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40K Op-Ed: Ranking the Codices

7 Minute Read
Oct 31 2017
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Whats the best, and worst, of the new 8th Ed. Codexes?

We’re now several months into 8th Edition and have a total of 7 new codices released. With these we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a Codex and we’ve seen updated rules for a number of the major factions. Today lets take a quick moment and rank the books we’ve gotten so far. Which books are best, and which are worst? Lets take a look.

Before we get into it there are a couple of caveats:

  • Isn’t it too soon to rank them? I can pretty much guarantee some of you are saying this right now. So here is the thing. There will always be a new Codex coming out. 40K Will never be complete and it will always be possible to say “isn’t it too soon” or “but codex x hasn’t come out yet!” Well, 7 Codices seems like a good place to start to me. This is of course a list that can always be added too or adjusted, but you gotta start somewhere.
  • How I am ranking them. While I am going to making an overall ranking based on their respective power levels and how competitive each codex is, I will also be giving a sub-ranking on how useful they are as allies.

With that being said, lets get started.

7. Grey Knights


Both in terms of power level and excitement Grey Knights feel like the weakest release. While they did gain some new units none of them came with new models. In an edition that rewards large horde armies a super elite army like Grey Knights was always going to struggle. While their Codex is an improvement over the Index they lack any real tricks and don’t get cool sub-faction rules. In addition – though all their units get to be pyskers the limitation of only being able to use each power once a turn really limits them from scaling well.

Cool models and some cool units don’t make up for a small unit/model count a lack of anything really special they do. Meanwhile high costs hold them back. Taking a few as allies can always be good, but the days of them ruling the meta are long past.

Use as Allies: 1/5


6. Adeptus Mechanicus

While Admech got a lot of cool new rules with stratagems and faction rules their army still has key weakness. Unlike the Gray Knight book the Admech books does feel like a huge improvement combing a number of smaller sub-factions into a real army. In addition the army has some really powerful units. Knights, Sydonian Dragoons and Kastalan Robots are all very powerful units. However the army as a whole still has some major weaknesses. A lack of transports limits its mobility and ability to protect units. In addition, while the Codex gave the army a new HQ choice its still stuck with only two options (and Cawl) which is a serious limiter. An improved but still fiddly army, it just never quite comes together as well as some others.

Use as Allies: 3/5  

5. Death Guard

The first all new army for 8th Death Guard got a lot of cool options. With a host of new rules and models Death Guard has by far been the most exiting release of the new edition. This is a codex that has a lot of good things in it and is full of tricks and combos. It’s combos are also one of its weaknesses. The army isn’t that easy to play and to play well needs a lot of moving parts working together with characters and stratagems buffing other units. While rewarding this is not a good thing for new players.


In addition the Death Guard suffer from being slow, short ranged and expensive. It’s very easy to find yourself out of position and range, or overwhelmed by sheer numbers. While they has some serious weaknesses as an army Death Guard work amazingly well as an allied force, adding poxwalkers, Morty or some of their other tricks into a more flexible core army.

Use as Allies: 5/5 

4. Space Marines

The other exciting new release of 8th has been the Space Marine book and Primaris Marines.  Now Space Marines, as has been the case most editions, are powerful – but not that powerful. An elite jack of all trades army they tend to fail to exceed at any one thing. Solidly middle of the pack with some powerful builds they never reach the top. While Primaris Marines added new options they didn’t really fill any gaps or address any of the Space Marines weaknesses. In addition Space Marines are an elite army and suffer as all elite armies do in 8th.

They do remain a common army and one of the more exciting releases of the edition, but overall aren’t as purely powerful as some other lists. Their flexible nature makes they good at addressing various tactical situations but generally not great as allies as they rarely can addresses specific weaknesses as well as other choices. They do have some very powerful characters though so watch out for them.


Use as Allies: 2/5 (With Guilliman 5/5) 

3. Eldar

Though the Eldar codex didn’t add any new units to their list it did give them a host of new rules to play with as well as reducing the points cost of most units. Eldar have traditionally been a powerful list with a lot of tricks. The new codex adds a lot of depth and tricks back into the list with some powerful relics and stratagems as well as some major tweaking of rules. While subtle at first the codex really changed a lot of rule for the index overall giving the army a power bump. However the most important change was the massive price reduction many units saw, with some seeing up to a a 30% drop in price.

In a surprising turn of events it seems that letting a army take 33% more models than before will improve its power level a lot. Between price drops and good sub-faction rules, and a solid base, I would expect to see Eldar a lot more. How they play as allies is a bit more complicated, if Ynnari can take the prices from the codex I would expect Ynnari lists to swing heavy towards Craft World Eldar until more codices come out. If not expect no change.

Use as Ynnari: 3/5 

2. Chaos Space Marines


Chaos Space Marines got a pretty big overhaul this edition. The return of legion rules, the reworking of a lot of great unit rules and the addition of a few new units has really bumped them up. With access to an array of powerful units and abilities CSM are one of the most flexible armies in the game. Unlike loyalists, access to Cultists (and tide of traitors) allows them to build horde lists. Demons Princes remain one of the best HQ choices around, and the CSM psychic powers are some of the best. Warptime in particular stands out as possibly the best power in the game right now.

With access to the ability to build either combat or shooting armies, elite or horde and powerful physic phase there isn’t much CSM can’t do right now. In addition to some solid Legion rules they also have one of the best sets of stratagems with Tide of Traitors and Veterans of the Long war standing out. The ability to bring in Death Guard or Demons or Renegades for specialist jobs really make them incredibly powerful.

Use As Allies: 2/5 

1. Astra Militarum

What happens when you take the best Index list and make it better? The Guard are really getting their ten minutes of fame right now, and for good reason. A strong Index was made several times better by a powerful codex. Points reductions, regimental doctrines and new orders all come together to really make a solid army. While some units have taken a hit like Conscripts & Commissars, others in particular Leman Russes, got massive upgrades. Able to field powerful horde or specialist lists, and with a very killing army that benefits from many of 8ths core rules Astra Militarum are the codex to beat right now.

Use as Allies: 4/5



So what do you think BOLS fans? Is our list right? Let us know how you rank the Codices, down in the comments! 

Author: Abe Apfel
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