Who Shall Lead? Part One: Chapter Masters

The Fifth Edition Codex: Space Marines dramatically alters the way a 40K player constructs his army, particularly how he chooses the heroic characters who will lead it: gone are the previous editions' multi-level Independent Character options and near-limitless choices of Wargear from the Armoury, allowing for maximum customization and personalization; instead, the new Codex presents an unprecedented number and variety of pre-constructed Special Characters—then encourages players to pick the one whose gear or abilities most suits that player's preferences, and use it as a 'template,' over which the player can lay his own Chapter's names, colours, history and background. In effect, Marneus Calgar is no longer just a choice for Ultramarine Chapter players, as in previous iterations of the Codex (and one only available for use with opponent's permission, at that)—he is a sort of 'preassembled generic super commander' set of statistics available to any player whose Space Marines would benefit from such an HQ choice. The name/uniform/background changes...but the rules remain the same.

For longtime players, this takes some getting used to—not just the new way of treating Special Characters (that actually began with Codex: Dark Angels, some time back), but the notion of such radically diminished personal choices in Character construction, as well. It can be a bit counter-intuitive for players new to the game also, however: having to choose from wholly-assembled rules-and-gear packages can require a fuller grasp of the game than taking a basic generic character and adding a piece of wargear at a time once did.

With that in mind, a review of the characters in the V5 Codex is in order, briefly summarizing what their specialties are, and what sorts of army builds they will lend themselves to—a primer of sorts for players new and veteran, to lead them toward the Special Character template who (properly renamed and painted/customized to the player's own Chapter) will help their army play the way they want.

The review begins at the top—with the most powerful HQ Characters available to players of Space Marines in V5: the Chapter Masters...


Calgar is the template of choice for players who prefer assault-oriented Chapters, with a sledgehammer leader fighting from the front. He is expensive—but for approximately 80 points more than the nearest equivalent generic Chapter Master kit out, Marneus adds an extra Wound, an extra Attack (actually two since dual-wielding power fists gives him the extra close combat weapon Attack otherwise denied fist-users in V5), plus the Gauntlets of Ultramar unique wargear, three additional special rules (including the critically-important Eternal Warrior) and the right to take three Honour Guard squads instead of one. He can also take to the field in Terminator armour for an extremely cost-friendly extra 15 points (and the stunning current-production Calgar-in-tactical-dreadnought-armour model is all the reason anyone would need for exercising that option). Marneus' only real drawback is his total cost; players who plan a ranged-combat or mobility-oriented army will likely not get his points worth, and anyone taking him at 1500 points or fewer will be challenged to support him properly, after the chunk he eats up. But that's as it should be: he is a Chapter Master—skirmishes are no place for him!


The player looking to build a shooting-oriented army would do well to consider as a template for his Chapter Master the lord of the Crimson Fists, Pedro Kantor. He also lends to leading a small army comprised of veteran, Elite units...unsurprising, given his Chapter's checkered back story.

For less than 25 points more than the closest-equipped generic Chapter Master build, Kantor adds the 'Dorn's Arrow' super storm bolter gear, exchanges Combat Tactics for Stubborn for all affected units in his army, and adds two special rules which make Sternguard scoring units and give units within 12" of him +1 Attack. That is amazing value—particularly for the player who wants those expensive, Elite Sternguard in numbers, obviously—but also for players who intend to emphasize ranged combat: Stubborn will keep them in the fight firing as long as possible (with Kantor's super gun adding to the firepower), and when they have to hit back, they will do so with increased effectiveness.

Kantor still best fits in larger games, as befits a Master of the Chapter...but an elite, Sternguard-heavy veteran army built around him could prove a nasty, compact little surprise on the tabletop.


A final word should be said about constructing a Chapter Master from the generic listing, here: while veteran players will find the options for doing so somewhat limited as compared to previous editions, and the value the two Special Character templates present are hard to ignore...at the end of the day, this option is the *only* way to get certain gear combinations onto a table (Masters with lightning claws, plasma pistols and non-dual-fist wielding terminator armour come to mind) and is also the only way to get the Master's special rules (particularly his Orbital Bombardment and Honour Guard) at less than 175 points. If your favorite HQ model from previous-edition games is geared a certain way and you don't want to field him as a Captain, the option of building him as a Chapter Master from the generic listing in the current Codex is just as viable as it always was.

Next, 'Who Shall Lead?' will examine the other HQ-option Special Characters in the V5 Codex as template-types: Chaplains, Librarians, Techmarines, and the most important—and most varied—sort, the Space Marine Captains...