40K: Which Terminators “Rule”?

There are three types of terminator armor & rules in 40K – but who’s the best?

With the arrival of Tartaros Terminator armor on the 40K tabletop, we now have three sets of Terminator armor available to Astartes commanders.  Make sure you know the differences in their rules so you can pick the right one for the job.

Terminator Basics

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.

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

Common 40K Terminator 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.

Indominus Rules: This is the “standard” Terminator armor described in Codex: Space Marines. They do exactly what you expect them to. 2+/5+i, Relentless, no Sweeping Advances.




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.

Cataphractii Rules: These rules are found in the recent Angels of Death codex. When you need protection over mobility, Cataphractii is your go to suit. You get the improved 4+i save, but trade Relentless for Slow and Purposeful. With no Running, Overwatch or Sweeping Advances, your Cataphractii won’t be winning any sprints.


Tartaros Pattern is 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.

Tartaros Rules: Just out and brand new for 40K. Hmm, no reference to “may not make sweeping advanced” in the rules makes the advanced Tartaros Pattern the most mobile of the three. If you need to combine the protection of Terminator armor with the ability to run a foe to ground, you have your answer.


Learn of Rarer Terminator Patterns and Much More


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

  • Primus Numerestes

    tartaros cant bring shields, unlike indomitus

    • Devourer

      “Here! Hold that shield for me”
      “Sorry but in this armor I can’t hold shields! The machine spirit just opens my hand automaticly when I grab one!”

    • Djbz

      To which I’d have to ask is that really a big deal?
      Almost every Terminator I see removed from the board is due to a failed armour save rather than an invulnerable one.

      If they target has an insane invunerable save why waste Ap2 weapons on it when a spray of basic small arms is just as likely (if not more so) to kill them?

      • David Leimbach

        Their real weakness is T4.

        • Red_Five_Standing_By

          And 1 wound 🙂

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    Indomitus: Can have Stormshields

    Cataphractii: Can have mixed melee/ranged units and have a 4+ Invul

    Tartaros: Can have mixed melee/ranged units and can sweeping advanced.

    The type you choose depends on what you intend the unit to do and who it will be fighting.

    • KassIas

      Cataphractii captains can take storm shields, regular ones can’t.

    • Walter Vining

      unless you are space wolves then you only have one choice

      • pokemastercube .

        and BA + DA (BA myself)

        • Red_Five_Standing_By

          And Chaos.

      • Where does it say Space Wolves *can’t*?

        • Walter Vining

          where it has *chapter tactics*

  • Bakvrad

    Deathwing terminator armor.
    Bonus special rule and flexible weapon options makes it the best

    • Leif Leegard

      Deathwing are the only loyalest AP2 range welding Termies with the new under-slung Plasma as well, I believe?

      Not counting Sgt’s and Cpt’s using Combi. I’m I correct, or can the squad in old pattern armor take combi’s as well?

    • Greg MacLean

      Which is indomitus. The marine is the source of the rules

      • Bakvrad

        If you find “twin linked on deep strike” on the Marine I would honestly be suprised.

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    Chaos Terminator armour, er, yeah.

    • grumzimus

      Sorry Chaos, back to the pound shop for you! Where you get your Land Raiders as well 🙂

      • Josh Heinz

        A replyku:
        Your words are unkind.
        Unrequired harshness wounds all.
        Khorne softly weaps blood.

    • Hunlow

      Yeah especially since CSM had the actual Tartaros model first.

    • eehaze

      Death Guard Terminators are decent.
      There’s also Scarab Occult Terminators, which are interesting.

      • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

        Point is that all Chaos troops just have bog standard armour with no special rules unlike loyalists, who shouldn’t even have the special sorts!

  • Wampasaurus

    Cataphractii Terminator Captain at the front of a line of Squad of Terminators tanking wounds is pretty insane. He is only vulnerable to AP2 and AP1 attacks and even those he only fails the intial roll on a 2 or 3 because of that reroll and then a 4+ on a model with 3 wounds

    • mysterex

      Statistically that’s worse than a Indomitus Terminator Captain with a Storm Shield.

      • Wampasaurus

        Wait, I’m confused. Do the Captains in Indomitus Armor get the same reroll of 1s as the Catapractii ones do?

        • BeastofShadows

          A captain with a storm shield will only fail his invun on a 1 or a 2 so about 33% of the time. The Catapractii fails on a 2 or a 3 (also 33%) and fails on the reroll on a 1, 2 or 3.

          So there’s a 16% chance of rolling a 1 with a 50% chance of passing the reroll so that 16% goes down to 8% for a total failure rate of about 33% + 8% so 41%

          Hope that cleared things up.

          • Wampasaurus

            But he ALSO gets that reroll of 1s on all his other saves that are NOT invuln saves. Therefore negating that penalty

          • BeastofShadows

            Sorry the rule in the article explicitly says “invulnerable saving throws of a 1”, not all saves. I think you must have read it wrong mate

          • Wampasaurus

            You’re right. I did misread the rule. However my argument is still valid. You have better statistical probability of success with a reroll (albeit only on 1s) to make the save. If you’d like you can look at the math…
            Scenario A) 3/6 = 1/2 = 50%
            *This is the scenario where you get your standard 3+ Storm Shield Save*
            Scenario B) 4/6 + 2/6 x 4/6 = ~83.3%
            *In this scenario you must take the odds (4/6) that you succeed to begin with and then add to that the odds of NOT succeeding (2/6) and multiplying that by the odds you succeed on your second roll (4/6 or 1/2)*

          • KassIas

            Catapractii captains can take storm shields so he is more durable than an indominus captain due to the rerolls

          • Wampasaurus

            Oh and this…..forgot they can indeed take a Storm Shield. So in that case the Catapractii is statistically much better

  • Emprah

    To me, the Indomitus seems the most heavily armoured. I think it should get a rule that somehow boosts it. That way, Catapractii would be best shields, Indomitus best armour, and Tartaros best speed.

  • majbjörn

    When will they buff these guys?… sad to see Terminators in such a weak state in the tabletop : /

    • Walter Vining

      they don’t need a buff, terrain needs to matter more in the game than it does not. True LOS is bad in that regards because things that you used to be able to hide your expensive units behind so you didn’t have to double their cost to get them across the table don’t matter anymore.

    • Leif Leegard

      Playing Deathwing, I’ve not had too much problems using them effectively. I just remember not to dump them in the middle of an open field when I come in.

      I run a unit of scouting Ravenwing, a hiding infiltrated scout squad with homer. A CC/melta Dred in a homer-pod in back field (dred kills a tank and dies, but pod is still there usually).

      I can drop them with pin point accuracy on turn 2. So I can be behind a ruin or hill and have line of fire to the back of heavy armor (split fire Cyclone) and a home field camping squad for all my TL bolter fire. After which scouts move it to finish up and hold objective.

      Now mind you, this is playing with friends. I’m not a Competitive player at all. There are some things I do struggle with with this 2 turn tactic. MC’s being my biggest problem for my termies as I roll ones with the best of them, especially in CC.

  • Foehammer7977

    The biggest rules factor in 40k that makes terminators rough is that there is no to-hit penalty when trying to shoot a man-sized target with an AT weapon. While a las cannon should blow through terminator armor, it shouldnt be as easy to hit a man with a las cannon as with a lasgun.

    • Walter Vining

      are we playing battletech 40k?

    • Wampasaurus

      Why should there be a penalty? Lascannons don’t generate recoil or kick like a traditional firearm from the forward momentum of the projectile and exhaust gasses. They’re just point and shoot.

  • ZeeLobby

    I think they just need more wounds. Go the AoS route and let the wound characteristic breathe.

  • Zakading

    They really just removed any reason to ever use Lightning Claw Assault Terminators anymore. The Tartaros has literally no downside compared to normal Indomitus with Claws. Their weapons are also arguably better than a regular Terminator Squad’s. Basically, the only reason you’d ever use Indomitus anymore is to get Thunder Hammers/Storm Shields, since Cataphractii are a million times better for shooting and Tartaros is way faster for a quick melee sweeper and has much more versatile weapon options available. Hell, the Sergeant even gets a free MC Power Sword.

    • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

      Rules Lag is a reason. Strike Force Ultra’s Force of a Thunderbolt only applies to Assault Termies. And, of course, neither of the other Terminator Armours allow for Storm Shield and Thunder Hammer, so you aren’t getting any chances to further your units’ durability. I’d say take Cats if your meta is flooded with AP 2 in general and Grav specifically, and take Tarts if everyone else runs tarpits or medium infantry.

  • SilentPony

    Depends on what you want. Tartaros can sweeping advance, so that’s good for infantry killing. Cataphractii can really soak it up, good for taking on Elites, walkers and Primarchs.
    Indomitus is worthless. Its just Tartaros but slower.

    Also that pic of the early armor? That’s actually advanced prototype armor developed by the Salamanders for the Istvaan campaign but never deployed until later.

  • Dan

    Doesn’t it seem odd that Terminator’s main armour is on it’s shoulders? Like, if I wa shooting at a Terminator, I’d just snipe the piping in between the joints that are conveniently exposed.