Hot Take: Aethon Heavy Sentinel for Horus Heresy

Today the rules for the new Aethon Heavy Sentinel were released for download on Warhammer Community. Check it out.

Aethon Heavy Sentinel
Aethon Heavy Sentinel. Credit: Warhammer Community

So is it any good? Yes, kind of.

There are two ways to look at the rules for the Aethon. On one hand it’s an interesting new addition to the capabilities of the Solar Auxilia, mounting a variety of weapons for a more or less appropriate cost, which is all good. On the other hand the rules are kind of a mess, interacting weirdly with existing mechanics.

The Aethon is a pretty solid platform with T6, 5W and a 2+ save, meaning it’s really quite solid for its cost, though it doesn’t have an invulnerable save or any protection from instant death. You get a 7″ move but can’t go any faster as it’s Heavy, so it isn’t especially mobile. It’s BS3 so will miss quite a lot and it’s pretty harmless in melee, though S6 means it may be able to kick in a rhino or equivalent if needed.

The defensive profile means the Aethon will be virtually immune to small arms fire and pretty durable against common heavy weapons. It’ll be pretty happy to fight things like tactical squads and equivalent and might have a use in soaking overwatch or return fire reactions. There are weapons that will instant kill them though and anyone with AP2 melee weapons will walk straight through them.

Things get weird because they have decided to again invent a new unit sub-type for the Aethon. So it is Cavalry (Heavy, Mechanised). Being Cavalry is a bit surprising but basically fine. It goes through difficult terrain at full speed but sometimes gets wounded when doing so – possibly by ewoks. Cavalry are immune to pinning, which is nice.

Horus Heresy Mechanised Rule
Horus Heresy Mechanised Rule. Credit: Warhammer Community

But inventing a new unit type is a problem in 30k because so many weapons and other abilities already key off existing unit types. They’ve written that some abilities, like Battlesmith, work on the Aethon but inevitably they’ve missed lots of stuff. So grenades can’t be used against them and unique abilities like Disruption from the Mechanicum book have no effect.

This isn’t a huge problem and it’s certainly not game-breaking, but it’s silly. They easily could have foreseen that this kind of unit would appear and added it in the core book. Failing that, they could have just said to treat them as Dreadnoughts without the Fearless rule and then everything would have worked. Oh well.

Do mind out for Melta Bombs as they do call out their Detonation rule, meaning they can be used against Aethons. They will cause Instant Death to it with no save on a 2+ to wound, with a reroll from armourbane!

You get loads of weapon options with the Aethon. There are six(!) different guns you can put on the roof (they haven’t shown us the Lascannon but there is one in the kit) and two sets of missiles to go on the sides. Several of these are new guns we haven’t seen elsewhere.

Aethon weapon options
Aethon weapon options. Credit: Warhammer Community

As standard it comes with an Aethon Missile Battery, which fires a large blast at S4 ap5. It’s twin-linked, Assault (though the Aethon can’t run so this doesn’t matter) and Barrage. Unusually for Barrage guns it doesn’t cause pinning. This is a perfectly good gun for firing at groups of infantry, who should end up having to take quite a lot of armour saves.

You can replace this with four Hunter Killer missiles for 20 points but you probably shouldn’t. BS3 HK missiles just aren’t going to do very much and once they’re gone, that’s it. I guess there’s a case for using these against things like Rhinos but they really are weak so I’d save the points myself.

The stock Multi-laser can be replaced with an Autocannon or Volkite Culverin for 10 points, both of which are reasonable upgrades that do basically the same job – moderate dakka at enemy infantry and light vehicles. The final anti-personnel option is the Heavy Incinerator, which is S6 Ap4 flamer with Torrent (6″). That’s really quite a fun option I think – decent against non-Heavy Legionaries and terrifying for enemies in 4+ saves or worse, if the Aethon can get to them.

Alternatively you could go with a Lascannon or a new gun called a Melta Lance, which gets a single shot up to 18″ away at S8 Ap1 and with Armourbane all the time, not just within half range. It’s hard to argue with taking either of these options as the battlefields of the Horus Heresy are full of horrible elite soldiers and tanks. They’d probably never feel wasted even if they don’t combine brilliantly with the Missile Battery.

I’m a bit surprised the Aethon is a Heavy Support choice. In that slot it will be competing with tank squadrons and Rapier batteries. This is a shame, particularly as many of us will be using Solar Auxilia as allies, at least at first, and only have access to a single HS slot. I’d have been a lot happier if it was Fast Attack or Elite.

Legions Imperialis – Solar Auxilia. Credit: Pendulin

Overall the Aethon is a useful addition to the capabilities of the Solar Auxilia. It’s definitely no Dreadnought but it’s versatile, durable and probably costs about the right amount for what it does. I look forward to giving them a try.