Thanks to the entire “Allies of the Imperium” faction being Battle Brothers, it’s never been easier to take an army that is, in essence, an Imperium Grab-Bag. This is especially tempting for Imperial Knight armies, in my opinion – after taking three or four Knights, it’s possible to take a small allied detachment to buff out some of the things the Knights don’t do particularly well.
The clearest thematic choice for many is the Adeptus Mechanicus, either in the form of the Skitarii or the Cult Mechanicum – or the super-detachment involving all three that gives out free wargear like candy the day after Halloween.
But what if you want to play an Oathbound Knight army, allied through tradition, blood and honor with the Imperium rather than Mars? In this post, I’ll explore a three of the possible options – Space Marines, Tempestus Scions, and Sisters of Battle.
The clearest allies for no other reason than the sheer ubiquity of Space Marines, the Space Marines also benefit from having some outstanding troops choices, relatively inexpensive and straightforward HQs, and some solid variety to their lists.
First, lets talk about the troops choices, and what they give you. The change to the Scouts in the latest codex from WS/BS 3 to 4 is, quite frankly, huge. It gives access to an extremely cheap troops choice that is, is many circumstances, functionally identical to their Tactical Marine brethren. Assuming they’re being used as Objective Secured troops to hold objectives (something Knights are less than optimal for), in 4+ cover they are identical in terms of survival and damage output (assuming similar weapon choices) if you’ve taken Camo Cloaks, for one point cheaper. Even without cover, they’re quite similar – the increased survival of the Tactical Marines is offset by their higher price. See the graph below, which simulates 10,000 games of a squad of Tactical Marines and a squad of Scouts taking a full round of bolter-esq fire from MEQs, normalized by points cost:
The purple distribution is the Scouts, and the light blue distribution the Tactical Marines. The Tactical Marines have a slightly higher advantage in terms of the possibility of taking very few casualties, but at the upper end, they’re the same. And this analysis is somewhat stacked against the scouts – their cheaper cost will favor them in any setting where no one is getting armor (rending, AP2-3, etc.). And again, in 4+ cover, with Camo Cloaks, they’re essentially the same for 1 point less.
They can also take the Land Speeder Storm as a dedicated transport, which grants it Objective Secured. With the missile launcher and a heavy bolter/flamer/assault cannon, the Storm is a decent way to shuttle units across the board, pick off small but highly mobile units your opponent is using the claim objectives, and being a Fast Skimmer with Scout and Deep Strike, to but pressure on objectives in advance of your Knights, using them the same way some Dark Eldar players use Venoms. They are just as fragile, with AV 10 all around and Open Topped, but at 40 points a pop…
This is not to say that the Tactical Marines are not potentially an excellent choice. Tactical Marines…are what they always have been. A little expensive, but very flexible. Able to take Rhinos, Razorbacks or Drop Pods, they too can project ObSec goodness over the board, and I’m a huge fan of Drop Pods, though in a small allied list the overwhelming appearance of AV 12 ObSec vehicles is something less of a thing. But armed with basically every weapon a Space Marine might possibly take, they’re definitely still a solid choice, especially with the ability to split into combat squads if needed.
Now for the next necessary bit of an allied detachment: the HQ. In my mind, there are only a few choices here. Basically, we’re looking for cheap, and does something the Knights can’t do themselves. In my mind, that reduces your choices to two: Librarians, and Sergeant Telion.
Lets talk about Telion first. His first benefit is he’s dirt cheap at 50 points. In an army that’s points pinching, that’s a good thing. He also makes one of your scout squads better -giving them Infiltrate, Stealth (which stacks with Camo Cloaks…), can substitute his better BS for clutch shots (like firing a flak missile) and is generally just good. If you go this way, you might also consider the 10th Company Task Force formation instead of an allied detachment – again, it’s a cheap way to add Scouts with or without Telion, and the Concealed Positions special rule lets them hunker down in cover on the cheap until they start shooting.
The Librarian is a little more expensive, and a little less…point-and-click. He’s still a cheap HQ choice at 65 points bare bones, but that moves up to 90 for Mastery Level 2, or if he takes any fun wargear. But that Mastery Level is the big bonus – it allows you to have some impact on the psychic phase, and a little more influence in whether or not your opponent gets something off. And his powers benefit the Knights as well thanks to Battle Brothers, which means Forewarning, Invisibility, etc. can potentially apply to your big scary Knights. In all likelihood you won’t get lots of powers off, but there’s good potential to act as a force multiplier. You may want to put him in one of your free Elite, Heavy Support or Fast Attack choices to babysit the Librarian, though Tactical Marines could do in a pinch.
What does this unlock? A little bit of everything. Want a single big-ass squad of bikers? Can do. A flier or AA tank to cover your bases there over the lackluster Knight option? Some more Land Speeders for some sort of Big Scary Knights + Speeders list? Centurions to kill the things that kill Knights? All of those are doable – you can sprinkle in a small amount of flavor, though with being able to take vehicles in squadrons, there’s lots of flavor to be had.
Don’t. Just don’t. While technically a full Codex, there’s nothing that’ll be unlocked by the Scions that isn’t covered better by someone else. They’re uncomfortably trapped between the Sisters/Marines and the Imperial Guard – not cheap enough to rely on masses of bodies, not durable and hard hitting enough to act truly like elite troops. As far as I can see it, the only reason to take the Scions is if you really like the models, and want way more than you can take in an Imperial Guard army.
There might be some fun to be had with deep striking melta-armed squads, or lots of air mobile troops to bring fliers in, but really, I don’t know that I’d bother.
I hate to be that negative about the Scions – they’re beautiful models, and I really want to like them (I actually own the Codex) but it’s just not there.
Sisters of Battle:
Unlike the Scions, which are an obscure niche list that deserves to be, I think the Sisters of Battle have a lot of potential. They’re not amazing as a primary Codex, just because they have some glaring gaps and obsolete design ideas, especially in the current era, but I think they make outstanding allies.
The reason? A great HQ choice, a couple ways to address things the Knights have trouble addressing, and a cheap and solid troops choice.
First, lets talk about the one and only Troops choice: a Battle Sisters squad. I love the humble battle Sister, because she’s got a lot of the same traits that make Scouts or Tactical Marines good – BS4, Bolters, and a solid save, but they come in cheap at 12 points/model. Lets revisit the same analysis I did for the Tacticals vs. Scouts:
Here, the Sisters (the light blue) really show their stuff – they’re comparable to Scouts, their lower T offset by the better save, and when we’re talking about things that will wound on 2’s regardless (Scatterlaser-armed jetbikes come to mind…) they’ll be substantially better. Their Act of Faith will make them nasty for a turn of shooting, and they’re decently flexible, able to be armed with either a flamer or meltagun to discourage Horde or Vehicle opponents respectively, and a Heavy bolter, Heavy flamer or Multi-melta for more goodness. Heavy bolters will let them project out a little more, but the other options are definitely tempting.
Lamentably (without allied shenanigans) the Sisters can’t take drop pods, but both the Rhino and Immolator are good options for projecting your units forward, and if the goal is to camp objectives in your deployment zones while your Knights move forward, the ability to take massive squads of up to 20 Sisters will make for a pretty formidable firebase for your opponent to try to push off a defensible objective.
In terms of HQ choices, there are a couple, though I think there’s a clear winner: Saint Celestine.
At 135 points, she’s reasonably inexpensive, and she brings a lot to the table. A S+2, AP3 sword in melee (at I7 with 5 attacks at WS7) with a S5 AP4 Template shooting attack, a 2+/4++ save with Fearless, Hit & Run and the ability to come back if she’s killed, she’s a pretty nasty HQ in her own right. What I like to do is pair her with a Seraphim squad with double hand flamers and a Sister Superior with a Power Weapon. This unit is…remarkably solid. That’s a ton of templates, which can be made to have Shred with an Act of Faith of Ld 10 with Celestine in the squad, and while weak in close combat, they’re not particularly palatable to charge, with a nasty Overwatch, a strong character to tank things, and the ability to hop in and out of combat.
What else comes with an allied Sisters army?
Not much else in the HQ section feels compelling for an allied army as a substitute for Celestine. The standard Canoness was disappointingly lack-luster, and you don’t need Uriah Jacobus to keep hordes of chainsaw wielding maniacs going – that’s the job of your Knights. But, delving into the Elite, Fast Attack and Heavy Support choices, there’s a lot more potential, though in my mind a solid core of Battle Sisters, Seraphim and Celestine has gotten you 75% of the way there.
The Repentia squad in the Elites section is an interesting choice, in my opinion, if your local meta is very Knight heavy. Relatively cheap at 14 points a piece, the Repentia have a lot of nice rules for attacking Knights – while they strike at Initiative 1, they do it at Strength 6 with Armorbane, and with Rage they do four attacks each on the charge. And just as importantly, some of their weaknesses – the lack of a delivery system and their poor (read: absent) armor save – are somewhat negated by Knights. Since no one is getting their 3+ saves against Knights in combat, it’s less important that they don’t have them, as they’ll be banking on their 6++ saves. And as most Knights will be coming toward you, they’re in a better position with Fleet to make a counter-charge or meet a Knight halfway, instead of having to slog across the board. And finally, with 3+ Knights on your side, they may slip below your opponent’s radar.
Just how good are they?
That’s the number of glances or pens against a Knight done by a charging unit of four Sisters Repentia, assuming their Mistress of Repentence isn’t armed with a melta bomb. That’s a lot of hits. And yes, they will almost certainly take some casualties from the Knight beforehand, but even a full-strength squad is only 155 points, and represents a serious threat to a Knight. If you really want to go all in, a Ministorum Priest is 55 more points for another Eviscerator (albeit one at WS 3), and has a 4++ save (potentially re-rollable with War Hymns) and gives Zealot as well, all while not taking up an HQ slot.
In the Fast Attack slot, if you choose not to take Seraphim, there’s another potential unit for combatting horde units – a Dominion squad. Capable of taking four flamers, storm bolters or meltas and a dedicated Heavy Bolter/Heavy Flamer/Multi-melta armed Immolator transport, and Ignores Cover as their Act of Faith (dubious if you’re going for my favorite version, All Flamers All The Time), they’re potentially a fairly serious threat to horde units, and mounted in an Immolator and with Scout they’re decently mobile. Their Sister Superior can be armed with a Combi-weapon for extra added hilarity.
The same is true in the Heavy Support slot with Retributor squads – save that now we’re talking about Heavy Flamers in that same Immolator, and with an Act of Faith that gives them Rending. Keeping in mind that Heavy Flamers are still assault weapons, that’s a very dangerous unit for most horde armies, and an alternate build of Retributors with Heavy Bolters is a decently compelling anti-infantry fire base at 36″ and less.
Finally, in my mind, is the Exorcist. While a staple of the Sisters of Battle army when acting as a primary detachment, the variability of the Exorcist, which is a Heavy d6 weapon (and the original inspiration for thinking about variance in 40K, and this really the origin of this blog), is just too unreliable for a single tank. Perhaps if they get an update and can be fielded in squadrons, but as is, I’d much rather rely on the guns built into the Knights, and if dipping into the Heavy Support slow, take Retributors to clear out foes Knights aren’t necessarily suited to fight.
So there we have it – three potential allies for a Knight-primary army, from the fairly turnkey (Space Marines) to the subtly compelling (Sisters of Battle). And not a bit of it necessarily painted Martian Red.
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