The Imperialis Militia: the Goonhammer Hot Take

Long awaited, Games Workshop have dropped a special treat for kitbashers and converters and guard players everywhere this week – the Imperialis Militia list for Horus Heresy. This isn’t the ordered, structured uniform army that the Solar Auxilia is, but instead a chaotic, ragtag, multitudinous mess of different traditions, structures and groupings. Each world raises its own Imperialis Militia when it is brought into compliance and so an army like this should be wildly varied, incredibly flexible and give you an opportunity to play with a wealth of different models.

Thankfully that’s exactly what they’ve delivered. Let’s go on a whistle stop tour of what’s in this list, what it means, and see if it lives up to the expectations.

New Unit Sub-Types

These rules introduce three new unit sub-types that dramatically change the way in which units in the army function.

First up is the Militia sub-type, which primarily alters how morale works for these units. This is a neat way of altering the basic leadership rules without lumbering units with a Leadership score so low that they’re effectively unusable (well in theory, because in practice a bunch of units have LD6 and below which feels unnecessary). Instead, if the unit is below half strength they simply can’t regroup, leading them to fall back until off the table or the game ends. In addition, they can be forced to take a test to fall back if they’re already locked in combat and then charged again – this means that multiple charges can drive back a unit immediately without any fighting needing to happen.

The Third Line sub-type is for the old, out-dated and otherwise rusting vehicles of the militia pressed into service. These vehicles are much more vulnerable (all glances being treated as penetrating hits against them), but never count for victory points for destroying them. This is a decent compromise – it means your vehicles are going to be shoddy (basically all of them get it), but you don’t have to worry so much about losing them.

Mechanised units are kind of like Dreadnoughts without the marine inside – armoured, resistant to poison, able to shoot heavy weapons on the move, affected by Haywire, etc but also not fearless and so on, and without the protection against instant death. This is basically the rule for sentinels.

Scout Sentinel. Rockfish
Scout Sentinel. Rockfish

Warlord Traits

The Imperialis Militia get more than a full spread of warlord traits, which is a fantastic thing for an army in the expanded rules. They all get an extra reaction in one phase too, which I haven’t listed here for brevity. They are:

  • Ruthless Tyrant which gives them Fear (1) that also applies to their own unit, but they can execute members of nearby units that would fall back to prevent it, kind of like a really scary commissar
  • Merchant Princeling has entirely master-crafted gear, and promotes one unit of militia to be a lifeguard that’s Heavy and gets some buffs
  • Beloved of the People is unusual in that it doesn’t hand out buffs until the commander is dead, at which point everyone in the same detachment gets some good assault buffs for a turn. It also has a very cool special rule where when the commander is dead they give a reaction in the assault phase rather than a shooting phase. This is awesome and fluffy and fun, love it.
  • Marcher Lord gives the commander Battle Hardened (1) and also makes all units in the army immune to fear if there are only Imperialis Militia detachments in the army. Plus the army auto-passes the first pinning test it makes each turn.
  • Connoisseur of Alien Curios is the wackiest of the options, letting you choose to activate an alien artifact each turn and rolling on a table which can give you range of effects, from blowing up, to zapping an enemy, to buffing the commander’s unit for combat, to giving the commander Eternal Warrior and Feel No Pain (4+) for the remainder of the battle!
  • Robber Baron is absolutely wild. It gives the commander and their unit +1 Strength on the charge, but stops them making sweeping advances. However if they would make a sweeping advance but can’t because of this rule, they roll a die and on a 4+ they get 1d3 VP.

All in all a wild combination of crazy, fluffy, and actually good traits (some manage to be more than one of these).

Provenances of War

When you take a Force Commander you can choose up to two provenances to apply to all militia units in the same detachment. You don’t have to choose them (but why would you not?) and they’re free. You can’t ever have more than 2 in the same detachment. Some of them are incompatible, to stop you stacking provenances that would be too powerful together, but these are mostly reasonable and honestly don’t limit you much.

Cadian Castellan. Credit: Jack Hunter

So, without further ado, let’s just run through them:

  • Warrior Elite gives +1 Leadership and makes Grenadier Squads your compulsory troop option instead of Militia Squads. If you want to use the modern plastic guard kits, especially the Cadian squads, you’ll need to use this so you can field 10 model squads with two special weapons in each.
  • Legacy of the Great Crusade gives your elite squads a boost to Ballistic Skill.
  • Clanfolk Levy lets you fill all your compulsory slots with cavalry and get more fast attack slots for cavalry so you can be the Mongols, but in Space.
  • Gene-Crafted makes you roll for each affected unit at the start of the game and usually gives you Fleet (2), Move Through Cover or Night Vision (you choose) but has a small chance of making them start the battle pinned, and has a small chance of giving you a larger selection of special rules to pick from (including Relentless and Stubborn that are great)
  • Cyber-augmetics gives everyone a Feel No Pain (6+) and the Slow and Purposeful rule, and makes the army sworn brothers with the mech. Folks, this is how we’re doing skitarii armies.
  • Alchem-jackers stops leadership penalties in the assault phase and if they’d fail a test in the shooting phase but are above half strength are pinned instead of falling back (which is good, because falling back is close to a death sentence for militia). Plus you can give units Furious Charge (1) for 25pts a unit if you like.
  • Survivors of the Dark Age lets your elite troops (command cadres and grenadier squads) take rhinos, drills or land raiders as dedicated transport options (though these all get the third line sub-type to make em less good). You can also give your recon squads jet packs, which is hilarious.
  • Armoury of Old Night lets you upgrade lasguns to las rifles for no cost, and then on grenadier squads upgrade all their weapons to a relevant volkite or needler version of the gun (including the heavy versions) for +30pts a squad flat. Plus the commander can take a paragon blade and archaeotech pistol if they like.
  • Feral Warriors gives units +1WS on a charge, and lets them buy chainaxes, but they have to charge if they’re within 12″ of something.
  • Kinfolk Helots is what you use for squat armies! They get a toughness buff but a slight penalty to movement and initiative. All the characters also all get Battlesmith (6+), and ICs get 5+ instead, which is neat.
  • Abhuman Muster is for beastmen, who get a Strength buff, but a BS penalty and are Bulky. Characters get some level of Hammer of Wrath.
  • Debased Rabble is traitor only, and is for cultists, basically. They get Crusader and Hatred (everything) but have to declare charges and you can’t bring Grenadier squads.
  • Tainted Flesh is another traitor only provenance, and is for weird cultists. They get Fear (1) and Furious Charge (1) but have to bulk out their ranks with lots of levy squads and can’t take more of other infantry than they take of those.
  • Ogryn Conscripts lets you take Ogryn Brute Squads as troops, and any compulsory choices get Line. It also lets you circumvent the normal restrictions on characters joining those squads, so you can run a Mostly Ogre Army which rules.
  • Industrial Stronghold gives you two extra Heavy Support slots you have to fill with Leman Russes, and you can bulk out russ squads to six tanks each which is wild.
  • Unending Horde is absolutely fascinating. It gives the Endless Horde (4+) special rule to Infantry Squads and Levy Squads. This rule means that when the unit is removed from play (last model taken off the table) then you roll and on a 4+ you get an identical unit at full strength in reserve to bring on. This is absolute bonkers, and I love it in every way.

These are great. What a fantastic, crazy selection of options to let you create really lovingly bizarre armies. Not all of them are good, but you can absolutely make some great stuff out of these. I’ll be running Warrior Elite and Legacy of the Great Crusade most of the time for my cadians, but that’s absolutely the most boring possibility here. It’s awesome.


Your warlord will be the Force Commander, and as these are what let you take provenances you’re almost certainly taking one. At 100 points they’re expensive, but they do unlock cool options for your force, and even better, and this is important, you can put them on a horse. Super cool. They have the usual spread of options, and you can go full force into putting them in power armour and having lots of toys but probably you won’t bother as he’s not very “fighty”. I don’t fully understand what the provenance special rule does here that Muster of War doesn’t, is my only real quibble.

Next is the Discipline Master Cadre, which work a bit like apothecaries in that they get assigned to units and they let you reroll morale tests in exchange for some wounds and… look, they’re commissars. They’re just commissars. They’re 20 points and kind of cool.

Rogue Psykers give you some brain-melting assistance, and they’re interesting, and Traitor only. They don’t get a choice of psychic disciplines, instead just getting Anathemata. This basically lets you summon demons (one unit at a time) and shoot void darts at people. They can be accompanied by up to 9 “wardens” who are basically a bodyguard.

Command Cadres are the classic five model group with a lieutenant and some veterans supporting them. They’re the “3 across the board” statline that most of these units are, so they’re definitely not standing up to marines, but they can have a special weapon and a standard in the squad (which makes them stubborn), and you can upgrade the unit to a full 20 dudes which is kind of wild when you realise you can take one of these as a retinue for your force commander and then fill out the others so your HQ slots can have 60 models in them.

The unit of Xenos cultists might be Primitive Infantry with the Hive Mind special rule

Onto troops we basically have three core flavours: Infantry Squads are 20 models strong, can have a single special weapon, are line and are cheap – 80 points before upgrades, making them 4 points a model. Levy Squads are also 20 models strong at base, but unlike infantry squads can take up to another thirty making them 50 strong units. They’re also half the price (2 points a model) but then they have WS2 and BS2 so uh… yeah. They also don’t give kill point VP. Both of these are unusual in that they have the Strength in Numbers special rule letting you take up to three units of them in one slot meaning that you can fill each troops slot with 150 models if you want. You can fill your Compulsory Troops slots with 300 models. It’ll cost you 600 points. This is so stupid it’s barely comprehensible, but if you have the models more power to you.

Credit: BuffaloChicken

Finally our third core flavour are Grenadier Squads which is what you (and I) will be running if you have the new Cadian kit. They’re ten models strong, and can take up to 10 more, and up to 2 models can take a special weapon. They get better armour (carapace) and they get more stuff (frag and krak grenades, the lucky devils) and have a bunch of possible upgrades. They have the support squad rule but you can change that with provenances easily enough. They’re 75 points, which is 7.5pts per model at base, and honestly they don’t feel great for that – that’s pretty pricey, all told. Despite this they have the opportunity, with some careful stacking, to pack a punch.

Moving beyond our core Line choices, Fire Support Squads are heavy weapon teams but any other name, while Reconnaissance Squads are light scout squads with shotguns, or maybe sniper rifles/long las, and can infiltrate. They pretty much do what you’d expect. Both are badly overpriced. A Fire support squad with lascannons clocks in at a hefty 105pts for three on BS3 – not a good comparison to heavy support marine squads. A recon squad is 10 points a model base, despite extras being 5 points each, which just feels too much. It’s a shame because it would be good for these to be good – cheaper, and they might be.

Medicae Detachments are our first elite picks, and they’re… well, they’re apothecaries in flak armour. They attach to units, give them a 6+ Feel No Pain. What you’d expect, and cheap-ish at 40pts for 3 and then 12 points for more of them.

Ogryn Brute Squads are up next and I like them a lot. Bunch of attacks, pretty tough, and you can upgrade them to be pretty nasty especially on mass. 5 with boarding shields, caparace armour and a brute is 225pts and they’ll rip through a fuck of a lot just by weight of arms. It would be nice to let them have some better melee weapons, but now I’m imagining these guys with power weapons and deciding may it was a better choice to leave it as it was.

Field Gun Batteries are the new field ordinance batteries for 40k (like, very clearly) and they’re nice though odd in an Elites slot. They’re 45 for one gun and then 40 for additional ones and they’re fine. Like, they don’t actually do a lot of damage, but they’re big guns that go boom and they’re decently tough.

Field Ordinance Battery. Rockfish
Field Ordinance Battery. Rockfish

Onto Fast Attack! Arvus Lighters are bad. They always are. I don’t know why. Why would you waste a slot on one of these. The Cargo-8 Hauler Squadron is an insane and amazing inclusion and I have no idea why they did it but I love them for it. It has a 22-model carry capacity, can come in fleets of 3. You can take an “upgrade” to armour it and make it hold less dudes, but come on this is for your crazy hordes of guys to leap out of because you’re playing Mad Max: Fury Road now. This is the coolest shit.

Cavalry Squads are rough riders and they’re actually not half bad. Fast, hit quite hard on the charge, and they’re not that expensive – 10 points a model, or 15pts with a lance. I think this could turn out to be a strong pick when the dust settles. Beastmasters on the other hand are uh… a choice? I love that they included them, but I wish they’d given them better rules.

Sentinel Squadrons look pretty fun, but they’re perhaps a touch over-costed at 60pts each. That said they’re a 3+ save unit with lots of wounds, decent toughness, that are fast and have scout. They can be an effective denial unit at the very least. It is odd though that their rules here don’t seem to reflect the modern kit – where’s the chainsword?

Thunderbolt Fighters are hampered by being a flyer in an edition that’s not kind to them, and then even more vulnerable thanks to the Third Line sub-type. At least they’re only 120pts for a decent number of guns.

Into Heavy Support and we have the Rapier Battery in yet another list, and as they can arm laser destroyers they’re a good source of serious firepower, especially at 30 points a piece. These will be the mainstay of a good Militia list I think. The Malcador might be too, as it is cheap as hell at only 185pts and can load an awful lot of weaponry. Even with Third-line AV 13 on Front and Sides is not half bad. You can probably even just about get away with using the Dorn as a proxy if you’re me, and love the Dorn.

But the Leman Russ is kind of the star of this force org slot – 120pts for the old reliable (even with Third-line AV14 on the front is bonkers good) and a Vanquisher with coaxial autocannon for 5pts? Never say no. Once again though, and this is almost comical, you cannot take sponsons on it. Why?? Why can’t you take sponsons? Honestly so stupid. They also don’t get squadrons on the unit entry itself, but you should basically take Industrial Stronghold for this reason.

Valhallan Leman Russ. Credit: SRM

Heavy Ordinance Batteries are for your really big guns, but unfortunately even at 75pts a shot the Earthshaker is just not good. The Gorgon Heavy Transporter carries on the theme of “very large” and makes my ears prick up because it’s AV15 on the front and also carries 40 guys and so you can bring some very very wacky units inside it in this list. It’s even super-heavy which helps mitigate some of the downsides of third-line. At 250pts it’s expensive, but you can really load it up with guns, and honestly three of these with 40 levies in each is kind of cool. I want to see it on the table. Is it good? Fuck, probably not. But I want to see it.

Finally we round out the picks with the Baneblade which… I mean it’s a Baneblade. It’s mercifully only 400pts unlike some of the Baneblades we’ve seen this edition, and it’s big and has guns and is quite tough (though third-line takes a bit of that edge off).

Wrap Up

What Games Workshop have delivered with this list, beyond anything else, is flavour and fun. Which I absolutely salute and respect. Is this list likely to start winning lots of games and sweeping trophies? Probably not, but there are definitely builds in here that can compete, either alone or as an allied detachment. Industrial Stronghold lists with a bucket of very cheap Russes could be nasty as an allied detachment, and Whoops All Horses deserves a second look. But the key thing, for this hot take, is that it deserves a second look. It’s great to have rules for this and not just get more and more disheartened as you read them – I got excited, pumped, dare I say even jazzed reading these rules. I want to throw models on the table and try it out. That’s a great success.

There are some gaps and lacks though. I don’t have a way to run my karskin, which is a shame because I had them literally shipped around the world because they’re absurdly hard to get hold of. But that’s a me problem. Other than that, it’s a few oddities – some ways to have more special weapons would be good. Sponsons for russes would be good. Maybe a modular tank type to represent wackier vehicles? A buggy or something? And there are a few things that are over costed – especially lascannons (which I’d welcome if it was a general increase in cost for them, but we’ve not seen any indication of that in other lists).

But considering everything, they did a good job here, and I think we’ll all have fun with it.

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