1 May 2014

Astra Militarum - Army Special Rules and Orders

Greetings Sergeant, this is Company Commander Lernius Eelo of the 66th Cadian Defence Regiment. I am transmitting to you my knowledge of how to maximise the fighting effectiveness of those men and women serving under you in your latest service rank. This advice is strictly off the record and in no way a segment of your formal officer training. If you wish to succeed in your new role as Squad Sergeant, employing these tactics in both training sessions and live combat will prove necessary. If you have any queries as to your new position or how to adapt these tactics into your regime, please do not refrain from contacting me. We are the Hammer of the God Emperor and his most righteous defenders. For the Emperor and Mankind!

Army Special Rules

Heavy Weapon Teams - As opposed to the weapons carried by the Adeptus Astartes, the Astra Militarum use more classic means of transport for heavy armaments. Two Guardsmen are assigned to each of these weapons, forming a single model that counts as Bulky and has a pair of both wounds and attacks to reflect their duality. They count as a single model for all intents and purposes while replacing two models in a squad, meaning they can still only shoot one weapon a turn. There are five armament options for Heavy Weapon Teams consisting of Autocannons, Heavy Bolters, Lascannons, Missile Launchers and Mortars. While making the Heavy Weapon Team itself is free, a paid for weapon is mandatory. Aside from the Heavy Weapon Squad, Heavy Weapon Teams can only be taken once in each individual squad.

Voice of Command - While the Astra Militarum does employ psykers, they have their own unique spin on psychic abilities; these are simply called "Orders". Models with this special rule can issue Orders and are usually limited to one of these per turn; this is roughly analogous to Mastery Level 1 psykers. Unlike psychic powers, Orders are always resolved at the start of the friendly shooting phase one at a time and usually their effects are carried out immediately. Like a psychic test, the unit to be the target of an Order must be within 12" of the model with the Voice of Command special rule; this is the range for which an Officer can issue Orders to other units, including their own unit. To issue an Order, the target unit for the Order must take a Leadership test using the highest value in their unit; if the test is passed, the Order is successful and the effects are resolved immediately. If the test is failed, the effects of the Order are ignored instead. While most Astra Militarum units have mediocre at best Leadership values, their easy access to Commissars, Primaris Psykers and other unit upgrade characters mitigate this issue. Additionally, cheap items called "Vox Casters" can be purchased by the vast majority of infantry units in the codex, providing re-rolls to failed Leadership tests taken for the purpose of Orders.

There are twelve Orders in the Astra Militarum codex and each has a unique effect that works solely for infantry, but three of these Orders are specific to vehicles and exclusive to Tank Commanders. Arguably the three most 'powerful' Orders can only be used by models that also have the Senior Officer special rule, usually the domain of Company Commanders and some special characters such as Commissar Yarrick. Of course, no special rule would be complete without some risk involved. Beyond the usual disadvantages of failing a Leadership test when using an Order, rolling one of two specific dice rolls from the 2D6 can see a significant additional effect come into play. If two ones are rolled, all subsequent Orders to be used in that shooting phase are automatically successful; however, if double sixes are rolled, no other Orders can be issued for the rest of that shooting phase. Rolling up either of these results is unlikely and thus should not be a topic of concern, but keeping Vox Casters handy in your primary damage-dealing infantry units is always a good idea for reliability.


There are a total of twelve Orders in the Astra Militarum codex available to generic and special characters alike if they have one or more of the Senior Officer, Tank Orders and Voice of Command special rules. Each has a powerful effect and is performed at the start of each friendly shooting phase; these can be considered psychic blessings without the risk of Perils of the Warp. For ease of viewing, each of the above three special rules required for individual Orders will be listed. Tank Orders are resolved in the same way as other Orders, except that the Leadership value used is always 9 and the Orders can only target the Tank Commanders' own unit. As such, Tank Orders are effectively restricted to Leman Russ variants.

Take Aim! (Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a shooting attack; the unit gains the Precision Shot special rule for the duration of that shooting phase. This particular Order has generated a lot of controversy and confusion as there is no actual Precision Shot special rule. We can only refer to the Precision Shots sub-category of the Characters page in the main rulebook which tells us that to hit rolls of a 6 with ranged attacks that subsequently cause wounds can be allocated by the "aggressor" rather than the "defender". Some have interpreted the wording of "Take Aim" to mean that all shots fired by the unit are Precision Shots, while others believe it is only rolls of a 6 made by the unit count as Precision Shots. I'm of the opinion that the intent of the rule was that only 6s would be Precision Shots, but this is definitely one to work out with your opponents before it is addressed in an official FAQ. 

Smite at Will! (Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a shooting attack; the unit gains the Split Fire special rule for the duration of that shooting phase. Generally giving Split Fire to a single Ballistic Skill 4 or Ballistic Skill 3 Heavy Weapon Team isn't all that great, but being able to use Flakk Missiles on a flying unit without wasting the rest of a units' shooting is handy. Having a squad of Veterans armed with two meltaguns Split Fire into two different vehicles is a great use of this Order.

First Rank, Fire! Second Rank, Fire! (Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a shooting attack; the unit can fire a single extra shot in addition to their regular number of shots - whether at single or rapid fire range - with any Lasguns and Hot-Shot Lasguns they have. While neither weapon is particularly great on its own, the sheer number of shots that a rapid-firing unit of fifty Guarsdmen buffed both by Prescience from a friendly Primaris Psyker and this Order can decimate entire units of Space Marines in short order. Three Ballistic Skill 4, Strength 3 and AP 3 shots per model from what are now cheaper "Stormtroopers" in Tempestus Scions is quite nice, actually.

Forwards, for the Emperor! (Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a shooting attack; the unit can make a Run move after first resolving its shooting attack in that phase. This is essentially Eldar Battle Focus but with the limitation of being shoot and then Run, rather than both ways. While it is useless for Ratlings, this is actually a good Order to use if you have a unit trying to make its way into cover without compromising on their damage output for a turn. Using it or a particular Tank Commander Order to abuse firing a unit and then retreating it from line of sight of enemies behind a Chimera or other vehicle is probably the best use of it, but otherwise you probably won't want it that often.

Move, Move, Move! (Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a Run move; when it does so, it rolls 3D6 and picks the highest dice roll instead of the usual 1D6. Unless you really need to get a scoring or denial unit to an objective and minimize the risks of them falling short late in the game, I'm not a big fan of this order when the previous one allows a unit to shoot and then run.

Suppressive Fire! (Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a shooting attack; the unit applies the Pinning special rule to its ranged attacks for the duration of that shooting phase. With the loss of innate Leadership-reduction abilities from Wyrdvane Psykers in the new codex and the incredible number of Barrage artillery units available, I'm not really a big fan of this Order. The Astra Militarum have more than enough sources of Pinning as it is, but adding it to a Heavy Weapon Squad or other non-vehicle unit to increase the chances of an enemy unit being Pinned is nice. If you are combining this order with lasguns, the extra shot Order or the Precision Shot Order will probably be more useful.

Bring it Down! (Senior Officer, Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a shooting attack; the unit gains the Monster Hunter and Tank Hunter special rules for the duration of the shooting phase. This is definitely one of the stronger Orders available as not only does it grant re-rolls to wound against monstrous creatures, but it also gives re-rolls to armour penetration rolls against vehicles. Giving this to Sabre Defence Platforms or blob squads of Imperial Guardsmen with multiple heavy weapons can have devastating results, particularly as vehicles and monstrous creatures are still incredibly popular.

Fire on my Target! (Senior Officer, Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must make a shooting attack; the unit applies the Ignores Cover special rule to its ranged attacks for the duration of that shooting phase. A unit of Heavy Weapons or Sabre Defence Platforms with lascannons or autocannons that gain Ignores Cover? A squad of Tempestus Scions applying Ignores Cover to their AP3 lasguns? The effects of this Order are far reaching even if the AP values of the target unit aren't great as forcing opponents to use armour saves instead of potential 2+ and 3+ cover saves is always preferable.

Get Back in the Fight! (Senior Officer, Voice of Command) - The target of the Order must be a unit that is either Falling Back or has Gone to Ground; the unit regroups and does not make a 3" move, or is no longer prone depending on which state they were in. The difference here is that the target units for this Order can perform standard actions for the rest of the turn such as shooting, making a Run move or even declaring a charge. The trick of Infiltrating or Scouting units forward, going to ground when shot at for extra survivability then using a Fearless aura such as Synapse is a popular one for many reasons, and this Order is no different. While such units are rare for the Astra Militarum, the applications are similar; go to ground behind an Aegis Defence Line with an infantry or artillery squad and then use this Order to remove all the penalties for going to ground while still using the extensive defensive benefits. Though Stubborn and Fearless are easily accessed for the Astra Militarum, their many large units can't afford to flee or be out of action and so this particular Order is always useful.

Full Throttle (Tank Orders) - The Tank Commander and their Leman Russ squadron must make a Flat Out move, moving 6" + D6" and ignoring the usual Heavy vehicle restrictions for moving Flat Out. Rumbling 6" + D6" away from a potential threat or towards a target unit the squadron cannot currently attack usually isn't something I would require for Leman Russes, as trying to retreat from what can harm a Leman Russ squadron could just be blown apart instead. Still, if it suits your battle plan, this is not a bad order to have if you need to get away from an enemy unit in a hurry.

Gunners, Kill on Sight! (Tank Orders) - The Tank Commander and their Leman Russ squadron must make a shooting attack; when they do so, the Tank Commander is forced to simultaneously fire at a separate unit to the rest of the Leman Russ squadron. Effectively the Split Fire order listed earlier except applying to Leman Russes, this is almost essential for Tank Commanders and worth the points you pay for them alone. Being able to squadron up your varying Leman Russes without compromising the rest of your Heavy Support choices is a great asset to have, particularly when you can do something like fire a Ballistic Skill 4 Vanquisher at a tank and then a Ballistic Skill 3 Executioner at an elite infantry squad. This is the best Order available to Tank Commanders and combines exceptionally well with their higher Ballistic Skill.

Strike and Shroud! (Tank Orders) - The Tank Commander and their Leman Russ squadron must make a shooting attack; after this has been resolved, the squadron must use their smoke launchers if they have not already used them. Sacrificing shooting to use smoke launchers on expensive Leman Russ platforms has always been questionable, and so this Order does actually have a place. The 5+ cover save provided by Smoke Launchers can be combined with Stealth and Shrouded from Night Fighting to give your Leman Russes 4+ or even 3+ cover saves, making them nigh impregnable. That it is essentially a one use only Order that often isn't necessary due to easily obtained cover saves really diminishes its value, but for one turn I guess there isn't much to complain about.

Warlord Traits

The Astra Militarum come with a strong set of Warlord Traits aimed solely on giving you extra tactical advantages and unit-wide augments, much unlike the character-focused traits you see in some other codices. This makes sense of course due to the nature of the human military, and it is fitting that the Warlord Traits are all quite useful. Even Tank Commanders can use these Warlord Traits but instead can only roll a D3, meaning Grand Strategist, Old Grudges and Draconian Disciplinarian are the only traits available to them.

1 - Grand Strategist - You can select D3 units in your primary detachment to gain the Outflank special rule, allowing you to pull off some of the nastier tricks like 5th Edition Castellan Creed allowed you to do. This includes but is not limited to Outflanking a brace of Leman Russ Demolishers, Outflanking a Bane Wolf squadron or even Outflanking some Vendettas or Valkyries. This is a good warlord trait for delivering nasty close range units into the opposing deployment zone or midfield safely to deal with objective holders.

2 - Old Grudges - After deploying your "ground" forces but before any outsiders like Infiltrators and Scouts, you can pick one codex and declare that as your "enemy" for the game; your Warlord and their unit gain Preferred Enemy against all units from that codex. While a Command Squad won't really make much use of this - though Preferred Enemy on a Master of Ordnance could be rather funny - any of your Independent Characters joining a blob squad or other high damage unit provides a huge boost to their damage output. This is undeniably at its best on a Tank Commander leading two to three Leman Russ tanks just because of the incredible firepower at their disposal, but it works quite well elsewhere for the most part.

3 - Draconian Disciplinarian - When within 12" of your Warlord, Astra Militarum units do not have to take Leadership tests for suffering 25% of their squad size in casualties from shooting. Combined with cheap Stubborn or Fearless from Commissars and Ministorum Priests, this Warlord Trait effectively ensures your crazy gun-line will never break. That a Tank Commander in a Leman Russ can roll this trait up is rather hilarious due to the model size. This is a fantastic trait that reduces the chances of falling back for one of the best gun-line armies in the game.

4 - Implacable Determination - Granting the Warlord and their unit the Relentless special rule for free is unsurprisingly analogous to the Phaeron upgrade for Necrons. Relentless on a mostly terrible combat army isn't that great, while there aren't too many weapons in your infantry units that really want Relentless in the mix. Heavy Weapon Teams get a big boost from this, but otherwise your actual assault units already have ranged weapons with the assault type anyway. It's a nice little extra but not as useful as the others.

5 - Bellowing Voice - If your Warlord does not have the Voice of Command special rule - the ability to issue Orders - then the Warlord gains that trait. If they can already issue Orders then they can give them to units with a range of 18" as opposed to 12". Giving a Lord Commissar the potential for Orders is nice, but the extra 6" range it gives to a Company Commander is strong if only because the amount of units in an Astra Militarum range generally can't all be covered by a 12" Order bubble.

6 - Master of Command - If your Warlord does not have the Voice of Command special rule, then the Warlord gains that trait. If they can already issue Orders then they can issue one more Order per turn than normal. This usually means a Company Commander can issue three Orders a turn with this Warlord Trait, while Castellan Creed could potentially issue a whopping four Orders per turn. More Orders is always fantastic, especially for a Company Commander who can dole out the Senior Officer-exclusive Orders.

I am hopeful for your continued success and promotion through the ranks of the newly christened Astra Militarum. We are always in need of great leaders and warriors alike as our battles range across the stars, and you are one of the brighter pupils of our doctrines. Your tests will begin soon on the field of battle, so remember always; the Emperor protects. Cordially, Company Commander Lernius Eelo of the 66th Cadian Defence Regiment.


  1. I have a question, Can a primaris pyscher be my warlord? Because in lets say, a combat patrol game where the other HQ choices are out by default of their wound characteristic. If so, my primaris would roll on the warlord table and possibly give relentless. This, if coupled with a 30-40 man blob with lascannons would be devastating.

    1. Legally, no, as you need one of the HQ choices that fills up a Force Organization slot to take a Primaris Psyker/Techpriest Enginseer/Battle Priest. I'm not sure on the rules for Combat Patrol games though so you may want to ask around about that. I hope that helps!

    2. Actually, if you take a CCS as your mandatory HQ unit then there is nothing in the 6th edition rules that disallows nominating the Primaris (ld9) as your warlord.