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Space Marine Unit Spotlight: An Aggressor Review

Last Monday I looked at the Reivers, and gave my opinion on how best they are used. This week, we'll be looking at the aptly named Aggressors, and why my initial thoughts of them being a defensive unit are very wrong. Let's dive into the this brand new, surprisingly fast, style of Marine play!

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.

I don't have any pictures of my own Aggressors... because I don't have any :(

8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide
I am completely unable to shamelessly plug my Space Marine Field Police 

Overview (TL;DR)

As the name suggests, these are your aggressive hammers to your Intercessor anvils, with your Reivers running interference for them to get some work done. The Primaris releases have demonstrated great synergy with each other so far, and have neatly filled some gaps Marine players probably didn't even know they had!

First and foremost, they are not suited to sitting at the back doing guard duty for the entire game, as my early guesses and Warhammer Community suggested. Their weapons are too short ranged, and their movement options are far too quick for that. They do well as an early guard unit, dissuading any opportunist Deep Striking units, but they'll do more for you rushing up to meet the enemy.

Whilst they may look similar to Terminators and Centurions, they are not slow foot sloggers but rather a reactive battering ram, able to get into position far quicker than the other chunky Space Marines. Whilst a little tougher individually than regular Primaris Space Marines, these Gravis-armoured units don't have the tank of Terminators and Centurions. They will die quicker than a unit of Intercessors. Keep them protected, either with Reiver harassment or Intercessor meat shield.

If you can't decide on weapon sets, the more flexible and reliable option are the Boltstorm Guantlets and Fragstorm Launcher. However, you do lose the opportunity to sing "The Roof is on Fire" in your games.

8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide
Data sheet taken from Codex Space Marines for educational/review purposes


You have three options with them:
  • Early guard duty
  • Mobile mid-range fire support
  • Close combat specialists
The big rule which separates these from Terminators and Centurions is their ability to advance and shoot their assault weapons at full ballistic skill. This makes them remarkably good mid-field support, filling in a different niche to the teleporting Terminators or the slow and purposeful Centurions who dominate the two deployment zones.

They can shoot twice if they stand still, something which is somewhat useful with the boltstorm weapon set and very hard to pull off with the flamers. The enemy is very rarely going to park itself within 8-inches of you with assaulting, but if they do you can look forward to dropping 12d6 auto-hitting shots on them!

They have no natural way to deploy closer to the enemy, so they will need to start off in your deployment zone. the double-shot rule means they can really plaster an alpha striking unit dropping into close combat on the first turn. Use the Auspex Scan stratagem to get the old flavour of 7th Edition Interceptor, giving you 42-72 shots of fury!

Note that this only works with bolt weapons. As any deep striker will not be able to make it closer than 9-inches, flamers will be out ranged. You'll certainly do better if you get charged by Black Templars or Khorne marked Chaos Marines who can reliably charge after Deep Strike, but your opponent will probably be smarter than charging his assault units against the best Over watch in your army. It's not all bad for the flamers. You can can certainly hit back hard with flamer and fist to the face after their alpha! Remember to Fall Back and let them do their job... flames for the mob assault, fist for the big monsters, and prayer for the big monster mob assault.

After that, you will want to be moving up the field. These guys are surprisingly quick on their feet, and in your second turn they should be advancing and clearing any forward objective grabbers off their points. Be aggressive as the name suggests, but keep their advance supported by Intercessors. Reivers are a great unit for pinning down the heavy weapon enemy squads that can really destroy them. Such synergy!

When you're moving, you should be Advancing all the time. Again, the Boltstorm option gives you more range and battlefield presence at this point, with the flamers offering more damage potential. It's up to you which one you prefer. However, since you are advancing all the time, you will not be able to charge. It may be better, particularly if you are a Black Templar player, to simply walk and charge into objective holding units. This can actually get you moving faster up the field, as you walk, 9-inch charge, kill, consolidate, walk, 9-inch charge etc. Quite the rampaging image!

On to close combat.

Whilst they have big manly power fists, the Aggressors are best used punching big targets. Since they have a low number of attacks they're wasted ploughing into big blobs of Guardsmen. If you find yourself in that situation, hang back and let your guns do the talking. Have supporting Intercessors or Reivers tackle the enemy after shooting. On your next turn, hold your ground, Fall Back with the tackle unit, and use the double-shot rule to roast or shred the enemy.

Then White Scars charge again. Really useful those Scars!

Whilst I say they're good at punching the big targets, you're not really going to punch a Dreadnought to death in a single round. d3 damage is okay, but you're only getting 2 on average, and even then only hitting half the time. Make sure anything you charge has already been softened up, and ideally you'll want to be hitting anything tough with 4-5 wounds left.

Whilst I said at the start these were your options with them, the fact is you do all three of these in the same battle. Whilst I'm in love with Reivers and really respect Intercessors, these are one of the key game makers in your army.


Remember to use Auspex Scan on anything that lands close to you.

Shoot the hordes, punch the tanks.

Chapter Tactics

Nearly all the Chapter Tactics and stratagems work well for the Reivers, and which tactic you take will

  • Ultramarines: Somewhat more nuanced than the rest of the tactics, Ultramarines Aggressors can use their Fall Back shooting trick to suit the enemy they're fighting. The maths suggests that sticking in combat against tougher, multi-wound models is a better idea. If you find yourself surrounded by a blob of guardsmen, it's better to fall back and let your guns do the talking. Remember that flamers automatically hit, meaning that guard blob just assaulted a next turn of fire to the face! Turns out the Codex does give us flexible tactics!
  • Imperial Fists: The Stratagem for Imperial Fists suggests that bolters are the obvious choice... but don't discount the benefit of cover ignoring flamers. Other than that, Fists are more of a shooty army, and the Aggressors make for a fine close combat unit to augment that shooting. Besides, these are basically the next version of Centurions. I can't imagine any Fists commander passing these up!
  • Raven Guard: Imagine this unit appearing 9-inches from the enemy front line. You've essentially made them a far more mobile unit of Deep Striking Terminators. Somewhat useful that way as a distraction unit that really needs to be dealt with, but if you're looking for first turn alpha damage set up with Hellblasters instead. The Aggressors really benefit from the -1 To Hit Chapter tactic whilst running from your deployment zone, so I would save that Stratagem command point for something a but more heavy hitting in shooting. Don't count on those Aggressors making a 9-inch charge at the beginning of the battle. 
  • Iron Hands: A dull but useful chapter tactic, this lets you ignore 1-in-6 of incoming damage. For the Reivers, this makes them hang on for that much longer, absorbing that much more fire. The Iron Hands stratagem doesn't work on them though. (Yes, I copy/pasted this from the Intercessors and the Reivers... there's not much more to add than that)
  • Salamanders: A single re-roll on To-Hit and To-Wound is nifty for getting the most use out of that auxiliary grenade launcher shock grenade weapon set. With no special weapons this just becomes an extra hit or wound. Their Stratagem works though! Which means I'm no longer copy/pasting! Flame Storm ensures that you'll be toasting even Imperial Knights 1/3 of the time, making these guys a very credible threat to big targets. Load up on these, and show the galaxy the burning fury of Nocturne... and buck the Salamander slow and steady stereotype by running everywhere whilst you do it!
  • Black Templars: They do their best work in close combat, an the Black Templar tactic helps them get there. This is the only Primaris unit that hits harder than any regular Old Marine assault specialists, and thus gets the best use out of the tactic. Their Stratagem keeps an otherwise psychically squishy unit alive a little while longer. 
  • White Scars: Traditionally the White Scars don't use Terminators or Dreadnoughts, as you can't ride a bike wearing those suits. So you'd think they'd be against Aggressors too. You'd be wrong... oh so wrong. The Chapter tactic works incredibly well with the Aggressors, who can use the extra Advance speed to get a minimum move of 8-inches. They go as fast as Crisis Suits! Minimum! And if they roll well, they can even keep up with the bikes! You'll be able to rush up the battlefield faster than any Space Marine has a right to on foot, and then still unload a torrent of bolter fire. Being able to Fall Back and charge into combat again (with Reiver shock grenade or biker support to absorb Over Watch of course), is simply icing on the cake! Finally, the Keshig can get rid of their clunky Terminator suits!

White Scars are proving to be a favourite of mine at this point. At every step their Chapter tactic keeps giving me new battlefield options, and ways to play. The Ultramarines are also proving themselves to be far more battlefield savvy than their older iterations were. A really good move in 8th Edition. Iron Hands continue to be dull... unless anyone can tell me some fun little tactical nuggets, they'll stay on my personal "strong but not interested" pile.

Stop. It's Math Hammer Time.

Weapon choices again for the Math Hammer. 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).

Unlike the Reivers, there is no clear winner here. The flamestorm gauntlets do more damage, whereas the boltstorm gauntlets have more flexibility, and generally more reliability. If you're stuck deciding, go with the boltstorm gauntlets. They'll be easier to play with, and you'll rarely end up not getting the use of your Aggressors.


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

Here are the weapons:
  • Flamestorm gauntlets: Range 8" Assault 2d6 Strength 4 AP 0 - Auto hits
  • Boltstorm Gauntlets: Range 18" Assault 6 Strength 4 AP 0
  • Frag Launcher: 18" Assault d6 Strength 4 Ap 0
  • Boltstorm Gauntlets and Frag launcher
  • Flamestorm gauntlets
8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide

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.

Just as a quick comparison to Reiver and Intercessor shooting, the Aggressors will be doing about double the average wounds of those units. You've lost range of course, but they still pump out the bullets!

The Flamestorm Gauntlets edge out the combination of boltstorm and frag launcher. The auto-hitting really helps out a lot, and they will always do better (edit: on average!) in Overwatch. It's not all bad for the bolter fans out there though, as 8-inches is really rather pathetic.

8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide

Taking moving into account, the bolter version of the Aggressor has about double the effective threat range of the flamer version. This is important if you're playing any maps where there is space to move. Flamers will do much better where space is restricted (unsurprisingly).

Without delving too deep into the maths of it, the bolters will also have more reliable results than the flamers. Flames have much more variation in their shot output thanks to being 2d6, with a minimum of 2 shots each possible. Bolters will always have a minimum of 7 shots, which comes out a little higher even with rolling To Hit.

8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide

Basically to do the worst for a flame gauntlet you'd need to roll 6 1s. To do the worst on the bolt gauntlet you'd need to roll 3 1s for the Frag launchers, and a further 21 1s and 2s To-Hit.

Bolters are a more average performer than flamers.

On to assault, which is the same for both of them.

8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide

The margins slimly favour the slightly cheaper Flame Gauntlets in terms of point efficiency. But what we can learn from the tables above is that the real damage output of the gauntlets in assault comes after the hit.

Even against squishy grots, you'll only be taking out about 4 per turn. For a big mob that's nothing. Reivers and other assault units will be taking out double that number, and you'll rip through triple that in your shooting alone!

I'll say it here again: shoot the hordes, punch the tanks.


8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide

Cheaper flamers more defensively efficient. No shocks there.

However, look at the turns to death. Since this is a smaller unit, they will die faster than an Intercessor squad. Like I said, Toughness 5 doesn't really make them a tanky unit compared to your Reivers or Intercessors. It'll save them from smallish fire, but they need to be supported or covered.

As a quick comparison, the Aggressors are roughly doubly wore than Intercessors/Reivers in terms of defensive efficiency.


8th edition codex space marine review aggressors how to play aggressor primaris guide

In terms of raw numbers, the Flamestorm Gauntlets are more point efficient. However, the degree of flexibility offered by the Bolstorm Gauntlets and Fragstorm launcher make them a better choice for the tactically inclined commander.

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. Having pyromaniacs running around the battlefield is just as fun as gattling-nuts! 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. Back to moving house.

Until next time!

Thanks for reading.

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  1. I think you might have the points wrong on the boltstorm guys. They might be within a point of the flamer guys.

    1. That would be annoying. I'll check when I get back to my codex, but for now, Battlescribe says the points are correct.

    2. Yes, confirmed. The points are wrong. Grr. That's what comes of trusting a third party app than looking up the real numbers. Going to have to grade myself a B for this bit of homework!

  2. I'd be curious to see how their shooting measures up to other Infantry-mulching shooting, like HB/hurricane Centurions or storm bolter Sternguard.

    1. That's not a bad idea. If I can get the packing done today, I'll put together a quick comparison to the other gunzerker units. Centurions, Sternguard and maybe HB Devastators?

    2. Many thanks for putting this together, as a total 40k noob (I had about 4 games of 7th under my belt, gave up and returned to fantasy) it was really useful, especially as I love the models and have just picked some up!

    3. Thanks for commenting and I'm glad it helped! They are fast becoming one of my favourite units for Skirmishing. I just can't decide whether to pick them up as Space Wolves or Blood Angels!

  3. So which do people prefer??
    I have 3 Flamestorm and they're great, but not sure what to build my next 3 as....
    As a salamander player flame makes sense, but... Range!

    1. Have to admit, I feel the same way. I love the idea of flamers, but then I don't see them being as flexible as the bolters. Thanks for the comment!

  4. You are writing great posts about Primaris Marines! It's very interesting to read them!


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