Friday, 20 January 2017
Gathering Storm: Fall of Cadia Part 3 - Formations & Detachments (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)
Like last time, this is going to be a relatively short piece as there are only a few formations left, and that's it. True, there are the mission objectives and a battlezone, but these reviews tend to stick to the meat of the work asking "how well does it tell this story, and how well does it reflect the army?" Plus, given we tried to cover those with the Supplements only to be frustrated at their shortcomings a good six or seven times in a row, it seemed like the sort of thing best left to the other reviewers. Probably the ones who say "The lore is good, moving onto the rules" when it comes to the story.
So, let's finish up this section of the book and get ready for what happens next.
Triumvirate of the Imperium
This is really what people were predicting from the start, and another of the classic tropes which keeps arising. Mashing together three of the big characters from the book into one formation, they gain a few special rules to give them a bit more of an edge against their foes. This one is certainly far tamer than usual and, while obscenely expensive, does have a few more benefits in coordinating their attacks than the average trio formation.
Usually when a book mashes together three HQ choices like this, they tend to interfere with one another. We have seen this repeatedly where codices will place Librarians, Chaplains and Techmarines together as a single formation, only for their individual abilities to screw with the effectiveness of the other two. This time however, it honestly seems like they're covering one another's bases. Cawl can provide something of a shield for the other two, absorbing hits and attacks, and serving as both crowd control and ranged killer when needed. Celestine and her perpetually re-spawning angels provide further wounds for them to shrug off attacks - assuming Cawl can actually be hurt enough for that to be needed - and deal with characters, vehicles or anyone who might be stupid enough to get without melee range. Greyfax, benefiting from the extra security, is then free to lob about her psychic powers with impunity, soften up targets for their assault and generally limit the enemy's ability to counter them.
Each can work either at range or in combat, and the only serious concern stems mostly from volcano cannons or similar Strength D template weapons. Yes, it's powerful as all hell, but you are seriously paying the price for that.
As for the special rules, we have Exemplars of the Imperium (which allows one model here to be the Warlord, and pass on all their benefits to the others of this formation) and Inspiring Presence AKA the interesting one. Well, somewhat interesting anyway. It basically allows all friendly units (as in any you're allied with at all) to gain Fearless if they're within range of all three, or Stubborn and the ability to immediately pass pinning tests if they're within range of two. It's odd that this doesn't stack but there we go.
Really, it's nothing all that remarkable here, but the sheer power of throwing three such characters together is enough to justify this one alone. Anything more and it would be registering on the Draigo scale of insanity.
At this point the book branches off into a few two distinct forces, starting with the Mechanicus. This one consists of the following:
1-2 Battle Maniples or 1 War Cohort
1 Holy Requisitioner
0-1 Cohort Cybernetica
0-1 Numinorus Conclave
1-3 Imperial Knights
So, yes, it's exceptionally bloody big. The sheer numbers of Mechanicus troops makes fielding this one somewhat questionable to be sure, and the requirement to have three other codices on hand to make it work. There's a reason people think Warhammer 40,000's rules have become a bit unwieldy, and needing several codices just to use a formation in yet another book is a perfect example of just why.
The odd thing is that, for all this firepower, the actual benefits are oddly tame. If anything they're downright generic in all honesty. Armoury of the Archmagos is a simple and straight forwards upgrade, permitting each character to upgrade one weapon to master-crafted for free. Not bad admittedly, but not all that inventive either. Meanwhile, Synchronized Data Network allows for units to use a rule normally exclusive to Codex: Skitarii, specifically Doctrina Imperatives. The problem is that this only works if the squad contains the maximum number of units. This isn't clear if this just counts points or the casualties taken thanks to the working, so if it's the latter then you lose a major benefit thanks to one casualty. If that is the case, it is remarkably dumb. Even if it's not, it's really not all that interesting or helpful to something of this scale.
Now we get to the faith side of things. Well, faith and torture, there is an Inquisitor among them after all. The formation this time blends together the Space Marine (specifically Black Templar) and Scions units, without even bothering to add a single Sister of Battle besides Celestine's posse. Feel free to make the joke, I imagine you know the exact one right now. So, this one consists of the following:
1 Space MarineCaptain
0-1 Sternguard Veteran Squad
2-4 Crusader Squads
1-2 Assault Squads
1 Militarum Tempestus Platoon
There's obviously a heavy assault focus here with plenty of close combat efforts, with the Scions offering a little variety and the ability to perform some ranged fire support. It's a decent combination admittedly, and the sort of one which fans have been working with quite a few times since the allies rules were released. Well, when they can't use something like the Tyrant's Legion anyway. Some heavy weapons teams or a bit more bite when it comes to anti-tank measures would have definitely been welcome here though, as the Sternguard marines themselves cannot take drop pods to pull off their favoured tactics.
That said, we do have some special rules again, this time automatically giving each unit Crusader as standard and with two unique bonuses. The first of these is Collective Fanaticism, which is again a "maximum number of units" special rule, which simply gives them Zealot. So, it could be very beneficial, or utterly useless depending upon how this is meant to be taken. The second of these though, Unbridled Fury, offers the ability for all units to re-roll their charge rolls. This is always something exceptionally welcome even if it is a bit simple, but comes with one added bonus: If you end up with an overall result of 10 or more, the unit gains Furious Charge for that turn. Not too bad at all really.
Breaking things up again into the Mechanicus and everyone else camps, we have two here which are supposed to cover the entirety of the book's various rules. These are meant to be big, downright huge overall, and the sheer size of the maximum unit numbers on each one reflects this fact, with few real restrictions on offer.
Grand Convocation Detachment
Despite being the definite Mechanicus choice for this list, you're not merely limited to the Cult Mechanicus, Imperial Knights and Skitarii options here. No, you can also take the Engineseer from the Imperial Guard book as well. Yay.
Consisting of two to four HQ choices, four or more Troops choices, up to six Elites choices, up to six Fast Attack, up to six Heavy Support choices, and three Lords of War, you have plenty to work with. Again, yeah, this is supposed to be big and you're practically encouraged to take as much firepower as you can. Well, at least as many vehicles as you can anyway, as the Agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus rule means they all have It Will Not Die and any within 6" of an HQ choice have Power of the Machine Spirit. The other two special rules are sadly not quite so interesting however, as Chosen of the Omnissiah is the usual required "re-roll Warlord traits" rule and Noospheric Choir just means they all have Canticles of the Omnissiah if you take lots of them. Something almost all of them have anyway, so that's pretty damn useless as well.
Castellans of the Imperium Detachment
Now we move onto the second one which might as well be defined as "Every single other thing in the Imperium" with the rules listed citing books from Mont'Ka to Angels of Death. The unit choices are exactly the same as last time, two to four HQ choices, four or more Troops choices, up to six Elites choices, up to six Fast Attack, up to six Heavy Support choices, and three Lords of War, with no restrictions beyond this.
As for special rules, they're again sadly quite pedestrian with the Lord Castellan rule just being the usual "re-roll Warlord trait" stunt we keep seeing over and over again. Equally, Zealous Defenders is the same as Noospheric Choir, just switch out Canticles with Zealot. Something which is definitely much, much more useful by comparison and is welcome with the sheer variety of units you can take with this one. The most inventive one is sadly also just another rehashed concept we have seen quite a few times before. Flock to the Front Line permits destroyed Troops choices to be resurrected on the roll of a 5+ on a D6 at the beginning of each turn, and arrive on the table edge.
Been there, done that, bought the cuirass.
This is actually quite disappointing overall, really. There's honestly nothing special here besides the size of the formations involved, and almost all the rules present are just concepts we have seen so many times before. Yes, okay, it's fine to repeat an idea on occasion and to even to use them as a baseline concept for something, but there's little to nothing original here at all. In fact, most of this stuff seems to be falling back on the old issue we cited with the Supplements so many times before. They seem less like something crafted for an army and more like something churned off of a production line. This only adds to the sense of the book being rushed others have cited in the comments section, and really robs it of the importance this event deserves.
Overall, it's a lackluster note to end on here. We have a decent if deeply flawed story, a few very fun characters, but with the formations and detachments remaining so unremarkable, there's little to nothing here to really support a proper army. Here's hoping the next stage of the Gathering Storm will reflect upon these flaws and improve, because with a little more time and effort something of this length could be truly great.
Still, we're not entirely done with this book just yet. In a few days time we will be returning to this one with a few thoughts on the execution and what could be done to improve all that is to come.