Warhammer 40k Space Marine Codex Review

The new Codex: Space Marines is upon us. The mighty defenders of mankind have some new toys and loads of new special rules. There’s a lot to sort through so let’s get to it.
Army Abilities
First we need to talk about the new Space Marine universal abilities. All Space Marines now have a blanket ability called Angels of Death, which contains four pieces. And They Shall Know No Fear, Bolter Discipline, Shock Assault, and Combat Doctrines.
And They Shall Know No Fear has a slight wording difference that could lead to unique situations. The ability says you can re-roll the dice when taking a test. meaning you could get a second chance to fail a test as well as pass it if you need to.
Bolter Discipline is pretty much the same as its beta incarnations. But newcomer Shock Assault gives Space Marines some teeth in melee. Granting an extra attack when the unit charges, is charged, or performs Heroic Intervention is huge. Being able to pump out extra attacks when you get charged by a melee unit. Plus the more hacky slashy Space Marines get more punch when finally closing the distance on their prey.
Combat Doctrines is the final and possibly most modular ability in 40k right now. There are three separate doctrines and they can be changed out once per battle round. Only one is active at a time. So this works by starting the battle with Devastator active. Then in any round after the first you can switch to the Tactical Doctrine. Then any round after switching to Tactical you can switch to Assault.
But what do these doctrines do? Well the Devastator Doctrine increases the AP of Heavy and Grenade weapons by 1. The Tactical doctrine increases the AP of Rapid Fire and Assault Weapons by 1. The Assault Doctrine increases the AP of Pistol and Melee weapons by 1. So the Doctrines create a flow through the battle to closer and closer ranges. But also if you run lots of Heavy weapons and want to stay with it, do it. If you want to get that extra Melee AP, it will take 3 turns. But by that point it should give your forces the surge they need to crush the enemy.
All of these abilities in tangent make for some very well defended and dangerous gun line Space Marines. Also some absolutely terrifying Close Combat Specialists.
New Units
The Incursor Squad is the first new unit up. This unit is equipped with standard bolters that ignore cover. They also have a Multi-spectrum array which prevents modifiers to hit rolls or Ballistic Skill. Finally, they can carry a Haywire Mine. The mine can be laid on the field and when an enemy unit is within 3 inches on a 2+ it deals D3 mortal wounds. Or D3 plus 1 to a vehicle.
Incursor Squads can be the perfect area denial unit for Space Marines. With their ability to infiltrate where they need to be and pop smoke if they get in a jam. Plus their primary weapon allows them to take out those usually tricky to get rid of units. Also with small squads you could create an actual minefield. Not to mention they have Angels of Death. So with the Tactical Doctrine active Incursors get real nasty to all those camouflaged scout units.
Next up is the Invictor Tactical Warsuit, which I will call the ITW from now on. Although this has been advertised as a lighter Redemptor Dreadnought. This thing has some pretty comparable stats. Both have almost identical stats except the ITW has a 10” movement and only toughness 6. Plus the weaponry on the ITW hits less hard than the Redemptor. But that doesn’t mean it’s a slouch.
The ITW has the option of a 12 inch heavy 2D6 flamer or a Heavy 6 Autocannon for its primary weapon. It also has a fragstorm grenade launcher, 2 ironhail heavy stubbers, and a ‘pistol’ heavy bolter. And the Heavy Bolter being a pistol isn’t for show, it is can be an actual pistol-type weapon when in Close Combat. The ITW is designed to work well with Incursors. Providing the covering fire they need making the maximum use of that Devastator Doctrine. Oh yea, this bad boy has Angels of Death and Concealed Position. Making a Space Marine answer to the Ghostkeel.
The final new unit is the Impulsor, which is the Razorback for Primaris. The Impulsor comes standard with either two heavy stubbers or two fragstorm grenade launchers. It also can have a ironhail heavy stubber. And finally it can be given one of four of these special options. A comms array to call in a orbital barrage, a 4+ invulnerable save, a missle array with frag, krak, and Icarus missles, or heavy 6 strength 4 anti-flyer weapon.
The Impulsor has a base movement of 14” toughness 7 and 11 wounds which makes it both a fast and durable transport. It can transport 6 Primaris models and can deploy them at the end of the movement phase if it did not advance. This cannot be used for charging however. The Orbital bombardment is a good way to deal mortal wounds to a group of closely packed units. The Missle Array looks to be a way better option compared to the Skytalon unless your versing a group of lower toughness flyers. The Shield Dome makes the Impulsor incredibly survivable which makes sure your troops get to the front.
The New Units in Codex: Space Marines are all about making sure you can get your troops to the enemy lines. Which also is shown in the couple of units that were given extra rules and equipment.
Updated Units
Eliminators got a lot more flexibility with the new Codex. All 3 of their ammo types from their sniper rifles can now target characters. Also they gained a new weapon with las fusil. Which makes the unit into a new sneaky devastators with the gun being basically a lascannon.
Also the Sergeant now has two abilities that can be used to either improve the hit and wound rolls of the squads attacks by one. Or if equipped with a Instigator Bolt Carbine, in Overwatch after firing, the unit can immediately move. Both these abilities make taking the Instigator Carbine on the Sergeant a must. Since you can avoid combat after Overwatching and you can be sure to get your target everytime.
The second change is to Drop Pods which still are the same except one key difference. They ignore the Tactical Reserves matched play rule. This means they can come in on turn 1, which would be a huge swing for Drop Pod forces.
Chaplains also got a huge change with the new codex. Their Litany of Hate ability still is around. But now they also take an extra litany from the Litanies of Battle chart. Litanies work much like psychic powers in that only one of each can be recited but they all happen on a 3+ from a D6. But they are done at the start of each battle round.
The litanies themselves do things like give a feel no pain save, add one to wound rolls if firing at closest unit, exploding 6s in combat, add 1 to hit rolls, add 1 to strength and damage, and add 2” to charges and 3” to pile-ins. Litanies give you less risky psyker powers that can change the swing of the battle.
Chapter Tactics
For Chapter Tactics you can either choose to be one of the 8 loyalist chapters or make a mix of 2 of your own. First we will go over some of the best of the original 8 Chapters.
Both Imperial Fists and Crimson Fists now have a dakka rule for bolt weapons. Raven Guard if being shot at from further than 12 inches get treated as being in cover, and if they are in cover get -1 to be hit. White Scars can now advance and charge. Plus their bikes don’t suffer penalties for moving with Heavy or advancing with Assault. Black Templars now can choose to only reroll one of the dice for a charge roll and also have a 5+ feel no pain. The Salamanders reroll now applies to Overwatch as well, and they ignore AP of -1. Iron Hands also now Overwatch on a 5 or 6, and Vehicles with a damage table double their wounds remaining for the table. Meaning they’ll be at full power until the very end. Also for those of you wondering, Ultramarines haven’t changed at all. At least in the base codex.
Most of base Chapter traits are pretty great and each one lends itself to a particular playstyle. But if those aren’t sounding good, there are also successor chapter tactics that you can mix and match two of. There are a lot of these but I’ll go over some of the best ones.
Indomitable makes it so only one model flees from the unit in a failed Morale test. Master Artisans gives you the Salamanders re-roll. Scions of the Forge gives vehicles the Iron Hands doubling wounds. Stalwart makes it so a wound of 1 or 2 always fails. Tacitical Withdrawl allows a unit to charge after falling back. Warded gives units a 5+ feel no pain. Plus there’s Duelist and Whirlwind of Rage. With which a 6 causes an automatic wound against Infantry or Bikers, or dakka if the unit charged, was charged, or Heroically Interevened, respectively. There are a lot more traits that can be combined such as add 3” to range or reroll ones with psykers that allow for a lot of flexibility with your force.
Warlord Traits
The normal warlord traits for Space Marines are all the same. But if you have a Phobos Character you can choose Warlord Traits from the Vanguard table. The first of which is Shoot and Fade which allows a unit within 6” of the warlord to shoot and then move with a forced advance. Space Marines can have Jump -Shoot-Jump now in small quantities. Lord of Deciet allows you to re-setup up to 3 units before the battle begins. The other 4 are things like add 1” to movement and advance, subtract 1 from being hit, add one to hit rolls, and add one to damage.
Like the vanilla warlord traits most the chapter traits also stayed the same. Salamanders now add 2 to their strength. Crimson Fists now can have their warlord not die on a 4+ to come back with d3 wounds and more than 1” from enemy models. Also White Scars now trigger their mortal wound on a 2+.
There are a good amount of stratagems that help out almost every unit in the codex but there are a few that stick out. First up is Gravitic Amplification which allows grav weapons to reroll wounds and damage for 1 CP. Target Sighted allows Intercessors to target characters even giving them mortal wounds on 6s for 3CP. Skilled riders allows bikers or land speeders to gain a 4+ invulnerable save if it moved and a 3+ if it advanced for 2CP. Transhuman physiology allows makes a wound roll of 1 through 3 always fail for 2CP. Finally, Adaptive Strategy allows you to change Combat Doctrines in reverse order for 1 CP.
Chapter Relics
For new Relics a few standouts are the Bellicos Bolt Rifle, Benediction of Fury, and the Purgatorus. The Purgatorus is a bolt pistol with strength 5 AP -3 and 2 damage with 2 shots, nasty. The Bellicos Bolt Rifle gives you a 24” assault 4 strength 5 AP -1 2 damage master-crafted auto bolt rifle. Which will do some serious ranged damage. The Benediction of Fury is a Chaplain relic that replaces the Crozius Arcanum with a Strength +2 AP -2 2 damage beat stick. Combined with the litany of battle Mantra of Strength you could increase this to a strength +3, 3 damage destroyer.
Psychic Disciplines
Space Marine Psykers can either use the Librarius or Obscuration Discipline. The Librarius Discipline is unchanged so we’ll be focusing on the Obscuration Discipline. Shrouding is a warp charge of 6 and basically gives a unit the character rule. Soul Sight on a 6+ gives rerolls to hit and saving throws against an enemy unit. Mind Raid on a 6 deals a mortal wound and if the unit was a character on 3D6 if you beat its leadership you gain a command point.
Hallucination on a 6 subtracts 1 from an enemy units leadership and on 2d6 beating their leadership they subtract 1 from hit rolls. Tenebrous curse on a 6 causes an enemy unit without fly to 1 mortal wound and halves movement, advances, and charges (rounding up). Temporal Corridor on a big 7 can make a friendly phobos unit move and advance with 3d6 dicarding the 2 lowest.
Points Changes
The Space Marines forces saw a lot of point drops all over usually between 1 to 6 points but some of the more significant drops are listed here. The Landspeeder Storm dropped 15 points. The Repulsor is up 30 points. The Land Raider decreased 20 points. Boltstorm Gauntlets are down 10 points. Dreadnought melee weapons are down 10 points across the board. The Seismic Hammer is down 10 points.
For the new units Incursors start out at 19 points a model. So a for a 5 man minimum squad you’re looking at 95 points, and the mine is an extra 10 points. The Invictor Tactical Warsuit is 90 points bare and 116 points not including the primary guns. The Incendium Cannon is 15 points and the Twin Ironhail Autocannon is 20 points. For Eliminators the Instigator Carbine costs 5 points and the las fusil costs 15 points, pretty hefty but probably worth it.
The Impulsor costs 75 points bare and could cost a minimum of 79 points. The Bellicatus missle array costs 17 points. The ironhail heavy stubber costs 6 points. The ironhail skytalon array is only 5 points. The orbital comms array is 18 points and so is the shield dome. So if you want to seriously protect yourself or cause mortal wounds you’re going to pay for it.
In Conclusion
The new Codex: Space Marines has a lot to offer. From the many special rules that any Astartes army gets access to, to the new higher mobility units, Space Marines are going to have a lot going for them. Plus the extra sets of tables to pull warlord traits and psychic disciplines from. Mixed with the ability to make your own unique chapter trait combo. No two Space Marines forces may act alike at the game table.
As always, A big thanks to Games Workshop for the images provided for this article.
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