Since its inception in 2012, the Horus Heresy has been a largely inaccessible wargame to the general community. While wargaming in general would not be considered a cheap hobby by anyone, the steep price of Forgeworld models (the source of the vast majority of Horus Heresy-compliant models) has been a blocking point for entry to many gamers, myself included. The game required either very deep pockets, or a huge time investment to kit-bash and customize entire squads of line troops. This was vastly more difficult before the advent of cheap, available at-home 3D printers.
The release history saw a few plastic models over time, primarily the MkIII and MkIV tactical squads, cataphractii and tartaros terminators, and a contemptor dreadnought with very few weapon options. Beyond these few minis, if you wanted to field an army in Horus Heresy that used any legion-specific units or Heresy-era vehicles you needed to be prepared to shell out for them. You could see a price of $20 per model in a five-man infantry squad, $50 for a single jetbike (noting that you need at least 3 to make a minimum-sized unit), and as much as $1,500 for the largest vehicles.
Enter Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Age of Darkness, a $300 monstrosity of a box meant to be a starter set for the second edition of Horus Heresy. The release of the box, along with the first two faction books, Liber Astartes and Liber Hereticus, saw the promise of a more accessible game. The massive reduction in cost of entry suddenly saw an uptick in interest for the game, and while the current state of the game still requires some kit-bashing or purchasing of Forgeworld resin, there are new plastic kits introduced almost weekly.
In This Corner…
When Age of Darkness was released, the community in my area immediately sprung to life. There were about seven of us that bought the box on day one, and several others joined in later. The new ruleset was refreshing when compared to 40K, and the first two books promised a game focused on flavor over competition. The factions, while limited to the original 18 Space Marine legions, promises more books to come, including Mechanicus, Titan Legions, Daemons, and Imperial Troops, which all appear to play like their lore counterparts.
The Loyalist Legions
The First Legion: Dark Angels
The Dark Angels, both in lore and rules, are meant to be the archetypical legion. While all other legions are specialized to one degree or another, the first legion is more balanced in all aspects of war. Their rules focus around the Hexagrammaton, which allows each individual unit to be assigned a ‘wing’ of the legion, providing distinct bonuses depending on what their assigned role is in your army.
The Fifth Legion: White Scars
The fifth legion are bult for speed. White Scars tend to be built to get the most out of the movement phase since the legion trait gives your army a blanket increase to movement, and their advanced reaction allows for massed movement in the enemy movement phase, assuming your units are placed in such a way to take the advantage.
The Sixth Legion: Space Wolves
Before the Space Wolves became the overdone wolfiest wolves who ever wolfed in 40k, they were based on Vikings and berserkers, and their rules reflect this by encouraging a fast and aggressive playstyle. The sixth get access to a mass of unique war gear, and their legion trait has them getting the most out of movement to get them into melee as quickly as possible by combing run and charge tactics.
The Seventh Legion: Imperial Fists
The Imperial Fists are the masters of siege warfare, and as such make one of the best “stand still and shoot” armies in Horus Heresy. Their legion trait gives a bonus to hit rolls when firing any of the basic line weapons like bolters or battle cannons. This is the closest you might get to playing a ‘vanilla’ legion, but they have some tricks and war gear that allows them some additional flavor beyond what is seen at the surface.
The Ninth Legion: Blood Angels
Another melee-centric legion, the Blood Angels specialize in fast shock troops, jump packs, and deep striking. Like their 40k rules, the ninth get a bonus to wound rolls after charging, and their rites of war allow you to either lean heavily into deep strike or allow your units to become stronger as they suffer casualties.
The Tenth Legion: Iron Hands
Iron Hands are built around fielding the toughest units in a game of tough units. Their legion tactic reduces the strength of incoming attacks and provides some additional hardiness to their vehicles through the addition of It Will Not Die. These rules make basic line troops hardy enough to stand up to mass plasma fire and usually marine-killer weapons, forcing your opponent into having reduced wound rolls, or wasting high-strength weapons on shooting your line troops when they would be better served punching holes in tanks or dreadnoughts.
The Thirteenth Legion: Ultramarines
In the lore, the Ultramarines contend with the Dark Angels on who is the better all-around legion. Their legion tactic gives them an edge at range so long as you mass your fire at a single unit, and their advanced reaction allows you to have two units return fire rather than just one. They make up for the lack of melee in these traits by having some excellent melee war gear, allowing you to hit with high armor penetration without sacrificing your initiative.
The Eighteenth Legion: Salamanders
The eighteenth legion are the second hardy legion in line with the Iron Hands. Their legion tactic allows them to reduce the wound rolls for marine-killer weapons, like plasma and volkite, while giving their tanks and multi-wound models It Will Not Die. True to their lore, Salamanders also get access to improved flame weapons and some unique units built around hitting your opponent with as much flame as possible.
The Nineteenth Legion: Raven Guard
The Raven Guard represent the loyalists’ guerilla fighters and provide some of the best tools to pull off alpha strikes. Another multi-parts legion tactic, much like a less flexible version of the Dark Angels, Raven Guard units are split between one of three branches providing the pre-game moves, bonuses to wound on the charge, and/or damage mitigation from incoming fire through the generous provision of the Shrouded rule.
The Traitor Legions
The Third Legion: Emperor’s Children
The fanciest legion comes with a host of traits that allow them to get their attacks in assault in before their opponents and provide some strength bonuses to defensive weapons on their tanks. The advanced reaction allows you to pull out the ultimate Uno reverse card, cancelling an opponent’s charge and responding with a charge of your own.
The Fourth Legion: Iron Warriors
If the Imperial Fists are the experts at siege warfare, the Iron Warriors are the legion built for breaking those sieges. The fourth legion get advantages to cracking open vehicles and fortifications, and their unique war gear allows for punishing rolls to pin your opponents or hit tanks with Haywire weapons.
The Eighth Legion: Night Lords
The Night Lords are built around using fear tactics to force their enemy to flee before shooting them in the back with their unique war gear. They gain bonuses to wound units that are pinned, falling back, or outnumbered, encouraging you to run large units of Bulky models to make sure that you can always outnumber your opponents.
The Twelfth Legion: World Eaters
There is no subtlety from the World Eaters. The twelfth legion is built for aggressive melee combat, and their legion trait allows them extra attacks following a charge, even if that charge is disordered. With this in mind it is not difficult for a despoiler squad to reach up to four attacks per model on the charge, causing your basic line troops to become a real threat against any opponent.
The Fourteenth Legion: Death Guard
The Death Guard fight battles through consistent violations of the Geneva Convention. Their slow plodding pace allows them to maintain steady heavy weapons fire while moving using their legion trait. Their unique war gear gives them access to chemical weapons that are particularly effective at dealing with enemy infantry.
The Fifteenth Legion: Thousand Sons
The Thousand Sons are the chief psychic faction in Horus Heresy. They benefit strongly from the rework to psychic rules, and their legion trait assigns all infantry and cavalry as psykers, with access to minor arcana for these units. This allows for some huge flexibility in your units, with the only downside being the high risk of suffering Perils of the Warp, given the volume of psychic tests you will be making.
The Sixteenth Legion: Luna Wolves/Sons of Horus
The Sons of Horus behave similarly to the Blood Angels in melee. Instead of increasing their own wound rolls, they reduce the strength of their opponents during the first turn of combat following a charge. Their rules, war gear, and unique units don’t lean them too heavily into ranged or melee combat, but rather support a blend of the two while making the most of elite units.
The Seventeenth Legion: Word Bearers
The Word Bearers are a force of heretics and corrupted psykers and marines that could ultimately take the blame for the start of the Horus Heresy. Their legion trait is not particularly strong, giving them some resistance to leadership reduction and winning ties in assault, but their unique war gear and unit modifiers more than make up for this weakness, giving you access to the corrupted subtype and power weapons that gain Instant Death with some lucky wound rolls.
The Twentieth Legion: Alpha Legion
The Alpha Legion have some odd tactics, which makes sense, given their lore. The legion trait comes in two parts, the first providing them additional protection from shooting attacks, and the second allowing an Alpha Legion player to select a different legion and have access to the unique units from that legion. There are some interesting options and counterplays that this creates for the legion, and makes for very flexible list building, but you have to be careful that you don’t spend your year’s paycheck on unique units from 18 different legions.
As this article is part of a series, I will spend the next few months going into more detail about the rules of the game and the specifics of each legion. I would like to know if there is specific content our readers would like to see, so leave a comment or join us in the Woehammer discord to let us know what points you would like to see discussed.