5 Tips for Winning with Space Marines

Hey everyone, Reecius here to talk about some easy tips to help you win more games with your Space Marines regardless of which Chapter you play! As always, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles.

Space Marines are the bread and butter of the 40k universe, and the most commonly played army, too. They were fittingly the first faction to get their Codex in 8th ed and as such, everything that came after was compared to them. We’ve also had time to adjust to what they have to offer. Also, please bear in mind that this article is aimed at the player who plays an army of all Space Marines, not one in which you take many different Imperial Factions.

As is often the case with familiarity, a common perception is that Space Marines have lagged behind the power curve a bit. However, this is simply not true. While new books roll out and hit the scene with all of their new tricks and combos it generates a feeling of shock and awe. Comparatively, Space Marines are a known quantity. Despite that, Space Marines continue to perform well competitively and have all of the tools they need to compete in the rapidly developing 8th ed meta. If you are struggling with your Space Marines and feel a bit overwhelmed, here are a few tips that can help you gain a competitive edge. I have used them to great success with my Space Marines in a competitive setting, having gone a total of 10-3-1 in tournaments with them so far. I say that not to toot my own horn (there are plenty of better players out there than me) but to give some concrete proof that these ideas have merit in reality and are not just theory. If you’d like to read some of those reports, you can do so bellow. The important take away from those reports is that while I did not win every game, I never felt outclassed and I played against some truly nasty tournament lists. Two of my losses were because of massive mental errors were I basically handed the victory to my opponent, too, lol.

The first step is to identify what Space Marines do well and where they’re weak. What they do well is give you very efficient units when you need them to be so. And what I specifically mean by that is the plethora of ways to get cheap re-rolls for both hitting and wounding in your army. Many other factions cannot match this ability to get the most out of each point spent. Space Marines also have a LOT of options in every force org slot which gives you a great deal of flexibility and the ability to compete in every phase of the game. Lastly, you have some of the best utility Stratagems in the game, and using them is critical to success.

Where Space Marines can be weak is ironically in the reserves game as they do not have as many options for staying off of the table as many of the other Codex armies do with the exception of Raptors (a Ravenguard successor Chapter) armies utilizing Lias Issodon which is why that Chapter has become so popular. Obviously they have Drop Pods, and I am sure a clever player could make a very effective list using them, typically we are not seeing Drop Pod armies any longer due to the fact that they are not so cheap as they once were. Space Marine armies largely start on the table in 8th ed and as such, you must consider how you will counter many of the incredibly hard hitting lists that either infiltrate, outflank, deep-strike or simply shoot you to bits. Lastly, Space Marines are very vulnerable to Mortal Wounds such as with Smite, etc. As they pay points for a good save and tend to have lower model count armies, attacks that bypass this are especially deadly to them.

With those basic ideas outlined, let’s look at some tips to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses!

Tip #1: Scouts

The humble Space Marine Scout unit is one of the most tactically advantageous units available to you. The reason why is very simple: they create space. Scouts are one of the few units in the game that infiltrate during the deployment phase. What this means specifically is that they get to be placed on the table before many other army’s infiltrating units can be placed, such as with Alpha Legion, Stygies, Raven Guard, Ratlings, etc. In 8th ed, as stated, you must have a strategy for dealing with the hard-core alpha strike armies like Cultist Bomb or Terminator Bomb chaos lists, Eldar units appearing from the Webway, Stygies AdMech dropping in Electro-Priests, Tyranid players bringing any of a variety of deadly units in with a Trygon, etc. which can be devastatingly powerful. Scouts deploy out of your deployment zone, and deny your opponent anywhere to go, shutting down some of the deadliest combos in the game. If you combine their forward position with a good backfield defense, denying your opponent ways to come in behind you or on a flank, you can make what would have been an incredibly difficult game into an easy win. Your opponent is forced to walk up the table at you or wait until later in the game to deliver their vicious combos and allow you to control the table and wrack up mission points.

For best results, wait to deploy them if your opponent does not have any units that deploy in the same way as Scouts do (which is a short list, but be familiar with it). If they do have a unit like Scouts, such as Nurglings, you want to drop a Scout unit as your first drop, hopefully before your opponent can drop theirs in order to deny them space. I have found 3 units of 5 Scouts  is enough to block off the majority of no man’s land from your opponent, denying them their ability to infiltrate, Deep-strike, scout move, etc. on turn 1. Remember, as enemy units cannot typically appear closer then 9″ from your units, Scouts spread out can cover a massive portion of the table, and have an 18″ buffer zone between each pair of units. This buys you time to deal with their threats before they are all over you. As stated, you have ultra efficient shooting units available to you as a Space Marine player but they aren’t doing you any favors if they’re getting chopped to bits by Berzerkers on the top of turn 1. Space Marines can deal incredible amounts of damage at range, you just need time to do it and Scouts help earn you that time.

Scouts can also serve an incredible important function of simply blocking movement and earning you mission points. By standing in front of units that want to advance and cannot simply move over them, you can earn yet more time by sacrificing them to force your opponent to deal with them. If they do so with a unit that probably costs vastly more points than the Scouts, you are trading a pawn to keep their Queen occupied for a turn. Or in a similar function, they can charge a powerful shooting unit and stop them from shooting for a turn. This works doubly well if you can do so from a good hiding spot to avoid being overwatched, such as from behind the wall of a ruin which keeps them safely hidden but they can move through. Likewise, you can run on to an objective to earn mission points and force your opponent to use resources eliminating them or risk that they continue to earn points. As you can see, there are myriad ways Scouts can be used effectively without firing a shot. That said, they do put out damage and can be effective fighting units but their ability to give you board control and create space between your opponent and yourself buys the heavy hitting elements of your army time to do their thing which is massively valuable.

Tip #2: Stratagems

Space Marines have some incredible stratagems available to them. However, where some faction such as Chaos Space Marines have overtly powerful Stratagems that are quite obvious in their application, Space Marine stratagems are a bit more subtle. And, unlike Chaos Space Marines who often use all of their Command Points in the first turn or 2, Space Marine players will want a steady stream of CP throughout the game to fuel some of their stratagems. For example, I never play without at least 1 Heavy Bolter and 1 Missile Launcher on Infantry models to take advantage of the Hellfire Shells and Flakk Missile stratagems to deal Mortal Wounds at long range.

Also, the Tremor Shells stratagem unlocked by a Thunderfire Cannon is one of the most powerful stratagems in the game and why I take a Thunderfire Cannon in every list. Halving an enemy unit’s move, advance and charge distances is sometimes as good as destroying the unit as it can take them out of play. However, where destroying a powerful unit can require loads of your resources, all you have to do with the Tremor Shells stratagem is burn a Command Point and hit the target with your Thunderfire Cannon. It’s incredibly reliable. And as an example of just how crazy good this is, imagine that a unit of 20 Berzerkers is 12″ away from your lines. This would mean they would move 6″, and have a 5″ charge to make under normal circumstances which with their standard granting them a re-roll, has very good odds of being successful. If you hit that same unit with the Tremor Shells stratagem, they now only move 3″ and can charge a maximum of 6″, meaning it is impossible for them to successfully make the charge. Same goes for Roboute, or any unit that is not either Titanic or has the Fly keyword. If your opponent has large screening units, you tag them with Tremor Shells and now not only they, but everything behind them is moving slower. Or, a unit about to make a move for a game winning objective that suddenly finds themselves unable to move far enough to get there. I cannot stress enough how powerful this one stratagem is.

Likewise there are many more, extremely valuable stratagems in your arsenal. Auspex Scan helps to defend against the myriad deep-striking or out-flanking threats that may sneak past your perimeter defenses. I have found that just the threat of the stratagem will cause your opponent to rethink where they drop their units down. Likewise, Armour of Contempt, Death to the Traitors, Datalink Telemetry, etc. are incredibly good in certain circumstances but you just have to remember to use them! To this end, be sure to crack that section of your codex open and read them from time to time to keep them present in your mind, and imagine circumstances in which you would use them. Many of them are also only applicable to specific units such as Sternguard or Scout Bikers and as such, you may want to consider including these units in your list to take advantage of them. From a great deal of experience, I can attest to the fact that Sternguard with the Masterful Marksmanship stratagem are incredibly good for the points investment.

Special mention goes to the Space Marines combat oriented stratagems. Honour the Chapter and Only in Death Does Duty End takes Space Marines melee units from OK to awesome in a hurry. If used properly, it means a Character can essentially be assured to attack twice if needs be. We’ll talk more about this later, but keep that in your pocket. Now, all of these great stratagems, many of which you want to be able to use multiple times throughout the game, require a healthy amount of CP. This means lots of troops and HQs in most instances but luckily Space Marines have quite a few great options in those categories. As stated above, Scouts are amazing but Tactical Marines are also a solid choice as they have better defense and do a great job of zoning out your backfield to block enemy reinforcements in the same way Scouts do up-field. Plus, with a nice 2+ save in cover, they can be very difficult to remove from an objective and are simply not a high-priority target and a single heavy weapon on one of them can put out decent firepower and is protected by the other 4 Tactical Marines.

Lastly, be sure to review the Chapter Specific stratagems as they provide a lot of unique utility. The Black Templars’ Abhor the Witch, for example, can be absolutely devastating to your opponent’s plans if you stop a key psychic power. Born in the Saddle for White Scars allows you to hit your opponent very hard with a unit of say, 9 Scout Bikers who pack a staggering number of attacks. Likewise, Bolter Drill for the Imperial or Crimson Fists can make a unit of Stormbolter or Special Issue Boltgun (further boosted with Masterful Marksmanship) equipped Sternguard even more devastating than they already are. Building the means to utilize these in to your list to maximum effect can give you quite an advantage on the tabletop.

Tip #3: Support Units and Characters

The other half of unlocking Command Point rich detachments is HQs, and Space Marines are spoiled for choices in the HQ and Elites department with loads of force multiplication units. The excellent Captain and Lieutenant are incredibly efficient force multipliers for a very reasonable points investment. These are the key to making your shooting units go from good to great. Space Marines have more access to cheap re-roll mechanics than any other faction in the game. Taking advantage of these is critical to getting the most out of the tools you have. If your faction has access to a Chapter Master, even better. However, if you are playing without at least a Captain and Lieutenant then you are doing yourself a disservice. Building out a portion of your list to focus on maximum efficiency firepower is a key tactic to winning games with Space Marines. Whether this comes in the form of the very popular Razorback or Stormraven and Bobby G combo that has been popular sense the dawn of 8th ed, or with HellblastersCenturion Devastators or Devastator Squads utilizing Space Marine Standards to fire again after dying and perhaps an Apothecary resurrect them. Likewise, Predator Tanks backed by these support characters and utilizing the Kill Shot stratagem become hyper efficient.  Lastly, as chaff units are so prevalent and popular in the competitive meta at present, you need the ability to plow the road and blow through the Conscripts, Cultists, Brimstone Horrors, etc. Space Marines have excellent units for this such as Stormravens, Scout Bikers, Heavy Bolter Devastators, Sternguard, etc. and they become even more efficient in this task with a few carefully positioned support characters to eek out maximum efficiency from their shots.

Space Marines can also play offense with their characters in a way many players are not fully utilizing. As I explain at length in this article, the Captain with Thunder Hammer, Storm Shield and Jump Pack is simply outstanding. He provides mobility, deep-strike capability, and the ability to deal a lot of damage to any target (including flyers) and with the plethora of amazing Relics Space Marine players have access to (particularly the Shield Eternal) plus the aforementioned stratagems, this humble model can deal tremendous damage and go toe-to-toe with heavy hitting melee units that would seem to outclass him on paper. Likewise, his partner in crime the Lieutenant can join him with a Jump Pack to layer another buff on to nearby units and also deal decent damage himself. Jump Packs are incredibly good for a number of reasons but primarily the ability to move over enemy units and terrain means you can bypass screens and get into the guts of the enemy army and deal some devastating blows to them. The Librarian is also best fielded in this role, in my opinion as his powers are best utilized on the offensive. He can pump out Mortal Wounds, buff the Captain or himself, turn off enemy invulnerable saves (which if this goes off and you get into the right position, is utterly devastating), or provide you with a defense against Mortal Wounds. Whereas many lists don’t have a place for a Librarian, when played offensively he can become incredibly potent and versatile.

Alternatively, you can use some of your HQ’s as disruption units. A single Captain in Terminator armor (Cataphractii armor is great for this) dropped into a gap behind your opponent’s lines can foul up your opponent’s plans tremendously. They’re tough, can use character protection to avoid being targeted (again, Scouts can be invaluable here by getting up in your opponent’s face and making it impossible for them to target your disruption characters with any of their units closer to the Scouts) and hit hard for a reasonable price point. Even if all they do is soak up several enemy units firepower for a turn, that can give you the opening you need to hammer your opponent with your damage dealing units. Slap a Combi-Melta on them with a Thunder Hammer and profit. Alternatively, go mega cheap and just stick with a power weapon and Storm Bolter to save points but still be a massive pain in the butt for your opponent to deal with. Likewise, a Librarian can be used in a similar fashion, disrupting enemy psychic support and dealing significant Mortal Wounds in the backfield.

Also, and quite obviously, consider the special bonus named characters provide in list building as some of them have some fantastic benefits such as ShrikeVulkan and Pedro Kantor. By building portions of your list to leverage their force multiplication abilities, you get a lot more power out of those units than you typically would have.

Tip #4: Relics

Space Marines have some absolutely fantastic Relics. It is a rare game I don’t take at least 2 of them. First and foremost, unless you are running a mechanized or dedicated melee list you should take the Standard of the Emperor Ascendant. This magical piece of kit massively increases the return on investment made in shooty Infantry units, and to a lesser extent, melee units. There’s simply no good reason not to take him, he gives you quasi-alpha strike defense in that he at least lets units have an opportunity to shoot before dying, but also keeps nearby units immune to morale. That is amazingly good and if your list features any units that qualify for the buff, use it. He also fills an Elites slot too, if you are going for a Brigade.

However, Space Marines also have access to a wide variety of offensive and defensive Relics as well. As mentioned, the Shield Eternal is outstanding. It makes the Captain bearing it able to reliably destroy much more powerful melee units such as Celestine, Daemon Princes, etc. Humorously, you can also slap it on the Company Champion and make him significantly more powerful, although you still have to resolve how to get him into combat. Thanks to the flexibility the Relics of the Chapter stratagem provides, you can decide on the fly to instead take something like The Armour Indomitus for a 2+ save if you need to wade into flack fire. Offensively, the Teeth of Terra gives you an amazing weapon for the cost of a Chainsword and possibly a Command Point. A simple Captain with a Jump Pack, Chainsword and Master-Crafter Bolter, Storm Bolter or a second Chainsword, costs less than 100pts but hits very hard. A very efficient unit. The Chapter specific Relics also can be very appealing such as the Raven’s Fury or the Fist of Vengeance. Carefully consider building the opportunity to use these into your list and accessing them via a Command Point as they can catapult a decent unit into a fantastic unit based on what you find yourself fighting.

Tip #5: Many Small Units

Space Marines tend to favor a Many Small Units (MSU) play-style. While you occasionally want to maximize a unit to take advantage of a specific stratagem as with Masterful Marksmanship and Sternguard, typically it is more advantageous to stick to small units and lots of them. It may make sense to pad a unit with extra bodies as with Devastator Squads to buy yourself more time to fire the big guns but rarely do you want to go to a full unit of 10. As many of your core strengths revolve around stratagems and the need to cover a lot of area with a small number of models, you need quite a few units to make that all happen. And, this list building strategy helps to get you those Command Points which you hopefully now see are so critical to making Space Marines work in a competitive setting.

Ultimately, Space Marines can 100% compete, however it takes a bit of finesse to do so in many instances. If you want to just smash, you can always stick to the Bobby G+shooting units of your choice script, but you certainly do not have to. To the thoughtful general, Space Marines present a wide range of tactical options which allow you to win in situations you would not otherwise have been able to.

Bonus Pro-Tip!

And while I know I said this was an article for pure Space Marine faction players, I did want to point out one little exception to that rule and that is assassins. The Culexus especially is incredibly useful for Space Marine players. As you are more vulnerable to things like Smite than many armies as your average model is relatively expensive, building in a counter is not a bad idea. The Culexus gives you that in spades. As psychic powers cannot affect him, and Smite (and many Mortal Wound dealing psychic powers) target the closest enemy unit, if you play him correctly he will entirely stop at least one round of enemy Smites. If you position your army well to take advantage of this, that should be all the time you need to deal a crushing blow. He also gives you excellent latent psychic defense to hinder all of the rest of your opponent’s powers, too. If used in conjunction with a Librarian, you should stop many of your opponent’s key psychic powers. My list is much stronger for having included him.


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About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

63 Responses to “5 Tips for Winning with Space Marines”

  1. Avatar
    Kingsley November 20, 2017 6:09 pm #

    The main thing I don’t like about Space Marines relative to other Codexes is that the Chapter Tactics do not apply to vehicles other than Dreadnoughts, while most armies are getting cool abilities on their standard tanks as well. It seems strange that Eldar or IG can get special rules for their tanks but my Iron Hands can’t – that said, I do think SM are solid under the current book. My hope is that Chapter Approved will give SM and CSM Chapter Tactics on their vehicles….

    • Avatar
      Darthdiggler November 20, 2017 7:15 pm #

      Is agree with vehicles getting chapter tactics like so many other new codex’s. This will make Ravenguard more of a no brainer if all the vehicles are -1 to hit.

      I think Imperial Fists need some serious help. Their reroll to damage buildings needs to change to reroll to damage all vehicles AND buildings. Give that to Chaos IW also.

      • Avatar
        Anggul November 21, 2017 1:41 am #

        They also ignore cover though, which is a bigger deal than most people seem to be giving it credit for.

  2. Avatar
    Dakkath November 20, 2017 7:36 pm #

    Tip 0: Rowboat Girlyman works on all space marines, is undercosted for his stats, provides the same buffs as a captain and lieutenant combined over a larger radius, and gives you 3 extra CP just for making him your warlord. The buffs are even better if using actual Ultrasmurfs.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 9:27 am #

      Except that you don’t have to take Bobby G =)

      He is very good, no doubt. But he is not necessary to win.

      • Avatar
        Dakkath November 21, 2017 11:07 pm #

        Necessary, no. Stupidly good, yes. You-need-a-really-good-reason-not-to-at-least-consider-him-in-your-list good.

        Rowboat is to Space Marines in 8th what Riptides were to Tau in 7th.

  3. Avatar
    Derrick November 20, 2017 7:44 pm #

    I get that Reece is kind of obligated to push this idea of parody between codexs but anyone that try’s to play Space Marines competitively knows you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage if you aren’t doing some sort of Bobby G build. Space Marines are well rounded but compared to some of the new codexs they are woefully underpowered unless you go with one of a very few limited build.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 9:30 am #

      I am not obligated to do anything. And no, lol, you do not have to play Bobby G.

      As stated, I was the top Space Marines player at NOVA using an actual Space Marines army. Chester ranked above me with Ultramarines but he wasn’t actually using any Space Marines and played more games than I did.

      However, even just saying I took 2nd top Space Marine player without any of the commonly accepted good units speaks for itself. I won in a mega competitive environment using the above tactics.

      So, take that as you wish, but factually these tactics work and no, you do not need Bobby G.

      • Avatar
        Derrick November 21, 2017 10:35 am #

        True statistical anomalies happen and ppl will win without Bobby G. but I think the numbers of tournaments won w/Bobby G. & the number won with out speak for them selves. As for being obligated all I meant was that being involved in so much of testing & development of 8th would blind anyone to the problems they think hey already solved. It’s just like when you read something and the brain fills in missing words or tricks u in to seeing misspelled word as the correct word. When your so invested it’s hard to see issues sometimes.

        • Reecius
          Reecius November 21, 2017 10:46 am #

          Fair points, but what I am saying is that the players bringing Bobby G far outnumber those without. Therefore, yes, it wins more as it is over represented. Also, your point about observer bias applies to you as well, you know? So many folks refuse to see things outside of what is the commonly accepted ideas.

          I understand your point about me being too close but this isn’t me loving the thing I helped create, this is just me being me. I have ALWAYS advocated for doing things differently and I have always done things differently in my tournament 40k career. It’s just the way I prefer to play the game and always have. I want to try to help people see that they can be creative in their list building and tactics, and be successful regardless of what conventional wisdom espouses.

      • Avatar
        Ghostvalley November 22, 2017 7:26 am #

        Reece is obligated to parody. I agree.

        My bobby G is on sprue…is this why I’m not winning? Sheesh…Goodbye resin Telion, hero of the ages….

        • Avatar
          Narceron November 22, 2017 7:28 am #

          Sorry, didn’t mean to post as ghost valley..not sure how I did that.


          • Avatar
            Ghostvalley November 22, 2017 8:29 am

            Ha. Weird stuff for sure. As I did not write that. I wonder how that even happens?

  4. Avatar
    GhostValley November 20, 2017 8:47 pm #

    Thanks for the article, great read and some solid advice.

    I was running sternguard in a drop pod but was starting to resent their total points. I actually am getting a lot of work out of a 10 man Reiver squad with combat blades. I find the 31 attacks and the 20 wounds goes a long way with a unit I mostly use to jab or bully with. I know not the post optimal efficiency but the shock grenades and the -1 ld aura can surprise.

    My base is Calgar, a lieutenant and an ancient with hellblasters, and 2 las/missile venerable Dreadnoughts. Sometimes the dreads die right away but sometimes I roll a bunch of sixes and get the wounds back. They pretty much never miss with the hit on 2s and reroll hits and wounds.
    Clagar is a lot of points but he hasn’t died yet and I love the 2 extra cps. I found that spending the 3 command points to upgrade a captain to chapter master just left me with too little. I typically have around 8 cps – and while I would struggle against the total saturation of fire guard lists I am at least competing most games.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 9:40 am #

      Thanks and yeah, Reivers are a hidden gem, IMO. They pack some solid firepower and melee. Plus, the models are just too cool.

      If you are having issues with AM, there are a lot of tricks in the above article that help you overcome them. Jump Pack characters wreck AM. Just wreck them. You get into position to jump over/into the Conscripts, pin them in combat if at all possible or screen the characters with sacrificial jump units, and then they start to ping pong into the artillery units and it is curtains for AM. A single Captain with Thunder Hammer can take out pretty much all of the Basilisks so long as you have a solid delivery method.

      • Avatar
        Ghostvalley November 21, 2017 10:43 am #

        I have actually pulled some arms off a captain since reading this. I love the idea of maybe fielding Twin Hammer Bros. Captains!

        Any thoughts about Calgar?

        • Avatar
          Ghostvalley November 21, 2017 11:25 am #

          Also I am continually amused how sour people seem to get at you because you wrote an article that we can read for free. You are nothing but a GW SHILL! …or maybe the internet is just flipping strange. Keep doing what you do, Reece, always appreciate it.

          • Reecius
            Reecius November 21, 2017 4:18 pm

            Thanks and yeah, it is funny.

            Crowd: All Space Marine Players use Bobby G, it’s lame, they should use something different.

            Me: here’s a way to use something different!

            Crowd: But you should use Bobby G, he’s the best!

            Me: Facepalm


          • Avatar
            GhostValley November 21, 2017 4:41 pm


        • Reecius
          Reecius November 21, 2017 4:18 pm #

          Calgar is awesome! Pablo uses him quite a bit and if weren’t for Bobby G being what he is, I think Calgar would get a lot of use.

          • Avatar
            GhostValley November 21, 2017 4:40 pm

            I’ll stick to Donkey Kong and his fists o doom. Bobby gets enough love.

  5. Avatar
    WestRider November 20, 2017 9:48 pm #

    Another tip: Get really good at rolling 3+ 😉

    Seriously, tho, they’ve got a lot of good tools, even more if you can look past some of the more lackluster Chapter Tactics and build based on a combination of Tactic/Relic/Stratagem/Warlord Trait/Special Characters. For example, the Crimson Fists don’t have a great Chapter Tactic, but their Relic is great, their Stratagem can be very strong if you build for it, and Pedro is very solid. If you work to those strengths, you can get something totally usable from there.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 9:42 am #

      Exactly. Too often folks only analyze a sub-faction based only on their “Chapter Tactic” but that is ignoring a lot of what they have to offer. Like you noted, Crimson Fists with Pedro, their relic, etc. can become a very potent combo, but if you only looked at their basic chapter tactic and didn’t dig any deeper, you’d miss all of that.

  6. Avatar
    Alex D November 20, 2017 10:02 pm #

    So I’ve been tinkering with the idea of shelving my guard (all rambos) and maybe playing some marines. I really would love to start raven guard, but a small part of me wants to do a revived astral knights with nothing but primaris marines (models are sexy) just how gimped would I be? Also aren’t the Knights in fluff descendants of dorn!?

    • Avatar
      Ytook November 21, 2017 9:29 am #

      I really want to do a pure Primaris sent as well, from my (admittedly very limited) experience pure Primaris aren’t great right now, not bad but not good. But it looks like Chapter Approved is dropping their points across the board which should help.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 9:50 am #

      I have been hearing about some players doing well with pure Primaris Marines but it certainly is challenging at present. They need a cheaper way to be delivered into combat. However, Reivers do this on their own which makes them a lot more appealing.

  7. Avatar
    KingCro November 21, 2017 1:40 am #

    Love these articles Reese! Great to see thoughtful creative ways to use the Codexes that’s not the same as the rest of the internet’s opinions.

    What are your thoughts on using normal bikes over scout bikes? I know scout bikes are cheaper but not by much and I feel like the 3+ save is worth it for the points.

    I’m trying to build a competitive Ultramarine army without using Gulliman and I figured the best way to do this was to maximize the use of their WL trait (using CPs just as you mentioned in this article) and Chapter tactics. I felt like bikes took the best advantage of the Ultra’s CT because regular bikes are very mobile, pump out a lot of bolter shots, and are decently tough so can survive a round in combat. My plan was to use them as reliable speed bumps that can easily position themselves to block enemy movement/charges and pump out a lot of dice, mulching conscripts and cultists. Then when engaged in CC, they can disengage the next turn and fire into the unit again with hopefully the number of shots mitigating the -1 to hit. Flamers Might also be a decent option as they do not care about the -1 to hit, are cheap, and on bikes can get into range reliably.

    I was thinking of having 2-3 units of 3 bikes bare bones (except a storm bolter probably on the SGT) running up field, getting in the way, scoring progressive objectives, and shooting squishy units would prove to be quite annoying to opponents and buy some time for the rest of the army.

    Would appreciate the feedback! Thanks!

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 5:25 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      The Scout Bikers are ridiculously good. They have so many shots and twice as many attacks in melee, too. They’re fantastic. Normal Bikers are good for delivering special weapons into range, but generally the Scout Bikers are superior.

      Just, FYI, they have 7 attacks vs. 4 for the normal bikers in melee, and with a Storm Bolter on Sarge they have 22 shots vs. 16 with normal bikers with a Storm Bolter. They are also faster and have a cool stratagem to deal mortal wounds as well.

  8. Avatar
    Schmuvness November 21, 2017 3:07 am #

    Reece, you are the best! Awesome article, I devoured it.
    Interestingly my list for this weekends Tournament here in Berlin features all the points mentioned 😀

    I would love to skype with you some time. If you’re up to it you can mail me with the adress provided. 🙂

    Greetings from Germany.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 5:27 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it! Feel free to shoot me an email, I don’t always have time for chats, unfortunately.

      • Avatar
        Schmuvness November 22, 2017 1:42 am #

        Maybe I will after the weekend to share some thoughts and observations with you about dem Speehs Mareehns.

    • Avatar
      Stilgar November 21, 2017 7:14 pm #

      How is the ITC scene in Germany? I am being stationed in Vilseck in the very near future.

      • Avatar
        Schmuvness November 22, 2017 1:40 am #

        We don’t really play ITC in Germany. There might be some ITC Tourneys here and there but mostly we play our own Tournament Circiut which is called TableTop Masters. You can check out the webiste here: http://www.tabletopmasters.de
        It’s in german though, lol.

        It’s a system to ensure comparability which doesn’t change its rules for one season. At the end of a season we have an invitational finale where high ranked players play for booze, beer, and bitches (no actually they play for fame, fortune and some prizes).

  9. Avatar
    Ytook November 21, 2017 7:20 am #

    Great article, I’m loving my Salamanders, mechanised Vulkan surrounded by meltas and flamers is just mean, particularly with my 5 double flamer aggressors in Repulsor, backed by a Thunderfire tremor shelling to make sure enemies stay where I need them in close range but still making it tricky to charge. Doubt it’ll be burning up the tournament scene but we’re having fun.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 5:28 pm #

      Yeah, so long as you’re having a good time and playing fun and close games, that is what really matters.

  10. Avatar
    Horton November 21, 2017 7:44 am #

    Great article. I agree with what you say here. SM are very good and are under represented in the meta right now.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 9:14 am #

      Yeah, 100% true. The issue is, like the poster below illustrates, people get stuck in their thinking and assume there is only one way to do something. People are afraid, or reluctant to try new ideas. Instead of actually trying something, they assume because their internet community is all parroting the same “party line” so to speak, that unit X is trash and unit Y is auto-take, etc. and if anyone disagrees, they are a n00b, or whatever. It’s way to feel superior or what have you and I see it all the time, it’s the main reason I stopped wasting times on tactics sections of forums as it was just an echo chamber.

      If someone talks about a new tactic that you haven’t heard before, instead of dismissing them you should perk up your ears because here is something potentially new to up your game!

      • Avatar
        Horton November 22, 2017 3:33 am #

        Totally agree! Everything has the potential to be awesome.

  11. Avatar
    Scott E Sasser November 21, 2017 8:51 am #

    This article seems like a joke to me. Like GW told Reece to write it.

    Very little in this article matters for competitive play. Running Guilliman to just reroll everything is way, WAY better than basically all other strategies. The internal balance in this codex is the worst we’ve seen in GW in years. This from the edition where “everything is good”.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 9:05 am #

      Well, I am glad I can amuse you =)

      But no, I wrote this on my own. And no, playing Bobby G is not the “auto-take”. No, GW doesn’t tell me what to say or even ask.


      I was the top Space Marine player at NOVA. Chester ranked above me but he had Imperial Soup, no actual Space Marines and only because he played more games than I did. And, I used all of the tactics presented here except the ThunderFire Cannon (which I so wish I had) and they all worked against the meanest lists you can play against.

      I have played against several other Space Marines armies with Bobby G using the above tactics and have never lost. With no Stormravens, no Razorbacks, etc. in my list and had zero issues defeating them every time. At NOVA, one of the armies like that I played using the Bobby G+Stormravens “auto-take” combo, I was the only person to defeat them and they went first, got the Alpha Strike, etc. And with all due respect to my opponent who was very good, it wasn’t even a close game, I smashed them.

      So, no, you are not correct in your assessment based on factual evidence. And as some friendly advice, just because someone disagrees with you, or sees things differently, it’s not cause for ridicule. If you open your mind a little bit, you might actually learn something and become a better player as a result.

  12. Avatar
    Scott E Sasser November 21, 2017 8:55 am #

    GW has a severe “auto-take” problem right now. Guilliman, Celestine, Pask, Magnus & Morty. There’s just no internal balance. It seems like it’s on purpose too. “Here’s a new model, we’re making it cost 100-200 points less than we should so you’ll buy it!”.

    When I go to tournaments all I play against the the same unique characters over and over. When these lists go first they almost always win. Except against another bogus list.

  13. Avatar
    Quinn November 21, 2017 9:42 am #

    Good article. I don’t agree with all of it but valid points. I’m an Imperial Fist player and if I had to change just one units points right now for SMs (other than FW chapters or Ultras) it would be Drop Pods. It would open up the game for SMs if they were cheap and useful again. GW really overcosted them in the current Codex, to the point that they are pretty worthless. I’d also love to see some type of Strategem that allows a Drop Pod assault that bypasses some of the normal rules for Reserves. A lot of people out there have Drop Pod armies that haven’t seen the table since 8th dropped.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 10:07 am #

      Drop Pods are pricey. I used one in my list for quite some time and did very well in tournaments with it to deliver a mixture of characters and units where I needed them, but yeah, they are a bit expensive.

      • Avatar
        Nicholas November 21, 2017 11:29 am #

        I think drop pods would be fine if they reopened what you could put in them. Only Change I really want as a Space Marine player is the primaris restriction for transports to be removed. I feel that would open a lot more variety. Otherwise I like the article a lot! As a BT player I have found a lot of what you are saying works well. I especially like the distraction drops you were talking about. I used a barebones shooty terminator squad dropped on the relic and they soaked between 200-300 attacks from shooting and assault. I have been super impressed with them this edition!

        • Reecius
          Reecius November 21, 2017 4:21 pm #

          I agree, I wish Primaris could mix more with normal Marines, it would make them significantly more appealing. However, they can’t so it is a bit more challenging to use them right now.

          Yeah, distraction units are very valuable, they can really derail your opponent’s plans.

  14. Avatar
    Chandler November 21, 2017 11:42 am #

    This was a great article, Reece. I think Marines can be competitive without having to rely on Bobby G as your article highlight. The key is, like you mention, is building upon units that can capitalize on screens, proper use of stratagems and character support. I wish we would get out of this “internet” mentality where people bring more varied armies rather than just relying on what people say on forums. Marines can be solid without Bobby G.

    The biggest thing I feel the army needs is screen support. Scouts are amazing and can give you some layers of protection, but it’s certainly better to wrap up devastator squads with conscripts for example as opposed to scouts.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 5:29 pm #

      You said it. You have to figure out how to stop the enemy attack if you end up going second vs. something like Cultists Bombs. Scouts are the answer. You have to have some means of holding back the tide to give yourself time to counter-attack and take the teeth out of their plan.

  15. Avatar
    Nightman November 21, 2017 1:13 pm #

    Solid article. Marines do have a lot of tools to deal with various things. This is of course just my opinion, but marines just seem a bit boring this edition. Perhaps it’s just they were flavourful in past editions and now other books are catching up.

    I was hoping to see Terminators and other elite oriented units get some love, but even if they get a point drop in Chapter Approved they seem fundementally flawed with all the dmg 2+ and mortal wounds going around. 5 Hammenators charging in against are doing around 5 hits and then need to wound, it just seems wrong.

    Not saying SM as a whole is terrible. There are a ton of good non RG/UM builds. But what makes the Chaos books so strong in comparision is you can build your list around the units you love due to how flexible the strategems are.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 5:30 pm #

      Terminators can be quite good but like you said, there’s a lot of damage 2 out there that can make short work of them. You need something like the combos Chaos provides to really make them a top tier option.

  16. Avatar
    ecstasy_in_service November 21, 2017 3:01 pm #

    Great advice, I will keep in mind as I build my army. What would you say is the best scout load out? I general see just knife and pistol, but is a bolter better? what about snipers?

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 5:31 pm #

      You got it! I prefer Bolters but often go Bolt Pistol, Knife, too.

      Sniper Scouts are a bit expensive for my blood but it depends on your meta. If you face lots of little support characters like with AM and such, they rock, but otherwise they can struggle a bit.

  17. Avatar
    Funblade November 21, 2017 3:57 pm #

    Thank you Reece. As a pure Ultramarines player, I have been scouring the internet for a guide like this since 8E’s release. There’s so much good stuff here to reflect on.

    I can only beg you to make a guide like this again in the future when the meta changes for SM. Perhaps a year or so from now.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 21, 2017 5:32 pm #

      Hey, glad it worked and I will do my best to keep the tactics updating as things change. I think about it a lot and am lucky enough to get to test everything a lot so it gives us some valuable insights.

  18. Avatar
    zyekian November 21, 2017 6:09 pm #

    I love the craftiness and resourcefulness of this article, Reece. I wish more SM players would try stuff outside of a few narrow builds.

    It’s disheartening to see so many Guilliman players win with minimal effort. Good players such as yourself can do the hard thinkin’ to make a whole host of lists and strategies successful and that’s great. That’s where the fun is at for you and your opponent. But it just seems like you’re busting your tail though……. just to get to the win rate of an average player running a stock Guilliman list. Hoping chapter approved rewards the thinking man more.

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 24, 2017 9:33 am #

      Hey, thanks! I appreciate the kind words.

      The thing is, I 100% honestly don’t think Bobby G is needed. Truly. He’s awesome for sure, but he isn’t critical to success. Marines can win in a host of ways but folks get stuck on set play strategies and don’t branch out. As you noted, it may require a bit more craftiness, but it isn’t that difficult. I’d even make the argument that taking multiple characters to accomplish what Bobby G does for roughly the same or even less cost, can be a benefit as you can cover more area with them.

  19. Avatar
    Banglesprout November 22, 2017 10:47 am #

    Hey Reecius,

    Just wanted to say great job on this article, really interesting ideas, opened my eyes to one or two things in the space marine list (thunderfire cannon & drop pods in particular).

    Only discovered this site this week, but love some of your stuff – the short 30 minutes youtube battle reports are some of the best reports I’ve seen, and a few articles like this and the White Scars article are really greattoo.

    One aspect of your Red Tigers list I really like is the fact that it’s all infantry – you’ve basically got no efficient targets for any anti tank weapons your opponents might have spent a bunch of points on.. do you think this is a significant strength in the list, or not really important?

    I also wondered how crucial you think Issodon is to this kind of list? Obviously he has a massive impact on the way you play, if you have him, but do you think you could play a similar list with no named characters with similar success?

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 24, 2017 9:30 am #

      Happy to hear they have been useful for you! That’s awesome.

      And yes, that is the benefit of the infantry army. You make many of the heavy duty weapons your opponent has largely irrelevant. It is a strength for sure.

      Lias is crazy good. The list would need some other delivery mechanism to function without him, honestly. I mean, you could do it, you would swap out the Mult Meltas for more long ranged weapons, deploy carefully and count on your defense and the Banner to get your money’s worth out of the big guns. You would need a means to deliver the STernguard or swap them out for more Devastators. I’ve actually been toying with a list like this for Salamanders to see if it could work.

      • Avatar
        Banglesprout November 24, 2017 12:06 pm #

        Yeah after reading this article I thought I’d see if I could put together a similar list that feels nice, but without Issodon, and with a Thunderfire Cannon included. Came up with something like this.

        Captain: storm bolter (74)
        Captain: thunder hammer, storm shield (129)
        Lieutenant: storm bolter (62)

        Tactical squad: 5 marines, storm bolter, missile launcher (92)
        Tactical squad: 5 marines, storm bolter (67)
        Tactical squad: 5 marines, storm bolter (67)
        Scout squad: 5 scouts (55)
        Scout squad: 5 scouts (55)
        Scout squad: 5 scouts (55)

        Company Ancient: storm bolder, Banner of the Emperor Ascendant (65)
        Vanguard Veterans: 10 marines, Jump packs, 2 chainswords (180)
        Sternguard Veterans: 10 marines, special issues boltguns (200)

        Fast Attack
        Assault Squad: 5 marines, 3 plasma pistols (101)
        Scout bike squad: 3 scout bikes (75)
        Scout bike squad: 3 scout bikes (75)

        Heavy Support
        Devastator Squad: 5 marines, 2 lascannons, 2 heavy bolters, storm bolter, armorium cherub (142)
        Devastator Squad: 5 marines, 2 lascannons, 2 heavy bolters, storm bolter, armorium cherub (142)
        Devastator Squad: 5 marines, 2 lascannons, 2 heavy bolters, storm bolter, armorium cherub (142)
        Thunderfire Cannon, techpriest gunner (121)

        Dedicated Transport
        Drop pod: storm bolter (95)

        Total: 1996

        WIth all the jump packs and sternguard in the drop pod it still has nice deep strike potential. I love the MSU approach and making use of Defenders of Humanity from all the troops.

        My concerns are that 6 lascannons wouldn’t be enough, and that without Issodon they’ll all be deploying on the field, so can be alpha struck, even with the banner backing them up.

        I don’t think this is a Salamanders list – I think they more than any other chapter need a list specifically built around their squad rerolls. Ravenguard seems clearly the best option again, but I quite like white scars as an option too.

  20. Avatar
    Lucius Thorne November 23, 2017 5:49 am #


    This is a great article! I’m a relatively new player, and therefore trying to feel my way into the game so if I ask any stupid questions then I apologise!

    So, in your tournament reports you take advantage of Lias Issodon to give you resistance to other people’s alpha strike – can you survive enough without it purely by using scouts?

    • Reecius
      Reecius November 24, 2017 9:24 am #

      Glad it helped!

      And no stupid questions my friend, we all have to start somewhere.

      And yeah, Scouts help a lot vs. assault alpha strikes and close range alpha strikes but if you find yourself facing a real gun-line army, you need to be able to hide to have defense against it. That is why I take Lias, he let’s me finish deploying after the game has begun which is extremely powerful. You can get around it by using other tools though, like transport vehicles, terrain, etc. You just have to be crafty.

  21. Avatar
    Alex R November 24, 2017 3:53 pm #

    im so stuck in my ways with the imperial soup style lists. i dont know how to do anything different. though im moving to scouts instead of intercessors, need those deep strike denial areas

  22. Avatar
    Helmut December 8, 2017 9:22 am #

    How do you fit the assassin into your detachments?

    • Avatar
      Apocalypse448 April 26, 2018 9:25 am #

      Include him in an aux support detachment (-1CP)

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