Games Workshop put out a new Space Marines codex last week. Yesterday I started putting together some army lists and will be posting thoughts as I go, opening with Vulkan and continuing on now to those crazy bibliophiles: Librarians.
To my mind, the 40k 6th edition Psyker rules in general have some strong upsides, and some very unfortunate downsides. In general the Mastery Levels/Warp Charges scheme seems superfluous at first, but it handles a lot of different corner cases and weird tradeoffs in power and character character design elegantly, and is largely how I always hoped the system would be streamlined. A major negative aspect though is rolling on spell lists at the start of a match to determine powers. This kind of thing is tragically a core part of Games Workshop’s general game design philosophy and I absolutely hate the mechanism. It’s one thing if you’re rolling to see how some Chaos power manifests for a turn. It’s another to have a critical part of your army—namely Psychic Powers and Warlord Traits—unknown until game time, and largely out of your control.
This lack of control makes it much harder to plan an army around. I’m sure they’d argue it forces you to play better because you need to be able to utilize whatever powers your Psyker comes up with at the start of a game, but that’s silly. The opponent and dice will provide more than enough randomization. If I want to concentrate on a particular power combo or build army lists around specific special abilities, I should be able to do that.
Taking that farther, the randomization mechanism doesn’t even contribute to narrative play, ostensibly one of GW’s primary focuses. Alongside the usual Space Marine hate and wrath, my Kingbreakers’ Librarian is full of self-doubt, instability, and a strong disconnect from other people and real world consequences. That externalizes as explosive self-destructiveness and high stakes gambling. For me, the Vortex of Doom and its significant risks played to that—more than once has he managed to obliterate a huge fraction of my own army through risky play, just as more than once he’s swung the tide of battle in favor of the Kingbreakers with a critical hit. Now I can’t roleplay to that characterization because much of the time he’ll roll some random, much more passive ability.
All these random lists say to me is that GW’s designers can’t be bothered to put in the effort to balance powers and traits enough such that there aren’t one or two clearly dominant choices that everyone would settle on. It’s super lazy and a detriment to all of their games.
In any event, overall it’s fairly clear Psykers in general have gotten much more powerful due to the proliferation of crazy spells available to them, alongside somewhat of a reduction in available counter-abilities, e.g., more constrained Psychic Hoods. However, this strength is tempered a bit by them becoming more random and more difficult to synergize with the rest of an army list.
Those main rulebook changes along with the new codex have changed Librarians a fair bit. Previously a default Space Marine Librarian could use one power per turn but knew two. Under the new Master Levels and Warp Charges scheme, default Libbies now only know one power, Master Level 1. In addition, they’re actually no longer able to cast at least one of their previous spells: Vortex of Doom (an S10 Blast) was originally in the Space Marine codex, able to be wielded by any Librarian, but has since moved to the Telekinesis list in the main rules and become Warp Charge 2, rendering it inaccessible to a base Librarian.
Setting all that aside for a moment, in terms of raw points Space Marine Psykers got a massive discount, dropping from 100 points for a base dude in Power Armour to 65. Terminator Armour and a Storm Shield brings them up to 100, as compared to the previous 140 points. That’s a pretty substantial change, and I think the reduction was made to recognize that they’re not super killy or survivable in & of themselves and they’re more random now. In general the designers are also pushing Psykers this edition so a discount’s not surprising. Power Armour Librarians are now very reasonably priced for a lightweight supporting HQ, probably even cheap for how survivable they are and what they can do. The Terminator variant is looking really reasonably priced. In both cases, but especially the former, they’ve gone from enough points to maybe risk not bringing, to being basically an auto-include in every army list.
Notably, the boys in blue got an even bigger boost, with the Ultramarines’ Tigurius dropping to 165 points. He’s Mastery Level 3; takes powers from all the lists; re-rolls his powers so there’s high odds you’ll get ~2 of the 3 you want; re-rolls Reserves as before, re-rolls failed Psychic Tests, and has an extra fancy Force Weapon that’s also Strength +2 and Master-Crafted. The only thing he’s missing is any kind of invulnerable save. That’s admittedly a big deal, but I still think Ultramarines players would be crazy to not take him.
For my guys I’m definitely bummed about the increased randomization but otherwise feeling pretty good about my resident master of the Warp, Librarian Rorschach. Most recently I’d been playing him with Terminator Armor and a Storm Shield. I’ll probably upgrade him to an Epistolary—Mastery Level 2—in order to hopefully get and be able to use Vortex of Doom as I had been, but he’ll still wind up 15 points cheaper and able to cast a second spell to boot.