“The slow blade penetrates the shield”Gurney Halleck, House Atreides, Dune
Note: There are no updates for Flaymaster Mawdrym Llansahai in Book 9.
Mawdrym Llansahai is a wonderful snapshot into how to write rules for a character that are narrative, fun, add flavour and are interesting without being utterly broken or unbalancing to the game system. Nicknamed “Bloody Bones” by the Night Lords, the speed in which his descent into insanity took place was only rivalled by his Primarchs.
Mawdrym was inducted into the VIII Legion as an Apothecary. He was a highly intelligent individual with stable psychological profile. He soon began to excel at interrogation techniques with prisoners – something Apothecaries in the Night Lords were responsible for. His meteoric descent into madness was stimulated by experiments (including vivisections) that he conducted with the goal of causing immense pain and prolonging the duration a target could experience that pain. His aims were not clear as to whether this was to enhance interrogation or merely to satisfy his own curiosity.
Mawdrym has red gauntlets, a sign of being “marked for death” by Konrad Curze after he was dragged before his Primarch and found wanting. He was effective shunned by the Legion post his sentencing, unable to lead even a Squad. He effectively hid in plain sight, existing as a member of the VIII but no longer accepted. This did not quench his thirst for experimentation – marked for death by Curze was no barrier; it reinforced that his time was short and there was much to do.
Especially on Isstvan V.
As I mentioned at the start of the article, Llansahai is a masterclass on rules writing. He isn’t overpowered, or overwritten with rules that causes balance issues. Instead, he is subtly written to include some lovely gems that work incredibly well, all for 135 points.
Being an Apothecary, you can expect a slight buff to what is effectively, a base Apothecary stat line. However, there is a lovely nod to the viciousness of the character with Weapon Skill 5 and 2 attacks at Initiative 5. In addition, the extra Wound and Leadership works well to differentiate him.
Outfitted in Power Armour, he has a 3+ save which is nothing particularly special, but he does come with a Refractor Field offering a 5++ invulnerable save. Being a Apothecary he has a Narthecium, providing him with a Feel No Pain 5+++ shrug on wounds. Basically, you still need to avoid being doubled out by attacking weapons strength as this will cause your invulnerable and your Feel No Pain to fail under Instant Death rules. However, for a character that costs 135pts you have a 3+/5++ followed by a Feel No Pain 5+. That’s good to start, but there is a bonus for him to come.
With The Devils Luck special rule, Llansahai can re-roll failed Look Out Sir and Feel No Pain rolls. This effectively gives you three chances to avoid taking wounds – and Rules as Written can be re-rolled for failed Feel No Pain for the Squad he’s attached to also. That’s not bad at all. In fact, Llansahai is generally one of the last models on the table for me; with the exception tending to be when facing Daemons of the Ruinstorm or when i’ve made a “tactical error of judgement” and gotten him to a place he shouldn’t be. Because he is an Independent Character he can attach to any unit too, which can be very beneficial when you don’t want to run and pay for a Primus Medicae.
He is however, a non-compulsory HQ choice due to Unfit for Command. As we eluded to in the opening gambit, he’s utterly insane and as a result cannot lead. Personally I don’t feel this is a limitation. There are better choices to lead your army, Sevatar is one of them if you want it to be a Legion Specific Character. Due to this non-compulsory rule, some players see Llansahai as a “tax” but as mentioned, he adds flexibility and capability over and above what an Apothecary can do.
This is exemplified by the fact that he has Legiones Astartes (Night Lords), Fear and Fearless. He is so insane that he doesn’t care for the enemies at the gates and this strikes fear into their hearts! Why does this exemplify the Night Lords? Well, for a Legion that is based around Fear in both Lore and on the Table, its odd that not all of its units have Fear – Kheron Orpion and Night Raptors, at the time of writing miss this rule in their core rules, despite every other named character or specialist unit having it. In my opinion, Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) should confer Fear automatically. Being Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) also means that Llansahai benefits from A Talent For Murder.
Back to Llansahai; so he is quite resilient, adds a fair few buffs to a Squad he attaches to – remember he never leads that Squad narratively, and is clearly a well written, narrative driven Independent Character. What about that Weapon Skill I hear you ask? Surely he has some weapons to benefit…
Llansahai doesn’t really disappoint here. He’s armed with an Archaeotech Pistol and with BS4 is fairly adept at using it. Again, a better BS doesn’t make sense here, considering his role and situation; but he does benefit from the Mastercrafted rule.
|Archaeotech Pistol||12″||6||3||Pistol, Mastercrafted|
So even alone, he can still bring some ranged pain to the enemy – though it won’t be effective against entire Squads. He’s also armed with Frag & Krak grenades for those fleeting moments or Hail Mary! that require their use.
This in my opinion, is where the real artistry has come into effect. The Red Jaqa is Llansahai’s custom-wrought Scalpel. Effectively a long bladed knife (similar to what Sevatar carries for those looking for conversion prospects), this weapons edge can cut deeper and cleaner than a power blade.
The artistry might not be clear from that statement – but it is in his stat line and overall rules package.
|Red Jaqa||–||-1||3||Melee, Murderous Strike, Specialist Weapon|
Immediately, players tend to see the -1 Strength and guffaw “it’s not very good”. Well no, but neither is Cheese at face value – it’s just mouldy milk.
Lets look at a typical round where you’ve charged in – The enemy needs to take a Fear test, but you don’t because you’re Fearless. With 2 Attacks base, +1 for the charge this neatly brings you to 3 Attacks. Remember Specialist Weapon means you don’t get the extra attack for the Archaeotech Pistol and Red Jaqa in this instance. Ok, so he isn’t setting the world alight thus far.
Weapon Skill 5 means that against humble Tactical Squads on 3+, but with Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) granting him A Talent For Murder that’s improved to 2+ at Initiative 5. Now, lets not forget, if it’s Night Fighting with Terror Assault you also gain +1 Initiative, making him fairly vicious!
So you’ve hit at Initiative 5 (or 6) and at Strength 3 , you’re wounding Tactical Squads on 5+. Don’t forget though, Llansahai is Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) and therefore gains A Talent For Murder again for the 1+ to Wound, bringing us back to 4+. Nice, but the pain train doesn’t stop there. With Murderous Strike, Llansahai causes Instant Death on a roll of a 6+ to Wound. This doesn’t get affected by A Talent For Murder, but is still a lovely rule to reinforce the narrative that “the slow blade penetrates the shield”. This in itself a reference to Dune, where despite all their protection assets, a well placed, timed and slowly moved blade will ensure the kill.
Depending on your rolling and what you’re facing, the potential is there to kill three, but I tend to see one target die a turn. Now, again, this isn’t some overpowered character who’s going to win the game for you, but remember, he won’t ever be alone (unless you put him there) and facilitates the rest of whatever Squad he is attached to. Use him with Terminators or Terror Squads and you won’t be disappointed, especially with the latter in a Terror Assault Rite of War. He’ll also improve the Squads resilience as a normal Apothecary would.
Mawdrym Llansahai is a lovely addition to any Night Lords force. Whilst he might seem pricey compared to a normal Legion Apothecary, and this can’t be ignored as 135pts is a sizeable chunk of points, he is worthwhile. He’s significantly more resilient and capable than a Legion Apothecary whilst adding a huge narrative boost to your army.
Best used when Night Fighting is in effect with Terror Assault in my personal opinion, he nevertheless benefits from the Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) key word, bringing with it the powerhouse that A Talent For Murder really is.
Don’t expect the world from him – but to expect him to pull the duty that his 135pts commands isn’t far fetched at all.
AVE DOMINUS NOX!