7th Edition Review: Adeptus Mechanicus: Dominus Maniple
Alright, this is a conversation I've been having with a lot of people. That Start Collecting: Skitarii box is a fantastic value and a good starting point to building a Skitarii army, and it comes with the Dominus Maniple formation dataslate. Well, how useful is the formation? I've used it some, and I have pretty mixed feelings about it. There are definitely pros and cons for it.
First off, let's look at the pros. It is nice to be able to put together the box and run it right away in a small point game. If you are brand new to the game and want to spend as little as possible but be able to play as soon as possible, this is definitely worth a look! And, since you can use the Targeting Data Upload special rule that the formation gets, it can be pretty useful. Using that to reroll misses is nice if you pick some Plasma Calivers for the Vanguard, since it makes it much less likely for them to Get Hot and fry your own troops (only a 1/36 chance instead of a 1/6 chance).
The nicest thing about the formation, in my experience, is a cheap way to get a robust Warlord in small points games. Skitarii have no sturdy Warlord options, and the most formidable choices don't even have access to the full Warlord trait table (and, in many opinions, miss out on the better Warlord traits). As such, the Dominus Maniple makes for a great opportunity to get the Tech Priest Dominus in your army to act as a Warlord without having to buy Cult Mechanicus troops to include a Combined Arms Detachment. I can say from experience that he is tough to kill, and mine has yet to lose a challenge!
But, it's not all good. There are some downsides, too. For starters, there is a range of points that is hard to field a Dominus Maniple in. The Maniple itself can run anywhere from around 250 points to 630 points (unless I've forgotten something), so you may be forced to not take some upgrades if you need to squeeze in a Skitarii Maniple or Combined Arms Detachment or other supplemental force. This has occasionally been a problem for me, since I want the Dominus Maniple to be equipped in a way that optimizes the Targeting Data Upload rule that it comes with.
Furthermore, the Targeting Data Upload itself can cause some problems. To use the reroll, your Warlord will have to be within 18" of the enemy you want to shoot at. But if the Tech Priest Dominus is your Warlord, you may want him away from the front lines. I have found him to be very useful sitting near the Onager Dunecrawler to repair it when it inevitably takes fire. The Onager Dunecrawler is a powerful and dangerous weapon platform, so people will want to kill it. The Tech Priest Dominus can very easily restore its Hull Points, replace lost weapons and repair immobilization. In my own games, my Tech Priest Dominus has kept my Onagers shooting well past when they would have been a flaming wreck.
You could make the Vanguard Alpha your Warlord, so he is always on the front lines to use the Targeting Data Upload rule, but that negates one of the benefits of the Dominus Maniple in the first place. If you are willing to have a very fragile Vanguard Alpha as your Warlord, you may be better off leaving the Tech Priest Dominus out of it and spending his points on a more versatile unit. In my games, the Targeting Data Upload's reroll ability has not been as useful as I would have thought, due largely to its short range.
All told, the Dominus Maniple can be a nice bonus to your army, but it could also get in the way and encourage you to misuse units to get the Targeting Data Upload rule. I may try it again soon with only a 5-man squad of Vanguard to minimize costs and simply have them guard a backfield objective to see if that works out a little better.