"If I am to die, I DIE STANDING!"
- – Dawn of War 2 Terminators, exemplifying the average tenacity of the Chapter's finest.
Terminator is the border between day and night sides of the planet, also known as a "twilight zone". It's also the name of a franchise that began in 984.M2 based on a type of robot employed by the A.I Skynet for its noble goal of cleaning Earth of human scum (initially humanoid infiltrator type - which a certain race of robots in 40k is based on, but later all Skynet robots came to be called that). But of course you came here because of Space Marines in Terminator armour...
Terminators are Space Marine or Adeptus Custodes veterans who have earned the right to wear Terminator armor through exemplary service. Terminator armor or "Tactical Dreadnought Armor" is a holy relic of a Space Marine Chapter, often dating back to the years of the Horus Heresy and so revered as a holy relic and a physical manifestation of the chapter's undying fighting spirit. Although most Chapters nowadays just wear the modern Indomitus Pattern, rather than the more ancient Cataphractii, Tartaros or the Saturnine Pattern. Because most chapters generally have far fewer Terminator suits than standard power armor suits, Terminator armor is generally reserved for the veterans of a Chapter's first company (though codex-deviant chapters will have their own rules on who gets termie armor). In spite of their incredible rarity, Terminators are frequently deployed to Space Hulks since it's the only level of protection that can withstand the intense radiation found within many hulks.
The Imperium being the Imperium, new suits of Terminator armor are produced very slowly these days by Forge Worlds due to their high cost and the fact that the Adeptus Mechanicus continues to go on its Alzheimer's streak by constantly forgetting how to make anything good besides Titans. Instead, most Terminator armor is now made from existing Terminator suits, refurbished for battle, with only the occasional new part produced when needed.
Because of the Terminator armor's sheer weight and bulk, they're slow-moving and will likely be shot at if foot-slogged across the field, which isn't really a problem until someone whips out the Lascannon, Plasma Cannon, and all other forms of dedicated anti-armor weapons. So termies get around by deep striking with Teleporters or riding the heaviest transports there is which are the only ones capable of supporting their sheer weight (Land Raider, Spartan Assault Tank, Mastodon, or the fliers: Thunderhawk, Storm Eagle, and Stormraven).
Unusually, the invulnerable save granted by a lot of Terminator Armor doesn't actually represent a force field or psychic powers like most other invulnerables present on the tabletop. It actually represents the hardest surfaces of the armor, which are so strong that there is no known method of piercing them. On the tabletop this doesn't stop it being affected by anything that bypasses a normal invulnerable, though.
It should be noted that the STC remnants this was derived from was CIVILIAN GRADE standard issue reactor maintanence/HAZMAT gear from the DAoT. If we ever get an RPG or something that takes place near the beginning of the Age of Strife, we may be able to get a glimpse of the actual ultra heavy power armor.
Terminators are usually equipped with a Storm Bolter in one hand for ranged combat, and a powerfist, chainfist, or power weapon in the other for close combat. The Storm Bolter can be switched for a Heavy Flamer or an Assault Cannon. For extra zip, a shoulder mounted Cyclone Missile Launcher (basically a portable manticore) can be purchased and equipped. Assault Terminators are tooled to close combat with all manner of deadly shit such as Lightning Claws or a Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield.
Either way, a shooty or choppy termie won't disappoint if used properly.
Chaos Space Marines have a different weapon loadout. Chaos Terminators do not distinguish between long and close range combat and equip both types of weapons, though in place of an assault cannon they use the Reaper Autocannon. Lacking loyalist-exclusive weapons, they rely on Marks of Chaos for added power.
During the Great Crusade and Horus Heresy, Terminators could also use combi-weapons, Plasma Blasters, Volkite Weaponry, and Multi-Meltas, depending on the Legion they came from. The Adeptus Custodes used the much more powerful Lastrum Storm Bolters and Solarite Gauntlets as their standard weaponry. As special weapons, they could use twin-linked Adrathic Destructors, Infernus Firepikes, and Solarite Talons.
Moar Mechanicus Fail
Originally (as in Great Crusade originally) the Mechanicus could actually make Terminator armor. It was called Cataphractii-pattern armor (though there were many patterns of terminator armor at that time) and it was MADE of WIN. It had the freakiest pauldrons ever but was pretty much unbreakable. Wait, you thought that Terminator armor got its toughness from it being STRONG? Of course not, it's from the Marine itself!, the only protection the armor provides is the +2 armor save and 4++ invulnerable save. After the Horus Heresy, the Mechanicus forgot how to make the good armor, so they decided to test whether or not the Emperor's armor would blend. It did, so they took all of the tiny fragments, and stuck one piece in the shoulder of each new suit of Terminator armor, underneath the fancy Crux Terminatus.
So all of the new fancy-looking armor you see today is actually crappier than the goofy old armor. That's mostly how stuff works in 40K: technology actually gets worse as time moves on so we won't be surprised if by the 51st millennium, everything reverts back/progresses to Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Considering the apocalyptic devastation happening on every battlefield to every faction... hey wait a minute! Does this mean 40K might actually be a prequel to Fantasy Battle!? It all makes sense! The last battlefield (world) in the galaxy (probably last freakin' planet in the galaxy by then)... and then, Age of Sigmar.
Rant aside, Terminator armor is still in limited production in 41st millennium. While not as protective as the original Cataphractii armor it is more maneuverable and thus inherently more practical. The suits are effectively hand made by a team of master-skilled artisans who would regard any defects or mistakes in their product as an inexcusable blasphemy. The end result is an armor that is the standard-to-which-all-others-are-judged in terms of personal protection that can and will last millennia on nightmarish battlefields while toting weapon systems (if oddly few) that can fuck up main battle tanks. But it takes that single team of artisans years at a minimum to make a single complete suit. Is it worth it? Some Space Marine Chapters say no, but most say yes.
On the note of limited production, at least somebody in the Mechanicus has not forgotten how to make them as the Grey Knights actually get new power and terminator armor to replace losses, freshly made for the individual Astartes by the Mechanicus. Having your own personal forgeworld does have its advantages. The Custodes also get new suits (big surprise) including one that was created well after the Horus Heresy (according to the Warhammer Community page, possibly as recent as the 41st millennium) that combines the best protection Terminator Armour offers with none of the downsides. Each suit is apparently worth as much as an entire planet. Presumably after another 10k years they might be able to make variants for the Astartes...
Even rarer are suits of Terminator Armour that can be worn by baseline humans, let alone acquired by any. Usually the reserve of especially crusty Inquisitors, human adapted Terminator suits need extensive modification to be wearable, let alone compensating for all the features that not being an Astartes leaves hanging.
As of 5th edition, Storm Shields were given a 3+ invulnerable save against EVERYTHING (including yo momma) to ensure that players started using Storm Shield + hammer terminators (and possibly to increase GW's profit margins, who knows?). This of course has lead a number of players to vent their rage at the new cheddar-infused protection that termies have been given. Combined with the 2+ save they already get, assault terminators are arguably the most resilient squad in the game, and are nigh unkillable by several high-powered weapons including:
- Weapons that are used to tear apart planets
- Weapons designed to tear through the fabric of reality and cast their targets into the abyss of the Warp
- turrets specifically used to destroy titans and spaceships
- The first few searches retrieved after entering "Client/Server database" into Google (June 2013)
Marine players can of course take 3 10-man squads of these things, and whilst each dude costs 45 points each, their inability to die even with Nurgle fondling them whilst teleporting right next to the enemy army would make most players prefer to flip the gaming table over and claim insanity in the aim of destroying as many of the blighters as possible. Mind you, Wraithblades ain't much less overpowered.
Sadly or fortunately (depending on who you ask), in 9th Edition, the Storm Shield was greatly reduced in power, reducing it to a mere 4+ invulnerable save with a +1 boost to armor save rolls.
In video games
Likely due to the fact that Relic couldn't figure out how to balance Chaos Terminators, the Dawn of War video games only see loyalists use them (outside of the Chaos Lord in DoW II), in which they serve as very powerful late game infantry, though they lose in combat against Meganobz, Pariahs, and the Seer Council. They also get minced by Banshees, who not only out-DPS them when fully upgraded but can also break their morale in seconds....
Regular Terminators in DoW II are armed with storm bolters and one of them can take a Heavy Flamer, Assault Cannon, or Cyclone Missile Launcher. They're invaluable for supporting your troops of any kind with their variety of weapons and can hold their own in an assault that doesn't involve dedicated heavy melee units thanks to their power fists and toughness. They aren't built like normal units and are instead called down by a global ability, but only a Force Commander has access to the Assault Terminators
Assault Terminators in Dawn of War II are virtually unstoppable in melee and can only be beaten by sheer numbers. Their starting Storm Shields and Thunder Hammers give them more health than normal terminators, but it's best to trade that off for Lightning Claws (introduced in the Chaos Rising expansion). At the cost of bringing them down to normal terminator health, reducing their effectiveness against vehicles, and removing their ability to stun vehicles, they get added melee damage against infantry and area of effect attack, so anything that gets into melee with them that isn't a vehicle is going to die. Being just as tough as normal terminators still makes them a nightmare to kill. Trying to bring down LC Assault Terminators without using heavies like predator tanks and Carnifexi is a hell of a challenge.
They were so strong that later patches took away their ability to level up as they killed units, because at level one they were already packing killing power comparable to a maxed level Nob squad. This is on top of being teleported rather than built at a base and having the ability to teleport to retreat or get in close to melee (normal terminators can do that but it's more dangerous coming from a melee squad). Three space marine players dropping three assault terminator squads in someone's face is widely considered to be a form of griefing.
Fortunately Focus Home Interactive decided to take their time to invest in a game with an actually canonical portrayal of Terminators. (Shame the game was released unfinished, just like nearly every big-budget, AAA title nowadays. UPDATE: fortunately the game has been patched and new features added.)
On the Tabletop
Despite their portrayal in the Codex fluff and Black Library books as unstoppable juggernauts. Codex: Space Marine Terminators leave less tactically inclined players more disappointed than a senior on prom night. Their legendary durability is now surpassed by much uglier Centurions. Assault Terminators require TH/SS combos to reach damage parity with much newer and more useful miniatures. Ten model units of properly kitted out Sternguards or Devastators can dish out more ranged damage than a Terminator squad with two Assault Cannons or Cyclone Missile Launchers. The best way to arm "shooty" Terminators is to give them Chainfists to deal with vehicles.
Terminators frequently require Land Raiders, flyers or teleport homers to get them to where they need to be. It's not all doom and gloom, but getting the most out of Terminators requires a little more forethought and cash than any casual player would be willing to invest. Otherwise, they windup as little more than very expensive Distraction Carnifexes.
Deathwing Knights are considered to be one of the best Assault TEQs in the game. While "regular" Deathwing allow two Plasma Cannons for every ten models. Deathwing Command and Paladin squads can upgrade one model to an Apothecary for "Feel no Pain". The best shooty Terminators are arguably Grey Knights with the option to take Psilencers, Deathwing with Foe-smitter and a Land Raider Crusader or Deathwatch Termis armed with either five Assault Cannons and/or Cyclone Missile Launchers. Grey Knights are also one of few ways players can take Terminators as troops. Unlike Paladins however, they can't take Storm Shields. Shooty Deathwing or Grey Knights will need an HQ with the appropriate weapon and the aforementioned Land Raider to get over thirty shots during the shooting phase. You won't miss those two Terminators when you have twin Assault Cannons and six Hurricane Bolters. Not to forget Frag Assault Cannons to help up with Overwatch. Since Psilencers are special weapons for Termi HQs. Grey Knights can this pull off without a relic. The only way to get more Terminator dakka than this is playing Horus Heresy and taking Fulmentarus or Tyrant Siege Terminators with a Spartan as their dedicated transport.
Deathwatch Terminators also have the option of buying Melta Fists. You read that correctly. These are Power Fists with Melta Guns mounted on them to melt MEQs, TEQs and Monstrous Creatures. Any survivors have to deal with five Powerfists or a painful round of overwatch. The only real downside to Deathwatch Termis is that they have no options for Dedicated Transports of any kind and are limited to five models each. You could upgrade them to have both Heavy Thunder Hammers and Cyclone Missile Launchers. However doing so is generally considered a huge waste of points.
The other option worth considering is to crack open that wolf codex (sigh) and run wolf-guard terminators. Each Wolfy-woof terminator comes at 33pts base and may take ANY item form the terminator weapons list. Kit them out like sternguard by giving them a combi weapon and power weapon or (free) stormshield. Vola, you have a 2+/3++ combi wielding unit with deepstrike for only 1-8pts more (per model) than an equally kitted sternguard group. Or give them meltaguns, shields, and chainfists for the most terrifying tank-killing depstrikers you'll ever see.
Finally, for some strange (or insane) reason if a player is still committed to fielding Terminators from Codex: Space Marines. Forge World has them covered with Tyberos the Red Wake. He comes with two Lightning Claw Chainfists and has one of the best models in the game. His rules allow him to make one unit of LC equipped Terminators as Troops. This is invalided if they are upgraded to TH/SS combos. The real purpose of this strategy is that it allows a player to field a Land Raider with "Objective Secured". Something only Grey Knights Termi and Black Templar Crusader Squads are able to pull off.
Terminators have been buffed with two wounds, Teleport Homers allow Terminators to jump across the map and end up within a 6" radius of the homer. Improvements for Power Weapons across the board give Terminator squads a significant buff in melee. Power Fists, Chainfists and Thunder Hammers are no longer Unwieldy. Power fists are -1 to hit with D3 damage, Chainfists are AP -4 with a fixed damage of 2 wounds, and Thunder Hammers are identical to Power Fists, albeit dealing a flat 3 damage. While the Assault Cannon has been nerfed to being only useful against blob armies. Cyclone Missile launchers are now the go-to choice for Dakkanators. Twin Linked has been changed so that these weapons can fire twice, making the Land Raider Crusader a decent choice for taking on all comers if upgraded with a Multi-Melta. Take a Termi-Captain and keep him within 6" so you can re-reroll 1's, so nothing can escape their reach.
The codices and leaks confirm that all Marine armies can take Cataphractii or Tartaros Termi-armor outside of 30k. Even better, they get their special rules such as Red Thirst and Inner Circle. At the beginning of 8th, Space Wolves were inexplicably prohibited from taking any terminator types outside of the standard Indomitus-pattern, but this has been rectified as of September 2018.
Terminators also pair well with Relic shenanigans. In fact, a viable strategy is rather than just upgrading the whole squad to fit a Land Raider, use the "Relics of the Chapter" stratagem to give one character or more a relic weapon and fill the remaining space with them. This strategy is even more brutal if done with the Deathwing, as the Dark Angels have two shooty relics that add firepower to a squad that can already take an Assault Cannon, Cyclone Missile Launcher, or a Plasma Cannon. So make sure at least one relic courier is a Captain with a Combi-Plasma/Melta and Grenade Launcher. A Grey Knight Termie squad and an HQ with a Psilencer is also pretty shooty, and can be upgraded to Paladins to buff their wounds to 3 and their WS to 2+. However their point cost of the entire army has been increased. Which is just as well as their relics are meh. The Hammer of Baal is also a decent relic to deep strike next to a squad of BA Assault Terminators.
To help your relic caddies survive longer. Characters who come with Terminator armor are also great candidates to fill a Land Raider slot and brings buffs to your squad. You obviously can't put more than two/three of them in the same vehicle. As very few are from the same chapter. Out of all them, Gabriel Angelos of the magpies is the most notable, as unlike equivalent named HQ choices, he can choose his Warlord Trait and Chapter Tactics from the Space Marine Codex. But you can't mix and match them. So you can buff him, your relic caddies, the Terminator Squad and your entire army if you play your cards right. Iron Hands or Salamanders traits and tactics work wonders when paired with him.
Though they largely behave in the same way as 8th Edition, Terminators are now 3 wound models, making them significantly more resilient towards anti-MEQ/TEQ weaponry than before. Thus far, they also haven't really moved much in point cost compared to a lot of other Space Marine units. Having said that, they still face very steep competition from other Elite units and are still particularly vulnerable to high AP weaponry. Also, storm shields only provide a 4+ invulnerable save but +1 to their normal armor save(ignoring ap-1 weapons).
This has been shaken up as of early 2022 and the new 'Armour of Contempt' rule, which reduces the AP of ALL incoming attacks by 1 (to a minimum of 0), however not stacking with other forms of AP reduction or storm shield variants (storm shields now only confer the 4++). To demonstrate the sheer resilience of this, a unit of Primaris Hellblasters with anything other than the heavy variant of their Plasma Incinerators are now mathematically slightly more likely to kill themselves than Terminators when overcharging. Without overcharging, it averages 13.5 standard Plasma Incinerator shots to bring down a single Termie.
So long as you keep them in cover, enemies now need -3AP or higher to even start chewing into that mighty 2+ save, granting incredible durability against most small-arms and even giving a reasonable chance to shrug off dedicated anti-TEQ or even anti-vehicle weaponry.
- Aggressor, sort of Primaris Marines alternative.
- Chaos Terminators, the Chaos version.
- Blightlord Terminator, Death Guard special.
- A YouTube video of someone painting one of the earliest Terminator models GW ever released, intercut with an interview with Bob Naismith, the model's sculptor! Good history here.
THE FLESH IS WEAK. (But this suit is dank as fuck...)
|Forces of the Blood Angels|
|Command:||Apothecary - Brother-Captain - Brother-Sergeant - Chaplain |
Chapter Master - Librarian - Sanguinary Priest - Techmarine
|Troops:||Assault Squad - Devastator Squad - Sanguinary Guard - Scout Squad |
Tactical Squad - Terminator Squad - Veteran Squad
|Death Company:||Death Company - Death Company Chaplain - Death Company Terminator|
|Walkers:||Contemptor-Furioso Dreadnought - Contemptor-Incaendius Dreadnought |
Death Company Dreadnought - Dreadnought - Furioso Dreadnought
|Transports:||Razorback - Rhino|
|Vehicles:||Baal Predator - Land Raider (Land Raider Crusader - Land Raider Phobos |
Land Raider Redeemer - Land Raider Angel Infernus)
Predator Tank - Vindicator - Hunter - Stalker - Whirlwind
|Flyers:||Stormhawk - Stormraven - Stormtalon - Storm Eagle - Thunderhawk|
|Spacecraft:||Boarding Torpedo - Drop Pod - Space Marine Landing Craft|
|Allies:||Space Marines - Primaris Marines|
|Forces of the Deathwatch|
|Command:||Forge Master - Keeper - Deathwatch Chaplain |
Watch Captain - Watch Master - Deathwatch Epistolary
|Troops:||Deathwatch First Company Veteran - Deathwatch Champion |
Terminator Squad - Veteran Squad - Kill Team - Kill Marine
|Walkers:||Venerable Dreadnought - Deathwatch Dreadnought|
|Vehicles:||Bike Squad - Rhino - Razorback |
Land Raider (Land Raider Redeemer - Land Raider Crusader)
|Spacecraft:||Kill-Ship - Boarding Torpedo |
Drop Pod - Space Marine Landing Craft
|Allies:||Space Marines - Primaris Marines|
|Forces of the Black Templars|
|Command:||High Marshal - Marshal - Castellan - Emperor's Champion |
Brother-Captain - Chaplain - Techmarine - Apothecary
|Troops:||Sword Brethren - Terminator Squad |
Black Templar Neophyte - Initiate
|Vehicles:||Bike Squad - Rhino - Razorback - Land Speeder |
Predator - Vindicator - Whirlwind - Stalker - Hunter
Land Raider (Land Raider Redeemer - Land Raider Crusader)
|Flyers:||Thunderhawk - Stormraven - Stormtalon |
Stormhawk - Storm Eagle
|Spacecraft:||Drop Pod - Boarding Torpedo |
Space Marine Landing Craft
|Allies:||Sisters of Battle - Space Marines - Primaris Marines|
|Forces of the Grey Knights|
|Command:||Brotherhood Champion - Grand Master - Librarian |
Techmarine - Chaplain - Apothecary
|Troops:||Grey Knight Paladin - Interceptor Squad - Justicar |
Purgation Squad - Purifier - Strike Squad - Terminator Squad
|Walkers:||Dreadknight - Doomglaive Dreadnought - Venerable Dreadnought|
|Vehicles:||Land Raider (Land Raider Crusader - Land Raider Vortimer) |
Rhino - Razorback
|Flyers:||Stormraven - Stormtalon - Stormhawk - Thunderhawk|
|Spacecraft:||Aquila Lander - Boarding Torpedo |
Drop Pod - Space Marine Landing Craft
|Allies:||Inquisition - Sisters of Battle|