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March 7, 2007

TACTICA: Culexus Assassin


"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.

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.

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..


Boss Salvage said...

And the culexus is first off the block! Wonderful article, and just the push I need to bust out the old 'lexus, give him a simple green bath and refresh his syn-skin. I've been wanting to run a load of DCA, and I think the 'Bag of Hammers' might be just the tactic I need ...

Looking forward to the other assassins, but thanks for covering the spooky one first!

- Salvage

Ixe said...

Haha! When I started reading this article, it had me immediately scratching my head. "It makes MY units Ld7 too. How the hell am I going to use that!?"

And then you got to using Death Cultists... Brilliant! I never would have thought of that.

Jonathan said...

He works fine as an ally in a Space Marine army (higher-points, since you have to bring the Lord and his Retinue), where the other HQ choice is a leader with Rites of Battle. The front-line squaddies don't care what their leadership is, they're testing against the boss's leadership of 10. Just be sure to keep the boss out of Soulless range!

Anonymous said...

Great Tactica!! It's worth noting that the Animus Speculum gains extra shots from friendly psykers within 12" as well! Keeping him within 12" of fearless grey knights (Each squad leader counting as a psyker) is a great way to add extra shots to an already impressive weapon.

Anonymous said...

Another use for your own assassin- put him near repentia. Seeing as they advance forward when they fail a test, and you want to keep the mistress, it means you will fail- thats a good thing!

Ian said...

I have a pretty sick use of a Culexus to confess to. We were playing a huge game, 8000 points a side. I had 3 army list allowance to bring 6000 points of guard, to ally with Black templars and face a hodge podge of Chaos, templars, Guard and Tau. I was trying to find inventive ways to spend the points, when I came up with this.

In one of the army lists I had my IQ and Culexus. In another I had Schaeffers Last Chancers. Now Last Chancers are very interesting. Good weapon options, can be divided into smaller squads, given psychic abilities. What was that? There's no limit? So one squad of 20 psychic last chancers, led by schaeffer (making them fearless), stood next to a culexus assassin. I kept them in the middle of the rear of our lines as a tactical reserve, also within range of the inquisitor.

As might be expected, some terminators deep striked into that nice big gap we'd left in the middle of our lines behind all my leman russes, no doubt expecting to unleash merry hell against our rear army. But no, the inquisitor saw them, and his retinue allowed him to nominate a unit to take a free shot at the incoming troops. Step up assassin. 20 psykers, 2 shots, IQ and retinue. You're looking at 25 shots, hitting on 2s. Wounding on 3s. And then just a 5+ invulnerable to try to prevent it. Needless to say, there was just a kind of smudge left.

Anonymous said...

Erm, about the bonus shots against/with GK Temrinators... The codex states that for the purpose of game the leader (Justicar or Brother Capitan) counts as a psyker, but there isn't anything about the others doing that. Therefore, he gets only one bonus shot.

Kris said...

A bit late to reading the article, but well done. The culexus is almost never seen, but he's such a cool model with interesting possibilities. One other tactic I've seen used well is infiltrating him into a good position, and waiting for your drop-pod librarian with Fear of the Darkness to arrive. Suddenly, everyone around him is testing at Ld 5!

mkerr said...

@Anon: It doesn't say that at all. It says (under the GKT description) that "Grey Knight Terminators may purchase the Holocaust psychic power".

And under the description of Holocaust it tells us to place the template over the Brother-Captain.

Nothing says that he's the only psyker in the unit, just that you place the marker on him.

The unit is upgraded with the psychic power; it's pretty clear that all members of the unit are psykers.

Anonymous said...

In the C:DH page 20 below Special Daemonhunters Notes the point Psykers says:"The Squad Leader... will count as a Psyker in all instances (determining shot from an Animus Speculum...).

IMO this point clearly states the SL as a the only psyker within the unit and thus increases the shots of the AS only by one.

Anonymous said...

Theres also the tactic of sticking a culexus in a dark angels force with Ezekial and his mind worm power, with models testing at Ld 7 and if they fail they are removed immediately, I think they go together quite well.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't you leave you're Culexus near a full group of GK terminators then you attack the enemy with 12 S5 ap1 attacks

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