Looking at the new Space Marine codex, i think the designers overall did a solid job with the Warlord Traits table, with every trait being at least moderately useful.
Let’s take a look:
1 – Angel of Death — Previously one of the weakest traits, simply giving the Warlord the Fear USR, it is now changed to give the WL Fear, but also makes enemy units locked in combat with the WL take these Fear rests on 3D6. While Fear is still useless against Fearless and ATSKNF units (which encompasses many of the armies out there), forcing Fear checks on 3D6 can be quite useful against normally high Ld/high WS armies like Eldar or Necron. Given that the average 3D6 roll is an 11, this means that even the best leadership armies are likely to fail it and have their WS reduced, giving SMs a critical advantage in close combat (i.e. hitting enemies on 3+s and being hit on 5+s).
2 – The Imperum’s Sword — Previously giving the WL and his unit Furious Charge once a game, now it is the same but works the entire game, which is a signficant boost and takes it from a mediocre to a very solid WL trait. Furious Charge takes a “ho-hum” combat unit (like Assault Marines) and makes them dangerous and turns a strong close combat unit (like Honor Guard) and can make them devastating. Combined with re-rolls to Hit from either Chaplain support or the Combat Doctrines and you can make yourself a very punchy unit with this trait. On top of this, since it is a WL Trait, no psychic test or Ld test is required to activate this ability, so you can rely on it all game long.
3 – Iron Resolve — Previously just adding to the WL’s combat resolution score, now it gives the Warlord FNP instead, which is a signfiicant improvement. While not necessarily game-breaking, giving your beatstick Warlord even more survivability (which “stacks” with his Invul and Armor saves) can mean the difference between your opponent gaining Slay the Warlord and your unit winning combat against a tough opponent. Definitely a useful trait, especially if you happen to have Iron Hands Chapter Tactics… FNP (4+) for the win!
4 – Storm of Fire — Previously it allowed, once a game, for the WL to designate a unit to re-roll 1s to Wound. Now it is MUCH BETTER and, in fact, possibly my favorite trait. Every turn, the WL with this trait can designate a friendly unit from the same Space Marine Chapter within 12″ to gain Rending for all its shooting attacks that Shooting Phase. This is tremendous and can indeed be a game changer… imagine 10 Terminators coming from DS turn as part of Strike Force Ultra with this ability activated on them… that’s 30 SB shots, all with Rending, threatening everything from MCs to vehicles to enemy heavy infantry. This ability can also be cast on vehicles… imagine a Whirlwind squadron of 3 tanks shooting with this…they get Shred and Pinning bonus for being a squadron of 3 already, then throw in Rending and you can do some massive damage with them!!
5 – Rites of War — An oldy but goody rule brought back to life as a WL trait. Allowing your entire detachment to use you WL’s Leadership (which is almost univerally Ld 10, unless your WL is a Techmarine) is a tremendous boost, saving you from having to invest in Veteran Sergeants, tremendously boosting your units’ reliability, and even making them more durable against Psychic attacks like Psychic Shriek. Overall, a very significant force multiplier and one of the best WL traits, in my opinion.
6 – Champion of Humanity — Last but not least, this is another Ld buffing ability, but a bit different than Rites of War. Previously, this WL trait gave bonuses for winning challenges. Now, it gives ALL friendly Imperium units within 12″ of the WL re-rolls for their Morale/Pinning/Fear tests. While this is, in my view, less useful than Rites of War’s universal LD buff (which has no range constraints), it still can be great when the WL is working with Imperium allies, especially Astra Militarum, whose weakness in Ld is one of its critical vulnerabilities… imagine having the WL within 12″ of multiple AM Heavy Weapons Teams, enabling them to hold their position effectively, despite their low Ld7.
So, as you can see, there really isn’t a bad WL Trait in the chart and some of them are quite strong. Definitely nice to see in the new codex and hopefully other armies get just as strong a WL Trait table as they get updated as well.