Codex Thousand Sons: The Crusade Rules Review

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Games Workshop were nice enough to send us copies of both of this week’s Codexes full of muscle wizards, and today we’re getting thrown out of the Black Library and having our Black Library Card repossessed, by showing off the extremely dusty Thousand Sons Crusade rules. Unfortunately, this may result in Inquisitorial Purging of our staff. Goonhammer regrets the loss of their productivity.

Here at Goonhammer, we know a thing or two about dusty automatons disobeying their superiors. Recently we launched Gregbot, a simulated posting experience in our Discord, and much like Magnus himself, I could not be more disappointed in him, and things will never be the same. Let’s ask Gregbot:

i gotta take a concept like an idiot.

Thanks, gregbot, for nothing. Here’s the Thousand Sons, who are one thousand times more numerous, and ten thousand times more useful, than my own robotic son.

Discover the Arcane: Death by a Thousand Sons

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Arcane Points are like the Warhammer Skulls program but for a different kind of nerd. Scoop up enough dust and punch that card, and cash it in for Powerful Relics or Relicful Powers.

Ways to earn Arcane points are:

  • Kill a psyker with your psyker
  • Kill any character that has a relic or warlord trait with your psyker
  • Control 1 or more objectives at the end of the game with your psyker
  • Win the game after selecting some specific Agendas
  • Do the Arcana Long Buried Agenda’s Activity 3 or more times, even in a loss

That third one is worded specifically to make it not stack, but I don’t see any reason you can’t score the first two as many times as you want.

Crusade Relics

Beanith: Kicking off with the Text of Warp-Blown Ash for 10 arcane points, this scroll helps your bookish nerd generate an additional Cabal point each turn (or two if they accidentally leave the library and become Battle-hardened). This could make your Exalted Sorcerer an even bigger swot than Ahriman and an equal to Magnus in drawing squiggly little lines.

Next up we have the Goonstone which lets you be all awesome and cool. Which is heaps better than the dull Boonstone, which for 15 arcane points allows you to add three to your next Psychic test. Yay for easier super smites?

And leaving the best for last, we have the Mesmeric Stave. For 20 Arcane points you can turn a boring Force stave into a proper thumpy stave with x2S -2AP and 3 damage if you let anything get close enough in Melee range because, get this, Tzeentch also slapped the magical equivalent of a rail pistol into this bad boy. An Assault weapon that could conceivably one-shot a lot of characters and light armoured vehicles certainly passes my “Is it better than a Vortex Grenade” test.

Greg: The Stave is an auto-include and basically everything has a Force Stave so it can go anywhere – hide it on a Scarab Occult Sorcerer and go to town behind 15 ablative wounds. But also, the Goonstone is outrageously good, nearly guaranteeing that a crucial power will go off when you need it to. Showing everyone your giant gold chain to make Binding Flames (below) go off on a 4+ is very strong.

Psychic Powers

Beanith: Once you’ve picked up your Mesmeric Stave you can now freely use your Arcane points to purchase more Psychic Powers <Not Beanith but an Editor for realsies: Technically you can spend your Arcane points in any fashion but Beanith has an excellent point here and is also pretty cool and smart> GREGNOTE: I’m in complete agreement with Beanith and his extremely real editor here: the Stave hits like a Thunderhammer in combat and a minimum 4 damage Lascannon outside of it. It is easily worth 20 Arcade Tokens.

Thief of Fate (WC6) lets you target any visible unit within 18” and causes one mortal wound. You then roll another D6 and on a 3+ you cause an additional mortal wound. Rinse and repeat adding 1 to the required result until either you fail the roll or the unit is wiped out. You then regain 1 lost wound for every model destroyed.

Visions of Doom (WC7) or  “A Cheap Shoddy Imitation Knock Off version of the Aeldari Doom” lets you reroll wound rolls against an enemy unit from any unit clustered close enough to the chump casting this Doom-lite. It’s still a good spell on its own but really anything that lets Wings smugly tell you that he can do it better is a situation best avoided.

Binding Flames (WC7) is the Psychic equivalent of Transhuman Physiology but better as it lasts until the start of your next Psychic phase and doesn’t cost CP every phase. Laugh as you make your brick of Scarab terminators even more obnoxiously durable and mock those Eradicators using their puny Melta weapons to scorch your armor.

Greg: Thief of Fate is another Smite-like that requires too much dice rolling for me to truly love, but Binding Flames absolutely rips. A full turn of Transhuman for one psychic power is one of the best deals you’ll see in this game, second only to getting it all day long for the low low price of being Dark Angels.

This is actually one of the better Arbitrary Point Tracking Systems. Gating Relics and Powers behind the collection mechanic means it’ll take a few games before unlocking any of them, and we do love seeing progression toward a goal, a little trickle of dopamine as a treat. It’s neat to see them move away from the usual “tiered relics gated on unit rank” mechanic, and simply charge more Dusty Boi Points for the better ones.

If there’s a downside here, it’s that there are only 6 total things to spend the points on. Even in the case where you want all of them (and there are at least 4 – Flames, Doom, Stave, Stone – that are intensely desirable), 90 Arcane Points is the most any Crusade will ever need, and there’s literally nothing to do with them after that. I’m typically not a fan of anything that can be maxed out, even if it’s unlikely to actually happen without playing a metric ton of games.

Beanith: I mostly agree with Greg but with one minor note, you may want to buy the Psychic powers a few extra times for redundancy’s sake on all of your Arcana Astartes Characters so that 90 Arcane Point sum could quite easily skyrocket especially if you accidentally turn your Exalted Sorcerer into a Chaos Spawn.

Agendas

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

This book comes complete with four agendas, one of which is just boring. Wrath of the Sorcerers gives you Wrath of the Sorcerers points every time you blast someone with mind bullets, and whichever unit finishes the game as the Master Blaster gets 2XP.

The rest are pretty rad, though, providing an interesting set of actions for you to attempt. Pursuit of Knowledge has your psykers plundering arcane knowledge from the objective points on the map, and gaining an XP for each objective, though you can only plunder each one once per game. As a bonus, the unit that pursued the most knowledge over the course of the game gets your choice of either 2 more XP or a Chaos Boon. Malefic Ritual is a WC7 psychic action that you can perform within 6” of the center of the battlefield for 1XP for the unit that did it, and if you complete it 3 or more times across your army in a game, you’re rewarded with a bonus RP. Finally, Arcana Long Buried is an action you can perform in your opponent’s deployment zone to pick up 1XP each time you complete it, and an Arcane point if you manage to pull it off 3 times. This is harder than it sounds, though, as it’s one of those actions that doesn’t complete until your next Command phase. You might try it anyway, though, as it’s not completely out of the question that you could pull it off if you leaned into it depending on the map and deployment, and the extra Arcane point is always nice. You’ll probably stick to the other two actions, though.

Greg: Of these four, Wrath of the Sorcerers is the only one that doesn’t give you an Arcane point if you win the battle. The only upside to that agenda is that it doesn’t require any Activities, so it’s easier to do, but getting 2XP for one unit if they cast powers the most isn’t blowing anyone’s socks off. It sucks so bad, but I can see a use case for it: if you roll up to the table and don’t give a shit, just absolutely want to get this over with and aren’t even going to track it, then yeah, this is fine. Whatever.

Chaos Boons

Literally exactly the same as what’s in the Death Guard book, but with the names changed. It’s still a d33 table and rolling any duplicate powers turns you into a spawn, but this time an 11 isn’t Clawed Feet, it’s Temporal Distortion, which does the exact same thing.

I don’t actually have a problem with recycling this – for one, it helps with balancing, and for another, it avoids anyone complaining that they missed out on something neat that Nurgle got and Tzeentch doesn’t. Makes my job easier, too. 

Beanith: It’s also a certainty that other Chaos Marines will get the same ruleset (along with the Path to Glory Requisition) so you could just let them use it whilst they wait so calmly and patiently for their codex and two wound marines to show up.

Battle Traits

Only 3 here, and they go on an Arcana Astartes Character. Lord of Rubricae gives your character an aura that lets Rubrics and Scarabs re-roll a single failed wound. A Greater Fate lets you use an Epic Deed once per game for 0CP. The Eye of Tzeentch lets you reroll an Out of Action test, and more importantly also lets you re-roll the result on the Chaos Boon table. 

 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

 

Psychic Fortitudes

3 more choices here but they can be given to any Thousand Sons unit. Thrallmaster lets you know all the Psychic powers of any friendly Thousand Sons Psyker unit within 9”. Master of the Ritual lets you generate an additional D3 cabal points once per game. And Hand of T’Char lets you ignore the bit about “closest” when it comes to determining who to hit with Smite.

Greg: The extra Cabal Points is a good pickup, but the Hand of T’Char rules. Being able to choose the target is basically what separates Smite from a lot of the Smite-likes in the game, and removing that restriction pretty much instantly makes Smite the best Witchfire power in the Codex. You’ll be able to shoot mind bullets three times faster.

Requisitions

Path to Glory and Daemonhood return, both from the Death Guard codex, and are still delightful, plus we get five more. If you’re really into James “Chaos Boon” Kelling, then feel free to Beseech the Changer of the Ways, which tacks a Boon onto whatever other Battle Honour you were gaining at level up. Nothing prevents that Battle Honour from being a Boon itself, if you’re trying to speed-run Spawndom.

Ascension to Power (1RP) is how you access the Legion Command upgrades. Considering how good those are, this is a great requisition. Another standout here, if you don’t want to deal with a bunch of crap at the end of the game, is Rebinding Ritual. After a game, spend 1RP, and all of your Rubrics and Scarabs auto-pass their Out of Action tests.

Ruthless Politicking sure does exist.

Flesh Change is free: it costs 0RP. Considering that it replaces a character with a Spawn (keeping their XP but dropping their Battle Scars), it might still be overpriced.

Name Generator

Normally we wouldn’t bother covering this, but I wanted to point out that GW did the Dark Angels thing. As such, options for the surname/epiphet include [None] and [Secret]. My only complaint is that none of the first names are similarly empty, because I think [None] The Living Maze is a powerful name, and [None] [Secret] would also have incredibly ruled.

 

Credit: Dylan Gould

Final Thoughts

Greg: I think it rules that the Crusade stuff here all applies to proper Thousand Sons, and not Tzangors. Beastmen are cool, but between this, the CORE changes, and limiting Cultists/Tzangors based on the number of Rubrics you have, they’re clearly sick of every Chaos Space Marines army containing the legal minimum amount of actual Chaos Space Marines. Of the two codexes from this week, the Kilosons seem to have gotten the better end of things. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that Relics and new Powers are gated behind Arcane Points instead of being an RP purchase, but it’s different at least, and I have to appreciate it on that level if nothing else. 

There’s nothing in here with the level of build-a-bear customization that we saw in Death Guard, AdMech or really even Orks, and nothing as over-the-top bonkers as the Grey Knights Nemesis Hunter, but it’s a good, solid, example of how to do a Crusade packet. Quality workmanship at bargain prices, that’s the way we do things at Magnus and Sons.

In terms of raw power, the Relics are certainly up there, but the rest of them are good upgrades without anything that reads as game-breaking. This isn’t actually a problem, because base-model Thousand Sons walking into a Crusade with no upgrades or RP spend are still looking pretty dang solid. They don’t need a lot of drip to Get There.

Finally, Chaos doesn’t use the codex-and-supplement model that loyalists do, so there’s less to be lost there compared to Grey Knights, but when a full CSM codex does eventually come out with Crusade content, I expect to be mad about all the things in it that Thousand Sons won’t have.

Beanith: Another amazing set of Crusade rules and I’m hyped to see what they come up with next. The Arcane Point system could do with a little tweaking and maybe have a few more things to spend the points on but that’s just a minor grumble. 

Again I agree with Greg in regards to the lack of Crusade rules for the Beastmen. It’s not really needed as you don’t want to get too complicated but I can also see the possibility of a future White Dwarf article adding in Crusade rules for a Beast Herd trying to attract the patronage of an Exalted Sorcerer.

It falls just short of making me want to start another Crusade Force… but then I take another look at that Mesmeric Stave and I can’t help but look closer at that Combat Patrol box…

 

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