Part I: Introduction and List construction
Today, I will not write another Space Marine Tactica, but rather look at another one of my armies, and another part of the loyalists – the Sisters of Battle. Their latest incarnation is included in Codex: Witch Hunters, but you can still play a pure Sisters army, and it is by far the most viable type of list that has ever come out of the codex.
First up, I will discuss the lists that are possible, the different choices and war gear options and so on – and I will in later parts discuss play styles, opponents and so on. The army type that I will be discussing mostly is Mechanized Sisters of Battle – it's the one I play and it is the most effective one in my opinion.
Why play Sisters of Battle?
Some people look at Sisters of Battle and see "Space Marines for female gamers", which frankly couldn't be further away from the truth. Sisters of Battle and Space Marines generally only have three things in common: Bolters, Power Armour and Rhinos.
One of the main reason people like to play Sisters of Battle is that the model range – while being fairly small – has great detail. Other than that, it's one of the more uncommon armies out there, so you'll be the only one in your area to play them.
Other than that, it's a fairly viable army of choice for competitive play. It has good manoeuvrability, good speed, great firepower and decent resilience.
Here, I will cover most of the units available to a Sisters of Battle player, and in later articles I will do more in-depth analyses about some of the more complex or important units.
First of all, let's look at the HQ section, you'll have two options: a Canoness or Palatine. The Palatine is inferior to the Canoness in most aspects, except for the points cost, but the gain from such a small amount of points makes it viable to get a Canoness each and every time. Equip her with the standard gear: a Cloak of St. Aspira, a Jump Pack, a Book of St. Lucius and then a weapon configuration of your choice: either go with a Master-Crafted Eviscerator and a Bolt Pistol or a Blessed Weapon, an Inferno Pistol and Frag Grenades.
The Canoness will have a different role in your army depending on the war gear selected. If she has a Blessed Weapon – she will be best off supporting your Seraphim (which I will talk about later on), and if she has an Eviscerator, she'll be best off killing MEQ characters, and tanks.
The Elites section is a bit depressing when it comes to Sisters of Battle. We have Celestians, which look good on paper, but are generally not worth it. Some people swear by them, but usually, the unit set-up will be too expensive to be viable, since Sisters of Battle are generally easier to kill off than Space Marines for example. If you decide to take Celestians, the best option is probably to just get them a Heavy Bolter and no other upgrades. Their upside is that the unit is faithful even without a Veteran Sister Superior, which is always nice.
The troops section is way more interesting, although there are some set-ups that clearly work better than others. For example, a Meltagun and a Heavy Flamer in all squads makes for well-rounded and versatile units, whereas a Flamer and a Heavy Flamer will overkill some things but do next to nothing to others.
The general mechanized unit looks like this:
Sisters of Battle Squad @ 209
Veteran Sister Superior + 9 Sisters
Book of St. Lucius, Meltagun, Heavy Flamer
Rhino w. Extra Armour and Smoke Launchers
Now, this squad will out-perform most, if not all, other set-ups in terms of versatility and raw power. Three or four of these will make up the bulk of your army – should you follow my advice and go Mechanized.
In the Fast Attack section, we have two choices, Dominions and Seraphim, the latter being more competitive than the former. That said, Dominions is both a fun unit to use and has a lot of character.
Seraphim should be used in squads of 8 – this enables them to effectively pull off Acts of Faith on both ways. You should have a Veteran Sister Superior with an Eviscerator and Book of St. Lucius, and two girls toting Hand Flamers. The Eviscerator will pay off, because a Seraphim unit has the ability to charge three or four times per game thanks to their Hit and Run veteran skill. The Hand Flamers are cheaper than the Inferno Pistols, although I've seen successful lists running the Inferno Pistols over the Hand Flamers. The real rule here is to not mix them, as the unit will then be unfocused rather than versatile.
Keep your Seraphim on the flanks, harassing units not ready for close combat. Spirit of the Martyr also lets them go up against some close combat specialists with good results, but keep away from the real monsters like Genestealers, Harlequins, Banshees and Wyches that will get too many attacks – which will lead to lots of failed saves.
The Dominions are a different story. More often than not, you'll want to have 8 or 10 girls riding in a Rhino, with either 4 Meltaguns or 3 Flamers and 1 Meltagun. Also, get a Veteran Sister Superior with a Book of St. Lucius like in most other squads in the army. Keep these girls as safe as possible until they can get within their kill-zone.
For the Heavy Support, I'll have quite a bit to talk about. One of the best tanks in the game in my opinion is the Exorcist, the tank exclusive to Witch Hunter players. The Exorcist will on average shoot 3,5 missiles, all of them with the same awesome strength and armour penetration. Also, the Exorcist is blessed with the same armour as a Space Marine Predator, which makes it quite survivable, especially when paired up with Extra Armour. Extra Armour and possibly Dozer Blades are also in general the only upgrades you will want to consider when using the Exorcist since it's quite expensive to begin with.
There's another tank that can be used in several different ways available to the Sisters of Battle players, the Immolator. The Immolator has been getting a lot of bad credit for being expensive and fragile, although I personally think that it is a great addition to any Sisters of Battle force out of two reasons: one, it can be used as a great fire magnet; and two, it adds a lot of character to the force. On top of that, they are a blast to use. I wouldn't recommend changing the existing Heavy Flamers – but if you must replace the weapons, only upgrade the tank to wield Heavy Bolters, and never Multi-Meltas – since while the Multi-Melta is a great weapon when fitted to a vehicle, it makes the tank way too expensive to be used in any effective way. Furthermore, give the tank Extra Armour and Smoke Launchers – and that's it.
The Immolator is also a troop transport, but rarely used as one. If you want to include one in your force and you don't have any open Heavy Support slot, it could be an idea though. After all, a unit doesn't have to ride in its transport.
Finally, we have the Retributors. I don't think that these girls will do much good in a Mechanized Force. They will be left alone after the first turn, as you Rhino-rush your opponent, and it will be difficult for them to hold their own later on. Some people like them, but I haven't had much success with them in Mechanized Sisters of Battle. If you decide to use them, just get 8 members of the squad, upgrade one to a Veteran Superior and give her a Book of St. Lucius and get the squad 4 Heavy Bolters. Again, stay as far away from the Multi-Melta as you possibly can, as it is an expensive and almost useless weapon on an infantry model.
Short answer is: "no". If you want to use these units in a friendly list just playing against your mates, go right ahead. If you – on the other hand – wish to build a serious and competitive army, stick with just the Sisters units. The Sisters units are by far the most effective ones, and you will be disappointed if you spend money and time to buy and paint units like the Sisters Repentia, Arco-Flagellants or Imperial Storm Troopers. While all of these are very cool units, with great models on top of that, they will almost never make back their points, or they are too fragile to be of any use.
So, there are my first thoughts regarding one of 40ks more unpopular armies. In my following articles in this mini-series, I will look at some in-depth analyses of some units, as well as basic playing techniques.