Arks of Omen: Angron is the second entry in the Arks of Omen series, following in the footsteps of Abaddon. In addition to a nice chunk of lore and some nifty pictures of some boarding actions games, this book brings with it a set of six new missions and the first set of faction rules, including unique enhancements and stratagems for six of the game’s factions.
Before we get into it, thanks to Games Workshop for providing us with a review copy.
Angron picks up where the last book left off, following Angron’s fleet as they prepare to invade Malakbael, a world that possesses one of the keys Vashtorr and Abaddon are looking for. That said, Angron doesn’t care much for their whole MacGuffin quest, and is drawn to the Malak system for whole different MacGuffin: the Choral Engine. Going forward we’ll try to avoid spoilers, but I’ll give you one teensy one before we dive in: more than a couple folks die in this one.
The Primarch of the World Eaters is back on the center stage and he’s mad as hell. Angron makes his narrative return with much of what you’d expect; lots of exposition about how mad he is, how much pain he’s in, and just how much he wants to kill. To be honest, some of the sections that focus on Angron are VERY one note (ok one more spoiler: he’s mad), but there are tidbits (especially one towards the end) that really make for some cool set pieces, especially when Angron gets down to business. For anyone looking for a nuanced glimpse into the mind of the blood-crazed Red Angel, you’re gonna have to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for some cool action where Angron blows up a building by throwing a plane at it, then boy howdy have we got the book for you.
The Choral Engine
The impetus for the invasion of Malakbael was the activation of the Choral Engine, basically a miniature Astronomicon that can calm the warp nearby. This has a ton of implications, such as making warp travel easier nearby, helping boost the psychic might of psykers near the sector, or quelling the efforts of warp rituals. Daemons struggle to hold their material form near it, with only the forces of Khorne being able to somewhat resist its effects due to their scorn of sorcery. As much of a boon as this is for the nearby imperial forces, it also acts as a big target for Angron as its psychic resonance constantly assaults him. When the Grey Knights receive a prophecy that the Red Angel is coming to blow up the machine, they dispatch a force to marshall a defensive fleet.
The Battle for Malakbael
The real meat of the book is given over to the battle for the planet. This portion starts with some neat descriptions of void combat, moves on to neat descriptions of aerial combat, and culminates in a neat description of ground combat. It may just be me, but I got fatigued by the constant descriptions of explosions, blood pooling, and wounds being torn open. That said, I did really appreciate how the battle culminates: there’s a very metal set piece and–better yet–there is actually a decisive victor for once. None of the usual “Well this side succeeded in their goal but the other side also sabotaged them in a way so it didn’t really matter;” there’s a full on winner and the side that loses, loses hard.
If you’re like me you may have read this and said “Yeah this is cool and all but where’s my new best friend Vashtorr?” Don’t worry, he shows up briefly to be super cool and advance the plot, then is just as quickly on his way to his next adventure. With the next book being called Arks of Omen: Vashtorr and that box set with him fighting Azrael I’d assume the next macguffin is in The Rock and he’ll be heading there next. Angron on the other hand will continue to be angry and not die, but I have a feeling his part in the Arks story may be done for now, he’s not huge on following a greater plan.
So far, the rules for Boarding Actions stripped out a lot of the faction-specific rules to create a streamlined and quick-playing format. They removed your access to warlord traits, relics, and stratagems, and replaced those with a handful of universal stratagems and a set of 6 enhancements that take the place of traits and relics. While this offers a great way to get your head around the differences between this mode and “standard” 40k, it did leave some lists feeling a bit “generic.”
No more, though. The release of Angron brings with it some new options for several of the factions: World Eaters, Chaos Space Marines, Space Marines, Grey Knights, Astra Militarum, and Orks each get a set of enhancements just for them, as well as a handful of stratagems. Unlike normal games of 40k, though, the number of stratagems on offer is drastically reduced: most factions have a single page of 6 stratagems to work with.
Unfortunately, if you’re not playing one of those factions, you’re going to have to wait for your rules.
Appearing for the first time in Boarding Actions, World Eaters have the mustering rules you’d expect: you get one Fast Attack unit, but it can only be a single Chaos Spawn, you can’t bring more Cultists than Berzerkers, and your Cultists don’t split into Boarding Squads.
The rules adaptations are similarly unsurprising: Kharn can only betray units he can see, and Berzerkers lose the Blood Surge ability entirely, but those make total sense given the other rules changes in this mode. And while gaining an extra Blood Tithe point whenever one of your units is destroyed might seem odd at first, it’ll definitely be helpful if you want to use any of those abilities given the lower unit counts in boarding actions.
The faction’s actual rules are flavorful and cool, if straightforward. The Burning Plate will help your warlord make it across the table by adding 1 to armour saving throws and giving them an extra wound, while Mutable Form’s re-roll to advance and charge rolls combines with its denial of overwatch to make your melee beatstick that much more mobile. As for the rest of your list, Wrathful Charge lets you roll an extra d6 on the charge and drop the lowest, and Savage Resilience lets you ignore wounds on a 5+ in your opponent’s shooting phase. The World Eaters’ coolest trick, though, has to be when their Terminators or Eightbound take The Direct Approach. This 1CP stratagem lets them move, advance, or charge straight through a closed hatchway, opening it up on the way and preventing it from being close for the rest of the battle. As an added bonus, if your opponent had a unit within 1” of it, you can even charge them as part of the bargain.
The tools you’re provided with here are solid, and while giving up Blood Surge on the Berzerkers hurts, that probably would have been a bit much anyways. What you’re left with is a set of tricks that’ll help you get across the table and weather a nasty turn of shooting in the clutch. The XIIth legion may not have the best set of rules on offer here, but they’re certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Chaos Space Marines
The fact that Boarding Actions have lower points values doesn’t stop Chaos from playing the Great Game here, and that shows in their enhancements and stratagems. They’ve only got two stratagems that don’t key off your unit’s alignment, and each of their four enhancements is God-locked. Devotees of Khorne will find the Talisman of Burning Blood quite a useful enhancement, giving the unit that takes it an additional attack, plus another for each unit it’s destroyed in melee this battle.
And if you don’t have a unit of Cultists, you might want to consider picking some up: the Shipboard Insurrection stratagem lets them open a Hatchway as soon as that unit finishes its move. Clever use of this stratagem can open up all sorts of new tricks, and could be particularly nasty with strong melee units like Possessed.
As for the various legions, there’s some really cool stuff in here. The Alpha Legion can spend 1CP to show off their Sublime Infiltration, which lets a unit make a 6” move when it comes in from strategic reserves. Meanwhile, the Emperor’s Children (whose rules can be found on page 69. Nice.) can take an enhancement to be Stimulated by Pain, which gives the model an extra attack for each wound it’s missing. Or, if you’d prefer to just shrug off incoming damage, your Iron Warriors character can show his Iron Without, increasing his toughness by 2.
The only thing really holding back the CSM rules is that so many of the enhancements and stratagems are mark-locked. If you’re playing Emperor’s Children or otherwise just aren’t bringing all the marks with you, you’re leaving a lot of tricks on the table. That being said, they’ve all got their uses, and the legion rules often do a decent job of pushing your list over the top. Just lean toward taking as many
Your stratagems are solid, if somewhat boring. Transhuman Physiology is here, and it still only works on Primaris units. Steady Advance shows up as well, but it’s changed to let a unit Hold Steady when it takes the Set Overwatch action, allowing them to hit on 5+ in reactive fire. The enhancements are reminiscent of ones in the codex, with some small tweaks to make them fit better here. The Imperium’s Blade doesn’t increase the unit’s strength, but the extra attack is always there, and it adds 1 to charge rolls rather than re-rolling them. Masters of War hands out Objective Secured, but rather than being an aura, it has you choose a core unit within 9” for the buff. As a bonus, if a model in that unit already had ObSec, it now counts as two models. Turns out it’s not just Salamanders who Never Give Up.
As with the traitors, each loyalist chapter gets its own enhancement and stratagem. Our condolences to any Imperial Fists fans here, because the stratagem you get is literally useless: apparently, GW has heard that you like to ignore cover, so they’ve given you a 1CP stratagem to ignore cover, so you can ignore cover with a stratagem while you’re ignoring cover with your chapter tactic. Whoops.
Other than that, though, the rules are pretty cool: Crimson Fists characters can be Steadfast to the End, which prevents them from losing more than 3 wounds in a phase. Iron Hands show their enemies No Clemency, adding +1 to wound enemies below half-strength at the cost of CP. White Scars can move with the Speed of the Hurricane, replacing an Advance roll with an impressive 8” addition to their movement for the turn. And while the Imperial Fists’ stratagem may need a rewrite, their enhancement, Close-Range Punishment is cool as hell: choose a friendly unit within 9”, then add 1 to the strength of all its ranged attacks until the end of the turn.
Taken as a whole, these rules are fine: your chapter’s identity will probably carry through, and the generic stratagems are all perfectly useful, they’re just a little uninspired. Perfect for the Ultramarines, I guess, but you’ll really be leaning on your chapter-specific enhancement and stratagem to sell the fantasy.
The Grey Knights have a couple of Sigil of Urgency is interesting as it lets you move 6” when targeted by a ranged attack, basically acting as the zero-calorie version of the codex’s Sigil of Exigence. If that doesn’t work for you, consider Daemon Slayer, which is just one big middle finger to any Daemons on the other side of the table, since they won’t be allowed to make saving throws of any kind against that Warlord. It’s neat but hyper situational. That said, storm bolters just absolutely mulching Tzeentch Daemons is extraordinarily funny.
As for stratagems, Knightly Communion lets you pick a Core unit to count as if it’s in a character’s aura range, even if it’s on the other side of the board. Very cool in boarding actions, especially in some of the new missions that encourage spreading out even more that previously. Psybolt Ammunition is back, letting your bolt weapons automatically wound on 6s to hit and adding an extra AP to boot. And Strike of Sacred Wrath is a nasty little trick that lets your character make a single attack that doesn’t allow saving throws of any kind.
If I’m honest, these rules probably don’t do a ton to solve a lot of the problems that Grey Knights have, but given the impact of the boarding actions rules, that’s probably fine. And if you run into any Daemons, they’re gonna have a bad time.
The enhancements here will be familiar to any Guard players reading this, as they’re ripped right from the pages of your Codex. Lead by Example lets you live out your Gaunt’s Ghosts fantasies by letting an officer issue itself an order. Meanwhile, the Death Mask of Ollanius offers a 4+ invulnerable save for a command squad. Could be cute on a combat-kitted unit, especially in close confines.
You’ve still got plenty of ways to hose your opponents down with lasfire, with both Volley Fire and Supercharged Las returning from the codex. And if you clenched as hard as Norman did when he read that the first time, have no fear: while Volley Fire is unchanged, Supercharged Las is limited to 3 mortals per use. And if you’re concerned about being able to get those shots off around a full-strength squad of guardsmen, that’s nothing to worry about either thanks to Heads Down!, which lets you ignore a friendly unit for line of sight purposes until the end of your shooting phase.
Of course, if you’re the kind of weirdo who likes to bring Militarum Tempestus units, you might be wondering if they’ve got any tricks up their sleeves. Rejoice! They’ve got a unique enhancement, Uncompromising Prosecution, which gives a unit within 9” an extra point of AP, and a 1CP stratagem, Unwavering Determination, which lets them shoot or charge after falling back.
These rules are pretty damn shooty, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, and they’ll certainly be helpful as you work to squeeze every ounce of firepower possible out of your squads. Combine this useful suite of options with mustering rules that let you field full squads of 10 guardsmen, and these could be a lot of fun on the table.
If anyone knows Might is Right, it’s the Orks, and it’s just as right as it was in the codex, adding 1 to your Warlord’s strength and attacks. Meanwhile, if you take something other than a Warboss, you can make them a Big Boss, which lets them call a Waaaagh!, though you only get Stage 1. A great pick if you’re thinking of bringing a Weirdboy or something.
Stratagem-wise, Leatherhide is the same as the Codex’s Tough as Squig Hide, except it works on all non-Gretchin units, not just Beast Snaggas. If you’re looking for some extra punch in shooting, Dakka Storm lets a unit of Orks score double hits with Dakka weapons, which is mathematically the same as pushing your Boyz to BS 3+, but suffers from the fact that you don’t really have any great guns to use it on. But if you’re really looking for some nasty tricks in Boarding Actions, look at either Tellyporta, which is unchanged from the Codex, or the all-new Pile Through, which lets you count as having charged if you wind up in engagement after a hatchway opens. Pile Through might seem situational, but we’ve definitely seen games where an effect like this could have won the game single-handedly. That said, this is definitely a stratagem you should probably clue your opponent in on before the game starts.
As you’d expect, Orks have plenty of tricks to make their already-potent melee threat that much more frightening in the close confines of Boarding Actions. But it’s honestly the more “utility”-focused abilities that frighten me the most. Take a Warboss with Expert Breacher and keep a CP for Pile Through on a key squad, and you can really press the advantage without having to leave your ass hanging in the wind after you open a door at the end of your movement phase.
The last section of the book includes a new Boarding Actions mission pack, complete with six brand-new missions for you to sink your teeth into. But if you thought the narrative opportunities in the last book’s missions were awesome, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. These missions really lean into the creative aspects of what narrative games can look like, with some really cool results. For starters, each and every one of them is completely asymmetric, from the layout of the terrain and entry zones down to the different ways the players score. Take the first one, Void the Ship, which sees the Attackers moving to open four Airlocks on the other side of the board in an effort to clear the decks by opening them to the void. At the end of the game, the Attackers score for each Airlock that’s open, and the Defenders score for each one that’s closed. There’s a catch, though: once one of them’s opened, it can’t be closed again.
If you want something with a little less symmetry, check out Jailbreak. One of the Attacker’s units starts in the ship’s brig, and the rest of their force gets a chance to try to sneak forward a bit before the alarm goes off. Meanwhile, the Defenders set up in forward positions patrolling the corridor, but their strategic reserves come in from further back as their backup rushes to react to the attempted escape. Points are scored based on how well the escape attempt went: keep the prisoner in the cell, and the Defenders win 90-0. If they manage to break out, you can kill them to win 60-30 or engage them in melee for a close loss at 30-60.
My personal favorite, though, is Power the Generators, which divides the playing space up into two separate decks. The Attackers have to venture below decks and take control of objective markers that stand in for the titular “generators.” For each one they control, one of the objectives back on the upper deck is active to score for that round. The Attacker starts with more units on the board than the Defender, but they’ll have to be smart about where they commit, since leaving any of the lower-deck objectives uncontested is just asking for the Defender to swoop in and switch them off, leaving them unable to score up above. The Attacker scores based on how many times they can pull off this balancing act, but the Defender’s objective is brutally simple: Rout and Crush Them.
All told, the six missions here are very cool, but they definitely don’t offer the sort of symmetric experience you may have come to expect from the GT mission packs and the missions in Abaddon. That being said, they offer you the opportunity to try something different, and if this is a portent of what we’re likely to see in the rest of the Arks of Omen series, we’re pumped to find out what those new missions will look like.
Condit: There’s a lot to love here, and I’m happy to see that the new stuff being added is somewhat restrained compared to what we’re used to seeing. The fact that I can walk into a game with just a two-page spread of faction rules (with maybe one more strat I’ll need to know if I’m playing Marines or CSM) winds up being just enough to put some of the flavor of the different factions back in without overcomplicating things.
I’m also a huge fan of the new mission designs – the fact that Arks of Omen was pitched as a narrative expansion to the game left me somewhat disappointed after seeing all the symmetric missions in Abaddon. That was probably the right way to start out, but seeing that they’re willing to write and release missions for this mode that lean even harder into the narrative side of things from the get-go is really cool.
All in all, if what we’re seeing here is a sign of what’s coming in future installments, I’m super stoked to see what the rest of this series brings. It’s a little annoying that I’ll have to wait a book or two before my Drukhari get this treatment, but having seen the treatment these other factions have gotten, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here.
One final thing I noticed: the streamlined faction rules in this book and the rules in Codex: World Eaters have a similar “weight” to them–they each offer just a page or two of rules you have to keep track of, not only making it easier to keep track of all your rules in the middle of the game, but also all but eliminating the excess upgrades and stratagems that seem like they’re only there to fill out the page. If this is any indication of what we can expect for faction rules in future non-Boarding Actions releases, I’ve gotta say: I’m here for it.
Norman: Overall I’m of two minds when it comes to Arks of Omen: Angron. On one hand its bursting with flavor and some really cool missions. On the other I think it adds too much to what was a nice bite sized game mode with boarding actions. On top of that, the fact that this added complexity is staggered by faction is something I really don’t love. Don’t get me wrong, I like 9th edition and my stratagems and warlord traits, but I liked boarding actions as something you can just pop into and play quickly without looking up stuff. I just don’t think the game mode needs this. That said the missions are fantastic and I look forward to thinking of ways to incorporate them into my local leg of the Vadinax Crusade. I think the book can be thought of as a sauce for your Boarding Actions burger. You don’t need it, but if you’re looking for a bit more punch, you’ll find it here.