Principia Belicosa. Sons of Horus Legion Tactica: Special Characters.

All gods are dead, execept the god of war.

Phrase repeatedly found carved into the flesh of the loyalist dead. Drop siote masacare warzone.

The Sons of Horus are fortunate that we have many of the more influential characters from the Horus Heresy, Abaddon himself echoing and shaping the coming epochs.

One point that needs to be stressed is that many of these special characters were created in the earlier Black Books. It is perhaps best to think of these as the people they were before Molech and the events there.  These certainly represent the earlier feel of the Legion before Horus fully accepts the powers of Chaos and many of the Legion start dabbling in the darker powers of the Warp. If we`re fortunate, perhaps in later books we may get updates to these characters to show their development throughout the Heresy.

Abaddon – Forget all the negative propaganda of Abaddon in the 40k universe. FALSE NEWS! A general without peer, a leader of men, a being that built the Imperium on the bones of a thousand slain foes.

Sadly, despite his cool background and narrative in the novels, the tabletop Abaddon doesn`t live up to the hype.  He has some useful rules but they don`t fulfil his true background.

Abaddon comes with a unique piece of terminator armour – the Justearin Plate. This comes with a typical 2+ save and 4+ invulnerable with Relentless built into it. Unlike other Cataphractii he can still sweeping advance, giving a nasty little sucker punch to assaults (however this is neutered if he’s accompanied by his Justaerin bodyguard).

Abaddon is also Fearless (which confers to his unit so reduces morale in one area of your army) and is blessed with a fairly typical Preator-level statline. As Master of the Legion, he also unlocks Rites of War. 

Other than his unique armour, Abaddon is equipped with a grenade harness, which has it’s uses, but the chances are they will be striking at Initiative 1 with powerfists or chainfists. He automatically comes with a master-crafted powerfist and then has a choice of either a combi-bolter or a power sword (the power sword would be helpful if you want to capitalise on your Merciless Fighters rule).  For the First Captain, especially when compared to elite predators such as Raldoron, Sigismund and Sevetar, he does seem lacking.

But let’s not write Abaddon off just yet. Abaddon comes with some useful rules that enhance units around him or add a tactical edge to the army. We have already mentioned his Fearless rule that he can confer onto his attached unit; more significantly, Abaddon comes with the unique rule: Teleporter Assault. This rule is one of the practical, non-narrative driven reasons you will choose Abaddon in your army.  Teleporter Assault grants Abaddon, and any terminator-equipped squad he is attached to, Deep Strike and can re-roll any roll on the mishap table. As we discussed earlier, Deep Strike is a difficult ability to gain in 30k and in small point games where you may not have the points for a Dreadclaw this could be very effective.  

Finally, as a nod to Abaddon`s future in the 40k universe, he comes with the Marked by Dark Fates rule.  This means that during campaign games, Abaddon can re-roll any injury or casualty tables.  A little benefit but not one that will often be used. Hoepfully we’ll see improvements in the near future.

Oh and his model might be one of the best Games Workshop have ever sculpted.

Garviel Loken – This is Loken as he was at the time leading up to and including the Istvaan V cleansing – this is not Loken as he became a Knight Errant.  Loken is more in line with the expectations of a typical Preator but comes with some additional rules reflecting his background.

His equipment is mostly standard for a typical Preator including paragon blade, bolt pistol, Iron Halo and frag and krak grenades. One significant difference is that Loken only comes with power armour so be careful of AP3 weaponry.  Similar to Abaddon, Loken shows the age of the character design and compared to later characters has far less uniqueness about him in terms of his wargear. I believe the intention was to balance Loken and Abaddon against one another to play our their battle.

His special rules though, do mark him apart from the typical Preator.  Firstly, he is given Master of the Legion (opening up Rites of War) but if he is selected as your Warlord, then Loken additionally has Inspiring Presence.  This grants all friendly units within 12” the ability to use his leadership of 10. 

Loken also has the Born Survivor skill and this can be helpful on the tabletop.  Born Survivor means that when Loken loses his last wound, on a 2+ he regains one wound and survives. This can only be used once per game but does give him a slight edge. But, remember, he only has power armour so his wounds may decrease quickly. Loken also have Initiative 6 so he does strike before many of his opponents, and being a Son of Horus character, if he and his unit out-number the enemy, he will access the Merciless Fighters rule allowing him an extra attack with his paragon blade.

All in all, an interesting choice that can be used in game without feeling hindered.

Equerry to the Warmaster and one of the shrewdest strategists amongst the XVIth Legion. 

Maloghurst the Twisted – Nicknamed `the Twisted` due to lasting injuries received during the Compliance of the opening book of the Horus Heresy novel series; the epithet also described Maloghurst`s predilections for carefully woven schemes.

The rules for Maloghurst reflect him at the time of the Dark Compliances – later, as described in the novel Slaves to Darkness, the novella Twisted and hinted at in Vengeful Spirit, Maloghurst begins to explore, and becomes proficient in the powers of the Warp.  Sadly, the rules we have access to do not reflect this and focus more on Maloghurst`s role as equerry ensuring better quality resources are available.

On the tabletop, Maloghurst is a popular character. Not because he is a combat monster tearing his opponents apart, but because of the bonuses he gives an army.  

Let’s begin with Maloghurst`s downsides. This is mostly focused around his statline, which is little better than a Centurion. In addition to this, due to his crippled body, Maloghurst (and any unit he is attached to) cannot Run or Sweeping Advance. His equipment is also standard; one unique feature is his Banestrike-shell bolter but otherwise, he is only equipped with power armour and a refractor field for protection and a power sword for assault – quite simply, this is not a front-line character! However, he is equipped with a Legion standard that grants Fearless within a certain radius, giving greater stability to your battleline.  

Now, the good stuff!

Firstly, he is equipped with the Banner of the Eye.  This `unlocks` Reaver and Veteran Squads as Troops for your army allowing you to field a more elite force with more hard-hitting equipment.  Secondly, the Battle Standard of Rebellion allows Maloghurst to count as a scoring unit in any mission where Troops can score.  This is more powerful as it first appears as it allows an additional unit to score or hold onto objectives in games where that is significant. Finally, Adamantium Will allows him, and his attached unit to resist psychic abilities more (and these are becoming more common with Daemons of the Ruinstorm available).

So, why is Maloghurst so popular? He is a cheap HQ unit, that can unlock Rites of War through his Master of the Legion rule but more importantly unlocks other units as Troops without reliance on other Rites of War that do the same.  A Long March army using Veterans as core troops is not something to be ignored! Don`t forget that all Masters of the Legion can access a Command Squad which comes with an additional Legion standard – Maloghurst does not have to deploy with this unit so two different areas of your battleline can become steadier through the conferred use of Fearless.

Tybalt Marr – Marr`s narrative is unique amongst the Sons of Horus characters in that he has a defined role outside of the main Legion taskforce of the 63rd Expedition Fleet.  First appearing in the original trilogy, Marr is given a new task following the Istvaan Massacre.  Seeing the threat that the Shattered Legions play, Marr is deployed by Horus, after Marr persuades him of the threat, into hunting the Shattered Legions down – particularly those led by Shadrak Meduson.  The narrative of this is mostly found in the Black Library novel, Shattered Legions or Black Book 6: Retribution. 

His rules refelct the evolving character creation processes of the later Black Books, evidenced by his unique rules and equipment.

For example, Marr – as well as the typical Master of the Legion and Legiones Astartes rules, also has the Preferred Enemy (Loyalist Legiones Astartes) ability allowing him, and any unit he is attached to, the ability to re-roll `1s` on a `to-hit` roll.

The statline of Marr is nothing unique. In fact, his Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill are more in-line with a centurion.  At least though, unlike Loken and Maloghurst, Marr remembered to bring along artificer armour to increase his save supported with an Iron Halo. Other equipment he has includes the common frag and krak grenades as well as a master-crafted bolt pistol.  This includes Banestrike ammunition so makes it a little more deadly than the typical bolt pistol but read the earlier discussion of this piece of wargear for a more in-depth analysis of it.  

The unique weapon that Marr carries is the Cthonian Culling Blade.  This appears to be nothing more than a typical close combat weapon as it confers no AP or strength bonuses.  However, the Culling Blade does come replete with special rules.  Firstly, like the Charnabal Sabre, the Culling Blade comes with Duellists Edge that confers +1 initiative in a challenge, this also is enhanced with the Master-Crafted rule.  This increases Marr` initiative to 6 allowing him to strike before most Preators armed with a Paragon Weapon.  The Culling Blade also has the Rending special rule which combines nicely with the final rule: Murderous Strike. This is the same ability that the Paragon Blade has – Instant Death of a Wound roll of a `6`. 

What sets the Culling Blade apart is the combination of rules, re-rolling one missed attack is always useful; bonus initiative in a challenge means that you may be fortunate to kill your opponent before they even strike! The combination of Rending and Murderous Strike means that for every wound roll of a `6`, you automatically kill any non-vehicle model with an AP2 blow (unless they have an invulnerable save or Eternal Warrior). This does mean though that unless you roll that lucky 6, most attacks will be saved by power armour, but occasionally you can cause carnage on an enemy model or unit – battle-automata and some of the larger daemons will especially hate you! It`s a real shame that we don`t have the ability to take this as a piece of wargear for characters in the same way that the Emperor`s Children can take Phoenix Spears, Night Lords their chainglaves or the Imperial Fists their Saturnine powerfists – it would really add something unique to our sergeants or Centurions.

Finally, if Marr is your warlord then he also has a unique warlord trait; By the Hunter`s Moon. After all models have deployed (included Scout moves and Infiltrators), any enemy within 24” must take a Pinning check.  Sadly, this rule is limited in its application and with the high leadership of the Astartes and other armies either not having access to those rules or being immune to Pinning (Daemons of the Ruinstorm, I`m looking at you!) is rarely useful.  

His rules certainly demonstrate some of the unique aspects of the Sons of Horus and his wargear typifies the aggressive nature of the Legion in many ways more than any other of the Sons of Horus special characters.  The Culling Blade (please allow us to take these as special wargear!) is high risk, high reward – the chances are it`ll amount to very little effect but there will be that one game when Marr devastates an entire unit of battle-automata by himself.  

Horus Lupercal; the Warmaster; the Favoured Son; Chosen Vessel of Chaos. 

Horus Lupercal – The entire setting is named after his actions and we have the Legion that allows us to field him on the table.  If you want to learn more about him then there is a plethora of choice:  the opening trilogy; Vengeful Spirit; Wolf of Ash and Fire; Slaves to Darkness, Warmaster. So many stories revolve around this character and we still want to know more.

We do need to remember that the rules here – like Abaddon and Maloghurst – reflect Horus prior to Molech and his full ascension as the Vessel of Chaos. Pity the Loyalists when we get Horus upgraded.

Does he live up the hype?  Put simply…


Horus is considered to be one of the more powerful rules amongst the Primarchs – as well as one of the more expensive in points.  As befitting his role as Warmaster, Horus brings rules that benefit his army on the tabletop and offer some extremely useful tactical options.  However, when Horus enters the fight, he can bring powerful wargear and abilities that means he can happily fight against most threats he is likely to face.

Let`s begin with Horus` tactical options:  Sire of the Sons of Horus allows Horus, along with an attached terminator squad (if you don`t have these as Justearin then reconsider your choice), to choose which turn to arrive by Deep Strike without a reserve roll.  This rule also grants Horus d3 additional attacks when attacking units with a Weapon Skill of 4 or lower – remember the rule of majority Weapon Skill here! Combine this with Horus` personal Teleport Homer means that Horus grants Deep Strike to himself and a unit of terminators and that the Deep Strike does not scatter – he arrives precisely when, and where, he intended.

Horus also has the God of War ability that allows all of his armies units in reserve the Outflank rule in addition to all units with the Sons of Horus Legiones Astartes rule +1 leadership and a Seize the Initiative roll on a 4+ rather than 6. Truly a god of war.

But wait, we haven`t finished with Horus` tactical abilities. There is still more!

The Point of the Spear allows all Justearin and Veteran Tactical Squads to become Troop choices and allows Horus to unleash a once-per-game orbital bombardment powerful enough to threaten most vehicles and unleash the fear of the Warmaster on close-packed elite units.

Once Horus decides to stop directing his army and instead take himself into the fray, more additional rules and wargear start to come into their own.  Firstly, the Weapon Mastery rule allows Horus to divide his attacks between the Talon of Horus and Worldbreaker – his mace of office.  This grants him some options – faced by powerful, high armoured opponents, Horus can focus on Worldbreaker; against lighter armoured, horde opponents the Talon can be more useful.  In a challenge against a threat (such as another Primarch or Daemon Lord) then choosing how to divide attacks can mean the difference between victory and defeat.  This choice can be made on a round-to-round basis.

It is Horus` wargear that help to raise his combat prowess above that of his brothers.

The Serpents Scales are Horus` personal terminator armour made by the Martian Mechanicum from the finest materials.  This piece of equipment grants almost unparalleled protection with a standard 2+ save and a further 3+ invulnerable save.  By itself, that`s great but not enough for the Warmaster.  The Serpents Scales also provide personal protection on a 3+ against psychic powers (this won`t save his unit however), and in addition any action that would reduce Horus` profile (other than wound loss) can also be ignored (also on a 3+)!  This means rad grenades may not lower his Toughness and Concussive or Blind weapons won`t lower Horus` Weapon Skill or Initiative.  Arguably this is the best suit of Primarch armour in the game.

Amazing protection doesn`t win fights though.  Luckily, Horus is equipped with the right tools to take the fight to whoever is foolish enough to stand in his way.

The Talon of Horus. One of the most narrative weapons in the whole of the 40k universe.  Ultimately ripped off Horus` arm by Abaddon and continuing to be used in the 41st Millennium to upset the Blood Angels and bring down the Imperium of the False Emperor.  If you want to understand the impact of the Talon, then Aaron Dembski-Bowden`s, The Black Legion novel really highlights the role, and symbolism, that this weapon takes on.

But that is the future – what about the role it plays for Horus himself?  Firstly, it grants an Assault 3, Strength 5, AP3 twin-linked bolter with the Shred rule.  Not bad, but Horus is not one for hiding at the back and its within close combat that the Talon shines.  Using Horus` base strength with an AP2 blow, many foes will be felled by the Talon – it also acts on Horus` initiative meaning that if anyone dares to attack him, they stand a strong chance of being killed before even striking a blow.  However, the Disabling Strike rule that is also used in melee is what sets the Talon apart from other Primarch weapons and helps to solidify Horus` reputation as one of the more powerful Primarchs.  Each wound dealt by the Talon against a multi-would model reduces the Weapon Skill and Strength by 1.  In extended combats this effectively means that Horus` opponent is getting weaker while Horus is continuing the same.  The short story by Adrian Wood showing Horus fighting the Emperor demonstrates this vicious fighting style well.

Horus` final weapon is his symbol of office granted by the Emperor himself: Worldbreaker, the great mace.  Although acting at Initiative 1 due to Unwieldy (remember Horus can divide his attacks using the Weapon Mastery rule), Worldbreaker is a beast of a weapon! Strength 10, AP2 and with the Concussive rule means that anyone hit with this weapon is likely to be killed, injured or have their armour value penetrated.  If they are only injured, the Concussive rule means that the following turn, Horus will be acting before them with the Talon and the same time with Worldbreaker. It’s the combination of weapons that makes Horus` truly dangerous.

Finally, because as Warmaster, Horus must have all the tools, he is equipped with frag grenades (so at least he can assault through cover with no problems) and a Cognis-Signum provide protection from infiltrating enemies, Night Vision and if he chooses not to shoot, a nearby-unit gains +1 Ballistic Skill.  This last piece of wargear is unlikely to be used but at least Horus has the option.

Taken individually, all of Horus` rules and equipment are great.  Combined into one model makes Horus reflective of his reputation and a monster to fight against.  Taking the best from his brothers in abilities both personal and tactical, Horus demonstrates why he was selected as Warmaster.

My thanks once again to Darren for taking us through the hirearchy of the damned!

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