Principia Belicosa. Sons of Horus Legion Tactica: Introduction.

`… I thought the Luna Wolves were supposed to be the most aggressive of us all. That`s how you like the other Legions to think of you, isn`t it? The most feared of mankind`s warrior classes?

Our reputation speaks for itself, sir.

Sigismund to Loken, Horus Rising, p. 132

This is the start of our third Principia! The Age of Darkness’ very own Darren Winter introduces us to the first amongst equals, the Sons of Horus.

Why collect the Sons of Horus?

If you are looking for a Legion of finesse – try the Emperor’s Children. If you want a Legion of jump troops; lead the Blood Angels (a gross underestimation of the tactical subtleties of the IX – Ed).  If you want a Legion of speed, manoeuvrability and bikes, then White Scars are your thing.  Artillery, gun lines and sheer stubbornness? Iron Warriors are your calling.

So, what do the Sons of Horus offer?

Firstly: Horus.  The whole setting is named for him after all. 

Firstly: Horus.  The whole setting is named for him after all. 

The legion has the best Primarch both in terms of rules and model. The model range is full of the most iconic sculpts in the Heresy range and has a challenging sea green scheme to master.

Secondly: aggression.  Sheer, overwhelming, controlled aggression.

This is not the howling, maddened charge of the World Eaters, nor is it the barbaric tendencies of the VIth who throw themselves forward in their lust for glory and tales to add to their sagas.

This is clinical, applied aggression with a purpose.

The XVIth Legion prided itself on the speartip methodology of war.  A focused attack on one weak point of the enemy that would bring overwhelming force, and ultimate victory.  This weak point of the enemy was often command structures and the XVIth prided itself on removing enemy leaders whether on the strategic level or in a firefight. This tactical way of war led to huge success during the Great Crusade and it was claimed that no other Legion brought Compliance to as many worlds of the newly-forming Imperium.  There was a reason why Horus was named Warmaster after all…

This focus on aggression and speartip assaults was a derivative of the gang warfare that was endemic on Cthonia, but was present in the Terran Legion as well.  In the dark of the Cthonian mines, savage gang fights that emphasised a quick strike, killing or securing the objective with an efficiency of numbers was one of the central tactics used by the gangs.

In all the exemplary battles fought by the XVIth Legion, this focus on applied aggression was consistently demonstrated.

The Luna Wolves.

The Pacification of Luna during the late Unification Wars – arguably the first step of the conquest of the Sol System – saw the early XVIth Legion fighting alongside the VIIth and XIIIth in order to secure the Selenar gene-labs.  Whilst the VIIth and XIIIth Legions distracted the Luna defences, the XVIth utilised coffin ships. These were boarding torpedoes operating under no power and aimed to impact at a key target point. Coffin ships were considered risky and needed high tactical skill to deploy in order to land on-target and on-time.  Once the Luna defences were focused on the other Legions, the XVIth smashed into Luna disgorging snarling, howling troops.  These early members of the XVIth rampaged through the Luna gene-labs, cutting aside all defences.  Eventually, the Gene-Cults surrendered with the words, `call off your wolves` – giving the XVIth their first battle honour and earliest name – the Luna Wolves.

Thirdly: They are the pre-eminent warriors of all the legions. Within the storied ranks of the Legiones Astartes the Luna Wolves stood above their peers in all respects. They hoarded victories like misers, tallying an unrivalled number of compliances during the Great Crusade.

Returning to our original question: why the Sons of Horus? Why not the assault geared Blood Angels, or World Eaters? Why not the swift strike of the White scars or Emperor’s Children?

The Sons of Horus have the ability to wage war in any arena, better than any other. So my question to you is: how could you choose any other legion?

Required reading (Black Library, codexes etc) 

As the Warmaster`s personal Legion you would think that the Sons of Horus would appear in multiple books, but they are rarer than you may think.  Often the XVIth, and Horus himself, only appear in the background.  However, the novels where they do appear give a strong characterisation of the Legion.  

The main books you should read to get a feel for the style of the Legion are:

  • The opening trilogy – Horus Rising, False Gods and Galaxy in Flames. Shows the Great Crusade XVIth Legion and the key themes that underlie them.
  • Vengeful Spirit – gives an insight into the Heresy-era Legion before Horus` full ascension as the embodiment of Chaos and how the Legion operates on a tactical level during a planetary campaign. It also shows some foreshadowing on how the Legion will develop during the later Heresy.
  • Twisted – A character study of Maloghurst and a view on how the Sons of Horus are starting to embrace the use of the Neverborn more widely.
  • Slaves to Darkness – An interesting look at how the command structure and personality of the Legion has changed since the opening trilogy just prior to the Siege of Terra and offers some foreshadowing of how the XVIth will devolve during the Scouring before Abaddon`s re-creation as the Black Legion.
  • (Editor inclusion) – Solar War & Saturnine by John French and Dan Abnett. These were released after this article was written, but it would be a crime not to site them here. It offers a wonderful insight into the Sons of Horus and in particular the mindset of Abaddon.

To get a feel for the XVIth Legion on the tabletop and a broader look at their strategic use, the Black Books by Forge World are the answer. 

  • Book 1 – Betrayal – The key book for the Sons of Horus with a look at their background on Terra and Cthonia as well as some exemplary battles.
  • Book 4 – Conquest – A look at the early-Heresy Sons of Horus engaged in a campaign to force open routes to Terra and secure the `Dark Compliance` – a region where Horus can fuel his drive to the Homeworld. This gives a very in-depth look at how the Sons of Horus fight large-scale conflicts both in the void and planetside, and the colour-plates within Book 4 also give greater detail to the Legion iconography than Book 1 allowed.
  • `Red Books` – Legiones Astartes army list and Legiones Astartes Legions gives the actual rules on how to construct an army and the special rules that are outlined here.

Sons of Horus Principia Belicosa Articles.

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