Monday, 12 September 2011

Sisters of Battle ~ My Thoughts

I've likely hinted already that I have a strong love of the Adepta Sororitas fluff, the reasoning of why they exist along with their strong religious background, how the Ecclesiarchy's financial resources give them wargear to rival Space Marines and of course the tales of Alicia and her companoins are all lovely and nicely thought out.
Plus Goge Vandire is one of my favorite bad guys despite the high likelyhood that few players will even know who he is *laughs*
However as with many people I was highly disappointed with the recent Sisters White Dwarf rule release, I would even go as far as to be insulted in truth.

I'll admit the rules have been out for awhile, but this blog hasn't and I've actually yet to try to army in battle so I feel perfectly suited to detail my early opinions.

First Thoughts and Fluff
As usual, the first thing I did was to check through the different unit names to see whats there and while a little disappointed to see nothing new besides command squads and happily surprised to spot the return of some old characters I swapped to my real interest which was the fluff.
It was here that I was insulted to the point I actually returned the White Dwarf. This is something that wasn't covered in the reviews done by the blogs I read so I feel I should make some comment on it (in italics no less!):
For a company that I've remarked before as being great at giving even fluff loving players what they enjoy, the utter lack of effort of the sisters release was shocking. Even going as far as to have huge chunks shamelessly copy/pasted from the old 3rd edition codex without even slight rephasing.
Okay, most people wouldn't notice and perhaps if they were retyping slightly different I may not have, but word for word copy/pasting is simply not something I'd come to expect from Games Workshop.
Saint Celestines revival as (fluff-wise) an equivalent to the Sanguinor, especially in the Wars of Faith section suggests a lack of imagination too on behalf of the writer. In the 3rd edition codex she had fallen in battle (despite being her introduction as a character) and instead of taking the revived leader / living matyr approach which would have fitted the army so well, having her as a mysterious figure who appears when needed just isn't doing her justice.
Having said that, the return of Jacobus was a happy smile as you have to respect anyone crazy enough to lead feudal knights against an army of Genestealers and their kin... Especially as he won!

This is obviously what most people will care about and while my interest in fluff outweighs my love of the game itself and my competitive nature, I am keen to challenge myself and do well in game.
Firstly, my feeling of being insulted by GW's lack of effort didn't end with the fluff thanks to the contradicting rules for Saint Celestine. In the first White Dwarfs fluff & rules section she was listed as being an Independent Character and in the same White Dwarf she was listed amongst the characters who grant a bonus on Faith Rolls when part of a unit... Yet in the actual army list section in the second White Dwarf she is not an Independent Character, which unfortunately is the section you're supposed to go by in situations when this occurs.

The old system while not fantastic allowed even basic units to shine through in certain situations unexpectedly with some faith and a little luck, which I believed caught the spirit of the army really well. So unsurprisingly I wasn't happy with the change giving each unit their own act as I can't really imagine different units to be taught different prayers.
My feelings only got worse when I considered that instead of getting faith points based on unit number, you get a set variable amount each turn. This means that strangely the army mechanics make them more potent in smaller games and far less potent towards Apocalypse level, which messes up the balance somewhat. While it has been pointed out that in an average game you're likely to get the opportunity to use faith more (D6 x Turn numbers being higher than my average for standard games previously), it also means you can't use it when it really matters.

The new rules have taken an odd approach in that special characters are quite powerful and surprisingly inexpensive, while unnamed characters are somewhat worthless. I am not exaggerating here, I have tried hard to find a way to fit my converted Canoness into a strong list but since she is only 10pts cheaper than a marine captain once you've brought her an invulnerable save (strange to be the only imperial commander from all the recent codexs not to get one standard) despite far less potent stats (roughly 1pt less on each stat, except wounds, attacks & Ld). Add on that she provides a combat ability to what is a strong close-range shooting army and the disappearance of scrolls providing 3+ invulnerable saves and she hasn't much of a role anymore.
Side note: The new command squad option doesn't even help as having equal points to marine command units despite weaker stats and a lack of power weapon selection (which might have made the Canoness's faith useful) makes them a bad choice. As for their faith, who can rely on a unit which is Relentless only 50% of the time?

Standard troops units haven't changed much, they've gained grenades and can strangely take Immolators despite it being impossible to get the unit to be transported by it (can't combat squad like marines). Their faith is very disappointed, regrouping is nice but doesn't compare to And They Shall Know No Fears's protection against sweeping advances and the ability to re-roll 1's makes me reluctant to buy flamers (which is weird considering fluff)... One last note, while before taking larger numbers than ten in a unit allowed easier use of Divine Guidance there is now no use to take larger units as it doesn't provide additional special weapons and just limits transport use.

Seraphim are thankfully the one unit I've improved my view of, I've always loved the units fluff and image (I'll try to get a picture of my lead unit up soon) but found their old points cost preventive in their use. Now they are cheaper and despite highly expensive special weapon uses work really well in battle.
Their act of faith makes inferno pistols a less thankful selection against vehicles, but they work well enough anyway so I can't really complain.

Dominions have gained scout, giving some interesting options and they are the only unit whose faith provides full use no matter what weapon selection is made. Combined with mass special weapons based on unit numbers and I've some respect for the unit now.

Retributors are still wonderful, although with numbers meaning little to faith and sisters being slightly more expensive now I'll only be taking minimum units regularly. With them still having Divine Guidance (which was what they'd usually use before) they likely haven't changed much against troops (although faith being less reliable now) but as it is fully Rending now the unit has a potential against vehicles.
However, the unreliability of Faith now makes it impossible to safely plan targets in advance.

There are other units, as I felt I'd only want to cover the vital ones and those I found interesting. I can't really see myself ever taking an elite choice with the current rules as Celestians and Repentia have high points costs and not particularly effective in my opinion (real shame to have to shelf my celestian models tho).
In general the army can still be somewhat competitive the limited number of unit options means most armies will all be remarkably similar. Special Character or two (probably Uriah with retinue or Celestine), ten model battle sister units with two special weapons in rhinos, no elites and certainly at least one Retributor unit and Exorcist. The only real variance in lists will be whether flamers or meltaguns with the troops and what fast you'll take. Transports won't be as the high cost of Immolators compared to Razorbacks along with the more limited weapon selection in comparison and loss of the rule which allowed them to move 12" and still fire heavy-flamers has already caused me to remove the turrets of mine to use as Rhinos.

Last thoughts on the rules...
Why in the world are Heavy Flamers so expensive? Is the designer still using 2nd Edition templates? *giggles* Sisters are well known for using them more than any other army, yet their cost means I doubt they'll be seen often unless people really want to make use of the models.

Battle Report
I've said before that I'm a bit of a cynic and because of this I always suspect that the first White Dwarf battle report of a new army list is somewhat bias in favor of the new army. This is the first time it has been so utterly obvious however (making me wonder if GW was serious about the army at all considering earlier points).
A standard mission where one army is able to make use of the weapons and defenses of a Fortress of Redemption. I know they note it as being luck which allowed the sisters to have the deployment zone with the Fortress in, but I'm a cynic as noted.
Actually reading the report, my thoughts can be summarized as:
"What in the world are Dominators?"
I repeatedly read through Robin Cruddace's notes on his list in case it was simply a fluff name like Squad Athena and his other troop units but found no note on it, leaving me to conclude that the writer of the report actually got two totally different unit names (Dominions & Retributors) mixed up making the battle report quite confusing.

Honestly GW, you really let me down with these White Dwarf articles... Have you really just given up on Sisters of Battle so much the most you can manage is this feeble gift to prevent demands for a codex?

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