Monday, November 21, 2011

5 Minute History: Drop Pods

Orbital Drop Pods are specialized atmospheric reentry craft that can be used to deploy Space Marines in a Space Marine army. A Drop Pod has the appearance of a huge, metallic, five-petaled flower bud when it opens upon landing. The interior is a transport chamber for the pod's passengers. In the background, Drop Pods are launched directly from ships in orbit around a planet. They crash down through the planet's atmosphere, at the last moment slowing down via thrusters located on the bottom of the pod. They reflect the nature of the Space Marines as an elite rapid-deployment force, giving them the capacity to reach the battlefield, from their warships in space, within a matter of seconds. Upon landing, the pod's "petals", which are actually doors, open up to disembark its passengers. Many Drop Pod miniatures for use with both the Warhammer 40,000 and Epic 40,000 tabletop games have been released by Forge World, although the original model was an early Epic release. In October 2008 Games Workshop released a Space Marine Drop Pod boxed set in the form of a well detailed plastic kit.

Original Epic 40,000 Drop Pods, open

Original Epic 40,000 Drop Pods, closed

Both in-game and background-wise, Drop Pods are a common means of getting Space Marines directly into the heat of battle. In most of their in-game incarnations, Drop Pods are deployed straight onto the battlefield, disembarking their cargo straight into combat. Rules for actual Drop Pods have appeared in various Forge World publications, such as the Imperial Armour series. In official Warhammer 40,000 rules, rules for deploying via Drop Pods were simulated in the 3rd edition Space Marine codex, although the pods themselves did not appear as on-table models. With the release of Codex: Space Marines, 4th edition, Drop Pods were finally fully integrated into the Warhammer 40,000 rules set.

Warhammer 40k Drop Pod released October 2008

Previous versions of Drop Pods were capable of carrying only five Space Marines, and this was reflected in the rules for them. The latest version of Drop Pod in the new 5th edition Space Marine codex is capable of transporting a full squad of ten Space Marines in power armor, a thunderfire cannon, or a single Dreadnought.

Original Epic 40,000 Drop Pod catalog entry

Outside the Warhammer 40,000 and Epic 40,000 games, Drop Pods can also be seen in the game Dawn of War and its expansion packs. In the game, they can be seen whenever Space Marine reinforcements are deployed onto the battlefield, either landing on the landing pad of a receiving structure in friendly ground, or dropped directly into enemy territory "deep striking". They can also be seen at the conclusion of the game's opening cinematic.

The Deathwind Drop Pod is a specialized version of the standard Drop Pod that eschews its transport capacity in order to carry a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition, essentially turning into an turret upon landing. These are usually five assault cannons pointing outwards in the area where normally soldiers would disembark from. They are dropped shortly preceding normal transport-capable Drop Pods, to add fire-support for the disembarking soldiers. Deathwind Drop Pods originally appeared in Epic, first making an appearance in Warhammer 40,000 with the Imperial Armour family of source books for Warhammer 40,000. In the latest Space Marine codex, Deathwind pods are not different units from the standard Drop Pod. Instead, Drop Pods can be upgraded to have a Deathwind Missile Launcher. Deathwind Drop Pods only appear as resin kits released by Forge World.

Comic from Ron at From The Warp


  1. Nice post.
    I absolutely love the history articles.

  2. Thanks Ron, glad you like it!

    It really is fun to see some of the old stuff and how far GW has come in their models over the last twenty years. Really its a fair look at how far the table top gaming world as a whole has come in terms of models over the last two decades...

  3. Still loving these posts, keep up the good work!

  4. Drop pods weren't in Codex: Space Marines until 4th edition. The model was a 5th edition release, iirc. (or the very end of 4th.) The 3rd edition book was pretty boring. 4th was the book that had traits and introduced drop pods as dedicated transports in addition to traits (including a drawback that prevented the use of drop pods).

  5. As evidenced from the catalog pic, in Epic there were three loadouts for pods - troops (assault pod), support pods that had a plasma cannon that could provide on-site fire support, and the deathwind pods, which upon opening unleashed a one-time volley of missiles at everything nearby. A standard drop-pod deployment had a mix of all three, as well as a number of decoy pods whose only purpose was to confuse defending fire.

  6. @AoM - Drop pods were certainly in the SM 3rd ed codex, it was just treated as deep strike with no model involved, as noted in the article. In 3rd you could choose to arrive by drop pod, giving up some units (most vehicles) and the whole army dropped in. There was even a special mission dedicated to using that method in the codex.

  7. Yeap, in the 3rd edition codex the drop pods were 'simulated'