Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus, Now With More Metal

Text copyright Kenton Kilgore, 2021
Most images copyright Games Workshop, 2021. Used for review purposes.

I came late to the party that is the Adeptus Mechanicus, but once I arrived, I became a big fan. The AdMech fight like a high-tech Astra Militarum, with an emphasis on infantry, rather than vehicles (not that any of their vehicles are sad). As such, their rules fit well with how I want to run my “Space Dwarf” army that I started many years ago. As you might imagine, I glommed on to the latest Codex: AM very quickly.

As I do with my rulebook reviews, I’m not going to cover everything in exhaustive detail. Instead, I’ll touch on what I like, what I don’t like, and what I’m indifferent to. If you’re looking for a more in-depth view, I highly recommend this analysis by the guys at Goonhammer. So, let’s get started. 

What I Like, and Why

THE “FLUFF.” Because I’ve been playing 40K since it arrived in the US in 1987, I ordinarily only skim the background material, or “fluff” in each codex, if I read it at all. While I like the game, I’m not wild about most of the fiction that goes along with it. For example, there is a lot of repetition from one edition to another: I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve I read about the Battle of Macgragge.

In addition, a lot of it is the same across the various factions: the “bad guys” (Chaos, Orks, Tyranids, Necrons) are all Super Duper Evil and Virtually Unstoppable, with Nefarious Plans To Rule/Destroy The Galaxy. The “Good Guys” (Adeptus Astartes, Astra Militarum, Aeldari) are Beleaguered Heroes who Stand Bravely Against the Darkness and Narrowly Win In the End But Only At Great Cost.

Codex: AdMech, however, is new to me, and its “fluff” held my interest throughout. I’m not much into Dune (I only ever saw the 1984 movie), but this book has a very “Dune” vibe that I like, nonetheless.

Could be Guild Navigators from Dune, could be anyone in 40K, TBH

The attitude of the Mechs that flesh is inferior to machinery, and that sacrificing tens of thousands of human lives is acceptable if it means recovering even a single, broken piece of ancient tech—man, that’s so metal (pun intended).

(And speaking of “metal,” how fun is it that one of the AdMech Forge Worlds is called “Metalica?” Given how the band was pissed with Napster for sharing their songs, they’re going to blow a gasket when they find out that Games Workshop has nicked their name)         

ARTWORK. Each of the pieces is clearly influenced by the great John Blanche, one of the early GW artists, and the seminal visionary for the art of Warhammer 40,000. If you’ve been playing for a while, you’ve seen his art and can recognize his style, even if you don’t know his name.

Blanche’s art—often in black and white, or sometimes in muted tones—is often very cluttered and very intricate, with scores of small details and flourishes. I find new things every time I look at one of his images.

Belisarius Cawl, by John Blanche

They also have a very “weird” feel to them: monsters and aliens are grotesque nightmares; vehicles are clattering conglomerations of parts seemingly assembled haphazardly; and the people look not quite human. The milieus he depicts are dangerous, ruined, dirty places where you wouldn’t want to live, assuming you survived very long within them. His art is unnerving and unsettling, the very epitome of “grimdark.”  

IT’S “ROGUE TRADER” REBORN. The 1e Warhammer 40K game, released in 1987, wasn’t meant to be JUST Space Marines fighting other armies (though it quickly went that way). Instead, in keeping with its name, it was meant to also be about Rogue Traders traveling about the galaxy, exploring new worlds, and recovering ancient or exotic technology.

This codex very much echoes that feel, with the Adeptus Mechanicus concerned with fighting aliens and Chaos lunatics only when they have to, or when the bad guys are hindering the search for some treasured artifact.

In addition to this approach and the Blanche-inspired art and models, the book also brings back some 1e touches, notably (Kastelan) Robots and their protocols. It’s all a very cool reminder of how the game started.

CRUSADE RULES. To be honest, I never devote much attention to Crusade rules for any of the new books, because all of my armies are well-established, and configured how I like to play them. That being said, I do like the Crusade rules in this book, as the whole idea of a small army traipsing about the galaxy looking for ancient tech has that very “Rogue Trader” feel that I mentioned.

I particularly like the “Archeotech Treasures” section, where once your army has collected several artifacts, you can combine them into some sort of super-weapon or some other unique, way-cool device. Kudos to the game designers for coming up with this!

NEW UNITS. It wouldn’t be a codex without some new troops and vehicle, would it? Okay, it would if this book were for the Drukhari, who last received new units during the early years of the Obama administration (yeah, seriously). Fortunately, it’s not, and the AdMech have some new guys and toys.

The HQ selections have been bolstered by the Tech-Priest Manipulus, who comes standard with a magnarail lance: a Heavy 1 S7 AP -3 D3 boomstick with a 36” range. Yowza! The Technoarcheologist is meant to lead Kataphron Servitors or regular Servitors. The Skitarrii Marshal is a low-cost (PR 3) leader for your Rangers and/or Vanguard.

AdMech armies used to be pretty slow-pokey, but Serberys Raiders and Sulpherhounds speed things up a bit. I don’t who thought up dudes with pistols riding dog cyborgs, but I’d like to sample some of their medication. Pteraxii Sterylizors and Skystalkers look like steampunk versions of Tyranid Gargoyles, and they pack flamer-type weapons, or guns with lots of shots.

The Skorpius Disintegrator is a zappy-tank with a plethora of guns, while the Skorpius Dunerider is a much-needed Transport, capable of carrying 12 Infantry figures. The AdMech also picked up three Flyers: the Archaeopter Transvector, the Stratoraptor, and the Fusilave.

If you bring two Transvectors, you can split a unit across both: so far as I know, these are the only Transports that can do that. The Strat has a variety of big guns; the Fusilave is a bomber. All three are very cool models with that steampunk feel.   

BIGGER, BETTER, AND CHEAPER UNITS. Under the previous codex, Skitarri Rangers and Vanguard were capped at 10 cyber-shooters in a squad, but the latest book lets them bring 20 each to the party. Their Power Ratings are also cheaper than before (at least in the book as released: GW sometimes adjusts them afterwards).

Their weapons have been tweaked, usually for the better. The Rangers’ mainstay, the galvanic rifle, is now Heavy 2 instead of Rapid Fire 1, and plasma calivers have 30″ range instead of 18″. The Vanguard’s radium carbine auto-wounds on a “to hit” roll of “6,” and the arc rifle has picked up 6″ more range (to 30″), and is better than it was against vehicles. I’m not nearly as thrilled about the choices available, however, but I’ll discuss that later.

The Kataphron Breakers and Destroyers have lower PRs, but the tradeoff is smaller squad sizes (max of 6 in a unit as compared to max of 12 before). Like the Skits, their weapons have also improved: I’m a big fan of the torsion cannon, a Heavy 1 S8 AP -4 D d3+3 bolt of destruction that now has double the range it has before (48″ instead of 24″).

Servitors are not my favorite unit, especially not as Elites, but the new book lets you take them without using a slot if your Battle-forged army includes a Tech-Priest.

Speaking of Elites, the Electro-Priests, in both varieties of Fulgurite- and Corpuscarii-, have also improved, making the AdMech more formidable in melee. The former are better at punching (WS 3+); the latter are better shots (BS 3+).

The Sicarian Infiltrators and Ruststalkers have lower PRs (no, I don’t bother with Point Values anymore). The Cybernetica Datasmith can be taken without using an Elites slot, so long as you’re bringing some Kastelan Robots.

As for the KBots: true, their Battle Protocols have been dialed down from the previous version, but I’m okay with that. I loved them before, and I love them even more now that they have a lower PR and picked up an extra Wound. They also have the option of using a Kastelan phosphor blaster: 24″ range, Heavy 3 S6 AP -1 D2, and targets don’t get Dense Cover.

If you prefer to run your Kastelans as Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, you can swap out a gun for another KFist, each of which will add another Attack to the bot’s base 3 Attacks. Five Attacks at WS 4+, S6? And you can have WS 2+ by using the Conqueror Protocol? Yes, please!

I haven’t even mentioned how much I like this bad doggy….

What I Don’t Like, and Why

There isn’t much I don’t like about this codex, compared with the previous one. There’s a lot of info to absorb, of course, but that’s true of every 9e codex.

What I’m not a fan of is how the new codex treats weapon choices for Skitarri Vanguard and -Rangers. Under the previous rules, you could take two or even three “special weapons”—arc rifles, plasma calivers, and/or transuranic arquebuses—per squad.

Under the new book, you can still have three special weapons per 10 guys, but there can’t be more than two of each type per squad. So, a full Vanguard squad could have 14 radium carbines, 2 arc rifles, 2 plaz calivers, and 2 arquebuses. Or fewer of a particular special weapon, with the difference made up in basic carbines.

Really, what I want is six calivers in a 20-man squad, but I suppose not being able to have that is the epitome of “Forge World Problems.”            

What I’m “Meh” About

DOGMAS. These are special rules that an AdMech army can use during battles. Under the previous codex, if you had made up your own Forge World, you could choose a dogma from any GW-established Forge World (such as Mars, Lucius, or the aforementioned Metalica). Under the new codex, you have to create your own, as described on pages 58-59 of the book.    

Mars, foremost of the Forge Worlds

CANTICLES VS. DOCTRINA IMPERATIVES? The previous codex had Canticles of the Omnissiah available to players, special rules that an army could call upon each round of battle. Canticles remain, albeit tweaked, but now there are also Doctrina Imperatives, which are also special rules that can be used in battle.

However, units can only use either Canticles or Imperatives, not both, and which can use which depends. About half the units use one, half use the other, and I’m not sure why the game designers even added Imperatives. But, okay.

Conclusion

The previous codex was a very good rulebook, and the latest one has some much-appreciated (though not always necessary) improvements. Codex: Adeptus Mechanicus allows one to field huge blobs of cheap Skitarii with way-cool zap guns, supplemented by more shooty goodness from the various Fast Attack and Heavy Support choices.

If you want to mambo up-close-and-personal, Electro-Priests and/or Sicarians, in Duneriders or Arch Transvector transports, should scratch your itch for close combat, especially backed up by Kbots tooled up for the Assault Phase. Melee is not the AdMech’s forte, but if you’re cagey and pick your fights carefully, you should do all right.

For my next game, I’m going to take my melee-oriented Dvergar Steeljacks (“Space Dwarves” using the AdMech rules), up against my brother-in-law Drew’s greenskins, bolstered by the latest Codex: Orks. I’ll let you know how that goes.


When I’m not playing or blogging about 40K, I’m writing killer SF/F  for young adults, and adults who are still young. In This Wasted Land, my latest novel, 17-year old Alyx is lost and alone on a nightmare world of monsters never before imagined–and if they don’t kill her, the witch who has her boyfriend will. 

I’m also the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog.  My first novel was Dragontamer’s Daughters, like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons.  With Jungle Guide Patrick Eibel, I created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Visit kentonkilgore.com, and follow me on Facebook for frequent posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction.  You can also catch me on Instagram.