The path of duty for a Space Marine is clear cut – but the order might not be what you think.
Scouts are the new recruits of a Space Marine chapter who have advanced far enough in the early stages of their training and biological transformation to take part in battle with the rest of the Chapter.
More lightly armed and armoured than full Battle brothers, their role is to range ahead of the main Space Marine force, preparing the way for the main advance by infiltrating enemy lines, sabotaging and gathering intelligence – causing as much chaos and disruption as possible.
Every Marine belonging to a Codex chapter begins his combat life as a Scout. Over a period of several months, under the tutelage of a Sergeant, the Scout learns the use of all the weapons at the disposal of the Adeptus Astartes, and becomes skilled at every aspect of war.
As part of a Scout Squad, a Scout enters combat for the first time as a skirmisher, or an infiltrator. Relying on stealth rather than brute force, Scouts slip behind enemy lines, gather intelligence, destroy strategic targets, and capture or assassinate key enemy commanders, then fade away before the enemy has had a chance to react. Because of their speed and stealth, Scout Squads are often assigned to boarding actions against Tyranid Hive Ships, or to search-and-destroy missions against key synapse creatures that direct the rest of the Hive Mind. For these missions, their armament often includes Heavy Bolters loaded with Hellfire rounds. During the final stage of their training, Scouts are trained in the use of Bikes, performing a faster-moving version of the reconnaissance and skirmish roles they fulfill on foot.
Off the battlefield, the scouts train and learn under the tutelage of a veteran Sergeant, taking to heart the lessons and skills that will one day see them elevated to the rank of a full battle brother. A Scout receives his final implant, the Black Carapace, when he is deemed ready to join the Chapter as a full Battle-Brother – the implant marks him as a full Marine and allows him to interface with his suit of power armour.
Devastator Squads are specialised Space Marine squads tasked with long-range fire support, entrusted with the Chapter’s rarest heavy weaponry. In a typical Codex Chapter, two Devastator Squads are assigned to each of the four Battle Companies, while the entirety of the 9th Reserve Company is composed of Devastators.
Most Devastator Squads are composed of Space Marines who have recently been promoted from Scout Squads. Though veterans of dozens, even hundreds, of campaigns, service in a Devastator Squad will be their first experience in power armour as part of the main Space Marine army. Those newly-appointed to a Squad, armed only with basic gear, are given the primary duty of providing close support and calling out targets for their more experienced battle-brothers. These Space Marines are armed with the squad’s four heavy weapons, an honour earned only after the Marine has proven himself steady and dependable in the heat of battle.
The Devastator Squad is made up of between four to nine Devastator Marines and a Space Marine Sergeant. The type and use of these heavy weapons can vary greatly, depending on the mission or nature of the Chapter itself.
An Assault Squad is a Space Marine unit that excels at close combat. In a typical Codex Chapter, two Assault Squads make up part of each of the four Battle Companies, and the entire 8th Reserve Company is composed of Assault Squads.
Marines are commonly assigned to Assault Squads after exemplary service in a Devastator Squad, where they have garnered experience in holding their ground against any foe. As an Assault Marine, they must not only prove themselves in close combat, but learn other vital skills, such as the operation and maintenance of Space Marine Bikes and Land Speeders. Assault Squads are used for a variety of roles; reconnaissance-in-force, decapitation strikes, and counter-assault missions are common assignments for Assault Squads.
The Assault Squad is made up of between four to nine Assault Marines, led by a Space Marine Sergeant. Because they often operate far ahead of the main force, the Sergeant has a direct uplink to the myriad datastreams and tactical overlays used to coordinate the Space Marine army, allowing for complete situational awareness.
A Tactical Squad is the most versatile and tactically flexible force in the Space Marine army, making up the majority of the four Battle Companies and the entirety of two of the four Reserve Companies in a typical Codex Chapter. This makes them the most common type of unit in the Space Marine forces.
Prior to service in a Tactical Squad, Space Marines must prove themselves capable in all aspects of warfare by completing several campaigns in Assault and Devastator Squads, a process that can last years or decades. Not all Space Marines are able to make the transition, either possessing a particular talent or obsession within one area, or simply lacking the mental flexibility required to embrace the Tactical Squad’s fluid nature.
The Space Marine Dreadnought is a massive war-machine piloted by an honoured Space Marine hero whose body has been ravaged in battle. The most commonly used pattern as of M41 is the Castraferrum Pattern (or MkIV and MkV), but many variants exist. Dreadnoughts also known as the Old Ones in the Space Marines Chapters.
A Space Marine Dreadnought is a large, walking tank which carries both powerful guns and lethal close combat weaponry, armoured to withstand all but the most powerful of enemy firepower and often relied on by Space Marine forces to tear an opening in enemy defenses. Each Dreadnought contains a living being, permanently interfaced with the machine through a form of Mind Impulse Unit. Dreadnoughts are surprisingly agile, able to walk and balance with the ease of a living creature.
It is said that old proto-Dreadnoughts of the Unification wars could be piloted by non-Adeptus Astartes warriors, but later only Space Marines could be inherited in them.
The pilots within Dreadnoughts are Marines who have suffered mortal wounds in battle, maimed and crippled beyond recovery – instead of being mercifully killed, the greatest heroes are instead given what is considered the honour of continuing to serve the Emperor past their normal life. Once interred within the Dreadnought, the Marine cannot leave the metal womb and is destined for a life of endless battle until destroyed. Some are so ancient their memories may extend back to the founding of their chapter and its earliest history. For this reason they are revered not just as powerful warriors but also as ageless forebears and living embodiments of battles fought long ago. If a dreadnought is destroyed, the Space Marines will fight to retrieve the armoured shell so that the occupant can be returned to the chapter’s mausoleum for his long-deserved final rest.
Dreadnought machines themselves are ancient, the oldest dating back tens of thousands of years to the Age of Strife. Because the art of constructing them has been almost lost, Dreadnoughts are revered as rare machines, though the most revered specialists still dare to construct ‘new’ Dreadnoughts.
Dreadnoughts are armoured with ceramite and adamantium, their muscles are formed of electro-fibre bundles and magna-coils. They are usually armed with weapons to suit a particular role, such as destroying other heavy armoured vehicles.
Although a Dreadnought can be damaged and disabled, it can survive unless the actual armoured tomb containing the occupant’s form is destroyed. When not fighting, the Chapter’s Techmarines will allow the fallen heroes to sleep away the centuries, sealed in stasis vaults, until once more they are called to battle. Usually Dreadnoiughts waked from their slumber only in time of great need or when their advice is needed for some special missions.
All Dreadnoughts contains speakers and the warrior within can communicate with other Space Marines. The synthesized, crackling voice emanates from within the machine, making a conversation with a Dreadnought in eerie experience. Also traditionally every Dreadnought bear a scroll with the inscribed name of the hero on it. When the new warrior is interred as a pilot, Dreadnought will take a new name.