The Tuchulcha is one of the most important narrative macguffins in the Warhammer 40,000/Horus Heresy setting, being key to the abilities and actions of the Dark Angels in both the Heresy and 40K timelines. Claimed by the First Legion during the battles of Perditus, this month’s exemplary battle focuses not on the core story of this device, detailed in The Lion novella, but on one of the Dark Angels’ various side projects to claim deeply, darkly dangerous technology.
The Order of the Broken Claws are the protagonists this month, struggling to survive conflict with the Iron Hands, Mechanicum and Death Guard to claim technoarcana that was sequestered away by order of the Emperor Himself (hear that Lion? Daddy said no! Bad Primarch!). There’s not really a narrative arc this month; no upstart noble Praetor seeking to rise above his station, just a bunch of large angry men in clean white terminator armour punching smaller, but still large angry men in dirty white power armour. It’s… fine.
The lore in these exemplary battles is neat in abstract, but each one is written very much in the heroic, over the top style we’ve come to expect from Warhammer 40,000, rather than the grim detached historical record nature of previous Horus Heresy writings. This may be an intentional style change to draw in a new audience, or it may be just the only style the author knows. I personally feel this is a pretty bad turn away from what made the 30K setting and it’s “future history” narrative different to the mass battle game setting of Warhammer 40,000. I feel, with zero intel, that these articles weren’t written by the core team, so hopefully future 30K projects restore that more realistic tone.
We tend to skim over them, but the little system maps shown at the start of these articles have some neat content. Even since Alan Bligh’s passing Forge World has done good work seeding lore hooks and tidbits throughout; Perditus, we learn, is the ‘former home world and ruling seat of [REDACTED]’. A xenos empire? Stronghold of fallen humanity? A sentient planetoid? Up to your narrative gaming group to discover!
This was also cute little example of how the lines of war are never neatly drawn. The loyalist Dark Angels fight against the Iron Hands, Death Guard and Mechanicum, with no discussion on those factions’ allegiances except for their resistance to the Lion.
It again bears repeating that the Lion wasn’t a capital-T Traitor to the Emperor, but over and over the Dark Angels are traitors to their allies. They parley here with the Magi of the Mechanicum in order to gain peaceful access to their techno-bounty, but upon leaving immediately blow up the planet. I cannot for a moment understand why this has become a character trait of the First Legion but I really feel all it does is encourage the terrible memes about how Dark Angels are traitors.
Dark Angels Inner Circle Knights Cenobium – Order of the Broken Claws
The Rangda are the bogeymen of the Horus Heresy, with the Rangdan Xenocides responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Astartes and the possible death of one of the two missing Primarchs. The Order of the Broken Claws was one of the Dark Angels’ solution to this problem, being tasked with recording the lore of these battles and guarding the subsequent spoils of war. Following the end of the Xenocides, their duties were extended to guarding other key First Legion relics, hence their presence here.
The Broken Claws are a variation on the Inner Circle Knight Cenobium presented in Crusade, being one of the specific Orders that the Cenobium comprise. Models may replace their Terranic Greatswords (one of my least favourite weapons to face with my Mechanicum) with an Advex-Mors greatsword for +2 points, giving it a bit more flexibility against general opponents. The trade off here is the sword loses Instant Death, but gains Rending, Murderous Strike and an additional point of Strength. Having both Rending and Murderous Strike is particularly vicious, where a roll of a 6 to wound is both Instand Death and AP2 – perfect for pureeing those pesky praetors.
The unit is build to slay big gribblies, be they Rangda in the lore or Daemons of the Ruinstorm or Mechanicum on the tabletop. Their Order Exemplar rule is +1 to wound when locked in combat with Monstrous Creatures or Gargantuan Creatures, as well as gaining +1 to Vehicle Damage rolls on Penetrating Hits. Note that this is +1 to wound when locked in combat with, not when targeting, so be careful where you send your monstrous support. And yes, this does mean that this unit is Strength 7 with +1 to wound and probable instant death against most non-Astrates with more than one wound – kill these guys at range before your Brutes and Castellax get mulched. Even when facing Astartes these guys rock, likely hitting on 3+ (thanks to Mastery of the Blade from the Dark Angels rule) and wounding on 2+, with a lot of AP3 and AP2 coming in hot. On the other hand, would you rather wound a Castellax on 4+ with no Feel No Pain and Instant Death, or wound on 3+ while keeping their saves against most wounds? Both swords have their place, but it probably depends on who you’re up against. Fortunately, the unit isn’t forced to chose wholesale between Terranic greatswords and Advex-Mors greatswords, so you can have a mixture of both.
Really the only downside to this unit is that the Order Preceptor loses the ability to take digital lasers. That’s okay, your Preceptor says, because I can instead take a freaking Paragon Blade.
Death Guard Mortus Poisoner Squad
Where the Order of the Broken Claws is a complex dataslate from a complex Legion, the Mortus Poisoner squad is brutal simplicity incarnate. Wielding a high proportion of chem-munitions even for the Death Guard, what you have here is Zone Mortalis death incarnate, a unit where every member knows their own weapons will kill them, matched with a determination to take you down first. For the same price as a Legion tactical squad, you gain an extra point of Leadership, Hardened armour, and a close combat weapon. Oh, and half the number of models. So why would you take this at all, eating up a valuable Elites slot?
The answer, my friends, is the ability to swap your bolter for a flamer with chem-munitions for free, and for one in five models to replace their bolt pistol for a heavy flamer with chem-minutions for 20 points. So, yes, you could for some reason have both a flamer and heavy flamer on the same model, not that you could fire both in a turn. Chem-munitions is a Death Guard specific piece of wargear granting Shred (rerolling failed wound rolls) and Gets Hot special rules to your flamers. Where this really shines is in Zone Mortalis, where (especially if you’re using the Cold Void and Poisoned Air special rule, which you should be), each basic flamer is Strength 5, rerolling failed wounds, and Rending. Aside from being a complete war crime on both basic humans in the Solar Auxilia and militia and the high toughness, low saves of the Mechanicum, the raw number of guaranteed hit’s and Rending means even terminators are probably looking a bit nervous. The sergeant (poison-master) can take artificer armour and a power-scythe and, horrifically, three phosphex bombs. That’s a lot of specialised AP2 to back up the vast quantities of toxic flame you’ve got coming at you!
The unit goes up to 15 models, perfect for Zone Mortalis, where 15 is the maximum squad size. It’s a bit of an odd unit size, but a few of these Exemplary battles units have had squads in this size. I’m not sure when you’d want a full unit of 15 given the practical limitations of getting enough flamers in range, but it’s a nice option.
The Battle of Perditus – the Sacking of Umbral-51
Okay, fine. I may have been a bit salty last time talking about the scenarios in these battles, because in hindsight last month’s and this month’s are both bangers. It’s just one scenario, with Iron Hands, Mechanicum, Dark Angels and Death Guard pitted against each other, with one side (any of the above factions) trying to find a relic or artifact, and their opponent trying to stop them. The Pursuers only have a 6” deployment zone to the Relic Hunters’ 12”, but also get the first turn.
Whenever a unit ends its movement within 3” of one of five objectives, you make a Location Unknown check by rolling a d6 and adding the turn number. On the result of a 7+, you find the relic, and this is the only objective that matters, with the other counters being removed. On the roll of a 1, D3 Vorax or Castellax automata are immediately added to your opponent’s army and deployed as close as possible to the former objective location and outside of 1” of the unit that poked the robots’ nest. I adore the idea of opening a chest and finding murder robots inside. It’s also possible, if you poke the objective on turn 6, to both discover the objective and unleash murderbots on your poor fools. Such is life.
Should you fail to find the relic four times, the final objective is automatically determined to be the relic, opening up potential plays where you try and provoke your opponent into failing to find relics with their objectives to save yours for later, while running the risk of them finding it before you. Should no one control the objective at the end of the game, the player who made the most Location Unknown rolls is the victor.
The neat part this time is that both unique units detailed in this pack get their own special scenario rule. For the Mortus Poisoners, they have a once per game ability (sounds a bit like a stratagem, huh) to ignore the Gets Hot rule on their flamers, allowing you that one key turn of riskless violence. The Order of the Broken Claws is less aggressive, but probably more beneficial to winning the scenario, giving a permanent +1 to their Location Unknown rolls.
There are so many stories in the Horus Heresy about one faction trying to find a macguffin before it falls into the hands of their enemies (Keys of Hel, anyone), so this scenario would be great fun to play with a range of armies. I love that the sides here are just ‘any one of these four’, showing how in moments of chaos and greed factions collapsed.
Loyalty is its own reward
We know what these articles are, we’ve all seen the leaked images of an upcoming Horus Heresy boxed set. It’s marketing, designed to hype us all up for its imminent release and by the Omnissiah it’s working. Will these units do terrible things to my high toughness, high wounds, low save robots? Without a doubt. Do I want to see Broken Claws across the table from me? Absolutely, because they’re just so cool. I painted a bunch of tech priests the other day, and they’ll never see the table, but Research Habitat Damocles stands ready to fall as the armies of the Warmaster and Emperor fight and kill all around them, ignoring the Mechanicum as just a side note. You know, just like the Black Library books.
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