In the fictional Warhammer 40,000 setting created by Games Workshop, the Space Marines (or Adeptus Astartes) are elite human soldiers enhanced to superhuman levels through genetic therapy, surgical modifications, and hypnotic indoctrination. The standard Space Marine is the Imperial Space Marine of the Ultramarines chapter, but several variations exist, such as corrupted Chaos Space Marines and the elite Grey Knights.
The Space Marine is a playable army for the table-top miniature wargame Warhammer 40,000. Several models of various troops exist, making Space Marines the most numerous army and the easiest for new players to the game to learn. Space Marines account for the largest percent of model armies by players.
Space Marines are featured in the wargame and in spin-off games such as Epic and Inquisitor, in several computer games, and in the novels based on the setting produced by Black Library. Over the years the Space Marine has become an iconic image of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Space Marines are a flexible, versatile force, often described as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. They have solid, all-round in game statistics which makes them better than the average but not exceptional in any one area, except perhaps toughness. The basic unit is the Tactical Marine, armed with the rapid-firing bolter. Space Marine specialist units, such as the Assault or Devastator squads, are distinguished by their weaponry rather than by a change in their statistics - Assault squads are equipped with bolt pistols and chainswords, accompanied by jump packs, whilst Devastators carry a number of heavy weapons. The army specialises in close-range firefights with vehicle support, utilising the Rhino APC and its more heavily-armed variants. These elements combine into a flowing, combined-arms style which grants the player a number of tactical choices during play. Standard Space Marines are armed with relatively good weapons, a selection of grenades and power armour, making the basic Space Marine unit very well equipped even compared to the elite choices in other armies. It is not uncommon for a Space Marine player to be outnumbered due to the relatively high cost of their units, the idea being that one Space Marine is equal to multiple models of almost any other army.Space Marines can often be used in armoured spearheads driving deep into enemy territory with their heavy tanks such as the vindicator, fitted with a demolisher cannon and the Land Raider, the space marines super unit. The Land Raider is used best when deploying a group of space marines somewhere on the battlefield. Its assault hatch at the front means that units coming out of the land raider can then assault other units nearby, creating space for them to move out sufficiently.
During the The Great Crusade (M30-M31), twenty superhuman Primarchs were made by the God-Emperor, using his own genetic material. Before the project was complete, however, the Primarchs were scattered across the galaxy. It is suggested that the Ruinous Powers of Chaos were responsible for this. Each Primarch landed on a different world. Some, such as Horus, were relatively close to Terra (Earth) whilst others ended up far across the galaxy. As the Great Crusade progressed, the Emperor discovered each of the Primarchs in turn. They had universally grown to become heroes on their native planets, and many had adopted local cultural practices. Two of the Primarchs are variously described as having had "tragic accidents" or as simply never having been found; no single official explanation has been published. Each of the eighteen rediscovered Primarchs was appointed command of the Space Marine Legion whose members matched their genetic code.
Eventually the Primarch Horus, who had been the Emperor's favoured son and appointed Warmaster when the Emperor retired from the Great Crusade in order to consolidate the rapidly expanding Imperium, was turned to Chaos. This event sparked the Horus Heresy, wherein fully half of the Imperium's forces (including 9 of the Space Marine Legions, described below) joined Horus in a civil war against the Emperor.
After a number of bloody battles, Horus was defeated at the Siege of the Emperor's Palace, and the Emperor consigned to the Golden Throne from which he rules the Imperium to this day. With Horus defeated and the Emperor effectively dead, the Primarch of the Ultramarines, Roboute Gulliman pushed for the adoption of his Codex Astartes as the primary document organising the Space Marines. The remaining loyal Legions were divided into smaller "Chapters" of 1,000 Marines each, in order to prevent a single commander from having as much power as Warmaster Horus. The first Chapter of each of the old Legions retains the name of the founding Legion. All subsequent Chapters gain their own names and are referred to as Successor Chapters.
|Name||No.||Primarch||Primarch's world||Current base of operation||In-game description|
|Dark Angels||I||Lion El'Jonson||Caliban (Destroyed)||The Rock (asteroid base)||The First Legion to be created by the Emperor. More so than any other Legion, the Dark Angels divided during the Horus Heresy, with all the companies that remained on their homeworld Caliban siding with Luther (Lion El' Jonson's right hand man and ruler of Caliban in Lion's absence) who rebelled Against El' Johnson independently of Horus, while the rest remained loyal to the Emperor. The Dark Angels and their successors refer to themselves as "The Unforgiven". Highly secretive, they hunt the Fallen (those Dark Angels who sided with Chaos) as an attempt to redeem themselves of the taint upon their Legion's honor. This secret mission occasionally puts them at odds with other Imperial forces. The Dark Angels culture and background is heavily influenced by the Knights Templar and by the poem 'The Dark Angel' by Lionel Johnson, although the novella Deathwing portrays their recruitment from tribes based heavily upon Tribes Like Native Americans, but their Recruitment Varies from generation to generation as Portrayed in the Novel Angels of Darkness. The Dark Angels' combat doctrine is centered around a Tactically Versatile Force favoring the use of heavy Plasma based weapons. They also maintain specialized wings of Terminator-armored veterans labeled Deathwing, and fast-attack, vehicular raiders known as Ravenwing.The Dark Angels are separate from the Space marines and have separate units and codex also have separate Characters.|
|White Scars||V||Jaghatai Khan||Mundus Planus||Mundus Planus||The White Scars have a Mongolian-inspired culture and fast-attack combat doctrine. Following this theme, the Chapter makes extensive use of Hit and Run tactics on Space Marine bikes. They are feared for their ability to storm the battlefield with lightning speed, and are very rarely out-maneuvered on the battlefield.|
|Space Wolves||VI||Leman Russ||Fenris||Fenris (The Fang)||The Space Wolves are fierce warriors with an organization that differs strongly from other Chapters. They are known for their fierce independence, and were the only loyal Legion never to adopt the Codex Astartes. The Space Wolves' culture and background is heavily influenced by the Viking archetype and by werewolf mythology.|
|Imperial Fists||VII||Rogal Dorn||Holy Terra||Phalanx (space-borne fortress ship)||During the end of the Great Crusade, the Imperial Fists were appointed as the Emperor's personal Praetorians. As a Legion they excelled at fortification, fortifying the Imperial Palace, whose improved defences were tested during the Siege of Terra. They are masters of defense and relentless attackers who would rather die than retreat. Their current Gene-seed suffers from a few minor mutations. The novel Space Marine describes their culture as being based upon the German Junker system, with Honour Duelling a regular feature of daily life.|
|Blood Angels||IX||Sanguinius||Baal Secundus||Baal Prime, Secundus||The Blood Angels and their successor chapters suffer from various gene-seed flaws. Most notably the "Red Thirst" and "Black Rage", referring to a constant drive to shed blood and a psychological state of rage when that drive consumes them. When they succumb to the Black Rage, their pale skin and sharp canine teeth lend the Chapter a somewhat vampiric appearance. Those who begin to suffer the Black Rage strive to attain death in battle before they succumb to the Red Thirst, where they become little more than ravenous beasts driven only to consume blood. The Blood Angels excel at close combat and assault tactics. They are vicious to their enemies. The Blood Angels current leader is Dante, Lord of the Blood Angels. He has ruled this Chapter for about 1000 years of the 1100 years he has been a Blood Angel Space Marine.|
|Iron Hands||X||Ferrus Manus||Medusa||Medusa||The warriors of the Iron Hands display a high incidence of cybernetic modifications to their bodies. All recruits have their left hands removed and substituted with a cybernetic replacement. During the Horus Heresy, the Primarch of the Legion, Ferrus Manus, was killed by the traitor Primarch Fulgrim. The Iron Hands do not have a single Chapter Master or Fortress-Monastery. Instead, they are ruled by a Council made of the commanders of the ten companies, known in the Iron Hands as Clans, which remain independent and maintain their own massive land-crawler-like mobile fortresses. Their combat doctrine is straight-forward and brutal, making extensive use of Dreadnaughts, and their Chapter philosophy emphasises the importance of constant trials and struggle, and the need for constant reinvention and self-perfection is tied into their predilection for Bionic modification.|
|Ultramarines||XIII||Roboute Guilliman||Macragge||Macragge (Fortress of Hera)||The Ultramarines are rigid adherents to the Codex Astartes, written by their Primarch to make sure his knowledge of warfare was preserved. They are the archetypal Space Marine Chapter from whose stable genetic material most new Founding chapters are formed. In the aftermath of the Horus Heresy their Primarch became the first High Lord of Terra and used the Ultramarines to restore the shattered Imperium. The Ultramarines are based loosely around ancient Rome, though they also use imagery relating to Classical Greece.|
|Salamanders||XVIII||Vulkan||Nocturne||Prometheus (moon of Nocturne)||The Salamanders are technically-adept warriors with a preference for short-ranged combat; particularly with flame and heat-based weaponry. The Salamanders have coal-black skin and red eyes due to the high levels of radiation on Nocturne. This chapter associates with their home planet's people more than any other chapter. They are trading partners with the Adeptus Mechanicus, trading weapons for the natural resources on Nocturne.|
|Raven Guard||XIX||Corax||Deliverance (Moon - previously named Lycaeus)||Deliverance (Ravenspire Tower)||The Raven Guard specialize in hit-and-run attacks on vital targets to maximize their ability to cripple a larger enemy force. Guerilla warfare using jump packs and extensive use of Scout Marines are common. Due to a gene-seed defect, their skin fades to pure white while their hair and eyes turn night black. Their background contains references to Edgar Allen Poe's poem " The Raven".|
Nine legions sided with Horus and the forces of Chaos during the Horus Heresy. After their defeat they fled into the Eye of Terror, becoming the Chaos Space Marines.
|Name||No.||Primarch||Primarch's world||Current base of operations||In game description|
|Emperor's Children||III||Fulgrim||Chemos (Unknown status, presumed destroyed)||Eye of Terror||Once the most loyal and steadfast defenders of humanity, the Emperor's Children now are hedonistic devotees of Slaanesh, deriving pleasure from the most extreme actions and sensations. They are also renowned for sonic weaponry, and their forces feature many of the infamous Noise Marines. Fulgrim was banished to the back of his own mind, after being forced to kill his closest brother, Ferrus Manus, by a daemon that has now taken control of his body.|
|Iron Warriors||IV||Perturabo||Olympia (Destroyed)||Medrengard (Eye of Terror)||The Iron Warriors are siege and trench warfare specialists. They favour heavy weaponry and fortifications. During the Great Crusade, the Iron Warriors and the Imperial Fists were engaged in an increasingly bitter rivalry, owing to their similar specialities and the Primarch Perturabo's perception that Rogal Dorn was more favoured by the Emperor. In the aftermath of the Siege of Terra, the Iron Warriors constructed the infamous Iron Cage as a trap for Dorn and the Fists.|
|Night Lords||VIII||Conrad Kurze/Night Haunter||Nostramo (Destroyed)||Eye of Terror||The Night Lords specialize in raids and terror tactics, taking special interest in psychological warfare. The name of their fallen Primarch, Conrad Kurze, seems to be a combination of Joseph Conrad and his famous work Heart of Darkness of which Kurtz is a central character.|
|World Eaters||XII||Angron||De'shea (Destroyed)||Eye of Terror||The World Eaters are the chosen ones of Khorne and favour close combat. The Legion has devolved into bloodthirsty fanatics with no organized command structure and turned into little more than bloodthirsty warbands. They have a common desire to spill blood and collect skulls for their God.|
|Death Guard||XIV||Mortarion||Barbarus (Destroyed)||Plague Planet (Eye of Terror)||The Death Guard are plague-ridden devotees of Nurgle who are driven to spread plague and pestilence across the galaxy to please their god. They are amongst the most organized of the Chaos Space Marines.|
|Thousand Sons||XV||Magnus the Red||Prospero (Destroyed)||Planet of the Sorcerers (Eye of Terror)||The Primarch of the Thousand Sons became fascinated by Sorcery and during one of his rites had a vision of Horus's betrayal. The Emperor ignored his warning and condemned his use of forbidden sorcery, sending the Space Wolves legion as well as the Sisters of Silence (warrior women who carry the gene that makes them immune to psychic attacks) to bring Magnus back to Terra to answer for what he had done. But before Leman Russ and his Space Wolves could reach Magnus, Horus met Leman and convinced him that the Emperor wanted Magnus and the Thousand Sons dead. So the Space Wolves pulled an all out attack on the planet. Magnus and the Thousand Sons managed to escape the assault on Prospero and sided with Chaos to ensure their survival. The Thousand Sons are favoured by Tzeentch, bitter rivals of the Space Wolves and value knowledge above all else. The battle brothers of the Legion have been rendered to dust trapped inside their armor by a spell called the Rubric of Ahriman, with only the Legion's Sorcerers spared to lead their brethren. It has been hinted that the Blood Ravens (not to be confused with the Blood Angels) are connected with Thousand Sons. The Blood Ravens have similar color pattens to pre-heresy Thousand sons and have an unusual amount of psykers within their ranks.|
|Luna Wolves / Sons of Horus / Black Legion||XVI||Horus||Cthonia (Destroyed)||Eye of Terror||The Luna Wolves were renamed to Sons of Horus in honour of Warmaster Horus before the Horus Heresy erupted. After Horus’ death, Abaddon the Despoiler renamed them as the Black Legion, as a rejection of Horus whom Abbadon viewed as a failure. Prior to Horus' betrayal, the Sons of Horus was the most favored of all the Legions.|
|Word Bearers||XVII||Lorgar||Colchis (Destroyed)||Sicarus (Eye of Terror), Ghalmek (Maelstrom)||The Word Bearers are strongly religious, worshipping the Gods of Chaos as a pantheon. They were the first of the Legions to fall to Chaos. They are also the only Traitor Legion to maintain the use of Chaplain-like officers, which the Word Bearers refer to as "Dark Apostles". They are known for never retreating even when facing certain destruction, particular when facing the hated Ultramarines Chapter. The Word Bearers are feared greatly for their frequent use of daemonic allies in their strike forces. Entire planets are turned into unholy temple worlds to gather favour in summoning rites for a coming battle.|
|Alpha Legion||XX||Alpharius/Omegon (2 beings make up the same primarch)||Bedok||Unknown||Subtlety and covert operations are this Legion's forte, using minimalistic but devastating force against their enemies. Alpharius was revealed to have had an identical twin named Omegon who could serve as Primarch in Alpharius' stead. The brothers were described as being "one soul in two bodies" in an encounter with a Xenos group called the Cabal. With that same presence, they were told that they had to side with Horus for the Galaxy's sake. In the novel Legion, Alpharius says that "... So what I do ... from this moment on, I will do for the Emperor." This suggests that even though his Legion turned, he remains loyal to the Emperor. It has also been suggested that the Alpha Legion may in fact be manipulating Chaos to be more vulnerable to the loyalist Space Marines. If this is true, then the small size of the legion's raids on the Imperium could be a cover-up.|
The narratives leave two additional unnamed and undescribed First Founding Legions, Legions II and XI. In some literature the missing Primarchs and their Legions are listed as being "Deleted from Imperial records". The only information Games Workshop has ever released that directly addresses them, can be found in False Gods, Mechanicum and The Lightning Tower (Dan Abnett).
In the Horus Heresy novel series, Horus, in a Chaos-induced dream sequence, apparently goes back in time and sees the cracked incubation capsule of Primarch XI before the Primarchs are scattered to the warp. He places his hand on XI's capsule and feels "the untapped glories that might have lain ahead for what grew within, but knowing that they would never come to pass."
In the Mechanicum novel, another book in the Horus Heresy series, Rogal Dorn (Primarch of the Imperial Fists Legion) and Malcador speak of the lost legions, with Malcador telling Dorn "Do not even think of it brother, they are lost to us forever", but provides no further information.
In the audio book The Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett, Primarch Rogal Dorn while constructing the defences of the Imperial Palace on Earth in preparation for the coming attack by the Traitor Marines is walking through the palace and comes across a corridor showing statues of all 20 Primarchs. The audio book states that 'an accident befell them that may somehow be a precursor of what happened to Horus'.
However, Games Workshop has explained the game play purpose for these "deleted" Legions: they are available to help those who wish to develop their own, custom Legions. The basic idea is that since there were 20 Legions, and half went to Chaos but half stayed loyal, these two lost Legions would represent the same for "do-it-yourself" forces.
A Space Marine Chapter is described as having a nominal fighting strength of 1,000 Marines, with several times that number of support staff (most of which are normal humans or servitors, rather than actual Space Marines) and initiates in training (which form the 10th 'Scout' Company). A Chapter is divided into 10 semi-autonomous companies made up of roughly 100 men, with each company led by a "Brother-Captain". The First Company is the Veteran Company, composed of 10 squads of 10 Veterans. Companies 2 through 5 are the Battle Companies, composed of 6 10-man Tactical Squads, 2 10-man Devastator Squads, and 2 10-man Assault Squads. The 6th-9th Companies are the Reserve Companies; the 6th and 7th are comprised entirely of Tactical Marines, the 8th of Assault Marines, and the 9th of Devastators. The 10th Company is known as the Scout Company and its numbers vary depending on the number of available initiates. It should be noted that this applies only to those Chapters which follow the tenets of the Codex Astartes. Some Chapters, particularly the Space Wolves, Dark Angels, Salamanders and Black Templars, have different organisational practices.
In subsequent millennia, the Imperium has also created new Chapters of Space Marines, there are now roughly one thousand Chapters. These later chapters have appeared in various tie-in products produced by Games Workshop, as well as in works of fiction from The Black Library and the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series such as the Blood Ravens, Crimson Fist, and Black Templar.
From an out-of-universe perspective, the numerous undocumented later chapters provide room for official development of the fiction, as well as allowing players to create their own chapters without contradicting established canon.
In novels and comic books the Space Marines are given a truly superhuman appearance. Their abilities, skills, and durability in these stories would make a single squad capable of defeating a much larger force of any other group in Warhammer 40,000. Space Marines have an awe-inspiring presence when amongst the people of the Imperium, and even the Imperial Guard, from their sheer size, armour and weapons that they carry into battle.
Space Marines are featured in: