Codex Adeptus Mechanicus – 9th Edition: The Goonhammer Review

We finally have a new codex for Warhammer 40,000! This book is long-awaited, originally being trailed for release in April before mysteriously going quiet as other releases jumped it in the queue; now, though, the wait is over and the 9th edition Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus is available for pre-order. The Ad Mech themselves would insist they were simply biding their time in order to maximise impact efficiency, of course.

Here at Goonhammer we were lucky enough to receive a review copy of the book from Games Workshop, giving us ample time to interface with its contents and exload the data to the noosphere to be enjoyed by all of you. We think this is a pretty great book – join us as we talk through why.

Why Play Adeptus Mechanicus?

Kastelan Robots Holding the Wall

Kastelan Robots Holding the Wall. Credit: Pendulin

The Adeptus Mechanicus are a highly characterful faction within Warhammer 40k; they are nominally part of the Imperium but also independent of it, passionate scientists who are drenched in religious mysticism, men and women who despise their own human weakness and long to become more perfect like the machines they worship. On the table that translates into an interesting force combining disparate elements, with the fanatical Tech-Priests of the Cult Mechanicus marching to war alongside their private military force, the disciplined Skitarii legions. If you like big, big guns, bizarre combinations of man and machine, and surprisingly punchy melee, then this is the army for you.

What’s in this Book?

  • Lore for the secretive initiates of the Machine Cult
  • Army special rules for fielding an Adeptus Mechanicus list, with rules for 7 named Forge Worlds plus custom rules for a Forge World of your own, as well as the new Doctrina Imperative and returning Canticles of the Omnissiah abilities
  • Warlord traits for both Tech-priests and Skitarii, stratagems, relics and a dedicated set of secondary objectives
  • New rules for the Skitarii Marshal, this book’s accompanying model release
  • Returning and remixed rules for Holy Orders within the Adeptus Mechanicus, giving your tech-priests extra flavour and some great tabletop potential
  • Updated rules for the entire unit range
  • Crusade rules which tell the story of the Adeptus Mechanicus’ obsession with technology

The Five Best Things About This Book

  • Customisation: As befits the Adeptus Mechanicus, you get a lot of angles for tinkering with your units in this book, including upgrading your Tech Priests with Holy Orders and handing out Warlord Traits to squad sergeants.
  • Shooting: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Adeptus Mechanicus are still really, really good at shooting.
  • Strategising: This book gives you a huge array of choices at the start of each turn, and rewards you for allocating them correctly.
  • Skitarii: Most core Skitarii units have seen some sort of improvement to their datasheet, hopefully giving some of them a new lease of life.
  • Flexibility: If you want to build a gunline, you still can, but the support for players that want to go in a completely different direction is better than ever, with the melee-focused Ryza faction a particular standout.

Where’s Crusade?

As ever, today we’re going to focus on the matched play rules. Tune back in on Tuesday for a dedicated review of this book’s Crusade content. We’ll also have special editions of Hammer of Math and Ruleshammer looking at some points of interest from the book.

The Rules

Skitarii Vanguard Taking Cover

Skitarii Vanguard Taking Cover. Credit: Pendulin

Detachment Rules

All Adeptus Mechanicus detachments (any detachment exclusively made up of ADEPTUS MECHANICUS units, excluding UNALIGNED and AGENTS OF THE IMPERIUM units) gains two rules – Forge World Dogmas and Knight of the Cog (the latter can’t be gained by an Auxiliary Support Detachment, which you’ll see is important in a moment). Troops in those units also gain Objective Secured, as is now familiar from other 9th edition codexes.

Forge World Dogmas

Forge World Dogmas are pretty much what they say on the tin – these are the subfaction traits for your individual army, whether they be from a named Forge World or a custom one. We’ll touch on these in the Subfactions section, and just note here that SERVITORS don’t break the detachment (they’re ADEPTUS MECHANICUS units, after all) but they can’t gain a Dogma themselves.

Pendulin: To be clear, the unit named “Servitors” doesn’t get Dogmas. So don’t worry, your Kataphrons still get their Forge World buffs.

Knight of the Cog

Tech Priest and the Boys

Tech Priest and the Boys. Credit: Pendulin

A cool extra ability here is Knight of the Cog, which allows you to take one QUESTOR MECHANICUS Super-heavy Auxiliary detachment for each ADEPTUS MECHANICUS detachment with this ability. In Strike Force games this effectively means you can take one Knight, or up to 3 Armigers; the models in that detachment gain the KNIGHT OF THE COG keyword. This is important because it means that they don’t break your Doctrina Imperatives/Canticles of the Omnissiah abilities – a neat way to incorporate the Ad Mech’s allied Knight Houses.

Keywords

Adeptus Mechanicus have a few different Keywords within the army that govern who can benefit from various effects, and these are unusually selective in places so it’s worth calling out up front what they are. CORE also makes an appearance, further complicating the metaphorical spreadsheet:

  • SKITARII: This covers Skitarii foot soldiers, Pteraxii and cavalry plus all the vehicles operated by them, which are Ironstrider engines, Dunecrawlers, Skorpii and the planes.
  • CULT MECHANICUS: This covers pretty much everything that isn’t a Skitarii – Tech Priests, Electropriests, Robots and Kataphrons.
  • KATAPHRON SERVITORS: Both flavours of Kataphron.
  • DATA TETHER: Units upgraded to have a Data Tether or with one built in, and can be temporarily bestowed by units with an Advanced Data Tether.
  • DOCTRINA ASSEMBLER: Tech-Priests and Skitarii Marshal.
  • CORE: All foot/jump/cavalry Skitarii, Ironstriders, Electropriests and (sometimes) Kastelan Robots. Notably, not Kataphrons.

Army-wide Rules

Any Adeptus Mechanicus army (i.e. one where all models have the ADEPTUS MECHANICUS keyword, excluding UNALIGNED, AGENT OF THE IMPERIUM, and KNIGHT OF THE COG) gains two additional abilities, Doctrina Imperatives and Canticles of the Omnissiah. Broadly speaking these are for “Skitarii” and “everything else” respectively (check the datasheet, which tells you what unit has which), though Mars muddies those particular waters. In both cases you have a set of abilities (four Doctrinas, six Canticles) which you can pick on a battle round by battle round basis.

Doctrina Imperatives

Each Doctrina has two parts, an Optimisation and a Deprecation – a buff and a debuff, basically, and you have to take both. There’s two matched pairs, with Protector and Conqueror affecting Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill by +1/-1 for the battle round, and Bulwark and Aggressor trading off Save (+1, to a maximum of 2+) vs. Movement (3”).

To be able to use a Doctrina, you need at least one DOCTRINA ASSEMBLER model on the board at the start of the battle round – which basically means any of the characters – and you can only pick one which you haven’t already used. That’s a little limiting when you only have four to pick from, since you will run out by turn 5, but you won’t always necessarily want one live.

Wings: So yeah – you have to skip at least one turn of these, and you’ll frequently want to. There’s some real tradeoffs here, and learning when to slam the Doctrina button is going to be an important skill. Skitarii Marshalls do mess with that in a profitable way though – each allows one unit to ignore the current drawback, and if you balance your list correctly that can help a bunch.

Canticles of the Omnissiah

Canticles make a return from the previous codex, though they’ve taken quite a few changes to make them both 9th-edition compatible and also, frankly, to make the ones other than Shroudpsalm worth using. Notably there’s no option to roll for these any more – like Doctrinas, you pick them at the start of the battle round, and in each round you need to pick one which hasn’t already been active (though as normal there’s ways to manipulate this, particularly for Mars).

Broadly these are way more useful than the previous incarnations. Warhammer Community already previewed what is probably the pick of the bunch, Benediction of the Omnissiah, which allows a unit to re-roll one hit roll, wound roll, and damage roll when shooting, but the others are great too – Invocation of Machine Vengeance gives you an extra D6 for Advance or charge rolls, discarding the lowest result, which makes things like deep strike charges way more reliable, while Litany of the Electromancer loses the gimmicky mortal wound effect and instead makes your units -1 to hit in melee, a much more broadly useful effect.

Subfactions

Tech-Priest Dominus. Credit: Rockfish

Tech-Priest Dominus. Credit: Rockfish

Like most codexes, AdMech get a set of subfactions, here representing the forces of different Forge Worlds. Almost all units in the book have a <FORGE WORLD> keyword that you replace when you add a unit to your army, and If your army contains any <FORGE WORLD> detachments then you benefit from some extra rules for your chosen subfaction. Units in a <FORGE WORLD> detachment gain a trait, here called a Dogma, that gives them extra baseline abilities, and each named Forge World also has a Stratagem, Relic and Warlord trait associated with them. These follow the standard pattern for recent 9th books which is:

  • Including a <FORGE WORLD> detachment unlocks the stratagem.
  • A <FORGE WORLD> character that gains a trait can use the Warlord Trait, with the additional rider here that the subfaction Warlord Traits are only available to Tech Priests, not Skitarii.
  • You can only pick the relic if your actual Warlord is from the relevant <FORGE WORLD>

Like most 9th Edition books, you can’t mix units with multiple different <FORGE WORLD> keywords in the same detachment, so you’ll definitely get some of these, so let’s take a look. There are seven named Forge Worlds, four flavours of Custom Forge World with unique abilities you can select, and a fifth Custom type letting you create the AdMech equivalent of a successor chapter.

Pendulin: While you can’t mix different Forge Worlds in the same detachment, there is no penalty to having multiple detachments each with a different Forge World. AdMech soup is still on the menu!

Mars

Credit: Warhammer Community

Mars is the original and (quite probably by our estimation) best of the Forge Worlds. The power here is primarily driven by their exceptional Dogma, which opens up whole worlds of options that the rest of the Forge Worlds just don’t have. Lots of units in this book are Skitarii, including a whole bunch of the vehicles, and that means that anywhere else they’re locked out of Canticle club. Mars throws the gates wide open, and with turns of essentially army-wide Shroudpsalm and Benediction of the Omnissiah in particular you can do some truly vicious stuff – and as if that wasn’t enough, you also get Black Heart-style access to one re-roll to hit every time you shoot, something this army is only too happy to pick up.

Plenty of the Skitarii units in this book are already good, but letting units like Ironstriders and Serberys Raiders add Canticles is truly phenomenal. It’s also important to highlight that these units don’t lose access to their Dogmas in exchange for this, meaning that defensively in particular you can really double down. If you’ve got a gunline of Ironstriders and Skorpii with some Raiders scouting forward and lose the first turn roll-off you can shrug and activate Shroudpsalm and Bulwark Imperative for Battle Round 1, and laugh as your opponent’s shooting plinks harmlessly off (effectively) 1+ tanks and 2+ ponies. Then, once the opponent is out in the open and it’s time for weak flesh to be eradicated, you can switch to Benediction of the Omnissiah and Protector Imperative and just fully go to town. There’s a huge amount of stuff you can do with it and we strongly suspect finding the best way to use this Dogma is going to be the key to unlocking at least the early best builds from the faction.

There’s some other good stuff here too. The Wrath of Mars stratagem was previewed on Warhammer Community, letting a unit deal mortals on 6s to wound. While it’s capped at 6MWs now it’s still excellent – plus has some very effective new users in 20-model squads of Skitarii Rangers or Vanguard, both of which can get to the kind of numbers you need to approach the cap, and both of which still come in under 10PL at max size (letting you blow this for only 1CP). Big units of Skitarii look like they might quietly be one of the most relevant things this book unlocks, and this supports them extremely effectively, while still being great with many of the usual suspects.

Those are the big standouts here with the Warlord trait being less exciting than it looks on initial read due to keywords, and the relic being a strict nice to have. Not technically in this section but still relevant, Cawl still exists, and while (as we’ll get to) he’s been toned down quite a bit, he can still hand out full re-rolls to one Mars unit a turn, Chapter Master style, and that’s still extremely good for a shooty army, so he’s another draw.

Mars is definitely going to be a staple of lists, as the power of the Dogma lets you do some things that are just completely unmatched, so look for them coming soon to a table near you.

Pendulin: With Mars letting your Skitarii units benefit from Benediction of the Omnissiah, keep an eye out for low volume, variable-but-high damage shots. I’m looking at you Neutron Laser Dunecrawlers and Lascannon Ballistarii.

Lucius

Credit: Warhammer Community

Mars may be super strong, but some real work has gone into the rest of the Forge Worlds to give them some cool draws, and Lucius shows that off straight away. The key part of their Dogma is a very strong defensive buff – all Lucius units get +1 to armour saves against D1 attacks. All the time. No stratagems here. This makes units like ponies and even large foot Skitarii squads a huge pain to chew through with anti-horde firepower, especially if you apply Bulwark Imperative as well, and gives the army some real extra staying power. They also get a neat additional buff of +3” to the range of their weapons, making big units of Vanguard in particular easier to use here.

The Warlord Trait, the Luminescent Blessing, leans further into durability and is extremely good – it lets you choose a CORE unit in your command phase to gain the ability to only be wounded on an unmodified 4+ (i.e. Transhuman) until your next command phase. While it’s a little bit of a shame that (like all Command Phase effects) you can’t have it up turn 1 if you go second, this is extremely powerful with a wide variety of units, and again works very effectively with large squads.

Finally, both the relic and stratagem are returning hits that give you some deep strike/redeploy goodness – the Solar Flare and Legio Teleportarium, giving you a once-per-game pick up and redeploy for a nearby CORE unit and letting you deep strike a non-VEHICLE unit for 1CP (up to twice in Strike Force, similar to extra traits/relics) respectively. Both effects we’ve seen before, but also both always excellent when they turn up, and both look better than ever now Invocation of Machine Vengeance lets you load up 3d6 drop-lowest charges for stuff coming in this way.

Lucius is great, overall, and between their anti-horde durability and options for pushing units around the table there’s quite plausibly some experimentation to be had with Skitarii hordes here.

Penulin: I want to point out Luminescent Blessing once again. Unlike Transhuman which only lasts a single phase, the buff from this Warlord Trait lasts for an entire battle round: both your turn and your opponent’s turn. And the Warlord doesn’t even need to stay within range of the buffed unit. It’s incredibly powerful.

Agripinaa

Credit: Warhammer Community

Agripinaa are focused on punishing the enemy for getting in your face, gaining improved AP within half range and effectively always counting as being in defensible terrain when charged. The AP boost is definitely strong here, helping you squeeze a lot of extra value from your AP-1 firepower when things get close and personal, but it’s fair to say that this trait is a bit less army defining than either of the first two we’ve looked at.

The Relic is a bit more exciting – the Eye of Xi-Lexum lets the bearer pick a VEHICLE within 18” at the start of your shooting phase (so you can even nip up to get in range) and gain a 6” bubble of full wound re-rolls against that target for CORE and KATAPHRON units that phase. This will generally result in the immediate and violent demise of aforesaid vehicle, and is very nifty in a Raider-heavy metagame.

The Warlord Trait is a bit of a miss, but the real excitement here comes from the stratagem, which for 1CP lets you upgrade a unit of Kataphrons to T6 when mustering your army (and can be done twice in Strike Force, three times in Onslaught). Making even chunkier robots than normal is extremely neat, and we think that plus the relic probably inform how this world is likely to be used. There isn’t much in this book to discourage you from taking detachments from multiple worlds in the same army, and Kataphrons being non-CORE means they don’t lose that much cross-synergy from your characters – so packing a patrol of two upgraded blocks of those accompanying a Priest with the Eye seems like it’s a possible play.

Pendulin: The AP-1 boost at half range can buff Admech’s strong firepower to scary levels. Take your bread-and-butter Skitarii Ranger, for example. Their Galvanic Rifles have a 30” range and now have native AP-1. That means when your enemy is within 15”  (which happens more than you might expect with 9th’s smaller board sizes), the cheapest model in the army has AP-2 on it’s base gun.

Graia

Credit: Warhammer Community

Graia’s iron determination is represented in their Dogma by being completely immune to Combat Attrition and having the ability to soak up mortal wounds. Bluntly, this needs a very specific metagame to arise to push them ahead of some of the other options here on that basis – it’s very possible to play a game where neither of these ever comes up, and you can do much better.

The other stuff here is better. Steel Mind, Iron Logic returns as the stratagem, giving you a deny on a 4+ against a power being cast within 18”, and the Warlord Trait is new and exciting. Mantra of Discipline lets you pick a GRAIA CORE unit within 6” at the end of the opponent’s charge phase and have it perform a heroic intervention of up to 6” as if it were a character. This lets you either protect a pretty large area with a melee unit or squeeze a whole bunch of movement out of some chaff during your opponent’s turn, both neat effects.

Finishing up, the relic is a 3” aura booster – certainly not bad, but a high enough proportion of the effects in this book are one-shot start of Command Phase effects rather than static auras that it isn’t as good as you might think.

Graia, sadly, feels like a bit of a pass – subfactions where the main trait is niche historically do not get there in books where there are really good ones available, and there’s nothing here that makes us think this pattern won’t hold.

Pendulin: The only saving grace to Graia is the ability to give our Heroic Intervention to a CORE unit. The idea of a unit of 20 Fulgurite priests with a 6” Heroic Intervention is really tempting; however, it doesn’t make up for the rest of the Forge World being extremely lackluster. There might be something to it in a mixed-Forge World army, but that’s stretching it. Every faction needs a dud sub-faction, and it looks like Graia might be AdMech’s.

Stygies VIII

Credit: Warhammer Community

Stygies VIII get a 9th Edition implementation of their old faction trait as the main part of their Dogma, with units counting as being in Dense Cover (and thus at -1 to hit) in the open as long as their opponent is far enough away (12” for non-VEHICLES and CORE VEHICLES, 18” for other VEHICLES). This effect is weaker in general in 9th than it was in 8th, but as Mark Hertel has been showing recently it’s still pretty decent, and has survived here more unscathed than similar abilities have elsewhere. There’s also a fairly marginal second part of the Dogma that prevents opponents you charge from Holding Steady or Setting to Defend. This is another thing where it just won’t come up in plenty of games, but at least for Stygies the main ability is much, much better than Graia’s.

The Warlord Trait here, Veiled Hunter, is also big money. At the start of the first Battle Round, this lets you redeploy two Stygies VIII units that are wholly within your deployment zone and either redeploy them or pull them into strategic reserves for free. This has proven exceptionally good for the Poisoned Tongue in Drukhari, and while there’s a little less deep strike synergy in this faction being able to pull key tanks off the table if you lose the roll on planet bowling ball can be a lifesaver.

The stratagem, Clandestine Infiltration, provides more deployment shenanigans. You use it for 1CP during deployment to allow you to set up a STYGIES CORE INFANTRY unit anywhere on the battlefield more than 9” from the enemy. Astute readers will, of course, notice that Veiled Hunter is carefully worded so you can’t pull these units back if you lose the roll-off, so this is likely more useful for haunting some mid-board ruins with Electropriests than going full gung ho, but it’s a neat trick to have in the arsenal.

The relic here is funny but skippable, but if you’ve built a plan around the deployment tricks you’re very much not going to care.

Deployment tricks and extra durability is a great combination – and the main thing that might hold Stygies back is that Lucius might just do it better. That’s not a sure thing, however, and the Warlord Trait here is strong enough to make this faction interesting.

Ryza

Credit: Warhammer Community

Ryza get to be Blood Angels. Very nearly, anyway – their trait is missing a boost to Advance rolls, but +1” to charges and +1 to wound in the first round of combat are both present and correct, so it you’ve ever wanted to unleash robo-Sanguinius, this is the Forge World for you.

This obviously makes melee units uniquely nasty here right out of the gate, and there’s a surprising number of possible users. Mild to moderate improvements to melee capabilities are everywhere in this book, making any specialist melee unit really quite spooky with this, and it’s also surprisingly relevant for Serberys Sulphurhounds, where it compounds with reducing the opponent’s toughness. That plus the fantastic synergy with (now cheaper) Fulgurites deploying from a drill with Invocation of Machine Vengeance means that there’s plenty of ways you can build around this, and it’s also another one that feels like it provides strong support for a smaller contingent.

Even if you haven’t bought specialists along, the Warlord Trait can give your basic Skitarii a leg-up, letting you pick a RYZA CORE unit to improve their AP by 1 at the start of the Fight Phase. Whether you want to do a glorious cavalry charge or just get your Vanguard stuck in, this helps a bunch, and even Fulgurites aren’t sad to pick this up when going into crunchier targets.

The rest of the toys here are less focused, but still OK. Weapon XCIX is still an exceptionally souped-up Vokite Blaster, letting your Dominus rack up some kills, and Plasma Specialists lets a unit of Kataphron Destroyers go hog wild with their culverins, but these aren’t the things that are going to bring you to this Forge World (especially with the poor re-roll support Kataphrons now have). You’re here because you want to shred stuff with metal claws (relatable) and if you want to be in your opponent’s face doing just that, Ryza is one of the places to be.

Pendulin: +1 to wound in the first round of combat makes for some exceptionally good matchups. Here are some AdMech units that are able to wound their enemy in melee on 2+: Skitarii Vanguard again T3. Electro-Priests, non-razor Sicarians, and Sulphurhounds against T4. Dragoons against most vehicles, and Kastelan Robots with fists wound Knights on 2+.

Metalica

Credit: Warhammer Community

Reviewing Metalica is weird because thanks to the Book of Rust they’ve got a Codex Supplement out in the wild already, and thus what’s here only represents the tip of the iceberg of what they can do.

The Dogma is the key thing that the supplement doesn’t cover, and the one you get here is at least fine. Your units can advance and shoot Assault Weapons without penalty and move/shoot Heavy Weapons without penaltly, letting you be very aggressive on the table to get into a position to deploy your various short-ranged tricks. They also get a second part of the Dogma where any enemy unit within engagement range always counts as being under half strength, which means that a well timed charge into a unit you’ve softened up with shooting can potentially reap a significant morale toll. It’s situational and you should focus on the other stuff, but will occasionally do horrible stuff, especially in combination with Omnissiah’s Exaltation.

The rest of what’s here adds an additional option each on top of the ones already in the Codex Supplement, and the Warlord Trait and Stratagem both fit nicely into the overall whole.

The biggest add is definitely the stratagem, Deafening Assault. When you shoot with a unit, this lets you pick a non-VEHICLE enemy within 12” and half their movement, prevent overwatch and prevent setting to defend until your next turn. The halving movement is the win here – Blaring Glory already encourages you to send small sacrificial units into your opponent’s line to disrupt them, and having more tools in that particular box makes the plan all-round better.

The relic is a classic in the genre of “hilarious but skippable” – an extremely angry servo arm that hits at Sx3 for D4. Is it funny? Very much so. Is it worth the slot? Almost certainly not.

The Metalica Supplement already lines up pretty effectively with the new codex, and adding these additional options certainly doesn’t hurt it. The mixed melee/shooting of Kataphron Breachers seem particularly worth a look, especially as Order in Anarchy is now one of the best available tools for buffing them. There’s enough stuff to like across other Worlds that we aren’t looking at a Cult of Strife situation here, but there’s definite appeal to Metalica with the new book. Their party trick of giving House Raven Knights Canticles also looks even more spicy now!

Pendulin: With Cognis weapons now being Assault across the board, Metalica Skorpius Duneriders advancing and shooting without penalty is as hilarious as it is good. Also works with Ironstrider Ballistarii’s Lascannons!

Distant Forge Worlds

If none of the named Forge Worlds appeal to you, custom options for your Dogma (now called “Distant Forge Worlds”) return from Engine War in the same curated structure. You choose one of four options which gives you a Primary Dogma effect, and then select one of three associated Secondary effects to go with it. Here the Dogma is all you get – no traits, relics or stratagems. Alternatively, you can select a fifth option, which is the newest implementation of “we’re just like this named Forge World”. You gain their Dogma, and now additionally gain access to their stratagem and warlord trait, but apparently getting the relic would still be a bridge too far and simply cannot be allowed. We creep ever closer to GW just putting in the rules the way everyone plays this in events, but we’re still not quite there. One day. One day.

Anyway, the custom options. These are OK, but the most notorious option from Engine War (exploding 5s for arc weapons) is conspicuously absent, and given how good some of the named Forge Worlds are, competition is steep. Quite a few of the effects are also CORE-locked, which generally relegates them behind the named ones in an edition where subfaction traits are one of the key ways that non-CORE stuff gets access to boosts.

Notable standouts are:

  • Luminary Suffusion (expanding Rad-Saturation to 3” and making it affect S as well) returns as a secondary option for Rad-Saturated Forge Worlds, mildly nerfed (it no longer affects VEHICLES) but still handy in a soup list.
  • Forward Operatives (a Secondary of Expansionist Forge Worlds) improves, now giving all SKITARII CORE units a 3” pre-game move (and still being as good on Rangers, as they now get 3” for free).
  • Reignited Forge Worlds are all new, and give CORE units improved AP on shooting hits of 6, and also sporting the Engineered Nanophages secondary, which boosts AP by 1 in melee against enemies with saves of 3+ or better.

There’s some cute stuff here, but very little of it is powerful enough for you to want to build an army around when the power of the main choices is available.

Stratagems

Serberys Raider

Serberys Raider. Credit: Pendulin

As with most 9th books, AdMech get two full double-page spreads of stratagems, giving them a whole host of ways to spend their CP to grease the wheels of success.

A surprising number of these are completely new, and it is worth saying up front that a decent number of Engine War favourites didn’t make the cut across to the new book – Disintegrators, Ironstriders and Corpuscarii Priests all lose their dedicated shooting Stratagems, which is a bit sad (though CORE re-rolls largely make up for it on the latter two). There are also some key changes for Tactica Obliqua and Electrofilament Countermeasures. The former now lets your opponent re-target their charge after you use it (which lets be honest, was a needed change in 9th), while the latter only lets you pick a single unit that can’t be affected by Auras rather than providing an Aura of no Auras. This is a little closer to a side-grade than an outright nerf, as when going after (e.g.) a carpet of Boyz, you only have to fly the plane to the periphery of your target unit rather than having to try and get it close to a Mad Dok/Mekboy, but there will definitely be situations where you miss the old version. Crucially, however, it reduces the number of times Vrekais will be asked what happens when two Auras of no Auras interact, and that’s a major blessing for the website.

That’s the mild downsides out the way, on to the good stuff. The normal suite of 9th Edition upgrades is here, augmented by some AdMech-specific options to give Skitarii sergeants Warlord Traits or one of a sub-set of Relics. This is neat – Skitarii get their own table of Warlord Traits (as we’ll get to) that all follow the “boost a single unit in your command phase” model, so this is pretty close to giving you six choices for upgrading your favourite Skitarii unit, which is very cool on the better ones like Raiders. Some of the relics you can hand out are also extremely good (most notably, there’s a Fight Last one in there) and while AdMech are going to need to be a bit judicious in how they spend their CP (as Holy Orders are their only way to get more), these are often going to be good ways to spend them.

Beyond that, there’s a massive host of fancy toys in here, and at this point we’re going to break out and let our authors talk about their favourites.

Wings:  I really like Chain Taser Protocols, which lets you get some of the old Sydonian Dragoon action back by making their weapons explode on unmodified 5s rather than 6s – there’s enough ways to make these melee walkers lethal now that I think they’re worth a look again. I’m also a fan of the incredible headaches you can cause with Booster Thrust, which lets a unit of Pteraxii return to deep strike. Initially I looked at this and thought “neat”, but Pendulin pointed out that unlike a lot of these abilities this happens at the end of your turn and there’s no restriction stopping you doing it on the turn you bring the unit in. That means that as long as you’re willing to invest the CP, you can have a unit turn up, flame something and vanish every turn with near impunity, which is going to be incredibly annoying. Alternatively since Deploy Scramblers completes at the end of your turn as well, a smaller unit can drop in, scramble, then retreat immediately after the action completes. This is such an unusual thing for you to be able to do that I think there’s a chance a limitation is missing here and will be added by FAQ, but right now it’s extremely powerful.

Pendulin: The strategem I’m going to miss the most from Engine War is Evacuation Sequence, which is nowhere to be seen. However, there’s a lot (and I mean a lot) of good stuff here. Enriched Rounds, which makes radium weapons automatically wound non-vehicle targets on unmodified hit rolls of 4+, is a standout for me. Skitarii Vanguard were already a favorite of mine, but Strength 3 for their weapons meant they were hard pressed to pack a punch. Now you can spend 1 CP and half your attacks go straight into armour saves. Overloaded Systems is also interesting, where after deal at least 1 wound of damage to a vehicle with an arc weapon, that vehicle is considered to have half the number of wounds remaining for degradation purposes. Take a potshot at your opponents big bad tank, spend a CP, and watch it grind to a halt. Lastly, Host of the Intermediary and Artefactotum are strategems you can, respectively, use to grant a warlord trait or certain relic to the Alpha or Princep of a Skitarii units. While this isn’t game changing, it’s certainly interesting and opens the door to a lot of really fun combos.

Warlord Traits

Alongside the arrival of a Skitarii character and ways to give Skitarii sergeants traits the AdMech Warlord Traits have proliferated. You now get two tables of these – one for Tech Priests, and one for Skitarii, and there are the full six choices on each. This doesn’t give you quite as much variety as you’d initially assume, because the Skitarii options all follow a very rigid formula. Each of them provides an ability you can apply to a SKITARII CORE unit within 9” or DATA TETHER CORE unit anywhere on the battlefield for a buff that lasts till your next Command Phase. That doesn’t mean these aren’t good – there are, in fact, several that are excellent, but it means we’re not quite looking at 12 different weird and wacky effects.

On the Tech Priest side, you get a bit more variety. You’ve got some options to buff the model itself such as by boosting S and D on a non-relic weapons, extremely nasty on a transonic cannon in particular, or by getting damage reduction and a 4++ for monstrous defences (which, handily is Cawl’s trait). You also get some buffs you can hand out, letting you give a FORGE WORLD CULT MECHANICUS CORE unit full hit re-rolls in melee or the ability to fall back and charge. Supervisory Radiance (the hit re-rolls) is unusual for a single target effect like this in that you choose the target at the start of each Fight Phase, letting you both respond to what your opponent is doing in your turn and potentially apply the buff to a unit coming in from Deep Strike. That means you’re likely to often see it in lists alongside probably the most unusual here, which is Cartogrammist. When you take this, you pick a FORGE WORLD CULT MECHANICUS CORE unit in your army to gain the ability to Deep Strike. In practice, that means you choose 20 Ryza Fulgurites from your army to Deep Strike, which definitely feels like it could be a thing.

There’s some good stuff here, but it does highlight one of the things that feels a bit flawed about this book which is that CULT MECHANICUS CORE is an extremely narrow combination of keywords, appearing only on Electro Priests and (sometimes) Kastelan Robots – all quite niche units. There are as many Warlord Traits on this table that refer to this keyword combination as units that have it, and there are plenty of other references elsewhere, and overall it’s just a bit weird and makes quite a few cool looking things less exciting once you dig into them. We’re wondering if Kataphrons had CORE in an early draft of this book and lost it in a later revision – it really feels like the keyword combo is missing a generic battle line unit like those.

Happily, SKITARII CORE has no such problems – it’s everywhere, including on spicy units like Serberys Raiders, Ironstriders and Sydonians. That means that while the second list of warlord traits is pretty formulaic, there’s some extremely good stuff in it. Standouts include the ability to gain Light Cover in the open via Firepoint Telemetry Cache (which you can stack with Bulwark Doctrina for a cool 2+ on ponies or an effective 1+ on Ironstriders). Elsewhere, you can grant the ability to move/fire or advance/fire with no hit penalties, and to Fall Back and still shoot with Programmed Retreat. The latter feels like a particularly strong ability to have in your pocket, as Ironstriders look like one of the best units in the book and have a Data Tether, so as long as they’re on the table your opponent can’t lock them down with a bully charge.

You usually want to have some clear standout units you’re planning to use these on, but there are multiple choices here that feel clearly worth it, and they’re likely especially good in Mars lists planning to go wide with a breadth of Skitarii units. Good stuff.

Relics

Last on our regularly scheduled set of upgrades (before we get into AdMech’s unique option) is relics. The 8th Edition AdMech rules lasted surprisingly well into 9th, but Relics were a real weakpoint, with very few strong choices. This new set has considerably more to offer, roughly breaking down into three categories:

  • Relic weapons. There’s lots, they’re pretty much all reasonably well tuned without any of them quite being must takes.
  • Debuff tools/punishment mechanics for foolish opponents.
  • Buff auras for Skitarii

It feels like the bulk of the time people are going to be taking toys from the second two categories, because there’s a couple in each that are worth a real look.

In debuff/punishment land, you get the Temporcopia and the Skull of Elder Nikola. The former is a familiar effect – it lets you make one enemy unit within 3” ineligible to fight till all your units have gone – but this is frequently useful to have, and here helped by being one of the options available to Skitarii sergeants, being great on Raiders and plausibly interesting on Sterylizors or Infiltrators. The Skull is designed to punish people who go wide on vehicles, and oh goodness does it do that. At the start of each of your shooting phases you roll a d6 for every enemy vehicle within 12” and deal a MW on a 2-3, d3 on 4-5 and 3 on a 6. That’s a, uh, whole lot of mortals if your opponent has a lot of tanks, and it going off before you have to allocate shooting so there’s very little chance of the damage being wasted. This is another one that can be ferried around by a Skitarii, and putting this on Pteraxii or ponies is really going to keep your opponent on their toes.

In Skitarii buff land the real standout is the Examplar’s Eternity, which upgrades a Skitarii Marshall so their aura provides re-roll 1s to hit for SKITARII CORE units as well as wound. Not always going to be needed if you’re confident your units are going to be babysitted by Cawl or a TBD, but if you want an absolute dirt cheap re-roll bubble for a bunch of Ironstriders, this is your guy. As we’ll see when we get to building lists, if you want to go very cheap on characters to pack in more guns, this is for you.

Overall, a nice set of stuff – more than enough depth to happily use your free pick and maybe some extras on, which is basically what you want.

Pendulin: Shoutout to Phosphoenix, which is a gun, aura, and pseudo-markerlight. It lets you turn off dense cover to a specific unit, and I could see this getting used for an effective +1 to hit on most boards with adequate terrain.

Holy Orders

Tech-Priest Manipulus. Credit: Rockfish

Tech-Priest Manipulus. Credit: Rockfish

Holy Orders make their return from the Engine War book, allowing you to customise your Tech-priests by inducting them into a specific order within the Tech-priesthood. There are four of these on offer, broadly themed around different specialisms that have been mentioned in the fluff – Genetors (biologists), Logi (data analysts), Magi (mystics), and Artisans (engineers).

Each order gives two different abilities – one is a once per battle ability which makes one class of stratagem 1CP cheaper once per game, and the other is a two-part “progressive” ability with an Initial and Advanced section – you start the game in Initial, and then the Tech-priest can do an action to switch from the former to the latter.

These each cost points – 25 for the cheaper two, Generators and Artisans, 30 for the Magi and 35 for the most expensive, Logi, and you can only have one Tech-priest from each order in your army.

Let’s pick one of these to talk through how it works. The Logi’s first ability is Scriptural Prognosis, which means that once per game you can use an Adeptus Mechanicus Strategic Ploy stratagem for 1CP less. Their progressive ability is Analyses of the Logos, where the Initial Part is Predicted Barrage and the Advanced Part is Flaws of the Foe. Predicted Barrage allows you, in the Command Phase, to select one <FORGE WORLD> CORE unit within 6” of the Tech-priest; until your next Command phase that unit treats AP-1 or AP-2 as AP0. If you choose to switch to the Advanced Part, Flaws of the Foe, you can instead pick one CORE or KATAPHRON SERVITORS unit within 6”, and they can ignore cover.

As you can see, the Advanced Part doesn’t necessarily mean a better buff, just a different one that you would want in a different situation. For our money that means that what you’re looking for primarily is a Holy Order with a strong Initial Part, so that if nothing else you always have a strong buff available there – our example, Logi, is a good pick here.

The other standout is Artisans. It’s one of the cheapest, it’s pretty easy to plan around the discount it gives (Seismic Bomb can use it straight away on turn 1 for example), and the effects line up well. The Initial lets you choose a CORE or KATAPHRON unit to fall back and shoot (at -1) and charge, very nice for opening up shots from KATAPHRONs or squeezing extra value from some SKITARII, while the Advanced ability lets you pick a CORE unit for +1S to their shooting. That means if you look at the table turn one and realise that your opponent is never going to realistically bully charge you then your Priest can start thinking real hard about violence out the gate, while if you think you need the insurance of the Primary you can keep it active.

Do be wary with these that the investment to upgrade them is real – the Action starts at the beginning of your Command Phase, so if you want to see it through to completion you can’t even move, and will need to make do without any auras the Character is packing for a turn. Because the Initial abilities aren’t Auras you can still activate them while you’re in the process of ramping up to part 2, along with a reasonable number of other effects in this book (there are a lot of “pick one unit in your command phase” abilities), but if you’ve dropped this on a Tech Priest Dominus be aware that you’re losing your re-roll bubble.

Pendulin: While the old Divination of the Magos is gone, you’ll be comforted to know it lives on in spirit. If you take the Magi Holy Order, and progress it to the Advanced ability, you can pick a single core unit within 6” and grant their unmodified hit rolls of 6 an additional hit. Not as good as the Engine War version, but it’s still plenty powerful.

Secondary Objectives

Like other 9th edition codices, the Adeptus Mechanicus get their own secondary objectives. In this case they have four, one each for the Purge the Enemy and No Mercy, No Respite categories, and two for Battlefield Supremacy.

Accretion of Knowledge (Purge the Enemy) is your first here. Score 3VP at the end of the battle for each enemy unit that has been destroyed that was any or all of (so only 3VP per unit, regardless of how many of these they meet) a model with a warlord trait, a model with a relic or a VEHICLE with 14W+. This is a niche but potentially powerful alternative to Assassinate and Bring It Down if an opponent has a small number of loaded-up characters and supporting 14 wound vehicles, where neither option would max the core secondaries but you can pick up max points for this instead  – double Telemon Custodes or Ghost Ark-heavy Necrons are potential places to look out for this as an option.

Another alternative for popular options is Eradication of Flesh (NMNR), where you score 3VP at the end of the battle round if there is at least one ADEPTUS MECHANICUS VEHICLE unit on the battlefield, and if ADEPTUS MECHANICUS units from your army destroyed more enemy INFANTRY units than enemy units destroyed friendly VEHICLE units. This can potentially play into your strengths in terms of tough vehicle units vs. killable enemy infantry. It’s a pick that gets better the more skewed the game is. It being whole units is also good, as it means if you’re packing larger Ironstrider blobs it can be hard for them to rack up VEHICLE KILLS.

You get two options for Battlefield Supremacy, which are:

  • Uncharted Sequencing: Before deployment, assign one objective marker to each battle round and write this down; score 3VP at the end of the battle round if you control the objective you noted. You can only assign each objective to a round once
  • Hidden Archeovault: Before deployment, your opponent picks one objective marker (excluding objectives in their deployment zone) – you score 2VP if you control that objective at the end of the battle round, and 5VP if you hold it at the end of the game

These are both objective-focused, with different strengths for each. For Uncharted Sequencing, you’ll want a plan to move around the table – and a map with at least 5 objectives. Hidden Archeovault is a potentially tough one since your opponent gets to pick, but it could be advantageous – it could be particularly strong on Battle Lines, where your opponent must pick one of the centre ones (unless they’re insane and pick your deployment zone one, a possibility we’ll dismiss), which you will need to seize anyway. You can even double up with the mission secondary for a potentially big swing on points for holding the same objective.

Wings: I think Uncharted Sequencing is my pick for the best of these, because on lots of maps you’re going to be able to set it up so that it really only starts being challenging from Battle Round 3 onwards, and gives you very predictable goals to work towards. Being end of the battle round is also a nice balancing factor too – if you go first you have the built-in advantage of moving out for board control, while if you go second you can deploy a very focused plan to shove your opponent off the target objective at the right moment. It does need you to bring some push elements, but there are some very good choices for that now, and I think in general this gives a Battlefield Supremacy choice that’s better tailored to AdMech’s style than most of the core ones.

Pendulin: I agree with Wings on Uncharted Sequencing. A lot of this book seems designed to break apart the old Cawl Castle, and encourage you to spread onto the battlefield and into melee. Being able to sweep across the board, hold objectives and score victory points at the end of your turn is rewarding you for doing something you’ll already be doing. Go ahead and have your cake and eat it too.

The Units

HQ

For an army that came into index 8th edition with just a single generic HQ, Ad Mech are now positively overflowing with them – you have the perennial Tech-priest Dominus, the Tech-priest Manipulus, the Technoarchaelogist (and new genericised datasheet for Daedolosus from Combat Arena/Blackstone Fortress), the Skitarii Marshal, and the Tech-priest Enginseer. Belisarius Cawl is also in here, and is now a Supreme Commander to boot, allowing him to be taken in a Supreme Command detachment – handy for opening up your HQ slots, and also for being able to make use of him in a non-Mars army.

Belisarius Cawl

Adeptus Mechanicus - Belisarius Cawl

Adeptus Mechanicus – Belisarius Cawl
Credit: Pendulin

That Supreme Command option is a thing at least worth exploring, since Cawl’s abilities have taken a few changes. He comes with his base 5+ invulnerable save, but if he’s the Warlord (as he would be in a Supreme Command) this improves to a 4+ and -1 damage thanks to the Masterwork Bionics Warlord trait discussed above.

He also has two abilities, splitting up his old aura. He now has Lord of the Machine Cult aura, shared with the Tech-priest Dominus – though Cawl’s version affects ADEPTUS MECHANICUS CORE, whereas the TPD only does <FORGE WORLD>. This is your common or garden re-roll 1s to hit aura, though importantly for Ad Mech players this is now generic rather than shooting only – an overall buff, and importantly Cawl’s aura works on anyone, befitting his status as a Supreme Commander. Additionally he comes with the Lead in Prayer ability, which lets him pick one CULT MECHANICUS CORE (which mostly means Electro-priests) unit within 6”, and change that unit to have a different Canticle to the one already selected – both Cawl and that unit benefit from the new Canticle instead, and it can be one that was already active. This is a powerful ability, but one which can take a little care – you don’t want to use it to switch one unit out and then realise Cawl himself would have benefited from a different buff. You also need to have a valid target, which can be challenging sometimes, though Kastelan Robots made CORE with a Datasmith feel like a good bet.

If you’re taking him in his home army there’s one more relevant ability here, Lord of Mars, effectively the same ability as a Chapter Master has, allowing him to pick one MARS CORE unit within 6” and give it full re-rolls to hit. Rounding out the package are his old Self-Repair Mechanisms and also Master of Machines, which is now buffed to allow healing D3 wounds on IMPERIUM instead of just 1.

Otherwise his statline is unchanged, but his weapons have taken a number of significant buffs – the solar atomiser retains the same shots, Strength, and AP, but is now flat 3 damage or D3+3 within half range. The Omnissian axe gains another point of Strength making him S7, while the arc scourge takes a huge buff, gaining a point of AP as well as 2 damage and always wounding VEHICLE units on 2s. The only other thing to watch out for is that he’s now a MONSTER, meaning that pathing through terrain is off the table.

Overall, Cawl isn’t bringing the army-wide re-rolls he used to, but does still plausibly feel like he has a place in some lists, especially now he’s 20pts cheaper. Quite apart from anything else, with his warlord trait applied he’s a real tank, something he couldn’t claim before, and becomes a genuine discouragement to opponents planning to attack your lines. To get the most out of him you do need a MARS unit that really wants his big re-rolls, and we suspect he’ll most often show up alongside either Kastelan Robots or Ironstriders, as in both places there’s some big, big value to be had.

Pendulin: Take note that Cawl grants full rerolls to a unit within 6” during your Command phase, and after that there are no distance restrictions. So feel free to have Cawl grant rerolls to Kastelan Robots, and then to send them down the battlefield and into combat. The rerolls last until your next command phase too, which means they’ll have full rerolls on overwatch/melee during your opponent’s turn too.

Tech Priests

Adeptus Mechanicus Daedalosus

Adeptus Mechanicus Daedalosus. Credits: That Gobbo

You have a mighty four different flavours of Tech Priest to choose from when building your army. All of these can repair VEHICLES, and each has another ability on top. There’s roughly two “tiers” here, with the Dominus and Manipulus being clearly senior to the Technoarchaologist and the Enginseer. That’s reflected in better statlines for the former two, and the junior options share the Brotherhood of the Cog ability, which means that you can choose to take one without using a detachment slot for each senior priest in the detachment. This feels like a firm nice-to-have – these are good, but they’re not as mandatory as, say, Crypteks in Necrons, so sometimes you’ll want to actually fill the slot to complete your Battalion.

The additional abilities of each are:

  • Dominus: A re-roll 1 bubble for CORE, now working for melee as well as shooting. Good clean fun, and you will almost always want this ability from somewhere. Also discounted by 5 pts.
  • Manipulus: The suspicious floating member of Tech Priest club can use their Galvanic Field in your command phase to upgrade Radium, Galvanic and Arc weapons for one CORE unit. This boosts their range by 6” and gives them an extra point of AP. This is a serious upgrade, especially now you can push Skitarii units to 20 models, and should see some definite experimentation. Sadly, the movement boost is gone.
  • Engineseer: Can Awaken the Machine on a non-Kastelan VEHICLE model in your Command Phase to give it +1 to hit until your next turn. With key VEHICLES not having CORE this is likely to prove vital if they’re still going to see heavy play, and the fact that you can double tap this for 1CP with Tech Adept is extremely helpful. It feels very likely that one of these babysitting a pair of Skorpii is how they’re likely to be fielded going forward.
  • Technoarchaologist: The new guy has nicked an Omni-Scrambler from a Space Marine Infiltrator to prevent deep striking within 12”, and can also make Kataphrons count as INFANTRY for the purposes of performing an Action, and allow either that unit or a CORE/SERVITORS unit be able to shoot while Actioning without failing.

Of these, the Dominus and Enginseer feel like they’ll be the bread and butter choices, with the others showing up in more specific builds. If any of the plans around big Skitarii blocks take off the Manipulus is very likely to be part of it. The outlook is less clear on the Archaelologist, but realistically that’s barely going to come up until the point that GW issue a FAQ saying you can’t use him as Daedy any more (if they in fact do that). That datasheet is going to have to be prised from people’s cold, robotic hands.

Skitarii Marshall

Last but not least in HQs is the other new kid on the block, the Skitarii Marshall – and they’re really good! Running you a dirt cheap 45pts, they bring two abilities to the table:

  • A RR1 wounds aura for Skitarii CORE. Extremely good with Ironstriders and Sydonians, plenty good with lots of things.
  • Control Edict, A command phase ability granting either a SKITARII unit within 9” or a SKITARII DATA-TETHER unit anywhere on the battlefield the ability to ignore the drawback of the current Doctrina. This is exceptional – one of the downsides of Doctrinas is that you have to put your whole army in at once, meaning that sometimes you’ll get a drawback you don’t want on some units. This lets you bypass that for a key squad – want your Dragoons to still go fast when Bulwark Doctrina is up? You got it. Want that Skorpius on the back line to keep its BS when you activate Conqueror Doctrina? Also fine.

Add in being a place to drop (very good) Skitarii Warlord traits and even to provide hit re-rolls as well if needed with the Exemplar’s Eternity and this model is just fantastic, all while being the cheapest HQ slot filler in the faction. If you play AdMech, stick one in your preorder ASAP.

Troops

Ad Mech retain their four Troops choices, the squishy Skitarii Vanguard and Rangers and the hulking Kataphron Breachers and Destroyers. There’s some key changes to both units which will make them play very differently from their 8th edition versions.

Skitarii Rangers and Vanguard

Skitarii Vanguard. Credit: Rockfish

Skitarii Vanguard. Credit: Rockfish

Your numerous, cheap, expendable core infantry. There’s iImprovements for both Rangers and Vanguard here; both units can now go to a model count of 20, which considering that each has a dedicated stratagem for souping up their guns and the breadth of buffs you can drop on CORE units is actually something worth considering – and they’re cheap too at just 8ppm for either version. That said, if you’re dipping into special weapons (and you probably want to) there’s a small cost increase in these to trade off. Speaking of special weapons there is a mild loss here – like Blightlord Terminators in Death Guard, these have been afflicted by the Curse of Box Compliance, meaning you’re limited to loading them out in a way that makes sense from the kit. Essentially, each full ten models can take one of each special weapon, and each partial ten can take a single special weapon. The good news on that front is that one weapon in particular got a lot better – the transuranic arquebus is still Heavy 1 but it no longer requires you to be stationary to use it at all, so it’s a much easier utility add and better aligned with how the rest of the game works. The arc rifle is also brought in line with the new approach for arc weapons, i.e. always wounding vehicles on a 4+ and dealing extra damage to them.

The other very noticeable weapon change is the default gun of Rangers, which is now Heavy 2 instead of Rapid Fire 1 and just has flat AP-1 instead of gaining it on 6s. Unless you’re planning on Advancing this is a massive boost, and gets even better thanks to there being multiple ways to ignore Heavy, and a strat to make them Rapid Fire 2 for a turn. Both flavours here can unleash a lot of dakka with the right setup, and Skitarii bombs definitely feel like they’re worth at least some amount of investigation – even a maximum-sized unit is only 8 PL, so they fit neatly into the 1CP bracket for Strategic Reserves.

Our final improvement is to Vanguard, with their Rad Saturation now affecting S as well as T. This makes it much more useful on a unit that isn’t any great shakes in combat, as it helps them survive being attacked, which is the main thing they’re likely to want out of the Fight Phase – especially since there’s a few different options in the book which will then let them fall back and shoot.

In general, Skitarii feel like big winners from this book – there’s some genuinely nifty things you can do with big units, and strong synergies with a number of Forge Worlds. So effiicient are these little guys, in fact, that there’s very likely some scope to explore packing hordes of them, probably as Lucius to massively increase their survivability.

Pendulin: Something I want to call out here is that our Skitarii’s lovely Plasma Calivers got buffed from an 18” range to a monstrous 30” range. Not really sure the justification of that, but hey I’ll take it.

Kataphron Breachers and Destroyers

Your much sturdier troops – giant, tracked cyborgs with huge guns attached to them.

Kataphons also see some big shakeups, and for them, sadly, the net outcome is probably that they’re losers from the book, though it’s not all one-way. The key issue here is that they’re not CORE, and that massively limits the number of buffs in the book that are compatible with them. Some still exist, but if you were used to playing these with full hit re-rolls you’re going to find your experience of them considerably diminished. Metalica have probably the best way left to improve their shooting at close range with Order in Anarchy, but for everyone else you get your one turn of Benediction of the Omnissiah and that’s largely your lot. They’re also no longer INFANTRY, instead being BIKERS. The movement issues of this are mitigated by Tracked Mobility, letting them still move through Breachable like INFANTRY, but they can’t climb, can’t perform many Actions unless they’re being babysitted by a Technoarchaeologist and can’t benefit from most cover. Finally, squads are now capped at 6, so no gigantic bricks of T6 ones with Agripinaa.

That’s the bad – but there is some good, notably improved saves, improved speed and improved weaponry. The saves go up by 1 on each, making Breachers a tasty 2+ and thus a rat bastard to shift through Shroudpsalm, while Destroyers are no longer comically flimsy for their size. They’re no longer capped at only advancing d3”, so can zoom around the table that much more quickly when needed. Finally, a whole bunch of their weapons get mild to moderate boosts, most notably:

  • Torsion cannon doubles in range and becomes d3+3 damage (though goes up by 5pts)
  • Massive boosts to the melee weapons on Breachers – AP improvements on both and significant ability upgrades.

There’s some nice stuff there, and it’s all capped off with a small price cut on the Destroyers if you choose not to take the flamer.

We think that still leaves these as pretty usable units, but you’re leaning even more on them grinding the opponent down over time rather than being able to reliably use them as the hard core of your gunline, as some lists have in the past. Canticles still work very effectively with them, and Breachers are probably some of the best users of them in the whole book, able to draw value from both ranged, defensive and melee buffs, and they’re still unusually tough ObSec models, which is never a bad thing in 9th.

There’s also decent draws to running blocks of six Breachers in quite a few Forge Worlds. They’re going to be a nightmare to shift as Lucius or Agripinaa and pleasingly deadly as Ryza or Metalica – and that’s more than half of your options. Mars probably doesn’t want squads of six, but the free hit re-roll each time you shoot means that taking squads of two arc, one torsion feels pretty nifty.

What we’re saying is definitely don’t throw these in the trash – there are lots of places to test them – but also don’t expect building an entire army around them to feel like the play any more.

Pendulin: This is a much healthier place for Kataphrons to be. They are no longer the one-size-fits-all troop choice they once were, but they have a solid niche to live in. Hopefully this encourages people to try more diverse AdMech army rosters going forward, rather than spamming Kataphrons.

Elites

Electro-Priests

Corpuscarii Electro-Priests. Credit: Rockfish

Corpuscarii Electro-Priests. Credit: Rockfish

Shock troops. Literally.

Both flavours of priests get a few changes, and both are normalised at 15pts per model (a 2pt drop for Fulgurites and a 1pt increase for Corpuscarii). Both are CORE, and in fact are the only natural CULT MECHANICUS CORE units in the book, meaning there’s a whole laundry list of buffs you can hand them if you’re feeling so inclined, all helping them do their thing.

That thing is, of course, damage. Corpuscarii get an inbuilt point of AP for their extra cost, which significantly softens the blow of the Electrostatic Discharge stratagem going away. They also gain the ability to ignore hit and BS modifiers, which since their weapons are Assault means they can be zooming around the field without breaking a sweat. They’re otherwise largely unchanged, which probably augurs pretty well for them since a unit of ten has been a pretty common sight in AdMech lists recently.

Fulgurites see a bit more shuffling in the other direction, and the big one is (and this isn’t hugely surprising) that they no longer go up to a 3++ after wiping an enemy unit, capping at a 4++ and getting a boost to their mortals on charge ability instead. The other downgrade here is that Zealous Congregation is no longer a Fight twice ability, so you can’t smash into two units, wipe one to boost the invuln then punk another later in the phase. The only positive is that their weapons are now flat damage two, including the alternative mortals, which makes them a bit more reliable into some targets. The “stealth” boost to these is that support for the fight phase is generally a bit better across the board, and as Ryza in particular these get very nasty, but the overall story on these is that they got a little less good, and hopefully the point cut is enough to mitigate that. They’re still nasty enough shock troops out of a transport that we expect to see them tried.

Pendulin: I was absolutely shocked to see that Fulgurites dish out two mortal wounds on unmodified 6’s to wound. Granted that formerly they dealt d3, so it averaged out to be the same. But still, two mortals!

Sicarians

Sicarians provide two flavours of assassin droid, designed to range ahead of the main force and pick off key targets or stragglers.

Sicarians have also had their points normalised, here to 17. That represents a 3pt drop for Infiltrators who generally make out rather well – the Circuitous Assassins stratagem has been changed to be usable with both flavours of these, both are CORE, all flavours of “improved” Skitarii now have Enhanced Bionics for a 5++ and the taser goad that Infiltrators have now has a point of AP. The fun doesn’t stop there – these can also now deploy in forward positions and have the Neurostatic Interference ability on top of their previous Ld reduction. This new trick means that opponents attacking them from within 12” cannot re-roll the hit or wound roll. This is a lot of new stuff to pack into a datasheet while also cutting the cost, and while it doesn’t feel like they’re suddenly your all-start damage dealer, a squad of five or ten of these is really annoying and can do a lot of different things as needed. A full unit is also one of the lowest effort ways to use Wrath of Mars to near-full value. A massively improved unit and worthy of far more attention this edition.

Ruststalkers see their points go up by 3, meaning that just running them as a cheap and cheerful objective utility unit is a harder sell. However, they do also improve. First up, all their lethal razorblades do actually have some amount of AP now, meaning they don’t humiliatingly bounce off anything with the slightest amount of defences. There’s now a real choice to be made between keeping the default loadout for an extra attack or swapping to the transonic blades for extra strength and AP. They do also pick up a defensive trick, improving their armour save by an extra point when gaining the benefit of Light Cover (which you can apply with a few abilities) and also ignore move modifiers. They’re undoubtedly a bit nastier than they were, but their melee output still doesn’t feel like it’s quite enough to take them on that basis alone – and taking them over Infiltrators, who are active in multiple phase, scout deploy and have a much stronger defensive ability, is a very, very steep sell.

Servitors

The saddest half robots.

No Dogmas, no CORE. Exclusively worth it for bringing the cheapest possible unit to sit on an objective, and even then you can buy a basic unit of Skitarii for 12 more points, which is what you probably should do.

Cybernetica Datasmith

Big news – you probably want one now. We’ll cover why in talking about the Robots, but suffice to say someone has at least tried to make these worth having on the table.

Fast Attack

Serberys

Adeptus Mechanicus - Serberys Raiders

Adeptus Mechanicus – Serberys Raiders
Credit: Pendulin

Your forward cavalry, ready to scout out ahead of the main force and tie the enemy up while your guns do the work.

Both flavours of dog riding pony soldiers see a change in their statline, losing their third wound but gaining a point of toughness, an extra attack and the improved invuln of Enhanced Bionics instead. This is an extremely healthy change overall – it probably leaves them a little less good, but not in all situations and it means their statline is much, much more inline with what you normally get at the price point, which is healthy for the game.

They also don’t change in cost, and get better in other ways. Both units are CORE, which means the full might of the SKITARII CORE keyword combo can be channeled into them, and see some weapon improvements alongside the extra attack. Raiders see their guns go to being flat AP-1, which combines with their extra attack to make them appreciably more dangerous in both offensive phases. Sulphurhounds, meanwhile, see their sulphur breath boosted to 12” range and AP-2, making it both harder to dodge and deadlier. They also join Vanguard in seeing their Rad Saturation now tank the enemy S as well as T. This is even better here, because with T4 and still decent other defences they can tarpit pretty effectively in a pinch. Finally, their Pistoleers ability has been expanded so that when you take a carbine, you can fire it and the breath in the same turn, making it less of a terrible investment (though still a bit questionable at 10pts).

Realistically, everyone knew that the loss of a wound was coming here, and it’s something of a relief to see that these have been treated well enough on pretty much every other axis that they’re still great. Raiders are still a faction-wide standout at their price point, and occasional flex units of Sulphurhounds are still going to see testing.

Pteraxii

Winged Skitarii that soar from above to unleash volleys of firepower and attack exposed positions.

Fairly minimal changes here, but mostly for the better. Both units stay at their current price point, are CORE and their statlines are unchanged other than going up to a 5++ like all advanced Skitarii. In terms of their abilities, some of what they used to have (arc grenades, going back into the sky) have been moved to stratagems, but in the case of the latter that’s come with the huge upside of being able to do it at the end of your turn. In better news, Skystalkers can now fall back and shoot while Sterylizors can fall back and charge.

That’s pretty much it. Skystalkers now have some severe competition from Infiltrators at the same price and probably just lose out to them but, at least for as long as Booster Thrust lets you leave the turn you arrive Sterylizors look lit, and are still going to be fine as a flex unit if it does depart (they’re used now, and are still as good).

Ironstrider Balistarii

Ironstrider Ballistarius. Credit: Rockfish

Ironstrider Ballistarius. Credit: Rockfish

Walking gun platforms.

Breaking the formula and splitting the two flavours of these out because while both types of IRONSTRIDER WALKER got better, they fit very different roles. Ballistarii are probably now in competition for best unit in the book – they were already a top unit, they’ve picked up some significant improvements without changing in price and they’re CORE, and are easily the nastiest SKITARII CORE shooting unit in the book to drop buffs on.

The buffs are an extra point of save, taking them to a cool 3+ base, and big boosts to both guns. Both are Assault rather than Heavy, and the autocannons got two extra shots while the lascannons went to d3+3 damage, both very welcome improvements. The save is super relevant too – you’ve got multiple way to put these into Light Cover in the open (either making them Mars for Shroudpsalm or using Firepoint Telemetry Cache), and can then stack that with Bulwark Doctrina for an effective 1+ – the Mars flavour of which you can switch on after the roll off at the top of Battle Round 1.

If you pack a big unit, there’s also an exhausting list of buffs you can profitably drop on them. Cawl’s full re-rolls and other spicy offensive boosts are the obvious place to start, but ignore AP-2 via Predicted Barrage is also deeply upsetting for some opponents to deal with, and you can apply it from wherever the bearer is thanks to these having a Data Tether.

There’s honestly not that much more that needs to be said about them – these are just pushed and likely to be a key player in the shooting plans of almost every AdMech army. Hit Buy on your basket full of 65pt models retailing at £32.50 each, and then face to bloodshed.

Sydonian Dragoons

Robot ostrich lancers.

Remember these guys? It’s been a while, but these have had a bit of love applied and could just be worth another look. We are, to be clear, talking about the melee version here – the sniper version still has no idea what it’s for or what it wants to be, and can be quietly ignored outside of maybe being a cheap and single model for holding a home objective.

The lancers then. These get a stat boost (+1Sv and +1A), a strat that restores their former zappy glory (exploding taser lances on 5s) and all the fun that comes from being SKITARII CORE in a codex where melee support is a bit broader.

All that might just be enough to make these fine. They’re still not cheap, but 9th definitely wants you to be packing some sort of melee shock troops, and these offer a faster, sturdier package than most of the other choices on the table.

Pendulin: These interest me quite a bit. S8 is a tipping point where you start to wound a lot of vehicles on 3+, and the new AP-2 means more of those wounds will go through armor. Another interesting thing to call out is their Incense Cloud (attacks against this model suffer a -1 hit modifier) now work both against ranged and melee!

Heavy Support

Kastelan Robots

Kastelan Robots with Cybernetica Datasmith. Credit: Rockfish

Kastelan Robots with Cybernetica Datasmith. Credit: Rockfish

Round, murderous robots.

Lots of changes here. First up – these aren’t CORE but the Cybernetica Datasmith has an aura that gives them the keyword. Big high fives for that power fist wearing cyborg – and it means you’re very likely to want to take one alongside these. Being able to benefit from re-rolls (especially Cawl’s) is obviously huge, and it lets you dip in to other effects like Predicted Barrage to go with their starting 2+ save.

That 2+ comes from Protocols, which are still a thing. Aegis is still where you begin, boosting your armour save to 2+ (it no longer affects invulns), but the Datasmith can perform an Action to change you to either Protector (cannot move but goes to BS3+) or Conqueror (re-roll charges and WS2+). You can also change with the Binharric Override strat, which is once per game and locks you in to the protocol you change to.

Given the Action option comes free with the Datasmith you want anyway it looks appealing, but unfortunately there’s a catch in the timing. You begin the Action at the end of your Movement Phase (good) but it completes at the end of your next Command Phase. This latter bit is extremely bad – because performing an Action switches off your Auras, which here includes the thing that makes the Kastelans CORE. That means that in the turn your fancy new protocols go up, you can’t apply any CORE keyword buffs either at the start of or during the Command Phase, cutting out a whole host of the ways to improve these.

This is horrendous, and in combination with the fact that Protector takes a big nerf means you’re probably going to use these very differently – especially as their gear has changed up a bit. Each fist is now a separate weapon and each one now gives you +1A. You can also now trade out fists separately – in fact, the default loadout is one fist, one Kastelan phosphor blaster. These arm guns have also now gone to D2 (in exchange for losing a point of AP).

Taking all these things together means you can now much more reasonably pack a block of these as an all-rounder unit – they can take a mixed loadout, lumber up the battlefield applying a moderate amount of hurt, then Override into the melee mode and pile into combat for a bit of light ultraviolence. They still hit at S10 (i.e. like a truck) and thus wound even Death Guard Terminators on twos.

All this comes with a 15pt price drop (or 10 if you take the shoulder flamer) and comes together to be something that’ll definitely see some experimentation. The days of these being your primary shooting bastion are definitely dead – for the shots you can rack up, Ballistarii just do the job way more efficiently. As a flexible line anchor, however, there could be some play here.

Pendulin: Is 9th the long awaited rise of punchybots? I certainly hope so, as mine have been relegated to the shelf for so long, sadly beeping to themselves.

Skopius Disintegrator

Skorpius Disintegrator with Voltaic Belleros Energy Cannon. Credit: Rockfish

Skorpius Disintegrator with Voltaic Belleros Energy Cannon. Credit: Rockfish

A gunline tank.

The Skorpy D catches two big nerfs on its datasheet. The (up till now at least) auto-pick choice for its main gun, the Belleros Cannon, goes down to S5, a big, big nerf in a metagame where one of the most important targets is T6, and there’s plenty of relevant T5 targets. Probably even bigger, however, is that it’s Skitarii (so no Canticles outside of Mars) and doesn’t get to join the CORE club, meaning that it has fairly limited access to re-rolls etc. This is likely a huge relief for all non-AdMech players, who no longer have to deal with their armies being ground into the dust with impunity from behind a big wall, but certainly reduces the punch of AdMech shooting.

Whether that’s enough to stop these being taken is a different question – not everything here is bad as they’ve gone down by 5pts and gained extra stubber shots, and were very good before, still seeing play in lists that weren’t running Cawl. You can also boost their shooting a bit by bringing an Enginseer along, and one of those being able to boost two of these to BS2+ in a single turn with Tech-Adept goes some way towards mitigating the blow. Especially if you bring them as a Forge World with upside for them (especially Mars) it seems feasible that two could do work alongside a TPE. Three in every list though? Probably not.

Pendulin: Line of sight ignoring ranged attacks will always be good, and AdMech currently has no other way of getting this.So for that reason alone, Disintegrators will still see play. Additionally, their cognis heavy stubber now has 4 attacks each, meaning a bit more chip damage they can dish out each turn. I’m unhappy with the strength nerf on the Belleros, but with all the other great stuff in this codex, I think I’ll manage.

Onager Dunecrawler

A gunline spider tank.

Like the Skorpy D, this doesn’t have CORE so its previous key function (adding a boatload more shots to benefit from re-roll bubbles) is kind of dead. Here, at least, it mostly get buffs in exchange, with most guns getting better in some way. The Icarus stuff only gets +1 against AIRCRAFT but suffers no penalty against ground targets (meaning it needs the re-rolls that much less), the phosphor blaster actually has a profile where you’d semi-consider it now (it’s 8 shots, and has gone up to D2) and the big guns are a bit more potent. The Neutron Laser in particular has gone to S12 and damage 3+d3, all while no longer demanding a point premium. If you want a bit more anti-tank in Mars, therefore, that option could maybe be worthwhile, if you want a single, backline vehicle it could be OK. If you’re going to go to the effort of bringing buffs, however, you probably want to go for the Skorpius.

Pendulin: Similar to the Skorpius Disintegrator, the Dunecrawler really benefits from the presence of an Enginseer to dish out a +1 to hit buff, as a lack of easy access to reroll will hurt it. Also it’s important to call out that a pair of Dunecrawlers no longer grant each other invulnerable save rerolls of 1, which is disappointing.

Dedicated Transport

Skorpius Dunerider

There’s only one transport for the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Dunerider, and it’s taken relatively few changes except for the increase in shot count for its guns – and it is, naturally, not CORE. As a Skitarii unit it also gains Doctrina Imperatives, which is cute for allowing them to either go hull down with a 2+ save or pump out 16 stubber shots at BS2+.

However, there are a couple of important changes – firstly its transport capacity has gone up from 10 to 12 (nice for getting your characters in there), and secondly it can carry either <FORGE WORLD> INFANTRY or…. Just INFANTRY. With no keyword restrictions at all. This one feels destined for a sharp correction as soon as someone at Games Workshop realises what they’ve done – right now you can load one of these up with 12 Centurions or Allarus Terminators or whatever the fuck else you fancy, really, which doesn’t really feel like it’s intended but is RAW. Throw some Sanguinary Guard or Vanguard Veterans in there if you feel like it, why not. More on this topic when we visit the Flyers in a second.

Ignoring what must, surely, be a mistake that isn’t going to survive, the Dunerider remains Fine. It’s 5pts cheaper, which is probably a fair trade for losing most re-rolls but gaining Doctrinas and 4 extra stubber shots and 2 extra transport spaces.

Pendulin: Metalica Duneriders are really tempting. 12” move, d6” advance (or flat 6” with the March to War stratagem from Book of Rust), then shooting 16 times, hitting on 2+. That’s just mean.

Flyer

Archaeopter Transvector

If you’ve been reading this review so far and thinking “wow Ad Mech has a lot of moving parts now,” well, here’s more for you in the shape of the Transvector.

The key issue with the transport version of the Ad Mech helicopter in 8th was that its transport capacity was only 6 models, which is pretty light – not enough to move anything impactful around the table, really. That problem has been resolved in this book by increasing the transport capacity – no, wait, that would be too easy. Instead you can do a Combined Landing, where you can pick two of these models and treat them as one model with a capacity of 12 <FORGE WORLD> INFANTRY, which yes, means you can split a unit in half between the two planes. You must hold the planes in reserves and then set them up as Reinforcements in your first, second, or third Movement phase regardless of mission rules and the units inside must disembark immediately – effectively they are Drop Pods, able to arrive on turn 1 and drop the units inside straight away. The ‘copters have to be set up within 9” of each other and the unit disembarking must be set up in coherency as normal.

Basically someone wrote a rule for the helicopters to be taken in pairs and used as Drop Pods. It’s cool! It’s also mad! Why did someone choose to do this!? To facilitate this even more, they’re two per slot, if you want.

Mercifully the Combined Landings rule specifically calls out <FORGE WORLD> INFANTRY so you can’t do this with Centurions, but the regular transport capacity is just INFANTRY so you can still take a plane full of Terminators for 110pts if you want – though only 6 of them and unable to deep strike.

Other Archaeopters

The Fusilave and Stratoraptor have largely been left alone while all the excitement was happening in Transvector land. The Stratoraptor joins many other units in taking a hit from not being CORE, but the Fusilave is essentially as good as ever, even seeing a slight improvement to its bombs when going in to VEHICLE targets. Fusilaves should still see heavy use.

Our Thoughts

How They’ll Play

Ad Mech have always been a primarily shooty faction, and this book provides plenty of support for that, especially in Mars, probably the most powerful Forge World. However, the old standby of just ramming as many shooty tanks into aura bubbles as possible isn’t going to work any more, and the more active playstyles we’ve seen succeed recently are even more heavily incentivised. The huge range of buffs you can apply to Skitarii and the ability to bring big blobs means you can actually have a go at contesting the field with numbers, while the extremely robust early defences you can throw up with Bulwark Doctrina and/or Shroudpsalm should minimse your early losses. Finally, you have far broader options to give units some real teeth in melee, allowing far more of your units to take a punt at a fight in a pinch.

That adds up to encouraging a playstyle really epitomised by the Uncharted Sequencing secondary. This wants you to methodically march up the board, eradicating the foes standing directly in your path, and claiming increasing amounts of territory for your Forge World until victory is secured. That’s a plan this book can get behind.

It’s also possible there’s a Mars list in here which is just Too Much, and on that note, on to the hot takes.

Hot Takes

Wings

This book is weird. The good news is that after Drukhari, there’s only one army list direction in here that really worries me army wise, and there’s a lot to like. The Forge Worlds have a good range of appealing abilities, plenty of Datasheets have been given a neat glow up to make them more interesting, and the stuff that’s been tuned down has mostly been stuff that really needed it, and often paid off by buffs that are relevant but create more fun play patterns than the old versions. The result is that there’s about 80% of a codex I really like here, and plenty of rewarding angles for list building that I think create plenty of builds that would slot into the meta at a pretty healthy level. Now let’s talk about the remaining 20%!

The thing I think is bad for the book is the headache-inducing levels of complexity that arise from the various applications of keywords here. In particular, it feels like there were more CULT MECHANICUS CORE units until quite late in the day during the writing of this book (if I had to guess Kataphrons), but the final draft has a tiny number and thus a lot of abilities that are extremely niche. This creates a bad experience while reading the book – while preparing the review, we had to keep catching each other and pointing out that the combo we were hyped around didn’t actually work, and I guarantee you that on the table people are going to (genuinely) accidentally cheat a lot with this book early on. You’re also going to need a spreadsheet reminding you of what you want to do each turn, and forgetting things could be disastrous. 9th has trended in this direction in general and I like having some abilities like this, but I sometimes find a Necron command phase a bit of a headache, and this is a whole different league.

That’s the thing I don’t like that’s bad for the book – now the thing that’s extremely good for it. Mars. Applying Canticles to every Skitarii unit almost makes it feel like Mars is playing with a whole different book to everyone else here, and slamming a hit re-roll on every round of shooting on top of that compounds it. It means that a bunch of units that are kind of locked out of force multipliers everywhere else suddenly have options again, and pushes SKITARII CORE stuff to crazy levels with access to their normal re-rolls and Doctrinas as well. Just right out of the gate, if you’re playing a Skitarii heavy Mars list and lose the first turn roll off you can turn on army wide +2 to armour saves, massively tanking your opponent’s damage output, and when you come to strike back you’ll be able to do horrific damage. Add in the fact that they get Cawl as well, who works phenomenally with Ironstriders (a truly outrageously pushed shooting threat) and I will profess myself the faintest bit worried.

I can see cool things you’d want to try with a bunch of Forge Worlds (at least Lucius, Ryza and Metalica), but it feels like unless there’s some sneaky trick we’re all missing, Mars is just going to erase them all. This isn’t another Drukhari where my mind is racing at all the wondrous options in front of me – instead, there’s plenty of pretty sensibly balanced stuff and choices, and then one subfaction and one unit where my eyes are just popping out of my head and I’m wondering whether I’m somehow reading things wrong.

We’ll see how it plays out. Hilariously, the good news is that the Ironstrider is the best shooting unit in this book and specifically great at killing Raiders, so it’s just about possible that the promised Drukhari counter does live in here without invalidating every other army in the process. It could be that Mars is clunkier to use than it looks, at which point I think you’ll be left with a healthily balanced book. I will say overall, however, that this is probably my least favourite new book we’ve had for a while – it makes the reader and player work much harder to use it than it really needs to, and if there is something “broken” in here, it’s because of a true travesty of an internal balance failure.

Corrode

At every stage in this codex there was a simple choice and a complicated one and the writers chose violence.

Whether that’s “what if we made TWO of the transport planes, but not one, effectively a Drop Pod” or “what if we had two different per-battle round, one use-only abilities, for different parts of the army,” or “what if Kataphrons were fucking BIKERS now, I guess, but they can also ignore Breachable, and they’re Troops that aren’t CORE which basically doesn’t happen except for trash like Poxwalkers” or two-part Holy Order abilities that take an action to activate, and so on, and so on. It’s a lot – though my favourite in all this is Kastelans randomly getting CORE turned off or on depending on what the Datasmith is doing, with the exact perfect timing to stop them benefiting from CORE-targeted buffs. No other unit in Warhammer has so many requirements to exercise its basic datasheet functions as Kastelans do.

This complexity has also introduced some weird mistakes to the page. Kataphrons are BIKER, so they don’t take Heavy penalties; nevertheless they have the Heavy Battle Servitors rule which lets them ignore Heavy penalties twice over. The INFANTRY thing on Duneriders and Transvectors is just baffling in what a hideous oversight it is. James has mentioned it above, but there’s multiple abilities that target CULT MECHANICUS CORE, which is basically just… Electro-priests? That doesn’t feel like someone thought it all the way through.

I’m also just kind of bemused by the option to include Daedalosus as a new, generic datasheet, the Technoarchaeologist; we now have a generic unit for a mainline 40k faction which you literally cannot buy in most countries, though I think Combat Arena is still for sale in the US and Germany. With no reboxing or rerelease announced, the Tech-priest who just won’t die continues to delight and amaze, at least if you’ve got one to sell.

Moving on from stuff that is just plain weird about this book, there’s been a lot of talk over the last few weeks about how “the playtesters” consider this a codex that will beat Drukhari, and we all just had to wait until it came out to rebalance the meta. An initial read of it suggests that isn’t quite the case – most of this book has been made more interesting, with real efforts made to bring up the units that were just not good enough in the 8th edition version and to round off the edges of things that were A Bit Much like Kataphrons, which were fairly regularly showing up in piles of 30 or more. This has been largely successful, though at first glance it seems like Kataphrons and Kastelans – perennial 8th ed bugears – got hit a little too hard, while Ironstriders (which were super good but showed up a lot less, largely because you had to be really invested in the faction to have enough of them) have gotten away scot free, indeed have been buffed, which is potentially exceptionally nasty in Mars in particular.

That said, as James has already highlighted, there is one possibility here which is that Mars by itself is so hellishly good that it actually does push Ad Mech into being a “top” faction and a specific anti-Drukhari counter by main force. That’s probably a healthy thing for the game, but it’s a deeply unhealthy sign for this codex’s internal balance – a lot of effort was expended to make the other Forge World options a lot more interesting than they were before, and for the most part it’s paid off, so it’s a shame if that all gets suppressed by the crushing weight of Mars simply having better maths than everyone else – though I guess that is, in itself, rather thematic.

Pendulin

This codex has me excited. I was hoping for a few more tools when building an army, and Games Workshop gave me an entire hardware store. The sheer amount of viable army combinations is staggering, and I’m looking forward to trying out dramatically different rosters just to see what clicks. While Mars looks to be leading the pack, it would not surprise me if we see entirely different forge worlds and playstyles topping tournaments. However, it’s not all sunshine and roses.

As both Wings and Corrode pointed out, the keyword system is obviously bursting at the seams in this book. Just tracking which units can benefit from what abilities is a labyrinthian minigame. As someone who is deeply invested in the rules and gladly spends their free time pouring over them to find hidden combos, it’s hard to track. For casual players, it’ll be outright frustrating and genuinely unenjoyable.

But despite that, at its core this looks to be a codex with solid internal balance (let’s just pretend Mars doesn’t exist for a paragraph). While there are plenty of combos that multiply the effectiveness of different units, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a “best unit in the codex”. Each datasheet brings some unique strength, and you can tailor your forge world, holy order, warlord trait, Skitarii warlord trait, relic, Skitarii relic, and HQ choices to play to your strengths.

Another point that’s important to cover is the real money cost of playing AdMech. This faction was already one of the most expensive in the game, price-per-point. And with a lot of our units either staying the same or dropping in points, this has only gotten worse. Before you get into AdMech, you absolutely need to take serious consideration into how much even a basic 2,000 point army will cost, because it’ll surprise you.

As for what this codex portends to future books, I’m a bit nervous. The new 9th edition codexes are clearly more complicated than their 8th edition counterparts, and AdMech was already a particularly complicated faction. So hopefully we’ve hit peak complexity and we start seeing some more casual-friendly codexes. If things continue to ramp up in complexity as they’ve done so far, then I’m worried 40k might collapse under the weight of its own rules.

Enough of the grimdark talk. This codex is precisely what I hoped for. I wanted weird. I wanted complicated. I wanted wombo combos and unexpected twists. That’s this book exactly, and I couldn’t be happier.

Army Lists

Wings – The Elfkiller 9000 v2

This book has a bunch of moving parts, but this is probably what I’d put on the table for a first go. I present the Elfkiller 9000 v2.

Mars Battalion

HQ

Skitarii Marshal, Warlord, Programmed Retreat, Exemplar’s Eternity – 45

Tech Priest Enginseer – 55

Troops

3 Kataphron Breachers, hydraulic claws, 1 torsion cannon – 115

3 Kataphron Breachers, hydraulic claws, 1 torsion cannon – 115

3 Kataphron Breachers, hydraulic claws 105

5 Skitarii Rangers, enhanced data tether – 45

Elites

5 Sicarian Infiltrators – 85

Fast Attack

5 Ironstriders, autocannons – 325

2 Ironstriders, 1 autocannons, 1 lascannons – 140

2 Ironstriders, 1 autocannons, 1 lascannons – 140

Heavy Support

Skorpius Disintegrator – 145

Skorpius Disintegrator – 145

Mars Outrider

Skitarii Marshall, Mechanicus Locum, Firepoint Telemetry Cache – 45

8 Serberys Raiders, enhanced data tether, Artefactotum, Temporcopia – 133

8 Serberys Raiders, enhanced data tether – 133

8 Serberys Raiders, enhanced data tether – 133

5 Pteraxii Sterylizors – 95

Total 1999pts, 7CP

So new problem for AdMech – it turns out your fast attack slot is dense when building lists. Anyway, this build crams a lot of the stuff that feels obviously good out of the gate into a single Mars list, fully ready to take maximum advantage of the re-rolls and widely applied canticles. To my surprise when I started tinkering with this (it is the Elfkiller 9000 v2 after all) I actually found Cawl didn’t feel mandatory – being able to make a Skitarii Marshall a double re-roll bubble for Ironstriders with Exemplar’s Eternity mostly ticked off what I needed, and that freed up a whole bunch of points for other mischief. Having two Marshalls on the board is actively good for other reasons too – they can beam their warlord traits to wherever they need to go, pretty much, and can also allow two units per turn to ignore the Doctrina drawback. That’s handy if, for example, I decide I need to boost WS when the ponies get stuck in, but still want the Skorpii shooting at full effect.

The big shooting here obviously comes from the many, many Ironstriders, but I have still gone with a couple of Skorpii. With a TPE to babysit them they still feel pretty good in general, Mars re-rolls help with that further, and in this list (and many, I’m sure) they help with While We Stand – all other units are carefully tuned to come in under their cost.

I strongly suspect there are plenty of other ways you could go with this, and the first thing I’d want to have a go with was some more melee options – but to bring Electropriests I think you would want to be packing at least a Tech Priest Dominus for re-rolls, so it would require a bit more shaking up.

Pendulin – Ryza

Pendulin: This isn’t a particularlly competitive army, but I built it to have a bunch of fun weird toys to play with in a way that’s not typical of AdMech.

Ryza Battalion

HQ
1 Tech-Priest Dominus, Warlord, Cartogrammatist
1 Tech-Priest Manipulus
1 Tech-Priest Enginseer

Troops
5 Skitarii Rangers
5 Skitarii Rangers,
5 Skitarii Vanguard, Host of the Intermediary, Programmed Retreat
20 Skitarii Vanguard, 1 omnispex, 1 data tether, Host of the Intermediary, Firepoint Telemetry Cache
3 Kataphron Breachers, arc rifle, hydraulic claws

Elites
1 Cybernetica Datasmith, Temporcopia, Logi Holy Order
10 Fulgurites Electro-priests
9 Corpuscarii Electro-priests

Fast Attack
1 Ironstrider Ballistarii with twin cognis lascannon
3 Sydonian Dragoons with taser lance

Heavy Support
4 Kastelan Robots, heavy phosphor blaster, 2x Kastelan fists
1 Skorpius Disintigrator, belleros energy cannon
1 Onager Dunecrawler, daedalous missle launcher, gatling rocket launcher, twin icarus autocannon, cognis heavy stubber

Transport
1 Skorpius Dunerider

Total 2000pts, 10CP

Right off the bat, Ryza’s +1 to wound in the first round of melee combat cranks up damage to the point that, hopefully, there is no second round. The priests, dragoons, and Kastelans each handle a different tier of threat in melee. Priests wounding on 2+ against T4, all the way up to Kastelans wounding on 2+ against just about anything in the game.

There are still a couple units of your standard AdMech shooting, Disintigrator with line of sight ignoring shots, Dunecrawler for some anti-aircraft, Kataphron Breachers for anti-vehicle. There’s also a single Ironstrider Ballistarii lascannon, which is solely there to finish off enemy units that are almost dead.

A notable unit is the blob of 20 Skitarii Vanguard with Firepoint Telemetry Cache. Assuming I can park a few of them in terrain each turn, they’re walking around with a 2+ save and 60 ranged shots. They’re relatively weak shots, but I just can’t turn down rolling 60 dice to hit. I’d honestly take a couple more units like this, maybe a blob of 20 Skitarii Rangers to try that out, but I simply don’t have enough models built and painted!

 

Wrap Up

That’s it for another new codex review – now the waiting begins as players around the world start tinkering with their master plans ready to hit tournament tables. We’ll have plenty more AdMech coverage in the coming week, so stay tuned to Goonhammer for all your hot robot content, and if you have any comments, questions or suggestions hit us up at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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