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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marine codex 'review' (#1): special characters.

So, special characters. Big topic, isn't it? Lots of older players take great offense from the merest mention of these, visibly flinching, shivering, and getting upset. Let's slay the pink elephant.

'Special characters' are named, supposedly unique characters, who aren't so unique after all.

As far as these go, you either get really, really useful ones, or horribly bad ones. Marines have a lot more of number two.

Like the characters themselves, players come in two distinct camps. You either don't care, and consider everything in the codex legal and okay (which it is), or you think of 'special characters' as a dirty, gimmicky way to trade your army's soul for more power.

Me, I'm in the first camp, but I understand the second.
At one point in time, these were obviously overpowered or undercosted one-of things, that required your opponent's consent to put on the field.
That's all well and good, yes, but in the year 2010, things are different, and the armyslayers of the past are no more - replaced instead by gimmicks and bonuses you can get nowhere else.

First, the bad ones.

: tank commander. Makes already reliable vehicles more reliable, while almost doubling the cost of the non-raider ones. Go ahead. Put him inside a lasboat predator. You know you want a 235 point light tank. Oh, gotta have a hunter-killer, too, so 245. If the vehicle dies (it will), Chronus pops out on +3, and he's a techmarine with a bolt pistol. Would be useful if the made his tank fast and was cheaper, but alas, such is not the case.

Marneus Calgar: papa smurf costs as much as a land raider, packs twin powerfists, an AP2 stormbolter, and not much else. Okay, so he gets an extra wound. Lets you put three units of honor guard on the field, and gives all infantry the ability to 'pass or fail any morale checks.' This is the old way GW used to spell 'fearless,' and fearless is bad on marines. Also has eternal warrior. Essentially, señor Augustus is a relic of the past - an expensive, overpriced killing machine, that can be avoided.

Sicarius: Cato is a nod towards traditional marine views. That's why he sports the time-tested plasmapistol, power weapon, and artificier armor. If you played during 3rd or 4th edition, this combo brings back memories of a simpler time, one where captains were called force commanders, and ignoring armor saves at strength 4 was the gold standard. Unfortunately, we're not playing 3rd or 4th edition, and re-rolling 'sieze the intiative' does not make Sicarius worth 200 points. Yes, he has feel no pain. Yes, he gives a single tactical squad a veteran skill (infiltrate, counter-attack, scouts, or tank hunters). No, he doesn't make bikes troops, walk around with strength 6, or even carry a stormshield.

Tigurius: he costs as much as 2.3 regular librarians. What does he bring to the table? You get to re-roll reserves, and he can use three psychic powers a turn. So in case you want a character with strength 6, initiative 10, fleet, and the chance to instant-kill something, Varro is your man. Did I mention he's got two wounds, no invulnerable save, 2 base attacks, and weaponskill 5? The one power you really, really need is nullzone, and two regular librarians give you two chances to get it off, and even saves you 30 points. No, you don't want this guy in your army, except maybe in a Khan army, for more accurate outflanking. In general, Tigurius is as bad as Ahriman.

Cassius: the T-800 model 101, aka chaplain Cassius, costs only a fraction more than a regular chaplain, yet is superior in every way imaginable. He's more killy, more durable, and has a badass model. The problem? He's still a chaplain, still on foot, and someone saw fit to strip him of his 4th edition abilities.

Kantor: is a chapter master who forces you to trade combat tactics for stubborn. Bad, bad, bad, bad. Makes your sternguard squads scoring, which the internet pretends is a big, fat deal, that upsets the natural balance of the game. Remember the basic principles: hold one, contest all others. It's cute to have scoring sternguard, but what's the point when you're already forced to field two actual scoring units? For some reason, he also gives your shooty army more attacks. You know, kinda like the Farsight principle, only without destroying the army completely, but making it so you're always gonna be stuck in combat. Mister Kantor is one of the most overrated units in the game, and only has practical uses when Lysander is in his army, and then only in huge battles.

Lysander: venerable Darnath is like Pedro above, only less useful. Instead of giving more attacks, he's a combat monster that makes your army better at shooting. Confused yet? So for 200 points, you get an eternal warrior thunderhammer terminator, that makes his squad better at shooting. Yeah, okay. Also forces you to trade in combat tactics for stubborn. Lysander is the older of the wonder twins, and when he joins forces with mister Kantor, the end result is a very expensive, very rigid, and very predictable combination of multi-attack marines in drop pods.

That's all the bad stuff sorted. Time for something good.

Shrike: Shrike himself isn't all that, being no more durable or killy than a regular captain, but what he does for the army is big. You see, he trades combat tactics for fleet. Fleeting assault terminators? In my warhammer 40,000? It's more likely than you think. Also lets you play infiltrate and outflank with the unit he's attached to. Not all that good, or that smart. Has rending, so won't automatically die to enemy dreads.

Khan: budget mongol. Khan is the cheapest of the bunch, and probably the most straightforward and handy on the tabletop. In exchange for combat tactics, you can outflank. As a special bonus, all your transports get to outflank, too, and because Khan is a very generous guy, he gives furious charge and hit and run to any unit he joins. Unlike Sicarius, Khan brought a real weapon, and will inflict instant-death on any to-wound rolls of 6. This makes him dangerous. Putting him on a bike unlocks bikes as troops, but you're better off taking an additional captain on bike for this. Kor'sarro much likes being on foot, so his army gets an extra combat unit, and he can outflank inside a terminator squad's land raider.

Telion: Sean Connery. He's a vindicare assassin. For those who don't know what this entails, it means he gets to assign wounds to anything he shoots - picking off heavy weapon troopers, or sergeants, for instance. Rending, ballisticskill 6, pinning... If you take scouts, Telion is general utility, and not that expensive. For fun, you can forego shooting with him to make another scout in his unit ballisticskill 6. Generally not a smart thing to do.

And now for the big cheese.

Vulkan: grants re-rolls for all flamers, meltas, and thunderhammers, in exchange for combat tactics. Packs a relicblade, stormshield, digi-weapons, artificier armor, and a heavy flamer. He'stan is a force of nature, and his power is vast, great, and undeniable. Having all your favored and common weapons become better is a lovely thing, yes, but there's a catch - one the internet misses. Taking Vulkan is only truly worth it if you really focus on these weapons, and they all have a very short range. Short range means in the zone. Being in the zone equals being open to assaults. Since Vulkan costs you combat tactics, your shooty army can no longer escape, and this means you must take a couple assault units of your own - commonly assault terminators. Vulkan may not unlock any cute units, but he still manages to completely change the way you play and assemble your army.

As we can all clearly see, lots of whine has been shed by forumitis-afflicted players for very little reason.
Marine special characters are really all about gimmicks, but you actually have to pay for their services. This is why stock characters are useful, and 'unique' characters are mostly brought in to theme - for instance, last stand-styled crimson fists, with three 'damaged' units of sternguard, two small tactical squads, and a single unit of scouts.

Don't be a playa hata.

Next up, stock HQ's.

40 pinkments:

GMort. said...

I know a few people who use Lysander. To really make him work he needs to be accompanied by some Assault Terminators and given a Land Raider as Transport. That's an expensive pile of eggs in an expensive basket, unfortunately.

Most Bike Marine armies I see use a standard Captain on Bike rather than Khan (as do I).

A standard Librarian with Null Zone and some other power (usually Gate) is still one of the best Marine HQ choices as far as I'm concerned.

VT2 said...

Enjoying this thing

VT2 said...

Should have a ?

Marshal Wilhelm said...

It's the old-minded people being old-minded again.

I can understand a WW2 US soldier still hating the Japanese even though the West has embraced them.
But I don't get dudes who grew up with previous editions: "Lots of older players take great offense from the merest mention of these, visibly flinching, shivering, and getting upset."

It is a game, stretch your brain and enjoy the best of today ;P

In theoryhammer, as I don't play C:SM, I believe that Salamanders would beat Ultramarines. I know UM get run away and shoot again another way, but Sals 'should' just kill more stuff in the first place, making it less of a need to flee.

Have you had a game between UM and Sals where they both use the same list [a compromise for both] and seen who wins?
Have you then taken those lists against a range of foes?
I think that would be a good way of seeing what is better. With a 'tweener list, the UM would be packing some heat whilst the Sals wouldn't be min-maxed and overcommited....

I think you should do it, for our Greater Good :D

I notice your Tacs use MM and Flamers....

Anonymous said...

I've yet to see a Vulcan list that was really scary due to the range thing... it's always rhinos and a LR... and a single rock army ain't that good.

Kris said...

Calgar's pass-or-fail is strictly better than fearless. Being able to fail on turns where they get charged, or lock and pass on turns where they choose to charge, is worthwhile. Much like the Book of St Lucius, which I've never seen a Sisters player without, being able to turn on stubborn or something equivalent at will is useful. An argument can be made that he's too much for the cost, but the ability is at least useful.

If Tiggy was a little cheaper and had an invulnerable save, he'd be worth it. 3 powers is versatile, just not fantastic. He's also better than Ahriman in just about every way.

Cassius does have the advantage of giving everyone in the army his leadership if they want it. He's still too expensive, but it's there.

Nathan said...

Marneus' ability isn't fearless. You just pass all tests with no penalties. That's awesome. Is it worth his price tag? No.

Pedro bad? Really? The fact that he's only 175 points and gives all units within +1 attack is great. I hear lots of chatter about how useful Grey Hunters are (and they are) because they have two attacks base. Pedro essentially makes all units within 12" just like Grey Hunters. Sure losing combat tactics is sad, but Stubborn is nice. Putting Pedro in a Land Raider with Assault Termies, and assaulting the termies out while leaving him behind is nice. You can also quickly shift him around to where you need more combat punch. Pedro is excellent.

Lysander isn't a great buy, but the best use of him I've seen is in a 10-strong REGULAR terminator squad with two cyclone missile launchers that makes use of his "bolter drill" ability. Lysander also adds durability to the unit to take incoming AP2 fire (as you can throw it on him with his SS and Eternal Warrior). If you need to deepstrike to get in range of the enemy quickly, you can combat squad the unit, leaving the crappy sarge and the cyclones in the backfield providing cover fire (ideally in ruins that are 3+ thanks to his "bolster" ability), while Lysander and 5 other terminators (maybe one or two with chainfists?) deepstrike in.

I do agree that Vulkan is the best buy though.

Chumbalaya said...

All the SCs fail when compared to a stock Librarian and the extra 100-150 you could be spending on another tank.

They're fun for changing up your army's style, but a better bargain HQ you'll never find.

brent said...

One podcast talked about how awesome Chronus is in a vindicator because he can get it to keep firing that cannon. He ignores crew shaken and stunned results and one inch less on the scatter of the blast.
That would seem like the optimum usage for him and at least would give a varied build or something new for an opponent to have to face.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

Pedro gets the 3++ thumbs down because:
Though he buffs those near him to Grey Hunter status [sort of], he only does it to those near him.
Those not within 12" are behind because they don't get the killy bonus and now cannot run away.

Vulkan is better because although his debuff is also table wide like Pedro's [all losing Combat Tactics] his buff is also tablewide.

- everywhere and + somewhere = not good.

If you play less than 1500 pts, then perhaps everyone is in his bubble. Not so once the points increase.

Kirby said...

Marneus' power isn't fearless but the model as a whole is still meh which is a shame cause he looks awesome. Vulkan and Khan are really the only ones you should see regularly and I prefer bike armies without Khan because of Combat Tactics but S5/I5 + hit and run on one of your command squads = awesome.

@brent; Chronus in a vindi still suffers from "you suck weapondestroyed haha!"

@Nathan; Grey Hunters aren't useful just because they have 2A base essentially. They are useful because they MSU very well, can get 2 specials in a squad of essentially 6 (Wolf Guard) and can take multiple combat weapons (power weapon, wolf guard and MotW). Tacs hold midfield a lot better because they aren't in combat thanks to combat tactics and the SM army list.

+1A bubble is nice but not for Vanilla Marines at the cost of Combat Tactics. They just don't fare well in combat outside of Assault Termies, Dreads and Command Squads.

Marshal Wilhelm said...

Have you had a dance off between two similar armies, one Sal the other UM?

VT2 said...

Page 44, small rulebook: no retreat!

If you automatically pass morale checks, or for some reason don't have to take them (modern fearless, old fearless), you never fall back from, and suffer from no retreat.

Kirby said...

Auto-pass is different from choosing to pass or fail. Same with Inq Lords.

VT2 said...

That's not how I interpret it.
God, and no FAQ ruling on either.

Guess it's another one of those things which don't really matter, since Calgar is relatively useless, anyway.

Steve said...

There is/was a hugemongous thread about it on Warseer.

If you ever want to kill some brain cells.

VT2 said...

No, thanks. I vote 'it will never come up, because Calgar is so rarely picked.'

Kirby said...

I like my brain cells :P.

Lyracian said...

Most of my Vanila Marine friends use Vulkan. While I agree he is the most competitive choice I prefer Khan on foot. I like to have him in a Land Raider with Grey Knights. Str 7 Halberds for the win!

Otherwise I just go with Librarian or Biker Captain.

Nathan said...

Huh, I posted a response a while back, but its gone.


I agree, Marneus is not good, therefore the reading of the rule is unimportant.

In regards to Pedro again, yes, GHs do other things well; but for only 45 points more than a librarian, you get a nice boost to your units within 12" Again, if you have Pedro in a Land Raider, you can move him to where his bonus is needed quite easily. Sure your tacticals don't become uber combat units, but they are at least helpful in a pinch. Sternguard also get much better as they go from 2 base attacks to 3 base and 4 on the charge is nothing to sniff at. Same with assault marines. Assault termies and Ironclads also get much better.

In regards to combat tactics. Never been super-impressed with it on non bike units; so I think Stubborn is a good replacement. Then again, almost all the Marine lists up here run either Pedro or Vulkan, so I haven't seen it in action that much.


VT2 said...

Imagine if instead of taking your charges, the marines run away so they can shoot their meltaguns and bolters at you again.

The whole problem with mister Kantor is, he's an expensive boss in a shooting army, that makes your shooty units better in combat.
You don't want that. You want him to make you shoot better. Even his gear tells us he's a shooty dude, what with his minigun stormbolter.

Should you need to kill something, you send in a command squad or assault terminators. They kill things dead, with or without the bonus a 175 character gives them.

fluger said...

Imagine I *don't* shoot the marines and then just assault them. ;)

Terminators have never been much of an issue for me, especially TH/SS versions. Command Squads are too small.

Lyracian said...

Kantor like any non-bike Captain or generic Chapter Master is just an average choice. He is not bad, there are just better options.

His weakness is Stubborn not the melee aura. The arua is a useful defence if your game goes badly or you get some deep strikers in the face. Unlike Vulkan though you loose the bonus when he dies.

fluger said...

Again, chapter tactics is only situational about as much as stubborn is. If your opponent knows you have it, why would they shoot first before they assault?

And, if you're trying to get out of unwinnable combats, odds are, you aren't going to fall back far enough that the unit you're locked up with won't be more than 6" away from you, and now you're just going to fall back again.

I think chapter tactics is best used with all-bike armies as they at least fall back 3d6.

VT2 said...

If they don't shoot you before they charge you, your chances of surviving and winning any potential assaults increase.

Having the ability to fall back with your shooting army is much, much better than not having it, and being forced to accept combat when you don't really do much good there.

fluger said...

Space marines should be mobile enough that no one is FORCING them to accept combat (I seem to remember something about SM mobility in an Ork article...), and the synergy of making all units BETTER at combat within 12" means that if you CHOOSE to go into a combat, you're more capable of it, and then stubborn helps you if you flub the rolls.

In addition, you can use small units that SHOULD hold with stubborn and then counter assault at need.

I'm not saying Stubborn > Combat Tactics, but they are at least just as useful, they just require a different play style to get the most use out of them.

And, ergo, since I think Stubborn is useful and even more useful when comboed with a bonus to attacks and then factor in the advantage of gaining scoring for Sternguard (moderately advantageous, but advantageous none-the-less), and his low cost at 175 points (only 25 more than an Epistolary, and identical to a terminator-armored Epistolary), Pedro is a good buy for an HQ.

I strive for balanced armies, as most of the articles here purport as well, I think Pedro gives marines much more tactical flexibility by making them better at melee while taking nothing away from their shooting. Vulkan is certainly a great buy as well, but he ALSO takes away combat tactics, and all the weapons he buffs are close range weapons, which implies to me that you are getting within charge range of your enemies, so I'm not seeing how getting close with stubborn units that are better in combat is that much of a step backwards...

Kirby said...

"I'm not saying Stubborn > Combat Tactics, but they are at least just as useful, they just require a different play style to get the most use out of them."

which isn't good for Space Marines. Attempting to make a medicore combat army better at combat is good, you're shoring up their weaknesses but at the expense of combat tactics? No thanks. Sure, +1A bubble and scoring Sternguard are nice additions but not Stubborn. Combat tactics is part of mobility. You know if a Dread/MC/etc doesn't die and is able to charge your Tacs you can get away. Those extra attacks don't help there, etc.

Where the extra attacks do help, on combat units, there are much better options like Vulkan, Bike Captains/Khan or Libby in terms of HQ (oh and libby;s are 100 points. Epistolary's are meh and termie armor isn't exactly a requirement) because they provide much more for the army as a whole.

fluger said...

Huh, well, again, pretty much every marine player I know runs Vulkan or Pedro, unless they are all-bike, then they run combat tactics (which works better with their inherent mobility and the 3d6 fall back).

People were gaga about combat tactics around here (Seattle) initially, but we found that it wasn't as potent as it seemed.

Also, in regards to dreads/MCs: most MCs now are T6 (outside of wraithlords, but they are awful and I never see them fielded by compotent generals), so regular marines have a chance against them (not to mention the powerfist), and most marine players I play against have powerfists on the sarge to deal with dreads. Stubborn + an extra powerfist attack is certainly nothing to sniff at in that situation...

In terms of a base Libby vs Pedro, I'd rather have Pedro as I think he adds more to the list than a bare-bones librarian.

VT2 said...

Saying Pedro is better than nullzone is quite possibly the most wrong outside of warseer.

fluger said...

Why? Nullzone is extraordinarily situational.

You have to be close to use it as well, close enough to be assaulted, which I thought we were avoiding...

Nullzone does nothing against 'Nids (other than swarmlord who's doing the same thing to you and Zoeys) or most Ork units as well as the vast majority of units on the table; and only gets super effective against Daemons, Eldar, or TH/SS terminators.

fluger said...

Huh, I re-looked at NullZone, thought it was 12" bubble, not 24". Still not that useful since there's not a ton of armies with loads of invul saves.

VT2 said...

Seer councils.
Almost all characters.
All demons.
Lots of chaos.
All sisters of battle with acts of faith.
Everybody with a stormshield.
I could go on.

The list of hardcore threats without ++ is smaller. You don't want it to kill grunts - you want it so you can use a single sternguard squad to down a big nasty, rather than two.

There is absolutely nothing situational about ninja magic that solves almost all of an army's problems.
An ability to makes powerfist sergeants 'more powerful,' however - well, let's just say that fists have been covered already, and are not offensive weapons, at all.

fluger said...

That really isn't a large percentage of units in the game at all. And some of those have really paltry invul saves (5+ on Nobz, Harlequins, and most Daemons) that aren't really all that exciting to get rid of and odds are their going to have a cover save anyway which is better.

Nullzone is incredibly situational as there are plenty of armies out there where very few models are going to have an invul save. I think you'd get better mileage out of Gate comboed with Voretx of Doom on a Reclusiarch with terminator armor in a unit of sternguard. Sure you run the risk of perils killing the whole squad, but that's a nice mobile shooting unit and a good way to deliver meltas and a S10 blast. Heck, with a stormshield he could probably travel on his own.

Nullzone just doesn't seem as multi-purpose.

GreyICE said...

Nullzone is somewhat situational (I wouldn't go as far as 'incredibly). That is not key. What is key are the following questions - how important is the situation, and how else do you handle it?

The answer is that the situation is, when it occurs, INCREDIBLY important. Assault Terminators in your lines MESS SHIT UP. Chapter masters with Iron Halos are Bad News. Wolfwing exists, and brings Stormshieldy goodness.

3++ NZ = 56% chance of taking a wound
4++ NZ = 75% chance of taking a wound
5++ NZ = 89% chance of taking a wound

You can now effectively las ATs off the board. The Stormshields in Wolfwing are no longer bastions of power, but cardboard shields waiting to fail (especially since they frequently only have 3+ backing them up... missile launchers FTW). He effectively adds 2 shots for every 3 going in against invuls. 3 las cannon hits becoming 5, for 100 points? Sure. 3 missile hits on WG with Shields becoming 5? Yes please. I really can go on, it's infinitely useful when it's happening.

If we're doing a direct comparison to Kantor, Kantor HURTS you in these situations. He means your squads are not going to do what they're supposed to (break when they lose half the squad to a deathstar). He means the squad will be sitting there in close combat for an extra turn. YOUR extra turn. YOU do not get to shoot the deathstar. Your marines sit there and melee the deathstar. Then they are the empire's finest shitsmears.

What makes an army effective? It's not having every model in the squad have an answer for every situation. It's having the army itself answer every situation.

Oh and seriously, having your damn marines sit around and melee the deathstar is goddamn fail. They have 1 melee attack, what are they going to do, poke it to death? Kantor sucks.

GreyICE said...

*By chapter master with Iron Halo I mean any old unit that brings an Iron Halo, not any specific model. I realized that could be read incredibly wrong :p

fluger said...

5 TH/SS terminators should only need 30 wounds to kill with non-AP2 weapons. And, really, you only need to kill about 3 of them (18 wounds dealt) for them to lose any real threat value.

Shooting TH/SS terminators with AP2 weaponry is a waste of time, and even with NullZone, you're only increasing your chance against them by ~23%.

In other words, it takes ~3 AP2 wounds to get through and ~2 AP2 wounds with Null Zone to get through. For a unit of 5, that's a savings of 5 AP2 wounds before you kill the squad (not insignificant, admittedly), but you'd still need ~10 AP2 wounds WITH Nullzone to kill them.

Whereas if you DON'T have Nullzone and you fire LOTS of Bolters and other, non-AP2, higher rate of fire weapons at them you could do just as well.

And really, that's the IDEAL scenario for Null Zone. Most other units are going to be getting cover saves vs invuls.

Pedro's abilities have little to do with this situation as his advantages pay out against different forces; but certainly if you had a unit of your own assault terminators all with more attacks, that would certainly be a good way of dealing with terminators... Like I said initially, its a nice buff for tacticals, and a GREAT buff for assault terminators and dreads and assault marines. Don't use tacticals to fight a death star...shoot it.

GreyICE said...

Really? Pedro's abilities are a great buff for Assault Terminators? Pray tell, why don't you want them to break if they can? They break out of combat, move, and then charge back into combat for an extra attack? Yes please?

I'm not even going to argue with you on the stuff you're clearly wrong on (wolf guard/TWC with stormshields are the best case for Null Zone).

P.S. Your math is bad. It's 2 extra wounds per 3, not 1 extra wound per 2.

P.P.S. Seriously, you're not paying 100 points for Null Zone. Stop pretending you are. You're paying no Gate to Infinity. Deep Striking is that good, except when it's... not. And oh god, when it's not, it's really, really not.

fluger said...

The +1 attack to the terminators? If you choose to fall back from a combat and don't fall back far enough, guess what? You're still falling back! You don't need to charge if every turn you have +1 attack from Pedro.

SS in general are the best case for Null Zone.

My math's not wrong, just dirty. If you are failing ~50% of the time with Null Zone in effect, then it takes 2 AP 2 wounds to kill you. If you don't have Null Zone in effect, it takes roughly 3 AP 2 wounds to kill you. Therefore, to kill 5 terminators without Null Zone you should need 15 AP2 wounds; and WITH Null Zone you should need 10 AP2 wounds. Obviously since its 55% failure rate and not straight 50%, the numbers aren't exact, but its a rough equivalent.

Yes, you get gate as well, but that's not my point with all this, my point is that Null Zone is situational and even in its best situation isn't as exciting as is being advertised.

GreyICE said...

It takes 9 shots. 5/(5/9). It's not hard math.

That's a LOT less than 15 shots. It's friggin 6 extra las cannons.

We agree it's the best case scenario. I'm just having trouble finding where else I can find 6 las cannons shots for 100 points. Call it situational. But it is GREAT in that situation.

VT2 said...

Mister Kantor is fail, and librarian plus a plasmaback is a much better investment.

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