"That which is unknown and unseen always commands the greatest fear." -- Dictatus Culexus
The Culexus Assassin is the least used and most misunderstood of the Imperial Assassins. It is also one of the most devastating, if used correctly. This tactica article discusses the Culexus, highlights its strengths, and gives you some suggestions for fitting it into an army.
Besides the already formidable characteristics of an Imperial Assassin, the Culexus has a handful of wargear and special rules to differentiate the Culexus Temple from the others.
First and foremost a Culexus is Souless. Any model within 12" of the Culexus has its Leadership lowered to 7. Combined with Infiltration, this ability gives the Culexus its teeth.
Our subject is armed with the feared Animum Speculum. This S5 AP1 weapon is an Assault 2 weapon that gains an extra shot for every Psyker within 12". Without limit. The best I've ever done was 27 glorious shots against a 25-man Seer Council. Few of my 40k memories compare to it. I still get misty-eyed thinking about it.
Note: there are a lot more psykers in the game than most people are aware of, not just Farseers and Librarians. All Synapse creatures are psykers which makes a Culexus a great option against Tyranids. Also whole units of Grey Knight Terminators are psykers and with a S5 AP1 weapon they have a lot to fear from our Assassin.
The Culexus has the Etherium ability that forces any unit wishing to shoot at, target with a psychic power, or charge to make a Leadership test. If failed, the unit must attack another target. This ability meshes well with Infiltrate and Souless.
The Culexus has three other abilities of note that are of use against enemy psykers: Psychic Abomination forces psykers within 6" to pass a Morale check or fall back. Psyker Assassin allows the Culexus to ignore shooting restrictions to target a psyker (and ignore other models to get into contact with a psyker when charging). And Life Drain, which gives the Assassin the ability to put wounds on psykers before close combat is resolved.
Note: I didn't mention Psyk-Out Grenades because they are pretty terrible pieces of wargear. Since saving throws are taken as normal, three shots with the Animus Speculum is almost always better than using a Psyk-Out Grenade.
What the Culexus doesn't have is a Power Weapon. This means that although a tough cookie, it can't stand toe-to-toe with an enemy unit like an Eversor or Callidus. A Culexus is best used as a Leadership lodestone and a short-range shooting platform.
WHEN TO USE A CULEXUS.
The main consideration when choosing a Culexus is knowing exactly how you intend to use the Assassin. Since Souless affects friends as well as enemies, you need to keep the Culexus at an arm's length (or in the company of Fearless units). The last thing you want is to play a mission without Infiltrate and find that you don't have enough room to deploy the Culexus and your 130 Guardsmen in the same deployment zone.
Most players only bring out the Culexus against an army with potent Psykers. But that's not the only place a Culexus shines; he's very effective against any opponent that's not Fearless.
HOW TO USE A CULEXUS.
I'm going to describe my two favorite methods of using a Culexus in my armies. I'm not going to describe the most common (and, in my opinion, least creative) use of the Assassin which is chasing down enemy psykers. You don't need to read a Tactica for that suggestion.
The Cardinal Fang (or: "Surprise, Fear and Ruthless Efficiency"): This tactic works best with "shooty" armies. I use it from time to time with Barrage, Torrent of Fire or Pinning armies (IG w/Mortars and Basilisks, WH+IG army with tons of Heavy Bolters, or Marines with FotA and Sniper Rifles are great examples).
In this instance, the Culexus is deployed alone. I deploy it last (after my other Infiltrators) and as close as possible to my enemy's lines. I prefer to choose a location 12.1" out of LOS (usually 6.1" into area terrain).
On my first turn, I advance the Culexus toward my opponent's army so that Souless affects the largest number of enemy units possible. Against a tightly packed army, I can often cover 2-4 units.
Now I concentrate all of my shooting at those units with the goal of causing as many Pinning and Morale checks as possible. Pinning checks against Barrages are resolved at LD6 and Morale checks will be at LD 6 or 7. There are games when my enemy finds himself with units running off the board on the first turn. I'll often leave my Culexus out of assault (especially if I have an advancing force) and rely on Etherium and Souless to keep him alive.
The Bag of Hammers (or: "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sweeping Advance"): This tactic is my favorite use of the Culexus. As an Eversor player, I use this tactic when I expect to face a large army that isn't Fearless (or when I hear someone grumble that the Culexus is useless).
I take a Culexus and 6 Deathcult Assassins. DCAs are Fearless and unaffected by Souless so they make ideal support troops. I deploy all seven Assassins via Infiltration on a flank (but not too far out). Keep in mind that all seven Assassins are separate units for shooting (and shooting past them requires a Target Priority check -- hopefully at LD7).
The goal in this instance is to assault the enemy with all seven Assassins in the same assault phase (usually turn 2). On the charge, the knot has 4 attacks from the Culexus and 24 Power Weapon attacks from the DCAs, all at I5. Since each Assassin is a separate unit in close combat, you can pretty easily clear your killzone without any attacks back.
Note: It's important to have at least one enemy model in base contact at the end of the assault phase, so model placement is critical. You want to cripple the enemy, but without losing base contact. To make sure this happens, resolve each Assassin's attacks individually. Don't get lazy and roll them all at once.
If you win the close combat (and you should, often without taking a single wound), you'll have 15 wounds to count when outnumbering your opponent. In most cases, this will give your enemy a massive Leadership penalty for his Morale check. And thanks to Souless, his base Leadership is 7.
If your opponent fails the check (and he should -- he's probably testing against a 3 or a 4), then you have SEVEN attempts to Sweeping Advance the unit using your average Initiative of 5.
Note: I'll talk more about Sweeping Advance and model placement when I cover Deathcult Assassins.
Next time: The Vindicare..