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.

Wargear Analysis: Top Relics in the 40K Universe (Part I)

I have been looking through all the different armies in 40K and here is my take on the top Relics in the game right now, the ones a competitive list should not leave home without (in no particular order):

 

[1] GORGON’S CHAIN (Iron Hands) — Gives Bearer a 3++, Eternal Warrior, and +1 to his FNP (does not replace a weapon); as the Bearer loses wounds, this item loses some of its benefits (but regains them it the Bearer regains the wounds somehow).

*Rationale: Not only is this one of the great durability enhancing Relics in the game (especially when combined with something like a Narthecium from an attached Command Squad or the Endurance power) but, unlike the Shield Eternal, you do not lose out on the ability to fight with two close combat weapons for +1A when using it. The classic way to use it is with an Iron Hands Chapter Master… give him a bike, Artificer Armor, PF, LC, and the Gorgon’s Chain and attach him to a Biker Command squad and you have a character that is 4W, T5, 2+/3++, with IWND and FNP(3+)… on top of this, he puts out either 6 PF or 6 LC attacks on the charge at WS6, so a true close combat beast on almost every level.

 

[2] HUNTER’S EYE (White Scars) / MULTI-SPECTRUM SENSOR SUITE (Tau) — Both of these relics do exactly the same thing, which is allow the shooting of their unit to Ignore Cover, with no test of any kind required (the Tau MSS only works if its bearer does not shoot himself, while the Hunter’s Eye still allows its bearer to shoot and benefit from Ignore Cover).

*Rationale: I don’t think I need to explain how powerful these two Relics are, especially when combined with a powerful shooting unit, since Cover Saves are one of the key forms of survivability for everything from hordes of light infantry to Jinking Bikes/Skimmers/FMCs to even vehicles using Smoke Grenade Launchers. Being able to remove this protection with 100% reliability is amazing and can be a game-changer in almost all circumstances. Some of the best uses for these Relics include attaching their bearer to Grav-Cannon Centurions, Missile-side Teams, Long Fangs with Plasma Cannons behind a Haemotrope Reactor, and Deep Striking Crises Suit Teams (with almost any weapons configuration), though the possibilities really are almost endless. Imperium forces probably get the most out of an attached White Scars IC with the Hunter’s Eye, since there are no limitations to its abilities and since Tau already have easy access to Ignore Cover via Markerlights, but these two Relics are definitely in the “don’t leave home without them” category.

 

[3] GRIMOIRE OF TRUE NAMES (Chaos Daemons) — Roll a dice, on a 3+ you cause the target friendly Daemon unit to improve its Invul save by +2, on a 1 or 2 roll, then they make it worse by -1.

*Rationale: Another of the most “famous” Relics (since several Chaos Deathstars are built around it), in conjunction with the Cursed Earth power (from Malefic Daemonology) you can bring a selected Daemon unit up to a 2++ (which becomes re-rollable if the are a Daemon of Tzeentch). Combine this with a powerhouse unit, like a Daemon Prince/Daemonic MC, a horde of Flesh Hounds, or even allied CSM Daemons (like Possessed, Obliterators, and Warp Talons) and you have a durable, mobile, and deadly unit which cannot be ignored, but also can shrug off entire armies worth of combat power. Of course, there is some risk associated with it, but that is why so many Daemon players us Fateweaver for the re-roll to the Grimoire (i.e. it goes from a 66% chance of success to an 88% chance with Fateweaver support).

 

[4] TALISMAN OF BURNING BLOOD (World Eaters) — Add 3″ to the Movement, Run, and Charge distances of the Bearer and his unit.

*Rationale: Another very powerful relic that you can build an entire Khorne army around. One of the best builds I can think of for this is a unit of World Eater Bikers from the Butcherhorde detachment, along with up to five attached Chaos Lords on Juggernauts… give the Talisman of Burning Blood to one of the Lords and outfit the rest with close combat Relics and you have a unit that is T5 across the board, hits like a freight train thanks to Rage + Furious Charge + Khorne Relics (and can even split into six different units to charge multiple elements of your opponent’s army), and also has ridiculous mobility. How much mobility? Well, this unit gets a free 2D6″ movement before the game begins (which does not prevent charging on turn 1, unlike Scout), can move “normally” up to 15″, then charge another 2D6+3″ (with re-rolls for failed charges), which gives it an average Turn 1 charge threat radius of 32″… pretty impressive! As I mentioned, the whole unit can use this, then split up later turns to maximize the “choppiness,” and generally cause all kinds of problems for an opposing army, especially a shooting-based force like Tau or even Eldar.

 

[5] ASTRAL GRIMOIRE (Thousand Sons) — The bearer can make one friendly unit within 12″ (this can be his unit, if he wants) into Jump Infantry for the Movement Phase each turn, with no requirement of any kind of Psychic or Leadership test.

*Rationale: This is one of my favorite Relics, and one that I have already tried building an army around, because it is so reliable and literally doubles the mobility and flexibility of otherwise slow-moving units, be it Scarab Occult Terminators, Obliterators, 20 man blobs of Rubric Marines, Possessed, or even Tzaangor Warherds. Add in some Psychic support to make the unit even more durable and potent in shooting and/or close combat and the Astral Grimoire can really turn a good unit into an elite, “flagship” battle group for your whole army that will be a threat to all kinds of opponents. So far, my favorite build is 10 x Thousand Sons Terminators with Combi-Meltas, Chainfists, Reaper Autocannons, and an attached PML(3) Sorceror (he carries the Astral Grimoire for the unit)… if you get a blessing off on the unit, then the Terminators can move 12″ a turn, shoot either Bolters/Reaper Autocannons or Meltas/Reaper Autocannons, and charge in with their Chainfists, all while rocking 2+/3++ saves to make for a unit that can really do a mix of everything well.

 


OK, that’s it for now, will look at the remaining Top 10 later, plus some honorable mentions in there as well 😉

Hunting Force allies to Grey Knights

Grey Knights make excellent allies for many armies and they themselves benefit significantly from allies of their own, especially given the somewhat “elite/specialized” nature of most GK units.

One formation that I think pairs up particularly well with a Grey Knights primary detachment is the Hunting Force from the White Scars Scarblade Strike Force. The Hunting Force requires all models to be mounted on Space Marine Bikes and consists of:

(1) Captain

(0-1) Chaplain

(0-1) Command Squad

(2-5) Bike Squads

(1-3) Attack Bike Squads

(1-3) Scout Bike Squads

In addition to these units, it gains two special rules:

**The Hunter’s Prey — Select a Primary (this must be an HQ unit), Secondary, and Tertiary target. Models from this formation re-roll all To Hits/To Wounds and gain Furious Charge when attacking the primary target, then if it is destroyed, gain the same benefit against the secondary target, and so on with the tertiary target.

**Thunderous Assault — Models from this formation inflict two Hammer of Wrath hits instead of one if their unit has five models or more.

While the special rules are quite nice, the mixture of unit types is what is especially beneficial to a GK army. Basically, the Hunting Force provides multiple capabilities that shore up weaknesses in the GK line-up:

(1) Mobility — With all units on bikes that can move 12″ + Turbo-boost, as well as Hit and Run  and use Skilled Rider due to White Scar Chapter Tactics (and gain Scout if Khan is your Captain), the Hunting Force provides multiple fast, relatively durable objective seizers that can supplement the slower (and generally more expensive) GK units. Their enhanced mobility also allows them to rapidly threaten an enemy flank or even support Interceptors and shunting NDKs with possible Turn 2 assaults.

(2) Anti-tank/Anti-MC firepower — With lots of potential access to Meltas/MMs and Grav weapons (i.e. Command Squads,  Bike Squads, Attack Bikes), not to mention potential re-rolls to Hit/to Woundfrom The Hunter’s Prey rule, this formation provides fast moving, reliable anti-tank that Grey Knights need due to their lack of melta weapons and expensive Lascannon options (i.e. Razorbacks, Stormravens, and Land Raiders are about the only place GKs can get access to these). Against MCs, Grey Knights have to rely on Psycannon Rending and getting into close combat normally, but the Hunting force provides access to fast moving units that can take melta, plasma, and especially relentless Graviton weapons. For example, a Command Squad with 5 Grav Guns that has “marked” an enemy Wraith Knight as one of its targets gets an average of 13-14 hits, 11-12 wounds, and 7-8 unsaved wounds after FNP rolls… i.e. the Wraith Knight is dead in a single volley.

(3) Deep Strike Enablers — Given that GKs rely heavily on the Nemesis Strike Formation and its ability to start bringing in units from Deep Strike Reserve turn 1, it is only logical that a GK force would benefit tremendously from access to 1-3 Scout Bikers Squads, which can Infiltrate and Scout before the game begins, then bring in ANY DSing Grey Knight unit with no scatter from turn 1 on.

(4) Mobile IC support — The Captain/Khan and Chaplain can choose to attach to GK squads, providing multiple different potential buffs, For example, the Chaplain could attach to an Interceptor squad, giving it Zealot and Hit and Run (remember, Grey Knights do not “negate” friendly Chapter Tactics like normal Space Marines do), massively improving the squads efficiency in close combat. Similarly, the Captain could take the Hunter’s Eye relic and attach himself to a “Gates of Infinity” squad of Draigo/Paladins… once the squad “bounces” (likely using Scout Bikers to bring them in with no danger of scattering), the Paladins can unleash a mass Psycannon volley that Ignores Cover thanks to the Hunter’s Eye.

(5) Mobile Close Combat Capability — While this is mainly limited to the Captain (with relics like the Blade of Vengeance or even the Burning Blade), the Chaplain, and the Command Squad decked out with PWs/SSs and the Banner of the Eagle (for Fleet and Furious Charge), this still provides an invaluable rapid moving “counter-assault” unit to support the GK squads once they deep strike in. Also, don’t forget that even lowly Scout Biker squads with 5 models that are part of the Hunting Force and a Scarblade Strike Force have the potential to get 10 x S5 AP- (Shred) Hammer of Wrath attacks on the charge, plus their normal 10 x S4 AP- close combat attacks, which is more than enough to beat up on non-dedicated Assault units in the enemy army. Hit and Run means that these unit can “rinse and repeat” as required.

In summary, for all of these reasons, the White Scar Hunting Force is an excellent counterpart to any GK army, particularly one built around a traditional Nemesis Strike Force.

Scarblade Strike Force, 1st Company Task Force, and the Land Raider Spearhead

If you are looking for a Space Marine army that can rapidly and reliably put close combat units in the enemy’s face, then a solid option is to take a White Scars “Scarblade Strike Force” detachment that includes the following:

-Battle Demi-Company (TDA Chaplain, 3 x Tacs with Grav Cannon, ASM with double Flamers, Devastators with quad Grav Cannons, all in Drop Pods)

-1st Company Task Force (3 x TH/SS Assault Terminator squads)

-Land Raider Spearhead (3 x LR Crusaders with MMs)

Three of the Tacs/ASM/Devs  arrive by Drop Pod Assault, filling the enemy DZ with targets and firepower Turn 1. Simultaneously, TDA Chaplain and Assault Terminators ride in the LR Crusaders and move up as fast as possible… that translates into a 12″ move, 6″ Flat Out, and another D6″ Flat Out because of the Scarblade Strike Force “Ride the Wind” special rule (so a total of 19-24″ move across the board toward the enemy DZ).

Additionally, as long as the LR Crusaders stay within 6″ of each other, they ignore all Shaken, Stunned, Weapons Destroyed, and Immobilized  results due to their “Armoured Behemoth” special rule. This, combined with their extra movement, all but ensures that they will get across “No Man’s Land” safely and in good shape to deliver their Assault Terminators into combat Turn 2. Once the Terminators do get into assault, they benefit from Fear, Fearless, -2Ld to enemy units within 12″ of all three squads, and Preferred Enemy against a selected enemy unit (chosen before the game begins). They also have Hit and Run at I4 (re-rollable, due to Scarblade Strike Force rules), which makes them even more potent and flexible in combat.

Even the mightiest Tau gun-line and the most elusive Eldar Jetbike Host will have trouble stopping a force like this, due to its enhanced mobility and survivability, not to mention the raw power it packs once the Assault Terminators actually get into combat.

Stormseers and the Black Tide (Death Company style)

Looking at Kor’Sarro Khan’s “Master of the Hunt” special rule, it specifies that, as long as he your Warlord, ALL friendly White Scars models that have the Biker unit type have the Scout USR.

This means that White Scar Independent Characters, as long as they are equipped with a Space Marine Bike, have the Scout USR. In turn, this means they they convey Scout to any unit they are joined to in deployment, per the wording of the Scout rule.

One way to capitalize on this ability is as follows:

1 – Take Khan with Moondraaken as your Warlord (either in a CAD or GSF)

2 – Take a White Scar Librarius Conclave made up of (3) Librarians (Stormseers, in White Scar lore), all equipped with SMBs and using the Divination Discipline.

3 – Take an allied Blood Angel Baal Strike Force with (4) full squads of 15 Death Company each, all equipped with Jump Packs and PWs/PFs “to taste.”

Now, attach Khan and each of the three WS Stormseers to a separate Death Company squad. Prior to turn 1, use the Scout move to have all four Death Compay squads get a free 12″ move toward the enemy battle-line. Turn 1, move another 12″ and run a further D6″.

At this point, your horde of 60 superhuman, blood-thirsty (literally), raging, Jump Pack-wearing Death Company maniacs should be on top of pretty much any enemy unit they are targeting, even sneaky Eldar Jetbikes. Turn 2, move another 6″, then charge (with re-rolls for distance from Jump Packs) and rip apart the enemy lines with your 300!!! S5 I5 attacks on the charge (plus all Hammer of Wrath attacks)

To make this combo even more potent, the White Scar Librarians can cast Prescience on their units for Re-rolls to Hit. Khan and the Librarians also add some power weapon attacks into the mix and can, if necessary, break off and charge separate units if the tactical situation calls for tying up as many enemy units as possible.

Overall, this is a very specialized, assault-focused build, but for those looking for a fun, competitive, and unique list built around massed Death Company, I think this battle group could be a decent option.

White Scars, Khan, and massed Graviton weapons…

Since White Scar armies with Kor’sarro Khan as their Warlord still maintain the ability to Scout all Bike units and all units embarked on Rhinos/Razorbacks, that opens up some signfiicant possibilities for a first turn, Graviton weapon “Alpha Strike:”

1 – Take the Gladius Strike Force with a Full Battle Company as follows —

a) Khan on Bike and Chaplain

b) Command Squad with Bikes and 4 Grav Guns and Apothecary

c) 6 Tac Squads with Free Rhinos and Grav Cannon

d) 2 Bike Squads with Dual Grav Guns

e) 2 Devastator Squads with Free Rhinos and 2 Grav Cannons each

2 – So, altogether, that gives you 3 Bike squads with 24 Graviton shots a turn, plus Scout to get within range turn 1. You also have 6 Tactical Squads that can Scout in their Rhinos and then let loose with 48 Graviton shots total, as well as 2 Devastator squads that can Scout in their Rhinos and put out 20 Graviton shots a turn. Total, that is 92 Graviton shots from Scouting units turn 1!

3 – Since you have so much anti-vehicle/heavy anti-infantry shooting, about the only thing missing is anti-horde capability and anti-flyer capability. To deal with this, you can supplement this force with a Storm Wing formation (i.e. Stormraven and 2 Stormtalons), kitted out with Typhoon Missile Launchers and TLed Assault Cannons (Stormtalons) and TLed Lascanon/TLed Multimelta (Stormraven). This should provide a very versatile options for dealing with enemy armor, massed infantry, and flyers/FMCs, providing the ground elements with all the support they require.