“I do not want this.

I have served with loyalty and honour.

Scatter my ashes to the void.

Do not entomb me”

Malcharion the War Sage, shortly before being entombed in his Dreadnought Chassis.

In the lore, an Astartes that falls on the field of battle whose wounds cannot be healed are interned within a specialist armoured life support and interfacing chamber; known as a Sarcophagus. This is able to be fitted into a platform akin to a bipedal armoured Walker; known as a Dreadnought. This allows the valuable commodities that are the Astarte’s life and experience to continue to serve.

Once installed, Astartes are often kept in an enforced sleep to stave off the insanity that comes from being entombed in the Dreadnought Sarcophagus. Many still suffer from madness, or fits of rage. Only when they are needed are they awoken though “Rites of awakening” performed by intendant Mechanicum Tech Priests.

Dreadnought are fearsome to face on the battlefield, with accounts commonly heard of them using their rage to wreak havoc on the battlefield. Encased in Ceramite and Plasteel, these revenants have a wide gamut of weaponry they can call upon to be outfitted.

Core Rules

The Castaferrum Dreadnought is represented in game as the Legion Dreadnought and has a fairly average stat line.

VehicleWSBSSFrontSideRearIAHP
Legion Dreadnought546121210433

With a front and side armour value of 12 a piece, you won’t need to worry about Heavy Bolters pulling a Dreadnought down. However any form of light Anti-Tank, let alone dedicated Anti-Tank in the form of Melta or Lascannons weapons will fairly resoundingly begin to cause it concern. It’s simply a case of keeping it facing the enemy and avoid exposing its vulnerable rear armour to give it the best chances.

It’s worth noting now that there’s no invulnerable save for the Castaferrum Dreadnought. Not even a 6++. This is one of the core reasons they’re not commonly seen on the tabletop – whilst there is something undeniably cool about them; they’re rather weak comparatively to the ContemptorCortus, which has a 5++ invulnerable save (Atomantic Shielding; Shooting only, 6++ Melee) and a host of special rules for 135 points base. Any form of cover that provides a save however is going to help keep the Castaferrum alive. Hence, running these with Night Fighting in effect is quite good. More on that later.

The Castaferrum does come with a Smoke launcher and Searchlight. Though those will have limited application in game and very much depend on how you are playing them. It does have the Dreadnought Talon rule, which means that any Legion Dreadnought that are a part of the Dreadnought Talon must start the game within 6” of each other, but after that operate independently and are not treated as a Vehicle Squadron. This is a nice rule that allows you to pack multiple (1-3) Legion Dreadnought into a single slot in your army. It’s mostly a narrative rule however. Unless you are considering a Mortifactor as an HQ choice.. more on that later.

Due to the slightly smaller size of the Castaferrum, you can take one of these in a standard Legion Drop Pod for 35 points. This adds a cheap and neat solution to the problem of getting them to where you need them and gives the option for either holding Dreadnought back to act as a Quick Reaction Force or using them as a Speartip. Just remember that Drop Pod Assault works better with odd numbers due to the fact that you round up the number of pods that enter in on the first turn.

The Castaferrum can be upgraded with Extra Armour for 5 points or Armoured Ceramite for 20 points. Honestly, with Front and Side armour values of 12 and a Rear armour value of 10, it’s probably going to be a subjective choice. Melta weapons will be glancing on a 4+ and penetrating on a 5+ so taking Armoured Ceramite does arguably have some merit. However it also makes them more expensive than Contemptor class just to protect them against Melta only.

Castaferrum cutaway diagram. Credit: DeviantArt.

Basic Loadout

So, what does a Castaferrum offer? Well, the basic weapons it comes with is fairly focused on anti-infantry; being a Twin-Linked Heavy Bolter and a Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon with Inbuilt Twin-Linked Bolter.

WeaponRangeSAPType
Twin-Linked Heavy Bolter36”54Heavy 3
Twin-Linked Bolter24”45Rapid Fire
Dreadnought Close Combat WeaponX22Melee

In melee, it can be quite nasty; being Strength x2 and AP 2, not only is it causing Instant Death on Marines and Terminators, but it also goes through their armour saves. It’s unlikely to survive the Melta Bombs that will inevitably come back its way though. Better yet, if you sacrifice the Twin-Linked Heavy Bolter, you can take an additional Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon with Inbuilt Twin-Linked Bolter for free. This also grants it an extra attack. It’s definitely one of the more interesting uses for a Castaferrum; almost as a throwaway speed bump to delay the enemy and cause some hefty damage in the process.

That’s not all though, there’s actually quite the catalogue of weapons systems that a Castaferrum can take in pursuit of mission success.

Ranged Weapon Options

Whilst it’s true, the Castaferrum lacks the heavy firepower of the Contemptor in terms of specialist weapons like the Kheres Pattern Assault Cannon, that’s not to say that the Castaferrum can’t bring the pain, in some interesting ways.

WeaponRangeSAPType
Multi-melta24”81Heavy 1, Melta
Twin-Linked Autocannon48”74Heavy 2
Plasma Cannon36”72Heavy 1, Blast, Gets Hot
Twin-Linked Missile launcher48”4/8/76/3/4Heavy 1, Blast (Frag only), Skyfire (Flakk only)
Flamestorm CannonTemplate63Assault 1
Twin-Linked Lascannon48”92Heavy 1
Volkite Culverin45”65Heavy 4, Deflagrate

That’s quite the arsenal that the Castaferrum can be outfitted with. The Ballistic skill of a normal Legion Dreadnought isn’t wonderful, but nor is it terrible. There is a weapon that doesn’t rely on that Ballistic Skill however; the Flamestorm Cannon. Being a Template weapon, you need to be close to the enemy to use it to its fullest; so that Drop Pod Dedicated Transport option comes to mind here. Whilst not Twin-Linked, the Flamestorm Cannon costs just 15 points and brings a squad-engulfing template at Strength 6 AP3. This means if you go with a basic Castaferrum, Flamestorm Cannon and Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon and a Legion Drop Pod; you have a nasty little surprise costing just 175 points that can come in Turn 1 anywhere on the table and literally unleash hell. Sure it won’t be charging on the turn it arrives, but the reality is it’s an immediate threat that needs dealing with.

Not enough immediate destruction for you? Take the Plasma Cannon for 10 points. Strength 7 means it won’t Instant Death anyone, but those with only a 3+ Save will die to the AP 2. The downside to the potential of the Plasma Cannon is the Gets Hot! Rule that comes with the Heavy 1 shot. It’s again a subjective choice. If your meta doesn’t have Armoured Ceramite spam in it, then the humble Multi-Melta is a free choice. In short, there’s no auto-take choices in the Optional Ranged Weapons; but there is a lot of flexibility and no real “terrible” choices.

Dreadnought Fist Weapon Options

The Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon isn’t just a melee claw – it comes as stock with a Twin-Linked Bolter in it. This too can be optionally upgraded to suit your needs.

WeaponRangeSAPType
Heavy FlamerTemplate54Assault 1
Plasma Blaster18”72Assault 2, Gets Hot!
Graviton Gun18”4Heavy 1, Blast (3”), Concussive, Graviton Pulse, Haywire
Meltagun12”81Assault 1, Melta

Frankly, there are so many options that are worth taking, for so many different reasons. Sticking with the idea of burning everything to death; the Heavy Flamer, whilst not as potent as it’s bigger brother is still an attractive proposition – especially in Zone Mortalis. My thoughts are often drawn to the Graviton Gun however. In itself, this is a multipurpose weapon, by virtue of the fact that it has some lovely utility to bruise target squads, but also the addition of Haywire. You roll on a separate table to determine Haywire wound results against Vehicles. This means that a twin Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon with Inbuilt Graviton Gun Castaferrum is a fairly nasty prospect against a wide gamut of targets. The Graviton Gun does cost 15 points per arm however. This means if you were to run that configuration, plus a Drop Pod, you would pay 190 points. Depending on your meta and play style, that might be of interest to you.

Melee Weapon Options

We have already discussed the ability to exchange the Heavy Bolter arm for a Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon. If another of those arms isn’t what you’re after; fear not. There are other, more visceral choices.

WeaponRangeSAPType
Dreadnought Chainfistx22Melee, Armourbane
Siege Wrecker102Melee, Concussive, Wrecker, Specialist Weapon

The options here are effectively broken down into two question sets:

  • Do you want to be more effective against Tanks and Armoured Walkers? Then the Dreadnought Chainfist may interest you.
  • Do you want to be more effective against Fortifications and the odd Tank and Armoured Walker? Then the Siege Wrecker may interest you.

Both cost 10 points each to upgrade to, which is no small amount considering we are looking at 135 points just to upgrade a basic Castaferrum to have a single one of those weapons. It’s a highly subjective matter – I find I take neither due to the fact the standard weapon does well enough.

Chassis Weapons Options

WeaponRangeSAPType
Hunter-Killer MissilesUnlimited83Heavy 1, One Use Only
Havoc Launcher48”55Heavy 1, Blast (3”), Twin-Linked
Frag Assault Launchers8”3Assault 1, Blast

Hunter-Killer Missiles are a decent choice for most platforms, offering a casual chance of delivering damage or even a deathblow to a key target for a mere 5 points. Though they’re tempered by being one use only and the Ballistic Skill of the Dreadnought.

The Frag Assault Launchers and Havoc Launcher cost 15 points each. These are less attractive propositions than the Hunter-Killer Missiles. Again, it’s wholly reliant upon the play style you use and what form of target you want to engage with the Castaferrum.

Mortis Variant

If you’re reading this and thinking that the normal Castaferrum doesn’t put out enough shots, dread naught; the Mortis Variant has you covered. The base Mortis costs 125 points and has the WS and BS reversed from the normal Castaferrum, with a BS of 5 and WS of 4.

This means you have two Twin-Linked Heavy Bolters, putting out 6 Strength 5 AP 4 shots a turn, hitting on 2+ and re-rolling failed hits. That’s fairly brutal for anti-infantry. You also gain the Helical Targeting Array which grants the Skyfire and Interceptor rules to the Dreadnought. It needs to be declared as in use by the controlling player (in their player turn) and forces the Dreadnought to remain stationary. However, it means you’re getting the ability to fire at normal ballistic skill when shooting at Flyers, Flying Monstrous Creatures and Skimmers. A final, further limitation is that you can only snapshot against ground targets when the Array is in use.

You effectively have access to either two Multi-melta as a free optional upgrade, or can pay for some more tasty Twin-Linked weapons. These come in the form of Twin-Linked Autocannon for 10 points, Twin-Linked Missile Launchers for 20 points or Twin-Linked Lascannons for 30 points.

The main problem with a Mortis is the lack of genuine melee threat. There is an abundance of things that can tear into a Dreadnought in game, from Legion Terminators armed with Chainfists to Assault Squads with Melta Bombs. A Dreadnought with a melee weapon represents a significantly larger threat than one without, as often they’re able to Instant Death what they’re facing. All the Mortis can offer in this regard is its shooting and overwatch.

The Mortis does not have access to a Drop Pod Dedicated Transport, but does have solid back field firepower. At worst, you’re looking at a unit that costs 155 points for Twin-Linked Lascannons – which is the same price a Contemptor Mortis costs with base loadout. Quite a tempting prospect for those short on points in their army.

Mortificator

The Legion Mortificator is a Consul that does not have Legion Support Officer meaning they can be your Warlord (though you probably won’t want to). They’re a very useful way of taking a Fury of the Ancients style army (Dreadnought heavy) without automatically losing the game due to the punitive limitations of that Rite of War.

The rule we are mostly concerned about is Keeper of the Dead. This allows the Mortificator to take a single Legion Dreadnought Talon, Legion Contemptor Dreadnought Talon or Legion Contemptor Cortus Dreadnought Talon numbering no fewer than two Dreadnought to be taken as a part of the Mortificator’s unit. Additionally, and contrary to the usual Talon rules, you can take up to five of them.

The Dreadnought in this unit lose the Dreadnought Talon special rule, instead being treated as a Vehicle Squadron along with the Mortificator. The only exception to this rule being that Dreadnought may shoot at different targets. This doesn’t count as using up any additional force organisation choice. The Dreadnought effectively become a Bodyguard for the Mortificator for shooting and witchfire attacks. Better yet, whilst there are Dreadnought still in the unit, the Mortificator is Fearless and may not leave the unit.

In the Assault Phase, if two or more Dreadnought target a single model with their close combat attacks, they gain Sunder and Shred for those attacks.

It gets better however. With the Ancient Devotion rule, so long as the Mortificator has not been removed as a casualty, Dreadnought may attempt to shrug any glancing or penetrating hits on a roll of a 5+ each time a Hull point is lost. Roll once for each Hull Point loss suffered. It cannot be taken for Destroyer attacks.

In short, this is perfect for those who want a Dreadnought heavy army without being scuppered by the fact Fury of the Ancients awards VP to the enemy for the loss of each Dreadnought. It also makes the Dreadnought more resilient, even with a lack of an Invulnerable save on the Castaferrum.

Legion Mortificator rules. Credit: Forgeworld, Book 8: Malevolence

Zone Mortalis

With flame weapons gaining Shred in Zone Mortalis games if they don’t already have it, or gaining +1 Strength if the do, those Flamestorm cannons look even more vicious. Death Guard players can profit by taking Chemunitions, providing Shred, meaning you now have Strength 7 Flamestorm Cannon at AP 3. Definitely not something you want to run down a hall and face.

For Night Lords players, this is where the Contekar really help you out too, being a solid HQ unit that also doubles as some horrific firepower multiplier – supporting that wall of fire wielding Dreadnought.

Summary

Castaferrum aren’t in a wonderful place comparatively. This often overshadows them and causes them to simply not make it to the table in any regularity. That isn’t to say they don’t have a place in your army though. Their comparative cheapness means that they have a surprise benefit; people don’t necessarily think they’re going to be a big threat.

The Mortificator HQs add an interesting factor to the possibility for players to run Dreadnought heavy armies, particularly the Castaferrum ones. Whilst probably not the best choice for your Warlord, the idea of having an HQ surrounded by Dreadnought is something that has some merit; even if purely for outrageous fun.

For those of you looking for more firepower, you have the Mortis Variant of the Castaferrum. They’re comfortably able to put a significant amount of firepower down for a fairly cheap price. It’s something to consider if you’re looking to increase your Anti-Air and Anti-Tank without taking up valuable heavy support slots or have limited points left over.

For those who are out to min/max or play competitively, the Castaferrum currently doesn’t hold much sway. This is the pitfall and underpinning issue of the Castaferrum; the varying Contemptor classes just do things better and have that 5++ Invulnerable save, all for similar prices. Forgeworld really need to have another look at Castaferrum and adjust their rules to make them more attractive to take. Even something as simple as including an Atomantic Deflector on them as we see on the Contemptor Cortus class would see them used more often.

For me, I have two Forgeworld Iron Clads and a Forgeworld Night Lords Chaos Castaferrum that I run purely because they’re damn cool.

Example Army List

This list lacks dedicated ranged anti tank, along with anti air, but will certainly put the hurt down on the opponent. Sevatar rides in a Pod with a Terror Squad, allowing the Contekar to Deep Strike with no scatter. Better yet, the natural Night Fighting providing a minimum 5+ cover save to Night Lords units, enhancing the survivability of those Castaferrum should you want to bring them in early. This isn’t enhanced due to the lack of Burning Retros rule on normal pods. This is entirely a Null deploy list, so you run the risk of having your army taken off the table by widespread and concerted firepower. With 7 Pods in total, you’re bringing in 4 on turn 1; mitigating this somewhat. It’s an aggressive army looking to come down and cause as much damage in an alpha strike, whilst hemming in the enemy in their deployment zone.