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!).

Triumvirate of the Primarch: Grand Master Voldus and Blood Angel Friends

Continuing to look at the Triumvirate of the Primarch as more rules are leaked, next we have Grand Master Voldus of the Grey Knights. Based on what we have heard so far, he as the “standard” Grey Knight Grand Master stats/wargear/rules as follows:

 

WS6 BS5 S4 T4 W3 I5 A4 Ld10 Sv 2+/4++

WARGEAR:

-TDA/Frag Grenades/Krak Grenades/Iron Halo/Storm Bolter

SPECIAL RULES:

-The Aegis/Preferred Enemy (Daemons)/Purity of Spirit

 

On top of these “baseline” abilities, Voldus is PML(3) (he can generate from any disciplines available to the Grey Knights, including Technomancy, Geokinesis, Fulmination, and Librarius powers) and has the “Lore Master of Titan” Warlord Trait (so he can generate an additional Sanctic power above his three normal powers). Looking at him another way, he is basically a hybrid of a the stats of a Grand Master and the Psychic abilities of a maxed out Librarian.

Additionally, and this is important, his Relic is the “Malleus Argyrum,” which is a normal Nemesis Daemon Hammer in every way except for one thing… it strikes at full initiative! So, without any buffs, he as a S8 AP2 Force Weapon that strikes at WS6 and I5… with Hammerhand added in, then it can easily go up to S10 AP2, making it dangerous against anything in the game, including GMCs, Super-Heavies, and extreme combat characters like the infamous Iron Hands Biker Chapter Master of Doom!

 

To really maximize Voldus’ abilities, this is how I am considering running him:

-Voldus (focuses on getting Electrodisplacement from the Fulmination discipline or Might of Heroes from the Librarius discipline)

-Allied TDA Blood Angel Librarian with PML(2) (takes The Quickening power, which is a Primaris power, so they are guaranteed)

-Allied TDA Blood Angel Chaplain

-GK Paladins with Brotherhood Banner and Apothecary

The entire group combines together, either in a transport (like a Spartan Assault Tank, Land Raider Crusader, etc.) or using Electrodisplacment, to get into assault with key enemy units. In a best case scenario, with Force, Might of Heroes, and The Quickening all activated, that gives Voldus 9-11 x S10 AP2 Instant Death attacks on the charge, all at WS6 (with re-rolls to Hit, thank to Zealot) and I8-10 (thanks to The Quickening and Might of Heroes).

Against a Wraithknight, he strike first and gets an average of 10 attacks, 8-9 hits, 7-8 wounds (and no armor saves or FNP, thanks to AP2 and Instant Death)… add in the fact that each Unsaved Wound causes D3 wounds, because of Force being activated, and you are almost guaranteed to kill the Wraithknight before it strikes.

Similarly, against a Stormsurge, Voldus would get an average of 10 attacks, 8-9 hits, 7-8 wounds, and 3-4 Unsaved Wounds after 4++ Invul saves (again, no FNP because of Instant Death)… with some luck in getting 2s and 3s on the D3 wounds inflicted for each Unsaved Wound and you can kill the Stormsurge before it ever gets a chance to hit back or Stomp (the Paladins can strike in here with their weapons as well).

Even against Thunderwolf Cavalry and/or Wulfen, Voldus with get an average of 10 attacks, 8-9 hits, 7-6 wounds, and multiple dead TWC or Wulfen units before they can even strike back (it depends on how many Storm Shields the unit has to stop the S10 AP2 Instant Death attacks).

While this might be somewhat of a “gimmick” tactic, in the right circumstances this battle group, led by Voldus, will be able to deal with almost any enemy unit in close combat it encounters. If Voldus is able to roll up Electrodisplacement, then he also has a very solid chance of getting into combat Turn 1 and not even needing an Assault Transport to ride in (saving you tons of points in your army)… just Deep Strike in a GK unit turn 1 near the enemy target (the closer, the better), then use Electrodisplacement to “swap” places with Voldus and his battle group and follow it up with a (hopefully successful) Turn 1 charge. I think this tactic can be especially useful against Tau Riptide gun-lines, super mobile Eldar forces backed by Wraithknights, Centurion-stars, and pretty much anything else which can put out ridiculous firepower turn 1, since it can begin shutting that down right away with such potent close combat ability combined with an early game charge.

Triumvirate of the Primarch: Roboute Guilliman… Initial Thoughts

So, as the rumors are pouring in about Roboute Guilliman (the first member of the latest Triumvirate that we have solid rules on), it looks like he has the following profile:

 

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WS9 BS6 S6 T6 W6 I6 A6 Ld10 Sv 2+/3++ (Monstrous Creature, Character) — (70 MBs cost)

 

SPECIAL RULES:

-Adamantium Will

-Eternal Warrior

-Fearless

-FNP(5+)

-Fleet

-Preferred Enemy (Forces of Chaos)

-Precision Strikes/Shots

-Chapter Tactics (Ultramarines)

-Unyielding Will — His Leadership can never be impacted by negative modifiers

-Lord Commander of the Imperium — All friendly Imperium units in his army re-roll all failed Morale/Fear/Pinning checks.

-Primarch of the XIII Legion — Gives all Ultramarines in his army access to an additional use of Tactical, Assault, AND Devastator Doctrines

 

WARLORD TRAIT:

-Absolute Mastery — Has all six Command Traits (i.e. all friendly units within 12″ use his Ld, have Move Through Cover, gain +1″ to Run and Charge moves, re-roll 1s to Hit in both Shooting and Assault, and all enemy units within 12″ use their lowest Ld).

 

WARGEAR:

-Armor of Fate — Gives him 2+/3++ and each time he dies, on a roll of 4+, he comes back to life next turn with D3 wounds.

-Emperor’s Sword and Hand of Dominion — As a shooting weapon, gives, 24″ S6 AP2 Assault 3 Rending weapon and in close combat gives him a S10 AP1 Armourbane, Concussive, Soul Blaze weapon that strikes at full I6. Additionally, any rolls to Hit of 6 become Destroyer attacks (so great for killing ICs, vehicles, and other LOWs) and he can choose to swap all his normal attacks for a single “sweep” attack which automatically hits all enemy models within 1″ of him (so great for single-handedly clearing out hordes).


 

Looking at all this and considering that he only costs 70 MBs and a LOW slot, in many ways Guilliman is an exceptional bargain, especially considering all the buffs he gives out and how ridiculously hard he hits in close combat. He really can take all comers in the Assault Phase, with the ability to deal with everything from Greater Daemons and GMCs like Wraithknights to tar-pitting masses of Gaunts, Cultists, Ork Boyz, Hybrid Acolytes etc.

In terms of being a force multiplier to his army, with any Imperium faction (which is pretty much any army that you would play him with, since everyone else is Allies of Convenience, i.e. Eldar/Harlequins,  or worse, i.e all the other factions), then you can easily make hims the “flagship” of either a shooty gunline or the anchor of an advancing foot-slogging assault force (i.e. Black Templars, Skitarii, foot Sisters of Battle, etc.). Then your opponent is forced to make a decision.. try and kill Guilliman to “de-force multiple” (which will take a significant portion of his combat power to do), or try and kill the rest of the allied forces while Guilliman continues to buff them and move himself closer to getting into melee with your forces… either way, it is a tough choice and, given that the Ultramarine Primarch is such a bargain points cost for all his abilities, you can still have a substantial army around him.

Weighed against this are two major negatives: first, as a Monstrous Creature, there is not way for him to join squads, be joined, or use Look Out Sir! (we will see if future formations or 8th edition changes this, but for now this it how it stands), meaning that he is basically as tough as a Riptide with an extra wound, Stimulant Injectors, and Nova Reactor shielding activated… on other words, tough, but very kill-able, especially to massed Grav, Eldar D-Weapons, and/or Poison, which are all quite common in competitive games (especially Grav). While he does have EW and so cannot be “one-shotted” by Instant Death weapons like other MCs can be, if you opponent can concentrated fire it only takes an average of 40 x BS4 Grav Cannon/Amp shots to bring him down. That, or lucky D weapon shots, will be a difficult threat to deal with for any armies fielding Guilliman, especially if these weapons can Alpha Strike via Drop Pod, Deep Strike, etc.

The second major issue is that, as a non-Flying/Jump MC, he cannot get in vehicles and must foot-slog forward at 6″ a turn, which greatly limits his mobility (also durability, since he can’t use transports to protect him from enemy shooting) and makes it difficult to catch enemy forces in close combat and use his amazing abilities in that arena. If your plan is to just use him as an assault “smasher,” then I think you will have significant trouble getting the most out of him, since a savvy opponent will simply kite away, use sacrificial screening units, and/or shoot him down before he can actually come to grips with his target(s) in assault. Additionally, this creates a problem for trying to keep in “buffing range” for any fast moving armies (i.e. Bikers, Mechanized units, Deep Striking forces, etc.), since Guilliman can only move 6″ and run a maximum of 7″ additional each turn (having Fleet does help a little here, but of course he has to sacrifice shooting to use it and still hope his Run rolls are good).

So, considering all that, is Roboute Guilliman worth investing in for a competitive army? I think the answer is “Yes,” but you can’t just throw him blindly out there and expect to excel. First, you have to craft an army that maximizes his strengths and force-multiplying skills… obviously, Ultramarines automatically get the most of any faction in having him on the board, since they are guaranteed two Devastator, two Assault, and two Tactical doctrines usages per game. While I think many different builds can actually make good use of him, probably one of the strongest is an advancing “gunline” style army that puts out tons of firepower and slowly, relentlessly moves toward your opponent (kind of like an Imperium version of Necrons 😉 ). In this way, Guilliman can maximize the buffs he puts out, keep up with the army, and serve as a ridiculously powerful “counter-assault” element if your opponent tries to get in close to your forces (remember, with Fleet and +1″ to his Charge ranges, he has something like a 10″ average charge distance).

Secondly, I think you have to actively work to mitigate his weaknesses in mobility and his vulnerability to certain kinds of enemy shooting… here are some ideas that might help in this area:

[1] Void Shield Generator — If you are planning to have him sit back and buff/protect your fire base, then a Void Shield Generator can give him in essence 3 x AV12 “layers” that your enemy has to deal with before targeting Guilliman… this is especially key against Grav weapons and can really make the difference between him surviving as Alpha Strike by units with them or not.

[2] Heavy Cover and “The Shrouding” psychic power — While he naturally has a 2+/3++, even that 3++ fails a 33% of the time against AP2/1 weaponry (again, Grav is one of the biggest culprits here). By combining Heavy Cover (4++ cover save) and Shrouding you give him a 2++ cover save, which reduces wounds inflicted by AP2/1 weapons by 16% compared to his normal wargear… not enough to make him invincible, but enough to help him survive long enough so that you can eliminate the key threats to him before your opponent gets another Shooting Phase.

[3] “Earth Blood” and “Endurance” psychic powers — Earth Blood restores D3 wounds and gives him IWND, so if you are lucky you can bring back a maximum of 4 lost wounds in a single turn, which would go a long way to helping him survive the entire game. Endurance improves his FNP from a 5+ to a 4+, which isn’t major, but like the discussion with Shrouding above, it reduces overall damage to him by an average of 16%, which in a game of small margins, can be the difference between victory and disaster for Guilliman specifically and your army as a whole.

[4] “Electrodisplacement” psychic power —  Considered one of the most OP/imbalanced powers in the game right, nevertheless it can make a big difference for getting Guilliman into combat. Drop Pod a Librarian with this power next to a enemy target unit Turn 1, then cast the power to “switch” places between Guilliman and the Librarian, then charge that target enemy unit with Roboute in the Assault Phase of that same turn… if successful, you can have him tearing up enemy forces in close combat from right out the gate, not to mention the massive Psychological blow to your opponent when he finds his Stormsurge or Wraithknight or Hive Tyrant or Grav Centurions locked in combat with a Primarch before it ever even gets to move/shoot.

[5] “Magnetokinesis” psychic power — While Guilliman cannot charge after using this ability, if cast successfully it does allow him to move another 18″ without needing to run (so a net of 24″ in one turn), which makes him more than able to keep up with fast-moving allied units and also immediately puts the pressure on your opponent as you threaten a Turn 2 charge with a potent MC in his phase (NOTE: This tactic can work especially well, I think, if used in conjunction with multiple Shunting Dreadknights, putting a “threat overload” of deadly Imperial Monstrous Creatures in his face right away, making it difficult to choose what to deal with and really putting him on the horns of a dilemma).

[6] “Invisibility” psychic power — This is the gold standard of powers to enhance Guilliman, I think. If you can get it off successfully on him, then he is completely immune to any Blasts or Templates, which is what most D weapons are (unless they have a lucky scatter onto him) and even against massed Grav he becomes SO much more survivable. With Invisibility successfully cast, it takes an average of 27 Grav Cannon/Amp shots to cause a single Unsaved Wound to Guilliman (without Invisibility, it takes an average of 7 Grav Cannon/Amp shots to cause a single Unsaved Wound), so about 160 Grav shots to actually kill him. If you can get this off, then Guilliman is basically invulnerable and all you have to worry about is his mobility issues and maximizing his positioning to buff the rest of your army.

[7] Lias Issodon and Infiltration — If you are willing to give up the tremendous benefits of his powerful Warlord Traits (and they are pretty major), you can take Lias Issodon as your Warlord and use his Master of Ambush WL Trait to Infiltrate Guilliman 18″ away from enemy forces, which gives him a greatly enhanced chance of moving in and, by Turn 2, catching enemy units in close combat (i.e. move 6″ and then run an average of another 5″, putting him 7″ away from your opponent by the end of the turn). While there is a big trade-off with this tactic, it can be quite effective for maximizing his potent close combat skills.

Besides all that I have mentioned already, one additional thing to note is, given how powerful Guilliman is and what a threat he can be, another role he can play is that of “fire magnet” for the rest of your army by drawing away firepower that would otherwise be a real threat to the units around him. Outside of Grav, D Weapons, and exceptionally massed poison, he can really “tank” quite a lot of damage, as it takes the following to inflict a SINGLE unsaved wound on him:

[a] BS4 Bolter — 81 shots

[b] BS4 Scatter Laser — 27 shots

[c] BS3 TLed High Yield Missile Pod — 18 shots

[d] BS4 Plasma Gun — 10 shots

[e] BS4 Lascannon/Bright Lance/Dark Lance/Railgun– 8 shots

[f] BS4 Splinter Rifle/Cannon — 27 shots

All of this is for a single wound, so it takes 6 times this to kill him on average (and then he has a 50% chance of coming back to life), so played right you can really use him to effectively absorb combat power away from the rest of your army list.

Overall, I am pretty excited to see Guilliman get rules for 40K and will very interested to see how his performance holds up in competitive play… as I said at the beginning here, with savvy employment, I think he can be a great addition to any Imperium army, ESPECIALLY an Ultramarine one (I myself currently run a partial Ultramarine Army right now)!

Experimental Rules: Veteran Skills for Deathwatch Squads

Deathwatch is one of my favorite armies in terms of fluff and background and thematic elements (I really like the idea of Astartes “Special Forces” drawn from all different Chapters and equipped with the best equipment, but always fighting outnumbered and out-gunned), so ideas for how to make this codex both more fluffy and more competitive are always coming to mind for me.

One thought I had was to allow each Watch Sergeant in a Veteran squad (or Watch Captain as an IC) be able to “purchase” a Veteran skill that would apply to him and his unit and would reflect him teaching the squad methods of warfare that he is especially proficient in, based on what Chapter he originally came from. For simplicity’s sake, I thought it would be best to just make one skill per the original 9 Loyalist Chapters (after all, they are the primogenitors of all the subsequent chapters, so they could be used to represent Watch Sergeants from other Chapters as well) and to limit each “veteran skill” upgrade to one per army (i.e. so you could only have one Space Wolf background Watch Sergeant and one Blood Angels background Watch Sergeant, etc. etc. per army).

Here are my ideas for this:

[1] “Tactical Acumen” — Ultramarine Veteran Skill (15 points) — Once per game, starting at the beginning of the friendly Movement Phase, this model and all members of his squad with the Deathwatch faction may re-roll all to Hit rolls until the beginning of the next Friendly Turn.

[2] “Bane of Tanks” — Imperial Fists Veteran Skill (15 points) — This model gains Tank Hunter USR.

[3] “Advanced Bionics” — Iron Hands Veteran Skill (5 points) — This model gains FNP(5+).

[4] “Firestorm Tactics” — Salamander Veteran Skill (10 points) — This model and all members of his unit with the Deathwatch faction gain Shred for their Hand Flamers, Flamers, Heavy Flamers, and Heavy Flamer portions of their Infernus Heavy Bolters.

[5] “Cunning Combatant” — White Scars Veteran Skill (15 points) — This model gains Hit and Run USR.

[6] “Shadow Tactics” — Raven Guard Veteran Skill (5 points) — This model gains Shrouded USR for the first game turn, provided it did not start inside a vehicle.

[7] “Battle Wrath” — Space Wolf Veteran Skill (5 points) — This model and all Deathwatch faction models in his unit gain Counterattack USR.

[8] “Storm of Fury” — Blood Angel Veteran Skill (10 points) — This model and all Deathwatch faction models in his unit gain Furious Charge USR.

[9] “Unrelenting Fortitude” — Dark Angel Veteran Skill (5 points) — This model and all Deathwatch faction models in his unit can fire Overwatch at BS2.

As you can see, these skills basically mirror at least a portion of the “chapter tactics” of the original 9 Loyalist Chapters and, I think, would also be competitive choices customizing each DW Veteran squad a little further. The Watch Captain could add even more flexibility by taking one of these skills and attaching to a squad that has a different skill via its Watch Sergeant… so, for example, you could have a close combat focused squad that has both Furious Charge and Hit and Run or, alternately, you could have a squad with both Tank Hunters and the ability to re-roll all to Hits once per game.