Is this how the Warhammer hobby started for you? Jstove is back today with his first edition of “everything they don’t tell you about space marines.”
Jstove here, and earlier this month, a new hobby shop opened up down the street from me. Naturally, I was pretty stoked for cool new faces getting into the hobby. But, with new blood comes not knowing what you’re in for.
Today, I’m writing specifically about new players and Space Marines. When you come into a shop for the first time to look at 40k, space marines get shoved in your face. Especially when you’re in a GW/Warhammer shop.
They’re always the demo army in the tutorial, there’s probably a cardboard cut out space marine in the window, they take up an entire wall of product by themselves, and they’re basically in every Black Library novel sitting on the shelf. For new players, it can be very difficult to avoid drinking a big fat cup of space marine Koolaid and joining the space marine cult.
There’s nothing wrong with liking space marines. There’s also nothing wrong with space marines being your first army. Unfortunately, there are huge problems with Space Marines that new players aren’t aware of and aren’t told but have to learn. So let’s go over some of the finer points of collecting Space Marines for beginners.
The best part about Space Marines is also the worst part about Space Marines.
There is a marine for every job and every occasion. Want to be a vampire, a wizard, a crusading knight, a cyborg, or a Viking? There’s a marine for that. Want to stand in the back and shoot big guns that kill everything? There’s a marine for that. Want to go really fast and murder people with chainsaws like a psycho? There’s a marine for that.
There is literally a space marine for everything, and it’s not just the marines themselves. It’s also their tanks, walking robots, and airplanes. Marines have an overwhelming variety of equipment and assets to tackle any job, and for newbies, being spoiled for choice can lead to devastating consequences. Just because Marines can do the job, doesn’t mean they’re the best at it. The space marine sales pitch is that marines are the best professional generalists in the game. The problem here is that not every marine unit specialized for a specific purpose is the best in its class, and some should be outright avoided.
Despite being sold as baby’s first 40k army, Space Marines can at times be difficult to play around.
Cost-efficiency is the most important strategic asset in army building. Most successful armies have a solid core of efficient budget troops to unlock command points and hold the line so the general can spend most of his points on really killy fun stuff that does the heavy lifting.
Space marines tend to be expensive as line infantrymen. Most veteran marine players use scouts for troops because they’re cheaper. One thing you’ll learn as a space marine player, depending on how efficient your troops are in any given codex or edition of the game, is you may often end up writing space marine lists that don’t actually have that many space marines in them.
Specialization is Key
There are tons of different flavors, concepts, and equipment loadouts for marines. If you can think of a weapon, there’s probably a marine model that carries it. It’s part of their whole ‘professional generalist’ vibe. However, in order to have the most fun, and keep your army operating at its most effective level to hurt your opponent, you’ll find that specializing is a big deal. Different flavors of space marine have different strengths, and you should absolutely play them.
If you like bikes, you should absolutely be a White Scar. Killing people with swords? Blood Angel. Terminators? Dark Angel Deathwing. Space marines do not reward new players for being generalists. Accomplished veterans can make a case for efficient generalist marine armies, but as a ‘general’ rule, rookies should stick to one thing and beat it like a dead horse. You don’t take a marine army to ice cream and buy each one whatever flavor they want. You tell them, “You’re all getting mint chocolate chip or nothing because this is the mint chocolate chip marine army!”
You will either be sold generalism or trick yourself into buying it.
Whatever you do well, do it a lot. These days in the game store when your army underperforms, or you lose really bad, you go to the shelf and start looking at things you don’t have and try to buy them. In days gone by, the salesperson would ask you how the battle went, what went wrong, and what model solves the problem.
“Well he had a lot of really tough targets and I couldn’t shoot them to death.” “Oh really? Well, you should get this predator annihilator with 4 lascannons, he’ll blow that crap away.” You might walk away thinking that this pitch makes a lot of sense.
Instead of planning an army like you’re sewing a patchwork quilt, plan an army to execute a specific strategy. Don’t get a handful of bikes, a random tank, a bit of this or that, and throw it all on the table and wonder what went wrong again. Remember what I said about generalism- it generally only works for experienced players with a deep understanding of the game.
If you’re a fight fan, think about this; very few fighters climb the ranks as generalists. It takes a spectacularly talented superstar to be great at everything. Most professional fighters are going to win by striking if they’re strikers, or win by submission if they’ve got good groundwork. Don’t ask strikers to go for the clinch, and don’t ask grapplers to strike. It ends up being cheaper, easier, and more fun to pick one thing and hammer it to death.
As you learn the game, you’ll find it’s typically better to be overspecialized and lose to an army that’s a natural counter, than to be a scatterbrained-generalist and not be good enough at anything to perform in any area. Losing as a specialist has an excuse, losing as a generalist just hurts.
The most important thing is having fun. You’re definitely not going to have fun if you put your heart and soul into your hobby, and then constantly lose because nobody told you the facts about your army. You can still have fun when you lose as long as you make the other guy really bleed for it.