Horus Heresy: Building Rites of War (Generic)

Welcome back to our ongoing series for aspiring Praetors. In the first of a new miniseries we’re building on the list building concepts outlined in our Horus Heresy Tactica articles and getting to the details.

Today we’ll be looking at each of the Rites of War available to all Legions and giving recommendations on what you should buy (or convert) to get up and running with them, what are some good additions, and also which Legions work particularly well with them and what of their units you should consider bringing along.

Not every army has to use a rite of war, of course, but each one represents a flavourful archetype of an army and it can be easier to work out what you’re planning towards with a set theme. Building your first army to a specific Rite of War can be easier and sometimes (though definitely not always) cheaper.

Legion Recon Company

Recon Squad

Pick this if: You love sneaking around, scouts and infiltrators

Strengths: No tax on troops before you get to your Recon and Scout squads; the limitation on Heavy is an odd one and means you can bring a lot of surprisingly “heavy” stuff with you – you can make this a pretty impressive armoured list. You can also run this as a great allied detachment to complement a force with all that heavy stuff in it.

Weaknesses: No Cataphractii, no Breachers, no Heavy Support Squads, no Leviathan Dreadnoughts starting on the table (which means probably you don’t want to bother)

You should definitely buy:

  • 20-30 recon marines. You can buy the expensive Forge World resin recon marines, but honestly you can mostly portray that a unit is a recon marine with a paint scheme choice. For nemesis bolters consider making some homemade silencers out of tubing on the end of a normal bolter plus a scope taken from another kit.
  • Some Scouts. They’re not Line so can’t be the core of an army but you probably want some. And of course if you go scouts then you can just use the plastic kit, but beware bringing an army mostly rocking 4+ saves.
  • 1-2 Contemptor Dreadnoughts. Since they’re not heavy you can bring them along with the rest of your army and they’ll add some serious punch
  • 10 Tartaros Terminators. Either with 5 as a command squad for a Praetor and 5 on their own both in Land Raiders (not heavy for some reason) as a nice fist punch down the table, or ten in with some HQs in a Spartan (also not heavy for some reason
  • Some heavy support that’s not heavy. 3 Predators in a squadron with lascannon sponsons and a melta cannon on top is a decent shout. Sicarans are also not heavy for reasons unknown.

Good legions for this rite are:

  • White Scars. That extra movement makes everything faster and that can really improve your chances with this kind of force.
  • Death Guard. Give all those recons nemesis bolters and have them run and gun anyway. Filthy in several ways.
  • Alpha Legion. That -2″ distance modified works with the recon marines innate reduction so they’re even hard to get in range. Headhunters are also a decent addition, though Lernaeans are heavy and so a problem.

Maybe give it a second thought if you’re playing:

  • Raven Guard. Seems counterintuitive, but the RG don’t need Recon Marines to sneak around – it’s a bit of a waste.

Angel’s Wrath

Blood Angels Storm Eagle. Credit: Jack Hunter

Pick this if: You love big flying bricks

Strengths: You can bring all your Storm Eagles on first turn guaranteed!

Weaknesses: Your army basically has to be made up of Storm Eagles and they kind of suck!

You should definitely buy:

  • Like a couple of Storm Eagles minimum, probably 3 or 4. It’s hard to soften this blow: they’re expensive bricks of resin and you need a bunch because that’s the only thing you’re getting onto the table turn one other than… dreadnoughts?
  • Just a bucket of Dreadnoughts. They’re not infantry so they don’t have to be in a Storm Eagle and they’re not vehicles so they’re not banned for not flying so uh… loophole? I guess. You probably want 3 Contemptors and 2 Leviathans minimum, which is already pushing you into the territory of being kind of a dick. But how else this is supposed to work is a mystery
  • Stuff to go in the Storm Eagles. Your troop choices (so that’s 2 Storm Eagles at least) and then maybe your Praetor and command squad (another Storm Eagle)? Probably some kind of support squad

Good legions for this rite are:

  • Iron Warriors. Those Dreadnoughts need to be carrying the day so giving them a buff against vehicles can help them get rid of the opposition.
  • Iron Hands. Those Dreadnoughts need to stay alive (as does everything else, and everything else is very fragile) so that bonus helps a lot.
  • Word Bearers. At least this way everyone can have a good time watching your Storm Eagles immediately get shot out of the sky.

Maybe be really sure you want to go for it if you’re playing:

  • A game on a budget

Sky-Hunter Phalanx

Blood Angels Jetbikes. Credit: Jack Hunter

Pick this if: You really love jet bikes and also have a lot of money to spend on jet bikes.

Strengths: Fast and can hit hard, plus you get probably the coolest looking army in the game.

Weaknesses: Comparatively fragile, can struggle to take on some of the mainstays of the current game (dreadnoughts, mostly) and also it will force you to sell some organs. You don’t get to bring any dreadnoughts.

You should definitely buy:

  • Jet Bikes. So many Jet Bikes. They’re the core of your army, they’re why you play the Rite of War, and they are so beautiful. But they’re also resin and eye-wateringly expensive. You probably want at least 12 for a full Sky-Hunter list, probably more like 18, plus some for a command squad for your Praetor. If Games Workshop drop an unexpected Jet Bike box soon then this advice becomes easier to follow, otherwise consider kitbashing some together. It’s not an easy job but the Custodes Jetbikes can be a cool basis for some legions (I’ve seen great conversions for Emperor’s Children and Raven Guard in particular).
  • Land Speeders. You can take the Proteus as a Troop choice (and since you can use the plastic kit it’s the cheaper of the two) but the Javelin is just much better in the game and (in my opinion) looks a lot cooler. You probably want 2-3 speeders at least, and you might want to go as high as 6-9 of them.

Good legions for this rite are:

  • White Scar…. kind of. It’s iconic, but they have their own Rite of War for it. Same with Dark Angels actually. White Scars can bring their cool speeders and bikes though.
  • Alpha Legion. Look, being 2″ further away is really good, and with jet bikes it lets you really control the board in unexpected ways.
  • Iron Hands. The extra toughness really really helps this list. It’s a great combination.

Maybe be really sure you want to go for it if you’re playing:

  • Night Lords. It’s a real shame because it’s super fluffy, but bikes don’t count for extra bodies for Night Lords so outnumbering becomes really difficult with them.
  • World Eaters. Going fast and then hitting things with swords sounds really fun but outside of a command squad you’re going to find there aren’t many opportunities to do it with jet bikes. Probably best to give it a miss.
  • Blood Angels. For all the same reasons really, despite this army looking amazing in their colours.

Drop Pod Assault

Credit: Chris ‘whiteshark12’ Cowie

Pick this if: You have extremely nostalgic feelings about Dawn of War.

Strengths: You get to throw your entire army down onto the table from deep strike all at once in a way that can be incredible overwhelming to deal with for many armies.

Weaknesses: You’re very limited by what can go in drop pods, and the claw pods are pretty bad in a lot of ways so you want to stick to the standard legion pods as much as possible.

You should definitely buy:

  • A lot of drop pods. You probably want at least 5 of the standard plastic one, and then 3 Dreadnought Drop Pods (maybe more)
  • Marines to go inside the drop pods. That probably means more power armour than anything else – and remember charging out of pods isn’t a thing (they don’t have assault vehicle) so you want close range shooting. Lots of melta, flamers, plasma, that kind of thing. Legion Support Squads, Legion Tactical Squads, and other squads like this.
  • Dreadnoughts to go inside the drop pods. You probably want at least one leviathan, maybe two, and then you want at least a couple of contemptors. You’re wavering on the edge of Too Many Dreadnoughts past this, but equally it’s one of the few things you can pick so people won’t hold it against you too much

Good legions for this rite are:

  • Death Guard. Now you can put heavy support squads in those pods and not be firing snap shots as you get out. Great stuff. No you can’t! It’s literally the example in the rules text! Thanks to the comments for pointing this out.
  • Salamanders. If you’re in range of them with your short range nasty shooting like melta and plasma, that means they’re in range of you and so can shoot you with that stuff too. Having a bit of a resilience to it helps.
  • Dark Angels. Putting Interemptors in drop pods is absolutely revolting and I respect it hugely.

Maybe be really sure you want to go for it if you’re playing:

  • World Eaters. Sorry lads, but the pods aren’t assault vehicles, so you’d have to stand around for a turn before getting stuck in and no one wants that.
  • Blood Angels. Look you’re going to get lumped in with the World Eaters if you keep up the cannibalism, what can I say.
  • Night Lords. Being limited to pods means the chances of any squad outnumbering their foes is low. However this is a bit mitigated by all the pinning the drop itself puts out, so this is only a soft “don’t bother playing.

Pride of the Legion

Word Bearers Cataphractii Terminator Squad – Credit: RichyP

Pick this if: You want a super elite force that’s cheap and easy to get up and running with.

Strengths: Very strong infantry, lots of terminators, easy to collect and get to the table.

Weaknesses: Limited Heavy Support and Fast Attack choices and you can’t bring an allied detachment.

You should definitely buy:

  • Terminators. Lots of em. You definitely want at least two units of either Tartaros or Cataphractii as your compulsory Troops, and then you want to seriously consider some Indomitus Terminators to fill out the rest of your slots. If you don’t completely fill them out, then…
  • Veterans. If you want a few more bodies on the table, then veterans are the way forward in Pride of the Legion.
  • Transports for them. Probably Land Raider Carriers and maybe a Spartan – assault vehicles with some serious firepower. You want to avoid Rhinos or anything else without assault vehicles.

Good legions for this rite are:

  • Dark Angels. Fancy lads in fancy armour with fancy weapons? Of course. Cenobium are a hell of an extra bump for them too.
  • World Eaters. Finally your time to shine! Most of your stuff is going to be good in combat and want to get there fast and World Eaters will be brutal when they hit.
  • Blood Angels. Again, a great choice! You have some pretty nice terminators and also you have a core buff to really make them good.
  • Emperor’s Children. You want your great combat guys to go first? EC has it for you.
  • Thousand Sons. Make all those incredibly elite troops also psychic? Don’t mind if I do.

Maybe be really sure you want to go for it if you’re playing:

  • An army you want to pack with predators, sicarans, jet bikes or speeders. That’s basically it.

Underworld Assault

Terrax-pattern Termite Assault Drill
Terrax-pattern Termite Assault Drill
-Credit: Pendulin

Pick this if: You want to do drop pods, but from the other direction.

Strengths: Lots of coordinated and reliable deep strike that also allows you to bring a decent flexible amount of other units.

Weaknesses: Non-bulky infantry must be in a drill, and you need to a spend a decent number of points on those drills.

You should definitely buy:

  • Drills. Obviously. You’ll need a 3-5 to get started realistically.
  • Stuff to go into the drills. Probably some breachers (expensive from FW or you can kitbash them with third party bits) or tactical marines, maybe some tactical support squads
  • Terminators in Dedicated Transport and Dreadnoughts. If you can’t bring other non-bulky infantry that means you need bulky infantry and non-infantry starting on the table. Terminators in Land Raiders (or Spartans) and Dreadnoughts are the best option here.

Good legions for this rite are:

  • Iron Hands. Gives your non-drilling units a little more resilience, and helps the drills keep trucking. Also you have great stuff to go inside those drills.
  • Ultramarines. Similar but you can use your on-table stuff to get +1 to hit and then the stuff in the drills to do serious damage. Plus you have a fluffy shield using unit that’s also amazing (and one that’s merely very good).

Maybe give it a second thought if you’re playing:

  • On a budget. Those drills are expensive.

Armoured Spearhead

White Scars Land Raider

Pick this if: You really like tanks.

Strengths: Lots of vehicles means creating a skew list is pretty easy, but it’s probably the most forgiving of the skew lists so people won’t be too angry about it.

Weaknesses: If you run into some serious anti-tank or you get swarmed you’re going to struggle to actually get places and do things.

You should definitely buy:

  • Predators. Probably at least 6 or 7 (two squadrons of 3 and then one for your Master of Armour to lead the army). You want to diversify their weapon loadouts a bit more than you would in a normal army, instead of just focusing on anti-tank stuff you probably want to bring some decent anti-infantry shooting as well as you’ll need to clear tactical squads off objectives and so on.
  • Sicarans. The other option for tank, probably 2 – 4 of them will be enough. They’re harder to use well in squadrons and they also can’t be diversified in loadout as flexibly.
  • Two tactical squads in rhinos. Maybe three – you need some Line as this Rite of War doesn’t give your vehicles line. So having a few rhinos full of guys you can rush up the field and part on objectives to score is very important.

Good legions for this rite are:

  • Salamanders. Vehicles are very vulnerable to melta in particular, so reducing the strength of that will really help. Edit: as many if you pointed out, I got this wrong! The Salamanders trait does nothing for vehicles other than the It Will Not Die, which frankly sucks.
  • Ultramarines. You can use light weaponry to get a buff to your heavier shooting, which massively improves the value of your predators.
  • White Scars. Make the armoured list faster? Yes absolutely, do that.
  • Death Guard. You can move and shoot without penalties and that’s great.

Maybe don’t bother if you’re playing:

  • Thousand Sons. Without anywhere to put your psychic stuff and few characters you’re going to find this doesn’t get on well with your legion.
  • Raven Guard. All your coolest stuff is about infantry, and this is a rite of war about not taking infantry.

Brethren of Iron

Mechanicum Mechanicus Thallax
Mechanicum Mechanicus Thallax. Credit: Magos Sockbert

Pick this if: You want to bring some big stompy robots in with your marines and your legion doesn’t have good relations with the Mechanicum.

Strengths: Robots are a fun time, but ultimately nothing you can take with this is better than stuff you can take just as a marine player. I guess you get some novel shooting?

Weaknesses: Robots are not… smart. But there aren’t really many downsides here. You’re likely to have fewer units that can react than your opponent.

You should definitely buy:

  • A forge lord. You have to take one and also they let you bring Thallax that do get the benefits of your legion special rule (the robots you get from this rite don’t)
  • Thallax. Seems odd to recommend when it’s not something you actually get from this Rite of War, but they’re the best Line option for Mechanicum and the Forge Lord you have to take grants access, so two units of 6 is a strong choice.
  • Domitar and a Thanatar. This is why you’re taking this rite – all the other options you can pick up with a consularis pick. So you should bring 2-3 Domitar and a Thanatar for some serious punch.

Good legions for this rite are:

  • Iron Warriors. Fluffy, and Thallax with the bonus against vehicles are nasty. It also buffs your other shooting.
  • Iron Hands. Makes all your legion troops (including the Thallax but not the other robots) tougher which is great.

Maybe don’t bother if you’re playing:

  • With enough stuff to just run a Mechanicum army. You’ll get more use out of most of this stuff if you just run them instead, or in an allied slot.

Fury of the Ancients

Alpha Legion Contemptor Dreadnought. Credit: Lupe

Pick this if: You want to lose friends and alienate people.

Strengths: Yes.

Weaknesses: No?

You should definitely buy:

  • 7+ Contemptor Dreadnoughts. Yes this is a lunatic number of dreadnoughts. But you want at least two full slots of 3 as compulsory troops to get line, and you need at least one for your warlord, so seven is really the minimum
  • Leviathans and Deredeos. You should load up on other Dreadnoughts because there are some serious limits on what else you can bring.
  • Apology gifts for your opponent. This is honestly the nastiest kind of list in the entire game and you should not play it unless everyone is aware in advance and understands the implications. It is a mean thing to do to someone.

Good legions for this rite are:

  • Iron Hands. Holy smokes with Iron Hands this is just a horrifying list. I cannot begin to express it.
  • Salamanders. You know what some of the only things dreads worry about are? Melta and Plasma. Well not anymore.
  • Blood Angels. You get some cool flying dreadnoughts for your Fast Attack slots!
  • Thousand Sons. Psychic Dreadnoughts? Well OK then.
  • Word Bearers. Big gribbly demon dreadnoughts? Now that’s a party.

Maybe don’t bother if you’re playing:

  • With someone you want to play with again in the future.


Building a Rite of War can be a great way to save some money and get to the table quickly (like with Pride of the Legion), a great way to save some money get to the table quickly once and never again (like with Fury of the Ancients), a great way to ruin your finances (like with Sky-Hunter Phalanx), or a great way to never want to touch a model kit again (like with Angel’s Wrath). All of them are flavourful, and hopefully this guide has helped show you how to get there. Next time we’ll be tackling the Loyalist Legion Rites of War. Comments or thoughts? Write them below or email contact@goonhammer.com.