Horus Heresy Hot Take: the Battle of Armatura and World Eaters Red Hand Destroyers

The Armatura campaign holds a special place in my heard as its one of the core settings of Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Betrayer, one of the best novels Black Library has released. Indeed, the only stain upon its honour is that Lorgar almost but not quite died there. Well, we can’t have everything, but we can have a new exemplary battle and World Eaters unit rules dropped on us by Warhammer Community.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Battle of Armatura: Razing of the Decalian District

The Battle of Armatura exemplary battle shows what happens when two full Legions descend on a plant, even one as heavily defended as Armatura, the ‘key’ to the Five Hundred Worlds. Ultramarines Evocatii (elite defenders of Ultramar and trainers of the next generation of the Legion) sentry ships threw themselves at the traitor armada trying desperately to do nothing more than slow them down to no avail. When the traitors make planetfall, all that is left to know is how the defenders die.

This is probably my favourite exemplary battle story so far, as it really feels grim, the utter finality of what you know is going to happen to the Ultramarines really showing through. This doesn’t feel like a story where one side wins because the plot demands, or because they’re the protagonists; this reads like a story where one side is at the peak of their power in the mddle of their home empire and can still be completely outmatched. Disciplined fire and strategic sacrifice win the day in so many XIII Legion stories, but not today. There isn’t anything new about this short story and how the Red Hand Destroyers showing how the best of Ultramarines tactical nous is worth nothing before sheer maniacal brutality, but it’s a cute little read, right down to how Word Bearers once again contribute nothing and only show up once all the hard work is done.

We’re four exemplary battles in and the pressure on pumping out this many ‘unique’ scenarios is really starting to show. I love the idea of a mini linked campaign, but out of the three parts this series is giving us (neat lore, cool unit Lortara Sarrin, and scenarios), the missions are absolutely coming out as the weakest. While Armatura gives us two cool campaign wide rules (Roads and Fog of War), the missions themselves just aren’t very interesting, with an Age of Darkness objectives based mission, a progressive ‘territory taking’ style thing (also recommended for a 3,000 point game), and finally an ambush/slay the warlord mission with an actually kinda nifty rule where the Defending army’s warlord is deployed in a semi-randomly chosen area of the map, making bunkering them up a tad harder. This isn’t the weakest of the micro campaigns so far, but nothing in these scenarios is setting the world on fire for me. On the other hand, if all you want is a fairly standard way to play “put the boot in the Ultramarine” with a couple of nifty rules, this may just fit the bill.

The first of the two campaign wide rules is Roads. Apparently a new invention in the 31st millennium, areas designated as a ‘road’ grant +2” movement to units moving only along that road. The third scenario, Ambush, sets out a labelled portion of the map to be a road, while you are encouraged to use roads in other scenarios you may play. This is actually really neat, and helps grant a sense of speed which is sometimes otherwise lacking from 30k games where all units move the same set amount. It does open up a weird situation where flyers moving along roads also gain +2” movement, but I’m hoping that your gaming group doesn’t have a That Guy that would try this out.

Other than our discovery of basic urban infrastructure, we’ve also got rules for Fog of War, which grants one of three effects depending on what you rolled on a table at the beginning of the game. I love random effects like this, but I’m always going to recommend doing this every turn rather than once per game, as it really gives a sense of dynamism and forces plans to change. Plus, more likely to get to use different cool rules! Anyway, the effects here are Obscuring Smog (all units gain 6+ cover save – not partiuclarly interesting, but potentially useful), Billowing Dust Clouds (line of sight is reduced to 18” – you likely have World Eaters in this campaign, a Legion not particularly famed for wanting to be more than 18” away) and Scouring Winds, where all infantry units suffer -1 Toughness when in open ground. This doesn’t affect your Instant Death threshold, and I love the idea of armies darting cover to cover to try and avoid rad-soaked zephyrs. Red Hand and other Destroyers will love to roll this result and see the effects of Scouring Winds, rad grenades and rad missiles stack to drop your noble and/or uppity praetor dropped to Toughness one. Practically useful? No. Hilarious? Undoubtedly.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

World Eaters Red Hand Destroyer Assault Squad

The first non-terminator unit we’ve yet seen in these exemplary battles, Red Hand Destroyer Assault Squads are comprised of those marines honoured by the gory Butcher’s Mark of a, well, bloody red hand on their armour. I do enjoy the World Eaters, but they are a pretty one note kinda faction, at least on the tabletop. Red Hands have the same basic statline and equipment as the ‘playtest’ Destroyer squad rules from February 2019 which I think everyone has basically adopted wholesale at this point, and at the same price point they gain two additional special rules, Bearers of the Blood Hand and Ravaging Assault.

Bearers of the Blood Hand shows that this is a unit comprised of only the most bloodthirsty and insatiable of the World Eaters, each forever trying to live up to the standards of the most dangerous individual in the Horus Heresy, Lortara Sarrin. It requires the unit charge if within 12” of the enemy, and… that’s it. Their bloodlust requires that they try and make contact, and, having learned all there is about this special rule, we move on to Ravaging Assault, granting +1 to combat resolution and +1 to Sweeping Advance rolls. The bonus to Sweeping Advance is nifty, as given how brutal these guys can be in close combat I’d expect you to be winning assault handily anyway.

The real gimmick here is their weapon options. You lose out on the option for hand flamers and plasma pistols, and in return any Ravager (your basic squad member) can take Caedere weapons, the unique ritual weapons of the cyber-augmetic gladiators of Nuceria. Previously, these could be taken by Rampagers for +10 points a model, which means you never saw them. Here each weapon is weighted for its effectiveness, with meteor hammers, twin falax blades and barb-hook lashes for +2 points per model, and excoriator chainaxes for +10 points per model. There’s a lot of combinations here, but some neat effects to call out include marines with +2 Strength and +1 Initiative from meteor hammers inflicting Instant Death against other marines before their opponents get to strike (from rad grenades), and throwing down with twin falax blades with five attacks per Destroyer resulting in roughly eight billion Rending attacks from 15 Eaters of Worlds. Did we mention they can be taken in units up to 15, rather than the usual 10 for other Destroyers? Because oh yes, they can. You can also take a thunder hammer per five marines, and another on the sergeant, if you really felt you needed some angry AP2 in there. Remember, World Eaters can all have Rage from the Blood Madness Legion special rule, so you’re throwing down a lot of dice when these guys hit something, regardless of what they’re equipped with.

Rules as written, you can’t take a Termite Drill as a dedicated transport for these guys. I’d suggest ignoring this rule, as while this is a “Red Hand Destroyer Assault Squad” and not a “Legion Destroyer Squad”, it’s clearly a variant Destroyer Squad. Similarly, you can’t take gear from Malevolence, such as Toxiferran flamers or psyk-out weapons, but this feels a more appropriate limitation.

One of the criticisms levelled at World Eaters is that a lot of lists tend towards a fairly stable, fairly boring, horde of berzerker infantry enhanced by Gahlan Surlak. The sheer power of Exhortation of Butchery and Master of the Inductii can push the XII Legion into a very particular playstyle which, while absolutely thematic, can also be a tad monotonous for the other player, and potentially a very binary “can I solve for a horde of madmen with chainaxes or not” problem. The Red Hands are… close, but just different enough to make things interesting. You so rarely see Caedere weapons that I’m excited to see them on the table and just breaking up the visual profile of a Legion unit, but I’m also a sucker for any Destroyer unit – I’ve even played against Mournival Events rules Salamanders Destroyers and loved it. Honestly, the only downside here is that World Eaters Rampagers have been made even worse by comparison; it would have been nice to see Rampagers brought up to scratch. I enjoyed seeing Skane’s arc across Betrayer and A Rose Watered With Blood, and this is just the right home for him on the tabletop.

Horus Heresy 30k Angron World Eaters and Red Butchers. Credit:
Angron and his Red Butchers. Credit: Remembrancer’s Retreat @rr30k

Kill! Maim! Burn!

After the first one of these micro campaigns dropped I think a fair few people were worried that they’d never see another. We’re now four deep, and Andy Hoare has committed in the WarCom article that we’ll be seeing more Destroyers in the coming months, so we’re not at the end of the road yet. Really, at this point all I could ask for is some more robot love!