IG Codex Review in 6th – Part three: Psyker Battle Squads

Due to changes to the ease of regrouping and other rules that have hit the effectiveness of Weaken Resolve, the Internet has fallen out of love with Psyker Battle Squads and they have disappeared from the vast majority of Guard lists. The Internet is wrong.

It’s not just about understanding how the Rules have changed, it’s about understanding how the Game has changed.


Psyker Battle Squads are not allowed to use Rule Book powers, so are restricted to their two codex powers:


A 36” Large Blast shooting attack at the strength of the number of psykers in the squad, AP random D6. This an under-rated attack because what D6 AP really means is that half of the time it will penetrate Marine Armour and 33% it will slice through terminators.
However, Guard armies have more than enough access to blast weapons, and the PBS soulstorm is outclassed by the Grey Knight Psykers who aren’t in common use despite having the option to score (eg 80pts of IG Psyker gets a S6 Large Blast at AP D6, while 80pts of GK Psyker gets a S10 Large Blast at AP1). For this reason, Soulstorm is a back up power against Fearless enemies, and when we discuss the PBS what we are really talking about is Weaken Resolve.

Weaken Resolve:

A 36” range psychic power that reduces an enemy unit’s leadership by the amount of Psykers in the squad, to a minimum of 2, for the duration of the Guard player’s turn. It may not sound like much, but when combined with Guard shooting ability, this was one of the most influential powers that shaped the 5th Edition.

The Rules that hurt Weaken Resolve in 6th

Several major changes to Morale and Regrouping rules have had a big affect on the power of Weaken Resolve

  1. Regroup is a normal leadership test if 25% or more of the unit is alive (compared to 50%)
  2. Regrouping is possible on a double 1 even if less than 25% of the unit is alive (compared to not at all).
  3. It is no longer possible to prevent an enemy unit from regrouping by having a friendly unit within 6” (a common tactic for advanced IG players using Skimmers, Marbo or outflanking units to run enemies off the board).
  4. All enemy units get a “Deny The Witch” roll to avoid the power, giving them at least a 1 in 6 chance of avoiding the power.
  5. Psykers cannot use a Transport’s Fire Points to manifest powers (for example, Weaken Resolve) that are not witchfire whilst embarked.

This combination of rule changes has caused PBS to be dropped from most Guard lists people are running.

The Dark Side to regrouping

To begin to understand why PBS are still good, first read what seems to be one of the most frequently overlooked rules in 6th:

“If the unit successfully passes the test, it stops falling back and can immediately move up to 3″… Once a unit has regrouped, it cannot otherwise move (so cannot Run in the Shooting phase or charge in the Assault phase). However, it can shoot (including Overwatch), but counts as having moved and can only fire Snap Shots.”
(page 31)

I have no idea why this rule is so often forgotten or ignored, but it makes Weaken Resolve a lot more powerful against units without ATSKNF or Fearless than most people assume – it means the enemy hit by the power are likely to fail any leadership checks in your turn, withdraw a random 2x D6 distance, and even if they regroup under the new generous rules, they are of very little use in the opponent’s next turn. They will lack the ability to move more than the 3” regroup allowance, be unable to run and restricted to snapfiring, but above all these it is the fact they are also prevent from assaulting that is a huge win for any Guard army. This is massive.


6th Edition: A Target Rich Environment

If you read the rules in a vacuum it would be fairly obvious that WR and PBS have lost a lot more than they have gained from the transition to 6th. I am well aware of that, and yet I am still running them in my tournament armies.

Take a step back, and let’s have a look at the Game and how changes have affected the PBS.

  • Placement of Objectives – This subtle change has a large indirect impact on the effectiveness of WR; objectives can now be placed within 6” of the board edge. This means the units guarding them are frequently closer to the board edge than in the past. If possessing a PBS does nothing other than convince your nervous opponent to place their objective closer to you, you’ve taken control of the game before it starts. If it doesn’t, you should have a good chance of scaring those defenders off the objective.
  • Removal of Enemy Casualties – Casualties are now removed from the front (bar any LoS! Shenanigans). I guarantee after your opponent has lost a few units off the board edge, next time you WR and start firing at a squad they’d probably prefer to remove the ones at the rear closest to the edge. That’s not an option, and means when the unit tests for morale they are likely to be several inches closer to the edge.
  • Removal of Friendly Casualties =  Cheaper PBS –  The rule that only the models that can be seen can take wounds can make a PBS cheaper to run. They no longer need a Chimera, as only 1 squad member needs to expose himself to enemy fire by poking his head out from behind cover to use the power – and as it is not a shooting attack, he can cast Weaken Resolve then run safely back into cover. Dropping a 55pt transport results in a lower cost of entry, making the PBS less of a commitment.
  • First Blood – FB is worth a victory point, and many players are dropping rhinos and easy to kill units. But can you kill 3 marines from the 10 man squad closest to their board edge by the end of turn 1? (If not, are you sure you’re playing Guard?)
  • Enemy Allies – Have you ever tried to take a holistic look at the Allied armies that are cropping up and noticed how many feature combinations of units with ATSKNF/Fearless and units without these fancy rules? In effect, the amount of armies that a PBS is useful against has shot right up, simply because so many armies that have low vulnerability to morale are being combined with codexes that have standard leadership. Allies generally make armies stronger – but also often make the PBS useful against at least part of it.
  • Friendly Allies – The leadership hit isn’t just for the Shoot Phase, that’s just how Guard players have always treated it. There is an additional phase called ‘The Assault Phase’ that comes after shooting before a turn ends (see page 20 if you don’t believe me). The inclusion of friendly Allies means this enemies who have failed morale can now be much better exploited, destroyed or caused to drop to WS1 by allies that cause fear. Combining morale-breaking with assault squads is extremely powerful.
  • An additional new allied combination is to add a Librarian with Fear of the Darkness to force the Morale Check without even needing to waste ammo on the enemy.
  • Increase in infantry – Infantry outside of vehicles are the new black. The PBS likes this.
  • Rise of Bikers – Bikers are greatly improved in 6th, with their hammer of wrath and jink saves and base toughness improved, and people are taking more of them. Their high speed (moving 24” when most deployments start armies 24” apart) makes them very hard for a guard army to deal with. They gained a lot without any point cost increase, but still fall back 3D6”. True story: I ran 800pts worth of bikers off the table on turn 1 with 2 PBS.
  • Increase in jump pack infantry – Jump packs are on the increase, and similarly have an additional weakness to the PBS.
  • Psychic Hoods have been Nerfed
  • The Rise of Death Stars – Creating a “Death Star” hammer-unit is now more popular than it has been for years. This is just the sort of environment a morale affecting unit thrives in.
  • The new Power Builds – There has been a huge amount of growth in some new power lists. In brief, most Necrons lack fearless and psychic defence, Chaos Space Marines lacking ATSKNF is a huge deal and puts them almost in the xeno-category, and against Daemons the blast is alright but if they brought Fateweaver the PBS is worth its weight in gold.
  •  The Psychic Shriek Combo– It’s impossible to get through an article about PBS without mentioning it, so the ideal of reducing any enemy unit to LD 2 with WR and then casting Psychic Shriek to cause up to 16 wounds with no armour saves is extremely appealing. However, as covered in my Primaris Psyker Review, http://www.3plusplus.net/2012/08/ig-codex-review-in-6th-part-two-primaris-psyker/ the chance of successfully getting both powers off is only 32%, and the range of 12” means you’re not likely to get a second try. It’s potentially tremendously powerful mathhammer, but I’ve not done it or seen it done on the tabletop. Have you?


In conclusion

The Psyker Battle Squad was one of the most important, influential units of 5th Edition, and it has dropped in popularity in 6th. I think this is understandable due to the rule changes that directly reduced their power, but that the way the game has changed around them goes a long way towards compensating for this.

I highly recommend the inclusion of at least one Psyker Battle Squad in Guard armies (or armies that ally in IG) as a tremendous force-multiplier, and rate them as Highly Competitive.

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45 responses to IG Codex Review in 6th – Part three: Psyker Battle Squads

From C:SM, ATSKNF p51 "Space Marines automatically pass tests to regroup … Usually troops that regroup cannot move normally and always count count as moving whether they do or not, but these restrictions do not apply to models subject to this special rule". So doesn't this mean they automatically regroup move 3", then normal move 6"? So although they only snap fire and can't run or assault, on average shouldn't they be able to be 2" closer than before they broke? Or am I being a bit dim?

Not quite. They do get the 3" free regrouping move (which does not count as moving for them), and then can either choose to stand still or move normally. They do not automatically fire Snap Shots when regrouping and are allowed to assault that turn.

The faq for C:SM says not to use ATSKNF from the codex, but rather the one from the rulebook. It says the unit can move, shoot (or run) and declare charges normally in the turn in which it regroups. (in addition to the 3" regroup move). So yes, you get 3" regroup move, then 6" normal movement. Also, no snap shots, they fire at full BS and can even declare charges.

A couple of things,

– you rally normally at 25%, not above 25% (just so no on is confused on that).

– shriek works well if you have 2 or 3 psyker squads (depending on the rest of the build, I think this is fairly decent.

– better than shriek, dominate (if you can roll it up) stops an enemy unit doing anything else that entire phase. So you drop ld, and send into combat whatever you want. They overwatch and fail their leadership? They can’t do anything. They do a pile in move? They fail ld and can’t (and can’t strike blows). Pretty cool. You can actually use this to pin a unit for their turn (they revert to normal combat in their combat phase).

Also, dominate beats fearless and atsknf as its leadership, not morale. With redundancy psykers, u really only have to successfully cast dominate to do it (and no roll to hit).

I'm sure all the vet Guard players know this, but for people playing against it or who are thinking of adding the unit to their army – barrage weapons are great for WR. Not only a morale test for casualties, but also a pinning test, sometimes at -1. That can extremely useful once your Psykers have taken some casualties so are only reducing Ld by a small handful of points ergo reducing the chances of failure by the opponent.

P.S. You can run AFTER you use WR… so you can move one model out into LOS in the movement phase.. use WR.. then use run to move them back into LOS blocking.

It's a toy that can cause units which ordinarily don't have to worry about morale checks (but which don't have fearless) to fail a morale check.

Against Marines, if you're not lucky enough to force 'em off the table, you don't end up doing a lot. They rally, they move 3", they do a normal move, only thing it stops them from doing is firing heavy weapons at full BS (so maybe against Long Fangs?) It can push a unit off a deep objective, but you have to come forward with the PBS to pull that stunt off, and it ain't a sturdy unit to begin with (nor can you stuff it in a Chimera and roll it wherever you want – the Chim is a lot easier to wreck!)

The real problem is the fragility, though. Soak up a few casualties and the remainder can't scare a Tickle Me Elmo. And it just ain't hard to put a few wounds on a T3 unit with bad saves!

"The real problem is the fragility, though. Soak up a few casualties and the remainder can't scare a Tickle Me Elmo. And it just ain't hard to put a few wounds on a T3 unit with bad saves! "

This is why the new LoS/WA Rules are so great for them. You only have to expose one Model at a time to enemy fire, and you can often use Run and/or Flat Out moves to get that one back out of LoS after using the Power.

It can be useful to push back a unit threatening an assault, even if they have ATSKNF- yes, they get the 3" of "free" movement, but the 2d6" will almost always get them further away than that, so they're almost always losing ground.

Oh, sure, it's not nothin'. But at the same time, it's one of those things that relies on a whole series of rolls to work:

-PBS passes leadership check to activate psychic power
-Target unit fails Deny the Witch
-Other shooting puts >25% casualties on the unit
-Unit fails leadership

Individually none of these are a big deal. Collectively this lowers the chances of success significantly.

I don't disagree that it's a fun unit – it brings an element to the table that a lot of armies aren't used to dealing with. But is it as useful as its points in melta-hugging veterans? Or a Hydra to shoot down that flyer? Or an extra heavy weapons squad? It's not like Guard don't have lots of good units, and this one's distinctly "meh" in that company.

Since taking 25% off of a given Unit in a given Turn is pretty much negligible for a decent Guard Army, I'll leave that one out of the calculation. Assuming you've dropped the other Unit down to Ld 4 (and with even a moderately sized PBS, it may well be lower), this is still the same odds as passing 3 2+ Rolls in a row. Or in other words, the odds of killing a Marine in 6+ Cover with a BS5 Lascannon shot. Who's gonna put money down on that Marine surviving?

And that's for only 70 Points, not even as much as a Hydra, or a Vet Squad with Weapons.

A "Fun" unit?
The PBS is anything but a fun unit; it's a clinical tool that can be an absolute game changer. It is one of the greatest force multipliers in the entire game.

I've used one or two PBS at every single tournament I have taken Guard to since May 2009 including state and national masters, and found they are one of the most effective tools in the Guard arsenal.

I'd say they are now harder to use well than in 5th because it's no longer as simple as reduce non-fearless/ATSKNF enemy below 50%, fire WR and forget. However the power is still an exceptional ability for a ranged-shooting army, and opponents soon learn to fear them again.

But to answer your questions, assuming you have scoring covered it is much more useful than another melta squad, far more influential than a heavy weapons teams (which I rate average at best) and much, much better than the recently-nerfed Hydra.

You do score points for originality though, I've heard them called everything from broken to abusive to cheese, but never heard a PBS called 'meh' before 😀

Terrify is used at the start of the turn, while weaken resolve is used at the shooting phase. Means you can use it against fearless enemies, but that is it.

Alternately, you can use it at the start of a turn to convert Fearless troops into something vulnerable to tank shocks and morale tests from 25%+ shooting casualties, or use it to force an extra morale test on a regular unit. The target will probably hold through the first Morale test. Then you can reduce their leadership and get them with the shooting morale test.

I've tried it on an unite i was going to wipe out with others guns anyway, and it eradicated everyone.
But i have to admit that even a lascannon on a demolisher in V5 was more reliable than that. You just have to see it as a "bonus" than a real combo

You know I might consider using the PSB+psychic shriek myself.

When you think about it in a IG+CSM list, you can put a sorcerer insider a unit of cost-effective bikes, or spawn (in the case of spawn you don't have to worry about morale at least, bikes need a lord or overpriced icon).

PBS can sit behind, and you can safely move the biker sorcerer into position to use the ability.

As I said earlier – dominate, assault something. If they fail their leadership, they can’t do anything else that phase – move, pile in, strike blows, *nothing*. Imagine being able to charge something where they couldn’t strike blows. Couldn’t hit and run. Unimpressive you reckon?

You might want to try reading Dominate again; it doesn't stop units from striking in close combat or from piling in, only from moving, making assaults, shooting, and running. (Note that running, moving, and assaulting are all differentiated, which implies that the "moving" is not a blanket prohibition against movement of any kind or the three entries wouldn't be necessary.)

It will prevent Overwatch shots and make their morale test all but unpassable if you win, but that's not all that impressive given the investment.

Here's the rule:

"DOMINATE Warp Charge 1

Dominate is a malediction that targets a single enemy unit
within 24". Whilst the power is in effect, the target unit must
pass a Leadership test each time it attempts to move, shoot,
Run or declare a charge – if the test is failed, the action is
forfeit and the unit can do nothing that phase."

As AP is saying, it does not say that it "stops an enemy unit doing anything else that entire phase"; it is specific about the three actions the enemy will require a leadership check in order to perform.

Fighting back in combat is not one of these. It is possible that 'attempting to move' would cover pile in, but the rules for Piling In don't make it sound like something a unit 'can attempt' but rather like something they MUST do.
"any model… that isn't already in base contact with any enemy model, must make a Pile In move" (pg23)

And overwatch is shooting.

"Can do nothing that phase" – if you overwatch (which is shooting) and fail your leadership, you "can do nothing that phase". If you pile in, which it specifically says is 'a 3 inch move', you "can do nothing that phase". Striking blows is doing something IMO.

Also, to be clear –

It doesn't say 'if you fail the leadership, you may not do that action' – it says forfeit that action and can do nothing that phase', which are two different things.

If, for eg, you accept overwatch is shooting (which I think is simple), than you clearly cannot overwatch, but what does 'do nothing that phase mean', if the only restriction is overwatch?

I think it means you can not do anything else that phase.

The only argument remaining is whether pile in counts as the unit moving or not – I don't think every time a model is shifted it counts as a move, but I do think pile in is a move, as I said it specifically says 'pile in is a 3 inch move'.

I'm sorry for the re-iterations, I just want to make sure my point is well understood.

Even assuming you're correct, the enemy can negate the ability by simply choosing not to take the action and thus avoiding the test. Honestly, I think "can do nothing else that phase" is really stretching the interpretation because it's clearly not what the power was intended to to.

Piling in is indeed a type of movement, but the problem is that GW uses the generic term "move" to refer both to movement specifically during the Movement phase and also movement in general. If it was referring to the general prohibition against movement, then there would be no need to repeat the need for a test during the shooting (run) and assault phases- they could simply say "whenever the unit tries to move or shoot…" The fact that it specifies four particular actions (moving, shooting, running, assaulting), three of which fall under the blanket category "movement," implies that the "movement" label in the power refers specifically to movement during the Movement phase, rather than the general type.

Pile in isn't just a type of movement, it is specifically 'a move'. I agree while running + assaulting might be 'moving', as the verb, 'a move' is the same as 'movement'. The rule says if you try to move… and the pile in is a 3 inch move.

You might not like it, and it might be argued RAW to mean something else, but it is *very* clear in the English.

Also, keep in mind the last power has the ability to stop combat (striking blows) etc. So it is hard to say that no, GW would never have intended that. just the odds are against you failing ld.

Words that mean the same thing in English don't always mean the same thing in the game. A vehicle that pivots on the spot is both moving and not moving at the same time, which is a logical impossibility but perfectly legal under the game's rules.

You still aren't addressing the point about multiple "types" of movement, though, which I think is the main argument.

I feel I am addressing 'types' of movements.

I don't think pile in is a 'type' – it says it is a 3 inch move. It isn't a description that equates to 'moving', like when you assault something you move the model. It is described as a 'move' which is quite specific. It doesn't even say you 'move' the model, as a verb, but rather you apply the rule for 'move', at 3 inches (or it could say, for eg, move the model 3 inches).

'A 3 inch move' is a very specific rule, where the others you cite the move is more a description of what is happening then conforming to the rule 'move'.

And you could argue that every time you move regardless is a move, if you really wanted to. GW rules tend to be contradictory in certain places, as you cite the vehicle pivot, but the rules specifically give exemption to this being a move. No exemption with most things.

It may conversely have been a ham-fisted attempt to prevent such rules lawyering in the first place – with people arguing "Running isn't movement because it doesn't occur in the movement phase" or "I can still declare a charge even if I cannot move" thus baiting out overwatch with an already-useless unit.

I agree with your point about "can do nothing else that phase" being a stretch, but I disagree that the wording supports denial of "movement" being only the movement that occurs in the first phase of the turn. I would suggest that a Dominated unit can strike, but cannot pile in.

But if pile-in isn't a move (when it says it is a 3-inch move), then overwatch isn't shooting (since its in the assault). Correct?

Also puppy, appreciate ur comments.

I just disagree – I think it saying 'it is a 3 inch move' is a rule, not a description – ie if 'move' was a rule, as opposed to a verb, it is a rule in this case. And the same rule (move in dominate, move in pile in) is applied in both.

My guess is that they mean you "can do no voluntary actation that phase". Pile in is not voluntary – it's no different than fleeing, which I suppose you agree the unit can do?

But a quick way to avoid the effect (in the poorly worded form) would just to forfeit Overwatch. Aport from Flamers that rarely much of a loss.

unless you're being charged by a squad of eldar, dark eldar, orks or gene stealers that is…. killing 1-3 stealers with bolt rounds before they hit your line of marines can swing the combat drastically. Overwatch is only shit against hordes or marines.

My guess is that they mean you "can do no voluntary actation that phase". Pile in is not voluntary – it's no different than fleeing, which I suppose you agree the unit can do?

But a quick way to avoid the effect (in the poorly worded form) would just to forfeit Overwatch. Aport from Flamers that rarely much of a loss.

Saying it is only voluntary actions changes what the rules say. You can agree it says all actions, and that RAW it means voluntary actions only, but that’s your interpretation.

And my entire point is pile in (again) is specifically ‘a 3 inch move’ and if you move and fail, you can’t do anything else.

“Attempt” doesn’t mean voluntary. Attempt means there is a restriction placed on your ability to do something. When you rally for example, you ‘attempt’ to rally. But you must try, you can not avoid it, whether you fail or pass.

In this case, “attempt” again is the word used because a restriction is placed on the action, not because it’s voluntary.

I have to agree with this. The Dominate power seems like it was made to shut down a unit on its own turn, not to stop it from doing anything in your turn. I believe the "Can do nothing else that phase" is meant to prevent units from trying something, failing, and then trying something else.

For example, a unit fails its leadership to move in the movement phase, the owner cannot then chose to attempt to voluntarily go to ground to get a 6+ cover save. If the unit fails its leadership to shoot, the owner cannot then chose to attempt to run instead. And so on.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been 2 years since my last comfession, and in that time my zeal in the fight against walls of text has lead me into ever more extreme paragraphing and bullet-pointing excesses to ensure ease of reading on devices of deviltry both desktop bound and portable.
At least I have resisted the temptation of caps lock this far.