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Space Marine Unit Spotlight: An Intercessor Review

With the Space Marine Codex now in my hands, I can do a proper analysis of the units within. Whilst I'd like to do the whole codex, I can only really go with the ones I have... and since I'm certain nearly everyone has them, I'm going to start with the Intercessors (a.k.a. Primaris Legion Squad).

As a caveat here, this is simply advice. The first and most important rule is "Have Fun", and the second is "Play Your Dudes(TM)". This is just to give you a heads up on any challenges you may face, or tricks you can pull with the units you want. The third most important rule is "Most People on The Internet Are Wrong, Especially Bloggers". If you think something is wrong, let me know in comments down below.

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer
Shameless plug for the Space Marine Field Police

Overview (TL;DR)

As battle line units go, they're not bad. Tough enough to absorb most punishment that comes in, but not so much as to hold the line against all odds. Their weaponry is good enough to force morale tests on pretty much every other basic troop, whilst still being able to tickle some of the tougher units out there.

Whilst they lack the special weapons of Tactical Marines, the auxiliary grenade launcher they carry turns what is usually a situational weapon into a semi-decent special weapon. As far as I can tell, it's a free upgrade too!* They also the second best assault Troops choice thanks to more attacks, with Black Templar Crusaders taking the top spot there.

In a quick analysis I did against Fire warriors, they're decently balanced in terms of points value, their toughness coming in as a very strong point in their favour. If you're looking for a unit to take objectives and hold them reliably, then these are your guys... which is probably why Guilliman had them made in the first place!

(*Edit 12/08/17: As of an FAQ update, the auxiliary grenade launcher costs 1 point, in a move designed only to enrage my OCD)

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer
Taken from the 8th Edition Space Marine Codex for educational purposes


You have two options with them:

  • Objective campers
  • Guard duty for expensive units

Whilst Scouts make for better objective campers thanks to camo cloaks and sniper rifles, the Intercessors perform better for about the same points when you need to grab something out in the open. Scouts really need that cover save to make them as tough as Terminators, whereas the Intercessors just soak the damage.

If you'd like these guys to be great objective campers, go with Raven Guard chapter tactics. You can use their Stratagem to get them where they need to be at deployment, and they'll also benefit from the Chapter Tactic to turn them into semi-scouts. You may be tempted by the stalker bolt rifles to compete that image, but I'll explain later why that might not be a good idea.

This ability to soak damage makes them excellent guard squads for Hellblasters or tanks. I had a commenter talking about how his Vindicator got bogged down in combat against infantry, and couldn't escape for the rest of the game. A unit of Intercessors getting in the way of assaulting infantry would have fixed that.

Ultramarines make some of the best guard Intercessors, using their Fall Back chapter tactic to add their fire to the point blank Demolisher canon shell! And don't forget, they can put out as many attacks as an Assault Marine unit, so that assault phase is hardly wasted!

Your other unit for Troops choices are the good old Tactical squads, but these are very different to the Intercessors (for now!). They are much more flexible, as the fluff suggests, able to do serious damage to targets whilst still absorbing some fire out in the open. For about the same price as Intercessors you get the classic las-plas set up with the Sergeant taking a combi-plasma. But they won't take fire as well as the Intercessors!

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer
The old Field Police


You can take 1 auxiliary grenade launcher for every 5-Intercessors. If you take 10, you can still only throw/fire one per shooting phase. So... use your Combat Squad stratagem to split them into two 5-men squads at any point in the battle!

Chapter Tactics

Nearly all the Chapter Tactics and stratagems work well for the Intercessors, including the assault ones!

  • Ultramarines: Falling back and shooting makes these excellent Guard units, able to preemptively assault enemies that are close to what you're guarding and still help out with the retaliatory firestorm when your turn comes around again. The extra Leadership helps these multi-wound models stick around for longer. The stratagem is probably best saved for other units like tactical squads, but can come in handy if you really need it.
  • Imperial Fists: Ignoring cover saves is useful enough, but since the shooting from these guys is not excellent it's probably less useful Can make an interesting statement if your opponent uses a lot of cover camping scouts, and you roll up the line turning them into rather expensive (if tougher) Guardsmen! Bolter Drill might be useful with big enough units, but realistically only gives you an extra shot or two with a 5-man squad.
  • Raven Guard: The Sons of Corax are stupidly strong in this edition, and the -1 To hit beyond 12-inches makes an already tough unit even tougher. Remember, the double-tap range of your standard Bolt rifle is 3-inches further than your chapter tactic... that makes your Intercessors a tempting bait target if they're dug in cover. Sit back at 15-inches, and dare the enemy to move out to take you on! It's perhaps a no-brainer to say the Stratagem can be used to move these guys on top of an objective right at the beginning of the game!
  • Iron Hands: A dull but useful chapter tactic, this lets you ignore 1-in-6 of incoming damage. For the Intercessors, this makes them hang on for that much longer, absorbing that much more fire. The Iron Hands stratagem doesn't work on them though.
  • Salamanders: A single re-roll on To-Hit and To-Wound is nifty for getting the most use out of that auxiliary grenade launcher. Again, the stratagem doesn't work well for them. Okay as a tactic, but better suited to tactical squads and their special weapons.
  • Black Templars: Actually a pretty good Chapter tactic for Intercessors. They're better at assault than Tactical Marines and Scouts, and re-rolling charges can get them right into combat faster... and if you're running auto-bolt rifles you've not really lost any attack power from rifles. Abhor the Witch means they're also the best psychically protected solo-camping objective holders!
  • White Scars: Another close-combat themed tactic, this works better with Intercessors than Scouts or Tactical Marines. Retreating from combat and charging again gives them that first turn hit, and they can weather overwatch better than the more squishy scouts. Running auto-bolters means these guys can also run up the battlefield faster if they need to, whilst still putting down some covering fire. The stratagem only affects bikes though.

I started off the Chapter Tactic review thinking about the shooting related tactics, but frankly the assault oriented ones work very well for Intercessors too!

Stop. It's Math Hammer Time.

There's not much to MathHammer out at this point, except for weapon choices. Since we're comparing choices within a unit, it's actually fairly easy to do (since we can leave out extra bits like Chapter Tactics, grenade access and other special rules).

If you're planning on melee, take the power sword on the Sergeant. It's cheap, and helps chop people up. My recommendation is taking the auto-bolt rifle for general purpose, and the standard bolt rifle for sitting on objectives, and I'll go into detail why:


Starting with shooting, I've made up some tables to show the average points efficiency for each weapon type. If you play Power Levels... well just pick what you like, that's what that system is for!

Here are the weapon choices:

  • Bolt Rifle: 30" Rapid Fire, Str4 AP-1
  • Auto bolt rifle: 24" Assault 2, Str4 AP0
  • Stalker bolt rifle: 36" Heavy 1, Str 4 AP-2

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer
Shooting efficiency table

We really need to look at the "Points per wound given row" to see how efficient these weapons are. We want to see low numbers here, meaning each average wound per turn costs us less.

Whilst the Stalker Bolt Rifle certainly does better against higher armour targets, I wouldn't count on them to do much to them. Even against relatively low toughness units like Terminators, you'll only be doing about three quarters of a wound each turn... not much more than the other two weapons and actually less than the double tap bolt rifle!

The bolt rifle does really well at double tap range (15-inches), but then not so well above that. Averaging out the two point efficiency values for both ranges, we get a value that is actually higher than the auto bolt rifle.

Frankly, for your points the auto bolt rifle is better. It's effective range is actually fairly good, and is always useful. To illustrate the point, here's a graph:

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer
Effective range graph

Yes the bolt rifle is higher, but only up to 15 inches. After that, the auto bolt rifle takes over, staying better for 9-inches beyond that. What the numbers don't show is the added advantage of advancing whilst shooting, which can give you that little bit extra distance across the board when you need it.

This graph really highlights the issue with the Stalker bolt rifle. It only starts outperforming the others at 24-inches, and even then not doing that much better than the normal bolt rifle. Frankly, the extra 6-inches the stalker has can be made up my the Intercessor squad simply moving closer to it's target!

Assault and Defence

I'm just going to lump these two sections together, as they're really the same calculations in all cases. The only thing that's different for each is the points values, and so we can see which is more efficient in each case.

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer
Assault efficiency table

Unsurprisingly the cheaper bolt rifle Intercessors are the most efficient assault troops (by a tiny bit!). I would say, however, that if you're constantly rushing up the field to get into assault, the auto bolt rifle shooting whilst Advancing would suit your needs better.

An overall offensive value is given here:

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer

The bolt rifle at both ranges averages out to 70.1, making the auto bolt rifle wielders the best aggressive weapon... by a whisker. We're talking tiny differences here!

On to defence.

8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer
Defence efficiency table

Somewhat grimly, you can usually expect your Intercessors to die after two and a half turns of sustained fire. Remember that's on average though... big guns wipe them out in one, whereas little ones will have them holding out for 5 or more (basically the whole game).

Again, the bolt rifle Intercessors are cheaper, and thus more efficient, making them the prime choice for objective sitting.


8th edition space marine intercessor review analysis mathhammer

Taking everything into account, you really have a choice between the auto-bolt rifle and the vanilla bolt rifle. I would recommend arming your aggressive Intercessors with auto-bolt rifles, and your defensive ones with bolt rifles. Unless you like the idea of Power Armoured Snipers, I would pass up the Stalker Bolt rifle.

I'll repeat it here, because it's important. No one plays 40K as a cold mathematical exercise, so if you like some of the "weaker" options, go ahead and use them. I like the idea of 8-foot tall snipers in massive armour, just as much as I like the same giants charging forward spraying mini-grenade bullets everywhere! This is just to give people a clearer idea of how these things can run on the table, so you don't spend loads of time on models only to be disappointed.

Right, that's all from me for now. Battle report on Wednesday.

Until next time!

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  1. Interesting thanks. I reckon tactical marines might be better in a competitive setting but I've painted a load of these dudes up now. Your damage comparison graph is misleading. Its appears to show the Auto bolt rifle as effective at 25" and the Bolt Rifle effective at 31". Or maybe I'm just being pedantic.

    1. Pedantry in the pursuit of good science is always welcome ;) Yes, I'm not too happy about that graph. However, I think I'm going to leave it there to show (in an abstract way) the benefit of being able to move and shoot... although I know it's certainly not the best way of doing it!

      I actually don't know how the competitive meta will come out. Primaris Marines have the edge in sheer durability, whereas the normal Astartes have more damage output. It depends on what becomes more important... tanking or alpha strike.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Always appreciate a bit of peer review!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Great article! I'm currently stuck with just the Intercessors from Dark Imperium but I'd love to replace them with the multipose kits because I really want to equip them with auto-bolters.
      They'll do nicely in my Primaris Ultramarine army - the Lieutenants have auto-bolters, depending on which Captain I'll use either an auto-bolter or a boltstorm gauntlet, a trio of Aggressors with the auto boltstorm gauntlets... Inceptors with Assault Bolters., Reivers with Bolt Carbines... basically the goal is to have as much of the army as possible be able to fire while Advancing.
      This keys in with the maneuver concept I mentioned in your Chapter Tactics article.

    2. I wouldn't worry too much about the bolter on the model. It looks like the only difference is a drum feed feed and some kind of spinny thing on the bolter itself. With changes as minor as that to the weapon, most players should be okay with you saying the Dark Imperium Intercessors are armed with auto-bolters. If not, they'll need to explain why having a slightly bigger scope turns the bolt rifle into a Stalker bolt rifle.

      I'm actually planning a similar army but with White Scars instead!


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