Right at the end of a Warhammer Community preview stream announcing the incoming Kill Team: Octarius set, back on July 10, Games Workshop showed a one-minute teaser clip related to War Zone: Octarius, Warhammer 40k’s next main narrative chapter, titled The Crusade Beckons. It wasn’t long, or impressive; it didn’t explicitly reveal anything; it wasn’t even really a video – just a camera panning over a still artwork.
But, to me, it was gold dust – because it meant my beloved Black Templars are, in some form or other, making a comeback. All at once, Templar players everywhere suddenly began thinking: what are we going to get? Below, I’ll present my wish list – but first, I’m going to wax lyrical about why it matters. You have been warned.
The Black Templars are quite an interesting case among Warhammer 40k’s Space Marine Chapters. First seen in the wild in 1998’s 3rd edition box set, expanded in 2001, and then fleshed out with their own codex in 4th Edition, in 2005, they gained an early reputation as perhaps the purest close-combat specialists among the Adeptus Astartes. They even got a few of their own kits, in the form of Chapter Master High Marshal Helbrecht, Chaplain Grimaldus, the Emperor’s Champion, Sword Brethren, and the mighty Land Raider Crusader.
For a time, the Templars were the toast of the tabletop town, accepted as a junior member of the ‘special chapters club’, alongside the Dark Angels, Blood Angels, and Space Wolves – and they still retain a loyal following among Space Marine folks (although, whatever you do, don’t try and claim it’s because black armour is easy to paint. We hate that).
But, over years, and successive game editions, the zealous Sons of Sigismund fell out of favour on the competitive tables, and stopped featuring prominently in the grand narratives of 40k. They never got another standalone codex, instead being rolled into the main Space Marines book from 5th edition onwards. Other Chapters waxed; the Templars waned. Their established lore, straightforward playstyle, and striking aesthetic kept them a popular player choice – but their top-tier glory days were long gone.
This is where you need to start crescendo-ing the comeback music, though – because, ever since the launch of 8th Edition in 2017 (and especially since their rules patch in the Psychic Awakening: Faith and Fury expansion book two years later) those plucky Templars have been slowly, ever so slowly, creeping their way back towards the limelight.
The Black Templars Chapter Tactic, in 8th Edition’s initial Space Marines codex, laid the groundwork by letting them re-roll failed charges. 8th Edition’s second Space Marine book enhanced that with a 5+ save against Mortal Wounds, as well as adding buffs from Chaplains’ Litanies, Combat Doctrines, and Shock Assault, seriously helping out Marines in the Fight phase.
Faith and Fury gave the Templars exclusive Litanies to use – and, more importantly, stratagems that finally let them advance, shoot and charge, as well as hold enemies locked in combat, and push further forwards while in a fight. When 9th Edition dropped, a dedicated Index Astartes PDF kept the best parts of all these new rules intact. Black Templars were finally starting to feel like Black Templars again.
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And now, a year into 9th Edition, as the GW machine appears to be revving to its highest ever pace of new releases, our time has come once again. So here, at last, are four things I would absolutely love to see GW reveal for the Black Templars in 2021.
1 – A PLASTIC, Primaris Emperor’s Champion
As I am a consummate negotiator, I’ll start my list of demands with the most realistic – a plastic, Primaris version of the Templars’ unique Emperor’s Champion character model.
I say this is the most realistic, because GW’s teaser video literally showed an Emperor’s Champion – a Black Templar, kneeling in prayer, a big black sword chained to his arm, laurel wreath decoration atop his helmet, and ornate templarish fixings hanging off him left and right. OK, so we can’t judge scale well enough in the clip to say for sure that it’s a Primaris marine, but, statistically speaking, if we get a new Black Templar character model, it’s 314% certain to be Primaris.
For the uninitiated: in Warhammer 40k lore, Emperor’s Champions satisfyingly embody the Black Templars’ cocktail of knightly, martial honour, mystic religious ritual, and secret society nonsense. After a prayer ritual on the eve of battle, one marine is chosen from the Crusade’s finest battle brothers to have a holy vision of battles past and future.
The lucky one gets clad in the Armour of Faith, given one of the Chapter’s precious Black Swords, and ordained as that Crusade’s Emperor’s Champion. He loses any individuality and team bonds he once had, and gets one singular job ‘til the day he dies: as soon as battle is joined, he has to make a beeline for the enemy commander and chop their head off, as quickly as possible. It’s very noble and bold, in a murder-y kind of way.
On the tabletop, the Emperor’s Champion is one of the finest melee character killers in the game. A slew of buffs and re-rolls to hit and wound all kick in as soon as he gets into a barney with a character or monster – and, once that happens, there’s not much that can stand against him.
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Model-wise, however, this iconic character is a little left behind in 2021. The current Emperor’s Champion sculpt first came out in metal form in 2001, and, to my knowledge, its only update in the 20 years since has been the switch to finecast resin. And there are those who’d argue even that was a lateral move.
In fairness, the model has aged a hell of a lot better than many of its contemporaries – but it’s still screaming out for a stunning, dynamic new plastic mono-pose miniature, of the type GW is currently cranking out like nobody’s business, in both 40k and Age of Sigmar. If I had to put a bet on one single thing I think GW will come out with, based off the teaser, it’s this lad. And I’ll be glad to see him, too.
2 – PLASTIC Crusader Squads & Sword Brethren
Long have the Black Templars’ unique infantry units languished in the ‘tricky’ category of Warhammer models to get hold of, build, and field. The undeniably badass-looking Sword Brethren – who can either be taken as an Elites squad, or individually posted as beat-stick leaders into frontline Crusader Squads – are certainly among the templarriest of Templars, but their fiddly, easily-broken finecast resin models are nevertheless starting to show their age.
The Crusader Squad itself, meanwhile – the core building block of a Black Templars army – doesn’t even have its own designated kit; you’ve got to DIY each unit from a mix of Tactical Marines (representing the Initiates) and Space Marine Scouts (representing the Neophytes). It’s not hard, exactly – although the necessity of buying a separate upgrade sprue (and, ideally, learning to make tabards out of greenstuff) to make your Crusaders look legit absolutely feels like a big old barrier to entry, in the 2021 era of Warhammer.
Give us some nice, characterful, plastic renditions of both, with even a modicum of the glorious fighty energy that radiates from the Indomitus box’s sculpts, and a host of Black Templar players will cry out in thanks.
3 – Primaris Grimaldus, and rules for a Reclusiarch
Ask most Warhammer 40k fans to name a Black Templars character and they will name Chaplain Grimaldus. The sour-faced but superb hero of Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s well-loved 2010 novel Helsreach, Grimaldus is the most famed of all Space Marine Chaplains – keepers of ritual, relics, and records – and holds the grandly gothic, Templar-specific title of Reclusiarch.
Space Marine players can now spend points to bump their key characters up to Chapter Command level versions of themselves – and I think it’d be rather cool to have a lightly buffed version of the Master of Sanctity – titled Reclusiarch – available only in Black Templar armies.
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What’s more, other Chapters already benefit from Primarisified named characters representing Chapter command staff: Ultramarines have Chief Librarian Tigurius; Blood Angels have Mephiston, and so on.
It therefore seems an eminently logical step to bring us a Primaris-ascended Reclusiarch Grimaldus, clad in a preposterously overdone gothic variant of Mk X power armour. I rest my case.
4 – ‘Sisters of Battle lite’ faith / Miracle rules
Thanks to several successive layers of sticking plasters since the onset of 8th Edition four years ago, Black Templars’ rules are now starting to fill out their historic battlefield role of ultra-aggressive, melee-hungry crusaders quite nicely.
You’ll see what I mean when your Thunder Hammer-wielding Assault Terminators are barrelling out of the front of a Land Raider Crusader, straight into enemy lines – and you pop your Templar-only stratagem to make even more certain that everything in front of them gets pulped by a wave of pure, pious fury.
But the other side of their personality – as the only major Space Marine Chapter that worships the Emperor as a God – is still pretty undersold. Sure, they have access to a few extra, vaguely faith-themed options in the Chaplain litanies system (otherwise common to all Chapters), but it doesn’t really set them apart in a meaningful way.
If the Templars had some scaled-down, ‘lite’ version of the Sisters of Battle’s faith-based abilities – balanced by the need to plan around specified extra objectives, perhaps – this could add a measured, but much-needed bump in power, and more interesting strategic options, while also better illustrating the Templars’ religious connection to the Emperor in battle.
Perhaps Templar characters could swear certain sacred oaths before the game – to slay an enemy character, or capture a given objective, say – and, on completion, gain an in-game boon through the power of their faith and determination. As a Templars player, I would find that pretty rad, and appreciate having a flavourful, faction-specific option to mould a game plan around.
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If the Warhammer concept of ‘soup’ (combining detachments from different allied factions within a single army list) wasn’t awfully out of fashion at the moment, I might also suggest Templars could gain some benefit from allying with the Adepta Sororitas, and other agents of the Ecclesiarchy. One day, perhaps.
For now, we shall simply have to wait until more details on War Zone: Octarius emerge – and eagerly await reinforcements for our Eternal Crusade.