One change from 7th that I particularly like in 8th is that you get to pick your Trait. This is a huge game-changer as you can tailor your Trait to maximise the effectiveness of your force rather than picking a table and hoping for the best.
Much like the Stratagems we looked at in my last article, the new Warlord Traits are a bit hit-and-miss. This can be a bit of a problem if you are using named Characters as they HAVE to use their Chapter-specific Traits, and unfortunately some of these are real stinkers… Anywho, let’s dive in, shall we?
- Angel of Death: -1 Ld to enemy units with 6 inches of the Warlord. Not the worst Trait in the world, but so many armies have ways to mitigate (or completely ignore) it that it’s best to go with one of the other Traits on offer.
- The Imperium’s Sword: Warlord gains 1 extra attack on the charge and rerolls failed charge moves. This one is relatively bad. I say relatively because it’s not bad in and of itself, but compared to some of the other ones available, it’s a bit meh.
- Iron Resolve: Warlord gains 6+ FNP and an extra Wound. Like Imperium’s Sword, this Trait isn’t horrible, but it falls a bit short compared to, say…
- Storm of Fire: Units with 6 inches of the Warlord who roll a 6+ to wound improve the AP of their weapon by 1. DING DING DING! We have a winner! On its own, this won’t significantly improve your ranged damage output, but when you combine it with the Chapter Master + Lieutenant combo, it starts to add up quite a bit. The fact that Guilliman has to take the Ultra Trait when he’s your Warlord is one of the few downsides to taking him, because he’d be even better with this Trait (not that said Ultra WT is bad – far from it, as we shall see shortly). Although, technically, if you don’t mind giving up 3 Command Points, you could make some other Character your Warlord and avoid having to use the Ultra Trait… Not sure that’s worth it.
- Rites of War: Units within 6 inches auto-pass Morale tests. With ATSKNF already letting you reroll failed Morale tests, and with the potential addition of the Ld bonus brought to you by the Ultramarine Chapter Tactic, how much more protection from Ld-based casualties do you really need?
- Champion of Humanity: Warlord gains +1 to Hit and Wound rolls when fighting Characters. This is way way too situational to be any good, really.
- Adept of the Codex (Ultramarines): Every time you use a Command Point, roll a D6. On a 5+, this Command Point is refunded. Like I alluded to earlier, the Ultramarine Trait is not bad at all. Assuming you are running Bobby G alongside a Battalion, you essentially should get to play with 12 Command Points instead of 9, given average rolling. That’s nothing to spit at. Still not as good as Storm of Fire, in my opinion, but a close second for sure.
- Deadly Hunter (White Scars): When the Warlord makes a charge, the charged unit takes a Mortal Wound on a 4+. Assuming you make every charge move and roll average on triggering this, that only means 3-4 Mortal Wounds caused to your opponent’s army during the whole game. Not good.
- Architect of War (Imperial Fists): Units within 6 inches of the Warlord and in cover get a +1 bonus to their save rolls versus AP -1 weapons. This is not completely awful and helps make up a bit for the relative meh-ness of the Fists’ Chapter Tactic. Nevertheless, Lysander doesn’t want to be sitting in cover, and your non-Unique Characters should be picking some other Trait in most cases.
- Tenacious Opponent (Crimson Fist): Warlord gets D3 extra attacks in fight phase if there are more than 10 enemy models within 6 inches of him. Wow that’s bad! Don’t touch this with a 10-foot pole!
- Oathkeeper (Black Templars): Warlord makes 6 inch Heroic Interventions. My word that’s bad! Imperial Fist 2nd Founding Chapters certainly got the short end of the stick when it came to Traits, eh?
- Anvil of Strength (Salamanders): Warlord gets +1 Strength. Well… it’s better than what the Templars and Mexican Marines got…
- Silent Stalker (Raven Guard): Enemy can’t fire Overwatch at your Warlord. Somewhat useful to deny Overwatch to a unit about to get gangbanged by a RG Warlord and his crew, but still falls well short of some of the other Traits available.
- Merciless Logic (Iron Hands): Generates an extra attack on a 6+ to hit. So even with a Primaris Captain with his 5 attacks, you’re not even statistically sure to generate an extra attack. Avoid like the plague.
So the standouts are Storm of Fire and the Ultramarine Trait (man, GW is certainly piling on the Smurf love this edition, aren’t they?).
EDIT: As was suggested by Toast, I’m going to expand upon a bit here to talk about when to pick which Trait. As I stated in my answer to him, it’s usually best to plan your list around a pre-determined Trait so as to maximise the overall effectiveness of your list. For example, a Ravenguard gunline can be built around Storm of Fire by going with the Dynamic Duo (Chapter Master/Lieutenant combo) giving rerolls to a bunch of Razorbacks, Dreadnoughts and your pick of shooty Infantry – since you already want to keep a fair number of shooty units within 6 inches of your Characters anyways so they get those tasty rerolls, Storm of Fire is a natural fit.
For a more assault-oriented list, it gets a bit murkier because none of the choppy-enabling Traits stand out as starkly as Storm of Fire does for shooty lists. The first question you should ask yourself is: is Storm of Fire still the best Trait I can use here? If your assault element still has a bunch of guns it can use, the answer may be yes. Should that not be the case, you’re going to have to think a bit. What options do you have? Are you playing Ultramarines? Well ok, Adept of the Codex is probably going to be a good thing to have if you have a decent-ish amount of Command Points. Not playing Ultramarines? Ok, well, that requires further decisions – Imperium’s Sword will give you that important extra reliability to get your charges off while doing a big more damage, while Iron Resolve will make it a bit harder for your opponent to score Slay the Warlord. Those perks are a bit sad compared to what Storm of Fire brings to the game, but it is what it is.
There will be times, however, where your primary decision factor for picking a certain Trait is going to take a backseat to some other priority. For example, if you’re facing a list with a lot of Ld-decreasing abilities, it may be worthwhile to think about Rites of War instead of Storm of Fire. On the flipside, you may have opportunities to increase your effectiveness beyond what your default levels. For example, an assault-oriented Warlord comes up against an army highly susceptible to Morale damage – perhaps you should consider going with Angel of Death instead of the Imperium’s Sword/Iron Resolve you normally would have gone with. Given the incredibly varied number of factors such a decision needs to take into account (the two most important ones being the specifics of your lists and those of your opponent’s), it’s impossible to cover all possibilities. Therefor, my advice is to get to know each Trait by heart so you’ll be able to develop an instinctive grasp of when to switch out your “default” Trait for something else.
That’s it for now. See you next time, true believers!