So, after seeing the mixed reaction to the temporary errata that's tiding us over for a supplement, I started thinking about how GW has consistently struggled to make a "good" Space Wolves codex since 5th edition. And when thinking about what I thought Space Wolves were supposed to do (Or at the very least, what they did when I bought them at the tail end of 5th edition), I had a bit of an awkward realization; I couldn't find a single-sentence guiding statement for Space Wolves armies that doesn't tread on other Chapters' toes.
So, let's look at the other specialist Marine chapters, treating Codex Marines as a baseline.
-Blood Angels are fast and strong in close combat.
-Dark Angels sit on the backline and shoot things.
-Deathwatch are elites prepared for anything.
Each of these statements guides how the armies play and what mechanics they get. Blood Angels are fast and good in close combat, so their chapter tactics reflect that, and they have better access to Jump Pack units, as well as a faster predator. Regular Dark Angels get bonuses when shooting if they don't move, and their 1st and 2nd companies shore up the weaknesses inherent in a gunline. Deathwatch are pricy, more elite, and have their special ammunition.
So, with all that out of the way... What do Space Wolves do?
Post-5th edition, we've mostly been a gimmick faction- Thunderwolf Deathstars in 7th, Wulfen bombs in 8th. But 5th edition space wolves were different. We shot better than Blood Angels (But not better than the shootiest factions*), and we chopped better than most shooty factions (but not better than a dedicated melee specialist like the Blood Angels). Okay, that's something. But here's the problem; What we've got here is a faction that's average- Which is what Codex: Space Marines is supposed to be. So now GW has two flavor of Marines competing to be the best at being Generalists; One is inevitably going to win out. In 5th edition, Tactical Marines and Devastators were dreadfully overpriced, so Space Wolves stepped in. But when later editions made a Space Marine codex that was more balanced, Space Wolves suffered. 7th edition blood claws were a poor man's Assault Marines, while Grey Hunters either had a special rule (counter attack) that was very niche, or paid an absurd 2 points to get their Chainswords back.
Now, of course, you can argue that it should be a spectrum from Choppiest to Shootiest. So Blood Angels chop better but shoot worse than Space Wolves, who chop better but shoot worse than Codex Marines, who chop better (by virtue of being more mobile) but shoot worse than Dark Angels. But that's a pretty narrow niche we're filling**, and it's not surprising that GW has struggled to make Space Wolves actually work well there.
So I guess after all this talking, my question to my brothers at the Fang is, "What are Space Wolves supposed to do?" Because I'm kind of stumped.
*Yes, I know the current chapter tactics for Dark Angels are only a few editions old. That's a large part of why I mostly knew them as a gimmick faction prior to that point, focused on either the Ravenwing, or the Deathwing. Why take Green Marines, when they didn't actually do anything special?
** Tellingly, the main facet of our chapter tactic for most of 8th was mathematically worse for close combat in most cases***, but it didn't leave room for a bonus to shooting.
*** When the baseline for marines in close combat is hit on 3+, wound on a 3+, 4+, or 5+, adding one to wound rolls is superior to adding one to hit rolls. That's just math. While things were different if you had a really high strength weapon that already wounded on a 2+, such things were not terribly common.
Edited by Squark, 08 October 2020 - 04:47 PM.