War Zone Charadon: The Book of Fire Review – Imperium

The Charadon Sector still stands, thanks to the tireless efforts of the armies of the Imperium of Man. Last time around, Charadon Act I: The Book of Rust introduced us to the early stages of the war over the sector, and gave us rules for Forge World Metalica, the Mechanicus Defence Cohort, House Raven, the Cult of Strife, and the Terminus Est Assault Force. This time around we’ve got new rules for Imperium and Chaos armies in the Charadon Sector, further bolstering the new books released for the Adeptus Mechanicus and Adepta Sororitas. Already top armies in the competitive landscape, it’s worth asking: Do these new rules push the armies even further up and over, or merely give players more ways to build with them?

Rob, Sisters expert Shane and Wings are teaming up to answer that question, but before we do we’d like to thank Games Workshop for supplying us with an advance copy of the Book of Fire.

What’s in the Book – Imperium

The Book of Fire brings two infusions of new Imperium rules:

  • A codex supplement for the Order of Our Martyred Lady.
  • An Army of Renown for the Adeptus Mechanicus, opening up new options for Skitarii-focused lists.

For those of you who are new to this, Armies of Renown are a relatively new mechanic that was introduced in the first War Zone Charadon book. They provide a set of constraints that you have to adhere to when building your army, but if you do you gain access to some powerful new rules. We’ve seen some reasonable stabs at competitive use from one of the Book of Rust options (the Terminus Est Assault Force), so the price can definitely be worth paying – read on to find out how the Skitarii are looking.

Codex Supplements, meanwhile, provide a set of additional rules that expand the options available to a subfaction in a Codex. They generally provide:

  • Three new warlord traits, which can be given to any character from that subfaction that gains a trait.
  • A handful of new relics, which you unlock if your Warlord is from that subfaction (or in this case, one of the Sanctified named characters).
  • A whole page of stratagems, which you unlock if your army contains a valid detachment of that subfaction.

The Order of Our Martyred Lady are a good choice for a supplement, as they’re fine but currently a bit overshadowed by several of the other Sororitas Orders. Will the extra rules in this book be enough to change that? Let’s get into it.

 

Sisters of Battle Simulacrum Imperialis Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Sisters of Battle Simulacrum Imperialis Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

Codex Supplement – Order of Our Martyred Lady

The Order of Our Martyred Lady is one of the Orders that didn’t see much change with the advent of the 9th edition codex, so arguably it hasn’t been looked at very much since the codex drop. Then again it has only been a few weeks so who knows. The good news is, that this supplement just adds extra rules to OML based lists, so there is that.

What Does it Build On?

The core of the OML unique order bonus is that if you kill me, I get stronger, shown by units getting a bonus to hit on losing models or generating miracle dice on death. This supplement leans even further into this idea. The bad news is that your abilities are based on your opponent killing you, the great news is that if your opponent doesn’t do so, you are probably winning anyway.

The challenge with the Martyred Lady is that their Dogma doesn’t pull them strongly in any one direction, and puts control of the upside in the opponent’s hands. It’s not bad, by any means, but one half of it wants you to run big blocks of models, while the other rewards taking lots of MSUs. That’s far from the worst template for an army, mind, and the other thing they have going for them is a cheap Chapter Master equivalent in Junith.

The other thing to say is that, compared to other Codex Supplements, it’s much easier to use the stuff here in a mixed Order list. Still being able to take the relics if Morvenn Vahl or Celestine is your warlord means you can dip into the goodness here in one detachment, and use Bloody Rose, Argent Shroud or Valorous Heart as your core. That makes this considerably more likely to see use!

Warlord Traits

There is some very interesting Warlord Traits here.

Saintly Example is a strange trait in that it makes you roll a random trait from the WL tree, and when you die, another OML character without a trait becomes the WL with a trait you choose. The only reason I can see to do this, is to randomly throw this character at your opponent, which I guess would generate miracle dice, and potentially add a target for the codex OML stratagem for +1 to wound vs that enemy unit. Feels real lackluster.

Wings: It does have the same wording as the Alpha Legion equivalent where your warlord doesn’t count as slain until the Character this passed on to dies, but with only a solitary bonus victory point amidst all the GT objectives keying off that, it doesn’t super matter.

Saint Katherine’s Legacy really changes the dynamic of how a sisters army looks at the current Sacred Rites. This WL trait makes a 6″ aura of the Spirit of the Martyr goes off on 5+ vs the base 6+. Unfortunately this still only works from your models dying in melee, but this WL trait makes it twice as effective and that’s potentially big. If you leaned entirely into OML, this could have play maybe.

Martyr’s Strength (+1S/A for each wound missing, max 2) looks bad on paper, but combined with the new relic Blade of Sacrifice, we might have something here.

Wings: Yeah normally these are bad but this time it is very much not thanks to the combo.

Relics

Blade of Sacrifice is a power sword that can dish out some cheeky mortal wounds. Effectively your character chooses to lose 1-2 wounds (assuming it can and live) and when the sword successfully wounds, it deals mortals equal to the amount of wounds you chose to lose instead of normal damage. So if we combine this with the Martyr’s Strength WL trait on a Canoness, you choose to lose 2 wounds, and now have 6 base attacks at S6, where any successful wound rolls deal 2 mortals. Seems slightly meme-y, but good – you outright flatten most other infantry characters, and can take huge chunks out of T3 infantry units like Skitarii. Nothing stops you using Miracle dice to lock in the hits and wounds, either.

The other 3 relics aren’t much to write home about. Helm of the Fiery Heart gives the bearer a once per game one phase 2++ that can’t be rerolled, which could be clutch, but there are already other survival based relics. Sceptre of Vengeance is a relic mace for a Dogmata, which is x2S vs +2 and +1 to wound vs Tyranids, considering the x2 only gets you to S6 it is effectively +3S vs x2, so don’t get too excited. Lastly we have the Candela Scroll which is an Imagifer relic (so not sure how much play it will see) for a once per game 6″ aura of +1A, which could be cool, but you aren’t Bloody Rose either, so maybe?

Wings: Spicy sword is definitely the most interesting, but I think Candela Scroll is plausibly worth a look as anything that lets you pretend to be another subfaction temporarily can open up list-building.

Stratagems

So with just looking at the WL traits and relics, OML has looked fairly lukewarm, but these stratagems could spice it up just enough.

There is a very cheeky 1CP stratagem vs Orks, Vengence For Armageddon, for 1 unit to reroll hit rolls in the fight phase – not great, but funny. Zealous Death Wish also is kind of another funny idea, +1 to hit in melee vs an enemy unit that has at least 5 more models than yours (with +1 to hit being so accessible to OML, I guess you could use this on 5 model Zephyrim units that haven’t taken a casualty). If you wanted to run a Castigator (you mad lad), OML might be for you, Pious Machine Spirit allows a vehicle to act at top bracket for 1CP – even their vehicles want to get hurt I suppose.

Now to get to the good stuff.

If your opponent under commits to killing a unit of yours that has good shooting, Rejoice The Fallen is ready. If you have a unit at the end of your opponent’s shooting phase that is now below half starting strength and it was above half strength at the start of the phase, you can spend 2CP to shoot as if it were your shooting phase. So lets break this down with an example, you have a 5 model Retributor squad going into your opponents shooting phase, at the end of the phase, only 3 died, you can now pop 2CP and shoot with those 2 remaining models (at +1 to hit because of the OML order trait), which could drastically change your opponents game plan. 2CP is a lot, but this could literally change the face of a game.

Wings: I like this a lot, and it rewards you for taking Retributors with extra bodies, something Martyred Lady already wants to do.

If you like flame weapons, there is a stratagem, Martyr’s Pyre that allows an infantry unit to shoot with flame weapons as if they were pistols for 1CP, and afterwards each model with flame weapon that fired rolls a dice. On a 1, they shoot again, and then are removed afterwards (presumably exploding). Nothing too crazy here, but could be good if you like heavy flamer Retributors, or maybe a 20 brick of Battle Sisters with 4 flamers.

The next stratagem is one of the real stand out ones, Death Before Disgrace, 1CP at the start of your movement phase, 1 Infantry unit or Paragon Warsuit unit, cannot fall back, but gains Obsec till your next movement phase, and if it already has obsec, models count as 2. Anytime you can causally give models ObSec is really good, and being able to just do it for 1CP is pretty strong.

So if you start to look at the theme of the OML style, effectively your opponent needs to kill your whole unit to give you the least benefit, that way you can’t shoot in their turn etc. Well apparently GW wanted to discourage that as well. Using A Martyr’s Duty (They just put Martyr into every name didn’t they), when a Core unit is targeted, for 1CP, when a model is destroyed, on a 4+ that model can shoot with 1 weapon or make 1 attack in melee. Additionally if you have Spirit of the Martyr active, you roll for that after making your attack(s). Paying 1CP for only a 50% chance of success per model isn’t ideal, but again this could create serious problems with your opponents plan. Imagine a world where your opponent kills a unit of yours, and you seriously damage or destroy a critical unit of theirs in response, for 1CP.

Wings: Just chucking it on a Retributor unit that you’ve loaded with meltas and your opponent decides to wipe gets you two firing multi-meltas on average, in the middle of your opponent’s turn, with the option to drop an Act of Faith (and even Faith and Fury) on the shots. That seems like a gigantic headache to work around!

The last stratagem Exemplar Of The Order is interesting in that it can give your OML warlord an extra WL trait from the OML tree, Space Marine style. The only issue is that in order to do this you are deciding to forgo Morvenn Vahl since the OML character would have to be your WL, and Morvenn says no pick me. However if you made a Canoness with the Blade of Sacrifice, gave her the Righteous Rage WL trait to reroll hits and wounds, and then the extra OML trait Martyr’s Strength, you could really be onto something. Being able to reroll the wound roll that is dishing out 2 mortals each is pretty legit with 2 extra attacks. (Bloody Rose Canoness is jealous.) Probably a meme, but another funny one.

Will it See Play?

Shane: Definitely. It won’t be as fighty as Bloody Rose, or as mobile as Argent Shroud, but it will be annoying as hell for your opponent to deal with. Shooting/Fighting out of turn effects are always strong, and any time you can create a decision conflict for your opponent the more likely they are to choose wrong.

Wings: There’s a neat mix of stuff here to make your opponent’s life difficult, something Martyred Lady already does a bit and this leans in on harder. The fact that it’s pretty easy to slot into mixed lists also makes it appealing. I agree with Shane that this will see use – it bumps Martyred Lady up to the threshold where it’s worth real consideration alongside the top orders.

Skitarii Vanguard

Skitarii Vanguard. Credit: Pendulin

Army of Renown – The Skitarii Veteran Cohort

Armies of Renown tend to run the gamut from “pretty bad” (the Mechanicus Defence Cohort) to “potentially playable” (the Terminus Est Assault Force), typically offering tradeoffs in the form of significant bonuses in exchange for incredibly restrictive army construction rules. The Skitarii Veteran Cohort is no exception to that: A Veteran Cohort can contain only SKITARII units, with the exception of allowing a single Tech-priest Dominus, a single Tech-Priest Manipulus, a single Enginseer, and a single Technoarchaeologist. All of these units must be from the same Forge World, and your army must include at least one Skitarii Marshal, one of which has to be your Warlord. In exchange, you get some powerful bonuses to your rangers and vanguard in the form of Veteran Upgrades.

What Does it Build On?

In a similar way to the Mechanicus Defence Cohort transported us back to 7th edition with its dual books for Cult Mechanicus and Skitarii and gave us an army of only Cult Mechanicus units, the Skitarii Veteran Cohort gives us the opposite, which opens up a significantly larger chunk fo the Adeptus Mechanicus army since almost every vehicle on their roster is a Skitarii unit as well as most of their troop choices. Bluntly, the vast majority of the really good stuff in the AdMech book has this keyword, and lists built around Skitarii hordes are currently dominating competitive play, so expectations for this army are pretty high going in!

Army Rules

As mentioned above, A Veteran Cohort can contain only SKITARII units, with the exception of allowing a single Tech-priest Dominus, a single Tech-Priest Manipulus, a single Enginseer, and a single Technoarchaeologist. All of these units must be from the same Forge World, and each detachment in your army must include at least one Skitarii Marshal, one of which has to be your Warlord. Notably, unlike the Mechanicus Defence Cohort you do not trade out your existing Forge World Dogma in order to take this. In exchange, you get access to the Veteran Cohort Warlord Trait, Relic, and you must upgrade all of the Skitarii Rangers and Skitarii Vanguard in your army to Veterans, where each unit’s upgrades carry different bonuses:

  • Skitarii Rangers Veterans gain the VETERANS keyword and get +1 to their Ld and Attacks characteristics, gain a 5+ invulnerable save, and each time a ranged attack is made against the unit, they get the benefits of Light Cover. They lose this final benefit until the start of your next Movement Phase if they make a Normal move, Advance, or Fall back during your Movement Phase, but note that this is carefully worded so their 3″ pre-game move does not switch it off.
  • Skitarii Vanguard Veterans gain the VETERANS keyword and get +1 to their Ld and Attacks characteristics, gain a 5+ invulnerable save, and each time they advance they roll an extra D6 and drop the lowest die. Finally, the unit never counts as having 6 or more models when being targeted by Blast weapons.

These are, to put it bluntly, very strong bonuses. The 5+ invulnerable save alone is a big boost in durability for them, and both the ability to claim cover when stationary and to shrug off blast weapons are pretty good, the latter being particularly good as it’s unconditional and protects large Vanguard squads. The former in particular lets you stack with the Bulwark Doctrina Imperative to up your armor save to a 2+ once you factor in the cover bonus, giving you a lot more durability against small arms fire and freeing you up a bit from having to rely on Shroudpsalm to get that effect. The downside is that you pay for this – the mandatory veteran upgrades cost you 2 points per model on your Vanguard and Rangers, bringing them up to 10 points per model each. That does do a reasonable amount of work counterbalancing this, and (healthily) there’s a question mark as to whether the extra cost will be worth it for the current top Lucius builds. They’ve already got their saves cranked to the max, so being forced to spend substantially more points on their core infantry blocks might not actually be worth it. For lists that want to go big on Skitarii blocks, only being abel to take a single Manipulus is also a very real drawback, as it means you can’t have the buff active for both a Ranger and Vanguard blob at the same time. Despite what the top results might suggest, however, Lucius is not the only viable Forge World and there’s some promising synergies with other Forge Worlds here.

Traits and Relics

The Skitarii Veteran Cohort have a single Warlord Trait, Calculate Without Diversion, which can be given to a Skitarii Marshal Warlord in your army. This one’s a doozy, giving you four possible effects in true Adeptus Mechanicus 9th edition fashion. Basically, this reduces the CP cost of the four Veteran Cohort Stratagems by 1, but which one depends on what Doctrina Imperative is active. So for example, while the Protector Imperative is active (improve BS by 1), you can use Binharic Offense Stratagem for 1 CP less. More on those in a bit. Generally, this Warlord Trait is just OK, since the net effect is that best-case scenario it nets you 4 additional CP during a game, or 3 if you spend 1 CP to get it as an additional warlord trait. Given how precise you have to be with the timing on your stratagems use, that doesn’t seem likely to be worth it (especially as there’s a real question mark as to whether you’ll activate Aggressor Imperative at all in many lists).

The Relic is the Cantic Thrallnet, which can be given to a Skitarii Marshal in your Veteran Cohort. In your Command phase, you can pick a friendly Skitarii Cohort CORE unit within 9″ or a Data-Tether unit anywhere on the table, then pick a Doctrina Imperative. Until your next command phase, that Doctrina Imperative is active for that unit, even if you’ve already picked it before during the battle, and picking a doctrina with this doesn’t stop you from picking it for the first time for your army later. Also, if you have an ability that lets you ignore the downsides of a doctrina, you can only ignore one set of downsides so if you’re being affected by two doctrinas you have to pick once one’s downsides get ignored. On the whole this is pretty strong, letting you squeeze out additional turns of Protector Imperative to get better shooting with your shooty units, or tank incoming firepower on your veteran Rangers using the Bulwark Imperative. It’s a versatile Relic with a lot of upside, and lets you cause deep, deep upset to your opponent by perptually keeping a big unit of Ironstriders at +2 to their saves in combination with Firepoint Telemetry Cache, with a bunch of flexibility in your back pocket. You might think to combine it with the Veteran Cohort Warlord Trait but that’s a nonbo: The Warlord Trait bonus only works while the noted Doctrina Imperative is active for your army, not a single unit. That doesn’t really matter though – this is definitely one of the best bits about running this Army.

Skitarii Marshal

Skitarii Marshal. Credit: Pendulin

Stratagems

The Veteran Cohort has access to four stratagems:

  • Binharic Offense (3 CP) is used in the Shooting phase. You pick one enemy unit and two Veteran Cohort Core units in your army. Those units can only shoot that enemy unit for the phase but when they do they get +1 to their wound rolls. This is a great way to make up for the vehicle-shaped gap in the Enriched Rounds Stratagem by having a unit of Vanguard pounding a vehicle with shots that wound on a 5+. It also gives autocannon Ironstriders back a way to get this boost. It’s very expensive, however, and doesn’t line up with the discount either of the good Holy Orders provides, so it’s very much a sometimes treat. However, the fact that it allows Rangers to flatten pretty much anything up to T7 in an emergency ensures it’s always valuable to have as an option.
  • Aggression Override (1 CP) is used in the Fight phase to give a charging Veteran Cohort unit +1 Attacks for a turn. If you’re keeping track at home, that means +2 overall when you factor in the Veterans attack bonus. That makes Ryza Veteran Vanguard feel somewhat interesting, and more widely this is extremely good when used on a full unit of Sicarian Infiltrators. They’ve already got an alternative source of +1A from Assassin Constructs and boosts to their weapons from Chain Taser Protocols, and stacking this all up can let them flatten almost anything.
  • Bionic Endurance (2 CP/3 CP) targets a Veteran Cohort Core unit that’s about to lose a wound, and gives it a 5+ FNP until the end of the phase. This one costs 3 CP if your unit’s power rating is 10+, but either way it combines with the 5+ invulnerable save and other boosts on Veteran Rangers to make for some nightmarishly difficult to kill units. Notable on Ironstriders in the mirror as well, as while pricy it makes the chances of a lucky cognis lascannon attack one-shotting a whole model near zero. Also handy that you don’t have to activate this until you actually lose a wound, so wait till you’ve failed a save before popping it.
  • Expedited Purge Protocol (1 CP/2 CP) is used in the Movement phase to allow a Veteran Cohort Core unit that Advances to charge later in the turn. This one costs 1 CP on a Rangers or Vanguard unit. Another great toy for more aggressive, and has a built-in combo with the Veteran Vanguard boost.

All four of these stratagems are decent and useful, but their CP costs – which likely account for the (clunky) ability to reduce them by 1 – are a bit steep. Still, Binharic Offense is a pretty powerful effect for bringing down large targets, Bionic Endurance is going to make chewing through Rangers even more of a slog.

Will it See Play?

Almost certainly. Skitarii Vanguard and Rangers are both very good and we’ve already seen successful lists loading up on hordes of them. That said, the mandatory +2ppm cost is significant, and only being able to take a single Manipulus is a legitimate drawback, and the defensive boosts on the Rangers and Vanguard will sometimes be superfluous for Lucius, which is currently the dominant build.

It may prove that there’s enough here that Lucius still wants to build for it, as the relic is exceptional, Blast protection on a big Vanguard block is great and having Light Cover up on all Ranger units a lot of the time is great. An alternative is that this opens up builds for other Forge Worlds. Both Ryza and Mars feel like they get a lot out of this – the extra attacks and mobility naturally combine well with Ryza’s melee-focused Dogma, and specifically seem to reward large Infiltrator units, which both of these want to run. Both are also a bit less likely to skew towards running 80+ Skitarii bodies, so the extra points cost adds up a bit less. Something that looked fringe interesting out of Mars in the Codex was running lots of small Ranger units with an arquebus each (to take advantage of the hit roll). Having these units claiming Light Cover in the open and with a better invuln makes that feel even more plausible, and doing that plus a single huge Vanguard unit helps work around the limitation on Manipulii.

Overall, the cost here is substantial enough that it’s not a definite slam dunk into the existing best build (which is good), but there’s sufficient power here that there’s almost certainly going to be real competitive use made (and it’s also a natural direction to pivot if nerfs appear for the Lucius build).

Wrap Up

Rob: There was a lot of hand wringing and gnashing of teeth coming into this book when people heard Skitarii were getting a new build and well, I’m not sure that was unfounded. Yeah, the costs here are significant but the Veteran Cohort seems to be playing into how Admech players already want to run their armies when going heavy on Rangers or Vanguard. I don’t know if this is more or less oppressive than running some Electro Priests and the extra 2ppm may just not be worth it but it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is the last thing the meta needed.

Wings: AdMech definitely didn’t need more powerful tools, but at least there are some real costs to running this – for many of the lists that have been dominating tournaments in the last few weeks incorporating the Cohort would mean losing entire units to pay the price premium, so that’s something. My very tenatative gut feel is that this creates additional powerful builds (possibly from other Forge Worlds) rather than directly supplanting the existing Lucius one. We’ll have to see. Over in Sororitas land, the power level feels good – there’s some neat tricks (especially the Martyr’s Strength/Blade of Sacrifice combo) and some powerful stratagems that generally uplift one of the slightly weaker orders. Fine by me!

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.