Triumverate of the Imperium: Belisarus Cawl and the Astra Militarum

Belisarus Cawl  is one of the new HQs available via the Fall of Cadia and, at the cost of 40 MBs, he has the following profile:

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WS5, BS5, S5, T6, W5, I3, A3, Ld10, Sv 2+

WARGEAR:

-Arc Scourge: S+1, AP4, Melee, Haywire, Master-Crafted, Machine Scourge (can re-roll the result of the Haywire rule)

-Solar Atomiser: Range 12″, S10, AP1, Assault D3, Master-crafted, Melta

-MCed Power Axe

-Mechadendrite Hive:  When a model with a Mechadendrite Hive makes it attacks, it makes an additional 2d6 attacks with its Mechadendrites (S4, AP-, Melee), and a single attack with its Dataspike (S User, AP-, Melee, Haywire), at the initiative 10 step (this does not grant an additional Pile In Move).

-Scryerskull

-Refractor field

SPECIAL RULES

-Canticles of the Omnissiah

-Feel No Pain

-Independent Character

-Very Bulky

-Artificer Self-repair Mechanisms: At the start of each of your turns, Belisarius Cawl recovers D3 Wounds lost earlier in the battle

-WL Trait – Masterwork Bionics: Belisarius Cawl can re-roll failed FNP rolls.

-Canticles of the Archmagos (they can only be used if he is on the battlefield, in the same way as regular Canticles, except they also affect friendly Army of the Imperium vehicles within 12″ of Belisarius, even if they don’t have the Canticles of the Omnissiah rule):

Harmony of Metallurgy:

  • 1-3 Units: It Will Not Die
  • 4-7 Units: It Will Not Die.  Make two ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only 1
  • 8+ Units: It Will Not Die.  Make three ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only 1

Utterance of Neutralization:

  • 1-3 Units: +1 Ballistic Skill
  • 4-7 Units: +2 Ballistic Skill
  • 8+ Units: +3 Ballistic Skill

War Hymnal of Fortitude:

  • 1-3 Units: 6+ Invulnerable Save
  • 4-7 Units: 5+ Invulnerable Save
  • 8+ Units: 4+ Invulnerable Save

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So, you can see, Belisarius brings a lot to the fight, both personally and in terms of buffs and, even though he is pretty expensive points-wise, he can be taken as a HQ choice for ANY Imperium army CAD or Allied detachment. He also “unlocks” Relics that can be taken by Imperium HQ choices in the same army as him.

All this got me thinking about Astra Militarum and how he could work if we taken as an HQ for their faction. Right out the gate, he can serve as a powerful “anchor” unit for an AM gun-line, especially if you put him in a big blob squad and use his Ld10 and high survivability (5Ws at T6 with 2+/5++, re-rollable FNP, and the ability to “regenerate” D3 wounds a turn) to keep them in position and “tank” for the unit (he can also use certain Canticles, such as giving himself Stealth for a turn, to force-multiply the entire unit, especially if it is in some cover). If the unit is charged, he provides some very respectable close combat hitting power, both against hordes (Mechadendrite Hive), more elite troops (Power Axe), and vehicles (Arc Scourge).

On top of all this, he can use the Canticles of the Archmagos to make AM vehicles around him significantly better: imagine a squadron of three Vendettas that are bumped up to BS4 for a turn, or a squadron of Leman Russes that all have IWND for a turn, or even an artillery battery that has a 6++ for a turn. You can even use him to buff AM Lords of War, like Baneblade variants or Imperial Knights (imagine a BS5 Avenger Gatling Cannon on a Knight Warden, or a BS4 Vulcan Mega-Bolter on a Stormlord), making them more potent over the course of the game. Finally, he also comes with a Scryerskull (for uncovering Mysterious Objectives at a distance) and what is, in essence, a S10 meltagun with D3 shots a turn (at BS5, don’t forget, with the option to re-roll misses via Canticles once a game), so those give him some additional utility.

In terms of the Relics that Belisarius unlocks, if you take a Commissar Lord with the Memento-Mortispex and attach him to the same blob squad as Belisarius, then you can have a 50 man unit that can choose to Skyfire, use Monster Hunter or Tank Hunter USRs, or fire Snap-shots (including Overwatch) at BS2 each turn, making it even more versatile and dangerous on the tabletop. Combine this with the Belisarius and the buffs he can hand out to neighboring AM vehicles and you can create a really effective Imperial Guard task force against almost any opponent, I think.

Triumvirate of the Imperium: New Relics

I am excited about the arrival of the new Triumvirate of the Imperium characters (i.e. Celestine plus her bodyguard Geminii, Belisarius Cawl, and Inquisitor Greyfax), especially since it appears that ANY Imperium army can choose to take any of these three as a HQ choice, so Space Marines, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Grey Knights, Deathwatch, Militarum Tempestus, Astra Militarum, Cult Mechanicus, Skitarii, Inquisition, Sisters of Battle, etc. can all take them in their armies.

Aside from what the characters themselves bring, which is significant, Celestine and Cawl both “unlock” special Relics that can be taken by any friendly characters in the same army. Here are my thoughts on what I think are some of the best of these:

—Unlocked by Belisarius Cawl—

[1] Memento-Mortispex (5 MBs) – At the start of each of your turns, choose a rule to apply to the bearer and their unit (or weapons as appropriate): Cognis Weapons (BS2 Snapfire, Flamers do 3 hits rather than d3 with Wall of Death in overwatch), Monster Hunter, Skyfire or Tank Hunter.

*APPLICATION — Perhaps the best new Relic available, I see this in the same class as the Hunter’s Eye and Gorgon’s Chain and Astral Grimoire (i.e. very competitive, don’t leave home without it). Being able to give an entire unit Cognis Weapons, Skyfire, Monster Hunter, or Tank Hunter, without any kind of Ld test/Psychic test/dice roll, is exceptional. Right out the gate, some of the best units to use this on include Grav Centurions, Astra Militarum blob squads, Kataphron Destroyers, Sternguard, Deathwatch Veterans, Deathwatch Terminators, Grey Knight Purifiers (with max Psycannons), Long Fang Packs (with max Lascannons), Blood Angel Gunslinger Vanguard Veterans, Sanguinary Guard with max Inferno Pistols, and Repentia Squads (with max Multi-Meltas).

Probably one of the very best options would be on a Dark Angel Biker Interrogator Chaplain leading a 10 man squad of Black Knights… the entire squad already has 18″ Rapid Fire TLed Plasma Weapons, so they can greatly benefit from Tank Hunters against vehicles, Monster Hunter against MC/GMCs, and Skyfire against Flyers and FMCs. On top of this, even if the squad Jinks (to take advantage of re-rollable Jink saves, from the Ravenwing special rule), you can use Cognis Weapons to make them Snapfire at BS2 which, combined with TLed, gives them a 50%+ hit rate even after Jinking, making them survivable AND potent in the same turn (usually you can only have one or the other).

[2] Omnissiah’s Grace (2 MBs) – Bearer has 6+ Invulnerable Save.  If they already had an Invulnerable Save, they get a +1 to their Invulnerable to a max of 3+.

*APPLICATION — Not that great on a character without an Invul save already, but on one that already has a 5++ or 4++, like most Space Marine Captain equivelants or models in TDA, this in essence gives you a “free” Storm Shield without the drawbacks of losing attacks in close combat. Grey Knight Grandmasters, Thunderwolf Lords with PF/Wolf Claw combos, Tech-Priest Dominus with Conversion Field wargear, Interrogator-Chaplains and Chaplains of all flavors, Cataphractii Terminator Captains, Imperium Psykers that can cast Forewarning on their unit, Watch Masters, Skitarii Ruststalker Princeps with dual Transonic Blades/Chordclaw and Conversion Fields, and TDA Inquisitors all can benefit quite a bit from this very affordable Relic.

[3] Saint Curia’s Autopurger (5 MBs) – Models charging the bearer and their unit do not get extra attacks for charging.  All models that are locked in combat with the bearer and their unit must pass a Toughness test at I10 step, or suffer 1 Wound for each test failed (can take saves as normal).

*APPLICATION — The debuff against enemy charging units is quite handy, especially against strong melee squads like Wulfen, Death Company, and Khornate unit which rely on Rage to increase their attack numbers, but where this Relic really shines is against low Toughness opponents (i.e. Eldar of all types, most T3 “human-based” forces, Gaunt/Ripper swarms, Necron Scarabs, etc) due to the second half of this rule. Forcing a wound for every failed Toughness test can be a game-changer, ESPECIALLY if you can combine it with Enfeeble (from the Biomancy discipline), Rad grenades (from an attached Inquisitor), and/or Skitarii Vanguard, with their “Rad-saturation” rule to reduce enemy toughness even further (imagine charging Eldar units reduced to T2 by Rad Grenades from an attached Inquisitor and then using this relic, causing Wounds on rolls of 3+ for every model locked in combat with you!). Overall, this is best used as a “crowd-control” Relic to rapidly thin out enemy hordes, especially since it inflicts these wounds at I10, before your opponents can strike back (I think this Relic is particularly potent against Genestealer Cult, who have high Initiative and close combat output, but low T and weak saves, meaning you can be charged by them and inflict massive damage before they even get to swing).

 

—Unlocked by Celestine—
[1] Blade of the Worthy (6 MBs) – Replaces a melee weapon.  S User / +2, AP3 / 2, Melee, Divine Fury:  At the start of the Fight Sub-phase, the bearer makes a Ld test.  If they pass, the sword uses the second profile for the duration of the phase.
*APPLICATION — This is basically an AP2 Relic Blade (with no draw-back from being Two-Handed) that requires an Ld test to use which, given that most characters potentially wielding it are Ld10, is pretty darn reliable (i.e. 91% chance of passing an Ld10 check). I think there are several ways to go with this… a Grey Knight Grand-Master could take NF Falchions, then replace on of them with this Relic, giving him the option to use an AP3 Force Weapon or a S+2 AP2 blade each turn (and both can be “buffed” up by +2 with Hammerhand as well)… alternately, you could give it to a Biker Captain Master (with AA) for a cheap, hard-hitting, mobile IC that can attach to a unit or go solo if required. Finally, you could give the Blade of the Worthy to an Astra Militarum Company Commander to make a surprisingly punchy combat unit that your opponent will likely not be expecting.
[2] Desvalle’s Holy Circle (7 MBs) – Bearer has a 4+ Invulnerable.  Enemy units cannot Deep-Strike within 12″ of the bearer.  If they scatter within 12″ of the Bearer, they suffer an automatic Deep Strike Mishap.

*APPLICATION — Like the “Saint Curia’s Autopurger” Relic, the first part of this piece of gear is solid (i.e. giving a 4++ to the bearer), but the real reason for taking it is for the second part of the rule, preventing Deep Strikes within 12″ and causing an auto-Mishap if they scatter to within 12″. This is such a potent piece of Wargear, especially when use to protect key units/vehicles (like your Warlord or an Imperial Knight, for example), against threats like Drop Pod Meltacide units, Wraithguard with an attached Dark Eldar IC with a Webway Portal, deep striking units with massed Flamer templates, enemy units that can assault on the same turn they Deep Strike (i.e. CSM Raptor Talon, Skyhammer Annihilation Force ASM), etc. etc. Putting this Relic on a mobile character, like a Bike or Jump Pack equipped IC, allows you to move this 24″ circle of “no Deep Strike” rapidly all over the table-top, thereby denying you opponent significant real estate and greatly hampering his tactical options.

Genestealer Cult and allied Astra Militarum Stormsword

I have taken a little break from Genestealer Cult, but as I take another look at them, it hit me that a very solid ally for their faction would be an Astra Militarum Lord of War, such as one of the Baneblade variants. Specifically, as I reviewed the different kinds available, the Stormsword jumped out to me as one of the most competitive super-heavy tanks and one that would work quite well with the Genestealer Cult units/tactics.

Looking more closely at the Stormsword, we have the following:

-Super-Heavy vehicle — This means that, among other things, it can shoot all its weapons every turn and can fire them each at a different target, if you wish (and it can do all this even after it moves up to 12″). It also means that it Ignores all Crew Shaken/Crew Stunned/Immobilized/Weapons Destroyed results and that Explodes results do not destroy the Stormsword outright, but instead inflict D3 additional lost HPs on it.

-Stats/Upgrades — With BS3, AV14/13/12 and 9HPs, the Stormsword is quite survivable and generally takes massed melta weapons and/or massed dedicated anti-tank attacks to bring down. Needless to say, combined with the Super-Heavy rule, this makes it an ideal “fire magnet” type unit to soak up enemy combat power away from the rest of your army (more on that later, as it relates to Genestealer Cult allies). In terms of upgrades, you can add a H/K Missile, a SB/Heavy Stubber, and up to four Lascannon/TLed Heavy Bolter Sponsons (which are purchased two at a time for 10 MBs each). Given the ability to independently target every one of these weapons, and combined with the stock TLed Heavy Bolter and Stormsword Siege Cannon, if you take every upgrade possible, the Stormsword can shoot at 11! different targets each shooting phase (and 12 targets for one shooting phase, if you use the Hunter-Killer missile).

-Stormsword Siege Cannon — Outside of the incredible durability/”tanking” ability (literally 😉 ) of the Stormsword, this is why you are taking this Super-Heavy. This weapon has a range of 36″ (so a threat radius of 48″, with the 12″ move of the vehicle included) and puts out a single S10 AP1 Primary Weapon, Apocalyptic Blast. Ignore Cover shot each shooting phase. Translated into English, that is basically a Railgun Shot with 10″ diameter blast that ignores all saves except Invul Saves, causes ID to anything T5 and below, and Penetrates AV14 armor on roll of 5+ (with re-rolls for failed penetrations, due to being a Primary Weapon). Outside of Destroyer Weapons, this is one of the most powerful shooting attacks in the game and can be used every turn (unlike, say, a Deathstrike Missile).

So, how does all this relate to being an allied force-multiplier for a Genestealer Cult main army? Well, first of all, to access a Stormsword, you have to take an Astra Militarum Combined Arms detachment (for the LOW slot), which means you have to take at least one HQ and two Troops as well. Combine with the nearly 500 points for the Stormsword and you have a lot of points invested before you can even begin making your main Genestealer Cult army… so, this begs the question, why do it? Really two reasons, I think, but they are very solid reasons:

[1] Firepower — On its own, the Genestealer Cult faction has some decent firepower, but it largely short-ranged and there is really nothing that can just devastate entire units in the shooting phase (Genestealer Cults are strong on terms of mobility, Psychic powers, and assault to make up for this). An allied Stormsword changes that whole equation… with such potent firepower built into a 10″ Ignore Cover blast, Genestealer Cult players can use it to deal with enemy Deathstars, hordes, massed vehicles, MEQs in cover, MSU Jetbikes, you name. About the only target that the Stormsword has trouble with is MCs/GMCs with T6 or above (and multiple Lascannon Sponsons can help with that)… with all their Rending close combat attacks and the ability to assault from Reserve with the right rolls, Genestealer Cults are already very well equipped to deal with these opponents, so the Stormsword Siege Cannon becomes to a them a force-multiplier against all other targets.

[2] “Tanking”/Distraction ability — More than anything, this is where I think a Stormsurge brings advantages to a Genestealer Cult army. Both in terms of actual combat power and psychologically, a Super-Heavy vehicle like this, especially one that cannot be ignored because of its amazing firepower, can “pull” focus away from the relatively fragile Genestealer Cult infantry/vehicles and allow them to operate with little to no impedance, thus maximizing their abilities. Put another way, the “anvil” nature of the Stormsword compliments the “glass cannon” nature of the Genestealer Cult and, used properly, both can make the other better and the army more effective as a whole. Now, while it is true that a lot of the firepower that is strong against Genestealer Cult units (such as small arms shooting, flamers, blast weapons, etc.) will not be effective against a Stormsword, and so the Super-Heavy will not be able to “pull” that kind of shooting away from its Genestealer Cult allies, because the Stormsword is such a threat, it will in many cases force your opponent to drastically alter his normal battle-plan against the traditionally light infantry Genestealer Cult army, which can create opening for your forces to exploit.

[3] Synergy Abilities — Finally, there are several ways in which Genestealer Cult and the Stormsword can synergize. The Lord of War can act as a physical shield for Genestealer Cult troops with its massive bulk, protecting them from enemy shooting attacks. Conversely, cheap Acolyte Hybrids and Neophyte Hybrids can make an excellent “bubble wrap” for the Stormsword, protecting from enemy assault and also preventing “meltacide” units from physically getting clos enough to it to destroy it with massed melta shooting. Additionally, Genestealer Cult psychic powers, namely maledictions from the Telepathy and Biomancy disciplines, can enhance the Stormsword (e.g. if you can Enfeeble on a T6 enemy MC, like a Riptide, then hit it with the S10 Stormsword Siege Cannon, if it fails its Invul saves it will be instant-killed). Finally, the Stormsword can use the Thunderblitz table, in conjunction with the hyper-powered tank shock/ramming capacity of the Goliath Rockgrinders, to actually do very significant damage to enemy forces via “melee” attacks, which gives you an alternate option for how to inflict lots of damage (note: the Rockgrinders can use the Super-Heavy for cover as they advance, until they get within Tank Shock range).

Genestealer Cult: Allied Artillery Company

As I have thought about the new Genestealer Cult codex and how to apply it competitively, one of the things that occurred to me is to try and maximize their access to Astra Militarum as Allies of Convenience. Thinking of this and looking at what the AM have access to, the best ally for a Genestealer Cult army that I can think of is the “Emperor’s Wrath Artillery Company” formation, for the following reasons:

[1] Ignore Cover Basilisks — With the ability to give Orders to artillery units in the formation, you can have up to 6 x S9 AP3 Large Blasts with Ignore Cover shooting each turn (and a 7th S9 AP3 Large Blast from the Master of Ordnance, if you take him in the Command Squad). This rectifies one of the weaknesses of the Genestealer Cult force, namely long-range high strength/low AP shooting and also provides them with very solid options against enemy infantry and light-medium vehicles at range. Put another way, Basilisk batteries from this formation provide excellent “fire base” support to an otherwise light-weight, assault focused, guerrilla tactics “horde” army that the Genestealer Cult forces specialize in.

[2] Multi-purpose Command Squad support — While they cannot directly help Genestealer Cult units, being only Allies of Convenience, the mandatory Command Squad from the “Emperor’s Wrath” formation provides multiple indirect aids to a Genestealer Cult army. First, if you take an Officer of the Fleet, he can use his ability to subtract -1 from enemy Reserve Rolls in conjunction with the -1 to enemy Reserve Rolls from the Genestealer Cult “Decurion” to cause enemy Reserves to come in on a 5+, which can be pivotal against opponents that keep a lot of their strength off the table during initial deployment. Second, the Astropath can cheaply add additional Warp Charges to your pool for use by the Patriarch and/or Magus and the Master of Ordnance, as mentioned above, can add a cheap additional S9 AP3 Large Blast to your fire support. Finally, besides issuing orders to the Artillery vehicles, the Command Squad can provide up to 9 x S7 AP2 Ignore Cover Plasma shots a turn to deal with MCs or 4 x S8 AP1 Melta shots a turn against vehicles, both of which capabilities  are general lacking in the Genestealer Cult arsenal.

[3] “Nuclear Option” Deathstrike Missiles — While being a One Use Only weapon and not able to shoot until Turn 2 at the earliest, the Deathstrike Missile provide a S10 AP1 Ignore Cover shot with a 10″ Apocalyptic Blast that combines beautifully with a Genestealer Cult army by putting your opponent on the horns of a dilemma… if they concentrate on shooting at your mobile close combat units like Purestrain Genestealers, Metamorphs, or even Neophytes with supporting characters to buff their assault abilities, then that leaves the Deathstrike free to launch its very powerful attack (i.e. imagine hitting an enemy Thunderwolf Cavalry squad or  Grav Centurion squad with the Deathstrike Missile… the S10 AP1 Ignore Cover doubles out their T5 and ignores everything but Invul saves)…. on the other hand, if your opponent focuses on destroying the Deathstrike to prevent if from firing, then that means their is less combat power to deal with the massed “Cult Ambushing” Genestealer Cult infantry that can then shoot/charge into combat on the following turn.

[4] Manticore, Hydras, and Wyverns — A Manticore provide additional S10 Ordnance pie plates at long range for dealing with both vehicles and infantry at an economical points cost, if you choose to take this instead of the Deathstrike, while Hydras provide air-defense/skimmer defense that Genestealer Cult armies otherwise have very limited capabilities in. Hydra squadrons combine especially well with the Ignore Cover orders in dealing with Skimmer heavy armies like Mech Eldar, Mech Tau, Mech Necrons, Ravenwing armies, or even Chaos Daemon “Flying Circuses” and enemy Tyranid “Monster Mash” lists, since they can put out a high volume of accurate S7 shooting that ignores enemy Jink saves. Finally, Wyverns provide incredible fire support for any force and are a threat to any enemy infantry, even TEQs, due to their accuracy, high volume of shooting with the Shred and Ignore Cover USRs, and cheap points costs (they provide a very strong supplement to Genestealer Cult forces when combined with the Pinning order, since they “suppress” enemy shooting units for a turn, thus buying the Genestealer Cult forces time to survive before getting into assault, where they belong).

Genestealer Cult as “Counts As” Catachan Jungle Fighters

This is a bit out of the box, but I think the new Genestealer Cult rules are quite fascinating and I would be interested to find a way to try them out as an Imperium player… then it hit me, I think Codex: Genestealer Cult would be an excellent surrogate codex to represent a Catachan Jungle Fighters army:

-Neophytes — Catachan Guardsman squad

-Acolytes — Catachan Sapper squad

-Metamorphs — Catachan Devils squad

-Aberrants — Catachan Ogryn squad

-Goliath Truck/Rockcrusher — Catachan “Brawler” Jungle Assault Vehicle

-Patriarch — Colonel Ironhand Straken

-Primus — Catachan Officer

-Magus — Catachan Primaris Psyker

-Iconward — Catachan Regimental Standard Bearer

-Chimera/Leman Russ variants/Sentinel types — Same as they currently are

As for the Cult Ambush and Return to the Shadows rules, you could just rename them with Catachan specific names and they would perfectly reflect the Catachan “Regimental Doctrine” if you will. Finally, you could represent the unusual weapons as follows:

*Clearance Flamer — Catachan “Demon Flamer”

*Mining Laser/Heavy Mining Laser — Catachan “Jungle Lascannon/Heavy Jungle Cannon”

*Seismic Cannon/Heavy Seismic Cannon — Catachan “Fury Missile Launcher”

*Webber/Web Pistol — Catachan “Snare Rifle/Snare Pistol”

*Heavy Mining Drill — Catachan “Breacher Drill”

Angel’s Blade Tactica: Orbital Intervention Force

I have been taking a closer look at the Orbital Intervention Force (OIF) from the new Angels Blade Supplement and I think there are actually lots of tactical applications for this formation. First, let’s take a look the two different options within the formation itself, Tactical Terminators and Assault Terminators:

I – Tactical Terminators – While most would agree that Tactical Terminators are not the most competitive right now, if used properly, I think they still have a place in the game. The Orbital Intervention Force provides a significant bonus for them, allowing each Tactical Terminator to shoot twice on the turn that they arrive by Deep Strike. This is particularly effective with the Terminator Heavy Weapons, allowing a 5 man squad to shoot its Heavy Flamer, Assault Cannon, or CML twice. Alternately, you can max out the squad with 10 Terminators and 2 Heavy Weapons… combine that with Misfortune from the Divination discipline and a Tactical Terminator squad can put out 32 Storm Bolter shots and either 4 Heavy Flamer Templates, 16 Assault Cannon Shots, or 8 CML shots (either Krak or Frag missiles), all with Rending against a specified target on the turn they arrive. Obviously, in subsequent turns, they revert back to “normal” Terminators, but in that initial arrival strike, they can potentially make a decisive impact on the game if target against the right unit.

II – Assault Terminators – This is the real gem of this formation, I think. and probably the reason most people take it. Whether using dual LCs, with S5 on the charge (and I5, if they are part of a Detachment with the Red Thirst), or using the classic TH/SS “Hammernator” load-out, (which still competes for the gold standard of assault units in terms of durability and hitting power) the ability to assault on the same turn as they Deep Strike takes them from “solid” to “outstanding,” even if they have a Disordered Charge when they do this. Not only can they contribute to the fight as early as Turn 2, unlike a lot of other close combat focused units, but they are overall quite survivable and effective once they do get into combat. Alternately, Assault Terminators from this formation can make for a tremendous “counter-assault” unit to protect your more shooty units from enemy charges. Finally, you can enhance their abilities even more if you Drop Pod in Corbulo nearby (for +1WS to all hands and +1I for the Dual LC TDA models) and/or bring in Sanguinor for +1A to all hands, which helps make up for the penalty of having to do a Disordered Charge.

In terms of synergy potential, here are some ways I think the Orbital Strike Force can be effectively combined with other allied units to make a solid battle group:

 

[1] GK Interceptor Squads – With the ability to make a 30” Shunt move (+D6” Run) Turn 1, plus take a Teleporter Homer on the mandatory Justicar, GK Interceptors can make for an ideal “pathfinder” unit to get exactly where you need them and then bring in the OIF Terminators in on Turn 2 for massed shooting and/or assault.

[2] Inquisitorial Henchmen Warbands – With the ability to take a Mystic in each and every squad (basically a 2 MB cost Locator Beacon), plus access to a wide variety of Dedicated Transports, a Henchman Warband can, for example, load up in a DT Land Raider Redeemer and attach an Inquisitor with the Relic that grants a free Scout move if the pass a Ld test successfully. This gives them a 12” Scout move before the game begins, then another 12” move and 6” Flat Out Turn 1, setting up a Turn 2 arrival with no scatter/charge deep in the enemy DZ by up to 3 squads of Assault Terminators, which can obviously be extremely potent (not to mention any supporting fire from the Henchman themselves and their LRR’s Flamestorm Cannons).

[3] Ravenwing Black Knights/Darkshrouds – While obviously designed to bring in Deathwing, the fact that every Ravenwing Biker/Black Knight has a Teleporter Homer built into his Bike makes them exceptional for vectoring in an Archangel OIF. This is especially true of Black Knights combined with a nearby Dark Shroud, since they all have Scout (for a free 12” move before the game even starts) and can get a re-rollable 2++ cover save to survive enemy shooting Turn 1 (i.e. Jink + Skilled Rider + Stealth from the Dark Shroud + re-rolls to Jink saves because of the Ravenwing special rule). Black Knights are already highly effective shooting and close combat units in their own right, but combined with the ability to precisely bring in three squads of Tactical Terminators/Assault Terminators on Turn 2+ (all of whom can either shoot twice or charge that same turn) takes them from a serious threat to an absolutely un-ignorable one for almost any enemy force.

[4] Blackmane Great Pack with massed Drop Pods – With access to free Drop Pods and guaranteed Turn 1 arrival for all of them, the Blackmanes can saturate the table like almost no other force (except maybe a Space Marine Battle Company or an AM mechanized infantry force). More importantly with regard to the OIF, every one of these Drop Pods can be equipped with Locator Beacons, allowing you to bring in the Archangel Terminators anywhere within 6” of these Pods with no scatter before they shoot or charge. This should combine very effectively with all the combat power (both shooting and in assault) that the Blackmanes can bring to the fight in and of themselves, putting the enemy on the horns of a dilemma on how to counter this.

[5] Astra Militarum/Militarum Tempestus Mechanized Armies – As I discussed in the earlier article about the Golden Host formation, basically all AM vehicles (and MT vehicles too) except Flyers can upgrade with an Augur Array, which is basically this faction’s version of a Locator Beacon. Given that both AM and MT tend to focus heavily on shooting and are vulnerable to enemy assault, having the ability to precisely bring in a “counter-assault” force in the form of the OIF, using the Augur Arrays on their vehicles, improves the survivability and shooting efficiency of both of these factions significantly, as well as potentially surprising your opponent with the psychological “shock” of having their assault forces charged before they can even get to your battle lines.

[6] Khan/White Scar Mechanized Battle Company – The Khan list using lots of Scouting Rhinos/Razorbacks, all carrying MSU Tactical, Devastator, and Assault squads with max Grav Cannons and Flamers is already pretty well known for its success on the tournament scene. One of the few weaknesses of this list is typically dealing with powerful enemy close combat units that can come to grips with lots of its units in the Assault Phase. Since Tactical Squads can take Teleporter Homers on the Sergeants/Veteran Sergeants (for only a MB a piece), you can have up to 6 mobile, AV11/11/10 bunkers projecting 6” No Scatter bubbles around them throughout the entire battle space, giving you LOTS of options for bringing in the OIF Terminators with no scatter exactly where you need them to “reinforce the line” against critical enemy threats. All of this combines quite well with the massed Grav and Flamer shooting of Khan’s Battle Company I think, creating for a balanced and dangerous overall task force.

[7] Raven Guard 10th Company Task Force – The 10th Company Task Force formation obviously combines very well with the Archangels Orbital Intervention Force, with its ability to Infiltrate multiple units equipped with either Teleporter Homers or Locator Beacons. Raven Guard Chapter tactics make this even more effective, with added durability in the early game via free Shrouding Turn 1 on any units that don’t start the game in a transport. Whether using Infiltrating Scouts on foot, Infiltrating Scout Bikers (with a 2+ Cover save in the open from Jink + Shrouding), or even Scouts in a LS Storm moving 30” across the tabletop from Move + Flat Out (obviously they don’t get access to free Shrouding), this formation provides multiple ways to efficiently bring in the OIF exactly where it needs to be for shooting and/or charging on Turn 2+.

[8] Lias Issodon and Centurion Battle Group – Another powerful build in its own right, Issodon’s ability to Infiltrate himself and three other units is very potent and can overwhelm your opponent quickly. Combine this with the Locator Beacon that is part of his War Gear and any Teleporter Homers that the Infiltrated units are carrying and you have a very solid task force that can both pressure the enemy with shooting (especially if using multiple Grav Centurion squads) and still provide a real close combat threat via the OIF Terminators.

[9] Deathwatch Veteran Squad – Since every Watch Sergeant (who himself is a free upgrade) can take a DW Teleporter Homer, the Deathwatch are already well-equipped for vectoring in the Archangel OIF reinforcements. On top of this, DW Veteran squads can easily get in position via their Rhino, Razorback, Drop Pod, or Corvus Blackstar DTs (the last two can take Locator Beacons of their own, if you want). DW Veterans can also bring more firepower, “pound for pound,” than almost any other unit in the game, but they are also somewhat fragile for their points cost and can be vulnerable in close combat, so they combine very well with Assault Terminators coming in from DS and charging enemy units to take the pressure off them while they continue to employ their remarkable firepower to its maximum potential.

[10] Shadowstrike Kill Team – If you really want to double-down on the whole “assault from Deep Strike” concept, then you can take an allied Shadowstrike Kill Team. The mandatory Scouts can deploy forward with Teleporter Beacons turn 1, then Turn 2 you can bring in both the Vanguard Vets and OIF Assault Terminators with no scatter, potentially overwhelming the enemy battle lines with multiple powerful assault units getting stuck into combat simultaneously. Alternately, you can use the Vanguard Veterans for assault and take Tactical Terminators with Heavy Weapons to support them with lots of Flamer Templates, Assault Cannons Shots, or CML volleys as required.

Golden Host, Emperor’s Fist, and Emperor’s Wrath Formation Synergy

As I have reviewed the current Angel’s Blade rumors more and more, the new “GOLDEN HOST Host” formation caught my eye:

-Dante or Sanguinor

-2-5 squads of Sanguinary Guard

This formation can be used as a HQ option for the Angel’s Blade detachment or as a “stand-alone” formation allied to another army list. Its special rules allow all its Characters/Squads to choose automatically what turn they come in from DS Reserve and re-roll the Scatter Dice when they do DS. This is powerful in itself, since it allows a commander to precisely control when this potent (and expensive, points-wise) force comes onto the battlefield.

The second special rule for this formation allows all ICs/Squads to charge the same turn they arrive from DS Reserves, but with the penalty that they always have a Disordered Charge (so no bonus +1A, no bonus +1S from Furious Charge, and no bonus +1I from The Red Thirst in this scenario). Even with this drawback, being able to charge on the same turn they arrive, especially when you can control EXACTLY what turn that is, is a very big deal. If you take Dante as your Warlord, then you can use his “Descent of the Angels” WL Trait to make himself and all the Sanguinary Guard only scatter D6″ (vice the normal 2D6″) when they Deep Strike which, combined with the re-roll of the Scatter Dice ability, makes them even more capable of safely arriving and getting off a successful charge.

Regarding Sanguinary Guard themselves, they are basically Jump Pack Terminators without an Invul save and carrying Encarmine Swords/Axes instead of PFs (they can upgrade to PFs for 2MB per model, if they want). In practical turns, while they are not as good in combat, point for point, as some of the top tier melee units in the game (like Hammernators, Necron Wraiths, Wulfen, Death Company, Dreadknights, TWC, Hive Tyrants, etc.), they are in many ways the best “bully unit” in the game when used against non-dedicated assault troops from the enemy army. Put another way, Sanguinary Guard are excellent at employing their high mobility, strong armor save, and solid melee abilities to take out enemy “shooty” units, tie up commanders and “force -multiplier” units, and even defeat mid-capability enemy assault units that are threatening your own forces.

Based on all this, what is the best way to employ Dante and his Sanguinary Guard from a GOLDEN HOST formation? Surprisingly, I think one of the best options is teaming them up with the Astra Militarum EMPEROR’S FIST TANK COMPANY and EMPEROR’S WRATH ARTILLER COMPANY formations. Both of these formations, taken together, can field a lots of survivable mechanized platforms (especially the Leman Russes from the Tank Company) and TONS of long-range firepower that cannot be ignore easily (especially the Ignore Cover Wyverns, Basilisks, and Manticores of the Artillery Company). Where they are vulnerable, of course, is against close range melta shooting and assault by forces with lots of Grenades, Power Mauls, PFs, S6+ Monstrous Creature attacks, etc. Thus, most opponents (except maybe Tau and enemy Astra Militarum gun lines) will try and close the gap quickly with the Astra Militarum tanks and artillery vehicles of these formations, where they can make short work of them.

So, how does the GOLDEN HOST formation help with this? Well, it is all based on a little-known piece of Astra Militarum Vehicle Equipment: the humble Augur Array. Costing 5 MBs, this little upgrade can be taken by basically any Imperial Guard vehicle (except Valkyries/Vendettas) and works just like a Locator Beacon, allowing friendly forces to DS within 6″ with no scatter (provided the Augur Array was on the battlefield already at the start of the turn).

This of course combines beautifully with the GOLDEN HOST’s ability to choose which turn it Deep Strikes and to charge that same turn. As your Leman Russes advance upfield while they fire (or, alternately back away as the enemy army rushes forward), you can wait until just the right moment, then suddenly bring in Dante and his Golden Angel bodyguards and charge those enemy forces threatening your vehicles before they can get within melta/charge range. This not only allows your tanks to maximize their survivability and keep employing their significant firepower, but it also allows you to match up Dante and the Sanguinary Guard against exactly the units which will maximize their own strengths and minimize their weaknesses (e.g. if your opponent is rushing forward a Dreadknight, you can intercept it with Dante, whose S6 AP2 attacks at WS6/I6 and 4W with Eternal Warrior make him an ideal counter; alternately, if the enemy is Drop Podding in a squad of Grav Centurions to try and immobilize your Leman Russ squadrons to death, then Sanguinary Guard with Inferno Pistols and PFs make an excellent “counter-punch” unit).

Looking at the other side of the coin, for those threats that overmatch the GOLDEN HOST in combat, like massed Wulfen/TWC, Hammernators, Tyranid “Monster Mash” lists, etc. the firepower of the Leman Russes and, especially, of the artillery vehicles can even the scales, either weakening the enemy units enough for Dante and the SG to deal with them or even destroying them outright (i.e. one good hit from an Ignore Cover Manticore could wipe out an entire Wulfen squad, for instance; similarly, a squadron of 3 Leman Russ Vanquishers with Lascannons and MM Sponsons, all shooting at BS4 thanks to the formation bonus, can take down Hive Tyrants, Hammernators, and even enemy Wraithknights before they get within assault distance).

Just like anything else, this battle group combination does not provide a guaranteed win by any means, but in the hands of a knowledgeable and skilled commander, I think this can be quite a flexible and capable combination.