Hammer of Math: Exploring the New Codex Black Templars Supplement

This week’s Hammer of Math takes a deeper look at some of the effects and rules in the new Codex Supplement: Black Templars and some of the more interesting interactions you can create.


Black Templar Lieutenant with Power Fist and Power Sword
Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

The latest book for the Adeptus Astartes is a perfect example of how Games Workshop has developed in the last year. Compared to the earlier books (or even an ostensibly 9th Edition Astartes release like Deathwatch), this new book is significantly more dynamic and does a very good job of applying the mechanics in a way that matches the flavor of the army. Whether it’s using Templar Vows, providing huge boosts with Relic Bearers, or new Litanies, the sheer depth of this book is impressive. If I didn’t have a fast recipe for painting black and a ton of unpainted Space Marines I might be jealous. Instead I’m just motivated to paint.


Black Templars Scout Bikers. Credit: SRM

Vow of Insane Resiliency

A perfect example of the power of the Black Templar book is Uphold the Honour of the Emperor, a vow that denies gives every model in your army a 5+ invulnerable save and causes your opponent’s unmodified wound rolls of 1 and 2 to fail (a “baby” version of Transhuman Physiology, essentially). In exchange you lose the ability to benefit from cover, which means that Dense Cover will no longer provide a penalty to hit and Light Cover provides no bonus to armour saves. Against the kind of weapons designed to kill Astartes (notably anything S8 and high AP, like plasma guns), this ability is immensely effective. Normally on a hit a S8, AP -4 weapon (e.g. a meltagun or multi-melta) has a fixed 83% chance to wound an exposed Marine – simply make the wound roll and the target is generally dead. Apply the vow and that probability drops to 44%. To put that into context, a squad of 5 Astartes normally needs to take seven S8 AP -4 hits to have a 90% chance of being wiped out. To achieve the same probability while they’re under the protection of this vow would require 16 hits. And the effect is guaranteed and immutable for the entire Army, including Redemptor Dreadnoughts or a Repulsor Executioner.



Imperial Fists Primaris Chaplain on Bike
From this angle he could be from any Chapter, but he’s actually an Imperial Fist. Credit: Jack Hunter

Reliquary of Statistical Immortality

In addition to having an Army-wide boost to survivability which is incredible, Black Templars get access to some amazing Relics. One of the more novel ones is Tännhauser’s Bones, which simply reduces the Damage characteristic of all incoming attacks on the bearer to 1. Remember the insanity of combining Ironstone and the original Duty Eternal? Well it’s practically back in the form of a handy little reliquary that will look great strapped on the front of a Primaris Chaplain’s warbike. Especially when it’s combined with Uphold the Honour of the Emperor to effectively give the unit the toughness of a Dreadnought, and the Litany of Divine Protection to ignore all wounds on a 5+.

To show the extent of these stacked effects we can look at the binomial probability that a target will take 7 wounds given a specified probability of hitting and wounding the target. If we set the desired probability to an arbitrary number, say 50%, and we assume that the target uses its invulnerable save of 4+ then we can calculate how many attacks will be required to reach that threshold. Since the Damage characteristic of the incoming attack is no longer relevant this can be applied to any weapon, from a lasgun to a multi-melta, so long as no mortal wounds are dealt.

We quickly see that eliminating the Damage characteristic means that a LOT of attacks are going to be required for success. Even an ideal situation with a 2+ to hit and 2+ to wound still translates to 22 attacks to achieve the 50% threshold. Add re-rolls to the 2+ to hit and wound and you still need 16 attacks. Of course it’s not that simple; if Uphold the Honour of the Emperor is active then the best you can get on the wound roll is a 3+, meaning you need at least 28 attacks to kill the Chaplain biker half the time.

Things get even more fun if the Chaplain applies the Litany of Divine Protection and ignores all wounds on a 5+. Assuming the honour of the Emperor is indeed upheld you’re looking like at least 42 attacks to have a 50% chance to kill the Chaplain. Fully buffed, he could stand in front of a Warlord Titan, take two Belicosa Volcano Cannon shots to the face, and would survive 99.9% of the time.


Chaplain Grimaldus. Credit: SRM

The Holy Hand Grenade of Nottingham

In addition to Vows and traditional Relics, Black Templar also gain access to additional upgrades via the Relic Bearers ability. For a relatively affordable price of 10 to 20 points you can apply a suitably awesome Relic to a particular model and have them do various things. They can carry Sigismund’s Seal to have the unit pick out one particular enemy and guarantee re-rolls to hit and wound against them, they can use The Crus Obsidian or Icon of Heinmann to make one model harder to kill, or they can carry a literal Holy Hand Grenade. For 15 points you can give a unit the Holy Orb, which allows the unit a once per battle ability to toss the grenade at a unit within 6″ during the Shooting phase and the foe, who, being naughty in the Emperor’s sight, shall snuff it. In effect it’s a 2+ roll to deal D3 mortal wounds and the target will fight last until the end of the turn. Depending on the target you have an 83% chance to kill it if it has 1 wound, 55% chance to kill something with 2 wounds, and 28% chance if it has 3. You have a very good chance of getting your points back.

Wrapping Up

The Black Templar Supplement is really exciting and offers a fascinating insight into how Games Workshop has evolved their approach to armies in 9th Edition. Black Templars have access to a wide array of abilities that really set this army apart from others, and I suspect we’ll see a lot of black power armour appear on tables once again. The immense improvement in resiliency of Uphold the Emperor’s Honour, especially in conjunction with a centerpiece character carrying Tännhauser’s Bones, makes Black Templar significantly more resilient than their less pious counterparts. They’re no slouch on offense either.

Thanks for reading! If you have any feedback, feel free to drop a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com. You can also reach me directly via @PrimarisKevin on Twitter.