Although you might think that we have fully exhausted all the options available to the Stigmatus Coven formation, in reality, we are only about half way through. As you can see from the list here (p. 96) the options are pretty numerous. I can’t think of any other formation that has the amount of different options that the Coven formation does, ranging from extra Mutants to the war-engine sized Chaos Altars. Still in this post, I want to look at those options available that come from the ranks of the Traitor Guard – those Imperial Guardsmen that have turned their back on the God-Emperor and thrown in their lot with Chaos. Most famous of these are probably the Blood Pact from the Dan Abnett Gaunt’s Ghosts series of books, but the crop up in nearly every piece of GW fiction dealing with the forces of chaos.
The Traitor Guard option available to the Stigmatus Coven formation are pretty varied including two differing types of Leman Russ, Traitor Fire Support, Griffons, Hellhounds, Hydras, and Chimeras (I am leaving the Land Transporter and Chimera options for a separate post in order to balance the amount of stuff in each post). I want to deal with each upgrade in turn, before looking at the way that some of them can interact with each other and some possible example formations.
Traitor Fire Support: Almost a direct clone of the loyalist version from the Steel Legion army list, they are a FF 4+, CC 6+ INF stand with no armour save and two autocannon shots per stand (45cm AP5+/AT6+). As an option, each Coven can take up to four Traitor Fire Support Stands at +25pts each. As you can see from the stats, the Traitor Fire Support option is really only good for one thing – adding ranged fire to a Coven – which is does pretty well. It also adds a couple of FF 4+ dice to any engagements you might find the Coven in, or supporting, which is always a nice thing to have in an army which tends to rely on quantity over quality of dice.
Leman Russ: Another option for the Stigmatus Coven is the ability to add on between 1 – 3 Leman Russ or Leman Russ Demolishers at +70pts each. The tanks have exactly the same stats as in the Steel Legion list, both being FF4+ (3+ for a Demolisher), CC 6+, 4+ Reinforced Armour, 25cm speed vehicles. This means that they are resilient and handy in a firefight, but suffer in movement and when in close combat. The regular Leman Russ has a 75cm AP4+/AT5+ Battle cannon, a 45cm AT5+ Lascannon, and a pair of 30cm AP5+ Heavy Bolters, meaning that it provides significant long range mixed AT/AP firepower with increasing quantities of AP firepower as the enemy closes. Meanwhile the Demolisher has a 30cm AP3+/AT4+ Ignores Cover Demolisher cannon, a 45cm AT5+ Lascannon, and a pair of 30cm AP4+/AT4+ Slow Firing Plasma Cannons – giving it a significant increase in both AP and AT firepower as a trade in for the shortened range. In the context of the Stigmatus Coven though, I tend to find the Leman Russ options difficult to use for a couple of reasons.
First, if you take with in the coven as the only armoured vehicles they are too easily picked out by AT fire. Even if you try and offset this by mounting the formation up in Chimeras, the Leman Russes both increase the cost significantly (560pts for a mounted coven with 3 Leman Russ) and reduce the speed of the formation.
Secondly, taking the normal Leman Russ in the formation gives you 3 units that have a 75cm range while the rest at best have 30cm range weapons. Often you will be tempted to use the formation to fire at things only within the 75cm range – wasting the rest of the formation. This is exacerbated by the way in which suppression works in EPIC, meaning that even with only 3 blast-markers, all of the Leman Russ will be suppressed when firing at anything beyond 30cm.
Thirdly, given the generally poor armour saves of the Lost and the Damned, you will tend to find yourself hugging cover like it was your teddy bear. The Russes, as armoured vehicles, will have to be taking a lot of difficult terrain tests, which gets pricey fast when each vehicle is 70pts.
Overall, unless playing some kind of scenario (city fight maybe?) I am not a huge fan of adding Russ to a Coven formation given the problems above. They work much better for me as a separate formation, something we will look at later!
Griffon: Griffons are the light artillery piece from the Imperial armoury being a FF 5+, CC 6+, 30cm speed vehicle with a 6+ armour save at +35pts each. This puts them squarely in the Chimera speed bracket, swapping the transport capacity for a Heavy Mortar (30cm, 1BP, Indirect Fire) but keeping the Heavy Bolter (30cm, AP5+). I tend to find a trio Griffons pretty useful in Stigmatus Covens as they provide a little bit of barrage firepower out to 60cm (Indirect Fire doubles the range of the weapon when sustaining) for formations that are holding objectives or garrisoning up the board. If the formation has to move for some reason, the Griffons do not lose out too much as the 30cm ranges of their Mortars and Heavy Bolters sync up well with the 30cm range of Cultist stands. As a note, it is practically always worth upgrading the formation with the full three Griffons or none at all, as the barrage table reward having 3BP with better to hit values. Although Griffons suffer from the same issues as the Russ with regard to being the only AV in a formation and terrain – they tend to present a lower threat than Leman Russ, suffer less from dangerous terrain tests as they tend to move less, and their range works out better with the way that suppression works.
Hellhound: Hellhounds are another Chimera chassis tank – FF 3+ , CC 6+, 30 cm speed with a 4+ armour save, armed with a Heavy Bolter (30cm AP5+) and an Inferno Cannon (30cm AP3+ Ignores Cover) – for +50pts each. Again, a 1-3 option for a Coven, they suffer from all the usual issues described above. On the plus side though, they provide excellent firefight support for Covens and are great at digging enemy infantry out of cover at short ranges. With their 30cm speed they are able to keep up Chimeras, both adding to their flurry of 30cm firepower, and helping out significantly in engages. They are quite expensive though and this is what often stops me from including them in my formations – 350pts for a Coven with 3 Hellhounds, or 500pts for a mounted version. Perhaps another upgrade to keep for when you know you will be playing on a terrain heavy board.
Hydra: One of the key weaknesses in the Lost and the Damned army list is its difficulty in accessing anti-air firepower and the expense / fragility of the AA it can access. The Hydra is one of only two options in the list for ground-based AA, with each coven being able to add either one or two for +50pts each. For this you get a FF 5+, CC 6+, 6+ save, 30cm vehicle armed with a Heavy Bolter (30cm AP5+) and two Twin Hydra Autocannons (45cm AP4+/AT5+/AA5+). The fact is that in EPIC you need some form of ground AA, because relying solely on aircraft formations to provide it is risky, and are therefore stuck with either taking Hydras or Chaos Altars (something we will look at next post). Realistically the reason you are taking the Hydra is not for its firefight or combat capabilities, or even its ground firepower, but for its ability to at least lay blast markers on aircraft out to 45cm. In this role it is not bad and a few Hydras sprinkled through your army will cause at least irritation to your opponents air formations, but they again suffer from the same issues that most of these armoured vehicles do – single / few AV in an infantry formation, easily suppressed, susceptible to dangerous terrain.
Chaos Marine Aspiring Champion, 11 stands of Cultists, 4 Traitor Fire Support – 300pts
Camp on an objective and shoot at things – pretty straight forward really… More seriously, as a cheap formation, this lay out can hide safely inside cover, possibly on overwatch happily shooting at anything that comes near with eight autocannons. The Aspiring Champion helps to shed those blast markers that may be suppressing your 45cm range Fire Support, while the Cultists either chip in fire within 30cm or just provide ablative meat-shields.
Chaos Marine Aspiring Champion, 6 stands of Cultists, 5 stands of Mutants, 3 Leman Russ Demolishers – 410pts
Pricey at 410pts for what it is, this formation would probably perform best on a board with a lot of cover / terrain. Use it to advance on objectives, using the demolisher cannons / plasma cannons to dig enemy units out of cover. Then use the FF of the Demolishers to either support other engagements, or to support the Mutants in CC. Sadly it lacks resilience and only takes a small amount of dedicated AT fire power to hamstring it.
Chaos Marine Aspiring Champion, 11 stands of Cultists, 3 Griffons – 305pts
Cheap and can happily sit on an objective but still influence the battle with its 60cm range barrage template. Especially good if you can use terrain to hide the Griffons from enemy fire while providing cover to the Cultists, it can be surprisingly hard to shift. Perhaps throw in a couple of Mutant stands if you wished in order to buck up its assault defence, but I tend to find that cheap is the way to go for the Coven formations.
Demagogue, 8 stands of Cultists, 3 stands of Big Mutants, 3 Hellhounds, Daemonic Pact – 435pts
Getting more expensive, this formation focuses on using the combination of daemons, Hellhounds and Big Mutants to overwhelm the enemy in FF / CC, especially when using Tzeentch daemons (a later post will explain why I think these are far and away the best daemons…). The Big Mutants and Hellhounds both have FF 3+ and decent armour saves, while the MW close combat of the Mutants should put off any enemy CC engagements.
Chaos Marine Aspiring Champion, 11 stands of Cultists, Hydra – 250pts
Cheap, cheerful, and including AA – what is not to like? Well the single AV means that the Hydra will die almost instantly and the formation by itself is pretty rubbish, but given the restrictions of the list, I often find myself just adding odd Hydras to already chosen formations just because I have no better place to put them. Of course adding more AV to the formation (not including transports you can cram in 11 at a cost of 565pts…) will make the Hydra safer, but will drive up your points cost and make the formation even more of a target. Sometimes it is best just to accept that fact it will probably die, and make the best of a bad job.