The Space Marine Legions of the First Founding make up the core factions and conflict of the Horus Heresy. In our ninth part of this series (half way!), we’re going to take a closer look at Perturabo’s Chosen, the Iron Warriors.
“Cold hearts and bitter souls have the Iron Warriors. To them war is the clacking of the tallyman’s measure; all the blood spilled and the lives spent, the high walls toppled and the foes cast down to them is all no more than coins added to death’s coffers.”
For decades, the Iron Warriors Legion were “the battering ram of the Great Crusade.” Led by Perturabo, the Lord of Iron, and a certifiable tactical genius even among the ranks of the Primarchs, they were famed for their completely uncompromising approach to warfare and peerless siegecraft.
However, Perturabo always stood apart from his brothers and, along with his Legion, held a long simmering grudge for their perceived treatment during the Crusade as “expendable”. When the Heresy came, it sadly did not take much to send the bitter IV to the side of treachery.
The Iron Warriors were founded, as with the other Legions, on Terra at the end of the Unification Wars. They took much of their early intake from the gun-tribes and Tek-enclaves of Sek-Amrak. This gene stock proved to mesh well with the ascension process for new Astartes, meaning the Legion swelled their ranks rapidly, and ended up in early active service alongside the Dark Angels and White Scars in battles on Terra.
In these final clashes of Unification in Terra and the Solar System, the IV acquitted themselves well, earning battle honours in the Cydo-Tyre Orbital and Ice Station Echo, with particular praise awarded on the new Legion after the punishing Venusian campaign against the War Witches.
The IV continued to grow in size, benefitting from the temporary misfortune of other Legions in receiving additional recruits, such as the III, who had problems with their gene seed and were unable to process their initiates for a time. Before long, the IV were a large fighting force split across several Expeditionary Fleets during the early Crusade; the largest of which was the 8th fleet, which won a stunning string of victories and Compliances.
As the fleets pushed outwards, observers noted that the IV lost their Terran culture, but retained the rigid organisation and doctrine of their formations – even allowing for the scattered nature of the Legion among several fleets.
What this meant was that, regardless of the part of the Legion which engaged in a battlezone, their tactics and approach to battle remained unchanged: “the Legion was wont to overcome any obstacles or difficulties they faced with relentless and meticulously applied force of arms alone.”
This was a style of war which was prevalent in the Unification Wars, and the new Legion brought it to the stars. Unfortunately, this drew some disparaging views of the IV – whispers that they were a “workhorse” Legion, or “unimaginative”, suited more for attritional warfare than anything more glorious.
However, one thing stands above all else – the IV were reliable. They would follow orders, and not balk at any request, however thankless (in sharp contrast to, say, the V or XX Legions). Whether it was deploying to the most noxious of death-worlds to root out unbearably savage native xenos, or garrisoning backwater worlds which happened to be on vital warp-routes, the IV bore the burden without complaint.
This dedication to following orders was double-edged. The IV had a very strategic and analytical approach to warfare – viewing it much as a science – with their massed assaults calculated to perfection in terms of timing and where bombardments would occur. However, if a battle turned ill – either by poor luck or unexpected concentrations of the foe – the IV would not relent unless specifically ordered by the highest authority available; they would refuse to fail. In doing this, they suffered enormous casualties on a shockingly frequent basis.
This came to a head at Incaladion in 842-843.M30, where the mighty 8th Expeditionary Fleet was almost annihilated. The approach of the Legion to this war resulted in other Primarchs and senior Imperial officials to say the IV seemingly felt they had “something to prove” in the way they waged war, in that they wanted to show they could triumph “no matter the odds.” The IV began to be viewed differently – unstable, weakened, and lacking direction.
And then, Perturabo was found.
Perturabo had landed on Olympia, an ancient human colony which hovered at the level of a pre-atomic, but relatively industrialised, feudal society. The planet was criss-crossed with mighty mountain ranges, which prompted development of small, insular city-states, constantly at war with one another. Warfare in this sort of environment was focused on cunning strategy and sieges, due to the nature of the terrain making any deployment inherently complex.
The young Perturabo was found by the Tyrant of Dammekos – ruler of the city-state of Lochos – when he landed on the world, and he swore fealty as a young boy to his new patron. The Tyrant provided him with the finest scholarship and training he could provide, and in turn Perturabo used his skills to strengthen the cause of Dammekos. Perturabo swiftly showed himself to be a skillful artisan and engineer as well as a warrior.
When he was reunited with his father, the Emperor, Perturabo spent some time – as many Primarchs did – at the Emperor’s side, gaining knowledge of the Crusade and the wider Imperium, leaving Olympia behind under the rule of Dammekos.
Once he had been well equipped with the wider knowledge he required, the Primarch was reunited with the IV; a now much-reduced force of warriors. Perturabo conducted a “full review” of his Legion’s battle records, strategies, and victories.
He decided they had been found wanting, and the only solution would be the ancient punishment of “decimation”. One in ten of the Legion, chosen by lot, was to be put to death by their brothers without honour. Some outside of the Legion protested (including, loudest of all, Roboute Guilliman), but the Emperor allowed it to proceed. The lesson it gave the survivors was simple – “Death would be the price of failure in Perturabo’s service, and war was to him a binary equation.” The Legion had not reached its full potential before Perturabo’s arrival. He would correct this.
Under Perturabo’s hand, the Legion flourished through hard-fought victory. He formed strong alliances with the Mechanicum, and built up a network of satrapies to supply and arm his warriors. At the head of the new 125th Expeditionary Fleet, the Primarch formed a ruthless core of his Legion, winning repeated victories for the Imperium.
Sadly, however, this was not to last. Perturabo’s brutal methods and uncompromising approach won him few allies and even fewer friends; it even earned his Legion the unflattering cognomen (spoken in whispers) of the “Corpse Grinders”, with Imperial Army soldiers increasingly reluctant to take the field alongside the Iron Warriors.
The scene was set for the Heresy.
During the Heresy
“From iron cometh strength! From strength cometh will! From will cometh faith! From faith cometh honour! From honour cometh iron!”
As the time of Horus’ betrayal approached, it was clear that the Iron Warriors, and Perturabo himself, were being put under increasing pressure. Perturabo – seemingly in an attempt to prove himself in comparison to his brother Primarchs – was taking on ever more dangerous missions and deployments. The losses they suffered, and perceived lack of distinction they were afforded for their victories, stoked a bitterness within the Legion and Perturabo. Much of this was intentional, orchestrated by the Warmaster to stretch the Iron Warriors thin and foment their resentment.
Perturabo’s rage boiled over, finally, when he was told of the death of the Tyrant of Lochos – the man he had served during his upbringing on Olympia. It came at the end of a long and bitter campaign against the time-shifting Hrud, and the tyrant’s death caused the planet to rebel, refusing to send new warriors to join the legion. Perturabo could not countenance such treachery and humiliation, and unleashed an almost total purge of the world. His Legionaries slaughtered millions of the citizens, heaping them in great pyres.
After it was all over, Perturabo realised what he had done. The Emperor would never countenance the slaughter he had unleashed in his blind, petulant anger. However, he found a confidante in the Warmaster: Horus consoled his brother and made it clear that he understood him and why he was so bitter, which ended up binding the Lord of Iron to his side and turning the Iron Warriors before the Drop Site Massacre, in which they were eager participants at Horus’ side.
After Istvaan V, Perturabo unleashed his most destructive urges, forming part of the Warmaster’s spearhead thrust at Terra. He took particular joy in wiping out the Legionaries of his most hated brother, Rogal Dorn – another dour siegemaster with whom Perturabo had always had a brutal rivalry. As the fires of the Heresy burned, the Iron Warriors were at the forefront, using their hard-earned skills to wipe out the terrified citizenry of the Imperium.
Legion Special Rules
The Iron Warriors benefit from the following special rules when fielded on the tabletop:
- Wrack & Ruin – Models with Legiones Astartes (Iron Warriors) do not have to take Morale checks from shooting attacks, and may re-roll failed Pinning tests. All grenade and Melta Bomb attacks by these models gain Wrecker.
- The Bitter End: In games where you have a random game length, the opponent of the Iron Warriors player can opt to play six full turns rather than rolling to see if the game ends.
These are… slightly underwhelming when compared to other Legion rules, but they are not dreadful. Wrecker is a “nothing” rule – fortifications are rarely seen, sadly, but it could excel in Cityfight missions or some narrative games.
The morale boost from Wrack & Ruin is decent – it makes the IV very reliable on the tabletop, which augments the playstyle of massed infantry waves. The Bitter End is not really something to worry about, as it is not that common to have the sixth turn of a game be the “cincher” – yes, it will happen once or twice, but usually this won’t bother you.
Legion Special Equipment & Upgrades
The Iron Warriors have access to a unique HQ upgrade, along with some interesting special equipment:
- Warsmith – A single Legiones Astartes (Iron Warriors) Praetor can be made a Warsmith . This gives them Stubborn and makes them the Warlord unless Perturabo is present, but does mean they give up an extra VP if slain They also gain the Shatter Defences Warlord Trait, which allows you to reduce the cover save provided by a piece of terrain in your opponent’s deployment zone by -1 (but it cannot be a “purchased” fortification). The Warsmith can also get a servo-arm and the Battlesmith rule for +35 pts, but cannot get a Jump Pack, Bike or Jetbike.
- Shrapnel Bolts – These are modified heavy bolter rounds which is a free upgrade, making the AP of the weapon 5, but giving it Pinning (in my book, a bit of a no-brainer unless you’re fighting Solar Auxilia…)
- Cortex Controller – Warsmiths, Forge Lords and Techmarines in an Iron Warriors list can get a cortex controller for +15 pts.
Legion Rites of War
The Iron Warriors can organise under two unique Rites of War – the Hammer of Olympia and The Ironfire.
The Hammer of Olympia
The Iron Warriors are masters of attrition assaults and siege warfare, specialising in brutal ranged attacks and use of heavy armour. This Rite of War is designed to look past vainglorious ideals of individual honour, and focus on the victory.
To run this Rite, you need to take a Warsmith or Siege Breaker as a Compulsory HQ, and take more Heavy Support than Fast Attack choices. You also must take an additional Compulsory Troops choice, and cannot take allies. Overall, in the context of an Iron Warriors list, I would not view this as especially punitive – you are probably going to be taking a lot of Troops and Heavy Support anyway.
The benefits are that you can assault after firing Rapid Fire weapons, as long as it wasn’t a Fury of the Legion attack, but it counts as Disordered and you still have to assault the unit you fired at. This is a brilliant bonus if you build the list around Tactical Marines and Support Marines with these kinds of weapons.
Tanks and Walkers gain Extra Armour for free as well – never a bad thing – and you can take an additional Heavy Support choice.
This Rite is not going to set the world on fire, but it is a very “solid” option in my opinion. You can easily maximise the strengths of the Iron Warriors through the additional Heavy Support slots (both of their unique units are Heavy Support), and it compliments a bulk infantry charge nicely.
This is a siege doctrine formulated by the Warsmith Idriss Krendl, focusing on a close interface between the Iron Warriors artillery gunners and the units on the ground, enabling a devastating rolling bombardment to support an advance.
To take this Rite, you have to be the Attacker in a mission where there is an Attacker and Defender, and you cannot take fortifications or allies. Those are very limited restrictions for the benefits you get. There might as well be no restrictions!
The main reason you take this is Rolling Bombardment – any Barrage weapon targeted within 12” of an Iron Warriors friendly unit only scatters 1 D6” (so if you have Line of Sight, a maximum scatter of 2” at BS 4). After the attack is resolved, leave an “Ironfire counter” at the point where it hit. Any subsequent Barrage attack within 6” of a friendly Iron Warriors unit and within 18” of an “Ironfire counter” then does not scatter at all!
“Ironfire counters” remain in play until an entire Shooting phase (understood to be a “friendly shooting phase”) passes without any new “Ironfire counters” being placed, and then they are all removed.
You also have Ride the Ironfire – all Iron Warriors units within 6” of an “Ironfire counter” are Fearless.
You get out of this Rite what you put in. You need to build the list to maximise the number of “Ironfire counters” (thankfully for your opponents, Quad Mortars are single shot now…), and focus on Barrage weapons combined with Infantry. If I was running this, I would take Phosphex Medusas in a heartbeat, along with some Quad Mortars, and pair them up with large Tactical and Assault Squads to get in the enemy’s face and maximise the scatter reduction bonus.
Legion Special Units
Perturabo’s ceramite hordes have three unique units to support their assault – Tyrant Siege Terminators, Iron Havocs, and the Iron Circle.
Tyrant Siege Terminators
Tyrant Siege Terminators are iconic models in the Horus Heresy range – a squad of five heavily armoured warriors all with Cyclone Missile Launchers to act as walking tanks. They are “synonymous with Perturabo’s wrath unleashed”.
On the tabletop, these are not cheap models – 295 for 5, with +50 pts per model – but this is a very versatile squad. They come in Cataphractii armour, which makes them slow but well armoured, with a Power fist and a Combi-bolter, giving them all-round anti-infantry and anti-vehicle capabilities. They can take Chain-fists for +5 pts, and it might be worth taking two of those to round off the unit.
But you aren’t buying them for all that – you’re buying them for the Omni-scope and Cyclone Missile Launchers. The Omni-scope on the Siege Master gives him Split Fire, which is really good when you consider what the Cyclone Missile Launchers do: 2 krak or 2 frag missile shots per Terminator. Ten templates, even with str 4, will do some damage, and ten krak missiles will absolutely devastate anything not in Terminator armour. You can also realistically fish for failed saves against 2W models, as usually this will be Instant Death. Split Fire is the icing on the cake, allowing you to effectively pot-shot at a Rhino or similar without wasting the whole squad’s shooting.
The best way to run these, in my view, is on foot with some sort of Consul to buff them, and use them as a ranged harasser to take out vehicles and infantry squads. A great unit, I would take 6 or 7 models, but not much more than that.
Iron Havoc Support Squad
Iron Havocs are souped up Heavy Support squads, designed to saturate an area with heavy ordnance and obliterate the enemy “through sheer weight of fire.” The Iron Havocs elevate this to an art form, with pinpoint accuracy and deadly skill.
The Iron Havocs come with 5 men for 185pts, with Hardened Armour, and all armed with Heavy Bolters with shrapnel bolts, or Autocannons for free (you will want to take those). They have BS 5, Tank Hunters, and the rule Deadly Aim, which reduces cover saves for targets of this model by -1. They can take Missile launchers and Lascannons, but you don’t want to bother with that.
In my view, these are excellent “bang for buck”. You want to use them to kill armour – Autocannons are S7, so cannot hurt AV 14, but anything else will take a lot of hits (BS 5), not be able to take cover saves properly (Deadly Aim), and the Iron Havocs will get re-rolls to penetrate them (Tank Hunters). All of this adds up to – if you pick your targets right – a dead tank a turn. And, if there are no armoured targets available, using them to rip into Infantry will force a lot of saves.
A great, and fluffy, unit!
“Iron Circle” Domitar-Ferrum Class Battle-Automata Maniple
The Iron Circle are Perturabo’s personal automata bodyguards – created as he felt his own flesh-and-blood sons had failed him after the Battle of Phall. They used the Domitar chassis as their base, augmented by the Primarch’s genius to be stronger, faster, and better than the front-line constructs of the Mechanicum.
I really, really want to recommend these but… they are just so slow! The models look awesome, but they are very hard to “fit in” to a list.
The basic unit is 205 pts, with up to 6 in a maniple (weighing in at over 1200 pts…)
They come with WS/BS 4, S/T 7, W 4, I 3, A 2 Ld 8 and a 3+ save, with a Karceri Battle Shield which gives them a 5+ Invulnerable Save and forces Disordered Charges against them. This is a reasonable set of states, but for over 200 pts you really want a 2+ save, as otherwise they are vulnerable to missiles and the like.
In terms of their rules, they have Brutal Charge, giving them D3 Hammer of Wrath, and the Moving Bulwark ability which makes their Invulnerable Save 4+ if two or more Iron Circle are in base contact, and gives them re-rolls of armour and Invulnerable saves against Blasts and Templates. This is great, but again you then need to spend 410 pts to get this.
Offensively, they have a Graviton Maul, which is S 10, AP 2, Concussive, Wrecker, Crushing Blow (“6s” To Hit generate an additional automatic Hit). These are brutal in close combat, but with base A 2 I 3, they are struggling to compete with the much cheaper Cortus Dreadnought.
Finally, they have an Olympia Pattern Bolt Cannon – 36” S 5 AP 4 Heavy 5, Pinning; a nice weapon, but not game-winning.
The final point to note is that if you take them with Perturabo as a Command Squad, they get either +1 WS, +1 Ld, +1 I or Feel No Pain 6+, which makes them potentially worth it, but you are sinking hundreds of points into this to make it work and your Primarch is going to be walking with these guys, who don’t have much ranged output to speak of.
Overally, these models look amazing, and they are… OK on the tabletop, but they just struggle to compete with the cheaper, more effective Contemptors in my view. You won’t automatically lose if you take these, but you will have to really build the list around them.
Legion Special Characters
Erasmus Golg – Captain of the Iron Warriors 11th Grand Company, “The Pitiless”
Golg is a savage, pitiless Astartes – he was unhesitant with enacting the Edict of Decimation and killing his own brothers, and has “striven to epitomise the ruthless efficiency Perturabo sought in his warriors.” He is uncompromising and unforgiving.
On the table, he weighs in at a reasonable 175pts and has a Praetor’s statline with Cataphractii armour, a Chainfist, a Nuncio-vox and a Combi-melta. This is a good set of wargear to escort Tyrant Siege Terminators, in my view!
You take Golg for his special rules. He has Harsh Taskmaster, emphasizing his infamous brutality, which allows all Legiones Astartes (Iron Warriors) in the force while he is on the table to use his Leadership value (9), along with Brutal Charge which gives him and any Terminator-armour equipped units Hammer of Wrath. This is a great force multiplier.
He also has the Bloody-handed Warlord Trait, and the Terminator Attack rule, which makes Terminators Troops while Golg is the Warlord.
All of this adds up to Golg being the premier choice if you want to run Terminator-focused Iron Warriors. You can take them as Troops, with Tyrant Siege Terminators to support this; Golg would work very well escorting them, in my view. A great character for his points.
Kyr Vhalen – Warsmith of the Iron Warriors 77th Grand Battalion, “The Shatterblade”
Kyr Vhalen is, in contrast to Erasmus Golg, a Loyalist Iron Warrior – when the Heresy came, he was far away from the main body of the Legion, and knew nothing of Perturabo’s treachery. When he discovered had happened, Vhalen and his men refused to throw their lot in with the Traitors, fighting as a self-contained unit during the wars to come.
Vhalen is a Praetor statline with W 4, coming with a 2+/4++, Paragon Blade, Volkite Charger, Melta bombs, a Servo-arm and a Cortex controller for 195 pts; a huge array of wargear which makes him a very versatile commander (and worth running with Mechanicum support). He also has Feel No Pain (6+) and the Warsmith rule.
Vhalen also has Shatter Assault, which he can declare once per game when he and his unit is assaulted. This forces a Disordered Charge and removes Hammer of Wrath attacks, a nice defensive ability.
He also has Master of Fortifications, which allows you to buff a Fortification you have purchased for your army to allow re-rolls of 1s for cover saves or buff its AV up to 15(!). This is a really nice little rule, although Fortifications are not that common in Heresy.
Finally, he must be the Warlord unless Perturabo is also present (but Vhalen can only be in a Loyalist force, so this is going to be rare), and his Warlord Trait allows him to pick a single unit deployed on the table at the start of the game, and it can re-roll all 1s To Hit as long as it remains in the Iron Warriors deployment zone (and does not have weapons with Gets Hot!). Great for ranged units.
Vhalen is a brilliant character, in my opinion. He brings with him a range of special rules, a good statline, and some nice buffs for the army. If you run Loyalist Iron Warriors, he’s a great option.
Perturabo – Master of the Iron Warriors, the Lord of Iron, The Breaker, The Hammer of Olympia
Perturabo was, even during the Great Crusade, somewhat isolated and separate from his brothers. He was always dour, taciturn, and preferred logic and mathematics to emotion and camaraderie. His Legion were known to ruin worlds in their campaigns of conquest, taking enormous casualties in the process. His rivalry with Dorn and a campaign of decimation within his own Legion is said to have tipped him over the edge into madness and “fully into the abyss of betrayal”, ending with him wielding the hammer of Ferrus Manus as he left Istvaan V.
Perturabo starts at 455 pts, with a Primarch statline, with WS 8 and S 7. He has a bevy of special rules, particularly with his special armour The Logos. To start with, he is the Sire of the Iron Warriors, giving Legiones Astartes (Iron Warriors) the Stubborn special rule, and Perturabo Wrecker and Tank Hunters – a brilliant force multiplier for the already strong morale of the Iron Warriors. He is a Relentless Strategist, giving all models in the same army as Perturabo Furious Charge while in the enemy deployment zone, and he and his squad turn up automatically on T1 with Deep Strike. This is fantastic as its essentially another wide-ranging force multiplier.
The Lord of Iron wields, along with his weapons, a Precision Bombardment, which he can fire in the Shooting Phase once per game in addition to his normal shooting attacks. This is a nasty weapon – S 9 AP 2 with Unlimited range, giving D3 Ordnance Large Blasts with the Twin Linked rules. Use this to kill heavy squads in the open or vehicles; you will be almost guaranteed to get one decent S 9 hit, and potentially up to three. It even benefits from his Tank Hunters rule which makes it even more effective! The main bit of equipment Perturabo has is The Logos – his panoply of war which is “unique and highly customised”. It carries an enormous array of rules. This armour gives Perturabo a 2+/3++, AP 2 on his melee attacks, immunity to Concussive and Blind, a Teleport Homer, Cortex controller, Nuncio-vox, and a Cognis Signum. It also gives him Deep Strike (and any Legiones Astartes (Iron Warriors) Terminators across the army get this as well), and carries a wrist cannon (24”, S 6 AP 3 Assault 3, Twin-linked, Rending). This is a dazzling array of rules, which allows you to run Perturabo as a strong support to pretty much every type of army – he can back up Outflanking units, Flyers, Deep Strike in support, or simply wade in and crack skulls. Note that he doesn’t actually come with a melee weapon as standard – he has to take Forgebreaker (the hammer of Ferrus Manus) if he wants a weapon, making him S 10 AP 1, Concussive, Unwieldy, Blind, Strikedown. This gives him +3 S, and AP 1, but makes him Unwieldy… a difficult exchange, as he is usually S 7 AP 2, which is pretty good “base” and allows him to strike at I 5.
Finally, he can take The Tormentor as a Dedicated Transport, a Shadowsword with some upgrades (such as Transport capacity) and a void shield. I have never seen this in person, but it could be a great modelling project in a larger game. Note its current rules are found in the latest FAQ.
Sample Army List
Below I set out a starting force for the Iron Warriors, at 1,500 pts.
Iron Warriors are, in some ways, very easy and very hard to paint. You are going to be doing a lot of silver with drybrushing and weathering (easy), and a lot of hazard stripes (which can be very fiddly and hard until you get it down). We’ve covered painting them before in this How to Paint Everything article.
The fact the main colours of the Legion are fairly simple to do means I can recommend lists with large numbers of Troops without it being overwhelming to start with!
Rite of War – None
- HQ – Praetor with Artificer Armour, Paragon Blade, Iron Halo, Warsmith (Servo Arm/Cortex Controller), Digital Lasers
- HQ Castellax Automata x2 with Darkfire Cannons/Targeting Arrays
- Elites – Contemptor Dreadnought with Kheres Assault Cannon/Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon/Havoc Launcher
- Troops – x20 Tactical Marines, Artificer Armour/Power Fist Sergeant
- Troops – x20 Tactical Marines, Artificer Armour/Power Fist Sergeant
- Heavy Support – Tyrant Siege Terminator Squad
This is a very Infantry-heavy list – with only one bit of armour (the Dreadnought), but it can put out a wicked amount of firepower for this points level. The Tyrants and Darkfire Cannons will make short work of opposing armour, and the Tactical Marines (with the good morale of the Iron Warriors) will anchor the central line and provide anti-Infantry support.
In terms of growing this – add in some armour, and bulk out the Tyrant squad. A Sicaran or some Sabres would be a good jump to 2,000 pts.
Iron Within, Iron Without
The Iron Warriors are, in some ways, tragic – a force of stolid Loyalists (perhaps so loyal as to not heed their own casualties) who ultimately turned into bitterly vengeful Traitors. In the Heresy you can make some very characterful, “classic” armies of artillery and massed ceramite, with a very forgiving paint scheme. They’re a great army to start out with!
In our next instalment in a month’s time, we turn towards the cutting, icy winds of Fenris, to look at the Vlka Fenryka – otherwise known as The Rout (or, if you like, the Space Wolves).
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