Codex Space Marines – The Goonhammer Review, Part 3 (Stratagems, Warlord Traits, and Tactics)

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Part 1 (Army Traits)

Part 2 (Units)

Welcome back to everyone who’s been running this marathon with us. If you’ve only just joined us, this is the third part of our bumper four-part review of the new Codex: Space Marines, where today we’re going to be closing out the codex itself covering Stratagems, Traits and Relics. If you’ve missed out on the previous parts, you can use the links above to go back to them, otherwise read on!

 

Stratagems, Traits and Relics

Stratagems

By now everyone should know that the stratagem pages of a Codex can make or break an 8th edition army. They’re one of our absolute favourite parts of the game, and one of the saddest things about the original Marine book was how dry or situational they were, especially compared to the creativity shown in later books. Luckily, even before we get into the Chapter-specific stratagems next week, the new list is vastly more exciting than it used to be, including a few returning favourites (i.e. “the only ones that were good before”), some new spicy numbers, and a merge of some of the stratagems from Vigilus Defiant, no longer locked behind CP expenditure for a Specialist Detachment.

So let’s dive in and see what we’ve got:

  • Armour of Contempt – 1CP (unchanged): This gives a vehicle a 5+ FNP against mortal wounds for the duration of a phase (and can be activated in response to taking one). It’s always been a “nice to have”, but vehicles in general get a lot better in the new book, so we expect to see this come out a lot more. It’s especially good on the Invictor Warsuit, as it being up in your opponent’s face early on makes it more likely to start catching Smites. Don’t forget that you can use it in other phases though, which can be very relevant against Drukhari or Harlequins packing haywire.
  • Chapter Master – 2CP (discounted, improved): As long as you don’t already have a Chapter Master in your army (i.e. one of the named characters), upgrade a CAPTAIN to one. He gets a “you may re-roll hit rolls” aura instead of his re-roll 1s. This is absolutely phenomenal – it was already great at 3CP, but is now a point cheaper and gets the new re-roll wording, which makes your buffed units substantially better against anything packing hit modifiers. Realistically, any sort of gunline or moving castle always wants this effect, and will get it either here or from an NC.
Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Sword

Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Sword. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Auspex Scan – 2CP (unchanged): An INFANTRY unit can shoot at a unit arriving on the table within 12″ at -1 penalty to hit. This has always been great with Aggressors or Centurions. And it still is, but bolt carbine Intercessors are another powerful new entry on the list of suitable users thanks to the extra shot they get. Also worth noting that Aggressors appear to always get to double shoot with this, even if they moved in your last turn, thanks to the new wording on their abilities.
  • Death to Traitors – 1CP (unchanged): Use when a unit fights a HERETIC ASTARTES unit in the Fight phase. Get an additional attack for each unmodified 6. Obviously better than it used to be because everything has more attacks, and a nice buff when it comes up. Theoretically good against Lords Discordant in the current meta, but being in melee with them is maaaaaybe not what you want. Wings Note: Oh god I just realised the Warhammer Community patch gave those things an extra attack each. Whyyyyy.
  • Suppression Fire – 2CP (new): A stationary WHIRLWIND or THUNDERFIRE CANNON can shoot an additional time. This is a great buff to both those units – the Thunderfire Cannon has hovered on the edge of being competitive for ages, and this should push it over the top (especially as the Tremor Shells stratagem will apply to both shots). Where this is completely wild (and in need of an FAQ) is with the Forge World Whirlwind Scorpius. This has a special rule where it gets to fire twice if it stands still, and on dense boards the fact that it fires 6D3 D2 no-LOS missiles made it a potent glass cannon already. Adding another 3D3 to that would be great, another 6D3 completely absurd. This might get a similar nerf to the Chaos HELLBRUTE shoot twice stratagem (which was errataed to not work with Hellforged units), so maybe wait a few weeks before buying your fancy resin Whirlwind, but if the interaction is allowed to stay it’s exceptionally good.
  • Honour the Chapter – 3CP (improved): An Adeptus Astartes unit can fight again at the end of the phase. Has always been great. Used to only work for INFANTRY and BIKERS. Now works for everyone (i.e. Dreadnoughts and Guilliman). Even greater!
Ultramarines 4th Company Primaris Lieutenant

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • Only in Death Does Duty End – 2CP (unchanged): A character can fight or shoot when they die. Always useful. Still useful.
  • Duty Eternal – 1CP (new): Use when a Dreadnought is targeted. Half damage on them until the end of the phase. This is fantastic even with just the codex Dreads, but is ludicrous with the various Forge World flavours. This is such a good defensive strat that pretty much every Marine list should probably be packing at least one good Dreadnought, as even a vanilla Vendread is a pain to shift with this on. Combined with a Leviathan or a Relic Contemptor this is just dumb, and expect that combo to be a meta boogeyman for a while (unless a Hellforged-like nerf is applied).
    TheChirurgeon’s Note: I expect this to lead to some truly insane Iron Hands Dreadnought armies.
  • Flakk Missile – 1CP (unchanged): An infantry squad using a missile launcher can shoot a special missile that does D3 mortals to a FLY unit. Fine if you happen to have a Devastator squad. They’ve also finally updated the wording to make it super clear that the attack sequence ends when you do so. Hurray for rules hygeine!
  • Cluster Mines – 1CP (unchanged): Scout Bikes can drop some mortals when they fall back. Scout Bikes are pretty good, and it’s worth remembering this exists if they get tagged, but it’s hardly a build around.
  • Veteran Intercessors – 1/2CP (Vigilus): Migrated from Vigilus. Pay 1CP for a 5-model squad or 2CP for more to give an Intercessor unit +1A and +1LD. Used to be modestly exciting but is a lot less so, as it used to unlock a stratagem for each gun type. Now, all Intercessors can just use those anyway, which relegates this to a cool thing if you have a squad with a power fist or thunder hammer Sergeant that’s going out roving in an Impulsor.
Imperial Fists Primaris Intercessors

Imperial Fists Primaris Intercessors. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Hellfire Shells – 1CP (unchanged) : INFANTRY Heavy Bolter swaps to a single shot that does D3 mortals. Also fine if you have a Devastator squad.
  • Boltstorm – 2CP (Vigilus, changed): Auto bolt rifles auto-hit within half range. An odd one. No longer gated behind Veteran Intercessors, and auto bolt rifles got better, but 2CP is a lot for this – Marines are great at hitting things, and now that Chapter Masters get “good” re-rolls this is just not going to be adding 2CP’s worth of “oopmh” most of the time.
  • Hunter Slayer Missile – 1CP (new): Once per game per REPULSOR (which includes the Executioner) you can shoot a D3 mortal wound-causing missile at a VEHICLE or MONSTER. Good clean fun – use it before they pop your tanks.
  • Gravitic Amplification – 1CP (new): A unit can re-roll wound and damage rolls with grav weapons for an attack. This forces us to ask an awkward question – is grav good now? Unfortunately, while this is a heck of a boost it’s still going to be mostly carried around by non-Primaris infantry, which dooms it to being something of a glass cannon. In the end, it probably doesn’t make it – what you want to do with this is deep strike a powerful grav unit and go hog wild, but regular grav has the curse of being Rapid Fire with 18″ range, and heavy grav is expensive and will come with hit/move penalties. If you still have a bunch of grav weapons hanging around from editions where they were good, this at least lets you get a lot more out of them again.
  • Masterful Marksmanship – 1CP (unchanged): Boost the wounds of Sternguard special issue bolters. Good at the point you have them around, and the improvements to Drop Pods make that more likely, but still not super relevant.
  • Rapid Fire – 2CP (Vigilus, changed): Make a unit of bolt rifle Intercessors Rapid Fire 2 for a shooting phase. Similar to Boltstorm, no longer gated behind Veteran Intercessors, but more expensive. In this case it’s a lot more interesting. Boltstorm doesn’t really “add” much – in a Chapter Master bubble, Marines get 90% hits anyway, so auto-hitting isn’t a massive deal a lot of the time – it’s an 11% increase. This, on the other hand, doubles the output of an Intercessor unit for a turn, which if you’re in one of the aforementioned bubbles is a shed-load of dakka, liable to blow hordes clean away. The existence of this makes a unit of ten bolt rifle Intercessors at least an interesting thought exercise to look at, as especially under Tactical Doctrine it cannot be overstated just how much firepower this is against pretty much anything with <T8.
    TheChirurgeon’s Note: It’s still not clear how the new books interact with Vigilus Defiant, and if those Specialist Detachments are still valid. Something to watch out for in the future. 
  • Orbital Bombardment – 3CP (unchanged): Once per battle your warlord can call in an orbital strike, doing MWs on a 4+ (or 5+ for characters) within a random radius of a point you pick. Has historically not been reliable enough to be worth this many CP, and that’s probably even more true now, but could be funny against castle armies combined with launching one from an Impulsor.
  • Target Sighted – 3CP (Vigilus, changed): The final ex-Veteran intercessor stratagem. This lets you fire stalker bolt rifles at a character, and do MWs on 6s to wound. This is potentially very handy now just because stalker bolt rifles got a tonne better (picking up D2) – this now lets even a small Intercessor squad threaten to punk a lot of characters. A useful tool to have in your arsenal, and probably enough to make a unit of 5 stalker rifle models worth testing.
  • Relics of the Chapter – 1CP (changed): Take an extra relic. Notable because it’s different than it’s ever been before – it’s now 1CP per relic with no cap, rather than 1/3CP for one or two max as it was before. Arguably a much-needed change, as it stops soup armies getting to dip into multiple relic pools cheaper than mono-faction armies, something Wings has been arguing for a while. Means we need to pay much more attention to the relic page when we get to it, rather than just identifying the three best and writing the rest off! Also generally very good for buffing up characters with the “Master Crafted” relic, which seems to be a constant for the supplements, and just boosts a weapon’s damage by 1. This is super great on a Gravis Captain’s boltstorm gauntlet.
Crimson Fists Captain in Gravis armour

Crimson Fists Captain in Gravis armour by Corrode

  • Tremor Shells – 1CP (unchanged): a Thunderfire Cannon fires a special shot that slows stuff (that isn’t TITANIC or FLY) down. Has always been occasionally game breaking, and given Thunderfires just got way better is a useful thing to have around, especially as it applies on both shots when you double tap. 3CP to combine them is a lot, but there are situations where it will be flatly game winning to do so (imagine slowing two Lords Discordant to a crawl).
  • Hammer of Wrath – 1CP (new): Use when a jump pack unit from your army finishes a charge. Roll a D6 for each model within 1″ of an enemy unit and do a mortal on 5+. This is cute, but at high levels of play when you’re making charge moves with expensive jump pack infantry it’s extremely unlikely that all (or even most) of them are within an inch at the end of the charge, as that heavily reduces your scope for pile in shenanigans. Cool, but sadly betrays that there’s still an occasional disconnect between how it feels like the game should play and what 8th edition actually encourages.
  • Big Guns Never Tire – 1CP (new): A VEHICLE can move and shoot heavy weapons with no penalty. Yes please – this is fantastic and a major contributor to the general tune up that it feels like Astartes vehicles get with this release. Also hilarious with a storm cannon Leviathan.
  • Fury of the First – 1CP (new): Add 1 to hit for a TERMINATOR unit for a phase. This does let any Terminator unit that’s hit melee connect like an absolute truck, offsetting their hit penalties from fists or thunder hammers. However, Terminators probably needed a bit more to start being good, and the lack of the extreme customisation that Chaos ones get probably keeps this off the top tables.
Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad

Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Wisdom of the Ancients – 1CP (unchanged): A Dreadnought can become a Captain for a turn. Most Marine lists should be working around re-roll bubbles, but this is still an OK thing to have in the back pocket so that splitting your forces doesn’t hit you quite so hard. The main thing to remember here is that the good Dreadnoughts are BS2+ and so re-roll 1s is effectively the same as a full re-roll bubble, so you have some flex available if your Chapter Master needs to push forwards.
  • Skyfire – 1CP (new): A Hunter or Stalker gets +1 to hit and wound against FLY, and doubles damage on a 6. That’s an incredible boost, and sort of lines up with the double tap strats for Thunderfire Cannons and the half-damage Dread strat to slightly push people towards a weird menagerie of vehicles in a gunline in order to get the most out of all of these cool tools. The Stalker is the way bigger beneficiary here and probably the one of the two you want to take, and it’s sufficiently cheap and cheerful (and randomly has T8) that this makes it look like a serious option.
  • Steady Advance – 1CP (new): A unit gets to use Bolter Discipline as if it remained stationary. Most relevant for the same putative unit of ten Intercessors (maybe leaping from a Repulsor) using Rapid Fire, perhaps at the same time!
  • Vengeance of the Machine Spirit – 2CP (new): A LAND RAIDER, REPULSOR or STORMRAVEN gets to either auto-explode, shoot one weapon at top profile or fight (lol) on death. Very cool, and a neat way to get a bit more out of your stuff as it goes down, although sadly you don’t get to double tap with the Executioner’s big gun. Still, if it’s sitting in re-roll bubbles (it probably is) two shots from the laser destroyer, or two lascannon shots from the other models is a big deal, and has a good chance of randomly punishing your opponent for their insolence.
  • Skilled Riders – 2CP (new): Give a BIKER or LAND SPEEDER unit a 4++ if they moved or 3++ if they advanced. This is great, and makes squads of actual bikes a lot more interesting. Scout Bikes in particular are already pretty fantastic, and their poor armour save was their only limitation, which this largely negates. The only sad thing here is that most of the weapons on bikes are Rapid Fire, so if you want the Advance version you’re trading for shooting, but that can still be good for claiming an objective.
  • Tactical Flexibility – 1CP (unchanged): Split a 10-model squad into combat squads. Not usually relevant – you usually either want to buy MSUs or have a specific reason for wanting a full squad, leaving this with no real purpose. Might be ok for a late game objective hold, but you need to a) have CP and b) have no other options and c) still have a 10 man squad to use.
  • Hero of the Chapter – 1CP (new): Add a warlord trait to an extra character. Can only be used once. Given this was in Ynnari too, it seems reasonably safe to assume this effect is starting to roll out more generally, and we’re very for that – warlord traits are cool, and this lends itself to ensuring there’s a lot more variety out there (as well as giving “niche” traits that do one specific thing a lot more game).
  • Adaptive Strategy – 1CP (new): Once per battle you can roll back the doctrines by a step (i.e. Assault > Tactical or Tactical > Devastator). This is likely to be extremely useful – tournament games often go from a long-distance shoot out to a close-in ruck back to a more distant “clean up” phase as whatever’s left in the armies tries to close things out. We can definitely see a use case for going into Tactical or Assault doctrine for the mid game but wanting to revert to the more long-ranged stages for the finale, so this is a powerful tool (and priced to move at only 1CP).
  • Transhuman Physiology – 2CP (new): For a phase, one non-VEHICLE or SERVITOR unit can never be wounded by an unmodified roll of 3 or less. This is extremely powerful – the absolute bane of Marine armies right now is being blown apart by powerful D2 or Dd3 weaponry that wounds on 2s and 3s and has decent AP. This makes it that much tougher for your best squads to be focused down by this sort of thing, and this will be absolute bread and butter for anyone running powerful infantry models.
  • Gene-Wrought Might – 1CP (new): For a fight phase, unmodified 6s to hit from a unit auto-wound. This is pretty cool – especially once you’re in to the Assault Doctrine, this lets even your regular infantry actually put a smattering of hurt on something like a Knight with T8. Will probably be especially good with White Scars because of their special ability boosting the damage of these volume attacks in the Assault Doctrine.

The Missing

As something of a first for 8th, some previously existing stratagems are gone. Technically some sort of FAQ is needed to stop them being used, but we expect that’s coming fairly quickly (the Tau Stimulant Injector being the closest precedent). These are:

  • All the Chapter-Specific Stratagems: Thoroughly replaced by full chapter supplements. Stay tuned to our upcoming articles.
  • Killshot: This was hard to use but great when it worked, so it’s a little bit of a shame it’s leaving as Astartes vehicles might be good. Will actually be missed.
  • Linebreaker Bombardment: 3 Vindicators combine to do a few mortal wounds. Will not be missed.
  • Datalink Telemetry: A Land Speeder boosts a Whirlwind. Would potentially have been absurd with the souped-up Scorpius, but otherwise will not be missed.
  • Empyric Channeling: Has gone off and become an Ultramarines power, where it’s probably better. Has actually occasionally been seen in the wild, but won’t be massively missed.

…and that’s it. Wow that’s a lot. The Marine stratagem list is now competitive with those of top tier factions and most Marine armies will also be dipping into another set from one of the supplements, so this is a massive win for Astartes players.

Warlord Traits

Similar to Psychic powers, there are two warlord trait lists – one for regular characters and one restricted to anyone in PHOBOS armour because being tacticool makes you better (?). Some of these have been tweaked from their previous manifestations, some stay pretty much the same (or just get randomly renamed), and overall these still look a little lacklustre. This isn’t the end though – each core Chapter also gets one in here, but the individual supplements each have a full table of six for each as well. Keep that in mind while looking at these – if you don’t spot anything you want here, there’s a decent chance whichever supplement you end up picking will have something for you.

Regular

Black Templar Lieutenant with Power Fist and Power Sword

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • Fear Made Manifest: Despite the hype we start with a complete dud. A -1LD aura. Yawn.
  • The Imperium’s Sword: re-roll one or both dice of charges, and get +1S/A when you charge. A souped up version of an existing trait, gaining a better type of re-roll and the +1S (pushing things with a powerfist or hammer to S10). Great for a murder machine like a Gravis captain.
  • Iron Resolve: gain an extra W and a 6+ FNP. These traits exist all over the place, and are usually a trap – they’re fine, but what you want from a warlord trait is to open up new capabilities, not a defensive boost (unless it’s an exceptional one like a 3++ on Custodes Bikes).
  • Champion of Humanity: Get an extra attack and +1 to hit and wound rolls against characters. Usually outclassed by “The Imperium’s Sword” on big hitters, but can outdo it on things with hit penalties or the Teeth of Terra.
  • Storm of Fire: Shooting attacks from units within 6″ of your warlord get an extra 1AP on a 6 to wound. Technically unchanged, but receives a big stealth nerf – the AP bonuses from Doctrines don’t stack with other AP bonuses unless specifically noted, and this was previously good in the kind of castle list that will now want to be milking doctrines for all they’re worth. Potentially useful if you end up bringing in a small Astartes contingent in a soup list for some reason.
  • Rites of War: Your character is ObSec and has a fearless aura. The ObSec is new and potentially quite good on a tough character, although has the problem that ObSec things contending with them will often outnumber them.

The Imperium’s Sword feels like a winner here, making your characters that much deadlier.

Phobos

Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant

Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant. Credit: Artum

  • Shoot and Fade: Pick a Phobos unit within 6″ at the end of the shooting phase. Buffed from its previous incarnation, where it could only affect the character. That unit can move, but cannot advance and cannot then charge. Anyone used to playing against Eldar will know how tricksy this can be, though the Phobos restriction does keep it somewhat in check. Still an interesting trait in the arsenal.
  • Lord of Deceit: Lets you redeploy 3 Phobos units at the start of the first battle round. Another stolen Eldar trick (Wings note: *shakes fist*). A bit of a nerf, as it used to affect anything, and the restriction hurts a lot here. Potentially good for pulling tricks with Incursors, but we’ll be honest that if you want this effect you should probably just be Ultramarines, who get it as a Stratagem without being Phobos only.
  • Master of the Vanguard: Phobos units get +1 Advance and Charge in an aura. Requires you to go way deeper on Phobos than you likely want to, sadly.
  • Stealth Adept: Warlord gets -1 to hit against him. Fine, but the Phobos characters kind of need to be more threatening for this to be good.
  • Target Priority: Pick a Phobos unit to get +1 to hit. Another nerf-by-keyword. Potentially quite good with Eliminators – this is the one thing that messes up the maths of “buff sergeant always better”, as making three Las Fusils hit on 2s is pretty tasty. However, it’s an open question if that’s “worth” the slot.
  • Marksman’s Honours: +1D to the warlord’s ranged weapons. Given you are at most firing two shots per turn, this isn’t enough.

There’s no nice way to put it – these are a bit disappointing. There’s cool tricks you can do with some of them, but usually better ways of achieving the same ends. A lot of them would immediately be great (shoot and fade in particular) if Suppressors were Phobos, but they’re sadly not.

Chapter

  • Ultramarines – Adept of the Codex: Get CP back on 5+. Good.
  • Imperial Fists – Architect of War: A very confusing way of writing “units within 6” ignore AP-1 while in cover). Very niche, probably bad.
  • White Scars – Deadly Hunter: Do a mortal wound on a 2+ after charging. Extremely marginal. Bad.
  • Raven Guard – Silent Stalker: Warlord cannot be overwatched. Extremely useful – you really want to have at least the option of accessing this effect, and this is a great flex pick with the stratagem.
  • Salamanders – Anvil of Strength: +2S. Sounds cool, but in practical terms “The imperium’s Sword” will usually take you past the same “break points” while giving +1 attack. The one possible utility here is to achieve S14 by comboing with Might of Heroes and a fist or hammer, but that’s fairly niche.
  • Iron Hands – Merciless Logic: Additional attacks on an unmodified 6 to hit. Notably applies to shooting and melee, which means very silly combos with the Land Raider Excelsior are go, but outside of that it’s another marginal boost that’s probably just less good than “The Imperium’s Sword” for most purposes.
  • Black Templars – Oathkeeper: 6″ heroic. This is a neat effect to have on a murder character, especially one with a jump pack, and murder characters are better in general, so sure why not. There’s a “re-roll wounds” stratagem in the Sword Brethren specialist detachment that would potentially let a model with this and a powerful weapon really catch a passing plane out.
  • Crimson Fists – Refuse to Die: Warlord gets back up on a 4+ at the end of the phase the first time they dire. This is a great effect, as it very often means your warlord gets to live and do stuff for another turn. Very nice.

Crimson Fists, Ultramarines and the Raven Guard are the winners here – we’ll have to see what the supplements hold to work out what’s best for the rest.

Relics

We’re nearly there. Final push.

Much like with Warlord traits, the main set of relics isn’t the full story, with each supplement coming with more. However, with their new largely-unlimited availability it’s worth Marine players knowing all the tools they have access to, so lets take a tour as we close out the main book.

  • The Armour Indomitus: A returning favourite. An INFANTRY or BIKER model has a 2+ save, and once per game can activate a 3++ for the rest of the turn when called on to make a save. An exceptional defensive buff and worth considering for any character planning on getting into the thick of it. A Gravis Captain with this is an absolute wall of ceramite.
  • The Shield Eternal: A relic storm shield that gives a 5+ FNP against Mortal Wounds. Not really enough of a buff here – at the point where such a model has been isolated and is being bursted down with Smite this usually won’t tip the scales to keeping them alive.
  • Standard of the Emperor Ascendant: A decently sized nerf here. A relic banner that used to give +1 to the roll to fight/shoot on death, as well as fearless for you and -1 to enemy LD in a 6″ aura. Now just has the morale effects in a 9″ bubble. That does also extend the size of the “default” fight/shoot on death bubble, which is some level of compensation, but probably doesn’t pay off the loss of the +1. This lets your classic Marine battle pile be a bit more spread out, which is good, but is no longer an auto take in every list with infantry.
Imperial Fists Primaris Ancient

Imperial Fists Primaris Ancient. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Teeth of Terra: Another fave – an extremely souped up chainsword that lets you make a very murderous character on the cheap. Now gives a flat 3 additional attacks instead of d3, so is even better! Very good with the Champion of Humanity melee trait, as S5 (this gives +1) is the “sweet spot” for +1 to wound effects. Combined, these give you a very cheap and cheerful discount smash captain.
Lt. Vermillion of the Swords of Davion

Lt. Vermillion of the Swords of Davion. Credit: Coda

  • Primarch’s Wrath: A powered-up boltgun. Has always been fine. Is still fine, but with a vastly expanded list between all the supplements, “fine” is less likely to cut it.
  • The Burning Blade: Yikes – this got a massive tune up, gaining D2 instead of D1. That’s a gigantic difference, and now makes this a very compelling option. It’s a little bit of a shame it only reaches S7 “natively”, and the fact that a decent number of targets out there still have invulns means that the Teeth of Terra probably still get the nod over this (especially with its buff), but it’s at least worth thinking about now.
  • Purgatorus: A relic bolt pistol/heavy bolt pistol. Hits pretty hard, and might be worth considering on the new Reiver Lieutenant build just because he doesn’t have a relic-able melee weapon, but there are probably better choices.
  • Reliquary of Gathalmor: Primaris only. Gives -1 to enemy casts within 18″, and causes enemy models that fail a psychic test within 18″ to take D3 MWs on a 4+. Imported from Vigilus, and a powerful tool to have universal access to – this can severely disrupt an enemy army’s Psychic phase plans, and is great as a flex pick against Thousand Sons, Eldar, GSC and Tyranids.
  • Bellicos Bolt Rifle: Replaces a master crafted auto bolt-rifle. Adds a shot and a point of damage. Fine, but like with all the ranged weapons thus far the magnitude of enhancement compared to the melee options is tiny.
  • Lament: A master crafted stalker bolt rifle. Slightly interesting – it adds a MW on any successful wound, which means that the normally one-shot weapon can pick off two infantry models, but is that worth a slot (and, indeed, picking a stalker bolt rifle)? Probably not.
  • Ghostweave Cloak: A Phobos model with a camo cloak gets -1 to wound against them. Another marginal and probably not worth it defensive buff.
  • Tome of Malcador: A psyker knows +1 power from any discipline they have access to. This is interesting – as worded it looks like it would let you mix and match powers from one of the main lists and one of the supplements (where you otherwise can’t). That’s almost certainly something that will be clarified in an FAQ (so don’t quote us on that till it’s cleared up), but if it does work this way it’s pretty great, letting you combo whatever the best powers are from the other disciplines with Null Zone or Might of Heroes.
  • Benediction of Fury: Just when we were beginning to tune out after a string of misses, this comes along! Chaplains are way more interesting and worth taking anyway thanks to Litanies, and this is a crozius that is better in every way stat wise and has bonus mortal wounds on top (Editor’s note – did this escape from the Imperial Knight book?). Do you have a Chaplain? Take this. It’s especially good on a Primaris Chaplain because of their extra attack, creating a bargain melee beatstick for only 77pts.
    Ultramarines 4th Company Primaris Chaplain

    Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • The Honour Vehement: Replaces Shock Assault with a flat +1 attack in a 6″ bubble. The vast, vast majority of 8th ed combat happens either on the charge or when charged, so this just isn’t that good.
  • The Vox Espiritum: Primaris only. Extend auras by 3″. This effect has been good in other places it’s shown up, so it’s reasonable to assume there are likely builds that want it. Just expanding the size of a battle pile’s coverage is good, and lets Marines operate further out on the board.

Our Thoughts

This might be the biggest and most comprehensive update of a faction GW have yet done. With that in mind, we thought we’d close out with some final thoughts from our authors, and also some words from some of the many Marine players in our community, talking about the things that excite them the most about the new book.

James “Wings” Grover

Legion Invictus Intercessor

Legion Invictus Intercessor (Painted for the Goonhammer Chapter Challenge). Credit: James “Wings” Grover

This review has been an absolute joy to write – what got me back into 8th Edition (having been out of 40K for many years) was a rules system that promised both a simple core and lots of depth of design space. It really feels like the writers have nailed down how to get the best out of the game they’ve written, and this book reads like a victory lap. It also shows a trend towards many design patterns I’ve been advocating for a while, notably redressing the balance between soup and “pure” armies by rewarding the latter rather than punishing the former.

I’m excited to see what Space Marine players come up with, and to throw down against them on the tournament tables as soon as possible!

 

TheChirurgeon

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

I’m of two minds on this release: One the one hand, I’m eager to dust off my White Panthers (less eager to add base extenders to every model in the army though) and start playing with them again after a long time. I loved the paint scheme on these guys and I’d like to finish off the Second Company at some point. I love the return of building your own chapter because it lets me finally flesh and put into rules some of what I’d imagined the chapter is like. I haven’t decided yet if they’re Ultramarines successors (most likely the real fluff chapter, though I don’t think it was ever revealed), White Scars, or Raven Guard, but I do know that they’ll have an emphasis on quick strikes with jump infantry and bikes. I haven’t started painting any Primaris Marines for them yet, but I’ll likely add some Intercessors either late this year or early next. 

On the other hand, as a Chaos player, it’s hard to not be salty about this release. Not because Marines are powerful – they needed a boost and lord, did they ever get it – but because the amount of effort that went into this makes the updated Chaos Codex look so half-assed. As glad as I am that we got our own version of Shock Assault, there are so many small tweaks in this book that are inexplicably absent from the Chaos book, such as Land Raiders dropping by 20 points, retaining older Legion traits (and having them nerfed on top of that), and only adjusting a few units when more of the book needed an overhaul. As happy as I am for Marines players and the prospect of running my White Panthers again, I’m equally put off by the idea that we’re stuck with a lazy “II” on the cover of our book for a few years instead of a true new Codex.

In closing, Codex: Space Marines is a land of contrasts.

 

Eifert Posting

Primaris Eliminator

Primaris Eliminator. Credit: Eifert Posting

The thing that excites me most about the new book is the apparent flexibility. It seems like you can make a competitive list without named characters and with a greater wealth of options. Also the Invictor. Basically just that fricking Invictor. The Invinctor is the best thing ever and I don’t care if you disagree because you can’t possibly have a stronger opinion about this than I do.

Dan “The Sex Cannon” Boyd

The Raven Guard take up position.

The Raven Guard take up position. Credit: Dan “TheSexCannon” Boyd

I’ve played Raven Guard since 5th Edition, and there’s one thing I’ve always loved most about Space Marines: they’re masters of the lightning assault. Back in 5th, the 1st iteration of my Raven Guard army was 5 Drop Pods, 6 Land Speeders, and a whole bunch of Assault Marines and Vanguard Veterans. Oh, and lest we forget: Shadow Captain Shrike! I was the first person at my store to accomplish the full null deployment and deep strike my whole army on turn 1. It was an absolute blast to play this army!

What I’m looking forward to most in this release is a return to the lightning strikes, dirty tricks, and overwhelming force of a Space Marine assault! Marines are going to shoot better, hit harder, and show up where they’re least expected, and I, for one, can’t wait to show my opponents just how tricksy and unpredictable Marines can be. Also, a Primaris Raven Guard character couldn’t hurt!

Coda

The Swords of Davion

The Swords of Davion. Credit: Coda

For what feels like centuries, the NOBLE and GREAT jump pack marine has been furiously dunked on by its biker brothers.

Seriously guys I have suffered for multiple editions.

Constantly fending off people saying “JUST PLAY BLOOD ANGELS YOU FOOL”

Receiving polite mockery when I ask Wings/Corrode/Others for “how to make assault marines good” tactics.

BUT NO MORE I SAY.
FOR THE MIGHTY HAMMER OF WRATH IS BACK BABBBBBYYY.

Editor’s Note: Coda has a lot to say about the new Codex. His full take continues below

Coda's Thoughts - Click to Expand

Real talk, my beloved jump pack units got a minor buff via that strat, shock assault and doctrines. I’m extremely happy about that. Over the moon even. This is the best codex ever, even the 2nd 3rd ed chaos dex/4th ed marine dex (aka the holy duo) has nothing on this. 

With a bit of luck my poor assault marines might actually be used as assault marines and not non-fancy vanguard. Currently my plan is to use them as a cheap 1CP Hammer of Wraith delivery missile to drop 3 or 4 mortals on key targets. They will then die horribly, but hopefully this will buy time for the actual damage dealers of the planned army, the two twin las Contemptors (also buffed!) and the horde of intercessor/infiltrator/hellblasters firebase.

I’m super happy that chapter master dropped to 2CP as I desperately need rerolls to hit on my assault element and reduces the pressure on my rare-as-hen’s-teeth CP to make the army work. With thunder hammers costing 40pts for characters, having the Burning Blade being bumped to a mighty S+3 AP-5 D2 profile is an extremely nice get. Ditto for the Teeth of Terra being made super reliable with a +3 attacks constantly on it’s profile.

Also. Chaplains. Holy hell gimme. I gotta put in an order for one of these bad boys asap. Canticle of Hate are extremely good for my “hello, we are here to punch you in the face now” jump pack force.

The above changes have given me hope that my slightly buffed assault element and a strong firebase can almost muster a passable army to be competitive(ish) at Adepticon next year. Seriously I’m bringing 20 vanguard veterans, 10 assault marines, a jump pack chapter master and a chaplain at the minimum. This has to work or I’m going to look incredibly bad.

There is one downside to this incredibly good book right now.

I’m currently at a crossroads. This army was built as a black templars force but the new Successor tactics are calling me like a siren song that has gone unheard since 4th edition.

Dare I ditch rerolling to charge and 5++ against mortals in exchange for 1+ to charge and exploding hits on 6s or auto wounding infantry on a 6? Do I pass up the awesome Templar specialist detachment and its extremely lore appropriate to this army warlord trait in exchange for having my choice of supplement book? Will the Imperial Fist book with the templar rules assuredly contained within it make this entire line of thought pointless?

I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out…..

Jack “BenBooley” Hunter

Imperial Fists Siegebreaker Cohort

Imperial Fists Siegebreaker Cohort. Credit: Jack Hunter

I think I’m most excited by the prospect of having chapter tactics finally included on vehicles. I’ve always been a big fan of Marine tanks and vehicles, and was getting tired of only being able to reasonably use dreadnoughts as heavy weapons platforms. I’m planning for the core of nearly any army I build out of the new book to be designed around my pair of Repulsor Executioners, and I anticipate supporting them with lighter vehicles or airplanes. On a related note, turn 1 deep strike with drop pods is going to be fantastic for this, so I can drop a bunch of pain right onto my opponent’s lines turn 1 and distract them from my tanks.

Artum

Ultramarines Primaris Captain

Ultramarines Primaris Captain. Credit: Artum

I’ve been saying for two years that what Primaris marines needed was 4 things: long range guns, things that can take a hit, things that are good in melee, and things that are fast. This book give Primaris all of those and then about 15 other things and I couldn’t be happier!

Alfredo Ramirez

Marneus Calgar

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Like many, Space Marines were my entry-point into the hobby, and I have spent countless hours reading of their exploits and painting up Space Marine models. Until now, their representation on the tabletop left something to be desired, not just in terms of power level but in terms of theme and flavor. Many of the newer codices capture the feel of their respective armies extremely well and balance aside, Space Marines just didn’t feel like Space Marines and individual chapters within the codex had little to distinguish them.

What is most exciting to me about this new release is that it changes all of that entirely. The new codex and supplements are jam-packed with flavor, fluff, and theme and they really make Space Marines on the tabletop feel like proper Space Marines. Not only that, but every chapter is now distinct and thematic so that Space Marine versus Space Marine battles won’t feel like mirror matches anymore, and given the prevalence of Space Marine armies, that is a huge boon. My interest in 40K Space Marine is thoroughly revitalized and I am genuinely excited to build and hone my armies to make them truly my own.

 

Liam “Corrode” Royle

Crimson Fists Primaris Lieutenant

Primaris Lieutenant by Corrode

It’s been a good year for the Crimson Fists. Following on from the January White Dwarf release, the original and best Space Marines have been upgraded to “main Chapter” status in the new Codex, with an upgraded Chapter tactic to boot, and are rumoured to feature heavily in the expected Imperial Fists supplement too. Fists were my main army for years and the first thing I played back in 5th edition, so I’m excited to get them out on the table again after mainly playing Drukhari this year. All the new releases make for heaps of cool new models to build and paint, too; I see lots of edging in my future.

Wrap Up

That takes us through part 3. Join us for Part 4 where we’ll talk about Forge World units and some broader strategies for the army, and don’t miss our reviews of the Ultramarines and White Scars Codex Supplements, which were released at the same time as the new Codex: Space Marines. We’ll also be back to review the other 4 (unrevealed) Codex Supplements as they’re released in the coming weeks.

 

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