War Zone Charadon: The Book of Rust Review – The Matched Play Rules

Next weekend sees not just one but two massive releases for competitive Warhammer 40,000. In addition to the 9th edition release of Codex: Drukhari (find our review of that book here), Games Workshop will also be releasing their first major campaign book for 9th edition, War Zone Charadon, Act I: The Book of Rust. This hardcover campaign book adds new rules for the Adeptus Mechanicus, Imperial Knights, Death Guard, and Drukhari armies in the form of both subfaction supplements and Armies of Renown, and contains a ton of extra Crusade content and details for running campaigns in the setting.

Games Workshop have kindly sent us a copy to review, and as ever our team are ready to bring you all the most important details. In this review, we’re going to cover the Matched Play rules, while if you’re a Crusade fan a separate review of the Campaign and Narrative Sections will be hot on its heels.

What’s in the Book – Matched Play

The Army Rules section of this book (which is the section aimed at all game types including Matched Play) contains the following:

  • Three Armies of Renown, providing unique army options for:
    • Death Guard
    • Imperial Knights
    • Adeptus Mechanicus
  • Three Codex Supplements, each expanding one of the subfactions for:
    • Imperial Knights – House Raven
    • Adeptus Mechanicus – Metalica
    • Drukhari – Cult of Strife

That gives us four factions picking up new rules, and we’ll go through each in turn, but before we do we should probably answer the question of just what Armies of Renown and Codex Supplements are.

Armies of Renown

Armies of Renown are a new mechanic introduced in War Zone Charadon. After formations and Specialist Detachments, it looks like Games Workshop feels like the “third time’s the charm” when it comes to build-specific bonuses for armies. Armies of Renown require you to build your army a specific way and if you do so, you get access to a number of free bonuses.

The limitations here are big – they cover your entire army and all substantially cut down the unit and/or subfaction options that are available to you. The tradeoff, however, is that the bonuses you get are considerably bigger than any of the Specialist Detachments we saw in 8th, including static boosts to units, new army wide effects and even a new Psychic discipline as well as warlord trait, at least one relic and four stratagems each. These aren’t something you can just dip into any more, but the potential rewards are substantial. They’re also strictly opt-in – just because an army list meets the criteria you don’t have to turn it into the relevant Army of Renown, and may not want to as some change rules in ways that might not help every plan.

It’s good to see another attempt at rewarding themed armies, but there’s a risk here though – the fact that Armies of Renown cost 0 points means that making these armies good enough to play but not good enough to be dominant is going to require carefully threading the needle on GW’s part – read on to find out how well they’ve pulled that off.

Codex Supplements

Imperial Knight

Imperial Knight. Credit: Jack Hunter

Here we’re on much more familiar ground. Each Codex Supplement is a set of additional rules aimed at one specific named subfaction from another Codex. As anyone who’s looked at the page count might have been able to guess, these aren’t as extensive as the Space Marine Supplement books, but that doesn’t mean these aren’t worthwhile, quite the opposite. The closest model seems to be the Chaos Space Marine Legion rules from Faith and Fury, and that’s a very good thing, as those were one of the highpoints of the entire Psychic Awakening run.

In each Codex supplement, you get:

  • 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.
  • A whole page of stratagems, which you unlock if your army contains a valid detachment of that subfaction.

That means the bigger your commitment to the faction, the more of this you unlock, and since all three factions here either have soup uses or special detachment rules, bear this in mind when planning out army lists with the new toys. As long as you want to commit to a faction, however, you’re laughing – these are completely free for lists that qualify, and in each case makes the relevant subfaction substantially more attractive.

Adeptus Mechanicus

The Adeptus Mechanicus have two sets of rules here,the Mechanicus Defense Cohort Army of Renown and a Codex Supplement for Forge World Metalica. The Army of Renown is themed around events on Metalica during the Charadon campaign, but can be used by any Forge World.

Mechanicus Defense Cohort

Mechanicus Defence Cohort

Mechanicus Defence Cohort. Credit: Pendulin

Army Rules

The Mechanicus Defense Cohort is aimed at anyone who really loves two things:

  • Robots and Servitors
  • Blowing stuff up

Representing a largely automated defense force that’s been overwritten with new Machine Spirits for maximum hostility and tenacity, in order to qualify for this Army of Renown your list cannot include any SKITARII models, and must all be from the same Forge World. That’s a big limitation, since the majority of AdMech vehicles have this keyword. In fact, all you have left after this are the following:

  • Tech Priests
  • Kataphrons
  • Kastelan Robots
  • Servitors
  • Electro Priests

That’s a pretty sparse list, but some big effects come with the limitations. Kataphrons, Kastellans and Servitors in this army all gain the EXTREMIS SENTINEL keyword, and get some fancy new rules.

Those units lose their Forge World Dogma (representing them being completely overwritten) but gain two new effects. While such a unit is either wholly within your deployment zone OR every model is within range of an objective marker, you subtract 1 from the damage of incoming ranged attacks against the units, giving them a taste of the Disgustingly Resilient action that Death Guard have going on. That doesn’t work against melee, of course, but there’s an answer for that too – these units essentially always have the Defensible terrain rule active, meaning they can Hold Steady or Set to Defend when charged, wherever they are on the board.

Reducing incoming damage is obviously a very powerful effect, and it’s worth noting that while these units lose their Dogma they’re still going to have the <FORGE WORLD> tag, meaning you can still apply powerful buff auras from characters. For Kataphrons, the Learnings of the Genetor Warlord trait obviously provides a powerful additional layer of protection (go full Mortarion against those ranged attacks), and lining that up alongside some -1D Kastellans in Aegis Protocol gives you an exceptionally durable force.

Other Rules

Adeptus Mechanicus - Tech-Priest Manipulus

Adeptus Mechanicus – Tech-Priest Manipulus
Credit: Pendulin

The most exciting thing among the rest of these rules is the Warlord Trait – Cacophonous Leadership provides a 6” aura granting ObSec to all Mechanicus Defence Cohort units, and making any EXTREMIS SENTINEL models count as two for the purposes of controlling objectives. This obviously lines up extremely well with an army designed to brick wall your opponent with super durable Servitors and Robots, and the fact that it affects the character themselves is also handy in a pinch. This list is likely to be pretty slow, so being able to grab hold of positions with an iron fist once they arrive is going to be vital.

For the opponent that manages to get into melee with your Kataphrons, Citation of Ruin is also here to help. This stratagem isn’t cheap (2CP for 3 or fewer models, 3CP for 4+) but vital in a pinch, as it lets the unit shoot as if they had the Big Guns Never Tire ability, and ignore the -1 to hit for Heavy Weapons while doing so. If you’ve brought the more ranged-focused Kataphron Destroyers (who are looking pretty hot for cracking tarpits right now) then this is vital, as it ensures charging them doesn’t just take them straight out of the game. In combination with the warlord trait, this goes some way to shore up weaknesses that the limitations of the army are going to instil.

The rest of the stuff here can sometimes be useful – the Relic is a decent volkite blaster replacement that outdoes most of the dismal choices from the main AdMech book, so if you’re building one of these why not, and the other strats give you some cool options (bonuses to shoot when a unit in your deployment zone targets one in the opponent’s, improving the cover of a terrain feature and calling in an orbital rad-strike) but the main strength comes from the static buff, the warlord trait and Citation.

Will it see Use?

Adeptus Mechanicus - Kastelan Robots and Cybernetica Datasmith

Adeptus Mechanicus – Kastelan Robots and Cybernetica Datasmith
Credit: Pendulin

This is probably the harshest of the three armies of Renown in the book in terms of limitations. Most notably, removing your ability to bring any sort of cheap screen or objective utility units at all (electro priests are bit too pricey to count) and leaving you with only relatively slow threats might just see you get outmaneuvered on the table, and crushed on the primary.

Clearly if you’re running this build you want to try and find ways to mitigate that, and there are some. Pretty much any Defense Force is going to want to bring a Tech Priest Manipulus to speed up the Kataphrons, and if you want help getting stuff into position you could go further by picking the Lucius Forge World to gain access to the Legio Teleportarium stratagem. If your opponent doesn’t get to an objective fast enough then dropping a unit of damage-reducing, potentially ObSec Kastelans onto it is a hell of a flex. Being able to protect a unit of Destroyers by holding them back is also strong, and boosting invulns with the Luminescent Blessing Canticle helps this army’s overall plan.

Elsewhere, the temptation of Mars and Cawl’s re-roll buffs is as strong as ever, while building around extra-durable Kataphrons means that Fresh Converts out of Agripinaa has the potential to be a catastrophic blowout. Metalica also has some spicy new tricks, which can both further boost the durability and also help with getting the army into the fray, so might be worth trying (in particular, using March to War to shoot a big brick of Kataphrons or Kastelans straight to the mid board has got to be worth a try).

There are clearly some strong synergies available, and the core plan here is fine, but in the end our read is that the power level isn’t quite there when there are other factions that can put up similar levels of durability while retaining a broader unit list. It is possible that adding mobility options from either Metalica or Lucius is enough to blow this wide open though, and that’s where we’d potentially expect a breakthrough if one is going to happen.

Metalica Codex Supplement

Adeptus Mechanicus - Kataphron Breachers

Adeptus Mechanicus – Kataphron Breachers
Credit: Pendulin

What does it build on?

Metalica is on many levels a good choice for a first Codex Supplement for AdMech, because in the nicest possible way they need the help. AdMech got a strong late 8th update in Engine War, and they’re pretty decent right now. Metalica are not really driving that, however – their Dogma doesn’t support that many key units (letting you Advance and shoot Assault weapons without penalty and to treat Rapid Fire as Assault when you Advance), they don’t get a super juicy buff character like Cawl, and their mainline relic and stratagem are both weak. Their special canticle is a bit better – giving enemies -1 to hit against Metalica units within 9” is a strong effect in 9th’s close-quarters battles – and their warlord trait synergises decently well with this by letting units in an aura fall back and shoot at -1.

Essentially, Metalic wants you to get right up in your opponent’s face and use smaller arms and melee tools to overwhelm the enemy – so what we’re looking for here is tools to help with that plan.

Warlord Traits

Out of the three traits here, two feel reasonably strong. Radioactive Emanation gives your warlord a 6” aura that reduces the toughness of any non-Metalica units by 1. It doesn’t stack with other sources of toughness reduction (like Skitarii Vanguard) but being able to reach out and do this while not in melee is a big deal, as it makes it more practical to leverage it in your shooting phase. It’s worth noting that there’s also a Stratagem here to boost the aura on a Vanguard unit to 6”, but having this on a Character sitting with a Kataphron block is a much easier way to deliver this.

The other option that looks OK is Ashrunner, which boosts your speed (by 3”) and melee capability a bit. Mostly your here for the speed at the moment (though every little helps in a ruck) but given it looks like we might be seeing new AdMech models in today’s preview, there might be some new toy coming down the line that wants this more. It’s also not bad for getting the Metalican Lung (see below) into position. The final trait is a bit of a miss, boosting Radium weapons, which just don’t turn up in enough places to be worth it.

Relics

Tech-priest Enginseer

Tech-priest Enginseer. Credit: Corrode

You get four new toys to pick from here, two relic weapons and two debuff auras. From the weapons, the Omni-Steriliser is a very easy pick on a Dominus, upgrading an eradication ray to be Assault, AP-4 and D3, very much in the “no brainer if you have nothing else you want” category.

The debuff auras, meanwhile, line up with the close-engagement theme. They’re both very small (3”) but pretty potent. Bionics of Veneration subtracts 1 from the hit rolls of enemy units within the aura (and also gives your model a 4++) but the real spice is probably Metalican Lung. As well as having an incredibly hardcore bit of fluff text, this gives your Metalica units full wound re-rolls against any units within 3” of the bearer. Obviously getting your model into that position is going to take some doing, but when you pull it off whatever is in the bubble is going to have a very, very bad time. It comboes extremely well with Prime Hermeticon on a warlord babysitting Kataphron breachers – with full hit and wound re-rolls, they’ll rip pretty much anything apart, and Electropriests are also similarly enhanced. Being able to put up a strong counter-charge is an important part of building Admech lists right now, and having the threat of this to worry about is going to force your opponent to think twice about how close they get.

Stratagems

Serberys Sulphurhounds. Credit: Rockfish

Serberys Sulphurhounds. Credit: Rockfish

This is where the really good stuff is, with the biggest standout probably being Blaring Glory. Used in your opponent’s shooting phase or any fight phase, this lets you pick a unit within 6” of a Metalica unit from your army, and prevent them from re-rolling any dice rolls made for attacks that phase. As anyone who’s had the misfortune to play against the Emperor’s Auspice knows this is an incredibly powerful effect, and here it runs you the princely sum of 1CP. Serberys Raiders or empty transports are perfect for delivering this if you need to reach out and apply it to your opponent’s gunline, but it’s also incredibly strong defensively, making it extremely tough for your opponent to crack some of your more durable melee blocks with a lot of units. It also gives the Forge World a certain amount of soup appeal, as it lets you either send Raiders out as spoilers or protect your key units by seeding some AdMech characters nearby. An incredibly strong strat that would honestly bring Metalica way up in consideration if it was the only one here.

It isn’t, of course, and there are some other cool things around. Order in Anarchy is a simple but effective buff, which for 1CP (in your command phase) gives a unit +1 to hit against enemies within 12” this turn. Notably, this works in both the shooting and fight phases, meaning that when you use this on something like Breachers you get to double dip. It’s honestly not even bad on Serberys Raiders, giving you more bang for your buck than using either of the Doctrina strats. Fundamentally, +1 to hit for 1CP, even with restrictions, is a consistently strong option, and welcome here.

When you really want something dead you can also ignore hit modifiers via the Purity of the Machine stratagem (1CP, or 2CP on a vehicle), which while less important in 9th than in 8th is still a helpful thing to have in the toolbox. The final useful utility strat is March to War, which lets a unit auto-advance 6”. I love using this to steal objectives with Eldar, and here it has a subtle extra impact. Kataphrons normally only advance d3”, but this just replaces the roll with adding 6” of movement, meaning your Servitors can really hit the nitro boost when you need them to, potentially handy for establishing early control or redeploying in a hurry.

There are a few more Metalica buffs, but the last really interesting stratagem to call out is something a bit different. Knight of the Iron Cog is something very unusual out of what we’ve seen in 9th so far – a direct buff for soup lists. This is a 1CP pre-game upgrade stratagem that can only be used on a House Raven Knight, but when applied makes them permanently qualify for Canticles of the Omnissiah and also stops them from turning off any abilities requiring your entire army to have the Adeptus Mechanicus keyword. Let’s dig into that a bit more right away…

Will Metalica See Play?

Tech Priest and the Boys

Tech Priest and the Boys. Credit: Pendulin

Let’s start at the end there and cover the Knight synergy. Knight of the Cog is an ability that you normally spend 1CP per knight per turn on, so getting it permanently for 1CP is a good rate. There are three effects on the Canticle list that you actively want on Knights (Shroudpsalm, and the two re-roll 1s effects), so if you assume you’re upgrading three big Knights and taking a Metalica patrol, your price of entry is essentially 5CP. Is that worth it?

Honestly maybe! House Raven were already a decent household choice and are even better now (as we’ll see), and don’t have any inbuilt re-rolls that this is redundant with. AdMech combine very nicely with Knights anyway, and Blaring Glory absolutely rockets Metalica up in consideration for a pairing anyway, meaning this should at least be worth experimenting with. Sending some Raiders (or hell, even a Fusilave) off to shut down your opponent’s shooting re-rolls and sticking a Tech Priest next to your most precious Knight to shut down melee ones is potentially a huge deal, and makes a hilarious mockery of any Marines relying on lightning claws in particular. All things considered, if Knights/AdMech is your jam, this combo is worth a look.

In terms of pure AdMech, the stiff competition here (as it would for any upgraded AdMech force) comes from Mars. The combination of a strong Canticle, decent dogma and Cawl’s absurd re-rolls lording over everything makes them a reliable performer, and Mars combined arms lists have been doing decently well this edition. Stygies also sees some play for extra durability, and Lucius has some nice tricks up its sleeve.

Fundamentally, Metalica are not going to be able to compete with Mars’ gunline abilities, but up front in a scrap they might actually have the edge. Blaring Glory in particular is so good for the kind of games that 9th creates that it feels like lists heavy on Breachers, Raiders and Priests should at least try this set of tools out to see how it goes. Right now, of course, there’s also no real downside to doing a mixed AdMech list, so using Metalica up front and Mars at the back, but remember that Cawl’s value diminishes with less Mars stuff and also (based on precedent thus far) that there’s a good chance of some sort of penalty for mixing Forge Worlds in the 9th Edition book, whenever that lands.

Overall, this section feels like a success – there’s some good stuff in all three buckets, stratagems in particular, and we imagine the response of most players to seeing this is going to be “when’s my faction getting one?”.

Imperial Knights

Knight Gallant. Credit: SRM

As with the Adeptus Mechanicus, Knights get both an Army of Renown, which massively expands the motivation for playing Freeblades, and a House Raven Codex Supplement that amps up a popular existing subfaction.

Army of Renown – Freeblade Lance

Freeblades are an extremely cool concept, but in the Imperium currently don’t really get there. A whole bunch of the power of the Imperial Knights codex is tied up in the houses, meaning that giving that up, even for access to some unique traits, just isn’t a compelling sell. It got a little more interesting with Engine War, which added “superfaction” traits that Freeblades can still benefit from, but on the Imperial side these are much weaker than the Household ones (Chaos Knight sort of have the opposite, hence the higher popularity of Dreadblades).

Most currently Knight lists run exactly one Armiger as a Freeblade to give them the Sworn to a Quest Freeblade Quality, adding some ObSec to an army that otherwise doesn’t get it at all. Beyond that, Freeblades essentially aren’t used competitively, so an army themed around them has a tough hurdle to leap over to succeed – let’s see how it does.

Army Rules

To run a Freeblade lance, every model in your army has to be a Freeblade. All of them. Every last one. That means no household traits and no soup support, so the Freeblades are going to have to carry the whole thing.

Luckily, there are some rewards for this – fairly substantial ones. First up, every Freeblade in your army now gets to pick Qualities and Burdens, rather than just one per detachment. You’re given an extra limitation that you cannot double up on any of these until you’ve picked all of the options from each table at least once, but once you’ve crossed that threshold you can start duplicating freely.

More excitingly, any of your CHARACTER knights get a better version of the Freeblade rule. Rather than picking one Quality and two Burdens, this gets flipped, meaning you get to pick two bonuses with only one downside. CHARACTERS also get +1Ld, which makes it less likely that they’ll ever even suffer from their burdens (and there’s an extra option to mitigate it elsewhere in these rules).

On paper this definitely sounds good, so let’s step back and think about what it actually means in practice. A “standard” pure Knight army right now is likely either:

  • Three Magaeras, three Warglaives, one Helverin/Moirax.
  • Two Magaeras, Crusader with Ironstorm, four Warglaives.

In both cases, all three big Knights will be characters, because you’ll take one as your default Warlord, and at least give one an extra relic and the other a trait via Exalted Court.

With that in mind, the numbers on burdens and qualities work out pretty well here – crucially, as long as you’re willing to “earth” all the stuff you don’t particularly care about on your Armigers, you can end up in a situation where all three big Knights can take the same Burden (probably Exiled in Shame, as with Ld 10 it only triggers 1/12 times and is survivable at that frequency), and, in fact, duplicate the same Qualities too – you can take the four you don’t want on the Armigers one each, pick the two you want on the first big Knight, then take the same ones for the other two now you can free pick).

Having mulled it over, probably the most exciting way to use that is to make all three of your big Knights ObSec with Sworn to a Quest and give them 6” heroics with Mysterious Guardian. You’re giving up a lot to pick this army, so you want something really unique to sell it, and this is the thing manipulating the trait list gives you that you can’t really replicate anywhere else. Knights are struggling in 9th at least in part because they get outplayed on board control, and this combination of abilities on three Questoris hulls is very potent in some matchups. You still get trumped by ObSec hordes, but your opponent can no longer squeeze two models onto an objective just out of your heroic range and deny you control – they’re going to get stepped on, and can’t even try for this at all unless they have ObSec themselves.

The other notable upside of this army is that, while you can choose to go all Mechanicus or all Imperialis in your detachment to get their relatively minor buffs, you’re not obliged to, and it may well be worth mixing it up. Imperialis have some very strong stratagems and relics that almost never see any use because the Mechanicus households are flatly better, but here you can make use of the Banner of Macharius Triumphant and Valiant Last Stand on one of your Knights while still having access to Machine Spirit Resurgent for everyone else

Does this outdo the very best households? Probably not. The sheer killing power Krast gives you across the board is difficult to match, and Raven is also a super strong contender, especially given their new supplement infusion. While the combination of abilities on the big knights is very potent, you lose any sort of upside on the Armigers (and indeed, stack risk downsides to do it). It is, however, much closer to something interesting that you’d otherwise see from Freeblades, and I can see the baseline here feeling at least decent on the table.

Other Rules

Cerastus Knight-Castigator

Cerastus Knight-Castigator. Credit: That Gobbo

Like the Mechanicus Cohort, you get a relic, warlord trait and four stratagems here. The relic is, sadly, a bit of a miss – it’s a decent upgrade on a Reaper Chainsword, but still looks awful compared to the sweep attack of the hekaton siege claw, which is very much the weapon to beat right now. It’s possible that at some point that’ll catch a point hike and this will be worth looking at, but right now don’t bother.

The Warlord trait is much more interesting.  Echoes from the Past lets the warlord gain one of the Household Traditions from the Knight book, and that’s obviously very good. House Krast is obviously the clear winner here – I am here with the nuclear hot take that yes, full hit re-rolls in melee most of the time is a good warlord trait that you should take. Taranis is probably the second most relevant, since as we’ll cover in a moment I think there’s play around building a real objective wrecking ball with some of the other stuff here.

That brings us on to the strats, and the most splashy is probably Favoured Knight. This isn’t cheap at 2CP, but lets you take an additional relic on a Knight that already has one. Given the key “sell” for this army is access to better objective play, I’d be inclined to use this to slam the Armour of Sainted Ion and Banner of Macharius Triumphant on the same model and go hog wild – at that point you don’t even need Sworn to a Quest on the model, so can have Legendary Hero instead and maybe free up a slot to stick ObSec on an Armiger. This gives you a model that will punish opponents without answers hard, and is another kind of unique draw of the army.

The other three strats aren’t bad either – Brothers and Sisters in Burden lets you switch off the risk of burdens within 6” of one of your CHARACTERS for a turn for 1CP, which feels like it will often be the play turn one to mitigate your horribly burdened Armigers, and the others give you an option to gain a Quality in play when you kill a CHARACTER, MONSTER or VEHICLE and a buff to a Knight that’s ended up by itself.

Being able to dip into a Household and double-relic a Knight are the standouts here, but the rest of the rules (other than the relic) are all at least fine.

Will it see Use?

My overall feeling on the Freeblade lance is that it does succeed in creating a pure Knight army that’s better at one specific thing (in this case, tussling for Objectives) than other pure Knight armies can accomplish. On balance, it feels like giving up what the other obvious choice (Krast) does better (brutally killing stuff) probably isn’t quite worth it, but essentially whenever I come out of looking at some rules thinking “yes, this does something uniquely well” I’d be inclined to at least test it. Many armies are skimping on the tools to pop Knights at range, and closing in on the opponent with three powerful ObSec Knights is going to badly punish that trend.

It’s also important to step back a little bit from a pure tryhard mindset and remember – Freeblades are cool. They’re conceptually awesome, and the idea of crafting your own traits is super appealing – but the reality prior to this book is that the benefits are so minor you’re kind of hurting yourself to do it. Letting players who want to go all-in on an epic band of heroes and at least give them some level of unique upside for doing so is definitely a win in my book.

House Raven Supplement

Imperial Knights - Knight Gallant

Imperial Knights – Knight Gallant
Credit: Pendulin

What does it build on?

It is at this point that I wish we could embed music in these, because I’m certain that in the minds of many tournament players something in the vein of “Dies Irae” has started playing in their heads on seeing that House Raven are getting extra rules. Realistically, since the death of the 3++ super Castellan Raven has played second or even third fiddle to Krast and Taranis, but watching a single model erase your army by itself over the course of 3-4 turns tends to leave a mark on people.

Raven were once outstanding and are now at least fine, is what we’re saying. Advancing and shooting at full effect lets shooting-focused Knights do a lot of work on the move, Order of Companions is still a tremendously powerful button to smash if you’re bringing a Castellan, and the Banner Inviolate is a perfectly fine relic. Let’s see how things get changed up.

Warlord Traits

Three here again, and while none of them immediately scream “yes, this” two maybe have uses. Blessed by Metalica leans in hard on the Knight of the Iron Cog synergy, giving one of your Knights +2W and letting them be healed by Metalican Tech Priests as if they were a METALICA vehicle (so the full d3). If you’re planning to pin a Tech Priest to a Crusader or Castellan for emergency Blaring Glory, this seems like a fine upgrade, massively mitigating any chip damage that gets done to them. The other plausibly powerful one is Inviolate, letting you ignore Mortal Wounds on a 4+. Harlequins are enough of a Thing in the metagame that this feels like it has some play, and if more big psychic armies pop up it’s a potent meta pick. The final option here gives you automatic wounds on 6s to hit – which while it’s just an output boost, is a pretty OK one on any Knight with high-shot weapons.

Relics

Two weapons and two generic buffs here. The weapons are both decent upgrades – you have a relic rapid fire battle cannon that is Assault and flat damage three, and a relic thermal cannon that’s Assault and always has damage D6+2. Both are good upgrades on their base versions, though the RFBC suffers from you being able to imitate this on a Paladin with the Thunderstruck stratagem. The thermal cannon is thus the bigger winner, especially as the “normal” version hasn’t been updated to the new melta rule, and works well attached to either a Crusader or an Errant, comboing well with Close-quarters Destruction. It’s a bit weird that these are Assault, as if you’ve unlocked these you almost certainly have a full Raven detachment, so count Heavy as Assault when you advance anyway, but I guess if the faction trait changes in the 9th Knight book that might become more relevant.

From the other two options, you get an AP boost against Vehicles and Monsters with the Metalican Eye or the option to reroll a single hit, wound or damage roll each time you fight with the Spirit of Kolossi. The latter is probably more exciting here, as in general, big targets without invulns are not a problem for Knight armies to kill, but lots of re-rolls will add up over the course of the game. I’m not wholly convinced that any of these relics push the big defensive ones massively back in the queue, but more options is always good.

Stratagems

Armiger Warglaives. Credit: Kevin Genson

As ever, the upside that new Stratagems have is that they don’t “compete” with anything, they’re just flat upside, and sure enough some of these don’t disappoint. These are essentially split into two halves – some output buffs that mostly don’t get there, then some defensive and position play choices that absolutely do.

The offensive buffs suffer from being heavily themed around random shot/blast weapons and also expensive. All of the options that increase the power of your weapons have a split cost where you pay more if a Dominus or Acastus class knight uses them, and the higher cost is always 3CP. Bluntly, none of the options available (re-rolls with Blast weapons, +1S, roll an extra dice for random shots, drop lowest) holds a candle to Order of Companions at 3CP, so these are largely for smaller Knights. On those, you might sometimes choose to pop Honour Inviolate for the +1S, but it’s 2CP even on a questoris, so still not done lightly. If you’re pointing Endless Fury at a target where +1S changes the wound roll and you really want the kill, go for it, but as far as “more killing” goes, these are at best fine.

Luckily, the other stuff is much better. Plausibly most exciting is Horrors at Bay, which similar to Line Unbreakable from Deathwing lets you (for 1CP) pick a unit that’s chosen to fight one of your Knights in melee and only allow the models that are in actual engagement range to attack, not those that are within ½” of a model in ½”. Against horde units (or large based models where getting everything into touch with the Knight is hard) this can substantially cut down the amount of incoming pain, giving your Knight more staying power in melee where many are most vulnerable. It can also force your opponent to pick between trailing models back to their auras or getting all their swings, always handy.

On a similar melee defence kick, Crimson Wall is extremely cool. This isn’t cheap at 2CP, but lets you make an armour save an automatic 6 against a melee attack rather than rolling, letting you lock in that clutch save against a thunder hammer blow (or anything, if you have Sanctuary or Ionic Flare Shielding). While expensive, this is the kind of ability that’s great, because you generally have a very clear indication as to whether it’s the right choice in a given situation. Do you have one save left to make and it’s save or die? Smash this button, Resurgent next turn, and ruin your opponent’s day. Any other situation? Probably don’t bother.

The other uniquely cool (and honestly wholly new) trick here is Shadow’s Reach. For 2CP, at the start of your opponent’s movement phase you can extend the Engagement Range of one of your non-Armiger Knights to be 3” rather than 1” for that phase. This has a couple of impacts:

  • If your opponent is already within 3” of your Knight, and doesn’t want to be any more, they have to fall back, meaning they can’t shoot or charge. Obviously potent on CHARACTER Knights where you can Heroic if they stay still.
  • If your opponent wants to get within 3” of your Knight this turn, they have to charge you (unless they have some sort of psychic extra move).
  • Your Knight blocks out a lot of space for larger enemy models, especially ones that can’t path through Breachable terrain.

In many cases your opponent will still have ways to play round this, but it generally makes struggling for an objective that the Knight is trying to hog a reasonable amount harder, and it’s an interesting tool to have in your back pocket.

Rounding things out, we have two final defensive choices – a -1 hit debuff on enemies when you charge them (aggressively priced at 1CP) and a “mass” Rotate Ion Shields you can use on three nearby Knights for 3CP, which is probably a bit more than you want to be spending.

Will it see Use?

While there’s some cool stuff here, in a pure Knight army I don’t think this leaps past Krast in estimation (though obviously changes in a future 9th Edition codex could re-contextualise that). Where this does plausibly feel like it has game is alongside a Metalica detachment. With access to Blaring Glory and Shroudpsalm already amping up your durability, it feels like stacking these improvements to melee defences on three big Knights (and filling out the rest of the force with AdMech stuff) is, once again, worth testing out. If Knights manage to stick around to the late game they tend to rack up eye-watering kill counts, and if this combination proves to let you play a more robust five turn plan, it’ll certainly have something going for it in 9th.

Death Guard

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Fresh off the heels of their new Codex at the end of January, the Death Guard get an Army of Renown in the Book of Rust. And while there’s no codex supplement here per se, their army of renown gets a lot more to work with overall, including more relics and a new psychic discipline to make use of. There’s no Supplement here but if we’re being honest the faction you get is locked into the Harbingers Plague Company and there’s enough here that if you wanted to act as though this was their supplement, you wouldn’t be far off base.

Terminus Est Assault Force

Already previewed on Warhammer-Community, the Terminus Est assault force requires that your whole army be DEATH GUARD, its members have to be from the HARBINGERS plague company, and if you bring Typhus, he has to be your Warlord. Also, you can’t take any Vehicles or Mortarions.

In exchange for this steep price, you get a second Warlord Trait for Typhus if he’s your Warlord (more on that in a bit), extra stratagems, more relics, an entirely new psychic discipline called the Fester Discipline, and rules that replace your Strategic Reserves rules called Outbreak Assault. Instead of putting units into Strategic Reserves you can put them into Outbreak Assault, which costs 1 more CP than normal but when they arrive they can show up anywhere more than 9” away from enemy models. This is a pretty potent way to mitigate the loss of vehicles and make up for an otherwise slow army.

The Warlord Trait

There’s only one Warlord Trait here – Harbinger of Death, which gives you an aura that affects enemy units with Ld 7 or less within 3”, turning off their ObSec abilities and preventing them from performing actions. It’s cute but won’t help you against higher Ld armies. As an added bonus for Typhus, it’s not bad.

The Stratagems

There are four stratagems for the Terminus Est Assault Force, and they’re all great. Rotting Tide is basically a Tide of Traitors for your Poxwalkers with the added benefit of being able to return a completely dead unit of Poxwalkers to the table, making it incredibly useful for just popping up near an important objective late-game. Unleash the Horde gives all your poxwalkers +3” of Movement and +3” when piling in for a turn and will likely mean that a Poxwalker-heavy Terminus Est force will just end up spending 2 CP per turn for the movement boost. Pestilential Drop boosts the Contagions range of a unit arriving via Deep Strike for a turn, and Callous Disregard lets you shoot at units engaged in combat with, giving you a -1 to hit and allocating misses to your own unit. This won’t matter however, when you’re using plaguespurt gauntlets on Deathshrouds to bathe units in filth while they’re locked in combat with Poxwalkers.

The Fester Discipline

Then there’s the new discipline, which gives Terminus Est psykers six new powers to choose from (note that they can take powers from either but not both). These are a bit situational but they’re strong enough that it’s worth considering a psyker with these to accompany Tyhpus – there are a couple that will be great on a Daemon Prince. WHC already showed off Lungrot, which prevents a unit from Advancing, re-rolling charges, or charging a unit more than 6” away. But there’s also Pernicious Dose, which gives a unit re-rolls to hit on Plague Weapons and can combo with Virulent Rounds, and Rotwind, which targets an enemy unit and reduces the AP on their attacks by 2.

Relics

Terminus Est armies get a set of seven new relics, and they’re all at least decent. There are alternate weapon options for Lords of Contagion and Virulence, plus an alternate plasma pistol called the Canker. But the really good stuff are the non-weapons: Vomix’s Virulent Blight can go on any unit with a plague weapon and makes it so that whenever they damage an enemy unit, that unit counts as being permanently in range of one of their contagion abilities. The downside is that this has to be either Shamblerot or Nurgle’s Gift. Filth Censers give a psyker +6” range to their psychic powers, a huge bonus for some of the new Fester powers. And the Mark of Terminus Est gives its bearer +1S, a once-per-game automatic save after you fail one, and your opponent can’t re-roll wound rolls against you. Nice to have on a Daemon Prince.

Will It see use?

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

So is all of this worth giving up access to Vehicles or Mortarion? Probably. The stratagems are good, the new discipline is good, the relics are good – there’s a lot to work with here. We’ve already seen some successful competitive lists that eschew Mortarion in favor of more Terminators and while losing vehicles as well is a tall order, the ability to deep strike your foot units is a big help.

There’s probably something to taking turbo-boosted Poxwalkers but the real challenge here is that the Terminus Est Assault force doesn’t drop the restriction on taking more Plague Followers than Bubonic Astartes Core Infantry units, which means you still need a unit of plague marines or terminators for each unit of poxwalkers you want to include. Death Guard don’t have any non-Vehicle Heavy Support options, so if you’re trying to take more than 3 squads of poxwalkers you’re either going to need to take some Terminators or a second detachment, and you’ll need all the CP you can get to blow two every turn on the speed boosts (Terminus Est armies really want a Tallyman).

On the other hand what you can do with a Terminus Est Assault force is finally make good use of Possessed. Thanks to counting as 2 models each in the Codex transports, Codex: Death Guard gave us no options for transporting a unit of 10 Possessed; now you can just spend 5 CP to dump 30 of them into Deep Strike. They’re also CORE units, helping you easily meet your quotas to fill out the rest of the army with Poxwalkers. Add to the mix that Typhus and Terminator Sorcerers can teleport in with them and you’ve got a nasty combination that can drop in and hit like a freight train. There’s also nothing stopping you from taking Deathshrounds, which are the core in a lot of Death Guard lists as well. There’s a good chance we’ll see some 4-1 Terminus Est builds, at the very least.

Drukhari

Credit: Robert “theChirurgeon” Jones

Wych Cult of Strife Supplement

What does it build on?

If you haven’t already taken a look at our Drukhari Codex review, you might want to go check that out before proceeding here. Done? Yes? No? OK, well if you couldn’t be bothered the short version is “it rules”, Wych Cults are a huge part of why and the Cult of Strife is already a very valid option just on baseline – a good start which means that any additional rules are coming in hot.

There is one caveat to that. One of the strengths of the Drukhari book is that Realspace Raid detachments let you dip into a Kabal, Cult and Coven and enjoy the benefits of all three – but that doesn’t apply to all of these rules. The warlord traits can be stuck on a Cult of Strife Character in a Raid,  but you still need a full Cult of Strife detachment to unlock the Stratagems, and the Relics need you to take a Cult of Strife Warlord, which removes your ability to use a Raid at all.

That’s a real cost, and means you’re making real tradeoffs to get this into your army – but luckily, there’s some very, very strong stuff here.,

Warlord Traits

Succubus – Credit: Wings

All three of these are at least decent, and given they’re the thing that’s most broadly accessible, that’s very handy. It’s also worth saying, for people who haven’t gone deep on Drukhari yet, that Succubi are some of the most improved units in the whole book and can be pretty nasty before you add any traits or relics.

The best of the three here is probably Competitive Edge, which hits the sweet spot of being incredibly cool and very powerful. As long as your warlord puts all their attacks into a single target, once you’ve resolved them you can then make an additional attack for each of your original ones that didn’t reach the “inflict damage” step of attack resolution. That means if any of your attacks missed, failed to wound, or were saved, you get to just go ahead and take another go at them.

Now, I’m going to level with you, there are so many different options for sending a Succubus’ damage output to the moon that my basic plan is just to throw them all onto Kevin’s desk and let Hammer of Math confirm which one is best, but my gut feel is that this is the second best of the traits available across all Succubi options (behind Precision Blows assuming you’re comboing in a relic weapon), and plausibly challenges for best in some situations. The fact it stacks with any other sources of re-rolls you have and gives you sort-of-re-rolls against invulnerable saves gives it a ceiling way higher than most character buffs, and this seems incredible. So incredible, in fact, that Master Executioner, which merely lets you re-roll all wounds looks a bit lacklustre in comparison – which is wild for a trait that would be top tier on a combat character in almost any other army. It is, to be fair, quite plausibly still your third choice if you’re taking three Succubi and giving all of them traits, which you can and honestly sometimes probably should.

The other one here is the defensively skewed Unparalleled Agility, subtracting one from hits and wounds against your Succubus. Once again this would look very strong in many places, but Succubi mostly just want to go for pure damage as 60pt missiles of doom. That was my initial take, anyway, but this is a bit better than it looks, having done the maths. It changes the average number of WS3+ S4 D1 attacks needed to kill a T3 Succubus from 22.5 to 40, meaning that while a dedicated combat unit is still likely to ruin your day, you’ve got a lot more staying power against chaff, and can often dodge a single amped up character swing. This means it could have a place chucked on to a shardnet/impaler Succubus with the Painbringer drug to start at T4, making her a powerful trapper.

Overall this is a great start – two traits that would look good anywhere and are at least fine here, and one real, unique standout.

Relics

More powerful upgrades here, and it’s worth saying that three of these (all but the Glaive Exquisite) are potentially available to the Hekatrix of a Wych squad via the Hekatrix of the Crucibael stratagem. In a bit of a rollercoaster, you actually can do that as long as you have a Cult of Strife detachment, even if your warlord isn’t from the cult, so bear that in mind if you’ve taken a detachment to unlock the stratagems.

Honestly, the Glaive is largely skippable anyway, so that’s not a huge issue – there are other weapons that give you similar buffs. The other toys here are much more interesting though. Dark Lotus Toxin boosts a non-Relic weapon the bearer has by +1S and +1D, which can set up numerous cool interactions on Succubi (I believe comboing this with Razorflails is the highest you can get the number of starting D2 hit rolls you have on one) and is honestly pretty good just thrown on a power sword on a Hekatrix, giving some real extra bite to a unit.

The other two choices here are more utility-based, and they’re both strong utility effects, even though you’re probably more interested in raw killing power. The Garland of Spite is another plausible route for a shardnet trapping Succubus, as it lets you halve the attacks of one non-MONSTER/VEHICLE enemy model at the start of the fight phase, and also just straight up auto-hit with all your attacks (why not eh?). Stack this with Unparalleled Agility and you’re probably winning most duels, so if you need a model to lock down enemy killers, try it out. Morvaine’s Agoniser gives you another trapping tools, as when you hit a non-VEHICLE/MONSTER unit with it they straight up cannot fall back until your next turn. Obviously good – but realistically a squad relying on trapping is already packing a shardnet, and the weapon itself is too underwhelming to be your pick for a Succubus. If the strat let you put this on a Hellion or Reaver sergeant you’d be in business, but it’s strictly Hekatrix only.

That still leaves you with two options with uses, a nice boost to the basic Drukhari list.

Stratagems

I mean, this list goes ahead and starts with Art of the Kill, which is full melee re-rolls for a unit for a fight phase for 2CP (or 3CP for 11+ models), which definitely tells you it means business. This is, bluntly, incredibly good across most possible users of it, and a huge lure to making sure to unlock these. Don’t forget that Strife’s main codex stratagem is a double fight for Wyches, and this will affect both swings, so your Hekatrix Bloodbrides can carve through absurd amounts of stuff with it.

One challenge cults sometimes face is that, once they’ve killed their enemy, they’re left in the open vulnerable to a counterattack. Invigorated by Bloodshed is here to help with that problem – for a mere 1CP, an INFANTRY or BIKER unit gets a 4++ until your next turn after they wipe a unit in melee. This is potentially especially great on Reavers, as they’re very tough to shift with this up and can make sure to pick off some chaff to activate it, but is also fine if you’re going in on a big Wych block (they can still go to 20 models).

The final really big deal here is Dance of Death, which you can use either when you select a unit to move or to charge for 1CP. This lets them move through models or terrain features for the duration of that move, and that’s hilarious on a number of levels. Suddenly, that big ruin L-block no longer blocks your Reavers or Hellions from charging straight on through, while your Wyches or Succubi can do their best Harlequin impression and flip straight over the heads of enemy. This switches off a whole bunch of ways opponents have to shield their key assets from you and makes playing around an already vicious army far harder.

Those are the three options that super stand out here, and they kind of vastly eclipse the rest. Some of the other tools here will come up, but it’s the three above that really drive the power of this supplement.

Will it see Use?

Yes. Some of this is powerful enough that taking a Cult of Strife detachment alongside a Realspace Raid to unlock it feels genuinely worthwhile, especially as that lets you take another Succubus, who are extremely cost effective. It’s also potent enough that it feels like a plausible direction for lists that don’t want the raid or soup with other Aeldari armies. Hellions, Wyches, Reavers and Succubi are all very strong in the new book, and this makes them even better – good news for Wych fans.

Overall Thoughts

Wings

This feels like a promising start for both of these new ways of delivering rules, and I’m very excited to see what comes in whatever comprises “Act 2” of War Zone Charadon.

I like Armies of Renown as a concept much more than Specialist Detachments, as I think they do a much better job of landing the “themed army” concept and don’t create nearly as many weird balance side effects. The Vigilus stuff was incredibly binary – either there was something so good you’d effectively spend double the CP to splash it into your army or it was worthless, with very little middle ground, and those options that were worth the splash were boringly ubiquitous (e.g. the Hammer of Sunderance). Armies of Renown let the designers tightly sandbox where these new rules will come into play, which lets them be a bit more ambitious with them and do more interesting things.

I think the power level is maybe tuned just a tiny bit low on these first few, though not by much – with all three you can see something you can do with them, and the Terminus Est Assault Force looks like it has a shot at getting over the line. It’s certainly not a bad place for a first attempt at these to land. The only big risk with these is that if one is ever published that’s significantly overpowered it’s going to create a very stagnant competitive experience pretty quickly (because of how much they restrict list building), so balancing them is very much on a tightrope.

Codex Supplements I have less deep thoughts on – they’re clearly just good. The amount of rules they’ve chosen feels about right, all three have some good stuff in them, and the main thing I’m left asking, as many players will be, is “when’s mine coming out”? That’s basically the only problem with these – assuming they get drip fed out across books (and maybe White Dwarf?) it’s going to be a real potluck as to when (if ever) each subfaction gets access, which has the potential to create some really skewed incentives along the way. Ultimately, however, I would vastly rather have these than not, and it’s a great sign that factions outside Marines and Chaos Space Marines are getting this level of attention in 9th, so more of this sort of thing please. Starting, in my entirely unbiased opinion, with Novokh and Biel Tan. Yes.

TheChirurgeon

I’m 50/50 on Armies of Renown. They’re more restrictive than Specialist Detachments but the payoffs are better and I agree with WIngs that they do a better job landing the concept of a themed force. Part of that is because they aren’t just giving you a bunch of ways to spend more CP – there are real benefits to them. I think they’re a good implementation of the themed army approach after two duds, one heinous (formations) and one merely lackluster (specialist detachments).

The supplements I think are great. While Metalica and House Raven may not quite get there competitively for their relevant factions they do give players on the casual and fringe-competitive side of things a lot more options to work with, and if it means seeing more players experimenting with Cawl-free AdMech lists, I’m all for it. The Harbingers force misses a bit in that it still restricts you on Poxwalkers but otherwise it’s a really cool set of rules and I think it’s strong enough that I want to try and make it work. The Cult of Strife stuff is also interesting – it’s powerful, but it makes for a real trade-off when you have to choose between it and a Realspace Raid, which is a good call.

Here’s a List, Why Not

TheChirurgeon: Here’s a list I ran against Goonhammer’s Condit when we were talking about the new rules – it posted a 77-68 finish in a grueling game against the new Drukhari Codex. We played the mission Vital Intelligence and I ended up taking Assassinate, Data Intercept, and Spread the Sickness as my secondaries.

Death Guard Battalion Detachment, (1,996 points, 9 CP)

Terminus Est Assault Force

Plague Company: The Harbingers

HQ: Daemon Prince w/Wings, Sword, Talon, Chosen of Nurgle WL Trait: Rotten Constitution, Relic: Supparating Plate, Powers: Rotwind (195)

HQ: Typhus, WARLORD, Powers: Fester Discipline – Gift of Plagues, Miasma of Pestilence (165)

HQ: Sorcerer in Terminator Armour, Powers: Lungrot, Gift of Infection, Relic: Filth Censers (110)

EL: Tallyman (70)

EL: Biologus Putrifier (65)

EL: Foul Blightspawn (75) w/Stench-Vats

EL: Possessed x10 (240)

EL: Possessed x10 (240)

EL: Deathshroud Terminators x3 (150)

TPS: Poxwalkers x20 (100)

TPS: Poxwalkers x20 (100)

TPS: Poxwalkers x20 (100)

TPS: Poxwalkers x20 (100)

TPS: Plaguemarines x10 w/Sigil, Blight Launcher, Power fist (230)

FA: Chaos Spawn x2 (Grandfatherly Influence -1 CP)

Lessons learned:

The strategy of putting the Possessed in deep strike reserves with the Blightspawn and the Putrifier was pretty solid – they did good work and benefit from being able to drop in further afield. The Daemon Prince was also interesting – Rotwind essentially gives him the ability to roll a 2+ against any attack in the game, but Condit’s Haemonculus was able to deny his cast of it on Drazhar and ultimately he went down to AP-3 attacks.

The biggest challenge you’re going to have with these lists is figuring out what to leave on the board since you need 1,000+ points deployed on the table. I think next time I’ll just walk the Deathshrouds and will consider replacing the unit of Plaguemarines with more deathshrouds, since they’re better for holding the middle of the table. The other thing I learned is that you’re going to want to take a unit of 10 Poxwalkers so you have the option to bring back a unit of 10 for 2 CP rather than 3 – late in the game 3 CP is a big ask, especially when you start down 6+. The Tallyman is a must-take in these lists.

Wrap Up

New book day is always an exciting time in the 40K world, and while maybe not quite as exciting as the Drukhari Codex there’s still a lot for people to get their teeth into here, and in general it feels like a good first batch of non-Codex content for this edition. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions hit us up at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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