Welcome to Warhammer Tactics! Today, we’re going to be looking at the standard Space Marine Codex, and some tips and tactics for every chapter in the book to help you get the most out of your army!
So, as many of you know, Space Marines are generally considered to not be in a great place at the moment. This is largely a true statement, unfortunately. However, the army isn’t without some fangs either, if you know how to coax them out. And today, that’s exactly what we are going to do, no matter what chapter you play!
Nothing here will probably win at say, LVO or NOVA, but it will definitely improve your game locally. If you just want to read up on your particular chapter, we’ve alphabetized the entries so finding your chapter is a cinch!
First, I would like to counter a piece of advice I often see for Black Templars, which is to run bikes for the purpose of advancing up the board and charging headfirst into the enemy. There’s a couple issues with this. First, screens can knock this strategy dead, depending on the army in question. Two, bikes aren’t really a melee unit. They’re mobile fire support, and advancing removes that capability completely. Now mind you, including bikes for fire support in a BT list can be 100% valid. Just don’t go trying to chainsword your way to victory with bikes.
That all being said, Black Templars are the premier “Rhino Rush” army. Rhinos interact well with many characters available to BT. Helbrecht and Grimaldius immediately come to mind, of course. In addition, their trait naturally interacts well with transports. The ability to hop out of a Rhino in a 360 arc, move, and charge with a guaranteed re-roll means that you’re looking at an ability to realistically tag any unit that’s within 20” of your transport!
As for what goes into these rhinos, I’m personally a big fan of Vanguard Veterans. 10 Vets with power swords/axes and chainswords comes in quite cheaply at 200-210points, and with buffs from both special characters and a lieutenant, they become S5, re rolling all to hit, getting bonus attacks on 6+, and re rolling 1’s to wound too.
Although these guys aren’t quite as good as say, Death Company or Berzerkers, they pack plenty of hurt, and they’re mobile enough to get dug in by turn 2 in almost any game. Plus, even if you go very character heavy, you still have around 900-1000 points left for fire support, Scouts, other toys, whatever you feel like really after taking 3 rhinos with these bad boys in them.
Crimson Fists are the melee counterpart to Imperial Fists, no doubt about it. Many melee Marine units struggle to dish out enough attacks to really make an impact, but Kantor’s +1 attack aura solves that problem. The only issues are how to get Kantor into melee, and what to pair him with.
You could always opt for a Rhino Rush style army, but I believe Black Templars do that better overall. Instead, you should look at a Stormraven Gunship with Kantor, a Lieutenant, 10 Vanguard Vets with axes, and optionally a Redemptor Dreadnought. With dreadnought in tow this bomb will be almost half of a 2000 point list, but you should tear a massive hole in your opppnent’s battle line. Just make sure you bring lots of screen clear with the rest of your points to guarantee you get in! You can of course tag out what you put on the Stormraven, but Vanguard Vets are one of the most efficient melee models available to Space Marines, and you can’t put Primaris in a Stormraven which thins your options.
Overall, Crimson Fists are a tad narrow as an army, but that’s okay. Maximize the use you get out of Kantor, and you can still put up results!
The yellow brothers to the Crimson Fists, the Imperial Fists are the yin to the Crimson Fists yang. The army wants to be a gunline, since everything they do revolves around fire support.
Unfortunately, Imperial Fists struggle for direction past this. Their stratagem is very weak, their relic is awkward (you can’t cast an extra power, you just know an extra power), and their warlord trait is conditional.
Luckily, I’ve got an answer for all of you Imperial Fist players, and it’s actually a pretty good one: the Aegis Defense Line. No, really, hear me out. The Aegis can’t be removed, and practically hands out cover for free to your entire army with careful positioning. This helps give you an advantage since your infantry will be in cover and your opponent can’t claim it against you. Moreover, cover is a big deal for any power armored army, since going from a 3+ to a 2+ cuts your damage suffered in half. Obviously AP cuts these numbers, but it makes you almost invincible against small arms.
We then push this into overdrive with the Architect of War warlord trait. Basically, it lets us treat AP-1 as 0 as long as we are in cover. Getting to take a 2+ save against most dedicated anti infantry guns means your army is almost impossible to shift for a lot of players. Just watch out for Tau, they can be a huge problem for you. You can put whatever infantry units you like behind the Defense Line, but I like Devastators and Hellblasters. They have a lot of reach, and Hellblasters are fairly mobile when it’s time to move up. The best part about this combination is it’s also extremely fluffy, and effective!
Iron Hands are, by design, the most straightforward legion. Their trait is boardwide static damage reduction, their warlord trait is a minor self buff, their stratagem is decent but works identically on most vehicles, and their relic is competing with a thunder hammer. So, what can we do?
Well, the one thing we can do is leverage our durability, and push it as high as we can go. So, like Imperial Fists, an Aegis Defense Line is a good start. The ability to easily get cover in every game makes our army far more durable, which gets compounded on by our trait. We can then push this further with an Apothecary to start healing and recovering models.
We can also include a Redemptor Dreadnought to our army. Redemptors are reasonably durable already, and adding a 6+ FNP buys us just a few extra wounds to make them even harder to kill.
We can round this out with your choice of an infantry firebase and the Banner of the Emperor’s Ascendent to punish your opponent for pushing through your defenses. The specifics here are a little mutable, and you have plenty of points left over to include whatever toys you like, but the basic idea is always the same. You want to make yourself as difficult and annoying to kill as possible for your opponent.
In stark contrast from many of the chapters we’ve discussed so far, Raven Guard are easily the most flexible chapter out of the 8. Their trait and stratagem are of at least some use to every unit in the codex. As if that wasn’t enough, they have a disgustingly efficient and borderline mandatory special character in Kayvaan Shrike. His melee weapons are extremely threatening, he makes jump infantry charges from Reserves somewhat reliable, and he clocks in at a cheap 150 points.
It really is hard to go wrong with Raven Guard. They have a low skill floor and a high skill ceiling, making them a solid choice. So, since they’re so open ended, I will instead be talking about a couple of units that get lost in the mix often, but 100% deserve their piece of the spotlight in almost every RG list: Vanguard Vets, and Aggressors.
You’ve already seen me mention Vanguard Vets quite a bit if you’ve read everything so far, and that’s not a coincidence. These guys make fantastic infantry killers with their ability to take power weapons and a chainsword, much like Berzerkers, and they synergize with many chapters in the game. They can also optionally take packs, which makes them fantastic for Raven Guard. If you have the points, they can jump in with Shrike and have a decent chance of making the charge, courtesy of Shrike’s ability. Alternatively you can save a couple points and spend a command point and infiltrate them in.
I really like axes, myself, but power swords aren’t a bad choice either.
Moving on to the real star of the Raven Guard show, we have Aggressors. Aggressors are a fantastic unit that really just struggle with getting up close. The Raven Guard stratagem solves that issue, and as a 2 for 1 special, Aggressors are fantastic at clearing out infantry to land charges with your Jump Infantry. They also benefit from the -1 to be hit outside of 12, which won’t come up often because of their short range but it can sometimes save their life. Those of you following the competitive scene will know that a couple RG lists with lots of Aggressors are creeping up, and for good reason. If you haven’t yet, try a decent sized unit out. They’re a total game changer out of RG.
Salamanders are the king of consistency, as their trait will afford you tons of free re rolls over a game. This leads Salamanders to naturally gravitate toward lots of small units to maximize the value of their trait, and that’s understandable. However, this also leads them to more or less work with everything in the book equally, making them a rather open ended army.
So, instead of focusing on their trait, let’s focus on their stratagem, Flamecraft. This provides +1 to wound with flame weapons. Take a unit of speeders with double heavy flamers and you’re dealing some damage. That’s 21 auto hits at S5,+1 to wound, ap-1 on a very mobile platform! You can push this even higher by getting Vulkan near your target, usually with the help of a Rhino, that way you RR to wound and have +1 to wound! This is surprisingly damaging and clocks in at only 312, a very affordable price. You can get Vulkan up the board with a Rhino, or if you feel like splurging, a Redeemer. Just make sure you also bring an assault unit with him, and you’re good to go.
Ultramarines are one of, if not the most popular Chapter, mostly because of Robute Guilliman. Honestly, any Ultramarine list immediately becomes better with his inclusion. But, some players don’t want to have to use G Man, so let’s focus on some other decent things you can get through the Ultramarines.
Ultras have a fantastic trait, reducing your losses from Morale, and all but guaranteeing that your army can’t truly get tied up in melee. This naturally leads them to be a medium-long range army, and a gunline of course. But, there’s a couple units that really shine with Ultras: the Redemptor Dreadnought, and Bikes.
Redemptors bring a respectable amount of anti infantry fire power at a reasonable price, on a reasonably durable platform. Combine this with the ability to fall back and still unload into whatever is trying to tie you up, and you get a fairly efficient unit. Plus, Redemptors are no slouch in melee, meaning this unit is always effective while alive!
Bikes on the other hand, have a bit more abstract value. Normally, their main value is being mobile units that can rapidly bring a few special weapons where you need them to be. Ultras however, benefit from taking large units of bikes. 6 or 7 a unit is what you should be looking for. The reason for this is a combination of their trait, and some competitive tactics.
Obviously, the trait allows you to fall back and shoot. We can pair this with charging into melee, and piling in/consolidating into a unit we didn’t charge and boxing them in, preventing the enemy from falling back and shooting our bikes to death.
Then, you fall back on your own turn, and unload a second round of firepower while hopefully getting to a safe position to do this again. It’s the ultimate hit and run tactic, and it can put up surprising results for Ultras since they can continue to shoot every turn, no matter what. Just make sure you try to fallback so you’re hidden from most of the enemy army, while also having a target to shoot at!
White Scars used to be one of, if not the most competitive Marine armies. Although they have taken a bit of a quality dip, they’re still very solid.
The chapter has always been known for its Bikes, and that’s exactly what we’re going to delve into today!
White Scars have improved advance ranges, and more importantly, the ability to fall back and charge. We can combine this with Bikes and get the ultimate harassing unit. By spending 1CP on their stratagem, Born In The Saddle, we can fly up
the board and charge into the enemy. Like with Ultras, you’ll want to pile in/consolidate into a second unit that you didn’t charge, and prevent them from falling back. Next turn, you can fall back a whopping 14”, charge another enemy unit, and do it again. While you’re doing that, you can Born In The Saddle a second Bike unit, and start tying up two units at the same time, disrupting the enemies entire army.
Now, you pair it with your choice of an assault element, and you can drop a hammer on your opponent while he’s stunned in place! The results can be very nasty, depending on your opponent’s list! You can add in Kor’sarro Khan to this, and really tack on the damage.
Well, that wraps it up! This was quite a long one if you decided to read up on every chapter, but it’s worth it. The ideas presented here should give you some inspiration to put your Space Marines back on the table if you’ve been struggling, and hopefully start winning games like the Poster Boys of the 41st Millenium should! Check back next week, as we talk about the ITC and what you can do to optimize yourself for an ITC game or event!