Trust me, this is only because of the holidays, which pretty much means I have a lot of free that I normally wouldn’t have… Which means I have actually have time to waste thinking of subjects related to my hobbies. This could range from the gamut, from books to anime to, not surprisingly, Warhammer 40000. What follows concerns the latter.
This might be just a pet peeve of mine, but I’m more than a little disappointed at the lack of options for customization for the Chapter Masters of a ‘vanilla’ Space Marine Chapter. While they’re not lacking in options equipment-wise, I they’ve been thoroughly shafted in terms of ability. Compared to the Company Captain, the only real difference they have stat-wise and ability-wise is the Chapter Master’s ability to call down an Orbital Bombardment once per game (for 25 points). That’s… not very impressive, really, for someone who’s supposed to be the leader of the Angels of Death.
It’s no wonder why the Captain is a better deal, points-wise.
Of course there’s always the route of assigning house rules to represent the ‘uniqueness’ of the Chapter Master of your personal Chapter, but without a clear baseline of abilities to compare to it’s very easy to create an over-the-top character that might more or less count as an extension of the term “I’m Awesome!”. If a player somehow manages to restrain themselves from adding over-the-top abilities to their custom Chapter Master, there’s still the issue of getting the opponent to agree to having the model fielded in a game. I suppose it’s not a problem in a casual game though, but not all players one meets in a store will be so amenable.
Speaking of baselines, let’s compare how the Chapter Masters of the big-name Chapters measure up to each other in 5th Edition:
Marneus Calgar of the Ultramarines: A 250-point monstrosity, Calgar has 1 more wound than your ‘vanilla’ Chapter Master, as well as the Eternal Warrior trait, which means that he can’t be killed by so-called ‘instant death’ attacks. He has two skills: Titanic Might, which lets him re-roll To-Wound attempts from damage he dealt via shooting or close combat; and God of War, which allows him to voluntarily pass or fail any Morale Check he has to make, and as long as he is on the table all units with Combat Tactics can do so as well. He allows two more additional Honor Guard squads to be taken during a game. Finally, he has a unique weapon (the Gauntlets of Ultramar), and the option to take a suit of Terminator Armor with a built-in Teleport Homer.
Pedro Cantor of the Crimson Fists: Cantor weighs in at a relatively more reasonable 175 points. He uses the standard Chapter Master stat array. He gives the ability to make Sternguard Squads scoring units, and any friendly unit within 12 inches of him gain an additional attack, although he himself isn’t affected by this ability. He also has a unique weapon (Dorn’s Arrow).
Logan Grimnar of the Space Wolves: Grimnar is another 200+ point monster (275 points to be exact), who has Acute Senses and Counter-Attack (innate for all Space Wolves), as well as the Eternal Warrior and Stubborn traits. He has two unique abilities: Living Legend, which is similar to Cantor’s ability, but instead of just 12 inches every friendly unit within eighteen (!!) inches gain an additional attack for one turn, though this could only be done once per game; and The High King, where he can confer a unit with one of the following abilities for a single player turn–Tank Hunter, Fearless, Relentless, or Preferred Enemy. In addition, he makes all Wolf Guard units Troops. Much like his contemporaries, he has a unique weapon (the Axe of Morkai).
Commander Dante of the Blood Angels: At 225 points, Commander Dante is less pricier than his fellows, and like Calgar has an additional Wound point more than the ‘default’ Chapter Master array. Because he comes equipped with a Jump Pack, he access to the Descent of Angels trait. He has two abilities: Tactical Precision, which mean he and the squad he is attached to don’t scatter after Deep Striking; and Surgical Strike, where he and the squad he is attached to have the Hit and Run ability. Dante allows Sanguinary Guard to be taken as Troops. Finally, he has two unique pieces of wargear (the Death Mask of Sanguinius and the Axe Mortalis).
Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers: Much cheaper than Dante, Seth comes in at a mere 160 points. He has one more Wound point than the vanilla Chapter Master stat array, and comes with two abilities: Whirlwind of Gore, which allows him to automatically hit all enemy models in base contact with him; and Ferocious Instincts, where any enemy units unlucky enough to roll a 1 to hit Seth get automatically hit with an attack at Seth’s base Strength. He has a single unique wargear equipped (the giant chainsword Blood Reaver).
I won’t mention the Chapter Masters that have been featured in Imperial Armour 9: The Badab War part 1 yet, as I’m still waiting on the second part, but given the examples given above it’s easy to see how merely having Orbital Bombardment does not a flavorful Chapter Master make.