The Sisters of Battle Beta ends (a late post)

(Artist unknown)

So recently (and by recently, because I am lazy, I mean a few days ago), GW posted that the official beta test period for Sisters of Battle has ended. Given that it’s been a few months where Sororitas players have furiously played the hell out of the beta ‘dex, given feedback, argued over what is and is not good about it, etc, I like to think that overall the beta test has been productive. GW posted a few things about the player feedback as well, and gave some ideas on what the finished product will look like.

Regarding Faith points

Quoth Games Workshop:

In the beta rules, each Act of Faith requires a Test of Faith roll to be passed in order for them to take effect. According to your feedback, the reliance on luck for the Acts of Faith to kick in has led to some games where these rules didn’t quite have the impact that players felt they should.
The Plan: The rules team are looking to rebuild the Acts of Faith system from the ground up to ensure they are both more reliable, and can be used to impact key moments in the battle – just as acts of divine intervention should. You will be as the Emperor Himself, bestowing blessings on your units as and when they are most needed.

Strangely enough, in the games that I had been playing with Sisters of Battle, I had been starting to warm to Acts of Faith as they written. True, it meant that they were inherently unreliable, and for the most part their impact on the game was never that big (barring, of course, Celestine or a tricked-out Canoness getting to attack twice, which has never happened for me), but I have found the effects of Faith in-game to be at least decent. Being able to get Celestine or a choppy character closer to combat with the movement AoF, for instance, has proven to be handy, as has been mitigating the -1 to hit after repositioning my Retributors with the +1 to hit AoF. The effects haven’t been game-changing, but they have been helpful.

If Faith gets upgraded to have a much more significant and/or reliable effect, however, then I will be extremely happy, though I won’t complain if Faith is still affected somewhat by choices you can make in army list building or gameplay: I can’t speak for other Sisters of Battle players in this regard, but I am a player who likes to have some agency in terms of affecting in-game abilities. Given as well that three of the playable Orders (Ebon Chalice, Our Martyred Lady and the Argent Shroud) all revolve around gaining Faith points/making them easier to cast, I wonder how these three Orders will be altered to take new Faith rules into account.

Regarding Exorcists

Apparently, the Exorcist was also a major source of feedback:

Despite having the potential to inflict a whopping 36 wounds, many of you felt that the random number of shots it fires hampers its effectiveness on the battlefield. Should you roll a low number of shots, then fail some or all of the hit rolls for your precious few attacks, it can feel a little disappointing.
The Plan: The rules team are looking at how we can make this iconic, missile-launching organ a more consistent damage-dealing addition to your army. They have a few ideas already – heretics beware!

Generally, I agree that Exorcists are, by their very nature, random, and that it is hard to plan around their randomness– sometimes you will get 1 missile, sometimes you will get 6. However, I think the fact that their missiles have gone from doing d3 to d6 damage does a lot to make up for their randomness– if anything, given how potent they have been for me so far against enemy vehicles (especially when combining their fire), I think they could even stand for a points hike. If, however, GW suddenly decides to put them back to d3 damage (for some reason), then I could see setting the Exorcists’ number of shots to a set number, like 3 or 4.

Of course, what I would also like to see are more heavy support options. At the moment, the Sororitas have only Retributors and Exorcists to rely upon for long-ranged support. It would be nice to include yet another tank…say, for instance, with some sort of long-range melta cannon or something that hurls incendiary bombs…to give us more options than heavy bolter Rets and everyone’s favourite pipe organ of doom.

Regarding Celestians

Finally, they had a note on Celestians:

These veteran Battle Sisters are the fighting elite of the Adepta Sororitas, acting as the loyal bodyguards and sworn protectors of senior members of their Order. Even though they can be equipped with a selection of powerful wargear, your collective feedback made it clear that they struggle to compete with the other Elites choices in the army.
The Plan: The rules team will look to add a thematic new ability or two to the Celestians to help them have more of an impact on the battlefield without sacrificing their role as sworn guardians of their Order. After all, just because Celestians are protectors first and foremost doesn’t mean they can’t dish out some serious pain!

I couldn’t be happier about this. Celestians have long been the black sheep of the Sisters of Battle, bringing absolutely nothing to the table that was not already done better by other units in the codex: as a firepower unit, they lose out to Dominions and even basic Battle Sister squads, and as a close combat unit they have always been massively outclassed by things like Death Cult Assassins, Repentias, Arco-Flagellants, etc. At the moment, their only redeeming feature is their bodyguard ability…which, while not bad, still doesn’t do enough to make them worth taking.

Sisters of Battle have been wishlisting improvements for Celestians since time immemorial, and a number of suggestions I’ve seen over the years include:

  • Allow them all to take combi-weapons
  • Give them specialist ammunition similar to Sternguard/Deathwatch (maybe with a more fire-oriented theme)
  • Give them miniature combat shields (the praesidium protectiva from the old Witch Hunters codex, perhaps) to make them more durable for their bodyguard role
  • Access to melee weapons, such as power weapons and/or eviscerators

Regardless of what GW decides to do with Celestians, I would love to see them become more useful in the future. I generally prefer it when all options in a codex are worth taking, and the poor Celestians have been overshadowed for far too long.

Other things I would like to see addressed

Fixing faith, Celestians and Exorcists is all well and good, but these are far from the only issues that I noticed with the Sisters of Battle beta. In particular, I would like to see the following addressed:

  • Make other Orders worth playing! At present, I have absolutely no desire to play half of the Orders in the book, simply because their Convictions are either unimpressive or flat out bad. This is particularly egregious in the case of the Order of Our Martyred Lady, who are essentially the poster girls of the Adepta Sororitas (ie, the colour scheme that gets featured the most in White Dwarf and in fan art), but whose Conviction only comes into play if they are losing. Either fix the Convictions so that all of them are equally attractive, or bolster the less awesome Orders with good stratagems, relics, and warlord traits. I personally suspect that this will be the case, and hope that all of the Orders become equally viable and equally awesome when the Codex finally drops.
  • Bring back eviscerators! Sisters of Battle players (myself included) were up in arms when eviscerators were omitted from the book as wargear options, limiting our characters to using power weapons and the Blade of Admonition for melee options. Although eviscerators currently remain usable thanks to the Index, I have heard much murmuring that the Index’s days may be numbered soon now that almost all of the armies therein have Codexes out. It would be great for Sisters of Battle characters (not just Canonesses, but also accompanying Ecclesiarchy Priests) to have decent combat options beyond just power weapons, and more than a few Sororitas players have converted their heroes to be toting gigantic chainsaws of doom. It would be nice to still be able to use those aforementioned chainsaws, darnit!
  • This goes without saying, I think, but the book really could use some more units. When looking at the Sisters of Battle army list compared to other, more developed army lists, we could definitely stand to have some more Fast Attack and Heavy Support options. The biggest thing the book needs, however, is more Troops options: the humble Battle Sister squads have been the workhorse of the army for so long because they the Sororitas’ one and only Troops choice. Adding in more Troops options– like, say, squads of Sororitas initiates, or mobs of religious fanatics– could do well to increase the flexibility of the army and give players more choices.

Those are my two cents, at least. I want to have hope that when the Codex is finally dropped, that GW will have taken the right lessons from this Beta test.

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