Space Marine is the name of the second edition of Games Workshop's 6mm table-top wargame, based on the 35mm Warhammer 40K game. Using this smaller scale allows the players to use larger and nastier hardware, more troops and more varied terrain.

Space Marine has its origins in the original Adeptus Titanicus, the Titan combat game that didn't include rules for infantry and vehicles, only Titans. The original Adeptus Titanicus boxed set came with 6 plastic Warlord Titans, a whole bunch of counters and cards, and some really cool buildings that were a lot better than the thin cardboard crap GW ships these days (I still have most of mine).

Adeptus Titanicus was originally set during the days of the Horus Heresy, in fact I think it was Adeptus Titanicus that introduced this aspect of the 40K storyline. Players could either be loyalists or rebels.

Shortly after Adeptus Titanicus was released, GW released an expanded rulebook called Codex Titanicus. The Codex introduced large infantry vehicles like the Capitol Imperialis, and Titan units for the Orks (called Gargants) and Eldar. It was basically an advanced rulebook.

Space Marine introduced infantry units and vehicles into the Adeptus Titanicus game system. The boxed set came with more buildings, around 400 Space Marines and a few dozen Rhinos and Land Raiders. Like Adeptus Titanicus, it was set during the Horus Heresy; there were no aliens and players took on the roles of Imperial and Rebel forces. Future expansions published in White Dwarf added rules for Orks, Eldar, Squats, Chaos and the Imperial Guard.

In around 1994, the disorganised and overly-complex components of Adeptus Titanicus, Codex Titanicus and Space Marine were compiled, simplified and re-released under the Space Marine title. The boxed set contained one Titan, a couple of hundred marines, Orks and Eldar, and Rhinos, Battlewagons and those Eldar tanks whose name escapes me. Again, the system was expanded in White Dwarf issues with periodic releases of expansion sets for Marines and Imperial Guard, Orks and Squats, Chaos and Eldar and the Tyrannids. In 1996 Titan Legions released with additional rules for Emperor class Titans like the Imperator, the Ork Mega Gargant, Chaos Titans and Imperial Knights.

These rule systems were again simplified and condensed and re-released as the third generation, Epic 40K. Epic 40K did away with a lot of the complexity of the system in favour of faster gameplay. The game engine had previously been developed for the Battlefleet Gothic game, where it had proven itself quite adept at keeping the pace of the game up even with a large playing force.

Epic 40,000 is set to be revamped once again in 2003 with the release of Epic Armageddon. In a number of articles and essays, Andy Chambers has explained how the new system will introduce some of the detail that had been lost in Epic 40K. It remains to be seen whether this, the fourth incarnation of Epic, will finally find the right balance, or will turn out to be just another money-spinner.


  • - Andy Chamber's essay on Epic Armageddon

Now ubiquitous in science fiction, the idea of the space marine probably began its popularity after James Cameron's 1986 film Aliens, but was introduced much more recently, possibly as early as the 1930's.

The archetypical space marine always has an assault rifle, which has a very large clip to account for its ridiculous firing rate. This large gun is presumably used to shoot aliens, which are, of course, always hostile. Despite its incredible rate of ammo depletion, the marine's weapons are rarely very effective against anything other than small rodents and other space marines.

Space marines are also known for their colorful vocabulary, witty comments even in the heat of battle, and high-tech body armor. Selfless heroes, they always fight to the bitter end (or die trying to run away).

Space marines have been spotted in the following locations, among others:

  • Alien and its various sequels
  • Starship Troopers was originally a book by Robert Heinlein (written in 1959), and was later adapted to a movie in 1997. The book is a good early reference to the ideal space marine.
  • Starcraft
  • Doom. While not the typical space marine, the character in Doom did fight off legions of aliens in a suit of armor.
  • Warhammer 40K (and all its variations; please see accompanying node text)

Thanks to wharfinger and dido for contributions.
Basically, any infantry deployed primarily from a spacecraft, whether for landings or boarding actions.

Whether hero, supporting character, or cannon fodder, he (or she; the future is often equal-opportunity) is the square-jawed, heavily armed defender of humanity against...well, whichever slavering, insectoid race is threatening it this week.

The standard defining piece of equipment is an assault rifle. It has an unending clip of ammunition (running out only when it's dramatic or in between fights), has totally ridiculous rates of fire (possible due to the unending clip of ammunition), and is effective exactly in proportion to the importance of the one using it. (As we all know, inexperienced civilian protagonists can quickly gun down enemies that a squad of cannon fodder space marines have trouble with.)

Space marines also get the coolest gadgets. Whether it's Warhammer's invincible tanks, Heinlein's spiffy suits of jumping armor, or Alien's dropships and smartguns, space marines always have, if not the greatest achievements of human technology, at least the coolest achievements of human technology.

The collective mental image of space marines as generic stalwart soldiers is oft-used in video games. Many a game has a near-personality-less space marine as the protagonist, probably owing to the original examples of Doom and Quake (although the nameless hero of Marathon nicely fits the archetype.)

See also: colonial marines, stormtrooper

Space marines, or the Adeptus Astartes, figure prominently in the world of Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K. They are the primary offensive and rapid-reactionary force of the Imperium of Man. (Defensive roles are generally dealt with by the Imperial Guard, although long-term campaigns are generally joint efforts.) Stronger, tougher, better-trained, and better armed and armored than the average human soldier, they are elite in every sense of the word.

The history of the space marines is the history of the Imperium. The founder of the space marines is the eponymous Emperor, as a part of the First Crusade, approximately 15000 years before the present in the Warhammer 40K universe (or c. 25000 AD), after unifying Earth. He had the most skilled geneticists craft 20 near-perfect men based on himself as a template (although they aren't clones; they were all quite different, and most lacked his psyker talents). At some point in the childhood of these men, they were kidnapped and scattered across the galaxy. (Who exactly did this is awfully vague, and probably isn't even decided yet.)

Undaunted by this setback, the Emperor undertook the First Crusade, beginning his unification of the scattered remnants of mankind. (Before that was the Dark Age of Man, brought on by warp storms preventing interstellar travel) Using the first 20 Legions of space marines, created by implanting organs based on the unique physiology of the Primarchs, he conquered an ever-expanding territory, one by one being united with his wayward "sons," each of whom had had quite an effect on their new homes. (Most of them had already conquered them.) As each Primarch was rediscovered, they were assigned command of a Legion, which each would tailor to their personality and style of combat.

The Space Marine Legions and their Primarchs
  1. Dark Angels - Lion El'Jonson
  2. All records destroyed
  3. Emperor's Children - Fulgrim*
  4. Iron Warriors - Perturabo*
  5. White Scars - Jaghatai Khan
  6. Space Wolves - Leman Russ
  7. Imperial Fists - Rogal Dorn
  8. Night Lords - Night Haunter*
  9. Blood Angels - Sanguinius
  10. Iron Hands - Ferrus Manus
  11. All records destroyed
  12. World Eaters - Angron*
  13. Ultramarines - Roboute Guilliman
  14. Death Guard - Mortarion*
  15. Thousand Sons - Magnus the Red*
  16. Lunar Wolves** - Horus*
  17. Word Bearers - Lorgar*
  18. Salamanders - Vulkan
  19. Raven Guard - Corax
  20. Alpha Legion - Alpharius*
* - Turned traitor in the Horus Heresy.
** - Renamed Sons of Horus in Horus's honor, and Black Legion when Horus's body was destroyed.

This doubles as a metanode for the space marine legions and the Primarchs. /msg me if you post a new node for one.

This lasted until the Horus Heresy. After the Heresy, Roboute Guilliman wrote the Codex Astartes, dividing up the remaining Legions into smaller Chapters and setting up a system of heraldry, as well asserting their continuing autonomy. One chapter kept the name and heraldry of each Legion, and the remainder took new colors. This reorganization is known as the First Founding. (Later foundings were schisms from existing chapters.)

After this, space marines are organized into independant Chapters of 1000 marines, plus a variable number of noncombatant auxiliaries. (The exact number of Chapters is deliberately vague to allow for player-created Chapters and future expansion, but the number alluded to by Games Workshop is about 1000.)

The Codex Astartes, besides ordering the separation of the old Legions into Chapters, also set up a system of heradry and organization for the chapters. While most Chapters modify this system in some way, it's still the template that the grand majority of chapters at least begin with. (A notable exception is the Space Wolves, as Leman Russ's considerable respect as a leader and dynamic personality spared the chapter any serious reorganization.)

A "codex" Chapter, as conforming Chapters are known, is organized into 10 companies. The first company is composed of elite veterans, often fielded wearing Terminator armor or using other specialized equipment, like Land Raiders.

The second through fifth companies are battle companies, composed of a balance of tactical, assault, and devastator (heavy weapons) squads. These companies are assigned transport vehicles, and often are fielded with attached heavy vehicles or Dreadnoughts from the vehicle pool.

The sixth through ninth companies are reserve companies, composed only of one type of squad. Often, these companies will be equipped for unusual battle situations, or with unusual equipment (all bikes, for example). Generally, though, they are used for reinforcements or garrisons.

The tenth company is a bit of a special case, composed entirely of scouts and their trainers (generally veteran marines with a drill sergeant or mentoring personality, depending on the style of the Chapter.) The size of this company fluctuates quite often, with new waves of recruiting and generally massive casualties, both from the geneseed implanting process and from dangerous scouting missions.

Sources: Warhammer 40K main rulebook third edition, Codex Ultramarines, Codex Space Marines, numerous issues of White Dwarf,

Information on the recruiting and geneseed implantation of space marines to come at a later date. That date being when I find it somewhere.

Warhammer 40K, besides a complex and sometime contradictory setting, is also a game. Here is a quick summary of the basic stats of a space marine, useful if nothing else in historical interest.

(If anyone has the basic stats for a space marine in Rogue Trader, Space Marine/Titan Legions, or Epic 40K, /msg amib please. It would be much appreciated.

Warhammer 40K 2nd Edition
25 points
M4 WS4 BS4 S4 T4 A1 I4 W1 LD8
Bolter, bolt pistol, frag and krak grenades, power armor
Special rules:
Rapid fire - can fire twice with bolt weapons after not moving in the move phase Break tests - marines that fail a LD test aren't broken, but are instead shaken. Shaken troops make not move towards the enemy, but can fight normally, and rally just like broken troops. (Shaken troops break if they fail another LD test.)

Marines in 2nd. Ed. were quite possibly one of the weakest armies, short of possibly Sisters of Battle or Necrons. Lacking the exploitability of Space Wolves, and marginalized by later Codices (Blood Angels and Chaos in particular), Ultramarines (the standard marines) had little going for them.

Given all that, a marine army that used its best units (tooled-up Captains and Veteran squads to name two) could still see some success.

Warhammer 40K 3rd Edition
15 points
WS4 BS4 S4 T4 A1 I4 W1 LD8 Save 3+
Special rules:
And They Shall Know No Fear - When a marine unit fails a morale check, it does a normal fallback move, with the exception that it rallies automatically, with no roll at the end of the move, regardless of casualties. (The unit has to be in coherancy and at least 6" from any enemies.)

Marines in 3rd Ed. are far more effective. With the new emphasis on armor saves, as well as the new focus on squad-to-squad combat, the flexible, well-rounded space marine units are effective in almost all situations. This flexibility come at a price: space marines cost the most points of any of the races in WH40K.

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