It’s once again time for Games Workshop to whet the appetite of a faction hungry for an early look at some upcoming rules with another battlebox, this time pitting a stealthy Asuryani force against a rather more brutal Chaos Space Marine contingent. As with Shadow Throne, this box does, in fact, provide some juicy details about what the future holds for the Craftworlds in particular, so today we’re going to look at the datasheets and kits within, and what promises they hold. There are also some Crusade Rules within, providing a few narrative options for the units here, which we’ll look at next week.
We’d like to thank Games Workshop for sending us a review copy of Eldritch Omens.
All the Asuryani units in this box have two new abilities listed – Battle Focus and Strands of Fate. Warhammer Community showed off Battle Focus earlier in the week, providing units the flexible option to either shoot their Assault and Pistol weaponry after Advancing, or make a Normal Move of d6″ after shooting if they didn’t Advance. That provides fantastic flexibility for the discerning elf, granting either extra reach when going for the throat, or allowing units to cautiously pick off their targets from a distance while aiming to stay safe. In this box, the latter option is a lot more relevant, as two of the three units are sporting heavy weaponry, but even for them sometimes pushing forward, firing pistols and using an extra few inches to steal an objective from an unsuspecting foe.
Strands of Fate also arrived on Warhammer Community yesterday, hot off the presses. This powerful effect is the Asuryani’s new “monofaction” bonus (though as we saw, a patrol of Harlequins can sneakily backflip over that barrier), granting you a pool of automatic 6s on dice rolls to use per battle round, generated semi-randomly at the start of each. It looks super strong – there’s definitely going to be times when variance bites and you don’t roll the numbers you need to assign dice to the best options (which are often going to be Wound and Save rolls), but when you’ve got the right ones waiting in the wings you’re going to feel like a god, and your opponent is going to have some big headaches.
The Autarch is the perfect unit to preview in this kind of box, because the new kit returns them to their pre-8th Edition glory, able to bring along weaponry and equipment from a bunch of different Aspect Warrior shrines. That means that not only are we getting a look at what the Autarch’s themselves can do, but also a peek at what the various Aspects will be capable. In short, the answer is that they’re going to rule.
A quick word about the new kit here, which is also exceptional. You get a heady four different ranged weapons and three melee choices, multiple body and helmet options, and either a fancy back banner or a warp jump generator to round things out. The arm joins are flat and under fairly prodigious shoulder pads, meaning that magnetising is definitely possible with a bit of precision, and while I glued the arms on the one above with my best guess at what the power loadout is going to be, I strongly suspect I’ll be wanting to pick up a second and make it flexible.
Anyway, onto the datasheet itself. The Autarchs’ actual statline hasn’t changed – still pretty much standard for a senior character, with maybe the only surprise being that they do still only get 4A (though the toys more than make up for that, as we’ll see). In terms of other datasheet abilities, they’ve got the expected update to their re-roll 1s aura to only affect CORE, and an exciting new trick called Superlative Strategist. As long as an Autarch is either on the board, or in a Transport that’s on the board, sneaky Asuryani players can use the Command Re-roll Stratagem twice a phase rather than just once. Obviously that’s going to burn through your CP pretty quick if you use it too often, but sometimes there’s just no substitute for a re-roll at a key moment, so this rules.
And now, toys. The Autarch’s staple options of a shuriken pistol and star glaive both get some improvements, with the former going up to AP-1 base and the latter no longer adding -1 to hit, so just a nice clean S6 AP-3 D2, but it’s the Aspect gear where big changes are afoot.
Gun-wise, you’ve got three choices – a Reaper Launcher, a Dragon Fusion Gun and a Death Spinner, all of which look like they’ll have uses, and two of which get exciting boosts. Reaper Launchers are the same as they ever were – you either get one big shot at D3 or two smaller ones at D2, and that’s definitely at least fine for a character who might be hanging out at a distance some of the time. Closer in is where the fun really starts, because both the other options make up for their 12″ range with some truly wild capabilities. A Dragon Fusion Gun is a melta guns+++ – it’s S9, and starts at damage d6+2, meaning that if you get off a shot within 6″ you’re looking at a frankly eyebrow-singeing range of between 5 and 10 damage. Just teleporting behind Robute Guilliman, whispering “nothing personal kid” and blasting him back into centuries of stasis. Fun stuff. It also means that if you have a 6 in your Strands of Fate pool then charging the Autarch with a character or mid-tier vehicle is a hugely risky affair – you can just auto-hit on overwatch. The Death Spinner is no slouch either, being the flamer+++ option, getting d6 auto-hits at S6 AP-2, and also having Blast. The combination of Blast and auto-hits is incredibly rare, and is going to make full units sporting these an absolute terror.
Helping with that is the mobility that their warp-jump generators are going to give them, and also provide to the Autarch here. These grant a 12″ FLY move, and let the unit move 2d6″ with Battle Focus at a risk of a Mortal on a double 1″, very much increasing the chance that they’ll be able to scuttle to safety. As you may have seen above, I have attached one of these to my Autarch, and do not expect to regret that decision – having a key character (and their fusion gun) be able to get where you need them is always super valuable. Also valuable are the things the Banshee Mask provides, and frankly you may need to sit down for this one. This provides three different effects – no Overwatch (fine), -1A to anything in engagement range (extremely good, as Shadowkeepers success at LVO showed) and also Fight Last, consistently one of the best Warlord Trait/Relic options on any character that wants to be near a fight, but as a piece of wargear you can just buy, as a treat. Yes please.
Speaking of melee, you do get two more options, and while you’re less directly incentivised to take them on the Autarch (neither is better than the glaive) they’re again promising for the units, and could be useful here if there ends up being a big point gap. Banshee blades are power swords at AP-4, definitely fine (especially with the Banshee Mask to consider) while Scorpion Chainswords rip (and tear), hitting at S5 AP-1 while still giving you an extra attack. With both these units, the big question is whether they go up to A3 base (fingers crossed), but as long as they do they should now be pretty strong at their jobs. Because the winged Autarch has them, Mandiblasters also appear on this sheet and also look cool – they now grant mortals on 6s to wound in melee against non-vehicles, which really should make Scorpions nasty all-purpose blenders.
Very excited about Autarchs, all things considered, and excited to see how the book follows through on all these cool weapons for the Aspects. The only slight oddity here is that despite a lot of fanfare about the new kit being fully compatible with the Winged Autarch, and the wings are on this datasheet, in order to take it here you have to fully swap to that kit – the way the bullets flow means it’s all or nothing. We strongly suspect that’ll change in the Codex, mostly because right there on the front cover is an Autarch with wings, Reaper Launcher and Glaive, and GW don’t generally put stuff in art that the book doesn’t support.
Rangers retain their role as a sneaky Troop option for the Craftworlds, but upgraded to bring them in line with other snipers and scouts. They’re now popping off shots at a base BS2+, meaning that they can still hit on 3s if you’ve got them on the move for Battle Focus shenanigans, and their rifles get AP-1 now (while still being able to snipe and deal mortals on 6s to wound), meaning they’re a little more threatening to targets than they were.
That’s never really what these have been for, of course, and while the Advanced Positions ability on their datasheet isn’t actually spelled out, it seems extremely likely that this is the standard scout deploy, which is great for them – being able to claim objectives early and tick off a distant RND if you win the roll-off is good, and will be especially potent if the Asuryani keep Phantasm. In addition, they’ve got a new trick to help with the key issue such units face, which is getting charged and brutally murdered if you go second. For each five Rangers, you can now take either a Gloom Field (giving a limited version of their old -1 to hit, working as Dense Cover while outside 18″) or a Wireweave Net. The latter looks like the power play – once per game when charged, you can inflict d3 mortals on the charger on a 2+ and inflict -2″ to all charge rolls against the unit for that phase. This rules, as it both increases the chance of the opponent trying to merc them and failing (hopefully leaving one of their units awkwardly in the open to be neutralised) and inflicts some token damage even if they do go down. They still get +2 to armour instead of +1 while claiming Light Cover, meaning that shooting them out isn’t trivial either.
I fully intend to put those on all my units of these, and I’m hoping I’m guessing correctly which part is which out of the kit, as the Battlebox instructions don’t label these. Other than that, the models again rule – there’s a pleasantly surprising range of options, with most of the models having both an “action” post and a more restrained option, and a good variety of heads (including, crucially, enough helmets that you don’t have to paint any skin if you’re a coward like me). There are still clearly defined ways to build the models within those limits, but it’s a nice compromise between getting the fancy poses and easy assembly monopose models offer and having some variety for players who want multiple units.
Rangers, but on bikes! These are a totally new unit, and one that’s at least promising, because they are both fast and reasonably durable, generally a good combo. On the “fast” front they have a standard Asuryani jetbike move of 16″, and get to do a Normal Move at the start of the first battle round for that full distance (as long as they don’t end it within 9″ of the enemy). Coupled with the fact that they auto-Advance 6″, that means these can be essentially anywhere on most tables on your first turn if you really put your mind to it, which is something that’s always useful to have as an option (though they have no combat prowess to speak of, so any charges would be of the strict harrassment variety).
Toughness-wise, their base profile isn’t super impressive (T4, 3+, 4+) but their Shroud Runner Cloaks kick this into high gear, allowing them to both benefit from Light Cover as if they were INFANTRY and sharing the Rangers ability to claim +2 from it, meaning they can sport a 2+ save against shooting.
That’s much nicer, and sending these off to be a pain on a distant objective with some handy nearby terrain seems intersting. Their damage output isn’t spectacular on baseline, but that could change depending on what the codex brings. Each bike has a ranger long rifle (not getting much done from small units) and a scatter laser, and the latter is plenty of shots at good strength (6 shots at S6) but still has no AP, which isn’t a great look in this armour save economy. It seems extremely plausible that some combination of AP boosts or save debuffs will be available in the book, but finding out if this unit can be a damage dealer will have to wait for that. In the meantime, one squad of these for utility play seems pretty realistic.
Model wise…eh I must admit these leave me cold. The kits are fine, I’m just not in love with the general premise. It is worth noting that these are on big flying bases, which is potentially fairly advantageous for what they’re trying to do – it makes it easier to toe them onto Light Cover, and means that a squad can block off quite a large amount of space if you’re willing to sacrifice them.
And with that, that’s enough about Elves, so it’s on to TheChirurgeon to talk about Chaos Space Marines.
Chaos Space Marines
TheChirurgeon: If you were hoping for some brand new datasheets in this space, maybe with some new points values, to tide Chaos Space Marine players over until the Codex releases well, bad news – these are basically the same exact datasheets we already had, and in the case of the Warpsmith, there’s literally no point to the actual changes. Let’s review these quickly, with some thoughts.
This is the exact same Warpsmith you already know and don’t bring in your lists, with T4, 4 wounds, a 2+ save, and no invulnerable save. He comes with a meltagun, flamer, mechatendrils, and a power axe, and in a new development, now comes with a plasma pistol instead of a bolt pistol. Also, he can now trade out his power axe for a thunder hammer. Anyone who’s played Chaos Space marines in 8th/9th knows that this is a stupid mistake, as taking -1 to hit turns off the extra hits for Death to the False Emperor and besides, there isn’t a ton of value in actually giving a thunder hammer to a character who starts with WS 3+. Still, I’ve given the Warpsmith a thunder hammer on the model I built because there’s so little value in taking him I may as well take the cool-looking new option.
The Warpsmith’s value used to be that he was the cheapest HQ option CSM could take. He doesn’t even give you that any more. This guy needed new rules more than any other unit in this booklet, and didn’t get them.
The mighty veterans among the Traitor Legions, Chosen have exactly the same datasheet here that they used to have. Which means they have a single wound. Here’s the thing, though: That’s fine. 2 Wound Chosen are actually bad. Do you know what 2-wound chosen are? Basically Vanguard Veterans who can’t take jump packs or Storm Shields. They’re T4, 3+ save mooks who die quickly to all of the 2-damage shooting out there, and likely pay 20ish points per model for the privilege.
On the other hand, 1 wound Chosen at 14 points per model are on the edge of viability. Give them a pair of lightning claws and dump them into a Termite Drill and you’ve got a 100-point unit that can throw out 26 lightning claw attacks on the charge and with an Icon of Excess and a +1 to hit turn that into 30+ hits, all at the low cost of 100 points. They need to be dealt with immediately and can trade up. Or give them a bunch of meltaguns and have them pop out and vaporize something. Chosen are better off being cheap killers than they are being mediocre 2-wound elite infantry.
Forgefiend & Maulerfiend
The Forgefiend and Maulerfiend retain their old Chaos Space Marines 8th edition datasheets, including a profile that boasts WS 4+ and BS 4+. Even at 3+, these units aren’t good enough to see play in Thousand Sons and while the Forgefiend gets a 25-point discount, the Maulerfiend costs the same in Codex: CSM as he does in Thousand Sons, where he’s flat out got better stats and weapons. Likewise even though the forgefiend is 25 points cheaper in CSM than Thousand Sons, you get more than your money’s worth out of those 25 points, improving WS and BS and giving you 3-damage Ectoplasma Cannons, AP -2 Hades Autocannons, and 5 Attacks in melee. It’s kind of insulting how bad the value on Chaos Space Marine daemon Engines and Helbrutes is compared to the versions Thousand Sons get, which makes it even funnier that the Thousand Sons versions aren’t good enough to see competitive play.
TheChirurgeon: Ultimately, if you’re getting this as a Chaos Space Marines player, you’re picking it up for the models and hoping that there will be decent rules for this stuff one day. Because it sure isn’t today. The models are nice, though.
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