Space Marine Review: Elites: Sternguard Veteran Squad

Hi everyone, Michael here with a review of the Sternguard Veteran squad, a unit that puts out a lot of firepower and benefits from the new Codex Stratagems. For more reviews, analyses and battle reports, check out the Tactics Corner.


The Sternguard Veteran squad are the firepower elite of the Space Marine army. They have lost their Special Issue Ammunition from 7th edition, but gain an incredible Special Issue Boltgun to make up for it, and have access to an awesome Stratagem that makes their firepower output even more power. They have a huge number of customisation for their ranged weapons, but you are probably better sticking with their standard armament for most situations. The squad consists of 1 Veteran Sergeant and 4 Sternguard Veterans, with the option to increase the squad size up to 10 models. Each Sternguard Veteran comes in at 18 points each, including basic wargear. The Sternguard have a standard Veterans profile, so a Marine profile with an additional attack and point of leadership.


  • Special Issue Boltgun- 30″, Rapid Fire 1, S4, AP-2, damage 1.
  • Bolt Pistol
  • Frag and Krak Grenades.
  • The Veteran Sergeant may replace his Bolt Pistol and Special Issue Boltgun with items from the Sergeant Equipment list. He may also replace the Bolt Pistol with an item from the Sergeant Equipment list.
  • Up to two Veterans may replace their Special Issue Boltgun with a Heavy Flamer, Special Weapon, Heavy Weapon or Combi-weapon.
  • Any Veteran may replace their Special Issue Boltgun with a Combi-weapon.


  • And They Shall Know No Fear
  • Combat Squads
  • Keywords: Imperium, Adeptus Astartes, <Chapter>, Infantry, Sternguard Veteran Squad.


The Sternguard provide a potent source of high volume, good AP firepower for the Space Marine army. The standard Special Issue Boltgun is a great weapon to have on a unit. It has an increased range of 30″, meaning that you can get an extra few inches distance between yourself and the enemy army and increase the range of your rapid fire range to 15″. This allows you to still get into rapid fire range and decrease the risk of the unit you are targeting from charging the Sternguard in reply (with a standard move of 6″, most infantry will need a 9″ charge if you are at the extreme of rapid fire range). The Special Issue Boltgun is also AP-2, which is a great boost against almost any enemy unit in the game. Reducing the armour save of other Marines to a 5+ means that you will be doing double the number of casualties compared to a standard Boltgun, making this unit great for shredding units of Marine equivalents.

The Special Issue Boltgun gets even better when paired with the Masterful Marksmanship Stratagem. This Stratagem gives you +1 to wound for your Special Issue Boltguns for a single shooting phase for only one command point. This is a bargain and gives you much greater damage output for your Sternguard unit. This Stratagem actually allows you to take on a wide range of targets to great effect, wounding most vehicles on a 4+ and reducing their armour save to 5+. You are not going to take out any vehicles in one volley, but you should take 4 wounds from a standard vehicle with a rapid fire volley on average, giving you a chance of finishing off a damaged vehicle or taking it down a tier in effectiveness.

With two attacks each (three on the Sergeant), the Sternguard can hold their own in combat against weaker units, but you really don’t want the Sternguard locked in combat, as most of the time it will waste their firepower. If you are worried about assaults, you can arm the Sergeant with a Power Weapon, Lightning Claw or Thunder Hammer to try and cause some extra damage to the enemy unit and get out of trouble. Alternatively, a charge from the Sternguard after a volley of Bolter fire can be enough to finish off weakened enemy units and allow you to swarm an objective.

Although two Veterans can take a Heavy or Special Weapon, and any Veteran can take a combi-weapon, in most cases it is simply not worth it in my opinion. If you want a squad armed with extra combi-weapons or Special Weapons, go for a Company Veteran squad instead. You can take more Special Weapons and don’t waste the option of taking the Special Issue Boltgun.

There is only one weapon option that is a good alternative choice for the Sternguard Veteran squad. Every member of the squad can take a Storm Bolter for only 2 points, the same cost as the Special Issue Boltgun. You get less range (24″) and no AP, but you do gain double the number of shots. Crunching the numbers, this is actually a solid option for a Sternguard squad. However, you don’t get the benefit of using Masterful Marksmanship with the Storm Bolter. Let’s look at some of the numbers for the Special Issue Boltgun (SIB) vs the Storm Bolter (SB) for unsaved wounds against a range of units. In each example, we will assume we have 10 Sternguard Veterans firing at Rapid Fire range and hitting on a 3+, and with Masterful Marksmanship (MM) for the SIB. The number of casualties you will cause on average on the following units will be:

  • Marines (T4, 3+ save): SIB- 4W, MM- 6W, SB- 4W
  • Guardsman (T3, 5+ save): SIB- 9W, MM- 11W, SB- 12W
  • Orks (T4, 6+ save): SIB- 7W, MM- 9W, SB- 11W
  • Eldar (T3, 4+ save): SIB- 7W, MM- 9W, SB- 9W
  • Vehicle (T7, 3+ save): SIB- 3W, MM- 4W, SB- 3W

As you can see, in most cases you do more wounds with the Storm Bolter squad than with the Special Issue Boltgun. However, when you factor in the Masterful Marksmanship stratagem, you do roughly the same number of wounds with each. This means you could take Storm Bolters for the whole squad and do more damage and save yourself a Command Point in the process. Against units with a fixed invulnerable save (such as Daemons or Necron Wraiths), the Storm Bolter squad is much better, as the improved AP of the SIB generally has no effect, so volume of shots is more important in this situation.

However, when you factor in the effects of cover, the Special Issue Boltgun becomes the better choice. Against a unit of Marines in cover, the SIB will do 3 unsaved wounds on average (4W with Masterful Marksmanship), compared to only 2W with the Storm Bolters. So your choice of SIB or Storm Bolter will really depend on what army you are likely to face. If you are likely to be facing lots of static infantry units in cover, you are probably better off with the Special Issue Bolter. If you are going to be facing lots of invulnerable saves or hordes of lightly-armoured infantry, the Storm Bolter is probably your better option for volume of shots. Just remember, you don’t get to use Masterful Marksmanship, as this only applies to the Special Issue Boltgun.

My favourite way to run a Sternguard squad is a bare-bones 10-man unit in a Drop Pod. The pod keeps them safe until you want them to arrive (can’t shoot them if they are not on the board) and gives them a great deployment option and almost guarantees they will get into rapid fire range with their first shot. The squad deploys where and when you want and can target an enemy unit with a punishing volley on the turn they arrive. The only downside of this is that they are quickly targeted for reprisal by the enemy army and can be easily wiped out if they are out in the open, or assaulted to tie them up in combat. Having a 10-man squad also gives you maximum benefit from any Stratagems used.

How you use them will depend on your opponent’s army and set up. If you are facing Orks or Nids on foot, you may want to take the Storm Bolter squad and sit them on your backline. The infantry will be coming to you and you will be able to do extra shots at range and really punish them when they come in for the charge. Against faster moving or heavily armoured forces, you probably want them in a transport vehicle to catch up with the foe and use the Special Issue Boltguns to pierce the enemy armour.

Obviously, any source of re-rolls will greatly benefit the Sternguard Veteran squad. Adding a Lieutenant, Captain or Chapter Master to the Drop Pod, or having them nearby will boost your firepower and effectiveness. A Chapter Master giving you full re-rolls to hit on 36-40 Storm Bolter shots is going to do a lot of damage on lightly-armoured infantry models. In addition, having a Warlord with the Storm of Fire warlord trait (6+ to wound has additional -1AP) nearby will really help the Sternguard cause extra casualties with the Special Issue Boltguns. It is good to note, that this means you get the bonus AP on a 5+ when you use Masterful Marksmanship, turning these guns into essentially Plasma Guns for a fraction of the cost.

The right application of Chapter Tactics will boost the effectiveness even further.

The Ultramarines Chapter Tactic is great for keeping the Sternguard firing, even if they are assaulted in the previous turn. In addition, the Scions of Guilliman stratagem can be used to boost their accuracy if you don’t have a nearby re-roll bubble. There is nothing to stop you using Scions and Masterful Marksmanship in the same phase to really boost your damage output on the turn that they arrive.

The White Scars Chapter Tactics is less effective for the Sternguard. Getting to fall back from combat and still assault is not really an ideal use of their abilities. You are better off just staying in combat and shooting your pistols at your opponent and using your two attacks to try and wear them down, than eating a turn of overwatch fire. The only benefit is if you want to shoot at the unit they are engaged with with other units in your army and still get to assault, or to leave combat with one unit and assault another unit with the Sternguard.

Imperial Fists Chapter Tactics are a great choice for the Sternguard. Ignoring the effects of cover means that your -2AP Boltguns are always being used to full effect, or you can go for Storm Bolters without reducing your effectiveness thanks to cover. In addition, the Bolter Drill Stratagem can be killer with Storm Bolters. You get an extra shot for each 6+ to hit, so with 40 shots, you should be getting an extra 6-7 shots on average.

Black Templars will also be a less effective Chapter Tactic. You generally don’t want the Sternguard charging into combat, so re-rolls to failed charges will be less effective. The one bonus is the Abhor the Witch Stratagem, which gives you a defence against any Smite attacks or other psychic powers that may be coming your way.

Salamanders Chapter Tactics could be of limited usefulness. Unless you are taking combi-weapons on the squad, a single re-roll to hit and to wound will maybe help you cause some extra damage, but is unlikely to have a huge impact.

Raven Guard Chapter Tactics are another awesome bonus for the Sternguard. Thanks to the extra range of the Special Issue Boltguns, you can actually be in rapid fire range and still benefit from the -1 to hit. This means any fire coming back at your squad will be less accurate, forcing your opponent to move in order to get within the 12″ range. In addition, Strike from the Shadows is a great Stratagem for getting the Sternguard into optimal position without having to purchase a transport vehicle for them. The only downside is that if you don’t get first turn, this can leave the Sternguard vulnerable to attack before they get a chance to fire.

Iron Hands Chapter Tactics will be useful for keeping the squad alive for a bit longer, but is not the best of the options.


As you have probably guessed, I rate the Sternguard Veteran Squad quite highly as a unit to add to your Space Marine army. The right use of Chapter Tactics and Stratagems can really boost their effectiveness, and there are few units in the Space Marine army that can put out 40 Bolter shots for only 180 points.

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



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.

20 Responses to “Space Marine Review: Elites: Sternguard Veteran Squad”

  1. Reecius September 17, 2017 11:32 am #

    Great review, Mike! I absolutely love Sternguard and have for ages. I think this is really their edition, though. While they got simplified, what they kept was fantastic. Their Special Issue Bolter is the business and their Stratagem makes them deadly, particularly when combined with the Storm of Fire Warlord trait. They just nuke things.

    I have often considered running a Crimson Fists vanguard detachment with Pedro, a Lt. with the Relic Power Fist and 28 Sternguard all mounted in Rhinos. 1 unit of Special issue Bolters, the other two have Storm Bolters. They all jump out, have rerolls to hit from Pedro, wound rolls of 1 from the Lt., +1 attack from Pedro and if you slap a PF on each sarge, too, that is a nasty little elite choice that will absolutely punish most targets, particularly light infantry. Make the Lt. your Warlord and give him storm of fire. I think it would be cool, good and fun to play.

    • Michael Corr September 17, 2017 1:46 pm #

      Yeah Reece, Pedro is a brilliant force multiplier. Full re-roll bubble and +1 attack bubble is damn potent with the right army.
      Three units of Sternguard will put out a lot of damage I imagine, especially with all the stacking re-rolls.

      • Reecius September 17, 2017 3:54 pm #

        Yeah, I want to give it shot.

  2. Quinn September 17, 2017 12:00 pm #

    Been in the process of painting up 30 of these for my Imperial Fists. I love these models, although they are a bit of a pain to paint at a high I’ve been planning to run them with the Boltguns and possibly a Heavy Flamer per squad in Rhinos. I’ll have to consider the Stormbolters but not sure I want them that close. I’m also trying to project the meta a bit, not sure that huge blobs will still be a thing and cover saves might become more prevalent..

    Anyways, good write up. Confirms some of my thoughts on weapon loadouts and usage of them.

    • Reecius September 17, 2017 12:09 pm #

      Cover is huge this edition, lol, I laugh at all the folks saying ignore cover isn’t valuable. They clearly haven’t tried to shoot Marines off of an objective in cover!

      • Quinn September 17, 2017 1:18 pm #

        Yeah, I actually listened to your Nova comments and how resilient your Tacs were in cover. This army is a work of love anyways, not changing the build just to potentially win a game. Always been a 2-1 type of painting awards matter to me. Bringing this one to LVO!

        • Michael Corr September 17, 2017 1:47 pm #

          The extra range on the Special Issue Bolter is great, but I always forget about it and set them up within 12″ rapid fire. Need to remember it for my games, as those extra few inches potentially mean a failed charge.

          • Reecius September 17, 2017 3:52 pm

            I do that, too, lol!

  3. Don Tomaso September 17, 2017 12:31 pm #

    “If you want a squad armed with extra combi-weapons or Special Weapons, go for a Company Veteran squad instead.”

    ..can company veterans take heavy flamers now?

    • Michael Corr September 17, 2017 1:49 pm #

      I don’t think so, but that’s why I said combi-weapons or special weapons. A Heavy Flamer is neither of these.

      • Don Tomaso September 17, 2017 3:47 pm #


        I would like to see heavy flamers being options in SM armies other then for one lousy unit. It makes absolutely no sense what so ever.

  4. Calgar September 17, 2017 5:18 pm #

    My standard use is 9 Sternguard bare bones in a drop pod with Tigurius. You get precise application of their firepower, and Tigurius can give the opponent -1 to hit the Sterbguatd in the inevitable retaliation, not to mention the support from psychic powers. Oh and a storm bolter from the drop pod as well.

  5. Don Tomaso September 17, 2017 8:53 pm #

    C´mmon, lets see an article review about how aaawesome Legion of the damned or cents are.


  6. highwind September 18, 2017 2:04 pm #

    2 units of Sternguard with a Lt and Lias Issodon is a great and rather cost effective alpha strike group.

  7. macexor September 20, 2017 3:59 am #

    I’m in the process of coming back to this hobby. I’ve decided to play Raptors. I’ve found out about them before I’ve seen Reecius’ battle reports, but his army confirmed my belief that they are a force to reckon with.

    I’m thinking about bringing 30 sterns w/ Lias.
    10 with SIB and 2 10s each with 5 storm bolters and 5 plasmas

    What do you think about this setup?

    • Michael Corr September 21, 2017 2:16 am #

      I’m assuming you mean 5 combi-plasmas for the Sternguard. I think that is a solid line up. Not too familiar with Lias, but if he provides a re-roll bubble, he will be great for the Sternguard, particularly the combi-Plasma. It will get pretty expensive though to take 10 combi-weapons in the two squads.

      Overcharging Plasma is an absolute killer in 8th edition. If you can have a source of re-rolls to stop you killing yourself, you are able to take on just about any threat you feel like.

      Also, you can combat squad the two units with Storm Bolters and Plasma. This gives your opponent more targets and forces them to potentially devote more firepower to killing them. Just don’t combat squad the SIB squad, as you really want maximum effect from the Stratagem.

  8. Salamandrake May 2, 2018 5:54 am #

    In the SM 8th Edition Codex, it is stated in the Sergeant Equipment List that Sternguard Vet Sergeants cannot take Thunder Hammers. I very nearly kitted my Sarge with one but thankfully checked the codex before. You should update this article accordingly.

    Page 131 in the Codex, if anyone is wondering.

  9. Hash August 13, 2018 1:10 pm #

    You should mention the Flamecraft stratagem in the Salamanders section.
    A full Sternguard squad with combi-flamers makes 10D6 autohits at +1 to wound as well as another ~10 boltgun hits. That’s a lot of dead infantry, especially next to a Lieutenant with Storm of Fire.

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