Horus Heresy Tactica: Legion Dreadnoughts Redux

It’s time to revisit our last article on Dreadnoughts that Lupe wrote 18 months ago! In this article, we’re going to overcome our dread of dreads, and unlock some methods of dealing with those clanky metal battle coffins. Lupe lists a couple ways to do it, but I want to discuss some secret sauce unveiled since the article came out.

Blood Angels Contemptor Dreadnought
Credit: Jack Hunter

Why Are They So Dreadful?

A quick recap on why these sarcophagi are powerful, so we can look at how to negate these strengths:

  1. They’re tough! 6 wounds at T7 is a lot of wounds. They also have a 2+ Armour Save and a 5++ Invulnerable Save from the Atomantic Deflector. They’re immune to Instant Death, and just take D3 wounds instead. In a game where multi-damage AP2 attacks are uncommon, it takes a lot of damage to clear a dread. Leviathans get an extra toughness and an extra wound, so are even tougher to crack.
  2. They do a lot of damage at range! Dreads hit on 2s across the board. The common dread weapons (melta cannons and lascannons) are really good. The melta cannon is twin linked and AP1, so does well into vehicles. Lascannons are truly a superb gun, and does well into basically every Legions unit. For the Leviathan, the standard cyclonic melta lance loadout only has 18” range but has 4 shots. Ouch. The selections of fist guns do well too.
  3. Gravis power fists and leviathanic siege claws are Brutal (3) and have enough strength to Instant Death most Marine targets. Fail a single Invulnerable Save of the three you have to take, and the target is just dead. Chainfists and siege drills have Armourbane, so they’re less good into infantry (and other dreads) but will mess up a vehicle.
  4. They fight at Initiative 4 with WS 5. They trade extremely well into WS4 troops, and most dedicated assault troops are WS5 will only trade evenly into them. Fighting at full Initiative with an Instant Death dealing weapon is super uncommon in Heresy, and Dreads have limitless access into it.
  5. They’re fast. Dreadnoughts are quicker than infantry, moving 8” and Running 4” too. Leviathans are slower (6” and Heavy, so no Running, but they have Move Through Cover), but they’ll still hit something important eventually.

A lot of events, clubs and local scenes impose gentleman’s agreements around how many Dreadnoughts you can take in a game. One per 1k seem to be standard arrangement. I don’t really like these, because it implies that everyone needs to have a Dread per 1k for their army to be “strong,” even if it’s just a perception issue by the players themselves.

At Goonhammer events, we put two nerfs on Dreadnoughts. Leviathans and Contemptors have one Wound fewer, and fists and claws are Brutal (2) not Brutal (3). This makes them less oppressive, but still powerful.

Credit – Corrode

How to Deal with Dreadnoughts

A man once told me, “When you make a Heresy list, if you aren’t making a plan to kill 2-4 Dreadnoughts you aren’t playing the game seriously.” This made me froth at the mouth, since I try to avoid playing any wargames “seriously,” but here I am writing an article about it so I guess he was right.

Speak with Your Opponent

If you’ve got enough stuff, I always recommend speaking to your opponent before a friendly game and asking them how hard they’re going on their list building. Then, tailor your list to how strong theirs is. If they bring three Iron Hands Leviathans with Custodes allies, show up with your Suzerain + Lascannon spam. If they bring 27 Jetbikes, run your Tactical Marine spam. If they bring their Militia, bring your…


Your opponent has 2-4 Dreadnoughts, so you bring 2-4 Dreadnoughts of your own and get them to kill each other. Big clankers punching each other to death with Brutal (3) deals with the issue quickly. You can make yours win more with the following two techs…


Most units in Heresy have Frag Grenades, but Contemptor Dreadnoughts don’t. As a result, when any part of a Contemptor’s charge goes through Difficult or Dangerous terrain, the big guy fights at I1. Now you swing before the Contemptor with normal initiative weapons, or swing at the same time as Unwieldy or Powerfists. Suddenly that unit of Terminators looks a lot more menacing if you’re sitting in a wood, ruin or crater.

It is worth mentioning Leviathans have Move Through Cover, so this only works on Contemptors.

Making Your Own Terrain

But you don’t need to stand in terrain if you can make your own. Graviton Weapons are already great into other Dreadnoughts, thanks to Haywire you’ll do the equivalent of an AP2 hit on a 2+ to “wound”, and bypass that Invulnerable on a 6. In addition, Graviton Pulse will add some Difficult/Dangerous terrain beneath your target. If they have to charge through this, they’ll be fighting at I1.

So, grab a Graviton Gun on your Contemptor, or a Phosphex Discharge (which also makes Dangerous Terrain thanks to Lingering Death), and use an Overwatch! Now in combat vs your Contemptors, you will swing first. Instead of both Dreads exploding on contact, now your guy wins and kills the other one before he puts a scratch on you.

Be careful though, if you fire a Graviton Weapon at your opponent and then charge them, you might make yourself charge through terrain and then punch last… oops.

Graviton Weapons are good generally, and you can find them on Breachers, Land Speeders and Rapier Batteries.

Alpha Legion Contemptor Dreadnought. Credit: Lupe


High-volume AP2 fire is good into Dreads (it’s good into everything). A five-man Heavy Weapon Support Squad full of lascannons does about two wounds to a dreadnought. Rinse and repeat this, perhaps with a ten-man unit, or adding a Techmarine or Consul with a Cognis-Signum for good effect. Honourable mention goes to the less ubiquitous Land Speeder Javelins, who can pack some multi-meltas in as well.

Extra honourable mention goes to the Militia/Auxilia staple, the Leman Russ Vanquisher, with it’s Brutal (2) quasi-lascannon turret, with a co-axial autocannon and extrasnub lascannon. 3 of these reliable clears a Dreadnought a turn, but will cost your allies detachment and like 500 points.

Plasma Guns

Tactical Support squads with plasma guns are rock solid into killing Contemptors. They’re S7, so they wound and breach dreadnoughts on a 4+. If you’re within 12”, a five-man squad will do 2 Wounds to a Dread.

A Plasma Pistol Moritat will do pretty good in this slot too.

They’re less good into Terminators and Marines, but they have a home as an anti-Dread unit.


Feed the enemy Dreads units that don’t matter. They’ll eat two to three models a turn, and they hopefully won’t fall back. The best units for this have Stubborn, so ignore combat modifiers. Tactical Marines are fine at this, but Militia or Auxilia units are even better. The gold-star here goes to the Rifle Section with the Reborn Cohort and a Vox-Interlock. If you have a Legate Marshall at the other end of the radio, these poor sods have Stubborn and Leadership 11. They’ll never* run away from anything, no matter how big and stompy it is.

Ravenguard Contemptor
Ravenguard Contemptor. Credit: NotThatHenryC

Other Stuff

It’s time to discuss deeper and more forbidden technologies, perhaps you’ll need to ally these in. A lot of them are also quite expensive!

  • Emperor’s Children: If your Dread is fighting at Initiative 5, you swing before them; very good.
  • Grav Pistol Moritats: Iron Hands get Grav Pistol Moritats, and one of these will absolutely do the number on a Dreadnought. Problem is that they’re very short ranged!
  • Mor-Deythen Volkite Squads: Run some Raven Guard Mor Deythen with the one turn Rending 4+ on a unit with combi-volkite. If you get with 12”, each guy will be slinging out 4 Rending 4+ shots each as BS5. That’ll melt a Dread fast.
  • Primarchs: An obvious answer, but most Primarchs solo a dread before it springs.
  • Big Demons: Ruintstorm Sovereigns and Arch-Demons will blend a Dreadnought.
  • Thallax: Grab a Forge Lord/Praevian and pick up some Thallax. Lightning Guns have 4+ Rending, and Rending deals with Dreads very fast. A full six-man squad will do two-ish wounds to a dread, the same as the plasma/lascannon squads, but also being highly mobile and having Line.
  • Myrmidons Secutors/Destructors: I do not pretend to understand Mechanicum, but they have access to grav weapons, lascannons, plasma cannons, and four Wounds at T5 plus a refractor field meaning a gravis fist won’t kill them in one shot, even with Brutal (3).
  • Rampager Squads with falax blades: Lots of attacks and Rending 4+ will make short work of a Dreadnought in melee. The other caedere weapons also boast high Strength and access to Breaching, Rending or Murderous Strike.

A Death Guard leviathan dreadnought players king of the hill with some Blood Angels at Goonhammer Open Horus Heresy 2022


So Dreadnoughts are scary, but they aren’t unanswerable. A lot of the methods aren’t cheap, but if you’re willing to spend a couple hundred points (or an allied detachment), it can certainly be done! Remember: There are a few key traits or rules you’re looking for: Rending, Breaching, Shock Pulse, Haywire, Graviton Collapse.

As a treat, here’s a sample allied detachment that might give you some anti-Dreadnought punch. 60 Auxilia with Stubborn and Ld11 who will never run away, and a trio of vanquisher+lascannon armed Leman Russ that will delete a Contemptor per turn:

Allied Detachment of Solar Auxilia (Reborn Cohort):

Legate Marshall: Archeotech Pistol 95pt

Auxilia Infantry Tercio 1:

Rifle Section: 20 Man, Vox Interlock 115pt

Rifle Section: 20 Man, Vox Interlock 115pt

Auxilia Infantry Tercio 2:

Rifle Section: 20 Man, Vox Interlock 115pt

Command Section: Command Vox 75pt

Auxilia Armoured Tercio 3:

Leman Russ Strike Tank: Vanquisher Cannon+Autocannon, Lascannon x3

Total: 980 pt

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