2 CP, Immolation Protocols is a battle tactic stratagem that you can base a chunk of your army around–if only for that one key play that potentially cripples your opponent. In your shooting phase, it gives all of a single unit’s Torrent weapons the Devastating Wounds ability. What’s more, there’s no cap on how many Devastating Wounds that unit can now push out. Handflamers, Flamestorm Gauntlets, Vulkan Hestan, you name it: they all gain a lot more power when you’re putting out 10-20 or more unsavable wounds in a turn through judicious use of this strat and Rites of Battle. Trust me, you’ll never feel more alive than when 10 Death Company roll a little hot and drag down an Armiger before they even get a chance to punch it.
Stormlance Task Force
If you gotta go fast, then you’ll be wanting the Stormlance Task Force. This is the White Scars-themed detachment, and its detachment rule, Lightning Assault, will be immediately familiar to returning players from 8th and 9th edition: you can Advance and charge, and you can Fall Back and charge. These two abilities are massively helpful for a melee-focused army, because it immediately gives you much higher threat ranges and much more flexibility once you do get stuck in. It’s good, clean fun and a straightforward buff to your army – surely nothing can put a damper on this?
Enhancements are where it all starts to go a bit sideways. Two of them, the Dragonforce-power-ballad-soundalike Fury of the Storm, and the distinctly Fenrisian-sounding Hunter’s Instincts, are only usable on models with the ‘mounted’ keyword. Unfortunately, there is precisely one mounted character in the codex: the Bike Chaplain. It’s not exactly a diverse range of choices for how you want to use these. But they’re both pretty good, to be fair. Fury gives your character +1 Strength and AP in melee, and increases that bonus to +2 if they Charged that turn, while Hunter’s Instincts allows you to treat the battle round as being one higher than it actually is for arriving from Strategic Reserves, though this is somewhat less exciting once you realize that what it’s really offering is the chance to get an Outrider Squad on the board a bit earlier than normal, when they could probably have gotten to about 9” away from an enemy just by starting on the table and Advancing.
Rounding out your choices here are Portents of Wisdom, which lets you re-roll Advance rolls for the bearer’s unit as long as he’s still leading one, and Feinting Withdrawal, which allows you to shoot when you Fall Back in addition to charging. Neither of these are locked to anything beyond Adeptus Astartes models, and they wind up being decent, if somewhat uninspiring picks.
Besides the ubiquitous Armour of Contempt, the Stormlance’s stratagem choices are all pretty solid, but there’s some significant restrictions that will impact your ability to use them. The least encumbered is Wind-Swift Evasion, which is thematically similar to Squad Tactics from the Gladius Task Force detachment. Unlike the Gladius version, though, this one can be used on any of your units, not just infantry, and you get to make a full Normal Move of up to 6” every time to boot. And if you want some more movement shenanigans, check out Full Throttle, which lets you pick a mounted or vehicle unit (but not a walker) and automatically Advance a set distance instead of having to roll: 6” for most stuff, but an impressive 9” for mounted units. This one is pricy – it’s 2CP, and it’s Wargear Stratagem so its cost can’t be modified – but it’s a huge jump in threat range in an army that can take that auto-Advance and then charge afterwards, especially when you consider that it lets an Outrider squad move 21” and still charge.
Blitzing Fusillade and Shock Assault up your damage output in different ways – Fusillade gives a unit’s ranged weapons the Assault ability, a trick that combos nicely with your detachment rule. As a bonus, it has the additional effect of giving those weapons Sustained Hits 1 if they already have Assault. On the other hand, Shock Assault helps you out once you’re ready to move into punching range, allowing a MOUNTED unit to re-roll Charge rolls and giving their melee weapons the Lance ability. This one won’t do much for an Outrider squad that already has a Chaplain attached, but it’s great for Ravenwing units or Thunderwolf Cavalry looking to dish out some extra pain on the charge.
Finally, Ride Hard, Ride Fast lets you choose a unit with the ‘mounted’ or ‘fly’ keywords and give any enemy shooting it a -1 penalty both to hit and wound – potentially very powerful, though again limited in its targets.
Here’s the thing – the entire list of mounted units in this codex is:
- Chaplain on Bike (the only character)
- Outrider Squad
- Invader ATV
That’s it, unless you’re playing in a format that allows Legends units. Obviously, these units benefit a lot from this detachment, and the rules on offer here that aren’t limited to mounted units are good for other stuff too. As a result, it’s not impossible to make a good or even great army with the detachment, but it’s a very thin list for half your detachment’s rules to be themed around. Even the sole White Scars model in the book (Kor’sarro Khan) is, famously, not on a bike of any kind.
There’s engines revving and wolves howling from over the hill, however, because you know what Chapters do have a ton of stuff that benefits from this? That’s right, it’s Dark Angels and Space Wolves. The Ravenwing don’t get as much out of the detachment as they might have in 9th edition, because their scattering of non-Epic Hero bike characters has been consolidated into the Ravenwing Command Squad, but that squad and the Ravenwing Black Knights get a lot of value out of the Stratagem suite. Meanwhile, Space Wolves do bring generic mountedcharacters, plus Thunderwolf Cavalry, newly cheaper and very much enamoured with being able to move a guaranteed 19” and charge – never mind Logan Grimnar, Harald Deathwolf, and Canis Wolfborn, all melee-focused models who like what the Stormlance offers.
The concern here isn’t that these are especially overpowered, but the oddness that the likely best way to play a detachment in this book is to use datasheets from a separate index (and later codex) which open up significantly more options for you at very little cost. It’s structurally a bit strange, and shows the cracks in GW’s modern policy of only making rules for models they manufacture a specific kit for – all this mounted stuff makes a lot of sense for representing the bike-heavy White Scars armies often emphasised in the lore, but very few units in the range are actually on bikes. And of the various character archetypes you expect from Space Marines, there’s only one existing kit that has one, and so they functionally don’t exist except in Legends. It’s certainly not the only detachment where you’d pay close attention to the possibility of running it with a divergent Chapter’s units, or against type, but it is the one where it’s most obvious that Plan A should be adding a fistful of datasheets from a different source.
In theory, this is the Raven Guard-like detachment, which you should pick if you like sneaky types like Scouts and the various types of Phobos Marines. Actually though, some of the beefier units in the codex gain a lot of benefit from this detachment. The core detachment bonus gives -1 to shooting against you and grants the benefit of cover if the enemy is outside of 12”. This is similar to Stealth but not actually Stealth, so the two effects can stack, though of course that would only matter if the enemy had a bonus to hit.
That’s not actually all that helpful for most Phobos units, though, as they tend to Infiltrate, Scout or Deep Strike and as a result end up pretty close to the enemy. Kayvaan Shrike prevents the enemy from firing at you at all when outside of 12”, so this bonus would never apply to the only Raven Guard model in the codex, or to the Phobos Librarian, who grants the same ability to his squad. On the other hand it’s really useful for long-range shooting units like Gladiator Lancers and Devastator Centurions and it makes Heavy Intercessors seriously hard to shift.
Enhancements and Stratagems lean back towards Scouts and Phobos marines, giving them various types of bonus movement shenanigans that are certain to be useful or annoying, depending on what side of the table you’re on. This detachment may end up having some play for Deathwatch using the Spectrus Kill Team, which is the most powerful unit you can use some of this stuff on.
I expect we’ll see some Vanguard armies do well in competition, particularly as Dark Angels and Space Wolves. These armies will tend to be mostly infantry, split between killy things like Terminators, Centurions, and Aggressors, with Phobos-armoured troops using various tricks to evade the enemy and snatch objectives. There are a lot of interesting things here and it’ll be really fun to see what players get up to.
These are very good. The really big news here is The Blade Driven Deep, which allows the bearer to Infiltrate along with a unit of infantry. This lets you have some big, scary units set up deep into midfield, ready to start causing your opponent all sorts of problems. You might infiltrate 10 Deathwing Knights with a couple of characters attached, or perhaps Logan Grimnar alongside a Battle Leader and ten of his besties in Terminator armour, for example. A generic captain might be best for this, so you can use free Battle Tactics on the unit.
The Ghostweave Cloak gives its bearer Stealth and Lone Operative. This might be a bit redundant as you’ve already got access to the excellent Lieutenant with combi-weapon if you want a Lone Operative, while the Leader abilities of any character you gave this to would be wasted. Characters with bikes or jump packs for some speed might be best. A cheap, fast, invisible Cyberwolf seems quite funny, but probably isn’t useful as it can’t claim objectives.
Execute and Redeploy is Phobos-only. It lets a character and his unit make a 6” normal move in the shooting phase after firing unless they’re already in engagement range, though it prevents them from charging afterwards. This is kind of nice, but Phobos units tend to be fielded at minimum size without attached characters, so it probably won’t see much play. It might work for a Deathwatch Spectrus Kill Team, perhaps with an attached Librarian.
Finally, Shadow War Veteran lets a Phobos model (such as the Lieutenant with Combi-weapon you’re taking anyway) Vect an enemy strat, which is great. Take this.
There’s a pretty good mixture of lethal and sneaky stuff here, as well as the old faithful Armour of Contempt. Other than that, all of these strats can only target infantry, so your tanks and dreadnoughts don’t get a lot more support here.
A Deadly Prize lets you sabotage an objective you control with an infantry or mounted unit for 1CP. Enemy units take D3 mortal wounds on a 2+ each time they end a normal, advance, charge or fall back move within 3” of the objective, until they control it at the start or end of a turn. In theory this could trigger multiple times for different units in different phases and do quite a lot of damage, particularly if you drop it on a hotly-contested central objective.
There are two “killy” Stratagems: Surgical Strikes and Strike from the Shadows, both of which are Battle Tactics with the word “strike” in the title. Surgical Strikes is for melee and gives your unit Precision for one fight phase for 2CP. This is obviously pretty scary on something like a big unit of terminators or aggressors and may help them to defeat enemy death stars by removing key buff characters. Watch out, Lychguard! Strike from the Shadows gives your unit +1BS, an extra -1AP on its shooting, and makes it force a Battle-shock test on one unit that loses a model from its shooting. It’s also very nice for big units of Aggressors and Terminators.
On the sneaky side, you have Calculated Feint and Guerilla Tactics, which are both Strategic Ploys. Calculated Feint lets a unit make a Normal Move of D6” when a charge is declared against them. Phobos units go 6”. The enemy is going to have to work harder to get charges against you, and this could combine nicely with A Deadly Prize, forcing people to take mortal wounds in the movement phase if they’re going to get close enough to charge you. Guerilla Tactics lets you put a single infantry unit (or two Phobos units) into strategic reserves if they are outside of 3” of the enemy at the end of the enemy fight phase.
1st Company Task Force
Sometimes, the 41st millennium vomits up a horror so terrifying and powerful that even the vaunted forces of the Space Marines have to commit their greatest heroes to take it down. The 1st Company Task Force detachment is meant to represent those veteran companies when they take to the field in force. Whether it’s the Warriors of Ultramar, the Salamanders’ Firedrakes, or even the Deathwing, these rules are written to make your battle-hardened veteran units even harder, and come with a whole suite of enhancements and stratagems that make your Terminators and various flavors of Something-Guard Veterans even deadlier.
The detachment rule, Extremis-Level Threat, is simple and straightforward: once per game, your army gets to re-roll wound rolls against its Oaths target. In other words, for one turn, you get to play with your Army Rule the way you’ve been doing it all along. It’s a nice little boost, particularly for the units that you’re likely to lean into here, as full wound rerolls go a long way to help these units in particular: while a lot of the weapons these units can equip have decent AP, their strength characteristics tend not to impress, so the wound re-rolls are helpful. It’s a solid effect that is especially helpful to the units this detachment is intended to benefit, and since it’s already been in play with the Index version of Oath of Moment, we can be fairly confident that including it here isn’t going to turn these lists into meta-stomping monsters all on its own, especially when it’s limited to a single battle round.
Ultimately, though, the value of this detachment is limited by the quality of the datasheets that it’s built to support. And unfortunately, none of the veteran datasheets are particularly amazing, particularly in turns when they aren’t benefiting from the detachment rule.
Each of the enhancements brings a solid effect to the model that you buy it for. Most of them increase characteristics: The Imperium’s Sword adds 1 to the attacks of all the bearer’s melee weapons, Rites of War improves a Terminator character’s OC by 1, and Iron Resolve gives the model Feel No Pain 5+. The last one, Fear Made Manifest, causes enemy units that fail a Battle-shock test within 6” of the bearer to lose a model.
On their own, none of these effects are that wild, but thankfully they each have a second ability: once per game, you can trigger a bonus effect that improves their effectiveness. For the three that improve the model’s characteristics, you can pass the bonus on to the entire squad the bearer is attached to. And for Fear Made Manifest, you can increase the number of destroyed models from 1 to d3.
It’s these benefits that make these enhancements worth considering. Rites, when combined with an Ancient, can easily let one of your Terminator squads flip a crucial objective, either scoring points your opponent didn’t expect or denying some VP they desperately needed. The Imperium’s Sword can dramatically increase the melee damage output of a key squad right when you need it. And giving an entire squad a 5+++ right when they need it most could be a huge increase to their survivability.
That said, none of them are showstoppers, so you won’t be picking this detachment just for an enhancement. A few of them are reasonably priced, though, so if you find yourself with some points left over, you might as well.
The stratagems here are kind of a mixed bag: with the exception of Armour of Contempt, they’re all limited to the veteran units the detachment is themed around, and are fairly situational. The most obviously useful one is Duty and Honour, which lets you keep control of an objective even after you leave it, so long as you have a veteran unit on it when you use the stratagem. Heroes of the Chapter is nice as well, giving a veteran unit of your choice +1 to hit. If the unit’s below half-strength, it picks up +1 to wound in the bargain as well, helping get some last-ditch damage out of a wounded unit. You’ll likely also get use out of Orbital Teleportarium to put one of your Terminator units into strategic reserves at the end of your opponent’s fight phase, a trick that could be very handy in a pinch.
From there, things get a bit sketchy. Terrifying Proficiency requires one of your veteran units to not only kill an enemy in melee, but to do it in the same turn it charged, and in exchange forces all other enemies within 6” to take a battle-shock test. Paired with the Fear Made Manifest enhancement, this has a decent chance of forcing a few mortals in your opponent’s army, but requires some setup and still isn’t a sure thing. Legendary Fortitude reduces incoming damage by 1, but only works in your opponent’s fight phase on a veteran unit that was charged.
Let’s start by ripping off the band-aid – there’s quite a few datasheets that have been removed between the index and this codex. Games Workshop already announced the majority of these – units like Attack Bikes, Assault Marines, and the Thunderfire Cannon are gone. There are also a couple surprises – the Relic Terminator and Contemptor Dreadnought datasheets are also removed, seemingly because these are Horus Heresy kits now, and support for these in Warhammer 40,000 has been severely curtailed in this edition.
The other major change is that the distinction between Primaris and Firstborn has been greatly minimized – Primaris datasheets now have the “Tacticus” keyword and that’s all that differentiates them from their Firstborn brethren (the limitation on Rhino and Impulsor transports remains in place, much to this author’s disappointment). To this effect, we’ve also seen a flattening of the leader datasheets – there are now just Armour-based variants of most of the datasheets. As an example, for Captains, players can now choose between: Captain, Captain with Jump Pack, Captain in Phobos Armour, Captain in Gravis Armour, and Captain in Terminator Armour. There are no more Primaris characters present, they have been folded in with the Firstborn variant into a single datasheet.
Despite all of this, the codex still boasts the highest number of datasheets of any army – 80 core datasheets that any Space Marine army can use and 13 named characters for the various codex-compliant chapters.
There are two new datasheets in this Codex that were not present in the Index:
- Assault Intercessors with Jump Packs
- Company Heroes
The Assault Intercessors with Jump Packs are practically a 1:1 replacement for the Assault Squad with Jump Pack datasheet, with a few very small tweaks. Their Hammer of Wrath ability has been tweaked to only trigger for every model in the unit in engagement range with the target unit rather than for every model in the unit. Their wargear has also been limited to the options available in the kit – the Assault Intercessor Sergeant has the option to choose either a power weapon or power fist over his default Astartes chainsword, and there are a handful of pistol options available to him and one squad-mate per five.
As mentioned earlier in the article, the actual point costs for this and other units may change from the codex value (the codex has a similar note to the Tyranids codex about using the most up to date points available from Warhammer Community). That being said, the current price point of 90pts for 5 models is very attractive for a highly mobile unit.
The Company Heroes represents a modern take on the old Command Squad. Made up of one Ancient (which gives the unit +1 OC while present), one Company Champion, and two Company Veterans, it’s an honour guard for a Captain or Chapter Master. The unit’s Company Heroes rule makes it such that they must start the battle attached to a Captain or Chapter Master. They do then benefit from the Command Squad rule which subtracts 1 from all Wound rolls while they are being led by a character model.
This is an interesting unit – it’s fairly durable with the Command Squad rule, but it’s also not very flexible as you have to bring a Captain or Chapter Master alongside and the unit cannot then attach to other units (unlike the Court of the Archon for Drukhari). The unit also lacks the Apothecary present in the previous incarnation of the Command Squad unit, meaning that you cannot return models to the unit. The unit’s wargear itself is inflexible, but representative of the elites of the Space Marines, with each non-Ancient member carrying a Master-crafted weapon of some sort. Of note is the Company Champion’s Master-crafted power weapon which boasts 6 attacks at Strength 5 AP-2 and Damage 2 with the [PRECISION] special rule. In the codex it is priced fairly appropriately at 95 points for the 4 models of 4 wounds each. The squad is cool, and it does everything it’s meant to do fine, but it’s hard to evaluate – the most likely scenario is that it doesn’t do quite enough compared to other options, especially since you must attach a Captain or Chapter Master, but if you just think the models are awesome it probably won’t let you down so much you wish you didn’t run it.
The biggest set of changes in this Codex are to leaders – in line with the flattening of the Captain/Lieutenant/Chaplain/etc datasheets, they’ve added the Firstborn units to many of these leader’s options. Devastators can now be led by Chief Librarian Tigurius, a Tactical Squad can chill with Kor’sarro Khan, and so on. Desolation Squads also boast two new leaders: Techmarines and Chief Librarian Tigurius!
There are a handful of datasheet changes present in this codex, with the most notable listed below:
- The Lieutenant with Combi-weapon’s Priority Objective Identified ability has been upgraded – previously units had to be within 6” of this model to benefit from the Wound rerolls, now the model merely needs to be on the battlefield. This is a big upgrade in light of the changes to Oath of Moment, giving flat rerolls of wound rolls of 1 army-wide against anything on a central objective is huge. The model still has Lone Operative, making him a good value in the first place.
- Sternguard Veterans lost Bolter Drill (which previously allowed them to shoot twice once per game if they killed their first target). This has been replaced with Sternguard Focus, which gives the unit reroll wound rolls of 1 against the Oath of Moment target. Sternguard have also gained the new Pyrecannon, a 12” range Strength 6 AP-1 D1 Torrent weapon with Ignores Cover and d6+1 shots. Their Sergeant has also learned how to wield melee weapons in the form of an Astartes chainsword, power weapon, or power fist. The impact of wargear changes on Sternguard is fairly minimal – a bigger impact is felt in the exchange of Bolter Drill for Sternguard Focus. This gives the unit more reliable output into the Oath of Moment target, but reduces the burst damage potential from the unit at the same time.
- The Storm Speeder Hailstrike’s Hailstrike ability (which gives +1AP to one target that was hit by its ranged weapons) now excludes Monsters & Vehicles. Big hit to the ability to stack abilities on a unit (Storm of Fire and Hailstrike previously providing +2AP against the Hailstrike’s target), and further lessening the damage spikes that some army builds could put out against big targets.
- Tactical Squads have received a bit of a rework – they keep their plethora of weapon options and gain further flexibility by replacing their Tactical Flexibility ability (which allowed them to fall back, shoot, and charge) with Combat Squads which allows the unit to split into 2 5-model units at the start of the Declare Battle Formations step of the battle. Giving actual tactical flexibility to Tactical Squads might make them more viable, as 5 bodies is only 80pts in the current Munitorum Field Manual.
- Terminator squads saw a change to their Fury of the First ability – they now merely get +1 to hit the Oath of Moment target and no longer ignore modifiers to their hit and wound rolls against the Oath of Moment target. Quite the big hit to terminator squads – especially against any sort of wound modifier as before they could power through these with the old Oath of Moment. The Terminator Sergeant now has the capacity to take a power fist instead of his power weapon.
- Everyone’s favourite unit the Aggressor got an upgrade as well – their power fist was replaced with a twin power fist, kept the [TWIN-LINKED] keyword, but also increased their Weapon Skill to 3+ from 4+. Nice little buff to an already staple unit in the index.
- Scout Squads are now just one datasheet, with a single guy per 5 able to take a sniper rifle and the Sergeant’s sole melee weapon being a chainsword.
Otherwise, it’s pretty minimal in terms of changes to the units – this is a book that’s much more about the new ways the detachments let you use your datasheets than updating the datasheets themselves.
New Ways to Use Units
We’ve talked a lot about bolter Aggressors in the past, but the flamer versions get a huge boost out of the Firestorm Assault Force – flamestorm gauntlets are a perfect profile for Immolation Protocols. Similarly, the Infernus Squad looks much more attractive in a detachment which really favours its core weapon.
We’ve mentioned the Lieutenant with Combi-Weapon in the datasheet changes above, and his new datasheet combined with the nerf to Oath of Moment means he’s much more likely to see the table than he was before. His ability is better and easier to use, and so you get that plus a cheap Lone Operative who no longer has to risk himself by trying to keep up with whatever he’s buffing.
Elsewhere, a possible surprise winner are the Centurion Assault Squad, who are much more reliably fleet of foot in the Stormlance Task Force and who come with entirely twin-linked weaponry, which means the Oaths change has no impact on them. In general, the nerf to Oath means that units that get rerolls to wound are now more attractive. You can find twin-linked weapons on Aggressors, Centurions, Land Raiders and Brutalis Dreadnoughts, for example. Gladiator Lancers and Eradicators get in-built rerolls too.
Both the Ironstorm Spearhead and Firestorm Assault Force encourage transports, and the Impulsor in particular – thanks to Firing Deck 6 an Impulsor can offer a lot of shooting, and mechanically it’s the vehicle which shoots, which has huge potential upside for using Mercy is Weakness or Power of the Machine Spirit. Meanwhile, the Firestorm Assault Force really wants you to be jumping guys in and out of your metal boxes, and getting mad about it if the box is destroyed – though that latter use case is also potentially great for a Repulsor or Land Raider carting a bigger squad around. We also like the look of the Gladiator Valiant in Firestorm, and perhaps the Brutalis Dreadnought too. Both gain a lot from being able to advance and fire, and from weapons going from S9 up to S10.
It’s sometimes worth looking for counter-intuitive combinations of units and detachments. For example Eliminators, whose guns are Heavy, will often get +1 to wound if they are in an Anvil Siege Force. Their ability to infiltrate should help put them somewhere they don’t need to move before shooting, meaning they get the bonus more often than conventional troops.
Outside of this codex, there’s also some new leases of life for Death Company and Sanguinary Guard, who both like what the Firestorm Assault Force has to offer, while the Ravenwing bits of Dark Angels and the wolf-riding bits of Space Wolves love what the Stormlance Task Force can do for them. Thunderwolf Cavalry casually moving 20 inches and still charging is definitely a thing, though even with access to the Lance special rule they can end up being a bit of a wet noodle in some match-ups.
How They Will Play
The nice thing about this section is that it’s legitimately difficult to write – each detachment encourages very different playstyles and unit choices which should mean we see quite diverse lists coming out of the book. If you’re enjoying how Marines play in the index, then we don’t expect armies built from the Gladius Task Force to look especially different to how they do now – although the big caveat there is the impact of the Oaths changes, which may see units lacking TWIN-LINKED or other native re-rolls fall out of favour. If you have other plans for your Space Marines, though, you have a wealth of options available now. We think the most effective ones are likely to end up being the Firestorm Assault Force or Ironstorm Spearhead, dependent on whether you’re looking for an infantry and transports-based army or a vehicles and Dreadnoughts-based one, but there’s play in pretty much everything here with the possible exception of the 1st Company Task Force, which isn’t terrible, but doesn’t feel like it has quite the same oomph as the others.
The other question we’ve been asking ourselves is “how does this compare to Codex: Tyranids?” In our view – pretty well. Similar to that book, it feels like this one adds a bunch of interesting new options without making any one thing crazy. This was what we hoped 10th edition codexes would be about, and the two we have so far both seem to have hit the mark. Let’s hope that trend continues.
There’s viable lists for pretty much every detachment, but putting them all in here is a bit beyond the scope of this review article. You can check out a couple of our initial favourite ideas below:
++ Falcon's Through the Fire and the Flames - Salamanders Firestorm Assault Force - Click to Expand ++ Through the Fire and the Flames Army Space Marines Salamanders Firestorm Assault Force Strike Force (2000 Points) Characters Apothecary Biologis (70 Points) Captain in Gravis Armour (80 Points) Captain with Jump Pack (105 Points) Lieutenant with Combi-Weapon (70 Points) Vulkan He’stan (80 Points) Other Datasheets Aggressor Squad (200 Points) Eradicator Squad (190 Points) Inceptor Squad (115 Points) Inceptor Squad (115 Points) Inceptor Squad (115 Points) Infernus Squad (85 Points) Infiltrator Squad (100 Points) Land Raider Redeemer (260 Points) Vanguard Veteran Squad with Jump Packs (210 Points) Repulsor
Through the Fire and the Flames
Firestorm Assault Force
Strike Force (2000 Points)
Apothecary Biologis (70 Points)
Captain in Gravis Armour (80 Points)
Captain with Jump Pack (105 Points)
Lieutenant with Combi-Weapon (70 Points)
Vulkan He’stan (80 Points)
Aggressor Squad (200 Points)
Eradicator Squad (190 Points)
Inceptor Squad (115 Points)
Inceptor Squad (115 Points)
Inceptor Squad (115 Points)
Infernus Squad (85 Points)
Infiltrator Squad (100 Points)
Land Raider Redeemer (260 Points)
Vanguard Veteran Squad with Jump Packs (210 Points)
This list is all about making the most of the Firestorm Assault Force’s excellent stratagems, and the big boon of the assault special rule while also mitigating the change to Oaths of Moment as much as possible. Flamestorm Aggressors and Inceptors come in hot (GET IT?) with twin-linked slapped onto their weapons, Eradicators gain full rerolls into their most important targets, the Lieutenant gives wound rerolls around particular objectives and Vulkan makes sure his Infernus bodyguard, the Redeemer and the Vanguard Vets all get their own pseudo Oaths every turn.
Vulkan and the Infernus get to ride in the Repulsor to take midboard objectives and gain angles on key targets for his Forgefather and Seeker of the Unfound special rules, the Aggressors bring the Grav Captain along in the Redeemer to ensure they can make the most on doubling up on important stratagems, and the Biologis joins the Eradicators to guarantee at least 1 of their shots gets through in a pinch with the Forged in Battle enhancement.
My favorite aspect of the list is the Vanguard Vets with hand flamers. I will not lie, I have been running a slightly different variation of this list as Blood Angels with Death Company in this same role and the unit and its combo potential has been absolute fire, and having a Librarian Dreadnought instead of the Repulsor to toss your Eradicators and other units up field opens up a whole slew of other positioning tricks to your arsenal. While you lose the close combat punch of the DC by going with Salamanders, the gains you make by hitting a unit targeted by Vulkan lets them drag down targets well above their weight. As mentioned before, the first time your lowly hand flamers bring down your opponent’s big bad with a judicious application of Immolation Protocols (and Crucible of Battle if you need to make it count) it will be hard to go back to anything else.
HenryC's Wait, can you do that? Space Wolves Vanguard Spearhead Wait, can you do that? Army Space Marines Space Wolves Vanguard Spearhead Strike Force (1990 Points) Characters Logan Grimnar (100 Points) Wolf Guard Battle Leader in Terminator Armour (100 Points) Lieutenant with Combi-Weapon (100 Points) Lieutenant in Phobos Armour (60) Other Datasheets Centurion Devastator Squad (350 Points) Eradicator Squad (190 Points) Repulsor (190 Points) Gladiator Lancer (160 Points) Gladiator Lancer (160 Points) Infiltrator Squad (100 Points) Hounds of Morkai (90 Points) Wolf Guard Terminators (390 Points)
Wait, can you do that?
Strike Force (1990 Points)
Logan Grimnar (100 Points)
Wolf Guard Battle Leader in Terminator Armour (100 Points)
Lieutenant with Combi-Weapon (100 Points)
Lieutenant in Phobos Armour (60)
Centurion Devastator Squad (350 Points)
Eradicator Squad (190 Points)
Repulsor (190 Points)
Gladiator Lancer (160 Points)
Gladiator Lancer (160 Points)
Infiltrator Squad (100 Points)
Hounds of Morkai (90 Points)
Wolf Guard Terminators (390 Points)
The “plan” here is to have a great big death star of Terminators infiltrate and start smashing things up, hopefully allowing the rest of my army to take control of the midfield and shoot things dead in the meantime. I’ve gone for Logan Grimnar with Wolf Guard as I like the mixture of weapons you can have, Logan’s potential ability to get CPs back and the Battle Leader giving them all Lethal Hits, but there are certainly good alternatives. You could definitely do the same thing with Deathwing Knights, with Lysander or with a generic Terminator Character.
Meanwhile the rest of my army is a mixture of the kinds of sneaky stuff you’d expect to find in a Vanguard list and some very beefy shooting units. The Grav Centurions will enjoy using Strike from the Shadows, the Phobos guys will generally be a nuisance, using the strats to try and stay out of trouble.
The Eradicators in their Repulsor and the two Lancers are just good. It’s quite nice to effectively have the smokescreen strat on them all the time but otherwise they don’t particularly benefit from the Vanguard Spearhead Detachment. They’re units I expect to see in all sorts of Marine lists because they’re great at what they do.
It is really appealing to see what appears to be a well-rounded codex coming out of the gates. The myriad different marine identities feel pretty well captured in the detachments here without going overboard one way or the other in power level. It can be difficult to encapsulate the feel of an elite jack of all trades army without making them too efficient (see 8th ed Marines 2.0 or just about every Codex/Index: Aeldari ever) and yet at first glance it looks like we have it here. Also? Some of these lists are genuinely fun to play, and the disparate detachment options without an explicit link to a particular chapter really opens up list design. This doesn’t look like a book that is going to kick down the door of the meta and leave us sobbing for some bygone days, but it has definitely got some teeth.
As ever, if you have any comments, questions, or feedback, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with us at email@example.com.