There were many feelings that usually come with a new codex release. Joy...Rage...Terror. Usually each of these is felt by most of us in the warhammer 40k community. Many of these feelings were felt by myself upon hearing about the release of the space wolves codex. This reactions are very common in any game when new content is released, summarily hyped up and then launched in such a big fashion. Gamers of the Warhammer 40k community are no differant. What is differant however is the history of reaffirming the latter feelings...Rage and Joy, that games workshop products have had in the past.
It was therefore with a very mixed sense of Joy and Terror that I purchased and read the new codex I am about to review. You see codex's in the past have had the trend of upping the powerlevel of the game drasticly in favor of the latest trend. Each codex competing with the last to make the newest and best toy seem more attractive. This has led to a "power creep" an escalation of the powerlevel of the game overall.
When fifth ed. released I amongst many feared what that the newest trend of codex would bring about. While many were dissapointed overall with the Space Marine feeling that it was underpowered and there is no common opinion about the New Gaurd Codex. With the release of the New Space Wolf Codex and the leaks online about what some of the units where able to do, many feared that this codex would not only live up to that trend but surpass it. After reading the Codex I don't believe that this is neccasarily true.
While certainly they have been given very formidable options. Overall there is very little in the game that they have been given without having something taken away. The overall feel of the army mechanicly is that the writers of the codex were attempting to give back some of the classic options that people enjoyed about Space Marines in general (such as two special weapons, varied wargear combinations etc.) While trying update the mechanics that make the space wolves intresting in a balanced way for fifth edition. Are they competitive...definetly. Many players will have diffuculties against this army just simply because the style of play is simple, intuitive to new players and very potent. This is to be expected of a recent update. Are they broken or unbeatable? Hardly. Certainly there are one or two very poor design choice's in my opinion that are incredibly unbalanced. However they will certainly be dealt with by other options in the game or experienced players.
Now to get down to the nitty gritty...
Space Wolves are highly individualistic (As the design staff has so kindly pointed out half a dozen times in the codex). They also do not follow standard Codex Astartes, as such Space wolves may take four HQ choices with the restriction that none may carry exactly the same wargear of have the exact same set of psychic powers.
WHile not exactly a new option with the choices of HQ's present in the codex this will create some interesting combinations. Without getting into the HQ choices (that is a later post) this will more than likely be where the space wolves list in competitive play see most of thier power. HQ's of this codex all seem to have the trend of agmenting the units around them or the ones they are attached to, exception being to the WOlf Gaurd Battle leader.
The restriction of no character bieng able to carry the exact same gear isn't really a restriction in my opinion. I have no doubt that you will still see four of the same HQ's on the field each with one piece of gear differant.
Moving on to special army rules the space wolves seem yet again to differ from thier other astartes bretheran. Having the traded out Combat Squads and Combat Tactics Special rules for Counter attack and Acute Senses special rules.
This more that any other addition to this army I believe to be the most potent. Simply because it allows the space wolves to use thier prowess in close combat in a defensive manner. No longer do players have to be concerned with pusing thier melee units into the charge to get thier points back. Simply camping any unit on top of a position, going to ground will make it damn near unkillable if taken in the proper in the proper numbers. This allows for greater flexability in hands of experienced players and ease of use for newer players that are unfamiliar with the subtlies of movement in the game.
The other special rule they have been given in lieu of the normal space marine rules is acute senses. While not as overtly effective as counterattack I do think that this will lend space wolves significant advantage if exploited properly for night fighting senerios such as dawn of war.
Last I would like to add that the absence of combat squads for the wolves is a loss for them. Unlike normal marines the wolves will have fewer units to capture objectives. They will also be presenting fewer targets to thier opponents to make focus fire easier for them. I think that in the end it is just about an even trade for the wolves as far as basic army rules and options go.
Stay tuned for next review Space Wolves Codex Review part 2: Troops