Principia Belicosa: Deathguard Introduction.

“Say what you like about the Fourteenth Legion. They are mean, ugly bastards but tenacious. There’s no one else I’d rather have by my side in a war of attrition, and almost anyone else I’d rather have against me.”

– Ferrus Manus





All words you could attribute to the 14th Legion, the Death Guard. Sons of Mortarion are known for their ability to overcome the direst of situations with remorseless grim dark and copious amounts of war-crime grade weaponry.

Hailing from the nightmarish world of Barbarus, the Deathguard took their uncompromising vision of warfare into the wider galaxy, felling empires of Xenos and Barbarian wit monotonous relentlessness. To survive on Barbarus the first thing to sacrifice is your humanity. To win an Empire, Mortarion sacrificed his soul.

And that is the heart of the Deathguard. Monsters fashioned by humanity to kill greater beasts. Mortatrion, the general that could not escape the damage Barbarous inflicted upon him. Of all the legions, I find them the most tragic.

As a way of understanding a faction, I try to compare a Legion to a character for World of Warcraft. This gives me a key to understand their character and introduces me to their wider themes. The Death Guard would almost certainly be the ‘Tank’ of any party. The one who dumps his skill points into HP. 

In many ways, the Death Guard are akin to the Iron Warriors. Whereas both use an overwhelming amount of overkill to achieve their aims, the men of iron do so with munitions, where we employ phosphex.

We are minimalists, utilitarian in nature and outlook. A blade is just as good as killing with a bare hilt as an embellished one. If you are a no-nonsense sort of player who enjoys straight forward, effective tactics, this is the Legion for you.

This is a perfect legion or anyone who doesn’t need to be fancy and enjoys heavy weathering. World Eaters can’t be painted without blood, and Death Guard can’t be painted without dust and dirt. I find this is a great legion to play if you’re a somewhat experienced but not an expert painter. There are so many tricks to put them on the table and make them look good (I know a good source to learn all these tricks – ed.)


  • Buried Dagger, James Swallow. The last of the numbered Horus Heresy series, this story plots the final fall into damnation of the Deathguard.
  • The Flight of the Eisenstein. James Swallow. Our opening story in the Horus Heresy, this sets the tone. We discover the Legion of old and see the flaws that will damn them.
  • The Path of Heaven & Scars. Chris Wright. Chris has a knack for just getting whatever legion he is writing about. We see Mortarion’s dual obsession and repulsion with witchcraft, and the inevitable nature of the XIV crashing against the nimble Scars. Beautifully written.
  • Vengeful Spirit. Graham McNeil. We get to see the creation (and implementation) of a daemon infused Life Eater virus! Do you need more of a reason to read?
  • EDITOR: I’d also like to recommend the 2nd edition Chaos Space Marine codex and the 3.5. These are chock full of loveling crafted army lists and lore nuggets. We gain a valuable first glimpse of what the legions will become.
  • EDITOR: Black Books 1: Betrayal & 4: Conquest. These are the defining stories of the Heresy so far. They chart the massacre at Isstvan III and the subsequent reconquest of the Galaxy. We see the last, glorious flare of what the Legion is before it became damned to eternal servitude. Must, must-reads.
Miniature Painting Course Library.


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