Firstborn Ascending

About a week or so ago, the internet began to be flooded with images of a bunch of new how to build guides for a ton of old and newer Space Marine units. As well as having a new look with fancy new symbols and icons, these guides also seemed to have a few inconsistencies when it came to the stats of the featured unit. Mainly, that Firstborn Marines appeared to be sporting two wounds and some weapons had new (and often) improved stats.

This of course started some frantic speculation on many of the online chatrooms and websites, as everyone tried to figure out if these were real or fabrications. I mean surely, Games Workshop wasn’t going to have such a drastic update to the entire Firstborn Space Marine product line. Well, towards the end of last week we got an answer from GW directly. Everything we had seen was not only true, but it would have wide reaching and lasting implications for the game we all love.

Upgrades for the Firstborn

In the article New Boxes. New Rules. New Codexes! Games Workshop outlined the sweeping changes we will be seeing in 9th edition 40k. In their own words “The Warhammer 40,000 rules team have also taken the opportunity to review every single unit and weapon profile for each army, and where they felt it was needed, dialled them up to 11”. They went on to talk about the improvements they will be making to weapon like Heavy Bolters and Flamers, as well as to the more exotic weapons of the Xenos races.

But the biggest change that they talked about was the fact that ALL Firstborn Marines (both loyalist and heretic) will be gaining an extra wound, bringing them in line with their Primaris brethren. This obviously is a huge deal, and will impact the game in a big way. But it has also raised some concerns from all corners of the players base, Space Marines included. After all, one of the key points of Primaris was the fact they had two wounds compared to the standard Marines one.

Does this mean Primaris are no longer the flavour of the month? Should you start selling your Intercessors and dusting off your Tactical Squads? Well today I want to share with you my thoughts on the subject, and hopefully showing those of you that are sceptics that this is not only a good thing, but it was the right thing to do.

Readdressing the Balance

First of all, this change doesn’t make Primaris obsolete. You don’t have to sell your Intercessors or Hellblasters, for they will be just as valuable in 9th as they were in 8th edition. While it is true that Firstborn will be gaining an additional wound, that is far from the only thing that separated them from their newer brethren. After all, Primaris have a ton of unique weapons and pieces of tech that allow them to stand apart for the older battle brothers of their chapter.

Instead, I believe this change was made to make Space Marines feel… well, like Space Marines. One of the common complaints I hear from a lot of hobbyists is that Space Marines, the genetically engineered super soldiers that can survive wounds that would slay a mortal man, would die just as easily as a Guardsman if your rolls were bad. In the lore, they are portrayed as these unstoppable monsters that can lose an arm and still finish the mission without batting an eyelid. But that was hardly the case on the tabletop.

A single bad roll and you could easily lose an entire squad to a volley they should by rights have survived. Now of course, this is a game and as a result a there has to be a sense of balance. But it always felt bad losing a squad of warriors who would have probably survived for a hundred years or so to a salvo from a group of farmers with lasguns. In fact, when Primaris first appeared on the scene, many players agreed that these new Marines felt more like how Space Marines should feel.

So when you think about it from that point of view, it is unsurprising that Games Workshops rules team decided to improve the Firstborn as they have. But I think there is another reason they have chosen to do this.

Heretics and Knights

Since Primaris first hit the scene around three years ago, one of the main questions that always seems to pop up on forums and group chats has been “when is [blank] getting them?”. Whether it is the followers of Chaos or the warriors of Titan, players were always wanting to know when they would be getting their new toys and multi-wound infantry. This put GW on an awkward position.

You see, if they did decided to bolster the Chaos Space Marine and Grey Knight lines with Primaris equivalents, then that would mean having to focus more resources on Space Marine lines over that of Xenos and non-astartes factions. This would leave many armies without much needed updated sculpts and kits. On the other hand, if they didn’t, then the other astartes factions would feel abandoned and underserved, which is just as bad.

So how do you update the other Marine lines, without leaving behind the other factions? You make all Space Marines “feel” like Primaris. This allow Chaos and Grey Knight players to stand toe to toe with other Marine chapters without a ton of new models, while allowing you the resources to look into and improve the other factions and product lines. Kind of makes sense when you think about it.

So Why Now?

So you might have guessed I’m rather pleased with these updated rules, as are many other hobbyist around the world. But that doesn’t mean its all good news. One piece of valid criticism would be that if GW knew they were going to do this, why not announce it at the start of 9th edition? Why not release an index with the updated datasheets instead of making everyone wait for the new codexes to drop? Now while I don’t work for Games Workshop and am not privy to their inner workings, I think there is a reason for this course of action, and it is to do with the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Thanks to the global pandemic, many events and hobby gatherings have had to be put on hold indefinitely. This means that the need for up to dated and balanced rules is not as much of a priority as it once might have been, and this has in a weird sort of way given GW the chance to take their time with the release schedule. If the world was anywhere near normal, players would be demanding immediate updates to all Astartes datasheets, meaning more FAQ’s and rules clarifications at a time when they are already trying to clarify the base rules of a new edition.

However, since events are on hold GW can instead take their time with the releases of these new rules, letting everyone have access to the new weapon stats when Codex Space Marine drops and giving them chance to release all the reliant Codexes before tournaments can start up again. Sure, this does mean that if you are playing at home against your mates Raven Guard with your Grey Knights you are going to using one wound Marines. But bear in mind that they will probably be outnumbers thanks to their point increases. Be patient. Your time will come soon enough.

I hope you have enjoyed todays article. If you want to share your thoughts on these changes to the game, then you can leave a comment below or contact me via twitter @MTGTengu directly. If you have enjoyed todays article, please like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics. You want to support the site directly, you can join our Patreon for as little as a $1 a month. Until next time though remember, “we are the angels of death.”

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