Vigilus has stood alone since January, but now there’s a Rift War happening in the second part of the Nachmund narrative. No, not between Midkemia and the Tsurannuani, that’s a different IP. This one is between the Imperium and the armies of Abbadon, and some Drukhari kind of show up at the end, I guess. This isn’t the review for fluff, but this is more of the same from the Vigilus narrative – we’ll get into the Crusade and campaign stuff another time and talk about it there.
As ever, we’d like to thank Games Workshop for the review copy of this book – let’s check out the matched play content that’s inside.
What’s in here?
Like Vigilus Alone, this is a pretty thin set of stuff, though at least we get two Armies of Renown instead of a couple of Space Marine datasheets. We have three sets of rules to look at today:
- Codex Supplement: Castellans of the Rift – a codex supplement for a Primaris Space Marine Chapter which has shown up in the fluff a couple of times over the course of 8th and 9th
- Army of Renown: Warpmeld Pact – an Army of Renown for the Thousand Sons, based around Tzaangor and Chaos Spawn
- Army of Renown: Coteries of the Haemonculi – an Army of Renown for the Drukhari, based around Haemonculus Covens
Codex Supplement: Castellans of the Rift
The Castellans of the Rift are probably not the Chapter anyone would have expected to get a Codex Supplement, but this really functions as a kind of Codex Supplement: Primaris-only Marines, and that’s the deal here. You can’t pick Firstborn units at all.
It’s worth noting also that the Castellans are called out as an Ultramarines successor, and so they also have access to the things in that supplement like any other successor.
The Chapter Tactic here is Unyielding Resistance, a combo of two from the Successors list in the base Codex. This gives you +1 to hit with melee attacks on a turn where you charged, and the “mini-Transhuman” effect which prevents you being wounded on 1s or 2s. You wouldn’t necessarily pick these if you were given a free choice, but it’s not the worst – Born Heroes, the +1 to hit part here, is a popular pick for Successors that has seen a fair amount of play.
A table of three here, with Hit-and-Run Master giving a Command phase ability to hand out fall back and shoot, Exemplar of the Chapter giving the Warlord +1 attack and permanent full Transhuman, and Tip of the Sword letting you pick one enemy unit within 12″ (and visible to) your Warlord at the end of your Movement phase. CORE units get re-roll charges and +1 Strength for melee attacks against that unit.
This is a surprisingly spicy set of traits, and Tip of the Sword in particular is pretty great – it’s quite flexible in how it’s applied, and can really let your units pile on to something important.
In line with these other mini-supplements, there’s four Relics here. Muruk’s Wrath is a relic heavy bolt rifle and as I write this it occurs to me that I’m not sure anything can use this. It replaces a heavy bolt rifle, as you’d expect, but there aren’t any characters that have heavy bolt rifles – the Gravis Captain has a master-crafted heavy bolt rifle, and in all other instances where this is the case those are explicitly called out as being different. I’m sure this is intended to be a relic he can take and will be erratad immediately, but still, oh dear. It’s cute, with Rapid Fire 2 and S6 AP-4, but just one damage.
The Primarch’s Codex can be given a PRIEST model (i.e. a Chaplain) and gives them re-rolls to litanies and +3″ to the range of litanies. A re-rolling Master of Sanctity with a 9″ range on auras is likely to do work – solid relic, no notes.
The Gauntlet of the Imperium replacs a boltstorm gauntlet and gives it a Pistol 3, S5 AP-2 D1 shooting profile and an AP-3 D3 meele profile – again, a solid upgrade for the Gravis captain. Finally the Armour of Phourion gives a model fight first and 6″ Heroic Intervention.
Everything here is just kind of fine – the Codex is the most likely thing you’d actually want to take, while the weapons are the kind of marginal upgrades that get left on the shelf.
8 new Stratagems here, and they’re surprisingly pretty good. Unfailing Nerve is a bit of a nothing, adding AP to bolt weapons but not in a way that stacks with Doctrines, while Let Them Come gives a CORE unit +1 to hit if they were charged, thematically linking with the Chapter tactic.
Unbroken and Unbowed is pricey at 2 or 3CP depending on unit size, but it gives a CORE INFANTRY unit a 5+ to ignore wounds in the enemy Shooting phase, as long as it’s in range of an objective marker. Push Them Back gives re-rolls to hit for any of your units when shooting enemy units within your deployment zone, while Regroup and Strike can give a unit extra AP and re-rolls to wound in either the Shooting or Fight phases, depending on how many casualties it’s taken.
This is Our Ground! lets you give a unit Objective Secured at the end of your Charge phase, and again is not CORE-locked. This is a surprisingly strong ability; you can fire off an Invictor or something and flip an objective from a non-Obsec unit, and being able to do it at the end of the Charge phase is useful for making sure you have the right information as to whether it’s worthwhile or not.
Finally Take the Fight to Them lets one of your units (again, not CORE-locked) the ability to do Heroic Interventions, and to move 6″ when doing so, while Defence in Depth lets you pick three of your units and pre-game move them. This last one is particularly interesting given the access they also have to Rapid Redeployment – you can set up quite aggressively with the Invictor rush and then either redeploy away, or send things up to support them.
A lot of what’s in here is expensive – three of them are 2CP and one is 2CP/3CP – but as a Stratagem set it gives you some interesting options, and it’s nice to see a bit of creativity applied to the timing of things.
Army of Renown: Warpmeld Pact
The first of our two Armies of Renown in this book is the Warpmeld Pact, an army designed to push the bestial parts of the Thousand Sons’ unit options over the Rubrics. Your army cannot include named characters, everything must have THOUSAND SONS (presumably to stop you slotting in non-Thousand Sons Tzeentch stuff), you cannot have VEHICLE, DAEMON, or CULTIST units or anything that knows psychic powers from the Discipline of Vengeance. The “Mere Servants” rule is removed, and instead you’re required to have more BRAY units than the total number of RUBRIC MARINE or SCARAB OCCULT TERMINATORS units in each Detachment.
That’s a lot of restrictions – it carves out a big chunk of the codex, including an entire psychic lore. What you get in return is one each of a Warlord trait, a Relic, a Cabbalistic Ritual, a page of Stratagems, and then a couple of additions to your units. For some reason losing Brotherhood of Sorcerers is listed in the benefits; the actual benefits are various units (broadly your characters, Tzaangor, and Chaos Spawn) gaining Touched by Tzeentch, Tzaangor non-character units getting Core, and Tzaangor Shaman getting Strength of the Brayherd, which lets you generate an additional Cabal point if your Shaman is within 6″ of any Tzaangor with a combined 15 or more models in them.
Touched by Tzeentch gives your units a 5+ invulnerable save, a 5+ to ignore mortal wounds, and a 6″ pre-game move. Not a bad combo, though the 5+ invulnerable is just replicating what Brotherhood of Sorcerers does anyway.
Adding CORE to the Tzaangors is a lot less exciting than it sounds – as far as we can tell, it affects exactly one thing, Egleighen’s Orrery, since everything else is linked to <GREAT CULT> CORE. Of all the things you’d want to get access to the Orrery is a pretty good one, but you do wonder if the intention here was that you’d unlock quite a bit more and nobody went through the book and checked if you actually did.
Your one Warlord trait here is Manipulator of Reality, which lets you pick three TZAANGOR units after you’ve done your Touched by Tzeentch moves, and redeploy them anywhere wholly within your deployment zone, or put them into Strategic Reserves (and ignore the normal restrictions, in line with many similar abilities). The redeploy is cute but slightly confusing – you already just got a pre-game move! – but throwing stuff into Strategic Reserves for free is fine.
Your one new Relic here is the Diamond of Distortion, which you can give to a Tzaangor Shaman. It lets you give a 4+ invulnerable save to a Tzaangor or Spawn unit in the Command phase.
The new Ritual here is The Braychange, which costs 6 Cabal points and allows you to roll an extra D6 for a Blessing or Malediction power and, if you roll a 10+ for the Psychic test, pick a friendly Tzaangor unit and return 2D3 models to it (for BRAY units) or D3 models (for non-BRAY units).
Seven new Stratagems here; Reality Unbound gives a unit of Tzaangor Enlighted an extra two AP in Shooting or Fight, while Tzaangor Onslaught lets one BRAY unit pile-in and consolidate an extra 3″ in the Fight phase.
Gift of Change lets you replace an enemy CHARACTER that you destroy in the Psychic phase with a Chaos Spawn, and doesn’t cost Reinforcement points – continuing on the Spawn theme, Warpmeld Spawn is a pre-game Stratagem giving a unit of Chaos Spawn +1 Strength and +1 Toughness.
Blessed Transmutations is a Command Phase Stratagem which lets you pick a Psyker and regenetate 1 destroyed model, or D3+1 destroyed models for BRAY units, for all friendly Tzaangor units within 6″. Twisted Mirage lets one of your Psyker characters make a Normal Move of 6″ away from an enemy unit in the Charge phase, while Ephemeral Existence lets a Tzaangor unit move through horizontally through terrain and enemy units.
Army of Renown: Coteries of the Haemonculi
I’m not going to lie to you – when I realised there was a Haemonculus Covens Army of Renown in this book my body was ready. There’s three new Warlord traits here, four new Relics, and a couple of pages of Stratagems, plus a new “Driven by Fear” rule.
As always for an AoR, there’s a set of restrictions here – predictably, all your units have to be either <HAEMONCULUS COVEN> or BLADES FOR HIRE, and your Warlord has to be a <HAEMONCULUS COVEN> model (so you can’t have Drazhar leading these guys). None of this is surprising, although I’m not clear that you’re actually able to take Urien Rakarth in this army, despite the fact that the fluff is all about him being here.
What you get in return for these reasonably heavy restrictions is that instead of an Obsession your Covens units get Driven by Fear – a rule which gives them a 4+ to ignore wounds if they are below Half Strength (for some reason redundantly split across two bullet points, one each for regular wounds and mortal wounds), plus they can Fall Back and charge. As army-wide rules go this is… not super exciting. Covens units already have a 5+ to ignore wounds, and having to lose more than half of your unit to tick down to a 4+ doesn’t increase their survivability that much, especially when there’s two other durability options for Covens already that don’t impose harsh restrictions on the rest of your army composition. Fall Back and charge is nice, but again something you already have access to in Drukhari – being able to do it a bit more broadly is a positive, at least, and saves you CP.
Onto the Warlord traits, and oh dear. I’ve talked before about the gap created by GW’s digital offerings and its print lead times, and nowhere is this more clearly exposed than with this AoR – two of the five Covens units you can pick from, Talos and Cronos, had CORE taken off them in the February dataslate, and Haemonculi of course never had it, so these traits (and a relic and many of the Stratagems, as we’ll see) really only apply to Wracks and Grotesques.
The first is Calculating Gaze, which gives a Captain-style re-roll 1s to hit aura for Covens CORE units within 6″; this is something that’s always been missing from the Covens toolkit, so fine, that’s a good value add even if its applicability is a lot less broad than it was. Schemer Supreme gives a 5+ CP refund when you spend CP, and Artist of Dark Alchemy has an interesting effect which lets you re-roll the number of shots for a unit within 6″ of the Warlord – which now only works on Wrack and Grotesque liquifiers. Would have been cool on Cronos, I guess!
In the Relics section, we have the Transfuser of Excruciation, an ichor injector which can poison a non-VEHICLE model and reduce its BS, WS, and Strength until the end of the game, a surprisingly cool and broadly-applicable effect. The Mask of Torment lets you pick an enemy unit within 12″ and make them -4 Leadership. It’s not a super powerful effect, but you pick at the start of the Morale phase, so it has a better application than you might expect – you already know which units are going to have to roll a test, and you can push one of them into a near-auto fail, which is pretty useful.
The Stinger-Engorger Pistol is a stinger pistol apparently wielded by Willy Wonka, who’s keen to kill with his 5 poisoned shots which also give you extra AP for subsequent models that attack the target until the end of the turn.
Finally there’s the Biotargeting Orb, which again affects CORE (and CHARACTERS, at least) – like a weaker Seal of Oath, you pick an enemy non-VEHICLE unit at the start of the first battle round, and then your units get +1 to hit against it. Conceivably you can use this to offset a -1 to hit penalty or on something you really want to get into before battle round 3, but the most likely place you’d have wanted to use this is on Talos shooting into a key target and uh, well.
8 new Stratagems come into play here. Three are Requisitions, with Rule Through Fear letting you pick one character to get +3″ to auras and Command phase abilities, Art of Poisonry upgrading a CORE unit to have 3+ Poisoned Weapons, and Wealth and Power giving a CORE unit +1 Strength with their ranged attacks. These are actually pretty fun – in particular, adding extra range to Twisted Animator is pretty relevant, and Wracks with 3+ poisoned weapons sound like a good time (especially since it’s 1CP no matter what, so you could stick it on a big unit and get a hell of a lot of attacks wounding on 3s). Wealth and Power has some potential use on Wracks, but it’s also a place where it’s a shame that Cronos and Talos no longer have access to it, since they have the broadest selection if impactful guns.
There’s also four Strategic Ploys, and happily only one is CORE-linked – Protect the Great One lets you pick a model in any phase which did a wound to a Haemonculus in your army. Until the end of your next turn, CORE units can re-roll charge rolls against it, and get re-roll hits and wounds. This is a very powerful effect for 1CP, but obviously it’s reliant on an opponent lining it up for you.
The other three Ploys are Brutal Vivisection, a Fight phase Stratagem that gives an enemy non-VEHICLE unit -1 to wound if one of your units destroys a model in it, Visions of Butchery which lets you remove Objective Secured from an enemy unit, and Mercies of the Haemonculus which gives one of your units a 4+ to ignore wounds until the end of the battle if they destroy an enemy unit.
Finally, we have Venoms of Agonising Atrophy, which reduces the attacks of an enemy non-VEHICLE unit if one of your units does a wound to it with a poisoned weapon.
The Stratagem section here is a surprisingly useful toolbox – all of these are things you’d want to use if you had them available, and they’re all very cheap at just 1CP each.
Will any of this see play?
Ehhhh, maybe. If you’re married to Primaris-only Space Marines, the Castellans of the Rift give you some extra tricks to support that, and there’s enough meat there that you get some value-add for picking it over your other choices. Primaris-only Space Marines aren’t exactly lighting up top tables, though, so it’s more likely that if the Castellans do make it onto tables, it’s someone aiming to do their best with a themed list. Presumably someone out there really loves the fluff and scheme for these guys and is elated to have rules for them, so good news for that guy, too.
Warpmeld is probably the weakest of the set here. It just kind of doesn’t do anything for you that you want, especially given that Armour of Contempt has just given Thousand Sons a big competitive lift – but the lists you want to take to exploit that have basically nothing to do with what you’d be bringing here. There’s possibly an angle to take a massive pile of Chaos Spawn and upgrade them all (the Stratagem isn’t restricted at all, so you can smash it onto all three units) and exploit the healing to keep them ticking. The goal seems to be getting Tzaangor on the table, but they don’t really gain that much, and importantly they’re just not that good in and of themselves – the bonuses do help them a bit, but they’re still not really throwing out enough damage to matter.
Finally we have the Coteries of the Haemonculi. I can’t believe that this was written at a time when it was planned that two of the five relevant units were going to lose CORE, which slants how it looks to play out. Losing access to the Kabals and Cults skews your list a lot, too, though you can fill some gaps with Blades for Hire. If anything, the most likely usage of the Army of Renown is to apply a different spin to the Wrack horde that has had some play in recent months; your Wracks gaining a conditional 4+ to ignore wounds (and being able to access it early through the Stratagem) and some of the other Stratagems adds some power to that list, and it already wasn’t running any of the stuff you’d miss out on here. If the net result of this book is that an already kind of insufferable skew army gets a bit of a boost, well, that’s Just Army of Renown Things I guess.
A bit like Vigilus Alone before this, the main feeling of this book is a kind of long sigh. There just really isn’t that much here (the physical book is notably thinner than its comparators in Charadon and Nachmund, and that’s reflected in the shallowness of the content), and what there is is not that exciting. More seems inevitable, presumably in the new War Zone: Nephilim announced in the preview stream this week; let’s hope they’re a bit more inspiring than this.