I've been writing tacticas for the past 5 issues of the Ailarian, so this week I thought I'd write something different for this week's issue. It's a simple article about why it is harder than what most people think to play Space Marines - at least on a competitive level. I'll go over most of the arguments that are commonly posted on online forums and heard in game shops here and there.
1. Space Marines are a bunch of newbie friendly plastic kits intended for kids who are just starting to get involved in the hobby.
Well, Space Marines are certainly newbie friendly - and for several reasons: they are easy to collect due to the vast amount of plastic kits, they are easy to paint, and they are easy to get acquainted with rules-wise and so on. This is all very true, but isn't that also true for another force in 40k: Necrons? Necrons are even easier to paint to a decent standard than Space Marines, since all it takes is a black spray can and some metal dry brushing and you'd have yourself a pretty good looking force. The basic Necron warrior is superior to the regular Space Marines in some aspects - namely the rule named, We'll Be Back! The Monolith is one of the better tanks in the game and Destroyers are nastier than most of the units available in the Fast Attack part of Codex: Space Marines.
2. Space Marines are over-powered since they can do anything.
True, Space Marines can do almost anything required of them - which holds a lot of their charm in my eyes. We can do all deep strike, all Bikes and all infiltrate for example, but here's the bad news: we're not best at anything at all. Even if you stock up on Land Speeders and Bikers, you won't be able to out-speed Eldar or Dark Eldar (Ravenwing can do that, but that's only for one turn, and a completely different codex). Even if you take nothing but Tactical Squads with Bolt Pistols and Close Combat Weapons and Assault Marines, a Tyranid army can out-assault you any day of the week. And even the shootiest Marine force available is out-shot by Tau and Imperial Guard.
3. Space Marines are clearly overpowered, since they always take a number of top positions in tournaments.
Space Marines are the most numerous of all armies in the game - no other force is so widely popular. This means that they are also one of the most numerous forces around in tournaments. A larger number of contestants equals a higher chance of one of them taking one of the top positions; it's as simple as that.
4. The Assault Cannon is over-powered!
True, it is in fact the best weapon in the game hands down and it should cost more points than it does in the current codex. This is being fixed in the newer codices, namely Dark Angels and Blood Angels, where Terminators aren't allowed two of them, and Tornados and Dreadnoughts both have received a hefty increase in their points cost.
So with all of this in our bag, imagine that you are a Space Marine player at a large tournament (100+ participants). Unless your list contains some 10+ Assault Cannons, or has an obscene number of min/maxed squads, constructing a list worthy of a tournament is harder than you'd think.
This is because whatever you bring to a tournament, most (if not all) of your opponents will have seen it before. They know the tactics for your army, they know the weaknesses of it and they will most likely know how to beat it.
Also remember that other MEQ (Space Marine equivalent, a model with roughly a Marine's stat line, but in most cases it refers to the toughness and armour save) armies such as Chaos Space Marines and Necrons are also numerous at tournaments. This means that if your opponent's army has access to a weapon or a piece of war gear that is clearly great for beating MEQs, such as the Eldar Starcannon, it is often worth taking since at a tournament, you'll face more MEQ armies than others.
So there you are with your little Marines at a Grand Tournament, every guy in there has seen your army list or at least something similar before, everyone knows how to beat you and everyone has brought the weapons to do so.
So the obvious conclusion to this article is that you will have to be a skilled Space Marine player to do well in a competitive environment. Our numbers are in this case our weakness, I'm afraid. They might be easier to get the grips on than some other forces though, which adds to the newbie label.
The bottom line is that the Space Marines are so successful in a competitive environment due to the large number of players choosing them. If they were as rare as say Orks or even Witch Hunters, they wouldn't be holding the top positions.
So I guess my title should really be "It's not as easy as you'd think to win with Space Marines."