10 Jun 2016

Legion Review - Sons of Horus

Greetings fellow wargamers and welcome to the third entry in my Legion Review series for the Horus Heresy gaming system! Whether you align with the God Emperor or Horus Lupercal, one cannot deny the precision, ferocity and battle strength of the Sons of Horus - once honored as the Luna Wolves and among the greatest of all Space Marine Legions. Though their fall was meteoric, they remained masters of the art of war even in service to the Ruinous Powers and would prove ever more fanatical and aggressive as the Heresy drew to its inevitable climax. I hope you enjoy this article!

Sons of Horus

With an exemplary combat record and among the most powerful cohesive fighting forces of any Legion, no betrayal was felt more keenly by the God-Emperor than the sight of his once favored Luna Wolves descending into the twisted and cruel entity known as the Sons of Horus. Such is their legacy of peerless strategic mastery that the most common offensive approach of modern Space Marine Chapters - surgical strikes backed by Drop Pods and aircraft - was indeed pioneered by the 16th Legion, while their adaptive tactics and multi-layered attacks were matched by few rivals. Though their legion organization impressed martial honor and individual feats of heroism upon its members, the seeds of heresy were ripe for hatching well before the horrific events of Davin and Istvaan. Known as much for their savagery as their tactical acumen, the Sons of Horus shared a ruthlessness emulated perhaps only by the Space Wolves - chosen executioners of the Imperium - while the ad hoc structure of the Legion itself and that focus on individualism would serve only to massage the pride and arrogance of its members. Though they had been staunchly loyal to the Emperor and his ideals, their unflinching devotion to the Primarch Horus and the introduction of Davinite Warrior Lodges further groomed the strive to succeed and bitterness of failure within the Legion, festering as jealousy in many that Horus himself harbored towards his divine father. The instinctual need to prove themselves and curry favor in the eyes of their progenitor would drive them to embrace the fell powers of Chaos at his whim, luring them into an endless spiral of hatred, treachery and violence. Though they once stood as proud saviors of countless worlds, they would forevermore be known as the darkest heralds of destruction and disorder, forging a cruel legacy as the harbingers of the long war.

Legion Rules

The Edge of the Spear - Reserve-based play is one of the key tenets of the Horus Heresy and few Legions are as accomplished in that field as the Sons of Horus; not only can they model a match around Reserves with their Rites of War and unique units, one of their standard Legion rules actually presents a related bonus. Optionally re-rolling reserve rolls of one for all units with the Legiones Astartes special rule in a Sons of Horus detachment as well as their constituent transports is always useful, whether to have a greater chance of bringing reinforcements to the battlefield or using the non-mandatory nature of the rule to keep those reserves out play as necessary. This highly favors units carried in Dreadclaws, Drop Pods or that choose to Outflank given the increase in reliability, particularly for the former two transports that tend to feature in multiples. While by no means a major buff in contrast to other Legion rules, that it forms but one out of three individual bonuses granted to the Sons of Horus is impressive.

Bitter Pride - The only 'downside' to fielding a Sons of Horus force is that they don't play that well with allied Legions, meaning that their units cannot benefit from Warlord Traits or Leadership scores offered by other Space Marines. This is about as minor a grievance as it gets given that only Sworn Brothers benefit from each others' Warlord Traits and can be joined by friendly Independent Characters, meaning the likelihood of this ever actually popping up is slim. Besides, would you ever really be fielding the Sons of Horus as an Allied detachment?

Merciless Fighters - A rule designed to give Sons of Horus both a validation for fewer squads with more numerous members and a suitable reason to engage in close quarters combat, this benefit functions similarly to a core principle of the Night Lords' tactics; strength in numbers. The infantry of a Sons of Horus force can, if they have already struck at an earlier Initiative step and outnumber their opponents (with Bulky and Very Bulky models counting as two or three members each) make a single additional attack resolved with all of their standard wargear and special rules. While this offers no benefit to Power Fists and other strong yet Unwieldy weapons, it does give anything from Terminators armed with Power Weapons to basic Tactical Squads a serious potential damage increase in melee fights. Terminators in particular become utterly monstrous combatants for your opponents given that each has the Bulky special rule and essentially gain free bonus attacks against almost all targets, while your more common infantry choices gain an oft crucial edge over their peers from rival Legions. That the activation of the rule is determined at the Initiative 1 step can lead to to it not featuring in a particular combat whereas it would if it was worked out earlier, but this isn't really a major cause of concern provided you pick your engagements smartly as is the way of the Sons of Horus.

Death Dealer - A new addition to the Sons of Horus aimed at bringing them more in-line with the powerful recently released Legions, this brings the Sons of Horus' generalist fighting style full-circle by granting them a buff to their ranged damage output. Providing all Sons of Horus with +1 to their Ballistic Skill values when firing Pistol, Assault and Rapid Fire weapons at enemies with the requirement being that said target has to be within 12" offers a sizable increase to their accuracy and death-dealing efficiency. It is effectively tailor made for forces utilizing Drop Pods, Dreadclaws or other forms of arriving from Deep Strike or Outflank - that it functions on any weapon with the required types means that even Plasma Guns or Volkite Chargers are eligible for the buff outside of just Boltguns as would be the case with the Imperial Fists. While it doesn't affect Snap Shots, Chain Fire and Fury of the Legion attacks it is nonetheless another strong improvement that enforces the theme surrounding the Sons of Horus; outright superiority in all forms of close-range engagements the likes of which others can only emulate in one particular phase at a time.

Unique Rite of War

The Black Reaving - Designed to supplement an army that heavily relies on reserve manipulation to strike at the most vulnerable sections of an enemy battle line, the Black Reaving strikes a fine balance between bonuses and restrictions to provide an intriguing alternative to standard play. The benefits seem minor in theory but can be very valuable in practice should you build a list that hones in on them, especially if you favor the unique units the Sons of Horus possess. Granting the powerful Justaerin Terminators Deep Strike capabilities while allowing Reavers to be used as Troops choices adds diversity and saves points to allow the former unit to Deep Strike and the latter to form the core of an army rather than its support contingent. The Rite of War further emphasizes the unfair fighting mentality of the Legion by granting Rage to any squad charging into an ongoing melee combat, highly useful in conjunction with Dreadnoughts that can easily tie up enemy squads and set up your friendly forces to deal the killing blow. Lastly, non-vehicle units that enter play from Reserves - not from Deep Strike, however - gain a rather unusual benefit in the form of Fleet; this is odd because it only allows a re-roll for determining their Run distance as charging from reserves is, to my knowledge, impossible in the Horus Heresy. Still, this does have some uses given that an Outflanking squad may pop up on an unfavorable side and need to Run to get into a better position for subsequent turns, or it can simply be used to drive an assault unit ever closer to their prey.

As a counter-balance to all of those improvements offered by the utilization of the Black Reaving, there are a few downsides to the Rite of War as you would expect for any Legion. The additional compulsory Troops choice and Master of Signal can be painful in games using a points value of 2000 or less, but in my experience most Heresy lists tend to want three or more Troops choices in most points limits above 2000 due to the limited number of proper scoring units found in the Age of Darkness rules system. It also makes no difference for armies using the standard two Troops choices and a squad of Reavers as the latter take on the former battlefield role when the Rite of War is in place, and Reavers gain fine benefits in that kind of army list anyway. Similarly, the Master of Signal is a great Consul type that nearly any army list can benefit from due to the free artillery bombardment attack and Cognis Signum. The inability to take Fortification detachments is hardly worth mentioning given that the style of play the Black Reaving and, in truth, the Legion itself rewards doesn't favor them; no, the real limitation here is being forced to take more Fast Attack choices than Heavy Support choices, effectively restricting an army to two Heavy Support choices that can only be used if they invest in the Fast Attack slot. The Heavy Support slot is generally the stronger of the two slots for most Legions but an argument can be made that the Fast Attack slot is more important for typical Sons of Horus army lists so this too may not be a major issue for you. Ultimately, the Black Reaving offers decent albeit hardly major improvements to a force all the while imposing little in the way of actual restrictions; it's not something I would necessarily build a full army around on a budget but if you already want to use an army in that way then it is definitely worth taking.

Characters, Units and Wargear

Maloghurst the Twisted - Forming the uncanny middle-ground between a Centurion and a Praetor is Maloghurst, the Equerry to Horus and a character designed to support your force in the backfield rather than lead it into battle. His stats are quite middling given his points cost; Weapon Skill 5 with two base Attacks, Initiative 4 and Strength 4 are supplemented by a Power Sword and Bolt Pistol to provide Maloghurst with four AP3 attacks on the charge - perfectly fine for a Centurion but pitiful by Praetor standards. Toughness 4 with a handy 3 Wounds form his core defensive attributes with 3+ armor and 5+ invulnerable saves proof against most standard blows but crumpling against hard hitting strikes; the lack of a 2+ armor save is unusual given his high standing in the Sons of Horus but it makes sense from a balancing perspective given that he isn't billed as a fighter. The usual complement of wargear for a Space Marine are present with Maloghurst as well, namely a Bolter handily outfitted with Banestrike shells and the iconic pairing of Frag and Krak grenades. Still, it is as a buffer for your other units and catalyst of varying army builds that Maloghurst really stands out, firstly for the fact that he bears a Legion Standard and thus grants the Fearless special rule and a +1 modifier to close combat resolution scores to all friendly Sons of Horus within a small range. Given how crucial morale is in the Horus Heresy and how certain Legions rely on manipulating that to their advantage, this alone is a reason to field Maloghurst given that you normally have to field expensive and non-compulsory Command Squads to achieve the same effect. On a similar note, he also has a game-high Leadership 10 and Adamantium Will to stay strong against the various psychic powers that attack morale as opposed to dealing damage through traditional means.

His Warlord Trait is fairly impressive given that scoring is still an integral aspect of gaming in the Age of Darkness; being able to capture objectives in any mission where Troops can do the same allows you to join Maloghurst to elite forces and still claim objectives if they lack the Implacable Advance special rule, proving to be a very handy trait in general play. The aforementioned split between Centurion and Praetor is further blurred by him possessing the Master of the Legion special rule, enabling the various Rites of War and allowing you to tailor your army to different builds with a cheap support character as opposed to a potentially expensive beat-stick. Arguably the greatest advantage to fielding Maloghurst, however, is that he unlocks both Veteran Tactical Squads and Reaver Squads as Troops choices in whichever detachment he himself is a part of. This enforces the theme of granting you the tools to build an army in the way you deem necessary by unlocking Rites of War and two powerful Troops choices with wildly divergent roles in gameplay to their contemporaries, while his other positive effects all contribute to one wildly valuable character that can still hold his own amicably in a melee. However, the effects of unending war don't come without consequences; Maloghurst prevents any unit he joins from Running or performing Sweeping Advances, instantly rendering him a poor choice to join almost any dedicated assault unit and generally relegating him to the core of mobile (via transports) or static gun-line units. Regardless, he is a highly valuable character given that his Fearless aura, functionality as a scoring unit, Master of the Legion classification and allowance of numerous divergent Troops choices arguably do more for the points from an army-list designing perspective than any other character in the Horus Heresy.

Ezekyle Abaddon - Though he would come to be known as the Warmaster of Chaos and the most powerful of all mortal leaders among the Chaos Space Marines, Abaddon was once very much a follower of Horus and renowned hero of the Imperium. As such it goes without saying that this version of Abaddon is nowhere near as strong as the one that earned the favor of the Dark Gods, but his dark reputation as a terrifying combatant was still strong even in this era. An initial glimpse at his points cost and equipment gives a very muddled view of what he is capable of in comparison to other Praetors; he lacks the crucial Paragon Blade for at-Initiative AP2 strikes and pays a whopping 45 points for the various special rules and sole stat boost he possesses compared to a Praetor equipped identically to him. This instantly makes him hugely vulnerable to basic squad Sergeants fielding Power Fists and Artificer Armor or other high Strength units with low Initiative scores, while the inability to inflict Instant Death on Toughness 5 and greater opponents offsets the sizable Strength disparity. However, this doesn't instantly relegate Abaddon to the unworthy category; a model with five Strength 8 AP2 attacks on the charge with a single re-roll to-hit and Weapon Skill 7 will punish darn near anything in the game, and that latter trait is key to Abaddon's potential success. Hitting other Praetors on 3s as opposed to 4s provides a sizable effective damage increase and, combined with his Master-Crafted Power Fist, actually gives him the edge against those competitors. If they can't inflict Instant Death on him with a lucky six on a to-wound roll or otherwise fail to slay him first - a result that is statistically likely with average rolls - Abaddon should murder a standard Praetor in a single round of combat provided they lack the Eternal Warrior special rule, of which only Salamanders and certain special characters are privy to. That's obviously nothing to sneeze at even if it doesn't mask his core issue of relying on an Unwieldy AP2 weapon, though otherwise he is billed mostly as a leader for your Terminator squads.

Cataphractii Terminator armor provides him with strong saving throws but the unique designation of his suit means he is actually Relentless, though this buff is not as significant as you would hope for. It doesn't affect any other member of a unit he joins and the main reason for a close combat character to have it - performing Sweeping Advances - doesn't function when joined to the Justaerin Terminators (which is silly) he is supposed to lead or the common Cataphractii-armored Terminators. It forces Abaddon to join up with Tartaros-armored Terminators or non-Terminator squads to benefit from it - something you will want given that Space Marines in the Horus Heresy are dangerously susceptible to Sweeping Advances - though the ability to fire Overwatch with his Combi-Bolter is worth mentioning as well. However, arguably the main reason to use him is his Teleporter Assault special rule that provides both he and any Terminator-armored unit he joins both with the ability to Deep Strike and re-roll results on the mishap table which pretty much earmarks him to act as the tip of the spear with fellow heavily-clad veterans of the Legion. It is a great buff to have given that other Legions either entirely lack the means to provide Deep Strike to their Terminators outside of a Rite of War or must pay for that capability, and this is especially the case when you consider that in-built safety mechanism with the mishap re-roll. However, it runs counter to having the Relentless special rule unless you want to attach him to Tartaros-armored Terminators; a good suggestion here is attaching Abaddon to Phoenix Terminators of the Emperor's Children given their status as Sworn Brothers, as he perfectly complements their strengths with that hard-hitting punch they can lack against Walkers or Monstrous Creatures. The fact that Abaddon is actually Fearless - one of the few non-Primarch characters in the Horus Heresy to have this rule - further sells him as an ideal leader for your assault forces given that Fearless is more important in an assault than any other phase of the game, something that instantly gives him a unique niche next to a generic Praetor.

The rest of his rules aren't too ground-breaking but are still useful in their own rights; his preset Warlord Trait, Intimidating Presence, is of varying effectiveness in the Horus Heresy given that many squads have a base Leadership 8 and rely on characters to circumvent their morale problems. Applying Precision Strikes to all of his close combat attacks is handy given that each will likely be made with a Power Fist, but given that Look Out Sir can still be taken against these if the target is a character, it usually won't make that big of a difference short of picking out the odd troublesome special weapon carrier. The last truly interesting thing of note - his Marked by Dark Fates only counts for campaign games so isn't applicable in standard matches - is that he can freely choose between a Combi-Bolter and a Power Sword to complement his Master-Crafted Power Fist. Twin-linked boltgun shots backed by Ballistic Skill 5 (or Ballistic Skill 6 at close ranges, not that it matters) have their place but the alternative melee weapon adds some much needed versatility to the First Captain of the Sons of Horus. Strength 4 AP3 attacks at Initiative 5 not only allow Abaddon to cut down 3+ armored foes that are in abundance throughout both the Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000 before they have a chance to strike back, they also let him benefit from the Merciless Fighters trait of his Legion in a unique way that ranks as one of the more amusing tricks in the game. Merciless Fighters doesn't specify that Abaddon has to use the same weapon he struck with earlier in the combat, meaning he can attack with his Power Sword normally at Initiative 5 and then use his Master-Crafted Power Fist with the bonus attack to vary up his offence and prove even more devastating against foes prone to fall against both weapons. With all of this in mind, Abaddon is a deceptively powerful close combatant given that his Master-Crafted Power Fist assures guaranteed destruction against nearly any foe whereas other characters of his type are reliant on rolling specific results to achieve victory in tight challenges. He is also a fundamentally ideal leader of Terminator squads of varying types given that he allows them to Deep Strike in relative safety and provides them with assault grenades due to his Grenade Harness, meaning that he is the perfect thematic choice in every way to lead your incredible Justaerin Terminators even if he can't utilize his Relentless rule with them. While he is by no means an amazing choice and falls short in certain areas - namely that a basic squad Sergeant can spell doom for him due to Abaddon's Unwieldy weapon - he is still mostly a good choice that is well suited for army builds favoring Terminators in abundance.

Garviel Loken - The irony of Loken's fate being intertwined with Abaddon's in more ways than one is certainly not lost on me, especially as both share the fact that initial analyses' of their rules don't strike a mostly positive image. The lone survivor of Istvaan is a much more standard Praetor in terms of armament by contrast to Abaddon, wielding one of the dreaded Paragon Blades alongside a Bolt Pistol and an assortment of standard Astartes-issue grenades. His generic stat-line and wargear would make it seem that he is a Praetor who pays unnecessary points for minimal buffs when compared to one so equipped as he, but like Abaddon, this isn't truly the case. Being Initiative 6 is a huge benefit for any close-combat character, an advantage that the Emperor's Children prove is massively advantageous in the context of the Horus Heresy where profiles and armies are mostly identical between players. The advantage of striking before opponents and potentially killing them first for a model armed with a Paragon Blade is simply fantastic in the duels that so often result between leaders of varying Legions on the field of battle.

Loken also has an in-built defence against Instant Death attacks with his unique Born Survivor special rule allowing him to ignore the first killing blow he suffers in a game on the roll of a 2+, leaving him with a single wound remaining instead. This means that against his sworn enemy Abaddon he not only has the chance to decapitate the First Captain with the Paragon Blade before the rival strikes, but he will at worst get two chances at doing so as Loken will endure that important first round of combat should he fail a save against Abaddon's Power Fist. It's a really cool rule that functions simultaneously as pseudo-Eternal Warrior and a fourth Wound, though any enemy that can inflict wounds at different Initiative steps in the same combat (which Abaddon actually is capable of) can still bypass it with ease. This is actually a very real possibility in some cases as Loken is one of the few Masters of the Legion to lack a 2+ armor save in much the same vein as Maloghurst, a surprising concession given that he is actually a dedicated assault character and thus is oft heavily reliant on having the strongest saving throws possible. AP3 weapons are fairly common in most aspects of the game so this is a fairly important weakness to consider should you wish to use Loken in your force, though his special bonuses do somewhat make up for this - it just seems unnecessary to lose out on Artificer Armor given that he is already decently expensive considering his equipment.

Lastly, his Warlord Trait allows friendly units - not just Sons of Horus, importantly - to benefit from his Leadership 10 at your behest if they are within 12", greatly improving the morale of your forces which, as I've made clear on many different occasions, is a great advantage to have in the Horus Heresy. Overall, Loken is a fine alternative to a generic Praetor as a dedicated assault leader to challenge out enemy characters and turn combats in your favor with his very high Initiative value and strong unique defensive rule, but like Abaddon I would never truly consider him a must-take in any sense. The other important note to consider is that his place as the sole Loyalist character in a Sons of Horus force prevents him from being tag-teamed with Maloghurst, Abaddon or the incredible Primarch himself - Horus. This will limit your army selections and deny you the chance to field the Warmaster, and while this is also true of characters such as Kyr Vhalen from the Iron Warriors, those models tend to provide amazing value to justify their inclusion and the limitations they enforce as a result. Loken is not amazing in any sense but he is still worth using as the powerful leader of a loyalist Sons of Horus force seeking to avenge the heresy of their gene-progenitor.

Anvillus Pattern Dreadclaw Drop Pod - One of the more expensive dedicated transports in the Horus Heresy, the Anvillus Pattern Dreadclaw is, as the name suggests, a Drop Pod with multiple unique quirks to differentiate it from the playing field. Most obvious is the fact that it is a Flyer with the Hover type capable of acting as Zooming transport, meaning that it does not need to immediately eject whatever unit it ferries and has the ability to zoom around the battlefield and unload units or cause havoc - normal Drop Pods simply can't emulate a Dreadclaw for these simple reasons. As an Assault Vehicle with Frag Assault Launchers, the option to hide a unit inside when it arrives before disgorging them upon unwitting foes is entirely possible. It does otherwise function mostly like a standard Drop Pod by forcing it and its transported unit to start the game in Reserves and arrive by Deep Strike, while it also counts as a Drop Pod for the purposes of the Drop Pod Assault rule - this allows you to deliver Dreadclaws to the battlefield from the first turn onwards. That it can actually protect whatever unit you pair it up with by not forcing them to disembark the moment it lands is hugely advantageous if it arrives in a bad spot or ferries an assault oriented unit, while using its Zooming capabilities to safeguard a unit for a late-game objective grab is a great tactic. What further distinguishes it from other Drop Pods is that it acts as a Dedicated Transport for a number of units without requiring a specific Rite of War as is the fate of the standard Drop Pod variant, meaning you can still implement powerful alpha strike elements into a force without dramatically altering the limitations placed upon it. Being able to ferry elite units such as Justaerin, Terminators, Seekers, Reavers and Command Squads is - in some cases - unheard of for a Dedicated Transport option of such a low price point, instantly making it a great choice for standard gameplay regardless of how you build your army.

Dreadclaws even radiate focused heat blasts as they dash across the battlefield which serve as an improved replacement to the usual Twin-Linked Bolter; inflicting Strength 6 AP5 Ignores Cover hits on nearby enemies after Deep Striking can be potent against light vehicles and multiple congested units with medium to light armor saves. However, what really makes the Dreadclaw earns its keep is the fact that it can inflict D6 Strength 5 AP5 hits that possess Ignores Cover and (along with the other variant of the attack) strike the weakest armor value of vehicles, letting it do potentially significant damage over the course of a game. Of course, this isn't without risk; a separate roll after using the latter version of a Heat Blast can inflict damage on the Dreadclaw itself while using either prevents any unit inside from disembarking on the same turn. The other crucial disadvantage offered by using a Dreadclaw instead of a Drop Pod, aside from the price differential, is that it lacks an Inertial Guidance System and is thus fully prone to suffering from Deep Strike Mishaps. This is especially painful given that aforementioned cost and the fact that it is designed mostly to give elite short ranged forces a safe avenue of attack and much needed mobility, while making the most out of the Deep Strike variation of the Heat Blast involves taking an incredible risk with scatter. This means that it isn't always a fantastic choice given its price and limitations but the fact that it offers various Terminator-armored units a cheap alternative to Land Raiders for transportation means it definitely has its place, especially as the Heat Blast attacks and flying capabilities do make it far more versatile than the average Drop Pod both as an individual unit or transport.

Justaerin Terminator Squad - I'm thankful to be reviewing this unit now as opposed to their incarnation in previous entries in the Horus Heresy series; if you aren't privy to why this is the case, I'll perform a simple comparison for you using both of the campaign legions books. The new Justaerin Terminators do pay a good fifty points more for the basic squad but that starting size is five models as opposed to the old three, while the updated unit sees that each member now has two wounds as opposed to one, doubling their effective durability against attacks that don't inflict Instant Death. This means that a full unit of ten Justaerin is a good thirty points cheaper than it was and is so much harder to deal with given all those extra wounds, rendering what was once arguably the most over-priced unit in the Horus Heresy a reborn gem of a unit. Comparisons aside, what actually makes the Justaerin tick, what was the initial justification for the high price tag and why should you take them as opposed to regular Terminator squads? The answer to all of those questions is that an individual member of the Justaerin is a highly durable model with a 2+ armor save, 4+ invulnerable save and two Wounds at Toughness 4. Being twice as difficult to kill as a normal Cataphractii-armored Terminator despite only be a few points more expensive on a per model basis is fantastic value given that it renders small arms fire almost useless against them. The inability to Overwatch, Run or perform Sweeping Advances is a big deal given that the unit can't defend itself from an impending charge, independently re-position swiftly or fully destroy enemies that flee before them. However, I would say the defensive benefits do outweigh the caveats here given that such an elite unit will be forced to wither a lot of punishment and be in the thickest part of the fighting; after all, few units will be able to survive an onslaught from a significant Justaerin presence anyway, whereas Overwatch with a mixture of Combi-Bolters and Heavy Flamers is decent but not hugely impressive.

Justaerin are also damned powerful in an assault due to packing all manner of Power Weapons, Lightning Claws and Power Fists on top of a base two Attacks each and a decidedly above average Weapon Skill 5. Their effective damage output is further augmented by the Furious Charge special rule - strikes ranging from Strength 5 to Strength 9 with weapons that ignore most types of armor are difficult to ignore for any unit - and the fact that each model carries a Combi-Bolter; combining the melee and ranged weapons with the Sons of Horus legion rules means that the unit gains extra attacks and accuracy on top of their already impressive base stats. Mixing up the units' weapons with both Power Weapons (or Lightning Claws) and Power Fists allows some models to benefit from the potential extra attacks offered by outnumbering foes in an assault at the Initiative 1 step (Justaerin are Bulky and thus count as two models each making this an easy feat to accomplish) is a smart idea to maximize both on the legion rules and the raw damage output of high Strength AP2 weapons. A mixture of Implacable Advance, great weapon diversity and the optional method of using them in place of Terminator-armored Command Squads gives you one of the most flexible and powerful scoring units for the points in the Horus Heresy that other Legions will struggle to emulate while freeing up valuable Elites slots as necessary. Lastly, being Stubborn with easy access to a Fearless leader (Abaddon) means they aren't too likely to flee from a lost combat, while each member is further capable of accepting challenges on behalf of actual characters to befuddle and overpower opponents with a diverse cast of players. That you can customize the unit to deal with any situation you desire on top of them all being highly durable and damaging in all phases of the game with optional heavy ranged and assault weaponry means they set the standard for legion-specific Terminator squads, carrying matches and proving to be consistently strong performers for most Sons of Horus players. Their friendly association with Anvillus-Pattern Dreadclaw Drop Pods gives them a cheap dedicated transport option that almost no other Terminator unit in the Horus Heresy can emulate, giving them a unique position on an esteemed list that includes Grave Wardens and Firedrakes, to name but a few.

Reaver Attack Squad - A Fast Attack choice that functions very similarly to Veteran Tactical Squads, Reavers are yet another virtuoso unit designed for you to customize to your needs; they can be generalists, ranged specialists or devastating melee combatants based purely on how you equip them. The level of versatility in Sons of Horus units is so highly appreciated because of the legions' unique rules granting them bonuses to shooting and close combat damage output, making dual-purpose units all the more valuable and giving specialists the safety of some type of guaranteed benefit. As to the Reavers themselves, this is no more apparent than in the staggering plethora of options available to them - to supplement them, their basic armament consists of bolt pistols, chainswords, frag and krak grenades on top of standard 3+ armor saves. Boltguns with Banestrike Shells, Volkite Chargers and Combi-Weapons with Banestrike Shells for a ranged unit, or Chainaxes, Power Weapons and Power Fists for a melee unit; all of these weapons can be taken on a unit-wide basis and thus allow you to invest less or more with wildly divergent results. Being able to mix Flamers, Meltaguns, Plasma Guns and even Plasma Pistols throughout the squad on a one-in-five basis means that even a specialized unit can still be tailored to deal with numerous unit types, while the Chieftan (squad leader) has some special upgrades of his own such as Artificer Armor or a Hand Flamer.

However, easily the most important upgrade for the unit comes in the form of optional Jump Packs that are paid for on a fixed price regardless of the squads' respective size, meaning taking Jump Packs is more valuable the larger a Reaver unit is. Given their Veteran-inspired profile with two base attacks, close combat weapons paired with bolt pistols and a nearly unparalleled range of weaponry to choose from, Reavers outfitted with Jump Packs actually prove to be more efficient melee or ranged Jump Infantry units than generic Assault Squads. Flying around with the shorter-ranged but oft nastier (compared to normal variants) Boltguns with Banestrike Shells is undoubtedly amusing, but the Volkite Chargers or Combi-Weapons can really devastate foes in short order in the opening stages of a game given the units' great mobility. On the flip side, an assault-oriented Reaver squad is well suited to taking melee weapons; Chainaxes are incredulously inexpensive for the unit and turn them into utter butchers against xenos and auxiliary forces, while shelling out for Power Weapons or a few Power Fists can give them the means to deal severe damage to most foes. The versatility of the unit in terms of armament is amplified by their ability to Outflank which conveniently works alongside the Reserves bonuses offered by the Sons of Horus' legion rules; being able to deploy normally or arrive from a flank with a potent mix of short-ranged weaponry gives you the flexibility to deal with both static and forward-roving forces. Add in optional Dedicated Transports such as Rhinos or Anvillus-Pattern Dreadclaw Drop Pods and you can really start to see that Reavers function as improved Veterans in the usually less contested Fast Attack slot as opposed to the oft easily-filled Elites slot, but their reputation as saboteurs and assassins doesn't go unnoticed either. Each model in the unit possesses both the Precision Shots and Precision Strikes special rules, allowing you to allocate wounds inflicted from any hits that score sixes on the associated to-hit roll; given how important characters are in the Horus Heresy, being able to single out Apothecaries and Sergeants can be crucial to success and is yet another great advantage to fielding Reavers as opposed to other choices. The unit as a whole doesn't immediately jump out as fantastic or deadly in any sense but their flexibility, cost and alternative deployment or mobility-boosting options ensure that they are a great choice in the hands of an apt general.

Banestrike Bolter Rounds - Employed simultaneously by the Alpha Legion and Sons of Horus, Banestrike ammunition functions as an upgrade for Seeker Squads, Reavers and Independent Characters armed with boltguns or combi-bolters. Reducing the range of the guns by 6" to benefit from AP3 instead of AP5 for any to-wound roll of six is obviously handy for warfare in the Horus Heresy but it is very much unit-dependent as to whether it is truly useful. As Seekers are forced to replace their three distinct special issue ammunition types to accommodate Banestrike Bolter Rounds, the albeit free upgrade is generally not worth it for them; the standard ammo types used by Seekers are more diverse and efficient than solely Banestrike rounds. Reavers, by contrast, suffer no such problems as their optional bolters come standard with Banestrike ammunition; boltguns are a fine upgrade for Reavers and thus you can get your Banestrike fix there. I wouldn't bother with it on Independent Characters unless they come equipped with a combi-bolter as most characters that can take it will have close combat weapons or proper special ranged weapons instead.

The Primarch

Horus Lupercal - It is believed that of all the heroes that fell to the deathly grip of Chaos in their darkest moments, none would descend further than the greatest of all the Emperors' progeny. Horus Lupercal was a living icon of victory to humanity, a beacon of hope radiating against the tyranny of xenos and traitors. Though any one of his brothers could prove superior in a particular aspect of warfare or management, Horus was an exemplar in all metrics and truly stood apart as an unparalleled master of battle. He formed strong relationships with nearly all of his brother-Primarchs and was closer to their gene-father than any other; traits that would later be cruelly manipulated by the Chaos Gods, for the great irony of all was that Horus - the true mastermind of the Great Crusade - would be the presumptive architect of the Imperium's annihilation. His charismatic leadership and close bonds would warp the minds of his advisers and friends, turning them to the path of damnation and irrevocably damning humanity to an endless cycle of devastation. Though he would prove unsuccessful in his bid to supplant the God Emperor as the true ruler of mankind, his betrayal would echo across history for millenia and forever alter the balance of power in the galaxy. The Eye of Terra, as he was once called, would know salvation only for the briefest of moments before his end came at the hands of his own beloved father - at that moment, death was a mercy as he realized the unforgivable depths of his heresy.

In gameplay, no Primarch is more powerful or accomplished than Horus of the Luna Wolves as befits his status as both the Warmaster and the Emperor's favored son. Though he may lack the diversity of equipment borne by Perturabo, the machine-empathy of Ferrus Manus, the swiftness of Corvus Corax, the resiliency of Vulkan or the ferocity of Angron, he combines unmatched prowess in duels with a plethora of adaptive rules designed to empower his forces and simply outmatch any opponent through tactical genius and martial skill. His stats are all above average for a Primarch, his saving throws are as good as can be, he resists psychic or other impediments with ease, he amplifies the Sons of Horus' ability to outmaneuver enemies with strikes that are both precise and swift, and no other model in the game short of a titanic beast or construct is capable of besting him in personal combat. His range of abilities is truly staggering and combine to make Horus not only the strongest of all Primarchs, but also perhaps the most valuable overall in the context of the eternal tug of war that is gaming in the Age of Darkness.

In more specific terms, Horus is a born survivor and his stats absolutely reflect that - being an Eternal Warrior certainly helps as well! With Toughness six and six Wounds, Horus is already in line with a Tyranid Trygon for stats alone - of course, statistics don't tell a full story and this most definitely is the case with Horus. 2+ armor and 3+ invulnerable saves ensure that actually stripping individual wounds off of the Warmaster is darned near impossible, especially as most foes will struggle to accurately him in combat given his Weapon Skill 8. The ability to regenerate wounds on such a tough model via It Will Not Die can be seen as rather over-the-top but it is nonetheless part and parcel of his status as a Primarch, while he also bears an uncanny resistance against enfeebling effects. If psychic powers manage to pierce his Adamantium Will for Deny the Witch rolls, his unique suit of armor - the Serpent's Scales - subsequently ignore any psychic power or ability that would negatively affect his characteristic profile (barring Wounds) on the roll of a 3+, meaning that stacking Maledictions or Witchfires on the Warmaster and any attached unit is a losing strategy. All in all, Horus is surpassed only by Vulkan and Mortarion for raw overall durability when accounting for all Primarchs' various abilities, a truly impressive accomplishment indeed. Given that Horus is also an Independent Character that makes for a logical attachment to Justaerin Terminators, opponents will have few real chances to attack him and need the strongest of weapons to have even a chance at piercing his mighty defences on such rare opportunities.

What Horus is perhaps most famous for in the wargaming community is the fact that he stands alone atop a mountain of Primarchs aiming to clash with each other, ranking as the best duelist and destroyer of his demi-god brethren so far. This is due mostly to a particular crippling weapon, but let us focus instead on how Horus performs in a general sense for the moment. Weapon Skill 8 ensures that Horus will hit most opponents on 3s and deny them the subsequent opportunity to hit him on 3s in return, acting as both an offensive and defensive advantage. A base Strength 7 and high Initiative 6 mean that he will easily wound nearly any foe before they can strike back before accounting for his weapons; being able to kill enemies before they attack you is the surest defence in close combat so this is definitely something you should keep in mind with regards to his varying weapon options. Added Frag Grenades ensure that he suffers no penalty to his Initiative characteristic when charging through cover, while such is Horus' contempt for those unworthy to face him that he gains a bonus D3 Attacks when fighting foes with Weapon Skill 4 or less (worked out by majority or by who faces him in a challenge) on top of an already very high base 6 Attacks, allowing him to scythe through lesser units with pitiless ease. His aptly titled Weapon Mastery allows him to split that high volume of Attacks, in fact increasing to a whopping 7 Attacks base given the pairing, between the opposing sides of his armament, allowing you to punish mixed units or react to the situation at hand as necessary with some much appreciated flexibility.

In terms of weapons, Horus cares not for the predations of a certain Phoenix Lord as he bears two distinct and immensely powerful weapons in either hand; he wields the mighty Warmaster's Talon (later inherited by his successor, Abaddon) and the colossal Worldbreaker, each armament built to deal with different targets. The Worldbreaker allows Horus to smite any foe - Titan or upstart Praetor - by doubling his Strength to 10, ignoring all armor saves, gaining a single re-roll of a failed to-hit roll and inflicting the Concussive penalty on those fortunate enough to survive. A minimum of seven and a maximum of eleven Strength 10 AP2 attacks with such great stats will theoretically monster just about anything in the game, though it does come with the significant penalty of Unwieldy to give his other weapon, the Warmaster's Talon, its' own identity. Speaking of which, the specialized lightning claw augments Horus' power by simultaneously granting re-rolls on failed to-wound rolls to complement his extremely high base Strength and similarly ignore any and all armor saves, giving him a means to utilize that great Initiative 6 score; however, what it is most famous for is its ability to severely weaken foes. Any foe that suffers one or more unsaved wounds from the Warmaster's Talon but isn't slain immediately reduces both its Weapon Skill and Strength values by one in each phase that it suffers such a wound. This ensures that Horus will win a protracted combat against nearly any foe short of something that has Stomp capabilities, while it is also the main reason behind his assured victories against his brother Primarchs in duels. Such combats are long and arduous but none of them are able to even reliably harm the Warmaster after a few rounds of fighting, in some cases being rendered incapable of hurting him in any way; given that Primarch duels are the dream of many Horus Heresy players, being safe in the knowledge that Horus should emerge victorious from any such encounter is a welcome boon for users of the Sons of Horus Legion.

Horus is not without a presence in the Shooting phase as you would expect of any Primarch, an area in which he performs admirably but can't really be considered a star. This is due in no small part to the in-built bolt-weapon component of the Warmaster's Talon, a gun that fires three Twin-Linked Strength 5 AP3 shots at a 24" range, cutting down light to medium infantry fairly easily and working well to strip the odd hull point or wound off of vehicles and monstrous creatures - certainly though it is not the equal of Perturabo's Wrist Cannons. Horus adds to this with his one-use-only Precision Bombardment, an attack that fires a single Strength 10 AP2 Ordnance Large Blast with the Lance and Twin-Linked special rules. This is unique among Orbital Bombardments because it is not a Barrage weapon and is thus fired normally, while its Ordnance type does impose some limitations on Horus given that his unique set of Terminator armor doesn't actually confer the Relentless special rule upon him, limiting its potential uses in a game. Still, that type of attack is a fine tank-hunter but an even better tool to deal with units comprised of Toughness 5 models with multiple wounds which seem increasingly popular of late, most notably including Thallax Cohorts in the Horus Heresy. His inability to fire it on the move and on any turn he Deep Strikes in or disembarks from a transport means it is highly limited in terms of when you can actually use it, especially if you actually want him to be charging or moving as should be expected of a Primarch. If that isn't quite to your tastes, Horus can alternatively improve the Ballistic Skill of a nearby friendly unit by +1 by sacrificing his own freedom to shot on a turn-by-turn basis, a useful piece of wargear for a model that will often be joined up to or fighting alongside models bearing heavy weapons.

As a force multiplier and army coordinator, Horus is almost second to none among his brother Primarchs given the wide range of bonuses on offer and how each of them is perfectly suited to the Legionnaires loyal to him. Minor benefits such as adding Fearless to a squad, unlocking Rites of War and increased control over what particular Warlord Trait is acquired pre-game are your standard fare, but the fact that he adds the Outflank special rule to any unit placed in Reserves is nothing short of ludicrous. This means that you can allow kitted-out Seeker Squads brimming with Combi-Melta weapons, Support Squads bedecked with Plasma Guns, Breacher Squads packing Graviton Guns and nearly any other deadly short-ranged permutation you can think of to freely arrive from any randomly-determined side without requiring a pricey transport is a phenomenal upgrade to your standing forces. Coincidentally, the Sons of Horus legion rules allow you to re-roll any reserve rolls of one, making the heavily reserve-based list variations unlocked by Horus so much more reliable, while Horus himself and any Terminator unit he joins in reserves can arrive on the battlefield from turn two onward without needing to make a roll to determine whether they arrive or not. Speaking of which, Horus enables both he and any Terminator-armored squad acting as his bodyguard to Deep Strike without fear of scattering whatsoever, enabling precise alpha strikes and a terrifying presence that opponents simply won't be able to ignore while having the added advantage of potentially circumventing opposing first-turn-specific shenanigans.

While the decision to combine Horus' Teleportation Matrix with either Justaerin or generic Terminators will be dependent on your points limit, Horus' other buffs are strictly generalist in the sense that they affect the entire friendly force regardless of the size of any particular engagement. Adding +1 Leadership to all Sons of Horus units while Horus is present in the army - the wording implies that he need not stalk the battlefield itself to provide the effect - is a great boon for a Legion that mostly has no in-built defence against Leadership-based offence and associated Fear, Morale and Pinning tests. This combines exceptionally well with Justaerin Terminators and Veterans given their base Leadership 10 and either automatic or optional Stubborn classification; coincidentally, Horus also unlocks both of those aforementioned units as Troops choices just by including him as the Warlord, effectively giving you all the positives and none of the negatives associated with employing the Pride of the Legion Rite of War. Adding additional options to form the core of an army list given that Justaerin Terminators in particular are hugely buffed by the Black Reaving via optional Deep Strike (or Outflank thanks to the Warmaster) while also giving Reavers the nod in the Troops slot gives Sons of Horus players some incredible versatility to build their army lists. Nobody does Veterans better than the Sons of Horus thanks to being able to combine them as Troops choices with native Dreadclaws or the Angel's Wrath Rite of War, while fielding an army composed mostly of Justaerin Terminators is sure to give any other all-Terminator force a run for their money given the raw efficiency of Horus' black-clad vanguard. Finally, the addition of Horus to an army list allows the controlling player to Seize the Initiative on a 4+ from game to game, a trait that is sure to ruin the well thought out plans of many a challenger through the oft match-changing impact that unexpectedly stealing the first turn can have.

All in all, Horus is the best of both worlds as far as Primarchs are concerned - they usually fall into one or two slots, pure beat-stick or support player - by combining incredible durability and damage output with unprecedented dueling qualifications and a long list of army-wide buffs. He is a true gift to any Sons of Horus force of significant size given that he drastically alters the potential implementation of any given unit into an army list whether through simple slot exchanges or actual role expansion via doling out free Outflank or Deep Strike capabilities. There's little that can stand in the way of the Luna Wolves' progenitor and greatest son of the God-Emperor, whether it be in the execution of sound stratagems or brutalizing foes in glorious melee. Though his points is currently the unequaled highest of any Primarch and he eats up a full quarter of a 2000 point army list on his own, there are few army lists that can't massively benefit from his presence, something that not all Primarchs can emulate in the smaller game sizes. His adaptable nature in terms of wielding multiple weapons with opposing preferred targets and adding a number of support items or abilities to your army is perhaps the best reason to field Horus, though certainly it is the fact that he is a true God of Battle that should draw your eye; nigh on impossible to defeat and as deadly as can be, Horus Lupercal is every bit the supreme demi-god of legend upon the war-gaming fields of war.

Thank you all for reading this article, I hope you enjoyed it to the level that I gained satisfaction from writing it out! I've not had major experiences with the Sons of Horus in comparison to any other particular Legion but their role as the main traitorous war-host ensured that I had enough material to work with when developing this over-long piece. I'm confident in saying that they went from arguably the weakest Legion to finding a firm spot among the rest namely for their ability to manipulate deployment better than almost any other Legion on top of numerous damage-enhancing buffs. In any case, I'm eager to see if you agree or disagree with that assessment or any particular segment of the work presented above, so feel free to leave a comment below and I'll do my best to address it as necessary. The Night Lords will feature in my next Legion Review and I look forward to bringing that to you soon. Thanks again for your support!

For the Warmaster!


  1. Nice article. Thanks for the write-up.

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