Codex Astra Militarum: 9th Edition – The Goonhammer Review

After more than two years of hiding in the far corners of the table, scraping by on Psychic Awakening Stratagems, and waiting, Astra MIlitarum players finally have their 9th edition codex. This new book finally brings the faction forward into 9th edition with a massive release that includes new units and a major refresh of the model range. It seems that good things do come to those who wait. But are the rules any good, and were they worth it?

In this review we’re exploring the rules of the new 9th edition Codex: Astra Militarum. We’ll be covering the faction’s new matched play rules – everything from units to stratagems to relics – and talking about how these new rules will play on the tabletop and affect competitive play. So strap in and get ready because there’s a lot to cover here.

Before we dive in, we’d like to thank Games Workshop for providing us with a preview copy of the new codex for review purposes.

Note on the Balance Dataslate: Currently, Games Workshop’s official stance is that the Astra Militarum codex will not be legal at official events until it has received a full release (i.e. separate to this boxed set), and we expect the WTC, UKTC, France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden to follow suit. At the time it does become legal, we expect Games Workshop will update the Balance Dataslate to reflect necessary changes.

Based on that, we have evaluated this book on the assumption that the current Dataslate rules do not apply.

Why Play Astra Militarum?

Sergeant “Ripper” Jackson. Credit: Rockfish
Sergeant “Ripper” Jackson. Credit: Rockfish

If you want to blow your enemy to bits then crush their fallen skulls beneath the tracks of mighty tanks and the boots of endless ranks of expendable infantry, the Astra Militarum are probably for you. They are the tank faction in Warhammer 40,000, having cool vehicles available in pretty much every size bracket (more than ever now that the Rogal Dorn has arrived), and an unusually large concentration of ways to buff and enhance them. They also get plenty of choices on the infantry front, with the new book allowing you to blend soldiers from multiple famous regiments in a single army, adding spicy new elite options, and improving some of the classic abhuman auxiliaries. You also get lots of on-battlefield synergy – effective use of Orders from your officers is vital to success, and using these smartly is going to be very rewarding. Finally, if you like some rather more grounded aesthetics than the 41st Millenium tends to offer, or want to explore just how much it sucks to be a regular human soldier in the far future, the Astra Militarum are your number one option.

What’s in this Book?

  • Lore for the Astra Militarum, outlining how their armies function, and just who some of the new named characters in the book are.
  • Rules for constructing an Astra Militarum army, including a revamped way of offering faction traits.
  • 18 different Orders you can issue to your units split across three tables.
  • Revamped Tank Ace rules, allowing you to add extra capabilities to your favourite tanks.
  • All the stratagems, warlord traits and relics and secondary objectives you’d expect from a 9th Edition book, plus an updated and improved version of the Psykana discipline.
  • Datasheets for the Astra Militarum range, including lots of new additions.
  • Crusade rules that allow you to model your force’s campaign through the galaxy, handling the logistics and awarding medals to outstanding heroes..

Where’s Crusade?

As usual, our review here is only covering the matched play rules in the book. We’ll be covering the book’s Crusade rules on Tuesday, same as always – so keep an eye out for that review.

The Five Best Things About This Book

  • Tanks: Tank good. The new Turret Weapon rule massively improves a large number of the vehicles in this book, making them far harder to shut down.
  • Flexibility: The new Regimental Doctrine system and the way that various keywords are handled in the book give you lots of flexibility both in army construction and on the table.
  • Orders: The new suite of Order contributes to the army’s flexibility, and is just generally well put together and fun.
  • Heroes: The named characters in this book are great, most having something worthwhile to offer.
  • Kasrkin: They rip, and have one of the coolest datasheet rules we’ve seen in a while.

The Rules


The Astra Militarum have quite a bit more going on with how buffs and keywords interact than most armies in 9th Edition. CORE is still here, and distributed roughly as you’d expect, but for a lot of the abilities it takes a back seat to some Astra Militarum specific keywords, and far fewer things are CORE locked than normal.

In particular, the following keywords are used a lot, and have some consistent impacts that it’s worth highlighting up front. These are:

  • REGIMENTAL: Any unit with this keyword benefits from your selected Regimental Doctrine (more on that later). Most stuff in the book has this – in general, Commissars, attaches, Scions and Abhumans are the only thing excluded. Importantly, this includes all the units from famous regiments like Cadians, so your Kasrkin are going to be benefitting from the doctrine you choose.
  • PLATOON: This indicates that a unit is eligible to receive the Regimental and Prefectus orders, and is present on most non-Character infantry (other than abhumans) plus Rough Riders and Sentinels.
  • SQUADRON: This is present on all non-Super Heavy vehicles except the Valkyrie, and allows them to receive Vehicle Orders. Notably, this also includes Sentinels, and as SQUADRON PLATOON CORE units, they get the prize of being the most buffable unit in the book.
  • BATTLE TANK: Leman Russes or Rogal Dorns.

As well as Order eligibility, Squadron and Platoon show up on a number of different Stratagems and buffs where you might, in another book, expect to see CORE, making them a lot broader, and there are a few things like that which are snuck in for Battle Tank as well. There are a few other special keywords on top of these, but they mostly interact with very specific effects, so will be covered when needed.

Detachment Rules

Credit: SRM

With that out of the way, let’s hit detachment rules. These are broadly as you’d expect for a 9th Edition codex – if you run an Astra Militarum detachment your units gain a Regimental Doctrine,  your Troops get Objective Secured, you’re limited to one “top tier” character per detachment (here the COMMANDANT) and there are some rules about who has to be your Warlord (Lord Solar if you have him, a Commandant if not, an Officer otherwise).

The only unique rule here is one aimed at supporting all-Scion armies/detachments. Tempestus Scions are now Elites by default, but if you bring an entire detachment with only MILITARUM TEMPESTUS units (plus the other regimental hangers-on), they become Troops again. If you run short on Elite slots, or want some Deep Striking Troops, an add-on Patrol definitely becomes interesting at that point.

Regimental Doctrines

Valhallan Imperial Guard. Credit: SRM

The Astra Militarum get one of the biggest overhauls of the way “subfactions” work of any book this Edition, in that picking a subfaction is no longer a thing you do. There are still rules for Cadians, Catachans and some others in this book, but they now exist as keywords on specific datasheets rather than something you select at an army level, and can cheerfully co-exist alongside one-another in the same list or detachment.

That doesn’t mean you don’t get the equivalent of a subfaction trait though – it’s just that all Astra Militarum armies now either use the powerful default Born Soldiers trait, or create a custom one by selecting two abilities from a list. This trait then applies to all REGIMENTAL units in your army – which includes Cadians, Catachans and Krieg (oh my).

This has upsides and downsides compared to the books that have come before. The good news is that the increased prominence of custom traits has been reflected in them being much more consistently tuned than normal, and better integrated into the wider book. There’s really only two traits that feel like a bust (Parade Drill and Trophy Hunters), with all others being at least interesting, and some of the Traits interact with Stratagems in a way that you might normally expect a named subfaction to. Some are also clearly inspired by specific regiments, so if you want to stick to a classic flavour you can.

The downside (at least for some players) is that the overall volume of rules is considerably reduced, because there isn’t a charcuterie board of subfaction stratagems, traits and relics to pore over to find the most broken thing the design team let slip through. This is likely to disappoint some competitive players at one end of the spectrum, and players who miss some specific tricks they used to have at the other.

My (Wings) personal take on this is that it works – some 9th Edition books, bluntly, have Too Many Rules, adding a massive amount of rules clutter, and usually letting some busted stuff through, whereas this feels much tighter. If you applied this limitation to some other books they’d probably end up feeling a bit sparse, but because the Astra Militarum unusually generous buff play via their unique keywords and have a lot of datasheets, I have not particularly felt myself missing depth when putting together lists, and I think this a better designed book as a consequence of this choice.

Anyway, onto the abilities themselves, starting with the Born Soldiers trait. This is going to be familiar to anyone who’s been playing with the Balance Dataslate, as the first half is a (slightly improved) version of Hammer of the Emperor. If you have this trait, Ranged Attacks automatically wound on an unmodified hit roll of 6, and the “slightly improved” comes from the fact that this now also counts as an unmodified wound roll of 6 when triggered. There are not as many absurd interactions with this as there were in, say, the launch Votann book, but there is one extremely good one that we’ll get to later. The other half is less flashy but certainly not bad – Officers with this trait provide an Aura allowing PLATOON units to use their leadership, and that means if you’re bringing Lord Solar (Ld10) or Creed/a Commandant (Ld9) then you’re going to bleed a lot fewer random models than you otherwise might.

Born Soldiers is very good, and probably is the default pick for most lists, especially because it has good stratagem support, and Kasrkin provide you with a way to splash in some other traits if you don’t pick them outright. However, there are other good choices available, and some potentially strong combos.

There’s fifteen abilities in total and only one takes both your picks, so the way I’m going to approach these is starting with the four I’d call the “splashiest”, which are likely the ones you’d anchor a list around, and talk about some of the other options with. That’s not to say the latter are bad, but if feels more like they’ll help one of the more transformative options over the line as a real alternative to Born Soldiers.

Mechanised Infantry. Credit: Charlie Brassley

For splashy choices, we start out strong with Mechanised Infantry, which lets units disembark from their Transport after it moves. They cannot then move further or Charge, but they can unload their guns in the shooting phase as normal. Thanks to them mostly being free in this book, your units are generally going to be hauling around quite a few special weapons, and this is a great tool for getting these into position, especially as basic Tauroxes are very cheap now. It also gives units the MECHANISED keyword, unlocking a stratagem that is otherwise locked to Scions. You can absolutely build a list around lots of units with this in Tauroxes, and it could be effectively supported by Veteran Guerrillas to allow them to ignore cover when shooting, or Elite Sharpshooters for a hit re-roll per unit.

It also combos effectively with the next splashy option, Expert Bombardiers. This lets your Artillery get +1 to hit as long as the target is within 12” of a Sentinel or a Vox Caster unit. Mechanised Infantry works so well with this because it gives you a reliable way to throw a Vox Caster where you need one on demand, and Elite Sharpshooters would also be good here. If the Indirect exemption goes away, this is your main option to improve lots of artillery, so might well see play on that basis.

If you like different kinds of tank, Armoured Superiority is your friend, letting Sentinels count as three models on objectives, basic tanks count as 5, and super-heavies count as 10. Skipping forward, you can give Vehicles ObSec with an Order, so this lets you turn your Russes into mini-Helverins, and Tauroxes into very cheap objective grabbers (meaning that this is another one that works well with Mechanised too). If you just want to ram Russes into people, you might also consider Swift As The Wind for extra movement, or Industrial Efficiency, which allows your units to turn AP-1 into AP0, making small arms glance ineffectually off your 2+ saves.

The last really splashy choice supports an Infantry-heavy build – Recon Operators lets your INFANTRY, CAVALRY and SENTINELS make a 6” move at the start of the first Battle Round – great if you just want to throw a tonne of bodies into the fight. You might want to combo this with Cult of Sacrifice, which gives your units +1 to hit when below their starting strength, as some casualties are pretty inevitable, or Heirloom Weapons, which boosts the range of all your guns and combines with this initial move to ensure you’re unleashing hell straight away. You could also pick Brutal Strength, which allows you to ignore the Heavy penalty and gives you extra strength on the charge – and the first half of this is more broadly relevant than it may initially sound, as First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire now makes lasguns Heavy 3. Add these together and you could throw out a truly staggering number of lasgun shots early game.

The two remaining picks that could plausibly see some use somewhere are Blitz Division, which reduces the cost of Strategic Reserves and lets your Vehicles arrive in your opponent’s deployment zone on turn 2, and Grim Demeanor, which removes Combat Attrition penalties, but more relevantly unlocks the broad use of the Acceptable Losses stratagem, which might make it a sleeper combo with Armoured Superiority. The two that I don’t think will get used are Parade Drill and Trophy Hunters – the former is just entirely superseded by FRFSRF, and the latter (which boosts the strength of attacks against Vehicles) is unlikely to ever meaningfully undo Born Soldiers.

This does, overall, feel like a pretty happy place to end up – if you want your customisation to be expressed via unit choices then Born Soldiers is always going to be fine, and there are several directions you can take a more unique list.

Turret Weapons

Leman Russ with Blue Plasma Coils
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

Historically, two things have sucked about gigantic tank guns – when they miss, instead of hitting like you wanted, and when your opponent tags a Leman Russ with some throwaway infantry and prevents it from shooting most of its guns. Here to save you from both these fates is the Turret Weapon rule, which applies to a variety of guns in this book (usually the ones on turrets, clever move GW). This does two things – gives the weapon a flat +1 to hit (pure upside) and allows them to be fired out of combat (in that case taking a -1 for there being opponents within engagement range, so cancelling the bonus). This is awesome – it lets you be far more aggressive with your tanks that have it without having to worry about getting their best guns shut down, and just generally makes them more effective even before you start adding buffs. It also provides a nice bonus to a few slightly unexpected units – the melta cannon option on the Hellhound gets this, and is far spicier as a result, and the Hydra ends up cheap and pretty cheerful because of it.


Cadian Commander. Credit: Jack Hunter

Orders are the Astra Militarum’s unique datasheet mechanic, providing your Officer units with a selection of Command Phase buffs to enhance the rest of your units. They’re also where your “monofaction” bonus lives – if every unit in your army is Astra Militarum (with the standard exemptions), then when you apply an Order to a unit which has the Regimental Tactics rule (most non-auxiliaries), you can bounce the order onwards to any number of other compatible units within 6” of the original target. A unit can only be affected by a single order at once, but this provides you with a way of having a few Officers buff a lot of stuff, and the enhancements are generally more exciting than they used to be. Regimental Tactics can also provide a somewhat janky way to boost your Orders range, because although a unit can only be under the effect of one order at once, it’s affected by the last on that tagged it. That means that if you have an Officer with two Order uses, a target unit (unit A) within 6” that you want affected by one order (order A), and another unit (unit B) that’s 6” further on from that which you want a different order on (order B), you can Order unit A with order B, bounce it to unit B, then issue order A to unit A, overwriting order B and leaving you with your preferred setup. Command Squads with a Master-vox can, instead, just Order any unit that has a Vox-Caster within 24”. Lastly on practicalities, there’s also a neat option where an Officer that gets out of a Transport in your movement phase can use their Orders immediately after doing so, at the cost of not benefitting from Regimental Tactics. Great if you want to push a Mechanised Infantry combo deep into the enemy line.

There are three different Order tables, Regimental, Prefectus and Mechanised, and each Officer datasheet has one or more of these that they know all the Orders from (generally Regimental for standard Officers, Prefectus for Commissars and Mechanised for Tank Commanders), and can issue a set number of Orders each Command Phase (and each Officer can only do each order once). The first two tables can be applied to any Platoon unit (and pretty much all sources of Prefectus have a rule letting them target Abhumans too), while Mechanised Orders can affect any Squadron units.

Regimental Orders provide you with your bread and butter set of Infantry buffs, and plenty of the names here are going to be familiar to existing players. First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire leads up this set, turning a unit’s lasguns or hot shot lasguns into Heavy 3 weapons for a turn. There’s some tension here with the fact that you want to be stacking lots of free special weapons, but adding lots of volume of shots at range is definitely good for pushing auto-wounds through with Born Soldiers. For a more precise boost in killing power, Take Aim is your friend, providing +1 to hit and +1 to AP, which is a very potent buff. This is great on units with a bunch of specials, and is also nice on field artillery or Mortar squads, canceling out the Indirect penalty, or on Sentinels for some big damage. Fix Bayonets does the same thing for melee, which is generally less exciting as your eligible units aren’t great at this, but rules on Rough Riders. For avoiding death you have Take Cover, which gives a unit Light Cover in the open or Dense Cover if they’re already in Light, adding a nice bit of survivability to the units with 4+ saves in particular. Move! Move! Move! was probably the standout in the old book, and has been toned down a bit, but still gives you a lot of extra mobility, either boosting a unit’s movement by 2” or letting them auto-advance 6”. Finally, Suppression Fire! Is an interesting new trick that allows you to give an enemy unit -1 to hit as long as your ordered unit lands 5+ hits on them, at a cost of having to concentrate your fire. It’s certainly not bad if you have nothing better to do with a given unit, and can be effective at reducing the impact of powerful units with limited re-roll access like Possessed.

Commissar by Corrode

Prefectus Orders also have one returning classic in them in the form of Get Back in the Fight, letting a unit Fall Back and Shoot or Charge, powerful when it’s either pulling your Scions out so they can unload with special weapons or Bullgryn so they can strike a better target. The rest of the stuff here is more esoteric, but potentially interesting. Forwards, For The Emperor provides you with Advance/Shoot as if Stationary, which can be good if you want to both get somewhere in a hurry and still blast away with plasma, while if you have critical mission goals to achieve Duty and Honour lets you perform an Action after Advancing or Falling Back and shoot without the Action failing, which makes you quite tricky to shut down. The next one is very flashy too – At All Costs makes a unit ObSec (or double count if they were already), and being able to make Bullgryn or Sentinels ObSec is very, very good. More subtly powerful, but potentially backbreaking in some games, is Remain Vigilant, which turns a unit into Space Marine infiltrators for a turn, preventing enemies from deep striking within 12”. On one unit this can be very good, but don’t forget that you can chain this with Regimental Tactics, so if your opponent has put some spicy melee stuff in deep strike you can just apply this across your bow wave of infantry on turns two and three and completely shut them out. You also get a consolation prize against stuff already on the board, gaining the ability to Hold Steady in the open for 5+ overwatch. Finally, and also good in specific matchups, Show them Steel, Show them Contempt gives you a 5+ to ignore Mortal Wounds and some extra Leadership, again good on Bullgryn if your opponent is trying to obliterate them using those.

Of the two sets of Platoon orders, the Regimental ones (as is right and proper) feel more broadly useful, and you’ll want more uses, but there’s enough flexibility in the Prefectus orders that you almost always want to at least have access to them. Luckily, Lord Solar gives you an easy way of having both, and a Commissar is a pretty cheap way to add some more uses of Prefectus if needed.

Over in Vehicle Orders, you once again have some returning classics – Gunners Kill on Sight gives you re-roll 1s to hit, and is extremely fine as a generic boost, while if you’re shooting Blast weapons Pound Them To Dust can be potent. This causes a targeted unit to count as twice the number of models for Blast weapons, meaning that d3 shot weapons like plasma cannons can have maximum shots against anything with 3+ models, while any target with 6+ models suddenly gets max-shotted by all flavours of battle cannon. This is really nifty, and great if you’re applying re-rolls via some other means. Vehicles also get movement and ObSec options – Full Throttle boosts movement and provides Advance/Shoot, while Shock and Awe provides ObSec, which is especially great if you’re running Armoured Superiority, and nice in a pinch anyway. If you need to knock something out of the way you can also try Blitz Them, providing boosted charges and a chance for Mortals when they impact. Finally, Pinning Fire is the debuff option in this table, letting you take 2” off the movement of a target INFANTRY unit if you land five successful hits on them. This is pretty niche, and actually landing 5 hits with a single tank potentially dicey, but if you need to slow down Terminators or Skorpekh Destroyers it might be worth gambling on in a pinch.

Fundamentally, you want to have either Gunners Kill on Sight or Pound on your big shooty tanks whenever you don’t have anything specific to do with them, so you definitely want some of these, but because Mechanised Orders have a range of 12”, it can be pretty easy to cover that with Lord Solar. However, for Inflexible Command it’s likely you want access to at least one Tank Commander as well, so you should end up with plenty of uses. Worth saying too – by default you can’t apply these to Super Heavy vehicles, but Lord Solar can do that, and if you’re going all-in on Big Tank then one of the Tank Ace upgrades provides a route as well.

Orders seem real good here, and you should 100% be planning your army around making sure you have enough ways to get the right Order in the right place all the time.


The Astra Militarum’s stratagem suite finally gets brought into the modern age, and the outlook is good – there are some bangers here. As mentioned earlier, some of these interact with specific Regimental Doctrines – while almost all of them can still be used by any army, picking the right regiment either makes them cheaper, or lets a broader range of units activate them. I like this a lot – it gives some of the flavour of subfaction stratagems without making as much of the book only apply 1/6th of the time.

Before hitting the fun stuff, Guard get your expected set of 9th Edition upgrade stratagems, handing out additional Warlord Traits and Relics (including to voxcasters or standard bearers in Command Squads for the latter), and can also hand a sub-set of their relics to a squad Sergeant, which will almost always mean handing the Barbicant’s Key to a powerful unit, as it’s easily the most exciting thing you can do with it (more on exactly how exciting shortly).

Kasrkin Kill Team. Credit: Jack Hunter

So, cool tricks. Imagine you want to kill stuff, with guns. Tricky for an Astra Militarum player, I know, but work with me here. How would you do that? Well, let’s start with Experienced Eye, letting either Kasrkin or any Elite Sharpshooters Core unit (the first of our Doctrine-specific options) add 1 to their AP when they shoot. Simple but effective, and potentially pushing hot-shot lasguns to a mighty AP-4 if combined with Take Aim. Regular infantry squads (including all the special flavours like Cadians and Krieg) go more for volume than precision, getting a shoot again stratagem for 2CP in Volley Fire. This is, honestly, potentially very nasty, as you can layer some buffs on a unit (up to and including full hit and wound re-rolls) and really pop off with this. If you’ve got plenty of CP you can get part of this by using Armoured Fist, which lets a disembarking Core unit get full wound re-rolls against the closest target (obviously also great in any sort of Mechanised Infantry list).

Overlapping Fields of Fire is here too, providing a powerful tool for taking out elite infantry blocks (very relevant in the current metagame). It’s a bit pricier than most at 2CP, and you need to destroy a model in your target unit to set it off, but it’s pretty banging once you do – all Platoon and Squadron units get re-roll 1s to wound against the target, plus extra AP on 6s to wound (which includes attacks that trigger Born Soldiers). The fact that this works on all your Russes and Artillery rather than just being tied to CORE is great, as lots of those have flat three damage attacks, ideal for clearing out Terminator bricks. There are also a few keyword locked tricks – Cadian units can use Vengeance for Cadia for +1 to wound against Chaos, and if you’ve kept Born Soldiers then Ingrained Precision lets a unit trigger it on 5s rather than 6s when shooting – which is an incredible bargain at 1CP, and part of why the default trait is tricky to pass on. This also combos nicely with Overcharged Las-Cells, which is your standard “mortals on 6s to wound” strat for Kasrkin and Scions using their hot-shot las. I’ll break this down later, but you can twist the maths on this to do some quite violently unpleasant things with the right combination of buffs, and just on base rate with Born Soldiers and FRFSRF it’s pretty easy to hit the 6MW cap against a target, so a bargain for 1CP. Finally – don’t you hate when you want to kill your opponent’s stuff with guns, but instead they unsportingly kill your stuff with guns? Well good news – Vengeful Salute lets a vehicle fire its Turret Weapons when it dies (at BS5+, so hitting on 4s thanks to their inbuilt +1), letting you take the enemy down with you. You can even do this if you’re killed in melee thanks to being able to fire out of it (though here you’ll hit on 5s).

All that said, dying is for chumps, so try not to! Ablative Plating gives an Armoured unit (Armoured Sentinels and anything with either built in or paid for armoured tracks) damage reduction in melee, and while it’s not cheap at 2CP (or 3CP for Rogal Dorns or bigger), saving one of your key vehicles in a pinch can be priceless – especially if you’ve given it ObSec, or are planning to use Relentless to act on full profile in the subsequent turn.

Edit: turns out that despite checking this three times i somehow managed to still misread it, it works on shooting too, so it’s even better!

Moving over to Infantry, Scions and Cadians get some special defensive tricks, the former switching off enemy wound re-rolls and reducing incoming AP with Immovable Indoctrination (as long as they’re in range of an objective), the latter getting 1CP Transhuman Physiology in Cadia Stands. The latter is fantastic, and likely results in Cadian Infantry Squads becoming the default Troop choice, as being able to wrong-foot the enemy’s numbers at a key point with ObSec models can be invaluable. Scions (or any Mechanised Infantry units) can also instead rely on a wall of steel, using Mount Up! to get into a nearby Transport after shooting. Worth saying – right now you can do this in the same turn you disembarked, which can make a tooled-up Mechanised unit extremely annoying to deal with (though it does at least cost 2CP). If no tank is handy, you can instead either hide behind Ogyrns (getting -1 to hit using Shield of Flesh) or in terrain, dealing Mortals to chargers with Vicious Traps. Sentinels are also particularly evasive, able to use Maverick Manoevres to move 6” after shooting for a mere 1CP. This is super nasty if you’ve given them full re-rolls with Lord Solar, and it also doesn’t stop them charging afterwards, so can provide some pretty absurd reach to get them across the board. Finally, most vehicles have the Smoke keyword, letting them get a boring but effective -1 to hit with Smoke Launchers.

Officer of the Fleet
Officer of the Fleet by Corrode

You’ve got a few more esoteric things beyond that, the most relevant of which is probably Orbital Interference. You have to bring an Officer of the Fleet along to do this, which you honestly probably wouldn’t otherwise, but for 2CP in either the first or second turn (you can only do it once) you can designate an opposing unit that can’t arrive as Reinforcements that turn, which can be extremely rude against, for example, Drop Pods. Not a massive factor in the current metagame, but worth being aware of.

No two ways about it – these stratagems rule and you’re going to be using a lot of them, a lot. Tragically, you are also going to want your command points for some upgrades…

Warlord Traits

Cadian Commander. Credit: Corrode

Astra Militarum have nine Warlord Traits to pick from, six available to any Character, and three reserved for Tempestor Primes.

Two of the “regular” ones are pretty easy to get out of the way first, as they’re very tailored to the named Characters who have to take them. Front-Line Combatant gives double exploding 6s in melee and +1 to wound, turning Straken into a complete nightmare, while Lead By Example lets an Officer Order their own unit, vital to make Gaunt’s Ghosts operate at full effectiveness. If you are taking either of these Characters you are pretty strongly motivated to find a CP for these, but they’re wildly less good applied to pretty much any other possible user, so are pretty much locked into those specific purposes.

Three of the rest of these, happily, are very broadly useful. Master Tactician (the choice of Ursula Creed) gives you the standard three redeploys/pulls to Strategic Reserves, which is pretty much always welcome, Grand Strategist provides 5+ CP regen (and is Solar’s mandatory pick) and Old Grudges still lets you ruin one target’s day, giving Platoon and Battle Tank units +1 to wound against whatever you hate most. Not quite as good as full wound re-rolls, but you have other ways of getting those, and actually working on Russes and Field Artillery is very nice. The final trait is mostly a miss – Superior Tactical Training lets an Officer know an extra type of Order. Not bad as such, but it feels very unlikely you want to blow a CP on this rather than the additional points it will take to bring in a different way of providing access.

Over in Militarum Tempestus land, all three provide buff auras for Militarum Tempestus units, and all are decent buffs, but want you to have a bigger investment into the Tempestus than you’ll normally have. Respectively, they provide the ability to ignore cover, extra AP at half range, and the ability to rapid fire at full range. The last one, Drill Commander, is probably the most likely to have an impact, as it’s the best combination of providing a transformational capability with easy setup, and works well with the fact that hot-shot volley guns are now Rapid Fire 2. Plausible there’s some sort of build-around with that, probably skip the rest and invest your CP in the “standard” traits or some relics.


A reasonable number of Relics in this book share a problem – you’re just not that invested in buffing up the offensive or defensive stats of some random guard Infantry model, as there’s only so much impact they’re going to have. They’re all fine, and all fun for building the hero of your dreams, but I’m not going to dive in deep on any. The weapon that is worth highlighting is the Gatekeeper, an upgraded battle cannon for a tank commander, which is d3+6 shots instead of d6+3, and gets an extra point each of AP and S, making it a terrifying weapon of death and extremely worth it.

Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

Elsewhere, we’re looking for stuff that gives us broad or unique capabilities, and goodness me does the Finial of the Nemrodesh 1st do both. This has to go on a Command Squad Standard Bearer, and provides an aura for CORE units that allows them to ignore all hit modifiers and ignore all Ignore Wound abilities, which is monstrous. It’s certainly possible to build armies where you don’t have that many CORE units, but against opponents leaning on ignoring wounds just threatening this off a small number of units is a nightmare – double C’tan lists just flat fold to this instantly as long as you have Born Soldiers to push a volume of wounds through. If that’s not needed, this lets you go very wide with First Rank Fire, Second Rank Fire without worrying about the heavy penalty, which is also extremely good! Excellent relic, pick often. Also providing some wide buffs is the Relic of Lost Cadia, providing a once-per-game aura that boosts the BS, WS, attacks and Leadership of all nearby CADIAN units, giving you a pretty scary alpha turn if you’re heavy on Cadians and Kasrkin (which you might well be). Alternatively, if you’re playing with a bunch of Scions you can use the Refractor Field Generator for some of the old Lambdan Lion energy, providing an Aura of a 5+ invulnerable save to INFANTRY.

Moving onto some subtle, sneaky tricks, you can hand a Commissar or Tempestor a deny with a Null Coat, or take Kurov’s Aquila for a use of Agents of Vect, letting you permanently increase the cost of an opposing stratagem. Both are slightly hard to justify a spend on, as they won’t always come up, but certainly aren’t bad effects. More unique to the Astra Militarum are the Laurels of Command, letting an Officer issue one of the Defensive/ObSec orders at the start of any phase in the opponent’s turn once per game. This feels most likely to be used to switch on ObSec when the opponent either isn’t expecting it or your Bullgryn spent the Shooting Phase in Solar-applied Take Cover, but there’s probably going to be some occasional nasty blowouts from applying Remain Vigilant after getting a unit in position too.

Lastly, and extremely worth a slot, is the Barbicant’s Key, which gives the bearer’s unit a once-per-game on-board redeploy, and can be given to most Squad Sergeants as well as Characters. This works super well on Kasrkin, as it allows you to soup them up with a big pile of buffs (most importantly Lord Solar’s), then drop them into a good firing position and unleash hell with Overcharged Las-Cells and Ingrained Precision. Here’s the thing about that Stratagem – it has a 6MW cap, but that’s per target unit, and it turns out that full hit and wound re-rolls combined with Born Soldiers does fun things to maths. Specifically, if you take a squad with five hot-shot las, two hot-shot volleys and two plasma guns, and apply full hit/wound re-rolls, FRFSRF, and the two stratagems, then fully fish for 5s on the hit re-rolls, you can split your fire between two targets and comfortably expect to get the maximum six mortals against both of them, and have a bunch of AP-2 wounds and have four re-rolling supercharged plasma shots going in. This is a lot of input, but because the Key lets you set it up entirely within your own castle then teleport out to wherever needed, so I’m reasonably sure this is legit, and quite terrifying. Technically if you skip the plasma you can actually split fire into three units and max mortals on all of them, but you’re a bit more vulnerable to variance at that point, and flattening two targets is probably enough. Bluntly – spend your CP on this, the Finial and Gatekeeper.

Psykana Discipline

Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

The poor, doomed psykers of the Astra Militarum can once again draw upon the Psykana discipline, which provides three options for Astropaths and six for the mighty Primaris Psykers.

Astropaths can make use of Terrifying Visions, which nukes enemy Leadership, prevents the use of Insane Bravery and can mess with actions, Gaze of the Emperor to do a small number of Mortals in a line, and Psychic Barrier for a 5+ invulnerable save on a friendly unit. Astropaths have a built-in Psychic Action for CP regen, so taking one of the more conditional choices here is probably fine, at a guess Barrier if you have big plans for Rough Riders or Sentinels, and Visions otherwise.

Primaris Psykers can take any of those plus three unique choices. Nightshroud is the big winner here, providing “Transhitman” as people are insisting on calling it, meaning the target cannot be hit except on a 4+. Good if you’re planning on using either a Rogal Dorn or a big Bullgryn squad, but it doesn’t turn of re-rolls, so isn’t always as good as you’d expect. You can apply it to super heavies, but have to roll a cast of an unmodified 11+ to do so, which you have no way of reliably ensuring, so probably stick to the Dorn if you want a Big Sneaky Tank (where the target is a far more palatable 6). Mental Shackles can also keep the enemy from getting at your powerful tank in melee, applying both -2” movement and -2” to Advance/Charge to an enemy within 18”. That’s a very severe reduction that can threaten to take slower wrecking ball units out of the game for a turn, which is handy, and this feels pretty likely to be your second pick alongside Nightshroud if you want a Psyker. The final power, Psychic Maelstrom, is an alt-smite with some big high-roll potential, which is fine but not a reason to put a Psyker in your army and break access to Abhor by itself.

Realistically – if you have a Dorn, you probably want a Psyker to help protect it, otherwise they’re very much optional, though at least decent with Bullgryn..

Tank Aces

Leman Russ Executioner. Credit: Rockfish
Leman Russ Executioner. Credit: Rockfish

As with most 9th Edition books, the Psychic Awakening upgrade mechanic for Guard is now their points-based upgrade mechanic. You can upgrade any Battle Tank or Super-Heavy Tank with one of these upgrades, the costs are higher for the Super-Heavies, and your army can’t have duplicates, you know the drill by now.

There’s some definite utility here, and it seems likely that if you’re taking either a Dorn or a Super-Heavy you’ll want at least one, and that many lists will upgrade a Russ.

First on the list we have Vaunted Praetorian, essentially turning either a Rogal Dorn or a Super-Heavy into a Tank Commander with extra benefits. On a Dorn, you gain the Officer Keyword, but don’t lose Squadron, so can cheerfully Order yourself, providing extreme flexibility for the model that’s a steal at 15pts. A Super Heavy can do that too, and also gains the ability to order Super Heavy Tanks, so provides a route to achieving this if you don’t have Lord Solar along. Both also provide good extra coverage for Inflexible Command thanks to their size, which at the low price on the Dorn can make it worth it even if you expect to have a spare Solar order.

Next up we have two simple efficiency boosts – Meticulous Calibrator to allow the model to ignore cover, and Mechanical Pack Rat to provide permanent Transhuman. The former of these is probably better – chucked on either a Dorn or a Russ with Gatekeeper it can seriously boost the threat profile (especially if your metagame has lots of Dense cover, which this still ignores), whereas with none of these being able to go on anything with less than T8, Transhuman is kind of whatever.

Veteran Commander coming next is a great flex choice – it lets the model pick one Regimental Doctrine you don’t already have in your list, and gain it in addition to your army-wide ones. The most obvious use of this is adding Armoured Superiority for multi-counting on objectives, but you could probably make an argument for Elite Sharpshooters on a Russ with a vanquisher cannon to complete the Hammerhead impression. I also like this on a super-heavy as long as you have Solar, as being able to count as ten models and have ObSec provides a way to get value from the tank even as its BS degrades or the opponent hides from it.

Knight of Piety and Master of Camouflage provide two more defensive choices, the former providing a 5+ invulnerable save and 5+ against Mortals, and the latter providing Light Cover in the open outside of 12” (or 18” for Titanic). My suspicion is that you probably go for Knight on a Super Heavy, as it’s going to draw the attention of every AP-4+ weapon and Mortal source the opponent has, and Master on a Dorn or Russ you want extra durability on, as it’s easier to keep them at a distance.

Finally, we have one upgrade specific to Tank Commanders, which is Steel Commissar, giving the model Prefectus Orders in addition to Mechanised ones, and an extra order use that has to go on Prefectus. This is honestly fine – it’s slightly cheaper than adding a Commissar, and gives you a trade-off of more eggs in one basket in exchange for a mild discount and reduced vulnerability to Assassinate.

Veteran Commander for multi-counting plus the good defensive options definitely stand out here, but basically all of these feel like they have some potential uses, with the possible exception of Mechanical Pack Rat never quite providing enough value.

Secondary Objectives

…there aren’t any – you’re still using the ones from Nephilim. That’s largely OK, as they’re pretty good, but do be aware that it’s quite a bit harder to fit in multiple Command Squads or Tank Commanders in lists you now want to build, so Inflexible Command and Boots on the Ground both get a bit weaker (but since they’re currently some of the best in the game, that’s very survivable).

The Units

So, ground rules:

  • Some classic named Characters are gone, notably Yarrick, Usaker Creed, Pask and Kell. Luckily, however, there are two new Named Characters in the form of Lord Solar Leonatus and Ursula Creed, and both absolutely rock.
  • Many unit weapon upgrades are free, and most vehicle weapon upgrades are on some level priced-in to the base unit (e.g. on Russes the hull lascannon only costs 5pts).
  • Pretty much all units that can take special weapons can only take up to two of the same one.
  • Most special classes of Infantry that didn’t have dedicated models, notably Conscripts, Veterans and Special Weapon Squads, are gone.
  • Squad sizes have been rationalised or lowered in many places – most Infantry are fixed 10-model squads, and Ogryns cap at 6 models.


Leading the charge for the Astra Militarum is shiny new boy Lord Solar Leonatus, who is very, very good. He knows every flavour of Order and gets three uses a turn (and can target Super Heavies and other Officers), is very durable (8W, 4++, halves damage), OK in a fight, and provides extra-strong Chapter Master re-rolls, either granting full hit re-rolls to a CHARACTER or BATTLE TANK, or full hit and wound re-rolls to a CORE unit. He also has a permanent aura of RR1s to hit and wound for CORE, gives you either an extra CP or a chance to swap a Secondary after you know your opponent’s choices, and comes in at a mere 170pts, with the Supreme Commander keyword to let you free up an HQ slot as needed. Absolute steal, pick early, pick often.

Also not too shabby in the commanding stakes is Ursula Creed, who is a super-powered Infantry Commandant. She can issue three Orders, and each time she targets a unit for an Order their shooting is at +1S till your next turn. This only affects the original target, and not any you bounce the order to with Regimental Tactics, but it’s worth noting that if you happen to want three clustered units to have the same Order but also +1S you can achieve that – issue two Orders you don’t care about to the first two, then Order the last one with the buff you actually want, and bounce it. The S buff is not tied to the original Order still being in effect, just the fact that it was issued, so you can go wild with this. Finally, like an Eldar Autarch, she lets you use Command Re-roll twice per phase – why not – and has some pretty nasty pistols up close. Very high value, and largely erases the Cadian Commandant as an option, as they aren’t that much cheaper and provide massively less tricks. The final Commandant option is Straken, who has a bit more appeal just on the basis that he’s extremely nasty up close, especially if you buy his Warlord Trait, and can provide a bit of extra counter-charge potential all by himself. He’s also good if you have Rough Riders, as when he orders a unit they get an additional buff of auto-wound on 6s to hit in melee.

Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

Moving down the hierarchy we arrive at the three Command Squad options, Cadian, Tempestus and Classic Platoon. The Cadian and Platoon versions run you 75pts, and provide a 5-models squad where the leader is an single-Order infantry Officer (with the CHARACTER keyword so the unit gets Look Out Sir), and you have various hangers on in tow, potentially including a Standard Bearer, Master Vox, Medic or special/heavy weapon wielders. The vanilla squad gets more options, including being able to bring more specials or a heavy if you want, but you’re pretty likely to just want the full regalia to help you with Secondaries (or to let you take the Finial), so most of the time the Cadian unit is slightly better by dint of more stratagem compatibility. The Tempestus version runs you a few more points, but gets the upgrades you’d expect – better statlines, deep strike, and access to a Tempestus Command Rod to allow them to issue Prefectus orders to Scions in addition to regimental ones if they want.

Command Squads can also be enhanced via the addition of Regimental Advisors, and both they or Commandants can take a Bullgryn Bodyguard/Nork Deddog for extra durability. Advisors comprise the Master of Ordnance, Officer of the Fleet and Astropaths, and you can add up to one of each to a Command Squad (if taken without one, they just die during deployment, cold and alone). They’re all just 1W basic humans, but provide some additional utility – the Astropath is a one-cast Psyker with access to a WC7 Action to gain a CP, the Officer of the Fleet can buff planes, which is whatever, but unlocks the potentially disruptive Orbital Interference stratagem, and the Master of Ordnance can pick a visible enemy unit for your Artillery to have RR1s to hit against in your Command Phase, which is decent if you’re taking some. The Astropath is probably the most likely pick here – although the model doesn’t have the CHARACTER keyword, once they’re part of the unit that unit qualifies as a PSYKER CHARACTER, so can do the Warpcraft Secondaries, further enhancing the Command Squad’s role as a Secondary swiss army knife. Bodyguards are less subtle but potentially not bad – the play here is probably just to take the regular Ogryn Bodyguard with a maul and slabshield, as it makes the unit massively harder to kill – as long as the Ogryn is alive, the unit counts as T5, and 6W with Damage Reduction and a 2+ save is going to take some actual serious cracking. Once again, your Command Squads can end up as a bit of a Secondary dynamo, so being able to keep them in the game longer could be vital. Hilariously, there does not seem to be anything stopping you adding one to a Tempestus Command Squad, so hopefully the Munitorum have a really big grav chute in the stores somewhere. Honestly, if you think you’re likely to drop the squad into harm’s way, this is seriously worth considering.

The final Officer flavour available is the Tank Commander, which does what is daubed on the tin in stylised kill markings – orders Tanks. Tank Commanders are just straight up Russes for 10 extra points with some extra keywords, no Squadron keyword and one Order, nothing more, nothing less. Notably (and I’m sure there will be a great wailing and gnashing of the teeth about this), they are BS4+, just like regular Russes, though do remember that Turret Weapon mitigates that a bit. Russes are generally priced to move, and you do want a VEHICLE OFFICER for Inflexible Command, so one of these seems fine, but gone are the days of filling out your HQ slots with these.

Two more esoteric units to finish – the Primaris Psyker and Gaunt’s Ghosts. The Psyker is extremely uncomplicated – they’re a two-cast Psyker that dies to a stiff breeze. Take one if you want to hide behind a Dorn or Bullgryn buffing them all game, skip otherwise.

Gaunt’s Ghosts by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

Gaunt’s Ghosts, conversely, are extremely complicated – they’re a unit of six models where every member has some sort of special ability, the squad as a whole is hard to pin down at range (they can’t be shot at all outside 18”), has better melee output than most infantry (though still, to be clear, not great), and has Gaunt, a two-Order Officer who knows Prefectus and Regimental Orders, at the head. There is a lot going on here for their 120pt price tag, which makes them pretty hard to evaluate, and my current vibe is that they would plausibly be a decent pick over a Command Squad in a vacuum, as they add a bit of ranged harassment, better Order cover and good back-line objective holding for not too much of a premium, but the fact that they don’t provide the Command Squad’s level of support on Secondaries means they probably lose out on competitive play. They’re also not REGIMENTAL, so you can’t dig in the doctrines for a combo to make them busted. They’re definitely not bad though, and look like a blast to use, which is a sweet spot for units with such a narrative weight behind them.


Death Korps of Krieg. Rockfish
Death Korps of Krieg. Rockfish

The Astra Militarum Troops roster consists of four slightly different flavours of Infantry – regular, Cadian, Catachan and Krieg. Your cheapest at 65pts are Cadian or Regular, the difference here being that Cadians get a second special weapon rather than a heavy team, plus exploding 6s on lasguns (and access to CADIAN-locked strats). Both get all their weapons (plus voxcasters) for free, and both are entirely fine ways to fill out your slots – you lean Cadians thanks to access to Transhuman, but it won’t make that much difference.

Catachans are your next cost bracket up at 70pts and…suck. They get exploding 6s to hit in melee, but at a cost of only being able to take Flamers in their special weapon slot. Just run the models as Infantry.

Krieg provide the most pricy infantry at a mighty 75pts, and have a little more going for them – permanent mini-transhuman (can’t be wounded on a 2, which is pretty relevant on T3 stuff) and access to a Death Korps med pack for 5pts, letting them shrug the first failed save each turn and gaining the MEDIC keyword, letting them respawn models with a strat. One Troop unit with a bit of extra durability is a fine spend if you have 15pts floating.


Tempestus Scions. Credit: Corrode

Sitting on the border between Troops and Elites are Tempestus Scions, since as discussed at the start of the article they become Troops in a pure Scion detachment. Their role is mostly same as it ever was – drop in, murder stuff with special weapons. Unlike a lot of things in the army they are not Regimental, but get exploding 6s on all shooting via Storm Troopers instead. Their hot-shot las also now has 24” range, and volley guns are Rapid Fire 2, so it’s quite a bit easier to apply hot las death to people you don’t like (though not as easy as from Kasrkin).

Kasrkin Sergeant. Credit: Jack Hunter

Speaking of the new hotness, Kasrkin kick ass. They’re 100pts for the unit for Scion stats and loadout (inlcuding up to four special weapons), but trade out Deep Strike for the Regimental and Cadian keywords plus the Warrior Elites rule. This lets you pick one Regimental doctrine that you aren’t using elsewhere for each Kasrkin unit, and they get that in addition to your normal ones. This is both an awesome piece of game design and very good – the big winners here are Mechanised Infantry so you can throw one squad at the enemy out of a Transport, and Veteran Guerillas/Heirloom Weapons so that when you buff stack a Barbicant’s Key unit, the enemy either doesn’t get cover or has a harder time screening out the alpha strike. Love these guys.

Genestealer Cults Bullgryn
Genestealer Cults Bullgryn. Credits: That Gobbo

Ogryns and Bullgryn are next up, both chunkier than ever, gaining damage reduction on top of their 3W profiles. Ogryn guns are pretty scary now, hitting at S5 D2, but Bullgryn remain the big winners – decked out with shields and mauls they only come to 35pts a model, and are very tough and nasty for that price point, providing a counter-charge capability that the army very much needs. Their only real issue is that the maul is only AP-1, so you need to be careful to keep Solar Leonatus around to order them to Fix Bayonets if you need them to crack more durable stuff. Alternatively, just give them ObSec and tank – they’re super hard to move.

The other type of Abhuman on show, Ratlings, provide your sneaky scouts – they can forward deploy and move after shooting, and die the absolute moment the enemy looks at them funny. They do have a trick to get around that, in that moving after shooting includes Overwatch, and given the main reason you’d take these is to help screen, you should be able to get some value out of a unit.

If you want to order these around and it’s beneath the dignity of Lord Solar for some reason, you can bring a Commissar, who can also apply Prefectus orders to other Platoon stuff, plus Infantry Officers. That’s a fine slot to fill, and they also get a (good) version of their classic Summary Execution ability – when a CORE unit fails a morale test nearby, they auto-pass Combat Attrition, presumably representing the one model that initially fled catching a bullet to the head. That’s definitely nice if you can keep one of these around your infantry blobs, as this definitely is an army that will bleed some models otherwise.

Various weirdos round out the Elites slot. Engineers repair Vehicles and give them an invuln, which is fine, and if you want to spend way too many points on some vulnerable heavy weapons you can bring Servictors along. Regimental Preachers get a “mini” version of Chaplain/Dogmata chants, picking between either boosted charges and melee hit re-rolls or a 6+ invulnerable save and immunity to Maledictions for a CORE or CHARACTER unit nearby.  Very much another unit in the “yes if you have Rough Riders” bucket.

Credit: BuffaloChicken

Finally, the brave sons and daughters of Catachan have thrown up two especially unique weirdos in the form of Sergeant Harker, an angry man with a heavy bolter, and Sly Marbo, an angry man with a big knife. Harker is extremely missable, as he is a unit dedicated to buffing Catachan Jungle Fighters, who are bad. Marbo, on the other hand, kind of rules – he’s absurdly fragile, but is very cheap and quite annoying to deal with. He’s hard to safely charge, as he can trigger Vicious Traps with +3 on the roll, thus dealing 2d3 MWs on a 3+, can slink into Deep Strike at the end of either player’s Fight Phase once per game, and is pretty nasty both in melee and (perhaps more surprisingly) when shooting at close range, where he has built himself a ripper pistol. This has short range, but is genuinely dangerous to enemy Characters lurking just behind a line – he can snipe, it deals Mortals on 6s to wound, and Marbo is Regimental, so can benefit from Born Soldiers. For a mere 50pts, Marbo quite plausibly causes enough headaches for your opponent that he’s worth it.

Fast Attack

A much lighter slot than those around it, Fast Attack contains horses, two flavours of Sentinel, and Hellhounds.

Horses are the shiny new toy, so let’s start there. Rough Riders are back – and they’re pretty decent! They are very much glass cannons, but hit hard enough on the charge (especially if they Fix Bayonets) that a unit has a place for counter-assaults. One model (which can be the sergeant, happily) can also take a taser lance, which makes them very scary into vehicles. They’re fast, it’s not hard for them to trade up, and they don’t need much thought beyond “have 100pts spare and take a unit”, which is a decent place to be – the only thing to check before going in on them is how hard a squad proves to hide on your local terrain.

Scout Sentinel. Rockfish
Scout Sentinel. Rockfish

Sentinels are next, coming in either Scout or Armoured varieties. Scouts are slightly cheaper, much faster and can Forward Deploy, while Armoured get a 3+ save, +1 to saves against D1 attacks and the Armoured Keyword. Both can select from a variety of heavy weapons (but should usually take plasma), come in squads of up to three,  and can be upgraded with a chainsaw to give them three D2 AP-2 attacks and an optional hunter-killer missile. The big win for Sentinels is that they have all of Core, Platoon and Squadron, meaning they can pick up a tonne of buffs, most notably Solar’s full hit and wound re-rolls. Using those in combination with Maverick Maneuvres to duck in and out of cover can make these hugely annoying, and with full re-rolls on a squad of three is not un-scary in melee. Trios of these (probably Armoured) with Solar seems fine, and single Scouts remain a great way to spend 40pts to broaden your board control.

Finally, Hellhounds – cheap, fast and fiery. All three gun options on these gain Turret Weapon, which is most relevant for the melta cannon, which is the only one that has to roll to hit, but fine to have on the others too. While cheap, for competitive builds you probably would rather spend an extra 50% of the points for a Russ, but this now looks like a very serviceable datasheet.

Heavy Support

Manticores. Credit: Corrode

The backline support for the Astra Militarum is lined with tanks that can deliver oppressive amounts of firepower at long distance, and traditionally without line of sight for several of these tanks. Before we dive in here, and to cross off a few units, we should note that the value for some of these tanks – specifically the Basilisk, Wyvern, and Manticore – depends especially heavily on what happens with the Balance Dataslate. Without the immunity to the indirect penalty they feel a bit undercooked, but if they end up keeping all or part of it, they’re suddenly OK (Basilisk and Wyvern) or good (Manticore) again. Not too much more to say about those units – they sit behind walls and shoot big guns at a variety of targets, same as it ever was.

Leman Russ, Traitor Guard
Leman Russ, Traitor Guard, Credit: RichyP

Moving onto more exciting fare, the Leman Russ looks like hot stuff in this book, with an improved statline (2+ save now built in), an aggressive price tag (165pts with a lascannon and two bolter or flamer sponsons) and a mighty seven turret gun options, five of which look pretty nasty. Shooting twice with the latter is gone, but the statlines have been tuned up enough to compensate, and not having to creep around the board 5” a time gives you more flexibility. You’re probably picking one of the following:

  • Basic battle cannon, for d6+3 shots at D3.
  • Executioner plasma cannon, which on supercharge is the same as a battle cannon but with shorter range and a risk of taking mortals in exchange for AP-4. Feels like a worthwhile trade, especially if you have reliable access to Gunners Kill on Sight.
  • Demolisher cannon, for d6 big (Dd3+3) shots when something has to really die. Great with Pound against elite bomb units.
  • Vanquisher cannon, which is basically a Tau railgun, slamming through invulns like tissue paper with one big shot. Great with the Elite Sharpshooters trait.
  • Punisher gatling cannon if you’re worried about hordes, which now hits at S6 AP-1

My basic stance is to take the executioner unless you have another specific plan for the model, but that it’s easy to use one of the other ones above to build such an alternative plan! I also think you almost always want sponsons, because at only 5pts you’re basically leaving value on the table if you don’t take at least the cheap ones (I can take or leave the pricier ones, as they don’t benefit from Turret Weapon). Finally, there are some wargear options you can take for 5pts each – Armoured Tracks for the Armoured keyword and +1 to saves against D1 attacks (a no-brainer at 5pts) and a Dozer Blade to ignore movement penalties and improve the Crush Them order (fine if you have the points). Russes seem great, and almost every list wants some (and can take up to nine, as they’re still available in squadrons that split on deployment)!

What if you want a bigger tank though? Not Baneblade big – some kind of theoretical medium tank. The Rogal Dorn is here to fulfil that, providing an extra chunky, extra deadly main Battle Tank, and it looks pretty cool. The big initial eye-catchers are the fact that it’s T9 (which means it gives even Tau shooting pause) and that both the big turret options are very scary – you either get a double battle cannon for 2d6 AP-3 D3 shots, or an almighty oppressor cannon for d6+3 AP-3 D4 shots. I think the latter is the pick most of the time, as it avoids a low-roll failure case, and also comes with a free co-axial autocannon (also a turret weapon) to sweeten the deal. You also get one of two powerful hull guns, out of which I prefer the pulveriser cannon for even more big shots. You can also slap heavy bolters or multi-meltas on the side (the former being super cheap like for Russes), staple some extra meltaguns or stubbers on somewhere, and finally take armoured tracks for 5pts, which you once again should. Adding everything up, a Dorn configured with tracks, two heavy bolters and two meltaguns runs you 275pts, so is that worth it?

I think yeah, as long as you’re going to support it, though investing the points in Russes is also a competitive alternative. T9 2+ makes this a hard model to kill, and being a Battle Tank makes it compatible with Solar’s hit re-rolls, at which point it is throwing out some extreme killing power, especially into Terminator bombs if you stack Pound on top. You can also buy them a Tank Ace upgrade, and probably should at the point you’re in on something so big, with Meticulous Calibrator for ignoring cover looking especially tasty. If you really like tanks you could, of course, also just take three of these, and while you might struggle to hide them on the table, I could definitely see that proving to be a pretty overwhelming amount of firepower for most lists to deal with, as you’ve likely still got a solid 1150pts of other stuff on top of it!

Edit: Spotting that Ablative Plating can be used at range as well also boosts my opinion of taking a single Dorn, as damage reduction is particularly good at shrugging off non-Hammerhead Tau shooting and massed blastmasters.

So thoroughly overhauled that it may as well be new is the Deathstrike, a unit formerly so bad it made our Blunderdome list the first time around. The Deathstrike has gotten a significant improvement here, going from a proper one-use weapon to something more akin to an orbital bombardment. It comes with your choice of three warheads – Godspear (high damage, small radius), Plasma Barrage (medium damage, medium radius), and Vortex (small radius, a chance to stay on the table for subsequent turns). The basic mechanic here is that in your Movement step you can do the Align Target action, which lets you put down a deathstrike target marker or move your existing marker. Then on any following turn, once per game you can launch the deathstrike missile in the Shooting phase (this is not an attack). You then roll to deal mortals to units within a specific radius of that marker – the Godspear warhead has you roll a D6 for each unit within 3” of the centre of the Deathstrike marker. Score a 2-3 and you do 8 mortal wounds, a 4-5 does 12, and on a 6 you’ll do a staggering 16 mortal wounds! As an option this is funny but it’s ultimately more powerful as a deterrent than a real weapon, but a powerful way to keep enemy units from overrunning an objective marker or making them think twice. The only thing holding it back there is that because you measure from the centre of the marker, the Godspear can’t quite zone out a whole objective control area, as those measure from the edge of the marker and thus have a diameter of about 7.5” rather than the 6” of the missile.

Field Ordinance Battery. Rockfish
Field Ordinance Battery. Rockfish

Another new kit next in the Field Ordnance Battery. These come in a fixed unit of two for 130pts, and can take one of three guns – the malleus rocket launcher for high rate of fire anti-infantry, the heavy lascannon for some big (Dd3+3) shots, or the bombard gun for indirect fire (d6 S7 AP-2 D2 shots each). Realistically, the last option is the real prize here for one simple reason – these are Artillery with the Platoon keyword, so you can stick Take Aim on them, fully mitigating the indirect penalty and allowing them to threaten some real chip damage against elite infantry and vehicles over a game. That’s especially true if you have Ursula Creed to order them, as they love her +1S buff jumping them to the key S8 breakpoint. The sheer size of the bases on these means that moving them can be a bit of a pain, and for direct fire you have other great options, so a niche as a cheap and effective way to get some good-quality indirect down is very much the place for these, and a useful addition to the range.

Also on the theme of teams of guys with big guns are heavy weapon teams, which honestly seem pretty good – you now pay 55pts for a fixed squad of 3 which whatever guns you want, and on units that are Core and Platoon for orders and buffs, that’s actually a very low price tag to add a burst of big shots, or for a steady chip of damage from mortars (now a spicy S5 base) over the course of a game. Not mandatory, but a good way to spend 55pts when rounding out your army.

Last but not least, the Hydra, the Militarum’s anti-aircraft tank, mounting massive autocannon batteries. This is well tuned, to the point that if aircraft ever became very dominant again you might well take one. Crucially, their big autocannons (which are Turret Weapons) are now fine against ground targets and great against aircraft, rather than being mediocre unless shooting the perfect victim. Aainst aircraft that are zipping on and off the board doing bombing runs they also have a dedicated stratagem to intercept shoot them, and they hit hard enough to threaten to bracket a T6 or 7 plane, and can be almost impossible to hide from on some boards (remembering that Aircraft can’t benefit from Obscuring terrain). This unit is very much a 9th Datasheet done right – if you put it in your army because you like the model you’re never going to walk away disappointed, and if your buddies/the metagame are bullying you with planes, they fulfill their intended role very well.

Dedicated Transport

Taurox Prime. Credit: Corrode

A trio of choices in the Dedicated Transport slot, two for everyone and one reserved for the elite heroes of the Militarum Tempestus.

Your generic options are the Taurox, which is cheap and fast and has built-in Armoured Tracks, and the Chimera, which is a little bit more ponderous but has more transport capacity (12 rather than 10), flexible shooting and some better support for Officers. As well as the additional slots making it easy for an Officer to ride shotgun and order stuff after disembarking, the Chimera is a Mobile Command Vehicle letting one embarked Officer issue a single Order it knows (measuring from the tank) each Command Phase. Hilariously, this currently doesn’t seem to “use up” one of the model’s Orders as it stands if they later Order on disembarking as well, so if you really want Ursula Creed to issue four Orders in a turn, this is how (at least till it almost certainly gets FAQed).

Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

70pts for the Taurox is so cheap that I suspect the Officer factor will be the main draw to taking any Chimeras, but they’re not that much more expensive at 85pts, so both options here end up extremely fine.

Taurox Primes are pricier (105pts) and spicier, packing BS3+ and a diverse range of decent guns to choose from. They’re fine, but just over the line where their price tag is that of a real unit, and hampered by the fact that you have to have at least one Scion squad you want to set up in each in Nephilim, so not something you really want to spam. Take a couple if you have a plan for them, but I expect plenty of these to have their extra guns gently snapped off so they can be run as regular-flavour Tauroxes.


Credit: Summer

Just one plane for the Guard, and it’s also in the transport game. Valkyries are pretty chunky and can throw out a decent amount of firepower, but their big selling point is their Transport capacity and the Grav-Chute Insertion ability. This lets them parachute an embarked unit at any point during their movement, as long as they unit sets up 9” away from the enemy (or 6” if they’re Scions), letting you push some nasty stuff straight at the enemy. If the plane moved 20”+ then non-Scions also have a chance to lose some models when they drop…which you might actually be able to turn into an advantage with Cult of Sacrifice. The units that drop cannot move or charge, but can unleash hell with their guns, and the obvious play here is to use this with the Armoured Fist stratagem to fully unload with a Scion or Kasrkin squad that’s decked out with special weapons. That’s pretty good, certainly, but you’re unavoidably going to be creating a very juicy target against some enemy lists, so be wary of that. Also, Ogryns are compatible with Valkyries, so this is another way to achieve DROP OGRYN, but that’s mostly just a curiosity, as they’re not CORE for Armoured Fist and Bullgryn can’t charge.

Lord of War

Ah yes, big tanks.

Look, there’s a lot of these, and they have a lot of overlap. All of them are extremely tough (T9, 2+, Armoured Tracks, minimum 28W), all mount lots of guns (a first set of sponsons is now mandatory, so at minimum you’re sporting a big turret weapon, a hull gun, two lascannons and four heavy bolters), and they’re differentiated by exactly what their big turret gun is, and whether they have transport capacity and a firing deck (allowing one embarked unit to shoot) or some extra wounds and one of the nastier big weapons.

Within that set of parameters, I think taking one of these is probably a legitimate choice. They are all very dangerous and very tough to kill – T9 with this many wounds means that it’s possible for an initial swing by a shooting army to miss, and Armoured means they can no-sell an attempt to murder them in melee if you save up your CP. When your army shoots back at whatever tried to kill them, it’s quite likely to become a smoking crater, leaving your opponent scrambling for answers. Because of that, I would almost always want to take one with Lord Solar for Orders and Veteran Commander for Armoured Superiority, as being able to make them ObSec and count as 10 models ensures that just ignoring the tank and trying to work round it if they run out of killing power punishes the opponent on Primary too.

As to which one I’d take, my favourite options are the Banehammer, Banesword and Stormsword. The Banehammer is easy to justify – the big gun on it looks like the most flexible out of the three Transport options, and it’s the cheapest of the three, so kind of a no-brainer. Among the pure gun tanks, I think the Stormsword has the best turret gun of the lot, hitting the best balance of shots, AP and damage, while the Banesword gets a look for being 30pts cheaper than any other option except the Banehammer, while only being a hair less scary, which can be great if you’re squeezed on points.

The classics like the Baneblade and Shadowsword are very much fine too, and the Shadowsword definitely does get an asterisk that the better the tanks in this book prove to be, the more plausible it looks as a counter, as absolutely can turn any Astra Militarum vehicle up to and including other super heavies into a pile of spare parts in a single shooting phase.


Ah crap – these might actually be OK, but there’s no guidelines in the book of what an Aegis Defence Line unit actually comprises or how you set one up, and don’t really work as written, so how good is something of a mystery. They run you 40pts and provide Light and Heavy Cover, Defensible and Defence Line and reduce the AP of Ranged Attacks against units receiving Cover from them by 1 – which is good, and would be very appealing to deploy some heavy weapons teams in. However, these are listed as Area Terrain rather than Obstacles, but the models are just a straight line, so what’s the footprint? Additional clarification is definitely needed here, but do keep half an eye on how they end up, as there’s some actual promise here.

Our Thoughts

How They’ll Play

Guard should continue to effectively deploy their classic game plan – throw waves of inexpensive infantry at the enemy to keep them occupied while pounding guns rip apart priority targets, leaving the enemy unable to hold the line. This book doesn’t re-invent the wheel in that regard, but it both improves the core plan and gives you some tools to adapt when the opponent tries to strike back. Kasrkin provide you with numerous ways to set up powerful damage spikes, Rough Riders are great counter-charge choices, and Bullgryn provide a way to lock down a key choke point. Lots of ways of handing out ObSec and the Turret Weapon rule also let you better capitalise on a lead – one of the ways Guard could lose despite being ahead in a damage race before was if opponents just carefully rationed out their remaining troops to tie up tanks and out-score them on objectives. That doesn’t work nearly as well on Russes that can both be ObSec and can shoot their best guns out of combat, so the heretics and xenos of the galaxy should get ready to fear the wrath of the Emperor anew.

Hot Takes

Wings: I’m a big fan of this book – I think it threads a number of design needles very deftly, and creates a finished product with a satisfying amount of depth. The army rules here clearly represent an attempt to dial back the level of complexity and volume of rules that go into a 9th Edition army, and I’m largely on board with that goal, but choosing a faction as storied as the Guard to do that with is a bold move that could have gone badly wrong. Happily, the execution is pretty much spot on – I have actively had more fun tinkering with what I can do with this book than I would have with eight different subfaction railroads to follow, and I really like the way that the designers have built on the design space they’ve opened up with abilities like the Karskin’s Warrior Elites and the Veteran Commander upgrade. Very genuinely, I would love to see how differently some of 9th Edition could have turned out if this is what we’d gotten from the start.

I also really like how the updated Orders mechanic plays, and feel like it nails the combination of form and function that you want for a great army-defining ability, and am a fan of Turret Weapons. Execution of units like Command Squads is also well done, and most of what’s here feel’s really clean. I don’t love the random departure of several named Characters, especially Yarrick, but keeping too many of them would arguably have been risky in a book where any unit can go in any army.

Inevitably, the question on many minds for any new book is whether there’s any broken stuff in it, and there’s certainly a few things here on my watch list. The Kasrkin mortal wound bomb combo I outlined earlier is certainly going to be obnoxious, and I expect it to get toned down at some point (probably by Born Soldiers getting the same tweak Ancestral Vengeance did), and any event that decides to play with this new book and an unchanged Balance Dataslate is going to unleash some extremely unfun artillery builds. Sentinels with lots of re-rolls pretending to be Eldar with Maverick Maneuvers may also drive some people up the wall, but at least their ceiling on output is vastly lower than that of, say, Crisis Teams. Beyond that, the main thing to watch is whether going “whoops all Russes” or running a trio of Rogal Dorns ends up being a bit too overwhelming. This certainly feels plausible on raw maths, but you do have to remember that unlike some previous busted factions, just the physical maneuverability of the models involved becomes an increasing drawback the more of them you ram into a list, and there are more counterplay options for people to try out. Very happy to wait and see on this one, and importantly other than the Kasrkin combo, pretty much anything that does turn out overtuned here can probably be fixed by points.

Big fan of this overall – this book cleanly achieves some design goals, and I came away from it actively enthusiastic about trying out some of the lists I could build, which is a first for the Astra Militarum in any edition!

Army List

To part the curtain slightly, most of the editorial team has been absurdly busy through the review period for this one, so just one list this time, and I’m sure our big guard fans will have more thoughts over the next few weeks. With that in mind, here are all my favourite toys from the army pulled together into what I shall be calling Born Soldiers Goodstuff. Yeah that’s right, keep getting mad about me overusing that term, it will only make me do it more.

Doctrine – Born Soldiers

Supreme Command

Lord Solar Leonatus, Warlord – 170



Ursula Creed, Master Tactician – 80, 1CP

Cadian Command squad, banner, medpack, vox, Finial of the Nemrodesh 1st, Old Grudges – 75pts, 2CP

Tank Commander, Battle Cannon, Gatekeeper, Armoured Tracks, lascannon, 2 heavy bolters – 180pts, 1CP


5×10 Cadians with plasma, melta, vox, drum-fed autogun – 325


Kasrkin, 2 melta, 2 plasma, marksman las, vox, chainsword, Mechanised Infantry – 100

Kasrkin, 2 plasma, 2 hot-shot volley, chainsword, vox, Expert Guerillas, Barbicant’s Key – 100, 1CP

Bullgryn x5, Mauls, 4 slabshields, 1 brute shield – 175

Commissar – 40

Ratlines – 50

Fast Attack

Armoured Sentinels x3, plasma, chainswords, hunter-killer missiles – 165

Heavy Support

Heavy Weapons Squad, mortars – 55

Heavy Weapons Squad, mortars – 55

Leman Russes x2 – 360:

  • 1 with Armoured Tracks, lascannon, 2 heavy bolters, executioner cannon – 170
  • 1 with Armoured Tracks, demo cannon, 3 heavy flamers, Veteran Commander – Armoured Superiority – 190


Taurox – 70

2000pts, 1CP

This feels nicely balanced – plenty of dakka from the tanks and Sentinels, two powerful punches to throw with the Kasrkin, and a big melee tarpit in the form of Bullgryn. It’s also set up to cover most bases on Secondaries, and has a reasonable amount of staying power. Plenty of ways you could iterate from it, and indeed I was swapping out units right up to the review deadline, but looks very playable as a starting point.

Wrap Up

That’s it for today – check back in on Tuesday for the Crusade review, and let us know what you think about the book in the comments.