Vehicles aren’t in a great place in 30k right now, for a number of reasons. Dreadnoughts tend to do their job a bit better thanks to being tougher, firing all their guns in reactions and the big fists they can bash people with. So it’s nice to see Decurions come along in the new Siege of Cthonia book, to give tanks a bit of a boost.
Well, some tanks anyway. You can only buy them for Predators, Normal or Punisher Sicarans and Kratos. We aren’t sure of the logic for this restriction, but there you go. At first I got all excited about sticking a Decurion in my Imperial Fists’ Falchion but it turns out I’m not allowed… which is probably for the best, actually.
A Decurion is essentially a unit upgrade. They don’t use up a FOC slot at all. They aren’t characters. There’s nothing stopping you upgrading your command tank with one if doing an Armoured Spearhead but, as we’ll see, that might not be the best use of them, as they tend to benefit squadrons. You have to model on a suitable figure, so it can be identified.
There are currently four Decurions, though I imagine there may potentially be more in future. Only two of these are available to most armies, with one Imperial Fist on and one for the Sons of Horus. The two generic Decurions both bring a unique advanced reaction, which is nice. Note that there is no Decurion waving a sword about who grants melee attacks to your tanks, yet.
The good news for modelling is that all the plastic tank kits come with a suitable commander model and a selection of pintle weapons. You don’t have to buy anything new for the generic Decurions. Forgeworld are releasing new models for the two Legion-specific Decurions, with the Imperial Fist Sagittar available now.
I’m going to look at the four options and discuss which tanks they’d be best to stick in.
There are two options available to any Legion. They both grant your tank’s unit a new advanced reaction, letting you return fire or overwatch more effectively. Both require a pintle-mounted weapon, purchased separately. I think you’ll tend to want a heavy bolter or multimelta for this.
As these are new Advanced Reactions they can only be used in quite specific ways. They don’t affect how your vehicles could react using the basic reactions, or any Legion-specific ones they have access to. A tank with a Decurion Locus can still take an interceptor reaction, but won’t be able to fire a Battle weapon when doing so, for example.
There isn’t currently a great generic Decurion for a tank whose turret weapons are already defensive. The Defensor would actually prevent you firing your main gun, while the Locus would be unnecessary because you could already fire it.
Legiones Decurion Defensor
A Decurion Defensor lets you do the “Point Defence” advanced reaction if your unit gets charged or shot at. Your whole squadron can fire any defensive weapons (that aren’t turret-mounted) and gets to shoot pintle weapons twice. A Defensor has to have to have a pintle weapon of some kind (not a havoc launcher), which is fair enough because there wouldn’t be much point in him without one.
Crucially, this happens when an enemy unit declares your unit as a target. Usually return fire happens simultaneously with the active player’s firing but the Defensor gets to kill people before they shoot him and his unit. This is a slight disadvantage compared to overwatch if you get charged though, as with overwatch you get to declare your reaction after knowing whether the charge will succeed. You may “waste” your assault phase reaction doing this but at least you should do a bunch of damage to whoever is trying to charge you, whether they succeed (or even survive) or not.
This makes something like a big Predator or Kratos squadron a very nasty proposition to fire at or charge. A firer that’s in range of your defensive weapons is going to take a lot of damage before resolving their shooting. In some cases, such as Iron Warriors, they might even get pinned and lose their shots altogether.
I’m not totally sure what pintle weapons to give vehicles with a Decurion Defensor. Multimeltas are great if they’re in range, but the extra range (and lower cost) of heavy bolters would help. I think the solution might be to take Volkite sponsons with pintle Meltas. This is expensive but gives you absolutely fearsome firepower at long range.
The Defensor’s reaction actually prevents you from firing its turret gun, even if it would normally count as defensive. You might not want one of these guys in a Sicaran Punisher or a Volkite Predator, though I suppose you’re no worse off than you would be with a battle weapon in the turret. You still have the option of a normal return fire reaction if you want to fire a Punisher. Personally I tend to buy tanks for the big guns though, so I don’t come across this problem.
However, if you’ve got a tank with a big main gun you might want a…
Legion Decurion Locus
This one is a bit of a game-changer. Their advanced reaction lets them return fire (though not overwatch) with a single battle weapon. They can also fire any defensive weapons if they want but if they don’t do that, which may be sensible if little guns can’t hurt whatever’s firing at him, they get +1 to hit with the battle weapon.
Getting shot by vehicles’ main guns isn’t fun, so this is a big deal. I’m pretty sure the Locus lets his whole squadron do this. It isn’t the clearest bit of rules writing ever as they seem to use the words “unit” and “model” interchangeably. When the rules talk about “a model” that has a Decurion Locus in being able to make a reaction they actually mean that model’s unit, because Reactions in Heresy are done by whole units, not single models.
Still, even one Kratos firing its main gun back at you is likely to be pretty bad news, especially if it’s also got defensive things in the Sponsons – and it’ll have to have a pintle weapon so that will be firing too. I think I’d definitely add one of these guys to a Kratos and it makes the idea of a Predator squadron much more attractive/frightening.
Since you get to return fire you’ll want a gun with a decent range, so that you can reach whoever is firing at you. I usually like the melta turret options but these (and the Kratos Battlecannon) have relatively short ranges, which could be an issue. You can always fire a sponson lascannon though, or drive towards things you think might shoot you.
Oh and you get a Nuncio Vox with this guy for some reason. This is very useful if your tank is armed with a blast weapon or if other members of your army want to deep strike. I think these would be great for executioners and conversion beamers, which become a much more attractive option if they can reroll scatter. They’d be extra accurate and their range means nobody will be safe from your reaction fire.
At first these look pretty expensive, but both come with the cost of their special pintle weapons included, so they’re actually pretty reasonable. They are only available to their own Legions but it’s possible that we’ll see more of these guys in future books.
These guys feel a bit different to the generic Decurions. Rather than granting advanced reactions that benefit their whole squadron, they mostly benefit only their own tank.
Sons of Horus Decurion Lanius
The Lanius comes with a Banestrike Bolt Cannon, a flag that looks like it would be extremely awkward to manoeuvre through the crew compartment of a tank and a complete disregard to fostering a good workplace culture.
Nearby Sons of Horus get a bonus to their LD, presumably from looking at the pretty flag. If they are silly enough to fail a morale or pinning test despite this, the Lanius will shoot them with his Banestrike Bolt Cannon. This inflicts D3 wounds that bypass saves but not damage mitigation and causes the test to count as passed.
Oddly, the Lanius will only shoot other Sons of Horus who fail these tests. Anyone else, such as allied cultists, neither benefit from the banner or suffer from the bolt-cannoning. And he only helps against Morale and Pinning in the shooting phase, not in melee. Is he worried about accidentally shooting the enemy?
I think this could be reasonably useful. A unit getting pinned or broken often puts it out of the game and/or costs you VPs as they can’t claim objectives. Stopping that from happening will often be worth a bit of pain, though note that it isn’t voluntary. If there’s only one survivor of a unit and he breaks, the Lanius will shoot him dead.
It doesn’t particularly matter what vehicle you put a Lanius in. His abilities don’t rely on his tank, or improve it much. The banestrike bolt cannon is quite good against infantry, with S6 and breaching 6+ but only a 24” range. It might make sense to put him on something like a Sicaran Punisher and have it accompany your infantry advance, throwing dakka at the enemy – and occasionally your own side.
Imperial Fists Decurion Sagittar
The Sagittar gets an Illiastus assault cannon and augury scanner, which is great and pretty much pays for his cost just in equipment. When he shoots, one pintle or defensive weapon can target something different to the other weapons and gain either skyfire or precision shots (5+).
I think the clear best option is to sit your Sagittar in a Sicaran Punisher. Character sniping with a Punisher Rotary cannon would be very likely to pin units thanks to shell shock and the Sergeant likely being dead, reducing their LD. You may occasionally get to shoot at a plane and could easily take it out through sheer weight of fire, The Augury Scanner means you could even do this as a free interceptor reaction, without the Helical Array’s limitation of remaining stationary to do so. You’ll hit stuff on 2s, as it’s an Auto weapon being fired by an Imperial Fist.
The Augury Scanner is really nice to have of course, and unusual for a vehicle. It may well be worth having a Sagittar in a squadron, as all of them could then do the interceptor reaction for free. Unlike infantry, they won’t be pinned and prevented from firing, and their firepower could do major damage. Do remember that the assault cannon gets hot when fired as a reaction.
I think I’d suggest lascannon sponsons to engage hard targets with those and the assault cannon, while the turret gun shoots at infantry. Alternatively, volkite or the basic heavy bolters would give you fearsome set of reaction shooting.
It’s a slight shame that the plastic Punisher isn’t available yet to go with the Sagittar’s release, For now perhaps you should magnetise him, or just wait. I think it’s very likely we’ll see a plastic option, especially since the resin Sicaran’s weren’t included in the recent sponson upgrade.
Mixing and matching
You’re allowed to have one Decurion per vehicle, so in theory you could have more than one of them in a squadron. Should you?
There’s kind of a logic for piling on these upgrades. Let’s say you’ve got a squadron with a Decurion Locus in one of them. They’re better at returning fire, meaning they’re more likely to do it, so any pintle weapons you buy for the other tanks become more efficient because they’ll fire more often. Now, if you’ve got a “spare” tank in the squadron with a pintle gun, adding a Defensor makes sense because he’s pretty cheap and a big help in defending what has become a major target.
The Sagittar might also make sense as a second Decurion in a squadron. He’s got that assault cannon and augury scanner, after all. However, the Defensor would prevent you firing Punisher cannons and the Locus isn’t really needed unless you had lascannon sponsons. You don’t particularly want to fire the assault cannon twice as a reaction, given its tendency to malfunction.
Even the Lanius could work as a second Decurion. He doesn’t add anything to the squadron himself (apart from quite a good gun), but he does benefit from other Decurions’ abilities. You’ll enjoy getting more shots with that Banestrike Heavy Bolter.
Overall then I think there is a case for trying out multiple Decurions in a squadron of Predators or Kratos. Just be a bit careful with the cost of your units getting out of control. You’re building a death star, with firepower and durability comparable to a super-heavy.
I like the Decurion rules. They give some nice bonuses to units that needed a bit of a boost. They also encourage you to model commanders onto tanks, which is fun. And they make squadrons of tanks far better than they were.
So for example I’ve made a Predator for my Raven Guard with a melta turret. I have the bits to make a couple more, but didn’t really have the motivation till now. I’d be pretty interested to see how a squadron of three or four of them with a Decurion Locus would get on. If they had defensive sponsons and pintle guns of some kind, their Locus Strike return fire would hurt most targets a lot.
Of course I’d have to add a pintle weapon and a commander to my Predator. While selecting photos for this article I found lots of great pictures of tanks, very few of which had commanders modelled on. Lots of us have built our tanks without pintle guns, so now we’re going to have to rip the existing lids off, which is a bit of a pain. In some cases you can avoid doing this by switching from a single tank like mine to a squadron. I might add a Decurion to one of my as-yet-unbuilt Predators, instead of attacking this one.
Very powerful shooting reactions from squadrons will deter the enemy from shooting or charging your unit. As a result, you may find that you don’t get to do these reactions all that often but that instead your squadron lives longer and keeps firing throughout the game. This is great for a unit of relative glass cannons like Predators, as they’ll do massive damage if nobody stops them. Your opponent has a dilemma with no good options: shoot your unit and take the pain from a reaction or leave them to run amok.
There are other advantages to squadrons. They can intercept when enemy units come on from reserve. They won’t benefit from Decurions’ advanced reactions (though the Sagittar’s ability works and his augury scanner helps) but you’ll probably have a lot of guns to fire and you’re immune to pinning.
There are also a lot of downsides to squadrons, of course. It’s a lot of eggs in one basket that’s pretty vulnerable if the wrong kinds of attacks come its way. If one Predator explodes it’s likely to damage the others. Perhaps most importantly, it can be awkward to physically position lots of tanks on the board, though here it does help slightly that they can see through each other.
In future I think I might magnetise a few commanders with an assortment of pintle weapons, so I’ve got the option of adding Decurions if I want. That ought to be relatively easy to do I think.
It’s a bit of a shame that half the Decurions are Legion-specific. That said, they are very characterful for their Legions. We may see more of these for other Legions, or perhaps different kinds of Legion-specific upgrades, in future campaign books. I think the writers have done quite a good job here, so I look forward to seeing what comes next.