Hammer of Math: Astra Militarum Orders

This week’s Hammer of Math takes a look at another aspect of Codex: Astra Militarum by focusing on the orders mechanic.

For as long as the Astra Militarum have been the Astra Militarum, they’ve had a mechanic where the guys allegedly in charge get to yell at the everyone else in exchange for improved performance. The latest implementation continues and expands this ability through Voice of Command and the Regimental Tactics abilities.

Voice of Command

In the appropriately named Command phase, friendly OFFICER models can issue orders to nearby models. There are three types of units representing the various forms of yelling, and each unit’s Datasheet lists what Orders the unit can give under the Commanding Authority header. Regimental Orders are orders issued to nearby PLATOON units and generally make them run faster, stab harder, shoot better, or somehow become physically smaller so they can hide better. Prefectus Orders are various iterations of motivational yelling provided by Commissars to encourage nearby units to do a better job of sitting in important places, multi-tasking, dying a little less, or even allowing those units to yell at the enemy so that they don’t get too close. Mechanised Orders is typically done between vehicles, with one vehicle in charge shouting at another vehicle until it moves faster, shoots better, rams more efficiently, or sits in an important place more effectively. Each unit can issue a number of Orders specified in its Datasheet, and there’s no prohibition on multiple models issuing the same order. A unit can only be affected by one Order at a time.

All three types of Orders have a range (6″ unless it’s a Mechanised Order where the range is 12″) and an approved target. Some units can target other units as specified in their Datasheets. For example Regimental Orders are normally limited to a nearby PLATOON unit, but Platoon Command Squads can take a master vox to gain the VOX CASTER keyword and yell at Platoons up to 24″ away so long as they also have the VOX CASTER keyword. Probably the biggest example of unique yelling is Lord Solar Leontus, who can not only yell all three types of Orders but can also yell at units that other units can’t like a Baneblade.

Regimental Tactics

If every unit in the army (excluding AGENT OF THE IMPERIUM and UNALIGNED models) has the ASTRA MILITARUM keyword, then OFFICERS can be even more efficient with their Order by allowing more than one unit to be affected. When an OFFICER unit issues a Regimental or Prefectus Order to a unit with the Regimental Tactics ability, any PLATOON units within 6″ of that unit can also be selected to be affected by the order. In the case of Mechanised Orders the target’s ability allows nearby SQUADRON units to be affected (the vast majority of Astra Militarum vehicles that aren’t super-heavy or flyers have it). For example, if Lord Solar Leontus yelled a Prefectus Order at a Commissar (who does have Regimental Tactics on their Datasheet), that Commissar would subsequently share that order with every PLATOON unit within 6″.

Valhallan Imperial Guard. Credit: SRM

Regimental Orders

The chart below is a helpful reference for the influence of modifiers on D6 rolls.

First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire!

This Order (which will I abbreviate as FRF from now on) changes the Type of all lasguns and hot-shot lasguns from Rapid Fire 1 to Heavy 3. In addition to making the Parade Drill Regimental Doctrine hot garbage, this ability will considerably improve the output of the affected unit by modifying the number of shots (which is a driving modifier as opposed to a gatekeeper like a hit roll). The chart shows the effect below, both for a baseline as well as the default Born Soldiers Regimental Doctrine. Note the synergy between the order and doctrine against heavier targets, where even when moving the order can provide a massive bonus against hard to wound targets.

Take Aim!

This Order boosts the hit roll and AP an attack by 1. Where FRF only works on lasguns and hot-shot lasguns, Take Aim! works on all ranged attacks. The cumulative effect is significant when the target gets to make a save, with at least a 60% improvement in the probability of getting past the hit and save rolls. Even just boosting BS 4+ to 3+ isn’t too shabby on its own.

Fix Bayonets!

Fix Bayonets! is the melee equivalent of Take Aim! and has an identical mechanical effect.

Take Cover!

Take Cover! allows the unit to either gain the benefits of Light Cover if it is not already receiving it, or to obtain the benefits of Dense Cover if it already has Light Cover. Light Cover improves the Save characteristic of the unit by 1, which translates to a 50% improvement when going from a 5+ save to a 4+. You can calculate the improvement in avoiding being hit by looking at the inverse of the BS of the attacking unit (in other words find the probability that the target will miss). For example, if the attacker has a BS 2+ then the chance of missing is 17%. Improving that to a 33% chance that the target will miss (BS 3+) is a 100% improvement in the chances that your unit will live (as it doubles it).

Move! Move! Move!

This Order provides one of two effects depending on what kind of move the receiving unit makes. If the unit makes a Normal Move, you add 2″ to the Move characteristic of the unit. For a typical infantry squad this goes from 6″ to 8″, a 33% improvement. If instead the unit makes an Advance move then instead of making an Advance roll you simply add 6″ to the Move characteristic of the model. The average of a D6 roll is 3.5 so going from an average result to a guaranteed 12″ is a 26% improvement while also eliminating the variability of relying on the dice.

Suppression Fire!

When this Order is applied the attacking unit has the chance to select an enemy INFANTRY unit that is visible. If they do so then they may only target that enemy unit, but if they score 5 or more hits then the enemy unit is suppressed and subtracts 1 from attack rolls. The chart at the top of this section shows the effect of the hit roll modifier, but what is the probability that an attacking unit will get 5 or more hits? For that we can rely on the cumulative binomial probability distribution, which is the probability that there will be at least a given number of successes for a set number of trials. Your standard unit of 10 Guardsmen with a BS of 4+ has a 62% chance of suppressing a target assuming single shots, or a 99% chance when in rapid fire range.

Credit: Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

Prefectus Orders

Forwards, for the Emperor!

This Order allows a unit that made a Normal Move or Advanced to count as having Remained Stationary, but the effect only lasts until the end of that Shooting phase so no free charging after Advancing.

Duty and Honour!

Another Order with no quantitative benefit, the qualitative bonus of Duty and Honour! is that the unit can perform actions after having made a Fall Back or Advance move, and it can also shoot without any actions it is performing failing. Have a Commissar tell a friendly unit of Ogryns about how important duty and honour is and suddenly they’ll be able to Advance 6″ + D6″ to a nearby objective marker, Raise Banners, and still unload a bunch of surprisingly nasty and accurate ripper gun shots at a nearby enemy.

Get Back in the Fight!

If a friendly unit is likely to Fall Back in the following Movement phase, you can use this order to ensure they can either shoot or charge afterwards. Just not both.

At All Costs!

This Order provides the target unit with the Objective Secured ability, or if the unit already has it then the unit counts as one additional model when determining control of the marker. Doubling the number of Obsec models is always fun when contesting a critical objective.

Show Them Steel, Show Them Contempt!

This Order increases the Leadership characteristic of the model by 1 and also allows the unit to ignore the effect of a mortal wound on a D6 roll of 5+. Adding a save against mortal wounds can be very effective, as it requires the attacker to make 50% more attacks in order to achieve the same effect.

Remain Vigilant!

Don’t want enemy units to get too close? Use this Order to prevent enemy units from setting up as Reinforcements within 12″ of the unit and also allow Overwatch attacks to hit on unmodified rolls of 5+ instead of a 6+. A 12″ denial zone is huge, with a single model with a 25mm base producing around 491 square inches of denied area or 18.6% of the 2,640 square inches of a standard 44″ x 60″ battlefield. Apply that bonus to a unit of 10 and spread it to other PLATOONS via Regimental Tactics and you can shut down massive portions of the board.

Credit: Charlie Brassley

Mechanised Orders

Pound Them to Dust!

This Order allows the attacking unit to count the target as double the number of models for purposes of calculating Blast weapon attacks. This means that units of 3 will be guaranteed at least 3 attacks while unit of 6 will be guaranteed to take the full number of shots. For weapons with D3 attacks like the Hellhound melta cannon that’s a 50% improvement when going from an average of 2 attacks to a guarantee of three. Most of the bigger weapons like storm eagle rockets on a Manticore have a base of D6+3 shots and so this order will only be relevant if the full attack threshold is reached.

Full Throttle!

Full Throttle! allows a unit to add 2″ to their Move characteristic while also be able to count as having Remained Stationary (in the Shooting phase) after Advancing. Leman Russ Battle Tanks being able to move an average of 15″ and still get off their full attacks is pretty terrifying.

Gunners, Kill on Sight!

In contrast to some of the dynamic effects of other Orders, this one is pretty simple by allowing the unit to re-roll hit results of 1. Re-rolling 1s on either hit or wound rolls translates to a 17% improvement in output.

Blitz Them!

Applying this order provides two effects. First, you add 1 to charge rolls made for the unit (see the chart below for the impact), and the unit can inflict D3 mortal wounds on one charged unit on a 4+. That 50% probability goes to 67% (3+) if the unit has the DOZER BLADE keyword. Dozer blades are pretty useful by themselves, allowing you to ignore modifiers to movement and costing between 5 points and nothing depending on the model.

Just replace the Havoc with a tank.

Shock and Awe!

While INFANTRY models rely on a Commissar yelling At All Costs! to give them ObSec, tanks can be motivated by having Shock and Awe! shouted through the vox caster. Since the unit still only counts as a single model it might be best to combine it with the Armoured Superiority doctrine to have a chance to contest when near other units.

Pinning Fire!

This order is similar to Suppression Fire! in terms of requiring 5 hits and only working against INFANTRY units. The difference is that the effect of pinning the target is that the Move characteristic is reduced by 2″. Since the target must be visible in order for the Order to work it’s not particularly useful on indirect fire weapons, but it’s perfect for the Hellhound where between the heavy flamer and either the chem cannon or the inferno cannon you are guaranteed to get the number of attacks. The only downside with those weapons is that you’re already close enough that the reduced movement might not matter.

Turns out the only thing this will listen to is a guy on a metal horse. Credit: Jay (Steel Mentor)

Wrapping Up!

There are a lot of really cool orders available to Astra Militarum players, and the level of flexibility and dynamic results means that mastering this mechanic will be essential for both players and their opponents. The biggest limitation to the Orders system is the number of models that can provide them, particularly Mechanised Orders which are limited to Tank Commanders and Lord Solar Leontus. Leontus is particularly interesting given that he costs as much as a tank but can provide three Orders on his own and can influence units that others can’t.

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