Yesterday was a difficult time for a seemingly large majority of the Night Lords player base by any measurement taken. With the latest preview of the upcoming book focusing on the Night Lords, we got to finally see what is being changed for them. The answer: Not much on the surface of things.

The Dark Angels are presented by the Warhammer Community team as being a genuinely strong Legion; with an increasingly large cohort on the internet decrying them as having “typical power creep”. Whether or not that is true, the Night Lords certainly aren’t in that bracket alongside..

This article is written with fresh eyes and fresh mind from a seasoned Night Lords player’s perspective. Let it be known from the offset that this isn’t a tactica-type assessment that I normally run for the blog – we don’t have the rulebook yet so there’s no way of doing it properly. There will be mention of salt in this article, but equally i’ll try to expand the reasons behind the salt and further examine potential reasons and hopes behind it.

I’ll be doing a proper tactica of Crusade at a later date. For now.. let’s begin.

A Talent For Murder

Finally, we have the clarification that’s been asked for since before the last FAQ dropped. Previously, the rule only worked against Enemy Infantry, but now, Enemy Non-vehicle units opens the door for a wider gamut of targets (e.g. Monstrous Creatures) to be affected by the rule.

Speaking of Monstrous Creatures, remember that Battle Automata like Vorax and Castellax gain Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) and A Talent For Murder when using them with a Pravien, this is genuinely helpful by increasing their utility. Key point to remember here is that for 10pts per model, you can give them Acute Senses and Trophies of Judgement too, further enhancing their utility in something like Terror Assault – Bring the night and make the enemy suffer!

Vorax are my favourite unit (Scoria aside) in my Dark Mechanicum army. Although expensive, they are incredibly effective and can be quite a brutal distraction or a very effective “speed bump” to the enemy. Because they class as Monsterous Creatures and you can take them in units of 6 (each model 65pts base), that means you have the equivalent of 30 bodies for A Talent For Murder calculation. Castellax more your bag? Well, you can take them in units of 5, giving you 25 bodies equivalency. I’d argue that with the Outflank and Scout rule that Vorax are definitely the more choice unit.

Even a small maniple of Vorax equipped with Enhanced Targetting Arrays, Rotor Cannons (with Bio-corrosive ammunition) and an I-rad Cleanser (the rest with Lightning Guns) will certainly cause enough carnage that they can’t be ignored.

Credit: Warhammer Community

Finally, it solves the issue that’s been burning through the Night Lords community for a while. I’ve long argued in multiple forums (Facebook, Discord, In Person) that A Talent For Murder doesn’t lower the Rending threshold and been told “You don’t know the rules then” on several occasions. Well, my fellows… death is nothing compared to vindication. It doesn’t lower the threshold and it’s put an end to the argument.

Legion Specific Weapons – Nostraman Chainglaive

In a style we’ve seen recently on the Warhammer Community website, they haven’t actually given us any new information about this weapon. It’s a weapon that is ok, as previously discussed. Rending tends to not go off when it’s really needed and 10pts for it is quite expensive for that bonus. Just look at what it costs to equip a full squad of Night Raptors with it.

Credit: Warhammer Community

Combined with A Talent For Murder, yes, the +1 Strength is good and will come in handy, meaning that anything with a Toughness of four is being wounded on 2+. However, from discussions over the last two years alone, most of the Night Lords players I’ve spoken to agree with me that for 10pts it’s a bit steep. 5pts would have been more palatable.

The article then neatly goes on to discuss our third Rite of War; The Cross of Bone.

The Cross Of Bone

I’ve covered Rites of War in the Night Lords RoW Tactica previously. Really, my mind hasn’t been changed on the utility with this preview. So, for those who don’t know what my assessment is, here’s the RoW:

New Night Lords Rite of War: 'The Cross of Bone' previewed. : Warhammer30k
Credit: Warhammer Community

Lets break it down by bullet point to have a quick discussion on its utility. I will say, we should be cognisant that the preview might not have shown us some amazing rule that enhances this Rite of War or the Contekar for example.

The Aristocracy of Ruin. For every Non-compulsory HQ, you get +1 Elite slots in the detachment. Now, lets look at brass taxes here. Taking the Crusade Force Organisation, that means you pay for one HQ, then every one after that gives you an extra Elite slot. Sounds great, except you already have +4 elite slots available to you. If you’re looking to run a Terminator heavy (deep strike army, as is offered to us with our Legion Specific rules) and fill those slots with Legion Terminators in an average loadout and looking to max the squad size to benefit from A Talent For Murder under, then you’re pretty much looking at 2400pts with this Rite of War. In effect you’re not going to have space for much else, let alone Heavy Support – but you do at least have 40 Terminators that’ll do well bullying about the table.

The Strongest Are Strongest Alone. If you have a model that has the Independent Character rule and it is alone or is the only Independent Character in the unit it has joined it gains +1 attack. This is good. It’s by far the single standout point of this Rite of War. If for instance; you get creative and run a Praetor with twin Paragon Blades (“A Legion Praetor may exchange either their bolt pistol and/or chainsword/combat blade for one of the following” making this legal – for an eye watering 230pts), one Mastercrafted and you have a veritable pain train. Why? Well, lets look at this in a further breakdown:

  • Attacks. Starting with 4 base, if you are charging that becomes 5. Digital Lasers takes that to 6, taking two Paragon Blades takes that to 7 due to Specialist Weapon. Now, lets add in The Strongest Are Strongest Alone and that’s 8 Attacks, Strength 5, AP 2, Melee, Murderous Strike (Instant Death on a 6). Woowee Mr Meeseeks that’s a solid amount of attacks. Of Course, it gets better with:
  • A Talent For Murder. Weapon Skill 6 on a Praetor means that against “normal” Astartes you’re hitting on 3+ normally; now that’s 2+ and pretty much the same for wounding. Against other Praetors that’s 4+ normally; now that’s 3+ and wounding on 3+; taken to 2+. With the change to A Talent For Murder to, for instance bringing in Monstrous Creatures to the massacre; you’re hitting on 3+ normally, taken to 2+ and wounding on 6+. Just remember that Instant Death occurs on 6s and Monstrous Creatures Instant die. Nasty.

The Tithe Of Gore. If you slay the enemy warlord with an Independent Character you gain +1 additional VP in missions where the Secondary Objective of Slay The Warlord is in effect. It’s like the Emperors Children Maru Skara RoW limitation (where you lose a VP if your Warlord didn’t kill the enemy Warlord), but better because its a bonus. Actually quite a nice little bonus, especially now that you may or may not be considering that dual Paragon Blade Praetor.

The Limitations are quite punitive though. Having tried to make Horror Cult work for me and be fun and totally failed due to the requirement to micromanage any time you move a model, it seems like this set of limitations stems from the same area.

  • Additional Troops Choice. This is where the extra Elites slots starts to fall down. With a core army of 700pts (1 HQ – Sevatar and 3x Tactical Squads, Sgts with Artificer Armour and Melta bombs), you’re not far off the starting value of the arguable more effective Terror Assault core cost (970). I haven’t included transports for the Tacticals, meaning that the cost is pretty much 800pts for Rhinos with Multi-meltas (to add some punch/counterpunch). When you start adding in Terminators or other Elites, you start to close in on 3000pts fairly quickly. Ok, there’s no limitation to the Heavy Support like Terror Assault, but you will need to be careful with your army building.
  • Konrad Curze. The absent Father cannot be taken with this Rite of War. Some don’t even play with Primarchs so this is a case by case situation. However, I do and as average as he is, i’d miss not being able to take him in a Legion Specific Rite of War. I would genuinely be interested in the narrative decision behind not allowing him in The Cross Of Bone, especially as everything we have seen already seems to make this perfect for an Atramentar-heavy style army.
  • The Rampant Blade. This is personally where the Rite falls down the most. Basically, you must “Consolidate the full distance allowed towards the nearest enemy unit in line of sight”. That’s different from “Consolidate towards the nearest enemy unit in line of sight”. When you consolidate you roll D6 and apply the result to a move. Therefore the full distance allowed is 6″ and the full distance you can roll is a 6. This is right out of the playbook of The Horror Cult, which in itself is a punitive Rite of War for a melee army, forcing you to charge units that you can hurt. This goes further than that, by making you charge something you might not be able to hurt. Meaning micromanagement of movement comes into effect to avoid being potentially drawn from either objectives or unwinnable fights by savvy players.

So the Rite of War has some genuine beauty to it that I can already see some Night Lords-esque shenanigans coming about from. I’m not arguing that it’s a terrible Rite of War. The Rampant Blade is something that is two sided. You can use it to your advantage just as the enemy can use it to theirs. Is it thematic? Yes, the Night Lords overstretched themselves (Skraivok especially) on the walls during the Siege of Terra, being drawn and mass consolidating into the next fight without due care.

The choice to not allow Curze must be a narrative one. I can’t understand why it exists otherwise – i can’t think of another Legion Specific Rite that bans the Primarch of the Legion – but happy to be informed if there is another.

I’m hopeful this will be explained as currently, this Rite looks to be good for an Atramentar Company style army (outside of Pride of the Legion) and has plenty on offer. That said, i still believe Terror Assault to be the most beneficial Legion Specific Rite of War for the Night Lords. Outside of the narrative for Independent Characters, there’s little to no benefit to the remainder of your army, only punitive limitations. Where Terror Assault forces an additional Compulsory Troops choice (Compulsory for that RoW being another Terror Squad), at least the Terror Squad brings with it Fear, Infiltrate, and some punch with things like Volkite, instead of just another Tactical Squad, or Assault Squad for instance as a tax. The Night Fighting, bringing +1 to your Run and Initiative is genuinely brilliant for forging narrative through gaming, showing the Night Lords as unfair fighters, engaging their enemies in darkness, but losing the edge when the tables are levelled. Currently, with what we’ve seen of The Cross of Bone, it’s just about the Independent Characters and Elite slot bonuses that don’t yet make sense.

I’m hoping that when i get the book in my hand the next update for this blog completely reverses this opinion.

Kheron Ophion

Kheron Ophion is the second of two Night Lords units that don’t have Fear and this article was simply a broadcast of his existing ruleset.

Contekar Terminator Elite

The “Atramentar” of the Night Lords are the Night Lords elite cohort. The Contekar are an elite cohort that operates as a sub-cohort of the Atramentar – according to the Warhammer Community posts. They are hand picked from the ruling elite, fighting for those they deem worthy and are often used to depose Command elements that fail to meet expectations.

Immense lore issues and community expectation arguments aside, we finally have a glimpse of their rules. Whether they have what the community expects for basic rules or not is yet to be seen, namely Fear and Implacable Advance (Infiltrate would be genuinely great too). However, we have now enough to get a rough feel for them and how they’ll work. In general, it’s… not great.

Credit: Warhammer Community

Modelled in Tartaros Terminator armour, we are currently in the dark as to whether this will be Terminator Armour in their rules or Tartaros Terminator Armour. The difference, for those unaware, is that with the former, you can choose to put them in Cataphractii, Tartaros or Indomintus, with the latter, you’re in Tartaros and that’s it.

There’s arguments to which armour would be the best, based in lore to game play mechanics to a combination of both. Where do i sit? Well, it’s between Cataphractii and Tartaros for me and Tartaros presents it’s issues thus;

  • Sweeping Advance. Tartaros Armour allows you to sweeping advance, this is useful at times and I’ve long thought it’s utility in the Night Lords is something I wanted. However in practice, they need to be around to sweeping advance.
  • 5++ Invulnerable. This seems to be a difficult roll for me historically, and therefore the likelihood of any Contekar being around at the end of a fight phase, especially with anything that has AP2 is a bitter pill to swallow. Noting especially that Terminators are not immune to failing morale and falling back – with Nostraman Blood adding 1″ to this roll. Nor are they immune to being swept.

Cataphractii negates the concern insomuch that the 4++ is a far easier roll to make, at the cost of losing Sweeping Advance. So it’ll depend on your play-style as to what you want to run them as if they come with the option. Personally, I’d like to run Contekar in Tartaros, as if you’ve seen my Leviathan Drop Pod use on the30kchannel.. you’ll know I run things close, aggressive and fast making the line narrow between a victory and defeat.

The Contekar are armed with three weapons currently; Nostraman Chainblades, Heavy Flamers or Volkite Cavitators. Note the bold, because that was the cause of the first “uproar” in the community. Whether they’ll have access to Powerfists, Chainfists or other weapons is unseen currently. However a large element of our community would like to see at least Powerfists for 5pts.

Credit: Warhammer Community

The reason this is in the Contekar section instead of with the Nostraman Chainglaive is because it’s “new” and only on the Contekar currently. You lose the +1 Strength of the Chainglaive and in turn, lose the Two-Handed rule. Everything else is the same as the Nostraman Chainglaive. The question, and the root cause of the initial furore regarding this weapon boils down to one question: why?

Two-handed means that the model never receives the benefit for fighting with two melee weapons. The Contekar don’t have two melee weapons with the exception of the chainfist component on the Volkite Cavitator. Initial arguments aside about using a Two-Handed weapon with one hand aside, the real issue comes at the loss of the +1 Strength. Even with A Talent For Murder, you’ll be wounding on 4+, converted to 3+.

The reason the Nostraman Chainglaive is an ok weapon, is that it’ll mostly be wounding on 2+, where it’s then balanced by the AP 3 and the Rending. The best you’ll get from the Nostraman Chainblade is wounding on a 3+. So in effect, it’s just a Power Sword with Rending. With the prevalence of Artificer Armour on Sergeants, this means that the ruling elites special forces unit is less effective than a rando Tactical Squad Sergeant with a Nostraman Chainglaive.

If this weapon needed to be introduced to counter the Two-Handed rule, then take off the Two-Handed rule, and the rest should have been left alone – model it as something build in to the fist or weapon, or just make it outsized to suit the +1 Strength. The Night Lords are a Melee army, yet our Legion Specific Terminators are armed with a glorified Power Sword that is unlikely to do translate significant damage to a Tactical Squad with an artificer armour Sergeant, let alone other Legion Specific Terminators or HQs… which if we refer back to the opening gambit, they’re designed to do:

“The Contekar would often be dispatched to wrest control from Night Lords whose commanders thought them unfit for the Legion.”

Warhammer Community

We can only sit and hope that the Contekar are able to take weapons other than this, or there’s something we aren’t seeing, as currently the chance of wounding on 3’s let alone an AP 2 wound on a 6 is pretty dire for an elite cohort of Legion Specific Terminators and is at odds with their ability to hit well due to their Weapon Skill.

So I’ve mentioned their Weapon Skill, so what are their basic stats?

Credit: Warhammer Community.

The stat line is fairly solid as you can see. Nothing majorly to complain about, aside from maybe the fact that they could have done with being 2 wounds each. The Dissident is the Squad Commander, with the Contekar being the remaining members – for some reason the lines are reversed to what they normally describe.

This stat line is incredibly reminiscent of Phoenix Terminators. The reason it’s so reminiscent, is because it’s identical bar the Dissident having two wounds instead of one. On the charge the Phoenix Terminators gain +1 Strength and their Spears have AP 2. Which means that Contekar on the receiving end are in for a world of hurt if they receive a charge. Off the Charge, they’re Strength 4, AP 3 – without the Rending.

What’s odd here is that it’s quite clear the Contekar don’t have terribly reliable melee with the Nostraman Chainblade for anything that shrugs AP 3. Yet it’s also clear (under whats been released and taking Tartaros as modelled) that they don’t have a great deal of resilience either. So if they’re decidedly average at melee neither capable of killing reliably or staying the course; this must therefore mean they’re aligned more to a Heavy Support type Terminator, bringing heavy weapons firepower to bear.

Volkite Cavitator

Well, no.

Not at all actually.

As you can see, the Volkite Cavitator is 10″ range, Strength 6, AP 5, Heavy 4, Deflagrate. We are in the realms of Volkite, my favourite weapon system – so i can tell you straight off the bat that this is effectively a snub-nosed Volkite Culverin (45″, Heavy 4, Deflagrate).

Snub-nosed because i can’t think of any reason why this would be less than 30″ range – especially when bolted to a Terminator. Even the humble and significantly smaller Volkite Charger is 15″ range and a Tactical Support Squad rocks around Volkite Calivers with 30″ range. The key difference at a guess would be Relentless being baked into Terminator Armour. Even so, the AP and the Contekar BS does the balancing here.

What about Heavy Flamers then? Well, same again. Template, Strength 5, Assault 1. Except the Template is about 12″ long. So the Flamer option outranges a chunky martian death ray.

Admittedly, the Volkite Cavitator allows you to glance Rhinos on fives.. but i’m not sure that’s what they were designed to do, considering the wording:

“…any member of the squad can replace this with a volkite cavitor for when they need something even deadlier…”

Warhammer Community

Indeed, it’s questionable as to what the intent for the Contekar really is at this point. Something hopefully the book will make clear.

Consider this:

Sevatar is the Master of the Atramentar – this is it’s own rule in itself allowing Night Lords Legion Terminator Squads to Deep Strike without scattering within 6″ of him. The Contekar are Atramentar and the hope is that Master of the Atramentar has been updated to include them.

We can thematically Infiltrate Sevatar and three non-vehicle units on to the battlefield according to the Master of Ambush trait and the FAQ. Units that infiltrate must be set up more than 12″ away from an enemy unit as long as no enemy unit can draw line of sight to them. Otherwise, you deploy 18″ away. Units using these rules cannot charge in their first turn. You can move 6″ after you’ve infiltrated, which means that the Volkite might be in range, terrain permitting for a Turn 1 fusillade, as might the Heavy Flamer.

So clearly Infiltrate isn’t on the cards as their reliable method of entry, but it might be useful in some situations. Also, they suffer as all Terminators do with movement outside of the transport, in this case, there isn’t one, so you best hope you don’t get kited.

So what about transports. Well, without the Dedicated Transport rules, we are again in the dark currently. Assuming Land Raider, Spartan or a Dreadclaw are on the cards; i’d go for the latter. Sure it limits Squad size and costs a packet of points. However you can at least get them to where they need to go, Volkite stuff to death, maybe finish in melee if you’re feeling brave and go from there to the next area of concern in the Dreadclaw.

I feel that big blobs of these Contekar might also have a chance of success, but the short range is a huge detractor for them in this regard too making them highly situational. Can they all hit the target after piling out of a Spartans doors – probably not, because 10″ is short. Hell, sometimes i struggle with Volkite Chargers and their 15″ range.

At this point, the Volkite Cavitators rules just seem absolutely ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense with what we’ve been told and shown so far and serves only to further confuse the battlefield role for the Atramentar sub-branch, the Contekar.

At face value (with what we’ve been given) they’re decidedly average at melee (and only that good due to A Talent For Murder) and decidedly average at shooting due to insanely short ranges. As it stands, the Contekar are an extreme oddity that will hopefully be cleared up when the book is in our hands. I’m not a religious man, but I am praying for this to happen.

Edit: Really, and looking at it with fresh eyes, the Contekar seem entirely Zone Mortalis Focused – whereby the short range problem and corridors constricting melee lessens the concerns somewhat.

Reprint” of your rules for handy reference!

Ok. Now to the meat of the mother of all gripes at hand.

Reprinting rules from a Campaign Book Two Legion (2012) and combining them into a conflict with what is effectively a freshly created Legion is downright awful – i’m putting that statement out there immediately, with a caveat question-set. Do i believe this to be the case? Or do i believe it to be a misuse of the word by the Warhammer Community team?

No i don’t believe it to be the case. The Hobby is a big beast and if the community team made the mistake of putting the Nostraman Chainglaive in place of the the Nostraman Chainblade, then yes, it is entirely possible the Warhammer Community team don’t mean reprint as black and white as the community has taken it. For instance, you can repost (the electronic equivalent of reprint) a blog page with minor edits; i do it all the time when i update articles that people use for easy reference when starting armies etc.

Equally, i’ll repeat on here what i said on the Crusade & Heresy Discord chat – If it were a direct reprint from Book 2, then the points won’t have been updated. This would mean we would still have hugely overpriced and outdated rules on Cult forces like the Night Raptors.

Night Raptors are perfect examples of needing an update as they don’t even have Fear. They’re literally the only Night Lords unit that doesn’t have it besides them is Kheron Ophion. Ok, Raptors can buy Trophies of Judgement for a whopping 25pts with The Horror Cult, but other than that, you don’t get it. They need not only a points adjustment, but in the main, The Horror Cult and its Trophies of Judgement benefit cost needs adjustment too. This could be as simple as incorporating the cost of the power weapons/Chainglaives and Trophies into the Night Raptors costing.

If no changes have taken place then we are presented with an enforced asymmetric battlefield. Asymmetric battlefields can be exceptional fun and every Legion should be asymmetric in nature, however, with a quick glance we can see this wouldn’t be the case here, unless you played Dark Angels due to the weight of the imbalance.

If Crusade is truly what the worst of the internet are expecting – a direct reprint of Legion entries released in 2012 in Campaign Book 2: Massacre; pitting a set of new Dark Angels rules that are already widely regarded as “typical power creep”; then i refer you to Campaign Book 2’s title for what it’ll be for Night Lords players:

A Massacre, at the hands of the Dark Angels.

The Hope

I sit here in hope that when that book arrives in my hands, any concerns the community has as a whole are immediately dispelled and shown as either misunderstanding or misrepresentation by either side. I’m a little dismayed at the lack of clarity with the term “reprint” and my spirit has been dampened slightly by the Contekar rules seeming being so unfocused and at odds with everything the Dark Angels seem to have been given. However, i’m remaining positive and patiently awaiting pre-order tomorrow and i’d advise any Night Lords players who are thinking we’ve been done over to maintain their positivity.

The hope is that there’s something that hasn’t been previewed, something that changes the whole concept of the way the Night Lords Legion Specific/Cult units can be used, or, at the very minimum, we’ve gotten some minor rules and points adjustments that make us more playable with more of our units. After all, there’s the mention of a 4th Rite of War and it’s entirely feasible that there’s a whole segment of information, rules and capabilities contained within the book waiting for us.

If not; i predict Vorax, Jetbikes and Terror Assault everywhere for the foreseeable future to try to outweigh the asymmetry. At least for those Night Lords players who remain in the game system after being shat on from such a height – I’ll see you there 😀