Since the beginning of Warhammer 40,000, Space Marines continue to be at the forefront of the miniatures games system. Often called the Adeptus Astartes, Space Marines are genetically modified super soldiers who are the Imperium's greatest defenders. It's due to their long tenure in Warhammer 40,000 that makes them one of the most popular and versatile factions around.
Despite being a human faction - which are often considered one of the less interesting groups in the Warhammer 40,000 universe - most players have no issues playing with Space Marines, thereby making them an evergreen option within the grimdark miniatures game. Given the amount of support from Games Workshop over the years, there are dozens of units, chapters, and characters to curate your Space Marine army with. Having this amount of choice is fantastic, but it can also leave you feeling intimidated or overwhelmed when building a Space Marine army.
Best Space Marine Units in Warhammer 40,000: Ninth Edition
- Primaris Chaplain
- Devastator Squad
- Attack Bikes
- Redemptor Dreadnought
- Bladeguard Veterans
- Intercessor Squad
However, before we dig into the options for building a Space Marine army, let's evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Warhammer 40,000 faction.
Reliability: Space Marines offer high strength and toughness stat lines that extend to their base units. They’re an ideal starting army for new players as they're incredibly resilient, which is more forgiving when learning the rules.
Variety: Space Marines offer a medley of playstyles thanks to Chapters. Chapters are sub-factions that each present unique traits and abilities.There are thirteen Chapters in total, with each chapter featuring unique models and lore to support their sub-factions.
Popular: Since Space Marines have been a prominent part of Warhammer 40,000 since its inception, opponents will be thoroughly prepared to combat Space Marine armies when curating their lists. As such, it's unlikely that you will have a string of good matchups using Space Marines, however you can adjust your list to adapt to each challenge thanks to the diverse range of models available.
Unit quality: Space Marines are decent units when it comes to combat, but are valuable targets - leading them to often fall short on board movement. Opponents who incorporate highly-mobile units to their lists can strike Space Marine units and take an early advantage.
From a competitive standpoint, the Iron Hands and Imperial Fists are the best Space Marine Chapters to play, followed by the Dark Angels, Deathwatch and Space Wolves. However, don't let this discourage you from playing a Space Marine Chapter you like based on the models, lore and history. Alternatively, you can create your own Space Marine chapter if you have a narrative and design in mind, but it's best to hold off until you are confident with the game system and Space Marine faction first.
Now that you have a decent understanding of how Space Marines function in Warhammer 40,000, let's break down some of the best units you can incorporate into your army lists.
Not every Space Marine Chapter has access to a Chapter Master, so the next best thing is a Captain. At their base level, a Captain comes with a decent amount of wounds and attacks. But what makes the Captain such a strong HQ unit is their Rites of Battle ability - an aura that blesses friendly Space Marine core units within a six inch range and gives the player the ability to reroll ones when attempting to hit. Rites of Battle is particularly useful if you want to assign your Captain alongside a Space Marine squad with plasma weapons,thereby keeping those units safe from blowing up on a roll of a one.
Depending on your list and Chapter strengths, you could very well have a Space Marine Captain that leads from the rear, providing buffs and stratagems. Alternatively, you could have a Captain on the front line wielding a power fist and bolt storm gauntlet. Either way, the Captain is a versatile unit and easy to tailor depending on your Chapter.
Space Marine Chaplains are the spiritual leaders of a Chapter, who use their divine inspiration to lead units into battle. Chaplains are strong units due to their Litanies of Battle, a subsection of abilities that aid other Space Marine units. Upgrade your Chaplain to the Master of Sanctity to make the most of their unique ability, as it allows you to cast two different litanies in a game. You can also choose to assign your Chaplain the litany Mantra of Strength, as it will turn your Chaplain into a close combat powerhouse. When you combine this with the assault bike, your Chaplain will gain extra wounds, toughness and movement.
In terms of point-for-point value, Apothecaries are some of the best Space Marine units you can incorporate into your army. You can optimise the HQ unit by upgrading it into a Chief Apothecary with the Selfless Healer trait, giving the Apothecary a plus six to Feel No Pain, the ability to heal two models by up to three wounds each turn and bring a model back from the dead once per turn.
This last ability is especially useful if your Apothecary is trailing behind a squad of Blackguard Veterans or Eradicators. As both these units are points-heavy, bringing one of these models back from the dead pays for the point cost of the Apothecary unit. There are a couple of variations to choose from, but going with Primaris Apothecary grants you an extra wound at the cost of five points - which is a decent rate.
The Devastator Squad can support your Space Marine army with their heavy weaponry, which packs some serious firepower. Devastators remain a regular fixture in Ninth Edition competitive lists, particularly in Iron Hands Chapters, as units can safely drop in pods without the Heavy penalty. The unit’s ability to re-roll any ones when attacking also makes them incredibly popular. Devastators provide an effective and cheap source of long-ranged firepower for any Space Marine army, and with the correct support characters, they can shower the opposing units in bullets. If you are looking for raw firepower with an emphasis on armour piercing, equipping your Devastators with multi-meltas or grav-cannons will give you compelling answers to anti-personnel and heavy infantry units.
With the release of Ninth Edition, the Space Marine Attack Bikes received two crucial improvements which made it one of the most cost-effective Space Marine units around. The first improvement is that Attack Bikes no longer suffer a minus one when moving and shooting with heavy weapons, meaning the unit can take full advantage of their mobility. Secondly, if you attach the Attack Bikes with the Multi-melta option, both of their shots become doubled and gain increased attacks. With this emphasis on heavy weaponry, Attack Bikes become a decent anti-personnel or heavy infantry choice. The unit’s point costs have also stayed around the same amount compared to previous editions.
Dreadnoughts have remained a fixture of the Space Marine roster from its very beginning. There are a variety of Dreadnoughts available in Ninth Edition, with every variation offering a unique stat line and ability set to choose from. At present, the Redemptor Dreadnought is one of the best Dreadnought units you can incorporate into your Space Marine list.
Coming in with an impressive thirteen wounds, the Redemptor Dreadnought packs a punch. Despite lacking an invulnerable save, the minus one damage makes the Redemptor Dreadnought more enduring than other Space Marine vehicle units. Also, if you happen to have a Techmarine nearby, the HQ unit can bolster the Redemptor Dreadnought's shooting whilst keeping the vehicle repaired and in the fight for longer. Incorporating a Redemptor Dreadnought enables you to push forward, offers adaptable weapon configurations and packs a bunch of Auras.
Despite the small unit size, the Bladeguard Veteran has plenty of potential, especially when it comes to melee combat. Given the emphasis on holding down objectives in Ninth Edition, Bladeguard Veterans’ excellent survivability helps to keep these objectives under your control. While they aren't anything fancy, Bladeguard Veterans are tough, compact units that can hold their own or outright obliterate most units who are looking to swoop in to seize objectives.
Another important detail with the Bladeguard Veterans is that they are Primaris, a new breed of transhuman who are physically more powerful than their standard Space Marine cousins. With this genetic boon, you can give Bladeguard Veterans the Transhuman Physiology Stratagem that enables Primaris units to ignore wound rolls of less than four for the duration of the phase.
The Intercessor Squad are not only the best basic troop option in the Space Marines faction, but in Warhammer 40,000 - period. Coming in at 20 points per model before upgrades, Intercessors can take the Rapid Fire stratagem which allows a unit to double shoot. An example of where this comes in handy is for horde-clearing against Tyranids. You can equip Intercessors with either bolt rifle or auto bolt rifle depending on your Chapter, and can also incorporate melee options for your Sergeant if you want versatility. Typically, auto bolt rifles are the default in most Space Marine lists, as it gives you the freedom of advancing and firing if you want to acquire objectives. If you’re after something more durable, adding Heavy Intercessors instead gives you an extra toughness and wounds, but at the expense of an extra eight points per model. Also, like with the Bladeguard Veterans, Intercessor Squads are of the Primaris breed - granting them access to Transhuman Physiology as an optional Stratagem.
Whether you decide to play competitively or casually, Space Marines remain an excellent option for Warhammer 40,000. The Space Marines combine a mix of resilient infantry, swift transportation, and robust melee options to give you a flexible approach in tackling enemy factions. Since Space Marines are the face faction of the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, it will continue to feature at the top tables due to their popularity. As such, Space Marines make for an excellent starting army given the wealth of support and their evergreen influence within the miniatures game.