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Themed Army Ideas
Other Space Marine Themed Army Ideas

Phoenix Marines by Thomas Prince
This Themed Army Idea comes from Thomas Prince, creator of the Wolf & Rabbit @ Arms (where you'll find his excellent "Space Wolves Guide"). Like the Salamanders, this chapter uses an animal-based theme. Thomas took some concepts associated with the mythological phoenix (flight, flame, death and rebirth), considered how those concepts could be applied to 40K, threw in some characteristics of real birds of prey, and ran with it. Simple, yet interesting and effective.

Roca Del Fuego is the fourth planet in the Toryn System, which is located along the edge of the galactic arm. Roca is a geologically active planet, with large volcanos and hot springs. The planet is also a perfect for agriculture, as plants grow extremely well in the nutrient rich ash produced by volcanos. Humans colonized the planet a mere 2000 years after the establishment of the Imperium and have held it ever since. 

Because Roca is smaller than Earth, gravity is only 0.7 G. This has led to helping evolve some of the largest flying birds so far documented. Birds of prey (possibly evolving from species brought by the first human colonists) are the largest creatures on Roca Del Fuego, some with wing spans of over 50 feet. The most powerful, vicious, and impressive of these birds of prey are the phoenix. The larger of the two species of phoenix are very similar to hawks, with wing spans ranging from 30 to 40 feet. The smaller species are more like falcons, having wing spans around 6 to 10 feet. 

These large birds nest along the slopes of volcanos, which protects their eggs from would-be thieves. The phoenixes also hunt in these areas, use thermal updrafts to stay aloft for hours with barely a flap of their wings. A strain of heat-resistant, phosphorescent fungus thrives near the vents of the volcanos and even grows on the feathers of the birds, making them glow red in the dark. Fortunately, fire moss, as its called by the natives, does not seem to harm phoenixes in any way, other than making them visible if they fly at night.

Beneath the Nest, Roca's 10 mile-wide moon, is the base of the Phoenix Space Marine Chapter. Inspired by the huge birds, the Phoenix recruit new marines from the native agrarian population, determining the worthy by harsh tests of skill and courage. The tests vary from year to year, but a favorite is to have the candidate climb nude and without equipment to the nest of a pair of phoenix (often thousands of feet above the ground), retrieve an egg, return to their village with the egg intact--then return it to the nest without harming the egg or the parents. 

Like many Space Marine Chapters, the geneseed of the Phoenix has mutated over the millennia. Most Phoenix marines sport some sort of extra growth, usually in the form of talons extending from fingers and toes. In some rarer cases, marines have grown other bird-like features such as reddish feathers instead of hair or even (in a few very rare cases) a beak.

The Phoenix are very particular about the weapons they use and how they fight, preferring flame and plasma weapons because the real phoenix of Roca Del Fuego can survive and prosper near the heat of volcanos and lava flows. Even the risk of a plasma meltdown is not enough to steer these marines away from these weapons because, in Roca legend, each phoenix consumed in fire shall be reborn from its ashes. To them, perishing in flames is a great ending to fighting and soaring like the birds they name themselves after.

Phoenix Marines view flying as a sacred gift from the Emperor, and most recruits are eager to "earn their wings" and soar like the great birds of their homeworld. As such, they use many jump packs, Land Speeders, and Thunderhawks. It is not uncommon for the Phoenix to have jump pack duels at over 2000 feet, and Phoenix Marines are some of the most skilled pilots in the galaxy. 

The Phoenix Marines despise melta weapons: as they produce heat but no flame, melta weapons are not ‘of the phoenix’ and thus are not sacred. Phoenix Marines will only use them if a vehicle (such as a Land Raider Crusader) comes equipped with a melta weapon or in extremis (such as against a tank-heavy rebel Guard army). 

Lastly, Phoenix Marines are known to be particular about style. Because the phoenix are some of the most impressive and awe-inspiring creatures to ever fly, Phoenix Marines emulate them. They use modified jump packs, specially-tuned and modified vehicles, and all manner of additional alterations to armor and weapons to maintain a high level of appearance. To them, how one looks and how one lives is just as important as how one dies; some outside the Chapter have accused them of being vain. 

As per Codex: Space Marines. The big difference between the normal Space Marine HQs and the Phoenix HQs is that most are equipped with ornate jump packs and join an assault squad at the beginning of the game. HQs without jump packs are VERY rare, but not unheard of for the chapter. Characters commonly use bolter-flamers or plasma pistols if they are attached to an assault squad, or bolter-plasma guns or plasma pistols if part of a defensive unit.

Command squads are very rare, as most HQs will be attached to an assault squad. If a command squad is fielded, its often led by a Leader, as any real Phoenix officer  will have a jump pack.

Unlike most chapters, the Phoenix do not rely on many Terminators, mainly because of their love of flying. Because of this, they will only field up to one Terminator Squad: these can either be regular or Assault Terminator units. Regular Terminator units always include at least one heavy flamer. 

Dreadnoughts are more common, and because of their beliefs, Phoenix Dreadnoughts are most often equipped with a plasma cannon, and ALWAYS with a heavy flamer. There are a few dreadnoughts that are not equipped with plasma cannons, but none use multi-meltas. Heavy armor is a fairly common item on these vehicles, as most of the metals have been tempered in plasma.

Veteran squads are fairly rare as well, since almost all Phoenix Marines prefer to join airborne assault squads. Like most of the ground troops for the Phoenix, Veterans will often play a defensive role in a battle, supporting any assault troops at long range.

Tactical squads are the most common troop unit for the Phoenix, and are used to support assault troops. They often are equipped with a plasma gun (if the unit is more defensive or fighting Chaos) or a flamer (if the unit is meant to be more offensive or fighting Orks). The meltagun is NEVER taken.

Phoenix Scouts only engage in recon and special op missions in support of assault units. The Phoenix will NEVER field a Scout Squad unless the mission uses the Infiltrate rules, and even then, the Scouts will only use sniper rifles if the mission is "Sabotage." 

Fast Attack
This is where the Phoenix Marines really excel. It is not uncommon for the Fast attack slots to be completely used up in a 1500 point battle.

Assault troops are VERY common for the Phoenix, and are often led by an HQ unit. These troops are also equipped with as many plasma pistols as possible. 

Land Speeders are the second most common Fast Attack units for the Phoenix. The Phoenix prefer heavy flamers, of course, and almost never use multi-meltas. 

Phoenix Marine Bike squadrons are possibly more rare than Terminators: no more than one of these squads will ever be on a battlefield. To a Phoenix marine, bikes are bulky ground vehicles; if they are used at all, they are often extensively redesigned by the Chapter's Techmarines to make them more aerodynamic. Attack bikes are NEVER used in squadrons, only added to a regular bike squadron as per Codex: Space Marines.

Heavy Support
As per Codex: Space Marines. The Phoenix do not field multi-meltas in their Devastator squads. If the Phoenix field a Land Raider Crusader, the disgraceful task of wielding the standard multi-melta falls to a Marine who has been negligent in his duties or has come in last in a test of skill ("Last one across the finish line has to man the multi-melta!").

Modeling and Painting
The Phoenix have much to offer in modeling and painting. Most of the Phoenix have reddish hair, and often sport small talon-like claws on their hands and feet.  Standard armor color is red with orange tint--perhaps Citadel's Blazing Orange would look best. The armor of most Phoenix Marines have flame decorations along the boots, arms, or shoulder pads (on a side note, the Legion of the Damned shoulder pads with the flame patterns would be an excellent choice for doing these patterns quickly). Most Phoenix Marines wear Mark VI (‘beaky’) helmets. A Swooping Hawk Exarch’s helmet might be perfect for a Phoenix Marine character.

In addition to the preferred weapons mentioned previously, Phoenix Marines would also use hand flamers as close combat weapons. Plastic hand flamers were available on the 2nd Edition Space Marine Assault sprue; while having no special benefits in game terms, they certainly add character to a Phoenix Marine model.

Terminators could be represented with Deathwing Terminators, as these often have several small feathers attached to arms and weapons; merely paint the feathers Blazing Orange.

Instead of having the standard Space Marine jump pack, characters use sleeker versions with highly ornate wings to add maneuverability for the user. These jump packs can be made from using Swooping Hawk wings (usually pinioned at the shoulder blades, or where ever it might seem coolest), and some green stuff to make a small thruster for where the backpack would go. The wings should be painted very ornately, with the inner feathers being painted Blood Red and the outer feathers Blazing Orange. 

HQ models would also look good with an accompanying bird model painted to represent one of the small phoenix of Roca Del Fuego. The bird from the Space wolf Rune Priest would be a good choice, as would one of the Great Eagles from the Warhammer fantasy range. Remember, of course, to paint them red!

Most Phoenix vehicles have big engines, ram air scoops, large exhausts, and aerodynamic bodies. Spoilers are common on Rhinos. Tanks are less likely to be as modified as transports and bikes.

General Tactics
Standard tactics for the Phoenix are to ‘slash and burn’. Plasma fire is used to weaken the enemy, while the flamers and assault troops move in to cleanse the area before proceeding. Phoenix are often divided into two types, grounders and flyers.

Grounders play the role of defense, "protecting the nest." Grounders often use long range weapons (especially plasma weapons) to help weaken enemies before they get into assault range. Fliers are the hunters, moving forward to swoop in on weakened ‘prey.’ 

Note that while Phoenix Marines prefer flame and plasma weapons, they also occasionally use heavy bolters and lascannons.

Optional Rules
Plasma cannons: Tactical squads and Veteran squads may take a plasma cannon, instead of the normal heavy weapon options, for the same price as a lascannon. It's not that the Phoenix won’t take lascannons, but that they find the fires of a plasma cannon to be more appropriate than a single burning light.

Flamers: Assault Squads may be equipped with flamers in place of plasma pistols.

Assault Units as Troops: Because Phoenix Marines pride themselves on their hand-to-hand ability, they will often take Assault Squads in place of normal Troop units. Assault units may be taken as a Troop unit, IF they have their jump packs removed (these units are known as fledglings, fighting enemy on the ground before they finally ‘earn their wings’).

Swift Vehicles: Rhinos, Predators, or Razorbacks belonging to the Phoenix Chapter may purchase the ‘Red Paint Job’ vehicle upgrade from Codex: Orks. Of course, the model must be painted red! 

A Phoenix for the Flame: Because Phoenix Marines welcome death by fire, they may fire flamers or heavy flamers into hand-to-hand combat so long as only Phoenix Marines are engaging the enemy. If an ally (say, Imperial Guardmen or a squad of Ultramarines) is also in hand-to-hand with the same unit as the Phoenix Marines, they will not fire into it with their flamers because it is their job to protect their allies. Burning themselves is one thing, but killing an ally is unacceptable. 

Related Pages
Other Space Marine Themed Army Ideas

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© Copyright Thomas Prince, October 2000. Used with permission. 


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle