Review – Codex: Chaos Space Marines

Well, no turning back now. I’m now fully in the grip of Warhammer 40,000 relapse. A few days ago, I went out and bought the Codex for my first true love; the bad guys.

Codex: Spiky and Mean is the first Codex for Warhammer 40,000’s sixth edition, and right off the bat, you can see that this book is quite a different beast from previous Codices (yes, that really is the proper plural term of codex. Yes, I know it sounds dumb). The book is hardback and full-colour, which would be amazing if not for the existence of every RPG book made within the last 10 years ever.

This is my first quibble of many really; why has it taken GW so long to follow the model of literally every other major gaming company out there? We geeks like big colourful hardback books, despite the price. Speaking of the price, it’s steep (big shock there, the price of a GW product being high); £30! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pretty book, but £30 for a 105-page rulebook is a tad on the ridiculous side when compared to something like the main rulebook for Deathwatch (397 pages, suggested retail price of £24.99… and, forgetting stuff like optional splatbooks, is a complete game).

So what’s in the book? Usual Codex guff; lots of fluff, lots of crunch, lots of dazzle.

Most of the background is stuff any normal 40k fan is going to be familiar with, but there is a lot of focus on a new bit of fluff called the Abyssal Crusade, which is simultaneously awesome and hilarious (a daemon disguised as a High Ecclesiarch convinces thirty Chapters of Space Marines to launch an assault into the Eye of Terror, shit happens, and voila! 30,000 new Traitor Marines).

This seemed appropriate.

There’s the inevitable gallery, though nothing here is noteworthy; a few money shots of the new Warp Talons and Daemon Engines, mini-focuses on different Legions and warbands, etc, etc. But we’re not here for the dazzle, we’re here for crunchy rules so that we can win game after game with the Legions of Chaos!

I’m sorry to say that I’m actually really disappointed with the Codex. Maybe I’d set my hopes too high and was setting myself up for a fall. But even so, I still feel I could’ve continued using the 5th edition Codex and saved myself £30.

Let’s start with some of the good things before I start whinging.

Daemon Princes are made of ruin and win. Daemon Princes are utter monsters. Weapon Skill 9, Initiative 8, and 5 Attacks? Oh hells yes. Pricey (obviously) but a Prince of Khorne with the Axe of Blind Rage will eat armies by himself.

Chaos Cultists are back! In a lot of 40k fluff, the Imperium is always fighting cultists before they tangle with Chaos Marines. Makes sense, as there’s way more cultists than Chaos Marines. Finally, Chaos players can field a horde of gibbering crazies.

Daemon Engines. Time was that the Defiler was the only non-Forgeworld Daemon Engine. Now we have three new toys to play with; the Heldrake (flyer, don’t care) and the sexy daemon-dinosaur-robots, the Forgefiend and Maulerfiend. I really dig the biomechanical look of these new beasties, and they go a long way to defining Chaos Marines as more than “Space Marines with spikes”. The Forgefiend in particular is very tasty; its ectoplasma cannons will simply cremate whatever they touch, and its default Hades autocannons can lay down a punishing amount of dakka.

Three barrels of hot plasma love.

And now, the bad. A lot of these are minor quibbles for the most part, but they outweigh the good points and ultimately leave me disappointed with the book.

No Sorcerer Lords. In previous editions of the Chaos Codex, you had the option to make a Chaos Lord a Sorcerer, giving you a 3-wound psyker. Now that option is bizarrely absent. Why? FUCKED IF I KNOW. Sorry Tzeentch players; you can have a Chaos Lord or a Sorcerer, but not both.

No Cult Terminators. I have no idea why Cult Terminators (i.e. Terminators that are also Berserkers, Plague Marines, etc) are never included in a Chaos Codex, because they’re  a massive fan favourite. I’d hazard a guess it’s because that much awesome can’t be contained on paper, but seriously GW, just let people have rules for their Noise Marine Terminators.

No Marked Vehicles. Following on from Cult Terminators; you know that really awesome converted Nurgle Dreadnought you have? Well tough shit, hypothetical Death Guard player version of you! That Nurgle Dreadnought is no different rules-wise from a Slaanesh, Tzeentch, or Khorne Dreadnought. Previous Chaos Codexes had options to give god-specific upgrades to vehicles, and it blows my mind that no option exists now.

Bland options. The wargear list from 3rd and 4th edition is back! Yay…? Because you know what I hated about the 5th edition Chaos Codex? It was having all of a unit’s options listed right there in the unit’s rules entry! It was just so convenient! God damn it, I want something inconvenient! I want to waste time flipping back and forth! Thankfully GW heard my prayers and misinterpreted my sarcasm and now we have to deal with the asinine wargear list again. On the subject of the wargear list, it’s really lacking. You have the standard weapon upgrades (don’t know why these couldn’t just be included in unit entries), a pathetic number of “Chaos Rewards” (two familiars, a 5+ invulnerable save item, a free roll on the Chaos Boon table at the start of the game, and some shitty acid blood thing that no one will ever take), and Chaos Artefacts; these are your daemon weapons and equivalent. Most of these Artefacts are actually pretty cool (I’m actually in love with the Burning Brand of Skalathrax and the Dimensional Key), but there’s one glaring issue I have to raise; there’s a Khorne-specific item, and a Tzeentch-specific item… but no love for Nurgle or Slaanesh! What. The. Fuck. Was it too much effort to come up with a cool, unique item for Nurgle and Slaanesh characters? Look, it’s not hard, I’ll do it now;

Father’s Flail – This triple-headed flail contains the bound spirit of a powerful Nurgle daemon and oozes corrosive filth. 45 points, characters with Mark of Nurgle only.

Range -, Strength -, AP 3, Type Melee, Daemon Weapon, Poisoned (2+), Two-Handed

No infiltrators. Now, I like that Chosen are now badasses akin to Wolf Guard and the like. However, there are now no units in the Codex that infiltrate (unless you get lucky with a Warlord roll). Tough luck, Alpha Legion players, looks like you’ll have to rely on allies! I was holding out hope that at least Cultists could’ve been infiltrators, even as an upgrade, but oh well.

The price. At the end of the day, I can’t help but feel that the book is simply not worth its hefty price tag. £30 is a lot of money for an army book, and the excuse that it costs so much due to it being a hardback and full-colour is bullshit. Like I said, the Fantasy Flight RPG books are 300+ pages and hardback, and have the benefit of being complete games that won’t be obsoleted by rules changes in a few years time.

Sigh.

Someone remind me why I decided to get back into 40k again?

Tzaph

Chaos images copyright GW 2012.  Used for review purposes.

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