The Emperor’s Children were the only legion to bear the Palatine Aquila, the Emperor’s standard. The Emperor’s Children embodied all aspects of what the Emperor expected from the legiones astartes. They were noble, loyal, strong, and civilized. These expectations drove the third legion to seek absolute perfection. This desire for perfection led to their twisting of pride into a desire for excess and hedonism. Once the legion began to follow the Warmaster their martial prowess saw massacres and brutality against the Imperium performed by the hands of a once-loyal legion.
The martial prowess of the Emperor’s Children is represented through a tremendously powerful legion tactic. When an Emperor’s Children unit performs a charge make their melee attacks one initiative step higher than normal. Note that this expressly works after any initiative modifiers are taken into account. Any Vehicle units gain +1 to hit when firing with defensive weapons during a reaction.
At first glance this seems very minor, but the execution of this rule is extremely powerful. Because wounds and casualties are determined at the end of each initiative step, if a model is removed as a casualty before it has the chance to fight in a combat, that model’s attacks are lost. If two opposing models have the same initiative, all the wounds and casualties are considered to happen simultaneously, so a model removed as a casualty still has the opportunity to deal damage on the way down. This rule gives the Emperor’s Children the ability to severely reduce the amount of incoming damage following a charge, by removing a threat before it has the chance to strike.
This also greatly improves the use of Unwieldy weapons, since this increase happens after initiative modifiers are calculated. A powerfist hitting at Initiative 2 allows an Emperor’s Chosen Cataphractii squad the chance to hit opposing terminators with valuable Instant Death attacks before they are allowed the chance to die in kind. This also increases the ability for the Emperor’s Children to build expert duelists through Centurions and Praetors, who already strike at higher Initiative than most units. A high-value character issuing a challenge can potentially kill the enemy warlord before they have the chance to strike back.
At the end of the day this trait will make the third legion a dangerous melee threat. Not because they hit harder, but because they can reduce the risk of incoming damage. Overall, this cements the Emperor’s Children as a powerful melee faction.
There are three warlord traits to choose from for the Emperor’s Children, and they highlight an interesting dynamic for the game as a whole. The game does not dictate loyalty to the Emperor simply from the choice of legion. Yes, the Emperor’s Children are considered a traitor legion, but they can be played as loyalists. The warlord traits reflect this by providing one trait that can only be taken by traitors, one that can only be taken by loyalists, and one that is alliance agnostic. Each trait is solid, and they provide huge benefits with some key restrictions.
The first trait, The Broken Mirror, is restricted to warlords with the Traitor allegiance. It allows some morale mitigation for multi-model units within 12” of the warlord. If a unit that meets the conditions fails a morale check, instead of falling back, it takes a single wound that can’t be negated in any way and is then considered to have passed the morale check.
The second trait requires you to play a loyalist warlord. A warlord with the Martyrs of Isstvan trait makes any unit locked in combat with a legiones astartes unit with the traitor allegiance gain a bonus to hit. Consider this in context with the legion tactic and you’ll see that this can force your opponent to be careful about how they choose to engage a key unit with your warlord attached. The only issue is the target restriction, especially since the release of the latest books may see more games played where this warlord trait would not come into use.
The final warlord trait, Paragon of Excellence, can be played by either allegiance. This trait combines some function of the previous two by improving units’ combat abilities through morale. Every unit that passes a morale check within 12” of the warlord gains a bonus to their Weapon Skill until the end of the Emperor’s Children’s player’s next turn. Given the relatively high leadership values of marine armies, and the ability to improve that morale by attaching independent characters to key units, you will regularly trigger this ability.
Rites of War
The Emperor’s Children have two Rites of War. Both rites focus on generally improving the function of your infantry, either by adding a bonus to movement and positioning or by providing access to unique enhancements.
The first rite, The Maru Skara, will provide you with movement buffs that place you on par with the White Scars. By taking this rite, you have the option to place four of your Elite, Troop, or Fast Attack units into reserves. The units that remain on the battlefield gain a +1 to their Move characteristic until the turn that the reserve units are brought in. This is important to note, since your standard marine gaining a +1 to Move also means that they gain +1 to Charge rolls.
The second Rite, IIIrd Company Elite, allows you to take Kakophoni squads as troops. It also allows you to give all models in any given Infantry unit a surgical augmentation. The bonuses from these augmentations do a lot to offset the points cost of the equipment. You also need to have a good system of tracking which unit has which enhancement. Variety is nice, but your game can move at a snail’s pace if you increase your bookkeeping load too much.
Speaking of surgical augmentations: there are three to choose from. All of them require the Traitor allegiance and can only be placed on Character models. Sonic Shriekers provides a to-hit penalty to your opponents any time they are charged or charge your unit, so long as that enemy unit isn’t immune to Fear(X). Sub-sonic Pulsers remove the penalties to Leadership and Ballistic Skill imposed by Night Fighting. The final augmentation, a Sonic Lance, provides your model with a Template weapon with Breaching and Pinning, although the low strength value will limit its effectiveness against many opponents. The Lance can be effective on a large unit of Tactical Marines or Despoilers in a IIIrd Company Elite force, providing as many as 20 template weapons in a squad for a mere 30 points.
Outside of these augmentations, there are two power weapon upgrades: a sword and a lance. The lance is usually a better upgrade on the units that can take it, since the combination of Murderous Strike, Breaching, and a strength bonus will see more utility. There is something to be said about the benefits of a power sword with Rending and Murderous Strike, since your 6s to wound are going to be devastating when they happen. The upgrade on the sword will also make your Word Bearers friends jealous, since they pay 10 points for the same upgrade.
The Emperor’s Children also gain access to the Phoenix Warden, a unique consul upgrades for your centurions. Think of the Phoenix Warden as a modified champion, with rules focused on improving melee efficiency for himself and other units around him. The issue is that any bonus he gains from the Skill Unmatched special rule always reduces his attacks or Weapon Skill, and his Living Icons ability can more easily be attained through Legion Vexillas. Overall not a bad option, and decently flavorful, but the rules could use a tweak, given the points cost for the upgrade.
Legion Specific Units
As Primarchs go, Fulgrim is relatively straightforward. He’s a melee beatstick, with a collection of tools and rules to exceed in that role. Ost standard units are going to have a hard time dealing with him once the combat begins, but, as with most Primarchs, he can be played around simply by keeping him out of combat. He doesn’t have any real movement buffs and his increased Bulky value when compared to other Primarchs (Fulgrim demands more legroom) means that he will need something akin to a Land Raider Spartan to carry him and a retinue.
Past Fulgrim, the third legion brings along a pair of melee units, Phoenix Terminators and Palatine Blade Squads which are melee-oriented, buffed versions of Tartaros squads and Veteran squads, respectively. The final infantry squad available is the Kakophoni Squad. These are a sort of Heavy Support Squad with special weapons and surgical augmentations unique to the Emperor’s Children. Overall, an Emperor’s Children player should feel pleased with the units here. None of them will blow you away, but all three have solid rules and equipment.
In addition to the above units, there are three unique characters: Lord Commander Eidolon, Captain Saul Tarvitz, and Captain Lucius. Eidolon is a mildly upgrades jump-pack Praetor with some flavorful wargear. His warlord trait provides bonuses to fight a selected “Rival” at the cost of limiting his ability to declare reacitons. Saul Tarvitz is another upgrades Praetor, but significantly cheaper than the other two. He has a bevy of rules that ultimately break down to make him very good at fighting other Emperor’s Children. If your local meta has a bunch of other third legion players he may see some use, otherwise you’re probably better off with a Phoenix Warden Centurion.
The final character, Captain Lucius, is designed to be an excellent duelist. You want him in melee immediately, and you want him issuing and responding to challenges as often as he can. His warlord trait allows any unit to which he is attached to benefit from the Fearless special rule so long as he is engaged in a challenge.
All three of the characters are interesting, but I don’t see Eidolon or Tarvitz fitting into every list. Model collectors and painters can’t go wrong here, though, as all three models are stunning. The detail present on each model does a fantastic job of displaying exactly how obsessed with decorum the third legion was.
Given the above, the Emperor’s Children make a mean melee legion. Gaining combat advantages on the charge can be played around, however, and a savvy opponent will know to focus down the right targets at the right time. Positioning and timing are important, but the Emperor’s Children demand perfection, and they are certainly capable of attaining it.
As this article is part of a series, I will spend the next few months going into more detail about the rules of the game and the specifics of each legion. I would like to know if there is specific content our readers would like to see, so leave a comment or join us in the Woehammer discord to let us know what points you would like to see discussed.