Stigmatus Covens – so called because the EPIC list focuses on the Stigmatus Covenant, a massive cultist and mutant horde that formed part of Abaddon the Despoilers forces in the 13th Black Crusade – form the foundations of any Lost and the Damned army as the army list requires one cultist coven for every support formation. This 1:1 restriction really constricts the way that the army can be built, forcing every LatD army to have a solid core of cultists with only a sprinkling of specialist units. However each Coven has the ability to be upgraded in a myriad of ways – so in this post I will only be focusing on the base stands available, while the next posts will look at the variety of leaders available, the traitor guard upgrades available, before finishing this section on the Coven formation with the more daemonic upgrades available.
The actual formation consists of 11 stands of Cultists and a Demagogue stand – all for a pretty bargain 200pts. The base cultist stands are pretty rubbish, being a FF 6+, CC 5+, INF stand with no armour save and only a 30cm AP6+/At6+ Heavy Weapon to shoot with. While with 12 stands in a formation and CC5+, you might be tempted to think that Covens are built for close combat, their complete lack of armour save makes them very weak in this role – every hit is going to kill a stand and put you down in the combat resolution.
However, each Cultist stand can be swopped for no extra change for a stand of Mutants which are a FF 6+, CC 4+ INF stand with a 6+ armour save with no ranged weaponry. Much better in close combat, with an armour save, and the same FF roll – the only real difference being the lack of a ranged weapon, and AP6+/AT6+ is hardly stunning. To be perfectly honest, I find a mix of Mutants and Cultists to be the best choice for a Stigmatus Coven, with the Mutants providing a decent CC punch while the ranged weapons on the Cultist stands allow me to use the formation to at least lay blastmarkers.
Another choice when it comes to the Stigmatus Coven is the opportunity to trade out up to six of the stand in the formation (so half of the total) for Big Mutant stands at +20pts each. Big Mutants are the old Troll and Minotaur models, or the more modern equivalent of the Vraksian Renegade Ogryn Beserkers or Plague Ogryn. The Big Mutant stands are a FF 4+, CC 4+ INF stand with a 3+(!) armour save, two AP6+ 30cm shots and a close combat macro-weapon extra attack. The Big Mutants provide an excellent choice – providing a brilliant armour save (does anything else have a 3+ armour save?!) to put up front in the formation and soak hits onto, great firefight ability for a Lost and the Damned unit, as well as awesome close combat potential with two attacks at 4+, one of which is a MW attack and will ignore the enemies armour. While loading up on six stands of them does make the Coven quite pricey (320pts), it does mean that they present a much greater threat to a variety of enemy formations as well as being able to take more firepower.
There is also the option to make the starting formation much bigger, adding up to eight stands of either Cultists or Mutants to the mix at 15pts each, and bumping the formation up to a massive twenty stands. This does work out quite pricey at 320pts for a full twenty stands and will make the formation quite unwieldy to use – difficulties getting the whole formation into cover or into CC / FF range mean that often overly large formations suffer. However, being able to soak more casualties and still outnumber the opponent is a useful thing to be able to do. Given the price of the extra stands at +15pts each, I would be reluctant to add them given that replacing a stand with a Big Mutant stand is only +20pts, and the Big Mutants add a lot more to the formation than an extra stand of Cultists or Mutants do. Perhaps having a formation with 6 Big Mutant stands and 14 other stands would work, but the cost, at 440pts, is a bit prohibitive.
Demagogue, 11 stands of Cultists, Daemonic Pact – 225pts
Cheap, but with the addition of the Daemonic Pact (something we will look at later) represents a real threat when combined with the right daemons – summoning 4D3 stands of daemons means that this unassuming little formation can take on things much bigger and more expensive. You could even drop the DPact and switch the Demagogue for an Aspiring Champ and just view it as a 200pt tax on your fancy specialist formations.
Aspiring Champion, 6 stands of Cultists, 5 stands of Mutants – 200pts
Costing less than the last formation, but presenting a much more credible threat without the need for daemons, this formation can help support engagements decently as well as being able to take on smaller formations itself due to the modifiers for outnumbering the enemy. Best kept in decent cover as much as possible as it will quickly melt under any fire, especially from enemy artillery.
Aspiring Champion, 5 stands of Mutants, 6 stands of Big Mutants – 320pts
Quite expensive for something that still only moves at 15cm a turn (although it can be garrisoned…) this formation is probably the strongest basic close combat formation available. The six stands of Big Mutants can happily sit at the front of the formation and soak up hits on their 3+ armour save, while also making any assaulters very wary of the 6 macro-weapon attacks they throw out. The best use for this kind of formation would probably be to guard a critical objective, preferably in some near-by cover – the enemy will be forced to engage them to clear them off which allows the Big Mutants to shine. Watch out for being caught in FF by a decent enemy formation though as 6 x 4+ FF and 5 x 6+ FF can only carry you so far. Also perhaps think of swapping the Mutants for Cultists as it is unlikely that you will be able to get more than 6 / 7 stands into CC with a canny opponent and the ranged weapons could come in handy.
Daemon Prince, 6 stands of Big Mutants, 13 stands of Cultists – 490pts
Weighing in at a whopping 490pts, this formation is not something I would recommend but could be fun as the centre of an army. The Daemon Prince provides more close combat potential while the Big Mutants can do their usual role of soaking hits on their armour. The problems are manifold though: at twenty stands the formation will cover a massive chunk of the board or it will just be bait for artillery if bunched together, trying to find cover for the whole formation will be pretty difficult as will getting it anywhere near a meaningful combat at 15cm speed and even if you do that speed will hamper you trying to get all twenty stands into either CC or FF.