GW put my fears to rest with a solid book.
In the run up to the Custodes release I had a lot of worries. I worried their wasn’t a good way to make a super elite army in 8th Edition. This is after all an edition that favors putting lots of bodies on the table. Other super elite armies, I’m looking at you Grey Knights, haven’t done too hot. The idea of an army with 12-20 models worried me. Well, luckily I can say that looking back, I was wrong.
Elites That Feel Elite
One of the things GW really did well with the Custodes was make them feel like an super elite army. These are not cheap units, you won’t be able to take many of them. Yet at the same time they pack a punch. No unit of Custodes can be ignored. On top of that they have access to a great number of cool stratagems that really makes them feel like they have answers for the common problems they might face. Something an elite army would have.
One of the two biggest worries about small elite armies is how tough they will be. Many elite marine units, from Gray Knights to Death Company, suffer from the problem that at the end of the day – they are just marines. A marine isn’t really all that hard to kill. In 8th, with all the multi damage attacks going around, even units like terminators can go POOF really quick. Yet the Custodes combination of just enough wounds with high T and good saves makes them just tough enough to take on those swarms. These are units that fit the fluff, shrugging off the hordes that might swarm a lesser mortal, yet still vulnerable to heavy hitting units.
I’ll also add that Avenge the Fallen might be the best idea they had in this whole book. This single stratagem helps make the whole army work. This helps counter the very real risk that your 500 point unit is going to get wrecked before it can really do anything. It makes a great counter to heavy assaults and lets the Custodes always go down swinging.
As Deadly As They Should Be
Aside from staying power, the other fear of any small elite army is how deadly it will be. It’s no good to be able to take a punch if you can’t throw one back. Luckily GW did a good job with Custodes here as well. While in general they can shoot OK, most of it is low powered and not a lot of shots. However giving the Dawneagle bikes hurricane bolters really ups the army’s shooting potential.
Close combat is however where the army really shines. While the basic troops start with “only” three attacks, they have a number of ways of upping that. With a mix of banners and stratagems, every unit in in the army can grow to put out a really nasty amount of of attacks; and all powerful too. Moreover, until you play with or against them, the power of a whole army that is always hitting on 2+s, often re-rolling 1s, is a little hard to grasp. This is an army that already gets a lot of attacks and has the tools to make ALL those attacks count. It’s not just that most units get upwards of 5 attacks, its that they also get 5 hits.
While Custodes are a great meal by themselves, they are really best served with a nice side of Imperial Soup. Now some people might feel that the fact that Custodes need to take other Imperial forces to really be effective means that their book is weak. However this is hardly accurate. Custodes are both great with soup and as soup. Frankly I don’t think they were ever designed to act alone. They were built wholly for 8th Edition, with mixed forces in mind. Just because taking 30 Guardswomen makes them better doesn’t mean they are bad. In fact the number of other armies trying to add some Custodes to them illustrates how powerful they are. The fact that they work great with other Imperials in not a bug, its a feature.
Overall I am happy to say that I was wrong about Custodes. GW wrote a solid book for a small elite force and backed it up with great models at not-too-crazy prices. If anything I’d say Custodes are the biggest success of 8th so far, and show what an army really built for 8th looks like. While the soupy aspects of the army may worry some, and it remains to be seen if they are good for the game, the fact is they are working as intended. I’d expect to see a lot more Custodes on the tables in the coming months, so get ready!
Tell us about your experiences with Custodes down in the comments!