And now for the third and final installment of my analysis of every unit in Codex: Space Marines. The first part contains the overview and my grades for HQ, Troops and Transports. The second part contains my grades for Elites and Fast Attack. This final part contains my grades for Heavy Support and Ultramarines Special Units and Special Characters.
I have also included a summary at the end, which lists the complete report card, but without the details.
The weapons upgrades seem like they are overpriced, and other armies’ heavy weapons units seem like they are better (e.g. Chaos Havocs), but I just can’t seem to make a shooty army without this unit. Maybe its because they are one of the best firepower units in the space marine codex. They are more durable than a predator: more models = more enemy firepower necessary to take them out AND you have to kill 2-6 models (depending on unit size) before there is any loss of firepower. Unlike a predator, which can be destroyed in one hit, or even if not destroyed, will be unable to fire for a complete turn if even damaged (which is almost as bad!). Not to mention that this unit typically has cover saves, whereas the predator might have cover, which might grant it hull down…you see what I mean. Devastators are simply more durable than other heavy firepower units. Plus you can transport them, or, in a pinch, assault with them. And finally, this unit is good because of the excellent variety of weapons configurations. Players will argue all day as to the best way to arm them. The reason is because there are many different weapon configurations that work well.
This is a fairly one-dimensional unit, but boy does it strike terror into the heart of your opponent! Power of the Machine Spirit is highly recommended for this unit, even though you have a good chance of never firing a shot with this thing. That’s because this unit tends to attract a disproportionate amount of fire, which, fortunately, insulates the rest of the army from harm. I see that as an advantage. Alternatively, you can hide the unit behind cover and pop out to shoot something (with power of machine spirit) or just shut down one of the approaches to your lines. All of this makes the Vindicator a great unit for a shooty army. And when you do shoot you will almost certainly kill something, even if it is a regular grunt that was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is an average, shooty tank. Nothing especially good, nothing especially bad. In an all mechanized force, these will probably be preferable to Devastators, if only because you are trying to have as many armored units as possible. Otherwise, I feel that Devastators are better because they are more durable, have more guns and have a greater variety of guns. The Predator Annihilator can’t move and shoot well if you take lascannon sponsons (again, better to use Devastators), and if you take heavy bolter sponsons then your weapons will not work well together as you will mix anti-infantry with anti-vehicle. At least they are pretty cheap.
First of all, let me say that there is no reason this should be a separate unit from the Annihilator. They should be the same unit, with an option to upgrade to twin-linked lascannons for + 20 points. Having said that, this unit falls into the same boat as its brother – decent, but there are other units in the codex that are better at doing what this unit does (land speeders, in this case). I do like that the autocannon and the heavy bolter sponsons work well together, and work well while moving. Still, there are plenty of other units in the codex that have long-range anti-infantry weapons, and this is not the best of them.
If you are playing escalation, this unit is useless. If you are not playing escalation, but are facing a power-armor equivalent enemy, this unit is bad. If you are not playing escalation, and are facing a hoard army, this unit is very good. That about sums it up for this unit. Too bad, really, because in 3rd edition Whirlwinds were my favorite unit. Unfortunately, the increased chance of scattering (thanks to the change in the indirect fire rules), the advent of escalation missions, and the increased point cost made me all but retire this unit to the shelf. Castellan mines aren’t that good because they have no AP value, and anyone who tries to fire with this unit directly, as in, NOT using indirect fire, is a fool. So that leaves us with a unit that is very limited in its usefulness, albeit extremely useful in those situations where it is actually useful.
It has armor 14 all around, packs great firepower, and can even transport units. What else do you want? Yes, it does come with a hefty price tag, but people underestimate just how good AV 14 all around is. This is the only vehicle (plus the Crusader variant, obviously) in the entire codex that I am fairly confident will survive to the end of the battle in most of the games I play with it. Even if your opponent concentrates his fire against it for the whole game, it still stands a good chance of surviving. In fact, many players will simply ignore a Land Raider and never fire anything at it unless they have nothing else to shoot – they just don’t think its worth the effort of trying to kill it. That’s how good AV 14 all around is. If it were just a beefed up Rhino, the price tag would be too much, but since it comes with three good weapons, and the Power of the Machine Spirit (which has good synergy with all of the twin-linked weapons, by the way), I’d say the price is a fair deal. Throw in the fact that this unit has a special, unique ability (not written in the codex, but instead in the basic book) that allows units to assault after disembarking (despite it being closed-top), and I’d say we have a pretty special unit here. The only thing keeping it from being an A is that it is expensive in conjunction with it being vulnerable to a lucky shot from your opponent.
A more specialized version of the regular Land Raider, this unit shares many of the advantages and disadvantages of its brother. It is better at delivering a close combat unit, and better against light infantry, but much worse at long range. Also, since you are always carrying an assault unit in one of these, you are basically shoe-horned into the ‘strategy’ of charging straight at the enemy, whereas with the normal Land Raider you are more free to adapt to the situation. Still, the Crusader is noticeably better in the areas where it has an advantage. In the end, I’d say it’s about even.
Ultramarines Special Characters and Units
While they are usable against all enemies, they are really only good against Tyranids. And even against tyranids, they aren’t as good as they seem (especially if you are facing a Monstrous Creature Tyranid army). This is because their special krak grenade attack doesn’t benefit from preferred enemy against monstrous creatures (preferred enemy doesn’t work against monstrous creatures…I know, its ridiculous, but that’s what the rule is). They also lack the options and customizability that makes units like Veteran Squads so good. In the end, this is a unit that performs well enough, but there are better units to take – even against Tyranids.
This is the classic example of a unit that is very powerful, but very expensive. Able to dish out large amounts of damage, but unable to take a comparable amount of damage. Such is the definition of a balanced unit. Hence the grade. The uniqueness of the unit is also tempered by the lack of any options.
Honor Guard (as a unit upgrade): D
This unit is simply too expensive for what it does. A veteran sergeant with a power fist is much better, yet costs the same. Alternatively, a veteran sergeant with a power weapon is about the same, yet costs less. Aside from the coolness factor, you would only take one if you wanted to use an honor guard in addition to a veteran sergeant within a unit. While there are situations where you would want to do that, they are few and far between. It also doesn’t help that they can only be added to command squads, tactical squads, and devastator squads. Would be much better if they could have been added to, say, an assault squad.
Cassius is overpriced. He costs 75 points more than a Reclusiarch (his stat line matches the Reclusiarch), has minimal equipment, and two so-so special abilities to show for it. It’s not that he’s bad, its just that you can construct your own Chaplain that will probably be better, especially since Cassius is on foot and most chaplains are equipped with jump packs or are mounted on a bike. Oh yeah, I almost forgot that one of his abilities is only useful against Tyranids.
Tigrius is so good, it’s not even funny. He’s just 50 points more than a regular Epistolary, but doesn’t pay extra for psychic powers. While he lacks some things that appear to be no-brainers for most space marine characters (terminator honors, any form of invulnerable save), he more than makes up for it with his special abilities. For one, he can choose any two psychic powers, after both armies have been selected, after you see your opponent’s army, and after deployment. That, alone, is enough to make him the best special character in the codex, Ultramarine or otherwise. But then, on top of that, he DOUBLES the range of all of his psychic powers. This, in conjunction with the power Fear of the Darkness, is incredibly effective against most armies, and absolutely devastating against low leadership armies. Plus, he still retains the advantages of normal librarians – negates enemy psychic powers, has a weapon that ignores armor saves and can auto-kill an enemy, etc. He is easily the best character in the entire codex.
Marneus is unique in that he is the only special character in the codex who can be equipped in two different ways – either in artificer armor with an Iron Halo, or in Terminator armor. Unless you plan to deep strike him, the artificer armor variant is superior. Marneus is a very good special character – lots of power-fist attacks, good armor save, good invulnerable save, 4 wounds, confers leadership 10 on the entire army, and can choose to pass or fail any morale check. Disadvantages include a high price tag, inability to be accompanied by normal command squads or terminator command squads, and the basic problem of being an independent character armed with a power-fist instead of a power weapon. In other words, he is vulnerable to hidden fists and to Dreadnought close combat weapon attacks, which can instantly kill him, sometimes before he attacks. Still, if you want a close combat machine, Marneus is your guy.
Space Marines have fairly good, but not great, heavy support. Land Raiders and Land Raider Crusaders are definitely good, and Vindicators are fairly good too, but everything else is average compared to what other armies can field. I’d much rather have the heavy support options from Imperial Guard or Chaos. Or even Eldar or Tau. Still, there is enough to get the job done.
As for Special Characters, I find the squads to be really lacking, but the characters on the whole are good. It would have been better had they made Cassius more powerful and Tigrius less powerful, but you don’t always get what you want. At least Marneus Calgar is a good character in this edition. We’ll see if he stays good in 5th edition.
Command Squad (power armor): B+
Command Squad (terminator): B
Tactical Squad: B
Scout Squad: B-
Drop Pod: A
Terminator Squad: B+
Terminator Assault Squad: C-
Veteran Squad: B
Assault Squad: C
Land Speeder Squad: A
Bike Squad: C
Attack Bike Squad: C+
Scout Bike Squad: D+
Devastator Squad: B
Predator Annihilator: C
Predator Destructor: C
Land Raider: A-
Land Raider Crusader: A-
Tyranid War Veterans: C-
Honor Guard (squad): C
Honor Guard (unit upgrade): D
Marneus Calgar: B+
And that’s everything. Feel free to comment, critique, etc. I hope you enjoyed it!