40K Lore: Terminator Armor Patterns

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Alright Loremasters, today we learn the sacred origins and patterns of Space Marine Tactical Dreadnought Armor – the Terminators.

Terminator Armour or Tactical Dreadnought Armour is the toughest and most powerful form of personal armour humanity has ever developed, used in Terminator units. The scarcity and expense to maintain Terminator suits means they are available only to the elite troops from the veteran companies of the Space Marine Chapters.


Like power armour, Terminator suits have an outer shell of ceramite-bonded plates powered by electrically-motivated fibre bundles. Plates of heavy plasteel further armour the ceramite sections, especially on the front of the suit. This extra armouring provides a level of protection that is far superior to normal Marine armor; not even a Krak missile will penetrate the suit’s breastplate. It also contributes to the immense weight of the suit, making the wearer less maneuverable and slower. External adamantium ribs help support this weight, while the inclusion of suspensors help the suit carry heavier support weapons.

On the left shoulder of every Terminator suit is displayed the Crux Terminatus badge – those worn by Terminator captains are said to contain a piece of the Terminator Armour the Emperor wore when he fought Horus during the final battle of the Horus Heresy


Like normal power armor, Terminator armour is fully enclosed with life-support functions, and includes an array of sensors including radiation monitors, biological detectors and self-diagnostic scanners. Terminator Armour also incorporates many more auxiliary systems than normal Marine power armour, including motion sensors and threat detectors. The armour’s sensorium, based upon tendril sensors, links directly into the wearer’s own awareness. The sensorium allows the wearer to use a vast number of scanners and detectors without conscious thought. Sensoriums can also be linked together, allowing every squad member to see exactly the same view of the battle as his comrades, though often only the Sergeant‘s suit will broadcast pict-signals.

Terminator armour is also notable for incorporating a Teleport homer in each suit. This technology allows the squad to overcome their suits’ lack of maneuverability by placing them directly in the enemy’s midst, though the process is dangerous and sometimes inaccurate. In other cases, Terminator squads will be transported into battle by Drop Pods or Land Raiders.


Due to the massive strength its fibre bundles and advanced servo-motors afford the wearer, weapons normally too heavy to be considered man-portable can be used without impeding performance. Heavy flamers and assault cannons can be wielded as easily as a normal man would a handle a lasgun orboltgun.

Terminator Armour has its own integrated weaponry: a storm bolter and a power fist. The Storm Bolter is a multi-chambered, short-barrelled development of the trusty standard bolter already used by the Astartes. It shoots at a faster rate than the original weapon, allowing it to lay down a curtain of fire. It is also quite short, partly because it is built into the exo-armour, making it an ideal close combat weapon. Such a combination in a single weapon has proven useful, to say the least. The power fist is already standard issue in many Chapters, and needs little work to adapt it to exo-armour.

Heavier weapons include the heavy flamer, the assault cannon and the cyclone missile launcher. Normally one squad member will be designated as fire support and carry one of these weapons.

Some Terminator squads, designated specifically for close-quarter combat, while eschew any ranged weapons in favor of either Lightning Claws or a combination of Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield.

Tactical Use

Most Marine chapters maintain some Terminator suits in their armouries, and train some squads in their use. However, Terminator armour is not used by these Marines as a matter of course, but issued as and when required. Conventionally armoured Marines, for example, would not be expected to clear the densely-packed corridors of a hive world. Their task would be to form a cordon while Terminator-armoured squads carried out the clearance.

By the 41st millennium, Terminator armour is so prized that its use is reserved for when it will be at its most effective. Terminators may be used in boarding actions, where the cramped conditions and long corridors mean that the Terminator’s strength and firepower can be brought to bear without the risk of flanking manoeuvres. Terminator armour may also be deployed on the open battlefield, either to wield devastating long-range fire with their heavy weapons, or deep-strike teleporting to attack the enemy’s command structure.


Early Mk.1 Terminator Armor


Terminator armour was developed during the Great Crusade by the Adeptus Mechanicus Tech Adepts of Mars. Its design is a blend of Dreadnought armour, standard Marine power armour and heavy suits used by engineers working in the most hostile environments (such as micro-debris-plagued orbits or the radioactive engine cores of stellar frigates). It was first intended to provide heavy armour and firepower to troops fighting in cramped battle zones, such as the claustrophobic tunnels of hive worlds and Space Hulks, which are too confined for Dreadnoughts and vehicles.

Several designs of Terminator armour evolved in parallel from the forge worlds of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the armouries of the Marines. Often bearing little physical resemblance to each other, these different exo-armour suits in fact have much in common. Massively armoured, sealed against any external conditions and incorporating their own armament, Terminator armour designs proved their worth from the first. Like power armour, the suits were equipped with fibre-bundle muscles and imposed few movement restrictions upon the wearer, despite their immense weight.

Terminator armor was originally meant to replace normal power armor, however the destruction wrought by the Horus Heresy destroyed many of these suits, and the limited resources left after the war ended combined with the complexity of building and maintaining Terminator suits contributed to their increase rarity.

Today Terminator suits are highly prized by their Chapters and kept in a constant state of repair and renewal. Although the Adeptus Mechanicus still maintains limited production of Terminator suits, the rate is so slow that often a “new” suit is cobbled together from refurbished parts salvaged from the battlefield. This explains the sometimes disparate and ragged look of Terminator squads. Indeed, as time marches onward the knowledge of how to fabricate some of the more complex pieces becomes an increasingly faded memory in the decrepit minds of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and “reverse engineering” is an all-too-common science in the 41st millennium.

Common Patterns



The Indomitus Pattern Terminator Armor is noted for being the most widespread pattern as of M41, due to its template being held by key Forge Worlds such as Mars.


Cataphractii Pattern was among the first issued to the Space Marine Legions, and was used during the late Great Crusade and Horus Heresy by both the Space Marines and the Legio Custodes. Although it was rare before the Horus Heresy, some Legions, such as the Iron Hands, possessed a large number of suits. In addition to being distinguished by its large, layered pauldrons, and the pteruges protecting the elbow and thigh joints, it was functionally distinct from other patterns, bearing additional plating and shield generators. This resulted in severe straining of the suit’s exoskeleton and reduced the wearer’s movement speed, leading to its decline among some Space Marine Legions during the early battles of the Heresy


Tartaros Pattern is possibly considered the most advanced form of Tactical Dreadnought Armour. It shared many systems with the Mk IV Maximus-pattern power armour whilst providing greater mobility for the wearer compared to the Indomitus with no loss in durability.

Learn of Rarer Terminator Patterns and Much More


~What pattern do you equip your elite Marines with, Commanders?

  • jasonsation

    What pattern is the current standard Chaos Terminator model? Is it mutated Indomiitus, or something else?

    • John Bower

      I would guess at what you said. Since the rules are the same as for loyalist terminators.

    • Lord Elpus

      Yeah, at the moment it’s Indomitus armour, would be nice to see some alternate suits mixed in though.

      • Aura1

        Lot of nice conversions from Cataphractii (which would make sense lore wise)

        • Lord Elpus

          Aye, it certainly would.

        • Haighus

          Indomitus still makes sense, as it was also around pre-Heresy and seeing increasing use due to being easier to produce. There should be a mix of all 3 types really, but Indomitus being the most common would make sense if it is the easiest to reproduce and maintain. There is Chaos Tartaros with the 1k Sons models now.

          • Aura1

            I think it might be just a holdover from the old CSM rules being set when Indomitus was the only form. There’s no art or story mentions of Indomitus amongst any Legion so far in HH. As it’s one of the retconned lore elements, I’d be happy to see actual CSM in Cataphractii and Tartaros

          • Haighus

            There are written references to Indomitus in the FW HH books- in Book 3, for example, the Imperial Fists are noted for having a particularly large number of Indomitus suits. It has as much pre-Heresy pedigree as Tartaros, I suspect the lack of artwork is a combination of FW wanting to sell their own Terminator variants, and there currently being a lack of a Heresy era Indomitus kit (it is quite time-consuming to remove the Crux Terminatii from the plastic kit to make it match the background!).

            However, I agree that the other two patterns should be properly incorporated into the Chaos model line too.

          • Aura1

            I know, I’m just pointing out that the Indomitus is only really mentioned as being for loyalist legions, and as yet, not really incorporated into model lines – or – story/novels forcthistime period. The majority of the main traitor Legions had Cataphractii (Justaerin – largest Cataphractii collection of any Legion – so most Black Legion CSM would be more likely to have these) and Tartaros for the Death Guard and Emperors Children elites. I think the easiest explanation for lots of CSM Indomitus patterns are they have looted these over the millennia from Forge worlds or casualties (as we know CSM terminators mostly win their suits by killing the previous owner).

            Either way, I’ve seen a lot of tabletop conversions for 40K using HH-era Cataphractii and I think the heavy, unclean lines of that pattern really lend themselves to the CSM aesthetic. Mostly I’d just like the CSM to get more of a feel of these ancient Legions, twisted over thousands of strange years in the eye of Terror. The Indomitus is great, it just ‘feels’ very Mk VI and VII in style, which I mentally link to modern 40K look.

            I guess with all the rumours of Sigmarines 2.0 invading 40K lore after Rise of the Primarch, I’d just like the CSM to be given their ‘ancient and tough as nails’ profile a bit of a Cataphractii style boost 🙂

          • Haighus

            Hmm, it is certainly true that only Imperial Fists and Iron Hands have been specifically noted as using Indomitus, although the pattern was in general issue. It is also true that all the current Legion specific units are Cataphractii or Tartaros bar one. It is possible though, that with Indomitus being objectively the worst and least unique pattern, that is why the elite units pass over it and leave it to the line veterans to use.

            Death Guard elites also use Cataphractii with the Grave Guard 🙂 (these are probably the easiest to convert into Chaos nurgle Terminators).

            I was wondering about Abaddon, as he has modified Cataphractii plate in the Heresy, but his current 40k model appears to be based on Indomitus. If he gets a new model, it will be interesting to see if it more closely matches his HH version.

            I agree that Cataphractii has a good aesthetic to be Chaos-ified, although even Tartaros, which I think is the least Chaos-y of the three patterns, looks good and Chaos-y on the recent Scarab Occult models. To be honest, I think Chaose deserves three different plastic kits of Chaos Terminators, and a new plastic Chaos Marine kit with a mish-mash of all 7 armour marks on the sprue. But maybe plastic Havocs first…

          • Haighus

            There is also Gorgon-pattern Terminator armour- a variant of Indomitus-pattern armour designed by Ferrus Manus and unique to the Iron Hands.


            The unit description for Gorgon Terminators in HH Book 2 also mentions how Cataphractii, Tartaros and Indomitus are the 3 most common patterns in Legion use.

    • Haighus

      As you’ve said, largely mutated Indomitus, with probably a few jury-rigged pieces cobbled together by some Warpsmith that don’t match any pattern.

  • euansmith

    MkI Terminator Armour, rocking Warmachine levels of Pauldronage. I’ve still got some of them, and they are cool little minis… little being the operative word.

  • John Bower

    I guess if they did proper rules for Tartaros Terminators every non marine player would be crying foul again.

    • ReverendTiberiusJackhammer

      There’s a decent chance we’ll be seeing 40k rules for this unit in the future, since it includes currently unavailable weapon options. They’ll probably include the Forgeworld Horus Heresy bonus, allowing wearers of the armour to make Sweeping Advances.

      Although that (free) bonus was disappointing in the Forgeworld books, since it made standard Terminator armour kinda pointless, 40k Tartaros Terminators will probably be a separate unit entry, with different weapon options, so standard Terminators will still benefit from having sole access to stuff like Cyclone Missiles and Thunder Hammers.

      • Matthew Hoag

        Tartaros are already allowed in 40k.

        • Bakvrad

          Has there been a article in wd or a supplement with their rules I missed?
          I’ve only seen angel of deaths cataphract armor.

        • ReverendTiberiusJackhammer

          While the armour and most weapons can of course be used for the Terminator unit entry, a noticeable chunk of the weapon options (Plasma Blaster, Volkite, Reaper for Loyalists, Grenade Harness on a non-Cataphract) are not present in the Termie unit entry for 40k.

          Their position is analogous to that of the Cataphractii Terminators, which received a unit entry dedicated to them to account for the differences, hence my earlier comment. I wouldn’t necessarily put money on there being an eventual “Tartaros Terminator Squad” unit entry being released, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen.

          • Matthew Hoag

            The rules are in the box with them.

  • Iconoc1ast

    Your article so reminds me of this classic gem!


    • Hedwerx

      I had this on my Amiga, it was hard as bloody nails!

      • Lord Elpus

        T’was indeed a mighty game.

  • Carey_Mahoney

    Mk1, as seen in The 5th Element.

    • Viper666

      LOL, exactly!

  • Hedwerx
  • Boba Vette