Obviously the big difficulty covering this subject is that many of this stuff has been produced before. That's not a criticism, as I want to stress again, it's actually a big strength in this book's favour, especially given the appeal to hobbyists on a budget. However, this also means that many, many rules and ideas listed here are points we have covered before. Even the recent Wrath of Magnus' Thousand Sons rules and units are present here, and we have quite a few points from other books. So, there are going to be a few points here where the review just stops and links to a past review.
Now, with that done, let's get onto the new relics, special rules and units.
The Black Legion
The rules here have been lifted directly from Codex: Black Legion, to see the original thoughts on the rules, please click here. This said, there are two small bonuses to take note of, which makes it somewhat more tactically viable in games. You may now take Terminators as troops as well, and Veterans of the Long War is/can be taken for free. It doesn't fix a few of the more problematic design decisions, but it is a major step in the right direction mechanically.
The Alpha Legion
This is a distinctly odd one to be sure, and yet at the same time it manages to be bizarrely perfect. Of all the Legions here, the Alpha Legion are easily the strangest when it comes to their approach to war and relationship with Chaos. They are built upon lies, deception and falsehoods to distract the enemy, and their few acts of direct violence are like clockwork, with one triggering another in a long pre-planned sequence. Even their very unknowable nature, that they are all Alpharius, counteracts one of the big focuses of this recent edition, denying them the use of characters.
Naturally, the first two special rules for this force lay down those facts without question - You may have no special characters leading an Alpha Legion warband using these rules, and units that have a Mark of Chaos cannot be taken. Nor, obviously, can you upgrade units to have a Mark of Chaos. However, to contrast with this, any unit which is capable of taking Veterans of the Long War may do so, and entirely for free. Sorcerers can also choose powers from their own appropriate chart, meaning you are not wholly barred from Chaos' benefits.
More than anything else, the big issue here is the problem surrounding Marks. If a Chaos Space Marines army goes toe-to-toe with a loyalist force using only their own weapons or benefits, most of the time they will lose. Their main advantage stems from accessing powers they are denied, from daemon engines to the favour of the gods. As such, it leaves the Alpha Legion in a somewhat weaker state, and means that players will be forced to approach more unconventional tactics to emerge victorious. Then again, that effectively sums up the Alpha Legion in general - Focus upon the unconventional strategies no one else would think of using, out-think your foe, and then trounce them. It just requires the right person to pull it off.
Units & Relics
There's unfortunately nothing here remarkable in terms of units for the Alphas but, as mentioned before, that's half-expected. Still, I think it's a shame personally as there could have been a few pushes to adapt the ideas to fit the legion. Perhaps a slightly altered standard troops choice or the ability to hide certain key individual models within bigger forces. Hell, even something so basic as allowing players to choose which model takes wounds from massed gunfire would help. Plus, hey, in that case GW would just need to go back a couple of editions and implement the thinking from there all over again.
As for relics though, we actually have quite a few distinct and very fun choices on offer for Alpharius' sons.
Icon of Insurrection – This one is an exceptionally useful given the Alpha Legion's reliance upon Cultists, and further backs their general strength. This is a force which genuinely values and uses its mortal servants as more than just fodder after all. In this case, any and all Cultists within 12" of the Icon's Bearer immediately gains the Zealot special rule.
While a little overly Word Bearers-esque, it's not a bad one by any means, and enhances the general performance of the Cultists. Basic, admittedly, but not too bad at all for twenty five points.
Blade of the Hydra – This is the daemon weapon of the list, which acts more like a lash than a blade. In effect, it hits at the user's Strength (so, four, normally) and AP5. Obviously it's melee ranged, but it also has Rending and the Multi-Headed rule means that it's outfitted with exploding sixes. For everything. So, if you're lucky enough to roll a streak of sixes, you can hit almost an entire squad in one round. Honestly, it's another fun if a bit random an option here. Sure, luck can certainly help a great deal, but you always have the basics like Rending to fall back on. Given it's equal parts hilarious and effective in combat, this one definitely gets the stamp of approval.
The Mindveil – This one is admittedly a bit strange, but it's actually another good choice and it remains useful no matter your battle plan. For starters, it stops an enemy consolidating while the bearer is in combat and limits their opportunities to effectively press ahead with an attack. The bigger, and much more useful, overall advantage it offers is how this effects unit movement. Rather than the usual 6", the player instead rolls 3D6 to move about the board. Keep in mind, this is just move, not run, so combined with the Blade of the Hydra you can have a surprisingly speedy combat monster of an HQ choice on hand. Of course, you could always end up with him moving three inches, but a little risk is never too bad of a thing in these games.
Viper’s Bite – This one is the resident "bolter on steroids" option and that's evident from its basic stats. It's 24" in range and capable of Rapid Firing. However, this thing hits at Strength 5 AP2, meaning it's packing one hell of a punch and can chew through basic troops at a rate of knots. Okay, you're going to be killing perhaps a maximum of six models in total for a game, but at the same time it only costs fifteen points. If it helps make your personal head honcho make back a few more points before he's inevitably crushed in some humiliating manner, it's hardly all bad.
Drakescale Plate – This is a very, very odd to be sure. It's not all that bad, not really, but it comes with a few bonuses which just seem oddly limited in their appeal. For example, this offers a 2+ save as standard, but also a 2+ invulnerable save against flamer based weapons. Okay, a 2+ invulnerable save is always insanely good, but against flamers only? It's unclear whether or not this fully crosses over into melta weapons or not. Even if it does, however, the chances are you're going to be far more easily killed by vortex, plasma, gauss or other outlandish weapons. Given its low cost of 25 points, it's hard not to argue that just a suit of Terminator armour wouldn't do better. Give it a look, but it's hardly an essential one.
Hydra’s Teeth – This is another uber bolter, but by comparison to the Bite, this one is a far more effective option in many regards. Okay, it lacks the sheer killing power and Strength of the other choice, but there's more than a few new choices which can be very helpful bonus abilities. For example, this gun Ignores Cover and can inflict Poison at (2+), but fires out small blast templates. This is a solid option for dislodging or helping to soften up enemy defenses, and even cause some serious problems for a foe before charging into combat.
Overall, this is honestly quite a solid list. While it could be argued that this sort of thing does go against the anonymity of the Legion, the very existence of HQ choices causes that problem. Plus, there's no truly terrible option here nor anything which is utterly useless or overpowered, so it's best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The Iron Warriors
Besides the benefits, there are several key restrictions which limit the Iron Warriors to a certain few key troops choices. The problem is, they sound an aweful lot like the specifics for the Alpha Legion. Really, look at the following - No Marks of Chaos on troops, no Marked units of any kind, no unique or named characters, and all units capable of taking Veterans of the Long War must do so, but for free. It's almost the same thing, but the problem is that whereas it made sense with the Alpha Legion, here it serves to do nothing more than restrict the army. Really, we have seen Iron Warriors devoted to a single god or aligning themselves with a power before, and even more specialist forces such as Khorne Berzerkers do exist within their ranks.In all honesty, it seems that the writers were pushing to better establish their qualities, but ended up limiting them to a single depiction instead.
Of course, the strengths do help to offset this somewhat and do reinforce the depiction of the Iron Warriors as siege masters who use Chaos as a tool. Blood Feud, for example, emphasises their hatred of the Imperial Fists and encourages melee combat against their old foe. Any Iron Warrior with Veterans of the Long War may re-roll missed attacks in close combat under this rule, while the Imperial Fists gain hatred against those troops. Furthermore, however, the Iron Within, Iron Without rule pinches the Iron Hands' own defining tabletop trait, with all Long War units gaining 6+ Feel No Pain saves. Truth be told, this does take a few steps towards offering a general and direct depiction of the Legion's capabilities, but it does seem equally limiting. It's less the broader or more varied version we have seen elsewhere, and more akin to the Heresy era Legion taken to an extreme.
The second two rules do help to offer a much more distinct and noted theme, but it is also falling back on a few old sins. In fact, it's effectively emulating the old issues of the supplements, shedding the spotlight on two units to try and make an army distinct over more nuanced or developed ideas. This is present in a rule named Patrons of the Technovirus, which grants the Iron Warriors the opportunity to use Obliterators and Mutilators as Troops. Okay, we have older lore emphasizing that Iron Warriors afflicted with the Obliterator Virus had more control over their mutations and its spread may have even been encouraged among their kind. That said, nothing has ever suggested that they retained such vast numbers as to serve as baseline troops. So, it's a step forwards and a step back in regards to becoming more lore friendly.
The same issue arises with the final rule: Siege Masters. It's very similar to the stuff found in Codex: Sentinels of Terra, as it permits all units to re-roll Armour Penetration rolls against buildings of all forms, from standard fortifications to the big scale bastions. Furthermore, Havocs, Obliterators, and Mutilators gain Tank Hunter. Not bad in terms of gameplay, and it is genuinely quite useful in the grand scheme of things, but given how the rules could have seriously cut loose with this force, it seems more than a little underwhelming. Personally, I would have thought Siege Masters would reflect their preperation, calculations, timing of reserve forces, or even something so basic as calling in off-board artillery bombardments to shell positions.
Overall, while I personally can't say that it's all that bad in terms of core gameplay, it honestly seems as if a lot more could have been done with these rules to help them stand out.
Units & Relics
As before there are no truly unique or distinct units to help the Iron Warriors seem a bit more distinct. It seems odd given how simple it would have been to create a basic substitute for the standard Chaos marine squads, perhaps sappers or trench fighters with an edge in enclosed engagements. Still, it's roughly the same treatment we're getting with most of the other Legions, so for better or worse they're at least even in their treatment.
Now, this said, the relics are once again actually quite fun. Really, there's some very interesting ideas here, and it does seem as if the designers were pushing to create a more diverse and useful series of items than the usual mix of bolters or swords.
Warpbreacher - This one is admittedly quite situational, but it does help cater a little more to Iron Warriors players who favour massed vehicle assaults. The upshot here is that while it's limited to a Warpsmith, it can be used to grant Daemonic Possession to any friendly Chaos aligned vehicle which lacks this rule. What's interesting is that it's not purely limited to your own army either, so you can fun over to an ally's Land Raider, smack with with the possession stick, and have one with a bit more of a damage output.
On the one hand, this does mean that your Warsmith is likely to be left running back and forth between vehicles buffing them as much as fixing them up. On the other, Daemonic Possession is quite a nice bonus to have with certain armies, and while it requires a bit of work,the ability to grant this sort of upgrade for free is hardly anything to be sneezed at. How useful it is will likely vary from person to person, but it's likely to have a few fans from the Chaos side of things.
Nest of Mechaserpents - This is another Warpsmith only option (would have liked to see a few Warsmith exclusive options, but this is the next best alternative), and like the example above it's fairly situational. However, unlike the Warbreacher, this one isn't nearly so useful. After all, even if you ignore the sheer expense of this HQ choice or the fact he's got a basic stat line of an Aspiring Champion, they're often more useful outside of combat. They're the swiss army knife choice, capable of handling anything with a general degree of success, but they excel at repairing machines and causing all kinds of hell with Master of Mechanisms. So, adding it here in place of their usual Power Axe is just oddly out of place.
The sad thing is that, personally, the rules behind this weapon are actually fairly entertaining. It's focused upon dueling heroes, and singling out leaders in battle. When the Warpsmith is challenged or declares one, the player is granted the ability to roll two attacks first. If both of them hit, your remaining attacks gain Instant Death. It might seem oddly limited at first, but there's plenty of ways to buff their number of attacks the Warpsmith can throw at his does, and even more if you look into other choices. Really, this one should have been more widely available.
Axe of the Foremaster - So, after the two more inventive choices we get back to our straight forwards stabby weapons. In this case it's a Master Crafted power axe which carries Armourbane as a special rule. Despite its more straight forwards nature, this is actually quite a good, cheap choice. Longtime readers will know I tend to oppose the more mundane or direct options out of habit, but this? It caters to small scale lists and makes your HQ choice generally effective without going nuts. As it costs only ten more points than the standard power axe, the ability to hack through infantry options whilst carving open AV 12 vehicles is a valuable one. Hell, shove him onto a bike or give him a jump pack, and you can turn him into a one-man vehicle wrecking machine.
Fleshmetal Exoskeleton - Again, much like the above example, this is another very basic but useful and somewhat fun choices here. It's another 2+ save suit of armour, but it also grants It Will Not Die to your HQ choice. So, you gain someone who can shrug off most standard blows, but will get back upright with some good luck. This is again relatively cheap overall, but more importantly it opens up quite a few fun opportunities which Terminator armour would normally limit. Again, a bike or a jump pack would be the big ones here, but you can also build upon its abilities with either Warlord traits or the Sigil of Corruption to further bolster his durability with an Invulnerable save.
This is the big one for any Iron Warriors fan looking to create an incredibly tanky HQ choice, but it doesn't go completely overboard with this aspect of the unit. Hell, give him a power claw or two, and you could probably have the guy solo entire hordes of assault troops at a time - Just be sure to give him some backup if he runs into a mob of Striking Scorpions or something similar.
Cranium Malevolus - This is, unfortunately, one of those ones which looks great on paper, but proves to be unfortunately quite useless in practice. After all, you're limited to a 12" range in total, so unless someone is dumb enough to bunch together a mob of vehicles in one place, that's only one hull point you're knocking off from one vehicle. Even if you are lucky to hit several at once, that's still only one hull point, and you'd still need some serious firepower to fully capitalize upon that; probably a fast moving squad armed with a plasma gun or a few power fists. At that point though, given the extra costs, you might as well just stick with the extra weapons and give him something equally pricey instead to give him more of a general edge in battle.
If you are going to use this one at all, you might want to seriously consider the mission objectives and how the enemy is going to react. With armoured companies or very fast moving APC mobs, and objective based missions, you might find a use for it, but that's probably about it.
Siegebreaker Mace - Now, this one is going to sound like an oddly familiar one to quite a few people. In effect, it's a Master Crafted Power Maul, where you can switch out all of your attacks for a single Strength 10 AP1 melee attack. Yeah, you can probably already think of a few off of the top of your head, even ignoring the Space Wolves. That said, while it is overkill to give a Chaos Lord a point blank railgun weapon, I do personally like the flexibility it offers. After all, you can either slap mooks about with the Strength 6 weapon with multiple attacks, or punch a bigger machine or character in half with a single blow. Still, at least they didn't go the full mile and turn it into a Strength D weapon.
All in all, it has a couple of problems here and there, but the worst among them is just eyebrow raising, not face-palming. It's nice to see the Iron Warriors being thrown a bone like this, and these are varied enough to work with most army lists, even if they are a little overly melee orientated.
The Night Lords
The Night Lords here are, well, what you would expect in all honesty, albeit with a couple of oddities. We once again have the same point with the list's limitations, the same as the Alpha Legion and Iron Warriors - No Marks of Chaos of any kind, no troops devoted to a single god, no specialist troops (Khorne Berzerkers etc), just about everyone has Veterans of the Long War for free, and Daemon Princes may take powers from a specific deity's discipline. On the surface, this seems to initially match the general nature of the Night Lords and how they use Chaos as a tool, akin to First Claw and their ilk. The problem, however, is that there are Night Lords devoted to single gods. They might not be popular, sure, but they exist and many of them are as corrupted as the worst Word Bearer. It's just a very, very strange choice and it seems like something done to try and distance these forces from the more tabletop prominent troops more than anything else.
The special rules, however, don't really make up for things this time. Sure, the Iron Warriors might have been a bit too supplement-esque but they were at least competitive with most troops on the tabletop. Here though, it's not hard to see why the Night Lords are viewed as a much weaker choice mechanically, despite following the same format as the Iron Warriors - A couple of general rules, and a single specialist unit you can take as Troops.
For example, In Midnight Clad sticks to the core basics of Night Lord tactics, as they grant Fear, Night Vision, and Stealth to anyone with Veterans of the Long War. Sure, these are the defining elements of the Legion, but you might note that most tabletop units tend to be immune to Fear. Really, even if you ignore the vast number of astartes armies fielded by people, there's still quite a few present in the game from Necrons, Dark Eldar and the like. Plus, even if you do find a foe which is hurt by it, chances are it's not going to slow them down all that much. Outside of a select few Tau Empire, Imperial Guard or some Craftworld Eldar armies, it's almost a throw-away trait. Night Vision, meanwhile, is often a very situational rule at the best of times, but tends to favour ranged units above all else. Chaos is naturally quite a melee focused army, so outside of supporting fire from Havocs, it doesn't actually affect combat all that much.
Stealth is the only truly viable one here, and there's an undeniable attraction to being able to drop your entire force in close to enemy lines. A +1 to cover saves is also understandably helpful as well, and while it does limit the army largely to ambush predator tactics, there's at least plenty of mileage which can be gotten out of that one. It's just a damn shame that the viability of the other two choices is so incredibly limited by comparison to this one, and that the designers didn't push for something more unique or mechanically effective.
Of course, In Midnight Clad on its own wouldn't have been too bad, but its problems are doubled down on by Terror Tactics. This could have been entertaining from the name alone, but all it amounts to is a -2 penalty to Fear tests. Yeah, not exactly the most helpful of buffs thanks to the reasons outlined above. Really, they could have chosen almost anything else for this and it would have been a better option, from limiting the effectiveness of Overwatch shots to countering sudden charges.
The last thing is, well, what you would expect. The Night Lords get to use Raptors as troops. Unlike the others i'm not too irked at this one given the long standing special relationship they have with these troops, though a few extra special rules would have still been nice. Really, it's just a disappointing execution of what should have been a truly outstanding army.
Units & Relics
Yep, once again, no special units. moving on.
Scourging Chain - This is an odd start to be sure, as these are almost a budget option for a more standard piece of kit. It's just a melee weapon which grants the wielder Shred in close combat. Hardly bad by any means and surprisingly very cheap, but unless you seriously want to give this guy a plasma pistol or secondary weapon, Lightning Claws would be a better option.
Claws of Black Hunt - ... Like these Lightning Claws perhaps. This is a surprisingly solid but simple set of weapons once again, Master Crafted and granting those carrying it an extra point of Strength, oh, and Rending atop of that. This pairs up remarkably well with most general Night Lords lists thanks to their emphasis upon combat, from a fast moving jump pack maniac to someone outfitted with Terminator armour.
Hitting at Strength 5 is a good choice even at the worst of times, especially if you can get off a few more extra attacks with it. Against astartes, Scions, Aspect Warriors and Fire Warriors, it can usually be relied upon to dice them up. Aven those more focused upon close combat tend to fall quickly before someone hitting with the speed and Strength of these things. The main shortcoming would, obviously, be the lack of power to help bring down some of the bigger walkers in combat, but anything more would have pushed this thing into overpowered territory. Overall, quite a nice new weapon for the sons of Curze.
Curze's Orb - Now, this is one you would definitely want, especially if you're planning to team up your HQ choice with a group of Raptors. It's basically an item which grants the ability to re-roll ones on several tests: Hitting and wounding in close combat as you might expect, but also while running. Naturally, the former are pretty damn nice, but the latter one helps give some serious insurance against falling short of reaching charging range. Everyone reading this can probably think of at least one situation where a game has been lost thanks to falling short of close combat, especially when it comes to breaking an enemy gunline. So, you can imagine how much you might want this one.
Despite its power and just how useful the Orb is, it's actually another item which would work well with a budget army. Take your HQ choice, give him this and a power weapon, and combined with Stealth you've got a solid chance of turning a battlefield into a melee mosh-pit on turn two or three.
Stormbolt Plate - Naturally, even the overly stealthy Night Lords need some armour to back up their weapons, so we have this. It's effectively just Warpmetal armour, but it comes with the bonus of a +1 to cover saves. This unfortunately isn't conferred to the rest of the squad he might be with, it does mean that anyone outfitted with more expensive equipment has a better chance of surviving the opening volleys in battle.
What's notable here is that there's no limitation to who you can give this to. So, you might be able to give it to a Chaos Lord or two, or you could go the full mile and give it to a Daemon Prince. Sure, most of those listed thus far could be taken as well, but outside of the Orb, they wouldn't be all that beneficial. Here, well, take a Daemon Prince and then give him +1 to his cover save, and you have a very dangerous, very threatening bullet magnet to keep gunfire away from your charging troops.
Vox Daemonicus - Now, this is both very limited and very useful at once, due to its conflicting rules. The less useful one is a very short ranged rule - a -1 to all enemy Leadership stats close by. Okay, not too bad, but it has a 6" range, so it's never going to hit anything besides the squad your HQ choice has just charged into. Plus, and let's be honest here, having an enemy break in combat is a very hit or miss thing. It can very easily leave your units open to massed gunfire on the very next turn, so sometimes you want a turn or two to organise your army to prevent that exact thing from happening.
Still, the much, much more useful role is one which fits in with their ambushing nature - All reserve rolls are at -1 so long as the bearer is still standing. Given how desperately essential flanking attacks are in the current edition, and how often certain army strategies hinge upon an enemy force emerging from one side or the next, it should go without saying that this can seriously screw up a foe very early on. If you ever have any spare points to spend, at all, add this one to your list.
Talons of The Night Terror - Now, this one here is really the weapon I personally have to raise an eyebrow to. On the one hand, this is effectively a primarch's weapon and it needs to show off some above average killing power even if it's only in the hands of an astartes. That said, its sheer output goes over the line. In terms of its basic stats, this one is a melee weapon which hits at the user's Strength, at AP5, and comes with Shred. All of this is fine of course, but then we get the extra special bit - In each fight sub-phase (as in every single bit where something is happening) the wielder launches another D3 attacks at the enemy. On the turn you charged, this goes up to D6 each sub-phase. That's between nine to eighteen attacks per turn overall. Personally, I would have just called these things Horror Trimmers and have been done with it, but there we go.
Overall, despite the problematic rules here, there's enough present to help give the Night Lords a chance to really shine in places. There could have been so much more done to help the Night Lords, but if you're determined to leap into battle very early on and pack one hell of a punch, this will do you fine. Just beware that this is going to be something of a glass cannon, and more than a few Chaos forces are going to out-muscle you in blow-by-blow battles.
The Word Bearers
Of all the Legions listed here, this is probably the one Codex: Traitor Legions gets more right than anyone else. Really, while it lacks the major bonuses and buffs which makes many other forces here such a danger, their sheer versatility and adaptability makes them stand out. Ironically, it actually makes them the anti-Ultramarines of this book, a dark mirror to Guilliman's own forces in terms of their viability. They're unable to completely match the focused skills and elements of the other Legions, but they can make up for that by having few to no real weaknesses.
We have the same restrictions as last time, but there are a few twists here and there. As with the previous examples, the Word Bearers cannot take unique characters, anyone who can take Veterans of the Long War must take it (but for free), and no units with in-built marks can be taken. However, with that said, they are permitted to take marks of all forms on their units, and Sorcerers/Daemon Princes may take their powers from any god's discipline.
So, with those limitations, what benefits are there here? Well, for starters, they have some serious benefits for psykers. Really, Unholy Pact allows you to summon up Warp Charges on 3+ rolls so long as you're focusing upon the Malefic Conjuration discipline, along with allowing you to use Possessed forces as troops. Not a big fan of the latter bonus point, for aforementioned reasons, but the former is pretty entertaining to be sure. Blood Feud meanwhile is sadly a bit less interesting, merely retaining the usual ability to re-roll to hit Ultramarines in melee, with Ultramarines gaining Hatred in return.
Then, finally, we have the preacher buff option also known as Profane Zeal, which grants any Word Bearer within 6" of a Dark Apostle the Zealot special rule. Once again, this seems incredibly short ranged for what it's supposed to do. Now, 12" would be fine, as that could be spread across three units even if they would need to be a bit bunched together. 6", however, means that you're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either you shove your Dark Apostle between two units but leave him exposed to gunfire without a meat shield; or you add him to a squad, but leave it so short ranged he's usually only affecting the guys attached to him. It's still useful to be sure, Zealot has always been a personal favourite when it comes to massed infantry assaults, but it could have done with beefing up this rule a bit.
So, this is somewhat hit and miss despite the obvious advantages to the Word Bearers, but it's certainly nothing overly bad. The use of Marks is obviously a big benefit in their favour, and there are still fans who will celebrate the ability to send waves of Possessed troops into battle.
Units & Relics
No new units, second verse the same as the first. Next up, the relics.
Malefic Tome - This is the first of a few items which focuses upon the more daemonic side of things, and it's probably the one you'll end up taking most frequently. In effect, the figure carrying it immediately gains one extra psychic power from the Malefic Daemonology system, and it's pretty damn inexpensive as well. It doesn't limit the weapons or armour carried by an HQ choice, so there's really no reason not to take this one unless you are adamantly against using psychic powers at all. Though, I would be left wondering why you're using Chaos if that's the case.
The other reason I would recommend this one is because, if you've not guessed it, mush of this Legion is very psyker focused. If you want to limit yourself to just a single Sorcerer to save on HQ slots, or points, it adds some much needed versatility for a single force. Plus, hey, you could use it to always opt to stack this one atop of Mark or two to keep the model's psychic focus. Honestly, this is one of the best items of this entire book, as there's just no downside to using it.
Skull of Monarchia - If you didn't guess it from the name, this is an item made with revengence against the Imperium in mind. Having been taken from the site where the Word Bearers truly turned away from the Emperor and lost their faith, it's a buff for their troops in combat. In effect, if any army you're facing is related to the Imperium or loyal to it in any way, it can re-roll failed hits in melee, and wounds as well if you're up against someone with Guilliman's gene-seed.
While it might be limited to the bearer and his unit, this is another quite nice option overall, even if its most effective benefit is limited only to the Ultramarines and their successors. It's a way to gain a major edge in close combat, and if you're using a Dark Apostle's force as a speartip for a massive charge, it can be used to ensure you have a notable edge on the opening turn. Personally speaking, I think it should have been broadened to cover the Ultramarines, their successors and anyone backed by the Imperial faith to give it a bit of variety. If they venerate the Emperor as a god, then surely an item which represents revenge against a false deity should carry over to them as well. So, Imperial Guard forces with Priests, Sisters of Battle and the like, would be added to the list as well.
Without that though, it's still a reasonably good item and a relatively useful one. It just could have been that much better overall.
Scripts of Erebus - This is another surprisingly cheap psyker item, and the sort of thing which seems like it really should have been on a Thousand Sons list. In effect, you generate D6 Warp charges in a psychic phase. The catch is that this can only be activated once per game and there's always that dreaded risk of getting a low result, but it's a nice instant buff if you're looking to raise some hell during a crucial turn. Quite literally, if you're using the Word Bearers properly.
That said, this does work across all disciplines, so you're still given the option to Doombolt the enemy to death, rather than simply being limited to Malefic Daemonology. This really makes it quite beneficial as it naturally leaves you with a quick way of making your Sorcerer earn his keep and frying half a unit at a time. You just need to make sure he's alive long enough to make use of this later on down the line.
Baleful Icon - This is a very, very strange one with all things considered. As mentioned before, astartes aligned with Chaos are typically extremely close combat focused and doubly so for the Word Bearers. You're not going to keep Possessed warriors out of a fight for very long after all. So, most items are ones you'd expect to help buff them in combat, but instead this one deflects enemy charges. It forces enemy units to re-roll successful charges into the carrier and his squad, and even if they succeed in entering battle, the charge itself is disordered. It's another one which isn't bad, but it's confusing to see it here out of all the Legions.
Probably the best uses for this one would be to help ensure that your resident psyker isn't sucked into combat, or perhaps ensuring that a certain charging squad isn't mobbed at close range. It's certainly not the worst thing in the world to hurt an effective counter-attack while you bulldoze your way through an enemy's front line. It's not bad, but you might need to think carefully about this one and you you want to use it before throwing it into a list.
Crown of Blasphemer - This is most definitely a very welcome one indeed, as it passes on a few very beneficial abilities to the person wearing it. Once again, one of those is unfortunately Fear (honestly, if it's going to be used this often, someone needs to find a way to seriously buff the skill) but the other two are much more useful: Adamantium Will and a 4+ Invulnerable Save. Both are quite beneficial to almost any unit of course, but there are a few particular ones which would take substantial advantage of this one: Dark Apostles (especially if you're spending them into the thick of battle), psykers of all forms, and Daemon Princes. The latter especially if you're aligning them with Tzeentch, given the powers and buffs to his standard armour save.
Cursed Crozius - Finally, we come to the last item on this list, and the only directly murderous option oddly enough. It's almost bizarre to think there's only one seriously killy weapon in this entire list, but it's well worth it. In effect, what you have here is a Power Maul which hits at AP3 and grants the bearer Preferred Enemy: Imperium. This is definitely best put to good use in the hands of a Chaos Lord more than anyone else, as he passes on that same Preferred Enemy trait to the rest of his unit, and the benefits of taking on half the game with this skill cannot be overstated. Given this isn't limited to melee either, it means you can have some fun with plasma weapons or the like before getting into close combat, or even just a few fun bonuses with the infamously short ranged melta guns.
That said however, even once you remove the Preferred Enemy bonus, you're still left with a weapon capable of punching its way through most enemy groups with sheer unrelenting power. So, unlike the Skull, it has far more viability if you bump into the Craftworld Eldar or others.
Overall, this is definitely another great selection of items with few real failings. Even the worst among them have their place and the minor shout-outs in the lore makes them great for players with an emphsis upon lore over everything else. Even without that though, the general basic rules and the ability to mix and match Marks is welcome among this list, as is the greater emphasis upon buffing and benefiting troops over simply turning your HQ choice into a melee monster.
The World Eaters
Surprisingly, this one doesn't simply lift many points from Traitor's Hate. In fact, many ideas and elements are entirely new from quite a few fun relics to the core rules themselves. While part of this might have been down to how scattered the various items and rules for Khornate worshipers are, it's nevertheless nice to see them benefiting from a few fun new rules despite their prior exposure in the game.
Unlike those listed previously, the World Eaters are obviously devoted to a single god, so things are a little different this time around. For starters, you can take a special character, but only Kharn the Betrayer is available to you, and you can't take psykers. The only things this army can take are Khornate, from the Marks to the daemons, and the usual ability to take Veterans of the Long War for free stands. So, it's a bit more specialized and focused, but it's going in the opposite direction.
The benefits are more or less what you would expect as well. Berzerkers can be taken as Troops over everything else, which should really go without saying given the army we're looking at here. In addition to this though, Blessing of Khorne grants Adamantium Will to all units with Veterans of the Long War,
Units & Relics
... Well, you already have Khorne Berzerkers, and going from the rest of this book, there's not much else it adds, unfortunately. This is the same with many, many units on here, and it honestly seems that only the Sons were given any new goodies. Okay, at least these guys get the updated Kharn from Traitor's Hate, but that's really about it. So, onto the big weapons.
This particular selection largely favours forces which emphasise upon a single, uncomplicated charge. They're the sort of thing you can give to a massed footslogging army, hurling them into awaiting enemy lines. They're largely straightforwards buffs, but in comparison to the others on here, there's a jack-of-all-trades aspect to many which makes them viable against most foes or vehicles in some way.
Talisman of Burning Blood - This is another charge buffer, in that it buffs their ability to charge headlong into battle at high speed. In effect, when you're moving, running and charging you can add another 3" to each turn, giving your Lord a distinct edge. Thankfully, this can also be passed onto the squad he's attached to, so you can quickly fire a full squad of Berzerkers across the battlefield into enemy lines. While many will likely end up tacking this onto a Lord on a bike, there are still plenty of ways to further enhance this, especially when it comes to their formations. Consider this one to get a squad into combat very early on to disrupt your enemy's plans.
Bearer's unit can move 3” extra when moving, running and charging. Combine with a Maelstrom of Gore formation for a guaranteed 8" charge minimum.. Best suited for a lord on bike or juggernaut, as it enhances those already fast fuckers. use on a 20 man Berzerker squad, nothing screams BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD more than 80 S5 attacks on Turn 1.
Gorefather - Yes, that Gorefather. While you sadly cannot give this to Kharn, making him dual wield the weapons of his primarch, it is nevertheless one hell of a murderous creation. This enhances the Strength the wielder by two points, strikes at AP2 and retains Armourbane. To offset this somewhat, it is two handed and Unwieldy thanks to its sheer size, but it makes up for this with a particular ability known as Murderous strike - It's sadly a little generic, as it means any sixes to wound gain Instant Death.
This is powerful but unusually a little tame on the whole. Oh it's well balanced and an excellent choice for someone who wants to turn their Lord into a dragonslayer (honestly, anything dumb enough to get in this things way short of a Knight will seriously regret doing so within two turns) but it seems as if there was some fun which could have been had with Kharn's infectious rage. Perhaps something like passing on Zealot or Frenzy upon winning a challenge or claiming more than one head in a turn might have been an interesting bonus to work with. Still, this is nevertheless quite entertaining.
Crimson Killer - Any World Eaters weapon on here was inevitably going to be a pistol, and there is some fun to be had with this idea. Unfortunately, you only really get one shot with this sort of thing before getting into combat, so it needs to pack one hell of a punch for it to seriously matter. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. What we get is a standard plasma pistol which retains Soulblaze rather than Gets Hot, which is extremely bland and honestly fairly useless in the grand scheme of things. There are few times this will really matter, and given you only need to spend a few more points to get Gorefather, there's rarely a list which will justify taking this option.
This is another example where the creative team could have benefited from going a bit more nuts, like creating a plasma pistol which fires a flamer template into the enemy and requires a triple-one to explode in the user's hand. Without that kind of uniqueness, this is one you should honestly just pass on.
Brass collar of Bhorghaster - Before we get into the rules, this one is surprising on a few levels. For starters, it's odd that any piece of wargear would be listed as a "collar" given the dislike many of their kind hold their prior role as the War Hounds. A token, trophy or talisman perhaps, but a collar is pushing things to say the least. Also, brass? Okay, that might be Khorne's thing, but iron is traditionally more anti-witch in nature, and would be far more fitting for the fantasy aspect of Chaos.
Lore nitpicks aside, it's effectively used to further enhance Deny the Witch rolls to help make up for the lack of psykers. The bearer in question can make Deny the Witch on a 4+, and if he gets them off, the psyker he blocks suffers Perils of the Warp. It's not overly bad here and there is still a use for it here, especially against the far more psychic heavy armies such as the Grey Knights, or those who need it to further enhance their troops like the Craftworld Eldar. That said, it is still quite situational, and it can be relatively easily overcome with a few psykers spamming spell after spell. It's useful to be sure, but it's best left for tailored or carefully constructed lists.
Bloodfeeder - This is effectively the Gorefather's younger brother, lacking the sheer raw power in favour of far, far more attacks which would be fine in of itself. However, that said, this is unfortunately held back by some very vague and ill defined rules to assist it. In effect, this is a power axe which allows the wielder to hit with 2D6 attacks per turn basic, with the usual extra bonuses via charging, formations or a few other bonuses.
However, the bigger problem here is that it states each roll of a one is a wound back on the user with no armour saves. The problem is, this doesn't define what "one" actually is. Hits, successful wounds, or just all dice overall? It's a big deal given how this can easily get the expensive character you've outfitted it with killed, but there desperately needs to be far, far more information here. Skip it until there's an errata or FAQ, and then decide.
Berzerker's Glaive - This one thankfully more than makes up for the Bloodfeeder's shortcomings, allowing your Lord to hit the enemy like a speeding freight train. Honestly, the second he hits an enemy squad, limbs heads and bloody glibs will go flying everywhere. In fact, this honestly manages to even outdo the Gorefather in sheer killing potential.
The rules here state that this boosts the wielder's Strength by two points, allows his attacks to hit on AP3, is two handed, and retains the Daemon Weapon special rule. However, atop of all that, we have a unique rule known as the Epitome of Rage. In short - Your HQ choice loses his Independent Character rule, but immediately gains both Feel No Pain, and It Will Not Die, to ensure he keeps getting back up and rips the heads off his foes with his teeth. Okay, sure, you need to add him to a squad now and there's a bit less freedom to how he can work within the army, but with some decent armour you now have a character who can solo entire melee focused squads at a time. Honestly, if you're going all out on having a combat monster of a Lord, definitely get the Glaive.
The Thousand Sons
As you might expect, the vast bulk of the Sons' stuff has been lifted from the Wrath of Magnus book. This isn't a bad thing as you're paying half the price of that book for a very nice new army with plenty of very solid good rules, and plenty of extra rules for other armies atop of that. Honestly, given the poor narrative and extra features of that Apocalypse War Zone installment, this is honestly the better option of the two. If you want a few thoughts on their special rules and units, just click on the link above.
The Death Guard
Really, the Death Guard here embody exactly what you would expect of a Nurgle force. They're sluggish and lumbering, but relentless, extremely tough and utterly fearless, with some extra toxins to help make them potent in combat. It's the usual really, and this book seems to have stuck to what works best for them.
The rules here reflect the above examples in terms of their basic structure, with the following restrictions: You may only take Typhus as a named character, you may only use the Mark of Nurgle, everyone who can take Veterans of the Long War must do so for free, and you may only use Nurgle's psychic powers. The benefits are that anyone with Veterans of the Long War loses a point of Initiative, but they gain Fearless, Feel No Pain, and Relentless, save for Typhus himself and Plague Marines, who retain their usual rules. This makes for an extremely durable and very sturdy army of course, which can excel in both ranged and close combat - Provided you can get within range of your foe.
In many regards, this army could be seen as taking the qualities of the Iron Hands to an absolute extreme. You have the same sheer, legendary durability and strength, but also several benefits to ensure they do not break under heavy fire. Personally, I can see quite a few Terminator heavy lists coming from Death Guard players over the next few years.
Units & Relics
Puscleaver - This is unfortunately rather basic overall and unremarkable for the first close combat weapon. This confers Poison 2+ to attacks in melee, which is definitely useful against certain foes, but it's hardly the most interesting choice here. Honestly, a couple of extra bonus features or even a single unique rule would have gone a long way to make this stand out. Give it a look for certain lists, as it is still useful, but the others on here are vastly more interesting by comparison.
Plague Skull Glothia - So, here we have a one-shot attack weapon which is again very, very odd for sure. With a range of only 8" this hits at Strength 1 AP-, counts as Assault 1 and hits with Poison 2+ across a large blast template. It's the sort of thing which is useful for blasting open large mob units or abruptly breaking a line of troops, and it is remarkably cheap for its effectiveness. Give it a look if you're aiming for an assault heavy force or have the ability to Deep Strike your Lord into battle, but don't mark this one down as an essential buy.
Pandemic Staff - This is yet another low Strength Poison 2+ weapon, but it's definitely a hell of a lot better than the past examples. With different rules for ranged battles and close combat, it is capable of firing off two small templates with its Assault 2 shots, each hitting at Strength 1 AP 5. So, it's inflicting Poison en mass, as you would expect, However, in melee that gets buffed up to Strength+2 AP4 and Concussive, meaning you've got an exceptional crowd control weapon capable of easily felling most astartes.
It's definitely better suited to dealing with Troops choices or the somewhat flimsy to semi-durable costly forces over anything capable of taking a sever beating. That said, you can do some serious damage with this one and cause some real problems for the average infantry unit. Definitely consider this one if you're looking to get a versatile Lord choice who can dish out damage both in melee and at range.
Dolorus Knell - Here we have another item built to help buff the abilities of your allied troops. Unfortunately, it's really not all that great in the grand scheme of things, as it once again has been built upon the idea that Fear is an effective ability against most armies. With a 14" range, any and all Death Guard forces caught within its radius gain Fear while you're in close combat (at least for the sub-phase where blows are being exchanged). Any Fear tests require 3D6 to be rolled rather than the usual two, but that's about it. Again, like the Plague Skull, perhaps consider this one if you really decide you want it, but otherwise skip this thing.
Poxwalker Hive - So, here we have Grandfather Nurgle's personal zombie maker, which allows you to turn nearby Cultists into the shambling dead. With a range of 7", your Lord can select any friendly Cultist unit within range, and turn them into zombies. So, they can't Run and they can't shoot, but they also gain Feel No Pain, Fearless and can resurrect D3 Cultists per turn for the remainder of the game. Personally, this is actually quite a fun and lore friendly choice. It allows you to use Cultists as your more mobile Troops, exchanging supporting fire and hammering the foe as needed, only to turn them partway through the game. There's a few fun ideas which can be thought up with this one for sure, and while it's not the most competitive choice, I can personally see this rule causing a few armies some serious problems. Consider it as a possible option for the future, but again it's not a "must buy" choice like some of the last ones we've seen here.
Plaguebringer - Of all the ones here, this is probably the best option, but even then it's far from perfect. In effect you have a power sword which inflicts Poison at 4+ and counts as a Daemon Weapon, meaning it's useful when it comes to hacking your way through enemy infantry choices without end. There's not much more to be said about this one, it's just a generally somewhat useful option against quite a few targets.
This one isn't entirely bad, as we have seen far, far worse in other books. That said, it manages to be neither all that powerful or entertainingly original, putting this list of special items far behind many of the other choices here. If you're after a good series of Death Guard items, stick to the stuff from the core Codex: Chaos Space Marines, and look into this one for the bonus stuff.
The Emperor's Children
So, finally we get to Fulgrim's demented elite forces. As you might expect, they're largely the opposite of Nurgle's pet Legion, and while they have a few bonuses to their overall durability and strengths, they're intended to be used as fast moving blitzing forces. The usual restrictions apply here as you would expect. You can only take Lucius as a named character, the Mark of Slaanesh must be taken and you can pick out no other god's Mark besides this, Veterans of the Long War must be taken but for free, and Slaaneshi Daemon Princes/psychic powers can only be picked out.
The benefits, by comparison, are decent on the whole. Noise Marines can be taken as Troops, Veterans of the Long War units have Fearless and 6+ Feel No Pain (and by this point I think the Iron Hands are getting just a tad infuriated at how often their pet trait is showing up in this book) but also a curiously interesting ability. If a model with Veteran is killed in close combat before he can make an attack of his own, he is permitted to make a single attack back in the following turn, no matter the situation. So, you can potentially end up with a situation where a unit of Children are decimated by a charging force, only for the attackers to die to the people who they just murdered. Yeah, it's a little situational, but this could be hilarious under the right circumstances, and it fits in perfectly with this Legion's key theme of excess.
Units & Relics
Intoxicating Elixir - Personally, I would have called this one "Weapons Grade Warp Dust" or "Doomrider's Leftovers" but each to their own. This is a combat drug, which is fitting for this army's key theme, and requires the player to make D3 rolls on its table. These can actually stack atop of one another if you end up rolling the same result over and over again, which can lead to some entertaining results. Hell, imagine your Lord hitting with a base Strength of 9 or striking at Initiative 9 all of a sudden part-way through the game. It's a bit random admittedly, but for the sheer fun factor, this one is recommended.
Shriekwave - This is yet another single-shot weapon effectively built as something to be used and thrown away right before charging into battle. As such, its range is limited, it's intended to strike multiple models at once and it can cause all kinds of hell under the right circumstances. What makes it stand out, however, is that this beauty hits at Strength 8 AP 2 with D6 shots. Oh, and it even has its own unique special rule under the name Mental Trauma, where the target must make a Leadership test, and if they fail you get to re-roll failed wounds. So, get a high roll and you're almost certain to kill off a full combat squad of astartes. This is more of a definite purchase, as while it's a bit costly for something which is a single use item, the sheer potential killing power is well worth it.
Soul Snare Lash - Oddly enough, this is a weapon with both ranged and melee modes, which makes it distinct to one another. Also, yes, this list will remain oddly similar to the Death Guard in terms of structure and design. Anyway, this is actually a weaker choice given its mode, as the ranged option is only 6" in total, meaning you can easily be stuck just out of range. Even without that though, you're only hitting at Strength 4 AP5 at Assault 2, while in melee it's hitting at the wielder's Strength and AP5 in melee. The only truly remarkable thing here is the Soulsnare rule, which is admittedly decent all things considered, as it turns sixes into an instant wound at AP2 with Instant Death. So, it's almost akin to some of the old rules for Rending in this regard. This is nothing spectacular, but it might have fans depending upon how you build your list.
Endless Grin - This is yet another Fear based item, which comes with the bonus of reducing the Leadership of enemy troops by one point. Okay, it might be worthwhile with a couple of general choices here and there, but for the most part you should probably just skip this one and look into another option here.
Bolts of Ecstatic Vexation - This is a very basic upgrade, and a straight forwards one, but the results are undeniably useful. In short, if you have a bolt based weapon of any kind, its rules now include ignores cover and causes pinning as well as blast. So, if you're looking to charge into cover or put an enemy force at a serious disadvantage before you hurl your Lord into combat, it's a worthwhile item to grab. It is admittedly something of a shame you can't give this to someone with a heavy bolter, but beggars can't be choosers.
Blissgiver - To keep this one very short, becuase like the last two there's actually not much to this one, it's a Power Sword with the Daemon Weapon special rule. The unique thing this time around is that it's basically also a Force Weapon in all but name. Really, you hit the target if you successfully wound them, get them to roll a Leadership test, and if they fail then the enemy model is removed from play. There's some novelty in how it does sidestep many of the safeguards a few lists put up against Force weapons these days, and how it can combine that factor with the rules of a few other famed blades, but it's nothing truly outstanding. Honestly, something dueling focused or excess enhanced would have gone a long way with this one.
Much like the Nurgle list above it, this one isn't all that great, but it gets in a few more points here and there. This one is definitely far more distinct, far more interesting and has a couple of inventive uses here and there, but the last three here definitely could have been reworked into something much more worthwhile.
Sorcerers of Chaos
By this point you should know the drill. We have here the Sinistrum Discipline, the Heretech Discipline, the Ectomancy Discipline and the Geomortis Discipline. Again. We have covered the problems surrounding these rules twice over now, so here's a link back to the previous analysis of them in Traitor's Hate and Wrath of Magnus.
This is a very mixed book to be sure, as it falls into a lot of old basic tropes which squander the vast potential of the forces on hand. What's more, many of the legions themselves very closely follow the same format and fit into exactly the same style of force, albeit with slight alterations here and there. More than a few weapons in the last two lists are quite uninventive as well, but with all that, there's still a lot to like in places. Many of the relics this time do work quite well and can produce some very fun results, while many of the other special rules do offer some interesting alternative approaches to playing Chaos. They might be following a similar line of thought, but there's at least a bit more variation here to be had, and to their credit no Legion here is rendered unplayable. Hell, even the Night Lords are still versatile and flexible enough to create a few inventive lists with.
Perhaps the reason this is being positive even when the rules commit the same sins as the supplements is due to the sheer number of forces on hand. While the likes of Codex: Crimson Slaughter and Codex: Sentinels of Terra might have done exactly the same thing, they had entire books to themselves, while this one needed to be divided between eight separate armies. Plus, unlike Codex: Angels of Death, this one didn't seriously give a few major players the shaft while putting together this rules a-la the Crimson Fists and Black Templars. Atop of all that, many of the special rules here genuinely made the games quite fun in their own little way, far more so than I personally would have expected. So, while there is definite room for improvement on many levels, and we could have done with more rules and less photographic pages, it's still a solid book in terms of its rules and relics.
So, join us at a later date when we cap this off by looking into the formations and detachments of each Legion, and see if this winning streak holds up.