Sisters of Battle: Planning Stages!

Hey everybody,
If you follow me on Instagram, or if you’ve been checking in with the blog regularly over the last week or two, you’ll have seen an uptick with my work on the Sisters of Battle, as I have made an effort to make something with the army. This is really nice for me, because it’s a really beautiful force made up of stunning miniatures, but one that I have had shelved for years, and came close to selling it all off after having stagnated for so long with them all.

I’ve already talked about my long struggle with colour schemes for them, and there have been several blog posts over the years that I’ve written that saw me attempting to build an army, only to then become disheartened by the level of detail on them. But, hopefully, no more!

For 9th edition, the army I think is fairly similar to how it worked in its last incarnation. We still have the army-wide rules of Acts of Faith and Shield of Faith, as well as Sacred Rites. Everything has been ever-so-slightly tweaked, though, so while the names are the same, they don’t always quite do the same things as they used to.

So what do all of these things mean?

Acts of Faith is the biggest one, and has a full page in the codex to explain how it works. At the start of the battle round, you gain 1 miracle dice – you roll a D6 and the result is that miracle dice’s value. Once per phase, a unit can perform an Act of Faith, which basically means you substitute a miracle dice for a single dice in an advance, charge, hit, wound, save or damage roll, or one morale test. So if you rolled a 6 for the miracle dice, you can swap out the meltagun damage roll for that 6, and if you’re shooting from 6” away, that will guarantee you 8 damage against your target – awesome!

In addition to getting that one miracle dice per battle round, you also get one if an enemy unit is destroyed by your army, or if one of your units is wholly destroyed. Almost feels like you might need multiple small units in the army to try to capitalise on that, really! Now, while only one unit per phase can use a miracle dice, any unit that has a Simulacrum Imperialis can perform an Act of Faith even if a unit has already done so. So it’s going to be key to sequence your battle, as you don’t want to find yourself performing an Act of Faith with a unit that includes a Simulacrum before you then need to use it on a unit without!

There are a number of other rules that interact with these things, such as relics and warlord traits that allow specific models to gain one for you and so on. But the feel is very much that these Acts of Faith will be quite rare, and you won’t be subbing out dice left and right – making it feel very much like a clutch moment in the battle (queue angelic choirs, light from above, etc!)

Shield of Faith grants a unit a 6+ invuln save, and also lets you attempt to Deny the Witch with any unit with this rule – you only roll a single dice, but a 6 will always succeed regardless of the Psychic Test result. Sisters hate the Psykers!

Sacred Rites are a series of 6 rules that you can use to affect the course of the battle – you select one and it remains in play, but there are ways to tinker with this as well, including ways to give a specific unit multiple Sacred Rites, which are quite nice. The Sacred Rite that I have chosen for my force is Divine Guidance, which improves the AP by 1 of a ranged attack when you roll an unmodified 6 to wound. Most of my army, as you’ll see, is going to be shooting, so this should be quite useful!

The Orders are still present, with the six Orders Majoris having a suite of special rules, and there are two pages of rules that allow you to make your own Orders. I have gone for the Order of the Sacred Rose, which is the Order that I was using for last edition (and which I had attempted to paint, at one point!) They have the army-wide rules to auto-pass combat attrition tests, and when performing an Act of Faith, you can roll a D6 and on a 4+ you get a miracle dice back. So that could be very useful to keep the supply going! The Sacred Rose stratagem gives you exploding 6s to hit, which is always a favourite rule of mine, so that should also be helpful for several of my units!

Now, there are a lot of rules here, and I think I need to really get some games in with the force before I can properly begin to weigh these up as to their utility. As this goes on, I think it’s possible that stuff will change, whether I look at creating my own Order or move to one of the others, or whether I invest more in those rules that increase my miracle dice, or allow me to really shape the Acts of Faith that I perform. But I need a starting point, so this is what I have chosen!

So this is what I’m building towards. It’s actually not that bad really, the core of the army is coming from the launch box, with a couple of squads being added in to bulk that stuff out. For those of you who may be interested, the contents of that box now come to 470 points (keeping the Canoness upgraded as she is here). I think there is a fairly decent balance among the army at this point, with the big blobs of Battle Sisters posing quite a decent threat, the lighter Novitiates can run about doing whatever I might need of them, objective grabbing or backfield support, the Celestians can help the Canoness get into range and the Retributors can sit on objectives roasting anybody who comes close. The Seraphim can cover the battlefield pretty well, and that just leaves stuff like the Repentia and the Penitent Engine to fill in wherever they may be required.

Let’s have a closer look at some of this stuff, though.

The Canoness, as the star of the show, allows core units within 6” to re-roll hit rolls of 1, and her rod of office extends this ability to core or character units within 12”. She can also improve the invuln save of core units within 6” by 1, so the army-wide 6++ becomes a 5++ for one unit close to her. Core units are obviously the troops, but also the Retributors, Seraphim, Repentia and the Celestians. My plan for the Canoness is to be hanging about with her bodyguard team of Celestians, who are packing a fairly serious punch with the melta weaponry there. The Canoness cannot be targeted while she is within 3” of the Celestians, and they in turn get +1 to hit while they’re within 6” of her. So they have +1 to hit and are re-rolling 1s to hit, which is lovely. But wait! Celestians also have their own stratagem that gives them +1 to hit! Marvellous. Now, there are two boltguns in the team, which are Rapid Fire 1, so that’s fine, but then we have the combi-melta and the meltagun, both Assault 1 weapons firing at S8 AP-4 D6 damage. They have a 12” range, and melta once more means a bonus when within half range, so we’ll be getting fairly close for these things to go off properly. But getting extra close isn’t a horrendous problem because I also have the heavy flamer in there, with 12” range and Heavy D6 shots that auto-hit (so no need for the Canoness this time, but I like the big flamer anyway, so meh) with each one being S6 AP-1 and D1. So big flamer and scary melta should hopefully give people pause before coming after the pair of units. And there is also the stratagem to allow you to make the maximum number of hits on a flame weapon, but if we’re already using a command point for the additional +1 to hit, using 2CP to get 6 flamer shots might seem like overkill.

The Celestians are also the only squad I’m currently giving a Cherub to. These little guys can basically give you a miracle dice once per battle – you roll 2D6 and choose which one you want, and you have to use it on the phase you rolled it otherwise it’s lost. It’s still considered to be an Act of Faith, so you can’t perform two Acts with the unit, but it might be useful, especially if my miracle dice aren’t looking that brilliant!

The Palatine has an aura to allow core units within 6” to re-roll wound rolls of 1, which can sometimes be the more useful of the two abilities, and I think it could be funny if a unit like the Celestians were to cross over within both of these auras, but I don’t think it will be my primary focus for the army. In the main, I’m hoping to get her working alongside one of the big blobs of Sisters. Possibly the second squad, with the meltagun and the heavy bolter, as I think having an expensive unit stuck in melee is always upsetting, but I have given the Palatine a warlord trait for -1CP that will allow a core unit within 6” to fall back and still shoot. The warlord trait, Light of the Divine, also allows her to use any miracle dice as a 6 when performing an Act of Faith, which could prove to be very useful! I’ve upgraded the Palatine’s bolt pistol to the relic, Wrath of the Emperor, which is a slightly punchier pistol as S5 and AP-1, but is also Pistol 4, which is just lovely!

The only problem with pretty much the entire army, though, is that they’re pretty much all Toughness 3, and even the Canoness has 5 wounds. I suppose that’s why things are pretty cheap, though.

Staying with the second Sisters squad for a second, that is a surprisingly expensive unit, though it’s mainly because of all the weaponry I’ve tooled them up with. The condemnor boltgun is almost entirely situational, as it has the option for dishing out mortal wounds to Psykers, but it does make for an interesting combo with the stratagem that adds +1 to hit against a Psyker, so that could be handy! I had originally included a flame weapon in there, because there used to be a fairly hefty focus on the “holy trinity” of bolt, melta and flame weapons (if I remember correctly), but as this is now limited to a single stratagem, which grants +1 to wound when firing these weapons at the same unit, I’ve moved away from that a little. Instead, I have a meltagun with its delightful melta tricks as I’ve already mentioned, then the heavy bolter for three S5 AP-1 D2 hits, and then eight boltgun shots which are all rapid fire 1, so if I’m in range for the meltagun to be firing that’ll be 20 shots coming at the enemy, most of them regular bolts but with enough other bits and pieces going on to cause some chaos, with any luck!

Moving on to the Dialogus, another fairly key unit for the army here. Her aura adds 1 to the leadership of core or character units within 6”, which can be useful, and she has a second aura that allows an Adepta Sororitas unit within 6” to alter one miracle dice by 1, up or down, when performing an Act of Faith. That’s very nice, I have to say! The big change for the Dialogus is that she is now a Priest, and has the Chaplain-like prayers that she can intone during the Command Phase. (The Dogmata model is also a Priest, and I do fancy getting one of those at some point). She knows War Hymn, which grants +1 attack to core, character and engine units within 6”, so the Penitent Engine gets some love from that, and I’ve given her Refrain of Blazing Piety, which allows her to dish out D3 mortal wounds to an enemy unit within 12” (3 mortal wounds if that unit is Chaos). She’s otherwise not very durable, so I think having the attack prayer could be of more use to her than being a blessing battery for the army, though there is something to be said about providing target saturation for the opponent, and forcing them to not know whether it’s best to attack the annoying unit or the unit making everything else more annoying.

The Repentia are one of my melee options in the list, and will hopefully be dishing out 8 attacks at S6 AP-3 D2 each, though their massive chainsaws are -1 to hit. So they’re hitting on 4s unfortunately, which is always a bit of a downer for a melee unit. They have the Zealot rule, though, which allows them to re-roll the hit roll on the charge, and the Repentia Superior allows them (and herself) to advance and charge, and she grants them +1 to wound when they are within 6”. They also have a 5+ feel no pain save, which should help to keep them alive when they’re being targeted, but otherwise there’s little hope for them – they’re very much a cheap unit that should be able to deal out some damage before crumpling like a wet paper bag as there isn’t much in the way of stratagems to keep them going.

The Sisters Novitiates are my other melee focused squad, and they have quite a good profile for the scout equivalents in the list! There are eight models who have Novitiate melee weapons, which grant an additional attack (so that’s 16 attacks for these girls), and they get +1 attack on the charge, so 24 attacks coming at the enemy, granted they’re on 4s to hit, and will likely be 4s to wound with no AP, but that’s quite something! The Novitiate Superior also has a power sword, so she’s making 2 attacks of her own at -3AP, which is helpful! They also all have pistols for the following shooting phase, whoever survives the fight back. In a way, it’s a shame that the full range of Kill Team upgrades doesn’t get rules, but I suppose having a scout with a Condemnor Boltgun, for instance, or a scout version of the Dialogus, might be a bit odd, but surely they could have allowed Scout Dialogus access to just War Hymn, and it only affects her unit? Hm.

Maybe for the 10th edition Codex…

For now, however, this is what I am looking to build towards. I still have stuff like the second Battle Sisters squad, and the Celestians, to build, and I still need to paint an awful lot of this stuff, but I think it’s all slowly coming together. I’m on such a high with the Sisters right now, though, that I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a decent amount of stuff painted for the army before I get distracted by something else!

Looking even further ahead, I am considering a Dominion Squad, as I will have five Sisters left from the Celestians box (unless I just bulk up the Celestians to 10), and I think I would like to get one of the tanks built. I have a lot of stuff for the Sisters still to build, such as the Exorcist and the Immolator, a couple of Penitent Engines, another Seraphim squad, the Triumph, a box of Repentia and an Imagifier. I’m trying not to go too crazy here though, because I think there is a bit of a balance that needs to be struck with the force – there are a lot of units available for it, almost too many. I’ve not really thought this about any other force, but the Elites slot in particular has become really top-heavy now that Command Squads have been sundered. I wonder if that would ever change, and allow us to bring them back into a single unit? As it stands, the Dialogus and Hospitaller can be included without taking up a slot, but the Imagifier doesn’t have that luxury. Hm.

I would like to focus more on having significant units, rather than the smaller units (which kinda goes counter to the point above about gaining miracle dice) which can sometimes be difficult to keep track of. I definitely want to keep it primarily Sisters-focused, so I don’t want to get into Death Cult Assassins and Priests and so forth. I think it should look really nice, having Battle Sisters and the smaller squads like Celestians and Retributors, and then having some of the tanks in support as well. While I said I didn’t want to go crazy buying anything, I am considering getting either some of those Paragon Warsuits, or some of those Celestians with shields, who look nice for a melee option.

Something that I’ve long wanted to try is adding in Thaddeus the Purifier from the Blackstone Fortress game, as the model is so cool and I think would make a really nice addition. That always felt a bit too difficult with the old book, however, but the Missionary HQ option seems almost made for him now, having the correct wargear and so forth, even if the picture used for the codex entry is of the old metal model. The rules are also somewhat clearer, as well, in that now everything has the Adeptus Ministorum keyword, so his aura ability will cross over to cover the Battle Sisters squad (though given that his leadership is the same as a Sister Superior, I don’t think it would ever be necessary). I’m not sure if the last book was the same, but I remember having the feeling that building an army for Sisters in 8th edition felt a bit like a tough prospect, and it always struck me as a bit difficult to actually make things work. The new 9th edition book feels a lot better in this regard, which has made me pleased!

Anyway, for now, this is my entirely too-long blog post about my current obsession for 40k, the Sisters of Battle!