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?


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