Space Wolves 8th Edition Codex: Early Thoughts

We have a new book with fancy relics, stratagems and a whole host of units. Here are my thoughts after three days with the book.

2 Ways to Play

The first thing that struck me with this Codex is that a Space Wolf army can be built in one of two ways: Space Wolf flavoured Space Marines, or Werewolf Barbarians. I don't suggest that the Codex specifically forces you to make the choice between these two army styles. But if you are looking to build an internally consistent and functioning army that is somewhat competitive, you have to decide from the get-go whether you want to play traditional Space Marine Space Wolves, or the modern incarnation with all manner of beasts and cavalry. 

Space Marines with Fenrisian Characteristics

This style of army is one for the Long Fangs among us. Those of us unfortunate enough to have collections with Space Marines in power armour. It's mostly going to resemble the armies we fielded in 5th Ed: Grey hunters, Blood Claws, and storm shield & thunder hammer Terminators probably being ferried about in Rhinos and Land Raiders with Long Fangs holding down the rear with fire support. I think an army like this is actually pretty viable in this edition. We have access to almost all the units vanilla Marines get, including all the new Primaris units and the fancy Cataphractii and Tartaros patterns of armour, but on top of that we get the option to give our Hunters chainswords for free, and a free +1 to hit in the first round of a combat, whether we charged or were charged. All of a sudden we've got an army that's hitting on 2's across the board with power fists and thunder hammers hitting on 3's on our regular troops. 

Sprinkle in a unit of Thunderwolf Cavalry and some Fenrisian Wolves and you've got an army that looks great, is rather fluffy, and could be rather effective in a not-too-competitive environment. 

Viking Werewolves in Spaaaaaaace!

In the 42nd millennium the Space Wolves have... changed. After Magnus the Red returned to Real Space to seek his revenge on the VIth Legion, the Wulfen of the 13th Company came hot on his heels. These bestial mutant savages were quickly tracked down and snapped up by the Space Wolves and deployed on the fields of battle to great effect!

Building an army around the Wulfen is a very tempting prospect. These guys are brutal in combat, can advance and charge in the same turn, and give out handy re-roll charge and +1 Attack buffs to friendly Space Wolf units within 6". Put some characters on Thunderwolves, add a screen of Fenrisian Wolves and supplement it with Thunderwolf Cavalry, and all of a sudden, you've got an army that is fast, tough and hits like a freight train. Mind you, you'll have no shooting to speak of, nor will you have many models on the table. Take that chess clocks!

Por Que No Las Dos?

So why do we have to choose? Because you're playing Space Marines. Elite Marines at that. You simply can't take enough power-armoured bodies to be worthwhile as well as enough special units to keep them alive long enough to get into melee. One or two units from each style here and there can work, but going for a 'balanced' list just won't work. Grey Hunters and Blood Claws are too slow to keep up with the Thunderwolves and Wulfen; and Rhinos are too expensive, and Drop Pods... the less said the better. Similarly, a unit of Wulfen or Thunderwolf Cavalry on their own in a Wolf Marines list run the risk of going too hard, too fast and getting isolated. 

Whichever style you choose, though, you're going to want to get stuck in to melee and tear your enemies limb from limb.

Not Much Has Changed

The second thing that stood out to me was that not much has changed in terms of points cost from the Index. This is OK in my opinion. Space Wolves held their own fairly well with the Index, so now you can really just keep doing what you were doing with the added bonus of stratagems, relics and warlord traits. Overall these elements should give the Wolves a boost in battle without having to radically change your style or list. Unfortunately, this means that this book won't be a meta-buster. Don't expect to catch people off guard with a new fandangled trick.

A fun twist on the Imperial Soup theme for the Space Wolves would be to bust out those old Leman Russ battle tanks! Stick a Spearhead Detachment of these bad boys in your back line and watch the confusion and revulsion on your opponent's face. Russ has returned. In tank form!

I've only had the book for a couple of days and haven't had a chance to play test yet,
but I hope to get some games done and do some analysis.
Space Wolves aren't as popular as they once were and tactical advice is thin on the ground these days. Next time I'll go through some of the trusty units and see what's what.


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