40K: Building the Thunder Warriors


Today we take a stab at the Emperor’s mighty Thunder Warriors – and how we would bring them to the tabletop.

Meet the Thunder Warriors

The Thunder Warriors have always held a special place in our hearts.  Here’s the basics on them from Lexicanum to get you up to speed:

“Thunder Warriors were the elite super soldiers that marched with the Emperor to conquer Terra in the Wars of Unification. The engineering that the Emperor used to create the Thunder Warriors, whilst creating superior fighters, was not as efficient as what was used later to create the Space Marines, nor was the technology as advanced or the geneticists as entirely willing. These proto-Astartes were organized in twenty regiments of no more than a few hundred warriors, each named by the Emperor himself.

The Thunder Warriors battled throughout the Unification Wars and united Terra for the first time in millennia under the rule of the Emperor. According to myth, they were all killed during the final battle of the Unification Wars, the Battle of Mount Ararat.”


We’ve always wondered exactly what these monsters would look like on the tabletop. We know they were legendary even by Space Marine standards and small numbers of them laid waste to many times their number of Astartes in the aftermath of the Unification Wars. These are the Emperor’s first crude attempts at genetic modification. They were not something as sophisticated and mentally conditioned as the the later Astartes, but were instead a means to an end.  A blunt instrument meant to conquer Terra, then pass into history.  It was said they were hardened against psychic attacks as many of Terra’s warlords used such forces to enforce their will. It was recorded that they could quickly kill and butcher vast numbers of lesser foes on the battlefield compared to their own numbers.

We have had stats for the 30K era Astartes thanks for Forge World, but the arrival of stats for the Custodes fills in a missing link to let us take a stab at recreating the Thunder Warriors on the tabletop.

The Rules

Here is our set of completely unofficial rules for you narrative gamers and Unification Wars fanatics to try out.


Some Notes:

Full rules for Fury of the Legion and Chosen Warriors are in the Forge World 30K Legion Army List but the short versions are:

  • Fury of the Legion: If the squad does not move, it may fire it’s bolter weapons twice in a turn, then not fire them the next turn.
  • Chosen Warriors: The models may declare and accept challenges.

What we have here is a melding of the Legiones Astartes army list with some elements from the Adeptus Custodes.  We have attempted to create the blunt physicality and power of the Thunder Warriors.  You can see the early martial prowness that will be burnished into the later Astartes – without much sophistication in either equipment or tactics.  You get a feel for the hulking frames seen with the Custodes, shorn clean of that organization’s lifetime of endless training and superior genetics.  Make no mistake – these Thunder Warriors do one thing. They butcher enemy infantry – and they do it well.

Thunder Warriors Rules Download (PDF)

So go ahead and take them out for spin. I’m sure you can use them to recreate the Emperor’s conquest of Terra versus a host of count-as foes, or perhaps even see what might occur if small numbers of the Thunder Warriors survived to the 40th Millenia.

~ Above all – we hope you have as much fun out there using them as we had creating them!

  • Kouba


    • euansmith

      The answer is always, “headshots”; now, what is the question?

      • LordRao

        “How can we quickly relieve ourselves of having to look at those horrible Eighties flexible plastic silver sunglasses and anachronistic horseplume helmets?”

  • Edouard Decaen

    The engineering that the Emperor used to create the Thunder Warriors, whilst creating superior fighters, was not as efficient as what was used later to create the Space Marines, nor was the technology as advanced or the geneticists as entirely willing.

    Why should they be S5T5W2?

    • Atharius

      They were stronger than Astartes but their lifespan was short. They were designed to be throw-aways.

    • The Rout

      My thoughts exactly. Id make them S5 T4, I3 and lower leadership. Certainly wouldn’t add a second wound either.

    • OldHat

      It was not as efficient at mass production, but your average Thunder Warrior was superior to a Space Marine in all ways, excluding armor that was different (not necessarily inferior).

      • Edouard Decaen

        Where do you get this info. Is there anything about thunder warriors in the 40k litterature?

        • grendal1989

          The Horus Heresy Book “The Outcast Dead” had an old Thunder Warrior. Even in his weakened state (due to genetic deteriation) he was wrecking Astartes. I would say S5 T5 is not unreasonable.

        • OldHat

          What grendal said. Plus, HH Betrayal talks about how well the Thunder Warriors did against the War Hounds Legion in the Cerberus Insurrection. ~4 dead Marines per Thunder Warrior is quite a feat! Says to me they were superior warriors.

        • Drpx

          It’s 40k. Older is always better.

      • Haighus

        The armour was inferior to later armour Marks primarily in that the suit was both not void capable, and the sensors and secondary systems in the suits were upgraded in later suits. The armour protection from Mk I to Mk II suits is probably pretty comparable though, against most attacks short of NBCR attacks.

        I wouldn’t be suprised if the Thunder Warriors were not as intelligent as the Space Marines on average too. They seem designed more as simply Shock troops, rather than also leaders, and ultimately the upper-class of the Imperium in the Emperor’s long term goals as the Space Marines were. The two examples we have are of a very intelligent Thunder Warrior, who was also their greatest hero and probably an anomaly, and one who is more just a tergetted thug really, and I suspect more indicative of the Thunder Warriors as a whole.

        Thunder Warriors also age much more poorly.

        Other than that though, the Thunder Warriors are definitely physically superior.

    • A.P.

      they should be stronger and tougher than astartes but in reading Angel Exterminatus; unltimately flawed. In addition they should have some sort of “burn out” if sustaining too much effort for too long. E.G. after any model uses the “Lightining Standard” special rule they must make dangerous checks.
      Also lessened Mental indoctrination would mean lower LD and 3+ power armor on a dude without the Black Carapace would probably incur slow and purposeful or something encumbering.

      • euansmith

        According to Rogue Trader (p114-115), Carapace Armour provides a sealed environment and gives the same protection as Powered Armour, but the wearer incurs a movement penalty.

        I think that actual powered armour is more about easy of use and providing the wearer with more comfort , to enable longer deployments in hostile areas.

        • A.P.

          There Fixed.
          What do you think no run moves..

          • euansmith

            It is a shame that the old Move stat isn’t around any more. Maybe no running, but can still charge at full speed.

  • Ak318

    Also a number did survive mount ararat cause you see some in the legions in the horus heresy books. They were in fact phsysically weaker than marines, not stronger. cannot say about the anti psyker bit though.

  • Old zogwort

    I would have made them
    Ws4 BS4 S4 T3 w1 I4 A2 sv4+ LD9
    Furious charge
    They are supposed to be inferior space marines in inferior armour.

    • ZeeLobby

      I thought they were physically superior to space marines but crude and with defects?

      • Ghaniman

        Thunder Warriors were physically superior. But that’s about it.

        You got of think of it like this.

        Thunder Warriors are your F1 race cars. High performance with a very short life expectancy.

        Space Marines are your Toyota Hilux. Well made, run decently, rugged, and easy to mass produce with a long life expectancy.

    • DJ860

      I like this.

      “Roll a die each turn on a 1 they take 1d6 wounds.”

      Lol, if you had squads of them they’d be falling down dead for no reason every turn.

      • Old zogwort

        The 1 roll and 1d6 wounds would be for the whole squad regardless of their numbers. But yeah I do like the idea of them dropping dead for no reason. Every bit of their fluff emphasizes them having a short life span / them burning up. I feel like this has to be represented in their rules / on the battlefield somehow .

        • wibbling

          I don’t like the randomness, so I’d base it on turn number. Perhaps unit suffers one wound each turn, can feel no pain it away?

          That way you represent attrition damage but also will to keep fighting.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            I think your roll a dice in assault, on a 1 the unit suffers a wound was fine. Represents heart attacks etc!

          • Muninwing

            but each round? really? way too extreme.

            i get the reasoning behind it, but they weren’t like your great-grandmothers… the scale is all off.

            if your lifespan is relevant in the shortness of a battle for reasons other than your opponents, then you’re doing something wrong and you are a badly utilized soldier.

        • Haighus

          The fluff emphasises this in comparison to Astartes, who are functionally immortal. The Thunder Warriors would be awful troops if half of them died every battle for no reason, I would think they’d have a lifespan similar to standard, unaugmented humans without excessive rejuvenat care.

          The lifespan thing is more like engineered redundancy- the product works fine for the first few years, and then fails after the warranty runs out and a new product is conveniently released. With Thunder Warriors, it is a few decades and the new product was Space Marines…

          • euansmith

            Thunderwarrior, “Emperor, why do we die?”

            Emperor, “Planned Obsolescence, laddie, Planned Obsolescence.”

      • Mr_Pickles

        so Thunder Warriors are Orks now?

        • nurglitch

          Bigger = Better is a standard 40k meme.

      • Muninwing

        i think that’s taking the “shorter lifespan” thing to an unnecessary extreme

        i mean, Greek Hoplites had a far shorter lifespan than modern troops, but they didn’t just fall down during a battle due to old age…

        • Haighus

          This is how I feel- most of the squad dying in a single battle would be horribly inefficient, the Emperor would be better off with standard humans for the cost of producing the Thunder Warriors.

          • Muninwing

            instead, i’d say that they roll a die at the end of any game using killpoints… and they give up a point as if killed on a 5+

          • Haighus

            But you don’t get that with Guardsmen, and these guys seem to have lasted at least as long as typical Guard forces, longer frankly. I just don’t think it is an issue at all over the course of a battle. The Thunder Warriors fought for years.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      Since they can kill many times their own number of Astartes T3 is misplaced. I would have made them as BoLs has, the only thing I’d change would be to give them Furious Charge, lose Fearless and make them I3 to reflect their crudeness.

      • Old zogwort

        They are mentioned to have more strength in combat but to be less durable. Doubling the number of attacks and giving them furious charge in seems like a good way to represent this. I am still not sure about the T3 but it feels strange to make less durable marines the same T as durable marines.

        • ZeeLobby

          I always thought the less durability was in reference to their lack of second heart and/or enhanced metabolism to keep them fighting. They still seem to be tough as nails, just once they’re dead they’re dead. Maybe all SMs should really have FnP.

          • The Rout

            I could go on and on about the stats marines should have to reflect fluff lol. Marines should really be 5s across the board stat wise AND be able to regenerate wounds AND be fearless.

            On an unrelated note, does it drive anybody else insane that chainswords dont have a profile? how is a fist or club considered equal to a friggin chainsaw sword? Id settle for AP6.

            The thunder warriors are essentially the same as astartes but lacking a gene seed to keep all those modifications running smoothly (this is covered in HH book outcast dead where one of the last thunder warriors is trying to get hold of a gene seed so he can keep living)

            The armour should be the same as power armour but make them SandP really to reflect the older tech. They should also be LD7 but have stubborn and be i3. Id even make them WS3 (same as Blood Claws) because it wont really affect their ability to hit opponents but will make them easier to hit reflecting them being blunt instruments.

          • ZeeLobby

            Honestly, chainswords just fall into that awesome but totally impractical category. I guess I’d be fine with AP6, but itd basically be a club after 10 minutes of fighting anyway.

          • euansmith

            Maybe give them Rending for the odd time that the teeth actually find purchase and chew through their target rather than their normal bludgeoning effect.

          • Haighus

            ATSKNF is better than Fearless for Space Marines- it shows they are smart enough to realise that there are times when retreating and regrouping is the best option, live to fight another day, rather than just blindly fighting to the last. If blindly fighting to the last is what is required, then Marines will, but they will retreat if neccessary. Fearless doesn’t allow this.

          • euansmith

            I thought it was down to them running “hot” with an elevated metabolic rate and none of the biological and cybernetic systems the Astartes get to moderate their supercharged biology.

            “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy.” http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ce94fa45ad658c5e0fb42b9dec4411f9d51c197e11172fee66f841f8846c842c.jpg

          • ZeeLobby

            Haha. Exactly. Most didn’t even live to that point.

        • OldHat

          “Less durable” would be their save, since their armor was not as advanced (but more advanced than others at the time). They are actually physically very tough. I mean, when you hear about one dead Thunder Warrior surrounded by like half a dozen dead War Hound (who became the World Eaters) during the whole Cerbereus uprising thing… that is tough as nails. T5 makes perfect sense. They are brutal and the rules should reflect that.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          less durable means, I think, that they die from poisons, age, illness and don’t heal as fast, since they lack some of the special glands that Astartes have, not that they are any easier to hurt in a combat situation.

          • Muninwing

            they are “less durable” than those who have lifespans of hundreds of years…

            that’s like saying that Einstein is stupid because he was “less educated” than Stephen Hawking… if i’m the scale, they’re both clustered at the other side, and i have no frame of reference to delineate…

        • Haighus

          The examples in The Outcast Dead are certainly not less durable though, and they are decrepit examples that are barely clinging to life 2 centuries after their expiry date. Less durable in an aging sense maybe, but they are monstrous lumps of dense muscle, which is durable in itself.

      • wibbling

        I’d agree with I3, keep s and T at 5 and wounds at 2, give them feel no pain, fearless and rage.

        They do need some form of drawback, and I suggest that be bs3. Armour save of 3+ to the immediate front but 4+ from the side/rear. I’d make their close combat weapons ap5 by default.

        I’d also suggest ‘unstable’, for each turn they charge or fight in assault on a d6 result of 1, unit suffers a wound, can feel no pain it away but not armour saves.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          that all sounds fine to me. Now I’ve thought about it I’d give them I4 but have their armour give -1 to I to represent the fact it isn’t fully powered. I like the idea of different armour facings, though this game has generally avoided that for infantry models.

          • euansmith

            I liked an earlier suggestion about their armour being 3+ in melee and 4+ to shooting; or was it the other way round?

            Edit: it was a later comment from DB, and it was the other way round. But I think that either way works.

          • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

            That has the virtue of not needing to mind facings.

      • Haighus

        I reckon they should keep Fearless, but have a low Ld to represent their generally lower intelligence than Marines- they care not about casualties, but when they do actually have to think they are lacking a bit more than Marines.

    • PrimoFederalist

      I don’t get why you emphasize their short life span but not the fact that they’re physically superior to Astartes.

    • KingThrogg

      ‘Roll a die each turn on a 1 they take 1d6 wounds’.
      You have had a sneak preview of the new Chaos Marine states haven’t you?

  • D. B.

    I move for a 4+ armour save against ranged attacks, and 3+ only in close combat. Mk I armour wasn’t true power armour as we know it, it wasn’t void-proof and didn’t offer the degree of flexibilty and overall protection even MkII had.

    • Old zogwort

      I agree the armour should somehow be worse than the 3+ standard marine armour we have now.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      it should still be 3+, as its better than carapace. These fine gradations are hard to reflect in a d6 based system. Since it isn’t fully powered, make it impose a -1 to initiative, so they would be I3, which I have suggested for fluff reasons anyway.

      • OldHat

        They would be I4 or I5. They were far superior to Astartes. Armor does not limit them that much – it was powered gauntlets and stuff, just not enclosed. I would say a 4+ with 6+ FNP would be my go-to, but T5. Basically, makes them hard to hurt, but shows the armor isn’t as well-developed.

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          4+ puts them on a par with carapace IG vets or Skitarii, and they should be better than that. I liked the idea of 3+ from the front and 4+ from behind. They should be slower than Astartes, they are crude and not as well trained. They should take a hit and then drown Astartes in high volume high strength attacks, not finesse them to death while never being hit back like Eldar.

          • OldHat

            They ostensibly were wearing carapace, so that isn’t really a bad comparison. I think the 4+ with a save for being tough as nails (FNP) would be a good reflection of the less refined, less enclosed armor and their natural durability. Maybe give them an initiative boost on the charge, so I5 on the charge, I4 normal.

          • Damistar

            Problem is that facing is not used with infantry. I like the idea, but rules wise it would be a lot of arguing.

      • Haighus

        Maybe just remove sweeping advances, like with Terminator armour, but keep the I the same?

        • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

          I think sweeping advance would represent their power to overrun their enemies pretty well. For that matter never agreed Termies shouldn’t have it feels too gamey. If their armour slows them down then give them an I penalty, would represent their cumbersomeness in combat as well as make it harder for them to run down opponents.

          • Muninwing

            remember that “sweeping advance” meant something else until 4th edition…

            that was the term for the consolidation into a new combat, not the ability to catch-and-kill after a lost round of combat.

          • Haighus

            True, but the mechanic is there and simple, and the cumbersome doesn’t make much sense in melee when the background for Thunder armour has the arms powered and giving a boost to the user, not encumbering them. The legs are typically unpowered, so struggling to chase down an enemy, but being plenty quick when they are within the grasp of the Thunder Warriors makes plenty of sense.

  • ReverendTiberiusJackhammer

    Looking good, but I’d recommend dropping them to I3 and BS3. Although they’re generally physically superior to Space Marines, they’re also cruder, more brutal. +1S/T -1I/BS helps suggest that although a Thunder Warrior is a massive slab of beef, they’re not finetuned/particularly coordinated.

    • OldHat

      They were not as advanced genetically, but they were absolutely as good as a Space Marine or better. They should flat out have a better statline excluding armor save. 4+ makes more sense, but 6+ FNP would be a nice touch. All the canon fluff makes them sound like they would even give a Custodian a challenge.

      • The Rout

        Not to be combative but what fluff? Ive only read about a thunder warrior in outcast dead who was pretty scary but not insanely so. In that same book a World Eater kills an armoured custodes while equipped with nothing but a bad attitude so it may not be the best source for comparison 🙂

        • OldHat


          You need to brush up on your Imperial history! 😀

          To be fair, I only know this because I am a huge World Eaters fanboy and have written fan-fiction for the Insurrection!

          • The Rout

            Consider me educated 😀

      • ReverendTiberiusJackhammer

        It’s still an assumption to say they are assuredly superior on *all* fronts besides longevity/equipment. They are generally physically “better” than Space Marines, but that doesn’t necessitate them being equal or better on every possible level. All descriptions of their superiority I’ve read reference their great strength, durability, and impressive size.

        I suggest -1I/BS for three reasons;
        1.) It reflects their imperfect nature on the tabletop without a clunky “roll a d6, die on a 1” rule.
        2.) It reinforces their image is hulking brutes, with a focus on tank-y close combat.
        3.) In terms of gameplay, it offers more interesting situations than them being purely superior to Space Marines.

        I could get behind Mk1 Armour only being a 4+, but I can also see 3+ – although the legs aren’t powered armour, the raw strength of the Thunder Warrior could still allow them to support the weight of 3+ worth of armour plating.

        (All this said, there could be some description of speed/dexterity I’m forgetting! Been a while.)

  • euansmith

    I think that a Unification Wars game could be great fun; sort of Gorkamork without the Orkz. The Thunderwarriors always make me think of 1980s Heavy Metal strips like “Lone Sloane”. It is the combination of Rock Space Opera, Myth, Violence and Madness. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/30c6bbc2c2f37417de70459d024ae0e10bd962b39004fea60546e83ff73024de.jpg

    • Muninwing

      unification wars would make a great expansion….

      the descriptions of earth then are way beyond Mad Max… having more info on the Terawatt Clan, Kalagann’s psyker-witches, the Yndonesic Bloc, Hy Brasil, and the Ethnarch of the Caucasus would be pretty intense

      • I have such dreams of a Unification Wars primer from GW. Just a handful of pages with a map of Terra, the major combatants and some uniforms and equipment would be enough to give it a stab with rules.

        But they have kept it quite vague… probably on purpose.

  • This is the cool BoLS I know, even admired. You guys really need to do more of this stuff again.

    • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

      absolutely! Wouldn’t fan made rules for the Unification Wars be a fantastic BoLs project?

  • OolonColluphid

    You’d never be able to use them in 40k. There are only two left by the Horus Heresy. This means they would get Overwatched to death by anything they charge.
    Volkites and 30k weapons will do worse to them. Emperor forbid if you put them up aganst the Dark Angels and their “haha, you tried to assault us, idoit!” weapons. Can’t fight if you can’t move after all.

  • MechBattler

    Those are some pretty nice rules for some pretty tough hombres. I feel like they should have FNP 6+ or something though, Just that tiniest chance to survive otherwise fatal damage because that’s how tough they were.

    • OldHat

      Seconded. Or IWND.

      • euansmith

        Or maybe a more emphatic. IJWNFD; It Just Will Not Feckin’ Die!

  • SilentPony

    Actually you might want to drop the BS and WS to 3, and give them Rage, Furious Charge and Hammer of Wrath and make the armor 4+ but with 3 Wounds.

  • memitchell

    Other than Death Watch, Command Squads, Company Command Squads, Terminator Command Squads, Honor Guards, Sternguards, Veteran Squads, Vanguards, Sanguinary Guard, Damned Legionnaires, Tyrannic Veterans, Death Company, Death Watch, Death Watch Vanguard Veterans, Deathwing Knights, Dark Knights, Grey Knights, Grey Knights Purifiers, Grey Knight Paladins, Sword Brethren Squads, Retinue, Centurions, Custodes, and Sisters of Silence, do we REALLY need yet another Better-than-Average-Marines Marines?

  • vash113

    Ultimately I think this is a good stat-line for the Thunder Warriors, however I wouldn’t include Fury of the Legion and I certainly wouldn’t give them boltguns and the like. Early Legion equipment was mostly volkites and plasma weapons according to the Forge World fluff and they only switched to bolters later as their numbers outstripped production of energy weapons.

    I’d suggest coming up with new weapons for the Thunder Warriors, something like the Charnabal sabre as standard melee weapons and something nasty like chem munition flamers or radium rifles as their standard firearms reflective of forbidden dark-age tech used to overpower the dread warlords of Terra during the Unification War.

    • Muninwing

      i think everyone’s weapons should probably be different from back then — it’d set the games apart.

      see, this is one of those interesting ideas that could be expanded upon. have the Unification Wars be its own game, with AoS-style warscrolls and smaller unit sizes. it could be used as a middle ground between the unit-based 40k and a skirmish-style game (like a reinvention of Necromunda), and would feature drastically different mechanics to symbolize the drastically different equipment and conditions.

    • euansmith

      Radium Rifles and Rad Grenades would be spot on 😀

  • jmaximum

    Ya know, the Thunder Warriors were very well described in the ‘Outcast Dead’ HH story.
    However, one major downside was that the genetic engineering to make them was so out of control that they suffered severely from various cancers.