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Warhammer 40,000 War Zone Octarius | Book 2: Critical Mass

Hot on the heels of Book 1, we have the 2nd book in the Octarius series up for preorder today. Make sure you preorder via our Element Games link to get your book at a discounted price AND help support our website!

Our thanks to Games Workshop for sending us this book to review!

The Octarius system is in a right state. Book 1, Rising Tide, told the tale of how the Tyranids and Orks, locked in a conflict, are on the verge of spilling out of the system. We’ve got the Imperium trying to keep them containing whilst other races take advantage of the ensuring chaos.

Book 2: Critical Mass, picks up from where the first book left us, expanding the story to a brutal conclusion. The rest of the book offers an Ork-ish campaign, a Codex Supplement for the Blood Axes, an Army of Renown for the Speed Freeks, Octarius Crusade content AND updated rules for Rogue Traders.

You can check out the read through of the book in the video below:

Ready to delve into the book? Let’s rock!

Lore

The writing in these War Zone books, in my opinion, continues to impress. It all kicks off in this book.

The descriptive nature of the battle heavy stories within this book really make you want to roll some dice.

The Tyranids and Orks, as you would expect, have the spotlight, but we do have a fair number of other factions getting involved.

The most interesting of which are the World Eaters and Chaos Daemons, who are claiming skulls for Khorne, as well as the arrival of the Black Templars. The lore also explains why we have updated rules for Rogue Traders in this book, as various Rogue Traders and their crew are called upon as the Imperium grasps at all the straws.

Let’s enter a little spoiler territory now, so skip a few lines if you don’t want to be ever so slightly spoilt.

Final warning, some italic writing inbound.


The lore in this book closes with an epic battle between the self proclaimed Overfiend, an absolutely terrifying Ork Warboss who is known as the ruler of the Ork Empire of Octarius against the Swarmlord of Leviathan. This brought a smile to my face, as I expected the Imperium to have the final say in this two book series.

What’s even better is one of the two beasts is well and truly slain, causing my imagination on what could come next to kick into gear!


If you enjoy your Warhammer 40,000 lore then this book will not disappoint. Is there enough pages here for you to buy this book purely for the writing? Probably not. Which is a shame, as it needs to be read.

Campaign Rules

I’m not going to go into much detail here, as the explanation on running a campaign is practically the same as the one featured in Book 1, aside from this one introduces alliances. The Victor Bonuses and Campaign Result chart is different, to reflect the combatants that feature predominantly in this book.

Once again we have some nice looking example Campaigns, and a blank template to print and make your own with.

Campaign Master’s Edicts

In this section the book introduces different elements you can incorporate into a Octarius, or any other campaign.

The first of which introduces the ability for both fighting armies to perform bombardment attacks during the course of the battle, which is pretty neat, if not super balanced for matched play (but let’s be honest, you’ll be running a campaign for narrative reasons!).

Another new feature is Critical Missions. The Campaign Master, at the start of any of the missions, can declare the next battle to be a Critical Mission. They can pick, or roll randomly, on a chart to find out what the mission is, and if complete what rewards are on offer.

An example would be ‘Safeguard’. For this mission one Character (that your opponent picks) must survive the battle. Should you be successful you gain 1 War Zone point. If playing Crusade, said character earns extra experience points or if you are playing Matched Play, at the start of your next battle you gain an additional command point. Nice!

We then have 6, brand new, themed Legendary Missions that can be played out, each with a unique objective and map. These look really fun to run in your campaign and could easily be transferred into your own narrative campaign and adapted.

Index: Astra Cartographica (Rogue Trader Rules)

This book is home to the rules for the Rogue Traders.

First and foremost, you can either build a detachment using the Astra Cartographica keyword, or alternatively, like Inquisitors, you can include a Rogue Trader within any Imperium army thanks to the inclusion of the Agent of the Imperium keyword, without the model taking up a slot or breaking detachment rules.

They also gain the Warrant of the Trade ability, which allows them and there Voidsman to use any Imperium transport.

Interestingly, instead of find all the datasheets for each of the named Rogue Traders we have had over the past couple of years appear in here, we instead just have the one datasheet for a Rogue Trader. This includes all the various weapon options seen on the currently available models.

The only other datasheet in here is that of the Voidsmen-At-Arms. Again all the weapon options are covered, and even the faithful hound from the Kill Team Rogue Trader box gets an option, albeit a one-use only ability which causes mortal wounds.

As with all indexes, you gain access to 3 Warlord Traits, including:

  • Master of High Society: Each time you spend a command point to use a Core or Astra Cartographica stratagem, on a 5+ it is refunded.
  • Duelist: Re-roll the hit rolls and any unmodified 6s to wound cause a mortal wound in addition.

6 stratagems exclusive to the Traders are also in here including some pretty funky grenade strats, a strat to give your Rogue Trader a warlord trait in addition to your Warlord and Violent Acquisition, which gives you exploding 6s to hit in both the shooting and combat phase should you be within range of an objective marker.

No Relics here though. I imagine this is because of the limited options on models.

Codex Supplement: Blood Axes

Like sneaky Orks? Well, the Blood Axes maybe the Clan you are looking for, and in this book they have their options expanded, with unique traits, strats and Relics just for this clan.

Again, we have 3 unique warlord traits, varying in usage. One I wanted to pick out was…

  • Duk An’ Kovva: If you have your Warlord and a unit of Kommandos or Boyz in area terrain, you can make one of those two infantry units untargetable outside of 12″

These guys get 3 relics, 2 of which are really awesome.

Take the Straight Shoota first of all. Replaces a Kustom Shoota, but allows you to ignore the Look Out, Sir rules and dishes out a mortal wound in addition to normal damage on an unmodified wound roll of a 6.

Even better than this is the Fight Detecta, which is like a Marine Auspex scan, only, more Orky. You can choose to declare a charge on a unit arriving via reinforcements with a unit so longs as said reinforcements arrive within 12″. Whats more, you also get +2 to the charge! WAAAGGHH

8 stratagems are up for grabs for the Blood Axes, a couple of which help to boost units, such as Youngbloodz, which gives a unit of Stormboyz +1 Strength for 1/2CP (depending on unit size) at the start of the Fight Phase. Alternatively we have Gloryboyz, which is used in the Charge phase. Again, exclusive to Stormboyz, but gives you +2 to the charge.

Got ‘Em Trapped has been previously preview on Warcom, see below:

Some sneaky strats in here…

I think the Blood Axes could be fun, but what if you prefer your Orks to be…faster?

Speed Freeks Speed Mob: Army of Renown

The only Army of Renown in this book is dedicated to the Speed Freeks.

As with all previous Army of Renown, you have a fairly hefty restriction when building your list in this manner. You can only take Speed Freeks, Wagon or Aircraft keyworded units. That’s it. Nothing footslogging.

What you get in return though, is sizeable:

  • 6+ Invulnerable save across the board, 5+ if you advanced.
  • Objective Secured units, again across the board (aside from flyers)
  • +1 attack if you charge or Heroically Intervene.
  • When you Advance, you still count as Moving Normal during the shooting phase.

The only other downside is you cannot take any Clan Kulturs.

Just the one Warlord trait up for grabs here, dishing out free re-rolls to wound of 1.

On to stratagems, and you have 6 exclusive stratagems at your disposal. Here are a few I picked out:

  • CHAAAARGE!: 2 CP to use, but gives the chosen unit +1 Strength and improves the melee attacks AP by 1.
  • Lotsa Squigs!: 1 CP, and allows you to add 1 to the number of squig mines you have on board,
  • More Gitz Over ‘ERE!: Again, only 1 CP but allows a unit to fall back and shoot, as well as, should the chosen unit be a Snazzwagon, you gain 1 additonal hit on a unmodified hit roll of a 6 at shooting.

I think this is my favourite Army of Renown so far, and whilst probably not worth it for competitive matched play, this could see a bit of use in more fun, pickup games.

Crusade Rules

We’ve got a mini section for Crusade rules, kicking off with some brand new relics. There is literally something for everyone, as each faction gains 1 additional relic to pick from.

Take for example, for the T’au, we have a relic called Multi-target Tracking Node, which allows full rerolls to wound should your target enemy unit have a starting strength of 11 or more. The Orb of the Awakeners however, for the Necrons allows you to pick one Canoptek unit per battle round, giving them +1 to charge and making them +1 to hit in shooting and melee (to a max of 3+).

The Astra Cartographica continue with new content, as in this book they gain two exclusive Agendas, to help you level up your units.

They also gain a cool Crusade mechanic in which, by using unique Requisitions for these units, you can build your own equipment, much like the Adeptus Mechanicus. You roll a D6 on multiple tables, which gives your equipment a buff including, adding to the range of weapons, giving a model extra strength and the ability to fall back and charge being only 3 of them.

Looted Vehicles

This is what Crusade was made for! (Well, amongst other things!)

Critical Mass contains rules and datasheets for Looted Vehicles for the Orks. Always a fun hobby project, turning something like a Lemon Russ into something more…Orky… Now you have rules to use them!

To loot a vehicle you have to have enough Scrap parts, which you’ll find explained in the Ork Codex. You can then add extra equipment for a scrap parts cost, to give it more Dakka. You have a choice between making a Looted Wagon, Looted ‘Eavy Wagon and Battle Fortress (did you really need that Baneblade, let’s Ork it up!).

Matt’s Own Looted Trukk

The datasheets for each of the three variants shows the base loadout, and gives you options. The coolest new rule though, which is slightly different across the three books, is the ‘Kustom Red Button’. Once per game you can hit this button and one of 6 abilities becomes active until your next phase. Whilst the abilities vary across the different vehicles, a roll of a 1 is the same for all three vehicles, nothing happens.

Some of the bonuses however include extra movement, and invulnerable save and exploding hits,

Summary

This is a fun book, with some cool new rules, in particular for Orks in Crusade (Looted Vehicles!) and refreshed rules for the Rogue Traders.

It will have limited appeal however, campaign rules additions and the amount of lore and additional battleplans for games probably don’t quite justify the price tag, but they are fun, and I would recommend reading the lore in this book to everyone, especially those that read Rising Tide.

It’s great that so many armies, either with or without a 9th edition book, are getting so much extra content, it’s just a shame it results in us having to have many many books!

If you want some variety for your Orks, or fancy including a Rogue Trader in your Imperium army, this book is almost a must buy.

Our thanks again to Games Workshop for sending us a copy to review.

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