Monday, 30 July 2012

Codex Space Marines in 6th - First Impressions


6th Ed - I'm in a happy place.


After a weekend at Tim’s Summer Skirmish, a 500pt 6th Ed. Tournament involving 10 singles games and 3 doubles games, I feel ready to give a first impression of the new 40K.

Firstly what does 6th mean to my army?

The majority of my experience has been with Codex: Space Marines (13/14 games) and I think I’m going to stick with them for the short – medium term. I don’t think much has changed in terms of how best to employ them strategically, they are still a durable, gun-line style army with the ability to withstand assault from all but the most dedicated of combat troops. As before they do not fare well in protracted assaults though, unless you’re talking about Assault Terminators! The change to Rapid Fire and the introduction of Snap Fire are both massive benefits to Vanilla Marines considering the nerf that vehicles took; now you are as effective while mobile on foot as you are standing still, Heavy Weapons excepting – but that’s a small price to pay for not being totally reliant on vehicles to re-deploy. Mobility is king at the moment and while Marines are not particularly fast, they can move and still be very effective which is all you need to be as a gun-line army.

Space Marines trade off all-out shooting power for the durability of T4 and a 3+ save so they’re never going to be as good at shooting as armies like Imperial Guard. In the past I’ve used this fact as an excuse to try to build my Marine lists to be able to assault armies which they “cannot” out-shoot. However I will now be building my Marine lists to be as shooty as possible while also playing to their strength in durability.

Lastly, assault. With the way wounds are now allocated, the reduction in the general quality of cover saves and the introduction of Overwatch I feel weight of numbers king for assaulting units but needs to be used in conjunction with speed and positioning. Marines cannot do weight of numbers in the traditional sense but their increased durability over typical, assault-centric units acts as something of a trade-off. Unfortunately, as I stated above, they are not fast and if you’re trying to assault a shooty army (which is probably the only time you would consider an assault to be tactically viable) chances are that they are going to be able to put out enough shooting to ensure you never make it into contact – if you are foot-slogging it from your deployment zone. So unless you want to include assault vehicles or jump troops I would forget assault as a strategy in all but the most desperate circumstances.

In terms of specifics I like the Thunderfire Cannon even more than I used to, though it’s cover denial round is a little less useful because cover is less reliable. Tactical Terminators are great, lots of durable shooting, don’t leave home without a Cyclone. Attack Bikes are nice, not sure it I’m going to lean towards Melta or Heavy Bolters but initially I’ll be trying out Melta. After seeing flyers in action, I want a Stormtalon Gunship in my list. I think sniper scouts will be making a come-back into my list, just as a deck-chair unit though, cheep and cheerful, hoping for the occasional contribution. Lastly at the moment I’m very sold on combat tactics so I won’t be running any special characters as HQ unless it’s Calgar. Combat Tactics is surely going to be golden against very combat focussed armies and I want to try this out as much as possible in the early stages of 6th.

Secondly what do I think about the rule-set?

So far, so good to be honest. Assault is frustrating but I’m playing Marines and this is not their forte, perhaps the frustration will be lessened with more specialist scrappers! I think all the comments about the rules being clunky and slow in places have been greatly exaggerated, the game is pretty smooth and I found assault to flow quite well. The emphasis put on movement due to the way wounds are now allocated makes the game feel more tactical and the changes to rapid fire, and the ability to snap fire Heavy Weapons makes the movement phase more involved (for my Marines at least) – this is a great thing.

Shooting is very powerful, even more so than in 5th, because it’s the closest models that go down first you can keep a charging enemy at bay with concentrated firepower and a couple of lucky overwatch kills, if he is not positioned well. Also the reduction in the average cover save, combined with the ability to focus-fire means shooting will be more effective in general.

Changes to terrain are a mixed bag, I love the random tables for woods, ruins etc but some people won’t. The reduction of the standard cover save is a big deal for some armies and less so for others, I found myself avoiding terrain trying to get to the IG lines as quickly as possible on a few occasions because I felt the 5+ save wasn’t worth it, where in the past I would have hugged terrain very carefully. As it turns  out charging down-field is not something Marines do well (or have ever done well if I’m honest)

Vehicles are suffering at the moment because of peoples’ general perception that they won’t last 5 seconds looking down the barrel of a gauss-gun. Fair comment but I think Necrons (whilst powerful) will be less prevalent than Grey Knights were at the end of 5th and unless you are facing down a ton of rapid firing gauss, Vehicles are not dead in the water and do have an important part to play in 6th.

I’ll finish off with Flyers, I love them. I saw a lot of Vendettas this weekend and they were extremely effective. This will be tempered by the introduction of units with skyfire and related rules, but at the moment they are pretty amazing. If you have access to them in your codex, you need to seriously consider making room for them in in your next 6th Ed tournament list.

I finished the tournament with 6 wins and 3 losses in the singles games, placing second in the 2nd bracket (for the second year running!) and 0-3 in my doubles games, frankly we were out-classed and out-gunned, and I had a great time. In summary I think 6th is a great breath of fresh air for a system that had become somewhat stale, however for competitive tournament play it may ruffle a few feathers and how tournaments adapt to the changes remains to be seen. I am optimistic that 6th will remain an enjoyable game for the foreseeable future though and I plan to get a fair few games in between now and Christmas to get my Space Marine army down-pat.

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