White Dwarf 467: Flashpoint Octarius – Bianzeer’s Hollow Part 2

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We are returning to the icy world of Death of Bianzeer located in the Bianzeer’s Hollow System of the Octarius Sector that we were introduced to in last month’s White Dwarf issue 466. With the memory of the excellent Torchbearer Crusade rules, Greg dressed as a giant lobster and not the forgettable Dark Krakens, we’re excited to be heading to the Ice fields of Death of Bianzeer in issue 467. This new Flashpoint details the Imperium’s attempts to use the planet’s terrain against the Hive Fleet Leviathan and introduces us to the Kill Team Galiel, and a variety of cool new Relics. There’s a ton here and we’re excited to dive into it in this month’s review.

Greg: I guess I didn’t read the fluff very closely last time. I previously thought the planet was just called Bianzeer, which sounds like a rejected Phoenix Lord, but I guess the proper name is Death of Bianzeer, you have to say the whole thing. Weird name for a planet but go off, White Dwarf. It’s also nice to see the Dark “Punished” Krakens show up again, after getting absolutely styled on by the Torchbearer rules. We can only hope they make more of an impression this time.

 

 

Theatre of War – Ice Fields of Death of Bianzeer

Beanith: “Tonight’s forecast, a freeze is coming” It’s the usual Theatre of War and another three extra rules to remember during the game but I think they got the balance pretty good this time. We are returning to Bianzeer’s Hollow and this time the battles here will be fought on the picturesque Ice Fields of Death of Bianzeer. It does sound horrible, but remember “In this universe, there’s only one absolute. Everything Freezes”

Icy Floes represents the inherent dangerous footing of the icy fields. Any time a unit makes an advances or charge roll, for each dice result of a 1 or 2, they suffer 1 mortal wound. “Stay cool, Bird-boy”, and watch your step.

Greg: I honestly adore this, even though (and probably because) it sucks. Adding injury to insult by killing models when you whiff a crucial charge or advance roll is the ice-ing on the cake. If I have one objection here, it’s that they should have called the Theatre “Fields of Ice of Death of Bianzeer” instead, because it sounds better (worse) that way.

“Now, here’s where everything goes north” with Swirling Ice Storm, because when making ranged attacks further than 24”, hit rolls of 1-4 will fail, regardless of any other special rules from weapons or models.

Greg: You can certainly play Orks and simply not care about this rule, but it definitely boosts the value of Chapter Master style full re-rolls. No reason not to move and shoot your Heavy weapons either.

All told, this is one of the better Theatre of War ruleset, for the simple reason that the rules are consistent and easy to remember – they don’t change based on attacker/defender, or Battle Round, etc. There are no exceptions to the rules, not even if a unit can FLY: nobody shoots well, and footing is precarious. The rules aren’t, and frankly shouldn’t be, balanced per se, but it’s a nice touch that while Swirling Ice Storm is a problem for shooting armies, Icy Floes does the same for punching armies.

The Avalanche effect Credit: White Dwarf

“All right everyone, Chill”. Devastating Avalanches is the major set piece of this Flashpoint. A series of avalanches advance 8” across the board for 3 battle rounds (starting on round 2, giving you time to get out of the way), causing Mortal Wounds to those non-FLYing units caught in its path, before becoming Difficult terrain for the rest of the game. On the plus side, as the avalanche area grows, these areas will also count as both Light and Heavy Cover for the rest of the game as well.

Beanith: I quite like this one at Strike Force battlesize (44” x 60”) especially since the edge from where the avalanche comes in is a randomly determined edge that isn’t a Player’s battlefield edge. Not really an issue with Dawn of War style deployment, “It’s a Cold town” with one third of the map affected but could you imagine this taking place on a Hammer and Anvil style deployment? “I will blanket the city in endless winter” with over half the map eventually affected.

I probably wouldn’t recommend trying out this Flashpoint at Combat Patrol/Incursion table size (22”x30” or 44” x 30”) despite the utterly hilarious possibility of having the entire board eventually crushed in an avalanche. You might even ask yourself “Can you feel it coming? The icy cold of space”.

Greg: It’s interesting to see this here. In my initial flip through these pages, I saw a map and some rules, and my brain assumed this would be a mission. It’s not. The avalanche rules are part and parcel of the Theatre of War. I still think they’re cool, and between the random allocation, the turn 2 start, and the avalanche zone not being anyone’s table edge, it’s not set up in a way that’s going to forcibly remove large parts of your army before you get a chance to interact with the rules. Also, the Mortal Wounds are a single event at the start of the turn – and even decrease from d6 (!) to d3 to just 1 as the avalanche slows down – but the cover benefits last all game, so clever use of ice skating uphill can provide huge benefits.

Rob: Yeah I did the same thing, being like “oh whatever, a mission.” But coming back to read these, they actually whip ass. They remind me a lot of the volcanic eruption rules from Vigilus Defiant’s battlezone, and I wouldn’t play them on any deployment but Hammer and Anvil, just to ensure the most possible effect on your game. It’s a cool effect that advantages some units in a fun way without being insane. Now I just need to figure out how to model this on a table without pouring a bucket of white flock out…

Deadly Environment makes a return rewarding those brave enough to use these rules on top of whatever Crusade game they are playing with additional experience and Requisition points.

 

Deathwatch Killteam

Photo Credit: Musterkrux

Kill Team Galiel

Yet again, the Dark Krakens are stunted on in their own warzone. The Torchbearer fleets have moved on, but in their place comes the Deathwatch, and their unique “character”, Kill Team Galiel.

This is a customized Kill Team, which has 8 models and a vestigial Combat Squads special rule. It’s basically a Proteus team that loses the mandatory Biker and keywords, but in return picks up a special rule, Hunters in the Darkness, that lets them ignore any effects which would reduce the range of their shooting attacks. They clock in at 220 points and have the Aquila Specialism (re-roll 1s to wound against two different Battlefield Roles) for free. This doesn’t stop you from taking a second unit with that Specialism.

The models you get are: A Heavy Thunderhammer Sergeant, 4 Veterans armed with Stalker Bolter/Infernus Heavy Bolter/2 Shotguns, one TH/SS Terminator, and two Vanguard Veterans – one with dual claws and the other with a Plasma Pistol and Power Sword.

Again, this is 220 points. If you tried to build it yourself it would total out to 248. It’s not bad, and is by far the superior implementation of The Eight in this game, but being locked into that loadout is maybe not worth the one underwhelming special rule they get.

Rob: The big problem with Kill Team Galiel is that it is not a Proteus Kill Team, so it loses any benefits it might have from having a mix of Terminators and Vanguard Veterans, which seems like a bum deal given that the upside is exclusively useful against T’au units you might not even see on the other side of the table in those games. Also, as a named character unit, Kill Team Galiel can’t gain XP or be upgraded so uh, I don’t know why you’d ever take this. They really, really need to figure out how to add stuff to these that aren’t just lame characters no one will want. I’d have preferred to see this as an alternate build option to a Proteus Kill Team, at the very least. I guess your saving here is on points/PL, since you’re clocking in at 6 instead of a more eye-watering 13 over a Proteus Kill team, but that doesn’t seem like a worthwhile tradeoff to me.

 

Tyranid Hive Guard

Tyranid Hive Guard. Credit: That Gobbo

Bianzeer’s Hollow Crusade Relics

Beanith: This month we have six relics to choose from if your Character has just gained a Battle Honour after playing a game in the Bianzeer’s Hollow Flashpoint series which so far is the Ice Fields and the Mirror Sea from last month. Two each for Deathwatch, Dark Krakens, and Tyranids.

Armour of the Glacialix sounds like something Asterix might wear and the stats might back that up, adding 1 to your Toughness and treating A-1 as AP 0. Not bad, not great.

The Teeth of Winter lets you hot glue teeth to your melee weapon of choice and on an unmodified roll of a 6, you’ll cause 1 mortal wound on the target in addition to any other damage. “A cool customer. Yes?” Well yes and no, the downside is with this and the Armour of the Glacialix, they are for Dark Kraken units only. Maybe if your Campaign Master has an “Icy demeanor”, they’ll make both of them either Space Marine or generic relics instead.

Greg: These are both OK. +1T is an insanely useful boost even without ignoring AP-1, and dropping Mortals on 6s to hit can push through an extra wound or two in clutch situations (though it’s impossible to rely on this and it will absolutely only ever go off when there’s a single one-wound model that you were going to kill anyway, but fail every time you need it, before watching all your hits bounce off of a 2+ save). The real problem here, as Beanith pointed out, is that these are Dark Krakens-only, and there’s really not enough going on with them to be worth speccing into that particular chapter.

Beanith: Deathwatch get some extra toys with Beastbane, which replaces various flavours of bolt pistol with this chilling statline of Pistol 2, AP-2, 2 damage. And if it’s pointed at a Tyranid, you can add 1 to wound rolls.

The Pankallis Aquila slaps an award on a Deathwatch character and every time that they fight, lets you choose for your Attack characteristic to be equal to the number of enemy models that are within 2” of it. Chuck it on someone with a jump pack and make it their life’s goal landing in the middle of a giant squad of gribblys and say “If revenge is a dish best served cold. Then put on your Sunday finest, it’s time to feast.”

Greg: Beastbane is fine – custom pistols don’t tend to get a lot of play, but this one gets Special Issue Ammunition, which opens up some fun combos. The Panko-Crusted Aquila might be outrageous, though. The average Deathwatch character is sitting on 3-5 attacks (plus 1 on the charge), and you can potentially fit quite a few models within 2”. In the right situation, slamming out a dozen Thunderhammer attacks is uh, exceedingly not bad.

Beanith: And saving the best for last, it’s fantastic news for Tyranid players as these two relics are “Chilled to Perfection!”

Icefloe Hide lets you ignore wounds from melee attacks on a 5+. Slap that bad boy on your Flying Hive Tyrant or Trygon Prime and slam that giant cockroach into close combat as quickly as you can because clearly you’ve also given them the Iceshard Banks relic as well. Using this once per game relic, at the start of the Fight phase, you’ll roll a D6 for every unit in engagement range and on a 4+, you are required to say “Prepare for a bitter harvest. Winter has come at last” and that unit will take D3 mortal wounds and won’t be eligible to fight that phase until after all eligible units in your army have done so.

Greg: A 5+ FnP in melee on a Hive Tyrant is insanely strong, and being able to smash into a bunch of chaff and drop Mortals on them isn’t bad at all either. Tyranids don’t get a lot here – literally just those two relics – but they’re both pretty good, to the point that if I was playing Tyranids in a Crusade I would agitate to run at least one mission in this Flashpoint just to cop one of them.

 

Final Thoughts

Greg: A few new bits and bobs for the Darks Kraken, but they’re still outshone by the other content in here. If White Dwarf keeps this up, in just a few Flashpoints we might have enough content that they’re almost as fleshed-out as the Tome Keepers or the Emperor’s Spears. I don’t have anything against the Krakens, but the slow drip of content for them isn’t as much fun as (and requires substantially more magazine issues than) just getting a full-blown Index all at once. Including Deathwatch and Tyranid content gives this a slightly broader appeal than it would otherwise have had, but I’m starting to feel bad for the Krakens at this point: taking the focus off of them makes them feel like an unwanted guest in what should be their own house, and it’s also not enough DW or Tyranid content that it can be treated like a full-on Warzone (“Book of…”) update. It’s fine.

The Theatre of War is just great, though. Rules-wise I think I like it more than the Oil Rig mission, and modeling-wise it’s much better than the underwater Theatre. There’s no mission here, which I actually like – this game could always use more missions, but not of the type that we’ve been getting. Rolling everything into the Theatre of War is a good approach, and it’s executed well here.

Rob: I really like the idea of White Dwarf chapters – I thought the Tome Keepers were great and I loved the custom transfer sheet – but splitting them across several issues not only creates a real problem with forcing people to wait multiple months for their full chapter, but also never goes away – this isn’t exactly content being collected in the app, so you just need to start tearing pages out of your issues of White Dwarf if you want to collect these. I love having rules in White Dwarf, especially for narrative stuff, but they need to create better solutions for collecting that content and making it available later, even if it’s only for subscribers. Put it in the Warhammer+ app, even.

Beanith: “Allow me to break the Ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well for it’s the chilling sound of your doom!” And by that I mean I quite enjoyed this month’s Flashpoint for the most part. The Kill Team was a bit dull but the Theatre of War is fantastic and I’m looking forward to seeing how many of my Beast Snagga lads will get buried caught in the initial avalanche and then get struck by the next two as they slowly try to outrun them. Perhaps I should think about using Trukks and remember to “Always winterize your pipes?”

I also love Rob’s idea of collating all of the various Flashpoint articles on Warhammer+ into stand alone articles in the Warhammer Vault such as the Charadon Flashpoints etc.

Rob: Right? It’s a hell of a lot more useful than just uploading unoptimized pdfs from the issues that released in 2020.

 

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