Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Don't be so hard on the Ultramarines

As a fan of Not The Ultramarines, I can understand why some people would be upset by the fifth edition Space Marine codex. Matt Ward made some comments in a White Dwarf interview in which he pretty much revealed himself to be a squealing Ultramarines fanboy of the highest order.
Like these.

And I understand that, as a fan of any Space Marine force that falls under the "codex marines" blanket but is not the Ultramarines, it is easy to feel the sting of neglect when the Ultramarines have twenty pages of exclusive content in the codex while your faction probably got a two-inch blurb, a picture of your color scheme in the Index Astartes, and maybe one painted miniature.

But when you look back, historically speaking, the treatment is not so bad. Look at the second edition codex for codex-adherent chapters:
Mmm, those bright red boltguns...
Yeah. That book cover is 18 years old. The focus on the Ultramarines is not new. It is not Matt Ward's fault. If you want to blame anybody, blame the marketing department of GW, because I guarantee you that even a giant fanboy such as he would not be allowed to push the Ultramarines as much as he did without their approval. GW isn't just a game company, after all. They sell models. They sell paints. They sell little plastic transfers. They sell books. Their main goal, with each codex release, is to sell more stuff, because this is capitalism, baby.

So, now that we've established that the Ultramarines didn't just Kool-Aid Man their way onto the scene for the sole purpose of stealing the glory from your awesome homebrew chapter (or any of my three awesome homebrew chapters)... why would anyone like them? I mean, once you get past the Matt Ward wank, they're just vanilla marines, right? They go by the book, so they're lolpredictable, right? Well, not exactly.

There's a reason the Codex Astartes has remained the gold standard of warfare for ten thousand years. That's because it's got provisions for everything. I mean, Space Marines are the guys you call in when everything is already FUBAR, and when they show up, they turn the tide of war. Some people will tell you there's no way a hundred guys can take a planet. Well, that's conventional logic talking. The Codex begs to differ. The Ultramarines are, to a man, dedicated soldiers who have spent decades or centuries fighting together as brothers. They combine the individual prowess and warrior ferocity that makes Space Marines such terrifying foes with the discipline and rigor that changes Imperial Guardsmen from a ragtag bunch of men into the Hammer of the Emperor.

Their style of fighting doesn't have the flashy awesomeness of SPACE VIKINGS. It doesn't have the relentlessness of half-man half-machine Iron Hands or the mystery and enigma of the Dark Angels or the CLEANSE AND PURGE fanaticism of the Black Templars. That's not what they're supposed to do - but the wonderful part is, they don't have to because that's why other chapters exist. The Ultramarines exist to fill one role, and they fill that role very well. They are the gold standard of ass-kicking. When you want to show how awesome you are, you say "better than the Ultramarines."

There are plenty of legit reasons to hate the Ultramarines. If you're filthy Chaos scum, for example, you have a good reason to hate the Ultramarines. If you're some nameless Tyranid beastie who just got dissolved by a bolt shell full of bio-acid, yeah, you have a good reason to hate the Ultramarines. But if you like the Imperium, don't hate the Ultramarines just because they're popular. If you look beyond their overrepresentation in the Codex, there's a lot to recommend them.

Plus, let's be honest, this right here just looks cool.

1 comment:

  1. While you make a good point I still don't like them, but I think that's mainly because I love the Raven guard who are most definitely not a codex chapter and yet we just get lumped in there with everyone else who "want to be like the ultramarines and recognise marneus calgar as their spiritual liege".

    I think that's actually where the problem stems from, the codex is written with the expectation that you're playing not only an ultramarines descended chapter but one who wants to be just like them as well which just works to stifle any sense of creativity or breadth in the universe.

    If it the ultramarine aspect of it had been tuned down a bit to being just a "this is one way it can be done but oh look there're all these other original founding chapters you could have descended from as well and here's how you can play them" similar to force organisation chart swaps and such it would have been a lot better. I just hope they fix it up with 6th ed.