Category Archives: Patrick German

A Newcomer’s Guide to the Dark Angels

The noble knights of the First Legion were too far to intervene at Istvann and were drawn to Thramas to stop the atrocities being committed by the Night Lords. This misdirection occupied the legions for years, leading to the destruction of several inhabited sectors. Lion El’Johnson, the Primarch of the Dark Angels, embarked on the Passage of the Angel of Death, a campaign meant to punish the traitor legions by targeting strongholds and home worlds. This campaign ended once the Siege of Terra began, redirecting the Dark Angels to the defense of the Imperial home world.

In the lore, the Dark Angels are the archetypical legion. They have the tools and resources for any task, and the sectioning of their legion leads to flexibility on the battlefield. This is reflected in the rules through their legion trait, rites of war, warlord traits, and specific units.

The Dark Angels Primarch – Lion El’Johnson

The Hexagrammaton

The Hexagrammaton represents the flexibility of the Dark Angels. Every unit you choose to be in your army must be assigned to one of six “wings”, with each wing providing different effects. There are additional restrictions concerning transport, independent characters, apothecaries, and techmarines, explained in detail in the Liber Astartes.

The wings provide different bonus allowing you to tailor each unit in your army to the job it’s meant to perform. As an example, the Stormwing provides a hit bonus when firing bolters, combi-bolters, or bolt pistols, making it a decent choice for tactical marines to take full advantage of the extra shots provided by Fury of the Legion. The Firewing, on the other hand, applies bonuses to wound rolls when targeting an independent character, making it a potent bonus to the units that you want to take character hunting. One of my favorite wings perfectly highlights the flavor present in the ruleset of the Horus Heresy: the Deathwing allows a bonus to Hit rolls for all types of swords, including any close combat weapons modeled as swords.

The Dark Angels’ advanced reaction, The Angels of Death, provides a unit the ability to respond to an enemy charge by becoming harder to shift. The reliance on a Leadership test makes the reaction slightly weaker, and requires more careful planning on unit selection to get the maximum benefit, but the use of Fear(X) and Fearless/Stubborn can come in clutch when trying to defend an important mid-board objective.

Warlord Traits

The Hexagrammaton provides for an immense degree of flexibility and is an excellent rule allowing for tons of flavor and performance from the legion.

Then there are the warlord traits.

There are two to choose from that are specific to the Dark Angels. The first, Marshal of the Crown, provides a minuscule leadership buff to any unit of the same wing as the warlord that has at least one model that can draw line of sight to the warlord. The second, Seneschal of the Keys, allows the controlling player to select a faction, and then state that a turn is decisive. During the decisive turn, the warlord and any unit to which they are attached gain a small buff to their WS or BS (not both) when targeting a unit of the chosen faction for the duration of the turn.

There are certainly uses to both of these traits; depending on what army your opponent is running your mileage will vary. There is an argument to make, however, that the Horus Heresy is not a competitive game, but a narrative one, in which case either of these options will add flavor to the game, but probably won’t be the reason you win a battle.

Rites of War

To make up for the slim number of warlord traits there are six Rites of War for the first legion. Each Rite is tied to an individual wing of the Hexagrammaton and provides appropriate buffs and restrictions to emphasize building your army around whichever wing you feel would be the most fun to put on the table.

If you want to run nothing but tanks, that is an option by running The Steel Fist, allowing you to take Predators as troops, Kratos tanks as elites, and gives the option to take Land Raiders as dedicated transports for your infantry. Opposite of that is The Storm of War, which pushes the use of massed infantry, giving you the option of filling your fast attack and elite slots with troops units.

The Eskaton Imperative gives you great board control, making everything outside of your deployment zone difficult terrain and allowing you to take Destroyer and Interemptor squads as troops, but providing your opponent with extra victory points if they can keep a unit in their deployment zone at the end of the battle that isn’t Pinned or Falling Back. The Unbroken Vow also provides you opponent with the chance at getting more victory points based on objective control but allows you to take Terminators as troops.

The final two Rites emphasize the use of fast attack slots. The Seeker’s Arrow giving you Sky-hunter and Outrider squads as troops, while providing some buffs and movement shenanigans to your cavalry units. The Serpent’s Bane allows you to take Seeker Squads as troops and allows you to select three priority target units in your opponent’s force, giving your Firewing units bonuses to hit against them.

Overall, every Rite of War is solid, and will have a major impact on your list building. Two Dark Angels armies will play vastly differently from one another, with all possibilities being viable, flavorful, and fun.

Unique Units

The unique units available to the Dark Angels include their Primarach, Lion El’Johnson, two characters, and three infantry units. As with every Primarch, the Lion has a ton of rules that could be covered, but to sum up you can think of him as a very flexible leader and duelist. His warlord trait, Sire of the Dark Angels, provides your army with the ability to reliably perform sweeping advances and provides a small Leadership buff for those units that can draw line of sight to him more reliably. He also is the only unit in the first legion that does not select a wing of the Hexagrammaton at the beginning of the battle, but chooses a wing at the start of the controlling player’s turn that will last the remainder of the round. This provides him with a level of flexibility to perform whatever function you need from him in the moment.

The two characters, Corswain and Marduk Sedras, are each powerful martial combatants. Corswain is the Champion of the Dark Angels, carrying a sword called “The Blade” which gains the Instant Death keyword on 50% of all wound rolls. His armor provides a 3+ Invulnerable save against close combat attacks allowing him to outlast many opponents once a melee begins. Marduk Sedras provides slightly more utility than Corswain, as he provides the Preferred Enemy special rule. This utility does not hamper his damage output, however, as he has an Unwieldy close combat weapon that hits at Strength 9 with the ability to reduce enemy invulnerable saves. It’s worth noting that at the time of writing this article Corswain does not have a model on the Forgeworld store, so if you want to run him in your army you will need to be prepared to kit-bash him from a praetor model.

The first of the three unique units are the Deathwing Companions, an HQ unit meant to act as a retinue for your praetors with a special rule equivalent to bodyguard, ignoring Precision Shots and Precision Strikes. The second is an Elites unit, Inner Circle Knights Cenobium, which are heavy-hitting terminators with the ability to tailor their strengths to the opposing army at the start of a battle. The final unit is the Dreadwing Interemptor Squad, a unit of Elite Dreadwing marines carrying special weapons which act as a combination of plasma guns and flamers.

Final Thoughts

Overall the Dark Angels meet the expectation of being an extremely flexible legion. The wings of the Hexagrammaton allow you to increase the function of each unit, increasing their ability to excel in the role chosen for them. I feel this may open the door for a crafty opponent to play around this, meeting Stormwing units in close combat, or destroying Deathwing units at range before they can make use of their improved swords. While the warlord traits are not the strongest showing, they certainly aren’t bad, and the Rites of War and unique units more than make up for whatever weakness may be in the army.

What’s Next

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.

A Newcomer’s Guide to Horus Heresy, as Presented by a Newcomer

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 face off against the Nightlords

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 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

Geigor Fell Hand

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

Imperial Fists deploying for battle

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

Blood Angel Tactical Marine

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 Tactical Marine

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

Ultramarines in combat

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 Salamanders led by their Primarch ready for battle

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

Raven Guard arrayed for battle

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

An Emperor’s Children dreadnought

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

Iron Warriors terminators attack Imperial Fists lines

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

Night Lords Marine

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

A World Eaters dreadnought

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

A Death Guard Tactical Marine

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 cleanse Orks from Ullanor

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 take on Blood Angels

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.

What’s Next

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.