When my hobby time is limited for one reason or another, I like to build army concepts in my mind, and lately, I’ve been on a Horus Heresy kick. But often, when the rubber hits the road, what’s cool in my head doesn’t really work as a build on the table, and as much as I support Rule of Cool, it is still sometimes hard to take a unit that isn’t cool because it doesn’t live up to what it’s supposed to do.
To be clear, these aren’t the big fixes Heresy might need in some areas, like tuning Magnus the Red or the Custodes. These are just nagging little bits that make me go “Yeah, but that won’t work the way you want it to…”
And it’s not a complete list. Just five, because I felt like writing them down.
The Legion Champion
The Emperor’s Champion, in any of its incarnations, has always been one of my favorite models. A lone, well-equipped warrior, a swordsman and duelist unequaled on the field, there to match – and best – the enemy’s finest. In 40K I don’t even play a Templars force and this model still makes me swoon, despite its age.
Now, I play the Imperial Fists, so I get to cheat a little bit and bring the man himself, Sigismund, but there are times when I don’t want to use a special character, or would like a cheaper option that still echoes that same image and role. And I think the Forge World model for the Legion Champion is a rather cool one.
The problem is he’s bad at his job.
The fault lays in his available weapon loadout. A character killer should expect to fight characters – and characters in the Horus Heresy are rocking 2+ armor. Especially the ones where WS 6 and a mastercrafted weapon are things one is anticipating needing to bring to the fight. And outside a few Legions – the Blood Angels with the Blade of Perdition being the most obvious example – a sword is a terrible weapon to bring to an AP 2 fight. A Charnabal sabre is marginally better, but fishing for sixes is a weird thing to be hoping for from your Champion.
A simple additional weapon choice would fix this. As much as I want to say “Let them take Paragon Blades!” that might be a little excessive. But what about a weapon with the statline of the Execution Blade carried by the Sisters of Silence. Two handed? Check. Duelists Edge? A nice touch. +1 Strength? Both hitting and wounding more than a standard Centurion would be handy, and it makes up for the lost attack. AP 2? It’s not guaranteed, but 5’s and 6’s is a significant edge over just 6’s. At something like 20 points I think that would be a reasonable weapon, leaving the Sabre open for the cheap option or the one if you’re expecting especially high toughness foes, or a standard Power Sword if you want load out that’s decent against T3 humans, where 2+ saves are more rare.
Orbital Strike Wings
I’d really like these to be three of any flyer with 3 Hull Points or less. At the moment, needing to bring three of the same puts a lot of pressure on making sure that one flyer is “the best”, and for multi-role flyer purposes, that’s pretty indisputably a Lightning with Kraken Penetrator missiles. The Lightning generally is an immensely flexible fighter.
I think we’d see more “alternate choices” if you could pick-n-mix the flyers. Personally, I love the idea of a Lightning or Avenger strike fighter with a Thunderbolt or two as escorts. Or Xiphons for that matter. But you really don’t have much call for three air-superiority flyers in most games.
Unless I can talk you into a Great Crusade-era game against my Eldar. Because Xiphons and Thunderbolts dueling Crimson Hunters sounds like the coolest thing ever.
The “Free Square” entry on the bingo card of units that need buffs.
I think Destroyers are awesome in concept. The idea of a unit that’s faded from use, carrying weapons so horrible that even the really pretty horrible Imperium goes “That’s a bit much…” Grim killers who find themselves in an era uniquely suited for their talents.
And they’ve got dual pistols. When has that ever not been cool?
But they’re just not a good unit. Equipped with Jump Packs or loaded into a transport they’re like Assault Marines but way more expensive. On foot, for the most part, they’re slow. Counter-attack is a nice rule, but it’s not amazing, and they occupy a precious Elite slot. They’re a support unit that’s priced like a main line heavy hitter. And while I tell myself that I’ve come up with a way to use them using the Hammerfall Rite of War, they’re missing something.
I don’t know that it’s another special rule. I think it may just genuinely be a points drop, a move to the Fast Attack slot, or both.
This is…Imperial Fist specific. Feel free to skip over it if you don’t either play the Fists, or aren’t an Iron Warriors player who wants to feel better about Iron Havocs still not having models.
The Legion that excels at Void War. Breacher-style special unit. Power axes. Again, there’s so much potential here, and it just kind of…falls flat.
They’re in the Fast Attack slot, but they’re slow as hell. Though at least that keeps them from competing with Terminators for Elites slots, as Terminators might as well be an Imperial Fist special unit for all the Legion-specific toys they can take. Phalanx Warders are somewhat emblematic of early Horus Heresy design for special units, where they kind of want to be in close combat, and pay the points for close combat gear, but aren’t really suited for it.
At this point the Alpha Legion players are looking at their Head Hunters and nodding sagely.
For 5.5 points per man more than a Breacher unit you get…an identical stat line, +1 WS if they charge and are above five models, a marginally more diverse set of weapons to take per every five models (mostly unlocking the chance to take plasma or a thunder hammer) and the option to lose their bolters in exchange for power axes, which pushes their cost up to 15.5 points more per man.
All on 1W, 1A, 3+ armor models.
Any proper specialist close combat unit, Templar Brethren included, is going to go through them like a hot knife through butter.
To add insult to injury…the Ultramarines stole their schtick, and do it better.
Ultramarine Legion Breachers can exchange their bolters for power swords at 5 points each, making them a much more reasonably priced “middling-dangerous in close combat” unit. And then the Invictarus Suzerains waltz in.
For 325 points for a 10-man squad, you get…+1 WS, +1 A, +1 Ld, 2+ armor, a power axe that, while S User effectively has Rending and strikes at Initiative, a boost to nearby units Ld, and the ability for any model in the unit to accept Challenges. And the ability to be taken as a Command Squad to keep those elite slots open.
By comparison, just a bare-bones Power Axe armed Warder squad costs 355 points, and the Suzerains are superior in pretty much every respect.
How to fix them?
A couple thoughts:
- A drop in points (probably the most obvious)
- Some sort of Fast Attack appropriate deployment method, like the ability to take teleport transponders ala their Command Squad and Terminator brethren
- Go all in on the veteran guardians of the Imperial Fist flagship, and make them a proper combat unit – the slower AP 2 yin to the Templar Brethren’s AP 3 yang.
- Or go the opposite way, and make them specialist shooting units. Breachers with special rounds could be neat…
- Throw in the towel on the whole concept, say “Imperial Fist Command Squads may take Boarding Shields for +10 points each” and call it a day.
No, the Custodes do not need help. Yes, this should come along with a pretty wholesale review of the Literal Golden Boys. But it is partially because the Custodes are so solid that make the Sagittarum so bad. They’re sufficiently sub-optimal that they’re entirely consigned to being an affectation, even if you’re willing to dabble in the odd sub-par unit.
The problem – as with the Warders described above – is that they try to accomplish two distinct tasks, and in the process, do both of them poorly.
For them, it comes down to their weapons: the Adrastus Bolt Caliver. Effectively a heavy bolter or a 12″ Adrathic weapon, it suggests two roles: a stationary firebase or a close-in anti-tank/tough unit ranged support unit.
The problem with the first is that, being a heavy weapon, you are paying handsomely for a glorified Devastator squad that’s slinging a Custodian stat line. And with the second, you are getting quite close in and then…what? While a handful of Adrathic shots is certainly scary, the Sagittarum Guard are now in the mix, and lacking close combat weapons of any type, are relatively easy to lock down and/or eliminate in melee.
And nothing about how much they cost is going to make “relatively easy to lock down and/or eliminate in melee” feel good.
Compare that to the standard Custodian Guard squad with Adrasite spears I discussed a bit ago, who once they blow up their target that’s 12″ away are still a very deadly battlefield unit. And transitioning between them will be ugly as sin, with several turns of snap shooting as they trundle up the field. They look amazing, and I love the idea of heavy weapon Custodes, but these guys…just aren’t doing it. If you need a volume of fire anti-infantry firebase, the Sisters do it cheaper in the same Talons force, and for 10 points more than a 5-man Sagittarum squad you could have a stripped down allied force of Imperial Fists with a bare-bones Centurion, a Legion Tactical Squad and a Legion Heavy Support Squad. Not as durable, to be sure, but they’ll do some work.
How to fix them?
I think they could be interesting as a mobile threat bubble – a sphere of firepower covering your melee Custodians as they advance. This would also help those of us that don’t want to tuck all our units into hover tanks – that, after all, is my Eldar’s schtick.
I’d boost the range of the Disintegration Ray to 18″ – that effectively puts them either safely out of charge range to withdraw if they say, blow up a transport full of scary melee units, and also lets them threaten things that threaten the units they’re supporting (Leviathans…) or actually secure the backfield from things like Infiltrating Rhino Vets, who can probably stay out of their current 12″ range fairly readily.
I’d give them Suspensor Webs or Relentless, again allowing them to advance alongside their brethren, and leverage their heavier anti-infantry firepower to help clear out tarpit units that can threaten a standard Custodian Guard squad through weight of numbers.
And there you have it. Five things that I’d like to see changed, fairly subtly for the most part, to bring them in line with how I feel like they should look, narratively, on a Horus Heresy battlefield. Nothing earth shattering, I know, but if we can’t muse about how cool it would be if Destroyers were good during staff meetings, then what is this hobby even for?
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