These guys are the next generation of Space Marines, developed in secret by Archmagos Belisarius Cawl at the behest of Roboute Guilliman at the end of the Horus Heresy. For 10,000 years Cawl has worked in secret on developing these guys and now he's finished (presumably once the project was complete, he realised he had to go and wake up his client!) Guilliman is shipping them out to various locations across the galaxy to reinforce the Space Marine Chapters to allow him to conduct his Indomitus Crusade.
So, there's your brief history lesson, what's the lowdown on these guys?
They are effectively the 'tru-scale' marines we've been hearing rumours of recently, though I'm not sure from the pictures we've seen if that's truly the case or if they're just a little taller to smooth out and balance marine proportions. Key point however - they are not replacing existing marine models with these guys, they are an additional unit in the range.
They have two wounds. So sit somewhere between 'normal' marines and terminators in terms of resilience. That's fine by me, whilst I understand why the marine range was universally a single wound for a very long time, the forthcoming 8th edition seems to be trying to translate fluff into reality on the tabletop a bit more, and therefore giving some marines 2 wounds makes a lot of sense.
They are specialist squads. We've seen that their bolt rifles have extra range over a normal bolter, and come with an AP of -1, meaning these are the guys to take if you want to reduce armour saves of your opponent 'en-masse' from an infantry platform. We have seen leaked pics of them carrying a larger version of a plasma gun, and the released info from GW (who also confirmed there are more unit types to come) suggested they operate more like the legion squads of old, so not mixing weapon types in a unit. Could this mean finally that marines will have the option of taking squads with massed special weapons? Oh I really hope so, it's been a niggle of mine for a very long time that you can take devastator squads with multiple heavy weapons, but only the command squad attempts to do a similar thing with special weapons, which seems kinda stupid to me.
As with many unit releases like this, social media exploded last night with the full range of opinions on show.
"My army hasn't had anything for ages, why do marines get another unit type?"
"You've just invalidated all my current models."
"You mean someone in the Imperium kept a 10,000 year secret? I don't believe that's possible."
And so on.
Now I'm going to say right now - I like the new models. I also liked Centurions when they came out and I like the Storm Hawk, and the Storm Raven. I've got quite a collection of current marine models, and I'm fully intending on buying some of these guys too. From the information we have, we know that they will cost more points than normal marines, the fluff is that they are rarer, but that there have been new chapters formed so if you want to build an entire collection based on them, then you can.
As for the secret of their creation, quite frankly I love the fluff, the idea that Roboute Guilliman commissioned them shortly after the Horus Heresy, knowing that with 9 legions falling to Chaos he would need to develop a new weapon to fight them. I have no problem whatsoever believing that their development could be kept secret (spoilers), you have only to look at the building of the furious abyss and its sister ships, or the attempted development of the Emperor's version of the webway that allowed the White Scars to return to Terra from the heresy lore to understand that even before the Emperor's incarceration in the Golden Throne, keeping secrets in the Imperium wasn't that difficult.
So relax. You don't need to melt. The models look perfectly reasonable alongside the existing range (GW's own photos in their release video show the two units alongside each other and I had to double check to make sure the other squads were existing models not new releases). They also occupy a different niche to the existing units in the space marine codex, so you needn't fear invalidation unless that's what you want to do.
In fluff terms, the idea of developing something new and more advanced is an interesting one to reconcile - 40k has long traded on the idea that technology is no longer understood in the way it used to be, and that the Imperium itself is stagnating and withering. That's all well and good, but it only leaves you one place to go if you're to advance the fluff at all, and that's with the destruction of the Imperium. This way, GW have (in my opinion) cleverly responded to the catastrophic events some of their recent campaign supplements have had on the Imperium, without having reneged on the idea of technological regression. Cawl is a relic of the time of the Horus Heresy, and presumably much older even than that (Guilliman would hardly have chosen a junior to hand this project to) so it's perfectly reasonable to conclude that he may hold secrets to gene manipulation from the time of the creation of the space marines. When you think about it properly, the fluff all makes sense, even though a certain amount of adjustment may be needed to accommodate this new information, background in the 40k universe makes these adjustments all the time without losing its integrity.
As for other races, I have no doubt that we'll see new models and unit types released for most if not all of the factions following 8th edition dropping, but as ever, they key model releases relevant to the starter set always come first. My view is that with all indicators pointing to a Death Guard/Marine starter set, we can look forward to some new Chaos models coming, who knows, perhaps Chaos will also get some form of advancement in their development - Fabius Bile is still around after all, and he's hardly going to have been sitting back twiddling his thumbs all this time!
Other Rules snippets
Ok, I'm going to be brief with these as the above discussion took up quite a bit of space.
Datasheets now contain all the rules for a particular unit, universal special rules are no more. Yes, this is good. Up to a point. Only one source now for info on a unit, however with no USR's you may have to spend more time detailing what each unit can do to your opponent - in many ways just saying 'fearless' or 'relentless' was pretty simple as you could expect an opponent to know what that meant. Now in most instances that's not going to be a problem, particularly in competitive play, but if like me you feel guilty about dropping info on your opponent then going through all the unit rules before a game will either become quite long-winded or you're going to have to cut down on what information you give out.
When I say all the rules, that's literally pretty much every rule, including weapons profiles. Huzzah! That is most definitely a good thing, though I hope codices will continue to have a summary page at the rear containing all these profiles.
We now also see the keyword mechanic in place, and there are two different levels of keywords - the first of these relates to the faction, and therefore presumably is involved in choosing your army and what level of 'alliance' your force works at (my guess is that an army could consist of all units with the chaos faction, and gain certain benefits, but if it consisted of all units with the Slaanesh faction, it would be able to access more specific benefits, more relevant to all of the units in the army).
Points and power levels
Biggest part of this release? Points are no longer contained within the datasheet for a unit (although the new power level balancing mechanic is). This is stated as to allo for GW to amend and update points values based on the competitive performance of the unit.
HOW ABOUT THAT PEOPLE???
Wow, this is something I really, really like the sound of. No more getting stuck with points values of an army until a new codex, this is stated as allowing them to update points at any time to rebalance units!
Second, they've stated that points values for units add up to about the same as today (though with the changes to shooting it's obvious that stuff like heavy weapons in tactical squads are getting more expensive) and with the changes to the system making games faster, games of 2000pts will take about 2 hours.
Clever. For most people who have a gaming night similar to mine, the time it takes to play is largely irrelevant, my club is open from 6pm till midnight. Am I going to look to finish games and get home sooner? Hell no, I'm going to be bringing bigger armies and more toys and playing for the same amount of time! What that means is more chance to include more units, more toys, which means I need a bigger army so I need to buy more models. Like I said, clever.
Finally for the points post - no more free stuff! Woohoo! They even confirmed on facebook that this didn't just apply to summoning deamons (one of the most broken mechanics in 7th edition) or splitting horrors down into blues and brimstones, but also to stuff like tervigons spawning hordes of gaunts all over the table. I think you'll struggle to find anyone who has played against a summoning list who isn't in favour of this - units can still be summoned but will result in the initial army being proportionately smaller and more manageable.
So, if your army is battle-forged, you get command points (differing amounts based on how it's organised and what it contains). You can spend these on stratagems.
Three are available to everyone, allowing a single re-roll (perhaps that melta that always misses?) or for a unit to fight out of sequence or auto passing a morale test. Different strategems cost different numbers of command points, and we will be seeing lots more of them once codices start being released.
More will also be available in open and narrative play, whilst matched play limits them to being used once per phase.
Ok well we're starting to see now how things are deviating from the broad 'AoS' style rules of the general phases and more detailed elements are being introduced. Stratagems are a new and very interesting element to the game - I'm eagerly anticipating seeing what the faction specific ones are, and hope they don't become too much of a gimmick.
As for the rest of the above, quite frankly it can't come too soon - it's likely that my doubles tournament in June will be the last hurrah for 7th edition for the Dusk Knights, I can't wait to get my hands on the new books!