Sisters of Battle musings

Hey everybody,
August is turning out to be quite the month for gaming, I’m very impressed with myself! The other day I had the chance to play a game of 40k with my Sisters, going up against my buddy JP and his Imperial Fists. I took a similar list I had mentioned in my last blog about the Adepta Sororitas, and I lost, quite dramatically at that!

I didn’t get first turn, and so had a swathe of Primaris Marines coming at me with their ridiculous weaponry, and even though in retrospect I didn’t actually lose that many models, I think the psychological damage of losing some of my Sisters, almost the whole Retributor squad, my Palatine etc really put me on the back foot. Now, the main error I made in this game is not really having a plan to deal with anything – I just deployed my army and thought, that’ll do. It clearly would not do, though, and JP was the complete opposite – a well-thought-out plan with maximum use of relics and warlord traits to make his Primaris Lieutenant, as he said, “a real warlord”, allowing for bonus hits on 6s and extra AP, re-rolling 1s and all sorts. It was quite the beautiful thing, it really was!

While I did have some successes, I was ultimately a very poor showing. Now, I know everybody always jokes about the bad dice and whatnot, but I made some phenomenally poor rolls. Shooting with a squad of Battle Sisters in rapid fire range, I think I was looking at 16 boltgun shots and 4 storm bolter shots, and I might have made 3 hits. Saving throws were also just ludicrously poor, and I was just shedding models across the three full rounds that we played. We should have called it there, but played a fourth round just to see what would happen, and I was thoroughly tabled.

I was able to kill a Librarian, and two Eliminators, and took maybe 5 wounds off the Redemptor Dreadnought. I really did not have any luck whatsoever, and it showed!

So, naturally, I’m looking at a slightly different list now, with a couple of tweaks to see how they do in a rematch next week! I’m swapping out the Penitent Engine and the Sisters Repentia for a Celestian Squad, with flamer and meltagun, and inferno pistol on the Superior. This will kinda function as the foundation for a sort of mini-deathstar type of unit which comprises the Canoness and Dialogus being nearby, hopefully with additional support from the Palatine.

I envision the Celestians acting as a bodyguard unit for the Canoness, who will trigger their +1 to hit rule while they’re within 6” of her. The Canoness also allows a unit within 6” to re-roll hit rolls of 1, which will serve to improve their accuracy further. They have a dedicated stratagem called Exceptional Proficiency with also gives them +1 to hit, and because of the weapon choices I have, they are a good target for the Holy Trinity stratagem, getting +1 to wound, as well. The Dialogus has a new hymn, which improves AP by one when the enemy is within half range, which is just wonderful. Celestians hit on 3s, but with +2 to hit re-rolling 1s they should be really accurate. With three boltguns alone, that’s six shots when within 12”, AP-1, wounding on 4s with +1 to wound. The Palatine will grant re-rolls to 1, as well, which should make them very accurate indeed. On top of that, of course, there is the meltagun which is a single shot, but wounding on 2s and AP-5, D6 damage (D6+2 if we’re close enough for the inferno pistol to come into play, as well!)

I should probably mention that I’m using the Divine Guidance Sacred Rite, to improve the AP further on an unmodified wound roll of 6 for any ranged attack. Basic boltguns at AP-2 is a very nice dream!

On top of all this, the Canoness cannot be targeted if she is within 3” of the Celestians, so the usual wisdom is to hide the Celestians and let the Canoness smash face with impunity. I’m not sure how prevalent that could be, given that 3” isn’t particularly large. However, it is a nice protection. In return, the Canoness has the Warlord Trait that allows core units within 6” to fall back and shoot (and to use any miracle dice as a 6), which might be handy if they get in a spot of bother. Her relic is the Iron Surplice that gives +1W, Sv 2+, and any attack against her auto-fails on an unmodified 1-3. So she does also get some built-in protection for being out in the open regardless, but I think if I’m going to be fairly aggressive with her, I need to ensure she doesn’t die to a stiff breeze.

An interesting footnote to the whole Celestians unit is that, while they can take two special weapons for a squad of five, you can actually take them in squads of 10, although you can’t take any more weapons for bulking up the squad size. Now, you might think, but that’s making them a normal Battle Sister squad? Aside from additional attacks, which is hardly a benefit given that they are only fighting with the generic close combat weapon, the real bonus that I’m thinking of is the extra bodies that a larger squad represents. Hiding a Canoness with a 10-woman bodyguard does seem like it might work out – and this squad has got a lot more to make it highly accurate, whereas the Sisters don’t have the additional +2 to hit from the Celestian ability and stratagem.

Now, Celestians are one of the alternate build options in the Battle Sisters box, the other being Dominions, and I do rather like the look of having those as well. In fact, I have also been considering using the other five from the box to build five more regular Sisters to either bulk out my existing squads, or else form a new five-woman squad to get a third troops choice in the list that isn’t the Novitiates. However, I do need some sort of melee option in here, and Novitiates are really my only choice for the time being.

My plan, then, such as it is, is to have the unit of Celestians being backed up with the Dialogus, in range of both the Canoness and the Palatine. At least one squad of Battle Sisters will also be keeping step with this walking mass of doom, to further gain the benefit of the re-rolls from all three characters – because something I forgot a lot in that game was the Dialogus gives core units within 6” +1 Ld. Even though I’m playing Order of the Sacred Rose, so I auto-pass combat attrition tests, I still saw some models flee in the Morale phase.

I didn’t really get a chance to use the Retributors in the last game, because the unit was almost entirely shot off the board in the first turn. But they have an interesting rule that denies any type of cover to units they target with heavy weapons, which is very interesting. Their cherubs allow for one model to shoot again, once the unit has shot, which is really quite useful indeed! Didn’t realise they did that, I have to say! Two heavy bolters and two multi-meltas does make the unit fairly expensive though, and I am thinking it might be worth exploring alternative builds. There isn’t a great deal in terms of support for them either, though they are core so benefit from the re-rolls from the HQs. There is also the Sacred Rose stratagem that gives exploding 6s to hit, which I wish I had known about – although the way I was rolling, it was probably no use anyway!

To my mind, though, it isn’t an easy ride with the Sisters. Many times, when you read through a book, you can find ways to stack things on top of one another and you end up with quite a well-oiled machine. Nothing really leaps out at me from this, though – looking online, it seems very much the consensus is that Sisters are a steep learning curve army, and the T3 makes them very precarious. One post on reddit made me chuckle: “play and be prepared to lose”. For all that I might bemoan the fact that I’m struggling to find answers, I am nevertheless really enjoying the puzzle. It’s clear that they are an army that wants to be reasonably close, but remaining in shooting range and not getting into close combat. Having the army-wide 6++ is very useful, especially when there are ways and means to improve that. I have been tempted to give the Palatine the Indomitable Belief warlord trait via a stratagem, but I’ve already spent 1 CP on her to get a relic bolt pistol, so I’m not sure I should sink so much in there before the battle! I suppose we can see. The warlord trait improves the invuln save for core units within 6”, so it’s all about keeping everything fairly close together as it moves up the field.

I think Acts of Faith are such a key part of how the army is meant to work, it’s crucial to keep on top of that and making sure I don’t forget everything that I can do. I completely forgot about the triggers for gaining them when I destroy a unit, or when my characters die. There are quite a few things that allow you to play with miracle dice, including Faith and Fury (1CP) which lets you use a single dice for the hit and wound roll of an attack, or Moment of Grace (1CP) which lets you discard 1-2 miracle dice to add one to a hit, wound or save roll for each dice discarded. Divine Intervention (2CP) can bring back a character from the dead by discarding 1-3 miracle dice, which brings the character back with that many wounds. Luckily, Order of the Sacred Rose allows you to gain a miracle dice on a 4+ whenever you perform an Act of Faith, so I was able to keep my supply up for a time, but I didn’t really ever find myself with a huge stock of them. I suppose that’s a good thing, because it meant I was using them, but even so, I don’t think I used them as well as I could have done.

Moving on further, I have another squad of Seraphim, or Zephyrim, to build up and paint, and I’m not 100% sure how I want to kit those out. I’ll probably wait and see how they perform as Seraphim on the battlefield before I make a decision. I also want to make a Dominion squad, and I keep having silly ideas about having all-melta or all-flamer squads. I think I want to try and get a better handle on the army in general before I make a final decision on that, though. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Paragon Warsuits for some kind of heavy-support option. The trouble, of course, is that these suits are now 210 points a model. You’re only required to pay extra for the multi-melta option, but that’s still only three models for 630 points! Definitely something for when I’m playing higher-points games with the girls. They seem like a legitimate choice for close combat though, making 4 attacks each (five with the Superior) at S6 AP-3 D2 with their war blades. They also have a stratagem to do impact damage on the charge, and are core units for all of the re-roll shenanigans I’ve already talked about. Expensive in game terms and real-life terms, I think I’ll come back to them later.

The Imagifier is a model I want to include, as I have her in my to-build pile, but her effect doesn’t seem to be worthwhile, really. Situational, at best. I don’t face a lot of S3 weaponry, and I don’t really want to be advancing or charging a lot of the army up the field. That leaves the +1 Strength for core units within 6”, which is not amazing, but I suppose if I were to get charged, it could be useful to be wounding (potentially) on 4s and not 5s.

Saint Celestine is a model that I’ve had since the Triumvirate box came out late in 7th edition, and despite building her up a long time ago, I haven’t seriously considered her as my general. She actually has a lot going for her, with two built-in bodyguards, a 4++ and subtracting 1 from any damage allocated to her (with no minimum, so…). There are deployment things and whatnot, but her signature move is to return to the battlefield on a 2+ when she has been destroyed for the first time. She does seem quite useful, although at 200 points she might be a little out of my league for now. Maybe when I’m getting into the realms of 1500 point games…

Of course, everybody talks about Morvenn Vahl, and with good reason. She rolls a Canoness and Palatine re-roll abilities together, she can nominate a unit to gain that effect before they move and leave her, she halves damage allocated to her and can negate mortal wounds on a 4+. With 8 wounds, she’s the toughest thing in the book that isn’t a tank or diorama, and is armed with a heavy bolter, missile launcher, and lance of kill your face. At 280 points, however, I don’t foresee any time soon for me to be using her in my games!

I think I definitely need to play with the army more, and get more familiar with what the various units can do. I also need to cement the way Acts of Faith work into my brain, because I definitely lost the plot with those halfway through that game! There seems like a lot of book-keeping that needs to be done with the force, but it should nevertheless be an absolute joy to play, whether I’m burning the heretics or dying in droves.