In part two of our Review of Liber Imperium, the new beast of a book for Horus Heresy, we take a look at the Silent Sisterhood. Thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with a free copy of the book to write this review.
The Sisters of Silence have always played second fiddle to the other, larger and scarier, talon of the emperor, the Custodes. While the golden boys have had a whole plastic range released, the Sisters languish with a single plastic infantry kit, a resin vehicle and special character, and a single upgrade kit. But no more – this book radically overhauls the entire faction, giving them a full roster with a bunch of options. This almost certainly means we’re going to be seeing a big release of kits at some point in the future because while a bunch of these new units can be made with the plastic kit and some opportunistic paintjobs, some of them really can’t.
Sisters of Silence are, like the Legio Custodes, loyalist only Agents of the Emperor, which means they are always considered Sworn Brothers by all loyalist armies. You can absolutely build Crusade detachments with them, but they’re also available for an Allied Detachment.
Sisters of Silence get The Silent Sisterhood special rule, some unique warlord traits, and all their non-vehicle units (almost all their units) get a bunch of common special rules and types.
The Silent Sisterhood
Every Sisters of Silence unit is from one of three Chambers Militant: Vigilance, Judgement or Oblivion. Each one grants bonuses to a unit with that chamber, with the bonus being different for each.
Vigilance is for the standard garrison troops and units, and gives that unit your choice of Scout or Infiltrate. Knight Vestals, Eradicator Cadres, Prosecutor Cadres, Termite Assault Drills, Sanctioner Cadres and optionally Kharon Pattern Acquistors are all Chamber of Vigilance units. This is probably the one with the most impact, but none of the units that get it necessarily get a huge amount of use out of it. Sanctioner Cadres are probably good Infiltrators to find high ground and sniper nests, but for the others it just means you don’t feel obliged to bring along transports for everyone.
Judgement is for secret police and psyker hunters, and makes that unit Fearless when locked in combat with a unit with at least one model with the Psyker sub-type. Silent Judges, Silent Furies, Questora Cadres, Firebrand Cadres, Subjugator Cadres, Expurgator Cadres and optionally Kharon Pattern Acquisitors are all Chamber of Judgement units. This is good of course, but very situational – it depends heavily on what your opponent brings. However, most armies are going to bring along at least one pysker so it’s not pointless, and ultimately while it’s nice it’s not game changing enough you’ll be sad to not get use of it.
Oblivion is for daemon and xenos hunters, and makes that unit Fearless when locked in combat with units with at least one model that’s Daemon or Corrupted. Jenetia Krole, Knights Abyssal, Knights Centura, Raptora Cadres, Oblivion Knight Cadres, Vigilator Cadres, Pursuer Cadres and optionally Kharon Pattern Acquisitors are all Chamber of Oblivion units. The same things can be said about this really, but it’s even more niche. If you end up fighting Word Bearers you’re probably laughing, but other than that it’s only ever going to be minimally impactful.
One additional twist of this special rule is a limit on the number of units you can take of each kind. You can take as many Chamber of Vigilance units as you wish, but you can only take three Judgement units for each Judgement HQ choice you pick, and three Oblivion units for each Oblivion HQ choice you pick. I guess this rule is in place to stop you packing your lists completely full of certain choices, but it’s honestly unlikely to come up – especially in allied detachments. All your HQ picks are judgement or oblivion, and you’re going to want to load up on HQs anyway because they’re great.
This is where we first get some hints that Sisters of Silence might not just be interesting but legitimately great. Of course if you’re bringing Krole along (and she’s fantastic so I can see why you would) she gets her own pick, but you don’t have to make her the warlord and while her warlord trait is great it’s pretty situational and these aren’t. It’s worthwhile considering making another HQ your warlord just to get one of these delights.
Maiden of Blood gives you a bonus reaction in the assault phase, and lets you bring along an extra unit of your warlord’s chamber. More excitingly it lets you inflict d6 wound with no ap on your own unit after all attacks in a combat have been made but before the outcome has been decided to let your warlord and all models in her unit make an extra attack. The attacks you make add to the combat result, but the self-inflicted wounds do not. This is fantastic and rewards bringing along a big old unit of something scary to run in.
Maiden of Resolve gives you a bonus reaction in the Shooting phase and an extra unit of the warlord’s chamber. It also, once a battle at the beginning of one of your turns and until the start of your next, stops your warlord and her unit moving but then gives them insane buffs, including Eternal Warrior and a meaty feel no pain, plus letting them pass all morale and pinning tests automatically. Absolutely mad bonuses, and the trade off is almost certainly worth it.
Maiden of Sorrow gives you a bonus reaction in the Movement phase and an extra unit of the warlord’s chamber. When your warlord, or the unit they’re in gets wounded they get to increase their Attack and Movement characteristic by 1 until the end of your next turn, to a max of +4. Plus, if your warlord is removed from play when locked in combat, your opponent gets no VP for it. Huge sacrificial blob of idiots ready to die in order to net a base 8 attack Knight Abyssal coming up.
Common Special Rules and Types
If it’s not strictly an army special rule, but it’s ubiquitous across their units we’re going to talk about it here.
The Anathema sub-type is a new one for this book and it’s a complex one but it basically boils down to: Sisters of Silence are entirely immune to all psychic powers and weapons, and even force weapons don’t have any effect beyond being a power weapon. In addition they inflict a leadership penalty on nearby units, giving a -1 to any unit within 6″ or a -2 if they’re corrupted (unfortunately non-anathema that join these units also get a -2 leadership penalty). Even better this specifically cuts through Stubborn. This stacks with Fear and if you can find a way of getting both to kick off that’s a bad time for an enemy fighting them. Honestly this is a really cool little package and definitely makes the Sisters scarier in combat – you’re much more likely to run from combats you lose against them, and of course librarians are just screwed.
On top of this basically all non-vehicles in this list are Light, and also Fleet (1). This means that though they’re base slower than marines (M6 by default) they actually move faster when running (12″ rather than 11″) and their Movement reaction are an impressive 6″. Speedy!
Finally basically all their units get Hatred (Psykers, Daemons and Corrupted) which is just nice, you know. Good to hate things.
Sisters of Silence Units
First up we have the special named character of the army, Jenetia Krole. Krole is cheap for this kind of character (150pts) and with Eternal Warrior fending off the worst issues with being T3 she’s actually an absolute monster. The nastiest thing is her Ex Oblivio ability, which she shares with the other Chamber of Oblivion HQs, letting her set a single model’s WS to 1 before initiative steps start if she’s in base contact with them (at a 1 in 6 risk of taking a wound). That, paired with her very nasty sword and decent attack profile, means she’s statistically likely to kill a Praetor dead in a duel before they even manage to swing at her, and can take down basically any non-Primarch as long as their retinues don’t interfere.
We then have the 0-1 Knight Abyssal, who is very cheap indeed, can take a paragon blade, and also gets the Ex Oblivio ability meaning that this is also an effective praetor hunter. Her cheaper counterpart, also from the Chamber of Oblivion, is the Knight Centura, who is basically a centurion counterpart with the same downgrade in stats from the Abyssal, and can’t take a Paragon Blade. Both are vicious characters and crazy cheap for what they are.
The Chamber of Judgement counterparts include the Silent Judge who is on par with the Knight Centura but instead of Ex Oblivio has a bunch of wargear that means she’s considered 12″ further away for the purposes of shooting at all times, making her shockingly hard to pick out at range. It’s worth flagging that all the HQs are considered 6″ further away for the purposes of shooting anyway – this is just a thing and you’ll see it a lot in the rest of the units. The other Judgement option here is the Silent Fury and the first sign of what is to come later: Sisters of Silence Jetbikes. Ironically they’ve forgotten to give her Antigrav on her sub-type list so she actually doesn’t have a jetbike unlike her lesser counterparts, but still – very fast, very aggressive, very hard to shoot at.
There are also two retinue units here, one for each chamber. Both are Line and have basically the same statline. The Questora are the judgement pick, and they are focused on ranged combat – Precision Shots (6+) and Vrantine Bolters, but you can switch this up pretty freely and give them some wacky heavy and special weapons if you like. The Raptora are the oblivion pick and similar but come with Execution Blades as stock, Precision Strikes (6+) and less wacky wargear picks but some decent ones (power fists are available here and they’re one of the few solid ap2 options for the army).
The Knight Vestal Covenant is basically Sisters of Silence apothecaries, but they… don’t get the same apothecary rules to slide into units? Instead they’re Independent Characters that deploy as a group and then split up, like dreadnoughts, which is deeply weird. As written you can’t deploy them each in different units so there’s a weird scramble here to get them in place. However there’s a weird added extra to this – they’re Agents of the Emperor, so they can absolutely join units from other Loyalist forces… so cheap Apothecary for your Terminators? It gives them a Leadership hit (well sort of, they can use the Knight’s Leadership for most things, and she’s Stubborn), but equally a 5+ Feel No Pain is worth a lot. It also, and this makes me sad, can give them Scout. The Vestal Covenant gets that before units are deployed, then you just deploy them into a unit and then do a Scout move with them. Scouting Terminators, yay. Oh and they’re immune to psychic powers now. This feels like an oversight.
Oblivion Knight Cadres are one of your Veteran equivalents, but they don’t come with two wounds which is a real shame (though I guess if you can be Instant Deathed with Strength 6 two wounds isn’t as much of a perk as you’d hope). Other than that they’re very similar to the Raptora, though a little cheaper. One thing: you can take power weapons on this squad rather than the stock Executioner Blades which means power axes and precious ap2. Sprinkling a few of those into a unit like this is probably smart.
Eradicators are… kind of? Your other veteran equivalent. But really kind of. No stat buffs over the stock troops, with the only real differences being Precision Shots (6+) and equipment availability. Vrantine Bolters are standard and any model can take combi-weapons… and then you remember these are Chamber of Vigilance and so can infiltrate or scout, and they’re also the same cost as the basic infantry Prosecutors, and their role clicks into place. Combi-meltas and infiltrate will give you a chance to do serious damage if you’re careful, and 115pts for that is not half bad. As one of the few places you can get decent anti-tank and anti-heavy infantry shooting, this is going to be a key pick for a full army of Sisters.
The backbone of a full Sisters of Silence army is the Prosecutor Cadre. Between 5 and 15 power armoured S3 T3 models with a bolter, these are pretty comparable to, but a little more expensive than, Tactical Marines. The point bump is probably thanks to the plethora of special rules, including Stubborn, but it still stings a little that they’re absolute squishier and less shooty than their marine counterparts but more expensive. You can do some interesting weapon swaps here, giving all of them two bolt pistols if you want, or an assault needler for a little price hike which is fun. You can also drop a couple of snare guns into the squad for free (which reduce movement on a target unit) meaning you can use these to tie up advancing infantry in a fun way. Are they good? Probably not amazing, but they’re not a terrible basic infantry choice.
If Prosecutors are tacticals then Vigilator Cadres are clearly despoilers. They all come with Executioner Blades which are actually pretty scary, though them being two handed cuts down their utility a little on 1 Attack models. That said the ability to swap bolt pistols for needle pistols or hand flamers is fun, if pricey, and I can see a lot of fun uses for these. They work particularly well in a transport, which we’ll come back to – being Chamber of Oblivion they don’t get to Scout or Infiltrate.
That transport is, of course, the Kharon Pattern Acquisitor. This is genuinely great – a fantastic unit that clocks in at 150pts but is a dedicated transport with a capacity of 16 and a front AV of 13 that’s a fast vehicle with a Movement of 16, antigrav and also has the assault vehicle rule. Add on the distort shield making it 8″ further away for shooting (sucks to be you, meltaguns), some actually ok weaponry (I might throw a multi-melta on instead of the pinning hellion heavy cannon array just because anti-armour is so rare in this list) and being able to deep strike and outflank and it feels a damn winner. Load up 15 Vigilators into it and ping them an absurd distance around the map at things that really weren’t expecting them.
The weirdest unit in the list by far is the Pursuer Cadre, which is basically some sisters and some cyber-animals rolling around and having a time of it. Note I didn’t say a good time of it, because I honestly don’t think they’re likely to. This is a hilarious unit where you can bring some cyber crocodiles with you for kicks, but none of the animals are actually good and the core sisters aren’t good and honestly what is this for. But it is really really funny.
A Firebrand Cadre is very on the nose in term of naming, because it’s standard sisters but with flamers. If this was a Chamber of Vigilance unit and could infiltrate or scout I’d be laughing, but as it is you’re probably… putting them into a drill? Maybe? Compression tanks are a fun little thing but expensive, making one volley of flamers +2 Strength once per game for 5 points a model. At 2 points a model I’d be saying they were good, but really I think that it’s a bit too expensive. Snare guns are probably a funny pick, but again I don’t know if they’re really the best platform for them. An awkward unit.
However, step aside competition because the Subjugator Cadre has arrived. Is it good? It absolutely doesn’t matter: it’s Sisters of Silence on Jetbikes. They’re also a place to mount Adrathic Destructors which though low strength have a Armourbane, so you can use them as pretty plausible anti-tank shooting. With such high speed that’s a big threat, and I see these being a clinch part of a larger army. You can run them in huge units if you want to (10 jetbikes is probably a bit much for one unit though), but you need to switch the weapon on all of them. One funny option is just keeping the snare cannons on the bike and using these to zip around and immobilise infantry for extended periods.
Rounding out this slot is the Termite Assault Drill and yes, it’s absolutely hilarious that the Sisters of Silence got this in their core list and the Mechanicum did not. I cannot explain it, but it’s funny as hell. It’s a drill! It’ll pop up out of the earth. Seems fun.
The Sanctioner Cadre are the dedicated snipers of the Sisters of Silence. They’re cheaper than buying a Recon Marine unit with nemesis bolters, they get Marked for Death, and they can also Infiltrate or Scout thanks to their chamber rule. They seem absolutely great. You can give the whole unit Vrantine Nemesis Bolters instead which are basically the same but they make psykers perils, which is funny and if Thousand Sons are rampaging in your local games absolutely worth it, but probably not otherwise.
Last but not least we have the Expurgator Cadre, the heavy weapon support of the Sisters of Silence. For 85 points you get five sisters with heavy flamers, which is pretty decent, and they seem like a fun unit. Vrantine Missile Launchers might be the best bet in some ways, though they’re not amazing weapons and pretty expensive. Adrathic destructors are very nice, and being assault weapons overcome the issues around moving that the launchers have – 10 of those in a drill or acquisitor is expensive but pretty damn scary.
Putting it All Together
Here’s a brief look at a possible list for an allied force to drop into a marine army. It focuses on some of the coolest and most exciting elements of the force, and also the stuff that works best with the marines. It’s 620 points so easy to drop in:
Knight Abyssal (Paragon Blade) (95pts)
Raptora Cadre (six additional Raptora, 2 power fists) (275pts)
Kharon Pattern Acquisitor (150pts)
Knight Vestal Covenant (35pts)
Prosecutor Cadre (2 snare guns) (65pts)
The Knight Abyssal and Raptora go in the Kharon (which starts on the table) and they slam about the place finding lone units that look vulnerable, jumping out and murdering them, and then jumping back in to go to the next place. If they can find a lonely looking Independent Character that the knight can duel and use Ex Oblivio on, all the better.
The Knight Vestal joins a marine unit that could do with being immune to psychic powers, getting a scout move, and getting the stubborn rule. Veterans sound good, as do terminators.
Finally the Prosecutor Cadre is there to make up your line, but the two snare guns and their penchant for dashing about the place at speed mean you can use them to tie up enemy infantry and generally be a pain.
Overall the Sisters of Silence have had a huge glow up, and are now looking like a serious force to be reckoned with. They definitely struggle in some ways particularly against heavier targets, but they’re fast and flexible. If you want to go to a full army with them you’re going to be relying on snare cannons to tie targets like Terminators down so you can avoid them and slowly whittle them down at range, while using the handful of serious anti tank you have to kill vehicles. The real sticking point is Dreadnoughts – you can’t do much to slot them down, you can’t do much to really hurt them, and you’re going to struggle to overcome this. Ex Oblivio and a Paragon Blade might be your best bet but you’re fishing really. Best to bring an allied detachment with you that can throw out some serious anti-Dreadnought hurt and some serious firepower and let you focus on darting around and being a pain. Maybe Custodes?
In an Allied Detachment they’re fantastic. Fast, vicious and extremely confusing for your opponent, they rely on lots of stacked buffs and bonuses to achieve victory. They’re a great compliment to a slower, more static loyalist force. A Knight Abyssal or even Krole herself with a full squad of Raptora in an Acquistor plus some Prosecutors to hold the line is a nice dip for a marine force.