Space Marine Review: Formations: Gladius Strike Force


Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the big daddy of Space Marine formations, the Gladius Strike Force. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.


Most 40k tournament players will be well familiar with the Gladius Strike Force, bringing a smile to their face or a curse to their lips. The Strike Force is arguably one of the top-tier Decurion-type detachments available in the game. This is a combination of the strength of Space Marines and the Space Marine Codex in addition to the special rules for the Gladius Strike Force and formations available within it. It is the basis for an extremely strong army and is a frequent sight on the tabletop.



The Gladius Strike Force consists of 1-2 Core Choices, 1+ Auxiliary Choices and 0-3 Command Choices.

The only Core choice is the Battle Demi-Company. While this may seem limited, it is a fantastic core formation that gets even better in the Gladius.

The Command Choices are:

The Auxiliary choices consist of:

Special Rules:

  • Codex Astartes- An army containing one or more Gladius Strike Forces can enact each of the Combat Doctrines (Devastator, Assault and Tactical) once per game. When each Doctrine is enacted, all models that are part of a Gladius Strike Force are affected.
  • Company Support- If the Gladius includes two Battle Demi-companies, one led by a Captain and one led by a Chaplain, the form a Battle Company. Any unit that has the option to take a Rhino, Razorback or Drop Pod a s a dedicated transport may take one for free (must pay for upgrades as normal).



The Gladius Strike Force is a very competitive choice for a Space Marine army.

The core of the force is the Battle Demi-Company (check out the review in the Tactics Corner for more info on this great formation). The Battle Demi-Company is a solid formation with some great special rules. Most tournament lists will feature two Battle Demi-Companies to form a Battle Company and gain access to the amazing Company Support special rule. Taking a Battle Company gives the army access to up to 14 FREE transport vehicles. This gives you up to 730 points for free on top of your army (two Demi-companies can potentially take up to 12 Razorbacks for the infantry and two drop pods for the Dreadnoughts).


Another huge bonus for the Battle Company is that all the units have Objective Secured and will therefore grant the highly useful special rule to their transport vehicles as well. Generally, the Battle Company will feature 24 Objective Secured units (with the option to take up to 30 objective secured units). This is obviously great for any objective-based and maelstrom-based missions, where most opponents and armies will struggle to eliminate that many units over the course of a standard game. The downside of this type of army is that it will bleed victory points in a Kill Points-type mission as you are likely to have a lot of smaller units and transport vehicles around the board for your opponent to kill.

There is also a lot of variety in how you can build your Battle Company. You must take a Captain, Chaplain and 6 tactical squads, but have a number of options for the Devastator and Fast Attack options.


A unit of Devastators armed with Grav Cannons in a Drop Pod are an obviously strong choice. You could even add a Captain in Cataphractii Terminator Armour to the unit to boost their potency even further. Alternatively, you could go with some Grav Devastator Centurions in the army, though you don’t get a free transport option for them (no free Land Raider unfortunately!).


The Fast Attack choices allow you to take either an objective secured unit of Assault Marines, Bike Squad, Land Speeders, Attack Bike or Centurion Assault Squad. This gives you a wealth of options to suit your playstyle. I prefer the Bike Squad myself for the mobility and durability, but this reduces the free transports available in the army, so is not the most popular of options.

You can also have a lot of variety in the free transport options. You could go for all drop pods to form a potent alpha-strike army, many armies will struggle to deal with 5 drop pod units in turn 1 and at least 10 drop pods in the army will give you great options for board control. You could also go for all Rhinos or Razorbacks for a ground-based army. Up to 12 free twin-linked Heavy Bolters is going to be potent in any force, with the option to take relatively cheap heavy weapons upgrades for the transport vehicles. Alternatively, you can go for a mix of transport vehicles to give your opponent multiple types of threats to deal with.


As limited as the core choices for the formation are, it does have a wealth of Command and Auxiliary choices that can be added to the Strike Force.

By far, the most popular Auxiliary choice is the 10th Company Task Force. Not only is this the cheapest auxiliary choice available (at only 155 points base), but it provides a lot of utility for your Strike Force. You can build your Scout units in a variety of ways, from camo cloak objective holders to combat units embarked in a Landspeeder Storm. If you are going for a drop pod heavy Battle Company list, it may be worth investing in a unit or two of Scout Bikers armed with Homing Beacons to help guide down your pods. One downside of this is that the Scout Bikers must purchase Cluster Mines, which will have limited utility against many competitive armies.


In addition to the 10th Company Task Force, there are a number of other cheap auxiliary formations available to complement the Battle Company, including the Suppression Force and Anti-air Defence Force. These add some useful firepower to the army.

When it comes to Command Choices, the Librarius Conclave is the clear winner here. This formation is fantastic and will provide a big boost to any Space Marine force.


As awesome as the Company Support special rules is in the Gladius, the Codex Astartes special rule should not be overlooked. Army wide re-rolls for the Strike Force are another potent benefit for the army, especially when you get to enact the Tactical Doctrine twice with up to 6 Tactical Squads in your Strike Force. These Doctrines give you a large amount of tactical flexibility in a game, allowing you to choose the right Doctrine at the right point in the game for maximum effect.

Another big bonus of the Gladius Strike Force is that you can buy a Battle Company and 10th Company Task Force for a minimum of 985 points. In a standard 1850 pts army, this lives you with a lot of points left to upgrade your squads or buy additional formations or allies to add to the army, as well as giving you 8 free dedicated transport vehicles.


Chapter Tactics

By far, the White Scars Chapter Tactics are the most popular for use in the Gladius Strike Force. Army wide Hit and Run is a huge bonus, as all White Scars players will know. Another reason that the White Scars tactics are so popular is that it allows players to field Kor’sarro Khan in the Gladius Strike Force. If he is your warlord, all those free Rhinos and Razorbacks gain Scout. This allows your army to close with the enemy incredibly quickly, getting into rapid fire range quickly with all those twin-linked Bolters (thanks to the Tactical Doctrine).


The Ultramarines Chapter Tactics are another popular way to field the Gladius Strike Force. Getting to enact each Combat Doctrine twice (or three times for the Tactical Doctrine) is a big boost for an army with so much infantry in it.


For an army with so may Bolters in it, the Imperial Fists Chapter Tactics will be of big benefit to a Gladius Strike Force. Additional re-rolls on top of the Doctrine re-rolls will be powerful for a Battle Company and should ensure you put out a lot of damage each turn.


The Iron Hands Chapter Tactics will boost the infantry in your army, giving you more durability. In addition, gaining It Will Not Die on your free transports will make them even more difficult for your opponent to take out quickly.


The Salamanders Chapter Tactics will greatly boost any drop pod units armed with Flamers, giving them a greater chance of alpha-striking any units. The large number of Sergeants in your squad will also benefit from being able to master-craft one of their weapons, making it worth upgrading these models to carry combi-weapons.


The Raven Guard Chapter Tactics will have more limited use if you choose to go the Battle Company route with your Gladius Strike Force as most of your units will probably start the game embarked in their free transport vehicles, but will give some added durability to those that do not.


Overall, the Gladius Strike Force is a very strong and very competitive army detachment. The ability to take free, objective secured transport vehicles and the wide range of re-rolls available to the army make it great for board control and for reliable damage to the enemy army. It comes with a wide range of auxiliary options and choices in its core formation, meaning you can build a lot of variety into the Strike Force depending on your playstyle.


And as always, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off of retail, every day!

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About Michael Corr

An avid 40k player and blogger from Scotland. I started in 3rd edition and have been playing ever since. I detail my adventures in my own blog "St Andrews Wargaming", highlighting my mediocre painting skills, regular battle reports and my occasional random ramblings.

16 Responses to “Space Marine Review: Formations: Gladius Strike Force”

  1. Reecius October 15, 2016 9:09 am #

    I have a love hate relationship with Battle Company. It is fun and cool but giving armies 450+ free points is just so silly and should not be necessary. Plus, White Scars CT’s are just too much better than the other and thus you never see anything but White Scars.

    Still, good to see Marines doing well, just wish they didn’t play like a horde army, lol

    • Kevin Lantz October 15, 2016 8:48 pm #

      It’s a formation that would of been strong enough without the free points just giving ob sec to everything.

      • Michael Corr October 16, 2016 7:59 am #

        I agree with both comments 🙂

        The White Scars are the best chapter tactic by far (IMO), Hit and Run on all the army is just amazing, as well as very easy access to Scout.

        I think you are right, Kevin. Even without the free transports, it would be incredibly strong with access to so much objective secured.

        The Gladius seems to be one of the poster children for talking about OP formations. They seem to bear the brunt as you can actually count up a points value for their free stuff. The bonuses of the Decurion for example, are very strong, but difficult to put a specific points value on.

  2. Chandler October 16, 2016 11:29 am #

    Personally, as annoying as the Gladius is for non-marine players, I think it should be one of the stronger builds in the game. Marines are the flagship of the 40k franchise and their rules should represent their ferocity on the table in my humble opinion.

    That said, I agree with pretty much everyone’s sentiments on the free transports. The fact that the entire army pretty much is Obsec along with the 400+ free points of further obsec units makes it a powerful force that’s really on the verge of being overpowered. Still I’d rather face off against a Gladius any day than a deathstar army.

    • abusepuppy October 16, 2016 10:40 pm #

      “On the verge of being overpowered.”

      • Chandler October 17, 2016 7:53 am #

        Well I was trying not to be overly dramatic about it lol. Hell just the obsec everywhere alone makes it insanely strong. The free transports does push it over the top.

        • abusepuppy October 18, 2016 1:56 am #

          I think that if they didn’t get free transports, the Gladius would be a mid-tier list at best; ObSec is good, but you’re taking a lot of subpar units to get it. but ObSec _and_ tons of free models pushes them up into the top.

          If Grav didn’t exist (or was significantly weaker, like Salvo 2/3 for cannons), Battle Company probably would be a lot less scary since it would struggle with “big” targets.

          • Chandler October 18, 2016 8:20 am

            Yes Grav combined with all the doctrines every turn makes them capable of handling the nasties on the board. But grav in general has really changed the game overall hasn’t it?

          • Reecius October 18, 2016 8:39 am

            Yes, in a bad way, IMO.

          • Chandler October 18, 2016 10:27 am

            I agree. Grav has essentially changed the meta more than any other rule has for as long as I can remember.

  3. Adam Wright October 16, 2016 7:07 pm #

    The Gladius I fear, really overshadows every other Marine formation in terms of power level and utility. If you look at the chapter specific formations from AoD you can see that none of them really measure up to the Gladius. the option to take two Demi-Companies and grab hundreds of points in free transports that all have Obsec is just simply too powerful. I bet that as long as that exists you won’t really ever see any other type of marine army at the top tables.

    • Bryan October 19, 2016 6:56 am #

      The talon strike force (Ravenguard) I believe placed decently at LVO and won battle for salvation.

  4. Adam Wright October 16, 2016 7:13 pm #

    I think Gladius will continue to overshadow every other marine “decurion” from other supplements (Angels of Death, for example). The option to have all those free transports that also all have Obsec is just simply too powerful.

    It also doesn’t help when you include the Scars and their special hq Khan on top of all that.

    • Michael Corr October 17, 2016 9:06 am #

      I like the Scarblade strike force, simply as it suits my style of play. Definitely not as powerful as the Gladius, but still a lot of fun.

      • Alex R October 18, 2016 10:37 pm #

        I prefer the medusa strike force with the stormlance formation

  5. Alex R October 16, 2016 7:19 pm #

    ive used the gladius with the angels of death formation for iron hands, makes it way stronger than white scars

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