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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sisters of Battle Codex Review: Part 5 - Troops


Ah the wonderful Troops - what often makes or breaks a 5th edition army. Why? Pretty obvious really as Troops are the only way to capture and hold objectives, a mission emphasised in 5th edition 67% of the time. Good 5th edition books often have multiple Troop choices unlocked by different character HQs and units which are flexible in how they are used (i.e. small or large, aggressive or non, mech'd or not). Sisters of Battle do not have this choice and have very little flexibility in their Troops. Let's look at the Sisters of Battle unit option and then how this impacts their army structure and playstyle.

Sisters of Battle -

Nuns with guns! Sounds good and a bit perverse. We'll look at the price change at the end of this but for now let's focus on what the Sisters bring to the table. They come standard with power armor (3+ save) and boltguns with the usual good ballistic skill and shoddy weapon skill, strength, toughness and initiative. This gives them a mix of durability and paper-thinness thanks to the combination of T3 and 3+ armor but are just as capable as Marines in handing out punishment with their shooting (they suck worse in combat). This makes them decent in the 12"-24" range where they can bring lots of bolters to bear and their special weapons are effective. This is unfortunately pretty much all you can do with them and with WS/T/I3, putting them close to the opponent opens them up to combat.

Let's compare for example. A meltagun, MM, combi-melta, Rhino Sisters of Battle squad is 190 points whilst a Tactical squad is 220 points. Tactical squads have a lot more options (that MM can become an ML and combat squad), combat squads, ATSKNF, better stats, etc. and are only 30 points more. Furthermore, they have more build options, and this is the least flexible of the Marine Troops as they don't do MSU very well. Sisters of Battle start at 10 bodies minimum (and their cheapest effective squad is 180 with double meltagun or MM/mgun with Rhino) so don't have small, cheap squad capacity and don't get anymore special weapons for buying a larger squad. Yay?

Their 6++ is essentially useless, they aren't fantastic in combat anyway so saving 1/6 of your Sisters is really cute but not going to regularly affect the game. Light of the Emperor is more useful as it can ensure your opponent has to escort running Sister squads off the table but it doesn't stop them from being swept in combat unfortunately. See a theme? Ultimately Sisters of Battle leave the army with very few options in Troops. You've got double melta + combi T3/3+ save chicks with bolters in a Rhino or Immolator. They are roughly 20 points cheaper overall than their predecessors but no unit has felt the change of Faith more. No more 3++. No more Stubborn (from Book). No more S5. No more Rending. On large squads of Sisters these benefits were the most pronounced and the loss is hardest felt. With this in mind and the lack of actual improvements overall for the squad, you have to wonder why they actually gained in points. Was it for their krak grenades? The MM? 6++? *shrug*

Anyway *removes bitter mask*, this change impacts quite a bit on how Sisters of Battle are used as part of the army. Before they could be used much more aggressively - stubborn and 3++ allows that, they aren't going to get bashed in combat easily. Add in mass rending bolters/flamers and a fair amount of meltaguns and these units could support your MSU units from Dominions, Imperial Storm Troopers and Celestians (and if you were happy to use Allies, your combined Infantry Platoon held your backfield objectives). No more. Whilst Sisters of Battle still bring lots of bolters and some bodies to the table, they are much more vulnerable to being engaged in combat and destroyed and have mildly less offensive output without Rending. They do have the MM which makes them an excellent midfield bunker much like Marine Tacticals but for those 20-30 points less, the Tacticals are so much better.

This places the burden of killing on a lot of the other Sisters' squads as there are less Troops available for the army. At 180+ points a pop, you don't want to buy more than four of these squads and each squad you buy, are points not spent on more efficient units (i.e. Dominions). This is an important balance as you don't want to be too low on Troops but want to spend as many points as possible on units which bring more guns to the table. For 1750+ games I think three is a minimum and maybe four. This gives you 30-40 scoring 3+ bodies but with T3 and a bunch of bolters and melta-weapons. These squads can sit in midfield and provide a lot of firepower there whilst the other Sisters units such as Battle Conclaves, Dominions and Repentia push forward.

They can be used on foot as well with a Heavy Bolter or Multi-melta and use their transport slot for an Immolator and more firepower and this is perhaps the only time extra bodies might be useful. You are opening them up to anti-infantry firepower, making them static but are giving yourself more mobile tanks with useful guns (even if they are quite expensive). Overall an eh choice IMO but it is an option.

Conclusion -

They're cheaper than before as a squad only thanks to the Rhino price decrease. For all intents and purposes, Sisters of Battle got more expensive and lost a lot of flexibility. Add in the lack of other Troop options (Inquisitorial Storm Troopers and Imperial Guard) and you are forced to take expensive squads which aren't that efficient. They still bring a lot of power armored bodies with bolters and melta-weapons (and now come with that lovely MM in a cheap Rhino) but are now terrible in combat. They are a necessary evil and will do some good obviously (that many bolters and melta-weapons better!) but you're not going to have the option of six+ scoring units like other books (or if you do, your army will be pretty meh). Again, it's a balancing act of scoring potential and points into units which are going to damage your opponent.

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