Games Workshop recently released a Dataslate with updated rules for Imperial Assassins. Like many players, I’ve always loved the idea of the assassins, but they haven’t been great at doing their jobs on the table and their availability has been very limited. Their new rules go a long way to fixing that.
Imperial Assassins count as an Imperial Faction and can be included as an Officio Assassinorum detachment, which includes a single Elite choice. All assassins share several special rules. They score a bonus victory point if they kill the enemy Warlord, and all have Fearless, Infiltrate, and Move through Cover. They cannot be joined by independent characters, have a 4+ invulnerable save, and inflict a -2 penalty to Look Out, Sir! rolls against wounds they caused. All of this combines with a very strong statline, equal to or superior to a Chapter Master in almost every stat. All of the Assassins are 150 points or less, so are quite a value.
The Vindicare Assassin is the stereotypical sniper. All of his successful hits, except for snap shots, are Precision Shots and Ignore Cover. He carries an AP2 sniper rifle and pistol, capable of firing one of three special rounds. It can either wound on 2+, ignore invulnerable saves, or count as S10 against vehicles and inflict D3 wounds.
The Vindicare has one huge advantage over the other assassins: reach. Because of his long range, he can start inflicting damage immediately and stay relatively safe as he does so. He can also target different squads each turn, removing only the important models before turning his attention elsewhere. The downside to this is that he has the lowest damage potential of the assassins. He is excellent at taking out vehicles and single wound models with no invulnerable saves, and should concentrate on these targets. While there are specialist rounds for dealing with multi-wound models and invulnerable saves, they will only wound on 4+. If you need to kill these targets, go for it, but it will take multiple rounds of fire to bring them down. Against targets with a good invulnerable save and multiple wounds (like most Warlords), the Vindicare is unlikely to do serious damage (though he’s good at finishing them off if they’re wounded).
Running some quick math, you should ignore invulnerable saves against targets with an invulnerable save of 4++ or better. Against a 5++ or 6++, wounding on 2+ is better. Inflicting D3 wounds on a 4+ works out better than a single wound on a 2+ against multi-wound models without invulnerable saves.
The Callidus Assassin is an expert at infiltrating the enemy army and disrupting it from within. She can Infiltrate within 1” of an enemy unit or arrive from Reserve on the enemy board edge, and she can only be targeted by snap shots on the turn she arrives. She has Fleet and Hit and Run so she can ricochet around the enemy line, and she has the equipment to cause reliable damage. She carries a pistol that fires an AP2 template that wounds targets on 4+, as well as an AP2 sword that ignores invulnerable saves on a 6 to wound and a set of Poisoned (3+), Rending blades. She has Precision Strike so she can take out important models in combat.
The Callidus can also disrupt your enemy. She allows you to re-roll the die when Seizing the Initative, and inflicts a -3 penalty on the first reserve roll your opponent makes during the game. This won’t do much if they have lots of units in reserve but will be very useful if they have a single important unit in reserve, such as Terminators or a heavy flier.
Of the assassins, the Callidus is the best at dealing with hard targets. She can take out Terminators and monstrous creatures, and can even cut through invulnerable saves. She is the best at actually killing enemy Warlords, though she will struggle with hordes and can’t do much of anything against vehicles. She will rely on careful deployment to reach her targets but will be very difficult to kill once she reaches assault, as she can Hit and Run between vulnerable targets and escape enemies that can actually kill her (mostly things with mass S8 attacks).
The Eversor Assassin is not as selective about his targets as the other assassins. He will cut a bloody swathe through the enemy army to reach his target. He has Furious Charge and Feel No Pain in addition to the standard Assassin rules. He’s at his best in assault; he charges 3D6”, giving him a massive reach, and gains +3 attacks when he charges. In combat, he can either use his power sword or neuro-gauntlet, which has Fleshbane and Shred. He also carries some meltabombs for dealing with vehicles.
Surprisingly, he’s no slouch when it comes to shooting. He carries an executioner pistol, which can either fire bolts or poisoned rounds, and he can fire 4 shots every time that he shoots. If your opponent is crazy enough to charge an Eversor, he gets to fire Overwatch at full BS.
Should your enemy manage to bring down the Eversor, the Assassin explodes, hitting every model within D6” with a S5 hit. It’s a nice little parting gift.
The Eversor is the most straightforward of the Assassins. He charges and kills everything within reach. He has enough attacks to deal with hordes, and will happily tear apart Space Marines. His neuro-gauntlet allows him to take on monstrous creatures and he can meltabomb vehicles. The Eversor’s real weakness is against 2+ saves, where he will likely just bounce off. He lacks the defensive abilities of the other assassins, trading them for more offense. Get him into the enemy quickly and watch him go to work. The Eversor is a fire and forget killer; he probably won’t survive the game, but he will do enough damage that the enemy has to deal with him. As a bonus, he’s also the cheapest Assassin.
The Culexus Assassin is the most specialized of the Assassins, dedicated to hunting enemy psykers. He causes Fear and has Preferred Enemy (Psykers) to help him in his cause, but his real power comes from Psychic Abomination. As a carrier of the pariah gene, he inflicts -3 LD on psykers within 12”, they don’t generate Warp Charge, and they can only harness Warp Charge on a 6. The Culexus is never affected by any psychic powers, and blessings and maledictions on units within 12” of him are immediately nullified. All of this combines to make the Culexus the best psychic disruption in the game.
The Culexus isn’t just a disruption unit; he can kill psykers as well. His close-combat attacks ignore armor and inflict Instant Death on psykers all the time and on other targets on a 6 to wound. He carries psyk-out grenades, which inflict a Perils of the Warp roll on a single psyker in any unit that they hit. He also carries the Animus Speculum, which fires a S5 AP1 shot for every psyker mastery level within 12”, and can be given up to 3 extra shots by sacrificing dice from your Warp Charge pool. This fires in the psychic phase and doesn’t affect what targets he can shoot or assault later in the turn.
Finally, the Culexus has a handy piece of defensive wargear in the Etherium. This reduces any model targeting him in shooting or assault to WS and BS 1. He’s essentially always invisible, and will be the most survivable Assassin up close.
The Culexus is a tremendously good buy against enemy psykers. If you can get them within 12” of him, he will shut them down and likely kill them. If they don’t have psykers, he becomes less useful, but he is still dangerous in assault and can fire his Animus Speculum with your own Warp Charge dice. However, you need to be very careful taking a Culexus if you are taking your own psykers. If they are close to the Culexus, your own psykers will lose their abilities as well. As such, he works best if you don’t have any psykers in your own army.
Assassinorum Execution Force
You can also take a formation consisting of one of each type of assassin. As a benefit, they all get Preferred Enemy (Warlord). This seems like a very fun formation, though it’s probably putting too many points into four models and will leave the rest of your army thin on the ground.
All in all, I really like this dataslate. It brings the assassins back into the game across a variety of armies. Their updated rules mean that they are finally able to do their jobs on the table. I think the Eversor and Culexus got the biggest boosts in their new rules, but that is likely because they were the weakest in the last rule set. All of the Assassins are worth the points now, as long as you use them to execute their intended targets.