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Review of the New Space Marine Kits

Space Marines haven’t really changed all that much since 1998’s 3rd edition starter box ushered in the era of truly multi-pose plastic kits. The last time the Tactical Squad got a refresh, it was merely to re-arrange the sprues a little bit and there weren’t many appreciable changes to the kit itself. With Marines routinely leading the way in terms of sales, GW must have been reluctant to change anything that would jeopardize their steady flow of profit from those old sprues.

Move along to 2013, and we finally have some significant upgrades to old faithful. Let’s take a look at all the new kits and see how they fare. (Note: I have picked up the Sternguard, Centurions and Librarian myself and fondled the sprues extensively. The rest of my impressions are just from pics of the models and sprues.)

Tactical Squad

Ultramarines infantry spam could be viable, as one turn of re-rolls with all your Tacticals will hurt.

Ultramarines infantry spam could be viable, as one turn of re-rolls with all your Tacticals will really hurt.

The new Tactical frames come with more weapons — an updated missile launcher, one each of the special weapons (including a graviton gun), plus all the sergeant gear (power sword, fist, modular combi-weapon and pistols) — and many new poses to mount them on.

The new box claims to have virtually no duplicate parts, which is a huge improvement from the ~3 variants of many components from the old kit. There’s some Mk4 legs, true Mk6 chests (the old one more or less became the Mk5 torso as Forge World released all the old armor variants separately) and a Mk8 torso that finally works for helmets as well as bare heads. You even get some rather unique stuff like a model reloading his boltgun.

Overall the kit breathes some fresh air into the old Tacitcal Squad, giving you a decent assortment of new gear and updated aesthetics for no price increase. Not the most amazing kit ever, but certainly a worthy update to the Space Marine line-up. I’d give this kit an A-.

Sternguard Veterans

Salamanders Sternguard will still be a force on the tabletop

Salamanders Sternguard will still be a force on the tabletop.

These guys finally make the jump into plastics, and they certainly are making a splash. They simply pack far more variety than any other Vanilla Marines kit!

Not only do they come with six fancy boltguns and eight combi-weapons, they also pack the full assortment of special weapons, stormbolters, close combat weapons and pistols for the Sergeant, and finally a heavy bolter and heavy flamer to boot.

In terms of decorative parts, you get 13 heads, 16 shoulder pads and a huge assortment of blinged-out legs and torsos. Even the backpacks are unique! I also quite like the heads — two of the bare ones are even sculpted to look like dudes from the awesome THQ Space Marine video game. My only real complaint is that they don’t have more shoulder pads with the crux terminatus design on them.

The Sternguard are probably my favorite release of the whole lot. Buy one or two of these kits and your bitz box will be overflowing with components for your entire army. I can’t give these guys anything less than an A… even though the price hike over Tacticals and Vanguards seems like a blatant money-grab.

Vanguard Veterans

I will probably need some of these eventually for my Raven Guard... especially if they get a scary unit entry in the Horus Heresy series!

I will probably need some of these eventually for my Raven Guard… especially if they get a scary unit entry in the Horus Heresy series!

The Vanguard kit doesn’t quite deliver to the same standard as the Sternguard — in my opinion anyway. They come with a similarly large variety of components (five unique pairs of ornate pistol and chainsword, 9 heads, 16 shoulder pads, plus a huge variety of weapons) but somehow they don’t quite visually inspire as much as the gun-toting equivalents. The relative lack of power axes (you only get one) will be a problem for some, as AP3 in combat doesn’t do any more than tickle 2+ dudes.

Combined with the fact that they still aren’t all that amazing rules-wise, and you just know these guys won’t be perennial best-sellers. At least they are $10 less than the Sternguard, making them a little more tempting to purchase even if you just wanted to use them as regular Assault Marines and keep all the upgrades as bitz. I can see White Scars players buying up this kit just for all the weapons to equip their characters Command Squads on bikes. Overall I give this kit a B+ rating.

Centurions

Where to begin with the conversion work...

Where to begin with the necessary conversion work…

These guys are probably the most frustrating unit from the new release wave. The rules from the Centurion Devastators are tempting (the sheer firepower of the squad armed with missiles and graviton cannons is staggering… and they can split fire!), but the Assault Variant really just seems inferior to the good old’ hammernators.

To make matters worse, they are very expensive (both in terms of points and dollars) and the models are more than a little fugly. Like the Stormtalon, I am convinced that you could save them via liberal application of Xacto knives and replacement parts, but it would be a ton of work. I bought a box of these guys and do plan on trying to salvage them, so keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks as I work up the nerve to do it.

In the meantime, the stock model kit is definitely underwhelming in every way (except for sheer size). I don’t even think you can pose them at all, since the arms have to line up with the power cables sprouting from their backs! I simply can’t give the basic design anything better than a D. They need a lot of work!

Hunter/Stalker

Now THAT is a gun.

Now THAT is a gun.

One of the first truly dedicated anti-air units in 40k is the Hunter/Stalker kit. Whether you want to bring a ton of S7 AP4 bullets or one bigass missile that follows Flyers and Flying Monstrous Creatures around until it hits, these can do it for you at a very reasonable price. Best of all, they have 12/12/10 armor to give them more survivability than your basic Whirlwind for just a few more points.

It’s hard to tell from the pictures alone, but it doesn’t seem like the two gun options share many components, so you might be able to build both turrets from one box and do some conversion work to get a 2-for-1 deal with a spare Rhino hull. If you’re doing the conversion, my initial suggestion would be to cut out the middle section of the sides, and salvage the stabilizer doo-dads for use on your secondary model.

I like this kit a lot more than I thought I would. It costs more than it should, but if you can get two tanks from one kit then I’d bump it up from B+ to A-.

Plastic Librarian, Captain and Reclusiarch

The new HQs, possibly gold-plated?

The new HQs, possibly gold-plated?

I’m going to lump these guys together a bit to save space, but these guys really are a mixed bag. Costing a fortune individually, the Captain and Librarian really aren’t worth the cost over a comparable Forge World or Finecast character blister. The fact that Roy at Thunderground Comics gave a pre-order discount was the only reason I could justify buying the Librarian, even though I love the model dearly. The Reclusiarch is only available (for now) through a combo box with a Command Squad and Razorback, which actually gets you the Chappy for about half the cost of the Captain/Librarian. Anyway, let’s get on with it:

The Reclusiarch is not popular according to many, but I don’t mind it at all. I think the head being glued staring up at the crozius is its biggest problem, and with the kit you get two heads you can pose him any way you want, so no problems there. If you don’t like all the skulls, some of those bitz are separate so you could swap them for anything else you have lying around (something from the Sternguard, perhaps?). Taking the rare discount on the combo box into consideration, the Reclusiarch gets an easy A from me.

The Captain appears to be a revamp of the old starter set Ultramarine Captain, just with more bling and a combi-grav weapon. The kit comes with a head swap, which is certainly needed, but it doesn’t address the boring pose and iffy wargear combination. Combi-grav on foot is just a bad idea. I really want to give this guy an F. He’s far more ugly than a basic Sternguard model, has almost no options, and costs almost as much money at those five Sternguard. Seriously GW, when this guy makes the recent Apocalypse captains look cheap, you have done something very wrong.

The Librarian is easily my favorite of the bunch. He’s very modular in construction, as his leg-torso joint is the same as any other Marine, so you could mount that body on any legs in the range, or even try to convert him onto a bike. The arms are also separate, and while one shoulder pad (the blank one) is joined to the torso, it is hanging on by a thread and removing it would take approximately 2 seconds. The head is truly excellent on this guy, but you can swap it out for anything else if you really wanted to. Even the flying dead baby is a separate bit, so you can choose to not glue him to the (really quite nice) backpack if you prefer. As the Librarian is very damn pretty and fully modular with the rest of the Marine and Grey Knight range, the price tag is the only thing preventing me from giving him an A+, so I’ll settle on an A-.

What do you guys think about the new release wave for Team 3+? Let me know below or on Facebook, and be sure to check back for a review of the codex once I’ve had a bit more time to mess around with lists.

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2 comments on “Review of the New Space Marine Kits

  1. A nice round up, I had no idea there was only one power axe in the Vanguard kit!

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