+ Common Core Concepts +

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

+ inload; How Old is a Space Marine? part II +

+ This inload continues an earlier article [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+] +

+ Recruitment, Replacing Scouts, and 'Oops' +

+ To recap, we're trying to see what the typical age is for different types of Space Marines; and whether that can inform what we know of the structure of a typical Chapter. The standard Codex Chapter I'm using to illustrate this is split into four 'Armies', each consisting of one Battle Company supported by a quarter of each of the other Reserve, Scout and Veteran Companies (for a total of two hundred and fifty Marines in each Army). At any one time, three Armies are on campaign (taking casualties), while one remains at the Fortress Monastery. +

+ Unfortunately, as my (patient and very indulgent) wife pointed out, the maths for this model don't quite work. In order to sustain that level of attrition, the Chapter would need a Scout Company of around 200 – too large for the Codex strictures. We have the option of reducing the casualty rate, but I think that would take it too low to fit the rest of the background we know (it makes the Space Marines wars a bit 'soft', which is entirely inappropriate for the background). +

+ The other option is for less of the Chapter to be fighting, but again, that goes against the 'only war' feel. In order to square the circle, we add a three-month travel time for each fighting Army, which essentially reduces by a quarter the ongoing casualties, in turn reducing the number of recruits that need to exist at any one time. +

+ That gives us a bit of breathing room in which the Armies are not sustaining casualties, and allows us to reduce the pool of Scouts to between 120 and 150; still high, but within the background strictures. Of this pool of 120–150, only 100 will be 'officially' battle-ready Scouts; the remainder being either Neophytes (pre-Stage 1 implants), or out of action for another reason. +

+ Pleasingly, this also gives us an answer to how we account for casualties taken by the Scouts while on campaign (not covered in my earlier inload, but I think this sounds about right, given their role and the emphasis on survival their Veteran Sergeants are said to take), and what happens to these Neophytes during ongoing recruitment – namely that they join the twenty-five Scouts in the Army at the Fortress-Monastery, benefitting from their experience and receiving training. + 

+ These 20–50 Neophytes will be allocated to fill Scout roles as fighting Armies cycle round and return. In order to honour the Codex, these Neophytes will not be progressed in implant stages until a spot in the Scout company proper opens up for them. Luckily, the Codex allows around a two-year window for each main stage – which dovetails well with the suggested year-long campaigns and three-month travel time. +


+ Why does the Imperium need Astartes? +

+ Building on the following thoughts (the reasons for which are outlined in the previous inload):

  • Scouts are between 12–21 years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Reserve Company will be 18–55 years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Battle Company will be 34–72 years old

+ It's worth taking a moment to think about this, as it lets us work out a few interesting facts. First of all, this model allows for young and headstrong Marines fighting alongside much older and more experienced Battle Brothers – just as we see in the background. It also hits home that Marines are not human. +

+ Though there are, of course, plenty of older soldiers and sailors in modern and historical armed forces, I think it's fair to say that very few men and women would be at their physical peak beyond their thirties; but this age only marks the point at which our Astartes can expect to be promoted from the Reserves. + 

+ It's also worth noting how experienced these Marines are. Modern warfare tends to have relatively few tours of duty – perhaps one every three or four years – which each typically last around six to nine months. Again, I add the proviso that there are of course exceptions to this, but I think the point stands that a typical Marine from our model Chapter will prosecute three year-long Campaigns in the space of five years, with nine months spent travelling and a year at the Fortress Monastery – more than is typical for modern armies, and with virtually no time for proper rest or recuperation. +

+ This hits home how important the psychological aspect of becoming a Marine is. Fighting at that rate would be psychologically harrowing, particularly with the knowledge that you will be expected to keep it up for decades, if not longer. This fits very well with the black humour of 40k: 'Only those who prosper truly judge what is sane.' +


+ The life and times of Brother Genericus +

+ In terms of raw experience, then, lets follow a marine through the Scouts, through the Reserve Companies and into the Battle Companies, and work out how many wars that he'll have fought in. We'll take the median age at each stage:
+ Recruited at the age of ten, our Neophyte became a full Scout at the age of thirteen (a median of the age range of the first phase of implantation) and joined the garrison at the Fortress Monastery. He fought his first campaign by the age of fourteen (at the latest), and by the time he returned to the Chapter, is either be midway through his third campaign, or travelling on his way to it. By this point, our seventeen-year old Scout will have been out of the Neophytes for between five and seven years. + 
+ Our Scout then needs two more years to reach the average age to join the Reserve Companies (nineteen/twenty), during which time he will complete his third tour and then serve back at the Garrison. By the time he reaches the median age for the Reservists (thirty-seven/thirty-eight), he will have fought in fifteen more campaigns – and that's including three months travel back to the Fortress Monastery every time he returns. If you remove that, he fits in a sixteenth campaign. +
+ After many more years – fifteen, in fact, to reach the median age of fifty-five for a Battle Brother in the Battle Companies – our example Marine will be in the midst of his twelfth year-long campaign in the Battle Company. +

+ To put this into context, it is relatively rare for a modern soldier to serve more than half-a-dozen tours in his or her career. Even by the time he has settled into the Reserve Company, our example Marine has fought in nineteen campaigns. By his mid-fifties, our Marine has the experience of thirty-one wars behind him. +

+ However, there're a couple of statistical notes that tweak these figures and inform on other parts of the Chapter. Even though the Battle Company are taking the heaviest casualties in the scenario I've advanced, that doesn't mean they're necessarily happening completely randomly.


+ Fog of war +

+ We assume that the oldest Scouts are the most experienced (very likely, owing to the fact they're on constant rotation as explained above – there's no opportunity for a marine not to be involved in at least some warfare over a two-year period) and that the oldest are preferentially inducted to fill casualties in the Reserve Companies. We apply the same model for promotion between the Reserve and Battle Companies, for the same reasons. +

+ There is some room for variation – Scouts recruited later, left as Neophytes for longer, timing issues around the Fortress Monstery and travel times, for example – but broadly speaking, this should give us a roughly even spread of ages, with increasing experience. +

+ Casualties, however, cause a problem. Assuming these happen randomly, we're going to end up with quite a lot of variety – if the Reserve Companies two fatalities see earlier post) happen to the oldest two members, for example, then the Battle Company will be forced to take the third, fourth, fifth and sixth in age from the Reserves to fill its four fatalities. +

+ However, while anyone is a potential casualty, greater experience tends to bring its own benefits to survivability. This is backed up by the background, where Veteran Space Marines tend to be 'above and beyond' even the qualities that makes up the rest of the Chapter, and tend to be very old. We can thus give a slight narrative tweak to the statistics to fit better with the background... +


+ Veterans +

+ We necessarily have some variation in age, as explained above. This means that while the mathematical spread for age in the Battle Companies is between thirty-four and seventy-two years old, as there is no standard promotion out of the Company, there's no actual upper limit. Seventy-two is simply the flattening of the bell curve. If marines have extended lifetimes, there's no reason that a member of the Battle Company can't be centuries old, if he's skilled and lucky enough not to become a casualty – and this is backed up by the background (viz. Codex: Ultramarines; 5th ed. Codex: Space Marines et al.), where marines are mentioned to start showing signs of extreme age around the three century mark. Therefore, for our model to work, we need to have some potential for marines to make it to these extreme ages – and that's where the Veterans come in. +

+ In my example Chapter, I'm going to assume that the Veteran Company is made up of the most worthy Battle Brothers; not necessarily simply the oldest. This presents a problem, as with no upper limit, it's hard to work out the age of the Veterans as-is, even without the added complication that we're allowing for exceptional younger members to join the veterans. +

+ However, because we're allowing for some century-old plus marines to exist, we necessarily have to have slightly higher casualty rates for newer (i.e. younger) members of the Battle Company. Luckily, this fits the idea that your skill at surviving increases a little with age, and so while the average age in a battle company will go up slightly (to allow for the exceptionally old), it goes up only slightly; remaining around the late fifties to early sixties. Again, this sort of age sounds about right to me – by this point, we can truly say that the Battle Brothers of our example Chapter have 'decades of experience'; because they will literally have fought in thirty or more year-long wars. +

+ The method of promotion to the Veteran Company, as with the rest of the Chapter, is 'dead-men's-shoes'. However, when a Veteran dies, there's not a single Reserve company to draw from; but rather four Battle Companies. We now need to work out what a sustainable casualty rate for veterans is within the Codex strictures – remember, there are only one hundred spaces in the First Company – which will help us work out their age and experience. +


+ Cold lists and hot blood +

+ In my earlier inload [+noospheric inloadlink embedded+], I outlined my thoughts that, on average, a Battle Company can expect four permanent casualties per campaign as they do the bulk of the fighting, while the supporting Reserves took half that. We saw earlier that the supporting Scouts also took fewer casualties; but what about the Veterans in each army? We can't expect them to be doing less work than the Battle Company. In fact, if anything, they'll be the linchpin of the line and tasked with the hardest, most difficult fighting. So do they take the same casualties as the Battle Company? +

+ I'd argue no. Not only are they (as discussed) experienced at survival, but some are also equipped with the best protective armour the Imperium can offer: Tactical Dreadnought Armour. As a result, I'm going to suggest that Veterans suffer casualties at the same rate as the Reserves – two fatalities per campaign. Note, however, that since there are only twenty-five in the Army (i.e. quarter of the First Company), this statistic is divided by four, for 0.5 fatalities per army per campaign. +

+ Since three Armies are active, this gives us a statistic of 1.5 dead Veterans per fifteen-month period (year-long campaign plus three month travel), or roughly one space opening up every ten months. This sounds fairly workable – as we've seen, the Scout to Reserve to Battle Company replenishment of the standard Codex model only just works, and requires a slight excess of Neophytes. If we add to the losses the Battle Companies take by creaming away too many from the top, then it falls apart again. +

+ This suggested rate of three dead Veterans every thirty months (based on 1.5 every fifteen-month campaign) is low enough to mean that the attrition from the Battle Companies is sustainable – it's spread across four Companies; so the statistical difference is minimised, and can be accounted for by an occasional extra Battle Brother being promoted from the Reserve Company. In turn, there's a slight excess of Neophytes to take the place of the Scout that replaces the Reserve Marine in turn, so we slightly reduce the 120–150 size of the Scout Company I mentioned earlier, back down to Codex measures. Great! +


+ Enough blathering, how old are the Veterans? +

+ To summarise, we've got four Battle Companies feeding the Veteran Company. We've decided we're taking the best and most experienced to fill the occasional casualties, and that older marines tend to be more experienced. Thus I'd say that potential new members for the Veteran Company are going to be drawn from at least the older half of the Battle Companies – the mean age is (as discussed) late fifties to early sixties, so we're looking for members to be at least that age, and probably between that and the upper end. +
+ [APPEND]  The upper age range of our earlier estimate was 72, but owing to the adjustments we've made to due the absence of an upper limit (discussed above), this might be a little older. Let's say seventy-five, for the sake of argument. +
+ This gives us a lower end of the Veteran Company's average age as around 65. I think (and I'm a bit shaky on the maths here; can anyone jump in to correct or corroborate?) that since a Veteran dies only every ten months on average, a Veteran can expect to live another eighty-three years (100/12 x 10*) once he joins the First Company, giving us an average veteran of around one-hundred-and-fifty years old. If we apply the same principles of the youngest dying slightly more often, and marines showing signs of deleterious aging around the three century old mark, I think it's reasonable to suggest that it wouldn't be particularly exceptional for Veterans to be two centuries old. +


+ Veteran Sergeants and Officers +

+ Okay, so we've worked out how marines work up from being a Scout to a Veteran, and the 1,000 marine limit just about works within the model I've outlined. How about officers – can we answer the age-old question of whether they're included in the 1,000 marine limit? I think this is down to your personal preference and interpretation. Fortunately, there's enough slack in the maths for a number of approaches:

+ Model one: Officers are not part of the Codex limit and are in addition to the 1,000 Battle Brothers +

+ The officers and specialists are drawn from the occasional excess Marine from the Battle or Veteran Companies left during the gap between the ten-month casualty rate and the fifteen-month war rate. The advantage of this model is that it gives sufficient 'spare' marines to run the Librarium, Apothecarian, Armoury, Chaplaincy etc. The disadvantage is that you end up with rather more than 1,000 marines – probably an addition fifty or more. +

+ Model two: Officers are counted amongst the 1,000 +

+ This neatly fits the hard line of the Codex, and still fits within our model for ages. However, it does make things a bit awkward – you lose the neat 'ten squads of ten' feel. +
+ I prefer the second model for the reasons listed in bullets below, and think that there are ways to work out potential problems. The first part is by saying that the three campaigning Armies of the model are supplemented by the Marines seconded from the fourth army that garrisons the Fortress-Monastery. With this approach, members of (for example) the Third Company will draw their officers from within their ranks, filling the spaces this leaves in their squads with visiting members of (for example) the Second Company. This has the pleasant knock-on effects that:

  • It allows narrative space for cross-company competition and training.
  • It keeps as many marines as possible fighting – you're likely to have around fifty marines of the Garrison Battle Company on secondment. There are no 'spare' or 'lazy' marines; and increases the experience of each individual marine.
  • It still keeps two hundred marines at home to protect the Fortress-Monastery, recruit, train etc.
  • It provides flexibility to allow the garrison force to crew the fleet, monitor the armoury etc.
  • It fits the 1,000 marines model.

+ This second model also has the benefit that it can account for the Veteran Sergeants in a Battle Company: they are simply seconded from the twenty-five Veterans of the garrison army. +

+ Consider: each campaigning army includes a quarter of the Tenth Company: twenty-five Scouts. This is sufficient for five pure squads of Scouts. By adding six Veterans from the garrison, each campaigning army can now field six squads of Scouts led by a Veteran Sergeant (pleasingly, enough to fill the Troops choices of a standard Force Organisation Chart, providing support for armies of Scouts on-table). We're told they're driven to preserve the Scouts' lives, and this also offers support for the idea that Veterans take fewer casualties than Battle Company marines. +

+ By allocating six Veterans from the garrison to each campaigning army, we account for Scout Sergeants without reducing the fighting number of the twenty-five Veterans originally allocated to the campaign. That still leaves us with seven Veterans in the garrison – who can either be allocated as occasional 'fillers' for campaigning Battle Company squads, or simply left at home to train. +


+ Officers' ages +

+ In either case, to answer the original question, how old is an officer? Let's assume that a Marine has to at least have made it to the Battle Companies to be considered. That gives us a lower age range of around thirty-five – long enough to have joined a Battle Company and proven himself exceptional in at least one campaign. That age sounds right to me; it offers narrative space for dashing young officers like Ragnar Blackmane and Cato Sicarius, though they are necessarily exceptional. +

+ The upper range will be at the top of the Veterans – and as we've seen, these can make it to the full three centuries we're allowing ourselves (more on this later). In the case of exceptional Chapters, like the Blood Angels, they can be much older; but the Codex model outlined here matches nicely with the exemplars of the Codex; the Ultramarines; who have a 300-year old Chapter Master and an (exceptional) 400-year old Chaplain. +


+ Adjustments and revisions +

That discussion on Veterans slightly tweaks things, but we're now showing the broader shape of the Chapter and the Codex structure, and it's sustainable. The following is an updated list of ages incorporating a slightly upward adjustment in average from earlier due to the Veteran Company distorting the bell curve. 

  • There are between twenty and fifty Neophytes between ten and fourteen years old, who are not part of the 1,000 marine limit
  • The Scouts of the Tenth company are between twelve and twenty-one years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Reserve Company will be between eighteen and fifty-five years old
  • A Battle Brother in a Battle Company will be between thirty-four and eighty-one years old, with members exceptionally reaching one-hundred-and-fifty years or more
  • A Veteran of the First Company will be between sisty-five and two-hundred-and-thirty-five years old, with members exceptionally reaching three-hundred years old
  • An Officer will be between thirty-five and three-hundred years old


+ Only in Death Does Duty End – or Does It? +

+ What happens to old marines? Can we work anything out from the hints we have? Does it inform the emerging Codex structure we've outlined above? +

+ The Horus Heresy series gives us marines at the close of the Great Crusade wondering if they were immortal – none had lived long enough. The Great Crusade had lasted two hundred years, and some marines pre-dated that by a few decades – Iacton Qruze, Nathaniel Garro et. al. Some of these showed signs of aging, some didn't, but none had died of 'natural causes'. +

+ We know Blood Angels are the longest lived, and some Space Wolves are up around the seven-hundred plus years mark, so perhaps there's some variation based on geneseed. For the moment, we'll stick with a typical Codex Chapter, as we can use the Ultramarines as a model. This probably works best for a typical baseline, as most Chapters are descendants of the Ultramarines. +

+ Back in the mists of time, Codex: Ultramarines explicitly gave marines a lifespan of three hundred years, after which they would start to show signs of extreme old age. This still fits neatly with the info from the Horus Heresy series, and since we know Calgar is three hundred and looking old, that still seems to fit. Cassius is noted as remarkable for being four centuries old and still fighting. Codex Ultramarines also went on to say that marines who began to slow were given non-combat duties. This is fairly crucial, and gives us a little wiggle room for the 1,000 marine limit. +

+ We probably don't hear much of these non-combatant marines for two reasons: firstly, the books and background concentrate on warfare. Secondly, they're vanishly rare. As we've seen, only exceptional Veterans and officers make it to three hundred – probably only one or two every century or so. What do they do? +

+ Because they are so rare, I suspect they're fairly revered, and each would have an exceptional or unique role best suited to him. There's a lot of narrative potential here. Perhaps they represent the Chapter during ceremonial affairs, perhaps they are granted suzerainty of a Chapter Dominion or far-flung fortress, perhaps they oversee recruitment, or advise the officers of the Chapter. In any case, these exceptional members of the Chapter would not be counted as part of the 1,000 marines; they would be something other. +

+ The active Captains have honorific 'Master of' titles, but if we assume they are part of the 1,000, they'll be away fighting three-quarters of the time. It's difficult to organise victualling when you're on the other side of the galaxy. Chapter serfs could organise this, but I like the idea that a non-combatant ex-Marine has command over the serfs. Another appealing idea would be to give them practical command of the Chapter fleet or vehicle pool – tasks that otherwise raise questions about numbers . Aged ex-Marines could command a fleet just as well as an active marine, and that's one more fully capable Battle Brother on the field, fighting. It also allows us to stay within the strictures of the 1,000 man limit. +


+ Even in death +

+ ...and so, that brings us to the last group – marines too gravely injured to fight, but not fatally injured. We accounted for approximately a quarter of casualties being in this category – wounded too gravely to ever fight on the front line, but not fatally. There's an Ultramarines novel which has a mostly-bionic Marine. He's unable to fight as a full frontline member of the Chapter, but is still capable of commanding. He's essentially retired and put out to monitor a planet. He still wears what armour he can, and would still appear as an Ultramarine, but he sits outside the 1,000 limit. +

+ These, I think, offer some of the best potential to answer those nagging questions about staffing. The first, most obvious role, is as Dreadnought pilots. Dreadnoughts are kept with their Companies, not drawn from a pool, so this neatly explains why not all Dreadnoughts contain First Company Veterans: there are practical concerns about keeping a fatally injured marine alive long enough to get him home. Pilots must be interred during campaigns. +

+ Secondly, these injured marines can operate the non-combatant vehicles (i.e. those not on the field – individual vehicles would be seconded from the Brothers of the garrison Army) and transport flyers. They have all the necessary abilities and physical links to pilot Thunderhawks etc. (unenhanced humans can't cope), and it explains where the non-Techmarine staff for these roles comes from. +


+ Conclusion +

+ Well, phew. This is an essay I had been thinking about for a bit; I've aimed to show my thinking for how a standard Chapter operates, taking into account the limitations we're told, and allowing for the narrative background we're shown. I think it offers a fairly reasonable general overview for how a Space Marine chapter operates, and it stays within the guidelines of the lore. +

+ I hope it was enjoyable. More than that, I hope it provides you a baseline to come up with your own Codex Chapter, or to use it as a springboard to come up with a more unusual or exciting structure for your army. Good luck! +


  1. Thanks for posting these! Great food for thought.

    On the subject of "1000 marines", it seems likely that many of the chapters exceed this total with officers and the like being in excess of the official number, and some chapters obviously have more than 1000 combatants as well. It seems like it would be difficult to have a librarian, chaplain, or techmarine program without impacting the 1000 combatants, although it probably depends on how many marines you assume to be within each of those programs. (seems like there must be at least five of each at the absolute minimum).

  2. Right, some thoughts:
    In your theory, you have members of the "off duty" Army filling duties in the active Armies, wouldn't this also affect casualty numbers, as the number of fighting men is increased? Then again, this would probably only reduce the replacement rate from once every 10 months to once every 9 months, 3 weeks and five days... They are all veterans in your example, after all.

    Those crippled beyond battle duty have currently not been factored in the replacement rate, I think? Needing to replace them would also influence replacement/recruitment rate and hence the "scout pool". Still, it should still fall within current calculations I believe.
    I think both problems can be solved by being stricter in what constitutes a scout and what doesn't. If you narrow the definition of scout to only those fit for active combat duty and ready to receive Power Armour at a moment's notice (Seeing how "field promotions" are repeatedly featured in the background, an almost literal "dead mans boots" situation) and take into account that a scout company is routinely larger than 100 (this is mentioned in, at least the older, background) that should solve any lack of replacement/promotion numbers. It would mean that your supposed 120-150 scouts would be all ready for immediate duty as a full battle brother. The Neophytes, as unproven works-in progress are not yet considered properly part of the chapter. Being unacknowledged and uncounted, there could easily be roughly 200 Neophytes in various stages of implantation.

    I'm going to have to disagree with you on the officers and specialists being part of the "Fighting thousand" of a chapter. I must say though, that it does make for more interesting math in this though-experiment, so I can see the choice. The arguments I have for disagreeing are that (earlier editions) force organisation charts explicitly show the officers (above sergeant), Techmarines, Apothecaries and Chaplains as being supernumerary to the fighting squads. Plus look at real world history and the way they recorded army size, that has often been less than precise and often heavily influenced by the views of those doing the recording: In the medieval period, the size of armies was expressed in "lances". What you didn't see recorded that each lance consisted not just of the knight (the "lance" in question), but also a second armoured and mounted combatant and between 3 and 12 (or more) non-noble foot combatants. But only the armoured goon with his own heraldry mattered so only he got counted. An army of a 1000 lances could easily have numbered 5000-6000 fighting men. Similarly a Roman legion consisted of exactly a 1000 fighting men...plus the officers, the bannermen, chaplain, medical staff, messengers and non-combat support. Yet, they were called units of 1000. I find it wholly feasible that the Imperium would similarly choose such dramatic flair over factual accuracy.
    So a chapter of a "thousand fighting men" could easily inch towards an actual 1100 trained and equipped warriors... With no-one thinking it out the ordinary. From the background we know the Space Wolves and Black Templars are considered oversized, and they are considered such only because the exceed the normal number of administrative companies, not from counting the amount of individual marines.

    In the end, with there being roughly 1000 Chapters at any one time, most variants discussed in your post and any comments on it would be implemented somewhere or at some time by one of the many Chapters.

    Thanks for writing these posts, it's been interesting food for thought, and very nice to see such an in-depth and considered look at our beloved setting.

    1. Yeah, I was going to mention this. The current Codex still has org charts showing substantially more than 1000 actual Marines per Chapter. Something like 110 or so per Company, since Command Squads are listed as part of the Company, but not part of the 10x10 Squads. Add in Chapter Command, the Librarius, the Techmarines, the Apothecarion, and the members of the Reclusiam not attached to a Company, and I wouldn't be surprised if a full-strength Chapter actually came to something like 1200 or so.

  3. Another great post, I really liked (again).

    When I think about a space marine that lives centuries or even one thousand year fighting I always end with one thought: "In a universe with weapons able to flat a city or even destroy a planet, you must have a lot of luck, a crazy bunch of luck".

    But well, Wolf Lord Gonfrask is 4 hundred years old, I hope he lives another 4 hundred :P


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