8 Jan 2014

7 Days of Glory - Iron Hands

Since the dawn of the Imperium, countless heroes have risen to combat the forces of disorder. Their names sung in the annals of history and celebrated by trillions, each has shown such surest bravery and skill to be forever remembered as the finest champions of the God Emperor. But few among them can claim to have defended the Imperium time and again for over ten thousand years, and it is to this most glorious accolade that the Chapters of the Space Marines have taken. Their peerless prowess in combat and almost fanatical dedication to the preservation of the Imperium has marked them out as the Emperor's most favoured warriors, the aptly named Angels of Death. It is thus that the Codex Imperator dictates that the most revered of these Chapters shall be commemorated for their many heroic deeds; this is the week of glory, where the greatest of heroes are given the respect only they deserve.

The Iron Hands

For many decades, the concept of augmentation to the human body through the use of cybernetics and machinery has long been a source of conflict for varying reasons. There are the moral dilemmas of enhancing ones-self through such means, as well as the risks of permanent nerve damage and other serious disabilities. But regardless of this, it has indeed made humans stronger; from replacing lost limbs to artificial appendages, there are so many applications of this amazing technology that many will tirelessly argue they are well worth any cost. However, in the 41st millenium, there are those that have gone far beyond merely fixing themselves. These are the Iron Hands, a bitter Chapter of the Space Marines that perceives even their own flesh as a sign of weakness, opting to replace and augment their bodies until they are as cold as the machines they worship. They are a bleak Chapter filled with self-loathing, guilty not only that their Primarch fell to his own hubris, but they too were weak and unfit to defeat the scions of Chaos. Since the fateful climax of the Heresy, the Iron Hands have used their mastery of machinations to forge their rage and self-hatred into themselves, devolving into emotionless warriors forever seeking their penance. Like a self-aware machine, they purge any weakness and unnecessary tool, even if it means severing their arms or ripping their eyes from their sockets. As gruesome as their self-mutilation is, the results are undeniable; they are among the most accomplished of Chapters, and their steely brutality has given them a dark reputation as the merciless deliverers of the Emperor's Judgement. They do not accept any imperfection, whether it be the taint of Xenos or the very humans they were created to defend. They have perfected their arts, and count themselves among the greatest of the Adeptus Astartes for it, even if the cost could mean their souls.

Chapter Tactics

The Flesh is Weak - This provides units with Feel No Pain on a 6+, though it unfortunately does not stack with other inclusions of the special rule such as narthecium, instead being replaced entirely. While there is often a stigma associated with 6+ saves in codices and army books penned by Robin Cruddace, from the Shield of Faith on Sisters of Battle to the bubble aura of the Luminark of Hysh in the Empire forces, it is nonetheless a hefty defensive boost. Heldrakes and plasma fire are often the bane of all Space Marines, from Scouts to Terminators, and having an extra save - or any save at all - against them really is invaluable, even if it is only a one in six chance of saving a model. Think of it like this; if a Heldrake lucks out and causes ten wounds on a full Tactical Squad, statistically you will save at least one of them and have a decent chance of saving a second. Now isn't that much better than having no squad at all to potentially contest an objective or take pot shots at an opponents' depleted scoring unit? The same logic can be applied to high-value Terminators who get to take their 5+ invulnerable save, and then a 6+ Feel No Pain save against anything that doesn't cause Instant Death or is Strength 8 or higher. While Ion Accelerators are their bane, plasma weaponry is more common, and saving even one Terminator is well worth using the Iron Hands Chapter Tactics. Remember not to rely on it, but don't forget it - you won't believe how often it can save your units. To increase the effectiveness of it generally means taking more bodies, but this can come in conflict with the next part of the Chapter Tactics.

Machine Empathy - This provides characters and vehicles with It Will Not Die, as well as giving an extra +1 bonus to repair attempts in the army. While having Feel No Pain on a 6+ across the force is certainly nice, this is the real kicker of the Iron Hands Chapter Tactics. It Will Not Die on the characters gives them a 33% chance on each of their own turns to regain a wound which, in an edition where extra victory points are scored for killing Warlords, can give you an extra turn - or the rest of a game - for a character, especially your Warlord, to survive and do some damage. That it also applies to any vehicle in the army is pretty crazy, giving everything from Rhinos to Predators the ability to regenerate hull points. Now, this ability becomes more valuable the tougher a given unit is, simply because they will have more chances of actually getting to make an It Will Not Die roll. Two-wound Chaplains and Librarians die a bit too quickly to really benefit, but a four-wound Chapter Master with a Shield Eternal will be laughing at anyone trying to best him. Rhinos and Land Speeders can fall over to a stiff breeze nowadays, but Land Raiders have almost impenetrable defences and four hull points to cover them. This naturally favours mechanized lists with lots of tough vehicles, such as Predators, Vindicators and Land Raiders, and with the Feel No Pain buff on the infantry, lots of scoring Troops in transports. Obviously, this makes points a bit of an issue, and besides, the vehicles aren't exactly impregnable; massed Strength 8 shooting can still down a Predator in record time, for example. This is where that repair bonus really gets valuable, and it just buffs up vehicular lists even more. Iron Hands have some really strong Chapter Tactics that allow for the "immortal" Chapter Master to Ironclad spam builds, and this is definitely an example of great codex design where multiple competitive builds are possible even from a single army tree!

Favoured Units

Experience and many trials have led to competitive army lists for each of the Chapters, and they usually revolve around a strong core of units unique to each list. This is the beauty of the Space Marine codex; so many units are affected in a staggering number of ways by the different Chapter Tactics, improving their viability exponentially based on the choice of army. For Iron Hands, I have listed three units that pop up in many of their builds in some form. Please be aware that these aren't necessarily the strongest units available to Iron Hands or the ones that receive the most benefits from their Chapter Tactics, but some of the most common that I have seen.

Chapter Masters - When the Space Marine codex was released, everyone jumped up and down about the Chapter Master, and with good reason. With a crazy stat-line and access to some great wargear, the Chapter Master is one of the most cost effective and potentially brutal generic characters in the game. The discussion about them quickly turned to which Chapter benefited them most, and most have come to the conclusion that Iron Hands are the winner here. With It Will Not Die and Feel No Pain (6+), the Iron Hands Chapter Master with a Shield Eternal, Artificer Armour, a Bike and a Thunder Hammer is quite possibly the toughest unit in the game below the 250 point mark. Not only is he a Toughness 5 Eternal Warrior with 4 wounds, but he has a 3+ invulnerable save, 2+ armour, hits like a truck and is mobile as heck. And he can regrow wounds. This guy is just brutal!

Biker Squads - Adding on the incredible strengths of the Iron Hands Chapter Master are Bike Squads which are unlocked as Troops by the typical Chapter Master build on a Bike with the Shield Eternal. Considering Bikers are the most cost effective, tough, mobile and damaging Troops choice you can get in the codex, not only does it increase the value of the Iron Hands Chapter Master by a huge margin, but it just makes the already great Bike squads even better with guaranteed scoring.

Ironclad Dreadnoughts - Oh yes! Ironclad Dreadnoughts are probably the best value walker in the codex, what with better armour on all facings than the other Dreadnought types, and much improved melee capabilities. It is an assault walker that is actually good at its' job, and quite tough for the cost. Now, add in the benefits of the Iron Hands Chapter Tactics, and these things start to get a little bit ridiculous. Load them up in Drop Pods, shoot some stuff with their meltaguns on the drop, wait a turn, soak up some damage, then charge in. Sounds like any other Ironclad right? Hold your horses, the Iron Hands Ironclads get It Will Not Die and thus regenerate lost hull points! Part of the reason Heldrakes are so darn ridiculous is that they can regrow their lost hull points, and while this isn't always great for an AV12 Defiler, on an AV13 Ironclad that can guarantee short-ranged arrival in a meta filled mostly with S7 AP4 or AP2 spam, this is really darn good. It's not like Ironclads weren't already scary enough!

Themed Army Lists

There are actually quite a few very distinct competitive Iron Hands army lists going around, each with a different focus based on the amazing ability to give It Will Not Die to any vehicle in the detachment for free. There are numerous Land Raider spam forces that deny the opposition any chance at getting to the scoring units, while more traditional mechanized lists filled with Predators, Razorbacks, Rhinos and other tanks are also common. However, one build I would like to highlight just for its sheer ridiculousness is the Ironclad spam list. Now, I know this probably isn't strictly a fluffy list, but I look at it this way; Dreadnoughts generally aren't that competitive these days, right? Walkers are just generally inferior to monstrous creatures in most codices, with some exceptions such as War Walkers and Soul Grinders. Despite that, every Space Marine player I've ever met loves Dreadnoughts; they have awesome models and can be used to represent a Chapter's greatest heroes, even if their lives have long been forgotten. So, in the interest of showing what this particular build is capable of, and because while not necessarily themed we all want a way to make Dreadnoughts work, let's have a closer look at such a list.

Master of the Forge

Tactical Squad (9) w/ flamer, drop pod
Tactical Squad (10) w/ flamer, drop pod
Tactical Squad (10) w/ flamer, drop pod

Ironclad Dreadnought w/ drop pod, locator beacon
Ironclad Dreadnought w/ drop pod, locator beacon
Ironclad Dreadnought w/ drop pod

Fast Attack
Assault Squad (5) w/ two flamers, drop pod
Assault Squad (5) w/ two flamers, drop pod

Heavy Support
Ironclad Dreadnought w/ drop pod
Ironclad Dreadnought w/ drop pod
Ironclad Dreadnought w/ drop pod

Total = 1846

So the list is pretty darn straightforward. There are eleven Drop Pods, meaning that six can arrive on the first turn via Drop Pod Assault. There are six Ironclads. Now, I admit to not being the best at maths but....that is a lot of first-turn carnage, and it is all but guaranteed you will get First Blood. After that, provided you took out a lot of vehicles or valuable anti-tank units such as Crisis Teams - with some luck of course - your six Ironclads with It Will Not Die should be pretty safe. Expect to lose two, perhaps three, though really most armies will struggle to deal with so many AV13 assault walkers and are likely to make mistakes such as splitting their fire. If this happens, you may not even lose a single Ironclad, though I wouldn't count on it. Unless you lose half or more of them and do some pretty decent damage, the Drop will be a success. From there, your flamer-equipped infantry can come in to mop up light and medium infantry units with bolt and template fire, while the Ironclads proceed to charge into any nearby unit to either tarpit them or annihilate them. Any vehicle you don't destroy on the Drop Pod Assault will be a prime target for a charge. The Master of the Forge is pretty much only there to give you Ironclads in both Elites and Heavy Support, but his boosted repair abilities will no doubt come in very handy for preserving your Ironclads. Is it a spam list? Yes. Is it a themed list? In a sense, it could be, yes. Is it a fun list? Oh yes! Your opponent may not enjoy it and get locked up in an asylum muttering "Ironclads" for the rest of their lives, but that is, after all, how the Iron Hands are - cold, merciless and calculating. Their inhumanity is what makes them great, so don't be afraid to show your opponent the depths of their failure when they behold the sight of the glorious children of Medusa!

In Closing

I hope you enjoyed the fourth in a series of seven articles covering each of the distinct Space Marine Chapters represented in the 6th Edition Codex: Space Marines! The Iron Hands are the vengeful children of Ferrus Manus, determined to wipe away the shame of their Primarch's foolish death. With their close ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus and fusion with the machinations of technology, the Iron Hands bring righteous fury to any enemy of the Imperium. They will never relent so long as the stain of Ferrus' suicidal mistake haunts them, and as they toil in the forges of war, their disdain of flesh and traitors burns ever brighter. I hope this article helped you to better understand how to make the most of the technological advancements of the Iron Hands in the name of the Emperor!

For more discussion on Iron Hands and other Space Marine Chapters, visit the forums over on +Bell of Lost Souls or view our Space Marine Tactica series. Have a lovely day! Eel out.


  1. I like it - I wish I had put my CM on a bike now, I opted to use him with Honor Guard in a LR, but the LR proved to not be as effective as I had hoped so I moved them into a pod where the HG usually die off defending the CM after they drop - considering losing the HG entirely and just using Sternguard instead to capitalize on the alpha strike and then detaching the CM to run around and do his thing.

    I wanted to illustrate the toughness of this guy, even without the bike. One game he regenerated 4 wounds and took 7 total wounds during the game. He literally was one wound ahead of death from turn one and ended up killing two combat squadded tactical squads, a devastator squad and Tigurius in that match. He consistantly performs amazing feats - to date I've only lost him to 40 Ork Sluggas and 3 Killa Kanz - where he killed 7 Orks and a Killa Kan before going down in a hail of green meat.

    Just to give you an idea of what I run:
    Iron Hands - Clan Bracchus (Homegrown Clan)
    "The Gauntlet"

    HQ Lord Kardus - 270
    - Shield Eternal, Burning Blade, Artificer, Digital Weapons, Meltabombs

    HQ x3 Black Sun Praetorians (Honor Guard) - 145
    - Chapter Banner, Drop Pod

    Troops x10 Tactical Marines - 190
    - Meltagun, Combi-melta, Drop Pod

    Troops Tactical Marines - 170
    - Plasmagun, Plasma Cannon

    Elite x5 Sternguard - 205
    - Combi-Meltas x5, Drop Pod

    Elite Primus Godric (Contemptor Dreadnaught) - 200
    - Plasmacannon, Plasma-Blaster

    Elite Frem (Mortis Contemptor) - 220
    - TL-Lascannons x2, Cyclone Missile Launcher

    Heavy Support Thunderfire Cannon - 100

    Total: 1500

    I find it is pretty damn effective, especially with the Chapter Master running around the enemy deployment zone collecting heads. I always try to get Slay the Warlord with my Warlord - its a matter of principle, to date he's killed Tigurius, Calgar, Creed, and a nameless SM Captain in single combat, looking forward to getting some other big names on there - like Abaddon!

    Thanks for the article Jack - Oh but be careful when talking about Manus, a lot of us old school Iron Hands players think a lot of the "new fluff" is garbage and can get pretty riled up about it - the stuff about Manus being a fool included (I've always thought this personally, so it doesn't bother me, man lost his head then ran in and lost his head.)