Last weekend saw SN Battlereports put on their first Horus Heresy “No Retreat” event in 5 years. No Retreats are invitational events held in Gibraltar, on a super yacht – yes, you read that correctly. I’ll get to that in a moment.
I was quite fortunate enough to attend, so I’m here to share my experience.
The run up
The advent of new edition of Horus Heresy brought a massive influx of interest and new players to the game – me included. Much like the Adeptus Titanicus community, the Heresy community has a large focus on hobby and narrative, which aligned with my interests.
With the influx of interest, a series of events were announced to cater to the surge in demand. I jumped into the deep end by committing to attend a doubles event shortly after the release of the new edition. As I blitzed through my Age of Darkness box, No Retreat Horus Heresy III was announced.
No Retreats pride themselves on having the highest levels of hobby, requiring attendees to apply to attend with photos of their army along with other information. This allows the organisers to select a variety of well painted armies across different factions to be represented at the event.
At the time I was being pressured by some mates to apply – at this point I was still yet to play a game. I figured there was no harm in applying, having seen the painting standards of Horus Heresy folk, I didn’t fancy my chances.
This backfired and I ended up getting a slot. I was committed to expanding up to 2500 points in six months. Crap.
Invite boxes of customised goodies were sent out and attendees were added to a group chat, allowing people to break the ice ahead of the event and share their progress on their forces.
The campaign centred around Gal Cortanos, a world containing a MacGuffin called the Maluvasiun Sphere deep beneath the surface. Erebus was the big bad, seeking to activate the artefact while the Loyalists were there to halt his progress. The campaign centred around the access points to the catacombs which corresponded to the table numbers, each with their own distinct and unique theme – the Volcano location was the lava table for example.
The narrative kicked off months in advance of the event, with players being put into faction specific channels. In these channels briefings were given by the Warmaster or Rogal Dorn and a metagame took place in the months leading up to the event – this determined the starting state of the board, initial pairings, along with giving some players buffs or penalties.
As missions were played on the tables, factions would gain certain levels of control of the tunnels in that location. At the end of the weekend, the faction with control of the most key locations would control access to the Malavusiun Sphere. Additional mechanics were in place to allow a faction who was behind in a location to undertake more risky Zone Mortalis Games to flip influence or remove a location entirely.
During the games, Erebus would interrupt play with a broadcast and bestow gifts upon each table, or his lackeys would appear and directly start interacting with each people’s games. The combination of these along with their production quality really added to the event and made it feel like more than just playing a bunch of bog standard missions.
Most games on the weekend were to be played at 2500 points, which meant I had to expand a fair bit from my Age of Darkness boxset. The Sagyar Mazan Rite of War is a natural fit for the boxset contents, to which I added some of the unique White Scars units.
As I went home for a month for Christmas, I only had one chance to try out my list and these additional units it would have to suffice – Bair absolutely bodied me with his Stone Gauntlet.
Having at least one (short and one sided) game at 2500 points, I was as ready as I was going to be.
The venue for the weekend is the Sunborn, a five star super yacht hotel in Gibraltar. To say it’s a tad nicer than your average event at a sports hall is a bit of an understatement. The event spanned over three days for five games, allowing for plenty of activities and exploring which were included and arranged in advance.
Some of these included:
- A guided tour through the defences and tunnels of the Rock, learning about its colourful history and strategic importance over the ages.
- A trip to Saint Michael’s Cave, a massive network of limestone caves and home to a local troop of monkeys at the top of the Rock.
- A dolphin trip on a boat in the sea, with Spain on one side and Morocco on the other
- Group dinners
If that wasn’t enough, being in the heart of Gibraltar means there is plenty to see and do – a few people did quite well at the casino if that’s your scene.
The gaming hall is in the mezzanine with its own bar, meaning refreshments were always available if you were needing to celebrate or commiserate after or during your games. The tables themselves were next level, each with a unique theme – details like the stones/soil to help mesh the terrain pieces onto the matt really brought everything together.
I’m not going to go into a blow-by-blow battle report of each of my games, but each of them was a blast and with great people. Still a novice, I was learning at least one new rule each game – I might know the rules for this game one day!
My first game was with Rowan and his Night Lords. Due to pregame narrative phase, Rowan was already on the backfoot and down over a hundred points. We both found out very quickly how good the Golden Keshig can be if they can use the terrain to their advantage and how many pinning checks they could inflict. I was able to pin most of his army while I hid from his dreads and terminators.
My dice ran hot, while Rowan’s didn’t get a chance to warm up in time. Rowan was a great sport and would start the trend of good opponents I had this weekend.
My second game was against Yael, who was playing a Beserker Assault Force. His list consisted of a World Eaters terror assault force, with loads of armour to deal with along with a Angron deathstar. I was a tad terrified.
This game was using Dominion objectives, which involves meeting your opponent in the middle – which is the last thing you want to do with Angron running around.
Words fail to describe Yael – the closest I can come is French goblin. This game was unlike any other I’ve had in recent memory – there were so many highs and lows with big swings of rolls in either of our favour. It was fitting then that at the end of the game I was ahead by 2VP on objectives and Yael was to gain D3 VP for having killed more.
He rolled a six with the dice I gave him, and we both celebrated a fitting end to an epic game.
My third game was against George’s Emperors Children. Fitting of the Third, he was running the Pride of the Legion, lead by Fulgrim himself. This incredibly elite army was a huge contrast to anything I had played before.
Thankfully I was able to setup my Lascannon squad in prime position and prevent them from being pinned as they took out Fulgrim’s transport. I had been advised by teammates to avoid getting Fulgrim into a challenge at all costs – so I tried to throw two dreads at him, one of which failed their charge.
The following turn Fulgrim was down on two wounds, standing alone in the centre of the battlefield and I only had two Recon marines left to fire. They managed to land rending shots and eliminate the Phoenician.
This game was a nailbiter and came down the very final turn, losing by a single point. It was fully representative of how close the game was and how it could have gone either way.
My fourth Game was against Teemu’s Void Assault themed World Eaters company. Every model in this army has been lovingly converted to fit the theme – Rhinos are hover vehicles, with no walkers or treads, and all custom infantry. I can safely say it’s one of the coolest armies I’ve seen in my life.
Up until this game I hadn’t really played a game with anyone using Deepstrike, as my own RoW forbids me and my local group haven’t got around to trying it. Teemu would change this very quickly for me.
Barring a Master of Signals, ten despoilers and a squad of scouts, the entire army went into deep strike assault.
Turn two saw his entire army arriving inches away from me and in position to do some damage. It was at this point that I found out that only Interceptor reactions can be made against Deep Strike Assault – I had been counting on my Chasing the Wind reaction to be my get out of jail free card.
My Command Squad stood front in centre and took the brunt of the assault, while my Golden Keshig got wrecked by Red Butchers. I was being entirely overwhelmed by the shock assault – rather the point I suppose.
My turn two saw me trying to desperately reinforce the centre of the battlefield and go for a Hail Mary. Looming over the battlepile, an Assault Ram sat in position with Kharn and a ten man squad ready to deploy the following turn. My humble Proteus Landspeeder parked behind it and let loose it’s twin multi-meltas – the final hit dice landed, penetrated and immobilised it.
As it turns out, immobilising a flying brick doesn’t end well for those inside. The ten man squad died in the crash, Kharn alone doing the Legolas landing amidst the wreckage only to fail his pinning check, leaving him in the open.
The end of turn two saw my diminished battlepile hold, in one of the bloodiest turns I’ve had in any game. The rest of the game was dominated by a demonic incursion sent by Erebus which Teemu focused on while I consolidated the centre ground.
Teemu was a great opponent and I was so happy to play this army so I could just take the time to look at it more.
My last game was against Chris’ Nightlords. On a side note, both Nightlord attendees I played were Scottish, perhaps there’s some correlation there with the lack of sunlight. 🤔
Chris had quite a different force to Rowan’s with a good mix of firepower and mobility along with some threat from Sevatar and his squad. While we kept each other bloody, the mission was Shatter Strike on quarters deployment, so I was able to use my first turn to push aggressively and force Chris to take the long way and edge him on the mission objective.
As a narrative event, the focus wasn’t on trying to crush your opponents, but I’m glad I was able to put in a good showing – going 3-2 for the weekend. The two games I did lose were very close and satisfying.
With the conclusion of gaming for the weekend, it was time to wrap things up. The pesky, meddling Loyalists had managed to thwart Erebus’ plans for now. (I can very much picture Erebus as a Scooby Doo villain).
There were so many different awards and prizes it did feel a bit like the end of Lord of the Rings – long, bittersweet and with many loose ends to tie up. As an event with a heavy focus on hobby, it makes sense that the awards aligned with this as well. There were hobby awards in several categories:
- Best Character
- Best Unit
- Best Vehicle
- Best Army
The SN team shortlisted the candidates, from which the final judging was done by hobby legends Richard Gray and Andy Wardle. Like Golden Demon, finalists in each category would receive pins to commemorate their achievement with a trophy for first.
Due to the narrative nature, each member on the winning faction shared in the win, receiving a certificate and Element Games voucher.
The event itself does have an overall champion, based on a combination of game performance, narrative special objectives, favourite opponent votes and best army vote. I appreciated having the ability to vote separately for favourite player from separate army – as these can be very different things.
First place went to Phil (Warhammer Daddy aka fingers_rfw) and second went to Lee (painting_mayhem). Ya boi managed to come away with some glass for third.
Coming third stunned me a bit given my run on the weekend and humbled me that people enjoyed our games – which is ultimately what the whole weekend is about.
If you’ve made it this far, it will come as no surprise to you that I had a great weekend at an event unlike no other. Some quick-fire thoughts:
- The schedule of two games per day prevented burn out and allowed for activities to make the most out of a destination event.
- More so than any big event like NoVA/etc, this really felt like being at nerd camp with a great group of people with similar interests doing things together.
- The invitational process ensured there was a good mix of different armies of the highest calibre. The best part of any event is meeting new people and playing different armies – this weekend saw attendees from nine different countries.
- The attention to detail by the SN Team to ensure that everyone was accommodated and looked after was above and beyond, two examples:
- In my case I had booked flights for the wrong weekend, Pardo picked up on this and let me know – if he hadn’t it would have been rather embarrassing.
- One of the attendees had a few mishaps with connecting flights coming from Malaysia, the timetable was adjusted to ensure he wouldn’t miss out on game 1 with his delayed replacement flight.
- The production value of everything was off the charts.
- I loved the little Command and Conquer style briefings from Dorn/Horus/Erebus.
- The tables were some of the best I’ve seen* and unique, which was a nice step up from the typical generic MDF terrain you see at events.
- I’ve heard some people balk at the price of admission to these events. When you consider it’s common for a typical sports hall event to charge £70 for a two-day event, the £195 ticket seems rather low once you’ve seen the effort and quality of the event and all the included goodies/excursions/etc that are included.
- Similar to when I was able to check out Golden Demon last year, the hobby positivity was intense. Rather than the “snaps paintbrushes” meme you often see, the group encouraged everyone to do their best and elevate one another.
- Already I’ve seen a bunch of people come away inspired, working on new conversions or starting new armies.
*It’s a bit unfair to compare any table with some of the LotR ones, as they are model railroad crazy levels of hobby.
I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, but I’ve covered the main points.
If you are ever in a position where you can apply for one of these, give it a go and I might see you there.
A huge thank you to the team at SN for putting this on, everyone I played this weekend and the new mates I’ve come away with.