The Horus Heresy: Legion Overview – The Space Wolves
The Space Marine Legions of the First Founding make up the core factions and conflict of the Horus Heresy. In our tenth instalment, we turn our eyes to a Legion with many names – the Vlka Fenryka, the Rout, or, to give them their most common cognomen, the Space Wolves of Fenris.
“Like its latter-day namesake, the wolves of Old Terra, the VI Legion’s assaults have always resembled calculated exercises in ferocity aimed to tear and rend until the foe lies in ruins or is driven to its death.”
Among the ranks of the Legions counting themselves as loyal to the Throne, the Rout – or, as they were more widely known, the Space Wolves – stood apart from their birth. They were forged for a more singular purpose than that of their fellows. While other Astartes were set on a path to conquest, the Wolves of Fenris were also to look within, and act as the Headsmen of Him on Earth – the Emperor’s Executioners.
As the Heresy unfolded, they would famously enact this terrible duty upon the Thousand Sons of Prospero, burning that mighty world to cinders and ash after the whispered lies of the Warmaster provoked the Wolf King to fury. Russ would never forgive his brother Horus for this trickery, and in the days that followed, the Vlka Fenryka were among the most driven of the Loyalist Legions in hunting down their treacherous kin.
As with many of the Legiones Astartes, there was a lot of whisper and superstition surrounding the founding of the Space Wolves. What is known is that the Rout were founded as one of the “trefoil” – along with the Salamanders (XVIII) and Alpha Legion (XX). These three Legions were formed in secret, separate from the rest, with (it is thought) very specific purposes behind each. It is no surprise that each of the trefoil had divergences in their gene-seed, creating very unique Astartes in each case.
In this, the VI had a gene-seed thought of as “singular” and “unique”, which was implanted in a very diverse range of recruits from all over Terra, without any focus on a particular geographical area.
The VI grew slower than its brother Legions, partly due to instability in their genetic material which was not stabilised until the finding of Leman Russ. This meant they did not partake to any great degree in the early campaigns to conquer the Sol system.
They had within their core gene-code the “Canis Helix”, an altered strain of gene-seed which gave vast benefits to their reaction times and physical hardiness, but also brought with it whispers of instability and mutation. It was not until Russ was found that this could be moderated and, until then, the Legion could only grow in fits and starts.
However, once the Great Crusade was truly underway – ten years after Mankind had sailed forth from the Sol System – the VI Legion was first “unleashed openly en masse.” The Compliance of 1-122 was led by the Emperor himself, with 3,500 of the proto-Rout dropped onto a resistant human world in a multi-vesctor planetstrike. The entire strength of the Legion Master, Enoch Rathvin, was landed within a single hour at the planetary capital, with no reserve held. Initial observations showed a well-executed “tip of the spear” operation, akin to tactics favoured by the Luna Wolves.
However, in a short space of time, it was clear that the VI were nothing like the Luna Wolves. Chroniclers note that they seemed to “spread through the city more like a raging fire than an assaulting army”, utterly shattering the enemy resistance in a shocking, point-blank assault. The outcome was an all-consuming massacre, with Rathvin only accepting the surrender of the foe when the streets of the city were coated in the gore of its unlucky inhabitants.
The seeming ill-discipline of the VI caused, it must be said, some disquiet among the Imperial high command – but their efficacy could not be doubted. The Legion continued to grow after 1-122, but much more slowly than others such as the I or XVI, excelling in rapid hunter-killer operations and cityfights.
They developed a mixed reputation – unarguably effective, but bringing with them collateral damage which was considered simply unnecessary. There were also doubts about the ability of the Legion command to control and marshal the line troops, with notable factionalism within the Legion structure. With this came their informal cognomen – the “Rout” – intended to be a disparaging term comparing them to carrion hounds or wasteland canids, uncontrolled and vicious, hunting in barely-organised packs.
And then, the Wolf King was found.
Leman Russ was the second Primarch to return to the Imperium, after Horus Lupercal. Russ had landed, following the scattering of the Primarchs, on the death world of Fenris.
Fenris itself deserves separate consideration – as to understand the Rout, one has to understand their home. It is, quite simply, one of the most savage and unforgiving Death Worlds in the Imperium of Man.
Human life should not be possible on Fenris, but human life is there. It is a frozen hellscape inhabited by laughably dangerous native flora and fauna – creatures who have stepped out of Old Earth legends of “kraken” and “drakon”.
All of this this is before the planet’s orbit is brought into play. Fenris orbits the “Wolf’s eye”, an unstable star, and see-saws between being too close and too far during its orbital cycle. This means the unrelenting “helwinters” of Fenris are set alongside periods of intense, scorching heat and tectonic instability as it passes close to the sun.
How anything lives in these conditions is simply a testament to the tenacious nature of Humanity. And this is where Russ, and the Wolves, made their home.
Russ not only survived Fenris, but came to rule it – as many of his fellow Primarchs had done with their own worlds. He did so without advanced technology, by strength of arms and personality alone. When Russ was found, his gene-helix pattern was harvested and used to stabilise the VI Legion, calming the impurities within the gene-stock and allowing rapid expansion of the Legion. This was, of course, greatly aided by access to Fenrisian natives. These individuals – simply by being able to survive on Fenris – were perfectly suited to Legionary ascension, and to this day the Wolves recruit solely from Fenris.
With Russ at their head, the VI were truly unleashed. Rathvin relinquished command – grudgingly, it must be said – to the Primarch, who took his Terran and Fenrisian Legionaries and wound them together into “the Wolves that Stalk the Stars.” And Stalk the Stars they did. The first task for the Legion was to conquer the Wheel of Fire, a sprawling wilderness of star systems in the eastern Segmentum Solar, packed with hostile xenoforms, Ork empires and space hulks.
Such a task would have daunted hardened Imperial Lord Generals with entire Crusade fleets at their back, yet the new Primarch agreed to execute it without a second thought.
With Russ’ tactical brilliance and the tenacity of the Wolves, the Wheel was conquered in a prolonged and unbelievably bloody campaign, with casualties noted as “frighteningly high” – a full third of the Legion alone. But when it was done, the reputation of the Vlka Fenryka was undisputed and unchallenged. They were the Emperor’s Wolves, and none could stand before them.
When they returned from the Wheel, they found waiting for them on Fenris “one of the mightiest citadels ever built during the Great Crusade: the fortress of the Fang.” An unparalleled edifice, commissioned by the Emperor himself, it plunged deep into the core of Fenris and rose high into its atmosphere. In bestowing this mighty gift, the Emperor made clear that the Wolves were a breed apart, and worthy of some of the greatest artifice Mankind could muster.
Their new base secure, Russ ordered the expansion of his Legion, to take the fight to the enemies of Mankind, and forge his saga at the forefront of the Crusade. During this time the Wolves participated in countless famous battles – from the Rangdan Xenocides to the Night of the Wolf.
And so it was, until the coming of the Great Heresy.
During the Heresy
“It is the truth that at the time of the Horus Heresy’s inception, the Space Wolves Legion… carried with it a bloody reputation and an aura of fear which few other Legions could match.”
Just prior to the outbreak of the Heresy, the Space Wolves came to blows with one of their brother Legions – the Thousand Sons of Magnus the Red. Magnus stood accused of violating the Edict of Nikea, a restriction on the use of psychic witchcraft imposed by the will of Him on Earth.
It cannot be said however, before this, that there was any love lost between Russ and Magnus – the two Primarchs had rarely been at ease with one another, with Magnus believing Russ to be a savage and a hypocrite with his use of “Rune Priests”, as the Wolf King maintained his criticism of Magnus’ psykers.
When Magnus, tragically misled by Horus Lupercal, shattered the wards around the Imperial Palace and sundered the Webway Project, killing thousands of workers and unleashing Daemons into the Imperial Dungeon, the Emperor demanded the Sorcerer King be brought to Terra. The task fell to Russ, who seized it with relish.
Through a combination of manipulation by Horus, his own inherent dislike for Magnus, and the interference of the Ruinous Powers, what was originally a mission of censure, tragically, became one of execution. The Imperial warhost fell upon Prospero like the headsman’s axe, and ripped the beautiful city of Tizca asunder. Magnus was broken upon the knee of Russ, and Prospero burned.
In the aftermath of this, Russ realised he had been manipulated, pulling into the Alaxxes Nebula to regroup and rearm. There he was ambushed by the XX Legion, on the orders of Horus, where a running battle ensued. In this, the Wolves were brought to brink of defeat, with an almost-successful assassination attempt by Alpharius’ First Legion on Russ himself. The Wolves were saved, at the battle’s peak, by the arrival of the Dark Angels.
Fully appraised of the treachery of Horus, Russ fought his way back to Terra, regrouping with a number of his brother Primarchs. There he planned an all-out attack on the Vengeful Spirit, to face the Warmaster alone. The rest of the tale is well known – Russ was unsuccessful in his gambit, and the Wolves were forced to retreat and lick their wounds. The Traitors, however, were ever-wary of the Rout at their heels.
Legion Special Rules
The Rout, much like the Thousand Sons, have a very unique playstyle as a Legion within the Heresy. They have different rules about how a force can be built, and a large number of unique units. These are broken down below.
The Vlka Fenryka benefit from the following special rules when fielded on the tabletop:
- Bestial Savagery – Space Wolves get +1 WS on any turn in which they successfully charge, and they have Counter-attack. They must make Sweeping Advances if they are able.
- Hunter’s Gait – Infantry models with this rule at +1” to Run and Consolidate moves, as long as they do not have jump packs or Terminator armour.
- Preternatural Senses – Models with this special rule may ignore the effects of Night Fighting, re-roll the dice to determine which table edge they come on from when using Outflank and you cannot deploy any enemy models using Infiltrate within 18”, regardless of line of sight
These are a very nice package of rules, which mesh strongly with the playstyle of the Rout. Preternatural Senses is particularly good, as it allows pinpoint deployment of support while negating some Traitor benefits such as Night Fighting for Night Lords, or Infiltrate for Alpha Legion. Bestial Savagery means whether you are charging, or have been charged, the Wolves will account well for themselves. Hunter’s Gait allows your Grey Slayers to get around that bit easier.
The Wolves of Fenris – Space Wolves Army Selection
The Vlka Fenryka, unusually among the Legiones Astartes in the game, have restrictions on how you can build lists with them. Please note that the current version of this is found in the FAQ on Warhammer Community.
When building a Space Wolves detachment, the following restrictions apply:
- You must fulfil your compulsory HQ with a Praetor, Centurion or Space Wolves Special Character.
- A Space Wolves detachment must have one HQ choice per 1,000 points, regardless of the Force Organisation Chart or maximum available number of choices. These can be fulfilled by any HQ choice in the army. For example, 1,000-1,999 pts requires 2 HQ.
- Space Wolves cannot use Chaplains, Librarians or Primus Medicae – these are replaced with the Priest of Fenris unit.
- Space Wolves must fill their compulsory Troops choices with Grey Slayer packs. All other Troops choices, to the extent they do not have it already, gain the Support Squad special rule. The only exception to this is when you are using a Rite of War which stipulates another unit can be taken as a compulsory Troops choice to meet the requirements of the Rite of War.
This means, in practice, you are going to be loading up on Grey Slayers and HQ options, regardless of the overall army composition.
Sagas of Blood and Night – Warlord Traits
Space Wolves also have their own Warlord Traits, reflecting that “the way the VI Legion fought and died in the service of the Emperor and the Wolf King had become a law unto itself.”
- The Get of Wyrm – Note down D3 Infantry Units at the start of the game which consist of 5 or more Legiones Astartes (Space Wolves) models. These get Defensive Grenades and have Fear.
- The Howl of the Death Wolf – Once per game, the Warlord may declare the use of this special rule at the start of their player turn. For the duration of that turn, all Run and Charge distances can be re-rolled for Legiones Astartes (Space Wolves).
- The Hunger of the Void – The Warlord gains Rage.
- The Master of the Land – The Warlord and any Legiones Astartes (Space Wolves) unit they have joined gets Move Through Cover and Ignores Cover for shooting attacks on enemies within 12”.
- The Crown Breaker – The Warlord gains Preferred Enemy (Independent Character) and Feel No Pain 5+ when fighting in a Challenge.
- The Shield of the Wolf King – The Warlord and any Legiones Astartes (Space Wolves) unit they join gets Stubborn.
These are a mix of potentially useful rules. I would single out The Howl of the Death Wolf as being a massive force multiplier when combined with Hunter’s Gait, and remind you that for The Crown Breaker the Preferred Enemy rule will convey to any unit the Warlord is with.
Legion Special Equipment & Upgrades
The Rout can take a series of unique weapons, most notably the Frost Blades:
- Frost Blades – These are based on the arcane technologies of a blade gifted to Leman Russ by the Emperor of Mankind, taking a range of forms. Any Space Wolves Independent Character with a power weapon can take a frost blade or frost claw for +5 points, or a great frost blade for +10 pts. These are, by and large, very good weapons.
- A Frost Blade is S +1 AP 3 Specialist Weapon, a Frost axe is S +2 AP 2 Specialist Weapon/Unwieldy, a Frost claw is S +1 AP 3 Specialist Weapon/Shred and a Great Frost Blade is S +1 AP 2 Master Crafted/Two Handed/Reaping Blow (-1 I, +1 Attack if in base contact with more than one enemy model at your Initiative Step).
- Aether-rune Armour – a prized panoply of war amongst the Vlka Fenryka, the Aether-rune armour was produced in very limited amounts but offered formidable protection to its wearer. A Praetor or Priest of Fenris in a Space Wolves army can exchange Artificer Armour for Aether-rune armour for +20 points. It gives a 2+ armour save, +1 Wound and re-rolls to Deny the Witch checks. The +1 Wound alone makes this well worth it.
Legion Rites of War
The Rout can take two unique Rites of War – The Pale Hunters and The Bloodied Claws.
The Pale Hunters
The Rite is intended to exemplify the Legion’s reputation as peerless hunters, matched only by the White Scars. In this, “no quarter or honour is offered to the prey.”
To take this Rite, you cannot take Artillery or Fortifications, or Drop Pods. You may also only take a single Heavy Support choice. These are not the most onerous restrictions in the world, but will no doubt affect how a list is constructed; particularly the Heavy Support restriction.
In return, you get +1 to all Reserve rolls (noting that a “1” still fails), and all Legiones Astartes (Space Wolves) not in Terminator Armour get Hit & Run, moving 2D6” rather than the usual 3D6”.
When Space Wolves units successfully charge into assault with an enemy unit who is already locked in combat, they gain +1 additional attack per model.
This Rite is not the most powerful in the game, but if used well can be very effective. You will want to use multiple units of Grey Slayers or similar to set up “interlocking” combats, where an enemy is first bogged down, and then eliminated by a secondary charging unit. Hit & Run will help in setting this up and stop the hunter becoming the hunted.
The Bloodied Claws
The Space Wolves “have never shied from the gore-drenched demands of the all-out frontal assault”, albeit ensuring that their savage nature is controlled and directed in the throes of combat. This Rite is intended to represent this brutality, evoking “the living body’s death after its heart is ripped from it by a bloodied claw.”
To take it, you cannot use any Immobile, Artillery or Slow and Purposeful units, and cannot take any allies. These are not stringent restrictions for the Rout.
The benefits are that all Grey Slayer and Assault Squad units get Furious Charge, but must always charge an enemy unit in the Assault phase if they are able (choosing which enemy to attack if there is more than one option). You need to be very careful with this, as you can easily be drawn into eating a damaging Overwatch if you are 10-12” away with, perhaps, intervening Difficult Terrain, which sets up an almost impossible Charge that you nevertheless have to attempt.
All units also get +1 to Combat Resolution when in the enemy deployment zone, and the whole detachment gets Howl of the Death Wolf (Warlord Trait #2), meaning if it is rolled as a Warlord Trait it can be used twice. This is the real meat of this Rite – it allows you to set up a devastating turn 2 wave of units crashing into the enemy lines with Furious Charge, a bonus to combat, and a reliable charge. It’s really good if you play to its strengths and take a lot of Grey Slayers/Assault Squads.
Legion Special Units
The Space Wolves have a larger number of unique units than the average Legion – Priests of Fenris, Grey Slayers, The Deathsworn, Varagyr Terminators and Fenrisian Wolves. This reflects their relatively unique playstyle.
Grey Slayer Pack
Grey Slayers are the backbone of a Space Wolves army, representing the basic infantry of the force, replacing Tactical Marines as the standard Troops choices.
They start at a very reasonable 125 pts for 10, with standard Marine statlines and a Bolt pistol/Close Combat Weapon loadout (giving them +1 Attack). Additional Grey Slayers are 10 pts each.
What makes them interesting is the range of upgrades they can take and the rule Warrior’s Mettle.
There is a medley of specialist close combat weapon options – one per every five men – and they can all swap for items such as heavy chainblades or basic power weapons. They also have Warrior’s Mettle, which prevents them using Go to Ground, but allows them to re-roll Pinning tests and allows them to Charge after firing boltguns, suffering -1 to Charge if they do so (which simply cancels out the Hunter’s Gait bonus…)
This makes for a nasty surprise if you kit them out to make use of this, and segues amazingly with the Rites of War. You want these guys to be moving forwards constantly, keeping the pressure on the enemy.
The result is that you have an extremely versatile, assault focused troops unit which can be as expensive or as cheap as you like. I would view mixing in a set of power weapons (such as axes) as a very sensible idea, but keeping them bare bones is not a bad idea either.
There is not much more to say about them, except that they are superior to the standard Tactical Squad in terms of their versatility, and I would focus them into combat if at all possible.
Deathsworn are the “dark heart of the VI Legion”, cursed to have their flesh transfigured and warped by the terrible weapons they wield. In essence they are enhanced Destroyers, followers of the dread Cult of Morkai, and bearers of horrific archeotech.
The Deathsworn weigh in at 175 pts for 5, with standard Destroyer stats (i.e. 2 Attacks) and a 2+ save. They have power axes and Yimira class stasis bombs as standard (more on those below). You can take additional Deathsworn for 25 pts each, which is cost effective given their starting loadout. They can take a range of melee weapons, with options for Melta bombs and Rad grenades.
I would view Rad grenades as a very good upgrade to take – if pricy at a flat 30 pts.
They come with some special rules – the Cult of Morkai rule means they can only be joined by Priests of Fenris, and Speakers of the Dead can take them as a Command Squad. They also have The Dreams of the Death Wolf, giving them Fearless when in assault and allowing them to make attacks at Initiative Step 1 even if dead, if the unit is still alive and they have not swung already. This makes them very vicious in close combat, and very reliable with the power axes.
Finally, you have Yimira class stasis bombs – “relics of a campaign of purgation and slaughter” which was so awful it was literally wiped from the minds of most of the Legion. These give the unit defensive grenades, and make models which Fall Back from a unit of Deathsworn roll an additional D6 and pick the lowest.
They can also use these offensively (one per Shooting phase) – 6” range, Fleshbane (2+), 3” Blast, Pinning, Gets Hot! – A very nasty surprise to soften up an enemy before charging in and hacking them down with axes.
All in all, a very nice unit to charge out of a Land Raider, I would have thought. And the models look amazing!
Varagyr Wolf Guard Terminator Squad
The Varagyr are the hand picked chosen of Leman Russ himself, with every individual a Legionary who has “distinguished himself in battle many times over”, with each having “forged his own saga worth the telling.”
On the tabletop, these are a curious unit, and sadly one which I think is overpriced. They are Cataphractii terminators with a Frost blade and Combi-bolter, with WS5 and a Thegn who has 2 W. This is an OK starting point, but they are 270 pts – which is very pricy for a mostly 1 W unit. They cause Fear, are scoring, and have Stubborn, which does help.
In terms of their rules, they have Crushing Charge (S5 Hammer of Wrath if you charge at least 6”) and Lordsbane (allowing them all to issue and accept Challenges, with +1 to combat resolution if an enemy is killed in a challenge). These are situational, but not bad.
They are an additional 42 pts a model, and can take some interesting weapon options – including two frost weapons, or every model can take a Reaper autocannon for +15 pts each. This has the potential to be a hilarious unit in terms of firepower, but it just doesn’t stack up on the cost/benefit – a basic squad of 5 would be amazingly expensive for the damage output.
Overall I think the problem with this unit is that it doesn’t really excel at anything that other units don’t already do quite well. The autocannon gimmick is interesting, but it’s too expensive to be seriously viable. I just feel that, if you’re going for Terminator armoured units, you might be better served with basic Terminators.
The Varagyr are not a bad choice, but they wouldn’t be my first. See what you think! The models are… well, no comment.
Priest of Fenris (Speaker of the Dead/Caster of Runes)
A unique HQ unit for the Rout, the Speaker of the Dead is a Consul costing 105 pts, who comes with a Refractor field as standard.
A Speaker of the Dead is essentially an Apothecary Chaplain – Fearless, with Oath of the Dead, giving the Speaker of the Dead and their unit Preferred Enemy (Infantry). I am not sure if this is as good as the usual Zealot, but it is pretty solid.
They also get Healing Balms and a Garm Blood vial, which grants Feel No Pain (5+) and allows a One Use 8” range S 1 Assault D3+1 Poison (4+) Rending attack.
Overall, that is a great upgrade for any unit – particularly Deathsworn if you combine that shooting attack with the stasis bombs!
The Caster of Runes is a Librarian in all but name, with Mastery Level 1 (Biomancy, Divination, Telekinesis), and a Runic Matrix (re-roll a Deny the Witch once/turn, but you cannot use more than 4 Warp Charge dice to manifest any single power). You can make them Mastery Leverl 2 for +20 pts, which is a no-brainer.
Each choice can take a variety of upgrades. I think these are great HQs, and a Speaker of the Dead has a place in any Space Wolf force, easily.
Legion Special Characters
I just have to ask – why does this character exist? His model seems to have been intended to be Bjorn the Fell-Handed (pre-Dreadnought), but for some reason this character was shoehorned in. Odd, but here we go.
Geigor is a character known for his impetuous nature, and his hatred of the Thousand Sons, who once abandoned him on the battlefield during the Great Crusade in an act of what he saw as betrayal.
On the tabletop he is 135 pts, with a Praetor statline but only Consul gear (3+/5++). He comes with Warrior’s Mettle (so shoot his Boltgun and then charge with debuffs), and Master of the Legion (which means he is a cheap choice to unlock a Rite of War). He has The Fell Hand, which makes him S 5 AP 2 with Master-crafted and Shred. Overall he is effective in close combat, but the 3+/5++ is going to let him down in a real scrap. In my view, one to save for smaller points games, where he can then really shine.
Hvarl Red-Blade – The Headsman of Koltok
Hvarl commanded the Fourth Great Company of the Vlka Fenryka, and found greatest joy “in the din of war.” He was a well-known veteran, with a reputation for volatility, but someone who Russ could count on to execute his mandate without fear and with fervour.
On the tabletop, Hvarl comes in at 210 pts (so quite expensive), but has Praetor stats with W 4 and A 4. He is in Tartaros armour – so quite speedy – and is so buff he wields a massive axe and a Heavy bolter!
This axe, Hearth-splitter, makes him S 6 AP 2 with Armourbane (so able to trouble even a Spartan if he puts his mind to it), and Hvarl causes Fear (not surprising!)
He has Battle Cunning, allowing 3 Infantry units in his detachment to get Scout (which is really nice for flexible tactics with your infantry packs). If he is the Warlord, he gives a 12” bubble of Preferred Enemy (Infantry), which is absolutely incredible for a melee-focused Space Wolf army.
I really rate Hvarl – he is strong as an individual, and a great force multiplier if he is taken as the Warlord. Run him with some Deathsworn charging out of a Spartan and make the enemy quake with fear!
Leman Russ – The Wolf King of Fenris, The Lord of Winter and Ruin
Leman Russ was the second Primarch to be found, and one of the least-understood of the Emperor’s sons. A barbarian king of peerless strength and ability, he survived the icy hell of Fenris and grew to command one of the most feared of the Legions. His whispered nickname of the Emperor’s Executioner is, frankly, well deserved.
Russ was not infallible – at Prospero he was manipulated into smiting his brother Magnus into ruin – but he was a stalwart Loyalist throughout the unfolding of the Heresy, constantly resisting the onslaught of the Traitors until the very end.
Russ weighs in at 455 pts, with normal Primarch stats save for an eye-popping WS 9, with I 7!
He is the Sire of the Space Wolves, giving him Night Vision, Counter-attack, Hunter’s Gait and Preternatural Senses. All Space Wolves in his force get +1 Ld, and Leman Russ gains Howl of the Death Wolf which he can use once per game. This is, before anything else is accounted for, a nasty set of rules to layer on top of an already vicious Primarch. Any force commanded by Russ will be a fast-moving wave.
He also has The Circle of the Varagyr, making Varagyr Wolf Guard Terminator Squads and Legion Veteran Tactical squads able to be taken as compulsory Troops. The Veterans can also take Warrior’s Mettle as their Veteran tactics, which is nice – but frankly I would go for Grey Slayers!
Russ is the Breaker of Shields, Bringer of Ruin. He wields two weapons, Balenight and Helwinter, and you can split the attacks between the weapons as you see fit when using Russ. Balenight is his sword, which is AP 2 with Shred and Sever Life. This latter rule is very potent, as if an enemy suffers a wound from Balenight and doesn’t die, you roll 2D6 against their Toughness and if the result is higher, then the model suffers an additional D3 AP 2 wounds. Very, very nasty, as one wound can become four!
Helwinter is Russ’ axe, which makes him S 8 AP 2, Sunder, Master-crafted. This is your vehicle killer, and reaps Instant Death through basic Legionary forces.
Leman Russ is armoured in a set of unique artificer armour – The Armour Elavagar, named after a wave of killing frost. Note that this has been FAQ’d from Book 7, but it gives Russ 2+/4++, with the invulnerable save becoming 3++ against flamer, melta or plasma weapons. Any enemy model in base contact with The Wolf King suffers -1 to hit him in assault (to a maximum of 6+), which is insanely good for such a combat-focused Primarch.
Finally, Russ has Scornspitter, a massive AP 3 Assault 3 Rending boltgun with 12” range. It won’t win any battles, but it can soften up the foe.
The Wolf-Kin of Russ – Freki the Swift and Geri the Cunning
It wouldn’t be the Space Wolves without, well, some wolves! Leman Russ famously had a pair of enormous, tank-sized wolves of prodigious size, cunning and intelligence. They cost 100 pts, and can only be taken if Russ is also present, not taking up any additional slots. They are deployed within 6” of Russ at the start of the game, and then become separate denial units. They can ride in transports, but are Very Bulky.
Their stats are quite good – WS 5 S 5 T 5 with W 4(!), but only a 5+ save (with, to be fair, Feel No Pain 5+). They are Fearless, cause Fear, have Preternatural Senses, and Geri has Precision Strikes, with Freki benefitting from Crusader.
Their weapons are S 5 AP 4 Rending, which isn’t going to set the world on fire, but if they charge in together into a unit the sheer volume of attacks with Rampage should make basic Legionary squads pause for thought. Just don’t put them against anything with dedicated melee ability unless they are supporting Russ directly – they are simply too fragile.
Sample Army List
Below I set out a starting force for the Rout, at 1,500 pts.
This envisions quite a large body of troops (30 men), but you can have a lot of fun making Grey Slayers, and they have 40k upgrade kits which can be put to good use alongside the plastic 30k sets.
Rite of War – The Bloodied Claws
- HQ – Praetor with Artificer Armour, Master-Crafted Paragon Blade, Iron Halo, Digital Lasers
- HQ – Speaker of the Dead (Wolf Priest), Artificer Armour
- Elites – Cortus Contemptor Dreadnought with Chainfist/DCCW
- Elites – Cortus Contemptor Dreadnought with Chainfist/DCCW
- Elites – The Deathsworn x9, x1 Power Fist
- Troops – x14 Grey Slayers, x3 Power Axes, Power Weapon/Artificer Armour Huscarl
- Troops – x15 Grey Slayers, x3 Power Axes, Power Weapon/Artificer Armour Huscarl
- Fast Attack – x5 Outriders with x2 Power Axe, Melta Bombs, Power Axe Sergeant
This is designed to move fast, and strike hard in melee. The Praetor goes with the x14 man Grey Slayer squad, and the Speaker of the Dead supports the Deathsworn.
Push the Dreadnoughts up as distractions, and let the Outriders target and tear down armour with their Melta bombs. When the Grey Slayers hit home, it should clear up what is left. Make use of Howl of the Death Wolf on, I would say, Turn 2 to get your charges off.
To expand this, give the Deathsworn a Land Raider, and take some Heavy Support like a Sicaran.
The Rout certainly earn their title of the Emperor’s Executioners – they are fast-moving and hit like a truck on the tabletop, with some fantastic models from Forge World.
In the next edition of this column, we delve into the mysterious and mystical arts practised by the Sorcerors of Prospero – the Thousand Sons. This article might take a bit longer to put together as they are, without a doubt, the most complex Legion in terms of rules (at least, until we get the Dark Angels!) – keep your eyes peeled for it!
For Russ, and the Allfather! Fenrys Hjolda!
NB: The original version of this article had several of the credit captions on the images lost in the upload process. These have now been amended.