The Narrative Forge: Building Our Crusade Armies

We’ve been talking about Warhammer 40k 9th edition’s new Crusade game mode for the past few weeks, which has players build their own unique armies that evolve and grow over time, accruing relics and experience, amassing upgrades, and building a narrative. If you missed our review of Crusade, we’d highly recommend you go check it out here. And if you’re looking for advice on running a campaign, check out our thoughts on that here.

Today we’re going to talk about building Crusade armies, specifically by looking at the ones we’re building, what we’re thinking, and the Narratives we’re Forging with them. We’ll also be talking about why we picked these armies, what they’re going to look like to start (and how we plan to grow them), and what we’re spending our initial 5 RP on.

Crab-stuffed Mushroom’s Adeptus Custodes

Adeptus Custodes Custodian Guard by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

Everyone’s excited for the new rules from a competitive standpoint, but I’m keen to have a shot at Crusade: It’s an opportunity to tell a story and try things that you may not have been willing to do in Matched Play. I decided I’d start with a story for my force and go from there.

I picked these guys mainly because they paint their pauldron and robes purple, which is the same as my guys! Thematically, I should have some good opportunities as well:

“The Aquilan Shield are an informal brotherhood laced through the ranks of the Adeptus Custodes. They typically operate in small warrior bands, journeying across the stars to stand watch over their charges wherever they may be. No warning is given nor permission asked – the warriors of the Aquilan Shield appear as if from nowhere, avatars of the Emperor’s will who announce their quarry to be under the protection of the Master of Mankind. Such an honour is beyond compare, and is never refused no matter the circumstances or the individual chosen.” – Pg 24: Adeptus Custodes

Who (or what) will their quarry be? It’s too early to say, which is my way of saying I have no idea, just yet. I’m hoping the story will write itself as I play the Crusade missions.

I’m resisting the urge to build for matched play, which means no Jetbike Captain to start with. Instead, I’ll base my army off the Forge World exclusive model, Ixion Hale:

Ixion Hale by Crab-stuffed Mushrooms

There’s no backstory for this guy, other than being a Tribune during the Horus Heresy – so that gives me a nice canvas.

Assuming you’re using the Crusade Mission pack from the new book, Combat Patrol missions limit you to 25 Power Level (PL) and you must use the Patrol detachment (unless you play Imperial or Chaos Knights, which can use the Super-heavy Detachment). So even though you start with a Supply Limit of 50 Power Level, you should build with a 25 PL Combat Patrol in mind. 25 is a tough level for Custodes, so I decided to stick with the basics for my first three units. I rounded out the remaining Order of Battle with some Vertus Praetors (Jetbikes) and a Telemon.

The last choice took me over 50 Power Level, so I spent a requisition point to bring my Supply Limit up to 55. I spent another requisition point to give my Captain a Warlord Trait (Impregnable Mind, which allows him to Deny The Witch) and a further Requisition Point on “Specialist Reinforcements” to give him access to the “Captain Commander” strategem from Psychic Awakening: War of The Spider (I chose “Strategic Mastermind”, giving him a chance to refund Command Points). At this point I was on a roll, so I spent another requisition point to give him access to a Relic (The “Eagle’s Eye” for a +1 to his invulnerable save). This left me with a single Requisition Point, which I’ll hold on to for safekeeping:


Coda*’s Swords Of Davion

*The cool and also very good.

Crusade is the part of 9th I’m massively excited for. Seriously, an entire dedicated part of the game for narrative hijinks? Sign me the hell up. With the release of the blade guard/assault intercessor combo, I’m temporarily abandoning my chaos army and returning to my Swords of Davion project. People will say that this is a ‘bold and brave‘ move and they will be totally right to think that.

Khonsu of The Pure Chaos Space Marine Sorcerer with jump pack by Tyler "Coda" Moore
That said, there is no way that Khonsu’s merry band of idiots doesn’t end up in Crusade eventually. by Tyler “Coda” Moore


One thing that others have pointed out about crusade is that it’s more suited to developing characters rather than plugging something in that already has a massive whirling backstory. Think newly minted Captains rather than established Chapter Masters. This means that my Chapter Master, Tiberius Rex, will be staying at home for a little while. His time will come, but for now I have to answer the question of who lead my Crusade?

The answer narratively could only be one. Owain. The chapter exile. The astartes charged with performing 12 mighty labors.

Space Marine Swords of Davion Chapter Champion Emperor's Champion
Owain, in unhappier, more exiled times. Painted by Tyler “Coda” Moore

I’ve decided to progress Owain’s story a little and have his last, mighty quest of being the first Astartes of the Swords of Davion to take the Calgarian Rites and cross the Rubicon Primaris. He barely succeeds, dying on the operating table three times, seemingly fighting visions of man with the head of a hound, but with that task complete he finds himself back in the Chapter proper.

However he still lacks a role, with his former 2ic duties in the 2nd company currently being filled by The Red Fox and Lunter. Instead he returns to the first company, and becomes one of the Chapter Master’s two Equerries, who effectively act as LT of the first. One playing the role of valiant champion, the Chapter Master’s voice and blade, while the other provides his liege’s eyes and ears, taking on chapter’s more secretive affairs.

Credit: Tyler Moore.

Soon to be armed with a massive sword, shield and winged jump pack, there is no hiding which of these roles Owain plays. Above is the hopefully baller WIP model for him that I’m planning to have ready for paint by the end of the week. I’m aiming for a “I’m totally done with this chaos bullshit and this entire endless war thing in general to be honest” vibe, which the Store Anniversary model has in spades.

As for the force itself, it’s mostly their to support Owain’s new and exciting mission. This army will attempt bend the ears and eyes of the Imperium towards the warp rift cut off Davion sector by whatever means possible. Owain and his force will find themselves playing champion, diplomat and at times, thief. Should they fail, it is rumoured that the besieged might of Imperial Davonic Republics will cut themselves off from the Imperium and strike out alone, formally abandoning the rule Terra. While Crusade doesn’t cover kill team or linked games yet, Kill Team Agravain will also be tagging and providing deniable ‘support’ for when this hopefully happens.

With this in mind splurged a shitload (4) of my initial RP on GETTING MORE COOL STUFF which allows me to have a force with a recce element for finding secrets/tech, a fighty element for showing fellow imperials how cool Davionic swordsmanship is and a ‘oh fuck tanks/flyers are a thing‘ element. Two of these are narrative driven, one of them is not. I leave it up to you, dear reader, to figure out which is which. Scholars also will say things like “Tyler crusade games start at, like, 25 power” and I will say “I don’t care. I want my cool stuff. Gimme them options right now!” 

Like how can I not want to have the ability to field the Stormhawk “Murphy’s Law” in a game?


Swords of Davion Stormhawk Interceptor with diorama base Credit: Tyler "Coda" Moore
Swords of Davion Stormhawk Interceptor with diorama base Credit: Tyler “Coda” Moore

The last RP was giving Owain the Warlord Trait, CHAMPION OF HUMANITY, which fits his background as marine that made his way back to the fold by completing a literal herculean effort of 12 mighty labors, most of which where killing large amounts of chaos astartes in single combat. Note that I didn’t give him a COOL RELIC SWORD, which let me tell you is hard as hell for someone like me to pass up. Instead I’m going to be patient, give him a Relic Blade or Thunder Hammer and proceed to pump it full of every upgrade on the crusade weapon upgrade table as soon as I can.

As for how I’m going to keep track of this, I’m going to be lazy as hell and wait for an cool app or spreadsheet to come into being, which I will take and cover in dark green paint, ripped off Arthurian myth and hopefully, good times.


Charlie Brassley’s Cobalt Scions

Credit: Charlie Brassley

The Cobalt Scions: my answer to the question “What if Ultramarines, but somewhere else, and with Roman flaws as well as Roman qualities?” These ambitious off-brand smurfs are keen to create their own tiny version of Ultramar out in the Eridani Sector, a goal which will doubtless go down SO SMOOTHLY with the local planetary governors, the Inquisition and, well, everyone. Hopefully the fact that my entire gaming group seem to have plumped for various flavours of Heretic Astartes suggests that I’ll have opportunities to come in and helpfully stage “temporary” coups in the interests of defending the area. You know, just until there’s no more credible threats.

Since this is a small but growing marine army with a power level of 30, Crusade couldn’t have come at a better time. Right now this force lacks serious AT firepower, with 5 hellblasters currently being the best I have to offer in that department. I smell a repulsor executioner in their future. And more intercessors, of course, just as soon as I can summon the will to attack that many edge highlights.

The initial Requisition Points will go on the obligatory Trait and Relic for Captain Lucullus, although I may also drop a few more on relics for my sergeants. Full disclosure, I’ve yet to get a chance to read the Crusade rules, so who knows, maybe another option will jump out as the clear winner?


TheChirurgeon’s Death Guard, Gang Green

Credit: TheChirurgeon

I’m finally putting my money where my mouth is and now that I have a decent army’s worth of painted Death Guard, they’ll make a wonderful Crusade army. The Gang Green are a group of Mortarion’s Chosen Sons lead by Ruvak, a merciless Lord of Contagion marked for greatness. He’s on a quest to sow havoc and discord and through spreading Grandfather’s plagues, achieve Apotheosis, becoming a Daemon Prince and gaining immortality. He’s got the Harbinger of Nurgle upgrade and the Revoltingly Resilient Warlord Trait. He’s also flanked by his trusted advisors and line brothers from their days before the Heresy – Artemiy is the group’s Plague Surgeon, who advises Ruvak and keeps the warband healthy. Or something approaching that, by Nurgle standards. He trained under Fabius Bile for a time in the famed Consortium and is armed with Hypertoxic Tinctures.

On the other side is Dengar, a Foul Blightspawn with a grim demeanor who helps keep order among the warband and helps manage some of their daemon engines when they act up. I’ve saved 2 Requisition Points for use later, and haven’t settled on a relic yet. My plan is to add some Blightlords next, but that’ll take at least 14 power, so it’s gonna be a while.


Mugginns’ Order of the Onyx Candle

When the pandemic started and our FLGS shut down, I wanted to figure out something to do that would help the store but did not want to make it overly complicated. I decided I was going to start a new force for 9th Edition, entirely different from anything I’ve played before, and I’d buy everything from the store.

I settled on Adepta Sororitas or Sisters of Battle. To be honest, I’ve never really liked them that much, but with the new model update and after reading some of their rules, I wanted to give them a shot. They’re way different from Genestealer Cults which I’ve been playing since before 8th Edition started, and they’re a natural enemy for GSC.

Credit: Mugginns

Apologies for the poor force shot here, but this is what I am going to start with. Here is the composition:

It is a lot of stuff with minimal size units, but from what I have read from Goonhammer. I want a lot of battle sisters with storm bolters. I am starting with a well-rounded force with some fast attack, some heavy, etc. to see what each unit does.

In particular, I really love the model for Junith Eurita, so I had to include her, which makes my force Our Martyred Lady. She’s here to make sure Cannoness Rhianne gets the job done so to speak. The job is to recover the sacred bones of Sister Ophelia that were buried under the Tainted Chapel. The Chapel wasn’t always tainted, but a cult has taken up roost in the outpost town of Swartz Gulch so the sisters have been dispatched.


Beanith’s Crusade Force – The Spoiled Hams

Beanith's Crusade Force - The Spoiled Hams
Beanith’s Crusade Force – The Spoiled Hams

If you think that’s illegible then you should have seen the first draft that I inflicted on poor Rob. Man, it really hammers home why I’m not wasting $55 dollarydoos on the A5-sized Crusade Diary Journal, or by it’s much cooler German name, the KREUZZUGSLOGBUCH!

So I’ve decided that I’m continuing my journey with the Death Guard from my Beanith’s Road to… NoVA and not dive headfirst into an Indomitus box to build my beloved biker children and then proceed to make broom broom noises for hours on end as they do sick burnouts and jumps on my painting desk. Instead I will be learning how to best use what I have by going on a Crusade into the 9th edition. And since my first few battles will be with Coda (he is actually pretty cool and good in the meat space), I can almost certainly expect to be met with the renowned Swords fetishists of Dave.

For my Narrative backstory, there really isn’t one beyond the starting point where the Malignant Plaguecaster is wanting to attract the attention of his Senpai, the Daemon Prince. That said, whenever I get on the narrative train, I like to start everyone off as a nameless mook. So when they eventually do something cool and/or stupid, they then earn a name and the beginnings of a backstory. A prime example of this would be my Aberrant from my Necromunda GSC gang. He started life as a boring bland George but when he murked several fighters in one game, he quickly became Furious George seeking to vent his fury on those that would dare try and hurt the patriarch in the yellow hat.

So starting with the Malignant Plaguecaster, he is included for smites and buffs and I decided to spend an RP here to give him the Wormspitter Relic bolt pistol for a giggle. Hopefully the smites can help deal with the avalanche of storm shields and suspiciously sharp and pointy sword hammers  headed my way.

Foul Blightspawn – It’s a Death Guard List.

Three squads of Plague Marines and a squad of meatshields to maybe sit on objectives and then make all of their saves and not fail any Disgusting Resilience saves… I can dream damnit.

Plagueburst Crawler – See Foul Blightspawn. Also it’s a tiny snotty dozer. What’s not to love?

Thanks to Liam’s Miniature Review of the Veermyn Tunneller, I am also now the proud owner of a “count as” Assault Drill and of course me being me, I want to play with my newest toy right away. It’s even more fun if you spend a RP to give it Disgusting Resilience so it might survive it’s head long charge into a nest of snipers or contemptor dreadnought. Drill goes brrrt indeed.

I’ll be dipping my toes in with a couple of Combat Patrol missions off the bat so looking at my roster, I can probably get away with the Plaguecaster, two squads of Marines and the Foul Blightspawn at 24PL. I also like the idea of the Plaguecaster, Marine/Cultist and either the dozer or drill too. In terms of Agenda, from the few I have seen, Survivor seems like a gimme as well as Sentinel. There’s probably a cheesy Psyker one I could probably take too.

Should any of my units actually gain Battle Honors, I plan on using my old faithful house rule of “Roll 2d6 for unit upgrades and picking from that.” I’m a big fan of Random and the Illusion of Choice.

I will almost certainly be using RP to increase my Supply Limit so I can fill out a squad of marines and maybe rearm for close combat. At some point in August I’m also hoping to receive my Kickstarter Daemon Prince so I’ll need to add him in too. And maybe some happy little Myphitic Blight-haulers to toddle about the field. Or I could be competitive for a change and grab a small Nurgle Daemon detachment… but Greg’s crown calls out to me so no I say!

As for actually keeping track of all this? Whilst I’d love for the Warhammer 9th Ed app to be the greatest thing since sliced bread and be the Crusade equivalent that Yaktribe is for Necromunda, I’m more than likely going to stick with a google doc/sheet for now.

Beanith's Death Guard Project
So I’m going to take this and?


Felime’s Order of the Martyr’s Tears

Sororitas Crusade Army Group Shot
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

I’m extremely excited for Crusade. My plan is to rock some sisters from the Order of the Martyr’s Tears. I love sisters in white armor, but didn’t want to paint black cloth in addition to the white, and this way I can use whatever order rules I want.

Felime Crusade Roster
The Order of the Martyr’s Tears Survivors

This force is going to do double duty in both a small narrative campaign with Path to Glory elements with a few other goonhammer writers, as well as in Rob’s excellent Astradus Campaign. I haven’t fully decided on their background for the Astradus Campaign. For Path to Glory, they’re a small group of survivors from the outskirts of the shrine world Vesta VII, battling the other factions to survive the planet’s destruction and escape the surface before it quite literally falls apart.

Palatine Apraxia Val
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

In their struggle for survival, they’re led by the Palatine Apraxia Val, Warden of the Outer Shrines. Crusade is a great excuse to convert up interesting and unique characters. A little bit of kitbashing and you can end up with something really memorable to bash your friends faces in. Apraxia is a Palatine (a rank just below Cannoness, befitting a really rag-tag crew of survivors), charged with protecting the shrines and pilgrim routes far from the main settlements. Both from bandits preying on pilgrims, and from the new xenos threats that have come to the world.

Sisters of Battle Repentia
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

She is aided in her task by a mix of regular Sororitas troops and a number of penitents exiled from the main abbeys to contemplate their sins in the meditative crucible of battle. Those that survive their penance may rejoin their sisters, while those that do not have the stains on their souls wiped clean by blood. Coming up with backstories for your units and why they are there is a lot of fun. In 40k almost every unit has a history that can be worth exploring, whether it’s a guard squad’s conscription or a Repentia’s journey of penitence.


PantsOptional’s Saints Penitent

If you’re one of the seven people reading Battle Bros, you know that head58 and I are extremely turnt for Crusade. This will almost certainly bite us in the ass when we actually begin to play and become disenchanted with the rules but until then it’s the honeymoon, baby!

I’ll keep this light and sweet because we’re almost certainly going to talk about our Crusade forces at some point in the future and we hell of covet those clicks. My Crusade force will be my Saints Penitent, an Imperial Fist Successor Chapter that I’ve been building since 2014 when I surrendered all pretense of fiscal responsibility and got back into 40k. This may seem like a bit of a cop-out but the truth of it is that I haven’t really grown the force to an appreciable degree for years now due to starting three other armies along the way. I especially didn’t have much in the way of Primaris until lately, so that’s really what the focus will be on for the most part.

Captain Rostov and some of the boys feelin cute

The Saints are, in some ways, exactly what you think they are: a joke premise that I rolled with in the way that a nerd with too much time on his hands always does. Originally created out of pressure to make a Third Street Saints army, I worked up a whole history behind the scenes and gave every single character names because of course I did. None of that matters to anyone but me really and it definitely doesn’t stop anyone at games stores from commenting on my Emperor’s Children every single time I bring them out.

My force isn’t the most sensible one, but it’s a lot of models that I completed either just before or during quarantine and I really just want to get to play with my new dolls. (I never claimed to be a wise man.) My starting RP will be spent on a Relic and Warlord Trait and I’ll hold on to the rest to pay off the inevitable cavalcade of Battle Scars. As far as future growth, the two words that matter are “Indomitus box.” Aside from a few models like the Primaris Chaplain and the Outriders which will be sent to the Deathwatch, all the Marines from that box are my planned expansions.


MasterSlowPoke’s Grey Knights

While I am certainly going to paint as many rainbows as quickly as possible onto the Indomitus marines, I want to use Crusade as an opportunity to get a force together from my backlog. I have long toyed with the idea of running Grey Knights, and 9th is a great reason to put them on the table. I’ve already worked out a shiny blued silver when I painted my Gotfreit from Blackstone Fortress.

Credit: Craig “MasterSlowPoke” Sniffen

Grey Knights are absolutely constrained when it comes to building a Crusade Roster. I definitely want a Dreadknight Grand Master and a small unit of Paladins in my roster, and right there I’ve already exhausted nearly half of my Requisition Points! I’ll definitely need a cheaper HQ if I want to play Combat Patrol games, so I’m throwing in a Chaplain as well – I was lucky enough to get ahold of a store opening Chaplain, so he’s perfect to join my Grey Knights. A single Strike Squad is all but mandatory, and I’m going to wrap up the roster with a shooty Venerable Dreadnought and a Paladin Ancient. I’ll need to spend one RP on reinforcements but it’s worth the tiny amount of flexibility.

As far as options go, I’m still not sure what weapons to go with. Falchions seem great, but are really expensive if I take these to points level games. If any veteran Grey Knights players have any suggestions I’d love to read them in the comments. For my starting Requisition, I think it’s worth the 2 RP to give my Grand Master a Warlord Trait and a Relic. He is going to be a primary target in every game, and I will appreciate the added reliability they give him.


head58’s Strike Force Roundhammer

Strike Force Roundhammer is an exploratory unit of the Stygius Crusade. Comprised of Adeptus Astartes of the Iron Hands’ Clan Borrgos, Roundhammer is a lighter (for Iron Hands at least – only one dreadnought!) scouting unit assaying worlds for Chaos and xenos infestation as they try to join up with other elements of the crusade force. They are cut off in the Segmentum Obscurus, resources are limited, and enemies are everywhere.

head58’s Strike Force Roundhammer

I’m just starting out in 40K and so my model selection is fairly limited just yet as I’m actually building to Babby’s First Army. After losing shamefully to my Pants Optional in our first couple learning games I’m hoping to start a Crusade campaign either with him or with a friend who has the worst dice luck I have ever seen. As I take Battle Scars to my forces I plan to chop off limbs on the models and replace them with bionics, because Iron Hands.

I’m going to sit on my initial Requisition Points for now, maybe saving up for a sweet, sweet Relic Contemptor with double pew pews or something. But my short term plan is to make Brother Ariax a Chief Apothecary (he’s the real hero of the story), incorporate some units from the Indomitus box, and increase each of my Intercessors from 5 to 10 models. I plan to focus more on adding infantry to the force since vehicles and dreadnoughts are likely hard to come by in the Stygius Sector – they will come last. 


Primaris Kevin’s Marines Malevolent

With all of the really cool assault-focused stuff coming out of the Indomitus box, I wanted to do something a little different from my Regal Skulls. The combination of mobility and focus on assault makes White Scars a really interesting faction from a rules perspective, but what army to make? I like the color scheme of the Marines Malevolent, so after experimenting with a test model I decided to move forward and make a full army. And thus Crusade 105 was born.

The probability that this guy will have any painted friends depends entirely on the relative humidity of the DC region being low enough to spray paint outdoors. So not likely. Credit: Kevin Genson

The rules for Crusades are a little bit different than regular games. Adding enhancements, a Warlord trait, or a Relic require you to allocate Requisition Points. The bonuses are also permanent (unless the model is removed from the Order of Battle), and there doesn’t seem to be any way to apply double trait Stratagems like Tempered by Wisdom. Enhancement Stratagems can only be applied when the unit is created, and Relics or Warlord Traits can only be applied on creation or when the unit gains a rank from experience. This means you should be a little more thoughtful with how you create your characters and units. In my case I decided it would be cool to have a fast-attacking force that leverages the Outrider models from Indomitus and the new Primaris Chaplain on Bike model. The idea of a horde of angry bikers tearing around while a skull-helmed Chaplain yells at them to be even angrier just sounds awesome. I decided to start with a Patrol Detachment. I wanted the Chaplain to be the centerpiece of the army so I gave him the Master of Sanctity so that he could yell out twice as many Litanies as anyone else, and gave him the Wise Orator Warlord Trait so that he had a very good chance of the Litanies being manifested. I debated between giving him the Benediction of Fury to make him hit absurdly hard in combat or the Wrath of the Heavens so that he could fly through walls and terrain like it wasn’t there, but in the end the bigger stick won out.

Since the unit was a Patrol, I decided to add two units of Infiltrators for holding objectives and generally messing with the deployment of my opponent. Since we’re using Power Level there’s no reason not to add bonuses like an Infiltrator Comm Array even though I can’t use it. Eventually I plan on making those units larger and adding a Phobos Lieutenant and Captain. Some Outrider Squads will give me a nasty bit of mobility and flexibility, and that left just enough RP to take a full sized squad of Assault Intercessors and give them the Veteran Intercessor ability. That’s a potential 51 attacks on the charge, and if the Chaplain is around the right Litanies can make them re-roll both hits and wounds. This leaves me 11 supply left for various options which I’ll explore later. Perhaps I’ll add those Phobos HQ choices, or wait until I have enough RP to drop another squad of Assault Intercessors with the Veteran upgrade. The possibilities are endless, and having some flexibility is great for when you want to see how the narrative works out.

Did you know we have a name generator? Turns out we do.

Next Time: Missions

That wraps up our look at Crusade forces but we’re not done yet – join us next week when we talk about the missions for Crusade, Agendas, and how you can use both to create more interesting narrative experiences. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at