Liber Imperium Review: Solar Auxilia

In part three of our Review of Liber Imperium, the new beast of a book for Horus Heresy, we take a look at the Solar Auxilia. Thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with a free copy of the book to write this review.

The first “ordinary human” army to see the light of day in the new edition, the Solar Auxilia are the elites of the Imperial Army, the toughest and best soldiers the Imperium has outside of the Legiones Astartes. They fight very differently to the legions, however, and you can expect some pretty wild deviations from “normal” play in their list. They’re also the only faction in this book that’s not Loyalist only, so celebrate Traitors.

One thing it’s worth to note is that this is not the same as the Imperialis Militia list which is also coming at some stage, and which represents the less professionalised and less elite Imperial Army regiments. Solar Auxilia is now a general term though, a “pattern” of armed force that’s replicated across the Imperium. That means there’s surprising variation on display here.

Army Special Rules

The Solar Auxilia benefits from the Tercio special rule, and are likely to have access to Cohort Doctrines which are a little like Rites of War. They also have a new sub-type that’s actually vital to understanding some of their units: Close Order. They don’t have any warlord traits though, so you’re stuck picking from the generic ones.


Tercios are at the core of Auxilia army building, and they’re a key part of how the entire army functions. Though you get Tercios of a number of different kinds (Tactical Command, Veletaris, Infantry, Armoured and Artillery) some of them are considerably more beneficial than others.

Barring any additional benefits from Doctrines, Tercios do two things:

  • Each tercio is made up of a number of units and all these units together take up a single slot, meaning you can pack an enormous number of units into your slots
  • When Tercio units are “In Formation” (being within 3″ of another unit in the same Tercio), all those units can react at the same time (though it counts as them having made a reaction so you can’t keep reacting with the whole Tercio).

In short Tercios are sort of “mega units” – loose groupings of units that you don’t have to keep together but you probably will.

Cohort Doctrines

As mentioned briefly above, Solar Auxilia isn’t a regiment but a pattern of regiments – if you stick your dudes in void armour and have them fight in tercios, then congratulations, you’re solar auxilia. However, this means there are plenty of variations and as long as you have a model with the Cohort Doctrines special rule in your army (probably a Legate Marshal) then you can pick one of these. They’re kind of like Rites of War but for the little guy. There are eight of them in this book and are as follows:

  • Solar Pattern Cohorts, or the Solar Solar Auxilia, are so good they named it twice. This lets you run your elite Veletaris Tercios as Troops, give them Line and let them fly around in little planes, but you can only bring a limited amount of armour and artillery. Think of this as the special forces option.
  • Ultramar Pattern Cohorts are for you budding Napoleonics players who haven’t quite given into the lure of historicals yet. Your Infantry Tercios can bring twice as many Rifle Sections (up to 6!) and as long as a rifle section has all the models in base to base contact with each other then they get a +1 to hit. Push those little blocks of rifles around the table. If you pick this, you can’t bring transports, so run those blocks large and angry.
  • Reborn Cohorts are veteran units of the great crusade that were disbanded and now they’re back for some heresy, baby. They give all their infantry +1 Leadership and Stubborn which is really good, and any unit that hasn’t moved this turn gets to reroll 1s to hit which is really really good. However you’re limited in how much Armour and Artillery you can bring, and your Intiative gets a nerf making you one step slower in assault and dropping you hard to 1 for anything movement related.
  • Armoured Fist Pattern Cohorts are for the tank lovers out there. You can pick up armoured tercios as non-compulsory troops, but these can only have a single unit in them which is… like, guys, the point of tercios is you’re not gonna run out of slots. However the real juice is your warlord gets to be a leman russ and they get a unique warlord trait (that makes them better at being a tank, but doesn’t grant a reaction). The downside? Any infantry have to start in transports.
  • Penal Pattern Cohorts are for those of you who love chaff. Who doesn’t love chaff? Your Rifle Sections effectively morph into guard infantry squads by losing Close Order and letting you replace any lasrifles or volkite chargers for a much worse weapon, like a lasgun or an autorifle, which I respect immensely. The upside (?) is you can sprinkle in some heavy stubbers for a little fire support. In addition, all your Tercios get Furious Charge (1) and all your Rifle Sections get a FNP (6+), but you have limited access to elites. Basically if you have an imperial guard or cult army and you want to run it before the Imperialis Militia list drops, this is the way.
  • Feral Pattern Cohorts are for your scary feral folks who like to charge the enemy and take trophies, so perfect for cultists. You can upgrade infantry squads to give them Fear (1) and all Tercio units in formation get Counter-attack (1). However, if you’re in range to charge… you have to charge. Better load up on a lot of guys with axes I guess? Oh, and if you’re Loyalist then these guys are Distrusted no matter how your main force normally feels about them as allies.
  • Siege Pattern Cohorts bring the big guns, literally. You can select Artillery and Armoured Tercios as both Elites and Heavy Support slots (how big are the games you think I’m running Games Workshop?) and if you shoot a Barrage or Blast weapon you can reroll the scatter die itself (not the range dice you roll alongside it). The weird downside is everyone has to buy a dedicated transport if they can, but they don’t have to start inside it. I honestly can’t work this one out. It’s so strange.
  • Iron Pattern Cohorts are for if you want to collect two insanely expensive entirely resin armies rather than just one! You can bring Castellax and Thallax units along as Elites choices, your officers can bring cortex controllers, and a Legate Marshal gets Master of Automata so he can rock around with some robot friends. Like many of the other doctrines the downside is a limit on Artillery and Armoured Tercios.


Close-order is a new sub-type that, in particular, Rifle Sections get. This reduces the coherency distance to 1″ so the models have to bunch up a lot, and they can’t Run and reduces the distance moved in reaction by 1. However, they can move up to half their Movement and still shoot a Heavy weapon as if stationary, and can charge in the same turn they fired Heavy or Rapid Fire weapons. This is what makes the Rifle Section what it is, and it’s important to remember.

Solar Auxilia Units


Your most important HQ choice is the Legate Marshal, who is a 0-1 choice and the reality is you’re going to be bringing one along no matter the size of game because they’re your primary route to Cohort Doctrines. You can invest a staggering number of points into this guy if you really want to, decking him out to the point he has a 2+ save and a 3+ invulnerable save, but honestly keep him hiding behind a building and don’t bother because he’s chaff like the rest of the army. Yes, even with WS5 – it’s impressive for an ordinary dude, just not for anyone else.

Your other choice is the Command Tercio which is made up of:

  • 1 Tactical Command Section
  • 0-2 Companion Sections

The Tactical Command Section is your lower ranking officer choice, either a Captain or upgraded to a Marshal and their “companions” which I can’t stop seeing as a euphemism. These folks are pretty elite for Auxilia, but the main draw is the equipment. They all get a Refractor Field for a 5+ invulnerable save, and every single companion (up to the full unit of 9 max) can grab a special weapon or some kind of melee outfit that’s worth having. These guys can actually go toe to toe with marines, or fire a serious volley of shots, and aren’t that squishy all things considered so this is a pretty good strike force. The Marshal upgrade gives the officer +1 WS and +1 A which is ok but not amazing for the points.

They can also take a Command Vox and this is a decent time to break out what that does – basically any unit with one can share their Leadership with any other unit with one or a Vox Interlock, meaning if you drop them into all your units they can all use the decent leadership on the officer here. Interestingly the unit with the command vox can even be in reserves, and that’s maybe not a bad choice!

They can also take two kinds of vexila – an Auxiliary one to give them +1 to combat resolution and stop them running off the table, and a Cohorts one which gives them Line and buffs leadership of units nearby.

The Companion Section is basically an elites pick, and can take a lot of the same wargear as the companions in the Command Section, so you can load them up with decent kit. They can’t take the Cohorts Vexilla and get a Vox Interlock instead, but you can also upgrade one companion to an adjutant which buffs their statline to a pretty decent place. A tercio with 30 dudes all fully kitted out is going to cost you, but could be the anchor your army holds to.


The Veletaris Tercio is the big chunky choice here, and is made up of the following:

  • 0-1 Veletaris Command Section
  • 1-3 Veletaris Storm Sections
  • 0-1 Veletaris Vanguard Sections

The Veletaris Command Section is a less impressive command squad with fewer weapon options, but they’re all in Reinforced Void Armour making them Heavy (your mileage may vary on if this is good). They come with Volkite Chargers as stock, and you can throw a few upgrades on here but mostly you’re coming to these lads for the buff to Leadership and command vox. Like all other Veletaris they’re Initiative 4 (but heavy so they don’t actually move around quicker) which lets them go toe to toe with marines more easily.

Veletaris Storm Sections are the meat of this tercio, start at 10 models and go up to 20, and are heavy like the other Veletaris. They come with Volkite Chargers but you can swap those out for big old axes if you like, which is a super fun choice but 5pts a model which is a hefty price tag for a unit that’s only 85pts at base. The axes are nasty though, albeit unwieldy, but ap 2 and murderous strikes (6+) is not to be sniffed at. They’re going to struggle up close an personal with marines, but if you can thin their numbers or pin them, it works. Which leads us to…

The Veletaris Vanguard Section who are the short-ranged support for the tercio. They come with rotor cannons as stock, and actually 10 of these for 90 points gets interesting when you want your Storm Sections to hit the enemy fast. However you can also switch them for heavy flamers (for free!) in any proportion which is exciting. This unit also goes to 20 models, which is a lot of brrrt.

Moving on from the tercio we come to the Medicae Section, which is a 0-1 choice of, basically, apothecaries-but-auxilia. As befits them being “not as good as marines” they only give a 6+ FNP, but hey, they’re 15 points each.

We now get to the only named character in the list, Aevos Jovan who is loyalist locked and comes with a bunch of special rules of his very own (and some medical orderlies he can bring along if he wants). He gets a big Medical Robot that randomly restores a model to life once a turn either with one wound, all their wounds, or as a man revenant doomed to die. You can sacrifice orderlies to reroll or tweak the result. Aevos is also a man of reputation, and so all unit, friendly and enemy, are at -1 Leadership within 12″ of him… but equally he can’t be shot at until he’s within 12″. This is honestly the weirdest goddamn unit, but kind of quirky and fun and I’d love to see it used.

Finally we have the Charonite Ogryn Section, which are space ogres in oversized armour with claws strapped to their arms. These guys are mean and though they’re not cheap at 40 points a piece they throw out a crazy number of attacks and will make even astartes take a sharp step backwards at the thought of them hitting into combat. What a vicious unit.

Troops and Dedicated Transports

The only thing in this slot (other than Dedicated Transports) is the Infantry Tercio which is made up of:

  • 0-1 Command Section
  • 1-3 Rifle Sections

The Command Section is pretty much what you’d expect – a slightly more elite (very slightly – they’re still WS3 BS3) Rifle Section with some extra equipment options and a Troop Master to lead them. This is pretty much here for vox support and a few melee weapons just in case things really hit the fan.

The Rifle Section is what holds this tercio, and indeed the whole army, together. On first glance it’s an odd beast: 10-20 models with lasrifles who can take a vox interlock, an auxilia vexilla, and an augury scanner if they want, and the sergeant can take some melee stuff if you don’t want the extra rifle (you want the extra rifle). You can give them all bayonets, which is kind of adorable but almost certainly not worth it – they’re dead if a tactical squad hits them, let alone anything else – but that’s basically it. So what makes them special?

They’re close-order which we talked about a bit earlier, but it means that they can move up to half their Movement (3 whole inches!) and then shoot their lasrifles, and they can shoot their lasrifles and then charge (which they almost certainly shouldn’t, they’ll die in droves). Plus it means they bunch up to let missile launchers or anything else with a template have an absolutely wonderful day. This all seems bad (it kind of is) but it’s also actually part of their utility.

The Lasrifle deserves looking at more closely. It has two fire modes: a volley mode that’s 30″ range, and is Heavy 2 with Strength 3 AP 6; and a Blast Charger mode that’s 18″ range with one Heavy shot Strength 6 and AP4. Is this is a good weapon? Not in the grand scheme of things. But is it a surprisingly good weapon given what kind of unit this is? Yes.

Let’s compare them against a Tactical Squad. Obviously at above 24″ the Rifle Section just gets to fire their guns freely without fear – 40 shots for a full size unit resulting, on average, in 2 dead marines. At 24″ they’re in a bit more trouble… but hang on a second. Boltguns aren’t AP 4, so they’re getting an armour save – when we run the numbers we find that, assuming the marines have moved and so don’t get Fury of the Legion, the squad of 10 marines that’s points comparable kill…  2 Auxilia. With fury this obviously doubles. At 18″ the calculus changes again, with the Blast Charger mode kicking in, meaning now the rifles kill on average 2 marines (but a little more certainly, and with a better chance of 3 – the blast charger mode is better). It’s not until the marines get to 12″ or they stand still for Fury of the Legion that their damage output actually rises above the Auxilia. And there are twice as many wounds in the Auxilia unit as the marines.

Now we add the Tercio units in. Sure, S3 AP6 doesn’t sound scary but if the whole Tercio returns fires and fires 120 shots with it, that’s a lot scarier. The trick to these is volume and you can afford it pretty well given how cheap everything is. Yes they’ll die faster to blast weapons, but you get twice as many wounds for your points, and they can reaction together.

The Close-order thing is important because a lot of weapons have a range around 24″, so movement back 3″ before shooting is a good way to take you out of range of a Return Fire. Also it lets you just get in range for a Volley if you’re a touch too far away. These units take more careful play than their marine line comparisons, but if you play them well they can put out a surprising amount of firepower.

Out of the tercio and into the dedicated transports we go. The weirder and worse of the two is the Dracosan. It’s tougher than the alternative, sure, and you can in theory fit a whole rifle section in it, but it’s 175pts before any upgrades and that’s just too much for something with minimal weaponry and not much else going for it. You can drop the capacity to 10 and put a demolisher cannon in it but… why? Why do this?

The better choice is probably the Aurox which has a maximum cap of 10 and frankly dissolves if you look at it too hard, but is cheap as chips and makes up a bit for the slowness of the rifle sections. If you can cram all of the soldiers coming out within 3″ of the port they can even fire when they get out.

Fast Attack

The Arvus Transport honestly doesn’t have a lot going for it. It suffers all the same problems as other aircraft in the game at the moment and is also made of spit and tape and hope. It’s unarmed and barely armoured and though 75pts isn’t much for a flyer it’s a lot for this flyer. It does have deep strike which is marginally cooler than just zooming in, but it’s still going to get shot to death.

Blood Angels Lightning Fighter
Blood Angels Lightning Fighter. Credit: Jack Hunter

Speaking of getting shot to death we have the Primaris-Lightning which is no more armoured than the Arvus but can make this marginally better by spending too many points for a diffraction grid, and you can upgun it with a lot of missiles for too many points. Expensive and really not worth the cost, plus the centre-lined main gun is going to struggle to shoot stuff with the way the flyer rules work.

Imperial Thunderbolt credit: whiteshark12

The Thunderbolt is definitely the better option if you want a plane. Slightly slower but tougher, with a good special intercept thing for when other aircraft turn up, a bunch of guns, more armour and inexplicably costing much less. The centre-lined guns are going to take some lining up to work, but they’re at least included in the cost unlike those damn missiles on the Primaris.

Heavy Support

Leman Russ Battle Tank. Credit: Rockfish
Leman Russ Battle Tank (with illegal sponsons) Credit: Rockfish

OK here we go, back into more comfortable territory for the auxilia. First up is the Armoured Tercio which is made up of:

  • 0-1 Armoured Command Section
  • 1-3 of either Leman Russ Strike Squadrons or Leman Russ Assault Squadrons

If we’re playing this out as a Napoleonics analogue, these are your very expensive cavalry, and the Armoured Command Section is your very expensive cavalry commander. Unusual in terms of command sections in that it is one (singular) tank. That’s because it will get assigned to a Strike or Assault Squadron at the start of the game and basically become part of that unit. It must tank a standard Battle Cannon, but it can take a cognis-signum to improve the shooting of other tanks in its squadron, but is it worth spending 200 points for that? Probably not.

So let’s talk about Leman Russes. They’re pretty tough little tanks – AV14 on the front, 13 on the sides and 10 (yikes) on the back, so you want to point them at the enemy for sure. They’re not hugely quick but they’re really not that slow and come stock with searchlights and can take dozer blades as an option. They all have the same hull weapon choices (most of which are free, but you pay for the lascannon) and the same pintle choices (multi-lasers seem fun) but you can’t take any sponsons on them. The difference then is cost and main guns.

The Leman Russ Strike Squadron comes in at 150pts base and a battle cannon, and can be upgraded to a vanquisher with a coaxial autocannon, or a pair of gravis lascannons or gravis autocannons. Considering the latter two are free the lascannon seems a solid bet (4 shots with two of them), but the Vanquisher is certainly very good, with the coaxial helping for accuracy and it really hitting things hard.

The Leman Russ Assault Squadron is the pricier pick at 200pts base, and comes stock with a Demolisher but you can upgrade (for free) to a Executioner plasma cannon or a Volkite macro-saker. This is a decent set of options but 200 points is still a lot to spend over the alternative.

The next tercio up is the Artillery Tercio. This one is made up of:

  • 0-1 Artillery Command Section
  • 1-3 of either Rapier Batteries or Tarantula Sentry Batteries

The Artillery Command Section is what you’d expect by now with the exception that you can put a cognis-signum in the unit, which is absolutely worth it.

The meat then comes with the Rapier Batteries which come with one rapier and two operators at base, with up to 2 more rapiers being added with crew to match them. The whole unit has to be armed the same with the options being a multi-laser battery, a gravis heavy bolter battery, a laser destroyer or a quad-launcher. The Laser Destroyer is absolutely king here, no doubt about it.

Alternatively you can bring Tarantula Sentry Batteries if, presumably, you already own the models and are now very sad. They’re cheap, but this is the third faction now that has Taranatulas that don’t work properly (they shoot the nearest unit even if they can’t hurt it, and also don’t have firing protocols so they can only shoot one of their two guns at a time. Good job everyone.

Moving away from the tercios we have the Malcador Heavy Tank Squadron which is for your big (but not biggest) tanks. These guys are pretty tough, but not Leman Russ tough on the front which is odd, and they certainly have a lot of weapon options. The front-mounted Vanquisher cannon is maybe the best, but it’s better on a normal Leman Russ and that’s a lot cheaper. This just isn’t very exciting for the cost.

Speaking of not exciting: Armoured Artillery Batteries to let me waste my points bringing multiple Basilisks? For 200 points each! Oh my ambassador, you spoil us. For real though, these are a terrible choice and I honestly can’t imagine bringing them. The Medusas are marginally better but just… there are better artillery options elsewhere in this slot.

Like, for example, the Valdor Tank Destroyer Squadron. Yes, it’s a Malcador chassis and so has the same issues, but you get a goddamn centreline mounted neutron beam laser! Despite being called “squadron” you can only bring one of these in a slot, but damn that’s a big gun, and I love a big gun. Is it the most efficient points use? Probably not. Is it cool as hell? Most certainly.

For you cute tank lovers, the Cyclops Demolition Section is a real treat: the smallest of tonks. It’s basically a little remote controlled tank packed full of explosives (genuinely actually nasty explosives) with an operator for 35 points and I think that’s beautiful. You can have up to three in a unit, and that’s three times as beautiful. Looking at these objectively, that’s a lot of points to pay for three one-shot murder bots, but they really are very good at murder and I can actually see a use for them against things like spartans and knights.

Lords of War

The first of the two choices in this slot is the Malcador Infernus Squadron that is, again, not a squadron because it’s maximum one of them. However it’s a pretty cool thing, with an Inferno Cannon at the heart of it which spews and enormous torrent of extremely dangerous flame. It’s a fun thematic pick, if expensive, but I’m not at all sure why it’s here when the Valdor is over in heavy support – it’s a little tougher than a normal Malcador, but it’s really not massive in the way these things tend to be. Odd.

The second is quite an impressive beast, and the biggest tonk: the Stormhammer. This Super-heavy is the real deal, with the Stormhammer cannon riding proud and just a bucket of extra guns. It’s huge, it’s very tough, it does a lot of shooting and it’s 500 points which is a good price point for it. This is actually a very solid Lord of War pick and a nice change of pace from the Legacies document.

Putting it Together

Here’s a quick sample Allied detachment of 1014 points that seems like a reasonable place to start when dropping these into another army. It focuses on volume:

Command Tercio
– Tactical Command Section (5 additional companions, 9 bayonets, auxilia vexilla, cohorts vexilla, command vox, Marshal upgrade, Power Fist) (229pts)

Infantry Tercio
– Rifle Section (10 additional auxilia, vox interlock, augury scanner) (120pts)
– Rifle Section (10 additional auxilia, vox interlock) (115pts)
– Rifle Section (10 additional auxilia, vox interlock) (115pts)

Armoured Tercio
– Leman Russ Strike Squadron (2 additional leman russes, all vanquishers) (435)

You don’t need a Legate because you’re not using doctrines so instead you can bring along a meatier command unit – a marshal with a power fist so they can actually hurt something, and then 9 companions with bayonets who will at least be able to hit the side of a barn door. Then you have 60 line bodies ready to pump fire into stuff – and the vox interlocks mean they should stay the course. Put the Augury Scanner unit in the middle and then create a big old block to move up and occupy (at least one) objective, while the command section hangs back a little for safety. The Leman Russes form a nice wedge – point them at something you want to die and they’ll do a decent job. Nice little drop.


Auxilia are really interesting and thematic: the close-order units, the tercio formations, and everything else add up to a really cool flavourful army. Is it going to set the world alight? Probably not. S3 T3 is a hard hurdle to overcome, and the Sisters of Silence do it in part by having a big bundle of tricks that they can use to throw around and make life hard. The Auxilia lack those tricks, and so they’re stuck relying on mass fire and falling back.

For people who want to run an allied detachment these guys are likely going to be fun, and we’ll see a lot of solid proxy armies with just a bucket of infantry to get in the way, or some leman russes running in tight formation. As a standalone army? That’s tougher – you have tools to engage with all the problems in the game, but none of your tools are as good as anyone else’s. You’re always fighting uphill, and maybe the heroic massed ranks can pull it off, but… probably they can’t.