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Monday, August 22, 2011

Fallacy 40k - All Marines play the same


I've noticed a lot of comments lately around the web about how boring all Marines are. This isn't new and when nearly 50% of all available armies in 40k are T4/3+/Rhino/Bolter based armies, well it's hard not to see some disgruntlement over this. However, a lot of this seems to stem around all Marines play the same which is plain old wrong. There are certainly some obvious builds which work very differently such as Bikers for both Dark Angels and Vanilla Marines, double rock TH/SS, Loganwing, BA Jumper variants, etc. This is a major strength of having lots of different army books with different rules, you'll get armies based around the same premise but end up playing very differently. This translates to most lists made by all Marine armies and whilst they may seem similar, they are very different.

We recently did a post looking at strengths and weaknesses of the different Marine books. This should be a pretty tell-tale sign that they aren't going to play the same. If an army book has very different strengths and weaknesses the lists it's going to make are going to differ on a fundamental level. Sure, the majority of these lists are based around T4/3+ save guys with Rhinos and Razorbacks dominate as the transport of the day and there will be the usual assortment of missile launchers, meltaguns, bolt-weapons, flamers, etc. Doesn't mean they play the same.

Let's look at just the basic 'defining' Troop choices of the Marines - probably the most common unit in every list.

Vanilla Tactical Marines - good at shooting, terrible in combat with great weapon flexibility at 10-strong and combat tactics for on the field flexibility. Poor MSU.

Blood Angels Assault Marines - meh shooting but capable of multiple special weapons gives them great ability against tanks/infantry at close range. Good assault ability especially with FNP/FC bubbles. Good MSU and outside of tanks.

Space Wolves Grey Hunters - excellent in midfield with good short-ranged shooting and combat ability but cannot affect the battlefield from afar and poor base Ld. Good MSU.

Grey Knights Strike Squad - excellent shooting up to 24" away with some combat utility best used as counter-assault. Cannot improve ranged abilities beyond 24". Good MSU and outside of tanks.

Black Templar Initiates - two specials per five guys with ability to affect game at range and up close. Poor base Ld but buffed by Emp's Champ vows and capable of having large squads with Scouts attached. Decent in combat. Good MSU.

We can see some very obvious and stringent differences between these basic units and when fielded as larger squads, will dictate a lot upon how the army is built around them. The argument against this is of course MSU builds with mass Razorbacks. It doesn't matter what the unit is best at inside because all the transports are the same. We can quickly disabuse this of course by pointing out that some of the armies have very different vehicle statlines. Grey Knight vehicles have Psychic Pilot and Fortitude with Psybolt options whilst Blood Angels vehicles are fast and have some cheaper weapon options (Heavy Flamer). Whilst these are only two of the five, these two fundamental changes obviously drastically change how their lists run. They may still be Marines in Razorbacks but they have differing army compositions and playstyles because of this.

The same can be said for the other Marine armies. Vanilla Marines in this case are not great at running lots of small squads without combat squading - something armies like Black Templars and Space Wolves cannot do and thus giving Vanilla Marines forward and backfield squads. Grey Hunters with a Wolf Guard attached are very good swiss army knives capable of taking on midfield shooting or assault roles whilst Black Templars are often used to maximise their ability to take two special weapons in five-man squads. These abilities influence a lot on how the army was designed and played as explained here for Space Wolves.

Yes, they are Marines in Rhino chassis tanks but simple changes as seen in their basic Troops impact a lot on their playstyle on the field. If I took a Mech Marine list and equated it as much as possible into a Space Wolves list and played it the same, it wouldn't do as well. Just like if I tried to take a Hybrid Space Wolves list and equated it as much as possible into a Vanilla Marine list, it wouldn't do as well. If I took any old Blood Angels list and played them like I play a Space Wolves list, it's not going to do as well. It may appear similar with similar statlines and options but they are all vastly different. This was highlighted in the Marine comparison post outlining strengths and weaknesses of each book and is magnified when you make individual lists which further extenuate individual strengths and weaknesses. There are some extreme examples of this (i.e. fast mech for Blood Angels) and some not so subtle ones (i.e. Vanilla Marines and Space Wolves) but they are there.

In the end saying all Marines play the same or even play a remotely similar game shows an unfortuante lack of insight into the game. Yes, it's annoying Games Workshop hasn't put out more non-Marine books, specifically Xenos books, which are good. As it stands currently 5th edition has had four successful MEQ books with two carry overs from 4th edition and two successful non-MEQ books with two (soon to be one) carry over from 4th edition. It can get boring to see AV11 Rhinos/Razorbacks and T4/3+ infantry across from you more than 60% of the time. Hopefully this will change but don't let it fool you into thinking each army plays similarly. Doing so will eventually get you beaten by an army you think is going to play like Space Wolves but actually plays like the Blood Angels they are.

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