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.

 

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:

CASTELLANS OF THE IMPERIUM

—HQ—

*Coteaz

*Cataphractii Terminator Captain

—TROOPS—

*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

—FAST ATTACK—

*3 model Scout Bikers with Locator Beacon and MB

*3 model Scout Bikers with Locator Beacon and MB

*Stormhawk Interceptor with CML upgrade

—HEAVY SUPPORT—

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

*Wyvern

*Wyvern

*Wyvern

SHADOWSTRIKE KILL TEAM

*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.

Triumvirate of the Primarch: New Ultramarine Relics

I have been hoping for Ultramarine Relics for a long time and now we have them, which is great! Looking at them, they all seem solid, not ridiculously good (like Hunter’s Eye or Grimoire of True Names) or really bad either:

[1] Tarentian Cloak (7 MBs) — Gives Bearer Eternal Warrior and IWND — A very solid Relic, especially when combined with a heavy hitting character that can already take a Stormshield…. an UM Biker Chapter Master with this Relic attached to a Biker Command Squad (with Apothecary, of course) is approaching Iron Hands Chapter Master levels of survivability. I think this also a great upgrade for a character that has an Iron Halo or Rosarious already, since it allows them to be immune to Instant Death while still keeping both hands free for close combat weapons (and so the extra +1A in combat).

[2] Helm of Censure (6 MBs) — Gives Bearer Preferred Enemy, plus re-rolls for ALL to Hits and to Wounds when he attacks Chaos Space Marine models — I have seen that people are “poo-pooing” this Relic a bit, mainly because Ultramarines already gets lots of access to re-rolls to Hit via their Chapter Tactics. I have to disagree with them here, for a couple of reasons: first, as long as the Bearer is alive, the re-rolls from this Relic never run out (even if your game goes 7 turns); second, this also gives re-rolls to Wound of 1, which can make quite a difference. especially when applied to high volume of firepower/attacks units; and third, unlike the Chapter Tactics, this Relic can be a tremendous boon to allied units that the Bearer attaches to. For all these reasons, and its very reasonable points cost, I think the Helm of Censure is one of the better Relics in this list.

[3] Sanctic Halo (3 MBs; Captain only) — Gives Bearer FNP and Adamantium Will — This is probably the best “value” Relic of the entire Ultramarine list, since it allows the Bearer to significantly improve his survivability at a very cheap cost (and, since it does not replace a weapon, no loss of shooting or close combat ability options either). Great on Biker Captains, Terminator Captains, JP Captains, you name it, since they all benefit from extra levels of durability.

[4] Soldier’s Blade (4 MBs) — S: User AP2 — A very simple, but useful, Relic, this sword is great to add a little extra “punch” to an Ultramarine IC without paying much more than he would for taking a normal power weapon. Give this to a Chaplain and then he can choose between using AP2 at full Initiative or his S:+2 AP4 Maul, also at full Initiative, all while not losing any attacks in the Assault phase (since he is still rocking two CCWs).

[5] Vengeance of Ultramar (4 MBs) — 24″ S: 1 AP5 Assault 4, Poison(2+) — Continuing the theme of cheap but useful items, I think this is another solid “value” Relic that is worth taking on a character that has a few extra points left over with… imagine taking this on, say, a Librarian attached to a Drop Pod squad of Sternguard… this gives you even more Poisoned shots into the mix to support that squad, while the Librarian also buffs it with Prescience and/or uses Psychic Shriek on the enemy target.

[6] Standard of Macragge Inviolate (12 MBs; Honor Guard or Command Squad only) — Friendly UM units within 12″ add +1 to their Ld and all models in the Bearer’s unit (including the Bearer) gain +1A. Additionally, any UM infantry models slain within 6″ get to roll a D6 and, on a roll of 5+, get to make an out of sequence shooting attack (if in the Movement, Shooting, or Psychic phases) or an out of sequence pile in/attack at normal initiative (if in the Assault phase) before being removed as a casualty — A bit of a complex item here, and an expensive one, but the bonus to attacks (for the squad) and to Ld (for units around the banner) are quite solid. The ability to shoot or attack before dying is a bit unusual, and since it only occurs on a 5+, a bit unreliable as well, so I am not sure it is worth the high points cost. I feel it can be useful in certain circumstances and effective with an infantry “gun-line” style army, since you can maximize the shooting even “after death,” but overall I think this is one of the lower value Relics available in this supplement.

Triumvirate of the Primarch: Tactical Analysis of the Victrix Guard Formation

It appears that we now have the details for the “Victrix Guard” formation, which is an Ultramarine only choice that can be chosen as an Auxiliary for the new Victrix Strike Force (UM Decurion equivalent) or taken as a “stand-alone” formation.

The Victrix Guard consists of:

-Captain Cato Sicarius

-1 x Honor Guard

4 x Sternguard/Vanguard Veterans (any combination)

***Important Note: None of these units can take Dedicated Transports or start the game in a transport, which has important implications that I will discuss below.

 

In terms of special rules, they get two quite good ones:

[1] All units in this formation gain +1WS/BS for free

[2] Guilliman can use Look Out Sir! with any units from this formation, despite being a Monstrous Creature, as long as they are within 3″ of him.

 

So, how does all this stack up, and how can it be applied to competitive play? Well, just out the gate, WS5/BS5 on Honor Guard, Sternguard, and Vanguard take them all up a notch (Sicarius gets WS7 and BS6 as well, but this is not really that big a buff for him over what he already has), from “very good” to the “outstanding,” in my opinion, especially when combined with the different Doctrines Ultramarines get access to. Weighed against this, of course, is the very big negative that they cannot take Dedicated Transports (so they have to hitchhike on Fast Attack Rhinos or Heavy Support Land Raiders from an allied UM CAD) and they cannot start the game in a transport (so no Drop Pod riding at all, and basically no chance of riding in a Stormraven, unless it starts on a Skyshield Landing Pad and they hop in after the game begins). Finally, on initial impressions it appears that Captain Sicarius is a 37 MB “tax” to use this formation, since while he has good abilities, he is not widely considered a competitive choice for an Ultramarine army like Tigurius or Calgar is.

After digesting these pros and cons of the Victrix Guard, my first take was this it was probably not worth taking, despite the great buffs to WS/BS, because of what a disadvantage it is to not be able to take transports (i.e. Sternguard especially depend on Drop Pods or Rhinos to be used competitively). However, as I have thought more about it, I began to see some ways that you might be able to use this formation and still field a half-way competitive army.

Here are some ideas I came up with, in that vein:


[1] Footslogging Guilliman Bodyguard — This may be the most obvious option, and the one GW intended us to use given the very specific special rules for LoS! they included in the formation. Take 4 squads of Vanguard Vets (3 with Jump Packs and a mixture of close combat weapons to taste, one foot-slogging with maxed out Storm Shields), plus the mandatory Honor Guard and Sicarius. The three Jump Pack Vanguard squads operate independently, either coming in from DS Reserve (Sicarius’ +1 to Reserve Rolls helps here) or advancing up the board rapidly on turn 1 to get into assault as soon as possible with their WS5 attacks (with re-rolls to Hit of 1, thanks to Assault and Tactical doctrines which, with Guilliman on the board, you should be able to activate a total of four turns a game). Meanwhile, Guilliman footslogs up the middle with the Stormshield Vanguard, Honor Guard, and Sicarius nearby…. if you gets lots of enemy attacks the Guilliman can tank easily (thanks to his T6, EW, 2+/3++, FNP, and 6W), then he just shrugs them off and the whole battle group advances as fast as they can come to grips with the enemy.

If, on the other hand, he gets hit with lots of firepower that can kill him efficiently (Grav, D-Weapons, massed poison, etc.), then use the Look out Sir! to pass those wounds off on a 4+ to either the Stormshield Vanguard (for the AP2/1 attacks, like Centurion Grav Cannons) or to the Honor Guard/Sicarius (for the massed AP3 and worse attacks like Scatter Laser Jetbikes, DE Splinter Weapons, massed Tau Missile Pods or Smart Missile Systems, etc.)…. remember, the way Look Out Sir! works is that the to Hit and to Wound rolls go against Guilliman FIRST, then he can decide to try and Look Out Sir! before saving throws are made… this is important because it means that all the attacks must successfully wound against his T6 FIRST, and then the nearby Vanguard/Honor Guard can still attempt to absorb the attack with their 3++ and 2+ saves, respectively (i.e. put another way, you get the advantages of Guilliman’s high T6, but still get to use their saves and wounds, so kind of the best of both worlds). The entire point of this strategy is to keep Guilliman alive as long as possible so that he can keep buffing the rest of your army and also get into combat himself, where he will pretty much wreck havoc on anything opposing him. In doing this, the Jump Pack Vanguard can serve as a type of “holding force” to tie up key enemy units in combat long enough for Guilliman (and his bodyguards, who are solid in close combat themselves) to run up and charge the unit himself.

With this strategy, with whatever points you have left over, I think it would be wise to build as much of a backfield gun-line as you can (i.e. Sicaran Predators, TFC and Quad Mortar batteries, Devastators, Land Speeders with TMLs, Whirlwinds, allied artillery, etc.), both to support you advancing melee elements and to take full advantage of the attention that your opponent will likely pay to the melee units vice the shooting units. If you do manage to get Guilliman safely into enemy lines, especially against a shooty army like Tau or Astra Militarum, then his exceptional melee abilities might very well turn the tide of the game in your favor.

 

[2] Gun-line Sternguard — Another way to run this formation does not depend on Guilliman (or the Look Out Sir!) abilities at all. Instead, you take:

-A fortification like an Aegis Line, Bastion, Firestorm Redoubt, etc.

-Four minimum sized Sternguard squads

-Mandatory Sicarius/Honor Guard.

The Sternguard each take two Heavy Weapons like Lascannons, Missile Launchers, or Grav Cannons, and operate basically like expensive, elite Devastators. Place them in the fortifications for improved survivability and then use their BS5 (with re-rolls to Hit of 1 from Tactical and Devastator doctrines) to have a 97% chance to hit with their Heavy Weapons and Special Issue Ammunition bolters (Note: Even if you use up the Doctrines, if you take the Ammunition Dump upgrade to the building, then they can re-roll 1s to Hit all game long).

As for the Vanguard and Sicarius, they form the “counter-assault” element for this Gun-line, waiting behind protection until enemy units try and get close to dislodge the Sternguard and/or seize objectives, then storm forward and tear them up with their 2+ saves and massed PW attacks. Sicarius also uses his various buffs (i.e. +1 to Reserve rolls, Ld10 to the entire army if he is the Warlord, Infilitrate/Scout/ Tank Hunters/Counterattack to a single Tactical squad, etc.) to assist your army while perhaps manning a Quad Gun (with BS6) for anti-flyer/skimmer firepower for insurance on that front as well. Combine all this with some additional shooting, say from Astra Militarum or Cult Mechanicus allies, and I think you have the making of a solid army.

 

[3] Issodon Infiltration/Mechanized Force — This may be my favorite, and the one most likely to be competitive in a tournament scenario. First, take the following:

-Lias Issodon (Warlord) along with a Raptors CAD (including at least one Spartan Assault Tank and one Grav Centurion squad, plus a pair of melee Scouts in Land Speeder Storms for the mandatory Troops slot)

-2 x Sternguard squads with good mixture of Combi/Heavy weapons

-2 x Vanguard squads with Jump Packs and good mix of Special Melee Weapons/Storm Shields

-Sicarius and Honor Guard (with Banner of the Emperor Ascendant)

Now, use Issodon’s Warlord trait to infiltrate the two Sternguard Squads, the Grav Centurions, and himself into position before the game begins (Lias goes with the Centurions to give them Shrouded and at least a modicum of close combat ability). Turn 1, the Honor Guard/Sicarius load into the Spartan and then Move/Flat Out 18″ forward while the Jump Pack Vanguard move up behind the Spartan, using it for cover/LOS blocking.

Provided you don’t get Seized on and have first turn, you can unleash two Sternguard squads worth of BS5 (again re-rolling 1s to Hit, thanks to Doctrines) firepower, plus a full squad of Centurion Grav Cannon shooting, on your opponent for a devastating “alpha strike” (without having to depend on Drop Pods, which is a big deal against Interceptor heavy Tau forces, for example). Additionally, you have multiple elite melee units in position for a Turn 2-3 charge, where they can put their superior weaponry and WS5 to excellent use, all the while being supported by the firepower from Spartan and the Raptor Scouts/LS Storms using their mobility to grab key Objectives. If you do not have First Turn, or for some reason do not think it makes tactical send to Infilitrate, then you can have the Sternguard, Grav Centurions, and Issodon Outflank instead (remember, as long as Sicarius is alive/on the battlefield and Issodon is simply alive, you get a re-rollable 2+ for any Reserve rolls, plus your opponent gets -1 to his Reserve rolls). Finally, if you want to start the Vanguard Vets in Deep Strike Reserve, not only can you get them in on Turn 2 with 97% reliability, thanks to the Reserve modifiers mentioned above, but they can use Issodon’s Locator Beacon to DS in with no scatter, making their arrival that much more reliable and accurate.


 

Overall, while I think the Victrix Guard has some very real (and constraining) limitations, it also has some very great possibilities, as mentioned above. and I think it should be an exciting formation to experiment with and, hopefully, play with at a competitive level.

 

 

 

Triumvirate of the Primarch: Guilliman as a Force Multiplier

So, after sleeping on it a bit and thinking about it, here are some ideas I have on how to best employ Guilliman with other Imperium forces (especially regarding how his 6 Command Trait WLs can buff units within 12″):

[1] Mass Contemptor Dreads — Since Guilliman provides re-rolls of 1s to Hit for BOTH shooting and close combat, I figured the most efficient units to buff with him are ones that can do well in both of these phases. Thinking of this, Contemptor Dreadnoughts jumped out at me as a unit that might do very well in conjunction with the UM Primarch, since they really are a balanced unit that has about the same mobility as him (6″ movement and Fleet) and solid abilities in both Shooting and Assault. Not only doe they come with WS5/BS5 stock, but they have 5 x S10 AP2 attacks on the charge, all at full I4, and they can be upgraded to have 6 x S6 AP4 Rending shots a turn each. Combined with re-rolls of 1s to Hit and they become hyper accurate (97% chance of hitting) for shooting and, against most opponents, very likely to hit in close combat (3+s to hit, re-rolling 1s). Add to all this their Av13/12/10 armor and 5++ Invul save and they make for a tough target which will force your opponent to choose between engaging them or concentrating on Guilliman (this becomes even better with target saturation, if you have say 4 or more Contemptors running alongside the Primarch). Finally, with Guilliman providing them Move Through Cover and +1″ to Run/Charge distances, they become even more agile and should be able to get across the battlefield quicker than your opponent might expect. The one downside to Contemptors is their high points cost (37 MBs a piece, with the Kheres Assault Cannon), but if want to take a cheaper version of this, just run Venerable Dreads with Assault Cannons instead… not quite as durable or capable, but only costing 27 MBs per model to mass alongside Guilliman.

 

[2] Dark Angel Ravenwing Support Squadron — I have already talked about this in previous posts, but this is basically a squadron of RW Landspeeders and either a Darkshroud or a Landspeeder Vengeance combined into a single unit. The squadron then gets some very good special rules, including Interceptor and Strafing Run (so BS5 against basically any non Flyer/FMC targets). Combined this with re-rolls to Hit of 1s from a nearby Guilliman and either lots of Bolters, MMs, Assault Cannons, and/or CMLs and the squadron has a 97% chance of hitting with its shooting at ground targets that can be deployed against either enemy units arriving from Reserve or just normally as fire support for your main army.

 

[3] Skitarii and Secutarii Infantry — Whether it is Vanguard, Rangers, Infiltrators, or even the Forgeworld Peltasts, all of these units can use Doctrina Imperatives to boost their Ballistic Skill to BS5 or higher for at least turns a game. Combined with Guilliman and they, just like the units above, become hyper-accurate and can do even more damage than usual with their already strong shooting (this is especially great with Plasma Cavaliers, since they can re-roll Gets Hot! rolls of 1 and with Arc Rifles, making them almost auto-strip HPs from any vehicle in range, be it tanks, walkers, skimmers, Super-Heavies, or Imperial Knights. Secutarii Peltasts in particular, with their multiple ammunition types, can be very deadly when bumped up to BS5 and re-rolling 1s to hit, whether shooting at Hordes with their Flechette Burster rounds or tougher infantry/vehicles with their Kinetic Hammershot ammo. Finally, if any of these Skitarii/Secutarii troops do end up charging after shooting (thinking of Infiltrators here, especially), then Guilliman’s buffs to Hit, to Charge range, and for Move Through Cover all help them significantly.

I am sure there are many other types of units/battle groups that will synergize well with Roboute Guilliman, but these are just a few that jump out to me right away… overall, I am quite excited to see how he will play out on the competitive tabletop (and we haven’t even looked at how he buffs Ultramarines yet!).