Space Marine Unit Spotlight: An Inceptor Review

Last week I looked at Aggressors, and it sparked a few conversations. One of the ideas that came up was comparing the various bolter fire support units that the Space Marine Codex has to offer. In a sentence, the Aggressors actually come out on top of the traditional bolter infantry (Sternguard, heavy bolter centurions, heavy bolter Devastators) in terms out raw output. There are of course other niches those units fill (Sternguard in drop pods being a key one of them), but those kinds of questions are what I hope these analyses bring up.

So now let's look at the new Fast Attack; Inceptors.

I'll be honest, the first time I saw them I was not very impressed. I thought they looked a little like flying nuns with power armoured wimples. But they'v grown on me, and after painting up a few, I really like the design! So let's dive in on how ti use them effectively.

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.

(Old picture of Inceptors because mine are still in a moving box...)

8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use

Overview (TL;DR)

Starting with a high school cliche, the dictionary definition of Inceptor is "beginner". By which Games Workshop probably wants you to open up with this unit in your first turn. Well, you can, but only if you want to see them die quickly.

Just like their heavier infantry brothers the Aggressors, these are a fire support unit, and Toughness 5 will not save them from being wiped out from a gun line. As in any role playing group, don't go cowboy with these guys. Think of them as the fire support to your Reivers, and use the Reivers to cover the Inceptors. They work well together dropping in right at the front, whilst your Intercessors and Aggressors run from your deployment.

You could be forgiven for thinking these guys are assault troops, as the mortal wound on charge suggests. However, they have no dedicated melee weapons, and are actually worse in combat than Intercessors even with the possible mortal wound. The obvious comparison is to Judicators in Age of Sigmar, and I can't tell you the number of times I've foolishly charged them into combat and watched them get wiped in the first turn.

If you can't decide on weapon sets, you'll do just fine with the Assault Bolters. The Plasma Exterminators are great, but they have a specific role in taking out heavier targets with overcharged plasma.Unlike your similarly armed Hellblasters they find it more difficult to get accuracy buffs from Captains, and with the number of shots they put out you'll be losing a model each turn from over heating.

8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use
Taken from 8th Edition Space Marine Codex for education and review


You have three options with them:
  • Alpha strike the glass canons
  • Fire support for Reiver disruption
  • Pincer on midfield objective grabbers
  • Deep Strike retaliation
  • Single turn tar pit
Meteoric descent is a rule which makes the Inceptor role obvious. They can Deep Strike into enemy territory, and shoot stuff with a charge possible after. Since you're packing heavy bolters you may think you can go after heavier units, but consider that they're only equivalent to T'au burst canons with slightly better AP.

Go for the squishy targets with big guns. If we still had armour facings, I'd always say drop behind and shoot the rear armour of Leman Russ tanks. That should be the idea behind the targets you choose to target now in 8th Edition. Pick the Devastator squad or the Dark Reapers... something you can really make a dent in if not obliterate, that will cripple long range fire power that could be used to harass your Aggressors.

On the other hand, using the Plasma Exterminators gives you a very specific role in hunting tougher multi-wound models. You won't be bringing down battle tanks and Land Raiders on your first turn, but you can wipe out a Terminator squad or equivalent. You will need to think of ways to avoid the Overcharge death though, as using plasma on these guys without the extra damage coming out makes them less efficient than the regular bolters.

The Inceptors work great in tandem with the Reivers, acting as a sort of front line Aggressor/Intercessor group. Reivers are actually fairly good meat shields for the Inceptors, and the flying guys can bring along the slightly heavier firepower the Reivers may need to deal with tougher targets. The Reivers can also drop their shock grenades in case you're feeling adventurous and want to charge something.

Assault is not where the Inceptor is most comfortable though. Imagine you have a flying machine and two heavy machine guns. Why would you ever go down to the ground when you could just rain bullets from above? Despite their Aggressor like stat line, they do not have any close combat weapons to speak of, so they are best used hovering around combats shooting anything that happens to fall out of the melee. If you get charged, just kite back.

Speaking of Aggressors, you can use the Inceptor squad to double back on any mid-field objectives the enemy managed to grab. They act as a sort of anvil to the Aggressor hammer coming up from your own lines... and if you look back at my guide for them you can see how quick that reaction will be.

The last two tactics are very much reactive to your enemy.

Inceptors make for great defensive deep strikers. If you have a pack of terminators drop into your deployment zone, they will happily drop in right after them and reduce their numbers a great deal. Since the Inceptors can move fast they can still zip off to participate in the rest of the battle, making teleporting Terminators very jealous.

Finally, the Inceptors make for a really good tarpit unit unit against vehicles. Whilst they lack heavy hitting close combat power, they can tackle a nasty siege weapon tank and keep it in close combat for as long as they want. Then FLY Falling Back, shooting anything else in range once your heavy hitters get in to deal with he tank.


Remember that FLY units can Fall Back out of combat and still shoot

Re-rolling 1s for Overheated Plasma: Captains, Dreadnoughts running Wisdom of the Ancients Stratagem, Ultramarines: Stratagem and Guilliman.

Chapter Tactics

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

  • Ultramarines: You'd think the Ultramarines with their Falling Back Chapter tactic would be somewhat redundant on the FLY key word Inceptors. But what makes the Ultramarines really good for Inceptors is their unique Stratagem. By spending a single Command Point, you can re-roll any 1s for a chosen unit. Which means overcharged plasma is no longer the death sentence for Plasma Exterminator armed Inceptors. Which makes Ultramarine Inceptors one of the best alpha strike units in the game!
  • Imperial Fists: Just like with the Aggressors, Imperial Fists love the idea of Assault bolters. With the weight of fire coming out of the unit you can expect to get three more shots out the Inceptors. With them being Strength 5 AP-1, that's actually fairly decent! They're also truly scary for Imperial-Guard-quality heavy or special weapons teams. Not only do they ignore cover, but they're also rip up through their t-shirt saves.
  • Raven Guard: The chapter tactic for the Raven Guard make the Inceptors great kiters for any unit with movement 5-inches or less. Shooting from maximum range, they will always get their -1 To Hit, even when the unit they're targeting moves closer. It also gives them some protection from the rest of the enemy gun line. You might be thinking their Stratagem leaves little for synergy when they can already Deep Strike, but consider that Captains are INFANTRY. Now Deep Strike that Captain next to your Plasma Exterminator Inceptors. Bonus points fro using Shrike and dropping him next to Vanguard Veteran assault squads for one hell of a decapitation strike... provided you load up on cheapy troops to actually deploy when you're planning this! 
  • 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 and the Aggressors... there's really nothing more to them in terms of Infantry)
  • Salamanders: They have slightly more protection from overheated plasma, getting to re-roll one of the average two 1s you'll roll to hit. If you're going plasma exterminators, then it might be a good idea to play them as defensive Deep Strikers rather than alpha strikers. Drop them next to a Captain or a Dreadnought running Wisdom of the Ancients, and unleash super-hot gas. Since Salamanders favour a more patient approach to combat (read: no running), this can be a good way to keep your line protected from harassment. Sadly their Stratagem doesn't work at all for them. 
  • Black Templars: One of the few Chapters who get their Tactic and Stratagem to work for this unit, the Black Templar Inceptors can charge better after a good round of shooting and join in the general Templar melee. Whilst they can get into combat better, that doesn't mean they should do it all the time. They're better at supporting the charges of other units, helping out any struggling close combats, or tar-pitting something big and bad in assault (usually a tank). Like the Reivers this also gives you a neat option for trolling psykers, giving you a highly mobile focal point for their Deny the Witch stratagem. 
  • White Scars: So take the notion I've been building of the Inceptors as a non-melee unit, and bin it. Whilst the Stratagem doesn't work at all with them, White Scar generals now have another pinning unit to add to their already strong tackle box. They exemplify the White Scar tactic of pinning things in close combat, bailing out to apply firepower, and crashing back in. With that said, there are cheaper tackle units (bikes), and Inceptors aren't invulnerable. Use them carefully, with Reiver support to mitigate overwatch, and they should be okay.

The Ultramarines continue to have advantages for the savvy commander, and the White Scars continue to impress me with their innovations. The most flexible so far have been the Imperial Fists on shooting (provided you like bolters), and the Black Templars on assault. It's hard to say which chapter tactic works best, but at this point I have to say it's the Ultramarines for their strong alpha strike ability.

And seriously, if anyone can tell me the draw of Iron Hands let me know in the comments. At this point I've copy/pasted their unit analysis four times!

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).

Just like the Aggressors, weapon choice is really down to the role you want your Inceptors to fill. General harassment is best done by the Assault Bolters. High alpha strike is best suited to the Plasma Exterminors.

As they both come to about the same efficiency (at least shooting wise), just pick either. However, I will say that you should only go plasma if you can find a way of safely over-charging each turn. Remember you pay for two of each weapon on the model though!


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:
  • Assault Bolters: 18" Assault 3 Str 5 AP-1 Damage 1/2
  • Plasma Exterminators: 18" Assault d3 Str7/8 AP-3 Damage 1/2

8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use

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.

Comparing the shooting to the other Primaris Units, the Inceptors fall in the middle between the decent firepower of the Reivers/Intercessors and the great shooting of the Aggressors. I'm also going to say now that a Stormbolter equipped Sternguard unit in a drop pod is about the same in terms of efficiency... just a lot less mobile.

My colour coding is messed up on that picture, with the Assault bolters being 0.3 less efficient than the Plasma Exterminators. That's contingent on you using the Overcharge shot at least half the time though... if you cant get accuracy support to counter those inevitable 1s, just stick to the bolters. The damage output of the bolters compared to standard shot plasma is about the same, with the bolters being a little more reliable in what they can put out:

8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use

All bets are off if you Overcharge regularly. Then the plasma exterminators win out like crazy. Well, sort of.

8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use

The much cheaper bolters are far more assault efficient, but it's worth pointing out they they are the worst close combatants of the Primaris line up. They will just about tickle the enemy, and should only be used for tackle or for mopping up near dead units.

And for the love of the Emperor, don't charge Khorne Beserkers. Just look at this graph:

8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use

You are doing your damage at range. These are a shooting unit. Keep repeating that to yourself, or suffer the same fate as a certain table top educator who never learned to not charge his plate mail clad angels at daemons.


8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use

Cheaper bolters more defensively efficient. Duh.

With this though, the assault bolters are really pulling ahead in terms of point efficiency. That cheaper price tag is really making a difference here. But if you were That Guy, and only played Power Levels, hopefully it's obvious which weapon you should be taking. Plasma all the way, and just fire on standard if you have to!

Like the Aggressors, they are not invincible, and will be wiped faster than Intercessors or Reivers. Get your army to cover each other.


8th edition primaris space marine inceptor review guide how to use

In terms of raw numbers the assault bolters win out. So I recommend you arm them as such if you want a more general harassment unit. Plasma Exterminators are a bit more specific, and you'll ideally want them to wipe out a similar point value tough unit on their first drop.

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. You should be just as happy with your flying gattling gun nuns as your dudes flying around spitting mini-suns around! 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. Huge apologies for any spelling mistakes and complete screws up on this post, as I've had to bash it out in under an hour on a teeny tiny laptop.

Until next time!

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  1. Interesting read, I agree that the Assault Bolters come out on top, if for nothing else than their cost, and that randomness of the plasma.

    They should be used for later turn arrival to grab an objective or wipe out a damaged squad.

    I have played 5 games with them and dropped them in on turn 1 each time to try and get first blood, they did so nearly every time, and the do slow / divert fire from other units to ensure they die, but at 3 strong they are very fragile.

    Rocking these guys upto 6 models might push up the price a bit, but 36 shots (especially if you can bring a re-roll from somewhere to them) is excellent.

    In theory next to Guilliman these guys could seriously start to threaten tanks (I reckon, rounding down and quick maths that they should be generating 17 wounds at -1 vs anything upto T9, while next to him).

    An interesting unit and will be good to see how they develop as we go.

    1. Thanks for commenting! They would make for an interesting bodyguard unit for Guilliman, using their good movement speed to intercept anything that might threaten him.

      Whilst they're certainly good at later turn objective grabbing, I'd rather use the cheaper Reivers for that. But that's a very nuanced argument, and would depend on what the enemy deployment was like. It's really a case of 'take both and deploy as needed', rather than an either or.

    2. How do you get 36 shots with them. They are Assault 3 or Assault D3, so max shots for a full squad would be 18 and not 36. You might be thinking of the Aggressor squads that have an Assault 6.

    3. Thanks for commenting! It's easy to miss, but each Inceptor carries two Assault bolters or plasma weapons. They kick out 6 shots each. The above comment talks about taking a 6 man squad for some serious dakka. Aggressors only take one set of gauntlets, which are assault 6.

  2. Hey!
    So, i found your pages yesterday and having a blast reading thru the reviews! So much good info here!

    What im wondering about is how you feel about Special Characters outside of Guilliman (since he´s a no-brainer).

    I personally are planning to go Kantor+terminators+Hellblasters as a midfield fire range with either tag teaming scout bikes+predator or inceptors+reivers on the sides.

    My counter-argument against myself is that Ultramarines would do this tactic better but i really dont want to feel that i have to play an primach to be able to win..

    (Its totally possible that you already have made an break down on this subject and i have missed it... Still reading thru your reviews!)

    1. Thanks for the comment! Sorry it's taken this long to reply.

      Company captain's convert easily into Chapter Masters using the stratagem, which converts re-rolls of 1 to straight re-rolls.

      Kantor is a chapter master, so he'll do just fine!

      Ultramarines don't necessarily do it better, but do it more easily. Kantor buffs his fellow Crimson Fists in different ways, and the points you save on him can go into more lascannons or Marines.

      That said, it might be fun to work out who the most efficient general is... hmm. Let me get back to you on that!

  3. Rhino Primaris. So good for plasma heavy squads. If it's within 12" then +1 to hit for a whole unit, meaning no overheating. Give a Captain a jump pack and deep strike him in too, you don't need Raven Guard stratagems to do that.

    1. Very true on both counts, and thanks for commenting!

  4. I'd have to go back and look, but it seems Blood Angel Codex Inceptors are slightly cheaper? 177 points for three plasma inceptors? I need to recheck that...Anyways, at least as assault weapons they can advance and shoot, giving them slightly better speed when they really need to get somewhere. I look to use them as support for the rest of my murder list, dropping in near the captain and helping to soften up targets for the assault units to clean up. But yeah, 6D3 plasma shots, rerolling ones, might just be what I need, we'll see! In ITC type missions, they can also go it alone and grab that 4th table quarter when needed...

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      The latest Chapter approved drastically cut the price of plasma exterminators, and the price of Inceptors themselves (which I like to think is the result of someone at GW reading my blog!).

      They used to be 28 points per each gun, with the Inceptors themselves being 30 points. I haven't updated the number crunching part of this, but the general theory of how to use them still holds. I think the price change helps them to be more of a sidegrade in terms of point efficiency, but I really need to update these pages... as well as add Blood Angels, Dark Angels and Space Wolves.

  5. For myself I'm averse to paying Primaris points for anything without a plasma weapon so it's Plasmaceptors for me. Since most opponents are Marines of some variety even low power cuts through power armour adequately.


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