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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Not Just Better Marines: On Angels and Wolves

One thing that you see a lot with each new codex is whining, especially about how everything in the new book is better than everything that has ever been published and completely obviates every other army. Remember when the Guard codex came out and everyone screamed that you'd see nothing but nine-Vendetta armies and Leman Russ Executioners as far as the eye could see? As it turns out, vehicle squadrons are pretty limiting and sinking all your points into vehicles leaves you super-vulnerable in a lot of ways, so this didn't happen. And then the 'Nid codex was released and Trygons (and Mawlocs, lol) were the end of the world and Tervigons would drown you in bugs and the Swarmlord was an auto-include for only 110 extra points over a normal Hive Tyrant, not to mention the Doom of Malan'tai which, if the internet was to be believed, allowed you to actually tear your opponent's clothes off and physically violate him when it arrived from reserves.

Nowhere is this "latest and greatest" syndrome more visible with regards to new Space Marine codices, however. While there is a certain amount of unavoidable similarity that stems from having the same sort of basic troops (T4, 3+, Bolters, sitting in an 11/11/10 box), GW has done a good job in 5E of differentiating the various Marine armies from each other and giving them their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Despite this, internet generals are adamant that each new chapter is clearly the strongest and get nothing but advantages over the others, having access to all of their toys and more, even though this is patently not true. I'm writing this little spiel for those of you who have seen, heard, or made these arguments, to provide some examples of why they aren't.

First of all, the basic Space Marine book does have some weaknesses, like Devastators being hilariously overpriced. However, they have an unrivaled flexibility in their ability to trade out Combat Tactics. Moreover, Combat Tactics itself should not be underestimated- it gives a tactical flexibility that few other armies can match and several armies (like bikers) rely heavily on it. They are also the only Marine codex that can take bikes as troops and get Sternguard as faux-troops via Chapter Tactics. They are the only book with the Relic Blade, which any Marine player can tell you is a fantastic weapon, especially paired with a Storm Shield, and they similarly are unique in having Null Zone, one of the most useful powers in the game. It may not have the flash of the SW or BA powers, but what it lacks in charm it makes up in sheer effectiveness. Lastly, let it not be forgotten that the basic Marine versions of some things are simply superior to the variants therof, most notably their Drop Pods and Terminator armor (relative to SW, anyways.)

Now, Space Wolves. When they came out is was super-popular to hate on them because their basic troops are actually cheaper than Tactical Marines, but they pay for it in a number of ways. First off: no Sarge included in their squads- they've got to burn an Elites slot if they want the privilege of having Ld9 like everyone else. More importantly, they can't have both Ld9 AND two special weapons in any mechanized/drop squad. Trading the heavy weapon option for a second special weapon is something of a wash, but it should be noted because it means that GH are not a very good "sit and shoot" unit in the way that Tacticals are. They also lack Combat Squads, which can be a major factor in terms of flexibility- SW have more issues with having weight of scoring units in a list, a problem that other Marines rarely suffer from. Their HQs, while abundant and often powerful, are incredibly expensive and suffer a little, stat-wise, compared to their direct equivalents from other books. Their Terminators, though cheaper in the "basic" configuration (PW/SB), pay a huge premium on their flexibility when equipped in the same way as Assault Terminators. They lack any kind of equivalent to the Ironclad Dreadnought (odd, considering their focus on CC) and their Scouts are in an awkward and crowded slot and have a very different role than normal Scouts. Skyclaw/Swiftclaws suffer from poor stats for a combat unit and are rarely taken, the more so because of their competition. Long Fangs, although rightfully regarded as an amazing fire support unit, cannot buy ablative bodies the way that Devastators can and trade the Signum for splitting fire- a good deal, but since the leader is generally going to eat the first wound (so you don't lose a heavy weapon), also a short-lived one.

Blood Angels, as the newest kid on the block, are the current target of most of the abuse. Red Thirst is nice, but also annoying to use in play. Fearless can also be a liability, as any Ork or Tyranid player can attest, and ATSKNF is a more than serviceable substitute 90% of the time. Their FOC slots are very mixed up compared to Marines, something that many people don't realize the significance of- they can't take Dreads and Preds for fire support, as both occur in the HS slot. In fact, BA is pretty lacking of fire support in their EL slot at all, with Sternguard their only option- good, but at 135pts for two Missile Launchers, a bit pricey. Their Terminators have to pay to take the TH/SS setup, although not as badly as Wolves do, and Storm Shields in general are a little tougher to get, usually being a "replace X" option rather than just being added to the equipment. Their characters also generally lack the option of Artificer Armor, a minor if relevant weakness. Their Techmarines aren't Independent Characters, something I have lamented many times, though it's probably not going to be crippling in competitive play. Furiosos, generally equated to the SM Ironclad, are only AV12 on the sides and don't get the "superior" DCCW or Hunter-Killer Missiles. They also have to pay a point in order to get a Searchlight, which I'm sure has caused many a list-writer to shake his fist in rage. And having all their vehicles be Fast is nice in some ways, but when you're trying to fit ten or twelve vehicle hulls on the table, the 15pt premium you pay starts to add up really quickly- and really, how often do you need a Fast Whirlwind, anyways?

These changes, among the many others and not to mention their advantages, unique units, etc, are why the BA and SW codices do not play like basic SM, nor are they flat-out superior. Basic Marines make one of the best mechanized shooting armies available, have the best "rock" unit in the form of TH/SS Terminators, have amazing support characters, and overall have more options and more builds than perhaps any other army in the game. None of these books are in any danger of going obsolete any time soon. (At least not until they release Codex: Adeptus Custodes, anyways.)

15 pinkments:

Agama said...

Here Here!!

Marshal Wilhelm said...

I want a picture to look at....

Yeah, people often see the good in others Codex and only the short comings of their own.
I am still happy with the performance my Crusader squads give even though I long for some of the fancy that these three bring along.

I thought the SW got fairly stooged with their Terminators actually, with regards to THSS and PoWC.

You can bring an 18 pt WG along for your Long Fangs. That gives you a spare body ;)

As you said, 15 pt Fast as an option would be stellar.

The grass is always greener....

Jackelope King said...

Nice write-up.

Honestly, the good work they've done with the three Marine codicies so far has me hoping that by the time the Dark Angels Codex comes out (hey, it could happen!), they'll have their heads about them enough to write rules for a [i]solid[/i] Deathwing. I'd really love an army that let you spam Terminator Armor [i]well[/i], especially mixed Assault / Shooty Terminators.

Chumbalaya said...

The grass is always greener. No phrase could be more fitting in this particular case.

Good write up.

Anonymous said...

For me Vanilla Marines are like Dark Angels. There are a couple of things they do well (like Vulkan). Unless you are building to that strength you might as well use one of the better codices.

For all there benefits I can live without Artificer armour on Blood Angels.

Jackelope King said...

lyracian: let's be frank, every codex is guilty of this. They have a few combat doctrines that they're good at, and tend to fail spectacularly when you try to shoehorn them into another doctrine. See, for instance, gunline Space Marines.

There are some things that Codex: Space Marines do better than Space Puppies or Space Vampires. The Wolves do some things better than Marines or Blood Angels, and Blood Angels do other things better than either of them. I've yet to be convinced either from analysis and "theoryhammer" or in actual gameplay that my game is in any danger of being wrecked by these new codicies. If you want to slog it out on foot, the Space Puppies can do this (but they don't do mech quite as well). If you want jump packs, you go with Blood Angels (but they definitely start having problems with not enough models on the field, as everything they do is pricey).

Anonymous said...

I do not see it as shoehorning. A lot of balanced Marine lists are now just better as Space Vampires.

Puppies are at least different. Vampires just have most of the units being the same or better.

AbusePuppy said...

I would actually look at it the other way around- unless you're taking advantage of the strengths of BA (assault troops, reserve jump packs, fast transports) or SW (cavalry, customization), you're probably better off with the basic Marine codex. The SM book is better at more things and more balanced (in the sense of "can fill many roles," not in the sense of power balance) than either of the other two.

>For all there benefits I can live without Artificer armour on Blood Angels.

Devastators is probably the big "gimme" for Blood Angels, and only because the SM pricing was a grievous error. In virtually all other respects, the two codices are balanced. (SM Tacticals are generally better because of their Rhino pricing, and their HQs are competitive in most all respects- yes, even their Librarians. And their special characters are so much better it's not even funny.)

Jackelope King said...

"I do not see it as shoehorning. A lot of balanced Marine lists are now just better as Space Vampires"

Literally the only one I can think of is "Immolator Spam" (spamming either heavy flamer or assault cannon Razorbacks), as Blood Angels get them slightly cheaper and with melta in five-man squads. They [i]are[/i] the only Marine chapter which really gets much millage out of the assault cannon on a Razorback. And to be frank, the Sisters of Battle did it best in the first place.

But while Blood Angels wreck house as a Jump Pack army (Decent of Angels + Assault Marines as Troops + Blood Lance + Jump Packs in most Force Org slots), they simply can't manage a firebase like Codex Marines can (having effective Devastators is nice, but being able to run shooty Preds and Dreads and generally having the FA slots free for Typhoons is [i]money in the bank[/i] for Codex Marines, and Space Puppies can simply put more missiles into the enemy than any other Power Armor army could ever even dream of, and they actually make Cyclone Launchers [i]good[/i]).

VT2 said...

My 21'st founding crusade will always use the vanilla codex. Why?

It's the only way to avoid getting screwed up by GW.

Eltnot said...

I dare say the SM codex will remain solid right up until the new edition of the game. It certainly has in previous editions and I don't think it's about to change under 5th.

Kirby said...

Excellent article Puppy which once again points out, SW, BA and Vanilla SM are different. When BT and DA get re-done, they too will be different. There are similiarties between all of the books because they use the same core concept but if you want a specific list style it's generally pretty easy to point you towards the SM codex which does what you want (assuming you're looking for an SM codex).

Katie Drake said...

Awesome article. Now if I could only convince some people to read and accept this as truth...

Captain Kellen said...

Ahhh... I don't have a pinkment at the moment and I'm late to the party.

Da Warboss said...

I'd like to see some Chaos marine dexes...they are at least as varied as the Loyalists.

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