Space Marines, the Hope for a Bright Future

by | Oct 14, 2019

Over the last weekend a few bombs were dropped on the Warhammer 40k competitive community, as the sum of all fears came to fruition as Space Marines Iron Hands predictably dominated large events across the world, and by proxy Space Marines in general. Once the new Iron Hands rules were released even the smallest 40k minds saw the potential meta breaking possibilities. Now, at the moment the meta seems to have dramatically changed, with no good ways to correct it coming anytime soon.

For a bit of historical record, the Space Marine rules and supplements have been done since January 2019 with Games Workshop waiting for just the right time. As well, Chapter Approved has already been sent to print, so don’t expect nerfs until the Spring FAQ at the earliest. Games Workshop rule shrug at Fall FAQ, portents to a lack of focus by the company, as the rules super creep continues. It is almost like they might be focusing on other bigger things to come for next year…cough…9th edition…cough. 

Either way Games Workshop has a great opportunity, because the actual design choices made for Space Marines and in Phoenix Rising are refreshing and just plain cool. By adding “Chapter Tactics” and Faction specific rules it has really opened up the those armies. Now not only can a competitive player create a personalized tooled list; narrative and/or casual players have the same things to really design armies that reflect the player. Games Workshop has also added incentives to play mono-factions instead of just changing wholesale how detachments work or by punishing soup; they made the choice of boosting mono-factions, which could over time raise all army boats. 

While list and story design has gotten a boost; it only goes as far as Games Workshop is willing to take it, by applying it across the board and quickly. They cannot leave any faction out, so I am fine using supplements and campaigns to make this happen, but the rapid fire release needs to continue. If they just leave Space Marines and Eldar to these changes, you can expect the game to de-evolve basically into a horrible faction caste system.

Conversely, Games Workshop has been showing signs of past bad behaviors. Profits are sky high, but this hasn’t stopped GW from price creeping models as well. Games Workshop just recently had a round of price increases, on many models for the first time in years. Single character models and upgrade packs have gone up a 1/3 on average. This while never seeing a price decrease for kits that have made production costs back 100 times over the last decade. Then we have the ever increasing rules bloat that is gotten pretty out of hand, with some factions needing multiple supplements, codexes, White Dwarfs, and FAQs to operate–  another reason why 9th edition could be around the corner.

All the print rules add another layer of cost to playing an army. If we are not getting 9th ed next year, then Games Workshop should consider re-packaging the 8th edition rule book with all the updates in one place. Currently, that is a mentioned hope with Chapter Approved 2019 around the corner.

Overall, it is good Space Marines are on top, they are the icons of the IP and hate them or not, it is in Games Workshop best profit interest to make them at least marginally better or creativity distinctive from all other armies. If it means new players gety hooked on the game, then we are all better for it in the long run, but in the short term the competitive Warhammer 40k scene might be in a world of hurt where we can easily see 40% of the tournament scene player fielding some form of basic Space Marines. I don’t expect Games Workshop to give every faction six supplements (see rules bloat), but if we can get everyone something comparable the game will be in a good place for all players, not just the poster child lovers.