Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Primaris Space Marine review Part 2 - rules and army build

This is the second part of an article exploring the new primaris marines and will focus on the rules. For part one please see HERE.

As mentioned in part 1, I have opted for a solely Primaris army despite having seen how effective a marine army can be with a mixture of standard and primaris unit in. I have plenty of Marine armies and wanted this one to be unique, thus it seemed sensible to limit my Primaris units to one army rather than spreading them around. I actually wrote some fanfic for Sons of Orar years ago and always hoped to turn them into an army one day. While a Primaris army doesn't fit with the fanfic, it was a great opportunity to use the colour scheme. 

Before we look at individual slots I want to point out a few things that stand out to me in terms of the army overall and how it differs from standard marines. This is important and has been very well executed IMO, as Intercessors are more than just tactical marines +1 and fill a significantly different role without invalidating older units, for example. 

1. Wargear options:
Primaris operate on a different level to other marines in that their core infantry have a whole squad upgrade option for their weaponry. For example, while reivers have weapon options analagous to say, crusader squads (i.e. shooty or CC), both intercessors and hellblasters can be outfitted (as a whole squad) to take either rapid fire, assault or heavy variants of their chosen weaponry. To call Intercessors tactical marines + is therefore false, as they are anything but tactically flexible and rather designed to fill very specific roles.
2. Lack of wargear options:
Conversely, the characters, squad leaders and individual members of a squad are extremely limited in their wargear options now, both to distinguish them from their normal counterparts and, most likely, to comply with GWs very restrictive implied policy of 'if it doesn't come with the kit it's not an option'. I'm not a big fan of the latter, but again the restrictions have helped to make it so that older models aren't obsolete. If you want a captain with thunder hammer or sergeant with power axe and combi-weapon, for example, you have to look to regular marines. Likewise, only mono-weaponry can be taken throughout squads with no heavy or special weapons available for models.
3. 2+ save??
So, nothing in the Primaris arsenal rocks a 2+ save. This was a disappointment to me and has resulted in me almost compulsarily giving my gravis Captain the armour indomitus as a 'free' upgrade every battle. That being said, artificer armour has also become a rare sight in 8th.
4. Where are all the vehicles
Obviously Primaris Marines have had a huge influx of models but of these only 2 were vehicles and of those 2, only one a transport. GW (sensibly in my opinion) decided to put all other transports of limits to Primaris and thus limited them somewhat. (drop podding hellblasters would really ruin your day) while also keeping the old marines relevent. It's likely we'll see more in future but for now have to make do.
5. Dedicated assault units:
Once you take this into account it becomes clear that Primaris marines are really not an assault army, they're very much a shooty army. None of their units outside of characters, dreadnought, sergeants and aggressors can take any decent melee weapons, and even those who can are severely limited with their wargear options. (sergeants being restricted to power swords for example). Don't get me wrong, their extra wound and attack make them durable enough in assaults, but against dedicated melee units you won't last long. The gravis Captain is a beast but, sadly, relies on aggressors to back him up against big nasties.
6. Long range firepower:
Aside from hellblasters the army really lacks any long range firepower. You want your dreadnought and repulsor to be moving upfield to take full advantage of the transport capacity and close range firepower/combat weapon and so, as a result, will be shooting on the move with these guys. When I played against a mixed army, his firebase of a razorback, hellblasters and devastators was, well, devastating, and really made a mess out of my Primaris marines who had no real counter to it.
Now let's take a look at the individual slots and what options exist for them:


Pretty much these chaps from the standard selection (Librarian/chaplain/captain/lieutenant) with one wound and attack extra over their older counterparts, but with wargear restrictions in place. The captain is a decent choice for either an advancing or gunline element to your army. He would be especially well placed with a stalker supporting Hellblasters in the back to midfield granting those valuable rerolls to 1s. The power sword is a measly 4 points and so well worth it just in case your opponent ambushes your gunline to put his 5 attacks to good use. Consider the chapter master strategem to really take advantage of those rerolls on Hellblasters. Perhaps a better character (with his extra attack, toughness and wargear) to lead your advance either mixed with infantry or, better yet, riding in a repulsor, is the gravis Captain. The only really beatstick in the army and with almost exclusive access to a power fist (plus master crafted power sword), he is fearsome to behold. He won't really benefit from the chapter master rule himself but he would certainly be best equipped with the armour indomitus as your 'free' relic, bolstering his 4++ to 3++ for when he really needs it and giving him the only 2++ you have access to amongst Primaris infantry.

The Lieutenants are great supporting characters, best to run as pairs with one supporting your backfield and the other midfield (or riding with a gravis captain for when the rerolls are best utilised) Also, he can take some decent firepower and a power sword for extra melee potential. Librarians and Chaplains are also ones to consider running alongside your advance, with might of heroes significantly bolstering your assault phase and litanies of hate providing an alternative way of rerolling in the assault phase. The absolver pistol is also a bit more meaty that your typical bolt pistol. No techmarine for now (they only have 2 vehicles!) but possibly in the future. Plus, all these guys are obviously infantry with no jump pack or bike options, which may make them less attractive for armies such as raven guard or whitescars.


Just the one option in the form of intercessors. Good all-rounders in terms of durability but, much like Eldar aspect warriors, now much more role specific with their weapon loadouts. For a single point you  can give 1/5 the ability to launch frag/krak at range 30" so probably worth doing. Also, for 4 points the sergeant can take a power sword, again worth doing. They get the combat squad ability but, frankly, you're probably better off running individual 5 man squads to take advantage of filling slots for command points and more sergeants with extra attacks/power sword. (plus no worries about losing more to failed morale checks) The 3 ways to run them are heavy (stalkers), rapid fire (bolt rifle) and assault (auto bolt rifle)  weapons, which each have their merits and drawbacks depending upon your playstyle andwhich role you want them to fulfil. Hard to go wrong with the standard bolt rifle though, granting better range and AP than its older cousin. The stalkers sadly don't grant you sniper as the ability to snipe characters is another element sorely lacking in the army.


The Ancients just don't seem worth the points investment to me. With no options to upgrade weaponry and adding Ld to an already high LD army (in my case ultramarines with ATSKNF), the perks seem few. However, I can see that adding him to a backfield bubble including helblasters may help to get one last shot out of that plasma weapon before being removed. The apothecary seems to be even more situational, only granting a single 50:50 chance per turn to revive a model or not get to do anything. At least the Ancient can affect multiple models per turn. He also packs an absolver pistol like the chaplain and his reductor pistol is just plain nasty up close (equivalent to a master crafted power sword).

Moving on to the squads, first up are the reivers. I've used them in all my battles thus far and have been fairly impressed. They have the benefit of being able to tie up the enemy as a nice distractor from the rest of your advance and should be durable enough to last a couple of turns. Alternatively, they present a decent chance of being able to steal objectives as one of only two units in a primaris army that can 'deep strike', also giving them a fair chance at a first turn charge. The sergeant has no upgrade options and personally I prefer the blade and pistol loadout for the squad, due to the -1 AP shot and extra attack. There really isn't much in it with the 'deep strike' options as they cost the same. Grav chutes are less restrictive simply being 9" away, whereas grapnels have to be within 6" of the board edge also and can ignore vertical terrain. You can of course upgrade with both but it seems a bit redundant. Lastly, enemy units -1 from their ld within 3" of reivers and if hit by a shock grenade (not on first turn due to 6" range) cannot fire overwatch plus -1 to hit in combat. I plan on taking a couple of squads in my lists.

The second squad is the aggressors, who are a bit slower being clad in gravis armour. The Captain benefits from +1 wounds for having gravis armour yet the Inceptors and Aggressors don't. These guys require a bit of finesse to use to their maximum potential. They are slow and almost as fragile as a regular primaris, benefitting from the repulsor to get them upfield and assault weaponry to keep on the move while still being able to shoot and advance - one of their rules even allows them to ignore the penalty for shooting while advancing. . Most of their firepower is fairly short ranged, with the boltstorm/fragstorm combo having a range of 18" with 7-12 S4 shots per model. The flamestorm variety has 2-12 S4 shots, however. So while the boltstorm is more reliable and longer ranged, it wont be auto-hitting when shooting or when overwatching. Each variant effectively has 2 power fists attacking in melee. So, these guys are rather hard to classify as their ranged weaponry is anti-horde but their melee is anti-MEQ/TEQ. Also, if they remain stationary they can fire TWICE! More than enough deterrent. So either camp them out on an objective in cover, hope they don't  die and that ultimately the enemy might have to try and take the objective from them. Or, send them upfield in a transport and try to position them so they can shoot more fragile targets before charging heavier targets. Tricky to maximise their potential.

Finally, the big boy himself. The Redemptor Dreadnought boasts significantly more guns and wounds than his smaller cousins and is a good lynchpin of an advancing army. Beware though, mine went from undamaged to dead in a single volley thanks to triple melta in a combat squad. He has several weapons loadouts that can be tailored to your preference / enemy. The redemptor power fist gives him a whopping 14 strength, -3 AP and D6 (!) damage with his 4 attacks - guaranteed to ruin most peoples day. His movement of 8 will help to get him up close and personal ASAP, which is where he will excel. His 2 main ranged weapons are plasma incinerator. the heavy onslaught gatling cannon and macro plasma incinerator. Sadly, as they are both heavy, in your attempt to get closer to the enemy you will suffer the -1 to hit. Keep a captain/chapter master nearby to try and balance out the lost accuracy, as he has a lot of ranged weapons and you don't want to suffer too many negative modifiers to you shooting if you plan on overcharging plasma. Secondary armament include either fragstorm or storm bolters, an onslaught gatling cannon or heavy flamer. Anti-air is an icarus rocket pod. In summary he has a lot of mid to short ranged firepower and so my preference is to advance him with the rest of the army sacrificing a bit of shooting proficiency to get up close and personal with the enemy. Don't leave him unsupported tho nor forget the wisdom of the ancients strategem to bolster those around him.


Inceptors are my least favourite model from the new range. As with all the Primaris squads they are far from a close combat unit despite their jump packs. They come in as being pretty pricey for what they are and, like with the Aggressors, just don't seem as survivable as they should be. For the price you pay (and despite having a chance of causing mortal wounds on the charge) they just don't seem to me to be worth the points. The plasma weaponry is too random with D3 shots and, although the assault bolters put out a frightening amount of firepower, you're likely to only get one turn of shooting due to their lack of survivability.  

Dedicated transport

The repulsor tank is a beauty to behold and bristles with weaponry. Like the land raider, it boasts POTMS and thus is not hindered in its shooting potential while advancing. It boasts an identical profile to the land raider in every way except for its save, which is a 3+ rather than 2+. The repulsor field gives it limited protection from being assaulted by subtracting 2 from your opponents charge range. It is the only transport in the game that can transport 10 Primaris Marines and, as a result, cannot transport normal marines. It would be ideal to carry a small 'deathstar' consisting of a gravis captain, 3 aggressors (gravis armour takes 2 spaces) a lieutenant and a Librarian, though beware mortal wounds should it explode. The weaponry boasted is a minimum of 8 different weapons, which can be bolstered to 11. Most of the weapons can be swapped out to alternatives giving you a huge combination of weapons to tailor your repulsor to suit. Against hordes you can loadout with a heavy onslaught cannon, 2 heavy stubbers, 5 fragstorm launchers, a twin heavy bolter and 2 krakstorm launchers - this gives a maximum of 56 shots per turn!! Swap out the twin heavy bolter and onslaught for las weapons if you need some anti-tank and there are a choice of 2 AA weapons making the repulsor one of 2 models in the Primaris army with AA weapons. (though with all the rerolls it is a lot easier to hit flyers now than it used to be anyway)


Hellblasters are the only heavy support choice and are fearsome to behold. With the same durability and squad size as the Intercessors, these guys can all be loaded out in a similar way to their troop cousins with assualt, rapid fire and heavy variants of nasty plasma. By nasty, I mean AP -4 plasma! The assault version has a decent range on it (24") and grants 2 shots but only at strength 6. Compare to the rapid fire version which has more range and is S7, which all importantly means it can overcharge to cause 2 damage at S8 when at maximum range - good for killing most things! The heavy version is S8 as standard but needs to remain still to fire its single shot at 36", but is only damage 1 unless overcharged. I think for overall utility and versatility the rapid fire plasma incinerator is probably the one to go for. Avoid shooting overcharge at units in cover and keep some reroll auras nearby for maximum damage.  

I won't go into detail of the chapter tactics and strategems, but suffice to say that all Chapter tactics work pretty well in a solely Primaris army. A fair few strategems are invalid due to restricting yourself from taking certain units and wargear. Auspex scan can be deadly when used by Helblasters and Wisdom of the Ancients is very useful if your army is advancing with your dreadnought and doesn't have a Captain bubble nearby. Chapter specific ones all seem to add a degree of benefit to different units - the raven guard one works well with Helblasters, Imperial fists with intercessors and Salamanders with Flamestorm aggressors. The Iron Hands strategem is great for shooting more accurately on the advance and the only one not of use seems to be the whitescars one being as it is limited to use by bikers. The Warlord traits again will depend on your chapter but all of them can be used in a Primaris only army. Lastly, there are a few relics that can't be taken in a Primaris only army, namely the raven guard jump pack, Iron hands axe, teeth of terra and shield eternal. I personally would always upgrade my Gravis Captain to the armour indomitus.  

A typical army I would field may therefore consist of several backfield elements (stalker intercessors, Hellblasters, shooty captain and lieutenant), advancing elements (aggressors/gravis captain/librarian/lieutenant in repulsor, Redemptor, Intercessors, Hellblasters) and deep strike elements (reivers, perhaps inceptors). While not as strong or flexible as a mixed or old-school marine army, this should provide most elements needed to be a successful army on the tabletop. I hope to be able to run this line-up in a couple of months time once the army has the second half added to it. Thanks for reading and hope it was useful. Cheers. 

1 comment:

  1. Very nice review. I like the idea of an all Primaris army, might have to start one at some point. The Repulsor looks like a beast- a flying Land Raider with all that firepower? Yes please!