White Dwarf 466: Flashpoints and Torchbearers Review

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After a brief bit of downtime in last month’s White Dwarf with the excellent A Fell Tide mission, we’re back up to full speed in issue 466, jumping into the action in the Octarius Sector. This new Flashpoint details the Imperium’s attempts to stymie the spread of Hive Fleet Leviathan across the sector and introduces us to a new marines chapter, new agendas, relics, and traits, as well as a new warzone and mission. There’s a ton here and we’re excited to dive into it in this month’s review.

The Dark Krakens Space Marine Chapter

Rob: Kicking off the Octarius Sector Flashpoint series, we are immediately introduced to the Dark Krakens Space Marines, an Ultima Founding Chapter that the Designers suggest are a Successor Chapter of the Salamanders, along with Datasheets for Krijeny, Captain of the 5th Company and his plucky sidekick, Paraon the Bookkeeper. The issue recommends they be played with the Fearsome Aspect and Indomitable Chapter Traits. 

Unlike the previous chapter rules published for the Tome Keepers and Exorcists, the rules for the Dark Krakens aren’t intended for use in Matched or Competitive Play, and instead the two characters provided are only available in Crusade games being played in the Octarius Flashpoint (though feel free to play them elsewhere if you’re playing Crusade games – GW’s not your dad). Thankfully, despite this Crusade focus, we get points values for both models in the issue – good call, White Dwarf.

The weird downside here is that, while both models are from a Salamanders successor chapter, neither makes use of that, and both just pull rules from Codex: Space Marines when it comes to traits and powers.

Beanith: The Designer recommends the Fearsome Aspect and Indomitable Chapter Traits. I (and probably my colleagues) would recommend almost any other Chapter Trait. I’d probably plum for the old standby Hungry for Battle and Whirlwind of Rage

Condit: This is honestly one of the weaker installments as far as chapter supplements go – having a couple named characters is nice, I guess, but the lack of anything to really give any flavor to the Chapter at large is glaring.

Also, they need to stop “recommending” Successor Chapter Tactics. Either pick a set and stick with the consequences or don’t. The only thing half-assing it like this is going to do is set players up for bad matches when there’s a disconnect over how strong those “recommendations” are.

Krijeni Luceior

Rob: The Captain of the Dark Krakens’ 5th Company (he comes with the Master of Marches honorific), Krijeni is a Primaris Captain in power armor who comes armed with a pair of relics – Raven’s Reach and Ice Piercer – and the Hunter of Great Beasts rule, which gives him re-rolls to wound against MONSTER units. Raven’s Reach is an upgraded Master-Crafted Stalker Bolt Rifle, sporting S5, while Ice Piercer is an upgraded Master-Crafted Power Sword, also sporting an additional point of strength. At 15 points over a standard Primaris Captain, Luceior is reasonably costed and a fun include if you’re going up against Tyranids. The downside is that he’s locked into the Fear Made Manifest Warlord Trait as your Warlord.

Condit: A perfectly fine character who also doubles as the solution to “Tell me you’re here to fight Tyranids without telling me you’re here to fight Tyranids.” The fact that none of his bonuses actually force him into that is particularly nice as it neatly sidesteps the classic Deathwatch Problem of “what do I do if I’m fighting Marines?”

Paraon Uari

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rob: A librarian of the chapter, Uari comes with Nightclaimer, a S+2, 2-damage power sword, and has the Wave Caller ability, which gives him +1 mortal wound inflicted when using Witchfire powers. That’s a pretty handy ability, though Uari is unfortunately only able to take powers from the Librarius Discipline – it could have been interesting when paired with Flaming Blast. As-is, it’s going to be most interesting with Fury of the Ancients, where you can double the number of mortal wounds you’re doing to everything under the line you draw between yourself and the target.

Condit: Of course, if your Campaign Master is nice enough to let you dip into the Promethean Discipline from the Salamanders supplement, Flaming Blast would be neat. Just keep in mind that what would have been the star of the show here – Burning Hands – doesn’t work since it’s a Blessing, not Witchfire. Oh well.

Rob: Yeah I’m not 100% on how this guy interacts with the Salamanders discipline – named characters tend to tell you what disciplines they can take, e.g. Tigurius straight-up says you can take his powers from Indomitus or Librarius, and this guy doesn’t technically have to use the Salamanders discipline anyways, so as a GM I’d probably give side-eye to anyone asking to use a different discipline.

Overall these are cool enough, but without stratagems or relics to build around I’m not sure what would compel someone to actually use these or build a Dark Krakens army – the appeal of Crusade is making your own characters, and many narrative players either scorn the use of named characters in Crusade campaigns or ban them outright. If you’re going to give us custom marine chapters for Crusade-only play, it’s better to give us new rules than it is to give us named characters.

Beanith: I generally don’t like Named Characters in my Crusade games, they don’t gain experience so there’s no character growth or real story to tell beyond what is already in the Lore. Sure they get a warlord trait free but everything is static – you’ve got a Captain with a fixed title that will never advance to the heady rank of Legendary and get to play with Vortex Grenades. Also who chooses Master of Marches when you could take Chief Victualler and drive everyone nuts by referring to him as the Iron Chef?

The Mission

Dangerous Specimens is a Strike Force mission, which can be played using either Eternal War or Crusade rules. The narrative hook is fun, with the Dark Krakens protecting the local wildlife from Tyranids. Not for Steve Irwin reasons: the Krakens are hoping to keep the violence genes and different types of claws or venom out of the hands of the Hive Mind. This altruism (or hunger) comes at a cost – any unit within range of an objective marker rolls 4 dice at the start of the Battle Round, and takes a Mortal Wound for any 1s. As long as the dice are on your side, there’s minimal risk, but this has the potential to create some extremely memorable (for better or worse) game-changing moments.

The next special rule for this mission is Desperate Intervention, where every unit in the Defender’s army (excluding Titanic units) is eligible to make Heroic Interventions as if it were a Character unit.

Toss in Dense Forests allowing the Attacker to redeploy up to three Infantry units at the end of the Deploy Forces step and you’ve got yourself a pretty interesting mission.

Beanith: Not bad for a White Dwarf mission. No tables to keep track of each round or changing conditions, but still some extra Mission Rules to keep things interesting. Holding objectives have the potential to be pretty brutal especially if you use those green dice that you swear are cursed…

The Theatre of War

Credit: Warhammer Community

Greg: Theaters of War end up being too much again, though this one at least cuts down on the amount of things to track and tables to roll on. This is our first visit to Octarius, to a place called Bianzeer’s Hollow. Battles here will be fought on the charming and accurately named Mirror Sea of Death. It sounds horrible.

Narratively, the theater is something new: the rules are meant to represent fighting underwater, on the floor of the sea. All those blue water mats you bought for A Fell Tide are going to see continued use. There’s a designer’s note explaining how little sense this makes (finally a reason to put helmets on all your HQs! Flyers just kind of work or whatever! What is going on with Orks??) Welcome to X-Com 40,000: Terror from the Deep. Conditnote: You have no idea how long I have been waiting for this.

Mechanically, your wet army is going to have to deal with some challenges. The first two rules are simple, but nasty enough to change most army’s strategies entirely, regardless of whether you’re running a punch list or a shoot list: Restricted Movement is -1 to move and -2 to charge, and Modified Weaponry halves the range of all attacks. It’s the third where we see that classic GW touch, with the Predators From The Deep table. This is a d6 table, rolled on at the start of the battle round. Results run the gamut from “nothing” to “the unit with the highest total number of Wounds rolls 2d6 minus movement and is devoured to the tune of d3 Mortals for every point they fail by”. The other two options involve fewer dice, but result in either Mortal Wounds or slower movement.

I love this thematically, if not mechanically. It’s cool, but the problem 40k has with these kinds of things is that it’s not a video game. It’s all well and good to make a different biome digitally – a desert map, an ice map, a sewer planet – but a lot of that visual oomph is lost when you’re probably playing on the same mat and terrain that you already had. Map-based expansion packs, which is basically what Theaters of War are to 40k, only work if you put in the work to construct an entire experience around them. The main part of this being the tablescape and terrain, which is a fairly big ask unless you happen to own a game store. Even if you swap all your light bulbs for low-wattage blue gels, miniature tabletop gaming is just not well suited to capturing the cinematic feel here, and without that, they may as well be regular missions, only with extra rules to forget. As much as we appreciate the Out There nature of fighting on the seabed, it feels like maybe an overreach.

The idea of these wacko mission settings is great, but it’s not terribly compatible with wargaming as a hobby. At this point I think GW would be better served making Theaters of War for relatively common and universally-applicable places like an Eldar Craftworld, or Tyranid Invasion, than goofball one-offs like the bottom of the ocean.

The rules are fine. Nerfing both assault movement and shooting ranges at least makes this a slog for both parties, without unduly advantaging one particular build. As long as you don’t roll the Gargantuan Carcharosaur result, the Predators from the Deep table isn’t going to be anything anyone remembers.

Beanith: Anyone else have “Under the Sea” stuck in their head after reading this one? Bonus points if you also ended up picturing Greg as a Tyranid Lobster hybrid on top of that as well. That aside, I really like the Deadly Environment rule which rewards you with additional experience and a Requisition point for taking part in this mission. I can think of a few of the Flashpoint Charadon theatres that could also stand to use that rule penciled in.   

The Torchbearers Crusade Rules

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rob: Something introduced in these rules is the idea of a Torchbearers army, a force of Greyshield primaris marines who have been assigned to reinforce a chapter of marines, but haven’t yet been able to locate that chapter – perhaps their whereabouts are unknown or they’ve been eradicated in the period of confusion and strife following the creation of the Cicatrix Maledictum. These rules detail how you can build such an army and follow them as they gain confidence and finally locate and assimilate into their new chapter.

A Torchbearers Crusade force starts by picking a single Space Marines chapter to be searching for, and uses Search Points to track their progress locating the chapter. During the Search phase, your Order of Battle can only include Primaris units with the Greyshields keyword, Adeptus Mechanicus units, and Custodes units. Greyshields get their own chapter tactic, Blooded Reinforcements, which gives them +1 Ld and one re-roll to hit when picked to shoot or fight.

The upside is that Torchbearers armies can theoretically* create mixed detachments of Primaris marines, Mechanicus, and Adeptus Custodes models, and the detachment counts as a full detachment of each as long as it has one or more units in the detachment. This mixing doesn’t stop you from gaining rules that require every model in your army to have a specific keyword, and you still get a Chapter Tactic (Greyshields) on your marines. The only catch is that you have to include at least one Troops choice for each faction if you want to add a non-Troops choice to the detachment.

*Note that I say “theoretically” here because Torchbearers isn’t a faction keyword and so this isn’t a legal matched play detachment with the rules as written. GW flubbed this with Be’lakor’s Army of Renown recently as well. They’re never ever going to errata this, so this is where your good old buddy Rob can help out with some OFFICIAL GOONHAMMER ERRATA:

White Dwarf issue 466 Flashpoints, Search Phase: Change the text of the last paragraph to read “Each time a unit is added to a Torchbearers Order of Battle during the Search Phase of your Crusade campaign, that unit gains the TORCHBEARERS Faction Keyword.”

Greg: Gregshields.

Beanith: At first I was thinking this was a cool excuse to smoosh three of my armies together into the one Crusade roster, and then Galaxy Brain struck and ruined it for Campaign Masters everywhere. Thanks to the two bullet points where you count as a Admech/Custodes/Marine detachment and the other allowing you to ignore the bit about every model in your army needing to have the same keyword, you can have Lucius Skitarii running around with Canticles/Doctrinas alongside Objective Secure Custodes Shield-Captains on Dawneagle Jetbikes. I was tempted to argue for multiple Forgeworlds in the same detachment but then Condit said I was a bad person so I stopped scraping the bottom of that particularly murky barrel.

Rob: You can’t have units from two forge worlds in the same Detachment. You still get Doctrinas/Canticles in a mixed Admech/Marines/Custodes Torchbearers Detachment, though.

Condit: I hate this set of rules because it has done two absolutely terrible things: 1) it made me want to buy AdMech, and 2) it made me want to buy Custodes. Abandon your wallet, all ye who enter here.

The Search for Your Chapter

Rob: The bulk of the Torchbearers Crusade revolves around searching for your chapter. There are 4 Agendas provided, and each one gives you the chance to earn Search Points that represent your army making progress in its search for the chapter. One of these has you hunt down a crashed survivor with crucial information, while another lets you trade picking a unit to be Marked for Greatness for 4 Search Points. They’re pretty solid and well thought-out, and you can double the number you’ll get in your next battle by spending 1 RP on the Scour the Area Requisition.

Once you have at least 15 Search Points, you can spend 3 RP on the Convergence of Signs Requisition, which has you roll a D6 for a chance to find your chapter. Higher numbers of Search Points make this easier to pull off, starting at a 6+ for 15-17 Search Points and dropping down to 2+ at 27 or more. Pass the check and you’ve done it!

Greg: A neat little bonus here is that passing the check and moving to the Bonding Phase increases your supply limit by 15, which effectively pays for the 3RP that the requisition cost, and also gives you a bunch of space on your order of battle to start recruiting more battle bros.

The Bonding Phase

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rob: Once you’ve located your chapter, you move on to the Bonding Phase – now you can add non-Primaris Space Marines units to your army as long as they’re drawn from the chapter you picked back when you created your army. From this point on, each time one of your Greyshields fights in a battle with a non-primaris marine unit, you give it +1 Battle Brothers point. More points!

These Battle Bros points (Note to self: Send GW a cease-and-desist over their use of the Goonhammer “BATTLE BROS” trademark that we definitely really own) are necessary to formally induct your greyshields into the chapter – 5 for characters and 3 for other units. At this point you can use the Induction Requisition for 3 RP, which replaces your Greyshield keyword with the chapter keyword and now they’re considered to be REAL BOYS in the chapter. Once you induct five units into your chapter, you can start adding Primaris units.

This is a lot of points – it’s going to take you at least five games before you can do this, and probably more like a dozen – and a lot of RP. That said, this also means it won’t be something you can do right away, though the payoff – being able to take old marines and then add new primaris later – is a bit whatever, making this much more of a narrative track you’d want to pursue. I think that’s a good thing overall, however – Crusade needs more narratives you can follow that have arcs to them.

Greg: This is something Warhammer needed more of: rules for making friends. The search/bonding phases are easily my favorite part of this supplement. In a slow-grow or escalation Crusade, this would be a great way to build an army and start a new chapter. I’m too far in the tank with my Dark Angels to consider a second marine army, but I’ll admit that I was sorely tempted by it. Slowly moving from a mixed-Imperium/Primaris army, to adding oldmarines, then finally back to Primaris, swapping Chapter keywords along the way, is an intoxicating hook, and lets the player tell their own story in a unique way that we haven’t seen before.

Beanith: I’m with Greg on this one, this by far is my favorite section as well. Your Greyshields have found their Chapter but they still need to bond with the smaller boys and learn their ways before joining the Chapter proper and learning the secret behind being harder to hit at range for example if they were joining say the Raven Guard.

Condit: I cannot get over how cool this is, particularly as an Iron Hands player: you start with some Space Marines who are all doing pretty well and ready to go and then they show up and an Iron Father chops off their hand with an axe and goes “welp, now you ignore one-sixth of fatal wounds; congratulations, Brother-Calculator.” Meanwhile, the AdMech look on approvingly and the three token Custodes wonder what the hell they said to the Emperor 15 millennia ago to get them saddled with this dogshit assignment. Just absolutely the greatest shit I’ve ever seen.

Relics

Rob: There are four relics for Infantry characters in Torchbearers armies and two of them are exclusive to space marines. The Stalker Helm lets its bearer ignore the Look Out, Sir rule and gives the bearer +1 to hit and wound on ranged attacks – very nasty for a Primaris captain with a master-crafted stalker-pattern bolt rifle or a tech priest manipulus sporting a magnarail lance. The Blade of Bonding replaces a sword with one that’s S+2, AP-5, 2 damage with the opportunity to do an extra 2 mortal wounds every time you roll a 6 to wound – also very nasty.

If you’re looking for something a little less combat-focused and likely to annoy your friends, the Helix-pattern Narthecium upgrades your Apothecary/Sanguinary Priest to give a single friendly infantry/biker model within 3” a one-turn 5+ ignore wounds roll once per game. And the lone Antiquity relic in the bunch is the Orb of Cleansing, passed from Greyshield chapter to chapter, capable of clouding psykers’ control; you can activate it once per game to do mortal wounds to each enemy psyker within 12” and give all psykers -1 to cast within 12” until your next turn.

These are pretty neat, and they add some cool extra flavor to a Torchbearers chapter that makes them feel like More of a Thing.

Greg: It’s a short list of Relics, but any one of them would be a good pickup. If I have one change I’d want, it’s that I wish the -1 to psychic tests on the Orb was game-long instead of one round. After having to advance to Heroic just to get the thing, I’d like to see more than one turn of usefulness – the mortal wounds can stay as-is, I suspect those might be too pushed already. I expect better from Orbs, or really crystals in general.

Battle Traits

Greg: This is a fairly short list, with just two traits available to three kinds of units: Space Marine characters, AdMech Tech-Priests, and Adeptus Custodes characters. What’s fun about these rules is that, befitting the cross-faction nature of the Torchbearers, all of the abilities allow units from one faction to benefit the others. It’s hard to be too bothered by the paucity of AdMech and Marine options, since those factions have their own codex and supplements to pull from, but Custodes are left a little in the lurch here. 

Fortunately the two Custodes traits are solid. Martial Exemplar lets a Custodes character hand out melee hit re-rolls to a Marine CORE unit within 6”. This is good. Fearless Fleetwarden, after the character makes a charge, gives all Torchbearers within 12” re-rolls to their own charges, as long as they’re charging a unit in engagement range of the character. This is potentially game-winning, especially paired with deep-striking Terminators or the like, in addition to making the Custode in question become unspeakably cool.

On the Space Marines side, we have Tactical Coordination, to effectively give Bolter Discipline to a Custodes unit, and Unity of Purpose, to give And They Shall Know No Fear to a Torchbearers unit within 3”. These are great, both crunch-wise and for showing that even Custodes can stand to learn a thing or two from the Astartes. Admittedly, Unity of Purpose is best used on Mechanicus units, since attrition tests aren’t something Custodes will have to deal with too often, but it’s nice to have the option.

Finally, we have the Adeptus Mechanicus Tech-Priest traits. Master of Munitions offers a single-use discount of 1CP on a Custodes or Astartes Wargear stratagem, which is such a broadly useful bonus that it may as well be “get 1 extra CP in every single game”. The other, Primogeneer Mechanicum, allows a single Custodes or Astartes VEHICLE unit to auto-pass their Out Of Action test, assuming the Tech-Priest was present for, and didn’t die during, the battle. We’ve seen that trait before, but the cross-faction use is gold, especially since Custodes have never had access to it before – and for a limited-model-count army like them, anything you can do to avoid taking Battle Scars is worth taking.

Final Thoughts

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Rob: Overall I really like the Torchbearers stuff. Crusade has a lot of “ad hoc” story stuff – most narratives are written after the battle, not through the rules themselves or any structure a player can follow ahead of time – which makes them feel more like meandering point treadmills than actual narratives. The Torchbearers stuff doesn’t have amazing payoffs but does allow you to tell the story of a pivotal moment in your custom chapter’s history and it has a set beginning, middle, and end. That’s really cool and I’d like to see them do more things in that vein – the Charadon books *kind of* do this with their campaigns, but the Crusade books haven’t quite hit the mark yet. They have some good mechanics, but less around telling the actual story. 

It’d be cool to see them find a way to do this without adding another points total to tally up, however – there are a lot of those already.

Greg: I really like the Crusade part of this supplement. I’m not going to do it, but someone will, and they should. Having a meta-game quest to essentially found your own chapter is a satisfying thing to work towards, and playing out the whole Indomitus Crusade like an RPG campaign is exactly the kind of mechanic that Crusade is perfect for, telling an edition-long origin story about Your Guys. It still involves tallying up more points, but as a long-term goal it beats “putting a commander into a Dreadnought”. I’d still like to see a Crusade addition that follows a character as they rise through the ranks from Battle Brother, through Sergeant and Lieutenant, to Captain or even Chapter Master (replace that with Eldar Exarch, Chaos Daemon Prince, or T’au Shas’o, if you like), but this is essentially doing the same thing at the army level, and is extremely dope. The thing I really love about these rules is that, other than the quantity of some of the Agenda rewards, and the “did you find your dad” roll to end the Search phase, absolutely none of it is random. The agency stays with the player – not the dice – the entire time.

The warzone parts – the mission and the Theater of War – I’m just OK with. The concept is interesting, but I think the mission is better than the Theater and honestly neither one really grabs me. Could make for a fun one-off game if you really lean into the Bit, but I’m not itching to play it. That said, Fell Tides was always going to be a tough act to follow, and this isn’t a bad attempt.

I legit forgot about the Dark “Punished” Krakens right up until I was giving this a final edit pass, so I guess that’s my review of that part of this content.

Condit: I’m a huge fan of the Torchbearers rules, but the rest of this supplement doesn’t quite get there for me. The mission is neat, I guess, but isn’t incredible, and I’ve yet to see a Theater of War that couldn’t stand to have a random table or two removed. And the new characters, while interesting, don’t come with anything else to really set the Dark Krakens apart, making them pretty bog-standard (or sub-standard, if you use the “recommended” traits) Salamanders successors, which feels like a missed opportunity.

That being said, the worst I can say about any of the stuff here is that it’s kind of lackluster, and the Torchbearers stuff is legitimately one of the coolest ideas they’ve had yet, which, if you’ve read any of our previous Crusade coverage, you’ll know is high praise. Not everyone will be able to use these rules, but if you’ve got a few Custodes and some Skitarii sitting around, it’s definitely worth chasing this particular story for a while.

Beanith: Massive fan of this month’s Flashpoint and if wasn’t for the Ork codex dropping next weekend for the lucky few that managed to get the Beast Snagga box (at least it’s only another 3 week wait for every other ork player) I’d be setting up my Torchbearer Crusade roster right now. I would caution people to sit down with their Campaign Master and set up some boundaries because as it stands you will have a ton of books to pull from with regards to Relics, Skills, Scars, etc. Not so much an issue for the Custodes  but there are some cool Admech stuff to mix in with your Torchbearers.

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at contact@goonhammer.com.

 

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