Thousand Sons Codex 8th edition Review: Rise of the Bird Men!
The new Thousand Sons Codex is a disappointment, wrapped in some potentialthat never fully realizes. Thousand Sons Codex finds a way to add some Age of Sigmar units in, while at the same time staying true the design and fluff of the army. It is the Tzaangors that make the army different, but that is a problem because Thousand Sons Codex should be about the Thousand Sons, which will keep the beautiful model line collecting dust.
The Thousand Sons Codex clocks in at 104 pages, more meat than one would expect from such a limited model line. The codex is divided into four sections with the first being…
Legion of Tzeentch
In somewhat of a surprise the story section of this codex is really fantastic. Once you get past the first few pages concerning the fall of Propero do things really shine. It is a delicate balance, because most of the Thousand Sons are barely sentient thanks to the Rubric of Ahriman. This doesn’t stop Games Workshop writers from going in-depth about the Cults of the Thousand Sons, nine distinct groups that make the Thousand Sons legion. We also get details on the Planet of the Sorcerers which is now in real space making for great story potential. The nine cults have factions within them making for some cool backgrounds and great color schemes for the Thousand Sons.
There is even a cool galaxy map showing where the Thousand Sons are based and of course the traditional codex timeline with a fun final nugget about Ahriman new obsession to find out how the Ynarri can restore flesh and bodies of the Thousand Sons. The second half ends with mostly rehashes of unit descriptions, but at least they explain how Tzaangors and the Mutalith Vortex Beast came to be part of the army. The best though is the not so subtle hint to use Kairic Acolytes as Cultists.
Agents of Change
The army photos are repeats of some past images, but in a cohesive look, as this is the first proper codex for the Thousand Sons. As you can imagine most shots have Magnus in them and a few samples of the possible paint schemes for the Thousand Sons. Mostly we get the classic Thousand Sons blue, which on many models looks flat lacking any real depth.
Warriors of Lost Prospero
The section everyone runs to first, the Rules
The Thousand Sons standard universal rules are the same ones found in the Chaos Space Marine codex.
Death to the False Emperor: Make an extra attack for every 6+ to hit roll you make against any Imperium unit.
Daemonic Ritual: Summon Daemons up to power level rolled on 3 dice, avoiding doubles/triples.
The Thousand Sons are made up of 31 units with many just an equipment variant of the same unit.
Ahriman: Ahriman might become the Magnus replacement for a fraction of the cost. Ahriman is the only other unit to get at least 3 psychic powers to start. Though as a theme, Thousand Sons are point starved, so even Ahriman might be too expensive for the army.
Daemon Prince of Tzeentch: Taking at least one Daemon Prince is pretty key, because it is the only HQ choice that can get you powers from the Discipline of Tzeentch. Daemon Princes overall are still very good and this one comes with a 4+ invulnerable save.
Exalted Sorcerer: These fantastic models are a point sink not worth the minor stat increases above a generic Sorcerer, especially compared to the more expensive, but more versatile Daemon Prince.
Sorcerer: These will be the bread and butter HQ choice for the Thousand Sons, as they are under-costed (comparatively), using the Thousand Sons Battle-Forge ability and Stratagems effectively. A good mix Sorcerers and a few Daemon Princes, should be the basis for most Thousand Sons armies.
Rubric Marines: Poor sad Rubric Marines, they fall into the too pricey trap that Games Workshop just cannot seem to fix for non-primaris marines. The few things going for them is getting a cheap Sorcerer in the mix and the sneaky good is the All is Dust ability that removes many of the problems 3+ armour units face.
Tzaangors: Tzaangors are fantastic the the same cost as any basic Daemon and just as good. The key with them is the -1 AP on the Tzaangor Blades making them very effective against most infantry units. The Tzaangor Shaman is also amazing, another cheap Psyker and one that makes all Tzaangors better. Then you have the Tzaangor Enlightened, which beyond the speed, don’t fit any real good role beyond looking cool.
Tzeentch Daemons: All the nerfs pilled on to the Horrors make them unlikely to find a way into Thousand Sons list with Tzaangors around. Flamers on the other hand have potential filling in as a better version of Warpflame Rubric Marines. Screamers are decent for a melee unit if you are lacking, but otherwise your points are better used on other units.
Chaos Space Marines Units: Cultists really only should make an appearance to fill out some Troop slots and the Chaos Spawn while a focus in this codex isn’t special enough, but for a good chuckle when something turns into one. The Daemon Engines just don’t fit with this army, if Games Workshop had the balls to make Helbrutes Psykers for Thousand Sons you could make a case. As it is keep, your Forgefriends, Maulerfiends, Heldrakes, and Defilers point sinks for another army. The same thing can be said about the Vehicles, as you only get a few silly stratagems to use.
Scarab Occult Terminators: Like all Terminators we are still waiting for Games Workshop to fix them by making them all super cheaper or with give them more wounds. Scarab’s suffer mightily because they are too expensive and no matter the weapons they take or tricks they get you just cannot make up for the point investment.
Mutalith Vortex Beast: Totally random and totally fun! Same cost as a Maulerfiend, but you get random generator of buffs and damage dealing. You can choose between going random for two powers or playing it safe with a single one you can pick. Powers like Ephemeral Touch and Chaotic Infusion for Tzaangors is really over the top, along Warp Flare and Beam of Unreality are Mortal Wounds are not without a use. One or two of these units is a must for any Thousand Sons army especially if you go big in on a Bird Men theme.
Magnus the Red: Poor old Magnus got hit with unnecessary nerf bat. This Primarch was already on the outs for matched play, but now it has accelerated. He is just too vulnerable, he is just enough threat to make anyone still shoot at him. In a point sucking army like Thousand Sons you have to find more creative ways to use your points, even with a great looking centerpiece like Magnus. He is only a must of you go full Psychic heavy as the Primarch of the Thousand Sons ability is critical to getting spells off.
Sons of Magnus
The final section of the Thousand Sons codex that includes Battle-forged abilities, Stratagems, Warlord Traits, and Artifacts.
Brotherhood of Sorcerers: Secretly nasty, this power increases the range of every psychic power by 6″. It is two fold as you can buff units without being packed in. You can also deal psychic damage at range, buying in many ways an extra turn of damage dealing and preventing your opponent from hiding in a corner.
Disciples of Tzeentch: Objective Secured, but for everything not just Troop choices. This is important as it means you can have anything sit in the back field and score points if necessary.
Stratagems: This is where the Thousand Sons codex really starts to fall apart. The stratagems are perhaps the worst in the game. The focus is either on units that will never see the field of battle or too much focused on the Psychic phase with shrug worthy effectiveness. In this cult of lameness, a few stand out: Chaos Familiar allows you to switch out powers at will even from Disciplines they didn’t have access to before. The only other two worth using is Webway Inflitration for some Deep Strike goodness and Cycle of Slaughter to make your Tzaangors deadlier killers.
Sorcerous Arcana: Following up the blockbuster Stratagems is even worse set of artifacts. Half are are weapons for characters you don’t want anywhere near the Fight phase. Only the Dark Matter Crystal is a real standout, this is great tool to either move your Tzaangor blobs around or get a unit out of a pesky combat. Helm of the Third Eye is also good like any stratagem stealing item.
Warlord Traits: The Thousand Sons don’t get much love from these traits as well, none are really terrible, but none are great. Getting an additional psychic power is always pretty good and +1 to Psychic tests is never bad.
Psychic Powers: This is where the Thousand Sons live and die. Having access to three Disciplines is impressive, but picking the right combination of powers will be tricky. The simplest method is to go all in on Mortal Wound damage, with six powers to choose from. Then you could go the buffing route making any Tzaangor unit pretty bananas. Unlike any other army what powers you decided on will help decide on just how you build your Thousand Sons army.
The Thousand Sons codex ends with the point section and the always forgettable Tactical Objectives page.
Like all elite armies the Thousand Sons suffer, the only thing saving them are the units that are not actual Thousand Sons. Maybe in a weird fluff way that makes sense; imagine powerful Sorcerers leading a cabal of Daemons and alien beasts? If the Thousand Sons stand a chance at actually being playable it will be just that way; five to six casters with Tzaangors, Mutalith Vortex Beasts, and Cultists. The army lacks long range damage output as well, because those options are too expensive and/or not effective as well.
If you want to run true Thousand Sons without any of the cheap models just be ready to forge a narrative because the chance this army won’t get tabled by an average equivalent Imperium, Eldar, Tyranid, or Choas force is very little. The Thousand Sons should easily get lost in the shuffle of so many codexes, beyond the Tzaangors and Vortex beast nothing stands out. Games Workshop could have done a better job, by maybe making the Thousand Sons a foil to the Adeptus Custodes, since they are the closest thing to a functional elite army. The nerfs to Magnus the Red also does hurt the army, but Games Workshop could have focused on making him good for just the Thousand Sons not Chaos Space Marines or Daemon armies.
No matter what, it is pretty clear Games Workshop had some Tzaangors and Vortex Beasts laying around otherwise this codex would really have been a nothing burger.
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