Last weekend saw the culmination of almost 2 years of work come to fruition, when I had my first game of Horus Heresy! A monumental event I know (although to be honest me ever getting a game outside of a tournament is pretty monumental), and to celebrate the occasion I thought I might jot down some thoughts I had about the game.
I’d like to start out by saying that the game was an absolute blast, one of the best games I’ve had for a long time. I think this came down to two things, firstly, and most importantly, having a good opponent to play against. I think this is actually the most important thing in any gaming system, having good opponents to play against. Secondly, it came down to the Horus Heresy system itself.
The game saw the valiant Imperial Fist face off against their most hated foe; the Iron Warriors. I learned a heap from this game, (as well as watching one other game that was played on the same day), the first and most important of which is that legion astartes are not the same as adeptus astartes. It seems simple, but I was surprised at just how different the 30k space marines felt from their 40k cousins. The most obvious way this came through was in leadership, and the lack of And they shall know no fear. On several occasions I was rather horrified at how vulnerable tactical squads were to leadership, particularly in assault. On one occasion, a single terminator made it into combat with one of my 20 man tactical squads. ‘I’ve totally got this,’ I thought to myself, only to watch on in annoyance as the tactical squad completely failed to hurt the terminator thanks to his armour. In response, the terminator killed two marines, who subsequently failed their moral check and fled off the board. By the look of how the armies played, this will be the norm, rather than the exception. Over the games, small groups of marines led by sergeants armed with artificer armour and a power weapon or fist were consistently beating squads many times their size.
This leads me to the first lesson: upgrade your sergeants. Artificer armour and power weapons/fists are incredibly cheep for tactical sergeants, so get them! The extra resilience in combat these can give you makes it an incredibly worthwhile investment. This is doubly true for Imperial Fists, since they have to challenge in combat!
This extra resilience leads me to my second lesson: 20 man tactical squads need support. I fielded two 20 man squads, thinking they were the best value for points, and that 20 marines would be very hard to shift. I found out that 20 man squads can actually be very vulnerable, especially in assault. If you’re going to field the big squads, I would consider making sure they have a well equipped sergeant for a little combat support, or even a combat character to lead them. Furthermore, consider ways to bump up their leadership or better yet, make them stubborn or fearless. With appropriate support, I still think big 20 man squads could be highly effective, but consider spending those extra points on them.
Third: Tanks and transports are back! I’ve always been a fan of tanks (as a quick look through my Imperial Fists gallery will show you). With the changes 7th edition has made, tanks and APCs are back in a big way. Rhinos give tactical squads amazing endurance, and now that it’s a LD test to avoid stunning for embarked troops, there’s no real disadvantage to taking them. Combined with the increased durability of vehicles in 7th, they are very hard to stop. I found this was doubly true in Horus Heresy. My opponent was fielding several vindicators with extra armour and power of the machine spirit, which made them extraordinarily reliable. Any stun results were reduced to shaken, which power of the machine spirit would then allow them to fire their main guns anyway. The result was tanks that could consistently lay down heavy fire, despite taking damage in return.
While I still think a strong AT shooting component is important, the most reliable way to kill tanks is going to be in close combat.
Fourth: The Typhon Siege tank is a monster! I ended up fielding this beast in my game and it absolutely dominated. Its main gun is devastating, and really scares opponents. What’s more, the tank is extremely durable. With 6 hull points, being a super heavy, AV 14 all around, and with tanks being that much harder to hurt in 7th ed, it’s going to take some serious attention to kill off a tank like this. Even when power fist armed terminators got into combat with it, it never felt like it was in any real danger.
I was also really impressed with the Horus Heresy rules. Although at the moment it’s predominantly only the one army list in use (admech aside), I don’t think this will be a problem. The list is so large and offers so much variety that you could field dozens of different armies that were completely different from each other. Combine this with the special rules, the rites of war, and the legion specific rites of war, and there is a truly vast scope for the different armies you could field. Also, it is going to go a long way to keeping the game balanced (a few inconsistencies with the legion specific rules aside). Again, this is doubly true compared with some of the problems that 40k is facing at the moment.
I love the inclusion of Lords of War, and they are great fun to place on the table. Also, capping them at 25% of the army is a stroke of genius, and one that Games Workshop desperately needs to learn from. It also encourages big games, which is where I think Horus Heresy will shine. I think 2,000 to 2,500 will be the sweet spot for gaming, with plenty of room to field some of the fun stuff.
The game has also given me a great idea of where I want to take this army in the future, and what units I think will be effective. Fliers are very powerful, and I’m very tempted to get some more to keep my storm eagle company. I also think dreadnoughts will be very effective, especially contemptors. If you can get a contemptor into the enemy battle line it’s going to be very hard to stop.
Anyway, that’s probably enough rambling from me. Go out and have some games in the 31st milenium, I had a great time with it!