Sunday, August 21, 2016

Horus Heresy Review: Blackshields Rules

This is one review that I have been putting off a little bit from doing. The reason for this is largely due to the myriad of ways in which they can be configured and how best to consider all of these options. We will start with the basics and then move on to the units as we might with a set of legion special rules. We will look at war gear later in a separate article.

Base Rules.
Rather than the usual Legion rules, the Blackshields replace these with a set of distinct rules - some better than others, and all nicely balances with positives and negatives.

Firstly is the option to select (or not) one of the Wrought by War. We will look at these below in turn. Some are really characterful and good, whilst others are … interesting and could be more attractive.

Strike from a Position of Strength gives a primary detachment a bonus to going first in any given game. This is a strong bonus and in line with some other factions (the Alpha Legion springs to mind for their Coils rite of war).

The Outcasts rule determines how they take allies. This is always "By the Emperor's / Warmaster's Command" for other Legions and Fellow Warriors for the Imperial Army or Mechanicum. The latter is intended to be illustrative of other outcasts. The real question of utility here is what the Blackshields are bringing to the table (in a literal way) that other legions are not? We will explore that a little more below.

Finally the Limited Resources rule means that they're outside the usual Legions and their re-arming possibilities. Hence they're not going to have access to certain one-shot items like drop pods. Further, they're not allowed to have more units with a vehicle type than infantry type. This is a nice balance to the above rules overall. But we will now turn to the different factions (or perhaps its best to think of these as different "Legions" of the "Blackshields" space marines).

Death Seekers.
Overall, this is something that approaches what the World Eaters already have. The Inured to Pain rule gives the most basic feel no pain special rule. This is, of course, very nice, but there's no way to boost it inside the Blackshields rules. No pinning and no morale checks is also very nice. The Lure of Battle rule means they always must advance to an enemy (or at least stay at a steady distance) on the table. This gives a very rageful special rule that can be very attractive.

All taken together, the Death Seekers are a very attractive proposition that would lead to a powerful force when combined with the other rules. Its a pity that there are no Drop Pods to take advantage of their bonuses, but a rhino will help to close the gap, as would a flier like a Storm Eagle or Caestus. I can therefore see these special rules as a really good and strong choice. It offers things that the Emperor's Children and World Eaters do not, and played well, can really do some damage. But why take them instead of the World Eaters? They're slightly more controllable (arguably), they're not "triggered" like some of their rules. Indeed, the involuntary movement could be taken advantage of: think of moving 0.5 inches backward and then 1d6 inches forward when failing a Ld check and one can see how this system might be "gamed" slightly.

Hence, I think this is a force worth consideration when built for close combat (hammer units) and backed up with longer range heavy support selections.

Orphans of War.
These marines gain bonuses to Ld when within 6 inches of fellow Blackshields, so long as they're above a certain strength. This is very nice as it represents marines helping marines out. But what is even better is the re-rolling of 1's to hit in assault and shooting with these marines as well. Amazing really! The penalty side of this is steep though. Failing a morale check removes 1d3 more marines than would otherwise be removed in an assault phase. For characters, its even simpler -- they have preferred enemy (characters) special rule which is very nice for fighting in challenges clearly.

No gods, No Masters counter-balances some of these strengths by ensuring the Blackshields cannot buy chaplains, agents and simply cannot ally with other Legions that do so (or, obviously, has a primarch within it).

Overall, the synergy here is very nice. One would want to take large squad sizes where possible and keep them reasonably close to one another on the board. Two blobs (a forward blob with a hammer unit and support units, or assault elements; and a rear blob with heavy weapons and specialist teams or tactical squad) might make a good pincer team.

With their rules, they're really up there with the Ultramarines, and Imperial Fists. Sure, they lack some of the other special rules like Tank Hunters that the Imperial Fists might otherwise gain, but they can certainly hold their own in this theatre. The Ld bonus is what sets them apart from the Fists though. Hence this is another force that is very viable if one wants a shooty and assaulty force to combine with other elements.

This is where things start to get interesting for the Blackshields in my opinion. And I'm torn on them.

Void Reavers gives deep strike to half of the none transported units if desired. This is great, but an additional 1d3 models will die to mishaps (and they will no doubt happen over the course of a tournament).

Unsanctioned Weaponry gives the force access to Xenos Deathlocks if they could take combi-bolters. This is something that I desperately want to love, as the option to model things like Necron Gauss Cannons on space marines is so cool that I totally dig what is going on here. However, the Deathlock rules themselves are not that crash hot … I'd almost prefer volkites over them to be honest. And when I sat down to do the math hammer on them, I would probably only want one or two of them per squad at most due to the "lethal exposure" rule that those weapons have -- I'll try to post about them at another point. Hence they're not all they're cracked up to be, although I can certainly see that having them en-masse could be a unit wipe out every turn for the Outlanders at the expense of one of their own. Hence they're a little bit like killing oneself with a plasma gun. Worth it in some situations. More to come on this I think.

Finally the Shadow of Oblivion balances all these bonuses and means that once half casualties have been reached in terms of sheer number of units, then the rest of the team starts teleporting back away. This makes the entire force a big glass cannon and a risky proposition.

I really want to like these guys and model up a large unit of Xenos Tech armed marines. Heck, I've already done this anyway with my Alpha Legion (see particularly my Scouts with necron weapons). It makes them a real glass cannon in a lot of ways. I need to think about how to take a large blob of deep striking S=5 Xenos weapon teams in to play here though. I regard them as very attractive and very playable overall!

By selecting one of three special rules, the Chymeriae can be as adaptable as the Alpha Legion in many ways and tailored to an enemy. In terms of background, they're supposed to represent marines that shouldn't otherwise exist: mutants (think: warp affected / Word Bearer cast offs), accelerated implantation programmes (think: Raven Guard), or engineered (think: Fabius Bile creations but done by a different apothecary). These Chimeriae Attributes all have bonuses to stats and negatives, as well as special rules.

Option 1 (bonuses to S and T coupled with penalty to I and other running rules) is a solid choice for survivability and close combat teams.
Option 2 (bonuses to WS and BS, negatives to Ld) is attractive for shooting armies, but I'd be really concerned that they're going to flee off the board very fast, so we'd need a way to counteract this on the board through other means. And I'm not really seeing the other means at this stage. I don't think I'd use this.
Option 3 (bonus special rules at the expense of -1BS) makes for a solid close combat orientated team.

I like option 1 the best of all to be honest, just for the +1 in toughness. This is amazing, and strictly better than what even the Iron Hands have.

Of course, this comes at the expense of Shunned and Distrusted which means no allies if they're the primary detachment. Period.

Overall, I think this is a very characterful option (and a strong option too!) for legions like the Word Bearers, Raven Guard, Emperor's Children and so on (even the World Eaters to a lesser extent) for allies. Well worth it if they can be utilised!


The Horned God said...

I like the fact that you can take the Chymeriae as allies as it brings some interesting options for modelling actual story line events (particularly the Raven Guard use of accelerated implementation).

jabberjabber said...

totally agreed! the conversion possibilities are great here!

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