The first post in a series I have wanted to do and thought about for a while, March for Macragge. I intend to go through all the entries in the Space Marine codex and Ultramarines supplement and have a bit of a deep dive on the unit and their strengths, weaknesses, useful stratagems, etc.
As this is the first part of this series, I will be starting with a unit but will make reference to abilities, stratagems, etc that may not be fully detailed here. Most of the chapter and universal ones will be detailed in the next part and make reference to Intercessors as an example.
I have spent a bit of time trying to work out what to start with, go for something stand out like Guilliman himself, or maybe the Lord of Macragge himself, Marneus Calgar. Instead, though, I have chosen one of the units you will almost always see on tabletop, be it an Ultramarines army or even something like Iron Hands or Imperial Fists. I present to you, the humble Intercessor.
Let’s have a look at the basics first. Intercessors are a troops choice, found in the Space Marine Codex. They have a minimum squad size of 5 and a maximum squad size of 10, with one being identified as a sergeant. At a base cost of 17 points per model, you are looking at 85 points for a minimum size, basic bones troops choice.
In terms of base stat line, Intercessors really should be considered your starting point for any comparisons:
This stat line, particularly for Primaris armies, will be ingrained in your head and is worth remembering. 6-inch movement is pretty good, middle of the park in the wider scheme of things but one of the longest amongst infantry in the Ultramarines.
Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill of 3+ should never be underestimated. The T’au, a famously gun line shooty army, have a WS of 4+ and their marker lights count as heavy weapons (for a further minus 1). Before modifiers, your Intercessors are hitting with two-thirds of all shots (on average) and Space Marines have a huge amount of sources of to hit, and to wound, modifiers.
Strength 4 and Toughness 4 is, again, a level which should not be underestimated for one of your most basic troops. Tau and Eldar are typically S3 and T3. As someone who has recently started a small Eldar army (heresy, I know) I can tell you that you really notice that Toughness 3 in a meta full of strength 4 basic weapons and close combat attacks.
Now, we get to the money makers. 2 wounds. 2 wounds! On a basic infantry model. Say what you want about Belisarius Cawl, but he knows how to make good Space Marines. This was game-changing for me, coming from the era of Tactical Marines. Damage 1 weapons, combined with the toughness 4 and the armour save, mean it can take a lot of shots to actually do noticeable damage to even a small unit of Intercessors.
Now then, attacks. I’m going to let you all into a secret: I love close combat in 40k. I have been told I should probably be a Blood Angels or Space Wolves (RIP) player but the truth is that I bleed blue and have learned to love my Ultramarines. Still, Intercessors are capable of some serious damage in close combat for a basic troop choice. As a base, each model has 2 attacks. The sergeant gets an additional one. That gives you 11 attacks for a minimum size unit. Then you throw in Shock Assault and you have an extra attack each per model in the first round of combat (give or take). 16 attacks for 5 models is crazy on a troops choice for a, largely, shooty army and should not be underestimated or forgotten about, especially with the Assault Doctrine in play.
Power Armour for the win!
And last but not least for the stat line, the armour save. 3+ is a basically army-wide, save a few specialist choices, as a base armour save, and is easy to take for granted. Until you go up against Fire Warriors, which have a 4+ save. Or Pathfinders, with a 5+. Dire Avengers for Eldar have a 4+ as well. What this means is that with 0AP weapons, of which a few still exist, you are saving two-thirds of the wounds you take. And you get the chance to save against anything up to and including -3AP even if you are standing out in the open, more if you are in cover.
Intercessors effectively come in three basic flavours, as set out below:
|Bolt Rifle||30″||Rapid Fire 1||4||-1||1|
|Auto Bolt Rifle||24″||Assault 3||4||0||1|
|Stalker Bolt Rifle||36″||Heavy 1||4||-2||2|
The Bolt Rifle is your basic standard issue, found in easy to build sets, loadout. It is the more iconic of the options, meeting the criteria for how Games Workshop want Bolter Discipline to work and is generally considered the starting point and a great choice for Ultramarines due to Scions of Guilliman. Intercessors with the Bolt Rifle loadout can take advantage of the Rapid Fire stratagem found in the Space Marine codex, making your weapons Rapid Fire 2 for the shooting phase. Your typical threat range is 36 inches.
Auto Bolt Rifle
The Auto Bolt Rifle is less common but is still a viable option if your list is based on getting up close and personal. Losing some range and the -1 base AP when compared to the Bolt Rifle, for an extra 1 point per model, you can the ability to advance and still shoot, albeit at -1 to hit (the BS3+ starting point paying off there). 3 shots per model are very tidy but, especially for Ultramarines, I think you will start to notice the drop off in AP and your threat range is reduced to between 31 and 36 inches.
The Auto Bolt Rifle would be more of interest in an army that can advance and still charge. Auto Bolt Rifle Intercessors can use the Boltstorm strat from the Space Marine codex, which means any attacks at an enemy unit within half range (i.e. less than 12 inches) the shots auto-hit.
Stalker Bolt Rifle
Last, but by no means least are the Stalker Bolt Rifles. At 2 damages, these things are killing a Primaris marine with every successful wound and it is no surprise these were the troop choice of the various Iron Hands lists that were picking up tournament wins left-right and centre. In an Ultramarines list, they are not quite as effective but still a solid enough choice that you can probably take one or two squads in a list. In the Tactical Doctrine, Scions of Guilliman means you can move and still shoot them without the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons, but you don’t get additional AP benefit that the Bolt Rifle and Auto Bolt Rifles will. Stalker Bolt Intercessors can use Target Sighted strat from the Space Marine Codex to get the ability to target characters and a 6+ wound roll causes mortal wounds.
It’s a common approach to have units be as active in as many phases of the round as possible. We have already looked at how many close combat attacks Intercessors have but this can be increased further by making the unit Veteran Intercessors for 1CP for a 5 man squad and 2CP for a 6 to 10 man squad. In smaller games, this is an expensive tax for what you get (+1 attack and +1 leadership) but makes them really able to hold there own against most types of infantry. The Assault Doctrine makes close combat weapons and Pistol weapons an additional -1AP so you could, with a 5 man squad, be hitting with 16 S4, AP-1 attacks in close combat.
Each Intercessor is also equipped with a Bolt Pistol as well. This means even if you end up in combat (and want to stay in combat) you can take part in the shooting phase. Something which Tactical era Space Marines will be totally jealous of.
Lastly, for this part, there are some options that your Intercessor sergeant has. One of these is replacing your Bolt Rifle with a chainsword and hand flamer, though I suspect the Bolt Rifle of choice would probably still be better. There are also options for various melee weapons and, rules as written, you can take a chainsword for free without needing to lose the bolt rifle, which seems perhaps unintended but I’ll take it!
Ok, this brings the first March for Macragge to a close. In the next part, I will go over the various abilities, doctrines, chapter tactics and super doctrines that Ultramar’s finest have access to and use the Intercessors as working examples of how each of these applies. So tune in for the next part of March for Macragge!