This week, out of nowhere, Warhammer Community dropped a standalone campaign back for the Horus Heresy – The Battle of Pluto: Hydra’s Devastation. Contained within it was a new unit, the Imperial Fist Legion Huscarls.
A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one! We’ve cracked it open and taken a look.
The concept of an Exemplary Battle will be familiar to anyone who has read a Horus Heresy “Black Book” where a Legion is detailed. They are descriptions of particularly notable engagements for Legions, and are very evocative; I think every Salamanders player who sees a Terrax Assault Drill instantly thinks of the Assault of the Tempest Galleries from Book Two! There have been Exemplary Battles involving Orks and World Eaters, the Iron Hands and Emperor’s Children working together, and where the Night Lords skinned their way across a world.
Hydra’s Devastation sets out, in a 12 page supplement, part of the Battle of Pluto from the Praetorian of Dorn novel (spoilers ahead!). One of the opening engagements of the Siege of Terra, it was a strike by the perfidious Alpha Legion into the outer reaches of the Sol System, using a fleet which drifted “cold” for several weeks to fox the VII Legion long-range scans until they were close enough to make a hard burn for Pluto.
Heralded by a series of characteristic infiltration strikes and disruptive sabotages, the Alpha Legion made for a number of the Plutonian orbital stations to cause maximum disruption ahead of Horus’ arrival. While the XX had initial success, driving back Sigismund through clever use of fire ships, ultimately the intervention of Rogal Dorn, aboard the Phalanx, halted the Hydra. The Alpha Legion were blunted, with their Primarch supposedly slain by the Praetorian.
In this campaign supplement, you can recreate a number of Legendary Missions in the battle for one of the key astropathic stations orbiting Pluto during this conflict – the aptly named Hydra, where Alpharius met his end. The battle for Hydra was a savage Zone Mortalis conflict with a series of attacks and counter-attacks by both the Loyalists and Traitors, which is set out in the supplement.
The missions look fun and thematic; I have not had a chance to test them yet, but they will definitely be something I look to play out with some friends now that we are able to meet and game again. The idea of Rogal Dorn fighting Alpharius in a confined Zone Mortalis is awesome!
The Huscarls are a unit for the VII which have received a lot of attention in the Black Library novels, particularly the Praetorian of Dorn novel and the Siege of Terra book series. They are intended to be the bulwark on which the enemy breaks, and an “irresistible battering ram” on the offensive.
I, personally, have used a squad very similar to this concept with my Mountainfire Company, an older army which I put together in my first proper foray into airbrushing:
These were 10 Terminators mostly armed with Vigil Pattern Storm Shields and a pair of Assault Cannons. I greatly enjoyed using them, and they certainly were the rock on which my opponents would break!
On the tabletop, Huscarls are 275 pts for 5 Cataphractii-armoured infantry with Power weapons, WS 5, Vigil Pattern Storm Shields, and Teleportation Transponders. They have Stubborn, Implacable Advance and two special rules – Shield Wall and Favoured of Dorn.
The latter rule allows a Huscarl Squad to be swapped out for a Legion Command Squad to accompany an HQ, or Rogal Dorn himself (which is thematic!)
The former rule is good fun – if there are at least 3 Huscarls remaining in the unit, then the Huscarls and all friendly models and characters who join them get +1 WS on any turn they get charged. That is evocative and really captures the vibe of a wall of ceramite and steel; the squad as a walking fortress. If you have a Praetor or similar with them, the boost to WS in Challenges or similar will be extremely helpful as well.
Huscarls are then +40 pts each, and they can take a Grenade harness on the Warden, and then any Huscarl can take a Solarite power gauntlet for +10 pts – so S 8 AP 1 Master Crafted (!) attacks. This will add up points wise, but you definitely should take some to deal with walkers.
Point for point, these come out quite well. A similarly kitted squad is 240 pts base, so you are paying a slight premium for a decent suite of special rules. The fact they are Cataphractii is fluffy, but objectively worse than their Tartaros-armoured brethren, who can get the 3++ from the Storm shields while being able to run and sweep. They’re also described in Praetorian of Dorn as wearing Indomitus pattern armour (your standard 40k Terminator’s get up). I doubt any of this will put off modellers, however!
I can’t wait to see what people come up with for Huscarls on the tabletop, and I look forward to seeing Dorn with a squad of 10 aboard the Aetos Dios when someone is mad enough to model that.
(Thanks to @meddersminiatures for some handy analysis on the Huscarls!)
Some thoughts from the Mechanicum – Magos Sockbert’s experience
I managed to play a couple of the scenarios so far, and as my Magos Reductor has been hopelessly compromised by the Alpha Legion, I took the opportunity to play the XXth Legion good guys. A Spear in the Void, the first scenario, is a fairly standard Zone Mortalis mission, with the attacking Alpha Legion’s goal to break through to the defender’s board edge, representing them making their first forays onto the Hydra. I did roll my eyes a little seeing an Alpha Legion force attacking a station called the Hydra, and also at the Imperial Fists not seeing it coming, but we’ll roll with it. The mission itself is particularly brutal; we played on a 4’x4′ board, meaning my attackers had to travel full distance almost every turn just to make it to the opposite deployment zone to score. I lost, largely because the VIIth Legion managed to tie up a couple of key units; the Fists held the line, as they are so often wont to do.
Mission two, Maelstrom of Carnage, is a bit of a disappointment, largely being the same ‘get to the other side of the board in a Zone Mortalis’ scenario as the first, so we skipped over that, and I recommend you do the same. There’s nothing in this scenario you didn’t get from the first, other than a different deployment map.
The third mission, Nucleus of Destruction, is where it gets really spicy. Here you play out the climactic duel between the noble Alpharius and dastardly Rogal Dorn. The goal here is to slay the enemy primarch; that’s really it. Your Primarch and their retinue are deployed in the centre of the table, with the other elements of your force deployed opposite each other. We decided that Alpharius was acompanied by a Myrmidon Secutor bodyguard against Dorn and his Huscarls. I strongly, strongly recommend you start the game with both units already in combat; the easiest way to win is to unleash your army’s firepower on your rival and then charge in with your Primarch and retinue to mop up the mess; not very dramatic at all! Dorn fell in our game, largely due to the assistance of an Ursarax cohort deciding that while a 3++ save on Huscarls is indeed very impressive, it doesn’t help as much when you need to make 20 of them.
Overall, like most of the Heresy scenarios this is best played as a narrative experience, rather than competitively. It feels quite clear who ‘should’ win in both the first two scenarios, and the final would be super easy to ‘game’. More generally, I think the Huscarl rules confirm my suspicions that we won’t be seeing a shift to 9th edition 40k rules any time soon since it would be a bit odd to release completely different rules only a couple of months later – though not unheard of for GW/FW games. I’m excited at the possibility that this is the first in a series of exemplary battles or other micro-expansions to build excitement for the next edition of the game, or just the next big release, and can’t wait for the next drop. Here’s hoping for some daemonically possessed Luperci!
With the Horus Heresy game in something of a drought at the moment – despite some nice small model drops – it is great to see some love from Forge World. A campaign supplement is just the sort of thing people can enjoy now that gaming globally is picking up again, and new units to invigorate the meta is always great.
Overall, this is a nice little pack to browse through for inspiration, and the Huscarls will definitely be on the tabletop in the very near future, I think!
Until next time…
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