Epic: Armageddon Factions 101 – Imperial Space Marines
When starting out (or expanding!) people often like to have some idea about the factions in the game. How they play, what strengths and weaknesses they may have, if they have a style or theme that will fit with their personal preferences. Additionally whether there are units or options that are popular or not can be important (after all, if you like a faction because of a unit or two on their list and then find those units are generally not useful it can make it a lot less fun to play as that faction).
I want this article to explain each of the army lists in some brief detail to give you a starting point to selecting who you want to play and maybe giving you some ideas of the different kinds of strategies people use in Epic.
I plan on putting up a sequence of articles looking at the different faction groupings in Epic: Armageddon and giving a brief overview of them. This will be from my own perspective and experiences and I have not played with nor against every permutation of every faction so there are guaranteed to be bits I miss of get wrong (though, I will try to reach out to broader community voices and expertise where I know I am sorely lacking in useful information). However, I should hopefully be able to provide an at least generally accessible point to begin looking at and assessing the different – EpicUK – factions for Epic.
But first a note on how Epic: Armageddon designs army lists. The game tries to avoid ‘generalist’ lists where it can and instead tries to have lists that focus on a playstyle. For example there is no ‘Imperial Guard’ list, instead there is a Steel Legion, a Baran Siegemaster, Ulani Tank Regiment, etc. list. This is because the relative value of certain units changes within the context of building a list that is trying to rely on aerial attacks or swarming heavy armour or scout dominated play. Remember that just because a list is called the ‘Blood Angels’ doesn’t mean it can only be used for playing Blood Angels and successors. Instead it’s a list for more close combat and aggressive engagement based play and anyone who wants to play their space marines that way would be well served in giving it a look. Consider the case of a Space Marine chapter that has recently fallen to worship of Khorne…Blood Angels with a different lick of paint all of a sudden makes a lot of sense for your marines!
The Imperial Space Marines
The Imperial Space Marines. Bioengineered warrior monks and crusading knight analogues in the sci-fantasy future! The razors edge on the blade of Imperial might. Keepers of dark secrets, wild ravaging nomads, crusading brethren and much more.
There are several chapters with their own lists as well as a basic Codex Marines list. Dark Angels, White Scars, Blood Angels, Space Wolves and Black Templars. The Codex Marines list may appear at first glance as a more ‘generic’ list but it focuses on an aerial assault playstyle so may not be the best pick for how you want to play.
Space marine lists tend towards having larger numbers of smaller formations. They tend to roll fewer dice but have better to hit values and armour values in return as well as the And They Shall Know No Fear special rule to overcome some of the weaknesses their smaller formation sizes can lead to. They also have good access to a lot of mobility options and ways of entering and leaving the table.
Space marines are a finesse force, requiring a firm grasp of how to get your models into positions to support one another, focusing their force in a small area of the table, destroying the opposition there and then often leaving the table again to rapidly shift the focus of attack to a different point. This makes them less beginner friendly than might be expected from Warhammer 40k but it does mean they play more like a group of special operative teams finding ways to overcome far larger numbers of opposition.
The Codex Marine list generally favours use of aerial assets and scouting forces. Using landspeeders, scouts and warhounds to create space on the table and to control how your opponent can move around the board whilst also placing blast markers on the enemy. Then, once an opportunity presents itself (or has been engineered by your scouting forces) you land a hammer blow with your aerial assets and destroy a part of your opponent’s army. Then ideally you extract the hammer blow formations back from the table and repeat the process next turn.
This is mostly achieved through the use of a pair of Thunderhawks and a formation of Terminators. Terminators are extremely powerful and their weakness in mobility is overcome by using the Thunderhawks to land them on the table and then have the second (empty!) one land and pick them back up again to fly off the table. Cycling them on and off the table each turn.
The list also supports more traditional ‘marines in rhinos’ rushing about the place though this exposes your smaller numbers of models to greater risk than the aerial approach. Or use of spaceships for orbital drops – which plays similarly to the aerial circus approach but lands more powerful assets in a single strike in exchange for losing the ability to recycle them for later turns.
Codex marines also have many options and a very flexible army list allowing a great deal of freedom to make skew lists and play themes of your own devising. Taking nothing but Terminators or an armoured division with predators, vindicators and land raiders everywhere is…while not particularly advised from a competitive stand point probably a lot of fun to play.
However the Codex marines have a general lack of good anti-Titan tools and dealing with large numbers of, or particularly powerful forms of, War Engines will take care and the correct use of the support fire rules to get enough models to be involved in the fights to overcome them. You will also likely find that your shooting phases are not a game winner, the combination of smaller numbers of models and shorter ranges overall means you won’t be defeating your opponents hordes of Boyz with raw firepower, instead the shooting should be looked at as a way of setting up your decisive Engagements.
Playing successfully with the Codex Marines will likely require a good understanding of how to use the blast marker, Engagement and Supporting Fire rules so brushing up on those will probably help your play considerably!
Very similar to the Codex Marine list in playstyle. It sacrifices access to the Titan Legion and Imperial Navy assets (because Dark Angels need to keep their secrets, can’t have some nosy guardsman stumbling across something…) to gain better Devastators, Nephilim and Ravenwing formations.
The advice for Codex Marines holds true here, scouting forces and aerial assets will be your bread and butter but the Devastators can make your orbital attacks more powerful (their better shooting is well worth the slow firing penalty because generally you’d want to shoot once and then be stuck in Engagements rather than standing off and firing multiple turns over) and the particular stand out is the Ravenwing formation. It mixes Bikes with Landspeeders and because of the Garrison rules allowing a formation that has at least half the models with the scout rule (the landspeeders have scout!) to Garrison that means you can have a strong combat formation on the half way line before the first turn even start!
Dark Angels are arguably an even better version of the Codex Marines list. Due to their cost and list skewing impacts the larger Titans are not a common sight so their loss here is not really felt and the Ravenwing compete for the same role the Warhound would have taken. Nephilim are better – but more expensive – substitutes for Thunderbolts too.
Incidentally the Ravenwing formations and other mobile assets of the list in general mean that they could make a different spin on the lightning warfare role the White Scars are famous for. If the sacrifices the White Scars list makes for its unique toys are too much for you perhaps consider the Dark Angels with a different paint job 😉
The White Scars diverge from the template laid down by the Codex and Dark Angels with larger bike formations (with Walker!), loss of Dreadnoughts and an element that changes the list the most from the Codex list is the loss of the ability to mount Terminators in a Thunderhawk. Instead the larger more powerful Bike formations will need to pull their weight. These formations do fit inside a single Thunderhawk though so you can double dip on mobility while also having the ability to retreat formations off the table to safety.
Another point to note is that the 8 strong bikers (they also gain the Walker rule to deal with rough terrain well) with ‘And They Shall Know No Fear’ are extremely tough to completely remove from the table and can form a real battle line.
The supporting elements are still small and vulnerable to casualties though so playing intelligently is key. Rushing headlong forwards might at first glance appear a good idea but the Khan would shake his head in shame to see it. use your speed to get your marines where they need to be in support of one another. Make sure every fight is in your favour and crush your opponent piecemeal while your mobile support assets hinder their ability to counterattack.
Retaining the flexibility and mobility options of the Codex marines but gaining access to some (expensive) fearless CC focused units in the Death Company and Dreads as well as larger assault formations (6 stands rather than 4) your focus should be on getting your excellent fighters right into the enemy as rapidly as possible – whilst still paying attention to getting supporting fire elements in place first!
The aerial, orbital and ground based transport options available to the Marines should make delivering your powerful fighters fairly reliable too.
The main risk here is that you are forced to take the expensive death company and without some supporting elements (transports for example) they can be difficult to get into a position to do anything meaningful making them a larger points sink. Furthermore many of your unique units are CC focused which means enemy skimmers can render them notably weaker and their CC ability only really comes into play on the offensive as the enemy can engage you and remain outside of your CC range and force firefights (bear in mind the attacker will only ever go for CC if they stand to gain from doing so while the defender can be stuck in firefight unable to use their fantastic CC ability). The Baal Predator however is fantastic and use of Landing Craft to deliver right into the thick of the enemy is recommended.
Wether Baals make up for the loss of Devastators is debatable as is the inefficiency of transporting Assault Marines in Thunderhawks (because they are 6-strong you can only fit one formation in a Thunderhawk while you can fit 2 of the 4-strong ones inside meaning you can deliver 8 in one go rather than only 6). Assault Marines with added Vindicators can be a good option, bringing meaningful firepower alongside potent CC troops. Also very thematic to have the bunker busters breach a hole that the assault marines then pile into and pry open!
Overall I’d consider the Blood Angels to be a very potent list, it loses some Codex options in return for a few other unique options of its own. Arguably stronger than the Codex list but with enough stuff lost to make it a conscious choice to play this way.
Black Templars are a tweaked form of the Codex Marines list that can be played in the same way as them, if so desired. They are intended to be a space ship and orbital drop oriented faction being required to take at least a Strike Cruiser (which many lists would want to take anyway) and gaining access to more ways of transporting tanks to the board and access to larger tactical formations. In return they lose a bit of flexibility and lose Scout formations (instead gaining the neophyte option to bulk up Tactical Formations).
Their unique strengths are in the ability to bring on and deploy more assets by either air or planetfall and retaining mobility while doing so through use of Thunderhawk Transporters. A Tactical Company with Neophytes and Rhinos can planetfall out of a spaceship mounted inside a pair of Thunderhawk Transporters and retain their tactical flexibility and mobility through bringing their transports with them. They’d also gain the ablative toughness of the Transporters for their initial landing. This option is not cheap however, costing 275pts for the Transports on top of the marines themselves.
Overall I’d consider this list slightly inferior to the Codex or Dark Angels list in overall competitive power but adding in more options to make orbital drops effective. If you want to run an Orbital Drop focused list however this is probably better than what you could build from the Codex list.
A fairly major divergence from the Codex here. Almost every formation is different, either larger, lacking certain options, gaining others and so on. While the army as a whole remains focused on engagements and mobility to get your fighters where they need to be for support it’s less likely to be hitting and leaving the table again, instead relying on their greater numbers in their formations to power through and keep their assault going.
Be careful with the upgrades, taking too many will reduce your overall activation counts but taking a few in the right places can make for some decidedly tough formations. The Grey Hunters with additional Grey Hunters in Rhinos can rush forward early and take up a major position and hold it against most enemy threats or be used as part of a broader assault to provide a huge amount of quality supporting fire. try to engineer scenarios where you have your Grey Hunters within 15cm of two different enemy formations and then have two separate smaller formations engage those enemy one by one. The 10 additional 4+ firefight shots from the Grey Hunters is extremely effective especially if you can use it multiple times in a single turn.
Due to the way army construction works for Space Wolves you will almost certainly be taking 2 Grey Hunter companies so learning how to effectively bring their numbers to bear is valuable as they will need to be proactive to get into firefight support range or CC engagement ranges as the loss of their missile launchers means they don’t have quite the ability to drive up to a position and reach out to threaten in the same way a tactical company can. If you can’t get a handle on getting into that 15cm support range bubble you may struggle with having a sizeable portion of your army unable to attack efficiently.
What you lose however is missile launchers on your grey Hunters so you need to find other ways of placing your blast markers to set up your engagements. Luckily you retain access to Land Speeders who are fantastic at doing exactly that.
Overall the Wolves of Russ play differently to the rest of the marine armies, able to bring greater numbers to bear and being generally more resilient due to formation size they can be more forgiving and playing to their particular strengths can mean skipping out on some of the more common Codex elements due to costs. They do however retain the ability to play like a Codex list and air dropping a pair of Grey Hunter companies can be a fearsome sight and challenge for your opponent to deal with!