Warhammer 40k Imperial Fists are the castellans of Terra, a Space Marine chapter charged with the defence of the Solar system itself. The Last Wall against enemy assaults on the throne world of mankind, they are indomitable and indefatigable in defence, righteous and wrathful on the attack.
Their history dates to the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy Civil War. The Emperor of Mankind appointed the Imperial Fists’ Primarch Rogal Dorn his Castellan, charging him to turn the Imperial Palace into an incomparable fortress. When Warmaster Horus arrived at Terra, the yellow-clad sons of Dorn sold their lives dearly in every trench and bunker, and on every wall.
Our guide to the Imperial Fists covers the core rules that distinguish them from other Space Marine chapters on the tabletop, as well as their history as stalwart bastions around which the Imperium has organised its defence.
Warhammer 40k Imperial Fists army
The Imperial Fists are a Space Marine chapter and, unsurprisingly, use most of the rules from the Space Marines Warhammer 40k Codex. They specialise in heavy ordnance, and their mastery of bolter weaponry is unmatched by any other chapter. They are stalwart in defence and unlikely to yield control of an objective when an enemy claims it.
|Key army features||Imperial Fists|
|Current codex||Codex Space Marines 9th edition
Imperial Fists codex supplement 8th edition
|Chapter tactic||Ranged attacks ignore the effects of light cover
Unmodified hit rolls of six from bolt weapons score an additional hit
|Combat doctrine bonus||When the Devastator Doctrine is active attacks against vehicles and buildings with S7+ heavy weapons gain +1 damage|
|Unique units||Captain Lysander
Imperial Fists bolter drill
Imperial Fist bolter weapons put out an alarming rate of fire. Not only does their chapter tactic grant them additional hits with bolt weapons, a core unit can spend 2CP on the Bolter Drill stratagem to double up this bonus.
Aggressors with boltstorm gauntlets as well as your basic Intercessors or Heavy Intercessors are a great target for this stratagem, as it’s restricted to Core units.
Should those units become embroiled in a melee, the Close-Range Bolter Fire stratagem will unstick them. For 2CP this turns all of a unit’s bolt weapons into pistol weapons for the turn, allowing them to fire while engaged in combat. This can free your Aggressors up to make a charge of their own.
The Fists are a shooty army, but they’re not a stand-back-and-shoot army. Special character Tor Garadon is a melee monster, packing a S12 power fist that deals three damage per attack, while also carrying a Cognis Signum that grants a nearby unit a bonus to shooting attacks.
The Clearance Protocols stratagem allows up to 10 models in a unit to fire grenades for a single CP – short ranged, but devastating against the right target. Against a unit with eleven or more models, like an Ork Boyz mob or Tyranid Termagant swarm, and you could launch sixty frag grenade attacks from a single squad of tactical marines.
Imperial Fists – the Emperor’s praetorians
Imperial Fists are stubborn defenders. As well as standard Space Marine stratagems like Transhuman Physiology, which makes it harder for your opponent to wound your Primaris units, for 1CP the Fists can use Pain is a Lesson, granting an infantry unit the ability to ignore wounds on a 6+ for the duration of one phase.
For 2CP The Shield Unwavering makes them even more obstinate, provided they’re in charge of an objective. You activate the stratagem at the end of your morale phase, and as long as the target unit is within 3” of an objective it gains +1 attack and +1 to save rolls until your following turn.
The Tectonic Purge psychic power from the Fists’ Geokinesis discipline creates a 12” aura around the librarian that reduces enemy charge rolls by 2”. This stacks with the 2” penalty enemies suffer if they charge through difficult terrain or are affected by a Repulsor tank’s Grav Pulse stratagem – sure to annoy any World Eaters players you face off against.
Imperial Fists warlords are particularly hard to shift. The Stubborn Heroism warlord trait halves all damage they suffer at the cost of preventing them from falling back. Indomitable prevents wound rolls of 1-3 from affecting the warlord: named character Captain Lysander has this trait, and a 3+ invulnerable save for good measure.
Imperial Fists lore
The Imperial Fists are an unflinchingly loyal Space Marine chapter, clad in golden yellow. They are pragmatic, trusting in the humble bolter, good training, and well-planned stratagems to fix and finish their foes. Though renowned for their skills in defence, when their ire is raised they are filled with righteous fury that rivals the Blood Angels.
The Imperial Fists tithe their recruits from several sources, including Terra, their Primarch’s home world Inwit, and the hive world Necromunda. Though they maintain outposts on many worlds, including Terra itself, their Fortress Monastery is aboard the Phalanx. This singular space vessel dates to the lost age of technology, and is larger even than the colossal Arks of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
Initiation into the Imperial Fists is not without its mysteries and traditions. Chapter novitiates must endure the Pain Glove, a ritual gauntlet that wracks the wearer with agony. This is both a proof of endurance, and also a device to shrive the body and mind of weakness, bringing the clarity of pain to the bearer’s thoughts.
The Imperial Fists chapter are the descendents of a Space Marine legion of the same name, the VII Legion Astartes. They were the gene-sons of Rogal Dorn who was an empire builder and fortress mason without equal. Dorn had already begun to forge a stellar empire of his own when he was discovered by an expeditionary fleet of the Great Crusade. He gladly delivered his polity into the Imperium of Man.
Imperial Fists in the Horus Heresy
When the Emperor relinquished his position at the forefront of the Great Crusade, he chose Rogal Dorn to return with him and fortify the Imperial palace. It was from this position that Dorn and the Imperial Fists would participate in the Horus Heresy civil war.
When word of Horus Lupercal’s rebellion first reached the Imperial senate, the Emperor was trapped in the dungeons below Terra, fighting a psychic war that only his most trusted confidants knew existed. Rule of the Imperium rested with his regent, Malcador the Sigillite, while military command fell to Dorn – inasmuch as any one of the Primarchs could ever command his brothers.
Of the seven legions despatched to end the Warmaster’s rebellion in the Istvaan system, four turned traitor, while the loyalist Raven Guard, Salamanders, and Iron Hands were nearly destroyed in the ambush on Istvaan V.
An Imperial Fists strike force commanded by Alexis Polux was successful in thwarting the Iron Warriors advance in the Phaal system, but Polux’s flagship became lost in warp storms and stranded in the realm of Ultramar for the duration of the war. With the staggering losses the loyalists had suffered at Istvaan, Dorn recalled his legion and prepared for the siege of Terra.
The siege itself was an apocalyptic conflict. Dorn created a fortress without equal, weathering the endless guns, Warhammer Titans, and daemon allies of the traitors. Ultimately, the war – and the fate of the Imperium – would be decided in the skies above the throne world, aboard Horus Lupercal’s flagship the Vengeful Spirit, in a duel between the Emperor and Horus.
Dorn joined his father and his brother Sanguinius in the teleport strike on the Warmaster’s vessel, but he became separated from them by the influence of Chaos. He discovered the aftermath of the fated duel too late to change the outcome.
Imperial Fists and the Iron Cage
After the war came the Scouring, when the loyalists purged the taint of Chaos from the Imperium and drove the traitor legions into the Eye of Terra. At the same time the Primarch Roboute Guilliman sought to reform the Space Marine legions to ensure no one individual could ever wield the power of the Warmaster again, by splitting the great fighting forces into smaller chapters.
Dorn was consumed with guilt and fury at his own perceived failures, and was unwilling to relinquish his legion, for it was his last connection to the dream of the Great Crusade. In his hated rival Perturabo of the Iron Warriors Dorn found a way to purge himself and his legion of impurity.
Peturabo was as skilled a siege-breaker as Dorn was a castellan, and he had ever been envious of Dorn’s fame. Perturabo had masterminded the traitor’s siege of Terra, and now as his forces retreated from territory they had claimed during the Heresy, Perturabo constructed a mighty bulwark of his own. His Eternal Fortress mocked the guardian of Terra.
Dorn led his legion head first against Perturabo’s bulwark. It was a vicious and comprehensive trap, miles after miles of killing fields with no objectives to claim, nothing to be found except death. This was not where Peturabo intended to make a final stand: it was where he intended to bleed the Imperial Fists white.
The Iron Warriors ultimately relinquished the Eternal Fortress when a force of the Ultramarines arrived in the system, the coward Perturabo never having shown his face to Dorn, but having reaped a bloody tithe of his sons.
Imperial Fists successors
After Dorn purged the weakness from his legion in the crucible of the Iron Cage, he was ready to reform it into the Imperial Fists successor chapters.
Sigismund, Emperor’s Champion, was given control of The Black Templars and granted the flagship Eternal Crusader: they became a fleet-based chapter who never relinquished the spirit of the Great Crusade. The dauntless Alexis Polux was made first chapter master of the Crimson Fists, a chapter who endured until the 41st millennium before nearly losing their chapter monastery to the depredations of the Orks.
Since then many foundings have been raised from Dorn’s gene seed. The Iron Knights, Excoriators, Subjugators, and Hammers of Dorn are amongst those raised before the opening of the great rift, while the Sons of the Phoenix formed in the Ultima Founding and are composed wholly of Primaris Space Marines.
Imperial Fists: the Beast Arises
In the 32nd Millennium a new and unforeseen terror arose that would almost consume the Imperium. The Ork xenos race was long thought broken, yet an Ork Waaagh! of indescribable magnitude roared throughout the Segmentum Solar. At its head was an almighty warlord known only as The Beast.
At the time the Imperium was consumed by petty internal politics, and conceitedly believed its dominion of the stars was uncontested. Most Space Marine chapters were engaged in border wars in the depths of space, quelling xenos empires, and kept far from the seat of Imperial power by jealous politicians.
The Imperial Fists were the first to encounter the Beast’s incredible might – and it brought them near to ruin. The Orks had constructed a vast star fortress, called an Attack Moon, which was capable of interstellar teleportation and incredible gravitic disruption. The first encounter with such a structure all but destroyed the entire Imperial Fists chapter, ruining their fleet and consigning them to death on the surface of a world where they were already committed to a xenos purge.
Of the whole chapter, only Second Captain Koorland survived. Rather than return to Terra for debriefing, he invoked something unprecedented: the Last Wall Protocol. This was an edict laid down by Dorn that, in a time of direst need, the Legion of old should reassemble from its successor Chapters.
This brotherhood of many chapters would be instrumental in the war that followed, first saving Terra itself from another Ork Attack Moon, then taking the fighting to the Orks. Throughout the war it suffered grievous losses, changing its tactical doctrine from massed assault to surgical strikes. In honour of its lost brothers it adopted the name of Deathwatch.
To placate the High Lords of Terra, who feared both the political and spiritual implications of a Space Marine fighting force larger than the 1,000 marines ordained in the holy Codex Astartes, this organisation was placed under the command of the Inquisition, becoming the militant chamber of the Ordo Xenos.
Koorland did not survive the War of the Beast, and with him the unbroken line of the sons of Dorn ended. But brothers from each of the successor chapters chose to leave their parent chapters and adopt the yellow mantle of the VII legion, reforming the Imperial Fists and ensuring the chapter would ever stand vigil as the Last Wall of Terra.
With thanks to ZisKnow for the Imperial Fists Primaris Apothecary photograph.