Horus Heresy Units of the Astartes: Lords of War


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.

Now that we’ve dealt with the riff raff of the Troops, Fast Attack, and so on we come to the aristocracy of the 30k battlefield: the Lords of War. Keep your heads down and hold onto your wallets!

I have a couple of these massive yellow lumps of resin for my 7th Legion, so I turned to the Lords of War section of the book with some concern. Would my precious vehicles still be any good or would they be starting new careers as door stops?

Lords of War are massive tanks, aircraft, knights, and even Titans. They have very powerful weapons and are much tougher than other vehicles. Most of them are super-heavies that can’t be killed by a lucky “explodes” result or have their performance degraded by penetrating hits.

They’re also a massive investment of points and, let’s face it, money. Oh and your opponent will get a VP for killing one. Don’t feel that you need to have one of these to do well in 30k. It’s fine to fill your points with other units or maybe bring a Primarch instead.

There are restrictions on taking Lords of War. You can only spend up to 25% of your points on them, and/or a Primarch, and they are only available in games of 2000 points and above. This means Lords of War worth up to 500 points are available at 2000 points but you can’t have others until you reach 3000 points or more. In any normal-sized game you’ll be taking a single Lord of War or Primarch at most.

One other thing: you aren’t limited to just “Legion” Lords of War. They are in their own detachment so, as long as you share an allegiance, anything goes. Your Legionaries can be supported by a Knight or, if the points value allows, even a Titan. In theory you could take a Lord of War from a different Legion but bringing (for example) an Iron Warriors Cerberus for your Imperial Fists might be unpopular.

This review will focus on the Lords of War that the Legions themselves own. I’ll then have a brief look at non-Legion stuff you can bring and finally a run through the Extended trash that you should avoid taking.


Legion Cerberus… Squadron?

In theory you’re allowed to take two of these in a squadron. They’d be too expensive to use in games of 3k or less though. A single Cerberus is one of the cheaper Lords of War, available in games of 2000 points and above.

The Cerberus and Typhon are not super-heavy vehicles. Instead they have the Bombard and Reinforced unit types, giving them many of the benefits of super-heavies but not all. Crucially, a lucky melta shot can explode them in one go. They’re also stuck at combat speed if you want to fire their ordnance guns and can’t split fire, so even a squadron would have to fire everything at a single target. The upside is that they can do more reactions than super-heavies – e.g. moving away from a squad of guys with meltas.

The Cerberus is a tank-and-other-big-stuff-killer, and a very good one. With S10, AP1 and 4 ordnance shots the Neutron Laser Battery is likely to get penetrating hits on even armour 14 targets and quite often explode them from nice and far away. Survivors will be firing snap shots due to the Shock Pulse rule. Many other Lords of War fire one big blast, causing one wound or hull point and one chance to explode the target. The Cerberus’ four shots make it do more damage and also more consistently apply Shock Pulse. They do also mean you have four chances to lose hull points to the feedback rule. This will average about one lost hp per game if firing every turn; always, inevitably, at the worst/funniest moment.

Despite “only” having 6hp the Cerberus has 14 armour all-round and comes with a flare shield, so is likely to shrug off all but the very most powerful incoming fire. The main gun is centreline-mounted though, so sometimes pointing at its target will expose the sides. If it does explode it makes a big S10 blast, though still at AP-.

You don’t have many options. I like lascannon sponsons to engage the sorts of targets the Cerberus will be firing at. More importantly perhaps, lascannons can “tank” weapon destroyed results so you don’t lose the main gun. You’ll want to stay nice and far away from things so a searchlight is a good idea and a pintle weapon isn’t.

The Cerberus is a really interesting pick for a budget Lord of War. It will dominate vehicles and dreadnoughts smaller games. At 3k it will sometimes meet bigger fish but it has a decent chance of getting a shot through and silencing enemy Lords of War. That flare shield makes the Cerberus surprisingly tough even against very scary things like the multiple S10 blasts from an Acastus Porphyrion. A solid pick.

Legion Typhon Squadron

A Typhon swaps the Cerberus’ largely irrelevant Reactor Blast rule for “Crushing weight”, making it great at ramming. It also has a completely different gun.

The Dreadhammer siege cannon has Brutal (4), so even if it rolls a 2 or 3 to wound the target has still four saves to make. With Rending 4+ roll any higher to wound and your target probably won’t get a save at all. If you get to fire this at clumped up Castellax robots, Javelin land speeders or any kind of elite infantry, it’ll make a big mess. It isn’t great against dreadnoughts unless it rolls that 4+ rend but Armigers will hate it.

Against vehicles Ordnance, sunder and S12 mean you’ll basically always penetrate, but that’s where the fun stops because at AP3 the target won’t explode and loses only 1hp. So the Typhon isn’t an especially good tank hunter and kind of fails vs enemy superheavies. It’s also bad against fortifications, which supposedly what it’s for. It doesn’t ignore cover, though Brutal (4) kind of amounts to the same thing, given the odds of passing four cover saves.

Instead of firing your gun at things you can use the Typhon’s Crushing Weight to inflict an unusually large number of S10 ap- hits on things it rams. Ramming endangers your tank and prevents it from firing, but it could give the enemy a nasty surprise.

I don’t quite rate the Typhon, mainly due to having only AP3. It’s very good against some things but not good enough against enemy super-heavies, dreadnoughts, Primarchs and many of the other big threats that are likely to appear.

Imperial Fists Fellblade
Imperial Fists Fellblade. Credit: Jack Hunter

Fellblade and Variants

These are true super-heavies and with 12hp and immunity to explode results they’ll stick around for a long time. They’re surprisingly fast because they can go 12” and fire as if stationary, though they still only get to snap fire if they ram… so don’t. All of them are too expensive to use in games under 2600 points. Most likely they’re going to be involved in games of 3k and above, with the other really big toys.

Quite a bit of the damage output will come from the lasers stuck to the sides of these monsters, so don’t forget about them. You can have either lascannon arrays or laser destroyers. They’re actually very similar, with a couple of twin-linked S9 shots for each. I generally prefer the laser destroyers because Ordnance and AP1 gives you a better chance of exploding vehicles. The lascannons’ better range could be useful though.

Legion Fellblade

Somehow, despite there very clearly being two barrels, the Fellblade’s gun is not twin-linked and fires only one shot – but it’s a pretty good one. Its 7” S8 AP3 blast is a serious threat to anyone wearing power armour or worse. You also have an AP2 armour penetrating shell that will reliably penetrate a vehicle’s armour and also has a 3” blast if you happen to notice some terminators in a huddle. The Fellblade also packs a demolisher cannon, which is a lovely little bonus and a proper threat to elite non-vehicles.

Overall the Fellblade is a solid choice for your Lord of War. It can engage just about any target, or more likely multiple targets. I think your best option will be to have the turret fire big pie plates at infantry while the sponson laser destroyers shoot up heavier stuff.

Legion Glaive

I’d really like to like the Glaive, which easily wins the rule of cool competition. Now and then it’ll really pay off for you, if your opponent has a few models in a line or if it can go through multiple units. Most of the time it’ll just kill a handful of enemies, frustratingly bounce off 2+ saves or get blocked from its intended target by a rhino or dread. It costs 50 points more than the other two variants and they’re better.

Imperial Fist Falchion
Imperial Fist Falchion., Credit: NotThatHenryC

Legion Falchion

The Falchion is armed with not just one but two Volcano Cannons, twin-linked. This absolute beast of a gun is more often seen on a Reaver Titan’s arm (causing it to overheat and fail machine spirit rolls if I ever take one in Adeptus Titanicus). It feels a bit unnecessary roll 3D6 and pick the best two for armour penetration, when S14 means it penetrates any vehicle automatically.

Meanwhile AP1 and ignoring cover make it a really, really bad idea to get shot by one of these. Even things like Contemptors will take 2D3 wounds from a hit – D3 for it being a Destroyer and D3 because their shield thing saves them from being instant killed.

If you want to you can pay a bit extra to drop to a mere S10 and add the Shock Pulse rule. You should probably do this but it’s not essential except against enemy super-heavies, as most other targets would die to the volcano cannon anyway. S10 destroyer is already enough to penetrate things reliably (and twin-linked means you’re quite likely to hit). In a fight between super-heavies the ability to shut down the enemy’s firepower like this will make all the difference.

Falchions are great. They can ruin the day of absolutely anything in 30k from 10 feet away. Of all the vehicles in this list only the Cerberus can really hope to take one on, and that’ll only live for as long as it can keep the Falchion’s gun shut down.

Blood Angels Thunderhawk Gunship
Blood Angels Thunderhawk Gunship. Credit: Jack Hunter

Legion Thunderhawk Gunship

A Thunderhawk can be fielded in 3000 point games if you’re able to buy one, build it and transport it to the venue. Some of the upgrades you might take would push it over that 750 point limit for 3000 point games though; notably the turbo laser. You could exchange the missiles for bombs, but I don’t think you should. The bombs are inaccurate, ap4 and require you to fly over the target – meaning it’s behind you and all your guns are pointed in exactly the wrong direction.

The thunderhawk has a scary alpha strike. A Thunderhawk Cannon, six hellstrike missiles, a couple of lascannons and four heavy bolters will hurt something important very badly. It’s great to have a destroyer gun on a platform that most other really big stuff isn’t allowed to even target, at least while it’s zooming.

The downside is that once you switch to hover mode for troops to disembark you become very vulnerable. Your best bet might be to just keep zooming until the drop zone is nice and clear before deploying a few Line units to grab objectives. You don’t really want to sacrifice your Lord of War to drop off some melee guys in my opinion.

At this point I’d like to rant for a short while about the Thunderhawk Cannon. What on earth is the logic behind an AP4 destroyer weapon? What sort of gun will more reliably penetrate the armour of a warlord titan than a space marine in power armour? I find this very silly.

Moving on, the Angel’s Wrath rite of war is a great way to ensure that your ludicrously enormous aeroplane and the many, many points worth of stuff it contains will turn up on turn one. A Thunderhawk screaming on with a wing of storm eagles, fire raptors and Xiphons in support would look fantastic.

Unfortunately I don’t think it would make for a great game. You’d launch a massive alpha strike, probably killing all the enemy’s AA capacity before spending the rest of the game circling round strafing things. You’d tend to win because most of the other army wouldn’t be able to do anything.

Edit! Oh wait, the Angel’s Wrath Rite of War doesn’t work on Thunderhawks because, as Lords of War, they won’t be in the detachment that the Rite affects. Sorry! If you want your Thunderhawk to reliably turn up on turn 2 I suggest looking for a way to get rerolls on reserve rolls.

Legion Sokar Stormbird

You almost certainly won’t ever see one of these on (or above) a table, not least because it’s too expensive to use in 3000 point games. It has more transport capacity than the Thunderhawk and can even carry a vehicle with up to 4hp if you want, possibly containing troops of its own. The Stormbird’s lascannons fire to the side arcs and there’s no destroyer cannon on the roof so you won’t have anything like the Thunderhawk’s alpha strike. instead there is much thicker frontal armour, more hull points and a couple of void shield generators, so it’s as tough as a flying Warhound Titan.

Legion Mastodon

The Mastodon has an enormous transport capacity, excellent durability and relatively little firepower for its price. The siege melta array is devastating but centreline-mounted with a 12” range, which is not ideal.

You can use the Mastodon in 3000 point games but I wouldn’t. It already feels like a huge investment to fill up a Spartan. You just have so many units in one place. A Mastodon can carry crazy amounts of stuff but it isn’t particularly fast so it’ll take a while to get anywhere. There’s a pretty strong case for just spending the equivalent points on more infantry or whatever and having them walk.

One major advantage the Mastodon does have is that, as a super-heavy, it can carry multiple units. You could have a couple of Leviathans, four 5-man squads and a couple of ICs riding along, ready to run off in different directions when they arrive and cause mischief.

On the other hand the Mastodon isn’t quite as invulnerable as it might seem. Yes it has armour 14, a couple of void shields and 12 hull points but you have to imagine facing off against shooty units worth the cost of the Mastodon and its contents. With no flare shield the Mastodon will lose HPs faster than you might imagine to things like lascannons and may suffer some “explodes” results to melta fire too. It’s very bad to be inside a super-heavy when it dies, so you should have everyone disembark before that happens.

Chaos Knights. Credit: Rockfish
Chaos Knights. Credit: Rockfish

Big stompy Mechanicum walkers

You can find out more about these in Liber Mechanicum: The Goonhammer Review. This is a brief look at them from the perspective of a Legion army.

The main advantage walkers have over tanks is that they aren’t anything like as vulnerable to melee, instead punching, chopping and kicking anything unfortunate enough to come within reach. Knights’ Ion Shields give them invulnerable saves against shooting, so they’re tougher than they might seem. While super-heavy tanks will tend to hang back and rain destruction on the enemy, knights will spearhead your assault.

The trade-off is that you generally have weaker firepower, though the arm-mounted guns of Knights and Titans are defensive, meaning they can return fire against super-heavies.

There are some different ways to field these, as follows:

A single knight in the Lord of War slot

You can take your Lord of War from any list so there’s a good case for bringing one of the Mechanicum ones with a flare shield. An Atropos is a great Lord of War with a really strong mix of shooting and melee power. The household-only Acastus Porphyrion is a spectacularly shooty unit that has somehow got four AP2 large blasts, which is far more than any comparably-priced Lord of War.

A knight detachment

This is a different detachment in which you can bring a big knight for every 2+ Armigers you have. The Armigers are Line and don’t come out of your 25% Lord of War allocation. Household ranks are available so you could take two knights at 3000 points by downgrading one to an Aspirant, bringing the combined price of both below 750 points. You’d actually be spending more than half your points on your knight “allies” at this point, including the four Armigers you’d need to have in the detachment.

A Knight detachment is quite cool even if you’re taking just one knight. You can upgrade your knight with a household rank. You have to bring a couple of Armigers but they’re a fast, tough, fighty Line unit, so likely to come in handy.

Warhound Titan Credit: Greg Chiasson

Literally a Titan

Titans get a load of extra invulnerabilities, like ignoring Haywire and Psychic powers, meaning that some of the tricks to kill or shut down super-heavies fail on them. Shock Pulse, Blind and plenty of other tings still work though. Night Vision is tasty, letting them own the early game and ignore shrouding throughout. Try not to be anywhere near one of these if it dies.

A Warhound Titan is cheap enough to field in a 3000 point game and might be the most powerful Lord of War you could bring overall. All its guns are great, though the updated turbo laser destructor (now S12, AP2, ignores cover) is the only one likely to stand up to things like the Falchion’s volcano cannon or the Porphyrion’s AP2 blast spam. Warhounds have WS5 and front armour 14 so it’ll be hard to kill one while it kicks and stomps its way through vehicles and infantry.

There is currently a Warhound on my desk, mostly built and partially painted. I can’t wait to give it a try.

You can only use the bigger titans in seriously enormous games of 6000 points and above. I’ll leave them for a future article to cover. Alternatively, check out Adeptus Titanicus for a game that represents Titan combat properly, with reactors to manage, machine spirits to placate and whole maniples of God Machines.

Along with (or even instead of) your titan you can bring some Secutarii. These are pretty ordinary non-Line infantry that cost more than tactical marines, so should generally be avoided. There might be an occasional use for a Secutarii Axiarch for Legions that are battle brothers with Mechanicum, allowing him to join units. He’s Stubborn and can be given Rad grenades, among other toys.

Extended trash

Last, and definitely least, if none of the above Lords of War interest you, perhaps you’d prefer something with worse armour, fewer, weaker weapons and a higher price. If so, the Legacies of the Age of Darkness pdf has a bunch of other Lords of War for you, including most of the things you can make with the Baneblade kit and some older Forgeworld models. All of them are complete rubbish and you should only field them if you particularly want to represent some sort of reserve force pressing every last resource into action, or you really like the model. I’m curious to see whether these things get decent rules in the imminent Liber Imperium or the promised militia/cults pdf. They couldn’t really be worse.

I won’t review all these in detail because they aren’t worth it. They truly are dreadful. The updated Legacies of the Age of Darkness download now been updated to tell us what most of their weapons do, which is nice.

Here’s a brief rundown of why you shouldn’t bring any of these. Feel free to skip to the conclusion now because there is nothing for you here.

Legion Stormblade

This is basically a shadowsword with a plasma blastgun instead of the volcano cannon. The plasma gun’s rules say it’s in a turret, which it isn’t, so maybe they’ll get that right in the third version of the pdf. It is probably the least awful of the extended vehicles, though if you want a Plasma Blastgun you could always take a Warhound, for the same price, with two of them.

Legion Thunderhawk Transport

A lot like the proper Thunderhawk except that you don’t have the destroyer gun or the lascannons, and it’s quite a bit cheaper. You get quite a nasty alpha strike but after that it’s virtually unarmed – though the updated rules do at least twin-link its heavy bolters.

Instead of big guns, you have a transport capacity of 22, plus the really weird ability to carry up to two 4hp vehicles. In theory I think you can hang a couple of storm eagles under it, each with their own capacity for 22 models, but don’t do that. In fact just don’t take one of these. They’re odd, bad and unavailable to purchase.

Legion Marauder Bomber

This is a very expensive plane armed with pretty nasty one-shot bombs and almost nothing else. Its front and rear weapons are ruled as centreline-mounted, despite clearly being in little turrets, so are unlikely to fire much.

Legion Marauder Destroyer

The same thing but instead of the fairly effective bombs you get marginally better guns. It has about half the firepower of a thunderbolt fighter but it gets a couple more missiles and some rubbish bombs as well – at nearly triple the Thunderbolt’s cost. Can take skystrike missiles and, excitingly, we now know what they do. They mostly suck, hitting less hard than the hellstrike missiles you get as standard, though having skyfire baked in means you can shoot them at a plane while ineffectually strafing something on the ground.

Baneblade variants

Let’s not waste too much time on these. They’re a joke compared to any of the Fellblade variants, with worse weapons, less armour and higher prices.

  • The Legion Baneblade is a bit like a Fellblade but 100 points more expensive and rubbish.
  • The Legion Banehammer’s gun has shell shock (2) and a 7” blast, but only AP4. Transport 10 but not an assault vehicle.
  • The Legion Stormlord has a Vulcan mega bolter, which is a decent gun, and Transport 10. Again, the Vulcan can be found attached to a Warhound for the same price.
  • The Legion Shadowsword is like a Falchion but much worse and 200 points more expensive, ruling it out of 3000 point games.
  • The Legion Stormsword has a gun almost as good as the Typhon’s. It costs twice as much as a Typhon.

The Macharius Vulcan “Throneworld” guards the flanks
Credit: @LordTwisted

Macharius Variants

Again these are seriously bad, so at least we can’t accuse Forgeworld of favouring its own resin models to get sales. You’re paying 100 points before upgrades per AV13 hull point, which is not good at all. Their only hull and sponson weapons are heavy stubbers and the PDF doesn’t even bother telling us their stats, though you can find a nice little note to “See Liber Imperium” for these on the Avenger Strike Fighter earlier in the pdf. Liber Imperium hasn’t been released yet (though the Mechanicum book has, and a version of them is in there) so the suspense can continue to build for now.

  • The standard Macharius Battlecannon is hilariously bad. An AP4 small blast is not an appropriate main weapon for a Lord of War, even if it does cause pinning.
  • The Vanquisher is effectively a lascannon array with Brutal (2). Decent, but not worth anything close to this cost.
  • The Macharius Rotary Bolt Cannon is the poor relation of the Vulcan Mega bolter, with 10 shots and AP4. It’ll kill a couple of marines and force a pinning check.
  • The Omega pattern plasma blastgun hits hard if it doesn’t get hot but is mounted on an exceptionally fragile tank.

Legion Crassus Armoured Assault Transport

This is a bus, only slightly militarised. Transport 35 but not an assault vehicle, not very tough and virtually unarmed. It provides an opportunity to have loads of your troops killed in one go when it explodes with them inside. Useful if you’re tired and want to go home early.

Legion Praetor Armoured Assault Launcher

Looks like a Crassus but has only two heavy bolters and the Praetor Launcher (a lie – it does not launch actual Praetors) instead of the transport capacity. Costs the same as a Falchion and is useless.


I have mostly been impressed by the balance between units in the Legion army lists but I can’t say the same of the Lords of War. You’re essentially making a choice between main guns most of the time and they are not equally-powerful. The Cerberus and Falchion seem significantly better than the other options that share their hulls while the Glaive seems very weak. I’m used to the Porphyrion having totally busted rules in Adeptus Titanicus (where it is commonly known as the “Murder Turtle”) and it seems to have the same issue here, with extraordinary firepower compared to pretty much everything else.

Meanwhile some of the other Lords of War feel like they’re really intended more as display pieces than to be used in games, except that we’re given rules that do allow us to use them. The various enormous transports mostly don’t seem like a good idea to me for example, because putting so much of your army in one place is really unlikely to be a good strategy.

As for fighting against enemy Lords of War, there are a few things you can do. Their inability to react is quite a major weakness so you can shoot and charge them without being shot. They generally can’t do much against aircraft, though most planes also struggle to hurt them too. If you were wondering whether to buy artificer armour for your squad Sergeants then yes, you probably should. Large blasts are rarely better than AP3 so a Sergeant can potentially tank several hits, especially if he’s Heavy.

One final thing to mention is that these models aren’t the easiest to build. If you aren’t confident working with Resin do have a look at some guides before you start. We’d recommend starting out with a smaller kit for than these for your first foray into working with Forgeworld Resin. Our How to Build Everything: Space Marine Fellblade article is a good primer on the sorts of issues you’ll encounter.