The Space Marine Legions of the First Founding make up the core factions and conflict of the Horus Heresy. In this article, the fourteenth in our journey through the 31st Millennium, we consider the gore-drenched aristocracy of Nostramo: The Night Lords.
“…Some argued that they were simply a function of necessity, the monsters needed to drag a barbaric age into the light. Some say that they were a mistake, a misjudgement compounded by circumstance…”
The Night Lords were the VIII Legiones Astartes, “the night’s children”, known for their widespread use of psychological terror-tactics. During the Great Crusade they were always viewed by Imperial forces with unease, even distrust, and it did not come as a great surprise to some when they threw their lot in with Lupercal.
Yet, it cannot be argued that they weren’t effective. Their tactics may have been unquestionably brutal, and perhaps lacking a certain “long-term” view in the context of wishing to ensure a population embraced the Imperium, but they worked. If the Night Lords wished to make a planet compliant, then generally, when they were done, its people were compliant, and knew the cost of rebellion.
In this article – for the first time in our series – we are going to be joined by a guest writer: The Flaymaster himself, Berith Degustan (@the_flaymaster on Instagram). A downright dirty fighter and a long-running Night Lords player (and the source of many a defeat for my poor Salamanders and Solar Auxilia), the Flaymaster is going to lend a hand (presumably not his own, and dripping with gore) to some of the tactical commentary as we go through the article.
In the time of the Unification Wars, Terra was a grim, blood-soaked world, held in the grip of eternal conflict between petty lords, witch-breeds and gene-kings. With the coming of the Emperor, the planet was unified under His banner, but the darkest corners of humanity’s homeworld still remained. Among these places were the prison sinks, “vast caverns filled with the half crushed ruins of millennia”, teeming with the condemned and blighted souls who had committed some trespass or other.
Fed by a constant influx of people from the surface world, these were an “ever hungering gate to madness and murder”. Yet, where humanity is found, so are children. These were the “night’s children”, moulded and formed by their surroundings into savage, silent monsters. These dark-spawn were among the first of the VIII.
Born from this questionable stock, the VIII had a gene-code which accentuated pale skin and night vision, but provided a relative vulnerability to bright lights and flares. No wonder, then, that the proto-Legion preferred night operations.
In these early days, the Emperor put his VIII Legion to use in crushing recidivists. Those who had bent the knee and then sought to rise back to their feet were met with unbelievable acts of retribution from the VIII, who did not see matters in shades of grey. If the Pax Imperialis was violated, the Night Lords were sent, and order restored – the tithe paid in blood.
To understand the Night Lords, you have to understand their Primarch – Konrad Curze, the Night Haunter. A tortured soul, he is a product, in many ways, of his upbringing on the benighted world of Nostramo. Nostramo was a hellscape, a night world blessed with rich seams of mineral wealth, but in the grip of a cruel aristocracy who exploited it ruthlessly. There was no overarching order or authority, simply the rule of the blade and fist; you owned what you took. Gangs controlled the streets, and the people of Nostramo were their playthings.
And then came Curze, falling like a comet from the heavens. What happened in his childhood is unclear, but it was obviously not akin to the upbringing of, say, Guilliman or Vulkan – he was alone, and had to survive alone. Curze became “The Night Haunter”, a force of – some dared whisper – justice, in a planet where the word had been forgotten. He sought out sin, and corruption, and ripped it apart. Little wonder, then, that he soon came to rule the world.
When the Emperor came to Nostramo, a century into His Great Crusade, the Night Haunter seemed to almost be expecting it. There had always been rumours of a latent psychic ability – precognition, witch-sight, specifically the ability to foresee his own future, and his own death, which some believe cracked his psyche beyond repair. Whatever the truth, Curze took well to his Legion, imprinting the bleak traditions and gang-life of Nostramo upon his Legionaries.
The VIII took to the brutal nature of their Primarch effortlessly, and Curze wielded his Legion as a terror weapon. The clearest example of this is what befell Nostramo. Following Curze’s departure, the opportunistic crime-kings of that world saw their chance to take back control, and the world quickly descended back into murderous anarchy. When Curze heard of this, he unleashed his Legion upon Nostramo, razing the world utterly.
Some say this act was, secretly, the tipping point for the Night Lords – it did not surprise many when they threw their lot in with Horus. What is less well known is that prior to the destruction of Nostramo, Dorn sought to reign in Curze, resulting in a disastrous confrontation at Cheraut where Curze almost slew his own brother, and then marched on his own world soon after.
In retrospect, the signs were clear.
During the Heresy
“They were creatures of the dark, harnessed to the will of a father wracked by righteousness and foreboding; what else could have been their fate but to fall back into the night from which they came?”
The Night Lords were among the second wave of Traitors, those who conducted the dreadful ambush at Isstvan V, slaughtering the Salamanders, Raven Guard and Iron Hands in the Drop Site Massacre. Shortly after, Horus made clear they were “off the leash”, and free to conduct a campaign of terror across the galaxy.
This was, at times, without the guidance of their Primarch. During the Thramas Campaign the Night Lords were initially successful in reaping a bloody tally across Imperial space, only to ultimately be slowed and stopped by Lion El’Jonson and the First Legion, in a climatic series of battles which broke the main strength of the Legion. Curze was lost after this battle, for a time, ending up carving a path through Ultramar and Imperium Secundus. The Legion was, at this time, led by the First Captain Sevatar.
What is known is that the Night Lords participated in the Siege of Terra and the Palace, lending their expert capabilities in psychological warfare to the Traitor cause, before being a thorn in the side of the Imperium long into the Scouring.
And, of course, most famously Curze was slain shortly after the Heresy by a Callidus Assassin, M’Shen, going to his grave claiming to have foreseen his own death, and embracing it.
Legion Special Rules
The latest rules for the Night Lords can be found in Book Nine: Crusade; this is where we will take the below analysis from.
- A Talent for Murder: In close combat, if any Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) outnumber one or more enemy units (not vehicles) during any Initiative Step in which they fight, they get +1 To Hit and To Wound, to a maximum of 2+, which does not effect rules such as Rending. For this, you count Bulky creatures as 2 models, Very Bulky as 3, and Extremely Bulky/Monstrous Creatures as 5.
- Nostraman Blood: All models with this rule Fall Back +1” more than usual. If they fail a Pinning test, they may fall back instead of being pinned.
- Night Vision: All Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) have Night Vision.
- From the Shadows: All models with this rule have a 5+ cover save on the first game turn, even in open ground. This stacks with Stealth etc.
- Seeds of Dissent: If the army’s Warlord is slain, then every model with this rule must take an immediate Morale Check, as if they had taken 25% casualties.
These are a really good suite of rules. From the Shadows is a fantastic passive buff, allowing you to be bullish with deployment in the face of heavy weaponry such as plasma guns or lascannons, and often you’ll have Night Fighting in effect to make it a very potent 4+, without the downsides as you all have Night Vision!
Seeds of Dissent and Nostraman Blood can be a pain, but if you manage your positioning well they shouldn’t be too much of an issue – but be wary with units with large Fall Back moves such as jump infantry or jetbikes, as every inch can count if you’re near a table edge.
The real centrepiece here – and the key rule to always be aware of – is A Talent for Murder. This is a game-winner. Outnumbering the enemy if you have, say, Jump Infantry or Bike units, is not very difficult, and it makes all your units much more reliable. Characters hitting on 2+ in combat is unbelievably good, and can turn them into absolute killing machines. Understand this rule, and exploit it at every opportunity – including charging two units into one enemy, in true Night Lords fashion!
The Flaymaster’s Take: Well, well where to start? The Night Lord core rules are both incredibly fluffy and very powerful tools in your Astartes toolbox. It pays to be sneaky with these midnight killers, so a word from me on each of their special rules: A Talent for Murder: Try and keep your WS 5+ Characters alive as long as possible for their 2+ to hit, and feed the enemy your pathetic underlings for as long as possible. This also means you often don’t need expensive defensive items, Iron Halo? Pah! It’s far easier to survive if you never take a hit! (No honour amongst murderers!). Night Vision: Always remember to roll for Night Fighting and try and roll on the Strategic Warlord Table to try to force Night Fighting, The Night Lords excel when the odds are weighted in their favour. Seeds of Dissent and Nostraman Blood: Be extremely wary of having your units close to table edges and try to anchor your fast close combat units with Leadership buffs (Vexilla, Legion Banner, Chaplains, Super Heavy Command Vehicles). A failed morale check could see your expensive Assault Marines run off the table or effectively be out of the game as they can’t do anything when they regroup. Protect your Warlord at all costs. From the Shadows: Never forget the power of Going to Ground and hiding like rats. No-one knows this better than the Legion’s Vigilators. Add a Vigilator to a large squad of Tactical or Assault marines, deploy them in the open and cluster a few of them together. Often your opponent won’t be able to resist launching ordnance* at your worthless mooks (great way to tease out that Master of Signal’s Orbital Bombardment…). Go to Ground and enjoy a 3+ Cover save in the open.** *Extra sneak points if you also have an Apothecary and their Blast weapons don’t ignore Feel No Pain. **Curze level sneaky - Make the unit Fearless during your turn so they get up from Going to Ground.
The Night Lords have some very characterful pieces of wargear, unique to the Legion.
- Nostraman Chainglaive – Characters and Independent Characters can take this instead of a power weapon. Its AP 3, S +1, Rending, Two Handed. This means you’re putting out fewer attacks, but S 5 (remember, this stacks with A Talent for Murder) and Rending is nothing to sniff at. You’ll often be wounding on 2+ with this, so its great for clearing chaff at initiative. The Flaymaster: A great all round weapon and can punch through those Artificer saves if you have enough attacks, worth considering on characters if you don’t have the points to spare for the Headsman’s Axe.
- Headsman’s Axe – A new weapon in Crusade, an Independent Character can pay +10 pts to replace a power weapon with this. It is S x2, AP 3, Two Handed, Rending. Wow! This means it is usually S 8 (so Instant Death in many circumstances), has a chance to pierce 2+ saves, and hits at Initiative. Take as many of these as you can, as they will absolutely massacre basic infantry. The Flaymaster: Consider taking this on a Siegebreaker consul so he can reliably whack enemy Dreadnoughts before they strike at initiative 5. A Curious Thought: it may be difficult to decapitate a dreadnought but arm and leg amputations are a viable alternative.
- Teleportation Transponder – Terminators and Terminator Command Squads can buy Deep Strike for +15 pts for the squad. Independent Characters in Terminator Armour can take this for +10 pts. Very useful, depending on what you’re trying to do with your army. The Flaymaster: Very fluffy but sometimes difficult to use, I’ve found small squads of Terminators with combi plasma guns and meltaguns can work well as execution squads, teleporting in behind vehicles and enemy units (where players often hide their Apothecaries and Characters; ripe for reaping).
- Trophies of Judgement – Independent Characters can buy this for +5 pts, gaining Fear. This is OK, but some of the Rites of War make it otiose. The Flaymaster: Not great, not terrible, when it goes off it is amazing as your basic troops can hit on a 2+, don’t rely on it but consider it another way to stack combats in your favour.
Legion Rites of War
With the release of Crusade, the Night Lords have a large number of Rites available, all of which make for very fluffy armies. Note that the Rites in the Red Book are superseded by these.
The archetypal – in my eyes anyway – Night Lords force, the Terror Assault is “often conducted under conditions of complete darkness… to sow as much gut-wrenching terror in both their victims and any who were left to survive to tell the tale…”
This emphases infantry, but you get to use some great kits from Forge World. To take this, you have to use +1 Compulsory Troops, can only take a single Heavy Support choice, and cannot take a Fortification or Allies. The Force Organisation restrictions aren’t great – I would advise thinking very carefully about your Heavy Support choice, as you might lack for anti-armour in this force.
The benefits are that Terror Squads and Night Raptors must be the Compulsory Troops, and can be taken as additional Troops, and any Tactical Squads, Veteran Squads and Terror Squads can take Dreadclaws or Drop Pods as their Dedicated Transports, which adds some amazing flexibility to the force. Usually in Horus Heresy games it is “all or nothing” with those options, so this is nice.
You also gain Cover of Darkness, which gives you (if you wish) automatic Turn 1 Night Fighting, and then T2 on 3+ and T3 on 6+. While Night Fighting is in effect, you get +1 Initiative and +1” to Run distances.
All of this adds up to a brilliant force. Terror Squads and Raptors are strong choices, and you don’t have to worry about any “tax” units before you take them. I would think carefully about whether you will infiltrate or drop in the Terror Squads, and you want to try to have an “alpha strike” force to make most use of Cover of Darkness. I think this will be very popular.
The Flaymaster: A solid Rite of War, with the potential to be very aggressive with lots of Raptor squads and fast moving units. Consider Contemptors and Leviathans in Drop Pods where you can combine Stealth (from Night Fighting) and Shrouding (from the Dreadnought Drop Pods) for a very hard to remove first wave of “distraction carnifex” that can handle tanks to boot, whilst your troops move into position. Move those Rhinos up and don’t forget to pop smoke for a tasty 4+ cover save.
The Swift Blade
This emphasises the cruel specialisms of the Jadhek clans of Nostramo, “among the most hateful and murderous of that world’s vile denizens”, primarily mounted on bikes. The Night Haunter tried to stamp these clans out, but after Isstvan they made a grim resurgence.
This is a slightly complex Rite. To take it, there are no Loyalists, Fortifications, Allies, Heavy or Immobile units allowed. You also cannot take any model which is a mandatory Warlord, including Curze (there are no leaders here!), and you must take an additional Compulsory Troops choice.
So what do you get from this? You start with No True Leaders – you must take 3 compulsory HQ choices, and can take up to 5 (!), regardless of Force Organisation limitations. These all gain Crusader and Hatred (Loyalists) as quasi-Warlord Traits, and you need to kill them all to get Slay the Warlord. This clearly will be a great opportunity for modelling and converting great leaders.
You then have Jadhek Clans – HQ choices have to be on bikes, and you must take Hussars as Compulsory Troops, and Outriders can be additional Troops. All Tanks must be Fast. Hussars are a new “light-bike” option, which means you are going to be doing a lot of conversions for this force to have everyone mounted – it’ll look great on the tabletop, but probably be low model count.
Finally, you have Encirclement: Units which are wholly Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) get +2 to their total unit size when considering outnumbering for A Talent For Murder. This is great but perhaps unnecessary – all those Bikes will probably do the trick anyway!
Overall this is a very thematic force, but you will really have to lean into the bike aspect. If Outrider models don’t excite you, look elsewhere.
The Flaymaster: An extremely fluffy but potentially very expensive Rite of War in points and cash! I’d suggest trying to bump up your model count with some Assault Marines and Tactical blobs to help capture objectives and shore up the low model count. Your characters will be monstrous but they’ll need to work double time, a few Librarians are worth considering with their Divination abilities. COME THE APOCALYPSE: For the truly mad and in games of 5000 points, consider taking a Command Squad on bikes with Apothecary and 5 Praetors with Headsman Axes. When the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse just isn’t enough carnage, the Jadhek Clans will gladly provide a 5th… Lord Twisted: That is some serious god-damned Heresy. Summon the Custodes!
The Cross of Bone
This is an unusual Rite. It is predicated upon an ancient Nostraman tradition, a form of honour-duel/murder-brawl in the Nostraman underslums to determine who would lead.
On the tabletop, to run this you need to take an additional Compulsory Troops choice, and cannot use Konrad Curze, You also are limited by The Rampant Blade – if you Consolidate, it must be the furthest you can go towards the nearest enemy unit with line of sight (or, if there are none, the enemy Deployment Zone). This isn’t really, in fairness, a dramatic limitation as usually you’ll be doing that anyway, but keep it in mind.
The benefits are mixed. You get The Aristocracy of Ruin – which means for every non-compulsory HQ, you get +1 Elites Slots in the Force Organisation chart. You also have The Strong are Strongest Alone, which means any Independent Character which is alone, or in a unit with no other Independent Characters, has +1 Attack. And finally, there is The Tithe of Gore, where Slay the Warlord is worth +1 Victory Point for the Night Lord’s player, but only if you kill the enemy Warlord with one of your Independent Characters.
Frankly, I am really not a fan of this. Aristocracy of Ruin is of dubious use, as you’re having to take 2 HQ, 3 Troops and 4 Elites before you start to see its benefits in a normal game – an enormous investment of points off the bat. Strong are Strongest Alone is quite rubbish – +1 Attack, but with those limitations? Pass, thanks, as it means A Talent for Murder is less likely to trigger. Tithe of Gore is also very situational.
Overall I’m not sure what they were trying to do with this Rite, but it hasn’t worked.
The Flaymaster: Definitely a bit of a mixed Rite of War and I’m not sure it works very well in large games, but for smaller games it can pull its weight, where even the extra Attack on your Independent Characters can make all the difference. In ZM games it is particularly useful as the FOC is smaller and you can get some extra Elite slots. Consider that Contekar can also be taken as a HQ choice and are excellent in ZM (they won’t benefit from the Strong are Strongest Alone but act as a further pseudo Elites slot). Don’t forget that The Strong are Strongest Alone would also affect any special characters that you take in your army (not that Sevatar needs much help in the slaughter).
The Bloodied Gauntlet
A reference to the Nostraman red hand, which denotes a warrior “serving under a sentence of death”, a penal sign for the Legion which later, during the Thramas Crusade became a mark of those loyal to the Primarch above all. It was also a battlefield tactic, where the red hands were mustered together and hurled at the foe, to expunge their shame “with either the foe’s blood, or their own.”
To take this, you must take two additional compulsory Elites choices, which must be Infantry and not Terminator-armoured. You also cannot hold or contest objectives with your Compulsory choices (so Troops and Elites), and these are not scoring. You cannot put these in a Dedicated Transport either, and a Compulsory HQ cannot be the Warlord.
All non-Compulsory units must be in Reserve at the start of the game.
These are heavy restrictions, meaning some serious thought is needed while you build your list. So what do you get?
The Bloodied Gauntlet – All Compulsory choices must start on the table, or enter play on T1. They all have Zealot, and do not give the opponents VP if destroyed. You also get Through Death, Victory – in the event of a draw, the Night Lords player gets +D3 VP if all their Compulsory choices have been destroyed. Anything entering play from reserve after T3 (so, in practice, on T4) get Outflank.
This is… very unusual, but those benefits are damn good. Zealot is an amazing rule, particularly when combined with A Talent for Murder. You will need to carefully select your Compulsory choices with this – might I suggest Raptors/Terror Squads, and very large units of Assault Marines, with Apothecaries? Hurl them at the foe and spend their lives like coin – even if they die, it could win you the game.
The Flaymaster: This is a real horde Rite of War, it is like Berserker Assault met Cult Horde in a dark alley and bumped uglies. Overwhelm the opponent with worthless screeching mooks. Destroyer squads could be absolutely vicious in this Rite with the combination of Rad Grenades thrown into the mix of A Talent for Murder and Zealot. For peak sneak, remember you can take up to 10 Contekar as a HQ slot and they will gain Zealot and become seriously bloodthirsty.
Legion Special Units
The Sons of Nostramo have some very nice special units, particularly with the release of Book Nine: Crusade.
An iconic unit, available from Forge World as an upgrade pack, the Terror Squad is 5 men for 125 pts as an Elites choice. They have Fear, Infiltrate, Preferred Enemy (Infantry) and Precision Strike, coming with Bolt Pistols/Chainswords as stock equipment. This sets them up to be, clearly, efficient anti-Infantry units.
Their upgrades are great. You can take 5 additional models for a well-priced +12 pts each, and they can all take Melta Bombs, Volkite Chargers or Heavy Chainblades for +5 pts per upgrade. You can even take, oddly, Rotor Cannons (quite cool) for +5 pts. Volkite, with the Preferred Enemy, is an obvious winner, and very popular.
Their HQ has access to Artificer Armour and a Nostraman Chainglaive – take these.
Overall, I’d run them with Volkite, in packs of ten, Infiltrating or coming down in Drop Pods as part of a Terror Assault. With 2 Attacks base, they will rip into an opponent in close combat with A Talent for Murder, and are good all-round anti-infantry specialists. Melta Bombs might be nice, but for me jacks the price up too high.
The Flaymaster: A great unit with lots of flexibility since the recent changes in Crusade, giving these guys some much needed mobility and due to their Infiltrate can also choose to Outflank to keep your opponent guessing. What this also means is that Land Raiders become available for these psychos when running the Armoured Spearhead Rite of War; combine with Infiltrate to make your opponent sweat. And don’t forget Preferred Enemy confers to any joined Characters!
Contekar Terminator Elite
(EDIT: Updated to account for a newer PDF from Forge World)
These are one of the new hot units from Crusade, part of the Atramentar, and designed to be elite shock troops decapitating enemy command structures – or, it must be said, rogue commanders within the Legion!
250 pts buys you five Contekar, with a 2 W/3 A Sergeant, all with WS 5, Implacable Advance and Chosen Warriors. They come stock with Heavy flamers or Cavitors (!) and Nostraman chainblades, with Trophies of Judgement, making them short-ranged combat specialists, but without reliable AP 2, so be alive to that.
You can take a squad of up to 15, at +36 pts a model, and can give them Teleportation Transponders for +2 pts per model. Finally, the Sergeant can take an Escaton power claw for +15 pts (definitely take this).
The Cavitor are new options, not seen before. A Volkite Cavitor is sort of a shotgun Culverin – S 6 Ap 5 Deflagrate with 4 shots, but only 10” range, so tying in nicely with the Heavy Flamers. The power claw is unusual, S x2 AP 2 with Shred and Unwieldy – a sort of souped-up power fist. I would definitely take a couple of cavitors and the claw, as they boost the killing power nicely.
Finally, the Contekar are the Lords of the Night, meaning they can (provided its 10 models or less) be the compulsory HQ choice as long as you don’t have Curze or Sevatar, which is really unusual, sort of like Deathshroud. With Sevatar in play, you can buy them as a bodyguard for him without taking up a Force Organisation slot.
Overall, I love these units. They won’t slay the enemy Primarch, but they will cull enemy infantry nicely and do work against Mechanicum. I would definitely take a unit of them – and look at the models!
The Flaymaster: This is definitely a fun unit and despite their rather limited number of wargear options they can find a place in lots of lists. I’d see them best used inside Land Raiders so they can jump out and roast/CHOOM their victims before charging or a massive blob squad to absorb fire but with minimal upgrades besides the power claw (it’s so good!). Take them as Tartaros with a Herald and you can run up the field and protect your Warlord. Where I’d really see them shine is in Zone Mortalis missions where the Heavy flamers and short range Volkite cavitors will be vicious indeed! I can’t wait to get my hands on these!
Night Raptor Squad
The iconic units of the Night Lords in the 41st Millennium, the Raptors have a pedigree stretching back to the Heresy – peerless shock troops equipped with jump packs to get them in and among the enemy as soon as possible.
150 pts buys you 5, with A 2 base, and 3 on the Sergeant, at WS 5. This is not cheap points-wise, but is “cost-efficient” when combined with Raptor Strike and Bloody Murder. The former allows you to use Jump Packs both to move and to Charge in the same turn; so pseudo-Fleet and free Hammer of Wrath. The latter gives the Raptors a free set of AP – automatic wounds at the end of a combat phase, based on the number of enemy models removed as casualties, sort of like Deflagrate.
What this means is that the Raptors, in my view, really “punch above their weight”. They are +15 pts per model, and can take a huge range of options – including all Power Weapons or chainglaives, and a Headsmans axe on the Sergeant (a mandatory upgrade in my view).
Personally, I would run a squad of 10-15 (the max), but keep them reasonably cheap with some chainglaives and a Headsmans axe sprinkled in. They pack a serious punch.
The Flaymaster: Ah here at last, one of the most iconic Night Lord units! They’re a bit costly to start but access to incredibly cheap power weapons and chainglaives makes even small units really quite savage. Due to their Bloody Murder special rule, I would consider some of the often overlooked Power Maul, at 4 attacks a piece hitting on a 3+ (often a 2+!); it’ll help smash through even those dreaded cult horde mooks (or Mechancium).Hell, a squad of 10 with all Mauls have 40 S 6 ws5 attacks that trigger even more Wounds! They will struggle a bit vs Dreadnoughts/tanks it so may be worth taking this into account if you want them to perform multiple roles. Adding a Siegebreaker Consul with Headsmans axe would be my go to.
Legion Special Characters
Nakrid Thole – The Faceless Prince, Master of the Cross of Bone
Throle is one of the main Night Lords characters taking part in the Thramas Crusade, earning his epithet of the Faceless Prince in a close encounter with an archeotech pistol at the outset of that particular conflict.
He is relatively cheap – 185 pts for a Praetor level character with WS 6 and I 6, coming with Artificer armour, a Refractor field and Trophies of Judgement; so you have to watch out for that 5++ invulnerable save.
He has some unique equipment – the Nostraman Flay-Whip is AP 4 Rending, Electro-charge, Web of Steel, Specialist Weapon. Electro-charge reduces enemy Initiative to 1 for a turn if there is an unsaved Wound suffered, and Web of Steel allows you to swap normal attacks for getting an attack against every enemy model within 2” of Throle in close combat, but you cannot then use Electro Charge. This is not bad for a horde-killer, but AP 4 is a bit weak given he is going to be a primary HQ.
He then has The Devil’s Due, however, which makes up for this. A short handed hatchet, this is S +2, AP 2, Unwieldy, Murderous Strike, Master Crafted with the rule The Devil’s Due – if any enemy model in base contact has had its Initiative reduced by any weapon or special rule, then you can make a single additional attack with this weapon before the enemy would strike.
This is quite tasty – a slightly stronger, slower Paragon Blade with the potential for an “execution strike” if you combine it with the Flay-Whip.
Thole also has Counter-Attack and Valour’s Shadow, meaning he can’t be targeted by Precision Strike/Shots, and if he is reduced to 0 Wounds, on a 5+ he is removed but does not grant VP or Objectives.
All in all, a reasonably priced HQ who is quite fluffy, and a good opportunity for some nice conversions. I rather like Thole.
The Flaymaster: Nakrid Thole is a rather exciting addition to the Night Lords, a little bit pricey with limited army buffs compared to the likes of Sevatar or Kheron Ophion, but he has some interesting tricks above a standard Praetor. The stand-out for me is his I 6, so you may just be able to kill those pesky characters before they get to strike. He’ll work quite well in the Bloodied Gauntlet where he can give your big squads some extra punch and due to Hatred make sure his strike from The Devil’s Due hits home.
Sevatar – The Prince of Crows, First Captain of the Night Lords
The de facto leader of the Legion for a large part of the Heresy, Sevatar is a peerless killer, and the originator of the famous phrase “Death to the False Emperor.” His skill with a blade saw him ranked up with the greats of the Legions, among Sigismund, Abaddon and Corswain.
On the tabletop, he will not fail to impress, and has a litany of special rules for a cheap cost. Weighing in at 175 pts, he is a Praetor with I 6 and WS 7, but only comes with power armour and an Iron halo “stock”, with a Master-crafted Nostraman Chainglaive. I’m not going to bother considering this, as you will always pay the + 35 pts (so 210) for Artificer armour and Night’s Whisper.
Night’s Whisper is S +1 AP 2 Duellist’s Edge, Master-Crafted – so perfect for assassinating opponents in a Challenge. It segues brilliantly with Dirty Fighter, a special rule giving Sevatar Instant Death in a Challenge.
He is the Master of the Atramentar, allowing Terminators, Terminator Command Squads, and Contekar to not scatter within 6” of Sevatar if they Deep Strike. Handy.
He has Precision Strike, automatically gets Master of Ambush as a Warlord Trait, and finally is a Repressed Psyker, making him ML1 with Precognition, casting with 2 Warp Charges max at LD 7 if there is a Perils of the Warp. This is amazing if it goes off – re-rolls to Hit, Wound and Saves – good luck cracking that Artificer Armour if this is in effect…
Overall, Sevatar is a close-combat monster, but is also very effective at taking out enemy HQs, with a high Initiative and ability to get Instant Death in a Challenge. Don’t forget to take his upgraded armour though, as otherwise a Krak missile will ruin your day.
The Flaymaster: Sevatar is an absolute monster in combat so I won’t go into any more detail about how easily he will be hacking, slashing, and eviscerating enemy commanders in single combat, as this is well documented above. Except Sigismund, just feed him a sergeant and bayonet that self righteous prig with the contempt he deserves… Where I see Sevatar really shine is his Master of Ambush trait. Being able to plan at the list building stage on having 3 units Infiltrate adds a crazy amount of flexibility to deployment and devious shenanigans, especially when layered on top of certain Rites of War. A few ideas spring to mind:
Recon Company: Units with Scout and/or Infiltrate gain Shrouding on the first turn, combine with From The Shadows, for a hearty 3+ Cover save in the open!
Unit of choice to infiltrate: Praevian with 4 castellax with chain blades and Mauler cannons
The Bloodied Gauntlet: No better way to ensure all of your troops die and you get VPs then by drowning them in bodies that have sneaked into position.
Unit of choice to infiltrate: 2x20 man Tactical blobs with chain swords. Cheap & dirty.
Drop Assault Vanguard: Establish a beachhead for your deep striking units by infiltrating a unit up the board for pinpoint deep strike.
Unit of choice to infiltrate: Forgelord with Nuncio Vox + Jump Pack Destroyer squad.
Flaymaster Mawdrym Llansahai – The Smiling One, Bloody Bones
This name is impossible to spell, or say, so I will call him the Flaymaster (much like my erstwhile commentating companion for this article). The Flaymaster is a Primus Medicae who was viewed as being a bit OTT even by the standards of the Night Lords, experimenting and vivisecting his victims.
He is 135 pts for a Primus Medicae Consul with Fearless and a Refractor field and Power armour, wielding an Archeotech pistol and the Red Jaqa – a souped up scalpel which is AP 3 with Murderous Strike, but S -1 (it is just a small knife!). He has The Devil’s Luck, allowing him to re-roll Look Out, Sir and Feel No Pain (quite handy), but is Unfit for Command, so cannot be the compulsory HQ (“… even the Night Lords have their limits of toleration for madness.”)
All in all, this guy doesn’t set the world on fire, but he is objectively a bit better than a standard Primus Medicae, even if he only has a 3+ save.
The Flaymaster (on the err Flaymaster): A strange character for sure, but once you see him as a combination of a Chaplain and a Primus Medicae, he can find a place in most lists. Being Fearless makes him very useful for anchoring your troops in place whilst dishing out Feel No Pain. Chuck him in a big Tactical squad or Terminators (15 Contekar for the truly insane), walk up the field absorbing fire and refusing to run. For the truly vile, take him in the Bloodied Gauntlet where he can use his Sacred Duty special rule to retrieve Victory points/ geneseed from your sacrificial troops who won’t be handing out VP’s to your opponent! I’m starting to understand why no one would trust this lunatic with command….
Kheron Ophion of the Kryoptera – Master of the Shroud of Eventide
Ophion is a very long-serving member of the VIII Legion, rising up from Nostraman origins to high office. Ophion was an expert commander, one of the few to escape the cataclysm at the conclusion of the Thramas campaign, which earned him a place on the ruling council of the Kryoptera, which led the Legion in the absence of Curze.
Ophion is 165 pts, with Praetor stats, a Refractor field, Volkite serpenta, and only a 3+ save (sadly). He does have a Power axe and the Bloody Aegis, however, which gives him a 3++ in close combat (not bad!). It also has a neat trick where if you roll a 1 to hit him in close combat, the unit which missed has its WS halved when targeted by Ophion – but, frankly, I question whether this is that useful as he has WS 6 and will often be hitting on 2+ anyway with A Talent for Murder.
He is The Coward – if he loses a Wound, he gets Feel No Pain (4+), and on a single wound remaining this becomes a 3+. This is decent, but I’m not sure makes up for the bad 3+ save.
Finally, if he is the Warlord, he has Aberrant Bravery, giving him and any unit within 12” of him Stubborn as long as you have fewer VPs than your opponent, and you can re-roll (or force a re-roll) on random game length.
Overall, a mixed bag. I was not overwhelmed by Ophion, as the 3+ save (even with the great Invulnerable save) is hard to overlook on a combat-facing character.
The Flaymaster: I’d agree with the above, he does seem like a strangely mixed bag, but he is rather cheap considering his profile. Ophion seems best at killing rank and file troops and not worth risking in title fight challenges (I’m sensing a theme here…). One way I could see him being quite useful is leaning into his Aberrant Bravery trait by keeping track of your VP’s and combining it with some kind of Leadership re-roll like a Vexilla. The combination of the reroll and Stubborn would allow you to have a “hammer and anvil” style of play with Assault marines/Raptors charging to the rescue after he has absorbed the charge.
Konrad Kurze – The Primarch of the Night Lords, The Night Haunter, The Last Judge, The King of Terrors
Curze… a cursed figure among his brother Primarchs, the Night Haunter of Nostramo. Curze was, even by the standards of professional killers such as the Legions, obsessed with death and murder. He had very specific notions of “order” and “justice”, and was not afraid to bathe a world in blood to enact them. For this, many considered him mad.
On the tabletop he is reasonably costed – 435 pts for the usual Primarch statline, but with I 7 and WS 8, befitting his combat prowess. He is also Jump Infantry, making him instantly more mobile than many of his peers. He also has Shrouded and Stealth naturally, giving him a superb cover save even in the open.
He is the Sire of the Night Lords, which gives him Night Vision and Acute Senses, and if he is the Warlord he can always choose to impose Night Fighting. If he is the Warlord, all Night Lords gain Fear (saving the cost of Trophies of Judgement!) and any units which already had Fear impose it on a -1 LD penalty on the enemy. Really, this is quite nice, as a failed Fear check can be disastrous for the enemy.
He is also The King of Terrors, emanating an aura of malice. If a Fear check is taken against Curze, it is at a -3 LD penalty(!) and if he destroys an enemy unit in close combat, all other enemy units subject to Fear within 12” must take a Morale check or fall back (as he presumably has won in a very gruesome fashion!)
Curze wears The Nightmare Mantle, giving him a 2+/4++, and Hit and Run (invaluable for a Primarch). He also does D3 Hammer of Wrath on the charge, which amps up his combat effectiveness.
His weapons are also nasty – Mercy & Forgiveness. These are uber Lightning Claws, AP 2 at his natural Strength of 6, with Shred, Murderous Strike, +1 Attack. With 7 Attacks on the charge, he will really do some damage. Note, however, he cannot fight AV 13 – so use that Hit & Run to get away, or give him an escort who can.
Finally, Curze has the Widowmakers – nasty little throwing stars which are 12”, S 4 AP 5 Assault 3, with Lethal Precision – Precision Strikes on 4+ and ignore both armour and Invulnerable saves on a 6 to Wound. These are brilliant for wiping out, for example, Apothecaries.
Overall, Curze is a nice Primarch for “finesse” play. Use him to leap around and rip apart vulnerable areas of the enemy battleline – he doesn’t even necessarily need an escort, as he is quite nimble and can use his cover save to great effect. In a toe-to-toe Primarch fight he probably won’t be able to beat some of the heavy hitters like Vulkan or the Lion, but against most Infantry he will be overwhelmingly effective.
The Flaymaster: My lord, my liege, my deranged master! Curze may not add a huge amount of army buffs, but his Stealth and Shrouding will confer to any squad he joins, which combined with a source of Feel No Pain make for an insanely difficult unit to shift even in the open, let alone when ensconced in any kind of cover (that bush never looked so terrifying!). Use his mobility and Hit and Run to try and charge multiple units so you can smash one unit and then trigger Hit and Run in your opponent's turn. For the extra sneaky, don’t forget that although Curze is Jump infantry there is nothing stopping you from having him walk up the table with a squad of infantry. It’s worth noting that he is one of only a handful of Primarchs who don’t require a transport/Spartan to get to their destination, so he can be a lot easier to squeeze into an army than you’d think. I’ll round up this commentary off with a trio of units that I could see him working well within.
Very scary: 20 assault marines with apothecary and melta bombs.
Likes: Multi charging units, especially vehicles.
Scary: 12 Raptors with Power Mauls, Apothecary and Forgelord with Rad grenades.
Likes: Causing Instant Death on any models with Toughness 4.
Not Scary at all: 15 Tartaros Contekar with attached Primus Medicae.
Likes: Enjoying a 4+ Cover save in the open with Feel No Pain, using Hit and Run to scurry across the board/ceiling until your opponent’s mind turns to scramble egg from sheer absurdity.*
* I find it rather amusing to imagine the Atramentar being obligated to follow their lord as he runs from place to place in a precognitive fugue state.
Sample Army List
I have thought about what I would bring if I wanted to start Night Lords, and the answer has to be a Terror Assault force. Note, in this, that Forge World has some great kits, but these aren’t essential, and often they are just heads and the like so relatively cost effective to put on plastic kits. The 1,500 pt force is below.
Rite of War: Terror Assault
- HQ – Praetor with Jump Pack, Iron Halo, Digital Lasers, MC Paragon Blade, Melta Bombs
- Elites – x3 Apothecaries (1 with Jump Pack, 2 with Artificer Armour)
- Elites – Contemptor Dreadnought with DCCW/Havoc Launcher/Kheres Assault Cannon
- Troops – x15 Night Raptors with x3 Power Axe, Melta Bomb/Artificer/Headsman’s Axe Sergeant
- Troops – x9 Terror Squad with Artificer/Melta Bomb Sergeant, all with Volkite Chargers in a Drop Pod
- Troops – x9 Terror Squad with Artificer/Melta Bomb Sergeant, all with Volkite Chargers in a Rhino w/ Dozer Blade
This is a relatively low model count for 1,500 pts, but I think it sorts out your “core” and each squad packs a hell of a punch.
The strategy is fairly clear – use the Drop Pod and Night Raptors to force pressure on T1, the Rhino goes wherever it needs to support this, and the Contemptor hunts armour.
I think the biggest weakness of this list, at this points level, is a lack of anti-armour, but generally you’ll be facing enemy Infantry at this points level, and if your opponent has brought Land Raiders then he has a low volume of fire and model count, so if you play smart you can pick him off.
Next Time: Salamanders
Overall, the Night Lords have done very well out of Book Nine – Crusade. They require a bit of thought to play, as you need to maximise A Talent for Murder, but overall they will not disappoint and there are some brilliant modelling opportunities.
Next time, we look at the finest of His Legions, the most puissant and potent of the Loyalist forces (and I’m not just saying this because I play them): The Salamanders.
Death to the False Emperor!
The Flaymaster: Once you accept and embrace that you’re effectively playing “space Skaven”, you will know peace. The humble 5 point combat shield is your best friend, precisely because it won’t save you (unless you have a preternatural skill for rolling 5+ saves.). Every Legion has a mantra, but consider this quote if you choose to embrace the VIII: “He who fights and runs away May live to fight another day; But he who is battle slain Can never rise to fight again.”
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