In the second part of the Codex review I will be taking an in-depth look at the datasheets and weapons/wargear available to the Skitarii. It's been a tough one getting familiar with an entirely new army and armoury but I think I've gotten to grips with it now, though all comments are welcomed.
Skitarii Vanguard: (troops)
Base unit of 4 vanguard and 1 Alpha, these guys are the mainstay of the army. They cost 9 points a pop and are pretty similar to Scions stat wise, though that's where the similarity ends. Note also that, like with Harlequins, the squad leader is 2 wounds and geared-up for warlord duty. In addition to their 4+ save, they also get FnP 6+ much like their Iron Hands cousins which is a nice bit of continuity. They benefit from the Doctrina Imperatives (as do all units in the army) and also are relentless, which is only really of benefit for the purpose of the special weapons they can take. One last rule here is rad-saturation, which means any enemy locked in combat with them has -1T. While the Vanguard themselves aren't melee experts, they can make it so other units (such as ruststalkers and infiltrators) can be instant-killing T4 models in the same combat.
Now down to equipment. They pack rad carbines, which are 18", assault 3 S3 AP5 weapons. Sounds mediocre on the surface, but their rad-poisoning rule means all to wound rolls of 6 cause 2 wounds to be allocated as normal. So Vs T4 you'd end up with more like 10 wounds as opposed to 7. Against T3 this is more like 13, so it's a little perk but nothing too amazing. Every squad can take two special weapons and a third if 10-man. I'll discuss two of the 3 options here as they're probably best suited to the Vanguard. The first is the Plasma caliver, double the price of a regular plasma gun but probably twice as effective seeing as it's assault 3 18" range. This makes it a good compliment to the squads weaponry. Downsides are the cost and the fact it still gets hot, meaning you've got about a 1/4 chance of killing the bearer every time you fire. For half the price you can outfit a trooper with an arc rifle. This beauty is a 24" rapid fire weapon that with S6 and haywire is going to be a threat to vehicles everywhere. Being relentless don't forget they can still charge after firing.
Here seems an appropriate place to talk about close combat options, as they're the same for both the Vanguard and Ranger Alphas but probably best suited to the Vanguard Alpha. In terms of close combat weapons he can take either a taser goad, power sword or arc maul. The arc maul is the same as a power maul except that it also boasts the haywire rule. The taser goad is S+2 that causes an additional 2 hits if you roll a 6 to hit. So basically melee tesla. Note these are taken, not swapped, so you have no basic CC weapon option. You do however have to swap out the radium carbine for a pistol if you want the extra CC attack, with options being a radium pistol (same as carbine only 1 shot 12" range), the phosphor blast pistol (12", S5, AP4, luminogen) or an arc pistol, which is just the same as the arc rifle only a pistol version. Luminogen allows two things if you cause a wound, glance or pen to the target. Firstly it counts its cover save as one less that turn. Secondly you can reroll charge range. I can see this being very useful synergystically for digging an enemy out of cover or softening it up for a multi-charge.
The other options available for the Alpha are special issue wargear and the Relics covered in part 1. The wargear is either refractor field (5++), conversion field (4++ but causes blind within 6" that friendlies can reroll) and the standard digital weapons. The squad also has the option for one model to take either an enhanced data-tether or omnispex. The omnispex is pretty nifty in that it grants -1 to cover saves vs fire from that unit and there's no range. The data tether grants +1 to Ld if you use a Doctrina Imperative (which most of the time you will) but there are other ways to get the bonus TBH which I'll cover later.
In conclusion, this is a versatile unit that you'll want to field in multiples and probably in one of two ways. Either as a minimal squad loaded up with arc weaponry but no other upgrades (perhaps an omnispex if you're fighting against skimmers) to go tank hunting or as a full sized squad with mostly arc weapons, but maybe a plasma caliver for good measure. An omnispex is a good idea most of the time unless you run a complete bare bones squad with no weapon upgrades (why you would I don't know) and you'll probably want to add a few upgrades to your Alpha, more if he's your Warlord. Plenty of fun builds to be had for him.
Skitarii Rangers: (troops)
Same stats and rules as the Vanguard save for the following. They are 1 point more expensive each, have move through cover rather than rad poisoning and have all the same options as the Vanguard. Their basic weapon is different, however, and this as well as the move through cover helps to define their role. The galvanic rifle is a S4 AP4 30" rapid fire weapon with precision shots. So not quite up to Tau specs but the improved BS and precision shots make up for this. The other special weapon not mentioned above is the transuranic arquebus, a 60" heavy 1 (but they're relentless) AP3 sniper weapon with armourbane. This weapon is more complimentary to rangers than vanguard.
So again we have the issue of role. Where I can see Vanguard fighting up close and personal with the enemy and resisting charges, the Rangers are much better suited to mid-long range medium infantry and light vehicle hunting. Having said that with move through cover there may be a role for a haywire or plasma squad going vehicle/terminator hunting up close. Really the only difference between Vanguard and Rangers is that one rule (MtC/rad poisoning), cost and basic weapon, so there's inevitably some overlap, especially with purpose designed plasma or (more likely) haywire squads. You may want to use the tether if you're hiding out backfield and want to minimise your chances of running off the boards, but again the omnispex is universally good.
Sicarian Ruststalkers: (Elites)
Now, we've dealt with the basic shooty infantry, we're on to the gangly, distrubing looking elites, who've also got some fun toys to play with. 30 points a pop, they also have a 4+ save but have FnP (5+) and 2 wounds basic, with WS/BS/S/I 4, T3 and 2 wounds each. The basic squad is 4 Ruststalkers and a Princeps with 5 more purchasable. The Princeps boasts an extra attack and point of Ld. They are bulky, have Doctrina Imperatives and dunestrider (see last week) and furious charge, making them fast and deadly when they assault. The Princeps can take special issue wargear and relics, but other than that is limited to the wargear below.
Now these chaps pack some interesting toys. The basic loadout is a transonic razor, chordclaw and mindscrambler grenades. These can all be exchanged for a two transonic blades, in which case the Princeps can take an additional chordclaw at a cost. In either case the Princeps can buy a prehensile dataspike, which grants an additional normal strength AP5 I10 attack with the haywire rule. The other weapons are as follows. Transonic weapons are normal strength for the razor, +1 for the blade. Both are AP5 and have an interesting special rule called transonic. In the first turn of an assault any to wound rolls of 6 are AP2, in subsequent rounds it is AP2! (note, a roll of 6 always wounds) Chordclaws are exactly the same except that the molecular dissonance rule means one attack is fleshbane. So you have to choose between the extra point of strength (making you s6 on the charge - great Vs T3 or MEQ engaged with Vanguard) or having one attack as fleshbane, though don't forget the Princeps can have the best of both at a cost.
So there's a catch with these chaps. Not much will survive the second round of combat with them, but then they're pretty flimsy and unlikely to survive the first round of combat against say, terminators. Therefore they should be used with caution and against appropriate targets, such as medium infantry with no low AP melee weapons. Their T3 means they can be instant-killed pretty easily, making the FnP useless. A tricky unit to use effectively but some cool rules.
Sicarian Infiltrators: (Elites)
The other gangly unit, these chaps are more versatile than the ruststalkers. A meltabomb each more pricey than the ruststalkers, they are also 5-10 in unit size with a Princeps that can take relics and special issue wargear. They boast the same stats and special rules but rather than furious charge they have infiltrate and stealth, making you a bit more survivable and allowing you to close with the enemy sooner rather than later. You can also choose to outflank don't forget. They also have the neurostatic aura rule, which means all enemy units in 6" subtract 1 from their BS/WS/I/Ld. This is potentially devastating especially when used in synergy with doctrina Imperatives and having other units nearby, reinforcing the AdMech notion of crushing the enemy utterly.
Weapon-wise, there are two ranged and CCW options available for the same cost. The Princeps may also take an infoslave skull, granting it +1Ld and acute senses, handy if you want to outflank. Option 1 is a stubcarbine and power sword, with the stubcarbine being a an 18" S4 assault 3 weapon. The alternative is a taser goad (see the entry for Vanguard above) and flechette blaster, which is a S2 5 shot pistol with the shred rule. Both options have their pros and cons, with the power sword/stubcarbine being a better option on the surface, until you realise you don't gain a bonus attack with that option. Option 2 grants you more shots/attacks but their effectiveness is arguably less. Again, both options have pros and cons and I would certainly consider outflanking them with the infoslave skull.
Sydonian Dragoons: (Fast attack)
Just under 50 points a pop and available in units of 1-6, this is the only fast attack option in the book. The basic wargear is a taser lance, searchlight and broad-spectrum data-tether, which is like an enhanced data tether but has a radius of 6". This is one of the reasons not to bother upgrading your individual squads if you have vehicles projecting an area effect as the two do not stack together. The stat-line is WS/BS4, S5, with I/A3, armour 11 all round and 2 hull points. It's an open-topped walker with the dunestrider, crusader and Doctrina Imperatives rules, making it particularly nippy across the table for a walker. It also has an incense cloud granting it a permanent 5+ cover save to add a bit to its survivability.
Weapon-wise, we mentioned the taser lance which is a beefier version of the taser goad that is S+3 when charging (+2 normally) and as well as the taser rule (2 bonus hits on a to hit roll of 6) it also has the joust rule doubling its initiative on the turn it charges. To sum up, if it charges it will have 4 S8 attacks at initiative 6, dropping to 3 S7 attacks at initiative 3 normally. You can alternatively equip them as outriders (or mix and match) by swapping the taser lance for a radium jezzail, a 30" heavy 2 sniper weapon with rad poisoning and AP5. As an added bonus to either role, for 10 points you can add in a phosphor serpenta, an assualt 1 18" 5 AP4 phosphor weapon which, as with other phosphor weapons, has the luminogen rule granting a -1 decrease to cover saves and allowing the attacking unit to reroll charge distances should a wound/glance/pen be caused.
I think there is definitely a role for the Dragoons and that you'll either want them up close and personal with the lances and a couple of serpentas or at a distance with all jezzails, though to be honest the Vanguard can pretty much do everything the jezzails can but better so option 1 is proabably best. They are pretty flimsy and pricey though so care should be taken with them before striking at the opportune moment - due to their size I could see a multi-charge against vehicles being a good way to employ them in either one large squad or two smaller ones.
Ironstrider Ballistarii: (Heavy support)
At just over 50 points, the Ballistarii are perhaps a better option and take up a heavy support slot. They essentially have the same stat-line but with one less attack and one less point of WS. They retain the searchlight and tether, plus the crusader, Doctrina Imperatives and dunestrider rules. Instead of a permanent cover save though they have Precision shots and their primary armament is a twin-linked cognis autocannon which can be swapped for a twin-linked cognis lascannon for 20 points. Cognis means that the model always fires snap shots at BS2 rather than BS1.
So what does this mean? Well, you have a permanent mobile fire platform which as well as being twin-linked is also able to skyfire at BS2, giving you a good chance of hitting flyers in a unit of 2+ Ironstriders. Also, being walkers they are still vulnerable to shaken/stunned but cognis helps with this somewhat. So these chaps would probably benefit from hiding in the backfield and keeping themselves in cover while being able to stalk into position of a new target each turn. A couple of half-sized units working to shoot down vehicles from the backfield would be a welcome addition to a SKitarii line-up, softening things up for the advancing Vanguard. Also, don't forget that as walkers they can shoot overwatch at TL BS2 should anything get too close for comfort.
Onager Duncrawlers: (Heavy support)
One of the more interesting units in the book, the Onager is bound to be integral to most armies. It packs a similar but slightly better stat-line than the other walkers, with a front and side armour of 12 and 3 hull points, WS3, BS4 and an initiative of 2 with 1 attack. It's not really built for combat though, firepower is where it excels. Before we look at weapons though, let's look at what else you get for just shy of 100 points. Like the lighter walkers it has a tether and searchlight and benefits from Doctrina Imperatives. However, it also has the Crawler rule which means it is never slowed by difficult terrain and auto-passes dangerous terrain tests, but the flipside is it can't run. It emanatus force field provides a meagre 6++, however if you add further members to the squad (3 max), each one within 4" increases that ++ save by 1. A triad set-up therefore would grant all 3 Onagers a 4++. The basic weapon is an eradication beamer, which leads us nicley onto the weapons.
The eradication beamer is like the opposite of a conversion beamer, in that it is more deadly the shorter the range. up to 9" it is a S10 AP1 weapon, dropping to S8 AP3 but blast up to 18" and S6 Ap5 large blast up to 36". The cheapest upgrade is to a twin-linked heavy phosphor blaster, a 36" S6 AP3 heavy 3 luminogen weapon. Next up is the formidable neutron laser (which for some reason comes with a cognis heavy stubber), a 48" S10 AP1 concussive blast weapon to make even the Tau jealous. Lastly is the awesome Icarus array, which while expensive provides reliable anti-air firepower for the Skitarii. There's more. The Icarus array is actually 3 weapons in one all of which are 48" range and skyfire. The first is a daedalus missile, which is S7 AP2. The second is a gatling rocket launcher, which is heavy 5 ignores cover S6 AP4. Lastly, the twin icarus autocannon is S7 AP4 heavy 2 and also packs the interceptor rule. Although all 3 systems must fire at the same target, should you use the interceptor weapon in the enemy turn then the remaining two systems can still fire at a separate target in your turn.
Before I sum up, there are also vehicle upgrades to consider. Smoke launchers may be purchased for an Onager so long as it doesn't have an Icarus array. Other upgrades include a Mindscanner probe, which essentially provides unengaged units in 6" with defensive grenades; a cognis manipulator which is essentially a servo arm granting the Onager S10 AP1 in melee and it will not die; lastly a cognis heavy stubber as a pintle upgrade if you decide you need a bit of extra firepower.
A trio of Onagers with the basic loadout advancing with the main force and providing both shield cover for each other and Ld boosts for the army seems a good loadout. In this case I'd consider adding in cognis manipulator for the front Onager and mindscanner probes for the others to increase survivability for both the lead Onager and troops around them. Alternatively, try a single or pair packing either Icarus arrays or neutron lasers for aerial and tank hunting respectively. Hiding out in area terrain isn't a big deal for these guys either as they aren't slowed by it and can't be damaged by it so certainly use it to protect any lone-wolves.
Battle maniple - this formation is basically one of each of the above units, except you must choose between Dragoons and Ironstriders. They get the same perks as with the Maniple detachment plus the datalock rule, which makes all units in 12" of an Onager dunecrawler Ld10. Not as flexible as the Skitarii maniple detachment but the Ld10 is a good bonus so long as the Onager(s) remain alive.
War cohort - this is effectively 3 battle maniples put together which in addition has the enhanced imperative resolution, allowing you to use a single Doctrina Imperative twice. Seems a lot of points (and ££s) and restrictions for a fairly trivial perk TBH.
Sicarian Killclade - 3 units of Ruststalkers and 1 unit of Infiltrators that have two special rules. Malignant susurrations extends the infiltrators neurostatic aura to 12", while Slaughtersprint allows the Ruststalkers once per game (after turn 1) to charge in the assault phase even if they have run. This combined with their dunestrider rule means they can cover a dangerous amount of ground very quickly. This formation actually compensates for several of the units shortcomings and makes for pretty deadly effectiveness.
Ironstrider Cavaliers - lastly, the Cavalier formation comprises 2 units of Dragoons and 1 of Ironstriders. They gain lots of rules here, including outflank and acute senses. Ident confirmed grants them rerolls to wound against a nominated enemy character. Mindlinked hunters allows the different units in the formation to provide cover saves for each other without granting it to enemy units - in other words hide your Ironstriders behind the Dragoons and you can still shoot without conferring cover to the enemy. Lastly, The noose tightens means they must all be placed in reserve and all enter on a single reserve roll made from turn 1. Again, a fairly good formation that costs a fortune in ££ but would likely work pretty well on the battlefield.
In conclusion I think this is the best release from GW so far this year. They're exactly what the Skitarii should be; more than men, less than Space Marines and utterly relentless in the usage of their exotic and superior weaponry. The lack of transport options makes them fairly fragile but their speed, scout moves, synergy and ranged firepower balance them out nicely. The fact you can get a new playable army for just over £40 makes it much more user friendly than the Harlequin release. My plans for this year remain to consolidate my armies and just collect the books rather than starting any new projects, but I may just have to dip my toes into this one sooner rather than later. Cheers.