Codex Space Marines – The Goonhammer Review – Part 4: Forge World

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Welcome back to the final leg of this marathon review of Codex: Space Marines. In case you missed the other sections, you can find them here:

Part 1: Army Rules and faction traits
Part 2: Units
Part 3: Powers, Warlord Traits, and Stratagems

Ultramarines Review
White Scars Review

In case you’re wondering what’s left after everything we covered, well the new codex didn’t just improve things for the units within – Games Workshop issued an errata update that gives units in Forge World’s Imperial Armor Index: Adeptus Astartes the Angels of Death special rule, effectively changing the entire lineup of options available to Marines. In this article, we’ll cover the most notable and common units in the Index, how they changed, and some thoughts on their use moving forward.

We’ll also cover the Astraeus. Yes, we know they haven’t technically added Angels of Death to it yet, but that’s obviously just a mistake, and the Resin Albatross must soar.

Late Note: While we were in the process of finalising this, the announcement about Index Options moving to “Warhammer Legends” came out. Our assumption is that this refers to the Indexes that preceded the main Codexes rather than the Forge World ones, a theory we feel is backed up by GW errata-ing “Angels of Death” onto the Forge World marine options but not the old Index ones. Hopefully this’ll remain valid!

Imperial Fists Primaris Army

Imperial Fists Primaris Army. Credit: Jack Hunter

Overall Notes

The big thing to note for Forge World Space Marine units is that they’re packed with lots of autocannons and autocannon-like weapons that Space Marines don’t normally have access to. These guns, which tend to offer S6 or S7 shooting with either an AP of -1 or -2, get a massive boost from Combat Doctrines, which can essentially turn them into brutally efficient killing machines against light armor and heavy infantry.

Ultramarines armies bring an extra bonus to the table, gifting vehicles with the ability to move and shoot with no penalty while in Tactical Doctrine, which they can apply early via a warlord trait if needed. Some of the gigantic guns that FW vehicles tend to mount also work very well with the “Martial Precision” stratagem that guarantees a hit on a single roll.

White Scars also get some neat tricks – while nothing has the raw power of the Doctrine, being able to Deep Strike some of these gunline elements on the edge of the battlefield can be handy in hostile matchups. They also have a pretty handy combo they can use to defend a key unit (or get one into position) – advancing and activating both Hunter’s Fusillade and Ride Fast, Ride Hard will let you shoot your heavy weapons as normal, and also get -1 to hit against your opponent’s return fire. Their “double move” is also great for re-deploying shorter ranged things in a hurry if you can afford to skip a turn of shooting. Finally, they could theoretically make use of the Lightning Debarkation stratagem to deploy a large number of troops from one of the massive FW transports after it moves, but in practice none of them are even close to competitive in normal game sizes. If you’re playing a casual or narrative game big enough to pack one of the LOW flying transports this does let you do some wild stuff – the stratagem doesn’t work on things with the FLYER role, but these are big enough to be Lords of War, so fair game!

Both chapters also have stratagems that allow falling back and shooting, which is an important trick to have up your sleeve when packing non-flying gunline vehicles.

That means both chapters have some appeal if you’re running FW tools, but obviously we’ve got four more supplements to come. We’d be astonished if Fists or Iron Hands didn’t get at least one stratagem for “make tank good”, but it’ll be especially worth keeping an eye on the Doctrines they get – any big boosts to Devastator or Tactical are likely to be of the greatest benefit to FW units.

Successor Tactics

We’ve talked about the Ultramarines and White Scars above, but obviously thanks to the Successor Chapter rules you don’t have to be a down the line member of one of those chapters to get access to the stratagems or doctrines, which is the big draw.

Realistically, for the heavily “box with too much gun” skewed field that is the Forge World roster, there’s really only one game in town for Successor combos.

Please hark and bear witness to the most storied of the Emperor’s servants, Wings’ very own lovingly crafted successor chapter, original characters, do not steal.

Their name is the Alpha Strike Legion. Their fluff is that:

  • They really like winning.
  • They’re “secretly” Alpha Legion successors, which means they can handily adapt their style of warfare to whichever supplement turns out to be most powerful.

For their trait, you take:

  • Stealthy (always in cover outside 12″)
  • Master Artisans (reroll one hit & wound per phase)

This gives you vehicles that are tougher to shift and more capable of solo operation without needing to dedicate buff auras to them (and able to pick up any hated 2s if sitting in a re-roll 1s aura).

This is pretty neat when combined with some of the stuff in this book, and if anything here turns out to be good enough to soup into other Imperium lists as a gunline element I think this is potentially the best set of tactics to roll with. It’s also a perfectly fine combo anyway, suitable to pretty much any all-round Marine force that isn’t just flooding the board with Intercessors, so is a decent choice for a full Marine army if none of the main tactics fit your plan.

“Relic Tax”

Just to make sure everyone is clear on the terms we’re using – some Forge World units are defined as “Relics” (having “Relic” in the name). In order to include one of these in a detachment, you have to include at least one other unit from that force organisation slot in the same detachment. This is colloquially referred to as the “Relic Tax”, so if we’re talking about that, that’s what we mean!

The first Relic Lord of War in a detachment is exempt from this, meaning you can still bring one in as part of a Super-Heavy Auxiliary.

Dreadnoughts

Forge World Dreadnoughts are hands-down the biggest winners of the new Codex changes, with the Relic Contemptors being the biggest stand-outs of the bunch, to the point that we believe the entire group will be looking at a points hike soon. Doctrines, Litanies and new-style Chapter Master re-rolls amping up their damage output combined with Duty Eternal making them absurdly tough to shift means they’re basically best in breed as far as Marine units go. You do get some degree of diminishing returns – because you can only use Duty Eternal once a phase, if you have multiple of these stomping about your opponent can switch targets once they’ve baited it out, but unless and until they get some sort of nerf pretty much any competitive Marine list should include at least one. The only thing you really need to watch out for is Smite spam – mortal wounds don’t care about the stratagem, and that makes them one of the better ways to bring them down (although Armour of Contempt is a thing, so it mostly only increases how many CP you’re spending to protect them).

Wings note: Were I a Marine player, I would strongly consider holding off for the 2-week Marine FAQ and maybe even the September FAQ before going in on an expensive resin dread if I didn’t already own one. There’s already precedent in 8th for GW going “whoops” and stopping a dread-specific strat working with the FW ones for a faction (Fire Frenzy in Chaos) because of how much more powerful it was than on mainline models.

Relic Contemptors

Relic Contemptors are extremely good, and have been one of the things helping keep Marines somewhat afloat in the land of their previous codex. For their cost, they’re one of the most efficient packages in the game – we recently ran some numbers internally trying to assess the efficiency of the notorious Caladius Grav Tank (before the recent changes), and the Relic Contemptor was the only Imperium unit that came out ahead of it in our scoring. A mixture of the world being tough for Marines and the relic tax being a serious crimp on soup usage in has held them back in the past, but in the brave new world we’re about to enter where pure Marines is seriously viable, these ought to be all over the place.

If you are building a tournament Marine list, and you haven’t already included any Dreadnoughts, you should probably add one of these. After the first you need to start thinking about diminishing returns from Duty Eternal and including multiple relic tax units, but the first is almost always going to make your list better unless you’re at saturated with anti-tank, as the most potent build for these is usually considered to be the 2x twin lascannon + cyclone launcher build (the cyclone launcher was added as an option in the FAQ).

Even if you are already fully loaded for anti-tank, taking a Dreadnought CCW or Chainfist and one gun gives you a potent wrecking ball that can wander towards your opponent’s lines and demand to be dealt with. Between Shock Assault and Dreadnoughts now being able to use Honour the Chapter a chainfist one can comfortably go through a Knight in a turn, which also makes them a potent countercharge unit in that kind of matchup.

There’s not super much more to say – the various weird and wonderful weapon options are (sadly) generally not that great compared to the raw efficiency of rolling with lascannons. If you can guarantee keeping your opponent at a distance then C-beams do get a bit of a bump from having AP-4 in Devastator doctrine, but since your opponent is likely to want to tag these in melee anyway giving them even more reason to doesn’t seem ideal. Stick to either a las/missile build or a melee wrecking ball with an incidental gun and you basically can’t go wrong.

Contemptor Mortis Dreadnought

If you specifically wanted a Relic Contemptor for the quad las/missiles build and can’t afford the relic tax and/or need to shave some points off, this isn’t the worst place to look. It keeps the critical BS2+ with the same guns (so in pure alpha strike terms is slightly more efficient), and still has a 5++. However, the loss of the 6+++, 2+ save and two wounds are genuine knocks to its survivability, so for only 22 points more the Relic Contemptor is usually the better choice. It also doesn’t have any melee builds.

Relic Leviathan Dreadnought

Leviathan Dreadnoughts were always utterly monstrous on the offence, with the dual storm cannon build (the only one really worth thinking about in competitive play) being a very competitive damage dealer, especially once buffed by Guilliman. Their weaknesses were their threat range (the guns are only 24″, and they only move 8″) and their relative fragility for their cost. It seems odd to call something with T8, 14W and a 2+/4++ fragile, but because anything with 36″ range could line up shots on you with impunity, those stats didn’t go super far.

Duty Eternal flips this on its head – as long as you’re willing to pump 1CP a turn into one of these they’re roughly as tough to shift as a rotated Knight (it’s slightly thrown off by the rounding, but it’s close enough functionally), and suddenly this looks cheap for how tough it is. Devastator Doctrine makes it even better at tearing through tanks, and as long as you have a Chapter Master babysitting it (which you probably do) it loses less for moving and firing than it used to thanks to improved re-rolls, mitigating the mobility problem a bit. Finally, its ability to mount 3x Hunter-Killer Missiles at BS2+ is super good, as these benefit a lot from going to AP-3. Investing in them is also a lot less scary when the thing is damn near impossible to alpha strike off the board.

Being able to get sniped out from 36″ or shut down in combat are its only remaining drawback. As we’ve already covered, both existing supplements have “fall back and shoot” strats, which deals with the second problem, and Scars have the option of using the advance combo we mentioned to potentially catch out some sort of sneaky elf deathplane hovering at extreme range. If you’ve gone into Tactical doctrine that also has the side benefit of making the guns Assault, meaning they’ll benefit from the AP bonus. We can actually see a lot of attraction to running these as Scars as things stand, as their specific brand of tricks (mobility) directly covers this thing’s weaknesses. The loss of Bobby G’s full re-roll wound aura also makes running these as Ultras less imperative (though still great).
TheChirurgeon: Don’t forget that the Ultramarines tactic lets these guys ignore the penalty for moving and shooting, so if your army has moved into Tactical Doctrine, there’s reason to get these guys moving.

All in all, the new rules turbo-charge a Leviathan into basically being a mini-Knight. They are extremely good (and along with the Relic Contemptor are the ones on notice for maybe being too good) and any player with one will get tonnes of mileage from it.

Relic Deredeo Dreadnought

You may have seen Hellforged Deredeos bopping around in Chaos lists and not unreasonably be wondering if the new Marine rules make their Deredeos good now. Unfortunately the answer is “probably not”, because the thing about the Relic Deredeo is that they’re definitely better but they are also, bafflingly, worse in almost every way than the Hellforged equivalent. The other Hellforged units have some trade-offs compared to their Relic equivalents to justify them being a bit cheaper and not needing a relic tax choice. The Deredeo doesn’t. The Hellforged one:

  • Has an identical statline.
  • Pays less for a better main gun.
  • Pays less for a better secondary gun that adds some anti-chaff killing power that doesn’t need line of sight.
  • Eats people (which can heal its wounds).

The only real negative strike against the Hellforged one is that its Helical Targeting Array works differently and less well for no apparent reason. Otherwise it’s superior in every way.

The Hellforged ones are also, fairly frequently, turning up in a Purge Spearhead in soup lists. Marines do now have access to “full” re-rolls, which is one of the things that the Purge ability used to uniquely bring to the table, but the advantage of the Purge ones is that they require no babysitting, and are thus great additions to soup – they sit on the backline being tough to shift and killing stuff.

The loyalist Deredeo is still at least fine. The main gun here is still very tasty and Devastator Doctrine makes it better, but (at least in Wings’ opinion) it isn’t about to set the world on fire like the Chaos ones do, and not just because Bobby G is generally less keen on planet burning than Abaddon is.

TheChirurgeon’s Note: I think you’re being a little too hard on Deredeo dreadnoughts. Their base guns are better than what you can get on Relic Contemptors, and the +1 Strength on the Anvillus autocannon battery is a big deal. The Deredeo’s Heavy 8 S8 AP-2 D2 gun can put in real work against targets both big and small. It’s not as efficiently costed (few units in the game are), but it’s more effective and sometimes you need that extra punch. The las version isn’t as good as the twin dual-las Contemptor, though.

Chaplain Venerable Dreadnought

These were already low-key fine and the Codex gives them a few neat tricks. Most notably, using Hero of the Chapter to give one “The Imperium’s Sword” turns it into a melee killing machine. Character shielding on a war machine is always nice, and this thing will trash stuff in melee if it gets there. It’s especially nice as White Scars, as it’s biggest problem is being extremely slow, so their various movement buffs and getting to Advance & Charge help a lot.

Also the Chaplain Dreadnought can be used to fill out an HQ slot if you want to do some sort of themed dread list, which was a shameful miss from Wings’ Ultra Dread Mob.

Corrode’s Note: These got buffed days after this was written. Check out the updated review of this here.

The Misses

  • Mortis Dreadnought: You could buy a Mortis Dreadnought, but for only 13 points more you could instead buy a Contemptor Mortis, gaining BS2+, a 5++, two extra wounds and having access to pretty much all the same builds. Maybe do that hmm?
    TheChirurgeon’s Note: It’s a shame these didn’t come down in price when the Contemptors did, because for their current price they’re just outclassed. Which sucks, because old school Dreadnoughts are adorable and deserve to be played.
  • Siege Dreadnought: The dual mega flamer build is cute, and the hammer hilariously over the top if it connects, but it’s pricier than other builds, short ranged and not very hard to kill, so is very likely to die without doing much.

Fire Raptor

The Raptor has a lot of guns, and these all now get a bonus to its AP when Devastator Doctrine is active, which means that twin avenger bolt cannons fire at AP-3 and quad heavy bolters fire at AP-2, both huge improvements. Unfortunately the price just still isn’t right – you pay an astronomical amount of points for these and they don’t even have the decency to be T8, meaning that taking one is still just putting far too many eggs in a single basket.

Relic Whirlwind Scorpius

The winner of the “most urgent need for FAQing” prize for the new book is the interaction of the Suppression Fire stratagem with the Whirlwind Scorpius. This can “fire twice” in the shooting phase if it stays still in the movement phase, but it doesn’t use any helpful language like “each time it is chosen to shoot” or make it clear how it interacts with any extra shooting abilities, largely because those weren’t really a thing before.

From where we’re standing, it seems extremely unlikely that they’ll come down on the side of letting the stratagem make this double shoot an additional time simply because that would be crazily good. Someone once described these to Wings as “the shooting of three Whirlwinds for the price of two on the chassis of one” and that’s pretty much dead on – they’ve always been very murderous for their cost, but also extremely brittle and easily murdered if they can’t be hidden. That makes them a gamble most Marine players don’t take. Letting the damn thing fire four times would probably change that maths substantially, and especially coupled with Devastator Doctrine, make this look a bit much.

Probably the ruling will come down on them getting to fire one additional time, at which point they’re still potentially interesting. The weakness hasn’t changed (they’re a 210pt tank that dies to a stiff breeze) but the payoff is big – an average of 18 S6 AP-3 D2 shots smashing into your opponent until they can deal with it. Given how easy getting some re-rolls in there now is, you can expect to throw out some serious pain, and while there’s a chance that the fragility is just too much of a drawback, we expect people to try these out.

Land Raiders

Wings was moderately high on the Land Raider Crusader in the main book, but the big draw there is the high transport capacity combined with a high rate of fire, all coming together in an overall package that, while not cheap, isn’t eye-wateringly expensive.

Unfortunately, most of the Forge World builds haven’t received sufficient cuts to their chassis to get them into an attractive price range, and often sacrifice transport capacity to enable weird gimmicks, or are locked into some sub-optimal weapons choices.

For now, these stay on the shelf, but it’ll be a worth giving them another glance the next time there’s a points pass on them (or if one of the other supplements somehow turbo-boosts them). The Prometheus is probably closest to being interesting – quad heavy bolters are a cool thing to have as sponsons mount and it keeps a capacity of ten. The Achilles is the other “one to watch” – it’s currently priced out of competitiveness, but its unique gimmicks of “being extra tough, having a 4++ and mounting a quad launcher” are the kinds of things that could push it into seeing play if they were generous with a price cut.

Vindicator Laser Destroyer

Imperial Fists Deimos Vindicator Laser Destroyer

Imperial Fists Deimos Vindicator Laser Destroyer. Credit: Jack Hunter

The laser Vindicator seems like potentially a real winner from the FW list for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s got T8 and isn’t a relic, so stacking them up is a real target saturation option.
  2. The gun is very potent and works outrageously well with Salamander re-rolls – the thought of running a Spearhead of these was a big part of the inspiration for the Alpha Strike Legion.
  3. It benefits hugely from some of the other new tricks – multiple ways to fall back and shoot is great for it, Recitation of Focus allows it to shoot its main weapon without fear of catching MWs, and Martial Precision is hilarious on the Damage:6 shots.

It’s still an expensive proposition, but being expensive while bringing something unique to the table can be OK. You definitely want to be building for target saturation if they’re bringing these – they are T8, but if you don’t have any other hard targets your opponent will still waste them. The suggestion of a Spearhead of three is a serious one – adding in Stealthy makes them just enough of a pain to shift at range for some targets that I can see it working. Will it turn out to be just that bit too expensive? Quite possibly – they’re competing with gunned up Tank Commanders in the rough slot in Imperium and those can bring a bit more flexibility, but if you want to stick to pure Marines and feel that tanks need to suffer violently at your hands, you can definitely do worse.

The Sicaran and its Variants

The Sicaran tanks get a similar boost based on getting the benefits of Chapter Tactics, but ultimately they all just cost a bit too much for a T7 tank with limited firepower where the extra speed just doesn’t matter all that much.

An Ultramarines Sicaran

An Ultramarines Sicaran. Photo: SRM

Relic Sicaran Battle Tank

The Relic Sicaran Battle Tank’s main guns are Assault 8, and get a needed boost from Tactical Doctrine, but it turns out they still aren’t actually nearly good enough at killing things to be worth it.
TheChirurgeon’s Note: As the owner of a Sicaran, I really, really wanted this to not be the case but the problem is that even against an ideal target – a Crimson Hunter – with the relevant reroll auras and the benefit of Tactical Doctrine, a Sicaran is only going to do an average of just over 9 wounds with its main gun. The tank’s just not very good, especially for its price and especially when compared to something like a Repulsor Executioner.

Relic Sicaran Punisher

There doesn’t seem to be any compelling reason to take this over a Redemptor with lots of guns. – you’re looking at broadly the same amount of dakka coming from both, but the Redemptor can punch stuff, doesn’t have a relic tax and can be targeted by Duty Eternal. Overall, I think the dread gets the nod.

Relic Sicaran Venator Destroyer

This does the gimmick of “tank with massive gun” less well than the laser Vindicator, both because it’s main weapon is less reliably potent and because the T8 on the Vindicator makes it tougher to shift. Another miss.

Relic Sicaran Omega Tank Destroyer

This one loses out even harder to the laser Vindicator. Hard pass.

Rapier Carrier

These used to occasionally show up as cheapo slot fillers in Marine armies. The enormous boosts to Thunderfire Cannons and the Stalker make that seem a lot less likely – you do spend a few more points in both cases, but get something way better. Even the fact that these are one of the only remaining places that have the incredibly badly designed early 8th gunner rules is no longer really an attraction, as the Thunderfire now gets a cut-price full-blown Techmarine along with it, which is a way more useful thing to have bimbling around with it.

Basically, the only serious use of these is now making the numbers add up if you desperately need to pay a relic tax and don’t want to run a naked Devastator squad. The comedy use is that they’re the cheapest way to put a laser destroyer on the board, allowing an Ultramarine player to aspire to the dream of one day, just maybe, pointing one at a plane, spending a CP to autohit and blowing it clean out of the sky.

This is not actually a probable or cost efficient thing to do, please don’t.

Wings Note: I realise I would say that, but it’s genuinely not a good use of your points.

 A Large Number of Bad Lord of War Options

These start out roughly in the price range of a fully tricked out Knight Crusader and are all vastly less good and less resilient than that. If you could guarantee always going first forever you could do a fun gimmick list with White Scars and the Spartan Assault tank, but given that’s a pipe dream so is it ever seeing the tournament tables.

The Astraeus

Blood Angels Astraeus Grav-Tank

Blood Angels Astraeus Grav-Tank. Credit: Jack Hunter

Realistically, the Astraeus is also a bit too pricy for what it does, but it has a bit more going for it than some of the options from the original book:

  • It’s a bit tougher, looking a lot closer to an actual Knight and even having a 2+ base save. As long as you run it in a Supreme Command with either Stealthy or the “real” Raven Guard tactic that makes it a decent challenge to shift.
  • The -3″ charge ability is extremely relevant in the current meta – a lot of lists exist whose plan for dealing with something like this involves combat out of deep strike, and this makes it hard to pull off (though watch out for things that can 3D6 charge, as they’ll still be within 12″ to declare it).
  • The big gun is also well tuned to the metagame – it’ll reliably blast a plane away a turn, and basically any relevant buff you can give it pushes it over the line of blasting a Tank Commander equivalent away as well.
  • You can buff it up with Recitation of Focus, Might of Heroes and some of the new stratagems to make it even more of an engine. Recitation actually makes you want to look seriously at bringing plasma eradicators rather than las rippers too – the extra 12″ of range is a big deal and once you reduce the MW risk it starts to look like a more compelling trade-off for reduced damage potential, as “awkward mix of ranges” is one of the Astraeus’s big problems.

It’s the effective 1+ base save that’s the real big money here – armies exist that can work around it, but plenty also exist that can’t – if your opponent’s ranged solutions are a bunch of AP-2 mid strength stuff they’re at serious risk of getting blown off the board before they can deal with it.

Is it still too pricy? Yeah, probably, we’d hope to see it at least tested at 630-640 base in the future. Is it a lot better than it was? Definitely yes.

Tanks that Sergeant Chronus Can Pilot

Per his rules in the new Ultramarines Codex Supplement, Sergeant Chronus can pilot tanks based on keyword rather than datasheet, unlocking some of the Forge World variants as potential choices. Plonking him in the tank gives it a non-degrading BS of 2+, the character tag, and lets it recover one wound per turn. As per our comments in the main codex, we think the (debatable) possibility RAW of giving his tank a warlord trait is probably a mistake (Corrode’s Note: It turns out this wasn’t a mistake, but also he has a fixed trait now where he didn’t before), so we’re largely not strategising based on it – although if you can post-FAQ the first option below with Paragon of War is even funnier.

  • VINDICATOR
  • PREDATOR
  • WHIRLWIND
  • LAND RAIDER
  • RHINO
  • RAZORBACK
  • HUNTER
  • STALKER

The biggest potential uses, based on what we’ve seen, are:

  • The Whirlwind Scorpius – sure it’s even more eggs in one basket, but you’re already kind of banking on being able to hide it and planning to weep a lot if you go second against planes, so how much worse is it really.
  • Laser Vindicator – they’d rather have +1 to hit than BS2+, but they certainly won’t complain about it.

Final Thoughts

In some ways it’s a mark of how far GW’s design and balance for core space marine units has come that there’s way less need to backfill choices from Forge World to cover weaknesses in most of the army – with the obvious exception of the Dreadnoughts. Giant robots are the big winners out of the new marine changes, and we expect to see them everywhere (unless GW gives them a rapid whack with the nerf bat).

Have we missed out on your favourite Forge World unit? Is there some neat trick that Wings has missed in his petulant fury at being made to be nice about Forge World for 5000 words? Hit us up at contact@goonhammer.com, or send us a message via our Facebook Page.

 

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