40K: Building the Thunder Warriors for 8th Ed.


Today we take a stab at the Emperor’s mighty Thunder Warriors – and how we would bring them to the tabletop in 8th edition.

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 8th Edition has turned the page on the old set of rules. Luckily we have Standard Marines, Primaris, and Custodes to use to triangulate a solid stab at recreating the Thunder Warriors on the tabletop of the new edition.

The Rules

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

Some Notes:

We have translated some items like Thunderclap and Chosen Warriors from 30K’s Fury of the Legion and Chosen Warriors – with reworked language for 8th Edition.

We have envisioned the Mk.0 Bolt Gun as an early crude instrument lacking the later Astartes Bolter’s range, but making up for it in sheer infantry clearing rate of fire. We’ve extended the range of Thunder Warrior grenades to take in account their trans-human strength – an idea lifted wholesale from Necromunda.

What we have here is a melding of the Legiones Astartes army list with some elements from the Adeptus Custodes, and a dash of Primaris mixed in for good measure.  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 8th Ed. 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. Keep an eye out for our “Wars of Unity” mini-dex coming in the weeks ahead – giving you Unification Wars fans a more fleshed out Thunder Warriors force to tool around with on the tabletop. THUNDER WARRIORS HO!

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

  • Regal Giant

    The Book Master of Mankind begs to differ, one part says to paraphrase ‘they were good for unifying Terra, but conquering the galaxy? they would have been torn to shreds.’ In reference to the legions replacing them.

    • Junior Mitac

      Yeah they werent built to survive the void and other things space marines have . They were like soup up humans not transhumans like marines

    • Jukka Vuorisalo

      They were “super humans” but very short lived ones and not really mass to reckon outside of terra

    • Fergie0044

      They lacked the longevity of marines. Both physically and also mentally. So they couldn’t be kept cooped up in a space ship for months on end to travel from planet to planet.

      There’s a bit of lore that has world eaters (pre-angorn, so whatever their name was then) going against some left over thunder warriors in a prison planet. Each thunder warrior, despite probably being badly armed and armored, brought down 3-5 marines before dying. Its told through the POV of the guardmen sent in afterwards to clean up the mess.

    • Aura1

      During the Cerberus insurrection, they managed to rip the War Hounds (World Eaters) rather easily, with 10 dead Astartes for every Thunder Warrior. I think the issue is that they weren’t genetically conditioned for long life and the different mental pressures of long duration, self driven conquest of the stars. Besides, the Emperor wanted to bring humanity back into the fold, not exterminate it all. The Thunder Warriors were something like a bunch of mini Angrons. Useful – within a narrow remit.

      • Fergie0044

        Ah snap, beat me to it with the Cerberus reference. I’m only going from memory, but thought it was half a dozen dead marines for each TW.

        • Aura1

          I was going off memory too – either way, every reference we have, including the Outcast Dead, is that they were brutal and the physical superior to Astartes – and if that was even Angron’s gene line getting monstered, you can’t dismiss the Thunder Warriors. I’d imagine them as crude versions of Fabius’ early terata- hulking great brutes that do immense damage but aren’t really a noble conquering force.

    • euansmith

      I imagine them as being a sort of cross between a Costodus and an Ork Nob; full of swagger and self-destructive courage. As they were designed to destroy the Warlords rather than conquer the stars; destruction requires will, while conquest requires guile. So, like a wildfire, they were designed to clear away the deadwood and then burn themselves out, leaving the planet clear for new life.

  • Kabal1te

    Quaint. A fake sheet by someone that clearly doesn’t understand the rules really. I could pick a lot of this apart but the biggest most glaring issue is the total lack of proper keywords.

    • wibbling

      You utter onanist. Rather than be useul and present a different idea and link to same, you just whine. What a berk you are.

      • euansmith

        I can’t bring myself to like your comment, but, dang it “You utter onanist.” really made me chuckle.

    • georgelabour
      • Muninwing

        i’m so stealing this…

        • georgelabour

          Then I pass down the duty of trophy giver.

          Just as it was passed down to me by another post, and to him by a poster before that.

          Praise be the ‘not like thing’ trophy!

  • bad mood

    I very much applaud this. It doesn’t matter if the rules are appropiate or not (personally I very much like them), just the sheer effort to go through with creating originial content for a sole hobby purpose reminds me of back in the day when Warseer even had their own magazine. Thank you very much!

  • Fergie0044

    Hmmmm. I think the WS 2+ is too good. They’re better in melee than marines but not better than Custodes IMO. Bring it down to 3+. The S5 and overpower rule is a better reflection of their brute force ability. Maybe also bring the armor save down to a 4+? I dunno, its hard to get it ‘just right’ when confined to a D6 system.

    Otherwise, yeah really good. Always a fun thought experiment thinking of rules like this.

  • memitchell

    This is awesome! Fills the glaring void in 40K of only having four other super, larger, better-than-Imperial-Marines, Imperial Marine-ish types. Till now, there was only Custodes, Primarus, and Centurions in King-size, and Grey Knights in Medium size. And, the other hundred or so “better” regular Marine types, like SternGuard, Death Company, etc., etc., etc… Cannot wait for Primarus Thunder Warriors!

    • Aura1

      The Primaris should have been Thunder Warriors. Bigger, badder, vastly unstable. Instead we got goody guillimarines with all the flaws ironed out (and with it all the drama and individuality…)

      • Fraser1191

        The primaris have the flaws….

        • I liked that bit in the Blood Angels codex of the Primaris reinforcements who use Sanguinius geneseed displaying some “unusual” behaviors…

          • Muninwing

            here’s hoping they expand on that and open the way for some more interesting options…

      • Jonathon Runge

        It would also be a great way to boost the guard as they have lower constraints than Astarties. The Primaris are more likely to cost the Imperium due to economic drain impeding other more cost effective military options.

  • Apocryphus

    I think they should cost more than 30 points a model. They are in a comparable points bracket to Terminators and have a much better stat line. PL 13-15/35 ppm would be more appropriate.

  • Muninwing

    i’d say that this is actually what Space Marines should be like on the table to line up with the fluff… chaos too… but it’s unfortunately off scale.

    they do seem to look like they’d perform fluff-compliant with these rules though…

  • vash113

    I like the concept and the core of what is presented but, in addition to reworking those keywords, I think the rules and equipment needs to be tweaked. Master of Mankind and other recent works have added more detail to the Thunder Warriors. The Bolter was a prototype during the Unification Wars first crafted by the Emperor and by the time the first Legions were being rolled out their original standard weapon was a volkite charger or caliver, not a bolter. Rotor cannons and plasma blasters and plasma calivers and so on would also be common weapons. Those crazy relic weapons of the Dark Angels in the HH books and some other things would also be common armaments.

    I also think the savagery of the Thunder Warriors is better represented in close combat than elsewhere, they should have a mixture of chainaxes and chainswords, power weapons, mauls and spears, however they shouldn’t have normal power fists or lightning claws but solarite power claws and fists, as these were the first hand-crafted examples of these weapons forged for the Thunder Warriors and later falling into the hands of the Custodes and Imperial Fists.

    Instead of getting to shoot twice I think the Thunder Warriors would be better represented by an ability that lets them fight or shoot one last time after they have lost their last wound, similar to the banner ability of Space Marine Ancients, even if this only triggers on a 3+ or 4+ and that would be something along the lines of “For Unity” or something and I’d remove Paragons of Unity, while incredibly powerful the Thunder Warriors aren’t described as having the conditioning or mental fortitude of the Space Marines and I’d have the above “For Unity” replace both Paragons of Unity and Thunderclap but I’d leave the other three abilities. To balance out the morale have the Lightning Standard allow morale to be re-rolled and still add an attack, but instead of a unit option I’d make the standard a separate Character with an aura ability to the banner.

    I’d love to see the Thunder Warriors get a unit for the Horus Heresy or even in 40k, some kind of desperate attempt to restart the Thunder Legion as a way of producing powerful armies of blunt-transhumans far faster than Space Marines, or a holdout army on Terra kept in stasis and deployed during the Siege, that would be awesome. Or even as a fan project it would be awesome to model up early Dreadnoughts, grav-ships and proto-power armor, that would all be awesome, but IMO it’s important to piece together the details trickling around and create the most accurate and fluffy recreation of those epic warriors as possible.

    • euansmith

      Those are some great suggestions.

      It would be really, really, really, really, really cool if FW brought out an Age of Unification book with rules and units for Thunder Warriors and the ravening hordes of the Psychotronic Warlords. It could be a really asymmetrical games with a handful of Thunder Warriors versus hordes of Cultists and Psychotonically Augmented Champions. The hordes could be made up from Chaos Cultist, Genestealer

      Neophyte Hybrids and Necromunda Gangs, while the Thunder Warriors and Special Characters for the Warlords could all be spanking FW resin.

      A game to be played to a background of prog rock.

      • Matthew Pomeroy

        that would be an interesting setting, post apoc earth during the wars.

    • Mathew G. Smith

      They had bolters in The Last Church, but that was one of the last battles of the Unification War (against a civilian uprising to boot).

    • Thanks Vash, great feedback. As we work up the Thunder Warrior mini-dex we’ll add some of these ideas, and probably carve some off into separate units. Now I need to go read Master of Mankind.

  • Jonathon Runge

    They would be great for bolstering Guard forces. if a battle takes more than a decade the Mechanicus grabs some guardsmen, juices them up and throws them at the enemy. Make them is small batches to take care of a few missions and let the Astarties take care of more important stuff. For more horror Thunder Ogryn.

  • euansmith

    More of this sort of thing, please. Quickly! To the Narrative Forge!

    • Matthew Pomeroy

      is that like peter griffins garage?