Start Competing: Space Marines Tactics

Strap in, kids, this is going to be a long one.

Space Marines are the iconic faction of Warhammer 40,000. The very origins of the setting lie with the Space Marines, beginning with the C100 release which existed prior to Rogue Trader, and then the iconic RTB01 Imperial Space Marines box which did so much to define the early look of 40k. There are very few 40k players who have never painted a Space Marine, and they remain the best-selling and most popular faction by a long way.

In 8th edition, they initially had something of a rough landing. Theirs was the first Codex released, and while it initially offered them a power boost which saw early event wins, it was clear even a couple of books later that the design philosophy had changed, and that stratagems like “your Land Speeder and your Whirlwind can get a cute little bonus if they’re both in line of sight of each other” were going to be eclipsed by “shoot your best unit twice” or “re-roll all hits and wounds and ignore range and line of sight.” The book wasn’t totally hopeless – right up until the end of its life, the maths-warping power of Roboute Guilliman and his aura of re-roll failed hits, re-roll failed wounds meant that you couldn’t just dismiss Marines completely – but it definitely felt like Marines were out of step with much of the rest of the game.

Enter Marines 2.0. In August 2019, the new Space Marine codex arrived, packed full of updated rules, a plethora of powerful new stratagems, and accompanied by no fewer than six “Codex Supplement” books representing each of the Codex-compliant Chapters – the Ultramarines, White Scars, Iron Hands, Raven Guard, Salamanders, and Imperial Fists. There were also, of course, a variety of new units and special characters, adding to the already full-to-bursting range of unit options available to the Adeptus Astartes. Not long afterwards, Psychic Awakening: Faith & Fury arrived, and with it another set of options for Marine characters, plus a demi-supplement for the Black Templars. This is not to forget, of course, that they also have specialist detachments from the Vigilus campaign still kicking around, plus a huge array of Forge World options.

This makes for a daunting piece to review. There are 76 datasheets in the base Space Marine codex, of which you will be amazed how many are competitively relevant, plus all the special characters and odd units that appear in the supplements, plus the additional abilities which arise from Faith & Fury. The six supplements, plus the successor Chapter rules included in the basic book, mean that some of those units play very differently depending on which combination of books you’re using. And that doesn’t even account for Forge World.

As such, this article will be structured a little differently from others. We will of course look at everything we normally would – the army wide special rules, the relics, Warlord traits, stratagems, and units. In the units section, we will also flag which Chapters are most interested in which units – for example, highlighting that Assault Centurions are best deployed in White Scars or Raven Guard armies. Following this, we will also include separate sections for each of the six Chapters, talking about their unique units and characters, and instead of the ordinary Lists section which picks 2-3 recent, successful lists for the overall faction, we will review lists for each chapter supplement, since they play very differently.

As ever, this strategy article is fixed in a specific time and place, and may be subject to change as the meta continues to evolve and new releases bring different armies up and down in power and relevance. At time of writing, Psychic Awakening: The Greater Good (book 5 of the PA release cycle) has just arrived. It is also written following the release of the February 2020 FAQ, which made significant changes to a couple of the supplements as well as fundamentally changing how the Doctrines mechanic works.

Credit: JD Reynolds

Table of Contents

Army Strengths

  • Huge, diverse range. Space Marines have an answer to basically any question, and usually several. If you find yourself struggling against a particular opponent or army, you can probably find something in the book to help.
  • Jacks of all trades, masters of… all. Many, many Marine units offer both powerful shooting and combat abilities, making them very flexible on the table.
  • Varied playstyles. You can completely change the character of a Space Marine army simply by changing which supplement it draws its rules from.
  • Tough and reliable. Space Marine units have great profiles, with even the basic Marine offering high Strength and Toughness and a 3+ save. They’re a resilient army which can be forgiving for newer players.

Army Weaknesses

  • Target-rich army: All your units are good, but that makes them all valuable targets. Since they mostly trend towards the lower end of the mobility spectrum (at least once they’re on the board), opponents with high powered mobile units like Aeldari and some Chaos lists can strike surgically and do a lot of damage.
  • Meta leader: Marines were the meta leader for the last few months, and any competitive list is going to have them in mind as a list to beat. You are unlikely to get a good run of favourable match-ups.
  • If you play Iron Hands, no-one will like you. But it’s ok, because the flesh is weak and logic dictates that they’re the best and most effective army in the game, so you should play them anyway.

Competitive Rating

Strong. Space Marines are among the strongest factions in the game, particularly when considering them in the round i.e. taking into account all the different ways they can play thanks to the various different codex supplements. Following the FAQ changes in February 2020 they are significantly depowered compared to the previous point where every top 4 was guaranteed to feature at least 2 Iron Hands armies, but they remain a competitive faction and an excellent choice for anyone looking to do well at tournaments.

Where are the rules?

You can find the Space Marines’ rules in the following sources:

Codex: Space Marines 8th edition released August 2019 (FAQ version 1.2 updated 27/2/20) – make sure you get the up to date second version!
Forge World: Imperial Armour Index – Forces of the Adeptus Astartes (FAQ version 1.7 updated 30.9/19)
Psychic Awakening: Faith and Fury (FAQ version 1.0 updated 27/02/20)
Terrax-Pattern Assault Drill: Warhammer Community or the Forge World product page
Vigilus: Vigilus Defiant (FAQ version 1.3 updated 14/10/19)

Special Rules

Angels of Death

Angels of Death is a four-in-one special rule common to all Space Marine units. The four are And They Shall Know No Fear, Bolter Discipline, Shock Assault, and Combat Doctrines. The first three are always-on, but the last one only works in “pure” armies – a Battle-forged army where every unit excluding SERVITOR or UNALIGNED units has the Combat Doctrines ability. As well as the rules presented here, each Chapter has a special bonus in one of the three doctrines almost all of which are playstyle-defining, and for this reason the vast majority of Space Marines armies are monofaction rather than being souped as was powerful for most of 8th edition.

And They Shall Know No Fear

The first rule is one that Marines have had throughout the edition – when a Morale test is taken for a unit with ATSKNF, it can re-roll the dice. This is a helpful ability for keeping your units around a little longer. It also has a side application – you can optionally choose to re-roll even if you pass the first time, for example if you have a single model being tri-pointed, which can be handy if you would rather remove that model and be able to shoot the unit trapping it.

Bolter Discipline

Way back in 2nd edition, “Rapid Fire” was a Marine special rule which let them fire more than equivalent units. As time went on Rapid Fire became the weapon type we know and love, and Marines, and their iconic boltguns, began to seem less and less effective. Bolter Discipline is the intended solution to that.

Bolter Discipline is basically an expansion of the states in which models are able to benefit from Rapid Fire. Normally it’s just for being at half range – so for example, your ordinary boltgun is Rapid Fire 1, and has a 24″ range, so if the model firing it is within 12″ of its target it can fire 2 shots instead of 1. Instead, for units with this rule firing Rapid Fire bolt weapons, they can fire twice if:

  • The firing model’s target is within half the weapon’s maximum range (the ordinary rapid fire state),
  • OR the firing model is INFANTRY and every model in its unit remained stationary in your previous Movement phase,
  • OR the firing model is a TERMINATOR, BIKER, CENTURION, or DREADNOUGHT

This is a big step up in terms of the output of Rapid Fire bolt weapons. Back-line objective holding squads can now put out significant amounts of firepower if they stay still. Even more fearsome, Terminators, Centurions, Bikes, and Dreadnoughts can double fire even if they move – which means that they can put out a pile of shots at long range while still manoeuvreing around the table.

Shock Assault

Bolter Discipline makes Space Marine units better at shooting with their iconic weapons; Shock Assault completes the other half of the Space Marine puzzle, allowing them to get into the kind of close-range firefights followed up by melee charges that you would expect from the fluff. It’s a very simple rule – in a turn in which a unit with Shock Assault makes a charge move, is charged, or performs a Heroic Intervention, each model in the unit adds 1 to its Attacks characteristic. This means that a basic, 5-man squad of Intercessors with a Sergeant with a chainsword is putting out 17 attacks (3 for each Intercessor, and 5 for the Intercessor Sergeant). For taking on light or even medium infantry that’s a whole lot of punches at S4. Even better, it applies to characters too, increasing the effectiveness of your slam Captains, Chaplains, etc.

Combat Doctrines

Combat Doctrines represents the progressive method of war which Space Marines follow – opening up with devastating long-range firepower, followed by close-range engagements, and then finally a charge into melee. The three doctrines are Devastator, Tactical, and Assault. Players begin the game in Devastator. At the beginning of battle round 2, they automatically change into Tactical. In round 3, they can choose to either stay in Tactical or change into Assault. From round 4 onwards, they must move to Assault, where they stay for the rest of the game. Each Doctrine increases the AP of a particular weapon type by 1 (i.e. AP0 becomes AP-1, AP-1 becomes AP-2, etc.)

The types are:

  • Devastator: Heavy and Grenade weapons
  • Tactical: Rapid Fire and Assault weapons
  • Assault: Pistol and melee weapons (remember, all models are considered to have a S: User, AP:0 close combat weapon)

This is a very powerful rule, particularly as it ties in with the special extra Doctrines each Chapter receives (we will discuss these in the relevant section below). The most powerful and obvious application is to Heavy weapons – all of your biggest guns gaining an extra point of AP from the beginning of the game is a huge benefit. To pick an obvious example, the lascannon goes from being AP-3 to AP-4, which against many of its primary targets means it goes from being saved 1/6th of the time to automatically penetrating armour. It’s somewhat reduced in scope from how it worked at release, though; the original version let you choose whether to progress forwards or not, whereas following the February FAQ you are now required to progress, as described above. This reduces the power of the Chapters whose “special” doctrine was in Devastator (because they only get it for turn 1) and reduces the usefulness of Doctrines overall, although good players are finding ways to adjust their armies to accommodate it.

Defenders of Humanity

As well as Angels of Death, Marines also have two other rules – Defenders of Humanity and Chapter Tactics. We’ll talk about the Chapter Tactics rule later on, but Defenders of Humanity works as follows:

Space Marines Troops units in Space Marines Detachments gain the Defenders of Humanity rule. This is the standard “objective secured” rule – models with Defenders of Humanity have priority over models that don’t when deciding who controls an objective marker.

Chapter Tactics and Successor Chapters

There are eight Chapters with Chapter Tactics listed in the Space Marines codex. In a big change from the original codex, traits now apply to all units (except SERVITORS) in the army, which means that VEHICLE units get them now too. The traits are as follows:

Ultramarines

Ultramarines keep basically the same tactic as they had in the first codex, which is fine. It’s not the best rule in the book, but it’s nice and flexible and protects them from being touched and prevented from shooting. Note that the rule was FAQed so that the -1 to hit doesn’t apply to units with FLY, which can Fall Back and still shoot anyway.

Imperial Fists

The Imperial Fists saw a big upgrade to their Chapter Tactic. They always ignored cover – something which didn’t seem like a big deal at the beginning of the edition but has become increasingly important as factions gain “always in cover” traits, or utilise Prepared Positions – but they’ve also gained a rule sometimes known as “bolter drill” which means that they get additional hits with bolt weapons on an unmodified 6 to hit. Fists armies built around utilising bolt weapons gain a huge number of additional hits from this; it’s not uncommon for units to hit more times than they shot. A great tactic.

White Scars

The White Scars tactic now allows units to charge when Advancing or Falling Back, and BIKERS can ignore the penalty for moving and firing with Heavy weapons or Advancing and firing Assault weapons. This is a hugely powerful rule, especially when combined with some of the stratagems in the White Scars codex. Bikers sadly still don’t see much play in White Scars armies, so the second half is less relevant than might be hoped for, but the first half allows for White Scars to play a high-skill game of wrapping, screening, and Falling Back and charging again.

Raven Guard

When the version 2 codex was released, it seemed like Raven Guard had taken the only meaningful reduction in power from their old trait. Their previous tactic made all of their units -1 to hit when more than 12″ away. The new version now makes all their units count as being in cover when more than 12″ away from the unit firing at them, and non-VEHICLE units which are wholly on or within terrain are -1 to hit too. With some time since the release of the codex, this now looks like a buff more than a nerf – all the units that could get the -1 to hit before can still get it, albeit in slightly reduced circumstances, and -1 to hit is less powerful than it was anyway thanks to the new wording on Chapter Master and similar rules. Being in cover all the time is a big increase in survivability for many units, particularly units which already have a 2+ save and therefore need to be hit with AP-2 attacks before taking any penalty to their saving roll, and it applies to everything in the army now. Another very good tactic.

Salamanders

The “Salamander re-roll” is alive and well, allowing every unit in the army to re-roll a single hit roll and wound roll when shooting, fighting, or firing Overwatch. This is a great little buff that works for pretty much every unit, but particularly when investing in a large number of small units firing quality weapons like a lascannon – you basically get two free CP re-rolls every turn, or four if you expect to shoot and fight in the same turn. Additionally, they ignore AP-1, which means that a large number of mid-quality weapons lose the benefit of AP against them – reaper chaincannons or heavy bolters (at least heavy bolters not being fired by other Space Marines) spring to mind.

Iron Hands

Iron Hands received a huge boost in version 2 of the codex. They retain their original trait of a 6+ Feel No Pain, which obviously also expands to cover all of their VEHICLE units now as well. They also gained a 5+ to hit in Overwatch, and also the Valhallan rule where vehicles count for double the number of wounds for the damage table. This was a big increase in power by itself, but their codex supplement contains a bunch of different ways to improve these rules further, such as increasing the FNP roll to a 5+ or hitting on a 4+ in Overwatch. As single traits go, this is a very powerful one.

Black Templars

The Black Templar tactic changed subtly to allow them to re-roll “any or all” of the dice when they charged – a straight improvement in efficiency to the old “re-roll failed charges.” They also gain a 5+ save against mortal wounds. Black Templar stuff is fine, but it looks underwhelming compared to the rest of what’s on offer.

Crimson Fists

Finally we have the Crimson Fists. Their tactic is very similar to the one in the White Dwarf index from January 2018, though the wording is now modified so that they gain +1 to hit against units with “at least 5 more models” than theirs, rather than double as many. This is worse for characters and anything that wanted to be in small units – a character used to get +1 to hit against units of 2 or more and now it’s 6 or more, 3-man squads like Aggressors would have previously hit better against 6 or more models rather than 8,etc. but it’s a buff to anything of 6 or more models. Overall, it’s fine but very opposition-dependent – a great rule against Guard, Tyranids, Genestealer Cults etc. but usually irrelevant against other Space Marines, which are the meta-defining faction of the moment. They also share the “bolter drill” rule with the Imperial Fists, and it’s just as good here as it is there.

Rainbow Warriors Intercessors, Tactical Marines, and Infiltrators by Craig "MasterSlowPoke" Sniffen

Successor Chapters

In addition to the tactics for the 8 main Marine factions described above, Games Workshop took a page out of its 4th edition playbook and released an updated system for making your own custom rules for Successor Chapters. The system is pretty simple: Instead of taking one of the defined chapters, you build your own Successor Chapter with its own subfaction keword (such as RAPTORS or MENTORS or GOONHAMMER or whatever), and instead of using another chapter’s trait, you pick two from the list of Successor Chapter Tactics. Most of these replicate half of the main Chapters’ tactics and power-wise they range from “Meh” to “Decent” but there are a few stand-outs and combinations that work well.

As Psychic Awakening books have come out, many armies have received similar “custom sub-faction” rules. Normally these are a straight replacement for a regular Craftworld or Hive Fleet or whatever else – you get your custom trait, but you lose access to any faction-specific relics, stratagems, etc. This is not the case for Space Marines. When you create a successor chapter from this list, you can choose one of the six first founding chapters (so the list above excluding Black Templars and Crimson Fists) to be descended from. You then get access to almost all of the benefits of that Chapter from its supplement – the special Doctrine (more on that when we hit the supplements), the stratagems, warlord traits, and psychic powers and the Special-issue Wargear in each book. There is also some limited access to the proper Relics from each chapter, via stratagem. The only limitation is that you can’t take the named characters from that supplement, as these are keyword-locked – although interestingly the Forge World characters can gain custom traits, since their tactics are not defined.

The Successor Tactics

That’s a big deal, because it means that you can freely combine the abilities below with a powerful supplement and get the best of both worlds. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the successor tactics:

  • Bolter Fusillades. Re-roll To Hit rolls of 1 on bolt weapons. A somewhat interesting ability that allows your Intercessors and Tactical Marines to range free from their Captains, and just go harder on Lieutenants instead. However, you’ll probably find you want to take buff characters anyway, leaving this a marginal boost at best. C
  • Born Heroes. Characters get a 6″ Heroic Intervention move. Useful for managing your backline battle piles with key characters, but there are stronger options. D
  • Duellists. When fighting in melee against infantry or bikers, unmodified To Hit rolls of a 6 always hits and automatically scores a Wound. Can’t be combined with Whirlwind of Rage. Helps pretty much everything go through hordes more efficiently, but the limited scope of targets makes it a lot less appealing than Whirlwind of Rage. Would be more useful if there were more high toughness infantry out there to fight. C
  • Fearsome Aspect. Enemy units within 3″ get a -1 modifier to their Leadership. Ultimately not that useful – just ask the Night Lords how often this one works out, and theirs actually stacks up to a -3. D
  • Hungry for Battle. Units with this trait get +1 to their Advance and Charge rolls. Incredibly useful, particularly if you are trying to make charges out of deep strike, where even a 1″ difference bumps your odds up to 42% before considering re-rolls. It’s going to be a must-have for combat-focused armies. A
The Swords of Davion arrayed for battle

The Swords of Davion arrayed for battle. Credit: Coda

  • Inheritors of the Primarch. You give up the ability to choose a second tactic but instead you get to pick one of the First Founding Chapter Tactics instead. This locks you in to designating yourself a successor of that chapter. If this was the only way to get your custom chapter access to the supplement rules it would be worth it. It would also be interesting if it let you take one of the “core” chapter tactics across to a successor of another chapter. Sadly, it does neither, so is ultimately a bit pointless. D
  • Knowledge is Power. Re-roll any or all dice rolls of a 1 when attempting to manifest or deny a psychic power. Helpful for avoiding Perils of the Warp and smoothing out psychic results, but ultimately not as good as having a +1. Also only applies to a few units in the army, and Librarians still aren’t the Marines’ strong suit. C
  • Long-range Marksmen. Add 3″ to the range characteristic of ranged weapons for units with this tactic. Our original review underrated this, because we didn’t see the impact on Assault Centurions. For most units it’s an interesting ability but one that doesn’t quite do enough in terms of full impact. Adding 3″ to 30″ or 24″ guns isn’t quite enough to make a significant different in tactics, nor is +1.5″ on Rapid fire range. For Assault Centurions, though, it’s huge – it makes their hurricane bolters a little bit better, but its main impact is to allow them to deep strike with their dual flamers and still fire. That’s a big increase in their offensive output. Its application being a bit limited means this still isn’t an A, but it’s a strong B+ – you can’t discount something that shows up regularly in top lists. B+
  • Master Artisans. When a unit with this trait fights, fires Overwatch, or shoots in the shooting phase, you can re-roll one hit and one Wound roll for them. Basically the first (and better) half of the Salamanders’ Tactic. It’s an extremely strong ability to be able to tack onto a unit, and just makes everything better. It just helps smooth your entire army and is a solid contender for the best Successor Tactic. There are many, many Iron Hands successors running around with this and Stealthy. A
  • Preferred Enemy. When you select this tactic, choose one of Tyranids, Aeldari, Orks, Heretic Astartes, Necrons, or T’au Empire. When resolving an attack made by a melee weapon against a unit with that keyword, in the same turn you charged, were charged, or made a Heroic Intervention, you can re-roll the result. This is just a bad rule. It’s absurdly specific, requiring many hoops to jump through to see in action, and it’s focused entirely on one enemy faction. We see what they’re going for here from a fluff standpoint, trying to create stories for Chapters that have old rivalries against a particular foe, but it just doesn’t work. It’s the worst kind of rule: in a tournament, it won’t be do enough to be worth taking, and in casual play, any time you take this it’s going to feel like you are tailoring your list to fight a specific opponent. It doesn’t work for either kind of play. F
  • Rapid Assault. Units with this tactic don’t suffer the penalty from Advancing and shooting Assault weapons. This is a neat ability. The big challenge here is that Marines just don’t have many Assault weapons. Your list is essentially flamers and other flame weapons, for which the penalty doesn’t matter, meltaguns, which are expensive and short-ranged, bolt carbines, assault plasma incinerators, which are unfortunately Strength 6, and auto bolt rifles (yes, there are more options, but those are the most common). I think the key thing here to build around is auto bolt rifles, where the trade-off in range for shots can be mitigated by advancing each turn to get additional mobility out of your army. This effectively gives you a slightly fewer shots than standing still with the regular bolt rifle, but enables you to move in and out of range more freely and grab objectives. Overall we think it’s a more powerful ability than people will initially realize, but it requires building around in a way that some other tactics do not. B-
  • Scions of the Forge. Models with this trait that have a damage table always count as having twice the number of wounds remaining for the purposes of their stats on the table. Gives you a third of the Iron Hands’ Tactic, which can theoretically be useful if you’re going heavy on forward vehicles for your fire base. However, Marine vehicles tend to exist in a binary state of “alive” or “violently exploded” (unless they’re Iron Hands – in which case, just take the Iron Hands trait), and the fact that it does nothing for your Infantry makes it a probable miss. C
  • Stalwart. When rolling To Wound rolls for attacks against models with this trait, an unmodified roll of a 1 or 2 always fails, irrespective of the Strength or abilities of the attacker. This is basically what Blood Ravens just got and it’s a good Infantry-focused mirror to Scions of the Forge. If you read our Blood Ravens article, you know that our take on this ability is that it does the most good on T4 units with multiple wounds, who are most vulnerable to multi-damage S8+ weapons. So if you’re running this, plan to run a lot of Primaris Infantry. C+
  • Stealthy. Units with this Tactic count as having the benefit of cover for their saves when being attacked from more than 12″ away with ranged weapons. A strong power-up that almost any unit in the army will benefit from, and the number of abilities that ignore or deny you cover penalties isn’t that large. You’ll have to worry mostly about Imperial Fists, I guess. A
  • Stoic. Units with this ability add 1 to their Leadership characteristic. This is just not something Marines need. F
  • Tactical Withdrawal. Units with this tactic can charge in the same turn in which they make a Fall Back move. A strong upgrade that allows all of your melee units to risk another volley of overwatch fire in exchange for an extra attack, or to just adjust your targets. Very helpful for jump infantry, who can use their Fall Back moves to jump over the screens they ran into one turn prior. Also great if you’re building a coven of Smash Captains (although there may be some minor issues with that thanks to point hikes). Needs to be built around, but it’s well worth it. B-
  • Warded. When a model with this Tactic suffers a mortal wound, it can roll a D6, and on a 5+ that wound is negated. A neat ability if you’re going up against lots of Smites, but ultimately very situational and not strong enough to take over the other options unless mortal wounds become much more common in the meta. D
  • Whirlwind of Rage. In the combat after a model with this Tactic has charged, was charged, or made a Heroic Intervention, when rolling its attacks, any unmodified to hit roll of a 6 causes an additional hit. Can’t be combined with Duellists. As-is, it’s a very nice ability to add on to any of the other combat-centric Successor Traits (Hungry for Battle, Tactical Withdrawal, Rapid Assault). The fact that this doesn’t have any targeting restrictions (unlike Duellists) makes it a much more appealing general choice, although it’s at its best on powerful characters or things like Dreadnoughts where every extra attack counts. A solid choice if you want to get into melee. B

 

The Excoriators, an Imperial Fists successor chapter. Credit: Skails

Combining These Tactics

The meta has really whittled these down to just two pairings (well, technically 4, but three of them are basically the same):

  • Long Range Marksmen and your choice of Stealthy/Master Artisans/Hungry for Battle – the Long Range Marksmen bit is for your Assault Centurions to get the maximum effect out of their guns when they drop, and then the other half is your choice – Stealthy for defence, Master Artisans to get more out of your other shooting, or Hungry for Battle if you want to boost your chances of making the charge. Very common for Raven Guard.
  • Stealthy/Master Artisans, for when you’re not using Assault Centurions. You’ll see this often with Iron Hands successors, but it’s equally applicable to successors of other chapters – basically anything which is going to want to stay at mid- to long-range and shoot well.

There’s other combinations you can use, particularly if you’re going for more narrative-themed chapters, but in competitive play it’s these two things that have emerged as being the most common by far.

Psychic Powers

Marine psychic powers saw some minor tweaks and updates in the new book, usually on the side of making them slightly more powerful. They also changed their order around on the page for some reason that is strange and alien to us.

Librarius Discipline

The Librarius discipline gets some minor tweaks, but on the whole remains kind of middling in terms of what it brings to the table for your psykers. We’ll go through what they do in the order they appear in the new codex, and then assign them a letter grade at the end of each power.

  1. Veil of Time (WC 6). Affects a <CHAPTER> unit within 18″. Until your next Psychic phase, that unit can re-roll Advance and Charge rolls, and always fights first in the Fight phase, even if it did not charge. A solid ability when paired with the Hungry for Battle Chapter Tactic, and you want to try and make those 8″ Deep Strike charges, where being able to re-roll a failed result ups your chances of making an 8″ charge to 83% without spending CP. B
  2. Might of Heroes (WC 6). Affects a <CHAPTER> model within 12″. Until the start of your next Psychic phase, that model gets +1 Strength, +1 Toughness, and +1 Attack. Helpful for boosting dreadnoughts and other heroes (like Guilliman) to insane damage output levels. B
  3. Null Zone (WC 7). Until the start of your next psychic phase, enemy units can’t make invulnerable saves while they are within 6″ of the psyker, and when a Psychic test is taken for an enemy model within 6″, the result is halved. Null Zone’s difficulty got reduced by 1 in the new book, which helps, but it’s still difficult to use, as it demands your psyker be within hitting distance of the unit/s whose save you’re trying to deactivate. In a tournament environment, you’ll likely get the most value out of this against Chaos Daemon hordes, where removing their 5+ invulnerable saves and blocking psychic powers can be a real pain. The best platform for this is a jump pack Librarian. B+
  4. Psychic Scourge (WC 6). Choose an enemy unit within 18″ and roll a D6, then add your Ld value. Your opponent does the same. If you score higher, that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. If you score equal, they take 1 mortal wound. Basically a worse Smite, and not something we’re going to use very often. It’s slightly better for Ultramarines since their Chapter Tactic gives them a +1 boost to Ld, but there are almost always going to be other powers you’d rather use. D
  5. Fury of the Ancients (WC 7). Select a visible enemy model within 12″ of the psyker and draw an imaginary straight line between the two, each unit under the line takes a mortal wound. This one is improved over its prior iteration where it was 3D6″ range and had more variance (which is usually bad), but it’s still going to be a worse smite most of the time. D
  6. Psychic Fortress (WC 5). Select a friendly ADEPTUS ASTARTES unit within 18″ of the psyker. Until the start of your next psychic phase, that unit automatically passes morale tests and if it would lose a wound from a mortal wound in the psychic phase, roll a D6; on a 4+ it doesn’t lose that wound. The morale test part hardly matters but the ability to protect a unit from Smite-happy armies still has some value. Really, using this will be more about shunting your opponent’s Smites onto a different target rather than actually rolling the saves, but because Smite has to target the closest unit you can set up some nice defensive play with this. C

Credit: SRM

Obscuration Discipline

The big change to Obscuration is that now most of the powers affect <CHAPTER> PHOBOS units instead of ADEPTUS ASTARTES PHOBOS, adding a further gate to attempts to mix and match Chapter Tactics within an army. On the whole, these are better powers than the Librarius Discipline, and got better with the new Phobos units entering the mix, where we have some quality targets to throw them on. The biggest benefit to this discipline is that all of its powers have a Warp Charge cost of 6, so they’re all pretty easy to cast.

  1. Shrouding (WC 6). Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> Phobos unit within 18″ of the psyker. Until the start of your next psychic phase, enemies can only shoot at that unit if it’s the closest visible target or they’re firing Overwatch. A strong effect, but it can potentially be at odds with the notion that your Phobos-armored units may be closer than the rest of the army. Its best use is protecting Eliminators, who are going to be high-value targets for enemy fire. B
  2. Soul Sight (WC 6). Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> Phobos unit within 18″. Until the start of your next Psychic phase, when that unit shoots, it can re-roll the hit roll and the units it targets do not get the benefit of cover to their saving throws. This one hasn’t changed either, but picked up more utility from Eliminators becoming even better. Works well paired with either of bolt sniper rifles and las-fusils. A
  3. Mind Raid (WC 6). Pick a visible enemy model within 18″ of the psyker. It takes a mortal wound. If your army is Battle-Forged and the model is a CHARACTER, roll 3D6. If you roll equal to or above its Leadership characteristic, you get 1 Command Point. An interesting ability that hasn’t changed much, the big problem with Mind Raid is that most of the time you’re just going to have better stuff to do and getting within 18″ of an enemy character may just not be what you want your Phobos Librarian doing. C
  4. Hallucination (WC 6). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18″ of the psyker. It gets -1 to its Ld and your opponent rolls 2D6. If the result is higher than the unit’s Ld, that unit suffers a -1 to its hit rolls until the start of your next psychic phase. This is another potentially solid ability that mimics the Dark Angel and Space Wolves powers to degrade enemy hit rolls, but runs a dangerous risk of doing nothing at all a lot of the time.  C
  5. Tenebrous Curse (WC 6). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18″ that doesn’t have the FLY keyword. It takes a mortal wound and its Movement stat, Advance, and Charge rolls are halved until the start of your next psychic phase. Against something like a Lord Discordant-heavy Chaos army this can be extremely potent, but is also incredibly dead in others – it would do literal nothing against e.g. Eldar. Pick it when it’s good. B / E (based on matchup)
  6. Temporal Corridor (WC 6). Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> Phobos unit within 3″. It can move as though it was the Movement phase. It can’t Fall Back and must Advance, and when it does, you roll 3D6 and discard two of the rolls. You can’t use this on a unit more than once in a Psychic phase. At first glance this feels like a loyalist Warptime, but the Phobos and Advance restrictions really take a lot of the wind out from under its sails. Some Chapters can get around the Advance thing, notably White Scars with their Chapter Tactic and Raven Guard with a Warlord trait which allows Advance and charge. in most places, if you can Advance and charge

 

Stratagems, Warlord Traits, and Relics

Specialist Detachment – Indomitus Crusaders

Various Space Marine Chapters get Specialist Detachments of their own that we’ve detailed below, but there’s also a generic detachment that any Codex chapter can take, the Indomitus Crusaders. This has been rather picked apart over time – four of its five stratagems have been moved to be generic along with one of the relics – but the warlord trait is enduringly relevant in lists heavy on Intercessors.

This detachment affects:

  • PRIMARIS CAPTAINS
  • PRIMARIS ANCIENTS
  • PRIMARIS LIEUTENANTS
  • Intercessor Squads
  • Inceptor Squads

Stratagems

By now everyone should know that the stratagem pages of a Codex can make or break an 8th edition army. They’re one of our absolute favourite parts of the game, and one of the saddest things about the original Marine book was how dry or situational they were, especially compared to the creativity shown in later books. Luckily, the new list is vastly more exciting than it used to be, including a few returning favourites (i.e. “the only ones that were good before”), some new spicy numbers, and a merge of some of the stratagems from Vigilus Defiant, no longer locked behind CP expenditure for a Specialist Detachment.

  • Armour of Contempt – 1CP: This gives a vehicle a 5+ FNP against mortal wounds for the duration of a phase (and can be activated in response to taking one). It’s always been a “nice to have”, but vehicles in general get a lot better in the new book, so we expect to see this come out a lot more. It’s especially good on the Invictor Warsuit, as it being up in your opponent’s face early on makes it more likely to start catching Smites. Don’t forget that you can use it in other phases though, which can be very relevant against Drukhari or Harlequins packing haywire. B
  • Chapter Master – 2CP: As long as you don’t already have a Chapter Master in your army (i.e. one of the named characters), upgrade a CAPTAIN to one. He gets a “you may re-roll hit rolls” aura instead of his re-roll 1s. This is absolutely phenomenal – it was already great at 3CP, but is now a point cheaper and gets the new re-roll wording, which makes your buffed units substantially better against anything packing hit modifiers. Realistically, any sort of gunline or moving castle always wants this effect, and will get it either here or from an NC. A+.
Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Sword

Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Sword. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Auspex Scan – 2CP: An INFANTRY unit can shoot at a unit arriving on the table within 12″ at -1 penalty to hit. This has always been great with Aggressors or Centurions. And it still is, but bolt carbine Intercessors are another powerful new entry on the list of suitable users thanks to the extra shot they get. B
  • Death to Traitors – 1CP: Use when a unit fights a HERETIC ASTARTES unit in the Fight phase. Get an additional attack for each unmodified 6. Obviously better than it used to be because everything has more attacks, and a nice buff when it comes up. Theoretically good against Lords Discordant in the current meta, but being in melee with them is maaaaaybe not what you want. C
  • Suppression Fire – 2CP: A stationary WHIRLWIND or THUNDERFIRE CANNON can shoot an additional time. This is a great buff to both those units, especially as other buffs (such as Tremor Shells, below, or the Tank Hunters stratagem from the Imperial Fists book) apply to both shots. You can also target two different units with this – it’s a full extra shooting attack. A
  • Honour the Chapter – 3CP: An Adeptus Astartes unit can fight again at the end of the phase. Has always been great. Used to only work for INFANTRY and BIKERS. Now works for everyone (i.e. Dreadnoughts and Guilliman). Even greater! A
Ultramarines 4th Company Primaris Lieutenant

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • Only in Death Does Duty End – 2CP: A character can fight or shoot when they die. Always useful. Still useful. A
  • Duty Eternal – 1CP (new): Use when a Dreadnought is targeted. They take -1 damage on them until the end of the phase. On release this was half damage instead of -1 and was absurdly good, particularly combined with some of the other powerful options available, particularly in the Iron Hands codex. The new version is not quite as game-busting as the former one, but it’s still very good, mitigating a large amount of damage from popular 2 damage weapons.  A
  • Flakk Missile – 1CP: An infantry squad using a missile launcher can shoot a special missile that does D3 mortals to a FLY unit. Fine if you happen to have a Devastator squad. They’ve also finally updated the wording to make it super clear that the attack sequence ends when you do so. Hurray for rules hygiene! B-
  • Cluster Mines – 1CP: Scout Bikes can drop some mortals when they fall back. Scout Bikes are pretty good, and it’s worth remembering this exists if they get tagged, but it’s hardly a build around. C+
  • Veteran Intercessors – 1/2CP (Vigilus): Migrated from Vigilus. Pay 1CP for a 5-model squad or 2CP for more to give an Intercessor unit +1A and +1LD. Used to be modestly exciting but is a lot less so, as it used to unlock a stratagem for each gun type. Now, all Intercessors can just use those anyway, which relegates this to a cool thing if you have a squad with a power fist or thunder hammer Sergeant that’s going out roving in an Impulsor. C
    Imperial Fists Veteran Intercessors

    Imperial Fists Veteran Intercessors. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Hellfire Shells – 1CP: INFANTRY Heavy Bolter swaps to a single shot that does D3 mortals. Also fine if you have a Devastator squad. B-
  • Boltstorm – 2CP: Auto bolt rifles auto-hit within half range. An odd one. No longer gated behind Veteran Intercessors, and auto bolt rifles got better, but 2CP is a lot for this – Marines are great at hitting things, and now that Chapter Masters get “good” re-rolls this is just not going to be adding 2CP’s worth of “oopmh” most of the time. C
  • Hunter Slayer Missile – 1CP: Once per game per REPULSOR (which includes the Executioner) you can shoot a D3 mortal wound-causing missile at a VEHICLE or MONSTER. Good clean fun – use it before they pop your tanks. B
  • Gravitic Amplification – 1CP: A unit can re-roll wound and damage rolls with grav weapons for an attack. Something else that our original review underrated – it turns out that grav-toting Devastators in drop pods are great at using this, and grav-cannon Centurions are even better. Anything that gets Centurions in range to use their guns wants to be using this get the most out of them. B+
  • Masterful Marksmanship – 1CP: +1 to wound for the wounds of Sternguard special issue bolters. Good at the point you have them around, and the improvements to Drop Pods make that more likely, but still not super relevant. C
  • Rapid Fire – 2CP: Make a unit of bolt rifle Intercessors Rapid Fire 2 for a shooting phase. Similar to Boltstorm, no longer gated behind Veteran Intercessors, but more expensive. In this case it’s a lot more interesting. Boltstorm doesn’t really “add” much – in a Chapter Master bubble, Marines get 90% hits anyway, so auto-hitting isn’t a massive deal a lot of the time – it’s an 11% increase. This, on the other hand, doubles the output of an Intercessor unit for a turn, which if you’re in one of the aforementioned bubbles is a shed-load of dakka, liable to blow hordes clean away. The existence of this makes a unit of ten bolt rifle Intercessors at least an interesting thought exercise to look at, as especially under Tactical Doctrine it cannot be overstated just how much firepower this is against pretty much anything with <T8. Particularly relevant for Ultramarines, who are big fans of being in Tactical Doctrine with bolt rifle-toting Intercessor squads. B
  • Orbital Bombardment – 3CP: Once per battle your warlord can call in an orbital strike, doing MWs on a 4+ (or 5+ for characters) within a random radius of a point you pick. Has historically not been reliable enough to be worth this many CP, and that’s probably even more true now, but could be funny against castle armies combined with launching one from an Impulsor. Nick Nanavati opened up with this against a Tau castle full of Drones in the finals of the PTT Atlanta Open, and it worked out pretty well – against less compressed armies it might not be so relevant. C+
  • Target Sighted – 3CP: The final ex-Veteran intercessor stratagem. This lets you fire stalker bolt rifles at a character, and do MWs on 6s to wound. This is potentially very handy now just because stalker bolt rifles got a tonne better (picking up D2) – this now lets even a small Intercessor squad threaten to punk a lot of characters. It’s expensive, but every so often you’re going to use it and pop a character cleanly – especially for, say, a large squad of Imperial Fists Intercessors. B+
  • Relics of the Chapter – 1CP: Take an extra relic. Notable because it’s different than it’s ever been before – it’s now 1CP per relic with no cap, rather than 1/3CP for one or two max as it was before. Arguably a much-needed change, as it stops soup armies getting to dip into multiple relic pools cheaper than mono-faction armies, something Wings has been arguing since September 2018. Marines have a bunch of good relics across the main codex, the supplements, and the Faith & Fury additions, and if nothing else you can just throw “Mastercrafted” on a character or squad sergeant. A
  • Tremor Shells – 1CP: a Thunderfire Cannon fires a special shot that slows stuff (that isn’t TITANIC or FLY) down. Has always been occasionally game breaking, and given Thunderfires just got way better is a useful thing to have around, especially as it applies on both shots when you double tap. 3CP to combine them is a lot, but there are situations where it will be flatly game winning to do so (imagine slowing two Lords Discordant to a crawl). A
  • Hammer of Wrath – 1CP: Use when a jump pack unit from your army finishes a charge. Roll a D6 for each model within 1″ of an enemy unit and do a mortal on 5+. This is cute, but at high levels of play when you’re making charge moves with expensive jump pack infantry it’s extremely unlikely that all (or even most) of them are within an inch at the end of the charge, as that heavily reduces your scope for pile in shenanigans. Cool, but sadly betrays that there’s still an occasional disconnect between how it feels like the game should play and what 8th edition actually encourages. D
  • Big Guns Never Tire – 1CP: A VEHICLE can move and shoot heavy weapons with no penalty. If you have any vehicles and need to move them, this is a fantastic thing to have available. Also hilarious with a storm cannon Leviathan. A
  • Fury of the First – 1CP (new): Add 1 to hit for a TERMINATOR unit for a phase. This does let any Terminator unit that’s hit melee connect like an absolute truck, offsetting their hit penalties from fists or thunder hammers. However, Terminators probably needed a bit more to start being good, and the lack of the extreme customisation that Chaos ones get probably keeps this off the top tables. C+
Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad

Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Wisdom of the Ancients – 1CP: A Dreadnought can become a Captain for a turn. Most Marine lists should be working around re-roll bubbles, but this is still an OK thing to have in the back pocket so that splitting your forces doesn’t hit you quite so hard. The main thing to remember here is that the good Dreadnoughts are BS2+ and so re-roll 1s is effectively the same as a full re-roll bubble, so you have some flex available if your Chapter Master needs to push forwards. B
  • Skyfire – 1CP: A Hunter or Stalker gets +1 to hit and wound against FLY, and doubles damage on a 6. That’s an incredible boost, and sort of lines up with the double tap strats for Thunderfire Cannons and the half-damage Dread strat to slightly push people towards a weird menagerie of vehicles in a gunline in order to get the most out of all of these cool tools. The Stalker is the way bigger beneficiary here and probably the one of the two you want to take, and it’s sufficiently cheap and cheerful (and randomly has T8) that this makes it look like a serious option. B+
  • Steady Advance – 1CP: A unit gets to use Bolter Discipline as if it remained stationary. Most relevant for the same putative unit of ten Intercessors (maybe leaping from a Repulsor) using Rapid Fire, perhaps at the same time! B
  • Vengeance of the Machine Spirit – 2CP: A LAND RAIDER, REPULSOR or STORMRAVEN gets to either auto-explode, shoot one weapon at top profile or fight (lol) on death. Very cool, and a neat way to get a bit more out of your stuff as it goes down, although sadly you don’t get to double tap with the Executioner’s big gun. Still, if it’s sitting in re-roll bubbles (it probably is) two shots from the laser destroyer, or two lascannon shots from the other models, is a big deal, and has a good chance of randomly punishing your opponent for their insolence. B
  • Skilled Riders – 2CP: Give a BIKER or LAND SPEEDER unit a 4++ if they moved or 3++ if they advanced. This is great, and makes squads of actual bikes a lot more interesting. Scout Bikes in particular are already pretty fantastic, and their poor armour save was their only limitation, which this largely negates. The only sad thing here is that most of the weapons on bikes are Rapid Fire, so if you want the Advance version you’re trading for shooting, but that can still be good for claiming an objective. B
  • Tactical Flexibility – 1CP: Split a 10-model squad into combat squads. Not usually relevant – you usually either want to buy MSUs or have a specific reason for wanting a full squad, leaving this with no real purpose. Might be ok for a late game objective hold, but you need to a) have CP and b) have no other options and c) still have a 10 man squad to use. C
  • Hero of the Chapter – 1CP: Add a warlord trait to an extra character. Can only be used once. Marines have good Warlord traits and are often heavy on characters that benefit from them, so this is a great thing to have available. A
  • Adaptive Strategy – 1CP: Delete this from your codex. As of the February FAQ, it is dead. An ex-stratagem.
  • Transhuman Physiology – 2CP: For a phase, one non-VEHICLE or SERVITOR unit can never be wounded by an unmodified roll of 3 or less. This is extremely powerful – the absolute bane of Marine armies right now is being blown apart by powerful D2 or Dd3 weaponry that wounds on 2s and 3s and has decent AP. This makes it that much tougher for your best squads to be focused down by this sort of thing, and this will be absolute bread and butter for anyone running powerful infantry models. A
  • Gene-Wrought Might – 1CP: For a Fight phase, unmodified 6s to hit from a unit auto-wound. This is pretty cool – especially once you’re in to the Assault Doctrine, this lets even your regular infantry actually put a smattering of hurt on something like a Knight with T8. Great for White Scars, who love to throw out a bunch of mid-quality attacks boosted by their Doctrine. B

Indomitus Crusaders

These guys get a mighty one stratagem still all to themselves.

  • Liberators – 1CP: Choose a unit at the start of the fight phase. Unmodified hit rolls of 6 for a unit score two hits instead of one. Intercessors, especially Veteran ones can get enough attacks that this actually is a decent force multiplier against hordes in an army that’s taking this detachment. Since big squads of intercessors tends to be why you want to take the detachment, that makes this a useful tool to have. B

Warlord Traits

Similar to Psychic powers, there are two warlord trait lists – one for regular characters and one restricted to anyone in PHOBOS armour because being tacticool makes you better (?). The main codex ones are good, and there’s also a table each in the codex supplements (contained in their own sections below), which means most Marine armies have 18 different Warlord traits to pick from (plus 2 for each kind of upgraded character from Faith & Fury).

Regular

Black Templar Lieutenant with Power Fist and Power Sword

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • Fear Made Manifest: Despite the hype we start with a complete dud. A -1LD aura. Yawn. F
  • The Imperium’s Sword: Re-roll one or both dice of charges, and get +1S/A when you charge. A fantastic trait for something like a slam Captain, or even for a Chaplain.. A
  • Iron Resolve: gain an extra W and a 6+ FNP. These traits exist all over the place, and are usually a trap – they’re fine, but what you want from a warlord trait is to open up new capabilities, not a defensive boost (unless it’s an exceptional one like a 3++ on Custodes Bikes). The extra wound can be handy if you’re worried about your buffstick Chapter Master getting punked out by Eliminators and such. C+
  • Champion of Humanity: Get an extra attack and +1 to hit and wound rolls against characters. Usually outclassed by “The Imperium’s Sword” on big hitters, but can outdo it on things with hit penalties or the Teeth of Terra. B
  • Storm of Fire: Shooting attacks from units within 6″ of your warlord get an extra 1AP on a 6 to wound. Technically unchanged, but receives a big stealth nerf – the AP bonuses from Doctrines don’t stack with other AP bonuses unless specifically noted, and this was previously good in the kind of castle list that will now want to be milking doctrines for all they’re worth. Potentially useful if you end up bringing in a small Astartes contingent in a soup list for some reason. May become more relevant now that doctrines have been depowered somewhat. B
  • Rites of War: Your character is ObSec and has a fearless aura. The ObSec is new and potentially quite good on a tough character, although has the problem that ObSec things contending with them will often outnumber them. C

The Imperium’s Sword is the winner here, making your characters that much deadlier, though Storm of Fire may become more relevant than it was before.

Phobos

Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant

Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant. Credit: Artum

  • Shoot and Fade: Pick a Phobos unit within 6″ at the end of the shooting phase. Buffed from its previous incarnation, where it could only affect the character. That unit can move, but cannot advance and cannot then charge. Anyone used to playing against Eldar will know how tricksy this can be, though the Phobos restriction does keep it somewhat in check. Still an interesting trait in the arsenal. B
  • Lord of Deceit: Lets you redeploy 3 Phobos units at the start of the first battle round. Another stolen Eldar trick (Wings note: *shakes fist*). A bit of a nerf, as in the Shadowspear rules it affected everything, and the restriction hurts a lot here. Potentially good for pulling tricks with Incursors, but we’ll be honest that if you want this effect you should probably just be Ultramarines, who get it as a Stratagem without being Phobos only. B+
  • Master of the Vanguard: Phobos units get +1 Advance and Charge in an aura. You want to be deep in Phobos units to make the most of it, but if you are then it’s great for making an impact. B
  • Stealth Adept: Warlord gets -1 to hit against him. Fine, but the Phobos characters kind of need to be more threatening for this to be good. C
  • Target Priority: Pick a Phobos unit to get +1 to hit. Another nerf-by-keyword. Potentially quite good with Eliminators – this is the one thing that messes up the maths of “buff sergeant always better”, as making three Las Fusils hit on 2s is pretty tasty. However, it’s an open question if that’s “worth” the slot. B
  • Marksman’s Honours: +1D to the warlord’s ranged weapons. This can be very funny in Raven Guard with their special bullets, or for throwing on a Phobos Captain with his master-crafted damage 3 gun to make it damage 4 and potentially able to punk out even mid-tier characters in a single shot, but not necessarily the first thing you want. A good target for Hero of the Chapter in the right situation. B

The Phobos traits are largely cool rather than optimal, but there’s definitely fun things you can do with them, especially if you’ve gone in hard with Phobos units.

Indomitus Crusaders

The Indomitus Crusader detachment gets a warlord trait, and boy is it a good one.

  • Grey Shield: Once per battle, at the start of the movement phase while your warlord is on the battlefield, you can choose an additional chapter tactic from any of the eight chapters in this book. INDOMITUS CRUSADER units benefit from that tactic in addition to their normal one until the start of your next turn. This is extremely spicy with Intercessor spam, as it adds a huge amount of flexibility. Need to just be a bit tougher for a bit? Add on the Raven Guard or Iron Hands tactic. Need to mow down your enemies? Add on one of the Fists for extra hits. Been rammed by a bunch of Wave Serpents? Turn on Ultramarines, fall out and start blasting. Lists with 40+ Intercessors are a real thing, and adding this in gives them an enormously powerful once-per-game flex. A

Relics

We’re nearly there. Final push.

Much like with Warlord traits, the main set of relics isn’t the full story, with each supplement coming with more. However, with their new largely-unlimited availability it’s worth Marine players knowing all the tools they have access to, so lets take a tour as we close out the main book.

  • The Armour Indomitus: A returning favourite. An INFANTRY or BIKER model has a 2+ save, and once per game can activate a 3++ for the rest of the turn when called on to make a save. An exceptional defensive buff and worth considering for any character planning on getting into the thick of it. A Gravis Captain with this is an absolute wall of ceramite. B but only because Marines have a lot of good relics, and there’s times when this will be absolutely the right choice.
  • The Shield Eternal: A relic storm shield that gives a 5+ FNP against Mortal Wounds. Not really enough of a buff here – at the point where such a model has been isolated and is being bursted down with Smite this usually won’t tip the scales to keeping them alive. C+
  • Standard of the Emperor Ascendant: A decently sized nerf here. A relic banner that used to give +1 to the roll to fight/shoot on death, as well as fearless for you and -1 to enemy LD in a 6″ aura. Now just has the morale effects in a 9″ bubble. That does also extend the size of the “default” fight/shoot on death bubble, which is some level of compensation, but probably doesn’t pay off the loss of the +1. This lets your classic Marine battle pile be a bit more spread out, which is good, but is no longer an auto take in every list with infantry. You can replicate some of this effect with the new Chapter Ancient, though it’s kind of a wash unless you want some of the other things on offer there. C+
Imperial Fists Primaris Ancient

Imperial Fists Primaris Ancient. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • Teeth of Terra: Another fave – an extremely souped up chainsword that lets you make a very murderous character on the cheap. Now gives a flat 3 additional attacks instead of d3, so is even better! Very good with the Champion of Humanity melee trait, as S5 (this gives +1) is the “sweet spot” for +1 to wound effects. Combined, these give you a very cheap and cheerful discount smash captain. A
Lt. Vermillion of the Swords of Davion

Lt. Vermillion of the Swords of Davion. Credit: Coda

  • Primarch’s Wrath: A powered-up boltgun. Has always been fine. Is still fine, but with a vastly expanded list between all the supplements, “fine” is less likely to cut it. C
  • The Burning Blade: Yikes – this got a massive tune up, gaining D2 instead of D1. That’s a gigantic difference, and now makes this a very compelling option. It’s a little bit of a shame it only reaches S7 “natively”, and the fact that a decent number of targets out there still have invulnerable saves means that the Teeth of Terra probably still get the nod over this (especially with its buff), but it’s at least worth thinking about now. B+
  • Purgatorus: A relic bolt pistol/heavy bolt pistol. Hits pretty hard, and might be worth considering on the new Reiver Lieutenant build just because he doesn’t have a relic-able melee weapon, but there are probably better choices. C-
  • Reliquary of Gathalmor: Primaris only. Gives -1 to enemy casts within 18″, and causes enemy models that fail a psychic test within 18″ to take D3 MWs on a 4+. Imported from Vigilus, and a powerful tool to have universal access to – this can severely disrupt an enemy army’s Psychic phase plans, and is great as a flex pick against Thousand Sons, Eldar, GSC and Tyranids. B
  • Bellicos Bolt Rifle: Replaces a master crafted auto bolt-rifle. Adds a shot and a point of damage. Fine, but like with all the ranged weapons thus far the magnitude of enhancement compared to the melee options is tiny. B-
  • Lament: A master crafted stalker bolt rifle. Slightly interesting – it adds a MW on any successful wound, which means that the normally one-shot weapon can pick off two infantry models, but is that worth a slot? Probably not. C
  • Ghostweave Cloak: A Phobos model with a camo cloak gets -1 to wound against them. Another marginal and probably not worth it defensive buff. C-
  • Tome of Malcador: A psyker knows +1 power from any discipline they have access to. This is interesting –  it lets you mix and match powers from one of the main lists and one of the supplements (where you otherwise can’t). It’s pretty great, letting you combo the best powers from the other disciplines with Null Zone or Might of Heroes. A
  • Benediction of Fury: Just when we were beginning to tune out after a string of misses, this comes along! Chaplains are way more interesting and worth taking anyway thanks to Litanies, and this is a crozius that is better in every way stat wise and has bonus mortal wounds on top (Editor’s note – did this escape from the Imperial Knight book?). Do you have a Chaplain? Take this. It’s especially good on a Primaris Chaplain because of their extra attack, creating a bargain melee beatstick for only 77pts. A
    Ultramarines 4th Company Primaris Chaplain

    Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • The Honour Vehement: Replaces Shock Assault with a flat +1 attack in a 6″ bubble. The vast, vast majority of 8th ed combat happens either on the charge or when charged, so this just isn’t that good. C
  • The Vox Espiritum: Primaris only. Extend auras by 3″. You have Chapter Masters and Lieutenants who both have really useful buffs that you want to be maximising, and this is a great way of making that easier. B+

Indomitus Crusaders

These guys still have one extra unique relic:

  • Standard of the Ultima Founding: PRIMARIS ANCIENT only. Once per battle, you can plant the standard. Until the bearer moves, they have a 6″ re-roll 1s on hit and wound aura for INDOMITUS CRUSADER models. Requiring you to be static and only affecting models basically kills this – any list deep in enough on Intercessors to want this is going to be packing Captains and Lieutenants, and part of the power of Intercessor lists is the pressure they apply as they roll up the board. Give this a miss. D

Chaplain Litanies

New to the 2019 edition of the Codex is the concept of “Litanies” for Chaplains. These are a mirror to the Dark Apostle prayers in Chaos, a buff effect which doesn’t rely on a psychic test like a Librarian. Instead you roll a 3+ at the beginning of the battle round, and if you succeed, you can use a litany (known as “inspiring” in the rules, for some reason). Your Chaplain knows the Litany of Hate on his datasheet, which allows re-rolls to hit in the Fight phase for units within 6″, and one of the following (two, if he’s the Master of Sanctity – see the “Faith & Fury” section):

  1. Litany of Faith – When friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ suffer a mortal wound, roll a D6. On a 5+, they ignore that wound. Doesn’t stack with other abilities.
  2. Catechism of Fire – Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> unit within 6″. That unit gets +1 to its To Wound rolls when it shoots the closest visible unit.
  3. Exhortation of Rage – Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> unit within 6″. When that unit fights, unmodified 6s give you another attack with the same weapon. The new attacks don’t cause further attacks.
  4. Mantra of Strength – Add 1 to the Chaplain’s Strength and Attack characteristics and 1 to the Damage characteristic of its melee weapons.
  5. Recitation of Focus – Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> unit within 6″. Add 1 to the To Hit rolls of that unit’s attacks made with ranged weapons.
  6. Canticle of Hate – Add 2 to charge rolls for friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ of this model and friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ can move 6″ when they pile in or consolidate. Doesn’t stack with other abilities that increase these ranges.

This is a great little toolbox to pick from, and you can really make a Chaplain into a key part of your battle plan by picking the right litanies. It’s taken something like 8 editions but Chaplains are finally useful utility characters! Combat armies will get a lot of benefit from the Canticle of Hate allowing +2 to charge rolls, while shooting-focused armies can get a lot of mileage out of +1 to hit or +1 to wound closes visible. The Chaplain himself can even be a bit of a beatstick with the Mantra of Strength, especially when combined with the relic crozius.

In addition to the 6 litanies presented here, there’s a Chapter-specific litany for each Chapter with a supplement, and Black Templars have a whole table of their own known as the “Litanies of the Devout” (in contrast to these, which are the Litanies of Battle) which they can choose to use as an alternative. We have chosen to discuss the Chapter litanies under the various Chapter sub-headings, so check them out in the “Defenders of Humanity” section below.

Faith & Fury

Oh, you thought you were done with relics and Warlord traits? Sorry bub, it’s Marine town and there’s always more. The Psychic Awakening: Faith & Fury book brought a whole bunch of extras for vanilla Space Marines in the form of the Masters of the Chapter, a slew of additional rules for the characters who lead Space Marine armies. These give additional rules for each of the following:

  • Chaplains – Master of Sanctity
  • Techmarines – Master of the Forge
  • Librarians – Chief Librarian
  • Apothecaries – Chief Apothecary
  • Ancients – Chapter Ancient
  • Company Champions – Chapter Champion

You can only have one of each kind of Master per army (so for example, you could have a Master of the Forge and a Chief Librarian, but not two Chief Librarians – note that models like Iron Father Feirros, which already have the MASTER OF THE FORGE keyword, also count for this). Turning one of your characters into the appropriate Master costs 1CP, and grants them a new ability, such as re-rolling the dice to revive a model for the Chief Apothecary, or automatically repairing 3 damage for the Master of the Forge. There are then also two Warlord traits and two relics for each type, such as the Wise Orator ability which allows a Master of the Sanctity to re-roll the dice to see if a litany is inspiring.

The full list of options is:

Master of Sanctity

Imperial Fists Primaris Chaplain

Imperial Fists Primaris Chaplain. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Master of Sanctity is an upgraded Chaplain, improving how many Litanies they can use and the potency of them.

Character Upgrade

This model knows one additional litany from the Litanies of Battle and can recite one additional litany at the start of the battle round. This is incredibly good and the vast majority of armies using a Chaplain should be thinking about activating this. If you’re including one to stick with your gunline this lets you activate both Catechism of Fire and Recitation of Focus at the same time, or use the Imperial Fists/Raven Guard litanies alongside another to protect/redeploy your castle. If your Chaplain wants to go roaming, being able to have access to Mantra of Strength without it being the only trick the model has access to is great.

Many armies will stop here, but the Chaplain Warlord traits are also worth a look, and synergize effectively with having multiple Litanies.

Warlord Traits

  • Wise Orator: When you roll to determine if a litany chanted by this warlord is inspiring, you can re-roll the dice. Any time a strategy is reliant on litanies being successfully activated this trait is a huge winner. In an average battle a Chaplain will fail to inspire twice, eating key CP for re-rolls or setting back your battle plan. Mitigating that uncertainty is a big win. B+
  • Bellowing Firebrand: Add 3″ to the range of this warlord’s Spiritual Leader ability and all litanies chanted by this warlord. This is big news for any sort of offensive Chaplain as a support to deep striking units – a 9″ Canticle of Hate is much easier to get deep strikers in range of than a 6″ aura, and being able to hit both Canticle of Hate and Strike off the Head is awesome. B+

Relics of the Reclusiam

  • Sacrosanct Rosarius: Upgrades your rosarius’ invulnerable save to a 3+. A strong take on a buffing Chaplain as they can’t take a stormshield, this keeps your litanies alive in a sniper filled meta. Not absolutely key, but not a bad call either. B
  • The Emperor’s Judgement: When resolving an attack against a model with this relic, your opponent cannot re-roll the hit, wound, or damage roll, and any morale tests made within 6″ of a model with this relic roll two dice and discard the lowest. A very cool defensive buff for a melee Chaplain, but it doesn’t really make a whole ton of sense to use. On the offense, taking the Benediction of Fury and killing things before they can swing back is more reliable than attacking with the normal crozius and hoping this keeps you alive. B-

 

Master of The Forge

Imperial Fists Primaris Techmarine

Imperial Fists Primaris Techmarine. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Master of the Forge is the chief Techmarine of a chapter, and both repairs vehicles better and provides some additional buffs to their damage output. Only a “real” Techmarine character can be upgraded this way – none of the Techmarine gunners attached to Thunderfire Cannons can take any upgrades.

Character Upgrade

Simple and straightforward, the Master of the Forge always repairs 3 wounds instead of the d3 wounds of a normal Techmarine. An easy grab in any vehicle-heavy list.

Warlord Traits

  • Master of the Machine: When resolving an attack made by a friendly VEHICLE model within 6″, add one to the hit roll. Huge would be a bit of an understatement for this ability. A big increase in damage output, this ability is nearly a must-take in any vehicle-heavy army, especially as adding one to hit nicely counters hit penalties from airplanes. Possibly the game’s most unnecessarily good upgrade. A+
  • Warden of the Ancients: Increase both Strength and Attacks of friendly Dreadnoughts within 6″ of this warlord. Not a must-take like Master of the Machine, this is still a very cool ability for a more thematic army focused on melee dreadnoughts. Contemptor Dreadnoughts will be hitting at S16 around this, or Leviathans at S18, and putting out plenty of attacks on the charge. Very cool, very fun, but why wouldn’t you take Master of the Machine? B+

Relics

  • Mortis Machina: This relic weapon upgrades a Power Axe to Strength +3, AP-1, damage d3, and does an additional 1 mortal wound to VEHICLES on every failed save. Effectively a power fist wihout a hit penalty, this is a reliable way to kill vehicles, but is sadly stuck on a character without a whole lot of attacks, reason to be in combat, or weapon skill. C
  • The Endurant Protector: Add one toughness, and gain a 4+ invulnerable save. A big jump in defensive abilities for a character that normally wouldn’t have any invulnerable save at all, this can push a Techmarine on bike (Editor’s note: this is a Legends option) all the way up to toughness 6 with a 2+ armor save and 4+ invulnerable save. Maybe not worth taking against every opponent, but certainly a solid choice if facing off against a bunch of Eliminators. B+

 

Chief Librarian

Imperial Fists Terminator Librarian

Imperial Fists Terminator Librarian. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Chief Librarian is a potent upgrade to a normal Librarian, with the ability to either be better at casting powers from their discipline of choice, or being able to cast from a wider range of powers.

Character Upgrade

This character knows one additional psychic power from their chosen discipline, and can attempt to deny one additional power in their opponent’s psychic phase. This upgrade is really about the additional deny and unlocking traits and relics – many psychic disciplines don’t have three powers worth knowing, and there’s no additional cast. That said, while not all disciplines have three good powers, some certainly do – White Scars are going to love this, even before considering High Scholar of the Librarius.

Warlord Traits

  • Psychic Mastery: This warlord gains +1 on their first psychic test of a turn. More reliable casting is great, even if only on the first power – just make sure to front load the more difficult or important power. B
  • High Scholar of the Librarius: This warlord can know psychic powers from any discipline they have access to, rather than only one. This takes great advantage of knowing an additional power as Chief Librarian, as they can grab two good powers from their chapter list and still tack in Might of Heroes or Null Zone. B

Relics

  • Vinculum Vitae: This replaces a force sword with a version that grants +1 strength, and an unmodified wound roll of 6 inflicts d3 mortal wounds as damage instead of the normal d3 damage. As relic weapons go, this is decent, but most armies are going to have much better options to take, and librarians aren’t amazing in combat. C
  • Neural Shroud: Add 12″ to the range of the Psychic Hood ability of a model with this relic. For a model that’s going to be attempting two denies instead of just one, this bonus is very useful. Needing to meet the dice roll to deny is much easier than needing to beat it, and being able to do so out to the full 24″ deny range is great. B+

 

Chief Apothecary

Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary

Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary. Credit: Jack Hunter

An upgraded Apothecary, the Chief Apothecary brings some Feel No Pain bonuses to the board as well as the interesting Selfless Healer effect. If you see this guy it’s most commonly accompanying Iron Hands armies in order to use Father of the Future to buff their Feel No Pain to a 5+, combining with Iron Father Feirros to bring them a baseline 5+ invulnerable save and 5+ FNP. Great.

Character Upgrade

The Chief Apothecary can re-roll the dice to determine if a model that has been destroyed returns to that unit. One of the biggest issues with Apothecaries in the past has been the 50% chance to actually bring a model back, this upgrade bumps that up to a 75% chance,

Warlord Traits

  • Father of the Future: When an INFANTRY or BIKER model in a unit within 6″ of this warlord would lose a wound, that wound is not lost on a d6 roll of a 6. If that unit has The Flesh is Weak chapter tactic, that wound is not lost on a 5+ instead. Feel No Pain auras are great, and this one is no exception. Taking the Iron Hands chapter tactic into account is a nice call for IH players, as it keeps this trait usable for them. This also keeps the Apothecary useful if they fail the resurrect roll, rather than just standing around looking dumb. A
  • Selfless Healer: This warlord can provide medical attention (heal or revive a model) twice rather than once, and can do so to either two different units or the same unit twice. While the warlord can’t shoot or assault if they fail to revive a model, they can still heal a second time even if they fail to revive the first time. This is fantastic, and fixes one of the biggest issues with the utility of an Apothecary – that a unit might have lost a model and also lost a single wound on another, and as such the Apothecary would only be able to heal the one wound. With this, they can either heal that wound and then attempt to revive a model, or revive a model and then heal it up past one wound. A

For many, many lists, Father of the Future is an obvious slam-dunk choice – making your Marines more durable is always a winner, particularly for Iron Hands who just get an even better version of it for no extra cost. However, it’s also worth keeping an eye on Selfless Healer – if you have a list that’s heavy on expensive, multi-wound models, getting to revive one of them can be worth the Apothecary’s cost on its own – a 70pt Centurion getting back up again is a big change in effectiveness. Arguably having the Feel No Pain to stop them dying in the first place is equally good, though.

Relics

  • Acquittal: Upgrade the Bolt Pistol or Absolvor Bolt Pistol carried by an Apothecary to strength 5, AP-3, Damage 1, and against a unit that is neither a VEHICLE nor MONSTER the damage characteristic increases to d6. Cool, it hits hard, but it’s still a single shot pistol carried by a model that may not be allowed to actually shoot it, and only has a ballistic skill of 3+ anyways. D
  • Healer’s Aegis: Friendly INFANTRY models have a 5+ invulnerable save whilst they are within 1″ of a model with this relic. This is individual models, not units, and requires them to be extremely close. If it’s going to be this tricky to make work, it should at least provide a strong save. D

 

Chapter Ancient

Imperial Fists Primaris Ancient

Imperial Fists Primaris Ancient. Credit: Jack Hunter

Company Ancients that are particularly talented at waving around a banner get promoted to a Chapter Ancient, giving them a bigger banner and making them slightly more inspiring.

Character Upgrade

The Chapter Ancient gains +1 Leadership, and the aura range of their banner increases from 6″ to 9″. The aura increase is the thing that matters here, the leadership change will only matter when getting attacked by a few psychic powers. Opening up the range for positioning infantry units near an Ancient is helpful, allowing them to better stay in cover or in range of objectives, and making it harder for those units to get multicharged.

Warlord Traits

  • Singular Presence: Friendly INFANTRY, BIKER, and DREADNOUGHT units within 3″ can perform a Heroic Intervention as though they are characters. Much like the unique Salamanders litany we looked at earlier, this trait adds resilience to your gunline by forcing your opponent to either multicharge or get hit by units they can’t attack. At only 3″ it doesn’t hit quite as many units, but still does put pressure on precise positioning. C
  • Steadfast Example: Friendly INFANTRY units within 3″ have the Defenders of Humanity rule, and count as two models if they already have it. Potentially useful against an Ork opponent who can have significant numbers of models on the same objective that the ancient is standing near, this ability is too limited in use to rate tremendously highly. Most useful on a Terminator Ancient, allowing a deep struck Terminator squad to better contest backfield objectives. C

Relics

  • Standard of Righteous Hatred: When resolving a shooting or melee attack made as a result of the Astartes Banner ability, a model’s ballistic and weapon skill are 2+. This does a fantastic job of maximizing the damage output of anything that dies near the Ancient, as most of those units wouldn’t ordinarily have a 2+ ballistic skill. A
  • Pennant of the Fallen: Models that attack with a melee weapon as a result of the Astartes Banner ability may make two attacks instead of one. Doubling what models can do as they die is great, but begs the question of how an Ancient is making it into combat often enough to justify taking this banner instead of one that benefits both shooting and melee. C

 

Chapter Champion

Ultramarines Chapter Champion

Ultramarines Chapter Champion. Credit SRM

The Chapter Champion upgrades the little-used Company Champion unit, making it a bit stronger of an anti-character melee threat.

Character Upgrade

The upgraded champion gains +1 leadership and attack, and a new special ability Skillful Parry, which subtracts one from the hit roll of melee weapons attacking the champion. These are pretty solid buffs when character hunting, bringing him up to 5 attacks base, 6 in the first round of combat. His parry ability makes him notably harder to get killed by whoever he’s fighting, giving him a solid chance to take out multiple enemy characters, and he always re-rolls all hits and wounds against CHARACTERS.

Warlord Traits

  • Master Duellist: When resolving an attack with a melee weapon by a model against this warlord, on a hit roll of 1 roll one d6, on a 4+ that model’s unit suffers 1 mortal wound after that unit has finished fighting. This sounds like a relatively low chance, but when combined with the Skillful Parry ability both ones and twos will have a chance of mortal wounds, giving a reasonable chance to tag some mortal wounds on, particularly useful if the champion is killing a character and getting hit back by a surrounding unit. B
  • Martial Exemplar: Friendly units within 6″ of this warlord can re-roll charges. Charge re-rolls are great, but a Chapter Champion isn’t generally likely to be in a position where nearby units are making a bunch of difficult charges. This has legs in some sort of fun trick situation where you drop a couple champions into a drop pod with Veterans. B-

Relics

  • Blade of Triumph: Replacing the master-crafted power sword on the champion gives a weapon with strength +2, AP-4, damage 3. No special rules on this, just a straight forward weapon upgrade. A Chapter Champion with this has the potential to do a lot of damage. B+
  • The Angel Artifice: This upgrades the save on a champion to 2+, and the invulnerable save to 4+. Both of those are strong defensive upgrades, but the champion already does have a 5+ invulnerable save, and with their ability to always fight first is better served trying to deal more damage rather than become more survivable. This can be used on the Ultramarine-specific Chapter Champion datasheet, who trades the combat shield for an additional attack at AP-2 D:1 and doesn’t have an invulnerable save normally, where it’s perhaps more useful (though the sword is still the better pick). B-

The Chapter Champion really shows off how much the army building rules of 8th disincentivise units outside the HQ and Troops slots and how gridlocked Marines now are in wanting to buy traits and relics. These guys are priced to move, and some of this stuff is hilarious – a Chapter Champion with the Blade of Triumph is almost certainly the deadliest model you can put on the table for 47pts – but people still aren’t going to take it most of the time.

Units

Space Marines have altogether too many datasheets. Nearly everything in the book has at least some sort of near-competitive use, so we’re going to be taking a look at just about everything. We’re also going to be compressing a few datasheets – there’s no pressing reason to look at all seven datasheets for a Captain separately, as they’re 90% similar – rest assured that we’ll call out the important variations. Note that several of the Phobos units in the list have the “Concealed Positions” rule, allowing them to deploy on the table anywhere more than 9″ from the enemy deployment zone or enemy models, as do Scouts. We will often shorthand refer to this as “infiltrate.” Also note: the finished article is 65,000 words. In the circumstances I flat refuse to cover every single Forge World unit in the index because Space Marines have a lot of those units. If your favourite Obscurus-pattern Heavy Dog Botherer isn’t in here it’s because it doesn’t matter enough to be written about and I’m sorry. Yell at me in the comments and I’ll add it if you can prove someone has used it in a top 4 list in the last 3 months. That means a real top 4, not your local 8-player RTT.

HQ

Raven Guard Phobos Captain

Raven Guard Phobos Captain Credit: Dan Boyd

Captains

Captains are a hugely useful unit for Space Marines, and it’s a rare list which doesn’t include any. A basic, power-armour-wearing, non-Primaris Captain totes a master-crafted boltgun and chainsowrd, costs 77pts, and has a fairly impressive statline, with a 6″ Move, WS and BS 2+, S4 T4, W5, A4, Ld9, Sv3+. They also have the Rites of Battle rule, which means that friendly <CHAPTER> units within 6″ can re-roll 1s to hit, and an Iron Halo granting them a 4+ invulnerable save. That’s not a bad package on its own – he’s reasonable in melee, and basically any Space Marine army is improved by having access to re-roll 1s to hit, and the Captain’s aura (along with the Lieutenant’s re-roll 1s to wound, see below) is a fundamental part of the “Space Marine battlepile” formation – a bunch of units all arranged on the board to be within range of these powerful auras.

That isn’t all that Captains do, though. The power-armoured Captain has a huge range of equipment it can access, being able to swap its boltgun for anything on the Combi-weapons, Melee weapons, or Pistols lists, or swap its chainsword for a relic blade or a weapon from the Melee weapons list, or have a storm shield instead of its chainsword. They can also take a jump pack (which also allows him to deep strike), increasing their move to 12″ and giving them FLY. There are literally dozens of possible combinations of wargear available. By far the most common offensive way to use a Captain – i.e. not as a a backline buffstick – is to give him a thunder hammer, storm shield, and jump pack, and send him flying around the board to fight whatever the hardest target is that he can find. This “slam Captain” build originated with the Blood Angels, but following the release of the Chapter supplements there’s a bunch of different varieties each Chapter can put on the table – check out our Hammer of Math articles on it here and here for your individual Chapter.

Captain options don’t stop at the one datasheet, however. In total there are 7 different datasheets you can pick from, each of which is slightly different. The most similar to the basic Captain is the “Captain on Bike” – this improves his move to 14″, grants him +1 T and +1 W (so T5, W6), and gives him the Turbo-boost ability to auto-advance 6″. Otherwise you can take basically the same wargear as the default datasheet.

You can alternatively take two different types of Terminator Captain – in regular Terminator armour or Cataphractii. These have more limited options than the other versions, but do grant a 2+ save and an extra wound. Cataphractii also gives you a native 3++, which is nice.

Finally there’s the Primaris Captains. The default Primaris Captain has the same statline as above but with +1 W +1 A, a bit like the Terminators, but no 2+ save. Primaris Captains have even fewer options than the Terminators – they come with a master-crafted auto bolt rifle by default, but they can take a power sword, a fist and plasma pistol (yes, you have to take both together – you can’t just get one or the other), or swap the auto bolt rifle for a master-crafted stalker bolt rifle. Alternatively you can have a Primaris Captain in Gravis armour, which also gives him +1 T and +1 W over the Primaris statline (so T5, W7!) and grants him a boltstorm gauntlet (like an Aggressor) and a master-crafted power sword. Finally, there’s the Phobos Captain, with no changes in statline but toting a master-crafted instigator bolt carbine (i.e. a damage 3 sniper rifle!), an omni-scrambler (which prevents deep strike within 12″), a camo cloak for +2 save in cover, and finally the “Concealed Positions” rule which lets him infiltrate at deployment.

We should also mention that any of these can, for 2CP, be upgrade to a Chapter Master, which turns their Rites of Battle aura from re-roll 1s to hit into re-roll all hit rolls.

That’s an utterly bewildering array of options – don’t worry, no other single unit has this many things it can be! The most common types of Captain you see on the table are either slam captains, with the hammer/shield/jump pack combo, or barebones Captains, possibly upgraded to Chapter Masters, whose job is mainly to offer buffs to the units surrounding them. Whether they’re regular power-armoured guys, Primaris, or Phobos depends on the exact list design and player preference, and even a cheap backline Captain can be pretty fearsome in melee as a linebacker unit, if given a power fist or one of the relic weapons like the Teeth of Terra or the Burning Blade.

Lieutenants

Lieutenants are a great fluff inclusion for 8th edition and also a great unit in their own right. Their statline is a bit worse than a Captain’s, though they retain the WS2+, but they have a unique aura which allows units within 6″ to re-roll 1s to wound. This is a hugely powerful ability which makes them worth including basically on their own. They came in small Marine, Primaris, and Phobos varieties, with a whole array of wargear options depending on their size and armour, and much like Captains the exact type you take will come down to preference – small Marine for “just get this guy on the table to give his buff”, Primaris to be a little bit tougher and fightier, and Phobos if you want him to go infiltrating upfield with your other Phobos units (though note that, for some reason, this guy doesn’t actually infiltrate – if you want him to scoot up table you’ll have to take the grav-chute version which allows him to deep strike). Even lists which skip a Captain (such as many Iron Hands lists used to, since they could re-roll 1s to hit with their most important weapons anyway) almost always include a Lieutenant – the aura alone is worth it.

Primaris LT

Primaris LT with power sword. Credit: Corrode

Chaplains

Chaplains received a huge boost in the 2019 book. Previously they were somewhat mediocre characters – they weren’t as fighty as a Captain, nor did they have the kind of toolbox utility that Librarians did thanks to Psychic powers, and their aura was fine but more limited than a Chapter Master. As such, you didn’t see them much. Their statline hasn’t changed – they’re still WS2+, BS3+, S4 T4 W4 A3, worse in every way than a Captain, though they come by default with a crozius arcanum which gives them S+1 AP-1 D2 in melee. However, in the new book they gained the Litanies of Battle, which improved their prospects overnight. These Litanies are described above, and give them a great selection of options to act as buffers and utility characters. They also gained the Benediction of Fury relic, which made them much more capable fighters if chosen, and gained a further boost with the Master of Sanctity option allowing them even more utility. Like other characters, you can take Chaplains as small Marines (with or without jump packs), in Terminator armour, or as Primaris, and the distinction is mostly down to personal taste – though Terminator armour rarely shows up in lists. Jump pack versions are very common, as they are then able to hunt planes and act as “smash Chaplains” to accompany or replace a Captain, though I am personally a fan of Primaris – somewhat on the strength of the extra Wound and Attack, which keep them around for longer against snipers who want to take your buff character out and enable them in turn to act as linebacker units if things charge your castle, but also just because the model is sick and well worth putting on the table (this last bit may not be strict competitive advice).

Raven Guard Chaplain

Raven Guard Chaplain. Credit: Dan Boyd

Librarians

Librarians come in a variety of flavours – basic power armoured small Marines (with or without jump pack), Terminator, Primaris, and Phobos. Librarians are hugely versatile. As indicated in the psychic powers section, each has access to the basic lore of Space Marine powers. The Phobos Librarians not only have the ability to infiltrate, they also have their own dedicated psychic lore. Additionally, you can draw your powers from one of the supplements as long as you have the appropriate kind of detachment (i.e. an entirely IMPERIAL FISTS or WHITE SCARS or whatever else detachment). Access to up to 18 powers offers huge flexibility, especially in formats which allow you to pick powers from game to game, and while you normally have to pick all your powers from the same lore the Tome of Malcador allows you to pick a power from any lore you have access to – so if you really want a cross-lore Librarian you can have one.

When it comes to picking between Chaplains and Librarians, the main thing is to have a plan in mind for what you want them to be doing. A Phobos Librarian might suit your White Scars or Raven Guard army by allowing them greater movement or defensive tricks, for example, but not really fit in to your Imperial Fists gunline. A Primaris Librarian sitting in the backfield and casting Psysteel Armour on your key vehicle may be valuable in some Iron Hands lists but irrelevant if you’re focused mostly on an Intercessor horde. With such flexibility it’s hard to pick out any one thing – instead you should look at the plan for your list (or check out one of the ones in the relevant Chapter section) and work around that.

Primaris Librarian

Primaris Librarian. Credit: Corrode

Techmarines

Techmarines are cheap and cheerful, at 45pts for the basic version (for some reason the default one per the datasheet is 50pts, since it comes with a power axe, but you can swap the axe for a chainsword to keep it cheap). They can take a bunch of different wargear options, as befits the masters of the armoury, but the main usage of Techmarines is to a) fill a slot really cheaply and b) repair vehicles and c) be the Master of the Forge with the Master of Machines Warlord trait described above in order to make VEHICLE units nearby hit more.

The ancient 3rd ed Techmarine. Credit: Corrode

Chaplain Dreadnought (FW)

Ughhh. You won’t find the Chaplain Dreadnought in your codex, and hopefully soon you won’t find it in your Forge World index either. Theoretically the Chaplain Dread is a cool unit, but what it has generally been for 8th edition is a vector for bullshit, which in late 8th ed has reached its apex. It’s like a regular Dreadnought but with 9 wounds and BS2+, and it’s a character, so you can’t target it if other units are closer. As a character it can also therefore have a Warlord trait. Since it’s a Chaplain, it’s still pretty decent in melee, and it was specifically made into a PRIEST and given access to Litanies, so it can inspire those too (though it’s not a CHAPLAIN and therefore can’t be a Master of Sanctity, thank god). What this means is that you can fill your HQ slots with tough, untargetable Dreadnoughts with twin lascannons that hit on 2s, and are resistant to being tied up in melee because they’re actually pretty fearsome there too. They have calmed down a little bit since the death of the “Brohammer” list which utilised a nigh-unkillable Leviathan Dreadnought to protect them, but most of the above still applies.

I am personally really hoping for these things to die (or at least go to the great Legends farm in the country) with the new Forge World release.

 

Troops

Imperial Fist Primaris Intercessors

Imperial Fist Primaris Intercessors. Credit: Jack Hunter

Scout Squad

Scouts have been an ever-present in Space Marine armies throughout 8th edition (and indeed, since the very inception of Space Marines as a concept). Their continuing relevance is based on two things – first, at just 11 points per model, they’re the cheapest Marine Troop choice and therefore perfect for filling out Battalions for command points. Secondly, they are Infiltrators, able to deploy anywhere on the table more than 9” away from enemy models/the enemy deployment zone. This gives them huge utility for a variety of jobs – early charges on enemy vehicles to tie them up, screening out deep strikers, taking distant objectives and claiming bonus points in ITC missions, or just gumming up the works in general. Good Scout play can often be key to doing well with Marines.

Profile-wise, they’re a little worse than most other Marine units, with only a 4+ save rather than a 3+, and they don’t pack that much punch – though 5 Scouts and a Sergeant with bolt pistols and combat knives can still rock 16 attacks on the charge (or even when getting charged), which isn’t bad for jobs like clearing chaff.

They have a few other options; they’re able to take a single heavy bolter or missile launcher (generally not worth it), camo cloaks to give them a +2 save in cover, and sniper rifles which make them much more expensive but able to snipe characters. I personally do not rate sniper Scouts that highly but there’s people who love them and you will still see them on tables from time to time.

Broadly though, Scouts are good. They’re costed well for what they do, you don’t really care if they die early on, and they allow you to pack more points of killy things on the table while gaining you valuable CP. You can’t really go wrong by including them. That said, do be mindful when playing with them – careless Scout deployment is a great way for a savvy combat-minded player to take the unit hostage and prevent you shooting at something key like a Possessed bomb.

Imperial Fists Scout Squad

Imperial Fists Scout Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter

Tactical Squad

The other small Marine Troops choice are the venerable Tactical Squads, and unlike Scouts they’re kind of lacking in a place in the modern game. At 12pts for a generically “good” profile of WS3+, BS3+, S4, T4, 3+ save, and with boltguns which are fine and a number of different weapon options, they seem like they’re ok. However, they’re kind of out-competed in every direction – Scouts are cheaper for the “just tick this Troops box” slot and also have board control utility that Tacticals lack, Intercessors do the same “generalist anti-infantry” job while being tougher, fightier, and not much more expensive, and the things that are unique to Tactical Squads – like being able to mix in special and heavy weapons – just aren’t that valuable. The best use of them is to be a small 5-model unit sitting in the backfield, but with Marine castles being what they are you generally are not lacking for guys to sit at the back, and you can often make those more effective at range than Tacticals are. They’ve often not been considered a good unit over 40k’s lifetime, usually seeing utility only as MSU or as “Tax Marines” to fill out organisation charts, but in 8th ed Tacticals are more adrift than ever.

Intercessor Squad

And so to the bigger, beefier version of a Tactical Marine, the Intercessor. On paper Intercessors don’t look much different – they have basically the same profile, with an extra Wound and Attack, and a much more limited range of weapon options. However, that extra wound makes them significantly tougher – 10 Intercessors costs 170pts vs. 120pts for 10 Tacticals, and the 50pt difference doubles the wound count on the table – and the various bolt rifle options are all more powerful than the standard issue boltgun.

The basic bolt rifle is still S4 and Rapid Fire 1, but it’s also AP-1 and has a 30” range. The auto bolt rifle lacks the AP, but has 3 shots at 24” range – more than a Tactical Marine can ever fire, and therefore a straight improvement on the boltgun, and is also Assault so you can advance and still shoot it. Finally there’s the stalker bolt rifle, which at base is Heavy 1, S4, AP-2, D2. Anyone having paid attention will note that this means in Devastator doctrine it’s AP-3, which is Marine-killing levels of AP, and in Imperial Fists armies it’s also damage 3 against vehicles. That is a lot more firepower than Tacticals can offer, even with their special and heavy weapons, though of course these days you only get those benefits on turn 1 before coming back down to earth with the more manageable base profile.

Intercessor Sergeants have also slowly gained options as the edition has worn on. They can pack a chainsword (great for being free and giving your basic Sergeant 5 attacks on the charge), a power sword (fine – better in Blood Angels, which get +1 to wound with them, but they’re only 4pts so nice to throw in there if you have nothing else to fill a gap), power fists (good and cheap at 9pts per model) and thunder hammers, which at 16pts are expensive but offer great killing power by being flat damage 3.

With all those options, there’s a few different ways you can run Intercessors. For a while stalker bolt rifles were the option of choice for both Iron Hands and Imperial Fists, but time will tell if that continues after the FAQ – they certainly still have a place as back-up character killers, but they’re no longer the automatic first choice. The fall of the stalker makes for the rise of the regular bolt rifle back to relevance, especially since it will have the same AP for turns 2 and 3 with an extra shot to work with, and fewer penalties. Auto bolt rifles are, bafflingly, an extra point per model, but are marginally more effective than regular bolt rifles for non-Ultramarines Chapters – if you’re looking to pack some pure anti-infantry, they’re a good option.

Infiltrator Squad

Infiltrators came into being with the Shadowspear boxed set released in March 2019. They are the baseline Phobos-armoured Troops, and like other Phobos units they’re able to infiltrate onto the board, similarly to Scouts. This gives them great utility for setting up on the table wherever they’re needed most. They are quite pricey – they cost 22pts per model, which is literally twice as much as a Scout Squad for a unit with a similar job – but like the Phobos Captain they have the Omni-scramblers rule, which means that units cannot deep strike within 12” of them. It’s this last bit that makes them worth taking over Scouts – if a unit can’t come in within 12” of you, it cannot charge out of deep strike, even if it’s able to charge 3D6 or at +2 or whatever else. A couple of units of Infiltrators can completely stonewall armies like Genestealer Cults or Orks which want to deploy, or redeploy, in your face and charge you. It also supercedes rules like Vex Teleport Homer in Custodes which normally let units deep strike closer than 9”. Additionally, they’re a little more defensively tough than you expect, as they can give up their shooting phase for one turn iin order to be -1 to hit – great for when you need them to just stay alive on a key objective.

Firepower wise they’re a little worse than their comparator units, firing marskman bolt carbines which are basically just boltguns that auto-wound on a 6 to hit, but that’s not really what you’re here for. 110pts for 5 is potentially a little bit too much – they’d feel better at 100pts – but the ability to completely shut down some opponents’ game plan is invaluable.

Incursor Squad

Incursors are an interesting middle ground between Infiltrators and Intercessors. They’re a bit better at melee then basic Intercessors, but they don’t have access to power fists or thunder hammers on their Sergeants. Their guns are a bit worse than bolt rifles, but they do ignore hit modifiers (both positive and negative!) and cover, and they’re also packing paired combat blades which do an additional hit on an unmodified 6 to hit – not bad when you consider they’re throwing out 16 attacks on the charge. They don’t have the Omni-scramblers rule like Infiltrators, but they can still infiltrate and keep the Smoke Grenades rule. They can also take a haywire mine, which does mortal wounds to enemy models that come within 3″, which is cute. They’re a bit of a mixed bag of a unit. That said, they cost 19 points per model (slightly more than an Intercessor, but less than the 22pts of an Infiltrator) and they can infiltrate aggressively forwards. For fast, aggressive melee-focused builds, they make powerful forward troops – White Scars lists focused on wrapping up their opponent’s lines for a couple of turns before a turn 3 strike will see great benefit from them.

Elites

Apothecary

Like the other Marine characters, Apothecaries come in both big and little flavours. The only difference between them is a few points and an extra Wound and Attack, so pick whichever fits your list. The basic Apothecary is able to use a healing ability once per turn, which can either restore D3 wounds to a model in a unit within 6″, or pick up a model in that unit which had previously died. The latter requires a 4+ roll and if you fail the Apothecary can’t do anything else for the rest of the turn – no shooting, charging, or fighting. This is ok but not really worth the points. However, the Chief Apothecary abilities outlined above in the Faith & Fury section, and turn these into great units – not only can they re-roll that “restore a model” 4+, making it a 75% chance instead of 50%, they’re also able to use the Selfless Healer or, more commonly, Father of the Future Warlord traits. The latter is a 6+ Feel No Pain aura, which is pretty good, but becomes even better in Iron Hands armies where it buffs their Flesh is Weak chapter trait to a 5+ FNP instead. This is a huge improvement in effectiveness, and Iron Hands armies based around hordes of Intercessors supported by an Apothecary look to be a possible new direction now that the worst excesses of that supplement have been calmed down.

Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary

Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary. Credit: Jack Hunter

Ancient

The Company Ancient or “guy with flag” serves a noble purpose – he stands near your Marines and tries to make them shoot when they die. There’s Primaris and Company i.e. small versions of these guys, and their Astartes Banner ability means that when a <CHAPTER> INFANTRY or BIKER model (key word here!) within 6″ of them dies, that unit can make an attack with one of its ranged weapons as if it were the Shooting phase or make a single attack as if it were the Fight phase. The Chapter Ancient, as above, can potentially buff this to be a 9″ range, or there’s a relic flag which makes your units ignore Morale and is also a 9″ range, and there’s a couple of Warlord traits and relics for this guy too. There’s lists using this guy – notably, both the 1st and 3rd place armies at the Alliance Open Ironman event had one – but even more so than most Marine auras Ancients force you to play quite compact to get the most out of them, and their effect can be very swingy. Sometimes the value from allowing part of your army to fire on death will be huge, and sometimes you’ll get nothing, and he doesn’t offer much else.

Company Champion

The Company Champion, as hinted at above when discussing his upgraded version the Chapter Champion, is technically a good unit. For 47pts he’s probably one of the stronger buys in the game with his supporting Warlord traits from acting as a Chapter Champion. He swings a power sword with 4 base attacks, must heroically intervene if an enemy CHARACTER is within 6″, always fights first if an enemy CHARACTER is within 1″, re-rolls hit rolls and wound rolls against the same, and also has a 5+ invulnerable save. That’s a lot! His master-crafted power sword is also damage 2. His main issue is that he’s just a regular guy on foot so actually getting to combat is an issue, and Marines don’t exactly have a problem with dealing with enemy characters – Eliminators are right there and they don’t have to walk to within punching range to do their thing.

Company Veterans

Like the Apothecary and Company Champion, Company Champions are refugees from the old Command Squad that Space Marine characters could take. Unlike those models they didn’t have a specific rule though, so here they are – they’re just “Veterans.” Does that sound excessive when you already have Sternguard and Vanguard Veterans who are meant to cover the two ways these guys fight? Whatever. Besides having a bonus attack owing to being Veterans, Company Vets are also bodyguards – if a friendly <CHAPTER> character loses a wound within 3″ of them, then on the roll of a 2+ these guys can eat a mortal wound and live their best lives as drones. At 14pts per model that’s expensive but sometimes it’s better for a couple of these guys to eat shit than your key buff character. They also have an extensive wargear list. Overall they’re just sort of there – if you have the models kicking around from your old command squads they’re not the worst points you’ll ever spend, but also there’s probably better things you can do with them.

Servitors

Servitors in most respects are basically trash, but they serve a very important role in the Marine codex – they are 20pts and fill up an Elites slot. Several good Marine units have the “relic” rule, requiring you to have another non-relic unit of the same detachment slot, and Servitors are excellent for paying that tax. They’re also handy for filling out Brigades, and they make good Engineers and backfield objective holders since people rarely want to devote resources to killing them, and each unit consists of 4 smallish models on 25mm bases which are quite easy to hide.

Terminator Squad/Tartaros Terminator Squad/Cataphractii Terminator Squad

Oh, Terminators, the once and future kings of the Space Marine army. Terminators are another victim of just how much stuff there is in the Space Marines book now, and of being an old-fashioned multi-purpose unit in a world where they’re neither cheap enough nor powerful enough to make the most of it. An ironic fact about Terminators is that way back in 3rd edition they had a 2+ armour save but no invulnerable save, so they would eat shit every time a lascannon or plasma gun pointed at them since those just ignored their armour completely. To rectify this, they were given a 5+ invulnerable save. Nowadays they still have the 5+ invulnerable, but against a lascannon or plasma gun they have exactly as much chance to save either way, since those things modify their armour to a 5+. Such is the way of rules design which does its utmost to hold on to things from 20 years ago regardless of whether or not they’re still relevant.

Anyway, Terminators. There’s 3 different varieties of them now, the basic ones, Tartaros, and Cataphractii. There’s also Assault Terminators but those are a separate thing. Tartaros Terminators look a bit different and can take some 30k war crimes weapons, Cataphractii are slower but have a better invulnerable save. None of them are really worth their points. There’s going to be a lot of points in this article where we say “these are fine but you can do better” and Terminators fit right in there – they’re guys with 2 wounds and a 2+ armour save, and they have storm bolters and power fists, and they can deep strike, so it’s not like they can’t do stuff, they just don’t do anything as well as like a dozen other units in this codex. Again, Aggressors are right there, not to mention Centurions which basically fulfil every possible role of a Terminator but better, and don’t even cost a lot more.

Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad

Imperial Fists Cataphractii Terminator Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter

Terminator Assault Squad

Instead of the storm bolter and power fist combo, Assault Terminators can take either lightning claws or thunder hammers and storm shields. The latter option makes them much tankier, offering a 3+ invulnerable save, and the flat 3 damage from a thunder hammer is a lot more reliable than the d3 from a power fist. You can conceivably build a good unit of these in like White Scars or Raven Guard, but also you could use Centurions instead and get just as much damage output for T5, 3 wounds and a hellacious amount of firepower as well as the melee (though of course Cents don’t have an invulnerable save).

Vanguard Veteran Squad

The fighty Veterans. Vanguard Veterans are like Assault Squads but if they were good, with 2 attacks base, and the capability to take any melee weapon they care to. They can of course take jump packs (the official models don’t even let you not take jump packs). A squad of these with a few hammer and shield guys and maybe some chainswords can do a fair imitation of Death Company, though they lose out on some of the stuff that makes Death Company effective in Blood Angels. For the 3rd entry in a row these are in the “you can make them do work but they’re absent from top lists” pile.

Sternguard Veteran Squad

Yeah ok there’s also these. Vanguard Vets can take whatever melee weapons they want. Sternguard can take a whole pile of guns – any Sternguard can take a combi-weapon, up to 2 can take heavy flamers or “true” special weapons (but why would you now that combis cost the same and are straight better) or heavy weapons, and the Sergeant can take Sergeant weapons. By default they carry special issue boltguns, which have a 30″ range, Rapid Fire 1, S4 AP-2 D1, an extremely Fine profile. Sidenote, it’s a shame that they lost special issue ammo back to those Deathwatch jabronis. Again, these are fine, they can come out of a drop pod and pile combi-weapons into things, probably won’t show up in top lists, if you love the models (you should, they’re sick) then you can probably throw some in your RTT list and they’ll do ok.

Dreadnought/Venerable Dreadnought

Thrown together because the Venerable is just a slightly better version of the base version. These are the original Dreadnoughts that Marines have had forever, and nowadays boast a T7, W8 profile with a 3+ save – quite light vehicles for 8th edition. The Venerable gets an improved WS and BS of 2+ and a 6+ Feel No Pain, which is nice. These Dreads are now restricted to the codex options, which means one gun can be a twin lascannon, assault cannon, heavy plasma cannon, or multi-melta, and the other can be a big fist or a missile launcher. Happily Forge World are keen to offer you a Mortis version which can still take twin autocannons or twin lascannons on both side, which is definitely a cool and good thing to be able to make a CHARACTER in Iron Hands and get to shoot with impunity. Basic Dreadnoughts are ok, Venerables are a bit better thanks to BS2+, they’re both kind of overshadowed by the Forge World versions. Again, you can do worse than throwing a Venerable or two in your list and plinking away with lascannons. They’re also an iconic faction unit. I have a lot of love in my heart for the little boxnaughts.

Imperial Fists Venerable Dreadnought

Imperial Fists Venerable Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Ironclad Dreadnought

Ironclads answer the age old question of “what if a melee unit, but slow and without the ability to reach melee?” And the answer is “don’t.” They’re not as tough as they need to be, they don’t get anywhere fast, and I honestly can’t recall seeing one on a table in 8th edition. It’s a shame because the model and the concept are both very cool but they just don’t really do anything you need them to.

Contemptor Dreadnought

The basic Contemptor Dreadnought as per the Space Marine codex is kind of a whatever unit. Just read the Relic Contemptor or Contemptor Mortis entries and you’ll get everything you need to know.

Relic Contemptor Dreadnought (FW)

The real deal. Relic Contemptors are a great unit, able to mount two of any of the guns in the extensive Forge World dreadnought weapon list, plus a Cyclone missile launcher. They’re BS2+ and move 9″ which doesn’t degrade, they have 12 wounds and a 2+ armour save, 5+ invulnerable, and a 6+ FNP. Naramyth on the team likes them with a twin lascannon and a Dreadnought fist to be a counter-charger, I like them better with two twin lascannons, but either way they’re around the 200pts mark and they’re basically all upside. The main reason not to take one is that you want to use the slightly cheaper, slightly weaker, but overall just as shooty Contemptor Mortis instead. As the name suggests, these guys also have the Relic rule, so you’ll need another Elite unit to pay that particular tax.

Relic Deredeo Dreadnought (FW)

The Deredeo is a funny old Dreadnought. For one thing it looks bloody daft. It’s a bit tougher than a Relic Contemptor with 14 wounds instead of 12, though it only has a 3+ save. For some reason it has a 5+ invulnerable against Shooting or Overwatch which becomes a 4+ in melee, but it doesn’t have any melee weapons so why would you want it fighting in the first place? By default it has an anvilus autocannon battery and a twin heavy bolter. The autocannon is 36″ range, Heavy 8, S8 Ap-1 D2. It can swap this for a hellfire plasma cannonade (Heavy 5 S8 AP-3 D3, rolls of 1 to hit are mortalw ounds) or an arachnus heavy lascannon battery (48″ Heavy 2 S10 AP-4 D6, a 6 on the damage roll also does a mortal wound). Additionally it can throw on an Aiolos missile launcher (60″, Heavy 2d3, S6 AP-1 D1) or alternatively an atomantic pavaise, which allows units wholly within 6″ (check the FAQ) to benefit from a 5+ invulnerable save. There is no model for this despite FW showing one off years ago and it being the bit most people are interested in when they buy a Deredeo. It also has a helical targeting array, which means that at the beginning of any turn it cannot move but gets +1 to hit against models with FLY.

Overall that’s a lot of rules. The Deredeo is undeniably cool. The autocannon battery is a bunch of Gun and the pavaise allows you to defend things that otherwise wouldn’t have an invulnerable, though under quite tight conditions. The other guns are fun and unique, too. At 222pts it compares unfavourably with the identically-costed Relic Contemptor for sheer output, but so does a lot of stuff. Realistically the better use of Deredeos is in Chaos, where they were pretty popular last year. It’s a unit I often put in lists and then end up taking out – a kind of B+ player.

Redemptor Dreadnought

Everything else in the Space Marines codex got a big version, so why not Dreadnoughts? The Redemptor is a Dreadnought but with slightly creepy robotic arms and legs that make it look a bit stretched out. It gains an impressive 13 wounds over a boxdread’s 8, though it’s no tougher or savier. It has 2 fragstorm grenade launchers, a heavy flamer, and a heavy onslaught gatling cannon for Gun, and a Redemptor fist for Punch. It can swap the flamer for an onslaught gatling cannon (and probably should), swap the heavy onslaught for a macro plasma incinerator (and probably shouldn’t), the fragstorms for 2 storm bolters (whatever), and also take an Icarus rocket pod in case you didn’t have enough dice to roll. It also explodes for d6 mortal wounds rather than the normal d3, which is just wonderful in an army that often wants to be castled up close together. When equipped with the onslaught cannons it has 12 shots at 30″ and another 6 at 24″ which are S5 AP-1 D1, which is pretty decent horde-clearing, and it can do decent melee punch with its 4 attacks with the Redemptor fist making it S14, AP-3, damage d6. For what it is it’s pretty cheap. Ultramarines get good use out of their doctrine to move it about without it missing half the time, Iron Hands used to do the same and could also Ironstone and Duty Eternal it to stop it dying (Nick Nanavati made good use of this in his 2nd-place list at the Atlanta ProTableTop event), but probably won’t bother any more since both Duty Eternal and Devastator doctrine got nerfed.

Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought

Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Invictor Tactical Warsuit

What if a Redemptor Dreadnought but, for some reason, crewed by a regular Marine and stealthy? Yeah it’s 15ft tall and a robot but it can still be stealthy, ok. The only profile trade the Invictor makes is that it’s only T6, which I guess accounts for the ability to shoot the Marine in the face instead of bothering to damage the vehicle. It can infiltrate, for some reason. Like many Primaris units the weapons list is “all of them” – it totes a fragstorm grenade launcher (who doesn’t), a heavy bolter, an incendium cannon, two ironhail heavy stubbers, and also an Invictor fist (Sx2 AP-3 damage 3). The incendium can be swapped for a twin ironhail autocannon. The incendium cannon is 12″ Heavy 2D6 S5 AP-1 D1 and auto-hits, the autocannon is 48″ Heavy 6 S7 AP-1 D2. The autocannon is probably the better pick, allowing you to use this thing more cautiously, so naturally the only one I’ve built has the incendium cannon. The best use of them is for Ultramarines, which can use their Phantasm-like stratagem to deploy them aggressively and then pull back if they don’t get first turn – though in the new ITC rules that’s less applicable as you know if you’re going first or not, and can deploy appropriately. Ultras also allow them to move and fire without penalty, which makes good use of their mixed profile. Prior to the FAQ changes I also played against a variant of the Iron Hands six plane list which used these as aggressive ground presence.

Relic Whirlwind Scorpius (FW)

What if you took a Whirlwind and made it shoot a lot more with absolutely no defensive buffs, making it one of the glassiest glass cannons in the game? Well you’d have this thing. The Whirlwind Scorpius has a Scorpius multi-launcher, which loses 24″ of range on the regular Whirlwind but is Heavy 3D3, S6 AP-2 D2, and of course can fire out of LoS. Also, for some reason, if it doesn’t move (lol as if it’s going to move) it can fire twice. That is 6d3 shots per turn or an average of 12, or if you’re Mani Cheema, an average of 18. It has the relic rule so you have to take another Elite unit for each Scorpius in your list, but oh woops they put this in the same slot as Servitors so I guess you just assume these cost 20pts more per unit and put 3 of those in. Great, just top stuff from Forge World here. Marginally less good now that you can’t make them Imperial Fists and assume they have AP-3 and damage 3 against vehicles all game, but still pretty good! These could briefly benefit from Suppressing Fire and shoot 4 times per turn, but thankfully they no longer have the WHIRLWIND keyword so they can’t any more.

Reiver Squad

Reivers are like Incursors but bad, except now apparently White Scars players are using them so they’re not terrible any more? I give up. Space Marines have too many units, these suck except for White Scars where you can advance and charge all over the place and use melee Doom to make their mediocre punches actually worthwhile and I guess they become damage 2 with their doctrine which is pretty rad. They can also either deep strike with grav-chutes, or take grapnel launchers for pseudo-fly that still allows them to outflank, which is nearly as good, and also means the unit can ignore vertical distance when it moves in the Movement phase. Their shock grenades also allow you to suppress Overwatch from INFANTRY units. Look at them for White Scars which buff them in ways that no-one else can to turn them from trash into an actually good unit.

Aggressor Squad

Aggressors are a sort of Primaris halfway house between Terminators and Centurions. They’re T5 but only S4, have 3 wounds and 3 attacks, and a 3+ save. They only move 5″. They tote flamestorm gauntlets or boltstorm gauntlets and fragstorm grenade launchers (everything is inclement weather with these guys). The flamestorms are 8″ range Assault 2D6 flamers, whereas boltstorms are 18″ range Assault 6 boltguns. The fragstorm is 18″ Assault D6 and is also basically a boltgun. The flamestorms are bad and you shouldn’t take them – you lose out on the fragstorms, so you’re trading 6+d6 shots for 2d6 shots with a shorter range. Aggressors can advance and fire Assault weapons (i.e. all their weapons) with no penalty, or if they stand still or are Overwatching they can fire twice. That is a lot of gun. I’ve used them in Crimson Fists in perfect conditions with re-rolling hits, re-rolling 1s to wound, and the 6s to hit are extra hits Chapter trait, and the main takeaway was that a) they fucked stuff off the board in short order and b) my back hurt by the end of the game. The best uses of Aggressors are either in Ultramarines, where they can act in Tactical doctrine for 3 turns thanks to a stratagem we’ll describe below allowing them to move and fire and count as stationary, or in White Scars/Raven Guard where outflanking /deep striking allows them to overcome their short effective range.

Crimson Fists Aggressors

Crimson Fists Aggressors. Credit: Corrode

Centurion Assault Squad

On paper, Centurion Assault Squads are great units, except for one thing – they’re extremely slow, with a mere 4″ movement. Along with their high points cost, this mostly kept them out of contention in the previous codex, and they were often cited as one of the worst units in the game. Then White Scars and Raven Guard appeared, and it turns out that Assault Centurions are very cheap and when they can deep strike or outflank to overcome their limited movement they’re hilariously good! Centurions have a very different statline from most Marines, with toughness 5, 4 wounds, a 2+ armour save, and 3 base attacks. They come with Centurion assault launchers (mortal wounds on the charge), 2 flamers, and siege drills by default (siege drills make them S10, AP-4, damage 3). They can be upgraded with hurricane bolters in place of the assault launchers, which makes them a bit more costly but is a huge upgrade in incidental firepower especially since Centurions always rapid fire. They can also swap the flamers for meltaguns although this is a big extra cost in points. Additionally, both these and the Devastator version have the Omniscope rule – as long as the Sergeant is alive, then their ranged weapons ignore cover. This means that as well as their undoubted ability at melee punching, they also have great horde-clearing firepower, especially since in Tactical Doctrine their guns are AP-1 and ignore cover.

Crimson Fists Assault Centurions

Crimson Fists Assault Centurions. Credit: Corrode

There’s a few different ways of using Assault Centurions. The most common one by far is with Raven Guard lists, often based around Raven Guard successor Chapters using the Long-ranged Marksmen trait to make their flamers usable on deep strike (since they now have an 11″ range!). Such a list was very successful at LVO, with Brad Chester finishing 2nd. White Scars have also made good use of them as an outflanking unit, and their ability to advance and charge and also double-advance on one unit means that even when they’re on the table they can get around reasonably quickly. Right after the February FAQ, we saw Mike Porter use them successfully in an Iron Hands army, pushing them into midfield as a fairly cheap and dangerous pusher. This last usage has some conditions attached – it works best if you’re playing on boards with guaranteed mid-table LoS blocking ruins (the ruins bit matters – as INFANTRY Centurions are able to pass through walls, but they’re very slow and don’t fly so if an event is using more solid LoS blockers like e.g. hills or craters they can struggle to get about). It also helps to be using the new ITC rules which give you much more control over deployment map if going 2nd, as you have a higher chance of getting one of the deployments that favours them (anything that lets them start close to those central LoS blockers, basically).

Relic Sicaran Battle Tank (FW)

The Sicaran is a fun little unit that is like an upgunned Predator – it has 14 Wounds and moves 14″, and comes equipped with a twin accelerator autocannon, with a mighty 8 shots and the Assault type meaning it can roll around freely and blast away. It’s 48″ S7 AP-1 D2, and doesn’t take hit penalties against units with FLY (I don’t think Forge World knew the Flyer role existed when they wrote this, c’est la vie). 6+ to wound with the autocannon are also AP-3. As well as its base loadout, the Sicaran can take two more heavy bolters or two lascannons, allowing you that bit more firepower from it.

Relic Sicaran Venator Tank Destroyer (FW)

The Venator is the really punchy version of the Sicaran, with no penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons and mounting a neutron laser cannon in place of the twin accelerator autocannon. The neutron pulse cannon is pretty great – 48″ Heavy 3, with S12, AP-4, damage D6 and a nifty ability which means that any VEHICLE which is damaged, but not killed, by it is at -1 to hit in its next Shooting phase. This can stack, too, so if you somehow whiff with two of these against the same vehicle at least it will be unlikely to hit you back.

Relic Sicaran Punisher Assault Tank (FW)

The Sicaran Punisher is less good at busting vehicles open, trading the autocannon for a punisher rotary cannon which instead will scythe down infantry with its 36″ Heavy 18 S5 AP-1 D1 profile. One of these guys with 3 heavy bolters is fairly cheap and cheerful and great for brutally murdering light infantry, and who can say fairer than that? It loses out on the Gyro-stabilised Mounting rule which allows the Venator version to move and fire without penalty, and its Rolling Thunder rule – which, despite its name, gives you a benefit for staying still – doesn’t really make up for the loss, since it lets you re-roll 1s to hit with 1 weapon – a buff you can trivially get for all your weapons in most Marine armies.

Fast Attack

Bike Squad

Bikes are extremely OK. They move 14″ and auto-advance 6″, which is fast! They’re T5 W2, which is pretty tough! They’re not that expensive! They shoot… pretty good since they all have twin boltguns and bikes always rapid fire. If they were a bit better in combat they’d actually be a solid unit (some Chaos players have been trying big units of Slaanesh ones with reasonable success), but they’re not so they aren’t. They can take a couple of special weapons and an Attack Bike can come along for the ride with a heavy bolter or multi-melta, but you might be better off using those as Brigade-filler (see below) and skipping the other bikes entirely.

Assault Squad

Go back to the Vanguard Veterans entry, anything you want an Assault Squad for they will do better.

Inceptor Squad

Inceptors are like fat old bumble bees buzzing around the table. It’s nice to see that Space Marines are not only post-human but also post-body shaming as they allow their largest brothers to fly. Sharing a profile with Aggressors, these guys move 10″ and can tote either 2 assault bolters, 18″ Assault 3 S5 AP-1 D1 guns, or 2 plasma exterminators, which are Assault D3 with either S7 AP-3 D1 or S8 AP-3 D2 if you overcharge. They can deep strike natively and they also get the Crushing Charge rule which allows them to do mortal wounds on a 6 to an enemy unit they charged. Inceptors were garbage when originally released but they’ve kept getting cheaper and now the bolters are pretty cheap anti-horde firepower that can show up in effective range. The biggest challenge with these things is just keeping them mounted on those terrible flying stands – we recommend gluing them to terrain or something instead.

Suppressor Squad

Newly introduced in Shadowspear and now in the weird category of Marine units which exist but only in monopose form as part of a boxed set (in their case, Start Collecting: Vanguard Space Marines), Suppressors are like Inceptors but glassier and cannoner. They wear Omnis armour rather than Gravis armour, which means they have less dad bod but they’re only T4 W2 instead of T5 W3, and they tote accelerator autocannons which are 48″ Heay 2 S7 AP-2 D2. They can deep strike naturally, they have smoke launchers like Infiltrators/Incursors (but aren’t Phobos units so Phobos powers/traits don’t affect them), and also have Suppressing Fire (not the stratagem!) which means that if they destroy an enemy model with shooting, that model’s unit cannot fire Overwatch this turn. Suppressors are another one in that B+ kind of space – their firepower is good enough that they’ll occasionally just wild out and delete something, but it isn’t so good that it’s a build-around, and being a unit with FLY and a 12″ move is at odds with having Heavy weapons. They’re reasonably cheap, so if you like them then go ahead and throw them in, but they’re a unit that ends up getting cut from a truly top-tier Marine list.

Scout Bike Squad

Like bikes but with 16″ movement and a 4+ save. For some reason they have more guns than their bigger brothers, since the riders get to bring Astartes shotguns as well as the bike’s twin bolter. They can also swap the boltgun for an Astartes grenade launcher. Scout Bikes have one cute trick, which is using the Cluster Mines stratagem to do d3 mortal wounds to a unit they Fall Back from, and they’re not terribly expensive at 21ppm. They’re fine. Use them if you must. Probably don’t expect them to be on the top tables.

Land Speeders

Land Speeders were garbage for basically all of 8th and then they had a sudden resurgence and now they’re probably bad again now they can’t sit in Devastator all game? They’re flimsy little vehicles with a 16″ move but only T5, W6 and a 3+ save. They have a heavy bolter by default but you can put a bunch of different weapons on them – they can take a multi-melta instead of their heavy bolter, and additioally equip an assault cannon, heavy flamer, or typhoon missile launcher (like a regular missile launcher but 2 shots/2d6 shots instead of 1/1d6). If there’s 3 models in the unit they can move 20″ instead of 16″. Cheap, probably not good enough again, if you really want to take these go play Dark Angels instead and run Talonmasters which are a lot better.

Attack Bike Squad

As well as appearing in Bike Squads, Attack Bikes can show up in their own squads of 1-3 models as well. They’re not great, but they do have one significant quality – they’re very cheap. If you’re looking to assemble a Space Marine Brigade, then 3 Attack Bikes with heavy bolters come in at just 37pts and offer reasonably decent firepower and objective-grabbing capability, and with T5 and 4 wounds they’re harder to kill than you might expect.

Tarantula Sentry Gun (FW)

Cheap as chips for a twin heavy bolter that can’t move and has to shoot its closest visible target. Great for throwing on an objective and being annoying to deal with and they’re also quite small and hideable if necessary. They can also have lascannons if you’re a freak. For some reason these are in Fast Attack despite being literally immobile, because “Fast Attack” actually means “dump slot for when you’re not elite enough to be Elite or gun enough to be Heavy Support.”

Heavy Support

Imperial Fists Leviathan Dreadnought

Imperial Fists Leviathan Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Leviathan Dreadnought (FW)

The Leviathan is the big daddy of dreadnoughts. Toughness 8, 14 wounds, 2+ armor save, 4+ invulnerable save. Enough firepower to level a building. Expensive, and bad in melee, but this thing has so much overwatch that assaulting it is a scary prospect. Good in any Marine army, Leviathans reached peak performance in the Brohammer Iron Hands list which made them basically impossible to kill. Happily that build has gone away following the February 2020 FAQ, and Leviathans are now back to where they should be – a scary shooting threat which nevertheless has significant weaknesses, in particular their short range.

Contemptor Mortis Dreadnought (FW)

Similar to a Relic Contemptor, the Contemptor Mortis trades defensive stats for points (and the relic rule). Both arms have to use the same weapon loadout, making the most commonly seen loadout being 4 lascannons with an optional cyclone missile launcher. A 2+ ballistic skill puts the Contemptor Mortis as very simple and efficient anti-tank. If your list has the points and relic tax for the Relic Contemptor there’s no real reason not to take it instead, but it’s not a significant loss to end up with the Mortis.

Mortis Dreadnought (FW)

A boxdread version of the Contemptor Mortis, a Mortis dread has the same weapons on both arms. Unlike the Contemptor it doesn’t have a 2+ ballistic skill, so there’s a lot more differentiation with the Venerable Dreadnought. At the same points cost you can either have 4 lascannon shots hitting on a 3+, or 2 lascannon and 2 missile launcher shots hitting on a 2+. Both have their place, the choice depends a lot on what slots you need to fill.

Devastator Squad

Give them grav cannons and a cherub, stick them in a drop pod, use Gravitic Amplification, hopefully be Ultramarines in tactical doctrine or Iron Hands in Devastator doctrine to ignore the movement penalty, blow something up. They will die next turn but with re-rolling wounds and damage they will usually fuck something valuable off the table before they do. Other units are more effective at the same role for any other weapon loadout.

Centurion Devastator Squad

Crimson Fists Centurion Devastators

Crimson Fists Centurion Devastators. Credit: Corrode

Most loved by Imperial Fists, Centurion Devastators can put out a truly overwhelming amount of bolter fire. As Imperial Fists they have access (through the Siegebreaker Cohort specialist detachment) to Seismic Devastation, a stratagem that turns every 6 to-wound against vehicles into a mortal wound, letting them rapidly sandpaper down even the toughest target. They’ve lost a step since the changes to doctrines meant they could no longer sit in Devastator all game, which turns their former hail of AP-2 D2 heavy bolter shots at vehicles into a much more anaemic AP-1 D1 for most turns (though they do benefit from their hurricane bolters being AP-1). Raven Guard also make effective use of Centurion Devastators, though equipped with grav-cannons and used similarly to a Devastator Squad – another feature of Brad Chester’s LVO list. This unit was sometimes combined with the Master of Ambush Warlord trait which allowed them to infiltrate before the game began and unleash a hail of stratagem-fuelled grav fire into an opponent’s army in a truly devastating alpha strike, and that is no longer possible after CENTURION units were exempted from that trait, but they’re still able to lay down a hail of firepower and of course Centurion Devastators get to ignore the penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons, which helps them to get into position to do so.

Eliminator Squad

Imperial Fists Primaris Eliminator Squad

Imperial Fists Primaris Eliminator Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter

Extremely tacticool high speed low drag tier one operators, in a fixed unit size of 3. Eliminators come in two flavours, bolt sniper rifle or las-fusil. Bolt snipers have three different firing mods, all of which can target characters, while las-fusils are like short-ranged, slightly lower strength, but guaranteed-damage lascannons.

The bolt sniper version is overwhelmingly more popular. All three profiles are 36″ range and Heavy, and can target CHARACTERS indiscriminately, with the rest being:

  • Executioner – 1 shot, S5 AP-1 D1. Can shoot out of line of sight at +2 to hit, and ignores cover.
  • Hyperfrag – D3 shots, S5 AP0 D1.
  • Mortis – 1 shot, S5 AP-2 Dd3. A wound roll of 6+ causes a mortal wound in addition to other damage.

This is a basically perfect set of profiles – there should never be a situation where your Eliminators have nothing worth targeting. Besides the guns, Eliminators have camo cloaks by default, which means they’re +2 to their save in cover. Like other Phobos units they can infiltrate. They also have a couple of unique features – the “Guided Aim” rule allows the Eliminator sergeant to give up his own shooting and give the other two models in the unit +1 to hit and +1 to wound. This is generally worth it unless you’re already hitting and wounding on a 2+, especially if you’re firing the Mortis rounds where this can mean you cause mortal wounds on a 5+. In Raven Guard this can even get down to a 4+ with their unique doctrine! Additionally, the Sergeant can swap their bolt sniper rifle for an instigator bolt carbine, which costs 5pts but allows the Eliminators to move immediately after firing Overwatch, which means that they can flee from units that try to charge them. The gun is a strict downgrade from a bolt sniper, but if your Sergeant isn’t going to be shooting anyway in the Shooting phase, then 5pts is a fine trade for e.g. being mostly unchargeable from deep strike.

Hellblaster Squad

Crimson Fists Hellblasters

Crimson Fists Hellblasters. Credit: Corrode

Hellblasters do in fact blast hell. They tote plasma incinerators, Rapid Fire 1 guns with a 30″ range and S7 AP-4 D1, which can alternatively be S8 AP-4 D2 if you overcharge them. They can swap these for assault plasma incinerators (24″ Range, Assault 2, S6/7) or heavy plasma incinerators (36″ range, Heavy 1, S8/9). Hellblasters would be very cool in a world where people weren’t allowed to shoot back at them. Unfortunately they are, and thanks to the high-impact gun they cost 33pts per model for the defensive stats of a 17pt Intercessor, and their range isn’t so great that they can reliably deck something turn 1. There may be play in throwing a few guys in an Impulsor and jumping out of it to lay down plasma incinerator death, which helps their defensive fragility a bit, but they’re still likely to get toasted next turn and they need re-rolls not to toast themselves when overcharging. Lots of people want these guys to work, but right now they’re kind of hard to justify.

Thunderfire Cannon

If you’ve read about Space Marines on the Internet in the last few months you know what a Thunderfire Cannon does. For a little over 90pts you get a BS2+ gun which shoots 4d3 shots at 60″ range, and doesn’t need line of sight, at S5 AP-1 D1. It also benefits from two highly useful stratagems, Suppressing Fire which allows them to fire twice (and can fire at different targets), and Tremor Shells which makes you -1 to wound but means that any non-FLY, non-TITANIC unit you hit (with 4d3 shots hitting on 2s, remember) halves its Movement and advance rolls next turn. It should also halve charge rolls, but the effect drops off in the Movement phase so right now that does nothing, and it’s been missed in multiple FAQs. You also get a full-fat Techmarine whose only real restriction is that if it moves more than 3″ from the gun it can’t be fired, and if it moves more than 6″ away the gun is immediately destroyed. These appear in basically every Space Marine list and often you see 3 of them at once. They’re cheap, cheerful, put out a ton of firepower with no line of sight required, and you get to control a lot of your opponent’s movement – what’s not to like?

Hunter

A very cheap T8 vehicle. Use it to either play durable bumper cars or hold an objective, the missile launcher is decent against flying vehicles but not the real reason to take it.

Stalker

See Hunter, but the gun’s a bit different.

Whirlwind

Whirlwinds are cheap and cheerful, at a mere 65pts base with either a 15pt or 20pt gun (the castellan launcher and vengeance launcher, respectively). Both can fire at targets out of line of sight at a mighty 72″ range; the castellan is 2D6 shots at S6 AP0 D1, while the vengeance is 2D3 shots, S7, AP-1, D2. The Whirlwind is the other unit, along with the Thunderfire Cannon, which benefits from the Suppressing Fire stratagem to fire twice. Their effectiveness has dropped off a bit now since their AP-1 is lacklustre in a world where they no longer get to sit in Devastator all game, and their best use was in Imperial Fists which made them a punishing damage 3 against vehicles, but they’re still reasonably cheap for the ability to pour artillery fire anywhere on the table, and if you can get them a place to hide they can be highly annoying for an opponent to deal with.

Whirlwind Hyperios (FW)

More Forge World, this thing has a hyperios launcher which is 2d3 shoots, S8 AP-2 Dd3, +1 to hit against FLY, -1 to hit against everything else. Arguably more relevant than the Scorpius now especially in a land where Eldar vehicles are having a resurgence.

Repulsor Executioner

What if you took a Land Raider, strapped grav-plates on it, and also every gun you could find in your armoury? Well, you’d have a Repulsor. Now take that, add a gigantic main gun to its turret, and here’s the Repulsor Executioner. The Repex, as it’s affectionately known, is so nearly good. It shares most of a Land Raider’s profile – T8, W16, but only a 3+ save. It flies, it can shoot twice (at the same unit) if it moves under half distance in the Shooting phase, it’s -2 to be charged, it ignores the move and fire penalty for Heavy weapons. It can also transport up to 6 PRIMARIS INFANTRY (or up to 3 GRAVIS models). The weapons list takes almost as long to read as it takes to fire – 2 fragstorm grenade launchers, a heavy onslaught gatling cannon, 2 storm bolters, a twin heavy bolter, a twin icarus ironhail heavy stubber, and a macro plasma incinerator. The last gun is bad and you should not take it, instead swapping it for the heavy laser destroyer – 72″ Heavy 2, S10 AP-4 Dd6 with minimum damage 3. It also has auto launchers, which are just smoke launchers but fancier because Primaris, and for some reason there’s even the option to take more guns in the form of the ironhail heavy stubber and Icarus rocket pod.

The main difficulty for the Repex is that it has so much strapped to it and has so many rules that it’s kind of unfocused, and pays a lot of points for a defensive profile that isn’t that great – 25% tougher than a Tank Commander for 70% more points I think is the right number. They’re also massive, and those aerials can be hard to hide even in theoretically good terrain. This means that despite being a massive lump of ceramite they’re actually quite fragile for their cost, and they’re also not that quick with a mere 10″ move. There was a brief moment where Iron Hands lists using 3 of these were popular, but it relied on being in Devastator doctrine all the time, having the buff from Iron Father Feirros to give them a 5+ invulnerable save, and the Ironstone reducing all incoming damage by 1. Now that all those things have been FAQed away their resilience is too low and their output slightly too lacklustre to be genuinely good.

Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner

Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner. Credit: Jack Hunter

Vindicator

Vindicators have taken a step up from their dire situation in the 2017 book. The demolisher cannon is now d6 shots all the time instead of being weirdly worse against small units, which is nice, and they’re pretty cheap and Toughness 8 which makes them a little bit more survivable than their equivalents. They haven’t seen the same resurgence as demolisher-equipped Russes though, since they only get to fire once and lack a lot of the tricks which make Russes more survivable or more able to really get up and crush something with the short-ranged Demolisher. Iron Hands might have made something of them in their previous iteration, but now that they can’t stay in Devastator past turn 1 you lose the ability to send them flying off at the front as blockers with surprisingly strong on-the-move firepower. I own 3 and they’ve not seen the table in 8th and I don’t really expect they ever will again.

Land Raider/Land Raider Crusader/Land Raider Redeemer

Oh, Land Raiders. S8 T8 W16 Sv2+ sounds like a profile that should really go somewhere, but as ever for the Raider their output is too anaemic for their cost. The basic version has a twin heavy bolter and two twin lascannons, the Crusader swaps those for a twin assault cannon and hurricane bolters, and the Redeemer keeps the assault cannon and swaps the hurricanes for flamestorm cannons. The complete lack of ability for the Land Raider to actually perform its intended function of throwing assault units into the fray hampers them, as does having the firepower of a couple of Razorbacks for the cost of 3 Razorbacks, and the profile sounds impressive but it’s really not all that tough. If these cost like 140pts base they might just get somewhere, but as it is they’re expensive for what they offer and can easily be prevented from firing if they get up close – which is exactly what they’re meant to do.

Predators

At this point Predators just do not do enough to justify their cost. They’re barely tougher than a Rhino – their profile is identical bar a single extra wound – and while the Predator autocannon is a surprisingly effective weapon with 2d3 shots at S7 AP-1 D3, there’s plenty of other stuff you can take that is just better at the same job. It’s a sad situation for an iconic unit, but when the world is full of Primaris this and that blasting off all kinds of lasers this and gatling that, the Predator just doesn’t quite get there.

Dedicated Transports

Rhino

The humble Rhino. Transport of Marines since time immemorial. Best used now as a not cheap enough bumper car. Rhinos are neither fast enough, tough enough, or well armed enough to really be used in their intended roles, but what they can do is be just durable enough to take more than incidental fire to kill while driving forward and tapping into a gunline to shut it down. The only real problem is that the Impulsor does it better, and transports things you actually care about transporting.

Razorback

A staple of Marine armies for ages, the Razorback still has a place toting around a couple heavy weapons. As a platform for twin assault cannons they’re completely usable, but much like the Rhino there are now better options.

Drop Pod

The 2019 codex brought some huge changes to drop pods – they’re now the only way to get a first turn deep strike, and they play with the number of units you can have in deep strike; both pods and their contents don’t count for either units or points. While you could put your entire army into deep strike with pods, this is just asking to get zoned out and potentially tabled immediately. Pods can be deployed with either their arms up or down – either way all portions of the pod need to be over 9″ from the nearest enemy, as do any units getting out of them. A pod full of grav devastators makes for a very solid alpha strike unit – as long as your opponent isn’t able to completely screen the pod out those devastators are going to put a lot of damage into whatever they want to shoot at, and as they’re hiding in deep strike they can’t get killed off before getting to do anything. One thing to watch out when using a pod is that it’s effectively free movement and shooting defense to your opponent – no meaningful overwatch or melee attacks lets it be charged, wrapped, and then a unit can remain locked in combat with it to avoid getting shot.

Ultramarines Repulsor

Ultramarines Repulsor. Credit: Jack Hunter

Repulsor

Somewhat overshadowed now by the Repulsor Executioner, the regular transport version still has a place when fully loaded down with anti-personnel weapons. It’s still able to pick up more total shots than the Executioner, and is a little cheaper too, so can fill in well for a vehicle heavy army looking for more horde clearance. Like the Executioner it’s rather fragile, if it’s one of few vehicles in an army it should expect to die very quickly. The Repulsor chassis in general is a bit aimless, and the transport version is now directly competing with a version of itself that is better shooting and is about as useful as a transport.

Impulsor

The premier Space Marine bumper car, the Impulsor is faster than a Rhino, tougher than a Rhino, has more firepower than a Rhino, and is a more useful transport. It has the Assault Vehicle rule, allowing models embarked to disembark after movement (though this prohibits them from charging), allowing it to push up and get a squad into rapid fire range quickly, or to protect a squad or two of something like Eliminators from turn 1 firepower before throwing them out into a convenient location It also has a number of optional upgrades, giving it options to increase firepower, increase durability (the shield dome giving it a 4+ invulnerable save is huge for defense), or an orbital strike (not hugely useful, but can be stacked with the stratagem and Imperial Fists warlord trait for some shenanigans against an opponent who stacks up lots of units in one place).

Land Speeder Storm

It’s a Land Speeder that has mediocre guns but does transport Scouts but why transport Scouts when their best use is infiltrating early game? Don’t bother.

Flyers

Stormhawk Interceptor

Rigged out to hunt anything with FLY, Stormhawks have been a great take ever since this codex dropped. While they lack a hover mode, they have an additional -1 to be hit from models with FLY beyond the typical penalty from Supersonic, and the current meta features a lot of things with FLY. They also receive +1 to-hit against models with FLY, and an additional +1 if they choose to take the icarus stormcannon or skyhammer missile launcher. Stormhawks are particularly effective as Iron Hands, as they stop taking a movement penalty and will be getting hit re-rolls even while venturing away from the battle pile.

Imperial Fist Stormtalon Gunships

Imperial Fist Stormtalon Gunships. Credit: Jack Hunter

Stormtalon Gunship

The ground attack version of the Stormhawk, the Stormtalon instead gets a bonus to hit against targets without FLY, and loses the additional defensive buff. It is able to hover, so as needed can stay near re-rolls or pivot further than usual to stay on the board, but overall loses out to the Stormhawk in both firepower and durability unless you know you’re exclusively fighting things that can’t fly.

Stormraven Gunship

The Stormraven is an interesting intersection of different roles – it has OK transport capacity allowing it to carry a full squad of non-primaris plus character support and an entire dreadnought, and loadout options give it options for either anti-infantry or anti-tank. Where it lacks is efficiency – the Stormraven has to pay for that transport capacity that it’s not always using, so it ends up as an expensive priority to get shot down, and as a large flyer it’s hard to keep out of LOS.

Lords of War

Imperial Fists Astraeus Super-heavy Tank

Imperial Fists Astraeus Super-heavy Tank. Credit: Jack Hunter

Astraeus Super-heavy Tank (FW)

The only Lord of War that matters and is available to anyone but the Ultramarines, For most of its life, the Astraeus was pretty firmly bad, both overcosted and living in a bad codex. Between the updated 2019 codex and a 100 point drop in Chapter Approved 2019 this beast of a tank has become just about decent. The main guns put out some solid firepower with 14 shots at Strength 8, AP-2, Damage 3, which ignore any to-hit penalties against anything with fly, and an array of secondary weapons add a hull mounted pair of lascannons or heavy bolters and sponson plasma eradicators or las-rippers (short ranged lower power lascannons with fixed damage). All that firepower is placed on a reasonably durable hull, at Toughness 8 with 24 wounds, a 2+ armor save, and a unique Void Shield save. Void shields are similar to an invulnerable save in that they’re never reduced by the AP of weapons, however they can be taken against mortal wounds – roll the save once per mortal wound. Two other things separate them from invulnerable saves: they degrade – the Astraeus starts out with a 5+ void shield to start, dropping to a 7+ once reduced to 5 wounds, and they’re affected by the cover bonus (this is clearly intended based on the 7+ degrade profile). The Astraeus is tough to get in cover, but certainly not impossible, and this is a pretty significant boost to survivability. Two chapters give particular benefit to an Astraeus, Imperial Fists and Iron Hands. The boys in yellow turn the damage on this up to 11 – it has a lot of shots and all but a vestigial storm bolter are heavy weapons, so adding the extra damage against vehicles can give this a powerful alpha strike. Their somewhat more robotic cousins wearing black do the exact opposite, stacking durability improvements onto a hull that normally runs some risk of getting shot down turn one. Of particular note is using Psysteel Armor to boost the save, bringing it to a 1+ (or 0+ in cover) armor save and a 3+ void shield save (Editor’s note: check with your TO before relying on this, while it’s legal as written LVO ruled that void shields benefited from neither Psysteel Armor nor cover, and some TOs will just copy their rulings). One final note to remember is that the Astraeus will generally not be getting chapter tactics unless you’re able to take it as part of a Supreme Command instead of a Super Heavy Auxiliary detachment.

 

Defenders of Humanity – The Space Marine Chapters

This is already a long breakdown, and it’s going to be even longer with the Chapter supplements. By way of slight assistance, the following sections are hidden by default – just click on them to expand out whatever Chapter you want to read about. Much of this content is taken and adapted from our original reviews of the supplements as released and updated for new info such as FAQs and so on, and credit must go to the authors of those for saving me a lot of work writing all this out.

Accessing These Rules

It’s important to note that there are different levels of benefit from the supplements depending on what kind of commitment you have to a specific Chapter. We’ll use Ultramarines as an example, but the following applies to every Chapter – just mentally substitute “Imperial Fists” or “Raven Guard” or whatever for “Ultramarines.”

For most of 8th edition, you’ve only technically gotten access to the full suite of subfaction (e.g. “Ultramarines”) specific rules if your army has literally used the ULTRAMARINES keyword. Homebrew chapters could choose a trait, but wouldn’t get stratagem, trait or relic access (meaning that in tournaments people just used the main keywords).

That’s changed, and you can now get access to 95% of what’s in the supplement if you are an Ultramarines successor chapter.

  1. If every model in your army is ULTRAMARINES or are from the same Ultramarines successor chapter, models with the Combat Doctrine ability gain the “Scions of Guilliman” ability. This is an improvement to the Tactical doctrine.
  2. ULTRAMARINES detachments and Ultramarines successor detachments can make use of the stratagems and psychic powers in this book.
  3. If your warlord is ULTRAMARINES you can freely choose from normal Codex: Space Marines relics, and/or use either the Relics of Macragge or the Special Issue Wargear pages in this book.
  4. If your warlord is from an Ultramarines successor, you can normally only use the Codex: Space Marines relics or the Special Issue Wargear page in this book to pick relics, and can access one of the relics on the Relics of Macragge page via a stratagem.
  5. If your warlord is ULTRAMARINES or a Ultramarines successor, you can pick his trait from the list in here

This might seem to be needlessly complicating things, but there are actually some subtleties of who gets what in various soup scenarios. Basically:

  • You are pure Ultramarines/successor – you get everything. Hooray!
  • You are a pure Ultramarines successor – you get almost everything. Hooray?
  • You have a soup list with at least one full Ultramarines/successor detachment – you unlock the stratagems. Ultramarines/successor Librarians in that detachment can use the powers, but if for some reason you have an Ultramarines Librarian in another detachment they can’t.
  • You have a soup list with some Ultramarines/successor characters in it:
    • If one of those characters is your warlord, you can use the special trait table for him, and can use relics from this book.
    • If none of those characters is your warlord, you can’t use the relics from this book, even if you buy an extra relic and add it to an Ultramarines character.

The takeaway is that you have to have a decent commitment to your chosen supplement to get much out of this – you can add a Knight alongside your otherwise Ultras army and get everything except the Doctrine, but you can’t make a Supreme Command of Librarians from three different chapters and stick the best relic from each book on each. This is almost certainly what the rather more restrictive wording is intended to prevent, so good job, GW.

Ultramarines

Ultramarines Breakdown - click to expand

Doctrine – Scions of Guilliman

Whilst the Tactical Doctrine is active, models with this ability that moved in your Movement phase, but did not Advance or Fall back, can make attacks with ranged weapons in the Shooting phase as if their unit had remained stationary this turn.

This is the Ultramarine doctrine buff and it is a damn good one. The ability has two immediate implications: 1) units can avoid the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons, and 2) if you’re not advancing, Bolter Discipline always triggers for applicable weapons (extending the bolt rifle’s 2-shot threat range to 36″ for example). This has a lot of useful applications generally, as well as some specific applications for units like Aggressors (see below) that will be interesting to explore.

Specialist Detachment – Victrix Guard

Ultramarines get a Specialist Detachment out of Vigilus that affects the following units:

  • CAPTAINS
  • ANCIENTS
  • Honour Guard
  • Victrix Honour Guard
  • Vanguard Veterans
  • Sternguard Veterans

It’s a slightly weakened version of its original self at this point, as both relics have been removed and replaced by generally available versions, but the warlord trait and stratagems are still here, and at least OK.

The Units

The Ultramarines have more unique units and named characters than any other Codex: Space Marines faction, and the variety gives them a big advantage competitively. The good news is that while previously, Guilliman was both an auto-include in any Marine army and the rest of the Ultramarines’ characters and units (with the exception of Tigurius) were unlikely to see the table in serious play, they’ve now improved to the point that we think many of them are worth looking at, and there are likely to be several different (but effective) ways to run Ultramarines.

Retro Sicarius. Credit: SRM

Captain Sicarius

Captain Sicarius returns, with the same statline and wargear, but adjusted special rules. His Battle-forged Heroes ability has changed; it no longer allows friendly Ultramarines Tactical Squads within 6″ to always fight first in the Fight phase. Instead, you can choose one friendly Ultramarines unit within 6″ of Sicarius to gain the Defenders of Humanity ability until the end of the battle round (for the veterans out there, this is just the “Objective Secured” rule). He’s also 10 points cheaper. His new ability is interesting and novel, but may not see use unless you find yourself in situations where Sicarius is either alone or surrounded by non-Troops. His old ability seemed like it could be very strong, but was ultimately too narrow to see use. As-is, the new rule isn’t likely to be relevant most of the time so if you’re taking Sicarius it’s essentially to get a Captain with a power sword that does D3 damage and the Artisan plasma pistol, though it’s questionable whether those plus his ability is worth 26 points.

Wings Note: I dissent on this one – while I don’t think Sicarius will see that much play (simply because of the density of choices), his ability is very powerful – even just making himself ObSec allows him to trump another character in emergency. I like it a lot more than his old trick.

Chaplain Cassius

Chaplains got a big boost with the new Codex, gaining Litanies as a set of powerful effects that turn Chaplains into real force multipliers. Coming into the new book, Cassius has swapped out his Crozius Arcanum for an Artificer Crozius, which has +2 Strength and AP-2 in its profile (instead of S+1, AP-1), allowing Cassius to hit at Strength 6 and take down more heavily-armored targets. To represent that he’s a tough old bastard, Cassius has 5 Toughness. Despite all of this, because he has one less attack and can’t take the Benediction of Fury relic, Cassius won’t be quite the close combat buzzsaw that a Primaris Chaplain can be. On the other hand, Cassius’ real value is that he knows two litanies plus the Litany of Hate and can recite up to two of them each Battle Round. At release this was a spectacular upgrade on a regular Chaplain, though nowadays you can do this with any Master of Sanctity – though of course Cassius doesn’t have to pay CP for the privilege.

It’s unfortunate that he can’t take a jump pack, but with some careful maneuvering Cassius will be a powerful force multiplier for Ultramarines armies.

Chapter Ancient

For 12 points more than a Company Ancient (or 6 more than a Primaris Ancient), you get a power sword, a 2+ save and a 9″ range to your Astartes Banner ability (as opposed to the usual 6″). Note that the range increase is exclusive to the ability and will not affect the Ultramarine relic banner’s aura, though this is essentially a free upgrade to the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant (minus the leadership debuff). If you’re bringing an Ancient to buff melee units (such as Aggressors or the Chapter Champion below) the Chapter Ancient is a reasonable choice. Like Cassius, all Marine armies can do this now, but yours doesn’t cost CP.

Chapter Champion

For only 8 points more than a Company Champion (totaling 55 points), you can trade up for an additional base attack, plus an extra Strength (User) AP-2, 1 damage attack from his Champion’s Blade, and a -1 to be hit in combat! You also trade-out his combat shield (which gives the Champion a 5+ invulnerable save) for a 2+ armor save, which is better than or equivalent to the combat shield up to AP-3 (and it’s not like there’s a ton of AP-4 melee around). You still get all the other buffs the Company Champion has, so this guy is really a steal at 55 points. Pair him with a Chapter Ancient toting the Ultramarines relic banner and you’re looking at 7 base attacks on the charge plus his free Champion’s Blade attack. Again, you pay points rather than CP for the privilege.

Chief Librarian Tigurius

Tigurius got a nice boost when they shoved those three extra organs in him. Aside from the typical +1W and +1A Primaris get (and the extra wound is highly valued given his fragility), his wargear got some solid buffs as well. It seems someone tuned up the Rod of Tigurius’ power field because it went from AP-1 to AP-3 (note: I still don’t think you should put Tigurius in combat). More importantly, his Hood of Hellfire now adds 1 to Psychic tests and Deny the Witch tests as well as allowing full re-rolls of psychic tests, not just failed tests. Tigurius should now have no trouble casting just about anything in the Librarius or Indomitus (see below) disciplines.

Lastly, his Master of Prescience ability has been re-mastered (sorry) to be activated at the start of the Battle Round (instead of your opponent’s Shooting phase) and lasts for the entire round. This is something of a sidegrade; its now active for two turns of melee as well as a Shooting phase, but it does mean that your opponent knows what you’ve shielded before they move, so can adapt . From a casting perspective, Tigurius still gets to cast 2, deny 2 and knows 3 powers, although he has to choose between the traditional Librarius discipline or the new Ultramarines-specific Indomitus discipline and all known powers must be from a single discipline. All these changes can be yours for only an additional 15 points over old Tigurius (for a total of 130 points), which is a bargain for the single most potent psyker in the Space Marines repertoire (thus far). The extra deny and power are replicated by the Chief Librarian option from Faith & Fury but the Master of Prescience ability remains unique.

From a survivability perspective, Tigurius still has no invulnerable save, but the extra wound helps and the availability of Honour Guard and Victrix Honour Guard can make stacking ablative wounds on Tigurius pretty effective for surviving pesky snipers. If you run him with Indomitus Discipline powers, it may be worth it to give him Precognition so he can boost his survivability in a pinch, giving himself a 5+ invulnerable save and a -1 to being hit.

Honour Guard

Poor Honour Guard.

These were largely made redundant by the introduction of Victrix Guard, but they’re no longer a strictly worse source of ablative wounds for your characters. The Victrix Guard probably still get the nod though.

Marneus Calgar

Marneus Calgar, post-Primaris Rubicon. Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Marneus Calgar

Calgar gained an extra wound along with all other Gravis-armored units to put him on par with Abaddon, and he gained an extra attack from Shock Assault to make him even more of a melee monster than before. Calgar also got the updated Chapter Master re-rolls ability and while he’s no longer a 5-CP boost over a stratagem-induced Chapter Master, Guilliman’s downgrade means Calgar is now very worth considering as a Warlord option for Ultramarines armies. He’s a solid fighter who gives a healthy CP boost and doesn’t demand the investment of 350 points and a separate detachment.

It’s also worth noting (and we’ll re-state this again below), that because Calgar comes with the Adept of the Codex warlord trait, on the whole, he’s likely to give you more CP as your warlord than Guilliman would have, since Guilliman no longer has the CP-regenerating trait.

Roboute Guilliman

Roboute Guilliman. Credit: Corrode

Roboute Guilliman

The single most important change in the entire Marine faction: Guilliman lost his aura for re-rolling all wound rolls and now only allows nearby Ultramarines to re-roll 1s to wound, just like a standard Lieutenant. This nerf is actually a great change: It means that the entire army doesn’t have to be balanced around King Chungus making every other unit in range anywhere between 77% and 144% better. He now has Nobility Made Manifest (more on that later) instead of Adept of the Codex as his warlord trait, so it’s in your best interests to put Adept of the Codex on a character somewhere else in the army through Hero of the Chapter. Because Calgar does come with Adept of the Codex, Guilliman no longer gives you more CP than Calgar by being made Warlord overall.

Besides the changes to his function as a force multiplier, Guilliman’s equipment received a refresh; the Emperor’s Sword remains the same but is less capable at taking down big targets without Guilliman’s ability to re-roll all failed wounds, but in exchange the Hand of Dominion has been bumped up to damage 4. Guilliman himself also got significantly deadlier due to the change to the Honour the Chapter stratagem, which now works on all Marine units, meaning that as long as you have 3cp sitting around Guilliman can kill almost any non-horde unit in the game in one Fight phase.

As long as he’s taken as part of a Supreme Command Ultramarines detachment, Guilliman will also benefit from the Codex Discipline Chapter Tactic now, giving him the ability to fall back and shoot. Whether this is worth the investment is up to you – it’s debatable whether falling back and shooting is better than just leaving him in there to go another round with whatever he was fighting.

Sergeant Chronus

Chronus’ existing abilities remain unchanged from the old codex, but his options for crewing vehicles were both expanded and simplified: Now while any vehicle he pilots gains the character tag, this action occurs during deployment and so sadly after the time when you are able to designate the tank a warlord or give the tank a warlord trait. Previously Chronus had every datasheet he could pilot listed in his profile but now instead he has every Marine tank listed by keyword in his datasheet and consequently the list of possible rides for the sergeant expanded to “basically half of Forge World’s output”. Luckily he can’t get in a Relic Whirlwind Scorpius any more, and he now has a fixed Warlord trait – Calm Under Fire.

Sergeant Telion

Telion returns and is largely unchanged. The one functional change made to his abilities is that is Voice of Experience ability makes a single unit of Scouts within 3″ BS 2+ instead of giving them +1 to their To Hit rolls, which is technically an extremely mild downgrade (although most abilities that this might have mattered for are now “unmodified 6s”). He’s OK, and possibly worth a look in a Scouts-heavy army, though Ultramarines will probably want to spend more of the game with the Tactical Doctrine active, not Devastator.
Wings Note: This guy is slightly interesting simply by dint of being a very cheap HQ choice who can contribute something from the backline. In formats where you actively want models to sit back on an objective I can see him being at least looked at, though ultimately I don’t think it’ll come up that much.

Tyrannic War Veterans

These guys are like bolter-only Sternguard (and retain the STERNGUARD keyword) that costs 2 points more per model and get to re-roll hits and wounds against Tyranids. In almost every case you’ll be better off running vanilla Sternguard. They’re cool models, though.

Ultramarines Victrix Guard

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Victrix Honour Guard

These guys were already great, they’re still just as great and 2 points cheaper per model at 60 points for the unit. A Solid way to protect your precious Ultramarines characters from Vindicare Assassins, Sniper Scouts, and Eliminators.

Other Units

In addition to their bespoke units, there are a few regular Space Marines units worth additional consideration in Ultramarines armies.

  • Aggressors: Back in our original review we noted that Aggressors may be the Most Improved Unit of the codex (though that title probably goes to Assault Centurions in the end) and Ultramarines kick them up another notch with Scions of Guilliman. Now, you can move Aggressors 5″ and still double-shoot, which increases their double-shoot threat range to 23″. That’s a lot of AP-1 bolter shots! Combine them with a Chaplain for +1 to hit or +1 to wound or run them with the relic banner and you have a unit that is quite terrifying both up close and at range. If you land these guys in combat, you can also use Fall Back and Re-Engage to fall back, shoot at full BS and then charge back in! There isn’t a lot that will survive that kind of punishment. Some Goonhammer authors have been asking for Primaris Terminators for an age, and it seems that Aggressors may have now answered those prayers.
  • Grav Devastators: We talked above about the prospect of running Grav-cannon Devastators in Drop Pods and taking advantage of their reduced cost and potent stratagem. The biggest downside to doing this is incurring the -1 penalty to hit for moving and shooting, which you can avoid by holding the squad in orbit for a turn and dropping them when the Tactical Doctrine – and so Scions of Guilliman – is active. You trade off the AP bonus for additional accuracy, but the sheer volume of shots you put out should make up for it.
    Wings Note: I ran the numbers on these, and as Ultras they are “real” – you get a unit that will come out of deep strike and properly body something of a size that makes it “worth it”. They’re still very fragile on the strike back though.
  • Sternguard Veterans: In Tactical Doctrine, Sternguard become real dangerous glass cannons, able to march up the table putting out 2 Strength 4, AP-3 shots each per turn.
  • Intercessors: Likewise, Ultramarines Intercessors are among the strongest versions of the unit, able to move and still double-fire their bolt rifles at AP-2 in the Tactical Doctrine.
  • Dreadnoughts: Dreadnoughts have always suffered slightly at the hands of being armed with heavy weapons but wanting to stay on the move. The Ultramarines doctrine mitigates this significantly in key turns of the game.
  • Invictor Warsuit: Every trick from the Ultramarines book stacks up at the same time to make the Invictor rather monstrous for the boys in blue. Rapid Redeployment combined with their infiltration means you can either deploy aggressively to scare your opponent with 400pts of aggressively costed walkers and then pull them back out of harms way if you lose the initiative, or deploy them further back and redeploy to capitalise on any mistakes your opponent makes in deployment and pull off a considerable 1st turn alpha strike. You can arm them with Incendium cannons and keep them within 6″ of each other to put out 6d6 heavy flamer hits if anyone feels like counter charging you thanks to Defensive Focus. If anyone does tag them into combat then you can use Fall Back and Re-Engage to go wherever you like in the enemy line and charge them with a melee Dreadnought’s worth of damage. A trio of Invictors are packing enough anti infantry firepower to clear basically any screen to give them the freedom to charge and put down key enemy units in melee, and all the additional capabilities they gain from being Ultramarines mean that the absolute worst case scenario is that you’re short 2CP at the start of the game. The autocannons are also way more appealing in Ultramarines because of the lack of move/shoot penalties from turn 2.

Psychic Powers

The Ultramarines now have their own set of psychic powers: The Indomitus Discipline. Ultramarine Librarians can choose to know all of their powers from this new discipline instead of the Librarius or Obscuration disciplines, so you can’t mix and match powers on the same Librarian. While overall the Indomitus powers are interesting, with the possible exception of Scryer’s Gaze none of them are slam-dunk auto-takes on the power level of Null Zone or Might of Heroes.

  1. Precognition. WC5 – The psyker gains a 5+ Invulnerable save and units attacking it suffer a -1 penalty to hit. The penalty to hit won’t matter much unless you’re in combat since you’ll usually be screening the Librarian, and this power is really about protecting your Librarian in combat. The problem is, most of the time you’ve got better things to do with your Librarian. C
  2. Scryer’s Gaze. WC7 – Either generate 1 command point if your army is Battle-forged, or once this turn you can reroll a single To Hit or To Wound or damage roll for a friendly Ultramarines unit within 18″ of the psyker. If you have an ultramarines Librarian, you’re almost certainly taking this since its a bonus 3-4 command points a game. Alternatively you can combine it with command reroll to reroll two seperate las cannon damage rolls in the same phase. A
  3. Telepathic Assault. WC7 – Pick a visible enemy unit within 24″ and roll 2d6+2 against their leadership; they take the difference in mortal wounds. One of the better not-smites by virtue of being able to do 6 mortal wounds to Ld8 every now and then but largely useless against high leadership armies. C
    Wings Note: 95% of the time what’s good about Smite is how reliable it is. Smite with *wild* variance is thus not super appealing, although using a CP re-roll on this does give you more routes to a big hit.
  4. Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath WC6. – Roll 1d6 per model in a visible enemy unit within 18″ and it takes a mortal wound for every 6 you roll. Hopefully kills 1/6th of a horde unit but overall not particularly meaningful against most targets. C
  5. Psychic Shackles. WC6 – A worse version of Tenebrous Curse from the Obscuration discipline as it only applies -1 to enemy charges and advances rather than halving them. This means  enemy units with the ability to Advance and Charge will only move slightly slower than normal. Unlike similar effects it does however apply to units with <FLY> so you can hamper the movement of enemy jetbike units significantly. Sadly as it’s modifying characteristics rather than move distance, you can’t use it to force a plane to crash, but if it’s damaged, you can at least limit its movement options. B
  6. Empyric Channeling. WC5 – Pick another Ultramarines Librarian within 12″; they get +2 to cast and don’t suffer perils of the warp on a double 1 or 6. Not to be confused with not suffering perils at all as effects such as those employed by a Master of Possession or Chaos Knight will still cause a perils on double 2-5. Potentially very strong if your strategy revolves around getting off a specific power, but 80 to 100 points for an extra Librarian to up your cast rate is a big price to pay. C
    Wings Note: If you have two librarians around getting key powers past denies or loading up super smites is also a possible use of this.

Scryer’s Gaze is a huge win here, but the rest of this discipline is somewhat mediocre. With that in mind, there’s a good chance that we’ll see lots of Ultramarine librarians buying the Tome of Malcador to take one power from here and picking Scryer’s Gaze, as the CP cost will quickly pay itself back.

Warlord Traits

Ultramarines get six Warlord traits now, padding out the list beyond Adept of the Codex. There is a mild problem that none of them are as good as Adept of the Codex, itself being pretty much a must-.take for a CP-thirsty monofaction Space Marines army, but because you can now add extras they’re still worth looking at. The others range from middling to good, and are really only worth taking if you’ve already got Adept of the Codex on someone.

  1. Adept of the Codex. As long as your Warlord is actually on the table, then every time you use a Stratagem you can roll a d6 per CP you spend and on a 5+ you get a point back. With this and Scryer’s Gaze you’re almost guaranteed to get back a CP every battle round. Not as auto-take as it once was because of the Tactical Restraint limitations, but still very solid. B
  2. Master of Strategy. Once per battle round, shift a single unit within 6″ of the warlord into Tactical Doctrine. This lets you trade a point of AP for fire on the move for any vehicle but becomes largely useless after round 1 of a battle unless your plan revolves around keeping the whole army in Devastator Doctrine. Can be combined with the Big Guns Never Tire stratagem to move multiple tanks up the field faster on turn 1 without losing too much punch. Good on a Chaplain as you’ll already need to be positioning him to load up Litanies at the start of the Battle Round. B
  3. Calm Under Fire. Friendly Ultramarines units within 6″ don’t suffer the -1 penalty to their To Hit rolls when using the Chapter Tactic to fall back and shoot in the same turn. Less useful now that the interaction of rerolls and modifiers is mostly gone for Marines, but if you’re running armour-heavy Ultramarines/successors then you’ll be able to fall back and still hit at maximum ballistic skill. Nice to have, but only situationally useful. B-
  4. Paragon of War. Unmodified 6s to wound on attacks made by this Warlord deal a mortal wound in addition to any other damage. Potentially amusing on a Teeth of Terra Captain with their 8 attacks on the charge before outside assistance, or on a Captain armed with the Vengeance of Ultramar, who can spit out 8 bolter shots at 12″ range. Most of the time you’re not going to get enough wounds going to make this feel worth it, though. B
  5. Nobility Made Manifest. A trick picked up from the Custodians; all units within 6″ of your warlord can heroic intervene 3″ as though they were characters, has potential given the massively increased melee output of Astartes across the board. It’s now Guilliman’s warlord trait instead of Adept of the Codex so it will see use like it or not. It’s a bit like an assault version of the Tau’s “For the Greater Good” ability, in that charging one Marines unit means getting your ass beat by every other Marine unit within 3″. B
  6. Warden of Macragge. Warlord can heroic intervene from 6″ and move 6″ when they do. Useful if you have a Gravis captain or beatstick Chaplain to dash into a gap in your line when they haven’t been declared against and surprise-murder half the enemy unit, so a good one to apply with Hero of the Chapter when you think you’re getting charged a lot. Decent, but situational. C

Victrix Guard

The Victrix Guard get one extra warlord trait option:

  • Warden of Ultramar: Once per battle, in the fight phase, you can re-roll wounds for attacks by friendly VICTRIX GUARD units within 6″. You’re unlikely to be super deep on units this affects, so this mostly equates to a once a game re-roll wounds for the bearer. That’s OK, but less exciting than it once might have been before the current iteration of The Imperium’s Sword existed. C+

Ultramarines Intercessors. Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Stratagems

Ultramarines have 16 stratagems of their own, several of which let you play around with the Tactical Doctrines for your units. Overall, the stratagems Ultramarines get fit the fluff pretty well – they give Ultramarines a tactical, flexible feel and don’t lean too hard into shooting or punching things.

  • Martial Precision – 1CP Use on an Ultramarines model before resolving a shooting attack. It automatically scores a hit on the target (do not roll). Small but extremely useful when you want to make a perfidious Aeldari plane not be alive anymore courtesy of a laser destroyer shot. B
  • Rapid Redeployment – 2CP At the start of the first round before the first turn, you can redeploy up to 3 Ultramarines units. It’s Phantasm, but for angry men in power armour instead of elves. Easily the most significant stratagem in the book (and likely to be the most underrated), as it opens up a vast array of plays that just weren’t possible before. Redeploying units is an incredibly good ability. Note that unlike the Chaos equivalent you have to deploy per the mission rules – so e.g. if you want to infiltrate with some Invictor Warsuits, you have to deploy them aggressively first and then pull them back with this if necessary, rather than the other way around. A+
  • Vengeance for Calth – 1 CP An Ultramarines unit can re-roll melee To Hit and To Wound rolls against a Word Bearers unit until the end of the Fight phase. This stratagem will never matter because Games Workshop has put so much work into making sure that Word Bearers are so bad no one will ever want to play them. If you do ever end up playing against Word Bearers, you’re 100 percent going to forget that you have this stratagem and it won’t matter. F-
  • Sons of Guilliman – 1 CP The old Ultramarines chapter stratagem renamed, giving an Infantry or Biker unit the ability to re-roll hit rolls of 1, or all hit rolls if the unit has the TROOPS battlefield role. It’s still a useful tool for having units operating far away from the rest of the army and makes plasma Inceptors slightly less suicidal (but only slightly, still a 1/10 chance you lose someone). B
  • Inspiring Command – 1CP At the start of the shooting phase, increase the aura range for a Captain, Lieutenant or Chapter master by 3″. A good utility stratagem to have on hand, just don’t set it up to use against Drukhari or GSC when they have a counter stratagem prepped or you could see your whole turn go sideways. B
  • Avenge the Fallen – 1CP When an Ultramarines unit is destroyed, mark the bastards that done it for the remainder of the battle and get a permanent re-roll 1s to hit against them with any unit in your army. This is going to be a lot more fun than it is useful, but I can see it being really helpful for punishing a Knight that took out one of your characters or squads early. The big issue is that re-rolls to hit are going to be easy to come by in an Ultramarines army. C
  • Cycle of War – 1CP Once per battle, cycle from Assault Doctrine back around to Devastator Doctrine. This means Ultramarines can move up or down the chain once each. A strong ability, and useful if your punchmans have done their job and/or been wiped out. Likely to be more situationally useful than something you’ll plan around, though. It’s a bit confusing how this is meant to work in the brave new world of auto-cycling doctrines, since that specifies turn numbers and if you cycle back to Devastator in turn 3 you’ll never hit turn 2 again. B
  • Courage and Honour! – 1CP Add +1 Ld to every unit of your army during the Morale phase. Any long time Ultramarines player will tell you that morale is a thing that happens to other players and rarely if ever more than one unit. If you want to take out that 1/36 chance that the last member of a squad runs away from an objective then it’s cheaper than paying the 2 CP to autopass morale. D
  • Tactical Expertise – 2CP Used at the start of your Movement phase if you’re in the Tactical Doctrine. For the rest of the battle round, when you shoot with Rapid Fire or Assault weapons, unmodified wound rolls of 6 give the shot improve the shot’s AP by 1. Can only be used once per battle but stacks with the AP bonus from The Tactical Doctrine. Might have some legs given the sheer number of shots coming out of a squad of Ultramarines aggressors or 10-strong Intercessor squads using the Rapid Fire stratagem, where going from AP-2 to AP-3 is a real boost, but you need a lot of bolter shots to make it really do work. B
  • Squad Doctrines – 1CP At the start of your movement phase put a single INFANTRY or BIKE unit into any of the 3 doctrine modes until your next Movement phase. A very strong ability to have. Being able to shift a unit into Tactical Doctrine so it can fire on the move on turn 1 without shifting the whole army is very strong. Likewise it allows you to reap the benefits of Assault Doctrine for a single unit without having to commit the whole army to Assault Doctrine, which I suspect you’ll rarely want to do as Ultramarines. A
  • Fall Back and Re-Engage – 1/2CP A unit that falls back can shoot and charge in the same turn. If they also have the Codex Discipline chapter tactic, this costs 1 CP less and the unit doesn’t suffer the -1 penalty to its To Hit rolls from Chapter Tactics. This is an absolute steal at 1 point for Ultramarines but will still frequently worth the 2 CP it costs for any non-“Inheritors of the Primarch” successors, as it allows you to back off with your Captain/Dreadnought/Aggressors and shoot at whoever is vexing you with the rest of your army without sacrificing their significant melee capabilities. Will be absolutely crucial to bringing down that one Knight that’s charged your lines. A
  • Honoured Sergeant – 1CP A stratagem we’re likely to see in every chapter supplement, Honoured Sergeant lets you give a model with the Sergeant word in its profile a Master-Crafted Weapon, Digital Weapon, Hellfury Bolts, or the Sunwrath Pistol from the Special-Issue Wargear list. You can’t have duplicate relics in your army. Most of the time this is going to be used to master-craft a weapon to give a squad some extra hitting power. B
  • Defensive Focus – 2CP Allows up to three other unengaged units within 6″ of a charged unit to fire Overwatch at the charging unit. Essentially a For the Greater Good (of Ultramar), the very hard place to pair with the rock that is the Omniscrambler. 2 CP to have up to 3 unengaged Ultramarine units within 6″ of a friendly join in on Overwatch lets you set up basically unwinnable charges for that unit of Da Jumping Boyz or Bloodletters charging out of deep strike. Don’t forget that improved Chapter Master Rerolls also considerably up-gun overwatch anyway –B
  • Tactical Insight – 2CP Pitch your hand and draw a new one in a Maelstrom of War game. Yes, people do play these. This is a pretty good ability since it will hopefully save you from having a completely dead turn due to bad draws and used early that can make or break your game, though less so if you are using the (far superior) Schemes of War rules. C
  • Exemplar of the Chapter – 1CP When you pick an unnamed character to be your warlord, they can take an Ultramarines warlord trait in addition to their existing choice. Very useful if you’re playing friendlies or if you need a way to fit Adept of the Codex and another trait onto your custom warlord, but won’t work for you if Guilliman or Calgar are in their necessary warlord spots which, if you aren’t playing successors, they will be. B
  • Honoured by Macragge – 1CP Strictly for Ultramarines successor chapters, spend 1 CP once per battle you can take a Relic of Macragge. Useful if you need more oomph for your custom boys than Special-Issue Wargear will give, most likely for the Standard or the Sanctic Halo. B

Victrix Guard

Victrix guard get two extra stratagems, both of which help out in melee:

  • Fight Like Demigods – 1CP: A VICTRIX GUARD unit within 6″ of a VICTRIX GUARD Captain gets +1 to hit at the start of the fight phase. Perfectly find if you want to bring an Ultramarine Smash Captain along, as it mitigates the -1 to hit from a thunder hammer. Also cute if you’re building a more thematic list that’s brought vanguard veterans or something. B
  • Strike First, For Ultramar – 3CP: One of those abilities that exist to ruin Ruleshammer’s day. At the end of the opponent’s charge phase, a VICTRIX GUARD unit that was charged or heroically intervened can immediately fight, and this does not count as their fight for the phase. Is it narrow? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. WIll it absolutely ruin some space-elf jerk’s day when they accidentally run their Shining Spears too close to a power-fist captain. Extremely also yes. This is too narrow to get above a B, but on occasion this will just turn a game about.

Relics

Ultramarines 4th Company Primaris Ancient

A Primaris Ancient. Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Ultramarines and their successors have access to two sets of relics. The first, Relics of Macragge, are only available to Ultramarines normally, but successors can use the Honoured by Macragge stratagem to take a single one. The other set, Special-Issue Wargear, are available to successors freely and some can be given to squad Sergeants via the Honoured Sergeant Stratagem.

Relics of Macragge

The Relics of Macragge are solid, if unexciting. They’re all pretty decent, but none of them scream out to be built around. That said, none of them are complete duds, either.

  • Soldier’s Blade Replaces a power sword or combat knife and is a S+1 AP-4 2 Damage melee weapon. On the whole a pretty nasty weapon to have, particularly if you don’t want to fork over 40 points for a Thunder Hammer. Really helps Phobos characters as they don’t otherwise have access to power-weapon equivalents. B
  • The Sanctic Halo Captain or Chapter master, grants a 3+ invulnerable save and the bearer can attempt to Deny the Witch once per turn as though they were a psyker. Still as good as it ever was and basically never a bad choice of relic. B
  • The Standard of Macragge Inviolate Friendly units within 12″ autopass morale and friendly units within 6″ have +1 attack, bringing your standard Primaris body up to 4 attacks in the first round of combat. A really good ability to have, and worth spending some effort to build around where you can combine something like 5-attack Veteran Intercessors with a re-rolls aura. A
  • Armour of Konor The old Shield Eternal, but now for Terminator Armour only and slightly worse. Gives the model a 4++ invulnerable save and halves incoming damage. Good if you have a Terminator Librarian you want to protect. C
  • Helm of Censure The relic bearer re-rolls To Hit and To Wound rolls of 1, unless it’s against ADEPTUS ASTARTES or HERETIC ASTARTES units, in which case the bearer also gets +1 to their To Hit and To Wound rolls. Exists solely to be given to slam Captains, but more useful than most faction-keyed relics because Marines and Chaos Marines make up like 70% of all armies. B
  • Vengeance of Ultramar Replaces a storm bolter with a storm bolter that is Rapid Fire 4. Because it replaces a bolt weapon, it benefits from Bolter Discipline, meaning that you can use it to pop out 8 shots at full range with -1 AP while you’re in Tactical Doctrine. Combine with the Paragon of War warlord trait to push out extra mortal wounds on every shooting volley. B
  • Tarentian Cloak Gives a 5+ Invulnerable save and the character heals d3 wounds at the start of each of your Movement phases. It’s extremely useful when given to a Librarian as it allows them to continue casting without worrying about chipping themselves down through Perils of the Warp and gives them some defense against people trying extremely hard to stop you from using Null Zone on them. It’ll probably see most of its play with successor chapters and in friendly games where you don’t have Tigurius. B

The Banner is probably the biggest winner here (something of a trend, see also White Scars) – +1A is the kind of buff that turns your normal line infantry into capable combatants, opening up new avenues of play at a low cost.

Special-Issue Wargear

The Ultramarines share four Special-Issue relics with the White Scars, and we expect to see those four show up again multiple times in other supplements. They also have four unique Special-Issue relics, two of which are very good and two of which are just OK.

  • Adamantine Mantle Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. Solid, particularly for units that already have a 4+ invulnerable save and who won’t benefit as much from the defensive Relics of Macragge. A decent fall back to have. B
  • Artificer Armour Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
  • Master-Crafted Weapon Apparently common to all Space Marine codex supplements. Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Aggressor sergeants firing 12 2-damage shots per turn at range with damage d3+1 in melee, or Suppressor sergeants having the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage. Ideally you’d never be taking this as your free relic, but an excellent use of the “pay a CP for an extra relic” stratagem since being able to use it to buff up various units depending on your opponent’s army is a useful tool. A
  • Digital Weapons Whenever the bearer fights they get to make an extra attack that causes a mortal wound if you hit. Cute but not really worth the relic slot. C
  • Reliquary of Vengeance Once per game at the start of the Fight phase you can activate this to give everyone within 6″ of the bearer +1 to their Attacks characteristic until the end of the phase. This is a strong effect and combos well with both the Standard of Macragge and Squad Doctrines stratagem for some downright filthy melee build-arounds such as Intercessor sergeants having 6 thunder hammer attacks each for a turn or just piling in with an insane number of AP-1 Veteran Intercessor attacks. A
  • Seal of Oaths Could also have been called “Screw That Guy In Particular.” Gives original flavour Guilliman rerolls of all To Hit and To Wound rolls in a 6″ aura around the bearer against a single enemy unit chosen at the start of the first battle round. Pick the most important and expensive unit in the enemy line and watch it melt. A+
  • Hellfury Bolts The ranged counterpart to digital weapons, when firing a bolt weapon the bearer can choose to fire a single shot that deals a mortal wound if you hit (instead of the regular attack, not in addition to it). This has some potential against armour-heavy lists if applied to an Aggressor sergeant as it lets you deal 2 mortal wounds to a target each turn by firing their boltstorm gauntlets twice. C
  • Sunwrath Pistol Replaces a plasma pistol with an upgraded 2-shot S8 AP-3 D2 pistol. More useful to have, but there are better things to spend your points and relics on. C

The Seal of Oath is an outrageously big winner here – against any opponent with a key unit you absolutely want it. It’s probably the best relic in the book, which in itself makes successor Ultras a lot more viable than successor Scars.

Chapter Litany

March for Macragge: If this litany is inspiring, then when advancing or charging you can re-roll any or all dice rolls of 1. Extra charge reliability is pretty fantastic, though Canticle of Hate providing a flat +2 is a better bump to charge reliability. Ultimately though, Ultramarines are doing a ton of moving by walking at normal speed to take advantage of their doctrine, and not doing a whole ton of advancing and charging. Rating: B

The List

Sadly Ultramarines have not done quite as well as some of the other Marine armies out there, with no top 4 finishes recorded on 40kStats in 2020. The list shown here was piloted by Thomas Byrd at the Giga-bites Cafe GT, scoring a respectable 10th with a 3-2 record.

Battalion (1,650 points)

HQ: Tigurius
HQ: Techmarine

Troops: 4x Intercessors w/bolt rifle, aux grenade launcher, sgt w/TH
Troops: 5x Scouts 2 bolter/2 knife
Troops: 5x Scouts 2 bolter/2 knife

EL: Relic Sicaran Venator Tank Destroyer w/2x Lascannons
EL: Relic Sicaran Venator Tank Destroyer w/2x Lascannons
EL: Victrix Honour Guard
EL: Victrix Honour Guard
EL: Victrix Honour Guard 

HS: Relic Leviathan Dreadnought w/2x heavy flamer, 2x storm cannon array
HS: Thunderfire Cannon

DT: Impulsor w/Shield Dome
DT: Impulsor w/Shield Dome

Super-Heavy Aux Detachment

LoW: Roboute Guilliman

This list is actually a little different than others we’ve seen, with a large number of Honour Guard presumably piling out of one Impulsor while the Intercesors hide in the other. The Leviathan offers a bunch of firepower supported by Guilliman re-rolls, and of course it can move and fire without penalty as long as it’s in Tactical Doctrine, which it can be on turn 1 thanks to the Ultramarines stratagem – though that would trade off on losing the extra AP, so it’s mostly a nice flex option to have rather than a necessity especially as it’s still hitting on 3s on the move and Guilliman’s re-roll aura should keep most of those hitting. The Sicaran Venators offer a bunch of vehicle-killing firepower which also helps to neutralise return fire.

White Scars

White Scars Breakdown - click to expand

Doctrine – Devastating Charge

If your army is 100% Scars, you get the following additional ability on all models with the Combat Doctrines ability:

Whilst the Assault Doctrine is active, when resolving an attack made with a melee weapon by a model with this ability in a unit that made a charge move or performed a Heroic Intervention this turn, add 1 to the Damage characteristic of that weapon for that attack.

This is the kind of ability that really nails the wow factor on first read. +1 damage across the entire army (as long as you’ve charged or intervened) is an absurdly powerful ability, especially when applied to “volume” attacks. Given that you’re also getting an additional -1AP from the baseline Assault Doctrine, that turns the basic knives all your models have in their pockets into D2 AP-1 close combat weapons. Given, as we’ll see, there are also a couple of good ways to boost your strength or wound rolls, when Assault Doctrine becomes active suddenly your basic units, especially all the Primaris stuff with 2A base, can just start punching out pretty much anything. That’s definitely a huge flavour win here: Once the time for a heroic charge rolls around, the entire White Scars army just slams into the enemy and starts tearing them apart.

The main challenge with this ability is the timing though. Because of the way Doctrines cycle, the earliest you can have this active is on the third turn, and unlike the Ultramarines, Scars don’t have any way to shortcut this. So the problem is that if you’ve invested heavily into dedicated melee builds, you probably can’t afford not to deploy them until turn 3. The humble Assault Marine starts to look pretty good once this switches on, but what’s he doing until then? As it turns out, the answer to this question (originally posed in our review last August) was “tying stuff up until turn 3 before the character and Aggressor/Assault Cent pile arrives.”

As with a lot of abilities like this, you get the biggest benefit when using high volume low quality attacks rather than things that are already good, but this is also very nice on characters – it turns d3 damage things like power fists or the Khan’s lance (unique to this book) into pseudo-thunder hammers, and makes choices that are normally deeply questionable like lightning claws look pretty good. Characters also have the advantage that they can get this when they aren’t initiating combat – as long as a model isn’t actually in base contact, it can still heroic if an enemy ends within an inch, and you should always declare this when you can with your Scars characters so they get this buff.

That’s actually worth flagging just before we wrap up this section: Unlike a lot of similar effects we’re used to (looking at you Blood Angels) this doesn’t take effect if you have been charged, only when you charge, so make sure you’re on the offensive.

This is a great ability and as we’ll explore when we look at some units that work well as Scars, there are definitely ways to get a lot out of it, whether you want to be Scars or a successor. Its main limitation is just that two-turn delay to get it going.

Psychic Discipline – Stormspeaking

Now we get to go onto the good stuff, because the Stormspeaking discipline is great – it has that perfect mixture of well-designed “standalone” abilities and stuff that aligns extremely well with the army’s plan. The powers are:

  • Blasting Gale – WC7: pick an enemy unit within 18″. They cannot advance and roll one fewer dice to charge until your next turn. A teeny bit of a miss here, as the Tenebrous Curse power from the main book usually does it better. However, that can’t affect units with FLY, and this can be an option against such armies. It’s definitely one of the weaker ones here, however, as this discipline is extremely potent. C
  • Lightning Call – WC7: Does D3 mortal wounds to the closest unit within 18″ (note that, unlike Smite, it is not restricted to visible units). If the unit isn’t destroyed, you do an additional mortal on a D6 roll of 4+, then a 5+, then a 6+. An extra Smite equivalent is useful to have around, especially as it lets you dedicate a Librarian to double tapping on mortals if you need them to, and this is at least a decent one. You average about 2.7 wounds each time you successfully cast this, which is just fine by me. B
  • Ride the Winds – WC6: A friendly unit within 12″ gets +2 to Advance and Charge rolls till your next psychic phase. This is fantastic – assuming you’re on the main Scars tactic it lets one of your units properly hoof it across the board to get into combat, and even if you’re a successor being able to add +2 to charges on something coming out of Deep Strike is absolutely instrumental, especially as it stacks with the Hungry for Battle successor trait for a total +3. This is exactly the kind of thing this army needs to make what it wants to do work (+2 to charge attempts via psychic powers was, in fact, exactly what we said Ynnari were critically missing in our review of them). A+++
    TheChirurgeon’s Note: 
    This power is straight fire. Note that, unlike the Canticle of Hate, this one actually happens after your Deep Strikers hit the board, so it takes less setup work. It’s going to be particularly great for jump pack Librarians, who can deep strike in with some friends and drop this. It also would have been great on bike Librarians, if Games Workshop hadn’t just functionally removed them from the army. At Warp Charge 6, it’s a steal.
  • Storm Wreathed – WC6: A friendly unit within 12″ cannot be shot at in Overwatch this turn, and they get a chance to deal mortal wounds on a successful charge. While less “definitively good” than the previous power, the upside is that you don’t have to choose! Do I want the +2 charge wrecking ball I am yeeting at my opponent to be immune to overwatch as well? Sure! Don’t pick this if there’s nothing that’s really going to threaten your chargers, but against anything like Tau, Astra Militarum/Imperial Guard with Defensive Gunners, or any kind of auto-hit weapon, this is gold. B
  • Spirits of Chogoris – WC6: Pick an enemy unit within 18″ and give it -1LD and (vastly more importantly) -1 to hit until your next psychic phase. This is a “good” version of this effect (compare it to Harlequins, where the penalty only affects attacks against Harlequins infantry) and nice and easy to deploy, and will be fantastic in any matchup involving big centrepiece units like Knights. B
  • Eye of the Storm – WC6: Roll a dice for each enemy unit within 12″ of the caster, and do a mortal wound for each 4+ (or 3+ against units with FLY). Once more Ynnari weep in the corner somewhere – the huge radius on this and bonus against fly make this an actual serious contender and a lot better than the death-elf version. Were it not for the fact that this discipline is deep, I’d expect to see this used quite a bit – as it is it’s merely an extra “nice to have” if you double dip on Librarians. B-
    TheChirurgeon’s Note: 
    I didn’t think much of this power at first, but it’s got real legs if you put it on a jump pack Librarian who can drop down near the enemy’s front. Which you are going to take like 100% of the time with White Scars.

This is an exceptional discipline – every power has uses, and while there are ones that won’t see much play, that’s mostly because of the depth of the selection. Ride the Winds is the absolute lynchpin here – I struggle to conceive of why I would ever bring this army out without access to it, but there’s an extremely strong second tier, to the point where I expect to see the Tome of Malcador relic (from Codex: Space Marines) out on White Scars Librarians quite often just to be able to pick three from this list!

Note that White Scars Librarians cannot mix and match their powers from different lists – If you take Stormspeaking, you’re all-in on it. But that’s going to be just fine.

Units

On release White Scars felt like they get a teensy bit short-changed on units, receiving only two choices. Then other books appeared with only one, so I guess that balanced out in the end.

Kor’sarro Khan

Following Marneus Calgar across the Rubicon Primaris, we have Kor’sarro Khan, and he’s a beast. Weighing in at a very reasonable 105 pts, he’s basically a Primaris Captain with a special (and pretty good) melee weapon in Moonfang: A S6 AP-3 D3 Damage sword which can re-roll wounds and damage against characters. Given he’ll be on 6 attacks most of the time, that’s extremely tasty, likely allowing him to butcher pretty much any T5 or less character in a single round of combat, and to actually put some hurt in against bigger characters like Knights.

This ability, and the power of everyone around him, is only enhanced by his incredibly powerful Aura ability “For the Khan!“. Friendly Scars models within 6” that have charged or Heroically Intervened  get +1 to their wounds rolls that turn, making them pseudo-Blood Angels for a turn. That’s exceptional: It means that Kor’sarro himself is hitting and wounding on 2s against anything T5 or less, and he can actually narrowly one-round a Daemon Prince on mean dice, but it comes into its own when the army makes that turn 3 pivot from close-in shooting to just all starting punching. If you’ve brought the White Scars’ Banner of The Eagle for its +1 S bonus along as well (and you probably should), you can line up so that even your basic Intercessors are wounding Knights on 4+. And when they’re at AP-1 D2 on their melee attacks, that’s suddenly quite a big deal.

Finally, as well as all the standard Captain stuff (iron halo, Rites of Battle) he gets a bird. The bird can be fired at someone to do a MW on a 4+. Go bird. Ca-caw.

Kor’sarro requires some setup, but the payoff is extremely good, and he’s a very strong draw to being actual White Scars rather than a successor – the fact that you can stack his +1 to wound with a +1S aura isn’t really replicable in any other way. You want to be getting him up in the face of your opponents, so having him ride around in an Impulsor with a 5-squad of Intercessors makes a lot of sense. You can even use its “Assault Transport” ability to pop him out after moving to provide a re-roll bubble up front.

The only real strike against him is that for fluff reasons he isn’t a Chapter Master and cannot be made one via that stratagem (because he’s a Named Character). There’s no nice way to put it – that sucks, and forces you to decide between spending points on somewhat redundant buff coverage or losing out on the best possible auras. He also gets a bad warlord trait if you make him the boss – don’t.

Ultimately that shouldn’t sour you on him though – he’s both an unusually powerful murder machine in his own right, and an absolutely incredible force multiplier. “Kor’sarro and some buddies in an Impulsor” is a great base for a competitive Scars army.

Khan on Bike

Somewhat less excitingly, you can also pick a Khan on Bike. For 100pts he’s fine – he’s basically a Captain with a locked-in set of wargear to represent a specific kit that GW surprisingly still produces. He gets a Khan’s lance and a buckler. The Khan’s lance is pretty cool – it’s either a D3 damage power sword or, when you charge or heroically intervene, a power fist without the hit modifier. As we’ve already covered, you can often heroic even when you’ve been charged, so this is a powerful weapon a lot of the time. The buckler gives your non-invulnerable saves +1 in melee, making this guy a very tough cookie against chaff. You have the option of making him a Chapter Master via the stratagem as well, as he does have the right keywords.

As I said, he’s basically fine, but I’m not super high on this guy, and the overwhelming reason is “because the Teeth of Terra exist”. A regular bike captain with the Teeth is 10 points less than this, and the +3A the Teeth give you are exceptional when comboed with the Scars Doctrine – the more attacks the merrier. You can also then make up the points with a storm shield, giving you a big endurance boost against the kind of targets that can seriously threaten a Space Marine Biker.

I expect that to be a more common default build, so is there any use case for this guy? I think there might be – the main thing he has going for him is that, while it isn’t as good as the Teeth, he doesn’t need a relic pick to have a decent weapon, freeing him up to take something else. There’s a potentially very powerful combo available between relics and warlord traits that this guy is plausibly the best delivery mechanism for (his buckler actually contributes!), so when we get to those we’ll take a look. For now, in “default” cases, the Captain with Teeth and Shield is probably better, but this guy’s fine.

Stratagems, Traits and Relics

We’ve already talked about quite a few of the Scars stratagems as we’ve gone through the units, and that’s likely to be the pattern for most of these reviews – the unique strats are probably the “deepest” part of the books (at least, the two we’ve seen) in terms of what they enable. We’ll quickly go through the list, and then dig into the Warlord Traits and Relics unique to the Scars.

Stratagems

  • Born in the Saddle – 1CP: A BIKER unit that advanced can still shoot. Already discussed (see “Bikes/Scout Bikes” in the Units section), very nice with a big Bike Squad. B
  • Butchered Quary – 1CP: When an enemy falls back, one of your INFANTRY/BIKER units can make one melee attack each against them, then consolidate after the fall back move is done (though you can’t end within 1″ of an enemy unit, and have to go closer to the unit that fell back). Pretty cool – you’re mostly loading up on volume infantry attacks rather than quality ones, but taking a swing at a few surviving infantry trying to move onto an objective is cool – as is potentially re-arranging your guys onto one. It’s also worth noting that there’s no positional check on who gets to attack, so even if you only tagged one model in your whole squad gets to punch once each. That’s pretty cool with the lightning claw bomb. Finally, you can use this sneakily with a character to set up a heroic intervention. A nice thing to have for one CP. Note – although the final move is like a consolidate, it isn’t actually one, so you can’t combo it with Strike for the Heart (which we’ll see later). B
  • Wind Swift – 2CP: Double move a unit. You can only advance on one of the two moves, and cannot shoot, charge or do any psychic after. Good for early positioning and pushing a unit to an out-of-reach objective on the game’s last turn. A
  • Ride Hard, Ride Fast – 1CP: Your opponent gets -1 to hit (with ranged weapons) against a unit that advanced. Very well priced at 1CP, and very nice that it has no keyword restrictions. A
  • Lightning Debarkation – 1CP: Disembark after moving. Has some hilarious implications as discussed above. Unlike the Impulsor, doesn’t stop you doing it if you advanced either. A
  • Khan’s Champion – 1CP: You can give one of a sub-set of the “lower tier” relics – the Special-Issue Wargear – to a sergeant. B
  • Hunter’s Fusillade – 1CP: After a unit advances, Rapid Fire and Heavy Weapons become Assault. Inferior to Born in the Saddle on bikes, but lets everything else get in on the advance and shoot action, albeit at a -1 to hit. Fine when you want it. B
  • Chogorian Thunderbolts – 1CP: Essentialy Hammer of Wrath (dealing a mortal wound to a charged enemy unit on a D6 roll of 6 for each model in a charging unit) but for BIKER units. Pretty weak – at best this is 1.5MWs average on a hugely expensive unit – could easily have been a bit more generous, I think. D
  • Quarry of the Khan – 1CP: I know the idea gives Americans the vapours, but some tournaments use Maelstrom cards. This allows you to guarantee that the first card you draw is “Kingslayer”. Take it from a Euro player that this is normally horrible – Kingslayer is usually the last card you want to see turn 1! The only time this might be OK is against an army with a Knight or a Lord Discordant as their warlord, in which case go wild, but generally, avoid like the plague, despite it being a flavour win. F
  • A Mighty Trophy – 1CP: Another flavour win that’s horrible to actually use. if you kill the enemy warlord with a melee attack, your army is fearless for the rest of the game. Once you’re at the point of killing their warlord in melee, you are unlikely to have a spare point to blow on an incredibly marginal buff. F
  • Fierce Rivalries – 1CP: Use at the start of your charge phase, and roll 3D6 and discard the lowest on your first charge. Yes please – combining this with Ride the Wind gives you a charge that you’re pretty unlikely to fail, exactly what you want when bringing in powerful Deep Strikers. A
  • Strike for the Heart – 2CP: Increase your consolidation move to 3+D3″, or 6+D6″ if the unit’s Move characteristic is more than 10″. This can do some crazy stuff, although having to get closer to the nearest enemy will always hold it back a bit. It’s potentially best on a bike character that’s just killed something, allowing them to thoroughly redeploy into the thick of it, but it’s honestly difficult to predict exactly when this is good. I strongly suspect, however, that every Scars player will have at least one game where this does something crazy – keep your eyes open for big opportunities. B
  • Feinting Withdrawal – 1CP: Fall back and shoot. Sure – good, clean fun, priced to move. This is just a good effect to have access to and being able to Fall Back with a squad of bikers, unload its shots, then charge back in (thanks to the Scars tactic) is nuts. A
  • Tempered by Wisdom – 1CP: If your warlord is not a named character, you can give them an additional trait from the list in this book. There’s at least one great combo with this, and it’s a cool trick to have. This is another one that seems to be generic to this series of books. B
  • The Eternal Hunt – 2CP: Once per battle, while in Assault Doctrine, give your army an additional point of AP on 6s to wound. This army is CP hungry and can build bombs that will flatten stuff without this, but if you do manage to get a lot of charges lined up on Turn 3 and have the points, consider popping it. C
  • Encirclement – 1CP: Set up a unit “outflanking” and able to come in at the end of a movement phase within 6″ of the board edge. It’s kind of wild that this doesn’t have any keyword restrictions (wrap it up Space Wolves), meaning that using this to keep gunline elements safe and bring them in turn 2 is possible – especially as the trigger timing on the main book Big Guns Never Tire stratagem doesn’t prevent it from working with this. This is the kind of thing, especially in concert with having a fall back and shoot strat, that might look tempting for a successor detachment in a soup list. In pure Scars though, I think this is most likely to be seen bringing in massive tooled-up bike squads, as it lets them ensure they get in safely against armies with elements that threaten to kill a lot of them turn 1. A
  • Gift of the Khans – 1CP: If your warlord is from a successor, you can take a Relic of Chogoris. There’s some extremely good choices on this list for both a successor build trying to optimise melee in a different way, and a putative one trying to make use of some of the good support for shooty vehicles the stratagems offer, so this is good for successors. B

Warlord Traits

White Scars - Richyp - Step 4.1

Credit: Richyp

White Scars get their own suite of Warlord Traits to play with, and they’re pretty good. They all revolve around melee combat and turning your warlord into a melee monster.

  1. Deadly Hunter. After your warlord finishes a charge move, pick an enemy unit within 1″ and roll a D6. On a 2+ that unit suffers a mortal wound. This is OK by itself, given how likely the mortal wound is, but it’s way outclassed by most other trait options. C
  2. Chogorian Storm. If the Warlord performs a charge move or a Heroic Intervention, they get +D3 Attacks until the end of the turn. This is a big boost if you’ve built a melee monster with the intent to fight twice. B
  3. Trophy Taker. Every time this Warlord kills a character, add 1 to its Attacks characteristic for the rest of the battle. The only dud of the bunch, really. Sadly, this is also the Warlord Trait that Kor’sarro gets stuck with, and it’s a good reason to not make him your Warlord. D
  4. Master Rider. Biker Only. Your Warlord can re-roll charges. Also, when resolving an attack against this Warlord, subtract 1 from the To Hit roll if it advanced in the previous Movement phase. This is a great way to make sure your Warlord makes it into combat, and when paired with your ability to Advance and charge on the same turn, gives your Warlord some insane threat range. It’s also worth noting that the penalty to hit does not specify ranged attacks, so if you advance and charge, you’ll reap the benefits in the Fight phase as well. Always be Advancing. A
  5. Hunter’s Instincts. When resolving an attack made by this warlord against an enemy MONSTER or VEHICLE unit, add 1 to its To Hit and To Wound rolls. A great way to turn your Khan/Captain into a monster-killing machine and mitigate the downside of a Thunder Hammer. B
  6. Master of Snares. When an enemy unit within 1″ of your Warlord tries to fall back, roll a D6. On a 4+, they can’t fall back this turn. This is a really great ability and makes whatever unit your Warlord is paired with very, very nasty and difficult to escape. Note that you roll the D6, so with a CP re-roll your odds of preventing a Fall Back are 75%. Note that this was FAQed to not affect models with a minimum move, so you can’t use it to destroy planes by lassoing them any more. A

Given you can potentially stack two of these, the really nasty combo that stands out is “Master Rider” with “Master of Snares”. Combining this with either a Khan on Bike or Bike Captain with a storm shield, and maybe adding the “Wrath of the Heavens” relic bike gives you a very dangerous missile – you can advance 22″ (effectively with FLY) and slam into your opponent’s most powerful shooting unit. With -1 to hit and good defensive stats, you’re very likely to make it through the ensuing combat, and potentially leave your opponent down one of their best models. If you’ve got a Librarian nearby you can also add in Overwatch immunity, meaning that even against Tau you can zip in and lock down some of their castle (and bikes have a nice big base to tag multiple things).

Master of Snares in general really is fantastic – it’s just as good on the Slaaneshi Contorted Epitome, and it’s the main strength of Drukhari Wyches, but no-Fall Back abilities are exceptionally rare and this one is pretty easy to deploy to your advantage. While relics and double stacking traits makes the best use of it, just sticking it on any bike or jump captain is potent enough that this is one of the tricks from this book we might see in soup (especially as the warlord traits are actually slightly easier to get access to than the relics).

Relics

As in other supplements, the White Scars have two sets of Relics: Relics of Chogoris, which can only be taken by White Scars, and Special-Issue Wargear, which can be taken by either White Scars or White Scars successor chapters. Half of the Special-Issue Wargear (the Adamantine Mantle, Artificer Armour, Master-Crafted Weapon, and Digital Weapons) are also in the Ultramarines supplement, and I’d wager we can expect those to pop up in more Codex Supplements.

Relics of Chogoris

  • Mantle of the Stormseer. Psykers only. When a model with this relic takes a Psychic test to manifest a Stormspeaking power, add 1 to the total. Not super-exciting, but because the Stormspeaking Discipline is so good, a powerful relic to take. B
  • The Hunter’s Eye. At the start of your Shooting phase, pick a White Scars unit within 6″ of a model from your army with this relic. Until the end of the phase, ranged attacks made by that unit ignore cover. This is OK, but it just doesn’t line up well with what your core army’s focus is likely to be. C
  • Banner of the Eagle. Ancients only. Friendly White Scars units within 6″ of a model with this relic get +1 Strength. This is a huge benefit, especially for combat units coming in with S4 or S5 attacks, like the aforementioned Assault Terminators. It combos extremely well with Kor’sarro Khan’s ability to give nearby chargers +1 to their To Wound rolls, giving you the ability to wound pretty much anything in the game on at least a 4+. This is the kind of relic you build around. A
  • Wrath of the Heavens. Biker only. Soups up a model’s bike to have 16″ movement and be able to travel over other models and terrain features in the movement phase as if they weren’t there. A great way for a bike Khan or Bike Captain to do a sick wheelie right over a screening unit and murder a character someone your opponent thought was safe. The 16″ Movement is also a nice range boost, but you’ll need to be careful you don’t out-run your supporting units and leave your Bike Khan/Captain exposed. B
  • Scimitar of the Great Khan. Replaces a power sword or relic blade. It’s a S+1, D2 Power Sword that does 4 damage when you roll an unmodified 6 to wound with it. It’s OK, but you’re likely going to want to run Teeth of Terra instead. C
  • Plume of the Plainsrunner. Add 1 to the Advance and Charge rolls for units within 6″ of the model holding this relic. This is a fantastic boost and the way it combos with other abilities and stratagems like Fierce Rivalries and Ride the Winds helps ensure that if you want to get a charge in, you can make that shit happen. I’m already picturing a Terminator Librarian Warlord sporting this relic dropping in with a squad of 10 Assault Terminators who can rip off 6″ charges. A
  • Glaive of Vengeance. Replaces a Khan’s lance (so essentially for a Khan on Bike only). Always has a Strength characteristic of x2. It’s a significant improvement, but the point of taking the Khan is likely to be to not have to spend a relic on his weapon, and the ability to fall back and charge, or heroic unless they actually lock you, means that most of the time you’ll be able to get the x2 strength profile on the Khan’s lance anyways. D

Special-Issue Wargear

  • Adamantine Mantle. Lets a model ignore wounds on a 5+. A solid boost in durability for a character, and best on characters who don’t benefit from taking artificer armour. B
  • Artificer Armour. Gives the model a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save. Fantastic for models with power armour saves who need the durability boost, i.e. bike and jump pack characters, especially those that don’t already have an Iron Halo. Gives the Khan on bike a 1+ save in melee, which is kind of fun but probably a waste. Librarians in particular love this. B
  • Master-Crafted Weapon. Increases the damage characteristic of a non-relic weapon by 1. There are very few cases where this isn’t useful and it’s going to be most useful on the characters you want to take down bigger targets. A
  • Digital Weapons. The model gets to make an extra attack every time it fights using the generic close combat weapon profile and if that attack hits, the enemy takes a mortal wound on top of the other damage. Very similar to what you get from the Deadly Hunter warlord trait and probably not the best use of a relic. C
  • Equis-Pattern Bolt Pistol. A 5-shot AP-1 bolt pistol. Fun, but not where you’ll want to spend your relic. C
  • Headtaker’s Trophies. Gives enemy units within 6″ -1 to their Leadership. These effects just don’t matter 95% of the time and when they do, taking out one more Ork Boy isn’t worth spending a relic on. D
  • Stormwrath Bolts. Pick a bolt weapon the model has. When you shoot that weapon, you can fire a Stormwrath bolt. You only get one shot, but that shot is S7 AP-1 and if you’re shooting a MONSTER, it does D6 damage. Cute trick, but also not where you’re likely to want to spend your relic. C
  • Cyber-Eagle Helm. Friendly models within 6″ firing Overwatch hit on a 5 or 6. This is useful in many other armies. As White Scars, you want to be the one doing the charging. Then falling back and charging again. This doesn’t really fit with that plan.

Most of the real winners relic-wise are on the “Relics of Chogoris” list, and there are some big winners there. I basically can’t imagine constructing a list build around the Scars “thing” that doesn’t want either or both of the Banner and the Plume, and the bike and mantle are also great. This is a big draw to being “proper” Scars if you want to run an army of them.

Chapter Litany

Strike off the Head: When this litany is inspiring, White Scars units within 6″ can re-roll their wound rolls in melee combat. With the adjustment of Guilliman, this ability to re-roll all wounds is unique among Space Marines (other than with lightning claws). Just like it was with Guilliman, these re-rolls are an incredible multiplier when trying to punch up against something tough, even pushing the White Scars favorite Assault Centurions from wounding a Knight 66.66% of the time to 88.88% of the time, a pretty notable reliability bump. Rating: A+

The List

Patrick McAneeny took this list to a 4th place finish at the Goldensprue Cup in January. That’s pre-FAQ, which isn’t ideal, but he’s less affected by the changes since he wasn’t getting the special doctrines anyway with the mixed White Scars/Iron Hands components, and he wasn’t taking advantage of the “unkillable Leviathan” either.

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Imperium – Space Marines) [57 PL, 956pts] ++
**Chapter Selection**: White Scars

+ HQ +
Chaplain [5 PL, 90pts]: 4. Mantra of Strength, Bolt pistol, Jump Pack, Litany of Hate
Chaplain [5 PL, 90pts]: 6. Canticle of Hate, Bolt pistol, Jump Pack, Litany of Hate

+ Troops +
Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 86pts]: Auxiliary Grenade Launcher, Stalker Bolt Rifle
. 4x Intercessor
. Intercessor Sergeant

Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 85pts]: Stalker Bolt Rifle
. 4x Intercessor
. Intercessor Sergeant

Intercessor Squad [5 PL, 85pts]: Stalker Bolt Rifle
. 4x Intercessor
. Intercessor Sergeant

+ Elites +
Centurion Assault Squad [16 PL, 260pts] . Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion Sergeant: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer

Centurion Assault Squad [16 PL, 260pts] . Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer
. Centurion Sergeant: Hurricane bolter
. . Flamers: 2x Flamer

++ Battalion Detachment +5CP (Imperium – Space Marines) [24 PL, -1CP, 416pts] ++
**Chapter Selection**: White Scars

+ HQ +
Captain[6 PL, 143pts]: Jump Pack, Storm shield, Thunder hammer

Librarian in Terminator Armor [6 PL, -1CP, 108pts]: 3) Ride the Winds, 4) Storm-wreathed, Force stave, Stratagem: Chief Librarian

+ Troops +
Scout Squad [4 PL, 55pts] . Scout Sergeant: Boltgun, Chainsword
. 4x Scout w/Combat Knife

Scout Squad [4 PL, 55pts] . Scout Sergeant: Boltgun, Chainsword
. 4x Scout w/Combat Knife

Scout Squad [4 PL, 55pts] . Scout Sergeant: Boltgun, Chainsword
. 4x Scout w/Boltgun

++ Spearhead Detachment +1CP (Imperium – Space Marines) [35 PL, 628pts] ++
**Chapter Selection**: Iron Hands Successor, Long-range Marksmen, Master Artisans

+ HQ +
Chaplain Venerable Dreadnought [11 PL, 167pts]: 5. Recitation of Focus, Litany of Hate, Twin lascannon
. Melee weapon: Dreadnought combat weapon, Storm bolter

Techmarine [4 PL, 45pts]: Boltgun, Servo-arm, Warlord

+ Heavy Support +
Mortis Dreadnought [8 PL, 140pts] . Two twin lascannons: 2x Twin lascannon

Thunderfire Cannon [4 PL, 92pts] . Techmarine Gunner
. . Servo-harness: Flamer, Plasma cutter

Thunderfire Cannon [4 PL, 92pts] . Techmarine Gunner
. . Servo-harness: Flamer, Plasma cutter

Thunderfire Cannon [4 PL, 92pts] . Techmarine Gunner
. . Servo-harness: Flamer, Plasma cutter

++ Total: [116 PL, -1CP, 2,000pts] ++

This list puts down a strong firebase with the three Thunderfire Cannons, the Chaplain Dreadnought, and Mortis Dreadnought (presumably made into a character to allow it and the Chaplain Dread to hide backfield and pound away with their lascannons) offering great firepower for blowing up enemy vehicles. The Scouts and Intercessors can push aggressively into midfield and take objectives early, aiming to wrap up enemy units and clear screens before the big punch of the Assault Centurions arrives ready to pound things into the dust.

Iron Hands

Iron Hands Breakdown - click to expand

Doctrine – Calculated Fury

The Iron Hands doctrine buff really goes all-in on Heavy Weapons. At first glance, it looks similar to the Ultramarines trait but has some differences – on the upside Iron Hands get their doctrine from turn one, but on the downside they do not count as being stationary (they just ignore the penalty for moving and shooting), losing some of the interactions Ultramarines get such as with Aggressors. In the new post-FAQ world they also cycle out of this after turn 1 (though they can allow one unit to stay in Devastator on turn 2 with a stratagem), so it’s not quite as all-powerful as it once was.

The Unit

Iron Father Feirros

Credit: Games Workshop

The Iron Hands only have one unique unit – Iron Father Feirros. This guy is a super powered gravis armored Techmarine, throwing buffs to all your nearby units and providing a more reliable repair. He has two buffs for your units – each Shooting phase he can boost one unit to BS 2+, and any INFANTRY unit within 6″ gets a 5+ invulnerable save all the time. He also repairs for a flat 3 wounds instead of a Techmarine’s D3 wounds, and has a personal 5+ “Feel No Pain”. He’s no slouch at killing either, mounting what’s effectively a master-crafted heavy bolter on his shoulder, and wielding a S7 D2 power axe (although his WS is only 3+, meaning melee isn’t his real strength).

Feirros is a tremendous force multiplier, though reduced from what he was at his worst now that the invulnerable save is INFANTRY only. For 110pts he’s still a great unit in a pure Iron Hands army.

Psychic Powers

The Iron Hands now have their own psychic discipline, Technomancy. Iron Hands Librarians can choose to know all of their powers from this new discipline instead of the Librarius or Obscuration disciplines, so you can’t mix and match powers on the same Librarian. Technomancy focuses primarily on your vehicles and your durability, with power options for use either defensively or offensively.

  1. Blessing of the Machine God – WC5 (or 8 on TITANIC) – Add +1 to hit for a friendly vehicle within 12″ until your next Psychic phase. Similar to the popular Recitation of Focus chaplain litany, this has longer range and casts 83.34% of the time rather than 66.66%. Only works on vehicles, but you’re likely to have a lot of vehicles in an Iron Hands army. A
  2. Objuration Mechanicum – WC7 – Select one visible enemy unit within 18″. Ranged attacks cause a mortal wound to the firing unit on unmodified hit rolls of one. Useful against any enemy units that fire significant numbers of shots. Since mass low-damage fire is one of the best counters to the durability of an Iron Hands gunline, this power provides a solid deterrent. The relatively short range and high warp charge renders it hard to count on. There’s some stuff like Aggressors, punisher Russes and Vulture Gunships that this is absurdly rude against though, so keep an eye out for opportunities for it to excel. B-
  3. Fury of Medusa – WC6 – Pick a visible enemy model within 18″. Draw the shortest possible line between the psyker and target model, and roll 1d6 for each enemy unit it passes over and the target unit, adding 2 to the result if it’s a vehicle. On a 4-5 the unit suffers 1 mortal wound, on a 6+ it suffers D3. Beam powers have tended to be underwhelming but this can actually be a lot if you manage to line it up right against some armies. It probably still doesn’t get there when arrayed against the extreme power of some of the other choices here, but it’s actually a fine attempt at implementing this. C+
  4. Psysteel Armor – WC6 – Select a friendly Iron Hands unit within 12″, add 1 to armor saves (not invulns). Like cover, but stacks on top of it. Very useful if you’re facing a lot of AP-1 or AP-2 shooting that won’t be triggering the invulnerable save provided by Feirros. Given how much access Marines have to 2+ saves this is kind of ridiculous – something like Centurions in cover with this will be near impossible to shift. A
  5. Reforge – WC5 – Repair a visible Iron Hands vehicle within 3″ for D3 wounds. Turns your Librarian into a Techmarine, giving you an option to repair a second vehicle. Note that this cannot be used to repair a vehicle that’s already been repaired by a Techmarine or Feirros. B+
    Wings Note: Visible sounds like an irrelevant rider but this does actually mean you can’t repair through a ruin wall or something. Watch out for that.
  6. Machine Flense – WC6 – Select a visible enemy vehicle within 18″. That vehicle suffers D3 mortal wounds, then select an enemy unit within 6″ of the vehicle. For each mortal wound the vehicle suffered, the unit takes a mortal wound on a 3+. A decent upgrade over Smite if you’re fighting a vehicle heavy opponent, which lets you potentially splash a wound or two onto a nearby unit or character. B

Biggest wins here are Blessing of the Machine God and Psysteel Armor, which combine to give your vehicles a strong survivability buff and an additional counter to things that have penalties to hit. For the “Techmarine chapter” this whole list is a surprisingly big win – it’s competitive with the White Scars for “best Marine lore.”

Warlord Traits

Space Marine Contemptor

Space Marine Contemptor Dreadnought, Painted by Tyler “Coda” Moore

The Iron Hands pick up six warlord traits of their own, building off Merciless Logic from the codex. This is great news, as prior to the supplement Merciless Logic wasn’t a particularly interesting take, with characters lacking the volume of attacks for it to become a reliable choice. An important consideration while reviewing these, jumping ahead to stratagems, is that Iron Hands can make a Dreadnought a character, making them eligible to take these. We’ve reviewed them with this in mind.

  1. Adept of the Omnissiah: At the end of your Movement phase the Warlord can repair one friendly IRON HANDS VEHICLE within 1″ for 1 wound, or D3+1 if this model is a TECHMARINE. Potentially useful if you’re not taking Feirros, but you’re probably taking Feirros, and his reliable 3 (or 6, using the stratagem) wounds back will be more useful than the D3+1 here. C
  2. Will of Iron: The Warlord may deny 1 psychic power per turn, or 1 extra if it could already deny. Extra denies are very useful in an Iron Hands army, as much of your ability to reduce incoming damage applies to shooting and melee, not mortal wounds. B
  3. All Flesh is Weak: The Warlord gains a 5++ Feel No Pain. Of marginal use on most characters, but through use of the Hero of the Chapter and March of the Ancients stratagem this can be given to a Dreadnought, providing a solid boost to durability. B
  4. Student of History: When the Warlord consolidates it may move up to 6″ in any direction, not necessarily towards the nearest enemy model. A very useful trait both offensively and defensively, as your warlord can charge in, attack, and leave before being hit back, or if not blocked in the Warlord can leave combat after being charged, resulting in the charging unit hanging in the wind for the Iron Hands’ prodigious shooting. Another very interesting trait to apply to a Dreadnought, as it nearly prevents them from being locked into combat and wasting a turn of shooting. A
    Wings Note:
    There’s a particularly neat trick you can do here if your opponent doesn’t expect it. If you’ve got this on a unit and your opponent charges it then fights with something else first, you can interrupt combat with the unit, fight, then pull the unit far enough back that your opponent won’t be able to reach it with a pile in.
  5. Merciless Logic: Unmodified hit rolls of a 6 generate an additional attack. Generally not useful, as you’ll be generating nothing from shooting, and potentially one extra attack in melee. However, continuing the trend of these traits being incredibly useful on dreadnoughts, this trait will give you an average of three extra hits from a Leviathan shooting. B-
  6. Target Protocols: At the start of the Shooting phase, nominate one friendly IRON HANDS unit within 6″ of this warlord. Until the end of the phase, that unit may re-roll one hit roll, one wound roll and one damage roll. Potentially useful if you have some D6 damage weapons that you’d like to improve the reliability of, although some of the hit and wound re-rolls are likely to be wasted from already having Captain/Lieutenant around. B+
    Wings Note: 
    I’m looking at this and thinking c-beam Relic Contemptors, especially because the damage re-roll is a “full” re-roll, allowing you to pick up all three dice if you’ve low-rolled on the 3d3 damage. 

Relics

Iron Hands and their successors have access to two sets of relics. The first, Relics, are only available to Iron Hands normally, but successors can use the Bequeath by Iron Council stratagem to take a single one. The other set, Special-Issue Wargear, are available to successors freely and some can be given to squad Sergeants via the Scion of the Forge Stratagem.

Relics of Medusa

A Deathwatch Veteran hailing from the Iron Hands. Credit: TheChirurgeon

The Relics are a mix of fairly generic weapons that you probably won’t build around, a couple useful items, and The Ironstone, which is one of the single best relics in the game and you will take in every list.

  • Axe of Medusa: Replaces a power axe at S+3 AP-3 D:3. A nasty melee weapon against most targets short of a Knight, and you can punch up into those with Might of Heroes. Not something you’ll build a list around though. It’s a real shame there are no valid Primaris users of this. B
  • Aegis Ferrum: Primaris only, increases Toughness by one and reduces all damage by one to a minimum of one. Stick this on a Gravis Captain for a really tough beatstick. B
  • The Mindforge: Replaces any type of force weapon for a S:x2 AP-3 D:d3 weapon. Essentially, a power fist without a hit penalty. Its cool, it’s flavorful, it makes a Librarian a lot better in combat… and there’s basically no reason to take it as Librarians are mediocre in the Fight phase.C
  • Betrayer’s Bane: Upgrades the melta half of a combi-melta to be Assault 2. Another cool and flavorful item that there’s not a lot of reason to competitively take. B
  • The Ironstone: At the beginning of the battle round, select one IRON HANDS VEHICLE within 3″ of the bearer of this relic. When resolving an attack against that vehicle, as long as it’s within 3″ of the bearer of the relic, reduce damage taken by one to a minimum of one. When taking any list with a single high-priority target, the Ironstone is a must-take. Any time you’re taking multiple vehicles it becomes much less vital, with your opponent knowing in advance which will receive the buff, but is still great at helping influence target priority or providing an additional way to buff vehicles. A
  • The Tempered Helm: While on the battlefield, roll a D6 for each Command Point you use for a stratagem. On a 5+, you gain one Command Point. You may only gain one Command Point per battle round. Command Point regeneration is very useful for soup-less Marine armies, which often end up running starved for CP. Rolling one die per CP you spend makes this a fairly reliable way to get CP back, so using the Relics of the Chapter stratagem to take this is going to be worthwhile in most games. A
  • The Gorgon’s Chain: A model with this relic has a 4++ invulnerable save. When resolving an attack made with a ranged weapon against that model, subtract one from the wound roll. Useful to give an invulnerable save to a model that doesn’t already have one – a Techmarine, Librarian, or Lieutenant for example. The to-wound penalty for ranged shooting can also be useful for added protection against snipers, but the invulnerable is the main draw of this relic. B

Special-Issue Wargear

The Iron Hands share the same four generic Special-Issue relics that as the other supplements, and have an additional four unique relics. Three of them are quite useful, and the fourth is not bad, though none are something to build a list around.

  • Adamantine Mantle: Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. Solid, particularly for units that already have a 4+ invulnerable save and who won’t benefit as much from the defensive Relics. A decent fall back to have. B
  • Artificer Armour: Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for Marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
  • Master-Crafted Weapon: Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Aggressor sergeants firing 12 2-damage shots per turn at range, or Suppressor sergeants having the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage. Ideally you’d never be taking this as your free relic, but an excellent use of the “pay a CP for an extra relic” stratagem since being able to use it to buff up various units depending on your opponent’s army is a useful tool. A
  • Digital Weapons: Whenever the bearer fights they get to make an extra attack that causes a mortal wound if you hit. Cute but not really worth the relic slot. C
  • Auto-Medicae Bionics: If this model has lost any wounds, at the start of your turn it regains D3 lost wounds. Having a character heal themselves is useful, but D3 isn’t tremendously reliable, and there are a number of much stronger defensive relics available. C
  • Teeth of Mars: Like Teeth of Terra, but for killing vehicles. S: User AP-2 D:2, granting +1 attack when activated. If targeting a vehicle, strength changes to S:x2. This can be given to a character to whack a bunch of S:8 D2 hits into a vehicle, while not significantly sacrificing ability to clear chaff. Losing a point of AP compared to a power fist is regrettable, but balanced out by not having a to-hit penalty and gaining an extra attack. Especially good with Might of Heroes as it gets you to S10 for fighting tanks. B+
  • Haywire Bolts: When firing a bolt weapon, make only a single attack, but when attacking a VEHICLE an unmodified wound roll of 4-5 inflicts D3 mortal wounds in addition to normal damage, and a 6 inflicts 3 mortal wounds in addition to normal damage. These are a useful trick to throw on a stalker bolt rifle Captain, where you can tap vehicles at 36″ for a decent chance of putting a couple mortal wounds on. Similar to the Raven Guard’s option, it’s also pretty great on an Eliminator sergeant. I am definitely not made that Iron Hands have better haywire than Drukhari or Harlequins do. B
  • Fortis-Pattern Data Spike: A neat little relic which lets you roll 2d3 and pick the highest for repairs. This works well when combined with the Adept of the Omnissiah warlord trait, giving you a Techmarine with improved repairs and reliability. Still doesn’t compare to Feirros, but what does? B-

Stratagems

The book gives the Iron Hands 16 unique stratagems, most of which focus around vehicles and shooting. The stratagems fit the fluff of the Iron Hands very well – they lean into the same things your characters, warlord traits, and relics want to do, so synergize well with the rest of your army.

  • Mercy is Weakness – 1CP: Use in either the Shooting or Fight phase when an Iron Hands unit is chosen to shoot or fight. Select one enemy unit. Until the end of the phase, every model in your Iron Hands unit that is able to must target that unit. Unmodified wound rolls of 6+ causes an additional wound against that enemy unit. Useful to activate if you have a squad or weapon with a significant volume of shooting, but not great on something like a Repulsor that will likely be splitting fire. B
    Wings Note: In a similar fashion to using Doom, this helps a lot if you’re trying to “punch up” with S4 stuff against a T8 target, as it literally doubles your damage output.
  • Methodical Firepower – 1CP: Put an Iron Hands unit into Devastator Doctrine for the turn, if not already there. This was a weird one back when Iron Hands would never, ever leave Devastator doctrine for any reason, but now it’s pretty solid for getting an extra turn out of something if you want the AP or to be able to move and fire without penalty. B
  • March of the Ancients – 1CP: After nominating your warlord, pick a dreadnought. It gains the CHARACTER keyword, +1 attack, and +1 leadership. Incredibly useful to let you turn a dreadnought into a character, allowing you to screen it – a Mortis Dread is the classic target here. If you want to run something a bit off-meta you could also use this to boost up a punchy Contemptor or Redemptor into a melee threat. As we discussed earlier, it also opens up giving a warlord trait to a Dreadnought via Hero of the Chapter, or if you give this to your warlord (remember that a warlord does not need to be a character) they can take one trait from being the warlord and a second from Paragon of Iron. Limited to one use per game. A
  • Vengeance for Istvaan 5 – 1CP: Have one unit re-roll all hits in melee against Word Bearers, Iron Warriors, Night Lords, or Alpha Legion. Not entirely sure why this doesn’t cover the Emperor’s Children, as Fulgrim was the one who made Ferrus Manus a head shorter, but it’s not a tremendously useful stratagem in general – you may not have a strong melee unit to use this on, and even if you do, when was the last time anyone put Word Bearers on the table? D
  • Wrathful Machine Spirit – 2CP: Use in the Shooting or Fight phase when selecting a friendly Iron Hands vehicle model. Until the end of the phase, re-roll hit rolls. This one is great, it gives you an emergency Chapter Master for your best vehicle when you need one. You should rarely be aiming to use this but it’s an extremely powerful ability to have in the back pocket. A
  • Souls of Iron – 2CP: Deny a psychic power within 24″ of any of your units on a 4+. Definitely more reliable than attempting to deny with one of your Librarians (although you explicitly get to try that before you’re obliged to activate this), and vastly expands the area in which you can attempt to deny powers. Has always been one of the most powerful stratagems wherever it appears and Iron Hands in no way needed this on top of the rest of the nonsense they get, but it’s here and you should use it to your advantage. A+
  • Scion of the Forge – 1CP: Give a Sergeant the Adamantium Mantle, Artificer Armor, a Master Crafted Weapon, Digital Weapons, Teeth of Mars, or Haywire Bolts. Most likely to be used to mastercraft an Intercessor thunder hammer, but could also give a Sergeant the Teeth of Mars, which is both much cheaper and plausibly better. B
  • Reject the Flesh, Embrace the Machine – 1CP: Give an INFANTRY unit a 5+ Feel No Pain, or a character with the All Flesh is Weak Warlord trait to a 4+ Feel No Pain for the rest of the phase when targeted by an attack. Stack this with Transhuman Physiology to turn a unit of Intercessors into a real strong tar pit. Actually has more benefit for a Successor, as they won’t already have the 6+. B+
  • Engine Purge – 2CP: In the Devastator Doctrine, any attacks with Heavy or Grenade weapons increase the AP of the attack by one on an unmodified 6 to wound. Effectively, when this goes off it takes the AP of your heavy weapon to two better than native, which is almost always going to push you to hit someones invulnerable save. The only real problem with this stratagem is that your AP is already going to be good, and most Space Marine armies have limited CP. Less good now that you only get to be in Devastator for one turn. C+ 
A classic Iron Hands battle pile repels the Tau.

A classic Iron Hands battle pile repels the Tau. Credit: Warhammer Community

  • The Gorgon’s Rage – 1CP: Add one to hit rolls with melee weapons, and also add one to wound rolls if fighting Emperor’s Children. Useful if your army has a strong melee unit, or if a large squad of Intercessors gets charged by an enemy unit. A good boost to your melee output. You can also combine this with Fury of the First to have Terminator power fists hitting on a 2+ C+
  • Cogitated Martydom – 1CP: Grot shields! An INFANTRY unit can intercept wounds off a character within 3″ on a 2+. The infantry squad acting as shields will take one mortal wound per wound the character would’ve taken, so a lascannon can potentially take out three Intercessors. A key thing to note is that this ability must be activated at the very beginning of the Shooting phase, so if you have tasty targets that aren’t shielded by your “grots” be prepared to defend them in other ways. A
  • Machine Empathy – 1CP: Have a Techmarine repair a second time, though you cannot repair the same target multiple times. A great way, especially with Feirros, to deal with the aftermath of a vehicle explosion or other form of AOE damage, or any time multiple vehicles end up taking damage. B
  • Paragon of Iron – 1CP: Give your warlord (who is not a named character) an additional trait. Does what it says on the tin. Gives you some fun options for your warlord, such as combining Will of Iron and All Flesh is Weak to get an extra-durable librarian that can double-deny. B
  • Optimal Repulsion Doctrines – 2CP: Overwatch on 4s if you have the Iron Hands chapter tactic, or 5s if you’re a successor using different tactics. As a gunline army, better overwatch means much more ability to stay out of melee. With Chapter Master re-rolls a unit will hit 75% of the time, which is definitely enough to blunt a charge. A
  • Auto-savant – 2CP: Once per battle (as long as your warlord is IRON HANDS and alive), keep a tactical objective after scoring it rather than discarding it, and it becomes available again next turn. There are a few missions like Deadlock where this is bad, but most of the time it’s outrageously good and easily the best of the four tactical objective manipulating strats, but unfortunately almost none of the people reading this sentence care even slightly. A
  • Bequeath by Iron Council – 1CP: Take an Iron Hands relic as a successor. Use this to take The Ironstone if you’re using a different chapter tactic than the Iron Hands. A

Chapter Litany

Medusan Furore: If this litany is inspiring, friendly units within 6″ gain +1 strength. Best used on a slam Chaplain, or defensively if your gunline gets charged, this does not synergize tremendously well with Iron Hands, as they already have tons of Overwatch firepower and aren’t usually taking a slam Chaplain. May come into its own a bit in the new world of Intercessor hordes, which get quite punchy at S5. Rating: B.

The List

Our sample Iron Hands list comes from Mike Porter and his 2nd place finish at the North East Open, which handily adopted the new Space Marine FAQ. Mike’s a top player who managed to adapt his list very quickly to accommodate the FAQ changes.

Mike Porter’s Iron Hands

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Adeptus Astartes) [38pl, 751pts]

Chapter: Iron Hands Successor (Master Artisans, Long ranged marksman)

-HQ-

Captain [6pl, 143pts] Warlord, jump pack, free relic, storm shield, thunder hammer
Primaris Lieutenant [4pl, 69pts] additional relic, robbed a relic

-Troop-

Infiltrator squad [5pl, 110pts] x4, sergeant
Intercessor squad [5pl, 85pts] x4, sergeant, chainsword, stalker bolt rifles
Scout squad [4pl, 55pts] x4, sergeant

-Heavy Support-

Devastator squad [6pl, 152pts] x5, armorium cherub, x4 grav cannons, sergeant, storm bolter
Eliminators [4pl, 72pts] x3 bolt sniper

-Dedicated Transport-

Drop pod [4pl, 65pts]

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Adeptus Astartes) [77pl, 1248pts]

Chapter: Iron Hands Successor (Master Artisan, Long ranged marksman)

-HQ-

Chaplain Dreadnought [11pl, 167pts] Twin lascannon, litany of +1 wound
Chaplain Dreadnought [11pl, 167pts] Twin lascannon, litany of +1 to hit

-Troop-

Intercessor squad [5pl, 85pts] x4, sergeant, chainsword, stalker bolt rifles
Intercessor squad [5pl, 85pts] x4, sergeant, chainsword, stalker bolt rifles
Intercessor squad [5pl, 85pts] x4, sergeant, chainsword, stalker bolt rifles

-Elite-

Centurion Assault Squad [16pl, 208pts] x3, sergeant, flamers, hurricane bolters
Relic whirlwind Scorpius [12pl, 215pts] scorpius multi-launcher

-Heavy-

Eliminators [4pl, 72pts] x3 bolt sniper
Eliminators [4pl, 72pts] x3 bolt sniper
Thunderfire Cannon [4pl, 92pts]

This is a great, balanced list, with a powerful shooting core based around the Chaplain Dreadnoughts and Whirlwind Scorpus, midfield pushers in the form of the Centurion Assault Squad, character-sniping Eliminators and a solid base of Intercessors. Interestingly it doesn’t use the Father of the Future Warlord trait on an Apothecary to buff the Intercessors, with less of a horde approach than other Iron Hands lists out there. There’s also that pesky drop pod full of grav Devastators. I think you can still see it in action from the NEO – Hellstorm Wargaming streamed Mike’s top table game against Innes Wilson’s Grey Knights.

Raven Guard

Raven Guard Breakdown - click to expand

Doctrine – Surgical Strikes

The Raven Guard get a buff to attacking characters while Tactical Doctrine is active. This is a bit of a tough one to evaluate. It’s clearly a boon against large characters rocking 10+ Wounds that you’ll want to target from the get-go such as Knights and Lords Discordant, but it’s harder to determine how useful it will be if your opponent can effectively screen their characters from you.

Raven Guard Phobos Units

Raven Guard Phobos Units. Credit: Dan Boyd

That said, Space Marines have access to tools that bypass those screens, so a Raven Guard army going deep on this is likely to load up with a heavy dose of Eliminators for a tasty Guided Aim festival of 4+ mortal wounds. The downside is that all of these have weapons that are Heavy profile, so you lose the AP bonus for Devastator Doctrine to get to the hit/wound bonus. However, both Eliminators and, should you choose to use them with the Target Sighted stratagem, stalker bolt rifles have enough base AP that they’ll push many characters to their invulnerable save anyway, so this is potentially less of a problem than it initially seems. Eliminators and Scouts also both trigger their bonus MWs on modified 6s to wound, so get a lot out of the +1 here.

It also doesn’t help you once you move to Assault Doctrine, which can be a blessing or a curse. If you’re using some surgical tools (such as a jump pack Captain) to go after characters in melee, you can get the bonus to hit and wound without having to commit the whole army to Assault doctrine, but if your army is melee-focused, you lose access to it when you do. In the event, many Raven Guard armies end up being big piles of Centurions anyway, and those don’t really need to be in Assault and are quite happy being +1 to hit +1 to wound against characters. The doctrine is also a good defensive tool for Raven Guard armies in general, as it means that melee threats with the CHARACTER tag are at a real risk of getting mulched by weight of fists (or some liberally scattered sergeant weapons) if they stray into your lines.

The net effect of this doctrine is that you don’t need to devote your entire army to it, but it draws you towards the inclusion of a certain sub-set of units, and provides you with a potent countermeasure to many popular choices.

The Unit

The Raven Guard have a single named unit in their Codex, a Primaris update of Kayvaan Shrike, newly upgraded to be the Raven Guard Chapter Master. We’re also going to include Lias Issodon here, as although he’s the Raptors Chapter Master those are a successor of the Raven Guard and per the Space Marines codex they’re required to use the Raven Guard rules.

Credit: Games Workshop

Kayvaan Shrike

Shrike is a beast, and an absolute bargain at 130pts. Any dedicated Space Marine list wants a Chapter Master, and in general (thanks to the huge pile of exciting stratagems they now have access to) they’d rather pay a point premium for one than spend 2CP to upgrade a Captain. Only Ultramarines have a similar option, with the other Chapters having Captain-tier special characters at best, immediately making Shrike look attractive before looking at any of the other words on his datasheet.

Luckily, these are pretty great too, and Shrike is a bit of a monster. His statline is mostly standard for a Primaris Captain (at least once you realise the extra attack for his paired claws has been baked into it) with one exception – he’s got a jump pack, so has a move of 14″ and the FLY keyword. This is a great complement to Chapter Master, as it allows you to make sure he ends up where he’s most needed at any given time to maximise the use of his aura. Alternatively, you can use it to send him out hunting, as he’s no slouch at killing stuff either.

Offensively, Shrike can do damage both at range and in combat. He wields a pistol called Blackout that has 18″ range, two shots at S4 AP-2 D2, deals mortals on 6+ to wound and can character snipe. Once the RG doctrine goes up this presents a very real threat of just one-shotting weaker characters, especially if he’s near a friendly Lieutenant so that he’s hitting on 2s with re-rolls and wounding on 2s or 3s re-rolling 1s. A few failed invulnerables is going to leave something in the dirt, and even if he doesn’t get the job done alone you’re very likely to be packing some other tools that can finish it.

Melee is where he really shines though. As we saw in our White Scars review, what lightning claws really need to be relevant is D2, and wouldn’t you know it, Shrike has a pair that have just that (with a bonus point of AP tacked on). With 7 attacks on the charge and full re-rolls on hits/wounds, Shrike is going to inflict a hefty blow against anything with <T8, and will still chip a few points off something like a Knight. If hunting T8 models is your order of business, getting Might of Heroes on him will be a big help, as it pushes his wound rate >50% against normal T8 stuff and to 75% against characters when the doctrine is also up, at which point he’s doing some serious damage (not being massively far from being able to one-turn a Knight if you use Honour the Chapter). As a PRIMARIS unit he’s also eligible to use Gene-Wrought Might, making him auto-wound on an unmodified hit roll of 6 for the phase, which is probably worth considering popping if you’re planning to fight twice into a key T8 target.

He also really likes charging, doing a MW when he charges 50% of the time, and has a 6″ re-roll charge bubble for himself and any RAVEN GUARD PHOBOS or JUMP PACK units. He can make use of the Strike from the Skies strat to advance and charge as well, allowing him to cover huge distances.

The only thing you have to be careful with on Shrike is that he isn’t any tougher than a regular Primaris Captain, which given he can be a key part of your army and has an offensive statline that can encourage taking risks means you do sometimes need to be more cautious with him than you’d like, aiming to surgically deploy him into fights he’s going to win. This is admittedly very on-brand for Raven Guard, but if you do find him in a situation that’s less safe than you’d like (or you need to tank a Knight attack to get to a second fight) don’t forget that you can use Transhuman Physiology so that only unmodified 4+ rolls can wound him for a phase.

The final point of interest on Shrike is that he has the PHOBOS keyword, which opens up some possible interactions with the Obscuration Discipline and the Vanguard Warlord traits. In practice this may not prove to be super relevant – there’s a bunch of shooting accuracy boosts and shooting hit mods which Shrike doesn’t even slightly need – but there are a couple of things worth looking at. He’s eligible for redeploy via Lord of Deceit which means if, for some reason, you want to yeet him into the enemy lines turn 1 (which sounds mad but he’s 13 points cheaper than a smash Captain so maybe not if you can land the right kill) you can move to catch an opponent out on their positioning. Continuing the vein of yeeting him, he can be targeted by Temporal Corridor, so you could plausibly set up a Phobos Librarian mid-board with Concealed Positions, advance Shrike to them, have them do an epic high-five (being careful to ensure the claws are retracted at the time) and fire Shrike into the enemy lines, where he blows the advance and charge strat and goes wild.

This probably isn’t the best use of him, especially given that the Doctrine won’t be up yet, but it’s at least worth being aware of as a possibility, and can be more practically used in a battle that’s gone “wide” to allow him to return from fighting something in one direction and then zoom off in another. On a much more pedestrian note, you can pick him for the “Fire and Fade” equivalent, which can have its uses – it allows him to get off some shots with his pistol and then move to wherever his aura is best used. Raven Guard have an extremely good relic swap for the rifles that PHOBOS characters have, so setting him up with a sniper buddy doesn’t seem wildly implausible.

Overall, Shrike is a beast, and a huge attraction towards playing down-the-line Raven Guard. If you’re playing those rather than a successor, then he’s a very strong pick.

Lias Issodon (FW)

Lias Issodon is the Chapter Master of the Raptors, a Raven Guard successor, and a popular pick for successor builds. He has the old Chapter Master re-rolls, Stealth Modified Armour which is basically a camo cloak, and “Infiltrate, Isolate, Destroy”, a special rule that allows RAPTORS INFANTRY within 6″ to add +1″ to all moves (including Advance, Charge, and Fall Back). He can also Fall Back and shoot or Advance, but not charge. This is all great, and then on top of that he has a decent gun, a damage 2 power sword, and the Master of Ambush rule (not Warlord trait – yes, he can have two rules both called Master of Ambush) which allows him and up to three RAPTORS INFANTRY (except TERMINATORS, CENTURIONS, or PRIMARIS units) to set up in deep strike. He’s just kind of great all-round, and not expensive at 150pts.

Psychic Powers

Raven Guard Phobos Librarian

Raven Guard Phobos Librarian. Credit: Dan Boyd

Raven Guard Librarians have access to the Umbramancy Discipline. It has two powers that are pretty meh, two that are OK, and two that are great and you’ll end up taking a lot of the time.

  1. Umbral Form (WC 5) – The psyker gets a 4+ invulnerable save till your next psychic phase. This is theoretically useful because Librarians can really use invulns, but you’re just not going to take it because the other two good options are so much better. B
  2. Enveloping Darkness (WC 7) – Select a visible enemy unit within 18″ of the Psyker. Until your next psychic phase that unit can’t fire Overwatch and gets -1 to its To Hit rolls. This is fantastic, and a great way to either weaken big threats or tee them up for your units to charge in. There’s no reason to not take this. A
  3. Spectral Blade (WC 5) – Until the start of your next Psychic phase, the Psyker’s strength characteristic becomes equal to its Ld value and when it attacks a unit with lower Ld, that attack has an AP value of -4. Theoretically, this is a cool way to make a Smash Librarian, where you can give a Jump Librarian this and Umbral Form to come in at Strength 9-11 and AP-4 against most targets, but the big challenge is that Librarians are locked in with weapons that do D3 damage. The upside is that you can master-craft your force stave and then in Tactical Doctrine against characters, your Jump Librarian does D3+1 damage per swing and hits and wounds on 2s. You can further boost him by either giving him the Hero Made Manifest warlord trait to ensure he’s always getting the AP-4 boost or Champion of Humanity to give him +1 Attack and +1 to hit and wound rolls against Characters. B-
    Wings Note:
    I’m not super convinced. As with many “buff this psyker” options, the fact that Librarians start out way worse in a fight than Captains makes this a bit questionable, and the fact that in order to go after Knights properly you need to invest in something that boosts your Leadership makes this a bit less good than it initially sounds, especially as for slamming the hell out of a character Knight, the RG doctrine means a “traditional” smash Captain is deadly reliable. If you are going for this, I’d also argue for always picking the force sword rather than the force stave – I think more circumstances will arise where having AP-3 lined up against something you don’t beat the leadership of matters more than where S11 rather than S9 will matter, especially as when going after T5 characters you’ll still end up wounding on 2s. I think this is one of the better attempts at this kind of ability we’ve seen and could have legs, but it’s just a bit too intensive in CP and traits to quite get there over just buying a hammer guy.
  4. Shadowstep (WC 7) – Pick a friendly RAVEN GUARD character within 18″ of the Psyker. Remove that model from the battlefield, then redeploy it anywhere more than 9″ from an enemy model. A character-specific Veil of Darkness for Raven Guard that allows you to shift around auras as you need them. One of the more subtle uses for this is shifting a Chaplain who has the Canticle of Hate litany active, so you can place him next to your deep-striking Raven Guard combat units without having to spend multiple turns pushing him into position to ensure that your charges go off. It’s also, obviously, great for throwing smash characters of any stripe at your enemy, allowing you to imitate “Upon Wings of Fire” at a bargain price. Forcing your opponent to account for a possible incoming smash Captain from turn 1 is a huge constraint on their deployment and movement, and lets you punish mistakes savagely. A
  5. The Abyss (WC 6) – Select a visible enemy unit within 18″. Roll 3D6 and for each 4+, that unit suffers a mortal wound. If any models die from this, the unit gets -1 to its Leadership until the end of the turn. Alt-smites (especially ones that can snipe) are always worth looking at, but if you’re coming into this discipline it’s most likely not for this. C
  6. The Darkness Within (WC 6) – Select up to 3 enemy units within 18″ of the psyker and roll 1D6 for each, adding 1 if you rolled a 11+ on the psychic test. On a 4+, that unit suffers a mortal wound. There aren’t really any ways to key off doing a single wound to a unit in the Raven Guard codex, so the value on this one is pretty limited. D

Warlord Traits

Raven Guard Gravis Captain

Raven Guard Gravis Captain. Credit: Dan Boyd

Like all the other supplements, Raven Guard characters are fleshed out with a full set of warlord traits to pick from, supplementing the trait they got in the main Marine codex (which is reprinted here). Remember when reading these that the Hero of the Chapter and Master of the Trifold Path exist, allowing you to either add a trait to an extra non-named character, or supplement your actual warlord’s first trait with an extra one.

  1. Shadowmaster – Repeated from the main codex. Enemy units cannot fire Overwatch at the warlord. Always an important thing to be able to access, but slightly diminished by it also being available as a psychic power. However, that’s often non-trivial to set up on units far from your main force, so if you’re planning to fire characters about with various tricks like Shadowstep this can be a good add, although it’s a shame it’s “instead” of something like Imperium’s Sword. Shrike gets this if he’s your warlord, and honestly that’s probably an argument against him being that. B
  2. Master of Ambush – At the start of first battle round, before the start of the first turn, select one friendly RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY unit on battlefield. Remove that unit and warlord from the battlefield, then set them up anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” from the enemy deployment zone and any enemy models. If both players have this ability, you roll off to determine who redeploys first. This is extremely good – effects like this have existed before (the original Raven Guard stratagem effectively let you do this pre-nerf) but we’ve not seen something as open ended as this for a while. Since the original great round of nerfs on this style of ability, most of these have either been tied to a specific unit or prohibited you from then charging.
    This has neither of those drawbacks, and the possibilities are thus considerable. Screens got you down? Surprise – six Aggressors are here, and they look mad. Opponent deployed some Knights right on the line? Here comes a Chaplain with six Assault Centurions to really ruin their day. Want to throw two smash Captains in your opponent’s face turn 1? Have a smash Captain with this bring his buddy, who is also a smash Captain, along for the ride. Want to do something incredibly stupid that won’t survive the two-week FAQ? Give this to a Land Raider Excelsior – the travel partner has to be INFANTRY but the user doesn’t, so you can bring a clown car of all your favourite characters and 6 Assault Centurions to run buck wild on your opponent’s army.
    Even just used sensibly this ability is exceptional and allows for some potent tricks, and good enough that detachments built around it could see play in soup armies. Do note too that there’s no requirement to deploy the user and the transported unit together, so if you just want to throw a unit and don’t want to commit the character you can just place them back in your lines. A+
  3. Swift and Deadly – Friendly RAVEN GUARD units within 6” of this warlord can charge even if they advanced this turn. Jump Pack units can already access this via the Strike from the Skies stratagem, but this opens it up to a wider audience. If you really want to pull off a horrendous alpha strike, comboing this with Master of Ambush to allow whatever you redeploy, plus any nearby Invictors, to advance and charge is going to make it very hard to avoid you, but at that point you’re putting a lot of eggs in the basket of going first. B
  4. Master of Vigilance – When resolving an attack with a melee weapon made by this Warlord, an unmodified hit roll of 6 inflicts a mortal wound in addition to its normal damage. Because this is “unmodified” 6s, this isn’t going to outstrip either of the melee boost traits from the main Marine book most of the time – pick one of them (although we guess if you want something super smashtastic you could combo this with one of those). C
  5. Feigned Flight – When the warlord falls back, they can move across models and terrain as if they weren’t there.  In addition, they can shoot and charge in a turn in which they fall back. Deeply “meh” – you can already access most of this via a stratagem (or all if it if your warlord flies) and it’s far too situational to want to spend a trait on it. D 
  6. Echo of the Ravenspire – Once per battle, at end of the Movement phase, the warlord can vanish if they are more than 6” away from any enemy models. Remove the model from the battlefield and then at the end of your next Movement phase deploy the model anywhere more than 9” away from any enemy models. If the battle ends while the Warlord is off the battlefield, it’s counted as destroyed. Not really interested in this – Shadowstep achieves pretty much the same thing but without the whole “spent 1/6 of the game without use of one of your characters” thing. D

The Raven Guard’s warlord traits are slightly underwhelming overall – a lot of them are very clever or cool abilities, but they suffer from being highly situational and often being replicable via other means that need less commitment. However, Master of Ambush is a massive exception to this – it’s extraordinarily powerful and opens up a bunch of new strategies that are really only available to Raven Guard. While they did used to be able to replicate it waaay back when, the “top end” of what a powerful Marine INFANTRY unit can now do is vastly higher than it used to be, and buying into a full squad of something like Assault Centurions also represents a vastly smaller proportion of your points. Even the base case of “just” putting ten Veteran Intercessors in your opponent’s face T1 has its attractions, and the possibilities are soooo much bigger than that. Expect to see this one everywhere, and a few of the better among the others pop up here and there.

Relics

Like the other supplement factions, Raven Guard have access to two groups of relics: Relics of the Ravenspire, which are exclusive to the Raven Guard chapter unless you use a stratagem to give one to a successor, and Special-Issue Wargear, which successors have access to.

Relics of the Ravenspire

The Relics of the Ravenspire are:

  • Ebonclaws – Replaces a pair of lightning claws with a pair that are Strength User, AP-3, d3 Damage and give you +1 Attack and the ability to re-roll failed wound rolls. A big upgrade over lightning claws (which are otherwise just not very good), but would have been better as just flat 2 damage, which especially hurts given that “master crafted” can already give you that. Much like with Shrike, if you’re planning to use these bringing a way of casting Might of Heroes is a good shout. C
  • Armor of Shadows – When resolving an attack against this model that has an AP of -1, resolve it at AP 0 instead. In addition, an unmodified hit roll of 1, 2 or 3 always fails against this model. Cool but a bit underwhelming in many cases. The most plausible use case we can see is as a bolt-on to a smash Captain when you’re up against Knights, as it combines with a storm shield to reliably see you through a stomping counterattack. B-
  • Raven Skull of Korvaad – Once per turn, when resolving an attack by this model re-roll the hit, wound or damage roll. In addition, when this model is destroyed by an attack made by an enemy unit, until the end of the battle all friendly Raven Guard add 1 to hit rolls against that enemy unit. An alternative option for a spicy smashy boi (which given Raven Guard have good support from bringing several, is fine), which both helps him kill stuff and punishes your opponent if he suicides into a key unit and whiffs. The “configurable” re-roll here is a great combo with a thunder hammer or other -1 to hit weapon as it lets you grab an errant 2 from a hit roll, or a failed wound. The other potentially interesting thing to do is to hand this to someone with a combi-melta, but if you want a shooty character there’s a better option coming up. B
  • Raven’s Fury – Model with Jump Pack only. This model can charge even if it advances.  When a charge roll is made, you may re-roll the dice. After this model finishes a charge move, select an enemy unit within 1” and roll a D6.  On a 4+, that enemy unit suffers 1 mortal wound. Yet another powerful option for a jet pack murder machine. Almost like there’s some sort of theme going here. This suffers from being able to reproduce almost everything it does via stratagems when needed, so the other relics, which offer more unique bonuses, are probably more attractive. C
  • Ex Tenebris – Replaces a master-crafted stalker bolt rifle, oculus bolt rifle, or instigator bolt carbine. It’s Range 36”, Assault 3, S4 AP-2, 2 Damage and can target CHARACTERS. Also, it gives its bearer +1 to hit rolls and ignores cover. This thing is no joke, and a serious attraction to including the relevant builds of the characters that can wield it in your army. It goes especially neatly on the Primaris and Phobos Lieutenants, as the +1 to hit offsets them only having BS3+, and having an extremely murderous, long ranged gun suddenly lets them contribute a lot while hiding in the traditional Marine battle pile. Really, really good, and likely to be used a lot.  A
Raven Guard Primaris Lieutenants

Raven Guard Primaris Lieutenants. Credit: Dan Boyd

  • Oppressor’s EndReplaces a combat knife. Has Strength +1, AP-2, 1 Damage and gives +1 attack.  Against CHARACTERS its Damage increases to 3. The “Reiver” Phobos Lieutenant build and the Phobos Captain both struggle with access to good weapons normally, so having something like this available is extremely helpful, and it combines with the Doctrine to give something that will put a proper dent in characters of all shapes and sizes. If you’ve ever wanted to send a grizzled old man with a big knife to try and pull a Shadow-of-the-Colossus on a Knight this is the tool for you. It is a little bit of a shame that it’s only D1 base, but +1 strength is a decent help in pretty much all situations. B+

There’s some good stuff in here. It isn’t quite as wild as the White Scars or Iron Hands selections, but there’s a good set of things for boosting up murder-characters, with Ex Tenebris standing out as something that aligns extremely well with what the army wants to do and providing a hefty capability boost.

Special-Issue Wargear

The Raven Guard Special-Issue Wargear includes three repeats and five new choices.

  • Adamantine Mantle – Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. Solid, particularly for units that already have an invulnerable save. A decent fall back to have. B
  • Artificer Armour – Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for Marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
  • Master-Crafted Weapon – Common to all Space Marine codex supplements. Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Aggressor sergeants firing 12 2-damage shots per turn at range, or giving Suppressor sergeants the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage. Ideally you’d never be taking this as your free relic, but an excellent use of the “pay a CP for an extra relic” stratagem since being able to use it to buff up various units depending on your opponent’s army is a useful tool. A
  • Shadowmaster Cloak – Gives the bearer a 3+ invulnerable save while its model is wholly on a terrain feature. They know storm shields exist, right? Pass. D
  • Silentus Pistol – The special pistol for Raven Guard successors. It replaces a bolt pistol or heavy bolt pistol with a gun that’s Range 12”, Pistol 2, S5, AP-2, 2 Damage and it can target characters and gives +1 to hit rolls. Hey, cool, it’s very nearly Shrike’s pistol. This is actually a genuinely good gun, the mix of flat 2 damage and character sniping giving it a hefty leg up over the regular version. We suspect it’s a bit far down the priority list to see much use, but this is at least OK. B
  • Korvidari Bolts – The special ammo for Raven Guard successors. The model can opt to shoot these with a bolt weapon and gets +6″ range and can target units that aren’t visible, but only gets to make one attack when using these. Terrible on most things, as what you’re usually looking for from bolt weapons is rate of fire, but there are a couple of major exceptions. The two plausibly relevant uses use are to give them to a Phobos Captain (allowing him to no-scope characters with his D3 shot) or an Eliminator Sergeant (allowing him to fire Mortis rounds without LOS). Ex Tenebris does a better job of the former but if you decided you wanted to have multiple snipers in your lines picking off enemies while giving orders (which is pretty metal) you could plausibly take both. In most Marine factions Eliminator sergeants should always be giving out the buff rather than shooting, but that’s a bit less true here – if you’re already hitting/wounding characters on 2s in Tactical, then adding a souped up Mortis bolt is a much better use of the sergeant. This could be a genuinely good flex pick against Orks or Nurgle, where characters that really don’t want Mortis bolts to the face rely on staying out of sight to not get popped. B+
  • Shard of Isstvan – A model with this relic gets +1 attack and friendly units within 6” of that model automatically pass morale tests. Sure, why not. Boring but reasonably effective, and the morale isn’t irrelevant if you want to bring 10-model squads to your battle pile. B

Raven Guard get a set of special bolts actually worth thinking about on a unit you’ll want to take, and other than the Shadowmaster Cloak everything here is at least decent, with some crossing over into good.

Stratagems

Raven Guard get 16 of their own stratagems.

  • Infiltrators (1 CP) – Use at the start of the first battle round, before the first turn begins. Select 1 unit of friendly RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY unit from your army on the battlefield.  This unit may move as if it was the Movement phase but must end its move more than 9” away from any enemy unit. If both players have such an ability, roll off to see who uses it first. A unit can only be targeted by this stratagem once per game. Returns slightly improved from the post-nerf version of the old Codex (as you no longer have to activate it when you deploy the unit), and has plenty of uses. The main one is pushing something slow and threatening towards a central objective or firing position, which can be effective with Aggressors, as it allows them to still double shoot turn 1 if you can get them into range. It’s especially relevant with the new Chapter Tactic, as it can allow you to position a tough squad on a central “L block” if you’re playing on that increasingly common setup. B+
Sneaky Raven Guard Aggressors

Sneaky Raven Guard Aggressors. Credit: Dan Boyd

  • The Raven’s Blade (1 CP) – Use this at the start of Charge phase and select one enemy unit on the battlefield. RAVEN GUARD units that declare a charge against only that unit may re-roll the charge distance this phase. Very good – Raven Guard have lots of support for bringing powerful units in from deep strike, and this helps them make combat. It’s a bit less good against screening chaff as you can’t multi-charge, but is super useful if you’re trying to put a unit into a Knight or something. Just be aware that your opponent can make this quite difficult to use if they’re cunning. B+
  • Stranglehold (2 CP) – Use this stratagem at the start of the first battle round but before first turn begins if your army contains any RAVEN GUARD SCOUT or PHOBOS units. Until the end of the battle round, roll D6 each time your opponent spends CP to use a stratagem. On a 5+, your opponent must spend an additional command point or else that stratagem has no effect and cannot be used again. You may only use this stratagem once per battle. If you’ve ever played against a Callidus Assassin you know that this ability is no joke, and even in this slightly toned down form is a very neat thing to have in your back pocket against armies that burn a lot of CP early like Eldar or Tau. Unlike a lot of stuff here, this may see it’s best use in soup, as it stacks with the aforesaid Callidus Assassin. If an “Imperium” list that wants a detachment of Raven Guard exists (and we think it’s very plausible that powerful combos with Master of Ambush will encourage that), stacking both abilities is going to absolutely ruin the day of some armies. Does need an immediate FAQ as to how it interacts with other stratagems that are activated at the same time. A 
  • False Flight (2 CP) – Use this when a RAVEN GUARD unit from your army falls back. That unit can shoot and charge this turn. Pretty much every Marine faction gets this effect huh? It’s still excellent. Moving on. A
  • Lay Low the Tyrants (1 CP) – Use when a RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY or BIKER unit from you army is chosen to fight. Until end of phase, when resolving an attack made by this unit against a non-VEHICLE CHARACTER or a non-VEHICLE unit containing any models with 4+ wounds, add 1 to the wound roll. The non-vehicle rider is annoying when going after characters, as you’d like to be able to pop it against character knights, but it’s still handy to have. The second “mode” is much more interesting – it’ll only come up against specific armies, but when it does (against thinks like Grotesques, Talos, Riptides, Custodes Bikes) it’s a hefty benefit for the cost, often allowing something like Aggressors to wound them on 2s, and even letting a veteran Intercessor squad throw out some hefty pain.  B+
  • See, but Remain Unseen (1 CP) – Use at the end of your turn. Select 1 RAVEN GUARD unit from your army that did not make any attacks during your turn.  Until the start of your next turn, enemies attacking this unit get -1 to their To Hit rolls. Extremely good. Raven Guard has plenty of ways to position powerful, threatening units near the board centre ready to fight for control, and if you don’t have a profitable way to attack with them then this is a hugely powerful thing to throw on them for only 1CP. More prosaically, it can also just be used to protect something like a Leviathan that’s shuffling into engagement range. A.
  • Strike from the Shadows (1 CP)Use during Deployment. Select one RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY unit from your army. You can deploy that unit into a Teleportarium chamber/high orbit and they can arrive from Reserves at the end of any of your Movement phases more than 9″ away from any enemy models. Checking our notes, arbitrarily being able to Deep Strike infantry units is apparently “quite good”. Some White Scars players at the LGT were already seeing success with Assault Centurions or Aggressors, either catching an opponent off guard with a surprisingly long advance and charge on turn 1 or bringing them on from a board edge if the opponent deployed cautiously. The combination of this and Master of Ambush/Infiltrators both being available let you do much the same – go for a quick punish if your opponent doesn’t respect the redeploy threat, and bung them into deep strike if they do, ready to use The Raven’s Blade for a more reliable charge. It’s also generically pretty great to put a full squad of Intercessors in deep strike – they’ll merrily carve their way through most back-line objective holders, and present a real threat to any army using chaff hordes, especially now “Rapid Fire” is always available. Finally, don’t sleep on combining this with Hellblasters – one of their main drawbacks is the risk of not getting a full turn of firepower out of them, which this pretty much entirely mitigates. A
  • Vengeance for Isstvan 5 (1 CP)Use in fight phase when a friendly RAVEN GUARD unit is chosen to fight  Until end of phase, when resolving a melee attack against a model with the WORD BEARERS, IRON WARRIORS, NIGHT LORDS, or ALPHA LEGION keywords, you can re-roll hit rolls. Could theoretically be useful against Alpha Legion if you don’t have a re-roll aura nearby, I guess, but even then probably won’t matter much. F
  • Ambushing Fire (2 CP) – Use this stratagem at start of your Movement phase if Tactical Doctrine is active. Until start of the next battle round, when resolving an attack from a rapid fire or assault weapon, when you roll an unmodified wound roll of 6 improve the AP of that attack by 1. Use this stratagem only once per battle. Still fine if you’ve got a perfect enfilade set up, and Raven Guard do lean towards a heavily Primaris infantry based list that will be well placed to get the most out of this. B
  • Decapitating Blow (2 CP) – Use this stratagem when the enemy warlord is killed by an attack made by a RAVEN GUARD unit in your army. Until the end of battle, all enemy units get a -1 penalty to their Leadership. Naaaaaaaaaaaah. D
  • A Deadly Prize (1 CP) – Use this stratagem at end of your turn. Select 1 objective marker within 3” of a friendly Raven Guard infantry and not within 3” of an enemy unit. Next time an enemy unit ends a movement within 3” of that objective marker, roll a D6; on a 2-4 it does D3 mortal wounds, on a 5+ it does 3 mortal wounds. You cannot use this stratagem on the same objective marker more than once per battle. Honestly surprisingly interesting, especially against armies that are likely to plan to push with large, single units. Spending 1CP to drop some mortal wounds on a Knight or Lord Discordant is pretty OK, just don’t waste CP on it when they have horde units to “defuse” it. B-
  • Force Their Hand (1 CP) – Use after your opponent generates tactical objectives. Choose 1 objective marker in your opponent’s deployment zone. If you control that objective marker and there are any RAVEN GUARD INFANTRY or BIKERS within 3″ of it, choose one of your opponent’s objectives and they discard it and draw a new one. You can only use this once per turn and only if playing with Tactical Objectives. Horrendously brutal in Maelstrom games, denying your opponent a card of your choice is an outrageously powerful thing to do, even if it’s modestly tricky to set up. None of the Americans reading this care, but it’s true. B-
  • Strike from the Skies (1 CP)Use at the start of your Charge phase, select 1 Raven Guard jump pack unit. Until the end of the phase, the unit can be chosen to charge even if it advanced that turn and add +1” to charge distance. Great in combination with a smash Captain, as it combines with The Raven’s Blade to get you into the region of a 70% charge hit rate out of Deep Strike, or even better if you’re playing with a Hungry For Battle Successor. Certainly useful if you’ve decided to bring any sort of Vanguard Veterans or Assault Marines as well. B+
  • Master of the Trifold Path (1 CP)Use this after nominating a non-named character to be your warlord. Generate one additional additional warlord trait for them. All Warlord traits in your army have to be different. Probably the most relevant option here is loading up Shadowmaster or Master of Vigilance alongside either Champion of Humanity or The Imperium’s Sword from the main book to build a better smash Captain (we have the technology). That’ll certainly sometimes be useful, but there’s nothing screaming out “yes, definitely this”. B-
  • Favor of the Ravenspire (1 CP) – Same as the other supplements. Pick a Sergeant and give him a special issue wargear relic from one of Master-Crafted Weapon, Digital Weapons, Silentus Pistol, Korvidari Bolts. As usual, the real jam here is probably master-crafting something, but the Silentus Pistol is also great and we’ve already talked about the nasty trick of adding Korvidari Bolts to an Eliminator sergeant. B
  • Token of Brotherhood (1 CP) – The successor chapter stratagem that gives you access to 1 Relic of the Ravenspire. The Ravenspire relics are a lot less “mandatory” than, for example, the White Scars ones, but this is still cool if you want to get access to Ex Tenebris on a successor with Master Artisans or something. B-

This is a heck of a set of Stratagems, providing a lot of tools for surprising your opponent and making their lives a lot more fraught and risky in a highly appropriate manner. One thing that’s important to clock is that a lot of this isn’t really “locked in” to only working well with the doctrine or the main Raven Guard tactic, and we’d expect to see quite a bit of experimentation with Raven Guard in soup lists on that basis. Between the stuff here and Master of Ambush they’re basically best in breed among the Marines for throwing a single souped up unit of your choice right at the enemy in a way that’s hard to stop, and it seems reasonably plausible that a smaller Raven Guard detachment or successor detachment tuned to exploit this might fit into a wider Imperium force.

Chapter Litany

Swift as the Raven: If this litany is inspiring, friendly Raven Guard units within 6″ can shoot in a turn in which it fell back, or if they can Fly, they can charge after falling back. Raven Guard already have this ability as a stratagem, but getting it on multiple units as one of your litanies is fantastic. It can be used either to keep a gunline shooting, or to trigger Shock Assault again with a flying assault unit that got charged in the previous turn. Rating: A
Wings Note: The circumstances where you want to use it are very narrow, but I think on the occasion it does come up it’s extremely good.

The List

Also from the North East Open, we have Bernard Lee’s Raven Guard list.

Bernard Lee’s Raven Guard

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Adeptus Astartes) [67PL, 1153pts]

Raven Guard successor Master Artisans / Long Ranged Marksmen

-HQ-
Captain with Jump Pack[6PL, 143pts] Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield, warlord
Chaplain with Jump Pack [5PL, 99pts] Power Fist, Litany Canticle of hate

-Troop-
5 Scouts[4PL, 55pts] Boltguns, Sergeant w/Chainsword
5 Scouts[4PL, 55pts] Boltguns, Sergeant w/Chainsword
5 Scouts[4PL, 65pts] 5 Sniper Rifles, Sergeant W/Chainsword

-Elites-
5 Centurion Assault Squad[16PL, 260pts] 10 Flamers, 5 Hurricane Bolters
5 Centurion Assault Squad[16PL, 260pts] 10 Flamers, 5 Hurricane Bolters

-Heavy-
3 Eliminators[4PL, 72Pts] 3 Bolt Sniper Rifles, 3 Camo Cloaks
3 Eliminators[4PL, 72Pts] 3 Bolt Sniper Rifles, 3 Camo Cloaks
3 Eliminators[4PL, 72Pts] 3 Bolt Sniper Rifles, 3 Camo Cloaks

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Adeptus Astartes) [52PL, 847pts]

Ravenguard successor Master Artisans / Long Ranged Marksmen

-HQ-
Captain on bike[6PL, 100pts] Twin Boltgun, Chainsword, Storm Shield
Primaris Lieutenant[4PL, 70pts] Master-crafted Stalker Bolt Rifle

-Troops-
5 Intercessors[5PL, 85pts] 5 Stalker Bolt Rifles, Sergeant w/Chainsword
5 Intercessors[5PL, 85pts] 5 Stalker Bolt Rifles, Sergeant w/Chainsword
5 Scouts[4PL, 65pts] 5 Sniper Rifles, Sergeant W/Chainsword

-Heavy-
Thunderfire Cannon[4PL, 92pts] Techmarine Gunner, Plasma Cutter, Flamer, Bolt Pistol, 2 Servo Arms
5 Centurion Devastator Squads[24PL, 350pts]5 Grav-Cannon & Grav-amp, 5 Hurricane Bolters

This is the kind of Centurion-heavy build we talked about in the Units section, with 10 Assault Centurions backed up by 5 Centurion Devastators with grav-cannons. There’s also a big mob of Scouts to infiltrate forwards and take ground, stalker bolt rifle toting Intercessors hanging back, a Thunderfire Cannon to control opponents’ movement and help clear screens for the Centurions when they deep strike in, and the requisite 9 Eliminators.

Salamanders

Salamanders Breakdown - click to expand

Chapter Doctrine – Promethean Cult

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This is easily the weakest Chapter Doctrine in any of the books. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given how strong the Salamanders’ Chapter Tactic is and how little we need another Iron Hands-level army running around, but it’s certainly not great if you’re a Salamanders player, either. The biggest problem is that these days there just aren’t that many flame and melta weapons in a Marine army, and the weapon that could most stand to benefit from this ability — heavy flamers — are Heavy weapons and so can’t benefit from both this and the Devastator Doctrine AP bonus at the same time. Tragic. It’s a welcome boost for melta guns and multi-meltas however, where having Strength 8 will now mean that we can wound most targets on a 2+ and help push through damage on larger targets. There are a few ways to make this work, but it’s not totally worth the investment to try and do it. The most obvious ones that come to mind are flamestorm Aggressors, who can throw out a frightening number of shots, and Sternguard Veterans, but both essentially demand that you take the Long-Range Marksmen Successor Trait to compensate for having an 8″ range. There’s also a potential play with Assault Centurions and Invictor Tactical Warsuits (if you give them Incendium Cannons), but ultimately building around flamers is probably going to cost too much to make it worth going crazy for when many Salamanders strategies are also good for boosting traditionally good Marine units.

The Units

Salamanders have two units in this book: Vulkan He’Stan returns, clothed in all his original glory (and also Kesare’s Mantle), while Salamanders get a new character added to the mix – Adrax Agatone.

Credit: Games Workshop

Adrax Agatone

The Salamanders’ new character is Adrax Agatone, a Primaris melee monster practically designed for leading Assault Centurions and Veteran Intercessors into combat. He carries a 12″ flamer for chapter solidarity purposes and carries an AP-3, 4 Damage thunder hammer called Malleus Noctum. While he only has S4 base, the real money for Adrax is his Unto the Anvil ability, which adds 1 to wound rolls for melee attacks made by friendly Salamanders models within 6″ if they charged, were charged, or performed a Heroic Intervention that turn. This is huge for turning any squad into a bunch of jacked-up monsters and stacks with the Crucible of Battle Stratagem to create an insane one-two punch that allows even Intercessors to threaten any target in the game. One downside to Adrax is that as a Primaris Marine he can’t ride with Assault Centurions, but ultimately any way you can get him to the front lines to support a devastating charge will work. He doesn’t have Vulkan’s 3+ invulnerable save, but he’s got 6 wounds and the Arridian Drakehide Cloak, which reduces incoming damage he takes by 1 (to a minimum of 1), which boosts his survivability a bit. His biggest downside is that he costs 140 points — you’re definitely paying for that thunder hammer.

Vulkan He’Stan

Vulkan remains largely unchanged from his original incarnation. His Forgefather aura has improved to grant full re-rolls instead of re-rolls for failed hits and wounds. Vulkan’s not a bad fighter when he’s your warlord — it gives him the ability to attack with his spear at Strength 8 and his 3+ invulnerable save gives him real staying power — but he’s ultimately going to serve you better lending his unique aura to a flamer and/or melta-equipped unit. He’s ideally sized to accompany Assault Centurions and Sternguard Veterans, where he can act as act as a multiplier, but note that any list that tries to fix flamer range with Long-Range Marksmen can’t benefit from Vulkan’s Salamanders-specific aura. This makes it difficult to use him to get the most out of flamers, and a better play when it comes to getting the most out of meltas. Unfortunately, meltas tend to be bad. There’s potentially a fun combo to be had pairing him with a Relic Leviathan Dreadnought running a pair of cyclonic melta Lances; the lances will benefit greatly from the ability to re-roll misses on the move (though you could also use the Relentless Determination Stratagem to keep their 2+ to hit), and The Crucible of Battle stratagem to ensure they wound anything in the game on a 2+. At 18″, that’ll give you 8 hits on average with a good chance that all 8 wound, dishing out an average of 28 damage. The downside is that your Leviathan is an extremely charge-worthy target, with no way to fall back and shoot. So make sure to screen it effectively.

Credit: Chris ‘whiteshark12’ Cowie

Stratagems

Salamanders have access to 16 Stratagems, several of which revolve around giving boosts to flame and melta weapons and require a lot of building to make work.

  • Flamecraft – 2CP: In the Shooting phase, pick a Salamanders unit. Until the end of the phase, when a model in that unit shoots a flame weapon, it automatically does the maximum number of attacks. There are a few units that you’ll want to look at for this Stratagem; the first are flamestorm Aggressors, who can fire off 12 shots piece on the move to do 60 hits with a 5-model squad, ideally while the Tactical Doctrine is active so your shots have +1 to wound and are AP-1. This is obviously best when you’re doubling the number of shots with the Firestorm ability, but even if you’re running a Long-Range Marksmen Successor Chapter, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sit still for a turn and still hit things with your gauntlets (though there is a workaround with the Relentless Determination stratagem). The second is Invictor Tactical Warsuits, which deploy close enough to the enemy and move fast enough to threaten things on the first turn with their 12″ incendium cannons. The downside is that only one can get the benefit, but throwing out 12 S5 shots that either are AP-2 or AP-1 with a +1 to wound depending on your doctrine can do some real damage. Finally don’t sleep on Centurions, who have been resurgent recently. Assault Centurions each have two flamers and can cause real damage when they get into combat. A
  • Rites of Vulkan – 2CP: Use at the start of the Movement phase if the Tactical Doctrine is active. Until the start of the next battle round, whenever you shoot a Rapid Fire or Assault weapon with a SALAMANDERS model, an unmodified wound roll of 6 causes the AP of the shot to improve by 1. Can only be used once per battle. I’m not particularly high on this. It’s interesting as an army-wide buff, but for 2 CP I just don’t think it gets there. It seems meant to work in tandem with Flamecraft or just a bunch of Intercessors shooting, but the difference between AP-2 and AP-3 isn’t so high that I think it’s worth spending 2 CP to get such a relatively small payoff. C
    Wings Note: A version of this obviously turns up in all the books, but this is one of the places this is weakest – I don’t feel like Salamanders are likely to go ham on the tools for a single doctrine as much as some other Marines, especially as their custom doctrine isn’t great. If you’ve lined up a turn of amazing shooting with Intercessors by all means use this anyway!
  • The Crucible of Battle – 1CP: In the Shooting or Fight phase, when a SALAMANDERS unit from your army is activated, add 1 to their wound rolls for attacks they make until the end of the phase. This made our resident Chaos player furious when we made him review it on release. And quote: “This is already a build-around ability in Chaos armies where it’s limited to only work on INFANTRY and BIKERS. Salamanders just get it on everyone. Thanks, GW”. At its core, this Stratagem lets you take down bigger targets using high weight of fire. Your Intercessors can now use a high volume of shots with this to take down a T7 tank using this to get 4+ to wound and using the Tactical Doctrine to cut through its armor. Likewise, it’s great for turning charging Veteran Intercessors into buzzsaws, since it can be combined with the Honour the Chapter Stratagem to fight twice using the bonus from this and Shock Assault. A+
  • Despite the Odds – 1CP: Use this at the end of the turn if your SALAMANDERS Warlord is still on the battlefield and you scored zero Tactical Objectives this turn. Generate one new Tactical Objective. Even in games using Tactical Objectives, this one is iffy — some restrict your hand size in a way that may mean you just end up discarding the card you generated. C
  • Strength of the Primarch – 1CP: Use at the start of the fight phase on a SALAMANDERS unit in your army. Until the end of the phase, add 1 to the Strength of models in that unit and when you roll an unmodified roll of 6 on your wound rolls, double the damage of their weapon for that attack. This is also insane, mostly because it combos very well with The Crucible of Battle. Don’t let that “unmodified” scare you off–taking Intercessors from S4 to S5 and then stacking Crucible will ensure they can wound almost any target in the game on a 4+, and the double damage on 6s will just be gravy on top of that. Remember to combine this with Honour the Chapter as well for a double-punch. Yeah, it’s a combo that costs you 6 CP but you only need it to work once. A
  • Immolation Protocols – 1CP: Use in the Shooting phase on a SALAMANDERS unit. Until the end of the phase, all their flame weapons become Pistol type. Theoretically useful for when your flamer units are stuck in combat, but that’s not going to happen often enough for this to matter, and those units probably aren’t worth trying to make work. C
    Wings Note:
    I mean if you are trying to make flamestorm Aggressors work this is a very good tool to have in your back pocket. 
  • The Fires of Battle – 1CP: Use in your Shooting phase or your opponent’s Charge phase when firing Overwatch with a unit. Pick a single model. When you shoot a flame or melta weapon that phase with that model, unmodified wound rolls of 4+ cause an extra mortal wound on top of their other damage, to a maximum of 3 (see FAQ). At release this was quite something on a flamestorm Aggressor using the max shots stratagem to do a guaranteed 12 shots which did mortals on a 4+, but now it’s capped at 3 so… whatever. C
  • Self Sacrifice – 2CP: On release this was mental and now it’s been toned down in the FAQ. It now reads: ‘Use this Stratagem at the start of your opponent’s Shooting phase. Select one SALAMANDERS INFANTRY unit that contains 5 or more models from your army that is not within 1″ of any enemy units, and then select one other INFANTRY unit from your army that is wholly within 6″ of the selected unit. Until the end of the phase, your opponent cannot target the second unit you selected unless that unit is the closest enemy unit to the firing model and visible to it, or it is no longer wholly within 6″ of the first unit you selected. In addition, until the end of the phase, the first unit you selected is always an eligible target for enemy shooting attacks provided it is within range and is visible to the firing model (i.e. it can be targeted even whilst under the effects of any rules that would prevent it from being targeted, such as the Shrouding psychic power).’ It’s still very good – unlike a lot of similar stratagems it is not faction-locked, so you can guard anything IMPERIUM, and a great use of this that’s been seen in the UK recently is using a big unit of Assault Terminators with storm shields to protect something like a big block of Kataphrons. Still an in our view.
  • Rise From the Ashes – 2CP: Use when a SALAMANDERS CHARACTER dies to have them stand back up with one wound on a D6 roll of a 4+ at the end of the phase. You can only use this once. Very useful for protecting your Warlord and preventing your opponent from scoring those points right away. A
  • Relentless Determination – 1CP: Use this at the end of your Movement phase on a unit that didn’t Advance. That unit counts as having remained stationary until your next Movement phase, and if it has a damage table, double the number of wounds it has remaining when determining its profile. I can see you’re already thinking about combining this with flamestorm Aggressors and look, I hear you. I understand what you’re saying. But it’s still not enough. Yes, you can toss out 72 autohitting shots with them, but doing that still costs 3 CP every time you shoot and has an 8″ range. This is going to be more useful for double-tapping with Executioners on the move, double-firing with Boltstorm Aggressors, and preventing the -1 to hit penalty for moving and firing heavy weapons. A
    Wings Note:
    Much like with Ultramarines, turning on Bolter Discipline for Intercessors on the move can be a big deal as well.
  • Vengeance for Istvaan V – 1CP: When you fight Word Bearers, Iron Warriors, Night Lords, or Alpha Legion, you can re-roll hit rolls in the Fight phase. If you ever do use this against a Word Bearers player, go ahead and take a photo and shoot an email to us with the photo at contact@goonhammer.com because it’ll be the first time it’s ever happened. F
  • Exemplar of the Promethean Creed – 1CP: Give your non-unique Warlord an additional Warlord trait. Can’t be used to give someone a trait that you’ve already given a model in your army. This is especially good for Salamanders, because they have some great Warlord Traits. A
  • Stand Your Ground – 1CP: Use on a SALAMANDERS INFANTRY unit in any phase if it’s not a Servitor and didn’t Advance and it’s being chosen as the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, when you make saves against attacks with a damage characteristic of 1, you get +1 to your armour save (not invulns). Pretty good for helping shrug off all the AP-2 Devastator Doctrine fire you’re going to have to deal with in the Marines-heavy meta. Also works well with the other buffs, such as Fire Shield. B
  • Master Artisans – 1CP Give a Sergeant a piece of Special Issue Wargear from a subset of the list (Master Crafted, Digital Weapons, Drakeblade, Dragonrage Bolts). OK if you have a specific use-case for it, like giving a Master-Crafted Weapon to an Aggressor Sergeant. B
  • Born Protectors – 2CP Use when your opponent declares a charge at one of your Salamanders units. Pick another Salamanders unit that isn’t in combat and is within 12″ of the unit being charged. It can fire Overwatch at the charging unit too. Also, if the charge is successful, that unit can perform a Heroic Intervention and move up to 2D6″, ending up closer to the enemy unit that charged and not within 1″ of any other enemy units. This is pretty neat, and makes it really easy to deter units trying to charge the weak parts of your lines. A
    Wings Note:
    One place where this is exceptionally good is against armies planning to wrap and trap you. A unit of Intercessors counter-charging into the side of a GSC blob and basing a bunch of models can completely wreck their movement plans, and a failed wrap attempt is often game ending.
  • Trust of Prometheus – 1CP Give a Salamanders Relic to a Successor Chapter. Not bad, given that the Salamanders have good relics. A

Relics

The Salamanders have access to two sets of relics – seven Relics of Nocturne and eight Special-Issue Wargear. The Relics of the Nocturne can be freely taken by Salamanders characters, or given to a successor chapter with the Trust of Prometheus Stratagem. The eight Special-Issue Wargear items can be given to either Salamanders or their successors, and through Master Artisans a subset can be given to a sergeant.

Relics of Nocturne

There are seven Salamanders-only Relics of Nocturne.

  • Vulkan’s Sigil: Gives the model +1 Attack, and once per battle at the start of the Fight phase you can activate this relic to give every SALAMANDERS unit within 6″ +1 Attack (also giving the bearer +2 Attacks that turn). A great add-on to a Smash Captain, particularly if your plan is to deliver him to the battle with a unit of Assault Centurions or other hard-hitting assault unit. A
  • Drake-Smiter: An AP-4 relic Thunder Hammer that, on unmodified wound rolls of a 6, does +3 damage to the target. It’s a pretty powerful effect if you can get enough attacks and a Lieutenant bonus on the model using it, but you still get -1 to hit with it, so you’ll want to put this on a Chapter Master (or stay next to one) if you can. A
  • Wrath of Prometheus: Replaces a boltgun or master-crafted boltgun (so, small Marines only for this one) with a superior model: 30″ range, S5, AP-2, D3 Rapid Fire 1. The 3-damage makes this a pretty spicy upgrade for a Lieutenant placed with a gunline. B
  • The Tome of Vel’Cona: Gives a Librarian an additional power from the Promethean Discipline. Also you get a +1 bonus when you attempt to manifest a Promethean power with this model. Helpful for when you want to combine the Librarius and Promethean disciplines on the same model, but usually you’ll want someone who knows both Drakeskin and Fire Shield. That +1 to manifest is incredibly useful though, since every Promethean power has WC 6 and lowering that to 5 is a big deal, bumping your unmodified chances of a cast up from 72% to 83%. A
  • The Salamander’s Mantle: Attacks against this model subtract 1 from their wound rolls. This is an interesting ability. On its own, it’s solid. Taken with the other Salamanders powers and warlord traits, it creates some rough combinations, where you can have very difficult-to-crack characters that can only be wounded on a 6+ by small or medium arms fire.  B
  • Nocturne’s Vengeance: Replaces a combi-flamer. The bolter half is AP-2, D2 and the Flamer half is 12″ range, AP-1, D2. An interesting weapon to have, and good for dissuading charges on a key unit. Not particularly powerful, though. C+
  • Helm of Draklos: PRIMARIS model only. Gives them +1 wound and enemy units within 6″ get -1 to their Leadership. The extra wound is nice but the Leadership doesn’t matter and there are already a ton of better ways to make a Salamanders character tougher. C

Special-Issue Wargear

In addition to the four standard pieces of Special-Issue Wargear, the Salamanders and their successors have four unique items. As seems to be common, the unique bolt ammo is underwhelming, however some of the others are competitive with the genuine Relics of Nocturne as options to take in a list.

  • Adamantine Mantle: Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. A solid defensive choice, particularly on a captain or chaplain that already has an invulnerable save. Some of the other Special-Issue Wargear may be a better choice defensively on other characters, however. B-
  • Artificer Armour: Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for Marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
  • Master-crafted weapon: Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Aggressor sergeants firing 12 2-damage shots per turn at range, or Suppressor sergeants having the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage. Ideally you’d never be taking this as your free relic, but an excellent use of the “pay a CP for an extra relic” stratagem since being able to use it to buff up various units depending on your opponent’s army is a useful tool. A
  • Digital weapons: Whenever the bearer fights they get to make an extra attack that causes a mortal wound if you hit. Cute but not really worth the relic slot. C
  • Obsidian Aquila: When a friendly <CHAPTER> model within 6″ of a model with this Relic would lose a wound, roll a D6; on a 6+ the wound isn’t lost. This is a powerful effect to have, giving nearby models a real boost in staying power. The strange part of it is that it works on models and not units, so you’ll have to think about how you allocate wounds to models in a unit near this Relic. A
  • Dragonrage Bolts: Shooting a bolt weapon, make one hit roll that causes D6 wound rolls. The target doesn’t get the benefit of cover, and the weapon has AP-1 and 1 damage for this attack. This could be an upgrade for a sergeant using a regular boltgun, or a model with a bolt pistol, but in neither case is it worth spending a CP to take. D
  • Promethean Plate: When resolving an attack against a model with this relic, unmodified wound rolls of 1, 2, or 3 always fail. This is a strong way to protect T4 characters that might otherwise be vulnerable to high-strength weaponry, or who want to take on big targets. B+
  • Drakeblade: Replaces a power sword, master-crafted power sword, or combat knife. An AP-4, D2 power sword that does a mortal wound to the target every time you make an unmodified wound roll of 6. Not too shabby, but being Strength User means that you’re not going to connect on wounds as often as you’d like. Still, when paired with Anvil of Strength you can build a kind of “lite” Smash Captain who doesn’t have to spend 40 points on a Thunder Hammer. B
    Wings Note:
    The fact that you can give this to a Reiver Sergeant is pretty cute – although I probably still wouldn’t take them, being able to load up the sergeant with something that will chew through a minor character makes them that tiniest bit more relevant.

 

Credit: Chris ‘whiteshark12’ Cowie

Warlord Traits

The Salamanders have an Imperially-Mandated Six Standardized Warlord Traits to choose from. Overall, this is probably the strongest list of Warlord Traits in the game. Even the worst among them is still usable in the right list, and the traits you can access here do some things you rarely see in other books. Salamander characters are gonna be legit, y’all.

  1. Anvil of Strength: Your Warlord gets +2 Strength. This is Vulkan’s base warlord trait and it’s pretty cool. It’s especially good for him because it means that his spear hits at Strength 8 if he’s your warlord. It also means that if he isn’t, he kind of stinks at punching things. This will get you your best results when you’re pairing it with a power fist or thunder hammer, and suddenly having S12 instead of S8 can make your smash captain a much scarier fighter. A
  2. Miraculous Constitution: When the warlord would lose a wound, roll a D6. On a 6, they don’t lose the wound. Also, at the start of your Movement phase, your warlord regains 1 lost wound. This is also pretty good, and you’ll get the most mileage out of it when its paired with high-wound characters like Bike, Terminator, and Gravis Captains. Helpful when you think your Warlord will be out in the open or potentially sniped by Raven Guard. B
  3. Never Give Up: At the start of the battle round, pick a friendly SALAMANDERS unit within 6″ of the Warlord. Until the end of the battle round, that unit has the Defenders of Humanity ability, basically giving it objective secured. This can be a useful way to hold objectives, particularly because the Warlord can just drop it on himself as needed. B
  4. Forge Master: Your Warlord gets +2 Toughness. Helpful for putting Captains out of 2+ wound range for S8/9 guns and protecting them a bit from snipers. You’ll get the best returns out of giving this to a Captain on a Bike, where you can cross another threshold by having a T7 warlord riding around. A
  5. Lord of Fire: You can re-roll the dice to determine the number of attacks made with flamer weapons for friendly SALAMANDERS units within 6″ of this warlord. This is Adrax’s Warlord Trait and it runs into the standard issue of flame weapons just not being that good or plentiful in Marine lists. Probably most helpful when paired with flamestorm Aggressors. It’s still alright, but probably not something you want in competitive play when there are other, crazier options around. B-
  6. Patient and Determined: Once per shooting phase and once per Fight phase, one of your attacks automatically hits. This is pretty sick, especially given that you can still re-roll another attack. That said, it’s not for everyone – To hit probabilities are already pretty high for Captains and better yet for Chapter Masters, so you’ll get more mileage out of putting this on a slam Captain/Master, where you have a slightly lower chance of hitting. A

 

Psychic Powers – The Promethean Discipline

Salamanders get access to the Promethean Discipline, which has a pair of very strong defensive buffs that you’re going to want any time you bring a Librarian.

  1. Flaming Blast (WC 6) – Pick a point on the battlefield within 24″ of the psyker and visible to the model. Roll a D6 for each enemy unit within 3″ of that spot; on a 4+ it suffers 1 mortal wound. We’ve looked at non-smite MW powers recently and powers like Flaming Blast take a lot of work to make viable. Maxing out at 1 mortal wound to any given unit just isn’t good enough in most situations. The only thing this really has going for it is a 24″ range. C-
  2. Fire Shield (WC 6) – Pick a friendly SALAMANDERS unit within 18″ of the psyker. Until the start of your next psychic phase, enemies attacking that unit with ranged weapons subtract 1 from their hit rolls. In addition (holy crap there’s more?), units that declare a charge against the shielded unit subtract 1 from their rolls. This is a fantastic power, and great for protecting key units. Throw it on a Repulsor Executioner to make the thing almost impossible to charge from deep strike (double 6 only) or just use it to make your objective holders even more of a pain to shift. A+
  3. Burning Hands (WC 6) – Until the start of your next Psychic phase, when you make an attack for a close combat weapon with the psyker, every time you hit, the target takes a mortal wound and the attack sequence ends. Basically turns all your psyker’s hits into mortal wounds. This is an interesting power, basically giving your psyker the Murdersword. The problem is that psykers are kind of terrible at combat. You can get more attacks on a Primaris/Phobos Librarian but you’ll have a better chance of making it to combat with a jump pack Librarian, but neither one is going to really bring it with only a 3+ WS. You could put a lot of time and effort into making a combat monster Librarian, or you could just make a beastly Smash Captain and average more damage overall. C
    Wings Note:
    I…actually think this might be better than it looks? I was very down on it on first reading, but could be relevant as a counter charge option on a Primaris Librarian. Assuming you’re running a Classic Marine Battle Pile, and he’s in a Chapter Master aura, you’re looking at 3-4 mortals each time he fights, and he’s got multiple routes to swinging twice. Most likely the fact that there are some properly cracking options in here means that doesn’t come up, but I think this is an interesting piece of design.
  4. Drakeskin (WC 6) – Pick a friendly SALAMANDERS unit within 12″. Until the start of your next Psychic phase, add 1 to the Toughness characteristic of models in that unit. This is also fantastic, and has a number of very good use-cases. It’s great for protecting units sitting on objectives (and very good when combined with Fire Shield), combos well with a number of effects, and can be used to push key units over important Toughness thresholds, like making a Repulsor Executioner T9. A+
  5. Fury of Nocturne (WC 6) – Pick a visible enemy within 18″ and roll 2D6. If the result is more than the highest Toughness characteristic of models in that unit, it takes D3 mortal wounds. This is going to get you your best results on infantry, where the chances of rolling a 5+ on 2D6 are 83%, and less so on tough vehicles, where you only have a 28% chance of rolling an 8+. That still means that on average, your chances of doing any mortal wounds with this power to a T4 unit are about 48%. You’re better off finding another power to fill this slot most of the time. The good news is, you have them. D
  6. Draconic Aspect (WC 6) – Subtract 2 from the Leadership of enemy units within 12″ of the psyker. Leadership just doesn’t matter enough for this power to ever be useful. F

 

Credit: Chris ‘whiteshark12’ Cowie

Chapter Litany

Selfless Saviours: If this litany is inspiring, Salamanders units within 6″ can heroically intervene as if they were characters. This is more of a surprise gotcha than the two litanies we just looked at, as it doesn’t provide a raw damage boost like White Scars or the immediate defensive benefit of Imperial Fists. What it does do however is force your opponent to position their assaults and movements more carefully, as several extra Salamanders units could easily end up intervening into combat (and activate their Shock Assault ability in the process). As an extra trick, as litanies go off at the beginning of the battle round, this can be triggered during your opponent’s turn and really dictate what choices they need to make. Rating: B

The List

Salamanders are probably the weakest of the new Marine units, and that’s reflected in the dearth of lists for them. We did find this which finished 32nd at the Goldensprue Cup GT, run by Gil Fuhr.

Battalion

HQ: Adrax Agatone
HQ: Captain w/Teeth of Terra, Jump Pack, Hero of the Chapter: The Imperium’s Sword

Troops: Incursors x5
Troops: Infiltrators x5
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Stalker Bolt Rifles

EL: Aggressors x3 w/Flamestorm

Battalion

HQ: Librarian
HQ: Lieutenant

Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Bolt rifle
Troops: Scouts x5 w/bolter
Troops: Scouts x5 w/bolter

EL: Invictor w/Incendium Cannon
EL: Invictor w/Incendium Cannon

Spearhead

HQ: Techmarine, Master of the Machine, Master of the Forge, Warlord

HS: Relic Leviathan w/2x Storm Cannons
HS: Repulsor Executioner
HS: Thunderfire Cannon

This is a bit of a mixed bag of a list, with a rainbow of different units – besides Troops the only unit used twice is the dual Invictors. It features our lad Adrax Agatone in all his thunder hammer toting glory, a couple of Invictors with incendium cannons to take advantage of the doctrine, and a base of firepower with the Repulsor – I suspect the Repulsor was used to get the Aggressors into position.

Imperial Fists

Imperial Fists Breakdown - click to expand

Doctrine – Legacy of Dorn

Credit: Games Workshop

The Imperial Fists doctrine buffs Heavy weapons while the Devastator Doctrine is up, which is fitting for the sons of Dorn. Attacks made with Heavy weapons which target a VEHICLE or BUILDING (lol) add 1 to the Damage characteristic. As things go, this is an uncomplicated buff. It encourages exactly the kind of playstyle you’d hope to see from Imperial Fists – masses of heavy weapons aiming to tear down enemy armour in the early turns. It’s a little disappointing that it’s only VEHICLES and not MONSTERS or even BATTLESUITS as well – there’s no real reason the Fists should be great at blowing up Land Raiders but not Carnifexes or Riptides – but so it goes. Also, as a Devastator doctrine buff in an army which has no way of rolling the doctrines back, it is a lot less good than it was. Your Fists-playing article author is not at all mad about this.

Imperial Fists Centurion Devastator Squad

Imperial Fists Centurion Devastator Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter

Putting aside that criticism, the cool thing about the doctrine is that it makes some units really nasty. The above-pictured Centurions throw out a sickening amount of damage on turn 1, particularly with their heavy bolters benefiting from the “bolter drill” rule as well, and being AP-2 while in the doctrine. Suppressors are suddenly rocking S7, AP-3, damage 3 against their main targets. Hellblasters can potentially deliver S9, AP-5, D3 shots from 36″ away – that’s a savage amount of firepower. Las-fusil equipped Eliminators are now a flat damage 4 against vehicles, which is hard to say no to. Even “incidental” anti-tank weaponry becomes a lot more deadly. It’s not hard to imagine an Imperial Fists army downing their opponent’s armour early on in the game under a hail of bullets, though it is easy to imagine a canny opponent deploying out of range or LoS of your Fists and the firepower largely going to waste.

The downside here is that it all falls flat if your opponent doesn’t have any, or many, VEHICLE units. It also doesn’t totally work with the Chapter trait and, as we’ll see later, some of the Stratagems – heavy bolters love it, but massed bolter fire from Aggressors or Intercessors would much rather you were in the Tactical doctrine.

Specialist Detachments

The Imperial and Crimson Fists are somewhat unique among chapters receiving supplements as they both got specialist detachments in Vigilus Defiant. The specialist detachments can be unlocked by spending a single command point on a Specialist Detachment Stratagem, and they apply to all the units with a specific set of keywords in a detachment, unlocking two stratagems, a relic, and a warlord trait. We’re going to go into a quick overview of the detachments here, and go into details on their effects in the appropriate sections below.

Imperial Fists Siegebreaker Cohort

The Siegebreaker Cohort is the big draw to stick with the Imperial Fists rather than playing their somewhat bluer successors. The Siegebreaker Cohort applies to Captains, Centurions, Dreadnoughts, and Vindicators. The specialist detachment doubles down on killing vehicles and buildings – there’s one stratagem that relates specifically to destroying buildings, and one that applies to both buildings and vehicles. Both the warlord trait and relic have been overwritten by the release of this supplement, so we won’t be looking at them.

Crimson Fists Liberator Strike Force

The Liberator Strike Force is all about the Primaris – it applies to all the Primaris characters, Intercessor Squads, Reiver Squads, and Hellblaster Squads in a detachment. The stratagems, warlord trait, and relic are all unique, so don’t get overwritten by this supplement.

The Units

There’s three units in the book, which is 300% more than Raven Guard or Iron Hands had. So far, so good. Two of them are returnees from previous editions, in the shape of Captain Darnath Lysander of the Imperial Fists (still not worth it) and Chapter Master Pedro Kantor of the Crimson Fists (extremely worth it). Neither of these got a Primaris upgrade, and Lysander is basically not changed at all from his previous version, though Pedro gained an extra Attack, better re-rolls, and an improved storm bolter. Joining them is the new boy Tor Garadon.

Imperial Fists Captain Tor Garadon

Imperial Fists Captain Tor Garadon. Credit: Jack Hunter

Tor Garadon

Continuing the theme of all the new Space Marine supplements getting a Primaris character, the Imperial Fists get Captain Tor Garadon. Garadon gives friendly Imperial Fist units the standard captain re-roll 1s to hit, has a gigantic fist with a x3 strength modifier, and has a Signum Array that provides a friendly unit within 3″ BS 2+. Garadon also has a pair of abilities that increase his potency against Vehicle and Building units, the Siege Captain ability and Siege Master warlord trait (we’ll cover this below). Combined, these give Garadon 6 s12 punches on the charge that do 4 damage to Vehicles, and a d3+1 damage grav-gun, both of which get +1 to wound (so he’s wounding knights on 2s with his fist, or 3s with the grav-gun). He, of course, can’t do this to a Carnifex, but at least he can punch out Rob’s semtex filled Kytan.

Garadon also only provides captain re-rolls, unlike the more powerful chapter master re-rolls. This gives an Imperial Fists player an uncomfortable tension between a chapter master to buff multiple units, or Tor Garadon to help buff a single unit (and be a bit of a melee powerhouse). We did some math to look at this – Garadon is marginally better at boosting a single unit than a Chapter Master, but when either shooting with multiple units, or as hit modifiers and extra hits from the Siege Masters and stratagem Bolter Drill come into play, the Chapter Master re-rolls step ahead.

Captain Lysander

Captain Lysander is almost completely unchanged from his previous incarnation in the 2017 Codex Space Marines, and like in that version of the Codex, he kind of sucks. He doesn’t really have enough attacks to be a melee beatstick, and he’s not tough enough to cause anyone real problems. His special buff is now “no more than 1 model can flee” rather than “+1 Ld”, but how relevant either of those is in a codex with small, tough, high-Leadership units with a free re-roll is questionable. You kind of get the sense that GW don’t really know what to do with him, so here he is.

Pedro Kantor

Pedro, on the other hand, has stepped the fuck up. For some reason he’s gained a base Attack, giving him 5 (effectively 6, since he benefits from his own aura). He also gets the new, improved, version of Chapter Master re-rolls, and his gimmick storm bolter is damage 2 as well. At an unchanged cost of 150pts, he’s a fantastic force multiplier to drop in to your pile of guns, and of course he doubly buffs melee too since he’s handing out both re-rolls and more attacks. Even Intercessors are pretty nasty when a basic unit of them can be throwing out 4 attacks per model re-rolling all hits. The only slight downside to Kantor is that he continues to tote a regular old power fist, and therefore has -1 to hit on his own attacks, but punching things himself isn’t his primary role, it’s shouting at others to do it. And in any case with Shock Assault he’ll usually be throwing out 7 attacks which hit on 3s and re-roll, which is plenty to be getting on with.

Stratagems

The Imperial Fists have access to 14 stratagems, two fewer than any other supplement (and fewer than Crimson Fists, their own successor chapter). Imperial Fist stratagems are a bit of a grab bag – some of the stratagems continue the inexplicable love for the BUILDING keyword, some are great at increasing the sheer volume of bolter fire they put out, and some are just kind of there.

    • Bitter Enemy – 1CP: In the Fight Phase, re-roll any Hit and Wound rolls against Iron Warriors. Does this work against Iron Warriors that are using Iron Hands rules? Probably not. D
    • Close-range Bolter Fire – 2CP: In the shooting phase, Bolt weapons change their type to Pistol. This sounds really cool – but rapid fire bolt weapons will only be shooting one shot, and if you are using stalker bolt rifles to take advantage of the doctrine you’ll lose the doctrine AP bonus. The main use for this is on auto bolt rifles, where you could see a squad of Intercessors charging in, tying a unit up for a turn, and then freeing themselves up with a concentrated blast of firepower – but auto bolt rifles are kind of discouraged by the rest of the codex. As such, this stratagem doesn’t mesh well enough with the rest of the army to be something you build around, and is on the expensive side for a reactionary strat. It can be really funny on Centurions in the right circumstances. C
    • Bolster Defences – 1CP: Once per battle, at the start of the Movement phase, one Imperial Fists Infantry unit entirely on or within a terrain feature can get an additional +1 to their armor save for as long as they remain stationary. Solid, though limiting in only being usable once per game. Combined with cover, a unit can have +2 to their armor save, putting an example unit of Centurions at a 0+ save (requiring AP-3 to save at worse than a 2+). If you have something that wants to sit on an objective and never leave, while putting out a hail of firepower, this is a great way to spend a point and keep them around forever. A
    • Bolter Drill – 2CP: When a unit shoots a bolt weapon, an unmodified 6 to-hit scores an additional hit. This doubles up on the Fist chapter tactic, turning a 6 to-hit into three hits. Doesn’t really need much explanation – more bolter hits are great. A pile of Aggressors utilising this puts out a lot of bolter fire. A
    • Sappers – 1CP: In either the Shooting or Fight phase, give a unit plus one to hit and wound a BUILDING. Nobody takes buildings. Without a comprehensive rework of building rules, there will never even be an opportunity to use this. You might as well give +1 to hit the moon. F
    • Stubborn Defence – 2CP: Use at start of battle; as long as your Imperial Fists Warlord isn’t deep striking, in a transport, or otherwise not on the battlefield. You can’t discard Storm or Defend tactical objectives, but scoring them gains you an additional victory point. A solid take when playing with tactical objectives. Can be risky if you don’t have a lot of mobility to capture any points in the opponent’s deployment zone. in those games, F outside of that context.
    • Pain Is A Lesson – 1CP: Give a unit that is not a Vehicle or Servitor a 6+ Feel No Pain for a phase. Incredibly useful, gives a taste of Iron Hands durability to one of your units. Just a 6+ alone won’t be enough to save a unit from concentrated fire, but combined with Bolster Defences it can be a difference maker. B
Imperial Fists Deimos Vindicator Laser Destroyer

Imperial Fists Deimos Vindicator Laser Destroyer. Credit: Jack Hunter

    • Tank Hunters – 2CP: In the shooting or fight phase, give one Imperial Fists unit +1 to wound against a selected enemy Vehicle unit. Combined with the volume of fire Imperial Fists can put out, this is fantastic at allowing bolters or heavy bolters to punch up into enemy vehicles. Like the doctrine, it’s aggravating that it doesn’t work on monsters. A
    • Champion of Blades – 1CP: Give an Imperial Fist relic to a successor chapter Character, including a Crimson Fists character. It doesn’t work the other way around to give a Crimson Fists relic to an Imperial Fists character. We’ve seen this same stratagem in all the other supplements, but sadly/thankfully there’s no Imperial Fists Ironstone. B
    • Gift of the Phalanx – 1CP: Give a Sergeant a Master-crafted Weapon, Digital Weapons, the Fist of Terra, or Gatebreaker Bolts. Either a Master-crafted Weapon or the Fist of Terra are likely choices for this, put on a veteran Intercessor Sergeant. Either option is a potent melee threat in an Imperial Fist gunline, but none of these are must-takes. B
    • Sentinel of Terra – 1CP: Give an additional Imperial Fists warlord trait to your non-named-character warlord. The Imperial Fists have some solid warlord traits, so this can come in very handy. It also, as written, allows giving an Imperial Fists trait to a Crimson Fists warlord. A
Imperial Fists Phalanx Warders

Imperial Fists Phalanx Warders. Credit: Jack Hunter

  • The Shield Unwavering – 2CP: At the end of your Morale phase, get +1 attack and +1 to armor saves on an Imperial Fists Infantry unit within 3″ of an objective, until the start of your next turn. This stratagem is great everywhere else it appears, and here it can win games – it can let an infantry unit absorb a significantly increased amount of damage while holding an objective, and you can combo it with Bolster Defences to make one unit truly stupidly resilient. It also puts Intercessors getting charged at 4 attacks each, which is a very respectable melee threat for many things which might want to try and push them off an objective they’re holding. (Corrode: imagine veteran Intercessors using this under Pedro’s aura – 6 attacks each. Woof.) A
  • Clearance Protocols – 1CP: Up to 10 models can throw a grenade instead of 1. Can give a unit of stalker bolt rifle Intercessors a whole lot of weak shots if they’re facing down a horde, but those shots are essentially lasguns (with -1AP assuming you’re still in devastator doctrine), or hit a light vehicle with 10 krak grenades. Doesn’t give any extra range on the grenades, so still needs a unit to get close before they become usable. This is one of those stratagems that you’re unlikely to specifically build around, but having it in your back pocket to unleash in the right context can be devastating. B-
  • Praetorian’s Wrath – 2CP Once per battle, while in Devastator Doctrine, unmodified 6s to-wound with heavy and grenade weapons get 1 additional AP, across the whole army. The equivalent of the same stratagem across the other supplements, but with Imperial Fists being likely to throw out prodigious volumes of heavy bolter fire this can actually make a difference. B

Siegebreaker Cohort

The Siegebreaker Cohort also gives the Imperial Fists two additional stratagems. One stratagem is fantastic, and the other continues along with GW attempting to force Buildings to be a thing.

  • Structural Demolition – 1CP: After destroying a Building with a Siegebreaker Cohort unit, roll 2d6 instead of 1d6 per model disembarking, and for each roll of 1 a model is destroyed. This would be very interesting if buildings were a thing, and putting units in buildings were a thing, but neither of those are true so this is a waste of ink. F
  • Seismic Devastation – 1CP: At the start of either the Shooting or Fight phase, pick a Siegebreaker Cohort unit from your army. Each time you roll an unmodified wound roll of 6 against a Vehicle or Building, the attack inflicts a mortal wound as well as the normal damage. Mostly used with a squad of hurricane + heavy bolter Centurions, but also usable on a dual storm cannon Leviathan or a Redemptor Dreadnought, this stratagem turns anti-infantry weapons into brutal tank-killers. A

Crimson Fists Stratagems

Crimson Fists gain an additional 2 stratagems in this book, which they can use in addition to the other 14 Imperial Fist stratagems. These are straight ports from the January 2019 White Dwarf index:

  • Slay The Tyrant – 1CP: In either the Shooting or Fight phase, add 1 to hit against a Character unit. A cheeky little +1 to hit with a Repulsor Executioner against a character Knight is never a bad thing. A
  • A Hated Foe – 1CP Re-roll wound rolls against an Ork unit with one Crimson Fists unit, in either the shooting or fight phase. While this is one of the many mostly useless stratagems that only apply when fighting a single enemy, this goes against an entire faction rather than a more typical subfaction. It also works on either shooting or fighting, so can be reliably used at any time. A when facing Orks, in any other situation.

Liberator Strike Force

The two stratagems given to the Crimson Fists out of Vigilus Defiant increase the potency of Crimson Fist Primaris units.

  • Heroes of Rynn’s World -1CP: At the start of the shooting phase, select a Liberator Strike Force unit, and an unmodified hit roll of a six inflicts two hits instead of one. This can be used to either give a unit of Hellblasters a handful of additional hits, or stack with the chapter tactic and Bolter Drill stratagem to have an Intercessor’s bolter hit 4 times for every 6 rolled to-hit. A
  • Paragons of Dorn – 1CP: At the end of the shooting phase, pick a Liberator Strike Force unit from your army that was targeted by an attack this phase. That until can immediately shoot. Another great stratagem, this provides a unit a free shooting phase (always great), and disincentivises incidental shooting at dangerous units. A

Relics

Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Fist

Imperial Fists Primaris Captain with Power Fist. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Imperial Fists have access to two sets of relics – four Relics of the Fists and six Special-Issue Wargear. The Relics of the Fists can be freely taken by Imperial Fists characters, or given to a successor chapter, including Crimson Fists, with Champion of Blades. The eight Special-Issue Wargear items can be given to either Imperial Fists or their successors, and through Gift of the Phalanx a subset can be given to a sergeant. The Crimson Fists have access to an additional two Relics of the Fists, again duplicated from the White Dwarf index in January.

Relics of the Fists

The four Imperial Fist relics are a mix of one weapon and three different upgrade options, ranging from a generally useful aura boost to a magic banner that doesn’t synergize with an army in Devastator Doctrine.

  • The Spartean: Upgrade an Imperial Fist bolt pistol or heavy bolt pistol to 18″ range, 2 shots, strength 4, AP -3, damage 2, and give it the ability to target Characters. A cool little trick, but between the other Relics of the Fists and the relics in Codex Space Marines there’s little reason to take a slightly improved bolt pistol. C
  • The Banner of Staganda: Imperial Fists Ancient model only. Add 1 to hit rolls in the Fight phase for units within 6″. This is a strong and useful ability that has nearly no synergy with a gunline. Might make sense to take this in a Crimson Fists army and combine it with Pedro Kantor’s additional attack aura. C
  • The Eye of Hypnoth: Turn one of your characters into a Lieutenant, for shooting only. This relic existed previously in Vigilus Defiant, though it was previously only able to be put on a Captain, and only worked on Siegebreaker Detachment units. Working on all shooting significantly improves the Eye, as it now boosts your Intercessors and Repulsors as well. This is a generally viable replacement for a Lieutenant in an army that’s trying to limit tax characters, though losing the melee re-rolls can be painful when things go wrong. A
  • The Bones of Osrak: For an Imperial Fists Librarian, when attempting to manifest a power from Geokinesis, they can re-roll the psychic test. Additional reliability when casting psychic powers is very useful, though none of the Geokinesis powers have a particularly high warp charge value. C

Relics of the Crimson Fists

As befits the more aggressive successor chapter of the glorious boys in yellow, both the Crimson Fist relics are weapons, and pretty decent ones at that.

  • Duty’s Burden: Replaces the weapon on a Crimson Fists model with a master-crafted auto or stalker bolt rifle. Upgrades to a 30″ range, rapid fire 2, strength 5, AP-2, damage 2 rifle. Useful, but it’s an incremental weapon upgrade rather than an actual shift in what a character can do, so isn’t always useful to spend your CP on. B
  • Fist of Vengeance: Upgrades a Crimson Fists model with a power fist. Removes the hit-penalty, and increases the damage from d3 to flat 3, a significant increase in reliability. Much more interesting than Duty’s Burden – besides anything else, there’s now a 31pt disparity between a slam captain with a power fist and a thunder hammer, and being able to get a better, cheaper weapon is very relevant. B+

Liberator Strike Force

  • The Vengeful Arbiter: Upgrade a bolt pistol to pistol 2, S:5, AP-1, Damage 2. The upgraded bolt pistol also gains an ability that you can make an additional hit roll any time the weapon hits, giving a potential of four hits. The additional hits from this ability can’t explode, so the chapter tactic will only work off the first two shots. Usable on a character to add additional damage in a protracted melee fight, but again suffers from being an ok gun upgrade to a not particularly exciting gun in a world where there’s a whole range of better choices. C

Special-Issue Wargear

In addition to the four standard pieces of Special-Issue Wargear, the Imperial Fists and their successors have four unique items. As seems to be common, the unique bolt ammo is underwhelming; however some of the others are competitive with the genuine Relics of the Fists as options to take in a list.

  • Adamantine Mantle: Grants the bearer the ability to ignore lost wounds on a D6 roll of 5+. A solid defensive choice, particularly on a captain or chaplain that already has an invulnerable save. Some of the other Special-Issue Wargear may be a better choice defensively on other characters, however. B-
  • Artificer Armour: Grants the bearer a 2+ save and a 5+ invulnerable save, bringing the total of possible characters with 2+ saves through relics for Marines to 2. Most useful for characters who lack an invulnerable save or can’t improve their save for whatever reason, such as jump pack Librarians or Lieutenants. B
  • Master-crafted weapon: Add +1 to the Damage of any weapon that’s not a relic and doesn’t have master crafted in its name already. This wargear has a pretty broad set of uses between damage 4 thunder hammer Captains, Aggressor sergeants firing 12 2-damage shots per turn at range, or Suppressor sergeants having the ideal gun for killing Custodians at flat 3 damage. Ideally you’d never be taking this as your free relic, but an excellent use of the “pay a CP for an extra relic” stratagem since being able to use it to buff up various units depending on your opponent’s army is a useful tool. A
  • Digital weapons: Whenever the bearer fights they get to make an extra attack that causes a mortal wound if you hit. Cute but not really worth the relic slot. C
  • Fist of Terra: Replaces a power fist with the following profile: Sx2, AP-3, Damage D3, Bearer can make 1 additional attack with this weapon. Notably this doesn’t have the -1 to-hit penalty of a normal power fist, so not only does it punch more, it punches more reliably. A
  • Gatebreaker Bolts: Shooting a bolt weapon, make one hit roll that causes D3 wound rolls. Each wound roll is at AP-5, D1. This could be an upgrade for a sergeant using a regular boltgun, or a model with a bolt pistol, but in neither case is it worth spending a CP to take. D
  • Auric Aquila: This relic grants a 4++ invulnerable save, and an additional 5+++ Feel No Pain against mortal wounds in the psychic phase. This is another decent defensive choice to drop on a Lieutenant or Librarian that wouldn’t otherwise have an invulnerable save, especially the latter which now gets some protection from Perils of the Warp. B
  • Warden’s Cuirass: Adds one additional wound to the bearer. Most useful in an army that’s CP heavy but had to take regular sized characters for points, effectively turning one of them into Primaris. C

Warlord Traits

The Imperial Fists and the Crimson Fists each have their own unique set of warlord traits, with the Imperial Fists having six and the Crimson Fists having three. There is an additional trait for each chapter gated behind Specialist Detachments, and the Field Commander stratagem can be used to have as many as three separate characters with warlord traits.

Imperial Fists Warlord Traits

Imperial Fists Gravis Captain

Imperial Fists Gravis Captain. Credit: Jack Hunter

  1. Siege Master: Add 1 to wound rolls against Building and Vehicle units. Great on a slam captain or anyone else that’s going to be in melee against Knights or tanks. This is Tor Garadon’s required trait. B
  2. Indomitable: This warlord can only be wounded on a 4+. Essentially the opposite of the above, rather than being good at killing Knights this trait makes you good at not being killed by Knights (or other large scary things). Use Sentinel of Terra to combine this with Stubborn Heroism, and take the Adamantine Mantle on a Gravis Captain and that character’s not going anywhere. This is Captain Lysander’s required trait.  A. Note that there is also a Warlord trait of this name in the Vigilus Defiant book – you cannot use this if you are using the Imperial Fists supplement, per the FAQ.
  3. Fleetmaster: Once per battle, roll a lot of D6 to maybe do D3 mortal wounds to a unit. This is far far too random to be a reliable source of mortal wounds. F
  4. Stubborn Heroism: The warlord halves incoming damage, but cannot fall back. See above for combining this with Indomitable, this trait is great for keeping your warlord alive. A
  5. Architect of War: Reworded slightly from Codex Space Marines, this trait is still confusingly worded and allows units within 6″ to ignore AP-1 while in cover. B-
  6. Hand of Dorn: If your army is battle-forged, gain D3 command points before the battle. Simple, powerful, always worth taking, even if it requires spending a command point for Sentinel of Terra. A

Crimson Fists Warlord Traits

Crimson Fists Primaris Lieutenant with Power Fist

Credit: bonds0097

The Crimson Fists get a set of three unique warlord traits, and can use Sentinel of Terra to take an additional one from the Imperial Fists table on their warlord, as long as the warlord isn’t Pedro Kantor (he won’t be).

  1. Refuse to Die: The first time your warlord dies, they return to life on a 4+ at the end of the phase, with D3 wounds remaining. This trait is best taken on a character that’s being used to provide buffs, as even if they eat it to snipers at the top of turn one they can pop back up, hopefully clearing out the snipers so they don’t die again on turn two. Less useful for a melee beatstick, who will pop back up out of combat and on low wounds, potentially needing to eat overwatch again to make it back into combat. B
  2. Tenacious Opponent: This warlord gains D3 additional attacks if there are at least 5 enemy models within 6″ of them when they’re chosen to fight. A strong ability defensively, helping a warlord cut down a unit assaulting your lines, this is also very rewarding offensively. The old version of this was much worse, so it’s nice to see it get buffed. A
  3. Stoic Defender: Friendly Crimson Fists units with 6″ of the warlord gain Defenders of Humanity (objective secured), or count as two models if they already have it. Only occasionally useful if a warlord is being used to aggressively secure objectives in the backfield, most of the time Space Marines don’t have many issues killing chaff to hold the midfield objectives. This is Pedro Kantor’s required trait. C

Liberator Strike Force

Unlike the Imperial Fists specialist detachment, the Crimson Fists trait is unique, so can be used in addition to the traits in the supplement – as long as you take the Liberator Strike Force.

  • Expert Instructor: Expert instructor provides a 9″ to-hit re-roll aura on a Liberator Strike Force character. Using this trait, a Primaris Lieutenant can provide both hit and wound re-rolls, though to a limited subset of units, and if he’s given the Vox Espiritum relic out of Codex Space Marines the to-hit and to-wound re-rolls will both have 9″ range. B

 

Psychic Powers

Imperial Fists Terminator Librarian

Imperial Fists Terminator Librarian. Credit: Jack Hunter

Imperial Fist psychic powers are a bit weird, in that several powers seem to encourage an army that fights in close, something at odds with the doctrine bonus to heavy weapons and lack of a way to mitigate the movement penalty. Once again we also have a power that gets bonuses for targeting buildings. At this point we’re hoping that this is a prelude to Psychic Awakening making buildings good, but don’t have a lot of faith in that.

  1. Tectonic Purge – WC6: Any enemy units that start their charge within 12″ of the psyker must subtract 2 from the result. A strong defensive buff, this trait can combine with the debuff from a Repulsor to make even a Blood Angel unit think twice about charging out of deep strike, or work alone to help keep a unit of Centurions safe. The only major downside is the enemy needing to start within 12″, meaning the Librarian needs to be near the front lines. B+
  2. Wrack and Ruin – WC6: Target a Building or enemy unit wholly on or within a terrain feature, within 18″ and visible to the psyker. Roll 9D6, adding +1 if the target unit is a BUILDING, dealing 1 mortal wound on a 5+. Potentially better than smite, as it can target anything and doesn’t take a penalty to hit characters, averaging 3 mortal wounds with the potential to spike very high. The building half is never going to come into play, and with Imperial Fists ignoring cover there’s a definite incentive for your opponent to avoid terrain that isn’t line of sight blocking. B-
  3. Iron Inferno – WC6: Select a point on battlefield within 18″ and visible to psyker. Roll one D6 for each enemy unit within 6″ of that point, deal one mortal wound on a 4+. Better than most area of effect powers, this doesn’t suffer from a penalty to damage characters or random radius. Still, only dealing one mortal wound per unit makes this need to hit multiple units to do much, making it far from a safe take. C
  4. Fortify – WC4: Restore D3 lost wounds to one Imperial Fists Infantry or Biker model within 12″. Trivially low warp charge for some healing? Sign me up. Only downside is that Apothecary resurrection happens in the movement phase, so this can’t heal a model to full and allow the Apothecary to resurrect – but it can heal up a resurrected model to full. A
  5. Aspect of Stone – WC5: Add 2 to psyker’s strength and toughness until your next psychic phase. Counters the positioning vulnerability in the use of Tectonic Purge, and turns a psyker into something of a melee threat. That said, putting your key anti-charge psyker into melee generally isn’t what an Imperial Fists gunline is likely to be doing, so this power has limited viability. C
  6. Chasm – WC6: Select enemy unit that cannot Fly and within 18″ and visible to the psyker. Roll 2D6; if the result is less than the lowest Move characteristic it takes one mortal wound; if it’s equal it takes D3; if it’s greater then it’s flat three mortal wounds. Another power that can be used to snipe out a character, this power has a 58% chance to do a full three mortal wounds against something with the standard six-inch movement, and of course that only increases against slower units – things like Terminators spring to mind. B+

Overall, Tectonic Purge and Fortify are probably the best powers here, though cases can be made for the other powers on either an army that fights at close range or on a secondary Librarian, or against enemy gunlines which aren’t going to want to charge at yours.

Strategy and Tactics

Imperial Fists Veteran Intercessors

Imperial Fists Veteran Intercessors. Credit: Jack Hunter

Looking individually at the Imperial Fist psychic powers, warlord traits, relics, and stratagems there are quite a number of powerful options that any army would be happy to have – but there’s also a strange tension with how all the individual parts are going to interact. Legacy of Dorn encourages high volume heavy weapons – heavy bolters, assault cannons, onslaught gatling cannons, autocannons, and the like. Siege Masters and Bolter Drill encourage the use of bolt weapons, with the heavy bolter and stalker bolt rifle some of the only weapons that fit into both categories. Close-Range Bolter Fire and The Shield Unwavering encourage playing close where you can leverage the melee potential of Intercessors, but works best with auto bolt rifles for volume of fire, and being in assault doctrine to gain AP after changing their weapons to be pistols and then melee attacks if the bolt fire wasn’t enough. Overall they’re a bit of a mixed bag.

Chapter Litany

Fortress of Resolve: If this litany is inspiring, then Imperial Fist units within 6″ hit in Overwatch on both 5s and 6s. Between the extra hits from Siege Masters and the hit improvement from this litany, an Imperial Fists unit with bolt weapons will hit with the equivalent of half their shots in Overwatch, synergizing incredibly well with the generally high rate of fire from Imperial Fists units to make Imperial Fists castles nearly unassailable. Rating: B

The List

Malik Amin-Rubio piloted this Imperial Fists army to a 4th place finish at the Beachhead Brawl back in February. Sadly we couldn’t find a more recent list for the Imperial Fists, and this one probably took more of a hit from the FAQ than some of the others we’ve posted, but the fundamentals here are still strong.

Battalion Detachment 5CP (Adeptus Astartes) – [77Pl, 1368pts]
Chapter Tactics: Imperial Fists

-HQ-
Captain [6pl, 97 pts] , Power Sword (4), Jump Pack (19), Chainsword (0)
Techmarine [4pl, 45pts] (45), Boltgun (0), Chainsword (0), Servo Arm (0) WARLORD

-Troop-
Intercessors [5pl, 86pts], Sergeant (0), Chainsword (0) 5 Stalker Bolt Rifles (0), 5 Bolt Pistols (0), Auxillary Grenade Launcher (1)
Intercessors [5pl, 86pts], Sergeant (0), Chainsword (0) 5 Stalker Bolt Rifles (0), 5 Bolt Pistols (0), Auxillary Grenade Launcher (1)
Intercessors [5pl, 85pts], Sergeant (0), Chainsword (0) 5 Stalker Bolt Rifles (0), 5 Bolt Pistols (0)

-Elite-
Centurion Assault Squad [16pl, 208pts], 3 Centurions, Centurion Sergeant (120), 8 Flamers (48), Siege Drills (0)
Relic Whirlwind Scorpius [12PL, 215pts] Scorpius Multi Launcher (40),

-Fast Attack-
Suppressors [4pl, 90pts] Suppressor Sergeant (0), Accelerator Auto Cannons (30), Grav Chutes (6),
Suppressors [4pl, 90pts] Suppressor Sergeant (0), Accelerator Auto Cannons (30), Grav Chutes (6),
Suppressors [4pl, 90pts] Suppressor Sergeant (0), Accelerator Auto Cannons (30), Grav Chutes (6),

-Heavy Support-
Thunderfire Cannon [4pl, 92pts] Techmarine Gunner (26), Plasma Cutter (6), Flamer (5),
Thunderfire Cannon [4pl, 92pts] Techmarine Gunner (26), Plasma Cutter (6), Flamer (5),
Thunderfire Cannon [4pl, 92pts] Techmarine Gunner (26), Plasma Cutter (6), Flamer (5),

Spearhead Detachment 1CP (Adeptus Astartes) [36pl, 632pts]
Chapter Tactics: Imperial Fists

-HQ-
Chaplain [5pl, 90pts] Jump pack (18), Boltgun (0),

-Elite-
Servitors [3PL, 20pts] 4 Servitors, 4x Servo Arms
Relic Whirlwind Scorpius [12PL, 215pts] Scorpius Multi Launcher (40),

-Heavy Support-
Whirlwind [4pl, 91pts] Whirlwind Vengeance Launcher (20), Hunter Killer Missile (6)
Eliminators [4pl, 72pts] Eliminator Sergeant, (0), Camo Cloaks (9), Bolt Sniper Rifles (9)
Eliminators [4pl, 72pts] Eliminator Sergeant, (0), Camo Cloaks (9), Bolt Sniper Rifles (9)
Eliminators [4pl, 72pts] Eliminator Sergeant, (0), Camo Cloaks (9), Bolt Sniper Rifles (9),

The main differences here are that the Suppressors probably don’t make it in any more, and the Intercessors might bring regular bolt rifles now rather than stalkers. Otherwise it still offers a lot of shooting, much of it capable of firing from out of line of sight, with a reasonable midfield from those Intercessors and the small unit of Assault Centurions. As ever, Eliminators are there in a full set of 9.

Black Templars

Black Templars Breakdown - click to expand

Black Templars are an odd duck. They’re not quite a whole supplement but they’re also not a regular successor, and that position means they lose out on quite a few options. Their unique stuff is also not super great, although they’re not totally hopeless. Unlike the other Marine bits which are in their own separate Chapter Codexes, you can find these rules in the Psychic Awakening: Faith & Fury campaign book.

Knights of Sigismund

While the Assault Doctrine is active, when making an attack with a Black Templars model’s melee weapon against a non-VEHICLE model, if you charged or made a Heroic Intervention that turn, unmodified rolls of 6 to hit automatically scores a hit and wounds the target (do not roll to wound). This is a good ability for melee units, helping push through lower-strength attacks and creating additional efficiency. In practice, if you’re throwing 30 chainsword attacks at a unit of marines, this is good for an additional unsaved wound, on average. It’s going to do the most work on strength 4 attacks where you have a lower chance of wounding but decent AP. Which means power swords. Which is very flavorful, but not quite enough of a reason to try fitting a bunch into your lists.

The Lost Librarius

Black Templars don’t get Librarians. This is a pretty big blow, given how useful Librarians can be. The upside is that they get a full set of six Chapter litanies.

Chosen Champion

You can’t use the Chapter Champion Stratagem on Black Templars units. That’s OK because you get the Emperor’s Champion (see below) instead.

Specialist Detachment – Sword Brethren

The Black Templars get access to a specialist detachment that gives some extra melee-focused options to the following units:

  • Helbrecht
  • Emperor’s Champion
  • CAPTAINS
  • Company Champions
  • Company Veterans

While the affected units list is pretty narrow, with the focus largely on the characters, the buffs are actually extremely good and it’s well worth an include if you have any of these characters you’re expecting to get into fights (which if you’re Black Templars, you almost certainly do).

The Units

The Black Templars have five units specific to their chapter. They didn’t pick up any shiny new Primaris characters, but their three unique characters and two units provide some interesting and flavorful options, though they won’t find their way into every list.

High Marshal Helbrecht

High Marshall Helbrecht

High Marshall Helbrecht. Credit: Crampon “SRM” McLadyfingers

Helbrecht hasn’t changed since his datasheet re-release two months ago, with one important exception. He’s still got the same Combi-Melta and the Sword of the High Marshals giving him S+1, AP-3 and D3 Damage with an extra D3 attacks in the turn he charges. The good news is that he’s got an updated Chapter Master re-roll aura, making him a much better force multiplier, and closes out with the Angels of Death rule and an Iron Halo. His big value though is the Crusade of Wrath special rule, which gives friendly Black Templars within 6” +1 to their Strength characteristic.

Helbrecht’s got a strong aura ability, but he’s severely limited by the fact that he’s stuck walking, and also the Sword of the High Marshals, hitting at only Strength 6, just isn’t very good despite the extra attacks. His best value is boosting nearby Templars units to S5 or nearby Thunder hammers to S10 but your challenge will be getting him there. However, as a cost-efficient way of putting a Chapter Master on the board, saving your precious CP for juicy character upgrades, he’ll probably still see plenty of play in Black Templar lists.

The Emperor’s Champion

The Emperor's Champion

The Emperor’s Champion. Credit: Crimbus “SRM” McDong

The Emperor’s Champion did get a boost from the updated datasheets, gaining an extra Attack and the Skillful Parry Special rule, which gives enemy attackers -1 to hit when attacking him with melee weapons. It’s a useful boost for when he gets dug in and with 7 Attacks that re-roll hits and wounds against Characters at S7 on the charge, he can do some real damage if he can connect with a character in melee. He pairs well with Helbrecht, who pushes him up to S8 against characters, but he’s also not the most mobile fighter, which will be a recurring challenge for Black Templars characters. He’s a lot of killing power for his cost though, and unlike a Chapter Champion (which he “replaces”) he fills an HQ slot, making him very helpful for list building.

Chaplain Grimaldus

Chaplain Grimaldus

Chaplain Grimaldus. Credit: Campbell “SRM” McGillicuddy

Grimaldus also got an update in Faith & Fury from his revised datasheet, gaining three major buffs:

  1. His Crozius is now S+2, AP-2, 2 damage
  2. He gained the Devout Puritan special rule, which lets him attempt to Deny a single psychic power in the opponent’s Psychic phase as if he were a Psyker.
  3. He’s now a Master of Sanctity, knowing two other litanies from either the Litanies of Battle or the LItanies of the Devout in addition to the Litany of Hate, and he can manifest two of them per battle round.

These are all great improvements, making Grimaldus a much stronger fighter and bringing him in-line with the other character Chaplains. Getting two litanies without the CP investment is a big upside, and allows you to throw out both Litany of Divine Protection and Psalm of Remorseless Persecution in the same turn. He’s also still got his aura allowing Black Templars units within 6″ to make an additional attack after making a hit roll of unmodified 6, making him a melee force multiplier if he gets stuck in.

Finally, don’t sleep on his ability to deny — it’s a very strong upside for a faction that doesn’t have the ability to field psykers and if you’re running Black Templars, you’re going to want Grimaldus in every list for this and his double-litany ability. At 90 points, he’s only a little more than a standard Chaplain and the trade of 18 points for 1 CP saved is a fine trade-off before you consider his other two abilities. The only downside is that he doesn’t have a Jump Pack.

Wings Note: This guy is just an outrageous steal for the cost and you should never leave him on the bench.

Cenobyte Servitors

These guys haven’t changed much since their last datasheet update; They now no longer take up a detachment slot if you are running Grimaldus. They get a boost to their WS and Ld within 6” of Grimaldus and friendly Black Templars automatically pass get to ignore mortal wounds taken while they’re within 6” of the unit on a 4+. Slightly better than auto-passing morale, and at 6 points for the entire unit, they’re practically free as a screening unit.

Crusader Squad

Crusader Squads also got a boost from their recent datasheet update, gaining the Paired Combatants special rule, which gives Neophytes the ability to re-roll hit rolls of 1 as long as you’ve got as many Initiates as Neophytes in the squad. A nice little boost that gives you a reason to consider running Initiates alongside your Neophytes.

As a unit, Crusader Squads give you a some utility, allowing you to add Neophytes to your starting 5 Initiates. Tactically, Crusade Squads don’t pack much in the way of ranged firepower, so you’re either using them to fill detachments and sit on objectives, where Scouts do the job more cheaply, or to act as a large combat unit.

  • At 11 points per model and with a 4+ save, Neophytes are basically Scouts with worse Ld that have to tag along in a bigger squad. Re-rolling 1s to hit when you have equal numbers of Initiates makes them more deadly than Initiates when given a Combat Knife, so you’ll have to manage your casualties carefully when getting stuck in with them.
  • At 13 points per model, Initiates are basically more expensive Tactical marines, where you’re paying for some additional weapon versatility (the ability to take a pistol and Chainsword and to throw in some power swords and fists instead of special/heavy weapons.

Crusader Squads are pretty bad, being foot-slogging melee-focused non-Primaris marines. They’re essentially a vestigial limb at this point, the remnants of a once-useful thing now in the process of disappearing through natural evolution. The “theory” behind this unit would be to use Neophytes as ablative wounds for the more valuable Initiates, but ablative wounds that are only 2pts less than the main event and are squishier don’t really have much place. Ultimately this is a cool and flavourful unit but what it really needed out of this upgrade was a way to work some Intercessors or Vanguard marines in, giving you some better value-tanking capabilities.

Litanies of the Devout

A Black Templars Chaplain in a Black Templars Detachment (so no soup Supreme Command shenanigans for these) can choose to pick their litanies from this list instead of the standard table and can’t learn litanies from more than one table. These are pretty good for the most part.

  1. Litany of Divine Protection. Pick a friendly Black Templars unit within 6”. When a model in that unit would lose a wound, roll a D6 and on a 5+ they don’t lose the wound. Giving any unit a 5+ FNP save is very strong, boosting the effective number of wounds in the unit by 50%, and it’s dynamite on vehicles. A
  2. Psalm of Remorseless Persecution. Friendly Black Templars models within 6” re-roll 1s to wound when attacking with melee weapons.
    Note: we had this wrong in the initial version of this article. It’s massively worse as this version because you can just use a Lieutenant and save your litany slot for more exciting stuff. C+
  3. Vow of Retribution. Subtract 2 from the Ld of enemy models in enemy units within 6”. This just doesn’t matter often enough to make it worth taking, especially when you have options that will just help you kill more models and little to combo off of with this. D
  4. Fires of Devotion. Pick a friendly Black Templars unit within 6”. If that unit makes a charge or Heroic Intervention this turn, add 1 to its Attacks characteristic until the end of the turn. Also strong, and a great way to turn up a unit’s ability to throw out damage. With regard to whether you want this or the Psalm of Remorseless Persecution, note that for most units and targets, Fervent Acclamation is better, and creates more value the smaller the number of Attacks the targeted unit has. B
  5. Fervent Acclamation. Add 3” to the range of friendly Black Templars’ units’ aura abilities while they are within 6” of this model. I believe this works on itself, extending its range to 9”. Helpful for making Chapter Master re-roll auras go farther, and because of its range, you can use it in concert with Psalm  or Firesif your Chaplain is a Master of Sanctity. B
  6. Oath of Glory. Pick a friendly Black Templars unit within 6”. That unit always fights first, even if it didn’t charge. If enemy units charged or also have this ability, alternate as normal. This is a decent ability to hand to some Intercessors to really punish your opponent for charging into your lines, but having to plan it out so early makes it more of a deterrent than an actual mechanic you’ll use on its merits. C

Warlord Traits

A Black Templars warlord has access to this unique set of warlord traits, focused on their prowess in melee combat and providing a little more invaluable psychic defense.

  1. Oathkeeper. The Warlord gets a 6” Heroic Intervention move and can intervene from 6” away. Useful for catching opponents off-guard and forcing them to include your warlord in their charges. B-
  2. Epitome of Piety. Your warlord can attempt to deny 1 psychic power in each of your opponent’s psychic phases as if he were a Psyker and when he attempts to deny, add 1 to the total. Very helpful for preventing key powers from going off and a monofaction Templars army just won’t have access to many denials otherwise. B+
    Wings Note: 
    The fact that this gives +1 actually makes taking it on Grimaldus somewhat interesting, as it gives him two +1 denies. However, Black Templars are super constrained on traits by not being able to use Chapter Champion so it might not get there.
  3. Paragon of Fury. After the warlord makes a charge move, for each enemy unit within 1” of the warlord roll a D6; on a 2+ that model takes a mortal wound. A neat way to get an extra mortal wound or two but limited in its scope and there are better options given that you can make some ferocious Black Templars Smash Captains. C
  4. Master of Arms. Your warlord always fights first in the fight phase, even if they didn’t charge. If another unit has a similar ability or charged, alternate as usual. Helpful for making opponents regret charging you, and nasty when combined with a Heroic Intervention. C+
  5. Inspirational Fighter. When friendly Black Templars units within 6” of this warlord roll an unmodified wound roll of 6 for attacks with melee weapons, improve the weapon’s by 1. Useful for helping push through additional damage on your melee attacks, but doesn’t really combo well with the Chapter Doctrine, where your auto-wounding attacks can’t get the bonus. B
  6. Front-Line Commander. Add 1 to the Advance and Charge distances of friendly Black Templars units within 6”. This is the clear favorite of the list, and the trait that’s going to get you the most utility, particularly on a Black Templars Smash Captain. Getting +1 to your charge distances makes charging out of Deep Strike much more palatable, and passing that on to a friendly unit is great. A

Sword Brethren

A non-named character SWORD BRETHREN character can take the following warlord trait instead of one of the regular ones, or alternatively add it via Field Commander:

  • Master Swordsman: The character gets +1A, and unmodified hit rolls of a 6 score two hits instead of one. This is badly named because it’s exceptionally good with a thunder hammer, allowing Black Templars to put together a particularly nasty Smash Captain who can compete in the big leagues. With a multi-damage weapon, double hits on six and an extra acts as an exceptional force multiplier even above some of the core traits, making this very attractive. In addition, without access to Chapter Champion this acts as a sneaky side route for Templars to get an extra murder-character. A

Stratagems

These continue to dip slightly into anti-psyker abilities to make up for the complete lack of librarians, but mainly focus on melee power. At the worst these stratagems are merely decent, most of them being absolutely good.

  • Abhor the Witch – 1CP During the Psychic phase you can use this stratagem to negate a psychic power on a D6 roll of a 4+. This is a great power to have; nullifying anything on a 4+ is solid, and it’s something that Black Templars need to get around their lack of Librarians. A
  • Crusader Relics – 1CP The standard stratagem to give a relic to a sergeant,including a Sword Brother from a Crusader squad. B
  • Devout Push – 1CP Use at the start of the Fight phase and pick a Black Templars Infantry or Biker unit. Until the end of the phase, that unit can pile in 6” instead of 3”. Very useful extra movement for finding your way into another combat after you’ve already wiped a unit out. A
  • Tenacious Assault – 2CP Use in the Movement phase, when an enemy Infantry unit without Fly within 1” of a Black Templar infantry unit attempts to Fall Back. Roll a D6; on a 2+, it can’t fall back this turn. This is exceptional, and being able to trap units not only keeps them around to get murdered but also protects your units from being shot to death. A
  • The Emperor’s Will – 1CP Use in the Movement phase, when a Black Templars Infantry unit Advances. Until the end of the turn, models in that unit can still shoot with pistol weapons and can still charge. This is very helpful for closing long gaps with your foot-slogging combat units, allowing you to close big distances in one go. Combos very well with the Front-Line Commander Warlord TraitB+
  • Oaths of Honour – 1CP Use in the Fight phase and pick a Black Templars Scout unit from your army that made a charge move or was charged. For the rest of the phase, that unit can re-roll wound rolls for attacks with melee weapons. B
  • Vicious Riposte – 1CP Use in the Fight phase, when a Black Templars Infantry unit is the target of an attack. Until the end of the phase, whenever a model rolls an unmodified roll of 1 to hit this unit, they take a mortal wound after resolving their attacks. B
  • Shock and Awe – 1CP Use in the Charge phase. PIck a Black Templars Infantry unit that disembarked from a Land Raider Crusader. Until the end of the turn, enemy units can’t Overwatch that unit and when resolving hits against it, subtract 1 from the hit roll. A really cool way to protect a big squad piling out of a Land Raider Crusader, but not good enough to make Crusaders worth taking. On the basis that to get the most out of it you have to make your list actively worse, C.

Sword Brethren

SWORD BRETHREN have access to two extra stratagems:

  • Uphold the Honour of the Emperor – 1CP: Use at the start of the fight phase to give a unit a 5+++. Not as outrageous as it looks because you’re mostly dealing with CHARACTERS in this detachment, but decent if they end up in a close duel, or when you need to keep your Smash Captain alive to get a swing in. B
  • Suffer Not the Unclearn to Live – 2CP: Use at the start of the fight phase to give a SWORD BRETHREN unit +1A and re-roll wounds. Holy moly – part 2 of why Black Templars can use this detachment to build a superior-quality murder machine. Lack of access to Master Crafted means you’re still not quite into “kill a Knight in one swing” territory, but they’ll flatten pretty much anything smaller and get most of the way there on a LOW. A

Relics

  • The Crusader’s Helm. Add 3” to the model’s aura abilities. Also, at the start of your Movement phase, pick a Black Templars unit with the Combat Doctrines ability within 6” of this model. Until your next Movement phase, the Assault Doctrine is active for that unit, replacing the current doctrine. This is a great way to circumvent the turn 3 restriction that prevents you from achieving your full potential with combat units. A
  • Witchseeker Bolts. Goes with a bolt weapon and you can shoot these instead of its normal ammo. You only get one attack, but the attack can target a PSYKER CHARACTER even if it’s not the closest model. Also a hit on a Psyker causes an extra D3 mortal wounds. Helpful for taking out high-profile psyker targets. B
  • The Aurellian Shroud. Once per battle at the start of the battle round, a model with this relic can activate it. If they do, until the end of the battle round, models in friendly Black Templars units have a 4+ invulnerable save while within 3” of the relic. A
  • Ancient Breviary. Chaplain only. When you roll for a litany for the bearer, you can roll 2D6 and discard the lowest result. A
  • Skull of the Cacodaemons. Once per battle, after a psychic power is manifest within 12”of the bearer, Roll a D6; on a 2+, the psyker suffers D3 mortal wounds after the power is resolved. A fun way to punish psykers but limited by being once per game. C
  • Sword of Judgment. Replaces a power sword. A S+1, AP-3, D3 weapon that’s a solid upgrade over a standard power sword and can help a character get there. B

Sword Brethren

SWORD BRETHREN get one extra relic. It’s mostly funny rather than good.

  • The Holy Orb: Once per battle you can throw the Holy Orb at an enemy unit within 6″ instead of shooting. Roll a d6 for each 10 models in the unit rounding up, and deal d3 MWs for each 2+. This is nowhere near crazy enough for a once per battle effect – it will be a shorter ranged smite most of the time, and the ceiling against big units is still tiny. D+

The List

We featured Ben Cherwien’s Black Templars list in the run-up to the Two Rivers GT in Fargo. In the event, Ben didn’t do quite as well with it as he was hoping, but some of that came down to unfamiliarity with the army. It still takes advantage of the strengths of the BT book and is a good jumping off point for your army.

Black Templars Battalion (+5 CP, 845 Points)
Stratagem: Relics of the Chapter (-1 CP)

HQ: Chaplain w/Jump Pack, Litany of Faith, Litany of Hate, Relic: The Crusader’s Helm
HQ: Chaplain Grimaldus w/Litany of Divine Protection, Fires of Devotion, Litany of Hate

Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Bolt Rifle
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Bolt Rifle
Troops: Intercessors x5 w/Bolt Rifle

EL: Terminator Assault Squad x10 w/Thunder Hammer + Storm Shield

Black Templars Battalion (+5 CP, 696 Points)
Specialist Detachment: Sword Brethren (-1 CP)

HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Field Commander: Master Swordsman (-1 CP), Relic: Teeth of Terra
HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer
HQ: High Marshal Helbrecht, Stratagem: Hero of the Chapter (-1 CP)

Troops; Incursors x5
Troops: Incursors x5
Troops: Infiltrators x5

Adeptus Astartes Spearhead (+1 CP, 451 Points)
Raven Guard Successor, Traits: Master Artisans, Stealthy
Stratagem: Token of Brotherhood (-1 CP)

HQ: Captain w/Jump Pack, Raven’s Fury, Storm Shield, Thunder Hammer, Warlord: Shadowmaster

HS: Eliminator Squad x3 w/Bolt Sniper Rifle
HS: Eliminator Squad x3 w/Bolt Sniper Rifle
HS: Eliminator Squad x3 w/Bolt Sniper Rifle
HS: Thunderfire Cannon

Wrap Up

I originally started writing this article on the 10th of February 2020. Two weeks later we were about to publish when a game-changing FAQ arrived, requiring us to rewrite a bunch of sections and wait to see how the meta shook out. Just as it seemed like that might be about to happen, a literal plague caused us all to be locked inside of our homes. It’s been a lot, guys. Space Marines have too many units, and too many of them are good enough that they require writing about. Y’all will shout at me if I ignore Forge World and for a faction with so many options that are relevant, we couldn’t reasonably do that anyway. But finally here it is, the definitive Start Competing article for Codex: Space Marines and its 7 supplementary books. I was right in my estimate way back in the “units” section – this thing clocks in at just under 65,000 words, so enjoy reading that in your lunch break. I have novels on my shelves shorter than this. If you have comments, criticism, insight we’ve missed, then please feel free to hit our comments section, our Facebook, or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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