Units We Are Excited to Field In Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse
With the launch of Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team in the summer of 2018, Games Workshop changed the paradigm of 40K-adjacent games from their previous incarnations. No longer just a smaller scale version of 40K, Kill Team is very much its own game in its own right with a bespoke set of rules that fit the skirmish scale. As such, balancing in Kill Team and the relative value of units differs from normal 40K. Units that don’t have a clear role, or just aren’t very points-efficient in 40K, can end up being stars in Kill Team. This is great because it means that despite the vagaries of time and balance changes, you have opportunities to field the various parts of your collection in a context that makes them shine on the table, and no one wants to paint up a beautiful model just to have it sit on the shelf forever.
Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse continues this pattern. As the mass-battle big brother of 40K, it sports entirely new, and stream-lined, rules that are fundamentally different from 40K, even more so than Kill Team. While Apocalypse won’t hit the tabletop until July 6th, we’ve seen plenty of rules previews and all the datasheets have been released for free, so that rampant speculation has begun on what balance will look like in this new game. For our part, we have given some thought to units that don’t often see the table in 40K that we are very excited to field in Apocalypse, whether because they are relatively cheaper or now suddenly have a clear role to play in the expanded RNG range of Apocalypse. Read out to find out some of our top picks and then share your own!
Fire Dragons are one of the coolest looking Craftworld units. Armed to the teeth with Fusion Guns and usually painted a mix of reds and oranges, they really stand out on the tabletop. Unfortunately, they just aren’t very good in 40K. They’re over-costed, extremely short-range anti-tank (12” range), that are also very fragile. With the proliferation of Invulnerable Saves in 40K, the -4 AP on a Fusion Gun often goes to waste and at only S8, a squad of 5 Fire Dragons is on average only going to get a single wound through to a Knight (assuming a 5++), which could then be anywhere from 1 to 6 damage. It’s not very reliable and you still have to deal with the issue of getting into range to shoot at said Knight.
Enter Apocalypse Fire Dragons. While still sporting the same flavor as their 40K equivalents, they look significantly more attractive in Apoc for a number of reasons. First, their Fusion Guns now have an SAT of 2+, meaning that they now wound on a re-rollable 2+ (on a D12), which is a 92% chance to wound, compared to the 50% chance in 40K! Not to mention that if you are running your Fire Dragons as Biel-Tan (of course you are), there’s a handy command asset that will double the amount of hits they score! Second, the Apoc equivalent of Battle Focus allows Eldar to double-move and then shoot small arms, extending the threat range of Fire Dragons to 26”, which is pretty good. You will also likely be able to deep strike them in through the webway to get up close and personal. What doesn’t change is that Fire Dragons are fragile, but they are no more fragile than other infantry and are actually as tough as Space Marines, with a 6+ save.
With the changes to how wounding works in Apoc, and the lack of Invulnerable saves, Fire Dragons have a much stronger role as monster-hunters with one of the best Anti-Tank guns in the game, and I will definitely be fielding a couple units of Fire Dragons in Apocalypse.
With their price drop in CA18, Wraithlords actually aren’t bad in 40K these days, but they see niche use as relatively fast-moving dreadnoughts that punch good. You never see them loaded up with heavy weapons due to the heavy movement penalty and their lack of invuln making them quite fragile for T8 models.
In Apocalypse, you may actually see brightlances or starcannons on a Wraithlord since there is presumably no penalty for moving and then shooting a heavy weapon. Additionally, since there are no invulns in Apoc, they are comparatively tankier than their 40k equivalents at 2 wounds and a 5+ save (same as an Armiger, but for about half the cost). They should make for a good all-around unit that can handle anti-tank and anti-infantry duties with equal aplomb.
A much feared unit in 7th Edition, Wraithknights took a solid beating in the transition to 8th Edition, particularly when compared to the improvements made to Imperial Knights (and soon Chaos Knights!). With a comparable cost to an Imperial Knight, they lack the built-in invulnerable save or the ability to be good at both melee and anti-tank. In general, they are a thoroughly underwhelming unit and you are usually better off investing points into something that won’t get shot off the board turn 1.
Wraithknights benefit greatly in Apocalypse from the revised turn flow, particularly the use of alternating action phases and the fact that damage is not resolved until the end of the turn. This ensures that your Wraithknight will at the very least get to activate in a turn before it dies. Additionally, super-heavy units like the Wraithknight can take advantage of being able to both shoot and fight in the same turn. The elimination of invulnerable saves in Apocalypse also makes it comparatively tankier next to other knight-like units.
Looking at the Wraithknight datasheet itself, there’s a lot to like. At 5 wounds and a 6+ save, it has a decent chance of living for more than a turn, which should give it plenty of time to get into combat given its 12” move and the ability to cover 24 inches with an Assault Order (and then it gets to both shoot and fight!). Heavy Wraithcannons are actually a reasonable loadout in Apoc, giving you two 36” shots with a 3+ SAT and Destroyer. It really shines in melee, specially loaded with a sword and board; not only does that bump it to a 5+ save but it gets 4 4+/4+ Destroyer attacks and 2 4+/4+ non-destroyer attacks, that’s a lot of potential blast markers!
Assuming the Wraithknight ends up being as survivable as it looks, it has really strong offensive potential in Apoc and the ability to deliver it, which should be an exciting change from 40K!
I’ve run my Warhound exactly one time, and it got melted by Ork shooting before the first turn was through. I repeatedly had to ask the Ork player to stop, because it was already dead, but he kept telling me to roll saves. Anyway it would be nice to actually use the stupid thing, since I spent a thousand hours building and painting it, and “a single 2000 point model” is never going to make its points back in 40k, with the way things scale.
Chaos Space Marines
Chaos Space Marines are in a pretty good place right now, but there are a few units we’re dying to put to use in Apocalypse that haven’t seen much play before.
Look, I went through the work of painting and assembling a titan, I want to use it. Warhounds are one of the worst units in 40k, being worse than a Castellan in terms of damage output but clocking in at three times the cost following Chapter Approved 2017. 60 power seems much more reasonable a price to pay for it compared to other units, and both the Plasma Blastgun and Vulcan Mega-bolter seem like better weapons to throw around in Apocalypse than 40k. Also, I’m excited to actually get to shoot with the Warhound on the first turn of every game. The new Apocalypse rules heavily favor Super-Heavy units by giving them extra actions and the Warhound moving 24″ and shooting everything off the table is going to be great.
Kharn the Betrayer
Yeah he’s only got one wound and he’s just a guy with an axe. But he damages vehicles on a 5+ and his attacks have Destroyer, which is hilarious. Being a character makes his survivability tenuous at best, but hopefully his being a Melee character will mean that opponents ignore him until it’s too late if I don’t make him a Warlord.
The Crown seems much better in Apocalypse, where giving +1 to saves for Light units within 18” can make a real difference in the survivability of some gunlines. It’s also not terribly expensive at 4 power. It’s at least worth testing a few times, which is more than I can say for the 40k version. I particularly like them for Obliterators, who have a 4+ save normally but whose Fleshmetal weapons can damage pretty much anything in the game.
Another unloved specialist unit. Having battlecannons matters more now, and Apocalypse is a good excuse to finally give one twin lascannons for the extra punch. They still have to choose between shooting and fighting most of the time, but the utility in Apocalypse makes them more like a unit that can sub in to a different role in a pinch rather than a unit that you’re paying too much for to do both.
Khorne Lord of Skulls
No one has ever played one of these before Apocalypse.
The poor Necrons aren’t in the best spot competitively at the moment, and in particular the strategy that should be their trademark, endless hordes of steel skeletons, isn’t up to much. Luckily, Apocalypse gives them a chance to shine with a complete reset, and we think people with lots of Necron Warriors gathering dust have plenty to look forward to.
Catacomb Command Barge
The Catacomb Command Barge is actually one of the more serviceable Necron units in 40K, but the translation of its “Wave of Command” ability to Apocalypse is exceptionally powerful – it adds 3” to the movement of Light units that start nearby. This allows your skeleton horde to get quite the wiggle on, and given it comes with a re-roll aura, a decent gun and some good defensive stats as well, expect these to be a popular choice to lead up Battalion detachments.
Rejoice – they’re actually pretty good! While at a baseline they are perhaps slightly behind an intercessor, as soon as you start layering on the buffs from a Catacomb Command Barge and Cryptek they look really good, shuffling around the board at a healthy pace, having moderate resilience and putting out a decent quantity of hurt. It looks like Apocalypse is going to be where they finally get to fulfil their role as the solid, massed core of a Necron army.
A 20-model unit of warriors will require at least 7 inflicted wounds (3 large blasts and a small blast) to put down, and if you don’t manage to turn those into 4 damage markers (and kill the unit), their Living Metal ability will has a 33% of removing any damage markers that are inflicted! Add in a Cryptek and these guys are even tougher.
Seraptek Heavy Construct
The Seraptek’s rules in 40k aren’t bad, but Apocalypse is where we really expect it to shine. It has two Destroyer weapon options and both choices are pretty strong, whether you want the anti-titan Synaptic Obliterator or the more versatile Singularity Generator option. Meanwhile with 6 wounds it’s got a good chance of making use of that Living Metal rule to regenerate lost wounds.
Both armaments available to these hand you a formidable unit – Warscythes give them offensive game against almost anything, but the big money is probably the sword and board loadout, which boosts their save to a mighty 4+. On its own this would merely make them annoying to deal with, but combined with their ability to move Blast Markers from nearby Light characters to themselves, turns them into a real defensive lynchpin.
I mean look, we’re still getting used to how to evaluate units in this new format, especially larger ones but it looks….fine? We think? Probably?
I think I speak for Necron players everywhere when I say we’d be happy with “fine”.
The Obelisk is still comically terrible compared to the Tesseract Vault, especially once Command Assets that revolve around Super-Heavy C’Tan are taken into consideration. Can’t win them all.
While we have covered only a small smattering of the units in Apocalypse, hopefully this gives you some ideas for unloved units in your own army that may deserve a second chance. The reality is that balancing a game like 40K is a herculean task, the design space is just too large, but by creating new ways to play with your models, Games Workshop can ensure that every unit deserves a spot on the table, whether on a kill team board or the massive expanse of an apocalypse battlefield. So take a look at the models collecting dust on your shelf and let us know if any of them will be coming out of retirement for Apocalypse!