YMMV: All About Assassins...

Assassins are one of the most feared and least understood units in the game. Everyone has a "fish tale" about a terrible experience with an Assassin, but like all good stories most have grown with the telling.

Used properly they are fun and effective, but they won't make your game (or break your opponent's spirit). Assassins allow an Imperial player to add a new element and a completely different style of play to his army quickly and cheaply. Assassins also move from one Imperial army to another easily, which allows you to get a head start on your next army. Finally, every player should understand how Assassins work because eventually you are going to face one and the more you know, the better prepared you will be.

I'll describe the basics of Imperial Assassins, including who can take them, when to take them, and which to choose. Assassins are a big subject, so I'll follow this article with a smaller post on each Assassin. In those posts, I'll cover the strengths, weaknesses and tips for using each of them.

The most common way to get Assassins is to play a Witch Hunters or Daemonhunters army, but it's not the only way. Any Imperial army can take them, including Space Marines, Imperial Guard and ALL of their variant lists (such Dark Angels, Blood Angels and Space Wolves). Yes, that means Assassins can be found in odd variations like mechanized Imperial Guard or Space Marine Drop Pod Assault armies.

Note: You can ally units from both the Witch Hunters or Daemonhunters codices. This means you can ally an Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor (an elite choice from the Witch Hunters codex) and an Ordo Malleus Inquisitor (an elite choice from the Daemonhunters codex) in the same army.

Imperial Assassins are 0-1 Elite choices for Inquisition armies and they require the presence of an Inquisitor Lord or Inquisitor. Deathcult Assassins are an Elite choice but do not have the 0-1 restriction. That means a Witch Hunters army with an Inquisitor Lord can take an Imperial Assassin (e.g., an Eversor) and six Deathcult Assassins.

If you have the codex handy, read the Using Witch Hunters as Allies sidebar (C:WH, p25) or the Using Daemonhunters as Allies (C:DH, p21). That section describes how any Imperial army can ally units from the respective codex. Since the UWHAA rules allow you to ally 0-1 Elite choices, you can take a Deathcult Assassins unit or an Imperial Assassin.

Note: Many veterans remember the old "Allies" rules from 3rd Edition. However, there are no general rules for taking allies in 5th Edition. Just using the word "allies" seems to cause a lot of confusion. After many years of strange restrictions, most tournaments allow the "Using Witch Hunters (and Daemonhunters) as Allies" rules.

A player wishing to take an allied Assassin must also take an allied Inquisitor Lord from the same codex. Unfortunately, it must be an Inquisitor Lord (as opposed to an Elite Inquisitor) because you are using your single Elite slot for the Assassin.

A common mistake that non-Inquisitorial players make when take an allied Assassin is taking a "naked Inquisitor Lord with a couple of Familiars". Don't do that! You are just adding 60pts to the cost of your Assassin and getting nothing in return.

Instead take the time to build an effective addition to your army. For 100 more points, you can get a tough and dangerously effective unit. If you don't know how to build an Inquisitorial Retinue, just email me and I'll help (mkerr AT chainfist.com).

Assassins are like salt. Not every dish needs it, but used properly it can take an existing flavor and intensify it. Like salt, Assassins are much better at improving an existing flavor (or strength) in your army than creating a new flavor.

For example, an assault army gets more benefit from an assault Assassin than from a shooting Assassin. An army of infiltrators benefit more from an infiltrating Assassin than a deep striking Assassin. But fortunately, there's an assassin to fit (or improve) just about any army.
There is one thing that Assassins do better than any other unit and that is sow fear and confusion. I can promise you that your opponent is going to worry about your Assassin. He's going to play every turn differently until it is dead. An opponent unaccustomed to Imperial Operatives is going to play more conservatively and he's going to make mistakes. Nothing disrupts your opponent's momentum more than something completely unknown and unexpected in their backfield. The psychological impact of an Assassin is often greater far than the damage the operative causes.

Take a look at your current army and identify your army's strength. Would an Eversor's first turn charge setup an assault for your fast attack units? Psyker or Invulnerable save problem? Do you struggle with hidden Powerfists or Icon Bearers? Psykers and Synapse getting you down? Well there's a solution.

In the next few articles, I'll cover each of the Imperial Assassin. But there are some aspects that are common to most (if not all) Assassins and I'll cover them here.

Common Mistakes:

1. All Assassins are Independent, but they are not Independent Characters. That means that they can be targeted like any other unit.

2. Of the Imperial Assassins only the Eversor and Callidus have two close-combat weapons. This means that the Culexus and Vindicare do not get the additional attack.

3. As Fearless units, Assassins suffer from No Retreat! if they lose a close combat.

4. Although armed with some of the finest weapons in the universe, Assassins distain the use of Frag Grenades. This means that the best killing machines in the Imperium can be defeated by the use of cover.

The advent of 5th Edition has had a pretty big impact on Imperial Operatives and I'll be addressing that in my upcoming articles. But here's a few of the good pieces:

1. All basic missions have Infiltrate, so you don't have to worry about not being able to Infiltrate anymore.

2. All Assassins have the Infiltrate special rule so they can outflank if you keep them in reserve.

3. Imperial Assassins aren't that hard to kill, especially in 1850-2000pt games. So in Annihilation missions, your opponent is going to try to quickly snag that kill point. Keep that in mind and make sure that your Assassin does its thing before it dies.

Comments are welcome and feel free to email me your lists or questions. Just send them to me at mkerr@chainfist.com. And, as always, your mileage may vary.

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