Bair’s Warhammer Fest 2023 Review and Reign of Terror

“There will be no apologies for my reign of terror” – Goonhammer Proverb, Greg

And there really won’t be, here, anyways. I went to Warhammer Fest to play Horus Heresy in the Singles on Saturday and Doubles on Sunday. If you play Horus Heresy to any degree then you’re likely familiar with Imperial Fists and more specifically the Stone Gauntlet. If you’re not familiar with the former, they’re yellow space marines and if you’re not familiar with the latter imagine yellow space marines with big shields that are nigh on impossible to kill while hitting you back reasonably hard.

It’s very good.

The Format

Run across three days was the narrative event tying into a larger campaign that’s been running at Warhammer World events. Saturday was 3,000 points per player Singles in your “standard” games of Horus Heresy using missions straight out the rulebook for head-on-head fighting and Sunday was a Two Headed Giant sort of Doubles format; each player brought a 1500 point standard force org army with 1 Warlord per side, the normal number of reactions you’d have if you were playing on your own, etc etc etc.

The event ran pretty smoothly, all things considered, but could have gone better as well. Jamie who was running it was an absolute champ and did more than what he probably should’ve been able to running it all on his own. The only things missing here were briefings on what the narrative actually was (I’m still not sure) and an easier way to tell us which mission/deployment we were playing other than needing to pass the info down the tables to each other.

What I really did like about the setup was 4 hours allowed for each game, making it nice and easy to get through a full game even with some chatting and niceties without feeling rushed, and only have 2 games in a day. All of my opponents were great and all things considered each game was actually very close in the end, coming down to a few key rolls and decisions.

My Fists

Stone Gauntlet
Legiones Astartes
3,000

Praetor in Terminator Armour
Tartaros terminator armour, Solarite power gauntlet, Vigil storm shield
Retinue Squad
 • 4 Chosen + Banner
4× Vigil storm-shield, 2× chainfist, 3× Solarite gauntlet
 • Land Raider Proteus
hull-mounted twin-linked lascannon
Huscarl Squad
Huscarl-master (Solarite power gauntlet), 4 Huscarls, 3× Solarite power gauntlet, power axe

Phalanx Warder Squad
Warder Sergeant (thunder hammer, artificer armour), 9 Phalanx Warders, 2× solarite gauntlet, nuncio-vox, legion vexilla
 • Rhino
dozer blade

Phalanx Warder Squad
Warder Sergeant (solarite power gauntlet, artificer armour), 9 Phalanx Warders, 2× solarite gauntlet, nuncio-vox, legion vexilla
 • Rhino
dozer blade

Apothecarion Detachment
 • Apothecary
artificer armour
 • Apothecary
artificer armour

Land Raider Spartan
pintle-mounted heavy bolter, flare shield

Leviathan Pattern Siege Dreadnought
cyclonic melta lance, two hull-pointed Illiastus assault cannons, phosphex discharger

Rogal Dorn, The Praetorian

I don’t play Heresy too too often, and so when I get the chance to field a Primarch I’m going to. I toyed with the idea of swapping Dorn out for my newly painted Cerberus instead but decided on the Praetorian in the end.

When going to an event that’s marked as “narrative” it’s incredibly hard to gauge just how “strong” to tune up your list. Stone Gauntlet is very good, it’s not a secret by any means, and so I didn’t want to field numerous Contemptors alongside of it because that really would lead to some extremely one-sided games almost regardless of what my opponents might bring.

If you’re not familiar with Stone Gauntlet, what it does:

  • Makes Phalanx Warders Troops, must fill compulsory slots with Phalanx Warders and they gain Heart of the Legion and Line (this is very good)
  • Gives models with boarding shields when close together re-rolling invulnerable saves (this is even better)
  • Cannot deepstrike or flank assault etc (this is absolutely fine)

Phalanx Warders as a unit when bunched up together touching bases also improve their invuln to a 4+ which they then get to re-roll thanks to the Rite of War. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if they were forced to make their 3+ saves against things like bolters but that’s not the case! This is a block of marines that have 1 wound each but get a 4+ re-rolling save against all attacks, followed by the 5+ Feel No Pain from Apothecary that joins the unit (which is increased to a 4+ on objectives thanks to gaining Heart of the Legion).

As before: it’s very good.

Otherwise, it’s some terminators with storm shields for 3++ invulnerable saves, lots of solarite gauntlets which are effectively S10 AP1 power fists for an extra 5 points, a Leviathan dreadnought with some legion-specific assault cannons built in and a melta for some anti-tank (never actually fired at a tank) and transports for the whole army. And Dorn, of course, who makes all characters in the army LD10 and gives army-wide +1 combat resolution too.

Day 1 Games

Game 1

First game of day 1 was against Word Bearers loaded up with 2 twin storm cannon leviathans, 10 Gal Vorbak, Praetor with large artificer command squad with mostly twin lightning claws, a recon squad, some tactical marines and a Mara Ghal. Lots of threats, a decent amount of shooting, and the Mara Ghal is always terrifying on the table!

This shot moments before disaster…a very heroic command squad of terminators charges the Mara Ghal and…..immediately is wiped out. Losing 4 terminators to attacks, dealing just 1 wound back to it, and rolling an 11…and immediately swept off the board. Not exactly how I wanted that to go.

A turn later Phalanx Warders stare down the enemy command squad and tactical marines, after a few rounds of combat the Word Bearer threat is whittled down and destroyed, but not without heavy Fist losses.

Dorn heroically dispatched the Gal Vorbak on his own (with help from more Phalanx Warders, I guess) and in the end neither of us scored any primary mission points, leaving the Loyalists with victory for slaying the enemy Warlord.

Game 2

After an OK lunch of mince beef with veggies and rice in a (I believe) Vietnamese style with some chili sauce that cost £10 (far too much for lunch outside of London) we were back for game 2. This time up against the Sons of Horus lead by the Warmaster himself! The enemy fielded 4 Contemptor Dreadnoughts (2 with melta+claw, 1 double plasma cannon, 1 double autocannon) with 5 Justaerin (inside the Land Raider there), and a block of 10 Tartaros. Horus was placed into deepstrike reserve on his own, which definitely got him where he wanted to be.

The Warmaster joined the fight in the second turn, charging Dorn and his Huscarls along with his Justaerin retinue. But as you can see, not many of the terminators on either side lasted long in that fight! Horus declared a Challenge and the Huscarl-master accepted valiantly, leaving Dorn to deal with Horus’ honour guard. That Huscarl-master did well, defending against blow after blow from Horus, surviving an entire 2 rounds of combat before being felled and even dealing a blow to the Warmaster in return. After the Huscarls were removed The Fists watched on as Dorn swung the killing blow against Horus.

Day 2 Games

Day 2 is Doubles day! This means 1500 point lists; I teamed up with Dan and his Dark Angels running a Pride of the Legion lead by Corswain with  Cenobium Knights, Deathwing Companions, Interemptors, a tactical squad, and just like me: all transports. For my list, see the above but remove: Leviathan, Spartan, Huscarls, and Dorn. That’s it, that drops 1500 points in just 7 models.

Between my virtually unkillable units and his hard-hitting knights, this was a force to be reckoned with. Interemptors are just terrifying once they get into range: plasma flamers that can just about remove any infantry unit in the game (except for Phalanx Warders, of course).

Game 1

More Word Bearers! This time lead by Erebus and Argel Tal. Leading 10 Gal Vorbak, 10 support marines wielding specialist Word Bearer plasma guns, a few tactical squads, a Contemptor with lascannon and claw, Leviathan with storm cannon and claw, and yet another Mara Ghal dreadnought. We honestly weren’t sure how to deploy against this foe and with their dreads on the front lines we didn’t want to get stuck into combats our units didn’t want to be in.

My Phalanx Warders disembarked turn 1 (not so much by choice after 1 Rhino was destroyed and the other Immobilised) forming a shield wall to take the brunt of the dreadnought charges while the brave Dark Angels could advance up the table.

And oh many did they take those charges like champions. The closer unit there was bogged down by the Mara Ghal until my ally’s Cenobium Knights were able to swing in and take down the filth of chaos swiftly and deftly.

This was actually an incredibly close game, and if we hadn’t managed to just barely kill off the last of the Word Bearers in turn 6 with some lucky long-bomb charges and a hell of an attack from Interemptors it actually would have been an even 10-10 tie.

Game 2

Lunch today was a quick pop out to Greggs which was nearly next to the venue, far more reasonable and there was no issue or queue to get back into the venue at all either; wish I’d done this the day before!

This was maybe the best game of the weekend. Up against Night Lords and Mechanicum for our last game. You may be looking at that and wondering where all the Night Lords were? Well that’s what they love to do, hide. There’s some tactical marines behind the piece of terrain right at the back, and then a block of Night Raptors up in reserve with a Terror Squad outflanking on our rear edge. The Mechanicum brought the big guns with a plasma mortar Thanatar, paragon of metal Domitar, unit of Castellax bodyguard for their HQ and a few small units of Thallax in deepstrike with the Night Raptors.

There were just a lot of back and forth moments throughout this game, with some very lucky rolls on both sides and some extraordinarily unlucky ones as well, maybe a few too many 1’s from a certain Mechanicum player at times (if you were to believe the Night Lords, anyways…).

There were charges, counter charges, shooting, challenges, unlucky scatter rolls, etc etc you just about name something wonky that could have happened in a game and it probably came up in this one.

A true bloodbath that ended in a very, very narrow victory to the Imperial Fists and Dark Angels.

Day 3

That was all of the Horus Heresy gaming that I was involved in. When I bought tickets as soon as they were available I decided against the epic battle on the Monday, hoping to steal some time away and grab an empty table for something else: Titanicus.

Manchester 2023 was the first time that all 3 of the the Warlord Wednesday crew were all in the same city (or even country) at the same time, and we absolutely had to make good use of it. Condit brought over his corrupted titans and I took up my Gryphonicus for a truly titanic game.

1750 points of Gryphonicus vs Vulpa action. Two very melee focused forces facing up against each other. And there were charges!

So, so, many charges.

But thankfully, this charge didn’t happen, and the enemy Vulpa engine was brought down before it could destroy Bellator Magno.

Instead, that scampy little Reaver in the back, notably without a single melee weapon attached, charged into the back of my Warlord and destroyed it in one go; rear armour with disruption emitters is a hell of a thing!

One of the best games of Titanicus I’ve been able to play with some of the absolute best interactions that could have happened with magazine detonations, catastrophic meltdowns, and incredibly (un)lucky rolls all around. One of the best moments was my own Reaver charging a Vulpa Reaver, destroying it in the ensuing combat phase, but ending in a Silenced result leaving the Vulpa engine there, in the way. The next turn, that same Gryphonicus Reaver attempted to push its reactor, its machine spirit wakes up and decides “hey, I actually want to shoot the dead titan in front of us!” which makes it fall over…right on top of my Reaver. It dealt 2 Critical Hits to its legs leaving it effectively out of the game on the edge of the table.

This is the best game.

Play Titanicus.

Warhammer Fest Itself

All in all I had a good time this weekend but really that was because I was busy gaming all day Saturday and Sunday and knew a lot of people there to hang out with. They had supposedly about 13,000 people attend on Saturday, 6,000 on Sunday, and then just 3,000 on Monday. I was very happy that I was around on Monday to be able to see the stands and store because I wasn’t able to join the 3-4 hour long queues in between my games before that. I had hoped to be able and demo 10th edition 40k but by the time Monday came around there was still a sizable queue for the 4 demo tables and I was pretty beat.

I chatted with the team at the Cubicle 7 table, I’ve dipped my toe into RPG’s very briefly in the past and have played some Soulbound so it was cool to see what else they had and to hear about their new 40k RPG too.

As part of signing up for the events I did receive a £10 voucher to spend at the Fest store (but not any time after, or online for GW product) and didn’t end up using it due to trying to avoid the queue on the first day and nothing that I was after being in stock afterwards.

I was glad to have gone to Warhammer Fest, but again my enjoyment largely came from gaming and meeting up with friends – things that don’t necessarily have to happen just because of Warhammer Fest or really any large event. If I was just going as a punter, even with a couple friends, I’d have gotten bored pretty quick with very few things to actually do and needing to wait in queues for literal hours (on Saturday especially) to do any of them. This was the first Warhammer Fest since before Covid and I’m hoping that mistakes from this one are learnt and that the next one is scaled up more appropriately for the number of people attending.

Lastly, I absolutely had to have a photo as an angry Imperial Fist after playing 4 games with them the last couple days!

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.