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.– Mechanicus
But I am already saved. For the Machine is Immortal.
The Adeptus Mechanicus, sometimes referred to as the Cult Mechanicum (for historical reasons) or commonly just Ad Mech 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 Ad Mech 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
Here are some are some high-level strengths and weaknesses you should know about before diving into an Admech army.
- Firepower – Admech have incredibly efficient shooting, some of the best in the game. Ironstriders, Kataphrons, Pteraxii, Skorpius, Serberys, Kastelans, and the list goes on and on with 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. From the 60s era retro-futuristic Kastelan Robot, to the wasteland cavalry Serberys Raider, to 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 by 1, meaning their Strength 4 melee is wounding most Space Marines on 3+.
- Giant Bag of Tricks – Admech have a whole host of tricks that they can pull on unsuspecting enemies. Everything from Ironstriders overwatching on 3+, to purposefully putting a Skorpius Dunerider in harms way so it dies and then you auto-explode and disembark your Electro-Priests safely; the very definition of walking-away-from-an-explosion-without-looking.
Teleporting Sicarian Ruststalkers, Serberys Raiders denying an enemy’s attempt to Fall Back, Archaeopters turning off opponent Aura abilities, resurrecting up to 440 points of Agripinaa Kataphron Breacher for 3CP: there’s a trick for every situation, so long as you have the CP to pull it off.
- 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.
- 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 fairly complex rules. Be sure to remember Canticles at the start of the battle round, your Holy Order Warlord trait at the start of your turn, your Manipulus’ field at the start of movement, Masters of Machines ability at the end of movement, Daedalosus’ scanner at the start of shooting, and your Priest’s Voltagheist Field during the charge phase.
- 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 recognise 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 Kataphrons, expect to be building lots and 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 skip this phase. There are a few ways of denying your opponent’s abilities and/or psychic damage, but 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, one of the most powerful and gorgeous models in the army. 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 two separate effects that trigger on 6’s-to-wound.
What Books to Buy
The main thing you need to get started is Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus. However if you stop there, you are missing out on half their army, many of their interesting stratagems, and all of their absurdly good Holy Order warlord traits. To get those, you want Psychic Awakening: Engine War. Start with the Codex, and if the army at all interests you after reading their lore, follow up with Engine War.
Admech does have rules in a third book. However, I don’t recommend you purchase Imperium Nihilus: Vigilus Defiant. The specialist detachments in there are only a couple of pages, and while they’re cool we’re talking about an expensive hardback book. Even worse, specialist detachments as a concept are banned from the Grand Tournament missions from Chapter Approved 2020 – which for many players effectively means that they’re banned from matched play entirely. If you and your opponents aren’t bothered by that then there’s some interesting stuff in there, but with a lot of expensive plastic to buy just to get your army on the table it’s definitely a tertiary purchase even in that case.
Starting Your Army
Fortunately, getting started with Admech is pretty easy. Either go down to your friendly local games stores and pick up Start Collecting! Adeptus Mechanicus or hunt around for the old box, Start Collecting! Skitarii. Either is a fantastic place to start your army, and if you pick up either (or even both) then you’re off to a solid start.
There are a lot of options on how to build the contents of those Start Collecting boxes. However, as someone who is entering the army for the very first time, here is what I would personally go with:
With a box of 10 Skitarii, build five Vanguard, one of which has the Plasma Caliver, and five Rangers, one of which has the Arc Rifle. Keep the rest of the bits though, as you might want to build the Transuranic Arquebus, Omnispex, or Data-Tether with future boxes of Skitarii (and you will have future boxes of Skitarii). This strictly isn’t the most competitive build, but it does give you a great taste as to what a Skitarii unit is capable of.
The benchmark of Admech HQs. You take this model because it offers a “reroll unmodified hit rolls of 1 in the Shooting phase for units within 6 inches” aura and, in a gunline army, rerolls during the Shooting phase are clutch.
As for wargear, I recommend magnetizing all of its options. The Dominus model is extremely easy to magnetize, and this offers a good chance at learning a hobby skill that will come up very frequently when building an Admech army. If, however, you want to avoid magnetizing, you probably want the Volkite Blaster and Macrostubber, as those options cost the fewest points.
Tech Priest Enginseer
No wargear options, so build it as per the instructions. Admech’s cheapest HQ choice, and your go-to when you want to slap a warlord trait on something for minimum points. It can repair your vehicles and, if you’re unlucky enough to need it, it’s capable of killing maybe a single Space Marine before being demolished in combat. It’s a great unit to have in your arsenal when you need an HQ but don’t want to burn the points on a more expensive choice. Plus, the model is awesome.
You can either build it as a Dunerider (infantry transport), or as a Disintegrator (guns, guns, and more guns). When starting the army off, honestly either is great. From a “play with the big cool guns” perspective, the Disintegrator is incredibly fun with its powerful gun that ignores line of sight.
The Dunerider is significantly fewer points, still has decent firepower, and allows you to get your infantry around the board safely. If you do go the route of the Dunerider, consider loading it up with 10 Fulgurite Electro-Priests. That combo packs a serious punch and is a significant threat to your opponent, and is well worth the investment.
This is one of my favorite Admech models: a big ol’ spider tank. I’d recommend building it with an Icarus Array, but if you really want to embrace the Machine Spirit, this is another model that’s not too tricky to magnetize. And who knows what changes are in store for the Dunecrawler in the next codex?
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 different passive buffs and access to a different stratagem. 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 aura – 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 and, if that wasn’t enough, Psychic Awakening added rules for building your own custom Forge World.
The buffs these offer are quite varied, everything from the Stygies “Your opponent’s shooting suffers a -1 to hit if they are over 12” away” buff to Ryza’s “You can reroll wounds rolls of 1 in melee.” The custom Forge Worlds also have a lot of interesting combinations, like taking Data-Hoard Forge World with Trans-node Power Cores which gives all your vehicles an ability to ignore wounds on a 6+ roll and lets all your Arc weapons score additional hits on hit rolls of 5 or 6.
The standard Forge Worlds also modify the Canticles of the Omnissiah ability, and none moreso than the Mars Forge World. In addition to getting access to Belisarius Cawl who is exclusively available to Mars, this choice lets you roll two dice for Canticles and you get both the resulting buffs. So let’s talk about what exactly Canticles are.
Canticles of the Omnissiah
All Adeptus Mechanicus models have the Canticles of the Omnissiah ability, which imparts one of six different Canticles to your entire army, each granting a different buff. These range from rerolling 1s to hit in either shooting or melee (though not both at the same time), granting the model +1 strength, or the ever-popular Shroudpsalm which grants your entire army Light Cover (i.e. +1 to their armor saves).
At the start of each battle round, you may roll to see which Canticle takes effect that round or you may pick it. If you pick a Canticle, you may not generally pick that Canticle again that game (though you may use it if you roll for it in later rounds).
The Divine Chorus stratagem lets you pick a Canticle that’s already been picked, but at a hefty 2CP cost. And the Gloria Mechanicus stratagem lets you immediately change which Canticle is in effect at any time. It too comes with a steep 2CP cost, but can be a last-minute, game-winning buff.
As mentioned above, each of the seven Forge Worlds has their own unique Canticle. For example, if your Warlord is from Mars, then you may take the Mars Canticle and swap it with any of the original six Canticles. The Mars canticle gives all Heavy weapons in your army an incredible +1 strength for the battle round which, depending on your army composition, can range anywhere from “Good” to “I’m going to table my opponent this turn.”
Imperial Knights? In My Admech?
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 Ad Mech 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.
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 Start Collecting boxes are a great deal, and with just a few other kits, you can put together a 1000 point army in no time.
- Start Collecting! Adeptus Mechanicus – $95/£60
- Start Collecting! Skitarii – around $95/£60
This is out of print, but you might be able to find it in a local hobby store or on eBay if you are lucky. Otherwise, you can buy the contents piecemeal:
- Tech-Priest Dominus – $36/£22.50
- Skitarii – $44/£27.50
- Onager Dunecrawler – $75/£45
- Fulgurite Electro-Priests – $45/£27.50
- Pteraxii Sterylizors – $60/35
- Kastelan Robots – $75/£45
Total Price – $370/£227.5 (or $430/£262.50 if you can’t find the Start Collecting! Skitarii box). If you buy this from your friendly local game store, then you’ll hopefully get a 10-20% discount which tempers the sticker shock a little.
Battalion Detachment, 995/1000 points
HQ: Tech-Priest Dominus (Volkite Blaster, Macrostubber) 80pts
HQ: Tech-Priest Enginseer 35pts
TROOPS: 5x Skitarii Rangers (Alpha w/ Galvanic Rifle, 2x w/ Galvanic Rifle one with Omnispex, 2 w/ Arc Rifle) 60pts
TROOPS: 5x Skitarii Vanguard (Alpha w/ Radium Carbine, 2x w/ Radium Carbine one with Omnispex, 2 w/ Plasma Caliver) 70pts
TROOPS: 5x Skitarii Vanguard (Alpha w/ Radium Carbine, 4x w/ Radium Carbine) 45pts
ELITES: 5x Fulgurite Electro-Priests 85pts
FAST ATTACK: 5x Pteraxii Sterylizors 100pts
HEAVY SUPPORT: 2x Kastelan Robots (each with 3x Heavy Phosphor Blasters) 250pts
HEAVY SUPPORT: 1x Onager Dunecrawler (Icarus Array and Cognis Heavy Stubber) 120pts
HEAVY SUPPORT: 1x Skorpius Disintegrator (Belleros Energy Cannon) 150pts
If you don’t want to build the Skitarii special weapons, you can drop them all and the two Omnispex and you’ll free up just enough points to field a total of four units of 5x Skitarii. You lose a bit of high-strength firepower, but you gain 5 more bodies on the table.
Where To Go Next
There are a lot of options available to continue building your army. Fortunately, Admech doesn’t have many bad units, 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.
- Electro-Priests – Fulgurite Electro-Priests are the heart of Admech melee. With two different abilities that dish out mortal wounds, you can’t go wrong with 10 of these in your army. Additionally, the Corpuscarii Electro-Priests aren’t a bad option either. With their -2AP strategem from Engine War, they are a terrifying close range shooting unit.
- Kataphrons – Your troop that can either be assembled as a durable tank-killing Kataphron Breachers, or the more fragile but deadlier Kataphron Destroyers. Both are great, offering different strengths and synergies. The Breachers with Arc Rifles squeak out an advantage for having a better save, cheaper to field, and having some really powerful synergies with custom Forge Worlds. That being said, most of the ways you can build this box are honestly great. If you have the gumption, magnetize the entire box with all of their 4 primary and 4 secondary weapons. You’ll burn through an entire sleeve of magnets and all of your sanity, but you’ll have a ton of options for your troop choice.
- Serberys Raiders – 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.
- Pteraxii Sterylizors – Another kit released with Psychic Awakening, they are the yin to the Serberys Raider’s yang. Cheap to field, surprisingly fast flying infantry. They come with some free deployment tricks courtesy of their Thermal Riders and Soar Away 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 is a great distraction unit, and five of them in a single unit can lay waste to Space Marines and tanks alike.
- Kastelan Robots – They’re retro. They’re goofy. They are full to the brim with guns and each fire 18 shots per turn. Keep them in Aegis Protocol and use the Shroudpsalm Canticle to give this vehicle an effective 1+ save, or switch them to Protector Protocol to unload a barrage of bullets on your opponents (but this locks them in place for the rest of the game), or you can even switch them to Conqueror Protocol if you want to make them almost useless (melee Kastelans are not very good). A box of Kastelans also comes with a Cybernetica Datasmith, which is a cool looking infantry model that you’ll be happy to build, paint, and leave in storage while you wait for Admech’s next codex to make the Datasmith even slightly decent.
Something you absolutely should bear in mind here is that many of these units are cheap (in points, not dollars!) and the strong or optimal way to use them is to take as many as you can fit in the list – 25 Kataphron Breachers, 18-27 Serberys Raiders, blocks of 6 Ballistarii, whatever. 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 going 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.
THE HELL I CAN’T!– 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 email@example.com. If you’re a patron, head on over to our Discord and chat with us!