Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On Space Marine Centurions

I'm a contrarian with regards to the Space Marine Centurions. When their introduction was met with widespread scorn and criticism, I was immediately interested in them. While I wasn't a big fan of the Assault Centurions and their comically large drills, I was very excited by the Devastator Centurions. I particularly liked the Roman-style armor, which matches my Ultramarines quite well. (I'll admit that they clash with the style of other armies such as the Black Templars, though.)

GW really piqued my interest with these new units, both with regards to the models' capabilities as well as to the story behind the Centurions themselves. As I'm currently recovering from a tonsillectomy and septum reconstruction surgery and have too much hydrocodone in my system to actually work on any models, I might as well spend some time overanalyzing the new toys that GW gave us.

The Rules
What Kind of Centurions?
Recently I've been working on ways to incorporate them into my lists. I've found that I simply can't justify the Assault Centurions. While multiple S9, AP2 attacks that strike at initiative are tempting, their lack of an invulnerable save puts them at the mercy of the majority of dedicated close combat units. With his absurd number of S10, AP2 attacks, Jon's ubiquitous power klaw warboss would make short work of any Centurion Squad. Plus, Assault Centurions take up an Elite slot, which is already comically overstuffed. In my mind, Assault Centurions simply cannot replace Close Combat Terminators.

Devastator Centurions make a lot more sense. Two wounds and T5 isn't too shabby when your most common enemy will be plasma weapons and lascannons and you have cover available. They take up a Heavy Support slot, which became more crowded this Edition, but the ability to take any type of Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport makes up for it.

How Should I Arm Centurions?
In my mind, only one very specific build is actually worth it. While Centurions' basic armament is the twin-linked heavy bolter, there's little point in paying for such an expensive model just to bring yet one more example of the Astartes' most common heavy weapon. The grav-cannon is tempting, but it's a highly specialized weapon that's designed for killing Terminators or their equivalents. Its range is so short that by the time you're close enough to actually do damage to your target, your intended victim is very nearly on top of you. Twin-linked lascannons, on the other hand, have the range and strength to smash tanks and heavy infantry at a safe distance.

Then you have the secondary weaponry, which is a no-brainer. A hurricane bolter is simply three twin-linked bolters. It's only really effective at 12", making it a lousy companion for any of the Centurions' other weapons. And since Centurions are Slow and Purposeful, you can't even use it for overwatch. The missile launcher upgrade is the only way to go.

Protecting Centurions
Once I had settled on a long-range, tank-killing Devastator Centurion Squad, I become horribly aware that I intended to field a powerful unit that was going to attract most of my enemy's heavy firepower. That's not excessively worrisome when I'm playing against Sam's Necrons, Carl's Grey Knights, or Jon's Orks. Those armies don't field enough S10 weapons to make me worry about Instant Death. And a little bit of cover should protect my Warsuits from the limited number of high strength, low AP weapons that their armies field just long enough for them to do their job.

But Bryce's Tau are a different story.

I hate this guy
Bryce fields an impressive number of marker lights, all of which would be directed at my Centurions. It's also common for Bryce to field two Hammerheads (one with Longstrike), a Riptide, and three Broadsides. It would take a grand total of eight successful marker light hits to allow all four of those units to ignore the Centurions' cover. A few more marker lights and each of those units is shooting with BS5+. My three Centurions are as good as gone once those units have line of sight. If I'm lucky, the Warsuits might survive a turn or two. If I'm very lucky, I might be able to take out a couple threats and give the Centurions a fighting chance.

Taking a Land Raider as a Designated Transport
Here's where the Centurions' ability to take a Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport comes in handy. Hammerheads may be one of the biggest threats to a Land Raider, but the fact remains that S10 penetrates AV14 only 33% of the time (Longstrike increases this to 56%). The Riptide's S9 (which can only be achieved if the Tau player risks Nova-Charging the main weapon) will only penetrate AV14 16.7% of the time, while the Broadsides' S8 can only glance the Land Raider on a six. Although putting your Centurions in their AV14 metal box isn't a guarantee of survival, it does give them a decent chance.

In my mind, the allowance to use a Land Raider as a Designated Transport for Devastator Centurions has given the vehicle renewed purpose. Previously, the classic Land Raider was a odd unit that made little sense either as an assault vehicle or as a dedicated weapons platform. Although its guns are powerful, it doesn't produce enough shots to significantly whittle down the target unit that an embarked squad is about to assault. The Land Raider Crusader, with its vastly higher rate of fire and increased transport capacity, is a much better choice for transporting an assault unit. The Crusader's anti-infantry abilities complement the assaulting squad's anti-infantry role. I've discussed the concept of complementary units in a previous post.

Although the combination of durability, Power of the Machine Spirit, and two twin-linked lascannons make the Land Raider a tempting weapons platform, it has a hard time competing with the Predator Annihilator. Not only is the Predator now a full 110 points cheaper than its big brother, but a Land Raider's two twin-linked lascannons will make an average of 1.78 hits on its target, {2*[(2/3)+(2/3)*(1/3)]=1.78}, while the Predator will land an average of 2.22 hits, {2*(2/3)+[(2/3)+(2/3)*(1/3)]=2.22}. As a dedicated weapons platform, the Land Raider's transport capability is squandered and much of its value is wasted.

However, as a Dedicated Transport for a Devastator Centurion Squad, the standard Land Raider isn't forced into an assault role for which it's poorly suited, nor is its transport capability wasted by using it solely as a weapons platform. When the enemy turns up the heat, the Land Raider can shelter the Centurions from the enemy's long range firepower. When the Astartes get the chance to return the favor, the Centurions can disembark and fire (unlike their less mobile counterparts, the Devastator Marines). The Land Raider's twin-linked lascannons then complement the Warsuits' own lascannons. With this arrangement, it seems like the Land Raider and Devastator Centurions were made for each other.

"You got Centurions in my Land Raider!"
"You got Land Raider on my Centurions!"

The Fluff
This wouldn't be an Atomic Spud post without a ludicrously detailed discussion of the fluff as well as the rules. Despite early gripes about ruining the fluff (I truly wish that 40K hobbyists would complain less, especially when all they have are a handful of leaked photos and nothing else), I think GW did a commendable job of integrating Centurions into the Astartes' history. To me, it feels like the existence of Centurion Warsuits was revealed rather than awkwardly crammed into the storyline.

The Nature of Centurion Warsuits
According to the Codex, Centurion Warsuits have been in use for about 5,000 years. They aren't suits in the same way that power armor is, but more like walking vehicles that are categorized along with bikes and Land Speeders. They are often used to access tight areas that Predators or Ironclad Dreadnoughts can't.

The C:SM very explicitly states that Warsuits are not piloted by 1st Company Veterans. The suits don't interface with the Black Carapace and thus don't have the mobility and dexterity afforded to power armor or Terminator armor. Veterans are expected to be generalists and thus require the mobility of more traditional forms of armor. The Warsuits are instead considered to be specialist gear and are therefore piloted by specialists: Assault Centurions are piloted by a Chapter's Assault Marines while Devastator Centurions are piloted by Devastator Marines.

The fact that Assault and Devastator Marines are the ones piloting the Warsuits makes it even more interesting that Centurions Squads are still able to take a Land Raider of any type as a Dedicated Transport. This makes them the only non-Veteran Squad among the Codex Chapters that are allowed to so use the Land Raider, which is typically identified with the Veteran Company.

An Assault Centurion's left should pad
Centurion Honors?
The markings on Centurion Warsuits are a point of interest. On most suits of armor, a Marine's Chapter symbol is typically found on the left shoulder pad while other markings are found on the right. The left shoulder pad is considered to be the place of honor since it's the shoulder that an enemy is most likely to see when a Marine charges into combat. The primary exceptions to this rule are ceremonial (i.e., the Marine bears some honor that is held in higher regard than even the Chapter symbol) or practical (older marks of armor had reinforced left shoulder pads that prevented logos from being displayed on them).

On a suit of Terminator armor, the stone crux terminatus is displayed on the left shoulder pad since it is held in higher esteem than the Chapter logo. Notably, Centurion Warsuits also bear a large seal (often portrayed as being made of stone) on the left shoulder pad. The squad logo shares the left pad with the seal while the Chapter logo is found on the right shoulder pad. The position of this "Centurion Seal" suggests that it is in fact a very high honor analagous to the crux terminatus.

Centurion Warsuits, Land Raiders, and Vehicle Markings
As I mentioned earlier, Centurions are the only non-Veteran squads within a Codex Chapter that can take a Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport. Up until now, I had tended to think of Land Raiders as being more or less permanently assigned to the 1st Company since a) they're the Veterans and have priority and b) Terminators don't fit into any other Space Marine land-based transports. Thus, I had every intention of marking my still unbuilt Land Raider as if it belonged to the 1st Company. However, once I decided that the classic Land Raider is most useful supporting Centurion Warsuits, I decided to model the Land Raider as one that is assigned to Sicarius' 2nd Company.

I once said that with the 6th Edition C:SM "everything old is new again". It's interesting to see how much information from older works such as the Insignium Astartes has made it into the Space Marines 6th Edition Codex. For example, the new codex is more explicit than the previous codex about the fact that most Astartes vehicles are assigned to a Company as the need arises. Like the Insignium Astartes, the codex states that vehicles are marked with roundels whose color and numbering indicate which Company the vehicle has been assigned to. To show how the roundels are used, the Insignium Astartes included sketches of various vehicles, including a Land Raider:

The 3rd Land Raider assigned to the 2nd Company

The yellow roundel with the Roman numeral II indicates that the Land Raider is assigned to the 2nd Company. The Roman numeral III indicates that it's the third Land Raider assigned to the Company. Presumably, Land Raiders that are being used for Centurion transport and support duty will have been assigned to the Company prior to the mission, meaning that a properly labeled Land Raider model will bear the roundel of the Centurions' Company (in my case, I'm modeling the 2nd Company).

The roundel is easy enough to replicate; you can either paint it yourself or, if you don't mind the fact that all the roundels on the decal sheet are 2nd Company-yellow, you can use the decals. In the case of the Land Raider Crusader that will be carrying my Assault Terminators, I'm going to be painting the appropriate white roundel with a Roman numeral I.

As I was contemplating how to properly mark my Land Raider for supporting my 2nd Company Centurions, another detail that I'll have to take care of occurred to me. Do you see it?

How about now?

That's right, there's a crux terminatus molded right onto the side of the Land Raider model. While this logo wold be perfectly acceptable on a Land Raider that's transporting Terminators or other Veterans, Centurions are specifically not Veterans. They each bear a Centurion Seal, which appears to be some kind of honor, but they haven't earned the privilege of wearing the crux terminatus. I would assume that Veteran markings would normally be removed from a Land Raider that is assigned to a non-Veteran company.

When I finally get around to building it, I'm going to remove the crux terminatus from each side of the Land Raider and replace it with an appropriate logo. While just about any Chapter or Imperial logo would do, I'm considering using these two bits from the Centurion kit:

While the leftmost symbol is relatively generic, it resembles several symbols found on the Centurion Warsuits themselves. The rightmost symbol, on the other hand, is a replica of the Centurion Seal itself. I think these will be appropriate logos to display on a Land Raider carrying Centurion Warsuits.


  1. But reading through fluff, vehicles can acquire their own accolades in service. Wouldn't it makes sense that if the land raider, being the old and venerable vehicle that it is, has the crux? There's no reason it can't have both the crux and the centurion, as a symbol that it's been used through the years in a variety of roles!

  2. That's true and it's something I hadn't even considered. I had noticed that the Insignium Astartes sketch doesn't show a crux and that a lot of Forge World drawings also lack them, which shows that they're not always installed or can be removed in certain circumstances.

    Whether or not it's displayed permanently could depend on whether the crux is intended to be a generic "Veterans On Board" symbol or one that the vehicle earns and maintains regardless of its assignment. Maybe a vehicle can actually earn Terminator Honors like Marines do.

    On an interesting note, the Insignium Astartes talks about an Annihilator Predator named "Gladius" that has had the honor of being permanently assigned to the 1st Company. Perhaps a Land Raider could earn a similar honor and be permanently assigned to carry a specific Company's Centurion Squads. I think that's the direction I want to go with my Land Raider. Now I just need to come up with a good name.

    This is one of my favorite parts of the hobby; you can construct an epic history for your models and nobody will make fun of you for it.

  3. Yea, I'm starting my own chapter and thinking of names and stuff while figuring out paint scheme is a blast!

  4. The first thing that jumped to my mind was the conclusion that Trealkin reached, in that the crux may belong to either the tank commander or the Land Raider itself.

    I love these types of posts because they're the sort of things I sometimes wonder about myself just to pass time. Though I was not so observant to notice the Centurion shoulder heraldry placement nor the fact that Land Raiders could only ever be attached as a dedicated transport to veterans, since you so often see them as heavy support units carrying assault, tactical, chaos marines, or berserkers as well as the terminators and Vanguard/Sternguard.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I'm glad to hear that others geek out about this as much as I do.

    I'm thinking that I want my Land Raider to be one that was recommissioned at the end of the Age of Apostasy following substantial repair. It's recommissioning was accelerated for the express purpose of supporting the introduction of the Centurion Warsuits into the 9th Reserve Company. Since then it's been bouncing from Company to Company, always in support of Centurions.

    A little research on Wikipedia has even given me a name for the Land Raider; "Primus Pilus". The title means "First Spear" and was the title given to the senior centurion of a Roman legion.

  6. Love it! I had been debating adding Dev. Centurions to my army. I think I will proxy a few the next friendly game I play to test them out. I am sure my Landraider would love to get a chance to carry someone other than my Assault terminators. Side note- I adore your blog! I stumbled on it last year when I was debating whether to paint my marines as Imperial Fists or Ultramarines.

    1. Thank you. Did you decide to do Ultramarines or Imperial Fists? Who knew it would make a difference a year later?

      Tank Hunter makes the Imperial Fists' Devastator Centurions pretty scary.

  7. I ended up going Ultramarines. I went to a con and found a gorgeous Calgar model for 5 bucks at a bits store. That sealed the deal for me... Well, and Telion too! I run a 10th company army with a dash on 2nd.

    1. I ended up doing Ultramarines because the starter paint set I bought early on came with five Marines that already had the Ultramarine logo on their shoulder pads. I like the Imperial Fists' fluff, and wouldn't be against adding an IF allied force, but I hate painting yellow.

      I'm a big fan of Telion, especially since they made his bolter a true sniper weapon. It can't glance AV13 anymore, but that ability was unreliable and I'd much rather be able to ignore a target's toughness. Except for Bryce, the 40K Cabal hates Telion and his Snipers. Bryce just hits them with a couple marker lights and takes them off the table in Turn 1.

  8. Yep. That sounds like what happens to Telion whenever I play with him. He and his scouts man the Aegis Line until something nasty saunters up the field and chews them up, flames them or otherwise kills them in terrible ways.

    I totally agree about the yellow paint. I would rather paint the rest of my Slaaneshi chariots blindfolded while inebriated before touching a jar of yellow paint. I love the Imperial Fists. They are probably my favorite of all the marine chapters.

    I will have to have Telion live long enough to pull him off the Quadgun and shoot his own weapon. Usually I have him eat incoming flyers for breakfast =) Or Wraithknights. He killed 1 1/2 the last time I played Eldar.


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