Tuesday, 17 January 2017
Gathering Storm: Fall of Cadia Part 2 - Special Rules, Units and Relics (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)
So, with the story done we're onto the core rules. This time there's actually not much in the way of them, oddly enough. Oh there are certainly a few fun things to work with to be sure, and a few nice ideas here and there, but it's far more trimmed down than what we'd usually expect from a rulebook of this sort. A big part of this is down to the length of the lore describing the campaign, which took up the bulk of the tome and, speaking personally for a moment, that seems like a fair trade-off.
As important as rules generally are, the universe needs a solid story at its core and the final Black Crusade was an event which could have been so easily screwed up. Personally, for all the complaints made here, it's a small miracle that Aaron Dembski-Bowden pulled off the story half as well as he did.
Plus, for those about to complain, we did get two brand new heroes and one vastly revamped one, all from relatively minor factions on the tabletop. So, it's not like this was completely weighted in favour of one faction.
So, without further delay, here's a look into the rules you can find in this particular book, starting with the aforementioned characters.
It's fairly obvious looking at these that Games Workshop are attempting to mix and match elements as best they can. Each of the characters found here are capable of imbuing armies with the benefits usually reserved to their forces. This is extremely evident with the Archmagos and the Saint, while the Inquisitor provides more of a durable and extremely powerful psyker for other armies. The sort of thing which most Imperial armies outside of the astartes are usually unable to get their hands on.
This seems more akin to an Age of Sigmar idea more than anything else, especially when you look at the buff heavy god tier characters and how they effectively symbolise every key benefit of the army in one model. That said, Age of Sigmar is still something of a different game, and the inclusion of such characters here is disconcerting to be sure. After all, we just had Celestine removed from her own army, only to show up here with the ability to grant Sisters exclusive benefits to any army she's attached to.
Given their extremely limited support over the past decade, the fact the recent re-release fixed nothing and and the lack of new models, some could take this as bumping off the army and leaving only a figurehead to be passed about from force to force. Then again, you could argue that this equally might be a way of dragging attention back towards the Sisters and is an opportunity to test the waters to see how much attention she can garner. It's too early to do much more than speculate admittedly, so whether or not this is a positive thing or not will vary from person to person.
Still, we're here to judge the rules as much as the concepts behind their use, so let's start with the Embodiment of the Emperor's Will.
One known as the elite-troll-option for characters, at least in the days before super heavy choices and others, Celestine's development has been an odd rollercoaster ride of developments. As her use was shifted about from one Edition to the next thanks to a lack of updates, a nerf eventually left her weaker than before until it seemed the writers were desperately trying to push Confessor Jacobus as a better character choice for the army. That seems to have changed here however, as Celestine has undergone arguably one of the single biggest rules buffs ever seen in the game.
Hiking her overall value up to a full two hundred points, the Saint is now capable of shrugging off the various one-shots which tended to bring her down during the Fifth and Sixth Editions. This is thanks to now having five (!) wounds, Eternal Warrior and a 2+ save as standard, meaning she's fully capable of going toe to toe with some of the more power mad marine characters. This does admittedly go hand in hand with the fact that she can now only resurrect herself once per game, but that in of itself is offset by her new bodyguards. The mysterious Geminae Superia act more or less as flying Seraphim with two wounds, WS 5, a 4+ Invulnerable save and power swords, but each can be continually resurrected by the Saint herself, over and over again. The end result? Perpetual "Look out, sir!" saves, meaning she can use these guys as easy extra wounds, Gun Drone style.
While she does still retain the Strength and Toughness of a standard human (three), her weapons more than make up for this limitation. The Strength 4 AP 5 flamer stands out for quick horde annihilation options, but more importantly her sword now confers +2 Strength and hits at AP 3, and comes with Armourbane to boot. Oh, and if that wasn't enough killing potential she now has an ability which is effectively the Orbital Strike blast usually reserved for Chapter Masters. This means that she has the ability to hack her way through enemy transports, entire squads of foes, and even give Abaddon a run for his money if the dice are right.
Finally, as mentioned previously, she can confer War Hyms and Acts of Faith onto other units, albeit only those within a "12 range. Well, sort of anyway. While she can only support and buff those who already have them within range (by using her Leadership 10 stat in stead of their own one) she has a number of Saintly Blessings which work in a similar way, but tend to be a lot more effective on the whole. These also have a 12" range to them, but, well, see for yourself what they can offer:
HQ Choices: The unit gains Zealot until the start of the next turn.
Troops Choices: Each gains Feel No Pain 6+ until the start of next turn, or a +1 buff if they already have the rule (You can see why Blood Angels players are suddenly very interested in her).
Elites Choices: Each gains both Counter-Attack and Furious Charge until start of next turn.
Fast Attack Choices: Each gains Crusader and Fleet until start of next turn.
Heavy Support Choices: Each gains Relentless until start of next turn.
Lord of War: It Will Not Die for the rest of the game.
Suffice to say, personally I think the devs went a bit overboard with this. Please don't get me wrong, this is bound to get the Sisters some long deserved attention (and it is definitely a very good thing the character still can be brought down via plasma guns or heavy weapons, and that her main benefit is that she works with another army) but some of these seem to be going a bit too far for her points cost. It only gets worse when you realise she gives the army access to most of the relics in this book, so overall it honestly seems like she should have been shunted up in points slightly more.
Still, given some of the things we have seen in this Edition, she's more on the extremely powerful and versatile end of things than the "I will win the entire battle on my lonesome!" scale of obscene characters.
Also known as the Eye of the Emperor (with the book getting in a welcome First Heretic reference with her title) this is the same character who was once trapped by Trazyn within a seemingly inescapable tesseract labyrinth. As such, despite being a new character she has some history to her within the setting and despite being branded a Radical by her superiors for her use of psychic powers, her beliefs align her more with the Monodominant secs of the Inquisition. It's an interesting contrast to be sure, and if handled correctly she could be an interesting character. Admittedly though, personally i'm not a fan of the armour (really, a literal breast plate and high heels? That's going five steps too far) even if the Van Helsing look is always a welcome addition to this sort of thing.
Moving onto her rules though, she's a definitely step down from Saint "Look what I can do now!" Celestine, but still has a fair bit of power behind her. With a standard but solid Inquisitor's stats line and a 3+ standard save, her cost of one hundred and fifty points will net you a master crafted power sword and boltgun, along with a few fun extras. The Psyocculum and Psyk-out grenades come equipped as standard with this character, giving her an edge against enemy psykers while responding with her own powers via a Psychic Mastery level of two and the Aura of Oppression. This is a malediction ability with a range of 12" and forces the target to immediately take a pinning test. No matter the result though, the enemy unit cannot Run, use Overwatch, Turbo-boost or performing Sweeping Advances. Plus, if this isn't enough, you can boost it to three Warp charges until it hits every foe within 12"
There's also quite a unique Warlord Trait known as the Master of Interrogation, which prevents any enemy Infiltrators from emerging within 12" of her. As these things go, that one is pretty damn useful for sure. Combined with the aforementioned psychic power, it makes her a useful spearhead unit against gun-lines or fast moving armies, even if she is a bit on the fragile side.
Archmagos Dominus Belisarius Cawl
It has to be said, of all the new models here this is definitely the most impressive of the bunch. It matches up almost perfectly with some of the most over-the-top and grandiose descriptions of powerful Magos seen in various black library books, especially the avarice driven maniac in Soul Drinker. Honestly, it's probably one of the single best character design seen in 40,000 in the last few years, and it manages to somehow balance out the complexity of the sheer details of the model with a singular distinct appearance. If the Wulfen are a Rob Liefeld creation spat out of a factory, this is a John Blanche sketch brought to life.
Given the sheer size of the model himself and the rather large base he occupies, we should be thankful that he has some pretty damn great rules to back him up, starting with an especially beefy stats line. In short:
WS5 BS5 S5 T6 W5 I3 A3 Ld10 Sv2+
Along with a Refractor Field to help him endure a bit more firepower, he has an Arc Scourge, a Master-crafted power axe, Scryerskull and a Mechadendrite Hive. That last one is rather useful, as it can unleash either 2D6 Strength 4 attacks or a single Haywire attack at Initiative 10. To add to the stonewall effect this guy can pull off, he can regenerate D3 wounds per turn and can even be repaired by a Dominus in his unit. This basically turns him into a staggeringly effective bullet sponge, capable of absorbing railgun rounds and remaining effectively immune to small arms fire. Most people have this habit of trying to overcome Terminators by lining up row upon row of lasguns until a few shots get through, but you can't bring this guy down through sheer attrition. Oh, he'll still die to a few Strength D hits or bad rolls, but it helps to justify his high cost of two hundred points.
Besides being a massive wall of armour, he naturally has a few rules to actually help the army overall. The power axe is one obvious one, and the Arc Sourge is a S+1 AP4 Master-crafted cudgel which has a re-rollable Haywire effect to screw over vehicles. So, if you can get him within range of things he's going to promptly chomp through vehicles and troops alike like there's no tomorrow. Just don't expect him to solo too many heroes any time soon, as he'll likely fall quickly in the face of Grimnar, Mephiston or Anrakyr. Even the Solar Atomiser - a raygun fanatic's wet dream - has a limited range of "12 and while obscenely effective (S 10 AP 1 Assault D3, Master-crafted) there are still ways he can be bogged down in combat until someone can come along to ruin his day.
As a result, he should probably be regarded as a kind of armoured battering ram as much as anything else. You use him to keep fire away away from the rest of your army, keep him towards the front, and then use his variety of attacks to break the enemy's lines or bog down their best units.
The big bonus here is that, as mentioned previously, he can pass on a few fun bonuses in the form of his army scale buffs. He still has Canticles of the Omnissiah, but much like Celestine he now has the new and improved Canticles of the Archmagos which can affect Imperial vehicles. As in all of the Imperial vehicles, from Knights to Rhinos. They permit the following, and work in the same way as past options:
Harmony of Metalurgy
1-3 Units Within Range: Each unit gains It Will Not Die.
4-7 Units: It Will Not Die. Make two ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only one.
8+ Units: It Will Not Die. Make three ITWND rolls for affected units instead of only one.
Utterance of Neutralisation
1-3 Units Within Range: Each unit gains +1 Ballistic Skill.
4-7 Units: +2 Ballistic Skill.
8+ Units: +3 Ballistic Skill.
War Hymnal of Fortitude
1-3 Units Within Range: Each unit gains a 6+ Invulnerable Save.
4-7 Units: 5+ Invulnerable Save.
8+ Units: 4+ Invulnerable Save.
Personally speaking, I think this is where the book really, truly, jumped the shark and never looked back. Personal buffs via characters is nothing new, and they're usually a welcome addition to such books, but something like this is completely and utterly obscene. Even if you rule out the possibility of multiple Imperial Knights all suddenly gaining standard 4+ invulnerable saves, just consider what this could do for the average APC. Personally, I run an Iron Hands force with a great deal of assault cannon equipped Razorbacks. So, imagine for a moment if all of those suddenly gained three It Will Not Die rolls atop of their standard enhanced defences. It won't be unstoppable, but it'll need one hell of an opposing force to actually bring them down.
The most tame among these is that Utterance of Neutralisation, but even then if you just have a few tanks nearby it will turn them into squad shredders. So, six Leman Russ tanks? Yeah, welcome to BS5 Imperial Guard tanks. There's nothing wrong with being powerful of course, but there's something wrong with being borderline indestructible and having the capacity to do the same to anyone nearby.
There are two sets of relics this time around, the first being the Arcana Mechanicum with more technological abilities and benefits, and the second is simply listed as Ecclesiarchy Relics. Naturally these are limited to the involvement of certain characters or armies, but besides thematic qualities you won't find too many differences here. They seem to be written more to use certain special rules and fit into certain item categories more than anything else.
Numinasta's Casket of Electromancy - Another in the long line of powerful-but-one-shot weapons, this one is rather surprising as it hits everything within range of it. Yes, everything, so once your character pulls the trigger all foes from flyers to monsterous creatures will instantly be hit by it. That said, don't expect it to do that much damage against the bigger, badder characters as it does have a fairly weedy Strength 3 hit despite having a range of 2d6", AP -, Assault 1 and Haywire.
Quantum Annihilator - Another ranged weapon, this one strikes at 18", S2d6 and AP2, but has Assault D3 shots. Obviously something which can hit at Strength 12 will have quite an impact, and thankfully the special rule actually accounts for this. In effect, if you roll that high after selecting the target unit, the suffer Instant Death with an automatic wound, or at least an automatic penetration if it's a vehicle you're shooting at.
Sacrifactum Autorepulsor - Much like some of the stuff seen in Wrath of Magnus, this one limits the charging range of enemy units. Anyone looking to hurl themselves headlong into the unit retaining this bearer suffer -2" from their overall result. It's useful to be sure, and fifteen points is an easy thing to help justify.
Memento-Morispex - ... Ignoring the terrible, terrible pun, this one is odd to be sure. In effect, the weapon conveys one of the following: Cognis Weapons (BS2 while using Snapfire, and Flamers have a standard three with Wall of Death in Overwatch), Monster Hunter, Skyfire or Tank Hunter. It's probably one of the best options on here as it allows for a bit more tailoring than usual, and can be changed at the beginning of each turn. So, if you want to shoot down a plane, blow up a tank and then butcher a squad before they charge, this is well worth the thirty point price tag.
Omnissiah's Grace - This instantly offers a 6+ Invulnerable save to the bearer, but it sadly doesn't cover the entire squad this person is with. However, it does stack with existing saves, to a maximum of 3+, so it can be a nice bonus for just ten points.
Saint Curia's Autopurger - Now, this is a very odd but very useful one to be sure. It doesn't directly harm the enemy in the conventional manner, but it hinders and limits squads locked in combat with them. For starters, anyone charging this unit do not gain their additional attack on the charge, and every time turn they remain in combat they are required to pass a Toughness test or they will lose a wound (with saves as per usual). Normally this is the sort of thing I would personally argue would still work well with close combat engagements as well, as it limits their ability to counter them.
Skull of Petronella the Pious - Conferring a 6+ Invulnerable save, at first this one doesn't look like it's worth the thirty points the book charges you to take it. However, there's one key difference here a few people have overlooked: This isn't limited to just the wielder, but can be spread to the entire squad. So, your command squad or anyone with this character now has a permanent 6+ save, allowing them to benefit from a bit more added durability. Not too bad atall.
Blade of the Worthy - At the same price as the above choice, this is the killing weapon of the book. It's mostly just a hand-me-down version of Celestine's own blade, with an oddly unreliable nature to it. In its normal state, it hits at the users Strength and AP3, but if you pass a Leadership test before each combat, it benefits from a +2 Strength and AP3 boost. Honestly, this is a bit overpriced and over-engineered for its design, so while it can certainly deliver the goods (well, the heads of your foes) we have seen far better ideas in previous books.
Castigator - So, with the melee weapon done we now have the ranged one, specifically a pistol. Striking at 12" with Strength 4 and AP2, it doesn't look like anything truly special at first, until you get to the special rule: It ignores invulnerable saves. For fifteen points this is an almost essential grab, as even if you're loosing only a single round before entering combat with a character, knocking off that wound is well worth its cost.
The Font of Fury - Another one-shot weapon again, this one is something you can use as a back-up ranged attack. With a very odd range of 8" and Strength 3, AP-, Assault 1, Poison 4+ and a Large blast template, it's designed largely as something to fire into squads before charging/being charged. We've seen this sort of thing quite a few times before, and it can be useful if a little temperamental and unpredictable. With such a massively short range though, you might want to think very carefully before taking this one, despite costing a cheap fifteen points.
Bane of Evil: Oddly enough this is a potent weapon, but one limited to a few specific foes. It allows the user's attacks to have Poison 2+ against units from Chaos Space Marine, Chaos Demon or Khorne Demonkin related books, not no one else. So, it's situational but it could be enough to have a major edge against certain foes. It will certainly give daemon princes one hell of a surprise though, that's for sure.
Shroud of the Anti-Martyr - For thirty-five points, the bearer now has Eternal Warrior. Yep, that's it, nothing more. Moving on.
Desvalle's Holy Circle - This one is a somewhat useful one actually as it confers a 4+ Invulnerable save against all attacks, but it also produces a 12" radius which enemy units simply cannot Deep Strike into. So, shove them onto an objective and the usual Terminator trick becomes much harder to pull off. Furthermore, if an enemy units scatters within that range, they suffer an immediate Deep Strike Mishap. Overall, not too shabby really.
Overall, this is hit and miss to be sure and it does still delve into a few bad habits. Those ones should definitely be obvious here, but there is definitely still some good to be found. In particular, the fact many of the characters have been pushed to work more with armies despite their power and the originality of a few items stand out here. It does genuinely seem like the writers were aware of the old problems so many codices kept suffering from, but the sheer power suggests they wanted it to still be competitive against the more powerful books.
As a result, overall this is most definitely a very mixed book than a truly middling one, suffering from several extremes at once more than falling short on something completely. So, on the tabletop front it's still not entirely worthless and the abilities of a few characters are certainly worth it to be sure, but you might want to stick to this one for the story more than the tabletop mechanics.
So, that's two parts done, join us here as we move on to the formations.