Adeptus Custodes Codex 8th edition Review: O Captain! My Captain!
The new Adeptus Custodes Codex is an advancement in army design, especially for an army with a shallow model line. The Adeptus Custodes codex attempts to create an elite army that is actually competitive, with middling results. The Adeptus Custodes codex would have been better served if Games Workshop had made this a complete Talons of the Emperor codex by including the Sisters of Silence. As it is though Games Workshop has a plan to roll in the Horus Heresy Forge World Custodes line into 40k, but until then an Adeptus Custodes army will need some Imperial ingredients to go with the base broth it has.
The Adeptus Custodes codex is not worth $40 bucks, but the content it does have is impressive. The codex is divided into four section with the first being…
Brotherhood of Demigods
Hands down the best section and most unexpected part of the Adeptus Custodes codex. The artwork and interspersed fluff sidebars are a delight; as for many players, the Adeptus Custodes are a new concept to explore in the Warhammer 40k universe. The codex does a great job of making the faction more than just blank guardians of the Golden Throne. Doing an impressive job providing variety to the Adeptus Custodes, through the various sub-factions within the legion. The codex really brings home the idea that the Adeptus Custodes are warrior scholars. Making a previous formless army seem dynamic and different is a difficult, but Games Workshop to the task, without much of the meandering of the Forge World books provided for the Adeptus Custodes.
The Spendour of Holy Terra
The photo shoot section of every codex, offers some cool shots beyond the ones taken for the Talons of the Emperor boxset. Here you will find the limited range in all its glory. The section could have done more to showcase the sub-factions within the army, but as you can expect most of the art focuses on the golds and reds that is most associated with the army.
The Army of Terra
The section everyone runs to first, the Rules
The Adeptus Custodes have only one powerful universal power.
Aegis of the Emperor: All models have a 5+ invulnerable save and 6+ against mortal wounds caused in the Psychic phase.
The Adeptus Custodes is made up of only 12 units and quarter of those is just a equipment variant.
Captain-General Trajann Valoris: Has a host of abilities, that almost makes Roboute blush. He has a impressive statline along with the powerful Legendary Commander ability making him a Captain and Lieutenant rolled into one. The Moment Shackle is a fun ability, but hardly game breaking.
Shield-Captains: Come in three different forms, on foot, in terminator armour, on a bike. The one getting the most love is obviously the Shield-Captain on bike. This is clearly the new go to unit from the codex, and expect it more than anything to make its way into other Imperial armies with ease. It is a 7 wound 7 toughness monster that can delivery punishment in both the shooting and fight phase. As for the other Captains, they will see play in Custodes only armies, as a way to get a cheap buffer and beat stick when needed.
Custodian Guard: The bread and butter of the army, they got the biggest boost from the index rules, now more resilient. It use to be a toss up between Guardian spear or Sentinel blade, now clearly the Guard spear is the best option, considering the stratagems and damage output. On top of that the Custodian Guard are more flexible, coming in units starting size of 3 instead of the old 5.
Custodian Wardens: Are a classic elite army problem. Too expensive and not different enough from the basic trooper to be really worthwhile. The option for a Castellan axe is interesting, because it gives the Adeptus Custodes a unit that can easily handle high toughness targets. The Binding Oaths though isn’t powerful enough to make the Wardens more than a fringe Adeptus Custodes unit.
Vexilus Praetor: Comes in both Terminator and Foot versions. This unit is quite amazing providing a host of buffs to choose from and ones you can upgrade to powerful relic options. Every Adeptus Custodes army will be built with these units in mind. As characters their is no reason not to take a few different versions.
Allarus Custodians: The Adeptus Custodes terminators are not that appealing for the cost. The problem is they gain very little beyond Deep Strike, the extra wound afforded by the armour isn’t enough, as it won’t stop 2 damage weapons from killing them any less fast than their brothers. It is only the tactical flexibility of teleportation that gives them a small path to viability.
Venerable Contemptor Dreadnought: Not much has changed from the Index version leaving this unit as pretty much unplayable compared to the other options in the codex.
Vertius Praetors: These new hotness have been getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. The models are gorgeous and they bring a fast and flexible unit to a mostly static army. They are also cost effective and deal a ton of damage. They are also resilient boasting a 6 Toughness. The Hurricane Bolter is the mainstay for this unit, but Salvo launcher shouldn’t be laughed at especially if you are trying to run a pure Adeptus Custodes army.
Venerable Land Raider: A lost opportunity, but one that can now take any type of Adeptus Custodes infantry unit and still have room for a few characters. The biggest problem is you can spend the Land Raider points more wisely on just more Adeptus Custodes units and the resilience of those models in some ways is more so than the Land Raider itself.
The final section of the Adeptus Custodes codex, including the Battle-forged abilities, Stratagems, Warlord Traits, and Artifacts.
The Emperor’s Chosen: is fantastic giving almost all Adeptus Custodes units 4+ invulnerable saves especially for the basic Custodian Guard.
Sworn Guardians: is a power every elite army needs. This is Objective secure trump card forcing opponents to clear every last Adeptus Custodes from an objective before being able to claim it.
Stratagems: Games Workshop does a great job providing a sweeping amount of unique stratagems for the Adeptus Custodes. What is interesting about many of the Adeptus Custodes stratagems is they provided bonuses on the margins. Giving the Adeptus Custodes just a little boost here and there. Often it is in reaction to what your opponent is doing like Sentinel Storm or Indomitable Guardians, or providing little bonuses like Piercing Strike or Avenge The Fallen. It just a host of interesting bonuses and shows that Games Workshop actually thought about this army, and just simply didn’t rehash all the Space Marine Stratagems in Adeptus Custodes form.
Relics of Terra: Games Workshop really went out of the way to give the Adeptus Custodes a ton of relics, though many are a variation on certain themes. The Vexilla relics take center stage all having the power to negate the entire Morale phase for any Imperial army. Simple things like Eagle’s eye and Auric Aquilas though will see lots of play especially in the hands of hots of flying Shield-Captains. There are also clever relics like Praetorian Plate that lets you teleport a character to another character on the battlefield when need be. You also get the customary useless weapon upgrades we have come to expect.
Warlord Traits: There are really only 3 traits worth taking, with thinking players gravitating to Champion of the Imperium, as you can have units joining combat at will when your opponent charges anything. Then you have Radiant Mantle which when combo-ed with 3+ invulnerable saves is pretty filthy and along with Impregnable Mind gives you some psychic defense.
The Adeptus Custodes codex ends with the point section and the always forgettable Tactical Objectives page.
At first blush the Adeptus Custodes codex seems like a powerful addition to 8th edition, but when you dig deep you still see the same problems plaguing all elite armies. The Adeptus Custodes are not immune to the 8th edition AP system, you will still rarely getting 2+ armour save against most competitive lists. It means the army will rely on its 4/5+ invulnerable save to stay relevant. Like all elite armies once you start to add up the points you realize you cannot get too many of the tricks you want, really leaving units like the Land Raider, Contemptor Dread, and the Allarius by the wayside.
Still a combined Imperial force with the Adeptus Custodes can be quite devastating. Imperial Guard will clearly be the go to army in conjunction with the Adeptus Custodes, as they provide everything the Adeptus Custodes does not: screens and long range unit busting. Until Forge World gets around to providing the rules for there model range; we won’t know for certain if you can play the Adeptus Custodes just by themselves and be effective. For now expect to see Brother-Captain Bikes flying around many a Imperial army.
The Adeptus Custodes are definitely an army for the cagey player, one who has to maximize the stratagems and focus on striking at the right time to cripple an opponent, not a player who runs head long hoping wounds and armour will withstand a a good army’s damage output. If nothing else the Adeptus Custodes is good fluff book, too bad it is not worth the $40 price tag for only 80 pages.
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