After three long decades (and a few unplanned bonus months), the successor to the 1989 classic, ‘Space Marine’ is about to make its return. And I for one cannot wait.

Adeptus Titanicus (1988) and Space Marine (1989) were my gateway into the Warhammer hobby and it’s fair to say my love of all things Epic scale, in particularly massive stompy war engines, has not diminished one jot. I’ve enjoyed every iteration of the game through the craziness that was ‘Titan Legions’ and Space Marine Second Edition, the incredible range of miniatures supported throughout ‘Epic 40,000’, and onto to what I personally felt the most enduring and well-rounded version, ‘Epic Armageddon’.

I always hoped it would make a return at some stage, but it wasn’t until 2018 when Adeptus Titanicus made a stand alone comeback that I saw a real possibility that would happen. A re-boot of Forgeworld’s Aeronautica Imperialis game shortly after that convinced me this would be the case as a more consistent scale was being applied across the two ranges relative to each other. All the signs were there the groundwork was being laid for a potential return of something like ‘Epic’ which could make use of all the models already produced for both games. I am not disappointed.

Space Marine successor

When Legions Imperialis was revealed in the summer, I know there was some disappointment it wasn’t a full blown return to something the scope of Epic 40,000 or Armageddon, featuring all of the Warhammer 40,000 factions, including Xenos and the ruinous powers. Instead what we have appears to be a return to the origin story and true successor to first edition Space Marine, the game I loved so much when I was in my teens. Legions Imperialis is built upon some of the fantastic core concepts of the original like the hidden order setup, alternating activations and the brutal close assault factor (CAF) system. It’s also tightly focussed on the period of the Horus Heresy which I believe is a good thing. I shall explain why I think that.

Breadth versus depth

The Horusy Heresy scope keeps the focus primarily on just two factions, Loyalists and Traitors. The miniatures produced for both Legiones Astartes and Solar Auxilia can be used for either faction and of course to represent any of the legions or human regiments. This gives the kits huge utility and means the designers can delve deep into the range of units and detachments that can be represented in the game. Warhammer Community has already previewed an already surprisingly large number of boxed sets including units like Rapiers, Tarantulas, different skimmer and bike types, Dreadnoughts, varieties of armour and infantry.

If supported I can realistically see Games Workshop releasing more we haven’t seen yet potentially including the more esoteric units like tunnelers and legion super heavies. Again, all of these can be used by both sides, so there should be plenty of demand from players.

Warhammer 40,000 by contrast has such a range of races and factions to cater for it would be difficult, if not impossible to release more than a handful of units for each of the races in any kind of reasonable timeframe to keep the player base engaged. That being said, epic scale does have one big advantage over its larger scale counterparts. Namely you can cram a lot of different models into a single box set. Like the Recon and Support sets already previewed by Warhammer Community.

Plans for release

One of the nice things in the rules is each detachment in a force needs to belong to a specific legion (including those of the Solar Auxilia). This is to assign traits, but it also means it’s possible to create an army with detachments from more than just one legion. Certainly not obliged to so if you want to create a force made up entirely of first legion Dark Angels to recreate the Thramas campaign, that’s all god. Equally could create a force mixing up Salamanders with Iron Hands or Ravenguard to represent surviving elements of the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan. Other great match ups could be Sons of Horus and Emperors Children or World Eaters. Lots of potential for thematic forces.

For the weeks following release day I plan to focus on the Loyalist forces present during the ‘Siege of Terra’. Something I think will be a popular choice early on as it combines Imperial Fists with White Scars and Blood Angels. Three legions that I think look fantastic on the tabletop with very different schemes. It also helps that I have already been building up my fifth legion air units and Titans from the legio Solaria already. It’s almost like I planned that!

Traitor and Solar Auxilia themes I am still leaving flexible for now as I don’t want to plan too far ahead. Those that appeal however certainly include Emperor’s Children and Word Bearers, the latter simply because I already collect those for regular scale Heresy.

What about the battlefield?

Terrain has always been a huge part of what makes epic such a visually impactful game on the tabletop. With the Legions Imperialis rules for garrisoning and even destroying buildings this is even more significant. My terrain collection goes back some time, and even though it isn’t what it used to be as I gave a lot away some years ago I have enough of the old and current ranges to draw upon. Expect to see a good number of terrain articles posted in the coming months as I rebuild the collection and see what uses the new terrain kits can be put to. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised to a few more new kits in addition to those making a return from Titanicus as the battlefield expands to host infantry and tanks, not just massive war engines!

Suffice to say my brain is already fermenting a number of themed pieces to add to the field.

All paint and no pew pew

Not when you mash up my two favourite ingredients; the Horus Heresy and epic scale. I fully intend to put any detachments I paint up through the thick of it at home and at the local club. These will not be destined to sit idle in the cabinet, the Emperor and the Warmaster simply won’t allow it!