Howdy folks! GMR here. Been a while since I've been on with much frequency. In that time, the new edition of Codex: Space Marines finally arrived! I haven't seen too many threads discussing that book specifically (quite a few regarding Chaos or DA, though), so I thought I would offer my thoughts, in sort of an informal review of the book.

Let me start by saying that I am a huge Space Marines fan. I have been ever since I was introduced to 40K, some 6 years ago or so. I've been playing since 3rd edition, and have seen some highs and lows with SM armies over the years. Nonetheless, I've stuck with them, and consider myself to be reasonably good with them.

So, it may come as some surprise to you when I state that the new Codex: Space Marine bothers me somewhat. You'd think that someone who is a fan of the army would be drooling all over the new dex, with it's huge array of new stuff, but this one doesn't do it for me. It's taken me some time to puzzle out why I'm reacting to it this way, but I've come up with some ideas on that topic.

For starters, there's the whole comparison between Codex: Space Marines and Codex: Dark Angels. I know this is a well-aired topic, and I'm not looking to delve deeply into it here. What I will say is that, after an initial bad reaction to it, I bought into the design philosophy behind Codex: Dark Angels, which is part of the reason why I'm so taken aback by Codex: Space Marines. GW seemed to have been adopting a more streamlined and balanced approach to new dexes, starting with Codex: Eldar. This book seems to be a shift in design philosophy - not so much a total reversal, but definately a different course than what we've seen in the past (excepting perhaps Codex: Orks, but Orks needed the boost).

I suppose it's commendable that GW is trying to get the balance of certain things right, which is at least one way of interpreting why certain things are cheaper in Codex: Space Marines than in their identical equivalents in Codex: Dark Angels. Perhaps the designers felt that SM players were paying too many points for certain things, hence the downward tweaks. I'm a tad irked by that (I play a DA successor chapter), but not especially bent out of shape about it. I try to avoid SM-vs-SM battles by playing my antagonist army against SM players, so it's not like I'm going to be facing SM armies with my Night Angels with any kind of regularity. However, it's a niggle.

More than the DA thing, I think what bothers me about Codex: Space Marines is the sheer profusion of new units. I've played 40K in general and Space Marines in particular since 3rd edition. I cut my teeth with the 3rd ed dex and played the 4th ed dex until I decided to start using Codex: Dark Angels about a year after it came out. Those two books set my expectations as to what belongs in Codex: Space Marines. The 4th edition dex did not introduce a bunch of units that hadn't been in the 3rd ed book. Units were improved as needed, but the precedent was maintained. Now, this book comes out with a whole slew of new units, which I'm a little off-put by.

Take SM Veterans, for example. In the 3rd edition dex, all Vets were was a unit of Marines that cost +3 points per model more than Tac Marines for the privelege of all being Ld9 and being able to take pistol-ccw. I'm actually kind of surprised that they weren't a more popular unit back then, considering that Rhino Rush was such a heavily favored army style, but still not a very sexy unit overall.

Come 4th edition, Veterans saw a lot of improvement - Veteran Skills and upgraded CCW options. Still basically an assault unit, but a good one. My feeling is that their only downfall was that their abilities overlapped those of Command Squads quite a bit, and I, for one, tended to take Command Squads instead, if only as a vehicle to give Vet Skills to my ICs.

Codex: Dark Angels got Veterans just about right, IMO. DA Company Veterans can be made into a kickass assault unit, generally much better than 4th edition SM Veterans. However, they could also be made into a pretty shooty unit as well, by taking combi bolters instead of upgraded CCWs. This plus the fact that even with bolters they pack as many attacks as a SM Assault Squad made them seem very interesting to me. It made it seem as if there was a continuation to the career path that went from Scout to Tac to Devestator, where previously that seemed like a dead end, as veteran units tended to be assault units. IMO, if Company Veterans could substitute a second special weapon in their heavy weapon slot, and had a sergeant with upgrade options seperate from those of the squad, they'd be perfect.

This makes me look askance at the split between Sternguards and Vanguards in the new Codex: Space Marines. Admittedly, minus the magic bullets, Sternies are exactly what I would like to see in a shooty veteran SM unit. The magic bullets, however, seem a little over the top. The precedent for them was the Deathwatch Kill Team from way back when, but DKTs paid the same price as Sternies for guys who were basically the same (True Grit instead of 2 attacks base, had meltabombs), but with only ONE type of special round that was bought as an upgrade. That, I think, was too expensive, but being able to have them all seems a little OTT to me. Also, it's kind of a problem from a thematic standpoint. One might argue that if Sternies have magic bullets, why shouldn't Terminators have them as well? They're both members of their chapter's 1rst Company, and you'd think that if a warrior rates TDA, he also rates magic bullets if they're available. Note: I'm not saying that Termies should get magic bullets, I'm just saying it opens up thematic problems.

As for Vanguards, they sort of leave me cold, too. I'd have rather had Codex: Space Marines have one Elites unit patterned after DA Company Vets than have the two different kinds of veterans that they have. Veterans served a different purpose than jump pack squads. Plus, I think a whole unit with power weapons is kind of silly.

On other matters, I don't think that Venerable Dreadnoughts required their own unit entry. "Venerable" could have simply remained a Dreadnought upgrade - the boosted stats aren't really enough to rate an individual entry, and they certainly don't rate the vast increase in points.

And then there's the Thunderfire Cannon. I don't care what the guy who wrote the book says, that thing is a fixed artillery piece, and as such Space Marines would not touch the thing. If it can't be mounted on a Rhino chassis, it doesn't belong in a SM chapter's inventory - as it happens, I think it'd look great mounted on a Rhino, but it isn't. The designer's statement that they need it for fire support where they can't get tanks doesn't hold water, either. That's what they have things like Dreadnoughts, Land Speeders, and Devastators for.

I also don't think the book does a particularly good job portraying differences between First Founding chapters. Not that there should be radical differences in the first place - you could honestly just state that X chapter has a propensity for Y thing that can be had through the vanilla list, and be done with it for the most part. However, if you're going to do it, then the First Founding chapters ought to have a small set of chapter-specific rules that can be taken regardless of who you lead your force with. They could have made a couple of pages worth of room for it by having a little less of the "ZOMG Ultramarinezzz R teh R0XX0RZZZ!!!11!!11!!" fluff, and maybe abbrieviated the entries for the FF-chapter specific special characters. Most of the FF chapters wouldn't even need that much in the way of unique rules, anyway. For instance, Salamanders could have simply been handled by giving them the option of having their Tac Squads take heavy flamers in their heavy weapon slots. Raven Guard armies could have gotten rerolls on DS scatter dice if they have Scouts on the table (that was their original schtick, back in the day). White Scars: Bikes as Troops, maybe give them Veteran Bike Squads with Skilled Riders. This is not rocket science, and needn't have taken up much space.

So, what I guess it boils down to is that Codex: Space Marines tries to do too much. It kills the SM gunline once and for all, but the bucketloads of new units seem to have distracted the Warseer community from this fact - which, perhaps, was the intent (not Warseer, but SM players in general). It tries to boost Ultramarines armies while at the same time providing outlets for players of FF chapters that will never get their own dex (this would not be a problem if GW wasn't so allergic to online supplements). It stretches the boundaries of what should and shouldn't be in a SM army. It presents a different design philosophy than what we've seen in the immediate past. Unfortunately, I think GW expected too much of this one book, and even though it's huge, they tried to get it to do too much, and wound up with a book that doesn't do well any of the things they appear to have wanted it to do. However, that's just one fellow's opinion.