Necron and Space Marines Codex Review – Warhammer 40,000

Knowledge is power.

We find ourselves at the dawn of yet another slurry of codex releases for Warhammer 40,000. The faction-focused rule books see an unsurprising re-release with the still-fresh 9th edition, but with a flurry of improvements. Having received the new Space Marines Codex and Necron Codex, please join me in assessing what these books have done right and where they might have fallen short…

Laying Out a Codex

Before going into the specifics to each book, the first thing I’ll shed light on will be the new inclusions to formatting and layout for the new codex releases for 9th edition. It may not sound like a particularly enthralling topic, though I assure you, these changes are superbly welcome!

Some of these changes are small and minor but yield tremendous impact. Each section of a codex will now be noted on the side of the contained pages. This means you can, at a glance, get to the “Wargear” section in no time at all. Such a simple change, but one that couldn’t be more convenient.

The final pages of the each codex include a “Rules Reference”. Here the rules segments are listed out with their page numbers and summaries of their content. This, once again, will save time barreling through pages mid-game. This particularly feels like something that should have always been within the previous iterations of the codex books. Better late than never, I suppose.

If you enjoy Crusade Mode then, in addition to the new Mission Pack released recently, you’ll find more new rules bespoke to each faction within their codex. This includes relics, battle scars, agendas, all suitably unique to the corresponding faction. These feel like another fantastic addition for players who prefer a more narrative experience. It’s sometimes easy to get lost in focusing solely on the competitive elements within each game. Stepping back and giving more spotlight to the casual games feels like a step in the right direction.

The final universal element for the new codex releases would be the ability to access the information via the “WH 40K” app on mobile. The new books provide a redeemable code to unlock access to the rules and information digitally via the app. Unfortunately, this was not accessible/ready for release at the time of writing.

Codex: Space Marines

It will come as a surprise to nobody that the first codex update includes the power-armoured warriors of the Imperium. Coming in at a whopping 208-pages, this book is fairly monstrous. Especially compared to Codex: Necrons which comes in at just over half the page count.

The book comes with the aforementioned new features including Crusade Rules and refined page layout. However, it’s the remarkable 98 datasheets included within that steal the spotlight for this book. Space Marines are, of course, the most popular faction within Warhammer 40,000 for any multitude of reasons. Looking at this codex, it emphasizes that Space Marines remain one of the most expansive and versatile factions in all of Warhammer 40,000. It’s unfortunate that all (or even merely some) other factions can’t receive this level of attention or breadth. It simply cements that the Space Marine faction will continue to be the true headliners of the game.

New units previously shown off finally appear with full rules including the Primaris Techmarine along with the Hammerfall Bunker. Whilst we’ve received glances at these units in previous previews, to finally have the rules laid out is plenty exciting. No doubt we’ll see these new models released over the coming weeks coinciding with the new codex.

Loyally Accessible

This updated iteration Codex: Space Marines includes a wealth of lore and details on Holy Terra and the Adeptus Astartes. The first half of the book is crammed with artwork and stories depicting the noble saviours of the Imperium. There are even a few pages that showcase the livery and markings of Space Marine chapters/companies. This sort of information will prove exceptionally handy for anyone looking to create their own chapter. Needless to say, if you would rather collect and play as one of the founded chapters, there’s still more than enough in the book for you to sink your teeth into.

Strangely, there’s almost an argument to be made regarding the sheer amount of content within this book. To my knowledge it is the largest codex to date in terms of page count. There’s so much within the book that I imagine it almost becomes a fault for new, younger hobbyists. As we’re not informed regarding pricing when we receive review samples, I can only speculate. However, with it being as dense as it is, I’d not be surprised if it released at a heightened price. If I’m wrong, then this simply furthers the value proposition of Space Marines as a whole.

Of course, within Codex: Space Marines, a flurry of new rules and stratagems can be found. The “Terror Troops” Stratagem allows Reivers to negate an enemy unit’s objective secured ability. “Uncompromising Fire” allows an Adeptus Astartes unit to shoot without failing a current action. Whereas “Gene-wrought Might” allows Primaris units to automatically wound on a hit roll of a 6. As ever, the diverse range of stratagems available to Space Marines persist. There are surely the countless combinations interweaving the different units, chapters and abilities. I’m very excited to see what wondrous machinations that players infinitely more clever than I can come up with.

The Crusade Rules are quite favourably some of my favourite inclusions within the codex. You can have certain units cross the Rubicon Primaris, allowing them to ascend into the ranks of the Primaris Marines. You can even have characters interred into Dreadnoughts, something I’ve longed for over many years. Here’s to hoping that a Chaos equivalent is on the way…

Hot Topic

Likely, the point to draw the most discussion within Codex: Space Marines, will be the balancing and adjusting of units. With Space Marines universally gaining extra wounds and their bolter, flamer and melta weapons all getting updated, it’s a fair statement that Space Marines will feel very different here onwards.

These changes will see some transference to other factions that wield weapons akin to flamers and melta-style guns. However, with Space Marines getting these right out of the gate, I find myself skeptical that the balance will be where it is intended at this early stage of 9th edition.

However, the points costs for many Space Marines have been adjusted to reflect this. Having consistently been savaged by a rival Space Wolves army for months, I’m almost cautiously hopeful at the prospect that the tables may have finally turned! For their extra wounds, Space Marine units appear to have risen in points cost fairly unanimously. The following figures are excluding wargear:

  • Tactical Marines have gone up 3 points to 18 points per model.
  • Terminators have gone up 15 points to 38 points per model.
  • Primaris Lieutenants have gone up 5 points to 75 points per model.
  • Assault Squads have risen 3 points to 18 points per model.

Does this mean we’ll see more old-school Space Marines on the table alongside their Primaris counterparts? It’s difficult to say. They certainly may stand up to them more cohesively where their rules are concerned. Unfortunately, they do look rather stunted when stood next to the newer additions to the forces of the Adeptus Astartes.

I struggle to find any change in points cost within the new book for the updated weapons. This is rather disconcerting when you consider how much more effective some of the weapons have become. As an example, with flamers now sitting at 12-inch range, they can now always be used against any would-be charging enemy units. Seeing no notable change in points cost for this genuinely surprises me. Along with the Primaris units costs seemingly unaltered, this fills me with dread for my next game against Space Wolves…

Ever the Golden Boys…

I’m uncomfortably confident that Space Marines will continue to sit atop the tables of both “most popular” and “most powerful” factions available within Warhammer 40,000. There’s a plethora of reasons and the book itself is so dense that I’d not be able to fully flesh it all out without an extra pair of arms grafted onto my body a la Genestealer.

With Codex: Space Marines, it’s still likely to be the best value for newcomers and veterans alike. There’s more information than any other codex to date along with immeasurable army variance and flexibility. Whilst there may almost be too much content within the book for those new to the game, I doubt this would deter many. I suspect we’ll be seeing even more Space Marine players than ever before over the coming months. This is both for wholesome and less-than-wholesome reasons, I would suspect…

Codex: Necrons

Marching inexorably alongside the release of Codex: Space Marines come the new antagonists of Warhammer 40,000. After their awakening via the Indomitus box, the Necrons have risen to end all life as we know it across the galaxy. Sporting a brand new codex and an upcoming onslaught of new models/kits, there’s likely never been a better time to surrender yourself to the silent legion.

Whilst lesser when compared to the size of the Space Marine equivalent, Codex: Necrons comes in at 120 pages. Packed with revised datasheets, old and new, it’s refreshing to see a Xenos faction get some time on center stage.

Alike the Space Marine codex, the Necron tome features the same structure where lore and background begin and then it rolls into the rules. The lore goes into the various named characters and dynasties of the Necron faction, though this segment is far less in-depth than that of the Space Marine codex. Still, for a civilization of soulless, murderous robots, there’s plenty to read!

The brand new units introduced to the Necron faction are an unnerving blend of distinctly new units along with vaguely familiar forms. The Ophydian Destroyers are fondly reminiscent of the old Necron Wraith models with a contemporary tint. Flayed Ones finally get the plastic treatment for an old fan-favourite to stick to the roster. Whereas the new Cryptek models such as the Chronomancer are the would-be scholars of the Necrons wielding strange and powerful abilities despite their frailty.

Of course, we can’t discuss the new Necrons without mentioning Szarekh – the Silent King. The model is irrefutably ominous and menacing and will surely have great presence on the table. His rules are no joke, either. His Annihilator Beam and Sceptre of Eternal Glory will dispense death to whatever they are pointed at with no trouble whatsoever. The Obeisance Generators flanking his platform will not only slow down enemies nearby, but definitely help to add to his already impressive footprint on the table.

New Rules for the Old Legion

The old Phase Out rule is yet to return, but Reanimation Protocols remains a staple of the Necron tool kit. It has seen a drastic face-lift, however! You no longer roll for each unit at the start of your turn to determine how many come back. The new rules have you roll to reanimate fallen units at the end of each enemy attack. In addition to this, you roll the total number of wounds for each model in the unit, needing to roll a number 5+ equal to the number of wounds for each model for them to return. That means for each 5+ you’ll get a Necron Warrior back from one squad that you roll for. However, if you lose two Heavy Destroyers then you’ll roll 8 dice and need 4 successes (5+) to bring just one of them back, as they have 4 wounds each.

The new Reanimation Protocols rules are a little superfluous, but will make tracking models mid-game less troublesome. It would appear that you no longer roll for each model throughout the game. Once you fail their protocols, they’re gone, unless you have a Resurrection Orb nearby. Quantum Shielding has also had a face-lift, with able units simply ignoring wound rules of anything less than a four when attacked.

Necrons also get the recent addition that other factions received recently, in that you can create a custom dynasty and assign special traits. Giving Necron players this level of customisation is a welcome inclusion for a faction that could otherwise come across as fairly faceless and monotonous. It certainly encourages Necron players to steer away from the Mephrit dynasty, of which I have seen enough for a lifetime.

Breathing New into the Old

Without generalizing too much, Codex: Necrons is a herald of good things to come for Warhammer 40,000. It shows that the Xenos factions are still very much a part of the setting, which can seem untrue to some of the devout players of the rapicly-aging factions. With the Necrons getting this treatment, I can only hope that the Eldar aren’t too far behind. Most Eldar models currently look as aged as they’re supposed to be in the lore! Thus, I hope that their wait for the same treatment is brief.

Nonetheless, yes, the new codex for Necrons is good. It brings a non-Space Marine faction up through the depths and into the spotlight. The new codex format helps to breathe new life into the faction alongside exciting new rules that help to provide a better sense of individuality to the Necrons. If, like me, you fell out of love with the Necrons due to an aging line of models and rules that felt a little half-baked, now is a good time to rise from your tomb worlds and hunt down the interlopers once again.

So, What Does It All Mean?!

The ushering in of 9th edition and subsequent new codex releases are exceptionally exciting for Warhammer 40,000. Thus far my experiences with 9th edition have been positive but it’s with these new codex releases that we’ll see the rules blossom into their fully-designed intentions. Naturally, anything more subtly brilliant or devious about these books will emerge once players have them en-mass. Until then, we’ll have to see what we can dig out.

Let us not forget that as the wait for the updated WH 40K app trudges on, this could potentially render the requirement for physical books near-moot. However, I’d advise you run out and grab any of the new codex releases if they interest you, even minutely. Although, with certain Space Marine chapters and Death Guard lined-up for the next few to come, let’s hope the attention shifts onto other factions who are far more in need as opposed those who have had releases on what almost feels like a monthly basis.

These new codexes may breathe fresh air into the game and its factions. Let’s just hope that Games Workshop follow through with this in an order that makes sense for the players, first and foremost.

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