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How To Play Space Marines In Warhammer 40K 9th Edition

7 Minute Read
Jan 27

Today take a look at some basics of how to play Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000.

Space Marines are the most popular faction in Warhammer 40K. Not only do more people play them than any other, but their various sub factions, make up around one third of the games armies. They are an army with a massive amount of variety and a huge number of units. They are both reliable and forgiving and make for a strong army for beginners. Though they are a good starter army, it doesn’t mean they are easy to play, and getting into 40K at all can be a dauting task. So below we will offer some tips on how to play Space Marines and get started with them.

What Are Space Marines?

Space Marines, the Adeptus Astartes, also know as the Angles of Death, are genetical modified superhuman soldiers. They follow the Codex Astartes, a book that describes their organization and fighting methods. Most Space Marines are organized into Chapters of 1000 Marines, which are furture broken up into Companies of 100 and Squads of anywhere from 10 to 3. They are fanatically loyal to the Emperor of Mankind and loyal defenders of the Imperium of Man. The Marines wear power armor and are given some of the best equipment the Imperium has on hand. They are best known for their use of Bolters and Chainswords. The Adeptus Astartes are the most powerful fighting force in the galaxy.

Why Play Space Marines

Do you like the idea of massive super soldiers hunting aliens to defend humanity? How about knightly orders crusading across the stars to protect innocents from daemons? Or do you just like playing an army that is flexible and forgiving? One that can dominate from range, and lunch brutal shock assaults? An army that can do pretty much whatever you want it to? Then Marines are the army for you.

Strengths of a Space Marine Army

  • Massive roster of units, the largest in the game.
  • Impressive all rounder units, good in both melee and ranged combat.
  • An elite army with strong all around stats.
  • Powerful army wide rules with lots of options thanks to Chapter Tactics.

Weakness of a Space Marine Army

  • Lower model count that some armies due to expensive units.
  • A large number of interlocking rules you need to keep track of.
  • Armies can struggle to find focus.

Signature Rules

Marines have a number of special rules, the key ones to remember are:

  • Combat Squads– many units have this rule, allowing them to split into two units before the game starts. This allows for a lot of extra flexibility.
  • Angels of Death– Common to all Marines, this gives them a suite of other rules, making them better at ranged attacks, better in melee, in particular on the charge, and more resistant to moral.
  • Combat Doctrines– part of Angels of Death, this powerful rule can change effects as the game progresses, but will affect the performance of different types of weapons. Often other rules are affected by what Doctrine is active.
  • Chapter Tactics– A wide suite of rules tied to which Chapter you chose to play. Each Chapter comes with its own army wide rules that can greatly affect how you play Space Marines.



Marines have a large number of sub-factions, called Chapters, to chose from. Every Marine unit must belong to a Chapter, and you will generally want to pick whole armies, or at least detachments, from the same Chapter. Your Chapter will determine what Chapter Tactics you have access to. In addition, many of the major Chapters have their own separate supplement books which add additional rules, stratagems, relics, warlord traits, psychic powers and units. To play these you will need both Codex: Space Marines and the Supplement. The most divergent of Maines, the Grey Knights have their own stand-alone Codex.

In addition, Marines are divided between Primaris and non-Primaris Marines (often called Firstborn or Classic Marines). Many units or abilities will only work on one of these groups.

Key Units: 1. Primaris Captain

Space Marines have a massive unit roster and knowing what units to take can be very hard.

Captains are an important part of any Marine army. They are powerful combatants in their own right, and in particular shine in close combat. Their special rule Rites of Battle is a key element to any army allowing Core units of the same Chapter that are nearby to re-roll 1s to hit, making an already accurate army extra deadly. There are a number of variants of Captain, and while all are good, the Primaris serves as a strong and cheap version.

2. Intercessor Squad

A core unit, Intercessors represent Space Marine line troops. These troops fill a primary anti-infantry role, but are also great at holding objectives. They are a tough unit to kill and can be armed with a variety of different bolt weapons allowing them to dominate mid range infantry firefights and cut through lighter troops with ease. They also no slouch in combat, able to launch punishing assaults. Intercessors are good in any army.

3. Infiltrator Squad



Another core troops unit, Infiltrators represent a slightly more specialized unit than Intercessors. As the name suggests they are masters of infiltration. Slight worse in both ranged and close combat than Intercessors they are still able to overcome most non-elite units. Concealed Positionsallows them to set up ahead of the rest of your army, making them great at grabbing forward objectives. Omni-scramblers prevents enemies from setting up, or arriving from reserves near them. Combined these rules make this an amazing unit for board control.

4. Attack Bike Squad

Attack Bikes are a cheap fast attack unit, that can carry a deadly heavy weapon. While they come in small squads, these bike riding Marines pack a punch. Armed with a multi-melta they are a powerful anti-tank unit, with good damage output. With a 14″ move they can get where they want to go, and are more than twice as though as a normal Marine, making them a strong choice. For a more in-depth look, check here.

5. Impulsor

This hover tank is a fast transport for Primaris infantry units. While it has restrictions on what it can carry – Primaris infantry, and no Gravis armor, it is a cheap and quick way to get troops across the battlefield. It can be armed with a variety of support weapons and systems. Assault Vehicleallows embarked units to disembark after the Impulsor has moved, an action normally prohibited. While they cannot charge after this, it is a great trick for grabbing objectives.

Sample Starter Army

Army: Space Marines 

Chapter: Ultramarines


Patrol Detachment 

HQ:  Primaris Captain. 1 Model. He is armed with a bolt pistol, master-crafted auto bolt rifle, a master-crafted power sword and frag and krak grenades-  95 pts

Troop:  Intercessor Squad. 5 models. They are armed with Auto Bolt Rifles. The Sergeant is armed with a power fist in addition to his Auto Bolt Rifle. One member has an Astartes grenade launcher.- 115 pts

Troop: Infiltrator Squad. 5 Models. They are armed as described on their datasheet. – 120 pts

Fast Attack: Attack Bike Squad. One Model. It is armed with a Multi-melta. – 55 pts.

Dedicated Transport: Impulsor. 1 Model. It is armed with 2 storm bolters and an Ironhail heavy stubber. 115 pts

Total: 500 pts.

How To Play Space Marines

Space Marines are a strong army that favors an aggressive playstyle. While they can do damage at long range, they can be outshot. With tough troops that can function well in both assault and shooting, they reward pushing forward. Marine armies can sustain a rapid advance while unleashing torrents of fire on the enemy, and following up with charges to finish off enemy troops. Strong troop units allow you to push forward and grab objectives early while pining the enemy into their deployment zone. Keep the pressure on and you will do well.


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