As promised in my previous post, I’ve written a review of the new Sisters of Battle Beta Codex, including my thoughts on its new rules and gear, and how I see this affecting my own army moving forward. Note that in this review, I may be omitting a few things here and there: primarily, I will be focusing on new things in the book that are either of significant importance, or affect me/my army the most. That being said, I will try to be as in depth in my analysis as possible.
SPECIAL RULES- WHAT’S NEW
The new beta Codex brings a lot of new features to the table for the Sisters of Battle– specifically, the stratagems, subfaction rules, relics and warlord traits needed to bring the Sisters of Battle in line with other Codex armies (no new units, sadly, but that is to be expected for now). More immediately, the Sisters have had some significant adjustment to their special rules: the Sisters still have their Shield of Faith rule, granting all units with the rule a 6+ invulnerable save, but in addition to that, they now all gain a universal attempt to deny psychic powers on a 1D6…which, realistically, isn’t that great. In the event that any psykers roll above a 6, then the Sisters have virtually no chance to deny it anyway. On its own, this rule provides only a very limited defence against psychic powers…but thankfully, the Sisters have plenty of anti-psyker defences from other sources (more on them later).
Of course, the biggest changes came to the way Acts of Faith work…
ACTS OF FAITH: THE EMPEROR DOESN’T ALWAYS PROTECT
Back in the Index, Faith points were rare, but powerful. Each turn, you would generate a Faith point on a 2+, and would gain additional Faith points (1) for every Imagifier on a roll of 4+, and (2) as a free Faith point per turn, for either Celestine or for a unit with 6″ of her. The acts of faith themselves were straightforward, but powerful– essentially, an Act of Faith would allow the unit to move, shoot or fight out of sequence at the very start of the turn, or else regain a lose model (or regain d3 wounds in the case of single-model units). The combinations that this unlocked were extremely effective: Celestine and/or accompanying units of Seraphim could be in the opponent’s face on turn 1, Retributors could reliably shoot twice, characters/large Sisters units could double their number of attacks, etc. Though you would usually be getting only 2-3 acts of faith per turn, they were always reliable, and could always influence the tide of battle at a moment’s notice.
But now, as seems to happen with every new version of the Sisters of Battle rules, the Acts of Faith have changed…again. You now start the game with 3 Faith points, with another for every 10 Sisters models in your army, and the chance to gain extras through things like Order rules, stratagems, warlord traits, etc. Each act of faith now triggers on a dice roll, and the effects…well, aren’t quite as impressive. On a certain dice roll, a unit attempting an act of faith will be able to:
-add 3″ to their movement until the end of the phase (4+)
-regains d3 wounds/a model at the start of the Movement phase (3+)
-gain 4+ save against mortal wounds in the enemy Psychic phase (3+)
-get +1 to hit in the shooting phase (4+)
-Fight twice in the Fight phase (5+)
Each act of faith can only be attempted once per round, and while there are certainly ways to regain Faith (as shall be touched upon later), you can’t go as crazy with faith points as you might like in a given round.
While these new Acts of Faith are not terrible, they are certainly a far cry from the reliability and effectiveness of the previous Faith system. Part of what irks me is that they are so random in their nature: unless you invest in simulacra (more on them later) or the Ebon Chalice (more on them as well later) to boost your faith rolls, you can’t rely on your Acts of Faith necessarily getting off, and even then, the benefits they confer are marginal at best. I am not saying they are bad per se- +3 to a unit’s movement can go a long way, for instance, towards grabbing objectives and getting into a comfortable charge range– but they aren’t nearly as much of a source of power as they used to be. The more I look at the new Acts of Faith, the more I find myself comparing them to the Orders of the Astra Militarum: somehow, the divine intervention of the God-Emperor of Mankind is less reliable, and less powerful, than a man in a peaked cap shouting at people. From a lore and a gameplay perspective, that just irks me to no end.
Overall, Faith points in the beta codex are a letdown…at least, at first glance. Like all things in the book, they will need some testing before I can say anything definitive about them one way or another.
As with most current armies, the Sisters of Battle are getting their own subfactions. They are as follows:
Order of Our Martyred Lady– the army gains a Faith point whenever one of its units is destroyed. This is an interesting conviction, as I find that Sisters tend to be a high risk, high reward army that needs to get close to do the most damage, and as such tends to attract plenty of casualties. If you start losing units to risky gambles, or if the battle starts to turn against you, this conviction lets you rack up Faith points to hopefully help turn things around. I can see this conviction suiting an aggressive play style, and being particularly useful in a multiple-small-unit mechanized force, with lots of 5-girl squads that die fairly easily to grant an easy return in Faith.
Order of the Ebon Chalice– this conviction grants +1 to all Faith tests. If you really want your Faith points to go off, and don’t want to invest too much on Dialogus/simulacrums (or conversely, want them to be more effective), then this is the conviction for you. An army-wide bonus on Faith tests makes those random rolls a little more reliable, and should help you get those Faith points off when you need them the most.
Order of the Argent Shroud- whenever a unit from this army destroys an enemy unit, roll a dice: on a 4+, the army gains a Faith point. I would like this conviction a lot more if it were not for the fact that its effectiveness hinges upon a dice roll: it is essentially a random roll to gain access to another random roll. Added to this is the fact that this conviction’s effectiveness will vary depending on who you are fighting: you may find yourself getting more returns against an army of multiple small, easy to destroy units than against armies with smaller numbers of more powerful units (Imperial Knights and Custodes come to mind, as to armies with large, resilient blobs like Nurgle Daemons). If the game is going against you, this conviction’s effectiveness will be of little help. Overall, I’m not impressed, and I’m of the opinion that this is probably the weakest conviction in the beta Codex.
Order of the Bloody Rose- whenever an infantry unit from this army is charged, charges, or Heroically Intervenes, it gains +1 attack and +1 strength for the first round of combat. This is a surprisingly decent conviction, in that it gives a serious melee edge to an army that, aside from a few specialist units, has always sucked at melee combat (a weakness made all the more apparent by the army’s short range). With the Bloody Rose, it is now a much more feasible option for Battle Sisters/Dominions/Seraphim to charge into combat after rapid firing/flaming/melting a foe, and power weapons on Sister Superiors suddenly become a much more attractive option. It also adds some potency to the oft-maligned Repentias, though sadly they still suffer from a lack of protection (more on them later). I can see this conviction as being equally viable with mechanized Sisters and footslogging hordes alike, and can be combined to excellent effect with Priests– 3 attacks per Sister at strength 4 means they can beat the tar out of Marine equivalents, Orks, etc surprisingly well.
Overall, while I hesitate to call this the best conviction, it certainly is one of the best, as it works around one of the Sisters’ most problematic weaknesses.
Order of the Valorous Heart- all infantry units in this army ignore wounds on a 6+. Not an amazing conviction, but not a bad one either, especially since the ignoring wounds ability stacks with the 6+ invulnerable save granted by Shield of Faith. With the right combination of wargear, stratagems and relics, you can have Sisters rocking a 5+ (or even 4+) invulnerable save and still ignoring wounds on 6s afterwards. As a Drukhari player, I know from experience that while ignoring wounds on 6s is not something to be relied upon, it can nonetheless be extremely handy at the right moment. Overall, not an amazing conviction, but by no means a bad one either.
Order of the Sacred Rose- All units overwatch on a 5+. In addition, units only ever take one casualty from failed morale tests. This is again another decent conviction that, like the Bloody Rose, seems tailored to the Sisters’ play style: because the Sisters are an army that likes to get close to the enemy, there is a strong likelihood of them getting charged, and overwatching on a 5+ helps them out in dealing with that. I can see this conviction being good for a mechanized Sisters army, though it seems much better suited for a footslogging one: only ever suffering one casualty to morale means that Sisters blobs won’t evaporate as quickly if they take lots of shooting casualties, and overwatching on 5s with massed bolters is, admittedly, an attractive idea, especially against melee-oriented forces like Orks and Daemons.
My only problem with the Sacred Rose is that, as will be shown later, there are a lot of ways in the beta codex to reduce casualties from Morale, the inclusion of Missionaries and Dialogus being among them. None of them are quite as efficient as the Sacred Rose conviction, but all the same, you have multiple options for ensuring a degree of safety in the morale phase, which means that Sacred Rose is not an automatic must-take. Still, I think it is a solid conviction nonetheless, and one that will be helpful for when the enemy gets in charge range of your Nuns with (more accurately overwatching) Guns.
A further note: it is worth mentioning that Saint Celestine and her Geminae, Sisters Dialogus and Hospitallers, and all “Ecclesiarchy” units (ie Priests, Arco-Flagellants, Crusaders, Death Cultists and Penitent Engines) do not benefit from any of the above Order convictions, as they themselves do not have the <ORDER> keyword. When selecting your conviction, the above fact is an important thing to keep in mind when considering which units will be affected by it.
An observation: the Sisters’ Orders seemed divided into two camps: those that have an effect on Faith, and those that do not. Ultimately, whichever one you pick boils down to how much time and attention you want to devote to Faith, or whether you want your Sisters to perform awesomely independent of it. The most attractive faith based-one, to me, is the Ebon Chalice, while for the non-faith ones, the Bloody Rose seems incredibly powerful (with the Sacred Rose coming in a strong second). However, this is just an initial assessment: I hope to experiment a bit with these different convictions and see for myself which ones work for me and which ones don’t.
There are a bucketload of new strategies in the new beta Codex, some of which are meh, and some of which are damned impressive. I am going to quickly go over the ones that stuck out to me the most:
Extremis Trigger Word (2 CP)- gives your Arco-Flagellants’ flails a reliable 3 attacks per attack, instead of D3, but at the cost of having to roll a D6 + the size of the unit at the end of the phase– for each roll of 6, you lose an Arco-Flagellant. This actually reminds me a lot of Arco-Flagellants’ first iteration, where they had a random number of power weapon attacks, but every time you rolled a 6 for their number of attacks you lost a model. Personally, though, I think the trade off is more than worth it given the insane damage output that Arco-Flagellants could potentially wreak with this stratagem.
Vessel of the Emperor’s Will (3 CP)- when a Sisters character successfully makes an Act of Faith, all Sisters units within 6″ of that character automatically use that Act of Faith as well. I love this stratagem, as it means that, if you set things up right, you can synergize your Sisters together for a massive turn of pain. A Canoness and 2-3 squads of Sisters for instance, all disembarking from their transports at the same time, could all benefit from +1 to hit for a single turn. Alternatively, in the event that your battle-line is caught in a huge, sprawling melee, using the “fight twice” act at the right moment could swing things in your favour. The best thing about this stratagem, of course, is that it maximizes the potential of an Act of Faith while only using one Faith point.
Blessed Bolts (1 CP)- the storm bolters in a squad gain AP -2 and damage 2 for one round. This is an incredibly effective stratagem, especially given how cheap and plentiful storm bolters are for the Sisters of Battle. A unit of Battle Sisters with 2-3 storm bolters (or, hell, a unit of Dominions with 4-5) will suddenly become a nightmare for tough/multi-wound opponents like Primaris Marines, Plague Marines, Terminators, Tyranid Warriors…heck, I can even see this stratagem worrying Custodes.
Faith and Fury (1 CP)- reroll 1s to wound after passing a Faith test. Again, a really good stratagem and one that counts for both shooting and close combat. I can already see this stratagem working beautifully if the unit has a Canoness nearby– the only thing better than rerolls to wound are rerolls to hit and to wound, after all.
Martyrdom (1 CP)- The army gains d3 Faith points if a character dies, or 3 Faith points if the warlord dies. A decent way to regain Faith if the battle starts turning against you.
The Holy Trinity (1 CP)- if a Sisters unit has at least one flamer weapon, one melta weapon and one bolt weapon, they gain +1 to wound in the shooting phase if they are all firing at the same target. This stratagem is, again, incredibly effective, but it also forces you to consider your squad setup at army list creation if you want to take advantage of it. For Battle Sisters, a possible loadout of meltagun + heavy flamer + optional combi flamer/melta comes to mind, as does dual melta + combi-flamer. For Dominions, similarly, it makes including a flamer in a melta-toting squad an interesting investment.
The only issue with this stratagem, however, is that it prevents you from split firing– so, for instance, if your bolters and flamers are frying an incoming horde of Orks, that meltagun will be forced to freem a single Ork Boy instead of targeting, say, that Deffdred that is getting perilously close. Still, +1 to wound is still a huge bonus, and one that I, for one, will still be trying to take advantage of when I can.
The Blade of Admonition- the Blade, thankfully, remains the same as it did from Chapter Approved 2017, being a +2 strength, AP-3 Damage 3 beatstick. It remains one of the best fighty relics in the game, and one of my personal favourites.
The Mantle of Ophelia- A returning relic from days past, the Mantle used to grant immunity to instant death back when instant death was a thing. Now, it simply grants a 3+ invulnerable save, making it a solid choice in case you want one of your characters to be tankier. Definitely a solid investment for a toughness 3 hero.
The Brazier of Holy Flame- allows all Sisters in 6″ to deny the witch on a proper 2D6 instead of their usual 1D6. Decent, but like all anti-psyker relics in the game, I consider it to be situational at best. Obviously, take it if you’re expecting psykers, otherwise, I would try to leave CP available for the next item on the list…
The Book of St. Lucius- allows the user to extend their aura abilities by an extra 3″. This is an extremely solid choice, because almost every character in the new beta codex has an aura ability of some sort. I can easily see putting this on a Missionary or Preacher to boost their +1 attack bubble, or giving it to a Canoness, either to extend her rerolls aura, or, even better, to extend her +1 to saves ability if she has the Indomitable Belief warlord trait. Heck, even a Dialogous, and her ability to bolster the leadership and Faith tests of her Sisters, would be a solid candidate for the Book. Either way, I would label the Book as being close as possible to a must-take, either for your warlord or for a vital supporting character.
The Litanies of Faith- after using a Faith point, the Litanies allow you to regain a Faith point on a 5+ (not unlike some other relics/abilities in the game that let you refund Command Points in a similar manner). Honestly, I find this to be hit or miss: depending, again, on your Order, and other factors you’ve built into your list, you may have more reliable ways to regain Faith points than simply recycling them on a 5+. It’s not a bad item, but one that is, in my mind, overshadowed by most of the others on this list (especially the Book).
Wrath of the Emperor- a bolt pistol that fires at 18″ with 3 shots, strength 5, AP -1 and D2. A surprisingly decent gun, though one that contends with other strong choices like the Blade of Admonition and the Book.
Just as with relics, the Sisters now have viable Warlord traits! Here’s my thoughts on them:
Indomitable Belief- this is a warlord trait that the internet has already been declaring to be a must-take, and it’s easy to see why: essentially, the warlord boosts the Shield of Faith save for all nearby Sisters by 1, giving them a much more effective 5+ invulnerable. This makes your Sororitas far more survivable, and can combo effectively with Celestine to boost the Shield of Faith even further to a possible 3+ (more on that later). The fact that this trait will affect anything that has the Shield of Faith rule (which includes most of the Sororitas vehicles as well) makes this warlord trait pretty damned impressive, especially if you position your warlord to affect as many units as possible. Giving said warlord the Book of St. Lucius will help, of course.
Pure of Will- Lets you deny more than one power a turn, and can force -1 to the psychic tests of Psykers within 12″ of the warlord. Surprisingly effective, but again, far too situational to base an all-comers list around. Still, given the number of armies out there that make use of large numbers of psykers (including most flavours of Chaos, Tyranids and Craftworld Eldar), this warlord trait is deserving of some consideration.
Righteous Rage- Allows the user to reroll failed to wound rolls whenever they charge, are charged or Heroically Intervene, also allows you to reroll failed charges. I personally really like this one, and can’t wait to use it in tandem with the Blade of Admonition. For some reason, though, Uriah Jacobus comes standard with this trait…even though close combat is the last place you want him to be in.
Beacon of Faith- At the start of each of your turns, your warlord generates a Faith point for the army on a 4+. Not bad if you want Faith generation to be a reliable thing in your army. Saint Celestine comes with this Warlord trait, and from a fluff perspective, it kind of makes sense for her, given that she is a living avatar of the Emperor’s Will.
Executioner of Heretics- the warlord forces -1 Leadership on all enemies in 6″. Really, the least impressive of the list.
Inspiring Orator- all Sisters in 6″ may use the Warlord’s Leadership and reroll failed morale tests. Pretty decent, although there are other ways to bolster morale in this army (as shall be touched upon soon).
It is also worth noting that, unlike more established codexes, the beta codex does not have unique warlord traits, stratagems or relics for any of the individual Orders. I am certain that this will change once the official codex drops, however, and that the inclusion of these may change which Order convictions are/are not worth taking.
Saint Celestine (+ Gemini Superiae)– although these two are now separate units, I am reviewing them now together because they still pretty much need to be used together to be effective. Celestine is now about 40 points cheaper since Chapter Approved 2017, has one less wound, and has suffered a slight nerf. In her previous incarnation, Celestine could give herself (or a nearby unit, usually of Seraphim) a free Act of Faith with which to propel herself (or said unit) all the way up the board and start attacking the enemy on turn 1. This ability has, unsurprisingly, been eliminated. However, Celestine still has her ability to add +1 to the Shield of Faith save of any Sisters within 6″ of her, and gives a 6+ invul to any Astra Militarum or non-Sister Ministorum units as well.
With the advent of certain other traits and abilities in the Sisters’ arsenal now, though, the implications of this ability are huge: if staying near a big blob of Sisters with a Canoness with Indomitable Belief, the two heroes will effectively give their Sisters a 4+ invulnerable save (or a 3+, if you use the once-per-game Sacred Banner of the Orders Militant stratagem). Alternatively, Celestine can range ahead alongside a unit of Seraphim and give them a 4+ invulnerable save as well (more on them later), or give an advancing wall of transports a 5+ invulnerable. To top it all off, Celestine remains impressive in the Fight phase, with 6 attacks and her Ardent Blade still granting her +3 strength and 2 damage. She still has her resurrection ability, though now she must respawn 3″ away from where she fell, and can no longer teleport onto the field from a new location. Given, however, that you may want a different warlord trait than Celestine’s Beacon of Faith (*coughcoughIndomitableBeliefcough*), then Celestine remains a unit you can play aggressively with if need be without fear of giving up Slay the Warlord.
I should note, though, that her Gemini Superiae have now been made into a separate Elites choice, and function a little differently: instead of automatically tanking wounds for Celestine, instead whenever Celestine suffers an unsaved wound they will suffer a mortal wound in her stead on a 2+. Statwise they are also slightly worse, their once glorious 2+ save being degraded to a 3+, and no longer have their 4+ invulnerable save either, though Celestine can still resurrect one each turn. The fact that they are a separate unit, however, at least now opens up the possibility of them zooming off to attack a separate target from Celestine, though they are likely to die without her Healing Tears.
I feel I should cap off my review of Celestine by addressing this question: is Celestine still an auto-include for every Sisters army? While Celestine has lost a lot of her previous power, the benefits that she grants a Sisters of Battle army are still pretty significant (especially since, as she has no <ORDER> keyword, she can be used interchangeably with pretty much any Sororitas Order). As shall be touched upon, Canonesses are now much more worthwhile, and certainly, are very attractive warlord choices. That being said, Celestine is still a very potent character who buffs your invul saves to a potentially crazy degree with the right synergies: she is no longer an auto-include, in my opinion, but still very much worth taking.
Canoness– On the face of it, the Canoness is an HQ choice that is largely unchanged: her stats are still the same, boasting a decent WS and BS but an average Strength and Toughness of 3, and she still provides the same 6″ aura of rerolling 1s that she had in the Index. The advent of relics, warlord traits and stratagems for the Sororitas, however, in fact radically changes the role of the Canoness by opening up a wide range of possibilities. Depending on how you kit her out, the Nun in Charge can act as a reroll dispenser for shooty units, a close combat blender, or even as an anti-psychic beacon or a walking force field generator. Heck, the Vessel of the Emperor’s Will stratagem can even allow her to grant an Act of Faith to multiple Sisters units, making her an extremely potent force multiplier at the right moment.
Here are some of the possible builds come to mind for me:
The Excommunicator- Canoness (Bloody Rose) with Blade of Admonition– the Canoness gets 5 attacks on the charge, rerolling 1s, swinging at strength 6 and -3 AP and doing 3 damage for each hit. Keep a Priest nearby to bump it up to 6 attacks, and this is even before you factor in her warlord trait– take Legendary Fighter for a total of 7 attacks, or Righteous Rage so that she rerolls failed to wound rolls. Send her after tough enemy characters or monsters, and start hacking them to bits with that sweet damage of 3. It’s worth noting, though, that she will lose a lot of these bonuses in subsequent rounds of combat, but hopefully she will have killed (or at least significantly weakened) whatever she was fighting by that point.
Force Field Generator- Canoness with Book of St. Lucius, Indomitable Belief- essentially, all Sisters within 9″ of her get a 5+ invulnerable save (4+ if Celestine is also nearby). Keep her cheap and keep her out of close combat, though, as you will be wanting to keep her alive for as long as possible.
The Witch Hunter- Canoness with Condemnor boltgun, eviscerator, Brazier of Holy Flame, Pure of Faith- Do you hate psykers? Do you want to stop them in their unholy, warp-loving tracks? This Canoness build will do just that, allowing you to deny the witch on a full 2D6 while making casting more difficult for enemy psykers in 12″. Also, on the rare opportunity she gets to shoot at a psyker, she will be doing d3 damage to it with her Condemnor boltgun.
The Bastion- Canoness (Valorous Heart) with storm bolter, eviscerator, Mantle of Ophelia, Indomitable Belief- similar to the Force Field Generator as above, but in this case, the Mantle of Ophelia has been added to ensure that the Canoness stays alive to give out her bonuses. Making her a Valorous Heart girl to ignore wounds on 6s can also go a long way to achieving this goal.
The Faithful One- Canoness (Ebon Chalice or Argent Shroud) with inferno pistol, eviscerator, Litanies of Faith and Beacon of Faith- this Canoness generates a Faith point each turn, and can redeem used Faith points on a 5+. Just by being on the field, she adds more Faith points to your army. Make her Argent Shroud, and if she ever kills a unit, she generates a Faith point on a 4+ as well.
Missionary- a new unit in the army, essentially an HQ version of the Preacher with more or less the same abilities…except that the Missionary also prevents models from dying in the Morale phase on a 4+. Beyond that, the Missionary is virtually identical to the Preacher stat-wise, and you may only take 1 per detachment. Overall, a pretty decent choice with some very decent bubble effects. Whether or not you take a Missionary depends, however, on how concerned you are about morale, how many HQ slots you want to devote to other choices (like Celestine or one or more Canonesses), and whether or not you can devote a Preacher to the same role.
Uriah Jacobus- the Old Beardy Man counts as a Missionary as above for the purposes of one-per-detachment, and has the same special rules. Otherwise, just as with his Index version, however, Jacobus isn’t that impressive: his offensive capacity is fairly low, and aside from giving a Leadership boost thanks to his fancy banner, he doesn’t provide much to the army that you can’t reliably get from other sources. Which is a pity, as I still love his rambling, shotgun-toting model.
Additional Thoughts:- one thing that is worth mentioning in this new book is that, infuriatingly, eviscerators are no longer a wargear option for Sisters characters. I suppose I should not be surprised, as anything that does not have an official model has immediately been relegated to “Index only” status (a fact that Ork players were reminded of, to their chagrin, when the Ork Codex excluded mega-armoured and biker Warbosses, among other things). I am personally miffed by this, though, because the eviscerator has long been a reliable melee option for an army whose characters are all strength 3. For now, at least, I can and will continue to use eviscerators as an Index option where available, but I hope this is an issue that gets rectified in the official codex. After all, even Astra Militarum characters can take power fists as a flashier weapon choice: Sisters of Battle, in my opinion, should not be relegated to just power weapons and the odd Blade of Admonition here and there.
Battle Sisters- Battle Sisters have had one significant change, in that Imagifiers, instead of being characters in their own right, have instead gone back to being a squad upgrade, with the simulacrum imperialis not coming in at a decent 12 points. I am torn on this particular change: on the one hand, I kind of liked having Imagifiers as characters, as that way they could hide behind squads without fear of getting shot at. On the other hand, unlike other characters, they would only ever affect one unit anyway. In their current iteration, the simulacrum addsadd +1 to Faith tests, which makes them really important if you want your Acts of Faith to go off.
Beyond that, Battle Sisters remain almost exactly identical to their Index entry. The biggest changes, again, come from external factors, as how you use them will depend on things like Order convictions, stratagems, and even the wargear/warlord traits of supporting characters. As I have mentioned above, what your character loadouts are, what stratagems you intend to use, what Order conviction you have, etc, will all factor into how you use your Battle Sisters, though I am happy to say that all of the above factors have made Battle Sisters much more viable now.
P.S. I’ve been talking a lot about large blobs of Sororitas infantry. I say this because, between Acts of Faith being generated by every 10 Sororitas or so, and things like Sacred/Bloody Rose, Indomitable Belief and various stratagems making Sisters more survivable, more hard-hitting and less likely to run, it seems like GW is trying to push horde Sisters as opposed to mechanized or MSU builds. Writing as someone who has only ever played mechanized Sisters, I’m not sure how to feel about this, especially since I don’t have enough basic Sisters in my own collection to run giant blobs of infantry (plus Sisters models cost an arm and a leg to acquire nowadays). Despite all of the above-mentioned changes, I also remain leery as to how well horde Sisters can stand up to firepower from things like Knights or assorted Astra Militarum nastiness. This may simply be something I will have to factor into any future play testing.
Celestians- Celestians remain unchanged, and at first glance, remain lackluster. However, given the increased importance in the beta Codex of characters and their aura effects, the Bodyguard rule of the Celestians suddenly makes them a little more important. Sticking them near an essential Canoness or Dialogus can go a long way towards ensuring that character’s survival. It may also be worth nothing that Bloody Rose Celestians can rack up to 3 attacks each in the first round of combat (4 with a Priest nearby), though sadly, they have no special melee weapons (other than whatever you give the Superior) with which to take advantage of this.
Sisters Repentia + Mistress of Repentance- I had hoped, going into this beta codex, that the Repentias would be improved in some way– and to a degree, they have been. They now have access to a new stratagem called Final Redemption, which inflicts a mortal wound on the enemy in close combat for every model they use. Using the Order of the Bloody Rose also massively improves the Repentias’ close combat power, with each dishing out 3 attacks at strength 8 and damage 2 (with rerolls thanks to the Mistress), and this is even before you factor in possible Priest support. Finally…as mentioned ad nauseum, the combination of Celestine and/or an Indomitable Belief Canoness will up their survivability considerably.
Barring any invulnerable-boosting factors, however, Repentias remain very much a suicide unit: with just their 6+ invulnerable save, they will invariably die, and getting them into a position where they can do damage before dying remains tricky given their lack of real protection. While I think Repentias’ hitting power has indeed gone up somewhat, they really need character support to survive. Personally, I may try them out at some point, but I see things like Arco-Flagellants as Penitent Engines as slightly more reliable sources of close combat power.
Sister Dialogus- the Dialogus was a frequently-ignored choice in the Index who has suddenly gone from zero to hero overnight. The Laud Hailer of the Dialogus still adds +1 to the Leadership of all nearby Sororitas, but now also allows them to reroll all failed Faith tests as well. This is huge if, again, you want to make absolutely certain that your Faith tests go off. The Dialogus is reasonably priced at 30 pts per model, and is a prime candidate for the Book of St. Lucius. And on a personal note, while the model has turned many a Sisters player off, I own one and quite like it…even if she does kind of look like Edna Mode from The Incredibles. I wonder if the “no capes” rule applies to tabards…
Sister Hospitaller– pretty much unchanged. Given how much more powerful certain aura effects by certain characters are, now, though, a Hospitaller may be worth including to keep a certain Canoness or Dialogus alive.
Preachers, Crusaders and Death Cult Assassins – these units remain more or less unchanged. However, if a Preacher is in a detachment, then Crusaders, Death Cultists and Arco-Flagellants do not take up any slots. Speaking of Arco-Flagellants…
Arco-Flagellants– Arcos were already a really good unit in the Index, and I was bracing myself for them getting nerfed. Instead, to my surprise and delight, they got better! Their flails are now -1 AP, and their 5+ invulnerable save has been replaced by ignoring wounds on 5s, meaning they can now potentially shrug off mortal wounds. To top it off, their Extremis Trigger Word stratagem can allow them to unleash a fulll 3 attacks per attack instead of 1d3 (though it means 1 in 6 of them will die as a consequence, though I think that’s a fair trade). They still have the same weakness as before, as at only Toughness 3 they will still get mowed down by massed lasguns (and as such, like Repentia, they desperately need a transport), but I am nonetheless pleasantly surprised at their improvement.
Dominions– Doms are pretty much the same as they were in the Index. Again, as with so many units, the introduction of stratagems may change how they are used: the Blessed Bolts stratagem, for instance, could see the inclusion of more storm bolter-toting Dominions in the future, and the Holy Trinity stratagem may see more diversification of weapons. Otherwise, Dominions are they same as they were before, and remain an excellent source of mobile firepower.
Seraphim- Seraphim have received a significant boost, in that their Angelic Visage rule adds a +1 to their Shield of Faith. As mentioned before, this makes Seraphim fantastic when sticking close to Celestine, and their cheapness at 11 points per model means you can have a decent number of them all benefiting from a 4+ invulnerable save. As with all other Sororitas units, their close combat viability/resilience is also affected by convictions such as Bloody Rose and Valorous Heart.
Retributors- pretty much unchanged, although now that Faith has changed, I will no longer be able to reliably shoot twice with heavy bolter girls. C’est la vie.
Exorcists- ever since the Index first came out, Sisters of Battle players everywhere (myself included) were somewhat disappointed with the Exorcist: its random number of missiles, and the fact that each missile only did d3 wounds, made it somewhat unreliable against the tanks and large monsters it was supposed to excel against. The Exorcist launcher was really comparable in damage to a Leman Russ battle cannon– a fact made worse by the fact that the Russ, at least, could fire twice and thus inflict twice as much damage. Anti-tank damage was quickly delegated to things like inferno pistol-toting Seraphim or (shudder) Astra Militarum/Knight/etc allies, as the Exorcist simply couldn’t do enough damage.
Now, though the Exorcist has been fixed in a big way in that each missile now does d6 damage. Now it has become a legitimately scary threat to enemy tanks/monsters, and on a good roll could potentially wipe something out in one volley. Heck, even Knights should be scared of this thing now, especially if you intend to take multiples of them (as I certainly do).
Penitent Engines- like the Arco-Flagellants, the Penitent Engines got an unexpected boost: whereas it only triggered on a 4+ before, now their “attack twice” ability happens automatically, which means your average Penitent Engine will be unleashing 8 attacks with rerolls– assuming it hasn’t been shot off the board first, that is. It got some help on that front, too, as, like the Arco-Flagellants, they ignore wounds on 5s. They still won’t last long against sustained firepower, but in my opinion, they are still worth taking, if only for the sheer amount of distraction they will cause. And if they do make it into combat, well, even better.
There is not much to say about transports, other than that Rhinos and Immolators remain the same as they were before. It is worth noting, again, that the invulnerable saves of said transports can be bolstered by things such as Indomitable Belief, Celestine, etc, which can go a long way to ensuring that they deliver their cargo intact. That, and Immolation flamers remain as wonderfully killy as before. Sadly, there is, as of yet, no information on the Repressor or on any changes to that robust tank, but as far as I am aware, the Sororitas’ favourite mobile bulldozer remains viable.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Looking at the beta Codex, there are several thoughts I have on how the Sisters army will work now:
-There are a lot of powerful stratagems that up the damage factor of the Sisters’ firepower. Given the close-ranged nature of the Sororitas, I anticipate that now, more than ever, the Sisters’ battles will be won or lost up close, and it is there that they will make the most impact. By the same token, however, the new wargear/convictions/warlord traits that the Sisters have access to will do a lot to help them survive and win these close ranged battles.
-A lot of army building will be factored around how much you want to take advantage of Faith. More Sisters models = more Faith. Whether or not you want to take Ministorum stuff like Arco-Flagellants, or allies, will impact how much Faith you have.
-Thanks to the boost to Exorcists, Sisters’ anti-tank capabilities have gotten substantially better. Whether or not it can help them against Imperial Knights, however, remains to be seen.
-Given the increased number of ways you can now boost the Sisters’ survivability, footslogging Sisters may be more viable now. I say “may,” because this is a game where firepower is still very much a deciding factor, and things like increased invulnerable saves/ignoring wounds may still not be enough to help against massed gunline armies. I think it remains to be seen whether or not mech Sisters are still the way to go, or if footslogging Sisters can actually compete.
-The army is now VASTLY improved by, and dependent upon, synergy with characters giving off certain bubble effects. Already, looking at the lists of other Sisters players, I see a more pronounced emphasis on the use of Canonesses, Priests and Dialogus (Dialogi?) for support.
At some point, I will be posting an article on how I will be incorporating the beta codex into my existing Sisters army. For now, my verdict on the beta codex is that large parts of it are really impressive, and do a lot to work around some of the weaknesses that Sisters players have been dealing with for years. However, the defining special rule of the army, the Acts of Faith, have been neutered in a way that I find disappointing: while it can be argued that the Faith system from the Index was far too powerful, this feels too much like a swing in the opposite direction.
Of course, it is all very well for me to gripe about this change when I have yet to play a proper game with the new codex. So, hopefully, I intend to start playing a few games with it soon, and chronicling the results and my observations with each game. Until then, I will simply say that as unimpressed as I am with the Faith system, I am overall impressed with everything else about the beta codex: the Sisters of Battle now have some legitimately powerful and impressive tools at their disposal, and I see it as a tentative step in the right direction.
As always, comments, criticisms, and fierce disagreements are welcome in the comments section– I am, in particular, always happy to hear from other Sisters players. Until then, stay tuned for more on the beta codex!