Turn on all the lights to ward off the shadows because Loopy is here to bring you some background on the mysterious Officio Assassinorum. Be sure to check out the articles in the Tactics Corner for more information on the stars of the 40k Execution Force.
The Officio Assassinorum is quite literally above the law in many ways. In theory, an Imperial Assassin works only at the behest of the High Lords of Terra themselves, individuals second in authority only to the Emperor himself. There is no being in the Galaxy who is safe from the Officio Assassinorum’s knives in the dark. This is true whether you’re a despotic Ork warlord or power-hungry Inquisitors whose made one too many mistakes. Although the training of the most effective assassins can be expensive in the extreme, the careful deployment of one of these rare individuals can save millions of lives and untold military resources. A single bullet, a simple blackened knife, or the suffocating embrace consort’s lavishly-embroidered pillow can all put an end to a dangerous ruler’s heresy quicker and more efficiently than the mobilization of entire regiments of the Emperor’s Hammer.
The origination of the Officio Assassinorum was not an Imperial decree. Instead, individuals extremely loyal to the Emperor followed in his wake as he and his Legions reconquered one human system after the other during the Great Crusade. These early assassins would lurk amongst the world’s power players and assure their loyalty to the Emperor of Mankind. Anyone found wanting was dealt with using any necessary means. After a time, it became clear that the Emperor could not be kept in the dark about their operations forever. Not to mention the fact that they did not have the resources to train a new generation of assassins. Therefore, they decided to expose their activities to the Emperor.
Although this was obviously a risky move, the Emperor was not displeased and begrudgingly admitted that the assassins were a necessary evil. He built great houses on Terra where the members of the Officio Assassinorum who shared certain talents could gather into like-minded groups. These groups were originally called Clades. In these early days, the Officio Assassinorum was structured and guided by the hands of Malcador, the Sigillite, Regent of Terra.
The Officio Assassinorum were tasked with dispatching many enemy commanders during the Horus Heresy, including Horus himself. They achieved some of their goals, but true to the tenuous nature of the Imperium of Man’s outcomes throughout the war, the Assassins could only boast mixed success. They had not, after all, succeeded in killing Horus. Despite these failures, the Officio Assassinorum served with loyalty.
Long after the Heresy, during the Age of Apostasy, a Callidus Assassin attempted to kill the Grand Master of Assassins. When the smoke cleared and the blood was mopped up from the chaos sparked by his actions, the different Temples were split up and scattered so that the taint of Heresy could not infiltrate the entire organization. Meanwhile the secret Ordo Sicarius was established within the Inquisition with the understanding that it would take on the difficult task of keeping tabs on the Temples of the Officio Assassinorum. In addition, at this time, it was decreed that the Officio Assassinorum would answer only to the High Lords of Terra. No Assassin may be deployed without their permission. Considering the distances involved in intergalactic war and the untenable nature of the Warp, often members of the Ordo Sicarius will sanction Officio Assassinorum activities in the High Lords’ stead. Whether this is a breach of protocol or not is immaterial where the dire need to maintain order in a galaxy plagued by conflict is concerned.
There are many different Temples throughout the Galaxy who practice the art of the Assassin using means from the gross to the mundane. Some of these unique temples are great for devising your own army background using the rules for different units presented in the rules for official Officio Assassinorum units presented by Games Workshop, or even using other units by proxy. Other temples are better used as vehicles to drive the background of your stories on the tabletop.
The insidious Venenum Temple trains their assassins in the art of brewing and employing poisons. Their skills in this matter are second only to the terrible workings of the Dark Eldar. Often, the works of the Venenum Temple are never realized by their victims or those near them. Even if the death is blamed on poison, the Assassin can rarely be traced as the substances they use can be extremely subtle and capable of lengthy incubation periods.
One of the most interesting groups in the Officio Assassinorum are the Vanus Temple. They are the masters of character assassination. They collect untold reams of information in their datacrypts about every important individual in the Imperium. If they are called upon to do so, they can ruin these people with a simple algorithm or data transfer. Of course, this kind of exposure often ultimately ends in the death of their mark. The genius of their method is that the target isn’t killed by the hands of the Assassins themselves, but by the traitor’s own followers.
Although now disbanded, the Maerorus Temple utilized Xenos and Mutant genetic code hybridized with humans to create Assassins who did not need unreliable technology to perform their deeds. Clearly, this heretical, unreliable, and expensive methodology could not be allowed to continue.
The aptly named Temple Secretum is interesting in that it is not known for its methods of slaughter. Instead, the Temple Secretum is thought to guard the darkest secrets of the Imperium and will keep them from prying eyes no matter the cost.
Clearly, there are some Temples which are better-suited for the limelight of a tabletop miniatures wargame.
The Vindicare Temple are known for their ability to kill the enemies of the Imperium at extreme range. Vindicare Assassins employ long, powerful rifles to zero in on enemy targets. They often use an opening shot of shieldbreaker ammunition to destroy any defenses their target may have, then follow up with a killing blow. The actions of a Vindicare Assassin are often quite public in nature, whether during a public gathering or in the field of battle. Either way, it could be argued that the Vindicare has the most dangerous job of all the four major temples, but their work often serves as a terrible message to those who followed the deceased.
The patient assassins of the Callidus Temple are intelligent and resourceful in the extreme. They are not just dispatched to kill a target, but also take over their lives. The Callidus Assassin uses a Combat Drug called Polymorphine which allows them to take on the form of any humanoid. With the use of this drug, the Callidus can get close to the Assassin’s target, then the Callidus uses it again to take on the target’s visage after they are assassinated.
The methods of the Eversor Temple are every bit as horrifying and gruesome as their Assassins. These masked, single-minded monsters are dangerous in the extreme. Their training fashions them into killing machines matched only by scores of main-line troops. This conditioning is intensified further by the application of mind-altering combat drugs just before the Assassin is released to perform their mission. The Eversor Assassin won’t just kill their target, they will kill the target’s family. Killing is only part of the tapestry of horror they weave. Often, the Eversor Assassin will defile the corpses of their victims, before and/or after their deaths. This sends an important message to those who would follow in the heretics’ footsteps.
One of the most specific idioms in the Officio Assassinorum belongs to the Culexus Temple. While a Culexus Assassin is capable of despatching any target, they excel at eliminating Psykers. All Culexus Assassins are made from humans with a condition which earns them the name “Pariah”. These people, one in a billion by birth, literally have no connection to the Warp. Pariahs are uncomfortable for anyone to even be around, and are even known to cause some people to become sickened or panicked. Even the Tau with their limited connection to the immaterium are unsettled by the presence of a Pariah. Psykers in particular cannot abide the presence of a Culexus Assassin; it is deadly to them. Worse, the Culexus Assassin is graced with a mechanical device woven around their skulls like a cornucopia of doom. This Animus Speculum can deaden or focus their powers, making the Culexus a proper nightmare to any Psyker.
On Your Tabletop
In a game of Warhammer 40,000, an Assassin is always deployed individually; they are not allowed to be joined by another unit. This leaves them exposed to concentrated enemy firepower. This is exacerbated by the fact that, among them, only the Vindicare enjoys a bonus to their cover saves. Other Assassins have different defenses, such as the Callidus’s Polymorphene which forces enemy units to snap shot at them in the first turn they’re on the battlefield. Still, assassins can be terrible sitting ducks, often for up to two turns.
More often than not, you’ll want to just make sure the Assassin is completely invisible on the first turn if at all possible. Infiltrating into line-of-sight-blocking terrain is one reasonable yet not foolproof method of protecting your Assassin. Bringing them in via reserves is also a good method of making sure the Assassin is deployed in an area where they’ll be needed. In particular, putting them in a Drop Pod, Stormraven, or other transport from another Battle Brothers Detachment is a great method of doing this.
Particularly in the case of the Eversor and Culexus Assassins, I really can’t think of a much better way of introducing a drugged-up, pissed off super soldier to your enemy than stuffing them in a drop pod and launching it into their midst.
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