Start Competing: Space Marines Tactics

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 the last year or so of 8th edition, Marines were very strong, particularly when using the Iron Hands and Raven Guard Chapter rules. This continued even after a number of significant FAQs, and the transition to 9th edition didn’t slow them down at all – although the previously unfavoured Salamanders became the top chapter, gaining significant upside from the 9th ed missions and rules as well as new units introduced in the Indomitus box.

As is traditional, Space Marines received one of the first new codexes of 9th, releasing alongside the updated Necrons. This included a significant change to previous editions, or, looked at another way, a revival of a concept from 3rd – all Space Marines except the Grey Knights are now included in the ‘base’ codex, including those divergent chapters that previously had their own separate codexes – i.e. the Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, and even the xenos-hunting Deathwatch. Following on from the precedent established in 8th, these chapters have their own supplement codexes with additional stratagems, relics, Warlord traits, and their unique units and characters. This is a fantastic change – one of the lowlights of 8th was the increasingly messy situation of the different Chapter rules diverging as new releases for Codex: Space Marines had to fit into the various other chapters, and having them all share a common core solves that problem immediately.

What this means is that this Start Competing article will be a little different to others. With 13 possible chapters to choose from including the successors (Flesh Tearers, Black Templars, and Crimson Fists) who also have tactics in the codex, there is simply too much here to do justice to it in a single article without also making it unreadable. Instead we are going to do a series of our own supplement articles to match the various books, which will form a companion to this piece. This article will cover the content of Codex: Space Marines itself plus the Marine options in the Forge World book, and then the Chapter-specific content will be these supplementary articles. The latter will also include the “example list” type content – although there’s commonalities between many successful Space Marine lists, it makes more sense to talk about those in the context of the chapter supplement they’re drawn from.

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 publication it is December 2020 – the new codex is here and has had a reasonable run of time in place, and the supplements for Blood Angels, Deathwatch and Space Wolves have been released. Dark Angels, and Black Templars are still reliant on index articles until the release of their supplements (Dark Angels have been announced, the latter is a mystery, but surely they can’t be stuck with a PDF index forever?).

Salamanders Primaris Chaplain on Bike. Credit: Rockfish

Salamanders Primaris Chaplain on Bike. Credit: Rockfish

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 can strike surgically and do a lot of damage.
  • Meta leader: Marines are a prominent part of the meta and the one army you can guarantee every opponent will have thought about when designing their list. You are unlikely to get a good run of favourable match-ups.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Competitive Rating

Strong. Space Marines are among the strongest factions in the game. They are routinely putting up good tournament results in a wide variety of different builds. Unlike some players we don’t think they’re the S-tier army that utterly dominates the game – a short skim of GT results suggests that they’re just one of a range of strong factions – but there’s no arguing that they aren’t among the best, and the unrivalled ability they have to switch between playstyles should keep them flexible and dangerous in the long term.

Battle-forged Rules

Chapter Tactics and Successor Chapters

There are thirteen Chapters with Chapter Tactics listed in the Space Marines codex. These traits apply to all units except SERVITOR and BEAST units. The traits are as follows:

Dark Angels

Grim Resolve: Each time a model makes an attack, unless that unit has moved this turn (excluding pile-in/consolidation), +1 to hit rolls. Additionally, they automatically pass Combat Attrition tests. DA have had that ‘can only lose one model to Morale’ thing absolutely forever. It’s actually kind of nice here because Marines are more vulnerable to Morale than they have been for a while. That said, the main thing here is that +1 to hit – it does rather push you towards static play, but when so much of your game is about taking and holding objectives that’s not as bad as it sounds. Middling just because so much of your game is about movement in 9th – though note it’s about having moved ‘this turn’ and so you do get the +1 to hit in your opponent’s turn if they charge you.

White Scars

Lightning Assault: White Scars units can Advance and charge or Fall Back and charge, and they ignore the -1 to hit for advancing and firing Assault weapons. This is a stupidly good tactic – Advance and charge makes a ton of combat units much more viable, and there’s a bunch of great Assault weapons where it’s helpful to be able to functionally extend their range by 1″-6″ without penalty, especially since one of the White Scars stratagems, Hunters Fusillades, lets you treat any weapon as being Assault for a turn.

Space Wolves

Hunters Unleashed: If a unit has made a charge, been charged, or made a heroic intervention, it gets +1 to hit in melee. All units with this tactic can perform a Heroic Intervention. This is a dangerous tactic for 9th edition gameplay – the +1 to hit is nice to have, but the heroic intervention thing means that any unit attempting to flip an objective that Wolves are holding has to assume they’re getting into melee – which is exactly where you don’t want to be against most Space Wolves units.

Imperial Fists

Siege Masters: Imperial Fists ignore Light Cover with ranged attacks, and on an unmodified 6 to hit with a bolt weapon they get 1 additional hit. This is fine, and the more terrain-heavy boards we’re seeing in 9th make ignoring cover a nice thing to have.

Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought

Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Crimson Fists

No Matter the Odds: Crimson Fists units get +1 to hit against units that have 5 more models than their unit at the time they are chosen to shoot, and like their bigger brothers in the Imperial Fists, on an unmodified 6 to hit with a bolt weapon they get 1 additional hit. The Crimson Fists tactic has always been a bit more dubious than others because it’s so conditional on what your opponent’s army is like – if you turn up and play a bunch of MSU you get very little out of the first half – and this version now only applies to ranged attacks instead of melee as well like it did in 8th, which is an odd choice. It might start looking a little better than it does right now if hordes of Necron Warriors and Ork Boyz remain a meta staple, but you can usually do better.

Black Templars

Righteous Zeal: Black Templars can re-roll Advance and charge rolls, and get a 5+ to ignore mortal wounds. This has gotten a soft nerf from last edition’s version, as Games Workshop seem to be pushing back against the wording that arrived at the end of 8th allowing you to re-roll ‘any or all’ dice for things like charges. It’s still a decent tactic for a melee-focused Chapter, and the 5+ to ignore mortals is reasonably helpful for things like big blocks of Terminators which are vulnerable to little else.

Blood Angels

Red Thirst: +1 to advance and charge rolls, and +1 to wound with melee attacks when a unit with this tactic charged, is charged, or performed a Heroic Intervention. A very good Chapter tactic, both making it easier for your units to get where they’re going and then making them more effective when they get there. +1 to wound is a reasonably rare effect which can make a big difference in allowing a unit to punch above its weight class, and it also, importantly, is very helpful for Marine vs Marine mirror matches where your guys are just better at wounding in melee than your opponent.

Blood Angels Bladeguard Veterans

Blood Angels Bladeguard Veterans. Credit: Corrode

Flesh Tearers

Fury Within: Flesh Tearers mirror the +1 to wound part of their parent Chapter’s tactic. Additionally, on an unmodified wound roll of a 6, melee attacks gain an extra point of AP which explicitly stacks with the Assault Doctrine bonus. Overall I think BA is slightly better, but this isn’t a bad tactic at all – it keeps the important ‘punch up’ part, the AP thing is at least ok.

Iron Hands

The Flesh is Weak: Iron Hands units gain a 6+ Feel No Pain, and models with a damage table count as having double the wounds remaining for the purposes of the damage table. A fine tactic, making your Marines 20% more resilient than normal, and allowing your vehicles – most importantly for most purposes, Dreadnoughts – to keep on truckin’ even as they take damage.

Ultramarines

Codex Discipline: Ultramarines get +1 Leadership, and they can Fall Back and shoot, at -1 to hit. Completely fine and the most consistent tactic in the game in terms of its effects. A bit less important than it was thanks to the new Big Guns Never Tire allowing units to shoot in combat, but it’s nice to have the option of just whipping them out and shooting a more important target.

Salamanders

Forged in Battle: Each time a unit shoots or fights, you can re-roll one wound roll, and you treat AP-1 as AP0 instead. A solid tactic still, making your weapons a little more reliable and your models a little tougher to dakka off the board with low-mid quality shooting.

Salamanders Indomitus Captain Credit: Chris Cowie

Raven Guard

Shadow Masters: When a unit with this tactic is targeted by a ranged attack from more than 18″ away, then the unit is treated as having Light Cover. Additionally, if that unit is INFANTRY entirely on or within a terrain feature, and the attacker is more than 12″ away, then the unit is treated as having the benefits of dense cover. A tactic that seems to get worse with every iteration. It’s still fine but the range bands are a bigger problem on the smaller boards of 9th edition.

Deathwatch

Xenos Hunters: Models with this tactic get re-roll 1s to hit in melee against TYRANIDS, AELDARI, ORK, NECRONS, or T’AU EMPIRE units. Additionally, they can pick one Battlefield Role after deployment; until the end of the game, your units can re-roll wound rolls of 1 against any enemy unit with that Battlefield Role. Pure upside in the change to 9th here for Deathwatch, as they gain a new ability (the rerolls to hit), and get a better version of the old one – you are no longer stuck with having some battlefield roles just not included in the list and unable to be chosen.

Successor Chapters

Continuing on a theme from the previous book, in addition to the tactics for the 13 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, and this trend has continued with Necrons as the first other 9th edition codex. 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 nine First Founding chapters (so the list above excluding Black Templars, Flesh Tearers, Deathwatch, 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. Most of these tactics are straight carry-forwards from 8th, but a couple have changed significantly.

  • 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. This does have the slightly cute benefit now that your characters, who can’t benefit from their own auras any more, can use this for re-rolls – but you don’t care that much about your Captain’s bolt pistol. C
  • Born Heroes. If you charge, melee attacks are +1 to hit. One of the big changes from 8th, and a significant improvement. Now combos well with something like Hungry for Battle for an aggressive melee Chapter. B
  • Duellists. When fighting in melee against INFANTRY or BIKER units, 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. Very 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. A
  • 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 – its only use is if you for some reason want to play your Chapter as being just like their parent one, for fluff, but not get any of the other bits. Not a serious consideration for competitive play, that. D

Blood Ravens Bladeguard. Credit – Soggy

  • 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 Rapid Fire and Heavy weapons (but not flame weapons) for units with this tactic. If you’re looking at lists from before this book came out you will probably see a lot of this, particularly on Raven Guard Centurion lists from 8th and, in 9th, Salamanders Successors. The former are dead and buried and the latter don’t need this any more, since flamers – the main reason to use it, so you can fire them out of deep strike – are a) 12″ range now and b) excluded anyway. Without that it’s merely fine. B-
  • Master Artisans. When a unit with this trait fights, fires Overwatch, or shoots in the shooting phase, you can re-roll one hit roll. With Chapter Master much less easy to blanket your whole army in, this is nice for having in the back pocket for MSU squads with heavy weapons (which might actually be a thing now that Tactical Marines are ok again). Less essential now that you don’t get a wound re-roll as well. B
  • Preferred Enemy. When you select this tactic, choose one of Chaos Knights, 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, and naturally for fluff reasons you can’t even pick half the most common armies in the game – Imperium in general but also other Marines specifically. We hated it last edition and adding Chaos Knights to it for 9th doesn’t make us hate it less now. F
  • Rapid Assault. Units with this tactic don’t suffer the penalty from Advancing and shooting Assault weapons. This is a neat ability. It’s good in White Scars but there it’s paired with the insanely good Advance and charge – here in the Successors it’s a bit more whatever. 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. Fine but if you want this, you really should just play Iron Hands, where the other half of their tactic complements this better than anything else in the Successor list. 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. Not horrible – cutting out the ability for your regular Primaris and firstborn units to get exploded by lascannons and the like is neat – but if you’re going heavy on Gravis armour it will often be the case that a  2 will fail anyway, so you get nothing from this. C
  • Stealthy. Units with this Tactic count as having the benefit of light cover for their saves when being attacked from more than 18″ away with ranged weapons. Along with Master Artisans, absolutely essential in the last edition, and along with Master Artisans, suitably nerfed for this one. You can still get game out of this, but it’s merely fine now. B
  • 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 reasonable upgrade and a natural pairing with Rapid Assault if you wanted to build like 2/3rds of White Scars but perhaps using a different parent or something. 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. Do not let Chase fool you with his ideas about this being worth trading for Inner Circle in his Dark Angels – he is a madman. 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

A couple of obvious combos stick out straight away:

  • Born Heroes/Whirlwind of Rage, which you will see again in the Raven Guard article as this exact combo won the Vasteras Autumn Bash. +1 to hit in melee combined with 6s for extra hits makes for very powerful charges. Also very handy for units toting hammers and fists, as you basically get to ignore the hit penalty they normally impose – and sometimes will even luck into a couple of extra hits with them.
  • Stealthy/Master Artisans, a classic pairing that is probably less good now but might at least be worth looking at again.

Chapter Command

This is a whole new section for 9th edition, and there’s lots going on here. Chapter Command represents the top-ranking officers in the Space Marine army, the highest respective person in their role, such as the Chapter Master or Chief Apothecary. These are upgrades to existing units that you’d take, making them more powerful and giving them access to new warlord traits and relics. Rules for these were first introduced in Faith and Fury for 8th, but they’ve been changed significantly here from that first iteration. The biggest change is that the upgrades for your chapter leaders are now paid for with regular-old army building points rather than by using stratagems for CP. They all return here, plus there’s a new section for Chapter Masters to come into their own, with some light restrictions –  Deathwatch can’t take Chapter Masters and Blood Angels can’t take Chapter Ancients, since those already exist in different forms in their individual supplements.

Many of the custom relics and warlord traits for Chapter Command units have returned from Faith & Fury, although now there’s only one Warlord Trait and one Relic for each entry, so those have been adjusted and in some cases, combined or baked into the main sheet.

The new Masters of the Chapter, as per Warhammer Community. After a short controversy these points ended up being the correct ones.

Chapter Master

We’d like to welcome you to the new era of SLAM MASTERS. The Chapter Master costs +40 points on a Captain and now, as well as the regular re-roll 1s to hit aura, he has an ability which lets him pick a single CORE or CHARACTER unit within 6” to get full re-rolls to hit. As such he can help himself out and smash things with force. Also a Chapter Master has an exemption that lets you take him and a Captain, so you can have your SLAM MASTER cake and eat your captain aura too.

The Chapter Master appears to have pulled rank on the Chapter Champion, stealing the Angel Artifice relic that originally belonged to him in Faith & Fury; this gives him a 2+ save and +1 to his Wounds and Toughness characteristics. This is pretty good on a jump pack model, essentially turning the model into a more mobile, FLYing Terminator – though you can also potentially make a truly horrifying bike Captain. The Master of the Codex Warlord trait lets you score 1 CP each turn on a 4+. Not exactly essential – on average it’s 2.5CP across the course of a game (assuming the Chapter Master lives throughout), but with only 5 rolls that is subject to a lot of variance. It’s not a horrible trait and sometimes it will pay off and you’ll get a bonus 5CP in a game, but most of the time you can do better.

Blood Angels Slam Captain

Blood Angels Slam Master. Credit: Corrode

Master of Sanctity

The top Chaplain returns. He loses The Sacrosanct Rosarius and Bellowing Firebrand abilities (points to anyone who could tell you what those did to begin with) but The Emperor’s Judgment Relic returns with a minor tweak.You’re still never going to take it, Benediction of Fury is right there. The basic upgrade here gives you the ability to know and chant an extra litany, which is huge upside as the litanies are all good and a great buff to your game plan. The Wise Orator Warlord trait gets a massive overhaul from last edition’s version, giving +1 to reciting litanies (marginally worse than re-rolling like before) and dropping the cost of the Commanding Oratory Stratagem to 1 CP. Both effects are worth the reasonably cheap cost of the upgrade.

Primaris Chaplain. Credit: Scottish “SRM” McLarceny

Master of The Forge

The Master of the Forge keeps Warden of the Ancients and Mortis Machina. The basic effect here is auto-healing 3 wounds on a vehicle instead of d3 – very good for keeping your tanks and Dreadnoughts on the table a bit longer. Warden turns him into a dreadnought buffbot – on top of the Techmarine’s ability to natively give one +1 to hit with their shooting, he gives +1 strength and +1 attack to all dreadnoughts within 6″. This feels a bit like it was copy-pasted from the previous version without much thought as to how it works in 9th – previously that +1 strength would have been +2 thanks to the way weapon modifiers worked, but now it does literally nothing for how effective your melee Dreadnought is unless they’re somehow punching a Titan. It does give a shooty Dreadnought a minor benefit, but those are now a lot rarer and also you probably don’t care. Mortis Machina is an upgrade to his power axe, hitting at strength 7 for 3 damage with an additional mortal wound against vehicles. On a Primaris Techmarine this might just about be worthwhile, since he comes with four base attacks.

Chief Librarian

A Chief Librarian knows a third power (from their chosen discipline, no mix-and-matching), and can deny a second. They can take Psychic Mastery to give +1 to their psychic tests, and a Neural Shroud to increase their deny range to 24″. Taking this guy with his trait is a good no-nonsense pick for getting key powers off – your odds on a WC7 power increase from 58% (i.e. just over half the time) to 72% (nearly 3/4s of the time). There’s at least one power in the list which is a potential build-around (Psychic Fortress) and so maximising your chances of that being available every turn you need it is worthwhile.

Chief Apothecary

Holy shit. This guy. This fucking guy. His base upgrade allows him to use his Combat Restoratives healing ability twice instead of once, though on different units. Now hold on, you might be saying, I’ve heard of this “Father of the Future” thing that was really powerful before, can I still take that? Well, you’re in luck, because that’s now baked into the Apothecary’s datasheet (though notably, it now has no bonus effect for Iron Hands, who instead have to live with the same 6+ as everyone else gets. Boo hoo). So for +15 pts, you’re essentially getting both of the former Faith & Fury Warlord Traits with the option of a new-and-improved Selfless Healer, which makes him heal a flat 3 wounds instead of d3 on both of his targets, and also lets him use the new Combat Revival stratagem for free, letting him revive a dead model at full wounds without having to spend your precious CP. You can also give him the Acquittal relic bolt pistol, which has a decent profile at strength 5, AP-3, damage 2. It only gets better when you point it at an INFANTRY model, though, since it always wounds on a 2+ and goes up to an impressive damage 4. This is the rare example of a relic gun which might actually be worthwhile – though probably still not. Apothecaries aren’t a complete auto-take, but they are Very Good, and if you’re taking one you basically should just assume you’re taking this and his Warlord trait as well.

Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary

Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary. Credit: Jack Hunter

Chapter Ancient

The Chapter Ancient gains an ok ability, Chapter Banner, which affects a single CORE unit within 6” and gives +1 to hit with melee attacks. This is cute but you have to do it in the Command phase – so it can’t hit deep striking units or ones rolling out of transports – and the Bladeguard Ancient just natively hands it out to Bladeguard units anyway, so that obvious combo kind of wastes its potential. The Warlord trait, however, is Steadfast Example, granting Objective Secured to all Core units within 6″ and making existing Objective Secured models count twice. Steadfast is a great pickup; in 9th edition objective-heavy games, bumping up the effective size of an Intercessor squad or giving Objective Secured to some Bladeguard Veterans is a great way to flip objectives and stay ahead on the primary scoring. The Pennant of the Fallen relic is slightly more niche, allowing dying models to make 2 attacks instead of 1 with the Astartes banner.

Chapter Champion

The Chapter Champion gains 3 bonus abilities for his upgrade – Skilful Parry, which makes melee attacks that target him -1 to hit, Exquisite Swordsman, which allows him to wounds against enemy CHARACTER units in melee, and the eponymous Chapter Champion, making him Attacks 5 and Leadership 9. The Martial Exemplar Warlord trait affects CORE and CHARACTER units within 6″, allowing them to re-roll charges, and the Blade of Triumph relic is S+3 AP-3 damage 3. For a mere 70pts the Chapter Champion is death on legs – the main strike against him is the need to actually get him to combat, though he’s an excellent pick for a linebacker type unit in a footslogging castle.

Ultramarines Chapter Champion

Ultramarines Chapter Champion. Credit Gumbo “SRM” McLongname

Stratagems

Unlike almost everything else in the Army Rules section, the stratagems are not a simple roll-forward of content from the previous books with some minor tweaking around the edges. A few of them have survived, either wholly or in name only, but a huge swathe of these are completely new to the 9th edition codex. Stratagems now have categories, too, which don’t seem to actually do much right now, though Commander Dante in the Blood Angels index can use an Epic Deed for free if he wants to and presumably more of that kind of thing will be rolling out.

Note that in the list below we are usually going to skip the ‘ADEPTUS ASTARTES’ keyword unless it’s the only one the stratagem targets or it’s otherwise important. Just bear in mind that all of these are restricted to ADEPTUS ASTARTES units – you can’t use Steady Advance on a squad of allied Guardsmen or whatever. Also, you’ll probably notice that a lot of the letter grades here are hovering around in the Bs and As – that reflects some much better stratagem design, with a lot more stuff which is at least situationally useful or ‘if your plan needs it’ instead of there being a few good stratagems and then a lot of space-filler.

Battle Tactic Stratagems

  • Death to the Traitors! – 1CP – Use in the Fight phase when an ADEPTUS ASTARTES unit is selected to fight. They can re-roll hits for melee attacks against HERETIC ASTARTES units. This is actually more relevant than it ever has been since most non-CORE units can’t access re-rolls readily any more. The restriction to fighting Chaos Marines is fluffy but also limits its usefulness, but it’s handy to have in your back pocket if you’re playing against them and need a unit to get full re-rolls in melee. C+
  • Honour the Chapter – 2CP – A unit of Assault Intercessors can fight again at the end of the Fight phase. Tying this specifically to Assault Intercessors (not even INTERCESSOR in general, stopping you using it with Veteran Intercessors or Death Company Intercessors for some reason) hurts it a lot, but Assault Intercessors aren’t bad at all and if you get a reasonable number of them into combat, getting to fight twice is a worthwhile use of 2CP against the right target. B- mostly because of its limited targets.
  • Fury of the First – 1CP – Use in either the Shooting or the Fight phase; pick an ADEPTUS ASTARTES unit and any TERMINATOR model in that unit gets +1 to hit. The wording here is quite specific now, which allows Deathwatch or Space Wolves units that contain both Terminator and non-Terminator models to get the buff for the Terminator if they want it, which is nice. A good stratagem, especially for hammer or fist-wielding Terminators who have a built-in -1 to hit in melee, and cheap for what it does. B
  • Transhuman Physiology – 1CP/2CP – Use when a PRIMARIS unit is targeted for an attack. Until the end of the phase, wound rolls of 1-3 automatically fail, irrespective of any other abilities. This has gotten some interesting tweaks – it’s now Primaris-only, but also, for a unit of 5 or fewer models it only costs 1CP, with the cost going up to 2CP for units of 6 or more. Overall that works out as an upgrade in most cases. Remains a key component of the Marine stratagem arsenal. A
  • Rapid Fire – 2CP – One INTERCESSOR SQUAD or VETERAN INTERCESSOR SQUAD can fire again at the end of the Shooting phase (see Honour the Chapter, how hard was that??) Intercessors bring decent shooting and getting to double-shoot them is good for getting the most out of them. For 2CP you really want there to be a lot of them, though. B
  • Gene-wrought Might – 1CP – Use in the Fight phase when a PRIMARIS unit is selected to fight. Unmodified 6s to hit automatically wound. If you have a reasonable volume of attacks going out against a tough target, this can help tip the balance – Assault Intercessors or Outriders are an obvious pick here for something that is going to dump a boatload of S4 attacks into something and where auto-wounding would help them out a lot, and it’s reasonably cheap. B
  • Unyielding in the Face of the Foe – 1CP – Use when a MK X GRAVIS unit from your army is selected as the target of an attack; until the end of the phase you get +1 to armour saves against weapons with Damage 1. A helpful stratagem for keeping your fat boys on the table longer – anyone trying to dakka them off with low quality weaponry has to work that bit harder to do so. B
Assault Intercessors w/ Hand Flamer and Thunder Hammer. Credit: Rockfish

Assault Intercessors w/ Hand Flamer and Thunder Hammer. Credit: Rockfish

Epic Deed Stratagems

  • Only in Death Does Duty End – 2CP – Use in the Fight phase, when an CHARACTER that has not already fought is destroyed. That model can fight before it dies. A huge change here from the old version, as you can no longer fight, die, and fight again. It’s still good if your guy gets sucker punched, but a lot less powerful than it was. B
  • Armour of Contempt – 1CP – 5+ against mortal wounds for a vehicle. Simple, effective stratagem, especially in a meta full of Harlequin bikes. B+
  • Power of the Machine Spirit – 2CP – Use in the Command phase and select one MACHINE SPIRIT model from your army. Until the next Command phase that unit is considered to have full wounds remaining for its damage table. Handy but the list of MACHINE SPIRIT vehicles is quite short – basically Land Raiders, Stormravens, and Repulsors – and you probably aren’t investing in them to begin with, and then 2CP to act on top profile is quite a lot. If you brought one and need it to do something useful while clinging on to life it’s not like this is bad, though. C+
  • Wisdom of the Ancients – 1CP – Use in the Command phase; one DREADNOUGHT (except WULFEN or DEATH COMPANY ones) can have either Rites of Battle or Tactical Precision (i.e. re-roll 1s to hit or 1s to wound for CORE within 6″) until the start of your next Command phase. A huge glow-up for this stratagem – you can now pick between either a Captain or Lieutenant aura, and it lasts a whole turn instead of just one phase. Dreadnoughts are good in this book and this just makes them even better, for a minimal cost. A
  • Commanding Oratory – 2CP – Use at the start of any phase other than your Command phase. One CHAPLAIN that has not recited a litany this turn can automatically recite one that hasn’t already been recited by a friendly model this turn. It does this automatically with no roll, and takes effect until the start of your next Command phase. A solid stratagem in its own right, and even better for a Wise Orator Master of Sanctity who can use it for 1CP. It’s not just great because you can auto-chant one, but also because it allows you huge flexibility in using Chaplain litanies in situations you simply couldn’t before. A
  • Combat Revival – 1CP – Use at the end of your Movement phase. An APOTHECARY can pick one INFANTRY or BIKER unit that is within 3″ and not at its Starting Strength; one of that unit’s models is returned with its full wounds. A Selfless Healer Chief Apothecary can use this for 0CP. Extremely good – Apothecaries are already great, you have lots of high-value models in your army, and when you can do it for free it’s even better. The funniest use-case is picking up an Invader ATV at its full 8 wounds, but outside of Ravenwing (where the Apothecary can go on a bike in order to keep up with them) the more likely use is to back up Gravis units or Bladeguard. A
Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary

Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary. Credit: Jack Hunter

Requisition Stratagems

  • Relic of the Chapter – 1CP – Use before the battle if your Warlord has the Adeptus Astartes keyword. One ADEPTUS ASTARTES CHARACTER can be given one Chapter Relic. You can only use this once per game in Combat Patrol/Incursion, twice in Strike Force, and three times in Onslaught. All the normal rules for relics apply – you can’t double up on Relics and you can’t give a character more than one. Some subtle changes to the functioning of this from previous iterations – firstly, you can only use it if you have an ADEPTUS ASTARTES Warlord, so you can’t soup Marines in with something else and get their Relics. Secondly, you’re restricted on the number of uses by the game size. Also, in the Matched Play and GT formats, you must write this stuff down on your list rather than being able to decide at the table.
  • Hero of the Chapter – 1CP – Use before the battle if your Warlord has the Adeptus Astartes keyword. One ADEPTUS ASTARTES CHARACTER (excluding named characters) can be given a Warlord Trait. You can only use this once per game in Combat Patrol/Incursion, twice in Strike Force, and three times in Onslaught. As with relics you can’t have duplicate traits or double up on traits on one guy.

We’re not rating these for obvious reasons – you want to use them if you want more relics or traits on your list and if you don’t then they’re irrelevant. Marines have good traits and relics in abundance so it would be surprising if you never wanted to, but it all depends on what your list is doing.

Strategic Ploy Stratagems

  • Hit-and-Run Warfare – 1CP – Use in your movement phase when an BIKER, LAND SPEEDER, or STORM SPEEDER unit from your army Falls Back. That unit can still shot this turn. Decent enough stratagem if your units get tagged or stuck in a combat they would rather leave. B
  • Hammer of Wrath – 1CP – Use in your Charge phase when a JUMP PACK unit finishes a charge move. Pick one enemy unit within Engagement Range of that unit and roll 1d6 for each model in your jump pack unit that is within Engagement Range of that unit. Do 1 mortal wound for each roll that equals or exceeds the enemy unit’s Toughness. Buffed from its old version, as now a unit of something like Vanguard Vets can go slamming into T3 or T4 models and do 50-66% of its own model count in mortal wounds. Vanguard Vets and their equivalents being good again is a great time for this stratagem to finally be usable. B
  • Skilled Riders – 1CP – When your opponent shoots a BIKER, LAND SPEEDER, or STORM SPEEDER unit that Advanced in your turn, make them -1 to hit until the end of the phase. It’s ok but a serious downgrade, and requiring you to advance to use it is rough for a lot of chapters for what you get now. B-
  • Uncompromising Fire – 2CP – One INFANTRY unit in your army that is performing an action can shoot without that action failing. Very handy for something like Deploy Scramblers, where you might want to deep strike a unit in and be able to shoot something and still do the action. B+
  • Steady Advance – 2CP – Use when an INFANTRY unit from your army makes a Normal Move. It counts as having Remained Stationary. A good stratagem, though pricey and both Iron Hands and Salamanders can replicate some or all of the effect for cheaper. Worth noting that this specifies ‘Normal Move’ so you a) can’t use it on things that Fall Back and b) can’t use it on units deep striking or arriving by Drop Pod. Obvious good targets include Eradicators with the heavy melta rifle, and foot Devastators. B
  • Adaptive Strategy – 2CP – Use in your Command phase. Your Warlord must be on the battlefield and you must have a combat doctrine active (i.e. you can’t use it if you’re souped and don’t have doctrines). One CORE unit from your army that is on the battlefield counts as being in all three of Devastator, Tactical, and Assault doctrine when it makes an attack. There’s one interesting thing to note here – most of the time it works how you would think, i.e. you get bonus AP with all your weapons and you get to use your super doctrine, so bonus damage for White Scars melee weapons or Imperial Fists shooting at vehicles, and so on. However, for the Blood Angels doctrine Savage Echoes, it doesn’t function. Whether this is meant to be the case or not is hard to know. Outside of that particular edge case this is a great stratagem though – sometimes you just really need a unit to get your Assault Doctrine bonus early, or you need your Devastator doctrine bonus to be paying off later in the game. B+
  • Suppression Fire – 1CP – Use in your Shooting phase when firing a Whirlwind. Until the end of the phase, if you hit with a weapon with Blast, then until the start of your next turn the target cannot fire Overwatch or Set to Defend, and cannot fight until all eligible units from your army have done so. Cute although less essential than it might have been since Overwatch is less of a thing, and the ‘fight last’ effect is less good than the Judiciar one since you can use Counter-offensive to break out of it. Also you have to take a Whirlwind and those are ok at best now. B
  • Terror Troops – 2CP – Use in your Command phase. Select one REIVER unit, which until your next Command phase gains an aura which means that an enemy unit within 3″ loses Objective Secured or similar abilities, and additionally, until the end of the turn, when that REIVER unit makes a Normal Move, Advance move, or charge move within 3″ of an enemy unit that is performing an action, roll 2D6 – if you beat their Leadership, their action automatically fails. This is ok but probably not good enough to make Reivers worth taking – however, the Reiver Lieutenant also has the REIVER keyword and otherwise costs no more than a normal Primaris Lieutenant. Using him as a platform for this stuff is a great way to get the benefit without having to actually use Reivers. B
  • Guerilla Tactics – 1CP – Use in your Movement phase when a PHOBOS unit that is more than 6″ from any enemy models is selected to move. Put that unit into Strategic Reserves. It’s not quite clear if you’re meant to be able to then immediately bring them back in somewhere else on the table, though it does logically follow that you can. Very handy for popping a Phobos unit out to perform an action in a distant part of the board, or score Engage or Linebreaker, or whatever else, especially for 1CP. Again, remember it can also apply to the characters – so those can start on the board and then jump to join a unit arriving from reserves somewhere else. A-
  • Orbital Bombardment – 3CP – Use in your Command phase, if your Warlord is on the battlefield. Pick a point on the battlefield and place a marker on that point. At the start of your next Command phase, roll one d6 for each enemy unit within 6″ of the centre of the marker, with +1 to the roll if the unit is within 3″ and -1 for a CHARACTER. On a 2-5 that unit takes d3 mortal wounds, on a 6+ that unit takes d6 mortal wounds. The marker is then removed, and you can only use this stratagem once. Some important things to note here – first is the timing, where the effect doesn’t go off until the turn after you initiate it. That means it can often be best used as a deterrent, forcing an opponent to avoid a particular objective marker or point on the table for a turn. Secondly, you can just pick any point on the table now, no need to see it or for your Warlord not to move or whatever else. Third, it is possible to make this unfailable – it’s not a characteristic test, so if it hits a unit within 3″ of the centre point they automatically take at least d3 mortals. It’s very expensive and very telegraphed, but a lot more interesting than it was and great for breaking up a castle by forcing your opponent to move, or striking at things you couldn’t otherwise see, or just exercising some board control. Many lists can’t afford it, but if yours can it is genuinely worth thinking about. B

Space Marine Intercessor. Credit: Pendulin

Wargear Stratagems

  • Auspex Scan – 2CP – Use at the end of the Reinforcements step of your opponent’s Movement phase. One INFANTRY unit that is not in Engagement Range of any enemy units can shoot at any enemy unit that was set up as Reinforcements this turn and that is within 12″ of their unit. Solid and the timing thing stops people being able to draw it out early. B
  • Tremor Shells – 1CP – Use when a THUNDERFIRE CANNON shoots; until the end of the phase it has -1 to wound, but if it hits a unit that is not TITANIC and cannot FLY then until the start of your next Movement phase that unit has half movement and -2 to advance and charge rolls. A slightly simpler effect than it used to have, but also finally worded properly so the second half of it actually works. Thunderfire Cannons aren’t the terrors they used to be but having exactly one to sit behind terrain and blast this at things isn’t the worst plan possible. B
  • Shock and Awe – 1CP – Use in your Shooting phase when a SHOCK GRENADES unit or Land Speeder Storm is selected to shoot. Pick one enemy unit within 6″; until the start of your next turn that unit cannot fire Overwatch or Set to Defend and is -1 to hit. Cute, and another thing that the Reiver LT can do. That guy has great utility. B
  • Assault Launchers – 1CP – Use at the start of your Charge phase. An ASSAULT LAUNCHERS unit (i.e. Land Raider Crusader or Redeeemer, or Assault Centurions with the assault launchers) can target one enemy unit within 9″ that isn’t a vehicle or monster. That unit can either brace and take d3 mortals, or duck for cover in which case it is -1 Attacks and cannot fire Overwatch or Set to Defend. The stratagem isn’t bad but you’re just not going to have the units on the table to ever want to do this. C
  • Melta Bomb – 1CP – In the Fight phase, one MELTA BOMB unit can pick one model to make a single attack that must target an enemy vehicle; if it hits, that unit takes 2d3 mortal wounds. Melta bomb units includes Vanguard Veterans, Assault Squads, and the humble Tactical Squad. Probably the best use is on a squad of Vanguard Vets, if you have a cheap guy with a chainsword and shield to tank hits, as he can then throw some helpful mortals into a vehicle if necessary. Tacticals having it is cute, too, as it gives them an extra utility that Intercessors don’t have. B
  • Grav Pulse – 1CP – You can either use this in your Movement phase, so that a REPULSOR FIELD (Impulsor or Repulsor) unit can fall back and shoot, or in your opponent’s Charge phase, when a REPULSOR FIELD unit is charged, which gives -2 to charges until the end of the phase. It’s a shame that this is kind of just replacing an ability that used to be native, but it’s still good and great for pulling out on an unwary opponent. B
  • Hellfire Shells – 1CP – Use in your Shooting phase when an INFANTRY model from your army shoots with a heavy bolter, hellstorm heavy bolter, or an executor heavy bolter. You can only make one attack with that weapon this phase, but if you hit then the target takes d3 mortals, or if they are a MONSTER they take a flat 3 mortals. Cheap heavy bolters are abundant now, particularly in Heavy Intercessor units but also potentially on objective-camping Tactical Squads and the like too, and being able to do a flat 3 to monsters makes it extra good. B+
  • Flakk Missile – 1CP – Use when an INFANTRY model targets an enemy AIRCRAFT with a missile launcher. You only make one attack but it’s at +1 to hit, and if you hit the target takes 2d3 mortal wounds. Decent but planes are vastly less common in 9th than in 8th – though Ad Mech do seem to be bringing them still, and 2d3 is a reasonably chunky number of mortals to blast into one for a CP. B
  • Smokescreen – 1CP – Use in your opponent’s Shooting phase when they target a SMOKESCREEN unit. Until the end of the phase, attacks against that unit are at -1 to hit. SMOKESCREEN includes the vehicles you’d expect – all the classic Marine ones, small Dreads, plus also Gladiators, Repulsors with auto launchers, and Infiltrators/Incursors – and it’s stronger here than in the Skilled Riders version as you don’t have to give anything up to access it. In some was this is even a buff to the old smoke launchers rule, as it’s no longer once per game and it’s reactive when an opponent actually shoots you rather than yo having to bust it and hope there was any benefit. B
    White Scars Infiltrators Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

    White Scars Infiltrators Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Army Rules

Something of a pattern in this book is that much of the content in this section has barely changed from the recent 8th edition book, except for like one thing which has been completely rewritten. If you’re coming at this from that perspective, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

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 the ones available to the upgraded Chapter Command characters).

Regular

Black Templar Lieutenant with Power Fist and Power Sword

Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • Fear Made Manifest: While an enemy unit is within 6″ of the Warlord, it has -1 Ld and -1 to Combat Attrition tests (i.e. models will run away more easily). Not as awful as its previous incarnation, but still doesn’t really do a lot that you want to spend a valuable Warlord trait pick on using. C
  • The Imperium’s Sword: Re-roll charges, and get +1S/A when you charge or make a Heroic Intervention. A fantastic trait – the Strength thing is mildly less relevant now because of how weapon modifiers work in 9th, but it’s still very good. A
  • Iron Resolve: +1 W and a 6+ FNP. Fine, and can be funny if taken on e.g. a bike or Gravis-armoured character, but you can do better and a 6+ FNP is not hard to come by in Marines if you really want one. 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 CORE units within 6″ of your warlord get an extra 1AP on a 6 to wound. Might be handy for a Warlord babysitting a backfield contingent of Heavy weapons, which will roll out of Devastator on turn 1, but probably just not really worth it at the volume of fire you’d be outputting. C
  • Rites of War: Friendly CORE and CHARACTER uints within 6″ have the objective secured ability. This is the one that significantly changed, and at just the right time – an aura of Obsec is a great thing to have in 9th edition. Besides anything else it lets your Warlord flip objectives solo when facing off against non-Obsec units, but it also enables you to take heavy melee hitters like Bladeguard and Terminators and make them both more able to flip things and more difficult to hit back at. A

From this list your most likely two picks are Imperium’s Sword and Rites of War, depending mostly on whether your character is there to hit things in the face or to buff what’s around him.

Phobos

Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant

Ultramarines Primaris Lieutenant. Credit: Artum

  • Shoot and Fade: Once per turn, you can move a friendly PHOBOS unit within 6″ of the Warlord after it shoots, and it can make a Normal move or Advance; either way it cannot then charge. There’s some fun potential tricks here with either shooting and then moving onto objectives or out of line of sight, but having to pick this for your Warlord and then set the move up in advance restricts its usefulness. B-
  • Lord of Deceit: Lets you redeploy up 3 Phobos units after both players have deployed their armies. You can put those units into Strategic Reserves for free if you want, and ignore restrictions on how many units you can put in reserves, and unlike the previous iteration you can deploy them anywhere instead of being required to place into your deployment zone. This is all great except that the timing has also changed from the old version, and now you do this after deploying instead of before the first battle round – so you don’t know who’s going first. That’s a substantial drop in power even with the new cool tricks. It’s still possible to get something out of this, but you need a very definite plan. B-
  • Master of the Vanguard: Phobos units get +1 to move 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. Might be fun for a White Scars Phobos-themed army or stacking with a Hungry for Battle successor for +2 to charges. B
  • Stealth Adept: This Warlord cannot be targeted with ranged attacks unless it is the closest eligible target. Notably this is not Look Out Sir, so he can’t be targeted by snipers or other units which ignore that rule. A much better trait than its previous -1 to hit version, especially with 9th’s new character targeting rules – a Phobos Captain or similar with this trait can now safely sit in the backfield plinking away and holding an objective, completely unable to be targeted by nasties that might want to shoot him off it. B+
  • Target Priority: Pick a Phobos unit to get +1 to hit with ranged attacks. A fairly straightforward buff. The main limitation is just the available units to put this on – Infiltrators and Incursors aren’t that good at shooting, and while Eliminators are they are already BS2+ and also you can struggle to maximise the use out of this when there’s only 3 of them. B
  • Marksman’s Honours: +1D to the warlord’s ranged weapons, excluding Grenades and Relics. 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. Like a lot of Warlord traits, this one was better when you could pick it up situationally, instead of having to commit to it on your list. 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.

Chapter Warlord Traits

One other thing included in this book is a set of 13 Chapter warlord traits. We’ll cover them here partly because they’re printed in the main codex, and partly because there is one relevant case (Deathwatch) where you can get one of these and take it from this list specifically, so it would be doing those players a disservice to completely ignore them. These ones won’t be rated because in most contexts they aren’t really comparable to each other – we’ll talk about them in their proper context in their supplement articles.

  • Brilliant Strategiest (Dark Angels) – Pick one unit within 6″ of your Warlord in the Command phase; when you make an attack, if your army is in Tactical they count as being in Devastator, or if your army is in Assault they count as being in Tactical
  • Deadly Hunter (White Scars) – After the Warlord makes a charge move, pick one enemy unit within 1″ and roll a D6; on a 2+ that unit takes 1 mortal wound
  • Beastslayer (Space Wolves) – While the Warlord is within Engagement Range of enemy MONSTER or VEHICLE units, it gets +1 Attack, +1 to hit, and +1 to wound
  • Architect of War (Imperial Fists) – A friendly IMPERIAL FISTS CORE unit within 6″ of the Warlord treats AP-1 as AP0 if it is receiving the benefits of cover
  • Refuse to Die (Crimson Fists) – The first time the Warlord dies, you can roll a 4+ to get them back up with d3 wounds remaining
  • Oathkeeper (Black Templars) – 6″ heroic intervention
  • Speed of the Primarch (Blood Angels) – The Warlord can fight first in the Fight phase
  • Merciless Butcher (Flesh Tearers) – Each time this Warlord fights, it can make d3 additional attacks if there are 5 or more enemy models within 3″ of it
  • Adept of the Omnissiah (Iron Hands) – A non-Techmarine Warlord can heal a friendly Iron Hands vehicle within 1″ for 1 wound. A Techmarine Warlord gets D3+1 insteaed of its normal D3.
  • Adept of the Codex (Ultramarines) – While the Warlord is on the battlefield, you can refund a CP on a 5+ when using a stratagem
  • Anvil of Strength (Salamanders) – +2 Strength
  • Echo of the Ravenspire (Raven Guard) – Once per battle, the Warlord can be removed from the table if it is not within 6″ of any enemy models, and then be set up again in the Reinforcements step of the next Movement phase more than 9″ away from enemy models
  • Vigilance Incarnate (Deathwatch) – In your Command phase, you can pick one friendly DEATHWATCH CORE unit within 6″; each time you do, you can pick one Battlefiel Roe and until your next Command phase that unit can re-roll wounds of 1 against an enemy unit with that Battlefield Role

Relics

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. If you’re coming here from the 8th ed codex, these have not changed much – only the Ghostweave Cloak has a substantially new effect, while the rest range from ‘identical’ to ‘minor tweaks.’

  • The Armour Indomitus: 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. It also, new in the 9the edition codex, gives you +1 wound. 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 its bearer the ability to ignore wounds on a 5+ (a FNP save, for you old-timers). There’s a solid buff here but it may not be enough over a standard storm shield to justify this relic over an offensive buff. Which you’ll rather have will depend on the meta and how often you think your smash character will have to worry about getting hit back. B+
  • Standard of the Emperor Ascendant: +3″ to the Astartes Banner ability for an Ancient, and re-roll Morale for <CHAPTER> CORE within that range. A neat replacement for the old ATSKNF effect, but nothing to write home about. C+
  • Teeth of Terra: Replaces an Astartes chainsword with a weapon that gives +1 Strength, AP-2, D2, and 3 extra attacks. This thing is showing up everywhere – cheap slash Captains are a great replacement for the old slam Captain. A

Crimson Fists Teeth of Terra Captain. Credit: Corrode

  • Primarch’s Wrath: A powered-up boltgun at Rapid Fire 2, S5 AP-2 D2. Has always been fine. Is still fine. Lots of things in this section are fine, but with like 40 choices this isn’t the one you’re leaning on. C
  • The Burning Blade: Replaces power swords (of either regular or master-crafted flavour) with a weapon that gives S+3, AP-5, D2. Combined with Imperium’s Sword, you can have a guy charging around at S8 with this. Very competitive with a power fist or hammer now, especially with the AP-5 meaning that targets without invulnerable saves will simply melt away. B+
  • Purgatorus: A relic which can replace all the different kinds of bolt pistol. 3 shots at 18″, S5, AP-3, D2. GW are really, really trying with making relic guns worth taking, and if you really have nothing else you want to take, this goes on just about anyone. 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+. A powerful tool to have access to – this can severely disrupt an enemy army’s Psychic phase plans. Better in the days when you could flex pick stuff at the table – nowadays it’s probably too niche to want it on your list. C
  • 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. C
  • 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: The only relic that had a complete rewrite between books. This is PHOBOS only and now gives you two effects – when making a Normal, Advance, or Fall Back move, you can move across models as if they were not there; additionally, attacks against the bearer are at -1 to hit. Kind of cute as an idea but it just doesn’t really do anything for you that you especially want. 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 across multiple disciplines. A
  • Benediction of Fury: Just when we were beginning to tune out after a string of interchangeable guns, this comes along! A crozius that gives S+2, AP-2, damage 3 and does a mortal wound on a 6 to wound. Less essential now because the regular crozius also gives you S+2, but the damage 3 and mortal wound effect do help the Chaplain become a really fearsome beatstick – especially if combined with the Mantra of Strength. A
    Ultramarines 4th Company Primaris Chaplain

    Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

  • The Honour Vehement: Replaces Shock Assault with a flat +1 attack in a 6″ bubble for CORE units only. The vast, vast majority of 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″. This does not apply to psychic powers but does now apply to litany auras, in a change from 8th. It’s not the world’s most exciting effect and auras are a bit more marginal now than they were before, but there’s likely to be something you can think of to do with this. B

Psychic Powers

Librarius Discipline

The Librarius discipline gets some minor tweaks and one big power change. That big change is highly relevant to the discipline, though, and elevates it from middling to good.

  1. Veil of Time (Blessing, 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 if it started the Fight phase within Engagement Range. 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 63% without spending CP. B
  2. Might of Heroes (Blessing, WC 6). Affects a <CHAPTER> CORE or CHARACTER 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 characters to insane damage output levels, and also helpful for bringing a key Dreadnought up to T8. B
  3. Null Zone (Blessing, Aura, WC 7). Until the start of your next psychic phase, 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 got a significant change in the 9th edition book, reverting back to “units” rather than “enemy units” – so yes, it strips your own invulnerable saves as well. This makes it overall worse, but potentially still very helpful for removing invulnerables where really necessary – just be mindful of your own units. B
  4. Psychic Scourge (Witchfire, 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 (Witchfire, 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. No changes, still bad. D
  6. Psychic Fortress (Blessing, Aura, WC 6). Until the start of your next Psychic phase, friendly units within 6″ have a 5+ invulnerable save. A huge step up from its previous iteration, turning this from a fairly pointless and situational power into a potent one which adds great defensive power to units that otherwise lack an invulnerable of their own. A

Credit: SRM

Obscuration Discipline

Obscuration is the Phobos discipline, and is filled with utility powers that are often interesting but also often quite mediocre.

  1. Shrouding (Blessing, 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. 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. B
  2. Soul Sight (Blessing, 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. Can be helpful for boosting a unit of Eliminators or similar – the main issue with it is that Phobos units often aren’t that big of a deal for shooting or for Eliminators, that they have very low model counts so the benefit of taking a Librarian to sit within 18″ of them and give them hit re-rolls is low. B
  3. Mind Raid (Witchfire, WC 6). Pick a visible enemy model within 18″ of the psyker. It takes a mortal wound. If 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, but 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 (Malediction, WC 6). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18″ of the psyker. It gets -1 to its Ld and that unit suffers a -1 to its hit rolls until the start of your next psychic phase. Somewhat improved from before without the silly stuff about beating enemy Leadership on 2D6, but also less relevant in an edition with a cap on hit modifiers. Fine if you don’t have a strong preference for a second power. B
  5. Tenebrous Curse (Malediction, WC 7). Pick a visible enemy unit within 18″ that doesn’t have the FLY keyword. It takes a mortal wound. Until the start of your next Psychic phase, halve its Movement stat, and subtract 2 from Advance, and Charge rolls. This gained a point of warp charge compared to the previous book, making it harder to cast. 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. Without the ability to flex powers at the table any more, this loses a lot of its lustre – there’s too many match-ups where units that would matter are just immune to it.
  6. Temporal Corridor (Blessing, WC 5). Pick a friendly <CHAPTER> Phobos unit within 6″ of the psyker which is not in Engagement Range of any enemy models. It can move as though it was the Movement phase. It can’t Fall Back but can make either a Normal Move or Advance; if it Advances it can automatically move 6″. The unit cannot shoot or fight this turn. At first glance this feels like a loyalist Warptime, but the Phobos restrictions and particularly the limiter on being able to fight or shoot turn it into a pure mobility power – excellent for pushing a unit into position on an objective or something and extending its range, poor for getting into a scrap. It’s cheap but Phobos units can already usually get where they need to without having to bring a Librarian along to help out in a way that stops them being able to shoot or fight. C

Litanies of Battle

A concept originally introduced for Dark Apostles in Chaos and then ported to Space Marines in the second 8th ed codex. There’s 7 basic litanies, which affect CORE and CHARACTER only – your Chaplain knows the Litany of Hate, 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 “Chapter Command” 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. Now clarified as an aura ability.
  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″. That unit’s melee attacks have +1 To Wound. The only real change in the new codex, and a big one – +1 to wound is a relatively rare effect, and can really change the maths on a melee unit.
  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 took 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 or +1 to wound in melee, 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. It’s also worth bearing in mind here that you normally chant litanies in your Command phase, needing to roll a 3+ to do so, but don’t forget you can spend 2CP on the Commanding Oratory stratagem to chant one automatically at the end start any other phase instead – which opens up a lot of possibilities for Chaplains coming out of transports or the various deep strike options and then still throwing a critical buff on, or trading CP for certainty if there’s something that you really need this turn.

In addition to the 6 litanies presented here, 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. There were formerly individual litanies for each Chapter, too, introduced in the Faith & Fury book – these have now gone the way of the dodo, per the Marine FAQ. Do not allow your White Scars opponent to re-roll all his melee wounds, no matter how much he wants to.

Chapter Approved Rules – Secondary Objectives

Every 9th codex comes with a little section entitled “Chapter Approved Rules”, which lists bonus secondary objectives which are unique to that faction. There are some significant restrictions on these – you can only take one of your secondaries from these, and every model in your army must be ADEPTUS ASTARTES (excluding UNALIGNED or AGENT OF THE IMPERIUM), and just to cover the edge case your Warlord must also be ADEPTUS ASTARTES. The secondaries still fit within the different categories as per the normal missions, so you can’t double up on Battlefield Supremacy or whatever – if you pick one in that category here, you can’t take one from that category from the normal list.

Space Marines are unique in that both the base codex and the supplements have secondary objectives in (well, the new 9th ed ones anyway – hard luck Ultrafailures) and because of how they’re worded you can actually take one of each. We’ll cover the individual Chapter secondaries in their own supplement articles.

The ones in this book are:

  • Codex Warfare – Purge the Enemy – you score up to 5pts for each enemy unit you kill with Heavy or Grenade weapons while your army is in the Devastator doctrine, up to 5pts for each enemy unit you kill with Rapid Fire or Assault weapons in the Tactical doctrine, and up to 5pts for each enemy unit you kill with melee or Pistol weapons in the Assault doctrine
  • Shock Tactics – Battlefield Supremacy – score 3pts at the end of the battle round if you control an objective that your opponent controlled at the start of the battle round
  • Oaths of Moment – No Mercy, No Respite – score 2pts at the end of the battle round if you have a unit wholly within 6″ of the centre of the table, score 1pt at the end of the battle round if you killed any enemy MONSTER, CHARACTER, or VEHICLE unit this battle round with an ADEPTUS ASTARTES unit, score 1pt at the end of the battle round if none of your units failed a Morale check or Fell Back this turn

These are basically listed in reading order in the codex but also in order from bad to good.

Codex Warfare is dogshit with far too many strings attached. Firstly your opponent needs to have 15+ units on the table to begin with, and then you need to kill precisely 5 on turn 1 (Adaptive Strategy doesn’t help you here as the requirement is what your army is in), and then you need to kill units with precisely the right weapon type at each stage. Your capacity to miss kills with the right weapon type is just too great for this to be any good, especially with the timing restriction in place as well.

Shock Tactics isn’t great either. If you think you’re going to be trading objectives a lot then it’s possibly an ok pick, though it’s in the same category as Linebreaker and Engage on All Fronts which are both easier picks most of the time. On turn 1 there’s going to be a lot of times this is unscorable especially if you go first and need to flip an opponent of their backfield or deployment zone objectives, never mind maps where none of the objectives are in deployment zones and your opponent potentially isn’t even holding one at the beginning of the game – or even if you go second but the ones you’re attacking aren’t ones they hold at the start. There’s every possibility that by taking this you start thinking in terms of scoring secondary points (by flipping objectives that they held at the start of the round) and taking your eye off the primary.

Oaths of Moment, then, has a lot of expectation placed on it. However, this one is genuinely good, for a couple of reasons. The first is simply that you have 4pts on offer every turn and therefore can score a up to 20pts in a game – which means that you don’t have to get a perfect run on it to max out at the secondary cap of 15. This gives you a little leeway not to have to worry about meeting every condition every turn – you can catch up later, or have built a lead already that means you can take your foot off the pedal a bit in later rounds. Second, the objectives are all reasonably easy to meet. Just holding mid is very possible for Marines, especially since you can deploy scouting units out into the mid zone to ensure you get it turn one; even better on maps where there’s a mid-table objective that you want to hold anyway. Monster, character, or vehicle is a fairly generous selection of unit types to kill – though also the part that’s most dependent on your opponent’s list, and it’s 1pt per round no matter how many you kill, so it’s easy to run out of points-bearing units if you sweep a flank or something early. Finally there’s the Morale and Fall Back bit. This is a little bit restrictive especially if playing one of the Chapters where Fall Back and X is part of their strengths, but it’s a choice you can make as to whether points or greater strategy matter at that moment. Morale is generally not that big of a concern for Marines, especially with MSU builds, though it’s slightly moreso now that ATSKNF has changed. Overall the flexibility is what makes this great – you have a bunch of fairly easy conditions to meet and the pressure is off a bit to try and meet all of them all the time. It’s also in a fairly weak category, which helps.

Datasheets

There are a number of common army rules that many or all of your units have, as well as tweaking a few bits of list-building, which are defined at the very start of the “Datasheets” section of the codex. Most of these will be quite familiar to experienced players of Space Marines, but they’ve had a few tweaks between editions, so make sure you read them over carefully.

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, 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

A simple rule to begin with – Space Marines never take modifiers to Combat Attrition tests, meaning that if they fail a Morale check additional models only run away on a roll of a 1. This is a significant change from 8th, and an easy one to miss.

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 (except Centurions),
  • OR the firing model is a TERMINATOR or BIKER

Note that Centurions used to always Rapid Fire as per point 3, but are now completely exempted from Bolter Discipline and can’t benefit from it at all – they Rapid Fire like any other unit. Dreadnoughts also lost the capability, which mostly doesn’t matter but is a bit of a shame for the Ironclad which briefly had at least some argument to mount its hurricane bolter.

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 and Bikes 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 (discussed in their individual articles). The most powerful and obvious application is to Heavy weapons – all of your biggest guns gaining an extra point of AP at 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.

Deployment Abilities

Four key Marine deployment abilities have been codified in the front of the book, so that rather than each datasheet having to spell it out they can instead refer back here. This is a far saner way of organising things. The abilities are as follows:

Combat Squads

At the start of deployment, before any units have been set up, a unit with Combat Squads that contains its maximum possible number of models (i.e. a Tactical Squad which contains 10 models, and no fewer) can choose to split into two units containing as equal a number of models as possible. Helpful if you want to take a large unit in some scenarios but two smaller ones would be beneficial for other match-ups – you can put the big unit on your list and then choose to split it depending on opponent. Particularly powerful with Deathwatch because of their unusual unit compositions.

Death From Above/Teleport Strike

Ok technically there’s five deployment abilities here but these two are functionally identical. In both cases, units with this ability can set up in Reinforcements instead of being deployed on the table. In the Reinforcements step of your Movement phase you can choose to set up such a unit anywhere on the table that is more than 9″ from any enemy models.

Concealed Positions

During deployment, you can set up these units anywhere on the battlefield more than 9″ away from the enemy deployment zone and any enemy models.

Outflank

During deployment, instead of setting this unit up on the battlefield, it can outflank and deploy in the Reinforcements step of the Movement phase – it can set up anywhere on the table more than 9″ away from enemy models and also wholly within 6″ of any battlefield edge.

Non-Codex Compliant Chapters

There are a few restrictions on which Chapters can take which units. These are as follows:

  1. You cannot select Grey Knights or Legion of the Damned when nominating which Chapter a unit is from. Grey Knights have their own rules and Legion of the Damned have been banished to the shadow realm.
  2. Black Templars cannot take LIBRARIAN units at all.
  3. Dark Angels cannot take STERNGUARD VETERAN SQUAD or VANGUARD VETERAN SQUAD units, nor can any of their successor chapters.
  4. Deathwatch cannot take any ASSAULT SQUAD, ATTACK BIKE SQUAD, BIKE SQUAD, DEVASTATOR SQUAD, STERNGUARD VETERAN SQUAD, TACTICAL SQUAD, or SCOUT units. They’re a chapter of veterans, those losers aren’t elite enough.
  5. Space Wolves cannot take APOTHECARY, ASSAULT SQUAD, DEVASTATOR SQUAD, STERNGUARD VETERAN SQUAD, TACTICAL SQUAD, or VANGUARD VETERAN SQUAD units, nor can their successors. They have their own versions of those units, which are special and drink mjod.

Units

Finally, after what feels like much to-do, we reach the units section – the actual models you’re going to be putting on the table. Space Marines have altogether too many datasheets. Nearly everything in the book has at least some sort of potential use, so we’re going to be spending a lot of time here. We’re also going to be compressing a few datasheets – there’s no real 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. We will also cover the Forge World options in their relevant sections, except the characters which will either slot in with their Chapter or will be in a separate “Forge World Successors” article, and the Lords of War, which are all bad and don’t need further consideration except for the Astraeus. It’s worth noting the new Martial Legacy rule here, which makes “Relic” units cost you 1 CP for each one you take – a meaningful sacrifice to take a single unit. We will not cover anything from Legends.

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 chainsword 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> CORE 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 his boltgun for anything on the Combi-weapons, Melee weapons, or Pistols lists, or swap his chainsword for a relic blade or a weapon from the Melee weapons list, or have a storm shield instead of his chainsword. He can also take a jump pack (which also allows him to deep strike), increasing his move to 12″ and giving him FLY. There are literally dozens of possible combinations of wargear available.

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. It was formerly very common for either a jump pack or bike Captain to take a thunder hammer and storm shield as a way to get a cheap, efficient melee killer on the table, either arriving from deep strike or just turbo-boosting forwards on the bike. In 9th this is more expensive and less powerful, but there’s a great alternative in the form of the slash Captain – still taking the storm shield, but carrying just a basic chainsword to swap for the Teeth of Terra relic, unlocking bonus attacks and a very competitive melee weapon for a minimal cost.

You can alternatively take a Terminator Captain. The Cataphractii datasheet from the previous book seems to have disappeared entirely from this one and is presumably meant to now be represented by the generic Terminator, which gains a few options to represent this. The Terminator loses an inch of movement but gains +1W and a 2+ save.

Towering over the Firstborn guys, there’s the Primaris Captains. The default Primaris Captain has the same statline as above but with +1 W +1 A. Primaris Captains have a truly bewildering datasheet with a bunch of different mutually-exclusive wargear loadouts which they can swap between, to represent the various different models GW have released for a “Primaris Captain” which are in no way interchangeable with each other, a problem only exacerbated by the Indomitus Captain (whose loadout is honestly pretty great) and the inclusion of a Dark Angels-exclusive Captain. 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. There’s also now a “Captain with master-crafted heavy bolt rifle” which is an incredibly awkward way to describe what is, basically, a Gravis Captain with a gun instead of his melee kit. It’s nice for the option to exist but with all that the Captain can offer, it’s hard to see what extra capability this gives. It’s also a bit weird to look at the Primaris Captain datasheet with all of its different loadouts and wonder why that exists but “Gravis Captain” has two completely separate datasheets for a simple weapon swap. Such are the ways of Games Workshop.

Sneaking in at the end, there’s the Phobos Captain, with no changes in statline from the regular Primaris guy 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.

As previously described in the Chapter Command section, a single Captain can be upgraded to a Chapter Master, unlocking a new ability to give a CORE unit full re-rolls, as well as an extra Warlord trait and relic.

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 made their first appearance in decades in 8th edition and have now multipled with a vengeance. Their statline is a bit worse than a Captain’s, though in 9th edition they now have both BS2+ and WS+ instead of just the latter, and they have a unique aura which allows CORE 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, Reiver, 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).

An interesting new dimension in 9th is the Reiver Lieutenant, previously just a gear swap on the “Lieutenant in Phobos Armour” datasheet and now broken out as a unit in his own right. The Reiver LT is fairly mediocre in a fight and his gun is merely ok – the reason he stands out is that he shares both the REIVER and SHOCK GRENADE keywords with the Reiver unit, and therefore can access two stratagems that use those. Reivers themselves are still just kind of bad, but the stratagems – Terror Troops, which lets you turn off enemy obsec and potentially cause units to fail actions, and Shock and Awe, which lets you prevent Overwatch and make enemy units -1 to hit – are pretty good, and being able to access them is really helpful. He still brings the same aura as a regular Primaris Lieutenant and costs no more points, and a fair number of factions can at least plausibly give him a relic weapon to replace his knife for real melee capability if they want to, so he’s very much worth a look over the regular guys.

Primaris LT

Primaris LT with power sword. Credit: Corrode

Chaplains

Chaplains have emerged from the long night of being mediocre combat characters without much else going on and are now firmly established as all-around great picks in the Space Marine army, thanks in part to an excellent relic (Benediction of Fury) which makes them actually dangerous in combat, and to the introduction of Litanies of Battle, which gives them enormous utility – we talked about these already in their section above. A bold new addition to the Primaris line is the Primaris Chaplain on Bike, an absolute beast of a unit which upgrades the Chaplain to a mighty 7 wounds, gives him a huge base for the aura litanies, and top speed for shooting into whatever zone most needs a buff at any moment. These have immediately made a competitive splash, for good reason.

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, 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. One thing that strongly limits the power of Librarians in 9th edition is the requirement to note powers on your list instead of picking them at the table – a lot of the “utility” powers which are not auto-picks but had play against certain builds are simply non-viable. Also, Marines don’t really have the capacity to mass psykers to really dominate the phase, instead usually picking up just one of these guys to cast a couple of key powers. While that’s certainly still valid – especially with the defensive power of Psychic Fortress – there is the Abhor the Witch secondary to consider, where against psychic-heavy armies you can easily pick up points as long as you don’t have any psykers of your own. A general-purpose Librarian that can lock you out of a powerful secondary choice is a hard choice to make. The other slight issue is that where you do see Librarians show up it’s very often the special character versions – particularly Tigurius or Mephiston in their respective chapters, the former because he is just better at casting powers than other Librarians and brings the powerful Prescience ability, and the latter because the Blood Angels psychic lore has a lot of things that buff a Librarian’s melee output and he is far better placed to make use of that than a standard one.

With all that said, Librarians aren’t actually bad – you just want a clear plan for what they’re going to do, and to pick one accordingly. 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. 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.

Phobos Librarian Credit: Chris Cowie

Techmarines

Techmarines have surprisingly big changes in the 9th codex. First up is the obvious point that the new Primaris Techmarine exists, embiggening this pivotal part of the Chapter command. The traditional Techmarine is still here and still has an extensive range of wargear options, but the Primaris one has a fixed and unusual loadout – a forge bolter (basically an Assault heavy bolter that can still be fired if he shoots his pistol or throws a grenade), a grav-pistol, an Omnissian power axe, a servo-arm, and mechadendrites. It’s a lot of stuff on a single guy, and Primarisising him up to W5 A4 makes him a surprisingly decent combatant, as does having BS2+ with a couple of reasonable guns. The key abilities for Techmarines though are the repair – d3 wounds back for a target vehicle, now extended to a 3″ range instead of the former 1″, and buffable to a flat 3 with the Master of the Forge upgrade – and the new Awaken the Machine Spirits which allows a target vehicle to be given +1 to hit with ranged attacks in the Command phase. Unlike many other abilities this isn’t limited to CORE, so it’s a great way to buff the effectiveness of your non-CORE vehicles and gives the Techmarine a unique role here – although of course he can still do it to Dreadnoughts, who are probably better picks a lot of the time.

Salamanders Primaris Techmarine. Credit: Rockfish

Salamanders Primaris Techmarine. Credit: Rockfish

Damocles Command Rhino (FW)

A Rhino that is also an HQ, hands out Rites of Battle and Tactical Precision to units within 6″ as long as a model with those rules is on the table, refunds a CP on a 5+ each Command phase, and can only be taken once per detachment. It can only carry a single INFANTRY CHARACTER and no JUMP PACK, TERMINATOR, PRIMARIS, WULFEN, or CENTURION models. It has no guns but can take a hunter-killer missile. A bizarre little unit – at 90pts it’s probably not really good, but it is kind of funny.

Troops

Tactical Squad

The venerable Tactical Squad has been around since the very first iteration of Space Marines, and for years they’ve been just kind of there. No longer, however – Tactical Squads are back. The new book finally takes a look at these guys and decides that no, they really weren’t good enough. They finally gained a second Wound, giving them the same resilience as their bigger Primaris brothers, and the buffs to weapons – particularly meltas and heavy bolters – mean that their capacity to MSU and take one is actually kind of relevant now. They’ve also gained thanks to a couple of factors external to them, primarily that Scout Squads are no longer Troops. This makes them the cheapest Troops choice available to a Space Marines army, which has a value all of its own, and therefore they’re no longer competing with a unit which was simultaneously cheaper and more flexible for the “just throw these guys in to meet detachment requirements” position. Melta bombs changing from an optional piece of bad wargear to a pretty good stratagem based off the MELTA BOMBS keyword (which they have!) also helps them out, since you now longer have to buy an upgrade for the Sergeant on the long shot that it ever mattered – instead, if they’re in a position to use the bombs, great, and if they’re not, you haven’t lost anything. Are they the most exciting unit in the book? No. Do they really live up to the fluff while boltguns are still kind of peashooters? No. But at least you can take this iconic unit without feeling like a god damn idiot for including them.

Intercessor Squad

And so to the bigger, beefier version of a Tactical Marine, the Intercessor. The difference between Intercessors and Tacticals has shrunk a bit in 9th, with the latter gaining an extra wound and therefore being just as resilient for “sit at the back and camp out on an objective” type duties. The main difference now is offensive – Intercessors can’t take special or heavy weapons with the solitary exception of the auxiliary grenade launcher, but their three types of bolt rifle are all better guns than the ordinary bolter. 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 is Heavy 1, S4, AP-2, D2.

With all those options, there’s a few different ways you can run Intercessors. A cheap squad of stalkers isn’t a bad way to sit something in the backfield which might offer some reasonable lethality. Bolt rifle or auto bolt rifles depend on your Chapter and exactly what role you see the Intercessors playing, and you have a full suite of melee options for the Sergeant to support units going forward. For most chapters auto bolt rifles are marginally more effective than the regular kind, and allow you the freedom of advancing and firing if you need to get to objectives and the like – and obviously they interact incredibly well with White Scars and their Chapter tactic which allows both Advance and charge and also firing Assault weapons without penalty after advancing. Ultramarines can get a lot out of regular bolt rifles as they are always able to rapid fire them even if on the move for a unit in their Chapter doctrine.

A little bonus for Intercessors that separates them from Tactical Marines is the Rapid Fire stratagem, which is pricey at 2CP but allows a unit to double shoot. For a big block of Intercessors putting out 40 bolt rifle or 60 auto bolter shots is great horde-clearing capacity, especially if under the effect of a Chapter Master buff or similar. The other obvious point of separation is that Intercessors can take advance of Transhuman Physiology, whereas Tactical Squads can’t as they are insufficiently genetically enhanced, or something. This extra support can make them tougher and shootier than their Tactical equivalents even if they’re paying a couple of points more for the privilege, and the extra Attack makes them more capable as a go-forward unit that can get in the mid board and scrap with light infantry.

Assault Intercessor Squad

Naturally Space Marines couldn’t lose a Troops choice without getting two more, and so now they have six. That’s nearly as many units as are in the entire Harlequins codex. First of the new guys is the Assault Intercessor Squad, neatly answering the question “what if you wanted your only plan to be melee.” These trade bolt rifles for heavy bolt pistols (i.e. 18″ AP-1 bolt pistols) and the shiny new Astartes chainsword, which gives both an extra attack and also AP-1. That’s about it – these are Intercessors without the gun but with more punch. They’re also a point cheaper, and are the only unit which can access Honour the Chapter – so at least in theory they can really throw down. These are very much Fine, and potentially scary in Blood Angels (where +1 to wound makes them a lot more vicious) and White Scars (where Assault Doctrine can make them AP-2 D2, which starts to scar even heavyweight units). Something that is surprisingly deft about Space Marines this edition is that all the Troops choices seem to be pretty much balanced with each other, and basically all of them are showing up in lists and seem to be pulling their weight.

Heavy Intercessor Squad

The exception to “showing up in lists” is the Heavy Intercessor Squad, but the reason is just as likely to be “because you can’t actually buy them yet” as anything else. At time of writing the codex has been out for about two months, and as yet these have neither come out nor even have a definite release date. It is very Games Workshop to have a core unit just not be available to buy because some marketing genius decided they were going to use it to promote a Kill Team box in March or something equally ridiculous.

That aside, based purely on profiles Heavy Intercessors look pretty good. They’re a significant defensive upgrade from regular Intercessors, gaining both T5 and W3, and they’re 8ppm more – so the equivalent points of Heavy Intercessors to regular Intercessors has 1 more wound at a higher Toughness. Their guns are all basically the same as the Intercessor ones but with 6″ more range and Strength 5, which makes them just that bit punchier against other Marines, Custodians, and the like. Unlike Intercessors they can also take really meaty heavy weapons – 1 in every 5 (in a max unit size of 10) can take a heavy bolter equivalent appropriate to their gun, either a regular heavy bolter for heavy bolt rifles, a hellstorm heavy bolter for hellstorm bolt rifles (the auto bolter equivalent), or an executor heavy bolter for the executor bolt rifle (the stalker equivalent). Until these are released to the wider world it’s hard to comment on their competitive use, but based purely on the datasheet it seems likely these are going to fit nicely into lists wanting to build a chunky firebase, and being tough with 3 wounds can make for a solid core of models that are juust horrible to shift surrounding an Apothecary.

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. This gives them great utility for setting up on the table wherever they’re needed most. They are quite pricey – the most expensive Troops choice – 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 particularly worth taking – 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 have the Smokescreen keyword which allows them to be -1 to hit for 1CP, key for keeping them alive in the early going.

One very neat trick on Infiltrators now is the helix adept, which used to be like a sort of rubbish Apothecary and now has the far more powerful ability to count the first failed save per turn as damage 0. It costs 10pts, but gives them enviable survivability – a canny opponent can try to draw it out with weaker guns, but they run the risk then of wasting them on not actually hurting you at all.

Firepower wise they’re a little worse than their comparator units, firing marksman 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. You want the forward deploy, the deep strike denial, and the board control they offer.

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 can choose to ignore any or all hit modifiers (a mild boost to their old wording where you had to ignore positive modifiers as well) and cover, and they’re also packing paired combat blades which give them a flat AP-1, helpful for cutting down light infantry and the like. They don’t have the Omni-scramblers rule like Infiltrators, but they can still infiltrate and keep the SMOKESCREEN keyword rule. They can also take a haywire mine, which does mortal wounds to enemy models that charge them once per battle, which is cute. They’re a bit of a mixed bag of a unit. That said, they’re cheaper than Infiltrators and can still 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

Scout Squad

After years of being the second Troops choice in Marines, Scouts have now been unceremoniously dumped into the Elites slot, presumably to give Tactical Squads a little room to breathe and also to stop Marines having access to a truly cheap slot-filler choice. It’s a slightly odd placement for them (they’re trainees – why are they “Elites”) but whatever.

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 (or an Astartes chainsword for the Sergeant) can still rock 16 attacks on the charge (or even when getting charged), which isn’t bad for jobs like clearing chaff, and in White Scars and Blood Angels they can even potentially be a bit scary.

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 +2 to their 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. They also retain the option to forward deploy using Concealed Positions.

One key addition to Scouts in 9th edition is the Outflank ability. This allows them to be set up as Reinforcements and then arrive within 6″ of any table edge, for free – more powerful and cheaper than Strategic Reserves, which both costs points and restricts where you can come in. This makes them very powerful as part of a game plan to lean on Deploy Scramblers as a secondary objective, as they don’t get stuck on some maps and they’re harder to zone out, and they’re cheap enough that just turning up and dropping the scrambler is worthwhile.

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. Apothecaries gained impressive new abilities in the 9th edition codex. First up they now come as standard with a 3″ aura that gives out a 6+ Feel No Pain, which adds to the resilience of everything around them. Additionally, they can utilise the Combat Restoratives ability to heal up to d3 wounds on a unit – or a flat 3 on two different units if they’re a Chief Apothecary with the Selfless Healer Warlord trait. There is also a 1CP stratagem (or 0CP for the Chief) called Combat Revival which allows them to resurrect one dead INFANTRY or BIKER model at full wounds. This is an enormously powerful capability to have, especially with the number of powerful, elite infantry a Space Marines army puts on the table. An especially hilarious use of this is with the Invader ATV squad, where they can resurrect a whole-ass quad bike for its full 8 wounds.

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 four different versions of these now – the regular Marine version, a Terminator, a Primaris one, as well as a Bladeguard one who in an ironic twist actually carries no blade at all. 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. There’s two key buffs to these in this codex – the first is the Chapter Ancient options, which can give them an aura of Objective Secured, and for the regular Marine version only there’s also the “Command Squad” rule which lets you take one without filling up an Elites slot if you have a unit of Company Veterans in your army first. Marines have a lot of good Elites choices now, so having slotless things is great. The Bladeguard Ancient has the additional rule that Bladeguard units within 6″ get +1 to hit, which is neat, and now he can make them obsec too he looks pretty good.

In a complex series of overlapping keywords, any Company Ancient or Primaris Ancient can be Wolf Guard for SW, Bladeguard Ancients can be Wolf Guard or fit into Dark Angels as Deathwing, and the Terminator Ancient can be Wolf Guard or uniquely has the Deathwing Command Squad rule, similar to the Company Ancient version except that he matches up with Deathwing Command Squads – a unit not actually found in this book but instead in the Dark Angels Index and presumably soon Codex.

Company Champion

The Company Champion is death on legs, with no other role in life but to run up and punch enemy characters as hard as possible. Like the Ancient, you can take a slotless one as long as you have a squad of Company Veterans in the army too. This guy can also be Wolf Guard if he wants to be. The Champion comes with a couple of unique abilities, including Honour or Death which lets him Heroically Intervene 6″, and also not have to finish within range of the nearest enemy unit – he has to do that or within 6″ of an enemy CHARACTER, so if he wants he can skip past a unit and into that guy instead. He also has Martial Superiority, which allows him to fight first if within Engagement Range of an enemy character. Upgrading him to a Chapter Champion as described in the Chapter Command section makes him even deadlier. The Champion feels less essential than lots of things – he’s basically just a guided missile for taking out enemy characters – but he’s really good at that now and if you want an additional melee beatstick for your list, you can’t go far wrong with this guy.

Company Veterans

Company Veterans aka the other guys from the old Command Squad. But wait – they’re now 2 wounds each. And they have an extensive wargear list to pick from. These are a surprisingly great squad, especially since they’re a minimum size of 2, with tons of flexibility. You can take them in cheap sets of 2 for “stand about on points” duty or “flank in and deploy a scrambler” duty or “just kind of get in the way” duty. You can also go deeper on them – they can come in squads of up to 5 and take basically any gun or melee weapon you want them to, as well as being able to take storm shields. A very cool recent development is White Scars Company Veterans with storm shields and lightning claws, which are cheap and incredibly deadly for their cost. You might also have them bailing out of a Termite drill and popping meltas into something. If you’ve ever looked at 30k Breachers and thought they’d be great in 40k, well, here you go.

The other link in the chain to the Champion and Ancient being slotless if you have a unit of these is that one of these can take up no slot if you have a Captain in the detachment too. That means you can have a classic “Command Squad” of Marines that takes up no slots at all – a real bonus in 9th.

Servitors

Servitors in most respects are basically trash, but they serve a very important role in the Marine codex – they are 30pts and therefore the cheapest single Thing you can take. If you really don’t want to devote any more points than is necessary to pressing the button on a backfield scrambler, or holding an objective at the back while your army pushes forwards, or you want trash drops to draw out opposing units before you really commit anything that matters, Servitors are here. They no longer perform the admirable job of being a tax unit for Forge World Relic options, but as warm bodies to stand about on a point, they’re fab.

Bladeguard Veterans

Now here’s a unit that fucks. Introduced in the Indomitus box, Bladeguard come in units of 3-6, and they are packed with power – each one is 3 wounds 3 attacks, and carries a master-crafted power sword (making them S5, AP-3, D2 in combat) and a storm shield, for an effective 2+/4++. They also carry heavy bolt pistols, and the sergeant can if he wishes take a neo-volkite pistol too. The usage of these is pretty simple – they are efficiently costed for what they do, and what they do is charge into melee and hit things really hard over and over. They can either be taken mounted in an Impulsor to push them forwards in a somewhat protected fashion, or more often in 9th they just walk up the board. They get really silly in White Scars, where they can be damage 3 with the swords, but they’ve shown up in basically every Marine Chapter – they’re tough, cheap, solid at what they do, and can benefit from Transhuman Physiology to make themselves extremely unpleasant to shift. They can also be either Deathwing or Wolf Guard where it matters.

Veteran Intercessor Squad

A semi-new arrival, these replace the old stratagem from Vigilus with a datasheet version that sits in Elites. They aren’t well-served by the transition, though. They can take either the regular Intercessor loadouts or swap to heavy bolt pistols and Astartes chainswords for the Assault Intercessor version, and gain an extra Attack each, but lose Objective Secured (which is admittedly replaceable in this book). They can happily still shoot twice with Rapid Fire, which includes them, but not fight again with Honour the Chapter, which doesn’t. They are, basically, fine, and it’s a nice thing to have represented if you want to use them, but they’re also pretty nonessential.

Vanguard Veteran Squad

The fighty Veterans. Vanguard have taken a huge lift in this codex and they are all over top lists. The reasons why are pretty simple – they got an extra wound for a minimal cost increase, which makes them much more likely to stay on the board, and also lightning claws are cheap and now give a flat +1 attack instead of requiring a pair. That means you can take Vanguard Veterans with a claw and a shield and have them be 4 attacks each re-rolling wounds, while also being 2 wounds each behind a 2+/4++. Claws aren’t the only way to go, though – we’ve also seen them taken with power fists, sometimes still with thunder hammers, or even with a relic blade on the Sergeant. The general improvement in Marine melee weapons has done these a ton of favours, as has the improvement in their defensive capabilities. The other key piece of the puzzle is Commanding Oratory and the bike Chaplain – you can basically guarantee having +2 to charge, and with the CP to re-roll a charge roll (or any of the many re-roll charge abilities throughout the Marine range) that means an 83% chance of getting into melee from deep strike. A unit which has gone from the edge of viability to firmly into the ranks of competitive units thanks to some minor but critical changes.

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. Sadly these didn’t get quite the boost that Vanguard did from this book, and to some extent their role is superceded by Company Veterans, who can also take whatever specials they want and then take a storm shield on top. That said, these are fine, they can come out of a drop pod or drill 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.

Judiciar

The Judiciar forgot to bring one of his shoulderpads to battle, but that’s ok, because he did remember his magic hourglass and skull face. Another Indomitus arrival, the Judiciar is a sub-Chaplain character, who is absent the Litanies but instead brings a bad attitude, an executioner relic blade, and the Tempermortis – the aforementioned magic hourglass. This took some interesting changes from the original Indomitus datasheet to the codex version, as it’s now range 3″ and makes it so a unit is not eligible to fight (an important new distinction as this wording means it’s not possible to use Counter-offensive to “break out” of the effect). Overall it’s a nerf for him – when the range was 6″ it was relatively easy to keep him defensively safe and still utilise the Tempermortis, but the majority of opponents are wary enough of heroic interventions not to put their units within 3″ of a character in the first place, and so the effect is a lot weaker. On his own merits he’s a decent combatant, striking at S7 AP-3 D2 with a weapon that also does a mortal wound on a 6 to wound, but after a lot of hue and cry at the start of 9th this guy has slipped down the power rankings a bit.

Reiver Squad

These are bad and you should not take them. The redheaded step-child of Space Marine units, they just don’t offer enough of anything to be worth consideration, and the things that might have made them worth at least a second look in 9th ed are now more capably done by the Reiver LT.

Aggressor Squad

Aggressors are the original Gravis unit, the equivalent of a Priamris Terminator. They tote either a pair of flamestorm gauntlets or boltstorm gauntlets and fragstorm grenade launchers (everything is inclement weather with these guys). The flamestorms are now just flamers, whereas boltstorms are 18″ range Assault 3 boltguns. The gauntlets also function in melee as power fists. The fragstorm is 18″ Assault D6 and is also basically a boltgun. Aggressors were absolute horrors of early 9th Salamanders lists, but they took a couple of key nerfs in this book – they are no longer able to double shoot or shoot and Advance without penalty – without any change in points. They’re not horrible, and we’ve seen one or two lists using them, but they’re a bit of a far cry from what they were. Dropping them into White Scars where they can outflank and charge and basically treating them as a handy melee unit that happens to have ok anti-infantry shooting is probably the way forward.

Crimson Fists Aggressors

Crimson Fists Aggressors. Credit: Corrode

Terminator Squad/Relic Terminators

Terminators are good again! Rejoice! Gaining 3 wounds gave these guys a significant boost, as did Centurions getting turbo-nerfed out of occupying the same heavy infantry role as them. They also benefit from access to chainfists, which now have a unique rule – they’re damage d3 normally but become flat 3 against vehicles. A fun new inclusion for Terminators is the teleport homer ability. This now, once per battle, allows them to be removed from the table and then in the Reinforcements step of your next Movement phase they can be redeployed anywhere on the table more than 9″ from enemy units and within 3″ of a friendly <CHAPTER> model. This is a huge mobility boost for them, letting them zip about the table to where the action is.

The old Cataphractii and Tartaros Terminator datasheets have now been squashed down into a singular Relic Terminators datasheet. These can access a medley of all the equipment either of those two squads could take before, and can be mix and matched freely. This is some neat flexibility which lets them break the mold of what you can do with Terminators normally.

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, going all the way down to a 1+ armour save. Assault Terminators have started creeping back into lists – Ben Cherwien has done particularly well with them in Black Templars – either as a brick of tough to shift wounds, or with a mix of storm shield toting guys to catch the bullets and lightning claws to throw out some horrific offensive power.

Centurion Assault Squad

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Assault Centurions were the absolute terrors of 8th edition, showing up all over the place as either midfield beaters or more commonly in the infamous Raven Guard army which take a full 18 of them to drop in from deep strike, blast everything around them with gross piles of dice from flamers, and then charge into melee. Excluded from Bolter Discipline, and non-CORE, Centurions of all kinds have taken a battering in 9th, possibly deservedly. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, at least for the Assault version. They are still deadly in melee, still tough at T5 W4 2+ save, and their flamers are now 12″ range by default which lets them throw out a bit more offense without having to take advantage of Long Ranged Marksmen, especially out of deep strike. Both the Space Marine players on the winning teams at the Gladiator Gaming Teams Event in November 2020 utilised units of them, one big block in a White Scars army and a smaller set of 3 in Iron Hands, which shows promising signs of life – they’re no longer something you’d build an entire army around, but in the right circumstance they still have something to offer.

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 9th edition. The Venerable gets an improved WS and BS of 2+ and a 6+ Feel No Pain, which is nice. The days of the old Mortis or “Rifledread” configurations are long over, and you are now restricted to what’s left in the plastic kits – 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. Basic Dreadnoughts are ok, Venerables are a bit better thanks to BS2+, they’re both kind of overshadowed by Contemptors and Redemptors, or the Forge World Dreadnoughts. That said, like a lot of units in Space Marines, 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. It’s also worth noting that all Dreadnoughts got Duty Eternal as a datasheet ability in this book, which means they take -1 Damage – really helpful for keeping them on the table longer. All Dreadnoughts (except the Leviathan and Deredeo) are also CORE, which is a great benefit to them.

Imperial Fists Venerable Dreadnought

Imperial Fists Venerable Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Contemptor Dreadnought/Relic Contemptor Dreadnought (FW)

The Codex and Forge World Contemptor Dreadnoughts are now equivalent in statline, which in essence means that the Forge World version has lost a step or three. All Contemptors dropped to BS and WS 3+ and lost a wound compared to 8th edition (or went all the way down to 9 wounds from 12, for the relic), which is less of a nerf than it initially sounds – it also takes them out of the range of units which degrade, so they no longer lose effectiveness as they take damage. There is also the Iron Hands-specific consideration that being 9 wounds now means you can use March of the Ancients to make them characters, allowing them to utilise Look Out Sir. Contemptors take a significant buff from the multi-melta changes, and like other Dreads from gaining always-on Duty Eternal, and are now a cheap and effective midfield push unit. The Relic version costs you 1CP now because of the Martial Legacy rule, and its default loadout is straight worse than the codex vesion – you’re paying 1CP to get the exact same loadout. However, it has a much wider range of guns and the ability to dual-wield them if you want to, can take a chainfist, and can mount a cyclone missile launcher, giving you a powerful firebase unit to work with.

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 years. 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.

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 macro plasma incinerator for Gun, and a Redemptor fist for Punch. It can swap the flamer for an onslaught gatling cannon, swap the macro plasma incinerator for a heavy onslaught, the fragstorms for 2 storm bolters, and also take an Icarus rocket pod in case you didn’t have enough dice to roll. Redemptors got a big boost from 9th, with always-on Duty Eternal, staying reasonably cheap, and two key weapons changes – the macro plasma is now damage 2/3 rather than 1/2, and the Redemptor fist does a mighty d3+3 damage rather than d6. These make them far more capable of dealing out real damage in both shooting and melee, and tougher to take off the board a well. They also make ancillary gains from being CORE – and therefore generally more capable than other vehicles since they can utilise auras – and Psychic Fortress, as a friendly Librarian can give them a 5+ invulnerable save to mitigate one of their key weaknesses. They also benefit from the smaller boards, allowing them to use their mixed shooting and melee capability more effectively. Overall, a unit that has gone from mediocre to great, and we’re already seeing lists with 2-3 of these appear in the game.

Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought

Imperial Fists Redemptor Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Invictor Tactical Warsuit

What if a Dreadnought but, for some reason, crewed by a regular Marine (not even dead!) and stealthy? Yeah it’s 15ft tall and a robot but it can still be stealthy, ok. The only profile trade the Invictor makes compared to its cousin the Redemptor Dreadnought 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. Invictors were absolute terrors of 8th edition, but in 9th they’re a lot more pedestrian – unlike normal Dreadnoughts they’re not CORE, and they’re now quite expensive for what they’re capable of. As forward-deploying bullies they still have some usage, as they can apply significant pressure to an opponent from turn 1 onwards.

Deredeo Dreadnought (FW)

The Deredeo is a funny old Dreadnought. It’s only 12 wounds now, and mounts a bunch of unique weapons – the anvillus autocannon battery, the hellfire plasma carronade, the volkite falconet battery (new for 9th edition), the arachnus heavy lascannon battery, and then possibly also the aiolos missile launcher or boreas air defence missiles. It also has a twin heavy bolter or flamer, because why not. For some reason it took a huge points hike in Chapter Approved 2020 before becoming a bit more normal in the new Imperial Armour, and at its new points it feels at least ok though it is no longer BS2+ and can’t access re-rolls except in Iron Hands, where you can use March of the Ancients to make it a character and then utilise Chapter Master on it. It also no longer has access to the atomantic pavaise to hand on invulnerable saves – this concept seems to have gone completely.

As Dreadnoughts go it’s fine, and the plasma looks especially spicy when overcharging at Heavy 6, S8, AP-3, D3 – a potentially brutal assault on other Space Marine armies if heavy on Gravis units.

Leviathan Dreadnought (FW)

Along with a slot change from Heavy Support to Elites comes a reduction in power for the Leviathan. As well as dropping to WS3+/BS3+ and not getting CORE (and therefore access to re-rolls), its defensive profile has dropped from T8 W14 2+/4++ to T7 W14 2+/5++. It does gain Duty Eternal in line with other Dreadnoughts, which is something. By far the most common weapon of the old version – the storm cannon – also reduces in potency, from the old 10 shot profile to 8 shots, and -1 AP instead of -2, though it does gain 36″ range from the old 24″. This is a big series of blows, but the good news is that the Leviathan also sees a significant points drop – from 300+ in the old world to 220-240 or so here. It also no longer loses attacks for not having CC weapons, so it’s far more viable to try out a version with a gun and a fist. The storm cannon isn’t the only thing to get changes – the cyclonic melta lance has the new +2 damage at half range rule (though a fairly short range of 18″), while the grav-flux bombard becomes far more ordinary and is now 24″ range, but Heavy 2D3 and Blast along with being flat damage 2 or damage 3 against models with a 3+ armour. Since it’s also free, that’s a tempting profile – in a metagame full of Marines, the flat 3 bombard looks very spicy, particularly for repelling plasma Inceptors and Eradicators and the like.

Fast Attack

Bike Squad

Bikes sit in an odd spot in the 9th Edition Marine Codex where they’re kind of fine, but competing for slots against a large number of units that are actively extremely good and thus don’t quite get there. Getting the bump up to three wounds is very nice, but there’s nothing they do better than the wide variety of other fast, moderately durable units. If you do take them, you should almost always swap their bolt pistols out for Astartes chainswords so that they have a bit more heft on the charge. While you do theoretically have the alternative of buying them some special weapons, at that point you likely push their cost up to where you may as well take Attack Bikes.

Assault Squad

Go back to the Vanguard Veterans entry, anything you want an Assault Squad for they will do better. This is truer than ever in 9th.

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. In 9th, they’ve also received a surprise boost to the point where plasma Inceptors could make a credible pitch for inclusion on a “best units in the game” list. Chapter Approved pushed the plasma exterminator build down to 50pts per model, which carried over to the codex, and also gave the guns Blast (better than normal because each counts separately and has d3 shots, so against a unit if 6+ they automatically go to 6 shots per model). That turns these into one of the most cost-effective shooting units in the game, and more importantly makes them incredibly broad in terms of what they can go after. A volley of overcharged shots is easily enough to threaten a tank, and because of that automatic six shots each against even medium-sized units they’re one of the scariest things in the game to face down if you’re playing any sort of elite infantry, while still being perfectly capable against hordes.

The Marine Codex itself has turbo-charged this even further. They now only die while overcharging on natural 1s, and they’re great at buddying around with Apothecaries, as 3W models love a 6+++ and reviving them is filthy. They’re also some of the biggest winners from the new version of Chapter Master, as the only challenge with them before was making sure they had re-rolls while operating within their relatively short range. Now, you can stick the buff on them and send them off to hunt, doing so even more effectively if you’re playing a chapter that can Advance and shoot without penalty like White Scars. They’re fast enough that hiding from them is non-trivial, they can naturally deep strike if you need them to, and if they’re short on targets they’re perfectly happy shifting to playing the objective game – especially with the stratagem to give Gravis units +1 to save, a unit of these in cover is very hard to shift with light weaponry.

All this put together means that they’re a routine fixture in Marine lists, and there are very, very few builds that can’t slot a squad of five in and use them profitably. Many lists go further than that, and we’ve seen multiple successful armies that take two blocks of five, and others that supplement a main squad with some smaller ones. If you want to play Marines competitively right now you pretty much need these in your collection.

Bolter Inceptors have been rather left in the dust by all this – they’re ten points cheaper each which, you know, cool, but because of the blast on the plasma build they’re significantly worse against almost any type of target, and should only really be considered if you’re planning some sort of bolt weapon synergy.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Suppressor Squad

An extremely odd unit that still doesn’t have a separate kit, Suppressors are in a weird spot but do have their uses, and the big improvement to Plasma Inceptors has definitely forced them to carve out their own niche. 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″ Heavy 3 S7 AP-1 D2. They can deep strike naturally, have the SMOKESCREEN keyword, and whenever they hit an enemy unit with their weapons that unit can’t Overwatch this turn. Because they’re a monopose only kit with a set configuration, that’s the only way you can buy them for your army as well – you have to buy a unit of three that costs exactly 100pts.

While they don’t see tonnes of play, their guns going to three shots in exchange for losing a point of AP is definitely a net positive and some people have made effective use of them in 9th, mostly Ultramarine players, where Guilliman’s aura/the Seal of Oath/the Doctrine mitigates their main downside, which is that they take the Heavy penalty on the move. They can also be worth considering in Master Artisans build, and it should be remembered that in 9th a cheap-ish unit that can drop down in a corner for Secondary purposes and still contribute to weight of fire is generically pretty decent. Not a must have, but not a bad unit either.

Scout Bike Squad

Scout Bikes had a brief period of being really well thought of in 8th, but they don’t really have much going for them any more. They weigh in at the same cost as regular bikers but have fewer wounds and a 4+ (an extremely bad start), and get a combat knife instead of a chainsword, meaning they miss out on a point of AP. The theoretical selling points is that they’ve got higher shooting output, packing a shotgun each as well as their mounted bolters, and can naturally Outflank. Sadly, for a unit in this sort of weight class natural outflanking is best on INFANTRY who can cover more Actions, and they don’t have enough shooting to justify their price tag right now, so give these a miss.

Land Speeders

9th has been surprisingly kind to units with “Land Speeder” in the name, but that action has mostly happened elsewhere and a lot of it was based on the Land Speeder Tempest being a bit broken early on, which has now been fixed. The Codex gives you three options for shooty Land Speeders at gradually increasing costs – a basic build with a heavy bolter or multi-melta, a Tornado that adds an assault cannon or a Typhoon that adds a two-shot missile launcher. All of them share a statline (a moderate T6/6W) and the same problems, namely that they aren’t CORE and are VEHICLES, meaning they rapidly bleed points on Bring it Down and can’t benefit from a large range of buffs. The latter is a real problem because it means you’re stacking them up against Attack Bikes, which are an alternative cheap way to mount multi-meltas with none of the drawbacks. There’s plausibly something to the Typhoon in a very strange skew build (perhaps packing Master Artisans) but in general these don’t quite make it, and if you just want the very cheapest zoomy objective/quarter grabber, the Land Speeder Storm massively trumps these.

Attack Bike Squad

Along with plasma Inceptors, multi-melta Attack Bikes could make a reasonable claim at being one of the most improved Marine units. At 55pts a pop, they’re one of the cheapest ways to mount this now highly desirable gun, and they’re fast, CORE and BIKER to boot. They aren’t especially complicated, but a unit of three is a powerful unit in a wide range of builds, and can help to shore up your anti-tank capabilities if you’re worried you aren’t quite packing enough. Like with Inceptors, the bolter build doesn’t get anywhere close to finding a role at only ten points cheaper each.

Outriders

Onto the new kids for 9th Edition, starting with Outriders, the long-requested Primaris Bikes. They pack a hefty four wounds apiece, twin bolt rifles and a massive six Astartes chainsword attacks each on the charge (+1 for the sergeant) thanks to their Devastating Charge ability. They come in at 45pts per model and have a mandatory unit size of three, and that all sums up to a unit that lands in the glorious balance sweet spot of being “pretty good”. You’re unlikely to want to spam the maximum number of these, but a single unit is a fine addition to lists that has seen a reasonable amount of tournament success, providing an additional flexible unit that is particularly good at clearing out hordes.

Invader ATV

Invader ATVs were massively hyped pre-release, but have ended up pretty much just being OK, edging towards strong in Dark Angels specifically. The big thing they have going for them is that they are essentially a light vehicle but remain a BIKER keyword-wise, allowing them to be revived by Apothecaries and avoid giving up Bring it Down points. Their firepower is also fine, with twin auto bolt rifles and either an onslaught gatling cannon or multi-melta (realistically you usually want the latter for only five points more) providing them with some OK output, and they’re durable at 8W a pop. Overall they look pretty good on paper, so why aren’t they seeing much play?

This largely seems to be down to them lacking CORE, and thus missing out on a lot of re-rolls and Rites of War, and Attack Bikes being a massively cheaper way to strap a large number of multi-meltas to cheap platforms. You gain a lot of durability for the extra 30pts over the Attack Bikes, but Marines are not struggling to stay on the table, and you’d much rather spend the extra points on more killing power. The big exception to this seems to be Dark Angels, where access to the High Speed Focus stratagem and mobile Apothecaries makes these real contenders, as they’re extremely difficult to clear safely and efficiently through a 4++ and the punishment if an opponent tries and fails is extreme. Elsewhere though, you’re unlikely to hate having these in your lists, but you can usually do better.

Storm Speeders

The final new entrants that 9th has brought to this slot are the three different flavours of Storm Speeder. All of these are gun platforms tuned for different flavour of target, and all share a firmly middling defensive profile at T6 10W 3+. Unfortunately, that does mean they’re just over the line to where they have a degrading profile.

The Hailstrike is the cheapest of the bunch and aimed at clearing out enemy hordes, packing an onslaught cannon, twin ironhail stubber and two fragstorm launchers. That adds up to a respectable 28 shots when Blast is on, but not being CORE really hampers a unit trying to sit in the anti-horde role, as high volume shooting is where you get the most value out of re-rolls.

Next up we get the Thunderstrike, which is theoretically the anti-tank platform of the bunch. It effectively lines up three lascannon shots between its las-talon and special missiles, and has a twin icarus rocket pod (a much heftier gun in 9th) to go along with it. It also gets the extra bonus of being BS2+ compared to the 3+ on the other two (very helpful without CORE), but in tradeoff is also the priciest. You could plausibly field one of these to sit on a home objective and snipe away at the enemy, but you ideally want something just a bit less fragile in the role, at least at the 175pt price tag this sports. Like the ATVs, the Ravenwing keyword might plausibly get this over the line in some flavour of Dark Angels build, because once again being able to slap a 4++ on in an emergency makes a huge difference.

Lastly, and probably the best of the bunch, we have the Hammerstrike. This sports a melta destroyer (essentially a three shot multi-melta), two S8 AP-3 D3 missiles and two krakstorm launchers. This is a very appealing combination, and it hits the sweet spot of being able to flex to killing tanks or elite infantry just as effectively, something you really want from your heavier firepower in 9th. It does need to operate much closer in than the Thunderstrike however, and could end up being a bit flimsy for this kind of engagement.

Currently all of this remains theoretical, as the kit for these hasn’t released yet and they’re distinct enough that they can’t really be converted, but the general feeling is that the price on these is a bit high. If it comes down in the future, expect to see the Thunderstrike and Hammerstrike find homes.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Deathstorm Drop Pod (FW)

A Drop Pod that costs a whole lot of points and doesn’t really offer enough offence to justify its price tag – the Defensive Array ability is cute, since you can drop in and shoot everything in range, but you’re doing so with effectively either two krak missiles or 6 gatling cannon shots, hitting on 4s. After that fairly unexciting drop and shoot your opponent can trivially remove it, since it’s just a normal pod defensively .

Javelin Attack Speeder (FW)

A Land Speeder with a bonus 3 wounds, that mounts a heavy bolter and a Javelin missile launcher – basically a 3 shot/3d6 shot missile launcher. They can also swap this for 2 lascannons, swap the HB for a multi-melta, and take up to 2 hunter-killer missiles as well. It’s a reasonably ferocious shooting output, though you do pay 1CP for the privilege thanks to Martial Legacy, and the price tag is actually non-horrible too – 125pts with only the HKs or multi-melta costing any more. Doesn’t quite get there, but if you have one you can have fun with it.

Land Speeder Tempests (FW)

A Land Speeder with +1 wound that mounts an assault cannon and a tempest salvo launcher – which is basically just a cyclone missile launcher with extra AP on both profiles. If you wanted to take a Land Speeder Typhoon, just take one of these instead – they only cost 5pts more and everything is better. And if you were meta-chasing hard in early 9th, well, you might have a couple of them lying around.

Heavy Support

Devastator Squad

Devastators are another unit that’s taken a massive boost throughout 9th, seeing a tonne of play early in the edition to abuse Gravitic Amplification out of drop pods, and now seeing pretty broad use out of the codex in a couple configurations. Most prominent of these are drop podding multi-melta Devastators, which are good kind of anywhere but especially in chapters that can count them as stationary, and continued showings for grav cannon Devs in Ultramarines (where the Seal of Oath makes them terrors) and White Scars, where Hunters Fusillade combines with their boosted range to make them very hard to avoid and essentially just a cost effective line unit. Other setups have seen the odd bit of use, with lascannons popping up in one or two armies we’ve seen. However you’re building them you definitely want the cherub for the extra oomph the first time they fire, and most lists want to have a plan for how they’re going to get them into range (often, as above, either a drop pod or stratagem). The exception to this is Ultramarines, where the combination of the Doctrine and various auras pushes them to being good when you’re just footslogging them. Your competitive collection as a Marine player will definitely benefit from having a multi-melta squad and having access to a grav squad is extremely helpful for a lot of armies as well.

Centurion Devastator Squad

Crimson Fists Centurion Devastators

Crimson Fists Centurion Devastators. Credit: Corrode

Similar to their more assault-oriented brethren, Centurion Devastators are apparently subject to an extreme balance vendetta for what they did in 8th Edition, and are costed spectacularly beyond the point where you’re getting a reasonable shooting output for your cost, especially since they aren’t CORE and thus cannot benefit from most re-rolls. A single grav Centurion runs you about 2/3rds the cost of an entire grav Devastator squad, and unfortunately at that point the comparison is completely laughable.

Eliminator Squad

Imperial Fists Primaris Eliminator Squad

Imperial Fists Primaris Eliminator Squad. Credit: Jack Hunter

Eliminators were one of the very best Marine units in 8th, but soared a bit too high and have been extensively toned down in 9th. They run you either 90pts for the squad with bolt rifles (the build you should realistically take) and 120pts with las-fusils, and have a standard Phobos statline with the extra bonus of getting an additional +1 to their saves in cover, making them pretty tough to shift from a ruin. They have Concealed Positions (though it’s a bit less good on them than many other units since they want to be at range), and the bolt rifles also ignore Look Out Sir, letting them plug away at characters.

The main reason they’ve gone down so much in estimation from 8th is losing three key tricks. Their bolt rifles still sport the horde-clearing hyperfrag round and deadly mortis rounds, but the executioner round has gone from ignoring line of sight (which let these live rent-free in your opponent’s head) to just getting bonuses to hit and ignoring cover. Their sergeant also loses both the ability to boost the rest of the squad’s shots and the ability to have them move after overwatching, replacing it with a fire and fade in your shooting phase if you give them the carbine option. That’s still useful, but takes away their resistance to being charged, and if you’re using it you’re also probably dooming yourself to hit penalties. Losing the hit/wound boost is a bit less relevant as the mortal from the mortis round now only procs on unmodified 6s anyway, but it reduces your options and stops (for example) taking a sergeant with the carbine and two fusils being worth a look.

These haven’t quite fallen all the way to being a bad unit, and something that 9th encourages is having access to small units that can sit safely in range of a home objective and rack up primary points/secure a quarter/perform Actions. These are OK in this role, and a couple of squads firing mortis rounds is still a real threat to almost any flavour of character, but with 9th also favouring heavier tables they’ll be able to shoot less often, and without being essentially guaranteed to be online all the time via the old executioner rounds, it’s hard to justify spending lots of points on them. They end up in a slot where one unit is OK in a backfield role, but the days of starting every (and it basically was every) Marine list with 3×3 are gone.

Hellblaster Squad

Crimson Fists Hellblasters

Crimson Fists Hellblasters. Credit: Corrode

Somewhere in Hellblaster HQ a monkey’s paw has curled, because the assault plasma incinerator got real good in the new codex, going up to three shots in a world where elite, multi-wound infantry is king and T8 vehicles on a low ebb. Unfortunately, at the same time as this happened Plasmaceptors got rocketed up to being one of the best units in the entire game, and as decent as assault Hellblasters look it’s very difficult to justify not just spending 50% more on the faster, deadlier and more durable plasmaceptors. These have at least moved to a place where they’re decent, and we’ve seen the assault variant show up in multiple top four lists, one Ultramarines and one Dark Angels. Both of these factions bing extra buffs to the table that help these guys out, suggesting that you do need an active draw to this unit to want to take them, but they definitely exist now in a way they kind of didn’t for most of 8th. If you’re starting a Marine army from scratch get your Inceptors in first, but if you already have these it might be worth taking them for the odd spin.

Eradicators

The new hotness that everyone loves to complain about online, Eradicators are a strong unit, but thanks to a key change between the Indomitus booklet and the codex they’ve landed at being very good rather than broken (Note: and this sentence was written by known Xenos scumbag Wings, not Marine-loving Corrode).

Your basic Eradicator runs you 40pts, and is a Gravis armoured Marine toting a melta rifle, a meltagun with 24″ range. The reason they’re powerful is the Total Eradication ability, which lets them shoot their guns twice if they put all their shots into the same target as long as they didn’t advance. You can take up to six in the squad, and can upgrade one in three to a multi-melta for 10pts, and upgrade all basic melta rifles to heavy melta rifles (for a mighty +4 damage at half range, but heavy) for 5pts each. Both upgrades have seen use, and there isn’t really a wrong way to build these, but they definitely do enough at the base build that spending points to upgrade them is strictly optional, and losing accuracy on the move is a real drawback of the heavy build, making the rifles with an optional multi-melta the most common loadout.

In early 9th you saw 3×3 of these in a lot of lists, but the codex has dialed back their power a bit and they’re in a healthy place at the moment where a single five-model squad or two three-model squads is a reasonably common sight, but they aren’t absolutely everywhere and are often eclipsed by Plasmaceptors as the shooting unit of choice. Partially that’s because of changes elsewhere in the codex, with Chapter Master no longer trivially buffing multiple units, but the key downgrade they got with the codex was losing the ability to use Total Eradication after advancing. With only a 5″ move thanks to having thicc Gravis thighs, this puts a hard cap on the range at which they can fully operate, and can hamper their ability to line up shots around terrain at key moments. It’s also a particularly notable downgrade in White Scars because previously their chapter tactic was absurd with them. These are still a very good unit, and as a Marine player you definitely want to own six so you can line up the two common configurations, but they are not, actually, the place where game balance goes to die.

Firestrike Servo Turret

Firestrike Servoturret. Credit: SRM

No one is yet quite sure what these are for, other than providing the perfect surface for painting caution stripes on. Just a squad of Techmarines riding around really slowly on grav-plated turrets, bleeding Bring it Down points and not really having any compelling competitive purpose. At some point these will get cut by like 25-30pts each (probably more for the las-talon) and then we’ll talk about them. For now, they’re a cute curiosity and nothing more.

Thunderfire Cannon

Nuke the datasheet from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

Perhaps the single most hated (non-Forge World) unit in the entirety of 8th Edition, the Thunderfire cannon has been mercilessly dunked on in the new book, losing a point each of strength and AP on its gun, seeing the double shoot stratagem removed, and going up in points substantially. It also suffers a bit from the changes in how objectives are placed compared to competitive ITC in 8th – it’s vastly, vastly less common for you to have an objective safely concealed in a ruin for this to sit on, though you can finesse that a bit with how the gunner now works. You have to keep the gunner within 3″ or the cannon is outright destroyed at the end of the phase, but while the gunner is within 3″ they cannot be shot at all (even over and above their Look Out Sir protection) meaning that you can put the cannon behind a ruin and have the gunner a few inches out to hold an objective.

Between this and the fact that they do still have access to the extremely nasty Tremor Shells stratagem, having one of these in your army is still kind of OK, and if that isn’t a savage indictment on how overpowered they used to be we don’t know what is.

Hunter

A very cheap T8 vehicle with a single shot missile launcher that is hilariously over the top when fired at Aircraft, jumping to a damage stat of d6+6. These saw use as incredibly cheap bumper cars in 8th, but 9th incentivises that less, the price difference to the Stalker is smaller, and the latter does almost any possible job better.

Stalker

The other flavour of “random T8 anti-air tank”, this one is much closer to being worthwhile, and is a plausible choice in the “backfield objective sitter” slot. It runs you 115pts, gets six autocannon shots that work against anything and turbo-charges to being a killing machine in the unlikely event that your opponent has brought a plane. For reasons we’re about to discuss, the Whirlwind usually takes the crown for this very specific niche in Marines, but the Stalker is kind of OK at it.

Whirlwind

Just talking about Whirlwinds probably generates horrific flashbacks for anyone who participated in the competitive scene towards the end of 2019, but the good news for non-Marine players is that they aren’t stupidly busted anymore, and the good news for Marine players is that there’s still a role for them. The Suppression Fire stratagem is extremely good in an edition dominated by melee, as it helps your key melee units trump your opponents when it really matters, and can shut down Overwatch from something nasty in a pinch as well. Strapping the ability to drop that anywhere to something that can sit on a home objective zoning out space and being moderately tough to shift creates a decent package, and one that’s seen some successful use. The vengeance launcher flavour is also worth considering in Imperial Fists, as it’s one of the few units with a decent rate of fire S7 gun, and impossible to hide from. Mostly though, consider one as a good backup to a melee force.

Repulsor

Probably sensibly, the 9th Edition codex sees the regular flavour of Repulsor move to Heavy Support from Dedicated Transport, in recognition of the fact that it has way, way too many guns to sit anywhere else. Lots of guns and decent transport capacity is kind of the story here, and you can spec these for either infantry or tank hunting as you see fit. Unfortunately, 9th hasn’t been super kind to these, with the most notable hits being a point hike and losing FLY, hampering their mobility. The tradeoff is that fewer armies are set up to reliably kill one at range, and they’re the only transport that can shuffle around five-model units of Aggressors (which probably doesn’t super matter) or Eradicators (which plausibly might). You almost certainly want a Techmarine following them around as well to boost up their hit rolls, which does stack the price even higher, and they’re definitely on the overcosted side (honestly most non-Dreadnought Marine vehicles currently are), meaning they aren’t operating as competitive superstars, but they’re also not quite awful either, and the new Techmarine ability does add value to putting a whole bunch of guns on a single chassis.

Ultramarines Repulsor

Ultramarines Repulsor. Credit: Jack Hunter

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, has sadly been done dirty in 9th Edition. It still has a whole laundry list of guns strapped to its T8, W16, 3+ chassis, but it no longer has the FLY keyword, no longer double shoots its main gun (getting +1 to hit instead), lost access to the Vengeance of the Machine Spirit stratagem, has to activate a strat for its charge reduction and can’t benefit from a lot of abilities thanks to being non-CORE, and finally went up in cost.

This has not proven to be a winning combination.

However, similar to a few other 8th Edition terrors, it’s a mark of how good this once was that it isn’t quite irredeemable, benefitting significantly from the fact that the macro plasma incinerator got real good in the new book, the metagame being vastly less tuned for taking out T8 targets at extreme range, and benefitting from Obscuring and Dense terrain. The package you end up with is still significantly overcosted, and you should absolutely spend your points on two whole entire Redemptors instead, but the model isn’t actually going to feel bad on the table and will still heavily punish the (now more common) armies that struggle to pop it at range. The new version of SMOKESCREEN also really helps it if you take exactly one. You can also use it to give a unit of three Eradicators a slightly longer reach for double shooting on turn one if that floats your boat.

Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner

Imperial Fists Repulsor Executioner. Credit: Jack Hunter

Vindicator/Vindicator Laser Destroyer (FW)

For many years now you have been asking “who is John Vindicator?” and the answer is a weary shrug. They do get a fancy new option in the book, which is to pay ten extra points for a siege shield that gives them +1 to their save against ranged attacks. If you are putting one of these in your army you should absolutely always do that, as stacked on top of their T8 it means they’re pretty tricky to blow off the board. They’re still probably not worth their 140pt price tag, as a single demolisher cannon without re-roll support ain’t what it used to be, but it’s nice to see some recognition that these needed something extra stuck on top, even if they probably needed to be cheaper too.

The Forge World version that mounts a laser volley cannon instead of the demolisher has some hellacious shooting output, with either a volley fire mode at Heavy 3 S9 AP-3 Dd3+3, or the overcharge fire mode which upguns that to S10 AP-4 D6, but can do mortal wounds to your vehicle if it moved. This version cannot take the siege shield and has the exact same defences but costs 35pts more – it’s actually kind of a fun idea if you want to take some kind of Marine tank, and with a little luck can put a real dent in something.

Land Raider/Land Raider Crusader/Land Raider Redeemer/Land Raider Proteus (FW)/Land Raider Achilles (FW)

Oh, Land Raiders. S8 T8 W16 Sv2+ sounds like a profile that should really go somewhere, but as ever for the Raider their shooting output alone is not enough 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. All flavours can also attach a multi-melta. The Land Raider can carry 10 models (with Terminators counting double), the Redeemer 12 and the Crusader 16, with the latter two also having access to the Assault Launchers strat. The Land Raider Proteus is a Forge World variant of the basic build that loses the heavy bolter mount for a lower base price and the option to take either heavy armour for a 5++ or an explorator augury web, which cuts its transport capacity to six in exchange for gaining the Infiltrator ability to prevent reinforcements setting up within 12″. The Achilles gets a Thunderfire cannon mounted in its hull which can also shoot a 4 shot missile launcher, and volkite culverins with a grotesque 16 shots at S6 (though no AP) which can be swappped for twin multi-meltas. It also has a 5+ invulnerable save.

Land Raiders were pretty much terrible throughout 8th, meaning most people aren’t really looking at them at all, but it’s not outside the realms of possibility that there could be a list that wants them in 9th. With the SMOKESCREEN keyword and T8/2+ these take some real killing at range, and the fact that Devastators and Terminators are both actually good now means their transport capacity is vastly more relevant than it once was. Relevant enough to be super good? Definitely not right now, and their anemic damage output is likely to keep them on the shelf, but if you find yourself running a list with multiple Devastator squads they’re probably less bad than you think based on 8th Edition experience. The Proteus’s ability to strap the no Deep Strike aura to such a huge hull is also quite a thing if we ever end up back in a metagame ruled by Deep Strike.

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.

Gladiator

OK, but what if we made a fancy new hover Predator and made it T8.

Ehhhhhh. Like the Storm Speeders this comes in three variants, and like those all of them are currently priced a bit high. There’s some similar theming going on, with one themed for going after hordes (the Reaper), one for long-ranged tank hunting (the Lancer) and one close ranged anti-armour option (the Valiant). Here, the Lancer ends up as the cheapest because it can only really take one notable gun (the Lancer laser destroyer), relegating it to a firm long-ranged support role. It gets +1 to hit with the main gun which is nice, but it doesn’t really have the number of shots it needs to reliably pull its weight over the course of a five turn game.

The Reaper is a lot in terms of anti-infantry, packing a massive 40 shots when it gets its bolters into rapid fire range, but like with the Hailstrike you really feel the lack of re-rolls when doing that, and the price tag here is pretty steep.

Finally, the Valiant echoes the Hammerstrike in coming out looking the best, as it actually brings a real weight of quality fire to the table, with four las-talon shots and four multi-melta shots able to do some serious damage. It’s still a challenge to justify putting in to lists when it runs the same price as a squad of five Plasmaceptors, but here at least when you start shooting with it your opponent is actually going to start sweating.

For all of these you can pay 5pts a piece for auto launchers (grants the SMOKESCREEN keyword), an extra ironhail stubber and an icarus pod. You should absolutely pay for the auto-launchers and the others are kind of whatever. A lot of people have immediately fallen in love with this tank (it is very cool) and if you’re one of them we recommend trying the Valiant, but if you’re strictly here for the hyperoptimisation probably play the waiting game on these.

Rapier Carrier (FW)

Rapier Carriers are little crewed guns which can mount a variety of different and extremely Forge World weaponry – the default quad heavy bolter, or a graviton cannon (a d6 shot grav cannon at S6 with 3 damage), a laser destroyer (3 shots, S10 AP-4 Dd3+3), or a quad launcher (same as the Achilles – a Thunderfire cannon which can also put out 4 missile shots). These have surprisingly grotesque output, but they are not cheap at 85pts per (and 120 for the laser or graviton), and are both non-CORE and extremely fragile at T5 W5 3+ save. If you were, for some reason, desperate to take a Firestrike turret, you can probably just do yourself a favour and run one of these instead for better output that is just as easy to kill.

Sicarans (FW)

The Sicaran is a fun little unit that is like an upgunned Predator – it has 14 Wounds and moves 14″, and we are now up to 5 different variants – the Battle Tank, the Arcus, the Venator, the Punisher, and the Omega. Sicarans in general got a bump in Imperial Armour, going to a 2+ save, and a lot of their rules normalising to be a little more in line with the rest of the game. The Omega in particular is much more interesting now – with 6 shots in either standard or supercharge, at strength 8, ap-3, and 2 damage in standard mode, bumping up to strength 9 and damage 3 when supercharged. These do all get hit with Martial Legacy, making them a little pricier as a prospect than their otherwise fairly ok points cost, but of the vehicles available to Marines these seem like an option at least worth looking at, though possibly not about to hit the top tables.

Whirlwind Scorpius (FW)

What if you took a Whirlwind and made it shoot a lot more with absolutely no defensive buffs? You get this. If you read the unit name and broke out in a cold sweat, don’t worry – these have had one very important change, which is that although their gun profile is the same (and still pretty good, at 3d3 S6 AP-2 D2 shots and Blast) it no longer double shoots. At 175pts and carrying Martal Legacy it’s probably now too little for what you get compared to the basic Whirlwind, particularly as the utility piece for that one – the Suppression Fire stratagem – can’t be used with this.

Dedicated Transports

Rhino

Rhinos are cheap and exist. With firstborn Marines getting better, that actually matters – you’re still not going to Rhino rush up the table like it’s 3rd edition, but taking one to sit some Devastators in before they bail out and shoot is a perfectly fine use for them, and has the key advantage over a Drop Pod that you can do so and utilise Steady Advance to count as stationary – so if you’re one of the Chapters who doesn’t have another way of doing that, there’s a good argument for the Rhino. They’re also just kind of ok for sitting back on an objective or something afterwards; they’re cheap and your opponent is going to sigh wearily if they have to devote real shooting to killing a Rhino, and they have SMOKESCREEN so you can even make them kind of annoying to shift.

Razorback

A staple of Marine armies for ages, the Razorback still has a place toting around a couple heavy weapons. We’ve seen at least one 9th edition Ultramarines list with a twin heavy bolter Razorback driving around a heavy bolter-toting Tactical Squad, and if that doesn’t warm your heart why are you even playing Marines? Again, these get a boost just from firstborn Marines being more relevant again, and therefore their ability to hide them from incoming fire early on mattering more.

Drop Pod

Drop Pods break a whole bunch of the rules – chiefly, that they can come in from Reinforcements on turn 1, though also they don’t count against your Reinforcements limit so you can theoretically put more than half your army in Reserves using these. A pod full of melta 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. As discussed in the Devastators entry, this is best in those Chapters that can keep the melta dudes hitting on 3s. 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.

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 can transport Primaris Marines. 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 5+ invulnerable save is huge for defense), or an orbital strike which looks a bit anaemic compared to the stratagem version. The most common way to see these is with a shield dome, but Impulsors as a unit lost a step in the transition to 9th – they no longer FLY, they’re less tough with only the 5+, and like the Repulsor they now need to utilise a stratagem to be -2 to charge. You will still sometimes see them in lists – often exactly 1, to ferry some Bladeguard up the table – but their glory days seem to have passed and many people prefer to just walk guys up the table instead.

Land Speeder Storm

Land Speeder Storms surprisingly gained the same Assault Vehicle rule as the Impulsor, which is nice. A Scout-only transport, these have gained some currency as a cheap shell within which can hide a squad of Scouts, pushing out onto a lone objective and holding it with the vehicle, and forcing your opponent to commit unreasonably high firepower to both kill the boat itself and then the Scouts inside, or potentially also to jump the Scouts out and deploy a midfield scrambler or raise a banner or so on. A neat little unit with a limited but important role.

Dreadnought Drop Pod (FW)

Exactly the same as a regular Drop Pod but bigger and can transport a Dreadnought. It can only transport smaller ones – 9 wounds or fewer – but you can roll in a Contemptor or something out of the pod if you really want one to deep strike. They do now have all the appropriate Drop Pod rules so they can turn up on turn 1 and so on, and it’s all just kind of fine – if you really want to DS a Dreadnought, this is how you do it.

Terrax-Pattern Termite (FW)

Already very good in 8th, the Terrax picks up several buffs that cement it as the premiere way to transport firstborn Marines. Offensively, the melta cutter is now a mighty 5 shots and picked up the new melta rules, and the Termite drill loses its old complicated mortal wound thing in exchange for a straight damage increase – d3+3 against most targets, and a colossal d3+6 against vehicles. Defensively, it has Toughness 8, 14 wounds, and a 3+ save. Transporting 12 models, you can bring in a full 10 man squad with character support, all while having tons of firepower – for a mere 180 points (or 190 with the even better Volkite side-weapons). There’s a few different ways you can use these – bringing in either Vanguard Veterans on foot or potentially something like Company Veterans packing meltas seem like obvious choices.

Flyers

Stormhawk Interceptor

Stormhawks saw some significant changes in 9th edition. A lot of their old FLY interactions have gone, and instead they are strictly AIRCRAFT hunters – which in 9th isn’t so much of a big deal, with a lot fewer of those around. They did get a lift from a change in approach, though; instead of the old system of “weapons that hit FLY better but everything else worse” we now have the Icarus stormcannon and skyhammer missile launcher, which make 2 hit rolls or get +1 to hit against AIRCRAFT respectively, but don’t get debuffed by shooting at other targets. The infernum halo-launcher is now also an anti-AIRCRAFT defensive piece, giving +1 to save for the Stormhawk against ranged attacks from other aircraft.

Like a lot of Marine vehicles, these are good but miss out on being great thanks to a) being slightly overcosted for what they bring to the table, and b) the sheer quality of what else is in here. CORE matters less on them than other things because they’re unlikely to be sitting in aura ranges anyway, but at 185pts base – and more for their weapon options – they’re quite pricy for being not particularly tougher than a Rhino and unable to hold objectives or score many secondaries.

Imperial Fist Stormtalon Gunships

Imperial Fist Stormtalon Gunships. Credit: Jack Hunter

Stormtalon Gunship

Formerly the ground attack version of the Stormhawk, the Stormtalon comes with a twin assault cannon and a skyhammer missile launcher which kind of positions it for an anti-air role (and you can swap the assault cannons for a twin lascannon to make it better at taking out vehicles), but that’s seldom going to be a priority. While previously these had more of anti-ground role with the Strafing Run rule, the 9th edition codex has taken that away, leaving a flyer that much like the Stormhawk is a little too fragile and a little too under-gunned.

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. People who remember “Guilliman + 5 Stormravens” perhaps won’t be sad to see it go, but it’s a shame that all the Space Marine planes have ended up being just a bit too expensive for what they do.

Fire Raptor Gunship (FW)

After a brief run at the very start of 8th, Fire Raptors were banished to the shadow realm forthwith, with huge points increases and what eventually became the AIRCRAFT rules applied to them. In 9th they are at a more reasonable 340, mounting a twin avenger bolt cannon, two twin autocannons, and two twin hellstrike launchers for some fairly impressive output, and the possibility of taking a quad heavy bolter to replace the autocannons or twin lascannons to replace the hellstrikes. With 18 wounds it’s a little harder to take off the board than you might expect, and it has a hell of a lot of Gun – if you want to get this down from the shelf again you might be pleasantly surprised.

Storm Eagle Gunship (FW)

Similarly costed to the Fire Raptor, the Storm Eagle trades some firepower for the benefit of being able to transport up to 20 INFANTRY – though not PRIMARIS.

Xiphon Interceptor (FW)

A plane that mounts two twin lascannons and a Xiphon missile battery – Heavy 3, S7, AP-2, D3, which get +1 to hit against AIRCRAFT. At 235pts they’re actually kind of ok for their output, though they’re pretty flimsy and will cost you a CP on top.

Fortifications

Hammerfall Bunker

The fluff suggests this should be able to drop in, unload its guns in all directions, and be an absolute terror. Instead it neatly sets up in your deployment zone and probably does nothing all game. Funny but bad.

Tarantula Sentry Batery (FW)

Hilarious in the old world just because they were a Fast Attack unit that couldn’t actually move, these are now just kind of silly, requiring you to take a separate detachment just to pick up some little turret guys that can no longer get re-rolls and have minmal control of their shooting.

Lords of War

Imperial Fists Astraeus Super-heavy Tank

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

Astraeus (FW)

After how nice and cheap and usable this was at the end of 8th, it still feels expensive as all hell. But usable. Definitely usable. To start with, it’s bumped up to 30 wounds. Void shields have also been completely redesigned and are no longer a confusing degrading not-invulnerable save. Each void shield is a 3 wound pool that has to be eaten through before the vehicle itself takes any damage, and that pool can’t overflow – so if a lascannon hits for 6 damage the void shield will absorb 3 damage, and the other 3 will just vanish. They also, while alive, provide a 5+ invulnerable save. An Astraeus has 2 void shields, so it has a nice little buffer before it starts taking damage. If one of the shields takes damage but isn’t destroyed, it’ll regenerate at the beginning of your command phase, which is cute but is unlikely to regularly happen in practice as most decent alpha strikes will go through both of the shields.

While the main gun remained essentially the same, both types of sponsons got a shakeup. Las-rippers bump up to 36” range, strength 9, and D6 damage, so they’re very nearly a twin lascannon, and the plasma eradicator trades a point of strength to upgrade from d3 to d6 shots, gain blast, and pick up a point of damage. Both options are now a pretty substantial firepower boost.

While not as inexpensive as it was at the end of 8th, if you can afford the 3 CP for a superheavy auxiliary detachment it’s totally usable.

Defenders of Humanity – The Space Marine Chapters

As promised, there will be separate articles for each of the Chapter supplements, covering their unique content as well as lists for each. We will be rolling these out over the next few weeks, so if yours isn’t linked here right now, it will be shortly.

Chapter

Black Templars
Blood Angels
Crimson Fists
Dark Angels
Deathwatch
Emperor’s Spears
Flesh Tearers
Imperial Fists
Iron Hands
Raven Guard
Salamanders
Space Wolves
Ultramarines
White Scars

We’ve also covered the other Marine Chapters with rules, including the Badab War Chapters, Blood Ravens, Tome Keepers, and Silver Templars, in this article: Other Space Marine Chapters

Wrap Up

That’s it for the Space Marines! There’s a lot to consider here – between the codex, Forge World, and the individual Chapters, Space Marines have by far the biggest range in Warhammer 40,000. We hope this is an instructive introduction to the codex, and helps you get started competing with the faction. 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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