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How To Play Space Marines In Warhammer 40K

10 Minute Read
Oct 20 2023

Today take a look at some basics of how to play Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000 10th Edition.

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 daunting 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 Angels 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

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.

Weakness of a Space Marine Army

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

Space Marine Army Rules

  • Oath of Moment: This powerful rule allows you to target an enemy unit in the Command Phase and give your entire army re-rolls against it.

Space Marine Detachment Rules

1. Gladius Strike Force

  • Rules: The Combat Doctrine rules are a set of three powerful abilities that can be activated in the Command Phase. Be careful of when you use them, as each one can only be used for a single turn.
  • Enhancements: Here we see some classics such as Artificier Armour, which even gives a Feel No Pain save!
  • Stratagems: Space Marine stratagems are brutal and to the point- most impacting armour penetration in some way. That’s besides the great Adaptive Strategy, which gives you flexibility in utilizing those great Combat Doctrine rules.

2. 1st Company Task Force

  • Rules: Extremis-Level Threat makes your re-rolls even better.
  • Enhancements: These are all solid upgrades like Imperium’s Sword which just adds a sweet, sweet attack.
  • Stratagems: These are all based around 1st Company units, and there are some good ones- Legendary Fortitude can be a nice surprise.

3. Stormlance Task Force

  • RulesLightning Assault lets you Advance/Fall Back and still Charge, the classic White Scars trait.
  • Enhancements: There are some nice ones here, but I really like Fury of the Storm for a crazy charging combat character on a Bike.
  • Stratagems: There are a couple movement based ones and a couple damage buffing ones, plus the Eldar-like Ride Hard, Ride Fast.

4. Vanguard Spearhead

  • Rules: The Scout/sneaky detachment has powerful anti-shooting based rules!
  • Enhancements: There are some fun ones here, but the real fun is stealing fun from your opponent, using Shadow War Veteran to deny their Stratagems!
  • Stratagems: Flavor award goes to A Deadly Prize which lets you boobytrap and objective.

5. Firestorm Assault Force

  • RulesClose-Range Eradication is tailor-built to buff a horde of melta and flamers (think Eradicators, Aggressors, etc.) with extra strength at close range.
  • Enhancements: Here we get the classic Adamantine Mantle which is no less defensively built than its predecessors.
  • Stratagems: These are all very strong- mostly straight forward buff at the short ranges the detachment is geared towards.

6. Ironstorm Spearhead

  • Rules: The vehicle and Dreadnought detachment! Armoured Wrath means all your units are a bit more reliable with once-a-phase re-rolls.
  • Enhancements: These are mostly designed to give out auras which can then benefit the vehicles the detachment is built around.
  • Stratagems: These are built around vehicles. Ancient Fury is great for the absolute slew of buffs it stacks onto a Dreadnought.

7. Anvil Siege Force

  • Rules: The Siege Force is strong in this one. Shield of the Imperium gives Heavy to all of your ranged weapons and further buff weapons that were already Heavy.
  • Enhancements: These enhancements are very much themed around Imperial Fists and their style of war. For some classic flavor, Fleet Commander is an update of Orbital Bombardments.
  • StratagemsHail of Vengeance is a very solid ability, allowing a unit to shoot back at a unit it just lost models from.

Key Space Marine Units

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




Primaris CaptainCaptains are an important part of any Marine army. They are powerful combatants in their own right, and in particular shine in close combat, thanks to Finest Hour. Their special rule Rites of Battle is also strong, allowing the Captain to use a Stratagem, without spending a CP, even if has already been used this phase.

Librarian in Terminator Armour

The Librarian in Terminator Armour is a powerful force multiplier when attached to lead Terminator units. Veil of Time gives the unit Sustained Hits, while his Psychic Hood offering powerful protection against Psychic attacks.


Lieutenants join basic units and significantly increase their flexibility and lethality. In fact, a unit lead by this character receives the Lethal Hits ability. They benefit from this even when they Fall Back and  can still shoot or charge, thanks to Target Priority.

Chaplain on Bike

The Chaplain on Bike can join and lead both Outrider squads and classic Bike Squads. Litany of Hate is an incredibly powerful passive buff, giving a bonus to wound to all the units melee attacks. Just in case you also wanted to shoot extra effectively too, Catechism of Fire allows you to unleash a hail of Devastating Wounds on a selected unit.



Intercessor Squad


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.

Infiltrator Squad


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. Infiltrators allows 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 from reserves near them. Combined these rules make this an amazing unit for board control.

Heavy Intercessor Squad

Heavy Intercessors

Big, durable Intercessors equipped with Gravis Armour- Heavy Intercessors truly epitomize the heavy duty side of Space Marine battleline choices. Unyielding in the Face of the Foe makes them truly difficult to shift with small arms fire.

Tactical Squad

The venerable Tactical Squad still has a lot to offer in the modern Space Marine army. They have the flexibility to shoot and charge after falling back, thanks to the appropriately named Tactical Flexibility, and they have a nice suite of powerful weapon upgrades, unavailable to Primaris battleline.

Other Units

Invictor Tactical Warsuit

The Invictor Warsuit is part Dreadnought, and part scout vehicle. It’s sort of a dreadnought, but not really- with a living driver. It certainly smashes things like one however, and Scouts as well! So it’s not as tough as a traditional Dreadnought, and has lighter weaponry, but it will get up in the enemy’s face much faster. The Combat Support rules makes them great at accompanying a Phobos advance


Terminator Squad

Terminators are back in their place as being the premiere elite Space Marines. They can be rapidly redeployed thanks to their Teleport Homer, and Fury of the First makes them even more effective against the enemy declared for Oath of Moment.

Ballistus Dreadnought

The Ballistus packs a plethora of high strength, high damage, long-ranged weaponry, perfect for taking out hard targets.

Bladeguard Veterans

Bladeguard are a powerful Primaris melee unit, perfect for being lead by a Primaris character. Their namesake Bladeguard rule allows them to pick a combat buff in each combat phase, either focussing on offense or defense.

Outrider Squad

One of your fastest units, Outriders are also very resilient. On their own they are not bad, but they are great with the Chaplain on Bike!

Inceptor Squad

Inceptors are fast and have strong shooting. They especially thrive when using Deep Strike, where they can land with much less restrictions, thanks to Meteoric Descent.


A powerful sniper unit, especially when equipped with las-fusils, Eliminators are capable of dreaded ‘pop-up’ attacks thanks to Reposition Under Covering Fire. Otherwise they can just stay still and Mark the Target.


An absolutely excellent squad of melta rifle-armed Gravis-armoured meatheads. Vehicles and monsters beware, you won’t survive when these guys come to town with Total Obliteration.

Land Raider

Land Raider are just as tough as ever and more flexible to boot. The Land Raider holds the distinction of being able to transport any Space Marine infantry, whether they have crossed the Rubicon Primaris or not.

Gladiator Lancer

The Gladiator Lancers Aquilon Optics greatly reduce the chance of your powerful anti-tank weapon completely whiffing. This makes the tank so much more reliable than it otherwise would be.


While slightly less resilient (though not much, thanks to Armored Resilience), and much faster, the Stormraven is very much a flying Land Raider, able to carry any kind of Space Marine infantry.




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 Vehicle allows embarked units to disembark after the Impulsor has Advanced, an action normally prohibited. While they cannot charge after this, it is a great trick for grabbing objectives.


Sample Starter Army

Army: Space Marines 


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


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.

Infiltrator Squad. 5 Models. They have: bolt pistol; marksman bolt carbine; frag grenades; krak grenades.

Heavy Intercessor Squad. 10 Models. They have: bolt pistol; heavy bolt rifle; frag grenades; krak grenades.

Heavy Intercessor Squad. 10 Models. They have: bolt pistol; heavy bolt rifle; frag grenades; krak grenades.

Other Units

Eradictor Squad. Six models. Every model is equipped with: bolt pistol; melta rifle; frag grenades; krak grenades.

Impulsor. 1 Model. It is armed with 2 storm bolters and an Ironhail heavy stubber.


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.

Author: Allen Campbell
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