Thursday, 16 October 2008

Codex DA vs. Codex Space Marines: The Debate

(Warning: This is a long post that may not interest everybody!)

Codex Space Marines. Its here in all its glory. Although I'm yet to actually buy the book I have managed to get my hands on it and, through the wonders of the internet, I'm aware of most of the changes. Although there are a myriad of reviews and deconstructions of the book on the net, I just wanted to briefly give my thoughts and, perhaps more relevantly, talk about the DA Vs. Space Marines debate.

First off, the book itself. Well, it appears the codices need to stay off the fast food because they are putting on weight! This book is huge! This is a potential bugbear for me. I understand that Space Marines are GW's poster boys and, to be honest, I really don't mind much. Unlike many, I understand the appeal of 'good guys' & Ultramarines - they were my first army after all. I now prefer the gritter side of the galaxy but all my armies (IG, DA & Eldar) are still on the 'good' side. However, to give SM a significantly bigger book, while making the other races make do with their smaller books grates a little. If this large book remains the exception rather than becoming the norm I will remain annoyed.

As for content, its very impressive. I do like the increasing trend to make SM a highly specialised and potent force at the price of numbers. They should be the mighty few, battling against hordes of the foe, and this appears to be the route developers are going down. I also like some of the interesting new units and rules that really give codex marines a 'flavour'. This leads me on the DA vs. SM debate.

For those of you unaware or uninterested in what has been going on, the debate was sparked by the release of a new DA errata by GW that confirmed a rumour that had been on the web for a while. In the past when a new marine codex was released with changed weapon stats, the other marine codices were given erratas that kept parity with the changes.

Not so this time. This time the erratas have explicitly stated that previous codices stand as written. Now this may not sound dramatic but the new SM codex is different. Very Different. This, to quote The Dark Fortress, is a list of some of the changes:
• Cyclones
• Scout transport
• Whirlwinds (can fire both types of ammo during a game)
• Expanded wargear/weapons choices for characters
• Expanded weapon options for Razorbacks
• Land Raiders and Crusaders weapon options
• Land Raider transport capacity
• Typhoon missile launcher on Speeders
• Drop pods weaponry
• Vindicator Siege Shield
Wargear options for Dev squads
• Smoke launchers
As you can see this is quite a list. To simply point out the ones that affect me, I would love storm shields that give a 3+ invulnerable save from shooting and combat, I would love to use the new Land Raider, I would love to be able to turbo-boost my bikes during their scout move, I love to use some of new toys like Sterngaurd and Thunderfire cannons. A whole series of protests have sprung up, including on Bell of Lost Souls, Librarium Online and in two very well written articles on The Dark Fortress (Aritcle 1, Article 2), all of them decrying the fact that all the stand alone chapters seem to be at a disadvantage.

However, allow me to go against the trend. I'm going to agree with GW here.

I know. Shocking stuff.

It is true that in some ways we are at a disadvantage here. But, in their own ways all the stand alone codices still allow us to do things that bog standard marines cant. However, more importantly, this new SM codex actively rewards people for playing bog standard marines. This is the point that this meandering post is trying to convey. For years people wondered why anyone would bother using the normal SM codex when the Dark Angels/Blood Angels etc. gave you so many more options. Now, they have a reason. Vanguard and Sterngaurd and the rest give marines a real flavour of their own that they really deserve, while some of their improved rules perhaps allow them to punch a little harder in certain areas.

The standalone codices are left with their real differences and flavour intact and will now have to really rely on them to win. For example, I'm going to have to use my scoring Termi's to discount the improved equipment in the new book, while Templar's will have to rely on their larger squad sizes etc.

And of course, should any DA or Black Templar players want to use the new rules, then they are free to use the new book aren't they. Therefore I fail to see a problem. I do know that I will not be surrendering my scoring Terminators!

If anybody managed to extract some meaning from that, I would love to know what they think!

Thanks for reading...


Anonymous said...

I think what you are saying does make sense. To be honest I hadn't bought a codex before the Dark Angels, and even that was only about 8 months ago, so I'm still relatively new to the army listing side of things, being predominatly a hobby painter! I'm still coming to terms with the differences between marine codexes. As far as I can tell for example, any DA player can discuss with his opponent if they want to field newer units from the new Codex SM, and in return perhaps lose out on a few DA traits where neccessary to balance things. But when it would come to a tournament where those type of friendly games with rule bending won't be possible, I'm sure a very capable army list could be created using just the chapter's individual codex. One thing that confuses me though is this; What exactly do the Dark Angels, Black Templars, Blood Angels and Space Wolves have in their individual codices that are different from one another, as I only have a Dark Angels Codex and can't compare!

Any info would be appreciated Soviet, as you seem to know quite a bit that I could learn from.

All the best mate,


Boarding Mission said...

My 2 cents...

For me, it's a matter of consistency in weapons and equipment. Sure some chapters can have limited access to some things while others do not and some chapters can take all Termies (DA) or mix marines (BT) but equipment stats should be the same.

Cyclone fires 2 times regardless of who owns it, Storm shields confer the same value save to anyone who uses it and so on.

You want to limit who can use things like BTs and Whirlwinds, fine... but make the stats for it the same for anyone who can use it.

Anonymous said...

Being once (and maybe again) a Space Wolf player... I have to agree with what you are saying here. It gets REALLY old to have to cross reference a FAQ, the Rulebook, the C:SM, and the C:SW just to build an army or look up a rule. This isn't helped by how many contradictory items there are. I like the stance that the book as published works and should stand. This means things like Lash of Submission will retain their problems, but they're also a set in stone known factor that you can adjust for.

I really like that these are being treated as stand-alone Codex. The idea that C:SM should update them is as farcical to me as the idea that it should update Chaos. After all, how are all Chaos Land Raiders different, especially for recently fallen Renegades?

Plus, DA and BT have all sorts of things that are personal to them. Admittedly, Ravenwing lost a bit of their hit by the pseudo-White Scars "Bikes as Troops" rule of a Company Master or Khan... but they still have Scouts. (Plus, the new Rulebook FAQ allows ALL bikes to Turbo-boost on a Scout move!) Plus Deathwing still stand proud. Scoring Termies? Yes, please! I'm okay that they cost a bit more and have some lesser items in exchange for being Troops. It gives everything a more distinctive flavour.

So thanks for being a voice of reason.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the reason and I don't think its right.

The problem is not the units and lack of certain units, it’s the balance of the two books and the fact that it never been a case of Ultra not getting anything and every divergent chapter getting all and then some.

This is typical GW, fix problems that aren't a problem but let problems that everyone are bugged about be left alone, Lash are a typical problem.

I also like to point out that the only thing DA can do that no other can is Terminators as troops, if you don't use them you are better of playing C:SM in green.

But it is nice that Ultra gets a face lift, and the new rules are well written as far as I can see.
Hope they will give DA the same love next time around.

sovietspace said...

Hello all, I've been desperate to write a comment for this but I've been incredibly busy for the last few days, so sorry for leaving this hanging in the wind!

First off, thanks for the comments guys - its interesting to see that there appears to be more balance on this issue than I first thought.

73rd: You have no idea how glad I was that the first response agreed with me, as opposed to ripping me apart, so thank you for that!

You raise a good point, that in friendly games this should be far less of an issue. If I wanted to use the Redeemer for example, I doubt my regular opponents would complain (too much). And I agree that in tournaments it would equally be very possible to make a competitive DA list.

As far as describing the differences between the codices goes, ill do my best. I am however no expert and only actually own the DA book at the moment. The Blood Angels are fairly easy to describe, because you can go to GW's website and download their FREE PDF codex and see for yourself. In essence they have a few unique units of their own (hard hitting Honour Guard & Death Company along with the assault orientated Baal Predator and Furiso Dread. I guess their main tenant is that they have assault marines as troops.

Black Templars have a number of changes, including a cool rule that allows them to move faster towards the enemy as they take casualties, along with a system of vows. They also have their own special items of wargear etc. But their main strength is their ability to take 20 man squads comprising both tac. marines and scouts - these are very, very hard to kill and are awesome for taking & holding objectives. Hope over to Way of Saim-Hann for fritz’s experiences of trying to kill these squads!

I hope that gives you some idea, but I do recommend getting the books - I’m planning on doing that at some point.

Ron & Dverning: I have to admit that consistency is the one criticism that holds a lot of water for me - it will be exceptionally confusing for non-SM players who are indeed confronted with different flavours of Storm Shields or Smoke Launchers. On the face of it to have the same weapon with different stats is insane.

However, to again defend GW (gee, I sound like a bit of a ‘fanboy’ here), it is important to notice that the SM codex made fundamental changes to the points values and balance of the SM. In order to keep the parity in weapons it would have been necessary to also change the amount of points that DA, BA & BT would be expected to pay for them, along with having to change other options for that unit, or even the points value of the unit itself. Now in order to convey these changes GW would have to choose one of the following options:

1. Re-release all the other codices and rebalance all their units. This is simply impractical given how recently the books were released, and how busy GW’s development schedule is (I don’t want any more marine codices at the expense of Dark Eldar or Imperial Guard)

2. Release gargantuan errata’s that would dramatically alter the nature of the existing books. This leads to the situation that Dverning describes, were any DA etc. player has to turn up with their codex and a colour coded reference folder full of the details of how it’s wrong.

I guess my point is that its not as easy as changing the stats, you have to factor in the massive points and options rebalancing that made the changes possible. Of course a third option would be for GW to keep these changes under their hat until it came time to re-release DA, BA & BT, but they obviously felt they had good ideas that they wanted to get out now, and I’m glad they did.

What this means is that the different armies do have fundamentally different rules, and you can’t just consider the DA as ‘Space Marines plus’ - which may indeed have been the point. I hope that makes some sense to you Ron?

Oh and Dvering, I’m afraid that as far as turbo-boosting goes, the entry on P27 of the DA Codex states that no model may turbo-boost during a scout move and this overrules the rulebook. But, our smoke launchers are also far better, so it’s not all bad!

And finally…

Mikael: I do understand you problems, indeed I felt the same at first, but as you can see I’ve come round to the other way of thinking. And yes, you are right that to a large extent many DA armies might be better off using the existing codex (indeed the first Dark Fortress article demonstrates how Ravenwing may do better under codex SM) but I don’t really see a problem with that. If it’s better for your army then use the SM rules then do it! Rules are after all just a way of conveying your models and fluff to the battlefield. A painted Dark Angel is a Dark Angel regardless of what rules it follows & if anything the new book gives you new flexibility. The only downfall I can see is the lack of special characters such as Sammy, but you either sacrifice fluff in a torni setting and save him for friendly games, or you go all out and win with him - something that is still very possible!

Do let us know what you do decide to do…

Anyway, it appears my comment may have been about as long as the original post, but I hope it contained some interesting ideas. Thanks again for anybody who took the time to comment. Are there anymore out there?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Soviet, it has definately clarified what I needed to know. This might sound like a silly idea, and an even larger idea than that 144 page beast of a codex, but I actually think that perhaps it may have been a better idea to release an even bigger SM codex, and within the book, include a mini-dex of the major chapters such as DA, BA, BT and SW, and show their different options in smaller sections, and then cover the 'lesser known' chapters in the same way. But I guess the end result would be as thick as a rule book, and then they may also have to do the same for different armies such as Eldar, who have different factions etc! Then again, last time I checked, they managed to do that with the Chaos SM Codex, instructing players on different styles of play following the 4 gods. Just a thought... but what do I know!

Anonymous said...

Well, I will play with codex space marines as I hardly ever use terminators and if I did I would not need them to be scoring (even if it dont hurt ;)

I also would like to point out that I too feel it was OK for SM to have some things that are unique to them, but it is strange to see things as honour guard beeing unique to codex marines.

And the only real thing that buggs me is knowing what the codex DA could have been when you see the new codex SM. We will just have to wait and see in 2012 what will become of them...

Anonymous said...

sovietspace said...

"However, to again defend GW (gee, I sound like a bit of a ‘fanboy’ here), it is important to notice that the SM codex made fundamental changes to the points values and balance of the SM. In order to keep the parity in weapons it would have been necessary to also change the amount of points that DA, BA & BT would be expected to pay for them, along with having to change other options for that unit, or even the points value of the unit itself."

DA point values are higher for a lot of things that are not as good as what is in the SM codex.

Anonymous said...

I have posted in greater detail on this at my own blog (, but I can summerize here:

I'm in the camp that thinks that the old non-codex armies have at a stroke been outclassed. They aren't useless or doomed to failure, just clearly obsolete. The new SM book has SO many additional options -- wargear, new rules, new units -- that it obviously overshadows the old books.

On top of that it is also more effective, both due to points (which overall have gone down) and due to the effectiveness of the units. Point-for-point (and you effectively get more) the new codex is better.

And, yes, the different rules for the same units/wargear is a situation almost guaranteed to cause arguments and bad feelings.

I think all of this would have been easily mitigated if GW had been smarter in how this handled this. If they had let the old books use the new rules for the same units/wargear they would have given the players of the non-codex chapters something even as they gave codex marines a brand new set of toys. Both sides would have gotten something out of the deal. Instead, we now have debates like this one where one side feels cheated and the other defensive. It's another marketing misstep by Games Workshop.

Anonymous said...

up dark angels


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