In part one of our Review of Liber Imperium, the new beast of a book for Horus Heresy, we take a look at the Legio Custodes. Thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with a free copy of the book to write this review.
It’s time to learn about the shiniest army in 30k. In the fluff the Custodes spent the heresy war fighting against <REDACTED> in the <REDACTED>. What will their shiny new list be like on the tabletop? Shake up a can of Retributor Armour and let’s find out.
Your “basic” custodian goes around with a 2+ save, a couple of T5 wounds and four WS5, S5+ AP2 attacks, striking at I5. They have an 8” move (meaning +1 to charges) and can therefore run 13”. All of that means they’ll just casually wander through even elite enemy infantry, often killing them before they get to swing.
This is… awkward. 30k features quite a lot of marine armies designed to charge at the enemy and fight them in melee. If those armies find Custodes charging back towards them they could well be cut to pieces. Units like despoilers could find it hard to hit, wound or break through the 2+ saves on Custodes – or they would if they hadn’t already died at I5.
As for shooting, Custodes don’t have the best. Their guns are great but there aren’t many of them and they tend to have relatively short ranges, especially if you want to shoot vehicles. The issue for their opponents will be trying to stop them before they make it to melee, often by turn two.
Army special rules
Not a lot actually. Custodes have to be loyalist. They have only one warlord trait that they have to take and it isn’t very good. Nearby friends count as having done +1 wound in combat, which doesn’t matter because they’re Custodes, and the Warlord himself is better in a challenge, which doesn’t matter because he’s a Custodes and all other Custodes are Chosen Warriors. You don’t get a bonus reaction though, which is weak.
Speaking of reactions, Custodes don’t get an advanced one.
The other thing they do get is the “Legio Custodes Special Rule”. If they see a “Nemesis” unit (almost any unit that’s any good, including dreadnoughts, monstrous creatures, super-heavies, knights, or anything with 5 or higher weapon skill, ballistic skill, Wounds, or Initiative) they get extra cross about it. They gain +1A, +1” to charges and never need worse than a 4+ to hit, which usually doesn’t matter because they’re Custodes and at least WS5 (this bit might have mattered against Primarchs but it doesn’t work on them).
Curiously, everything in the list gets this rule apart from flyers, including the vehicles that it does nothing for. I don’t know why they’ve applied it to some vehicles and not others, but whatever. Everyone it might help does have it.
You’ll also find the Stubborn rule on every unit that isn’t fearless, so that may as well be army-wide too. Likewise all the squads and characters have the Skirmish rule so they get 3” coherency and (perhaps surprisingly) better cover saves. They’re relentless too, though most of their guns are assault anyway.
Wargear-wise Custodes have a couple of interesting things. Most of them are in 2+/6++ armour, though jetbikes and Venetari (the jump pack guys) have 3+/6++ and characters and Aquilon Terminators get a 4++. Their shields only give them a 5++. In general their invulnerable saves are not all that great so ap2 stuff, rending and breaching weapons will tend to do damage.
Custodes are usually armed with “Guardian Weapons”, which are the spear, sword and axe you’re probably used to by now. The standard versions of these all come with a decent 18” assault 2 gun and they are all AP2 in melee. Axes are unwieldy but hit at S8, spears get S6 with reaping blow (1) and sentinel blades don’t do anything fancy but tend to be paired with that shield for a 5++ or a second weapon for +1A. Spears can be upgraded to have a 6” range melta or a 12” range Adrathic gun, which is S5 ap3, armourbane, and instant death – so really quite nasty.
Everyone apart from the terminators also gets melta bombs(!) and a Misericord, which between them allow you a lot of freedom in melee. The melta bombs mean that there’s nothing a Custodian can’t hurt in melee: you don’t have to worry about getting stuck with a knight or something and you can get rid of vehicles with trivial ease.
The misericord is interesting because it’s S4 ap- (and instant death), which gives you the option of radically reducing your damage output if you want to for some reason. Maybe you’ve just charged something fearless and you’re facing a gunline. Why not stab them ineffectually for a bit, allow the enemy shooting phase to pass uneventfully, and then take the enemy down with your guardian weapons in their assault phase? Actually Custodes still aren’t entirely harmless using their Misericordia so you might end up wiping out the enemy unit by mistake if you aren’t careful.
Finally there’s a thing that I keep mis-reading as an “Arse-strike” but which is actually called an “Arae-shrike”. This makes enemy deep and outflank strikes (though not subterranean ones I think) a bit more likely to be disordered.
The most senior Custodes are able to buy you a teleport transponder array. This allows three units of up to 5 infantry to deep strike, along with any attached ICs. It doesn’t give you any bonus to your reserve rolls however, so be wary of having too much of your force waiting in reserve.
The Army List
Primarch, really? Yep, Constantin Valdor now has the Primarch unit type and FOC slot. This of course has various implications, not least if you were thinking of taking a Lord of War. You won’t be doing that in games under 4000 points, where Valdor and an Orion or Ares would fit in your 25% allocation. This probably saves you from having Valdor miss the game sat in an Orion somewhere off the board. It also means that he doesn’t fill your compulsory HQ slot and you’ll have to bring somebody else to do that. And of course he gets all the Primarch-y goodness like night vision, fearless and unmodifiable stats.
So what’s he like? Very good. His Apollonian Spear has a nasty little concussive ap2 gun and hits at S7 Ap2 with murderous strike on a 4+. Both Valdor himself and the spear have the Lightning Blows (6+) rule, giving him extra attacks if he rolls a 6 to hit. Anyway: stop, it’s already dead.
He has to be Warlord and gets the standard Custodes trait, giving him an extra attack and initiative in a challenge. He’ll often get another bonus attack from the Nemesis rule and end up with 8 exploding swings on the charge.
Valdor probably isn’t quite good enough to take down other Primarchs alone most of the time but that doesn’t matter because all his friends are Custodes. Valdor’s Custodes friends will absolutely massacre whatever unit the enemy Primarch is attached to and then chop the Primarch to bits. Maybe one of his friends will challenge the enemy Primarch to negate their output but he has a 3++ so you can allow the duel to go ahead without too much to worry about. He’ll likely do a bit of damage, though you may prefer to have him murderous-striking the retinue.
Valdor also wears armour so shiny that every loyalist who can see him gets his LD of 10. Other Custodes are generally stubborn LD9, so this is actually a major benefit against pinning and break tests, statistically halving the chance that you’ll fail.
You can buy Valdor a teleport transponder array and he’s the only way to do this in an army of 2-3000 points.
Tribunes are the highest rank below Valdor. You can only have one in games of 3000 points and above (so you can get Valdor in smaller games!) and he has to be Warlord if Valdor isn’t. He’s very expensive, which puts him in an odd place. He’s great but that doesn’t matter because his friends are all Custodes and he definitely isn’t six times as great as them.
He does have some special things though: Fearless, Eternal Warrior and access to a teleport transponder array. He can tank the attacks from something like a knight, which could otherwise do a lot of damage to a unit like Hetaeron Guard and he can get them into a good position via deep strike.
You can give him quite a variety of different weapons, though really they are all more or less the same. You get lots of high-ish strength AP2 attacks whatever he brings. A solarite power gauntlet is an exception to this as it’s S10, letting him slap knights and things around if you wait for I1 to swing. Meridian Swords would be my rule of cool pick (see Hetaeron Guard a bit later) and they’re free. Note that some of the weapon options are one-handed, meaning that he’ll get +1A thanks to having a Misericord.
Like Valdor you can also the teleport transponder array, allowing you to deep strike a bunch of stuff. You can’t buy him a jump pack or jet bike, so he’ll be walking.
Custodian Shield Captain
Essentially a slightly less good version of the Tribune without Fearless, Eternal Warrior or the option to deep strike loads of dudes. There’s an argument for giving him a Solarite gauntlet because that way he gets 6 attacks with it at WS6, which is quite a lot better than other models get for the same upgrade cost. That would be a big help if his unit met a knight or dreadnought, though the normal guys can probably handle those with melta bombs. It is a bit annoying to give him an unwieldy weapon when you’re forced to take a warlord trait that raises his initiative, so maybe go with the free Meridian Swords.
Ultimately I think you’re taking this guy because you have to take an HQ, not because he adds all that much to your army. There’s nothing wrong with him at all, but in an army full of amazingly good melee fighters a slightly more amazing melee fighter isn’t needed.
Hetaeron Guard Squad
These are the Emperor’s personal guard, meaning they’re slightly better than even normal Custodes, with 3W, though only the normal 2+/6++ save. But they’re armed with the exciting Meridian swords. These have three cool fighting modes with names that you should definitely say out loud every time they fight.
The first style, “Raptor Spreads its Wings” won’t always work as it gives Rampage (3). Hetaeron are Bulky (3) so quite often they won’t be outnumbered, although it will kick in if 3 Hetaron charge 10 tactical marines, giving you a perhaps unnecessary 24 attacks. The other two styles are devastating. “Grasp the Rainbow Serpent” is S10 AP1 instant death, though it forces you to only have one attack, regardless of charging, Nemesis and so on. “Hands Cut the Clouds” is my favourite as it grants +1S and Murderous Strike (4+). This last one should see Hetaerons go straight through things like Contemptors, though they will need to use Grasp the Rainbow Serpent on Leviathans I think in order to wound.
Hetaerons can be given various other weapons instead of Meridian swords but I think that sort of defeats the object of bringing them. They’re about 50% more expensive than your troop Custodes with the same number of attacks at the same WS, so take troops if you want guys with normal Guardian weapons or Sentinel Guard if you want fists.
Aquilon Terminator Squad
With “only” move 7 and the Heavy unit type, Aquilons aren’t going to get anywhere all that fast and that’s a bit of a problem for the unit. Their selling point is that they’re tough, with a 2+/4++ and 3W. They all come with Solarite gauntlets (excellent S10 AP1 unwieldy attacks) though each one only gets 3A, unusually. Of course that number goes up if they charge or meet an enemy Nemesis unit.
They’re pretty shooty. Their base Lastrum Storm Bolter has 3 S5 AP4 shots with shred and that can be upgraded to either a firepike (S6 and Torrent 9”) or twin-linked adrathic destructor, which has one S5 AP3 instant death armourbane shot. I think the firepikes are my favourite of these, partly as they don’t limit what you charge all that much, thanks to torrent.
You can also give them Solarite power talons, potentially in pairs. These are ap2 lightning claws but due to already having AP2 they aren’t rending, which actually makes them worse at damaging some targets than the Legion version, and especially the Raven Guard talons. But I don’t think you’re taking these guys for claws as Custodes do not need additional S5 ap2 attacks. You’re taking them to punch things.
Aquilons are a prime target for deep strike. Otherwise I think they’ll really struggle to make it to melee. They’re Bulky (4) so very difficult to transport and they can’t run. They’d be fantastic in Zone Mortalis games.
Custodes dreadnoughts don’t come in Talons so each uses a whole FOC slot – elites in this case and Heavy Support for the others. The Achillus is my favourite. It’s only as durable as a normal Contemptor and is a bit more expensive but it has WS6 and a great set of weapons, though unlike most Custodes it’s “only” I4. One arm is the standard Brutal (3) Fist we’re used to, with basically the same gun options as the Aquilon Terminators get attached to it. The other is the Achillus Dreadspear, which is an excellent anti-vehicle weapon with S12 and Exoshock 4+. I think it averages about 6 wounds to a knight if you charge and have the bonus attack from Nemesis. Oh and by the way you get a 3-shot S9 ap3 gun as well.
An Achillus is good because it can take on other people’s big scary stuff and smash it up. Its better WS and Nemesis rule mean it can face off against Contemptors and even Leviathans, using its fist, because it hits them twice as easily as they hit it. The spear should destroy all but the toughest vehicles in the game after a shot and charge.
In a Custodes army your opponent is likely overwhelmed with 2+ saves across the rest of your army, leaving them without enough of the kind of firepower needed to kill dreadnoughts. That may make them appear tougher, as the stuff required to kill them is overstretched.
Troops and Dedicated Transports
Custodian Guard Squad
This is the first of two troop units. You get 3-10 Custodians with fantastic stats, Guardian Spears and Line. The spears can be exchanged for axes for free or for Pyrithite or Adrasite spears for points. You can also have a Vexilla in there if you want, allowing them to reroll LD checks and giving nearby units +1 to assault results.
This is an extremely powerful troop unit, far meaner than just about anything with Line they’ll come up against. A scoring unit that can destroy even enemy elites with trivial ease in melee is a really scary prospect for the game. They do have a 6++ invulnerable. Even then T5 makes them hard to kill and there aren’t many sources of mass AP good enough to trouble them too much.
I like that you can have axes for no extra cost. It may be worth having an axe in each unit as it’ll make a pretty big difference against high Toughness enemies. Alternatively though you could just try and take things like dreadnoughts down before they swing through many S6 attacks or your melta bombs.
I’m less convinced by the paid-for spears because I think I’d just prefer to have more Custodes instead. There may be a case for having guys with the melta spears on occasion but I think it’ll only rarely be useful. Adrasite ones would be useful against multi-wound infantry with 3+ saves but those are rare enough that it probably isn’t worth the investment, and you can generally beat these in melee.
I think the main “tactic” is going to be big units these guys running at things. There’s an extremely limited set of things they can’t beat in melee and they’re pretty fast. Flooding the board with these troops would be oppressive, I think.
Sentinel Guard Squad
These are the sword and board Custodes and you can’t mix them with spears. The big news here is of course having a 5++ from your shield in exchange for marginally less powerful attacks – though a model with 5 WS5 I5 S5 ap2 attacks on the charge still has to be respected.
Sentinel Guard can’t have the free axes but they can pay for Solarite talons or gauntlets, the latter of which lets them hit things at S10. Mixing one or two of these into a unit will let them push over hard targets that their swords couldn’t hurt, but of course all of them have melta bombs so they will usually be able to do that anyway.
On the whole I think I marginally prefer the spear squads, but honestly both are great. These are Line units you can send to take and hold objectives and they’ll do it well. Their shooting is short-ranged though, so they’re pretty bad for hanging back holding onto ground.
This is how Custodes get around and the first thing you need to know about it is that it’s not an assault vehicle. There’s no way to put a shine on that; it’s really bad news and probably means you don’t want any of these.
It’s not bad otherwise. Fairly good armour and a flare shield, respectable firepower from a twin Arachnus Blaze Cannon (2 S8 AP1 lance shots, albeit only 18” range) and twin Lastrum Bolt cannon with 8 defensive shots, with PotMS so they can engage different targets. It can carry 6 Custodes or four Acquilons and is a fast anti-grav Model. It has deep strike and outflank too, but doing that would just delay your assault even more.
Agamatus Jetbike Squadron
Wow, this is a bit of a weird profile and took me a little while to understand. The really striking things about these is that they have 1A and a 3+ save, which is pretty surprising on a Custodes profile. They make that 1A using a Solarite Power Lance, which has S10 AP1, Armourbane and Sudden Strike ((3)!). So yeah, they strike at I8 on the charge.
However, unlike the Meridian Swords’ “Grasp the Rainbow Serpent”, there’s nothing stopping you having multiple attacks with these lances. They do get +1A for charging and often also for their target being “Nemesis”. That means that their total of 9 attacks may well kill a Knight from full health.
You can also upgrade their Lastrum Bolt Cannons to either Adrathic Devastators or Twin-Corvae Las-pulsers, albeit for somewhat eye-popping numbers of points.
I think the Agamatus may perform a crucial role for Custodes. In an army that mostly lacks long-range fire, having a unit that gets 9 incredibly powerful attacks on the charge and has a very long strike range (including deep strike if needed) is great news. You may not easily be able to shoot a Spartan or a knight but if you charge it with a squad of these guys you’ll kill it very dead.
Pallas Attack Speeder Squadron
You can have 1-3 of these little skimmers as a squadron. They’re a bit of an anomaly in this list full of very tough things because they have front armour 11 – albeit with a flare shield. I think that means you can expect all the enemy’s autocannons and missile launchers to shoot at them, and kill them fairly easily. But you’ll do some harm beforehand.
The twin Arachnus Blaze Cannon the Pallas comes with are really nasty, with a couple of S8 AP1 lance shots, and they’re very fast. Each one is actually cheaper than most of the infantry in the list, so a squadron of three would not be expensive… except in your local currency. In isolation they look pretty good so they could do quite well in a list with lots of other vehicles, particularly allied ones. In theory you could spam these and they’d be quite hard to get rid of. They can outflank or deep strike to ensure you get the first shot (unless you meet a heavy weapon squad with an augury scanner).
You can pay 20 points each to “upgrade” them to have twin Adrathic Devastators. Personally I think those are worse than the Arachnus Blaze cannons they come with, mainly due to having AP3 instead of 1. But S6 means the devastators are defensive weapons and armourbane means they’re still a threat to all vehicles. Instant Death makes them a big problem for things like Gal Vorbak, Castellax and maybe daemons. Unfortunately they’re centreline-mounted weapons so reactions would be quite easy to avoid.
Custodian Venatari Squad
This is your jump pack squad, with models that you’ll either love or hate. Their equipment is kind of weird with pistols that fire three autocannon-like shots but only their Misericordia to hit with in melee, though pistol and misericord will give them +1A. Their bucklers reduce the strength of several types of incoming shooting, though not all. They’re in demi-plate, so have 3+ saves. They can deep strike.
You can lose the buckler and 10 points to get a Venatari lance, with an assault version of the pistol and the ability to strike at S6 ap2 in melee. But if you do that these guys cost a lot – basically the same as a unit of jetbikes.
For me, these guys don’t do enough to justify their cost. It’s not really obvious what they are supposed to be for. Like a few of the more unusual units in this list they suffer from the fact that “ordinary” Custodians hit just as well or better for far fewer points. They are fast but the standard guys can run 13” anyway and, unlike Venatari, can cover objectives with durable Line bodies and dozens of I5 AP2 attacks.
Sagittarum Guard Squad
Some scallywag has persuaded a bunch of Custodes to give away their incredibly lethal melee weapons in exchange for heavy bolters with combi-disintegrators built in. Unfortunately, more and more people are falling victim to these kinds of scams nowadays. Remember: reputable organisations will never ask you for your passwords or personal information. Stay safe out there.
In the actual game of Horus Heresy you get a non-line unit with sort of a bit of firepower, though absolutely not a lot for their price, which you can rely on your opponent to not care about at all. I’m sorry to say there just isn’t an application for this, or at least not one that Legion armies can’t easily do far better. Three of these cost almost as much as ten marines with heavy bolters.
The Caladius is a tank in the price bracket of a Land Raider. It’s a bit less tough, even accounting for its flare shield, but it’s a skimmer and can deep strike or outflank.
There are two gun options. The Iliastus Accelerator Cannon has a long range and fires 3 Brutal (2) shots that hit like krak missiles, which is kind of nice but doesn’t come close to justifying the cost of the Caladius. On the other hand the Annihilator version’s Enhanced Arachnus Blaze Cannon has an extremely lethal S9 AP1 lance weapon with 4 shots, though only medium range. The Annihilator is a pricey upgrade and absolutely worth it, turning the tank from sort of a curiosity into something that will just rip open enemy vehicles.
Oddly, though both guns are twin-linked on the model, only the Iliastus is in the rules. You also get a very respectable Twin Lastrum Bolt Cannon (8 S6 AP4 shots) and PotMS so you can split your shooting how you like.
I think there’s a pretty strong case for adding one or two of these to your army. You could actually get more than four Pallas speeders for the price of an annihilator with twice as many shots – at only slightly less range and strength. Both options look good though I think I marginally prefer the Caladius because it doesn’t provide a target for autocannons – indeed its front armour is immune to them. The Caladius also costs a lot less money than squadrons of Pallas would.
This is the one with the sword (with built-in flamer) and shield, providing it with a 4++. The Galatus Warblade is only S8 with Instant Death instead of Brutal and the Infernus Incinerator is non-torrent S6 ap4.
The end result is sort of unspectacular. The trouble with the sword is that it’s really not good enough against vehicles or dreadnoughts. You’d much prefer to have a normal Contemptor’s S9 Brutal (3) fist in almost any situation. There are a few things out there like Javelins which have a lot of wounds and instant death still works (and which aren’t already instant-killed by S8 anyway) but they are few and normal Contemptors would smash them up easily enough anyway. This guy should beat a normal Contemptor but mainly due to having WS6 rather than its wargear. The Achillus isn’t as tough but it would be my pick as it’s so much more dangerous.
Telemon Heavy Dreadnought
The Telemon has a lot in common with the Leviathan. It’s T8 and Heavy, so it can’t run. But the Telemon is even more durable with 8 wounds, which is actually a potential problem because it means super-heavies are allowed to react to it. They also can’t stomp on it though, so incoming damage will be reduced.
I think this slow speed is a bit crippling for the Telemon, sadly. If your basic troops are running 13” then waddling along 6” isn’t enough. The rest of your army will probably have killed everyone (or died, possibly) by the time it gets there. This is less of an issue for the Leviathan as it can serve a defensive role but there’s no real need for that with Custodes. Nobody is picking on them.
The weapons are also a bit disappointing. Its fists are S10 ap2 Sunder – not Brutal. That’s still a very scary weapon of course but this is a Custodes army, so everybody has a scary melee weapon. Fists come with built in S6 plasma flamers, which are quite cool. The accelerator cannon is S8 AP3 with 4 shots at 24” and the Arachnus storm cannon gives you 3 S8 AP1 lance shots, but only 12” range – which is not far on a platform with just a 6” move. Perhaps its most interesting gun is the Spiculus bolt launcher, because it fires 8 pinning shots with decent strength.
It also costs about as much as a knight. For me that’s too much. It’s tough but still vulnerable to things like rending weapons and it will struggle to bring its damage to where it’s required. The same unit in another army would be decent but Custodes don’t need this.
Lords of War
Orion Assault Dropship
I’m not at all convinced that assault transport flyers are a good thing. You have to wait for them to arrive, and can’t disembark till the turn after that, meaning you certainly won’t be in assault till at least turn 3 even if everything goes perfectly. Custodes also have no way to improve your chances of passing reserve rolls unless you bring allies of some kind.
Having said all that, the Orion is an incredibly good assault transport. It has 7 hull points, an armour 13 front, an eclipse shield (basically a flare shield that gives you shrouding if you get hurt) and a whole array of devastating weapons. You get four S9 AP1 lance shots, 16 S6 AP4 shred lastrum heavy bolter shots and its two Spiculus Heavy Bolt launchers each have 12 S6 ap4 pinning shots. A total of 40 S6 shots is rather a lot. It has the Transport Bay rule and a transport capacity of 24 meaning it can carry a couple of dreadnoughts, 8 Custodes or 6 terminators. Whoever it does carry is very likely to get to wherever they’re going.
There are various options in Heresy, like Mastodons and Thunderhawks, that let you put a very large proportion of your army in one transport. I generally dislike this “eggs in one basket” approach. However the Orion is the only assault transport available to Custodes and it has fantastic firepower. It’s hard not to at least consider it.
A lot like the Orion, though a bit more expensive, the Ares is a pure attack craft rather than a transport. It has the same hull and eclipse shield, plus an Arae-shrike. It’s built around an Arachnus Magna-blaze Cannon, which is has two Destroyer, Lance shots at S10 AP1 with Exoshock 4+. It also has the same four S9 lance shots as the Orion. That is pretty spectacular firepower if you want to kill vehicles and super-heavies. It’s the sort of thing that will quite reliably send a thunderhawk and all its passengers crashing to the ground.
Unfortunately all the guns are centreline-mounted, which makes it a bit awkward to zoom an Ares around while always pointing at something you want to kill. You’re going to have to switch to hover mode at some point. That would usually make a flyer vulnerable but large parts of the battlefield will probably be dominated by shiny Custodes and their pointy spears by that point.
However, the Ares is extremely focused on its one task of killing vehicles and dreadnoughts. It hasn’t got the Orion’s Lastrum bolters or spiculum bolt launchers. Instead it has a couple of quite nasty 7” Infernus Fire Bomb Clusters. It can drop a 7” S6 AP4 blast twice per game. Unfortunately bombing runs and centreline-mounted weapons are an awful combo so I think you’d usually prefer the Orion’s Dakka.
For me, the Ares has the same problem other flyers do: it’s not there when you need it at the start of the game. By the time the it arrives your Custodes will probably be in or near melee and not that concerned about the sorts of things the Ares is designed to kill, which they’ll soon be covering with melta bombs. But the larger the game gets the more likely it is there’ll be some kind of big game for the Ares to hunt. I think usually you’d be better off taking a couple of Caladius – or just more guys with pointy sticks.
If it wasn’t obvious, having incredibly powerful basic troops is a strength. A profile with T5 and a 2+ save makes them extremely durable to anything with a krak-missile-style attack. Their WS of 5 means that most opponents will need 5s to hit them, while dreadnoughts and elites will hit on 4s. But in some ways I think their initiative of 5 is the most important stat because it means they’ll very often just kill the enemy before they can fight back.
You get to field a load of Line Troops who’ll take out most people’s elite melee units with ease and then, unlike most of those elite marines, they will claim the objective they’re stood on. Custodes are going to be really good at establishing a solid presence of Line units on midfield objectives, early in the game.
The loadout of a basic Custodian allows him to fight pretty much anything in 30k, if he can get to melee with it. If all else fails they all have melta bombs and those are just devastating – at least to anything that hasn’t already been killed by spears. They won’t struggle at all if they run into knights, dreadnoughts and the like.
You do also have all the tools you need to fight at range and to get around the board quickly with things like jetbikes. It ought to be possible to build a TAC army from just the Custodes list if you want.
Custodes are a bit tactically inflexible. They don’t have an assault transport, they pay silly amounts for deep strike and don’t get many reactions, so they’ll be somewhat predictable. They only have one warlord trait and it isn’t very good. They don’t have anything like Consul characters or Rites of War to buff units, manipulate reserves, hand out special abilities or change their list in any way. Also no psykers, battlesmiths, etc. etc. They’re arguably the simplest army there is in that respect.
Primarchs look very powerful against Custodes. Many have attacks that can instant kill them, usually at higher initiative than they strike at. It’s almost like Primarchs out-Custodes the Custodes – attacking them at even higher initiative with AP2 and a variety of horrible special rules. Even Lorgar with his Brutal (2) club is a threat. Don’t sent a Primarch alone though – he’ll get challenged, kill one guy and the rest of the squad will get to poke at him with their spears.
Custodes have surprisingly weak invulnerable saves, typically of only a 6+. AP2 guns will tend to do seriously efficient damage to them as a result. If you can pack a bunch of rending or breaching fire, or just lascannons, you’ll get to see golden bodies fall over outside of melee, which is definitely what you want.
I’ve given a bit of thought to how you might go about fielding the Legio Custodes so I’ve sketched out some lists here. These are not meant to be seriously tuned but they give you an idea of the sorts of things you can do.
The obvious thing that came to me first was to just take as many Line Custodians as you can. They can deal with pretty much anything, after all. A quick bit of adding up showed that I could take a shield captain and 6×10 Custodian Guard or Sentinels at 3000 points. They’d then run across the board and cut anything they met into tiny bits.
I think that would work a bit too well and be oppressive. I don’t know if really shooty armies could stop this lot but anything assault-based would have an awful time. Even elite units like Templar Brethren would have no chance whatsoever. It would be better if people didn’t field the army this way.
The next option is to try and create a balanced Custodes army with a mix of different unit types. This turns out to be quite difficult. You aren’t going to have all that many of anything (because it’s all so expensive), which can cause issues with redundancy – or might if your standard troops couldn’t kill basically anything.
I think the most powerful way to run Custodes might be as an allied detachment. You’re bringing in their amazing troops while avoiding some of their problems, like a weak warlord trait. As agents of the Imperium you can get up to all kinds of mischief by attaching independent characters to them (perhaps making them scout, for example), buffing them with psychic powers and so on. You could even bring one of their planes if your “main” army provided a means to reroll reserves. You won’t mind the limited options of an allied detachment too much as Custodes can’t really afford that many units.
I’m very curious, and frankly a bit nervous, to see what happens when Custodes start hitting tables. I think people are going to have to adapt their style of play to bring more AP2 shooting. You might see elite melee units like Dark Furies swapped out for Mor Deythan with combi-volkites, for example.
There are armies that will struggle to do this though and I’m not sure how an army like World Eaters or Space Wolves works against Custodes while retaining its original character.
Custodes are really, really good. My current take is that they don’t break what is fundamentally a shooting game, but we’ll see about that.