Tuesday, 25 September 2012

40k Is Dead! Long Live 30k!

The Horus Heresy, it's pretty much always been there in the background. It quickly became the anchor of a lot of the background and has since given rise to card games, board games, art books, novels and now at last a Warhammer 40k Expansion.

Games Day UK 2012 saw the limited release of the new Forge World Horus Heresy expansion. Book One: Betrayal. The book and some of the new miniatures will get their full release in the next few weeks. Myself and James were both fortunate to get our hands on a copy of the book on the day.

The first thing that has to be discussed is the book itself. There are some on the forums becrying the cost of this book. Now, whilst I understand that it's quite a hit on the wallet it's worth absolutely every penny of that amount. You'll never own a more beautifully produced and well thought out book as this one (unless you buy the future books in the series). It has the look of one of those old fashioned leather bound encyclopedia series (before Wikipedia etc meant that all you needed was internet access!) which feels very fitting for the subject material. This is a majestic tome talking about the mythical past of the 40k universe, detailing the beginning of a galaxy spanning war between gods and demi-gods, it would have been a crime to make it any less splendid a physical product. The other thing you have to consider is we're talking about a game within the game where a basic Legion Tactical Squad will cost you about £60.00! This is boutique hobby gear, there's no avoiding the fact that this is not for the faint-hearted. But it all depends on just how into this you want to get. There's nothing to stop you buying this book and using your existing minis with the odd differences in equipment loadouts etc but that's only half of this particular strand of the hobby.

So, moving on from what it actually looks like and the cost we can get to the rest thrust of this post. The content of this book and what it means to the hobby. Now the Horus Heresy is the crux of the beautiful creation myth of the grim darkness that becomes the galaxy in Warhammer 40,000. It's not the sort of background that can be glossed over and there's no danger of that. The background to the Heresy itself and then the events of Istvaan III is explored in great detail with lots of background material, quotes, images and maps. There's not a sniff of a rule in this book until page 143 where we're presented with the rules for playing through The Death of Istvaan III Campaign. The background section is amazing. I've only had a chance to skim through and enjoy the artwork so far but it's very evident that a lot of work has gone into collating the background that had already been fleshed out and meshing it together with greater detail to fit the design ethos of this particular book.

The Death of Istvaan III Campaign looks like it'll be very popular amongst the already large following that the Horus Heresy era has amongst wargamers. Split into four phases each with their own rules the campaign follows the unfolding battle on Istvaan III and even if you're playing with two World Eaters forces for example it creates enough distinction as you go along between the Traitors and Heretics in what they're fighting for and how this is represented on the tabletop that by the middle of the campaign they do appear to be very separate forces and the traitors aren't just a soon-to-be-spikier mirror image of their loyalist counterparts. The aim of the campaign is to earn Campaign Points to win each phase, the side that wins a phase benefits from The Rewards of Victory going into the next phase and the ultimate result is determined by the whichever side wins the final phase of the campaign. At the end of the first phase if the Traitors win they have reached The Point of No Return and so baptised in the blood of their brothers all Traitor units with the Legiones Astartes rule gain +1 Leadership for the remainder of the campaign. Whereas if the Loyalists win their Reward is Tenacity and they may take an additional fortification and grant an infantry unit from their primary detachment with the Infiltrate special rule to represent them digging themselves into the fortifications that kept them safe from the Warmaster's Life-Eater Virus attack.

Following on from the campaign are the new Missions and Legendary Battles for Istvaan III. There are 6 deployment types and 6 missions. Then there's a further four Legendary Battles for each phase of the Death of Istvaan III campaign. The 6 missions are similar to what we've seen before but each has a few twists to make them different enough to be well worth a look. The Legendary Battles are a bit more of a break from the norm with special deployment rules and very different victory conditions in some cases. My personal favourite is The Flight Of Truth where the Loyalists have to protect three 'Messengers of Truth' - Remembrancers, iterators, astropaths or other individuals who carry evidence of Horus' treachery - and get them to the Shuttle objectives so they can escape Istvaan III and take word to Terra of the Heresy.

After the missions we move on to the rules for the Legiones Astartes Army List which also includes a new Warlord Traits table and a new Allies matrix. The Allies Matrix is very nice actually with some lovely nods to the fluff and allows for you to play out you own variation of the Heresy too as it allows for any of the legions to fall on the side of the Emperor or the Warmaster. Lots of potential for alternative history gaming such as the Dornian Heresy and the likes.

My concern over the initial rumours of this book containing one Legion army list and the various legions having their own appendix to it was that this would lead to a slightly bland generic representation of the various legions with very little variation between them beyond one extra unit. However, in this respect Forge World have gone above and beyond. The list is highly customisable and that's without factoring in the Legion Appendix that eventually each of the 18 legions will have.

One of your HQ options is a Legion Praetor, this is your Chapter Master, Wolf Lord, Khan etc. He gets to make two rolls on the new Warlord Traits table and choose which of the results to keep but more importantly he has access to the optional Rites of War. These allow you to customise the nature of your force, they give you certain benefits in exchange for enforcing certain limitations. For example, for those Legions such as Space Wolves and World Eaters who favoured a Drop Pod assault moreso than their brother legions there's the Rite Of War: Orbital Assault. This allows any unit in the army that could normally take a Rhino as a transport to instead select a Drop Pod. Legion Dreadnoughts can have Drop Pods and Legion Contemptors can have Dreadclaw Drop Pods etc, However only units that can Deep Strike or have access to a transport that Deep Strikes can be chosen and you're not allowed any Fortifications. Another is Pride of the Legion which makes Terminators and Veterans troops that have to be selected for your compulsory choices but you risk giving up an extra VP if they're all dead at the end of the battle and you can't take any allies. There's 4 Rites of War at the moment with the promise of more to come and the option of not using a Rite of War also. So that's 5 different builds for the 'generic' Legion list.

I could go into lots of detail about the various units and a breakdown of what they do etc but that'd spoil the fun and it's really not what this blog is about. Instead I'll give a quick rundown of the units in the generic list and then I'll give an example list using the Sons of Horus appendix afterwards so you can get an idea of what is possible with this book.

Legion Praetor
Legion Centurion (further customiseable into one of another 8 options including Chaplain, Forge Lord and Librarian but plenty more!)
Legion Command Squad (takes up the same slot as a Legion Praetor who they can be bought for)

Legion Veteran Tactical Squad
Legion Destroyer Squad (chemical weapons and other shunned technology)
Legion Terminator Squad (either Terminator Armour or Cataphractii Armour)
Techmarine Covenant
Apothecarion Detachment
Legion Dreadnought Talon
Contemptor Dreadnought Talon
Legion Rapier Weapon Battery

Legion Tactical Squad
Legion Assault Squad
Legion Breacher Siege Squad (specialised Boarding troops)
Legion Tactical Support Squad (this is where your special weapons go now, and lots of them too!)
Legion Reconnaissance Squad

Legion Seeker Squad (a sort of Sternguard crack-team with special rules)
Legion Outrider Squa
Legion Attack Bike Squadron
Legion Jetbike Sky Hunter Squadron
Legion Land Speeder Squadron
Legion Storm Eagle Assault Gunship

Legion Heavy Support Squad
Legion Predator Strike Armour Squadron
Legion Land Raider Battle Squadron
Legion Artillery Tank Squadron (Basilisk, Medusa or Whirlwind)
Legion Vindicator
Legion Spartan Assault Tank
Legion Caestus Assault Ram

There's also the Lords of War section and this works slightly differently but it's from this section that you pick Super-Heavies and Primarchs etc from in games of 2000pts or more.

So, a sample Sons of Horus army to give you an idea of how these go together and then I'll give an idea of how the Legion Appendix rules work.

Horus The Warmaster

Ezekyle Abaddon

8 Justaerin Terminators - Reaper Autocannon, Chain Fist, Combi-Melta and Combi-Flamer

9 Legion Tactical Support Marines - 1 Sergeant w/ Artificer Armour, 8 x Plasma Guns

10 Legion Tactical Marines - 1 Sergeant w/ Artificer Armour, 9 x Bolters

Contemptor Dreadnought Talon - 3 x Contemptors  each w/ 2 x Kheres Pattern Assault Cannons

3 Legion Jetbike Sky Hunters - Melta Bombs, 1 Sergeant, 1 Multi-Melta

That's just a random thrown-together list of 2500pts. The Justaerin Terminators are a troops choice with Horus leading the army and with him and Abaddon attached they can Deep Strike on a turn of my choosing (after the first) and won't scatter. There's no rhyme or reason to the list there but certainly the Jetbikes and Terminators can deep strike in to take down specific threats whilst the Contemptor Dreadnoughts, Tactical Marines and Tactical Support Marines cross the battlefield putting down enemy infantry and the support squad can pick on tougher targets if neccessary.

So the specific Legion rules - Now, marines don't have ATSKNF in this set of rules. The Legiones Astartes special rule means they can always attempt to regroup regardless of casualties. Depending on which Legion you're using there are then further rules. So to continue with the Sons of Horus example: Units with the rules Legiones Astartes (Sons of Horus) gain the following additional rules: Re-rolling results of a '1' when making Reserve rolls; A bonus attack at Initiative Step 1 from models that have already fought earlier in the combat if the Sons of Horus outnumber their enemy; and Sons of Horus models cannot benefit from the Warlord Trait of an allied character or use an allied Independent Character's Leadership. They also get access to unique units and characters. For the Sons of Horus these are the Justaerin Terminator Squads, Dreadclaw Drop Pods and the characters Ezekyle Abaddon and Garviel Loken.

Obviously each legion also gets their Primarch. There's no denying that these guys are one of the main draws of the entire concept of the Horus Heresy. there are four Primarchs in the book, one for each legion. Horus Lupercal, Mortarian, Fulgrim and obviously Angron who we've even seen the mini for! I'm really quite impressed with how they've done the Primarchs. They're lethal. There's no getting around the fact that they will make a mess of most things they hit. But they're also not invincible. They'll also be a focal point of any game that includes them but they don't look like they'd completely break the game either. The rules really capture the visceral power of the primarchs and also they key facets of each of their characters and methods of warfare.

There really is a lot to see in Horus Heresy Book One: Betrayal. It also gives a great insight into what's to come. There's so much potential with the Legiones Arstates rules and the Rites of War for them to give each of the Legions the individual character that they deserve. There's also plenty of other bits in here such as Mechanicum allies and the Allies Matrix makes mention of Agents of the Emperor and Agents of the Warmaster that can only be used depending on which side the force has fallen on in the galactic civil war.

It's very clear that a lot of work has gone into this book at every stage of its production. The scale of the task put before Alan Bligh and the Forge World studio is monumental but they've so far met it exceedingly well and produced a stunning book that's as pleasing aesthetically as it is in its rich depiction of the background and the clever working of its rules. It's worth every penny to my mind.

Certainly for me, the Horus Heresy is the new hobby. 40k is dead! Long live 30k!

All comments and questions are welcome. What are your thoughts on the new book?


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