Lictors, the red-headed stepchildren of 4th edition, are back. Will they finally convince us to sign those adoption papers and take them into our armies like family—or will they continue to be cast aside? Let’s take a look…
These guys came down in points (slightly) and managed to keep most of what made them Lictors from the last edition. They’re still able to fleet, Hit & Run, frag grenades, +1 to reserve rolls, and–to some extent– their secret deployment and their improved cover saves, plus they benefit from the re-rolls attributed to the new version of scything talons. Statwise, they managed to get an extra wound, and earned a BS (which wasn’t necessary before, because they had no guns). Yes, you heard that right—the masters of camouflage and surprise assault earned a tiny assault cannon (as did everything that uses flesh-hooks now).
They also have a different means of deployment. Whereas they used to Deepstrike into area terrain, they now deploy like Rambo (from the IG codex) or the Callidus Assassin. The Rambo comparison is more accurate though, since Lictors can’t assault on the turn they appear. It does mean that they won’t have to take dangerous terrain tests for deep-striking into difficult terrain though.
If you’re scratching your head at that last statement, then that probably means you have a good gaming group; however, the spirit of the game and the letter of the rules conflicted with Lictor’s deployment in 4th edition. Instead of normal deployment, they used to deep strike into area terrain “to represent them leaping out from concealment.” Rules lawyers types would force their opponents to roll a dangerous terrain check because they were deep striking, despite the fact that the rule was designed to simulate the fact that the monster was always there—just well concealed.
The last benefit I see is that they also picked up a toy after assaulting one too many space marine drop pods: a teleport homer. It’s not called that in the codex, but it’s the bio-equivalency of one. Units deep striking within 6” of a Lictor no longer scatter.
So I mentioned that Lictors now have a gun, right? While it proves to be a miniature version of the assault cannon, it lacks in number of shots and range. The number of shots isn’t a big deal, but the range is absolutely abysmal (for those that haven’t seen the codex, I’ll give you a hint: it’s shorter than the length of a flamer template).
Additionally, its special “stealth” rule that conveyed an improved cover save has been overwritten by the default stealth rule. So, while it still retains a modifier, it’s been reduced to +1 to cover. This likely has to do with the proliferation of 4+ cover saves around the board in 5th edition, but it’s sad to see the unit lose durability—especially since it can’t charge the turn it arrives.
Speaking of which, Lictors were laughed at in the previous codex, due to their lack of survivability. Maintaining toughness 4, coupled with their lack of invulnerable saves and their new deployment (which prevents them from at least getting into the protection of assault), all continue down the course of dead Lictors.
They also lost their feeder tendrils. One of the great advantages of using Lictors in the past was they provided a relatively inexpensive way to compliment assaulters by giving them re-rolls to hit. Not anymore…
With the downsides boiling down to less survivability, loss of feeder tendrils, and an inability to charge on the turn the appear, my first inclination is to say these guys are done for. When I compare their new benefits: a better means of deployment, a new rending (albeit) short-ranged gun, teleport homer, an extra wound, I do wonder if they have a purpose in the army though.
Granted, their role of tying up rear guards and assisting in assaults are obsolete (if not, then greatly hampered), but perhaps there’s a new method to the madness? If that’s the case, the only thing I can come up with is that they’re now expensive homing beacons. Keeping that in mind, let’s ponder on how we can use that effectively.
Well, clearly, there are a lot of deep-striking options available in the codex that were unheard of previously. Practically every unit can either deep strike natively, has a cheap upgrade to do so, or can buy a landing spore. With a Lictor in your army, these not only come out faster, but can hit exactly where you want to. A couple of ways I can see this being a viable tactic:
- Using a lot of landing spores. Depending upon the model, you could drop these down unerringly to create a wall to shield your deep-striking units from harm. This is similar to the space marine tactic wherein you use your drop pods to cut the opposing force in two, and then you can choose to fight only half—while the others play with your landing spores. The difference is that landing spores are tougher, can’t easily be assaulted, and are guaranteed to hit where you want them (when coupled with a Lictor).
- Use them in coordination with a Mawloc (or several). That particular unit drops a str5 ap2 template when it arrives and automatically destroys immobilized vehicles (depending upon how you read the rule). The key problem is that the Mawloc doesn’t hit its target very often (about 35% of the time). The Lictor can change all of that.
- Deploying behind a low armor vehicle and letting loose with the flesh-hooks. Granted, this doesn’t make use of the teleport homer, but it’s still a possible use of the unit.
That last point there doesn’t sit well with me because it’s only two shots, with a relatively low ballistic skill. The odds of even glancing an AV10 vehicle with that strategy are shaky at best As a whole, the gun doesn’t do much for me. Ignoring the low ballistic skill, the range alone is enough to kill the gun. Consider that if you’re using a Lictor, you probably want to assault something with it, and that it’s maximum range for assault and shooting are the same. This means that anything you kill during the shooting phase won’t be there for the assault. Crafty opponents can use this to their advantage by removing casualties from the front of the unit—which could push you out of charge range.
My final beef with the new rules here is that I can’t see anywhere that it says you can split them out into lone-units as you could in previous editions. Though you can still buy them in squads of 1-3, they don’t seem to have the ability to deploy separately. This is horrible—and seemingly a rule that was overlooked for both them and the Zoanthropes (and maybe even the new Carnifex as well). I have to hope that this is just the sort of thing that caused them to call off sending out early copies of the codex because they needed to fix things like this before sending them out. If not, heaven help us. Why do I need to have a squad of 3 teleport homers running around the board?
My overall opinion, is that the red-headed step-child from 4th edition still isn’t welcome into the house. Sure, we’ll let them play in the yard sometimes when the family comes over for Thanksgiving dinner, but I can’t see them ever getting a place at the table…
Cat picture stolen from http://icanhascheezeburger.com. Clear Lictor image borrowed (with love) from http://album.warpshadow.com/, specifically Hive Fleet Hécatonchires. If you haven’t already perused this site, you really should. The creativity and painting skill of the hives there are astounding.