Space Marine Review: Stratagems

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the awesome new Stratagems available for the forces of the Adeptus Astartes in the new Space Marine codex. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.

Space Marine armies now get a dramatically expanded selection of Stratagems to spend those precious Command Points (CP) on. If you have been listening to Signals from the Frontline or reading the articles on Frontline Gaming, you will know that this is where the flavour and variety in the different armies is coming from in 8th edition.  After checking out the new Stratagems in the codex, I can believe that this is true.

The Codex features a huge number of Stratagems, some of which are Chapter-specific, but with a lot of interesting combinations and options possible. It gives you a lot of tactical options to use during your games, and will definitely push you towards maximising the number of command points you have in your army to take advantage of them.

Below I will take you through the Stratagems available to Space Marines and some of my initial thoughts on them.

Relics of the Chapter– Take one extra Relic for 1 CP or two extra Relics for 3CP. Given the usefulness of the Relics in the codex, this is a solid Stratagem. The Space Marines have access to a number of great Relics in the new codex (to be reviewed in the future), so I think taking one extra Relic could be useful, but I doubt I would spend the points to take 3 in one army. You can’t give multiple Relics to one character though, so no dumping the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant and The Crusader’s Helm on one character for a super-zombie maker! As has also been clarified, you can only take this Stratagem once, so no taking two Relics for just 2 command points, if you want two, you will need to spend three command points to get it.

Linebreaker Bombardment (1CP)- Used to shoot three Vindicators at the same target. You choose a point within range of the weapon range and all units within 3″ suffer 3D3 mortal wounds on a 4+. If the squad targeted has 10 or more models, you get +1 to the roll, if it is a character, you suffer -1 to the roll. A solid option if you happen to field 3 Vindicators in your army. You might have to spend another command point to make sure you roll a 4+, but 3D3 mortal wounds will make a mess of many units in the game. This could be useful if you are facing an MSU army with lots of units clustered together, or for potentially clearing a unit off of an objective. Given the change to the durability in vehicles and their damage output, having three Vindicators in your army is not such a bad choice in 8th edition.

Killshot (1CP)- Used on a Space Marines Predator that is within 6″ of two other Predators. All Predators gain +1 to wound and +1 damage against Monsters or Vehicles. This would be brilliant on triple Lascannon Predators. A unit of 3 would put out 12 Lascannon shots that are hitting on 3’s and wounding on 2’s (in most cases), doing D6+1 damage each. That is going to make a mess of just about any Vehicle or Monster in the game. You are not limited at shooting at the same target, so this has the potential to devastate a number of enemy units in your shooting phase. Even more effective if you add a Captain for the re-rolls to hit. Almost makes me want to buy a few Predators just to try it out!

Chapter Master (3CP)- Upgrades a Captain to a Chapter Master. This allows you to re-roll all failed To Hit rolls within 6″ of the Chapter Master. This is seriously good. The Deathwatch Watch Master allows full re-rolls and I can say this is an incredible ability to have in the game. A bit pricey at 3CP, but still worth it I think. The benefit is that given the mobility options of the Space Marine Captain, it can be just as effective in supporting close combat units as it will supporting a gunline army. The only issue is whether you need to specify the upgrade on your army roster for an event, or whether you will be able to decide on using the command points to upgrade after seeing your opponent’s force and the mission you will be playing.

Scions of Guilliman (1CP)- An Ultramarines Infantry or Bike unit can re-roll failed to hit rolls of 1 in the shooting or fight phase (full re-rolls if Tactical Marines or Intercessor Squad). A nice bonus for getting a few more hits with your units, and particularly useful with the Ultramarines’ ability to recover Command Points.

Orbital Bombardment (3CP)- Once per game shooting attack if your Warlord did not move. Select a point and roll for each unit within D6″. On a 4+ they suffer D3 mortal wounds. I’m not seeing the appeal of this Stratagem, especially at the very pricey 3CP! Realistically, you are not going to hit too many units with the bombardment, unless your opponent is really bunched together. I’d probably give this one a miss, but it may be useful if you command points to spare and really need to finish off a wounded vehicle or unit. If it was automatic hits, this would be amazing, but having to roll a 4+ and such a short range makes me think it is not worth it.

Cluster Mines (1CP)- Used when a unit of Scout Bikers falls back. One enemy unit within 1″ before they move suffers D3 mortal wounds on a 2+. This is pretty awesome. Doing pretty much automatic wounds on an enemy unit is great. Plus, if they are White Scars, they get to assault again after falling back! This will be great for potentially finishing off a weakened unit after your Scout Bikers have unloaded their awesome firepower and assault capabilities on the unit.

Born in the Saddle
 (1CP)- Allows a White Scars Bike unit to shoot and assault after advancing. This is awesome and one I see myself using a lot (as a White Scars player). Moving 22″ and still shooting and assaulting is a great bonus, pretty much guaranteeing a first turn charge. I may have to start fielding full strength Space Marines Bike Squads to take advantage of this tactic. The one issue is that it does not specify whether assault weapons still suffer the -1 to hit penalty for advancing and shooting. I would be inclined to say that they do not, as no other weapons suffer this penalty using the Stratagem, but it is open to interpretation.

Masterful Marksmanship (1CP)- Adds +1 to all wound rolls for Sternguard using Special Issue Boltgun. A nice bonus, allowing you to wound on a 3+ in most situations. Add in the -2AP on the Bolters and this should make a mess of most enemy units. I have been using this Stratagem a lot with my own Sternguard unit, and it is really effective. This allows the Sternguard to be a big threat to a number of enemy targets. You will be wounding most standard vehicles on a 4+ with Bolters! This Stratagem allows you to maximise the damage output of your Sternguard unit and gives them a potent tool for an alpha or beta strike, even allowing you to take on tough vehicles and cause a fair amount of damage to them. For only one command point, this is a real bargain of a stratagem.

Abhor the Witch (1CP)- Use when an enemy psyker uses a power within 24″ of a Black Templars unit. On a 4+, the power is negated. This is awesome for shutting down that psychic power that your opponent need to get off or for blocking a devastating Smite attack against one of your units. Pity that this can only be used once per turn, otherwise it could be a potent counter to Smite spam armies for a single turn.

Empyric Channelling (1CP)- A form of the old Librarius conclave rules. When within 6″ of two other Astartes Psykers such as a Space Marine Librarian, you can manifest an additional power and get +2 to casting. A nice bonus if you run a psychic heavy force. This could be most useful for casting Smite, giving you a better chance of upgrading to the D6 mortal wounds and causing havoc on an enemy unit.

Datalink Telemetry (1CP)- A Whirlwind automatically hits if the target is within 12″ and line of sight of a friendly Land Speeder unit. This is another solid Stratagem, 2D6 automatic hits is not to be underestimated. It also allows your Whirlwind to move if it needs to and not suffer the penalty for doing so. This can be great for dealing a powerful blow to low armoured infantry units with your Whirlwind.

Hellfire Shells (1CP)- When shooting with an Infantry Heavy Bolter, only make one to hit roll, but do D3 mortal wounds if you hit. Useful for finishing off an enemy character or unit with a single volley. Will be useful if near a re-roll to hit bubble to ensure that you don’t waste the command point and miss with your single shot.

Bolter Drill (1CP)- For Imperial Fists infantry units, allows you to make an additional attack each time you roll a 6+ to hit for any Bolt weapons. A useful stratagem, especially if you can somehow access a bonus to hit in the shooting phase, allowing you to do an extra attack on a roll of a 5 or a 6, will quickly add to your firepower that turn.

Machine Empathy
 (1CP)- For Iron hands vehicles, they can ignore the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons or advancing and firing assault weapons. Very useful on getting maximum hits from your vehicles, as well as allowing them to quickly re-position and still keep up a solid rate of firepower. You could use this to retreat from the enemy army and still fire at full effect, or for advancing a vehicle to get into range to shoot assault weapons.

Flamecraft (1CP)- For Salamanders only, as you may have guessed from the name. Add 1 to the wound rolls of any Flamer weapons the unit fires. Very effective against a range of units. Getting to wound with a Heavy Flamer on a 2+ is pretty good, especially as you hit automatically anyway. You will want to load up on flamers with this a unit using this Stratagem. The automatic hits and +1 to wound will also make it great for taking on flyers, wounding many of them on a 4+ thanks to this Stratagem.

Strike From the Shadows 
(1CP)- Allows a Raven Guard infantry unit to deploy anywhere on the battlefield more than 9″ from enemy models. This looks to be very powerful, and is not limited to only one use, unlike many of the other Stratagems. This still allows the unit to move in the first turn, meaning you can pretty much guarantee a first turn charge or a devastating round of rapid fire shots. A great stratagem that could be game winning in many circumstances, especially as it will allow you to get into Melta range with a Meltagun or Multi-melta, giving you the chance to devastate an enemy monster/vehicle on the first turn.


Auspex Scan (2CP)- Allows an infantry unit to fire on enemy reinforcements arriving within 12″ of them, but at -1 to hit. This is an incredibly effective Stratagem that would benefit from having a nearby Chapter Master for the re-rolls to hit. Sick of Plasma Scions deep striking in and wrecking your day, now you can mitigate it somewhat by getting a shooting phase at them before they can attack. Also useful for units that want to assault from reserve, giving you a good chance of causing some serious damage on them and reducing their combat effectiveness.


Tactical Flexibility (1CP)- Allows you to split a 10-man unit into two 5-man units at the start of any of your movement phases if the unit has the combat squad ability. This is very useful for allowing you to put down fewer deployment drops, but still have the flexibility of having two squads. It is also a bonus as it forces your opponent to target two separate units now, or allow you to go after two different objectives. Will be less useful as the game proceeds and you start to lose models from units.

Flakk Missile (1CP)- Used for an infantry missile launcher attack against a unit with the Fly keyword. You make a single hit roll at +1 to hit, if hit, the target suffers D3 mortal wounds. Pretty effective at negating the -1 to hit against enemy flyers or for finishing off a skimmer/flyer with a few wounds left.

Armour of Contempt
 (1CP)- A vehicle gains a 5+ save against a mortal wounds for the rest of the phase. Pretty good if you are likely to be suffering a few mortal wounds for one of your vehicles in one phase. Gives a transport vehicle or flyer a nice defence against Smite attacks as well.


Only in Death Does Duty End (2CP)- Used when a Character is slain. The Character can immediately shoot as if it were the shooting phase or fight as if it was the assault phase. I think this will be more useful on a combat character. You could combine it with the combat interrupt ability to attack twice with the character in one turn (assuming they are slain) or to still strike with a Character if they are charged and slain before they can strike.


Honour the Chapter (3CP)- An Infantry or Biker unit can immediately fight again at the end of the fight phase. This could be very useful for a unit of Vanguard Veterans tooled up for combat or a unit of Terminators hoping to finish off an enemy vehicle or Imperial Knight. Pricey at 3CP, but could be extremely useful in the right circumstances. It can also be very effective on a combat character, with Reece using it to great effect on his Thunder Hammer/Storm Shield Captain in his recent reports on the NOVA tournament.

Wisdom of the Ancients (1CP)- All units within 6″ of a selected Dreadnought can re-roll failed To Hit rolls of 1. A great source of re-rolls if you have a Dreadnought anchoring your gunline army, or for maximising your firepower with a Dreadnought supporting the advance.

Death to the Traitors!
 (1CP)- On a roll of a 6+ to hit when targeting a Heretic Astartes unit, you can make an extra attack. Useful if you find yourself in a tough combat where you are rolling a lot of attacks. Quite situational though, as it only affects certain chaos units (though you are now seeing a lot of them at events at the moment).

Tremor Shells (1CP)- For a Thunderfire Cannon. Wound rolls are at -1, but if you hit the target, halve its movement, advance and charge rolls in the following turn. Very useful for seriously slowing down an enemy unit that is poised to charge you next turn or move to grab an objective. Doesn’t affect Fly or Titanic units though, so no slowing that Imperial Knight down (unfortunately!). This could be brilliant for slowing down that enemy transport and delaying assault for another turn, or for hindering that unit of Berzerkers that are rampaging through your lines.


As you can see, a lot of very useful and greatly expanded Stratagems for use with your Space Marine army. The only problem will be trying to remember them all and gaining enough command points to use them during the game! This should add a lot of variety to your games with Space Marines. After only a few games so far, Born in the Saddle and Masterful Marksmanship are two of my favourites and get used very frequently in my White Scars army.

So what are your favourites of the new Stratagems? Any tactics or tips on using them that were not covered above? Comment below and share your wisdom!


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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: Stratagems”

  1. Avatar
    highwind September 12, 2017 7:08 am #

    No offense but just writing down the ability of every Stratagem and then saying it is good is hardly a review…

    Truth is, most of these are rather lackluster and/or highly situational, especially compared to the ones CSM got.

    The ones being usefull are:
    – Chapter Master (which is powerfull but overcosted aswell as easily substituited by special characters)
    – Masterfull Marksmanship (which still pales in comparison to CSM who can use this on every unit, not just Sternguard)
    – Auspex Scan
    – Strike from the Shadows
    – Born in the Saddle

    But none of these does remotely save you from virtually auto-losing vs horde-armies which totally dominate the meta

    • Michael Corr
      Michael Corr September 12, 2017 7:23 am #

      No offence taken, but I don’t think that is what I have done.

      Not everyone can buy every codex, so I think it is useful to state what each stratagem does to give people an idea of what they may be facing. For example, I have no idea what all the Stratagems in the CSM or Grey Knights codex are, so would actually like an article like this that spells them all out.

      For most of the Stratagems, I have tried to give an example where they may come in useful. Perhaps if you wanted, other writers could devote an entire article to each stratagem and detail is use in certain situations, but that was outside the scope of this review.

      You have highlighted some of the best Stratagems for sure, but I think that others could be useful under the right circumstances. Tremor shells has the potential to completely disrupt an opponent’s powerful unit by halving their movements for a whole turn, potentially even stopping an important charge or objective rush.

      I don’t think anyone was expecting the Stratagems to give you an auto-win vs every single army out there. They are there to compliment your army and give you a crucial boost at the right time. Yes, horde armies are incredibly strong, but Space Marines have a lot of tools to help them out. Check out Reece’s recent tournament report at NOVA (link in the text above) for some ideas on how to build a force to counter the current meta.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 12, 2017 7:50 am #

      Auto-lose to hordes? What makes you say that? Space Marines shred horde armies better than almost any other due to their amazing reroll auras, and units that specialize in taking down loads of enemy units. Scout Bikers, Vanguard Vets, Sternguard, Heavy Bolter Devs, etc. all wreck hordes. My pure Space Marine army scooped 90 infantry and 2 flyers in a single game at NOVA without Bobby G.

      I don’t think Chapter Master is worth it, honestly. The best ones for me at some that you listed and the attack twice, attack when you die, flakk missile, hellfire round the Thunderfire Cannon, etc. Damn near all of them are bad ass, honestly.

      • Avatar
        Threllen September 12, 2017 10:11 am #

        Yeah your list tore hordes apart. People must forget even basic space marine weapons are perfect against hordes. Bolters get 2 shots at S4 and combi-bolters get 4 shots!!! And they’re super cheap! While your basic bolter/combi-bolter is kind of crap against tough units it can do a lot of work against T3 hordes with so-so saves (which is typical of a horde-type unit).

        • Reecius
          Reecius September 12, 2017 3:44 pm #

          Yeah, exactly. And the real killers are Sternguard and Scout Bikers, holy crap! They mulch light infantry. The Heavy Bolter Devs, too.

          • Avatar
            Dakkath September 12, 2017 4:16 pm

            I’m trying to figure out how to deal with hordes as tau. A unit of 3 crisis suits with 8 burst cannons, a drone controller, and 6 gun drones deals a little over 14 wounds to conscripts with one markerlight token. Such a (pair of) unit costs a whopping 267 points.

          • Reecius
            Reecius September 12, 2017 4:28 pm

            I would think Fire Warriors would actually be good at it. They’re cheap and pump out a lot of shots. The only issue is getting there.

            Gun Drones would do it well and they screen your suits.

    • Avatar
      rawne_bal September 29, 2017 1:02 am #

      5 aggressors deployed 15″ away from 2-3 horde units striking from the shadows with Shrike and a Lt in support can easily remove 50 horde models (except brimstones which should lose about 30) Add to that scout bikes throwing out 22 shots each at 12″ range.

      Sorry hordes are going to begin to drop off a little when these lists start getting out there because they are a viable counter.

      • Reecius
        Reecius September 29, 2017 10:45 am #

        Yeah, my army buzzsaws through Conscripts like nothing. I do not give a hoot if I play against 200+ of them.

  2. Avatar
    Darth Kaar September 12, 2017 7:26 am #

    Good article. Concerning Tactical Flexibility, I think that it’s greatest utility comes during deployment phase as one can reduce number of units needed to deploy thus aiming at starting first.

    • Reecius
      Reecius September 12, 2017 7:54 am #

      Or allow you to put more units in reserves.

      • Michael Corr
        Michael Corr September 13, 2017 2:33 am #

        Yeah, this is a useful tactic if you are not playing the roll off mechanic for first turn (though getting the +1 can still be useful).

  3. Avatar
    Don Tomaso September 12, 2017 11:07 am #

    Some strategems sadly need more CPs then is healthy to even be viable and those CPs are needed else where.

  4. Avatar
    Don Tomaso September 12, 2017 11:09 am #

    Some are very good albeit illogical like shooting down fliers with flamers while others are lacklustre and viable only in extremely situational spots such as the chapter master, some are down right crap and a bunch are simply weaker versions of what chaos marines get.

    I think maybe a future addition of a strategem or two, especially slightly overpowered ones aimed for under performing armies could be a good thing.

  5. Avatar
    Alex September 13, 2017 1:56 am #

    I still think a general stratagem that gives a single unit a banner-like shoot-back ability on the first turn (aka only against the side that goes first) would be really good for gameplay.

  6. Avatar
    Zatt May 15, 2018 5:11 am #

    A question came up in game, and I’m looking for someone to point me in the right direction for an answer, if it’s even been answered.

    Hellfire shells: what if a model, like a Mortis Dreadnought, has multiple heavy bolters? Since you’re selecting a single model armed “with a heavy bolter”, do you get to fire four shells, one per weapon?

    Thanks in advance.

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