Space Marine Review: HQ: Chapter Master


Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the big daddy of the Space Marine HQ units, the Chapter Master. The Chapter Master is found in a wide variety of competitive lists and with good reason. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.


The Chapter Master is the combat powerhouse of your Space Marine army. Armed with the correct wargear and upgrades, he has the ability to take on just about any model/unit in the game and either kill them or hold his own and stop such a threat from laying waste to your army. He is flexible, powerful and can be tailored to fit your playstyle and shore up any gaps in your army list. His base cost comes in at 130 points, but he will be way more expensive than this once you start equipping him for combat.



  • Bolt Pistol
  • Chainsword
  • Frag and Krak Grenades
  • Iron Halo
  • Orbital Strike- Infinite range, S10, AP1, Ordnance 1, Large Blast, Barrage, One Use Only, always scatters full 2D6″. Unit is still allowed to charge after firing.
  • May take a Relic Blade, Storm Shield, Artificer Armour, Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons, Special Issue Wargear and/or Chapter Relics.
  • May take Terminator Armour, Storm Bolter and Power Sword. May also take a Relic Blade in Terminator Armour.

Special Rules:

  • Chapter Tactics
  • Independent Character



The Chapter Master is a potent force in combat. He has WS6, I5, 4W and 4 attacks, meaning he can put out a lot of damage in combat if armed right. At toughness 4, the Chapter Master would normally struggle against many units in close combat, with the threat of being taken out with Instant Death attacks being quite high. This, however, all changes when you arm him with one of the best Relics in the game; the Shield Eternal. This Relic gives him a 3+ invulnerable save, Eternal Warrior and Adamantium Will. Gaining Eternal Warrior is the real star here. This means that your opponent will need to take every last wound from the Chapter Master before he dies. The Shield Eternal is expensive, but it is well worth the cost for your Chapter Master.


One popular build for the Chapter Master is as follows:

  • Space Marine Bike
  • Artificer Armour
  • The Shield Eternal
  • Thunder Hammer

This build gives the Chapter Master toughness 5, with a 2+ save, 3++ and Eternal Warrior. This build makes the Chapter Master a potent wound tank. Stick him at the front of a unit to absorb a lot of the enemy firepower with his armour save and invulnerable save, with the option to Look Out, Sir! on a 2+ if he needs to. In combat, you can generally rely on his durability to keep him alive to swing back with his Thunder Hammer to take out most threats you will send him against. For additional durability, you can put him in a Command Squad with an Apothecary to give him a Feel No Pain. This can be improved even further with the right use of Chapter Tactics and Formations (more on this below). Putting him on a Bike means that he can use his Orbital Bombardment on the move, as well as allowing him to get into combat faster, which is where you really want him to be. If I am running a Chapter Master, this will generally be my preferred build. It allows him to get to the enemy quickly and provides a great wound tank for your army. Put him with a tooled-up Command Squad and send them after the biggest threat in the enemy army. This build is incredibly pricey, but well worth the cost in most games.


Another popular build would be:

  • Cataphractii Terminator Armour
  • The Shield Eternal
  • Thunder Hammer
  • Auspex

Due to the ambiguous nature of the wording for Cataphractii Terminator Armour, combining this with the Shield Eternal gives you a 3++ with re-rolls of saving throws of a 1. This greatly improves the durability of the Chapter Master. In addition, he grants Slow and Purposeful to any unit he joins. This combination works very well with a unit of Grav Devastators in a Drop Pod. The pod arrives automatically on turn 1, the Chapter Master allows the Devastators to fire to full effect and acts as a wound tank for the Devastators. After that, he is free to separate from the unit and launch into combat where he really shines. The downside of this is that the Chapter Master can quickly find himself out of position, as there is very little that will stand up to a unit of Grav Devastators firing at full effect or a tooled-up Chapter Master in combat for very long.


With such a powerful character, you really want a solid squad and transport options to support him. My choice would always be the Command Squad, but a unit of Honour Guard or Vanguard Veterans is also a great choice. The durability of the Chapter Master really boosts these two units and mitigates some of the disadvantages that they face on their own. If you go this route, you probably want to invest in a transport vehicle to get them to the enemy quicker. The Land Raider is a great option, allowing them to assault directly from it. However, this is an expensive transport added to an expensive Chapter Master and expensive unit and it could be quite easy to put half the points of your army into this one unit and its transport vehicle. A Rhino or Razorback are viable options, you just need to hope the Chapter Master holds out against the enemy firepower for a turn before he can charge, which is not that unreasonable.


Chapter Tactics

The use of the right Chapter Tactics can further boost the combat potential of your Chapter Master, as well as giving him access to different Relics and formations to make him even better.


The White Scars Chapter Tactics are great for any combat character. Hit and Run allows you to escape from a combat when you may be bogged down or allow you to charge in once more to get your bonus attacks. The White Scars also have access to some great Relics. While they are probably not good enough to replace the Shield Eternal, they can be of use if points are tight or you wish to just mix things up. The Glaive of Vengeance gives you S7 AP2 attacks on the charge that strike at initiative, really powerful given the stats of your Chapter Master. The Hunter’s Eye is another amazing Relic. It is well worth taking this on your Chapter Master or having another character in the same unit with it. An ignores cover Orbital Strike is going to wreck most units in the game if it hits.


The Iron Hands Chapter tactics gives you the tools to create an insanely powerful Chapter Master. The Gorgon’s Chain is a fantastic choice for a Chapter Master. This Relic gives him Eternal Warrior, +1 to his FNP roll and a 3++. The only downside of this is that he begins to lose abilities and the invulnerable save is reduced the more he is wounded. Taking the Gorgon’s Chain on a Chapter Master in the Fist of Medusa Strike Force (the Iron Hands Decurion) gives the Chapter Master a 4+ Feel No Pain. Stick him in a Command Squad and he now has a 2+ Feel No Pain. On a Bike, it is going to take a S10 shot to negate this powerful save. An Iron Hands Chapter Master equipped in this way is practically invincible to anything but Superheavy vehicles (who will still have a tough time taking him out). Don’t forget, he even gets It Will Not Die.


Salamanders Chapter Tactics allow you to master-craft one of your weapons. This is probably best used for a combat weapon. We have all had those turns when you completely fluff your To Hit rolls, so any form of re-roll is a nice bonus for your character. The Salamander’s Mantle is a Relic that grants Eternal Warrior. You can purchase it and a Storm Shield for 5 pts cheaper than the Shield Eternal (though you do not get Adamantium Will). Alternatively, you could rely on your Iron Halo and purchase two combat weapons. A Thunder Hammer and Lightning Claw would give you +1 attacks and give you the option to go for Shred attacks at initiative rather than the Thunder Hammer attacks, giving you some additional tactical advantage in combat.


The Chapter Master got a big boost in the recent draft FAQs, allowing him to be taken in any formation that features a Space Marine Captain. This means he can be taken to lead your Battle Demi-Company or Gladius Strike Force, making these already potent formations even better.

So there you have it. The Chapter Master, when equipped correctly, is a combat beast and an absolute tank on the battlefield. He pays a hefty price for such abilities, but is worth the cost in most armies. What are some of your favourite combinations for the Chapter Master? What sorts of units do you run him with?

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

You can also pick up some cheap models in our Second Hand Shop. Some of these gems are quite rare, sometimes they’re fully painted!



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.

11 Responses to “Space Marine Review: HQ: Chapter Master”

  1. Protoman2k November 3, 2016 7:06 am #

    Love these articles you have been doing, and am anticipating which faction you do next. One minor thing that caught my eye though. 3 Centurions + Terminator Captain = 11 model equivalent. Drop Pods can only hold 10 Models so that strategy cannot work. Look forward to seeing your next article.

    • Keith November 3, 2016 7:16 am #

      He did say Grav Devastators in his post, not centurions. This strategy allows for 20 grav shots right out of a drop pod.

      • Protoman2k November 3, 2016 7:34 am #

        You are correct! My mind read Centurions for whatever reason. I rescind my comment, and make it a “hey, fun fact!” Time to go drink more coffee and roll on the “Instinctive Behaviour (Lurk)” chart. It is a 1. Run away!

    • Michael Corr November 3, 2016 8:55 am #

      Cheers Protoman2k, glad you are enjoying the articles. I am currently making my way through the Dark Angels codex for reviews, a few of them are up on the site at the moment, so be sure to check them out.

      Yeah, unfortunately no Terminator character can join the Centurions in a drop pod. My preference for them is a Librarian with Prescience for maximum effect.

  2. Reecius November 3, 2016 10:13 am #

    The only thing that always cracked me up was putting two Chapter Masters on the table at the same time, lol. By definition, there should only be one Chapter Master per Chapter, haha.

    That aside, he’s a beast! Fun unit to use.

    • Michael Corr November 3, 2016 12:15 pm #

      Two Chapter Masters?!? That is an ultimate beard build!

      • Reecius November 3, 2016 2:44 pm #

        Yeah, it’s very popular in the tournament meta, haha

  3. Dakkath November 3, 2016 11:25 am #

    Ah yes, the Iron Hands/Fist of Medusa Chapter Master Smashf***er build.

    • Michael Corr November 4, 2016 5:15 am #

      I can’t imagine it is very fun to play against, but it is highly effective.

    • Chandler November 4, 2016 5:45 am #

      Played against this one recently in a tournament with my Cabal Star. They are exceptionally annoying because of the 2+ FNP. What I managed to do was cast Enfeeble on the unit to bring his Toughness down to 4 then tied him up with a Chaos Knight for the game. With STR 6 on his Thunderhammer he couldn’t hurt the knight. Then the Cabal went around and killed everything else.

  4. Julien November 4, 2016 5:20 am #

    Technically, the chapter master does not have access to Cataphractii armor as it is an option for the termie captain only in the SM supplement, without the option to upgrade to CM.

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