Bursting out of the gates from Chapter Approved, the Sisters of Battle beta codex is here to play- and folks, it’s no pushover at all. Click to read on, or check out the Tactics Corner for more reviews and strategies.
Although the Sisters of Battle codex (or, strictly speaking, the Adeptus Sororitas one) isn’t completely new, as we had the Index version of them available already, functionally it is almost a completely different entity than the previous iteration. Not only have the units been repriced, abilities changed, stratagems added, and subfaction traits made available, but their fundamental mechanic (Acts of Faith) has been completely reworked and now doesn’t function the same at all. So really, what we are dealing with here is a completely new entity, one that hasn’t been seen on the tabletop at all before- and it should definitely be treated as such.
Sisters of Battle have a number of strengths, not the least of which being their durability and bolters-per-point output. Although their statline is slightly worse than a Space Marine’s is (S/T3 instead of 4, WS4+ rather than 3+ in most cases), they still possess that all-important 3+ armor save and for a much lower price than any MEQ. Similarly, they are BS3+ and equipped with the same weapons as Marines (but are cheaper), meaning that they have some truly excellent damage output against infantry targets. The ability to trigger off Acts of Faith in order to buff your most important units each turn in whatever way is most relevant is also very clutch, and the 6++ save they get can occasionally pull you through some rough situations- all the more so because there are a number of ways to buff it available now.
However, they also aren’t without their weaknesses- being limited to only bolter, flamer, and melta weapons for their special/heavy choices, they are much more constrained than many other factions are in terms of choices for dealing with hard targets especially. Their weaker statline should also not be considered trivial, as T3 means that they will take a lot more wounds from some weapons than a Space Marine might. But more than that, their biggest problem remains the same as it ever was: they really only have about four different units in their codex, because like Grey Knights most of their slots are filled with “generic sisters”, “generic sisters with a jump pack,” “generic sisters but with extra special weapons,” generic sisters with extra heavy weapons,” “generic sisters but with an extra attack,” etc. We can hope that this problem is at least partially resolved once they get their full codex/model release, but for the time being at least the Sororitas just don’t have a lot of different unit types to draw upon.
For all that, however, they still are not a book to be underestimated. I don’t think you’re going to be seeing many pure Sisters armies top 8’ing at tournaments anytime soon, but they are a very efficient way to bring a battalion for those Imperial armies who want some more command points and with the new way their Faith scales up they can make a legit primary detachment in a couple of different ways- not to mention more specialized detachments to ally into something to fulfill a specific role for another army. You should definitely expect to see Sisters of Battle making appearances on the tabletop going forward from here, because they can have some very strong tricks up their metal sleeves.
Universal Rules and Faith
The first thing we should talk about when understanding Sisters are the rules that are universal to them- namely, Shield of Faith and Acts of Faith. Shield of Faith isn’t an exciting rule at first glance, and by itself it generally won’t be- it gives the model in question (i.e. almost every model in the codex) a 6++ save and the ability to make a Deny the Witch test on 1d6. With the changes to armor saves, a 6++ really doesn’t carry you far- most units are getting at least a marginal save against some guns anyways, so that’s not doing much special. And Denying on a d6 is… well, it’s almost completely worthless, to be honest; maybe on the rare occasion when the enemy passes a power on a 5 you will get to roll a die and have a small chance of turning it off, but it’s something of a once-in-a-blue-moon event. However, the important part to both of these rules is that they exist and can be buffed by other options in the codex- so keep your eyes peeled, because Sisters have a lot of ways of stacking buffs so that their abilities become pretty terrifying.
The other special rule Sisters have nigh-universally is Acts of Faith, which is wholly different from its method before. Faith is now a limited resource, like command points, that you draw on over the course of a game; you start a battle with three Faith points, plus one for every ten Faithful infantry models in your army- so typically somewhere between six and ten, depending on the size of your force and how much you invested into Sororitas (though seeing twelve or even fifteen wouldn’t be impossible.) Each time you wish to use an Act of Faith, you spend one Faith point and roll a die attempting to equal or exceed the Devotion (i.e. casting) value on the Act you are using- but the Faith is lost even if you fail the roll. Each Act of Faith can only be used once per battle round and must be activated at a specific time- however, a single unit can potentially benefit from multiple Acts of Faith simultaneously, if you pass the requisite rolls and pay the appropriate costs. There are six Acts of Faith, which broadly correspond to the effects you could achieve with them in past editions:
Hand of The Emperor (Devotion 4) adds +3″ to the movement value of the unit, allowing them to close a bit faster than they otherwise might. Although not nearly as good as moving twice (like they could before), this is still a non-trivial increase to your speed and can get your unit onto a critical objective- or in charge range of a critical unit- a lot more reliably. Activating on a 4 makes it reasonably reliable, though it feels a little high to me overall. (We’ll get into the myriad ways to buff your Faith tests in a bit here.)
Spirit of the Martyr (Devotion 3) allows you to heal d3 wounds on a model, or if there are no wounded models restore a single slain model to life. With its easy casting value this is a pretty simple Act to trigger, although it also won’t usually do anything impressive- though if you have a character trapped in a slogging fight with something you can use this to perhaps tilt the odds a little bit. It is used at the start of your movement phase, which is a fairly inconvenient time, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Aegis of the Emperor (Devotion 3) is perhaps the most niche of the Acts, as it gives you a 4+ roll to ignore each mortal wound inflicted in the psychic phase (and is triggered at the beginning of the psychic phase.) While some people seem to think this is unimpressive, against the right army it is absolutely backbreaking- shrugging off fully half of the wounds inflicted by a Thousand Sons army or the like can really put a crimp in their plans, and while you might have to activate it before knowing the order of their casting, since most spells automatically hit the closest target you can pretty easily predict where their casts are going to go. It may not come up most games, but don’t forget it exists.
Divine Guidance (Devotion 4) is one of the ones you’ll be using most commonly- quite simply, it adds +1 to hit with all shooting attacks for the duration of that phase. A cheap, easily-triggerable +1 to hit is absolutely golden, especially when the faction is already BS3+ and can easily get access to a reroll aura. Craftworlds armies will hate facing off against a bunch of Bolters chewing apart their infantry with this, and Sisters can easily make maximum use of it by taking 15-strong squads and other tricks. Be prepared to see a lot of very accurate shooting coming out of Sisters.
The Passion (Devotion 5) is the hardest of the Acts to trigger, but for good reason- it lets you pick a unit and have them be able to fight twice on your turn, in the same manner as Khorne Berzerkers or the like. Notably, this is not like the “fight again” stratagems that happen at the end of a phase- if your unit charged, they will get to fight twice before the enemy gets to fight at all. And while, yes, Sisters may only be S3 and A1 base in most cases, some of the abilities we’ll get into later let you make a brutal melee army (or at least detachment) with them. The only thing holding this back from being exceptional is how difficult it is to activate- but there are, of course, ways around that.
Light of the Emperor (Devotion 3) is used at the start of the morale phase and lets one unit succeed automatically on its check; this is a pretty great tool to have when it comes to ignoring morale and is generally gonna be better than using Insane Bravery or Command Re-roll to pass the check. It benefits a lot from the low cast value and the potential for Sisters to field some fairly large units, both of which multiply its value a lot. Like Aegis, it might not come up all the time, but when it does it will be golden for keeping that one remaining model on an objective for practically no cost at all.
Now, a lot of people are getting kinda pissy about the new Acts of Faith, complaining that they are not as good as the previous version and that Sisters are bad now. On the most basic, surface level this is true- one for one, the new Acts are worse than the old ones. But to think about them that way is to completely miss the point of Acts of Faith in the new book- they aren’t a single free action like you had before, but rather a second set of stratagems that you can use in addition to your normal strats- and just as importantly, that you can use several of every turn. Would you pay 1CP for a stratagem that added +1 to hit with a unit, or that let you fight a second time (even if it didn’t always work)? I most certainly would, and that’s essentially what Faith is now. Now take that and add in the fact that many of the Sisters stratagems interact with Acts of Faith and you have a very powerful, flexible tool that can be a huge boon to an army such that I don’t think there is any reason to be complaining about the ability at all.
Like most other codices, the beta version of the Sisters codex comes with a set of traits that you gain access to if all models in a detachment are from the same Order (i.e. subfaction.) Unlike with some of the earlier books, these Order Convictions are actually pretty well-balanced against each other and offer some interesting choices for which way to go. Note that Celestine (and her Geminae), the Hospitallar/Dialogus, and all of the Adeptus Ministorum models do not belong to any Order and so neither count for nor against gaining such a bonus; vehicles likewise do not benefit from Order abilities, although they do count towards ensuring your models are all the same Order. There are six Orders you can choose from; however, at this time they do not possess any warlord traits, relics, or stratagems that are unique to any Order, so they are short in a small way compared to other books. (One assumes this will be rectified once they have a “proper” codex.)
Order of the Valorous Heart are the simplest- they get a 6+ roll to ignore each wound they take. Although this benefit is often glossed over by many players as being underwhelming, it is actually very consistently strong and unlike some of the others, is guaranteed to come up every time; after all, when is your opponent going to not try to kill your models? Valorous Heart is especially noteworthy because Sisters of Battle can already be absurdly difficult to get rid of, with the possibility of a whole section of your army getting 2+/4++/6+++ against every attack. I don’t expect it will be a popular choice for most detachments, but if you’re just taking a minimal battalion for some CP or utility purposes, it has the potential to be really nice.
The Order of Our Martyred Lady has a truly unique effect for their Conviction; every time a unit with the Conviction is destroyed, you gain a faith point. No dice rolls, no weird shenanigans needed, every unit contributes a faith when it dies. While this might not do anything proactively, it does largely ensure that you won’t run out of faith over the course of a game, what with a constant stream of it coming in from sacrificed units. It supports an MSU strategy a lot better than some of the others do, and if you find you’re consistently low on faith (and can’t afford any of the relics/etc to boost it), you might consider trying out this Order.
Order of the Ebon Chalice is nominally the premiere Order in the Imperium, and I think their trait will make them one of the most popular choices for players as well. +1 on all faith tests is a fantastic bonus to have, especially as it stacks with a Simulacrum or Dialogus (though all faith rolls fail on a natural 1, remember.) Especially for some of the higher-devotion Acts such as +1 to hit or fighting twice, the extra assurance of working can be really nice to have around. If you’re not sure what to take, Ebon Chalice will be good for every Sisters army at least to some degree, because they’re all gonna be using faith.
Order of the Argent Shroud is a bit unusual, but has the potential to go really nuts- especially if you’re running a very large Sisters detachment in your army. Every time a unit with the Conviction kills an enemy unit, on a 4+ you gain back a faith point- and with Sisters able to put out some pretty terrifying shooting, it’s quite possible that there are turns you earn two or three faith off of this Conviction alone, to say nothing of other sources. Being able to refill your resources even as you’re doing the thing you need to be doing anyways (i.e. killing the enemy) is a really great ability; if you see a lot of enemy MSU or are running 1000+pts of Sisters, Argent Shroud is worth your time to consider.
The Order of the Bloody Rose is one that might look a bit odd at first glance, but I think has caught the attention of a lot of the higher-level players in a good way. The turn a Blood Rose unit charges, is charged, or makes a Heroic Intervention they get +1 Str and +1. Now, this might seem a bit unimpressive for an army that is largely WS4+ and S3, not to mention having very limited access to special weapons and the like. But many of the most powerful strategies in the game are about stacking bonuses, and there are a lot of melee bonuses that Sisters can rack up when you set them up right- most notably the +1A from a Priest and the faith act to fight twice. That means that even a basic 9pt Sister is getting the potential for six S4 swings, and since you can precede that charge with a hail of Bolter fire, it really is no joke. Bloody Rose brings a great duality to an army that might otherwise struggle with melee threats, and thus is definitely in the running for being the best of the Orders. (Also, remember you apply bonuses to characteristics before calculating weapon values, so a Blood Rose Eviscerator is S8, not S6.)
Sacred Rose, unfortunately, I think is the least-attractive of the Orders. Their bonus is not bad- in fact, it’s extremely good out of context. Models with this Conviction not only overwatch on a 5+, but also can never lose more than one model to a failed morale test. Both of these abilities have the potential to be great; anyone who’s faced Tau Sept know how terrifying that overwatch can be, especially with stuff like melta weapons, and the pseudo-immunity to morale pairs well with the large potential squad size and benefits of maxing out units for Acts of Faith. However, lacking the ability to support nearby units means that the overwatch isn’t nearly as scary as it can be with a Tau gunline, and Sisters already have several other ways to minimize or ignore morale- not to mention that Bloody Rose does a better job of warding off melee attackers (by killing them.) Sacred Rose isn’t worthless, but I think out of the six it’s the clear loser overall.
Warlord Traits and Relics
As with other books, Sisters get a set of unique warlord traits and holy relics they can choose from; some of them are a bit lackluster, but there are also some real all-stars hidden amongst them, so bringing a Sororitas warlord will be a strong consideration for many armies. Of the six warlord traits, Indomitable Belief is the easy standout choice- it improves the Shield of Faith save to a 5++, which will stack with other abilities (such as Celestine’s +1 to such saves, or the Seraphim ability, or the stratagem that does the same.) Although the 6″ radius for it isn’t exactly huge, it’s not terribly small, either, and there is a relic that can boost it further. If you’re building a large Sisters detachment, I think there is a strong possibility that you want to take Indomitable Belief. Beacon of Faith is another solid choice, giving you a 4+ chance to gain a faith each turn the warlord is present. (This is Celestine’s fixed trait, incidentally.) Pure of Will gives you an extra Deny (only on d6, though) and forces enemy psykers to subtract one from psychic tests when within 12″; the radius is small enough they usually will be able to move out of it, but if you’re stacking penalties to make an anti-psyker army it could be useful.
Executioner of Heretics gives -1 to enemy leadership… while they are within 6″ of you, which is simply far too small to be useful. Righteous Rage lets you reroll failed charges, and reroll failed wounds when on the charge- for a Canoness with a relic weapon or Eviscerator, this can be pretty dang scary overall, but since it only buffs a single model I don’t think it generally gets the nod over other choices. Lastly, Inspiring Orator lets you share the warlord’s leadership out to nearby units and lets those units reroll failed morale checks- but with Sisters’ naturally high leadership and the many Acts of Faith, stratagems, and unit abilities that interact with morale already this seems rather needless.
The relic selections are much better- in fact, there are several in here that could be applicable to almost any Sisters army, and several more that are a bit more specialized (but no less powerful.) The Blade of Admonition you may remember from last year’s Chapter Approved, as it was their preview relic- it replaces a Power Sword and gets +2Str, -3AP, and a flat Dmg3, making almost any character carrying it into a pretty scary little fighter. This is multiplied when given to a Bloody Rose character, who would then be swinging at S6 with probably six attacks, hitting on 2s. For a mere ~51 points, what more could you possibly ask?
The Book of Saint Lucius has varied wildly in power over time, but it’s back around to be good again. The effect is pretty simple- it increases the range of all auras from the character by 3″, and since there are a lot of auras to share this is a pretty big deal. Expect to see this as a common “sure why not” relic as well as one for armies that focus on creating “death balls” of units surrounding 1-3 characters and taking advantage of their abilities.
Brazier of Eternal Flame is a real from-left-field choices that is turning out to be extremely strong. It’s not a weapon like you might expect, but instead turns the Shield of Faith ability to Deny enemy spells into a full 2d6 chance for units within 6″; in other words, it adds an easy 3-10 extra Denies per turn to your army. Against codices like Thousand Sons or Ynnari that rely heavily on psychic powers to carry the day, this can be absolutely backbreaking- especially when combined with other bonuses.
Litanies of Faith gives you a 5+ chance to regain a faith point every time you spend one, so long as the unit is within 6″ of the bearer. We already know abilities like this are handy due to the “infinite command points” abuse that we saw last year, so for armies dipping deep into faith this could be a very nice way to extend your resources.
Mantle of Ophelia gives you a 3++ save. Note that this is not a Shield of Faith save and can’t be improved by any of the abilities in the codex, but even so it can make one of your HQs damnably tough. Pair it up with an Eviscerator and you’ve got yourself a baby-size Smash Captain, although one lacking a lot of what makes that model so terrifying.
Wrath of the Emperor gives you a super-size Bolt Pistol, upping it to three shots, S5, AP-1, Dmg2, and 18″ range. Dunno why you’d wanna make your worst gun better, but hey, everyone’s got a fetish I guess?
Unlike the earlier sections, I’m not gonna cover every stratagem here- there’s just too many of them, and this review is long enough already. Instead, I’ll be looking to touch on the most useful ones and the ones I think will see the most play and talk about their tactical and strategic implications for the army. Fortunately, Sisters have quite a few powerful stratagems in their arsenal- though as always, I think there are a small handful of standouts that are gonna see the most use by a long shot.
Foremost among them is Vessel of the Emperor’s Will, which is pretty pricey at 3CP but well worth the price of admission. It’s used when you trigger an Act of Faith on a character successfully, and that Act “echoes” to all units within 6″ of the character without needing to spend any extra Faith points or make rolls. While this is a fairly resource-intensive thing to do, having your whole gunline be +1 to hit or letting 3-5 units all fight twice can be absolutely devastating if done right. You may not be able to pop off Vessel every turn of the game, but it doesn’t take a lot of uses to really swing things.
Extremis Trigger Word is a little more narrow and requires you to be using Arco-Flagellants, but it can really end a fight quick. For 2CP, it makes one unit of Flagellants automatically max out their attacks- so typically nine attacks per model, assuming you have a Priest nearby. With rerolls to hit and good strength, this should absolutely blend any infantry they charge into, especially big units like Ork Boyz. Of course, you do generally take a mortal wound or two from it at the end of the phase, but that should hardly slow you down and the Flagellants themselves can negate those on a 5+ just as usual, so it hardly even counts as a downside.
Blessed Bolts has gotten a lot of attention from players since it was spoiled, and for good reason. At a measly 1CP it’s absurdly cheap to use, and it changes all Storm Bolters in a unit into AP-2 Dmg2 weapons, making them devastating to heavy infantry and especially anything with multiple wounds. What really makes this stratagem shine is the ability to cram large numbers of Storm Bolters into a single squad for a pretty cheap price- basic troop squads can get up to three of them, Dominions can get as many as five, etc, etc. With large numbers of shots, good AP, and good damage, there is little that will want to face a barrage from a unit buffed by this strat, especially in combination with an Act of Faith.
Purity of Faith was one of the “preview” stratagems released with last year’s Chapter Approved, and it remains just as powerful as it was before. For a mere 1CP, when someone casts a power within 24″ of one of your Sisters units, you can shut it down on a 4+, regardless of the results of the psychic test. Paired up with the Act of Faith to ignore mortal wound and the potential for a built-in Deny on every unit, it makes for an absolutely devastating anti-psychic game, and even a minimal Sisters detachment can really mess up the opponent by shutting down a key power. The fact that this stratagem is not bound to any specific subfaction (as is the case with most versions in other codices) is a huge note in the army’s favor.
Holy Trinity is another strat shown in the spoilers for the book, and I think it’s interesting in concept (if a bit hard to use.) It also requires just 1CP to use, but requires that a unit be firing a Bolt weapon, a Flamer weapon, and a Melta weapon simultaneously from three different models, which is a lot of hoops to jump through. However, if you do you get +1 to wound with all of those weapons, and if you pair that up with +1 to hit from an Act and reroll 1s to wound from another strat you can make a shooting phase pretty devastating. The easiest way to make it work is to have a Combi-weapon on the Sister Superior in a squad that is the opposite of whatever the other members of the unit are carrying (plus one regular model firing a Boltgun, obv). You can use this either to maximize some Meltaguns or, if you’re really sneaky, to pump up some Heavy Flamers, but in either case don’t forget that your Boltguns are also getting that +1 and become pretty dangerous as well.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the units from the codex a little bit. Unfortunately Sisters are still a little stunted in this respect, since most of their choices end up being fairly identical overall. However, there are definitely some standouts amongst the crowd as well as a few duds. Still, all in all it’s a pretty decent codex and you can plausibly bring a number of different detachments to good effect, and the fact that the Troops and HQs are so cheap make for some very solid battalions that can be added into other armies or taken in multiples to maximize CP. Even the Brigade isn’t too shabby looking, since you have at least one good unit in every slot (though it’s not nearly as cheap or utilitarian as the IG brigade is.)
First up on the list is the lady Celestine herself, who is still quite a beast. She came down a good chunk of points (to 160), and lost one wound in the process, but she otherwise remains extremely fast, extremely resilient, and quite deadly in combat. With the changes to Acts of Faith she no longer adds a bonus there, which makes her less of an absolute necessity, but she does give +1 to the Shield of Faith of nearby units, which can enable some very resilient little bubbles of units. I don’t think you’ll see Celestine quite as often in Sisters lists now, although she will still make appearances fairly regularly, as she has some very good abilities to share with the units near her. Note that Celestine, lacking the Order keyword, won’t benefit from any of the detachment abilities.
Her Gemini Superia have been separated off into their own “bodyguard”-style unit now, which simplifies a number of rules issues but makes the Gemini a lot less useful now. For one, they won’t share any Acts of Faith that Celestine uses, which puts them at a disadvantage right out of the gates. But more importantly, even though she retained her ability to resurrect one of them each turn, it is far, far less effective now due to the way the unit is composed. Previously, so long as Celestine was alive, she would get a Gemini back each turn- but now, you need at least one Gemini (out of the squad of two) to be alive to be able to rez one of them, and since the ability for them to take wounds in Celestine’s place is not optional, they often will both die before she does. I don’t think that you’ll really ever see the Gemini, except possibly as a weird baby-size combat unit perhaps.
The generic Canoness is still a very solid choice to fill the HQ slot- for a mere 45pts she gives a reroll aura to nearby Sisters and comes with a 3+/4++. Like many characters, she lost quite a few of her options in the transition from index to codex, but as per the FAQ she can still take full advantage of those options, so she remains a force to be reckoned with. The Eviscerator is cheap enough that it is a legit choice for anyone running Bloody Rose, what with putting out five S8 AP-4 Dmg2 swings.
The Missionary is the other major HQ choice, and he’s basically just a standard Priest in almost all respects- he doesn’t even get a better statline. He does negate models fleeing from nearby units on a 4+, which will occasionally be handy, but for the most part he is just filling an HQ slot and handing out buffs to nearby units. For whatever reason, you can’t include more than one of them in a detachment, not that you would generally want to anyways.
Uriah Jacobus, the named version of the Missionary, is largely the same in terms of abilities, though he does get a bunch of buffs to his statline (including improved WS, BS, Wounds, and Attacks.) His weaponry is pretty derpy, so he won’t really be doing much work on his own, but he’s only a tad more expensive than the regular version and does have the advantage of adding +1 leadership to nearby units in addition to the standard buffs.
The one-and-only troop choice in the codex is the awkwardly-named Battle Sister Squad. They’re 9pts a pop for between five and fifteen models, which makes them pretty flexible in terms of composition; even a minimum-size unit can take a special and a special/heavy as well as the sergeant’s equipment, potentially packing a lot of guns into a very compact squad. Given their excellent equipment (power armor, boltgun) and statline (BS3+), they are one of the more versatile troop units in the game and can do a great job of holding your backfield or advancing into midfield as needed. Battle Sisters really want to be hugging terrain whenever possible for that sweet 2+ armor, but even when caught in the open they will shrug quite a bit of enemy fire in most cases while not really setting you back very many points.
Repentia are still in the codex and are still… well, they’re not horrible. At 15pts per model they are still fairly pricey for only possessing a 6++, but with every model swinging with an Eviscerator they will do some serious work on the enemy if they reach combat. Note that their natural WS3+ (which is better than that of most Sisters models) counteracts the -1 from their weapons for the most part, making them reasonably accurate overall. I think if you’re going to run Repentia they absolutely need to be Bloody Rose and they very much want to be delivered by tank and have some stacked auras to give them a 4++ so that they can survive overwatch and return swings from the enemy.
The Mistress of Repentance is technically a separate unit, but the reality is that she will be hanging out with Repentia 100% of the time, so you may as well consider them together, especially since she doesn’t take a slot. She is a reasonable fighter on her own merits, but the real reason you want her is that she lets the Repentia reroll all failed charge rolls and hit rolls, which really pushes them over the edge in combat.
Celestians are a solution in search of a problem, I think. They are the “veteran” unit of the codex, benefiting from an extra attack as well as better WS/Ld than the regular Sisters have. Unfortunately, they can’t really take any special melee weapons (aside from the Superior, of course) and are limited to one special and one heavy/special, just like the standard troops are. The only selling point I can see is their “bodyguard” ability that allows them to take wounds in place of a nearby character, but I am skeptical that this is worth the 2pt tax you pay over the basic models. Still, if you are looking to fill a brigade or really want to push the countercharge aspect, I suppose you might consider them.
The Preacher is the renamed version of the old Priest- he is otherwise identical except for the fact that he now penalizes the leadership of nearby Chaos units by one. Of course, he’s also cheaper, and since he meshes well with quite a few strategies I think you’ll see him reasonably often.
The Hospitaller is the standard healer-type character available to most Imperial armies; she will heal one model for d3 wounds or resurrect a dead model on a 4+ each turn. However, Sisters have very few multiwound models to heal and bringing back single basic models is not really a very impressive feat, so I don’t see much call for using her. She is, at least, very cheap compared to other such units, clocking in at a mere 30pts.
The Dialogus is likewise a very inexpensive choice at a mere 30pts, but her role is very different. She carries a 6″ aura that allows units in range to reroll Faith checks, making those 4+s and 5+s much more reliable- and all the more so if you’re Ebon Rose and stacking up other bonuses. Although the reach of the aura is very limited, which can mean it won’t always be affecting the units you want it to, given how cheap she is I don’t think you can complain much. If you’re looking at doing any kind of “bubble” army with Sisters or just need to fill out a detachment, the Dialogus is a great choice.
Arco-Flagellants are the first of the three units from the battle conclave, neither of which take any slots when included alongside a Priest. Flagellants have a very unusual statline, with WS3+, S4, A2, and Mv7″, but no armor save to speak of (and no Shield of Faith, either.) They do have two wounds, though, and a 5+ to ignore wounds taken, which can give them a bit of durability in a pinch. They are pretty pricey at 15pts per model, but their attacks come out at S5 AP-1 and they reroll all misses on the first turn of a fight and make d3 swings for each attack with their weapon. Arco-Flagellants can be real blenders when buffed by their stratagem, but I do wonder if they are worth the overall investment when other squads can do a similar job while also serving other functions.
Crusaders are a bit cheaper at 13pts per model and come standard with a Power Sword and Storm Shield, making them extremely resilient and reasonably punch (mostly thanks to WS3+ and A2). They don’t serve as well in Sisters as they do in IG due to lacking easy access to the +1 to saves spell, but they are still an okay unit for tying something down. Note that unlike the other two conclave units, they can benefit from Acts of Faith.
Death Cult Assassins are the third conclave choice, and they are are an interesting comparison to the Flagellants. They have a native four swings with WS3+ S4 AP-2, which overall works out quite a bit worse than their cousin, and they are only one wound each with a 5++ save. If the two units had been the same price I think you could make an argument between them (though I suspect that Flagellants would win that overall), but the Assassins are 17pts each, so you’re paying a premium for something that is almost always going to be worse. I don’t think there’s any real call to use them in an army, sadly.
Seraphim haven’t changed a lot from the index, but the way that you use them has due to the shifts in Acts of Faith. With no ability to catapult across the board at will, they can’t be used nearly so aggressively now- although a 15″ move is still pretty respectable, and they can still carry up to four special weapons per squad. Interestingly, they also have a unique stratagem that lets them fire their Hand Flamers and Bolt Pistols immediately upon landing (and even increases the range of the former so that they can shoot), although I question whether additional anti-infantry fire is really what the Sisters army needs in it most of the time. However, they can be very resilient thanks to their built-in +1 invuln save, which allows you to push them down to a 3++ if they are hanging out near Celestine and an appropriate warlord. The ability to carry a large number of weapons puts Seraphim in potential contention with other units such as Dominions, but I think they won’t end up being considerations for the same lists very often, as Seraphim are much more suited to an infantry-centric list while Dominions really need to be mechanized. With the cost drops to Inferno Pistols and Hand Flamers, even a max-loadout squad is quite cheap and I think they will see some use as a disruption unit, since they can easily sneak up the board and put shots into a critical target before assaulting something else to lock it down. (Do note that they have WS3+ for whatever reason, making them a little bit better in a fight base.)
Dominions remain pretty much as they ever have- they carry up to four special weapons and they (or their transport) can make a “scout” move before the game starts. With fewer armies bringing Scouts, Nurglings, or other pregame placement units these days, it is much harder for opponents to hedge the Dominions out of getting their movement these days, although it’s still a distinct danger against some lists. Dominions very much need a ride to get themselves forward (both for the extra movement and for the protection), so it’s good for them that you can get a 4++ on your vehicles these days; Rhinos or Immolators are… still not great, due to needing to disembark in order to shoot, but the Repressor is still a fantastic option and quite affordable, so don’t be surprised to come across a speedy mech list here and there.
Speaking of vehicles, the Exorcist is one of the most significantly-improved units in terms of its raw statline. With its points dropped back down to the original cost and the missiles upgraded to d6 damage rather than d3, it can potentially inflict some pretty brutal damage on heavy targets. However, with a random number of shots and random damage on each shot, the Exorcist is incredibly unreliable in its output, which I don’t think is going to be an encouraging feature; especially with Retributors being such a quality choice I question how many Exorcists you’ll see around. If the missiles were a straight Heavy 4 or Dmg3 I feel like it would be a much better chassis overall, so maybe the final version of the book will fix this problem.
Retributors are gonna be one of the most common Sisters units on the table I think, after the basic Battle Sisters squad of course. Although they don’t have any unique abilities to boast of, being able to take multiple heavy weapons in a unit is no small feature itself; four Heavy Bolters pour out a torrent of infantry-killing firepower at a distance and can easily be buffed by a Canoness and/or Faith- and by adding ablative bodies to the squad, you can make it very difficult to shift them, as a full unit is only 130pts for ten ladies. If you want something more aggressive, Heavy Flamers are also an excellent weapon and a smaller unit riding inside a transport can be pretty devastating if it activates Holy Trinity. They might not be so powerful as to be an auto-take, but I think a lot of Sisters detachments are going to feature two or three units of Retributors.
The Penitent Engine… I’m a bit unsure about still. On the one hand, it’s basically a melee Dreadnought, and those are bad. Lacking any invuln and only having a 4+ save natively, Engines are very vulnerable to damage and seven wounds just won’t carry them very far on the battlefield- especially since they have to cross quite a lot of territory and then survive overwatch to get there. But, on the other hand, they are deadly in combat with the right kinds of targets- eight attacks with WS3+ (rerolling misses) and S8 AP-3 Dmg3 will really tear up anything without a strong invulnerable save. And the combination of autohit weapons for its secondary armament and large numbers of attacks can put off most casual assaults on it, as even a large unit can find itself whittled down pretty quickly. And on the protection front, they do come with a 5+ to ignore wounds, which is… something, at least. However, lacking the ability to use Faith, the native 6++, and Order bonuses, I just don’t feel like they are quite going to make the cut overall- especially since you are limited to only three of them, and most other Imperial factions don’t have a lot of similar monsters to pair them up with for threat saturation. (Although Grey Knights might, with the Dreadknight?)
Rounding out our list of units is the humble Sororitas Rhino, which is exactly like the stock version of the chassis but with Shield of Faith tacked on for that 6++ (and a small 5pt surcharge added for the service.) Rhinos are not typically a well-regarded vehicle these days due to the presence of the Castellan and its ability to shred through vehicles of all sorts, and I think that mostly the Rhino won’t see play due to the Repressor being a superior chassis. It may have some niche uses in carrying a squad of Repentia, however, as they don’t have any reason to shoot and it’s cheaper by a significant degree.
The Immolator, i.e. Razorback With a Little Hat On, is the last unit in the codex. And it really is- in almost every way it functions like a Razorback, right down to the weapon options of Twin Heavy Bolter, Heavy Flamer, or Multimelta. (Do note that the Twin Flamer version’s weapon is actually Assault, however.) The HB one comes in at 85pts, being the cheapest of the three, with the others being 10-20pts more expensive. I’m not really sure the Immolator is good enough to use most of the time, but it may be able to take a secondary role alongside some other vehicles in a list that tries to abuse the 4++ on tanks.
Alright, so we’ve been through a lot of the rules and statistics and whatnot. So how does that translate into some actual army detachments for Sisters? Well, I think there are a surprising number of options in that respect, not only in the types of detachments you go for (battalion, spearhead, etc) but also in whether they serve as a primary or secondary force and which subfaction(s) you go with. So I’m going to offer what I feel are some examples here that you may find useful as inspiration, but don’t treat these as being anything like an exhaustive list or even necessarily the best way you can build each detachment- there’s a lot to take in here and I haven’t enough battle experience with the army to really have a full assessment.
THE SISTERS-PRIMARY DETACHMENT
Order of the Ebon Chalice Brigade
-2×1 Canoness (Storm Bolter and Chainsword each)
-6×5 Battle Sisters (3 Storm Bolters each)
-3×5 Seraphim (4 Hand Flamers each)
-3×10 Retributors (4 Heavy Bolters and Simulacrum each)
This is a pretty simple skeleton here. For just under 1200 points (guaranteeing Sisters as your primary faction), you get 15CP and 11 Faith as a starting point- and it wouldn’t be hard to get even more than that, as you could easily bring another battalion (or even brigade!) and some other detachment to really flood yourself with resources. I went with Ebon Chalice here over Bloody Rose in order to ensure maximum reliability of Faith going off, since that will be a big part of your strategy; I’ve also included Celestine to give the army a little melee punch and to be able to roll with a 4++ bubble if wanted. The army lacks good ways of killing tanks or dealing with strong melee threats as it stands, so you will probably want to bring in something like Shield Captains, Smash Captains, or some other heavy hitters to do those jobs- though Knights could also work. Don’t underestimate the value of eighty power armor bodies in your backfield holding things down while other forces go out and get work done- and the Seraphim squads can be a rude surprise for anyone expecting their own back line to stay safe, as they put down 4d6 autohits the turn they arrive as well as a handful of Bolt shots.
THE COUNTERSTRIKE CONTINGENT
Order of the Bloody Rose Vanguard
-Mistress of Repentence
-(optional) 3x Rhinos
So, for ~500pts (700 with transports), you have a tidy little counterassault detachment for your army. Nine Arco-Flagellants, popping the stratagem and being in range of their leader, will have forty-five attacks with AP-1, so you’re looking at roughly sixteen dead Space Marines, or thirty-two Orks- more than enough to tear through most units with ease. Even without the strat, you’re looking at 11ish/21ish, which is going to tear the heart of most things. The Repentia, meanwhile, will do an average of twenty-six damage to a Knight if they have Mistress/Missionary buffs, and can do even more if they are lucky enough to pop Faith in order to fight twice- they should vaporize most things they touch, though the casualties they’ll take in return are going to be horrendous. If you’re playing a pure gunline and want something to keep the enemy off your back, you could do a lot worse than this, and it’s not hard to shrink it down to smaller units if you please- however, without transports, you are going to need a lot of good LOS-blocking terrain around to hide them behind. Also be aware that you’re only getting 1CP and 4 Faith from this detachment, which is pretty pathetically low. Oh, and don’t forget, your Rhinos benefit from Blood Rose as well- got that sweet S8 with four attacks on the charge!
THE FAITHFUL TWENTY
Order of the Valiant Heart Battalion
-2×5 Battle Sisters
-1×8 Battle Sisters (3 Storm Bolters)
This is pretty simple- the Sisters version of the Guard CP battalion. It’s 248pts as listed above and comes with 5CP and 5 Faith, but if you trim out models and upgrades you can get it down to 215pts for a bare-bones version. However, I think that the potential for a hail of AP-2 Storm Bolter shots (and the extra Faith to activate a few key Acts at certain points) is often going to be worth the points, so I’ve listed them here. I went with Valiant Heart to ensure maximum survivability- rooting them out of cover is going to be incredibly annoying for most opponents, especially since you can even get squad members back with Faith if you lack anything better to do, and 2+/6++/6+++ is about as tough as you can ask for at 9pts per model. However, for someone a little more offensively-minded, Bloody Rose could serve as well, since that’s potentially quite a lot of attacks piling on if someone sneaks in expecting an easy fight.
Although from the harshest possible assessment of a tournament player I don’t think I can honestly say that the Sisters of Battle codex is really going to be hugely impressive, it certainly contributes some very useful and interesting tools to the Imperial arsenal and fill a fairly unique role overall. Their Acts of Faith make them quite flexible on the field and their psychic defense, resilience, and variety of powerful offensive stratagems make them a very legitimate choice for an ally army. While there are certainly some tweaks I would like to see in the book once it goes to the final version (such as adding relics/strats for the subfactions, improving some of the Elites units, adding a bit more variety to the codex overall, etc) I think it’s a very solid starting place and most players will find it to be quite functional overall. If you’ve been waiting for years to break out your Sisters of Battle army and bring it to the table for once, I think now is a good time to start.
As always, remember that you can get your wargaming supplies at great discounts every day from the Frontline Gaming store, whether you’re looking to start a new army or expand an existing one.