Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Angels of Death Part 2 - The Units and Relics (Warhammer 40,000 Codex Supplement Review, 7th Edition)

So, now we're done with what little lore there is, we're moving onto this codex's rules. Since the book is heavily divided up and separated out however, we're going to be tackling this in a different manner from usual. This section will focus purely upon the equipment and new units, while the final part will delve more deeply into the formations, warlord traits, special rules and what not. The main reason for this is to just try and better divide up these reviews section by section, but an additional reason is because, well, certain bits have been repeated time and time again. Many look as if they have been copied and pasted, but I just want to be sure none of these have been upgraded from last time before we go into them in full. Yes, not the most professional thing I know, but it's better to follow this format rather than accidentally screw something up.

So, with that done, here's a brief analysis of the core rules:

Relic Units

This is one people were predicting the moment Horus Heresy models were more readily available to the public. With two full armies outfitted with Maximus pattern power armour, Cataphractii terminator units and even a bloody Contemptor dreadnought, new Heresy era armies have been springing up all over the place. To just ignore that fact or even to limit their use in the official rules would have been suicide on Games Workshop's part, and with a chance to make more cash via a new rulebook, it's no surprise at all they're here as relics. 

That said though, on a personal level, I do have a few ill feelings about including them here. The Heresy was supposed to have been from thousands of years prior to now, long enough for facts to be distorted and even first founding chapters are supposed to only have a handful of relics from that era. Adding them as official rules for all of this just seems to be pushing the end of M31 and M41 closer together, and ignoring the passage of time between them. Sure, you could argue that some would still be about and guarded by the First Founding chapters, but there's no serious limitations here as to who takes what or any real difficulties in fielding them. It honestly seems that they've just been tacked onto here with little real additional thought.

Okay, lore related moaning aside, how does each one hold up?

Starting with the Terminator Captain, this guy had most of the benefits and attributes you would expect; in other words he's just a standard Captain with Terminator armour and costs thirty points more. As standard he comes outfitted with a storm bolter, power sword and iron halo as well, and his only real benefit stems from the fact he has access to this book's special equipment. Capable of switching out his standard Terminator armour for the Cataphractii variant for free, he can take up anything listed under Terminator Weapons, Special Issue Wargear and Chapter Relics lists without any issue. Hardly bad but it's a little odd we'd have a guy who is little more than a basic copy/paste job of something in the standard book thrown into the mix here.

The actual Cataphractii Terminator Squad is pretty much the same as the Captain himself. They have a standard marine stats line, cost a bit more and have access to a slightly broader variety of weapons. The only initial surprise stems from the fact that their guns are listed as combi-bolters rather than storm bolters, and the entire squad can switch out its weapons for lightning claws with no extra cost. Really, want to just turn them into combat termies? No charge at all, and if you want to just go halfway and switch out the power fist, you can even do that as well. 

So, what about the equipment they can take up, what's different with that stuff? For starters, Cataphractii armour has the basic stats and saves offered by standard Terminator armour, but it has an invulnerable save of 4+. The special rules are, as expected, Slow and Purposeful, Bulky and Deep Strike. There's also an added bonus conferred to the Captain, as the codex notes that he "re-rolls invulnerable saving throws of 1 to represent the overlapping energy fields projected from both his iron halo and his armour's in-built shield generators."

The combi-bolters are standard guns, but they have the Rapid Fire and Twin-Linked rules as well. The more interesting item on offer is the Grenade Harness. The first of these is something of an oddity to be sure, as it basically serves as an Assault 2, Blast frag grenade launcher. It's a useful albeit minor thing to help deal with chaff, especially as the squad outfitted with it doesn't have to move as if they were going through difficult terrain. 

This leads us onto the big unit people were interested in: The Contemptor Dreadnought. Towering over its contemporaries, the rules here carry over the majority of the ideas and details established long ago by Forge World. Its Assault Cannon remains Strength 6 AP 4 with six Rending capable shots, and it comes paired up with the usual combo of a power fist and a multi-melta. The atomantic shielding is still present, allowing the dreadnought a 5+ invulnerable save against any incoming bullets and a 6+ save in combat atop of its forwards armour of 13 and side armour of 12. Add in the fact it has the Fleet special rule, is capable of taking on Chapter Tactics and is just 170 points in total, and it's a nice, well rounded relic to give your force some flavour. Admittedly, the lack of a twin powerfist or twin lascannon version here is a little infuriating, but there's still the Forge World rules for that.

Chapter Relics

As you can imagine for an entirely new codex, something people have just handed over a solid £20.00 to buy, these are brand new, very fun ideas a lot of these have been recycled from past books. Yeah, I had to actually stop and double check I wasn't going mad whilst reading this once the Mantle of the Stormseer showed up under the White Scars section, and the Iron Hands relics listed the Mindforge Stave. Entire sections of the rules here have just been lifted from past releases and reprinted here.

Now, on the one hand, this is actually somewhat understandable. Many prior books were fairly expensive and more than a few astartes devoted players didn't want to pick up the War Zone books for just a fraction of the rules they wanted. Having a stripped down, much cheaper, alternative rolling them all into one does make some sense overall, especially as they're getting multiple books worth of content they're interested in. On the other hand however, at no point was it ever mentioned this was simply recycled content. Honestly, if you read the book's synopsis, it hypes and promotes the living hell out of these qualities without even an asterisk linking to a small line mentioning these bits are from other works. Even if you go onto Games Workshop's website, all you'll find is the following:

"- a guide to Strike Forces and Chapter organisation, including 4 Army List Entry datasheets and 14 Formations;
- background and organisation on White Scars, Imperial Fists, Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard Chapters, as well as their typical Strike Forces;
- rules for the Terminator Captain, Cataphractii Terminators and Contemptor Dreadnought;
- Warlord Traits, Relics and Tactical Objectives;
- four complete psychic disciplines available to Space Marines Librarians of all Chapters (including Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Grey Knights and Deathwatch)"

So, personally i'm not entirely against this recycling older stuff here, but i'm more than a little miffed that someone forgot to mention this until I had bought the damn thing. For those interested though, here's a quick list of the relics they have taken from prior books:

White Scars & Raven Guard - Taken word for word from War Zone: Kauyon.

Iron Hands - Copied and pasted from Codex: Clan Raukaan.

Imperial Fists - Lifted from Codex: Sentinels of Terra.

Black Templars & Crimson Fists - N/A. They don't get a damn thing here.

So, out of the five chapters advertised on the back (and seven listed with any rules) only one actually showed up with any fun new relics. It's definitely a good time to be a Salamanders fan apparently.

So, what do the sons of Vulkan get given how many other chapters were effectively given the shaft? A lot of good stuff actually, and some very fun killy-type wargear indeed.

Drake-Smiter - Apparently built in envy of the Space Wolves and their railgun-round strength hammers, this one basically equips your character with point blank annihilation. No, seriously, you're given the option to swap out all the model's normal attacks in favour of a single Strength D hit, along with having all the benefits of master-crafted rules. 

Yeah, there's a reason some people argue it's pointless to have a Shadowsword these days. Apparently every-bloody-army is strolling about with at least a single Strength D major weapon per list. While it's well priced and is far from poorly balanced all things considered, you do have to wonder where they'll draw the line with this stuff.

Nocturne's Fury - Now, this one is actually very fun indeed, and the sort of thing many armies could do with adding more of. You see, it's not something you hand over to an HQ choice, but instead something you give to anyone who can wield a special weapon (meltagun, flamer etc) and see how much damage they can do. So, what is it? It's a  S4 AP4 flamer which can either fire as normal, or can blast away with a Heavy 1 Torrent. While some rather dubiously worded rules mean you can have the Legion of the Damned carrying this thing, imagine the sheer hilarity on offer by handing this over to a Bike Squadron or Sternguard unit in the right place. It's a one shot weapon for sure, but you only need to fire once to make up its full cost.

The Salamander's Mantle - This is the requisite durability buffing item, intended for those worried about losing their big expensive commander to an odd lascannon. Apply it directly to the model and it instantly gains the Eternal Warrior rule, ripe for being paired up with a Storm Shield for a 3++ save.

The Tome of Vel'cona - If you've not guessed from the name, this is the Librarian specific one. Give him this and he instantly gains the Molten Beam for no cost at all, and gains +1 Strength to his Pyromancy witchfires. Basically it's psychic napalm steroids.

Vulkan's Sigil - A rare example of a Chaplain exclusive option, this can be activated once per game to gain +1 attack for both him and the unit he is paired up with. What's notable is that this can be activated at any time, so while you can have it switch on during an assault phase, you can opt to hold it back for whatever reason. It's a minor thing but a nice bit of extra control at the end of the day.

Wrath of Prometheus - One of the better ranged relics we've seen, as it hits harder than a bolter and despite a hefty points cost it at least has a damage output to match that without going nuts. Along with having a 30" range, it's a master crafted weapon which is hitting at Strength 5 AP 4 and retains Rending as a special rule. Personally making it a storm bolter would have been a better choice for its price, but it's still a nice bonus weapon for a good HQ choice.

Honestly, despite a couple of reservations, this is probably one of the best relic lists on offer to the astartes armies. Really, it nicely balances out a lot of the options, retains quite a few intelligent choices and, besides the aforementioned Inferno Cannon hammer, it clearly knows where to draw the line. After so many other options on here were either ignored or just recycled, it's actually pleasantly surprising to find the only original material on offer is fairly high grade.

So, that's the units and relics of the codex. Not much to really say on the whole, and aside from the Salamanders and Contemptor, not much to really look at. There's nothing truly wrong so far on the whole, but it's still hard to see how Games Workshop are justifying the price of this codex. Perhaps we'll find out in our final part.


  1. I'd figure that the Contemptors would at least require their own techmarine, even if the suits have been guarded for a long while they're extremely old. I can also see some newer chapters having access to them, for example I know that the Minotaurs have several, but there's extenuating circumstances that led to them gaining as many as they did (the same way they have a Custodes weapon, the High Lords really like them) but I have to agree that it does cheapen the feel when everyone can throw them wherever they want.

    I kind of feel the same about the Cataphractii Terminator Armour, since I've got an old white dwarf where one of the High Marshals for the Black Templars, Ludoldus, was remembered for two things, being extremely old (far older than Dante, though Ludoldus is dead now) and how he wore a Cataphractii suit when nobody else did (it also had conversion tips on how to make them), and now everyone gets them, so they're not that interesting anymore in a narrative sense (they probably should have left them at "Captains only").
    I'm fine with the rules for the regular unit, but I don't get why they have combi-bolters. Do you think that was just a mistake on the writers part when they ctrl-c, ctrl-v'd it from Forgeworld's books? Even as far as narrative goes, combi-bolters became obsolete when the Admech figured out how to make storm bolters.
    I'm also willing to bet the writer didn't count on people discovering that you can give that Cataphractii Captain a re-rollable 2+ Invuln save, though at least with his points cost the best he could do to make them back is tie up other extremely expensive units (like the screamerstar).

    It's a bit sad that the Black Templars and Crimson Fists get nothing though, even in White Dwarf they were given their own Warlord Traits. Maybe the intention was that they'd get access to the same armoury because they're successors and they forgot to write it in?

    Maybe the book might be worth it to somebody who didn't buy any of the supplements or Warzone books, I think that's the only person I can see benefiting from this, and I still think it would have been better for them to call this "Codex Astartes".

    1. Ditto, either a Techmarine or at the very least some higher ranking member of the chapter's inner circle. If it at least noted that it required the Terminator Captain (Being a First Company leader and man in charge right behind the Chapter Master) to field the Contemptors that might make sense, as he'd have the clout to do so. The same would go with a Reclusiarch, Master of the Forge or whatnot, but instead you can just take them on a whim. It could have been explored to add some interesting spins on things, but it really just feels as if it's been thrown together to capitalise on the new, easy access people have for them.

      Gotta say, i've not heard of him before but i'll definitely be looking up that High Marshall now. Certainly sounds like quite the interesting character, and it'd certainly be nice to learn a bit more about historic figures from the Templars. Certainly sounds like there was more thought put into him than the units here. The only reason the combi-bolters are probably there is to encourage more people to just buy them and not worry about conversions, sadly.

      Well, the Templars and Fists do have one small bit in it, which we'll be getting to next time, but I think those are just Warlord Traits. Lots of bits of this book are pretty much just recylced wholesale from prior works. Not that it's a bad thing, as you said it's a nice alternative to combine all this stuff into a single tome for those who don't want the extra stuff from the other books, but it really seems to have just been lifted right out of them with little to no additional work or thought added in.