I have now had two weeks to assimilate this codex into my grey-matter, and I've developed a few opinions. It's finally time I shared them for no other reason than self-edification and wanton curiosity. Let's do this!
First off, the codex is BEAUTIFUL! It's hardbound, full color, embossed cover, a couple fold-outs, and decorative layout on every page. Staring at the promo images, I was worried that the book would be full of 'Blanchitse' artwork (my least favorite part of GW's history) and basically mitigate this 'new' look. As it turns out, even the artwork is new and sexy! Holding and reading this book is a pleasure, to be sure.
One of my favorite things about this codex is the front cover art. I know it's not new and was sported on the front of the novel, 'Blood Gorgons'. But it's an excellent image and serves to fortify this principle I've been preaching for years (and even blogged about once or twice)- Chaos Space Marines are no longer Legion! I'm more exhausted of seeing Khorne Berserkers, Black Legionnaires, Plague monkeys of bloatedness, and Tzeentchian fire-blasters than you can possibly imagine. For over two decades I've seen little else. But this cover shows off a renegade marine. This renegade is just as enamored with the gods in the warp as any Legionnaire, and actually even participates in a bit of internecine politics, as chaos forces tend to do. Just because he doesn't have the flaming face/burning eye/flying skull/stylized lines from 10 millenia ago doesn't mean he's not a valid Chaos Marine. In fact, GW's own fluff (since the freakin' beginning!) has been that 8 of the original 9 renegade legions basically destroyed themselves, while the remnants are joined by heretical chapters and general human asshats to be the pains-in-the-ass to the galaxy that they are. Last time an entire Death Guard army hit a battlefield was when Abbadon told them to and there just happened to be enough of them to be a respectable number. For the love of the warp, people, the Legions don't matter!!! I'd like to take a moment and thank GW for trying to push this point home for the 5th edition in a row...
Now onto the stuff that you guys actually care about- the inside. First off, the background and 'fluff' section of the book are fantastic. There's no real focus on any particular Legion or force, yet each of the original Legions and some infamous renegade Chapters get a specific blurb. None of the Horus Heresy stuff is actually brought into the codex, so you won't be reading about Horus' Mournival, or Fulgrim's acquisition of the blade that felled the Warmaster, or any of the other stuff that Black Library's ridiculously awesome novels go into. I know this doesn't seem awesome, but that separation of 'history' and 'background' stays strong. But don't worry! If you're looking for fluff and stuff, each unit is described really well, and even the gods get a bit of a blurb (as they always do), so you won't be stuck reading nothing at all. In fact, the parts describing the history are even re-worded and presented slightly differently so you don't get that 'deja vu' feeling as you read. As beautiful as the book is, it's also as interesting to read over a night or two. Overall, a good job here as well.
Now the army section sees the introduction of four NEW units. I've already made my opinions on the models known, so I won't go into that, but I will say that these units are described to fit almost seamlessly into the army. Daemon Engines are confounding even to the renegade marines surrounding them, Dark Chaplains roam the ranks instilling hatred and fearlessness to nearby allies, Warpsmiths are renegade Techmarines in almost every way, and the Heldrake fighters are mutated Helblades that spent a little too much time in the warp. I am impressed! That being said, it's not a big surprise that Chaos has the ability to invent whatever they want and still make a little sense of it.
|Heldrake Fighter, for when a pilot just isn't good enough...|
|Heed the Word!!!|
Now let's get to the rules. I know, I know, you've been waiting patiently and now you're a little annoyed. Hey, blame GW for making the other 2/3 of the book awesome too!
First off, anyone notice the return of the Wargear List? That's right, it's back! It's useful, too, as it means that you don't have to worry about whether an Aspiring Champion in a troop squad has different options than one in a Raptor unit. The list is the same, the points are the same, simple and sweet- the way it should be.
I'm really disappointed in the Artifacts list, though. Here I've been using the 'Daemon Weapon' upgrade on my Lord for a couple of years now, and suddenly I find it doesn't exist? In fact, the axe I'm holding can't be a Daemon Weapon unless I have the mark of Khorne? POOP! That makes me sad. What almost makes up for it, though, is the Black Mace. Here's a 45 point weapon that's AP 4, but any unsaved wounds turn into toughness tests or death! Better, anyone nearby has to take that T test or die too! What what?!? My buddy and I joked that Phil Kelly just stole Sauron's weapon and put it into our grimdark universe. Sorry, Sauron!
Chaos Lords got cheaper, but now you have to pay to give them any invulnerable save (Aura of Dark Glory for the 5+ and Sigil of Corruption for the 4+). I now have a 127 point Lord with Termie armor, and power axe, and a lightning claw! That's cheap for a simple character. Sorcerers followed the Imperium and got weaker- they're now only 2 wounds and such. Oh well, they still rock! Add to that the fact that they can be up to mastery level 3 and you're looking at a mighty powerful 'Brain'. Enter the Dark Apostle.
Jay MAD about the Dark Apostle. Here's a super-cheap character that is basically a 2-wound Chaplain who's tired of the Emprah's crap. Now add a chaos star and remove all options. Although the Dark Apostle has access to all the weapon lists, he still can't be upgraded with a bike, or a jump pack, or Terminator armor, or any of that. And then he's not a sorcerer!!! As a Word Bearers player, I expected so much more. Oh well, he's not bad. He's just not as great as I wanted him to be. At least Dark Apostles do exist now.
Chosen may only have 4 special weapons and a heavy weapon and an Aspiring Champion. They've lost 'infiltrate', but gained 2 base attacks. Terminators are still cheap as hell, but be careful as you MUST have 5 models to bring a Reaper Autocannon. Ask me how I know... Helbrutes, otherwise known as Chaos Dreadnoughts, are still crazy, but the Fire Frenzy/Swingy Frenzy rules have changed to be much, much more friendly to the player.
Possessed are where it's at for me. Their points value did not decrease and they didn't get any upgrades. What they did get was a little more dependability. Fleet is now built in, their attacks are still strength 5, and they have the 'Daemon' rule (which gives them that invulnerable save they're used to and adds Fear to the mix). But the real fun is in the Vessels of Chaos table, where they get their special abilities. It's a d3, rolled EVERY Fight Phase, and the worst result is to 'reroll wounds'. That's right, your options can be reroll wounds, higher attacks and initiative, or AP 3 claws. Yay!!!
Here's where I start to get a little poopy-faced about the book, Cult Troops. I've already ranted about Chaos not being Legion anymore, but I think the super-troopers from those days still deserve to be common. Sadly, GW moved them to the Elites section. Don't worry, if you take a Lord with your favoured mark (or a Sorcerer with the mark of Tzeentch), those doods become troops. But I think it's still a hindrance to choice. That sadness overwith, I can't deny that the cult troops are awesome! They are all just slightly better than standard marines with a mark, and worth almost every point. Berserkers can purchase Chainaxes now, Plague Marines have their Plague Knives back, and the other two are unchanged (for the better). Add the banners and you'll see some broken marine units hit the table in honour of the Dark Gods. Don't worry, I'll talk about banners in just a moment...
To get some more poopy-facedness out of the way, let's mention Mutilators. Obliterators, with no guns. Morph Power Fists, Axes, Lightning Claws, swords, etc. Sooooooo, Obliterators with no guns. Got it. Poop.
Spawn are better insofar as they're cheap (30 points, finally!) and they have a nifty table to roll on each fight phase as well, just like the Possessed. The abilities aren't nearly as good, but hey, Spawn got something. Havocs can buy Flakk missles now, making a 5-man unit set up with anti-air Missle Launchers cost a measly 175 points. Hey, the option is there, right? Obliterators had a couple weapons added to their 'morphy' list, especially noted the Assault Cannon. The only disadvantage is that the unit can't 'morph' the same weapons two turns in a row. I suppose this would be a disadvantage if they didn't have ALL the good weapons anyway. Chaos Bikes are way cheaper now, being only 20 points (wait, what?!? My Ravenwing pay 33 points a bike!!!). Oh yes, this codex definitely worked on some of the less common units.
What about the new stuff? It's good. The Warp Talons are expensive (30 points per model), but they have Lightning Claws. All of them! The Maulerfiend is cheaper than a Furioso, but only gives up a single point of armor, initiative, and attacks in return for the Daemon special rule, ignoring terrain, Fleet, and magma cutters. Fair trade, I think. Then the Forgefiend rules simply because, as another one of my buddies described, it's a Psifleman but better. It's quite a few points, but it's the pew-pew that matters. I'm also gonna toss the daddy of all Daemon-engines in here- the Defiler. It's waaaaaay better now. Take the old Defiler, make the funny flail-thingy do something almost useful, add the Daemon and 'It will not die' rules like the other engines, and VOILA! Awesome! Even better, it's only slightly more expensive than a Forgefiend, so you have the choice of many small templates (or powerful autocannon shots) or one big one. I've always rather liked that debate...
The Heldrake costs points but has the Vector Strike rule, so it's effectiveness is unquestionable. That's all I've got on that one.
The real money, for me anyway, is in the Chaos Space Marines and Raptors. Oh. My. Word. A single Chaos Marine is now only 13 points. He's identical to a loyalist marine (even including the Ld stat), but he doesn't have 'And they shall know no fear'. You can pay 2 more points to give them the 'chaos armed' characteristic (you know, the old colloquialism for models armed with rapid fire, pistol, and close combat weapon), and another 1 point per model to raise their Ld to 9/10 (oh, and Hatred(SM) too!). This is cheap, and gets really expensive. That, in my mind, is perfect! I've always liked the idea of horde Space Marines, but I've never liked the cost. Now you can take advantage of either! But here's where the real fun begins. A mark of Chaos will give you a special ability or two, or a stat increase. This no longer depends on standards (so no more losing your mark to a sniper). In fact, giving your normal marines a mark will make them almost as good as the cult troopers, and almost the same price! What makes it all awesome is that the units (normal and cult) can take the same banners and get the same awesome abilities! What's a great example? Let me give you the greatest: Slaanesh. A unit of Noise Marines costs 17 points per model and automatically have the initiative of 5 and Fearless. A normal unit of Chaos Marines with a mark of Slaanesh (gaining +1 I) costs 15 points per model. Either unit may take the Icon of Excess for 30 points, simply because they have the right mark, and they then gain Feel No Pain. That's right, Slaanesh gets FnP now!!! Oh, and notice they're close in cost. The rest of the troops do that too. And in case you forgot I mentioned these, the Raptors fit the same awesome-mold now. They have all the same upgrades as normal, access to the marks and standards as all others do, and they only cost 17 points per model. That's 17 points for a Space Marine with jump packs- EAT IT, BLOOD ANGELS!
The army list allows you to do anything you want with your Chaos army. If you want to make an all Khorne army, it's possible. If you want to make an Iron Warriors army, you can definitely do that. If you want to make Word Bearers or Thousand Sons, you can do that. You can do it with Khorne-marked troops holding heavy weapons, you can make an army with Nurgle Spawn! Anything you want, you can do it.
There's a couple of small considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, standards are no longer used for Deep Striking. They add +1 to any combat results and bestow an extra special rule onto the unit, and that's it. There are also no Lesser Daemons in the book. If you want Daemons now, you have to ally in forces from another detachment. Chaos now has their own Warlord Traits table to roll on, psykers with a mark must roll at least once on their god's discipline table, and Chaos must now ALWAYS accept and issue challenges. Luckily, when you win, you get a roll on a Gifts of the Gods, er, 40k version of the table (which can turn you into a Spawn or a Daemon Prince with an (un)lucky roll).
So what is my overall impression? I love this book. I have reread it multiple times already, I have already played the army list game with it, and I have shown it to all my friends who couldn't care less. I love it! Do I think it's the best $50 I've ever spent?
No. I'm an old DnD player who used to buy those books almost every week. I'm used to paying for 288 page, hardbound, tons of color books for only $30. I'd happily pay that for this codex. But I can't say that I'm terribly okay with the price tag. That being said, at least I almost feel like I got my money's worth. And my Word Bearers certainly aren't complaining...