Codex Leagues of Votann: The Crusade Rules Review

As always, we follow up our review of the Codex with a look at the book’s Crusade rules. If you missed our detailed review of the book’s rules and datasheets with a focus on matched play, you can find that here

Greg: We’re going to level with you. Don’t use these rules. This isn’t a Crusade army. Your games aren’t going to be fun, for anyone, and you’re not going to have any friends when you roll up to the Narrative Day with a bunch of auto-murdering rail cannons and short kings that cannot die.

Still, our editors are insisting that we cover this part of the book, so let’s just pretend that it’s a good idea to do this. Let’s pretend that anyone bought this army to do anything except to brutalise the GT scene in the weeks between now and the next balance dataslate. Sure, yeah, I bet you got into Votanns because you’ve been waiting 30 years for it. I’m willing to entertain the notion that someone matching that description exists, and they might even be reading this. If that’s you, welcome to the best day of your life. If you’re reading this for any other reason, you’re a terrorist.

The Kin didn’t need to be any more powerful, but if you insist on doing so anyway, come with us and enter the 36 Chambers of Vo-Tann.

Kindred Acquisitions

Leagues of Votann Hearthkyn Warriors

Brothers of the mine rejoice!
Swing, swing, swing with me
Raise your pick and raise your voice!
Sing, sing, sing with me
Down and down into the deep
Who knows what we’ll find beneath?
Credit to Diggy Diggy Hole, Song by Wind Rose – Beanith sorry not sorry.

Well, hopefully you will be finding plenty of Raw Materials, Biomatter, Energy Sources & Galactic Intel. Your Crusade Roster represents the Leagues of Votann, frontiersmen and pioneers searching the galaxy looking to claim precious resources to send back to their Kindred to further expand their territory.

Fundamental Resources

As mentioned, the four Resources you will be collecting after each battle are Raw Materials, Biomatter, Energy Sources, and Galactic Intel, which you will use to gain Kindred Assets. We’ll get into those later, but know that they have various effects (which mostly apply after battles) that improve your roster.

After each battle, assuming your Warlord was a short stout individual, you gain a number of Resources of a single type, with the type determined by rolling a D6:

1 – Raw Resources
2 – Biomatter
3 – Energy Sources
4 – Galactic Intel
5-6 Dealer’s choice

The amount of resources you will end up with depend on the battle size just played.

Combat Patrol – D3 x 10
Incursion – D6 x 10
Strike Force – 2D6 x 10
Onslaught – 3D6 x 10

You can also gain resources using Agendas, Requisitions, and Kindred Assets.

Rare Resources

Trans-Hyperion Alliance Einhyr Champion – Leagues of Votann. Credit: Colin Ward

Rare Resources use the same four basic types – Raw Materials, Biomatter, Energy Sources, Galactic Intel – but these are fancy exotic versions, and very hard to come by. Unless, that is, you’re burning RP on Rare Acquisitions or taking the Priority Acquisition Agenda (both of these will be covered later in this article). They are gained by winning a game and then rolling a D6. On a 6 you then roll on the resource table, and gain one (1) Rare Resource of that type.

These are primarily used to upgrade your Kindred Assets to make them more powerful, but you can also trade in any 1 Rare Resource for 50 Regular Resource units of the same type.

Kindred Assets

And now we get to the point of gathering and managing all of those resources: blowing them all on cool gadgets to make your Crusade roster even more amazing with various Crusade and Upgraded Crusade effects. Five of the eight Kindred Assets make it easier for you to gain more of a particular resource with their Crusade Effects, but can be upgraded to make them even more powerful.

Here are a couple of examples from the eight on offer.

Settle Kindred Colony

For 50 Raw Minerals, 100 Biomatter, and 50 Energy Sources you will gain the following Crusade Effect:

After each battle, you gain an additional D3 x 10 Biomatter

This can then be upgraded by spending a further 100 Biomatter, and 1 Rare Raw Mineral to gain the following Upgraded Crusade Effect:

The Increase Supply Limit Requisition increases your Supply Limit by 10 Power Level rather than the standard 5 Power Level.

Honour Mercenary Contracts

For 50 Raw Minerals, 50 Biomatter, and 50 Galactic Intel, you will gain the following Crusade Effect:

The Fresh Recruits Requisition costs 0 RP to use.

This can then be upgraded by spending a further 50 Raw Material, 50 Galactic Intel, and 1 Rare Biomatter (Rare Biomatter is a completely horrific concept) to gain the following Upgraded Crusade Effect:

After each battle you can remove one Rare Raw Mineral from your record sheet to give any one Votann unit from your Order of Battle a Battle Trait Battle Honour. You can only do this once per unit in this manner.

The Cost of Failure

If by some miracle you manage to lose a game with your Votann (we assume you played against another Votann player), there is a possibility that you may temporarily lose access to a Kindred Asset. If you have 4 or more, and lose, at the end of that game roll a D6. On a roll of a 1 you must randomly select one of your Kindred Assets and mark it as inactive. To reactivate it, you must spend half of the resources you originally spent to acquire that particular Kindred Asset. It’s like being foreclosed on in Monopoly, but in a game that takes even longer to play and somehow has more problems.


Trans-Hyperion Alliance Kahl – Leagues of Votann. Credit: Colin Ward

TL;DR: I have a battle scar and now I’m angry.

Grudges are an extra couple of rules to go along with any Battle Scars you may pick up in the course of your games. You gain a Grudge when your Votann unit is destroyed and fails an Out of Action test after a battle. They now harbour a Grudge against the Crusade Faction that did them dirty.

Beanith: Crusade Factions of course are incredibly broad being IMPERIUM, CHAOS, AELDARI, etc so if a Black Templar pushed your face in, you can quite happily/angrily take that Grudge out on a Sister, a Skitari or a Custode.

At the start of each battle, after deployment, if you have any units holding a Grudge against your opponent’s army, you roll a D6 for each applicable Grudge. For each 6 you can place 1 Grudge token next to any one enemy unit that is on the battlefield. You can (and probably should) place tokens against the same unit. At the other end of the scale, each roll of a 1 loses you a Command point (to a minimum of 0).

Grudge tokens function similarly to the Judgement tokens but only have an effect when your units with a Grudge are attacking units they have a Grudge against.

When your Angry Little Person (COGs don’t get angry, but Ironkyn do) attacks a unit they are pissed off at, based on the number of Grudge tokens they have, they gain the following:

1-2 Grudge tokens: reroll a hit roll of 1
3 tokens: reroll any hit roll

Holding a Grudge comes with a couple of downsides. Units can’t perform an action if they are within 6” of an enemy unit they are currently Grudging at, and they can’t Fall Back if they’re currently engaged with someone who’s face they would dearly love to rearrange.

If your unit of Angry Chaps manages to destroy 3 units whose mere existence offends them in a battle, they will consider the matter sufficiently dealt with and the Grudge against that Crusade Faction is removed from their Crusade card. (Beanith: Don’t destroy 3 units in a single game? No worries)

Beanith: I love the system and I’m looking forward to filling up my Dammaz Kron and then doing my damndest to not actually settle any Grudges that I managed to secure in the first place. I was slightly worried that in order to gain a Grudge you first have to have a unit go Out of Action, because in my experience I either have a Crusade Roster with a dozen battle scars (my Orks) or a Crusade Roster that is unmarred (my Army of Faith). There is a Requisition that you can use to hand out Grudges but I have views on frivolous spending of Requisition.

Greg: The Grudge thing is neat, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, limiting this to Battle Scar Havers would make sure it doesn’t appear often or really matter in games, but on the other hand, letting units sidestep the drawbacks in order to simply Become Grudgeful via Requisition seems like a cop out. It’s probably better that they went this way, on balance, but I do agree with Beanith that actually satisfying your Grudge is a bad idea. I’d much rather keep those tokens around.


Leagues of Votann Khal on Hero Rock. Credit: Jack Hunter

No Effort Wasted is your obligatory tally counting for free XP Agenda. Every time one of your units obliterates a unit that had Judgement tokens on it, that unit gains a No Waste point (or two, if they had three Judgement tokens). Then, at the end of the battle, reduce everyone’s No Waste tally by the number of enemy units with Judgement tokens on them. Your tally is exchanged for XP at a 1:1 rate, up to 3XP per unit. This sounds like free experience, but since your most likely outcomes are “opponent tabled” and “all units they have left are festooned with tokens”, it’s genuinely a coin flip whether this will be good or bad. Best bet is to run up the tally early with a few key units, so that the global penalty is somewhat cancelled out. Since you only score points for one unit, and then lose points on all units, it’s not quite the free XP farm that it first appears to be.

To Settle A Grudge is the other way to use tokens to track a tally and grind out experience. This one is based off of Grudge Tokens instead of Judgement Tokens: every unit that is a Grudge-haver gains a Grudge Settler tally when it annihilates an enemy (two if it was in melee), and exchanges the tally for XP (capped at 3, again). How good this is depends on how Grudge-y your army is. Out of the gate when no one is hella pissed off, it’s not useful, but once you have a bunch of grumpy little boys and girls it could be worth a look. I just kind of love the name and concept of “Grudge Settler” tallies.

Votanns also get two Activity-based Agendas. One normal, and one Psychic.

The psychic one is Ancestral Revelation, where your Grimnyr goes on an ayahuasca trip to commune with nature. He or She can trip out and stare at their hands (whoaaaa, they’re so biiiiig) in your deployment zone, your opponent’s DZ, and the neutral zone. At the end of the battle, depending on how often they received mind-blowing revelations while listening to Tool and smelling like patchouli, they gain 1 XP, 3XP, or 6XP and a Psychic Fortitude. This is probably useful to take like exactly twice for each Grimnyr in your Order of Battle and probably never again.

Your general purpose Activity is Priority Acquisition. Your opponent sets up a bonus objective marker, and your silly little guys and gals (that is, any INFANTRY unit) can go hit it with hammers. If they succeed by the end of your turn, congratulations, agenda achieved, and remove the objective. At the end of the battle, that unit gains 3XP, and if they’re still alive, you get one Rare Resource. If the unit has the SCANNER keyword, you can re-roll the type of Rare Resource, so if ignoring Light Cover wasn’t already a good enough reason to give your Hearthkyn a Pan Spectral Scanner, this might be. The XP is nice, but the real juice here is the resource, and since you only get one shot at it, if you’re taking this it behoves you to hold off on doing the Activity until late game, then immediately move that unit somewhere where it won’t get killed (eg, into the safe warm innards of a Land Fortress).

These are actually fun little Agendas. They interact well with the army mechanics, and (in a rarity for this Codex) nothing is too busted – there’s no incredible XP farming one that doesn’t take a lot of work. The closest thing to an auto-take is the Grimnyr one, and even that assumes you have a Grimnyr. Being limited to the core Fortitudes keeps that one in check, but it also gives enough XP that you can have the diminutive wizard speed-run (waddle, tumble head over heels) over to The Captive Abyss, which is a fun relic that we’ll look at later.


Leagues of Votann Hearthkyn Warriors

Guild Patronage is either a way to quickly power-level a unit, or a late-Crusade resource hog. What do you do when you’ve maxed your Crusade Effects and are still running out of places to pile up resources? Simply throw 50 of them out into the void, which gives a unit 5XP and a free use of the Repair and Recuperate requisition. This is a great resource sink, in the “end-game MMO content treadmill” sense of the phrase, and something I wish we’d see more of: when you hit the end game it’s possible to keep acquiring things and have no way to use them, and this gives you an outlet for that. I guess the other way to look at this is that if you were going to re-spec a unit anyway, drizzle 50 resources on top and get them a sizable chunk of XP while you’re at it. The sole drawback is that you can only use this on each unit one time.

Rare Acquisition is another one that you’ll probably just use after every battle, at least until you’re swimming in loot. Roll a d6. Add 1 if you had a SCANNER unit, and 3 if you won the battle. On a 4+, gain one random Rare Resource, and on a 10 (so, a natural 6 and both bonuses) gain two of them. A hilarious interaction here is that you can win a battle, automatically trade 1 RP for a Rare Resource, then trade that for 50 regular resources, then trade that (via Guild Patronage) for 5XP. It’s a treat every time we see mechanics feed into each other like this (see also the way you could chain planet-conquering bonuses in the T’au Empire book, and knock down like three planets in a row). Even if you aren’t willing to go that far, consider that winning a battle gives you an RP and makes the roll here auto-pass, which effectively means you are getting one random Rare Resource every time you win a game.

Directed Hatred is simple. Pick a unit and a faction, and the former now has a Grudge against the latter. Go ahead and use this right before a battle, to give your best unit a little boost against whoever it is you’re playing. It’s a dick move but also very funny.

We all saw this one coming: A Great Honour is how you upgrade your Carl to a High Carl. It also works on Brokhyrs and Grimnyrs, and will promote them to their respective places on the Votannic Council. You have to use this when they gain the Battle-Hardened, Heroic, or Legendary rank, so don’t miss your chance.

If you want to make your army worse by including non-Votanns in it, there’s Imperial Mercenaries, which is only barely a Votann Requisition. If your army has a Votann Patrol Detachment (it has to be a Patrol) and either an Inquisitor, Astra Cartographica, or Astra Militarum character, your Votanns become AGENTS OF THE IMPERIUM. Soup is back on the menu. Note: it’s not permanent. If you wanted to run your Crusade as a mixed Imperial/Votann army, you’re paying 1RP every single game for the privilege. It’s still a neat twist, but this is clearly intended more for splashing Votanns into an existing Imperial army than it is for the reverse.

Finally, liquify your clumsiest and worst character and have them Returned to the Ancestors. Use this when they’re at least Blooded and gain a battle scar. They drop off your Order of Battle, but you gain d3x10 each of Biomatter and Raw Minerals. In addition, for each Battle Honour they had, you get d3x10 Galactic Intel and every other Votann unit in the OoB gets 1XP. Votanns can’t lose even when they die, it’s nuts.

All of these cost 1RP each.

These rock. Gaining a Grudge by just giving someone a pep talk is great. Melting your dude down and feeding their guts to everyone else to gain their strength (and, uh, some metal, I guess) is powerful as hell. It’s great to see requisitions that both give you resources and also ways to spend those resources.

Battle Traits

Trans-Hyperion Alliance Hernkyn Pioneers – Leagues of Votann. Credit: Colin Ward

Einhyr Hearthguard Units

Hearthguard are pretty durable out of the box. With innate bonuses like -1 to incoming AP, -1 damage, no re-rolling of wound or damage rolls, and a 2+ save, they have basically one weakness: Mortal Wounds. Feel free to paper over that with Ancestral Exo-Armor, giving them a 5+ Feel no Pain save against said mortals. If their damage output is too low, why not pick up Heroes of the League, and make The Might of the Einhyr (it’s the “+1 to hit rolls” stratagem) cost 0CP?

Finally, the most busted one on here, Stalwart Protectors. I hate this so much. The unit, which is basically a Terminator equivalent and can have 10 models, get Bodyguard. The old Bodyguard. The one where a character within 3” of them straight up cannot be targeted for shooting. Considering the footprint of a large unit of Hearthguard, and how hard it is to chew through them while the rest of the Votanns are pulverising your army, a single squad with this upgrade will effectively make all of your characters invulnerable to shooting. This is made extra cool because it’s Crusade, so it’s not getting FAQed. If this were in the Matched Play section, we could expect it to be updated to work like all other Bodyguard-type rules, but alas.

Brokhyr Iron-Master Units

There’s only two: Exceptional Assistant adds 2 Attacks, Wounds, and Leadership to the Brokhyr’s assistant, and Master Salvager lets one vehicle auto-pass its Out of Action test if the Brokyhr was in your army and didn’t die in the battle. Pretty standard, basically what we’re used to seeing from a techmarine-style unit in any codex.

Non-Vehicle Votann Units

We get a full table of traits for everyone who isn’t a vehicle. They’re all pretty good except for War-wrought (see below).

First up we have Stalwart Efficiency which lets the unit treat a unit with one Judgement token as having 3 instead. Note that since this applies to any Votann non-vehicle, there’s no reason you can’t put this on your Hearthkin making for a VERY potent combo. Next we have Stubborn and Unforgiving which gives the unit a full time position at the racism factory, giving them a free use of the Directed Hatred requisition and full hit re-rolls if attacking a unit from a faction you have a grudge against. This is very very very good, especially in a Crusade setting.

Moving away from hatred-based traits, we have Resourceful, which gives you a +10 bonus to a resource if this unit is on the battlefield, and +1 to the Rare Resource roll. This is nice to have, especially since it stacks. On the other side of the usefulness spectrum we have War-wrought which lets you reroll morale and out of action tests. This is the first and only dud on this table.

Closing us out we have Nullyn Cloneskein which gives the unit the ability one attempt to Deny as if they’re a psyker or, if they actually are a psyker already, they get an extra Deny. Solid, if a bit situational. Lastly we have Comrades’ Acclaim which gives them an extra 2XP for each time you mark this unit for Greatness. This is fantastic on a unit you want to rise fast through the ranks.

Hernkyn Pioneers Units

The final single-unit Battle Honours table is for the bikes. Three options and every single one rips.

Advanced Mag-Tech plays to the existing strengths of the unit, giving them +2” to their Move, and making the Accelerated Response (your Advance becomes a flat 12”) stratagem cost 0CP. The other two are both shooting-related: either take Full Throttle Assault and turn your HunTR weapons to Assault weapons (that is, advance and shoot at -1 to hit), or go with Strafing Run and get a once-per-game “fire and fade” ability.

Any of these are good. The bikes are already the fastest ObSec units that anyone has, and being able to move even faster, or move faster and then shoot after doing it, or shoot and then move again, only makes them better at that job. I’m not entirely sure you can’t stack them all, either: move 12” pre-game, then move 14” (your base 12, plus 2), Accelerated Response advance another 12”, go ahead and shoot, then do another 14” move after. Toss those bikes a whopping fifty two inches before your first turn is over, and also still shoot with them. Phenomenal.

Crusade Relics

Trans-Hyperion Alliance – Leagues of Votann. Credit: Colin Ward

Dwarves in all sorts of settings are good at making cool stuff, and the Votann are no exception. The relics here range from bold new methodologies in bigotry to granting the ability to recycle your opponents stuff into crafting materials. It’s all pretty cool.

Forgestar is an upgraded Volkite Disintegrator, giving it the Beam ability and an extra point of AP for your trouble. This is not particularly exciting, to be honest. It’s nice to have but there are way better Artificer-level crusade relics in the core book.

Kahyrm’s Warplate grants the bearer 2 extra wounds. Again a big “meh”. This is running up against Artisan Bionics in the core book and it just doesn’t stack up. Now you could always get both but there’s probably better upgrades to chase.

The Iron Ambassador has a Destiny-ass name, and replaces an Autoch-Pattern Combi Bolter, upgrading it with 6 shots, AP-4, and the ability to ignore invulns. Now we’re talking. This relic not only has a kick ass name, it also fucks.

Kicking off the Antiquity relics section, we have the Recyc Converter. This relic can only be taken on a model with an Ion Blaster, Graviton Rifle, or Volkanite Disintegrator, and allows you to gain Resources based on what you kill. If you vaporise a vehicle you get 20 Raw Minerals, a monster is worth 20 Biomatter, and anything else is 10 Biomatter, along with 20 Energy Sources if the thing you killed had a relic. This is so cool, not only is it simply “bad ass”, it also allows you to interact with the Resource system in a different way.

Next up , Ythur’s Vengeance. This relic upgrades the bearer to the CEO of racism by giving them a grudge against everyone. Apparently Ythur had a special extra-racist spot in his heart for Orks, so you also get to reroll sll wound rolls against them. In addition, if an enemy unit dies to a model with this relic, they suffer -1 to their Out of Action test. Hell yeah, this relic rocks. Not only do you get to basically permanently buff the way you interact with the already hilariously powerful Eye of the Ancestors system, you also get to inflict more battle scars. If I were playing Votann I would be making a beeline straight for this relic.

Then there’s The Captive Abyss. The dwarves made a black hole sentient and taught it how to hate people. That’s the actual lore behind this grenade. Once per game you can throw it, and it does d3 Mortal Wounds to the target per Judgement token, and then (if they aren’t dead) you remove a token. This one is pretty strong on its face, but if a thing has more than one judgement token on it, it’s probably gonna be dead before your character can be within 6” of it. That said, it definitely gets points for flavour.

Beanith: The Vortex Grenade on the other hand is above such petty emotions, it does not judge a unit. It insteads spreads joy to all… including the chump that threw it if they’re particularly unlucky.

Closing us out with a Legendary relic we have this…knife? Torek’s Shard. Once per battle you can raise the knife in the air. When you do, all Votann within 6” get an extra attack (eh) and everything in 18” gets a Judgement token (oh). Yeah, this is pretty good, setting off a Judgement bomb in the middle of your opponent’s army early could single-handedly win you the game, given all the effects that key off of those tokens. This definitely earns its legendary status.

Final Thoughts

Leagues of Votann Einhyr Champion. Credit: Jack Hunter

Greg: Honestly, compared to the all-consuming nuclear firestorm that is the Matched Play rules, this is comparatively tame. It’s still insane to use these rules, because Votanns do not need, and absolutely do not deserve, any additional abilities or buffs, but other than a few outliers these aren’t too obscene. It’s nice to see a campaign-level mechanic that isn’t based around conquering territory, and hoarding minerals and batteries like a grubby little freak is well in keeping with the fiction and the fantasy of Dwarves in Space. This is a well-designed Crusade supplement, and clicks neatly into its slot in the Votann Codex, but it’s not an all-timer. It’s better than merely fine, and might be in the Top 5, but doesn’t quite rise to my Top 3, which remain Orks, Genestealer Cults, and AdMech. It’s a shame that no one will ever open the rulebook to these pages because they’re too busy crushing the top tables at a different RTT every weekend, and doubly so that if anyone does try and run Crusade Votanns, they’re going to be cyberbullied straight to hell.

Beanith: I’m not as down on the small bois as Greg. I’m planning on hooning around on my little Trikes whilst still being very bad at hams even with all the extra help. I’m definitely going to be needing a space wizard as well. I’d say the same for the Land Fortress but I live Downunder and can sense that this hunk of plastic is going to cost an arm and a leg. I love the Grudge mechanic of course and there are some useful Agendas and Req which can be a surprise based on some previous Codexes. Aside from the baying mob outside decrying the endtimes, I’d say this is a pretty solid set of Crusade rules and I’m totally not going to dump my current Crusade army like a hot potato and dive straight into this one… maybe after this campaign round Coda?

Norman: These crusade rules are cool but like greg said, nothing here is really blowing my mind. The grudge system is very cool and very dwarvish, and so is the resource stuff but its nothing too over the top in terms of flavor. I will say it takes some balls to take what might be the best army ability in the game (Judgment Tokens) and make it even stronger. All that sasid, I’m sure I’ll be playing against these rules in a few months when my local crusade campaign starts its next iteration, and I’m looking forward to earning some grudges.

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