Traitor Legions Tactica: Word Bearers

Hello denizens of the internets, SaltyJohn here from TFGRadio bringing you the Word Bearers from the new Traitor Legions supplement! For more reviews, bat reps, tactics discussions, and analysis check out the Tactics Corner!


The Word Bearers were the first of the Emperor’s Legions, we know about, that fell to Chaos. After the Emperor, and Rowboat, reprimanded Lorgar and his massive Legion at Monarchia the Word Bearers set out to find beings worthy of their worship. Fittingly the Word Bearers Chaplain Erebus was the architect of Horus’ fall to Chaos and responsible for sowing the seeds of the Lodges into the hearts of the Legions as a tumor that would manifest as the terrible cancer of Chaos. As the first Legion to enter the Eye of Terror they have a larger number of possessed and summoned daemons at their disposal than the other traitor legions. Word Bearers were the first Chaos army I ever built and painted and the Horus Heresy novel Aurelian was one of my favorites so far. The new rules coming to us in the Traitor Legions book have sounded great so far, here I’ll break down the Word Bearers for us.


A rhino from my old 5th edition Word Bearers army.

At first glance the Word Bearers didn’t make out as well as the other Traitor Legions who got new rules. They don’t have the relentless hordes of plague marines marching across the table blasting away with their heavy weapons while shrugging off fire, they don’t have the ability to get that sweet turn one charge like the World Eaters, they don’t have access to unkillable Warlords at the head of outflanking Warbands like Alpha Legion, but they do have some really cool options and the best part about this book in my opinion is it all fits with the fluff of the Legions while not having any negatives, or drawbacks, attached to it. Kudos GW on not making each Legion have some crazy draw back for taking them.


  • First, they can’t have any unique units. GW missed an opportunity here in my opinion to release some simple clam packed miniatures for each of the legions that lacks a unique character. A cool Dark Apostle for Word Bearers with a larger than normal bubble of Zealot or “the Mace of Lorgar” something like that.
  • Units with a mark of chaos, meaning the cult units like Plague Marines, can’t be taken by Word Bearers. Their devotion to the Chaos Pantheon means no cult troops but access to all the marks!
  • VotLW for free like all the rest.
  • Unholy Pact: Units of Possessed are troops choices. Psykers from a Word Bearers detachment harness Warp Charges on a 3+ when attempting conjuration powers on the Malefic chart. This is both good and fluffy for the Word Bearers.
  • Blood Feud: Re-roll to hit in CC against Ultramarines, Ultramarines Hate them in return.
  • Profane Zeal: Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the name of this Special Rule. Word Bearers within 6in of a Dark Apostle have the Zealot Special Rule.

If you take the Word Bearers detachment, and honestly why wouldn’t you the Chaos Warband alone is worth it, you get three additional Command Benefits.

  • The Coryphaus: Re-roll to the Warlord trait table.
  • Dark Crusaders: All non-vehicle units have the Crusade Special Rule.
  • The Eight-fold path: At the start of each turn pick a Character and have them roll on the Boon Chart, each character only benefits from this once per game.


The Warlord Traits for all the factions in the Traitor Legions book are solid and it’s impressive that each Legion got their own, plus the ability to re-roll on the chart if you take the detachment!

  1. Unholy Firebrand: Zealot rule, if he has Zealot already then he and his unit get to re-roll in every round of combat.
  2. Latent Powers: He’s a lvl 1 psyker with access to Maelific powers, if he’s already a psyker add 1 to his mastery level.
  3. Voice of Lorgar: Pick a unit within 12in and give them Counter Attack, Fearless, Furious Charge, or Relentless.
  4. Unbreakable Devotion: Warlord is Fearless and has Adamantium Will.
  5. Nexus of the Gods: The Warlord, or a Character within 12, who earns a roll on the boon chart can increase, or decrease, the second die roll by 1 to a max of 6 and minimum of 1.
  6. Unexpected Boon: Your Warlord can immediately take a roll on the Boon chart re-rolling any results of 11-22.

The boon chart is really good for Chaos these days with the ability to re-roll most of the bad results. Meaning turning into a Spawn or Daemon Prince. With Traitors Hate and the proliferation of Chaos Warbands across the table tops of the 41st millennium we’ve started to see an awful lot of 160 point Chaos Lords who become absolute beasts in a matter of a turn or two just from the Boon chart. All these re-rolls to the boon chart and ways to roll without winning in combat have finally made the boon chart what I think GW was trying to make it from the beginning.


Each of the new Legions also get unique Chaos Artefacts and again it was impressive that the majority of these are good! GW has really come a long way in just under 2 years since Kirby retired and the new board took control. It’s turned around so much in so many different ways.

  • The Skull of Monarchia: The bearer and his unit re-roll all to hit rolls in CC against Armies of the Imperium, they also re-roll to wound against Ultrmarines.
  • Crown of the Blasphemer: 4+ Invulnerable Save, Adamantium Will, and Fear for the bearer.
  • Malefic Tome: Psyker only, the bearer knows one additional power from the Malefic table.
  • Scripts of Erebus: Once per game at the start of any psychic phase you generate an additional d6 Warp Charges.
  • Baleful Icon: Units charging this unit re-roll successful charges, if successful they gain no bonus attacks from chargin.
  • Cursed Crozius: +2 strength, AP 3, Concussive, and the bearer has the Preferred Enemy (armies of the Imperium) special rule.


With all these Special Rules, Artefacts, Traits etc giving bonuses to movement, and close combat it’s clear that the Sons of Lorgar seem to be eager to mix it up in the Assault Phase. They’ve also got access to the best psychic forces outside of the Thousand Sons. You can take a large number of Sorcerers and Dark Apostles with this style list. A Warband, plus Lost and the Damned, with Daemon Summoning Sorcerers is going to give you a lot of board control options. Not to mention the boost those units will be getting from the various Special Rules like Zealot and Crusade.

A Word Bearers force can be built to be very mobile utilizing bikes for the characters, or Rhinos. It can also be a fairly fast horde style list with the Zealot rule and access to Cheap cultists in the Lost and the Damned formation. I would try running something like this with Word Bearers:

Word Bearers Detachment:

  • Chaos Warband:
    • Warlord: Chaos Lord, Bike, MoK, Axe of Blind Fury, Sigil. 155 points of 4+ Invul and decent close combat with crazy boon chart potential.
    • Sorcerer: lvl 2, Bike
    • Chosen: 4x flamers, Rhino
    • CSM: 9 marines, 1 meltagun, CCW, MoK, Rhino, Axe on the Champ.
    • CSM: 9 marines, 1 meltagun, CCW, MoK, Rhino, Axe on the Champ.
    • Bikers: 3 bikers 1 meltagun.
    • Havocs: 2 Autocannons
  • The Lost and the Damned:
    • Dark Apostle
    • 4×10 Cultists
  • Heldrake Terror Pack
    • 2x Heldrakes, with Baleflamers, do we really have to say it?
  • Lord of the Legion:
    • Sorcerer: lvl 2, Bike
  • Lord of the Legion:
    • Sorcerer: lvl 2, Bike

1850 points. You have a lot of board control, a good amount of Obsec and tons of highly mobile summoning potential for the army to put out even more bodies or even Summon a Blood Thirster if you get a good roll on Malefic! The benefits of the Boon Table re-rolls and extra rolls cannot be overstated in my opinion. Especially in a Word Bearers force where each turn a different character gets an additional free roll on the chart. You can get your 155 point Chaos Lord buffed up to the equivalent of a 200+ point Wolf Lord in no time at all through the boon chart. Also access to Crusade and Zealot in the army and free VotLW makes for a much more viable build for the Word Bearer players out there. When you combine all that the Word Bearers can do you really can get a potent mix. The only gripe I still have actually concerns the original Chaos Space Marines book from which the basic rules for these units are pulled. That gripe is a lack of the Bike option for Dark Apostles. Dark Apostles are cool units in a Word Bearers detachment but their immobile nature, and the GW FAQ not allowing bubble powers to extend outside of transports, makes them a much less viable option. If they could zoom around on bikes handing out Zealot like an ice cream cart vendor to neighborhood kids on a 100 degree day we’d be set.

While this is not the best of the new Traitor Legions rules it is by no means a set of bad rules, or even sub par. I like the characterful nature of all the rules in the new Traitor Legions supplement and the lack of any major down side to choosing to play as these legions. Hopefully this release, coupled with Traitors Hate and Wrath of Magnus will see a nice shift in the meta and more CSM armies once again parading across the table top as actual Chaos Space Marine armies and not just “counts as Battle Companies” in traitors clothing!


As always, share your thoughts in the comments section! And remember, Frontline Gaming sells Games Workshop product at up to 25% off, every day.



About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

18 Responses to “Traitor Legions Tactica: Word Bearers”

  1. Chaos Reigns December 17, 2016 9:13 am #

    I mean, with the new Split rule summoning a unit of horrors can be pretty nuts. I think the WB definitely aren’t bad, I think all legions are playable. However, I don’t expect to see anything but DG and WE due to fearless and detachment special rules. If Black Legion could have an ObSec Detachment outside of CAD, they would be another top tier choice.

    • abusepuppy December 17, 2016 9:33 am #

      Meh. I think you’ll see all of them in casual play because none of them are blatantly stronger than the others- DG and WE have neat bonuses, but they often end up very one-dimensional, whereas several of the other Legions have more widely-applicable bonuses or have fewer restrictions on what they can take.

      Word Bearers being able to take Marks if they like, but not being forced to is a surprisingly big deal. And harnessing Maelific on a 3+ with a reroll from Spell Familiar is HUGE. Just send that Demon Prince flippy-flapping across the table putting guys down wherever you like or have a Nurgle Sorcerer with a Palanquin bunker up somewhere and spawn dudes until the cows come home.

      • MagicJuggler December 18, 2016 9:26 am #

        I’m going to second the Palanquin Bunker, especially since Lore of Nurgle was updated to actually be a somewhat decent support discipline. I remember how 5e Tervigons were dangerous due to their ability to give an aura of Poison or Furious Charge to Termagants as they were spawned, and that’s with them having 1 attack base! There’s something to be said about 30-man blobs of Cultists with Poison, Furious Charge or +1 Strength/Toughness, either with the ability to respawn or with “no strings attached” Fearless that turns into Zealot if their Helbrute dies.

        With Crusader, you could conceivably go semi-mechanized with just enough Rhinos to provide an expendable wall/Havoc support as you’re fast enough to keep up with most of them.

        Then there’s the assorted tricks and gimmicks, from MSU Slaaneshi Bikers with Crusader, to Warlord Psyker Defiler, to using Crusader on a TAF to alpha-strike something then move out of LOS.

      • Shiwan8 December 20, 2016 11:57 pm #

        Since WB get perils from malefic just like everyone else that summoning made easier thing means pretty much nothing. A successful reliable casting would mean that you ave to roll a different number for each of the 6 dice you roll. How likely is that?

        The rest of the WB bonuses have no potenial when combned with the codex.

        • abusepuppy December 21, 2016 2:29 am #

          Harnessing on a 3+ means you don’t need to throw nearly as many dice at things, which decreases your chance of Perils- your Sorcerers will still usually take a Perils when casting the WC3 powers, but that’s why you’re running them as Nurgle for the extra wounds. And Daemon Princes don’t take Perils n all doubles, so they can summon on a fairly limited number of dice (~5) with very good odds of getting the necessary successes.

          • Shiwan8 December 22, 2016 2:32 am

            I don’t think that spamming DPs is very Word Bearerish. One is fine, but 4+ is really unfluffy.

          • SaltyJohn December 22, 2016 10:13 pm

            What is this “fluffy” you speak of?…

          • abusepuppy December 22, 2016 4:41 am

            Well, you don’t really want/need to “spam” them- one or two is more than enough, since you won’t really have the warp charge generation to fuel much more than that unless you’re running a bunch of Daemon allies to generate extra WC.

    • SaltyJohn December 17, 2016 10:05 am #

      Does Black Legion Warband not have ObSec?

      • WestRider December 17, 2016 4:41 pm #

        No ObSec for them. Just some potential re-rolls that, while not bad, aren’t as good as spammable ObSec.

      • Adam December 18, 2016 9:16 am #

        Nope, thats why I use the Chaos Warband instead from Traitor’s Hate

    • Blight December 17, 2016 11:04 am #

      Why not just take the objective secured formation then? It can still be used by black legion. So can the black crusade detachment from traitors hate I’d you want.

      • WestRider December 17, 2016 4:43 pm #

        Because then you can’t get their awesomesauce First Turn Deep Strike shenanigans.

  2. Blight December 17, 2016 11:02 am #

    There is some contention on if the word bearers detachment is better or worse than the black crusade detachment from traitors hate.
    They have the same formations in them but the BC detachment has no restrictions on who gets the free boon each turn and also specifically says that the core formation gets to roll twice each time. Don’t get crusader or WB warlord trait re-roll.

    • MagicJuggler December 18, 2016 9:15 am #

      Honestly, I prefer Crusader over the “extra boons” from the generic Black Crusade, and I personally view the Word Bearers Warlord traits as being far more “general-purpose” than the vanilla ones; at worst, you no longer are worrying about getting such gems like Soul Blaze or Fear. It adds up, especially since Crusader is an “at least one model” ability unlike Fleet, so you could be all cheeky and do something like taking a Helcult and using both Cultist units as escorts for your Warband’s Lord/Sorcerer.

      • Shiwan8 December 23, 2016 7:44 am #

        One must consider the bonuses and the possibilities for their use.
        – Crusader falls in to the same category with soulblaze thanks to everything being fearless or otherwise immune to it. It’s hard to sweep things when nothing that can be sweeped is reachable and everything reachable is immune to sweeping advance.
        – Bonuses as a part of the legion benefits are pretty moot when the opposing force gets better bonuses by default and then is given hatred on top of them just for giggles. I honestly wish WB did not get those against UM just so that UM would not get an extra boost to it’s win button against WB.
        – Summoning on 3+ is nice, it’s a shame that only one unit in the force can summon and not die in the process.
        – Apostles have no role in any army at the moment for reasons already mentioned in the article so that 6″ zealot is again not doing anything. It’s a purely melee related bonus on a slow unit that can’t endure the distance it needs to travel to have an impact on something. Maybe if it was 18″ radius…
        – The warlord traits are not making a difference in the game. It’s not like someone would roll on that chart when the ones in the rule book are almost exclusively better in terms of consistency and utility value.
        – The one relic that gives d6 WC once in a game, so let’s assume that it gives one WC once per game, is the absolute best of the relics. One WC does not make a difference in a game.
        – 1 boon per turn is almost nothing unless it can be chosen freely. Not being able to stack it to one character to get some benefit out of it is nothing unless a DP is rolled. 5+ save on a cultists is pretty meaningless after all.

        The real value of WB is easily found out by comparing it to DG, SM and the eldar. There is very little that warrants cheering.

        • MagicJuggler December 28, 2016 1:09 pm #

          -For objective grabs, Crusader is arguably better than rolling 2 dice and picking the highest for running is better than just getting a re-roll. Is it a Scatpack turbo? No, but very few things are. For MSU Spawn in particular, it gets hilarious as they get MTC, Crusader and Fleet all wrapped in an expendable 30-36 point package.
          -As a rule, Perils generally causes 1 wound max; the odds of long your Sorcerer outright are 1 in 72 (1 for the result plus a failed Leadership). A Palanquin Sorcerer gets 4 wounds (or the chance to heal itself if you really want to go down that route).
          -3 of the 6 Warlord Traits are actually quite nice IMO. Voics of Lorgar grants additional support (Fearless lets you get proxy Stealth via G2G, Furious Charge Spawn are hilarious, etc), and an extra Mastery Level is always handy. Nexus of the Gods is probably the weakest overall since the Word Bearers detachment bonus doesn’t apply to Favored Scions, but being able to influence/alter Boon rolls has saved my bacon in several games. Last thing you want is your Sorcerer to become a Spawn because an errant Sergeant got punked by Psychic Shriek!
          -I’d still put Malefic Tome as better overall. I use an allied CAD with some Tzeentch Daemons. You get 3 dice from your Sorcerer (or 4 with the right WL trait), 4 dice from your Blue Horrors, 2-3 dice from your Herald (I personally prefer the Locus of +1 Witchfire Strength instead of a 3rd ML, so I have the option if needed), and D6 at the start of the turn. This gives a minimum of 10 WC per turn. The Herald gets an automatic summon on 5 dice, and the 3+ manifest plus re-roll gives good enough odds for the second one to go off on 5. Two near-guaranteed summons give you a fair bit of flexibility for trap-setting.

          • MagicJuggler December 28, 2016 1:17 pm

            *Crusader is arguably better than Fleet, I mean, at least for getting across the map faster.

            I never mentioned the Apostle. Dude needs a Bike. I mostly prefer a Warband for Word Bearers, because Obsec Bikes are almost never not good.

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