BoLS logo Tabletop, RPGs & Pop Culture

40K: Ranking the Codex Chapters

7 Minute Read
Jul 27


Take a look inside the pages of Codex: Space Marines and see how the Space Marine Chapters rank up against each other.

Last week Adam Harry took a look at and ranked the new Chapter Tactics from Codex: Space Marines. While Chapter Tactics are a huge part of the new book, they are not all that goes into making a Chapter or army list. When Adam ranked the tactics he did so with the caveat that he was looking at the tactics in a vacuum. Today lets look at the eight chapters in C:SM as a whole, characters, units, stratagems, relics, etc. and see who are the big winners and losers of the codex. But first a couple things to note.

  • Like the previous article we’re looking at these from a more competitive stand point – we’ve ranked these based on how effective they are, how often they come up, and how game changing they can be.
  •  We looked at what they gained- aside from pure power we took into account how much the book improved a chapter and how well they work with the other new things (Primaris) in the Codex.

So with that said let’s dig in. Here is our ranking of the Space Marine Chapters starting with the bottom and heading on up!

#8. Iron Hands 

Poor Iron Hands. Like their Primarch the old Iron Tenth really didn’t come out ahead. Not only do they have one of the worst, due to randomness, Chapter Tactics in the book, but pretty much everything else they get is lackluster. Their signature stratagem MACHINE EMPATHY  allows an Iron Hands vehicle to ignore movement penalties when shooting, but frankly Machine Spirit already does this for half the vehicles anyway. On top of a list of under-powered abilities they are also the only Chapter to not have a special character, earning them last place among the Chapters.

#7 Imperial Fists  

With the worst ranked Chapter Tactics on our list you know the Sons of Dorn weren’t going to be too high on this list. Like the Chapter Tactic the rest of their abilities don’t stand out that much either. Bolter Drill, their stratagem, allows for a single unit to make extra bolter attacks, when rolling a 6 to hit. Frankly I’d rather have the extra CP back then get the average of like 3 extra bolter shots a turn this will bring you. With a very situational warlord trait and weak relic only the presence of Captain Lysander keeps them ranked above the Iron Hands.


#6 Black Templars

The Black Templars are the most unique Chapter in the Codex, and the one that has in the past had their own Codex (which makes sense since they don’t really follow the Codex at all…). While they have a pretty good Chapter Tactic the rest of their abilities under preform a bit. First off the lack of Librarians is pretty harmful for the army. Not only can they not use physic powers but they are now very vulnerable to psychic attacks. Rather than getting a cool bonus from their Stratagem, Abhor the Witch tries to make up for the lack of Librarians by negating an enemy physic power on a 4+. However not only does this ability cost a CP it also can only be used once a physic phase.

Black Templars do get some power special characters. The Emperors Champion is a boss! But their assault focus benefits little from the shooting focused Primaris additions to the Codex. Moreover as the Codex Marines shift more and more towards a shooting/firepower based list assault list feel better left to Blood Angels or Space Wolves.

#5 Crimson Fists 


Alas, all three of Dorn’s successor chapters fall in the bottom half of our listings. With the Crimson Fists and Imperial Fists sharing so much it might be fair to ask why the successor Chapter is listed two slots above their founder. The answer to that lies with old Pedro Kantor. Kantor, the Chapter Master of the Crimson Fists, is one of the best named characters in the Codex. As a Chapter Master he allows his chapter mates to re-roll all failed hits, not just 1s. In addition to that his handing out +1 attack to Crimsons First is far better than the normal +1 strength most other Chapter Masters get. That ability alone allows the Crimson Fists to build a better assault force then most other chapters. Add to that a decent warlord trait and relic and you’ve got a solid chapter.


#4 White Scars

With a roar of revving bikes everyone’s favorite space Mongols pillage their way to 4th place. The White Scars get a super solid Chapter Tactic with the ability to charge after falling back. This allows them to get the charge off over and over again, gaining related benefits, such as striking first. While powerful, I do wish their chapter tactics was a little more “bike related” for flavor. Kor’sarro Khan is a decent character but not super amazing and the fact that he is stuck on foot is heartbreaking. While they have a good stratagem, both the warlord trait and relic don’t really measure up. A classic case of one of the better chapter tactics being dragged down by the rest of the list.

#3 Raven Guard

Last week we ranked the Raven Guard as having the best Chapter Tactic, so what happened to bring them down to third? Well, like the White Scars – most of the rest of what they get is just “okay” – from their lone character, to an “okay” warlord trait and relic. They do have a really great stratagem however, allowing their infantry to set up with in 9 inches of the enemy. Unfortunately, this ability is counter to their Chapter Tactic which wants them to stay far away.

Moreover their Chapter Tactic just isn’t as impressive as it would have been in previous editions. With “flawless” deep striking (ie, no scatter) and the easy of moving and firing getting within 12 inches isn’t all that hard these days. To make use of all it’s codex abilities a Raven Guard list really has to pull itself apart, with fast assault units infiltrating and other units hanging back. They are a super solid chapter, don’t get me wrong, but not the best.

#2 Ultramarines

There is a traditional Jewish Passover song called Dayenu that I am remind of when talking about Ultramarines. Dayneu, the word, roughly translates to “this alone would have been enough” and the list of Ultramarine benefits brings this to mind. If we had only gotten Guilliman, the best character in the game, this alone would have been enough. If we had only gotten a host of other good characters, this alone would have been enough. If we had only gotten one of the most versatile chapter tactics, this alone would have been enough. If we had only gotten the best Warlord trait, this alone would have been enough. If we had only gotten solid Relics, stratagems and having all the new units work well with our play style, those alone would have been enough. If we had only gotten the Ultramarines, and not gotten other chapters, Dayenu.

#1 Salamanders


And here we have them – the sleeper hit chapter of the 8th edition Codex. So what makes Salamanders so good? First off they’ve got perhaps the most underappreciated Chapter Tactic. Each unit getting to re-roll a hit AND a wound EACH time they fight or shoot is just amazing, and with the right builds can be bonkers. You want your multi-meltas to always hit and wound? BAM! Done. Need to get those powerfist hits in? BAM! Done. Bare in mind that this tactic benefits all your characters also, and modern Space Marine lists tend to have a lot of those in them.

On top of an amazing the Tactic the Salamanders’ other abilities synergize really well.  Vulkan is a great unit and allowing re-rolls on flame and melta weapons makes him very powerful The Salamanders get a ton out of use out of the new Aggressors which can put out a higher amount of flamer shots than just about other unit. Between their relic and warlord trait they can give a model +1S and +1T (T6 Gravis Captains?) for some brutal combos.

Their stratagem, Flame-craft, plays right into their strengths as well adding +1 to wound rolls with flamers. This in turn combos really well with another warlord tight, Storm of Fire, which increases AP value by 1 on wound rolls of 6+ (so on a 5+ with those million flame-crafted flamer attacks.) All of these ability blend together to not only make an incredibly powerful Chapter but also one that gained by far the most out of his codex, going from zero to hero in a leap and a bound.


So there you have it, a “definitive” ranking of the chapters. Let us know what you think of the new Chapter abilities and how you would rank them, down in the comments! 



Latest News From BoLS:

  • Advertisement
  • 40k: The Chapter Relics & Codex Week