Horus Heresy Units of the Astartes: Heavy Support

Welcome back to Goonhammer’s series for aspiring Praetors. We know that the Horus Heresy system can seem intimidating to players unfamiliar with its particular quirks, but this series aims to equip you with everything you’ll need to play out epic clashes on the battlefields of the far future with your very own army. In this series, we’ll be walking you through how to build your force and command it to glory, including everything from units to tactics to lead your army to victory. 

In this mini-series we’ll be taking a look at all of the units that every Space Marine army can field, how they operate, how you might want to equip them and what you want to point their guns/combat weapons at on the table.

Heavy Support

These are the heavy hitters and damage dealers of your army. Though all slots offer the opportunity for serious firepower, this slot is death dealing from start to finish. They are usually slower and less agile than other types of unit, but are destructive in the extreme.

Legion Leviathan Dreadnought Talon

Imperial Fists Leviathan Dreadnought
Imperial Fists Leviathan Dreadnought. Credit: Jack Hunter

Dreadnoughts are in an incredibly powerful position in second edition, and the Leviathan Dreadnought can be described as “the Contemptor Dreadnought but more so”. It has a similar profile to the Contemptor, but is stronger, tougher, has more attacks and more wounds. Heavy stops it running around the battlefield, but also it gives it some extra protection (not that they’re likely to be the target of blast or template weapons). Though this might leave you with the impression that it’s a little less mobile than its lighter counterpart, Move Through Cover makes it less constrained by the battlefield. The overall result is something much tougher and harder hitting than the Contemptor, with only a minor penalty to its speed and manoeuvrability.

The range on the weapons available to the Leviathan, and its excellent melee capabilities, mean you should consider this to be an aggressive support option. It’s not going to do great work just sat at the back waiting to strike. You’ll also find that you only get the most out of its hefty points cost if you push it forward and utilise both its shooting and capacity for assault. Therefore it’s probably best avoid the double gun option – though it’s certainly doable – as unlike the “rifleman” Contemptor build the guns on the Leviathan are just not long range enough to make using it as a weapons platform make much sense. Instead the best choices are either a Siege Claw and a gun, or a full melee build with a Siege Claw and a Siege Drill so it can take on a variety of different targets.

If you are going for the full melee build, something to take into account is that you will get best use out of it if it can hit combat as quickly as possible. Therefore some way to get close to the enemy is a useful addition. You might be tempted by the dreadnought drop pod, which is certainly cool, but the fact that it is not an Assault Vehicle means that you can’t assault out of Deep Strike with it, a real blow to this as a viable tactic. If you have any means to granting it infiltrate or other rules that allow it to advance quickly, then use them. Otherwise simply focus on deploying aggressively and moving up consistently. It’s worth remembering that Siege Claws and Drills have built in meltaguns, and you’ll still have chest weapons, so you do have some ranged capacity. However, although dreadnoughts can fire all their weapons they can’t split their fire, so you need to put everything into a single target. This makes the mix of weapons available to you a little odd – for a melee leviathan a phosphex discharger and heavy flamers are a good choice, mostly to react with to discourage targets you don’t want to engage getting too close and tying you up in combat.

If you’re going for the hybrid build you can be a little less aggressive on your advance, laying down fire as you do. You’re basically going to pick an anti tank or anti infantry role for the leviathan with this build. If you go anti tank then choose the Cyclonic Melta Lance for your main gun, leave off the phosphex discharger, keep the heavy flamers, and take either a claw or a drill – the drill is more effective versus vehicles but honestly both will wreck most stuff. This is a solid build that makes the most of the melta in the claw/drill too. If you go anti infantry strap a claw and a storm cannon on the arms, phosphex on the top and keep those heavy flamers. You might notice there’s no recommendation here for the volkite – maybe it’ll come into its own when militia and auxilia start turning up on the tables, but for now it’s just not worth the 15pts.

Legion Deredeo Dreadnought Talon

Salamanders Deredeo. Credit: Rockfish
Salamanders Deredeo. Credit: Rockfish

The dedicated firepower dreadnought, these beasts will absolutely ruin someone’s day at range and if you want a dreadnought to act as a firebase rather than an aggressive assault platform this is probably the best way to do it. With the stats of a Contemptor with fewer attacks (which you won’t use unless things go badly wrong anyway) it’s a tough beast, and it straps Helical Targeting Array to the top which is a fantastic upgrade and basically plugs any gap you have in your anti air defences immediately.

There’s not much reason to swap the heavy bolters for heavy flamers. As a dreadnought with little melee ability, you don’t want to be getting in range to fire them. They’re decent on overwatch, but not really enough to be worth using your reactions on. The rest of the weapon options are where it gets interesting. The main gun options are as follows:

  • Anvilus Autocannon Battery: Basically two autocannons strapped together with twin-linked, Rending (5+), and Sunder. The improved Rending with four shots is actually pretty decent, between that and Sunder you’ll have a chance of taking down all but the heaviest armour. A very solid middle of the road option, though the base AP4 certainly brings it down a notch. It’s fine (and cheap).
  • Hellfire Plasma Cannonade: Now this is a spicy meatball. The standard firing mode, basically a long range plasma gun with a load of shots and without gets hot, is great, but the maximal mode is absolutely bonkers. It’s basically a gravis plasma cannon (which is already great) but with Strength 8, triggering Instant Death on a whole mess of stuff. Awesome for heavy infantry hunting.
  • Arachnus Heavy Lascannon Battery: If the Plasma if for killing infantry then this is for vehicles. The absurdly high strength, sunder, Exoshock (5+) and twin-linked all mean that these two shots are, on average, going to get at least a couple of penetrating hits on a Land Raider (AV14). Though this is very good, it’s worth remembering that any time you’re fishing for penetrating hits you’re relying on the damage table to finish them off, and that’s just not a sure thing here. It’s good for killing vehicles, but maybe not the best.
  • Volkite Falconet: Good strength, good number of shots and pinning should make this gun a winner but you’re still hunting for failed saves thanks to Volkite’s AP5. Even if all 8 hit you’re probably not punching through that many times. Compared to the plasma it’s a poor choice against infantry, and the autocannons are a better all round choice.

Then you have two options for missiles:

  • Four Boreas air defence missiles: These are a nasty set of four anti-air missiles, hitting hard albeit once each. The only thing is: your Helical Targeting Array gives everything skyfire and you can’t split fire. These therefore are just about getting the last few hits in to slam a plane into the ground, which is no bad thing and probably the default choice.
  • Aiolos Missile Launcher: An interesting choice for anti-infantry (pinning is great) and certainly worth considering as an add to a plasma cannonade deredeo. In other circumstances it’s probably not worth the points.

Legion Heavy Support Squad

Alpha Legion Missile Launcher Heavy Support Squad: Credit Lupe

The heavy counterpart of the tactical support squad, the heavy support squad is Heavy meaning it’s a little more resistant to enemy fire and also slow as hell (which is fine, because they’re not likely to be running around the place unless they’re Death Guard).

You can buy a dedicated transport for this unit but unless you’re running Heavy Flamers or Multi-meltas it’s almost certainly not worth it. On the other hand, if you’re taking longer ranged weapons the Auspex Scanner is definitely worth it between free Interceptor reactions and ignoring night fighting range limitations. Put the sergeant in the obligatory Artificer Armour. A vexilla is a maybe – it won’t help in combat, but it will stop you running off the table, which can be handy. The Nuncio Vox is a must have for a Missile Launcher or Plasma Cannon unit, and can be skipped for everyone else.

All that’s left is to pick your weapon for the squad. These are as follows:

  • Heavy Bolter: Cheap for sure, but the venerable Heavy Bolter is in a rough place right now. Not enough shots to weigh down the enemy with weight of fire, not enough punch to reliably kill anything with the shots that do land. Some utility for Imperial Fists, but even then they have better things to spend their Heavy Support Slots on.
  • Heavy Flamer: Another cheap option, these are fun in concept but it’s hard to see how much of an advantage it has over the standard flamer. Sure S5 is nice, but AP4 isn’t much of an improvement in a world of marine armies. Unlike all the other weapons available it is an Assault weapon, so you can jump out of a rhino and shoot it without snap-shots. Don’t take more than five though because the templates are going to get messy.
  • Autocannon: A nice midweight option the autocannon is good for shooting light vehicles and cavalry, especially with the weight of fire of a whole unit. If you’re not sure what to pick and want to be able to take on most things at least to some degree, this is your generalist weapon.
  • Missile Launcher: If the autocannon is the generalist weapon then the Missile Launcher is the swiss army knife. It’s not fantastic at any of the three rolls it has. Frag missiles won’t punch through armour, though five of these slapping down will probably provoke a pinning test at least. Krak missiles lack the real punch of heavier weapons, and ap3 is in a weird spot with so many units running around with at least one 2+ save model. However they’ll happily krak open light vehicles and kill speeders. Finally Flak missiles aren’t that powerful, but they absolutely can hit planes which is a godsend in an army with limited skyfire. Ultimately you take these because you want to cover a lot of bases with one unit, and the good news is you’ll never run out of things to shoot with them.
  • Multi-melta: Multi-meltas in a heavy squad like this are in a rough place – they’re heavy so jumping out of a rhino will leave them on snap shots, and even with twin-linked that’s not great. They’re longer range than meltaguns which is great, but you still need to be within 12″ to get armourbane with them. That leaves them in a difficult place where you need to be getting close but also when you get close you won’t be able to shoot well. Probably best to leave multi-meltas to vehicles and dreadnoughts.
  • Plasma Cannon: Do you want to rip through some infantry? I know you do. It’s not a cheap way of doing it but it’ll be effective with those blasts and Breaching (4+). Five of them will take a nasty chunk out of any unit, while 10 will absolutely ruin even an elite one. It’s best focused on larger troop units where you can stack up the hits fast and do serious damage without too much trouble, and where you don’t have to worry about multiple wounds to chew through.
  • Volkite Culverin: Poor volkite. At least in a Heavy Support Squad you’re getting a heck of a lot of shots out of it, and the weight of fire would be good, but I have to pay 5 points a model for something that honestly is only marginally better than a Heavy Bolter.
  • Lascannon: While you may think of lascannons as the king of anti-tank fire (and they’re certainly effective, especially in volume like this) they will absolutely wreck terminators and other two wound infantry as well. High enough strength to kick off instant death and ap2 is enough to kill a lot of terminators or a command squad in a volley.

Legion Predator Squadron

Ravenguard Predator
Ravenguard Predator. Credit: NotThatHenryC

The Legion light tank, the predator is surprisingly able to take punishment from the front (AV13) but watch out for flanking actions that expose its rear (AV10). With only 3 HP it’s not going to take long to pop one, so you need to make sure this 120 point tank does some damage before it goes. It’s also pretty quick, but not amazingly fast.

First it’s worth noting that the cost drops to 105 points per tank when you buy additional predators, and that makes squadrons very appealing – you’re probably taking a squadron of three of these, rather than sprinkling a single one in and using up a slot. They’re small enough to not be in too much trouble running together as a pack, though you really want to consider dozer blades as it makes it more likely they’re going to have to brave difficult terrain.

So what do you want to put on the top of your predator? There are a lot of options, so strap in:

  • Predator Cannon: Solid if not exceptional, and of course nice and cheap. One of these throws out a decent number of shots, and the Rending is nice if a little risky to try and get to go off. The best bit is that Strength 8 though, meaning it can meaningfully target light vehicles and also get Instant Death off on most infantry. Not a bad choice, but probably not the best one.
  • Flamestorm Cannon: Let’s get this out of the way: Torrent (18″) is absolutely insane and hilarious. This struggles with the same downsides as all flamers (poor AP in particular), but it has a decent Strength and you can really hit stuff with that template. It’s comparatively expensive though, and you get one shot, so it’s probably a niche choice.
  • Executioner Plasma Destroyer: It’s basically a longer-ranged Gravis Plasma Cannon without Gets Hot, which makes it pretty solid for taking out one wound infantry, but it’s going to struggle against anything tougher. Good if you just want to clear tactical squads, but you’re paying a lot for that.
  • Heavy Conversion Beam Cannon: Conversion beamers have a role in the game now, but they’re still at their best from further than 42″ away, which is a long way, and probably not something you’re going to want to be trying for on a light mobile tank. I can see some argument for using the manoeuvrability to get further away from your target units, but you’re still going to struggle to consistently evaporate stuff with this (though it really will do work when you get it to). Expensive and tricky to use, but potentially very good.
  • Magna-Melta Cannon: An excellent gun and somehow cheaper than a lot of options. It’s a 3 shot version of the Kratos melta blast-gun but with twin-linked to make it more reliable. You’ll kill so many vehicles with this if you’re careful with it. You will need to get close, but you’re on a quick little platform and if you run out of armoured targets you can absolutely ruin some terminators. A great pick.
  • Graviton Cannon: The most expensive option and an interesting one. Haywire can be very good, and the other special rules are great, but it being one shot with Blast means you’re not going to be getting many hits through on a vehicle and vehicles rarely bunch up enough to hit multiple with one blast. It’s pretty good at what it does, but there are better options.
  • Volkite Macro-Saker: 8 shots is great. Strength 6 is great. Ap5 is terrible. I really want this to work but against marines at least you need serious volume of volkite for it to do much and this just isn’t it. Not a great choice, and it’s shockingly expensive given what you’re comparing it to.
  • Neutron Blaster: A very interesting weapon that’s tough to use well (the 24″ range is difficult to manoeuvre into) but will really hit hard if you land it. Though you’ll definitely be able to crack armour with this weapon it’s probably best used against hard targets with multiple wounds like Armigers so you can reduce their weapon skill and stop them firing reaction shots except snap shots and so on. Unfortunately, Dreadnoughts are fearless so this doesn’t do anything to them, or it would be really effective. Fills an awkward niche.
  • Gravis Lascannon: You know it, you love it, it’s a two shot lascannon. It’s pretty damn good.

Once you’ve got your turret gun sorted you need to choose what to take on your sponsons. Broadly you can decide based on if you’re expecting your targets to be infantry or armour. If you’re armour/dreadnought hunting then throw those lascannons on. At 10 points for two they’re an absolute steal. If you’re doing dedicated infantry hunting though heavy bolters are good if you’re fighting at range or heavy flamers if you’re expecting to have to drive up close and personal to dissuade chargers. If you want to go all out you can throw something nasty on the pintle, but honestly most of the options just aren’t worth paying the points – keep these guys focused and lean, because they’re probably blowing up soon enough.

Legion Sicaran Squadron (and Variants)

Blood Angels Sicaran Venator
Blood Angels Sicaran Venator. Credit: Jack Hunter

Incredibly versatile, the Sicaran is the (slightly) heavier battle tank of the Astartes. It comes in five major variants, but they’re all built on the same chassis. A little tougher than the Predator with an extra hull point and 12 armour in the rear, it’s also a little faster (with 16 movement) though not Fast (the type) which is interesting. However, the real meat of the thing is in the armaments.

The sponsons come with stock heavy bolters on all variants and have the same upgrade options as the predator – which means that unless you’re really saving points and going for an anti-infantry platform you should spend 10 points and throw a couple of lascannons on it. All the variants can also take a hunter-killer missile (don’t) and a searchlight (maybe do depending on if you have rhinos that can mount one or not). None of them can take dozer blades which means these nippy little vehicles are a little bit at risk of running aground but it’s probably not a huge deal. They can also all take an addition tank (at a slight discount) to run in a squadron of two at most. Sicarans are a little bulkier than Predators so a squadron might be difficult to manoeuvre, but two isn’t a huge deal so consider it if you want to bring a couple of these along anyway.

Two variants (the stock Sicaran and the Punisher) can also bring a pintle gun, which has the same options as basically all other pintle guns. These are both platforms you’re probably going to want to keep cheap for infantry hunting so I wouldn’t bother on here, but if you’re really hurting for anti-tank then a Multi-melta can’t hurt.

Finally (before we get to the main turret weapons) the Arcus can have a Helical Targeting Array and yes take this it’s amazing. 15 points is not a heavy price for the benefits.

Now onto those big guns:

  • The Sicaran mounts the Accelerator Autocannon which is ok but not great. I sing the praises of autocannons a lot, and I do like them, but I mostly like them because they’re cheap and cheerful and have a chance of doing something against almost all targets and this is a big expensive tank to bring to mount something cheap and cheerful on the top of. Eight shots is great, but it’s still only Rending (6+) and while Exoshock (6+) is cool it’s not going to go off very often. This is a weak vehicle hunter without the AP to make a good infantry hunter. Unreliable.
  • The Sicaran Arcus mounts the Arcus Missile Launcher with Arcus warheads, and then optional upgrades to add Skyspear warheads, Pyrax warheads and Neutron-flux warheads. The Arcus warheads are midranged and heavy hitting – 5 shots, twin-linked, landing at Strength 8 ap2 kills terminators for days. Awesome stuff. Skyspear warheads cost the same as a Helical Targeting Array and I honestly just don’t understand why you’d bring them. The added range is nice but not enough to justify it when you’re gonna wanna stick a Helical on there anyway. Pyrax warheads are big wet nothing, hitting like tissue paper and having you hunt for pinning. Neutron-Flux warheads would be utterly uninteresting (why take fewer shots and have to hunt for ap2 with breaching?) if it weren’t for the Neutron-Flux rule itself, which makes these instant death for automata. Since this includes stuff like Thanatars (although this just means they take 1d3 wounds – good catch comment section ) I actually think this looks good in a Mechanicum dominated meta. Take it if that sounds like your local scene.
  • The Sicaran Punisher packs the Punisher rotary cannon into its turret which is an interesting anti-infantry option because it has quite good Strength (enough to wound marines on 2s), Pinning with Shell Shock (1) and also sixteen shots. God damn that’s a lot of shots. It’s enough you’re going to be putting a wound on a unit even with a 2+ save, and prompting that pinning test. This probably still doesn’t make it better at pinning than, say, a recon squad with nemesis bolters though, so only bring this if you literally cannot get enough brrrt in your life.
  • The Sicaran Venator is where things get spicy with the neutron beam laser which is honestly a weapon we can all aspire to. It’s Ordinance so you get to roll twice on armour pen and pick the higher result, plus with Strength 10 ap1 it’s gonna be slapping through that armour with ease and making some nasty damage table rolls. Concussive (3) and Shock Pulse also means you can use it to really debuff targets as well. The only real downside is Gets Hot which can certainly hurt if you’re unlucky. It rules.
  • The Sicaran Omega mounts the Omega plasma array which is a pretty decent anti-infantry weapon in sustained fire mode and is an absolute monstrous anti-vehicle weapon in maximal fire mode. That Rending (4+) plus the absurd Plasma Burn rule makes this one of the few weapons that can realistically knock out a Spartan in a single volley without rolling a lucky Explodes result. Very good, but also one of the most expensive variants, and you’re contending with Gets Hot again. Another great choice.

Legion Kratos Squadron

Kratos Heavy Assault Tank. Credit: Rockfish
Kratos Heavy Assault Tank. Credit: Rockfish

The new beast of a tank, the Kratos is a like a bigger angrier Sicaran and just like that tank its efficacy varies wildly depending on what you put on it. Regardless of armament though it’s a tough thing – AV14 all around is huge, and it’s also one of the few tanks you can throw a flare shield on for good measure. Reducing strength by 1 doesn’t seem like a big deal until you see it in action, because so little can crack that effective AV15.

You have three choices for the main turret weapon:

  • Kratos Battlecannon: What seems to be the all-rounder and in some ways it is (especially if you buy the Flashburn shells) but it’s not really good at any of the things that it’s trying to do. It’s kind of like the Missile Launcher but mounted on top of 300 points of tank, where it really really needs to shine. The HE Shells are a nice big pie plate and they are high enough Strength to cause Instant Death plus are pinning, but they’re stuck at AP4 which isn’t helpful for anything really, so you’ve got to pray your opponent gives you some nice squishy tactical squad or similar to shoot at, otherwise it’s not much use. The AP Shells are much better in terms of AP (2 is great) and they have Sunder which is nice but they’re only two shots and you’re throwing down Strength 8 which is not enough to reliably take on anything heavy – you’re throwing shots at Rhinos and the like at that point, and it’s again a bit of a waste. Finally the Flashburn Shells are impressive at S10, armourbane and AP1. You’re almost certainly getting that penetrating hit which is great (especially with the +2 on the table) but at one shot and a 24″ range you’re gambling for that explosion. Plus adding these makes it the most expensive option. Overall, a sad disappointment.
  • Volkite Cardenelle: Look, a single gun throwing out 12 shots is fun and Strength 7 is OK if in an odd spot (an extra point over what’s needed to wound on 2s but not enough to cause Instant Death) but this isn’t good. I’m sorry, I really am, I want the giant PHWOOM gun to be good but even with pinning it’s not good enough to really matter. Maybe against militia? But then are you wasting a main battle tank against militia squads?
  • Melta Blast-Gun: Now we’re talking. 36″ range, so you’re getting armourbane only 6″ closer than the Flashburn Shells, and it’s a vicious 4 shots with enough Strength to cause Instant Death. This basically doesn’t have a bad choice of target other than maybe speeders and aircraft – pump four shots into a vehicle in melta range and you’ve got a good chance of totalling it no matter what it is. Pump four shots into infantry and that’s probably a few dead guys even if they have invulnerable saves and multiple wounds. It’s cheaper than taking Flashburn shells and it’s better. If you want to maximise the output of the Kratos, this is the main gun for you.

Remember to always fire the coaxial autocannon first to get those rerolls on the main turret.

What else should you throw on this thing? Lascannons is definitely a decent shout, especially if you just want to make a single vehicle die every turn. If you want to do this, consider throwing a multi-melta on the pintle as well. Otherwise, keep it cheap and cheerful with Heavy Bolters or Autocannons.

As for other equipment the Dozer Blade is probably a sensible choice (there’s nothing worse than immobilising a tank turn one by driving over some rubble) and the searchlights are ok but I’d probably keep them on a sacrificial rhino or something similar rather than lighting up your heavy tank like a christmas tree.

You can take another Kratos in a squadron but this is really really silly and honestly has no practical purpose. That said: go off, king.

Legion Land Raider Proteus Carrier Squadron

The classic land raider that’s tough, flexible and strikes a good balance between being a killing machine and also an excellent transport. There’s a reason these clock in at 220 points, because they’re genuinely a fantastic vehicle. It’s extremely tough and thought slower than lighter vehicles it still moves at a decent pace. It’s also Resilient, which is a great subtype, able to shrug off a lot of the damage tables results without breaking a sweat.

The transport capacity of 12 means you can bring along 5 terminators and a character, or 10 marines, a character and an apothecary, which is a great little package to deliver up the battlefield. It’s also an assault vehicle, so your soldiers can come out swinging, another great perk. Three access points is also a solid number giving you a lot of flexibility when disembarking.

Since you have to bring the gravis lascannons in the sponsons (which are fantastic) there’s little reason not to load a twin-linked lascannon up front. You can add a pintle mounted multi-melta if you want for more killing power, but it’s really a matter of taste, and this is one of the few vehicles (thanks to Power of the Machine Spirit letting you split your fire however you like) where you can bring pretty much any weapon you choose and it’ll do something. Definitely don’t bring the hunter-killer missile though, come on now.

You can bring these as a squadron but 90% of the time you’re bringing one of these along as a dedicated transport, so it’s unlikely to come up. The inflexibility of squadroning these bricks is also questionable, so avoid it if possible.

Really, this is the premier small-capacity transport, and if you can afford one then it won’t let you down.

Legion Land Raider Proteus Explorator

An interesting variant of the standard carrier, the Explorator has a very different role to its larger-capacity counterpart, despite it being built on a similar looking template. It doesn’t come with the hull-mounted bolter as standard, but you can buy one, and so it can end up looking very similar in armament to the Carrier. It doesn’t carry as many passengers however, with a cap of 8 meaning that you’re probably bringing a command squad or five man veteran squad or something similar. It also gets a dozer blade on the front, which is neat but not game changing.

The real changes comes from the Explorator Augury Web and the Scout rule. The Augury Web has two modes, one which debuffs enemy reserve rolls and one which allows you to reroll your own. This is extremely good, making reserves much more reliable and interfering something awful with your opponent’s rolls. Scout is also very nice, letting the Explorator edge a bit closer to the action at the start of the game or Outflank, interesting on such a heavy vehicle. This all seems quite interesting and considering what a tough fighting beast this is, it may seem appealing. So let’s get onto the problem.

The problem is, simply, that you’re not getting one of these as a dedicated transport and you cannot squadron them so you’re filling your heavy support slot with one of them. Now that might be fine depending on your list, but for many armies this slot is at a real premium, and it’s difficult to justify such an inclusion. This pushes it into the “interesting but situational” category rather than being a must take – useful for armies that are mostly fast moving and light, and need some heavy support that can move about at the same speed. One or two of these in a recon company is a nice idea, since it doesn’t have the Heavy subtype.

Legion Vindicator Squadron

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

A siege tank with strong front and side armour (but weak rear armour) that, despite the options for pintles and such is really all about the Big Gun mounted centreline. There are two of these:

  • the Demolisher cannon is one of a very small number of ranged weapons to have the Brutal special rule and on that basis alone is worth taking a look at. However, it’s more than just that – this one shot strength 12, ordnance, sunder, Rending (6+) gun looks like it’s gonna punch through stuff. It just doesn’t quite live up to those stats. It’s not quite enough to cause Instant Death on Contemptors, though if they fail their save will at least do multiple damage. It’s good at punching through vehicle armour but it isn’t actually going to do that much to them – it can’t cause explosions and it is going to do a single hull point of damage. Blast makes you think that it’s going to be good at taking out multi-wound infantry thanks to brutal, but it’s ap is kind of miserably so you’re hunting for Rends or failed saves. The extremely niche use of “shooting at Phalanx Warders packed in like sardines in the Stone Gauntlet Rite of War” exists, but for everything else there’s better options. A disappointment.
  • the Magna Laser Destroyer is more like it. You lose some Strength but you get AP1 and three shots in return, as well as Exoshock (6+) and twin-linked. This makes it a much more efficient vehicle killer. It actually also makes it a more efficient Dreadnought killer because it’s still wounding on 2s, it’s hitting more accurately and while it’s not Brutal 3 it is ap1 so the saves are all on the invulnerable. It’ll eat terminators for breakfast as well, and all for only 20 points extra? 140 points for a tough little tank with one of these feels very worthwhile.

Legion Land Raider Spartan

White Scars Spartan Assault Tank. Credit – Soggy

Since almost everyone now owns a Spartan thanks to the new box set, it’s probably lucky that they’re extremely good. Everything I said about the Proteus Carrier applies here, but more – more HP, more lascannons, more troop capacity. All in all it’s a beast of a thing, hard to put down (especially if you spring for a flare shield which, if you have the points, you absolutely should because effectively AV 15 is so hard to crack) and it’s almost certainly carting your most prized infantry towards the enemy so that’s, again, lucky.

The real decision to make here is the lascannon arrays vs the laser destroyers. Lascannon Arrays are basically just gravis lascannons but twin-linked – so two re-rolling lascannon shots hitting like a lascannon will. The destroyer is a bit more interesting. Because it’s an ordnance weapon and you have two of them you really want to be stationary when shooting as much as possible – otherwise you’re firing full BS on one and snap shots on the other. However, each one throws out as many shots as the lascannons, you’re rolling twice and picking the higher on armour penetration, it has ap1 and Exoshock (6+) making it absolutely ruinous against enemy armour.

If you want to be pushing up around the table with your squad, transporting them from place to place, or pushing them up towards enemy units to engage, then probably take the lascannon arrays. If you want to driving up turn one, spitting them out onto an objective and then sitting in the middle of the table shooting things, take the destroyers.

Legion Scorpius Squadron

This artillery tank is priced to move and is basically uninteresting until you start looking a little closer at that Scorpius missile launcher. Without the Rocket Barrage special rule this would be a pretty unimpressive gun, but when you add that on you suddenly have a barrage weapon with a nice big template that can threaten just about anything thanks to Rending (4+), Pinning and that Strength 8. It’s not going to make vehicles explode, but it’s going to do an absolute number on infantry, and you’re also going to see Dreadnoughts and light tanks have a hard time with it. Since you don’t want to be moving this thing anyway and are going to be leaving it parked out of the way somewhere there’s little downside to bring a squadron and for 225 points two of these is a nasty source of artillery fire.

Legion Arquitor Squadron

Imperial Fists Legion Arquitor Bombard
Imperial Fists Legion Arquitor Bombard. Credit: Jack Hunter

The bigger fatter for some reason less tough artillery tank, the Arquitor is an odd beast because it needs to be pretty close to the enemy for most of its guns but also doesn’t want to be moving anywhere (it’s slow and vulnerable) and also it comes with heavy bolter sponsons that if you’re smart you’ll never fire because it’ll be hidden behind a building. Move Through Cover is an interesting addition, meaning that you can shift it around in the dense environments you want it in to protect it a little easier, but it’s not enough to save it.

It gets three options for big gun:

  • The big Morbin’ time gun, the Morbus Bombard isn’t even that impressive – it’s a big blast with Pinning and Rending (6+) and a high strength, but the poor AP means you’re hunting for rends against even tactical marines. If you bring a Siege Breaker you can load it with Phosphex shells which is fun but it’s not even a barrage weapon at that point and you’re better bringing a leviathan with phosphex popped on top.
  • The Graviton-charge cannon has such a short range (24″) you really need to be putting this thing in danger and also it’s not barrage so you’re going to be in the line of fire as well. Sure a big old 7″ blast is nice, but it’s not useful when you’re really looking to hit vehicles thanks to Haywire. I just don’t see when this is going to achieve much, but it’s probably the best option? Maybe?
  • The Spicula rocket system at least has the range the Morbus lacks, but it also isn’t a barrage weapon, is S7 (which is in a bad place in terms of instant death and so on), has bad ap, does throw down a big pie plate but also has limited ammunition meaning you probably won’t get to shoot the entire game with it. God this is bad.

A sad miss of a heavy support option. What a shame.

Legion Fire Raptor Gunship

Night Lords Fire Raptor. Credit: Ivan Cobian

If the Storm Eagle is the Land Raider of the skies, then the Fire Raptor is its up-gunned angrier sibling. Sacrificing transport capacity for Many Guns this is a dedicated gunship designed primarily to attack ground targets (thanks to its Strafing Run (1) special rule meaning it’s hitting non-flyers on 2s). It’s decently tough for a flyer, but that’s really not saying that much in this edition, and it has the same “coming in from reserves and eating interceptor reactions” problems other flyers have. The guns are the interesting bit then, and it comes with quite a few, with the main armament (the twin-linked Avenger bolt cannon) being fixed. It throws out a decent number of shots at a decent strength and actually rocks ap3 meaning it’s not half bad at killing basic marines – in many ways this feels like Heavy Bolters want to feel, but don’t.

It then has either two Gravis heavy bolter batteries (sadly feeling much more like other Heavy Bolters actually are) or Gravis autocannon batteries which feel pretty great for a 15pt upgrade as they rock Rending (6+) and their Strength 7 makes them a threat to light vehicles letting them diversify their targets (which they can do happily because of Power of the Machine Spirit). They can then take either four tempest rockets or hellstrike missiles, which are both pretty similar (one shot heavy 1 with sunder) but hellstrikes rock a good whack more strength and ap2, making them wildly better… but probably not 20 points better.

The sad fact is that despite this being tougher that a lot of flyers, it’s not that tough in the grand scheme of things and at 280 points base it’s expensive. If you give it autocannons and hellstrikes you can just bring a Kratos and honestly you should. Unless you have a great reason for needing a flying death box that’ll be shot out of the sky after a single turn (maybe before it fires a shot), probably not something to bring.

Legion Deathstorm Drop Pod Squadron

Credit: Jonathon Reynolds

Probably the weirdest heavy support choice, the Deathstorm are drop pods that don’t scatter (great) that fire potentially 36 shots each (great) at BS2 (terrible) and might run out of ammunition the first time they’re fire (garbage). Let’s try and evaluate what on earth these are for and if they’re worth it at any point.

First of all you’re paying 90 points for some mobile terrain that you get to place on the first turn. With HP3 and 12 armour all round they’re not exactly tough, but unless they explode they’re staying there all game. That makes them an incredibly reliable way to shovel a line of sight block between you and your opponent. But you’d never, ever take just one. Two is the absolute minimum, and probably you bring three.

Will they actually do anything when they land? Maybe. They have S6 weapons which is decent and they get 9 shots against four different units each time they fire, but their range of 18″ makes it tricky to get that many units in range, especially because you’re likely going to be blocking lines of sight with the other pods in the unit. The BS2 is bad, so you’re hitting on 5s, but then probably wounding normal marines on 2s, and then they’re getting their normal saves. That means on a squad with a 2+ save in it you’ll get a wound about half the time. They do have Pinning though, so that’s potentially two out of the four squads you’re hitting taking a Pinning test. It’s possible, if you’re lucky, that each pod will pin a unit each turn, assuming there are units in range. Even if they then run out of ammo (unlikely) they probably do something of use.

I went into looking at these thinking they were going to be utterly pointless and terrible and I’m walking away thinking they actually might not be horrible. There are absolutely good uses for these, especially if you need to tie up an enemy advance or enemy shooting block early on in the game, or you want to stop a bunch of squishy Line units advancing. What has the world come to.

Legion Kharybdis Assault Claw

What if a Spartan but a drop pod and also a flyer and also hilariously stupid. The Kharybdis carries an enormous 22 occupants and has Assault Vehicle making it a much better choice for a deep strike package than most pods… if it had the Deep Strike rule. It doesn’t. Despite having the Inertial Guidance System. So it’s a flyer, so it has to come on like a flyer from normal reserves, and cannot Deep Strike, which makes it interesting that it has two special rules tied directly to deep striking. Oh and it doesn’t have impact reactive doors, so even if it could deepstrike it can’t spew its cargo on the turn it arrives.

Look, this has to be a mistake, right? The whole point is it’s a giant angry drop pod, but it’s also not. It has absolutely terrible armaments (the Deathstorm, charming on a 90 point platform with perfect Deep Strike, isn’t so tempting on this) and while tough for a flyer is going to die to intercepts and then just normal shooting really fast (it’s going to be in hover mode, right, so it can unload).

If this gets fixed to get the Deep Strike and Impact Reactive Doors rules then maybe it’s worth considering. But even then it’s a tough sell – it’s a lot of points, and while it will bring your boys to the table, it’s not really heavy with toys to play with once you get there. Only worth really considering in a Drop Pod Assault list.

Legion Land Raider Phobos (Expanded)

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

This is just a Land Raider Proteus Carrier. Literally, it’s just that. But you can’t take them as dedicated transport for some reason. I hope this gets fixed because you should really just be able to use them interchangeably. It really only exists for people who are insistent that their old 40k land raiders have different rules than the 30k styled ones. These people are silly.

Legion Land Raider Achilles (Expanded)

Only able to carry six models, the Land Raider Achilles is barely a transport – enough for a command squad or a unit of veterans, but that’s not really why you’re here anyway.

First up it’s a hell of a tough cookie – the standard Land Raider is already, and the added bonus of Ferromantic Invulnerability is yet another bonus, especially for that immunity to armourbane.

Second there’s the guns. The sponsons are a little eye-popping – four twin-linked melta shots at 24″ makes it extremely reliable at cracking open enemy armour. You can choose to give up these mean things for volkite if you’re absolutely insane (the “upgrade” is free, so at least they’re not charging you to make the tank much worse). The main armament, the Achillus quad launcher, is on the other hand quite disappointing – it’s basically a couple of missile launchers strapped together with sunder, and while sunder is nice and all it’s still not going to do well cracking seriously heavy armour. It’s not even of an ap value useful for killing infantry.

All of this clocks in at a very pricy 320 points which means it’s playing in the same leagues as the Kratos and Spartan. It’s good, but it’s definitely not that good, and is outclassed by both.

Legion Basilisk Squadron (Expanded)

Pour one out, my friends, for the Earthshaker cannon. Once it was mighty, now it’s kind of rubbish.

Ok, so that’s maybe a little overboard: it’s still a large blast with shred, pinning (nice), strength 9 and barrage, with a simply stupid 240″ range. But the ap4 really leaves it struggling to do much damage – you might kill some tactical marines and cause a pinning test which isn’t nothing but for 200 points you kind of expect a little more. It’s the Bombard subtype so you can at least drive it around a little (to use that scary scary heavy bolter) but since the cannon has barrage why would you want to? I wish this was better than it is, but it’s one of the worst vehicles in the entire list: as fragile as a predator, with the threat output of a vehicle half its points and very little else to bring to the table. Only bring one if you’re playing on a 20 foot long table.

Legion Medusa Squadron (Expanded)

Very similar to the Basilisk, the Medusa at least rocks a better main gun (shorter range but Rending (6+) to actually punch through some armour saves) and for some reason a better heavy bolter (I genuinely can’t explain this one). If you are set on taking an over-priced artillery tank, this is probably the one to go for.

Legion Whirlwind (Expanded)

Now this is much more palatable, points wise – just 120 points compared to the 200 of the Basilisk and the Medusa. It’s much less tough, of course, being basically a Rhino with a big fancy missile launcher strapped to the top. The Whirlwind missile launcher is pretty decent, though I can’t see many situations you’ll want to fire the Talonis missiles, at least until Militia and Cults start hitting the tables. Breaching (4+) is pretty nice on a blast template, even a small one, and the Icarios is a decent enough AA missile, though it being one shot certainly limits the chance it’ll do anything much of use. The real killer to the appeal of this tank is it doesn’t come in squadrons, which means you’re using an entire Heavy Support slot for a single 120 point vehicle that probably won’t accomplish much that’s exciting.

Legion Caestus Assault Ram (Expanded)

Imperial Fists Caestus Assault Ram
Imperial Fists Caestus Assault Ram. Credit: Jack Hunter

Generally we try to avoid direct comparisons with first edition units when we do these articles, but for this one it’s kind of unavoidable. The Caestus Assault Ram was notable in the previous edition for having a special rule that allowed them to carry terminators as one model rather than two – effectively ignoring the Bulky (x) rule, in 2E parlance. This hasn’t survived into the new edition, which means that instead of bringing a large squad of angry terminators into the fray, you’re likely going to want to pack this rather impressive transport with the nastiest power armour squad you can. A command squad with praetor is a good choice I think, so given that this is going to be a prestige vehicle costing 350 points, let’s see how it performs.

It can Deep Strike and has Assault Vehicle, which is a great start in theory, plus as a hover subtype it can come on normally as a flyer in hover mode ready to unload its contents if you have a compelling reason to do that. However because deep striking units can’t move, they can’t come out the turn they arrive. It’s pretty tough though so it might survive to the next turn, but you need to be very careful with how you drop it in, because all that robustness is in the front arc – effective AV 14 on the front, dropping to 13 on the sides and 11 (eek) on the rear. It’s only got 4 HP as well, so poor placements could lead to a nasty surprise as it combusts before it does much. This is certainly a problem considering you’re going to be waiting to get out.

Other than unloading its passengers, the Caestus is going to give anything it targets a nasty surprise too. The siege melta array is extremely deadly, being in effect a twin-linked five shot meltagun, and it’s totally possible to drop, pop a land raider, and then charge your passengers out into the poor fools that were previously inside. The short range means it’s not the easiest thing to pull off, but Deep Strike definitely helps.

Ultimately this is a unit that relies on that Deep Strike going off without a hitch, and then surviving for a turn. I’d consider any bonuses you can find to make sure that happens, because if it scatters it could be a disaster. If it lands though, you’re going to cause absolute chaos in their lines, first from the shooting, then the next turn from the unit inside. Situational, expensive, and probably not a great unit overall. Probably over-costed, like many of the expanded units, but it does has a role and it seems like a lot of fun.

Legion Malcador Assault Tank Squadron (Expanded)

A halfway house between the focused power of the light Predator and the indestructible might of the Kratos, the Malcador is pretty heavy duty and backs a lot of firepower onto its frame, albeit not the heaviest of firepower.

Well, I think. There are some serious problems evaluating this unit. Firstly, it has a special rule not in the core rulebook or the Liber Astartes/Hereticus (Independent Fire Control) and also mounts by default a “battlecannon” which isn’t in the Liber, and that can be switched out for a “Vanquisher battlecannon” which also doesn’t currently have rules.

Look, this is a guard tank – these rules and options will, I’m sure, make perfect sense when the Militia and Cults list arrives. Until then it’s rather difficult to evaluate and unless you pick very specific weapon options you can’t actually run it.

Legion Minotaur Battery (Expanded)

This slow twin-linked Basilisk is basically notable only for two things:

  • it has a higher AV on its rear than its side, requiring a special rule to fix the issues this would cause in assaults
  • it’s a Basilisk whose earthshaker cannon is twin-linked for 280 points

This second point is what pushes it just to the top (bottom) of the pile when it comes to absolute trash that you shouldn’t take, just above the Basilisk. It’s a Basilisk (bad) but more so (worse). It doesn’t even have the damn heavy bolter.

In Conclusion

The heavy support slot is a land of contrasts. It contains some of the very best units in the entire legions list (the leviathan among others) and also some of the absolute worst (the poor Minotaur and Basilisk). It’s a slot at an absolute premium and maximising what you get out of it is essential for you to bring the right tools to the table – if you can provide the right heavy support you’ll likely find victory. Of course, even more confusingly, a lot of it isn’t Heavy. Reconnaissance Kratos anyone?