I think it's fair to say that the Chapter Tactics are the hottest thing in the new codex. Who remembers the old Chapter Traits in 4th edition? I do. They're like them without the opportunity to abuse the rules. I mean, let's face it, who didn't go with a custom chapter and use whatever tactics worked best every time? And then there were us suckers who used established chapters. Us Ultramarine fans especially had our faith tested with no traits at all.
Fortunately, in my honest opinion, Games Workshop got it right this time. You're guaranteed unique special rules that shape your army in a way that others can't. For me the best thing is, aside from the Black Templars, no chapter is limited in what they can take, but their rules will naturally make collectors evolve their armies in different ways. I thought I'd take some time to go through each chapter tactic and what they do for their respective chapters.
UltramarinesOf course the Ultramarines had the Chapter Tactic that I was most intrigued to read about. The boys in blue never got much notice, always the bog standard, basic vanilla army that got no notice by anyone other than hardcore fans (such as myself) and new players who see them on the box.
What Games Workshop has done with them is genius.
In all backgrounds, Ultramarines have been the paragons of tactical flexibility and interchangeable doctrines and their Chapter Tactic reflects this beautifully. Being able to flip between different doctrines is something the Ultramarines would do in more or less any battle, yet it's gone unnoticed for so long. It also means Ultra armies are more likely to be more varied in their units to take advantage of each different method of attack. However, my absolute favourite thing about the Ultramarines now is that they have become this easy to learn, hard to master chapters which gives them a wider appeal amongst hobbyists now. As a collector of these guys myself, I'm excited to test out the doctrines in different ways and spend the time mastering their benefits.
Benefits: Tactical flexibility, Units are equally viable.
Flaws: Difficult to master, Each doctrine can only be used 1 turn per game, No single speciality.
Imperial FistsThe Fists equally intrigued me when it came to Chapter Tactics. In my mind, they were more or less just as vanilla as their blue brothers, other than the whole siege specialty spiel.
This translated into Devastators and the newly added Centurions all having the tank hunter special rule and +1 to their building damage charts. Great against tank heavy armies such as Imperial Guard or (as explained in a bit) Iron Hands, not so great against, say, Tyranids.
This is probably why Games Workshop made Lysander's bolter drill special rule army wide, making Imperial Fists experts with the Astartes staple, the boltgun. This makes the most basic Fist Marine particularly deadly. This means lots of devastators and lots of heavy bolters in Fist armies but not much else. The Imperial Fists niche is pure and simple - the more basic the Marine, the bigger stars they are.
Benefits: Excellent anti-armour units, Basic guns are more potent.
Flaws: Prehaps an over reliance on ranged attacks, More powerful weapons lose out on re-rolls.
White ScarsI think it was pretty obvious to everyone that White Scars would get some pretty biker abilities, it's what they do, it's their thing. At first I thought White Scars would become the only chapter to be able to take bikers as troops choices.
I was so wrong.
White Scars gained some amazing bike boosting abilities such as strength bonuses to Hammer of Wrath attacks, cover save bonuses to junk saves, automatically passing dangerous terrain tests... basically if your Marines are mounted on bikes, they're super charged with virtually no drawbacks. To add to this, White Scars get the Hit & Run special rule allowing them to opt in and opt out of assault which, when combined with their super bikes, can lead to some serious hammering attacks. I think it's safe to say that White Scar armies will contain 90% bikes, with Tactical Squads being thin on the ground.
Benefits: Best Space Marine bikers in the game, Tough to hurt.
Flaws: Non-Bike troops remain very vanilla.
Raven GuardRaven Guard seemed to miss out on the spotlight in comparison to the other First Founding Chapters. To this day I think I know one Raven Guard player and, to be honest, other than their tendency towards stealth and jump packs, I've never really known much about them.
The Raven Guard Chapter Tactic is far more interesting and unique than I ever thought it would be, and it really suits the Raven Guard style of play incredibly well.
Giving the entire army the scout special rule and the stealth special rule for the first turn allows the Ravens to set up their ambush sites, stay in cover and launch a devastating attack with their Assault Marines, which coincidentally can use their Jump Packs in both the movement and assault phase, allowing them to close the gap with terrifying speed. Raven Guard armies are sure to contain a lot of Assault Squads and Scouts (to take advantage of +2 cover saves in turn 1).
Benefits: Assault Marines hit hard and fast, Able to set themselves up with ease from the get go.
Flaws: Possibly an over reliance on melee, Stealth tactics diminish after turn 1.
Iron HandsThese guys always got the bum end of the deal in my opinion. Bionics faded away after 3rd edition, no special characters, Master of the Forge didn't give any chapter bonuses and to top it all off, they're quite dull to look at as an army. So it was interesting to see what Games Workshop did with our favourite cyborgs.
Well the result was intriguing.
Iron Hands gain an armywide feel no pain save of 6+ which is a nice throwback to the 3rd edition bionics which allowed your models to resurrect on a 6+. On top of this, all Independent Characters and Vehicles gain the it will not die special rule, making their big guns very tough to kill indeed. As will the Raven Guard, Iron Hand armies seem to be thin on the ground, but with bonuses to the Blessing of Omnissiah bonus their Techmarines/Masters of the Forge gain, I foresee Iron Hand forces being very tank heavy with a reliance on Servo-Arms and armoured up Captains.
Benefits: Tough to kill, Massive benefits for vehicles.
Flaws: No special characters.
SalamandersEverybody's favourite underdogs! I have always had a soft spot for the the Salamanders, and it was pretty obvious that they were going to gain some sort of flamer specialty, but I didn't even consider their affinity for master crafted weapons.
And that's where the Salamanders shine.
Salamanders are pretty hard to kill with flame weapons but they will murder you with theirs. Re-rolls on failed armour saves against flame weapons, but re-rolls to failed wounds with their own makes these guys a very flamer heavy army - Salamander Sternguard with heavy flamers spring to mind. But that's not all, every Independent Character gets a master-crafted weapon free of charge! Salamander armies are an army that are heavy on the templates, but will probably suffer for any lack of other special/heavy weapons available to them.
Benefits: Mastery over flame weapons, Free master-crafted weapons.
Flaws: Flamer mastery probably means lack of other special weapons.
Black TemplarsProbably the most interesting Chapter Tactic in the codex is the Black Templars, if only for the fact they deviate by allowing Crusader Squads and disallowing Librarians. In fact, the Black Templars didn't do so bad in the codex merger.
Because of their uniqueness, it's a little hard to compare these guys to the other chapters. They did gain a few nice additions from their old codex and, with the exception of the Ultramarines, have more special characters than any of the other chapters. Due to their special challenge and crusaders rules, it's fair to say that Black Templar armies will be kitted out with close combat weapons, more melee focused than their first founding brothers. These armies will be kitted out for melee, for rushing in, close quarters combat and their characters will likely be equipped with the best weapons points can buy. Gaining rending in a challenge is something to fear with these guys. One thing is for sure... don't underestimate these guys, they have hidden potential most people can't see at first glance.
Benefits: Challenge monsters, Good anti-psyker abilities
Flaws: Can't take Librarians