Building the perfect Space Wolf Battle Group
By David Prentice

So, you think you have what it takes to follow the trail of Russ? You're ready to don the pelt of the Fenris Wolf and journey across the sea of stars with the Space Wolves? Lets get started!

The Space Wolves are a marine force like none other. They disdain the formal military organization that characterizes the other chapters of Adeptus Astartes. I came to the Space Wolves as a 40k player by a roundabout manner.
They'd been my first and best army in GW's old "Space Marine" epic-scale game, but my first and favorite army for 40k had always been my Blood Drinkers.

I wanted something new and different, a challenge, an adventure. If you're interested in Space Wolves, then so do you!

The Space Wolf theme allows plenty of room for your imagination to run wild in modelling and painting. It is, as the now cliche expression goes, a fantasy army in a futuristic setting. They're the perfect 40k army. The "Space Opera" backdrop of the 40k universe is the perfect setting for them.

Where do you start with the Space Wolves? The first thing that you need to have is a good imagination, and the basic rulebooks. You'll need, of course: the core 40k 3ed Edition rulebook. Codex: Space Marines, and Codex: Space Wolves. The Space Wolves book is a supplement to the Space Marine book, which is itself just a supplement to the core rulebook. Got those? Lets move on.

Leaf through them, some recent copies of White Dwarf magazine, any Citadel Minatures color catalog, and the Space Wolves codex from the 2ed Edition of the game if you can get your hands on them for a little bit. The idea is that you want to begin by getting a visual feel for your army.

Here are some questions you should be considering:

1. Which version of the Space Wolves color scheme do I like the most, or do I even want to stick with the basic grey armor? Variations on "Space Wolf Grey" range from a pale blueish off-white to a darker slate blue-grey, and everything in between.

Historically, Space Marines used to paint their armor in camoflage and Games Workshop printed color plates of various camoflage schemes as inspiration for modellers. There is no solid rule that requires a Space Wolf player to have generic grey models; although, this is the defacto standard.

Based on the Norse sort of thematic inspiration for the Space Wolves, how do you interpret their colors?

2. How do you feel about the whole wolfen theme? For the Space Wolves, the Fenris Wolf is a sort of chapter-wide totem and object of reverence or even outright worship. However, the extent to which you model this is up to you.

While one player may want to play heavily on this theme throughout her entire battle group, another might want to play it down and use actual wolfen bits (tails, necklaces, pelts) only on particularly special characters as a mark of their virtue and prowess. Another might play it down even further and use painted marks and token representation. Let your own modelling and painting skills, as well as your own imagination, be your own guide here.

3. What sort of icons or heraldry do I want to unify my force under? Nothing draws a group of models together and shows them to be unified better than a heraldric theme. For the Space Wolves, this is the Great Company insignia and the markings for the various packs.

The color plates in the Space Wolves codex can provide some idea of how the studio painters identified the models in the studio army, but you need to decide how you will identify the models in your army. Often the best and easiest place to start is by imagining some great exploit or tale about your supreme commander, your Wolf Lord, and sketching out a drawing to represent that event. That image, or a representation of it, can become your Great Company Banner. A simplification of it can be your insignia, and other images drawn from that same idea can provide your pack markings.

For example, imagine a Wolf Lord who is renowned for his prowess againt the Tyranids. The backbanner on Kim Syberg's "Ragon" Dreadnought on pg24 depicts an image of such a theme. Perhaps then your Great Company's insignia might be some variation of a tyranid head impaled on a sword. Such an image is available as a waterslide transfer, and is depicted on the lower left corner of pg20. You might then use simple geometric claw shapes on the right shoulder pads of your models as pack markings.

You don't need to actually draw and paint your banners at this point. In fact, don't do this yet. At this point, you just want to have a picture in your mind of what your Space Wolves are going to look like.

How about that? You just defined what the "perfect Space Wolf" should look like, for you. Now you just need to make your dream become reality. Here's how you do it.

No project gets very far without a plan, and this is where the Space Wolves become a very easy marine force to put together. Inspired by your ideas, now it is time to actually start looking at some of the "meat" of the rulebooks. In particular, I'm talking about Codex: Space Wolves (C:SW). Note right off the plethora of special rules for the Space Wolves (pg4). Then note that you're going to be required to take 1 HQ pick for every 750pts of models in your army (inclusive of the points spent on that HQ). Thats on pg5.

Based on that idea, we'll start by building a core force of Space Wolves in 750pts. That will give you something to work on for a while, at least a couple of weeks or a month, while you get some experience with your new models and figure out what you want to add next.

Keeping in mind that we'll be required to have 1 HQ pick in 750pts, we'll also want to have our 750pt force be usable right away in any Standard Mission scenario. That means that we'll need 2 Troop choices as well, and flipping through the book we quickly learn that the Space Wolves are required to have at least one unit of Grey Hunters.

Any unit worth taking is worth spending the points to flesh it out and make it a solid, viable combat unit in the game. You'll want the pack to be nearly maximal in size, but since only 10 models can fit in a Rhino and you might want to attach a Wolf Guard leader to this pack at some time we'll only take 9 Grey Hunters to start with. Giving them some good equipment, how about: a powerfist, a powersword, a pair of plasma pistols, five bolters scattered through the pack, and a flamer. For only 209 points, this is a very solid combat unit

Grey Hunters are good, and normally any unit worth taking is worth taking twice, but lets introduce a little variety into this battle group. The only other "Troop" choice available to the Space Wolves is Blood Claws, and this tough pack of nutters seems like the perfect compliment to a pack of Grey Hunters.

A Blood Claw pack is big, and while we want to have units that are large enough to give a good showing for themselves in the game, perhaps a 15 model pack of Blood Claws is too large for a 750pt game. Maybe later on we'll add more, but for now lets just stick with 10 of them. This is a solid size, and since one model in five can have a weapon upgrade this allows us two. Again, a powerfist and a powerweapon give us a good selection of close combat punch, and a flamer is the perfect weapon for Blood Claws given their relatively low (for a marine) ballistic skill (BS3). This unit is 166pts, a real bargain for what you get.

With 375pts spent, we're halfway through our 750pt core force. Earmarking at least 100pts for our HQ choice, still unpurchased, leaves us with about 275pts left to spend. Thats enough for another Grey Hunter or Blood Claw pack with some leftover. The units that we have already are tooled up for close range firepower and assault. It would be nice to add a Rhino or two to help them get closer, but I think that what they really need right now is some longer ranged fire support in the form of Long Fangs.

Again, any unit worth taking is worth taking is worth spending the points to flesh it out and make it a solid combat unit. With Long Fangs, you're stuck paying 36pts for that Pack Leader and his special "Fire Control" rule whether you use it or not, so lets give him enough Long Fangs to make it worthwhile. Adding 4 Long Fangs (minimum is 2) to the Pack Leader and we've spent 108pts without weapons, and we're now required to take 4 heavy weapons for the 4 Long Fangs. A pair of plasma cannons is great against any opponent, but thats another 70pts. A pair of missile launchers is only another 40pts, and I think that they're a good compromise weapon that is good at long range (48") and can still threaten armored vehicles. If we need anything heavier to take out a Leman Russ or a Land Raider, those powerfists will be useful but lets toss a meltagun on the Pack Leader and call it good.
228pts, and another hard hitting unit.

Thats 603pts knocked off; only 147pts left to go and we still need to buy that commander.

It'd be nice to buy a Rhino for the Grey Hunters, but by the time we get one and throw extra armor and a smoke launcher on it we'd only have 89pts to spend on a Wolf Guard Battle Leader (the only model we could reasonably afford with wargear for 89pts). This is a reasonable option, and we could even fit in a Rune Priest if we didn't mind equipping him with a bolter and a close combat weapon. Without his Runic Staff he's not much of a Rune Priest. It'd be a shame to have a Rune Priest without one, since it confers the same effect for 10pts as a 25pt Psychic Hood. If we could shave 6pts above, perhaps dropping a flamer or that meltagun, we could afford the Wolf Priest but I really hate trimming anything off a solid unit once I've already set it out.

Lets decide the issue by looking through the Citadel Miniatures color catalog and the color plates in C:SW. For 89pts we could have a nifty Battle Leader w/ a powersword, a bolter, and 12pts of wargear. We could give him a boltpistol, a lightning claw, and a wolf pelt to be pretty mean and nasty, but in my mind there is no substitute for that Wolf Priest. The Ulrik model is one of my all-time favorites, and for 95pts you get a wargear combination that would cost 100pts on a Battle Leader. I'm happy with a powersword, especially when combined with a 4+ invulnerable armor save.

Wolf Priest it is! With the Ulrik model, we should pick up a Wolf Pelt as wargear and a plamsa pistol since they're already on the model and both are relatively inexpensive. The only reason to stick with the Battle Leader would be if we really wanted to use something other than a powerweapon, like a Frost Sword/Axe, and in a 750pt army the 25pt Belt of Russ seems like quite a bit of overkill. Besides, thats something that your Wolf Lord should be wearing anyways since there is only one per Great Company.

We have a Wolf Priest, who comes stock with a bolt pistol, a powerweapon, and the Iron Wolf amulet. To this we've added a plasma pistol, a wolf pelt, and how about a wolf tooth necklace so that he always hits on a 3+ in close combat? With WS5, he'll usually hit on a 3+, except against other HQ characters. Since I expect that our Wolf Priest will get right in the thick of it and toe off against our opponent's leader in a heroic struggle, this seems appropriate. For the same 10pts we could have a runic charm instead, getting a reroll of a failed armor save, but the wolf tooth necklace just sounds cooler. Image is everything.

With only 24pts leftover, we really don't have enough to do anything worthwhile. We can add one more model to either the Grey Hunters or the Blood Claws. With a little bit of fiddling we might be able to add one to each, and we're about halfway to a vanilla Rhino. The Pack Leader doesn't have to have a meltagun and the Wolf Priest doesn't have to have that necklace, so those could go. Dropping one of those Long Fangs, perhaps a missile would get us that Rhino with all of the options we could want, but in my mind nothing brings together that wolfen theme like a couple of Fenris Wolves.

Two Fenris Wolves comes to 24pts, which is precisely what we have leftover after picking up that really mean Wolf Priest.

Total force: Wolf Priest (123pts): Ulrik the Slayer model w/ plasma pistol, wolf pelt, and wolf tooth necklace.
Fenris Wolves (24pts): 2 WFB Dire Wolves.
Grey Hunters (209pts): 9 Grey Hunters w/ PF, PW, 2xPP, flamer, 5x Bolters.
Blood Claws (166pts): 10 Blood Claws w/ PF, PW, flamer.
Long Fangs (228pts): Pack Leader, 4 Long Fangs, 2 missiles, 2 plasma

Shopping List:
1 Ulrik the Slayer
1 blister of Dire Wolves
2 boxes of Space Wolf GH/BC packs
4 heavy weapon blisters: 2 missiles, 2 plasma cannons

In the future we can expand this out some more. It would still be nice to give the Grey Hunters a Rhino, and 150pts for that Wolf Priest and his two Fenris Wolves does seem a little much but the Ulrik model and those Dire Wolves look really cool painted up so I think they'll have to stay. As we add anything further to this army, we'll have to add a second HQ. By working within 750pt increments, we've managed to put together a solid combat force of Space Wolves and manage the project so that we can finish this one segment before moving on.

Until next time!

David Prentice
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