Thursday, May 28, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Strike Captain Alvarex Maun

Maun is a very well noted and respected strike commander of the Raven Guard, having seen extensive action on the Isstvan killing fields and personally piloting a Thunderhawk to rescue Corax from the Urgall depression.

He is described as being second only to Corax in terms of his tactical planning and ability to coordinate a drop pod style strike. Overall, his rules largely match up to this personality, but we must regard him as an upgraded praetor or centurion in all other ways.

There are two special rules associated with this character that give him the proverbial edge. The first one is The Bleeding Edge. This rule means that Maun he doesn't need to roll reserve rolls to come on to play if he is in a deep striking vehicle. He comes on automatically on the first turn. This circumvents other rules that might be in play that can mess with reserve rolls (we're looking at you, Alpha legion, with this comment). On the other hand, if he is actually on the board from the start, you don't lose out either as you can re-roll seize the initiative. This can ruin an Alpha Legion player's day even further, of course.

He also gets the Nightfall pattern Strato-Vox. This is an upgraded Vox in essence. It means deep striking units don't scatter within a certain radius of him. It means vehicles gain the counter-attack rule on the turn they deep strike in. Further, any barrage weapons can draw a line of sight to him. This is really strong and begs to be used in a drop pod style assault army.

Other than that, he has some "basic" equipment for a praetor or centurion rank character like a 2+ save from artificer armour and a power sword. He is also a master of the legion and can therefore give rites of war to the army. As a warlord, he can further ruin enemy player's plans by re-rolling failed reserve rolls for flyers and drop pods in his army.

Maun does not have many weaknesses to be fair. Considering that he is a lower points level character, his utility is very high and I can certainly see him being used in all manner of armies, if nothing else than for his ability to mess around with the reserve rolls and for spear-heading drop pod style assaults. Sure, he has a few less pips in WS, I and A compared to others, but that should not be putting the Raven Guard player off from using him. He's the guy that the World Eaters should have had if they weren't so lobotomised. I'm sure the Alpha Legion and others would have loved to have had him as well. But he's Raven Guard. He's a loyalist.

In terms of an "ingredient list" for tactics here, Maun should be used as part of a Drop Pod assault style army. This means that the controlling player should be opting for the Raven Guard's own rite of war, or the generic Orbital Assault rite instead.

To be clear, he's not the best close combat protagonist. He needs back up. So, make sure that the army is built around his tactics, and not around him as a duellist. He is the guy that brings the special rules and the army wide buffs - he is not Kharn, or any other equivalent marine that specialises in close combat. He is going to win battles by having a wealth of backup and a variety of other units around him.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Raven Guard Darkwing Pattern Storm Eagle Gunship

On Kiavahr, the technological guilds have not yet ceded control of their Manufactoria to the Mechanicum. This means that the Raven Guard are the sole beneficiaries of various stealth technologies that they produce as these guilds hold a lot of affection for the XIX Legio, and the other legions (presumably with the exception of the Alpha Legion) have not managed to get their grubby hands on these kits. One of these bits of kit is the Darkwing Gunship.

In short, the Darkwing is an upgraded Storm Eagle Gunship. Its base cost is more than for the other craft that shares its name, but what do those extra points give the Raven Guard player? Well, firstly it is an assault vehicle with Stealth and Outflank (a very nice 3+ jink save here!). Naturally, this is very fitting for the Raven Guard. But on top of this, it loses some transport space, but gains some new weapons systems. Firing eclipse missiles that are S4 heavy 2 and large blast with concussive is very nice, but has its limitations. Clearly this weapon system is supposed to be fired prior to an onboard unit charging in and finishing off its target. But the target has to be selected carefully. No point firing at terminators who were always going to go last in combat already and who have a 2+ save.

The main weakness is the reduced capacity of transport. It cannot take a full 20 space marine squad, but it can take almost that number. Of course, this depends on whether the transported marines are bulky or not. Hence we can't be taking a full terminator squad or anything of the sort here. It has to be limited in number. And presumably ready to follow up on the targets that have already been fired at with the eclipse missiles. Hence, a small Dark Fury Squad would seem very appropriate.

There are very few builds here. The basic Darkwing is perfectly viable. The only question is whether it needs to have Armoured Ceramite (how much Melta is there knocking around in the local meta?), a search light (if facing Night Lords in particular!), and extra armour (just to be sure). These are all dependant on taste and one's local meta-game to some extent, so pick and choose accordingly.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Dark Fury Assault Squad

Leaping on to the battlefield from aerial support sections of the legion, the dark fury squads - a specialist type of Raven Guard assault unit - specialise in getting in to the right position at the right time, using all available terrain, to perform the decapitation strike where it is most required.

The major difference between dark fury squads and regular assault squads are both their use of lightning claws and their special rules that enhance their use. To my mind, they sit at the mid-point between assault squads and the chaos space marine Warp Talons. They don't have any blinding effects when they come in to play, but they do gain a cover save for the single turn that they arrive by deep strike. This is important as they will be reliant on it to survive for one turn since they cannot assault directly after deep striking.

Their second advantage over assault squads is that they gain one bonus initiative point on the charge. This can be amazing as they're now going to be striking first against most other legions and squads at improved initiative. Therefore these squads are ones to use in a very specialised manner: they must come in, survive for one turn and charge on the next turn. And they must choose their targets well. Don't forget the Raven Guard legion rules as well which means they they will also have furious charge.

Although the sergeant (known as the Chooser of the Slain) has artificer armour and the Raven's Talons, the rest of the squad are basically standard space marines with jump packs. They are just as vulnerable as regular assault squads. The significant draw back here though is the complete lack of ranged weaponry. They must get in to combat to have any effect whatsoever.

There really are not too many builds to consider to be honest, since there are not too many options to pick between. Here are just two. Either way, they're great, and highly points efficient. Just remember: no ranged weapons.

5 Dark Furies (175 points)
The vanilla flavour squad. Nothing special here, but they don't need much. They should be headed  (nay: charging) directly to their target after deep striking and running.

10 Dark Furies, Chooser of the Slain with melta bombs (330 points)
The fully kitted-out version of the squad. Probably a bit overkill to be honest, but it is slightly cheaper than having two lots of the above version. At this level, I might be preferring a regular assault squad, but it depends on your preferences between ranged weapons being deployed quickly and assault-tuned jump pack squads. Equally, put a chaplain with them for bonus kills and be happy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Mor Deythan Strike Squad

The Mor Deythan are the Shadow Masters of the Raven Guard. They have inherited a quantum of their gene-sire's talent for blending in to the background and becoming invisible. Just as the Librarius of a legion sometimes takes recruits and indoctrinates them in to using and expanding their psychic potential, the Mor Deythan operate a parallel structure: recruiting novices who display a strong tendency of inheriting Corax's unique abilities and training them up in their own ways. That said, the vast majority of these men are the true veterans of the Lycaeus uprising and are truly the masters of their arts.

Their unique ability is to declare a Fatal Strike once per game from the start of any given shooting phase. This gives members of the squad not only twin linked on their weapons, but also yields rending. If they're using rifles, the rending rule improves by one pip above normal. This clearly calls for the squad to be involved in an alpha-strike as early as possible.

Beyond this, they have access to shroud bombs as well as gaining scouts and stealth.

Not too many weaknesses exist here. Think of them as recon squads with better rules and you can see why they're popular. To be perfectly honest, I think they're a great target for the Alpha Legion's Coil of the Hydra rite of war as well. Obtaining that fatal strike special rule is awesome for any alpha-strike (pardon the pun) army that is running around. The combination of infiltration and scouts is particularly devastating to enemy armies (for either Raven Guard or Alpha Legion fans).

That said, these marines are still regular space marines. They need to watch out for vindicators, power swords and the like. Plus they don't have access to power weapons. And they can get expensive at larger sizes. Other than that, one must evaluate if the loss of things like outflank balance out the gains of stealth. If not, then head to recon squads instead. I believe that the Mor Deythan are totally worth it though, even in slightly larger squad sizes. Go for them - I don't think anyone will be especially disappointed by their ability to kill things.

There are a good number of configurations to consider here. I'll provide some of the more popular ones (and ones I personally like).

10 Mor Deythan, all with sniper rifles, shade with melta bombs (280 points)
This is a sniper squad ready to take advantage of the Fatal Strike special rule from turn one. Use it before this squad gets annihilated as they will certainly be a target. Halve the number for a still effective, but cheaper squad (which incidentally costs the same as a recon squad).

9 Mor Deythan, all with combi-flamers (268 points)
Wow. This squad is totally deadly. All those flame shots with rending spells certain doom for whatever they decide to target in the fatal strike turn -- which should also be the first turn. Take a relic and artificer armour on the Shade for extra close combat fun. There are 9 members of the squad here simply because I see it as an effective squad for carrying a stealthy HQ choice in to close combat. Take 10 otherwise. Drop pods with the Raven Guard rite of war and I think you can all but wipe out a full enemy tactical squad using this set up.  Replace with combi-meltas for taking care of heavy armour (which is not a particular strength of the legion, to be fair).

6 Mor Deythan, 2 with missile launchers, 4 with combi-plasmas (203 points)
It has to die? No worries, the Mor Deythan can do that job for you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Raven Guard Legion Rules

Background Material Evaluation
Born out of the rebellion of Deliverance, the Raven Guard are known to use stealth, assassination and highly targeted operations to cause as few casualties as possible to achieve their goals. They're keen on jet packs, drop pods, and alpha strikes, perhaps even more so than the Alpha Legion. Indeed, they are somewhat between the Alpha Legion and the Night Lords in terms of their operations. They are quick moving like both, but don't rely on fear unless necessary and certainly aren't in to the mutilation exhibited by the Night Lords. They pull apart their enemies and use infiltration tactics, but not usually for sport or with the amount of cloaked secrecy, and they certainly don't leave behind rubble and ruin, like the Alpha Legion.

Extermination paints a picture of the Raven Guard as a legion that is equal parts night and day - dark and light. Combining lightning strikes with directed target assassination (particularly against dictators and negative rulers that need to be dealt with to advance the Great Crusade), they're very effective at what they do. Yet they do not seek out the limelight. As pale as their skins and as dark as their eyeballs, they are the ghosts of the Legions when required to be so.

Legion Rules Review
Their primary rule is entitled By Wing & Talon. This is a result of how Lord Corax shaped his legion and the units contained within it. Depending on the type of unit in question, each unit gains a further unique rule. For infantry, this is infiltration plus fleet. This makes them at least as good as the Alpha Legion where required.  For jump infantry and fast moving elements like bikes, as well as terminators, they gain furious assault.

These two rules combined suggest a close assault orientated army. Sure, they're no slouches in the shooting phase, but these rules enable them to both get close and to have a close combat advantage that begs to be utilised.

The second rule is Flesh over Steel. This one is a draw-back to counter-balance the above rule. In short, they cannot take more tanks than Astartes units. If anything, this reinforces the above conclusion about having to field a close combat orientated army. It is going to be one that is orientated toward getting close and using the pressure of its troops to cause the damage where required. Unlike the Alpha Legion (which is comparable in these regards), the Raven Guard of the XIX legion has a more distinct disadvantage than their brothers in the XX legion. It means that they cannot field every type of army, even if they wanted to.

For those models with lightning claws, they can be upgraded to The Raven's Talons which are super powered versions. In short, they're master crafted as well as rending. Although a little pricey, I can see them being purchased for some squad sergeants (e.g., assault squads). For some squads, upgrading every model to these talons would be an option. But it starts to get terribly expensive and unless its a death star unit, I can't advise it.

Characters in the army can be given an infra visor at a very modest cost. These are worth it when you know you're going to up against armies like the Night Lords, or in general anticipate some night fighting. Equally, they're going to be at a disadvantage against blind grenades and similar effects. They're probably worth taking on a shooting orientated HQ selection like some of the consul types.

Cameleolines can also be purchased for character models. These in general depend on the nature of the HQ in question. For many of the stealthy and infiltrating (see: By Wing & Talon, above) this can be a great boon and should be taken. But for others, perhaps not.

Rite of War
The Raven Guard's specific rite of war is the Decapitation Strike. This means the gain of preferred enemy against enemy independent characters (note: not squad sergeants, but full independent characters). They can also re roll die for deploying first and going first, as well as selecting drop pods for most types of infantry based squads short of terminators. On top of this, the potentially devastating Deathstorm drop pod can be used as an elites slot as well as heavy support.

Summing Up
The rite of war combination (and even without it, in fact) suggests the deployment of some back field units who watch a bunch of Deathstorms coming down (or other area-clearing units), only to be followed up with regular marines inside drop pods. All the while supported by whatever elements are creeping up the field with infiltration. The rules seem to be geared particularly to getting not only first blood, but also slay the warlord. Grab these two, and then try to enact an Alpha Strike to get the enemy done for, and the army will thank you for it. I think that if the game starts to get a bit longer though, the legion could get in to trouble due to lack of rhino-based mobility and other tanks to support their troops. Therefore, the Raven Guard player should be thinking ahead about what their tactics are going to be after the first turn or two. Do they need to take objectives, or can they go for a full-out rout and slaying of the enemy? The lack of tanks and potential mobility after the drop pods have struck are an issue that merit pre-planning.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Rogal Dorn

Although scattered to the ice ball of darkness and death that is Inwit, Dorn in due time came to be more closely associated with Holy Terra over time. Of his time on Inwit, little is known for certain. But this world of harshness certainly shaped him and he became as stone (proverbially). In time the House of Dorn of the Ice Caste rose to power and eventually claimed the entirety of the Inwit cluster. This, of course, helped the Great Crusade as the Emperor discovered not just his lost son, but an entire system of planets ruled by a space faring human empire with a wealth of barbaric human stock that were entirely suitable for upgrading in to Imperial Fists space marines. 

Of course, Dorn himself is probably better known as the Praetorian of Terra. Far removed from Horus, he was not contacted by the Warmaster about the upcoming Heresy since to do so would mean too many risks. He was simply too close to the Emperor. And this simple fact meant that Dorn would become a loyalist for all time (not that he ever thought about Heresy since he was the incarnation of duty and loyalty to the ideals of the Great Crusade, but he certainly worried that whatever flaw was in Horus could also be in him). He's also well known for his fortress building and smashing (and his rivalry with Perturabo).

The first thing to note is that Dorn is a mild force multiplier. To be clear, he's not in the same league as Alpharius, but he does grant significant bonuses to his sons. The first is that he gives +d3 to combat resolution. This is huge and begs to be used in concert with a force that gets stuck in to close combat early and often. His sons can also use his Ld for pinning and morale tests, which is nice. And when he joins a unit, they benefit from furious charge and a few other rules that are clearly inspired by their Father's presence and zeal. As such I think these rules are very fitting for a personality noted for his fiery zeal in warfare and stone-like discipline. 

He can slice his attacks value by 2 in order to gain S+2 with instant death. Most of this time this might not be needed, but his weapon (Storm's Teeth - a colossal AP2 chainsword) can benefit from this against enemy characters like praetors and equivalent.

Significantly, he can also provide a re roll of cover saves of "1" and pinning tests in up to 3 fortifications or terrain features anywhere that ordinarily grant a cover save. This is terrific. Not only can it be used defensively in concert with a directly purchased fortification (you must have the attitude of defence / come and get me, if you choose this), but could also be used to select mid-points of the battle field for the Imperial Fists to advance up to and in-between. This is terrific for a fast moving Imperial Fists build.

His armour is also interesting from the view that no-one can wound him on better than a 3+ regardless of source (but Destroyer weapons don't care about this, naturally).

Other than this, his weapon is bolted-like, but fires more shots and he can make terminators and phalanx squads in to troops. With the above rules, I think this urges the Imperial Fists player to build offensively with troops that move up through the battle field between terrain features and structures, trying to engage in combat with terminators and phalanx squads, whilst other troops (tactical squads) lay down withering fire from their BS5 bolters, coupled with support from heavier elements.

Finally, in 3000+ points games, he can select the Aetos Dios -- a unique thunder hawk gunship with a void shield. Pricey though in comparison to Dorn, even if it does not take up a Lord of War slot. As per my comments below, I could not imagine taking both Dorn and his gunship outside of about 4000+ points, and hence an apocalypse level game.

To be honest, Dorn is a rather cheap Primarch. He is not going to stand up well to the more close combat primarchs most of the time, even with his armour. Sure, he'll hold his own for a while, but the more rage-ful Primarchs will dispatch him eventually. Hence we are taking Dorn for his multiplier effects in addition to being a great warlord. He needs to watch out for Destroyer weapons as well as other more (ahem) "choppy" Primarchs. 

His other equipment is not much to write home about, but at least he comes with a teleport homer (further encouraging a more terminator based style of play and army build, if any further encouragement were needed). 

A solid Primarch, a cheap Primarch, and one to watch out for, but not to be feared too much by certain brothers of his. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Alexis Polux

For the fans of the Crimson Fists, the appearance of Alexis Polux in Extermination will no doubt be very exciting. Polux himself is described as Inwit-born (the home planet of Dorn himself) and a giant made of stone before even being elevated to the Space Marine Legions. As a marine, he towered above his battle brothers still. Through chance he came to command of Dorn's retribution fleet and proved his worth at the Battle of Phall and in many other battles beyond that. He is known to have been strong in close combat and a master of void based combat between spacecraft. And, of course, after the Heresy, he became the first master of the Crimson Fists Chapter. 

Firstly, Polux allows one infantry squad to deep strike by teleportation on the the board. This could be a good move for a full squad of tactical marines to unleash the fury of the legion at BS5 (thanks to the Imperial Fists legion rules) for instance. Or perhaps a terminator squad?

In addition, he (and any unit he joins) can automatically pass or fail any morale or pinning test they're required to take during the game. This could be pivotal at the right moment, but is certainly quite situational within a given game. 

The really interesting part of Polux profile is the ability to reduce his attacks in combat down to 1 in exchange for ignoring the unwieldy part of his power fist attack. Since the legion rules mean he must re-roll failed to hit rolls in personal challenges, this is not a huge negative to be fair. Indeed, it should probably be done more often than not as it is a real character slayer given that his natural strength is 5. To be clear: a power fist attack for S10 going at initiative is huge. Its instant death for most space marines where required (assuming they don't have an invulnerable save or eternal warrior). 

As a warlord, he is a master tactician that permits redeployment of one unit as required. This is not so strong, as it could be highly situational. 

For equipment, not only does he have his master crafted power fist (that could go at initiative), but also a Vigil shield for a great invulnerable save. Oh yes: he also has the usual grenades and a combi-melta gun to boot. Not bad at all.

Genuinely, the only weakness I can see is his standard (but void hardened) power armour. He does not have artificer armour. Hence only a 3+ save. I see this as being fluffy as Polux had command forced upon him and he stood up to the proverbial plate with superior ability. But nobody crafted him anything special and new armour was clearly hard to come by. He therefore needs to beware duelling against space marines who can sling a power sword better than he can his master crafted power fist. Don't get as arrogant as Eidolon and Polux will certainly work well!

Polux is a generic commander (and master of the legion) that can help one unit deep strike in to position. He is also a character killer, but not at the same level as Sigismund. To be clear, he's not going to go toe to toe with a primarch the way that Sigismund is capable of. But in a lower points game, he's going to be powerful. 

Like many of his legion, he needs transport options. But perhaps he could deep strike off his own special rules on to the board?  Indeed, this deep striking is an excellent way to build a larger unit around that might not ordinarily have the rule (think of a full plasma tactical support squad deep striking in to position for instance -- it reminds me a little of what Armillus Dynat is capable of pulling off, but he's not got Dynat's other rules to back it up as a force multiplier). 

I therefore see him as an excellent upgraded Legion Praetor who can field a mixed or specialised force as required. He's well worth the points, and in lower points games could be a game winner if Sigismund is too expensive. But he's not the multiplier that Dynat is and a force should not be built around him -- treat him as you would a generic Praetor (an upgraded and great Praetor, but a Praetor none the less).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Sigismund

In every legion there are individuals who should have risen to greatness if they had lived in any other era. In the Dark Angels, Luther would have undoubtably been placed in charge of The Order on Caliban in the absence of Lion El'Jonson. Kor Phaeron and Erebus would have risen high on Colchis in the absence of Lorgar Aurelian. Sigismund is amongst their number in terms of deadliness if nothing else. His legend is writ large across the Horus Heresy and before it. For without doubt, there are few who could match his skill in combat. Sure, Kharn had the rage, Lucius had the skill, Abaddon had both combined, and Dynat the mastery. But of all the Angels of Death, Sigismund is truly the most able to claim that title short of the Primarchs. As Extermination puts it: "Beneath the Primarchs, there has perhaps never been a more skilled warrior in combat", and Sanguinius to quip: "…less my brother Dorn's champion, and more Death's himself...". Lucky for the Imperial Fists he was a loyalist really, and a crusader to boot. Imagine if he were a Night Lord instead?!

His rules really back up this Angel of Death assessment of his background. From the outset of close combat, he can re-roll charge distances to ensure he and his unit get in to melee, as well as sweeping advance rolls, and gain +1I in the first round. An additional point (that is almost by-the-way flavour) is the ability to have Templar Brethren as troops. 

But when he does get in combat, he starts to get highly deadly. Not only must he accept and receive challenges, but he gains the instant death rule that force invulnerable saves to be re-rolled (if applicable). And opponents will be doing that as his preferred weapon is AP2 and S+2. 

His final special rule is the Slayer of Kings warlord trait. This rule means that the army can gain a bonus to combat resolution for the entire game if Sigismund slays the enemy warlord (plus an additional victory point, if required). This really means that Sigismund needs to be played in such as way as to directly challenge the enemy warlord whenever and wherever possible. 

As above, the targeting of the enemy warlord is the way to go for Sigismund. But how will he get to where he needs to be? Is it with a body guard on board a land raider, rhino or other conveyance? Or perhaps something else thanks to being a Master of the Legion?

His artificer armour and Iron Halo ensure that he will at least somewhat survive against opponents, and unusually for named characters in 30k, he also has Eternal Warrior (coupled with fearless, and Adamantium will). His other equipment and rules are what you might imagine, apart from a master crafted bolt pistol. And did we mention 4 wounds?  Sure, he costs like a land raider, but in my opinion, he is worth it. 

Look at it this way, there's only a few enemy characters he need fear. Eidolon comes to mind. And he can even go toe to toe with some of the weaker primarchs (certainly the T=6 ones with a poor invulnerable save) and actually stand a chance. I can't say that about too many other characters. 

Hence, overall, use him as a natural-born killer, but ensure he's got a land raider (or similar) to ride around it, and a half decent bodyguard to take some wounds along the way. His ability to take Templar Brethren as troops is good, but not the real reason to take this Angel of Death. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Phalanx Warder Squad

A reinforced company selected from breacher squads of the Imperial Fists Legion, the Phalanx Warders are charged with the defence of the capital flagship, the Phalanx. They are therefore kitted out for boarding actions - both defensive and offensive against enemies. But clearly, they are also of good utility on a highly packed out game board with plenty of terrain features.

The strengths of this unit in comparison to the more typical breacher squad may not be too obvious at first. But one has to factor in the Imperial Fists rules, and their rite of war to see the big benefit. To be clear: a 3+/5++ T5 squad running around in large numbers is going to be a pain for many enemies. Equally, that 3+ armour save is not the best. And for the points value, it may be more prudent for the Imperial Fists players to think about terminator squads instead. Therefore, I would only council running these guys in specialist Imperial Fists builds, or if the controlling player wanted something very fluffy and well suited to the Imperial Fists. 

That said, there is a good deal of flexibility available for what kind of builds to utilise with the squad. Given they can sacrifice their (BS5) bolt guns for power axes, there are a number of "modes" in which to build them: for close ranged fire fights, or for pure melee, for objective sitting, or perhaps something in-between. Don't forget, with the increased initiative if they get charged, they can hold their own against enemy squads nicely. But it may not be enough.

I see their 3+ armour save as being the biggest deterrent for taking this squad, followed by their points costs. They will die like standard marines. And terminators are categorically more attractive for the power gamer I think. 

As with other Imperial Fist squads, they're slow. They will need some kind of transport (land raider!) to carry them around, or otherwise, attach an apothecary to the squad and use them to sit on an objective for the game.

Below, I look at a number of ways to build this squad, some more suited to melee and close combat than others (who are more ranged).

10 Phalanx Warders, legion vexilla, sergeant with power fist and artificer armour (295 points)
This is the baseline squad. The price is already up there, and you can now see why I think baseline terminators are just better, even if there are 10 members in this squad. Add flamers to taste for objective sitting squads.

20 Phalanx Warders, legion vexilla, 4 thunder hammers, 5 power axes, sergeant with Solarite power gauntlet, artificer armour and melta bombs (570 points)
Very expensive here as each upgrade costs per model (and not for the squad). Take these guys in a Spartan land raider and happy hunting to you.

10 Phalanx Warders, legion vexilla, 2 plasma guns, 5 power axes, sergeant with artificer armour, plasma pistol and melta bombs (380 points)
A smaller, more plasma orientated version of the above squad. I contend 10 terminators with combi-weapons are strictly better at this level. Replace the plasma with breacher charges if you like?

I want to like this unit. Genuinely, I really do. The models are fantastic. But the rules prove to be over-costed for what they do and they're taking up a valuable fast attack slot. Take terminators instead to be honest. Or if you do take them, realise that they are a good fluffy choice, team them up with a land raider, the Imperial Fists rite of war, an apothecary and be happy with them. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Templar Brethren

These men are the guardians of the Temple of Oaths on the Phalanx (the great flagship of the Imperial Fists). Naturally, these guys are also the ones that will go on to form the core of the Black Templars in 40k, along with Sigismund. 

Hence, they are the zealots, the ones who might otherwise fit in very well with the Word Bearers. And they're also armed to the teeth.

The best way to think about these guys are that they are bloodletter analogues. Yes - I know that's slightly heretical to compare them to daemons. But hear me out. They all have power swords, and hence will be able to slice and dice their way through power armour. But its a bit better than that. They also have ranged weapons (bolt pistols) and both types of grenades. Better yet, they all have artificer armour. So even if they don't have a 5+ invulnerable save, their armour is simply superior to all around them. Additionally, the character for the unit has 2 wounds and everyone has an extra pip in WS, just for fun (well, it ties in well with their strict training regime to be fair). They are clearly kitted out for close combat duty, and should be used appropriately.

Not many, to be honest. The worst thing is that they are not all chosen warriors. Hence its only the squad character that will be issuing and accepting challenges. This isn't a big negative though. And secondly, its necessary to realise that they are a melee squad -- they're not meant for ranged pistol shooting (even if they get a bonus to hit due to the Imperial Fists Legion Rules). 

But remember -- they're intrinsically slow, and will in all likelihood need transportation of some kind to get them where they need to be.

Below are a number of builds to think about.

5 Templar Brethren, legion vexilla, Chapter Champion with thunder hammer (195 points)
This is something of a base line unit. It should ideally be used with a rhino, drop pod, or other type of transportation.

5 Templar Brethren, legion vexilla, 2 plasma pistols, Chapter Champion with plasma pistol (230 points)
Similar to the above, but with a small host of plasma pistols since the AP they provide is arguably superior to shooting at BS5 with bolt pistols. Again, they need transport. 

10 Templar Brethren, legion vexilla, all with combat shields and melta bombs, Chapter Champion with thunder hammer (385 points)
This is one to marry together with the legion's rite of war (hence the shields) and transport around in something like a land raider. They're dangerous to everything and can back it up. Add plasma pistols and a nuncio Vox to taste.

This unit is a solid choice for the Imperial Fists player. Although pricey, it must be compared to parallel units such as the Emperor's Children Palatine Blade Squad in some ways. To be clear: the Palatines are slightly cheaper, but the Templars are kitted out differently and can be boosted in an Imperial Fist army that is using the legion's rite of war. They're also really good for adding in a close combat orientated HQ selection as their personal guard.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Imperial Fists Legion Rules

The Imperial Fists, the praetorians of Terra and the rulers of Inwit. The rock and the foundation upon which the Imperium has been constructed. Loyalists to a fault. All these things and more are probably true of this unique legion. 

Background Material Evaluation
Much of the background for the Imperial Fists is exactly what we have come to expect from this legion. One that is capable of defending fortified positions with ease, and one that is also capable with the not-so-humble bolter and bolt pistol. 

Of course, there is also the whole rivalry going on with the Iron Warriors. In many ways, the Imperial Fists are the mirror of the Iron Warriors: skilled with building and ripping down fortifications and masters of shooting. But unlike the Iron Warriors, the Imperial Fists have a strong emphasis on being as solid as a rock. Therefore, what I have previously written about the Iron Warriors being a baseline force to beat applies to the Imperial Fists as well. These two legions are the ones that other legion players should be testing their legions out against. If they can defeat either (preferably both), then I think the other legion players are going to do well overall in many 30k games. 

Legion Rules Review
Just like the Iron Warriors, the special rules for the Imperial Fists are all generally very positive with few drawbacks. The first one is Disciplined Fire. This is probably the one that 40k players might be expecting - something akin to bolter drill. For this rule, all marines get +1BS for using bolters and bolt pistols or their heavier variants. Very interestingly, the Imperial Fists heavy support squads gain tank hunters in addition to this as well. This is a great boon to the legion and one that they're going to be known for. 

Note quite the counter-balanced I think it should be, the Blood and Honour rule means that this legion must issue challenges. I don't think this should have beed added to, to be honest, but it has been: these characters must re-roll failed hits. This gives such an edge to the likes of Sigismund when he doesn't really need any more encouragement.

Unshakable Defence means that the legion is stubborn when in fortifications or cover. This is a huge boon as stubborn is at a premium cost in 30k.

Finally, The Bitter End special rule that can force a game to go to six turns if an opponent wants it to. Not much of a negative here arguably.

Overall, these rules suggest that the Imperial Fists legion player should be looking to the bolter, to shooting and limited close assault in specialist units, combined with fortifications and cover to win their games. 

Rite of War
The Stone Gauntlet rite of war is one that is modelled around miniatures that have shields; specifically boarding shields, or storm shield. Note here that the Vigil Pattern Storm Shield IS a Storm Shield (hence the name). In such units, the men gain +1T for being in coherency with at least two similar men. This is huge. A toughness bonus makes these marines almost as good as Plague Marines in some ways. Add in an apothecary, and this rite of war creates some serious monsters on the table top that will be very hard for some legions to remove by force. In addition, the Shield Charge rule grants a hammer of wrath rule to shield-armed squads. Naturally, this is balanced up by having to take breacher squads as the compulsory troops selection. 

This rite of war argues strongly for many breacher and terminator squads with Vigil shields (see below), but also backed up with some longer range firepower and (or) tanks. 

There are several items of unique war gear available to the legion. Like the Salamanders, the Imperial Fists have been developing shield technologies of their own. The Vigil Pattern Storm Shield grants a 3+ invulnerable save to any one who has it, at a penalty of costing extra points to equip it. For a base level standard Tartaros terminator squad, it'll be 75 more points thanks. For Cataphractii, 50 extra points. Hence they're not cheap. But they could well be worth it!

Complementing this is the Teleportation Transponder. For a per squad cost, terminators (and terminator characters) can gain the deep strike rule! Recall that terminators do not automatically gain deep strike and you'll see how good this potentially might be. 

The Solarite Power Gauntlet is a potential replacement for thunder hammers, coming in like a regular power fist but master crafted. They're good in some ways (additional attacks when paired with bolt pistols for cheap), but I think I like the thunder hammer more for the concussive special rule to be fair.

Finally, the Imperial Fists (and, as it happens: the Blood Angels) terminators gain access to the Iliastus Pattern Assault Cannon. At the time of the Heresy, the assault cannon was a prototype weapon. Although it is heavy 4 with rending and S6, there is a small chance of malfunction - which means that it cannot be used ever again in the game. This is probably not much of a drawback, as by the time it'll malfunction, the terminators will be in close combat.

The Imperial Fists seem like an incredible army to have. Their strengths lie in their bolters, their terminator squad upgrades, and (with the rite of war) breacher squads.

Depending on which build one wishes to do, I think the Imperial Fists player can take on most in the game. For me personally, I would be erring on the side of building a couple of terminator squads with the special equipment (yes - that mean the Vigil Storm Shields) to make them unique, as well as taking full sized tactical squads to have an amazing BS5 fury of the legion attack. I would also be taking heavy support squads for the tank hunters rule. If I'm not taking the rite of war, I'd be tempted by taking a fortification as well (depending on the opponent and mission - if known in advance). Add in some tanks (vindicators, rhinos, land raiders, Sicarans) and its a solid army to run and beat.

Variants would include elitist terminator builds perhaps with pride of the legion or orbital assault, breacher builds with the Stone Gauntlet rite of war, bolter heavy builds, and almost anything in-between. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Games Workshop Covent Garden

Covent Garden is physically located in the centre of London, UK. Broadly, it is at the Eastern extrema of the West End of London (the West End is reasonably famous for all the entertainment, commerce, tourism, plays and theatres nearby). 

The Games Workshop in Covent Garden is situated in very close to the tube station that bears the same name. Literally, its not even a ten minute walk away from the tube station, hence it is very, very accessible for both casual and the more serious gamer. 

It is located in a small arcade of shops collectively known as The Market. When I arrived at The Market, however, I could not readily identify where the store was situated inside. I knew it was Unit 33 that I was after, but I honestly could not find it at first glance. I literally stalked The Market for about 15 minutes before I found the store! Now, some of this might be my own ineptitude to be quite honest. But there really did seem to be a lack of obvious information about which stores were where inside The Market (again, this might be because I was looking for information in all the wrong places). 

The Games Workshop store turned out to be on the lower level of The Market. Finding a staircase down was not too hard, but it really looked like I was heading in the wrong direction at that point as the lower level where it is situated looked more like a food area than one that had regular stores in it. Yet lo and behold, there was Games Workshop on the lower level near the food outlets. 

I liked the architecture of The Market overall - its general ambience is great and the stonework very clean and attractive. Indeed, it looks like that most of the stores in The Market cannot have their own logo or fonts for their store names -- check out the image that shows "Games Workshop" written in the curve above the doorway to the place. 

The store is reasonably spacious (wide, but not terrifically deep arguably) with a number of tables set out with a mixture of Warhammer 40k, Warhammer, and Lord of the Rings (although the latter didn't look like it had gotten much play recently … but maybe we could say that about a lot of the stores perhaps?).

I snapped this image in the window of the store. I'm not entirely sure what its showing to be honest, but I thought it looked cool.

Overall, I liked the store, but very much disliked the effort that I had to go to in order to locate the store in the first instance -- it really was like looking for a proverbial needle in a haystack for me. Now, I'll take some of the blame for that from being inept and never having been there before. Equally, I wonder if that's a common thing for visitors to The Market?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Horus Heresy Review: Nârik Dreygur and Praevian Consul

In the background fluff for this Iron Warriors character, he was effectively killed on the battlefields of Isstvan when a Raven Guard Moritat slew him. But that was not the end. A small, relatively unknown group within the Iron Warrior fraternity, the Apolakron, rebuilt him almost from scratch. This included building in to his very skull a cortex controller. And now Dreygur keeps company more with robots than he does with his former brothers (who now shun him actively as Perturbo has probably also discarded a useless tool in his arsenal). 

Not only does Dreygur and the new consul type - the Praevian - gain a Cortex Controller, but they both also have a Cortex Designator. This is a very interesting device that means if the consul scores a hit from range against a particular target, then the robots in his unit will gain preferred enemy against that unit as well. This is incredibly powerful with the right set-up of robots to back him up.

But moreover, the Praevian has the Master of Cybernetica special rule. This means that he can select a unit of Vorax or Castellax automata to be part of his unit. He can't leave these robots, but that's not the point! The ability to take robots without the mechanicum is game-bending in the possibilities. Imagine a dark fire cannon (or several) attached to the consul to provide an awesome back line unit?! 

It gets better though. The robots can select to have one of a small group of special rules (e.g., Tank Hunters, Scout), or the Legiones Astartes rule associated with the same legion that the consul is a member of. Consider an Alpha Legion or Raven Guard group of robots with infiltrate - this could be game changing realistically - no other legions can field similar as far as I can see. 

The Praevian can't take terminator armour or bikes, but this is not a huge negative to be fair. On Dreygur, the power fist may or may not be useful, depending on what type of robots accompany him, whist the master crafting of the bolt pistol seems superfluous. 

For a generic Praevian though, the build could be made to be a whole lot more suited to the legion in question and to the robots that will accompany him. 

I really like the Praevian, and Dreygur. I would certainly be taking Dreygur with something like Castellax with two power blades each, or the Vorax to make best use of his power fist. But for other legions, I can certainly see other good builds, like the dark fire cannon being extensively used.

I think in a number of ways this consul opens up doors that no other character can. The robots that go in the same unit as him have to be well tailored though, but that can be easily arranged. The only real question is the choice of something like Tank Hunters versus the appropriate legion special rule. 
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