Space Marine - Modus Operandi
11th Feb, 2011

This post follows on from the previous post: 'Space Marine Capabilities'. The concept is to extrapolate the battlefield role of Space Marines using the capabilities defined in that post, and drawing in other concepts and definitions defined in 'Philverse'. Where possible I will add a link to any concepts referenced. Now we have an idea of what a marine can endure, it clarifies what their role on the battlefield really is – or what it should be.


Now we have an understanding of what a Space Marine's Power Armour can physically resist, it seems glaring obvious that they are vulnerable to fixed weapons and heavy weapons. Space Marines may be small in comparison to an APC or IFV, but they are not going to want to be caught out in the open. This means they will have to use cover like everyone else. However using cover is not really 'shock troop' enough for Space Marines, we need a way to get them into combat far quicker, yet with the element of surprise (the whole idea of shock!). One of the fluff heresies I introduced was the idea of active camouflage.

Active Camouflage

This means the outer ablative layer is going to get an application of active camouflage material (rather than a Predator like cloaking field  - which would be great but a bit too high-tech). This material will mimic the surrounding terrain and materials. In combination with this active camouflage surfacing, the armour also needs a way to manage it's heat signature. This can be done with a thermoelectric layer to recover heat energy and convert it to electricity for storage. Therefore the armour would emit very little heat and this would counter vision enhancement gear that scans for IR (infrared) and T-rays (Terahertz radiation).

This means it is quite hard to detect a stationary Space Marine while their active camouflage is on. This would depend on surroundings. While in soft cover they would be very hard to make out even when directly looking at them, but they would be much easier to see in desolate terrain like a desert (for some missions they may need an active camo cloak to breakup their outline). In the dark they would be virtually impossible to see (even if lookouts are equipped with IR gear, and other advanced scanners).

Colour of fear?

The use of active camouflage does require some justification. There is a famous quote in 40K that camouflage is the 'colour of cowardice'.

It is also true that the Marines primary aim is to kill the enemy. If camouflage allows them to circumvent heavy weapons, avoid looses, allowing more marine to survive to kill the enemy behind those heavy weapons - the Marine may accept this as necessary. In effect their camouflage allows them to get to enemies 'hiding' behind heavy weapons.

It may be that camouflage is frowned upon only in certain situations. Standing up and getting your head blow off with a heavy weapons is worse than sneaking about. Camo is the lesser of the two; sneaking about trumps having no head. A Marine may not like sneaking about, but they console themselves that any dishonour they feel will be taken out on the enemy – 'How dare you force me to sneak about!'.

Another areas where active camouflage really shines in counter guerilla warfare.  Guerilla fighters will flee from marines, often with the aim to leading the Marines into a heavy weapon kill zone, so the marines have to sneak up on them. In this instance 'camouflage' allows the Marines to engage enemies who will flee. In this instance it's a  lot like hunting. Though for this role I imagine the Scouts would cut their teeth.


The idea is for the marine to get across open ground and behind enemy lines without detection. Once behind enemy lines they are clear of most fixed weapons and can resort to shock tactics. The first is changing the active camouflage layer to their chapter colours, which makes then highly visible (most marines have very bright chapter colours). For an enemy to suddenly be confronted with massive 7-8' Space Marines, encased in small arms resistant armour, in and amongst their number is going to be quite a shock and the resulting combat is going to be chaotic (this is a big reason for my notes in the bolter, as having Power Armour be bolter resistant would greatly reduce the casualties of friendly fire: so the Marines can really let rip). The enemy are probably armed with small arms and this is not going to affect the Marines. This means the enemy is likely to rout as the marines can mow them down with impunity.

More shock

Another way to get into the enemy complex would be via drop pod. Using the ideas I put forward in my drop pod article, they marines can smash into the enemy complex at high speed, creating a huge blast crater on impact, and deploy. They could use the edges of the crater for cover and many bunkers would be damaged.

Battlefield Role

Taking all this into account a Marine would remain hidden for the most part until they are behind enemy lines. Once behind enemy lines they would change back to their chapter colours and let rip. This would be extremely shocking to the enemy, and disrupt enemy lines. Being attacked by Marines from behind, while all your heavy weapons are facing the other direction, is going to cause chaos.

Table top game

I suppose if you translated this into the table top game, the marines can be 'teleported' in. This 'teleport' is not a real teleport, it merely accounts for their stealth abilities. Such an attack would force psychology tests and most likely make many opponents flee (or at least move away to regroup).

Looking at this type of attack, it would seem appropriate to allow the IG to deploy Marine allies in this manner as a surprise attack.

In the open Marines would be harder to target, and modifiers would apply. Renegade humans would be very vulnerable to Marines, but aliens may be far more capable.

I suspect the Eldar could track them (through psionics), so could the Nids and Necrons, maybe even the Orks have an idea where the Marines are by instinct. In these instances perhaps the Marine player could use 'blips' from Space Hulk to disguise the true nature of his units.

Small arms would be less effective: so uprate their armour value in some way. There would also be a few special rules – like weaker values when facing power weapons. I'm not too keen on the Armour mechanics, perhaps simply added the value to the T score? Another debate for another time.

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11 Responses

Hearing feedback is very important to me in developing my ideas. Much of my designs are inspired, and crafted, by chatting to fans on forums before snowballing into a full concept you'll find here. I would like to thank all those who have contributed critiques and participated in discussions over the years, and I would especially like to thank all those who commented on this specific topic. If you would like join in, you are most welcome!

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  1. Kage2020 says:

    Heh, back in the days that I actually played the wargame one of my opponents tried a similar trick.  It was, from memory, a 10,000-point game in which they had invested half of that total in vehicles and Space Marines (including Terminators).  The Eldar army that I was using at the time just picked them off with old-style D-cannons and Warlocks.

    So, yeah, psyker powers would work if used to win.  That just doesn't really show up because of wargame balance.  Of course, that was back in the very early 90s, so take with a pinch of salt.

    Oh, but other than that, I would agree with you. Of course, that doesn't hold up too well with the idea that Marines are out the forefront of battle etc. Then again you would probably be burned on the fires of fan-dom for suggesting any moderation to the Marines' abilities. I mean, how dare you undermine Deathwatch! 😉

    • Philip S says:

      I think the highly advanced Eldar, with million year old psi-tech, should be pretty powerful - more powerful than the average IG at least. I quite like the idea of making them semi-incorporeal through some form of psi-technology (some form of psi based powerfield 😛 ). The idea would be to make them very hard to damage. Bullets would wizz through them! Most physical weapons would stun at best. An Eldar in battle mode would be seen as a 'ghost' or 'wraith', and have the immunities of such (ie. the fantasy immunities often attributed to these type of undead - though I doubt it all holds true: silver and such). Probably going a little too far, but I think it would suit their concept and archetype. You're and Eldarphile, what do you think?

      • Kage2020 says:

        I think the highly advanced Eldar, with million year old psi-tech, should be pretty powerful – more powerful than the average IG at least.

        I think that their "technology" makes them powerful, much akin to how "powerful" the English were against, say, the Zulu (at least according to the film).  I'm rather fond of imagining that the Eldar are akin to the modern "First World" military in comparison to the Imperium's 19th-century technology.  Of course, this doesn't gel with the idea of wargame balance and, thus, the nepenthe that we are presented with when it comes to the official setting (both for the wargame and the RPG).

        I quite like the idea of making them semi-incorporeal through some form of psi-technology (some form of psi based powerfield  ).

        Heh, LOL.  No, I'm not a fan of that.  You seem to be encroaching onto the territory of the Harlequins.  These have always been the "ghosts" of the Eldar.  Thematically this is doubly more appropriate depending on how much you tie that into Ynnead and the Laughing God.  Then again I have always been fond of making the Harlequins the "priests" of Ynnead-to-be, which is to say the Laughing-God-reborn through Ynnead as the Pheonix King.

        So let the Harlequins be the "ghosts."  Let their dathedi-shields be a technological mirror to their presence that fragments future's mirror with the laughing vagaries of potential.

        When it comes down to the Eldar?  They are technologically advanced and I would imagine that this should be represented in "mundane" terms even if their technology is inherently psychotronic (or whatever you want to call it).

        An Eldar in battle mode would be seen as a ‘ghost’ or ‘wraith’, and have the immunities of such (ie. the fantasy immunities often attributed to these type of undead – though I doubt it all holds true: silver and such).

        If you wanted to go down that route, I think that it might be more interesting to ponder the faerie weakness to iron (or phased iron if you want to make your Marines even more powerful).  It interrupts with the dathedi-shields or what-not.

        You’re and Eldarphile, what do you think?

        Too far and you're missing some of the cool potentials so as to make them "different."  What do I know, though?  I'm just a jaded almost-ex-40k fan.

        • Philip S says:

          A fair point about the Harlequins. Though I would not have them as 'ghosts' as they are too colourful, and your description too interesting! Perhaps some form of illusionary self (Like Arnie's device in the film Total Recall) to make them a 'puppet master' or some such (though I have Eldar as avatars anyway so they are kinda puppet masters anyway :P)

          I’m just a jaded almost-ex-40k fan.

          Say it ain't so! How about becoming a Sciror fan? You like the Org, and you could chip in ideas...

          • Kage2020 says:

            You're right about the colour, but when you count in the camouflage nature of the dathedi shield.... Hmnnn, I'm trying to think of a visual from a film that would fit but nothing is springing to mind at the moment.  Hmmn, maybe the air demon from Ghost Rider?  Trying to fight the Harlequins with their advanced technology would be like trying to fight the wind.

            As to the "illusory self," is that the big lady that he removes by pushing the ear, the head separates and then he throws it as a bomb?  If so, perhaps that's a little too Men in Black.  Next you'll be having that smooth High Warlock mask lift up to reveal a tiny little pixie! 😉

            With regards to your Eldar, they're actually the perfect species to bring in "transhumanism" into the 40k universe in the Transhuman Space sense.  It would be amusing to turn the somewhat lane "funerary tradition" that people have about disturbing the Infinity Circuit onto its head.  Thus, rather than it being a place for the dead it is rather the place for the "living," but they merely express themselves in a number of different "shells."  Hmmn, now that I think about it that would be very "Axis City" culture from Bear's Eon, so it might not be too appealing.

            Say it ain't so!

            It's pretty hard not to be at the moment, I'm afraid.  With the way that FFG and GW have been taking things recently I'm basically left with either whining or getting out.  Couple that with the dilution of the discussions on the various boards (some more than others) and the reason that I got back "in" to 40k has disappeared.

            Plus, at the moment I'm kind of getting back into one of my old "loves" of game settings: Shadowrun and Earthdawn (or rather Shadowrun and Earthdawn).  There are some awesome concepts in those games and I've got a sneaking suspicion that in their combination—I call this Shadowrun Apocalypse—there might be much borrowing from some of your concepts and from the 40k universe in general.  Eldar will probably be making an appearance in one form or another (perhaps as the elves from the Northlands), some of your fantasy "ley line/node" concepts for the Webway that mirror some of my own dabblings originating out of the Dark Conspiracy setting, etc.

            All I have to do is make magic work between the settings and I'm good to go. 😀

            40k, though?  I show up every now and again but after 11 years posting on the boards I'm realising that there is perhaps a more creative way to express myself.  That and I've got three jobs now and it's hard to balance the random posting with the real world time requirements!

          • Philip S says:

            In regard to Total Recall, I was thinking of the device that projected an image of the person wearing it. In the shoot out towards the end 'You think this is the real Quaid - it is! dakka dakka dakka!!!' Or something like that. It's been a while since I've watch it. (edit - added YouTube link)

            As for the Eldar, they are alien, so I would draw to many parallels. I imagine they would turn out exactly as they are. They only difference between GW and my Eldar is... well nothing really, aside from a superficial make over for certain types that will never be discussed by GW (as they do not exist as such) and hidden by me (partly to cover up the fact my version is never mentioned in the GW text). So I wouldn't worry too much. Eldar are still Eldar, just with different meta-data attached.

            Your Shadowrun Apocalypse sounds interesting. You are welcome to run ideas by the Sciror forum over on TFM. You never know I may nick a few of your ideas too!

          • Kage2020 says:

            Shadowrun Apocalypse is just the name for a broader exploration of the joined Earthdawn/Shadowrun setting.  For some reason the "big stories" always appealed to me, both as a player and a GM, and being able to explore a history that extends across millennia and eons.  While this sounds like 40k, in recent history 40k has become mired by "grimdarkery" and pastiche elements, so the big story and potentially epic nature of the events in the setting weighed down under trite lines like "you will not be missed."

            Of course, for others that's their cup of tea and power to them.

            Thus, Shadowrun Apocalypse was born out of a passing desire to run a PbP game over at Dark Reign that explored the setting of Hellgate London.  For various reasons I backed out of that, but it reminded me of some of the imagery associated with Shadowrun and with a campaign that I had wanted to run for... well, years.  Perhaps a bit cliche, but it worked around two simultaneous campaigns: one in the Earthdawn setting and one in the Shadowrun setting.  Both would essentially work towards the same goal, the first focusing on the disposition of key artefacts (sue me for the cliche ;)) and the other in their discovery and subsequent use, all with gobs of elemental magic, occultism through the Keys of Solomon, and so forth.

            And then I decided to merge the two concepts and thus Shadowrun Apocalypse was born.  At its base it was an exploration of the idea of what would happen to the setting of Shadowrun should the Horrors (the big bad gribblies from the Earthdawn setting) return and lay waste to the word?  How would people survive?  In Earthdawn people survived by weaving kaers of elemental materials to varying degrees of success, but drawing from the imagery of Hellgate London, Terminator and such things as Reign of Fire, what kind of ersatz communities might survive under barriers of earth and sea?  What would live be like in these communities and, if one were to go down the route of government conspiracies ala 2012 and other such disaster movies, what would they be like.  Indeed, one could like to Final Fantasy Spirits Within for a bit of inspiration there as well as seeing some of the technomantic elements that would be fun to explore.

            Then the 'ole plans got a bit bigger and, as a result of this, probably less likely to ever go anywhere. 😉

            Thus it is basically a post-apocalyptic setting that explores the early fall of (meta)humanity, the survival of small ersatz communities, then of more developed colonies and, finally, a bootstrap setting where (meta)humanity returns to the world.  In that last the circle is in many ways complete and we're back to the realm of post-apocalyptic fantasy in keeping with Earthdawn and other game settings like Desolation but with more of the Mad Max, Eclipse Phase and Cthulutech vibe.

            I guess ultimately it might lead to the concept of Equinox, which if you're not aware is the "Eighth World" of the Earthdawn/Shadowrun setting in which the Shadow War has lead to the destruction of Earth and now (meta)humanity remains as rag-tag survives ala Battlestar Galactica, Titan AE, etc.

            Of course, when it comes to campaign conceptualisation things get a bit more fun.  One can imagine using the various "worlds" of Earthdawn/Shadowrun to explore those large elements.  Heck, one of the few games that FFG have produced that I like could be borrowed from, i.e. Fireborn.  A lineage of characters, for example, that hark back to dragons in the First World.  Immortal elves exploring a magical heritage in the Northern Isles and evoking so-called "celtic" mythology, etc.

            Just as importantly will be the merging of magic and technology, which will potentially get into the funky realms of Eldar-esque technology and even Tad William's-inspired sithe from the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy (another inspiration).

            Oh the fun to be had.  As to TFM?  I'm not sure that anything that I would develop for Shadowrun Apocalypse would be overtly helpful to Sciror...

          • Philip S says:

            I think everything you develop for 'Shadowrun Apocalypse' will be helpful to Sciror. There is quite a bit of background info building up in the Sciror forum, I do not know if you have taken a look, but it can accommodate almost anything. Hard sci-fi to fantasy all run using the same framework. It is all based of my concepts for 40K (GW IP ripped out) and is basically me messing about with the 'Dark Age of Technology', and going into details of my vision: the Supremacy, psionics, the machine exodus, the fall of mankind etc. The Sciror meta-framework is flexible, and hopefully my (hidden) justifications of how things work within the universe will not clash with yours. If any of it sounds of interest, you are more than welcome to chip in (perhaps start a Shadowrun Apocalypse thread in on the Sciror forum?).

          • Kage2020 says:

            Well, some of your concepts regarding architecture (etc.) are particularly inspiring insofar as they have keyed me into green architecture, vertical agriculture, and so forth.  With that said, I'm not sure that I want to turn myself into a pretzel trying to fit Shadowrun Apocalypse into the Sciror framework.  I would love to discuss some of the concepts, but I would not want to impose my desire to discuss my concepts in a setting where the implication is that I must fit it into a system that I'm not familiar with.  After all, I use GURPS.  That should say everything right there. 😉

          • Philip S says:

            Sciror is a background framework only, it has no (game) rules. WarSpike (beta project for Spheres of War) is the rules. The two are separate. They are only linked in that I will write up some WarSpike rules for some of the factions in Sciror, but I may do GURPS etc to. Sciror is very open, I've even messed out with the concept of using Sciror as a basis for the Doctor Who universe. It's surprising how well it fits, but there again practically anything can fit. It's designed that way.

          • Kage2020 says:

            I shall give it some more thought, then. The only problem to the "generic" nature is that my musings in an amusingly "generic" system are going to get very specific to that.  Who knows, though. 😀

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