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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marines - Differences Between Codices

With four 5th edition and two fourth edition Space Marine armies out there battling, players looking to invest in some poster-boys of 40k have a lot of choice. Now a lot of people think some of these choices suck such as Dark Angels or Space Marines but thanks to good codex design within the 5th edition books and some recent and decent FAQs for Black Templars and Dark Angels, this is not the case. In this post we'll do a quick breakdown of the strengths and weakness of each codex and look at generally effective builds as well as themes within the book. This will give players a better understanding of each book and where one might like to start within the Marine family. Later posts will look at general codex comparisons in a broader sense of the word and focusing on two armies and the major differences (i.e. Space Wolves and Space Marines).

Before we dig into each army we'll look at the overall similarities. Each Marine codex has a core of WS/BS/S/T/I 4, W/A1, Ld8/9, Sv3+ models all of which have And They Shall Know No Fear (ATSKNF) and wargear focused on bolt weapons. This makes them expensive but very sturdy Troops most effective at range but no push-overs in combat (generally limited by their own lack of attacks). Whilst ATSKNF isn't fearless, it can quite often be better and forces your opponent to escorting fleeing units off the board or wiping them out completely. Each army has access to cheap vehicles based on the Rhino chassis and for 35 points base, these vehicles are a steal and quite popular. Marine armies in general are very flexible and their units excel at being generalists with specific units to support them in particular roles. Overall, each Marine codex presents an army which is flexible, good at both shooting and combat and very durable.

And now to look at each book in isolation.

Space Marines - 

Strengths -
  • the whole army operates around the Ld9/T4/3+ save principle
  • cheap and plentiful mech
  • combat tactics = super flexibility
  • Chapter Tactics = army list flexibility
  • excellent biker army
  • Tacticals w/Heavy Weapons
  • full use of Drop Pods (12 inside)
  • wide variety of HQs
  • six Dread potential
  • TH/SS Termies - the original
Weaknesses -
  • minimal ability to MSU with Tactical squads being poor purchases at 5-strong
  • few effective combat units and low combat power overall
  • Tacticals are expensive and solid but are limited in application
  • minimal list choices in certain areas (Heavy Support)
  • list flexibility often hinges on HQs 
Effective Armies -

Vanilla Marines are at their best with a Mech army. Lots of access to Rhinos and Razorbacks and units to use them effectively (Tacticals and Sternguard) with other vehicles taking up the rest of the slots (Speeders, Predators, Dreadnoughts). Vanilla Marines struggle a bit with Hybrid armies though can make effective combinations of Mech and Devastators, Terminators or Bikes. Speaking of Bikes, Vanilla Marines do some of the best full bike lists around with Command Squads as combat support. Vanilla Marines are also capable of running good Drop Pod lists generally revolving around multiple Dreadnoughts and Tactical/Sternguard units. Different HQs can change how each list operates as well. Specifically Vulkan, Pedro and Khan.

Space Wolves - 

Strengths -

  • good combat ability across the army
  • excellent hybrid armies
  • can support combat/midfield units with efficient down-field firepower
  • works very well within the MSU concept
  • fantastic support psyker
  • lots of army builds with Hybrid and Foot being highly viable
  • excellent disruption units
Weaknesses -
  • elite slot sacrificed to make Grey Hunters Ld9
  • army can often be split into "shooting" and "midfield" elements and are played that way
  • limited options for ranged anti-infantry
  • reliance of Grey Hunters for midfield work - combat, shooting, scoring
  • no ablative wounds for Long Fangs - important unit, not that durable
  • good combat potential but no real awesome CC units - TWC are good but get very expensive if you make them into a rock/super unit
Effective Armies -

In comparison to Vanilla Marines, Space Wolves do not do Mech as well but are much better at Hybrid armies. With more effective foot units such as Wolf Scouts, Long Fangs and Thunderwolf Cavalry, this is pretty obvious and there are a lot of lists which build around these concepts. Add in the Rhinos and Razorbacks and you've got a lean mean, Hybrid fighting machine and there are many variations of this. Foot lists are far less common though a combination of TWC, Grey Hunters and Long Fangs can put a lot of MEQ bodies on the table with some excellent combat ability and decent suppression fire. 

Blood Angels -

  • fast mech - lot more options for Razorbacks/Predators
  • easily accessed FNP/FC for the whole army
  • awesome army theme flexibility
  • increased combat and durability over regular Marines due to FNP/FC
  • very capable MSU with two melta weapons in 5-man squads
  • multiple Dreadnought types = good podding army
  • Termies with FNP
  • most mech has an increased price tag, limits use of Rhinos for bunkering squads
  • reliance of FNP/FC nodes
  • swapped FoC with Dreads in Heavy Support limits fire support options
  • too many that a weakness? 
  • like SW, reliance on their main scoring Troop for high killing power and scoring
Effective Armies:

Blood Angels are perhaps the one Marine army which can really do full Mech, Hybrid and foot lists well. Whilst Space Wolves can do full Mech, their lists are often done better by Vanilla Marines and Grey Knight mech lists generally play very much like a Hybrid army. Not so for Blood Angels and whilst they can have issues with fire support with Dreadnoughts in Heavy Support and paying 50 points for Rhino bunkers, they have lots and lots of options to make varying types of lists. Jumper based foot lists with support from Devastators, Sanguinary Guard and Vanguard Vets can often overwhelm an opponent with FNP Marines whilst being very sturdy in combat. Throw in some Mech for a more Hybrid based list or go the full MSU Razorback route with Predator/Dreadnought support. With all these choices Blood Angels are perhaps the most flexible in terms of creating divergent lists but will always pay that extra amount for their mech which can put a damper on some lists. On top of all of this, Blood Angels are also capable of running effective Drop Dread lists with three different Dreadnought types (four including the Libby Dread).

Grey Knights -

  • some of the best generalists in the game
  • fantastic 24" shooting
  • decent counter-assault ability
  • psychic powers augment army, particularly Fortitude which make Grey Knight mech hard to suppress
  • great psychic defenses
  • Coteaz - offsets a major weakness of high cost per model
  • a lot of options in terms of army list creation
  • expensive base cost per model leads to smaller armies
  • not great in protracted combats - pay through the nose for combat ability
  • heavy reliance on S7 rending to deal with heavy mech
  • lack of easily accessible low AP weapons
  • minimal ranged support
  • whilst options for army list, lists generally play very similarly 
Effective Armies:

Grey Knights can make a fair amount of quite different lists but other than running all Henchmen as Troops, they play in very similar ways. Whether it's Mech, Hybrid or Foot, most Grey Knight armies excel at the 24" range and will out-shoot most of their opponents and follow-up with assaults or counter-assaults against good combat armies. This means they are a very midfield oriented army and whilst Henchmen armies can deviate from this somewhat, the majority of the Grey Knight army works best 18-24" from the opponent. Whilst Grey Knights are decent at combat, most of their units use assault as a counter-measure to deny the opponent the charge or finish units off.

Dark Angels -

  • scoring Terminators which can mix and match weapon sets (CML on TH/SS for example) - fearless
  • scoring and scouting Bikers - fearless
  • cheap Typhoons
  • most things are over-costed
  • very little army list flexibility - revolves around scoring Terminators and support
  • hard to fit in enough firepower into lists
Effective Armies:

Doublewing, Deathwing or Ravenwing. Some variation of that which includes Ravenwing bikers and Deathwing Terminators and perhaps Predators/Speeders for ranged support. There isn't much Dark Angels can do and they have niche lists in Terminator/Biker based lists. They have their advantages compared to other similar lists (i.e. Vanilla Bikers, Loganwing, etc.) but they are off-set by the weaknesses of the rest of the army. Still good choices but played very differently and with limited options. Fearless is good on small squads, particularly in combat squadding Ravenwing, where your opponent has to kill units to get rid of them. Annoying in combat for Terminators but still a nice bonus on small elite units. Whilst ATSKNF is almost as good in these cases, knowing that you are never going to  be escorted off the board and always pass your tank shock tests is a nice asset.

Black Templars -

  • very effective Drop Pods - no drop pod assault
  • two weapons per five guys - important on Initiates and Terminators
  • veteran skills on Terminators
  • access to PotMS
  • army wide buffs from Emperor's Champion
  • cheap Typhoons
  • righteous zeal for extra movement
  • expensive mech with no benefit
  • pay for smoke launchers
  • must buy the EC
  • low Ld for Marine squads
  • no psykers and minimal psychic defenses
Effective Lists:

Black Templars do a good Hybrid mech with small Terminator and Initiate squads packing lots of heavy/special weapons backed up by Speeders and Predators. Outside of this they have less options though can make a decent double rock list with Terminators in Crusaders and Drop Pod lists which don't get shafted when they are forced to go first. Often underrated even after the FAQ, Black Templars have the shooting to blast people off the face of the Earth combined with some very solid combat. Whilst they pay through the nose for their Mech and gain no benefit, this is off-set by being able to have two specials/heavies in five-man squads.


Each army does something different and it can often be subtle. Take a Space Marine mech list and you'll find you can nearly make the exact same list with Space Wolves point for point. The issue? No heavy weapons in Tactical squads, no combat tactics, no Null Zone, etc. Whilst the Space Wolves list may have better psychic defenses and combat ability with the Grey Hunters, you're not taking advantage of the Space Wolves codex. Combine with not taking advantage of Space Wolves unique choices (TWC, Long Fangs, Wolf Guard, Wolf Scouts) and you can see why Space Marines do mech better. But then of course Blood Angels also do Mech very well but it's very different thanks to Fast tanks. Generally much more MSU-based it can be very in your face (Flamerbacks) or stand-offish (AssBacks) with much more durable Marines inside thanks to FNP. Grey Knights also do mech but it's more of a Hybrid mech with Grey Knights fighting very well outside of their transports which are used for support. They prefer to fight from 18-24" for as long as possible and then finish the opponent off in combat. Even Black Templar can do decent mech but they often use Terminators in place of Dreadnoughts for more firepower and combat punch. 

In terms of Hybrid armies Space Wolves and Grey Knights are kings but Blood Angels and Dark Angels (Deathwing + Mech) are no slouches as well as the Black Templar Mech with Terminators mentioned above. Many of these lists often have many variations within them as well and can thus play quite differently. All foot lists can be done by Grey Knights, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Black Templars and Space Wolves with Vanilla Marines being pretty poor. If you want a Drop Pod army Black Templars, Blood Angels and Vanilla Marines all do excellent lists with different strengths and weaknesses and if you want a biker list look no further than Vanilla or Dark Angels.

The list goes on and on and we will look at each army in more detail over some coming posts but this should give you an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each army. For anyone contemplating Marines and are at a loss which codex to use, this should be a great help in narrowing the choices down. 

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