Horus Heresy Units of the Astartes: Troops

Welcome back to Goonhammer’s series for aspiring Praetors. We know that the Horus Heresy system can seem intimidating to players unfamiliar with its particular quirks, but this series aims to equip you with everything you’ll need to play out epic clashes on the battlefields of the far future with your very own army. In this series, we’ll be walking you through how to build your force and command it to glory, including everything from units to tactics to lead your army to victory. 

Welcome to our new series on the units of the Legiones Astartes! This series will serve as a prelude to our deeper dives on each legion. In these articles we’ll cover the units that every Legiones Astartes army can field, how they operate, how you might want to equip them, and what you want to point their guns/combat weapons at on the table.

Today we’re kicking things off by looking at Troops choices, taken from the Liber Astartes and Liber Hereticus books. Alongside this, we will also analyse the Dedicated Transport options, as these units appear in the same section of the books.

As you can see above, in the standard Force Organisation Chart, a Horus Heresy force will need two Troops choices to be “legal”. These must be “Compulsory” Troops choices. You can then take up to four additional Troops choices, for a maximum of six. Allied detachments, conversely, need a single Compulsory Troops choice.
Most Troops can fulfil this Compulsory role, unless it specifically says otherwise, or has the Support Squad special rule. This will be considered in further detail below.
Dedicated Transports are vehicles which can be taken as transport options for squads if this is included in their rules profile. There are common Dedicated Transports – the Rhino being the most ubiquitous, while some other vehicles can have the option of becoming Dedicated Transports for certain units, e.g. a Spartan Assault Tank may be a dedicated transport for a Terminator Squad. A Dedicated Transport takes up no Force Organisation slot, but only the unit that this transport was bought for can begin the game embarked within it, along with any independent characters that join the unit. Once its squad disembarks, the Transport can then act normally, including picking up other squads during the game and moving them around.

Troops Choices

Troops choices are the units that make up the bulk of most armies – at least in terms of bodies on the table, not always in points! There are seven different Troops choices available to all Space Marine armies, each bringing something different to the table. There are some common special rules and upgrades between these units as well:
  • Heart of the Legion: While the unit has at least half of its models within 6″ of an objective the entire unit gains Feel No Pain (6+) and Stubborn. If the unit already had Feel No Pain (i.e. included an apothecary) then that FNP is increased by 1. So throw an Apothecary in a unit with this rule, sit on an objective with a 4+ FNP after save, and become Stubborn to not run away or get pinned as easily, ensuring you’ll be incredibly difficult to shift.
  • Line Sub Type: These are the only scoring units in your army. Unlike other games, only Line units are able to take, hold, and deny objectives, making them very important to field to be able to score points and win games. Some other units gain this sub type through Rites of War but they’re most commonly on your Troops (but not all of them!).
  • Artificer Armour: A common upgrade on most (if not all) infantry units for space marine sergeants/unit leaders is artificer armour. It’s just about always 10 points and gives that model a 2+ armour save instead of the 3+ armour save most of the unit will have. This is basically an automatic upgrade. It means you can choose to tank higher AP weapons on a 2+ save instead of taking lots of 3+ and in duels are more likely to get an armour save against many weapons (assuming your opponent doesn’t roll their rending/breaching). It’s a small cost for what could be a lot of durability. That said you want to be careful about choosing to take so many saves on your unit leader; unless joined by another character many space marine units have a low Leadership characterstic – only 7 or 8, while the sergeant’s will be higher. Taking that wound and losing the higher point of Ld leaves your unit far more vulnerable to things like Pinning and Morale. If another character has joined the unit, especially a high profile one like a Praetor or Consul, then you can try and tank as many wounds as possible on that 2+ until you fail it, and potentially save numerous marines because of it. Or you roll a 1 on the first roll. Either can happen.
  • Legion Vexilla: Simply add 1 to the number of wounds caused for determining which side won in combat. A great bonus for any close combat unit. It also allows the unit to fall back 1D6 less than normal (so 1D6 for Infantry, 2D6 for cavalry) and stops them from running off the table too keeping them safer and closer to where you want them on the table if they fail a morale check.
  • Augury Scanner: A worthwhile upgrade on just about any unit that can take it. This little scanner lets the owning unit ignore the 24″ limit to Night Fight shooting which by itself would make it worth it. Also, enemy units cannot deploy within 18″ while infiltrating, keeping enemy units further back. Situationally useful – a unit with a scanner can make an Intercept reaction against enemy units, without expending any of your Reaction points; an army of units full of scanners are just going to light up enemy units arriving from reserve.
  • Nuncio Vox: So long as the unit is on the table and not in a transport or vehicle you can re-roll the scatter dice for weapons or deployment of a unit so long as the model with the vox can draw line of sight to that point on the board. Also ignore the -1LD dealt by Night Fight.

Tactical Squad. Credit: Rockfish
Tactical Squad. Credit: Rockfish

Legion Tactical Squad

The most basic squad in the army list and the first Heart of the Legion unit here. Tactical Squads are equipped with only bolters and bolt pistols with no options for heavier or more specialised guns. They are Line and so are one of the cheapest units that can take and hold an objective at only 100 points for 10 marines before any upgrades.
To help make up for lack of heavier weapons they have Fury of the Legion, allowing the unit to fire one additional shot  their bolters if they remained stationary in the Movement phase. Bolters are Rapid Fire weapons so at their max 24″ range they would fire two shots and within 12″ fire three. Suddenly a humble unit of 10 marines firing as many as 30 shots of S4 bolter fire can really put the hurt on.
For close combat Tactical marines do have a few options, being able to take either a normal bayonet, a chain bayonet, and the choice to take chainswords. The bayonet and chain bayonet are notably the cheaper options at 1 and 2 points per model, respectively, while the chainsword is much more expensive at 5 points per marine, making them 50% more expensive each. But which is the better option? Some thoughts:
  • Bayonets are two handed weapons so they won’t get the additional attack from their bolt pistols, but they do increase the bearer’s strength by 1, meaning they’ll wound other marines on 3s instead of 4s.
  • Chain bayonets also have the Shred rule so will re-roll all failed wound rolls too, making them even more deadly and reliable.
  • Chainswords do not increase the bearer’s strength at all but have the benefit of giving +1A and also have Shred so are still re-rolling wound rolls. Generally speaking, +1 Attack is almost always better from a statistical standpoint than +1 strength. Mathematically, Chainswords are about twice as good at pushing wounds through as Bayonets, but at more than 2x the price increase.
The few upgrades the unit can take are the same that most infantry units can: Nuncio-vox, augury scanner, and legion vexilla. The scanner is often a waste on a unit with max 24″ shooting, the vexilla is nice if you expect to be in combat, and the nuncio vox is always good if you’re taking either a lot of artillery or having things Deep Strike. The unit’s sergeant is allowed a few wargear options however, with the simplest being artificer armour to increase its save to a 2+ for a harder-to-kill marine, especially in challenges (opponent depending). They can take a combi-weapon or a plasma, volkite, or flame pistol as well as melee weapons: chainsword, heavy chainsword, power weapon, power fist, or lighting claw. Also, melta bombs for some tank-slapping.
I like to keep my tactical squads on the cheap side, maybe one of the bayonet options if I want to push them up the table and often give the sergeant a close combat weapon of some kind just for a little flexibility, but otherwise this unit is here to be cheap.

Mk6 Despoiler Squad – Credit: Colin Ward

Legion Despoiler Squad

When tactical marines swap their bolters for chainswords they become despoilers. They are still Heart of the Legion and Line but instead of waltzing down the table firing bolter shells they’ll usually want to get into close combat to make use of their chainswords.
That said, they actually do have a few more options (all close combat-oriented) than tactical marines do. Any model in the unit can swap their chainsword for a heavy chainsword at 2 points per model, or a second bolt pistol for 1 point. For every 5 models in the unit, one may swap their chainsword instead for a power weapon or charnabal weapon, as well as swapping their bolt pistol for a plasma, volkite, or flame pistol. So a unit of 20 of these could rock around with 4 power weapons plus whatever wargear you want to give your sergeant, turning them into a real close combat threat for relatively cheap. The vexilla becomes a much easier choice on this unit to help with that combat resolution too.
To top it all off they also have Spite of the Legion, an ability which gives the unit one additional attack on the charge if they unit they charge into was pinned, falling back, or does not include any Character or Chosen Warrior models. Remember though that sergeants have the Character sub-type so you’re going to want their target to be pinned or falling back to make the best use of this. Running them alongside a support squad of rotor cannons could be the easiest way to cause pinning, or backed up by some snipers to try and remove any Characters before going in.

Blood Angel Dawnbreaker Cohort. Credit: Jack Hunter

Legion Assault Squad

Assault squads are the fastest Troops choice in your army. These are also a Line and so they can take and hold objectives but are not Heart of the Legion, so they won’t gain any of the other benefits while sitting on said objectives. An Assault Squad consists of 10 assault marines with jump packs, bolt pistols, and chainswords at 145 points and can take up to ten more models in the unit at 12 points per model.
Assault Squad marines come equipped with Warhawk jump packs, which they can activate in the Movement phase to move 12″ instead of their normal 7″ and when they do, they can move over models and terrain freely during both the movement and charge phases. They can still Run as well when using jump packs, giving the unit a hefty 16″ move for the turn but can’t shoot or charge after as normal.
For every five models in the unit, one can swap out their chainsword for a heavy chainsword, power weapon, or charnabal weapon as well as a plasma, volkite, or flame pistol. The sergeant has the same options as Tactical and Despoiler sergeants do, with the additional option for taking twin lighting claws. With a few power or charnabal weapons in the unit and the sergeant kitted out they could definitely hit pretty hard when aimed at the right target.

Legion Breacher Squad

In stark contrast to the Assault marines you have the Breacher Squad. These heavily armoured troops are Line but also Heavy, restricting their movement but with the upside of allowing you to re-roll armour saves (not invulnerable) saves against template and blast weapons.
Coming in at 155 points for 10 models, with 15 pts per additional model, they are the most expensive of the Troops options, and in many ways the least flexible, though they make up for this by having the most staying power. They come with boarding shields for a 5+ Invulnerable save, making them even tougher to remove from the table by the normal means.
Breachers all come with bolters but can take Volkite chargers for +2 pts per model – well worth considering, as the damage increase is quite substantial. Additionally, 1 in 5 can take a meltagun, flamer, graviton gun, or lascutter in place of their bolter adding more flexibility to how the unit can perform. Graviton guns are unfortunately a short-ranged Heavy weapon with Blast so is incredibly hard to make use of since you won’t be able to move and fire it. For dedicated transport they cannot take a Rhino but instead can ride in the more heavily-armoured Land Raider Proteus. They can also take a Termite Assault Drill – worth considering if you want them to pop up and hold an area of ground partway up the board (it is also very thematic!)
Breachers are slow and expensive, but very good defensively. I would, however, keep a close eye on the cost. A 20 man squad is very pricy, and dedicated combat units can still blow a hole through it as their offensive capabilities are weak (no option for Bayonets, only the Sergeant with a power weapon, etc). Use them to hold an enemy up for a turn and save them with a counter-charge.

Tactical Support Squad w/ Rotor Cannons. Credit: Rockfish
Tactical Support Squad w/ Rotor Cannons. Credit: Rockfish

Legion Tactical Support Squad

This is where your special weapons live. A smaller unit of 5-10 models they come stock with flamers (yes, all of them) for 85 points for the first 5 and then another 12 points each. The whole unit can swap out their flamers for: rotor cannons, volkite chargers, volkite calivers, plasma guns, or meltaguns. They can also take chainswords at 5 points each.
This unit notably is not Line and is also a Support Squad meaning they can’t be taken to fill up any Compulsory slots in your force organisation. You’ll need to fill those slots out with other Troops instead which is fine since you want to make sure you have at least some Line units too.
My favourite option here is to take small units of meltaguns in rhinos to drive around the table being massive threats to enemy vehicles. In this game just one semi-lucky melta shot can blow up a tank, even the Kratos or Spartan but they are short ranged weapons so you want to make sure you can get them in close and fast, hence the Rhino. Rotor cannons are only S3 weapons but fire enough shots where it doesn’t matter too much and are, more importantly, Pinning weapons which can keep enemy units stuck in place across a game, or help your Despoiler squads do even more damage.

Sons of Horus Mk VI Tactical Squad – Credit: RichyP

Legion Reconnaissance Squad

The first of the two sneakier space marine units, the recon squad is a Line and Support Squad unit with the Skirmish sub type giving them a 3″ unit coherency instead of 2″ and +1 to their cover saves, both nice bonuses to a small squad They come stock with bolters and bolt pistols as well as shroud bombs making them count as 6″ further away than they actually are when shot at by enemy units. Counting as further away is a fantastic bonus as it means bolters will need to be within 18″ to be able to shoot at them, and within 6″ for rapid fire. They have the Infiltrate and Scout rules allowing them to much more freely deploy where they want before the game begins.
The unit starts relatively cheap considering what they come with at 85 points for five models and you pay 12 per recon marine after that, up to 10. They can take the same bayonets available to tactical squads for the same cost but more interestingly can swap out their bolters for a chainsword, shotgun, or nemesis bolter (a bolter sniper rifle). For the most part you’re loading up your squads with all nemesis bolters because that’s really why you’re taking them. It costs an extra 10 points per model but it’s a 72″ ranged bolter that hits at S5 with Rending 5+ and the Sniper and Pinning rules. Sniper allows the firing unit’s player to choose which models suffer wounds, letting you pick out sergeants, apothecaries, and support characters with ease and Pinning will help keep those units’ heads down too, stuck in place and not scoring objectives.
A recon marine can take a nuncio vox, vexilla, or augury scanner like other units here but the ones that are useful is the scanner and vox. You don’t want to get stuck with snipers during Night Fight and unable to fire their full distance, and with the unit’s ability to deploy more freely having a nuncio vox with another sight line could be very useful, depending on your force.

Credit: JD Reynolds

Legion Scout Squad

The cheaper, slightly faster, but less flexible of the two sneaky units is the Scout squad. This unit is only 65 points for 5 instead and cost only 8 points for each one after (up to 10) and are Skirmish, Support Squad, but they do not have the Line sub type. They also have an 8″ move but come with scout armour for a 4+ save instead of the 3+ of power armour.

They have the same options as Recon squads, bayonets, shotguns, nemesis bolters etc. Essentially they’re just a cheaper way to get those tools with a worse save and without being able to take and hold objectives. A unit of 5 with nemesis bolters will run you 115 points as opposed to a Recon squad at 135 with the same loadout. It’s a small difference but sometimes it makes all the difference in list building! Worth considering if you need to save those few points.

One thing to think about for both the scout and recon squads are the ability to infiltrate or outflank with some melta bombs to sneakily take out heavy enemy vehicles.

Blood Angels Assault Terminators. Primaris Scale. - Credit: Colin Ward
Blood Angels Assault Terminators. Primaris Scale. – Credit: Colin Ward

Legion Terminator Indomitus Squad (Expanded Unit)

Yes, these are Terminators. In a troops slot. I was as surprised as you are. These are found in the PDF document on Warhammer Community and are notably a Support Squad so no, you can’t just fill out your compulsory units with terminators (unless you want to run a specific Rite of War). It does mean you could fill a lot more of your army with Terminators while having different Elite units.

The Indomitus pattern armour is your standard, old school, plastic kit terminator armour. It was in production and use during the later Heresy and Siege of Terra, if “correct lore” is your thing. They have a 2+ save, 5+ invulnerable save, 2 wounds apiece and 2 attacks. Wargear-wise they come stock with a combi-bolters and power fists at 175 points for 5 models. Any number of models in the unit can swap their combi-bolter out for a combi-weapon or proteus storm shield (which increases their invulnerable save to 4+), as well as their power fist for a chainfist or thunder hammer as well as swapping both for a pair of lightning claws. For every five models in the unit you can have one swap out combi-bolter for a heavy flamer or assault cannon (which is only 3 shots). The squad leader can instead swap their power fist for a master-crafted power weapon of your choice. The only notable weapon option missing here from the plastic terminator kit is the cyclone missile launcher, so just be wary of that.

Dedicated Transports

These are transports bought for your units. They do not take up any force organisation slots but note that only the unit they were bought for can begin the game embarked within them, along with any independent characters that join the unit. The dedicated transports available to each unit are listed on their unit entry and some Rites of War may unlock different options as well.

Imperial Fists Veteran Tactical Squad with Rhino
Imperial Fists Veteran Tactical Squad with Rhino. Credit: Jack Hunter

Legion Rhino Transport

An icon of the Space Marines, the simple rhino is a cheap but effective transport for many infantry units. Very nearly all troops may choose a Rhino as a dedicated transport, transporting up to 12 models inside, as opposed to the 10 it used to carry (and still does in 40k). Getting to take a tactical squad with an attached apothecary inside is pretty big.
At a mere 35 points, the Rhino comes stock with a twin-linked bolter and smoke launchers. That’s it. This is a transport, not a gun platform. It is able to repair itself though, letting it forgo it’s shooting to repair an Immobilised result on a 4+ but doesn’t gain any Hull Points back.
You can equip a Rhion with a second twin linked bolter, combi-weapon, heavy bolter, heavy flamer, havoc launcher, or multi melta, but these can add up quick, especially the heavier weapons so be mindful. One upgrade you should often take is the dozer blade, letting you re-roll dangerous terrain rolls, taking your chances of immobilisation from 1/6 to 1/36, even though you could potentially repair the result in the shooting phase you want to make sure your metal boxes are driving across the table and not stuck in the back field.

Credit: Jonathon Reynolds

Legion Drop Pod

Drop Pods are mostly available to units through the Drop Pod Assault Rite of War, where they’re most useful anyways. Just like the Rhino it’s a cheap 35 points and comes stock with a twin linked bolter.
Drop Pods are placed into reserve to deep strike in during the game. Outside of the Drop Pod Assault they roll for reserves as normal. When taken as part of a Drop Pod Assault however all of your pods come in turn 1 in a devastating assault that puts your units close to the enemy from the outset. Once on the table all models must disembark, it can’t move, and is stuck in place (and units cannot embark back inside it, either(1). It is not an Assault Vehicle however so units won’t be able to charge after it arrives but you are able to get short ranged firepower like meltagun support squads right where they want to be.

Legion Dreadnought Drop Pod

Just like the one above but for dreadnoughts! Also, without a twin-linked bolter. It’s also 100 points instead of 35 because crash-landing a dreadnought (any type, including Leviathan) smack in the middle of the enemy force is devastating and very, very effective.

Terrax-Pattern Termites
Terrax-Pattern Termites. Credit: Pendulin

Legion Termite Assault Drill

Arguably the strangest but maybe coolest transport option in the marine armoury is the Termite Assault Drill. It doesn’t drive across the table or come in from high orbit like other transports, it burrows underground and drills up to the surface with up to 12 models inside for 80 points. Keep in mind, however, that outside of the Underworld Assault Rite of War, there are a very limited number of squads which can take this as a Dedicated Transport, such as Breachers.
Unlike a Drop Pod though it can move after coming onto the table and even has some nasty weapons stock with melta-cutters (a unique 6″ melta weapon with 3 shots) and two twin-linked bolters which can be subbed for twin-linked volkite chargers or heavy flamers.
Bringing in dedicated assault units or tactical support squads in a Subterranean Assault list helps get them close even quicker than a Rhino It’s the best of both worlds between a Rhino and Drop Pod; coming in mid-game where you need support but allowing the units inside to stay put if they need to for a turn for safety and moving up closer in range.


On a basic level, Troops are key units in any Age of Darkness force. You need to take two in a normal list using the force organisation chart shown at the top, and often you’ll want to take at least two more as well for more specialised units and some redundancy.

Dedicated Transports help get your units where you want them with relative safety, bringing more tactical options to the table but do cost you points as well. If you’re taking multiple of these transports you’ll have to weigh up if you’d rather not simply have more units on the table. This will depend on your own playstyle as well as other factors like your Legion choice, Rite of War, etc and there’s really not a wrong answer.

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