As I now have access to the latest rules for all current Legions, this post has now been updated with all relevant changes! What should be noted is that the Imperial Fists' Legion special rules were moderately toned down, though they still rank as one of the stronger forces in the Horus Heresy because they can still fulfill any army build or unit role well.
To humanity, the Space Marines are as divine warriors sent by the God Emperor himself to absolve the sins of the galaxy and protect his mortal children. They are utterly relentless in their efforts to conquer the enemies of mankind and will march head-strong into any challenge, no matter how great the odds or what horrors await them. It is this unquenchable resolve to bring justice to the galaxy and uphold the creeds of Terra that drive the Imperial Fists ever onward in a glorious crusade, matching any other Legion for manpower, skill at arms and bravery. They are the champions of the Emperor himself and bear his standard into battle, viewing that most prestigious accolade as a responsibility that they will never back down from. Their psychology is that of stone, un-moving and unrelenting; they will follow their mighty Primarch - Rogal Dorn - unto the rifts of the Warp itself, a stubborn refusal to decline any challenge offered to them that is as much a blessing as it is a curse. It is this behavior that led Dorn himself and much of the Imperial Fists that survived the closing days of the Horus Heresy to be lost to their cursed rivals the Iron Warriors in what many would deem an unnecessary and suicidal attack; however, to the Imperial Fists, that costly act was mandated by their perceived failure to safeguard the God Emperor. No other Legion is as driven by duty, personal honor and an almost impulsive desire to attain victory in any scenario as the Imperial Fists, and for these reasons and more they are among the greatest of the eighteen surviving Space Marine Legions and truly earn the moniker of the Emperors' Finest. They are the rock that splits a river, they are the blade that cuts through bone and flesh unhindered, they are the shield that no blow can dent; the dauntless, unbreakable warriors that cannot and will not yield to any foe.
Disciplined Fire - Veteran players of the Imperial Fists in the far future setting of Warhammer 40,000 will be very familiar with this set of bonuses as they are virtually identical between the differing incarnations of the 7th Legion. Representing the organized battle-lines and focus on bolter weaponry as much as any other tool of destruction, Disciplined Fire functions as an amalgam of rules suited to principally boosting the more standard infantry selections in an army list. All Imperial Fists increase their Ballistic Skill by +1 when firing any kind of bolt weapon which instantly gives their Tactical Squads in particular a massive edge over those fielded by other Legions, decently improving the effective ranged damage output of many choices available to the army - a hint, it makes Fury of the Legion utterly terrifying. This functions specifically for boltguns, bolt pistols, heavy bolters, quad heavy bolters and the actual boltgun component of combi-bolters; this directly affects almost all infantry units in the army, ranging from Tactical Squads to Terminators, and even gives the more proficient combatants such as Praetors a pseudo re-roll. The difference between re-rolling 1s to hit as per the Warhammer 40,000 version of the rule and usually using Ballistic Skill 5 is mostly down to reliability; both cases essentially eliminate a specific dice result, with any kind of re-rolls generally tipping the scales in favor of the Chapter rather than the Legion for overall usefulness. Elsewhere, any Heavy Support Squads employed by the Imperial Fists gain the Tank Hunters special rule to freely become very similar to the Iron Warriors' own Iron Havocs, not possessing the same overall slate of rules and wargear but being quite a bit cheaper instead. It is an amazing buff that functions like adding a Siege Breaker to a unit without being forced to pay the points for one, massively improving the competitive uses of Heavy Support Squads. It dramatically increases the reliability of the unit for vehicle-hunting; speaking from experience as someone that regularly employs Iron Havocs, it will make those AV13 Contemptors far less frightening to face which can often be the difference between a unit surviving or being torn to shreds. Disciplined Fire gives rise to Heavy Bolter armed Devastator equivalents that can tear light vehicles and medium infantry to shreds with a super accurate hail of fire backed by the awesome Tank Hunters special rule. Overall, it gives a notable advantage to the Imperial Fists compared to their brother Legions as far as ranged warfare is concerned, but this doesn't mean they are at all lacking in close combat.
Blood and Honor - Continuing on from above, this awesome special rule serves as a true cornerstone of the Imperial Fists' strategy as the Horus Heresy gaming system is inherently character driven what with Primarchs and the terrifying Praetors populating the field. It emphasizes the Imperial Fists' martial prowess in all forms of warfare, meaning they effectively have damage bonuses in two major phases of the game - it should come as no surprise then that they are often regarded as one of the strongest Legions in terms of advantages their unique rules exclusively provide them. Before I get into why I adore this rule, I will quickly point out the one potentially massive downside associated with it; as Imperial Fists view honor and bravery as key virtues, it should come as no surprise that their characters must always issue challenges. While this can lead to some unfortunate scenarios, the rule generally isn't as bad as it used to be an edition ago given that the current core rule-set allows any excess wounds inflicted on a slain opponent to carry over outside of a challenge; additionally, it does not force Imperial Fists' characters to accept challenges, eliminating half of the possible untimely scenarios. Besides, once you consider that Imperial Fists possess the single most powerful non-Primarch Space Marine combatant in the game and gain one seriously impressive bonus from this rule, you will quickly realize that the disadvantage is mostly just window-dressing. Those same character models hailing from the 7th Legion benefit from re-rolls of ones on their failed to-hit rolls when fighting in challenges, instantly allowing them to compete with the toughest warriors of the Horus Heresy in their own way; they may fall short of the World Eaters with regards to their generic characters, but Khorne's voracious followers lack the ranged bonuses unique to the Imperial Fists.
The downgrade from re-rolling all failed to-hit rolls to just ones makes a big difference as that eliminates anywhere from one to three additional triggers for a re-roll, though ultimately I see it as a fair balancing decision given how strong the Imperial Fists are overall - it is likely aimed specifically at Sigismund in this case. Still, even an Imperial Fists' Praetor armed with a Paragon Blade and other wargear to taste such as Digital Lasers will absolutely annihilate most enemies in a challenge, and that is without paying any tax compared to another Legions' equivalent that often have to purchase additional wargear to attain similar results. Another thing to keep in mind is that it provides greater incentives to bedeck your Sergeants with lavish wargear such as Artificer Armor and Power Fists, giving them a fundamental edge in any battle. However, this rule did receive one other rather major addition that is likely to have serious consequences in certain match-ups; Imperial Fists are no longer able to choose to automatically fail a Morale test in any situation, meaning that a unit tied up with a model it cannot harm (such as a Contemptor Dreadnought) is incapable of fleeing voluntarily and thus all but guaranteeing the units' demise. While most Space Marines units tend to have access to Melta Bombs to facilitate this particular problem, it's still a potentially crippling rule that otherwise appropriately reflects the sense of honor and perseverance the Legion possesses.
Unshakable Defence - Renowned for their aptitude for siege warfare as both defender and attacker, the flip side of their Heavy Support Squads gaining the Tank Hunters special rule sees that all Imperial Fists are immune to Pinning if they can benefit from a cover save of some kind; if cover can't be claimed, manning a fortification or barricade also fulfills the requirement. The way in which this rule has been reworked has its obvious advantages and disadvantages given that it used to provide Stubborn in the same scenarios instead. The sticking point here is that any Imperial Fist unit hiding in cover is most likely a ranged unit and thus one that wants to stay out of combat anyway if you follow the modus operandi of a gun-line force, so for most of your forces it is a nice buff. However, losing out on Stubborn also means that when said units are inevitably charged as tends to happen in the much more balanced style of warfare found in the Horus Heresy, they are much more likely to flee from combat instead of sticking around and either taking as much of the enemy with them as possible before they are destroyed or holding out for reinforcements. With Barrage weapons no longer automatically possessing the Pinning special rule, I tend to think that Stubborn was the more advantageous bonus to have; still, there's nothing like completely ignoring the unique property of the Iron Warriors' Shrapnel Bolts as far as rubbing it into Perturabo's face is concerned.
The Bitter End - It is telling that this particular rule is shared between both the Iron Warriors and the Imperial Fists, representing the dogged and stubborn refusal to accept defeat for either Legion; they will fight to the death, no matter the odds. This is represented by manipulating how end-game scenarios play out; instead of rolling to determine if a sixth game turn is taken, the rival Legions' opponent gets to choose whether the next turn happens automatically instead. What is important to note is that the opponent cannot instead decide to end the game without going to turn six, but should they choose not to force the game to go to turn six then the standard method of determining whether a sixth turn occurs must play out as normal. Regardless, this can potentially be a very crippling rule as it means that your opponent can force you to endure another round of punishment; it can mean the difference between your opponent losing or grabbing some game-winning victory points at the close of the match, while it could also see your army completely wiped out rather than surviving with a handful of models. While I find that rolling to see if turn six occurs tends to err in favor of it happening due to only a 3+ being required, removing that random element can often work into an opponents' favor and it is something to keep in mind when playing either the Iron Warriors or Imperial Fists.
Unique Rite of War
The Stone Gauntlet - Representing the impressive infantry-centric siege formations that the Imperial Fists were famous for, the Stone Gauntlet revolves around making the awesome Breachers and Phalanx Warder squads more competitive in either standard games or Zone Mortalis missions through a mixture of specific special rules. Not only do Phalanx Warders get moved to the Troops slot and thus become scoring-capable units, all models armed with either boarding shields or storm shields that can claim unit coherency with up to two other models in their squad increase their Toughness characteristic by +1, turning them into discounted Plague Marines without all the disgusting rotting flesh and diseases. This improves the durability of those units so phenomenally well and gives you a huge reason to actually use them as they are often overlooked in favor of regular Tactical Squads or other Legion-specific alternate choices, while the Toughness boost also has natural synergy with the invulnerable saves provided by the shields those warriors bear. However, it does come with an important consideration; charging, running or performing a sweeping advance will prevent the unit from claiming the bonus for the duration of that player turn. For a foot-slogging force this surprisingly shouldn't be too much of a problem seeing as you mostly want the buff against shooting and, as it is based on which player turn you make the special moves in, running in your turn will still allow the squads to gain the +1 Toughness benefit in the opponents' subsequent turn. Of course, it does penalize close combat oriented builds utilizing Breachers or Phalanx Warders given that it is still a potentially crucial buff to use in close combat, but given the player turn stipulation it also bears mentioning that performing a sweeping advance functionally has no downside seeing as opponents generally can't hurt the unit after they perform one in the same player turn.
As I somewhat alluded to before though, the affected squads' melee capabilities are also enhanced; provided the above unit coherency stipulation is fulfilled but regardless of the special movement actions taken, the Breachers and Phalanx Warders benefit from the quirky Hammer of Wrath special rule. I refer to it as quirky only because it is difficult to fully maximize a squads' usage of the "impact hits" and it only works when they charge, but it isn't terrible by any means. As far as the limitations for the Rite of War are concerned, none of them are unexpected; standard Breacher Squads (but not Phalanx Warders) must comprise your compulsory Troops choices, while you cannot make use of any Deep Striking forces and thus are forced to rely mostly on ground elements to win the day. What is truly unfortunate is that the Stone Gauntlet limits your army list construction options in other ways, restricting your army lists' total Elites and Fast Attack choices to being numerically equivalent with your purchased Troops, meaning that you can have a mix of up to three units from Elites and Fast Attack together if you take three Troops selections. Lastly, you can't take more than one Consul - save for Legion Champions - in your HQ selections which is fairly typical of the many Legion-exclusive Rites of War. Overall, the best way to summarize this Rite of War is fairly simple; if you want to utilize the differing variations of Breacher Squads available to the Legions which are both thematic and fun to use, the Stone Gauntlet is undeniably the best avenue to do so for any Legion - something that makes sense for the Imperial Fists to specialize in. Having to mostly bunch up with your pricey infantry squads is often a big no-no in Horus Heresy games but the benefits are obviously significant, but I'm hesitant to say it is necessarily a great Rite of War given that Breachers and particularly Phalanx Warders aren't great units on their own merits. Still, Rites of War aren't really designed around unlocking competitive tournament builds and are driven by the lore and story surrounding the given Legion, providing new methods of waging war in the Age of Darkness; besides, I don't think it is necessarily a weak Rite of War anyway.
Characters, Units and Wargear
Sigismund - A living demi-god of destruction that is spoken of in hushed whispers as a true angel of death, Sigismund is the First Captain of the Imperial Fists and one of the deadliest characters on the table-top in both the Horus Heresy and the far future. Before you raise a hand and try to insert your character of choice into such a debate, don't bother; Sigismund puts all of them short of a Primarch to shame, and even the weaker Primarchs have much to fear from Rogal Dorns' personal champion. Before I get into some examples, I'll examine why he is such a terror on the battlefield in detail so that those unfamiliar with his rules can prepare for his presence in a match accordingly. First up, his stats are in keeping with a basic Praetor; Strength and Toughness 4, Initiative 5, 4 Attacks, Leadership 10 as well as standard 2+ armor and 4+ invulnerable saving throws. His Weapon Skill 7 and 4 Wounds are above average however and instantly mark him out as a more skilled and hardy character compared to other Praetors, gaining an immediate advantage over most characters of that level. Tack on Eternal Warrior to his repertoire and Sigismund is impressively tough given his points cost, able to trade blows with some of the nastiest characters in the game with ease due to his immunity to Instant Death; considering that he should have a tough bodyguard to which Legion lists are uniquely suited to providing, you likely won't stop Sigismund from reaching a melee. In spite of only having a master-crafted bolt pistol and a below average Ballistic Skill 4 for ranged capabilities, Sigismund is bar none the best character killer in a challenge for the points across either game system. Firstly, his unique melee weapon the Black Sword provides him with +2 Strength - usually meaning he will strike at Strength 6 - and is AP2, ignoring any armor save an opponent would otherwise try to claim; it is Two-Handed but this isn't much of a downside considering all the other rules supplementing his melee prowess. What makes Sigismund so incredibly powerful is that all of his attacks gain the Instant Death special rule and force any successful invulnerable saves taken against them to be re-rolled, with those effects functioning while he is in a challenge only. This means that even opponents with 3+ invulnerable saves will be hard-pressed to survive his onslaught given that most foes will lack the Eternal Warrior special rule and thus be slain instantly the moment they fail one of those invulnerable saves. Additionally, due to being an Imperial Fist character, Sigismund also re-rolls all ones on failed to-hit rolls in a challenge and will easily wound most foes with his Strength 6 attacks. Lastly, as Death's Champion, Sigismund strikes at Initiative 6 on the charge and confers this bonus to any unit he joins which is insanely strong in the context of the Space Marine driven Horus Heresy and turns his vanguard - the Templar Brethren - into absolute murder machines.
If you can't quite grasp just how powerful these rules are, let us use some potent opponents as examples to prove the greatness of Sigismund. First up is Skarbrand, a damage dealer bar none that will tear almost anything apart if he manages to reach close combat unscathed. Assuming Skarbrand gets the charge and does not charge through terrain so that he gets every random element in his favor, Skarbrand will strike fist with nine attacks that re-roll failed to-hit rolls and always wound on a 2+ due to the Fleshbane special rule. This leads to roughly eight hits, seven wounds against which if we round up the averages Sigismund will just barely pass four invulnerable saves to leave him with one wound remaining. When Sigismund strikes back with his four base attacks, he will need 4s to hit against the more skilled opponent with re-rolls to hit of one in each round of combat due to his Legion rules, wounding on 4s for roughly two to three hits and one or two wounds. Even if we round the result down and say that Sigismund only inflicts a single wound, that one wound will be more than enough to kill Skarbrand given that the Greater Daemon of Khorne only has a mere 5+ invulnerable save for protection against the Instant Death attack that, if passed, has to be re-rolled. Given that Skarbrand almost always beats his opponent - from a Chapter Master with the Shield Eternal to a Wraithknight bearing the Ghostglaive and Scattershield combination - if he gets the charge and strikes at his base Initiative 10, this should immediately give you an idea of just how good Sigismund really is.
Next, we can look at a wound tank such as Draigo and assume no assistance for either character while again giving Draigo the charge benefits. Five attacks on the charge later with one re-roll to-hit per round and wounding on 2s while rounding up any results, Sigismund will lose one to two wounds on the first round and one wound in each subsequent round, meaning it takes Draigo between three to five rounds to kill Death's Champion given the potential to roll a 1 to wound in any round. In return, Sigismund averages two to three hits, two to three wounds with the same chance of rolling a 1 to wound in a round, and causes Draigo to re-roll his passed 3+ invulnerable saves in each round. This will usually see Draigo fail approximately two saves total per round after re-rolls are accounted for, meaning that Sigismund - without any charge bonuses, mind - should kill Draigo in two to three rounds. Given how much of an advantage Sigismund gains from charging due to striking before Draigo for a round and gaining a bonus attack, it is really impressive that he fares so well against what should theoretically be the wound tank to stop him in his tracks. Against a similar Chapter Master on a Bike with the Shield Eternal, Sigismund starts hitting on 3s, strikes first for at least one round - assuming the Chapter Master uses a Thunder Hammer - and trades wounding on 2s for wounding on 3s. Again, it ends in favor of Sigismund due to still averaging one or two unsaved wounds per round as opposed to the one or less that the Chapter Master ekes out. Possibly the only non Lord of War character that has a chance of stopping Sigismund is Jain Zar due to her incredible ability to disarm any foe she faces in a challenge, but otherwise we can eliminate models short of a Primarch to face the Kingsbane himself. Against Lorgar before his transfiguration and fall to Chaos, the dread Primarch of the Word Bearers has the Initiative advantage but otherwise has the same Attacks and a lower Weapon Skill value. Lorgar averages one to two unsaved wounds per round against Sigismund, whereas Sigismund averages roughly two unsaved wounds per round in the reverse. While Lorgar should theoretically win due to the Initiative advantage, it is nonetheless a testament to Sigismund's incredible prowess that he is capable of standing toe to toe with one of the eighteen known progenitors of the Space Marines - in fact, if we give Sigismund the charge then it could easily slide into his favor.
Given all of the above I'm quite confident in stating that Sigismund is very much true to the fluff and one of the most terrifying melee combatants in the game - he cuts through units fairly well too but is relatively stuck against well armored vehicles - and I'm also very pleased to say that the value train for the First Captain of the Imperial Fists doesn't end there. Not only does Sigismund provide +1 Initiative to himself and his attendant Imperial Fists unit on a turn that they charge which is an awesome ability alone, he also allows the group to re-roll their failed charge distances and Sweeping Advance rolls to ensure that not only will they make combat and butcher their foes, those that flee will be cut down in short order too. Given that combat is a much more integral aspect of the Horus Heresy, the Legion lists have strong methods of reaching a melee against even the nastiest shooting oriented armies of Warhammer 40,000 and that most enemies are vulnerable to Sweeping Advances, this is a very strong buff that provides further incentive to play the Imperial Fists as a close combat force. Further supporting that type of build is the addition of Templar Brethren to your Troops slots - able to be taken as compulsory or non-compulsory selections - so long as Sigismund is in the detachment, regardless of whether he is the Warlord. Speaking of which, Sigismund also has a preset Warlord Trait aptly titled the Slayer of Kings; if he kills the enemy Warlord in a challenge, his owning player earns an additional victory point on top of what is usually gained from Slay the Warlord while also providing all models allied to Sigismund with a +1 combat resolution score bonus for the rest of the game. Given his aforementioned prowess in combat and the ease at which Legion lists can ferry their nastiest squads into the heart of an enemy battle-line, this is most certainly a fitting Warlord Trait and one you can semi reliably count on. Finally, Sigismund himself is Fearless and even possesses the Adamantium Will special rule to help safe-guard himself and his bodyguards against Leadership and Psychic based attacks, adding just a little bit more to the incredible value package of the Imperial Fists' greatest warrior. For his points, Sigismund is not only one of the strongest melee fighters in the Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000, he also unlocks a powerful dedicated assault unit as a Troops choice to expand your list building options and provides a wealth of potent combat oriented buffs to any given unit and even the army if certain conditions are met. He has his place in both competitive and casual matches, granting the 7th Legion a true champion of death that will terrorize opponents foolish enough to under-estimate a "mere" Space Marine.
Alexis Polux - As is the case in the setting and plot surrounding the Imperial Fists, Alexis Polux is very much the silent giant that stands outside of the spotlight taken by the more impressive warriors such as Sigismund or Rogal Dorn himself. However, there is a lot to love about the Crimson Fist even if one doesn't consider his legendary generalship at the Battle of Phall in the equation, foremost of which is that he is essentially a value-packed Praetor with some unique quirks. Despite losing out on a point with both Ballistic Skill and Attacks all the while lacking a 2+ armor save, Polux is the only Imperial Fist not clad in Terminator Armor to wield a Vigil Pattern Storm Shield and as such is very unique for that trait alone. Given that AP2 melee weapons are in vogue for expensive characters nowadays it actually isn't that much of a negative to lack Artificer Armor, but it still isn't necessarily ideal as it means power swords won't simply bounce harmlessly off of Polux - though the 3+ invulnerable save obviously alleviates a lot of those potential issues. Otherwise, what represents Polux' incredible power is that he is base Strength 5 and wields a master-crafted power fist, meaning that before any possible stat modifications he strikes at Strength 10 AP2 with a single re-roll to-hit of ones at Initiative 1 due to the Unwieldy special rule. That he lacks an attack compared to other Praetors is made up for by the Master-Crafted weapon he uses, while Strength 10 AP2 attacks are far more terrifying than a Paragon Blade in a lot of cases. In a match up against another Praetor armed accordingly, Polux will often win out due to resisting most wounds with his 3+ invulnerable save and the unlikely chance of an Instant Death wound sinking through, whereas his return strikes are all but guaranteed to cleave his foe in two - especially as he re-rolls all failed to-hit rolls of one in a challenge by virtue of being an Imperial Fist.
He can crush Toughness 5 monstrous creatures and vehicles of any type beneath his raw might and stave off much of their return strikes due to his storm shield, while Toughness 5 models with multiple wounds such as Centurions or Gal Vorbak will rightly fear his wrath. Of course, this is all without even taking into account the unique Hammer Blow special rule Polux possesses; one of the more hilarious rules of any character in the Horus Heresy, this allows Alexis to reduce his Attacks characteristic to one but in turn ignore the Unwieldy component of his power fist. Seeing as he still gets to make two Hammer Blow attacks on a turn he charges, I'll let some of the famous words of a certain wrestling ring announcer illuminate you to how awesome this is; good god almighty, good god almighty! This might seem unreliable at first but considering that he still benefits from the re-rolls to-hit of ones in challenges, it means he is actually one of the more surprisingly potent melee combatants out of the Praetor equivalents, while it can make all the difference against monsters or other powerful enemies with a lower or similar Initiative value. Elsewhere, his Combi-Melta also gives him a nice one-shot only weapon perfect for destroying a vehicle, something that is ideally suited to the drop-and-pop play-style that Polux himself unlocks. Given his incredible prowess for void warfare, the Crimson Fist allows any single infantry unit of your choice to freely benefit from the Deep Strike special rule which is specifically referred to as teleporting so as to function alongside teleport homers and so on. While it does appear that Polux himself can't benefit from this bonus, conferring it on any particular unit given that the Legion cannot employ Drop Pods outside of using a very limiting Rite of War provides you with some impressive flexibility; a Support Squad armed with meltaguns or even a Breacher squad packed with Graviton Guns - suited to taking out those pesky Spartan Assault Tanks - is a prime recipient of this rule.
Otherwise, Polux also allows himself and his unit to automatically pass or fail any Morale or Pinning test which unlocks some interesting tactical options, giving you the choice to flee from a shooting attack to reduce the chances of an enemy assault unit plowing into Alexis' squad. It also serves to prevent you from fleeing from combat should you so desire, or to escape from an enemy you cannot defeat that has little or no chance of catching them in a Sweeping Advance. Polux also has a very nice preset Warlord Trait in the form of the Master Tactician result, allowing you to redeploy any single unit after both sides have deployed to; more options in deployment are always great to have as covered earlier with his Void Commander ability. As a few final notes, Polux also re-rolls failed armor saves against weapons using a blast marker where applicable due to having void-hardened power armor, while he also benefits greatly from the Stone Gauntlet Rite of War that he seems purpose-built to lead - wielding a Storm Shield allows him to gain the +1 Toughness bonus and become a true giant among his fellow Space Marines! All in all, Polux is yet another highly valuable character that is still an above-average melee beat stick while also adding lots of nifty special rules on both a unit-specific and army-wide basis for you to tinker with; though he might not be quite as impressive as Sigismund, he doesn't need to be as he carves out his own place in the Legion with his tactical acumen and supreme might.
Templar Brethren - It isn't often that I get to review a Space Marine squad that operates on foot and is clad in Artificer Armor, so whether that colors my opinion of the Imperial Fists' 1st Company warriors - the proud Templar Brethren - is up for debate. Acting as a more mobile counterpart to Legion Terminators - a quick note, the many similarities between the two units mandates the many comparisons to follow - Templar Brethren are one of the most efficient melee squads in the Horus Heresy. For a handful of points per model less than a standard Terminator, a Templar Brethren is Weapon Skill 5 with 2 Attacks base, armed with both a power sword and a bolt pistol to have up to four attacks each on the charge, backed by Furious Charge to provide them with Strength 5 on the charge. They are fairly analogous to Terminators in that sense as they have more attacks, better Weapon Skill for more potential hits and a specific Strength bonus to provide a significant overall increase to their melee damage output. At their core, they are also similarly durable to their more heavily armored brethren; the shared 2+ armor save allows them to withstand small arms fire and the punishing salvos of AP3 sources such as Whirlwind Scorpii, while the lack of an invulnerable save is at least made up for by cover against shooting and the general non-presence of unit-wide AP2 melee weapons outside of specific characters. Being able to always perform Sweeping Advances, make Run moves, fire Overwatch and so on are all seemingly minor advantages but they are all useful in their own right with the Sweeping Advance distinction being of particular import in the Horus Heresy where immunity to that rule is spread thin across the participating armies. Another important distinction is that Templar Brethren possess frag and krak grenades much like their power-armored lesser legionnaires, meaning they can charge into cover without fear of striking at Initiative 1 while also having free tools to deal with vehicles and even monstrous creatures that Terminators instead have to pay for.
Firing bolt pistols at Ballistic Skill 5 isn't a truly fantastic use of the Legion rules, but the Chapter Champion gaining re-rolls on failed to-hit rolls in a challenge most certainly is; with two wounds, Weapon Skill 5 and 2 Attacks base on top of having two melee weapons, the Chapter Champion is very much analogous to a Centurion at a discount price and can be seen as superior overall to certain Legion Champion builds from other rival Legions. That he is the only model in the unit capable of exchanging his power sword for another melee weapon does hurt the units' versatility, but it at least gives the powerful sergeant some hilarious uses; providing him with an optional Combat Shield and a Thunder Hammer will turn him into an amusingly inexpensive wrecking ball that you normally wouldn't think possible with a mere squad leader. Remembering that the Horus Heresy and truthfully most armies in Warhammer 40,000 as well are mostly comprised of models with 3+ or worse armor saves, having only power swords nearly unit-wide honestly isn't that bad at all. If you aren't a believer, consider this; bearing artificer armor, Weapon Skill 5, power swords and four attacks each on the charge at Strength 5 means they absolutely butcher anything that lacks 2+ armor saves, while being able to use inexpensive transports to ferry them around in large numbers gives them a unique advantage over Legion Terminators. Five Templar Brethren charging into a twenty man Tactical Squad results in the following exchange; the combination of Overwatch and melee attacks are barely enough to pierce the Templars' ranks, killing one without stopping them from attacking, who in turn kill nine of the Tactical Marines - the combat ends in favor of the Templar Brethren very rapidly, which is quite impressive given the points disparity and how quickly they can reach a melee.
As you might have guessed from the models themselves, Templar Brethren can optionally purchase Combat Shields on a per-model basis in addition to their standard wargear which is an interesting option. It essentially gives them a 6+ invulnerable save against shooting attacks which increases to a 5+ in close combat with no other trade-off; unlike boarding shields, combat shields do not replace any wargear and don't force you to sacrifice the extra attack gained from using dual close combat weapons, making it a straight upgrade. I'm a fan of sprinkling Combat Shields throughout the unit so that you can have some models to tank those AP2 wounds so as to keep the costs of a unit down, but given their place as an elite melee unit and how much ranged AP2 from squads and melee AP2 from characters exists nowadays, going all-in with combat shields is usually your best bet seeing as there is no actual negative to their use aside from the minimal points increase. Elsewhere, any two Templar Brethren in a squad can purchase plasma pistols at the standard price while the Chapter Champion himself can do the same or take the more expensive archaeotech pistol; these are fine options for you to consider but are hardly mandatory in any way. Optional nuncio-voxes and legion vexillas are fantastic upgrades that are strangely available to the Templar Brethren as well, the former being perfect for reserve or artillery heavy lists while the latter is essentially a must have for larger squads due to the re-rolls for failed morale tests in particular that it provides. Another option to consider is that the entire squad can purchase melta bombs at a flat price which is no longer worth your time as per the last FAQ for the Warhammer 40,000 core rulebook allowing a unit armed with grenades to use but a single one per phase, incentivizing the use of Thunder Hammers, Power Gauntlets and Power Fists instead. That you can load them up in Rhinos or Land Raiders makes them far more flexible than Terminators, while the price disparity and the melee-centric bonuses Templar Brethren possess give them a strong place in any Imperial Fists force oriented around close range engagements. Taking them alongside Sigismund is both thematic and intelligent, making them scoring units while also providing them with a wealth of buffs to further improve their standing as one of the better foot-slogging elite infantry squads in the Horus Heresy.
Phalanx Warders - The best way to describe this unit is that they are a more veteran equivalent to Breacher squads that unusually occupy the Fast Attack slot rather than the Troops slot, though truthfully what distinguishes Phalanx Warders overall is a bit more complex. The units share the exact same stats and equipment as each other, but the Warders are five points more expensive per model and have a higher base squad price of thirty points. Most of the upgrades are also shared with the main difference being that Phalanx Warders can take unit-wide power axes as opposed to the unit-wide Melta Bombs Breachers have access to, with the former squad having to exchange their boltguns to carry those special melee weapons. Otherwise, Phalanx Warders critically lose out on Graviton Guns as special weapon choices - one of the more popular reasons to employ Breachers given how potent Haywire attacks are against Melta-immune Spartans and other vehicular monstrosities - but can instead take a single breaching charge, plasma guns and even thunder hammers sprinkled throughout the squad. Obviously the Phalanx Warders have more of a melee focus as opposed to the Breachers and are generally less suited to taking on vehicles and monstrous creatures which are arguably what you most want these shield-bearing squads for, but the trade-off is that they can engage other heavy infantry fairly well with the mix of breaching shields and optional power axes.
Phalanx Warders do possess a cool special rule in the form of Shield Wall that provides a squad consisting of at least five models and any attached independent characters a +1 Weapon Skill bonus on a turn in which they are charged, replacing the old +1 Initiative bonus that would cease to function the moment you added Power Axes to the squads' wargear selections. This is a far more sensible rule that is useful in all situations and gives Phalanx Warders an extra nudge in the damage dealing department, though the old version of the rule did admittedly have its uses if Power Axes weren't your weapon of choice for the squad. However, that the ability works only when the unit itself is charged runs counter to what their apparent role is - as an elite close-ranged unit that relies on Boarding Shields and Hardened Armor to more safely engage with the enemy. In that sense, you would usually rather just take regular Breachers that are Troops choices - and in the Stone Gauntlet Rite of War, fulfill your compulsory slots as opposed to the Phalanx Warders - that can take awesome ranged haywire weapons, squad encompassing melta bombs to better deal with any monstrous or vehicular target and a generally much lower cost at sizes beyond the minimum. If you want to make use of this unit then taking them in the Stone Gauntlet for the +1 Toughness bonus as well as giving them scoring capabilities is ideal, especially if you attach a few characters armed with storm shields to gain the Shield Wall bonus; mix up the power axes and boltguns so that you can deal with any threat and make better use of their unique special rule.
Vigil Pattern Storm Shield - Serving as a counterpart to the Salamanders' Dragonscale Storm Shields, Vigil Pattern Storm Shields do possess a few key differences compared to what you would think would be identical equivalents from another Legion. Restricted purely to Terminator-armored models whereas any Salamanders' Independent Character can take one, the Vigil-Pattern always provides a 3+ invulnerable save as opposed to the Dragonscales' +1 invulnerable save bonus. The price is the other major differentiation factor with the Vigil Pattern being more expensive in every instance, though there is a silver lining here. The Vigil Pattern can be given to standard Terminators to provide them with a 3+ invulnerable save whereas only Cataphractii pattern suits can achieve that feat when paired with Dragonscales, essentially trading a higher cost for the ability to Overwatch, Run and so on. Otherwise, both variations possess the same basic rules; a model wielding them can never be treated as possessing two separate close combat weapons for the purposes of gaining a bonus attack, and purchasing one means replacing the models' combi-bolter. Regardless of how Vigil Pattern Storm Shields compare to what Salamanders can use, it should be illustrated that no other Legion can use Storm Shields in any capacity as yet which gives Imperial Fists a unique edge over all but one other Legion. It can be a potentially crucial defensive boost to a squad or character and combos with the challenge-based buffs to the army supremely well, while it can also be used to impose a +1 Toughness bonus on a Terminator squad outfitted with them when using the Stone Gauntlet Rite of War.
Solarite Power Gauntlet - Available exclusively to Imperial Fists' Independent Characters which is rather saddening given most Legion Sergeants tend to use standard Power Fists already, Solarite Power Gauntlets are essentially slightly improved versions of the aforementioned classic weapon. Gaining both AP1 and Master-Crafted for a handful of points on top of the standard Power Fist price is always worth paying for, but ultimately you must consider that the character you would usually want to outfit with such a weapon - a Praetor - will almost always want to make use of a Paragon Blade instead. One other important note is that the Power Gauntlet does not classify as a Specialist Weapon and thus any Independent Character armed with one can easily gain the extra attack bonus for having two close combat weapons by merely possessing a simple bolt pistol, so there is actually some merit to using it on your Centurions and this is especially the case once you remember they will get re-rolls on to-hit rolls in challenges!
Teleportation Transponder - Let it be said that being able to optionally purchase the Deep Strike special rule for Legion Terminators and Terminator-armored Independent Characters is a great trick for any Legion to employ and it can be seen as yet another example of the Imperial Fists possessing the same ability as Iron Warriors who are instead reliant on their Primarch for this particular bonus. It is a cheap way to provide you with more deployment options and potentially save you hundreds of points on transporting your elite melee units around. Make sure that if you do want to use a Terminator-armored Independent Character alongside a band of Terminators in Deep Strike reserve that you purchase the Teleportation Transponders for both the squad and the character; every model in a unit must have the Deep Strike special rule to be able to use it.
Iliastus Pattern Assault Cannon - The weapon that Loyalist Space Marines in the far future know and love, the Iliastus Pattern Assault Cannon is a powerful heavy gun available to Legion Terminators as an odd paid-for upgrade to a heavy flamer, meaning you can field up to two in a maximum size squad or one if they are at minimum size. It is a cheap and very powerful generalist choice that fires four Strength 6 AP4 Rending shots, functioning much like a pair of autocannons strapped together, as it tears through light vehicles, infantry and potentially monstrous creatures alike due to the ubiquity of the Rending special rule. At effectively an identical price to the Reaper Autocannon option, the comparisons between the two are rather minute; the Assault Cannon has rate of fire and Rending in its favor, the Autocannon has range and a higher base Strength value instead. Given that Terminators are designed almost exclusively for short ranged combat and are at their best in that arena of war, I pretty much always favor the Assault Cannon given its disadvantages are cancelled out if you utilize the Terminators as they should be used. However, there is one last attribute of the Iliastus Pattern Assault Cannon to consider which represents its unrefined and unstable nature as a prototype; if three or four rolls to-hit of "1" are rolled in any given dice roll when using the gun, it ceases to function for the rest of the game. While this can be a potentially massively crippling rule to suffer from in a given match, the chances of the malfunction actually occurring are so slim as to render it almost a non-issue in my eyes.
Rogal Dorn - Widely regarded as the most unswerving in his loyalty to the Emperor among the Primarchs, Rogal Dorn was the Praetorian of Terra and among the most inspiring leaders to take part in the Horus Heresy. This is finely reflected in his rules which serve to paint a caricature of a leader more-so than a fighter, even though obviously there are few opponents that could face a mighty Primarch in combat and survive with Dorn being no exception. What one will immediately notice about Rogal Dorn is his sub four hundred point price point, marking him as the third cheapest Primarch by quite a margin - but don't fret, for Dorn is deceptively powerful in terms of how he empowers an Imperial Fist force. For now, let us focus on his other attributes, namely his close combat capabilities. With Weapon Skill 8, Strength 6, Initiative 5 and 4 Attacks, Dorn is slightly below average as a raw fighter as far as his brother Primarchs are concerned and that is especially the case once all of the various unique melee weapons are accounted for. He wields a titanic chainsword known as the Storm's Teeth that is rather unusual in its function, providing Dorn with the Reaping Blow rule with the only other benefits being that it is AP2 and comes with the Rampage and Shred special rules. While re-rolling failed to-wound rolls at his base Strength 6 in addition to gaining +D3 attacks in any round of combat that he is outnumbered in are great benefits on their own, the lack of a Strength bonus means that Dorn will struggle to deal with vehicles and the tougher monstrous creatures in the game. Reworking Storm's Teeth from Unwieldy to the all-new Reaping Blow rule is such an incredible change as it now allows him to strike at Initiative 4 rather than Initiative 1, attacking before many models that would otherwise be able to easily harm him in simultaneous pile-in steps. That it also grants Dorn a bonus attack if he is in base contact with more than one enemy model when he attacks is awesome and, coupled with Rampage and Shred, easily makes him one of the best unit-killers of the Primarchs with a potential nine Strength 7 AP2 attacks on the charge that re-roll all failed to-wound rolls! However, Dorn does have a few tricks up his sleeve to alleviate the problem of higher Toughness or better armored models; most obvious of which is that he has the Furious Charge special rule to provide him with Strength 7 (as alluded to earlier) on the charge - even monstrous creatures and many Primarchs should now beware Dorn's wrath. Secondly, he can halve his attacks to increase his Strength by +2 and apply the Instant Death special rule to all of his melee strikes, though it is irritatingly worked out after applying the Rampage and charge bonuses as well as rounding down. Still, with Reaping Blow in play and the fact that Dorn himself becomes Strength 9 in this manner when launching an assault means it is easily still one of the better tricks available to a Legion list for dealing with mighty Gargantuan Creatures or Super Heavy Vehicles in close combat. Long story short, one simple change turned Dorn from one of the weaker melee combatants among the Primarchs into arguably one of the better ones!
Provided you make use of the Furious Charge and unique Sundering Blow special rules, high Toughness characters or monstrous creatures, gargantuan creatures and vehicles suddenly become viable targets for Dorn, while his standard bonuses of Rampage and Shred are more naturally suited to maximizing his damage output against lesser foes. This does make him a much more effective generalist fighter than his sworn rival Perturabo and serves as an example of the first impressions for the supremely loyal warriors' rules often leading one astray, though obviously he still doesn't compare to someone like Horus in glorious close combat. Something to note is that Dorn does bear an impressive evolution of boltgun technology in the form of the Voice of Terra, a weapon that seems powerful at first but quickly becomes detrimental in practice - in keeping with the theme mentioned above. The base profile is quite strong as far as rating the ranged weapons among these characters goes, functioning as a Salvo weapon that fires either three or five shots at 12" or 24" respectively, all of them using Strength 5 AP4 with the Rending special rule. His good Ballistic Skill 5 makes this a super heavy bolter in theory, but the practical applications tell a different story. What you absolutely must remember about the Primarchs is that unless their individual rules specifically confer the Relentless special rule upon them (or they get updated with it in the coming rule updates) they are not innately capable of moving and shooting Salvo weapons at full effectiveness and are thus also prevented from charging after using those weapons. This sadly makes the Voice of Terra a self-handicapping tool rather than a useful one given that you will usually want to make the most of Dorn's incredibly impressive melee capabilities and his various close-combat oriented army bonuses, and sitting still with a Primarch is almost always a bad idea given the kind of shooting that will inevitably be directed their way. Having Dorn remain stationary just so he can make the most out of what is ultimately a glorified heavy bolter will rarely be worth keeping him in the firing line of more deadly ranged opponents, so instead using his frag grenades on a turn you want to charge is recommended; it bears mentioning that given that his melee weapon is no longer Unwieldy, these now have more of a purpose than just being utilized as a light shooting attack.
On the defensive side - where you would expect Dorn to be highly competitive what with the many durability-oriented rules his Legion possesses - the Unyielding One seems fairly archetypal for his position at first glance, what with Toughness 6 as well as 6 Wounds backed by strong 2+ armor and 4+ invulnerable saves, while It Will Not Die allows him to regrow wounds on the roll of a 5+ at the end of each of his player turns. Dorn does have a really cool special rule to alleviate vulnerabilities to high Strength or Fleshbane weaponry which is incorporated into his Auric Armour, forcing any attack that would normally wound him on a 2+ to instead wound on a 3+, greatly reducing the amount of wounds he should suffer from those types of attacks in any given game. As you would likely expect, this is absolutely invaluable against other Primarchs and most of the super-powered melee fighters you find nowadays, though don't expect him to be capable of standing toe to toe with something like an Imperial Knight; Destroyer Weapons are unfortunately unhindered by this rule, so make sure to choose your engagements carefully. Now, whether this applies to attacks that wound automatically or not could eliminate a potential counter to him - Psychic Shriek - though he does have Adamantium Will for assistance in that scenario. To summarize, Dorn is still a great fighter and a powerhouse on the battlefield even if the other Primarchs are often stronger than he is, given that a Primarch alone is more than a match for any character an opponent could send their way. With that out of the way, we can now focus on what really makes the Praetorian tick; his army-centric buffing powers, the first of which is that he confers both Crusader and Furious Charge on to himself and any unit he joins. These are great rules to have for any assault unit and this is especially the case in the Horus Heresy where Sweeping Advances are of much greater importance and commonality, with the more obvious beneficiaries being Legion Terminators given that Templar Brethren already have half of the benefits. He allows his sons to use his high Leadership 10 in place of their own for Morale and Pinning tests - the two most important types of Leadership tests - which combines amazingly well with the Stubborn rule they gain while they are situated in cover-providing terrain or fortifications, making them all but unbreakable if Legion Vexillas are accounted for.
All Imperial Fists and their Primarch add +D3 to their assault results provided he is alive and well, giving an army that can do melee better than most others another huge leg-up in much the same vein as Fulgrim and the Emperors Children, something that alone is one of the stronger buffs to have in the Horus Heresy. An awesome representation of the background fluff is that Dorn emphasizes not just the hammer blow but also the anvil as far as play-styles are concerned, allowing any units to re-roll failed cover save dice results of one and Pinning tests when they are occupying any one of the three fortifications or terrain pieces that Dorn's owning player selects after deployment. However, I get the feeling this rule wasn't written with the changes to Unshakable Defences in mind as it confers re-rolls on failed Pinning tests in a particular set of circumstances while the Legion rule instead allows affected models to outright ignore Pinning tests with the same requirements. Lastly, Dorn unlocks both Phalanx Warders and Legion Terminators as Troops choices provided he is the Warlord which, when combined with Sigismund who need only be present in a detachment to provide you with Templar Brethren in the Troops slot, gives Imperial Fist players unprecedented versatility in determining how to construct their army lists. Also, while he doesn't have quite the arsenal of wargear that Primarchs such as Perturabo or Horus possess, he is equipped with a Teleport Homer to assist Deep Striking squads which, coincidentally, Imperial Fists are one of the pioneers for given the optional teleportation capabilities their Terminators can purchase. As if that wasn't enough, Dorn also shares another striking similarity only with Perturabo - somewhat ironically - because he has access to a unique Dedicated Transport option, the Aetos Dios; this is a Thunderhawk Gunship equipped with a highly powerful Turbo Laser weapon, a single Void Shield, a 4+ invulnerable save specifically used against Missile type weapons, and the It Will Not Die special rule. While it is restricted to games of 3000 points or more, what makes this selection so insanely strong is that it is a massively discounted Thunderhawk Gunship with so many valuable extras that doesn't fulfill a Lord of War slot, allowing you to come up with some truly terrifying builds at that points limit. It comes as no surprise then that due to the sheer amount of special rules he provides for both offensive and defensive styles of play, the vast options for list building he allows as well as the always useful Leadership-based bonuses that his attendant warriors benefit from, I rank Rogal Dorn as easily one of the best Legion buffers and synergistic choices of any Primarch. That he is so cheap and naturally complements his forces as another incredibly valuable and powerful fighter alongside Sigismund earns him his place as one of the most competitive sons of the God Emperor, a true testament to his seemingly divine resolve and inspirational heroism as a character.
I must extend my warmest gratitude to you for making it through this slog of a review; I hope you enjoyed and found some use from it! I've long had an admiration for the Imperial Fists even despite their rivalry with my beloved Iron Warriors, as their Primarch Rogal Dorn embodies what it is to be a true paragon of humanity - virtues that have been transplanted into his Legion as proven by their many glorious victories and heroes. If you want to discuss the Imperial Fists and provide any feedback for the article, feel free to use the comments section below. Thanks again!
Primarch-Progenitor, to your glory and the glory of Him on Earth!