A Centurion is a Space Marine who has been equipped with a powered exoskeleton worn over his normal suit of Power Armour known as a Centurion warsuit that allows him to serve a heavy ranged or close combat assault role between that of a normal Astartes and a Terminator. A Centurion warsuit enables a Space Marine to stride into battle with the firepower of a battle tank at his fingertips.
Protected by thick ablative plates of ceramite, a Centurion warsuit renders its pilot immune to all but the most powerful of weapons. Named after the Space Marine Legion leaders of old, the Centurion warsuit design was unearthed in the aftermath of the Age of Apostasy in the 36th Millennium, and after sanction by the Adeptus Mechanicus, the suits found their way into the armouries of almost every Space Marine Chapter.
Centurion warsuits are one of the most deadly and powerful assets available to the Adeptus Astartes, able to punch holes through fortress walls with obscene force, flush out enemies with flame or cut down any foe's advancing lines. They are walking tanks with formidable firepower. With the wall-grinding Siege Drill of the Assault Centurion, and the mass-collapsing grav-weapons of the Devastator Centurion, the vehicle pools of numerous Chapters are well-stocked with both variants of these warsuits.
It is much disputed by Imperial scholars as to when the Centurion warsuit first engaged in conflict. This is because its origins are to be found within that dark period of the Imperium's history known as the Age of Apostasy. This was a new age of religious strife, where millions of Heretics were slaughtered across numerous star systems.
The structures of the Imperium groaned under the weight of violent, internal conflict. During the Siege of Drax, a whole hive city was destroyed, and the entire Cadian 23rd fireballed in the process. Whole companies of Space Marines were consumed in these enduring, bloody actions. Battle-Brothers were emptied into orbit as the ejecta of battlefleet assaults, or slaughtered in the shadows of their own fortresses.
The horrific spectre of the Horus Heresy and the threat of another all-consuming civil war began to loom over the Imperium. It became apparent to the High Lords of Terra that their troops would need new, more brutal wargear so that they might successfully smash their way across the galaxy to exterminate the unfaithful -- weapons that could resolve the most abhorrent of battles, even if apostate factions had barricaded themselves within indomitable citadels.
So it was that the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus prepared for the worst and embarked upon the Voyages of Understanding, their arks criss-crossing the galaxy on unfamiliar routes and legions of Adepts scouring ancient texts in a quest for archaic knowledge. They brought back technologies to their Forge Worlds that had never before been observed, and set to work.
Manufactoria clattered with fevered industry. They echoed with litanies as Tech-priests refined weapons and armour that could be used by the Adeptus Astartes. Forge Worlds were choked by banks of acrid smoke, while thousands of menials died each day, burnt to a cinder as they sought to feed the ancient furnaces with promethium.
Some of the newly discovered STC databases, such as the VX Bellam Ravager and Thermae Missile Suits were beyond the best efforts of the Tech-priests to replicate reliably, and many corrupted over time to produce disturbing results. These designs were locked away in stasis vaults lest their potency seduce the more weak-willed fabricators.
But out of the manufactoria on Mars came the prototypes of a Space Marine warsuit, a vehicle that would encase existing Power Armour and even enable the Battle-Brother to mesh with the larger suit's Machine Spirit. Itself a statement of intent, the warsuit was named in a manner as to acknowledge the Space Marine heroes of the Horus Heresy.
It was called the Centurion.
The two sanctioned variants of the Centurion warsuits were not called upon to fight during the Age of Apostasy itself, and even standard years later these two remained the guarded secret of the Tech-priests, who continued to refine their litanies, pray over them and pour on sacred oils. The Centurions remained unused and untouched, unable to be unleashed across the corpse-choked battlefields of the Apostasy before the Heretics could be finally crushed.
Because of this strange delay, it was muttered by some that the Omnissiah Himself was displeased with what this new brute force might enact. This rumour was only strengthened by suggestions that these terrible devices were craving war and their Machine Spirits were thirsty for blood.
Centurions Bring Redemption
After being sanctioned for official battlefield use, Centurion warsuits began to show in Imperial records during the bloody crusades of the Age of Redemption. Following pacts with the Adeptus Mechanicus, these slab-sided constructs were first utilised by squads of Imperial Fists and Iron Hands.
Experts in tearing down fortifications and in rigorously maintaining defences, both Chapters were quick to see how the Centurion design would complement their own combat doctrines. Companies assigned pilots first from their Assault Squads, and later from their Devastator Squads. In these Centurion warsuits they found new ways to enforce and inflict the Imperial Creed upon numerous star systems.
Companies of the Imperial Fists began to use the warsuits to provide an unstoppable impetus to their planetary assaults. They deployed them from their orbital Battle Barges in order to punch through fortresses and city blockades. They were not, however, only employed against Heretics. Xenos ships flashed like meteors through the skies to assault the planets of Mankind. Great daemonic entities and various macabre forms of alien races carved their way out of the Warp to annihilate frontier garrisons.
On battlefields across the galaxy, these warsuits prevented a great many losses to Imperial forces. Wherever there was a threat to the Imperium of Man, the Centurion warsuits strode forth to crush the foe beneath their ceramite heel. Vast voidships, docked or in orbit around heathen planets, were ripped open to punish those who worshipped false prophets.
Many worlds to this day -- which were liberated from the yoke of xenos oppressors by squads of Space Marine Centurions -- have since enshrined these mighty heroes as angels of the Emperor. Their hulking figures adorn stained-glass frescoes and auto-rhetorical shrines across the Imperium, crowned with glowing haloes and wielding the cleansing flame of Imperial justice.
It was not long until more Chapters, first the Ultramarines and Salamanders, began to deploy full squads of Centurions. They, too, could appreciate the lethal utility of these suits. But to them especially the Centurion proved more than a siege weapon. They found their new Centurion Devastator Squads brought a withering level of firepower to the battlefield. The Assault Centurions helped to bring brutal vengeance to Heretics, crushing their twisted bodies and obscene idols with ease.
Centurions brought not just the Light of the Emperor, but salvation. On Orbide II an Ork WAAAGH! promised to overwhelm the planet until squads of warsuits held the green tide back long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Kabalite raiding parties in the Vysis Star System were crushed before they were able to conduct more than a handful of raids against the Agri-Worlds vital to the system's survival. Insurgencies were cut down, the Heretic hearts of many Traitor rebellions were burned out, and the Centurions became rightly feared. There was nowhere to hide for those who opposed the Imperium.
Thus, by the 38th Millennium, it was unsurprising that almost all Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes began assigning these warsuits to their armouries. To this day, it is rare to find a Chapter whose armoury does not possess at least a single Centurion warsuit of either variant.
Though only the Assault Centurion and Devastator Centurion variants have trod the field of war, many more had initially been discovered or produced as a result of Tech-priest modifications. These more unstable and heretical versions were discreetly lost by the Adeptus Mechanicus; they remain so to this day.
Stepping Into A Warsuit
The Centurion is an enormous, battle-ready exoskeleton, a vehicle to enable the vengeful brutality of the Adeptus Astartes to gain access to hitherto unreachable places. A Space Marine pilots each one and the Centurion warsuit communes with the Machine Spirit (artificial intelligence) of his Power Armour. The Centurion stands taller than a Terminator and possesses all the resilience and firepower of a tank.
Woe betide any citadel that bars its gates to a warrior so armed. The warsuit's construction is based on thick plates of ceramite, each one blessed with the Litany of Ritual Bonding by a Tech-priest before being fixed in place by crane-armed Servitors possessed by sanctified datahosts. With such protection Centurions can endure ferocious attacks, while the Space Marine inside can concentrate on punching through the bulkheads of hive city walls, or incinerating rows of armoured xenos.
The Centurion designs permit a skilled Techmarine or Servitor to access the various pistons and cables within and apply any sacred unguents. For a Space Marine to step inside the warsuit from the rear, the top section of the warsuit must be lifted upwards. At this stage he may exchange helmets for a more appropriate Centurion helmet, to better augment his targeting or monitor the feedback of the Siege Drills, or simply rely upon his own enhanced instincts.
It is often the newer pilots who opt to go into battle with a helmet so that they may override the Machine Spirit and gain better control over it from within a sealed constituent. Once they have tamed the violent tendencies of the warsuit, then they may trust it more, extending their awareness more completely to the warzone around them.
Once inside, there are numerous harnesses to strap the Battle-Brother in place. These enable him to weather even the concussion caused by direct hits from firepower designed to rupture tank hulls. The pilot is connected by several power cables so that the Centurion suit directly interfaces with his own Power Armour; as this link is activated, his body pounds momentarily with newly established energies, enough to overwhelm an un-enhanced human.
At first, new pilots must enter a trance-like state purely to gain control over the Machine Spirit, and a mental duel is fought even before the suit is even activated. Some Machine Spirits will not be tamed by the Space Marine, and a handful even cause burnout, frying the minds of their pilots. Such overly-powerful Centurion suits are quickly ushered away by Tech-priests for "decommissioning." Once connected into the warsuit, the accepted battle position is for a Space Marine's hands to be crossed against the front of his chest, behind the torso-plate and the suit's secondary weapons, for he controls the vehicle with his thoughts.
It is worth noting that certain Chapters, such as the Iron Hands, have developed particular expertise when interfacing with their own vehicles, and are therefore more naturally inclined to use them in battle. In fact, such is the strength of their belief that all flesh is weak -- even that of a Space Marine -- that pilots from the Iron Hands tend to dwell within the warsuit longer than is strictly necessary. A number of their pilots are now permanently bonded within their warsuit and can never be removed without suffering a fatal neurological injury.
Centurion training requires an intense level of focus and determination, even for a Space Marine. A pilot undergoes numerous simulations, tactical recreations and bouts of endurance testing to ensure he is capable of controlling such a complex and powerful piece of wargear in violent situations. As per the decrees of the Codex Astartes, each Chapter is responsible for training its own battle-ready Space Marine force, and an important part of this regime includes vehicle training. Only once tanks and aircraft have been mastered is a Space Marine ready to try his hand at controlling a Centurion battlesuit, though some Chapters -- notably the Imperial Fists -- will single out potential warsuit pilots earlier than others.
Part of the intense regime for a Devastator Centurion is hardening the Space Marine to the severe recoil of the weaponry. The warsuit permits a Space Marine to walk into battle armed with the firepower of a tank, and such powerful weaponry would crush a mere human. Recoil kicks hard on the chestpiece of his Power Armour, its blasts ricocheting around his nervous system and musculature and causing spasms in those unprepared. Battle-Brothers who train as Devastator Centurions tend to develop massively proportioned upper-body muscles, even for Space Marines. The most successful Devastator pilots possess phenomenal mental powers in order to prioritise targets whilst enduring these violent kick-backs.
For Assault Centurion pilots, much of their readiness for full combat missions depends upon their handling of a Siege Drill and developing the mental will and strength to operate it. Whilst some Chapters are satisfied to prepare at length on their homeworlds, others prefer to see that the Siege Drills are put to more immediate and practical use in the crucible of war, hurling new inductees into the teeth of the foe with Siege Drills growling.
Because Centurion warsuits are a highly specialised asset within a Chapter's armoury, the majority of Centurion pilots are selected from a Chapter's Devastator and Assault Squads -- though not from the ranks of the 1st Company. A Chapter's Veterans possess an exceptional level of battlefield experience, and their knowledge and combat flexibility means they are called upon to fight in a greater variety of circumstances, many of which would be unsuitable for deploying these bulky warsuits. Some Veterans would add bluntly that they find going to war in such slow-moving constructs undignifying.
Centurions are brutal yet ponderous specialists typically deployed as line breakers and besiegers -- where haste is less important than durability. Centurion warsuits do not interface with a Battle-Brother's Black Carapace; they are exoskeletons that enhance the already considerable might of Power Armour, making a Space Marine into a walking tank without being surgically implanted into the cybernetic chassis of a Dreadnought.
Battle-Brothers learn to pilot Centurions as part of their vehicle training. Centurion pilots are not chosen from the ranks of a Chapter's elite 1st Company, but are hand-picked from the Chapter's Assault and Devastator brethren. The most frequent explanation for this is that a Centurion's role requires a Space Marine to be fully immersed in a particular style of war, whilst the bulky exosuits lack the degree of tactical flexibility that the Chapter's Veterans require.
Centurion Assault Squads
- "Look to your battle-gear and it will protect you. We guard it with our lives. Your armour is your Soul, and your Soul’s dedication its armour. The soul of a warrior is the shield of Humanity. Honour the craft of death. Only the Emperor is higher in our devotion. Honour the battle-gear of the Dead. We ask only to serve."
- — Part of the Warrior's Catechism of Worship
Into the storm of battle march the Assault Centurions, servos whining in their mighty armour, rubble crunching beneath their heavy tread. Encased in their exoskeletal warsuits, these hulking assault specialists are protected from all but the most overwhelming enemy firepower. Even a direct hit from heavy artillery will do little more than stagger a Centurion, and small arms fire patters from their armoured hides like hail.
Centurion Assault Squads excel at storming enemy fortifications and advancing through the broken and crumbling terrain of an embattled city. They eschew long-ranged weapons completely, favouring close-range firearms and Flamers that they use for flushing enemies from cover. Instead of heavy guns, they wield Siege Drills -- heavy-duty tools of destruction that can swiftly shatter a building to rubble, tear a breach in a strong point's adamantium-reinforced walls or reduce a living opponent to a bloody mass of broken bone.
Striding toward the foe, the Assault Centurions rake their enemies with bolt shells and fiery blasts. Barricades are smashed down with contemptuous ease, and as the enemy's fortress walls loom, the Centurions' Siege Drills roar to life. These weapons are capable of reducing enemy warriors to a flesh-and-blood blizzard with a single blow, and can make short work of even the thickest ferrocrete bulwarks. In moments, the Assault Centurions force a breach, allowing their brothers to pour in around them as they stride into the heart of the enemy's stronghold like conquering kings.
Assault Centurions are normally deployed in fortified battle zones where sight lines are too crowded to bring siege tanks to bear, and routes of advance too constrictive to deploy an Ironclad Dreadnought. Under such circumstances, Assault Centurions form the vanguard of the attack, using their breaching tools to tear through any obstacles in their path, while drawing the defenders' fire away from the Tactical Squads that follow in their wake. Once the fortress walls have been breached, the Tactical Squads spread out to secure the area. Meanwhile, the Assault Centurions engage and pulverise anything foolish enough to stand in their way.
Wherever the rapid-strike tactics of the Space Marines are foiled, the heavy stride of the Centurion Assault Squads can be heard. In the bitter street fighting that took place on Skataurus, the Silver Skulls Chapter found that Centurion Assault Squads spearheading the attacks were the only way to make headway in the rubble-filled corridors that were once proud avenues.
Although their indomitable advance through the hive city was subjected to numerous ambushes, nothing could stop the inexorable Centurions from continuing their slow, steady progress. Dug-in tanks and reinforced bunkers fell before the grinding Siege Drills, while massed Chaos Cultist ambushes met their end as twin-linked Flamers washed them over with waves of flames.
Not surprisingly, the Imperial Fists -- masters of siege-craft -- have made extensive use of their Centurion Assault Squads, deploying them in all manner of line-breaking spearheads. The Salamanders Chapter, with their penchant for slow and steady advances, have used their Centurion Assault Squads as their hammer, but have also had some success in driving foes onto them as an immovable anvil of firepower.
Centurion Assault Squads are led by a Centurion Sergeant.
Centurion Devastator Squads
- "Identify your target. Concentrate your fire on it to the exclusion of all else. When it is destroyed choose another target. That is the way to secure victory!"
- — The Tactica Imperium
While Centurion Assault Squads are equipped for close quarters, Centurion Devastator Squads are long-range specialists who pound enemy positions with salvos of heavy weapons fire. Bloody havoc is wrought upon anything that falls within the Centurions' targeting reticules. The pilots' marksmanship is augmented by the grim Machine Spirits of their warsuits, decimator protocols guiding servo-assisted recoil absorption and oracular auto-targeting to ensure the Centurions maintain a punishing rate of fire.
Return fire is a futile gesture, akin to flinging stones at a fortress, for should the enemy launch an assault in an attempt to silence the Devastator Centurions' guns they must contend with the suits' massive strength and the pilots' skill at arms. A Centurion Devastator Squad's only real weakness is its lack of speed, for whilst they can outgun entire squads of enemy infantry, they are easily outpaced by the fast-moving elements of a foe's strike force.
Thus, they are primarily employed to besiege defended enemy positions or to defend their own fortifications, or used as mobile firebases to strengthen advancing battle lines. The Codex Astartes thus recommends their deployment in fixed positions with good lines of fire.
From such vantage points, the extreme firepower of a Devastator Centurion Squad can annihilate great swathes of advancing foes, or batter down the mightiest fortifications. Should swift relocation then be required, Stormraven gunships swoop down and snatch the Centurions from the jaws of danger, redeploying them to a new vantage point from which to scour the foe from the field.
A single well-positioned Centurion Devastator Squad can command the battlefield, forcing the foe to either redirect their attacks and hence lose momentum or concentrate their forces in an effort to neutralize the punishing firepower. Either way, the Space Marines maintain the initiative and can better plan their counterattacks.
Centurion Devastator Squads are led by a Centurion Sergeant.
Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort
The Ironfang Spire, the Impenetrabulum Obstinus, even the Nightmare Citadel of Morrowmire; all of these infamous fortifications and countless more have fallen to the concentrated fury of the Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort. Formed from Veteran Assault Centurion warsuit pilots and concentrated around the overwhelming brute force of Ironclad Dreadnoughts, there is no subtlety to the Siegebreaker Cohort.
This is of little consolation to the foe, of course; even as the massively armoured warriors reach their foes' defences, their omniscopes target critical weak points. Within seconds walls tumble, barricades collapse and even armoured vehicles are torn into flaming ruin by the formation's fists and drills, each demolished with such skill and violence that hardly any survive to crawl from the sundered wreckage.
Centurions share the same heraldry and organizational squad markings that can be seen on many other vehicles within a Chapter's pools. As well as this, they occasionally share similar sigils to the pilots who control their warsuits with respect to honours won in battle or their status within a company.
They also boast a Centurion Honour, a large stone sigil of two crossed fists set within a circle -- echoing the position taken by a pilot inside. This is displayed upon the shoulder of the warsuit, in much the same way as a Crux Terminatus.
Centurion Assault Squad
- 2-5 Assault Centurions
- 1 Assault Centurion Sergeant
Centurion Devastator Squad
- 2-5 Devastator Centurions
- 1 Devastator Centurion Sergeant
- Twin-linked Flamer (one on each arm)
- Ironclad Assault Launcher (mounted on chest)
- 2 Siege Drills
- Hurricane Bolter (optional replacement for Ironclad Assault Launcher)
- Twin-linked Meltagun (optional replacement for Flamer)
- Omniscope (can only be taken by a Centurion Sergeant) - The Omniscope is an advanced targeting device that allows a Space Marine Centurion to more accurately target the foe with his weapons.
- Land Raider - A Centurion Assault Squad can be transported into combat by a Land Raider of any type.
- Twin-linked Heavy Bolter (one on each arm)
- Hurricane Bolter (mounted on chest)
- Missile Launcher (optional replacement for Hurricane Bolter)
- Twin-linked Lascannon (optional replacement for Heavy Bolter)
- Grav-cannon with Grav-Amp to increase its power (optional replacement for Heavy Bolter)
- Omniscope (can only be taken by a Centurion Sergeant) - The Omniscope is an advanced targeting device that allows a Space Marine Centurion to more accurately target the foe with his weapons.
- Land Raider - A Centurion Devastator Squad can be transported into combat by a Land Raider of any type.
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Space Marines (8th Edition), pp. 73, 79, 167, 172
- Codex: Space Marines (7th Edition), pp, 36, 52, 87-88, 95-96, 133-134, 169, 172, 177, 315-318, 363-365, 404-405
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 94, 172, 175
- Warhammer 40,000: Munitorum - Centurions (Digital Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Index Astartes - Volume I (Digital Edition)