Games Workshop has given us a lot of pistol relics. Almost every army has at least one, yet with that, there are very rarely seen in competitive play. Let’s take a look at what they offer, why they are not taken more, and perhaps even an idea on how to fix them.
Pistols in 8th Ed have a few interesting rules to them. First, they cannot be fired in conjunction with other weapons, unless those weapons are also pistols. They can also be fired whilst locked in combat, electing to shoot the unit they are locked with.
Shortcoming of Pistols:
- They tend to be short ranged. 3″ in some extreme cases, and 18″ as a max. Most however are 12″
- They tend to have a very limited number of shots.
- You are choosing to not take other ‘utility’ relics that can effect more models
- When talking about them as relics, they are taking up a finite resource with a relatively small return
To look a little more at this last point, I want to compare this to a Melee Weapon. Let’s say the Burning Blade the Space Marines get access to. A pistol may have anywhere from 1-5 attacks, but with some boosts and combos, a melee relic can get 7 attacks (4 base + charge + wl trait + psychic power) that can also potentially explode on 6’s to hit. Point being, melee attacks tend to have more ways to get more bang for your relic, in terms of number of attacks. Number of attacks tends to be a very important factor.
So, let’s see what each Faction has to offer.
Wrath of the Emperor
Replaces: A bolt pistol (0 points).
This is actually a fairly decent pistol. Good range, good volume of shots, wounding most infantry on a 3, and 2 damage is nothing to scoff at. It is competing with some other utility relics that are better, but this would not be a bad buy all things considered, especially as Sisters have the new version of the relic start, letting them buy as many as they want for 1 CP each. A –
Replaces: An inferno Pistol (7 points)
Limits: Order of our Martyred Lady
|12″||Pistol 1||9||-4||D6 *|
*When rolling for damage, roll 2d6 and discard one result
This pistol, to me, exemplifies one of the things wrong with pistol weapons. A lot of damage riding on one roll. Of course, a sisters player can use Miracle Dice to fix some of the variance, but anytime there is a single roll to be failed for the entire attack to fail, I get nervous. B –
The Emperor’s Benediction
Replaces: A Bolt Pistol (1 Point)
Limitations: Commissar or Lord Commissar only
This pistol may target Characters, even if they are not the closest unit.
With a 12″ range, if a character is that close, you can probably target them anyways. If this was 18″, this would maybe have some play, but at 12″, that special rule is hardly even going to matter….
Other than that, Str 4 and ap -1 is just ok, while Damage 2 is nice. 3 Shots is decent too. Against Primaris you are picking up one model.. which is a bit lackluster for a relic. C+
PIETROV’S MK 45
Replaces: A Bolt Pistol (1 pt)
Limitation: Valhallan Model
Friendly VALHALLAN units within 6″ of the bearer can never
lose more than one model as the result of any single failed Morale test.
A pistol that increases morale for nearby troops. Damage wise, it is one shot less impressive than the above one. I guess only losing one to morale is ok…. C
Fire of Judgment
This relic replaces a Hot Shot Las-pistol for the 32nd Thetoid Eagles
When rolling to attack with this pistol, each successful hit does a mortal wound instead of any other damage.
An interesting relic, that does mortals for hits. The fact it is Pistol 2 means you are looking at reliably two mortals per firing. This is not too bad, but it is let down again by the range. 12″ is not a ton to play with. A semi-reliable 2 mortals though is decent. B+
This Relic was FAQ’d to be now replacing a bolt pistol of the 9th Iotan Gorgonnes.
This pistol may target characters even if they are not the closest. When targeting psychers, this weapon has a damage characteristic of 3.
Ok, so first things first. This relic had to be FAQ’d to a bolt pistol instead of bolt gun as the former was not able to be taken by a character. This is another relic that lets you snipe characters. Not a bad ability, but not great on a pistol. The actual stats of the gun are pretty nice though. Strength 5 has you wounding most infantry on 3’s while 2 damage and AP – 2 make it a bit of a threat. This relic is not bad, but it is outclassed by other options that could be taken. B+
Chaos Space Marines
This pistol replaces a Bolt Pistol for an Emperor’s Children model
This weapon may be fired while within 1″ of enemy models and at enemy units within 1″ of friendly units. If a character is wounded, but not slain by this weapon, roll a d6. On a 6, it takes an additional d3 mortals.
This is an interesting relic, hamstrung by the fact it’s a 6″ range. While not technically a pistol, it replaces and acts much like one. The first unique bit is that you can fire into ongoing combats – which is quite powerful. The strength being user, with Diabolical Strength being a good power, makes this quite interesting as well. A Chaos Lord with a decent Melee weapon and this relic could legitimately be a threat. However, that 6″ range really, really, hurts. That being said, this is probably one of the best pistols relics we have seen yet, and I’d still take many other things over it for Chaos. B+
Replaces a Plasma Pistol for World Eaters
When making a wound roll of a natural 4+, the target suffers an additional mortal wound.
Another one shot weapon. Typically, I am not a fan of one shots, especially when they burn up a relic slot. This one is not terrible though. The flat 3 damage is nice, as is the strength of 9. 12″ is decent, but nothing spectacular. This helps World Bearers with a slight bit of ranged AT, especially if the target does not have an invul save. It is not a bad pistol, but again the short range and 1 shot hold it back. B –
Any wound roll of a 4++ is made at AP -3.
One shot. Zero AP half the time it hits. 12″ range. No thanks. D
Drukari (Dark Eldar)
This replaces a Splinter pistol
This is a poison weapon that wounds any non-vehicle on a 2+; vehicles it wounds on a 6+. Any model it kills restores one wound the the bearer.
This is a decent gimmick pistol. Dark Eldar (DE) have the speed to actually make use of the limited range pistols, and 2 damage is decent. Hitting on a 2+, wounding on a 2+ is not to shabby either. The regening wounds part will probably be a very fringe case, but it’s not a bad ability. That all being said, many other DE relics edge it out. B
This pistol replaces an Archon’s splinter pistol if he is of the Kabal of the Poison Tongue.
The target does not get the benefit of cover. This is a poison weapon that wounds any non-vehicle on a 2+; vehicles it wounds on a 6+. This pistol does not need line of sight, and may shoot at characters even if they are not the closest model.
So, this pistol is pretty good. Two shots, hitting and wounding on a 2+, able to fire out of Line of sight and target characters. The AP is rather lacking, and the fact it is tied to a sub-par obssesion does not help it either, but as far as pistols go, it is pretty good. Again though, other relics out class it. B+
This replaces a Dark Creed Haemy Stinger Pistol
This is a poison weapon that wounds any non-vehicle on a 2+; vehicles it wounds on a 6+. The target may not take invul saves.
Another interesting pistol. The neat bit about this is the -4 AP and no invul. Unfortunately, it is only 3 shots and damage 1. That is not a huge threat to most things. The nail in the coffin is this is tied to another sub-par obsession. C
This Pistol replaces a liberator autostub or an auto pistol
This pistol may re-roll wounds when targeting characters, and may target characters even if they are not the closest unit.
This pistol is fairly decent. 2 damage, ap of -2 and 3 shots all add up to be a bit of a threat. The immediate thought is to put this on a Kellermorph. Doing so means the ability to target characters is wasted, as the Kellermorph himself already has that trait. However, exploding shots is nice, and the ability to fire twice in a turn due to a strat is also very nice.
The issue then becomes with opportunity cost. GSC are still limited in the number of relics they can take, and some others are a bit better. Furthermore, this pistol is only upgrading the number of shots by one and the AP by one compared to a liberator autostub which it replaces.
Giving the pistol to a different model may be a decent option, especially one that want’s to be up by the front lines. A Clamavus being what I think of first. It gives him some threat, allows him to hang back a touch, and he wants to be close to allow his buffs to help your charging units.
Overall a decent relic that adds a bit of value to an army that wants to get up close and can do so as well. A
Each time you make a wound roll of a 6+, that shot has an ap of -3.
This is almost, almost, decent-ish. 12″ range is common, and like GSC before them, they have the ability to get up the board where they want to go. Damage 2 is good, especially in the days of Priamaris. The issue to me then, is the d6 shots. That combined with no innate AP means this will, often times, do very little. Sure, you can maybe proc a -3 ap, but those times are not certain enough to build any kind of strategy around. The real nail in the coffin though is that ‘Quins are limited to 3 relics max and there are at least 5 other relics in line ahead of it. C-
Yup. Necrons. They have a Pistol relic. Bet you never heard of it nor seen it in a game though…. Behold
Gauntlet of the Conflagrator
This pistol may be fired once per battle. The weapon automatically hits it’s target, and you roll a d6 for each model within 8″ of the firing model. On a 6, that model take a mortal wound.
Oh boy. Once per battle – fail. Wounds on a 6 – fail. This, this really hurts. Sure, you could maybe get a ton of hits in if you are in the center of a large swarm, of say 30 gaunts…. but is that really the thing you are worried about? This relic is so niche, underwhelming and just plain sad it is really hard to say something good about it. Ok, here are two good things. It auto hits, and it doesn’t cost you any points to take. F
For Space Marines, I am including all their supplements here as well. The issue with all of them is that Marines already have a ton of good relics, and the others simply outclass them. Please note I am not including each supplement’s special ammo relic. While it could technically be put on a pistol, you are always better served taking it on a different gun should you want it.
This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol
This relic is straightforward. Two shots at 12″ range is common for pistols, but not much to get excited about. The strength 5 and 2 damage with good AP is nice. This would not be bad if the other relics were similarly lack luster. B
This relic replaces a Plasma Pistol for Ultramarines
A permanently overcharged plasma pistol that can’t blow up. That is not a bad concept, although it smells a touch of xenos technology…
In any case, range 12″ and 2 shots limit this a bit. This is another not bad but not good relics, that is outclassed. B
Equis-Pattern Bolt Pistol
This replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol for White Scars
Another interesting pistol. 5 shots makes it more usable, and White Scars are know for their speed and tend to try to get stuck into melee. This conjures an imagine in my head of the Wild West, and a gunslinger holding the trigger on his pistol while fanning the hammer. Not bad, but not good. B
This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol for Raven Guard
This pistol may target characters even if they are not the closest model. You may add one to the hit roll when firing this.
Eh. It’s alright. We have that nice profile of Strength AP and Damage let down again by the number of shots and the range, and outclassed by other relics. Starting to sound like a broken record yet? B
This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol for Imperial Fists
This relic may snipe characters.
This is a little better. It counts as a bolt weapon, so 6’s to hit explode. Two shots is a bit of a let down, but range 18″ is nice, especially being able to snipe characters. Good AP and Damage round out this relic. It is almost good enough to take, but unfortunately it is outclassed. B
The Vengful Arbiter
This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol for a Crimson Fist within the Liberation Strike Force specialist detachment
Any hits with this weapon allow you to roll to hit again. Those hits may not proc additional hits.
Another interesting relic. It explodes on hits, but could also explode on 6’s to hit if targeting a unit with 5+ models. Other than that is has your fairly standard pistol profile. B
This relic replaces an Infernal Bolt Pistol
This is a rather solid gun. Gun, not relic. If this was a point option, it might we worthwhile. The issue here again is other relics are simply better. That being had, if you were hell-bent on using this relic, cult of Duplicity is what makes it usable. Gets you up the board and into range quickly, and able to get out of dodge too if necessary. B
So, Pistol relics. Not too hot. They all tend to suffer from lack of shots, lack of range, and being outclassed. How do we fix them? While writing this article I went through a lot of ideas, and finally settled on one. Pair them up with another relic, like an almost-good melee weapon. A Sword relic + Pistol relic as one. Both relics are sub-par on their own, but together they might be worthwhile. Pistol + Staff, Pistol + Book, Pistol + Pistol. Outside of that, I am not sure what to do to make them worthwhile without making them not feel like pistols anymore.
Finally, there were a Lot of pistols over a lot of books. Hopefully I did not miss any, or miss any FAQ’s or changes made to them, but if I did I am sure the comments will let me know. I would also love to see any success stories with pistol relics.
Thanks for reading, and happy Wargaming!
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