This guest article is written by Sidetrack Nick.
The Sisters have always had a spot in my heart. Super-chicks in armor, kicking ass across the galaxy for the good guys. Add in the graphic novels: Daemonifuge, and the whole army being metal and I love em. If you want to have a master pimp, bring in an inquisitor and his colorful retinue. The pimp gives some Sisters a ride in a Land Raider and a bunch of Stormtroopers, assassins, and orbital support give the sisters some variety without destroying or overshadowing their character. When I heard about the new Sisters coming out, I was excited enough to scrounge up old rhino heavy armor and sisters’ immolator parts to create a pseudo-inquisitorial chimera to charge up in support of the sisters, and I’m very happy with the way it is turning out.
I love the Sisters so much that Rich and I created the Codex: Ecclesiarchy to update them and give them the options to play as a competitive, and more importantly, fun army once again. When I say that White Dwarf has violated our beautiful Sisters, I say it from a place of deep love and commitment to protect them from obscurity.
This review will have two parts. The first part will compare the major/overall changes between Codex: Witch Hunters (Andy Hoare and Graham McNeill) and Sisters of Battle Codex Approved from the White Dwarf August and September 2011 issues (Robin Cruddace and Mat Ward). The second part will be a unit-by-unit comparison.
Faith Points: Three major changes. 1. You roll for points each turn. These numbers are no longer dependent on the number of characters or squad types. 2. Martyrdom is gone. No more inspiration or divine intervention on the part of a wrathful Emperor. 3. Each unit has an individualized act of faith they can attempt to use, written in their unit entry. The emperor will only bless them in certain ways now, where before a unit could pull off miracles!
Shield of Faith: The consolation prize. 6+ invulnerable save for all, including vehicles! Woot! choke…
Fluff: The Sisters of Battle are now, in canon, non-existent before M36, meaning the Silent Sisterhood of the Heresy are not the Sisters. Also, Sisters are all recruited from one world, so they no longer have need of any of their black ships to gather null maidens and other recruits. They no longer have the innate and trained abilities to resist or nullify psychic attack. They are no longer closely linked to the Inquisition. Though they, like other Imperial agencies, are somewhat beholden to the Inquisition, they will no longer take to the field beside them.
Overpriced and underpowered? That has not changed.
Allies: The Sisters have friends??? Yeah, right.
Updates: All Sisters have bolters, bolt pistols, frag and krak grenades and this has not increased their point value. However, while the price of extra armor has gone up, the price of the vehicles has not been lowered accordingly to make up for the fact as they have in Space Marine codices.
Inquisitor Lords: GONE. Yes, this includes Witch Hunter variants.
Canoness: For 20 more points you get a Canoness with +1 WS and Stubborn special rule. True, she gets a bolter, BP, and grenades for free now, but she has far fewer wargear options.
Celestian Retinue: Now “Sororitus Command Squad” is limited to five models instead of ten, and you must take two inferior fighters (one medic, and one banner bearer). Does the feel-no-pain make up for the lack of more bodies? Maybe, as you can equip the three Celestians in the squad with special weapons. However, in an army that relies upon numbers to help make up for lack of close combat prowess, the option of a third special ranged weapon does not make up for the total lack of power weapons and extra bodies. (Theory: This squad exists only so you have a place to field a Dialogus and Hospitaller in the army, i.e. to sell the previously useless models.)
The Living Saint: One of two improvements in this codex. Her point cost has gone down to 115 from 201, without the loss of her effectiveness in combat. The downside, she cannot hit-and-run with the Celestians like she used to.
Inquisitor Karamazov: Inquisitor WHO?? According to the previous codex, he led no less than TWO entire orders of Battle Sisters in a campaign against the enemies of mankind. However, he no longer is fit to call upon them again.
Priests! Yes, priests are still around. Confessors are single HQ choices. Priests are cheaper versions of Confessors, and you can take up to five of them in an army without taking up a force org. slot.
Confessors and their Battle Conclaves: These HQ guys cost 75 points and you can attach a retinue to them which includes sword and shield wielding crusaders, arco-flagellants, and death cults assassins. There are no psykers or units with ranged weapons, so these are 3-10 melee guys you can run up and get killed with the Confessor. The Confessor gives them rerolls to hit and Rage,
Arch-Confessor Kyrinov and Uriah Jacobus: These units were put in this codex to sell these little known and unused models once again! They have some unique special rules, but for the most part are unimaginatively created to sell these old friends of ours. They do not have any options, so do not make up for the lack of Inquisitors.
Sisters Repentia: No significant changes.
Celestians: No significant changes.
Assassins: No, they won’t work with the Sisters anymore. They would much rather lend their service only to the Grey Knights, who would be lost and defeated without them.
Death-Cult Assassins: Yeah, they’re folded into the hodge-podge, half-assed Battle Conclaves. If they did not have optional wargear, they would probably have been omitted all-together.
Battle Sisters Squad: No significant change. Unfortunately, they still only get two special ranged weapons even at twenty strong. I was hoping they’d at least get one special weapon per five.
Stormtroopers: Who hit who in the what now? Obviously a waste of ink.
Rhinos: Sure! You can have them! They cost 35 points now, like most do. So more of an update than an improvement.
Repressors! Yeah, well, go to Forge World to get stats on these. But they do recognize them in an advertisement following the second installment of the codex.
Immolators: Yes, they still exist. They cost the same and do less. They no longer can fire their heavy flamers moving over 6”, and if you want extra armor, it’s 10 more points. But, at least you can still take them. Oh, and you don’t get a fire point either, like before. So, yeah, fuck that.
Land Raiders! The thrill is gone… The thrill has gone away from here… (thanks for putting it in the right words, Mr. King.) You don’t need no stinking Land Raiders!
Ork Trukks: Nope. Though they wouldn’t hurt this codex any more than it already has been.
Seraphims: This is the second improvement I am pleased to report. They cost less than before, making them more playable than ever! Um…. Otherwise, they are about the same.
Dominion Squads: About the same as before.
Orbital Strikes! Naw, the sisters are great at knocking out things at short and medium range. They don’t need orbital support.
Penitent Engine: About the same.
Retributors: About the same.
Exorcist: For the same price as before, you can get the same tank as before. Heavy Armor makes them more expensive than the past, but that’s okay, because only masochistic morons would play this army as it is now officially written anyway.
Nothing New: Okay, so, no new models. I understand that, but I expected that too. I don’t think Sisters of Battle players were so much concerned with new models as they are making their army playable and competitive again.
Less options, less units, less variety: This was kind of expected as GW seems to want to streamline things a little by getting rid of odd wargear and cumbersome rules. Unfortunately, for all the ink they waste on ads and color pictures in White Dwarf, a once-in-ten-years update doesn’t warrant creativity or an extra page or two of excitement.
Did they help out the Sisters’ medium range shooter issues by giving them more movement, shooting, cover, or whatnot options? Not really. The few little boosts they gave in those departments were overshadowed by the loss of the variety of acts of faith they used to have.
Tactical considerations: No longer will we see the charges of Immolators with flamers and meltaguns poking out the top hatch. Now, they must be used far more cautiously, as they not only cost more, but are less effective unless they are already close enough to move and shoot. Seraphim can now be used in greater numbers, which is cool. No Land Raiders or Mystics means they have no good long range or heavy armor, and they can’t defend as well against deep strikers taking advantage of their overall poor melee ability. Not having orbital strikes doesn’t help, and certainly takes out another level of fun in games.
Suggestions: Use the new codex adding in all the units removed from the old codex with units from the Grey Knights, or for a more purely religious feel, play the homebrew Codex: Ecclesiarchy.
Regarding Mat Ward: So far, I’ve played 1 game with my newly refurbished and upgraded Grey Knights. I took a well-rounded and balanced force and my opponent was wiped off the table in the first battle. I think my Dreadknight took a wound. It was a slaughter, and while it was nice to see my Grey Knights win, I felt like an asshole after I played my friend, as he didn’t have a chance with his equally balanced variety of units against me. I’m not a great player, but I do enjoy playing, and I want my opponents to enjoy it too. Maybe if he were playing Blood Angels he would have a chance?
Now, I’ve been handed a crippled and dissected version of the most aesthetically beautiful of my armies with no more of a chance than they did since the release of fourth edition to be competitive. And to Robin Cruddace and Mat Ward, I give you a big personal FUCK YOU. To be fair, if these choices were not your own, then I apologize and send the FUCK YOU up the corporate ladder.
This codex is a disservice to the 40k gaming universe and to the players who stuck with the Sisters through three editions.