Saturday, 20 February 2016
Fenris: Curse of the Wulfen Part 2 - The Wolf Rules (Warhammer 40,000 War Zone Review, 7th Edition)
So, welcome to part two. As we're done with the lore, it's time to fully focus upon the rules.
Given the extremely polarized opinion of Space Wolves on the tabletop, the rules were always going to be a difficult thing to approach. While certainly not nearly as infamous as the Craftworld Eldar, Grey Knights, Blood Angels or many others, Russ' legion has comfortably sat at the higher end of the competitive curve for the past few years. In the face of some elements, from Lukas the Trickster's successful kamikaze streaks against Titans to thrown hammers striking with the force of a railgun, arguments that they've pushed into outright broken territory can hardly be completely disregarded. So, building upon that with a multitude of varied, specific formations and new rules without going nuts was going to be an uphill battle for anyone who cared about balance. Well, in fairness, it's actually not all that bad here. If anything, the book might have benefited from a fair bit more insanity being dished out among the Sons of Russ.
Much like the past books focusing upon the tau, there are more rules here to help someone build up a full army or work off of a new structure. In this case, said army structure is intended to reflect the Space Wolves as best as possible without veering too far away from the standard Codex: Space Marines format. In order to accomplish this the book introduces the Wolf Claw Strike Force, its own version of the usual Strike Force formations which are being pushed by Games Workshop as a standard structure. Requiring the player to put together a single Core, 0-5 Command units and at least one Auxiliary detachment, it retains a somewhat flexible design despite the army's focus upon melee combat.
The big advantages the Strike Force offers stem from giving every last unit in the formation Counter-Charge and offering Fear and Furious Charge to Core units. This said, the latter two special rules retain an extremely high price, requiring players to dish out points for two Great Packs (we'll get to them in a second), each with a Wolf Lord and Wolf Guard Battle Leader. As such, unless you're determined to stroll in with several creates worth of posthuman werewolves under your arms and fight a battle on an obscene scale, you're never going to get those Fear inspiring Blood Claws many seem to desperately want. What's more is that, on a personal note, I genuinely dislike the addition to this in a Space Wolf book.
With Codex: Space Marines and the Tau Empire forces, these kinds of formations made perfect sense. The Codex Astartes as Fire Caste doctrines both emphasized the use of mobile, combined military forces, picking out and assembling whatever they needed from the whole army, then throwing it into battle. The Space Wolves are the opposite of this. Like the true Iron Hands, while united under one banner, each Great Company is supposed to be an autonomous force unto itself. They would maintain most of their own arms and armour, differ heavily in ideology, distinctive traits and favoured units, and the packs themselves rarely fully broke up. While some might unite to confront a single massive threat, that was about it. It might seem like a minor quibble, but this is supposed to be the basis for the whole army and it's forgetting massive thematic elements of their nature. Seeing them trade units and assemble like this just seems very wrong, especially as it can't be put down to one Great Company taking new weapons out of its armoury. There's only one Wolf Lord per one after all.
Still, the Great Companies themselves (or Greatpacks as the book insists upon calling them, as if the book wasn't already drowning in furry lupine terminology) each have their own formations besides the Strike Force, somewhat resembling the old Force Organisation Chart. To put it in the simplest of terms:
Wolf Lord or Wolf Guard Battle Leader
0-1 Wolf Guard, Wolf Guard Terminators or Thunderwolf Cavalry
1-3 Blood Claws, Sky Claws or Swift Claws
0-1 Lukas The Trickster
3-5 Grey Hunters or Land Speeders
1-2 Long Fangs
0-3 Wolf Scouts
0-2 Lone Wolves
While certainly not the worst list on offer, there's some fairly blatant limitations here. First among them is how the army is being quite openly taxed for less competitive units. Go to any tournament and you'll find Land Speeders, Blood Claws, Grey Hunters, and Long Fangs being far less frequently fielded. So, on the one hand it is trying to force players to be more lore friendly and less reliant upon the flashiest choices in the book. On the other though, this isn't being done to make them more appealing so much as forcing armies down a certain direction without much player choice. Combine that with the problem that, overall, this is severely lacking in hard hitting units. A lot of the bigger, armoured forces on hand are limited to formations, and without them the army can be overly fragile. After all, even the Space Wolves need more than just Long Fangs when it comes down to blasting tanks from afar and notable bullet magnets. This artificially racks up the points costs and limits the overall freedom of choice when it comes to forming a full army. While this is by no means saying that there are no competitive or successful lists which can be made with this, it limits them to a few set choices or specific mindsets.
So, that brings us onto the formations themselves. If anything was going to be difficult here, it was going to be this. More-so than any other chapter in the lore, especially now the true Iron Hands are effectively dead, the Space Wolves have some of the most individually distinct companies in existence. While sharing the same resources, home and loyalty to the Allfather, they are individuals, fighting as part of their own packs or forces and retaining their own arms and armour. Each might as well be a chapter unto itself in this regard, with all the distinct quirks, variety and differing ideologies that entails.
Of the thirteen formations on offer, almost fully half were written to reflect these Great Companies (or Legendary Greatpacks) if you include the requisite Wulfen mob. Again, on the one hand this is most definitely appreciated, as it does show that whatever other problems the book has, the writing team were devoted to focusing upon this event as a chapter/legion/thingwhichisntquiteeitheranymore-wide event, and to include as many as they could. What's more, it offers a little more flavour and lore to the factions beyond simply their leaders, and the presence of special rules does mean they stand out more than anything previously depicted in codices. On the other hand though, it's not quite enough to do the whole thing justice. There's only one or two special rules they can offer after all and, while it does make each one somewhat individually distinct, no single Company feels like an individual army. That and sharing a lot of formations, further removes that sense of individuality.
So, onto the actual analysis of each of these Great Companies, and their increasingly ridiculous and/or awesome names:
This is ultimately the codex's hard hitting, fast attack army, favouring units who can bound across the battlefield in moments over the usual footslogging or drop pod spamming approaches. Alongside the requisite that any leader must be outfitted with a jump pack or bike, the list drops the Long Fangs requirement and instead replaces it with 2-4 units of Skyclaws/Swiftclaws and 2-4 units of Grey Hunters or Land Speeders. This means that the infantry heavy list can afford far more mobility than some past examples, and the special rules which make it more effective when slamming into gunlines. In this particular case, squads the Firehowlers assault are forced to make a Leadership test or they will immediately fail Overwatch tests. While Fearless units are immune to this, the formation backs this up with some rather tasty charge bonuses; specifically that all units under this can re-roll charges, and that combined rolls of 10 or more give the unit Furious Charge on that turn.
The actual options for Grey Hunters here seems extremely superfluous, as this is basically a White Scars list with fewer bikes and more space Vikings. You'll definitely want the Land Speeders to help support your claws and keep pace with the assault force, pinning down infantry or blowing up tanks as they close in. Given that you are limited to only one unit of Long Fangs in this list, that's firepower you will need. While sadly not the answer some people might have been hoping to help level the playing field against the unstoppable juggernaut which has become the Tau Empire, it's a solid list for combat flimsy or range focused armies. With the right rolls or tactics, this is the sort of list which could wipe the floor with the Imperial Guard and Dark Eldar, if not shootier astartes forces.
The big limiting factor here is, as mentioned previously, the lack of units which can offer some seriously hard hitting firepower and serve as bullet magnets. While Thunderwolves would have served perfectly in that role, their omission is down largely to lore reasons. With that in mind, a player's options would largely be limited to an Imperial Knight or perhaps even a squadron of Leman Russ battle tanks (just to call back on that old bit of lore).
Contrasting with the last example, we have here the hard hitting armoured division. While the actual list requires 2-3 Blood Claws, 2-4 Grey Hunters or Land Speeders (again), and at least one squad of Long Fangs atop of the Wolf Lord/Guard leader, its real strength lies in its mobility and vehicles. Each squad is required to have an attached dedicated transport of some kind, each buffed with special rules to help get them as close to the enemy as possible.
The special rules offer a very tasty additional six inches when moving flat out, a -2 Leadership modifier for tank shocking enemy units, and the ability to leap headlong out of transports which have moved up to 12". Oh, and then there's the best part - Every single last vehicle upgrade can be made completely for free. So while this might seem pricey on the surface, and it still is, you're shaving off a lot of points in the long run. It means you can have every squad outfitted with a Razorback, arm it up with a lascannon and a lot of fun bonuses, and happily beam spam enemy tanks to death. This gives it a lot of the additional killing power the prior examples were lacking without the cost issues, and better protection for its advancing forces. This said, these are still metal boxes you're shoving your troops inside, so they're hardly likely to withstand a full scale bombardment.
This is more of an ambiguous choice really. While, despite a few slight variations on old ideas, it's hard to deny that the previous two companies were gimmick forces of sorts. One was a high speed charge list while the other was basically just a heavily tooled up Rhino Rush on steroids. The Drakeslayers, meanwhile, are defined largely as monster hunters and glory seekers. While still not quite offering some of the broad rules and detailed ideas some might have wanted, what you end up with here is a force which has a few more fluffy rules than usual. Infantry heavy as ever, the list now requires Krom Dragongaze or a Wolf Guard to lead the army, backed up by 1-2 Wolf Guard, Wolf Guard Terminators or Thunderwolf Cavalry, 2-3 Blood Claws, 2-4 Grey Hunters or Land Speeders, and 1-2 Long Fangs.
The formation is oddly broader than some might expect, despite retaining a prominent focus upon beheading an enemy force. This is reflected quite clearly in their special rules, with all units gaining Stubborn while Krom is still on the battlefield and the rather unusual Preferred Enemy (Characters) among squads, meaning they have an edge in meat-grinder engagements. It's useful for using squads as speed-bumps against big units. Better yet though, they can back this up quite easily with the additional special rules. The big one is that everyone, and I mean everyone, has Monster Hunter as a bonus rule to give Bloodthirsters, Avatars and Carnifexes living hell. Better yet, units can quickly back one another up in a rapid assault. So long as even one unit makes a successful charge, all other Drakeslayer units can re-roll their own assault ranges.
Personally, this is probably my favourite of the bunch as it's adventurous, attempts to break the mold and sticks to the lore without going so far as to break the game. While Dragongaze himself is hardly the strongest of the Wolf Lords, he has enough power to make most foes think twice before directly engaging him and bringing in killing strikes to enemy foes. Add to this the possibility of most of the army hitting units at once, bogging down shooty armies, and even the possibility of Counter-Charge atop of this, and you have an offensive army which can quickly pin down major threats. The real problem, as with past examples, is the lack of major armoured elements and durable forces. The closest you'll get without auxiliaries or adding other formations will likely be giving Wolf Guard Terminators a Land Raider as a transport. A good unit to be sure, but one which will eat up no end of points.
Eight times winners of the worst named Grand Company on Fenris, the Deathwolves can best be seen as a force focusing upon killing strikes. Many of their tactics and major attributes revolve around the use of reserves and sudden arrivals. This might seen a great deal like the Deathwing and certain White Scars forces, and you'd be absolutely right. However, what helps here is that there's a bigger emphasis on a more balanced overall force rather than full blown minmaxing or spamming certain units, requiring a little more overall skill as a result.
The core structure of this formation consist of Harald Deathwolf or a Wolf Guard leading the force, followed by a single unit of Thunderwolf Cavalry, 2-3 Blood Claws, Sky Claws or Swift Claws, 2-4 Grey Hunters or Land Speeders, 1-2 Long Fangs and a single unit of Wolf Scouts. While there is a very prominent focus placed upon assault forces and close combat units, it's still adaptable enough to work with long range strikes or close proximity firefights. So, what are the special rules then? Along with the expected Outflank rules, when all outflanking units in reserve arrive on the board is decided via a single dice roll. So, rather than being stuck with only a few units showing up, it's either all or nothing. However, it has the added bonus of being re-rollable and any units retain the Stealth special rule on the turn they arrive for a bit extra durability. Oh, and just to take advantage of the idea of sudden strikes, sweeping in advance is decided via rolling two dice and picking the highest result.
If you've not guessed, this isn't an overly competitive list by today's standards. While the surprise Thunderwolves might catch a few players flatfooted, it lacks some of the raw, broken nature favoured by a lot of formations and retains a little overall versatility in its structure. You can pick away or pin units at range, go all in with melee forces or even just use units as fodder for Harald and a massive unit of Thunderwolf Cavalry. It's intended to be fun and chaotic more than anything else, and it's perfect for short games with rapid conclusions. After all, let's face it, either the opposing player breaks your arriving units on their charges and they win, or you storm through kicking the living hell out of everything in sight and break the enemy army. Even if it is a little gimmicky, it's still fun enough to play to excuse that issue.
Something needs to be mentioned before we get into this. After the lore section of this review was done, a friend contacted me wondering if this might actually lead into Wolf's Honour rather than completely replacing it. After all, many key elements remained the same, with the abrupt corruption of a multitude of worlds, the return of the 13th Company and the mass spell to turn the Space Wolves' feral nature against them. Given that Ragnar wasn't directly mentioned, some hoped that this was a sign that Berek Thunderfist was still listed as Wolf Lord and that the two would link into one another. It's a good idea, and one which could have easily worked with a few edits, but sadly this isn't the case.
Multiple artworks depict Ragnar as Wolf Lord, leading his troops into battle and speaking during the council to decide the fate of the Wulfen. Then we have this formation, just to solidly say that, yes, William King's famed novels never happened; it's just that the book pinched more than a of Lee Lightner's now non-canon ideas. If it went any further with this, I would suspect the involvement of J J Abrams.
So, what does this particular Great Company offer players anyway? Well, for starters the basic requirements are honestly not very remarkable. It's more of the same from what we've seen in past examples, and the force is almost generic in its structure. Besides having Ragnar Blackmane or a Wolf Guard as leader, players are required to take one unit of Wolf Guard, Wolf Guard Terminators or Thunderwolf Cavalry. Then atop of this, they are expected to supply 3-5 units of Blood/Sky/Swift Claws, 4-6 Grey Hunters or Land Speeders, a unit of Long Fangs and a unit of Wolf Scouts. It's a massive list just for a starting force and means that players are going to be largely limited to large scale games. While, in fairness, most of the formations so far have been relatively good about allowing some degree of versatility in overall size, it's a shame to see the "go big or not at all" attitude hit this particular one so hard.
The special rules are just okay. They're by no means bad or really useless, but they sit in this odd spot where it really seems as if the designers really weren't sure what to do with them. Ragnar's force had never been depicted with any specific gimmick in past books or even certain tactics they favour over all others, so the designers just turned them into the Drop Pod army. Each unit which can gain a Drop Pod or transport of any kind may take it for free, and all Drop Pods automatically arrive on the first turn. All units disembarking from Drop Pods gain Fearless and Feel No Pain for the entirety of that turn and Claw units gain re-rolls to attack while Ragnar is on the battlefield.
It's basically a hammer strike army, like the Deathwolves but with less overt fun to the idea. You hit the enemy with everything at once and hope for the best, with a heavy emphasis upon rapid deployments and assaults. This is fine in of itself, but there's a distinct lack of personality to this list, and it's just something we've seen too many times before. Matters aren't helped by the fact that, yet again, there's a distinct lack of seriously heavy hitters. I honestly don't know if the designers just planned upon leaving them to secondary formations or wanted to keep the focus placed squarely upon troops choices, but it hits the Blackmanes hard. You need to save this one for a seriously big battle to keep it competitive, and the almost arbitrary addition of the Long Fangs and Wolf Scouts only exacerbates the cost issue. Overall, it's a disappointing addition but not a wholly bad one.
The Champions of Fenris
This is ultimately supposed to fill the spot of highly elite army here, with a big emphasis placed upon Wolf Guard and the like. As Logan Grimnar's force, the structure and special rules here definitely favour anything which is regarded as a veteran, especially if they can punch holes in enemy formations. As in army formations, not... never mind.
Anyway, the starting units for this list as remarkably broad. Like the Blackmanes beforehand, this is definitely an army built and intended only for the biggest of games, with little option for anything else. Besides the expected Grimnar/Wolf Guard leader, players are required to take 2-3 Wolf Guard, Wolf Guard Terminators or Thunderwolf Cavalry units, 3-6 Blood/Sky/Swift Claws, 4-8 Grey Hunters or Land Speeders and 2-3 of Long Fangs. It's the kind of massed force which works best as a spearhead. The sort of army which either allows the Wolf Guard/Thunderwolves to draw the most fire as they charge in first or the more common Claws and Hunters serving as a screen to allow the elites to reach combat with few casualties. Both certainly work given the right circumstances, and much of the army is obviously intended to have a continually shifting role thanks to its special rules.
For starters, the Wolf Guard of all kinds and Thunderwolf Cavalry gain +1 to their Weapon Skill. Dubbed the Kingsguard (because apparently Kaldor Draigo was too subtle a reference to A Song of Ice and Fire), these are supposed to be the very best among the Space Wolves and it's certainly not the worst way to reflect that. However, the more interesting special rule stems from how the formation can pick and choose its strengths depending upon the flow of battle. Once per turn, the army may count as having one of the following: Furious Charge, Monster Hunter, Preferred Enemy, Relentless, or Tank Hunters. The major limitation is that this only affects those within 12" of Grimnar.
Honestly, these are the sorts of special rules I personally wish the book had more of. It's a subtle reflection of the wolf influence and pack mentality without going the usual "wolf wolf wolfing wolf" route which the codices so often fall back upon. It shows the army relying upon the experience and tactics of a frontline leader to bring down forces, shifting and directing them as they harry and bring down their foes like a hunter. It's just about generally presented that you could accept this as Grimnar's approach to war, but favours the pack predator nature enough to really see that if you want to. Plus, it's a rare moment where reflecting the Ultramarines worked. Grimnar is supposed to be a strategic genius after all, and having him be able to directly alter the special rules on a whim is a good reflection of that.
The fact that this entire thing hinges on Grimnar is definitely hit and miss. There's the lore aspect mentioned above and also the fact that it doesn't push things too far, instead rewarding players who know exactly where and when to bunch up units in battle. This said though, this is a little too heavily reliant upon one person, meaning you kill him and it's all over. What's more is that limiting a lot of their big rules upon a particular area means that it doesn't hold up too well against more openly competitive lists. It's a fun and interesting list to be sure, but kind of a victim of its own ambition at the end of the day. Save it for truly large scale games, as you're not going to find a way to use this one with anything else.
... Well, I think someone will be beating the Deathwolves in the aweful naming contest of the century.
This is pretty much the Wulfen spam list, and little else. With no other requirements beyond 2-5 units of Wulfen and no restrictions what so ever, you might as well name this the shill formation and it would be about as accurate. Still, there are a few special rules on offer here and at least a sign that the designers were most definitely trying to do something fun with this one. They didn't really succeed, but the effort is definitely appreciated. Anyway, the first one is basically adding exploding dice into combat. In battle, every time a unit from this formation rolls a 6 to hit, it immediately gains another attack. Yeah, there's not much to really say beyond that, but it can result in some moments of hilarity. Sometimes. If you're very lucky. The more interesting one is the Infectious Ferocity rule, which allows the units to roll on a Hunt and/or Kill table, something unique to them. Units within this formation basically have less of a chance to roll the worst option on that table and gain two better ones right at the top of the list, allowing units to either make a free move as if it were the movement phase or add +1 attack for the rest of the game.
Really, the formation just exists. I can't say anything truly bad about it, or even that it suffers from any major breaking or problematic ideas. It's just there if you have a lot of Wulfen and really want to use them.
Spear of Russ
So, as you might have gathered from the repeated complaints, a lot of the armoured or heavy duty units were being saved for their own formations. So here's the first of them, which is basically the tank mob one. Consisting of 1-3 Iron Priests, 1-3 Predators/Whirlwinds/Vindicators, and 1-3 Land Raiders of any acceptable variant, it's that sort of specific vehicle/support guy one we've seen many, many times before. Unlike the others though, it just seems as if the designers basically crammed them all together just to try and get the vehicles out of the way. It's flexible to be sure, and that has its advantages, but there's no real direction behind the formations of this one.
The special rules this time are rather generic overall, and certainly nothing to write home about. Any vehicle in this formation within 12" of the Land Raiders gains Power of the Machine Spirit, and at the start of each turn any vehicle within 6" of a Priest gains one of the following: Monster Hunter, Precision Shots, Preferred Enemy, Tank Hunters. It's certainly useful and I do personally like the fact that the Priests have more to do than just fix things, but this still seems more than a little phoned in at the end of the day. One or two more fun options or vehicle formations focused upon a distinct approach to war wouldn't have gone amiss.
Ancients of the Fang
It's the dreadnought spam list. Yeah, you have a single Iron Priest and 2-5 dreadnoughts of just about any type which count as a single squadron, and they kill things. The rules are heavily focused upon turning this mob into the anvil for any army to break upon, massively boosting their durability and how well they can keep going in the face of horrific damage. With three dreadnoughts or more players gain re-rolls to hit in close combat, but also have It Will Not Die within 6" of the Iron Priest. Atop of this, any friendly Space Wolves within 6" of any dreadnought gains Stubborn so long as they're still standing.
Despite being a little bland, the formation is most definitely a little more fun than the last two on here. It's useful for having a rolling strike force of Wolves if they lack some of the speed and rapid strikes offered by a few of the other formations, or to even help support more of a generally shooty Wolves list. It can make for a good cornerstone in any large army at least, and anything which gives the war sarcophagi a few bonuses is always welcome.
Heralds of the Great Wolf
Yeah, this one was just pointless. What you have here is a mash-up of a single Iron Priest, Wolf Priest and Rune Priest, pushing together three very different units so you can't fully use any one at their best. Throw them into combat and the Wolf Priest will be happy, but the Rune and Iron Priests will be away from their best benefits. Stick them near the vehicles, and the Iron Priest can do his thing and the Rune Priest can lob powers, but the Wolf Priest is just a waste of points. A better option honestly would have been just to limit this to two or three of the same Priest.
The special rules seem to be equally schizophrenic as the formation itself, offering the Wolf Priest It Will Not Die, the Rune Priest the ability to remove a point of BS from units shooting at the formation, and the Iron Priest allows them to ignore the first failed saving roll in each phase. Oh, and they can also add +1 to seizing the initiative and re-roll when determining who goes first. It's just a waste really, and one you'll rarely find a reason to ever pick up.
Wolf-spam. As if the book didn't use wolf terms enough, we now have a full on giant pack of them as a formation. Consisting of 2-5 units of Fenrisian Wolves, any unit in this group has Monster Hunter and Outflank. While the latter is certainly useful, Monster Hunter isn't so beneficial given their more limited strength and general aptitude in close combat. They're certainly not good enough to solo a Bloodthirster, that's for sure.
The more unique special rules consist of the ability to deploy all units as a single huge mob, and add +1 attacks per model so long as there are twenty or more on the battlefield. A more interesting point is that, once on the table after successfully outflanking an enemy, allowing you to automatically bring any friendly outflanking Space Wolves onto the board with them. It's a useful fall-back measure, but with the Deathwolves as an option, its usefulness is questionable. Consider it as a somewhat cheapter alternative, but otherwise it's one you might wish to just skip over.
So, that's the formations done. Some good, some bad, some bland and one very broken one. As the introduction said, it's very middle of the road in terms of overall rules and relatively inoffensive. While I personally do hope that the writers are given an excuse to build upon the good ideas present in future releases, the current release is really only okay overall. You'll probably find more people trying to buy it to use the new Wulfen rules rather than the formations here, and there's a sad emphasis upon rewarding bigger armies than covering a more general view of forces. The other problem is that, as said all too often, any speedy formation lacked a lot of the real punch it needed in close quarters. It seemed as if the developers intended to sacrifice one in order to use the other rather than fully balance the two out.
Still, we're not quite done yet. We still have to talk about the Wulfen themselves.
Going just from their basic stats line you'd be forgiven for calling these leaner, faster marines with and emphasis upon choppy gameplay. With WS4, BS2, S5, T4, W2, I5, A3, Ld8 and a 4+ standard save, they're not bad for thirty points per model. You'd most definitely want to keep them well covered and the lighter save does mean there's more of a chance of nailing them before they get into melee. Were it not for the lack of a stealth option when it came to anything with trees, i'd be almost tempted to call them what the kroot should have been, at least before getting into everything else.
For starters, we have the unit's special rules. The unit is capable of running and charging in the same turn, and then re-rolling that failed charge rolls. Bear in mind that these guys can leap out of Stormwolves to get close to the enemy, so overall they can basically bear down on their foes at several times the speed of the average Grey Hunter/Blood Claw. Their bonus rule, Death Frenzy, even limits the damage initial strikes can have, allowing dead units to pile in and launch their attacks in combat before finally keeling over and dying. This might have been enough to make them a solid glass cannon, but Games Workshop was sure to back up their new shilling units with no end of special rules. Here's the full list of the basic ones: Acute Senses, And They Shall Know No Fear, Bulky, Counter-Attack, Feel No Pain, Rage. Short of giving them Fearless and Eternal Warrior, i'm honestly not sure how much harder anyone could make them to kill.
The weapons carried by this unit are basically all relics. There's always been a running gag about the sheer number of power weapons and seemingly legendary blades the chapter hands out like candy, but this takes things to a whole new level. Any model in the unit may be equipped with a Great Frost Axe, Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield or Twin Frost Claws. This basically turns them into somewhat more invincible Assault Terminators at the drop of a hat, but with a greater charge range. Oh, and if you didn't think that this was enough, the giant Frost Axe turns their Strength up to 8(!) albeit with an Initiative 1 modifier for anything past the charging turn. Frost Claws meanwhile, only make them hit at Strength 6 AP 2 but come with the Shred special rule. I'd say more but, really, the stats speak for themselves.
Of course, atop of all that, we then have a couple of random tables to help enhance sheer killing potential. Listed as "Hunt" and "Kill" each is capable of dialing up unit stats a notch on every level.
1-3 Predatory Pounce: Afflicted Units have the Hammer of Wrath special rule and can re-roll charges.
4-5: Bestial Swiftness: Add 3" to maximum move distances when running or charging into combat.
6: Reckless Ferocity: All afflicted models have Furious Charge and D3 bonus attacks on charge.
1-3: +1 to the Initiative characteristic on all afflicted models.
4-5: Models can re-roll failed wound rolls in close combat.
6: Models that are slain at the start of close combat are still permitted to pile in, launch all their attacks, and will only be removed at the very end of the phase.
You want to know the real kicker though? Those tables aren't simply reserved for the Wulfen themselves. No, instead they can count for any other Space Wolf unit nearby sans Servitors, Wulfen and wolves. It's 6" for the more experienced Grey Hunters and Long Fangs and 12" for Blood Claws, so shove a bunch of Sky Claws in with them, and you can potentially have the kind of nightmarish tide of frenzied murderers which even Khorne himself would balk at.
The actual rule itself is largely meant to reflect the ongoing plot about the Thousand Sons trying to transform the entire chapter into Wulfen. You see, the curse is actually present within the Wulfen themselves rather than so massively widespread that it covers entire systems, it's focused upon the Wulfen. It spreads to anyone close by, turning them more and more savage the longer they're in close proximity with them. This was actually going to be a point which was going to be discussed in the final part, until I set eyes on one specific bit of information. You remember the whole problem brought up in the last issue, surrounding the Wulfen retcon? Well, here's a bit of lore limited purely to the rules section of the book. Please keep in mind these two paragraphs are right next to one another and are presented exactly as found on page 52 of the rule book:
"The raw ferocity of the Wulfen is dangerously infectious, and has a profound effect on the psyches of any Space Wolves they fight alongside. This section contains new rules to reflect the terrifying savagery these bestial creatures provoke in nearby units of Space Wolves from your army.
All Space Wolves bear their Primarch's unique generic legacy in the form of the Canis Helix. Though a vital part of their transformation into Sky Warriors and the source of their greatest strength, exposure to the primal ferocity of a Wulfen in battle can overwhelm their senses, turning proud warriors into little more than beasts as they launch themselves at their prey. The Chapter's youngest warriors are especially susceptible to the call of the Wulfen, for firey aggression ever courses through their veins. Yet even though more experienced warriors have learned to control their battle fury, the potential lies within all Space Wolves to give to the raging murderbeast caged within them."
So yeah, the writers here did know of the Canis Helix. They knew of how the genetics of their primarch could alter them and they knew of how it could be used to push them into becoming murderous creatures; yet at the same time they somehow think that their plot can get away with presenting the Wulfen as a wholly new addition to the chapter. I'm honestly not sure if this was just a lack of caring, poor editing or a simple inability to comprehend prior lore. Personally, i'm almost tempted to say it was all of the above.
Overall, the Space Wolf side of things is most definitely a very mixed bag. The formations we've already talked about, but it honestly seems as if they saved every last ounce of gibbering insanity usually saved for the worst of codices, and limited it down to one unit. There are certainly worse ones which could have been made, but damn if they don't make me wince every time I look at what's become of the 13th Company.
Still, what about Chaos? If you want to see how they were treated in this book, you can find it here.