Lost in our less-than-enthusiastic review of the matched play rules in the new War Zone Nachmund: Rift War was our usual review of the Narrative play/Crusade rules. And it turns out there’s a lot of very interesting stuff in the new book, especially if you’re a Chaos Daemons player who has been patiently waiting for Crusade rules.
War of Desperation Campaign
TheChirurgeon: Every one of these books contains a campaign framework and Rift War is no different. The War of Desperation campaign represents the long, grueling conflict over the Nachmund Gauntlet. As with prior campaigns, this one splits players into Imperial and Chaos teams and introduces a new War Zone Tracker mechanic for tracking a team’s success. Players earn War Zone points for their team by playing or winning games, with larger games scoring more points.
The War Zone Trackers
Rift War gives players three War Zone Trackers, which are basically small maps that players move up or down as their faction gains the upper hand. At the start of the campaign players start in the middle of the tracker – Contested – with neither side getting a bonus. As one team outscores the other, they move the marker on the tracker toward their team’s side, gaining additional bonuses like Strategic Victory Points and in-game bonuses.
This is a pretty cool mechanic for visualizing the momentum of a campaign, and it’s something I’ll consider in future campaigns. There are some interesting decisions you can set up, and a good campaign could have lots of back-and-forth, while at the same time giving players an ongoing way to see where the narrative is headed.
Players can compete in the War of Desperation campaign across three fronts: The Surface of Dharrovar, the Mandeville Point of Dharrovar, and The Grakiliod Narrow. Each of these has a Legendary Mission to close out a phase played in that theatre. These are all sized for Strike Force, and they’re alright.
War of Desperation Relics
There are 6 relics on offer for players in a Crusade War of Desperation, 3 for the Imperial Alliance and 3 for the Chaos Alliance. All of them are Artificer level Relics so you don’t need to worry about wasting your Legendary Relic slot on something that isn’t a Vortex Grenade.
The Light of Sister Jemreta is a fancy nightlight that once per battle can be used in your Command phase and until the start of your next Command phase gains an Aura that negates cover saves for all enemy units within 9”.
Vial of Blessed Tears is a once per round ability where your character can select a friendly unit within 6”. That unit can reroll one hit roll, one wound roll and one damage roll whenever they shoot or fight.
Lastly is the Ashes of Saint Svetanus Goldenhelm where once per turn, whenever a friendly unit within 6” passes a Morale test, you can use this relic to immediately deal 2d3 Mortal wounds to the nearest enemy unit within 9” of the friendly unit.
Pendant of Rorkras the Damned is a fancy necklace that grants the bearer a pretty cool Aura that reduces the Leadership characteristic for all enemy units within 6” by 2 and if those units fail a Morale test, the bearer is healed and regains 1 wound for each test failed to a maximum of 3.
The Warp-Blessed Remnant straight up slaps. A 4+ Invulnerable save with a 4+ to ignore Mortal Wounds is a fantastic bit of kit and made even better by reducing the damage of Perils of the Warp tests by 1 to a minimum of 1.
Twilight Orb of Kharaxiis is the once per battle Relic that when used in your Command phase, reduces hit and wound rolls targeting the bearer by 1 and then reduce any damage by 1 to a minimum of 1.
Beanith: Clearly the Imperial Alliance get the shitty end of the stick here with the Relics whilst the Chaos Alliance get some amazing toys that will increase the durability of their characters to a large degree. I would love to see the Warp-Blessed Remnant on my Death Guard Malignant Sorcerer.
TheChirurgeon: I want it on a Daemon Prince.
Every now and then these campaign books will include a bunch of additional Crusade rules, in some cases giving a faction that doesn’t have Crusade rules a few it can use. Rift War adds Crusade rules for Wardens of the Rift, Thousand Sons, and, in a bit of a surprise – Armies of Chaos Undivided. This basically gives you rules for an all-new Crusade force to represent the raiding forces of Haarken Worldclaimer, with lots of Daemons and other legions.
Beanith: Clearly someone at Games Workshop read the unit restrictions from Flashpoint Mission: Road Wars found in White Dwarf 470 and thought that would make for a unique and interesting concept for a Crusade Army and then ran with it.
The Warden Raiders represent the many Adeptus Astartes strike forces stuck beyond the Sanctus Wall who are now waging a guerrilla campaign against Harold Wossname and his spikey lads in order to slow down the advancing forces.
When putting together your Order of Battle, the Warden Raiders have the following rules:
- Adeptus Astartes units only.
- Bad news for all the Mastodon Heavy Assault Transport owners as Lords of War aren’t allowed.
- No Vehicles with less than a 10” Movement Characteristic so chuck the Hammerfall Bunker back on the shelf next to the Firestrike Servo-turret.
- Infantry must start the battle either in a Transport or be set up using Death from Above, Concealed Positions, or Teleport Strike.
- Lastly, No Spearhead Detachments in case you’ve hit your head and think it’s still 8th edition and the triple Repulsor Executioner is an excellent idea… (Beanith: Actually kinda tempted now that I think about it)
Raid points will replace the 1 experience point gained when that unit takes part in a battle. Each unit will keep a tally of Raid points earnt and once you have gained enough Raid points, you will go up in Raider Rank and gain a Raider Force Battle Trait.
You start out as a basic Raider (0-5), moving onto becoming a Hardened Guerrilla (6-10) and finally becoming a deadly Reaver (11+)
Beanith: It’s not super clear but I’m pretty sure the intention is you can still gain experience elsewhere from Marked for Greatness, for every 3rd unit killed and normal Agendas etc thus still allowing you to grow and become even nastier on the field thanks to some truly mean combos of whatever 6 Battle Honour combos you can come up with.
Raider Force Agendas
Playing 11 games of Hams will take you ages to climb all the way to the Reaver rank. Thankfully though you can speed up your acquisition of these Raid points by including one of these Raider Force Agendas.
Guerrilla Strike will grant Raid points to each unit that manages to destroy an enemy unit in the first turn OR on the turn that they are setup on the battlefield.
For Critical Targets, after deployment ask your opponent to select 3 units in their army, these three units are now worth a tasty 2 Raid points to whoever manages to destroy them.
Sabotage Supply Lines is the Action based Agenda for Infantry and Bikers where at the start of their movement phase, if they are in range of an objective they can perform the Sabotage Supply Lines which goes until the end of that turn earning that unit 1 Raid point. Of course each objective can only be sabotaged once.
Mechanised Assault is for the Vehicles in Strategic Reserve. Keeping track of every enemy unit that Vehicle destroys as well as any units killed by models that started the game embarked on that Vehicle. Destroying 1 or 2 units will net you 1 Raid point and 3+ will grant 2 Raid points.
Beanith: Mechanised Assault is a little weird with the Strategic Reserve restriction but I’d still give it a go if I was running a Vehicle heavy list and wanted to get those sweet sweet Raider Force Vehicle Battle Traits that much quicker. Otherwise Critical targets will be my goto.
Raider Force Battle Traits
So now that you’ve earned enough Raid points, you can finally gain a cool Battle Honour. There are 3 separate tables for Bikers, Infantry and Vehicles and each table has 3 options.
The Raid Biker Battle Traits are:
- Vicious Fighters: Reroll 1 hit and 1 wound roll in the fight phase if they charged, were charged or heroically intervened.
- Deepend Hatred: you can reroll any melee attack hit rolls that target Heretic Astartes.
- Skilled Flankers: While in Strategic Reserves, this unit will count the battle round as one higher for the purposes of determining where they can be deployed regardless of any mission rules.
Raid Infantry units get one awesome trait, one okay trait and one that’s pretty meh:
- Swift Attackers lets you reroll advance rolls.
- Rapid Disembarkation lets you reroll a charge the first time they disembark from a Transport.
- Drilled Shooters reroll 1s to hit in the shooting phase also on the first time they disembark from a Transport.
Raid Vehicle Battle Traits are straight up amazing:
- Thundering Charges gives you a 9” move at the start of the first battle round. Usual restriction of not being able to end up within 9” of enemy models or the enemy’s deployment zone apply.
- Dead Eye treats all of Vehicle’s Heavy and Rapid Fire weapons as Assualt weapons.
- Skilled Flankers makes a return. While in Strategic Reserves, this unit will count the battle round as one higher for the purposes of determining where they can be deployed regardless of any mission rules.
Beanith: All in all, a nice set of Crusade rules. Nothing too broken or complicated and it’s a great thematic Crusade roster. I’m already feeling the itch to dig up all of my biker and land speeder units… Plus I think I may be able to totally justify to myself the purchase of 3 Gladiators.
Norman: I think these rules are neat but I don’t know that I’ll be running to use them unless I was playing in a Rift War specific campaign or already running an army that was already doing this. That said, Ravenwing and White Scars forces that were already doing the speed bit will likely welcome these free extra rules.
Thousand Sons – Arcane Rituals
TheChirurgeon: The Thousand Sons got a new Crusade rule system – Arcane Rituals. Over the course of your games, your Thousand Sons can search for different materials to perform Arcane Rituals. There are three types here – Inscriptions, Souls, and Offerings, and they’re used to perform cool rituals. Use the minimum count – this varies by ritual but they all require one, two, and three of each material – and you get a Basic effect, throw in some extra materials for Tzeentch and you get an Elevated Effect.
There are three Ritual Incantations:
- Summon Daemon – This adds a TZEENTCH DAEMON unit with a power rating of 8 or less to your order of battle, then increase your Order of Battle limit. Or if you throw in some extra souls, you can ignore the power level restriction. I’m… honestly not sure there’s a ton of value to this since you can just add units normally, but it does let you circumvent the RP costs to add units and increase the size of your Order of Battle.
- Blessing of Tzeentch – This lets you pick an Infantry unit in your Order of Battle to gain a free Battle Trait. Add in a couple of offerings and you can roll on a special table that has some primo effects, like getting a 4+ invulnerable save once per game, or getting a 4+ feel no pain against mortal wounds.
- Ethereal Learnings – This has you pick a Sorcerer or Exalted Sorcerer in your Order of Battle to gain a Psychic Fortitude. Toss in some extra Inscriptions and you can get a fortitude from a special table with three bespoke effects that are all pretty powerful.
So how do you get these materials for your Rituals? Well, by accomplishing the three new Agendas – Bind Their Souls, Uncover Lost Tomes, and Ransack Shrines. Each of these is difficult to achieve but completing them will get you Arcane Materials. Alternatively, every time you gain an Arcane Point for your Thousand Sons, you roll a D6 and on a 4+ you get a random Arcane Material.
This makes doing the Rituals a real grind – it’ll likely take a dozen games or more to get the materials you need for a single ritual, which feels right since two of the rituals get you free unit upgrades.
You can also spend your Arcane Points and Offerings/Souls/Inscriptions on a trio of new Crusade Relics. The Warp Blade is the best of these, giving you a S+2, 3 damage Khopesh for you to swing at enemies. Aetheric Siphon is also potentially interesting on a Daemon Prince or other big caster.
TheChirurgeon: On the whole these really add some additional meat to the Crusade rules for Thousand Sons and give them more long-term goals to push toward. It’s not exactly a hunt for the Fallen or conquering worlds, but it does fit what the faction is doing thematically. I think I’d have preferred to see something a bit more like the Admech rules where you are designing or creating rituals of your own with different effects and ingredients, but this works for me overall and isn’t super complicated.
Army of Chaos Undivided Crusade Rules
Remember the Torchbearers rules for the Imperium that let you combine Custodes, Admech, and Primaris marines? The Army of Chaos Undivided is basically that, but for Chaos. (Beanith: I think it’s closer to the Army of Faith from War Zone Nachmund: Vigilus Alone) Here you’ll find rules to let you run every chaos faction in the game together and even run most of them in a single detachment without losing your detachment rules. This ruleset is something a lot of people have wanted since Be’lakor was released so it’s very cool to see it come to fruition here.
First up some ground rules for setting up your Order of Battle. You can only use Chaos units so no Ambulls for any of you freaks out there. When you add a Chaos unit to your army you give them the Army of Chaos Undivided keyword. Lastly, once you start your Chaos Undivided army you’ll have to start tracking points for each of the chaos gods called Dark Patronage Points more on that in a bit.
Mustering an Army of Chaos Undivided
Mustering the army is pretty straightforward if very cool. As a rule you always need to bring a Priest unit (as far as I’m aware the only one available right now is the Dark Apostle). Once you’ve done that all your detachments count as Daemon and Heretic Astartes detachements as well as Thousand Sons and Death Guard detachments so long as you have the troops from respective armies. This means you get all your stratagems from every chaos book in the game giving you access to rules from a grand total of 6 books worth of rules (if you count Chaos Knights), Torchbearers eat your heart out.
Norman: This is so cool and I’m happy GW is doing more with mixed detachment stuff even if trying to keep all your army rules in your head is going to be a herculean task. That said, this enables you to do some really cool stuff with things like daemons buffing daemon engines (Death Guard Players don’t even need to summon Epidemius anymore!). It’s worth noting you don’t get the full army rules for those factions so no contagions or cabal points but this may well be worth it.
Gaining and Losing Dark Patronage Points
On top of the list building flexibility you also have a whole new crusade mechanic to interact with. This is where those Dark Patronage Points I mentioned earlier comes in. These represent your characters vying for the attention of the various chaos gods and can eventually result in powerful (if temporary) upgrades from them. Whenever you win a battle you get D3+1 points for a god matching the keyword of your warlord. If you lose, you lose a point from that respective god’s tally. Lastly, if you kill the enemy warlord, the unit that did it accumulates D3 points for the god they share a keyword with.
There are 4 Agendas for your chaos undivided armies, one for each god, which will help you gain XP while also getting some Dark Patronage Points for your trouble. First up we have Nurgle with Seed Plagues. This has you do an action at the end of your movement that will set up a happy little plague objective marker called a Plague Seed. You can only perform this action if you’re more than 12” away from a previous marker but besides that there are no restrictions on where to do it. For your trouble each unit that did the action gets XP equal to the amount of times they did the action and you get half the total in Dark Patronage Points for Nurgle.
The Khorne Agenda, Champion of Violence, is pretty much exactly what you’d expect. You first pick a Khorne Character from your army to keep a tally for. From there you earn points every time that character kills a unit and bonus points every time you kill a character. At the end of the battle you get double your tally in XP and that many Khorne Dark Patronage Points
For Slaanesh we have Beguiling Majesty. This is another Action based Agenda, asking you to perform an action with a Slaanesh Character within 12” of an enemy Character to attempt to charm them. You roll 3d6 and if you beat their leadership the action is considered successful and that character is considered “influenced”. If these enemy characters attempt to complete an action after being influenced they have to roll a die and on a 5+ the action fails. At the end of the battle, each unit that successfully influenced a character gets 2 xp for every time they influenced them, and you get that many Slaanesh Dark Patronage points. This Agenda falls into the “cool but impractical” category for me since characters usually have pretty high leadership and you don’t generally want to be that close to an enemy character and not charging them or blasting the stuff around them. The action thing is nice but its not very often a character is going to do an action that close to your forces.
Last up we have Tzeentch with Gifted Sorcerers which is another tally Agenda. Every time you do a psychic test or deny a power and roll over a 9 you get a power. At the end of the battle each unit gains experience equal to half their tallies and a number of Tzeentch Dark Patronage Points equal to half the total number of tallies. Straight forward and pretty easy
There are 3 requisitions here for your army of spikemen and they’re all pretty straight forward. The Dark Path lets you take an extra Agenda but it has to be one of the ones from this book. Ceremony of Devotion lets you spend 5 Patronage Points from one of your god’s point pools and give a character of a matching keyword a Blessing of Chaos (more on those below). Lastly we have True Knowledge which lets you spend 8 points from one of your god’s pools to give your Priest the god appropriate prayer. Speaking of which:
There’s a single prayer for each of the chaos god:
- The Khorne one was Imbument of Strength which lets a Khorne Heretic Astartes unit within 6” reroll their wounds in melee, so a better exalted champion effect pretty much.
- From Nurgle we have Sickening Blessing which lets you add 1 to the toughness of a Nurgle Heretic Astartes within 6”.
- On the Slaanesh side of things we have Preternatural Reflexes which gives a Slaanesh Heretic Astartes within 6” -1 to hit in melee
- Last up with Tzeentch there’s The Enneanid which gives all Tzeentch Heretic Astartes Psychers in 6” +1 to cast.
Most of these are really solid and a cool addition to your Dark Apostle’s repertoire.
Blessings of Chaos
Blessings can be gifted to characters for a single battle with the Ceremony of Devotion requisition. While they’re short lived, some of them are really powerful. Each god has a table that you roll a d3 on to determine which blessing you get
- Raw Ferocity – This blessing gives you +1 strength, attacks, and ap in melee. Simple yet effective
- Wall of Anger – This one lets you reroll charges and when you finish your charge you can do between D3 or flat 3 mortals. A nice to but not really a game changer.
- Bastion of Violence – Outside having a sick ass name this one lets you, once per battle, add 4 to the strength of your melee attacks and improve the AP by 3. This one is the winner is rad as fuck to get something to ap -7. Yes its functionally the same as -4 or whatever but who cares I love this.
- Hive of Parasites – You get -1 to wound on incoming ranged attacks and +1 to wound the outgoing ranged attacks. The minus one to wound here is really nice, but the +1 to wound to ranged attacks isn’t the most helpful on most Nurgle characters I can think of. Could be cool on a Lord of Virulence I suppose.
- Unbound Vitality – This one gives you Ultra Transhuman, only allowing you to be wounded on a 5 or higher. Hell Yeah.
- Virulent Rot -Once per battle you can use this ability in the fight phase. When you do, you pick a melee weapon on a model you’re in engagement range of and make that weapon strength “User” and reduce the ap by 2. This one is incredibly funny and its nice to see GW playing around in the space of altering enemy weapon characteristics like this
- Whirlwind Reflexes – Lets you make a failed save damage 0 once per game. Really nice to have in your back pocket
- Whip-like Limbs – With these you can deal some mortals each time you’re selected to fight (between d3 and 3 depending on a d6 roll). Since this procs every time you fight this can be very powerful.
- Blur of Death – This is like the above blessing but it procs when you fall back and as an added treat it lets you fall back and charge.
- Living Flame – Each time an enemy makes a melee attack against your character, 1’s to hit cause mortal wounds to the bearer. Enjoy asking your opponent with Competitive Edge “Why are you hitting yourself” as they mortal wound themselves to death.
- Psychic Puppetry – At the beginning of the game you can select another Tzeentch Psycher to count as using line of sight for and range for all your character’s psychic powers. A very neat little trick.
- Temporal Rift Corridor – Once per battle you can pick up your model and put it more than 9” away from enemy models. Can be really useful since it happens at the end of your turn letting you do a risky charge and then bamf back to the safety of your lines.
Norman: I really like all these rules. The blessings are really powerful and have a couple of effects that feel really unique and interesting while also not being easily spammable. I think this army wants you to take a greater daemon or daemon prince since it wants them active in the fight. It’s worth noting if you’re a lame loser with no imagination and take Belakor or Abaddon when you win battles you can get D3+1 Patronage Points for each god’s pool which is kinda neat but also it is the Goonhammer official stance that taking named characters in crusade is lame and you should be ashamed of yourself if you do it.
TheChirurgeon: I love the new Chaos Crusade rules. The Army of Chaos Undivided is pretty much how I want to run my Chaos guys anyways, mashing together a bunch of different units, and the detachment rules mean I can add Plague Marines to a Chaos Marine detachment without losing Inexorable Advance, which let’s be honest – it’s weird that isn’t a Datasheet ability. I absolutely love the new prayers, which give Priests much better tools than they previously had with their god-specific chants. Then there are the Blessings of Chaos, which are great, and probably a little too good, but the fact that they only last for one game is a cool way to keep that from being too much while also representing the capriciousness of the Chaos gods.
Norman: Overall I don’t think these rulesets are the most impressive that’s ever come out. That said, I really adore the Chaos Undivided rules. Generally I’m for crusade stuff that lets you work with list building that isn’t suitable for matched like the Torchbearers supplement and I’m glad to see more of that. One thing I really do appreciate about these is a lot of armies can just staple these rules onto their Order of Battle with some minor adjustments which makes them easier to see fielded.
TheChirurgeon: There’s a lot of good stuff here that probably should have been part of the Crusade core rules. One of these days we’re gonna have to do a round table on Crusade bloat and which rules are worth using.
Beanith: I almost passed on picking up this book after seeing the Matched Play review but I’m glad to see that there’s plenty of Crusade content this time around. I’m loving the Chaos undivided rules and would be tempted to dip my toes in that one next but I’m still playing with the Armies of Faith from the last Nacho Book.
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