Getting Started: Adeptus Mechanicus

At Goonhammer we’ve devoted a lot of words to talking about how to compete and take your game to the next level. In “Getting Started,” we look at how to get started with an army – the basics you need to know, how to start collecting models that will leave you with a serviceable army, and what the best deals are.

Who are the Adeptus Mechanicus?

From the moment I understood the weakness of my flesh, it disgusted me. I craved the strength and certainty of steel. I aspired to the purity of the blessed machine. Your kind cling to your flesh as if it will not decay and fail you. One day the crude biomass you call a temple will wither and you will beg my kind to save you.
But I am already saved. For the Machine is Immortal.

– Mechanicus
Skitarii Vanguard Taking Cover
Skitarii Vanguard Taking Cover. Credit: Pendulin

The Adeptus Mechanicus, sometimes referred to as the Cult Mechanicum (for historical reasons) or commonly just AdMech for brevity’s sake, is the technological hub of the Imperium of Man. They produce the weapons, manufacture the equipment, and forge the great warmachine that is mankind in the 41st millennium.

Stripping themselves of the undue burden of organic components, followers of the Adeptus Mechanicus worship the Machine God in any way they can. From the simple act of being a nameless cog in the great forge worlds, to the holy acts of sacraments performed upon the blessed Bolt Rifle before battle, the AdMech is pervasive throughout the Imperium, but also a wholly distinct group on their own.

They’re also a great faction to collect. They have some of the most unique models in all of Warhammer 40,000 and some of the strongest firepower that humanity can wield in the Shooting phase. But don’t think that having incredible guns means they don’t have equally incredible melee. They have a little bit of everything, and they are a great faction to get started with.

In this article, I’m going to lay out some of the highlights you can expect when first embracing the Omnissiah, as well as some of the tribulations you should anticipate when appeasing the Machine Spirit.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Tech-Priest Enginseer
Tech-priest Enginseer. Credit: Corrode

Here are some are some high-level strengths and weaknesses you should know about before diving into an Admech army.

Army Strengths

  • Firepower – AdMech have incredibly efficient shooting, some of the best in the game. From the lowly Skitarii Ranger to the towering Ironstrider Ballistarii, and all sizes in between, this army has a lot of point-efficient ranged weapons.
    In a straight shooting match, there are few armies that can go toe-to-toe with AdMech. For Admech has a simple way of stopping some big mean greenskin from tearing them a structurally superfluous new data-port: use a gun. And if that don’t work, use more guns.
  • Aesthetic – Models in this faction are utterly distinct from any other. The 60s era retro-futuristic Kastelan Robot, the wasteland cavalry Serberys Raider, the spider-tank Onager Dunecrawler: every model in this faction is positively dripping with style.
  • Surprising Melee – When your opponent sees an AdMech list coming, they might let their guard down against a Skorpius Dunerider hauling Fulgurite Electro-Priests. They won’t make that mistake twice. And if they come prepared for that, swoop in with ten Pteraxii Sterylizors who soften up their targets with flamers and then tear them apart with talons. Or charge forward with Serberys Sulphurhounds who passively reduce enemy toughness and strength by 1, meaning their Strength 4 melee is wounding most Space Marines on 3+ while shrugging off the counterattack. Use the Forge World Ryza for an even more powerful punch with +1 to wounds, letting your Ruststalkers make mince meat out of Marines.
  • Giant Bag of Tricks – AdMech have a whole host of tricks that they can pull on unsuspecting enemies. Everything from the surprising lethality of Skitarii troops, to layering out a weave of buffs letting your Sydonian Dragoons fight first despite having been charged, hitting on 2+ while hit rolls of 5 explode into two additional hits and and 6’s explode into three additional hits, rerolling all hits, debuffing their melee opponents with -2 to hit in melee and ignoring their AP-1 or AP-2. Each turn presents you with entire kit of tools, and it’s up to you to use the puzzle out how you want to use them.
    Teleporting Sicarian Ruststalkers, Serberys Raiders moving when your opponent declares them as the target of a charge, Archaeopters turning off opponent Aura abilities and unloading a pile of mortal wounds on a key target once thought safe: there’s a trick for every situation.
  • Painter’s Dream – These models are intricate, they’re detailed. Each and every one offers endless opportunities for personalization and kitbashing. If you are looking for an army to really make your own, this is it. Belisarius Cawl has more character in his seventh mechanized pinky finger than most armies have in their entire roster.

Army Weaknesses

  • Price – Admech is one of the most expensive armies in Warhammer. Low point models in pricey boxes are the norm, not the exception, which means expanding your collection is going to put a serious dent in your wallet. Doubly so if you intend to build a top-tier competitive army: just filling out your Fast Attack battlefield role could easily cost you $500 USD or more.
  • Complicated – This applies in a couple ways. AdMech models are complicated to physically build, as they’re fragile and require an exceptional amount of patience. In addition to this, the faction has some of the most complex rules in the entire game. You have Skitarii benefiting from Doctrina Imperatives (except when they don’t) but not benefiting from Canticles of the Omnissiah (except when they do). Kastelan Robots who don’t have the Core keyword unless they are within 3″ of a Cybernetica Datasmith, and you have Kataphrons who aren’t infantry but can nonetheless breach walls Kool-Aid Man style. You have buffs you can hand out to Skitarii Core units within 6″ or to any Core unit anywhere on the battlefield so long as that unit has the Data-Tether keyword. You have warlord traits and relics you can give troops, and an HQ choice that can optionally be his own Supreme Command detachment. The options, and their complexity, are seemingly endless.
  • Small Product Range – While Admech got a much needed expansion during the Psychic Awakening towards the end of 8th edition, the army nonetheless has a relatively small number of unique boxes to pick from. Skitarii Rangers, Skitarii Vanguard, Secutarii Hoplites, and Secutarii Peltasts (if you don’t recognize the latter two, they’re from Forge World)? Exact same body, but different weapon, head, and backpack. There are three unit choices for the Flyer battlefield role, and they are all just build variants of the same kit (though that kit is amazingly cool).
    When building a full AdMech army, expect to be building multiple copies of the exact same box. In some cases, like Serberys or Ironstriders, expect to be building lots of them.
  • No Psychic – If you are looking for a psychic powerhouse army, or one that does literally anything in the Psychic phase, AdMech isn’t for you. With no abilities to cast, AdMech armies tend to chuckle sadly at their own psychic phase. While there are a few ways of denying your opponent’s abilities and/or psychic damage, they are few and far between. If psychic abilities are a make-or-break for you, then you could include either an Inquisitor to nicely to shore up this weakness.
  • The Combination of the Above – To field a competitive AdMech army, you need a lot of copies of the exact same box, each of which is rather expensive. The most egregious is the Serberys Raider, a powerhouse for the points and a simply gorgeous model. However, at over $1 USD per point, it also has a terrible dollar-to-point ratio. Unfortunately, you only get three in a box, and you likely want five in your first unit, which means starting off with two boxes. That puts you at $120 USD for a single 80 point unit. In addition, these models are somewhat spindly, so you have to exercise care when assembling, painting, and transporting them. To top this off, they have some complicated rules, with a pregame move, a move-when-charged strategem, ignoring the Look Out Sir rule, and an effect that trigger on 6’s-to-wound.

What Books to Buy

Adeptus Mechanicus - Belisarius Cawl
Adeptus Mechanicus – Belisarius Cawl Credit: Pendulin

With the release of 9th edition Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus, there’s only one book you need to buy. Pick it up and get ready to rumble! We’d also highly recommend picking up the faction’s Datacards, which will give you easy ways to remember and track which Canticles and Doctrina Imperatives are active, and give you reference to the faction’s many stratagems.

That said, if you want to expand your forces and are considering a Metalica forge world army or adding knights, you may also want to pick up War Zone Charadon Act I: The Book of RustThe Book of Rust gives you a supplement’s worth of rules for forge world Metalica armies, which includes rules for adding knights from House Raven into your army with the Knight of the Cog Stratagem. It’s worth grabbing if you want some more options, but if you’re just going to run Mars, it’s not something you need.


Starting Your Army

Adeptus Mechanicus - Skitarii
Adeptus Mechanicus – Skitarii Credit: Pendulin

Fortunately, getting started with Admech is pretty easy, with the one-box option of Combat Patrol: Adeptus Mechanicus. This gets you an Enginseer, 10 Skitarii, 3 Kataphrons, and a Onager Dunecrawler which will give you a good introduction to the Omnissiah. There are two previous bundles that you might see, hidden away at your friendly local game store: Start Collecting! Adeptus Mechanicus and Start Collecting! Skitarii. These are both out of print now, but you can occasionally find them at MSRP which makes them a great deal.

Forge Worlds

Stygies VIII and Agripinaa Skitarii – Credit Beanith

Almost all Adeptus Mechanicus models have the <Forge World> keyword, with the only current exceptions being the Secutarii Hoplites and Peltasts. When building your army, be sure to take into consideration which Forge World you will be using, for each grant a different set of passive buffs, unique strategem, warlord trait, and relic. If you interested in fielding Belisarius Cawl, then you’ll probably want a significant part of your army to be Mars to take advantage of his abilities that are locked to Mars – otherwise the choice is pretty free, as Ad Mech have no other Forge World-specific characters.

There are seven standard Forge Worlds to pick from, as well as rules for building your own custom Forge World. Each of these choices offers a different play style for your army, from the deployment shenanigans of Stygies, to the extra armor penetration of Agripinaa, to Mars which lets all of your Skitarii gain the benefits of Canticles of the Omnissiah in addition to their Doctrina Imperatives, which can be a force multiplier on it’s own. And by now you might be wondering just what are Canticles and Doctrinas, so let’s dig into them.

Skitarii and Doctrina Imperatives

All Skitarii models (other than the Terrax, Secutarii Hoplites, and Secutarii Peltasts) have the Doctrina Imperatives ability. So long as you have at least one model alive in your army with the Doctrina Assembler keyword (i.e. a single Tech-Priest of any type or a Skitarii Marshal) at the start of the round, then units with the Doctrina Imperatives ability have access to the buffs (and debuffs) from one of the four different Doctrina Imperatives at your disposal.

Simply put, at the start of the round, you can pick one of the four Doctrina Imperatives to be active that round:

  • Improve your shooting, but weaken your melee
  • Improve your melee, but weaken your shooting
  • Make you tougher against damage, but move slower
  • Make you move faster, but weaker against damage

All Skitarii in your army gain the optimisation but also suffer from the deprecation. If you are clever, you can use a Skitarii Marshall to cancel out the deprecation effect on a single unit in a key turn, taking your opponent off guard.

Each of these Doctrinas may only be taken once, and you may also choose to not select a Doctrina at all. This means you will necessarily have at least one round each game without a Doctrina. This makes strategic use of these incredibly important, and something you’ll want to practice with to figure out what style works for you. Early game sprint into your opponent’s line, or hold back and defend? Long range shooting, or up in their face combat?

Cult Mechanicus and Canticles of the Omnissiah

Mechanicus Defence Cohort
Mechanicus Defence Cohort. Credit: Pendulin


Similar to the Skitarii’s Doctrinas, all units in your army with Cult Mechanicus keyword gain access to Canticles of the Omnissiah. These two abilities function almost identically; at the start of the round you pick a Canticle to be active that turn, and then everything with the Canticles ability gains that benefit that round. Picking a Canticle is also optional, and you can’t pick the same one twice making them another strategic resource to plan around. Fortunately, Canticles don’t come with a deprecation effect, it’s all positives!

And because this faction isn’t complicated enough, there are a couple ways of manipulating Canticles. First and foremost, you have Mars, which grants the Canticles of the Omnissiah ability to all Skitarii units. Yes, this means you are applying two sets of buffs to your Skitarii. Yes, this makes them very powerful. Yes, it’s good and complicated, go try it! Additionally, there are three ways of manipulating Canticles for individual units: Belisarius Cawl‘s Lead in Prayer ability, as well as a Mars-exclusive strategem, and a strategem that is available to any Tech-Priest. This means you have a huge variety of options each turn to plan around.

Imperial Knights? In My Admech?

Tech Priest and the Boys
Tech Priest and the Boys. Credit: Pendulin

You might notice a few references to Imperial Knights in the AdMech codex. Adeptus Mechanicus are in a unique spot in the Imperium, as they have special ties to Imperial Knights in the fluff, with fully half the Knight Households being devoted to the Machine God specifically rather than the Imperium in general. To represent this, AdMech can grant Knights access to Canticles of the Omnissiah, as described above. It’s all fun and games until the 12 meter war machine gains light cover or gets a free reroll of a hit, wound, and damage dice.

While this is certainly a fun and fluffy combo, there are reasons why you don’t generally see it at tournaments. Imperial Knights are in a pretty rough spot in 9th edition, and you have to spend between 3 and 6CP in order to field both Admech and Imperial Knights in the same army. It can sometimes be worthwhile, however – a singleton Knight still plays a role in some lists, and more commonly AdMech offer some great ways to shore up the very significant weaknesses of a Knight army, with the use of Serberys Raiders and Skitarii to act in the light skirmishing and objective-grabbing role that the big lads can struggle with.

First Army

Adeptus Mechanicus First Army
Adeptus Mechanicus Example Army (ignore the invalid double-special weapons on the Skitarii). Credit: Pendulin

Though Admech is a pricey faction to build, that doesn’t prevent you from getting your first game in without breaking the bank too badly. The Combat Patrol and Start Collecting boxes are both great deals, and with just a few other kits, you can put together a 1000 point army in no time. Just note that both Start Collecting! boxes are out of print, so prices on these can fluctuate.

Battalion Detachment, 1000 points

HQ: Tech-Priest Dominus (Volkite Blaster, Macrostubber) 75pts
HQ: Tech-Priest Enginseer 55pts

TROOPS: 5x Skitarii Rangers (Galvanic Rifles, 1x w/ Arc Rifle or Plasma Caliver) 50pts
TROOPS: 10x Skitarii Vanguard (Radium Carbines, w/ your choice either Omnispex or Data-Tether) 85pts
TROOPS: 3x Kataphron Breachers (Arc Rifles and Hydraulic Claws) 105pts

ELITES: 5x Fulgurite Electro-Priests 75pts

FAST ATTACK: 5x Pteraxii Sterylizors 95pts

HEAVY SUPPORT: 2x Kastelan Robots (each with 2x Kastelan Fist, 1x Incendine Combustor) 200pts
HEAVY SUPPORT: 1x Onager Dunecrawler (Icarus Array) 115pts
HEAVY SUPPORT: 1x Skorpius Disintegrator (Belleros Energy Cannon) 145pts

Where To Go Next

Adeptus Mechanicus - Serberys Raiders
Adeptus Mechanicus – Serberys Raiders Credit: Pendulin

There are a lot of options available to continue building your army. Fortunately, Admech’s codex is filled to the brim with great options, so almost any box you pick up in the future will have some place in a solid army. In no particular order, here are some good picks to look at when filling out your army.

  • Skitarii Marshal – Offers a unique buff to our army in the form of an aura of rerolling unmodified wound rolls of 1. You can give him a relic that extend this benefit to include hit rolls. And that’s on top of his “pick a unit within 9″ and ignore the deprication effect of the current Doctrina” ability. An all around amazing pick.
  • More Skitarii – In 9th edition, our Skitarii got cheaper points-wise, deadlier, and double the amount can fit in a single unit. Regardless how how many of these you have, you’ll probably want at least a couple more.
  • Electro-Priests – Both variants of Electro-Priests are durable and pack a wallop. Disembarking then of these out of a Dunerider and charging into the enemy lines gives them a threat they have to focus on immediately, or else watch their ranks get torn apart by our angry staff or jazz-hand priests.
  • Serberys – The Serberys Raiders are the ultimate screen unit. Cheap in points, quite fast, character sniping with an ability to generate mortal wounds, free pregame move, and escape-from-being-charged strategem. It’s hard to overstate how good these are. Their only downside is the price tag. As I mentioned earlier, these are more than $1 USD per point, for with great utility comes great cost. The other build option, Serberys Sulphurhound, have fantastic autohit guns, and reduce enemy toughness and strength in melee making their Clawed Limbs pack extra punch.
  • Pteraxii Sterylizors – Another kit released with Psychic Awakening, they are the yin to the Serberys’s yang. Cheap to field, surprisingly fast flying infantry. They come with some deep-strike deployment courtesy of their Thermal Riders abilities, a ranged threat with their auto-hit Phosphor Torch, as well as a melee threat with their talons.
  • Ironstrider Ballistarii – These are Admech in a nutshell. Dirt cheap points-wise, very expensive dollars-wise, and strong firepower with a great looking model. A pair of them can punch a hole in your opponent’s line, and five of them in a single unit can wreak havoc on an unprepared opponent.
  • Kastelan Robots – They’re retro. They’re goofy. And while their firepower isn’t what it was in previous editions, they made up for it by become fantastic punchbots. Starting off the game with a 2+ save, you can switch their prototcol to instead give them weapon skill of 2+ and a free reroll on their charges. With a pair of Kastelan Fists, these things will punch a hole through the toughest Space Marine vehicles like they weren’t even there.

Somethign to keep in mind is that many of these units are cheap (in points) and expensive (in dollars) at the same time. Frequently, the strongest way of taking them in spamming large units, 5x Ironstriders, 20x Skitarii, etc. This is where the money-intensive aspect of the army comes in – whatever you want to build, you are probably going to want a lot of it. It is gonig to be time-consuming to build and paint, and you are vulnerable to having a ton of expensive models that then fall out of the meta or get significantly changed in a new codex. If you love the faction that isn’t so big of a deal, but do think about it before you buy in hard.



Archmagos Belisarius Cawl, when a Space Marine dared to question him.

AdMech is a fantastic faction to collect and play, full of awesome firepower and amazing models, and we hope you now have a head start on Getting Started with Adeptus Mechanicus. If you have any questions of feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.comIf you’re a patron, head on over to our Discord and chat with us!