At ease, Guardsman! Reecius here with part 2 of our Astra Militarum Codex Review.
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In part 1 of this article, we broke down the broad strokes of what the Astra Militarum could do, and then took a closer look at what each Regiment had to offer. In part 2 of this article we’re going to dig in to the meat of the book and look at the units in it. This is not a comprehensive unit breakdown though, those will come in later articles focusing on 1 unit at a time. This is a look at what the AM have to offer in broader strokes with some cool tips and tricks for the units available to them.
- Lord Castellan Creed
- Company Commander
- Tank Commander
- Knight Commander Pask
- Commissar Yarrick
- Lord Commissar
- Colonel ‘Iron Hand’ Straken
- Tempestor Prime
- Primaris Psyker
The Astra Militarum have some excellent options available to them in their HQs for force multiplication, points efficiency and surprisingly high damage output. While they don’t compare to say, a Space Marine Captain, they most certainly can pack a punch.
Predominantly your army will feature Officers in some form or another. Officers issue orders to your other troopers and unlock many of the relics available to you. The Company Commander is an excellent and affordable choice, weighing in at only 30pts. His ability to issue two orders is fantastic and his primary purpose. Depending on which Regiment you are playing, where you take him from there is up to you. As my preference is Catachan, I like to give him a Power Fist and Plasma Pistol as he is often going up field and engaging the enemy directly where his strength 4, and potentially extra attacks form units like Straken and a Minustorum Priest can buff him up to a respectable melee profile, which when combined with the Fix Bayonets! order means they’re actually quite punchy. Just remember: they’re fragile. With only 4 wounds and T3 with a 5++, it doesn’t take much to smoke them.
However, for many regiments, keeping him dirt cheap with no upgrades is perfectly acceptable and the most efficient way to run him, or simply with a Plasma Pistol for close quarters engagements. If you plan on using them with Conscripts or sit and shoot Infantry Squads and Heavy Weapons Squads, this is a great way to play them. The Tempestor Prime, the Militarum Tempestus officer, likewise is best kept dirt cheap with the command rod to get a second order, and deep-struck behind some Scions units to give them re-roll 1 orders and increase their damage output.
Regardless, you will typically always have a Company Commander of some sort in your army. As mentioned above, Straken is great as he himself is nearly on par with a Space Marines Captain in stats at T4, 5 wounds, with a 3+/5++, and his +1 attack aura is just fantastic for Catachan armies. With a re-roll wound rule against Monsters in melee, he is actually fearsome when engaging things like Daemon Princes or similar targets as he can easily jump up to 6 attacks that deal 2 damage a pop. At 75pts the question is if you’d rather have 2 standard Commanders or 1 Straken. In my mind, it boils down to your style of play. If you want to dabble in melee with Catachan squads, he’s an easy yes. If you want to lean towards shooting, then you’re better off with the cheaper, generic Commander.
Likewise, if you’re playing Cadia, Creed is a no-brainer choice, IMO. Giving you the Officer rules but an extra order (3 total) at 12″ range and +2 CP if he is your Warlord and the very good Cadian Warlord trait, he’s outstanding for 70pts. Cadians want to typically hold still, and parking Creed among Heavy Weapons Squads, Veterans kitted out for long range shooting or Infantry Squads that blob up is a solid back-field strategy for the Cadian player. As he can potentially “twin link” 2 squads per order, you get a LOT of force multiplication out of him.
Commissars are one of the other staple units in the Astra Militarum HQ slot. Lord Commisars provide quite a bonus to the army, granting Astra militarum units within 6″ their leadership of 9 (which is awesome when combined with other buffs such as the Catachan bonus for being near Officers or a Regimental Standard) which means you often don’t even have to take a morale check but if you do, their Summary Execution rule means you get a re-roll to that check after the Commissar executes a squad member to inspire the rest of the lads. Just bear in mind these guys are massive targets as they’re lynchpin models, so protect them well by keeping them out of LoS if possible. Usually, you will want to give them little to no gear as their job is to stay alive which usually means staying out of sight, but if you did want to kit them up for some fisticuffs, they’re not bad at it. A Powerfist and Plasma Pistol and a nearby Priest means these guys can mix it up a bit and deal out some damage. Typically you will want to take the cheaper Commissar in the elites section but if you need an HQ to unlock a detachment, the Lord Commissar is a great choice for the extra point of Leadership. If you really want to keep your units from running, the Draconian Disciplinarian Warlord Trait means only D3 die on a failed check and they are then considered to have passed.
Commissar Yarrick deserves special mention as he is an exceptional character. Beyond the normal Commissar abilities, he’s also a lot more durable at T4 with a 4++, but also with a special 3+ save against any wound that would kill him. His real force multiplication though, is in the fact that he has a universal re-roll 1 aura for melee and shooting for AM units within 6″ which bumps up to a full re-roll aura if you are facing Orks. He will be seen in many lists to increase efficiency in damage output and as a tough Warlord to take out.
The Primaris Psyker is an excellent HQ choice for the AM. As stated in Part 1 of this article series, the psychic powers available to Astra Militarum are very good. Psychic Barrier and Nightshroud specifically, are all-star powers. Mental Fortitude is also great for keeping units like Conscripts in line by allowing them to ignore morale. And, humorously, the Primaris Psyker is actually not bad in melee as he has 3 attacks at WS 3+, strength 5, AP -1, D3 damage! With a Priest around, he can crack some skulls. In all, this is an HQ I take in every single list, he is simply too good a utility to pass up on. As an HQ, he helps to unlock those juicy detachments to get more Command Points.
The Astra Militarum are defined by their troops more than anything else. The nameless, faceless billions of soldiers in service of mankind and their emperor may not receive the glory of the Space Marines, but they do far more in regards to actually defending the Imperium. Their stats are not impressive, nor is their gear exotic, but there is a lot of them and they fight with a grim determination!
So far this edition, it’s been all about Conscripts, who are still quite good, but have been reduced to 20-30 man units and now only successfully receive orders on a 4+ which is a significant reduction in efficacy. However, they did get Regimental Doctrines instead which is significant as it boosts them up quite a bit. Catachan especially, making them strength 4 with access to potentially 3 attacks per model means they are no joke in melee. However, the other Regiments have a lot to offer the lowly Conscript, too. Valhallan doctrines keeps more of them around, longer, and you can fire into units that hit the screen but don’t punch through. Vostroyan and Armageddon Conscripts are deadlier at greater range, and with Vostroya, you can shoot into combat with the Conscripts themselves. Cadian Conscripts can become twin linked. Mordian Conscripts overwatch on a 5+. They all have something to offer you and the unit still serves as an excellent screening and scoring unit regardless of doctrines.
Infantry Squads though, are where it is at, in my opinion. With the new Regimental Doctrines they give you a lot, and when combined with the Consolidate Squads stratagem, can quickly function in the same way your Conscripts would if you need them to plus they are much more versatile with weapon options and are more effective generally due to always receiving orders and having better stats. In my Catachan armies, I take units of 10 with a Power Sword and Flamer. For a measly 51pts, I get a unit that is mobile, cheap enough to be expendable if I need them to serve as a screen, but with enough hitting power to actually be a threat. I often combine them into units of 20-30 where a single Burn Them Out! or First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire! order can impact the entire unit. They also have higher leadership due to being near an Officer and with Straken and a Priest nearby, the Sarges are getting 4 strength 4, AP-3 attacks, each.
Tallarn Infantry Squads are amazing, too. With a Plasma Gun and Pistol, they can jam around the table moving 6+D6″ inflicting solid damage and grabbing objectives. Again, this unit only costs 52pts! You can easily unlock a brigade or battalion detachment this way and have effective, multi-role units who when backed by some support staff, become quite powerful.
Likewise with the other regiments, you have loads of options with Infantry Squads. They all have something to offer. Cadian and Mordian Infantry Squads are great on defense with increased damage output from heavy weapons, where Vostroyan and Armageddon units can play offense or defense with increased ranges on their weapons or rapid fire thresholds. Vostroyans especially with their Firstborn Pride stratagem and an order like, First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire! on a combined squad would put out a fearsome amount of small arms fire at a longer range.
There’s a LOT more to say here, of course, but suffice it to say that the humble Astra Militarum Infantry Squad is extremely flexible, effective and fun to use.
Militarum Tempestus, aka Scions, are an incredibly good troop choice. Any unit with the ability to Deep Strike natively in 8th ed, is worth its weight in gold. In addition to being able to appear where needed on the table-top and being perfectly immune to being alpha struck, Scions also are cost effective and hit hard, too! Yes, their special weapons went up in cost but that was more than fair as they were too cheap, previously. They’re still an amazing unit and with their Regimental Doctrines (which they only get in a Militarum Tempestus detachment) they get exploding 6’s to hit at half range. As stated in part 1 of this article, the typical 5 man/2 special weapon drop units are still great but I love using a unit of 10 with no upgrades and issuing them the Grenadiers order to huck 10 Krak Grenades on people, or for FRF!, SRF! on them to pump out a high volume of AP-2 shots. In all, this is simply a fantastic unit and as if all of the above weren’t enough, they help open up troop heavy detachments to get more Command Points.
- Master of Ordnance
- Platoon Commander
- Command Squad
- Colour Sergeant Kell
- Special Weapons Squad
- Sergeant Harker
- Militarum Tempestus Command Squad
- Ministorum Priest
- Tech-Priest Enginseer
- Officer of the Fleet
- Wyrdvane Psykers
- Ogryn Bodyguard
- Nork Deddog
What used to be a bit of a joke in previous versions of the Astra Militarum, the Elites section is now jam packed with fantastic choices! One of the only problems with this codex honestly, is deciding which great unit to take. Jokes aside, it does allow for a tremendous freedom in building a customized army.
Now, to be fair, not every choice is outstanding. For my money, Wyrdvane Psykers for example, are not optimal as while taken in a vacuum, they’re fine, but compared to the Astropath or Primaris Psykers who have the protection of the Character keyword, they pale in comparison a bit. That aside, for the points a unit that can run around dealing mortal wounds for 8pts per model is nothing to sneeze at. The Astropath himself is crazy cheap for a Psyker, and on top of that he also offers you a cover stripping debuff to an enemy unit within 18.” I often take an Astropath to back up my Primaris and cast Psychic Barrier where the Primaris casts Nightshroud but also takes Psychic Barrier in case the Astropath goes down (which he dies to a stiff breeze, lol!).
The other Regimental Advisers: the Officer of the Fleet and Master of Ordnance, are not bad. The Master of Ordnance is the least effective (but still not bad at all) as he has a once per game 100″ range effective battle cannon shot that doesn’t require line of sight, and allows artillery tanks to re-roll 1’s to hit so long as they are firing on targets more than 36″ away. The Officer of the Fleet, however, is pretty dang good. He has a once per game Air Raid Request which deals mortal wounds to a visible unit, but he also allows you to pick an enemy unit within 18″ that does not have the Fly keyword and any Aeronautica Imperialis units re-roll 1’s to hit that unit. This is extremely potent when combined with things like a Vulture Gunship with twin Punisher Cannons.
Additionally, there are more support models available to you in the elites slot such as Harker, who is a great character for a Catachan army as his ubiquitous re-roll 1 aura in the shooting phase is one of the only ways to get this buff. He’s also pretty decent at dealing damage and an awesome model to boot! Similarly, you have access to the Commissar and Platoon Commander who’ve been discussed already. The Platoon Commander though, can be kitted out for melee, humorously and especially in a Catachan force if you wanted to run a for laughs unit of Characters buffed up to punch things. Don’t expect them to set the world on fire or anything, but if you have 5 of the little guys running at the enemy brandishing a Power Sword and packing up to 5 strength 4, AP-3 attacks a piece, it could be quite funny!
The Enginseer is another fun unit who is fairly effective in melee and can repair your vehicles which when combined with the Jury Rigging stratagem means you can heal a tank D3+1 wounds in a turn. Not essential but if you plan on relying on say, a Baneblade chassis vehicle, it can be a great way to keep the big fella in the fight.
You’ve heard me talk about this little guy about a dozen times so far, and for good reason: he’s simply amazing for the points. The Ministorum Priest is a tremendous force multiplier adding +1 attack to nearby Astra Militarum or Adeptus Ministorum infantry units. That alone is worth the cost of admission but on top of this, he comes stock with a 4++ for only 35pts! In a pinch, cast Psychic Barrier on him and send him in to a big nasty like Magnus and he has decent odds with a re-roll stratagem of tanking them! This unit is simply too good not to bring in anything but a fully mechanized Astra Militarum army.
Colour Sergeant Kell is a fairly solid character for a Cadian force. He gives an officer another Order within 6″ and he lets Cadian units within 6″ re-roll failed morale tests which is great. He can also tank wounds for Creed which is quite useful if there are enemy snipers around. In general, not a bad investment at all and helps unlock a Brigade for Cadian players.
The various Command Squads available all perform similar functions: small unit size and a lot of Special Weapons on BS3+ models. Whether Scion or not, this unit is very effective. Scions are fairly point and click: load them up with Melta or Plasma, drop down, profit. The normal Command Squad requires a little more planning to deliver but as they are only 4 strong, you can pack 3 units of them into a Chimera or even better, a Valkyrie. They then go to where they are needed, hop out and unleash hell. The Valkyrie especially does this well as you can use the Grav-chute Insertion special rule to get out after it moves, up to 20″ down the way and really strike into the heart of your opponent’s force. Also, I have experimented with the other upgrades in the Command Squad and found the Regimental Standard to actually be quite good as the +1 leadership–particularly with Catachans–means you rarely need to even take morale, and if so, can use the Fight to the Death stratagem to largely ignore morale on 10 man units. The only real issue with these units is that they have no endurance. Every casualty is punishing as you lose a special weapon and as they hit hard, are high priority targets. I prefer Veteran Squads, myself.
Astra Militarum Veterans are one of my absolute favorite units in the game and always have been. They bring you a cheap BS3+ platform with loads of weapon options. With Catachans my favorite load-out is to run them with 3 Flamers, a Heavy Flamer and a Power Sword on Sarge. With the Burn them Out! order, they wreck infantry. Or, run them with triple Melta, or Plasma and a Plasma Pistol on Sarge. For Vostroyans, give them triple Plasma and a Las Cannon and enjoy the longer range. Armageddon units like triple plasma, too, and double tap out to 18.” Tallarn make great use of any of the special weapons options but especially Melta where their increased speed and lack of penalty for advancing and shooting makes them more likely to get in to melta range and their amazing Ambush stratagem lets them operate without a transport vehicle. This is a unit that honestly requires an article unto itself to really dig in to all of the possibilities (and you can expect one from FLG, soon!) but suffice it to say: this is an all around fantastic unit.
Special Weapons Squads are quite handy, too. They’re cheap and work well with 3 Flamers, or 3 Plasma Weapons and are great for unlocking detachments like the Brigade. They also come with 3 ablative wounds built in and as such can take a punch and shoot again in many instances where the Command Squad often cannot. They work very well with Catachans where the Burn Them Out! order pairs with a Flamer equipped unit quite well.
Ratlings are a great sniper unit for the Astra Militarum player but also are very useful as a screen, too. They have the ability to be deployed after normal deployment, 18″ away form enemy units. This is great for keeping enemy infiltrators and deep-strikers away from you. Their ability to shoot and scoot is not bad either, as it allows them to stay in the fight a bit longer than other snipers.
Crusaders, while certainly cool, are a bit of an anachronism in the Astra Militarum. That aside, they’re a great unit. At 15pts a pop and stock with a Power Sword and Storm Shield, they’re very effective. The obvious use for them is to tie up a big nasties like Mortarion or Magnus as casting Psychic Barrier on them brings them to a 2++. Likewise, they make an excellent screen as in the shooting phase, again, use Psychic Barrier or the Take Cover stratagem to make them extremely durable and when backed by a Commissar, they’re very hard to shift. Toss in Nightshroud for a -1 to hit them with shooting while you’re at it.
The fact that they also come with Acts of Faith (giving them an out of phase action on a 2+ at the beginning of the turn) and Zealot (re-roll missed hits in melee if they charged, or were charged) and you’ve got yourself an all around great unit. Remember too, they can ride in a Chimera, Taurox or Valkyrie. A fun combo: use their Spirit of the Martyr act of faith and a Medi-pack equipped model to bring as many as 2 of them back to life every turn. I plan on making a unit of Catachans modeled up with riot shields to use as Crusaders in my army not only because they’re a great unit but also because it would be a fun modeling project!
The best for last! I am a long time fan of both Ogryn and Bullgryn, but this is really their edition to shine. Ogryn are a solid unit with 3 strength 5 shots and 3 base strength 5 attacks in melee that are AP-1, but they also gain +1 attack on the charge and a Priest can get them another +1. I have found Ogryn to be best used in 3 man units to run around going for objectives. They tend not to get shot very frequently and are more than capable of overcoming the small objective holding units we frequently see like Scout squads.
Bullgryn though, are in a league of their own. This unit is crazy good, and I absolutely love using mine. This is a unit that also requires an article to really flesh out (which will be coming!) but with the ability to take both the Slabshield and Brute Shield in the same unit, mixing a 2+ save and a 4++ on T5 models with 3 wounds a pop, they are superb screening unit when backed up with the usual suspects: Nightshroud, Psychic Barrier and Take Cover!. You take saves on whichever shield is best for the situation (although must continue to take saves on that model until it is dead, so be careful as a savvy opponent may bait you into taking saves on the less beneficial save, then change up their attacks!), blunting most attacks considerably. Beyond their defense though, they also beat the crap out of things with 3 base attacks that are essentially an Autocannon, each. I run mine with a Priest and a Primaris Psyker and they routinely serve as both a hard as nails screen and brutal assault unit. I absolutely love my Bullgryn and the fact that in the lore they get along famously with Catachans is just icing on the cake!
The Ogryn bodyguard are also quite good, and for a reasonable price point give you a lot to love. They function primarily as Bullgryn do, but with the added benefit of 6 wounds and the character keyword. They can tank wounds for Am characters as well, which with 6 wounds is no big deal and a Medi-pack nearby means you can heal them or with the Deathmask of Ollianius relic, gain a 4++ and additionally heal D3 wounds once per game. In an AM character bomb list, these gents are very good for keeping your little guys alive a lot longer while also packing quite a punch, themselves.
Fast Attack is another highly valuable slot for Astra Militarum players. The all star here is the Scout Sentinel. This little bad-ass provides the much needed function of creating space between you and your opponent and hunting objectives. Their pre-game movement is the key, with the Scout Vehicle special rule, allowing them to move 9″ before the game starts. This keeps things like infiltrators and deep strikers away from your main forces, which is critical to success in 8th ed. Beyond this, they are also quick little devils and with the Go! Recon! stratagem, can fly across the table to snag objectives, grab line-breaker, etc. The Heavy Flamer is typically going to be the best bet in these guys as they want to stay mobile which sucks with heavy weapons (unless you’re Tallarn, in which case I love the Autocannon or Missile Launcher) and they often get charged. Therefore, the Heavy Flamer rocks and if you are using Catachan to re-roll the number of shots, it’s just icing on the cake. I run 3 individual Scout Sentinels with a Heavy Flamer and every game I am so glad I did. They are more than enough to deal with things like Cultist squads, Scouts, etc. and in pairs are even a threat to many Characters. They are also tough enough to charge in to most targets over and over, eating the overwatch, then annoyingly stoping that unit from shooting.
The Armoured Sentinel is a great value at only 40pts base, but really struggles to find a role. For me, I would only take them in a Tallarn detachment to ignore the penalty for moving and shooting and equip with them a decent gun. But despite a much better profile than the Scout Sentinel, the pre-game move on the Scout version is just tactically superior.
I am a huge fan of Hellhounds and always have been. They’re just a cool unit and are quite effective in 8th ed. Unfortunately, they are a bit overshadowed by the Leman Russ who with Grinding Advance is just amazing. The Hellhound though still has a place in my mind and I use them frequently. The base model is my favorite, as the Inferno Cannon now has 2D6, 1 damage shots, instead of the previous 1D6, 2 damage shots. This makes them much more effective at dealing with light infantry. The 16″ range and 12″ move gives them a big threat radius and they’re reasonably tough with 11 wounds. I send mine up the flank to hunt objectives and infantry often and with Catachan to re-roll one of the D6 on the number of shots, it reliably melts units and stays far enough away to often avoid melee.
The Bane Wolf is another fun tank but plays better in a defensive role due to its short range. If you do manage to bring its Chem Cannon to bear, it melts heavy infantry like nothing. The weapons wounds any non-vehicle model on a 2+ and is AP-3! Ouch. Pair it with a Heavy Flamer and again, Catachan, and it is a very mean tank. It is particularly effective against units like Berzerkers who can be a huge threat to Astra Militarum.
The Devil Dog is another fun tank, especially now that the Melta Cannon is an assault weapon. I prefer to run mine in a Tallarn detachment, but, they are also awesome with Vostroya due to the increased range! Both encourage you to mount a Multi-Melta on the hull as you can move and shoot with no penalty with Tallarn or just hold still and shoot with Vostroya. The other Regiments encourage the hull Heavy Flamer as you can stay mobile and serve as a multi-threat unit. Catachan again (seeing a pattern with this tank?) I think is best all around as re-rolling the number of shots on the Melta Cannon and Heavy Flamer keep it very efficient.
In all, the Hellhound chassis tanks are fun and quick and can be very useful at an entirely reasonable price point. A final mention for Tallarn, who with the Ambush stratagem, can bring on a unit of 3 of them and do some serious damage from reserves.
Heavy support has traditionally been the mainstay slot for Astra Militarum. While this is still largely true, there is certainly competition in the other slots, now. But, if you rely on the age old “Loads of Infantry and Tanks” strategy, you won’t be disappointed.
Heavy Weapons Squads have been covered quite a bit in other sections but suffice it to say: they’re still quite good while remaining fairly vulnerable to return fire. This is offset by their low cost, but they can be challenging to use which is why we’ve seen so many Mortar Teams as they do not require line of sight and can hide, staying safe. Regimental Doctrines bring a lot to the table though, and especially Cadia can make simply amazing use of them with their native ability to re-roll 1’s to hit and their modified Take Aim! order which twin-links them and Warlord trait allowing two units to be effected on a 4+. Further, this load out really benefits from the Overlapping Fields of Fire stratagem, to hammer an enemy unit with heavy weapons fire. They more than any others want to take loads of Heavy Weapons Squads in my mind as they can force multiply the hell out of them, getting the most bang for your buck. Mordia also does well with them as they overwatch on a 5+ as does Vostroya who increases their range.
These units are also great for simply taking up space in your backfield to deny areas for your opponent to come in with things like outflankers, and for cheaply opening up detachments like the Brigade for those sweet, sweet Command Points!
I lump all of the artillery tanks together because they all serve essentially the same function: blast things far away that you cannot see. They’re all quite good and they serve a solid function in your list. With the rise of -1 to hit armies though, and the bonus to saves for being in cover, they just don’t have enough oomph in a general sense to be relied on as the primary damage dealing unit IMO. I know a lot of folks disagree but if you find yourself playing Ravenguard, Stygies, Alpha Legion, etc. hitting on 5’s and fighting through a 3+ or 2+ save can be a real struggle. That said, I still always take at least one artillery tank to harass enemy units, hit objective holders out of LoS, etc., I just don’t rely entirely on them.
The Deathstrike is fun, funny and potentially devastating with the Vortex Missile stratagem, but is simply not reliable enough to count on it in a competitive strategy. If you took 3+ I could see it maybe working, but it’s more of a fun unit, IMO.
Personally, I like a mix of tanks as they all have strengths and weaknesses. The Wyvern rocks for smoking light infantry, where the Manticore can pack the biggest hit and the Basilisk is all around just great and very efficient (and now, AP-3!). Hyper-focusing on just one of them leaves you potentially weak to a counter. However, if you really just want 1, I think the Bassilisk is generally the most efficient, but ultimately the rest of your list will dictate what you need most from your artillery.
Special mention here goes to Catachans as their ability to re-roll 1D6 for a random number of shots and Harker for a cheap re-roll aura. They make a great artillery detachment which is actually supported in the lore of the game as in their backstory, Catachans relied heavily on artillery as tanks didn’t do to well in the jungle environments they often fought in.
The Hydra is just too pricey for an unreliable unit for me. We don’t see them often and I don’t think that will change without a significant price reduction.
The Mighty Leman Russ! This unit is vastly improved and quite a formidable unit, now. I, like most long time Astra militarum players have loads of them! And now, more than ever before, they are a great unit. With Grinding Advance, they become genuinely scary, able to shoot their turret weapon twice.
Like Veterans, this is a unit that requires an entire article to explain the multitude ways to play it. With the combination of tank orders, Regimental Doctrines, weapon load-outs, etc. there is just dozens of ways to effectively employ this unit. Here are a few of my favorites, though. With Catachan, I like to run them with a single Heavy Flamer on the hull, and a powerful Turret Weapon such as the Executioner Plasma Cannon, Punisher Cannon, Battle Cannon or Demolisher Cannon. Cheap, mobile, with a nice assault deterrent and a powerful main weapon that re-rolls the number of shots. Alternatively, load them up with 3 Heavy Flamers and play aggressively, going straight forward.
With Vostroya, I like loading it up with massed Plasma and using the Firstborn Pride stratagem for a 42″ ranged +1 to hit plasma tank of doom! The nice thing is with the +1 to hit, you cannot overheat without other modifiers. Cadia employs massed firepower Russes well as they re-roll 1’s to hit naturally if they don’t move, so Heavy Bolters, Plasma Cannons, Las Cannons, etc. are a great choice. And, obviously, Pask is a one tough SoB. He issues 2 tank orders and is BS2…re-rolling 1’s if he doesn’t move…lol. Such a boss, if you are playing Cadia and not using him you are missing a massive opportunity as he also leverages their special tank order, Pound Them to Dust! very well. I like loading him up with Plasma and a Las Cannon to get maximum mileage out of his high BS but he is honestly good with any load-out and I’ve had great success with the Punisher Cannon, too as 40 shots hitting on 2’s, re-rolling 1’s is not bad…lol. As he can issue two orders, running him with another Russ is a great call and he can keep them re-rolling 1’s even on the move.
Tallarn though, is where things really get interesting. The ability to ignore the penalty for moving and shooting, their unique tank order, Get Around behind Them! and their Ambush stratagem opens up a lot of possibilities. A Tallarn Tank Commanders could outflank, issue itself the Get Around Behind Them! order and either move into say, Heavy Flamer or Melta range to deal heavy damage, or shoot and then move behind cover or out of range! Alternatively, you could simply issue re-roll 1’s on itself while hitting on a 3+ with things like Mult-meltas and Demolisher cannons is brutal. Or, shoot and then pop smoke with the Strike and Shroud! order for a -1 to hit. This is a crazy good combination of abilities and one I think will become quite popular as it is not only very powerful but also keeps these expensive tanks safe from being alpha struck.
There’s a LOT more to say on this awesome vehicle but it will have to wait for a more in-depth breakdown.
Astra Militarum have solid transport options available to them as well. The ubiquitous Chimera has been returned to a state of usefulness and especially in Catachan regiments equipped with two Heavy Flamers, it is downright deadly. But, Tallarn is a solid choice as well due to being able to move and shoot to better effect. Two Heavy Bolters is a great choice here. Otherwise, double Heavy Flamer is typically your best bet as the Chimera will be getting close to the enemy typically.
As stated above, these tanks are great for transporting multiple command squads, Veterans or Special Weapons Squads. What I love about them most though, is the ability to carry a squad and 2 support characters but counting as a single drop for gaining the +1 to go first. This gives you a lot of deployment flexibility and also protection from the alpha strike or from snipers whom Astra Militarum characters are particularly vulnerable to.
The humble Taurox is much improved with a points reduction. For a crazy low price, you can now put a 10 wound, T6, 3+ save vehicle on the table. For all of the reasons listed above, this is solid, and when paired with Tallarn for the ability to run and gun, or Cadia to re-roll 1’s to hit and bunkers to stow your characters in during deployment (or just hide them behind) that is not bad! This is a very solid, affordable transport vehicle that puts out respectable firepower.
The Taurox Prime has been extremely popular in 8th ed, and it got a fair points bump. However, this is largely offset by the fact that it also got a great boost with the Storm Troopers doctrine which gives it exploding 6’s to hit in shooting at half range in a Militarum Tempestus detachment. The dakka version has been quite popular but my preference is for the Missile Launcher/Autocannon load out which will now generate extra shots at 24″ range! I often run them with Yarrick nearby to re-roll 1’s to hit and have a lot of success with them.
The Valkyrie is an interesting unit as its main function is to deliver hard hitting units into a good position on the battlefield, which it does quite well, but it is a bit pricey for that role alone. As it can transport 12 models, you have a lot of options and the kicker is the fact that you can move it first, then disembark your models. This opens up a host of tactical options, not the least of which is the very good and very obnoxious character bomb delivery system wherein you can deposit 12 Smite slangers right in your opponent’s face. But do that at the expense of keeping gaming friends, lol.
The vehicle itself has middling damage output, even if you drop into Hove Jet to take advantage of Roving Gunship for +1 to hit at the expense of the -1 to hit from the Hard to Hit rule. This does give it some flexibility, and with the Officer of the Fleet can be effective firepower. To really use this model to maximum effect, you need a game-plan. Think about what units you’d like to deliver, where on the battlefield, etc. Then, if the Valk lives, drop it into a good firing position and cut loose. It’s a unit you can’t really just toss in your list and hope for the best, though.
The Astra Militarum have a host of Lords of War from which to choose. The Baneblade chassis vehicles have largely improved across the board with points adjustments, more consistent damage output, etc. They’re all very good choices and like the Leman Russ, require an in-depth look to explore all of the options fully. it is important to note that the Baneblades do not gain Regimental Doctrines in the Super Heavy Aux detachment, you have to take them in a Super Heavy Detachment or a Supreme Command Detachment to gain those benefits. They also gained the Steel Behemoth rule which allows them to ignore the penalty for moving and shooting heavy weapons, can fall back from melee and still shoot, and can still fire if in melee, and it’s twin Heavy Bolters and Heavy Flamers can shoot units it is within 1″ of. These are massive improvements for the big boys.
Generally speaking though, you get two categories here: damage dealers and damage dealers+transport.
The damage dealers want to do one thing: blow things to pieces. You want to gear them up for this task in your list and position them to do so. Typically they are going to hang back and just shoot and you want to protect them by keeping units away from them. The damage dealers+transports however, are often going to be advancing on the enemy and carrying powerful units. They can also sit back and let units shoot out of them, too, which works especially well with Cadian and Vostroyan armies as Cadian units self-buffs from within (and the tank would benefit from this as well if it had the doctrines) and Vostoyan units have a greater range as would the tank. Special mention here to Vostroya as their Firstborn Pride stratagem is amazing on a Lord of War, and bumps it up to hitting on 3’s which can be further bumped with a Salamander Command Vehicle to a 2+ to hit….wow. Valhalla is also great for a sit and shoot super heavy tank as doubling the number of wounds remaining for determining which stat line you use is clearly quite good. Regardless of Regiment, you typically want to give these bad boys Heavy Bolters (or no sponsons and keep them cheap) and put them in a good firing position where they can reign down death on the enemy.
The more aggressive tanks with transport capacity that will be delivering units like Veterans or Command Squads with Melta guns, or Bullgryn (or both!) will want to take either no upgrades to keep cost down, or Heavy Flamers. Catachan is great here for obvious reasons as is Tallarn who allow them to advance and still fire Heavy Weapons. A super heavy tank played this way wants to be aggressive, and will make heavy use of the Crush Them! stratagem where it becomes scary in melee, hitting like an Imperial Knight.
Now, there are a few options here: go all in with support and maxed out firepower, or keep them relatively cheap and lightly supported or unsupported. Both strategies have their merits and it really just depends on your play-style. If you go all in, you want a Salamander Command Vehicle, possibly Yarrick or Harker for re-rolls, an Enginseer to repair it, a Primaris Psyker/Astropath or two for Nightshroud and Psychic Barrier, infantry to screen it, command points for the Take Cover stratagem, etc. Played this way, you are all in on the big boy (or big boys) and your games will be won or lost on the super heavy tank(s)’s performance. This can be fun, but it is a lot of eggs in a single basket. The thing to remember with these tanks is that they do die, and pretty easily at that. If you find yourself facing a Roboute gunline (or similar army) and you are going second, even with the Take Cover stratagem, you are likely to lose your big boy on turn 1. They’re tough tanks but are not invincible by any stretch of the imagination.
Run cheaply, you have a smaller risk on the line if you go bust on your investment and can rely on weapons like Heavy Flamers, or just the main gun to get the job done. The Shadowsword is an excellent example of a tank that works great run this way as you can keep it low cost and it will put the fear of the Emperor in your opponent! Either way works, it really just comes down to your preference.
For my money, the Banehammer is the best all around tank. It is affordably priced, can be run as a sit and shoot tank or an aggressive tank, fully tooled up or bare bones, has a transport capacity and the best all around gun (IMO) in the Tremor Cannon. If it hits its target, that unit halves it’s move characteristic and cannot advance in the next turn. This is crazy good as if you find yourself facing off against a Magnus or Mortarion or similar fast, durable, hard hitting unit, all you have to do is hit it, and it slows to a crawl. That is just as good as hurting it, better in many cases. Where the Shadowsord (or similar tank) is all or nothing: you destroy your target or you do not, the Banehammer is a really safe bet in that even just hitting your target really screws it up. A horde of Stormboyz, or Genestealers, etc. may survive a direct hit from the big cannons, but being slowed down is a death sentence for them and can really jam your opponent’s plans up.
If you do find yourself facing off against an army that doesn’t care so much about movement, then the gun itself is still quite powerful with 3D6 shots at strength 8, AP -2, 3 damage.
There is loads more to say, but this article is beefy, so let’s wrap it up! Suffice it to say, the Astra Militarum have a tremendous codex. Tons of flavor, tons of options, tons of play-styles. Your imagination is the limit to what you can do with this book and it is sure to reveal new and exciting combos for years to come.
What type of Astra Militarum army would you like to play?
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