Space Marines are phenomenally tough, but there's a limit even to their durability. A battle-brother may be so grievously wounded that no amount of cybernetics and cloned tissue can bring him back to fighting strength. In cases like these, an Apothecary has two choices: grant his brother the Emperor's Peace and extract his gene-seed, or have him installed in a specialized life-support sarcophagus and attach that to an array of weapons and mobility systems, turning him into a Dreadnought.
The advantages to becoming a Dreadnought include the ability to support the battle-brothers as a walking siege engine, blasting vehicles and fortifications with heavy weapons and ripping open hard targets with hydraulic claws. Heavily-armored and no longer feeling pain, a Dreadnought can wade into swarms of light infantry with near-impunity, smashing, stomping, and shooting until nothing's left but greasy stains. The life-support systems in the sarcophagus allow the Dreadnought's occupant to live nearly forever, as demonstrated by Bjorn the Fell Handed of the Space Wolves, who has lived in such a state since the mid-31st millennium. Therefore, Dreadnoughts tend to gather lifetimes of experience and are often called upon to share that experience with newer battle-brothers. Having a Dreadnought on the field is both a force multiplier and a morale booster.
All that power comes at a cost, of course. The near-dead battle-brother no longer has senses of his own, his eyes and ears wired to the sarcophagus's auspex arrays. He lives in a bath of cool fluid, numb and sleeping without dreaming, when his services as a warrior or historian are not needed. Should he be crippled on the battlefield, he can do nothing to save himself and must have faith in his brothers and the God Emperor that they will retrieve him.
Tabletop wise, Dreads are an effective all-rounder and are fairly cheap to boot. They're good at any role they're tooled for, whether it's for blowing up tanks with twin-linked lascannons or melta guns or mowing down infantry with an assault cannon or heavy flamer. They can also be formidable close combat units as they can be tooled with power fists, for example. You can also deep-strike them in Drop Pods, ensuring hilarity when you get lucky and they end up where they precisely need to be.
Do note, however, that many enemies focus anti-armor weapons on them (especially if there isn't a Land Raider to distract them). A footslogging Dread, without heavy use of cover, will be a burning hulk of points within two turns, relying on the deep striking Drop Pods to get them where they need to go.
There's a whole bunch of Dreadnought variants that do different things. There are also Wraithlords, Deff Dreds, and Helbrutes, which used to be called Eldar Dreadnoughts, Ork Dreadnoughts, and Chaos Dreadnoughts, respectively.
Is the name for the traditional "box" dreadnought that everyone is familiar with, comes in MkIV and MkV flavours (just so you know, MkIV are the ones with the helmet-head). Designed by the Mechanicus during the Great Crusade, specifically for its smaller size (to assist battle-brothers indoors), while its reactor runs on pretty much any fuel and the chassis is completely customisable; hence, there are a terrific number of variations, though the Castraferrum is usually outfitted with a hydraulic claw with mounted bolter or flamer and a heavy ranged weapon.
- Hellfire Dreadnought: The most common variation of shooty dread, this swaps out its close combat weapon for a missile launcher.
- Ironclad Dreadnought: Even more heavily armored melee dreadnoughts with a Seismic Hammer, Hunter-Killer Missiles, and a built-in Frag Assault Launcher, designed to put giant holes in tanks and bunkers. It may also be equipped with a Hurricane Bolter if you need a big blob of light infantry killed fast.
- Siege Dreadnought: Specialized bunker-busting Dreadnoughts equipped with Assault Drills and Inferno Cannons. If they manage to come close enough to any building, no matter how fortified, they would wreck it and burn the shit out of anyone inside.
- Venerable Dreadnoughts: Simply put, they're really old Dreadnoughts that have been locked up for a long time and as such are better at fighting and... stuff. Also tend to get sleepy and lose their keys.
- Chaplain Dreadnoughts: Some Chapters have Venerable Dreadnoughts that used to be Chaplains. This basically means they have all those special effects that Chaplains do... in a Dreadnought body.
Chapter Specific Dreads
- Furioso Dreadnought: Heavily armored Blood Angels dreadnoughts with two close combat weapons designed to RIP AND TEAR lots of troops in brutal close combat! Sometimes they even put a blood-crazed maniac from the Death Company inside, which turns a Furioso into an unholy, uncontrollable, and unstoppable rape machine.
- Furioso Librarian Dreadnoughts: Blood Angels can also lock psykers up in Dreadnoughts, creating unholy amalgamations called Furioso Librarians. In addition to the badassery above, they replace one of their fists with a force weapon and can kill you with mind bullets. Furioso Librarians were once capable of flying (DAMN YOU WAAAAARRRRDDDD), but no longer while they are between codices.
- Mortis Dreadnought: A variant supposedly exclusive to the Dark Angels that sports two copies of the same ranged weapon, for maximum dakka. This was apparently due to the Dark Angels' talent for writing things down (for entirely practical reasons, like keeping track of grudges, rather than writing down some bible for space marines or the repressed/begrudging teeming masses) as all Legions had access to this pattern, but only the Angels remembered how to make a leftie dreadnought ranged weapon that wasn't a missile launcher.
- Doomglaive Dreadnoughts: A specialist dreadnoughts used by the Grey Knights, comes with a nemesis force weapon and a psycannon as standard. Can attempt cleave attacks in close combat and try to hit additional dudes.
- Space Wolves Venerable Dreadnought: Not exactly unique in design compared to other Venerables, but the veteran Wolves interred in them are so viking that they want to keep on vikinging even after death, meaning that the Iron Wolves of the chapter figured out how to give them a Blizzard Shield and a fucking huge Frost Axe. They lack ranged weapons but, you know, Dreadnought-sized double-headed axe!
Really old Dreadnoughts from before the Horus Heresy that are bigger and stronger than "modern" Dreads. A few Chapters still have them and deploy them to the field. They look more humanoid and Anime-like, and people get puzzled as why did they not use these instead of the goofier Dreadknight, but the reasons they don't use them are exactly the same as why they started using the Castraferrum pattern instead; plus, Contemptors are becoming rarer and rarer in 40k, because the Adeptus Mechanicus keeps forgetting how to build things competently.
They have a bunch of mysterious cybernetic/AI stuff, which probably means that you should keep these away from the Adeptus Mechanicus, since they like stripping them out for parts to use on their robots. Unlike regular Dreads, they have access to Cyclone Missile Launchers, Heavy Conversion Beamers, Chainfists, Graviton Guns, Plasma Blasters, and the Kheres-Pattern Assault Cannon. They also have an advanced Atomantic reactor which no-one knows how to make anymore, that is coupled to a field generator that gives them an invulnerable save at the expense of making a Vehicle Explodes result more dangerous.
- Contemptor-Mortis Dreadnoughts: A modified Contemptor Dreadnought most often used by the Dark Angels that puts out a massive amount of dakka... so massive, in fact, that modern autocannon Dreads live in jealousy. Also, they have targeting arrays to fire at flyers.
- Contemptor-Furioso Dreadnoughts: While any contemptor can be kitted out with two close combat weapons only the Blood Angels do this exclusively, since they don't have access to "regular" contemptors in the rules, which also means they don't get access to the cool relic weapons.
- Contemptor-Cortus Dreadnoughts: A more easily produced Contemptor, made from less sophisticated materials and spare parts cannibalised from other dreadnoughts, resulting in less armour, less effective shielding, and a worse user interface. However, they are faster and more cost effective than the standard Contemptors, and can overcharge their reactors for even more speed at a risk to themselves.
- Venerable Contemptor Dreadnoughts: A Contemptor Dreadnought that is part of the Adeptus Custodes and is thus automatically given the title of 'Venerable' cause their just that badass. Essentially a golden Contemptor Dreadnought that is armed with a standard issue Autocannons, Power Fists and Multi-Melta. For just 30 more points you get the Aegis (Which grants a 5+ invulnerable save), and Deep Strike abilities, plus the aforementioned venerable. Considered as a cheaper alternative to the Custodes' walkers (Yes, the Contemptor Dreadnought is considered as the equivalent of a worn down rented car for the Golden Bananas. This should tell you how OP they are).
- Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnoughts: Used exclusively by the Adeptus Custodes, these Dreads were badass. How badass? Besides being more advanced overall, they came with an extra shield for solid defense, and a Sentinel blade with a built-in heavy flamer. Truly a marvel worthy of the Emperor's bodyguards.
- Contemptor-Achillus Dreadnoughts: Yet another variant of a Adeptus Custodes exclusive dreadnought. The Contemtor-Achillus swaps the giant sword and shield with a ECKS BAWKS HUEG FUCK OFF Power Spear called the Dreadspear with an inbuilt Corvae Las-Pulser and a hand-mounted Storm Bolter. If you want to skewer the rear ends of Land Raiders, this is the walker for you.
The Deredeo is a dedicated heavy weapons platform, rather than a general purpose chassis like the Castraferrum or the Contemptor. To this end it gets access to specialized wargear which cannot be found anywhere else, like a tank busting version of an autocannon or a unique plasma battery.
The model is a reworking of one of the three 1st edition Dreadnought patterns (with the other two being the Furibundus and Contemptor) from FW's workshop. It is equipped with an Anvilus autocannon battery (which are S8 Sunder Autocannons for tank busting), torso-mounted heavy bolters/flamers, and the Aiolos missile launcher (which always hits the side armour of enemy tanks, doesn't require line of sight to fire, can be aimed at a different target from the autocannons, and is Pinning as well). Like the Contemptor Mortis, it has Atomantic Shielding and a Helical Targeting Array to take down fliers. It can also be equipped with Armored Ceramite in the off-chance it ever gets into melta range. Alternately, it can switch out the autocannons for a twin-linked Hellfire Plasma Carronade that lets it fire off either 4 S7 AP2 shots or a single S7 AP2 Large Blast (with Gets Hot! on the latter mode, not that it matters much since it's still twin-linked), or an Arachnus Heavy Lascannon Battery, which isn't twin-linked but does fire 2 S10 AP2 shots, and if its shots score a penetrating hit on a vehicle the shot has a 50% chance of having it count as TWO penetrating hits instead of one! In Horus Heresy games it can also replace the missile launcher with an Atomantic Pavaise that improves its invulnerable save and lets anyone within 3" of it use the save too, at the expense of a larger explosion radius if it ever goes down. Since this can improve existing invulnerable saves by +1 for units which already have them, it's an ideal complement to Terminators with good ranged weapons (e.g. Tyrant Siege Terminators or anyone with an Assault Cannon).
AKA, the Hulkbuster Pattern. Unlike other patterns, the Leviathan was apparently designed in secret on Terra instead of Mars. It is also said to take just as much resources to manufacture as an Imperial Knight... And despite the fact that it looks like it has considerably more mass than a regular Castraferrum dread, it is still nowhere near the size of a Knight, so those resources must be unique/exotic materials or from remote systems.
The Leviathan is a specialist siege dreadnought, like an enhanced Ironclad variant, but like the Deredeo it comes with its own unique weapons not found anywhere else. By default, it begins with two Siege Claws with built-in meltaguns that have a 50% chance of causing d3 extra wounds on a successful To Wound roll. These can be replaced with Siege Drills for Armourbane, and it also has two torso-mounted heavy flamer that can be swapped out for Volkite Calivers if you REALLY need that blob of infantry dead. While it's a beast in assault since it gains 2 HoW attacks and +1 I on the charge, it's equally vicious if kitted out for shooting- its ranged options are a Leviathan Storm Cannon (S7 AP3, Heavy 6, and Sunder with a range of 24"), the Cyclonic melta lance (Range 18" S9 AP1 Heavy 3, Melta. Not Lance!) or a Grav Flux Bombard, which acts like 30K's Graviton Weapons in that affected targets need to roll either at or under their Strength at 2d6 or be wounded (if infantry) or roll 3d6 for armor penetration (for vehicles), taking DOUBLE the number of Hull Points it would normally take if it penetrates successfully- and either way, the Large Blast leaves behind difficult/dangerous terrain for the next turn. Either of those can be further supplemented with a one-use Phosphex Discharger so enemy blobs can make like Fallujah and eat a dose of Willie Pete, and can also take a pack of three hunter-killer missiles for a little bit of long-range Rhino-popping. Its Reinforced Atomantic Shielding gives it a 4++ invulnerable save against all sources, but also increases the radius and Strength of an Explodes! result on the vehicle damage table by D3 (like damn near everything FW makes that has an invuln) so be careful there. It's potentially a blessing in disguise if you're charging into the midst of the enemy, but don't expect it to take down Titans in its dying throes.
A few of these still serve in the 41st millennium; they lose out on several of their options (such as the grav-flux bombard, volkite calivers and phosphex discharger) but are totally immune to all Malediction psychic powers. However, they can't score, must make charges and Sweeping Advances whenever possible, and can never gain benefits from being part of a formation or detachment (so much for your IWND Iron Hands rape machine). This also ties into its status as a Relic of the Armoury, as these things are so unreliably kill-crazy that they are only sent out on the Chapter Master's direct say-so. In fact, if you look at a certain Chaos walker... you just might see why this is loyalist-only.
For Zone Mortalis it should probably be said that the Leviathan Dreadnought is possibly the most terrifying thing in the entire world to deal with in tight, narrow corridors. Its two Heavy Flamers gain Shred and Rending by default in Zone Mortalis, and its default Meltaguns mean it can just vaporize any other walkers it comes across. This thing becomes the pinnacle of destruction whenever playing with the Blip Rule, as your opponent won't even know where the fuck it is.
Since it comes at 260 points base, you could easily just bring three of these, an HQ, and two scout squads to snag objectives. Just let the Leviathans become mobile platforms of absolute destruction that cause everything that walks around the corner to experience critical existence failure within the span of a single assault phase.
So far the Castraferrum, Contemptor, Deredeo and Leviathan are the only patterns of dreadnought that are available as models. (unless you count some of the chaos daemon-engines, but who knows what they started as?)
Other types have been named though, and it is also said that some of these older pre-heresy patterns could have been piloted by non-astartes. So we can cross our fingers that more dreadnoughts may be coming eventually.
- Lucifer: Said to be the prototype for the Contemptor, but doesn't have the advanced systems, instead it supposedly has shitloads of frontal armour.
- Furibundus: The other old Rogue Trader pattern. It's also one of the most fugly but since Forge World is set on updating the old stuff they'll fix that or make it more Grotesque. If they ever get around to making it.
"Even in death, I still serve" was a phrase scattered throughout Warhammer 40k, but it didn't become a meme until the original Dawn of War game, where it's one of the Dreadnought's more common quotes.
The making of a Dreadnought
1: Take 1 outstandingly badass Space Marine
2: Cut him in half (hopefully before he does the same to you)
3: Leave the dying body on the doorstep of some Adeptus Mechanicus guy
On a less lulzy note, the novel The Unforgiven gives us an insight as to what being put inside a Dreadnought is like, as well as a clear reason why the usual occupants are marines who've been chewed up and spat out by at least three separate Carnifexes. The process of implanting the neural connectors is so painful to a lucid brain that it can sometimes kill a Space Marine out of shock. Let me reiterate that this is a Space Marine, a Space Marine with the some of the best painkiller hormones in the galaxy, with mental conditioning and hypno-memetic psycho-reactive blocks to protect their minds from pain and torture, and the procedure is typically done with the Apothecary close at hand to monitor the pain threshold. It's still, somehow, even to a son of the Emperor, painful enough to almost kill them. Holy shit.
The Dreadnoughts of the Angry Marines are also known as the Belligerent Engines.
- Tankred, the original memenought. He endures, for he is here for the bitches.
- Chaos Dreadnought, the evil (well, more evil) version
- Grandpa Dreadnought
- Bjorn the Fell Handed, of the Space Wolves, and the oldest living Space Marine in the Imperium.
- Davian Thule, of the Blood Ravens, also known as Davian Cool.
- Belligerent Engine, a catch-all term for the Dreadnoughts of the Angry Marines.
- Spared, a short story about a Dreadnought and some Tau.
- Entombed, a not-so-short story about a Dreadnought.
|Forces of the Adeptus Custodes|
|Command:||Companions/Hetaeron - Shield-Captain|
|Troops:|| Aquilon Terminator - Custodian Guard |
Sagittarum Guard - Sentinel Guard
|Walkers:|| Contemptor-Galatus Dreadnought - Heavy Dreadnought |
Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought
|Vehicles:|| Caladius Grav-Tank - Coronus Grav Carrier |
Drop Pod - Grav-Rhino - Gyrfalcon Pattern Jetbike
Pallas Grav-Attack - Rhino - Venerable Land Raider
|Flyers:||Equinox Interceptor - Stormbird|
|Titans:||Warlord-Sinister Pattern Battle Psi-Titan|
|Auxiliaries:||Sisters of Silence|