Liber Astartes: The Goonhammer Review


Containing all the information you need to play the Loyalist Legions in the new edition of Horus Heresy, the Liber Astartes is nevertheless a little smaller than its traitorous sibling.  It’s still a gigantic tome, though. What exactly can be found within its pages, and will it boost your faith in the Emperor’s design? Let’s dive in and see what you’re going to get if you pick this up, and how the different Legions shake out in the new edition.

Before we dive in we’d like to thank Games Workshop for sending a preview copy of the book for review purposes.

For the Emperor

Standing firm in their support for the Throne, many of the Loyalists suffer brutal defeats early in the Heresy, and only recover towards its end (if at all). The Loyalists are scattered across the galaxy: some striking out on their own, others mired in fighting in distant places, while the rest fight the long, slow retreat to Terra itself.

This is a big book, but there’s very little background or lore in here – it’s pretty much all rules, with some lovely colour plates and photos to break it up. When combined with the Age of Darkness Rulebook, this will be all you need to play the game if you are playing a Loyalist Legion. It shares a common unit list with the Liber Hereticus, reflecting the basic organisation of all the Legions at the start of the Heresy. We’ll break down the extensive range of units available to all Legions over the coming weeks, but for now, all you need to know is that it’s the same in each book and forms the core of how you’ll build an army. The differences can be seen when we get to the Legions themselves, and look into their special rules and their units. 

One quick note: Many of the “Loyalist” Legions, had significant portions of the army who sided against their Legion, and vice versa for the Traitors. As the books are divided by what side the Primarch declared for (Loyalist/Traitor), the rules for the Traitors who are sons of the Loyalist Primarchs are within the Liber Astartes and discussed below. 

We’ll be showing you each Legion in more detail over the coming weeks in a series of Legion Focus articles, so today let’s just take a quick overview of the Legions you’ll find here, introduce their particular flair and approach in the Heresy, and chat about where they’ve ended up in this new edition and how they measure up to their brothers.

Dark Angels

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The First Legion and the progenitor of much of the tactics and culture of the Astartes as a whole, the Dark Angels are probably the most flexible and varied of legions thanks to The Hexgrammaton, their legion special rule. This grants access to six different special rules, and each Dark Angels unit must pick one of these to apply to them (with different units having different restrictions on what you can pick). These range from +1 to hit with bolters in the Stormwing to rerolling 1s to hit Vehicles in the Ironwing to bonuses to running and bonuses to Cavalry units in the Ravenwing. It’s enormously flexible, but definitely adds a level of customisation that could be intimidating to new players. Their advanced reaction is The Angels of Death which is used when a unit is charged and can give the unit being charged Fear and either Stubborn or Fearless, which is a massive boost.

In terms of unique Warlord traits, Dark Angels have two to pick from. Marshal of the Crown is very flexible, letting you pick one of the Hexgrammaton and giving those units in line of sight of the warlord +1 leadership and tailoring the bonus reaction to the pick you make. Sensechal of the Keys instead lets you pick a faction (a legion or one of the others) and then for one turn of the game give the warlord and a unit he joins bonus WS and BS against that faction. Probably one of the least interesting picks, but it can definitely have an impact.

The First might only have two warlord traits, but they make up for it in rites by having six, one for each wing of the Hexgrammaton. The Steel Fist is a rite of war that focuses on the Ironwing. You can take Predators as Troops, Kratos as Elites, and get lots of nice extra heavily armoured transport options for infantry, but in exchange everything has to be a vehicle or mounted in one at the start of the game. The Eskaton Imperative is a Dreadwing rite, and makes Destroyers and Interemptors troops, gives all Dreadwing the ability to wade through dangerous terrain, and mires the whole of no man’s land in difficult terrain. The Storm of War is for the Stormwing, and big units of infantry can take Centurions attached that don’t take up force org slots, plus you get lots of ways to take even more infantry by letting stuff that’s normally troops sit in other slots. The Unbroken Vow is for the Deathwing, and makes all your veterans, including terminators, troops, and gives them (and dreadnoughts!) Heart of the Legion. The Seeker’s Arrow is for the Ravenwing, and it makes bikes and jetbikes troops, and gives all Ravenwing infantry and cavalry outflank. The Serpent’s Bane is for the Firewing, and makes Seekers troops and lets you pick out some important enemy units to get bonuses against.

The unique consul of the Dark Angels is the Paladin of the Hekatonystika, a 30pt upgrade that gives them one of the Inner Circle Knights options (more on that in a moment) and buffs his stats nicely, as well as giving him a Huge Sword. That Huge Sword is one of the Weapons of Old Night available to the First Legion. This mostly includes some hench swords, extra nasty plasma weapons and stasis missiles which seem extremely fun.

The Inner Circle Knights Cenobium are absolutely brutal combatants with terranic greatswords, plasma casters (basically plasma flamers, yes, I know that’s insane) and dressed in terminator armour. They can also pick one of the Order of the Hekatonystika, which are neat but relatively minor little buffs that give them a knightly order feel. Dreadwing Interemptor Squads are the full-on warcrimes unit, with rad grenades, plasma burners and incinerators (those plasma flamers and a plasma heavy flamer) and options for phosphex. The Deathwing Companion Detachment is the last of the legion specific units, which are veterans that must be a master of the legion’s retinue, and who are fantastic bodyguards and capable combatants.

There are two named characters other than the Primarch available to Dark Angels. Corswain is a loyalist Deathwing guy and is a relatively vanilla pick all things considered – he has a really nice sword and suit of armour, but he doesn’t have a unique warlord trait or any particularly exciting special rules. Marduk Sedras on the other hand is a loyalist with a host of special rules and kit. His warlord trait forces him to take a unit of Inner Circle Knight as his retinue, which is pretty damn cool. On top of that, he can grant Preferred Enemy to units close to him, and he can hotfoot it across dangerous terrain with no ill effects. Finally his enormous sword has a special rule that penalises invulnerable saves made against it, which is enough to make a primarch blink.

The Primarch of the Dark Angels is Lion El’Jonson, an absolute beast of a character and one of the more expensive primarchs. He’s a terror in combat, gaining more attacks as he loses wounds, and is armed with one of two genuinely horrifying swords. He buffs other Dark Angels’ leadership, but more importantly grants them all the Crusader rule. He also has a very cool special rule letting him skip rolling charges and instead charge a fixed distance and ignore difficult or dangerous terrain as he does.

You should consider playing the First Legion if you want an enormously flexible and varied force that can take a huge number of different roles. Their varied rites and special rules make them an army that can be tailored to your whims, but with a core of knightly elites that are absolutely terrifying in close combat.

White Scars

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Swift, deadly and ferocious beyond measure, the Fifth Legion are best known for their bikes and rapid assaults, but that’s not their only talent. Their legion special rule Swift of Action definitely matches this speed, but it increases everything in your army, buffing your Movement characteristics and also giving a bonus to the first turn and seize initiative rolls. Their advanced reaction Chasing the Wind also reinforces this theme, letting them make a full move in reaction to enemy advances.

The White Scars have three warlord traits to choose from, one for each of the traitors and loyalists among them, and one anyone can pick. The loyalist pick is Heroes Never Die which grants the Stubborn rule to him and a unit he joins, and when he dies a unit within line of sight gets Fearless, which is an odd admission that, in fact, heroes do die and then you get buffs. The Forgotten Sons is the traitor only choice, and prioritises a mixed force of scars and Sons of Horus, giving buffs if Sons of Horus units are in line of sight of the Warlord, and also letting them make use of the Sons of Horus advanced reaction. Finally there is Born to the Saddle which is the bike army warlord trait, giving all Cavalry an invulnerable save against difficult-terrain-inflicted wounds.

Two rites of war are open to the Fifth. Chogorian Brotherhood is again a strong bike pick, making bikes and jetbikes troops and elites, with those in the troops slot getting the Line sub-type, and giving infantry outflank (but having to start in reserve if not embarked). This honestly feels a little lacklustre compared to the Dark Angels version. The Sagyar Mazan is quite different, and lets you take Ebon Keshig Cohorts as Troops and gives all infantry a Feel No Pain (5+) and more importantly makes it so your opponent can never score by killing them, and makes them fearless the turn they charge. This honestly feels like a wacky game changer and I’m excited to see it on the table.

The unique consul for the Scars is the Stormseer, to reflect their unique psychic practices. This gives you a fancy librarian with access to the unique psychic discipline The Storm’s Fury. More generally the legion gets access to the Legion Shamshir Jetbike, which is basically a fancy jetbike with a Scatterbolt Launcher, a template bolt weapon that shreds stuff which is cool. The iconic Power Glaive is also available to upgrade your units, and it’s a decent choice if nothing too exciting. Finally you can grab a Cyber-Hawk for your fanciest of men, which buffs shooting attacks and charge rolls for them and a unit they join.

The legion specific units available to the Vth are almost all focused on speed and hitting hard. The Golden Keshig Squadron are some elite bikers that hit with unique power lances that have an eyewatering set of special rules including Sudden Strike (4) and Brutal (3). The Ebon Keshig Cohort is another elite choice, but this time in tartaros terminator armour, and equipped with power glaives. These are elite suicide troops, and never give up VP for being destroyed. Finally you have the Kyzagan Assault Speeder Squadron, which is a fancy land speeder with a Kheres assault cannon and two Reaper autocannons strapped to it. Lots of gun, which it can fire all of thanks to Firing Protocols.

The only named character not primarch-shaped for the Scars is Qin Xa. He can buff you reserve units, letting you bring one group in automatically rather than having to roll. He’s also equipped with terminator armour and a pair of scary swords, making him a model that’s going to want to lead from the front.

Speaking of heroes leading from the front, the primarch of the Vth is Jaghatai Khan and he’s certainly going to be at the front of a crashing wave of units if you field him. He gives all White Scars on the field with him Furious Charge (1) if they moved which is great, and he can bring a flanking assault on without needing to roll as long as he’s part of it. When he does arrive at the head of a host he fights with a nasty artificier pistol and a Dao that will slice through your enemies like butter. One nice option is you can mount him on a big jetbike, which is neat.

If you want to go fast, charge at things and field a lot of bikes it’s hard to go wrong with the White Scars. They’re the masters of hit and run tactics, and it shows in their rules.

Space Wolves

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Savage and unrelenting, the Space Wolves of the Horus Heresy have not yet embraced the most noble elements of their character, but are instead known as vicious and deadly warriors. Bestial Savagery is their legion special rule and reflects this well, allowing infantry capable of running to do so then shoot and charge in the same turn. Those that can’t instead get +1 WS on the charge, while vehicles increase the Strength of their ram attacks. This all encourages the VIth to advance swiftly and be as aggressive as possible, something reinforced by their advanced reaction No Prey Escapes the Wolf. This allows you to react to enemy movement by repositioning and charging, letting you get the drop on them.

All three warlord traits available to the Space Wolves are available to all warlords no matter their allegiance. Howl of Morkai gives a rare all-army buff, letting you increase the strength of all charging Space Wolves units once per battle. Hunger of the Void lets the warlord heal wounds when he deals wounds to enemies, and if he cannot gain more because he’s at his max he instead buffs his attacks and strength – a brilliant pick for a combat-focused warlord. Crown Breaker is the final option giving the warlord and any unit he joins Preferred Enemy (Independent Characters) and then a 5+ Feel No Pain when locked in combat with an enemy character, the choice of assassins everywhere.

The VIth get three rites of war, one more than most legions, and they’re an interesting selection. Black Watch can only be taken by Loyalist forces and only on an Allied Detachment of Space Wolves, and is entirely focused on hunting Primarchs. It’s a cool, if situational, pick. The Pale Hunters instead increases the mobility of your Grey Slayer Pack and Grey Stalk Pack units, giving them Hit & Run, as well as granting some units Outflank and improving Flanking Assaults, all at the cost of limiting Heavy Support picks. Finally The Bloodied Claw gives only a single once per battle bonus, but it’s spicy: All your models in the detachment get bonuses to the score used to determine the winner of an assault, gets Fleet (2) and Furious Charge (1) and gets Stubborn (or upgrades it to Fearless). The downside is you have to charge in the turn you declare it. This is potentially very powerful, but it’s going to take some skill to make the most of it.

Space Wolves having the unique flavour they do means they have three unique consuls (albeit at the cost of losing access to Chaplains, Librarians and Primaris Medicaes). Pack Thegn is a cheap upgrade that grants Counter-attack (1) and optionally the Skirmish Sub-type to let him ride along with skirmish units. Speak of the Dead is the chaplain replacement, and is a very expensive upgrade (65pts!) that increases leaderships, gives him and a unit he joins Stubborn and Hatred (Everything) and lets him take some neat little upgrades as well as giving him some free stuff (including a big stick to hit things with). It’s a cool set of upgrades but you certainly pay for it. Caster of Runes is the last option, the Librarian replacement, and it’s not that different to the stock one but you do get access to the Winds of Fenris psychic power which is pretty nice, focusing on buffing units around you.

The VIth also have some special wargear and upgrades to kit themselves out with. The Fenrisian Axe is an iconic weapon, and is notable for the Reaping Blow (1) rule (giving an extra attack if more than one enemy is in base contact with you). Frost Blades are a range of power weapon equivalents that also grant Reaping Blow as a bonus. Æther-rune Armour is some fancy artificier armour that buffs a character’s wounds and gives them Adamantium Will (4+) – a nice upgrade, if a pricey one at 25pts. Finally you can upgrade your Praetors to become a Jarl, which gives them Counter-Attack (2) and lets you make them Skirmish if you want (just like an upgraded Pack Thegn).

The Wolves get a bunch of units exclusive to them, including the unusual addition of some Troops choices. The Deathsworn Pack however sit in the Elites slot and fill in the Veterans role, but with some exciting special rules. They are some restriction on what characters can join them, but they can be put in as a retinue for a Speaker of the Dead or Cater of Runes which is actually handy in clearing room in this crowded battlefield role. They can attack once at Initiative 1 after they’re killed in a combat, and they also have stasis bombs, that automatically makes any charges against them disordered, a huge bonus, as well as giving them the option to turn on Fleshbane on their melee weapons (in exchange for Gets Hot). It’s this wargear option that turns them from ok to really cool. Varagyr Wolf Guard Terminator Squads are what you’d expect from a Space Wolves terminator squad: close combat focused, cool frost weapons, and lots of savage nobility. They can engage with challenges like they were characters which is cool, and they have Hammer of Wrath (2) letting them literally slam into their enemies.

The Grey Slayer Pack and Grey Stalker Pack are the troops options, to reflect the less regimented approach taken as the VIth embraced their unusual culture. These are very similar units, giving a lot of flexibility in how you build them, and even sharing the same special rules. The main difference is one gets a Fenrisian axe, and the other a chainsword and get get some special weapons in the squad. It’s honestly a little odd these are different unit entries, but it’s fine. The units as a whole are a neat twist on the tactical/assault squad.

The Space Wolves have a couple of unique named characters other than their primarch. Geigor Fell-Hand is a centurion-equivalent character, but locked to the Crown Breaker warlord trait and with a fancy bit of war gear – the Fell-Hand, which is a big master-crafted lightning claw with the Reaping Blow (1) rule. Honestly he’s one of the dullest characters we’ve seen in this entire book, it’s a real shame. Hvarl Red-Blade makes up for it somewhat, because he causes Fear (1) and has a cool as hell warlord trait. Head-taker gives him and unit he joins Preferred Enemy (Infantry) which is hilarious, and will result in him butchering enemy units with easy. He can also let three infantry units Scout, and he has Hearth-splitter an enormous axe with the Armourbane (Melee) rule.

Leman Russ is the primarch of the VIth and though he has some neat buffs he’s mostly all about attacking and killing things in person. His warlord trait is Sire of the Space Wolves and gives a strength buff to all units when they charge. He can also one per battle use the Howl of the Death Wolf giving all Space Wolves a bonus to their Movement, while pinning any enemy Space Wolves dumb enough to face off against their primarch. Personally he’s very dangerous, giving enemies a -1 to hit him in melee if he charged, as well as his sword debuffing enemy morale checks after assaults where he killed some of them. None of his weapons are stand out scary, but they’re all very good and he can do a lot of damage with his base WS 8, S 7 and A 7. He can also bring along The Wolf-king of Russ, his giant wolf buddies Freki and Geri, who are big and scary and hit like a train. They’re not necessarily the best unit for 100pts, but they’re so cool I’m not sure I care.

The Space Wolves have a unique flavour, and if you’re playing them you probably know what you’re getting into. The good news is that all these rules really ramp up that theme, and you’ll be howling at the moon and sniffing butts in no time as your forces move up aggressively and slam into enemies (or bite back hard if they manage to charge you).

Imperial Fists

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Recalled to Terra during the Great Crusade, before Horus’ treachery, the Imperial Fists were created to defend and fortify the Sol system. The VIIth Legion are known for being stubborn and implacable, putting up a defence and not giving an inch of ground to their enemy. Discipline and Resolve is very aptly named for their Legion trait, giving +1 to hit bonus for Imperial Fist units while firing Auto and Bolt weapons. The list for both types of weapons is extensive, the latter being a bit more obvious as any bolter-type weapon. It’s a very simple rule but is extremely effective and works during all reaction fire as well.

Their advanced reaction The Best Defence leans into their “not one step back” nature, allowing one of your units to make a charge move during the opponent’s movement phase after one of their units finishes a move within 10″ of one of yours. Your reacting unit can make a charge move rolling just 1D6 but also adding the lowest Initiative in the unit to the roll. Most of your units are Initiative 4 so that’s a 7.5″ average move, just remember that Heavy sub-type units like Breachers will subtract 1 from that.

As with other Legions you get 3 Warlord traits to choose from, however none of these are locked to Traitor-only while only the first here is locked to Loyalist-only. Solar Marshal is for your combat-Warlord, granting +1WS while locked in combat with Traitor units and 1 additional reaction each turn during any phase. Warden of Inwit instead plays to the army’s defensive nature by giving himself and the unit he joins the ability to auto-pass morale or pinning checks while within 6″ of an objective or within your deployment zone. Architect of Devastation is best suited on a Warlord hunkering down with a unit of heavy weapons; giving re-roll hits of 1 while within a terrain piece that grants a cover save or embarked in a fortification.

The VIIth Legion have 3 Rites of War to choose from – each of which change the army’s composition and playstyle drastically. 

  • The Stone Gauntlet makes you fill compulsory Troops slots with Phalanx Warder units and gives them both Line and Heart of the Legion special rules so they can take and hold objectives better. You’re not allowed to bring in units from most reserve types but your units with boarding shields, and the characters that join them, gain re-rolls on their invulnerable saves making them much harder to destroy. When you want to play as defensively as possible this is for you. 
  • Hammerfall Strike Force gives you an army that deepstrikes into the heart of battle, delivering a focused assault in the heart of enemy lines. There’s no compulsory units but your Vehicles need to start off the table in normal reserve, so if you aim for this you’re going to want to bulk out on infantry and dreadnoughts mainly and leave the tanks at home. 
  • Templar Assault is exactly what it sounds like. Templar Brethren as troops and extra rules to make them hit even harder in combat after disembarking from a transport. If you want a deadly assault force instead of the normal defensive nature of the VIIth then go hard into this Rite of War with some heavy support backing you up. 

As with other Legions the Imperial Fists have a few unique wargear options for their units to make use of. Teleport Strike allows any of your Terminator units to gain the Deepstrike rule at a cost of 25 points or any of your Terminator Characters to gain it at 20 points instead. Solarite Power Gauntlets replace any power fist in your army for an additional 5 points (after paying for the power fist) for a S10 AP1 weapon that’s unwieldy but does not have the Specialist Weapon trait so will gain an extra attack when paired with a pistol or any other non-specialist melee weapon. The Iliastus Assault Cannon is an auto weapon so you’ll gain +1 to hit and replaces any heavy flamer in your army for +10 points each. Dreadnoughts pay +20 points each. Alternatively, it can be mounted in place of a Predator Cannon with a twin-linked version at no additional cost. As an assault weapon your units can move, shoot, and charge with it after laying out devastating fire. It’s a versatile weapon that can reliably fire into any target and deal damage.

Keeping in theme with heavy weapons the VII Legion’s Consul, the Castellan, comes with a master-crafted heavy bolter which can be swapped for a master-crafted autocannon or iliastus assault cannon. In any case when firing his weapon it makes 1 more attack than normal, and he also gives all Heavy Support Squads in your army the Line sub-type making them able to hold and control objectives easier. All of this for just 20 points, too! 

For unique units you get the Phalanx Warder Squad and Templar Brethren. The former are a unique breacher-style Fast Attack unit (despite being Heavy!); they come with power axes, boarding shields, bolters, bolt pistols, and breaching charges. Whether or not you’re running The Stone Gauntlet, they’re tough with a good invulnerable and can put down any enemy unit if needed. Meanwhile, the Templar Brethren are the combat core of your Legion. They’re limited to 5-10 models, but have 2 wounds each to make up for it and come in artificer armour for a 2+ save with optional combat shields. You want to have these sprinting out of a Land Raider or Spartan deep into enemy lines as quickly as possible. 

Moving on to characters, who better to lead your Templar Brethren than Sigismund, the Master of the Templars? He’s one of the more expensive non-Primarch named characters to field but incredibly strong in combat. You want to get him in base to base contact with the enemy Warlord as soon as you can, and any other character or unit that gets in the way. Against anything that isn’t a Primarch he very reliably wins that fight too.

On the other hand Alexis Polux, the 405th Captain of the Imperial Fists, is who you want in a Hammerfall type army full of deepstriking infantry. He gives any unit he joins deep strike and an auto-pass to pinning checks so they can keep fighting under any incoming fire. As you Warlord you can re-deploy a unit to create a feint for your opponent or move something into more relative safety after both forces are on the table. 

Fafnir Rann, Captain of the First Assault Cadre, as Warlord gives all Breacher and Phalanx Warder squads in the same detachment as him +1WS on any turn that they make a charge making them hit harder than before and not needing to wait to get charged to dish out damage. He comes with 2 axes which he can either attack with together or with only one and wield his boarding shield instead, making him either hit harder in combat or be able to shrug off heavier attacks with general ease. A Stone Gauntlet force couldn’t ask for a better leader than Rann. 

Finally, the Primarch Rogal Dorn is a force to be reckoned with. His armour gives the same armour and invulnerable as most other Primarchs but also makes him harder to wound, ignoring any rolls below a 4. All characters in your army get to use his leadership value making your force harder to scare off and pin. He hits harder in combat than even some of his brother Primarchs and acts as a true spearhead into enemy lines. 

Blood Angels

Blood Angels Primarch Sanguinius
Blood Angels Primarch Sanguinius. Credit: Jack Hunter

The Blood Angels are a legion of close combat monsters clad in crimson and gold, descending from the skies on pillars of flame. Their legion trait, Encarmine Fury, perfectly encapsulates their love of sudden overwhelming assaults, granting +1 to wound on any turn in which they make a successful charge. It also increases the strength of ram attacks, but that’s just a side benefit. When a Blood Angel charges they’re wounding most other marines on a 3+, making even a generic tactical squad a real threat in melee. This is extra relevant now that contemptor dreadnoughts have a toughness characteristic instead of armor values – charging tactical marines still wound it on 4s.

The Wrath of Angels is the Blood Angels advanced reaction, done once per battle when your opponent shoots a Blood Angels infantry unit. First, the targeted unit gains Shrouded (5+), increasing durability by about 50%, and after the shooting is resolved get to immediately attempt a charge against the shooting unit (without needing to make a surge move if it fails, and without the target of the charge getting to react). While the Blood Angels won’t get to activate any jump packs, this still adds a lot of risk to close range shooting – especially another assault unit that was attempting to soften the Blood Angels up with pistols before making a charge of their own.

A Blood Angel warlord has three options for unique warlord traits. They’re all potentially great, however the loyalist and traitor specific traits do have some significant drawbacks. Encarmine Paladin, the loyalist only trait, only works when you’re playing against traitors. If you’re fighting against other loyalists, all you get is an extra reaction in the assault phase. Fighting against traitors the warlord gains Fear (1), increasing that up to Fear (4) by winning combat. While useful to get enemy units to flee during combat, this is probably most useful while attempting to pin them – right off the bat it means a standard tactical squad is more likely to fail their pinning test than succeed. Paragon of Unity gives most of your army (anything that can draw line of sight to the warlord) +1 leadership and an additional assault phase reaction. The traitor only trait, Thrall of the Red Thirst, forces you to charge the nearest enemy unit within 12”, but makes your charge bonus +2 attacks instead of +1 attack. It also gives you an additional movement phase reaction, which may be more useful than the assault phase reaction.

The Blood Angels get two very different Rites of War. One dives into jump packs and deep strike assaults, and the other turns you into durable objective holders.

  • The Day of Revelations is the deep strike assault. High risk, but equally high reward if you pull it off. Before any models are deployed or first turn is rolled for, you’ll mark a spot on the battlefield and choose a turn (2-4) to arrive on. You don’t need to roll for reserves as usual and place your first model within 6” of the marker without needing to scatter it. Limitations are surprisingly light, just requiring your compulsory HQ to have a jump pack and all units that can deep strike to do so.
  • The Day of Sorrows is, at least to me, less interesting. Crimson Paladins become troops and gain the line unit type, and units near objectives gain Stubborn and durability bonuses as they take damage. In exchange, you lose any ability to have units in reserve and damaged units must leave their objectives to charge anything that gets close. Some interesting tension between benefits and costs, but not in a cohesive way.

There are quite a few unique units available to the Blood Angels, including the coolest unique dreadnought in the game. Dawnbreaker Cohort are your elite assault unit – they drop in, pin enemies, then tear them up on the charge. Angels Tears are the other jump unit, fancy destroyers where everyone starts with volkite serpenta and can all take assault cannon, rotor cannons, or rad grenade launchers. I think they’ll find a lot of play softening up dreadnoughts or pinning units for an assault. Crimson Paladins are a weird one, they’re cataphractii terminators with fancy power swords and a shield that makes them harder to wound in melee. Very durable (though still vulnerable to instant death), but not so great at killing things, especially as they can’t sweep. In my mind Blood Angels also have the coolest unique unit in the game in the form of the Contemptor-Incaendius – a melee dreadnought that can be equipped for hunting either infantry or tanks and has a giant rocket bolted to its back. It can either deep strike or bump its movement characteristic up to 12” for a turn, rocketing it straight into combat.

Sanguinius is, of course, an absolute monster in melee, able to tear through both units and tanks. Dominion Zephon is a more than competent melee character with a jump pack, and while Raldoron is sadly lacking a jump pack he’s still a powerful fighter and gives you the option of taking any non-traitor warlord trait available to the other loyalist legions.

Iron Hands

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Tough and dedicated to the purity of the machine, the Iron Hands are a resolute and technologically focused legion. This resolve is mirrored in their legion special rule The Medusa’s Scales which reduced the strength of incoming attacks against non-vehicles and gives a pop of It Will Not Die for your armoured units. Their advanced reaction is The Gorgon’s Spite, and interesting mirror to the Iron Warrior reaction, but in the assault phase rather than the shooting phase. It effectively buffs overwatch letting you throw out double the normal shots in exchange for Gets Hot.

As with most of the legions the Xth have three warlord traits to pick from. Their loyalist choice is From Hel’s Heart which grants the warlord Fear (1) and makes them explode in a frenzy of shooting when he dies. The traitor selection, The Eye of Vigilance, is an unusual one – it grants the warlord and a unit he joins Preferred Enemy (Loyalist) which is a nice buff, but it’s offset by giving a single free reaction once in the battle rather than an extra one in a specific phase each turn. The open pick is Silver-iron Will which renders the warlord immune to any effect that lowers a Characteristic which is pretty minor, but the other part is interesting. They can’t make reactions in the Movement phase at all but instead get an additional one in the shooting or assault phase, which one is up to the player round by round.

The first rite of war available to the Iron Hands is the Company of Bitter Iron, which allows you to take Medusan Immortal Squads as troops and gives them line and heart of the legion which makes them very effective objective scorers. The only real restriction is it has to be loyalist, and you can’t take Ferrus Manus (he’s dead, Jim). The other pick is The Head of the Gorgon which gives you some nice infantry buffs, lots of graviton guns, and lets you take some Mechanicum units in your detachment (though you’ll have to wait for Liber Mechanicum to get rules for them).

This aligns nicely with the unique consul, The Iron-Father who is basically a souped up techmarine with a Cyber-Familiar which is also available as wargear. The other legion wargear includes Blessed Auto-Simulcra and Armatus Necrotechnika which improve vehicles by making them tougher and letting them heal by infantry dying around them respectively. They also get souped up terminator armour in the form of Gorgon Terminator Armour that’s more protective and lets out little blinding flashes when it’s struck. Graviton Shredders are a cool little twist on normal Graviton weapons but limited to assault and pistol variants.

The Iron Hands have no named characters other than their primarch, but they do have a couple of unique units. The Gorgon Terminator Squad gets the flashy armour and really are focused on being tough above everything else. Their weapons are fine if not exciting, but their leader, the “hammerbearer”, gets a thunderhammer (surprised pikachu). The other option are the Medusan Immortals Squad which are pretty much breachers but tougher. Nothing hugely exciting in these options to be honest – hopefully the Xth get some love in an upcoming campaign book.

The primarch of the Xth is Ferrus Manus, the big metal hand man, and he’s sure big and metal and has hands (that he uses to hit things with a big hammer). He just flat out gives the entire army Feel No Pain (6+) really honing in on making the Iron Hands the legion that just won’t die (ironic, really, given Ferrus Manus’ fate). He’s also an excellent techmarine, but it feels a waste for him to be hanging around fixing Rhinos when he could be slamming his strength 12 hammer into someone’s face.

If you want to be the toughest army on the table, no matter who you’re fighting, the Iron Hands are a good pick. You don’t have the most exciting options, but your units will stick around and can pack a serious punch/hammerblow. They’re also a great choice if you want to bring along some shiny robots.


Ultramarines 4th Company Mortis Contemptor
Credit: Alfredo Ramirez

“We March for Macragge” is not only the Ultramarine’s battlecry, it is also pretty much the theme of the army – everything from Roboute Guilliman to the Legion’s bespoke Rite of War to the Warlord Traits speaks to well-coordinated units (footsloggers, mechanized infantry, and Dreadnoughts to be specific) fighting together with purpose and unity. The Ultramarines are not a tank legion, but instead maximize the power of different types of infantry squads and dreadnoughts to do all sorts of awesome things.

The Ultramarines Legion rule, The Strength of Wisdom, adds +1 to the hit roll if another Ultramarines unit has targeted the enemy unit – and the second unit is within 6 inches of a model from the friendly unit. The theme of Ultramarines supporting each other carries over to their advanced reaction, Unity of Purpose, which allows an Ultramarines unit that has been shot at AND one other Ultramarines unit to fire back at the unit shooting at the first unit. Unlike the special rule, the Advanced Reaction does not have any location restrictions and does not allow vehicle units to fire defensive weapons.

The Warlord Traits deserve a special mention for how GW conceives of “Ultramarine Traitors” – because while there is a “traitor” warlord trait, the in-book fluff suggests it’s not really a traitor trait. Instead, the “loyalist” trait, The Burden of Kings offers substantial bonuses to the warlord and army when the warlord suffers an wound (saved or unsaved)!  The trait gives the Warlord a 4+ IWND and Fearless until the end of the Warlord’s next turn. Additionally, the Warlord (or the Warlord’s unit) can make a free reaction per opponent turn in any phase. The Traitor trait Pride’s Dark Power offers fewer bonuses to the army but prevents the warlord from suffering the wound by letting him use his leadership as his toughness for one attack per game. The Warlord can make an additional reaction during the opposing player’s Assault Phase. Selflessness vs. Selfishness – an extremely fluffy way to reflect the internal differences of the Ultramarines!  

The neutral trait, the Aegis of Wisdom, allows friendly Ultramarines units to use the Warlord’s leadership when regrouping. This allows the regrouping unit to make shooting attack and declare charges. The Warlord can make an additional reaction during the shooting phase.

The Ultramarines get one Rite of War: The Logos Lectora (the Pronouncement of Writ). This gives Ultramarines Infantry one of four potential special rules they select at the start of the player’s turn: Full March (movement is increased by +2, BS & WS drop by -1), Hold Fast (they can’t move, by they increase leadership by +1 and reroll all failed To Hit rolls), Retribution Strike (BS -1, WS +1, and +1 to Charge Rolls), and Regroup (reroll failed Leadership tests made to regroup while falling back and any failed reserves rolls). The Rite of War has some drawbacks, though fewer than in HH1.0: The Ultramarines are required to take an additional HQ (either Master of Signal or Legion Damocles Command Rhino), and an additional compulsory troop choice. Luckily, the new Heresy box has a Cognis Signum Head and Nuncio Vox backpack to allow you to convert up a Master of Signal. This lets you bypass getting the Not Great Forge World model. The Ultramarines using the Logos Lectora cannot use units which deploy via infiltrate, deep strike assault, subterranean assault, or flanking assault. This means the Ultramarines are having to make a frontal assault, and cannot use Drop Pods.

The special relics the Ultramarines can give to an independent character include: A Legatine Axe, to replace a Power Axe (AP2 Axe); the Argyrum Pattern Boarding Shield (5++ in shooting, 4++ in Melee); and The Mantles of Ultramar, which replaces Artificer Armor. This gives a 2+ Armor Save, Battle Hardened (1), and makes the model immune to Blind. The first two relics are the standard wargear of the Invictarius Suzerians.

The Ultramarines get four unique units in the book:

Roboute Guilliman takes the Logos Lectora and makes it More.  His mandatory warlord trait gives all the Ultramarines +1 leadership, and picks (at the start of the battle) a phase to have an additional reaction in. His main special rule is “Preternatural Strategy”, which gives Ultramarines (except vehicles) one of four bonuses at the start of the turn: Fleet (2), Counter-Attack (1), Furious Charge (1), and Stubborn. These bonuses cannot be selected two turns in a row. When Guilliman fights in a challenge, he can reroll all failed To Hit rolls of 1 on the second and subsequent rounds of the challenge. And he still has his two master-crafted specialist weapons (The Hand of Dominion and the Gladius Incandor) from 1.0, and the Arbitrator Bolt Pistol.   

The Invictarus Suzerian are the bespoke elite infantry unit of the Ultramarines, each one with a Legatine Axe, Argyrum Pattern boarding shield, Artificer Armour, and a bolt pistol. They can swap out their bolt pistols for plasma pistols, and Axes for Thunder Hammers. They give all friendly Infantry or Cavalry units within 6 inches (not pinned or falling back and not Invictarus Suzerians) +1 leadership (to a maximum of 9). They can also be selected as retinue squads, and have the ability to swap out their bolt pistols for a Legion Standard. This latter rule is a much welcome change from HH1.0, which required Suzerian retinues to swap out their boarding shields for a Legion Standard.

Praetorian Breacher Squads, the “new” unit, are an Elite Breacher Squad, who swap out their bolters for a power sword. These were actually in HH 1.0, buried in the Ultramarines Special Rules. Except these guys are Elites, not Troops! Yawn.

Credit: Kevin Stillman

Remus Ventanus, the Savior of Calth, Commander of the 4th Company, and all around cool dude, is the named Praetor. He comes with all the bells and whistles of a captain, with a Nuncio Vox and Legion Standard. He carries a Master-Crafted Power Sword with Rending 5+, and the warlord trait “Resolute Planning”. This lets Ultramarines models within 3 inches automatically pass leadership tests and morale checks, and make an additional reaction during the opposing player’s movement phase.  Sadly, he does not get special rules to let you use him as a captain in a 40K Legion of the Damned Army to support Uriel Ventris against the Iron Warriors.  

The Ultramarines certainly do not feel as “flashy” a legion as the Emperor’s Children or White Scars, but they have the ability to customize their specialty on an army-wide level at the start of the turn, instead of being stuck to one particular schtick.  


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

The Salamanders were ruined at Isstvan V, suffering upwards of 97% casualties and losing their Primarch (or so they thought). Their Legion playstyle is typically geared, as a result, towards high value, high quality units, which come in small numbers. And, of course, flamers.

Their key rules include resistance to Flame, Melta, Plasma and Volkite – -1 to Wound with all of those, and It Will Not Die 6+ for anything with multiple Wounds or Hull Points, meaning they have a chance to regenerate lost Wounds or Hull Points every turn. This is amazing, given the prevalence of these kinds of weapons and unit types – remember Dreadnoughts will benefit from the -1 to Wound as they are not Vehicles, which is brutal given Melta and Plasma will often be relied upon to kill them.

Their Warlord Traits and Advanced Reaction also deserve a mention. The Loyalist Trait gives Hatred (Traitors), and a boost to Strength in certain situations. Hatred provides valuable re-rolls in combat, spiking the effectiveness of your already-potent combat units (like Firedrakes), and boosting Strength is always welcome.

The Traitor one (Traitor Salamanders? Heresy!) gives buffs to wounding with Flame and Volkite – weapons which you will see in abundance in Salamanders lists. The Advanced Reaction (a one-use Reaction) is high-risk high-reward – boosting Strength, Attacks and WS if a unit is charged, but your models might die on a roll of a 1 at the end of the combat. You need to channel the anvil, but it is a nice trick if you run into an enemy “deathstar”. 

The Rites of War are tweaks on the older 1.0 Covenant of Fire and Awakening Fire.

Covenant is still good – and really this should be called The Tempest Galleries as that is clearly what it is channelling! This Rite restricts your ability to take Destroyers or Moritats, but makes Pyroclasts, Flamer Support Squads and Flamestorm Predators Troops choices, and gives the Infantry Line (making them scoring). You can’t take drop pods, but you can take Terrax drills – which have melta and flamer weapons on them, to synergise with your close-ranged firepower. Really nice!

The Awakening Fire gives a tasty Psychic discipline as well as being able to cause Fear and ignore debuffs for Pinning. To be clear – Fear and Pinning are very dangerous in the new edition so this is really good. You get a “free” HQ slot for a Librarian to take advantage of the unique Psychic discipline (fixing an issue from 1.0), and you have to take a Chaplain Consul – but they’re pretty good units anyway, so no issues there. For this Rite, focus on massed infantry and buy the Fear upgrade for them to sweep the enemy away. 

Looking at the Armoury – the main thing is, as ever, better Flamers than everyone else with +1 S to all flamer weapons and doing D6 rather than D3 hits on Overwatch. Don’t overlook the latter – a Flamer Support Squad could be doing 8-10D6 hits when receiving a charge! The other wargear is the iconic Dragonscale Storm Shield – buffing Invulnerable saves by +1 (allowing the mighty 3++ save for anything in Cataphractii armour), and the Mantle of the Elder Drake has been slightly tweaked to make the wearer effectively Toughness 5 for Instant Death purposes, which is still decent but not quite as good as it was (it used to be total immunity to Instant Death). Given most things causing Instant Death will be S 8, being Toughness 5 is helpful, as you need S 10 to kill you. 

The special units are more or less the same as before in terms of core concepts. You have the deadly Pyroclasts, close-fire specialists with heavy armour and unique flame projectors which can fire as a S5 flamer or a meltagun (!). They have two Wounds (a buff from previously), IWND 5+ (!), and 2+ saves with a 5++ invulnerable save against many types of weapon like Plasma and Volkite. These are expensive, but brutally tough, and they have Meltabombs to take out enemy walkers and vehicles in close combat. I would say 8-10 in a unit with an Apothecary and some sort of Character should be in every Salamanders list.  

You then have the Firedrakes, Cataphractii-armoured heavy hitting Terminators with WS 5, 2 Wounds, and the ability to buy 3++ invulnerable saves via Dragonscale Storm Shields. They’re slow, but will cleave through anything in combat with rerolls of 1 to Hit, and Chainfists or Thunder Hammers. 

Finally, there is the Primarch Vulkan. We will go through his rules in more detail in a later article, but suffice to say he is an utter powerhouse – Strength and Toughness 7, with 2+/3++ and IWND 4+ (!), meaning he has a 50% chance to regain a lost wound every turn. His shooting weapon is savage – D6 S 7 AP 2 hits with bonuses against Vehicles, and his mighty hammer Dawnbreaker is S 10 Ap 1 Instant Death, meaning it will utterly wreck anything with multiple wounds (and, indeed, any opponent). He’s slow though – M 7 with no bonuses, so buy him a transport. 

Raven Guard

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

With beakies being the new hotness a lot of folks will be turning to the Raven Guard, legion of bird bois, to see what they have to offer. Their legion special rule, Shadow and Fury, really sets the tone. Like the Dark Angels this is secretly a bunch of special rules, if a little less flexible than those of the Ist legion. Which of the three rules a unit gets depends on its role, with bog standard infantry (not heavy, not jumpacked) getting Talons which gives them the Shrouded (6+) rule if they’re further than 8″ from enemies, and also lets them Infiltrate (meaning that you can infiltrate more or less your whole army). Dreadnoughts, heavy infantry and those with jump packs or tartaros terminator armour get Falcons instead, letting them re-roll failed To Wound rolls of 1 in an assault phase where they charged. Finally everyone else (vehicles, flyers, cavalry) get Hawks which get the Shrouded (6+) rule (or buff it a point) if they Went Fast in a turn (running, etc). Talons seems the obvious Best Choice though all of them are potentially very potent.

Their advanced reaction is Fade to Black which also hones in on that stealthy approach. It’s a tweak on Fall Back and when shot a unit can move a little then gets Shrouded (4+), which will massively improve their chances of survival.

The loyalist warlord trait pick is The Bane of Tyrants and gives some awesome buffs to your warlord’s strength and attacks when you’re fighting in challenges. The Hidden Hand is open to anyone and lets you re-roll failed reserves rolls when the warlord is in reserves, and gives him Fleet(2) when he makes it to the table. The traitor choice is No Gods or Masters which matches the warlord’s weapon skill, strength and initiative to an enemy they’re in base contact with if it’s higher, which is really tremendously good.

One of the rites of war available is only for loyalists, the Liberation Force. This is a cute little rite that requires you to take an allied detachment of Solar Auxillia or Imperialis Militia and which gives buffs to the marines and their allies in return. The other pick is Decapitation Strike which focuses on buffing your chance to kill enemy characters, gives out bonus VP for slaying the warlord and gives Shroud (5+) to units coming in from reserves on the turn they arrive. The downside is very limited heavy support and no fortifications at all are available to you.

The Raven Guard are one of the few legions to not get a unique consul, which is a shame. However they get some neat wargear focused on their sneaky and stabby nature. Raven’s Talons are buffed lightning claws, while the Corvid Pattern Jump Pack is an upgrade for the normal jump pack. Your characters also get access to an Infravisor which gives them Night Vision and a +1 to their BS which isn’t to be sniffed at. They an also take Cameleoline which gives them the Shrouded rule (or upgrades it if they already had it).

No named characters for the XIXth, but they do get a couple of legion specific units. The Mor Deythan Squad is a recon squad dialed up to 11. The big draw here is the Fatal Strike special rule that can be declared once a battle and gives all their shooting attacks Rending (4+) which is very nasty. The other pick is the Dark Fury Squad which are veteran jumpack assault troops in the Fast Attack slot each armed with the upgraded lightning claws iconic to the Raven Guard. They’ve nasty and can hit really hard out of deepstrike.

The Primarch of the Raven Guard is Corvus Corax, and he just turns that “sneaky and stabby” dial way up for the army he leads. His warlord trait gives all infantry and cavalry Scout and Crusader, which is a massive buff. He also has the Hit & Run rule, but upgraded even further thanks to The Shadowed Lord, meaning that he’ll really do a lot of damage if used carefully. He also has a nasty pair of pistols and a vicious set of claws to rip into his enemies. He also has the Korvidine Pinions that let him bump his movement to an eye-watering 14 once a game, and during this time he can just swoop over impassable terrain like it’s not there.

If you want to be sneaky, stealthy, hard to spot and to engage in some delightful stabbery and shootery, the Raven Guard are a solid pick. They don’t have the most options of any legion, but what they have reinforces the theme tremendously and it’s entirely plausible every army you run will have every unit in reserve, infiltrating or scouting. It’ll really keep the enemy on their toes.



What’s Next: Liber Hereticus

That wraps up our look at the massive book of loyalists, but next up – the third and final part of our rules review – is the book of all the traitor legions. It’s another huge tome and worth checking out. 

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