Space Marine Tactics for WH40k 7th Edition

Pre-heresy Dark Angel Space Marine

Space Marines! Heroes of the Imperium and genetically modified super soldiers. However you will find that you are often outnumbered. This means that tactical cunning is imperative. read this tactica to find out how to get the most from your Space marines.

Space Marines are the easiest army for a new player to learn. They are very flexible in their tactics. For example a standard tactical team can fulfil the roles of infantry, support and assault. The downside of this flexibility is that Space Marines tend to be out numbered by enemy troops. When you play using Space Marines you are saying that quality is better than quantity!

Space Marine General Tactics looks at tactics and strategies that work for all the Space Marines Chapters. Chapters that have different codex’s may find these pages useful.


General Space Marine Advice

Due to the ‘all round’ nature of the Space Marines you should be able to adapt to use any tactics that you find on this site or elsewhere. In addition to searching this and other Warhammer sites for tactical advice. Search the net and your local library for ideas on what tactics great historical generals used in their campaigns. Alexander the Great may not have used  Lascannons but his formations are worthy of study.

Learn the Rules

I have said this in the general advice for all armies but it does need saying again:-

Get The Rule Books and Read Them!

You will need the main Warhammer 40k Rule Book, and the Codex: Space Marines for the Space Marine specific rules.

Sharing rule books with friends might work for a week or two, until you decide whether you like the game or not. After that you do need the books. If you have to decide between spending money on the rule books or on models get the books. Use Plasticine / coins / used match sticks / silver foil, to make some home made models.  If you have models with out the rules then they will just sit on a shelf looking pretty.

Tactical Squads

A WH40k Space Marine Tactical Squad Learn how to use the Space Marine Tactical Squads in your army, and everything else will fall in to place. Learn when to stand your ground, when to advance and when to retreat. If you learn these three skill with this one squad type you will win 60% to 70% of the games you play.

Keep it Simple

As a new player keep your army simple. Four tactical Squads and one HQ. choice is all that you require of the first few games.

Playing Styles

It won’t take you long to spot that different Space Marine players have different styles of playing. Some will charge forward and get in to close assault as soon as possible, others will stand as far back as possible and use their guns to whittle down the advancing enemy. Other players will use fast troops and vehicles to wage a hit-and-run style campaign, and some prefer a close ranged fire fight. In this section I will be examining different playing styles and the pros and cons of each.

Close Assault Armies

Space Marine unit with jet packsClose Assault armies are very successful. They are so successful that Games Workshop have changes the assault rules to weaken them a notch or two. The reason that they are so good is that you have two assault rounds each turn and only one shooting turn (your assault phase, and the opponents assault phase). Some of the issues that a close assault army has are speed, grouping, and cover.


With a close assault army speed is of the essence. The sooner you are in combat the sooner you will be using your killing skills. Speed can be achieved by putting jet-packs to the back of your troops, putting then in transport, or dropping them on to the battle field with drop pods and teleport.


With assaults it is much better to attack a weak defence with a much larger force. To do this you need to identify a weak spot in the defence and hit it with all your army. That requires all your army to arrive at the same time. If your troops arrive in a piece-meal fashion then your opponent will be able to hack you down before you reach critical mass.


To effective assaulting force you need to reach the target in one piece. This means that you have to avoid being shot at. Cover has several different forms. Buildings and hard cover that you can run up behind reducing the number of shots that the enemy can take at you.

Tanks can provide moving cover for the troops inside them, and any troops that follow them.

Your opponent will use cover to protect his troops. This allows him to attack first when he is assaulted, probably killing some of your troops before they can strike back. This advantage can be minimized by  taking frag grenades.

Shooty Armies

Space Marines defend a power plant in a Planetstrike gameWith all these close assault armies around, sometimes the best option is to stand back and shoot them down as they charge in.

The Best Starter Space Marine Army

The Space Marines are a great army for a player to start with when they are starting to learn to play Warhammer 40k. The question I am often asked is what type / style of army should a starting player choose, and which models should they get.

If you are just starting out here is a simple 500 point list to get you started:

Points Models


Captain with basic equipment


10 Basic Man Marine Squad with Missile Launcher, Meltagun, and Rhino with 2nd Storm Bolter fitted


10 Basic Man Marine Squad with Missile Launcher, Meltagun, and Rhino with 2nd Storm Bolter fitted

This should give you a tactically flexible force that can take on either large monstrous creature armies or armies with hordes of troops, to the same points value. It is also a good base to start from when building up your army later.

Another option is to get the Dark Vengeance starter Box Set. This box set includes a full Space Marine Tactical Unit, a Terminator Squad, a Bike Squad and two HQ characters for £65 ( retail at time of writing, internet discounts are available). The bonus is that you get a full set of Chaos baddies to fight and all the rules, rulers and dice that you need.

Space Marines Special Rules

Space Marines only have a couple of special rules. It is worth getting to know them.

They Know no Fear

This special rule represents the high level of training that a Space Marine receives and comes in three parts; passes re-group tests; re-group with less than half strength; and resisting sweeping advances.

Automatically Passes Re-group tests

Using this rule Space Marines automatically pass a re-group test . This normally happens the turn after the Space Marines failed a leadership test. Be aware that if the Space Marines do not get chance to test then they will still be fleeing. This happens if the enemy are within 6 inches of the squad at the start of our turn.

If your Space Marines pass the re-group test, then they can move & fire as normal. This gives you an option to run for cover, or fire heavy weapons.

Not Wiped Out by Sweeping Advances

This rule represents the steel hard resolve that all the Imperial Space Marines have. In game terms this rule means that your Space Marines will not be wiped by a sweeping advance. Instead they get a second to fight. This rule will not help you against overwhelming odds but it will tie up your opponents for another critical(?) turn.

Combat Doctrines

Generic Space Marine chapters ( ie, not Dark Angels, Blood Angels, or Space Wolfs, & etc. ) have Combat Doctrines. These are spacial skills different Space Marine chapters hsave. In the 2015 Space Marine Codex these doctrines gave moved to be special rules that can with the formations. This means that if you can organize your forces to use the formation then do it. The Combat Doctrines are well worth having.

Space Marine Combat Squads

Most 10 man Space Marine Squads can be split in to two 5 man squads. These are called combat squads. You get to choose if you want to split your 10 man squads in to combat squads just before you choose your Warlord Traits, This means that you will be able to see what you are facing before you decide. Don’t choose lightly because once split the squads cannot rejoin forces again this game.

Combat squads have the strength of being able to cover more ground, and you can divide your assault weapons away from your squad heavy weapon. This means that you can have a squad of 5 holding an objective with a heavy weapon while another squad of 5 can go after another objective.

The weakness of combat squads in that two small squads is frequently weaker that one large one. Your opponent can focus his efforts to wipe one small squad before swinging around to take out the other small squad,


Tyranid Fast Attack Tactics for WH40k 7th Ed

WH40k Tyranid Raverners Fast Attack units

In this section we will look at the Tyranid Fast Attack choices and the Fast Attack tactics.

The Tyranid Fast Attack units tend to be winged versions of the smaller Tyranid Troop choices. The usually are able to get in to the fight fast enough, specially as wings gives the Tyranid Fast Attack broods jump pack rules, including the ability to Deep Strike right in to the hart of the battle.

The Tyranid army is largely a close combat army. This means that you want to get to grips with the enemy troops as fast as possible!

Getting to the enemy fast can be achieved in different ways. You can start close up by infiltration, or deep striking, or you can move fast either by wings, or as beasts. The best option is to do both!

Fast Attack can rarely hold objectives. This means that they are much more useful harassing the enemy that trying to hold some strategic location. You have better options to hold strategic locations and these are usually your ‘ Lurk ‘ Tyranids ( Termagants, Gargoyles, & etc).

Tyranid Shrike Brood Tactics

Tyranid Shrike winged Warrior brood

Tyranid Shrike winged Warrior brood

The Tyranid Shrike is basically a Tyranid Warrior brood with wings. Many of the tactics that you will find in that section are relevant to the Tyranid Shrike too.

Shrike Broods seem to be very good value for points in comparison to the Tyranid Warriors and the Tyranid Raveners. For the Same points cost of a Warrior you loose 1 point of armour save and gain wings. For the same points cost of a Ravener you loose nothing and gain Hive Mind and Ld10. The Shrikes have more access to weaponry and biomorph upgrades too.

One of the main strengths of the Tyranid Shrikes are that as they are Hive Mind creatures and with 12″ movement, the Tyranid Shrikes can provide Hive Mind support the faster creatures like the Gargoyles, Sky-Slasher Swarms, and Raveners.

How to add wings to Warriors to make Shrike Broods

Make your own 40k Tyranid Shrike wings

Make your own 40k Tyranid Shrike wings

Forge World have Tyranid Shrike models these days, however with a little work you can create your own wings by adding two paper clip rods too a scything talon arm and then add a thin layer of green stuff over them to create the wing.

Once the Green stuff becomes a bit more firm you can sculpt the wing to a better shape and add in etchings to add more detail.

Ravener Brood Tactics

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Raveners appear from the Abbey ruinsTyranid Raveners are one of the Tyranid fast attack options that are doing well using the 7th edition Warhammer 40000 Rules. The main reasons for this are that they can Deep Strike on the game table ( Tunnelling ) and they are beasts so they can move 12″ in the movement phase, plus some other advantages.

Raveners come in a variety of weapon configurations, but mainly fall in to 2 groups, those with shooting weapons and those with just close assault weapons. If the Raveners are armed with shooting weapons then they are much more able to offer close support for other assaulting units. Raveners with just close combat weaponry are best off just getting stuck in to close assault as soon as possible as often as possible.

Raveners and the Hive Mind

Raveners are not Hive Mind creatures so they do appreciate having a Hive Mind creature around to keep them under control. However as their instinctive behavior is Feed, this is not vital. If you do want to give them Hive Mind support, the tunneling Trygon Prime is an excellent option.

It is worth noting that the Ravener has a LD6 score. This means that it will fail it’s leadership test over half the time ( 15 in 36 or 41.667% chances to pass).

If a Ravener does fail its instinctive behaviour test then they are subject to the Feed special rule. This means that half the time that they fail the Instinctive Behaviour tests they will turn on each other causing wounds to themselves. The other 50% of the time they will not run, but must assault if they can. This is not too bad if they are in assault range, otherwise you only have the movement phase to do something useful.

What is the best way to Deep Strike Raveners?

As I mentioned above, Raveners can Deep Strike (Tunnel) in to the battlefield. This is a great way of getting them in to the action quickly, and another way to overwhelm the enemy with choices as your other troops get up the battle field.

What Raveners are specially good at are ripping open tanks that are Armour 10 on the rear armour. They are S4, so you do need 6’s to do glancing hits. However with two sets of Scything Talons by default and 4 basic attacks each ( 5 attacks on the charge ) you should to do 3+ glancing hits per turn. This means that when you are selecting a Deep Strike landing point, it’s wise to choose somewhere safe, but within striking distance of the enemy armour.

3 Raveners Assaulting a Stationary Tank on the charge ( Back Armour T10 )

15 Hits Automatically. 1 in 6 ( 2.5 ) should be glancing hits.

If there are no armoured targets, or the armoured targets are too fast to catch, like Eldar and Dark Eldar, then head for the enemy troops. The Raveners are more than a match for most ground troops.

Sky-Slasher Swarm Brood Tactics

WH40k Tyranid Fast Attack Sky Slasher Swarm

Necromunda Ripper Jacks filling in for Sky Slasher Winged Ripper Swarms

Winged Tyranid Rippers are called Tyranid Sky Slasher Swarms and can be very effective. Their independence from the Hive Mind, Speed and survivability mean that you can send them on sub-missions tying up Heavy Weapon Squads etc. Highly recommended.

Games Workshop have not released a Tyranid Sky Slasher model. However you can find some at Forge World, or use an alternative. In this image you can see that I have used the Necromunda Rippper Jack models.

Tyranid Gargoyle Brood Tactic

The Tyranid Gargoyles are Tyranid Termagants with wings. This means they are fairly cheap shock troops. Armed with a Fleshborer they also get a ‘Blinding Venom’ biomorph upgrade. This gives the Gargoyle a single poisoned (6+) Blinding attack instead of the Gargoyle’s regular attacks.  For an upgrade cost of 2 points over the Termagant, the Gargoyles are good value for the points.The

The Tyranid Gargoyles can be upgraded further by adding Adrenal Glands and Toxin Sacs. However these are close combat upgrades, and for the most part Tyranid Gargoyles are better at close support fire and hit and run roles. For this reason I would not recommend these additional Biomorph upgrades.

Gargoyles and the Hive Mind

Gargoyles are Ld6. This means that if they are left on their own they will fail their Instinctive Behaviour test over half of the time ( 15 in 36 chances to pass or 41.667% ) This means that is very risky to run Gargoyles without Hive Mind Support. Winged Hive Tyrants, Winged Warriors ( Shrike ), the tunnelling Trygon Prime are good options to provide mobile or forward Hive Mind support for the fast Gargoyles.

If Gargoyles do fail their Instinctive Behavior tests then they are subject to the Hunt Instinctive Behavior. If this happens then half the time they will drop to the floor where they are and go to ground. This is not good as the Gargoyles work best is fairly open ground and this behaviour will make then sitting ducks for any incoming fire. The other 50% of the time the Gargoyles can move as normal but can only shoot ( and not run or assault). At least with this option you can move the Gargoyles some where safe or useful.

Tyranid Harpy Tactics

The Tyranid Harpy is a ground attack close support & bomber role flying monstrous creature.

Tyranid Harpies and the Hive Mind

Tyranid Harpies do not have the Hive Mind special rule so they are subject to Instinctive Behaviour. However they are Ld10 so there is only 3 in 36 (1 in 12 ) chance of failing the Instinctive Behaviour test if the Harpy is outside of the Hive Mind bubble.

If the Tyranid Harpy does fail an Instinctive Behaviour test then it will go on the hunt with the Fearless option. On the whole this is not a problem. Itjust means that the Harpie will do it’s own thing for a turn. Just get ready to take the reins again next turn.

Tyranid Harpie Strengths and Weapons

The Tyranid Harpie comes with the Stranglethorne Cannon, Spore Mine Cysts and Scything Talons. This means that the Harpie can work as an air to ground attack platform or as a close assault Monstrous Creature. One the whole the Harpie work best airborne taking pot shots at massed hords of enemy ( Imperial Guard, Orks, Other Tyranids etc.).

Hive Crone Tactics

The Hive Crone is a new addition to the 2014 Tyranid codex. It is billed as an anti-aircraft flying monstrous creature with 4 air to air missiles fitted as standard. However air combat is not it’s only role as the Hive Crone has a couple of air to ground attack weapons too. And if this is not enough as a Monstrous Creature the Hive Crone can dish out some hurt in close combat too.

One aspect of the Crone to be aware of is that like the Harpy the Hive Crone is T5. This means that it can be instantly killed by S10 weapons. The main defence to this will be to keep in the air where blast weapons can not reach you and most other weapons need to hit on 6’s.

Tyranid Spore Mine Tactics

Warhammer 40k Tyranid Spore Mines

Tyranid Spore Mines occupy a building.

Tyranid Spore Mines can be deployed in a few different methods.  The first is by dropping them in using the Deep Strike reserve rules, the 2nd option is the Biovore Barrage cannon, then there is the Harpy that can drop Spore Mines as bombs and now there is the Sporocyst that deep strikes and then poops out Spore Mines each turn.

If you fire Spore Mines from a Barrage weapon then you need to pick a valid target and if you hit then the Spore Mine blasts are worked out just like any other S4 Barrage. You do not get any Strength bonus for having 2+ Spore Mines.

In the 2013 Tyranid Codex you have more control over the Spore Mines. However the Spore Mines only move slowly. This means that you will want to move the Spore Mines in to strategic locations where the enemy want to go before they get there. Sitting on top of Strategic markers in ruins or woodland springs to mind.

The more Spore Mines you have in a cluster the stronger the blast will be when the detonate. This starts at S4 for a single Spore Mine and increases +1S for each additional mine. It also follows that if you opponent picks off a couple of Spore Mines before you get in to assault, then they will reduce the damage that you will cause later.

Exploding Spore Mines harm both friend and foe. This means that it is unwise to have your Spore Mines pile in to an existing Assault, unless you feel that the possible loss of you troops is worth the sacrifice.

placed correctly the Spore Mines can act as a good counter Assault shield. What you do is to form the Spore Mines in to a Congo line 2″ apart along the flanks of your advancing broods. This protects the flanks from any flanking or deep striking units.

Tyranid Mucolid Spore Mine Cluster Tactics

The Weekly White Dwarf issue 41 introduced the Tyranid Mucolid Spore Mine Clusters. These are Monstrous sized Spore Mines that can Deep Strike or be pooped out of Sporocysts.

The extra size of the Tyranid Mucolid translates in to a bigger bang when the Mucolid contacts the enemy. Specifically the Mucolid explodes with a S8 large blast marker if there is a single Mucolid that increases +1S for each additional Mucolid. You can have up to 3 Mucolid Spore to a cluster if you are deep-striking, so this can become a S10 blast!

Another bonus is that Mucolid Spores can hit zooming flyers and swooping Monstrous Creatures. This means that you can deploy them as Barrage Balloons

The downside of the Mucolid is that it only move 3″ basic move per turn with run and charge distance of D3″. This means that the Mucolid may become a sitting duck, but what do you expect for 15 points? One option is to make use of the Mucolid’s Shrouded special rule and head for cover until a suitable target come it’s way.

Where Can I Get Mucolid Spore Mine Clusters

The Mucolid Spore Mine can be found on the sprue of the Tyranid Sporocyst model.. You may find these sprue parts on eBay or have a go making your own!


Added more Tyranid Tervigon tactics

Added more Tyranid Tervigon tactics. Find out how to equip and use the Tyranid Tervigon to the best effect.

The Tyranids Tervigon is really making a name for it’s self as a ‘must have’ in the Tyranid army list. It is usually a HQ choice, but there is an option to add this monstrous Termagant breader as a troop choice too!