The Emperor’s Spears are one of the newer Chapters both in and out of the 40k universe. In the fluff they’re from the 25th Founding, in the middle of M40, making them slightly younger than Commander Dante. Out here in the real world, they originally appeared in the How to Paint Space Marines guide back in 2004, but didn’t really get fleshed out until the publication of Spear of the Emperor in 2018 (we are big fans of the book here at Goonhammer). The Spears got some rules in 8th edition as a pack-in for the special edition release of Spear of the Emperor in 2019, a custom chapter tactic released a few months before the second 8th edition Space Marine Codex called Redden the Earth, which gave them the ability to score 2 hits in melee each time they rolled an unmodified 6 to hit. However, what this article focuses on is the new version of the Chapter’s rules included in White Dwarf 460.
The Emperor’s Spears are an Ultramarines successor, and get access to all of those rules (which we covered in Start Competing: Ultramarines Tactics). They additionally have their own Chapter Tactic, two unique stratagems, and three unique relics.
- Melee prowess. The Spears do very well out of the combination of their Chapter tactic and stratagems to bring some real pain in melee.
- Ultramarines Successors. Ultramarines aren’t a natural parent for a melee-focused army, but the Spears benefit from getting their own stratagems to give them melee punch while also being able to make use of the flexibility and depth of the Ultramarines codex for shooting support and defensive trickery, and the excellent Standard of Macragge Inviolate.
- No named characters. The Emperor’s Spears have no access to named characters, which puts them at a disadvantage compared to the other “mini-supplement” successors like the Crimson Fists or Flesh Tearers.
- Ultramarines Successors. Yes this is both a positive and a negative. Although the Ultramarines’ suite of stratagems and relics is very strong, and offers a lot more to the Spears than you might immediately imagine, there will definitely be Spears players out there who prefer the directness and focus of the Blood Angels or White Scars codexes over the more measured playstyle encouraged by the Ultramarines book, and will mourn the loss of being able to choose.
Chapter Tactic: Redden the Earth
Redden the Earth is not really a Chapter Tactic of its own; instead it’s just a white-labelled combo of the Whirlwind of Rage and Hungry for Battle Successor Chapter Tactics, which gives the Spears roughly the same feel as before (unmodified hit rolls of a 6 cause an additional hit on a turn when an Emperor’s Spears unit charges, is charged, or intervenes, plus a the boost of getting +1 to Advance and Charge rolls). As melee tactics go this is a reasonably strong combo, and gives the Spears both more ability to get to melee in the first place and some extra oomph when they get there.
There are three traits for Emperor’s Spears, in line with the other secondary Chapters like the Crimson Fists and Flesh Tearers.
- Bloodied but Unbroken gives your Warlord +1 Attack, plus an extra Attack if he has fewer than his full starting number of wounds left. B
- Tribal Heritage gives your Warlord a free re-roll once per battle plus the ability to use Epic Deed stratagems on your Warlord for 0 CP once per game. B
- Sentinel of the Veil gives your Warlord a 6″ Heroic Intervention move, plus the ability to always fight first in the Fight phase. B
Bs across the board here feels about right – none of these are better than say, Rites of War or Imperium’s Sword from the base Space Marines codex, but none of them are actually bad either. There is one thing to bear in mind here, though. In the Blood Angels Codex, the “get a second Warlord trait” stratagem specifically calls out Flesh Tearers as getting their own traits, and not Blood Angels ones. This was a change for the 9th edition supplements – the analogous stratagem in the Imperial Fists book doesn’t include that wording, and tells you you must use Imperial Fists traits when using it, and so Crimson Fists cannot double up using their own trait list but have to use an Imperial Fists one instead. The reason for bringing this up is that Emperor’s Spears are in the latter position, because the Ultramarines book has the 8th-edition style wording. This is a good thing in one sense – because it means you also get access to the Ultramarines traits by a side route, and there’s some good ones in there – but it does change how you need to plan to get traits on characters. If you want an Emperor’s Spears trait it will need to be on your Warlord as his “primary” trait (and your secondary one, if you pick one, will be Ultramarines), or you need to assign one with Hero of the Chapter.
As well as Warlord traits, the Emperor’s Spears get two stratagems, and they’re both great.
- Skovakarah Uhl Zarun! – 1CP/2CP – Used in the Fight phase to buff a Core or Character unit that charged, was charged, or intervened. They get +1 to wound rolls on melee attacks, for either 1CP for 5 models or fewer, or 2CP for more. A
- Fight as Brothers – 2CP – Pricey, but gets an interesting effect – you pick one of your infantry units to fight, and pick one enemy unit that it is in Engagement Range with that unit and one or more other Emperor’s Spears infantry units. Until the end of the phase, all Emperor’s Spears Infantry units get re-rolls to hit for melee attacks against that enemy unit. There’s quite a lot of conditions here, but it’s a powerful buff – you can basically assign Chapter Master style rerolls to every Spears Infantry unit in combat with a particular enemy unit (including characters), and well, it’s not like Space Marines are lacking for strong infantry melee units right now. B+
The Emperor’s Spears get three relics, and of course can access the normal Special-Issue Wargear in the Ultramarines supplement.
- Druidic Talisman can be given to a Librarian or Chaplain and gives you a once-per-turn re-roll on a psychic power attempt or to recite a litany. A really strong relic, particularly for a Master of Sanctity. A
- Beast-hide Cloak gives your character -1 to incoming damage. You don’t have access to a ton of ways to make a character really tough to get the most out of this, but it’s handy for dropping on a guy who doesn’t have more pressing offensive or buffing needs to keep him around a little longer. B
- Horizon Blade replaces a power sword with one that’s S+2, AP-4, 2 damage, and bumps up to D3 and AP-5 in a turn in which you make a charge move or perform a heroic intervention. Competitive with the Burning Blade from the base codex if you want to add some melee punch to a power sword-wielding character like the Indomitus Captain. B
The Spears don’t have any units of their own, and can’t take the Ultramarines unique ones, so we’re just left to look at units that work well with their playstyle.
Bladeguard Veterans/Vanguard Veterans/Assault Terminators
In all three cases here the concept is the same and you’re really just choosing between different flavours. Spears buff your punching power, these units take advantage of it, and in particular they are all INFANTRY and so they can benefit from Fight as Brothers. The potential ceiling on a unit of lightning claw/shield Vanguard Veterans making use of re-rolls to hit with exploding 6s and +1 to wound is disgusting. An honourable mention for Assault Centurions, too; this is one of the few ways to get them re-rolls in 9th edition and so it may well be worth taking another look at them.
These don’t benefit hugely from what the Spears themselves bring, but they do get a lot out of being Ultramarines, and it’s important to remember that foundation. Grav-cannon Devastators under Seal of Oath (remember, it’s Special-Issue Wargear!) are particularly nasty for just reaching out and deleting a key target, and Spears can keep them on the move thanks to the Ultramarines’ Scions of Guilliman doctrine.
The basic Intercessor isn’t particularly sexy in 9th edition, but they do have a good home in Ultramarines, where Seal of Oath and Scions of Guilliman can give them real shooting oomph, and they can take advantage of a few good stratagems as well. Spears add to that by buffing the thing that differentiates them from the humble Tactical Marine, i.e. having extra melee capabilities, and again it’s worth remembering that they are INFANTRY which means they can be quite handy even if just to throw into a combat to turn on Fight as Brothers.
Playing Emperor’s Spears
Early in the game your goal is to maximize your buffing abilities to try and provide overwhelming firepower that allows you pick off your opponent’s key units, while closing in for a charge with your melee-focused second wave. The “battle pile” is still alive and well with Ultramarines and Spears can benefit by playing much the same, particularly in the early turns. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Rapid Redeploy can give you a big advantage, allowing you to feint in deployment or reposition to nullify losing the roll-off and preserve your forces for later in the game.
Once you feel you have made optimal use of your buffing abilities and taken down a hard target or two with shooting, you can then push out and start up the warchant as your Spears rush into melee. It’s likely that you have a less purely combat-focused army than might be the case in say, Blood Angels, so preserving your push threats until they can really get stuck in is important.
The possible need to bunch up early on can feel like a liability against more maneuverable armies, especially compared to the rapid all-over-the-board style of the White Scars, but what you lose from being slower is offset by the additional shooting power that the Ultramarines options bring.
We haven’t seen any Emperor’s Spears lists hitting tournaments yet, but we came up with something that we think emphasises the core strengths we’ve talked about previously.
Emperor’s Spears Battalion Detachment – 0 CP
HQ: Primaris Master of Sanctity on Bike – 140pts – Prayers: Litany of Hate, Recitation of Focus, Catechism of Fire, Relics: Druidic Talisman, Hero of the Chapter: Wise Orator
HQ: Reiver Lieutenant – 75 – Relics of the Chapter: Seal of Oath
EL: Primaris Chief Apothecary – 95 – Hero of the Chapter: Selfless Healer
EL: Bladeguard Chapter Ancient – 105 – Warlord: Rites of War, Relics of the Chapter/Honoured by Macragge: Standard of Macragge Inviolate, Exemplar of the Chapter: Nobility Made Manifest
EL: 5 Bladeguard Veterans – 175
EL: 5 Bladeguard Veterans – 175
EL: 9 Vanguard Veterans with lightning claws, storm shields and jump packs – 252
TR: 10 Intercessors with bolt rifles – 200
TR: 5 Infiltrators 120
TR: 5 Infiltrators 120
FA: 5 Inceptors with two plasma exterminators – 275
HS: 5 Devastators with grav-cannons and grav-amps, armorium cherub – 135
HS: 5 Devastators with grav-cannons and grav-amps – 130
Total points – 1,997
Starting CP – 6
The basic theory here is to form up a classic Ultramarines-style battle pile, with the Ancient, Chaplain, and Lieutenant powering the core of Intercessors and grav-cannon Devastators to take down a hard target early on with Seal of Oath before the Vanguard and Bladeguard Veterans crash into melee. Nobility Made Manifest on the Ancient makes charging the castle a tough prospect since it enables the rest of the Spears to make a heroic intervention. If you’re concerned by the lack of CP, you could also switch this for Adept of the Codex to try and regenerate some each turn.
Click here to return to our larger guide on Codex Space Marines. If you have any questions or feedback, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.