Orks: Coping with an Outdated Codex

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I first started playing 40k when third edition came out. Phil had convinced my Dad to get into it and I shortly followed. I made a vague attempt to collect Imperial Guard but they weren’t for me, despite the awesome old metal models. They felt too structured. Too…sensible. I fell out of love with 40k for a while after, before a couple of years ago Jeremy gave me the Ork contents of the 5th edition 40k boxset as a birthday present. Phil followed that up with a copy of the Codex. And so began my journey collecting an army with the same level of finesse and sophistication as me…As a collector of Orks I am happy to say, without any prejudice what-so-ever, that it doesn’t matter what army you collect and what species they are: I hate them.

The answer to why this is, quite simple; it is partially because its fun to hate every other army, it makes them easier to kill, but mostly down to jealousy. I’m jealous of your guns, technology, your ballistic skill, reliability and your initiative. So why bother collecting Orks? Well they are just so different. It’s not just their great background and their rules but it is the general character of the whole army. You can guarantee that even if you play the same way every time, no two games will ever play out the same.

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However, considering they are an army with such great variety, for the Orks, nothing has changed in a very long time and this is making it harder and harder for them to remain a competitive force. I know they are not the only army still waiting on a new 6th edition codex, and I know their current book is very well written (which is probably why it has survived all of the games rule changes over the years), but the fact of the matter is the Orks have not had a new codex since the 4th edition of Warhammer 40,000 way back in 2007. For the last 2 editions of the game I have seen other armies getting shiny new guns, units and some brilliantly devastating new rules and this leads me back to the whole jealousy thing.

A week or so ago I agreed to play a new member of our group using Phil’s Ultramarines, using the new Codex: Space Marines and 6th edition rules. As far as the armies in the Warhammer 40K universe go, I have always reserved my most bitter animosity for the Space Marines. I have always felt that as cool as they look and their background is, they are the 40k Universe’s equivalent of that guy we all knew at school who never put any effort in but passes every test, always wins and as well as this, somehow gets the girl… Not that the Space Marines have any desire or need for such things. They are in fact the kind of army that make me want to run full speed across the battlefield towards them, shouting at the top of my lungs, and hit them hard in the face with something quite sharp or heavy (or both). Luckily for me this has always been the most effective way of winning, especially as an Ork will usually find that even in Power Armour, if you hit them hard enough (and enough times), they are just as squishy as anyone else.

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When preparing for the battle it was plain to see that on paper, just as they always have, the two forces look completely unbalanced with the Orks seeming to be completely out matched. The Marines can shoot further and far more accurately and even their base guns will ignore most Ork Armour, so there is no point in getting into a prolonged gun battle with them. The Space Marines are also as strong and as tough as most Orks and most importantly they are far less likely to run away. This of course poses a problem as unlike most other armies, even if you beat them in combat they are not going anywhere. To remedy this I plumbed the extensive green skin archives and consulted with some of the finest Ork tacticians, to come up with an almost fool-proof plan.

The plan was an old one but a classic. Overwhelm your opponent with sheer weight of numbers and grind them down. Then combine this with getting to them fast, or better yet very fast. Revolutionary! Granted it’s not the most elegant of plans but this is Orks not Eldar, and I have always found in the 5th edition of 40K that when in doubt this has proven to be the only way to really go toe-to-toe with and stand a chance of beating Space Marines.

I took large mobs of Boyz, some fast troops like Storm Boyz, Deff Koptas  and some trucks, plus a few special troops to deal with the inevitable well armoured tanks. Killa Kans and Tank Bustas specifically. I then ensured that set up my army in a good Waargh! formation; a wide line mixing fast vehicles in amongst the mobs to make sure I could hit his line in 2 waves. It got off to a good start as I lost fewer casualties than expected to gunfire and got my first units to the Space marine lines within 2 turns, but that is where the 6th edition changes made a difference and it all went wrong.

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(Some of the currently unpainted Waargh!)

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Warbosses and Nobs are now more vulnerable than ever, as instant kills have to be double the target’s toughness, not more than double. This is a game changer, as there are a good number of strength 10 weapons a space marine force can take. When I finally made it into combat I came across the next game changer. Furious charge is no longer as effective as it used to be. And the new overwatch rule means that some of the edge has been blunted from an Ork charge. Granted hitting on 6’s does limit the risk but rapid-firing boltguns will mean on average two Ork boys will drop. Seeing as you take from the front that can make the difference between a charge being successful and not. Which makes deployment, how you move mobs through the space and how you and when you choose to attack your targets more important than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, Orks do still dish out plenty of pain but the rule changes impact noticeably. Overwatch has the potential, given enough fire power and enough luck, to render your charge impotent. Which kinda sucks considering the assault phase is my thing. Between those changes and stuff like initiative being used  to determine whether or not a defeated unit runs, and a new Space Marine Codex, means that I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board.

The new Ork Codex can’t come soon enough and you better believe I’ll be getting it day of release and Believe me when I say I am looking forward to the new codex and I hope to be reviewing some great new rules or stat changes to level up the playing field a bit.

A Galaxy Far Far Away

Next to my bed is a bedside unit. It’s a bit tired and one of the draw handles is busted and basically the whole thing needs replacing. Atop the unit, along with a lamp, the baby monitor cradle, loose change and my Salute ticket (I know, I know), is Horus Heresy: Mark of Calth. It is unread. It is unopened. And now slightly dusty. Despite me thoroughly enjoying Know No Fear, and the books that followed it, I’ve been struggling to find the desire to read it or any of the other Black Library novel. It seems, for the time being, I’ve had my fill of Bolter Porn. It took over a decade but it had to happen sooner or later. It’s not to say that I won’t go back – if nothing else I need to read Vulkan Lives by friend of The Shell Case, Nick Kyme.

A recent decision of mine, coupled with my bolter apathy got me to thinking; I’ve experienced this saturation point before…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away Mat & I have started playing the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Whilst researching the timeline for the pre & post game narrative (because I just can’t help myself) I started to realise two things. 1. How long it had been since I’d indulged in this rich and fascinating Universe and 2. How much had changed, how far the story had moved on and how out of touch I’d become.

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I started reading the Star Wars novels at the tender age of 13, with X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A Stackpole being the first (thanks to my brother convincing me to pick it up). It was this book, and the others in the X-Wing series that were to follow, that kick started my love of reading and, I suspect, licensed fiction. I even took a stab at writing some myself. The file is still tucked away in a folder, unopened for half my life on the hard drive of the laptop I type on. Having migrated from 4 previous computers. Tisk tisk.

Looking back, I realise that the gulf I found growing between me and that Galaxy far far away was down to the prequel trilogy not living up to my – I think – pretty modest expectations and the New Jedi Order series (which came out around the same time) introducing far too much change for me to cope with. I’d found my stride with Star Was. I’d gotten to know all the characters, and some I outright admired. So when they started killing them off and blowing up planets I took it quite personally. My hormonal teenage mind could only take so much disappointment and my late teens had quite a bit in it already.

Back there and back then I thought it was easier to walk away and halt the story halfway through the third New Jedi Order novel, happy to focus on the era of the timeline I liked the best. I realise now how very…GW that was of me. As the years ticked by – 13 of them as it goes – I started to hear things that piqued my interest, plot developments that were radical, beloved characters being killed and brave plot twists that would incense the die-hard fans. But I ignored them, determined to keep my distance, determined to do nothing to threaten the happy little bubble within which the Rebels overthrow the Empire, they form the New Republic and they all live happily ever after. Until now.

As my excitement around the X-Wing Miniatures Game grows ever higher – which has nothing to do with Mat and I texting each other slightly more than is healthy about next purchases – I found my eye wandering increasingly to those novels that first introduced me to the Universe I loved so dearly and that I once again find myself calling home.

So as I put Mark of Calth back on the shelf with a pat on the spine knowing that I’ll be seeing it again soon, I turn to pick up X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. The book responsible for my love of Star Wars and the book responsible for all the other books in my life. Today is a good day to be me.

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Codex Space Marines – A Review

warhammer 40000 logoSo to mix things up a bit from my barrage of Warhammer Fantasy Battles articles for A Tale of Two Armies I thought I’d take a look at the new Codex Space Marines. Written, as it goes, by Robin Cruddace who wrote both the Empire book and Warriors of Chaos.

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The good news is that Robin Cruddace collects Space Marines so he hasn’t completely shafted the army like he did the Empire. The bad news is that it’s the most boring iteration of any Codex Space Marines I’ve ever read. And I’ve read them all. Robin’s strength isn’t creative writing. And that’s fine, we can’t be good at everything, but his lack of flair means that much of the background is lack lustre or just copy and pasted from previous iterations. The worst bit being that none of the background except the Raven Guard entry reflects any of the stuff written in the Horus Heresy novels. Seeing as they’re canonical* that’s really rather poor form and a bit of a slap in the face. It also reads like he was terrified of offending someone as just about every Space Marine chapter mentioned in the book is a brotherhood of warriors without peer with more victories than any other. I defy you to read the book and tell me I’m wrong. The funniest one being the Howling Griffins which he collects and he may as well have just written, in crayon, these ones are the bestest. It’s all just so unnecessary. It’s also rife with typos, some sentences with multiple errors which really pisses me off and goes to show how little care was shown. Yes I make mistakes and use the wrong word from time to time, but I don’t charge you for it.

The good news is that, for the first time ever, the first founding codex chapters actually get proper sections now, which makes for a very thick book. And despite the average writing there’s some good stuff in there and it’s nice to see those chapters finally getting a mention rather than the book being Codex Ultramarines by any other name. As an Ultramarine player I did feel like something was missing but that’s just me being spoilt. The book is lovely. Much of the artwork is from previous books, which isn’t a complaint as it’s in colour for the first time which is nice to see. There’s a full-page piece of art of a Raven Guard Thunderhawk which is superb. So kudos to the art studio.

As has been established, the Space Marines new kits were in the form of re-releases and Centurions as well as the official additions of Storm Talons and Storm Ravens. I was slightly disappointed about the latter as I never had a problem with an army or armies having exclusive units. That said, they will undoubtedly perform a vital battlefield role and give Codex Chapters a real edge over…well everyone. As does a lot of the new gadgets and gizmos. The graviton guns are a new weapon option that wasn’t needed and will spank Chaos Space Marines. The army that frequently kicks Cruddace’s Griffins about the board all the time.

The Centurions I was a bit mixed on at first. I know a lot of people have slated the models but I kinda like them. And I kinda like what they’ll do for Space Marine armies. Their addition to the Codex is a little on the woolly side but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. They’re nasty buggers that’s for sure and actually with the right force composition could be really nasty. The Devastator Centurions are, on paper, better than a Devastator Squad thanks to being able to move and fire. Assuming they make it into range. The Assault variation will need a transport because both types are slow and purposeful. But if your opponent lets them get into combat then things will bleed. A lot. At 190 points for 3 they’re not a casual addition but the strength & toughness of 5 with 2 wounds is a real consideration and potential performance verses points they’re actually pretty good value.

There’s a few subtle changes throughout Codex Space Marines. Vanguard Veterans don’t get to assault on the turn they deep strike any more which is a real shame as that was their one big advantage and offset the horrendous points cost. So in terms of assaulting they’re a bit worse than Warp Talons now. But they’re now much much cheaper which is good because it means you can juice them as much as you like. They are Elite choices now though which is shit. And there’s still no way of fielding a first company outside of robbing rules of the Dark Angels which is massively disappointing. But even if it was, having Vanguard & Sternguard together makes fielding the Ultramarines 1st Company impossible. Which is a real shame I suspect grouping them together was a convenience thing rather than it being a carefully thought out decision.

There’s also been plenty of points changes throughout the book. So Captains are cheaper, as are Space Marine Tactical, Assault & Devastator squads. Which is a massive deal as across a 3,000 point game you’re going to gather up, across the army, quite a few spare points. Some weapons have gone up in price, almost arbitrarily, and assault cannons have got much more expensive. Because they’re amazing in 6th edition. It’s a shame someone noticed as I rather enjoyed taking advantage of that.

Big changes in the Codex, or changes back, is the flexible squad sizes with special or heavy weapons in tactical squads. Which is great news for the less conventional armies. Being an Ultramarine player I shall still be taking the full ten men as Guilliman intended. Squads that have split into combat squads now get to occupy the same Rhino which game changing. It means that for the first time since Second Edition you can move a squad up the field and then send them on their separate ways. It gives Space Marines a massive tactical advantage over everyone else and will actually mean the kind of flexibility you read about in the books.

But the biggest change/reversion by a mile in Codex Space Marines is the introduction of chapter tactics. They’re actually very good – which makes up for the fairly average warlord traits – and reflect the personalities of the armies incredibly well so full marks to Cruddace on that front. Ultramarines and Imperial Fists seem to benefit the most with their traits being very much performance enhancing across the entire army, which rather does reflect the personality of the chapters. That’s not to say the others aren’t without teeth they’re just far more specialist. Again, as one would expect. The Raven Guard’s ability to infiltrate everyone is pretty bad ass.

It’s a real shame that the background isn’t as strongly written as the rest of the Codex. There’s some good stuff buried beneath the average writing – and it really comes down to someone needing to take a firm hand. The repetition phrases and poorly constructed sentences is embarrassing. However, the army list, chapter traits and tweaks and new additions are actually pretty spot on with the exception of making the Vanguard, cheaper, in the wrong place and shitter.

The Centurions do, after some consideration, fulfil genuine battlefield roles that is more than just dreaming up something new for release. Well, actually, no it was dreamt up for release but it works is my point. And it gives players – particularly Iron Hands and Imperial Fists – a different way of fielding an army whilst still making it competitive. You may notice I’ve not really commented on the new anti-air Rhino variants. And that’s because they’re a necessary unit and they are what they. They shoot down flyers. Hooray. The rules for them are actually pretty nasty and they’re pretty good value for points but they’re Space Marine anti-air guns, there’s not much more to be said.

Overall Codex Space Marines is a good book. The background isn’t terrible, not by a long chalk. It’s just not as well written as it should have been and would have taken little more than a couple of proof reads to make it better. This said it’s tolerable enough that those new to Space Marines or only got in to collecting Space Marines with the previous Codex will still enjoy reading it. The rest of the book is pretty sound and the army list works. The point adjustments are for the most part valid and the chapter traits and flexibility in army selection is a welcome change and will make a lot of gamers very pleased. And interestingly thanks to the subtle change that you can now take Techmarines as part of your HQ choice, you can free up an Elite slot in battle company list. Which is rather handy. And it may just be in the shape of some Assault Centurions. And the free Heavy Support slot may just have to feature a Storm Raven. Just saying…

Codex Space Marines is available from Firestorm Games priced £31.50.

*A heated discussions has erupted over my use of this word which I’ve deleted because I felt it was inappropriate. This isn’t censorship but avoidance of an argument that simply could not be settled on a comments board and shouldn’t take place there either. I’m all for healthy debate but when there is a fundamental disagreement that cannot be resolved there is little merit in making it public. My use of the term may have been incorrect but refers to the simple truth that the games developers reap a tremendous harvest from the ideas and characters in the BL novels. To say they’re non-canonical is as inaccurate as saying, apparently, they are. Equally the Forge World Horus Heresy books rely so heavily on the novels for material it would be a great injustice to the series, the writers and those that have enjoyed reading them to condemn to little more than fan fiction.

Supplement Space Marine Codices Covers Leaked

 

Although initially only available as digital downloads, they’ll be out in hardcopy December/January time.

I’ll be honest, I kinda want them all…white-scars

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Ultramarines

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Salamanders

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Iron Hands

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Imperial Fists

Horus Heresy Graphic Novel

Rumour had it that a Horus Heresy graphic novel was in development, but with images now floating about the interwebs it would appear to be true.  My initial excitement has been somewhat tarnished by news that it’ll be a CG render job. Space Marines don’t translate brilliantly in this medium (Warhammer 40,000 movie anyone). If nothing else because renders have a nasty habit of making anything that’s painted metal come out looking ultra glossy and golds a ruddy matt colour.

Anyway, it’s early days yet and as long as the writing is of the calibre of the novels then it’ll still be a winner. I’m under no illusions that I’ll resist. Here’s a couple of grabs for your viewing pleasure…