Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Gathering Storm: Rise of the Primarch Part 2 - The Special Rules, Units and Relics (Warhammer 40,000 Supplement Review)
So, with the (largely) spoiler free story coverage done for the moment, it's time to move onto the rules. Obviously this is once again going to be very character driven, with three big main units being pushed more than anything else and a few general special rules being used to help flesh out the army as a whole. It's effectively the same song and dance as the rest of the series up to this point, but as a basic update and promotional extra atop of a story focused book, it's not too bad. Would more be better? Certainly but just to reiterate, unlike what a few others have said about this series up to this point, I personally don't have too much of a problem with it. It's trying to match the Imperial Armour books in style and substance, while also being limited to a fraction of their length. So, personally, I can accept what we're being offered here.
Oh, and what we're being offered is quite interesting indeed this time around.
Surprisingly, there's actually very little here to speak of this time around. While there are certainly a fair few specialist choices and unique rules, each is tied either into the individual units on offer (The Fallen, for one) or the formations which have been put together. As such, unlike the Eldar, there is no single defining theme or mechanic which drastically alters how they are played here. So, yeah, there's some fun stuff here and there, but nothing which reworks an existing army into something entirely new this time around.
There's a bit of the change from the usual format this time. Previously we have seen the tank, the glass canon psyker/anti-psyker and the duelist taking up the trio of roles for each army. Vital ones to be sure, and quite an effective spin on the usual variants of heroes we've seen. However, thanks to the figures present here, the lines between each of their respective roles have blurred considerably. It's perhaps to be expected given each is a power armoured post-human designed to keep fighting after having both arms ripped off and half their head missing, but it's worth mentioning.
It would have been an easy thing to just lift Guilliman up from his Horus Heresy incarnation and say "there, job done!" when it came to stats. However, Games Workshop opted instead to build upon what they had resulting in something which is effectively Guilliman 2.0. While still featuring the same monstrous stats line, the primarch has seen a substantial boost in terms of his Weapons Skill and only a slightly lessened attack value:
WS BS S T W I A Ld Sv
9 6 6 6 6 6 6 10 2+/3++
In addition to this, perhaps to reflect his changed state, he has also lost It Will Not Die, Independent Character, and Master of the Legion. Two of these are unfortunate to be sure, even if the last one is hardly unexpected given it was unique to the Horus Heresy setting overall. Plus, it's a small price to pay for what he has gained atop of this, benefiting from Monstrous Creature (Have fun with that one!), Hammer of Wrath, Move Through Cover, Relentless, Smash, Feel No Pain and Preferred Enemy (Chaos). It's more than enough to prove that he can live up to the old legends of his supremacy, and that like all primarchs he can likely fist fight a Bloodthirster before going down. Admittedly though, he does also reflect upon the current ridiculousness of Warhammer when it comes to the rules because he has just so damn many to keep track of. Atop of the above examples, you have to also keep in mind that he retains Adamantium Will. Eternal Warrior, Fear, Fearless, Fleet, Precision Shots and Precision Strikes from his past incarnation as well.
Oh, and then you have to also mount the fact he can offer the following unique special rules to any game he is in: All Imperial forces can re-roll all failed Leadership, pinning, and fear tests. All Ultramarines gain the ability to re-use all Doctrines when he is in the army, and his Leadership is not subject to any negative modifiers no matter the situation. Oh, and you can't kill him most of the time. If you manage to fell this big blue bastard, he will show up again sometimes with D3 of his wounds restored.
As said a few times before, this sort of character would normally have me complaining that he is ruthlessly overpowered, but it would be disappointing if he wasn't. He's supposed to be a one-of-a-kind demigod who could solo Greater Daemons, and anything short of this would seem cheap for the character. Plus, this seems like it is at least in part Age of Sigmar's influence at work here, allowing players of every side to have at least one obscene god-tier character in their arsenal.
The main thing worth finally covering is his weapons. The armour counters and blocks attacks as standard, and the 3+ invulnerable save is certainly a nice touch, but the fact he's also carrying one of the Emperor's swords cannot go unremarked upon. It allows him to attack at Strength 10 AP1 (because of course it does) and besides Armourbane, Concussive, and Soul Blaze it has two special rules. The first is the fact that any roll of a six on a hit causes his strike to become a Destroyer grade attack. The second is that he can sacrifice six attacks to hit every single person within 1" of him. So, in a mob melee it's not much of a disadvantage.
The sword would be enough of a boon in most battles, but you also have a specialised power fist known as the Hand of Dominion to take into account as well. It's a relic power fist with a gun beneath it which fires 24" S6 AP2 Heavy 3 shots per turn, which you can fire on the move because Relentless sidesteps the Heavy value.
While many are already calling him Calgar on steroids, the truth is that he ironically ends up occupying a role similar to that of Magnus. You'll often use him as a means to hold a force together, grouping up and buffing units before using his enhanced power to fell the more powerful foes which are sent your way. While his lack of ranged abilities is admittedly a step down from Magnus himself, not to mention the lack of psychic potential, he's ultimately not the wrecking ball many people might consider him to be at first glance.
Oh, and he's only one hundred points more than a Land Raider, so have fun with that.
Grand Master Voldus
When compared with everything else across this series, Voldus seems rather tame in terms of stats and capabilities. He has the same basic stats line as a common or garden Grand Master, with the only notable difference stemming from a higher Mastery Level of three. In addition to this, he has access to most of the psychic disciplines you would expect, from Daemonology (Santic), Fulmniation, Divination, and the same ones we've seen rehashed from Codex: Angels of Death onward.
So, he's reliable and dependable, but what actually makes him truly stand out here? For starters, his hammer isn't Unwieldy, meaning you can strike at Initiative 5 rather than suffer the usual delays, and comes equipped with that ever popular Iron Halo + Terminator Armour combo which makes these guys so durable. Unlike many options seen across this series, it allows him to be used as a frontline fighter without putting him at too much risk. All this amounts to a general and very good hero choice, but one who will likely (and unfortunately) be pushed into the background thanks to his competition.
If you do want one major advantage though, the fact he is listed under Armies of the Imperium rather than specifically Grey Knights means he can team up with almost any Imperial force. So, Imperial Guard players? Yeah, they're about to get a big psychic boost.
As with Voldus, Cypher here is relatively unchanged from his previous stats line. With that said though, it is still one hell of a stats line:
WS BS S T W I A Ld Sv
7 10 4 4 3 8 3 10 3+
If you need someone to be quickly dropped at close range by a few precise shots, this guy is your man. With both a bolt pistol and plasma weapon at his disposal, his special rules permit him to fire each twice in the same turn, or once each while Running. Top off all of that with the option to fire them in close combat and maintaining his full BS while shooting in Overwatch, and he can cause almost as much damage as a full Tactical Squad in the right situation. Sometimes even more than that.
While his lack of an Invulnerable save might make him seem fragile at first glance, he has no end of special rules to help make up for this. Consisting of And They Shall Know No Fear, Eternal Warrior, Fleet, Hit & Run, Independent Character, Infiltrate and Shrouded, he's a useful semi-glass cannon which can be dropped into almost any situation. There is also much less risk in sending him far ahead of the main force, or even using him on his lonesome, as another unique special rule means he can escape annihilation. If any foe is not within D6 inches of him upon his death, Cypher is considered to have escaped his captors/killers, so he adds no Victory Points to their sides.
There are some interesting combinations which can be considered given how you can pair Cypher up with a few extra units of Fallen Angels as well. Given just how nasty an opening barrage of plasma bolts can be to anyone, we'll probably be seeing him used quite often from here on.
The Relics of Ultramar here are really much of what you would expect. We have the usual combination of various categories from the defensive, offensive and the odd weird one, but there are few here which can really be called bad. At worst a few are just a bit overly specific in their use, or unfortunately cover points or stats which are almost standard with many units today.
Tarentian Cloak: Wearer gets Eternal Warrior and It Will Not Die. Generic but certainly a nice combination of two very useful skills. Thirty-five points unfortunately makes it a bit steep for adding onto a Captain, but nevertheless it's still a good choice on the whole.
Helm of Censure: A nice call-back to Aonid Thiel, this is one of the somewhat more fun options as it thematically justifies the Preferred Enemy (Everyone) option far better than most other choices. This alone would normally make it quite dull, but it comes with the added bonus of re-rolling all hits and wounds against Chaos Space Marines, which makes it somewhat situational but it can be a nice extra.
Sanctic Halo: This is reserved for Captains only, and confers Adamantium Will and Feel No Pain. While there isn't anything inherently wrong with this choice, I would have personally preferred something a bit more inventive. One item like this is usually enough for any one book, but two which just add on a couple of special rules makes the whole thing look rushed. That's just personal opinion though, and it still does its job well.
Soldier's Blade: Oddly this is just a very sharp blade. Really, that's it, no power field, no ancient runes, it's just near preternaturally sharp thanks to lost smithing methods. Because of this it hits at AP2 in melee, making it a useful replacement for a power blade.
Standard of Macragge Inviolate: Of all those on offer here, this one is easily the most ambitious of the bunch. It's the elites option, available only to the Honour Guard, they offer +1 Leadership and +1 Attack to any and all allied Ultramarines within 12" of the bearer. This would be standard really, but you also have another odd option where your dying troops might go down swinging. On the roll of a 5+ an Ultramarine felled within 6" of the banner can make an out-of-turn shooting or assault move before dying.
It's limited in range, but it can be an interesting twist on things if used correctly. After all, it can give the likes of Terminators a bit more firepower or general attack capabilities, making it use for spearheading assaults or countering a major attack. Not too bad on the whole.
Vengeance of Ultramar: As you might imagine with that name, this is somewhat bio-weapon related. This is basically a souped up storm bolter with Poisoned 2+ attacks. Capable of shooting at Assault 4, it means you can blaze away at approaching targets and sap more armoured figures of their wounds with ease. Overall, it's a personal favourite on this list.
Thus far the book can largely be summed up as good but unremarkable. Much like the lore, it has one or two big high points, with the rest remaining run-of-the-mill throughout. There's nothing wrong at all with it, but it does little to experiment or try to push the boundaries a little bit to keep things fun.
So, with that out of the way, onto the next and final bit of the rules.