Talons of the Emperor: Making Custodes Work in a CAD

I did an earlier article on Custodes when they first came out for 40K, but now that they have been “re-released” via Talons of the Emperor, with some new units, rules, and a detachment all their own, I thought I’d take a closer look at them.

In terms of the Custodes themselves, they are almost identical to their previous incarnation, but now have a 5++ “stock” when equipped with the Guardian Spear (goes up to a 3++ if they trade it out for a Sentinel  Blade and Stormshield for 2MBs per model), which means they have the following profile:

WS5 BS5 S5 T5 W2 I4 A3 Ld10 Sv2+/5++ (the Shield Captain has +1WS/I/A over the normal profile)

Combine this with a cost of 10 MBs per model (extra 2MBs for the Shield Captain), S6 AP2 attacks at full I4 if they have the Guardian Spear (plus a built in BS5 Bolter) or S5 AP3 attacks at full I4 if they have the Sentinel Blade (plus a 12″ S4 AP5 Assault 2 shooting profile that can also fire all Snap Shots at BS2), plus Eternal Warrior, Adamantium Will, Deep Strike, Fearless, and Bulky rules and you have the makings of a very strong overall unit, especially for their points cost. In terms of upgrades, besides being able to swap Guardian Spears for Sentinel Blades for free, one model per army can replace his Guardian Spear with a Custodes Vexilla (banner that gives +1A to the squad and Fearless to all Imperium units within 12″) and any model that does not have a Guardian Spear can take a Storm Shield for 2MBs. Finally, each squad can take a Custodes Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport if it wishes (it is just like a normal Land Raider, but with BS5, a built in 5++ save, the ability to ignore all Crew Shaken/Crew Stunned results, and the “Venerable” special rule, which is just like what Venerable Dreads have).

Beyond this, Custodes are now considered Troops choices. Normally, this might not matter much (since they usually come as part of the special “Golden Legion Task Force” detachment, which only allows them to take Custodes squads, DT Custodes Land Raiders, and the new Custodes Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought), but it actually allows you to take them as part of a CAD (and so get Objective Secured Custodes!). How, you might ask? Well, from the recently released Triumvirate of the Imperium and Triumvirate of the Primarch rules, you can take St. Celestine, Belsarius Cawl, Grand Master Voldus, or Cypher as a HQ choice in a Combined Arms Detachment for ANY Imperium army, meaning that you can now meet the requirements of 1 HQ/2 Troops with one of these HQ choices and Custodes as the 2-6 Troops choices… pretty awesome (don’t forget, if Custodes are Objective Secured, then their DT Land Raiders become Objective Secured too)!

Of these HQ options, I think the best ones to work with Custodes are Celestine, Cawl, and Voldus, since each of them brings some solid synergy abilities to work with the boys in golden armor:

[1] St. Celestine — Everyone is already aware of what great value she (and her bodyguards) are for their points, especially since they provide some exceptional “tanking” abilities to any unit they attach to. On top of this, since they are Jump Infantry, they can attach to a Custodes squad in Deep Strike Reserve and then DS in with them starting on Turn 2. Not only can Celestine and her Gemini bodyguards soak up otherwise dangerous enemy shooting (I am thinking Grav Cannons here) for the Custodes, but they can also choose to split off on later turns and grab objectives, charge a different unit, etc. Finally, with her special “aura” abilities, Celestine can give nearby Custodes FNP(6+) for a turn, further boosting their already top-notch durability, or she can give herself Zealot for a turn, allowing her to act as a “quasi-Chaplain” for the squad she is attached to.

[2] Belsarius Cawl — Like Celestine, he provide some amazingly efficient “wound tanking” ability for any Custodes unit he is attached to (i.e. T6, 5W, 2+/5++, re-rollable FNP, and automatically regenerate D3 lost wounds per turn). While he unfortunately cannot Deep Strike with the Custodes or ride in their Land Raider with them, he can do quite well leading a foot-slogging squad, absorbing the non-AP2/1 attacks himself and using Look out Sir! to pass the AP2/1 attacks off to Custodes with Storm Shields. More importantly, he provides the Custodes with some powerful anti-tank abilities, which is arguably one of their main weaknesses. First, he has his Solar Atomiser, which is basically a souped-up Meltagun with S10, Master-Crafted, and D3 shots per turn, all fired at his BS5. On top of this, in close combat he can put out 5 attacks on the charge with his Arc Scourge, which is a S6 AP4, Master-Crafted, Haywire weapon (that can re-roll the result of the Haywire rule), meaning he can reliably bring down 4-5 HPs off even the toughest vehicles (like Imperial Knights and Land Raiders) per Assault Phase. Given that Custodes have only S4 shooting and S6 close combat attacks, this goes a long way toward making up for their weaknesses against heavy vehicles, which would otherwise be a tremendous threat to them.

[3] Grand Master Voldus — He is basically a PML(3) Grand Master who also has a Daemon Hammer that strikes at full Initiative (so I5 for him) and who can, if the Warlord, get up to 4 rolls on the Sanctic Daemonology table. Besides bringing innate S8 AP2 attacks at I5 to a Custodes army (again, helping with their weakness in anti-tank capabilities), his ability to get Sanctic powers (well, 5 technically, with the Primaris power Banishment), he can be a pretty potent force-multiplier for a Custodes army. Looking at the Sanctic powers, Hammerhand brings him up to S10 AP2 and Custodes with Guardian Spears up to S6 AP2 (all striking at full Initiative), Sanctuary brings him up to a 3++, “normal” Custodes up to a 4++, and Custodes with a Storm Shield up to a 2++, and Gates of Infinity gives him and his squad amazing mobility to almost anywhere on the battlefield (which, again, mitigates one of their primary weaknesses). Additionally, all three Witchfires are quite useful, with Purge Soul useful for sniping wounds off MCs, Cleansing Flame a great tool against massed hordes, and Vortex of Doom providing an exceptionally potent (but risky) S: D AP1 Small Blast at 12″ which can be used against all kinds of enemy targets.

Besides “unlocking” Custodes squads as troops within a CAD, taking one of these HQs also means you can take additional Custodes Venerable Land Raiders as Heavy Support choices (up to three of them) and up to three Custodes Venerable Contemptor Dreadnoughts as Elites choices, giving you the ability to field a “full-sized” army of these Golden Warriors if you want (Oh, and since you are taking a CAD, you can also give them a Fortification choice and/or take a LOW choice like Guilliman or an Imperial Knight, if you so choose). Overall, while I don’t think taking these HQs to create a Custodes CAD will make for an overly competitive army, it certainly gives them more options and mitigates many of their weaknesses, in turn allowing them to maximize their strengths, namely tremendous close combat and durability values, especially for their points cost.

Death from the Skies: The Sternhammer Strike Force and Drop Pod Sternguard to the Max!

I have been struggling for some time to figure out how to best employ the Imperial Fist unique “Decurion-style” detachment, the STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE. As most people are probably aware, the STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE requires 1+ Core choice (Battle-Demi Company or Centurion Siegebreaker Cohort), 1-10 Auxiliary choices per Core (Armoured Task Force, 1st Company Task Force, 10th Company Task Force, Storm Wing, Anti-Air Defense Force, Suppression Force, Land Raider Spearhead, Strike Force Ultra, Skyhammer Orbital Strike Force, Skyhammer Annihilation Force, Raptor Wing, or individual units of Devastators, Centurions, Vindicators, TFCs, or Ironclad/Contemptor Dreads), and 0-1 Command choice per Core (Strike Force Command, Reclusiam Command Squad, and Libarious Conclave).

If you meet these requirements, then all units in the detachment get +1 to their armor penetration rolls on buildings, get Stubborn as long as the WL is alive (and chosen from this detachment), and get Superior Bolter Drill if they have Imperial Fist Chapter Tactics (i.e. re-roll ALL to Hit rolls for any Bolter Weapons, including when shooting with Special Issue Ammunition).

Looking at this, I think the best units to make use of these benefits are Sternguard, since this makes the most of their elite status and further amplifies both their superior shooting and leadership abilities. Looking at the STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE, the only way to get access to Sternguard is via the 1st Company Task Force, which also fills the mandatory Auxiliary slot. This formation also gives all its members Fearless/Fear USRs, lets them choose one enemy unit to have Preferred Enemy against for the entire game, and debuffs enemy unit’s leadership by -2Ld if they within 12″ of three or more units from this formation.

Taking all this into account, I think the most efficient way to take the 1st Company Task Force looks something like this:

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt

-10 Sternguard with Drop Pod and MB on Sgt


While there are no “frills” on these units, they do have the ability to deal with pretty much any kind of non-vehicle unit (even TEQs, using massed Hellfire rounds) except perhaps GMCs, they have the MB to give them some chance against vehicles in combat, they have Drop Pods to get them exactly where then need to be (don’t forget, Drop Pods from this formation count for the -2Ld debuff rule on enemy units), and they can Combat Squad to minimize the impact of enemy return fire and to engage up to eight separate targets themselves (thereby, maximizing the efficiency of their own shooting). Finally, they get permanent re-rolls for all their Bolter shooting (without any requirement for Psychic tests) which, combined with the versatility of their Special Issue Ammunition, makes them very effective against all kinds of enemy threats.


Now, with the 1st Company Task Force set, there is still a mandatory core choice, so looking at what would complement what I already have, I am thinking of a Battle Demi-Company (with all of its Objective Secured units) that looks like this:

-Cataphracti Terminator Captain (with Shield Eternal relic and Power Fist)

-5 man Tactical Squad with Grav Cannon/Amp and Drop Pod

-5 man Tactical Squad with Grav Cannon/Amp and Drop Pod

-5 man Tactical Squad with Grav Cannon/Amp and Drop Pod

-2 Biker Attack Bike Squad with Heavy Bolters

-5 man Devastator Squad with 4 x Grav Cannon/Amps and Drop Pod


So, this provides us with 10 Objective Secured units (also, don’t forget, one free use of the Tactical Doctrine for the units from this formation), including three MSU Tac squads with Grav Cannons to take Objectives and provide fire support, a fast-moving Bike squad to chew up hordes with its TLed Heavy Bolters, grab Objectives, and/or tie enemy units in combat, and a “assassin” unit comprised of the Grav Cannon Devastators and the Cataphracti Terminator Captain for taking our critical enemy units like Wraithknights, Stormsurges, various close combat deathstars, LOWs, etc. (the Cataphracti Terminator Captain makes the whole unit Slow and Purposeful, allowing it to fire at full effect when it arrives in its Drop Pod, and also “tanks” for the unit/provides close combat ability).

Now, looking at everything together, this 2000 point army has eight Drop Pods (so four guaranteed to arrive Turn 1, plus another four to “mop up” on later turns), 60 MEQ bodies (plus the Warlord Cataphracti Terminator Captain, who makes the entire detachment Stubborn as long as he is alive, and two Attack Bikes), the potential for up to 22 separate MSU units/squads, and the ability to put out the following firepower per turn:

-6 Heavy Bolter Shots, 20 Storm Bolter shots, and 24 Bolter shots (at 12″ Rapid Fire range), all permanently Twin-Linked

-35 Grav Cannon/Amp shots at 24″ range, provided the unit did not move (or has Slow & Purposeful)

-80 (at 12″ Rapid Fire range) Special Issue Ammunition shots per turn (choosing between Ignore Cover, Poison (2+), long-range AP4, and short-ranged/Get’s Hot AP3 ammunition types), all permanently Twin-Linked

While this will still struggle against certain armies, especially heavily mechanized forces (outside of Grav weapons and MBs, there is not a lot to deal with armored forces) and very mobile forces (once the army Drop Pods in, it is basically confined to footslogging 6″ if it needs to get anywhere after that, except for the Attack Bikes), overall I think it would make for a fun, thematic/fluffy, and powerful alpha-strike style army that makes competitive use of the Imperial Fists traits and the benefits of their unique STERNHAMMER STRIKE FORCE formation.


Experimental Rules: “Battle Group 40K”

This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. If I were to redesign how 40K battles were  fought, and I could only change one major thing, then the proposal below would be my first choice:


*When playing a game of 40K in a “competitive” setting (i.e. tournaments, competitive games between friends, etc.), then each player would use an army consisting of (1) PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP and (3) SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs.

*The PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP would be made up of 75% of the overall points value of the game (i.e. so, in a 2000 point game, the PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP  would be 1500 points) and would be created using any Battle-forged combinations of detachments and/or formations, so long as it was no more than 75% of the total points value that the battle is being fought at. The PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP could draw units from as many different factions as you desire and must contain your Warlord.

*The three SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs would each be made up of 25% of the overall points value of the game (so, in a 2000 point game, each separate SUPPORT BATTLE GROUP would be 500 points strong) and, like the PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP, would be created using any Battle-forged combinations of detachments and/or formations, so long as each individual SUPPORT BATTLE GROUP was no more than 25% of the total points value that they battle is being fought at. Each individual SUPPORT BATTLE GROUP could draw units from as many different factions as you desire.

*Before each player deploys (i.e. after rolling for table sides, mission type, and who deploys first, but before each side actually begins rolling for WL traits, Psychic powers, or begins deploying their forces), there would be a 5 minute time period set aside where both players would be given the army list of their opponent’s PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP. During that time, both players could study their opponent’s list and then choose which (1) of his three SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs they will choose to take for this particular game, based on which if these SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs will help them the most against the particular army they will be facing (Note: Neither side will be able to see the lists for their opponent’s three SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs, so their decisions will be made solely based on what is in their opponent’s PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP list). Once the 5 minutes is up and both players have decided on which SUPPORT BATTLE GROUP to take in the current game, then the game continues just like it does in the current rulebook, with Deployment, Infiltration, Scout moves, Seize the Initiative, etc. and all the other parts of a “normal” 40K game.

*Finally, if PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP is made up of entirely of units from the same faction, then you can choose to modify your roll on the Warlord Trait Table by +1/-1 if you choose , after any re-rolls that you might get (Note: rolls of 6 could become 5s or 1s, and rolls of 1 could become 2s or 6s). Additionally, if your ENTIRE ARMY (i.e. both the PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP and the SUPPORT BATTLE GROUP you selected for this game) are made up of entirely of units from the same faction, then you can modify any Reserve rolls you make by +1/-1 if you choose. This would provide a bonus for more “fluffy” armies that are all made up of a single faction, since they are sacrificing the flexibility of being able to take allies from other factions; thus, they would be rewarded with the enhanced WL Trait rolls and/or improved Reserve rolls to represent the cohesiveness of an army from a single faction fighting together as one.


So, why do all this? Why add another level of rules and decision-making to an already complex and challenging game like we have in 40K? Well, there are two big advantages that I think playing like this would bring to competitive 40K gaming:


[1] The biggest advantage of this playing format is that players can bring larger portions of their army to games and then, based on their experience, tactical acumen, and what they learn about their opponent’s list in that 5 minute pre-game block, “tailor” their army to having the best chance of success. For example, if you take a PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP of Drop Pod heavy Space Wolves and are facing an enemy PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP of Wraithknight heavy Eldar in a particular game, you might choose a SUPPORT BATTLE GROUP that has some strong anti-Monstrous Creature abilities, such as Space Marine Grav weapons, TWC with lots of Power Fists, or Grey Knights with Dreadknights/lots of Force Weapons.

Alternately, if you find your Space Wolves PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP is up against a very Skimmer and Flyer-heavy Dark Eldar PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP, then you might opt to take a SUPPORT BATTLE GROUP that includes a unit of Skyfire capable units like Stalkers or Hydras or Onager Dunecrawlers in it. The beauty of it is that, while your PRIMARY BATTLE GROUP stays the same, from game to game you choose which of your (3) SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs to take, thus allowing you to tap into much more of the potential abilities of your entire collection and also increasing your chance of having the best units for each opponent you face.

Put another way, say you are in 2000 point tournament; with this playing format, you have 1500 points that are “set” and will be used every game, and then you have another 1500 points from which you can select 500 points worth of models to “reinforce” your main army each game, based on who you face. In many ways, this is like a football team, which may have a base defense, but then has multiple “packages” it can put on the field, based on who it is playing that week or even on what kind of offense their opponent is putting on the field. Thus, you are not “locked” into a single army format for the tournament, based on the list you designed before you even arrived, but have some flexibility to respond to the type of enemy threats you are encountering (I am a infantry officer for my real job and this is what we do for real life combat operations; i.e. match “troop to task”, based on the mission, rather than just blindly send the same task force organization for every mission we are given).


[2] The second big advantage of using this playing format is that it allows a much larger portion of your 40K collection to potentially come in to play, which I think is outstanding. For example, if you have models that are decent at specific missions (e.g. take the Stalkers AA tanks against flyers) or against a specific opponent (e.g. Grey Knights fighting against Daemons), but are not so strong elsewhere, then they may never (or rarely) get used in competitive play, since you cannot afford to have them in your army list for such situational match-ups. With this playing format, however, you could include them in one of your three SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs and, if the situation did come up where they make sense to take, you could reinforce you army with them (and if not, well then you keep them in “reserve” and take one the other SUPPORT BATTLE GROUPs).

Personally, I would love to be able to bring multiple supporting parts of my collection to a competitive game, even parts that I normally would not include, and also see other players get a chance to bring parts of their army that normally do not get played, but could be standing by to be brought on the table-top for a specific scenario or match-up. A great example of this is Imperial Assassins… in many scenarios, they are not that competitive and/or a poor match-up, but in other scenarios, being able to field one or more Assassins could make a BIG difference (i.e. if your opponent is fielding an army with lots of Psykers, like 1K Sons, Eldar, Grey Knights, etc. then you could select a SUPPORTING BATTLE GROUP that includes a Callidus Assassin; if your are facing an opponent with no Psykers at all, like Tau or Necrons, then you could leave the Callidus and his SUPPORTING BATTLE GROUP in reserve for that game and choose a different SUPPORTING BATTLE GROUP that is more useful against that opponent). Similarly, if you find out that your are playing a particular mission type, then you could select a SUPPORTING BATTLE GROUP with units that are particularly suited for that mission (i.e. maybe you take a bunch of fast, MSU units if you have lots of Objectives or, alternately, if you are playing a Kill Points game, maybe you take an allied Imperial Knight instead).


Overall, I think this would not only be a very fun way of playing, but it would have the side benefits of, one, encouraging players to really study their own armies and even their opponents armies more in order to improve their ability to decide which SUPPORTING BATTLE GROUP to take each game and, two, it would encourage players to expand their collections even further, since they could gain advantages in competitive gaming by having access to more options (this gives players a reason to delve further into the hobby and also is a boon to GW, since it would likely boost their sales, in turning hopefully encouraging them to continue supporting the game even more aggressively with new rules and models and fluff).


Experimental Rules: Fixing Grav Weapons

As a frequent user (and abuser; my current 2000 point list can put out 70 Grav shots a turn) of Grav Weapons, I know how over-powered these weapons are in the current game and agree with many that, when 8th edition comes around, GW should find a way to make this a less “auto-take” weapon and rebalance how they fit into the overall game. Right now, if you really want to be competitive, no other weapon choices really come close (the DW Frag Cannon might be an exception, but even that is not as strong against so many targets as Grav Cannon/Amps are). Additionally, Grav weapons are pretty much single-handedly the reason that lots of iconic units like Terminators, Land Raiders, Dreadnoughts, etc. are rarely used in the current competitive meta… thus, toning down Grav might allow for a “rebirth” of sorts for the competitive use of some of these units.

Now, Grav weapons do bring one positive to the game, namely they are a hard counter for things like Wraithknights, massed Riptides, massed Dreadknights, Stormsurges, and even certain types of Deathstars that would otherwise be almost impossible to deal with. Taking that into account, and considering the other heavy/special weapons available to armies with access to Grav weapons (i.e. Plasma weapons, Flamer Weapons, Melta weapons, Missile Launchers, etc.), I think the following might be a possible solution for “balancing” out Grav weapons so that they still have a purpose and can be taken in competitive armies, but that they do not overshadow all other weapon types and make certain units unplayable:


*Grav Weapons would still maintain their current profiles, including number of shots, range, AP2, and Concussive rules.

*Grav Weapons would not longer strip a HP from and Immobilize a vehicle when they roll a 6+. Instead, on a roll of 6+, they cause a Crew Stunned result ( with NO hull point stripped).

*Grav Weapons would no longer wound based on the target’s armor save (i.e. wound on a 2+ against TEQs, on a 5+ against GEQs, etc.). Instead, they would wound according to the following chart:

T1-T3: 6+ to Wound

T4: 5+ to Wound

T5: 4+ to Wound

T6: 3+ to Wound

T7-10: 2+ to Wound

**Note: If the target is a Monstrous Creature or Gargantuan Monstrous Creature, then reduce the roll on this chart by -1 (so a T6 Riptide would be wounded on a 2+ and a T5 Daemon Prince would be wounded on a 3+, for example; this would not be able to improve Grav Weapons wounding to better than a 2+, however, so if they were a MC with T7+, then they are still wounded on a 2+). Also, Flying Monstrous Creatures/Flying Gargantuan Monstrous Creatures suffer a -2 to any grounding checks they take if they suffer an Unsaved Wound from a Grav Weapon that same turn.

So, you can see significant proposed changes here. Overall, the idea is to make Grav weapons still very strong at dealing with MC/GMCs, and even a solid counter against higher toughness units like Bikes, TWC, Nurgle Marines, etc., but also to make them vastly less powerful against standard infantry and vehicles. The vehicles, in particular, would no longer lose HPs to Grav weapons and, at worst, be unable to Move and Shoot for a turn (I think this gives you the ability to still use Grav weapons on vehicles as a “desperation weapon,” but not make them the go to choice over plasma, melta, MLs, etc.).

If these changes were made, I think you would still see armies taking Grav weapons, but in much smaller quantities and for much more specialized “monster hunter” duties, rather than as a staple for the entire army list. I also think you would see an uptick in plasma and melta weapons again, since they would have to step up to fill anti-MEQ/TEQ/vehicle void resulting from the Grav weapons being rebalanced.

Also, as I alluded to earlier, I think expensive, elite infantry and vehicles (like Land Raiders, Terminators, etc.) would start being more useable again, since they would be so much less vulnerable to Grav weapons than they used to be (i.e. under my proposal, for example, it would take 6-7 BS4 Grav shots to kill a Terminator on average, whereas before it only took about 2-3 BS4 Grav shots to kill one). Finally, I think Grav weapons would still have an auxiliary role because of their Concussive rule, which enables them to debuff multi-wound models before charging into combat, and also because of their ability to help bring down FMCs, since they have a much increased chance of “Grounding” them.

Overall, this would not fix all the balance issues in 40K by any means, but I think it would go a long way toward bringing competitive lists back toward “center” and allowing more diverse units and weapons to be included in those competitive lists.

Black Tide and Blue Primarch: Black Templar and Roboute Guilliman

As I have previously mentioned, there are so many different methods for integrating Roboute Guilliman, especially given that he can be taken as a LOW by any Imperium faction, that I find myself continually exploring more possibilities with him.

As I have thought about it, one army that I think he would pair particularly well with is the Black Templars. Just reviewing, Black Templar arguably have some of the weaker Chapter Tactics for competitive play, with Crusader/Adamantium Will on all infantry, the ability to gain Rage and Counterattack for a turn if they suffer any casualties, and a restriction that prevents them from taking any Librarians.

To compensate somewhat for these “so-so” Chapter Tactics, Black Templar do get access to the unique Crusader squad as a Troops choice, which is basically a more flexible, more capable Tactical Squad in almost every respect (the only thing Tactical Squads get over Crusader squads is the Combat Squads special rule).

In place of this, Crusader squads can take an additional PW, PF, or Heavy Weapon in the squad, no matter the size, can have its squad members trade out Bolters for CCW for free, and can take 10 point Neophtyes (basically Scouts, but without Infiltrate/Scout/Move through Cover) equal in number to how many Initiates (i.e. “normal” Marines) are in the squad. Finally, the squad can take the normal Special Weapon option, can upgrade one member to a Sword Brother (i.e. Veteran Sergeant, with all the normal options), and can take either a Rhino, Razorback, Drop Pod, or Land Raider Crusader as a DT. Taking all this together, you have quite a versatile Troops choice that can be customized multiple different ways, including for close combat, MSU shooting, mechanized assault, or even giant “blob squad” foot squads of 20 men each (i.e. 10 Initiates, 10 Neophytes).

Now that we have gotten an overview of Crusader squads, I think Guilliman can integrate with them in two major ways:

[1] Close Combat Infantry Horde — If you choose to go for large Crusader squads on foot, the Guilliman can be in the center of the line and buff them in multiple ways, including giving them Ld10 (with re-rolls for Pinning/Fear/Morale checks), Move through Cover, +1″ to their Run and Charge moves, and re-rolls of 1s to Hit for both shooting and assault. With good positioning and Guilliman’s 12″ buffing radius, you can have multiple 20 man Crusader squads benefitting from all these buffs, which in turn makes them more mobile and more deadly in both shooting and close combat. In particular, the combination of Move through Cover, +1″ to Run distances, and Crusader means that even footslogging infantry can get across the board quickly. Combined with the cheap Neophytes and Black Templar forces can potentially replicate Orky “horde” tactics with masses of Zealous Astartes (i.e. the infamous “Black Tide” tactics of 4th edition). As an added benefit, Guilliman can serve as a “fire magnet” for enemy heavy weapons to draw attention away from Crusader squads, further enhancing their ability to get across the tabletop and safely into close combat (or, if they shoot at the Crusader squads, then Guilliman is left unharmed and can wreck havoc in close combat himself, so either way it is a losing proposition for your opponent).

[2] Mechanized MSU Force — With the ability to take a Special Weapon and a Heavy Weapon in a minimum 5 man unit, Crusader squads are an excellent choice for loading up in Rhinos and using them as mobile bunkers, with their two firing points, to put down lots of protected firepower each turn. Guilliman can serve as the “anchor” for just such a mechanized force, both buffing the shooting of all friendly squads/vehicles within 12″ and providing a devastating counter-assault element if enemy forces come too close themselves. This can make for a very strong “mid-field presence” force that can shoot, assault, and (importantly) take lots of Objective while still keeping pressure on the opponent’s army. This also works quite well with lots of Dreadnought support, since Guilliman can buff them in the same way he would enhance the “black tide” style army mentioned above and also provide highly effective close combat capabilities alongside them (i.e. massed S10 AP2 attacks at full initiative from both the Dreadnoughts and the Primarch). Finally, if you decide to go with massed Land Raider Crusaders for your Crusader squads, then you can force your opponent to choose between engaging them (and thus ignoring Guilliman as he footslogs across the battlefield) or ignoring the Land Raiders and trying to deal with Guilliman (and thus leaving himself open to massed assault by the Crusader squads riding inside)… either way, it poses a significant dilemma that can be used to your tactical advantage as a Black Templar player.

Besides making different styles of Crusader squad based armies more effective, Guilliman can also enhance the “supporting elements” in a Black Templar army, especially fire support elements like Predators, Devastators, TFCs, etc. One unit in particular that I think benefits from Guilliman being in the army is the Stormhawk Interceptor, especially when taken in mass (you can take three of these in a CAD and up to six of them if you run the Castellans of the Imperium special detachment). With BS4, re-rolls to Hit of 1s (when within 12″ of the Primarch), and the ability to put out 2 Lascannon shots, 4 Assault Cannon shots, and 2 Krak or Frag missiles a turn (with the option to shoot at enemy flyers/FMCs at full BS) from a single airframe, these Astartes flyers can be exceptional fire support platforms for a Crusader squad heavy Black Templar force, further reinforcing the value that Guilliman brings to such an army.

Based on all this, I think Guilliman really can be a tremendous asset in a Black Templar army and maximize their value of their unique units, while also mitigating their somewhat mediocre Chapter Tactics.

Roboute Guilliman: Building a Bodyguard for the Primarch (Part II)

One of the big topics among 40K players right now seems to be how to use the newly returned Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, effectively on the tabletop. More specifically, most of these discussions seem to center around how to keep him alive efficiently, since he is a Monstrous Creature and thus cannot join units, ride in transports, or even embark inside fortifications.

While the Victrix Guard formation exists and has special rules that allows Guilliman to use Look out Sir! with its members, it is an inherently expensive formation and perhaps not the most efficient way to keep him alive against powerful enemy shooting, especially the ever-prevalent Graviton weapons in the current meta.

As I have thought about, I think one of the best body guard “battle groups” for Guilliman might look something like this:

-Roboute Guilliman

-3-5 Bullgryns (with Carapace Armor and Slabshields)

-Sevrin Loth (selecting the Telepathy, Invisibility, Terrify, and Psychic Shriek powers)

The way this works is pretty simple: the Bullgryn squad (with Loth attached) “bubble wrap” Guilliman to obscure him from enemy shooting from all different directions. Because of their special Slabshields, they provide him with 4+ cover save, instead of the normal 5+ cover save provided by intervening models. Loth then casts The Shrouding, granting the Bullgryns a 3+ armor save/5+ cover save in the open and giving Guilliman a 2+ cover save (i.e. Bullgryn cover + Shrouded), which is a significant step up from his normal 3++ save against AP2/1 shooting attacks (like Grav and Plasma Weapons).

By itself, this would be a solid improvement in the Primarch’ survivability, but Loth has one more trick up his sleeve… Invisibility. If he can successfully cast this on Guilliman as well, then all enemy shooting is hitting on 6+, which drastically improves his durability, especially if successfully combined with a 2+ cover save from The Shrouding, as described above. With both of these powers successfully cast and the Bullgryns screening, it takes an average of 54 x BS4 Grav Cannon/Amp shots to cause a SINGLE unsaved wound on Guilliman (so 324 Grav Cannon/Amp shots to kill him outright).

An added benefit of this battle group is that the Bullgryns/Loth are a solid “anvil” unit in their own right and, aside from combining to give Guilliman enhanced protection, they can easily tie up (or even defeat) enemy “chaff” units, thus freeing the UM Primarch to use his assault abilities against the more important enemy forces, where his mass S10 AP2/S: D attacks can really make the biggest impact (Note: Loth can use his 2++ to tank low AP attacks for the Bullgryns and the Bullgryns can use their 3W per model and T5 to absorb high volume attacks away from Loth).

Now, there are some drawbacks to this battle group: first, while not as crazy as the Victrix Guard, it is still pretty points intensive for a normal 1750-2000 point game and also requires at least two CADs/Allied Detachments (i.e. one Astra Militarum for the Bullgryns, one Red Scorpion one for Sevrin Loth, with Guilliman taking up a LOW slot for either one of them). Additionally, it does require successfully casting two WC2 powers a turn to work at maximum efficiency, which is pretty hard to do reliably (even with a PML(3) caster like Loth). Finally, everyone (including Guilliman) is still on foot and so can only move up 6″ + D6″ run each turn, which means agile opponents can still avoid getting charged by these units (even if they have a very difficult time hurting them, especially Guilliman).

On the other hand, if these units do get into combat, they will wreck house, especially with the close combat prowess and buffs that the UM Primarch brings to the table, Perhaps equally important, this battle group has the capacity to absorb TONS of firepower away from the rest of your army, which in turn can allow them to maneuver, shoot, charge, seize objectives, cast powers, etc. etc. with relative impunity… I think a mechanized Astra Militarum force or an elite infantry heavy Red Scorpion army in particular could do really well with this kind of support, especially since the types of weapons they are vulnerable to are exactly the weapons your opponent will have to divert to trying to kill Guilliman.

Overall, this is battle group is definitely not an “auto-win” choice, but if you are planning to field Guilliman anyway and have a strategy built around keeping him alive and getting him into close combat, then I think it can be an effective addition to your Imperium of Man task force.


Castellans of the Imperium: Fielding a Competitive “Task Force”

So, I have been wracking my brains for a while to try and come up with a competitive, effective combination of units from the recent Castellans of the Imperium detachment to try out. In many ways, this detachment is kind of an embarrassment of riches, with so many options that it is hard to find a place to actually start. The ability to take 0-6 of the Elites/Fast Attack/Heavy Support from so many different factions, plus 4+ Troops, 2-4 HQs, and 0-3 Lords of War, provides a TON of different options. Finally, on top of all this, EVERYONE (even vehicles, like Dreadnoughts and Sentinels) get Hatred and your Troop units (again, according to my reading of the rules, this includes Dedicated Transport vehicles of Troops choices) get to “resurrect” on a 5+ and come back into the game on the next turn, which is pretty amazing!

After mulling over this a while, I decided that at the core of my “Castellans Task Force” would be three units:

[1] – Coteaz — A no brainer choice here, he provides so much value with  his re-rolls to Seize the Initiative, multi-use-per-turn “Interceptor” rule, and, of course, the ability to grant all non-vehicle models in his detachment Objective Secured (which is HUGE for this army). All of this plus a 2+ save, S6 AP2 Force weapon, and PML(2) for only 20 MBs is incredible value!

[2] — 5 woman Battle Sisters squads (with dual Meltas and MM Immolator DT) — This unit provides several benefits tot he army: first, it provides very solid anti-tank/anti-MC shooting with its multiple BS4 meltas and the TLed MMs on the Immolators; second, it gives you 8 small units that can “resurrect” on a 5+ if they are destroyed, which can be very important late game for taking back objectives (remember, because of Coteaz, the Sisters themselves are Objective Secured). Finally, it meets the minimum 4 Troop requirement without breaking the bank, leaving plenty of points for the rest of your army (four squads like this comes in at 560 points, which leaves you 1440 points left over in a 2000 point game, which is what I normally play).

[3] — 3 man White Scar Scout Biker squads (with Locator Beacon and Sgt with MB) — These squads provide so many functions, it is hard to capture them all. First, they can Infiltrate and Scout (or Outflank, if you need them to), getting them right where you want them before Turn 1 even begins. Second, they are Objective Secured (thanks again, Coteaz!), so they can use their 12″ move and 12″ Turbo-boost all game long to grab key objectives easily. Third, they have Skilled Rider (so 3++ Jink save and ignoring all Difficult/Dangerous Terrain tests) and Hit and Run (so jumping out of combat when needed. Fourth, with the MB and Hatred, they can be quite a sneaky good little Tank Hunter unit. Finally, with their Locator Beacon they can bring in ANY Deep Striking element (including Jump Pack units, Drop Pods, Gates of Infinity units, etc.) with no scatter, which can make a tremendous difference in the overall game (more on this later).

Alright, if I tally up the Army List so far, with 4 x Battle Sisters squads, 2 x White Scar Scout Biker squads, and Coteaz that is a total of 800 points, leaving us with 1200 left to play with. Now, we need at least one more HQ to meet the minimum Castellans of the Imperium requirements. We also need so hard-hitting ranged firepower against both hordes and heavy infantry/MCs, and I would like to work in a solid close combat element as well. Finally, to truly be a balanced TAC list, we need some form of anti-Flyer/Anti-FMC as well.

Looking at all this, I think another very potent (and perhaps under-appreciated) unit is the Wyvern Battery. For only 13 MBs, you get an artillery tank with AV12/10/10 that puts out 4 x TLed S4 AP6 Ignore Cover, Shred, Barrage, Small Blast shots a turn at 48″. This is obviously exceptionally against any kind of light infantry and can even force lots of wounds on MEQs if required (because it Ignore Cover, the Wyvern can be a great insurance policy against units that rely on strong cover saves, like Ravenwing Bikers, as well). Normally, a battery of  Wyverns takes up one of the three valuable Heavy Support slots, but in this case you have 0-6 Heavy Support choices, so you can take multiple “solo” Wyverns and still have plenty of Heavy Support choices remaining. Let’s take three Wyverns (each in a single vehicle battery), which costs a total of 195 points, leaving us with 1005 points left for the army.

Next, we need something to deal with those omni-present Wraithlords, Stormsurges, Dreadknights, Daemon Princes, etc. Of course, the best answer is Grav Cannons, especially Relentless ones coming off a Drop Pod. A squad of Devastators with 4 Grav Cannons (who happen to be Objective Secured… thanks a third time, Coteaz!) riding in a Drop Pod ought to fit quite nicely here. The problem, of course, is that they are not Relentless, and would normally only get 12 Grav shots at 12″ when they came in… enter the Terminator Captain in Cataphractii Armor (who is our second mandatory HQ choice, by the way).

In addition to being a tremendous “tank” character with his 2+/4++ (and re-rolls of failed Invul saves of 1), he has Slow and Purposeful, which conveys to the entire squad he is attached to. This means they cannot Overwatch, Run, or conduct Sweeping Advances, but is ALSO means they shoot at full capacity with Heavy/Salvo weapons (like Relentless) after moving, which is obviously very good with Grav Cannon Devastators. So, take a 5 man Devastator Squad with 4 Grav Cannons and a Drop Pod (take the Isstvaan V Dropsite Massacre legacy of glory for no scatter Deep Strike), then attach the Cataphractii Captain (and give him a Relic Blade and the Hunter’s Eye Relic, for Ignore Cover goodness) and you have a unit that can drop in Turn 1 and unleash 20 Grav Cannon/Amp shots with Ignore Cover for a total of 420 points (this unit should statistically kill a Wraithknight in a single volley)… this leaves us with 595 points left to use, and still a need form some anti-Flyer and close combat capability in the unit.

In terms of Anti-Flyer, I think pound-for-pound the Stormhawk Interceptor is one of the best “all-rounders” in the game (assuming we are NOT using Death from the Skies supplement, as per the current ITC FAQ). For only 29 MBs, you get a Flyer with Av12/11/11 (so cannot be hurt by lucky Bolter shots, unlike the Stormtalon) and 2HPs that puts out 2 x S9 AP2 shots at 24″, 4 x TLed S6 AP4 Rending shots at 24″, and 2 x Krak or Frag Missiles at 48″ a turn. Taking one of these and you have some very solid anti-Flyer, anti-tank, anti-MC, and anti-horde ability all rolled into a pretty survivable platform, thanks to ground units only being able to Snapfire when shooting at them, so a very versatile option here. This leaves us with 450 points left to spend.

Finally, we need some close combat punch… while there are lots of options in the Castellans of the Imperium detachment, I think this is where we reach out to an allied formation, namely the Shadowstrike Kill Team formation from Angels of Death. You must include 2-4 Scouts and 1-3 Vanguard Veterans (must take Jump Pack upgrades), but in turn get the option to choose (rather than roll for) when your Vanguard come in from Reserve and also the ability to charge on the same turn they arrive by Deep Strike (if within 9″ of two Scout squads from this formation, they do no scatter).

So, based on that, I would take two squads of White Scar Sniper Scouts (for holding backfield Objectives and providing a bodyguard to Coteaz), which costs us 24 MBs, leaving 330 points. With those remaining points, I would then take a pair of White Scar Vanguard squads with, each with 5 models, two Storm Shields, a Power Maul, and two Power Fists, which is exactly 330 points on the nose. Being able to automatically charge out of Reserve on turn 2 (and use the Scout Biker Locator Beacons to prevent scattering) makes for a very solid melee counter-punch and gives lots of flexibility against a variety of armies (and Hit and Run gives them the ability to get out of combat and charge again, as required).

Taking all this together, you have the following for a 2000 point army:




*Cataphractii Terminator Captain


*5 model Battle Sisters with dual meltas and Immolator DT

*5 model Battle Sisters with dual meltas and Immolator DT

*5 model Battle Sisters with dual meltas and Immolator DT

*5 model Battle Sisters with dual meltas and Immolator DT


*3 model Scout Bikers with Locator Beacon and MB

*3 model Scout Bikers with Locator Beacon and MB

*Stormhawk Interceptor with CML upgrade


*5 model Devastators with 4 Grav Cannons, Drop Pod (with Isstvaan V Dropsite Massacre legacy of glory upgrade)





*5 model Scout squad with Sniper Rifles

*5 model Scout squad with Sniper Rifles

*5 model Vanguard squad with JPs, 2 PFs, 2 Storm Shields, and a Power Maul

*5 model Vanguard squad with JPs, 2 PFs, 2 Storm Shields, and a Power Maul

Overall, I think this gives us a very versatile army that has answers for hordes, Flyers/FMCs, heavy infantry, vehicles, and Monstrous Creatures/GMCs, plus has solid assault abilities and lots of units for taking Objectives. Not a perfect list by any means, but a very flexible one that can genuinely take on almost any opponent with a fair chance of success, I believe.