Representing Pre-Heresy armies in 40k

There are a lot of arguments out there for and against each codex to represent pre-Heresy legions. I believe you should work with two main factors when making your choice: theme and background. You should never justify your codex choice through its in-game strengths (These marines are the best, just like my legion!). To this end, any codex could potentially represent any legion if your choices are justified.

Having a quick glance at each legion, some are obvious codex choices, others have a selection depending on how you wish to represent your army. Some quick examples would be Space Wolves representing Iron Hands, by taking advantage of a Dreadnought HQ choice and TDA squad leaders. Blood Angels can be used to represent Thousand Sons in order to field Librarian Dreadnoughts and an alternative set of psychic powers.

Considering each legion and comparing to the available codices, I would group them as follows:

Space marines and Chaos Space marines both represent all legions well simply because they are the most generic and adaptable armies. Codex Space Marines includes some great options for theming your armies through proxy special characters. The likes of Khan and Shrike grant army wide abilities that give marines the default feel of White Scars and Raven Guard respectively. Codex Chaos Space Marines presents some options perhaps better suited a pre-Heresy army, such as larger marine squads, more varied weapons (including bolter, pistol and chainsword for all marines), Reaper Autocannons and a different offering of psychics, very suitable for perhaps Night Lords and Thousand Sons.

For the more specialised codices:

Codex Space Wolves:
Space Wolves
Iron Hands
World Eaters

Codex Blood Angels:
Blood Angels
Thousand Sons
Raven Guard
World Eaters
White Scars

Codex Black Templars:
Word Bearers
Imperial Fists

Codex Dark Angels
Dark Angels

My reasoning for these choices:

World Eaters

Best suited: Chaos Space Marines
Alternatives: Blood Angels, Space Wolves

Reknown for their ferocity and skill in close combat, World Eaters benefit from any CC-centric codex. Space Wolves offer an army-wide counter assault and troops geared for combat. Equally, Blood Angels have Assault squads for troops, but a less frequent bonus of furious charge. I feel Death Company are a little too powerful for regular marines, but could be justified as psycho-enchanced gladiators. Khorne Berskers also offer a similar option, but they lack boltguns.

Thousand Sons

Best suited: Chaos Space Marines
Alternatives: Blood Angels, Space Marines

Librarian Dreadnoughts are admittely the most appealing choice for going Blood Angels for Thousand Sons. The emphasis on combat in the codex does not represent them well, so a lot of units should be avoided, including all forms of Death Company.

I believe Thousand Sons are best represented by Codex Chaos Space marines. The default advantages stand – larger squads, pre-heresy weapon options. In addition to this there are some very suitable choices in the namesake units. Thousand Sons units can be justifed by Raptora Kine shields for their invulnerable saves, Pyrae fire and Pavoni lightning for their AP3 shooting attacks. Slow and purposely shows the physical drain from concentrating on their psychc abilities.

The inclusion of sorcerors in each squad, Sorceror HQ and Ahriman himself offer the most numerous allowance of psychers of all the codices, and the most sorcerous abilities.

Finally, there’s also the opportunity to include a Greater Daemon for that rare curse of flesh change!

Iron Hands

Best suited: Space Wolves
Alternatives: Space Marines

With their ties to the Mechanicum, Techmarines and servitors are ideal options for the Iron Hands, both served by Codex Space Marines and Space Wolves. The Space Wolves codex offers a lot of customisation for squads and armies that can emphasise their affinity for the machine, most prominantly Terminator-armoured sergeants and Dreadnought HQ choices.

Raven Guard

Best suited: Blood Angels
Alternatives: Space Marines

Despite the obvious argument of using Shrike, I feel the advantages Blood Angels have with jump pack troops make them a stronger choice for the Raven Guard. Superior abilities and Troop choice Assault squads allow an entirely jump pack geared army if desired!

White Scars

Best suited: Space Marines
Alternatives: Blood Angels

My reasoning for Blood Angels comes down to their vehicles. They’re all Fast (or Deep Strike)! White Scars are notorious for their fast, hard hitting forces. This really comes down to a choice of 3 central setups:

  • Fast transports, Deep striking Land Raiders, Scouting tanks (Blood Angels)
  • Troop Bike army (Space Marines)
  • Army-wide Outflanking (Space Marines)

Iron Warriors

Best suited: Space Marines
Alternatives: Chaos Space Marines

Both codices allow for a siege force with heavy weapons across troop choices and devastator squads.

Codex: Space Marines has a very appropriate tank commander character and Siege Dreadnoughts to complement Vindicators and Devastators.

Codex: Chaos Space Marines has a lesser selection overall, but large, versatile marine squads always rate better than tactical squads.

Dark Angels

Best suited: Dark Angels
Alternatives: Space Marines

Having their own Codex generally makes the choice obvious. All the traits of the legion exist within the DA codex. Codex: Space Marines does offer some alternative builds, whilst still allowing an all-bike force.

Death Guard

Best suited: Space Marines

Looking at Pedro Kantor and Lysander, you can easily field a very strong infantry-driven force that really does reflect the traits of Death Guard armies. The Bolter Drill ability and Kantor’s advantages with Sternguard allow you to concentrate on scores of Tactical and Sternguard squads to bulk out your force.

The ‘obvious’ choices are below. I would welcome any suggestions outside this.

Ultramarines – Space Marines

Imperial Fists – Space Marines

Salamanders- Space Marines

Blood Angels - Blood Angels

Space Wolves -  Space Wolves

How do you represent your pre-Heresy force in normal games of 40k?

Rusty Dice

Aint nothing but a horn

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9 Responses

  1. sonsoftaurus says:

    Pretty well thought out. Not everyone will agree with all the conclusions, but it’s a good way for them to think about it.

  2. fester says:

    Umm, dumb question.
    What happened to Sons of Horus / Luna Wolves in this list?

  3. Where’s the missing legions? You holding back on us for something special?

  4. Rusty Dice says:

    SoH, NL, AL, EC are coming in part 2. I have some deeper thoughts on those.

  5. Magos Explorator says:

    I am using the regular SM Codex for my Thousand Sons–although were I to play with the whole force in an Apocalypse game, I might see about using Ahriman for, well, Ahriman and a Lord of Change as Magnus.

    I’ll be interested for your ideas about the Alpha Legion. I think that the Daemonhunters codex could work well for them, with small numbers of Astartes (represented by Grey Knights) in the field with highly-trained Operatives (the Storm Troopers).

  6. Noserenda says:

    Not sure id agree with Blood Angels for Blood Angels personally, the vast majority of the things which define them now hadnt come to pass prior to the Heresy, IE The Black Rage and the fast vehicles, and arguably the Jump Pack fetish. Codex SM/CSM seems a better fit.

  7. Rusty Dice says:

    Very fair point Noserenda and I agree with you there. Baal, Death Company, Vampirism are all post-heresy features. Stripping away everything they gained since Sanguinius died leaves them with very little.

  8. Rush says:

    I disagree with using the Dark Angels codex for pre-Heresy Dark Angels. The chapter/legion is pretty much like every other chapter/legion, save that

    – They have a knightly flavor
    – They’re suspicious (behaving and of others)
    – 1st company is all Terminators
    – 2nd company is all bikes

    The problem is, the first two points aren’t sufficient to distinguish them, in terms of playstyle, from the other legions. The second two points are, except the events that really bring them into being haven’t happened yet. There are no Fallen to hunt down and exterminate… yet.

  9. Dez says:

    I’m using the Space Wolves codex for my Pre-Heresy Thousand sons. I will take 3 Psykers, Long Fangs represent the Pyrae (units of 6), and 3 squads of 7 Grey Hunters. Wolf Guard will be Scarab Guard. Each unit of Thousand Sons will have 1 Psyker and a Scarab Guard to make the unit 9.

    I’m making them for the most part shooty. Counter Charge is rationalized as being the work of the Cordivae. I will not use units like Thunder or Fenrisian Wolves, Mark of the Wolfen, or even an HQ besides Rune Priests.

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