Warhammer The Horus Heresy: Liber Hereticus Review
During the horrors of the Horus Heresy, half of the Legiones Astartes pledged for the Warmaster Horus in his campaign against the Master of Mankind. In Liber Hereticus, up for pre order today alongside the Age of Darkness box, you can command one of the 9 traitor legions and construct your army to march upon Terra itself.
Massive thanks to Games Workshop who sent us a free early copy of Liber Hereticus to review and share with you . If you would like to support the site then why not order your copy of Liber Hereticus through our affiliate Element Games and save yourself money too?
Would you rather watch than read this review? I’ve also filmed a full flick through of the book which can be found below or over on YouTube!
There is also a whole host of Warhammer The Horus Heresy content up on the site today including the review of Liber Astartes, Unboxings of the new Kratos, Rhino and Special/Heavy Weapons and of course the awesome new Age of Darkness box itself!
So pledge your soul to the ruinous powers and let’s take a look at Liber Hereticus!
Liber Hereticus Review
The rules for various Legiones Astartes in the first edition of the Horus Heresy sometimes needed a small library, with entries scattered across the various Black Books over the lifetime of the game. While Forge World did release come consolidated volumes containing the core Astartes list and the Legion specific units, these too got later expanded upon across supplemental volumes.
With the new 2nd edition of The Horus Heresy, Games Workshop have taken a different route and instead have released two different 340+ page hardback books – One for the Traitors and another for the Loyalists.
The first 140 pages of both of these books are the same and cover the core Legiones Astartes army list, new unit types, rites of war, universal special rules and wargear.
Let’s start with a point that has spooked some existing Horus Heresy players – yes some profiles have been removed from the book compared to the previous army list. However, the book calls out that an expanded list covering these units will be free to download on the Games Workshop website – and most importantly will be fully “legal” for use in games, this certainly isn’t a situation where these units will not be usable in events for example. From what I can see these removed units are either ones where profiles have been consolidated into exiting profiles to remove the amount of bloat, where models do not exist or need converting, or in rare cases where the models simply do not match the current Horus Heresy aesthetic – let’s have a quick look at those removed profiles:
Legion Dreadnoughts/Legion Mortis Dreadnoughts – completely removed from the Legion list, but will most likely be available in the Expanded army list on the website.
Cortus Contemptors – The stripped down Contemptors are removed, but honestly I rather the single Contemptor profile to make identifying units easier as these never had a dedicated model
Mortis Contemptors – The rules and upgrades for these have been consolidated into the basic Contemptor profile, meaning you can take Dreads with this loadout in units of 3 now
Assault Squads have actually been split into two different units, Despoiler Squads who do not have jump packs and Assault Squads who do
Attack Bikes – removed but will most likely be in the expanded army list, these are an old model who have never had a dedicated heresy counterpart to match the Outrider bikes
Legion Land Speeders – Have been replaced with Proteus Land Speeders
Lightning Strike Fighters – These have gone, but again should be in the expanded list and arguably sit better in the Solar Auxilia
Sky Slayer Jetbikes – These have actually been folded into the standard Sky-Hunter profile, with standard squads now able to swap the main weapon on every jetbike rather than 1 in 3!
Land Raiders – Land Raiders now have 2 profiles, the Proteus and the Proteus Explorator
We also see a similar thing across the legion specific units too with only units with models still existing in this book (And again any options removed from the book should appear in the expanded list on the website – They stress the point that these units are still legal, I suspect the logic is that any model in this book should be available to purchase for players)
We also see rules changes throughout this section and we’ll touch on some of the bigger ones – Light skimmer vehicles such as the javelin and land speeder now have toughness and wounds rather than hull points, which makes them much better against low strength weaponry which could always get a lucky shot too against them. All Dreadnaughts also get this too, with the Leviathan in particular now boasting toughness 8 and 7 wounds making it quite formidable!
Terminators now boast 2 wounds each making them tougher to chew through, and transport capacities have been increased across the board making it easier to put characters and attachments in them alongside your squads which is a much welcomed change!
We see a couple of new unit sub-types added to those in the core rules
Skirmish – increases unit coherency to 3″ rather than 2″ allowing these to screen out a little more than usual units – they also get an extra +1 to cover saves making them great at sitting in terrain.
Bombard – Can fire ordnance weapons when moving at combat speed
Reinforced – Ignores Crew Shaken and does not have to make snap shots when Crew Stunned
As with the previous edition of the game, selecting a Master of the Legion also unlocks “Rites of War” which adjust force construction rules in order to get some thematic armies and abilities. For example, this allows you to give the entire army drop pods or termite assault drills and will now all arrive cinematically during a single turn. Alternatively you can run an entire army of tanks, or an entire army of dreadnaughts if you want! Or how about an entire army of jetbikes? These rules allow you to create some really thematic and cool lists and recreate some of awesome battles seen during the Horus Heresy
We also get a large assortment of legion Consuls wo are basically specialised characters who can lean into one of a number of different specialities – for example the Esoterist allows traitor players to include up to 3 troops or elite choices from the Ruinstorm Daemons army list as part of their army and deploy them to battle through daemonic rifts that can be opened by the Esoterist! While the Legion Motificator is a specialist techmarine that is responsible for interring fallen marines into Dreadnaughts and as such gets to join units of Dreadnaughts and give them a 5+ feel no pain – Again these units can be used to heavily theme and army and add some real flavour to the force.
We get an additional 12 pages of Universal Special Rules, and I hope that we do see a supplemental product at some point consisting of a pamphlet containing all USRs together in a single document just to make looking these up during a battle a little easier. Alongside these is an 11 page section detailing every weapon option available, making these easy to find when looking up weapon profiles in addition to a further 8 pages covering all the wargear available to Legiones Astartes.
Traitor Legiones Astartes
In addition to the core Astartes list, we also get supplemental lists for each of the 9 Traitor Legions – It’s worth noting that you can play each of these as Loyalists if you so wish, however there are often restrictions to which characters you can take if you do so.
Each of these forces has a unique Legion rule, reaction, wargear and units that add some flavour and identity to each legion
It’s worth pointing our here that while legions gain a unique reaction, they can each only be used once per battle – so while some of these are very strong, you are limited in their use.
Let’s go through each of the Legions and see what they have access to, what’s changed and how their legion traits add to the feel of the force. We’ll also be going through these each unit in more detail in separate articles as we get closer to release.
III – The Emperor’s Children
The Emperor’s Children were the pinnacle of martial prowess before their fall, and this is reflected in their Legion Rule “Flawless Execution”
This is amazing as generally means that Emperor’s Children units will be fighting first in combat – especially given that that can swap power swords for their legion specific Phoenix weapons that boat Murderous Strike making them cause instant death on a 6+ which causes even a Tactical Sergeant to become a threat against characters
Boosting their to hit with reactions is also brutal and plays well into a mixed arms force of combined close combat and ranged firepower – “Sun Killer” squads in particular (heavy support squads with Plasma or Lascannons – not given a unique profile in the book, but expected in the downloadable expanded list) will be a massive threat as you have the psychological threat of retuning fire or Overwatch at 2+ to hit!
Their Advanced Reaction “The Perfect Counter” also plays into this by giving them a second chance for Return Fire. When an enemy unit declares a charge, you get to also make a charge roll – if you roll less than the distance required then you simply shoot the charging unit yourself in the same way as return fire. However if you roll long enough you cancel the opponents charge (cancelling any benefits they get for charging) and instead get to complete the charge yourself (gaining any usual benefits)
What’s great about this is that it’s worth using on both your ranged and combat units just for the potential of cancelling your opponents charge benefits and getting the chance of an additional volley of fire at +1 to hit!
The Emperor’s Children also get access to some cool augments that can be used to enhance your units – Sonic Shriekers give a -1 to hit penalty to the opponent when you charge or are charged for example, really punishing your opponent when you close the distance on them
From a unit point of view we see a few changes – Palatine Blades can no longer take jump packs, which I suspect means a few players will need to swap these out for back packs! This is a shame as they made a great unit to accompany Eidolon. Kakoponi are still a brutal unit with an awesome shooting profile, and can still be made into troops choice in their rite of war.
IV – Iron Warriors
As siege specialists, the Iron Warriors are really good at taking down things that are normally tough to crack
Wrack & Ruin makes it so that even bolters can be a threat against most targets and makes dedicated anti tank weapons very good!
Their advanced reaction “Bitter Fury” is also very good, as a “super” return fire. When an enemy unit has completed their shooting attack but before any models are removed, the reactive player gets to shoot back but with double the number of shots as usual! There is a downside however, these shots have “Get’s Hot” on a hit of 1 or 2, meaning there is the potential of doing considerable damage to your own unit – However keep in mind that you can use this reaction before models are removed, meaning that potentially the unit is already dead and may as well go down in a blaze of gunfire against the unit that killed them!
The Iron Warriors can also replace their Bolt Weapons with Shrapnel versions that have a shorter range but cause pinning, and with their special rite of war also get to increase the number of shots that those weapons have too!
The Iron Warriors also still have access to their Iron Circle Maniple that can be taken as a retinue for Perturabo, gaining a 5+ feel no pain while with him. Sadly the Primarch has also lost access to his Shadowsword transport!
All named characters without models have been removed
VI – The Night Lords
As experts in terror tactics, the Night Lords legion abilities play around this with “A Talent for Murder”
While initially this looks situational, it actually combos really well with Curze – When Curze wins a combat and ends with no enemy models engaged with him then every enemy unit with line of sight to him has to take a pinning test! Get him into combat early and you can potentially set up your entire force to have +1 to wound against a large chunk of the enemy army. This also rewards big units to gain this bonus if you can’t tee up the pinning schenanigans.
Their advanced reaction is also very tricksy, essentially it allows you to fall back before the charge is completed and immediately regroup, leaving you out of range for the incoming charge, while setting you up to make the counter charge next turn.
Playing into the theme of the Night Lords, one of their rites of war causes night fighting to happen, gives fear to all their characters and allows Terror and Raptor squads to be taken as troops! Both of these squads are very nasty with the Raptors being able to see in the dark, countering the downsides of the night fighting rule being in effect, while the terror squad are dedicated infantry hunters. Both of these units also have fear, making it more likely that you cause pinning and falling back – again setting up the legion rule for other units.
The Flaymaster character is removed, instead now in place as a Consul upgrade.
XII – World Eaters
Driven to madness and aggression by the Butcher’s Nails, the World Eaters legion abilities tie into a brutal close combat force
With Violence Incarnate they get an additional attack when they charge that stacks on top of other charge bonuses, making the World Eaters particularly devastating when they get a charge off. This is enhanced further with their advanced reaction “The Savage Tide” which is used in the shooting phase, gives the target unit a 5+ Feel No Pain and then allows it to charge the shooting unit!
Their Berserker Assault rite of war grants +2 to run and charge rolls and allows Predators as a fast attach choice at the penalty of requiring every unit to charge if it can.
Angron is a real focal point of the army, giving the entire force Feel No Pain (6+) and Adamantium Will and allowing 3 reactions in the movement phase. He also gains attacks each turn until he hits 10 attacks, making him a real combat monster – he also counts the WS of anyone he is attacking as 3, meaning he always hits on 2s!
Red Butchers and Rampagers are also suitably brutal with the ability to chuck out handfuls of dice in close combat
XIV – Death Guard
The Death Guard offer a slow and steady advance up the table while putting out punishing firepower with their legion trait “Remorseless”
The ability to count as stationary while moving plays into their “The Reaping” rite of war which allows Heavy Support squads to be taken as troops choices, really increasing the number of heavy weapons you can bring to bear on your opponant
They also have a really nice advanced reaction that grants them Feel no Pain (4+) after being shot at and then the targeted unit can also make a standard move, getting them to a better position or even on to an objective perhaps!
The Death Guard also get access to a range of upgrades for flamer weapons that give them the Fleshbane rule (Wounds non vehicles on a 2+) – this makes big special and heavy squads killed out with these weapons very, very powerful – though there is a chance of taking damage yourself as they also have the Gets Hot rule
Again, all characters without models have been removed from the book
XV – Thousand Sons
The Thousand Sons are best known for their breaching of the breaching of the Eddict of Nikaea and dabbling in psychic powers that would ultimately become their downfall.
Basically this makes all infantry and cavalry psykers (But does not actually grant them any psychic powers) though remember that your squad leaders are characters and so get to select a Minor Arcana!
These Arcana basically give you some utility psychic powers outside of the rulebook disciplines
Raptora allows you to make a psychic test when you move within 12″ of an enemy unit, with a successful test granting you a 6+ invulnerable save (Or increasing an existing Inv save by 1)
Pyrae is used when charging to give the unit Hammer of Wrath (2)
Pavoni is used when moving or running to increase the distance by 3
Corvidae is used when shooting to allow the Thousand Sons player to choose the model the first wound is allocated to
Athanaen is used when shooting to force -1 to pinning and morale checks on a unit
Their advanced reaction is also pretty good too allowing a unit to have a 3+ Invulnerable save as a reaction to shooting.
We also see some fun rites of war with The Guard of the Crimson King in particular allowing 6 units to deep strike and unlocking Sekhmet Cabals as Troops
The Thousand Sons also gain access to some really fun weaponry – Aether-Fire can be upgraded from any Plasma weapons for free, and basically count as Plasma and Force weapons and allow the user to do a psychic test in order to increase the base Strength by 2
Magnus has changed somewhat, with his upgraded profile now no longer available. Instead he now knows every Psychic power, can cast one a turn in addition to being able to use an Arcana (And can use a different one each turn if he wants) – He also passes any psychic tests needed for Arcana, but still needs to roll for standard psychic tests on other powers.
Thankfully they also still get their Psychic Robots and Psychic Dreads!
XVI – Sons of Horus
Under the Command of Horus Lupercal, The Warmaster, The Sons of Horus led the fight against the Emperor during the Horus Heresy – Their Legion trait reflects the aggressiveness with which they fought
This encourages you to be very aggressive with the Sons of Horus as it makes it more difficult for you to be wounded when you charge!
Their advanced reaction is also very good, allowing you to pick a unit within 12″ of an enemy unit that is shooting and allow your unit to shoot them at +1 BS before the enemy gets to fire! Amazing ability and again really pushes you to have your units moving up the board close to the enemy.
I also really like The Black Reaving rite of war, as it gives units that charge an already engaged unit Rage (2) granting them 2 extra attacks on the charge rather than 1, allows Justaerin Terminators to deep strike (Perfect for putting with Abaddon in order to benefit from his Feel No Pain (4+) when he deep stikes) and also gives reavers the all important “Line” keyword allowing them to score (Don’t forget that only units with line can score in this edition!)
Horus himself now has 2 statlines, one to represent him as the Warmaster and a second (Clocking in at 1000 points) to represent him at the height of his power, ascended by the Dark Gods. Horus Ascended is a terrifying combatant with a WS, S, T and W characteristic of 8 and the ability once per game to boost his strength and toughness to 10! In his Ascended form he gets Feel no Pain (4+), gets Rage 3 granting him 3 extra attacks on the charge and can even come back from the dead! When slain for the first time he goes back into reserves with a single wound, ready to be deployed again! He can also upgrade units in the army to be Corrupted giving them Fear and the ability to join other corrupted units such as Daemons. I really hope we get a profile for The Emperor so we can finally re-enact the cinematic showdown!
Maloghurst deserves a quick shout out here as he gives any unit he joins gains “line” and any objectives he controls can only be contested with line units too, making him a great objective controller.
XVII – Word Bearers
Some would argue that it is the Word Bearers, not the Sons of Horus, that truly started the Heresy – moving the pieces that caused the events to happen. Fanatical in their beliefs, the Word Bearers have the True Believers rule
This helps mitigate any morale checks they have to take while also giving them the edge in tied combats.
Their advanced reaction “Glorious Martyrdom” is interesting as offers some decent damage mitigation – when a unit is declared as the target of a shooting attack you simply remove a single model from the unit as a casualty and the shooting attack fails! This is great when the opponent tries to use their most potent weapons against your units.
For those wanting to make use of the upcoming Possessed models for Warhammer 40k then the Serrated Sun may be the force for you! It unlocks Gal Vorbak as Troops and if Argel Tal is your Warlord you also make them become line too! I’m very tempted to put together a full Serrated Sun force, as think this will look really cool on the battlefield. If you want to lean into the Daemon side of things even more, then Erebus can be taken who unlocks 3 elite or HQ Ruinstorm Daemons to be part of your army
XX – Alpha Legion
Finally we come to the Alpha Legion, the most tricksy of all the Legions. This is reflected in not one but two Legion abilities
Lies and Obfuscation is pretty cool in making Alpha Legion models count as further away than they actually are, however where things get really covert is with The Rewards of Trechery
This allows the army to cosplay as any other legion, gaining their legion rules with their adopted ones. What’s more they can also take a single special unit from that parent legion as their own (This can actually be increased to 3 units in their Coils of the Hydra rite of war. This is very cool and allows you to do some themed armies with Alpha Legion traitors slowly revealing their true identity
Their advanced reaction is also very good, as it allows a unit targeted by shooting to redeploy somewhere within 12″ of their original position potentially moving it into a position where it cannot be shot and wasting the opponents shots!
Alpha Legion units also have some cool abilities that play into these themes such as Lernanean Terminators getting +1 to hit a specific Legion at the start of the battle, Saboteurs having the colours of the opponent and not being able to be targeted until they reveal themselves and Alpharius being able to hand out Infiltrate, Scout or Deep Strike to 3 units at the start of the game
So what do I think of Liber Hereticus? The book clocks in at £42.50 however this is a big chunky book clocking in at over 340 pages and contains what was previously available across 2 different books in the previous edition of the game. I much rather having both the full standard legion list in here alongside all the traitor legion specific stuff here and I am glad they have decided to do this rather than splitting it into two different books as they did last time.
It also means that if you are playing a traitor legion then you also have everything you need should you decide to play a different legion, essentially giving you 9 different factions in the one book! This also makes allying in detachments easier as you have all the relevant rules to hand.
I am also very much looking forward to seeing other books that we have seen teased here such as Ruinstorm Daemons, Mechanicum and Solar Auxilia and really hope that these are not too far away from release (I suspect these will follow these books pretty quickly, even if plastic models will follow at a later date) as this will really mean the game hits the ground running with all factions available.
I’m also interested to see the expanded units on the website, as this is a good sign of support the units going forward if they for whatever reason no longer have models available to represent them.
The 2nd edition of The Horus Heresy is looking like it’s off to a great start, and I have high hopes for the support of the game!
Warhammer The Horus Heresy: Liber Hereticus is up for pre order today and is released Saturday 18th June
Games Workshop provided Sprues & Brews with a free copy for review purposes.