New Warhammer 40,000 Codex Thousand Sons Review | 9th Edition
Hocus Pocus…Shazam! For those who want to own the Psychic phase, the Thousand Sons are back with a shiny new Codex for 9th Edition!
Warhammer 40,000 Codex Thousand Sons is up for preorder now. If you would like to help support the site then why not preorder through our affiliate Element Games and save some pennies?
The Thousand Sons (as well as the Grey Knights, which we have also reviewed) are the next in line to get a 9th Edition Codex for Warhammer 40,000. From a competitive point of view they’d lost their way a little towards the end of 8th, so those who follow Magnus will be hoping for a foot up in power.
As with all 9th Edition books, this one contains a raft of new rules, Crusade content, unique secondaries, relics and stratagems. This book replaces the previous Thousand Sons Codex and the Thousand Son content from within Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned.
Fancy watching the video review? Check that out below!
First and foremost, the book weighs in at 95 pages.
It’s important to note at this stage that datasheets for Tzeentch Daemons, such as the Horrors and Flamers, are no longer in the Codex (you’ll need the Chaos Daemon Codex for those, and rules on summoning them into your army). It is also important to note that we only have one new entry into the Codex, the Infernal Master, of whom is a brand new character introduced in the Battlebox also up for preorder, called Hexfire, which pits the Thousand Sons against the Grey Knights.
As with all Codexes, the book opens with a raft of lore, detailing the history of the Thousand Sons, and gives you an insight into what they are up to currently. As you would expect, we are treated to further detailed backgrounds for the two major characters for the army, namely Ahriman and the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red.
First introduced in Psychic Awakening: Ritual of the Damned we have lore for each of the subfactions of the 1k Sons, the various Cults of the Thousand Sons. The book talks about the background of these Cults by focusing on the Exalted Sorcerer who leads that particular Cult. I really liked this, as it gives you almost your own special character, albeit in name only, for the Cult of your choosing. We’ll talk more about the Cults later in the review, as each one brings exclusive rules to your army.
I never like delving too much into the lore at this point, however I will say, should you no nothing about the army and what they are about, this book is incredible at bringing you up to speed. Those who already know about the army will find a few nuggets of new lore, but most of which you’ll already know.
We’ve found so far with the books we’ve reviewed for this edition that this is common place. Games Workshop are holding back expanding the lore for the various supplements that are being released, such as Charadon and the upcoming Octarius.
The meat and potatoes of any Codex, the rules.
The basic rules for the Thousand Sons, that is, your army wide rules, have changed since the last book. Should your detachment consist purely of units with the Thousand Sons keyword your psykers get +1 to cast (super important for this army, so don’t forget it!) and every Arcana Astartes (basically all your Marine units) or Tzaangor keyword unit gets a 5+ invulnerable save.
There is a rule called Mere Servants, of which basically gives you some restrictions on how you build your lists. You can never include more Cultists than Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators. The same goes for your Bray units (which is your basic Tzaangors on foot).
Finally, the Jealous Tyrant rule prevents you from taking more than one Thousand Sons Daemon Prince per detachment.
Those last two rules are basically the same as what we saw with the Death Guard Codex.
At this point, I’m going to go into a brand new mechanic for the army.
Should your entire army be made up of purely Thousand Sons keyworded units, your army becomes a Cabal of Sorcerors.
What this basically means is you unlock a new mechanic, which involves generating points which can be spent on bonuses during the psychic phase. This was recently introduced on Warhammer Community.
At the start of your Psychic Phase you count up how many Cabal points your army has. The book contains a table on how these are generated.
If the following are on the battlefield you gain the points shown:
- Magnus the Red nets you 4 points on his own
- Ahriman, a Exalted Sorceror and Daemon Prince nets 3 per model
- A basic Sorceror, Sorceror in Terminator Armour and Infernal Master each bags you another 2 points each
- A Scarab Occult Sorceror, Aspiring Sorceror and Tzaangor Shaman finally gets you a single point for each.
So for example, I wrote a sample list to try out consisting of the following:
- Ahriman (3 points)
- Thousand Sons Daemon Prince (3 points)
- 3 x Units of Rubric Marines (3 points in total)
- Scarab Occult Terminators (1 point)
- Contemptor Dreadnought
In total, that means should all those units be on the battlefield I’d gain 10 Cabal Points to spend during that phase.
It is important to note that, come the end of the phase, any points left over are lost. No carrying them over into the next battle round.
So what can you spend these on?
In the old Codex, one of the core rules for the army was an extra 6″ on all your spells. Whilst this rule has gone, for 4 Cabal Points, following the successful manifestation of a power, you can add 6″ to the range. This one is called Imbued Manifestation. Neat!
Malevolent Charge is a great one. 4 points grants you another D3 mortal wounds onto a unit you have already caused mortal wounds on using a successful spell. So for example, you cast Smite, deal a couple of mortal wounds to a unit, then use 4 points to activate this ability, which then causes an extra D3 mortal wounds.
Fancy an extra Command Point? Echoes of the Warp, for 4 points, always one of your psykers to cast an action which if successful gives you a command point.
On the pricier side, let us not forget the one previewed on Warcom.
I really really like this new mechanic. It fits the army perfectly, gives you an extra resource, and is powerful to boot. As the battle wears on, you’ll generate less points as you’ll be losing psykers, so make the most of them early game.
Additional Army-Wide Rules
Other special rules are what we’d expect, including the return of Malicious Volleys (for allowing you to double tap Rapid Fire weapons if the enemy is within half range or if you haven’t moved with the firing unit), Teleport Strike, mainly seen on your Terminators, which allows you to come down from turn 2 9″ away from enemy units and Sorcerers Masters, which basically confirms that when using psychic powers from your Rubric/Scarab Occult Sorcerers you are measuring from the Sorcerer model themselves, not the unit.
We are seeing alot with these new Codexes the ability to pay points and give characters upgrades. These vary from Holy Orders for the Adeptus Mechanicus to the various roles upgrades, such as Chapter Master, for the Space Marines.
Not to be outdone, the Thousand Sons also have their own chart and upgrades, which for a points or power cost give your chosen character an extra ability. I’ve picked out a couple of examples below:
- Rehati (+25 points or +1 power) gives an Exalted Sorcerer the ability to cast one additional psychic power
- Dillettante (+35 points or +2 power) is very cool. This allows you to equip a Exalted Sorceror with an additional relic. Two relic wielding Exalted Sorcerer anyone?!
- Ardent Automata (+20 points or +1 power) grants a unit of Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators the ability to shoot and perform actions.
Your army must be Battle-Forged and contain a detachment of Thousand Sons in order to gain those upgrades. Again, a nice additional set of rules that suit the army.
As previously mentioned, Ritual of the Damned introduced 9 Cults, which are basically subfactions for the army.
By choosing one of the 9 Cults you gain an additional Psychic Power, Warlord Trait and Sorcerous Arcana (Relic) that can be used within your army building. Each Cult has a different flavour, which is represented in the content it brings. Almost every datasheet in the book gains the <Great Cult> keyword, aside from Tzaangor and Cultist units. Ahriman and Magnus both cannot benefit from the <Great Cult> keyword.
Before I pick out my favourites, let us run through each of the 9 Cults you can choose from:
- Cult of Mutation
- Cult of Prophecy
- Cult of Time
- Cult of Scheming
- Cult of Magic
- Cult of Knowledge
- Cult of Change
- Cult of Duplicity
- Cult of Manipulation
Let us take a look into a couple of these in more detail…
Cult of Prophecy
As the name would suggest, this one leans into rerolls, and sneaky shenanigans with your warlord, for he has seen what your opponent is up to!
The Psychic power, entitled Divine the Future, has a warp charge value of 6, and once cast, allows you to roll a D6 and place to one side. Until the start of your next psychic phase, you can choose to use this dice fa single roll from any of the following actions:
- Hit Roll
- Wound Roll
- Advance Roll
- Charge Roll
- Psychic Test
- Deny the Witch Test
- Morale Check
It’s almost like a little mini destiny dice, for those who play Disciples of Tzeentch in Age of Sigmar!
Guided by Whispers, the exclusive Warlord trait, allows you Warlord to move 6″ should your enemy choose them as a target of a charge.
The Arcana is called Oraculae Brazier, and allows you to choose one Core or Character model within 6″ of the bearer in the Command Phase. This chosen unit gets to re-roll one hit roll, wound roll and damage roll in both shooting and combat phases.
Cult of Time
If I could turn back time…I’d bring a model back to life, and that is exactly what this Cult can do.
With a warp charge value of 6, Time Flux is an exclusive spell for this cult which allows you to bring one destroyed model back to a Infantry unit. Not great on a unit of Tzaangors, but good on a unit of Rubrics and fantastic on a unit of Scarab Occult Terminators!
Immaterial Echo, the Warlord trait you can select for this Cult, allows the Warlord to cast an additional psychic power should you manage to cast a psychic power on a 9+. The bonus spell, should it be cast, cannot be denied either. You can however, only cast one additional spell per phase, so if your Warlord is lucky and casts two spells on 9+ you’ll still only get the one extra cast that phase.
Finally, for this Cult you gain an extra Relic, called Hourglass of Manat. If the bearer is killed you place him to one side until the end of the phase. You can then place him back on the battlefield, with D3 wounds remaining, as close as possible to his previous position within an inch of an enemy model.
Cult of Duplicity
The sneakiest of sneaky cults, this cult has a psychic power, Sorcerous Facade, which for a warp charge of 8 allows a chosen Infantry or Monster keyworded unit to be teleported anywhere on the battlefield (outside of 9″ of enemy models).
Adding to the sneakiness, the Warlord trait allows you to redeploy D3 units (excluding Vehicles) before the battle begins, once you know who has the first turn.
Finally, Perfidious Tome is the exclusive Arcana which is used in the Command phase. On a 3+ you gain a Command Point. Be warned though, as a roll of a 1 grants your opponent a Command Point instead!
Chapter Approved Rules: Secondary Objectives
Secondary Objectives win or lose you games, and as with all 9th Edition Codexes, you’ve got your own set of secondaries to choose from in this book.
You may select one, and one only, from this book as one of your secondaries. My pick of the bunch are:
- Mutate Landscape: This requires you to perform the Psychic action Mutate Landscape, which has a warp charge of 4. The unit performing the action needs to be in range of an objective not yet mutated. You score 3 victory points for each mutated objective. Of important note, each time this action is completed the warp charge goes up by one. So the first objective you mutate has a warp charge of 4, the second time you attempt it on another it has a charge of 5, and so on.
- Sorcerous Prowess: You gain 5 victory points everytime one of your Psykers kills an enemy psyker in the Psychic Phase and gain 3 victory points should one of your psykers kill a unit in the psychic phase
I really liked these secondaries. Everyone I’ve encountered in the 9th Edition books so far have felt sufficiently fluffy for the army.
We have 35 stratagems in this book to spend Command Points on. Some are familiar from Ritual of the Damned, whilst others are similar to the ones seen in the previous Codex. A large proportion however, are brand new.
You of course have the obligatory strat that allows you to choose a character and give them a Warlord Trait/Relic, plus a strat to allow you to cast an additional psychic power, but then we have some really cool and fun strats to use too:
- Unwavering Phalanx: Like the Death Guard’s reworked Disgustingly Resilient? For 1/2CP (depending on unit size) a unit of Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators can reduce the damage by 1 (to a minimum of 1) in the shooting phase.
- Inhuman Savagery: 2CP gets you full reroll all hits on a unit of Tzaangors in combat. Tasty!
- Malignant Pact: Infernal Master just failed to roll a successful pact? Use this 1CP strat, dish out a mortal wound onto a nearby friendly Infantry of Cavalry unit, and the pact goes off!
- Metaphysical Focus: For 1CP your Psyker can cast a psychic power that phase should they have performed a psychic action. Perfect for completing the secondary Mutate Landscape without giving up a psychic power.
- Masters of the Immaterium: This one is a copy and paste from Ritual of the Damned, but thought it was worth mentioning. Still only 1CP, this strat allows you to ignore the effects of a Perils of the Warp.
- Implacable Guardians: Perfect for keeping a Character safe, this 1CP strat can be used on any of your characters (excluding Magnus sadly) whilst within 3″ of a unit of Rubric Marines or Scarab Occult Terminators. That character cannot be targeted with ranged weapons. Can’t touch this…
- Infernal Fusillade: When a Arcana Astartes unit fires in the shooting phase, for a CP, you can fire an extra shot with each bolt weapon.
The book contains 6 Warlord Traits you can choose from for your Warlord.
I’m only going to cover one at this point, Otherwordly Prescience, as 3 of these can be given to Magnus, who’ll have his own section towards the end of this review.
Otherwordly Prescience is now a once per battle Warlord Trait which gives your Warlord a 3+ invulnerable save until the end of the turn. If your Warlord is Ahriman he has to have this trait. Not as powerful as it once was, but having a 3+ invulnerable save for a turn could still be pretty clutch.
The Infernal Master is a new, chaplain sort of, character for the Thousand Sons.
He can enact 1 pacts per command phase, but knows 2. To enact a pact he has to roll a 4+.
Working like prayers/litanies, we have 6 different ones to use, and it’s a strong list of abilities.
We’ve got a Smite type ability, Fires of the Abyss, which targets the closest enemy unit within 15″. That unit takes D3 mortal wounds.
Diabolic Savant on the other hand, if used, gives you 1 extra Cabal Point during the Psychic phase and allows your Infernal Master to reroll his Psychic tests in the next Psychic phase.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got some very cool abilities here, but I did hope that this guy may have got some form of buff to summoning.
Summoning is a funny one, as it costs reinforcement points, so you have to put points to one side during army construction, with no guarantees that you are actually going to be able to summon during the game. I had hoped, in particular because I believe summoning and Tzeentch go hand-in-hand, the Inferal Master may have had the ability to summon a small unit for free, or similar, perhaps binded to him for the turn. The model certainly suggests so with the baby Screamer flying round him. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
And so we move onto Relics, and once again we see the return of some old favourites, some of which have had a name or slight rule tweak.
17 relics in total, split across weapons and upgrades. Again, a great selection of tools to kit out your character(s).
- Umbralefic Crystal: Basically the old Dark Matter Crystal. Allows you to choose a Infantry unit within 6″ of the bearer and teleport them with all the normal restrictions. Once per battle, as you may have guessed.
- Helm of the Daemon’s Eye: Another re-named relic. Everytime your opponent spends a CP, roll a D6. On a 5+ you gain a CP. Yay!
- Thrydderghyre: Absolutely no idea how this is pronounced, however it is basically a named Disc of Tzeentch. It allows the bearer to manifest psyhic powers even if they fell back or advanced, and as a added bonus, allows you to consolidate D6 (and doesn’t need to be towards the nearest enemy model).
- Conniving Plate: A nice defensive relic that can only be given to Arcana Astartes. This grants the bear a 2+ save AND should they end up in combat only half of any enemy models attacks can be allocated to the bearer of this relic.
- The Prism of Echos: Each time the bearer casts a Blessing psychic power you double the range of the power’s effects. Very powerful with the right spell.
We’ve got two different Disciples of psychic powers in this book. Very important to note, Thousand Sons no longer have access to the generic Chaos Space Marine psychic powers, so no Death Hex or Warptime.
However, we do have very similar spells available in there place, so don’t fret!
Discipline of Change
The first batch of Psychic powers are those from the Discipline of Change. the Tzaangor Shaman can only choose spells from this discipline, whilst all the other psykers can pick from both.
Some of the spells here you’ll have seen before in name, however the abilities have slightly been changed. For example Weaver of Fates now grants the selected unit a 4+ invulnerable save, instead of being +1 to save.
Glamour of Tzeentch and Temporal Manipulation are back. Infernal Gateway, however, has gone.
Doombolt is also back, and is easier to cast, now only needing a 6, however, it no longer slows the enemy down and instead just does flat 3 mortal wounds to the closest enemy unit.
Perplex is a new spell, needing a 7 to cast. Choose an enemy unit within 24” and until the start of your next psychic phase that unit cannot shoot at one of your units unless they are within 24”.
Discipline of Vengeance
Moving over to the second lot of psychic powers, we’ve got the replacements for Warptime and Death Hex.
Temporal Surge, warp charge value 7, allows a Infantry, Cavalry or Beasts unit to make a normal move. Twist of Fate, needing 8 to cast, removes the invulnerable save from an enemy unit within 12”.
Some of the tastiest spells are in this table, including:
- Desecration of Worlds (Warp Charge 7): one enemy unit within 24” gets selected, and whenever said unit moves, advances, falls back or charges you roll a D6 for each model in the unit. On a 6 you do a mortal wound. Could do nothing, but could do a ton of pain. A real psychological spell that one!
- Swelled by the Warp (Warp Charge 6): Select a friendly model within 12” of the Psyker. That model gets +2 strength and an additional attack. Perfect on a Daemon Prince!
- Empyric Guidance (Warp Charge 4): Add 6” range to a units Rapid Fire and Heavy weapons.
One of my favourite, if not my favourite, additions to 9th Edition has been the Crusade game mode. So needless to say I was really looking forward to seeing what narrative could be drawn from the rules in this section.
As with all Crusade rules in these new books you gain a series of specific agendas for the army, as well as a table on how you can spend requisition points on your force. The agendas are suitably fluffy for the army and gain your units experience as well as Arcane Points.
Arcane Points = prizes, and this is the main mechanic for a Thousand Sons Crusade army.
The points you obtain can be spend on Crusade relics or additional psychic powers, of which I’ve preview one of each below:
- Boonstone: Once per battle add 3 to the result of a psychic test
- Thief of Fate: Warp Charge 6: select an enemy unit within 18”. On a 3+ that unit suffers a mortal wound. Add roll to the required roll until either the enemy unit is dead or until your roll is not successful. It’s like a mini Curse of Years!
Your characters can obtain Chaos Boons instead of Battle Honours, which offers random benefits such as extra movement, extra toughness and a free reroll. There are also tables for Battle Traits and Psychic Fortitude.
Gaining Arcane Points to spend on upgrades is cool, but doesn’t do enough for the narrative in my eyes. Grey Knights get to pick Nemesis Daemons, that’s narrative.
I’ll definitely use my 1k Sons on Crusade, but I wish the narrative content was stronger.
And so we move onto Datasheets.
To be honest, I haven’t spotted major changes in here, but we have had some changes.
The most apparent is an extra attack almost completely across the board. A couple of extra wounds and weapons changes have been sprinkled in too. Also worth noting, units that can take Discs of Tzeentch no longer gain the Daemon keyword.
Oh, and don’t forget everything gains +1 to psychic tests!
Below is some of the stuff I’ve noted.
- Ahriman: Extra wound and attack. Can now re-roll psychic tests.
- Thousand Sons Daemon Prince: Weapons have been buffed, sword now does flat 3 damage, +1 Strength -3 AP
- Infernal Master. New additional. Knows two pacts, can use one, can cast one psychic power.
- Exalted Sorcerer: Now has a 4+ invulnerable save!
- Sorcerer in Terminator Armour/Sorcerer: Can be included without taking a HQ slot should you have an Exalted Sorcerer.
- Tzaangors; -1 WS (so now hit on 4s). Relic Hunters rule has gone. Note there is a strat to re-roll all hits however, and the Shaman can give them a +1 to hit still.
- Rubric Marines: Now 2 wounds, extra attack, icon of flame now grants another cabal point, the unit auto passes morale, All is Dust is still the same (+1 save if the damage of the attack is 1), looks like Aspiring Sorcerers can cast Smite as normal (D3/D6 rather than 1/D3), Soul Reaper Cannon has an extra shot and +1 S (now 6), Warpflamer now 12”
- Hellbrute: Extra attack, plasma cannon now damage 3 instead of 2, Hellbrute has a built in minus 1 damage, Crazed replaced with Frenzy (if model has 7 or less wounds left re-roll wound roll of 1), has the Core keyword.
- Scarab Occult Terminators: Extra attack and wound, extra 1” movement, auto passes morale, All is Dust the same, again looks like full Smite access.
- Tzaangor Shaman: Force stave gives an extra +1 strength, can still give other Tzaangor units +1 to hit, no longer has elixir to give you re-rolls
- Predator Tank; Depending on your load out is spread across 3 datasheet entries.
Magnus the Red
He really needed his own section, being only one of two Daemon Primarchs kicking around currently.
His stat line is pretty much unchanged, but his abilities have been tweaked.
The Blade of Magnus no longer creates a Chaos Spawn should he destroy a character. Instead, if an enemy model has taken damage by this weapon and lived, BAM! That unit takes D3 mortal wounds. On that subject, I cannot find anyway in this book to turn your opponent into a Chaos Spawn. Booo!
If he’s in your army he has to be your Warlord. No ifs, no buts. Speaking of which, like the changes to Mortarion, he gets three Warlord Traits! Namely…
- Arrogance of Aeons: Reroll any Deny the Witch attempts. He can benefit from more than one Cabal Ritual.
- Undying Form: Subtract 1 from damage characteristics of attacks made in his direction. (To a minimum of 1, of course)
- Lord of Forbidden Lore: He knows ALL of the psychic powers from this book.
Gaze of Magnus still does D6 damage when he uses Smite, whilst a Super Smite now does 3D3 mortal wounds instead of 2D6.
The Crown of the Crimson King still gives him a 4+ invulnerable save, but also now allows him to ignore all Perils of the Warp.
As expected, like a Space Marine Chapter Master, his full re-roll to hit ability now only works on one unit, of which you need to select within 6″ of Magnus. This unit must also have the Core or Character keywords. He still however has a re-roll hits of 1 aura, again only effecting Core units.
Finally, Unearthy Power grants Magnus the ability to re-roll all of his Psychic Tests. Also, you can add 1 to the result (2, should Magnus have 10 or more wounds remaining). Don’t forget, if your detachment contains only Thousand Sons units, you gain a +1 to cast there too.
Before I summarize, it is important to note I have never considered myself a super competitive player, and my thoughts on the Codex are based on my opinion of the book.
This is a very flavorsome Codex. All of the mechanics, new and old, the lore, the secondaries…they all lean into what the Thousand Sons are about.
They are all about owning the Psychic Phase, which is further strengthened by the new Cabbalistic Rituals mechanic. Your opponent is going to worry about the amount of mortal wound output you have in that phase, but don’t be fooled, you are going to need to dish out those mortal wounds.
Because a lot of the armies damage output is in the Psychic phase, and as some of the best secondary objectives again lean heavily into killing stuff in said phase, should you have a bad Psychic phase, or should you not get that clutch power off, it’s going to have an impact on how your army gets on in a more significant way than other armies.
But then, isn’t that what the Thousand Sons are famed for? They also still have access to killer boltguns, so they can put a lot of hurt out in the shooting phase.
They still don’t have a lot of units to access that gives them anti-armour. You’ll still need to pick up those classic Predators, or perhaps a Defiler or Hellbrute to do that job for you. The 1k Sons still have access to the Forgefiend and Maulerfiend, but no access to the Lord Discordant to buff them. The Helldrake is also still kicking it within these pages.
Magnus has undergone some positive changes, none to dissimilar to what we saw with Mortarion in the Death Guard Codex. He still, however, is a large target that your opponent will have a go at early doors.
I really would have liked to see some buffs to summoning, or perhaps, even if only for Crusade, some free or limited summons. I just feel it would have added a little more flavour to the army.
Speaking of Crusade, if there is one element of the book I was disappointed in, it was Crusade. We’ve seen some fantastic content, such as the internal conflicts of the Orks, the growing territories of the Drukhari, hunting the Fallen with the Dark Angels and building weapons with the Adeptus Mechanicus.
Chaos Boons are fun, but feel generic. Building up Arcane points again is nice, but doesn’t really help a storyline driven narrative as much as other armies.
I didn’t close the book and think wow, that particular thing was overpowered, which is always a good thing. I believe it’s a hard book to judge as it is, and really needs to be tested out on the battlefield. Speaking of which, we’ll be playing a live streamed game later today against the Grey Knights, to give this book it’s first run out.
All in all, I really enjoyed the Codex. It’s fired me up to get the Thousand Sons out, as I haven’t used them in a while (COVID didn’t help!) and look forward to using them in some upcoming games, and perhaps add some new units into the mix so I can vary my force.
Our thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with this copy to review for Sprues and Brews.
You can preorder the book right now from Element Games!