Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Space marine rumours - The Burning Eye's take

Morning all, I realise I don't address rumours all that often, but I figured as this one is particularly applicable to me (and has me pretty excited) I'd post up my thoughts.

Do Marines really need a new dex? Their current one isn't 2 years old yet! Let's have a look at the arguments from both sides shall we? What I'm not going to discuss here is the idea of a PDF update, we know GW don't take that approach and quite frankly the fewer bits of paper I need to carry with me the better.

The 'yes they do' camp
The current marine codex was released during 6th edition back in 2013 (September I think) and added in a couple of new units to the previous book. It introduced the idea of chapter traits and rolled the Black Templars into the main codex as well. 

As a book the general opinion seemed to be that it was nicely balanced with only a few choices being lacklustre (I'll come onto those later). Now you can certainly argue that with so many units available that's probably easy to achieve, since each can have a very specific role (compare thunderfire cannons to whirlwinds for example, they both have the same offensive role but are 'chalk and cheese' opposites defensively speaking) but I'm not so sure, I think the more choice you have the more difficult it gets to avoid having one clear standout 'best' option.

So what's happened since then to mean the codex needs updating? Well first up, 7th edition 40k happened, not even that long after the codex was released really, and that changed a lot of things. We've seen the steady removal of 'force org swapping' style characters that change a unit's battlefield role, such as the marine bike captain, we've seen maelstrom missions that heavily reward armies with mobile troops units. We've seen formations become a major thing, first through smaller groups of units and latterly from the bigger decurion/war host style. Also recently we've seen armies really polarise into a fighting style, Necrons are very much focused around the idea of being extremely survivable, so whilst they're pretty short ranged they are unlikely to suffer massive casualties closing into that range. Eldar are the opposite, capable of scary amounts of damage output but at the cost of relative fragility (even the wraith constructs only get a 3+ remember). Most recently with the Eldar release we've also seen combat units getting usable combat benefits, which make them viable once more (banshees being able to avoid overwatch for example).

In conclusion then, whilst the marine book isn't old when reckoned against some previous incarnations, the pace of change since its release means that it has dated rapidly.

The 'no they don't' camp
Space Marines are not an outdated army, they are capable of fielding some extremely handy units that are able to really maximise some of the benefits of 7th edition, such as the grav centurion bomb style lists that get maximum leverage from the new psychic phase, and they are in a better position than most with formations thanks to the dataslate availability of things like the strike force ultra.

There are lots of books more in need of an update than marines, including some of the other marine books (Dark Angels?) and Chaos in particular, which are very limited in terms of viable units and army build styles.

In conclusion, the existing codex is still viable, and could easily be improved through release of separate formation dataslates.

So what do I think
You may have realised from my first paragraph, I'm definitely in the first camp, the marine book is playing tired at the moment and really needs an update to make some units viable and the army as a whole more balanced in terms of selection and play.

So now that we've established why I think the book needs a revamp, what actually are the rumours?

So I'll take a look at these in order. First off, the codex - we have heard previously that a Tau/Marine box may be coming this year, and speculation has been rife as to whether it is to replace Dark Vengeance or will be a campaign boxed set. Personally I don't really mind, I'm a long term marine player and as you may know I'm also looking to get back into Tau having previously had a small collection that I've sold off so I'd be interested in picking up a box that both gives me formations and new models for both factions. That would tie in with a marine codex release just before such a box, then a Tau book afterwards and it's also putting a new marine codex into the fray when organisationally things are changing substantially. Add to that the fact that we're over a year into a new edition by then and I think we have a credible rumour.

As for the rest of the suggestions, the command variants of rhinos and land raiders have been around before, and could potentially be included as an option in the existing kits if the master mold needs re-tooling. I very much doubt however that it would be either a separate unit entry or kit, it's likely the bits would be incorporated into the existing box and an upgrade to the basic unit entry (GW do currently produce a squadron command frame for vehicles after all, though it contains upgrades for all the major factions at the time of release). As we rarely see a marine release without a completely new kit I don't this this encompasses the whole wave, and so I'd lend decent credibility to the second part of the first paragraph of the rumour noting 'more marine kits to follow'.

Onto the second part then, noting that whirlwind/predator/vindicator become 1-3 squadron options and that land raider squadrons receive a bonus to ignoring damage.

The first part with the existing heavy support tanks becoming squadron options seems eminently reasonable to me - the Space Marine Heavy Support section is heavily crowded at present and taking multiple tanks is very very difficult without going unbound. The second part however has me slightly more dubious. First, because it refers to land raider squadrons, despite not mentioning in the first part that land raiders can be taken as squadrons. Don't get me wrong, it could just be a lack of clarity but I wouldn't be surprised to see this being a type and actually mean land speeder squadrons - land raiders generally don't need a huge amount of further protection.

Onto the second rumour then, and let's have a look at it, we're talking about providing chapter specific parts in with the standard squad boxed sets (I'm assuming for now that this doesn't mean a separate box for the relevant squad in addition to the normal one).

First off, the question of re-tooling comes to the forefront of my mind - if the master mold needs replacing then it's an ideal time to add things to the kits - we've seen the more recent molds are significantly different to the older style kits in terms of how they utilise space, something I know gets Jes Goodwin very excited is getting the maximum amount of options onto a sprue. In that respect then, including additional parts on the sprues is perfectly reasonable for some of them, depending on whether or not the master mold needs replacing. I'd be very surprised however if the sternguard one needed an update, it's not exactly ancient.

On the other hand, there are some really glaring problems with what's been suggeste, and that's this - the chapters attributed to each kit don't really make much sense. White Scars with bikes I understand, and to a certain extent I also get Raven Guard, though I think they'd be better additions to the scout and standard tactical box, adding in recon style gear such as silenced bolter barrels, comms equipment, cloaks etc.
What I really don't get however is the devastator squad and sternguard squad suggestions - I've played lots against salamanders in the last two years and the one thing they really don't bring much of is devastator squads. If anything, the sternguard makes more sense for them as they can bring heavy flamers, perhaps the iconic weapon associated with salamanders. Similarly with the sternguard, as others have pointed out the sternguard are most associated with the crimson fists. 

So of the original legions, we've got separate codices for Blood Angels, Dark Angels and Space Wolves, which leaves 6 loyalists. Assuming White Scars connect best to the bike squad (duh!) we have Ultramarines, Raven Guard, Salamanders, Imperial Fists and Iron Hands.

To my mind, none of them really jump out as being most relevant to Sternguard, though given their chapter tactics, I can see Imperial Fists being a good fit to devastators.

What I think would make far more sense, both in terms of hobbying and business-wise for GW, would be to produce a single clampack for each of the first founding legions, comprising a selection of bits most appropriate to their character, so shoulder pads for all kits, then lightning claws, silenced bolters etc for Raven Guard, a couple of Heavy Weapons for Imperial Fists and maybe some different bolter options with drum mags, bionics for Iron Hands, heads and weapons for White Scars, heavier looking armour for Salamanders and perhaps some helmet crests/capes etc for Ultramarines. These would then sell separately and at an additional cost to hobbyists who want to personalise their armies, and would almost certainly comand a higher price point than rolling bits into the standard kits only to flood the re-seller market with unwanted parts from all the space marine collectors out there.

Wow, that's a big block of text, much more than I thought I'd be writing, so I'll save my thoughts and wish-listing of the space marine codex for another day - look out for that perhaps on Friday!

Till next time, don't have a cow, man.