The Emperor Protects, Part Three – The Battle Sisters Build Guide / Healing Prayers and Heavy Firepower

UPDATE 19/06/2023: Hello again! For anyone reading this post following the release of 10th Edition Warhammer 40,000, an awful lot has changed with respect to how Battle Sister Squads can now be armed. It’s worth noting now that since weapon and equipment upgrades are all completely free as of the time of writing, decisions such as putting power weapons on Sister Superiors or taking Simulacrums and Heavy Weapons in your Battle Sisters Squads have become no brainers. While I stand by the content in this post as a means to build you the highest number of unique models from a certain number of kits, I recommend you take some of the specifics with a pinch of salt. You may or may not want to switch out some Storm Bolters for Meltaguns or Flamers and you may want more power weapons on your Sister Superiors. It’s highly possible – given both Battle Sisters and Dominions can take them for free – you’ll want more Simulacrums than I’ve built here. Or maybe you won’t, now that you don’t strictly need three Battle Sisters squads for battleline anymore. It’s also worth considering that there’s a whole other set of unique sculpts in the Adepta Sororitas Combat Patrol, which this doesn’t take into consideration. Either way, consider this at best a jumping off point now rather than gospel. Thanks!

UPDATE 25/06/2021: Hello, hi! For anyone reading this post following the release of the 9th Edition Codex: Adepta Sororitas, some things have changed with respect to how Battle Sister Squads can be armed. This has very little impact on this Battle Sisters Build Guide, but there are a few changes to be mindful of. I have appended an Addendum to this post explaining the changes for anyone who intends to use this build guide.

Welcome faithful of the Emperor to Part Three of The Emperor Protects, a series of posts following the growth of my Adepta Sororitas Order Minoris, the Order of the Dying Light. In this instalment, I’m adding some heavy firepower to the army alongside a few other bits and bobs for utility. This post going to be something of a departure from the first two. While I might have a few comments to make here and there (primarily regarding construction) for a couple models, the vast majority in this post will be ‘more of the same’. Rather than repeat myself, I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about why I forsook my cardinal rule about not buying (just about) everything for a new army right away this time, and why it’s important to plan ahead with Games Workshop’s modern plastic kits.

The new Adepta Sororitas plastic kits are, by and large, pretty miraculous things to behold. The miniatures are beautifully detailed, posed in a diverse array of cinematic freeze frames and come with an absurd number of head options. As terrific as these kits are, however, some of them benefit massively from a bit of forward planning if you don’t want to end up with a bunch of duplicate miniatures – in particular, the Battle Sisters and the Retributors.

As far as plastic heavy weapons kits go, the Retributors kit is pretty solid. All told, it makes you a Sister Superior and 4x Sisters with Heavy Weapons. The Sister Superior has a few options, which is nice, but regardless of what you equip her with, she always kind of goes together the same way – melee weapon pointed toward the sky and something in her off hand. Additionally, although the Retributors kit comes with 4x Heavy Weapon Sisters, it only builds 2x of each option1 – meaning that if all you’re interested in is Multi-Meltas (i.e. the only heavy weapon not available in the Battle Sisters kit), then you need at least two boxes of Retributors. This can be a little irksome, especially so when you consider that Space Marine Devestators2 are packaged with literally double the number of heavy weapon options (still in sets of two, mind you). Now, if money is no object, you can always run out and grab three boxes of Retributors and – following my Retributor Build Matrix chart below – you can get a ‘unique’ model for each one of your heavy weapons too. But before you run out and blow £97.50 (or £81.96 from Element Games3), it’s worth noting that not only does a box of Battle Sisters build both a Heavy Bolter and Heavy Flamer, but the body for the Heavy Bolter can even support one of the heavy weapons from each pair in the Retributor kit out of the box, no conversion required.

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.

Battle Sister ABattle Sister BBattle Sister CBattle Sister D
Box 1Multi-MeltaHeavy FlamerMulti-MeltaHeavy Flamer
Box 2Heavy BolterMulti-MeltaHeavy FlamerHeavy Bolter
Box 3Heavy FlamerHeavy BolterHeavy BolterMulti-Melta
I hope you like tables, because this is not the only one you’ll be seeing in this post.

Speaking of the Battle Sisters kit, this is where things get a little more complicated. And I do mean complicated here – not ‘bad’. As a value proposition, it’s actually fairly reasonable. Heads aside, this kit lets you upgrade no less than 7 of the boltgun armed Battle Sister models with some form of special/heavy weapon or equipment – and there’s even several ranged and melee weapon options for your Sister Superior to boot. Without employing any conversion, here’s what the kit builds:

  • 1x Sister Superior
    • One Pose
    • Choice of ranged weapon (bolter, combi-melta, combi-flamer, Condemner bolter)
    • Choice of melee weapon (chainsword, power sword or chaplet with sheathed sword)
  • 1x Simulacrum Bearer (Sister A)
    • Choice of two Simulacrums or carrying helmet
  • 1x Heavy Bolter (Sister B)
    • Optionally carrying bolter and throwing grenade
  • 1x Heavy Flamer (Sister C)
    • Optionally carrying a shoulder slung bolter and pointing
  • 2x Bolter (Sisters D and E)
    • No options
  • 4x Bolters (Sisters F through I)
    • Optional Storm Bolter, Meltagun or Flamer
I decided to go with Multi-Meltas for my first unit of Retributors as I already had a load of Heavy Bolters on my Mortifiers, and I really wanted to put my Heavy Flamers in an Immolator – and that was absolutely not going to get done this month.

You may notice one departure from the rest of my Battle Sisters on these miniatures – namely the black casing on Multi-Melta weapons. They looked a little plain in gun metal, perhaps due to the absence of brass to break things up. Thankfully, the panels were in separate enough locations that I didn’t have to put black weapon directly next to black gloves, so I could have my cake and eat it too on this occasion.

So, where’s the complexity here? Well, here’s a few things to consider:

  • Although the Sister Superior has a number of wargear options, the pose – as with the Retributor Superior – is limited out of the box. This has potential to get repetitive over several squads.
  • The Simulacrum bearer (Sister A) has a fairly standout pose, with or without the Simulacrum. This makes duplicates more noticeable than the simpler looking ‘holding their bolter’ pose of the others. Without the Simulacrum, the model is also holding their helmet, which means that it has to be built as a Celestian or a Battle Sister/Dominion.
  • The Heavy Bolter miniature is – out of the box – compatible with one of each type of heavy weapon in the Retributors kit. Specifically, this is the ‘firing’ pose. The slightly lowered pose for each weapon will not fit this model without a little bit of conversion work.
  • The Heavy Flamer miniature is not compatible with either weapon from the Retributors kit without conversion. Built with a Bolter, the pose is – like the Simulacrum – quite noticeable when duplicated and worse yet, the shoulder slung bolter arm makes her difficult to convert with a special weapon. On the upside, the pointing arm can be easily substituted for a bolt pistol from the Seraphim kit or a spare ‘carrying the helmet’ head you’ll have left over from Sister A.
  • Battle Sisters D and E are always equipped with just a Bolter and have no special weapon or equipment options. On the upside, their poses are reasonably subdued and suit duplication well.
  • Battle Sisters F through J – the ‘Dominions’ – have all three special weapons available to them each.
  • The kit builds Battle Sisters, Dominions and Celestians.
    • There’s no real miniature difference between Dominions and Battle Sisters. The former can be deployed a little differently and equipped with more special weapons, but beyond that they’re one and the same.
    • Celestians, having a few special rules beyond deployment, are denoted by special helmets with a fleur-de-lis on the visor. Games Workshop also made their Celestians stand out a little more in their Our Martyred Lady studio army by reversing the colour of their tabards (black tabards with red lining as opposed to red tabards with a black lining), but there’s nothing to say you have to paint them that way.
    • Celestians, like Battle Sisters, can take a Simulacrum and either two special weapons or a heavy weapon and a special weapon.
  • It’s also possibly worth considering that the Seraphim/Zephyrim kit is also a great supplementary source of cool heads and spare weapon arms such as outstretched bolt pistols or power swords depending on what you build the kit as. While not a necessity by any means, it might be worth building a unit or two of these first and seeing what extra bits you have left over to help spice up your infantry.
A few interesting points to note on my Hospitaller. I used gemstone paints – Spiritstone Red for the medical apparatus and Waystone Green for the flashlight lenses. The lenses were just pure corner cutting laziness, but I’m actually pretty pleased with how the red turned out. I’m not the biggest fan of meticulously picking out tons of fine details on gaming miniatures – especially so with hard plastic ‘glassware’ items like syringes and vials – so being able to throw a quick clear coat paint over a metallic base coat and have it suggest transparency is, for me, a decent improvement over my previous approach of just painting it metal.

If you can exercise the self restraint, I do recommend not gluing down the Hospitaller herself to the base until you finish painting her. Her close proximity to the wounded Battle Sister at her feet can make her a little difficult to get in at – a problem already exacerbated by all the extraneous crap she’s got around her (such as the servo arm and doves). Props to Games Workshop on this one though – the Doves are entirely optional.

So, what can we take away from this information? Well…

  • There’s no real aesthetic difference between a Battle Sister with a heavy weapon or a Retributor with a heavy weapon. Likewise, there’s no difference between a Battle Sister Superior and a Retributor Superior. If we combine the two kits, we can reduce up some of the duplicate poses as well as potentially make use of the leftover Heavy Weapons from the Retributors kit in order to make a full set of four of each Heavy Weapon.
  • Each Battle Sisters kit can build up to four of each special weapon, but unless we want to make all of our baseline Bolter equipped Battle Sisters out of the same two poses we’ll want to use Sisters F-I from at least one of these kits as baseline Battle Sisters.
  • Dominion Squads can take up to four special weapons of any type, so it would be ideal to build at least 4x of each kind (Meltagun, Flamer, Storm Bolter).
  • Storm Bolters are a pretty a solid option for even minimally equipped MSU Battle Sister Squads due to their diminutive points cost. We should aim to build at least 6x of these – 10x if you want to also have the option to run a squad of Dominons with Storm Bolters and take advantage of the stratagem that makes their Storm Bolters Damage 2.
  • Battle Sisters D and E are always equipped with a bolter out of the box, but if you’re handy with an X-Acto Knife and a bit of green stuff, it’s not too much trouble to give them a special weapon if you really want to. This is especially handy for increasing model variety with the Storm Bolter models (as we’ll have more than four of those), and helps free up Sisters F-I for use as Bolter-armed Sisters to boot.
  • As mentioned previously, there’s nothing that says you have to paint your Celestians any differently to how you paint your Battle Sisters – officially, having the fleur-de-lis helmet is ‘enough’ (I plan to reverse the colour on their helmets/visors as well). We can leverage this to our advantage by ensuring at least one Superior, one Simulacrum, one of each Heavy Weapon and two of each Special Weapon are built helmetless – without a helmet, they could just as easily be Celestians as Battle Sisters or Dominons.
    • Something to keep in mind with this approach is that you’ll most likely be removing the bolter-equipped Celestians as casualties before any of the specially equipped models – it’s thus possible you could end up with a squad of ‘Celestians’ on the table looking no different from your Battle Sisters. For this reason, I suggest building at least one of your helmetless Sister Superiors with a unique piece of wargear that none of your other Superiors have. This could be the Chaplet from the Battle Sisters kit or the Book from the Retributors. It doesn’t mean you always have to use that Superior as a Celestian (like using the Celestian helmet would), but as long as no other of your Superiors have that wargear, you will always be clear which squad is which.
    • Worst case scenario, you could also probably put a token next to the squad if you really think you’re going to forget which of your units is which.

Whoa, okay, so that’s a lot of information to consider. Like I said, the Battle Sisters kit comes with a crazy number of options. It builds no less than three separate units with their own options and limitations and even shares some overlap with the Retributor kit. This creates a lot of choices and a lot of opportunities. It’s easy to just buy a kit per squad and just build what you need, but with a bit of forward planning you can get a pretty exhaustive and feature complete set of miniatures – including Battle Sisters, Dominions, Celestians and Retributors with all manner of equipment options – from five boxes of Battle Sisters and two boxes of Retributors.

Alright, that’s enough talk. Let me show you my data.

You’re going to want to go ahead and click this image to see it in all it’s full size glory. It might be a little hard to read otherwise.

The above chart details what I believe to be the optimal miniatures to build from each kit in what order to maximise your options and possibilities while meaningfully minimising unnecessary duplication of pose and loadout. Now, keep in mind here that this is only what I believe to be the optimal build order. I am coming from the perspective of a gamer, although equally from the perspective as an army collector. I’m not skimping out on Storm Bolter options or going crazy on Bolter armed Battle Sisters – realistically speaking, my Battle Sisters will mostly be run in five model MSUs with two Storm Bolters each so as to free up points for more interesting things – but it’s good to have a reserve of Bolter armed Battle Sisters to beef up the squads if points allow. Likewise, I’m building four of each special and heavy weapon because, generally, I find squads more effective when they’re all geared a certain way and I want to be able to run different Retributor and Dominion loadouts. With 14x Boltguns and 10x Storm Bolters, I’m able to run a Battalion with 3x MSU Squads (Chainsword Superior, 2x Bolters, 2x Storm Bolters) with enough left over to run a 10x Sister Dominion Squad with 4x special weapons of my choosing and 5x ablative wounds – and 3x bolters spare to beef up a Retributor Squad or something. In a pinch, I could even run a brigade – although one squad would have to live without Storm Bolters4, while 3x others would have an upgrade of some kind on the Superior.

As you can probably tell, this build plan is something that I’ve been obsessing over for weeks now, maybe months. Strictly speaking, this isn’t exactly how I built my miniatures on a box per box basis. I built my first box without too much forward planning as I wanted it to be able to double as a Kill Team in the short term (and figured the first box wouldn’t have too much of an impact on the other six), then started writing out a plan from there. My initial build plan was broadly the same as the final draft, but I did find myself making changes and tweaks as put together more of my boxes and began to notice opportunities and limitations that I hadn’t initially foreseen. Heck, there are even a few miniatures I went back and changed (4x Battle Sisters from Bolters to Storm Bolters) while writing this blog entry. Talk about cutting it fine. Only when the dust had finally settled and all of my choices were built and finalised, I went back through my Frankenstein’s Monster of a list and moved some choices around such that the individual boxes had more of a theme to them (the flamer box, the meltagun box, etc), which helps make the build order make a bit more sense to read.

Just a bunch of Storm Bolters and Sisters Superior. This gives me the option to run my current Battle Sister Squad as three MSU squads with a barebones Superior, 2x Boltguns and 2x Storm Bolters – and thus opening up more Elites and Heavy Support slots for my army when I need them. Alternatively, as I’m currently on 2 and 2 at the moment anyway, I can keep my current Battle Sisters Squad as is and run a unit of Storm Bolter equipped Dominions in the Fast Attack slot.

There’s a few caveats and edge cases in the finalised build order that could use a little explanation and clarification. These are as follows:

  • I made 2 out of 3 of my ‘no upgrade’ Superiors out of the Retributor kit because they had two definitely no upgrade build options (i.e. book-in-hand vs bolter-in-hand). I built my Condemner Boltgun Superior from the Battle Sisters box as fairly stock (it’s only a 5 point upgrade and easy to proxy as a boltgun in a pinch), and built a second bolt pistol and chainsword superior using leftover Seraphim Superior bits from the kit I used to built my Zephyrim. This gives me four mostly unique looking, minimally armed Superiors. I also built one of my Battle Sister Superiors with the Chaplet option – this technically does include a sheathed power sword, but I’d argue that it could easily be considered a ‘combat blade’ if you wanted to run her on the cheap as the power lines are not visible in the sheath.
  • On Box 3, I have a ‘Simulacrum A/B (convert)’ for Battle Sister A. I made mine using the Imagifier banner (as I used something else for my Imagifier, more on that in a future post), but you could easily do something as simple as removing the Cherub from B and/or putting it on A. I imagine you could probably do something with the little bird bits in the kit too. Or you could just duplicate one of the Simulacrums with a different head, it’s not like they’ll be in the same squad together.
  • Battle Sister B has two builds marked (Ret.). These are to be built with weapons from the Retributors kit.
  • Battle Sister C is the only Bolter armed Battle Sister that I have three of. This could be tragic given that her pose is so unusual, but I’ve found that using three different heads (bare headed, open visor and helmeted) in conjunction with kitbashing a spare ‘holding helmet’ head unused by building Sister A with a Simulacrum and an outstretched bolt pistol arm leftover from my Zephyrim kit produces three fairly unique looking miniatures.
  • Battle Sisters D and E have a few options marked (convert). For these, I recommend finding an unused special weapon of that kind from a similarly posed Sister F-I and using this instead of the bolter. You will likely need to employ a little green stuff to make this work, but little more than gap filling or making the basic shape of an elbow pad to allow the arm to sit at a slightly different angle. This might be a little intimidating for beginners, but it’s not too bad and not an area that’s especially visible without looking for it anyway (being hidden partially by a sleeve or behind the boltgun). If you’d rather not risk damaging your miniature, then you can always swap this build with a Bolter from columns F, G, H or I. Just give them a different head.

And that’s about it, really. That’s what I consider to be the optimal build order for Battle Sisters. If you follow all of this advice – and you’re careful with your choice of heads and the direction they point – you should be able to create all 60 of these Battle Sisters miniatures as Battle Sisters, Retributors, Dominions and Celestians. Each will have a useful array of weapon loadouts and equipment options and very little in the way of duplicate miniatures. It’s not without it’s downsides, of course. You’re staring down the barrel of £240 worth of plastic kits in one gulp – even more if you also pick up a couple boxes of Seraphim/Zephyrim for the extra spare bits (which I do recommend). But hey, unless you’re into converting Superiors, you’re going to need at least three boxes of Battle Sisters for your Troops to fill out your first Battalion anyway – and with the latest buffs to Multi-Meltas in 9th Edition, who isn’t going to want a squad of these coming in from reserves?

Hopefully this came out as helpful, understandable information and not the ramblings of a madman; I’ve been mulling this post over in my head for so long now that I don’t think I can tell any more. If anyone out there is starting a new Adepta Sororitas army finds this build guide useful, or just interesting food for thought please do let me know in the comments section or shoot me a little email, I’d love to hear from you.

Until then, thanks for reading and happy wargaming!

ADDENDUM 25/06/2021: So, there have been some changes following the release of the 9th Edition Codex: Adepta Sororitas with respect to how Battle Sister Squads can be armed. Specifically, the squad size has gone from 5-10 to 5-20 and the rules regarding special weapons have changed to ‘1 per 5 models’ instead of ‘up to 2 per unit’. This means that the standard (Superior, 2x Bolter and 2x Storm Bolter) minimum sized unit loadout that I mention in this post is no longer a legal configuration.

All that being said, these changes mean very little to the Battle Sisters Build Guide. As this build guide produces 14x Bolters and 10x Storm Bolters, it will still be possible to assemble 3x MSU Battle Sister Squads (Superior, 3x Bolter, 1x Storm Bolter) and 10 Dominions (Superior, 4x Storm Bolter, 5x Bolter).

If you would like to field one unit of 20 Battle Sisters – which I understand is highly recommended in this edition of the codex – then I recommend picking up one further box of Battle Sisters and building a Superior and 9x Bolter armed Sisters. Doing so will increase your Bolter-armed Battle Sisters pool up to 23, allowing you to field a unit of 20 Sisters (Superior, Simulacrum, 4x Storm Bolters, 14x Bolters), 2x units of 5 (Superior, 1x Storm Bolter, 3x Bolters and even a (slightly smaller squad) of 8 Dominions (Superior, 4x Storm Bolters or other Special Weapon, 3x Bolters). Best of all, as there are only 3 (in one case, 4) duplicates of each of the distinctive poses, you can still get away without having any glaringly obvious duplicates in your squads, whether you choose to field Dominions or not..

1 This is mildly complicated but the Retributors Heavy Weapons come in two distinct poses with a variation of each – i.e. A/B are the same poses but with different details and C/D are the same poses with different details. This is important as the kit supplies two of each heavy weapon – one to fit each pose. This means you can’t have Sisters A/B armed with Multi-Meltas and Sisters C/D armed with Heavy Bolters – it has to go Melta/Bolter and Melta/Bolter (or the other way around). Like I said, confusing – thank goodness someone made a chart, EH?


3 Gettin’ mersh for 2021. It’s all downhill from here, folks.

4 For this reason, I considered making my Bolter/Storm Bolter divide 12/12 rather than 14/10. I ended up going 14/10 instead as having excess minimally armed Battle Sisters felt a lot more flexible (as they could be dumped in Battle Sisters Squads or Retributor Squads if I had points to burn) rather having models simply to appease this one very fringe situation that might not ever come up. Besides that, running a MSU Brigade was always going to be a little sub-optimal given that I only had 3 (arguably 4) no upgrade Sister Superiors. Should I ever find myself in desperate need to fill an MSU Brigade, I’ll probably just bite the bullet and buy another couple boxes of Battle Sisters for the Sister Superiors, if nothing else.

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