Prospero Is Balance Hard Mode

The Forge World Open Day has once more come and gone, and as always, it’s a chance to see some spectacular upcoming models from those fine purveyors of income destroying resin toy soldiers.

Among the tidbits that came out however was a rumor (and it is just a rumor) that Horus Heresy 7 is slated to concern the destruction of Prospero. As a die-hard Space Wolves fan (and one whose interested to see what they do with the Sisters of Silence), I’m looking forward to it, but the book’s been long in coming. Below, I muse as to my thoughts on why.

The Fall of Prospero (“Siege” doesn’t seem like the right term. “Sack”?) actually takes place very very early in the Horus Heresy, when Horus is still ostensibly loyal, capable of issuing orders to loyalist Legions, etc. It takes place before Isstvan III or the Dropside Massacre, the defense of the Phall system, or the Battle of Calth, all of which currently have Horus Heresy books dealing with them. And at least one book, Horus Heresy Four: Conquest covers events that are definitely more peripheral to the overall story than the destruction of a Space Marine legion.

So what’s taking so long?

My guess? Love, balance, and the conflict between the two.

The Horus Heresy series is clearly a labor of love. While it’s by all appearances also an extremely successful game, a great deal of work obviously goes into making the game “feel” right. The Primarchs (for the most part), play like their supposed to play, the Legion rules match their fluff, and the special units act like their supposed to.

It’s also, by and large, decently balanced. There’s a number of reasons for this – a common baseline of “Space Marine” for most of the armies, what I suspect is a somewhat friendlier meta in terms of “Looks cool” vs. “I want to win” that puts less pressure on the points where the game isn’t as well balanced, a slower and more deliberate release schedule than Games Workshop’s recent breakneck pace, and finally that Horus Heresy forces are simply too expensive to chase around internet Flavors of the Month.

Which brings us to the Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons.

These are both weird Legions. Really, outside of the Alpha Legion, I’d struggle to find weirder. And many of the shenanigans the Alpha Legion can get up to take place off the field – setting up a single, pivotal strike on the enemy command that in many ways at that point is a standard Legion attack.

The Thousand Sons are a very small Legion with an extremely high prevalence of very dangerous, powerful, and flexible Psykers. Even compared to other psyker-friendly Legions like the White Scars or Blood Angels, this is clearly the Thousand Sons’ thing.

And the Space Wolves are the Legion you send to kill another Legion. While it’s wrapped in opaqueness, there’s fairly strong suggestions that the fate of the II and XI Legions at least involved Leman Russ. And Russ was who was sent to bring Angron to heel, and while he failed to do so, there’s a fair bit of suggestion that by the end of the battle the Space Wolves had a tactical advantage. Lorgar even expresses concern when his Legion is censured that the Space Wolves will be dispatched. Beyond that, after Prospero you have little packs of Space Wolves sent all over the Imperium to keep an eye on the other Primarchs. It takes either supreme confidence, or utter delusion, to think that ten of your guys are a meaningful check on Sanguinius or Roboute Guilliman’s ambitions.

So, you have stupidly powerful psykers, and the Space Marines you send to kill Other Space Marines in a game full of…Space Marines.

And let’s talk about who else is at Prospero – the Sisters of Silence and the Custodes. One is an order of psychic blanks, and the other a group of individually powerful warriors that fall somewhere in the power level, fluff wise, of a skilled Space Marine hero.

Even internally balancing these so they felt right would be a tall order – you have to keep the Sisters from just shutting down the Thousand Sons, and the Space Wolves from slaughtering everything with a 3+ save. And beyond that, it has to be fun to play Thousand Sons vs. Word Bearers, or Space Wolves vs. Imperial Fists.

I’ve got faith that they can do it, but I also understand why they’ve been approaching Prospero slowly.

Which, to be honest, is probably a good thing for the game as a whole, and for my wallet in particular.

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  1. Nice article there!
    I completely agree with you, although I was hoping you’d offer us your own ideas on how to make these balanced – at the very least they would be interesting.

    And why should sisters of Silence shut down Thousand Sons? Couldn’t they just kill them without using their powers – or shoot them from 24” or more? I’m not too sure on the severity and range on the impact they have on Psykers.


    1. Honestly, I haven’t played enough Horus Heresy to have opinions on the balance of that game besides “Forge World seems to be doing a good job”.

      In terms of the Sisters of Silence, the way they’re portrayed in Prospero Burns is that the awesome Thousand Sons powers (many of which are not witchfire-esq powers) stop working nearby, and if you assume them as Culexus-alike units, “Bombard them with Psychic Powers” is likely not a winning strategy.

      …shooting them on the other hand…


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