The pre-eminent snipers of the Imperium, and perhaps even the whole galaxy, Vindicare Assassins are trained and modified from a young age to to be silent and unstoppable forces of retribution. A Vindicare can hit a target from miles away through the tiny opening of a vision-slit in a bunker or can remain motionless for days, even weeks, waiting for the perfect moment to take their shot. Equipped with Exitus weaponry that fires custom-made ammunition designed to defeat the defenses of their targets, they embody the philosophy of their temple that a single shot in the right place can do more to change the course of a war than a million rounds fired aimlessly.
The Vindicare Assassin has the same statline as most of the other assassins, though they make less use of some of the parts of it than others. Movement 7″ allows it to get around the field when needed, though like most snipers it generally prefers to stay stationary when possible (which is reinforced by some of its special rules.) Weapon and ballistic skill 2+ make it very accurate with its attacks, and strength/toughness four make it a decently tough competitor in a fight. Five wounds and five attacks are both very good as well. At eight-five points, the Vindicare is a real steal and stands out as one of the best character-killers in the game, though it can sometimes be awkward to include in an army.
Special Rules and Wargear
A Vindicare Assassin comes with a large plethora of rules and gear to its name, most of them unique. However, it does get the same three special rules as all the other assassins- Lightning Reflexes gives a 4++ save against all attacks, providing its main defense outside of the character keyword. Independent Operative allows it to go into reserve and prevents it from ever gaining a warlord trait. Execution Force just restricts how it can be included in detachments, largely irrelevant to our purposes here.
Beyond that, Deadshot allows it to target characters with any of its weapons, regardless of whether they are the closest target or not. It also changes the damage of any of its ranged attacks to d6 if it rolls a ‘6’ to wound, which replaces the usual mortal wound trigger on sniper weapons. This does give you the potential to one-shot virtually any character in the game, but shouldn’t be relied on much because of the random nature of both rolling the six to wound as well as the further roll of the d6.
Faultless Aim is one of the unit’s new rules, allowing the assassin to always hit on a 2+ (regardless of modifiers) so long as it stands still; naturally, 6s are still required on overwatch. With the ability to shrug off all modifiers at range, no character is truly safe from a Vindicare, which is another nice bonus to its main role (though not one you’ll use all that often.)
Head Shot is also new, and is probably the more relevant of the added rules- it takes the Vindicare from simply another sniper to one that is consistently killing a character per turn. If an attack with a ranged weapon causes damage to a target (but doesn’t kill it), roll a d6 and on a 3+ the target suffers an additional mortal wound. If this also fails to slay it, roll again and on a 4+ it takes another mortal wound, etc, until you fail the roll or the target dies. Given the nature of the Vindicare’s weapons and role, this is an extremely powerful rule to have and very much changes the math on how likely it is to kill characters.
Spymask remains unchanged, negating any bonuses for being in cover that the target may have. Although this isn’t a huge bonus, given that you are bypassing invulns and are typically targeting infantry models, it’s hardly trivial, either.
Finally, Stealth Suit is its only defensive ability, giving the enemy -1 to hit it with ranged weapons (or -2 if it’s on terrain); though you won’t usually be getting shot at thanks to the character rule, it prevents counter-sniper shooting from having any real effect on you and can allow the Vindicare to potentially deploy into some more-risky positions when needed without just automatically conceding its death.
The Vindicare comes armed with several very potent weapons as well. The Exitus Rifle is is main one- with a 72″ range it can effectively reach anywhere on the board, and S5 AP-3 Dmgd3 Heavy 1 is a pretty decent gun statline otherwise, too. The real sauce is in its ability line, though- the weapon ignores invulnerable saves completely and always wounds infantry targets on 2+, meaning that you are all but guaranteed to both hit and wound with a Vindicare when firing.
The Exitus Pistol, its backup armament, is very similar; though it obviously has shorter range (12″) and a different type (Pistol 1), it has the same rules and profile otherwise, though its strength is only 4 when shooting at non-character targets. A Vindicare rounds things out with Blind Grenades, which are only of any real use on overwatch- should you get any hits with them, the enemy is at -1 to hit for the remainder of the turn, giving you a slightly better chance of escaping alive.
The Vindicare Assassin, like all of its brethren, gets two stratagems- and like most of the others, one of them is extremely good and the other one is pretty poor. Turbo-Penetrator Round is the lackluster one of the two; for 1CP (spent after you have achieved a successful hit on a monster or vehicle target), you convert the damage from an attack to a straight d3 mortal wounds, but do not benefit from the Headshot ability. Getting to activate the strat after hitting and bypassing the need for a wound roll are both nice upsides, but even with this strat a Vindicare Assassin is hard-pressed to do any meaningful damage to a vehicle or monster target, so you’re kind of wasting your time with it. If it means taking off the last couple of wounds on something that’s great… but usually that won’t be the case, so it’s not often going to be worth the trouble.
However, the other stratagem, Double Shot, more than makes up for things. Once again costing only 1CP to use, it lets the Vindicare fire a second time at another target- and best of all, it happens immediately after the first shot, rather than at the end of the phase. With the potential to kill or cripple two different characters in a single turn, this is a fantastic deal at that absolute minimum cost- and since it significantly ups your chances of getting to trigger Priority Threat Neutralized to get back one or two CP in the process, it’s doubly good.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why you would want a Vindicare Assassin: it kills characters, really good. But that second part is a little easier to miss, because most snipers in the game are not actually very good at quickly eliminating characters. Oh, they have the potential to do so, certainly, but they will struggle to do so with any level of consistency, because they rely large on those 6s for mortal wounds in order to get rid of their targets, which you simply can’t count on happening.
The Vindicare, however, is different- it hits on 2s, wounds on 2s, and largely ignores saves of all kinds as well as other sorts of defenses. It can generally eliminate a four-wound character every turn of the game, especially if you are willing to dedicate a command point to rerolling one of your rolls for it- and when you pop off Double Shot, it stands good odds of taking a second character as well.
The really critical thing here is the full suite of its abilities- there’s no one feature of the Vindicare that is an absolute standout, but it is the full package taken as a whole that makes it work. Other snipers in many cases have one or more of the features that a Vindicare does, but none of them have all of those features together. Ignoring cover makes the gun’s good AP more relevant; likewise, ignoring invulnerable saves means that enemies can’t simply sidestep the AP that way, either. The good hit and wound rolls ensure that you will actually get to the stage of the enemy needing to take the save, and its multiple damage means that failing a save isn’t simply a trivial affair- especially with the Headshot ability, which helps push additional damage through on a successful hit.
So, the Vindicare is a sniper par extraordinare, and with its ability to be included in any kind of Imperial list it can potentially have a big impact on games and on the meta as a whole. One of the lessons of 8th Edition is that characters are extremely important- characters cast psychic buffs, give out auras, and are often by themselves wrecking balls that can take out big targets without any help from their friends. The rise and prominence of hordes- themselves often decried as a defining feature of the edition- is in no small part because they can protect characters from being killed so effectively, allowing you to invest in dozens or hundreds of ablative wounds for your powerful characters. People generally assume, and rightfully so, that their characters will be largely safe from any kind of attack until the rest of their army is mostly eliminated.
The Vindicare, however, changes that math. With the ability to consistently eliminate characters- especially those with low wound counts- a Vindicare is the absolute bane of support characters like psykers. A Guard army that relies on auras to add attacks to its infantry blobs with a lone Priest and Straken will find itself in serious trouble if both of them go down on the first turn- and likewise Ork, Tyranid, and Eldar armies can find themselves seriously hampered when their support pieces start getting cut out from under them in short order. Characters can’t freely roam around the battlefield while a Vindicare is on the loose, and that significant alters the way players have to look at purchasing and using their characters on the battlefield.
Outside of that role, however, a Vindicare will bring very little to an army- it isn’t effective at hitting vehicles or even simply non-infantry targets, and for those rare bike characters with high toughness a Vindicare will struggle to do any damage. (A Shield-Captain on Jetbike, for example, is a nightmare to deal any damage to.) This, in part, is what makes the ability to recruit it into an army on the fly via the stratagem so valuable- although it won’t be valuable in every matchup, in those where it is the Vindicare will be a huge swing. In fact, I expect that it will be the most commonly-taken assassin in those lists, since so many armies are reliant on characters these days.
However, a Vindicare is not without weaknesses. Although it gets to ignore a lot of rules, there are several key ones that it doesn’t- and you can use these to your advantage. Firstly and most importantly, it still needs line of sight to its target; if you are hiding behind a ruin wall, a hill, or even other models in your army, the Vindicare can’t do its job. Good tables should have at least a smattering of LOS-blocking terrain, and you can use this to your advantage to keep the Vindicare from at least shooting at some of your characters, even if it likely won’t be able to completely shut it down. Many psychic buffs don’t require line of sight to the target, and auras virtually never do- use this to your advantage. And remember that while a Vindicare can maneuver to try and get you back in its view, when it moves it no longer hits on a 2+, so it becomes vulnerable to penalties (including the innate penalty from its weapon.)
Second, remember that it is not a guarantee to take a target out. While hitting and wounding on 2+s is good, there is something like a 30% chance that it fails one of those rolls, forcing the expenditure of a command point- and then the controller also has to roll a d3 for damage, and then needs a 3+ to trigger Headshot. A five-wound character survives a shot from a Vindicare at a rate exceeding 80% of the time, and if you have an ability to negate damage like Disgustingly Resilient the odds are even higher. (Note also that if you negate the initial damage from the hit, Headshot does not trigger.) And also keep in mind that you can potentially get an armor save against the shots- although AP-3 will cut through a lot of armor, models with a 3+ or 2+ can be surprisingly tough in that respect, and should you have a buffs to your armor save that only ups your odds.
Third, know that a Vindicare can’t kill everything on the table, even with good rolls. If your list features 8+ characters (as is hardly unheard of), even with blowing through CP for Double Shot the Vindicare’s controller is going to struggle to deal with everything. You can also use this in combination with the first point to selectively expose characters to fire- you might not need that Priest to get in range of your infantry until turn 3 when you go for the charge, and if he’s been hiding behind a wall the whole time prior to that the Vindicare’s efforts may be too little, too late.
Finally, a Vindicare is vulnerable to all of the usual anti-backfield strategies that many armies employ; it can be tied up in combat (where it is quite weak, having no melee weapons at all), shot to death (though this is a fair bit more difficult), forced to move, or otherwise eliminated in all of the usual fashions.
While the Vindicare is definitely going to have an impact on things, I think players are somewhat overestimating it- 85pts and a CP are not trivial costs (although I would also argue that they are probably worth it for many armies.) But there are many ways to mitigate snipers, and strategies that players are already aware of to varying degrees as snipers are already part of the game. People may have to become more familiar with them due to anti-character strategies becoming more popular, but certainly this is nothing truly unique.
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.