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Warhammer 40k Space Wolves - let slip the dogs of war

The Space Wolves are a Space Marine chapter of born warriors - our guide introduces their history, culture, and unique tabletop units

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves thunderwolf cavalry - a power-armoured space marine riding a cybernetic wolf

The Warhammer 40k Space Wolves Space Marines are ferocious warriors of the Imperium, a rout of wild killers. They are well named, for they hunt as a pack, cunning, sharp-fanged, and relentless. Every brother is a great hero, his feats in battle forming a saga that will echo throughout the ages.

The Space Wolves are a primal Space Marine chapter, their psychic Rune Priests drawing upon the tumultuous world spirit of their home planet to blast their enemies with ice and storm-wind. They favour the close press of melee, rapidly closing with the enemy on the backs of great wolves or in the belly of their speeding Stormfang and Stormwolf gunships.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves - a force of Primaris Space Wolves, power-armoured warriors in grey armour, wielding a mixture of axes, boltguns, and plasma weapons

You’ll enjoy fielding the Space Wolves on the tabletop if you relish the combat phase, enjoy the boasts of great warriors, or you really, really like the Vikings. Space Wolves have many unique units and special characters, most of them with a melee focus. However, very few of these are Primaris units, which means the most thematic parts of your army also have the oldest models.

We’ve said it already but we can’t emphasise enough just how much these guys like wolves. It’s just their thing. If that sounds like a problem, check out our other Warhammer 40k faction guides to find a slightly less canine chapter – the Blood Angels are another loyalist Space Marine chapter with a melee focus.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves Primarch Leman Russ - illustration by Games Workshop of a huge, glowering warrior with wild blonde hair, clad in layered grey power armour, wielding a crackling sword

Space Wolves Primarch

The Space Wolves’ Primarch was Leman Russ – the Wolf King, Emperor’s Executioner, and many other titles. We have a whole guide devoted to singing the saga of Leman Russ!

Space Wolves home world Fenris

The Space Wolves’ home world Fenris is a forbidding deathworld. It follows an erratic orbit around its star, the Wolf’s Eye. The great oceans freeze as the planet travels out into the void, and then as it returns into closer orbit they begin to boil. New land is born in a great tectonic upheaval known as the Season of Fire.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves illustration by Games Workshop - a huge force of grey-armoured warriors surge to war, surrounded by wolves, their leader in a great hovering chariot

Fenris is home to hardy, nomadic human tribes, opportunistic hunters during the brief and verdant spring, fierce raiders during the depths of winter. They must survive the predations of the most terrifying monsters in all the Imperium of Man: cave bears, great wolves, massive krakens of the deep oceans. Any human that survives to adulthood is both cunning and mighty.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves - a force of Primaris Space Wolves, power-armoured warriors in grey armour, a mixture of intercessors with boltguns, infiltrators with lighter phobos armour, hellblasters with plasma weapons, and aggressors in heavy gravis armour

Space Wolves recruitment

Space Wolves recruit from the people of Fenris. Youths from the Fenrisian tribes are selected by the Wolf Priests in trials of skill, and taken to the Space Wolves great chapter monastery, the Fang, where they are feasted and toasted until they are full and drunken.

When they wake they find themselves naked in the snows of Fenris, their bodies aching from the implantation of the first Space Marine augmentations, armed only with a knife. If they can return to the Fang alive, they have earned the right to attempt the trials that follow and may one day become a fully-fledged Space Wolf.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves - a force of Primaris Space Wolves, power-armoured warriors in grey armour, wielding a mixture of axes, boltguns, and plasma weapons

Space Wolves and the Codex Astartes

The Space Wolves do not follow the dictates of the Codex Astartes. Instead of the ten companies of other chapters, the Space Wolves are organised into twelve Great Companies. New recruits join a Great Company as Blood Claws, forming a pack that will only be broken when the last of them is dead. These headstrong youths form the bulk of a Great Company’s assault formations.

Once the fires of youth have dimmed a little, the marine will be recognised as a Grey Hunter, the dependable, tactical backbone of the legion. With age and maturity a Space Wolf may become a Longfang, so named for the literal growth of his canine teeth. These temperate elders often operate long-ranged weapons that call for patience and a cool head.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolf - a red-haired wolf lord duels green-skinned orks

The Wolf Guard are the elite of the Space Wolves. Unlike other chapters that gather their veterans into the first company, each Great Company has its own Wolf Guard. These are the champions of that company’s Wolf Lord, and they may fight as his bodyguard, as elite units in their own right, or act as champions for other packs.

Space Wolves successor chapters

After the Horus Heresy civil war, the loyalist Space Marine legions were broken down into smaller chapters. So few of the Wolves of Russ remained that there were only enough marines to form a single successor chapter, the Wolf Brothers – and rampant genetic mutation brought this doomed brotherhood to ruin.

In the Era Indomitus, new Primaris Space Marine chapters have been founded in the line of Russ. The first is the Wolfspear, a chapter drawn from the unnumbered sons who fought under the Ultramarines Primarch Roboute Guilliman during the Indomitus Crusade, and later reinforced with natives of Fenris.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves - a force of Primaris Space Wolves led by Ragnar Blackmane,a bounding warrior with a huge yellow sword and a topknot of black hair

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves army

Space Wolves are a melee-focused Space Marine army. Like all their brethren, they have access to a huge armoury of elite troops and specialised vehicles, and they have one of the biggest selections of chapter-specific troops. Their specialist units mostly have a melee focus, and they have many, many special characters to choose from.

Key army features Space Wolves
Current codex(es) Codex Space Marines 9th edition
Space Wolves Codex supplement 9th edition
Chapter Tactic

+1 to hit in melee during the first round of combat

All units can perform heroic interventions as if they were characters

Combat doctrine bonus  While the Assault Doctrine is active, unmodified hit rolls of six in melee score an extra attack

 Space Wolves unique units

The Stormfang and Stormwolf are both fliers which, like the basic Space Marine Stormraven, can move at supersonic speed (making them harder to hit) or hover (making them more manoeuvrable). The Stormfang brings more guns, including the massive ‘Helfrost destructor’, while the Stormwolf can carry up to 16 Space Wolves infantry – but no Primaris allowed. While this isn’t strictly objective, the Stormwolf chassis just looks better than the Stormraven.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves thunderwolf cavalry - a power-armoured space marine riding a cybernetic wolf

Thunderwolf Cavalry are… well, they’re wolf-riding Space Marine cavalry. They’re fast, with a 10” move, and relatively durable: equipped with a stormshield they have a 2+ armour save, 4+ invulnerable save, four wounds and Toughness 5. They don’t lack for melee output, though they’re not quite the mincing machines that you’ll find in the World Eaters.

For a true melee blender, try the Wulfen, aka Space Marine Werewolves. The Wulfen have an 8” move, a base strength of 5, three attacks (but always counts as having made a charge, so always gets the bonus attack from the Space Marines Shock Assault ability), always count as being in the Assault Doctrine, and if they’re killed in melee before they get to fight, they get to fight anyway.

Wulfen have a 4+ armour save and a leadership value of just seven, making them very susceptible to enemy guns. Although you can upgrade models to carry a stormshield you also have to give that model a thunderhammer, which makes for a premium purchase.

There are several firstborn Space Wolf units dating back to 2nd edition 40k. Blood Claws and their jump pack wearing brethren Skyclaws are melee infantry, headstrong youth with low leadership who can (and often must) charge even after they advance. Grey Hunters are a Tactical squad that foregoes heavy weapons in favour of specialist melee equipment, while Long Fangs are a Devastator squad made up of tempered veterans.

Warhammer 40k Space Wolves - Ulrik the slayer, a black-armoured Wolf Priest, rests his hand on his crozius staff - around him are veteran warriors, some in terminator armour, others riding wolves

All these units can be joined by Wolf Guard veterans or Wolf Guard Terminators in addition as their regular pack leader. The Terminator option means the unit can’t use Rhino transports, but it’s frankly just cool to stick a whopping great Terminator with an assault cannon at the head of every squad.

The only unique Primaris unit for the Space Wolves is the Hounds of Morkai. Aesthetically they’re quite lacklustre – they’re a regular Reiver Squad upgraded with Space Wolves accessories. They’re a very effective anti-psyker unit, but against T’au and Necron armies their special abilities won’t help at all.