It’s been a while since the Rising Tide in Warzone Octarius reached Critical Mass, and following the same two-book pattern as Warzone Charadon we now move on from Orks and Tyranids grappling with Deathwatch and back to 8th edition debutant Warzone Nachmund, home of the planet Vigilus. We left Vigilus Ablaze in a classic Games Workshop narrative stalemate, with the Imperium “winning” the War of Beasts/Nightmares, but at what cost? The title progression gives a hint, with Vigilus Defiant leading to Vigilus Ablaze and now Vigilus Alone.
Today’s review focuses on the Matched Play side of the book, with new Space Marine datasheets, rules for the Vanguard Spearhead Army of Renown, and a Codex Supplement for the Battle Sisters of the Order of the Bloody Rose; we’ll be turning our attention to the narrative rules on Tuesday. As always, thanks to Games Workshop for providing a review copy of the book; let’s crack it open and see what’s inside.
Space Marine Datasheets
First up in the new rules on offer here are, er, two datasheets that already exist in Codex: Space Marines – and which Warhammer Community already published for free anyway. These are for the new Gravis Captain and Primaris Ancient models, freed from their Dark Imperium purgatory and given new individual plastic kits. The models themselves rock, particularly the Captain, and they also come with new options that they couldn’t take before, and so there’s two fresh (or at least warmed-over) datasheets kicking off the Matched Play section of the book.
Captain in Gravis Armour
Of the two, the Captain is more exciting, since he gains two new weapon options – either a power fist or an Astartes chainsword, as a replacement for the power sword the original was toting around – and also a new special rule. Continuing Games Workshop’s current theme of giving things rules for sick martial arts stances, the Gravis Captain now has “Gravis Fighting Styles,” which lets him make either 3 additional attacks with his chainsword (including the one you already get for just having a chainsword), or 2 additional attacks with his power sword, or 1 with his fist. It’s not hard to see why these were added – having the new options is cool but the model already comes with a boltstorm gauntlet, so it was hard to see why you’d ever swing with the other weapons. You don’t get these extra attacks with Relics, sidestepping the possibility of an 11-attack Captain swinging the Teeth of Terra, though this model does at least provide a Primaris platform for deploying that if you really want to. On some level these feel like a scramble to provide some rules support for a cool sculpt that would otherwise be useless – but that’s not actually a bad thing, and while this isn’t a breakout competitive piece, there’s at least some payoff for painting one if you like the model.
He can replace his bolt rifle with a power sword now. That’s it. That’s the sheet.
Vanguard Spearhead Army of Renown
It wouldn’t be a Warzone book without an army of Renown, and leading off this distinctly Imperium-flavoured book are the Space Marines of the Vanguard Spearhead, which brings all of the slickest tacticool operators in the Space Marine codex together into an army designed just for them.
Restrictions and Benefits
As you’d expect, the Vanguard Spearhead is themed around Vanguard Space Marines, which includes anything with the PHOBOS keyword, plus Suppressors, Invictors, and Impulsors. Notably you can’t include any DEATHWATCH units, presumably because this army is meant to be drawn from the Scout Company and the Deathwatch doesn’t have one.
This is one of the heavier lists of restrictions we’ve seen in a while; with a hundred or so datasheets in the Space Marine codex and its supplements you’re restricted to choosing from just 9, and locked out of any of the special characters except, fittingly, Kayvaan Shrike. So what do you get in return? Well, you get the VANGUARD SPEARHEAD keyword, the Vanguard Operations ability, access to some new Relics and Stratagems as well as the Tools of the Vanguard, plus ObSec for Incursors, Infiltrators, and Reivers. The ability is completely redundant on the first two, but it’s nice for Reivers.
Vanguard Operations is effectively your Chapter Tactic; your units can never gain a normal one (though they don’t lose access to their Chapter’s super doctrine) and get this instead. It has three parts, as follows:
- Your units gain Light Cover against ranged attacks from models more than 18” away;
- INFANTRY get +1 to hit with ranged attacks as long as they make a Normal Move and every model in the unit ends more than 4” away from where it started;
- Your units can consolidate 6” instead of 3”.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag of effects, with a defensive buff, an offensive buff, and some extra combat movement. As a representation of a light guerrilla force using superior movement to its advantage it’s not bad, but with the specific units you have available to you it doesn’t get you very much on the table; about the best thing you can do is utilise the second part with some Iron Hands Suppressors and Eliminators moving and shooting on a 2+ re-rolling 1s with their doctrine. Light Cover in the open is also very good with Eliminators, helpful as you’re probably packing squads with las-fusil in this list as one of your very few sources of serious anti-tank firepower. Since they’re BS2+ base, they can also move and shoot with effectively no penalty all the time in this army, as the +1 for mobility turns off the heavy penalty.
There’s four relics on offer here, with suitably goth-sounding names for the Stealth Marines – The Night’s Blade, The Armour Umbral, Shadow’s Touch, and Morbidus Bolts. The Blade is kind of neat, giving you an AP-3 D2 weapon that always wounds on 2s, and the Armour Umbral causes hit rolls of 1-3 to fail and opens up Advance and charge, but they also expose an immediate weakness of the army – your available characters are not heavy-hitters in melee on baseline, nor are they especially good at getting into a fight in the first place, and these two relic options allow you to solve one but not both of those problems. The Armour would be pretty great on something like the also-appearing-in-this-codex Gravis Captain, but of course he’s the antithesis of a Vanguard Space Marine, while the Blade might be neat on a regular White Scars Lieutenant but of course you lose Advance and charge to be able to pick it.
Shadow’s Touch is actually quite brutal, giving your Phobos Librarian a force sword with a mighty S+3, AP-4, damage 2, and the ability to ignore invulnerable saves (everyone’s favourite new rule!) so long as he manages to cast an Obscuration psychic power, but I’ve never consciously thought “what I want is a Phobos Librarian tooled up for melee” and I don’t think this is enough to change that.
The Bolts, meanwhile, are the classic “take one shot with a bolter” ammo, this time doing 2 mortal wounds on a hit and also causing -1 to Combat Attrition, an effect that half the game ignores anyway. It’s kind of weird to think how many different types of bolter ammo there are now, and how miserly Chapters are about handing them out; surely if you had ammo as lethal as this you’d be handing it out by the crate and not just giving five or so rounds to one officer?
Tools of the Vanguard
What is an operator if not cool gear, persevering? Infiltrators gain two new options here – either a saboteur explosive pack, or a voxbreaker auspex – while Incursors can pick up a marksman target-tracker. These are all exclusive with each other, so you can’t stack them on the same guy and make him carry all the bombs and radios at once. None of them actually do anything except give you an appropriate keyword (e.g. SABOTEUR EXPLOSIVE PACK) which plays into the Stratagems section. They also don’t appear to cost any points, so you might as well take them in every squad.
Finishing off the rules here is a set of 8 Stratagems. Storm of Death gives your Reivers the ability to inflict mortal wounds in melee (only against INFANTRY and BIKERS, probably because of their silly little knives), Ocular Networking grants bonus AP on a 6 to wound with shooting, and Tactical Augury gives one unit the ability to ignore cover. There’s three Stratagems each named for their Tool of the Vanguard – you can use your Sabouter Explosive Pack to bomb a VEHICLE or MONSTER when your unit Falls Back, with a bonus effect against BUILDINGs for you Imperial Fists fans out there, while your Voxbreaker Auspex debuffs an enemy unit’s hit rolls and the Marksman Target-Tracker lets you ignore Look Out Sir with occulus bolt carbines – great if you’re really keen to murder an Eldar Warlock or a Platoon Commander or something.
The standout picks here, both coming in at 2CP, are Dispersal Protocols, which allows a unit to Fall Back at the end of the Fight phase, and Pivotal Moment, which (so long as you’re shooting at the enemy Warlord) allows you to do mortal wounds equal to their Damage characteristic on a successful wound roll. It may cost 4CP, but easily the funniest thing you can do here is combine Pivotal Moment with Marksman Target-Tracker on a big squad to immediately mow down the enemy’s warlord, then high five and retreat to the battle barge for medals and cocktails (or purity seals and holy libations we guess).
Will It See Play?
In an infinite universe all things are possible, but no, probably not. We’re not even sure who this is for; is there a big constituency out there of people who really love Vanguard Space Marines and wanted a whole army built around them?
Taken as individual pieces the rules aren’t a complete bust; there’s options here that if they were just in Codex: Space Marines you might find yourself using. They’re far from enough to make you want to accept the heavy restrictions the AoR demands, though. The best use case here is probably if you’re playing smaller games and are getting into Marines via the purchase of their Combat Patrol – the units in that are all compatible with this army, and it would give you a way to try out a quite different playstyle from a regular chapter without it invalidating whatever painting choices you’d made. In addition, just being Space Marines tends to carry quite a bit more weight at Combat Patrol and Incursion game sizes, so you’ll probably suffer a bit less from the army’s drawbacks and blindspots. Maybe give that a try if you want something a bit different for your next kitchen table showdown, but don’t expect this to tear up tournament tables.
Codex Supplement: Order of the Bloody Rose
The third piece of the Matched Play puzzle in this book is a codex supplement for the Order of the Bloody Rose. Much like their sisters in the Order of the Martyred Lady, the Bloody Rose get a set of new Warlord traits, relics, and Stratagems, reflecting their Order’s individual fighting style – except for the ones that are copies of things from the OML supplement, anyway.
An important thing to point out here is that in one respect a copy-paste job would have been a big help, because the Bloody Rose have suffered twin misfortunes in their access to these rules. First, the definition of a “Bloody Rose Detachment” makes no mention of the SANCTIFIED keyword, so if you include Morvenn Vahl, Saint Celestine, the Triumph of Saint Katherine or Aestred Thurga in a detachment it doesn’t count as being Bloody Rose and you get none of the new stuff. Second, the Warlord traits are only accessible if your Warlord is an ORDER OF THE BLOODY ROSE CHARACTER – which pretty much rules out Vahl anyway, since she has to be your Warlord and is of course not a Bloody Rose character. These are both weird missteps; no other subfaction rules require you to have a same-faction Warlord to access the Warlord traits (it’s normally just the relics) and getting more restrictions than the Martyred Lady on using Named Characters is just weird. Hopefully both will be errataed shortly, and given that this even excludes things like Hospitallers (unless you bring two detachments, you only need one pure one to unlock strats) we think it probably will.
There’s three new options here – Fiery Example, giving your Warlord +1 to wound against enemy CHARACTERs in melee and generating 2 Miracle Dice if they destroy a character in melee, Incandescent Reprisal, which gives them a 5+ to ignore wounds and a once per phase ability to either shoot or fight if they were wounded by an enemy unit that shot/fought them (functioning as a kind of free interrupt in the latter case), and Red-handed Castigator, which gives you an automatic 6 on any Miracle dice generated in a phase where your Warlord killed an enemy unit, plus re-rolls to hit in the first round of melee.
Of the three Fiery Example seems most likely to find its way into lists – you can make a pretty ok character assassin with this and Mina’s Wrath – and the free interrupt from Incandescent Reprisal may offer surprising utility. There’s also a general boost here to Bloody Rose’s capacity for generating and manipulating Miracle dice, which we’ll see extended in the Relics section.
As well as the three Warlord traits, there’s three new Relics here – Mina’s Wrath, a 2-damage power sword that does mortal wounds on a 6 to wound, the Armour of True Sacrifice, which grants a 2+ save and a Miracle dice if your Warlord suffers any wounds in a phase, and the Icon of the Crimson Martyr, a relic for an Imagifier which gives her an extra Wound and a new Tale of the Martyr, which gives you a Miracle dice if a BLOODY ROSE CORE unit within 6” of the Imagifier was destroyed in a phase (except the Morale phase).
As noted above, you get more options on Miracle dice here from the Armour and Icon, in a form which fits the Bloody Rose’ theme quite well. Nothing that feels like a slam-dunk that you write at the top of every army list, but decent B-grade selections.
Rounding out the content here are eight new Stratagems. From the Battle Tactics, Scourge of the Penitent gives Repentia +1 to charge if sufficiently motivated by a nearby Repentia Superior, Wade into the Foe (previewed already on Warhammer Community) gives Paragon Warsuits the ability to do extra hits in melee on an unmodified 4+ to hit as long as they’re targeting a unit of 6 or more models, and Clear the Flanks lets you pick one enemy unit within 6” of a non-player board edge and get re-roll 1s to wound against it with Heavy weapons. That last one looks a lot more interesting in a world where you’re restricted to mono-faction; you generally only took Bloody Rose Retributors before when you’d run out of slots in your other detachments, but if you have to now then getting a buff to your shooting, even if it’s fairly restrictive, is useful.
Probably the pick of the bunch here is Carry Forth the Faithful, a Stratagem which lets you pre-game move a TRANSPORT; you can’t use it on a ride with Dominions in at all, and it costs 2CP if there’s Retributors or Repentia in there, and 1CP otherwise. Not cheap, but the ability to get a turn 1 charge off with some Repentia isn’t to be sniffed at, and being able to smuggle 10 Sacresants most of the way up the board for 1CP is a steal.
Otherwise you have Outrage of the Matriarch, which gives your characters +1 to wound rolls and two extra points of AP on a 6 to wound in melee when they’re targeting an enemy model with a Wounds characteristic higher than theirs, and Catechism of Wrathful Defiance, which is essentially Lightning Fast Reactions for CORE units, except it’s an aura that works on enemy units within 6” of them (and so best used on something you expect to end up in melee). Closing out the section here is Savage Twist, giving an INFANTRY unit +1 Damage on 6s to wound in melee (but importantly not with a “close combat weapon” – so you can’t get anything out of regular Battle Sisters here, you have to use it on something with a real weapon), and Fuelled by Rage, a straight copy of the OML Stratagem A Martyr’s Duty that lets models shoot or attack on death on a 4+, with the twist that it costs 2CP for Retributors.
It’s an interesting selection – nothing in here feels especially like it’s transformative, but it adds some new things to the Bloody Rose toolbox. Fuelled by Rage and Clear the Flanks in particular seem aimed at supporting the Retributors you will now have to actually use as Bloody Rose if you want to play them at all. Realistically, although Sisters take a hit they probably are one of the most likely to see use in the mono-faction world, so this only helps them.
Will It See Play?
Maybe? In light of the new CA2022 rules on mono-faction armies, the question is broader and is really “will anyone run pure Bloody Rose?” which remains to be seen – as does “will people run Sisters at all?” after they also got some chunky hits from points increases. The good thing about these compared to the Vanguard Spearhead above is that they are effectively free real estate, because if you’re running Bloody Rose then you just get this stuff, though it’s worth remembering the restrictions outlined above as they relate to SANCTIFIED characters and Morvenn Vahl in particular if you’re choosing to include her. Assuming that all of the above ends up at “yes, Bloody Rose gets on the table” then you’ll see stuff from this included for sure; besides anything else Carry Forth the Faithful nicely boosts the Repentia-missile strategy, and Fuelled by Rage can help get a bit more mileage out of units when they hit the dirt – even if more expensively than Martyred Lady achieves the same.
The inescapable conclusion here is that in terms of Matched Play content this book just isn’t very good. Merely by volume it has the least stuff of any campaign book to date, with just one Army of Renown and one Codex Supplement, plus some minor datasheet updates (which raise an incidental question as regards the 40k app – if you don’t buy this book, but do own Codex: Space Marines, can you no longer access the sheets at all or do you just get the old, deprecated ones from the Codex?).
It’ll be genuinely surprising if the Vanguard Spearhead ever hits the tables at an RTT, let alone troubles a GT, and the datasheets are just minorly tweaked datasheets for units with fringe play to begin with, so that just leaves the Bloody Rose supplement. If you’re playing a Bloody Rose army then sure, you’ll get this stuff, though whether deliberately or by error you get some extra list-building restrictions compared to normal. For matched play purposes, nobody else need apply, which makes this book quite a damp squib.
The better news is that if you are at all interested in campaign or Crusade play, the sections relating to those are reviewed separately, and we’re much more positive about them.
As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, or just want to show us your sick Phobos Marines that have been just waiting for this Army of Renown to hit the table in full stride, then let us know below or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.