For over a decade, furtive whispers have told the tale of a faction that once walked the battlefields of the 41st millennium, descendants from ancient Terra who had taken a very different path from most of humanity. Many denounced these tales as mere myths, fanciful tales from a more innocent age, where rules were consigned to transient paper alone, and all battles were fought with their participants astride magnificently green bases. As so many years passed, even most believers eventually gave up hope, moving on to pastures less green and new armies. But finally, incredibly, the faith of the few who held true is rewarded, and the Squats are back!
Don’t call them that though. It’s very rude, and it makes them very mad, and you will not enjoy what happens to you when they’re mad. They are now the Leagues of Votann, and they’re here to shake up the landscape of the 41st Millenium. Join Shane Watts and James “One_Wing” Grover as they dive into the new book.
Massive thanks, as ever, to Games Workshop for sending us the Votann Army Box and Codex to review.
Why Play The Leagues of Votann?
The Leagues of Votann are, ultimately, Space Dwarves, and they play pretty much exactly how you’d expect! Their infantry is slow but durable, they’ve got some cracking weapons and technology, and some mighty heroes who bring powerful buffs to bear in charge. The army wants to move up over the first couple of turns to occupy every objective up to and on the mid-line of the table, then grind the opponent to dust as they try and shift them from that position, and they’ve very much got the guns and defences to pull that off.
What’s in this Book?
- Lore for the Leagues of Votann – just what have they been up to all this time?
- Rules for constructing a League army, including five powerful named Leagues, and a good set of custom choices.
- Spicy new types of weapon, including beams, magna-rail and HunTR guns.
- All the stratagems, warlord traits, relics and secondary objectives you’d expect from a 9th Edition book, the Skeinwrought Psychic Discipline, and Votannic Council upgrades to give your Characters extra tricks.
- Datasheets for the new Votann range.
- Crusade rules that provide one of the most in-depth resource systems yet.
The Five Best Things About This Book
- It’s All New: An entirely new range turning up is a pretty uncommon occurrence, so if you want to build something completely new with a distinct aesthetic, Votann offer you that.
- The Leagues: The five Leagues introduced in this book all have some cool things going for them, giving you plenty of choice.
- The Land Fortress: Do you want to field the ultimate tank? Read on.
- Combos: There’s a lot of depth in the combos available in the Votann book, giving tinkerers lots to play with.
- Power: It’s…very good. Very very good. This is good for you if you want to play them, or win lots of games.
As always, we’ll have a dedicated Crusade review coming on Tuesday. If you want to either get incredibly mad at your regular opponents’ favourite units or engage in resource management to optimise your army, the Votann Crusade rules have some treats in store for you.
All pretty standard stuff here – one Kahl (your commander-type character) per detachment, a faction trait (here called League Customs) if every unit from your army comes from the same subfaction, and a rule handing out ObSec to certain units. That last one is the only special bit – as well as Hearthkyn Warriors (the only Troops in the book), Hernkyn Pioneers (the bikes) get built in ObSec. This (plus other reasons) makes the bikes really, really good.
Eye of the Ancestors
The Leagues’ mono-faction bonus lets them dole out Judgment Tokens to enemy units over the course of the game. You hand one of these out to each enemy unit who destroys one of your units, any enemy unit that completes an action (psychic or otherwise), plus to your choice of one enemy unit on an objective your opponent controls at the end of their turn. There are a few other ways to hand them out, such as your Kahl’s Grim Efficiency ability, and once a unit picks one up it’s there for good – the only way to lose it is by being destroyed.
As enemy units rack up more and more tokens and your Space Dwarfs get angrier and angrier at them, your attacks will become substantially more effective. Shoot at an enemy with 1 token, and unmodified hit rolls of 6 automatically wound them. If they have 2 tokens, it’s unmodified 5+. Manage to stack on a third, and your entire army automatically wounds that unit on an unmodified 4+. Thankfully, the effect caps at 3 tokens.
If all that weren’t enough, if you have another rule that triggers on a particular wound roll (of which there are several in the book), your auto-wounds from this ability count as being unmodified 6s to wound as well.
This is, frankly, completely fucking bonkers. As we all remember, when the 9th edition Ad Mech book released, Skitarii Vanguard made a pretty good try at single-handedly breaking the game over their augmetic knees thanks to a stratagem that gave them auto-wounds on unmodified 4+ to hit, and that was with an AP 0 1-damage gun.
The Leagues, on the other hand, have precisely one AP 0 ranged weapon in their codex, and even if you account for Armour of Contempt beefing up seemingly half the armies in the game at this point, of the 35 ranged weapons in their armory, 26 of them are AP -2 or better, with a substantial number of those packing at least 2 damage. Add to this the fact that there’s not really a way to completely hide from this effect if your opponent is trying to interact with either you or the mission in any meaningful way, and you’re looking at an effect that puts the Leagues of Votann solidly in the top rungs of offensive output even before we start looking at the rest of what they bring to the table.
Wings: This is also going to completely flip the script on how good some kinds of defensive ability are in the wider game, most notably Transhuman Physiology-style effects. For considering the rest of the Votann rules, it also means that anything in this book that provides access to any sort of hit re-rolls (especially full re-rolls) is even better than it normally is, because if you’re shooting at something with high toughness, you can just choose to re-roll all your dice that don’t meet whatever the auto-wound threshold is, providing you with devastatingly reliable offence once you get to three counters in particular.
Primaris Kevin: Let’s take one of the most powerful abilities, apply it to an entire army, remove most cost or restrictions associated with using it, and incorporate some extremely powerful secondary effects which are guaranteed to go off. The damage this throws out is pretty wild, and we’ll look at that further in Monday’s Hammer of Math.
Condit: The one thing that potentially reins this in is the way this sort of rule affects various sorts of weapons: it gives the greatest returns to units that put out high-volume low-quality shooting, something that Skitarii Vanguard have and that the Votann largely lack. For reference, unbuffed Vanguard would deal an average of 2.2 wounds to a squad of Intercessors, and Original Recipe Enriched Rounds pushed that up to 5.6. Contrast this with the Hearthkyn Warriors’ Autoch-pattern bolters, which start at the same 2.2 expected wounds, but only move to an expected 3.8 when they’re as angry as they’re allowed to get. Put another way, this rule is definitely potent, but applied to these specific guns, it’s not necessarily the end of the world on its own.
Speaking of Armour of Contempt, the Leagues get that baked into their Codex, with this ability appearing on every unit (even the Beserks, who aren’t even wearing shirts). The Votann version isn’t just -1 to incoming AP though – attacks made against them can’t re-roll wound or damage rolls, giving you another layer of resilience. And while several of the units you’ll want to bring only have 4+ armor saves, your relatively wide-spread access to units with toughness 5 or higher makes the loss of wound re-rolls that much more potent.
Honestly, at this point probably the biggest strike against this rule is that, thanks to Eye of the Ancestors, it’s largely irrelevant in the mirror match, so that’s cool, I guess.
All good dwarves understand that slow and steady wins the race, and the Steady Advance rule lets the Votann live that value. This, once again, appears on every unit and allows them to ignore modifiers to their movement characteristics and any modifiers to Advance/Charge rolls. Speaking of Advance rolls, all Votann units advance a fixed distance rather than rolling for it, 3” for most things, and 6” for anything with the Accelerated keyword (Vehicles, Bikes and the Einhyr Champion, who is a rocket powered turbo dwarf). This cuts both ways – on the Accelerated stuff it’s very good, as their base move characteristics aren’t particularly lower than anything else, but for infantry it caps their reach significantly. One particularly notable impact is on the ability to reach objectives on turn one – on quite a few Matched Play maps, there are objectives 12” from deployment zones, which means you need just under 9” of distance to reach their radius straight away. Vehicles and bikes are thus going to be key for making sure you can grab these, which isn’t exactly a problem given how great they are, but is worth bearing in mind.
In addition to their unique rules, the Votann also bring with them a new weapon type: “HunTR.” Regrettable spelling aside, what we’ve got here is the long-awaited introduction of the mythical Type: GUN. Basically, a HunTR weapon shoots the number of shots after its type, unless you advanced, in which case you don’t get to shoot it. If you’re thoroughly infested by 40k-flavored brainworms, you could think of it as a Heavy weapon that doesn’t get a penalty if you move.
The end result here is that most of the Leagues’ units can move and fire all of their weapons without penalty, which helps make up for the fact that they tend toward the slower side of 40k armies. It also means that fewer of their vehicle-mounted weapons take a penalty for shooting into combat (though some of the spiciest stuff is still Heavy).
As well as a whole new weapon category, the Votann get two weapon special rules that appear pretty widely across the army. The first of these is Beam weapons, which can hit multiple targets in a line. Whenever you hit a target with a Beam weapon, you draw a line from the closest point on the firing model’s base/hull to the closest point on the targets, and then check if that line passes over any other units that would have been eligible targets for the attack (so anything that would be blocked by Look Out Sir or Obscuring Terrain still is). If it does, you make a wound roll against those units as well as against the targets (it’s not totally clear whether Judgement tokens on the units that weren’t the main target do anything here, for now we’re assuming not).
This is pretty cool – the majority of the beam weapons in this book would be pretty decent just on their baseline stats alone, and this ability means that they’ll sometimes let you go hog wild and scatter massive amounts of damage around. How often you’ll get to do that is kept in check somewhat by the range – most beam weapons are shorter ranged than you’d normally expect for their weight class (capping out at 30” for the very longest reach), so to unleash their full power you’ll need to get up close.
Mess with the team, you get the beam.
What if one enemy unit has really upset you though, and you want them eradicated from the galaxy with maximum prejudice? That’s where Magna-rail weapons come in. There’s only two of these, but hoo boy. Magna-rail weapons always ignore invulnerable saves, and on a six to wound (which, remember, you get automatically from Eyes of the Ancestor on certain hit rolls) their damage will spill over between models rather than being lost after destroying a single one. That means that as long as you’re willing to set up some Judgement Tokens, these are fantastic for obliterating both large targets and elite infantry. This is very powerful, and something that will probably get heavy use.
Like pretty much every faction, Votann have a selection of subfactions to choose from, each giving you access to a League Custom, a Warlord Trait, Stratagem and Relic.
Each League Custom has three parts – two regular abilities that are on all the time and an associated Ancestral Judgement. The Ancestral Judgement is effectively a 3rd subfaction bonus that interacts somehow with Judgement Tokens, making an already powerful mechanic even better.
As well as the five named factions, you can also build a custom subfaction from a wide range of options. A custom Custom, if you will. As ever, this trades off access to a Warlord Trait, Stratagem and Relic for access to some abilities that could support particular skew lists.
Greater Thurian League
Sporting the only named character, this League has some of the most obvious strong abilities. The first custom ability, each model (except COG, more on that later) counts as 2 models for objectives and models with 10 wounds or more count as 5. A returning favorite from other armies, the second ability is that each unit can reroll one hit or wound roll each time they shoot or fight.
Both of these abilities are strong right out of the gate, and the Ancestral Judgement doesn’t hold back either. This ability makes attacks against units that have Judgement Tokens count as having one more than they actually have for the purposes of the attack. So have 2 tokens on a unit, counts as the big 3 for units attacking it, big benefit.
The warlord trait Pragmatic Wisdom is the standard CP regen, if your warlord is on the table, for each CP spent roll a D6, 5+ it is refunded. Still observes the max 1CP cap for matched play.
The relic Korvyk’s Cuirass gives the bearer a 4++ and reduces AP of incoming attacks by 1 and stacks with Void Armor. So if you want to make an extra tanky character, this looks like a decent option.
The stratagem is pure money, remember how we said 2 tokens effectively works as 3 for this subfaction? Well check this out. For 1CP Apprasing Glare allows you to put an additional token on a unit that was given a token by your Kahl’s Grim Efficiency ability. Facing an enemy unit with zero tokens? No problem, your boss gives them 2 tokens and you are firing at full cylinders, pun intended.
This subfaction rules, and while there are other choices that also look very appealing, it seems extremely likely that this one will see use in competitive play.
A balanced league, whose customs make units that are below starting strength get +1 to hit and makes unmodified 6s to wound an extra -1AP. Remember that any ability that queues off unmodified 6s to wound synergizes with Judgement Tokens, so this is much more powerful than it would be in many armies.
The Ancestral Judgement makes all non COG models reroll 1s to wound vs units with 1 or more Judgement Tokens. This ability is sneakily good in that there aren’t a lot of wound rerolls available outside of the Greater Thurian League, but does have the drawback that the army needs to make fewer wound rolls than others. Still, being even more inevitable in your damage dealing is always strong.
Nomad Strategist is a warlord trait that allows you to redeploy up to 3 units, and like most other redeploys this ability allows you to place these units into strategic reserve for free. This has been good pretty much every time it appears, and seems like a lock for any army using this League. Their relic, The Corv Duas, is an upgraded set of CORV models for a Grimnyr, with each CORV getting an extra wound, and the Grimnyr gaining an additional Deny and +1 to Deny while any are alive. Not bad, but the utility of the generic Murmuring Stave relic is so high that you’re unlikely to take this.
Finally, their 1CP Stratagem Cult Of Veneration gives a 5+++ vs Mortals to a unit for a phase after suffering mortals. Pretty standard, but the army doesn’t have much Mortal Wound protection, and they bypass a lot of the rest of their defensive tools, so useful to have.
This League doesn’t feel like an immediate powerhouse in the way that some of the others do, but access to Mortal Wound protection and a redeploy could make them a tool in certain metagames.
Want dwarves amped up on Khorne Flakes? Look no further. This subfaction has melee centric abilities and does it well.
The Custom abilities give units +1A and +1S in melee when Charging, Charged or after performing a heroic intervention. The Ancestral Judgement grants all non COG units an additional -1AP to melee attacks against units with 2 or more Judgement Tokens. Needing 2 tokens to trigger this makes it a little of an investment, but at the same time, 2+ tokens equals more auto wounds too. Taken together, once you’ve stacked two Judgement Tokens on a target you end up with a better version of the Bloody Rose rules, and even your basic Hearthkyn start looking pretty scary in a fight with a casual three S5 attacks each on the charge.
The Warlord Trait Exemplary Hero gives the warlord +1A if it is in engagement range of an enemy character or monster, full hit rerolls in melee, and +1 to wound vs enemy characters or monsters. Which combos pretty well with The Just Blade, a relic axe that replaces a forgewrought or dark star axe. This axe is a healthy AP-4 2 damage, that ignores invulnerable saves. Combine with attacking a character/monster that already has 2 Judgement Tokens for a sweet sweet set of AP-5 attacks that ignore invulns, HAH.
Finally, Bloody Expectations is a 1CP stratagem that gives a unit fighting in melee extra hits on an unmodified 6 to hit. Combine this with the fact your units already get an extra attack when charging/charged/heroic for lots of extra hits. As a sidenote: bonus hits from unmodified 6s to hit DO NOT count as unmodified 6s to wound from Judgement Tokens, you will still need to roll to wound with the additional hits.
This is a subfaction with some focus on durability and shooting. The Custom abilities give all ranged weapons excluding relics a bonus 4″ of range, which is extra great in a faction of mostly mid ranged shooting. The other half of the custom gives all units an invulnerable save – those with with a 2+ save get a 4++, all others get a 5++. Notably, with Void armor AP reduction, most units will not benefit from the invulnerable save till AP-3 or higher. (Hearthkyn have a 4+, if they have light cover they’ll save on a 3+, with Void Armor AP reduction they would still be saving on 5s with base armor vs AP-3.) The exception to this is the Cthonian Beserks unit, as with a 6+ save base the 5++ is a HUGE improvement to their survivability.
Their Ancestral Judgement makes non COG models that make a ranged attack within half range vs a target with 1 or more Judgement Tokens get an additional -1AP. Very conditional ability, but with the bonus range custom, and a ton of ranged focus in this army, this ability could make bank, and helps push through defences in the mirror match or against other Armour of Contempt factions..
Guild Connections is the subfaction Warlord Trait, which gives the Warlord a +1 damage to all weapons it has except relics. Best used on a Einhyr Champion with a dark star axe for maximum attacks in my opinion (and don’t forget it boosts their bolter as well). The Relic The Last Crest Of Jaluk gives a SHIELD CREST model a 4+++ vs mortals and once per game a 3+ invulnerable save for 1 phase. Being tied to the SHIELD CREST keyword means it has to be used on a Kahl with a Rampart Crest (so no Teleport Crest), a Grimnyr, or a Einhyr Champion with a Weavefield Crest (again no Teleport Crest). With the Einhyr Champion getting a 4+ invulnerable already from the subfaction custom, taking a Weavefield Crest seems like a waste, so I’d imagine you won’t see it on one at least.
Pulsed Beam Discharge is a 1CP stratagem that allows a shooting unit choose a model and 1 beam weapon on that model, which makes each hit with that weapon deal 1 mortal wound in addition to normal damage. With most Beam weapons being low shot count this is fairly niche, but can do some cheeky mortals with the right setup. It can also be very nasty with the heavy conversion beamer on the Land Fortress, as that can score up to four hits on targets.
Ymyr seems very strong – their Custom makes all the shooting in the army easier to use and potentially more deadly, and the invulnerable save part is a substantial boost to the army’s melee specialists, making this a powerful all-rounder choice. Pulsed Beam Discharge is also incredibly good, and one of the most transformative stratagems available to any League.
The toughest of the subfactions, the customs increase the toughness of every model by 1 and give a reroll for failed morale checks. T8 Sagitaurs and T9 Land Fortress is a fairly hilarious idea to say the least. This also bumps your Hearthkyn to T5, so combine those bumps with the Void Armor bonus of no wound rerolls, and enjoy watching your enemy’s attacks bounce off. Ironically enough, probably the weakest subfaction in the mirror, because Judgement Token auto wounds.
Their Ancestral Judgement is pretty strong, counting enemy units with no Judgement Tokens, as having 1 token for the purposes of attacks. Effectively this means all your attacks auto wound on 6s to hit at worst, all the time. It also means you might be able to contrive a build that skimps on Judgement enablers.
The Warlord Trait Grim Pragmatism is a pretty stock standard 5+++ and the relic The Abiding Mantle is a pretty cheeky relic, making the bearer untargetable with ranged attacks unless it is the closest eligible. Keep in mind this isn’t infallible, in that if your opponent is able to block line of sight to all other targets, guess who is getting shot? As long as you’re careful though (or just drive a T9 Land Fortress at their face) this can enable some strong stuff – the five-model Brokyr Iron Master unit can cover quite a lot of ground, powerful if they can’t be targeted.
Finishing with the Stratagem, for 1CP Waste Not Your Last Breath gives a character fight on death assuming it hasn’t already attacked this phase. Just in case you didn’t get to fight with your Kahl or Champion before they ate an axe to the face. Not exactly a draw to the faction, but never bad to have in your pocket.
Where these land could go one of two ways – it’s genuinely plausible that a list with three T9 Land Fortresses is something that the metagame straight up can’t handle, but this League gives you the least pro-active capabilities of any of them. It also depends on how much you’re gaining by your fortresses being T9 rather than T8 – eight to nine only affects S8, S9 and S16 attacks, so it will depend how many of these there are in the metagame at any given time (though at the moment it’s worth saying this is great against the anti-tank shooting of Tau, Harlequins and Sororitas, so definitely has the potential to start strong). Also, bluntly, it seems very probably that Votann are going to be a major metagame force, and the fact that this doesn’t do much in the mirror might count against it.
Like for most armies, in addition to the 5 named subfactions, there are rules to create your own.. You choose from a list of abilities, effectively 2 Customs and 1 Ancient Judgement ability, just like the main subfactions. Additionally there is the “parent league” type, League Affiliated, that basically makes you one of the main subfactions in everything but name. There are 10 (9 if you take out League Affiliated) customs and 6 ancestral judgements to choose from.
Some of these are repeats from existing subfactions, but others provide very neat and unique unique traits. Lets go over the unique custom traits, cause that’s cool. War Songs makes it so a <League> model making a melee attack against an enemy unit within engagement range of 2 or more <League> CORE units, they can reroll hit rolls. Literally dogpile your opponent, and whistle while you work, I guess? Refined Power Cores adds 2″ to the move characteristic of ACCELERATED or VEHICLE units, which is great for boosting the speed of your fast units AND the Einhyr Champion, because he has a jet engine back there. So watch your champion disembark 3″ from a vehicle, then move a cool 7″, before charging and smashing something in the face, hell yes. If, for some reason, the Ymyr Beam stratagem wasn’t enough for you, Superior Beam Capacitors increases the strength of all beam weapons by 1 (including relics) and makes the Core-Buster stratagem free. Probably still not better than using the Ymyr version, but a neat custom option. Void Hardened is the last unique custom ability, which makes unmodified wound rolls of 2 fail against your units. Against armies with +1 to wound this could be good, maybe, but otherwise there isn’t a lot wounding your army on 2s anyway, so probably skip it.
Martial Cloneskeins takes half of the Kronus trait, +1 strength in melee when charging/charged/heroic, sadly the worse half of the two. Other bad halves include Stoic, which gives a reroll for failed morale tests, and Honour in Toil for +1 to hit while below starting strength. There are good ones too though – Warrior Pride steals the reroll a hit or wound from the Thurian League and Weaponsmiths hands out the classic Ymyr +4″ range to ranged weapons. That means you could take the rerolls from Thurian and the range bonus from Ymyr as a custom league, which is pretty damn good.
Moving over to the Ancestral Judgements, all of these are pretty unique and cool, setting up some combos we’ll look at shortly. Vengeful makes it so when your units are destroyed they give out 2 tokens to that enemy unit instead of 1, which seems OK, but relying on your units dying isn’t exactly the most winning of plans. If you have a need for more melee, Brutal Efficiency hands out unmodified 6s to hit in melee score an additional hit vs targets with Judgement Tokens. Feels a little weaker than Kronus overall melee benefits, but has potential. My personal favorite is Close Quarters Prioritisation, which grants +2 to charge if you are only charging 1 enemy unit and that unit has 1 or more Judgement Tokens. Any bonuses to get into close combat is a win for me, 7″ charge rolls from reserve aren’t terrible either, not ideal, but still cool. It’s especially good with Beserks coming out of Strategic Reserves, as they have a built-in charge re-roll. Taking It Personally probably has the funniest name of all, if your unit does all of its ranged or melee attacks against one enemy unit, and that enemy unit survives roll a D6, adding +1 to the roll if that enemy unit is below half strength. On a 5+ give that enemy unit a Judgement Token. Has big Freebootas energy of trying to shoot or fight something with multiple units to stack max tokens on it and there could be something here for sure.
Another Judgement Token adding mechanic, Quick To Judge. This is the flip side of Taking It Personally, each time your unit is attacked, takes casualties and survives, roll a D6, adding +1 to the roll if your unit is below half strength. On a 4+ the attacking enemy unit gains a Judgement Token. Unwavering Discipline is the last Ancestral Judgement and is another offensively based one, meaning that any time a model with this custom attacks an enemy unit with 1 or more Judgement Tokens, you can ignore any modifiers to the hit roll, weapon skill or ballistic skill. Another pretty good one with more hit mods creeping into the meta.
Some notable combinations that stand out:
– +4″ range, hit or wound reroll, ancestral to ignore hit modifierss
– +4″ range, hit or wound reroll, ancestral to hand out tokens to enemy units that survive being attacked.
– +4″ range, +1S to beams, ancestral to hand out tokens to enemy units that survive
– +2″ move to accelerated, hit or wound reroll, ancestral for +2 to charge
Shane: Personally I am the biggest fan of the +2 to charge option, simply because I enjoy my units punching enemy models in the face.
Votann Stratagems – are they good? Yes, extremely.
Let’s start with killing stuff, and probably the marquee stratagem in the whole book – Ancestral Sentence. Does an opposing unit have any Judgement tokens on them? Then good news – spend 1CP and one of your units gets full hit re-rolls against them when they either shoot or fight. Notably, this isn’t even CORE-locked, so if you want your Land Fortress to absolutely wild out on something, it can and will. Don’t forget, too, that the Judgement mechanic means that full hit re-rolls also lets you bypass high toughness. This is one of the best stratagems in the entire game, and it’s not close. Also, if you find yourself needing multiple rounds of re-rolls in a Fight Phase, Cthonian Beserks get a separate 1CP stratagem for full hit re-rolls, so they should basically never be without them. If you’ve managed to pull off the full gank in the Fight Phase you can also put the final nail in the coffin with Kinbond – for the slightly pricier 2CP, if you have 2+ CORE units engaging the same enemy, you can give all CORE models full wound re-rolls against that target. I can’t immediately think of anything so preposterously tough that you’d actually need this if Beserks are involved, but it’s great for letting a Hearthkyn unit tee up some Hearthguard to sweep a target.
Hearthguard also get to play the Terminator role in this book, getting a cheap and cheerful 1CP stratagem for +1 to hit. It seems pretty likely you’ll be trying to keep them on full re-rolls from somewhere a lot of the time, but it’s fine to have access to. Also great on them when they’re occupying an objective is Luck Has, Need Keeps, Toil Earns, giving a CORE INFANTRY unit immunity to morale and a 6+ to ignore wounds (plus immunity to Action-breaking effects). Because of damage reduction, every saved wound on Hearthguard is extra strong, and this is priced to move at 1CP.
If you want your rank and file Heathkyn to spike their damage, you also have some options – if you’ve taken bolters you can use Optimised Volley for exploding 6s, and if you’ve taken ion you get the spicier Ion Storm option. This costs 1CP for up to 10 models, and 2CP for 11+, and gives you a Mortal Wound (to a maximum of 6) for each 6 to wound with ion. This is one of the things that Judgement tokens just fully bust open, as if you’ve got three tokens and full hit re-rolls, all you need to do is choose to fish for 4s when rolling the hits and you get the maximum 6MWs as long as you have at least 8 shots on average dice. That means the investment needed to hit the cap on this is deceptively low, and make a squad of ion Hearthkyn really good. Both these stratagems can also be effectively used by the Land Fortress too! If stacking beams is your plan, Core Buster Fire Pattern can also be cool, designating a unit hit by a beam as an unfortunate victim, and providing a Mortal Wound on a 4+ every time they get hit with a beam for the rest of the phase. You can’t hack the maths for this one, so need to be able to drop 12 beam hits on something to get the max from this, but you can get most of the way there with a Fortress and a bit of a support, so at least bear it in mind.
If you’re not planning to get dwarf-pilled, you might be reading this and thinking “ah, well, I shall simply charge the Votann and stop them shooting”, but that’s maybe not going to work out super well for you – both Fall Back and Shoot (at least CORE locked here) and the ability for INFANTRY or BIKER units to shoot while in engagement range turn up, so avoiding getting gunned down is hard. Even shooting at the Votann can be dangerous – one of their most unique tricks is Reactive Reprisal. For either 1CP (for Hearthkyn) or 2CP (for anything else that’s CORE), a Votann unit that gets hit by one or more shots from an enemy unit with a Judgement token can immediately shoot back after they’ve finished firing. There is a cost – they can’t then shoot in your next turn – but this is still exceptional. At baseline, this can massively throw off enemy calculations, potentially removing a unit of theirs from an objective when they least expect it, and it gets even better if you’ve got a full volkanite Hearthguard unit running around with a High Kahl buff on them – it means that opponents basically cannot shoot them with anything less than overwhelming force from a unit with a token. Also on the topic of messing with enemies when they least expect it, all SCANNER units get access to an intercept stratagem (which, eye-wateringly, includes the Land Fortress), and all INFANTRY or BIKER units can Heroic for 1CP.
The other various unit upgrades you can add also unlock strats (in addition to their pretty good base effects). MEDICs in Hearthguard can revive d3 models in your Command Phase (great to chain a model onto an objective Necron-style), while any COMMs units can switch off a nearby enemy unit’s ability to benefit from Auras (niche at 2CP, mind). Anything with a SHIELD CREST also gets access to a Transhuman equivalent in Overcharged Shield Crest, which does at least have the decency to cost 2CP for units larger than 5 models, and if your Characters or Einhyr have instead taken a Teleportation Crest, they can use Site-to-Site Transport to redeploy on board. Finally for the ones to go in deep on, and vying for the title of most importantly, BIKERs that have brought a SEARCHLIGHT can choose to bestow a Judgement token on an enemy unit that they score a hit against in the shooting phase. This is extremely good, and something you’ll want to have access to most of the time to set up big kills. There’s also a few more debuffs you can throw out with grenades or mole missiles, all of which are situationally useful.
Bikers also get some other neat tricks, being able to switch on -1 to hit and (if they advanced) prevent hit re-rolls for shooting against them with Mag-Riders and head off the board into Strategic Reserves with Outflanking Pioneers. The former seems very useful in a pinch – the bikes are ObSec, so if you need a point and the opponent doesn’t have nearby melee, Advance them onto there and spend 1CP to demand a massive amount of firepower be thrown at shifting them. They can also go really fast to do this if you want, as there’s the Accelerated Response stratagem to allow an ACCELERATED unit to auto-advance 12”. Useful on the bikes, very funny on the Land Fortress or a rocket-powered turbo dwarf (the Einhyr Champion).
Finally, some Character stuff. As well as the standard upgrades (and a small number of relics being available to unit sergeants), you get a few unique tricks, the most exciting of which is Personal Grudge. For 1CP, in your command phase (and only once per battle in strike force), you can pick one of your Characters and an enemy unit, and that Character always treats the enemy unit as having 3 Judgement tokens for the rest of the battle. This can be spectacularly nasty if an Einhyr built for melee or a Forge-master is about to open up on something, especially the latter if they have A Long List. Also interacting with the Votann’s ability to get fully riled up about stuff, if your opponent kills your Warlord or a Grimnyr, you can immediately drop a bunch of judgement tokens on the culprit, ensuring the rest of their existence will be brief. Finally, Grimnyr get a niche trick in Grimwrought Barrier, which in your Command Phase lets you switch off any ongoing enemy Psychic effects on a friendly unit, and protect them from Maledictions till your next turn. This sounds cool on paper but in practice…doesn’t really do much? It doesn’t stop Witchfire powers, and other places you’d potentially use this in most armies would be to break out from a movement debuff, or to protect a big unit before sending them off to fight Craftworlds with Doom. But, uh, Votann are already immune to both of those effects. Just generally.
Anyway – there are a small number of misses, mostly things like the above where Votann just plain don’t need them, but mostly this is one of the best sets of Stratagems in the entire game.
Like most codexes, the Leagues of Votann get six Warlord traits that any Character can take, in addition to their subfaction ones.
Ancestral Bearing increases the range of auras by 3″ and abilities with a range used in the command phase. Basically only worth it on a Kahl, and likely even there only going to show up on Uthar, who gets it as one of his two.
Next up, and a favorite of BONK characters, Warrior Lord, gives reroll wounds in melee and stops enemy units for using wounds that ignore damage vs the warlords attacks. (So no feel no pain like saves or damage caps). You can craft a truly horrendous Kronus Einhyr Champion with this and their relic, scything through almost any defences like they’re paper.
If you’d instead like to blast your foes at a distance, A Long List gives your warlord the ability to ignore Look Out Sir and Light Cover for ranged attacks, and in addition, at the end of each phase, if any enemy unit with Judgement Tokens was destroyed by a <League> unit, your warlord can select 1 visible enemy unit and put a Judgement Token on it. This seems really good – the Brokyr Iron-Master’s shooting is nasty, and if they’re upgraded to a Forge-Master they can potentially dump a lot of Mortals onto enemy Characters with impunity, while providing plenty of value from the extra Judgement tokens too. The only thing holding it back there is that it competes with the (also very good) Forge-Master specific one.
Guild Affiliate is slightly lackluster compared to other codexes, but it gives your warlord the ability to pick a CORE unit within 6″ in the command phase and give it Objective Secured until your next command phase (or count as two models if they already had ObSec). Certainly not bad if you’re about to dump a big unit of Hearthguard somewhere, but also a lot more restrictive than Rites of War. More generous is Unrelenting Toil, a 6″ aura that allows CORE units to shoot and not fail an action. Cheeky, especially as the Votann Shadow Operations Secondary is pretty strong.
Finally, we have Grim Demeanour, a 6″ aura that makes all CORE units ignore Leadership modifiers and Combat Attrition modifiers. Hard pass.
This codex sports a cool 3 pages of Relics. All of these can be handed to Characters, and a subset are also available to unit sergeants via the Bequest of the Votann stratagem.
The first of which is pretty good, Aktol’s Fortress which at the start of the fight phase gives an enemy unit within 3″ fight last. Great if you’re on any sort of melee plan. The Ancestral Crest is pretty unusual, giving the bearer a few one use abilities, including a free Epic Deed, changing a hit/wound/save to an unmodified 6 after rolling, and taking revenge on death – on a 2-5 the enemy unit that destroyed the bearer takes D3 mortals, on a 6 it takes flat 3 mortals.
An Einhyr Champion rocking a Mass Hammer can take the MEGA BONK relic Exactor, it doesn’t have a hit penalty and unmod 6s to hit deal 3+D3 mortals instead of normal damage. Got some hit rerolls? Fish for 6s to hit and smash a unit with mortals. For a more subtle melee threat, The First Knife is a relic for a Kahl or Grimnyr, granting one additional attack where, if it hits the target, they just take d3 mortals plus one per Judgement Token they have. Shiv em for mortal wounds! More melee weapons roll in with the Flayre, a relic axe that replaces a forgewrought axe which bumps to +2S AP-3 2D which also throws an additional 3 attacks. Teeth of Terra on steroids, but probably doesn’t quite justify a CP in Nephilim, as it isn’t as transformative as the threat of bonking/shivving the enemy for a massive pile of mortals. Last up for BONK power is The Hearthfist, which replaces a mass gauntlet or concussion gauntlet. It sports +4S -3AP 3D, does not take a hit penalty, and bumps up to D4 when attacking a unit with Judgement Tokens. You can probably do better elsewhere on a Character, but this is one of the ones that can be handed to a sergeant if you want some extra spice in a Hearthkyn or Einhyr unit.
Moving on to defensive stuff, the Wayfarer’s Grace makes the bearer more survivable, at the start of each of your command phases the bearer regains 1 lost wound and the first time the bearer is destroyed roll a D6 at the end of the phase, on a 3+ the bearer gets back up outside of engagement range with D3 wounds remaining. 3+ is maybe a bit too risky for this – you’re 100% buying it for the reanimation, and having a 1/3rd chance of doing nothing is kind of off-putting. Another durability relic, The Grey Crest, if carried by a character grants -1 to hit, if carried by a unit the unit gains -1 to hit if the enemy attacking it if more than 12″ away. Eh, kind of whatever – the only unit you’d care enough about to chuck this on is Einhyr, but they want to be in the enemy’s face. You’ve also got the Thyrikite Plate, a mild and skippable durability boost for non-Einhyr characters, and Ymma’s Shield, which is only for the Einhyr Champion, and allows the bearer to reduce the damage of an attack taken from a failed save to 0 once per battle round, and put a Judgement token on the responsible enemy unit on a 5+ when they do. This is a bit more interesting, and if you’re planning to have a Champ running amok in the enemy lines gives them some extra utility, but if you’re doing that you’re probably either building a full on Kronus murder machine or taking the hammer.
Next – guns. We start with a semi typical special relic bolter round Grudge’s End, boosting one bolt weapon with +1D and an extra -1AP, plus auto-wounding against anything with a Judgement token. Honestly not bad, but there’s so much stuff here you want that it’s hard for it to compete. More tempting, because it does something genuinely transformative, is Volumm’s Master Artifice, which is the same as the normal Iron-Master graviton rifle except now it is a BEAM! This relic is specifically the only way to maximize the Forge-master ability Forgemaster’s Eye to dish out mortal wounds via shooting with a beam, and can be devastating if the battle ends up fought in close quarters.
Finally, utility stuff, and honestly these are two of the best of the bunch. The Murmuring Stave allows a Grimnyr to cast one power in addition to performing a Psychic Action, and also means they know an extra power. This is extremely good, as having a Grimnyr able to cast Psychic Interrogation and Interface Echo every turn, with two of the more situational powers in their back pocket, is a spectacular deal. Feels likely to be one of the most commonly seen options. Finishing up, we have Warpestryk for a model with the Teleportation keyword. The bearer can no-clip through models and terrain, gets to use Site-to-Site Transport (on-board redeploy) for free once per game, and prevents enemy units setting up within 12” of their unit. Where this is excellent is on a Hearthguard Sergeant – the redeploy stratagem costs them 2CP anyway, so spending 1CP to pre-prep it is decent, and the deep strike prevention from a (potentially) ten model unit can be absolutely crushing to armies relying on reinforcements. It feels like you can hold the unit in your backfield warding off a large area, then teleport them into the fray when the time is right.
The Votannic Council
A pretty cool addition to the options of your characters is through upgrades. You can upgrade a Kahl, Grimnyr, and Iron-Master to High Kahl, Lord Grimnyr, and Forge-Master. These upgrades give some added bonuses and access to special warlord traits. These should look similar to Adeptus Astartes Chapter Command upgrades, making your characters into super versions of themselves.
For a cool 40 points, your Kahl gets 2 abilities, one command phase ability to give a core or character within 6″ full hit rerolls until your next command phase. Very powerful, especially combined with Judgement Tokens being based on unmodified hit rolls. The second ability allows the High Kahl to add 1 Judgement Token to an enemy unit, when it destroys an enemy unit with Judgement Tokens on it. So a cool way to shift a token mid phase, assuming you can get the kill of course.
Additionally upgrading to a High Kahl allows you to take a second normal Kahl. The High Kahl warlord trait, Experienced Eye, allows the High Kahl to use the Grim Efficiency Ability a second time on an enemy unit that has not already been selected. So twice the Judgement Tokens pushed out in the command phase, assuming the High Kahl can see two targets.
Upgrading to a Lord Grimnyr is only 25 points, well worth it if you are going to bring along a rune casting dwarf. This upgrade gives the Lord Grimnyr an extra psychic power cast, and when casting a Skeinwrought power (so not smite), if there is an enemy unit within 18″ that has a Judgement Token, you get +1 to cast. The boosts are pretty powerful, making these 3 casts more reliable is always huge.
Ancestral Power is the Lord Grimnyr warlord trait, that adds 6″ to the range of Skeinwrought powers (so again not smite). 18″ range for Null Vortex over 12″ range, yes please.
Wings: I’m less keen on this one simply because it doesn’t do much for what I see as the Grimnyr’s main role, casting a Psychic Action and powering out a CP each turn with Interface Echo.
Also clocking in at 25 points, this upgrade adds a bunch of value to your battlefield repairman. Once per battle round, when a <League> within 6″ uses a Wargear Stratagem, reduce the cost by 1CP. There is 7 stratagems this applies to, including Overcharge Shield Crest and Site-to-site Transport. Being able to reduce the cost of a transhuman equivalent and a same turn redeploy is pretty huge.
The other ability adds some cheeky mortal wound potential. Anytime the Forge-Master makes an attack against a unit with Judgement Tokens, on an unmodified wound roll of 6 that attack deals mortal wounds equal to the damage of that attack instead of normal damage. This ability also will deal mortals to intervening units that have Judgement Tokens via a Beam weapon. Remember the Volumm’s Master Artifice relic? It is the only Beam weapon a Forge-Master can take. Enjoy your 18″ Beam relic of mortal wounds.
Wings: This seems uh, incredibly rude in combination with some other tools in the book. Notably, with the A Long List Warlord trait you can potentially just smoke characters outright with Mortals, and combining this with the Beam relic with Pulsed Beam Discharge from Ymyr can produce army-sweeping levels of damage. All that said, it is worth noting that the timing of this means the Mortals happen before an attack is allocated to a model, meaning the extra damage from grav (which the Forge Master wields) won’t kick in, so you’re merely getting three D2 shots that can turn into Mortals rather than D3. So that’s alright.
Oh and we saved the best part for last, the warlord trait Master Armorer, makes your Forge-Master heal a flat 3 wounds instead of D3 (4 if any of your E-COG are alive) and once per battle round when a saving throw is failed for a nearby <League> VEHICLE or EXO-FRAME, you can change the damage characteristic for that attack to 0. Great for those times when you get shot by an enemy Magna-rail, or a Tau Hammerhead that is using your own technology against you, and super rude if you’re already bringing a T9 Land Fortress along in USR.
The Kin have access to the Skeinwrought Discipline, and it is pretty good. 3 of the powers are pretty good and the other 3 are well, not. Not too unusual for a psychic tree. The Grimnyr is the only caster available, and at base value will know two of these powers, three if you take The Murmuring Stave relic, and if you upgrade to a Lord Grimnyr you get a third cast. That means if you want to you can beef up a Lord Grimnyr and have access to all three good powers every turn.
Interface Echo is definitely one of the good ones – a WC5 power that just grants 1CP on a successful cast, and doesn’t count towards the cap of CP generation. Ignoring the cap only comes into play for the GTL Warlord Trait or (and probably more relevantly) the CP generated from Psychic Interrogation, but beyond that a WC5 for an extra CP is practically free. Auto-include for sure.
The second good power, Fortify, is a WC6 power that can be cast on a CORE or CHARACTER unit within 12″, and grants +1T and a 6+ ignore wounds. Again fairly easy to cast and a 6+++ is great when there isn’t a lot of it in the codex. The +1T can also be really good in some match ups (maybe extra good as Urani-Surtr Regulates for another +1T base, T7 Einhyr or Zerks? seems good). Wings: T7 infantry, what a world.
Ancestral Wrath is a pseudo Smite sidegrade. It’s WC6, picking a visible enemy within 18” and rolling 3D6 (6 D6 if the unit has 11 or more models. For every 4+ (with +1 if they have any Judgement tokens), that unit takes 1 mortal wound. This does have the potential to snipe out an enemy character with Judgement Tokens and 1 or 2 wounds remaining, so it’s not terrible, but not great.
Arguably the weakest of the powers is Grudgepyre, which is unfortunate because it has the coolest damn name. It at least has a low WC4, and targets a visible enemy unit that within 18″ that is not a VEHICLE, MONSTER or CHARACTER. Roll 2D6 and add the number of Judgement Tokens on that unit to the result. If the result is higher than the unmodified leadership characteristic of that unit, one model selected by your opponent in that unit is destroyed. Pretty terrible, as generally this will destroy a 3W model at best. I guess it has play, vs daemons because Beasts of Nurgle? Maybe an Emperor’s Chosen Vertus Praetor? I dunno I am reaching here. Wings: Tyranids is probably the closest this gets to worthwhile, as they’ve got stuff that you both want to one-shot and that has terrible leadership (Raveners, Pyrovores etc.). That’s such a niche use though.
The last good power is called Null Vortex, a WC8 power that is cast on an enemy unit within 12″ (notably without a visibility requirement and switches off their invulnerable saves till your next Psychic Phase. WC8 makes this a little dicey to cast, but this power can be insanely powerful, especially when running into armies like Harlequins that rely on an invulnerable save to survive.
Crushing Contempt is the final power in the tree and it is ok, in a niche way. WC6, select one enemy unit within 18″ (note no visibility requirement again), and roll 3D6. If that result is greater than or equal to the leadership characteristic of the enemy unit, it cannot perform actions until your next psychic phase and any it is performing fail. Additionally if that result is greater than the leadership characteristic of the enemy unit than that unit has -1 to hit for all attacks until your next psychic phase. Enemy action manipulation is always a hard game to play and -1 to hit is a decent debuff. There are a few matchups like Sisters where this can be very strong, as it can put a halt to Actions like Sacred Ground even if a Character is performing them. I guess if Sisters end up being the army giving you the most trouble, this could be good.
The Leagues get 4 faction secondaries, and to be honest, they aren’t great. The good news is the rest of the codex is strong, so it shouldn’t matter too much.
Wings: Or, if you’re anyone else, it’s nice that there’s something the Leagues are merely OK at.
Let’s start with the secondary objective that you will probably use, The Ancestors Are Watching. This is in the No Mercy, No Respite category, so it is a pretty solid pick if you don’t plan on taking No Prisoners. This secondary scores points by killing units with Judgement Tokens (something you want to do anyway!), rewarding you with 2VP at the end of each phase for killing a unit with any tokens or 3VP if they had the maximum of three. That means that if you manage to kill a unit you were real mad at in both the Shooting and Fight phases that can be a cool 6VP. Important sidenote too – since it is at the end of every phase, if you kill an enemy unit with Judgement Tokens in their turn, guess what? More VPs.
Ok, now the downside. At the end of the game, every living enemy unit with Judgement Tokens reduces your total VPs for this secondary by 1VP. Effectively unless you table your opponent, it is very unlikely to score 15 points, because (per the Nephilim mission pack) you will add up to 15VP max first and then subtract. So there is some risk with this (and a few armies can punish you by spamming late game Actions) but even with this clause, it should still be very reasonable to score, especially given how deadly the army is.
The Shadow Operations secondary is called Prospects of Wealth and it is very similar to other faction based action secondaries. One infantry or biker unit can start the action on an objective outside your deployment zone at the end of the movement phase as long as there are no enemy units on the objective, and that it hasn’t already been prospected. The action completes at the end of your turn, so unless you get blown out by some sort of Heroic, once started you should be safe. When you complete the action you score 3VP and you roll a D6, adding 1 to the roll if the unit has a SCANNER, and on a 6+ that objective marker becomes a Rich Deposit. If you control one or more Rich Deposit objectives at the end of the game, score an additional 3VP. Ok so real talk, on a 5 objective missions, this is very risky, as you can only do one objective a turn, and if your opponent is able to keep throwing models on objectives you can’t even do the action. In a 6 objective mission this is much more usable, but still vulnerable to opponents with fast units. Now that Banners is a more reliable secondary, you may still want to stick with it. Wings: This has the same issue that some of the CSM ones do where it still has the “old” style rule about opponent interference, where in Nephilim most Shadow Operations now rely on you just controlling the objective. I’m sort of expecting the CSM ones to get updated in the Balance Dataslate, and if this does too it becomes a lot better.
Grudge Match is a Purge The Enemy secondary and is very risky to use. When taken, before the battle you must select 5 enemy units, one of which must be the enemy warlord. At the end of the battle, each of those units that is destroyed is worth 1VP, plus an additional 1VP each if they cost 150pts+ and/or were destroyed by a melee attack.. So already you have to kill all 5 units in melee to score the max points, so this could be entirely unusable in certain match ups.. Even worse, at the end of the battle each of the targets that survived subtracts one from your score. I would say that maybe this is good into Knights, but you can just do Bring it Down and effectively score more points, soooooooo yeah. Wings: Do not pick this.
The last secondary objective is a Battlefield Supremacy secondary called Lay Claim, and it is again, very risky. This is a pseudo-callback to older editions where holding objectives at the end of the game scores points. When selected, your opponent sets up 3 special objective markers not within 6″ of their deployment zone or a battlefield edge, and not within 9″ of each other (plus on the ground floor, and not on an Unstable Position). At the end of the battle you score 5VPs for each of these objectives you control, meaning that effectively you need to hold these AND primary objectives on your last turn which requires some crazy positioning if you go second and can scramble around orrrrrrrrrrrr if you go first, watch as your opponent steals them out from under you at the end of the game. With this secondary sharing the same category as Engage On All Fronts and Behind Enemy Lines, I don’t think it is worth taking, ever.
Wings: I’m quite a bit higher on this one for a few reasons. Firstly, bluntly, currently this army can pretty comfortably hose a lot of lists off the table in a few turns, so a Secondary that means you don’t need to worry about anything beyond that till like turn four is pretty good. Secondly, the restrictions on where opponents can place the markers are genuinely quite significant, and on a lot of maps it’s actually pretty hard for them to place them in positions where your infantry can’t pull double duty on holding both them and another objective, and once you grab a few of them it becomes incumbent on your opponent to try and shift you off them, letting you control the pace of the game. I also think you struggle quite a bit with Engage or BEL, so will need to take this sometimes.
OK, that’s the mammoth number of rules available to the army out of the way – on to the stuff that uses them. As a brand new army launched from scratch, Votann don’t have that many units, but they more than make up for it in quality. Let’s take a look.
Four generic HQ choices, plus one named Character. First up – the Kahl, who is your Captain equivalent. Re-roll 1s to hit aura for CORE, decent combat stats, and access to Grim Efficiency, which allows him to drop a Judgement token on one visible enemy unit in your Command Phase. That’s good, but may not always do much early on, as the target needs to be visible at the point you use it (though you might be able to get away with standing in the open next to a Land Fortress). The Kahl also gets to choose between two wargear options – a Rampart Crest, which for 10pts provides a 5+ invulnerable save to nearby INFANTRY and BIKER units (plus the keyword to access the Transhuman equivalent) or a free Teleport Crest, allowing them to Deep Strike and granting the Teleportation keyword for use with Site-to-site Transport. You’re going to want your Kahl on the table most of the time, so the Rampart Crest feels like the better option here, especially if you’re bringing Beserks (as a 5+ invuln is extremely valuable on them). Finally, as covered in the Votannic Council section, you can upgrade one to a High Kahl for access to Chapter Master re-rolls and extra Judgement manipulation.
If you’re running the Greater Thurian League you can (and should) take Uthar the Destined instead of a regular Kahl. He’s exceptionally good – he has the High Kahl re-rolls build into his cost, a super nasty melee weapon that can throw out Mortal Wounds, better stats than a regular Kahl, is absurdly tough thanks to reducing all incoming damage to one per attack (nice paragon gauntlet, you big robot loser), and has the incredibly good Ancestral Fortune ability. Once per battle round, this lets you change a hit, wound, save or damage roll to an unmodified 6 for a nearby unit after rolling, which is incredible. It’s fantastic with a Land Fortress nearby, either letting their Magna-rail automatically pop off, or to shrug off anything with AP-5 or less, and it’s pretty strong just to have access to a pocket clutch of Mortals from his own melee attack. If you’re running GTL you’re pretty much definitely taking Uthar, and he’s an active draw to the subfaction.
Next up, your Kahl’s trusted lieutenant is the Einhyr Champion, a brawler character who also buffs Hearthguard. At baseline, you’d maybe want one more attack from this kind of model, but they can be made pretty potent with relics (or in the Kronus Hegemony) and while they’re less killy than equivalents in other factions, they’re much tougher, with damage reduction, up to 6W if you take the Weavefield Crest upgrade, and -1 to wound against melee attacks (all on top of T5 and a 2+ save with Void Armour). They also have a chance of inflicting Mortals when they charge, and have the ACCELERATED keyword to rocket round the board a bit. You might struggle to find a slot for one in single Battalion builds, but they can be built into great troubleshooters, and highly durable characters are generally pretty welcome.
For your wizarding needs you have the Grimnyr. Mostly you’re taking one because they’re a two-cast Psyker who can power out extra Command Points and perform Psychic Actions, but they also provide a minor morale buff, adding 1 to Combat Attrition rolls for nearby friendlies (meaning that units above half strength straight up can’t lose models to it) and being unusually tough to shift – they’re accompanied by two CORV units, which can both absorb a Perils, and just act as an extra ablative wound each, with a 4+ save unit wide no less. Because Votann Secondaries are mildly underwhelming you definitely want access to Interrogation and you also definitely want to be powering out a CP every turn with Interface Echo, so at a mere 80pts expect to see one of these with the Murmering Stave in many lists.
Finally, and also priced to move at 80pts you get the Brokhyr, your engineer-type character. These come with a unit of four assistants (three Cogs and an Ironkin), making this a unit with both the Character keyword and a large footprint, which can be very strong. The Brokhyr also provides some great buffs and great shooting, handing out +1 to hit for a friendly CORE or VEHICLE model once per Command Phase, repairing a vehicle, and blasting away with a powerful graviton rifle (especially nasty if you buy the Forge-Master upgrade). Even in melee they can spike a decent amount of damage from their graviton hammer, but they’re definitely not a combat character – while the unit ends up with a decent number of wounds, they’re operating on a 4+ save with no invuln, so will melt if a real combat unit touches them. Until that point, they’re really good though, and they even have the cool and fairly unique ability to Advance and Action (or Action and Shoot). This is great for Banners, and surprisingly decent for RND, as with five models they’ll pull it off most of the time. Definitely pick one up!
Just one Troops unit for the Votann, but they’re powerful and have a pretty dazzling array of options. At baseline, your Hearthkyn is WS/BS3+, T/S4 with 2A and a 4+ (which goes further than you’d think thanks to Void Armour) and is armed either with a autoch-pattern bolter (a HunTR 2 bolter with AP-1) or an ion blaster for 1 extra point per model. The blaster is nasty as regular weapons go, only one shot, but hitting at S5 AP-2 D2, and providing access to the powerful Ion Storm stratagem for when something needs to be very dead. Capping all this off, the sergeant comes with an extra wound and a Weavefield Crest, providing that model with a 4+ invuln and the unit with the Shield Crest keyword for access to Transhuman. Oh, also, the squad can go to 20 models.
As you’d expect for such an advanced race, you also have a whole bunch of extra guns to pick from, the most relevant of which are probably the Magna-rail rifle, the EtaCam plasma beamer and the HYLas auto-rifle. The Magna-rail isn’t cheap at 20pts, but provides a D3+d3 damage shot, making these units pretty scary. Especially good for the Greater Thurian League, who can use their hit re-roll on it or auto-6 it with Uthar. If you’re on an Ymyr plan, you might instead consider the plasma beamer, which is a bit cheaper and seeds a decent beam shot into the unit. Finally, At the cheap end of the spectrum, the HYLas auto-rifle is just a 5pt upgrade that makes one model a bit nastier at range, and fine to burn 5pts on if you’ve got them hanging around.
Also good for spending 5pts on are the three wargear upgrades available – a medipack, comms array and scanner. As well as unlocking the relevant stratagems (which are all at least decent), these provide baseline effects too. The medipack lets you zero-out the damage of the first failed save this unit makes each turn, which absolutely rules for 5pts (it arguably makes them back the first time the opponent shoots the unit and doesn’t wipe them), and also probably has the best strat. The scanner lets you ignore light cover, which is definitely decent, and also helps perform Prospects of Wealth if you’ve been forced to take it. Finally, the comms upgrade lets you count as being within a Kahl’s aura while within 24” rather than 6”, certainly not bad for providing extra output, especially as any source of hit re-rolls is better in Votann than normal.
Hearthkyn are great as Troops go – you’re rarely going to mind having them, and you can build them to be an active part of your plan if you want. Ion units are great damage dealers, the upgrades can make them quite flexible, and spamming lots of these is probably viable as well. Also notable is the fact that you can (if you take two Sagitaurs) split a unit into two squads of five, and a double patrol with one Ion squad and one split unit for objective play feels like it could have lots of game.
A mighty two options here, both spicy. Einhyr Hearthguard are your Terminator-equivalents, rocking exo-armour for T5, a 2+ and damage reduction (albeit only having 2W) and various weapon and wargear choices. Like the Einhyr Champion, the sergeant here can either take a Shield Crest for an extra wound and a 4+ save on themselves, or a Teleport Crest for deep strike and re-deploy capabilities. Both feel like they have uses – small squads with a Shield Crest are very tanky, while upgrading a Teleport Crest to Warpstryk and redeploying a buffed unit of ten across the table feels potent.
In terms of weaponry, you’ve got two options each for guns and melee. At range, you can pick between a volkanite disintegrator, a three shot S5 gun that does an instant mortal on a 6 to hit (instead of any normal damage) or a plasma gun for a one shot S8 AP-4 D2 attack. On a first read neither of these is super exciting – the volkanite lacks AP, and the plasma is a bit low on shots. However, the trick with these is to take the volkanite and pick up full re-rolls from somewhere, then fully fish for 6s to hit. That gives you an average of a cool 9MWs if a full squad of these unloads, on top of some chip damage from the other hits, which is suddenly a pretty scary prospect! Smaller units might want the plasma for troubleshooting, but even there the volkanite is decent. In melee, you can either go big with a concussion gauntlet for S8 AP-2 D2 attacks or wide with the plasma blade, which provides +1A, and AP-3 S6 D1 attacks. Here, the plasma is probably your best bet, and not just because beam swords are cool – like a few other Votann units, their base attack stat is maybe one lower than you’d like, and it feels like with gauntlets there’s a real risk of getting bogged down in chaff (and AP-2 isn’t what it used to be in an armour of contempt world). That calculus might change in Kronus with the extra attack and lure of S9, but elsewhere probably go swords. Hearthguard feel like they do need a bit of planning to use to maximum effect, but a small unit as shock troops or big redeploying squad both feel powerful.
Rather easier to use, and generally eye-watering, are the Cthonian Beserks. Delve deep into your mind palace and locate the concept of Repentia. Now overlay that with the concept of “Primaris”. Then add thunder hammers. Sound good huh? Beserks are absolute nightmares – a basic squad runs you 110pts, and comes with either a heavy plasma axe (providing a choice between strike or sweep profiles) or a concussion maul, the aforementioned thunder hammer equivalent, smashing stuff with S10 AP-3 D3 attacks, albeit at -1 to hit. Given how trivial getting full re-rolls on these is, you probably go with the mauls most of the time just for sheer brutality, but the axes certainly aren’t bad. One model can also take a twin concussion gauntlet, which is theoretically meant to be an in-between option, but kind of not worth extra points because it dips down to AP-2.
So, you get 15 thunder hammer swings with easy access to re-rolls for 110pts, are there downsides? Ehh. In theory they’re relatively squishy, but it’s really only relative – they’re T5 2W each, improbably still have void armour despite not wearing any shirts, and while their save is naff, they get a 5+ to ignore wounds, or 4+ against D1. That gets even better in Ymyr where they get a 5+ invulnerable save, which since that’s one of the best leagues is pretty handy. Finally, even if your opponent gets the jump on them in melee, they get to fight on death as a built in effect (plus re-roll their charges), making them nigh impossible to effectively trade with. In theory you can buy the unit a mole mortar, which does to be fair give them access to an OK stratagem, and makes the model carrying it a bit tougher and angrier. Mostly feels like you just run these out at their base price though, where they’re an incredible bargain.
Two options here as well, Hernkyn Pioneers (the bikes) and the Sagitaur, which is a light vehicle/transport combo. The bikes rule, and you basically always want some – they’re cheap (90pts for a unit at base), pack a goddamn three shot autocannon each on top of shotguns, and are reasonably tough thanks to Void Armour (though do only have a 4+ save base). They’re also fast, zooming 12” and getting a pre-game move, which makes them ideal for mitigating the army’s slowness out the gate and grabbing early objectives (especially as they’re ObSec). They can also take some upgrades, the most important of which is the Rollbar Searchlight, which not only lets the unit ignore dense, but also unlocks the Light ‘Em Up stratagem to hand out a Judgement token, teeing up the rest of your army to go wild. Scanners and comms units are also available, but less mandatory. Finally, one model in three can be upgraded with an extra gun and gunner, gaining an extra attack and wound plus either an ion beamer or a rotary cannon. The rotary cannon is probably the boring but effective option here, as it adds loads of extra S6 AP-2 D1 shots for a bargain price, but this unit is also better at setting up beam shenanigans than most, and the beamer gets two shots, so it’ll at least be fun if probably not optimal. These rule and it’s difficult to imagine leaving home without some – 105pt units with a gun and searchlight upgrade are incredible value pieces, and they’re very much good enough that maxing out on 18 will be tried.
The Sagitaur is an odd unit – it’s basically a five-model transport, but can mount enough guns that you might take one on its own merits, and thus sits in Fast Attack. Their special unique gimmick is that you can take two of them in a unit (which split after deployment), and if you do this you get an unusual trick. Someone noticed that having a five-model transport in a faction with minimum Troop squads of 10 is a bit weird, so the Mounted Assault rule exists to get round that. If you have a unit of two Sagitaurs and either a Hearthkyn or Beserks squad of exactly ten models (though the latter can just come in 5s anyway, so this is mostly for Hearthkyn) you can split the unit in two during Reserves/Transports and embark each half on one of the Sagitaurs, leaving them independent for the whole battle. That does honestly seem pretty good (mostly because these are totally fine as cheap little vehicles in their own right) – it lets you turn one bare-bones Hearthkyn unit into a very cheap set of tools for objective play. Something I can imagine seeing quite often is starting half a Hearthkyn unit in each of two of these, then at the start of your first turn immediately bailing out one five-model unit (perhaps with the medic) to sit on a home objective, and mounting up some Beserks who were standing nearby. As well as that utility, the cheapest build here is just decent on rate – it runs you 110pts for 12 D2 AP-2 shots on a fast, moderately durable frame, which is entirely fine. There are also some spicier guns available, but unless you’re trying to pull comedy shenanigans with the beam option, it doesn’t feel like they’re adding enough value to want to plow points into them. Keep them cheap and fun, and control the board with them.
Our final duo here, and a bit of a rollercoaster. Starting with the lows, Brokhyr Thunderkyn are heavy weapon dwarves in cool exo-frames and kind of…OK? They get three weapon options, and the play with them is probably taking the grav and bringing them in from Strategic Reserves, where they can land a pretty immediate punch at a reasonable price – they’re cheaper than Eradicators, and with that weapon option look pretty competitive in comparison. They do also have the option of taking conversion beamers, the gimmick of which is that they’re unusually long-ranged for a beam weapon, and inflict double hits on anything that’s 15” or more away. However, these ones are only S7 and AP-2, which is just not enough to make them tempting, especially as slowly waddling dwarves aren’t the best for lining up big beam hits. As mentioned, grav ones out of strat reserves might happen, but this is probably the most skippable unit in the book.
Extremely non-skippable is the Land Fortress, one of the most powerful heavy vehicles in the game. This is Land Raider tough with Void Armour on top (and don’t forget that a Forge Master can negate damage to one and repair it), has a 12-model Transport Capacity (with Exo-armour or Exo-frame units taking extra slots) and lethal weaponry. You get a spicy array of “small” arms, taking four bolt cannons, four ion beamers or two of each (the latter at an extra 5pts each), plus a six-shot AP-2 autocannon. That makes this quite dangerous even before we get to the main gun – you’ve either got lots of decent ranged shots (oddly the bolt cannon is one fewer shot here than elsewhere, and that might get corrected), or eight really quite nasty (D7 AP-2 D2 beam shots, also qualifying for Ion Storm) and the autocannon. Both have their places – bolt cannons keep this (relatively) cheap, but eight beam shots on something that can actually move around the board is very dangerous.
The main gun is where things go wild though, and realistically you’re picking either the heavy magna-rail cannon or the heavy Conversion Beamer (with the final ion option just adding lots more AP-2 D2 shots, fine but you already have plenty). The heavy magna-rail is equivalent to a railgun – it strikes for 6+2d3 damage at S14 AP-4, and because it’s a magna-rail weapon it ignores invulns, and can inflict spillover damage on smaller targets on a 6 to wound (which, you know, sometimes means 4+ to hit). The mix of being able to reliably make something big die hard and sweep through elite infantry is gold. Despite that though, the heavy conversion beamer is also tempting, especially if you’re building a full-blown mean beam machine to use with strats. It’s two shots, and has the rule where these double outside 15”, and strikes at a pleasing S8 AP-3 D4. If you can line this up to lance through multiple units then that’s some serious killing, and it’s easily the best place to drop the Ymyr beam stratagem, potentially punching four Mortal Wounds through multiple targets at once.
Last up, the model comes with a scanner as stock, and for a small point price can trade that out for a one-shot warhead. These are funny, but absolutely not worth it – ignoring Light Cover from the scanner is great with all the AP-2 shots this is throwing out, and being able to intercept shoot from one is a nightmare for some armies. The scary thing about the Fortress is that all of this comes at a very low price – 230 stock, up to 250 if you go full ion. This is, bluntly, nowhere near enough for what they bring to the table, and right now most Votann lists want two or three.
How They’ll Play
The Votann very much want to grind the opponent off the table – they’re extremely deadly, but have the drawback that many of their units aren’t that fast. That means they need to use the fast units they do have to sweep out to grab objectives early and bait opponents into the open, at which point the spectacular firepower the army can bring to bear will devastate all but the toughest of opponents. After that initial volley, they need to make sure they keep pressing forward as they gun the opposition down, making sure that if their smaller stuff gets picked up off the table, their more durable units are in position to lock the game down and finish off any enemy stragglers, claiming the table for the Votann.
Man, what a ride. This book is reallllll good and there is just so much to enjoy from it. Getting an old faction back into the game is just so cool, especially from a lore and modelling stand point. I was so stoked when GSC got rules again back in 7th edition, it was such a random side project of mine back in the old 2nd/3rd edition era. Getting an opportunity to find out where the Votann have been and how they fit into the current universe is just cool.
Of course it also helps that this codex presents us with an army that is not only interesting and fun to play, but looking very competitive in the current game. I always enjoy trying out a new army or list type, and this book offers a new opportunity to do so. I do have to agree with Wings in that this codex does look like it has the best of other codex rolled into one, hell they basically have Dwarven Repentia for throne’s sake!
I do find the timing funny in that this release will have just enough time for players to collect and get experience with, just to bring it with them to LVO 2023 hah. As strong as this is, I am not sure it will quite make a splash like how Ynnari and Iron Hands did at previous LVOs, but with the power of this book it certainly has the legs to perform there.
I am for sure going to be giving this army a go, and more than likely I will not be playing Ymyr or GTL, at least not until I get stomped enough hah. Currently I am really digging USR, although I will for sure be doing a custom scheme. I am very certain many people will pick the Leagues of Votann because it will be fairly easy to collect and has a strong set of rules.
Positive points first – there’s some super cool stuff in this book, and despite the range only being modest in size, there’s some serious depth, lots of valid choices, and it looks like it’s going to be great fun to use on the table. There’s some really nifty design choices in here – I like playing with the larger Character units, I think a lot of the Judgement interactions are very clever in how they’re put together, and that most intangible of qualities, the feel of the army, is pretty spot on.
The elephant in the room, of course, is that I think this army is too good, and in a way that is unlikely to be fun for many factions to play against out of the gate. Mostly, the culprit here is Eye of the Ancestors, which breaks the normal maths of 40K just a bit too much, especially in combination with the unusually easy access to full hit re-rolls. I strongly suspect this was mostly written before the Craftworlds wreaked havoc with Hail of Doom, and thus there wasn’t the real-world experience of how exceptionally good the effect is, but some of the combos with Judgement Tokens are way too easy and/or reliable, especially Uthar handing out an auto-6. I worry playing against this army is going to be like playing 8th Iron Hands at their peak, where the odds of sweeping your units up are so stacked in their favour it can feel hopeless. I also think that army-wide immunity to Wound re-rolls and move modifiers is a bit much – too many things that other armies pay points for are just DOA if they match up against Votann.
On top of that, the units are mostly very pushed, loads of stratagems and upgrades are super-powerful, and most of the Leagues have something interesting going on, leaving a wealth of powerful options to draw on. Here’s the thing – that’s good, on some level! You want every unit and option to have some level of validity and to be fun to use, and that’s especially true for units. In 40K, a model isn’t just something you buy off the shelf – it can represent dozens of hours of assembly and painting time, and it’s much better for the hobby if you can rely on the output of that being at least playable.
However, once every option in the book is at least decent and relevant at baseline, you hit the problem that there’s bound to be ways to stack them up that are too much That’s especially true when crafting a new book from scratch deep into the edition, where the designers have a good grasp of what a good ability or datasheet looks like. This isn’t a challenge that’s unique to Warhammer 40K – in fact there’s a near direct parallel in my other favoured gaming hobby, Hearthstone (a digital card game). A few years back, Hearthstone introduced the Demon Hunter, a whole new class (equivalent to a Codex) and the first entirely new one for more than five years. In order to bring it to quick parity with other classes out of the gate, they got a bumper set of cards early on, backfilling for the “base set” cards that each class had access to from release.
Demon Hunter broke the game wide open, and it took three rounds of nerfs before it was in anything resembling a sensible place. What stuck with me from it was a comment from one of the designers after the fact, when they analysed what had gone wrong. The issue wasn’t that the developers didn’t understand their game – they understood it too well! The issue with Demon Hunter was that when they wrote in a whole new set of cards with years of design experience to draw on, every card was at minimum decent, and most were pretty good. Other classes had good cards too – but significant portions of their card pools were taken up by the base set cards, many of which were extremely mediocre, and had been left behind as newly released cards had their power level pitched for competitive play. It turned out, in the cold clarity following several rounds of emergency nerfs, that the game’s balance had been relying on a substantial portion of the cards being essentially worthless, and releasing a new class where the minimum power level was “fine” was game breaking.
Bluntly – that sort of feels like what’s happened here, and I think you can also make the argument that it’s what went so wrong with Tyranids. 40K has a lot of additive rules between subfactions, traits and relics, and now that the team (rightly) don’t tend to release datasheets that just plain suck, the risk of there being combinations that push too far gets rapidly magnified. We’ve moved on from the world of 8th where bad datasheets needed to be uplifted by strong army-wide effects and support – many units that get release now would stand on their own, but they’re still getting powerful army-wide effects and buffs layered on top, and it’s too much – especially in comparison to early 9th Codexes where the formula for making a good unit wasn’t so nailed down. I do think it’s important to highlight that this happens to other games too – and it tends to increase in frequency when they have an engaged competitive scene that the designers need to retain the attention of. Hearthstone has had some other heinous misses on power level in the last few years, Magic got infested with elks for months, and Guild Ball’s designers ascribe its death, at least in part, to everything becoming so tuned that only releases in a very narrow band of power had any worth at all. This stuff is hard and it gets harder when a ravenous and engaged community digests every new release at speed, pulls out the best stuff from it and discards the rest (and yeah yeah, we’re all trying to find the guys who did that).
I’ll put my hand up and say I don’t have a good answer to this (though digital rules updated at a healthy pace help, so huzzah for the Balance Dataslate) – I want units to be cool however you use them, and I think it’s fantastic for the hobby that we’re mostly out of the era where you could buy and build a model “wrong”. I also like the depth and cool upgrades – I spend far too many hours of my week analysing army lists, and am always excited to see new stuff on the horizon. Votann look like great fun, and I’m tempted to put together an army of them! I like a lot about this book, but it’s just too much, and the excitement is tinged by the reasonably high confidence that I’m going to write whole articles that involve copying “GTL Goodstuf” and “Ymyr Goodstuff” twenty times. Speaking of which…
Wings – Greater Thurian League Goodstuff
I am but a simple Wings, and have had a very busy few weeks including a bout of COVID, so please enjoy the most basic and linear army I can throw together from this book.
Greater Thurian League Patrol
Uthar, Warlord (buys traits) – 140pts, 1CP
Grimnyr, Murmuring Stave, Interface Echo, Null Vortex, Fortify – 80pts, 1CP
Hearthkyn, ion, rail rifle, medic – 144pts
8 Hearthguard, volkite, swords, Warpstryk – 280pts, 1CP.
5 Beserks, mauls – 110pts
3 Pioneers, Rotary Cannon, scanner, searchlight – 110pts
3 Pioneers, Rotary Cannon, scanner, searchlight – 110pts
Land Fortress, conversion beamer, ion beams – 250pts
Land Fortress, rail cannon, bolt cannons – 230pts
Greater Thurian League Patrol
Brokhyr Forge Master, Master Armourer – 105pts, 1CP
Hearthkyn – 110pts
5 Beserks, axes – 110pts
2 Sagitaurs, autocannons – 220pts
For most armies I’d be a bit worried about starting on 0CP, but thanks to Interface Echo and free Stratagems from the Forge Master, I don’t think it’ll hurt too much here. This army has good options for pushing out early, sending bikes and Sagitaurs up the board, nasty counter-charge from two units of Beserks, great guns, and a big bomb of Hearthguard to buff up and throw at the enemy at the right time, protecting the home front from enemy deep strikes till they do. It looks like a blast to play, and terrifying to play against.
Shane – USR Grudgingly Stoic list
Here we have a list that is harder to hurt via USR, and has access to mortal wound output via Ion/Volkite and the BONK Champion with mortal wound hammer that ignores feel no pains and damage caps.
Urani-Surtr Regulates Battalion
High Kahl, volkite, mass gauntlet, teleport crest – 120pts
Einhyr Champion, Warlord, mass hammer, weavefield, Exactor, Warrior Lord – 100pts, 2CP
Hearthkyn, ion, rail rifle, medic, scanner – 149pts
Hearthkyn, ion, rail rifle, medic, scanner – 149pts
Hearthkyn, ion, rail rifle, medic, scanner – 149pts
10 Hearthguard, volkite, swords, Warpstryk – 350pts, 1CP
5 Hearthguard, volkite, swords – 175pts
5 Beserks, axes – 110pts
5 Beserks, axes – 110pts
3 Pioneers, Rotary Cannon, scanner, searchlight – 110pts
Land Fortress, rail cannon, bolt cannons – 230pts
Land Fortress, rail cannon, bolt cannons – 230pts
Shooting abounds, as such with the Leagues, but there is some charge and counter charge here. 3CP should be enough to start with since I am not bringing along a Grimnyr, but I will still need to ration because there is soooo many good stratagems to use. Yes this list is only 1982 points, that is because I still have no idea what I want to upgrade with those last 18 points, there is quite a few good options, either way I like this list a lot.
The Leagues mean business, and we’re definitely going to see them in action on tournament tables in the near future. Make sure to stay tuned for a painting guide from some of our artistic experts later today, and the Crusade review on Tuesday.