How do the standard Space Marines hold up?
Short answer: Pretty well.
Long answer is that they are a jack of all trades army that doesn't really specialize in one particular thing unless you build your army that way. They are a great starter army because it is not as complex as something like Astra Militarum (Imperial Guard!) that relies on multiple units of Guardsman with the Officers giving Orders to make them effective or the Eldar that rely on their speed and have units specialized in a specific role. Space Marines are durable, have an impressive save right off the bat for base Troops, have a good solid stat line, and can hold up in the Morale Phase with "And They Shall Know No Fear", giving them a re-roll on failed Morale checks.
Here is a breakdown of units/Characters you can take in a Space Marine force:
Now in 5 different flavors
Their leaders have a solid combat profile, good combat options to choose from, and can support your fellow Space Marines depending on which one you take. Captains can help make accuracy better either in close combat or shooting by re-rolling 1s To Hit if they are nearby. Librarians give a bit of utility ranging from ignoring invulnerable saves for enemies in a very short radius to giving units the ability to fight first in the Fight Phase. They are also useful in dispelling psychic powers (only one per turn per Librarian sadly). Chaplains help close combat squads re-roll failed To Hit rolls in close combat and provide their own leadership of 9 to nearby friendly <Chapter> squads. Remember, Battalion Detachments can take up to 3 Headquarters options, so taking one of each isn't necessarily a bad idea. And you can take multiple Detachments. So long as your Space Marines have the same <Chapter> Keyword, they can benefit outside of their Detachment. Primaris Lieutenants come in a two for one choice package but act independently. They only come with either a Bolt Rifle or a Power Sword, no other options. There is an option in Codex: Space Marine that allows you to take just plain old Lieutenants that have much more options, but have one fewer wounds and are cheaper points wise. However, the biggest reason you take them is for their ability to allow friendly <Chapter> Marines to re-roll 1s To Wound. Combine that with the Captain and your army becomes a formidable force indeed! The Techmarine's Blessing works a bit differently now. Instead of fixing a certain problem with a Vehicle, it now heals D3 wounds to a Vehicle. This may not seem like much, but believe me when I say that this does make a difference. Not only does it help vehicles survive longer, it also fixes the stat adjustment for being within a certain wound bracket. Definitely worth taking at least one if you are running a ton of vehicles.
Flexible One-size-fits-all Troops
Basic Tactical Marines can do just about anything you want, but not specifically well. Need some close combat punch? Beef up your Sergeant with a Power Sword for units with a high save, Power Maul for units with a low save and Toughness, or Power Fist for Tanks and Monsters. Need a little fire support? Put in a Missile Launcher in each of your squads to deal with that Leman Russ plucking away at your units or a Plasma Gun for harder to crack Infantry units with only one wound. Remember, in 8th Edition, you can split fire naturally! No need to split them up into Combat Squads just to fire one missile launcher and have the 4 Bolter Marines just soak up bullets for that Missile Launcher Marine. But don't discredit Combat Squads though! Putting them in units of five gives an inherent bonus to Morale tests as taking two or three casualties in a five man squad is nowhere near as bad as five or six in a ten man squad. Also consider taking a Rhino with these Tactical Squads. Not only do they provide a quick method of delivery, the Rhino can now charge into close combat! This allows the Rhino to soak up Overwatch shots while the Tactical Marines or Assault Marines charge in the clear!
Scout Marines also got a bit of a buff as their Sniper Rifles can not only target Characters free and clear, but also cause mortal wounds on a 6+ to wound plus their normal damage! In cover with Camo Cloaks, their Save can be buffed up to a 2+. Putting a Missile Launcher in that squad is also not a bad idea as you can now fire that separately as mentioned previously. Also, having them take either a shotgun or a combat knife isn't a bad idea for a few reasons. For the shotguns, you can now run and shoot them (at a -1 to hit) or have them deployed further up from the deployment zone to get in range for them and then charge. Alternatively, you can opt for the combat knife that gives you a free attack in close combat and still shoot with your pistols in the next turns. I'm not a big fan of putting in Heavy Bolters with the Scouts unless it was with a unit that has shotguns to help deal with higher Toughness troop units like Death Guard.
The new Marines on the Block
Intercessor Squads are more for long range fire support. Unlike Tactical Squads, they have limited close combat options for their Sergeants and no access to Heavy or Special weapons. The benefit they do get is a Bolt Rifle that has a -1 AP and a range of 30". They are also a bit more durable as they have two wounds a piece. I would keep these guys in the back and use them to provide long range support for cheap. With the options that were given to them in the Codex: Space Marine book, these guys seem to be the answer to other Space Marine type armies out there due to their Bolt Rifles. However, they don't have enough of a heavy punch to make a dent in Tanks or Monsters aside from just weight of firepower and a 30" Krak Grenade Launcher. Also don't be afraid to charge them into close combat against normal Troops that aren't great in close combat like Necron Warriors and Dire Avengers. They do have 2 attacks a piece and are a bit more durable as they have 3+ saves. But against dedicated close combat squads they will lag behind a bit.
Now with a less powerful gun.
The Imperial Marine is nowhere near as broken as he once was. AND HE'S NOT FREE! His Disintegration Gun no longer instantly kills your opponent's big stuff, but instead is just a Rapid Fire 1 gun that is Strength 5 that causes D6 Damage and has a -3 AP. Range is relatively small like it was previously. However, he is a Character and has 5 Wounds. All for the low low price of a baby Captain and an Elite slot. Still useful, still hurts quite a bit, but is nowhere near as powerful as he once was.
Now with Resurrection Powers!
Apothecaries are now a separate character that is an Elite choice. They can either heal Space Marine units that are not Vehicles or have a chance to bring back one model that was slain with one wound remaining. The downside is that they cannot take options for close combat prowess, so don't expect these guys to slaughter too many models. Apothecaries are there as a supporting character that brings back slain Hellblaster or Centurion models. With their points being relatively cheap, this is a great addition to your Space Marine army. There's no reason not to include at least one of these guys.
Guarding Characters since 8th Released
The Honor Guard and Company Veterans got shrunk quite a bit to only 2 models with Company Veterans being able to become 5 man squads. However, they can shield Characters against Sniper fire or being targeted in close combat. The downside to these guys is that they can be targeted like any other unit. So a smart player will target these guys first before going after the Character so that they don't have wounds transferred to them first. The Honor Guard do have a good 2+ save and are pretty good in close combat with two wounds a piece. However, the Company Veterans have more options at their disposal and can be kitted out depending on what you want. Points wise, they are relatively cheap. Definitely worth looking into if you are running quite a few Characters in your army.
The Three Banner Amigos
Speaking of Honor Guard and Company Veterans, the Banner bearer is now a separate character. Three of them in fact. The Chapter Ancient, Primaris Ancient, and Company Ancient all fall under this category. The difference between them is not much. The Primaris Ancient has the most wounds of the three and is armed with a Bolt Rifle. The Company Ancient has the option of taking multiple items and can be the most diverse. However, both the Primaris and Company Ancient have a save of only 3+. The Chapter Ancient has the best save of them all, but only comes with a Power Sword. The biggest thing about these three is the Banner they carry. It provides a Leadership buff and gives a chance for <Chapter> Infantry units to fight one last time before they die. Its a pretty interesting mechanic as you can have Heavy Weapons fire one last salvo before going away should you get unlucky with your saves. The bonus to Leadership does help as it makes your units with a Sergeant a Leadership 9. Even better if a Chaplain is nearby as well. Its worth looking into at least one Ancient. As far as which one you should take, it depends on where the Banner is and who they are going to follow. If you are looking for one with a bit more close combat punch, the Company Ancient would be better as you have more customization options to give him more of a punch. If you are looking for a basic Banner Bearer, the Primaris isn't bad as his Bolt Rifle can support a fire position of Tactical or Intercessor Marines. The Chapter Ancient is a good middle of the road option, but doesn't have a gun to back him up.
Also comes in Company Champion variety
Chapter and Company Champions are designed to fight Characters, being able to re-roll failed hit rolls if fighting them. The difference between the two is that the Chapter Champion can take multiple types of Power Weapons and even a Relic Blade. He also has the best save of the two. The downside is that he is the most expensive and has no natural invulnerable save. The Company Champion only has a Master Crafted Power Sword and Bolt Pistol. But he does come with a 5+ Invulnerable Save by default. Which one is better? Well it depends on your points and what you want out of him. Personally, I like the Chapter Champion more as he has more Close Combat options at his disposal and has a better save. With a Librarian, you can buff him up to get one more Strength, Toughness, and Attack for a turn.
The other Deathwatch Marine
Sternguard have their uses as a better version of Tactical Marines as an Elite choice. Their Bolters are basically a better version of the Intercessor's Bolt Rifle by bumping up the AP by one more. They do not have the variant shots like in previous editions. Only Deathwatch have that option now. Taking two more weapons like a Heavy or Special weapon would definitely be worth while now that you can split fire naturally. Also remember that they can take Combi-weapons that can fire multiple times. So you can kit them out with Combi-Plasmas and Combi-Gravguns to deal with heavily armored Infantry, Combi-Flamers to deal with hordes of Infantry up close, or Combi-Meltas to deal with high wound models. Their basic guns can also peck away from a safe distance at horde units. They are a bit expensive for what they are though compared to other options you can take. They are certainly worth experimenting with and having multiple options allows for quite a bit of customization.
Expensive Close Combat Support
Vanguard Veterans are the close combat version of the Sternguard. They can get pretty high points wise but can deal out quite a bit of damage and move surprisingly fast if given Jump Packs. You can kit them out with a variety of Melee weapons to take on any type of opponent. You can give them Storm Shields to bump up their durability. The downside is their cost and that they only have one wound a piece. At most, I would only take 5 of these guys and kit them out as a specialist unit. Equip them with Thunder Hammer Storm Shields to take out Tanks or multiple wound models, or a pair of Lightning Claws to deal with Infantry units that have one wound.
Talk about a comeback! Dreadnoughts got a pretty nice buff with the way wounds work now for them. With a high Toughness, a Close Combat weapon that hits at a very nice Strength 12 that deals 3 damage per hit, and a variety of Heavy weapons to choose from, they are a solid choice for an Elite slot. With 8 wounds and a variety of versions ranging from the durable and better hitting Venerable to the close combat beast of the Ironclad, it is definitely a solid pick and doesn't get weaker as they take damage unlike other vehicles. The Heavy Weapon options are also pretty great. The Assault Cannon has 6 shots but only has a -1 AP while the Twin Autocannon has only 4 shots but deals 2 damage per hit. You can also take two of the Twin Autocannons if you wish, sacrificing the Close Combat Weapon to become a fire platform. It also has the option of taking Lascannons to deal with Tanks at long range or a Plasma Cannon to deal with heavily armored or entrenched Infantry.
Now with New-and-Improved Storm Bolters
Terminators got an unexpected buff. Not just in wounds, but also in their weapon and the ability to charge after teleporting in. The Storm Bolter became a Rapid Fire 2, meaning that at 12", you fire 4 shots per Terminator! Terminators can now teleport onto the battlefield at the end of any Movement Phase. You do not scatter like in previous editions, making them quite a bit of a heavy hitter so close to the enemy. Power Fists no longer automatically attack last, but suffer a -1 to hit if used. They also got the added bonus of a Teleport Homer. Before the game starts, you can place a Teleport Homer onto the battlefield on your deployment zone. At the end of any Movement Phase, you can teleport to that homer and can be within 9" of an enemy. However, if an enemy moves within 9" of the Homer, it goes away. This is useful to place near an objective to either call for reinforcements in the back or to claim an objective when needed. I would definitely take Terminators over Sternguard as they have quite a bit of utility and firepower on the battlefield. They can effectively deal with Tanks in close combat and shoot at waves of Infantry. Definitely worth taking in this new edition!
"I rule the Midnight Air, The Destroyer"
Assault Terminators also got an extra wound to boot and the Thunder Hammer got a nice improvement. Like Power Fists, you no longer swing last, but suffer a -1 to hit when using them. They lost the Concussive ability but cause 3 Damage instead. A Pair of Lightning Claws allows for an extra attack and rerolls on failed Wound rolls when using them. They also have a -2 AP. Pairing these guys with a Land Raider allows for these guys to get stuck in and fight far quicker than foot slogging it now that they can assault out of a Land Raider without penalty. You could also teleport in the same manner as a Terminator Squad and still charge! They too come with their very own Teleport Homer.
Power Armor in Power Armor, now with Drills
Centurion Assault Squad is an interesting Elite choice as their close combat attacks have a higher strength than Terminator Assault Squad. Their Siege Drills make their close combat attacks Strength 10, -4 AP, and 3 Damage. Also, they come with two Flamers per Centurion. This can cause quite a bit of hurt for a unit that gets too close (6D6 Automatic Hits if you have 3 of them). These are going to be quite good against Tanks and Monsters if they get in at full strength. If you do take them, get a Land Raider to transport them around. They are slow as dirt (4" to be exact) and no teleporting ability.
Jumpy Jump McMarine
Assault Squads come in two flavors: ones with Jump Packs and ones without. Take the Jump Packs. You only save three points per model. They move a good 12" with them on and also have the ability to drop in at the end of the Movement Phase if they aren't deployed on the board. Now that Pistols can shoot in close combat, look into taking Plasma Pistols for your Squad and even on your Sergeant to give a punch against heavily armored units. Flamers are a good alternative if you are facing horde infantry armies. Also consider taking a Melta Bomb as well to deal with multiwound models like Tanks and Monsters. You can also take up to two Eviscerators as well, which are a Power Fist that has better AP, if you have 10 Assault Marines, in addition to the Plasma Pistols. A good close combat choice and worth taking.
Dual Wielding Bolters
Inceptors are the new Assault Marines released in the Starter Box set. They wield two Assault Bolters, which are Assault 3 and Strength 5 with a -1 AP. The range is actually decent, allowing you to lay down an impressive amount of firepower. With a Toughness of 5 and having two wounds, they are surprisingly durable. They did get twin Plasma Pistols with the new Codex: Space Marine and can come in squads of 6. Close combat wise, they are not very good. With only 2 attacks per model and a small chance to cause a mortal wound on a charge, I wouldn't recommend charging in. Use the Assault Bolters and Jump Pack to keep your distance.
Scout Bike Squad
Bikers with Shotguns
Scout Bikes are the faster cousins of the Space Marine Bike Squad, moving two more inches than them. They have far more shooting options compared to a regular Bike Squad. Scout Bikes have Astartes shotguns standard and up to three of them can replace it with a grenade launcher. They did give all Bikes, including Scout Bikes, two wounds making them more durable. Also they are surprisingly cheap for what they are, meaning that taking multiple of them isn't going to break the point bank. However, Scout Bikes have a save of 4+, making them susceptible to high AP weapons. These are great at close range support and have quite a bit of shooting at 12" (6 shots per bike with a shotgun and twin boltgun), making them great at smaller save horde units.
Fast Pew Pew
Bike Squads have the same advantages as mentioned with the Scout Bikes but have no shotgun with just a Bolt Pistol. They do move slightly slower, but still move an impressive 14" with a Rapid Fire 2 Twin Boltgun. The advantage they have over the Scout Bikes is that they have a better save and the option to take an Attack Bike, which has either a Heavy Bolter or Multi-melta. This can make them a good flanking unit that can harass small units. Close Combat wise, they don't fair well as they don't have the ability to shoot after Falling Back. They also don't have much Close Combat options outside of the Sergeant. I'm not quite sure about the Bike Squad but from first glance, I would much rather take Scout Bikes over regular Bikes.
Much faster Bang Bang
Land Speeders are assault gunboats that can have an impressive amount of firepower. It comes standard with a Heavy Bolter but can also take either a Assault Cannon, Typhoon Missile Launcher, another Heavy Bolter, Heavy Flamer, or a Multi-melta. You can replace the standard issue Heavy Bolter for either a Multi-melta or a Heavy Flamer. This gives them a wide range of options ranging from Anti-Tank with two Multi-Meltas to Anti-Horde with two Heavy Flamers or Heavy Bolters. Coming in with a whopping 6 wounds per Speeder at a movement of 16", it is a great contender for the Fast Attack slot. Definitely worth considering if you want a unit that hits hard and is fast.
The Space Marine Blackhawk
The Land Speeder Storm has less firepower and armor save than regular Land Speeders. However, they do have the ability to carry 5 Scout Marines. It also has the added advantage of having those Scouts fire from within the transport. So the idea behind this is that you can equip a unit with shotguns and just unload on enemy units. This allows you to harbor safely a Heavy Weapon like a Missile Launcher or a Heavy Bolter. You can't shoot if the Speeder Fell Back despite the Speeder being able to do so.
Boom Boom Boom
Devastator Squads are Tactical Marines with the option of taking multiple Heavy Weapons. You don't have to sit them in the corner if you don't want to as you can now move and fire with some of the shorter ranged weapons like Multi-Meltas and Grav-Cannons. However, the longer ranged weapons like Missile Launchers, Lascannons, and Heavy Bolters probably would be best to sit in cover. You can now put in more Devastators into your squad and have them target Infantry while the Heavy Weapons target the big stuff. They also function as bullet shields for the Heavy Weapons. Also, your Sergeant can increase the To Hit of one of your Heavy Weapons team by one. Even the little Cherebus can give you a re-roll once per game. Missile Launchers got far better with the ability to cause D6 attacks per Launcher with Frag Missiles and able to penetrate Tanks and Monsters with Krak Missiles. Lascannons provide a bit more of a punch than Krak Missiles in terms of Strength and AP but doesn't have the versatility of the Missile Launcher, yet it costs the same price. Heavy Bolters are more useful against higher Toughness enemies and Hordes of Infantry. Grav-Cannons are useful against high save models as it does more damage against them, but they do have a short range. Multi-Meltas have a greater chance of dealing better damage at short range and have a high AP, but also have a short range and even shorter range to utilize its better damage capability. Overall, I'm definitely a fan of the Devastators. They give you multiple Heavy Weapons and are now far more mobile than they used to be. Even on points, they are fairly reasonable. Definitely a worth while choice for your army.
Centurion Devestators have the added advantage of moving and firing without penalty and can sport twin Heavy Weapons. They have a Toughness of 5, 3 Wounds, Hurricane Bolters, and a 2+ save. With the combination of the Hurricane Bolters and Heavy Bolters, you can lay down an impressive amount of firepower (12 shots per Centurion!). The downside is that they can only take Lascannons, Heavy Bolters, or a single Grav-Cannon. They also have a pretty poor movement of 4". These guys are certainly worth taking if you want more Heavy Bolter or Lascannon firepower, but they are pretty pricey points wise.
When you want a Tank Dead
Predators got a bit more durable now with the advent of Wounds. Their Predator Autocannon actually is different than the regular Autocannon. It fires 4 shots at the same Strength but with a little higher AP and 2 Damage. You can also replace it with Twin Lascannons and take sponson Lascannons, making it a pretty effective Anti-Tank model. There are better Heavy Support choices for Anti-Infantry (like the Centurion Devestators or Whirlwind for instance) but can be a bit more durable due to the multiple wounds it has and is cheaper points wise. The Lascannon version is pretty pricey but is well worth it as you are firing 4 Lascannon shots.
Whirlwinds did get quite a bit better. Instead of just firing one large blast template, they now can either fire 2D6 shots at Strength 6 at no AP and one damage or 2D3 shots at Strength 7 at -1 AP that deals two damage. This makes the Whirlwind far more effective versus hordes due to the amount of shots thrown. Its even alright versus two wound models like Terminators. Remember: they are not saving on a 2+, its a 3+ and it kills them as they have 2 wounds per. The downside is that it doesn't ignore cover saves naturally.Also, it can actually target Flyers now! And its pretty cheap points wise for a Tank. Definitely worth taking a look at and dusting off in this edition.
Hunter & Stalker
The Space Marine AA Gun
The Hunter and Stalker got quite a bit better now that they are no longer restricted to only firing at Flyers. The Hunter's guns can unload 8 shots into a target that is Strength 7. The Stalker only fires one Strength 9 shot, but you can re-roll the To Hit and it deals D6 damage. The Hunter was more designed to take on Flyers than the Stalker as it does come with a -1 penalty To Hit versus non-Fly models for their main gun. Both get a +1 To Hit versus Fly units. There are quite a few things now that comes with the Fly keyword, such as Space Marine Assault Squads with Jump Packs, Crisis Suits, Bloodthirsters, and Hive Tyrants with Wings. The Hunter is great for Fly units with multiple models at one wound and the Stalker is great versus Flyers with Multiple Wounds.
The King of Metal Boxes
Land Raiders got a bit more expensive in this edition with one exception: The Crusader. The reason for this is because of the guns it wields. The Twin Lascannons give an extra shot versus the normal Lascannon, making them very effective against Tanks and Monsters on their own. On top of that, they come with a massive 16 wounds and are able to transport 10 models that can include Terminators and Centurions. The Crusader variant can hold 16 models but its firepower was more designed against horde units as it can dish out an impressive 36 shots at short range! The Redeemer variant comes with two powerful flamethrowers that are Strength 6, useful versus lightly armored infantry up close. The Excelsior is the Headquarters version that can repair vehicles, give bonuses on Morale checks, and re-roll 1s on To Hit. The Land Raiders are a great vehicle to have, but can be very expensive. Almost as much as a Imperial Knight without guns. I would take one for certain units like Terminators and Centurions. If you need Anti-Tank/Monster, then take the original Land Raider as it has an impressive amount of Lascannon shots. If you need Anti-Horde and want to transport large squads, then the Crusader is the one you want as it fires a ton of shots. The Redeemer is worth considering if you are looking to get up close and burn some lightly armored units. The Excelsior is a good choice if you want a HQ unit that wants to buff a mechanized army.
Big Boom Cannon
The Vindicator has a pretty nice short ranged cannon that can deal with heavily armored, multiple wound models. It fires D3 shots (D6 if the enemy unit has 10 or more models) that is Strength 10, -3 AP, and D6 damage. It doesn't have much in the way of other guns aside from the standard Storm Bolter and Hunter Killer Missile. Points wise the Vindicator is reasonable. Its a solid Tank option for heavily armored infantry or going up against other Tanks for a cheap price.
Heavy Support Plasma Guns
The Hellblaster Squad is the new Heavy Support option that has a group of the new Primaris Space Marines armed with a buffed version of the Plasma Gun. It has an extra 6" range and better AP than the Plasma Gun. These guys are great to take if you want something to help take out heavily armored units at range. The downside with these guys is that they aren't great against Tanks or multi-wound models as it only causes one Damage per shot. For those types of units, it makes better sense to take a unit of Devastators with Missile Launchers or Lascannons as these can do multiple wounds. Their Sergeant cannot take any other options aside from the Plasma Incinerator, which is their default gun.
The Rhino/Razorback got a bump in points for a good reason. They are far more durable than in previous editions, can now transport Characters along with separate units, and you can charge after disembarking from any Transport now. They also got an unexpected buff that people are slowly starting to figure out. You can charge with the Rhino now, which on the surface may not seem like much. But this has two added benefits: The ability to tie up units so that they can't shoot/charge next turn and soak up Overwatch shots. Some people say that this is a broken mechanic that is ripe for abuse since you can just charge a Land Raider and now it can't fire with any of its weapons, even if it Fell Back. As of the time of writing, this is something that is legal and within the rules. I suspect that later on, a rule may be added where Vehicles can Fall Back and still shoot in the proceeding phases. Personally, I don't think its as bad as some people make it out to be. For one, Rhinos are FAR more expensive than in previous editions. To give you an idea, you can take 2 Rhinos and still have points left over for the price of one now. Second, Anti-Tank weapons like Lascannons and Missile Launchers can cripple a Rhino with a couple of good solid shots, making it not move as fast or even killing it outright if the damage rolls are high enough. Finally, even if it did get in charge range, it still only ties up one unit. A good balanced army is going to have multiple units that can take care of multiple different threats on the table. Also, units with Fly can Fall Back and still shoot such as Crisis Suits and Jump Pack Marines.
Quick Delivery System
Drop Pods allow for a quick delivery of Space Marine units, but there a few exceptions. It cannot transport Terminators, Centurions, Jump Pack Marines, or Primaris Marines. Its useful to get a group of Tactical/Devastator/Assault Marines to an objective quickly to secure it. It doesn't scatter and can be placed as soon as Turn one. However, the downside is that Drop Pods are more expensive than Rhinos. If you want a good way to secure an objective quickly without footslogging it, then the Drop Pod is the way to go.