YMMV: Callidus Assassin

The Callidus remains the most popular and most dreaded Imperial Assassin. Every player has a horror story about a game with a Callidus, but even with her feared reputation she is rarely seen on the battlefield. I hope this article helps to change that fact.
New players choose a Callidus because she’s easy to use. She can appear in any location without deviation and her phase sword ignores ALL saves. Veteran players like her because of her powerful A Word in Your Ear ability. For both new and veteran players, the Callidus is a fantastic tool and with a little planning, a little support and a little luck, she can cripple your opponent like no other model.

If the Eversor is the Officio Assassinorum's Sword and the Vindicare is the Scalpel, then the Callidus is Intensive Radiation Therapy. She can zero-in on any enemy unit on the board and has an excellent chance of eliminating it. This article discusses the Callidus, highlights her strengths and gives you some suggestions for fitting her into just about any army.

The Callidus is second only to the Eversor in close combat. But she outshines the Eversor in one key area the ability to kill enemy models with Invulnerable saves. She can be placed in a location where she is guaranteed a successful assault an Independent Character. Her close combat weapon levels the playing field and gives her an excellent chance of taking out the best protected models.

The Temple Callidus Assassin is armed with the C'Tan Phase Sword, a Neural Shredder, Poison Blades and a supply of the shape-altering drug Polymorphine.

Polymorphine is one of the most unique (and nerve wracking) abilities in the game. It allows the Callidus to appear anywhere on the battlefield without restricting her ability to move, shoot or assault. It is this ability that makes Callidus such dreaded model. Nothing is safe from her, as evidenced by your opponent's nervous shuffle and constant sweating until she appears on the field. But the real secret is that she’s much more effective against the player than she is against his army. Even veteran players make mistakes when they are stressing out over where the Callidus might appear. For that reason alone, she’s worth the points.

The C'Tan Phase Sword is a living metal weapon that can take on any shape required by the mission. It is a Power Weapon that allows no saves, not even Invulnerable ones!

Her Neural Shredder is a S8 template weapon that uses the target's Leadership instead of the target's Toughness to determine wounds. The Neural Shredder can also affect vehicles; automatically causing a Glancing Hit. This part is a bit tricky -- you roll a D6 on the Vehicle Damage table and subtract 4, but since the Neural Shredder is AP1 you add +1 to the total. That means you'll probably end up with a Shaken result (66.7%), but you might also get a Stunned (16.7%) or Weapon Destroyed (16.7%) result as well. The Neural Shredder is a one-handed weapon, so she gets the +1 attack from using two weapons in close combat.

Poison Blades allow her to get the last word in close combat. At the end of the Assault phase, the Callidus may make an extra attack against a model in base contact. Unlike her phase sword, this attack wounds on a 4+ (handy against really tough models) and allows saves normally.

It’s easy to forget this little perk, but when you are trying to win a close combat every little bit counts.

The Callidus has two special abilities, Jump Back and A Word in Your Ear. Jump Back allows the Callidus to disengage from close combat at the beginning of an Assault phase. She rolls a D6 and if she rolls a 2 or better, she moves that number of inches away from the enemy unit. The enemy unit can still Consolidate at the end of the Assault phase. So basically on a 2+, she can leave close combat before any blows are struck.

A Word in Your Ear is by far the coolest of her special abilities. This ability allows you to move one ENEMY unit up to 6" after both sides have deployed. The unit must remain within the unit's normal deployment zone and the owning player may choose facing after the unit has been moved. This is the only way for an Imperial player to move enemy models – how cool is that?

The Callidus is the easiest Assassin to work into an army. Unlike the others, she is effective without support and can have an impact before she even appears on the table. But unlike other Assassins, she doesn't benefit from working with other units. For example, the effectiveness of an Eversor is increased by combining it with assault troops.

The best time to use a Callidus is when you expect to face expensive independent characters that have a dramatic effect on the enemy's army. Special Characters, Rune Priests, Necron Lords (with Resurrection Orbs), Synapse creatures and Eldar Shadowseers and Farseers are all excellent targets. If you can take out a pivotal character early in the game, then your opponent is going to have to change his battle plan.

I also use the Callidus when I expect expensive, long-range shooting units that have a hard time defending themselves from a fairly tough melee character. Imperial Guard Psychic Battle Squads and Command Squads, Tau Broadsides, Space Marine Devastator Squads, Ork Lootas and Dark Eldar Scourges are good examples of units that struggle against a Callidus.

Don't use a Callidus unless you have a plan. Randomly picking a unit on the turn she arrives is a waste of a very effective tool. Also don't expect her to eliminate more than her initial target. Focus her on your most dangerous enemy and be pleasantly surprised if she survives. In 80% of your games, she'll die in her initial assault - but it’ll be worth it!

There are really two sections here: "How to use A Word in Your Ear" and "How to use a Callidus". If you treat them as completely separate things, you'll have a lot more success.

I love AWiYE; there have been many games when I would’ve paid the 120pts just for this ability. There are very few opportunities where you can force your opponent to make a mistake. If used properly, this ability can be as distracting as it is devastating. After both players have completely deployed, you can select one enemy unit and move the unit 6". You get to move the unit -- not your opponent. Don’t tell him how to move -- walk around to his side of the table to do it. Players hate that, but it’s really important in this case. Remember each model can be moved up to 6", so you can change their formation, in addition to their location.

Here are some suggestions of “orders” the Callidus can give using AWiYE. I'll start with basic orders; these will help you when don’t have the first turn. Then I'll follow it with first-turn orders that are only useful on the first turn. As you will see some these orders are pretty nasty - don't expect your opponent to be too happy about them.

Here are some Basic Orders:

1. "There's a good spot over here!": Move a heavy weapons team 6" deeper into area terrain. This will cost your opponent 1-2 turns of shooting while they reposition. This is probably the most common use of AWiYE when you don't have the first turn.

2. "I know a shortcut!": Move fast Infiltrators 6" further away to prevent first turn assault. This is also effective in moving Locator Beacons and Teleport Homers out of position.

3. "A little more to the left... Perfect!": Move pesky indirect fire weapons into line of sight. This forces your opponent to leave them in a dangerous location or lose a shot moving them.

4. "I'll need to see your papers.”: With the restrictions removed on using dedicated transports, it's not uncommon for players to deploy near to another unit's transport and then move and embark on their first turn. It's pretty easy to disrupt this with AWiYE. Just move the unit 6" further away from the transport.

5. "He said to park it here, boss.": Move vehicle deep into dangerous terrain.

Dirty Trick #1: AWiYE re-deployment is a move, this means that dangerous terrain tests may be forced. Lots of stuff doesn't like moving into difficult terrain (e.g., vehicles, bikes, jetbikes and jump infantry). In some cases you can force them to make a dangerous terrain test when you use AWiYE and a second dangerous terrain test when they leave the terrain feature.

Rules Lawyer (I do not advocate (or play) using the following interpretation, but it's an interesting discussion point): There's no restriction in AWiYE that forces the unit to be moved in coherency. So long as the unit ends up in its legal deployment area and you don't move them more than 6", you can move the models however you want. The best use of this interpretation is moving each model in a unit 6" in different directions -- forcing it to use it's entire move to get back into coherency. If you manage to get at least one model in difficult terrain, it can take a couple of moves for the unit to get back into coherency.

First-turn Orders are pretty awful, especially for players that invest a lot in individual units. Used properly, AWiYE can knock a single unit (or squadron) out of the game. But if your opponent Seizes the Initiative, you've wasted the order. Here are a few fun First-Turn Orders:

1. "Group hug!": Bunch a unit (or squadron) tightly together so that they are completely covered by multiple area of effect templates. This is the most common (and most effective) uses of AWiYE when you have the first turn. I like to combine this order with Plasma Cannon Servitors.

2. "Hey, you're standing in poison ivy!": Move a unit that gets a fantastic cover save (e.g, camo cloaked Space Marine Scouts, a unit in Bolstered Defenses, etc.) into clear terrain. You can leave one model behind to force them to make difficult terrain tests to move.

3. "Sir, you dropped something.": Sometimes you want to move a specific model or unit further away from their lines. This is particularly effective when you are talking about a radius effect. Pedro Kantor gives all friendly models within 12" +1 Attack? Well, them move him back 6" and save yourself some attacks. Saga of Majesty gives re-roll within 6" (or a Book of St Lucius bothering you)? Then move it away from your targets.

Dirty Trick #2: Going first is critical to getting the most out of AWiYE, so I recommend working in an Emperor’s Tarot. This 15pt piece of wargear is available to Daemonhunters Inquisitors and gives you an 83% chance of getting a +1 on your roll for first turn. Basically, if it can help you go first then you should have it.

The nice thing about the Callidus is that she can do her job before she appears on the board. If you use A Word in Your Ear properly, you opponent is going to change his tactics across the board to prepare for the Assassin’s arrival. He’ll play more conservatively and he’ll make mistakes. Don’t let them go unpunished!

I usually place my Callidus extremely close to the unit that I intend to assault - close enough that I know which model is closest when I choose to assault. There’s rarely a need for her to actually move during the Movement phase. Before placing her, I consider the terrain and any targets I can touch with my Neural Shredder template (including vehicles). When using the Neural Shredder against open-topped vehicles don’t forget to add the extra +1 (for a total of D6-2 on the Vehicle Damage Table).

Take care not to place your Callidus in a location where she has to assault a unit protected by cover. This should be easy to do, but it’s also easy to forget. Imperial Assassins don’t do well unless they go first. Going second will get her killed. Try to avoid characters with high Initiatives (e.g., a Broodlord will make short work of a Callidus).

I usually go after soft units, but many players prefer chasing Independent Characters. If you go the IC route, don't expect much help from the Shredder; it's almost useless against LD10 models. But since any wounds caused are AP1, you don’t want to skip this step.

Dirty Trick #3: With the Neural Shredder wounding hits are determined by the majority Leadership in the unit (instead of the highest Leadership in the squad). This means it's a lot easier to get a wound on an Independent Character if he's joined to a squad than if he's all alone. So if you want to take out that Company Commander, you'll be wounding against a LD7 instead of a LD9/10.

Dirty Trick #4: The Neural Shredder can cause Instant Death when used against unit with a majority Leadership of 4 or lower. That's generally impossible to find -- unless you are playing Imperial Guard. Just use the Psyker Battle Squad's Weaken Resolve power on that nasty multi-wound unit and watch them melt away!

Dirty Trick #5: The Callidus and Guardsman Marbo make a great team. They can appear next to the same unit and totally ruin their day. Wolf Scout Packs also work great with the Callidus (this combo is probably your best bet for achieving the elusive "Trapped!" result from a broken unit).

Dirty Trick #6: The Callidus works great with the new Space Wolves codex. Organize an enemy unit into a tight line and then run a Jaws of the World Wolf (or two) down it. Ouch. The Callidus and Bjorn the Fell-Handed are a fantastic team.

At the absolute end of the Assault phase, the Callidus uses her Poison Blades. This happens after every close combat in the phase has been resolved, so if your Callidus is still alive she can potentially wound a new unit. If you are lucky this might cause another Morale test (after all of the normal Morale tests have been taken).

Finally, Jump Back. Since it happens at the beginning of the Assault phase, you'll probably only use this power on your opponent's turn (or when you are more afraid of the close combat than your opponent's shooting). Disengaging during your opponent's turn allows you to shoot and then charge in your next turn.

The Callidus is an easy Assassin to use effectively, but she is challenging to master. I hope this article gave you some great ideas on using the Assassin in your 5th Edition armies. If so, I'd love to hear about it.

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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