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Liking a lot Warhammer 40k (actually, 30/31k), I am reading the complete Horus Heresy. I watched the movie Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie.

At the beginning of the movie, the voice presenting the basics of the universe (there is only war and stuff) says that the Ultramarines are the greatest of them all (of all the Astartes).

Why ?

I do not know much about the forty first millennium, but during the Heresy, all the legions are great. The advantage of the Ultramarines is that they are many and are very "battle stoic". They rule on the 500 (300 ? do not remember) worlds of Ultramar.

But the Raven Guard is relentless, the Imperial Fists are great defenders, the Space Wolves are the great executioner, and so on.

What makes the Ultramarines so special in the forty first millennium ?

From my point of view of the Horus Heresy, they do great, but yet suffer casualities (they lost Calth (ok, they got payback by reducing to ash Colchis, but still...)) as other legions do.

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    Maybe the script was written by somebody who took the "ultra-" literally and didn't get that the name was a pun.
    – Buzz
    Mar 13, 2022 at 21:05
  • Obviously because they are the ne plus ultra.
    – DavidW
    Mar 13, 2022 at 21:19
  • @DavidW I think you mean "nec plus ultra" (fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/nec_plus_ultra) (but I get it, good one :P ) Mar 14, 2022 at 7:07
  • Actually, for a machanicum priest, it would be "mech plus ultra" Mar 14, 2022 at 7:07
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    @Itération122442 "Ne plus ultra" is the common form in English writing.
    – nanoman
    Mar 14, 2022 at 9:42

2 Answers 2

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There is no conclusive evidence that the Ultramarines are the greatest of them all. They are widely considered the poster boys of Games Workshop, the IP holder, for Warhammer 40000.

Considering the gene seed, they are among the most stable from all the loyalist chapters, as is depicted in the Deathwatch RPG Rites of Battle Rulebook, page 20:

Gene seed chance of mutation

So, the chance to have a deficient organ from the gene-seed is way smaller than for any other chapter, except of Dark Angels and Imperial Fists. Something that also needs to be mentioned is that the Ultramarines Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, wrote the Codex Astartes, the theoretical basis for all post Horus Heresy chapters. The Ultramarines and most of their successor chapters therefore follow the scripture closer than any other chapter. The Codex Astartes is a compendium of a lot of very good ideas for how to organize and run a chapter, how to train neophytes (new Space Marines), battle tactics and so on.

After the Horus Heresy, the remaining Primarchs decided to split their Legions into different chapters with a maximum of 1000 Space Marines, following the organization depicted in the Codex Astartes. However, most changed some of the parts to better suit their own culture. Others, like the Space Wolves and Black Templars, completely ignored the Codex Astartes. Nonetheless, for the wider Imperium and its organizations, like the Inquisition, the Codex Astartes is the basis for the organization of a chapter, specially the limitation of 1000 Space Marines per chapter.

As the Codex Astartes has also a lot of standard battle tactics, written by a Primarch, it is also an utterly superior book concerning strategy and tactic. With the Ultramarines following it very closely, it can be argued that they therefore have a lot genius level tactics at their disposal, using it to crush their enemies. It also has to be mentioned that those tactics are not really applicable to other chapters, e.g. the Raven Guard. The Raven Guard prefers to have a kind of Guerilla warfare. Forcing them to apply the standard Codex Astartes tactics would completely deny their own culture and history.

So, there is no conclusive proof that Ultramarines are better than any other chapter. However, due to them being some kind of poster boy for GW, there are a lot of books etc. about them, doing stuff that is overpowered, even by Space Marines standards. However, reading that a bit closer and thinking about it, it often is just lazy writing with several plot holes (at least for me, why I stopped consuming Ultramarines stuff).


To elaborate: the Ultramarines is the most versatile of all the chapters. They don't have a real strength or weakness. They're not specialized like the Raven Guard (Guerilla Warfare), Imperial Fists (Defensive), Space Wolves (Offensive). They're decent at everything but other chapters have something they're extraordinary in, not the Ultramarines. With that comes that you wont have as much trouble with them as with the other chapters in some situations but neither will you completely eradicate enemies in others.

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    On additional aspect: from the point of view of the regular citizen, the Ultramarines could be considered preferable because while they may or may not be better in combat, they're really the only Legion that that considers what happens after combat. So, if for instance they're sent to seize a (human) world, they don't consider it a success unless they're not only captured it, but installed a functional government and set it up to succeed. Mar 14, 2022 at 2:26
  • I think I read just this week end that Perturabo talk about it at the very beginning or just before the Heresy. Mar 14, 2022 at 7:10
  • It's probably worth adding that the ultramarines arrived to Terra too late to change the outcome but were the rebuilders. Therefore they were architects in those formative years and many of the surviving chapters were founded from the ultramarines legions. Obviously their successors would idolise their parent chapter
    – Liath
    Mar 14, 2022 at 13:20
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    In the lore, it's always an Ultramarine that does something implausibly badass against ridiculous odds. And with the 42nd Millennium, they're the only ones with a Primarch.
    – OrangeDog
    Mar 14, 2022 at 13:42
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    @Itération122442 Legions were split into different chapters. E.g. the Imperial Fists became Imperial Fists, Black Templar, Crimson Fists, Excoriators, Fists Exemplar. Ultramarines were way more. See wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Founding and warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Second_Founding
    – Shade
    Mar 15, 2022 at 8:28
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The Ultramarines have been in a really bad place ever since the Illustrious Grand Vizier himself, Matt Ward, decided to put down in writing the following:

The Ultramarines are undoubtedly the best Space Marines ever. Yes, really! Thanks to the heritage of Guilliman and their myriad heroic deeds...

In lore, the reasons are more complicated than that. The Ultramarines were for the most part entirely codex compliant, which granted them a level of prestige amongst a lot of other astartes chapters, mostly due to the dogma of the Imperium and of the Space Marines. The largest discrepancy between the Ultramarines and the Codex, at least until the return of Roboute Guilliman, was the Tyrannic War Veterans.

The Ultramarines are also renowned for their realm of Ultramar. This being a region of space in Ultima Segmentum which has prospered with efficient bureaucracy, just and righteous leadership, and the defence of the Ultramarines. This isn't to mention the various (and plentiful) victories won by the Ultramarines in various operations across the Imperium.

A lot of this is mostly nonsense "tell don't show" stuff from GW and the Black Library, but that, compounded with the large amount of stories they receive as a result of being the poster boys of Warhammer 40k now that the Crimson Fists have been mostly destroyed, means that the Ultramarines will be the "greatest space marine chapter ever" for a while longer at the very least.

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