Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Addiction: The Marines have landed

Monday night I continued to thrash around in the throes of the tabletop addiction by reading through my just-arrived copy of the new WH40k 5th Edition Space Marine codex. Naturally, I’ve got some observations.

First, I have to say that the three initial publications under 5th Edition (which I’ll call 5E from now on) are taking the game’s resources in an interesting direction. The new rulebook, the Black Reach ‘Getting Started’ book and the 5E Marine codex all contain quite a bit of ‘fluff’, or background for the 40k universe. That’s not a bad thing, but notable nevertheless.

The new codex, in fact, is very fluff-heavy. It’s 144 pages, but the unit descriptions, stats and the army list – the ‘hard’ info in the codex – takes up less space than it did in the 4E Marine codex.

The change is primarily due to the elimination of 4E’s ‘chapter variations’ – which gave SM players the ability to create ‘custom’ armies based on a set of give-and-take options. You could, for example, select options that allowed your squads to take a second assault weapon (instead of a heavy weapon), balanced by a negative option (for example) that eliminated an Elite slot from their force organization. [Note: That’s an outta-my-butt example because I don’t have the 4E codex handy and I never used the deviations anyway. So don’t go digging through the book to check my work, geek.]

I don’t hang around any of the 40k forums on Teh Intrarwebs, but I imagine the deviations have been eliminated for the sake of clarity and sanity. I think they increased the pre-game, rules-related fiddle factor and likely drove more than one tournament organizer to the edge of insanity. Eliminating the rules-based deviations puts home-grown chapter creation back where it belongs – in the player’s imagination – and returns more focus to tabletop play.

Eliminating the deviations doesn’t mean all Marine forces will now look alike, however. The codex is far from being a straightjacket for “Codex Chapters”. A quick look through the unit descriptions and various tables shows that there are now more unit types available to Marine players, and that each of those unit types now has more ‘gear’ options than were previously available.

I’ll shortly be busting into my bitz box, for example, to arm both of my Assault Squads with the newly-available flamer option. Stompy squads with a 12-inch move AND a template weapon? Got to git me summa dat.

From what I’ve read in it so far, I like the new 5E codex a lot. Its content bodes well for the notion of increasing focus on the tabletop. Future codices (for other factions) will likely follow the same pattern. I’d bet that the concept of ‘Doctrines’ introduced in the 4E Imperial Guard codex will get the chop.

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