Today I was lucky enough that Horus Heresy Book V arrived on my door, happy day! I’m planning on writing a few blog posts in the future talking about the various space marine legions so thought I’d start today by talking about the Ultramarines.
When comparing legions there are six main factors I consider: Legion Specific Rules and unique equipment, unique Rite of War, unique units, unique special characters, and primarch. Finally, I like to consider the legion background and painting of the legion. While this last one has no specific rules, I think the colour scheme and background is actually one of the most important factors in choosing an army.
Legion Special Rules: These are pretty good. I’d rate them at about the top of the middle tier compared to the other legions. Interlocking Tactics is the center piece of their rules, basically allowing any Legion Astartes (Ultramarine) to reroll 1s to wound or 1s to penetrate armour on units that have already been hit by another unit in the Ultramarine’s army. What’s really cool here is that although only models with the Legion Astartes (Ultramarines) can gain the benefit, any unit from the detachment (other than super-heavies, fliers and battle automata) can count as the unit having already fired and hit. So, all those rhinos with their twin-linked bolters totally count for giving this benefit. The second half of the rule allows any Legion Astartes (Ultramarines) to reroll their charge ranges when attempting to assault any units already locked in combat with an Ultramarine unit (again, not just Legion Astartes). This second half is far more situational than the first, but should combine well with some of the Ultramarine special units.
Certainty and Resolve: Allows Ultramarines to take fear and regrouping tests at LD 10. Not as good as some of the other leadership based legion rules out there, but still really handy.
Rigid Chain of Command: A fairly harsh penalty, which means when all your HQ units die you give up another victory point. This means in many cases you’ll be giving up two victory points when you lose your warlord (as a lot of people don’t take many HQ choices). Interestingly, since primarchs aren’t HQ, they don’t count towards this.
Legion specific wargear: Pretty good here. On paper the Legatine Axe is a fantastic weapon, as it allows AP2 attacks at initiative order. This is brilliant, given the amount of artificer armour in Heresy games and that the vast majority of AP2 weapons are unwieldy. If you could get this weapon on any character model, it would be brilliant. Unfortunately, it can only be taken by independent characters. Given that for 5 points more you could just get a paragon blade for a praetor, I’d take the paragon blade over the Legatine Axe. Still a good choice for consuls though, particularly legion champions.
Mantel of Ultramar, a suit of artificer armour that confers feel no pain (5+), but can only be taken by a Praetor. It’s not that expensive, so I’d definitely take this on a Praetor.
Rite of War: An interesting rite of war, although probably on the lower end of legion specific rites. It allows you to chose between BS2 overwatch, counter-attack, or reroll run moves to be applied across the army for a turn. These apply to everything with the legion astartes (Ultramarine) rule, and dreadnoughts. You can chose a different rule each turn, and can chose them more than once.
Unfortunately the negs here are a bit annoying. You must take an additional HQ, which must be either a master of signals or a damolces rhino. You must also take an additional compulsory troops choice. You can’t take more tanks or fliers than you have infantry units in your army. Finally, you can’t use infiltrators or units deploying by deep strike. This is a lot of restrictive penalties for an average bonus. But, if your army happens to match these restrictions or be close, it’s probably worth it. It also combines well with some of the legion specific units, like Invictarus Suzerain Squads.
Unique units: Ultramarines do really well here.
Invictarus Suzerain Squads are expensive by the time you put them up to ten men, but are very solid. WS5, artificer armour, boarding shield and legatine axe make these guys incredibly hard to shift in an assault. Boarding shields negate the enemy’s charge bonus, they have a 2+ save, will hit most opponents on a 3+ in combat, and they hit with AP2 at initiative order. A fantastic defensive assault unit you can build your army around. Almost any assualt unit will simply bounce off these guys, with the probable exception of Casatellax. Also, with a 2+ save and attacking at initiative with AP2, they will strike before almost anything else with AP2 and simply ruin their day. Really good…
Honoured Telemechrus. A venerable contemptor dreadnought. WS6, D3 hammer or wrath hits, gives Ultramarines within 12 inches +1 to assualt results and sweeping advance rolls. He also has hatred for traitor legion astartes. Some good benefits, but he’s pretty expensive.
Locutarus Storm Squad. These guys are what other assault marines aspire to be. Night raptors look at this squad and cry about what might have been. Assault marines with power swords and artificer armour. They can also fire twice with their pistols on the turn they arrive (and the squad can take several plasma pistols to make this hit a lot harder). They can also reroll the scatter when they arrive from deep strike. A squad of ten isn’t that much more expensive than a regular assault squad, but is infinitely better.
Fulmentarus Terminator Strike Squad. Basiaclly a more expensive version of tyrant siege terminators but with extra rules and options. They can chose between reaper autocannons, cyclone missile launchers or combi-meltas (but only one type across all members of the squad). Cyclones are impressive for the ka-blam factor, but are really expensive. I’d consider taking the combi-meltas as they are way cheaper. The squad gets bonuses based on how many are in the squad. Two or more models gives night fight, five or more models gives tank hunter, and eight or more models reduce cover saves by -1. A full squad of ten of these guys with cyclone missile launchers costs at least 700 points, which isn’t even close to being worth it. I’d probably field them using combi-meltas, because they stay at a usable points cost and still gain the nice benefits.
Damocles Command Rhino. An interesting option. Gives you +1/-1 on reserves, removes deep strike scatter within 24 inches, and once per game can call down an orbital barrage. Has to be a secondary HQ choice. It’s a cool unit, but you’ll need to hide it otherwise any smart opponent will fire a lascannon or two at it and be done with it. Also, other legions can take a Damocles as a non compulsory HQ choice in armies over 1,000 points.
Special characters: Only the one here, Captain Remus Ventanus. He’s a medium cost character, but power armour and power sword makes him pretty terrible in combat against other characters. His main benefit is subjecting the enemy to a -1 to reserve rolls and re-rolling his own sides resever rolls. Handy if you build the army around him (and combines amazingly with a damocles rhino), but otherwise he’s pretty meh.
Primarch: Roboute Guilliman. One of the best primarchs, and really cheap considering what you get. His stats look fairly average for a primarch, but this is negated by his increasing WS in challenges and the fact he has a +1 Strength shred weapon and a Stength 10 weapon. He should be able to handle himself against any but the scariest of the other primarchs, and his bonuses to the rest of the army is really good. Being able to select a single unit entry from the army list and apply either implacable advance, tank hunter or interceptor to them is amazing, and opens up so many possibilities for your armies. Tank hunting venators, implacable land raiders or spartans, so many options!
Painting and background: The Ultramarine’s background is a bit Marry Sue, although I think this comes more from the 40k universe than the 30k universe. Know No Fear is one of my favorite Horus Heresy books, and does heaps to make Ultramarines cool. I like the paint scheme, especially the Forge World take on them where they add a lot of gold and white to the overall scheme. So, a solid, if perhaps overdone, scheme.
Overall: I rank the Ultramarines somewhere between the bottom of the top tier, or the top of the middle tier. Their legion specific rules, unique units and Guilliman are definitely their standouts.
What do you guys think?