"The Codex Astartes is a set of rules. They guide us. Shape us as Ultramarines. Teach us how to hold duty and honor sacred above all. But how we live with those rules is the true test of a Space Marine."
"They tell me Guilliman wrote a book, maybe, with all that time on his hands he might have seen this coming"
- – Leman Russ, during the Horus Heresy
- – Rogal Dorn
"But NO! You succeded because you were trained by the book. The holy codex of our OH SO WONDERFUL I COULD SHIT MY POWER PANTS Spiritual Liege"
The Codex Astartes (a.k.a Codex Asstardes) is the collective name given to a series of tactical and organisational guides written by Roboute Guilliman over the course of his life, compiled at the end of the Horus Heresy. The Codex's organizational mandates split the remaining Space Marine Legions into smaller chapters, for reasons discussed below. It also includes many tactical doctrines and stratagems for just about every situation, like the formidable STEEL REHN! Most loyalist Space Marine chapters follow the Codex Astartes to varying degrees, with Ultramarines and their successors seeing it as literal holy writ, while some chapters like the Black Templars and Space Wolves merely see it as a book of tactics to be referred to when necessary. Most chapters will fall somewhere between those two extremes, using the codex where necessary but making adaptations where necessary (the Imperial Fists, for example, use the Codex, but have a special appendix on how to Fist better, called the Book of Five Spheres. I guess Dorn was a fan of Musashi?). Almost all chapters will make a few minor alterations at the very least, usually just superficial things accounting for the chapter's culture. Now that Guilliman woke up, odds are he's going to update the codex like a fa/tg/uy updating his army lists, so the boys in blue should have some new reading material soon. Fortunately, since he's been adding Primaris Marines to Chapters that already have a thousand Marines, Guilliman has probably thrown out the number limit thing, realizing it was really stupid (or that no one noticed the Great Crusade never officially ended and so all Chapters are technically crusading and so have no number limits in the first place).
A certain detail needs to be mentioned that seems to have been missed by the Adeptus Astartes by the 41st millennium. Namely the fact that Chapters fought together in the same battles during the Great Crusade. It is highly likely that Guilliman fully expected this practice to continue after splitting the legions up. But, then the Chapters went and parceled out their companies (and sometimes squads) throughout the galaxy. As a result, while they often win, their loses are also famous and their victories tend to be somewhat costly. If the entire Chapter fought together, though, they would win too quickly for casualties to reach any noteworthy number and could swiftly zip from world-to-world kicking the absolute shit out of anything and everything. Case in point: Black Templars.
- 1 What the Codex set out to Accomplish
- 2 Chapter Organisation
- 3 Codex Skub
- 4 "Codex" Chapters with doctrinal variations
- 5 Chapters with differences in formations or composition
- 6 Non-Codex Chapters
- 7 Purpose for Gamers
What the Codex set out to Accomplish
The Codex Astartes was written with three main purposes in mind.
First, the Codex is a tactical and strategic guide. It contains tips and plans on how to handle nearly any battle situation imaginable, and then some. The Codex served with flying colors until the modern day of the setting, when its weaknesses began to show against certain unconventional enemies. Much like The Art of War or the FBI tactical guidebook, if you can get your hands on a copy you can anticipate the actions of those that use it, but countering it is really fucking hard because of just how comprehensive the Codex is. It doesn't just tell you "When your enemy is doing B, do C to counter it," it also says, "And when the enemy counters C with X and Y, use Z to shut down their counter." In real life warfare, soldiers have a hard time adapting to new information under pressure, which is why commanders need to limit the orders they give to their troops and keep them as unambiguous and simple as possible; drilling them on exactly what to do in a given situation, especially in such a comprehensive manner, does have its advantages since it reduces mental clutter. Sun Tzu's Art of War is still being taught millennia after its publication; now imagine that same spark of tactical genius manifesting inside the mind of a superhumanly intelligent demigod. The Codex isn't perfect - no tactical treatise is - but it's damn close.
Second, the Codex is an organizational guide. Guilliman was a flawed genius, an organizational savant literally unmatched in the galaxy, and more than a little OCD when it came to detail. Beyond simple mandates about the composition of the Chapters, the Codex contains information on the minutia of administration. Details on every subject from bolt shells to bread, water distribution to weapon production, organization of auxiliary forces, suggested countermeasures to viral outbreaks, training schedules, troop morale, ammunition production, distribution of that ammunition to terrestrial and naval combat units, how large reserves can be built up, how long those reserves will last when production stopped, ration distribution for militant and civilian populations, how those rations can be stored, food cycling to avoid waste, integration of chain of command with allied and auxiliary forces, integration of militia into formal military, suggested staging area locations relative to battle lines, suggested landing area locations relative to battle lines, prioritizing access to and from these areas, guides to avoiding massive compound sentences, fortification locations, demolition strategies for those fortifications in the event that they must be abandoned, and I could go on. It also has plenty to say on how to live your day to day life, with everything from codes of honor to follow, to how your boots should be laced. Seriously, the Codex can tell you how to spend every minute of your life from birth to death, and pretty much every part of it is either acceptable or outstanding, if admittedly inflexible. Much of it, if applied to the Imperium as a whole, would also solve most of the grimdark.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the final version of the Codex is designed to keep the power of the Imperium decentralized. At the end of the Heresy, Guilliman wanted to ensure there wouldn't be any repeating performances of the strife that had gripped the galaxy. To this end, he split the Imperial Army into the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Guard, and broke up the Legions, to keep one person from ever having the power to cause such massive chaos. Whether or not this was a good move is a subject of ongoing debate. Detractors would point out that the newly decentralized and feudal Imperium is nowhere near as capable of unified action as it was before the heresy, pointing at how this decentralization screwed the Imperium over during the War of The Beast, while its defenders would point out the examples of The Badab War or the Macharian Crusade as examples of too much centralized power devolving into a clusterfuck, to say nothing of the Horus Heresy demonstrating why giving any one person too much power over the Imperium is a very bad idea.
However, one thing that people often forget when they argue about whether Legions or post-Heresy Chapters are better is that the Legions and Chapters have very different roles. Legions of a hundred thousand Astartes are great when you want to steamroll the galaxy - which is also exactly what the original Legions designed for - but such huge armies are not so great when you want to maintain peace in a sprawling galaxy-spanning empire. What the post-Scouring Imperium really needed were small-scale elite rapid-response forces, which is exactly the kind of role that the Chapters are most suited for. Well, that coupled with a large normal army to act as first-responders very quickly and hold the line for the big boys to come smash face.
And this is also a much more efficient use of the Astartes. You don't need a space marine to man a gun line or garrison a fort - why let a marine do a guardsman's job? - and considering how long it takes to create a fully-fledged Astartes, you'll want to get the most out of every single one of them. Also remember that there weren't all that many loyalist Astartes left alive after the Heresy. Getting a thousand Astartes killed just to win a battle may have been A-OK during the Great Crusade or the Heresy, but the post-Heresy Imperium just couldn't afford losses like that anymore (for a while, at least). Hence, it only makes sense for the space marines to conform to tactics where your average space marine battle will result in few marine casualties, if any. Guilliman designed the Codex marine armies to be modular, precise, and efficient in ways that the original legions weren't.
Of course, the trade-off is that the marines are no longer well suited for large-scale warfare. But large-scale warfare and armoured warfare are now the Imperial Guard's job, anyway. On top of that, Legion-sized (or at least multichapter) deployments can and will still happen whenever necessary, like with the Armageddon wars or the Black Crusades or the Wall of the Imperial Fist Legion during the War of the Beast. But all that being said; yes, there are situations in M41 where the Legions of old would probably be more effective than any gathering of Chapters. Especially the Tyranids and the bigger Necron dynasties come to mind, though there's also less formidable threats like the Tau (who are still powerful enough to inflict unaffordable losses on a space marine Chapter (the more Marines fighting the more quickly the enemy dies before they can inflict significant loses, though)). But even there, the Guard is a perfectly fine substitute for a Legion in most if not all of those cases. Especially with their godly mechanization, tanks, and artillery. Hell, their standard procedure is to simply use various artillery to eradicate everyone and everywhere the enemy could hide (bunkers, trenches, buildings, tunnels, anything) then send in tanks to wipe out any resistance and the ground pounders to hunt down the survivors. We have billions of Guardsmen dying every day, but the number of Guardsmen makes billions a day look like literally a drop in a literal ocean. So, incredibly minute casualties on the whole. Because of massive guns and lots of them. This means that the Astartes are not needed nearly as often as the Guard. Especially since the Guard almost always operates on the defensive, which means that line-breaking supersoldier armies are rarely needed.
Interestingly enough, the original version of the Codex had no plans to break apart the Legions at all. Instead, it proposed their unification into a single Legion formed from multiple self-sufficient Chapters, which would merge and break up as needed regardless of which Primarch they descended from. While this may have been able to preserve the advantages of being a Legion better, the other High Lords of Terra were scared shitless by the idea of the Space Marines unifying and promptly rebelling a second time, so the original plan Guilliman had in mind never came to pass. Even the idea of it happening was enough for the 41st millennium-era High Lords to plot Guilliman's overthrow when they heard he might resume his old position. Which shows how dumb they are. The Primarchs are the sons of the Emperor for a reason. They are really fucking scary dudes. Besides, the Space Marines would unify as much or as little as they choose and there really isn't anything the High Lords can do about it. So, their concerns over Guilliman's original intentions for Chapters didn't matter and the changes didn't matter, either. They still operate the same way Guilliman had intended but with far less communication and co-ordination unless they needed. Since they usually don't needed, it doesn't really matter at all.
When Guilliman finally got off his ass, he began to see the flaws that came from strict adherence to the Codex Astartes. Thus, he has begun reforming its guidelines and got rid of several of its restrictions on Space Marines. He currently hopes to replace it entirely with the Codex Imperialis—a tome that won't just describe how to organize and direct the Adeptus Astartes, or even the other Imperial military forces, but Imperial governance as a whole, possibly down to the ideal daily lives of every Imperial citizen, likely in an attempt to make the entire Imperium look and operate as smoothly as Ultramar. Needless to say, this will probably be the size of a 10 volume encyclopedia, and still hasn’t been finished.
Under the Codex Astartes, the Space Marine legions were to be split into groups of 1000 fighting men, called a Chapter. While many people assume this means a chapter is composed of 1000 men, this is a bit misleading, because that 1000 man number does not include a chapter's upper echelons, support structure, auxiliary units (now including Scouts), dreadnought-interred veterans, the librarius, vehicle crews, honor guard, or other specialists (tech marines, apothacaries, chaplains, etc). This means that a chapter will commonly have upwards of 1100 space marines while still being codex compliant, and many chapters will have large units of mortal retainers (including thousands of Voidship crew in their fleet) to serve as auxiliary forces, so it's not uncommon for a chapter to have tens of thousands of soldiers to call upon, though only a minority of them will actually be Adeptus Astartes. It's important to note that the Chapter was already an existing sub-unit within the pre-Heresy legions, and those were organized much as they were in the Codex.
By the 42nd Millennium, the reawakened Guilliman has set about redrafting the Codex Astartes to accommodate the inclusion of Primaris Marines, who do not form the same sorts of squads as their traditional brothers. However he has not massively changed the organisational units of "Chapter" and/or "Company". With the new codex, the space marine company is still 100 men on paper, but can be organised in a far more flexible arrangement of squads and can accommodate additional squads drawn from reserve companies. It also means that whole Companies (or even Chapters) of Primaris Marines can be formed without the need to makes exceptions for them.
The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Companies are Battle Companies. Guilliman's reorganisation allows companies to be composed of as many as twenty squads of five men, there will always be least six Battle line squads, at least two Fire Support squads, and least two Close Support squads. They train together, and when a Space Marine Company deploys as a single unit, it will be one of these.
The 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Companies are Reserve Companies, and are more specialized than the first five companies. The 6th and 7th Companies are composed entirely of Battleline squads (whose Tactical Marines also specialize in using bikes and Land Speeders, respectively), the 8th Company of Close Support squads and the 9th Company entirely of Fire Support squads. Additionally, Primaris Marines in reserve companies may also be seconded to Battle Companies as Vanguard Marines.
Originally, the 10th Company was composed entirely of Scout Marines, who were eventually promoted to other companies after a certain number of years. It's worthy of note that the 10th company was typically the largest in the chapter, containing 100 neophytes in addition to veterans seconded to the company for training. Additionally, the 10th company's 100 man limit was often uncapped so as to keep the chapter's flow of new marines steady in times of great loss. With the recent revisions to the Codex, Guilliman has ordered that all Primaris Marines train in Vanguard Tactics during their time in the Scout Company and can later revert to the squad organisation as required, whereas a regular Tactical Marine might never don his Scout uniform ever again (except in the old Deathwatch RPG). Consequently, it now retains 10 squads' worth of fully initiated Vanguard Marines whose roles can be changed as needed, while the Scouts no longer seem to be counted towards the nominal 100-marine limit at all.
There is a fair amount of leeway given to what roles the reserve companies can maintain. The 7th company, for instance, is given the moniker of "tactical reserve." Some chapters field these companies as bodies to replace losses from the battle companies. Some use them to train landspeeder pilots (the Codex states the entire company should be able to ride landspeeders.). Some chapters, such as the Salamanders, use the 7th company to train fighter pilots for their Air Force. Others, typically those suffering from heavy losses, use it in place of the tech auxillera for tank crews. Still others keep weapon specialists, such as dedicated plasma-gunners, on hand to replace battle company soldiers as need demands.
Among the tenets of the Codex, Guilliman outlined the roles of various Marines to be used in Chapters. They include the following:
- Tactical: The backbone of a Battle Company, Tactical Marines are those who are flexible in combat, relying on both ranged weapons and melee weapons in combat. Note that due to the order of the Companies, they usually have served as both Assault and Devastator Marines, so they definitely know the basics of both, granting the majority of the chapter great theoretical tactical flexibility.
- Intercessor Squad: Those Primaris Marines who are armed uniformly with some version of Bolt Rifle-either the standard version, the more mobile Auto Bolt Rifle, or the longer-ranged Stalker bolt rifle. Their role on the battlefield is to set up lines of fire and advance on and secure objectives much in a similar way to Tactical Squads; although they lack their little brothers' overall flexibility due to their exclusive use of Bolt Rifle variants, it is said that a combination of these units with other squads is invaluable to a commander.
- Infiltrator Squad: Recon Primaris Marines wearing a slightly lighter armament, but are expected to perform extended operations behind enemy lines. All Primaris Marines can revert to Vanguard Marines at any time, though Primaris Marines from the reserve companies often get seconded to frontline companies in this way.
- Devastator: Devastator Marines can be summed up in three words: Blow shit up. The purpose of the Devastator is to provide heavy weapons fire in battle, artillery strikes, and hunting tanks. Once a Scout earns his Black Carapace and Power Armor, he will be attached to a Devastator Squad, allowing him to gain battlefield experience by watching the conflict from afar, with the added perk of allowing a new marine to bond with his armor while learning its strengths by lugging heavy weapons around. Unlike Sisters of Battle, the Devastator title refers to organization rather than weapon skill. Devastator squads will contain both heavy weapons and bolter marines who act as spotters and loaders. Likewise, the heavy weapon marines in tactical squads are tactical marines, not devastators.
- Devastator Centurion Squads: Devastators trained to wear Centurion Warsuits, allowing them to carry considerably more firepower than any other marine short of a dreadnought. Centurion squads are organised in combat squads of three rather than five, which means that the reorganization of the codex to accommodate more variety actually means leftover soldiers can bulk up other Demi-squads without interfering with the 100 man standard.
- Hellblaster Squads: Primaris Marines who show a particular talent for marksmanship are elevated to the position of Hellblaster, which makes them a sort of elite promotion rather than Devastators who are often newbies. The reason for this is because the Plasma Incinerators they wield are very rare and difficult to maintain, and so are be entrusted to the care of a warrior who can put them to best use. Their role is to provide dedicated anti-armor firepower without sacrificing mobility in the process, and assault and heavy variants of the Plasma Incinerator also exist for greater effectiveness against massed light infantry and vehicles, respectively.
- Aggressor Squads: Primaris marines equipped with Mk X Gravis Armour and Auto Boltstorm Gauntlets and Flame Gauntlets (essentially power fists with built-in bolters or flamers, respectively). in the case of the former, they may also use shoulder-mounted grenade launchers to further supplement their firepower. Aggressors fulfill a similar role to Centurions and are also organised into combat squads of three, but Aggressors are somewhat more lightly armed in exchange for superior maneuverability. Their role is to provide close-range anti-infantry fire support to an advancing force as they move in for the kill.
- Eliminator Squad: Marksmen Vanguard Marines wearing stripped down Phobos Armour, coming with a Shrike Pattern Bolt Rifle with special ammunition. Their duty is to hunt for targets of opportunity while being extra stealthy.
- Suppressor Squad: Come with Omnis Pattern Armour, which is a lighter variant of Gravis Armour equipped with various jump packs, grav chutes and shock absorbers. Unlike Inceptor Marines the aren't meant for crashing onto the battlefield from low orbit and cause havoc, but are instead intended to maneuver themselves into position and lay down withering fire with their Accelerator Autocannons.
- Assault: Assault Marines are those who specialize in melee combat, using Chain and Power weapons alike to fuck up the enemies of the Imperium of Man. In addition, they also take to the field wearing jump packs which allows them to deepstrike onto the battlefield, move quickly from point to point, and even execute a jet-fueled charge of awesomeness into the enemy. This is the next stop in a new Marine's career when he graduates from the Devastator squads (Blood Angels start as Assault and become Devastators), helping to familiarize him with any weapons he hasn't used yet, and putting him through the crushing psychological stress of hand-to-hand combat under something resembling optimal conditions. Assault marines can also use bikes, attack bikes, landspeeders, drop pods, Rhinos, and Razorbacks.
- Assault Centurion Squads: Assault Marines trained to use the Centurion warsuits for siege breaking and trench clearing.
- Inceptor Squads: Primaris marines who fulfill an analogue to the Assault squad role, though their function is less about engaging the enemy at close quarters and more to act as the spearhead unit that will arrive in advance of the main force and secure the drop zone. Their Assault Bolters and Plasma Exterminators are surprisingly powerful for their size, allowing Inceptors to perform deadly hit-and-run attacks.
- Reiver Squads: Primaris specialists in shock and awe tactics, who fill a role somewhere between Assault Squad and Scouts. Their mission profile is to create confusion and terror by attacking from unexpected angles, so to do this they can either infiltrate onto the battlefield or glide in silently on grav chutes. In battle, they can choose to wield either a paired combat blade and heavy bolt pistol for melee use or a bolt carbine for close-quarters firefights.
- Incursor Squads: Vanguard marines clad in lightweight Phobos Armor made flushing out hidden positions and close-combat. Their special Occulus Bolt Carbines and Multi-Spectrum Arrays allow them to detect enemies in any circumstance, while their haywire mines can cripple vehicles. Curiously, these are the only marines that seem to know how to dual-wield their knives effectively enough to be standard-issue.
- Scout Squad: Scout Marines are Neophyte Space Marines who are charged with scouting terrain and enemy positions, in addition to demolitions and what we would today call special forces operations. A risky job, but this has the effect of ensuring that the more cautious ones survive while the reckless and foolish are weeded out.
- Veteran: Veteran Marines are those who have seen through several centuries, allowing them access to all the cool toys in the Chapter's armory. They're hopefully experienced and cool-headed enough not to, say, super-glue the relic blade of the founder to the codpiece of their armor to skullfuck the enemies of mankind. A Chapter's first company veterans get to wear Terminator armor (the Crux Terminatus is a cross between a medal and authorization papers), but they sometimes stay with normally-sized power armor instead, which is instead slowly turned into Artificer armor by all the bling and enhancements. Power-armored Veterans are divided into two subgroups: Vanguard (who focus on close quarters combat) and Sternguard (who focus on bolter drills and other forms of ranged warfare).
The first and tenth companies very rarely take to the field as single formations. Instead, the veterans are seconded to other companies, often serving as commanding officers and sergeants to other squads, so as to spread their experience and skill as widely as possible. Whilst the same is also said of Scouts, who are attached to other companies as auxiliary units so that they can learn their trades alongside their more experienced brothers.
A very common codex variant is to keep a company's veterans attached to their parent company permanently, acting as an additional squad in a company and assisting the captain and his command staff where necessary, filling the role of champion, standard bearer and any other administrative positions. These men are very seldom counted as part of the 100 man structure of the company and are instead counted amongst the command staff. More rarely the Veterans will supplant one of the tactical squads, particularly when they act autonomously from the Captain and form the line of battle instead of as a command squad, or in an even greater deviation from the codex, adding an extra squad that is counted amongst the company's order of battle. This organization is used by the Space Sharks, Iron Hands, Iron Snakes, Executioners, Dark Angels and others.
The Codex Astartes formalized and simplified the ranks among the Adeptus Astartes, eliminating some ranks like "commander", while adding some more. They include:
- Chapter Master: The grand poobah of the Chapter. He is the one who gives Marine companies their assignments, and is under no obligation to recognize any external authority save for the God-Emperor of Mankind, though most Chapter masters will recognize and honor (if not obey) the authority of the Inquisition and the Administratum. A chapter master is not merely the commander-in-chief of the chapter, he is also expected to be an administrator, a paragon of martial skill, a councilor, a tactician, a strategist, and often even an admiral or a planetary governor, as the chapter master will typically have ultimate authority over the chapter's homeworld, or home fleet in the case of crusading chapters. Needless to say, chapter masters are some of the most formidable individuals in the galaxy, rivaled only by the greatest heroes and monsters of other races.
- Captain: Captains are the commanders of Companies, overseeing their Marines from the front line instead of the back. Captains are usually promoted from the senior Sergeant in the Company. The most senior is the First Captain, who commands the Veteran 1st Company, and is often the official heir apparent to the Chapter Master. Each Company Captain also holds a Chapter-level position of authority, supervising his Chapter's fleet, vehicle pool, recruits, or territory, for example.
- Lieutenant: with the unveiling of Cawl's new Primaris Marines came a slight reorganisation of codex companies and delegation of officers duties. Each space marine company would have two lieutenants subservient to its captain, though their exact duties can vary from chapter to chapter. (Salamanders lieutenants are ceremonial bodyguards for their Captain, whilst Iron Hands lieutenants are naysmiths charged with arguing against their Captain's battle plans in order to ensure his logic is free from human error) Largely, their main function is to act as an executive to their Captain and take command of the demi-companies when the company splits (one per demi-company), and allowing specialist officers such as Chaplains and Librarians to actually focus on their roles rather than taking command themselves. Which makes sense considering specialist officers trained for a particular duty may be no more qualified to command than any other battle brother.
- As with Captains, there is no actual requirement for Lieutenants to be Primaris Marines, and as it stands, regular Astartes lieutenants are more flexible thanks to the wider range of compatible wargear.
- Force Commander: Not a rank but a title given to the commander of a task force (duh), either given if more than one company is fighting at the same time in which case it would be the senior captain or if the company has to split up and a junior officer such as a lieutenant takes command of forces aside from his own captain.
- Sergeant: Sergeants lead squads of four to nine other Marines depending on the influx of recruits. There are approximately ten sergeants per Codex approved Company. Often, the most senior sergeant will be the commander of a company's "First Squad" (usually a Tactical Squad) and will likely be next in line for a promotion if the Captain is ever slain, but not always. Members of the Captain's Command Squad may also be Sergeants who get additional duties as the Captain's role might require.
- Veteran-Sergeant: Not a "rank" exactly, but more of a recognition of status for those who have been members of a Chapter's First Company, quite frequently these guys get redistributed back to the lower companies to act as squad leaders where their experience will do some good, hence "Veteran Sergeant". These guys will usually get to wear the "Crux Terminatus" even when in power armour, to represent the fact that they have earned the right to use Terminator Armour. Note that Veteran Sergeants can serve in the ranks of the Scouts, Devastators, and Assault Marines despite being technically overqualified, in each case helping the new recruits to adapt to Chapter life. In old 3rd Edition rules you could get Captains without terminator honours, which kind of implied that they never passed through the first company but still got command, nowadays a Captain is just one thing.
- Champion: Champion is actually a number of positions within a chapter, with each company having a champion, the chapter as a whole having a champion, and a champion being drawn from within the ranks of the honour guard to serve as the personal champion of the chapter master (though these last two positions are often held by the same marine). A champion is theoretically the best close quarters fighter in a company, charged with protection of the Captain from all threats. Given that your average Captain is a badass in power armor, this may seem redundant, but it's supposed to allow him to focus on coordinating the battle. One of the biggest dissonances between the crunch and fluff is manifested with the champions, in that on the tabletop officers are almost universally more formidable than the champions that are supposedly there to protect them. Also, rather hilariously, the current status of their chapter champion is one of the only breaks the Ultramarines have with the Codex Astartes, due to the raging ego of one Cato Sicarius.
- Honour Guard: Like a veteran-veteran, assumed to be the best of the best. These guys get bunched together and given some of the best gear available to the chapter. The fluff tells us that these guys are peers of Captains in terms of battlefield experience, but do not have the command rank to actually issue any orders, though when Honour Guard speak up it's advised that the officers nearby listen carefully. Thankfully the tabletop game is balanced not to give a whole squad full of Captain-equivalent soldiers.
- Standard Bearer: The Company Standard Bearer, given the title of Ancient (the old term for Ensign, who was traditional standard bearer), is charged with carrying and protecting the Company Standard, or banner. Also frequently joins the Command Squad. Should a Company Standard Bearer drop the banner and let it fall to the ground, he will essentially forfeit his honor. If the Standard Bearer should be killed and the banner stolen, then the entire Company will be dishonored until the banner is reclaimed. Which means that if you steal a Company Standard, you now have nearly one hundred Space Marines who were just trying to kill you, but now you had to go and make it personal. The most elite of these is the Chapter Standard Bearer (often a member of the Honour Guard), who carries the Chapter banner in war.
Outside of the above mentioned battle ranks, there are other positions within a Chapter:
A chapter may have any number of librarians, with no Codex-mandated minimum or maximum. The fact that psykers, let alone Astartes psykers, are rare makes the position self-limiting.
- Chief Librarian: The head of the Librarium, who assigns Librarians to assist in battlefield communications. Also tests to see whether or not his battle-brothers are tainted by Chaos ("Yes brother, this is standard Codex procedure." *Snaps Latex gloves*)
- Epistolary: The highest rank below Chief Librarian, Epistolaries serve as the main communication aides on the battlefield.
- Codicier: Mid-level Librarians, who evaluate reports from campaigns and document them in their Librariums.
- Lexicanum: Entry-level Librarians, they are responsible for compiling battlefield reports for the Codiciers.
- Acolytum: Neophytes who have been identified as psykers.
A chapter may have any number of apothecaries, although the Codex mandates at least 11 (one per Company, plus the Chief Apothecary).
- Master of the Apothecarion: The head of the Apothecarion, who assigns an Apothecary to each Company. The Apothecarion in turn also takes care of the gene-seed that Chapters place such holy emphasis on, and for good reason: no gene-seed - no new recruits. Also, considering the relatively practical and utilitarian approach marines take to science, Masters of the Apothacarion are some of the only actual scientists in the entire freaking Imperium, if you don't count the ones that pray to their own bionic elbows, which you shouldn't.
A chapter may have any number of chaplains, although the Codex mandates at least 11 (One per Company, plus the Reclusiarch/Master of Sanctity).
- Master of Sanctity: The head of the Chaplaincy, and spiritual leader of the Chapter. He assigns Chaplains to the Companies to oversee the spiritual health of the Chapter. This position is often, but not always, held by the chapter's Reclusiarch. Though it might be tempting to compare them to warrior bishops, they're actually atheists, seeing the Emperor as an honored predecessor and the epitome of humanity, but not a god.
- Reclusiarch: The Chaplain who oversees the Chapter's Reclusiam (where they keep the relics and other secret historical stuff). But quite often the job gets rolled-up into the Master of Sanctity's job description (particularly if the Chapter is relatively young and has not accrued entire millennia worth of trinkets). It's uncertain what interaction (if any) they have with the Master of Relics, or it is quite possible that a Chaplain receives the role if that Captain of the 9th company gets a different position. Or, maybe, the Reclusiarch looks after the more "holy" and historically significant relics, and distributes some of them to Chaplains to carry in battle, while the Master of Relics okays the deployment of precious but combat worthy stuff like ancient marks of power armour or Heresy-era tanks, as Master of the Forge is technically a specialist position, not an authoritative one.
A Chapter's armoury consists of any number of Techmarines and dedicated vehicle operators, who do not formally get assigned to any Company.
- Master of the Forge: The head of the Armoury, who assigns Techmarines to oversee maintenance of the machine-spirits of the chapter's wargear and motor pool. Their position often overlaps to some degree with the Chapter's Reclusiarch, given that both are responsible for keeping the chapter's relics in good condition, so many artifacts will fall under both of their duties. Again, given that their religious zeal is tempered by the practical mindset of a space marine, Masters of the Forge are some of the only engineers in the galaxy that are actually still innovating to any degree, which really shows when you compare the armories of the modern space marine chapters with their traitorous counterparts.
- All Space Marines are required to familiarise themselves with operation of Rhino tanks at the very least as part of their standard training.
- Drivers of the armoury vehicles are referred to as Custodians (unrelated to the golden bananas) many of whom are assigned when necessary from the squads of the 6th & 7th reserve companies. They are expected to continue their development through the companies and learn every aspect of war so that vehicle commanders better anticipate the roles of Tactical/Assault/Devastator and provide battlefield support without even being requested. That is unless they get assigned to the armoury on a more permanent basis, such as being trained to operate larger, more precious vehicles and/or end up specialising in armoured operations.
- Battlefield support vehicles tend not to be assigned permanent crews, and are manned by individuals capable of operating a number of chapter vehicles, helped in part to the ubiquity of the Rhino chassis and the standard training.
- Dreadnoughts are typically assigned back to their original companies, and appear sporadically across a chapters roster, though some chapters assign Dreadnoughts to their own formations instead. However the technology to build even the most basic dreadnought is rare and time consuming; even for master artificers, so the number is limited. But even then, the frequency of wakefulness decreases over time and they get used less and less.
A chapter is allowed a fleet of as many ships as it can get together, and may assign Marines to these ships as permanent staff, in a similar fashion to the Armoury, although the Codex is significantly more flexible on Fleet staff. A chapter can be Codex compliant without any Marines in their Fleet at all. Ship designations made for Space Marines have a fairly narrow band of marine transport capacity, between one to three companies worth, which does not change significantly between chapters. Therefore, while a chapter could theoretically muster a fleet of any size, the practical restraints limit the upper and lower bands of a chapter fleet's size.
- Lord Admiral: Often the Captain of the 4th company gets this position by default as "Master of the Fleet", but it's not unheard of for a Captain to step down from the position if someone else would be better suited to the role; they call that person "Lord Admiral", and he gets command over the Chapter's fleet assets. Though it might be perfectly reasonable that that space marine holds a battlefield rank of Battle-Brother or Sergeant, so he's probably just temporary until the Captain (or his replacement) wants the job back.
- Lieutenant Commander: In the days of the Great Crusade, these individuals commanded battalions of five companies, outranking Captains and were subservient to Chapter Masters. We know of only one example of this rank though it is uncertain whether the title holds the same authority as before. From what we know it now applies to the commander of a vessel, which makes sense since most Space Marine chapters have more ships than Captains, so somebody has to get the job of commanding them. Though often we assume it's just a techmarine or sergeant of whichever squad gets attached to that vessel or more likely a badass high ranking Chapter Serf who doesn't need to be superhuman to understand how spaceships operate.
- With the advent of the company rank of Lieutenant, it is uncertain as to how the Lieutenant Commander actually fits in the new command structure: whether it is a superior form of Lieutenant with new duties (which is what the rank itself implies) or if it is a Lieutenant who has been officially combined with the Force Commander role (see above) and has his own units set aside from his company that he commands on a full time basis. Or more likely, considering that Space Marines tend to hold to an army chain of command rather than a naval hierarchy, the rank is probably an honorific title that stands alongside their company rank such as with the Lord Admiral. It is also quite possible this is now the same as a old naval Lieutenant Commander, which was a Lieutenant serving as the Commander of a vessel.
In case you haven't picked up on it yet, the Codex is rather controversial, for a number of reasons. First off, and perhaps most significantly, is the fact that even GW's own writers don't agree on what the codex is. Saint Abnett views it as a book of tips and strategies, comparable to The Art of War. Graham McNeill (the guy who wrote the Ultramarines Omnibus) sees it as a comprehensive but inflexible guide to strategy, organization, and conduct. Matt Ward quite famously sees it as a literal Space Marine Bible, a holy book that all marines follow to the letter. Like a lot of GW lore, the canon is up in the air, and as such it's kind of open to interpretation. When it comes down to it, most of the argument over the codex comes down to people saying, "The Codex is a detrimental, absurd tome written by an OCD fucker that only serves to weaken the Imperium!" and others saying, "The Codex is one of the most important things in the entire imperium, setting down the rules that have allowed it to survive to the modern day!" Both people are correct because of the nebulous canon. Many writers are clearly very critical of the Codex, and portray it as antiquated and damaging, whereas others portray it as comprehensive and useful, but increasingly antiquated. Also there's Ward, but let's not talk about him. Which version is true? Yes.
It's also worthy of note that many people within the Ultramarines take the Codex with a grain of salt. Captain Titus, Uriel Ventris, and even Marneus Calgar and the freaking primarch himself have all been critical of the codex at various times, or rather, been critical of people's reception of it. All of these people see the codex as useful and important, but take issue with people, Ultramarines or otherwise, that see it as a holy book that contains everything you need to know. Perhaps Guilliman himself put it best, saying, "[My teachings] are yet flawed. No one, not even one such as I, can anticipate every possible outcome of battle. My words are not some holy writ that must be obeyed. There must always be room for personal initiative on the battlefield. You and I both know how one spark of heroism can turn the tide of battle. That knowledge and personal experience can only be earned in blood, and the leader in the field must always be the ultimate arbiter of what course of action should be followed." As the opening quote implies, Captain Titus is also quite critical of Leandros's interpretation of the codex, pointing out that personal initiative is just as important as adhering to the codex. Then again, Titus is also quite clearly a company champion who got mixed up for a captain, what with his disregard for tactics in favor of glorious melee, so maybe we should just ignore what he thinks.
Ultimately, your own take on the codex is going to depend on a number of things, including whose canon you believe, you opinion of the Legions, your opinion of Guilliman, and a dozen other things, just decide for yourself. Don't let yourself get pulled in by the fanboys saying the Codex is the perfect guide to everything, and conversely don't listen to the idiots who say the Codex is only useful as toilet paper.
"Codex" Chapters with doctrinal variations
More commonly, are those chapters which follow the codex at an organisational level, but disregard certain tactical aspects contained within, most likely because they have their own modus-operandi that they have a preference for, or because they create their own unique tactics that had never been considered.
- Follows the Codex Astartes, yet has a large number of vehicles.
- They have a lot of vehicles.
- For a 1000 man sized Chapter, they have a lot of tanks.
- Of all the Codex Chapters they have the most tanks.
- Their armored spearhead attacks are pretty devastating.
- Cannot say too much about those guys since they are very secretive, thus their organisation and structure are completely unknown.
- Are confirmed to be Blood Angels successors, yet as said before, they are totally unknown from a organisational and structural P.O.V.
- Have a lot of Great Crusade and Horus Heresy Era stuff, including a Fellblade.
- More tactically oriented Imperial Fists.
- Actually do follow the Codex more closely than other Sons of Dorn (but not that much like the Hammers of Dorn).
- At the time of their founding, they were known to be the most level-headed members of the Imperial Fists Legion, therefore took in the Codex much faster and easier.
- Only deviation is the existence of a Crusader Company that is a 1st Company that has 128 Veterans. A result of an event where they were reduced to 128 members during the Crusade of Righteous Liberation.
- Due to the whole situation with Rynn's World, the Chapter became very capable at fighting Orks.
- Iron Hands Successors that follow the Codex.
- Put more emphasis on projectile weapons (like Bolter Weapons) and Dreadnoughts.
- Follow the Codex to the letter, yet do put more emphasis on heavy weapons and overwhelming firepower.
- No really, they follow the ABSOLUTE LETTER of the codex.
- Not even the Ultramarines(Famous for having the primarch that wrote the damn thing) follow the codex more rigidly than them.
- They probably actually read the Codex from cover to cover.
- Codex compliant, yet put large emphasis on flyers.
- Instead of sending out a single company, the Minotaurs utilize mob and berserker tactics along with sending out all ten of their companies to utterly overwhelm and crush their foes.
- Camouflage Power Armour. Technically this IS in the codex, but they're the only space marine chapter out of literally thousands that actually bothers to do it. They're also sneeki beekies, just like their Raven Guard progenitors.
- Sneeki Cheeki Beekies. While they do follow the codex, their chapter is renowned for its skill with stealth tactics and guerilla warfare. It also made extensive use of mutants (during the Horus Heresy) due to their situation after the Drop Site Massacre.
- Greater emphasis on infantry and terror tactics.
- Will sneak up as close as possible to the enemy to later tear them a new one in close combat while berserking.
- May be organisationally non compliant as well, but they are quite tight lipped about it.
- Like the Iron Hands and Dark Angels, they keep veterans in their battle companies to maintain coherency within the companies.
- Codex compliant, but utilize armoured assaults, Drop Pod strikes, and heavily use Scouts to get intel before ruining someone's day.
- Due to their heavy use of Scouts, they have a larger than average 10th Company.
White Scars and some Successors
- Disproportionate emphasis put on bikes and speeders compared to heavy vehicles, still adhering to codex formation however.
Chapters with differences in formations or composition
Some chapters have taken the idea of a "Chapter" and tweaked it with their own unique spin on its organization, either by adding units or ranks that aren't found anywhere else, or have their own composition of companies that doesn't fit with the approved codex model. In some cases they may ignore the codex altogether and do their own thing.
- Dragon Claw squads, made up of mutants who make use of adamantium-coated wrist blades.
- Pre-Aurelian Crusade:
- Usually, the Chapter Master was the Chief Librarian too, like Azariah Kyras. This tradition of Chapter Master/Librarian combo started with Azariah Vidya (as in Vidya Games or the Indian term for knowledge, science, scholarship, learning and etc.).
- Their gene seed causes them to have an above average number of Librarians, so many they can field two whole squads of them in the First Company. Librarians are so recurrent among Blood Ravens that it's not uncommon for one to even be a Captain.
- Actually Codex Compliant in structure, yet utilize their Librarians to scry and predict the movements of their enemies (so their Scouts are Librarians too?) and use the intel to formulate a counter strategy (because they appeared in Dawn of War, their way of war is an emulation of how RTS gamers play when they are serious).
- Non-standard patterns of speech, incidents of hairesy, compulsive kleptomania and emphasis on devastating, defensive deepstrikes.
- Post-Aurelian Crusade:
- With Gabriel Angelos, a non-psyker, taking the position of Chapter Master and separating the Chapter Master and Chief Librarian positions, they returned to a more codex-compliant organization, albeit severely undermanned.
Blood Angels and Successors
- Scouts graduate to Assault Squads rather than to Devastator squads.
- The use of non-standard tech, like Baal Predators, Furioso and Librarian Dreadnoughts.
- Sanguinary Priests (Apothecaries) make up part of the chapter priesthood equivalent to Chaplains, who are busy tending to...
- ...The Death Company.
Dark Angels and Successors
- The Deathwing & Ravenwing instead of First and Second companies. As of 8th edition, this modification has been officially approved by Guilliman, ostensibly on account of their proven effectiveness.
- Inner Circle in place of usual chapter command structure.
- Chaplains taking the additional role of Interrogators.
- Battle Companies incorporate an additional squad of veteran marines.
- Some nifty STC that they do not share with anybody apart from their own successors.
- Disregard many of the Codex's rules and trappings, but nonetheless follow the ten company outline.
- Choose to go into close combat with the enemy, while heavily preferring Land Speeders over Bikes.
- Heavy emphasis on their own skills and superhuman abilities enhanced with sheer determination.
- Each company has three Death Speakers.
- Battle Companies have only one Devastator Squad each, but can field their own Veteran Squads.
- Have two additional scout companies to account for the high attrition rate amongst recruits.
- ...said attrition rate being caused by subjecting recruits to daemonic possession.
- Have a Chapter Council instead of a fixed Chapter Master, though a leader may be nominated.
- Chaplain Techmarines, aka "Iron Fathers".
- The current leader is thus a Chapter Master Chaplain Techmarine. And people say the Blood Ravens are the crazy ones.
- Each Clan Company has its own armoury, rather than a single armoury for the whole chapter.
- Terminator Armour was distributed to squad sergeants instead of being reserved only for the First company.
- Pre-6th Edition fluff indicated that individual companies (clans) had their own veterans and recruits, newer fluff put them more in line with the Codex.
- Instead of having five regular battle companies and five reserve companies, the Iron Snakes have ten battle companies with an equal number of veterans, regulars and neophytes for perfect balance.
- Each squad has a Apothecary, personal Squad Standard Bearer and a number of specialists of their own.
- Apothecaries act in squad command roles instead of sergeants.
- Functionally the opposite of the Raptors, the Red Scorpions ignore all of the codex's teachings on stealth.
- Have seven oversized companies instead of ten, but otherwise broadly conform to the codex.
- Each company takes a Devastator Squad over a Tactical Squad, leaving five Tactical and three Devastators in the battle companies
- The chapter is never at full strength, seldom even at half, but maintains weapons as though they were. Their "tactical" reserve companies can fill in for full devastator squads, if needed.
- Tempest Blades being a non-codex formation.
- Heavy emphasis on mechanized warfare and mano-a-mano honorable duels to the death.
- Tyrannic War Veterans are a non-codex formation.
- Originally, Guilliman deliberately gave himself an 11th company in contravention of his own rules for the sole purpose of guarding the Pharos. Though this company got rolled into its own chapter while the Adeptus Terra were doing their audits for an unanticipated Third Founding.
- The Ultramarines still have an "apparent" 11th company that guards the Eye of Terror; made up of volunteer squads donated from their successors but all wearing Ultramarine uniforms.
- After Guilliman's return, he appointed Decimus Felix as an 11th captain (no particular company this time). The break with the codex was enough to give Felix cause for concern. Later, Guilliman appointed him Tetrarch and gave him authority over Ultramar's Eastern expanses.
- Cato Sicarius is still the 11th (12th/13th?) He now commands the Victrix Guard, which is a new formation of Veterans who act as Guilliman's bodyguards and envoys.
- Have two Chapter Masters instead of one
As mentioned, there are so many chapters in the Imperium and very few of them follow the codex absolutely to the letter. Many chapters have their own preferred mode of warfare based upon their experiences, supplies and dispositions, often they generate their own interpretations and deviations from the codex. Here follows a comparative listing of those chapters and the way in which they differ from what the codex actually prescribes.
- Pre-Red Corsairs Times: Before Lugft Huron went pants-on-heads retarded, the Chapter was known for being exceptionally stubborn with skilled Bikers and favoring lightning strikes and boarding actions while still following the Codex.
- Badab War Times:
- Due to Huron's pants-on-heads retarded thinking, the Chapter seized the Badab Sector's industry and made it so that Bolter rounds and Rhinos were mass-produced to the point being expendable, not to mention the larger-than-standard number of marines due to them purposefully not paying their geneseed tithe.
- Emergence of specialized units (such as the hated Corpse-Takers) and human Auxilia. Squads larger due to aforementioned not paying of the geneseed tithe.
- "Chapter" made up of ad-hoc crusade fleets and fighting companies, their numbers thus swelling up to six times the size of everyone else's.
- No Scout company, instead recruits are apprenticed to fully fledged battle-brothers, aka "Crusader squads".
- No Librarians.
- Doctrinal emphasis on close quarters combat.
- Abundance of previously unsanctioned Land Raider "Crusader"s to deliver said Crusader squads to CQC. See the trend here?
- May or may not deify the Emperor. The canon is kind of up in the air right now.
- The position of "Emperor's Champion", a Chapter Champion-esque title but of faith significance.
- Due to their unique training and equipment (not to mention the intimidatingly insane shit they have to deal with), the Codex would actually hamper them instead.
- All psyker Chapter of Demon hunting marines. Nuff said.
- The infamous Dreadknight.
- When the Neophyte ends his training, he becomes a battle brother and is issued a suit of power armour and his standard wargear.
- Do not have any artillery weapons like Whirlwind Artillery Tanks or lack of certain vehicles other Chapters have.
- Previously Codex adherent Fire Hawks (maybe, now it's uncertain if they are Fire Hawks or somebody/something completely different), now a horde of angry hellfire powered, space/time/dimension travelling, spectrerevenantdemonspacemarines.
- Utilize more powerful, but unstable early versions of existing Imperial Weapons like early Horus Heresy Era Plasma Weapons.
- Ignore the organizational parts of the codex outright. It would be easier to go their page to find out how they are organised.
- Simply put, Leman Russ wanted them to be forged in his vision instead that of Roboute Guilliman, and Guilliman gave him permission to do so.
- Although they do however take some useful tactics from the codex because they like them, they see them as just that: useful tactics, and nothing more.
- Fenrisian Wolves/Thunderwolves used by the Chapter. This may or may not be heresy.
- Have more than a thousand marines, yet not that much as the Black Templars.
- Threw the typical training process out the window because of the Canis Helix.
- In the previous editions, they had access to Leman Russ tanks (since the tank was named after their Primarch).
- Wolf Priests combine both Chaplain and Apothecary roles.
- Their Scouts are
quiet psychopathsveteran loners
Purpose for Gamers
Of course, there's a reason Games Workshop included the Codex Astartes in their fluff (long before Matt Ward came along, by the way). Basically, it makes it easier for players to invent their own Chapters.
Players who just have an idea for a cool color scheme or name but don't want to put any effort into making up a whole organizational layout can just make a Chapter that rigidly follows the Codex, like the Ultramarines. Those who want to have one or two unique organizational or tactical features can make a Chapter that generally follows the Codex but has some variances, like...well, most of them (see above). And players that want to make up entirely independent structures themselves can make Chapters that ignore the Codex entirely, like the Space Wolves or the Black Templars.
This means that Matt Ward's Codex worship isn't just lame, but actually bad for GW's business: By telling players that only Codex Chapters are any good, he's discouraging players with their own ideas from investing in models, paints, tournaments, and maybe even later editions of the game. Truly, there is no end to his failure.