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Warhammer 40K: Space Marine Fleets – Tiny But Mighty

4 Minute Read
May 9 2020

In a Post-Heresy move to disseminate power Roboute Guilliman changed Space Marine fleets – Here’s how.

Space Marine Fleets used to be massive – they had their own Imperial Battleships, Grand Cruisers and other ships we would now associate with the Imperial Navy. But all that changed after the Horus Heresy. When Guilliman wrote the Codex Astartes, he also went over the structure of how Space Marine Fleets were to operate. Not only did he break-up Space Marine Legions in to smaller Chapters, he also split their Space Fleets into strategic pieces as well.

via Lexicanum

For an Imperium still reeling from internecine conflict that almost tore it apart, the division of power was a vitally important consideration. Of the most extreme options on offer, it was ventured by some that the Space Marines should be denied any vessels at all, barring intra-system transports for movement between homeworlds and attendant moons. Corax, amongst others, protested strongly that in fact had the Space Marines been better equipped with fleets of their own his own Legion might not have been so horrendously decimated when trapped on Istvaan V by Horus and the newly revealed traitors. Instead, a compromise was reached which limited the Space Marines to vessels whose primary role was that of transport, delivery and suppression designed to facilitate planetary assault.

A Space Marine Battle Barge

The Space Marines were still allowed gunships but those were limited to the smaller vessels. Battle Barges and Strike Cruisers were used to help facilitate planetary invasions. This change in structured ensured the Imperial Navy would be the stronger of the two in terms of Space battles and fleet movements. That said, there were still some ships that skirted the line and made the Imperial Navy nervous and gave the Space Marines better firepower in ship-to-ship engagements.

Space Marine Nova-Class Frigate


One such example is the Nova-Class frigate. It’s a Lance boat, similar to the Firestorm-class Frigate. But unlike most of the ships in the Space Marine Fleet, it is a straight-up warship. It doesn’t have the capacity to land troops or transport them. It doesn’t really help with planetary assaults either. However, it is a ship hunter as it is armed with a powerful turret-mounted lance. It also has two smaller weapon batteries. This might not sound like a ton of firepower but, when you pair it with the ships powerful engines, you end up with a very nimble and deadly gunboat.

This ship has caused both the Imperial Navy and the Inquisition to take issue with its role in the fleet as it encroaches on the Imperial Navy’s job. That’s one of the reason it’s such a rare sight in Space Marine Fleets.

Space Marine Strike Cruiser

Most Space Marine Fleets will only have two or three Battle Barges and the Strike Cruisers are much more common sight. While their appearance is much more rare than an Imperial Navy Cruiser, their payload is usually enough to stop a rebellion on a planet. That’s because they can carry up to a full company of Space Marines and their equipment. They are also capable of rapid deployment with the ability to deploy their “cargo” within 20 minutes of arrival to a planet!

It’s not just the company of Space Marines that makes Striker Cruisers frightening – they can also come with lance weapons, Bombardment Cannons, a Nova Cannon, or in extreme cases, Exterminatus-class weapons. No wonder a single Strike Cruiser is enough to right a rebellion on a planet.


The Space Marine Fleets are tiny compared to the Imperial Navy Counter-parts. But this is intentional as the division of power is essential to the Imperium. Space Marine Fleets are concentrated Astartes Forces and are designed to subdue and conqueror planets. While they can participate in ship-to-ship battles, their specialized nature marks them as a transport fleet. That’s why they are intentionally kept small.


Imperial Navy Commanders can relax – The Space Marine Fleets have their own job to do…

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