Glory to the Allfather! This month’s Exemplary Battle covers the events of Wolfsbane by Guy Haley, in which Leman Russ leads a speartip of his own to decapitate the Sons of Horus before they can reach Terra. Although we already know the outcome of that mission, we get to play out a portion of it with two new unique units! Let’s dive in.
Feeling collared by the restrictions of Dorn to remain on Terra, Leman Russ and the Vylka Fenryka, already bloodied by the events of the Heresy, instead made the wise and intelligent decision to take a blind stab at murdering Horus rather than using their numbers and skills to reinforce the walls of the Palace and potentially steering the Siege to a very different outcome. Russ leads his forces into a massacre, and while he does manage to wound Horus with the Spear of Russ, he is routed (geddit) and the Legion is finally decimated at the Battle of Yarant, also known as the Wolf Cull. There is some debate as to whether the wound inflicted upon Horus is the mythical chink in the armour that gives the Emperor an opening at the end, but given that Maloghurst seems to have healed and strengthened Horus in Slaves to Darkness at the cost of his own life, its equally possible this plot thread came to its end. The Battle of Trisolian is also where we first meet a young Belisarius Cawl, and while he had minimal involvement in the battle Wolfsbane is still an excellent read for those Mechanicum fans among you (and really, you all should be).
This Exemplary Battle covers the work of Geigor Fell-Hand (the Space Wolf character from Burning of Prospero everyone thought was Bjorn) in his attempts to burn away the legacies and victories of the Sons of Horus in their own flagship, destroying mausoleums and trophies to provoke the Sons into wild responses, leaving Russ free to strike at Horus. Burning libraries and museums? We knew the Space Wolves were ignorant savages.
There’s an interesting discussion here about whether destroying the relics of the Sons also helped damage some of the last links to their human-esque past and lead them further down the path to Chaos without those mortal ties to hold them back, but that’s a discussion for another time. Geigor would have fallen in battle, seeking glorious vengeance against the Sons of Horus Chieftains arrayed against him, but instead made a fighting retreat to aid in the safe extraction of his badly wounded primarch.
Quick final shout out here to the skulls of, quote “a dozen Loyalist Legions” in the relic chambers of the XVIth. We know this is just a typo, or maybe representing the deaths of Loyalist elements of usually Traitor Legions, but it could be an interesting campaign hook for an event where some of the Loyalists don’t know who’s really on their side.
Space Wolves Jorlund Hunter Pack
The Jorlund Hunter Pack is a Troops choice, basically acting like a Tactical Squad with a few odd changes. For 125 points, 25 points more than a basic Tactical Squad, you trade away your boltgun and bolt pistol, Fury of the Legion and Heart of the Legion for a hand flamer, Crusader, Scouring Tempest, Scout and Support Squad, meaning they can’t be taken as compulsory troops choices and also aren’t Line. Your unit options are a bit of a mix between Tactical Squad and Grey Slayers, the other unique Space Wolves Troops choice, with the most interesting options probably being the ability for one in five Hunters to trade out their hand flamers for a volkite serpenta, though I’d probably recommend swapping them for flamers instead. Yes, you lose an attack from having two weapons, but they can just sit at the back while your more combat oriented Hunters do the dirty work.
Scouring Tempest is the unique special rule for this unit, where once per battle all flame weapons in the unit gain Pinning and Torrent 3”. This could be interesting where you think you’re just out of range, but given that range is 10” (or realistically a lot less given the need to overlap the templates), you’re probably already looking at charging and taking those couple of models out might just put you out of charge range. Crusader will help once you’re in combat but not in getting there, while Scout I think is the big one, especially in Zone Mortalis. A 6” pre-game move coupled with 7” basic movement and the Space Wolves innate ability to still shoot and charge after running thanks to Bestial Savagery means you’re putting a lot of flamer templates down range. Sadly, those flamer templates are mostly going to be strength 3, but its the thought the counts.
Sons of Horus Chieftain Squad
Chieftains are a 125pt HQ choice which can also be taken as a retinue for a Sons of Horus Master of the Legion, consisting of four Chieftains and a standard bearer carrying a legion standard, all with boarding shields. They’ve got the nasty Reaver Attack Squad statline of WS5, two wounds and two attacks, and the ability for the entire squad to take artificer armour at five points per model. They also have Relentless, allowing them to move and shoot with Heavy and Ordanance weapons, and charge if they fire Heavy, Ordnance or Rapid Fire weapons, which could be nasty because Banestrike Bolters are nothin to sniff at, being S5, AP4 and Breaching 6+ with rapid fire, with the only downside being an 18” range. You’re basically porting around a stronger heavy bolter at that point!
Any model can have a chainaxe, power weapon or power fist, which really means that a bunch of your Chieftains will be taking Carsoran power axes for the Breaching 5+ from the Sons of Horus Armoury. Since you can’t benefit from having two weapons anyway thanks to the boarding shield you’re carting around, this is a pretty nasty choice. The Standard bearer having a Legion standard is also something to call out, meaning these nasty little so-and-sos will be Line so long as the standard bearer is alive. This shouldn’t be too hard, as any model in the unit can accept and accept challenges thanks to Chosen Warrior.
Finally, the Chieftains also have Kingslayers, allowing them to re-roll all failed hit rolls of 1 against a unit containing or a model with the Independent Characters or Primarch special rule (though I probably wouldn’t hold out too much hope against a Primarch). In a Challenge with such a model, the Chieftain can reroll all hits, giving you a pretty solid chance of doubling out a character who’s also striking last, and since you have a 5+ invulnerable save in melee you might even survive the return blow!
The Vaults of the Vengeful Spirit Legendary Mission – Sabotage
Only one unique mission this week, showing the VIth Legion sewing confusion and chaos amidst the Gloriana battleship that Horus called home, and it’s a dedicated Zone Mortalis mission (the best way to play 30k).
The Defender (recommended to be Sons of Horus) has 50% again the points of the Attacker (recommended, obviously, to be Space Wolves). So if an Attacker has 1,000 points, the Defender has 1,500. The centre half of the board should be left mostly clear, and holds 6 Objective markers. This is also where the Attacker deploys, within 18” of their board edge, while the Defenders entire army is placed in Reserve to come on to one of the other battlefield edges. The Attacker wins if they can destroy the valuable objectives, while the Defender wins if they can, um. Murder everyone. Slay the Warlord is also in effect.
Using the Relic Objectives special rule, the Attacker can have one of their units become Pinned when within 1” of an Objective marker and, if they hold it at the start of their next turn, that Objective is removed, scoring the Attackers 1 Victory point. This is interesting, because its basically an Action from Warhammer 40,000. The 40k secondaries system can be pretty fun, so it’s neat to see them experimenting like this. The Defender has the hopefully easier job of scoring 1 VP for each Attacker unit that’s been destroyed, which specifically doesn’t include units that fall back off a table edge. The Defender also starts rolling for Reserves from the first turn, with any unsuccessful units automatically coming in on turn 3.
This is a really fun looking mission, with real ‘knife fight in a phone box’ vibes. The Defender has the easier on paper job of just killing dudes, but the Attacker has the ability to rack up a tonne of VPs before the Defender can really get on the board. I honestly don’t know which way this mission would go, and can’t wait to play it myself.
Kill for the living! Kill for the dead!
Of the two new units, the Chieftains I think are the better choice here, both narratively (heroes who gave up the option of leadership to protect an overlord) and mechanically, with some interesting modelling options, while the Jorlund Hunters are just a kind of side-grade to a tactical squad at best.
Sadly, Andy Hoare said that we’re getting towards the end of the Exemplary Battle series, with only a few Legions left to cover. I’d hoped that we’d keep getting these as the game progresses, maybe even drawing in some Crusade era missions against giant gribblies, but with the continual high quality of these free Exemplary Battles I’m looking forward to seeing how these wrap up. Alpha Legion mission pitting Alpharius against Omegon, anyone?