BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

40K: The Case For A New Space Marine Codex

6 Minute Read
Feb 28 2019

Let’s talk about why it really is time for a new Astartes Codex.

With the release of the Genestealer Cult Codex pretty much every 7th Edition Army (plus some new ones) has been redone for 8th. In addition, while Sister of Battle only have a Beta Codex out right now, we do know they will getting their full book this year. That means GW is at last free to put out new factions, release Vigilus style campaign books and even redo current books. We’ve talked a lot about how signs and rumors points towards either a redoing of Codex: Space Marines or a new Codex: Primaris coming out soon. However, I don’t think we’ve really talk about much about WHY there should be a new book, and especially so soon. Today lets talk about why a new Codex would is needed.

An Evolving Game

The Space Marine Codex was the very first codex to come out back at the start of 8th Edition. Back then 8th was a new and unexplored world, and the edition was in many ways still finding its feet. Since those early days the game, and the armies in it, have evolved a lot. This has ultimately lead to Space Marines getting left behind. I’m not simply talking about power level here, though that has happened too, but other aspects of the codex as well. Take stratagems for instance. Compared to later books the C:SM stratagems are pretty tame and limited. There are no real combos or indispensable stratagems in the book. They have a few good workhorse ones, but GW didn’t really start branching out in what stratagems could be until later on. The stratagems in Vigilus Defiant for instance tend to be better and more “advanced” than those in the  core book. Overall Codex Space Marines is a bland first try book.

A Weak Book

Look lets face it, the Space Marine Codex isn’t good. It’s one of, if not the, biggest books out there and its filled with loads of junk. Space Marines are the most played faction in 40K, yet they have one of the least competitive books in the game. In the early days of 8th a handful of very specific Space Marine lists, Guilliman or flyer-spam (or both) based lists did OK, while other Space Marine lists did not. Recently even those lists can’t cut it. Even when picking allies people tend to go with Blood Angels, not Codex Marines. It’s a shame that the most popular and iconic army can’t match up to its competitors. The issues with the book are also more than you can fix with a simple point change. Codex Space Marine units tended to get the most direct translation over from 7th, meaning across the board they tend to under preform in the new amped-up 8th meta. Space Marines are in dire need of a real rework.

A Mish-Mash Book

One of the problems with Codex Space Marines is that is essentially presents you with two separate armies. The bloated classic marine army and the half-finished Primaris army. Rather than complimenting each other, these two forces tend to overlap in strange ways. In addition they sometimes work together (auras), and other times don’t (transports). It’s a book that really lacks focus and internal balance.

Rules? Where?


To me one of the biggest arguments for a new Space Marine Codex is simply that I want one place where I can get the rules for my army. I’ve talked above about how the Primaris line is half finished right now. We know with Shadowspear is going to go some ways towards fixing that, with new Primaris Characters and units being released in the box set. In addition to these units have the whole idea of “Vanguard”, which to me sounds more like a Specialist Detachment than a unit, but we will see. So my question is where are all the rules for these units going to be? We can guess that the boxset will come with Datacards for the unit in it, but those are often basic versions lacking full rule options. Outside of that I guess they could come in Vigilus 2 or a White Dwarf? Or of course in a new codex.

Lets assume for a moment that no new Codex is coming, and the rules are in say Vigilus 2. Now lets say I am a new player to Warhammer 40K. I’m trying to pick my army and boy those Ultramarines are ALL over everything. Primaris Ultramarines are the poster boys for 40K. They are also a pretty easy army to play, great for beginners. So lets say I want to play an all Primaris Ultramarine army lead by that new cool Primaris Calgar I’ve been hearing about in the fluff. This should be the easiest thing in the world to play right? This is the beginner poster boy army from a mainline faction AND mainline sub-faction, and a mono-faction build!

To play this I am going to need to a copy of Rules of course, no big deal. Then I will need Codex Space Marines, OK cool, simple. But wait, now I need Vigilus 1 for Calgar and Ultramarine Specialist detachments I may or may not want to use. Done now? Nope, I also need Vigilus 2 (or whatever book it ends up being) for the new Primaris units. Heck I could need Vigilus 2 AND another book for that. Oh, and also I guess I should get the White Dwarf, or a print out, with the Beta Bolter Rules right? Now I’m all set for open play with my mono-codex army. To play matched play I’m also going to need Chapter Approved.

So to recap for playing the MOST basic army in 40K, it looks like I’ll need 3 hardback books, C:SM, Vigilus 1&2, a White Dwarf beta rule supplement and the obligatory rules and Chapter approved.  That’s without even going into FAQs, Indexes or Forgeworld stuff. This could be considerable condensed by the release of a new Space Marine Codex that at the least combined the rules for the new bolters AND all the non-forgeworld units in one book.

Final Thoughts


I’ve already talked about why I think it’s time to rethink Space Marines. Overall I simply think that such an important faction should be viable in comparative play and also should be interesting and easy to play. Currently Space Marines are none of those things. I think a new codex could at the very least update the book with the more recent releases, and at best rework Marines into a cool force. Give them back some sort of first turn Drop Pod assault or something! I think from looking at the issues we can see that not only are there hints a new book could be coming, but a real need for one.

Let us know if you think its time for a new Space Marine Codex, down in the comments!

  • 40K: Reivers Make Landfall On Nemendghast - 6 Days Remain