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Horus Heresy: Legiones Astartes Elites

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

Greetings one and all,

In the last Horus Heresy article we looked at the Centurions and Consuls. In this week's article we’re going to look at the elites of the Legion Astartes. I should clarify here that I am only looking at the generic Elites; those for particular Legions will be covered when I cover those Legions themselves. So without further ado let's dive into the best the Space Marine Legions have to offer.

Legion Veteran Squad - This unit is possibly one of the most, if not THE most flexible units in Power Armour. They also have a great set of Special Rules and two that’ve caught my eye are “Relentless”, meaning the Marines can Move, Shoot and Charge no matter what you arm them with, and “Chosen Warriors”, which means that any model in this unit can issue or accept a Challenge which could be useful for tying up powerful Melee Characters at the cost of one model, instead of letting that Character tear up the rest of the squad.

Looking at numbers, the Squad starts at 5 but you can add extra numbers, giving a maximum Squad size of 10. In terms of Equipment, these Marines have full access to the Armoury. You can have the normal Nuncio-Vox, Augury Scanner and Vexilla, but each member can exchange their Bolter for a Magna Combi-Weapon or Minor Combi-Weapon, an Astartes Shotgun, or a Nemesis Bolter. For Melee builds though, any model can take a Chainsword, Charnbal Blade, Lighting Claw, or Power Weapon. And that’s ANY model in the unit. Furthermore, 1 in 5 can take either a Flamer, Meltagun, Plasma Gun, Graviton Gun, Heavy Flamer, Heavy Bolter, or a Missile Launcher. Lastly, the Sergeant can have a Thunder Hammer or Power Fist. That is an insane number of options available to this Squad and I haven’t even gone over the entire list.

So, how should you arm this Squad? If I’m honest, I’d need a really good reason to think about arming these Marines for Close Combat. To me, where they shine will be in Ranged Combat. I’d run a pair of Nemesis Bolters to pick off those Special Characters (Sergeants, Apothecaries and the like), a few Melta Combi Bolters to wreck vehicles if they need to and give the Sergeant a Thunder Hammer so he can really wreck face. Should the unit get into Close Combat, give the Squad an Augury Scanner so they make the most out of their Shooting.

Legion Cataphractii Squad - These have got to be some of the toughest Marines out there with a 2+ Armour Save and a 4+ Invulnerable Save, plus 2 Wounds. They really are as tough as coffin nails, but they are slow, with a Movement of 6 inches and due to their Armour, they are unable to make Sweeping Advances.

Their Special Rules are a nice mix such as “Relentless”, like with the Veterans which allows them to Move, Shoot and Charge all in the same turn, which is very very nice, and “Inexorable”, which means the unit's Leadership isn’t modified when making Morale or Pinning tests (though it is still affected by Fear and other such rules). They also have the Bulky (2) trait, because big chucky Armour takes up 2 Transport slots in a vehicle (who’d have guessed).

The Cataphractii Squad also have the Heavy Sub-Type, so they subtract 1 inch from Reaction Movement and Re-Roll failed Armour Saves vs Blast or Flame Template Weapons. And as for gear, every member of the unit has a Combi Bolter and a Power Weapon of your choice (that's either a Sword, Axe or Maul). They can be upgraded, much like most Squads, with a Nuncio-Vox, Augury Scanner and Vexilla, and there's a nice number of Ranged Weapons that you can upgrade your squad with as well. Every member can exchange their Combi Bolter for a Magna Combi-Weapon or Minor Combi-Weapon, or a Volkite Charger, while 1 in 5 can get themselves a Heavy Flamer, Reaper Autocannon or a Plasma Blaster. You can also increase the Squad size from 5 all the way up to 10, which opens up even more opportunities for Weapon upgrades.

Moving on to look at the Melee Weapons though, these Marines are again spoilt for choice with everyone able to exchange their Power Weapon for a Power Fist, Lighting Claw, Chain Fist or Thunder Hammer. They can even have a pair of Lighting Claws if you wish, in exchange for both the Power Weapon and Combi-Bolter. Finally, to top all of this off, the Sergeant can have a Grenade Harness. Nice.

Due to the fact this unit can’t perform a Sweeping Advance though, I’d not arm them too heavily for Close Combat (but in fairness, they all have Power Weapons anyway). I would look at throwing in a few Melta Combi-Bolters, a pair of Chain Fists for anti-tank work, the Plasma Blaster (which is amazing by the way and you should 100% bring one) as well as the Augury Scanner and Vexilla. I’d possibly even throw a Legion Herald in there too, so they become a line unit or a Legion Primus Medicae and get that sweet “Feel No Pain” ability, making this tanky unit even more so.

Legion Tartaros Squad - I won’t lie, I like these models a lot and I like their stats more than the Legion Cataphractii Squad. They have the same statine, except Tartaros Terminators have a movement of 7 inches which is a nice improvement. The Downside is that they only get a 5+ Invulnerable Save which isn’t bad a trade I think.

That being said, they have the same base Weapon choices as the Legion Cataphractii Squad, having access to a Combi Bolter and a Power Weapon, and again, they can be upgraded the same as most other Squads with a Nuncio-Vox, Augury Scanner, and Vexilla. Ranged Weaponry is the same as well, with every member able to; exchange their Combi Bolter for a Magna Combi-Weapon or Minor Combi-Weapon or a Volkite Charger; or 1 out of a unit of 5 Marines able to take a Heavy Flamer, Reaper Autocannon or Plasma Blaster instead.

Melee Weapons are much the same too, with a Power fist, Lighting Claw, Chain Fist or Thunder Hammer able to be exchanged for the standard Power Weapon available to them, with the same double-up of the Chain Fists available if you swap out the Combi-Bolter, and that Grenade Harness? That’s available for the Sergeant of the Tartaros Squad as well. So with all this in mind, it’s no wonder, really, that this Squad is also able to up its size to 10 from 5.

So, now we’ve established that the Tartaros Squad and the Cataphractii Squad are somewhat the same when looking into their Weapon availability, you’d be forgiven for wondering where the really significant differences are, and that is with their ability to Sweeping Advance. The Cataphractii Squad can’t Sweeping Advance, but the Tartaros Squad can, so this will dictate how you arm these guys for battle. Personally,I would arm mine with Lighting Claws, Power Swords, a Grenade Harness and a Vexilla to really take advantage of their ability to Sweeping Charge. Hell and maybe even add a Chaplain to the mix.

Picture provided by TheMiniaturesApothecary

Legion Destroyer Assault Squad - When you don’t want your enemy, the ground they’re standing on, or even the planet to survive, you deploy these Marines.

So to start with, these Marines are armed with; 2 Bolt Pistols; a Chainsword; Rad, Frag and Krak Grenades; and a Jump Pack. They’re for getting up close and personal very quickly. The Rad Grenades inflict a -1 Toughness the turn they Charge or are Changed, which means they’re most likely Wounding on +3s. Not bad, but oh it gets so much better.

Any member of the unit can exchange their Bolt Pistols for either a pair of Volkite Serpentas or Hand Flamers, and they can all have Melta Bombs too. Furthermore, 1 in 5 can have a Missile Launcher with Suspensor Web and Rad Missiles (but sadly, only Rad Missiles. So no Frag or Krak), a Toxiferran Falmer, or a Plasma Pistol. In terms of Melee Upgrades, 1 in 5 can have a Power Weapon or a Charnbal Weapon. Lastly, the Sergeant gets a whole host of fun toys to play with; Power Weapons such as a Heavy Chainsword, Charnbal Weapon, Lighting Claw, Power Fist or Thunder Hammer and a Phosphex Bomb …Oh and of course Artificer Armour too.

So, how would I run this “War Crime Squad”? Personally, 2 Power Swords, everyone with Volkite Serpentas and Melta Bombs, the Sergeant with a Power Sword (for a total of 3), a Phosphex Bomb and Artificer Armour. Hell, let’s add a Legion Moritat with Twin Disintegrator Pistols and a Jump Pack too, cause if you're going to commit crimes, might as well go all in.

Legion Mortalis Destroyer Squad - Otherwise known as the “Slow War Crimes Squad”, they’re armed more or less the same as the ‘standard’ Destroyer Squad with; 2 Bolt Pistols; a Chainsword; Rad, Frag and Krak Grenades... But no Jump Pack (Sad times). If I’m honest, these are for putting in a Rhino or, ideally, a Termite Drill and having them appear somewhere your opponent wasn’t expecting.

That being said, they do have some different equipment options to their Jump Pack equipped counterparts. Notably, 1 in 5 can be armed with a Graviton Gun with Suspensor Web, a Disintegrator, a Missile launcher with Suspensor Web and Rad Missiles, a Toxiferran Falmer, or a Plasma Pistol.

If I was to take this unit, I think I’d go max size; Volkite Serpentas and Melta bombs, 2 Disintegrators for the hell of it, and give the Sergeant a Power Sword, Phosphex Bomb and Artificer Armour. Give them a Termite Drill as Transport and hell, why not give them a Legion Moritat with Twin Disintegrator Pistols as well.

Picture provided by TheMiniaturesApothecary

Apothecarion Detachment - For 45 points you get one of these “Warrior Doctors”. They have to be attached to a Squad and have to have the same kit as the Squad that they join, so that means if you’re putting an Apothecary in your Legion Outrider Squadron, you’ll have to give them a Legion Spatha Combat Bike as well, and pay for it the same as any other member of that unit. They also gain the Subtype of the unit they join. Furthermore, you can get additional Apothecaries up to a max of 7 for 45 points each, but each of these must go into a different unit.

So, what are you getting by putting one of these into a Squad? Well, the Apothecary has the tool of his trade a “Narthecium”, which gives the unit its in a 5+ “Feel No Pain” ability. Now, this doesn’t work on certain units (the Rapier Carrier comes to mind), but otherwise it is a solid addition to any large unit, making those 20 man units much harder to kill.

- For 55 points you can have one of these Battlefield Mechanics… Okay, that’s under-selling them a little, but eh, what you gonna do?

Much like the Apothecarion Detachment, a Techmarine Covenant must be attached to a Squad before the start of the game and must have the same kit as the Squad it’s assigned to. Likewise, they also gain the Subtype of the unit they join. Furthermore, you can get up to an additional 7 Techmarines for 55 points each, all of which must go into different units.

So what do you get with a Techmarine? Well, for starters they get Artificer Armour, a Power Axe, Servo Arm and a bolt pistol, which is nice. That the Servo Arm gives an additional Strength 8 and AP 2 Attack in Close Combat. But really you're taking a Techmarine for the Battlesmith Special Rule, which allows them to Repair vehicles on a 5+.

But that’s not where the Techmarines usefulness ends. They have a huge array of options in the Nuncio-Vox, Augury Scanner, Cognis-Signum, Cyber Familiar and Melta Bombs. And when it comes to Ranged Weapons, the Techmarine has even more options, with a Master-Crafted Bolter, Magna Combi-Weapon, Minor Combi-Weapon, Volkite Charger, Plasma Pistol, Graviton Gun, Flamer, Plasma Gun, or Meltagun. The Melee options are a bit disappointing though, but he can upgrade his Power Axe. But as this isn’t really a Melee model I wouldn’t really worry about giving him something like the Thunder Hammer either. Lastly though, they can have a Boarding Shield as well, which is kinda cool.

Personally, I’d keep the Techmarine cheap and in rear-line units. You can certainly put them in a Heavy Support Squad that has an Augury Scanner and then give the Techmarine a Cognis-Signum and they’ll do some good work, but if you like something a bit more thematic then give them a Boarding Shield and Cyber Familiar and stick them in a unit of Breachers, keep a Dreadnought or two nearby, and that should make for a nice synergistic combo.

Contemptor Dreadnought - I’m going to keep this short because I think these really could do with their own article. These “walking coffins” are really good; they have some great weapons, a great statline, and great rules. They’re just great, and that's why nearly every list has at least one of them in it. But I’m going to dive into a deep look at them in the next article.

Picture provided by TheMiniaturesApothecary

Legion Rapier Battery - Certainly the oddest of the Elite options, this comes as one Rapier Carrier and two Legion Gunners. The Carrier needs to have at least one Gunner alive to fire; it’s basically a very angry self-propelled trailer with a big gun. You can increase the Squad size to 3 Carriers and 6 Gunners, and it costs 40 points per Carrier and 2 Gunners.

With this in mind though, what Gun, or Guns, is it carrying? Well, you have a few options actually. It comes with a Gravis Heavy Bolter Battery which is Heavy 8, Twin-Linked Strength 5 and AP 4. That's a lot of shots and is pretty much guaranteed to kill a few models each turn. But if this isn’t enough, you can upgrade this to; a Laser Destroyer for that sweet, sweet anti-tank work; a Graviton Cannon for slowing enemies down, placing Difficult and Dangerous Terrain or inflicting Haywire on vehicles; or you can mount a Quad Launcher (which I must admit, I always think of a gas mask wearing Guard Regiment when these Weapons are mentioned). The Quad Launcher gets 4 types of Shells and a surprise 5th if you bring a Siege Break Consul in your army. Those Shells are; the normal Frag, which are okay; Shatter Shells, which are quite nice as they are Strength 8 and have Sunder; Incendiary, which are really nice as they have Barrage, ignore Cover, Pinning and Shred; and lastly, Splinter, which I think is the best option because they have only got Strength 2, but that Rending (6+) on a large Blast Template means your going to do some Damage and hopefully get that Pinning Test off. Now, the surprise choice is Phosphex Rounds. If you have the choice to take these, 100% do it. They have a Short Range, but my lord, anything they hit will die as they deal Barrage, Blast (3”), Poisoned (3+), Crawling Fire and Lingering Death. A battery of these will allow you to create lethal Choke Points, burn out defenders and just cause havoc. That said, arming them this way does require a Siege Breaker, and they will become the target for a lot of firepower as a result.

And that’s it! Wow, this was a long one. As you can see, the Elites of the Legiones Astartes are some of the most formidable units in the rulebook, and for good reason. Many are hyper-focused onto one role and they do that role amazingly well, while some are angling more towards Support units and even Mini Artillery Pieces.

I hope you all enjoyed this article. I'd like to thank the people who generously gave me permission to feature pictures of their models in this article, so please go and check them out and say hi.

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1 Comment

Tim Lefevre
Tim Lefevre
Mar 31, 2023

Great write up ! IIRC, a Techmarine can't have an Augury Scanner and a Cognis Signum, u can only choose one of the options.

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