So, finally finishing this damn thing at long last. Overall, this last bit really reads the same as the first two parts, a generally good idea overall if one marred by a few bad choices or shortcomings. It's not bad by any means, but you can tell with a bit more of a push this could have been something outstanding. That done, on with the show.
The first and foremost point of note here is the Warlord table, which has undergone a few unique tweaks here and there. Overall the list is... well, let's just go through them one by one at first.
Angel of Death: Allows warlord to cause Fear, forcing units to take tests on 3d6. Cassius and Shrike have this.
The Imperium's Sword: Grants the warlord Furious Charge. Helbrecht comes with this.
Iron Resolve: The warlord immediately gains Feel No Pain. Pedro, Lysander and Vulkan roll with this.
Storm of Fire: For the shooting phase a friendly squad with Chapter Tactics within 12" gets Rending. Tigurius and Telion murder things with this.
Rites of War: All units in the same detachment as this warlord can use his leadership for morale tests of any kind. Sicarius and Grimaldus have this.
Champion of Humanity: All Imperial models (as in anyone from the Imperium as a whole) within 12" gain the ability to re-roll pinning, morale, and fear. Khan walks through hails of gunfire.
Now, on the one hand I get what they were going for and in an odd way I can actually appreciate it. It was trying to use the Warlord traits to represent a much broader scope of chapters in this book. It's trying to give some slight edge to each chapter in turn and allow them a moment in the spotlight in some way, in order for them to show up on the battlefield and represent their chapter's heroes as Tactics do their troops. The idea is a commendable one if this is the case, but the execution is most definitely lacking.
Instead it just makes them seem like weaker copies or poor shadows by comparison. That honestly weakens an already waning appeal of taking your own Captain over one Games Workshop made. Plus atop of this there's some fairly questionable choices. Yeah, Tigurius is awesome and all but why does he get the same buff as Telion, and where are the Crimson Fists and Iron Hands in all of this? You can argue the latter lacks special characters despite several being perfect for them, but Pedro is still strolling about, so why exempt him?
The only bit of praise really worth offering here is how, because of how overly general they are, they aren't plagued by the failings we saw in prior releases. There's nothing so insanely specific that it might undermine your planned role for your Warlord, so it's far more of a generally nice bonus rather than a true bonus. Yeah, it's generally a double edged sword.
The actual relics themselves follow in something of the same vein as the Warlord traits. They're nothing dramatically outstanding or uniquely interesting, but for the most part they're inoffensive enough to work without too much backfiring. Despite all of this, for the most part it does read as being a bit more than just a handful of the same recycled tropes and general items here. There's at least enough of a unique spin on them to try and make them stand out well.
For starters, the first Chapter Relic worthy of mention is the Armour Indomitus. Along with a some surprisingly nice history suggesting it was effectively proto-Terminator armour from long before the Heresy (plus a rather direct reference in its name) the suit is a basic uber-armour buff. You get 2+ saves against standard weapons, but this is also backed up by a 6+ invulnerable save to help shrug off power blades. Now, while that might not sound like anything special, the real buff comes with the option for players to supercharge that invulnerable save for one turn, upgrading it to 2+. As additions go for relics, this is one I personally quite like. In terms of overall power it's well balanced, good and quite meaty but with a couple of intended weaknesses.
The real strength though comes in that timed addition, forcing the player to really consider just when and where they need to use it. After all, having to used while a Captain is being sandwiched between two Carnifexes might buy him some time for a squad of Terminators to get involved, but you might need to save it until something more pressing comes about. As such its one which still rewards careful timing and decisions over all else, and poor decisions will still come back to bite a player. Sure, it's simple but it's still something which rewards better experience and timing when it comes to using it.
The Burning Blade follows the trend of keeping to the same general design, but putting a few new spins on things. As a close combat weapon, it's a +3 Strength AP2 which causes Blind. Certainly quite a meaty weapon by anyone's standards, and deadly without going completely nuts. However, the real fun comes from a certain unique trait the labelled as "Incandescent" - this special rule allows for it to inflict more damage during the Assault Phase's conclusion. On the roll of a 1 on a D6, the wielder takes a single Strength 4 AP2 hit. It allows for there to be a chance of risk within this. Not much of a one, but for such a powerful weapon it's nice to see a little further backlash and risk exist for those using it. Plus, it fits with the weapon's background as well which, while being a little conflicted, is pretty good. The weapon itself actually links back to the Siege of Terra and the Vengeful Spirit itself.
Along with this, there's naturally a more long ranged weapon.This one isn't quite so unique or potentially fun as the other two, and remains a little less ambitious. Named the Primarch's Wrath, the weapon is effectively just a single boltgun with a few notable bonuses mounted atop of it. While still range "24, Strength 4 and AP 4, the weapon is Master-Crafted and is further buffed with the Shred special rule. Atop of this, it also has Salvo 2/5, meaning this is the rare occasion where a special character (one not wholly dedicated to being a sniper) can be an effective mass reaper of infantrymen. It makes them well suited to helping spearhead assaults and neutralizing enemy squads when operating alongside allied fire support units.
The next one worthy of note is the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant, which is another example of the book trying to put a good spin upon tired old items and their ideas. In this case it's the usual "12 inch Leadership boost we've seen quite a few times before now. However, rather than just boosting their Ld stat or claiming they can use an HQ choice's leadership quality, instead it makes them Fearless. Oh, and atop of this, we then have the fact the item causes the bearer to inflict Fear on anyone he attacks, and it also gives +1 to attacks while charging. This really seems to be another spearhead weapon more than anything else, but unlike the prior example there's a bit more merit to this one. It's intended to work far more closely with attacking units and is intended to serve as a major buff to squads, rather than just a token bonus.
The last two sadly aren't quite as fun overall, as they do lack the same ambition (or at least open effort to put a new spin on things) as the others. For example, The Shield Eternal really is just a storm shield with an added bonus granting Adamantium Will and Eternal Warrior. Personally, i've very mixed feelings about this. For starters, the shield itself is very much equal to the others in terms of overall quality and strength. At the same time though, it does play into a few irritating issues. The foremost among these being the determination to give any and all independent characters Eternal Warrior as a special rule, prioritizing them over all others. It's hard to say it's bad, or that it's far from useful in any way, but it's also extraordinarily unoriginal and sadly encouraging bad habits.
The Teeth of Terra meanwhile is really just a second close combat weapon. It's hardly poorly made or badly put together, but ultimately it just comes down to being a chainsword on steroids. Along with granting +2 Strength and AP3, the weapon's main benefit lies in its special rules, with Concussive, Specialist Weapon and Rampage all affecting it. This really seems to be one more dedicated to bringing down hordes, perhaps understandably with the Burning Blade's use in slaying heavy infantry and powerful beings. With Rampage added into the mix, this allows the wielder to have an additional D3 attacks, and a solid chance of Concussing its foes. Good for crowd control really, but even when alongside the others here it appears fairly one note.
There's little else to really be said. For the most part these are competently thought out and certainly a cut above the bad ones we've seen in prior books. They're serviceable and for the most part fun to use, so take that for what it's worth even if they aren't the most outstandingly original weapons ever devised.
Finally we have the units themselves on this list, and for the most part this really is a case of second verse, same as the first. From having had a chance to compare statistics, ideas and costs from prior books, there isn't a dramatically huge amount which has been rewritten here. While many people expected there to be a number of sweeping changes, from boosting Lyander's points costs substantially to completely reworking Sternguard, there's not too much been done. What we have here is more a case of substantial tweaking rather than vastly changing the whole book, and having read the codex through it's actually benefited it quite well. You really get the impression here that writers stopped to look back on their past efforts with this book, took account of past failings and while they have boosted several factors substantially, they had enough restraint not to pull a second Codex: Craftworld Eldar.
The most notable change is the removal of Master of the Forge from the codex. This was met with the ire of many iron clad gamers wanting to thematically represent their chapters, especially those with close ties to Ferrus Manus or Rogal Dorn. However, The benefit of this actually comes in the form of the buffs granted to Techmarines. While each unit's overall cost has been increased, Techmarines are effectively Masters, having been granted their full stats line and access to Conversion Beamers and servo-harnesses. This makes them more readily used and widely available, and given how many armies tended to avoid using them, hopefully this will mean we'll see more of them in the future. While the Iron Hands might have lost access to an Iron Father leading them, they now have a lot more of them they can field doing a hell of a lot of damage.
Keeping on the subject of HQ choices and hard hitting units, Captains now have Chapter Master simply as an upgrade. While some people have celebrated this fact, it's something I personally see as a little more irksome. Without that same improvement, without so many differences between the two, it really makes Chapter Masters seem less like a cut above Captains than a simple chosen among them. While this does of course mean that Captains themselves are much more effective in war thanks to upgrades, it's still a frustrating point to see a traditionally superior rank lowered to little more than a glorified power mushroom. Yeah, it's more of a traditional criticism than a critical one, but it's still an irritating point.
Something which proves to be an equally problematic upgrade is the use of vehicles as squadrons now. Predators, Whirlwinds and Vindicators can all be taken as squadrons of three, which is a definite improvement and overall upgrade even if they can be blown to bits a little easier. Fielding nine tanks at once in a marine army is certainly an interesting choice but still befits certain forces thematically, though there are a few odd snags. Foremost among these is the fact that, upon just one tank blowing up, the entire squadron immediately disbands. Yeah, so the few perks and bonuses which give these squadrons a real edge immediately evaporate and loses you half the reasons you'd have for taking them. As one example, three Vindicators firing as one can create a single Apocalyptic blast template, so if one happens to get railgun'd you immediately lose access to that. Yeah, not a fan of such massive templates being in standard 40K and all, but the fact they're so easily lost is just downright frustrating.
Dreadnoughts meanwhile have gained a substantial buff. Along with gaining four attacks basic, they also now have access to Chapter Traits. This means that even the generic dreadnoughts now have much more substantial use on the battlefield and far better durability in some cases.
Finally, the most notable changes are a few minor tweaks to a lot of the specialist troops in terms of their equipment and posts costs. Some of these are fairly simple and straight forwards, such as Devastators gaining access to Grav-Cannons and Assault Marines now wielding a chainsaw which would give Ash Williams envy. Nothing too overly remarkable here and they feel like a natural evolution of what came before.
At the same time, Terminators and Assault Marines have differed in terms of points costs. Assault Squads now cost 70 points, but they have to buy Jump Packs, so this evens out unless you want more footslogging fodder intended to charge the enemy at close range. They also don't get any dedicated transports for free, meaning players are more reliant upon a certain bonus to a certain formation to make full use of them. So, not great overall, but with a wider variety of upgrades they're arguably a little more flexible in some regards.
Terminators meanwhile benefit far better in this, with the points of individual units being reduced by ten points. This is about time as, given the current state of the game, Tactical Dreadnought Armour isn't nearly as effective as it once was. There's not much else which is said here, only that it's more viable to release them into the battlefield over a few more generally useful options. Plus it means taking upgrades with them a little easier to justify, especially those lovely close combat weapons.
Gun to my head, i'd honestly have to say that this codex isn't nearly that bad mechanically. It's not going to win any awards and there are still the odd moments where poor editing does make your eyes roll, but it's still a relatively well rounded book. There's not too many obvious weaknesses and flaws, and mechanically it's relatively well balanced, with some power but much more reserved and less reliant upon sheer raw unit stats than many others. It doesn't quite go enough in some respects and it does read as if some chapters might have benefited from a little more flexibility, but on the whole it's still pretty fun to use.
While prior editions are definitely worth picking up over this one, if you're wondering if Space Marines are still worth using on the tabletop, they very much are. Definitely take a look at this one if you're after getting back into 40k or even just sticking with the game for another edition.