Monday, November 7, 2011

"My Marines are better than your Marines!"

Everyday I sign into this little-known blogsite of mine and take the opportunity to read various posts on my blogroll (that's the list of blogs on the side of the page that I like) and I noticed the hatred again.  I had gotten pretty happy when the Necron rumours were released as it seemed that the following HATERAID ended temporarily:
1.  WAAC gamers and Fluffy gamers and who's better (y'all should know where I fall in that argument by now...)
2.  40k rules suck ass and the new edition will be far better or worse
3.  The cost of GW's stuff is so out-of-line that the million+ hobbyists around the world are going to quit anyday now
4.  Grey Knights are the bestest of the bestest
5.  How to paint Dark Eldar in another version of black
I have to admit that this was a glorious era- for the few weeks that it lasted.  But lo, it's back.  And my smile faded from my face as I read comment after comment and many original posts that basically pick up where we left off in the hate-filled communities that have an online forum.  Luckily, I'm here to bring some perspective, or at least talk about something a little less contentious and a little more hobby-based.  So what am I going to give a mad-rant about today?

What is the difference between one Chapter of Space Marines and the next (from a gaming standpoint)?

I am a hater of the 'codex creep' phenomenon.  I used to be a hater of gamers that perscribed to this theory and now I'm a hater of the reality.  (Yes, for all those poor hobbyists that I 'tore a new one' into- you were right!  Codex Creep does exist and it sucks ass!) 

See, I've been an Ultramarine player since the Chapter became a distinct color-scheme in a WD produced way back in the late 80's.  I chose the Ultramarines because, and this is a nifty story that I'm sure I've told before, everyone else in my local game shop played Blood Angels and Chaos.  Back in those days the differences in the Chapters was superfluous at best, but that changed over time.  Soon, the Ultramarines and Angels of Death were very different (mostly in the form of AoD getting better Termies and Death Company making their first real appearance), and those were FAR different from Chaos Space Marines.  Then 3rd came out and made these distinctions cemented in stone.  Since the early 21st century, I can honestly say that the idea of distinct Chapters of Space Marines has become more clear and more defined.  So let's take a look at the different Chapters and talk briefly about what's different about them:

I'm gonna talk about these guys first for two reasons- first, that's where my loyalties lie and, second, because this Legion is the 'basis' for all other Chapters. 
So what makes the Ultramarines different than the other Chapters?  Well, first and most uniquely is the hardware.  No other Chapter has the Thunderfire Cannon or the Siege Dreadnought.  No other Chapter has the Land Speeder Storm.  And no other Chapter has the Master of the Forge.  These items aren't overpowered or even give the Ultramarines an unfair chance on the battlefield, but they're still unique to this book.  Wouldn't it be awesome for Space Wolves to have Siege Dreadnoughts or Blood Angels to have Land Speeder Storms?  Well SUCK IT!  Ultramarines do, you don't.  Ha!
What about special rules?  Well, if you take special characters you can gain some LD-boosting abilities, add Fleet or Outflank to your force, or even twin-link the best weapons in the army!  But those all require special characters and, for the most part, are pretty minor.  The Ultramarine army book is based mostly on "Look, my doods have bolters and power armor.  Go!"  This is what makes the Ultramarines different from anyone else- they're basic!

Black Templars
This is the oldest of the 'my Chapter is different than your Chapter' books.  It's actually only as old as the Tau army's entire existance (for those that don't know, I worked for the Emporer before there was such a thing as Tau), so that makes them really new in the world of Space Marines.  In fact, the Black Templars were part of the Ultramarines codex even when featured in the 3rd edition Starter Kit.
So what did GW do to make them different?  Well, they have NO Librarians.  None.  That's right, the ability to stop the Eldar's special glitter-tricks doesn't exist in this book.  The ability to draw a straight line across a battlefield and do something to the enemy does not exist.  The ability to force-weapon a Carnifex to death does not exist.  Moral of the story?  No psykers, people.
Also, there are no Veteran Sergeants.  This may not seem like a big deal to most people but not being able to take a strong close-combat specialist in a troop unit is very disconcerting to a Space Marine player.  In fact, the Black Templars lack Veterans altogether.  The Sword Brethren fulfill that role, but they don't do it as well as the other Space Marines.  Luckily, the Chapter comes around real nice with the Preferred Enemy special rule across the board.  There are other options, but taking that basically-free Captain and allowing the whole army to re-roll misses in close-combat is pretty awesome.  Although the Black Templars Chapter lacks the cool toys of the others, it still packs the punch in the dedicated role it was meant for- hitting people really hard!

Dark Angels
Unlike the Black Templars, the Dark Angels are actually privy to much of the stuff that Ultramarines go to war with.  They still have psykers and most of the wargear than all Chapters get.  But there's issues here.
The Dark Angels are little more than Ultramarines with different coloured armor.  They have no Sternguard Veterans, so can't take any of the special ammo.  Their Assault Veterans are terrible and have nothing to do with actually fighting (they pretty much just get more weapon options than a normal squad, but still can't take jump packs!), and their other units are carbon copies of the Ultramarines.  However, there is some good to it all.
Dark Angel Scouts can actually shoot.  That's right, they've gone to the Firing Range once or twice!  Real Chaplains still exist.  Their Terminators are Fearless and can mix-and-match wargear.  In fact, the Terminators and Bikes are the parts of the codex that make Ultramarine players like myself green with envy.  Bikes that Scout and have teleport homers, plus Terminator Squads as troop units, anyone?  Yes, please!  Besides being over-costed and lacking the options that some other Chapters have, Dark Angels are only slightly different and more basic than the boyz in blue.  Blame that on age.

Blood Angels
Here's where we start to get insane!  Remember how Ultramarines are the basis of all other Chapters?  Well, prepare for the sprinkles, chocolate syrup, nutty bits, and fruit on top.
Blood Angels have Sanguinary Priests that make all boyz-in-red into 'insta-death-company'.  This is crazy!  Did I mention that they're only 50 points?  They have Fast vehicles across the board (except Land Raiders, which can Deep Strike), meaning 'armoured fury' all day long.  They have Vangauard Assault Veterans AND Sanguinary Guard that are a perfect middle between those and Terminators!  They have Baal Predators and Stormraven Gunships- both very perfectly designed to do what Blood Angels do.  Finally, they have Furioso Dreadnoughts (that's their version of Siege Dreadnoughts) and Librarian Dreadnoughts.  That's right, Dreadnoughts that are also Librarians!  What do the Blood Angels not have?  See the Ultramarines entry.  They have NOT that stuff.  But they more than make up for it.  Blood Angels are the Chapter for Space Marine players that want more

Space Wolves
My seething hatred shall spill over on this one.  Space Wolves have always been the Chapter that angered me more than any other.  Worse yet, (and I mean no disrespect to my SW-playing readers out there) it seems that people who choose SW tend to be bigger assholes than most other gamers.  That's right, I said it- and now my hatred has spilled over.  Now back to the topic at hand:
Space Wolves lack the esoteric wargear that some of the other Chapters have.  In fact, the ability to ride giant wolves into battle seems to be about the level of creativity that the Sons of Russ can summon on a given day.  There's no special tanks or dreadnoughts, nor are there the special units of veterans, with their cool special ammo or guided jump-packs, to manage.  The Space Wolves make up for this lack of wargear options with special rules.
Their assault squads get more attacks on the charge than the rules technically allow (although they're not nearly as skilled as most assault troops), while ALL Space Wolves usually gain more attacks for being charged.  Their squads have multiple special weapon options.  SW Terminators get whatever wargear they each individually want.  Their Devastators can split fire. 
So what can't the Space Wolves do?  Take Veteran Sergeants- but wait!  They can have a whole squad of Vets and then allocate them to lead other units in the army, thereby gaining their rules too!  Think Terminator sneaking with Scouts and you'll get what I'm sayin'...  Also, the Space Wolf special characters are all but broken.  All in all, the Space Wolves are for the unimaginative Marine player that wants to win with special rules rather than special wargear.  Quick note here:  I don't hate Space Wolves, I hate Space Wolf players.  And the tournie scene has certainly magnified this for me.  If you're one of them, I'm sorry if I offended you.  Get over it, your army is better than anything else with a 3+ save and the GTs around the country seem to support this, and yet I still hear SW players whine.  So again, if I offend you by being a bit hateful, sorry.  If you're looking for an army to play in the Space Marine ilk and want to win often, Space Wolves are the force for you...

Grey Knights
This one is gonna be a bit harder since I'm totally confused with this army.  There is nothing the same as the rest of the Space Marine Chapters in this book (other than armor saves and the use of bolt-weapons), but we're now led to believe that they're just another founding just like the list above.  Here's the deal:
Grey Knights are broken.  They've got all the special rules of the Blood Angels (Iniative bonuses through Halberds and FNP through Paladins) while having none of the toys of the Ultramarines or other Chapters.  They have Psifleman Dreadnoughts (the most useless kind, in my opinion), Stormraven Gunships, and Dreadknights, but these are nothing compared to the Devastators that can shoot you behind cover or the Terminators with two wounds each, or the fact that every model is armed with a storm bolter to begin with.  This book is NOT a Space Marine codex, but I have to include them here for the interest of completion (and because GW defined them as another SM codex).
So what can the Grey Knights not do?  Well, they can't kill tanks or take real heavy weapons.  They aren't nearly as awesome as the Space Wolves in being amazing in every circumstance that presents itself.  But the Grey Knights make up for it by being freakin' awesome and almost totally unique, game-wise. 

In conclusion, I'm trying to distract you readers from the terribly droll repitition of the same topics over and over.  My idea of Space Marines has been developing for over two decades now, and it amazes me how little people understand the difference between the Chapters. 
  • Are the Space Marine books all the same?  By no means.  Each is unique, even in the game.
  • Should we continue to refer to all these books as 'more of the same thing?  No!  Just because GW puts out a Space Marine codex of some sort every year doesn't mean that this is a wash-and-repeat process.  Despite the fact that these are all fighting for the Emperor and all humanity, they don't share common goals, practices, or even languages.  So no, they're not the same thing. 
  • Which Chapter is best in the game?  Well, if I had to rank them (and you know I do), I'd rank them as such:
    • Space Wolves- they may not have the CC punch that BA or GK have, but they're good in EVERY situation
    • Blood Angels- they are scary and very powerful, but they're not broken (for the most part). 
    • Grey Knights- they can beat any of the other Chapters hands down, unless one of them brings a shooty army.  And that's why GK are third and not first...
    • Ultramarines- hated by everyone, played by almost nobody.  This book is great as long as you ignore half the other books in the line and don't paint your models blue.
    • Black Templars- they aren't multi-dimensional, but they certainly do what they do better than anyone else.
    • Dark Angels- even a whole army of Terminators isn't enough to make this book good, but the backstory is awesome and the army is not overburdened with options, rules, or focus. 
It must also be noted that I have EVERY one of these armies (well, I sold the SW and BT last year, but I had them), so I'm giving you guys the thoughts I had with models in hand.  This isn't just my bitterness, I promise.  Go Ultramarines!

As always, let me know what you guys think and Happy Gaming!


  1. You forgot that Ultramarines have CHAPTER TACTICS (one of the beat rules in the game).

  2. Dude, the Grey Knights are a better shooting army than every other chapter. S5 Storm Bolters is pretty freaking amazing, not to mention that most squads can take 4, count 'em 4(!) Psycannons.

  3. @Aquila- I included Chapter Tactics as a 'Ld-boosting rule' since it really mitigates that randomness. I love me some Chapter Tactics!

    @Sicarius- I can't disagree with that, GK certainly put out alot of pew-pew. However, I can't give them the 'most shooty' award since their range is always 24" and they don't have Plasma weapons or sharks with Laser Cannons on them (also known as Devastator Squads). Although the GK rock an insane amount of holy bolter fire, they lack the ability to reach out, touch a monolith or two, and make them cry... :-)

  4. Hm. You seem to have glossed over the Templar's vow of Abhor the Witch. While that was a bit more useful under 3rd Ed with the "minor" psychic powers, it can still work well to stop the sparkly magic. ;) I haven't whipped out they boys in black vs. any space elves recently, but I may actually forgo the Preferred Enemy for this as a test.

    Of course I'm now waiting to see where the new codex drops. Rumors abound of Tau and Templars vying for the next slot. At least we can say we were there before they were the army of the month.