Warhammer 40k’s 8th Edition brought with it an advancing of the storyline by about 100 years. According to a recent Voxcast we’ll be spending some time over the next few years exploring this era. Across the galaxy, psychic-sensitive beings are crying out. The Great Rift has torn the galaxy in half and from this gaping hole in reality spill demons and warp-touched energies. Psychic-sensitive beings of every race feel their powers growing – uncontrollably in some cases – as reality is infused with the power of the Warp. The first news of Warhammer 40,000’s new campaign event came at the 2019 NOVA Open. Known as Psychic Awakening, this galaxy-spanning event will touch nearly every faction through a series of expansions that detail the events of various war zones. Psychic Awakening is the 2nd major campaign event of 8th edition (Vigilus is the first) and is expected to to run for quite some time.
The second book in Psychic Awakening is Faith and Fury, focusing on the crusading zealots of the Imperium, the Black Templar chapter of Space Marines, and their hated foes, the legions of Chaos. As there’s quite a bit of content, we’re reviewing this book in several parts; yesterday we looked at the new rules for the Chaos Space Marine legions. Today we’ll focus on some new general Space Marines rules: Masters of the Chapter, and a brand new unique Chaplain litany for each first founding chapter.
The Masters of the Chapter are a series of stratagem-based upgrades for various Codex: Space Marines characters to recreate some former character options from previous editions – effectively stronger versions of Librarians, Chaplains, Apothecaries, Techmarines, Ancients, and Company Champions. These will all apply whether or not the character in question is Primaris, excepting the Company Champion and Techmarine, neither of whom have a Primaris version. Each of these character upgrades comes with two new warlord traits unique to that character and a pair of unique relics.
There are six chapter litanies now available to the first founding Codex chapters, each one which can be used by any Chaplain of the appropriate chapter, or one of their successors. Importantly, as long as they’re in a detachment entirely made up of models from their <CHAPTER> they know these in addition to their regular complement of Litanies. This makes these pure upside, and some of the more marginal/situational choices way more useful – you probably wouldn’t take them if you had to use up a slot, but as free upside when the time is right, why not?
White Scars: Strike off the Head
When this litany is inspiring, White Scars units within 6″ can re-roll their wound rolls in melee combat. With the adjustment of Guilliman, this ability to re-roll all wounds is unique among Space Marines (other than with lightning claws). Just like it was with Guilliman, these re-rolls are an incredible multiplier when trying to punch up against something tough, even pushing the White Scars favorite Assault Centurions from wounding a Knight 66.66% of the time to 88.88% of the time, a pretty notable reliability bump.
Imperial Fists: Fortress of Resolve
If this litany is inspiring, then Imperial Fist units within 6″ hit in Overwatch on both 5s and 6s. Between the extra hits from Siege Masters and the hit improvement from this litany, an Imperial Fists unit with bolt weapons will hit with the equivalent of half their shots in Overwatch, synergizing incredibly well with the generally high rate of fire from Imperial Fists units to make Imperial Fists castles nearly unassailable.
Wings Note: Not super convinced on this one, as it’s hard to set up and sometimes your opponent will just no-sell it with overwatch denial powers when you do. It’s worth remembering you have it, because hey, it’s free, but I think it’ll be rare enough for it to be what you want to do that I’d have it more like a B.
Salamanders: Selfless Saviours
If this litany is inspiring, Salamanders units within 6″ can heroically intervene as if they were characters. This is more of a surprise gotcha than the two litanies we just looked at, as it doesn’t provide a raw damage boost like White Scars or the immediate defensive benefit of Imperial Fists. What it does do however is force your opponent to position their assaults and movements more carefully, as several extra Salamanders units could easily end up intervening into combat (and activate their Shock Assault ability in the process). As an extra trick, as litanies go off at the beginning of the battle round, this can be triggered during your opponent’s turn and really dictate what choices they need to make.
Iron Hands: Medusan Furore
If this litany is inspiring, friendly units within 6″ gain +1 strength. Best used on a slam Chaplain, or defensively if your gunline gets charged, this does not synergize tremendously well with Iron Hands, as they already have tons of Overwatch firepower and aren’t usually taking a slam Chaplain.
Ultramarines: March for Macragge
If this litany is inspiring, then when advancing or charging you can re-roll any or all dice rolls of 1. Extra charge reliability is pretty fantastic, though Canticle of Hate providing a flat +2 is a better bump to charge reliability. Ultimately though, Ultramarines are doing a ton of moving by walking at normal speed to take advantage of their doctrine, and not doing a whole ton of advancing and charging.
Raven Guard: Swift as the Raven
If this litany is inspiring, friendly Raven Guard units within 6″ can shoot in a turn in which it fell back, or if they can Fly, they can charge after falling back. Raven Guard already have this ability as a stratagem, but getting it on multiple units as one of your litanies is fantastic. It can be used either to keep a gunline shooting, or to trigger Shock Assault again with a flying assault unit that got charged in the previous turn.
Wings Note: The circumstances where you want to use it are once again very narrow, but I think on the occasion it does come up it’s extremely good, so I agree with the rating on this one.
Masters of the Chapter
Each of these character upgrades starts out as a 1CP stratagem with some specific usage limitations. Each stratagem can only be used once per battle, and you also can’t have two models from the same chapter with the same upgraded keyword. This means that you can’t bring Chaplain Cassius and a Master of Sactity, or Iron Father Feirros and a Master of the Forge, or the Ultramarines supplement Chapter Ancient and Champion at the same time as you use their respective stratagems. The sets of relics and warlord traits unlocked by each upgrade are limited to that character – no unlocking them and then giving the trait or relic to a different character.
Master of Sanctity
The Master of Sanctity is an upgraded Chaplain, improving how many Litanies they can use and the potency of them.
This model knows one additional litany from the Litanies of Battle and can recite one additional litany at the start of the battle round. This is incredibly good and the vast majority of armies using a Chaplain should be thinking about activating this. If you’re including one to stick with your gunline this lets you activate both Catechism of Fire and Recitation of Focus at the same time, or use the Imperial Fists/Raven Guard litanies alongside another to protect/redeploy your castle. If your Chaplain wants to go roaming, being able to have access to Mantra of Strength without it being the only trick the model has access to is great.
Many armies will stop here, but the Chaplain Warlord traits are also worth a look, and synergize effectively with having multiple Litanies.
- Wise Orator: When you roll to determine if a litany chanted by this warlord is inspiring, you can re-roll the dice. Any time a strategy is reliant on litanies being successfully activated this trait is a huge winner. In an average battle a Chaplain will fail to inspire twice, eating key CP for re-rolls or setting back your battle plan. Mitigating that uncertainty is a big win. A
- Bellowing Firebrand: Add 3″ to the range of this warlord’s Spiritual Leader ability and all litanies chanted by this warlord. This is big news for any sort of offensive Chaplain as a support to deep striking units – a 9″ Canticle of Hate is much easier to get deep strikers in range of than a 6″ aura, and being able to hit both Canticle of Hate and Strike off the Head is awesome. A
Wings Note: Both of these are incredible, and I think which you want is determined by the role the Chaplain is playing. If they’re going to sit in your backline babysitting shooting units, probably take Wise Orator – it makes them way more likely to just do their job without any fuss and will probably save you CP over the game, especially once you’re using two a turn. If the Chaplain is going out to support mobile units, the increased range is more exciting, as it makes it way easier to set up.
Relics of the Reclusiam
- Sacrosanct Rosarius: Upgrades your rosarius’ invulnerable save to a 3+. A strong take on a buffing Chaplain as they can’t take a stormshield, this keeps your litanies alive in a sniper filled meta. Not absolutely key, but not a bad call either. B
- The Emperor’s Judgement: When resolving an attack against a model with this relic, your opponent cannot re-roll the hit, wound, or damage roll, and any morale tests made within 6″ of a model with this relic roll two dice and discard the lowest. A very cool defensive buff for a melee Chaplain, but it doesn’t really make a whole ton of sense to use. On the offense, taking the Benediction of Fury and killing things before they can swing back is more reliable than attacking with the normal crozius and hoping this keeps you alive. B
Master of The Forge
The Master of the Forge is the chief Techmarine of a chapter, and both repairs vehicles better and provides some additional buffs to their damage output. Only a “real” Techmarine character can be upgraded this way – none of the Techmarine gunners attached to Thunderfire Cannons can take any upgrades.
Simple and straightforward, the Master of the Forge always repairs 3 wounds instead of the d3 wounds of a normal Techmarine. An easy grab in any vehicle-heavy list.
- Master of the Machine: When resolving an attack made by a friendly VEHICLE model within 6″, add one to the hit roll. Huge would be a bit of an understatement for this ability. A big increase in damage output, this ability is nearly a must-take in any vehicle-heavy army, especially as adding one to hit nicely counters hit penalties from airplanes. Best thrown on a biker Techmarine to keep up with an Iron Hands or Imperial Fists airforce (3 Stormhawk Interceptors and/or 3 Stormtalons), as the 14″ move + 6″ advance dovetails nicely with a 20″ minimum move on the fliers. A+
Wings Note: Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?
- Warden of the Ancients: Increase both Strength and Attacks of friendly Dreadnoughts within 6″ of this warlord. Not a must-take like Master of the Machine, this is still a very cool ability for a more thematic army focused on melee dreadnoughts. Contemptor Dreadnoughts will be hitting at S16 around this, or Leviathans at S18, and putting out plenty of attacks on the charge. Very cool, very fun, but why wouldn’t you take Master of the Machine? B+
- Mortis Machina: This relic weapon upgrades a Power Axe to Strength +3, AP-1, damage d3, and does an additional 1 mortal wound to VEHICLES on every failed save. Effectively a power fist wihout a hit penalty, this is a reliable way to kill vehicles, but is sadly stuck on a character without a whole lot of attacks, reason to be in combat, or weapon skill. C
- The Endurant Protector: Add one toughness, and gain a 4+ invulnerable save. A big jump in defensive abilities for a character that normally wouldn’t have any invulnerable save at all, this can push a Techmarine on bike all the way up to toughness 6 with a 2+ armor save and 4+ invulnerable save. Maybe not worth taking against every opponent, but certainly a solid choice if facing off against a bunch of Eliminators. B+
The Chief Librarian is a potent upgrade to a normal Librarian, with the ability to either be better at casting powers from their discipline of choice, or being able to cast from a wider range of powers.
This character knows one additional psychic power from their chosen discipline, and can attempt to deny one additional power in their opponent’s psychic phase. This upgrade is really about the additional deny and unlocking traits and relics – many psychic disciplines don’t have three powers worth knowing, and there’s no additional cast.
Wings Note: Not all Disciplines have three good powers but some certainly do – White Scars are going to love this, even before considering High Scholar of the Librarius.
- Psychic Mastery: This warlord gains +1 on their first psychic test of a turn. More reliable casting is great, even if only on the first power – just make sure to front load the more difficult or important power.A
- High Scholar of the Librarius: This warlord can know psychic powers from any discipline they have access to, rather than only one. This takes great advantage of knowing an additional power as Chief Librarian, as they can grab two good powers from their chapter list and still tack in Might of Heroes or Null Zone. A
Wings Note: These are good but way more miss-able than the Chaplain ones for my money. The only thing really holding back how great these rules are for Space Marines is the cap on how many warlord traits etc. they can get and how much CP you have, and I don’t think these are likely to compete when they’re in a queue behind Chaplains, Techmarines and whatever warlord trait you wanted from your book in the first place. I’d have these both as B.
- Vinculum Vitae: This replaces a force sword with a version that grants +1 strength, and an unmodified wound roll of 6 inflicts d3 mortal wounds as damage instead of the normal d3 damage. As relic weapons go, this is decent, but most armies are going to have much better options to take, and librarians aren’t amazing in combat. C
- Neural Shroud: Add 12″ to the range of the Psychic Hood ability of a model with this relic. For a model that’s going to be attempting two denies instead of just one, this bonus is very useful. Needing to meet the dice roll to deny is much easier than needing to beat it, and being able to do so out to the full 24″ deny range is great. B+
An upgraded Apothecary, the Chief Apothecary is a much more situational use than the characters we’ve looked at so far. Apothecaries are relatively rare in Space Marine armies, but are occasionally seen supporting tougher infantry units such as centurions.
The Chief Apothecary can re-roll the dice to determine if a model that has been destroyed returns to that unit. One of the biggest issues with Apothecaries in the past has been the 50% chance to actually bring a model back, this upgrade bumps that up to a 75% chance,
- Father of the Future: When an INFANTRY or BIKER model in a unit within 6″ of this warlord would lose a wound, that wound is not lost on a d6 roll of a 6. If that unit has The Flesh is Weak chapter tactic, that wound is not lost on a 5+ instead. Feel No Pain auras are great, and this one is no exception. Taking the Iron Hands chapter tactic into account is a nice call for IH players, as it keeps this trait usable for them. This also keeps the Apothecary useful if they fail the resurrect roll, rather than just standing around looking dumb. B+
- Selfless Healer: This warlord can provide medical attention (heal or revive a model) twice rather than once, and can do so to either two different units or the same unit twice. While the warlord can’t shoot or assault if they fail to revive a model, they can still heal a second time even if they fail to revive the first time. This is fantastic, and fixes one of the biggest issues with the utility of an Apothecary – that a unit might have lost a model and also lost a single wound on another, and as such the Apothecary would only be able to heal the one wound. With this, they can either heal that wound and then attempt to revive a model, or revive a model and then heal it up past one wound. A
Wings Note: I’d have these the other way round. Selfless Healer is fun but I can’t see it being reliably worth sinking the resources into to turn it on. Father of the Future, on the other hand, is a slam dunk into lists that already exist, helping Imperial Fist stalker bolt rifle spam a tonne and souping up any army that really wants to battle pile.
- Acquittal: Upgrade the Bolt Pistol or Absolvor Bolt Pistol carried by an Apothecary to strength 5, AP-3, Damage 1, and against a unit that is neither a VEHICLE nor MONSTER the damage characteristic increases to d6. Cool, it hits hard, but it’s still a single shot pistol carried by a model that may not be allowed to actually shoot it, and only has a ballistic skill of 3+ anyways. D
- Healer’s Aegis: Friendly INFANTRY models have a 5+ invulnerable save whilst they are within 1″ of a model with this relic. This is individual models, not units, and requires them to be extremely close. If it’s going to be this tricky to make work, it should at least provide a strong save. D
Company Ancients that are particularly talented at waving around a banner get promoted to a Chapter Ancient, giving them a bigger banner and making them slightly more inspiring.
Wings Note: Look we checked the Codex Astartes and that’s what it says. We don’t make the rules. Guilliman must have written that bit on a tough Monday.
The Chapter Ancient gains +1 leadership, and the aura range of their banner increases from 6″ to 9″. The aura increase is the thing that matters here, the leadership change will only matter when getting attacked by a few psychic powers. Opening up the range for positioning infantry units near an Ancient is helpful, allowing them to better stay in cover or in range of objectives, and making it harder for those units to get multicharged.
- Singular Presence: Friendly INFANTRY, BIKER, and DREADNOUGHT units within 3″ can perform a Heroic Intervention as though they are characters. Much like the unique Salamanders litany we looked at earlier, this trait adds resilience to your gunline by forcing your opponent to either multicharge or get hit by units they can’t attack. At only 3″ it doesn’t hit quite as many units, but still does put pressure on precise positioning. C
Wings Note: I can sort of see battle pile lists wanting this, but I can also see them running out of trait picks way before getting this far down their priorities. I’d probably have it at B-, but it still likely doesn’t get there.
- Steadfast Example: Friendly INFANTRY units within 3″ have the Defenders of Humanity rule, and count as two models if they already have it. Potentially useful against an Ork opponent who can have significant numbers of models on the same objective that the ancient is standing near, this ability is too limited in use to rate tremendously highly. Most useful on a Terminator Ancient, allowing a deep struck Terminator squad to better contest backfield objectives. C
- Standard of Righteous Hatred: When resolving a shooting or melee attack made as a result of the Astartes Banner ability, a models ballistic and weapon skill are 2+. This does a fantastic job of maximizing the damage output of anything that dies near the Ancient, as most of those units wouldn’t ordinarily have a 2+ ballistic skill. A
- Pennant of the Fallen: Models that attack with a melee weapon as a result of the Astartes Banner ability may make two attacks instead of one. Doubling what models can do as they die is great, but begs the question of how an Ancient is making it into combat often enough to justify taking this banner instead of one that benefits both shooting and melee. C
The Chapter Champion upgrades the little-used Company Champion unit, making it a bit stronger of an anti-character melee threat.
The upgraded champion gains +1 leadership and attack, and a new special ability Skillful Parry, which subtracts one from the hit roll of melee weapons attacking the champion. These are pretty solid buffs when character hunting, bringing him up to 5 attacks base, 6 in the first round of combat. His parry ability makes him notably harder to get killed by whoever he’s fighting, giving him a solid chance to take out multiple enemy characters, and he always re-rolls all hits and wounds against CHARACTERS.
- Master Duellist: When resolving an attack with a melee weapon by a model against this warlord, on a hit roll of 1 roll one d6, on a 4+ that model’s unit suffers 1 mortal wound after that unit has finished fighting. This sounds like a relatively low chance, but when combined with the Skillful Parry ability both ones and twos will have a chance of mortal wounds, giving a reasonable chance to tag some mortal wounds on, particularly useful if the champion is killing a character and getting hit back by a surrounding unit. B
- Martial Exemplar: Friendly units within 6″ of this warlord can re-roll charges. Charge re-rolls are great, but a Chapter Champion isn’t generally likely to be in a position where nearby units are making a bunch of difficult charges. This has legs in some sort of fun trick situation where you drop a couple champions into a drop pod with Veterans. B-
- Blade of Triumph: Replacing the master-crafted power sword on the champion gives a weapon with strength +2, AP-4, damage 3. No special rules on this, just a straight forward weapon upgrade. A Chapter Champion with this has the potential to do a lot of damage. B+
- The Angel Artifice: This upgrades the save on a champion to 2+, and the invulnerable save to 4+. Both of those are strong defensive upgrades, but the champion already does have a 5+ invulnerable save, and with their ability to always fight first is better served trying to deal more damage rather than become more survivable. This can be used on the Ultramarine-specific Chapter Champion datasheet, who trades the combat shield for an additional attack at AP-2 D:1 and doesn’t have an invulnerable save normally, where it’s perhaps more useful (though the sword is still the better pick). B-
Wings Note: The Chapter Champion really shows off how much the army building rules of 8th disincentivise units outside the HQ and Troops slots and how gridlocked Marines now are in wanting to buy traits and relics. These guys are priced to move, and some of this stuff is hilarious – a Chapter Champion with the Blade of Triumph is almost certainly the deadliest model you can put on the table for 47pts – but people still aren’t going to take it most of the time.
Jack “BenBooley” Hunter
This is surprisingly well balanced for a recent Space Marines release. Although the Master of the Forge is brokenly strong, the remainder of the character upgrades are a solid incremental upgrade over their regular versions, rather than being absolute must-takes. A Space Marine army at least somewhat CP limited, so while one or two of these characters may make it into a list, they’re not likely to be excessively spammed. My favorite part of this is that everything is extremely flavorful – while some relics and traits aren’t super strong, they’re very cool to use and fit the theme of that character, so this book has something great in it for both narrative players and people on the competitive end.
Looking at the unique chapter litanies I see the same thing as with the Masters of the Chapter, where almost everything is thematic and interesting, without anything other than the White Scars litany being mandatory. These are my favorite kind of rules, as they provide interesting choices to the player rather than forcing something on them, and help narrative players theme their army.
James “One_Wing” Grover
It’s fair to say that the only thing in this book that causes me to degenerate into a screaming pile of anguished rage is Master of the Forge (which I have to really hope is due a fairly swift whack with the old nerf bat), but there’s other good stuff here too. I think the first Chaplain in almost every army takes Master of Sanctity (and often one of the traits) and the Chapter Litanies also enhance every Chaplain for free.
It is true that the drop-off after that is pretty hefty – not because the rules aren’t good (they are, and as Jack says flavourful to boot) but because Marines start rapidly being held in check around how many of them they can use. With most armies limited to three warlord traits (two on your actual warlord, one from Hero of the Chapter) Marine players start to have to make difficult choices* between lots of different abilities to find the right one for them, and while I’m sure it makes Chaos players throw up a bit in their mouths lots of competing choices that force you to prioritise is good for the game.
Marines absolutely, 100% in no way needed any of this, but at least if they had to get more rules they were relatively interesting and fun ones. Or so I’m going to keep telling myself.
- or at least will once Master of the Forge is dead, buried and the earth where once it stood salted such that nothing will grow there ever again.
Next Time: Black Templars
Now that we’ve taken a look at the newest bunch of rules that Space Marines absolutely didn’t need, but got anyways, we’re going to be looking at even another set of Space Marine rules – this time the chapter rules for everyone’s favorites, poster boys of third edition, the descendants of Sigismund, the Black Templars.