Friday, June 17, 2011

Why would anyone play Space Marines?

For all the years that I've been in the hobby (and that's been a looooong time now), I've heard every reason a person wouldn't want to play Space Marines.  In every form it can take, the anti-SM rhetoric has been constant and, sadly, had an impact in the community.

As most of you know (if not from reading my blog, then just knowing me), I am a Space Marine fanboy.  I've been a fan of them since I was a wee little tike that still believed in the magic of gaming.  And in all that time, I have been accosted with this hate speech and I've had my opportunities to put some people straight.  But it's been popping up again; the ignorant 'space marines are soooo stupid' crowd is starting to become that nuisance again, and it's been too long since I ranted.

I'm not one to let irrational, quasi-intellectual, bias-speech go on long.  Today I shall rant in favour of enlightening the anti-Space Marine crowd as to why.  So why would anyone play Space Marines?

There are three main reasons, by my reckoning:

1.  Everyone understands what a spaceman with a gun is. 

 I remember sitting in a meeting where we were trying to decide what should be inlcuded in the 4th edition starter-set.  Many of the talking heads there felt that we'd been using Space Marines too often and we should shift to maybe IG or even Sisters of Battle.  One of our bosses 'let us in on the secret' as to why we'd always included Space Marines:  Everyone knows what a spaceman looks like.  There's nothing more sci-fi in the minds of most people than a spaceman with a gun.  Going away from that, as you can imagine, wouldn't help non-hobbyists understand what we did.  Imagine, for a moment, that a potential hobbyist walks into the game shop and looks down at GW's so-called 'sci-fi' game, and they see...  nuns?  Yeah, that doesn't work out so well.  So there ya go:  In the interest of easy to recognize themes, a spaceman with a gun is perfect.

2.  They embody the 'ideal' in the same way as Knights.

 Everyone who's ever been into sci-fi or mideival fantasy at any point in their life has wanted to be a knight.  Maybe that took the form of a Knight of the Round Table or Knight Templar, or maybe it took the form of the Samurai.  Hell, maybe they've even wanted to be a Jedi, the knight-archetype from Star Wars.  In any case, the Knight holds an undeniable place in the hearts of all nerds and more.  Space Marines ARE the Knights of the Imperium of Mankind.  They may not be as chivalric (In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only WAR!  Not chivalry.) or as noble (Exterminatus isn't exactly noble), but they are certainly the best that mankind has.  They follow a code of honor, proudly display their panalopy, and act aspirationally.  Everyone loves knights, so it would make sense that everyone loves knights with Power Armor and Boltguns...

3.  The army's list and rules are the most versatile, if not the most targetted.

 This is the most controversial of all the points.  So many people view Space Marines as a 'kiddy army', or believe that SM players don't have to play well to win.  But I disagree whole-heartedly.  Consider this:  When everyone opens their codices to write an army list, who's their primary target?  When you go to the AdeptaHillbillyLordsFistonomicon Tournament, who makes up the balance of armies?  Make no mistake, I've had a bit of experience talking to the game designers, and they base the codices in the game against the Space Marine codex; even the non-standard space marines are compared directly to the regular boyz-in-blue!  Now some of you are gonna scream, "But that's because there's so many Space Marine players!!!"  Duh.  There should be because they're just that damned cool.  But the chicken did come from the egg, and the game was designed to be Space-Marine-centric since the beginning.  Don't like it?  Read the points above again, it ain't that complicated to understand why. 
so true, I used it twice

  Also, I hate the idea that any moron could win the game with Space Marines.  That's simply not true.  Every other army in the game of 40k is specifically designed to deal with Space Marines.  Tau have Vespid and cheap plasma, Eldar rock the Banshees and Reapers, and the Tyranids/Orks work best against Space Marines.  Even with all the toys that the Astartes have access to, they are still lacking Ld 10, 4 point models, and battle cannons.  Yes, the SM army is a forgiving one to play, but would it really be better if knights were soft?  Yes, the SM army can present any strategy, but would it really be better if a Samurai didn't know how to use a bow?  When an Ultramarine player pounds that arrogant 23-year-old and his spammy Dark Eldar list into the ground, who was really the better tactician?  I can tell you this:  Dark Eldar is a better marine-killing army than the Ultramarines are at killing anything else.  But watch as the Ultramarine player, a poor 15-year-old kid that has never owned another army and lacks any hope that he will, graciously takes the ridicule and watches his victory barely count for no other reason than he chose to play with Space Marines...
  Finally, the Space Marine army can do anything.  Eldar are amazing at shooting with a couple of really good close-combat units sprinkled in.  Tau are unmatcheable at long-range armor-busting and 'shoot & scoot' strategy.  Tyranids are overwhelmingly many or big, and sometimes even both.  IG have heavy guns with heavy armor and a horde of little doods around them to make it more difficult to take out.  Even the Sisters have miracles and Necrons come back to life.  What do Space Marines do?  They auto-rally most of the time and their squads can take a mix of heavy, special, and close combat weapons.  That's it.  But that's alot.  Every time I write an IG list, I notice that I can't run a useful power weapon anywhere.  When I write my famous Banshee/Serpent Eldar list, I notice that I MUST add Reapers or something to support my advance with real firepower.  But with Space Marines, I just throw a power fist, a plasma gun, and a missle launcher into a single Tactical Squad and I'm ready for anything!  It's the peace-of-mind that flexibility gives me that makes SM so versatile.  And I'm sure that it's not too different for alot of people...

Why would anyone actually play Space Marines?  If the three reasons above didn't make sense to you, then there's one last final reason that should do the trick:

I love my Space Marines because they're Genetically-enhanced, Super-human, Psycho-indoctrinated Warriors armed with advanced Power-armor and Boltguns.  They know no fear, they go anywhere, fight anything, and do it for the best reason there is to fight:  To save my human ass.  And because of THAT, I loves me some Space Marines.


  1. Brilliant article mate and I whole heartedly support your argument.