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8th Edition Ultramarine's Chapter Tactics Explained

Ugh. I feel like Matt Ward is back writing rules for the Ultramarines. Their chapter tactics are revealed, and they are very strong indeed.

Wit the advent of stratagems the old re-roll rules of 7th Edition are somewhat redundant. Not that having army-wide re-rolling misses wouldn't still be useful for a turn, it's just that there is less variety for the average Ultramarine player to use. So they needed a change for the new edition, the Ultramarines being the flagship chapter of Games Workshop.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend about the Ravenguard and the White Scars. I've made it no secret that the White Scars are my favourite founding chapter (they get the betrayal narrative of the Dark Angels with a very sensible non-homeworld destroying response to it, they are clearly loyalist without being space dogs about it, rock the barbarous look whilst still being into poetry, and were actually at the siege of Terra... and that's just the start!). However, my friend really likes the Ravenguard.

And he was annoyed that White Scars got Hit and Run in the old edition, whereas Ravenguard didn't. His argument was that the Ravenguard were battle savvy enough to hit and fade as the tactical situation dictated, and in later formations they had a rule that did that in response to getting shot at. Unlike the Ultramarines and Imperial Fists, Ravenguard strike from the shadows, and don't subscribe to the "No-backward-step" philosophy of the more traditional chapters.

White Scars exemplified this philosophy, but in a more reactive manner. They hammer the enemies weak points, run when resistance gets too strong only to strike at the newly formed weak point. Imagine a rolling mass of barbarian horse archers picking apart a Roman battle line, only these horse archers are more than happy to flatten the heavy infantry with their petrol powered 2-wheeled horses.

They close combat with their bikes wheels, is what I'm saying.

Because of this chapter philosophy, they got Hit and Run as an old 7th Edition Uiversal Standard Rule. This was immensely powerful, as it meant no one got bogged down in combat, and even dreadnoughts could dance around the battlefield. Which meant it was no ones surprise that White Scars became a favoured chapter in 7th Edition.

So guess what the Ultramarines have now.

8th edition ultramarines chapter tactics
No retreat! Strength and honour!
So now Ultramrines are defined by their ability to run away from the enemy. I'm fairly certain Robuote Guilliman looked down on Jaghatai Khan for using the same tactics...

Whilst it would be easy to say they're giving the Ultramarines this to simply make them more attractive as a Chapter, this is all part of the subtle change of the Ultramarines character.

Previously the Ultramarines and Guilliman were all about discipline and order. Their strict adherence to the Codex Astartes was their defining character, and many followed that to the logical conclusion of, well... something.

It wasn't inflexibility in approach. The Codex is written with flexibility in mind, hence the change from Legion squads to tactical squads. But it was perhaps something like stagnation, or a lack of creativity. This is why the Tyranids did such damage to the Ultramarines, a there was nothing in the Codex for dealing with them.

They were not Imperial Fists about standing their ground, but perhaps meant them standing and fighting when a White Scar would have have legged it a long while back.

What we see now is a push towards making the Ultramarines less blind in their following of the Codex, and more towards what many Ultramarine players have said was the original intention of the Code Astartes... a solid guideline to follow, but only as it suits the situation at hand.

I'm probably reading too much into giving the Ultramarines a version of Hit and Run, but I'm trying to find a fluffy justification for what the Rules Guys have done. I'm also a little worried about what the White Scars will get now.

But Codex Space Marines will drop soon, so I won't have to wait for very long.

Until next time!

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  1. It's not about running away, it's about using maneuver to deny the enemy the opportunity to lock up your gunline in close combat. Step back and shoot is a tactically wise response to an assault (your opponent has literally brought a knife to a gunfight).
    The Codex was never about pressing forward at all costs - Guilliman wasn't known for being unyielding, he was known for being a brilliant strategist and maneuvering his troops for greatest effectiveness.

    1. After looking at the Intercessors and Reivers in more detail (links below), I've found it actually makes them more Roman-like in their tactics. This makes the army behave more in their theme, and was actually a pretty good rule

      I'll eventually write up a full description, but the Ultramarines can now do something called a maniple swap. This was a unique trick that the Romans pulled off (although no one is quite sure how), where the front line fighters would pull back to be replaced by fresh reserves. This was done whilst still in full melee, which is why no historian can agree on how it was done.

      The Ultramarines can pull off a similar trick, where their front line fighters pull back, and then fresh troops go in whilst the falling back troops give covering fire. What's genius about this is that it makes them distinct from the White Scars who dart in and out of combat independently like a chain sword equipped yo-yo!

      So yes, whilst I still think the end result is less classic Space Marine wading through bullets, I can appreciate it brings more Roman-legion personality to the Ultramarines... and certainly more than just a re-roll To-Hit!

    2. You absolutely nailed my point when you mentioned the maniple swap. I didn't have the term for it, but when I read the Chapter Tactics, a light bulb went off in my head and I started to see the possibliities. It was then that I started to realize why Guilliman had earned his reputation.
      Yes, this Tactic makes Reivers very useful. I also like the concept of a sort of Parthian shot (albeit an infantry one) - regardless of the outcome of your first assault, Fall Back and make the enemy endure another round of overwatch to make it easier to pick off the remaining fighters. Combined with the support from the Reivers that could be absolutely brutal.
      I can't wait to try it on the tabletop. In the meantime I'm going to read up on some more Roman infantry tactics. :)

    3. Speaking of Parthian shots, don't forget how good Ultramarine bikers are now. You can assault to pin down an enemy, and then Fall Back to put out 4 shots each! Even if they are hitting on 4s, that's still an awful lot of firepower. Less Roman and more Byzantine cataphract at that point though.


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