Tactics for Units: Retributors
Welcome back to another installment of my on-going set of 8th Edition Adepta Sororitas tactica articles, Tactics for Units. This installment will be giving a look to the heavy weapon wielding warriors that are the Retributors.
Retributors are Sororitas who have a particular propensity for the precise and overwhelming application of heavy firepower. They are formed together into squads on the battlefield to best utilise their practiced skill and heavy weaponry.
There’s nothing here that should stand out as unusual, for a regular battleline Sororitas. Strength and toughness 3, 3+ save and Ballistic Skill, 4+ Weapon Skill, so on and so forth. As usual, the Retributor Superior has +1 attack, and +1 Leadership, so the unit has LD8 while she’s around. A 6” move is nothing special, but obviously it takes them where they need to go. Which, given they’re carrying heavy weapons, isn’t far.
The BS3+ is really good for a shooting unit, as you may expect, allowing you to handle a few negative To-Hit modifiers, such as the penalty for moving, and still be able to shoot relatively straight. The 3+ save is very nice, meaning you should save around two thirds of oncoming fire, AP notwithstanding. If they sit in cover, that jumps to five sixths, which is very nice.
Retributors have the two standard Adeptus Ministorum special rules, Shield of Faith and Acts of Faith. They don’t have anything beyond that, but they don’t exactly need more.
Shield of Faith is a neat little rule that grants a 6+ invulnerable save, and a Deny the Witch on 1d6 rather than 2d6. The latter is neat, but as you might already be thinking, not super useful, given average dice rolls, and the average Warp Charge on psychic powers. But it’ll come up from time to time, and it does mean that you’ve got a little something in the Psychic Phase, unlike most armies that don’t have psykers. The 6+ Invulnerable save is pretty neat. More likely to come up than the Deny the Witch, but still comparatively rare with the way AP works. For a 3+ armour save to need better than a 6+ roll, you’re looking at a -4, so things like melta, neutron lasers, volcano cannons, those sorts of things. But it’s nice to have, and any 6+ save you make will be by the Grace of Him-On-Earth, so that’s always fun.
Acts of Faith is the heavy lifter of Sororitas special rules, and no mistake. This allows one unit in your army to make an out of phase action before the Movement phase begins. This occurs at the same time as anything else that occurs at the beginning of the turn, such as Canticles of the Omnissiah. Of particular note for Retributors is Hand of the Emperor. This allows the unit to make a move as if it were the movement phase. The penalty on shooting after moving with a heavy weapon is on the preceding movement phase, IE the move you make in the movement phase only. As Hand of the Emperor occurs before the movement phase, you can use this to reposition your Retributors, then have then sit still in the movement phase, and fire to full effect in the shooting phase. However, be aware that the restrictions on Advancing and shooting are in effect if you advance at all before you shoot. Divine Guidance is also gold letter Awesome for Retributors. This Act of Faith allows a squad to shoot as if it were the shooting phase. Self explanatory. Awesome. Spirit of the Martyr is great on Retributors, as it allows a model previously slain to be set back up. Heavy weapons are expensive, so getting one of them back is worth so much. It also gives your squad a little more resilience than your opponent might be expecting. The Passion allows the unit to pile in and attack as if it were the fight phase. Retributors do not want to be fighting in combat, so I’d say avoid. Statistically, you’re better off using Divine Guidance to get the Retributors to shoot the bolt pistols they all have, because they’re more likely to hit and wound with that. Maybe worth considering if the Superior has a power weapon, and there’s hardly any retributors left, but even then, I’d avoid using The Passion.
As standard, Retributors all come stock with bolters, bolt pistols, and grenades of the frag and krak variety. All are solid enough options, with the bolter and pistol being the reliable workhorse armaments you want. S4 is good, and rapid fire/pistol 1 are good, though firmly nothing special. Frag grenades aren’t bad if you’re against a large unit of T3 bodies, though not if they have a decent save, and kraks are a solid option against most things. If you’re within 6” when you shoot and you have a Retributor without a special or heavy weapon, give throwing a grenade a serious think.
While the stock armaments are solid enough, that’s not why you’re taking Retributors. What you’re taking them for is the fact that up to four of them can take a heavy weapon. Oh yes, very nice. The heavy weapons the Retributors can take come, as everything Sororitas does, in three flavours; Heavy Flamers, Multimeltas, and Heavy Bolters. Heavy Bolters are solid choice if all you want is some heavy firepower that sits in the middle of your deployment zone that can handle shooting at just about anything. 3 shots at AP-1 and S5 means they’ve got a good chance at wounding most things, so you’ll seldom have a wasted turn of shooting with them.
Multimeltas are somewhat more specific in use. In previous editions, a multimelta Retributor squad was generally considered a terrible waste of points, aside from some very specific and niche uses, but in 8th they’ve had somewhat of a renaissance. 24” range does mean the squad will need to be moving a lot, but with decent access to Dedicated Transports, and moving only imposing a -1 to shooting, Retributors have the tools they need to actually use the multimelta. And when the unit gets into range? Boy howdy. 4 shots at S8 and AP-1 is going to make anything short of a Super-Heavy have a bad day. The gun’s special rule means that at 12” (half maximum range), you roll 2d6 and pick the highest for damage. That’s a hefty proposition. A squad of Retributors with 4 of these is a scary group of ladies. Take them, and watch them wreck vehicles and monsters.
Heavy Flamers are similarly specific in use, but that’s largely due to their rather short range. Like regular flamers, Heavy Flamers automatically hit d6 times, at an 8” range. Which is practically touching distance. That said, d6 automatic hits at S5 and AP-1 is pretty fantastic. The strength means most things you’ll be setting on fire have a reasonable chance at hurting, and the AP is nice to help ensure a few of the wounds stick. The d6 means that the Heavy Flamer isn’t a bad choice for taking on larger groups, and in a group of 4 has the ability to put out a lot of hurt. But, even more so than the multimelta, heavy flamer retributors need help to be mobile. A transport is a must, and using Hand of the Emperor to help get them into position is a strong choice. Of note, because the Heavy Flamer automatically hits, if effectively ignores the -1 penalty for moving with a heavy weapon. So keep them moving!
Now, you can mix and match your weapon choices, but I’d recommend sticking to one type for much the same reason as I did in the Dominions Tactics for Units; redundancy and focus. Retributors aren’t the place to build a flexible workhorse unit, for that take Battle Sisters, and let them hold onto an objective with it. Retributors are a tool to be used to do a specific thing.
The Superior can swap her bolter for a different Ranged Weapon or a Melee Weapon, and her bolt pistol for a different Pistol. Ranged Weapons include the ever nice stormbolter, which is cheap enough to take if you just want a little more firepower but don’t have the points. It’s an effective choice for the same reason that a bolter is a good workhorse. S4 is a solid strength, and throwing dice at a problem often solves it. The Condemnor Boltgun is a hard pass. I try to avoid outright recommending against choices, but the condemnor is just bad. It’s a bolter than does d3 damage if the target is a psyker. That’s it. It is only 1 point, but it’s spending 1 point to have what’s almost entirely just a bolter AND to not be able to take a different ranged weapon. Combi-weapons are worth a look, though they’re all a touch pricey. A Combi-flamer has obvious synergy with heavy flamers, as you’ll already be within range of the same target, and an extra d6 shots is always nice, even if they’re at a lower S and AP. A Combi-melta doesn’t synergise immediately with any squad loadout, being too short ranged to effectively work with heavy bolters, the melta stats are appropriate for different targets to the heavy flamer, and the range difference compare to multimeltas makes it a bit awkward to use, but taking it does allow your squad to handle a few more threats than otherwise. As I said earlier, mixing loadouts isn’t something I’d recommend, but if you do, taking a single combi-weapon to cover your bases is definitely a better option than mixing heavy weapons.
The Combi-plasma is interesting. It’s a plasma weapon, which Sororitas can’t normally take. It’s relatively cheap, closer to a combi-flamer than a combi-melta, has good Strength, AP, and ok range. The damage isn’t great, but overcharging it is a possibility. Taking one doesn’t necessarily support any particular load out, but plasma fire seems to be something that can pretty easily find a place. Just a warning, don’t overcharge at the same time as you shoot the bolter portion! The -1 to hit means the model will die on a 1 or a 2, and that’s decidedly undesirable.
Retributors are probably best used in one of three styles; Anti-Infantry, Anti-Big Stuff, and Generalist. Anti-infantry is a unit taking 4 heavy flamers, and shoving them into a transport of your preference. They’ll pile out, set something on fire, and then move on. 4d6 S5 hits is going to put a lot of hurt on even heavily armoured infantry. Anti-Big Stuff is the amended anti-vehicle, but it’s also the anti-monster, and anti-things that are large but aren’t really either monsters or vehicles, but Anti-Big Stuff is probably easiest to say and type. Anyhow, Anti-Big Stuff is four multimeltas, maybe in a transport? Regardless, they hike their way over to something big and scary, and they do their best to carve it up like a Sunday roast.
Generalist is four heavy bolters, stashed somewhere where they can see a lot of things, preferably in cover, and left to find targets of opportunity.
Taking additional retributors doesn’t allow you to take more heavy weapons past the standard four, so there’s some efficiency to be had just taking the base squad plus weapons. Plus, this lets them fit into both Immolators and Rhinos without worry. But that’s not to say that extra sisters is a bad idea. Taking the extra bodies gives you some insulation between losing heavy weapons to return fire, and the extra bolter shots can help shift things through weight of fire. Note that taking more than one additional retributor will prevent the squad from riding in an Immolator until they’ve taken some casualties, and taking any will prevent a character riding in an Immolator with them. If you want a Character to tag along in a Rhino, don’t take more than 9 Retributors in total.
It’s a solid idea to have a Canonness babysit a squad of Retributors, as her reroll Ones aura is fantastic for anyone not automatically hitting. She also provides some combat threat to a unit that is otherwise almost completely shooting. If you’re running heavy flamers or multimeltas, it’s likely that you’ll be getting into combat quite soon, and a Canoness with an eviscerator or the Blade of Admonition can really help. She also provides an opportunity for another combi-weapon, if you’re interested in that.
Another character to consider pairing up is the Imagifer. As I’ve mentioned before, Acts of Faith are fantastic on Retributors, and the Imagifer allows for the chance at an extra Act of Faith for a unit within 6”. So, if you’re expecting to have a lot more opportunities for Acts of Faith than you have actual Acts available, and you really want your Retributors to use theirs, consider an Imagifer. It’s not a guarantee, but nothing in life really is, right?
So that’s the Retributor Squad! Now that I’ve had my say, what are your thoughts? Tips and tactics? Dirty tricks? Any general suggestions on how to get the most out of them? Looking forwards to hearing from you all!