Guilliman has seen fit to edit the way the Adeptus Astartes wage war! GW recently dropped an unexpected rules errata to address the raw power we have seen from the latest Space Marine lists. I think there’s a lot for marine players to be excited about!
For this article I want to focus on the change to Combat doctrines.
The change is brilliant in a number of ways, but I mostly love it because it’s timely, creates a cohesive narrative, and promotes interesting choices in list design.
I applaud GW for releasing the errata when they did. It could have come sooner, but GW has stepped outside of their normal FAQ schedule to make the changes before Adepticon. While their printing schedule seems to always put them behind the meta, this is a great step in the right direction and shows that they are making active strides to improve the timeliness of their balancing.
Imagine a sprawling battlefield in the 41st Millenium. The air is thick with smoke and the smell of gunpowder. Screams cannot be discerned from explosions, and the fighting is reaching a desperate climax on both sides. Suddenly dop pods fill the skies, and grav tanks plummet from orbit, signaling the arrival of the Emperor’s finest warriors in a massive display of shock and awe.
Their heavy weapons pound enemy positions, suppressing enemy weapons teams and blasting craters and defilades in the terrain. Even before the smoke clears, a hulking mass of ceramite clad warriors advance fearlessly through no man’s land. The chaos of the battlefield is subdued by a steady rhythm of bolter fire.
As the Space Marines close in on the enemy lines, chainswords roar to life in the shrill action of razor sharp teeth and powerswords energize with a whiff of ozone. Only now that the enemy can look up at their killer in the flesh do they realize that their fate was sealed the moment the Adeptus Astartes arrived.
Doctrines do paint a narrative of the Space Marines being elite shock troops. They hit hard, they hit fast, and they have come to take all that you have. All space marines now have a choreography to play out in how they wage war, and you have to admit, its pretty cool.
Promotes Interesting Choices in List Design
Creating interesting choices is the true hallmark of a great strategy game, and the recent changes do a great job of this.
Prior to the changes, the specialized doctrines for Devastator Doctrine were some of the best since they were active turn one, and could be remain in effect for the entire game. The White Scar and Blood Angel bonuses are excellent, but since they are locked to Battle Round 3 and beyond, it was usually easier to just go with the more straightforward choice. The mandatory progression through doctrines does a great job to address the internal balance between the different chapters.
Do I want to hit really hard Battle Round 1 and try to hold that advantage through to the late game, or do I want to play patiently and strike hard mid-late game. You can also choose the tactical middle ground which does provide you up to two turns of it. You can have the Assault Doctrine active for the longest out of the three, but you must wait the longest to get there. Now the choice as to which is the best is not so obvious, making it much more compelling and fun to play with.
Space Marines also just got a huge level of intricacy to their list design. You can design your list to operate to varying degrees in the different phases. Prior to the change, it was pretty straightforward to load up on units that can take advantage of your best doctrine and just stay locked in. Now it is much more viable to spread out your power throughout the three to varying degrees, making for more interesting and varied list choices.
I’ve played a Primaris heavy version of Space Wolves since early 2018 and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is a combined arms approach to the army. Before Intercessors had shock assault or even bolter discipline, to get the most out of them you needed to be active with them in shooting and combat. They had to be played almost like mini knights. I was incredibly excited when doctrines were first revealed as I imagined my 10 Intercessors loaded up in a Repulsor that moved up the field laying down a harrowing field of fire in the Devastator Doctrine. Then the Intercessors would get out in Tactical Doctrine, following it up with rapid fire at close range to break the enemies back. The army would then finish out the game by tying up units and taking objectives in the Assault Doctrine.
My Space Wolves are deadly in combat, but they still shoot like marines, which turns out is pretty good. There are a lot of other armies I can actually just out-shoot and for the armies that can out-shoot me, I can usually break them in melee. You have to be tactically flexible and be willing to use your strong overall stat line to force mismatches versus the opponent. While you can specialize in shooting or melee, it is a mistake to completely ignore one as a marine player. The new doctrine rules do reward this mentality.
While the gun-line marines will now be forced into assault doctrine, it just so happens that they still fight like marines which is again…pretty darn good.
By removing the options to specialize in just the Devastator Doctrine, it really opens up your list design to make use of all the tools you have available.
A Bright New Future!
I have always liked the Imperial Fist and Dark Angle super doctrine because you still actually had some incentive to advance through the other ones.
As an Imperial Fist, once the vehicles are dead you can move to tactical to make really good use of bolter drill. I played a friend of mine who ran a 20 terminator list which makes great use of this concept.
The Dark Angel special doctrine also gives bonuses to rapid fire and assault which help if you want to load up your list with more of a focus in Tactical Doctrine. The extra range is the most useful early on but with clever maneuvering, you can advance forward if you don’t need it.
Ironhands will have to shift their playstyle, which everyone will agree is a good thing. I still think IH Impulsor spam lists can be very strong. The blobs of infantry can still be very tough, and don’t forget they have a +1 strength litany which may see some use now. Leviathan Dreadnoughts are still amazing, you just might actually need to use all those amazing repair abilities now.
And let’s not forget that for 1CP, IH players can still use Methodical Firepower to act as if in the Devastator Doctrine. Ultimately, these changes are good for the game and promote a healthy gaming community.
The Tactical Doctrine specialists will be very interesting to watch. Ultramarines can still shift their doctrines around with some of their extra stratagems, but the extra flexibility for them does fit their fluff. I’ve always thought Salamanders were very strong as well but were just overshadowed by the obvious power of Iron Hands and Ravenguard.
Assault based armies are probably the biggest winners here, as they were already strong and are pretty much unchanged. With Devastator Doctrine only being turn 1, being able to deep strike/outflank is massive for your survivability. White Scars and Blood Angels do this very well as they also have ways to effectively get into combat from deep strike.
I am excited for the game moving forward, and not just because Saga of the Beast is just around the corner. The FAQ has brought a lot of the marines in line with each other, while still making them a feared force on the battlefield. They all fit a similar choreography now as well but differentiate themselves by where they want to spike in power and play style. To all the marine players out there, particularly my Iron Hand, Imperial Fist, and Dark Angel brethren, remember to march bravely into battle, for they shall know no fear!
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