Wednesday, 3 June 2015

New Space Marine codex - how will you deal with yours?

Hi all - today I'm going to talk about that moment in our lives we all love and hate in equal measure - the day our codex gets replaced - the excitement of poring over the pages to see what's changed and what's stayed the same, have they nerfed your favourite unit or is that choice you've always wanted to use but never found a place for now what you always hoped it would be?

Not so much a game tactics post today then, more a collection tactics article, very much based around what to do when your army's codex is replaced, and how to evaluate the changes made.

As I alluded to above, this time can be a very emotional one for us gamers, particularly given the time and effort we've probably put in to creating our 'perfect' army. For me, as those who've been following me for a while will know, when the current Space Marine codex hit I made the decision to completely re-evaluate my collection, stripping everything back and starting again from scratch, both in terms of models and paint scheme. This resulted in me beginning my collection of Iron Fists, and Imperial Fists successor chapter - 'official' in terms of the name and lineage being created by GW, but a small enough footnote that it hadn't really been explored much in the background of the books. Thus I had creative freedom over style of army and name, even to a certain extent over colour since they were simply described as being blue/grey, with the heraldry books I've got not being clear over the main colour.

That for me was a watershed moment then as a marine player since my previous collection(s) of space marines were so disorganised from a gaming point of view I needed to start again and come up with something new. This time round however, it clearly won't be the same - I won't be starting my marines from scratch again so I'll need to re-organise.

Thankfully with over 6000pts in my collection, reorganisation doesn't necessarily mean buying a bucketful of new models, but there are still significant gaps in my collection and I'm intrigued to see if they're going to need filling.

Broadly speaking my collection is based around the following core:

Bike characters and command squad
2 full bike squads
3 tactical squads
3 centurions
storm talon
ironclad dreadnought
2 land speeder typhoons

added to that I can count the following
3 assault squads
2 scout squads
2 razorbacks
3 terminator squads and characters
2 land raiders
storm talon
storm raven
scout bike squad
sternguard veteran squad
honour guard squad

Now the glaring ommissions from my collection as it stands are devastators units and transports, I have no devastator squads, and just the two razorbacks - no rhinos and no drop pods, which leaves a big mobility gap (though this has been accounted for currently by basing my tabletop armies around bikes).

So what happens when the new codex arrives?

Well after ripping off the cellophane wrapping, and sniffing the 'new' smell of a brand new publication (please tell me I'm not the only one that does this?) I would historically have wrestled with myself and read the fluff section first. Can't see that happening this time round though - I'm much more of a gamer than a background bunny these days (though I do still enjoy a good bit of background writing).

I suspect this time around my first flick through the book will be straight to the formation & detachment pages. This is going to be huge for the space marines - I've written before about how I think the current codex feels old already due to the seismic changes we've seen in the game over the last couple of years.

What I think the formations and detachment pages promise this time round though is likely to be balance. Always before there has been a clear 'best' way to play the boys in power armour, and the current codex is no exception - anyone seeking the most competitive marine list around uses white scars tactics. I find salamanders a close second, especially when Vulkan joins their ranks (honestly, I'm bored of him turning up in every Salamanders list I face). My second task will be to go through all the unit entries to see if there are any changes to the actual rules - this is a key thing and will go a long way towards balancing some of the less common units up to viable levels. We've seen that GW is capable of doing this with the Eldar codex - its previous incarnation was almost universally seen as a ghost warrior list, but from what I've heard, aspect warriors are now extremely viable and the codex as a whole is very well balanced.

So what will I be doing?

Well, first, I won't be jumping to any conclusions. You might not hear much from me for a few days as I digest the changes, but you can bet when I do come out from my hole I'll have looked at everything very carefully.

As ever therefore my first step when looking at a new codex is to figure out which units are viable in which roles - i take a pad of paper and put four colums on it. Anti Infantry, Anti Tank, Anti Flyer and Anti Elite. I then look at each unit in the codex, and assign it to as many of the columns as it can perform roles for. The Storm Raven for example currently goes in all four columns thanks to its varied weapon loadout, whereas an assault squad would sit firmly in anti infantry only. It is of course a matter of personal judgement about some of the roles, for example some would say that an assault squad can have anti elite or anti tank capabilities, but I have to decide if those are really viable roles for the unit to fulfill.

Once I've done that exercise, I can then look at building the core of a viable force, making sure I've got elements of each column covered properly. This time round, building that core force is going to take much more time thanks to the likely layout of the detachments - I'm fully expecting the decurion style organisation taking elements from various parts of a chapter's organisation. The Anti Infantry section usually deals with itself as you take troops choices (which are almost universally anti infantry in the main), but it will be most interesting to see how the rest of the organisation works out.

I'm also likely to need to figure out if the detachment benefits are worthwhile in comparison to the flexibility of using other formations or just a simple CAD. I really hope that they are, as it would be an immensely beneficial way to build a marine army, using one of several core forces from a battle company with more specialised task forces attached to that basic organisation. I think we've also seen that particularly with Necrons and Eldar, the benefits of taking this method are substantial and justify it over a more relaxed method.

One of the key things for me this time round is going to be figuring out what mobility methods are going to be required. As I've said, my collection is short on transports outside a pair of razorbacks, and I'm holding off on purchasing any drop pods etc to see which is going to be the most viable option. We know drop pods are evil for tactical deployment but a good opponent can force you to put them out of position or make them ineffective by their own deployment and movement. Conversely Rhinos offer good mobility but less effective deployment strategies, whilst razorbacks are the only viable transport option that really boosts your firepower much.

So in short, I'm going for:
1. Rip off the wrapper and sniff the book
2. Assess the formation benefits
3. Re-assess individual units
4. Categorise units and loadout options
5. Construct a core force, using the detachments in the book if the benefits are worthwhile
6. Put together task forces to attach to the core force to supplement its strengths in particular areas.