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Space Marine

Space Marine is the 1st edition of the Epic-scale wargame, published in 1989 (not to be confused with the second edition, also called Space Marine, published in 1991). As one of the earliest rulebooks for the Warhammer 40,000 universe, it sets various major pieces of the background into place.

The game consists of battles between opposing space marine armies. The limited range of epic-scale miniatures at its inception necessitated that all players use the same models. And as a result, the background was written to allow space marines to fight each other by using an internal civial war as the main conflict: hence the Horus Heresy.

Given that this is an early publication, many of the things stated in this book have since been changed in the setting's canon. Note, for example, that the XIVth Legion are consistently called the Death Guards rather than the Death Guard.

Space Marine (1st ed, 1989)

p7 — The Horus Heresy

General Horus was the finest military commander of his age. The Emperor granted him the title of Imperial Warmaster - a high honour, even in an age when brave deeds were commonplace. But the Imperium's hero was to become its deadliest enemy.

On the feral world of Davin, the Warmaster arranged to be inducted into a mystical warrior-lodge. This was not uncommon; Imperial policy approved of such links between feral-world natives and 'the Warriors from the Sky'. However, the warrior-lodge on Davin was not what it seemed. During the initiation, Horus became possessed by a Daemon from the warp. Those who had known Horus well began to speak of changes: lapses in memory, minor changes in habits, small things. Not until the Scouring of Isstvan did the truth become clear.

The Imperial Commander of Isstvan III had declared the system independent. Horus took five Space Marine Chapters to crush the rebellion: the World Eaters, Emperor's Children, Death Guards, Thousand Sons and his own Chapter, the Sons of Horus. He introduced the warrior-lodges to the Chapters, and the rot spread throughout his command. The Daemon-Horus planned to strike at the Imperium itself, and establish his rule throughout the galaxy. But first, Isstvan had to be dealt with.

The Scouring of Isstvan was a brutal affair. Isstvan III was destroyed by a virus bomb; twelve billion died instantly. It is said that the psychic death-scream of the doomed world drowned out the signal of the Astronomican.

During the bombardment, the frigate Eisenstein was seized by a small group of loyal Space Marine officers. They fought clear of the war-fleet and carried the news of Horus' corruption to Terra. Thus began the Horus Heresy wars.

The Imperium split almost evenly. The corruption of Horus' warrior-cult had spread from his command into several other units. Many more were attracted by his military reputation. Seven Space Marine Chapters - fully one-third of the Legiones Astartes - were sent against Horus. Four of these - the Word Bearers, Night Lords, Iron Warriors and Alpha Legion - joined the Rebels; the others have been purged from Imperial records.

While civil wars raged on a million worlds, Horus struck at Terra. The Adeptus Mechanicus workshops on Mars were quickly overrun, and as quickly besieged by the Loyalists. Of all the Titan Legions of the Divisio Militaris, only those on Terra remained loyal. Horus landed on Terra, and immediately lay siege to the Emperor's palace. On the 55th day of the battle, as the Inner Palace fell, the Emperor himself teleported into the Rebel command chamber with an elite force of Adeptus Custodes and Imperial Fist Marines. Horus was killed - although his body was never found - and the Emperor was so grievously wounded that he has been confined ever since to the biomechanical life-support unit known as the Golden Throne.

With Horus dead, the Rebels were thrown back from Terra. Soon the whole Sol system was recovered. But across the galaxy, the battles continue - the Rebels have been denied a swift victory, and the fate of Humanity still hangs in the balance. Throughout the Imperium there is war, the most dreadful war that Mankind has ever known. For the first time, Space Marines fight their fellow Marines - continents burn and planets are laid bare as the ultimate warriors meet in battle to decide the fate of all Mankind.


"You realise that you are preaching mutiny?" Brother-Captain Tarvitz nodded gravely. "Betray Horus or betray the Emperor. What choice is there?" The Space Marine officers looked at each other in silence for a few seconds. Tarvitz leaned forward across the table, resting on his fists.

"Fact: in the five Chapters under his command, Horus has installed this system of feral-world warrior lodges that he picked up on Davin. The standard Imperial organisations and command structures laid down in the Codex have been completely disregarded.

"Fact: the bulk of the Marines in our five Chapters have repudiated their Marine's oath and sworn loyalty to the feral world deities. Further, they have sworn loyalty to Horus personally. Heresy and blasphemy.

"Fact: the Isstvan campaign has been conducted without even the pretence of orders from Terra. While I do not presume to speak for the Emperor, I cannot believe that the use of a virus bomb on Isstvan III was justifiable. A single Company from a single Chapter dropped on the rebel headquarters would have answered the case.

"I say the Emperor must know what is happening here. Who is with me? Varren? What say the World Eaters?" A red-uniformed officer stood.

"There are fifteen men I can trust. They are yours."

"Garro?" A Captain of the Death Guards looked up.

"A dozen. I wish it were more."

"Ten from the Luna Wolves."

"Twenty from the Thousand Sons."

"Be sure they are all trustworthy. If you have the slightest doubt, do not commit them. Of my own Emperor's Children, there are ten I am sure of, including myself" There was a pause as the paucity of their force sunk in.

"Seventy Marines," said Brother-Captain Varren of the World Eaters, "The sum of our five Chapter numbers - a good omen, perhaps?" A couple of the others smiled, and the tension of the moment was broken. "Seventy Marines," repeated Tarvitz, "Enough for any task, I think. So, to work. Varren, your men will seize control of the frigate Eisenstein in three hours from now. It is on the edge of the fleet, and should be clear for the jump to Warp Space." Varren nodded.

"The Eisenstein has been having manoeuvre-drive trouble," he said, with exaggerated innocence. "She's been falling behind the fleet all day." Tarvitz grinned.

"Good. The rest of us will arrange for our ships to lag behind with her in case of... further trouble with the drives. Three hours from now, we will all assemble full crew for an emergency briefing. Meanwhile, our trusted men take control of the systems on all five ships. Clear all remaining ships from around the Eisenstein and keep her covered until she makes the jump to warp space. Then, cause as much damage as you can to the rest of the fleet. History will vindicate us."

He turned to Varren. "Your World Eaters are our only hope," he said, "Do not fail." Varren's eyes became serious. "We cannot fail," he said, "There is too much at stake. Your deaths will be avenged."

The numbers in the story above are interesting, and a source of confusion. Neither the count of individuals nor the sum of Legion numbers equal seventy. So what's the explanation?

So at some point Games Workshop altered the Legion designations slightly. The Ultramarines were changed from III to XIII, the Salamanders were changed from VIII to XVIII, the Emperor's Children were changed from XIII to III, and the Night Lords were changed from XVIII to VIII. Presumably this mixing up was to avoid the rather artificial split of 1-9 loyalist and 12-18 rebel.

Also note that it is the World Eaters led by Varren who are tasked with capturing the Eisenstein, with the others sacrificing themselves so that the World Eaters could escape. By the time White Dwarf 265 (Jan 2002) was published, this had changed to all seventy loyalists successfully escaping on the Eisenstein.


On the white sand of the Tevlarc Plain, the Loyalist forces gathered to smother the flame of heresy. Wave after wave of Marines crashed against their foes. The result was always the same: a boiling storm of plasma fire and a mountain of bodies.

The opposing forces were equal in firepower, skill and fervour. But each was uncomprehending of the other's loyalties. A few weeks ago they would have called each other brother; now the differences between them made them mortal enemies.

The Titans of both sides strode above the battlefield, their banners held taut by a wind that carried the stench of a thousand deaths. The Warp Runners confronted the Deaths Heads, pausing in their advance only to level their weapons and fire.

The air was split by the swelling boom of auto cannon. A Traitor Titan reeled backwards from the impact, its splintered carapace showering down onto the Marines below. Its brother Titans readied their multi-launchers and prepared for revenge.


Brother-Captain Fenlan opened the Rhino's hatch and poked his head out. He caught the faint stench of sulphur in the air before his respirator rattled into life and filtered it out. Checking the seals of his suit, he cast a glance towards the enemy.

The Traitors were just visible on the horizon, the pure white of their uniforms a stark contrast to the featureless red sand that stretched as far as the eye could see. He tried to make an estimate of their numbers, but the heat haze distorted his vision; he guessed there were about five thousand, but it could well have been twice that number. As for his own side, they had just under seven thousand.

The two sides charged. Fenlan's Salamanders drove into the center of the Death Guards, a column of dark green cutting through the Traitor's white. Along the edges of the column there were bright veins of flashing light as the Marines exchanged shots. With painful slowness the green mass began to spread sideways, clearing itself a path with heavy bolter fire, pushing forward over the bodies of the fallen.

The rest of the Salamanders' swung around the Death Guards' flanks, trying to surround them and box them in, but the Traitors refused to yield. They fought for every inch of ground, simultaneously pushing back the flanking force and squeezing the line of troops that bisected them, isolating it within a circle of their own men. Suddenly caught with nowhere to run, the Salamanders' main force was slaughtered; within a matter of minutes every last Marine was blown apart, his broken body trampled underfoot.

Fenlan watched as his troops began to lose the advantage, his despair becoming stronger as each explosion smashed their ranks. His hand shaking, he picked up the commlink.

"Brother-Captain Fenlan. Treab's World, Northern Sulphur Desert. Request immediate reinforcements. We are engaged in combat with a large Traitor force, and are sustaining heavy losses."

p61 — Uniform Colour and Banner Chart

 Dark AngelsUltramarinesWhite ScarsSpace WolvesSalamandersBlood Angels
Battle BannerDark Angels bannerUltramarines bannerWhite Scars bannerSpace Wolves bannerSalamanders bannerBlood Angels banner
Base CoatBlackDark BlueLight GreyDark GreyBlackRed
HighlightSalamander GreenUltramarineSkull WhiteSpace Wolf GreySalamander GreenBlood Angel Orange
Ink WashBlue/BlackBlackBlackRed
 World EatersEmperor's ChildrenDeath GuardsThousand SonsSons of HorusNight Lords
Battle BannerWorld Eaters bannerEmperor's Children bannerDeath Guards bannerThousand Sons bannerSons of Horus bannerNight Lords banner
Base CoatBlackPurpleLight GreyRedBlackDark Blue
HighlightSalamander GreenWorm Purple/Skull WhiteWhiteHobgoblin OrangeGhoul GreyMoody Blue
Ink WashPurpleBlackRedBlue/Black