“New Codex, New Army” Part One – Chapter Tactics


The new Space Marine Codex is five days old, and already I’m reading mixed opinions on the internet regarding the new book. Several people have truly legitimate concerns regarding the new book, especially those who once played Black Templars and are already lamenting their own unique book. Sadly, as always, most of the complaints seem to be from people who simply didn’t get what they wanted…

Personally, I love the new book – particularly the ability to have a unique themed army without the need for Special Characters! Every First Founding Chapter now has its own unique rules in the form of the revamped Chapter Tactics while Successor Chapters take those from their parent Chapters. Successor Chapters of unknown founding/heritage to pick and choose whatever First Founding Chapter they like – a nice touch for homegrown Chapters! Another nifty new addition is the ability to take two allied detachments from the same Codex, something players are unable to do with other books – example, Raven Guard and White Scars a-la The Hunt for Voldorius. Gone, however, is Combat Tactics. Space Marines can no longer voluntarily fall back from shooting or combat, only to reform and launch a devastating counter-attack – disappointing, but not unsurprising.

But how has the new Codex affected the way Space Marine players build their armies and play their games?

Well, let’s start by briefly looking at the Chapter Tactics of the six First Founding Chapters and the Black Templars and seeing just how useful they are from fluffy and competitive points of view. I will be paraphrasing somewhat so as not to be squashed by the IP Hammer, but it’s all pretty self-explanatory.


Combat Doctrines: Choice of three, may use each once per game.

Tactical: Allows models to re-roll ones to hit in the shooting phase. Tactical Squads instead re-roll all misses.
Assault: Models can re-roll charge range. Assault Squads, Bike Squads and Attack Bike Squads instead have Fleet.
Devastator: Models may re-roll Snap Shots (including Overwatch). Devastators are Relentless unless disembarking from a Vehicle.

This all seems pretty straightforward and in keeping with the Ultramarines’ ability to do well at just about everything. From a fluff perspective, one could argue that this is The Codex Astartes at its finest – a Commander utilising his Tactical, Assault and Devastator units to their full potential when needed. Which is also exactly where it works in terms of competitive play – you use each Doctrine when the situation calls for it, and when you can get the most out of your units – Example 1: 10 Tactical Marines on an objective threatened by a large mob of Orks, re-rolling to hit with Bolter-fire will thin out the mob sufficiently that the inevitable charge loses much of its sting. Example 2: Assault Squad have moved using their Jump Packs and require a 10 to charge an objective-holding unit. They roll a 7 (we will assume 6 and 1), the re-roll of the 1 will have a 50% chance of being a 4, 5 or 6 and therefore being a successful charge – potentially driving the unit off the objective, or allowing the Assault Marines to contest it.

That being said, sometimes a player will not need/want to utilise one or more of the Doctrines – but as a player I would be reassured to know that in a pinch, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.

    White Scars

Born in the Saddle: Bikes automatically pass Dangerous Terrain, add 1 to all Jink saves and add 1 to their Strength for Hammer of Wrath attacks.
Fight on the Move: Models in the detachment have Hit and Run, unless they are a Terminator or Centurion.

Fluff-wise, this works perfectly. White Scars are known for savage mounted assaults, and so having arguably the best Bike units in any Imperial Codex seems to fit quite nicely (Ravenwing Black Knights are nice, but pricey!) Tactically, the idea is sound as well – Bike units traditionally do not last long in prolonged combats, they are frightening on the charge (especially with strength 5 Hammer of Wrath!) but once the initial charge has ground to a halt, the low number of attacks and high points cost begins to take its toll very quickly. Hit and Run alleviates that pain, as charge or charged, you can escape combat on your own terms and reposition to either charge again, or gun down your opponents with twin-linked Bolter fire.

    Imperial Fists

Bolter Drill: Models may re-roll rolls of one to hit with Bolt Pistols, Bolters, Heavy Bolters and Storm Bolters. Does not include Special Ammunition.
Siege Masters: Devastator and Centurion Devastator Squads have the Tank Hunters special rule and add 1 to the Building Damage table.

Bye-bye Stubborn, hello Tank Hunters! From a theme point of view, this makes a lot of sense. When I imagine Imperial Fists, I always see them lined up on a wall using disciplined Bolter fire to thin out enemy forces before using Heavy Weapons to knock out armoured vehicles. Competitively, the adding one to building damage makes little difference unless your opponent is using a Bastion, but the Bolter Drill and Tank Hunters are able to effectively thin out your opponent’s ranks where and when needed. It is also worth noting, that re-rolling ones on Overwatch shots may contribute a few further hits against a charging unit – therefore potentially causing that critical wound that causes the charge to fail.

    Iron Hands

The Flesh is Weak: Models in this detachment get the Feel No Pain (6+) Special Rule.
Machine Empathy: Vehicles and Characters get the It Will Not Die Special Rule, while Techmarines and Masters of the Forge get +1 to their Blessings of the Omnissiah roll.

Wow…just…wow… Undying tanks, and an entire army with Feel No Pain! Not only did Iron Hands get love, they got lots of it! From a fluff perspective, these rules are absolutely perfect for the overly-augmented, machine-loving Iron Hands. From a gaming standpoint, it makes every unit that much more resilient when the need is there – a 6+ Feel No Pain is better than having a simple dead Marine, for example, and the ability for a Dreadnought to regain lost Hull Points before going on a rampage through an opponent’s army is pretty immense!

I actually think this Chapter Tactic has become my favourite!


Flamecraft: Models in this detachment may re-roll saving throws against Flamer weapons. Furthermore, Flamer weapons may re-roll failed To Wound and Armour Penetration rolls.
Master Artisan: Characters may upgrade one weapon to be Master Crafted for free.

Ouch… Losing twin-linked on those Melta weaponss has got to hurt! That being said, Salamanders were always about the Flamers in the background, not necessarily the Meltas (though Nick Kyme’s books have since changed that history again.) Re-rolling Armour Penetration on Melta Weapons is pretty nifty, and to be able to re-roll those saves means charging into a Wall of Flame overwatch is no longer quite so risky…

Still, I feel they got a little bit shafted… Not ridiculously melty any more, though… which is good…

    Raven Guard

This is the one I was most looking forward to, being a Raven Guard player. I was nervous when I first opened the book, but let’s see what I get, shall we?

Strike from the Shadows: Non Bulky or Very Bulky models get the Scout special rule. Additionally, on the first Game Turn, they benefit from the Stealth special rule.
Winged Deliverance: Models may use their Jump Packs in the Movement and Assault Phases, additionally, they must re-roll failed Hammer of Wrath wounds.

Oh. My. God. This is awesome! Stealthy Scouty Marines with better Jump Packs than most, what more could I want? It fits the fluff perfectly, though the lack of anything obviously benefiting Drop Pods seems to be a gaping hole in this list – unless you count the fact that a unit with a Locator Beacon/Teleport Homer could potentially deploy half-way across the board – therefore ensuring pinpoint accurate Drop Pods in your opponent’s Deployment Zone on Turn One. Very fluffy, very fun!

    Black Templars

Accept Any Challenge, No Matter the Odds: In a challenge, all Black Templars re-roll to hit rolls and have Rending.
Crusaders: Models have the Crusader and Adamantium Will special rules.

Not bad, not bad at all. Suits the Crusading/Witch Hating fluff of the Templars very well, and also gives humble Sergeants a much-needed boost when fighting in a challenge, especially against a tougher opponent like say, an Avatar or Abaddon the Despoiler. That being said, this is not the only bonus the Templars recieved – the Crusader Squads are pretty damn cool, but that is something I will come to into in a later post.

That concludes this brief (very, I admit) synopsis of the new Chapter Tactics. My next post will probably be much more Raven Guard-centric, as I come to terms with using the new Tactics and figuring out how to make the most of the models I have.

Thanks for reading!


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