Warhammer 40k’s Sisters of Battle are an all-female 40k army made up of zealous, power-armoured battle nuns that are the closest thing fans have to female Space Marines. The Adepta Sororitas star is rising, too – recently, as part of the game’s 9th Edition, they’ve received much more of a focus than in prior incarnations.
If you’d rather get a high-level overview of all the game’s armies, you can check out our Warhammer 40k factions guide – or focus on the Imperial armies with our guide to the forces of the Warhammer 40k Imperium of Man.
Otherwise, read on, sister – and let us help guide you to the light of the Emperor of Mankind. Our guide will show you just who the Adepta Sororitas are, and what sets them apart in the grim darkness of the far future.
Adepta Sororitas Lore
The Adepta Sororitas have been part of Warhammer 40k lore since the game debuted in 1987 (there are some gnarly drawings of them purging heretical Space Marines in the Rogue Trader book), but they wouldn’t get their own Warhammer 40k codex until a decade later, right at the tail end of second edition, which introduced the core of their lore.
The Adepta Sororitas was founded in the dark time of the 36th millennium, also known as the Age of Apostasy. This era saw the Imperium come under dire threat from within. The Ecclesiarchy, the church of the Imperium, had become severely corrupt. When a certain Goge Vandire became head of the Administratum, the Imperial bureaucracy, he began a savage series of culls of the Ecclesiarchy, removing heads from many shoulders as he sought to root out the corruption. Through political manoeuvring (and quite a few assassinations), Vandire positioned himself to rise to the head of the Ecclesiarchy as well, becoming High Lord of both branches of the Imperial government at once.
His reign over much of the Imperium became known in later years as the Reign of Blood, which gives you an idea of how well it went. He used the armies of the Ecclesiarchy with wild abandon, slaughtering entire worlds he thought had slighted him, indulging his desire for torture, and raising statues to his own glory across the galaxy.
It was this hubris would lead to his downfall. On a planet named San Leor, he found an all-female cult devoted to the worship of the Emperor, named the Daughters of the Emperor. Seeing an opportunity to increase the forces loyal to him, he demonstrated a ‘miracle’ by deflecting a las-blast with his forcefield generator. The cult, which Vandire renamed the Brides of the Emperor, became his bodyguards and most trusted warriors.
Yet it would be a Bride of the Emperor who took Vandire’s head from his shoulders. During the long, civil struggle of the Reign of Blood, an Adeptus Custodes delegation approached Vandire’s chabers. They were confronted by the Brides of the Emperor, lead by their foremost sister, Alicia Dominica. The Custodian leader, Longinus of the Companions, entreated with Dominica, eventually escorting her into the holy presence of the Emperor himself.
Dopminica emerged a changed woman. She knew the truth and the depths of her error. As wrathful as she was penitent, she lead her sisters to execute the raving Lord Vandire, who was by now lost utterly to madness.
This saw the Age of Apostasy come to an end. In an attempt to reduce the military powers of the Ecclesiarchy and prevent another Reign of Blood, the Decree Passive was passed, ordering the Ecclesiarchy to have no man under arms. Ever careful to ensure they followed the very letter of the law, the Ecclesiarchy kept the redeemed, all-female Brides of the Emperor as their military wing, renaming them once again into the Adepta Sororitas.
Since then, the Sisters of Battle have thrived, both as internal regulators for the Ecclesiarchy, and as holy soldiers, should the need arise. Their faith has never wavered, and they can be found on battlefields across the galaxy, clad in shining ceramite and praising the Emperor’s name, forever fighting the heretic, the witch, and the alien.
Who are the Sisters of Battle Characters?
There are plenty more Sisters of Battle Characters following the expansion of the Adepta Sororitas range during 9th Edition. Here’s some of the characters you might come across when looking into a Sisters of Battle army:
Morvenn Vahl, Abbess Sanctorum of the Adepta Sororitas
Whilst the Age of Apostasy taught the Ecclesiarchy some lessons, they still jockey for power and aren’t afraid to impose their will. An example of this is how they elected Morvenn Vahl to be the new Abbess Sanctorum of the Adepta Sororitas, believing the young warrior would be weak and easy to manipulate.
Unfortunately for them, she turned out to be a doughty warrior full of fire, and with a will they could not suborn. Vahl holds the rank of High Lord of Terra, yet she is a fighter who leads from the front line, wearing an ancient Purgator Mirabilis warsuit and wielding a deadly, ancient power spear gifted to her by the Adeptus Custodes.
Whilst the Sisters of Battle are firm in their faith, it doesn’t mean they don’t need correction from time to time. The Sister Dogmata is feared by both enemy and friend, as she is the only Adepta Sororitas who can condemn a sister to the Repentia. On the battlefield, she strikes at foes with her mace whilst exhorting the Battle Sisters to even greater feats of valour.
Surviving is a skill that can be learned like any other, and Canoness Veridyan has taken that skill to its extreme. A veteran of innumerable wars, she is a common figure on the front line, taking the battle to the foe with fury born of faith itself.
She is a paragon amongst the Sisters of Battle, armed with a fearsome blade that cuts through foes like butter. You might also recognise her as the star of the original 2nd Edition Sisters of Battle Codex cover.
Sister Superior Amalia Novena
Amalia Novena is one of the few Adepta Sororitas who’ve been able to rise to the lofty position of leadership known as Sister Superior. Hailing from the Order of the Martyred Lady, she is proficient in multiple styles of weaponry, and is a commander of near peerless aptitude.
Floating above the battlefield in the Pulpit of Saint Holline’s Basilica, wielding the Mace of Castigation, Junith Eruita can turn the tide of battle all by herself. She sweeps the ranks of the foe with heavy flamers and the power of her faith. Her prayers reach all corners of the fight, striking fear into the enemy as she rallies those who fight alongside her.
Celestine, the Living Saint
Living Saints are rare in the Imperium, but when one is named, their name rings out across the galaxy. Celestine is a winged angel of faith who fights with the power of the God-Emperor behind her. She can call down holy flame, scouring the unfaithful with a thought, or healing those who are worthy of her divine light. Fighting alongside her are the Geminae Superia, Genevieve and Eleanor, who are utterly devoted to her. The novel Celestine: The Living Saint by Andy Clark reveals the terrible price Celestine must pay every time she returns from death.
A controversial figure amongst the Sisters, Ephrael Stern became the embodiment of 700 souls who found her worthy to fight against Chaos. However, in the Imperium, power is often as much curse as it is boon, and she is viewed with considerable suspicion by parts of the Inquisition, her ultimate role yet to be divined.
Adepta Sororitas in 9th Edition
The Adepta Sororitas received the second half of a range update in Warhammer 40k ninth edition, giving them a fully fleshed out force with dedicated Heavy Support, Fast Attack, and Elites choices. With Warhammer 40k 10th edition on the way these rules are likely to change, but for now, here’s the core of the Adepta Sororitas army.
The Adepta Sororitas, whilst wearing power armour similar to that of Space Marines, are standard humans. This means that, generally, they’re a little less strong and a little less tough, and you’ll see this reflected in the rules.
However, their faith makes up for much of this. The Shield of Faith rule is a particularly effective example of this, giving almost all your Sisters of Battle an invulnerable save (starting at 6++, but can be improved with buffs) and a powerful Deny the Witch ability that you can use once per unit.
If you have spare points when army building, you can upgrade characters using Blessings of the Faithful. There’s six of these at the moment, ranging from healing effects to being able to deny invulnerable saving throws in melee range.
Priests, preachers, and missionaries can now give buffs to a nearby character, engine of redemption, or core unit, with their Hymns of Battle. And all that is on top of the Miracle Dice and Acts of Faith mechanics the Sisters received as part of their initial reboot in 8th Edition. Between them, these two rules allow Adepta Sororitas commanders to save up specific dice-roll results, and cash them in later when they’re facing a really crucial test, and need to boost the roll.
Used cannily, in conjunction with the rest of the Sisters’ considerable tabletop toolbox, that power can be truly game-changing.
Despite their squishy stat lines, Sisters of Battle can be an absolute pain to kill on the battlefield. You might shoot round after round into Sisters Unit and not inflict any serious damage – then have your psychic abilities being casually denied right when you need them.
For downsides in 9th Edition, the comparatively low toughness of Sisters of Battle means that they rely heavily on layers of buffs and invulnerable saves in order to keep their troops alive. You’ll also find that you have to get very close to your enemy to put out any real damage, as their preferred weapons are all fairly close range… well, except for the Exorcist pipe organ / multiple missile launcher.
Starting a Sisters of Battle Army
The heart of the Sisters of Battle Army is the Battle Sisters Squad. Armed with boltguns, they’ll provide covering fire whilst advancing up the field and grabbing objectives. For a first character, a Canoness gives you the support you’ll need. In fact, you can often bring two, as their points cost is so low relative to other armies’ comparable HQ units.
From there, you’ll want some fast attack abilities to bring the pain to your foe, and keep them tied up while you get into position. The Seraphim Squad is a perfect way to get into battle quicker and annoy your enemy; just make sure to take advantage of the hand flamers and inferno pistols when building them – you’ll thank us later.
For a true buff hit from a character, there’s none better than an Imagifier. Their potent auras can make sure your troops stay alive longer, hit harder, and deny psychic abilities better. At least one should be a staple of any Sisters of Battle army.
Now you’ll be wanting some heavy support to make sure your fragile troops don’t fall to a tank or some flying heretical aircraft. The Retributor squad is a perfect fit for this role, and when you equip them with multi-meltas your enemy is in for a world of pain. To protect your troops even further, investing in an Adepta Sororitas Rhino or two can give your army a little more lasting power under an offensive onslaught.
Finally, we come to the lady herself. If you’re looking to take your Sisters of Battle army to a competitive level, or just give a friend a very bad day indeed, then you can’t go wrong with including Morvenn Vahl. In fact, we’d wouldn’t just recommend her for those situations – really any Adepta Sororitas army is incomplete without the Abbess Sanctorum.
Set up correctly, and with the right Warlord trait, she can re-roll her hits and wounds in melee, giving her five strong re-rollable hits or ten slightly lesser attacks she can almost ensure hit and hurt. In addition, once per game she can fight again at the end of the phase – and, with her ability to halve incoming damage, plus a 2+ armour save and 4+ invulnerable save, she’s probably staying alive for the long haul, too.
Her aura gives brilliant buffs to nearby core and character units, and she even comes with a twin missile launcher and improved heavy bolter. Basically, get Morvenn Vahl. Put Morvenn Vahl in your lists. Use Morvenn Vahl. You may be hated for it, but it’ll feel good.
So now you should know who the Adepta Sororitas are, what sets them apart, and how they play on the battlefield.
The Sisters of Battle are a newer force, but one that’s coming into their own with each passing codex, with the 9th Edition codex providing a balance and competitiveness that’s never been seen before for the faithful fighters.