Principia Belicosa. Sons of Horus Legion Tactica: Overview.

Cthonia • Rex • Mori

Icon amorial of the IIIrd Battle Company. Sons of Horus Legion

In game, who are the XVIth? On the surface they do not appear as powerful as other Legions such as the Blood Angels bonuses in assault or the adaptability of the Alpha Legion.

The XVIth Legiones Astartes rules benefit the player who plans; who considers what is needed for victory, and then how best to use the forces they have to achieve their  end goal.

  • Edge of the Spear: Reliable reserve rolls.  Manipulating reserves is rare outside of certain units such as a Damocles Command Rhino.  This rule allows the XVIth player to re-roll `1s` on a reserve roll.  This means, in practice, that units in reserve will more reliably arrive to reinforce the units on the table.  Combined with units that can increase this further, or limit the opponent`s reserves, highlights the Sons of Horus tactical desire to dominate in certain key locations of the fight.
  • Merciless Fighters: If Edge of the Spear represents the XVIth`s ability to bring in forces to where they are needed, then Merciless Fighters is the ability to overwhelm the enemy at close quarters. The XVIth are, at heart, gang fighters, dirty ones at that. Their way is not the noble duelling of the Emperor’s Children or the maddened assaults of the World Eaters – this is the application of numbers to a weakened section of the enemy line. Merciless Fighters gives extra attacks to Sons of Horus if they outnumber their opponent in combat. These all happen at the final initiative step and don`t apply if the Sons of Horus haven`t yet attacked – that means that weapons such as chainfists or powerfists don`t gain this ability. For units that are Bulky however, such as jump troops or terminators armed with power weapons, Merciless Fighters allows units of Sons of Horus to overwhelm their opponent with a pile of attacks, dragging them down in true gang warfare.

  • Death Dealers: Merciless Fighters gives the Sons of Horus an advantage in assault, but this is not the only strength of the Legion.  Death Dealers allows members of the XVIth Legion armed with Rapid Fire, Pistol or Assault weapons at close range (12” or less) a bonus to their ballistic skill. Combined with Merciless Fighters, Death Dealers indicates a Legion that is most comfortable at close range – scything down the enemy with mobile weapons to lower their numbers and then finishing off the weakened members with Merciless Fighters. These two abilities lend the Sons of Horus a wish to close with their enemy and tear their throats out as befits their narrative and background.
  • Bitter Pride: The XVIth are led by battle-leaders who have earnt their position through experience and ability. This final rule of the XVIth Legion represents the pride of the Legion and unwillingness to follow anyone who has not proven themselves. In game this is represented that Sons of Horus do not benefit from allied characters warlord traits or leadership, but their allies still gain from Sons of Horus characters. This is not a significant blow but does represent the character of the Legion – especially as shown in Slaves to Darkness where the Legion is coalescing about strong leaders.

Rites of war

  • Black Reaving: one of the two unique Rites of War available to the Sons of Horus. This rite represents the swirling, fast-moving harrying actions that the XVIth are famous for.

All Rites of War have restrictions, for the Black Reaving you must take a Master of Signals to help organise the various forces, an extra compulsory Troops choice and must take more Fast Attack units than Heavy Support. This final point effectively means you will be limited to no more than two Heavy Support slots. This is already suggesting an army that will focus on infantry or light vehicles, with reserves being utilised to plug gaps, or deliver over-whelming force into a weakened enemy.

In return, the bonuses you get for selecting this Rite of War narratively support the idea of the XVIth encircling the enemy and taken them apart.  

Firstly, Reaver squads move from Fast Attack to Troops. This means that you could use a Reaver squad to fill out your third compulsory troop choice needed for this Rite. Secondly, Justearin terminators gain the ability to Deep Strike – a rare ability in 30k but you are probably better off deploying them in a Dreadclaw to provide greater protection the turn they arrive on the battlefield.

All units also gain two additional rules:

Encirclement – any non-vehicle units arriving from reserve gain Fleet. Not a massive advantage as you still can`t charge but if you arrive in a location that is away from the main fighting due to poor dice rolls, this may enable you to get a bit closer to the action.

Cut Them Down represents the Sons of Horus attitude towards fights: outnumber the enemy and tear them apart.

This final rule allows Sons of Horus units that charge an already engaged unit in melee to gain the Rage rule. This is awkward to achieve as the unit you are charging must already be in combat – this does not work on the same turn that you charge one enemy unit with two Sons of Horus units. Pin enemy units in place with resilient units such as Terminators or Bikes (Jetbikes or Outriders) and then the following turn charge with Reavers, Assault Marines or Despoiler squads and see the carnage unfold.

This Rite of War narratively represents the mobile, aggressive tactics of the XVIth Legion; combined with the Legiones Astartes rules of this Legion it can be hard-hitting and units can achieve more than the sum of their parts.  The rules granted by the Black Reaving help to reinforce the Legiones Astartes rules that make the XVIth better at close ranges; Death Dealer and Merciless Fighters make it quite clear that if you are within a charge distance, then you gain advantages that your opponents may not.

Light, mobile units are a key focus of the Black Reaving – Jetbikes, Outriders and the new Sabre tank help to bulk out your Fast Attack slot and, played correctly, can remove enemy armour reducing the risk to your own units.  

However, this is not an easy Rite of War to use.  Black Reaving rewards the XVIth Legion player who plans; chooses their units carefully to gain the maximum use out of them – especially in combination with other units in the army. When Black Reaving works – it can be devastating, and your opponent can underestimate it.  When it goes wrong however, your army will be dealt with piecemeal and won`t make any progress into your opponent.

The Long March

Where the Black Reaving demonstrates the Sons of Horus fast-moving way of war; The Long March represents the XVIth`s road to Terra and the Warmaster ensuring that his sons gain the best of the equipment and tools needed for the conquest of the Empire.

As with all Rites of War, there must be downsides. In the case of The Long March, firstly you cannot take fortifications – these are not needed if you are taking the fight to the loyalist. Let the Imperial Fists hide behind their defence lines while you overwhelm and slay them!

Secondly, you cannot take allies. Allies are a rare feature in many Age of Darkness armies but in this example it suits narratively as to why the Warmaster will not share the best equipment with other Legions or allied forces.

The Long March also prohibits units which have the Slow and Purposeful special rule unless they arrive by Deep Strike or are in a transport vehicle. Note that this does not exclude Cataphractii-terminator plate as, although the rules are functionally similar, Cataphractii do not have Slow and Purposeful so we can still use our beloved Justearin.

Finally, there is just a small note that this Rite of War is only for Traitor forces of the XVIth and cannot be used with the Shattered Legions.

The Long March is an interesting Rite of War as it gives bonuses depending upon a unit`s location on the battlefield rather than the unit type.  These are delivered via two special rules: Relentless March and The Warmaster`s Portion.  

Relentless March gives a unit a special rule depending on where that unit is upon the battlefield.  In the Sons of Horus deployment zone, units gain Relentless; in the enemy deployment zone units gain Crusader, and in the central zone units gain Fleet.  If units are travelling in a transport, these rules don`t apply.  All well and good, but what does this mean in practice? 

Having Relentless means that units with heavy weapons can move and shoot giving them extra mobility and the opportunity to relocate to target new units without losing effectiveness.  This gives the largest bonus to units such as Heavy Support Squads or Tactical Support Squads with volkite calivers.  Fleet enables units to cross the dangerous middle group and close with their enemy – remember the Legiones Astartes rules of the Sons of Horus gain the biggest bonuses when they are close to enemy units so Fleet will allow the XVIth Legion units to close that gap to get those bonuses faster.  Finally, once the Wolves of Horus have closed down their enemy, thinned their ranks with Death Dealers and culled the herd through Merciless Fighters, the final bonus rule of The Long MarchCrusaders – allows the victorious Sons of Horus units to more easily sweep their enemies aside in a winning assault.

Warmaster`s Portion gives the ability for all units on the first turn to re-roll 1s `to hit`, representing the Warmaster`s greater resources and tools available.  This rule also unlocks standard Terminator Squads as Troops to demonstrate that the XVIth had access to more of this equipment than other Legions.

With these rules combined together, what does this mean for The Long March Rite of War?  Remember, a successful player of the Sons of Horus looks to combinations and selection of the correct units and wargear for victory rather than an over-reliance on special units.  The bonuses of The Long March, combined with Legiones Astartes rules, all lean towards an army of two sections:

The first – and largest – section seeks to close with the enemy, either through using the additional rules of Fleet or through the use of transports.  Once this section of the army is within the enemy deployment zone, combinations of Death Dealers to maximise close range shooting, followed by charges utilising Merciless Fighters and Crusaders will see the destruction of many enemy units.  This forward momentum also forces the enemy onto the backfoot and will give the XVIth Legion the initiative – dictate where the fights will happen and then dominate those areas using Edge of the Spear  to ensure reserves appear when they are needed. Clearly the XVIth Legions reputation for aggression is deserved!

The second element of the force is a firebase within the friendly deployment zone.  A use of Heavy Support Squads, able to move around in, and gain cover, and for the first turn re-rolling 1`s `to hit` will give the advancing squads the ability to close with the enemy as key enemy units fall to the focused fire of the heavy weapon Sons of Horus in the deployment zone.  Squads of volkite culverins or autocannon would be particularly effective due to the weight of firepower and medium strength hits. More focused units, such as a Sicaran Venator – re-rolling that 1 `to hit` and shutting down an enemy vehicle or even a super-heavy for the opposing turn, will keep your advancing units a bit safer.

Don`t underestimate the ability to take Terminators as Troops.  Remember, these units arriving in Dreadclaws with a combination of combi-weapons, powerfists or chainfists will deal with enemy vehicles in their own deployment zone quickly and once again put pressure on the enemy.  Equip those Terminators with Tartarus armour and they`ll also benefit from Crusader – just ask anyone who has fought Phoenix Guard and they`ll tell you how unpleasant it is to face sweeping Terminators with +d3 initiative! Terminators also have the Implacable Advance rule so even if you don`t take these as troops, you can still threaten and hold objectives with them.

In summary, if the idea of the fast-moving focused speartip method of XVIth Legion war is your preferred way of playing the Sons of Horus then the Black Reaving is possibly the better Rite of War to choose.  If you imagine the Sons of Horus fighting in a larger campaign, such as the Battle of Molech or the Coronoid Deeps and want to represent the greater resources that the Warmaster ensures that his Legion has access to, then The Long March is the better Rite of War to display that.  

But remember, other Rites of War such as Orbital Assault or Armoured Breakthrough can represent the speartip.  Primarch`s Chosen or Pride of the Legion could represent the black-clad First Company led by Abaddon or Falkus Kibre; Drop Assault Vanguard could be used to narratively portray the assault on the command bunkers during The Vengeful Spirit and the Molech campaign.  With some imagination, and a focus on the benefits of the Legiones Astartes rules of the Sons of Horus, many Rites of War can be used to portray the most successful Legion of the Great Crusade.

Equipment (notable equipment. Same style as Legion rules) 

Oddly, considering the narrative of the Legion gaining the best equipment requisitioned by the Warmaster, the XVIth Legion in-game do not gain much Legion-specific equipment.

The only piece of special wargear the Sons of Horus have access to are Banestrike Rounds.  These are accessible to characters, Reaver and Seeker Squads.  In the case of Seeker Squads, the Banestrike rounds replace the Scorpius rounds. Banestrike rounds are only useable in bolters or combi-bolters and give AP3 on a wounding roll of a 6 but as a downside are restricted to an 18” range.  These rounds are supposed to represent a new type of ammunition developed by the XXth Legion to deal with power-armoured opponents but the rules are lacking in fully reflecting that ability.

If your gaming group allows the use of relics from Book 4: Conquest, then the XVIth have a very useful piece of wargear: the Cataphractii Primus.  As the Warmaster` Legion, the XVIth were granted the best equipment and tested new war-tools. This relic represents one of the developments of the Cataphractii-pattern of terminator plate and is one of the best suits created.  In-game this grants the user Cataphractii armour (with all the usual rules) plus an extra point of toughness (usually placing the owner on T5) and Eternal Warrior.  This last trait – one of the rarest in 30k – is perhaps the most useful meaning that the character wearing the Cataphractii Primus is unable to be killed outright by weapons such as paragon blades, dawn blades or sometimes even D-Weapons!

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