Warhammer The Horus Heresy : Liber Astartes Review
The Liber Astartes is a hefty volume clocking in at 343 pages and contains all of the different rules and unit profiles for each of the Loyalist Legions alongside some small pieces of background and nice artwork showing heraldry and colour schemes. In addition you’ll find full profiles and point costs for the each of the different generic Legiones Astartes units as well as a section detailing all of the generic Rites of War, Special Rules and Wargear options providing you with everything you need to create your Space Marine to use in games of Horus Heresy.
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Thank you to Games Workshop for providing Sprues and Brews with a free copy of Warhammer The Horus Heresy : Liber Astartes to review.
In this post will dive into each of the different Loyalist Legions and take a look at their unique rules and units. There are around 25 pages or so dedicated to each of the Loyalist Legions which contain profiles for all of the Legion specific units (although do note that not all of the old Legion specific units are present) as well as additional rules for their ‘Legion Trait, Rites of War, Warlord Traits, Armoury options and finally, a new addition for this new edition, Legion specific Advanced Reactions which supplement the Core Reactions found in the main rulebook.
If you want to learn more about he Traitor Legions you should head on over to our Liber Hereticus review and video here. Also make sure to take a look at our main Horus Heresy Age of Darkness unboxing and review here as well.
If you would prefer, you can also watch our video below where we’ll go through the entire book.
Otherwise read on for a detailed breakdown of the Loyalist Legion rules presented in the Liber Astartes, beginning with the First Legion, the Dark Angels…
Dark Angels – Legion I
There is a lot that will be familiar to players of the previous edition of the game and yet, there are also quite a few changes as well. Some rules, such as Mastery of the Blade and Inviolate and Alone are gone however the Hexagrammation rules return, albeit in a slightly different format. Each Legion has a general rule which applies to the majority of Dark Angels models in your army, a sort of Legion ‘trait’ or ‘attribute’ under the heading Legiones Astartes (x) special rule. Most units in your army will have the Legiones Astartes (x) special rule and so will benefit from the unique bonuses it provides. The Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) special rule forces you to pick a Hexagrammation Sub-type from a list of six for each Legiones Astartes (Dark Angels) unit in your army. You may choose different Hexagrammation Sub-types for each unit. The Ironwing Hexagrammation for example allows a unit to re-roll hit rolls of 1 when tagetting vehicles whereas the Firewing option grant the unit a +1 to wound bonus when targeting a unit that contains an Independent Character.
There is some flexibility built into this mechanic as well. Characters may join units with a different Hexagrammation Sub-type, and you get to choose which one is in effect each turn. Some units, such as the Dreadwing Interemptor Squad have a set Hexagrammation Sub-type, in this case the Dreadwing Sub-type which reduce the strength of all attacks that target this unit made with Flame, Plasma, Volkite and Phosphex weapons by 1 and reduces the effectiveness of attacks with the Poison(X) special rule.
As mentioned above, each Legion also gains access to a unique Advanced Reaction. Reactions are a new mechanic in this edition of the Horus Heresy game and allow the player to play a more active role during their opponents turn, moving, shooting and even charging with their units in response to their opponent’s actions. Advanced reactions build on this mechanic and provide additional unique options to the different Legions. Each of the Advanced Reactions have a specific trigger which determines how and when they can be used. A Dark Angels force can use their Angels of Death Advanced Reaction in response to an opponent’s unit charging one of their own. When used, the Dark Angel’s player must make a Leadership test using the lowest leadership characteristic in the unit. If the test is passed, the unit gains the Fearless and Fear(2) special rules until the end of the next turn! If you fail the test you’ll instead gain the Stubborn and Fear(1) rule instead which is a nice consolation prize.
There are two Dark Angels Warlord Traits that you’re able to choose from, my favourite being Seneschal of the Keys. This trait provides a WS and BS boost for your Warlord when targeting a preselected faction of your choice for a single turn of your choice. But that’s not all, the Warlord also gains an additional Reaction during the opponent’s Assault Phase!
Rites of War can be used to further customise your army and allow you to lean in to a particular playstyle or theme. They provide small bonuses in addition to some small drawbacks or limitations. The Dark Angels are almost spoilt for choice with six different options! Most of them will look for familiar to returning players but there have been some changes. For the most part (and this is common across the majority of the Legion specific Rites of War) the bonuses have been toned down in power somewhat and the limitations are not as restrictive. The Eskatron Imperative for example allows you to take Legion Destroyer Squads and Dreadwing Interemptor Squads as Troops choices however there is no longer a requirement to fulfil your compulsory choices with such units, nor is there any requirement to mount all your units in Transports either. Units in this Rite of War automatically pass Dangerous Terrain tests as well, which is handy as you also get to place two Eskaton markers on the battlefield causing the area neaby to counts as Dangerous Terrain! In terms of limitations for the most part they are pretty tame, the exception being that at the end of the battle if any enemy units are still present in the opposing player’s deployment zone you’ll forfeit D3 Victory points.
This is just one of the six Dark Angels unique Rites of War and allows you to build a Dreadwing themed army. You may prefer to build an army full of Predator Tanks and Landraiders instead? If so you’ll want to use the Steel Fist Rite of War which, amongst other things, allows you to take squadrons of Predators as a Troops choice. You’ve heard of the Ravenwing surely? Well the Seeker’s Arrow Rite of War allows you to build a predominately mounted army, providing additional bonuses such as Outflank and Rampage(2) to your Cavalry units, the drawback being that you are limited to a single Heavy Support option and all your Vehicles must be Fast and have the Skimmer or Flyer Unit Sub-types.
Each Legion also gains access to some unique wargear and for the Dark Angels we get Calabanite Warblades, Plasma Repeaters and Burners, Terranic Great Swords and Stasis Missiles! The sword options can be given to models with the Characters Unit Sub-type and Independent Characters respectively in place of a Power Sword and they have quite cool rules which set them apart. The Calabanite Warblade grants +1 strength bonus and has the Rending(6+) but I think the Terranic Greatsword is the more interesting option that, whilst only AP3, has the Rending (5+) and Murderous Strike (5+) bonuses!
Most Legions also gain a unique Legion Centurian option and for the Dark Angels you’re able to upgrade an aforementioned Centurian into a Paladin of the Hekatonystika (which will surely please fans from the previous edition of the Horus Heresy game). In addition to a small boost to your WS and Ld characteristics and the addition of the Stubborn and Adamantium Will (3+) rule you also gain access to the Orders of the Hekatonystika options , which return again although in a different format. There are six different Orders which are normally only available to units of Inner Cenobium Knights. The Augurs of Weakness provides a buff to the strength of attacks made against a target with Armour 11 or more and Reapers of Hosts grants +1 additional attack if the model is base contact with two or more models. You’re able to tailor your Paladin to a variety of tasks, should that be challenging enemy leaders, hunting down monsters or destroying Daemons!
At last we come to the Dark Angels unique units, including the Lion himself! Each Primarch gets a unique Warlord Trait. Sire of the x, with x being Dark Angels in this case. The Primarch Warlord Traits are generally very good and in most cases provide nice army wide bonuses. The Lion improves the leadership characteristic of all friendly models that can draw line of sight to him in addition to granting the Crusader special rule to all Dark Angels models in your army. Most Primarchs also grant an additional reaction in a specific phase of the game and for the Lion this is the opponent’s Shooting Phase.
The Lion has some nice rules as well, able to benefit from a single Order of the Hekatonystika of your choice each turn for a start! In addition, the Lion retains his Point of the Blade and the Lion’s Choler rules, providing more reliable charges and additional attacks as the Lion takes wounds. His weapon options are very cool, the Lion Sword, whilst only strength 7 has a number of special rules such as Armourbane, Fleshbane and Instant Death and that coveted AP1 whereas the Wolf Blade is more geared towards cutting through mass infantry, with Shred, Reaping Blow(2) and the Fearsome Ruin special – forcing an enemy unit to roll an additional D6 for the inevitable Morale check they will be forced to take after tangling with the Primarch of the 1st Legion!
Not all of the Dark Angels units have made the cut in this first version of the Liber Astartes but I hope we’ll see them return in the future via the Expanded Army List profiles. Included in the Liber Astartes though are the Inner Circle Knights Cenobium, Dreadwing Interemptors and Deathwing Companion Detachments. I’ve already touched on the Orders of the Hekatonystika above and the Inner Circle Knights must select one when building your army. They all come equipped with Terranic Greatswords by default and with 2 attacks each (3 on the Order Preceptor) I think this is a pretty good loadout. You can if you want to swap these for Thunder hammers should you wish.
The Dreadwing Interemptors are very similar although they do gain the Counter-attack(1) special rule too, combined with their weapons this should deter most charges against them. The Deathwing Companions are an interesting unit that can be taken as a retinue option for a unit with the Master of the Legion rule. They have a variety of different weapon options from Power Fists and Terranic Greatswords to Plasma Pistols, Jump Packs and the iconic Cytheron Pattern Aegis, a special kind of shield that can be deployed to grant invulnerable saves to the entire unit. There are also rules for two unique Dark Angels characters as well, Corswain, Champion of the Dark Angels and Marduk Sedras, Eskaton of the Dreadwing!
White Scars – Legion V
As with the Dark Angels Legion rules, we see several changes from the previous edition, some of the Legion wide rules such as Born in the Saddle and To Laugh in Death’s Face have been reworked into the different Warlord Traits and Rites of War for example. Swift Action returns though as part of the Legiones Astartes (White Scars) special rule which means all White Scars models benefit from +1 to their movement characteristic which is a very thematic bonus for this, perhaps the most mobile of Legions. In addition a White Scars general may roll an additional dice and discard the lowest rolled dice when determining who takes the first turn or when attempting to seize the initiative, replacing the Eye of the Storm ability from their previous rules. Their unique advanced reaction also enhances the mobility of the army, allowing multiple units of White Scars to move in the opponents movement phase should an enemy unit end their own movement with 12″.
The White Scars have some interesting Warlord Traits which also includes some Traitor and Loyalist specific options (something you’ll see a lot of in the remaining Loyalist Legions too). Born to the Saddle is my favourite though, providing a great army wide buff – all White Scars Cavalry units can ignore effects of Difficult Terrain and gain a 4+ invulnerable save against wounds inflicted by failed Dangerous Terrain tests.
On the Rites of War front the White Scars have fewer options than their cousins in the 1st Legion, but no less interesting. The Sagyar Mazan can be used to enable you to take their unique Terminator unit, the Ebon Keshig Cohorts, as a Troops choice and grants all other Infantry units the Feel Know Pain (5+) and Kharash ability, this latter ability denying your opponent any victory points for slaying such units. The drawback however is quite significant, preventing you from placing any units in Reserve and from including any non-Vehicle Heavy Support options. Their other option is the Chogorian Brotherhood, allowing you to build the iconic all bike army of your Chogorian dreams with the drawback being some quite strict limitations on the types of unit you can include in your army.
The White Scars Armoury contains some interesting options including an upgraded version of the Legion Scimatar Jetbike as a mount option for non-Unique Independent Character units and comes equipped with the Scatterbolt Launcher, a Template Bolt weapon with the Shred and Pinning special rules. The Power Glaive also appears in this section and, whilst only AP3, it does have the Breaching (5+) special rule meaning there is a good chance some your attacks will also be wounding at AP2. The Cyber-Hawk is the most exciting option though, granting re-rolls of hit rolls of 1 when shooting a selected enemy unit within 24″ and also granting an additional +1 to Charge rolls against the same selected enemy unit!
The special Consul option for the White Scars is the Stormseer, a replacement for the Librarian with access to multiple Psychic Disciplines including the Storm’s Fury discipline which includes the Unseen Bolt and Call of the Wind powers! The latter is very cool and allows you to grant the Fleet (2) ability to all friendly models with 6″ of the Stormseer if you sacrifice your movement or you can choose to make a Psychic Test to increase that to to Fleet (4) should you wish!
One of the faster Primarchs on foot, the fastest when mounted on his Sojutsu pattern voidbike, Jaghatai Khan looks like a really fun Primarch to use in your games. His Warlord Trait grants the Furious Charge (1) special rule to all Infantry and Cavalry units in the army and grants an additional reaction in the opponent’s Movement phase. Most of his special rules remain very similar to their previous version however his wargear has received some improvements. The White Tiger Dao for example now also bestows Furious Charge (2) and the Murderous Strike (5+) abilities!
Alongside their Primarch the White Scars also get rules for three unique units and Qin Xa, Master of the Keshig! The Golden Keshig, a jetbike mounted unit, look absolutely terrifying on the charge with their Kontos Power lances striking at initiative 8 with strength 10 AP1 and the Brutal (3) special rule causing them to inflict 3 wounds on a target for each successful unsaved wound roll! Perfect for skewering Dreadnoughts and potentially Traitor Primarchs too!
Space Wolves – Legion VI
The Spaces Wolves have also received some quite impressive updates in this new version of the game. Their original Legion rules (which used to grant +1WS on the charge, additional range on their run and consolidation moves and special interactions with the Night Fighting, Outflank and Infiltrate rules amongst other bonuses) have been altered and combined into a new version of the Legiones Astartes (Space Wolves) special rule. Bestial Savagery now allows Space Wolves units with the Infantry Unit Sub-type to Run and still shoot and charge in the same turn. Units that can’t run instead gain +1WS on the charge and Vehicles receive a buff to their Ram attacks. On top of these great Legion rules, the Space Wolves have access to a very cool advanced reaction, No Prey Escapes the Wolf, which allows a Spaces Wolves unit to move and then declare a charge when an opponent’s unit moves within 12″ of a Space Wolves unit. There will be no avoiding a fight with the warriors from Fenris I imagine!
A Space Wolves Warlord may choose from one of three unique Warlord Traits, all three of them granting additional reactions in various phases. Crown Breaker is my favourite, granting the Warlord and his unit the Feel No Pain (5+) special rule whilst locked in combat with an Independent Character.
The Rites of War options for the Space Wolves all focus on buffing mobility and melee prowess. The Pale Hunters grant your Grey Slayer and Grey Stalker Packs the Hit and Run special rules and additional movement bonuses when making such a move. Units also gain Fleet (2) and Rage (2) when Outflanking, very cool when you take into account that this Rite of War allows you to bestow the Outflank special rule on up to three units! The limitations are not too bad either, you’re limited to a single Heavy Support choice and you must assign at least one unit to a Flanking Assault which was probably always going to happen anyway. The other options are equally as impressive with the Black Watch granting bonuses whilst fighting Traitor Astartes and the Bloodied Claw buffing the combat prowess of every unit in your army for a turn, although a canny opponent may be able to bait some of your units out of position as the limitation for this particular Rite of War requires that your units must declare a charge if they are able.
The Space Wolves have access to several pieces of unique wargear, such as Fenrisian Axes (a buffed chainsword for all intents and purposes) and the iconic Frost Weapons which are basically power weapons with the Reaping Blow (1) special rule. The most interesting ‘item’ though is the Jarl upgrade which can be applied to the different Praetor options and grants the Counter Attack (2) and Skirmish Sub-type to the Praetor.
The Spaces Wolves have access to the most Legiones Consularis options of any of the Loyalist Legions. For example the Caster of the Runes, a Psyker type unit with access to a nice defensive Psychic Power granting Shrouded (5+) to nearby units and the Speaker of the Dead, an Apothecary equivalent which also grants Hatred and Stubborn to the unit he joins. It’s worth pointing out however that certain Legiones Astartes Centurian options are not available to select when building a Space Wolves army with Chaplains, Librarians or Primus Medicae all excluded.
The Vth Legion have quite a large roster of unique units, with eight in total including their Primarch, Leman Russ. The Wolf King himself is one of the most capable fighters amongst the Loyalist Primarchs, with an above average Initiative, WS and Attacks characteristic. Couple this base capability with some impressive wargear and you’ll be able face off against Primarch and Infantry units alike. The Sword of Balenight in particular looks terrifying with Murderous Strike (4+) and Brutal (2) amongst other rules. Leman Russ also has a really thematic Warlord Trait – in addition to granting an additional reaction in the opponent’s Assault Phase it also grants all Space Wolves in the army +1 strength on the charge. On top of this you’ll also get to benefit from the Howl of the Death Wolf, a once per game ability that grants a small bonus to the movement characteristic of friendly Space Wolves and inflicts an immediate Pinning test on enemy Space Wolves!
The Wolf-Kin of Russ, Freki and Geri return, as do the Deathworn, Varagyr Wolf Guard, Grey Slayer and Grey Stalker Packs. The Grey Slayer and Grey Stalker Packs are very similar to regular Legion Tactical and Despoiler Squads respectively, with the addition of the Counter-attack (1) special rule and a much more flexible loadout selection. The Deathsworn each have two wounds and two attacks and come equipped as standard with power axes. They also have artificer armour, the Counter-attack (1) and Stubborn special rules making them just as effective in offense and defence both. Their Dreams of the Death Wolf ability also allow them to fight before being removed as a casualty meaning opponents really will want to avoid tangling with these guys in melee if they can help it.
On the named Character front we get rules for both Geigor Fell-Hand and Hvarl Red-Blade, Centurian and Praetor level characters respectively. Hvarl looks like a great choice as he provides an additional reaction in the opponent’s Assault phase for himself and any unit he has joined as well as bestowing the Scout special rule on up to three other Space Wolves units in the army.
Imperial Fists – VII
The Imperial Fists, staunch defenders of Terra and loyal servants of the Throne! Their Legion rules have changed quite a bit in this new edition. Blood and Honour, Unshakeable Defence and the Bitter End have all been removed and Disciplined Fire has been reworked into their new Legiones Astartes (Imperial Fists) special rule which bestows Imperial Fists models with the Discipline and Resolve ability, granting a +1 to hit bonus that applies when making an attack with any Bolt or Auto type weapon. This even applies when making a reaction as well, including with vehicles and other non-Infantry type units. The Advanced Reaction for the Imperial Fists is quite similar to the Space Wolves own, allowing an Imperial Fists unit to declare a charge, rolling D6 + initiative (and any additional bonuses). I quite like that this is a more melee focussed Advanced Reaction to compliment the shooting bonuses granted via the Legiones Astartes (Imperial Fists) special rule. Imperial Fists have access to some great melee units and being able to spring out from a gun line to steal the initiative from an enemy assault reminds me of some great scenes from the Horus Heresy Black Library series.
Imperial Fists Warlords are able to select from three unique Warlord Traits (one general and two Loyalist specific). Architect of Devastation has echoes of the original Unshakable Defence rule Imperial Fists used to benefit from, granting the Warlord and any unit he has joined to re-roll hit rolls of 1 whilst occupying Terrain that grants a cover save or embarked within a fortification. Two of the three Warlord Traits grant an additional reaction during specific phases for the Warlord and his unit or, in the case of Warden of Inuit and Architect of Devastation, for the entire army. The Solar Marshal Warlord Trait is even more flexible, granting an additional reaction in ‘any’ of the opponent’s phases!
Imperial Fists fans will be pleased to see the Stone Gauntlet, Hammerfall Strike Force and Templar Assault Rites of War return with the new edition with some interesting changes. There have been some changes to the different compulsory units required to fulfil some of the requirements, Phalanx Warders for example replacing Breacher units in the Stone Gauntlet Rite of War. Phalanx Warders in particular benefit from multiple Rites of War, becoming troops in both the Stone Gauntlet and Hammerfall Strike Force and gaining the coveted Line and Heart of the Legion special rules in the Stone Gauntlet Rite of War. There have also been changes to the bonuses and limitations too. Sticking with the Stone Gauntlet you’re no longer gaining +1 toughness whilst using a Boarding or Combat shield instead you now benefit from rerollable invulnerable saves from shooting and combat attacks if equipped with a Boarding shield. The limitations for most of the Rites of War require you to fulfil compulsory Troops choices with certain options and some additional limitations on the use of Deep Strike Assault, Subterranean Assault or Flanking Assaults.
The Vigil Storm Shield, Solarite Power Gauntlet and Iliastus Assault Cannon are all present in the VIIth’s Armoury with predominantly unchanged profiles. In addition Imperial Fists players are able to upgrade their various Terminator units and Independent Characters with the Deep Strike special rule. The Imperial Fists also get a access to a unique Consul option, the Castellan, who gains access a range of Master-crafted heavy weapons and the Fire Support special rule. On top of this he also makes additional attacks with such weapons and grants the Line Unit Sub-type to any Legion Heavy Support squads in the same Detachment.
Rogal Dorn has apparently been working out between shifts in the Bhab Bastian as he returns with a substantial points increase and a much tougher profile. His statline has been improved in line with his brother Primarchs, and in some characteristics such as WS and Wounds he surpasses them. He can put these improved stats to good use with his mighty Chainsword which now also gains the Murderous Strike (6+) special rule. On the defence Dorn looks great as well. Any charge declared against him or his units counts as a disordered charge and if any hits do land they’ll have to get past his Auric Armour which grants a 2+/4++ save and requires any wound roll to be at least 4+ to get through. Rogal Dorn also provides some great army wide buffs as well. Any Character Sub-type units that can draw line of site to their Primarch can use his leadership characteristic also add +1 wounds to the results of any combats. Before the game starts you can also choose a phase and gain an additional reaction during that phase in each of your opponent’s turn!
The Templar Brethren and Phalanx Warder Squads are the unique Legion units available for Imperial Fists armies and both have seen some substantial updates with Phalanx Warders in particular looking very nice. They come equipped as standard with Bolters, Power axes and Boarding Shields as well as a compliment of Frag, Krak and Breaching charges. They have a variety of wargear options that can be sprinkled throughout the unit, such as Meltaguns and Thunder Hammers. Phalanx Warders can now also take Rhino Transports as an option too which is great for shifting them up the board and on to an objective (especially in a Stone Gauntlet where they’ll be scoring). They also have two other rules which are both quite cool. Lock-step allows them, and any Characters who may have joined them, to gain +1 WS in a phase in which they were charged. On top of this you have Shield Wall which adds a +1 bonus to any invulnerable save for all models in the unit equipped with a Boarding shield so long as at least three models remain in the unit.
All three Imperial Fists characters have made the cut, with Sigismund, Polux and Rann all returning with minor changes. Sigismund becomes a much more reliable death dealer, with Instant Death now working outside of challenges. He also keeps that rare Eternal Warrior special rule and the ability to take Templar Brethren as a Troops choice in the same Detachment. Fafnir Rann looks like a great pick in a Stone Gauntlet style army supported with Phalanx Warders and Breacher squads which will benefit from another +1 WS bonus when charged.
Blood Angels – IX
The Blood Angels are synonymous with aggressive assaults and their Legion Astartes (Blood Angels) special rule, Encarmine Fury, plays into this theme. It has changed a bit since the previous edition though and now only grants that +1 to wound bonus in the turn that the Blood Angels unit charges. This means you’ll lose the advantage you had in future rounds of combat so you’ll be looking to break an opposing unit on the turn you charge if you can. On top of this Blood Angels vehicles also receive a small boost to their Ram Attacks as well.
The Wrath of Angels is the Blood Angels unique Advanced Reaction and is a quite useful mechanic for getting your hard hitting melee units into a fight. Declared in the opponent’s Shooting phase you’re able to give a unit the Shrouded (5+) in response to being targeted with a shooting attack. In addition, the Blood Angels unit is then allowed to declare a charge against that enemy unit! It feels like it might be quite easy to deny the Blood Angels the use of this advanced reaction (simply don’t shoot the Blood Angels that are close to you) but this certainly puts the opponent on the back foot as the Blood Angels should quite easily be able to close the distance with the enemy and force the opponent to make that difficult decision.
Surprisingly these most noble and loyal of Legions have an option for Traitor only Warlord Trait amongst the three available to them. It’s this trait, Thrall of the Red Thirst, which looks the most fun to be fair, granting additional attacks to the Warlord and his unit on the charge with the trade off being you always have to attempt a charge if you’re able to. Very reminiscent of the Death Company rules from Warhammer 40,000!
Day of Revelation and Day of Sorrow both remain as Rites of War options but have seen quite a few changes in terms of bonuses and limitations. Day of Revelation no longer allows a turn one Deep Strike and no longer grants a cover save for units arriving from Deep Strike. Instead, before the first turn, you pick a point on the battlefield and declare a turn number between two and four. On this turn, all units held in the Deep Strike Assault will arrive with the first unit in the Deep Strike Assault placed on this point without scattering. If an enemy unit happens to occupy the same space, which is a possibility seeing as though you have to declare the point prior to the game beginning, then the unit can arrive else where but must scatter as normal. The limitations are bit more relaxed however, with no requirement to fill compulsory Troops slots with Jump Packs and no requirements to take a Fast Attack choice either.
Blood Angels get access to variety of unique wargear options such as Inferno pistols, Iliastus Assault Cannons and the iconic Perdition weapons (now also in axe, spear and maul flavours). With the exception of the Axe of Perdition, all such weapons are now AP3 with Rending (6+) meaning you’ll need a bit of luck to cut through Terminator armoured units. They do keep a version of Deathfire though, with a similar effect achieved via the Brutal (2) special rule.
The unit roster for the Blood Angels has seen some updates from the earlier edition. Sanguinius himself no longer unlocks Dawnbreakers as a Troops choice, is now only WS 8 (although gains +1 on a charge) and is slower at Initiative 6. His ability to buff Jump Pack equipped units in the army has also been removed as well as his ability to Deep Strike without scattering and the Sky Strike rule which allowed him to attack units from the air. His boost to combat resolution is now limited to just a single wound as well. So, a fair few negative changes there in terms of comparisons with his previous rules. He is still a very mobile unit though, with a movement of 14″ which also interacts with the new charge bonus tables meaning he should be able to dictate what, when and where he charges. Sanguinius’ wargear has also seen some changes, the Spear of Telesto has perhaps seen the most, now a flat Strength 10 AP1 regardless of whether Sanguinius has charged or not which is very nice. It also has the Lance and Exoshock (4+) special rule meaning it’s a great weapon to use against enemy vehicles. The Regalia Resplendent remains the same, granting a 2+/4++ with a re-roll on the turn he charges.
The Dawnbreaker Cohorts now have two wounds each and their primary weapon, the Falling-star Power Spear, now hits at +1 Strength at all times – the trade off being it’s now only AP3, however it does have Rending (6+) and with Reach (1) you should be be striking before most opponents too. Crimson Paladins keep their Blood is Forever rule, granting them versions of the Feel No Pain special rule depending on how outnumbered they are. The Coriolis Pattern Power Shields really come into their own in this edition when combined with the two wound profile upgrade the Crimson Paladins received, providing them with some Instant Death protection from Power fists and the like. The Angel’s Tears are a unique Destroyer type unit for the Blood Angels, equipped with Legion Warhawk Jump Packs and two Volkite Serpenta which can be exchanged for the Angel’s Tears Grenade Launchers which are now Assault 3 weapons rather than blast but keep their Rad-phage and Fleshbane rules. Everyone’s favourite flying Contemptor is also back, now with Toughness and Wounds in line with other Dreadnoughts. It is able to deploy via Deep Strike or to increase its movement characteristic to 12″ for a turn (in addition to gaining the Hammer of Wrath (2) special rules.
Raldoron and Dominion Zephon are included in the Liber Astartes but the Ghost of Saiph has been removed for now (maybe we’ll see him again in the future?). Raldoron is a very flexible Praetor type character able to select a Warlord Trait from a fellow Loyalist Legion. He has a fairly respectable melee profile and a very nice weapon with Shred, Murderous Strike (5+) and Master-crafter special rules. Dominiom Zephon looks like a whole load of fun, fast, armed with some deadly weaponry and resilient to boot with his Paragon of Restoration ability giving him the chance to stand back up again with a single wound on a 4+.
Iron Hands – X
The Iron Hands, whilst thin on the ground in terms of unique unit choices, still have some interesting rules in Liber Astartes. Their Legiones Astartes (Iron Hands) special rule, the Medusa’s Scales, does a good job of making your army much more resilient. Vehicles gain a version of the It Will Not Die (x) special rule and everything else in your army is reducing the strength of incoming ranged attacks by 1. An opponent may think to work around this advantage and engage with the Iron Hands in melee instead but they then have to contend with the Iron Hands unique Advanced Reaction, the Gorgon’s Spite, which works like an enhanced version of Overwatch, allowing an Iron Hands unit to fire double the number of shots they fire when making an Overwatch reaction (albeit with the Get’s Hot special rule applied).
On the Warlord Trait front an Iron Hands player has three unique choices, with two of them restricted to either Loyalist or Traitor Warlords. The Eye of Vigilance is a Traitor only option that grants the Preferred Enemy (Loyalist) special rule to the Warlord and his unit. That’s not all though, as it also allows the Warlord and his unit to make a reaction without expending a point from the Reaction Allotment. -this means you’re able to perform multiple reactions in the same phase, a very unique ability.
Of the two Rites of War options available to an Iron Hands player my favourite is the Company of Bitter Iron which allows you to build an army full of Medusan Immortals, all with the Line and Heart of the Legion special rule. This makes for an extremely tough army with Feel No Pain (5+) across your infantry. This formation represents those Iron Hands who, after the loss of their Primarch, cast off their Clan loyalties and resolved themselves to take the fight to the Traitors and for this reason the Primarch, Ferrus Manus, cannot be included in such an army.
The Iron Hands have access to a number of unique wargear options including some unique pattern Terminator armour that can apply the Blind effect to nearby enemy units. They also have access to interesting Graviton weapons in the form of the the Graviton Pistol and Shredder giving them some great options for dealing with enemy vehicles. Whilst the Iron Hands do not have any unique Consul upgrade options they are able to upgrade a Praetor into an Iron-Father which combines the combat prowess of a Praetor with the utility of a Techmarine.
Ferrus Manus is a tough Primarch to take down, with above average Toughness and a great 2+/3++ save. He is also packing some impressive ranged weaponry, equiped a with Master-crafted Plasma Blaster, a Master-crafted Graviton Shredder, a Heavy Flamer and a Grenade Harness! Firing Protocol (3) allows him to make good use of this loadout as well. If you do find yourself up close with an opponent though your six attacks with the Master-crafted Forgebreaker, a strength 12, AP1, Exoshock (3+), Brutal (3+) melee weapon, means that pretty much everything he swings at will die. Ferrsus Manus is also a great force multiplier, especially for a vehicle heavy army, granting Feel No Pain (6+) and (5+) to all Infantry and Vehicles respectively and an additional reaction in the opponent’s Assault phase for your army.
As mentioned earlier there are only two Iron Hands units included in the Liber Astartes book, the aforementioned Medusan Immortals and the Gorgon Terminators. The Gorgon Terminators each have two wounds and the Feel No Pain (5+) and Stubborn special rules and come equipped with the Legion’s unique pattern of Terminator armour, granting a 5+ invulnerable save and a chance to inflict the Blind effect on a nearby enemy unit. I’d really love to see this Legion receive a bit more love in the form of additional units and character options in the future.
Ultramarines – XIII
The Ultramarines are a highly efficient force consisting of a variety of different units each working to support one another. The net result is a force that, collectively and when working together, packs a punch much greater than the sum of it’s parts. The Legiones Astartes (Ultramarines) special rule grants their units a +1 to hit bonus when making a shooting attack against an enemy unit that has already been targeted this turn. You’ll want to light up your primary target with some basic guns before training your more potent weaponry on them to take advantage of this powerful ability. Their Advanced Reaction is also very powerful, allowing you to return fire with not one but two of your Ultramarines units as a reaction to your opponents shooting. This will obviously make the opponent very nervous about opening fire with their expensive units if they are poorly positioned.
Out of the three Ultramarines Warlord Traits I really like the look of the Burden of Kings, a Loyalist only option (yes, there is a Traitor option too!) which grants the It Will Not Die (4+) special rule on top of a free reaction in each of the opponent’s turns. Reactions will be a core part of your games of Horus Heresy and the ability to make additional reactions will be game changing I’m sure.
The Ultramarines only have a single Rite of War, the Logos Lectora, which is quite a tricky Rite of War to extract the most value from. The limitations are not to be overlooked either as you must add an additional compulsory HQ and Troops choice which must be either a Master of Signal or Legion Damocles Command Rhino. On top of this you’ll be unable to make use of the Deep Strike Assault, Subterranean Assault or Flanking Assault. The bonuses granted by the Rite of War are very strong if somewhat tricky to exploit. It will certainly take a competent Commander to utilise this Rite of War to the fullest. Each turn you may select from one of four Logos Lectora Commands, such as Hold Fast which allows all your Infantry units to re-roll hit rolls when shooting and benefit from +1 leadership at the expense of moving or running that turn. Retribution Strike grants all Infantry +1 WS and a bonus +1 to charge rolls, however Ballistic Skill is reduced by one as a trade off. As you can see there are some nice bonuses but you’ll really need to work hard to make sure you position your units appropriately to benefit from the chosen command and not leave your units vulnerable as a result of the trade-off.
The Ultramarines armoury is full of upgraded versions of regular wargear, such as the Legatine Axe, an AP2 power sword, the Argyrum Pattern boarding shield which grants a 5+ invulnerable save, increasing to 4+ in combat. Nothing too flashy but impressive none the less.
Roboute Guilliman, like Rogal Dorn, has received a great statline boost to bring him more in line with his brothers (although still not quite as good as the Lion or Russ). Like Dorn again, Guilliman is a good force multiplier for the rest of your army, improving leadership and granting various additional abilities such as Fleet (2), Furious Charge (1) and Stubborn each turn. Guilliman is quite a defensive Primarch, with a 2+ armour save and a 4+ invulnerable save that can be re-rolled once per phase. If Guilliman can survive a round of combat against an opponent he’ll be able to re-roll hit rolls of 1 in subsequent rounds.
There are only two Ultramarines units to choose from, both quite similar. The Praetorian Breacher squad haveh two wounds each and the Chosen Warriors special rule and come equipped with Boarding Shields and Power Swords. They do lack any ranged weapon options (beyond their Bolt Pistols) but can upgrade their Power Swords for Legatine axes. The Invictarus Suzerain squad are an elite version of the Preatorians, equipped with both Legatine axes and Argyrum Pattern boarding shields to make for very scary unit in close combat. They also have the Lords of Ultramar and Honour Bearers special rules which grant further leadership bonuses to nearby Ultramarines units and allow them to form a retinue for your own commanders.
Finally we have Remus Ventanus, the saviour of Calth! Equipped with a Legion Standard and Nuncio-vox, Remus is a good support piece for your army. If chosen as your Warlord he gains access to a very nice Warlord Trait which not only grants an additional reaction in the opponent’s shooting phase but also allows his unit to automatically pass any Leadership tests whilst within 3″ of an objective.
Salamanders – XVIII
The Salamanders are another tough Legion to play against, with a natural resistance to Flame, Melta, Plasma and Volkite weaponry afforded by their Legiones Astartes (Salamanders) special rule which applies a -1 to wound modifier to attacks made against them by such weapons. To further improve their resilience all Salamander units also enjoy the benefit of the It Will Not Die (6+) special rule. These rules combine to make the Salamanders, particularly their infantry and Dreadnoughts very difficult to shift with specialist weapons.
Duty is Sacrifice is the name of the Salamanders special Advanced Reaction which can be used in the opponent’s assault phase. It’s a funny reaction, unusual in that it also has a drawback for the Salamanders player, albeit with a very strong bonus too. Used after an enemy unit declares a charge against one of your own units, if that charge is successful your unit increases their Weapon Skill, Strength and Attacks characteristic by one until the end of the Assault phase. This is a very strong set of bonuses and will almost surely tip a round of combat in the favour of the XVIIIth. The drawback however is not insubstantial. Once the combat is over you must roll a dice for each surviving Salamander model, on each roll of a 6 the unit suffers an automatic wound against which no saves or damage mitigation rolls (such as Feel No Pain etc.) can be made.
Like many of the Legions, the Salamanders get three unique Warlord Traits with options for Loyalist and Traitor specific traits. I really like the ‘fluffy’ Weight of Duty Warlord Trait that can be chosen for Loyalist Warlord. This trait really leans into the lore and background of the Salamanders Legion, their compassion and desire to protect and defend the ordinary population. The Warlord and his unit gain a +1 strength bonus when locked in combat with an enemy unit that has the Fear special rule and gains the Hatred (Traitor) special rule too. There are restrictions on the units that can be included in the army though, with Destroyers, Mortalis Destroyers and Moritat Destroyers prohibited from being included in the army.
There are two Rite of War options detailed for the Salamaders Legion, the Covenent of Fire and the Awakening Fire. The former allows you to take Pyroclast and Support Squads equipped with the Legion’s unique flamer as a Troops choice. Such units gain the Line Sub-type allowing them to score objectives but there are some drawbacks, with Deepstrike Assaults not allowed and a similar restriction on certain unit selections as per the Weight of Duty Warlord Trait (with Vulkan added to the list too). T he other Rite of War, the Awakening Fire, dishes out the Fear (1) special rule to your entire army (for a cost) and makes your infantry immune to any Leadership modifiers when making Pinning tests. It also gives you access to a unique Psychic Discipline, Fury of the Salamander, which contains powers such as Elemental Horror and Salamander’s Fury. Elemental Horror in particular looks fun, a strength 7 AP4 Template attack with the Pinning, Deflagrate and Shell Shock (3) special rules.
The Salamanders get access to a wide range of unique wargear including a selection of special Flamer weapons (including Pistol and Cannon options) with the Dragon’s Breath special rule which cause them to inflict D6 rather than D3 hits when using a Wall of Death attack. Salamander characters are still able to apply the Master-crafted special rule to a single weapon they are equipped with as well. The Dragonscale Storm Shield is a nice piece of wargear available to Independent Characters and Terminator squads which improves the unit’s existing Invulnerable Saves by one, further improving the resilience of such units.
It’s quite slim pickings on the unit front for the Salamanders with just two units and a Primarch. Vulkan is one of the slowest Primarchs, with a Movement characteristic of 7″ and an Initiative of five. He does have above average toughness however a decent set of saves (which can be re-rolled against Flame and Volkite atttacks). The Furnace’s Heart is a very powerful looking weapon with a host of special rules including Burst (D6), terrifying when you look at the rest of it’s profile (Strength 7, AP2, Lance and Shock Pulse). Vulkan’s Warlord Trait is one of the most straight forward really, making your entire army Stubborn and granting an additional reaction in the opponent’s Shooting phase.
Both the Pyroclast and Firedrake Terminator squads look like fantastic units. The Terminators have an above average Weapon Skill and a great ability which allows them to re-roll hit rolls of one in combat. The Pyroclasts come equipped with artificer armour and, like the Firedrakes, also have the It Will Not Die (5+) special rule. On top of this they also gain a 5+ Invulnerable save against Flame, Plasma, Melta and Volkie weapons. Each member of the unit is equipped with a Pyroclast flame projector, a flexible weapon with two profiles which allows them to deal with squads of infantry or enemy vehicles.
Raven Guard – XIX
Last but not least we have the Raven Guard, a Legion specialised in stealth and misdirection. Their Legiones Astartes (Raven Guard) special rule is quite interesting and allows you to bestow one of three unique special rules on eligible units in your army. The Talons special rule can be given to most Infantry (except if they have the Heavy Sub-type, are equipped with Terminator armour or a Jump Pack) and grants the Shrouded (6+) special rule against attacks from more than 8″ away (in addition to the Infiltrate special rule). Your Dreadnoughts, Terminators and Jump Pack equipped units instead can gain the Falcons rule which allows them to re-roll wound rolls of one in combat. Lastly we have the Hawks special rule which can be given to any Flyers, Fast Vehicles and Cavalry units in your army granting them the Shrouded (6+) (5+ if they already had it) on a turn in which they Run, Move Flat Out or Zoom.
Fade to Black is the name of the Raven Guard’s unique Advanced Reaction. Used in the opponent’s Shooting phase it allows you to move a unit of Raven Guard in response to being targeted with a ranged attack and gives them the Shrouded (4+) special rule too. It’s possible to use this Advanced Reaction to move a target out of range of the opposing unit’s weapons, in which case that unit cannot select another target and must forfeit their attack! This is an especially powerful reaction.
Again we get a choice of three different Warlord Traits with a Traitor and Loyalist specific option thrown into the mix. Just like with the Iron Hands, my favourite is the Traitor option which allows your Warlord to match certain characteristics with the opponent whilst in base contact. Just like the Iron Hands trait you’re also able to use a reaction without spending a point however unlike the Iron Hands, it does not explicitly state that you’re also able to use more than one reaction per unit per phase as a result.
Both Rite of War choices for the Raven Guard look pretty good. Decapitation Strike is all about closing with and eliminating enemy leaders with your whole army gaining the Preferred Enemy (Independent Characters) special rule. On top of this any units entering play with a Deep Strike or Flanking Assault gain the Shrouded (5+) special rule. If you’re able to complete your goal of decapitating the enemy Warlord you’ll also gain an additional two Victory points as well. The limitations are pretty relaxed when compared to other Rite of War options in that you’re limited to a single Heavy Support choice and prohibited from including any Fortification choices.
The Raven Guard Armoury includes the likes of the Raven’s Talons and Corvid Pattern Jump Pack. The former is an upgraded Lightning Claw with a better Rending effect which grants two additional attacks when taken as a pair. The Corvid Pattern Jump Pack is a souped up version of the regular Jump Pack with +2″ of Movement and granting a 4+ invulnerable save against any wounds caused by Dangerous Terrain. We also get options for Cameoline (a cloak which grants or improves the Shrouded rules for the bearer) and Infarvisors, which grants the bearer the Night Vision special rule and +1 BS.
Just like the Salamanders there are only three unique unit options for the Raven Guard, an elite verion of an Assault squad in the Dark Fury squad, the sneaky Mor Deythan squad and Corax himself. The Dark Fury squad is a brutal close combat unit that come equipped with Corvid Pattern Jump Packs and a pair of Raven’s Talons each. The squad gets a large number of quality marine slaying attacks which strike at initiative 5 on the charge. The Mor Deythan squad have a unique rule called Fatal Strike which allows them, once per game, to add the Rending (4+) special rule to their attacks. The squad also benefits from a BS of 5 and may be equipped with a range of different specialist ranged weapons.
Corax is great force multiplier, giving your army the Scout and Crusader special rules and an additional reaction in the opponent’s movement phase. He is also one of the more mobile Primarchs, sharing similar movement rules with Sanguinius but also enjoying Hit & Run as well, a rule he bestows upon a unit he joins (the Dark Fury squad looks absolutely terrifying now). On top of this he allows his unit to re-roll all Shrouded rolls too! Corax’s melee weapons are very nice, with Shred, Blind and the Fighting Style special rule, the latter allowing Corax to benefit from improved initiative, additional attacks or the Murderous Strike (4+) special rule as most befits the situation the Primarch finds himself in.
There a couple of things I really like about the book, for a start the inclusion of all of those general Legion Astartes unit profiles, Rites, Warlord Traits and Wargear at the beginning of the book is great and means you’ll only need to carry this and the core rulebook with you to games. Perhaps the only criticism I have is that the special rule section is incomplete, meaning you’ll have to flick between books sometimes when looking up a rule. This is made slightly more difficult due to the lack of a glossary (I guess we’re spoilt nowadays with the 9th edition Warhammer 40,000 Codexes).
That concludes our review of the Liber Astartes book. If you would like to learn more about he Traitor Legions do go check out our Liber Hereticus review here and also make sure to take a look at our main Horus Heresy Age of Darkness unboxing and review here.
Thank you to Games Workshop for providing Sprues and Brews with a copy of Warhammer The Horus Heresy : Liber Astartes to review.
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