I wrote an article earlier about the Blood Angels vs. Tyranids box set, Shield of Baal – Deathstorm, and felt that I was perhaps a little too harsh on Space Marines without some sort of justification. Let me start by saying that I don’t hate Space Marines. Hate is a rather strong word and I feel that it does not accurately describe my feelings towards the pre-pubescent superhuman warriors defending mankind in the 41st millennium. For example, I do have my own chapter that I will be expanding on the table at some point in the future, but equally they will never be a primary army for me.
Firstly, they’re physically and mentally superhuman as well as being equipped with (almost) the best that humanity has to offer. There is no internal conflict, they are completely set in their devotion to the Emperor as a father figure, stalwart protectors of mankind and they go to battle prepared for everything. To me, this all just sounds like a recipe for boring. If I wanted to collect genetically engineered killing machines whose sole purpose is to fight for a cause, I’d surrender myself to the Hive Mind and collect Tyranids. I like my armies to have character. I like there to be models across the table that I can point to and talk about their out-of-combat exploits. I like there to be a person behind the model, if you know what I mean, not just another foot-slogging soldier. With Space Marines there is not much wiggle room; you have their early childhood, but Space Marine recruits are taken young before they develop too much, so beyond childhood exploits they do not have time to develop interesting backgrounds. When I look at the named characters in the Space Marine codex, none of them jump off the page at me; none of them strike me as particularly interesting or deep. Every single one of them just comes across as “Generic Space Marine Captain #29.” Their exploits are nothing particularly special and include nothing beyond having a good combat record. Whilst I know that this is true for most of Games Workshop’s named characters in the codices, it’s doubly reinforced by the nature of what it is to be a Space Marine.
Secondly, expanding on my first reason, Space Marines themselves are personality-lacking children with giant muscles and bulky weapons. Children are complex individuals, but with a Space Marine everything that makes a child an enigma is removed. They grow up during initiation, but… They don’t develop emotionally as a human. Sure, on the battlefield their brain works overtime and their physical body develops far beyond that of a normal human being, but deep inside, in the most human part of their brain, they are horrifically underdeveloped. Space Marines are no longer humans; they may as well be mechanical constructs. It’s something that I just do not enjoy about Space Marines as a faction.
Third, all their units are the same. If you look at a Tactical Marine, it is the same as an Assault Marine and a Devastator Marine, just with mildly different wargear. The difference is not large enough, with Devastators and Tactical Marines differing simply in heavy and special weapon compositions. Veterans are also the same, just with a few more special rules and fancy toys though their stats remain largely the same as their less experienced brethren. This, paired with their particular statistics, leads them to be a “jack of all trades, master of none” army. One thing that strikes me as odd is that Assault Squads are unable to take any special melee weapons apart from on their sergeant; even Storm Guardians have the option to take two power swords!
Fourth, and finally, it’s an all-male faction due to the nature of the implants. This just goes against my “can-do” attitude! Come on, who honestly wasn’t expecting this one?
So this is why I dislike Space Marines. I have RPed one in a Deathwatch game (Fantasy Flight’s tabletop roleplaying game) where I ended up playing a combat character because I tried to create a skill/social encounter based Space Marine and stumbled upon how OP the heavy bolter (or any fully automatic weapon) is in that system. What just intensifies the dislike is how they manage to be the most popular faction (by a long way!) in the Warhammer 40k hobby. If people want to turn around and say “well, Sisters of Battle can only be female, so it balances!” I will merely state what I said in my article about the new box set: Four factions are Space Marines alone, six if you include Grey Knights and Chaos Space Marines (though the latter has some interesting amount of diversity at least). Sisters are a single faction with miniatures made more than a decade ago and a codex with only slightly more choice than a Call of Duty campaign. It’s not the same boat, heck it’s not even the same ocean.
I just wish that Games Workshop would pay some attention to me as a non-Space Marine player… *sniffles*