LEGIONES ASTARTES: NIGHT LORDS RITES OF WAR TACTICA

“Because the Wolves kill cleanly, and we do not. They also kill quickly, and we have never done that, either. They fight, they win, and they stalk back to their ships with their tails held high. If they were ever ordered to destroy another Legion, they would do it by hurling warrior against warrior, seeking to grind their enemies down with the admirable delusions of the ‘noble savage’. If we were ever ordered to assault another Legion, we would virus bomb their recruitment worlds; slaughter their serfs and slaves; poison their gene-seed repositories and spend the next dozen decades watching them die slow, humiliating deaths. Night after night, raid after raid, we’d overwhelm stragglers from their fleets and bleach their skulls to hang from our armour, until none remained.”

Jago Sevatar, First Captain

The Night Lords are a Legion where tactical cowardice is King and inducing fear and terror in the enemy is Queen. In this tactica we will explore the two Rites of War already avaliable; Terror Assault and Horror Cult and discuss the one to be released in Book 9: Crusade; The Cross of Bone. Each is a truly narrative Rite – as each has fairly punitive limitations. However, embracing the Rite and the Legions lore and adjusting your play-style can significantly improve how they work on the table.

This brings us to the overarching statement for the Legion: “The Night Lords are a truly narrative Legion”. I say this because of two reasons;

  1. We don’t have any cheese-ridden or even slightly brie-containing Legion-specific units (Firedrakes and Suzerian, i’m looking at you).
  2. The Legion is genuinely a wide-gamut Legion; meaning it isn’t narratively bound to pre-determined Force types. Your imagination is the limit.

The lore behind the Night Lords isn’t limited – If you want to build the stereotypical style Night Lords army with Assault Squads and Night Raptors bounding across the table using their Jump Packs – it’s catered for. If you want to assault with Drop Pods screaming down, disgorging specialist Terror Squads to induce dread and wipe lesser marines from the table – it’s catered for. If you want an army of roaring jet-bikes – it’s catered for. If you want the “atypical” Heavy Armoured force – it’s catered for. Of course, if you are after a highly specialised Terminator plate clad army – it’s catered for.

This means that aside from actively setting out to build an army that sits firmly in the realm of WAAC, almost any army that you can think of is narratively reinforced somewhere in the lore. The widest snapshot of these builds will most likely come from within the generic Rite of War pool. The Legion Specific Rites of War are certainly more restrictive, however even at their worst, they still add some genuinely lovely flavour to the Legions playstyle.

Konrad Curze, Primarch of the Night Lords. Certainly not the best Primach on the table in terms of rules, but very narrative driven one.

Rites of War: Flay the enemy in new and interesting ways

Horror Cult – Death from Above!

The first Rite of War released for the Night Lords, Horror Cult is also the one you’ll see least played as it’s arguably the worst Rite of War for the Night Lords. This is largely down to two individual issues;

  1. Night Raptors are overpriced.
  2. The limitations are exceptionally punitive.

Now, as a player-base, we are hoping for a rules and points overhaul in Book 9: Crusade; however as that book hasn’t released yet this Tactica will clearly look at units rules and points as of the time of writing. That’s Mid-July 2020 for those who can’t find the date on the article.

Raptor Cult: This sub-rule of the Horror Cult Rite allows you to field Night Raptors as Troops. Night Raptors are in a bad place. 150pts gets you four Night Raptors and a Huntsmaster. They’re the only unit of the Night Lords Legion specific units that doesn’t have the fear rule in any way shape or form baked into the unit (Kheron Orphion is the only other entry that doesn’t have fear). They’re equipped with Power Armour, so have a 3+ Save and the Huntsmaster can take Artificer Armour for 10pts. So, straight off we are at 160pts for five, armed with Chainswords and Bolt Pistols. If you want something more exotic like a Nostraman Chainglaive or a Power Weapon, that’s an additional 10pts per model – however, any Night Raptor or Huntsmaster can take those melee weapons.

If shooting is your concern, one specialist weapon such as a meltagun or plasma gun for example can be taken per five models and the Huntsmaster has access to the standard pistol types such as a plasma pistol. However, each of those options costs between 10 and 15pts. Alternatively, any model can sacrifice its chainsword and bolt pistol for Lightning Claws for 20pts per model. What i’m basically saying here is that anything you try to do to make them subjectively better costs quite a lot. What makes it worse is that Melta bombs can only be taken by the Huntsmaster.

Quite frankly, and quite disappointingly; even with a maximum squad size of 15, and a Weapon Skill of 5 (Assault Squads have a WS of 4) you’re almost always better off with an Assault Squad for the points. It’s a huge shame – and hopefully something that will be rectified soon with Book 9: Crusade.

Beyond Judgement means that any Squad may equip itself with Trophies of Judgement for 25pts per Squad. This means that you’re providing a Squad with Fear for 25pts, or enhancing it by 1 if that squad already has the Fear rule. The only other way to gain Fear for Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) units is to field Curze as your warlord, which may not be possible due to restrictions applied by either events, scenarios or the player themselves (not everyone likes fielding Primarchs). It’s overpriced for something that can be taken on an Independent Character for 5pts and has questionable utility, yes things do fail fear tests from time to time, but 25pts is still a lot of points per unit.

Talons of Fear allows any infantry squad of ten or more models in the detachment to take a Kharybdis Assault Claw as a Dedicated Transport. Considering that a standard Dreadclaw Drop Pod can take ten Power Armour equipped models for a significantly cheaper price, it comes down to how you’re looking to deploy and whether you value the extra weapons and space a Kharybdis comes with.

That’s it – your bonuses to playstyle boil down to being able to field overpriced units as troops, apply an overpriced upgrade to units (and one that should actually be a standard rule on Night Raptors) and equip a very expensive drop pod as a dedicated transport.

So. Questionable benefits aside, what about the limitations?

Any models in a detachment using this Rite of War with the Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) special rule must always declare a charge if there is an enemy model they can harm in melee within 12″ in the Charge sub phase. Oh dear. This is HUGE. It means that you’re pretty much required to micromanage you movements in order to time your attacks to when you the Rite allows you to get into melee, rather than when the you want to. It also allows the enemy to effectively draw you off objectives by placing squads away from them, but within 12″ – forcing you to charge. This becomes ever more of an issue when you start equipping Nostraman Chainglaives (Strength 5) and Melta bombs.

A detachment using this Rite of War may not take an allied Fortification or Space Marine Detachment and cannot be Loyalist. Well, this one pretty much is irrelevant as if you’re taking this Rite of War, you’re most likely going to load up on Night Raptors, which will do a very good job of eating your points.

It’s not a great Rite. Sure – you get to use Night Raptors as troops. Sure – you can potentially give every unit in the detachment fear. However, arguably, EVERY Night Lords Infantry unit should get Fear considering that’s what they’re reknown for. Plus, you’re far better off fielding Assault Squads alongside Konrad Curze (granting Fear effectively for free) and using the Drop Assault Vanguard Rite of War (which is an almost 100% better Rite of War for Night Lords than Horror Cult).

That being said – i have a Horror Cult army that is being repainted for another tabletop showing. It’s a thematic Rite of War with some truly terrible limitations that requires some micromanagement and significant effort to get the best of. That’s why it’s reknown as a terrible Rite of War for Night Lords and why you really won’t see this unless someone is, like me, utterly convinced they want to run it over Drop Assault Vanguard.

Ancient Varkasha (left) and Ancient Urshan (right); Deredeo Pattern Dreadnoughts with Arachnus Las Cannon Batteries and Aiolos Launchers.

Terror Assault – From the Shadows

Terror Assault is the defacto go to Rite of War for most Night Lords players who want a Legion specific Rite of War that enhances the games narrative and playstyle.

Cover of Darkness is the core of the narrative rules here, providing the ability for a player running Terror Assault to enforce Night Fighting on a 2+ on Turn 1, a 4+ on Turn 2 and a 6+ on Turn 3. Better yet, whilst Night Fighting is in effect, all Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) models gain +1 Initiative and +1″ run distance – something that is easy to forget in the heat of things. Night Fighting also brings in cover saves unless a unit has Night Vision, which, if you remember from Night Lords core rules, all models in the Primary detachment, not only those with Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) do get. Effectively, it makes a Night Lords primary detachment faster, more resilient and better fighters, all whilst being able to seriously damage the enemy with precise ranged firepower.

Claw Assault allows Veteran Tactical Squads, Terror Squads and Tactical Squads to take Legion Drop Pods or Dreadclaw Drop Pods as long as their numbers do not exceed the transport capacity of the pod. This is very useful as even with Night Fighting in effect, it can become difficult to move Squads around the battlefield – something that a Dreadclaw is very good at. In fact, the deployment, prosecution of a target and redeployment of multiple Dreadclaw equipped Terror Squads is something that I genuinely feel added significant weight to the result of my game on the30kchannel.

Terror Tactics is a rule that is often seen interpreted wrong – there, i said it. People play Terror Assault wrong and this rule is the cause. “Night Lords Terror Squads must be taken as compulsory troops”. Terror Squads are overpriced, but to a far lesser degree than Night Raptors. Terror Squads making up your compulsory troops also offers up several different deployment options, making them a very versatile unit. The reason this is played wrong by some is because of the wording of the first limitation…

That first limitation is that an extra compulsory troops choice needs to be taken for this Rite of War. Now, it’s easy to see how this can be interpreted to mean “you can take a Tactical Squad/Assault Squad” as they’re normally Compulsory Troops, however the Rite of War states very clearly that Terror Squads must be taken as Compulsory Troops. Something to be aware of.

The second limitation is a big one. This Rite of War only allows one Heavy Support Choice to be taken. So, as a result you’re going to find yourself hard up against it when facing a more conventional Rite of War. Most of us will end up running a Leviathan in a Drop Pod because it’s both narrative (see Leviathan Dreadnought Vakuran) and a powerful option that will help swing the fight back in your favour – especially if you’re ballsy with it. What it does mean is that you’re also reliant on Fast Attack to provide your true anti-tank punch. This generally comes in the form of either the Primaris-Lightning Strike Fighter or the Javelin Attack Speeder.

If you’re going up against an Armoured Spearhead Rite of War or similar, you can expect to have a bad time. Even one or two Spartans and a few Rhino chassis can be troublesome with this Terror Assault. Terror Squads with Volkite Chargers and Melta Bombs can make a nice dent in Rhino chassis type platforms but the heavier armour really needs heavier solutions provided such as those Multimeltas and Lascannons on a Javelin, the Leviathan dropping in and Melta-lancing the rear armour or Kraken Penetrators on the Primaris-Lightning. To be honest, this type of Rite of War is the only one i really think can seriously warrant the deployment of two Primaris-Lightning in a list.

The third fairly strong Rite of War limitation is that only a single Consul choice may be taken. This means that if you’re wanting to field Libarians and Moritat etc you’re forced to choose between them. There’s a somewhat gamey answer to fielding a Primus-Medicae alongside another Consul by using Flaymaster Mawdrym Llansahai.

Finally, the controlling player may not take a Fortification or allied Space Marine detachment. You can local rule this one if you want – generally it won’t cause huge game breaking issues if you did take an allied Space Marine Detachment.

In all, Terror Assault is the best of the Legion-specific Rites of War the Night Lords have access to. It does require some planning – especially when you’re facing against the enemies with heavier armoured lists as that Heavy Support limitation is quite punitive. That said, Cover of Darkness is far more useful than initially seems and is exceptionally thematic. It’s a shame more thought wasn’t put into The Cross of Bone and Horror Cult as was clearly done with Terror Assault.

Night Lords Jump Pack Praetor Lucoryphus (left) and Jump Pack Chaplain Vorasha (right) from my Horror Cult RoW based Army element

The Cross of Bone – Leading from the Front

Previewed recently (pre-Corona Virus lockdown) on the Warhammer Community, The Cross of Bone is an interesting Rite of War. Interesting because it seems to combine some small benefits, mainly to a section of an army that doesn’t normally need a bonus, but combines the most punitive limitations seen in the Night Lords Legion Specific Rites of War. What’s key to note is that this Rite of War is themed around Characters and seems designed to create a Character and Elite heavy force. How this interoperates with the Contekar Terminators, we are yet to see and as soon as Book 9: Crusade and the Contekar drop, i’ll be getting my hands on it and updating this part of the Tactica accordingly.

The Aristocracy of Ruin rule means that for every non-compulsory HQ taken, you increase the number of Eiite slots by one. So in a Crusade Force Organisation you get four to start with. IF you can fill all of these up in a 3000pts game as well as fill the Compulsory HQ, Troops and provide some critical Heavy Support and need more Elite slots then i think you’re better at writing lists than most. I’m sure the release of the book will make it clearer why this is such a benefit,. part of me hopes each Contekar will be an Independent Character, but right now it seems to be a bonus that literally no one needs.

The Strong are Strongest Alone is where things really start to get interesting. As long as a model with the Independent Character special rule is either alone or in a unit with no other Independent Characters, it gains +1 attack. So, no death stars with Primus Medicae etc, but nothing to stop you potentially joining Contekar to a Terminator plate-clad Praetor and going wild in the enemies back line using Teleportation Transponders with that extra attack. Think about it; Praetors have 4 attacks base, 5 with Digital lasers. You’re gaining +1 on the charge for 6, +1 for The Strong are Strongest Alone. That’s 7 attacks, Strength 5 AP 2 with a Paragon blade. That is a strong boost already and God forbid should you take a Divining Blade. This really ties in with the final beneficial effect:

The Tithe of Gore. This makes the Slay the Warlord Secondary Objective worth +1 additional victory point if the enemy Warlords final wound is removed by a friendly model with the Independent Character special rule. Load up that Praetor, stack him in a squad of Contekar or Legion Terminators, pop the enemy Warlords transport then get your Praetor in to the fight with them. It’s a nice and narrative rule that really helps to tie in the underlying theme of the Rite.

The limitations however, well, they’re very heavy handed. Firstly, detachments taking this Rite of War need to take an additional Compulsory Troops choice. That’s roughly a 200pt tax that makes fielding extra Elites more difficult.

Secondly rather oddly, Konrad Curze cannot be used in conjunction with this Rite of War. This is odd, for a Rite of War which seems to be angling towards the widespread use of the Contekar, who are apparently members of the Atramentar. The Atramentar are 1st Company elite – the best warriors and elements of Konrad Curze’ personal guard.

Finally, ending on a truly ruinous bombshell, we have The Rampant Blade. This forces any unit that makes a consolidation move – and you will be because Night Lords really are a solid melee army with A Talent for Murder – must move the full distance allowed towards the nearest enemy unit within line of sight. If no enemy units are in line of sight, they must move towards the enemies deployment zone. This is the Horror Cult charge limitation enhanced to be even more punitive. The enemy can draw you off objectives by sacrificing cheap units and forcing you to consolidate. You’re going to have to seriously consider which fights you want to get involved with.

Worse still, this really punishes you for using the army in the way it was designed to work – getting into combat, using A Talent For Murder and The Strong Are Strongest Alone to really cause carnage and delete units. I can foresee the biggest issue will be retaining a modicum of control over your own army as they consolidate close to uncontrollably towards the enemies deployment zone as you attempt to prosecute targets and gain objectives.

Summary

It’s clear that Terror Assault would be my chosen Rite of War if i had to choose one to base my Army on. Even though I already have armies able to take advantage of Horror Cult and The Cross of Bone, Terror Assauly offers such a narratively and gameplay rich experience that its superiority simply cannot be denied. Sure, there might be better generic Rites, but that’s the same for all three of the Legion Specific ones for Night Lords.

Horror Cult needs some adjustment. With Night Raptors points and rules adjusted (including giving Night Raptors Fear) the Rite would really start to come to life and potentially be a viable Rite. Currently, unless you really want to run Night Raptors as Night Raptors you are truly better off running Drop Assault Vanguard and the Night Raptors as Night Lords Assault Squads.

The Cross of Bone is a troublesome Rite at the moment. It seems to be very focused on Book 9: Crusade and its contents. Both its narrative and gameplay benefits will really depend on how good (or bad) the changes to Night Lords as a whole are, the Contekar rules and any Independent Character or other units the Night Lords receive. Right now, i genuinely cannot foresee any other requirement for more Elite slots unless the Contekar (and any later Atramentar) are Elites and Independent Characters and however you view it, The Rampant Blade is a HUGE debuff to the one lone amazing rule for Night Lords and their whole modus operandi as a melee focussed Legion – A Talent For Murder.

2 comments

  1. […] Terror Squads are Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) and therefore they have access to a 5+ cover save in the first turn of the game due to the From the Shadows rule. However, this isn’t something that you’ll be especially relying on – especially with Terror Assault Rite of War – which I’ve covered in the Night Lords Rite of War Tactica. […]

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