Wandering around the mixed bag of advice for the fledgling 40K player, I see a lot of people recommending Space Marines and honestly, this is a mistake. 3 years ago I would agree in a second, but things have changed. Space Marines aren't the all-around decent and forgiving army they used to be. They've become very complicated and just being decent with them has become more of a challenge.
First, they have become a synergy army. In the old days, you had the standard list or you had traits and drawbacks. You could combine them as you wanted to build an army any way you liked. Along came the 5th edition dex and traits were gone. In their place came chapter tactics and the special characters that brought them. The problem with this system is you can only get the trait with the character. This can be somewhat complicated for a new player, and limits their choices.
They have lost the flexibility they once had. Their old traits let them do more then they can these days. Again, I'm not saying its gone, but its harder for a rookie to find. In the old days you could easily adapt an army to your playing style. Now it involves buying more models (a great marketing idea, but again bad for the starting player) and sometimes severly altering an army. I think this is best reflected in the Tactical squad. A tac squad could use a trait to get an extra attack by finding that cc weapon that they have now lost somewhere in the void (Found 'em, thanks-Space Wolves) Now, a tac squad is basically a shooty element only. They can gain combat tactics abilities (which are great by the way) but this requires a special character and only opens up certain options. A starter army should allow greater options for the rookie to find the tactics and playstyle they like best.
I can go on, but i don't want this to degenerate into a "I hate Space Marines" rant. Space marines are still a decent army, but there are ones out there that are just plain better for the rookie. In our next instalment, I will discuss what I feel has become the best starter army and why.