Space marines of the warhammer 40k universe while being military forces also have traits of monastic orders. they are also known to simply ignore the needs of the wider Imperium to pursue their own agendas at times and many space marines think of themselves as "more important" or above normal humans.

given this it would make sense that many space marines chapters could view their survival and the survival of their gene-seed (which must be extracted from space marines on their deaths) as more important than a specific battle or two of which their are millions across the Imperium at any given time. Has their ever been a case where a chapter of astartes has left a fight to the guard/Mechanicus/Sorotias because their opponents fielded a large number of weapons capable of outright destroying their bodies and the emperor given geneseed inside? If so how common is this occurrence?

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    Space Marines often have their own agendas and have been known at times [i.e. the Dark Angels, when pursuing a Fallen] to leave/ignore a battle in mid-battle in the name of those mandates, but I've never heard of them fleeing or leaving a battle in which they were needed simply because they were afraid of being vaporized. If they abandoned a battle, it would typically be because they were needed for a more important objective, or because they were making a "tactical retreat" in the face of overwhelming forces. Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 13:54
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    I'm leaving this as a comment rather than an answer. But in the Primarch Novel "Perturabo" the Iron Warriors company under Dantioch retreat from the Hrud as they take huge casualties and age horribly and I think it rendered their geneseed useless. They retreat as they believe it's a battle they can't win and Perturabo loses his s**t banishing Dantioch. You could argue that Dantioch is just making a tactical withdraw and I thought he was doing the right thing but big P just sees it as cowardly believing they should've fought to the end as it's more honorable
    – TommyBs
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 20:06

3 Answers 3



  • There is no chapter to date (that we know of) that has refused to fight simply because they were worried about the future of their geneseed.
  • Chapters, units, and individuals have all surrendered and abandoned battles to save themselves or for their own purposes; but not from the stance of geneseed.
  • It is more honorable to perish in battle than to retreat to be able to fight another day.
  • The exception to this is in protecting the honor and memory of the chapter... then all bets are off and they will do anything they deem necessary...
  • Honor > Survival

So your question surrounds the primary idea of a chapter abandoning a fight to preserve the future of their geneseed specifically. There is no example that we have to date of a chapter acting in such a manner, though it is possible.

Games Workshop and Black Library authors have all explored the mindset of the Space Marine and caused him to develop drastically over the years. In the beginning they were kind of just fearless monks that fought until death. Today, they have feelings, thoughts, etc. that drive actions both expected and otherwise.

There are units and individuals that have abandoned their tenants and sworn allegiance to Chaos (or simply become Rogue Marines) in order to save their own lives. This has changed the "Know no Fear" tenant for many to more that the indoctrination they have undergone doesn't remove all fear, but grants a heightened ability to conquer the fears they face.

And if a group is willing to lose their honor to save their lives it is entirely possible that an entire chapter could abandon a fight to ensure their chapter's survival.

That being said, as you mention, chapters consistently act according to their own desires. For example, the Dark Angels pursuing the Fallen. This can be seen as a form of preserving their chapter's future. The geneseed is not the goal here, but if knowledge of the chapter's secrets became public knowledge the chapter could be deemed as traitors, excommunicated, and destroyed. Worse however, would be that the lasting memory of the chapter would be tarnished. When spoken of in the future the chapter would not be referred to in reverence, but in disgust.

Many of the actions taken are done more to protect the lasting image of the chapter rather than preserve their survival. A chapter is much more concerned with maintaining their honor, respect, and status than surviving.

There have been an untold number of instances where a group goes into battle knowing full well they will not survive. More closely related to you question, they also will go back into battle or redouble efforts to retrieve a fallen geneseed or chapter treasure, willing to lose more to retrieve the priceless artifact.

I do not know if there is an official statement anywhere, but I have inferred over the years that chapters house a certain number of geneseed in their fortress-monasteries securely stashed in vaults. It is known that Chaos units will invade loyal chapters to steal the less corrupt seeds from their vaults to replace their own. It would make sense that a chapter would save a certain percentage of seed in an attempt to safeguard against the very situations you describe...

One final thought: There is also nothing that really says a chapter can't have a sort of hiatus from major conflicts to help rebuild their numbers when dangerously diminished. They could send word to the High Lords that they are in danger of being destroyed and obtain an a 'handicap' status requesting both engagements that carry less risk and another chapter's backup to protect their domain until they are back to fighting form. Such a request would also make sense. Another chapter sending some backup to aid a weakened chapter would be smarter than simply allowing a chapter to be destroyed and leave a domain unguarded...

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    Great answer, I like the Dark Angels example
    – Daft
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 10:25
  • Thanks... I like to pride myself on my deep and thorough dissection of how events unfold in a pretend universe... I bet I could solve world hunger or something if I applied myself...
    – Odin1806
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 20:42

Very unlikely

It's a really interesting question but it will be very hard to say for certain either yes or no. I've certainly never read anything like this.

If you're willing to take all the novels and short stories published by the Black Library into account, then it could very well have have happened. Or at least something along those lines, BL authors are given free reign over their own piece of the 40k universe, especially if they have created a chapter for a specific story.


If a chapter has become so weak and low in numbers, that they are afraid to go into battle for risk of their final gene seed being destroyed, than they have failed in their literal only reason for existing, they all expect to die in battle, that's their job.

If the chapter is destroyed and the final gene seeds eradicated, then it better have been against a foe with dying to defeat.

If any enemy is equipped with weapons specifically designed to destroy gene seeds, then that's just an enemy all the more worthy of fighting against!


"They shall know no fear"

Space Marines are made for war - no matter the cost. The list of chapters that have been destroyed is quite long and proves one point: that they are ready to fight, even if it means the end of them - the best example were the Astral Knights, who sacrificed themselves to the last men to stop the Necron World Engine.

That said, some chapters can be bit more practical: The fifth company of Excoriartors, knowing that they will die first removed their gene seed and sent it safely away.

Of course it is quite logical, that a chapter that is in critical condition due to decimation (like the Celestial Lions) wouldn't be very forthcoming in starting a new crusade - but that doesn't mean that they would hide from a battle that could destroy them whole. After all, it is better to die for the Emperor, than live for yourself.

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