The Space Marine Legions of the First Founding make up the core factions and conflict of the Horus Heresy. In this article, our fifteenth entry in the series, we dust off our anvil and ready the hammer for work – we’re looking at the Fireborn Eighteenth; the Salamanders.
“In the great war of the Horus Heresy, many deeds of infamy and valour were writ upon the blood stars, and at the centre of this maelstrom lay the Salamanders Legion; betrayed, struck down, laid waste and yet resolute against the foe…”
Apologies for the delay, all – sadly the Nurglite plague running rampant throughout Terra has caused some unaccountable issues with my Astropathic comms to Fortress Goonhammer. We’re back on track now…
Today we look at the Salamanders, the XVIII Legiones Astartes, and the main Legion I collect. Famed for their skill at forgecraft, the Salamanders were also well known for caring about the citizenry of the Imperium. They also suffered the largest casualties of any Legion during the Heresy, with up to 98% of their fighting strength killed in the Drop Site Massacre.
As in our run through the Night Lords, I am going to be joined by a guest writer for this Legion Overview; “The Destroyer”, and a true “five star man”, Nomus Bil’tan (@firebornxviiith on Instagram). Bil’tan is as much of an aficionado of the Salamanders as I am, and his Praetor has taken many a Traitor head in battlefields across the galaxy.
“… it was plain that to the XVIII to triumph against the odds was the only victory worth the name.”
The XVIII at the time of their creation were, along with the VI and XX, set apart from the rest of the Legiones Astartes as part of the “trefoil”. These were unique Legions created for specific purposes – for the Salamanders, this was rumoured to be hostile environment operations and savage asymmetrical warfare, but we will never know the truth.
The Salamanders found themselves at the front lines of the Unification Wars from the beginning, winning some stunning victories, including the infamous Assault on the Tempest Galleries. In this crushing subterranean maelstrom 20,000 Legionaries went in, and barely 1,000 survived. This meant the XVIII were, in the early days, among the smallest of the Legions and were often “deployed piecemeal”, as and when new recruits were ready.
This meant, at the outset of the Great Crusade, the XVIII were often used as an interdiction and “backline” force, supporting Rogue Trader groups and Imperial Army regiments behind the front lines of the Crusade. If a Space Hulk translated from the Immaterium into a newly-Compliant system, or a planetary Governor decided to chance his arm when the Crusade had moved on, the Salamanders would the force of choice for the Crusade high command.
While some would see them as saviours, in some ways this, ironically, earned them a bleak reputation among the unenhanced troops of the nascent Imperium. These men and woman they knew when the XVIII were deployed, the fighting would be inevitably furious and hazardous. The XVIII were quickly known as never taking a step back, and particularly protective of civilian populations – they would rather lose a hundred of their own number than risk a massacre. This asymmetrical approach to battle was admired by some, and seen as suicidal by others. It even brought them to conflict with their fellow Legionaries, some of whom saw them as unreliable and reckless.
And then, Vulkan was found.
Vulkan had landed on Nocturne, a volcanic Death World orbited by its moon Prometheus. Nocturne was wracked by dangerous volcanic activity and bathed in deadly radiation, yet on its surface pockets of mankind flouished against the odds. Beyond the planet itself, the native fauna were enormously dangerous – massive lava drakes and saurians, from where the Legion would eventually take its name.
The young Primarch was taken in by a “Black-Smiter” – a metalworker in the city of Hesoid, and quickly rose to a position of prominence, as a champion of his people. Nocturne’s human population were also preyed on by a more deadly foe – Dark Eldar raider-pirates. With the arrival of Vulkan, the tide turned on these degenerates, with the “fire-born” Primarch crushing the “Dusk Wraiths” and bringing salvation to the planet.
The Emperor of Mankind came to Nocturne and found his son as a “mighty protector”, who genuinely cared for his people, and did not seek power for power’s sake. Vulkan joined his father and went to the stars, joining his Legion as they were almost defeated at the Taras Division by uncountable Orks. Bringing fresh recruits and materiel to turn the tide and crush the alien, Vulkan met his Legionaries on the dead planet of Antaem. There, he showed his humility and care by kneeling before his sons to honour their sacrifices. He then proceeded to re-forge and remake his Legion, whom he named “the Salamanders”.
A small, but deadly, fighting force, the XVIII would bring “volcanic fury” on the enemies of Mankind.
During the Heresy
“It remains a testimony to the undying resilience of the Legion and its spiritual and psychological strength that despite the losses at Isstvan V… it was able to maintain coherence and recover its strength, dragging itself back from the precipice of obligation and remaining a bloody thorn in the side of the Traitors…”
The story of the Salamanders in the Heresy is well known, and infamous. Of all the Legions, they suffered the highest casualties; some 98% dead on the black sands of Isstvan. The survivors, scattered and shell-shocked, believed their Primarch to be dead.
Reeling from the damage, the Salamanders often found themselves as part of “Shattered Legion” cadres and cells, working with Shadrak Meduson and his ilk to harry the Traitors in their march on Terra. Vulkan himself was captured and tortured by Konrad Curze, who discovered the unique properties of the XVIII Primarch – his status as a “Perpetual” – meant he could not be so easily killed.
Their brutal shattering meant the XVIII did not play an enormous role in the key battles unlike, say, the Ultramarines or Imperial Fists, but Vulkan had later adventures in Imperium Secundus before ending up on Terra for the Siege after battling through the Webway itself. His Legionaries continued the fight across the Imperium, with the Ebon Drake and Cassian Dracos most famous among the scattered remnants. And, of course, they continue the fight in the 41st Millennium too, unbroken and fire-hardened.
Legion Special Rules
The Salamanders rules are in the Legiones Astartes – Age of Darkness Legions red book. They were one of the first Legions to get rules released for them, and they really exemplify the traits of the XVIII:
- Strength of Will: All units with this special rule automatically pass any Fear test they have to make, and can re-roll a single D6 when taking Morale or Pinning checks that they have failed. Bil’tan: A great rule, getting to re roll one dice when taking morale and pinning checks is super useful. This gets you out of a lot of bad situations when you really didn’t that unit to flee or become pinned. Immunity to Fear makes them the anti Night-Lords Legion as they have a lot of buffs that gear towards Fear. Both solid rules that help hugely on the table as well as keeping true to the lore as stoic and steadfast Legionnaires.
- Promethean Gift: All hand flamers, heavy flamers and flamers used by models with this special rule get +1 Strength. This extends to all vehicles in a detachment containing models with this rule. All enemy “flamer type” attacks are -1 Strength when used against models who have this rule. Biltan: Again, what’s not to love? Makes your flamers better than other Legions. Basic support teams with flamers and CCW become great cheap defensive Troops, perfect for holding ground and objectives as well as disembarking and putting a surprisingly large amount of hits and wounds on units. Noticeably works on all three types of flamers in your force, even on vehicles and tanks.
- Nocturne Born: All units with Legiones Astartes (Salamanders) do not add their Initiative Score when making Sweeping Advance rolls, and reduce any Run and Charge distances by -1” (to a minimum of 1”). Bil’tan: A big “negatrait”. Recently FAQd to clarify some contentious rules interpretations about Sweeping Advances, it is now super clear and much less of a downside as previously played by many players, but still potentially crippling when you need to finish units off late game. The -1” to run and charge can really get you in a lot of bother, especially on a force that has some of the best combat units in the game. Mitigate it by taking the Covenant of Fire Rite of War as much as possible in my view, and only ever suffer the -1” to charges. Imagine taking a squad of breachers outside of Covenant of Fire, and suffering -4” to your charge roll going through terrain!
Let’s start with Nocturne Born. This is going to govern your approach with the Salamanders. Your men are slow, with shorter charges. If you’re charging into Difficult Terrain with no bonuses, you are at a -3” to the roll, meaning you are averaging 4”. This is something you have to learn to mitigate. The Covenant of Fire (below) is the classic way to get around this, but it has its drawbacks.
To be clear, as well, there is a Horus Heresy FAQ which sets out how the Sweeping Advance principle works. If you win a combat, you do not add Initiative. If you lose a combat, you add it as normal – you are not “auto-swept”, but you are unlikely to sweep an enemy. Given the Salamanders are absolutely hard as nails, and Firedrakes generally leave no survivors, you will probably be OK.
Promethean Gift is fantastic – and will, again, govern your list to a certain degree. Hand flamers on Sergeants are totally viable, as are Combi-flamers, as they are S 4 and 5 respectively. Flamer Support Squads with chainswords become fantastic all-comer Troops choices, with S5 weaponry. Heavy Support Squads with heavy flamers can tank-hunt reasonably well with S6 auto-hits. Delightful!
Strength of Will is also really nice. Immunity to Fear is not game-winning on its own, but I can certainly recall a number of times where I failed a crucial Fear check with another Legion and got absolutely minced. This rule also means you’re unlikely ever to run, or get Pinned.
The Salamanders are artisans and forgemasters – so, as you’d expect, they have excellent weapons. However, they also have a restriction on certain weapons:
Disdain of the Dark Age: Moritat Consuls and Destroyer units may not be used in a Salamanders Legion primary detachment. Phosphex weapons cannot be taken as an option or used by models in a Salamanders Legion primary detachment. This perhaps doesn’t sit that comfortably with their allowance of rad weaponry, but it is a nod to Vulkan’s fluff and desire to preserve life. Generally you won’t be taking these anyway for Salamanders, so I’ve never had a problem.
Bil’tan: Disdain for phospex and radiation weapons is cool lore-wise, but can be annoying. However you can still get round it by taking rad grandes on a Forgelord, for example.
Turning to the upgrades:
- Artificer Weapons – All Legiones Astartes (Salamanders) Characters can take Master-Crafted on a single weapon for +5 pts. This is incredibly good. Cheap M-C Paragon Blades, re-rolls on ranged weapons (it isn’t just melee!), and giving your Sergeants reliable Power Fists is really helpful.
- Bil’tan: Now this is an amazing piece of “wargear”. Master crafting any character’s weapon for 5 points is brilliant. Personally I use this a lot, master crafted combi-weapons are great as it benefits both types, so I usually master craft a combi-plasma on a Tactical Squad Sergeant for maximising 2 hits and giving them a bit more punch against similar foes. Also, how about a Conversion Beamer on a Techmarine for those big scatters, or the heavy weapon on a Heavy Support Squad Sergeant for improved reliability. I recommend using this a lot, especially on combat characters.
- Dragonscale Storm Shield – A prototype drake-hide Storm Shield which can be taken by Legiones Astartes (Salamanders) who are in Terminator Armour, or Independent Characters. It gives a 5++ Invulnerable save on its own, or increases an existing Invulnerable Save by +1, to a maximum of 3++. It means you cannot take an additional attack for a second weapon in close combat, and costs +10 pts for an Independent Character, unless the model is in Terminator Armour, when it costs +5 pts. This is an iconic bit of Salamanders wargear, and gives you the rare 3++ on frontline units. Take it where you can.
- Bil’tan: A great option, as it gives the Salamanders access to that fabled 3++ Invulnerable that only 2 other Legions can match (neither of them being traitor, haha!). Great on combat characters like Praetors as well as Terminators in Cataphractii. Always sacrifice that 1 attack on a Praetor for this.
- Mantle of the Elder Drake – A Salamanders Praetor can take this for +20 pts, giving them Eternal Warrior. I think this is the only Eternal Warrior upgrade in the entire game. It is mandatory.
- Bil’tan: The best piece of wargear in the game, potentially. Only available on Praetors for a measly 20pts and makes them the toughest characters around. Couple with an Iron Halo, Dragonscale Storm Shield and a master-crafted Thunder Hammer and you’ve got a mini-Vulkan for 200pts. Personally I’ve had more amazing results with these characters than any other unit, going toe to toe against Primarchs and coming out on top, as well as dueling Leviathans and winning. Give them a Bike or a Jetpack and watch them fly or drive around causing carnage in enemy lines as well as taking out enemy Characters.
- Purging Flame – All Heavy Bolters/Twin Linked Heavy Bolters in a Salamanders Legion detachment can be switched for Heavy Flamers/Twin Linked Heavy Flamers for free. Plasma Pistols can also be swapped for Inferno Pistols. This is really fluffy and nice, and means you can have unique units such as Heavy Flamer Jetbikes
- Bil’tan: Being able to exchange Heavy Bolters for Heavy Flamers at no cost is OK, but it only really works on Jet Bikes in my experience. Cool and fun to use, but not super effective in large scale games.
- Artificer Weapons – All Legiones Astartes (Salamanders) Characters can take Master-Crafted on a single weapon for +5 pts. This is incredibly good. Cheap M-C Paragon Blades, re-rolls on ranged weapons (it isn’t just melee!), and giving your Sergeants reliable Power Fists is really helpful.
Legion Rites of War
As an “older” Legion, the Salamanders have just two Rites of War – the Covenant of Fire and The Awakening Fire.
The Covenant of Fire
This Rite of War represents the Salamanders’ “fury unleashed” – a difficult thing to do, as they are slow to anger. Once they are roused, however, they are “an unstoppable tide of fire and destruction purging all before it.”
To take this detachment you cannot use Fortifications, and cannot have (combined) more Heavy Support and Fast Attack choices than Troops choices in the detachment. You also cannot take more than one Consul unless you take Legion Champions.
Finally, the harshest restriction of all, you cannot take models which deploy via Deep Strike, or use Deep Strike. This is really unfortunate as it means you can’t use Termites for that “Tempest Gallery” aesthetic.
So, what do you get? Well point for point, this is one of the strongest Rites in the game. Obsidian Forged means all your vehicles have a free 5++ Invulnerable against melta, volkite, plasma and flamer weapons, and melta bombs. Wow! Normally you have to position for Cover Saves – now you don’t even have to bother.
Veneration of Wrath makes all meltaguns, inferno pistols and multi-meltas Master-Crafted, and allows Pyroclasts to be taken as non-Compulsory Troops. This is, again, very powerful. +15 pts for a Multi-melta on a Rhino is now well worth it as it is unlikely to miss. While expensive, melta Support Squads also have massive damage multipliers here too.
Finally, best of all, you get Implacable – all units gain Move Through Cover. This negates instantly a huge debuff of Nocturne Born, meaning you don’t take -3” to charges (just -1”), and can get across the board much more effectively. It is also a free dozer blade on all vehicles – nothing to sniff at. This makes basic Rhinos really cost effective with Multi-Meltas.
All in all, a fantastic Rite. The Deep Strike limitation is a real pain, but if you play to your strengths this could be superb in Centurion, for example. Thallax with Multi-Meltas are worth a look.
Biltan: Now this is a “sleeper” Rite of War. Initially when I started playing with the Salamanders I overlooked this in favour of Pride of the Legion and Drop Pod Assault. Not taking more Fast Attack and Heavy Support COMBINED than you have Troops, and no Deepstrike, is super off-putting, but trust me in this, persevere. The rewards are amazing.
Firstly, this helps you play a well rounded and balanced list that caters to late game victories and prolonged fighting. More Troops means more ability to score, and less spam of certain unit types helps build cool, fun and tough lists too. Master crafting melta weapons makes those fabled “multi missers” on Rhinos hugely more effective as well as special weapons on Veterans and Support Squads. Coupled with master crafting characters’ weapons means you can get a lot of re-rolls on AP 1 and AP 2 weapons. Also it makes Pyroclasts, which are normally a Heavy Support option, Troops. Again, this is pushing you to play the mission and getting some good offensive units out of the restricted force organisation slots.
Secondly is Obsidian Forged. All vehicles getting a 5++ invulnerable against volkite, flamer, plasma and melta weapons is awesome. This makes them more survivable than any other Legion armour in the game as well as protecting against some dedicated anti armour wargear like meltagun teams and cyclonic melta lance Leviathans. And to add a cherry to the top, it also works against melta bombs. This is great when you have combat Dreadnoughts as well as on aggressive tanks like Spartans, Land Raiders and Predators with melta cannons and inferno cannons. People generally miss this when you play but it’s so satisfying to make that save against the lone melta bomb coming your way in a combat involving a Salamander Dreadnought.
Finally is, in my view, the best rule of them all and why I nearly always take this Rite of War. Flat “Move through Cover” on everything in the detachment. Infantry, bikes, Dreadnoughts, flyers, tanks, whatever. They all get it. No more -2” to charges on Dreadnoughts or the additional -1” on Infantry, no more Dozer Blades on tanks, no need to worry about Jump units, Bikes or Jetbikes into terrain. This is the way to go. It makes them surprisingly fast as you get the additional dice for going through terrain on everything, saves you points and rolling for your vehicles driving through terrain. I love this rule so much.
The Awakening Fire
This represents a post-Isstvan Salamanders Legion – shattered, but unbroken, and bereft of their Primarch. Many of the traumatised survivors of Isstvan turned to the Promethean Cult for succor, “plumbing its hidden depths for some guidance as to how they should overcome their unfathomable loss.” This pseudo-religious fervour resulted in the Awakening Fire.
To take this Rite, you must take a Chaplain, and can only have one set of Jump Infantry, Jet Bikes, Skimmers or Flyers. You cannot use Vulkan (although, to be clear, he lives), and cannot use Fortifications or Allies.
The benefits are, unfortunately, so-so. Your Legiones Astartes (Salamanders) units cause Fear as they are the Devils from the Dark, which is quite good, and you can force the final turn on Random Game Length with the Unto the Fires rule.
The “main” bonus is underwhelming. You gain Fury of the Salamander, which gives Librarians in a primary detachment using this Rite the Fury of the Salamander psychic power as a Primaris Power in the Pyromancy school. This power is a Beam, with Warp Charge 3, 18”, S 5 Ap 1 Assault 1, and causes Elemental Horror – units which suffer casualties from this must take a Morale Check with a penalty equal to the number of wounds the unit lost.
Situationally, this could be great. However, due to the way the Rite is written, it’s functionally pretty useless. You have to take a Chaplain, so unless you use Nomus Rhy’tan (and even that is a bit arguable), you are already at 2/3 HQ slots used to access the Rite and fill its prerequisites (Praetor/Delegatus, Chaplain). So you end up with a single Librarian, who has to realistically throw all dice at this single, short ranged power. Pass. I’ve never seen this used, and it doesn’t hold a candle to Covenant of Fire.
Bil’tan: Alas, I have little to say about this as it’s notably worse than the Covenant of Fire, in my opinion. However it can have its upsides that gives it some merit, specifically in Zone Mortalis and Centurion where Tanks and armour are much less prevalent. Being immune to Fear, and causing Fear, can really swing combats on less dedicated combat units and can sometimes swing them hugely in your favour if the enemy fails that check. This works well with flamer teams of any kind. This needs formal FAQing so that Nomus Rhy’tan, who is the head Chaplain in the Legion in the lore, can be taken as the compulsory Chaplain to give access to the Rite of War and have 2 Psykers to make use of the new psychic power. Again, in smaller games like ZM, this can work well as units are generally packed tighter so the beam can hit more and have more of an effect. Also being able to pick whether to play another turn can really help play a long game rather than having it end randomly. Overall a ok Rite of War, not as good as Covenant of Fire but much more usable in smaller games.
Lord Twisted: All I’ll say about smaller games is – you’re taking a Praetor/Delegatus, a compulsory Chaplain, and then a Librarian… you’ll have to build your list around that.
Legion Special Units
The Fireborn XVIII have some superb unique units – the Pyroclasts, and the dreaded Firedrakes.
Vulkan’s alternative to the Destroyer Cadre, Pyroclasts are heavily armoured thermal/incendiary weapons specialists who, before the Heresy, focused on xenocide operations. With the betrayal of the Warmaster, they instead find themselves on the frontlines of inter-Legionary combat, slicing open ceramite with their flame projectors, and dousing the survivors in purified promethium.
Pyroclasts are some of my favourite models in the Heresy range – they are really evocative (I have ten).
On the tabletop, you get a lot of “bang for buck” with these guys, but they aren’t cheap. 160 pts buys 5, and they are +25 pts apiece. For this you get a basic Marine statline, but Ld 9, and Artificer Armour for a natural 2+ save. They can take melta bombs as a squad for +25 pts (so “cheaper” the more men you have), and the Warden can have a Power Weapon or Power Fist – you may as well take a Master-Crafted Fist, which ends up being +20pts, but quite good value. The utility of this unit is in their armour, and weapon. They have the Mantle of Ash, which gives them a 5++ invulnerable against flamers, plasma weapons, melta and volkite. This is really helpful as usually the shots piercing your armour are one of these – it won’t help you in melee, but it is better than nothing. Pyroclasts come armed with Pyroclast Flame Projectors – Heavy Flamers which can also fire “Focused” beams, which makes them 6” S 6 Meltaguns. At only S6 (meaning you need a hefty 8 on 2D6 to glance AV 14) they aren’t going to single-handedly win your games, but they do give you the ability to vaporise enemy Terminators. While you don’t Instant Death them, it means you get a nice ability to rip past their armour, which can be very helpful.
In Zone Mortalis, these guys are absolutely horrifying for their points. They can also take a Land Raider Proteus or Phobos – I generally run mine in a Proteus. It ends up being a fairly expensive unit, but they are very versatile and hard to charge, if you’re going to eat 10 D3 flamers on Overwatch!
Bil’tan: Good, but slightly over-costed in my opinion, I use them as a support unit. Great in Covenant of Fire as they can take a Land Raider as a Dedicated Transport so it gets some Heavy Support options out of that slot and into Troops. The double weapon profile is nice as you can sting both hordes and elite units, and the 5++ against volkite, flamers, plasma and melta weapons is cool. This makes them a better but more expensive Flamer Support squad and also a good retinue for a killy Praetor.
Lord Twisted: I agree with the retinue tip. Hiding a murderous Praetor in the squad can make them very versatile in smaller games.
Firedrake Terminator Squad
If you know anything about Salamanders, you know about the Firedrakes. These are the creme de la creme of Heresy Terminators – the toughest bastards on the block. Give me ten, and I will give you victory.
The unit is 275 pts for 5 – expensive, but they have native WS 5 and two Wounds. They are in Cataphractii armour (great), and then they have the real kicker – they can all take Dragonscale Storm Shields, giving you 2 W 2+/3++ Terminators. Good luck against that. They all come with Power Weapons, but you probably want to take Thunder Hammers or Chainfists (really, the Chainfists are the best option). The Master gets a Master-Crafted Thunder Hammer, so worth taking that. In terms of rules, they have Implacable Advance (really helpful), and are the Favoured of Vulkan, meaning they can be a Command Squad if you wish as well.
Firedrakes are, frankly, an unsubtle unit which only does one thing, and the only downside is their very heavy points investment. As they’re Cataphractii, you’ll likely need a delivery system outside of ZM, so you’re facing a ~300 pt price tag for the squad, and then add the transport on top – easily 600+ pts if you want a Spartan. I tend to either go for 5 in a Dreadclaw (if I’m not running Covenant of Fire), or go all in for a Spartan and a big squad. Just watch out for Demolishers, Ursurax and Suzerain. Also, they will be ripped apart by anything which throws out a huge number of attacks – like a 20 man World Eaters unit. Take enough 2+ saves and you’ll eventually fail. Oh, and, if you fancy losing friends – take a Primus Medicae…
Bil’tan: The OG elite Terminator unit of the Heresy. WS 5, 2 Wounds, and 3++ is second to none. Super tough, super killy with a mini Centurion leading them in the form of their Sergeant, these boys are your go-to combat unit. Coupled with a Praetor and a Primus Medicae, these boys can take on anything in the game in combat and come out on top. Double it with Rhy’tan or Xiaphus to get round the 1 Consul restriction for Covenant of Fire and they will hit harder than most things in the game, as well as being able to take a huge amount of punishment. Personally I like 7 as the sweet spot – it’s also a homage to the 7 cities on Nocturne. It means they can lose a few but still hit hard. I also like them all to have Chainfists, bar the Sergeant, so they can fight anything in the game with ease. Well worth the points, the models are kick ass and are super fun to use coming out of a Land Raider, Spartan, Mastodon or even a Kharybdis, Storm Eagle or Caestus.
Legion Special Characters
Cassian Dracos – The Fallen Master, the Dragon Revenant
Dracos is an awesome character – the original Lord Commander of the XVIII, who fell in combat against Orks in the battle where the Legion were reunited with their Primarch. Vulkan honoured him by creating a unique set of Dreadnought armour – The Dracos Revenant. Dracos was thought lost in the Drop Site Massacre.
It transpired that, unbeknownst to the XVIII, Dracos had led the charge into the Urgall Depression, rampaging through Horus’ lines, until he was brought low by a pinpoint lance strike from the Vengeful Spirit itself, glassing a square kilometre of the battlefield. Yet, he survived, and was eventually recovered by the crew of the Ebon Drake. Dracos began to exhibit… strange powers and abilities over machines after this event, and soon a cult rose around him – the Disciples of the Flame.
On the table, Dracos is a hard bugger. He is 14 / 12 / 10 (so be careful with positioning, 4 Attacks, 4 Hull Points, and WS 6. He has Dreadfire Heavy Flamers, which give him two heavy flamers or a twin-linked meltagun for shooting, and allows him to use Burning Wrath in close combat, hitting every model (including friendlies!) in base-to-base with him at I 1, with a S 6 AP 4 hit. This is great for clearing chaff.
He is Venerable and has It Will Not Die, which then link with the amazing rule Wrought by Vulkan. Dracos is immune to Melta, Armourbane, Sunder, Lance, and any other rules which reduce or degrade his AV or allow you to roll more than one dice when doing Armour Penetration. No Tank Hunters, for example. With AV 14 in close combat this makes him an absolute terror – Chainfists glance on a 6! Get him into combat, and clean up.
Dracos is also The Last Warlord – if he is the only HQ in your force, he can be the Warlord, gaining Fire’s of Martyrdom, meaning you cannot get VP from Slay the Warlord for killing him (as he’s already dead!). He also gives a 5+ Feel No Pain bubble around him of 3”, which is really nice. You can also use the variant post-Isstvan in Book VI: Retribution. Cassian Dracos Reborn, as it is known, has all the same stats, except he becomes the Avatar of the Sacred Flames instead of The Last Warlord, so long as no HQ other than Dreygur or Jurr are taken. This means he uses Bloody Handed as his Warlord Trait instead (causes Fear). And he also gets The Voice of the Machine, allowing him to use some Cybertheurgy powers (sort of like Mechanicum psyker abilities, including a unique one which allows you to mind control an opponent and make them shoot an ally! Great fun!
Bil’tan: A monster of a Dreadnought that has 2 sets of rules. But for all his highs, his lows are pretty bad. AV 10 on the rear and 12 on the side means he can get caught out easy. But, if you keep forward towards what can hurt him, he’s almost immune to most things. And being a Character dreadnought he can challenge Primarchs and Characters to either tie them up or smash them with ease. Alpharius can’t hurt him in combat, so you can tie him up forever, Angron only hurts him on 6s in combat so can beat him up fairly well, Curze can’t hurt him but can Hit and Run out. Overall super fun to use, but can be a huge let down if he gets caught on the hop.
Xiaphas Jurr – The Prophet of Fire
Jurr is found in Book VI: Retribution. He was not present on Isstvan, left to guide recruits on Nocturne with the garrison there. Once the rumours of what had happened in the Drop Site Massacre had reached the surviving Salamanders, Jurr was hand-picked to lead a scouting force on the Ebon Drake. He found Cassian Dracos, and led the Drake through a series of adventures which saw them intervene on the side of the Loyalists in many key conflicts.
On the table, Jurr is a hybrid Chaplain/Praetor. He is 145 pts (quite reasonable), and has The Burning Halo (2+/4++), which inflicts all models in base contact with him in close combat with a S 4 AP – hit if he successfully saves a S 5 or higher hit, as it is reflected as kinetic energy on his attacker. Cool fluff!
He is The Prophet of the Flame, leading his eerie Disciples, which makes him a Psyker ML 1, with Prescience and Precognition, but only Ld 7 when taking any Psychic tests. This is a nice little bonus, akin to Sevatar with his repressed powers. Jurr then has a Master-crafted Power sword and a Dragonscale Storm Shield (making his invulnerable a 3++), which is decent gear. With Zealot he is a force multiplier for whatever squad he is in, but given he has just a Power sword he is not going to solo enemies on his own, so bear that in mind. Finally, if Jurr is in an army without Cassian Dracos, he can be the Warlord and have Beacon of Hope – allowing you to re-roll the first failed Pinning or Morale test each turn as long as Jurr is on the board and not in a Transport. This sounds OK, but you can re-roll one of those dice anyway with Strength of Will. All in all, a nice budget special character.
Bil’tan: A Chaplain/Librarian of the Legion, rules-wise. This helps you get around the Covenant of Fire Consul restriction. Jurr introduces an “old-school” tactic rarely seen anymore in the game, which I like. He’s a Chaplain with a 2+/ 3++ that’s also a ML1 psyker that automatically knows Prescience and Precognition. Prescience is great for boosting up his combat retinue in prolonged combats. However, Precognition is the real juicy bit. If he casts it, he gets a 2+ re-rollable Armour Save and a 3++ re-rollable Invulnerable save so becomes the ultimate tank for his Firedrake bodyguard. Coupled with a Salamander Preator and a Primus Medicae, this makes them the toughest unit in the game. I’ve been charged by Angron, 20 Inductii lost to the Nails, and Surlak, taken no wounds to the Inductii due to Xiaphus tanking the saves, and only 1 wound to the Preator in a challenge with Angron, to then hit back and leave Angron on his own at the end of his turn. A very good character rules wise and perfect for “death stars”.
Lord Twisted: By the sacred hammer of the Primarch, what a depraved combination. Perhaps one to reserve only for the most perfidious of traitors, such as the Flaymaster.
Lord Chaplain Nomus Rhy’tan – Keeper of the Keys of Prometheus
Rhy’tan (not to be confused with Bil’tan), was one of the first Chaplains of the Salamanders, known as the “Voices of Fire” within the Legion. Rhy’tan was a highly regarded confidante of Vulkan himself, and a talented orator and leader of men. During the Heresy, Rhy’tan held the fortress of Nocturne, raising a new generation of initiates.
Rhy’tan is another hybrid Chaplain/Praetor. He is Master of the Legion and the Keeper of the Keys. The latter allows him to take a Dreadnought Talon as a non-compulsory HQ choice (nice if you have too many Elites). If he is the Warlord he has Inspiring Presence, meaning he projects a 12” Ld 10 bubble (decent, but Salamanders already have good Leadership).
In combat, however, is where he shines. Rhy’tan comes with a 2+ 4++ and Praetor level stats. He has the Mantle of the Elder Drake (giving him Eternal Warrior) and a combi-flamer. His hammer, however, is something special. Darkstar Falling (what a name!) was forced from metal wrested from the gravitational vortex of a dying world, and makes Rhy’tan S 6 AP 2 with Armourbane, Concussive and Two-Handed – but not Unwieldy. This means you’ll be hammering through the enemy at I 5, giving you a real edge in combat.
At 215 pts, he is not cheap, but he gets the job done. I rather like Rhy’tan, and he is a great force multiplier due to Zealot. In a squad of Firedrakes, he’d be quite terrifying!
Bil’tan: A Chaplain Praetor that’s unfortunately still not as good as a normal Salamander Praetor in my opinion. S 6, Armourbane AP 2 hammer at initiative is juicy, but doesn’t break Feel no Pain or Instant Death thresholds on other Marines. He works well with a block of Firedrakes and a Primus Medicae as you get the holy trinity of rules (Zealot & Feel No Pain) to boost the Firedrakes to 11. But, truth be told, if you really want to lose friends and make the ultimate “Drakestar”, Jurr is the one for you…
Vulkan – The Primarch of the Salamanders, the Promethean Fire, The Hammer of Salvation, Regent of Nocturne
A Primarch who needs no introduction, Vulkan was perhaps unique among the Primarchs in his temperament. If he could, he would limit destruction and war, and try to alleviate the suffering of the citizenry of the Imperium. However, this should not be thought of as weakness – Vulkan was a “wellspring of savage power… never extinguished… an implacable and devastating” force when duty called. And, despite what the Traitors may say, he lived.
In the game, Vulkan weighs in at 425 pts, with a massive WS 7, S 7 and T 7 – making him the toughest and strongest Primarch. He is the Sire of the Salamanders, giving all Legiones Astartes (Salamanders) in his force +1 Ld, and Adamantium Will.
He has the Blood of Fire, allowing re-rolls on It WIll Not Die and Deny the Witch, which is really nice for long-term survivability over a game – he will odds-on get a Wound back each turn.
Vulkan’s equipment is where his strength truly lies. He wears The Draken Scale, giving him a 2+/3++, and if he is on his own it halves the strength of flamer, fusion, volkite, melta and/or plasma weapons – and given he is T 7, makes him immune to many of these. A Glaive will only wound him on a 6+, and plasma guns can’t hurt him at all. Good luck.
He wields Dawnbringer, which is S 10 Ap 1 Concussive, Armourbane, Instant Death, with Earthshatter, allowing you to swap your attacks for a 3” base-to-base blast marker which does automatic S 8 AP 3 Strikedown hits. That is absolutely devastating. Vulkan will rip through Mechanicum like they’re butter, and cleave apart larger squads if they bunch up around him. His relatively low Initiative means he might struggle in a Primarch-on-Primarch fight, but every hit he does is at a high WS with absolute perfection on the strikes. I question, however, why isn’t it Master-Crafted? Anyway, he finally has a surprisingly good gun – The Furnace’s Heart. S 6 AP 2 beam, at 18” with Rending. Really nice as it is a micro-Glaive gun. I have one-shot a Leviathan with this, in a game against the Flaymaster. Suck it, Iron Warriors!
It must be said that Vulkan doesn’t do anything fancy. He is straightforward – get him into the enemy, and use him to beat the enemy to death. He doesn’t really augment the army or allow different strategies or tactics. The only downside is he will need a ride – being on foot and a combat character – but once he gets there, he will do work. The model is also stunning from Forge World, really capturing his dynamism.
Sample Army List
I have thought a lot about this, as I run Salamanders myself! They’re a great Legion to start with, as their relatively high points cost means you get quality units without having to break the bank in terms of £/$ cost. The below 1500 pt list is mostly plastic kits (or with plastic options for them).
Rite of War: Covenant of Fire
- HQ – Praetor with Iron Halo, Digital Lasers, M-C Thunder Hammer, Dragonscale Storm Shield, Mantle of the Elder Drake
- Elites – Apothecary with Artificer Armour
- Elites – Contemptor-Cortus with 2x DCCW
- Troops – Pyroclasts x7 in Land Raider Proteus, with Melta Bombs
- Troops – Tactical Squad with extra CCW, M-C Power Fist, Rhino w/ Multi-Melta
- Troops – Tactical Squad with extra CCW, M-C Power Fist, Rhino w/ Multi-Melta
- Troops – Tactical Support Squad x9 with Flamers, Rhino w/ Multi-Melta
This is a relatively high model count, and is designed around the Covenant of Fire, to be as versatile as possible and form your “Troop core.” The Apothecary goes with the Praetor and Pyroclasts in the Land Raider – note the Praetor can’t charge out of it – and they are escorted by the Dreadnought. The Flamers are all S 5, which makes them versatile, and the Multi-Meltas are all twin-linked, with all the vehicles having a 5+ invulnerable save to most weapons. All in all, a balanced list, with plenty of room to expand.To bring this up to 2,000 and beyond, I would max out the Support Squad, and get some Firedrakes in, however you want them. I would then perhaps get more Dreadnoughts.
To conclude, the Salamanders are a fantastic Legion, both aesthetically, and rules-wise. I would go so far as to say they are the best of all the Legions, and I am entirely unbiased here. Definitely collect them! Next time, we start covering the final three Legions… and we’re going to get damn angry going into 2021, as we start those by looking at the World Eaters. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Into the Fires of Battle, unto the Anvil of War!