Friday, July 22, 2011

What Codex to Use for Executioners?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about what codex is best to run Executioners under. I figured I would write up my thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each. Let’s start off with what we know about the Executioner’s on the battlefield.

First, they prefer to fight up close, either with short-ranged shooting or in assault. Second, they field a large number of Chaplains so that they can record the deeds of each warrior. Third, they rely heavily on Sternguard, going so far as to replace a Devastator squad in each battle company with a Sternguard squad. Because of this, we can infer they field less Devastators than most Chapters. Fourth, they dislike the use of bikes and prefer Land Speeders. Also, they use heavy armor whenever possible, meaning Predators, Vindicators, and Land Raiders should be common. Finally, they’re stubborn like all Fists and refuse to fall back from battle.

I’m going to examine how best to represent these in the Space Marine, Space Wolf, and Blood Angel codices. I’m leaving out the Dark Angels, Black Templar, and Grey Knights because they don’t seem to fit at all. The Black Templars will be a promising option once they are redone, but their current list is best played really shooty and doesn’t really fit.

Space Marines

The Space Marine codex has the advantage of being the official choice for Executioners, as they are Imperial Fist successors. This means that it’s the only army that can field Thulsa Kane. In addition, it contains two other Fist characters that grant Stubborn, Kantor and Lysander. Both of these are good choices that allow you to play the Executioners with their stubborn chapter trait. If you want to be more open-minded, there are other characters that will allow the army to play differently.

Space Marines also have easy access to Sternguard, Land Speeders, and cheap heavy armor. The Predator is a particularly good deal. Their Devastators are a bit overpriced, so that works in our favor too.

The main disadvantage that I can see with Space Marines is Tactical squads. Tactical marines simply don’t do well in assault against anything stronger than guardsmen, and their short range shooting it less than impressive unless Vulkan Hestan is in the army. This really doesn’t fit with the Executioners’ background. Also, they have difficulty fitting more than one Chaplain into an army, and, other than Thulsa Kane, the Chaplains aren’t impressive.

Space Wolves

In my mind, the biggest advantage of the Space Wolves codex is the Grey Hunters. Grey Hunters are really impressive in assault (for a Troops choice) and operate really well at close-ranges. They’re a great option for representing Executioner marines. In addition, Wolf Lords are really impressive assault characters, fitting the description of Executioner Captains as acting as warlords in their own right. Frost blades also are a great way to use lots of large axes in your force without having to resort to counts-as. Finally, Thunderwolf Cavalry give you the option to model some really awesome knights for your army. I’m considering running Executioners as Space Wolves just to give me an excuse to model this squad.

There are a few downsides to Space Wolves as well. Their tanks are totally out-classed by Long Fangs, which aren’t a characterful option for Executioners. Their Wolf Priests are just as unimpressive as Space Marine Chaplains, and are one of their least attractive HQ options. Large numbers of Rune Priests, a popular build, aren’t particularly characterful either. Space Wolves have no access at all to Sternguard. Finally, Space Wolves generally have poor leadership compared to other marines and break more easily, especially compared to the Stubborn Space Marines.

Blood Angels

Blood Angels can take Assault squads as Troops. While Executioners aren’t supposed to have large numbers of jump pack troops, Assault squads in Rhinos are a good choice for Executioners. Blood Angels can take Reclusiarchs, which are Chaplains with actually threatening statlines, as HQs as well as normal Chaplains as Elites. In addition, you could model Sanguinary Priests as Chaplains and easily fit them into your list, giving your force better hitting power in assault, which is very fitting. Blood Angels have access to Sternguard, and their tanks are excellent though more expensive due to being Fast. Finally, it would be easy to represent the Red Thirst, randomly giving a squad Furious Charge and Fearless, as a squad taking an oath to take as many heads as possible or to execute a certain enemy character. The Fearless also fits in.

In addition, Astorath the Grim makes a good stand on for Thulsa Kane. He’s a Reclusiarch, armed with essentially a relic blade called the Executioner’s Axe. He increases the likelihood of squads getting the Red Thirst, which also is very fitting for Executioners.

There are some problems with this codex too. You’ll have to avoid a lot of options, such as Sanguinary Guard and Death Company, as they really have no place in an Executioners army. You’ll also have to come up with an explanation for the Fast vehicles, which don’t fit with the Executioners but which you will have to take to run a decent army.


I guess my conclusion is that all three of these options are valid, each with their own ups and downs. Choose the codex that accentuates the traits that you like. One really attractive approach is to model an army so that it can be used with multiple codices. This is easy between Space Marines and Space Wolves, as Tactical Marines and Grey Hunters can be modeled the same way. Blood Angels would be more difficult because Assault marines don’t have bolters.

I’ll be building my army using Codex: Space Marines, but I’m really thinking about converting some knights to act as Thunderwolf Cavalry so I can use them as Space Wolves as well. Fortunately, I already own a Blood Angel army, so I don’t really have to consider that.


  1. Interesting look on things, it has given me a lot to think about.
    Thanks for this.

  2. Pretty accurate analysis of the pros and cons of the different codices. I'll be using Codex Blood Angels for mine since I'm making them a drop pod force, and the fast tank thing won't really be problem for me.

  3. Happy you two found it interesting. When I started writing, I was actually convinced Blood Angels would be a poor fit. However, the more I thought about it, the more things in the codex seemed to fit. Astorath being a really good stand in for Thulsa Kane was a particular flash of inspiration. Really, I had a lot of baggage from how I play Blood Angels that was preventing me from seeing how they could work as Executioners.

    I'll be building my Executioners as a Space Marine force, but I plan to build models to play them as Space Wolves once I finish the vanilla list. The possibility of Executioner heavy cavalry is just too appealing.

    @Chris: I'm looking forward to seeing how you plan to run a drop pod army. It's not a common build for Blood Angels, but I think the Assault squads provide a great base for it and the Furiosos are a terrifying twist on the standard drop dread.


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