So initially, my first thoughts are, incredible! Black Templars finally have a new book! Having picked up the army at the beginning of 8th edition after a long break from when little me walked into a Games Workshop and split the 3rd edition start set I’ve been optimistically hoping for a Supplement ever since the other Chapters gained theirs. My first impressions lead me to a lot of excitement and I cannot wait to get my Crusading Marines on the table with these new rules. Despite this, I definitely think the old way of playing Templars has gone and we’re definitely going to need adapt to the new rules.
There isn’t much of a change to the warlord traits;
A bit of an attempt to balance the power levels of them - Frontline Commander now only gives its charge bonus if the warlord makes the charge but Master of Arms now also gives an additional attack on top of fight first for example.
Finally, after many many years Black Templars are back in the spot-light with their Codex Supplement Black Templars. In terms of Lore and Flavour this book Delivers. The new rules are very interesting and initially I felt pretty hyped with what we were getting. The Primaris Characters are very strong, and as far as the ever growing Primaris Character roster goes these three seem like some of the best. Especially the new Helbrecht model, I'm especially pleased he kept his (Crusade of Wrath) +1 Strength Aura, it did go the route of core only, but that was not unexpected. The new Vows are everything you want from an army bonus with powerful bonuses and clear interesting negatives. The relics and upgrades are fantastic too - some very powerful options immediately stand out as well as all the returning ones from Faith and Fury.
Overall, my first thoughts are that it looks like a solid supplement and full of flavour for the Templars.
This effectively works like the old "Knights of Sigismund" Special Doctrine rule where 6's to hit auto wound in melee except against vehicles. The passion forcing you to charge any enemy unit that's not-engaged and not-aircraft that's closest.
This grants a 5++ Invunerable save and the benefit of never being able to be wounded on a 1 or a 2. The passion stops you from receiving the benefits of cover.
Psykers beware as this Vow grants 3" additional movement in the first turn and re-roll 1's against any pskyer unit. The passion forcing you to be unable to carry out any actions if within 18" of a psyker.
An interesting one, that may have potential is one that always gives you Assault Doctrine when in Melee and adds an additional attack whilst in melee - this doesn't stack with Shock Assault. The Drawback - you can't fall back.
The standout one here is obviously Uphold the Honour of the Emperor. The raw power of this ability gives the possibility to take options previously outside of any competitive ability. Gladius tanks, Impulsor’s with Multi-Meltas and even Land Raiders (subject to some testing of course) now look like genuinely good options. I think a list with Redemptors and a single Gladius with 3 Multi Meltas could be a great option - a Master of the Forge Techmarine would be a great addition to a list like that and would help the gladius overcome its “none-core” suffering. With 4-6 Vehicles you wouldn’t be coming into the realm of giving max Bring it Down points but also would get a lot of use from the flat 3 heal the Techmarine gives out. This is just one example where this Vow comes out big and that’s not looking at a mass infantry style list either.
Abhor the Witch does look good, but I think the only times you're going to want this is if the opponent doesn't have little AP-3. Otherwise the usefulness of Uphold the Honour is just too good.
Similarly, Accept Any Challenge could be great, combined with Oath of Moment where you don't want to be falling back anyway and the passion definitely stings a lot less. Whether this is better than the 5++ or "mini-transhuman" I doubt it. It may be great on units with Storm Shields, who aren't benefiting from the 5++ anyway and may survive multiple combats where loosing shock assault but keeping the extra attack would be relevant.
Suffer Not the Unclean... is a great rule, I thoroughly enjoyed the use of the old Knights of Sigismund ability. But I can't come close to making a list where the passion doesn't cause problems. Especially when a good player is going to play around it too. At least with the other passions, the negatives are under the Black Templar players control, which makes them much easier to manage.
Unfortunately this is my main problem with the Vows, they're suffer unique, interesting and are rules with obvious and clear drawbacks and benefits. But when one of the four is so egregiously more powerful, it really makes it a no-brainer in which one you would take.
The Relics we received from Faith and Fury have mostly stayed the same. The Aurelian Shroud received a small nerf causing it to go to Core Infantry only instead of just core and the Skull of the Cacodominus now has a 12” aura of -1 to cast and an additional 18” -1 to cast once per game. Finally, from the old relics, the Sword of Judgement now boasts a whopping +3S at -3AP and 3 Damage. A big upgrade from its +1 Strength.
The new relics are interesting, there are the traditional ones we’ve come to see from Supplements with Artificer Armour, Digital Weapons and Mastercrafted Weapon but, the absolute stand out for me is the Tannhauser Bones. This thing is insane… reducing any damage suffered to 1. Put on top of a Gravis Marshall or Primaris Chaplain on Bike and you get an incredibly difficult to shift character for a single relic upgrade .
The Stratagems have shifted and a big let down for me is the loss of the Advance and Charge stratagem The Emperor's Will. This has now changed to purely firing Pistols, Assault Weapons and Rapid fire weapons if you have advanced, and ignore the Assault penalty if you have advanced. Don't get me wrong, this is a useful trick but nowhere near as good as the old stratagem. As a melee faction who are not the fastest either, losing this is a big blow.
The change to Devout Push, that used to let you pile into combat at the beginning of the fight phase, now lets you either: Pile in towards an enemy unit if engagement range or make a Normal Move of 3" towards the closest enemy or objective. I'm not surprised this janky interaction has gone and this is still useful, but in a drastically different way. Templars can use this to make a normal move towards an objective and say move within 3” of a transport and board it. This makes units like Hellblasters who are renown for being squishy get back into the safety of their transport after firing. Similarly, you could fire and Devout Push behind a wall and out of line of safe and be almost equally as safe.
Shock and Awe no longer lets you ignore overwatch from a Land Raider Crusader but it does now let it operate like an Impulsor where you can move the Land Raider and then get the guys out, unlike an Impulsor, this does let you charge after they get out! You can't move after the disembark, but it does open some very interesting options. The best options for this are pretty obvious, Assault Terminators, Veteran Vanguard or Assault Centurions. Whether it makes a Land Raider Crusader viable competitively I'm not sure, but it is a heck of a trick. That being said, I was running one in late 8th and early 9th and doing very well with one so maybe?
There are several other pretty cool new ones such as the Bombastic Delivery which not only has an outrageous name but also lets you auto-cant a litany and Strength of Conviction which allows a unit with the Combat Doctrines ability to gain Objective Secured for a turn. This has some very interesting uses considering it can be used on Redemptors, Bladeguard, Characters and well.. Anything but a Servitor. This could and I’m sure will be critical in gaining objectives.
The recurring theme, unfortunately, is those holy-triumvirate of units we're all used to seeing in marine lists are the ones that are probably going to be the best ones to use for Templars too...
All three of the special characters got massive upgrades, alongside two new Primaris Datasheets: The Primaris Crusader Squad and the Primaris Sword Brethern, backed up alongside the Firstborn Crusader Squad. I'm only going to go into the Primaris units here, the traditional Crusader Squad has many of the pitfalls and struggles many of the Firstborn stuff is experiencing when a Primaris unit comes out in place of it so rather than focusing on that negative...
High Marshall Helbrecht
Primaris Helbrecht still retains his Chapter Master and Crusade of Wrath aura and gained a huge boost to his stats. Gaining 2 wounds, an additional attack and gaining a special Combi Melta that always does D6+2 damage and his Sword of the High Marshalls has a sweep and strike ability. Most importantly he gains 2 additional attacks from his attendants at the mightiest of strengths 3. He still keeps his Frontline Commander Warlord Trait (which has been nerfed slightly, and instead of a flat +1 to charge it now only works if Helbrecht himself has charged the unit in question first.)
My only issue is and I know this is a an odd one... I've gotten so used to not needing the Chapter Master re-rolls I don't think he's needed, especially when I want to put the units I want the buff on in Impulsors. Swapping him out for another Chaplain or Marshall would let me take 2-3 Multi-Melta's on my vehicles...
The Emperor's Champion
The Emperor's Champion also gains a sweep and thrust attacks with his Black Sword. He regains his -1 to hit, full re-rolls against characters but gains Marital Superiority and Honour or Death. The former gives him Fight First and the latter a heroic intervention ability within 6”. This is a solid datasheet, my main issue is he’s still a HQ. So he's suffers from the fact that the HQ slot is very overcrowded for Marines, and a solid character killer and generally great character doesn't fit into a meta where Bladeguard and Vanguard Veterans can do his job just as well, without taking up one of those valuable HQ slots. Will I take him in my GT list, probably not, will I take him outside of that, absolutely. He's the Emperors Champion!
Grimaldus is probably my favourite updated sheet. He boasts the standard Primaris chaplain stat-line with an enhanced Crozius. He is a Master of Sanctity (no doubling up anymore unfortunately.) He gains 3 abilities from his servitor’s which are now baked into his datasheet. An aura of a 6+ FNP for core units (this includes Dreadnoughts), an aura of allowing D3+3 for Advance rolls as opposed to a normal D6 and the ability to add +1 to his litanies when attempting to inspire one. He also, with an ability reminiscent to the end of Helsreach, returns to the battlefield on 3 wounds on a 4+ once per game the first time he is slain. He’s probably going to slot into every single one of my lists to be honest. The 6+ FNP on Redemptors is very strong and the ability to inspire 2 litanies like a normal MoS is exactly what you’d want from a special character. He does, however, give a staggering 12 points up for the assassination secondary… the whole 15 if he returns to the battlefield. For me this is probably not intended, just as Celestine and her Gemini are worth 9 points doesn’t feel intentional. Still Grey Knights are doing very well at the moment and they almost fire guaranteed 15 Abhor the Witch points so if Templars can perform I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem.
Primaris Sword Brethren.
These guys... *sigh* they look incredible and I will absolutely be picking them up the moment they come out. Rules wise they are lacking however. They're not as killy or survivable as Bladeguard, and suffer from only having 2 wounds. They're also too expensive when kitted out with lots of different weapons. That being said, I can absolutely see a unit of 5 all with Power Swords as a "cheaper" alternative to Bladeguard taking a step up against units where that 2 damage of the Bladeguard is wasted. Built like this, they're the kind of unit I would take if I couldn't quite afford another 5 Bladeguard. Which might be the problem here. Sword Brethren aren't actually a terrible unit, they're just outclassed like most things in the Space Marine Codex, by Bladeguard and Vanguard Veterans. There may be a use for these alongside Bladeguard with Chainswords - possibly to clear out larger units of chaff, but my mind is asking me, do Bladeguard really struggle with that anyway?
Primaris Crusader Squad
Primaris Neophytes? Tick. Incredible looking Sword Brethren Sergeant? Tick. 20 Man Max sized unit? Tick. Overpowered? Not sure... I've gone back and forward on these a lot. Initially I wasn't too impressed. Clocking in at 203 points with a Power Sword and 2 Power fists for a unit of 10 however, makes me a lot more impressed. A unit or two of these running around and being able to throw out 6 Power Fist attacks will trade up on most other troop units. Especially when re-rolls, additional attacks or strength is added in the mix. When you have 7 ablative models (14 wounds) for the power fists then maybe its worth it over Assault Intercessors. I had great success running a large 10 man unit of Assault Interecessors, so why wouldn't a Crusader Squad who costs a similar amount also be good? Either way I will definitely be trying these out, even at a competitive level. They definitely have some legs I feel.
Unfortunately, there is one glaring Elephant in the room and that is no matter how many unique, cool and strong rules this Supplement has it suffers from the same issue all the Space Marine Supplements are suffering from. No matter what tools you have, any competitive army will lean on those golden units: Redemptors, Bladeguard Veterans or Veteran Vanguard.
Coupled with the fact that, they are still only Marines, I don't think Black Templars are going to take the crown from Ad Mech or Drukhari... that being said the Supplement has some very powerful tools and some very interesting units to make use of that we haven't been seeing in the meta. Will it be enough to rise above the mid-tables, I guess we'll have to see. They definitely have the tools to deal with a lot of different factions.
The Vehicle Compilation
The first thing that jumped to my mind was how good Redemptors and Impulsors would be with the Uphold the Honour of the Emperor Vow.
With this in mind these were going to be the focus of the list. Followed by a sub-theme of being really annoying for Pskyers, adding both the Skull of the Cachodominus and the Light of the Emperors Grace. I’ve put the Light on a unit or Incursors to start them up the board early to really start annoying the enemy pskyers early.
The Company Veterans help protect Grimaldus due to the low level of infantry models in the list for screening and the Gladiator Valliant comes with all the anti-tank you would want (or need) with the Techmarine for the +1 to hit. For more dense boards, you could easily swap him out for an Impulsor and 5 Hellblasters.
Battalion - Black Templars
Primaris Techmarine - Master of the Forge
Primaris Gravis Captain with Master Crafted Heavy Bolt Rifle
10x Primaris Crusader Squad - Power Sword, 2x Power Fists, Chainswords and Heavy Bolt Pistols, the Holy Orb
Incursor Squad - Light of the Emperors Grace
6x Bladeguard Veterans - Icon of Heinman, Skull of the Cachodominus, Champion of the Feast
Redemptor Dreadnought - Macro Plasma Incinerator
Redemptor Dreadnought - Heavy Onslaught Gatling Cannon
Redemptor Dreadnought - Heavy Onslaught Gatling Cannon
2x Company Veterans - 2x Stormshields
Gladiator Reaper - 3x Multi Meltas, Twin Las-talon
Impulsor - Multi-Melta
I wanted to try and build a list around the Accept Any Challenge, so I landed on a list with actually very few units. 2 large 20 man Crusader Squads and a 9 man Assault Terminator Squad make up the bulk of the list. With a supporting roster of Characters to ensure all the Infantry are getting as many stacking buffs as possible.
The idea is to push the army up the board and tie the enemy up as often and long as possible. Utilising the FNP's from Grimaldus and the Chief Apothecary to try and stay in as long as possible. The Aurelian Shroud (once per game 4++ aura) on the Apothecary is there to help give the army a boost of resilience in an early turn.
Is this going to be amazing? Probably not, but I feel like an Infantry / Stormshield heavy list is the way to go with Accept Any Challenge. A change could be reducing the Crusader Squads down to 5x Assault Intercessors and taking some Vanguard Veterans for more movement and similar punchyness, but i wanted to avoid the Vanguard Vets as they often go in, kill what they need to and then die and therefore wont benefit from the additional attack from Accept Any Challenge in a later combat.
Battalion - Black Templars
Chaplain Grimaldus - Litany of Divine Protection, Fires of Devotion
High Marshall Helbrect
Primaris Chaplain on Bike - Canticle of Hate, Tannhausers Bones
20x Crusader Squad - 4x Power Fists, Chainswords and Heavy Bolt Pistols
20x Crusader Squad - 4x Power Fists, Chainswords and Heavy Bolt Pistols
5x Assault Intercessors Squad
6x Bladeguard Veterans - Icon of Heinmann, Sword of Judgement, Champion of the Feast
9x Assault Terminator Squad - Holy Orb
Primaris Apothecary - Chief Apothecay, The Aurelian Shroud
There is a bunch more to unpack with this Supplement and I'm very excited to start playing some games. I can't wait to see what other lists people come up with but for now, keep crusading and enjoy our first proper rule set in 6 Editions!