Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fixing Space Marines

Today's post is going to be a bit different. Normally I focus on things that are a bit more hobby related, but I was inspired by this post over on the Spikey Bits blog entitled Is This The End of the Space Marine Era? I'm not going to rehash JStove's analysis of the rise of the Xenos and the fall of the mighty Space Marine, so it would be a good idea to check that post out first.

You back? OK, good. Let's get started!

Unless you are living under a rock (or don't care about 40K rumors), you know that Space Marines are rumored to be the next 40K Codex to hit the shelves. I'm extremely excited to see where the Space Marines are going in 6th Edition. Space Marines have always been Games Workshop's baby and we should get a mountain of new models to drool over come the new release.

Not only am I excited for the models, I want to see what direction the rules take as the Space Marines are falling behind the curve as of late. That will be the focus of this post along with me armchair quarterbacking the marines and writing rules for how I would fix them. This isn't a well thought out rules change with tons of playtesting to back it up, this more or less me just spitballing ideas so don't drop the hammer on me too hard...

The Fall from Grace
Tactical Marines have always been the standard by which all other models have been measured. Going by the original Space Marines Codex, for 16 points you get the following statline:

In 5th Edition, marines were the best troops in the game and they inspired fear on the tabletop. How many times did you hear a Xenos player cry, "Damn Marines!"? In 6th Edition, marines play second fiddle to a lot of other troops. A 3+ save just isn't enough anymore when Eldar are inflicting AP2 wounds with Bladestorm and Heldrakes are laughing as marine players remove entire squads. Not to mention the volume of firepower armies like Dark Eldar and Tau can bring to bear.

Taking the above statline and just deciding to make marines cheaper isn't the answer. They're supposed to be less in number and changing the points around so you can take more of them just doesn't seem right. Also, if you read anything from Black Library about Space Marines, they are always talking about how a single marine is worth a hundred soldiers. We'll never be able to get close to that, but they should be more resilient.

Making a More Resilient Marine
So how do we do this? We can't increase the save as that would cause a boatload of issues, but we can give all marines a 5+ Feel No Pain against shooting attacks and make them pay more of a premium for it. I know a lot of people are probably groaning right now as there are a lot of things in 6th Edition with Feel No Pain and this may seem like a bit too much, but this brings marines closer to the unstoppable killing machines they are supposed to be in the fluff.

Marines desperately need help against small arms fire and they shouldn't be afraid to stride out in the middle of the battlefield out of cover with only their power armour between their enemies weapons and certain death. This helps marines achieve that same feel they had in editions past.

Please GW, bring back the glory of the mighty Space Marine!
Using Feel No Pain would also place a focus on how important each marine is. These guys are the saviours of humanity and each chapter is made up of only 1,000 Space Marines. Every marine that dies should be important and have a special moment and Feel No Pain would place a focus on that.

What about Apothecaries?
Haven't really given this a lot of thought, but we could increase Feel No Pain to a 4+ if an Apothecary is present and allow marines a 4+ Feel No Pain in close combat. Would that work? I dunno, but it would be worth playtesting to see how this would pan out. The 4+ Feel No Pain in close combat worries me since they'd be able to shrug off most power weapon attacks and that doesn't seem right. Still, I think it would be a good starting point and could be tweaked from there.

Fixing Tactical Marines and Assault Marines
The problem with tactical marines is they aren't very tactical. They should be dual purpose and serve well as a fire base or in combat. With tactical marines I'd allow them to take a heavy weapon in a 5 man squad (a la Dark Angels) and equip them all with bolter, bolt pistol, and close combat weapon.

Giving tactical marines that load out basically means they are just as effective in close combat as assault marines so that won't fly. The only change I would make with assault marines would be to up their attacks to 2. Assault took a huge hit in 6th Edition anyway, so this isn't going to break anything.

Battle Rites
The last thing I would add is some sort of mechanic where you can do something special a few times a game (D3+1?) to provide tactical options. Again, I haven't given this a lot of thought, but I would probably start with the below special rules:
  • Adamantium Will
  • Counter-Attack
  • Fleet
  • Furious Charge
  • Hammer of Wrath
  • Hatred
  • Hit and Run
  • Preferred Enemy
  • Rage
  • Relentless
  • Split Fire
  • Stealth
  • Twin-linked
There would have to be restrictions on this and you couldn't use more than one ability on a unit per turn, but I think it would bring the marines more in line with what modern Codexes bring to the tabletop. Another idea I had was to just allow them to act twice in a single phase. For example, a unit could move twice or shoot twice. Hmmm...

Closing Thoughts
I have no idea how Game Workshop is going to address these issues with Space Marines in the upcoming Codex or if they will. If the Dark Angels Codex wasn't already out, I would have more of an open mind, but they seem to have already set a precedent. I can see them breaking away from this and making fundamental changes to staples like the tactical squad since Space Marines were always Games Workshop's best seller, but that might mean the Dark Angels are stuck with an outdated Codex after only a year and that would really suck. No idea where my beloved Space Marines are headed in 6th Edition, but I'm optimistic.

Let me know what you thought of this post. I enjoy rules posts such as this, but I'm not sure if you enjoy reading game rambling design theory. Should I do more stuff like this or stick to the hobby stuff? I'm also curious about how you would change Space Marines or do you think they're fine as is? Drop a comment below and as always thanks for reading.

Till next time,
–The Harrower


  1. As for resiliency, I'm not sure it will work. The problem is from the other end; too much easily available stuff that ignores 3+ saves, and bigger games making it all over the place.

    I think they should go for more things like they are doing in the Horus Heresy books, like extra bolter shots, different tactical things that make the marines better, show them as super soldiers vs. just a guy in power armor.

  2. I agree, but a 5+ is better than nothing. To be honest, I think you are right and that is probably the route they are going to go. Still, super soldiers that die in droves just doesn't sit well with me.

  3. it's 40k. grimdark. everyone dies...