Getting Started: Sisters of Battle/Adepta Sororitas

Are you a little too into gothic cathedrals? Do you like your heretics well done? Would you like to play around with one of the most characterful miniature ranges games workshop produces? Do you want a codex with both the raw power to compete at the top today and the depth to make almost any sort of build work? If the answer to any of these is yes, the Adepta Sororitas may be for you.

Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

Who are the Adepta Sororitas?

Some place their trust in warships, and some in weapons of destruction. But we remember the divine Emperor. They are brought down and fallen; but we are risen and victorious.”

Short answer, nuns. In the fiction of Warhammer 40,000 the Orders of the Adepta Sororitas serve a number of functions. The Orders Hospitaller run medical missions throughout the Imperium, tending to citizen and soldier alike. The Orders Famulous are esentially the Bene Gesserit, arranging marriages for the Imperium’s benefit and telling imperial nobles to stop marrying their cousins. The Orders Dialogus comprise some of the galaxy’s greatest scholars of both the Emperor’s word and xenolinguistics.

On the tabletop, though, the real stars are the Orders Militant, the martial arm of the Imperial Church. They are the Imperium’s most zealous defenders, purging the galaxy one heretic at a time with the holy trinity of Bolter, Flamer and Melta, often joined by their close friend Chainsword.

The Sisters of Battle originate from the Age of Apostasy, a crisis only eclipsed in scale by the Horus Heresy itself. In the 36th millennium, a man named Goge Vandire became High Lord of the Administratum, quickly working to consolidate power. Soon, the Imperial Church, rife with corruption, came under his sway, leaving him with unassailable control of the Imperium. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and if Vandire was not already an insane megalomaniac, he soon became one. Thus began the Reign of Blood, which for some reason seemed to upset people.

During his reign, Vandire learned of a sect operating outside of his control on a backwards planet. These Daughters of the Emperor trained both body and soul to prove their devotion to the Emperor. While the fate of many such sects was extermination, Vandire instead visited their world to proclaim himself chosen by the Emperor. While initially skeptical, a demonstration of the ‘holy’ protection of his power field convinced the daughters to bend their knee and became his bodyguard and the most brutal tool of his tyrannical rule.

But the Imperium did not remain in his grasp forever. Many strained against his rule, but the end began with the humble preacher Sebastian Thor, whose words against his tyranny soon began to gather followers. When a fleet set out to crush them, a great warp storm appeared in their path and swallowed it whole, providing incontrovertible evidence the Emperor favored the rebel’s cause. To the present day the Storm of the Emperor’s Wrath rages as a monument to His fury. Astartes chapters, many of whom had retreated to their duties, joined Thor’s cause. With time, Holy Terra itself was under siege.

The Adeptus Custodes, bodyguards of the Emperor, broke their millennia long isolation to plead with the Daughters’ leaders to end the chaos, but the daughter’s faith was unshakable. With no other option remaining to them, they led Alicia Dominica and her lieutenants to stand before the Golden Throne itself. No record exists of what transpired there, but when they emerged, they declared Vandire traitor and arch-heretic. Upon Vandire’s final words. “I don’t have time to die… I’m too busy!” Alicia Dominica slew him where he stood, her sword slicing clean through the power field which had fooled her sisterhood so long ago.

Sebastian Thor was proclaimed the new Ecclesiarch, and quickly proclaimed that the church would no longer maintain its standing army. Almost as quickly he realized that a small standing army was extremely convenient, and proclaimed that the Daughters of the Emperor, now renamed the Sisters of Battle, didn’t count. Like the space marine legions the Adepta Sororitas were split into six orders to prevent another such consolidation of power, each led by one of Alicia Dominica’s six lieutenants.

In the modern era, the Sororitas are second only to the Space Marines in the quality of their equipment, and second to none in their unwavering faith. With such a small force, the vast wealth of the Imperial Church pays the exorbitant cost of equipping every sister with power armor and the training to use it. If the Astartes form the spearhead of a crusade, the Adepta Sororitas are often its heart, bolstering the masses of the Astra Militarum with unshakable faith and bloody minded determination.

Credit: RichyP

Army Strengths

  • Reliability (Miracle Dice) – The Adepta Sororitas have access to a mechanic unlike any other in the game. At the beginning of every round, and through certain events, they generate Miracle Dice. Miracle dice are rolled once when they are generated, and once per phase, instead of rolling, you can instead choose to use the value of one of your Miracle Dice. There are few things like the expression on your opponents face as you slowly reach over towards your miracle dice while they are saying “Okay, I blow up if you roll a 4+ for damage.” They’re also amazingly useful for automatically making charges and clutch saves. These will win you games.
  • Blanket Invulnerable Saves – Almost everything in the codex has a 6+ invulnerable save. With the right tools, infantry can have this buffed to 4+ for a single unit and 5+ in an aura. Vehicles are mostly stuck with a 6+, but a CORE vehicle unit, such as the Paragon Warsuits, can be targeted by the same single target buff that can take infantry to a 4+ to gain a 5+ invulnerable save. Combined with miracle dice, a key sisters unit can sometimes stick around far past the point when they should have been dead.
  • Cost Effective Infantry – Trading up, or sacrificing a unit to kill a more expensive one is something sisters can be very good at. Dominions, Repentia, and even a Battle Sister Squad with a meltagun and a little bit of luck can do this very effectively, assuming you can position them well enough to trade instead of just die.
  • Brutal Linebreakers – Sisters have a few units that hit hard in close combat. If you can deliver these to the right spot in the enemy lines and capitalize on the disruption they cause you will be well on your way to winning a game.
  • Excellent Stratagems – Sisters have a very strong lineup of stratagems that can react to many situations.
  • Depth – There are few bad units in the sisters codex, and they can be built to fit a lot of different play styles. Not only does this mean you can generally play with the models you think look the coolest, but you also are unlikely to be left behind by a shift in the meta.

Army Weaknesses

  • You have a 3+ Save, but you aren’t that tough – Sisters are toughness 3 with one wound. Miracle dice can sometimes keep a unit around, but they’re limited in number and only usable once per phase. Some of your linebreakers are even more fragile. Your units will die. The best way to keep your Battle Sisters and their precious Objective Secured alive is to have something else tearing up the middle of the enemy’s army and demanding attention.
  • Little to no shooting outside of 24″ – You have the occasional Heavy Bolter and maybe an exorcist, but most of your shooting is limited to 24″, and most effective inside of 12″
  • Lack of Psychic Presence – While Sisters have great psychic defense unlike some armies lacking Psykers, they still have no Psykers. Hymns have taken up a little bit of the slack, and you can take an inquisitor if you want to splash in a few extra mortal wounds, but they lack any real synergy with your army otherwise.
  • Finesse Required – With fragile units, if you leave your army exposed or send them in at the wrong time or in the wrong place, they will die without having done too much.

 

The Book(s)

You only really need the Adepta Sororitas Codex for most sisters armies, though the Order of our Martyred Lady has some fun goodies in the Book of Fire.

Sister Superior Amalia Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Choosing a Subfaction

While nobody really cares if your models aren’t the right color for the faction you’re playing (as long as it’s clear which are which if you decide to mix them), it can help you decide what to buy to have an idea what subfaction you’d like to play as.

  • Order of Our Martyred Lady – Martyred Lady really soups up Miracle Die generation, giving you one at the end of any phase in which one of their units is destroyed. Continuing the theme of getting your units killed making you stronger, they also give +1 to hit for any unit below starting strength, which can be a nice boost. The Book of Fire  also has some interesting toys for them, the most notable being a quite rude combo letting a melee Canoness spew out an unreasonable number of mortal wounds. They aren’t currently the fashion in competitive play, but are no slouches on the tabletop.
  • Order of the Valorous Heart – Valorous Heart makes your sisters a bit tougher, handing out a 5+ shrug against mortal wounds, along with reducing Armor Penetration by 1 for AP -1 and -2 attacks.
  • Order of the Bloody Rose – One of the big two seen on the competitive scene. Bloody Rose are melee specialists. They get an extra attack and AP if they charge, get charged, or heroically intervene. This makes a lot of mainstay melee units absolutely brutal. Their Stratagem, Tear them Down lets melee attacks automatically wound on 6s to hit, which can help a lot to get past the defenses of units relying on Transhuman Physiology or similar rules to stay alive.
  • Order of the Ebon Chalice – The second faction you’ll see most often at top tables, generally paired with Bloody Rose. Ebon Chalice plays around with the Sacred Rites rules(Small army wide boosts), letting them take a second one to be active for their units. When paired with another sisters army, this lets you have a key bonus, such as automatically denying psychic powers on a 5+ on a 1d6, while allowing the Bloody Rose detachment to still boost their melee punch. Their warlord trait also plays into this, making the first miracle dice you generate in the game a 6 and letting you regenerate command points of a 5+.
  • Order of the Argent Shroud – Do you like infantry heavy weapons and having super mobile firepower? This is the order for you. Units that move or advance count as remaining stationary until the end of the shooting phase, so you can pile out of a rhino, advance, and still fire four multi-meltas at full effectiveness. They also get to reroll one hit or wound roll per unit in the shooting and fight phase, an extra bonus for high value melta shots.
  • Order of the Sacred Rose – Sacred Rose both helps bolster morale for large units, automatically passing combat attrition tests, and gives you a new Miracle Die on a 4+ every time you spend one, effectively giving you 50% more over the course of the game. This is nice both for giving you more of a valuable resource, but also for potentially getting a high Miracle Die roll that your opponent didn’t plan on you having.
  • Minor Orders – Like many books, the Adepta Sororitas Codex gets a build your own order kit. In general the major orders do their jobs very well, so I haven’t seen these be used very much.
Adepta Sororitas Sister Superior
Adepta Sororitas Sister Superior. Credit: Jack Hunter

Starting Your Army

Now that we’ve looked at what the army does, let’s look some kits to give you a good base to build your force from. As their force is made up of newer kits and you need a decent number of models, Adepta Sororitas are on the more expensive side. There also haven’t been many deals and finding second hand sisters is far rarer than for armies like marines..

Combat Patrol: Adepta Sororitas $140/£85

This box has the contents of the Sisters of Battle launch box, plus a rhino. While it’s a decent value it does have units in some awkward sizes you may not end up using to their fullest, and everything but the rhino is monopose with set weapon options.

  • Adepta Sororitas Rhino – $60/£35 – Definitely a staple you’ll get some solid use out of. It’s a metal box to keep a unit safe in, and some of your units are in dire need of being kept safe.
  • Battle Sisters Squad – $60/£35 – You’ve got one troops choice, so you will be taking battle sisters one way or another. You will definitely be using at least 8 of these models, though the Icon Bearer and Flamer have not seen much use in my lists.
  • Canoness – $35/£22.50 – A solid pick, and you can run her either with a rod of office, or a Blessed Blade and Plasma Pistol, depending on what you want out of your Canoness
  • Seraphim Squad – $55/£32.50 – A unit of Seraphim with a Sister Superior with Plasma Pistol and Power Sword. Seraphim have dropped in usefulness now that they can’t deep strike and fire melta-pistol shots, but they are still useful fast objective grabbers and can actually fire Flamer Pistols twice on the turn they deep strike in with flamers increased to 12″ Range, making them potentially useful for horde clearance. If you’re min-maxing your hobby budget I’d suggest holding off on assembling these until you purchase the Seraphim/Zephyrim dual kit and using some of the extra arms from that box to equip them with 2 models toting a pair of flamer pistols each, along with a Sister Superior with a cheaper loadout such as a pair of Bolt Pistols or aBolt Pistol and Chainsword.
  • Sister Superior and Repentia – $50/£30 for 9 Repentia and a Superior – You only get 4 Repentia and a Sister superior that if you are in any way sane you will not attempt to transport due to her egregious, fragile whip. Repentia are a mainstay sisters unit, but the 4 you get are most useful for bulking out the ones you get from the full kit.
  • Arco-Flagellants – $50/£30 for 10 – Again. You only get 3 instead of a full unit. Not much value apart from some model variety in a full unit.
  • Penitent Engine – $60/£35 for 2 – You only get one of these, but that’s less of a problem. Penitent Engines can be a useful inexpensive unit to fling into an enemy formation to kill some things and force them to dedicate effort to removing them. Not a mainstay, but something you can certainly get some use out of.

All in all, the Rhino, Battle Sisters, and Canoness cost enough that the box mostly pays for itself just through them. If you plan to use the Seraphim or Penitent Engine it starts to be a decent discount, and the Repentia included might save you a few bucks down the road.

Battle Sisters Squad $60/£35

You’re going to want to get familiar with this box as you’ll be seeing it a lot. It’s named Battle Sisters but it contains 4 of each special weapon (Though only 4 sets of arms to hold them for a max of 4 total from the box), so it also lets you build Dominion or Celestian Squads. The models are excellent but take a bit of time to put together, so don’t expect to assemble an entire army in a day. While the models all ostensibly go together in one proscribed way, with a tiny bit of gap filling you can get a lot out of kitbashing this set. In combination with some of the other sets, it’s quite easy to build a Canoness or Palatine out of the included options. The only thing it’s missing entirely is a multi-melta, for which you’ll need to go to the Retributor Squad kit.

Seraphim/Zephyrim Squad $55/£32.50

This dual kit builds both airborne units of Sisters. Zephyrim are an excellent unit, but even if you plan to use neither unit, this kit can be a goldmine for conversions. You get a bevy of expressive pistol and sword arms of every variety, along with little bits, purity seals, and a great banner.

Repentia Squad $50/£30

Repentia are good. The modern Repentia are really amazing models and a nice source of bits if you need eviscerators or hands in a variety of poses holding sword hilts.

Celestian Sacrestants $55/£32.50

A 10 woman brick of Sacrestants is one of the better options Sisters have for a durable tarpit, and they are no slouches in melee. I generally find them most useful tagging along as a bodyguard for characters in the main battle line to either function as a counter-melee threat, or to charge into the breach the turn after the repentia do to exploit any gaps they have opened.

Battle Sister of the Order of the Wounded Heart. Credit: Corrode

Starter Lists

The Starter Box Special

997 Points, Battalion Detachment, Order of Our Martyred Lady, 5CP

HQ: Canoness, Plasma Pistol, Power Sword, Rod of Office Warlord Trait: Martyr’s Strength(Book of Fire), Relic: Blade of Sacrifice (Book of Fire)
HQ: Palatine, Relic: Litanies of Faith

Troops: 5x Battle Sisters, Meltagun, Combi-Melta, Simulacrum, Incensor Cherub
Troops: 5x Battle Sisters, Ministorum Heavy Flamer
Troops: 5x Battle Sisters, Ministorum Flamer

Elites: Celestian Sacrestants, 9x Hallowed Mace, 1x Spear of the Faithful
Elites: Repentia Superior
Elites: 9x Sisters Repentia
Elites: 4x Sisters Repentia

Fast Attack: 5x Dominions, 4x Artificer Crafted Storm Bolters
Fast Attack: 5x Seraphim, Plasma Pistol, 4x Ministorum Hand Flamers

Heavy Support: 1x Penitent Engine

Transport: Sororitas Rhino

While it’s not at the bleeding edge of optimal, this list makes the most of the starter box (Assuming you either buy a Zephyrim Kit, source hand flamers elsewhere, or proxy them) and shows off a lot of different things the Sisters can do. The combination of Martyr’s Strength and the Blade of Sacrifice lets your Canoness sacrifice 2 wounds to make a spicy 6 attacks at Strength 6 and 2+ to hit, with each successful wound dealing 2 mortal wounds each. The Palatine spends a CP to Open the Reliquaries and carry the Litanies of Faith, which allows you to reroll one miracle die per battle round, helping you make the most of the Miracle Dice you’ll be generating, though you may find you generate enough you don’t need it.

Definitely remember the Blessed Bolts stratagem for the Dominions, it lets them do a whole lot of damage hopping out of a rhino or strategic reserve.

To build this list you will need the Combat Patrol box, a Palatine, one Battle Sister Squad, 2 boxes of Celestian Sacrestants, and one Repentia Squad.

 

The Bloodiest Rose

997 Points, Battalion Detachment, Order of the Bloody Rose, 5CP

HQ: Canoness, Inferno Pistol (or Plasma Pistol), Blessed Blade, Warlord Trait: Blazing Ire, Relic: Mantle of Ophelia
HQ: Palatine, Relic: Litanies of Faith

Troops: 5x Battle Sisters, Combi-Melta, Meltagun
Troops: 5x Battle Sisters, Meltagun
Troops: 5x Battle Sisters, Meltagun

Elites: Celestian Sacrestants, 9x Hallowed Mace, 1x Spear of the Faithful
Elites: Repentia Superior
Elites: 8x Sisters Repentia
Elites: 5x Sisters Repentia
Elites: Dogmata

Fast Attack: 5x Dominions, 4x Artificer Crafted Storm Bolters
Fast Attack: 5x Zephyrim, Zephyrim Pennant

Transport: Sororitas Rhino

If you’re willing to spend a little bit more to get a more focused list, this may be the list for you. This collection of Bloody Rose Sisters puts up quite the explosive fight. While Righteous Rage may be the more popular choice for a Slam Canoness, I find that the Bloody Rose warlord trait, Blazing Ire, which gives an extra attack and allows you to advance and charge, gets my warlord stuck in more easily alongside the rest of my army, and with the Mantle of Ophelia reducing the damage of all attacks targeting her to 1, she becomes a quite vexing thorn in my opponent’s side. Either they leave her there to continue murdering things, or devote significant resources to killing her, allowing other things to run rampant. (At which point she will likely spend 2 CP and a few miracle dice to resurrect herself through the Divine Intervention Stratagem.)

The Dogmata lets you either hand out extra attacks or +1 to invulnerable saves to one of the Repentia Squads, which can help them kill a key target or soak up more of the enemy’s efforts on the turn they charge in. Swapping her out for more bodies could be a solid choice as well.

Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

What/s Next

There are a lot of different directions you can build your sisters in. If you’re mostly doing matched play, Morvenn Vahl is a great model and very good on the table for any sisters faction. Bloody Rose love to have two decent sized Repentia squads, while Argent Shroud specialize in Retributor Squads. Another unit of Battle Sisters also wouldn’t go amiss. There are few outright bad sisters units, so go with your heart. Play some games and see what works well for you, or just what looks like it would be the coolest to paint.

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