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Which tactical "holes" were in the Space Marine Legions?

Tactics Space Marines Lost Legions

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#1
Urriak Urruk

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Looking at some of these lost legion projects I've noticed many focus on building a legion around a tactic missing from the known legions.

 

Which got me thinking, is there a comprehensive list of what each legion's specialty is? I know the obvious ones, like Imperial Fists are siege defense, Iron Warriors besieger, Alpha Legion espionage.

 

But legions like Ultramarine, Sons of Horus, Emperor's Children... do they have specialties?

 

And beyond that, what specialties/tactics are missed by the Legions?

 

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#2
Brother-Captain Alecto

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The Sons of Horus/Luna Wolves were shock troops.  They were supposed to hit hard and hit fast.  They didn't have as much staying power once their initial strike was complete as, for example, the Death Guard or the Fists.

 

The Ultramarines don't have obvious holes, but the downside to that is they don't have any areas of overwhelming strength.  This suits them, however, since they were - or rather, they became - the heart of the Great Crusade's strategic reserve, able to provide a solid backup of x000 Astartes who could carry out any conventional battlefield role to a high standard.  They might not have been the number 1 choice for a given situation, but they were always 2 or 3.


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#3
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The Legions don't really have "tactical 'holes'". They definitely have preferred methods of warfare, but given that most Legions have 100k+ warriors, they are capable of conducting any type of operation. For example the Death Guard are renowned for their heavy infantry and infantry based tactics, but they still have armoured companies, assault companies, recon companies, super heavy etc. It's much easier (and more accurate) to identify tactical preferences rather than tactical holes/weaknesses in the Legions.

 

In the Forge World 'black books' at the start of each section focussing on a particular Legion it lists the Legion's numeral, name (and pre-Primarch name if applicable), Primarch, home world, and Observed Strategic Tendencies.

 

For example; 

 

4f6U4AY.png

 

So these are 'strategic' tendencies, but it's easy to extrapolate the 'tactical' applications of these strategies. 

 

The Emperor's Children are a good example of having strategic preferences, but no tactical 'hole'. The Emperor's Children favour speed of manoeuvre and execution over strength, endurance, or firepower. They believe that "the decisive warrior who struck first was the likeliest to be victorious, just as the moving target was harder to strike." There were a large number of "jump-pack equiped assault units and Land Speeders, Grav-attacks and Sky Hunter squads" within the Legion and "in particular, jetbike-equipped Sky Hunter squads dominated the ranks of a number of companies." 

 

So, this sounds like the Emperor's Children are a fast moving Legion, but might be weaker in certain operations such as sieges or boarding actions. Not true. They definitely have a preference for swift assault and complex manoeuvre, but "all of the variations in squad type and equipment found in other Legions were present within the Emperor's Children, as they believed there was no sphere of warfare they could not or should not excel in". The Emperor's Children were tactical magpies,

 

They pursued all matters with total dedication and focus, and the skills of war were chief amongst their concerns and they would accept nothing that another could better. When another Legion excelled in any detail of warfare the Emperor's Children would set out to learn those skills. They channelled themselves completely into their training and study, allowing it to consume them completely until mastery was achieved. Once mastered a method would be evaluated and refined. This compulsion famously allowed Fulgrim to smile in the Council of Blades that followed the destruction of the Ork empire of Mirga, when Roboute Guilliman note to the Chamber that the Emperor's Children had demonstrated his own counter-attack doctrines better than the Ultramarines had on the day of battle. Betrayal, pp. 105-106.

 

The Emperor's Children may be an extreme example of the flexibility of the Legions, but I recon that any of the Legions could perform any battle operation demanded by the strategic situation. Maybe Legion size was a limiting factor for some of the smaller Legions, but that would only be an issue when fighting the most formidable of opponents. 

 

In conclusion, I don't really see any tactical 'holes' in the Legions that couldn't be overcome with their vast resources and diverse capabilities. They could all execute effective sieges, armoured engagements, decapitation strikes, attritional engagements, orbital assaults, naval boarding actions etc. Having said that, they definitely have their tactical preferences and preferred ways of war, which they would try to apply whenever possible/applicable :tu:


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#4
Urriak Urruk

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@kizzdougs , I like your post, it's very clarifying.

 

On the Emperor's Children, I was under the impression their worst skills lay in sieges, as it is difficult to leverage the many preferences you mentioned. In Istvaan III the traitor EC seemed to have a tough time dislodging the loyalists. You could argue that was due to Eidolon's incompetence, or Tarvitz's ability, but overall it seemed the EC were not well suited for the job of trying to break in to a well-defended redoubt.

 

I suppose I'm not a big fan of legions being really "good at everything," instead being good at one thing, less so at another. It sort-of works for Ultramarines as I suppose they are "average" at everything, but beyond that I like how Legions try to stick with their skill-sets.



#5
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@kizzdougs , I like your post, it's very clarifying.

 

On the Emperor's Children, I was under the impression their worst skills lay in sieges, as it is difficult to leverage the many preferences you mentioned. In Istvaan III the traitor EC seemed to have a tough time dislodging the loyalists. You could argue that was due to Eidolon's incompetence, or Tarvitz's ability, but overall it seemed the EC were not well suited for the job of trying to break in to a well-defended redoubt.

 

I suppose I'm not a big fan of legions being really "good at everything," instead being good at one thing, less so at another. It sort-of works for Ultramarines as I suppose they are "average" at everything, but beyond that I like how Legions try to stick with their skill-sets.

No worries, bro!

 

The Emperor's Children didn't enjoy attritional/siege warfare because it didn't suit their preferred style of war. They were as capable of fighting sieges as they were any other type of war, but they would try to avoid sieges if possible. Fulgrim was far less willing than Mortarion of Perturabo to spend the lives of his warriors cheaply. This was partly due to the fact that the Emperor's Children were never one of the more numerous Legions and had come closer to complete destruction than any other Legion (except for the IInd and XIth obviously), and because it was difficult to achieve a perfect victory if half your Legion died in the process. So while they could fight sieges (they had all of the skills, specialists, and materiel needed), they would be avoided where possible.

 

In regards to Isstvan III, don't forget that the Sons of Horus and the World Eaters were also laying siege to the Loyalists' position, not just Eidolon and the EC (plus Eidolon's warriors had to constantly guard against randon flanking attacks from Loyalist World Eaters while they were laying siege to the Precenter's Palace. So, it wasn't only the Emperor's Children that struggled to break down the defences organised by Saul Tarvitz. If anything, it's a tribute to Saul's ability.

 

Yeah, it can be boring and harder to theme an army when your Legion is an 'all-rounder'. Having a really strong theme like the White Scars, Thousand Sons, or Raven Guard definitely makes everything a bit more straightforward. Sometimes the best thing to do is focus on a particular aspect of an 'all-rounder' army to the exclusion of everything else.

 

The Dark Angels are an excellent example of an 'all-rounder' Legion that can be given a lot of flavour and character (when writing a list). As the First Legion, the Dark Angels specialised in all aspects of warfare that other Legions to go on to make their own during the Great Crusade. They were all most like a collection of different Legions under the one banner in the early days of the Crusade. This variety and diversity of capabilities come from their various 'Wings'. The Ravenwing is a rapid response formation which operates in a similar style to the White Scars; the Ironwing is made up of massed armour formations, similar to the armoured companies of the Iron Hand and Iron Warriors; the Dreadwing is a weapon of last resort and total destruction, similar to the Space Wolves, World Eaters, and Death Guard; the Stormwing specialised in boarding actions and Zone Mortalis engagements, similar to the Imperial Fists and World Eaters; the Deathwing is the Legion's elite formation made up of the Legion's most deadly warriors with the best equipment that the Imperium can provide; the purpose of the Firewing is currently unclear. Hopefully Angelus with give us some more detail. So even though the Dark Angels are an 'all-rounder' Legion there are still numerous specialist formations that excel in a particular aspect of warfare.

 

The Ultramarines are often sighted as the greatest 'all-rounder' Legion, but even the XIIIth contained a number of specialist formations. The XXIIth Chapter of the Ultramarines was made up of Destroyer marines and their supporting armour elements (equiped to use the same proscribed ammunition and weapons as the Destroyers. Known as the Nemesis Chapter, this formation specialised in Exterminatus missions and was only unleased against the most terrible of foes and usually as a last resort (kind of like the Dreadwing, but not as extreme). There were a number of other specialised Chapters within the Ultramarines and many of them survived as 40k Chapters. For example the Aurora Chapter were the 4th Chapter of the XIIIth Legion and were know to have operated five times as many armoured vehicles as a regular line Chapter (the 40k Aurora Chapter are renowned for the armoured formations and tactics). During the Great Crusade the Ultramarines' 20th Chapter were known as the Eagle Warriors and they specialised in void combat. Their 40k descendants are a fleet based Chapter. The Black Consuls were the 77th Chapter of the XIIIth Legion.

 

So while some Legions are seen as 'all-rounder' Legions, they nearly always contained specialist formations, Chapters, and Companies. No Legion was composed entirely of tactical marines in Rhinos.

 

 

Edit: the Ultramarines were excellent at all aspects of war, not 'average' at everything. They were one of the greatest threats to Horus' rebellion and were dealt with accordingly.


Edited by Kizzdougs, 08 December 2017 - 06:43 AM.

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#6
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As kizz points out, every Legion had the equipment, training and (mostly) manpower for any situation at hand. I would say that they definitely had weaknesses, although in the Heresy it's less obvious due to often being paired off with other Legions who have the ability to compensate those struggles. You could make a good case for the reason Perturabo & Co. were tag-teaming the fringes with Fulgrim were due to this, although it's not explicitly mentioned. you see many Legions' weaknesses more on the table top in 1 v 1 games, though one can also argue that the game rules for the Legions don't really do them justice to a full extent (especially some of the earlier Legions / Primarchs). 


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#7
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#8
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If you're interested in the 'Observed Strategic Tendencies' of the Legions, here they are; 

 

Dark Angels: Combined arms and multi-spectra warfare, Exterminatus and purgation campaigns, extended independent void operations.

 

Emperor’s Children: Combined arms warfare, the use of complex manoeuvre and discursive tactical planning, asymmetrical assault.

 

Iron Warriors: Siege warfare, coordinated mass-theatre warfare, armoured assault, planetary decimation, attrition, retribution and counterinsurgency campaigns.

 

White Scars: Shock assault, high mobility warfare, harrowing actions and extended unsupported operations within hostile domains.

 

Space Wolves: Shock assault, search and destroy, pursuit operations, punitive and excoriation campaigns.

 

Imperial Fists: Ship-borne assaults and boarding actions, defensive and fortification operations in extremis, stronghold assaults, the conquest and forced compliance of void-fairing civilisations.

 

Night Lords: Punitive actions, decimation, enforced pacification, terror assaults, psychological warfare.

 

Blood Angels: High intensity warfare, strategic decapitation strikes, planetary interdiction campaigns, multi-vector and sub-orbital attack.

 

Iron Hands: Armoured and high intensity warfare, line breaker attacks, planetary pacification and suppression campaigns, anti-materiel operations.

 

World Eaters: Shock assault, planet-killer and Exterminates operations, close-quarters actions (space hulk purgation, boarding operations, line breaker attacks, ‘forlorn hope’ objective assaults).

 

Ultramarines: Mass assault, targeted decimation, planetary interdiction, liberation and limited theatre compliance campaigns.

 

Death Guard: Heavy infantry assault, attritional warfare, hazard/death zone warfare, xenos eradication and purgation operations.

 

Thousand Sons: Psychic warfare, precision assaults, misdirection, lore culling, macro-coordination multi-theatre campaigns.

 

Word Bearers: Mass assault, policing actions, gnoetic purgation, suppression of ideological revolt.

 

Sons of Horus: Shock assault, harrowing actions and strategic decapitation strikes.

 

Salamanders: High intensity or asymmetric warfare, zone mortalis engagements, planetary interdiction, liberation and defensive operations.

 

Raven Guard: Rapid deployment operations, strategic interdiction operations, reconnaissance in force, guerrilla actions, low-collateral damage imperative compliance operations.

 

Alpha Legion: Surprise assault, sabotage, infiltration, insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare, multi-vector attack, interplanetary pursuit and decimation campaigns, and deep-range raiding operations.

 

 

 

These are just the different Legions' preferred methods of war. They could all perform a vast array of different military operations, but would often attempt to apply their particular methods of war when possible :tu:


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#9
b1soul

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The EC relied heavily on intricate plans and were somewhat more vulnerable to surprise factors. I believe that's mentioned in Betrayal.
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#10
Kizzdougs

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The EC relied heavily on intricate plans and were somewhat more vulnerable to surprise factors. I believe that's mentioned in Betrayal.

Yep, on page 107;

The Legion relied greatly on thorough and detailed planning and flawless execution of its battle plans by the individual warriors of the Legion. Every aspect of battle was analysed and turned to their advantage, from terrain and weather to the availability of logistical support and reinforcement, nothing was left to chance. Each component of the Legion’s forces as well as any allies or ancillary forces under their command was taken into account and utilised accordingly. This forethought and almost mechanistic approach to warfare had its dangers as well as its strengths however, and should an entirely unforeseen contingency occur (as unlikely as this was in most cases), or some crucial element or strategic asset be unexpectedly removed, the Legion could be wrong-footed, thrown into confusion and suffer the consequences. :tu:


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#11
Charlo

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Great thread guys - a lot of awesome information brought on from a great question and it shows just why the legions are so cool and why some events happened the way they did.

 

I'm surprised the SoH didn't have more things listed!


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#12
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Great thread guys - a lot of awesome information brought on from a great question and it shows just why the legions are so cool and why some events happened the way they did.

 

I'm surprised the SoH didn't have more things listed!

Yeah, me too! As I was typing out the SoH list I thought 'that can't be everything?'

I think it might be because Horus often utilised the other Primarchs and their Legions to perform a lot of the 'foot work' in his campaigns before his Sons of Horus swooped in to claim all the glory with a 'strategic decapitation strike'. One of Horus' greatest skills, and why he was the obvious choice for Warmaster, was his ability to use the other Legions to their full capacity and rein in some of the more headstrong/unstable Primarchs. So while the Sons of Horus were perfectly capable of fighting sieges and attritional wars, or clearing space hulks and xenos infestations, why would they bother with such inglorious drudgery when they could call in the Iron Warriors, Death Guard or World Eaters? Even before Horus was officially declared Warmaster he and his Legion were first amongst equals and could pick and choose their fights to some degree. That's how I see it anyway :)


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#13
b1soul

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Legions who are kinda intuitive and "think on their feet" would be WS and SW I think.

They probably aren't as stupendous at intricate planning.

#14
Urriak Urruk

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Is there anything the Legions just... weren't good at? The only things I can really think of are really specialized anti-xenos anti-daemon operations, which are filled by Deathwatch and Grey Knights respectively (or Knights Errant in 30k).



#15
b1soul

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Astartes were really bad at not betraying the Emperor. 50% loyalty rate...
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#16
Brother Pheidias

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Legions who are kinda intuitive and "think on their feet" would be WS and SW I think.

They probably aren't as stupendous at intricate planning.

Probably as in certainly in the White Scars case. I believe quite a bit of the subplot for Ilya Ravallion in "Scars" is the sheer hair-pullingly haphazard approach to proper planning and asset allocation :P

But then again, their maneuvering above Chondax seem to indicate otherwise, so maybe not.



#17
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Legions who are kinda intuitive and "think on their feet" would be WS and SW I think.

They probably aren't as stupendous at intricate planning.


I'd say Path of Heaven disproves that notion.

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How can two separate posts about two books by the same author both disagree...

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 specialized anti-xenos operations,

The entire Great Crusade consisted of killing xenos and reincorporating humans. Or killing them if they were too corrupt from xenos/religion.


gallery_48988_10980_12646.pngL_T_2_2016_Medal.gifNostraman_zpsf4be09e4.png

gallery_48988_10980_563.pnggallery_48988_10980_1482.pnggallery_48988_10980_56.pnggallery_48988_10980_4128.png

 


#20
b1soul

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WS are great at fancy, intuitive maneuvres based on speed

Spoiler


This is less pre-planning and more an organic melding of each WS ship captain's innate talent at speed.

I don't think they're the best at EC-style "choreographed" warfare. Recall that scene in Unremembered Empire with the DA executing really intricate marching formations. I have a feeling that sort of thing isn't the Scars' forte.

#21
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Is there anything the Legions just... weren't good at? The only things I can really think of are really specialized anti-xenos anti-daemon operations, which are filled by Deathwatch and Grey Knights respectively (or Knights Errant in 30k).

Right.
Legions weren't good at anti-xenos operations.
They where awesome at it ;)
They whiped out whole species, killed Eldar Craftworlds and where generally speaking the end of all xenos species they've encoutered which dared to stand in the way of the Great Crusade.
And since they eradicated any believe system on any planet they visited the grip of the dark powers wayned throughout the galaxy.
gallery_48988_10980_12646.png

#22
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 The Dark Angels are an excellent example of an 'all-rounder' Legion that can be given a lot of flavour and character (when writing a list). As the First Legion, the Dark Angels specialised in all aspects of warfare that other Legions to go on to make their own during the Great Crusade. They were all most like a collection of different Legions under the one banner in the early days of the Crusade. This variety and diversity of capabilities come from their various 'Wings'. The Ravenwing is a rapid response formation which operates in a similar style to the White Scars; the Ironwing is made up of massed armour formations, similar to the armoured companies of the Iron Hand and Iron Warriors; the Dreadwing is a weapon of last resort and total destruction, similar to the Space Wolves, World Eaters, and Death Guard; the Stormwing specialised in boarding actions and Zone Mortalis engagements, similar to the Imperial Fists and World Eaters; the Deathwing is the Legion's elite formation made up of the Legion's most deadly warriors with the best equipment that the Imperium can provide; the purpose of the Firewing is currently unclear. Hopefully Angelus with give us some more detail. So even though the Dark Angels are an 'all-rounder' Legion there are still numerous specialist formations that excel in a particular aspect of warfare.

 

I hope that the Dark Angels' versatility is adequately reflected in the 30k game. I made a thread previously about whether or not the pattern of "Each -wing of the first legion merits its own Rite of War" would be followed for all six -wings, but unless the Angelus book confirms this pattern there's no guarantee it will have one. 

 

My guess is that the Firewing is the psyker/anti-psyker division of the Dark Angels. The Dark Angels had to be able to cover all their bases as the First Legion, and given the diversity of foes faced during the Great Crusade, it's almost certain that they had to face and adapt to foes using psyker abilities before dedicated psyker/anti-psyker forces (like the Sisters of Silence and the Thousand Sons) were formed during the GC. Besides, psyker abilities give access to unique advantages (such as Divination) accessible in no other way. 

 

Can't we also deduce some of the legions' "tactical holes" by referring to the ingame rules? The Blood Angels and Raven Guard both have restrictions on the number of tanks they can field, so we can safely say that they didn't emphasize armoured warfare as much as the other legions did.  Similarly, the Iron Hands are restricted in the number of Fast Attack choices or unit types they can use, so clearly Ferrus wasn't someone for raiding or rapidly exploiting breakthroughs.  Or how the White Scars will be stuck operating at suboptimal capacity during the Siege of Terra since they are at their deadliest when moving above a certain speed, which they will rarely get to do so in the street-to-street fighting of Holy Terra. 

 

Sometimes the holes get revealed in fluff, too, such as with the Raven Guard at the Battle of Gate 42 where they were ordered by Horus to conduct an offensive siege action and suffered heavy losses because they didn't have the tanks, the manpower, or artillery support suited to taking fortifications out in the open that other legions like the Iron Warriors did. 

 

Can we also say that the Alpha Legion was also an all-rounder legion? Their Mutable Tactics is uniquely versatile. I'd still like to see how Legions like the Dark Angels or Alpha Legion faced down hordes of angry World Eaters or other rampaging melee forces. At least the Alpha Legion have access to Counter Attack, but even that's not much more than a speedbump for an Alpha Legion tactical squad up against a Nob squad or enough World Eaters. 



#23
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Rather than looking for a tactical "hole" to fill, I think a better approach would be to look for a Primarch specialty that's missing, and extrapolate the missing tactics from there. For example, which consul roles are missing? We have a Forge Lord (Ferrus), a Chaplain (Lorgar), a Librarian (Magnus), Master of Signal (Guilliman), and so on... but no Apothecary. We're missing the apothecary Primarch, and therefore the apothecary legion. Which leads us to the following:

 

Observed Strategic Tendencies: Biological Warfare, Xenos Identification and Classification, Natural Disaster Relief Efforts, Post-Compliance Renewal Operations.


Edited by Icarus1138, 09 December 2017 - 05:08 AM.

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#24
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Before Guillimans reforms in the post scouring era the imperium armed forces were a much more integrated force. The legions were simply the vanguard of that, they simply requestioned what they deemed  necessary to achieve compliance. Need to destroy giant xeno-constructs. bring titans with you, need a post-compliance occupation troops, Bring imperial army units with you. etc. So in my opinion the legions "tactical holes" matter not they were largely filled on a compliance by compliance basis.


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  • Location:Washington, D.C.
  • Chapter Name: 7th Terran Regiment

Rather than looking for a tactical "hole" to fill, I think a better approach would be to look for a Primarch specialty that's missing, and extrapolate the missing tactics from there. For example, which consul roles are missing? We have a Forge Lord (Ferrus), a Chaplain (Lorgar), a Librarian (Magnus), Master of Signal (Guilliman), and so on... but no Apothecary. We're missing the apothecary Primarch, and therefore the apothecary legion. Which leads us to the following:

Observed Strategic Tendencies: Biological Warfare, Xenos Identification and Classification, Natural Disaster Relief Efforts, Post-Compliance Renewal Operations.

That’s because medicine is traditionally associated with saving lives, not taking them. ;)

Edited by Marshal Rohr, 09 December 2017 - 02:23 PM.






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Tactics, Space Marines, Lost Legions

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