Now, some people may well disagree with this, but I think the best place to start when looking at maxing out your army effectiveness is the core units. Forget the shenanigans for now – there’s no point looking at the best ways to interact units and powers unless you understand the units and abilities to begin with!
We also want to look at their battlefield role and how you might like to use them. There are certainly some surprises in there.
Before we get onto specifics, lets discuss some of the common points that will affect most of the army.
First, we are looking at a proper Primaris based force, not a full Astartes force. We aren’t going to look at vehicles or units that don’t have the Primaris keyword. That’s quite a handicap – cheap troops units like scouts are really useful in the current edition, and the range of vehicles and artillery are effectively restricted to the Repulsor – a fantastic but expensive tank. Without any real dedicated transports, troops will be exposed out of cover – minimising battleshock and maximising armour saves are going to be pretty important. It also restricts the usefulness of many of the stratagems that tie to specific units, like the classic whirlwind/land speeder pairing.
Primaris are tough, generally with 2 wounds, but still only normally have the 3+ save, and are particularly vulnerable to heavier weapons like plasma weaponry, or mass fire if caught in the open. With a move of 6″, they aren’t going to break any records in advancing, so options for deep striking or repositioning will add a lot of value.
As troops excel at taking and holding objectives for battle forged armies, we need to weigh up the additional advantage taking troops. If you generally play annihilation games, where the goal is defeating your enemy rather than by objective, troops are less important and may not be as good value for the points.
With “And They Shall Know No Fear” allowing morale rerolls, battleshock isn’t a major concern like it can be for other armies . Larger units of 10 are quite practical, especially with the option to split fire in 8th, and can significantly help in close combat. Mind you, smaller units let you take more of the special options like sergeants and grenade launchers, and can all get into the same tanks, so its tricky! Hopefully we’ll get more of a grip on unit size later on.
Just one note – this is my take from a quick study of the codex. Is it right? No idea for sure! There may be codex approved changes I’ve missed, or seemingly unimportant upgrades that revolutionise a unit. Do tell me in the comments and I’ll update this!
This particular review is only covering Games Workshop units, not FW ones, though there are some key Primaris associated units found there, like a superheavy tank. I may cover those later!
Captain (standard Mk 10 armour)
The Primaris Captain is a mid tier Primaris hero, and its easy to spend points on wargear. They are excellent close combat fighters – at range they are great shots but don’t really have any more long range firepower than an intercessor.
They let nearby units reroll hit rolls of 1 – that’s fantastic, as it affects the most possible rolls, and ensure a second chance to over overcharged plasma weapons exploding.
They can swap their bolt rifle for stalker bolt rifle, which is well worth it if lurking in the backfield to strengthen a gun line. They can also take an optional power sword to max out their excellent close combat skills. Taking both probably isn’t worth it, as if you have gone for long range maximisation, you won’t get full value of a power sword over the battle.
Their iron halo, giving them a solid 4+ invulnerable save, combined with 6 wounds makes them a durable bet.
Captain (Gravis armour)
This Primaris Captain is all in for assault. With a Pistol 3 weapon, they get 3 shots a turn even when locked up, and get the choice between a clumsier gauntlet or a power sword for their hits. All their other abilities are pretty much the same as a normal Captain, but with offence limited to short range and maximised for pure close combat, you really need to commit to an aggressive play style. With the pistol, all the ranged weaponry is focused on killing infantry – you need to kill anything tougher up close and personal.
Captain (Power fist)
This captain is awesomely optimised for damage at short range. A plasma pistol combined with their ability to reroll 1s is fantastic, and the power fist and their 2+ to hit in close combat is also brilliant. While still focussed on close range, this particular option is maximised for those who love plasma, or are fighting mechanised or high toughness elite troops.
The lieutenant is the cheapest Primaris hero, though only just shy of the standard Captain, and its easy to spend points on wargear. If you are tight on points and need HQ to fill out detachments, this may be a useful choice. They are excellent close combat fighters – at range, like the captain, they are great shots but don’t really have any more long range firepower than an intercessor.
They let nearby units reroll wound rolls of 1 – that’s not as good as rerolling 1s to hit, like the captain, as it doesn’t help with plasma explosions, and it also affects less rolls on average, as any missed rolls to hit obviously reduce the dice pool that might come up as 1s.
They can swap their bolt rifle for stalker bolt rifle, which is well worth it if lurking in the backfield to strengthen a gun line, or for a powersword to max out their excellent close combat skills.
The only solid reason I can see (beyond needing cheap HQ) to pick a lieutenant is to pair him with a captain, giving nearby units and themselves rerolls on 1s for both hit and wound. The lack of an iron halo makes them quite vulnerable to enemy headhunters otherwise.
The librarian is an excellent close up fighter with a force weapon, provides psychic defence by denying the witch with their psychic hood, and also allows all sorts of psychic shenanigans to be layered in with other abilities.
You need to be careful due to their lack of invulnerable saving throws, but at least one librarian seems to be a solid bet, regardless of your play style. Unless you go all in with Black Templar philosophy, of course!
With the short range of many psychic powers, the lack of ranged weaponry, and their close combat abilities, you really need to embrace the assault phase to really get the best of librarians. If you want to play a more measured gun line approach, you may not find they add as much value.
Between boosting morale, a 4+ invulnerable save, amazing close combat skills and allowing nearby units to reroll all failed hit rolls in close combat, this guy is fantastic if you want someone to lead a charge. Clocking in at 5 points under a basic captain, they are at least as useful on the advance in combat with the crozius arcanum giving them +1S, -1AP and 2 damage.
On the flip side, these guys are almost useless on the defense with no firepower greater than a pistol, no bonuses to nearby units (except morale, which isn’t that important to Primaris) outside of combat. If you take a chaplain, you need an aggressive play style to get value out of them.
Intercessors are the only troop option available to a Primaris force. If you are playing an objective game, or looking at building battalions aiming at the +5cp to fuel stratagems, you’ll need some of these.
They have 3 choice of weapons – standard bolt rifles, which aren’t bad rapid fire weapons with a 30″ range, Auto bolt rifles, which as 24″ assault 2 weapons are fantastic for fire and move work, or stalker bolt rifles, which are heavy 1 weapons, but give you -2 ap and a 36″ range. Honestly, unless you want a cheap filler unit (and if that’s the case, why are you looking at elite Primaris), it feels like you want stalkers for a gun line or backfield objective holding, and auto bolt rifles for a mobile unit hurtling around the battlefield.
One interesting upgrade is the auxiliary grenade launcher – you can take 2 of these per unit, which is only useful if you combat squad it. It effectively gives you a mini missile launcher, with a 30″ range frag or krak grenade for 1pt – 2pts to take one in both combat squads. This seems a no brainer!
Damn, the apothecary is awesome. Between resurrecting troops or healing heroes, he also totally beats face in close combat, with some awesome close range pistols and a great stat line. I can see the apothecary being awesome to bolster a close combat captain/lieutenant pair. Bonuses to hit and wound combined with healing? Primaris smash! Is he worth the points? I’ not sure. I think kept near a key unit or playing aggressively to get a return in close combat would pay off, but he isn’t cheap and not throwing out anything at range.
An ancient (or standard bearer) basically increases the leadership of nearby units, which improves their chances of not losing any models to battle shock. With “And They Shall Know No Fear” already in effect for Primaris, its not really all that helpful, unless taking big old units. The 50% chance of getting a last shot or attack in for fallen models is pretty good, but only when the ancient is surrounded by casualties!
Its a great concept and very cinematic – from a narrative perspective I’d always want to take one. Effectiveness wise, though? Maybe if combined with hell blasters in a gun line? Honestly, I think you can probably do better for the points just by taking small units or going for an apothecary to get models back into action long term.
Reivers feel like a fantastic concept, but the various options they offer just don’t seem to tie together very well. Shock grenades stopping overwatch? That’s fantastic – except with a 6″ move and 6″ range, you have to start within 12″ of the enemy to be able to actually pull this off. Which generally means you’ve just been shot to hell (or maybe, if lucky, had an enemy fail a charge). Reducing enemy leadership in 3″ is fantastic for causing morale issues, but its too short a range to help for anything beyond a heaving melee, and people are quite savvy at minimising battleshock effects. Grapnel launchers let you ignore vertical components of movement and spiderman up to the top of buildings. That could really add value on specific levelled terrain, but at lot of the time won’t be any use. They also let you come in 9″ away from the enemy at deployment from any table edge, but they aren’t that scary a unit to derail an advance. Grav chutes let you deep strike from turn 2 – but again that 9″ range and the 6″ range on shock grenades doesn’t quite gel.
If you are a great player, you can probably maximise these brilliantly. Otherwise I feel you’ll have a unit that will have a monster game if things break for them, but generally won’t perform at all. Play on a table with grapnel launchers and lots of buildings, and have a couple of charges against you fail, and they will be AMAZING. Play on a flat table with a canny enemy and I think you’ll struggle a bit.
Dreadnaughts! This is the new dreadnaught introduced with the Primaris marines, and generally accepted as part of the Primaris line. Dreadnoughts are much tougher in 8th edition than they used to be, and the range of fire power you can load them up with is pretty huge. Up close, at range, they are monsters. I might be wrong, but I feel maximising their load out for anti horde firepower is probably your best bet, with the onslaught gatling cannons chucking out silly amounts of reasonable firepower that will just clear out any big tarpit units.
However, they will draw fire like mad, and performance will degrade as they take hits. They aren’t cheap in terms of points, and as fire magnets, you have to accept you might not get your points back from them – but other, more vulnerable units are going to get away with much lighter fire.
Holy hell, these guys are awesome. While they could really do with the ability to absorb more firepower, like a 2+ save or something, they are pretty resilient with the +1T from the gravis armour, and laden down with firepower. With two main load outs of either multiple 8″ flamers, or frag launchers and boltstorm gauntlets, you have a really nasty array of firepower in a not too expensive package. I’ve heard more than one primaris player suggest building your army around these and hellblasters for really nasty doses of firepower. Are they resilient enough to get up close to use their firepower? I think you really need to weigh up your play style with aggressors, as though they look like excellent fun, they are something of a glass hammer, and I think you need to commit to an aggressive approach to get the most out of them. Between close range firepower, no penalty on advancing and shooting their assault weapons, and power fist smashing in close combat, they are fast, lethal and deadly. But leave them exposed and they’ll go down just as fast as any other Primaris.
Oh, yeah! Hellblasters! An entire unit loaded down with Plasma Weaponry. Now, I have to admit, I tend to overcharge EVERYTHING, so this may be my achilles heel, but keep a captain nearby to reroll ones, and these bad boys might just decimate everything!
5-10 plasma guns with rapid fire? Yes! Oh Yes! I’m tempted to look at spearhead detachments and just load up with these. They won’t be quite as good as troops at taking objectives, but in terms of dishing out firepower they’ll be just awesome!
A lot of people struggle with these, but I think they could work for me. Why? Because most people see them as the Primaris equivalent to Assault Marines, but they really aren’t. My read on them is that they are a fast moving weapons platform, much closer in play style to Sisters of Battle Seraphim … which I love and play well. The key is to use them for ambush strategies, hit and run techniques, while avoiding actual close combat where you can. If you get stuck up close, the lack of proper close combat equipment will cost you dearly, I think. My experience with Seraphim will help, but I think these could be a lot more effective if people just didn’t play them like assault marines. Got higher hopes than expected from studying the data sheet.
Repulsors are the only vehicle currently able to transport Primaris marines, and have a variety of load outs. Its a big scary tank. Its going to draw fire, so you have to accept it’s going to take some hits. One obvious thought is that will spare others, even a Redemptor dreadnaught. It can carry a fair chunk of weaponry, or maybe carry a brutal setup of aggressors with a couple of HQ for a lethal close range boost.
I think with so many points tied up in the one model, you have to have a solid plan for using it. Maybe its delivering a brutal CC detachment right into enemy lines, allowing your Redemptor to get a turn or two untargeted, or simply as a turn 1 tank killer, but you really need to work out how to play around it. One oddity is that a lot of the heavy weapon options are much more short ranged, like lastalons are much shorter ranged than equivalent las-cannons. Again, I think it lends itself to the feel of Primaris as an aggressive short range army.
Lord of War
Roboute is frankly amazing, optimising nearby troops to perform like absolute monsters, while having the equipment and statistics to smash some serious opposition himself. He optimises Imperium troops, not just Astartes, so its extra value in an Imperium soup force … though we’re staying clear of those. He’s a heck of a lot of points, but will massive optimise your army. The bigger the game, the easier it is to fit this monster in. I think the only fault I’d have with including him is that I’m not 100% sure he counts as Primaris being a Primarch 🙂 It seems only fair as he had them invented, and the Death Guard that I’m also looking at get Morty though!
To get the most out of Roboute, you need him to tackle hotspots while he abilities optimise the troops in you lines most in need of success. having them get full Rerolls to hit and wound and buying you additional CPs for stratagems really should help with some nasty shenanigans.