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Space Marines (Warhammer 40,000) Originally known as the Angels of Death, the Space Marines are one of the major forces available in the table-top wargame Warhammer 40,000. Also known as the Adeptus Astartes, they are elite soldiers, enhanced further by a combination of powered armour, intensive gene therapy, surgical modifications, and hypnotic indoctrination. An Ultramarines Tactical Squad The Space Marines The Space Marines are the most commonly played force in the game of Warhammer 40,000. Each individual Space Marine is a hardy warrior, with above-average firepower, close-range combat ability and baroque powered armour. They are considered to be the finest warriors of the Imperium of Man; elite supersoldiers who can be counted on to win almost any war. The best information concerning the Space Marines can be found in either the Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook or the Codex: Space Marines rules supplement, both published by Games Workshop. The Space Marines are heavily inspired by earlier works of science fiction, especially the Mobile Infantry from the novel Starship Troopers, and the Sardaukar from the novel Dune. The Legions and Chapters Originally, the Space Marines were divided up into twenty Legions, each Legion based on the genetic material of one of the God-Emperor's twenty genetic offspring. These offspring, the Primarchs, were exceptional individuals, with great and varied powers, such as flight or invisibility. However, the Emperor's plans were disrupted and they were scattered across the galaxy by the Chaos Gods. Two were never found, but the others were eventually recovered, and from their superior genetic material the Space Marine Legions were formed. Each Legion was an incredible fighting force, almost innumerably large and with advanced weaponry and equipment. During the events of the 31st millennium, known as the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, nine of the Legions were corrupted by the forces of Chaos, and rebelled against the Imperium. The traitors were eventually defeated in a great battle on Terra, but it was decided to divide the Legions still loyal to the Emperor into smaller groups of a thousand Marines. These chapters were created so that control of so many powerful soldiers was not held by a few men. Each Chapter is made up of ten Companies, containing one hundred Space Marines each. Individual Chapters have their own identity, heritage, fighting style and practice of beliefs. Most of the Chapters follow the tome known as the Codex Astartes, a treatise on the operations and procedures that should be followed by Space Marines, compiled during the Second Founding by the Ultramarines Primarch, Roboute Guilliman. The First Founding The Space Marines were originally divided into a number of vast Legions. Each Legion was based on the genetic material of one of the original Primarchs. When the Primarchs were rediscovered during the Great Crusade, they became the leaders of the Legion created from their genetic material. Loyalists During the Horus Heresy these Legions remained loyal to the Emperor. After the defeat of Horus, they were divided into the smaller Chapters, one of which retained the name of the original Legion. Name Primarch Homeworld Comments Ultramarines Robute Guilliman Macragge Most new Chapters are created with Ultramarines gene-seed, due to its unparalleled purity and plentiful supply (the Ultramarines were the largest Legion following the Horus Heresy). Also famous for its victory (albeit a costly one that destroyed the Chapter's veteran company) against Hive Fleet Behemoth in the First Tyrannic War. Blood Angels Sanguinius Baal They and their successor Chapters suffer from various gene-seed flaws, resulting in what is known as the Black Rage. The Blood Angels Legion participated in the epic defense of the Emperor's Palace during the Horus Heresy. Excels at close combat and assault tactics. Dark Angels Lion El'Jonson Caliban (Destroyed) The first Legion to be created by the Emperor. The Dark Angels and their successors refer to themselves as the Unforgiven. Highly secretive, they hunt the "Fallen" Angels who sided with Chaos during the Horus Heresy. Space Wolves Leman Russ Fenris Based on Norse culture. The forces of the Space Wolves are organised much differently than other chapters. Though the loyalty of the Space Wolves to the Imperium is unquestioned, they are infamous for their fierce anti-authority attitudes. Imperial Fists Rogal Dorn Holy Terra Siege specialists. Are charged with defending Terra. White Scars Jaghatai Khan Mundus Planus Mongol-based culture and fast-attack doctrines. Extensive use of bikes Iron Hands Ferrus Manus Medusa Devotees of the Machine Cult. High incidence of cybernetic modifications to their bodies. All new recruits have the left hand removed and replaced with a cybernetic model. Salamanders Vulkan Nocturne Technically-adept warriors with a preference for short-ranged combat, heat-based weaponry, and energized hammers. Raven Guard Corax Deliverance Specialize in hit-and-run assaults using jump packs and extensive use of scout marines. Traitors These Legions sided with Horus and the forces of Chaos during the Horus Heresy. After their defeat they fled into the Eye of Terror, becoming the Chaos Space Marines. Name Primarch Homeworld Comments Luna Wolves Horus Cthonia Renamed Sons of Horus, after Horus’ death they became the Black Legion.

Night Lords Konrad Curze/Night Haunter Nostramo Specialise in night and terror tactics; famed for their atrocities. Word Bearers Lorgar Colchis Only Traitor Legion with Chaplains, called Dark Apostles; strongly religious in mindset. Alpha Legion Alpharius Unknown Subtlety and covert ops are this Legion's forte; adopted hydra as their motif. Emperor's Children Fulgrim Chemos Devotees of Slaanesh

Iron Warriors Perturabo Olympia Siege and trench warfare specialists; Heavy Weaponry a favorite. World Eaters Angron Unknown Devolved into mindless bloodthirsty fanatics post-Heresy; chosen-ones of Khorne.

Death Guard Mortarion Barbarus Plague-ridden devotees of Nurgle.

Thousand Sons Magnus the Red Prospero Sorcerors of Tzeentch; they value knowledge, especially arcane and old knowledge. Note - all the Traitor Legions' homeworlds were later destroyed or otherwise rendered uninhabitable. Some of the planetary bodies still exist, like Prospero, however others were completely destroyed. However, each of the Chaos Legions has since claimed a world within the Eye of Terror as a new homeworld. It is assumed that all of these new homeworld have long since been transformed into Daemon Worlds, as all of the surviving Chaos Primarchs became Daemon Princes long ago. Unknown There are two other First Founding Legions, of which all records have apparently been lost or destroyed. Official lists of the First Founding Legions simply say that all records have been lost or destroyed by an unknown agent. Games Workshop has officially stated that they have been intentionally left unknown by the Warhammer 40,000 developers simply to allow players to make up their own background on the missing Legions. A popular misconception among fans of the game is that the Grey Knights and the Legion of the Damned are the two missing First Founding Legions. This is incorrect (and confirmed as incorrect by Games Workshop), as the Grey Knights originated from the Second Founding (their gene-seed is said to have come from the Emperor himself), and the Legion of the Damned are believed to have originated from the cursed twenty first founding (originally the Fire Hawks Chapter). One popular idea in the late 1990's is that one of the missing Primarchs originally landed on the gothic planet of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle setting, and became known as the character Sigmar. While original WFB history shows Sigmar as the son of a warchief, Sigmar did "vanish" in the time period as the other Primarchs. Other fans suggest that the character "Ulric" in the same setting is the wolf-like Primarch Leman Russ. Some parts of the early Warhammer 40,000 canon indicated that the two Primarchs of the missing chapters were never found, these Legions were unable to replace their casualties and were eventually whittled down to nothing. This information has not been mentioned for a long time in the official works, and it is uncertain if it remains canon. Later Foundings In subsequent millennia, the Imperium has also created new Chapters of Space Marines, using gene-seed sampled from existing ones. Many of these successor Chapters follow the beliefs and doctrines of the Chapter their genetic material originated from, while maintaining their own methods of operation and battle. There are approximately a thousand Space Marine Chapters in existence, most of which follow the teachings of the Codex Astartes, but the exact number is not known. An extensive list of known, canon Space Marine Chapters, including those of later Foundings, can be found at "List of Space Marine Chapters".

Progression of a Space Marine

A Space Marine is a vastly superior warrior when compared to a normal human. This is due to a series of genetic modifications, psychological conditioning, and heavy training. The end result of creating a Space Marine produces a soldier with abilities that are so superior to those of an average human that they are best described as superhuman. The procedure detailed below is that described in Codex: Astartes, which is followed to a greater or lesser extent by all Chapters. A notable exception to this are the Space Wolves, who employ a different system. Recruitment Different Space Marine Chapters follow different recruiting processes. Most recruits are drawn from the Chapter's homeworld. These worlds are often at a primitive or feudal level of development, creating a hardy human population, which in turn ensures only the toughest of candidates are selected. Only a small percentage of candidates may be recruited, and not all recruits will survive the initial rigors of training and treatment one must undergo to become a full-fledged Space Marine. The selection of recruits must abide by certain criteria. First and foremost, a potential candidate must be male, as the gene-seed and zygote are synchronized to work with male hormones. They must be of adolescent age preferably between ten and sixteen, as the implants are designed to coordinate with and increase the effectiveness of natural growth hormones. There must be a level of compatibility between the recruit and the gene-seed, otherwise the implanted organs will fail. Also, the mental state of a potential Marine must also be susceptible to the various training and psycho-conditioning regimes of the Chapter, and cannot be tainted by Chaos. These criteria bar all but a minuscule percentage of people within the Imperium from becoming Space Marines. If all tests prove successful, the recruit is accepted into the Chapter as a Neophyte. At this stage, implantation, psycho-conditioning, and physical training begin. Each step in this stage has its own dangers, ensuring that only the truly worthy become Space Marines. Gene-seed The term gene-seed describes the foreign genetic material introduced into a human during his transformation into a Space Marine, which is both directly and indirectly responsible for his physical changes. Gene-seed is a rare and precious resource for the Space Marines; since they no longer possess the technology needed to create new gene-seed, it must be passed down from dying warriors. Gene-seed is best described as DNA cultivated from one of the twenty Primarchs, the children of the Emperor. The genetic material is used to form nineteen implants, which are responsible for the physical transformation and abilities attributed to the Space Marines. These implants are surgically installed into an recruit (Neophyte) over a period of years. One of the implants creates copies of the various implants during the maturation of the Space Marine, which are removed shortly before or after death, for future use. A full list of the implants and their functions can be found here. Since the first founding, all Space Marines chapters have lost the abilty to make new implants, or are otherwise do not have all 19 implants within their chapter; and as such all chapters are different in this respect. The "purest" chapters in this respect are the Ultramarines, who still have all 19 implants and no significant mutations or defects in the geneseed, this being the reason that the Ultramarine geneseed is the one most often selected to create new Chapters. All Space Marine chapters still have the Black Carapace, as without it they could not interface with the Power Armour correctly.


Once the recruit passes the battery of tests and challenges set by the Chapter, and the initial gene-seed implants have taken hold on his body, he is accepted into the Chapter as a Neophyte. These Neophytes will be trained in the history of the Chapter and the edicts of the Codex Astartes, while the remaining implants and modifications are made to his body. Once a Neophyte begins his training and genetic modification, he is no longer permitted contact with his home or family, sworn to serve the Emperor and the Chapter until his death. The creation of a Space Marine is a dangerous process, and it is accepted that many will die during their indoctrination. Certain Chapters take different approaches to the training of Neophytes. Most will be inducted into the Tenth Company where they are trained and educated by veteran Marines, serving the Chapter as a light reconnaissance force. Some Chapters, most notably the Black Templars, apprentice their Neophytes to a more experienced Space Marine, the Neophyte acting as a servant, and learning by example.


The Neophytes gain experience in the ways of warfare by serving the Chapter as scouts, providing reconnaissance to the Chapter, while capable of acting as an infiltration or commando force. They can be equipped with a variety of equipment and weaponry, and on certain occasions have access to the Chapter's combat motorcycles. It is a dangerous baptism of fire, but provides valuable experience and hands-on training in the art of battle. Scouts do not wear power armour, but instead wear a lighter suit of non-powered segmented armour plates called Carapace Armour. This is both because their Black Carapace is not yet fully developed, but also because they must earn the privelidge of wearing the Power Armour by proving themselves as Space Marine Scouts first. Initiates Once the Neophyte's period of training is complete, and all nineteen gene-seed organs have been implanted and verified, the Neophyte will often be sent on a final challenge to prove his worth. Upon the completion of this challenge, the Neophyte will become a full member of the Chapter (known as an Initiate or Battle-Brother), and will be assigned to one of the eight Battle or Reserve Companies. The Initiate is provided with a boltgun and a set of power armour, the maintenance of which is his responsibility. Depending on the talents an Initiate demonstrated during his training, he will be assigned to one of three different squad types. Tactical The main fighting force of a Chapter, the Tactical Squads are versatile fighters, able to adapt their equipment and tactics to suit almost any situation. Tactical Squads make up the bulk of each Company, and specialist within each squad are trained to utilise various heavy and support weapons. Assault Assault Squads are specialist hand-to-hand fighters, trained for rapid movement and vicious attacks on enemy positions. Assault Marines are often equipped with jump packs, which allow them to close with enemy squads as quickly as possible, and to reach normally inaccessible positions to take out protected artillery emplacements or command centres. In addition, the Marines assigned to Assault Squads are trained in the use of the Chapter's combat motorcycles, and when the situation requires, may deploy in five-man squadrons using these. The use of a Bike Squadron provides a rapid assault force that can quickly adapt to the changing situation in battle. Devastator Devastator Squads are specially trained to provide fire support for their fellow Space Marines, with half the squad bearing a variety of anti-personnel and anti-tank weapons into battle. Although sacrificing some of the manoeuvrability of a Tactical Squad, the Devastators make up for it through the quality and quantity of firepower they can bring to a battlefield. They are typically called into action when the threat of enemy armour is present, or there is a need to break open fortifications or bunkers. Veterans Exceptional and experienced members of the Space Marine Chapter are promoted to Veteran status, and are provided access to various pieces of specialist equipment. Veterans usually remain with their Company, leading squads of their fellow Initiates into battle, but the Marines that have most proven their worth to the Chapter are inducted into the elite First Company. On occasion, a less experienced Initiate will be honoured with a position in the First Company, in response for an act of exceptional courage or tactical intelligence. Veteran Squads First Company Veterans are often fielded in the same manner as Tactical Squads. Multiple squads of Veterans are not fielded en-masse; instead a single squad will be assigned to assist another Company as an extremely flexible tactical reserve. Terminator Squads See main article: Terminators When the situation calls for it, Veteran Squads may be equipped with the rare suits of Tactical Dreadnought Armour, and fielded as a powerful spearhead for Space Marine attacks. They are heavily armoured, and able to carry a variety of potent heavy weapons. Specialists At any point during their long careers, a Space Marine may be called upon to train in a specialist field, to better support the Chapter in both combat and non-combat roles. Apothecaries The purity of a Chapter's gene-seed is one of the greatest concerns displayed by the Imperium, for if corruption is able to root itself within a Space Marine Chapter, it may well fall to Chaos. The Apothecaries are charged with maintaining the health and genetic purity of the Space Marines. Their skills and equipment, when combined with the added organs and resilience of a Space Marine, allow an Apothecary to perform battle surgery with a good chance of success. However, sometimes even the skills of an Apothecary are not enough to save a Marine. In this case, it is the Apothecary's responsibility to provide a mercy killing, known as the Emperor's Peace, and harvest the two Progenoid glands implanted in the unfortunate Marine's body, allowing for the gene-seed material to be cultivated and re-implanted in another Neophyte. Chaplains The Chaplains are the spiritual leaders of a Chapter, warrior-priests that minister to the spiritual well-being of the Space Marines, instilling in them the values and beliefs of the Chapter along with promoting the worship of the Emperor. Most marines (including chaplains) believe that the Emperor is not a god; that he is an extremely powerful mortal, but a mortal nonetheless. This is somewhat true, as the Emperor started as a Psyker, and was "developed" into a god. In battle, the Chaplains will be at the forefront of the Chapter, rousing their fellow Marines through their words and actions. Librarians The Chapter is continually vigilant to ensure that recruits will not taint the gene-seed of the Chapter through mutation. However, the psyker mutation is often encouraged, and these Marines are inducted into the corps of Librarians. These psychically-charged warriors are trained to use their abilities in the field of battle, as both weapons and tools of precognition. Off the field of battle, the Librarians are responsible for maintaining and adding to the records of the Chapter, attending to the Chapter's annals and the collective knowledge built up over millennia of service. The path to becoming a Librarian is a difficult one, as they must not only be strong enough to survive their training, but possess enough mental discipline to fend off the daemons and entities of the Warp, as these creatures see the enhanced form and mind of a Librarian as a strong prize. Also, the Librarians are often isolated from the rest of the Chapter, as they carry with them the abilities the Space Marines are expected to abhor and purge in all other beings. Techmarines Those who show an aptitude for machinery and technology are often selected to undergo the training to become a Techmarine, honorary members of the Adeptus Mechanicus and priests of the Machine God. The aspiring Techmarine will be sent away to train on Mars, learning the correct rites of activation and maintenance of the Chapter's equipment. They also learn how to rouse or placate the machine-spirits that inhabit many of the Chapter's vehicles and equipment. The Techmarines are often called upon to make repairs that are beyond the training of a Space Marine, even in the midst of battle. Should a vehicle or artifact of technology be lost to the enemy, the Techmarines are at the forefront of the effort to retrieve it, sometimes fighting harder for their mechanical charges then they would for their biological brethren. Leadership After hundreds of years of service to the Chapter, elite Marines may be called upon to take up one of the leadership positions within the Chapter. Brother-Captains A Brother-Captain leads each of the ten Companies within a Chapter. Each is the foremost warrior in his Company, and will rarely meet their match in battle. In addition to leading their brethren, the Brother-Captains will often be called upon to fulfill other roles, most often in charge of an aspect of the Chapter, including the armoury, supplies, or the Chapter Fleet. Notable Brother-Captains include Gabriel Angelos of the Blood Ravens' Third Company, Captain Tycho of the Blood Angels (now deceased), Ragnar Blackmane of the Space Wolves and Uriel Ventris of the Ultramarines. Chapter Master Foremost of a thousand Space Marines, the Chapter Master is the leader of a Chapter, a warrior with centuries of experience on the battlefield. He is also a master tactician, a devout follower of the Codex Astartes, and the man responsible for the thousands of decisions that can affect battles on the far side of the galaxy. The Chapter Master is often the one who teaches the recruits the history of the Chapter, and he is responsible for keeping the secrets and following the traditions of the Chapter. He is often the ruler of the Chapter's homeworld, and is responsible for maintaining the oaths and allegiances of the Chapter to outside worlds and organisations. The office of Chapter Master was originally held by the Primarchs, during the time before the Second Founding, and it is their examples and actions that each Chapter Master must adhere to. Notable Chapter Masters include Supreme Grand Master Azrael of the Dark Angels, Marneus Calgar of the Ultramarines, Dante of the Blood Angels, and Logan Grimnar of the Space Wolves. Weapons and Equipment As the most elite fighting organizations of the Imperium, Space Marine Chapters are equipped with some of the best weapons and equipment the Imperium has access to.

Space Marines in 40K Fiction

In the novels and stories published by the Black Library (Games Workshop's fiction publishing division), the Space Marines are portrayed as being far more powerful than their tabletop equivelants. Many players are drawn to the superhuman potential of the Space Marines in the fiction, only to be disappointed when they begin to play the wargame. The reason behind this has been explained as to maintain game balance; all armies are on an equal enough footing that the skill, tactics and luck of the individual players have a greater effect on the results than any fictional stereotype. However, a set of rules was created by Pete Haines, published in White Dwarf 300 in early 2005. Titled "The Movie Space Marine List", these rules strove to match the Space Marines portrayed in the fiction, resulting in 'armies' of ten or less Space Marines that were more than capable of taking on 1,500pt armies from other Codexes. These rules were made completely unofficial, and players were warned to be careful when using them against opponents.

Computer games

The Space Marines have featured in a number of Warhammer 40,000 based computer games. These include:

  • Space Crusade (1992)
  • Chaos Gate (1998)
  • Fire Warrior (2003)
  • Dawn of War (2004), and its expansion pack, Winter Assault

See Also

  • List of Space Marine Chapters
  • Weapons, Equipment and Vehicles of the Imperium (Warhammer 40,000)

External links

  • Imperial Literature — A fiction and gaming site with discussion forum
  • Bolter and Chainsword — Space Marines discussion board
  • Liber Astartes — Space Marine chapter listings
  • 40K Online — Space Marines at 40K Online.