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He needs help picking which chapter to choose & which units to buy.
any comments allowed
It's as much personal preference as anything else. If he's not sure, have him create his own chapter. That way he can some some time/money and just swap codexes if he doesn't like his first one.
Yes it really doesn't matter which chapter you pick especially when you are first starting out. Just find one that looks good to you and isn't very hard to paint.
Bingo, the DIY chapter with swappable Codices lets you experiment with many different playstyles without having to shell out for tons of models. You can get up to 6 armies in 1 (SM, BA, DA, BT, SW, CSM), each with a good bit of variety themselves.
I'd also recommend playing some test games before spending too much on units you may end up never using. Proxy with borrowed models, coins, plastic army men, legos, whatever. Get a feel for what you want before dropping major coin and go from there.
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The choice of chapter is definitely a personal thing - the first thing I'd get him to do is to spend some time looking over the background material to see if any of the existing chapters strikes him as interesting. If he's going for his own chapter, it's really just a matter of picking an emblem, working out a colour scheme and experimenting to find out what sort of playing style he likes best. The rest builds from there.
Models are much easier to recommend:
For the absolute basics, he should get a few boxes of Tactical Marines and a Captain box. Both are basically essential in every Marine army ever built.
A Devastator box gets him his heavy weapons, another perennial must-have.
Some scouts are a good choice that's almost certain to be used unless he's got something against using them.
Beyond that a Rhino or two is an extremely common addition, and it's hard to go wrong with a dreadnought - almost every Marine player uses a few.
Agree with Wraith. If cash is not a major issue i'd recommend one of the big starter kits, with a few squads and a couple of vehicles and a HQ, at a large discount, its loads cheaper in the long run.
Jager bombs. Very efficient at wiping out friend or foe.
As others have said, it depends on what chapter looks cool. Working from an established chapter is easier on the newbie than going the DIY route. I speak from personal experience on that one.
It also depends on what style or army you like. An overall ROUGH assessment is below. Bear in mind, none of these are the ONLY way to run any of these armies, but the "signature" units and abilities will give you a GENERAL overview:
Vanilla marines (Ultramarines, Crimson Fists, Imperial Fists, Raven Guard, White Scars, Salamanders, etc.): Mech or bike-heavy armies, or both. Salamanders like flamers, meltaguns, and anything else that says "fiery death."
Space Wolves: Cavalry leading footslogging horde, peppered with terminator models here and there.
Blood Angels: Jump-pack marine swarms.
Dark Angels: Shooty armies, or Deathwing/Ravenwing (terminator or bike/speeder-heavy armies)
Black Templars: Land Raider spam filled with terminators and other close-combat goodness.
Again, that's not ALL the above armies can do, just what they are most known for, or do best. For modeling purposes, go with the "vanilla" marines, as other than the special character here and there, pretty much any old "normal" box of marines/marine-related vehicles will do, as opposed to the other "separate" chapters, all of which have their own books, their own rules, and their own unique models, which might be harder to find at discounted rates or on EBay.