Down to the details of the codex itself, the first section we shall look at are the HQs, as well as the equipment and relics in the armoury section as the HQs generally have the most access to these. Overall, I do not mind the HQ section, though there are places where I believe it could improve. One place it could improve is a general, overarching theme with the codex which can only be summed up as ‘give us our Inquisition choices back’. However, these gripes are mildly off-topic so without further delay, I shall dive into what we do have.
As I will be referencing the Ecclesiarchy Relics often, I will briefly outline them here to save on space. Firstly, there’s the Book of St. Lucius. This gives a 12″ bubble of Fear ignoring and auto-regrouping. It is cheap, has a useful effect, but as you can only take one Ecclesiarchy relic, it is largely overshadowed by the others. Litanies of Faith give the bearer, the bearer’s unit and any other independent characters that have joined the unit the ability to automatically pass their Act of Faith or War Hymn Leadership checks. Useless in my opinion as the general Leadership of the Sisters is high, around 8 or 9 for most units and with so many other ways of buffing Acts of Faith, I feel that this is not only a waste of points, but also a waste of your one Ecclesiarchy Relic that you can take. The Cloak of St. Aspira gives the bearer the ability to re-roll armour and invulnerable saves, which is rather nice, but again I feel it is overshadowed by other items. The Mace of Valaan is only available to Ministorum Priests and is essentially just an expensive, master-crafted power maul with the Chaos Bane special rule, giving it Armourbane and Fleshbane when within 6″ of one or more models with the Daemon special rule. Considering that Ministorum Priests are pretty weak anyway, being more like Warlocks are for Eldar in the sense that they are not HQs as much as unit leaders, I do not see why anyone would take this when there are better choices out there that you can take on more important models. The Mantle of Ophelia is simple, but expensive. It gives the bearer the Eternal Warrior special rule which can help a lot, though it is only worth taking on the Canoness as Ministorum Priests only have 1 Wound anyway. Finally, we have the Blade of Admonition. This is my favourite Ecclesiarchy Relic, though that could be because it reminds me of the old Blessed Weapon in the Witch Hunters codex. It is a master-crafted power sword that adds +2 to the wielder’s Strength. For me, if I were to take an Ecclesiarchy Relic, it would be a toss up between the Cloak of St. Aspira, the Mantle of Ophelia or the Blade of Admonition on my Canoness.
Firstly, the Canoness. For people who enjoy building a fluff friendly army, this is a necessity as the Canoness is the military leader of the Convent. If you dislike using special characters, this is your only HQ choice! She is a mere 65 points and sports a lower-than-average stat line when compared to the commanders of most armies, but for her points I would say she is worthwhile, but not exactly a powerful choice. Her Act of Faith, named The Passion, gives her and her unit the Hatred special rule, which is nothing to write home about, but it could swing a round of close combat so that you do not horribly fail; Sisters of Battle are not the best army for melee combat. Her starting wargear consists of power armour, a bolt pistol which she may exchange for a boltgun, a chainsword and frag and krak grenades. She has all the special rules that you would expect of a Sister of Battle, plus Stubborn and Martyrdom which, on Leadership 10, is rather useful for sticking around. Her options are a rosarius for 15 points, getting a 10 point reduction, which I would always take, giving her a 4+ invulnerable save as opposed to her 6+ granted through Shield of Faith, and melta-bombs for 5 points which, again, I always take. She may then choose items from the Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons and Ecclesiarchy Relics lists. This means that she an replace her bolt pistol and chainsword with any two of the following: A power weapons, which I think is a no-brainer as you can give her a power maul, sword or axe depending on preference; an eviscerator, effectively giving her a two-handed chainfist, which is not worth it in my opinion since they removed the Act of Faith that added +2 to your strength and let you insta-kill Space Marine HQs; a storm bolter, which is not worth it in my opinion; a combi-flamer, -melta or -plasma which, again, I do not see as being worth it; a condemnor boltgun, which is effectively a middle finger to psykers, functioning as a combi weapon where the combi part of it causes perils if it hits; a plasma pistol which is an all around decent choice, or an inferno pistol which is just too short ranged for my liking. The Ecclesiarchy Relics are, whilst competitive, something I will not be touching in anything below around 2500 point games. Why would a small force of Sisters be entrusted with such a relic? As a result, anything I say here is purely hypothetical, so take my words with a pinch of salt. As stated before, for a Canoness it would have to be either the Cloak of St. Aspira for armour and invulnerable save re-rolls, the Mantle of Ophelia to stop her getting flattened by Strength 6+ weapons or the Blade of Admonition so that she may carve heretics up at Strength 5 AP3 in melee. My real opinion though? Take a Canoness with a rosarius, melta bombs, power weapon of choice and a plasma pistol at the most. That’s a solid leader of the Sisterhood for a whopping 110 points. Some HQs start at more points than that without any equipment!
Next I will cover the Sororitas Command Squad. You make take one per Canoness in your army and it does not use up a slot on the Force Organisation chart. My opinion on this bodyguard unit is that you take it and do not question your choice ever. It starts rather cheap, consisting of 5 Celestians with no upgrades, but you should take upgrades for them, even if just using them to soak up bullets. In my opinion, this squad can be outfitted in a couple of ways. Firstly, the bullet sponge; you upgrade one Celestian to a Hospitaller, giving the squad Feel No Pain for 10 points and leave it otherwise untouched. 75 points for Feel No Pain and power armour? I’ll take it, but remember that anything Strength 6+ will ignore the poor Hospitaller’s attempts at tending to wounds. Another way is to use them as a 12″ buff bubble, giving the squad a Hospitaller to aid survival, because 10 points for Feel No Pain is worth it almost all the time, and a Dialogus for re-rolls to your Acts of Faith within 12″. You can, and should, also take either a blessed standard, granting re-rolls to Morale, Fear and Pinning checks, or a Sacred Banner of the Order Militant for hilarious trolling, limited to one per army. The latter grants the same 12″ bubble as the blessed standard, however it also grants every model within the bubble +1 Attack. That means that your Celestians have 3 Attacks each as standard. Cluster up nicely, unless there are lots of blast weapons on the other side of the board, and enjoy Ork levels of attacks from your Sisters. Pair with a Repentia unit for hilarious amounts of rage as your opponent realises that he or she is about to get a righteous ass-kickin’ in close combat against Sisters of Battle. Whoever said that we could not fight in close combat? The third way to do it is to death star. As any of the Celestians may take anything from the Melee Weapons, Ranged Weapons, Special Weapons and/or Heavy Weapons you could just outfit all five with heavy bolters, or power weapons and the loadout mentioned above. This, however, will attract a lot of firepower and will likely die, being Toughness 3 with a 3+ armour save. Also, the Dialogus can take Ecclesiarcy Relics. Do not take Ecclesiarchy Relics on a Dialogus. The Emperor disapproves of this. This is one of the few squads where a Simulacrum Imperialis is not a must-buy, as their Act of Faith is not that great and this unit has much better ways of being used.
Next up are the Ministorum Priests. To put it briefly, I do not like them. You pay 25 points for a Guardsman’s stats, +1 Attack, a rosarius and some close combat buffing powers. Actually, forget that, I just read what they do. Ministorum Priests are great when put in a unit like Repentia, Battle Conclaves or Celestians. They give the unit they are in the Fearless and Hatred special rules and one of their War Hymns allows them to re-roll their To Wound dice in close combat, something that Sisters really need at Strength 3. Another allows them to re-roll all failed armour and invulnerable saves, which makes all non-Repentia units rather durable with re-rolls to power armour saves, though the third that allows the Ministorum Priest to use the Smash special rule is rather useless. He is not there to do damage and thus should not be given any upgrades whatsoever, least of all should be Ecclesiarchy Relics, and should never accept challenges, he should hide behind his unit and inspire them with his War Hymns. You may take up to 5 in one detachment and they do not take up an HQ slot. Take one per close combat squad you have in your army as he is cheap and offers some really handy buffs in assault. Pair with the banner discussed above for more tear drinking goodness. His War Hymns, however, are not too reliable, requiring a Leadership check on his rather paltry Leadership of 7 that do not gain re-rolls from a Laud Hailer. They are, however, capable of being used more than once. Just cross your fingers and hope that something does not get stuck in his throat when you need his oratory the most.
Following up from the Ministorum Priest is the Battle Conclave, a unit that can be taken once per Ministorum Priest and does not use up a slot on the Force Organisation Chart. A great unit to accompany a Ministorum Priest into battle, though rather pricey when considering all the upgrades that they require to really be good. There are only two real ways to take this group. Crusaders at the front for potentially re-rolling 3+ invulnerable saves due to storm shields and the Ministorum Priest’s rantings and the rest as Death Cult Assassins to hand out the pain to MEQs or Arco-flagellants to kick hordes about with a storm of attacks at Strength 5. Paired with the Sororitas Command Squad’s banner of +1 Attack goodness, Death Cult Assassins get 5 Attacks on the charge with power swords at Strength 4, but Arco-flagellants get 6 Attacks at Strength 5 that do not ignore armour. Depending on what you need beaten up in close combat, a Ministorum Priest in a Battle Conclave will kill whatever gets into combat with it with the exception of units like Genestealers. A very painful combination, but rather pricey, although a 200 point close combat death squad is definitely worth taking, at least for counter-assault tactics. Beware though, they are all Toughness 3 with generally bad saves, barring the Crusaders’ 3+ invulnerable, so large amounts of boltgun or lasgun fire will whittle them down quickly. They can also take a Rhino or Immolator as a Dedicated Transport. In my opinion, it is generally always a good idea to take a Rhino as they are so cheap and provide some mobile line of sight blocking at the very least.
Now, onto special characters. Firstly, I will visit everyone’s favourite HQ. She’s like Marmite, you either love her, or you hate her; heretics gonna hate, I guess. Yes, it is Saint Celestine. A lot of non-Sisters players, translation: the unclean and impure, will rejoice that she has been toned down. Her points cost has gone up by twenty points and her resurrection ability has also been toned down, now unable to constantly resurrect every time she gets knocked down. Now her resurrection mechanic is an Act of Faith, so a Leadership 10 check that can be re-rolled if she is within 12″ of a Laud Hailer and she automatically returns with all her Wounds replenished. This does, however, only happen once. She can only revive after the first time she gets killed and with Toughness 3 and no Eternal Warrior, this is very possible. Her Warlord Trait is preset to the 12″ bubble that allow everyone within the bubble to use her Leadership for Acts of Faith or War Hymns, her weapon no longer auto-wounds on a 4+, sporting a Strength +2, AP3 master crafted power sword which still includes a heavy flamer. Think the Blade of Admonition with a heavy flamer attached and you have Saint Celestine’s weapon. She is still a very worthwhile HQ choice in competitive lists, taken with a squad of Seraphim as Uriah Jacobus watches over the slow units, but she is a special character and for that reason alone, I will not be taking her.
Uriah Jacobus, I am not a fan of. He’s a better Ministorum Priest that costs four times as much. His shotgun is fairly weak, his Warlord trait is fixed at improving the Shield of Faith invulnerable save to a 5+ for him and his unit and his banner is not game changing, as Ministorum Priests can spread Fearless to squads a lot better than he can without blobbing up. His special rule “Protector of the Faith” is quite nice as it gives more faith powers, but would I take him in my army? Probably not, as he is a special character. He synergises fairly well with Celestine as they are very different types of HQs, but I just have a severe dislike of him. A lot of people swear by him as an HQ choice, but I do not see the allure. Perhaps because he is a more reliable Ministorum Priest at Leadership 9 with more buffs? I could see him working, but I could not see him working in my list, where I only really need two Ministorum Priests to spread their abilities. He does, however, allow you to take a Battle Conclave as Ministorum Priests do, which is a bonus.
Overall, the HQ section of the codex is not great from a competitive perspective. For me, it is acceptable for a fluff friendly army as all you need is a Canoness and her Sororitas Command Squad, but it is not as central to the army as, for example, an Eldar Farseer or an Imperial Guard Command Squad. The Ecclesiarchy Relics are fun and give you the potential to make your Canoness fairly competent in close combat, though no other units in the HQ section should ever take Ecclesiarchy Relics. I like how few points the Canoness with all her equipment has become and I will definitely be working on converting a Canoness with a power sword and a plasma pistol to lead my Sisters to glory or martyrdom in the Emperor’s name!
Death to the heretics! Cleanse them in fiery retribution, my Sisters! In the Emperor’s name!