- "The left shoulder plate of a suit of Terminator Armour always carries the large solid stone icon known as the Crux Terminatus. This doubles as a tactical symbol and as a revered honour badge. Each Crux is reputed to have bound within its core a tiny fragment of the battle armour worn by the Emperor during his epic duel with Horus the Arch-Traitor ten thousand years ago. The design of this ancient badge can vary considerably, even within a single unit or Chapter. Sergeants' and Officers' Crux tend to be more elaborate and finely detailed than those worn by normal Battle-Brothers, but all are venerated equally. To lose even a single Crux in battle is to betray the Emperor's trust and bring great shame down on the entire Chapter."
- — A treatise on Tactical Dreadnought Armour
Terminators are Space Marine Veterans who have earned the right to wear Tactical Dreadnought Armour, better known as Terminator Armour, and serve as their Chapter's greatest infantry assets, each essentially serving as a walking tank. Tactical Dreadnought Armor combines the technological developments of power armour with the sealed environmental suits designed for starship crews that work in highly unstable or corrosive environments such as inside the high pressure casings of plasma reactor shields. It can even withstand the colossal impact of high speed orbital micro debris. Terminators are always members of the elite 1st Company of a Codex Astartes-compliant Space Marine Chapter. All suits of Terminator Armour have built-in teleportation devices which allow them to deploy anywhere via deep strike, although more often they are deployed using Land Raiders. Terminator Squads consist of a Terminator sergeant and between 4 and 9 Terminators.
Terminator suits are the pinnacle of armoured protection available to a Space Marine. Each is all but impervious to small arms fire and can even withstand the merciless onslaught of tank-busting Krak Missiles. Terminator Armour, created at the time of the Horus Heresy, is incredibly rare. Space Marines hold it a great honour to be permitted to wear such a suit in battle, and it is only to members of the Chapter's elite 1st Company that this honour is granted. Once trained in the use of Terminator Armour, a Space Marine is counted first among his brothers and is expected to conduct the most difficult of missions and to perform beyond even the lofty standards of the Adeptus Astartes. Boarding Tyranid-infested Space Hulks, launching teleport attacks, Titan assaults and combat actions in extremely hostile environments, such as deep space or volcanic marshland; these are the missions undertaken by Space Marine Terminators.
Terminators are truly amongst the greatest heroes of Mankind, bold warriors in whom the indefatigable heroism of a Space Marine is combined with the terrible weaponry and indomitable mass of Tactical Dreadnought Armour. No foe is safe from a Terminator assault, not a horde of Orks, Adamantium fortress or colossal Chaos Titan. Terminators are invincible, they are unstoppable and they never yield.
Space Marine Power Armour has a long and glorious history, its origins dating back to the long-forgotten Dark Age of Technology before the Emperor of Mankind's Unification of Terra. Nothing is now known of this time, but it is speculated that suits of powered armour were worn by the techno-barbarians that fought alongside the Emperor as he battled to bring Terra under his rule in the 30th Millennium. Over time, these suits were refined and improved, becoming the earliest incarnations of fully enclosed Power Armour.
The first suits of Space Marine Power Armour were developed from this armour and were said to have been worn by the first Astartes of the early Space Marine Legions as they fought to unite the planets of the Sol System under the Emperor's control. Legend tells that once the Terran system was secure, and the process of rebuilding firmly in hand, the galactic conquest of the Great Crusade began. Faded techno-arcana of the Adeptus Mechanicus tell that even before the Age of Strife had ended, the Emperor had started to make provisions for his Great Crusade to reunify Mankind.
A major portion of the prepartions for the Great Crusade included the re-equipping of the Space Marine Legions with a far more sophisticated suit of Power Armour that Imperial historians have dubbed Mark II "Crusade" or "Crusader" Pattern Power Armour. Alongside these developments, the Emperor initiated a program to develop a a new suit of Power Armour that would provide even greater protection than that offered by the standard marks of Power Armour for Space Marines. Anecdotal evidence of the adaptability and willingness to embrace this new weapon of warfare can be found in the Primarch Horus' vocal backing of the Tactical Dreadnought Armour project that was undertaken by the Mechanicum of Mars, with the result that his XVI Legion, the Luna Wolves, was one of the first and most widely equipped with the early prototypes of Cataphractii Pattern Terminator Armour and stood at the forefront of the development of tactics for its use in starship and planetary assaults.
The standard suit of Indomitus Pattern Power Armour provided excellent protection against small arms fire but not against heavier weapons, while the massive cybernetic Astartes combat walkers known as Dreadnoughts were unable to operate in certain environments, such as dense urban landscapes and heavily forested terrain, due to their sheer size and bulk. Some had expected that Tactical Dreadnought Armour could replace Power Armour outright, although it soon became apparent that Space Marines encased within Tactical Dreadnought Armour were at a disadvantage in battle, since the warriors using the armour would be quickly outmaneuvered by more lightly-armoured forces, and because they could not be transported in standard Space Marine armoured vehicles such as Rhinos and Razorbacks. However, Terminator Armour ultimately proved its worth in certain situations. Cramped conditions, like the inside of hive cities, tunnels, and starship corridors showed that in these situations, Terminator Armour's durability outweighed the need for maneuverability.
Tactical Dreadnought Armour, regardless of whether it is of the more common Indomitus or the ancient Cataphractii Pattern, is a complete exo-skeleton constructed from heavy-gauge plasteel plating, covered in thick sheets of plasteel and ceramite. Movement is made possible through the complex synthetic fiber-bundle muscles of the armour, which allow a properly-trained warrior to fight with deadly strength and skill in cramped, close quarter conditions, where this armour excels at providing protection and resiliency. Fully independent power supplies and life-support systems are incorporated into the suit, while various augers and auspex devices grant the wearer a full understanding of the situation he is in. Integrated threat sensors and targeting computers allow a Space Marine to track his target with great accuracy. A squad of warriors in Terminator Armour can be "networked" together to share visual and tactical data, although to limit confusion this is rarely done; networking is used in special circumstances such as combat operations aboard a Space Hulk where the Terminator Squad is often separated among different corridors trying to cordon off a Genestealer attack.
Tactical Dreadnought Armour is incredibly rare -- any given Space Marine Chapter would be lucky to possess a hundred suits, which would be enough to fully equip the Chapter's First Company. New suits of Terminator Armour can be manufactured by the Mechanicum, but although the Adeptus Mechanicus possesses the knowledge and skill, they can only be produced at an extremely slow rate. Newly-formed Space Marine Chapters often have difficulty obtaining large numbers of suits of this armour, especially because older, more prestigious Chapters have greater priority.
Each suit of Terminator Armour bears the Crux Terminatus on its left shoulder plate. This is a great honour amongst the Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, as each Crux Terminatus symbol is said to have been made using fragments from the Emperor's personal armour worn at the height of the Horus Heresy during his final battle against Horus on the Arch-Traitor's Battle Barge Vengeful Spirit at the climax of the Battle of Terra. Some Space Marines who have earned the right to wear Terminator Armour choose to stay in their regular Space Marine Power Armour, due to its advantages in maneuverability, but they are allowed to wear the Crux Terminatus on their shoulder as an honour badge and a symbol of their place amongst the elite Veterans of the 1st Company.
Terminators are able to carry a variety of weapons into combat. The synthetic fiber-bundle muscles of Tactical Dreadnought Armour allow Astartes to carry much heavier loads than even their mighty physiques can manage and so heavy support weapons can be carried with ease. As their armour enables them to withstand heavy firepower, Terminators often operate in the front lines, closer to the enemy than most Space Marines in Power Armour, and so much of their weaponry is specialised for medium to close range engagements.
The standard armament for a Terminator is the Storm Bolter and Powerfist (sometimes called a Power Glove). The Storm Bolter can lay down twice the firepower of a standard Bolter at medium to close range, while the Powerfist is a good all-round melee weapon with its strength enabling the wearer to kill most types of infantry and damage even armoured vehicles. The Chainfist offers increased effectiveness against even the most heavily armoured tanks, though it is not as good against infantry. The Chainfist is crucial when Terminators are deployed to explore Space Hulks, where it is needed to cut through locked doors and bulkheads. Both the Powerfist and Chainfist suffer from their bulk, which forces them to "strike last" in melee situations, though the squad-leader (commonly a Sergeant) is granted the use of the swifter Power Sword.
Depending on the Space Marine Chapter, up to two members of a Terminator Squad can carry heavy support weapons -- an Assault Cannon, Heavy Flamer, or the Cyclone Missile Launcher -- none of which can be carried by Astartes in standard Power Armour. Assault Cannons have a high rate of fire and excellent infantry and light-vehicle armour penetration at medium to close range; Terminators are the only infantry in the Imperium of Man that are able to carry these weapons. Heavy Flamers can destroy Genestealers and burn out groups of enemy units in a single searing blast before the Terminators charge in. The Cyclone Missile Launcher is unique to Terminators, being the only truly long-range weapon in their arsenal, and it is the only Terminator weapon specifically for open battlefield use (though it cannot be used in Space Hulks or during starship boarding operations); it can unleash a volley of Frag or Krak Missiles for anti-infantry or anti-vehicle use. The weapon is a twin six-cell launcher mounted on top of the Tactical Dreadnought Armour, so the Astartes can also retain the use of the standard Storm Bolter. In addition, a special targeting sensor is built into the armour, thus allowing the user to accurately fire the Cyclone Missiles while simultaneously firing the Storm Bolter.
Assault Terminator Squads are outfitted for all-out close combat ability. The Storm Bolter and Powerfist are given up for either a pair of Lightning Claws or the Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield. Lightning Claws are a form of Powerfist with the matter disruption field focused around long, finger-like blades instead of the glove itself, so these are most effectively used against enemy troops. The Thunder Hammer delivers a powerful blast of gravitic energy when it strikes, which can be used to great effect to stun enemy vehicle crews, and the Storm Shield emits a gravitic energy field which the bearer can use to deflect attacks, making such Terminators more generalised all-round melee combatants. Having no ranged weapons, Terminators with these close combat weapons need to get close to the enemy as fast as possible, so they are usually transported by Land Raiders or teleported directly into the enemy's battle lines.
Notable Terminator Formations
The Dark Angels Chapter's Deathwing and the Space Wolves Chapter's Wolf Guard Terminator Squads are unique in that they are able to field mixed squads containing both ranged heavy support weapons and Assault Terminators. Dark Angel Deathwing Terminators also have the sacred Deathwing Standard, which gives all the Astartes in the squad a boost in morale, encouraging them to fight with unimaginable fury, and the Wolf Guard possess Wolf Claws, a variant of Lightning Claws which do even more extensive melee damage.
The Terminators of the elite Grey Knights Chapter trade the standard Powerfist for a Nemesis Force Weapon, a weapon powered by the wielder's own psychic abilities that increases the strength of the bearer and easily cuts through armour without the loss of speed associated with the bulk of the Power Fist, although Grey Knight Terminators do have the option to take a Powerfist or Chainfist. Grey Knight Terminators also have their Storm Bolter attached to the back of the left gauntlet instead of being carried as a separate weapon. This can be replaced with either a Psycannon, a long-range rapid-firing high strength firearm that excels at destroying daemons and other Warp entities, or an Incinerator, which is for all intents simply a Heavy Flamer that uses blessed Promethium fuel to make it deadly for daemons.
Because of the rarity of Tactical Dreadnought Armour, only the members of the elite 1st Company of a Chapter may wear them though Force Commanders, Chaplains and Librarians may also equip such armour. These Space Marines are the best of the best, each one a hero in his own right. They must be deployed in carefully-planned situations where the armour's inherent toughness and destructive weapons can be unleashed to wreak havoc upon the enemy.
Squads of Terminators are most often employed during spacecraft boarding actions, and although the Terminators' armaments can be modified for longer-range combats, it is brutal assault for which Terminator Armour was made. Because of their bulk and slow speed, various methods have been developed to make the greatest use of these warriors. Primary amongst these is to deploy the Terminators straight into the thick of battle via teleportation through the Warp. Although inaccurate and potentially dangerous, it is often the best way to ensure that Terminators get into combat quickly. Nonetheless, teleportation is an ancient, barely understood technology that involves close contact with the Warp, and many Space Marine Chapters rightly distrust it.
Chapters can also deploy Terminator Squads via Land Raiders (5 Terminators or one squad), Land Raider Crusaders (8 Terminators), Drop Pods (each carrying 1 Terminator), and Thunderhawk gunships (up to 15 Terminators or 3 squads). Due to their bulk, Terminators are not transported in standard Astartes vehicles such as Rhinos, or Razorbacks. However, Inquisitors wearing Terminator Armour can be transported in Chimera transports, albeit they will take up a lot of space in the vehicle.
A standard Terminator Squad consists of a Veteran Sergeant and up to nine Veteran Brother-Marines. The Sergeant is normally equipped with a Power Sword and Storm Bolter, the Brother-Marines with Power Fists and Storm Bolters. The squad also has access to Chainfists, Assault Cannons, Heavy Flamers and Cyclone Missile Launchers.
Terminator Assault Squad
A Terminator Assault Squad consists of Terminators whose armament is oriented towards close combat. To maximise their effectiveness, they swap their standard armament of Storm Bolters and Power Fists for a pair of Lightning Claws, or a Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield. They often battle in close quarters, such as during starship boarding actions or in the lower levels of a hive city.
Terminators were first introduced to the Warhammer 40,000 universe during the late 1980's, via the miniature boardgame Space Hulk. The Terminators were pitted against Genestealers aboard a Space Hulk. The cover art for the 1st and 2nd editions of the game displayed Blood Angels Terminators; a Dark Angels Deathwing Terminator was shown in the expansion pack. Deathwing Terminators also featured in the cover art for the earlier game Tyranid Attack, where they were shown battling Tyranid Warriors and Termagants, but the game miniatures themselves were Space Marine Scouts.
Popular demand eventually caused Games Workshop to provide Terminators for the main Warhammer 40,000 tabletop war game, and a set of rules was published in White Dwarf Magazine 109. Although the potency of a Terminator Squad has been toned down since then, they are still considered a formidable part of any Space Marine army. At the time, the shoulder armour of the Terminators was bulkier and there were checkerboard patterns on its Storm Bolters and Assault Cannons.
The Terminator model was revamped during the mid-1990's and again in 2004, but the current design is still very similar to the previous one. Releases during the 2nd Edition of Warhammer 40,000 included a generic (Ultramarines or Blood Angels) plastic box set of a 5-man Terminator Squad, consisting of three Terminators with the regular Storm Bolter and Powerfists, one with a Heavy Flamer and a Powerfist, and the Sergeant with Storm Bolter and Powersword. There was also the Dark Angels Deathwing metal box set (replaced one Powerglove with a Chainfist, also had Deathwing ornaments), and the Space Wolves Wolf Guard metal box set (replaced two Powergloves with Chainfists, replaced one Storm Bolter with Assault Cannon, also had Wolf Guard ornaments). There were also metal blister packs for individual Terminators as well, not only for specialised weapons (Lightning Claw, Thunder Hammer, Cyclone Missile Launcher, Chainfist, Assault Cannon) or Chapter-themed weapons (Deathwing, Wolf Guard), but also for generic Terminators (duplicating the plastic models).
In the 3rd through 5th Editions of Warhammer 40,000, Terminators have been released as five-man plastic boxed sets which are not specific to any Chapter, with some minor changes from the previous version. There is either the standard squad (containing extra parts for the Assault Cannon, Cyclone Missile Launcher, Heavy Flamer, and Chainfist) or assault squad (contains enough parts to equip Terminators with either all claws or all hammer/shield). Deathwing and Wolf Guard Terminators are no longer sold in most stores though they are still available from the online store. However, the Dark Angels Veterans box set and the Black Templars Upgrade pack both contain plastic replacement parts for Terminators to make them Chapter-specific. Forgeworld also sells a line of Conversion Sets (usually just a set of resin shoulder plates, but sometimes entire torsos) for several different Chapters.
Terminators also appear in Relic's line of real time strategy games for the PC, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, as heavy assault infantry. There are two variations, standard and Assault Terminators, and they are acquired through the 3rd tier of the Stronghold, after placing an Orbital Relay on the field. They are then purchased at the Chapel Barracks and delivered via teleport at any point on the map the player can see.
Cataphractii Pattern Terminator Armour
During the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, an earlier variant of Terminator Armour than the standard Indomitus Pattern was used, known as Cataphratii Pattern Terminator Armour. Apart from having lighter armour on the arms and legs, as well as much broader shoulder guards, which consisted of a pair of overlapping plates, this version of the armour was quite similar to the current design, which Games Workshop introduced in the mid-1990's. This older pattern of Terminator Armour usually sported a Storm Bolter in one hand and a Power Axe in the other, and the lower half of the helm was concealed by a wedge akin to an upside-down cowcatcher that afforded greater protection to the neck area. Many deviations in the design of this armour were seen, such as that worn by some Thousand Sons Space Marines, and the Cataphractii Pattern Terminator Armour worn by the Legio Custodes, the latter possessing armour more akin to the modern Terminator variant in that they wielded a Power Fist and a Storm Bolter whose barrels were aligned vertically instead of horizontally. Custodes Terminator Armour also bore lightning bolt designs and were primarily coloured gold.
Dark Angels Deathwing Army
In the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of Warhammer 40,000, the Dark Angels are unique amongst the Space Marine Chapters as they can field an all-Terminator army. The entire army is composed of Terminators and Dreadnoughts, with Land Raiders and Land Raider Crusaders being used for transport. As well, the army also has access to standard characters such as the Chaplain, Force Commander, and Librarian. This is because the army is drawn from the ranks of the Deathwing Company of the Dark Angels and is unique among Marine Chapter First Companies in that the Deathwing is an all-Terminator company. Other first/veteran companies typically have a mix of Terminators and Marines in Power Armour.
The Deathwing is also unique among Terminator Squads in that they are able to field mixed squads containing both support weapons and assault weapons. For instance, a squad may contain three Lightning Claw-armed Terminators and two armed with Assault Cannons. Other Chapters' Terminator Squads are either assault (all Lightning Claws and Thunder Hammers/Storm Shields) or tactical (Storm Bolters, Power Fists/Chainfists, and two support weapons).
Previously, in the 3rd Edition, Deathwing armies had to forgo the other options of the Chapter such as Scout and Ravenwing squads. With the new, stand-alone 4th Edition Dark Angels Codex, Deathwing armies are allowed to include more than just Land Raiders, Terminators and Dreadnoughts. With the correct troops one can even make a mixed army, with one half as Deathwing and the other half as Ravenwing.
Dreadnoughts somewhat makeup for the lack of variety in ranged weaponry, while Land Raiders and their Crusader variants fill the transport gap (though they are expensive). Though the new version of the Deathwing Company is more flexible than in its previous edition, it is still just as challenging as before. This is mostly due to the army being made up of slow, heavily armoured troops. The size of the army can also be frustrating for some, as Deathwing armies are usually half the size of another army of the same point cost.
- Chapter Approved 2001: Second Book of the Astronomican, "Crux Terminatus" & "Cult Terminators", pp. 55, 58-59
- Citadel Journal 36, "Talons of Death: New Wargear", pp. 64-71
- Citadel Journal 45, "Space Marine Archive: Terminators", pp. 10-15
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition), "Chaos Space Marine Terminators" & "Terminator Weapons", pp. 30, 73
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (4th Edition), "Chaos Terminators" & "Armour", p. 28, 86
- Codex: Chaos Space Marines (3rd Edition, 1st Codex), "Chaos Terminators", p. 10
- Codex: Grey Knights (5th Edition), p. 63
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), p. 64
- Codex: Space Marines (4th Edition), pp. 25, 31
- Codex: Space Marines (3rd Edition), p. 8
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), p. 61
- Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter (RPG), pp. 71, 134
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), p. 164
- Forge World - Tartaros Pattern Terminator Armour
- Imperial Armour - The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal, pp. 70, 196
- Planetstrike (5th Edition), pg. 13
- Index Astartes IV, "Deep Strike - Tactical Dreadnought Armour"
- The Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Sourcebook), pg. 189
- Warhammer 40,000 Compendium (2nd Edition), pp. 11-18
- Warhammer 40,000: Wargear (2nd Edition), p. 68
- White Dwarf 305 (UK), "Crux Terminatus"
- White Dwarf 304 (US), "Rise of the Terminators"
- White Dwarf 304 (AUS), "Rise of the Marines: A Brief History of Terminators" and "Deep Strike"
- White Dwarf 303 (US), "Index Astartes: Deep Strike", "Crux Terminatus" & "Rise of the Marinies", pp. 18-23, 24-29, 30-35
- White Dwarf 181 (US), "Space Marine Terminators: Tactical Dreadnought Armour", pp. 37-39
- White Dwarf 161 (US), "Deathwing Terminators", pp. 4-7
- White Dwarf 158 (US), "Return to Kalidus: Campaign for The Wolf Guard, Space Wolf Terminators", pp. 30-35
- White Dwarf 142 (US), "Questions and Answers: Aegis Suit", pp. 12-19
- White Dwarf 134 (US), "Space Crusade: Terminators", pp. 4-11
- White Dwarf 122 (US), "Traitor Terminators: Part 2 - Chaos Terminators", pp. 26-35
- White Dwarf 121 (US), "Traitor Terminators: Part 1 - Chaos Terminators", pp. 27-33
- White Dwarf 117 (US), "Close Assault: Terminator Close Combat Weapons", pp. 65-69
- White Dwarf 115 (US), "Command Units: Space Hulk 1st Ed.", pp. 20-31
- White Dwarf 114 (US), "Grey Knight Terminator Squads" & "Cyclone; Terminator Missile Launcher", pp. 11-15
- White Dwarf 113 (US), "Space Hulk: 1st Ed. Preview", pp. 34-39
- White Dwarf 112 (US), "Terminator: Space Marine Tactical Dreadnought Armour", pp. 11-20
- White Dwarf 109 (US), "Terminator Squads", pp. 32-33
- Horus Rising (Novel) by Dan Abnett, p. 161