Centurion warsuits are one of the most deadly and powerful assets available to the Adeptus Astartes, able to punch holes through fortress walls with obscene force, flush out enemies with flame or cut down any foe’s advancing lines. They are walking tanks with formidable firepower. With the wall-grinding siege drill of the Assault Centurion, and the mass-collapsing grav-weapons of the Devastator Centurion, the vehicle pools of numerous Chapters are well-stocked with both variants of these warsuits.
It is much disputed by Imperial scholars as to when the Centurion warsuit first engaged in conflict. This is because its origins are to be found within that dark period of the Imperium’s history known as the Age of Apostasy. This was a new age of religious strife, where millions of heretics were slaughtered across numerous star systems. The structures of the Imperium groaned under the weight of violent, internal conflict. During the Siege of Drax, a whole hive city was destroyed, and the entire Cadian 23rd fireballed in the process. Whole companies of Space Marines were consumed in these enduring, bloody actions. Battle-brothers were emptied into orbit as the ejecta of battlefleet assaults, or slaughtered in the shadows of their own fortresses.
The horrific spectre of the Horus Heresy and the threat of another all-consuming civil war began to loom over the Imperium. It became apparent to the High Lords of Terra that their troops would need new, more brutal wargear so that they might successfully smash their way across the galaxy to exterminate the unfaithful – weapons that could resolve the most abhorrent of battles, even if apostate factions had barricaded themselves within indomitable citadels.
So it was that the Tech-Priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus prepared for the worst and embarked upon the Voyages of Understanding, their arks criss-crossing the galaxy on unfamiliar routes and legions adepts scouring ancient texts in a quest for archaic knowledge. They brought back technologies to their forge worlds that had never before been observed, and set to work. Manufactorums clattered with fevered industry. They echoed with litanies as Tech-Priests refined weapons and armour that could be be used by the Adeptus Astartes. Forge worlds were choked by banks of acrid smoke, while thousands of menials died each day, burnt to a cinder as they sought to feed the ancient furnaces with promethium.
Some of the newly discovered STCs, such as the VX Bellam Ravager and Thermae Missile Suits were beyond the best efforts of the Tech-Priests to replicate reliably, and many corrupted over time to produce disturbing results. These designs were locked away in stasis vaults lest their potency seduce the more weak-willed fabricators. But out of the manufactorums on Mars came the prototypes of a Space Marine warsuit, a vehicle that would encase existing power armour and even enable the battle-brother to mesh with the larger suit’s machine spirit. Itself a statement of intent, the warsuit was named in a manner as to acknowledge the Space Marine heroes of the Horus Heresy.
It was called the Centurion.
The two sanctioned variants of the Centurion warsuits were not called upon to fight during the Age of Apostasy itself, and even years later these two remained the guarded secret of the Tech-Priests, who continued to refine their litanies, pray over them and pour on sacred oils. The Centurions remained unused and untouched, unable to be unleashed across the corpse-choked battlefields of the Apostasy before the heretics could be finally crushed. Because of this strange delay, it was muttered by some that the Omnissiah Himself was displeased with what this new brute force might enact. This rumour was only strengthened by suggestions these terrible devices were craving war and their machine spirits were thirsty for blood.
After being sanctioned for official battlefield use, Centurion warsuits began to show in Imperial records during the bloody crusades of the Age of Redemption. Following pacts with the Adeptus Mechanicus, these slab-sided constructs were first utilized by squads of Imperial Fists and Iron Hands. Experts in tearing down fortifications and in rigorously maintaining defences, both Chapters were quick to see how the Centurion design would complement their own combat doctrines. Companies assigned pilots first from their Assault Squads, and later from their Devastator Squads. In these Centurion warsuits they found new ways to enforce and inflict the Imperial creed upon numerous star systems.
Companies of the Imperial Fists began to use the warsuits to provide an unstoppable impetus to their planetary assaults. They deployed them from their orbital Battle Barges in order to punch through fortresses and city blockades. They were not, however, only employed against heretics. Xenos ships flashed like meteors through the skies to assault the planets of Mankind. Great daemonic entities and various macabre forms of alien races carved their way out of the warp to annihilate frontier garrisons. On battlefields across the galaxy, these warsuits prevented a great many losses to Imperial forces. Wherever there was a threat to the Imperium of Man, the Centurion warsuits strode forth to crush the foe beneath their ceramite heel. Vast ships, docked or in orbit around heathen planets, were ripped open to punish those who worshipped false prophets. Many worlds to this day – which were liberated from the yoke of xenos oppressors by squads of Space Marine Centurions – have since enshrined these mighty heroes as angels of the Emperor. Their hulking figures adorn stained-glass frescoes and auto-rhetorical shrines across the Imperium, crowned with glowing haloes and wielding the cleansing flame of Imperial justice.
It was not long until more Chapters, first the Ultramarines and Salamanders, began to deploy full squads of these vehicles. They, too, could appreciate the lethal utility of these suits. But to them especially the Centurion proved more than a siege weapon. They found their new Centurion Devastator Squads brought a withering level of firepower to the battlefield. The Assault Centurions helped to bring brutal vengeance to heretics, crushing their twisted bodies and obscene idols with ease.
Centurions brought not just the Light of the Emperor, but salvation. On Orbide II an Ork Waaagh! promised to overwhelm the planet until squads of warsuits held the green tide back in time for reinforcements to arrive. Kabalite raiding parties in the Vysis Star System were crushed before they were able to conduct more than a handful of raids against the agri worlds vital to the system’s survival. Insurgencies were cut down, the heretic heart of many traitor rebellions were burned out, and the Centurions became rightly feared. There was nowhere to hide for those who opposed the Imperium.
Thus, by M38, it was unsurprising that almost all Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes began assigning these warsuits to their armouries. To this day, it is rare to find a Chapter whose armoury does not possess at a single Centurion warsuit of either variant. Though only the Assault Centurion and Devastator Centurion variants have trod the field of war, many more had initially been discovered or produced as a result of Tech-Priest modifications. These more unstable and heretical versions were discreetly lost by the Adeptus Mechanicus; they remain so to this day.
The Centurion is an enormous, battle-ready exoskeleton, a vehicle to enable the vengeful brutality of the Adeptus Astartes to gain access to hitherto unreachable places. A Space Marine pilots each one and the Centurion warsuit communes with the machine spirit of his power armour. The Centurion stands taller than a Terminator, and possesses all the resilience and firepower of a tank. Woe betide any citadel that bars its gates to a warrior so armed.
The warsuit’s construction is based on thick plates of ceramite, each one blessed with the Litany of Ritual Bonding by a Tech-Priest before being fixed in place by crane-armed servitors possessed by sanctified datahosts. With such protection Centurions can endure ferocious attacks, while the Space Marine inside can concentrate on punching through the bulkheads of hive city walls, or incinerating rows of armoured xenos.
The Centurion designs permit a skilled Techmarine or servitor to access the various pistons and cables within and apply any sacred unguents. For a Space Marine to step inside the warsuit from the rear, the top section of the warsuit must be be lifted upwards. At this stage he may exchange helmets for a more appropriate Centurion helmet, to better augment his targeting or monitor the feedback of the siege drills, or simply rely upon his own enhanced instincts. It is often the newer pilots who opt to go into battle with a helmet so that they may override the machine spirit and gain better control over it from within a sealed constituent. Once they have tamed the violent tendencies of the warsuit, then they may trust it more, extending their awareness more completely to the warzone around them.
Once inside, there are numerous harnesses to strap the battle-brother in place. These enable him to weather even the concussion caused by direct hits from firepower designed to rupture tank hulls. The pilot is connected by several power cables so that the Centurion suit directly interfaces with his own power armour; as this link is activated, his body pounds momentarily with newly established energies, enough to overwhelm an unenhanced human. At first, new pilots must enter a trance-like state purely to gain control over the machine spirit, and a mental duel is fought even before the suit is even activated.
Some machine spirits will not be tamed by the Space Marine, and a handful even cause burnout, frying the minds of their pilots. Such overly-powerful Centurion suits are quickly ushered away by Tech-priests for ‘decommissioning’. Once connected into the warsuit, the accepted battle position is for a Space Marine’s hands to be crossed against the front of his chest, behind the torso-plate and the suit’s secondary weapons, for he controls the vehicle with his thoughts.
It is worth noting that certain Chapters, such as the Iron Hands, have developed particular expertise when interfacing with their own vehicles, and are therefore more naturally inclined to use them in battle. In fact, such is the strength of their belief that all flesh is weak – even that of a Space Marine – that pilots from the Iron Hands tend to dwell within the warsuit longer than is strictly necessary. A number of their pilots are now permanently bonded within their warsuit and can never be removed.
Centurion training requires an intense level of focus and determination, even for a Space Marine. A pilot undergoes numerous simulations, tactical recreations and bouts of endurance testing to ensure he is capable of controlling such a complex and powerful piece of wargear in violent situations.
As per the decrees of the Codex Astartes, each Chapter is responsible for training its own battle-ready Space Marine force, and an important part of this regime includes vehicle training. Only once tanks and aircraft have been mastered is a Space Marine ready to try his hand at controlling a Centurion battlesuit, though some Chapters – notably the Imperial Fists – will single out potential warsuit pilots earlier than others.
Part of the intense regime for a Devastator Centurion is hardening the Space Marine to the severe recoil of the weaponry. The warsuit permits a Space Marine to walk into battle armed with the firepower of a tank, and such powerful weaponry would crush a mere human. Recoil kicks hard on the chestpiece of his power armour, its blasts ricocheting around his nervous system and musculature and causing spasms in those unprepared. Battle-brothers who train as Devastator Centurions tend to develop massively proportioned upper-body muscles, even for Space Marines. The most successful Devastator pilots possess phenomenal mental powers in order to prioritise targets whilst enduring these violent kick-backs.
For Assault Centurion pilots, much of their readiness for full combat missions depends upon their handling of a siege drill, and developing the mental will and strength to operate it. Whilst some Chapters are satisfied to prepare at length on their home worlds, others prefer to see that the siege drills are put to more immediate and practical use in the crucible of war, hurling new inductees into the teeth of the foe with siege drills growling.
Because Centurion warsuits are a highly specialised asset within a Chapter’s armoury, the majority of Centurion pilots are selected from a Chapter’s Devastator and Assault Squads – though not from the ranks of the 1st Company. A Chapter’s Veterans possess an exceptional level of battlefield experience, and their knowledge and combat flexibility means they are called upon to fight in a greater variety of circumstances, many of which would be unsuitable for deploying these bulky warsuits. Some Veterans would add bluntly that they find going to war in such slow-moving constructs undignifying.
Centurions share the same heraldry and organizational squad markings that can be seen on many other vehicles within a Chapter’s pools. As well as this, they occasionally share similar sigils to the pilots who control their warsuits with respect to honours won in battle or their status within a company.
They also boast a Centurion Honour, a large stone sigil of two crossed fists set within a circle – echoing the position taken by a pilot inside. This is displayed upon the shoulder of the warsuit, in much the same way as a Crux Terminatus.
The specific deployment of a Centurion suit depends entirely upon the requirement, the weapons, and the squad to which they are assigned, as well as the tactical doctrines of a particular Space Marine Chapter. Broadly speaking, given that the typical Adeptus Astartes deployment is as swift and terrible as a thunderbolt, and that Centurions in contrast are slow-moving and bulky, they are sanctioned for use only in specific circumstances. They are stubborn and powerful tools for very difficult tasks.
Though already possessed of superhuman senses, Centurion pilots are able to use Omniscopes to perceive greater distances, see through otherwise-impenetrable levels of darkness, and achieve a heightened level of precision with their deadly weapons.
An Omniscope is comprised of various ultra-sensitive lenses, filters, radical electronics and thrice-blessed cogs, as well as sensor equipment. It was not to be found on the very first Centurion suits, but became a unique addition to squads after the results of combat situations were analysed.
The Omniscope is used by Centurion Sergeants, enabling them to guide their squads more effectively on the battlefield, to locate targets, and to gauge the weak points of allegedly impenetrable fortress walls. Utilising a molecular targeting matrix it allows the sergeant to focus a squad’s fire more effectively on a single target. Such technology helps to bring an entire bastion crashing down to rubble, or to scythe a limb from an enemy war-construct.
The siege drill is a remarkable and unique device found on Assault Centurions. Constructed out of a ceramite alloy, the siege drill design was originally used for the most intensive mining operations in the galaxy, the core-deep tehldrite mines of the Regulum III Polar Stars. However, it was soon realised that, with modifications, it could be deployed effectively in a number of military operations, and was fitted accordingly to the Centurion warsuit.
The drill’s reverberant growl strikes fear into defensive forces. Buildings are shredded into rubble, tanks are rapidly ground into scrap metal and stubborn xenos carapaces are reduced to bloodied, chitinous scraps. There is little that can withstand the onslaught of this hugely destructive tool, even a fortress wall fabricated out of adamantium.
Though capable of taking down almost any foe in the galaxy, Assault Centurion pilots are in their element when spearheading offensives against enemy fortifications. Once their siege drills gain traction on walls, they can tear yawning rents through the toughest plascrete or wraithbone within seconds. Once the Assault Centurions have opened a gap into an enemy fortification they continue leading the offensive to carry the breach, enemy fire pinging off their hulls as they smack into the heart of the foe’s citadel. Assault Centurions possess a relatively narrow frame, when compared to a tank or an immense Ironclad Dreadnought. This means they can easily plough through constricted paths and bulldoze obscured lines of sight, obliterating debris and slaughtering any threats.
Assault Centurions can utilise Ironclad assault launchers, a weapon loaded with anti-personnel grenades which shreds screaming foes with a barrage of withering shrapnel. They are also armed with twin-linked flamers, which they put into effect in the narrow confines of cities, flushing enemies out of cover where the air is promptly filled with the noise of whooshing flame and the smell of sizzling body fat.
Once inside a fortification, they can draw away the defenders’ fire, confident in the resilience of their warsuits. This leaves the way clear for their battle-brothers to secure the area, so it is commonly the Assault Centurions who pave the way for other units to bring victory to the Chapter.
Assault Centurions, being committed to a specific task and of limited speed, usually require other units to support them in order to reach their full potential in a warzone. Their mobility is often enhanced by them being transported into battle by Land Raiders or Stormraven Gunships. Once deployed, many Chapters prefer to protect their Centurions against enemies with the strafing fire of air support, or the more mobile and flexible Terminators, to allow the warsuits to achieve their objectives. Others send in large numbers of Tactical Squads, who utilise the sheer size and toughness of the Centurions as walking cover, though this tactic is more effective with Devastator Centurions, which also possess a breathtaking level of firepower.
In contrast to the Assault Squads, Centurion Devastator Squads are able to make use of formidable guns more suited to long-ranged firefights. As a consequence of bearing such powerful weapons they take on a very different role on the battlefield.
Common to these warsuits, and not widely seen elsewhere in a Chapter’s vehicle pool, are the grav-cannon and grav-amp. A grav-weapon distorts the gravity fields local to its target; therefore, the target’s own mass is used against it. The greater the target, the more damage will be inflicted on it. This technology is lethally deployed at short range through grav-pistols and grav-guns, but many Devastator Centurions possess grav-cannons, so they may utilise this technology over greater distances. Even vehicles or war engines some distance away will be crumpled and distorted by these gravity-based implosions, until they are little but a wreck of metal and the flesh of whatever crew was once inside, while great beasts, their weird biologies constricting and contorting, erupt and fill the air with thick gouts of blood.
The grav-amp scries the gravimetric traces of the target and enables the wielder to localise the effects of their grav-cannon still further, creating structural contradictions that tear their target apart. The deadly combination of these technologies mean that the Centurion is often used as a formidable mobile weapons platform. It hunts larger threats from afar, sending Stompas buckling into the ground under the weight of their own scrap, or making Maulerfiends implode violently, their metal tendrils trailing into the newly carved void like the remnants of a dying star.
Both of these potent weapons incorporate ancient technology dating back to the Dark Age of Technology, which is only prescribed by the High Lords of Terra. If such might was not sufficient, Devastator Centurions may also march implacably to war bearing twin-linked heavy bolters, hurricane bolters, lascannons and missile launchers.
Devastator Centurion Squads can lend an overwhelming degree of firepower to both offensive and defensive strategies. As they are able to wreck whole squads of enemy infantry, a common tactic when deploying squads of Devastator Centurions is to defend a fortification already under the Chapter’s control. In dire circumstances, they are used as armoured buttresses in their own right, allowing Space Marines to hunker behind them before bursting out to attack on the flanks. This way, Ultramarine Centurions of the 3rd Company held the Cadulaen Bridge on Vorscht II for three days and three nights, fighting off wave after wave of Tyranids who attempted to swarm across the structure while their battle-brethren fought repeated counteroffensives.
Where static defence is not required, they may be set loose alongside larger vehicles such as Stormravens or Dreadnoughts in order to hunt down Titans and other war engines. As mobile weapons platforms they are able to help advance battle lines. Their weapons reach far and their sturdy yet practical armour can quite easily shrug off the worst an enemy can throw their way, be it baleful gunfire or alien spores.
025.M37 Purging the Lambis
654.M37 The Fall of the Adamantium City
Imperial Fists deploy from Battle Barges and lay siege to the city. Assault Centurion Squads are used to breach the citadel’s walls, whereupon the populace is found to have fallen to Chaos. Renegade Space Marines are discovered operating within the city, inciting the Cultists that swarm around them. After a bloody battle, the Traitors are utterly destroyed, the horn-headed and pockmarked heretics all executed, but the Adamantium City is reduced to ruins.
734.M38 Ambushed by Traitors
The Invaders Chapter launches an all-out assault on their attackers, eventually driving the traitors from the planet. The victory is attributed to the tactical awareness of Centurion Sergeant Thynor; he downs a Word Bearers Thunderhawk before the reinforcements aboard can deploy, turning the battle. Modest, he accredits the success to the precision afforded by his Omniscope.
223.M39 Devil’s Claws
779.M41 The Siege of Hammerspire
885.M41 The Corrupted Tomb
The Tomb Ship suddenly explodes, taking with it every Space Marine onboard. The reason remains unclear due to the garbled communications from within the ship in its final moments, but to this day the Black Templars suspect it to have been a trap laid by Imotekh the Stormlord.
954.M41 The Greenskin Hunt
987.M41 Brothers only in Arms
988.M41 The Campaign of Fire and Steel
994.M41 The Defence of Hyth
998.M41 The Third War for Armageddon
The Salamanders deploy and immediately launch several counter-attacks against the Ork Roks along the Hemlock River. The close-quarter fire-fighting within the Roks’ crudely carved tunnels is ideally suited to the Salamanders’ method of waging war. Terminator and Centurion Assault squads spearhead these efforts, the warsuits ploughing through all that the Orks throw at them in the labyrinthine tunnels. Assault Centurions carve new exits and lay underground traps that result in the greenskins being torched; their stubbornness, ingenuity and determination results in a momentary victory. The Salamanders destroy no fewer than nine Roks, along with the thousands of Greenskins within.