Template:WH-in-universe In the Warhammer 40,000 game system and its derivatives, a Dreadnought is a walking vehicle or mecha of intermediate size, commonly encountered in the 28mm scale game systems (Warhammer 40,000, Space Crusade, Space Hulk and similar).

File:Ultramarines Dreadnought.jpg

Even the Space Marines are mortal, and when the greatest of their number fall in battle, if there is a spark of life left in them, and they are experienced enough to be considered invaluable to the Space Marine Chapter, then their body will be transferred into the armoured sarcophagus of a Dreadnought. They are often mistaken to be huge armoured fighting suits or robots; they are similar to both and yet neither. Dreadnoughts are a combination of armoured walker and life-support system; their pilots are hooked straight into the Dreadnought's body, and are able to use it as if it were their own body, although they are permanently entombed until they are destroyed.

Dreadnoughts are often thousands of years old. The oldest Dreadnought in the Imperium, Bjorn the Fell-Handed, of the Space Wolves was a member of Leman Russ' retinue and fought in the Horus Heresy when he was still whole of body, making him well over 10,000 years old. When the Dreadnoughts are not in need by the Chapter, they are placed back into the Chapter's chapel to sleep away the centuries until they are needed once more.

Current models

As with Power Armour there are different "Marks" (iterative versions) of Dreadnought. The most common version and the one produced as a model by Games Workshop is the Mark V, a design that has been used since the introduction of the second edition of Warhammer 40,000 in 1993. Made of plastic, this is a generic model which can be used by any chapter. The right arm can either be armed with an assault cannon or twin-linked lascannon, while the left side can either be a powerfist (with either a storm bolter or heavy flamer underneath) or missile launcher, allowing the player to build either a standard or fire-support (Hellfire) dreadnought.

Chapter-specific dreadnoughts such as the Blood Angels' Furioso and Dark Angels' Mortis have also been released; these use the Mark V design.

There are also metal models for Venerable Dreadnoughts. The "generic" venerable Dreadnought is an ornately decorated war machine armed with an assault cannon and powerfist. Interestingly, the Space Wolves Venerable Dreadnought is similar in design to the standard Mark V Dreadnought, save for the Space Wolves tokens and unique Lightning Claw/Heavy Flamer on the left side. Space Wolves players may still use the new Venerable Dreadnought if they dislike the older one.

Forge World makes a (resin) Mark IV model. The style of the Mark IV is close to that of the Epic scale dreadnought when first released - it predating the current 25mm scale design.

Metal Mark V Dreadnoughts were released for Epic 40,000 and were carried over for the succeeding Epic: Armageddon. There is some variation in the sarcophagi design, and the missile launcher consisted of eight "tubes" instead of the cells of the Warhammer 40,000 scale. Weapons include the twin-lascannon, assault cannon, and multi-melta for the right arm, and powerfist, lightning claw, and missile launcher for the left side. Dreadnoughts had a unique blend of firepower and assault, making them useful for defending objectives. However, their slow speed otherwise proved a major hindrance on the vast Epic battlefield, though the introduction of transports able to carry Dreadnoughts, such as the Thunderhawk Transporter, should compensate for this.

The very earliest editions of WH40K had the Dreadnought occupants as healthy individuals and they were common to both Imperial Guard and Space Marines.


The standard dreadnought carries a heavy weapon on its right side and the left arm acts as a close-combat weapon. The latter is usually a Powerfist with either a storm bolter or heavy flamer fitted below the forearm. Though it shares the same name, it is not at all similar to the melee weapons used by other armed forces of the Imperium. Unrestricted by size or weight, dreadnought powerfists are vastly more powerful than ones carried by all infantry, even Space Marine Terminators. The Dreadnought's powerfist is more effective as it does not force the user to strike last and (like the unwieldy infantry-borne Power Fist and Chainfist) it is deadly against heavy armour. This, combined with the Dreadnought's own impressive unmodified strength makes the fist deadly to all, even heavily armored foes ( A Dreadnought can easily kill a tough commander model like a Space Marine chapter master outright with one hit). Also, the Dreadnought's heavy vehicle armor means that even those that survive the initial assault can do little more than wait for the inevitable. The Space Wolves Venerable Dreadnought's melee weapon is a Lightning Claw with an underslung heavy flamer, though the claw functions the same as a powerfist for gameplay purposes.

Official models and accessories produced by Games Workshop have included the assault cannon, multi-melta, or twin-linked lascannon as the heavy weapon. Through customizations or conversions, players can produce "standard" dreadnoughts with plasma cannons, twin-linked autocannons or twin-linked heavy-bolters. Forge World produces a clawed version of the plastic powerfist arm, which look like a newer version of the Space Wolves Power Claw. The arm can also be replaced with a bunker-busting assault drill arm, as detailed below.


There are two major variants of the standard Dreadnought in service within the Imperium.

  • Hellfire replaces the Powerfist with a missile launcher giving up close combat ability for long range ability. The advantage of the Dreadnought's missile launcher over its Space Marine equivalent (which can only be fired when the marine stays still and brace himself) is that the former can run at full speed whilst still laying down a barrage of missiles.
Officially, Hellfire Dreadnoughts are usually referred to as Fire Support Dreadnoughts. The Hellfire term was used in the computer game Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, and was quickly adopted by players of the tabletop version as well.
Before 1998, the Hellfire was a Dark Angels-themed dreadnought with a twin-linked lascannon and missile launcher, though it can be used by other chapters.
  • The Siege Dreadnought is designed exclusively for assaults against fortified positions. Its Inferno Cannon will devastate any infantry caught in the open, while its close combat weapon is modified with rock drills and an internal Heavy Flamer, allowing it to burrow through the walls of a bunker and roast anything inside in a single action.

Among the countless more specialised variants that are Chapter-specific, three stand out:

  • The Furioso was designed by the Blood Angels and their successors. It gives up the ranged heavy weapon for another Dreadnought power fist. This allows them to literally "tear apart" enemy vehicles when in melee combat. It is the antithesis of the Dark Angel's Mortis-pattern in this respect. Prior to 1998, the Furioso was the Blood Angels-themed dreadnought with a Multi-Melta and Powerfist, though it can be used by other Chapters. Furibundus was used for the very earliest dreadnought models of the late 1980s. Another unique aspect of the Furioso Dreadnought was the special character, Moriar the Chosen, who operates with the Death Company.
  • The Mortis is almost exclusively used by the Dark Angels chapter and mounts two ranged weapons. Unlike the Hellfire variant, the Mortis has a considerably wider weapons selection, as the left arm strongpoint is not restricted to a missile launcher. It commonly mounts a pair of the same ranged weapon, commonly twin-linked Autocannons or twin-linked Lascannons.
  • The Aegis, used by the Grey Knights Inquisitorial Chapter, is equipped with special warp resistant devices, and blessed armour that offer a degree of protection from psychic powers. Aegis Dreadnoughts are also able to use the powerful Psycannon in place of their standard range weapon.

Venerable Dreadnoughts

Though not truly a variant, it is worth mentioning as these are regarded with more honor and respect than most generals of the Imperium:

  • Older Dreadnoughts are referred to as Venerable Dreadnoughts. Having millennia worth of experience, Venerable Dreadnoughts are even harder to destroy than their younger counterparts. However, as a trade off for their knowledge, they are armed with older, more volatile weaponry. Venerable Dreadnoughts are prone to malfunction and the parts needed to update them can no longer be manufactured. Some of these ancient behemoths no longer resemble the current mass production Dreadnoughts and are bulky and cumbersome. Others stand towering over their foes like elegantly crafted statues ready to smite their enemies.

The original design for scratch-building dreadnoughts have been long lost and so newer versions of these behemoths (if any exist) can only be built from spare/salvaged parts. This is evident in the Iron Hands chapter as they have very few of these beasts after the Drop Site Massacre.

One of the more notable examples is the Space Wolves' Bjorn the Fell-Handed. He is the oldest Dreadnought in the Imperium and was a member of Leman Russ' retinue and fought in the Horus Heresy when he was still whole of body. Oddly, the Space Wolves Venerable Dreadnought released by Games Workshop is similar in design to the standard Mark V Dreadnought (save for the Space Wolves tokens and being a metal blister instead of plastic), while the "generic" venerable Dreadnought is an ornately decorated war machine.

Other races


Chaos Dreadnoughts are not revered for their wisdom like their Imperial counterparts but shackled securely when not in combat as the Chaos Space Marine within has been driven insane by millennia of being trapped within the cold sarcophagus. They are used as insane behemoths to trample the enemy and are regarded with caution, as the madman pilot can turn his wrath upon his comrades if there are no enemy units within range. Their weapons are configured in the same way as Imperial Dreadnoughts but have no specific designations. As they are not wise or even reliable by any means, they are usually designated as fire support or frontal assault units rather than elite soldiers as the Imperial Space Marine Dreadnoughts are. However, Chaos Dreadnoughts can be configured into more powerful versions of their Imperial counterparts by the use of special marks dedicated to one of the Chaos gods, imbuing them with unholy powers.

NOTE - New game rules don't allow marks to be placed on Chaos Dreadnoughts.


Orks also have noticed the usefulness of dreadnoughts, particularly their shooty and stompy aspects. Orkish Dreadnoughts, or "Deff Dreds" as they are called, are a crude parody of their Imperial namesake. Ork Dreds are armed with massive amounts of claws and guns. Due to the meks being less understanding of technology most orkish dreads are simply controlled with an array of buttons and levers rather than the pilot being hooked up to the machine. Smaller variants, named the Killa Kan, also exist. These cousins of the destructive war machines are often fielded in squadrons of 3 and are just as devastating in combat as their larger cousins, except they have less armor.

Previous versions

The first dreadnought models out were for the Space Marines/Imperial Guard. These were the Furibundus, Deredeo and Contemptor which had different weapons fit. There were a selection of arms (single or double bolter, lascannon or missile launcher) which fitted to the body, "wide" or "narrow" which in turn could have either long or short legs.

In Second Edition Warhammer 40,000, various bipedal, heavily armoured fighting machines belonging to numerous factions of the game were collectively called Dreadnoughts. Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Orks and Eldar all fielded a Dreadnought of their own design, generally carrying at least one Heavy Weapon and having armour and survivability characteristics roughly equivalent to a tank(in fact even under the current rules Dreadnoughts are so heavily armoured they could be classified as medium armour rather than light armour, even when compared to vehicles such as the Chimera and Leman Russ). Dreadnoughts were important support units in the game due to their prowess in close combat, being far more capable of defending themselves at close quarters than tanks or other vehicles, while being much harder to damage than infantry. A corresponding disadvantage was their size as tabletop models; this made them highly visible and particularly in the game's early days where large tank models were less common, dreadnoughts were highly vulnerable to being sighted from long distance and destroyed before they could retaliate.

A cardboard cut-out of an Ork Dreadnought was included in the Second Edition boxed game as a stand-in for new players to be able to play all the included introductory scenarios, as the metal Ork Dreadnought model was a fairly expensive purchase at the time of publication.

In the Second Edition, the four dreadnoughts released by Games Workshop were metal models of the Mark V design, distinguished by their weaponry and chapter-specific banners and decals. They included an Ultramarines dreadnought with an assault cannon and powerfist/stormbolter, the Dark Angels dreadnought with a twin-linked lascannon and missile launcher (now known as the fire-support or Hellfire), Blood Angels dreadnought Furioso with a Multi-Melta and powerfist/stormbolter, and the Space Wolves' Bjorn the Fell-Handed with an assault cannon and lightning claw/heavy flamer. Bjorn the Fell-Handed is unique as it is fielded as a special character and its Space Wolves tokens make it specific to that chapter, it is still in release as the present but has since been renamed as Space Wolves Venerable Dreadnought for the Third Edition and now lacks the banner. The other themed dreadnoughts can be used by other Chapters.

Following the release of Third Edition Warhammer 40,000, Games Workshop publications generally ceased the generic use of the word 'Dreadnought', instead referring only to the types fielded by Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, and occasionally Ork dreadnoughts by that name. Eldar dreadnoughts were now known as Wraithlords and Orks, except for the appropriate army list entries, colloquially referred to their versions simply as Dreds or Killa Kanz, a name also given to smaller Dreadnought-style vehicles that they also field.

It was also in the Third Edition that variant dreadnoughts such as the fire-support (Hellfire), Mortis (specific to the Dark Angels, mounts two ranged weapons of any type), and Furioso (now a Blood Angels' specific, with two powerfists, with heavy flamer and meltagun, respective) were released. Along with the release of the Furioso, there was also the introduction of the special character Moriar the Chosen.

With the new Fourth Edition, Moriar the Chosen was removed from the list. However the Blood Angels do receive the option of upgrading a Furioso Dreadnought into a Death Company Dreadnought, which has a similar ability to Moriar.

Other Warhammer 40,000-Related Articles


Priestley, R; Chambers, A: Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook, Second Edition, Games Workshop, Nottingham

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