Breaking Down the Horus Heresy FAQ

The Horus Heresy has been in dire need of an FAQ for a long time – while generally a tighter ruleset than 7th Edition 40K was, invariably things come up, ambiguities arise, and competing interpretations of what seem like straightforward sentences start to take hold.

It’s been overdue – but it’s finally here.

Now…what’s in it?

There’s three FAQs – a Drop Pod FAQ, one specifically for the Talons of the Emperor, and then a general FAQ. Let’s go over each of them in turn:

Drop Pods

8th Edition 40K has made me miss drop pods.

Because I really like drop pods. To me, they’re one of the iconic units in the Warhammer 30/40K universe, and should play a prominent part in the tactics available to Space Marine armies.

Also, I own like 15 of them.

So what has been FAQ’d?

There’s not a great change log in the FAQs – for the most part, the Drop Pod FAQ is just a series of drop-in replacement profiles. For the standard Legion Drop Pod, it adds a piece of wargear, the Impact-reactive Door. All this is is a rule that forces you to immediately disembark.

The same is true for the Dreadnought Drop Pod, which now has Impact-reactive Doors as well. This is a bigger deal for the unit, as it means you can’t just hang out inside the pod for a turn and then assault out of it. You must disembark. In exchange, Burning Retros gives both the pod and the disembarking Dreadnought Shrouded for the turn. The new FAQ also spells out “a single Dreadnought or Dreadnought variance” in the army books to be a Legion Dreadnought, Contemptor, Contemptor-Cortus or Leviathan Pattern Dreadnought. A foreseeable, but much needed update.

The Anvillus Pattern Dreadclaw gets similarly light tweaks – specifying that Heat Blast doesn’t work against Zooming flyers or Swooping Monstrous Creatures, and adds the self-inflicted damage to both modes of attack.

The Deathstorm gets the same treatment – even if there’s no passengers, the new rule is also where you get all the rules for drop pods being immobilized and the like. The weapon systems have also been merged together and Drop Pod Assault comes for free, and the Independent Machine Spirits rule has been dropped – which as far as I can tell didn’t seem to matter much. It does make the Deathstorm considerably cheaper. A fully kitted one is essentially 55 points cheaper.

The Kharybdis, as far as I can tell, just had what it carries more clearly spelled out.

Overall? Some necessary book keeping, reducing the mandatory-ness of Dreadnought Drop Pods and at the same time reducing some of the gamey-feeling of keeping a Dreadnought in a drop pod for a turn waiting for the smoke to clear before charging out.

Talons of the Emperor

Lets be honest – it’s not a “Talons” FAQ.  It’s a Custodes FAQ. And it’s not a Custodes FAQ – they’re not cleaning up ambiguities. It’s a Custodes errata, because the Custodes…are a problem.

And I say this as someone who plays them.

There’s some subtle changes. Preternatural Skill not only kicks in if the Custodian’s WS is greater than their opponents, which means while they’re still bad news for troops, Space Marine HQ-class units are less threatened, as are some particularly Elite Space Marine units (Command Squad, Templar Brethren, Palatine Blades, etc.). That’s a pretty big change even though it’s sneaky, and for some units like the Haeteron Guard, a big deal, as they had the chance to just instant-death their way through something before it got a chance to strike.

Praesidium Shields also got a massive change – they now improve your invulnerable save, rather than letting you re-roll it. Mathematically, this is a nerf, and it kills the stacking benefits of a Cyber-Familiar and a Praesidium Shield.

Frankly…good. I’m sad because this means they’ve killed the Cyber-Familiar as a thing you can take, and I had a cool conversion planned for a Spear-and-Familiar armed model, but from a gameplay perspective, those two worked way too well together. And in my opinion, is a perfect working example of poor game stewardship on the part of the Horus Heresy community. Everyone knew that was too powerful and kinda dickish…and everyone went with a Shield-and-Familiar loadout anyway.

Arae-shrikes got clarified, and are genuinely an FAQ – making it clear that units with Inertial Guidance are an example of a unit immune to mishap that still takes then, rather than the only one of its kind.

Solarite Power Talons got boosted a bit, which they probably needed, though their still AP3 which I believe is the primary strike against them – it’s too easy to tarpit a (usually expensive) Custodes unit rocking a lot of Talons with a 2+ armor save unit. They’ll wound more now, but that isn’t usually the problem. Importantly however, S + 2 is usually 7 for the Custodes, which does make them more of a threat to Dreadnoughts.

The Adrastus Bolt Caliver, which was on my wishlist of things to change, had the 30″ Heavy Bolter-style fire mode changed to Assault from Heavy. This essentially allows Sagittarum Guard to advance behind their brethren and mow down larger units of light infantry that are a waste of Guardian Spears, while also using the presence of those units to help protect them from melee attackers. I’m not saying the Sagittarum Guard are good now (I haven’t had a chance to field them much) but they are least work better in their foreseeable role.

The Shield Captain lost access to the Cyber-Familiar. Personally, I would rather have this have been a cheaper 10 or 15 point option for those who didn’t want the full rules of the shield, but did like +1 to one’s invulnerable save, but still wanted to use a spear in all its modes. But I get it.

Valdor got a cleanup, rolling three special rules that are now under the Legio Custodes heading into one, and getting rid of the Misericordia.

The Contemptor-Achillus, one of my favorite models in the range, had it clarified that the bonus attacks from two CCW are already in the profile, and upgrading to the Dreadspear got 20 points more expensive.

The Agamatus Jetbike Squadron got some much needed clarity. Hilariously, it appears to be that units only lost the Misericordia if they otherwise had changes – there’s not new sheets where that’s the only change. The entry now makes it clear they’re using a Lastrum bolt cannon rather than the non-existant Iliastus bolt cannon. The mention of being able to fire “each of their weapons” when they only have one weapon is similarly removed. The weapon upgrades also got a touch more expensive.

The newer Telemon super-duper heavy Dreadnought, which had pretty polished rules already, just has a note, ala the Achillus, that its bonus attack is already in the profile.

So that’s the Custodians taken care of. Honestly, that’s less of a nerf than I think most people were expecting, though it’ll trim a model or two off a standard sized force, which for such an elite army is a big deal. I think the biggest changes are getting the Sagittarum Guard to a place where they at least work with the rest of the army, and disposing of the obviously-too-good shield & familiar combo.

All The Rest

Here, Forge World is playing a little bit with one of the best things (imo) about them sticking with an in-house version of 7th Edition – they can modify core rules themselves. There’s lots of clarification here, tuning things that needed to be tuned and customized for the context of the Heresy, and I’m glad to see them do it.

I’m not going to go over everything in the FAQ, but a few high points:

Knights for Everyone!: FAQ makes it clear that the non-Mechanicum only Knights can be taken as part of Panoply of War.

Moving Bombardments: A Legion Master of Signal can call for a Bombardment even if he’s moved or embarked on a vehicle (so long as it has fire points). Makes perfect sense to me – the bombardment itself is Ordinance, but it’s not as if he’s the one firing it.

Champions are Useful: This was another one in my “wish list” of things to be fixed, because the Legion Champion is a bloody cool model and an awesome concept, but with limited access to AP2 weapons they were, to be frank, not great at their job. From that article: “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.”

Apparently Forge World disagrees, because for 20 points, they can take Paragon Blades.

The Fall of Veterans:

Veterans got hit pretty hard in the FAQ. Marksmen which gave them Outflank and Sniper is now Stalkers which confers Scout. Basically, Sniper got swapped for some redeployment moves…and this is not an even trade, power wise.

As much as I liked the concept of Sniper Veterans (because what Imperial Fist player doesn’t like the idea of scything down everything in the game with a Toughness value with bolters?), the writing should have been on the wall for this one. As much as Variance Hammer is often about finding the ideal or optimal configuration for something (or discussing why it doesn’t exist), Marksmen was just too good. It meant there were few other builds that people would be willing to use, because all of them involved willfully ignoring the obviously better option right in front of them.

This also made them close to obviously the best Troops choice, if available in a given Rite of War.

I’m hoping to see alternative Veteran builds now, and Outflank is still dangerous and powerful. I’m also hoping to see some more use of other “Dangerous with Bolters” units like Seekers.

This does however, in my mind, mean two things for the meta: First, that there are a ton of armies whose core is a Calth set and Pride of the Legion which now need to be redesigned. Second, Sniper Vets were a strong “batteries included” option for fighting the Mechanicum, where volume of Rending fire could (though not necessarily efficiently) put wounds on monstrous creatures standard Marine bolters can’t hurt. Folks who were relying on them for that will need to revisit their plans for fighting killer robots.

Cleaning Up Shields: Boarding Shields get a little more broadly applicable but nuanced, and two-handed weapons and a shield are out of the picture. Not that there are all that many to worry about, but it means no Boarding Shield and Phoenix Power Spear, which would, admittedly, look quite badass.

Clever Little Peter Turbo: Perturabo’s reserve shenanigans got much more predictable, which is good for folks who want a deep striking Terminator bomb along with their Primarch.

Interestingly, The Tormentor got more expensive, but now it’s expressly stated that “its points value does not contribute towards Perturabo’s points value when determining Lords of War and the 25% rule.” This is really contrary to how I would have read the rules, but it’s also the only way to have the “In games of 3001 points or higher” not be an outright contradiction, because Perturabo and The Tormentor together would require a 4180 game. I’d expect to see armies with both in the near future.

And because Perturabo goes nothing that Dorn doesn’t get a little better, this is also true for the The Aetos Dios. It pays the same surcharge for this, but proportionately, it’s less of a price increase.

Chainaxes for Everyone! Chain axes are now free for World Eaters units with chainswords or close combat weapons – or power weapons for Terminators. Basically, if you’re carrying something that can stab someone, you can replace it with a chain axe.

Fearful Cultists: Cult Hordes now have Hatred and Stubborn instead of Zealot, which should make breaking their morale possible but difficult. Which will likely tone them down somewhat and reduce the “This is negative fun to play against” factor.

Toning Down the Thousand Sons: Cult Arcana now means you must take powers from the cult’s chosen discipline, and there is no benefit to manifesting those powers now. This is now purely a restriction, rather than a restriction and a buff. Additionally, Sekhmet Terminators lost the rule about choosing from Telekinesis or Pyromancy – “choose” there was an extremely problematic verb for clear rule reading.

Wolfy Ambiguity: The number of HQs the Space Wolves have to take is spelled out in more detail, and it’s expressly noted that in cases where there’s a limit on the number of HQ models, the Space Wolves get an extra one. The whole “Must take Grey Slayers” and “This Detachment has another Mandatory Troops Type” has been cleared up as well – those units now count, and you don’t have to double-cover with Grey Slayers and the other option. I liked the idea of there being thematic ways of making war that the Space Wolves just didn’t engage with, but “You can’t take this Rite of War because of rules conflicts” isn’t really the way to express that. Linguistic issues around the frost weapons got cleared up as well.

Grey Slayers got nerfed a bit, in that if they’re joined by an Independent Character without Warrior’s Mettle, they can’t use the rule until they leave. This can be solved by the IC leaving the unit and then charging themselves, but there’s a certain degree of risk there (being the only one who makes it, eating Overwatch, etc.) But mostly what it means is that Grey Slayers are hard to supplement with Independent Characters, and are still meant to serve as (potentially heavily upgraded) line troops rather than as conveyors for combat powerhouses. Note the rule says Independent Character, by my reading this means an Apothecary could still join.

I think the temptation with many Space Wolf players is to kit out their Grey Slayers to the nines, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to go with them.

Leman Russ’s armor is now a flat -1 To Hit, and doesn’t go to a -2 for prolonged engagements with him, slightly reducing how good he is against particularly tough foes (like other Primarchs).

Linked Robots: The Vultarax are now slightly less autonomous. All voluntary actions take place by the whole unit, they only get one Vector Strike for the unit, and Grounding tests impact the whole unit.

Genuine FAQs

There’s also some genuine FAQ and clarifications at the end of the document. For the most part, these are pretty logical and straightforward, with one notable exception that I think is worth noting:

What is “standard Terminator armour”?

If a rule makes reference to standard Terminator armour, it is not specifying a particular pattern. In these instances, its pattern is that which is represented on the physical models used, and only a single type of Terminator armour may be chosen for that unit when included in your army. Please refer to page 133 of The Horus Heresy: Legiones Astartes – Age of Darkness Army List for available types of Terminator armour.

There’s been a lot of back and forth about when Forge World says “Terminator Armor” what do they mean. For example, the Imperial Fist Vigil-pattern Storm Shield:

Any Legion Terminator or Terminator armour-equipped independent character with the Legiones Astartes (Imperial Fists) special rule may exchange their combi-bolter for a Vigil pattern storm shield for +15 points if equipped with standard Terminator armour or for +10 points if equipped with Cataphractii Terminator armour.

For a long time many people read that as expressly prohibiting Tartaros-pattern Terminator armor from taking these, because there is a generic “Terminator Armor” entry (presumably this is the new Indomintus-pattern armor from 40K). While I didn’t think this was intended by the rule (because I think Forge World is far more guided by what looks cool than what makes sense for a unit), by a strict reading of the rules I think these people were right.

It appears Forge World didn’t like this outcome, so is opening that back up. “Standard Terminator Armor” is now “Anything not otherwise specified”.

Which means Assault-oriented IF Terminators with shields…

Overall Impressions

I think the FAQ was sorely needed, and has done some really good things. Generally, I’m glad to see them working with a light hand (in contrast to the usual 1-2 punch nerfs that Games Workshop has been using in 8th Ed.) because I think the Heresy system is less amenable to big swings in builds. The changes were pretty reasonable, and I think beyond people playing Sniper Vets (and perhaps some particular Grey Slayer-based builds) there’s few people thinking right now “Well shit, what am I going to do now?”

Inferno needed a distressing amount of cleanup, but that was always a troubled book, and I’m hoping this FAQ, and the thought behind it, is going to be carried into the Heresy product line in the future.

And they’ve knocked two things off my list.

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  1. I’ve not had a chance to go through the FAQ myself- I’m out of touch enough with the current state of the game (Inferno and whatever issues have arisen and/or been resolved in the last year and a half that I’m a little unsure how to interpret it- but do you think the language used to clarify the Grey Slayers/“must take” mandatory troop types issue you mention does anything to clear up the confusion around the Recon Company Rite of War?

    I’m in the camp that thinks it obviously requires 3 squads of Recon Marines, but it would be nice if there’s a definitive way to settle this…


    1. I don’t think it *quite* answers it, unfortunately.


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