“And they told me you weren’t a thinker Captain Ophion”Jago Sevatar, First Captain, VIII Legion.
Note: There are no changes to Kheron Ophion in Book 9: Crusade.
When you look at VIII Legion characters in isolation and know of their story, you’re struck by how narrative the rules for them are. Whilst most know of Konrad Curze and Jago Sevatarion, there are others that aren’t widely known about. Most of this stems from the fact that outside of a smattering of books, the VIII Legion isn’t a fleshed out beast. This means that the uninitiated miss quite how wonderfully creative their rules are.
Ophion, to the best of my knowledge, has his roots firmly in Prince of Crows and Campaign Book 6: Retribution with mention in Konrad Curze: The Night Haunter. He is a member of the Kyroptera – the Night Lords Command Cadre, that is headed up by 1st Captain Jago “Sevatar” Sevatarion. Imagine it as a highly dysfunctional Mournival that is prone to internal strife and violence and you aren’t far off what the Kyroptera is.
Captain of the 39th Company, Ophion is quite removed from his brethren in the fact that he avoids the tactical cowardice so often employed by the Night Lords. Instead, he has seen his long service in the Legion marked out by several acts of genuine, stubborn bravery. This is why he is known as “The Coward” by his brothers. His bravery is abhorrent to them and their way of war. Indeed, to them it seems that he “abandons” the modus operandi of the Legion. Thus, he is ironically called “The Coward”, something he cannot shake from his name.
In the lore, he is seen promoted by Jago Sevatar into the Kyroptera at the end of the Thramas Crusade. The Dark Angels break the back of the Night Lords fleet in the sector as it the fleet extracts Konrad Curze from one of his battles with Lion El’Johnson. Ophion holds back his Line Cruiser “Shroud of Eventide” to assist “The Nightfall” in covering the withdrawal from the massacre in the void playing out. Later in the novel, when the Dark Angels ambush them a second time, Ophion requests to stay and fight, but is told to flee by Sevatar.
He, like Sevatar is a true son of Nostramo.
He, like Sevatar has a fate that is unknown to us.*
Despite not having a hugely fleshed out backstory in the lore, what we do have for him is very well designed into the rules.
Ophion will set you back 165 points to field and most elements from his stat line are directly taken from a Legion Praetor. What has been changed has been done for a balance reason and something that will be explored later.
He has Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) and Master of the Legion, meaning you get to benefit from the Legion traits such as A Talent For Murder and can take a Rite of War. It also means you can take a Command Retinue which can be good for passing off wounds.
With 3 wounds, Ophion is fairly resilient from the outset – but you still need to take care of him. If you charge him in willy-nilly or leaving him in the open then you’re likely to have a bad time.
At Strength 4, Toughness 4 there are no real surprises here either. He is after all, in Power Armour. This, combined with being equipped with a Refractor Field means you have a basic 3+/5++ save characteristic. This is a sticking point with some players, arguing that with the prevalence of cheap Artificer Armour in the game, especially on Praetors; that he is less likely to see the table as there are far better, more survivable options.
Whilst this will probably have a lot of readers nodding and saying “well yes, even Tactical Squad Sergeants have the option for a better save”; once again, there are complicating factors to this, in the form of his Wargear and Special Rules – both narrative driven.
The Coward special rule gifts him with Feel No Pain 4+ as long as he has lost at least a single wound. When reduced to a single wound, Ophion has Feel No Pain 3+. This is a really good narrative trait for a character who digs in and fights with exceptional bravery.
Tacking onto the notion of bravery; Aberrant Bravery is Ophions personal Warlord trait. This gives Ophion and any Night Lords units within 12″ of him Stubborn when the opposing player has more Victory Points than the controlling player. In addition, you may re-roll or have an opponent re-roll the dice to determine if the game continues for another turn. This is good – but situational.
Finally, saving the best till last; The Bloody Aegis. This is a shield, comprised of hull armour from Ophion’s first command “The Killing Whisper” which was destroyed over Pragus when Ophion held off an entire enemy conclave hounding the 67th Expeditionary Fleet. It acts as a personal reminder to him of the true cost of bravery and is as much a mark of shame and cruel jest as it is a trophy of glory.
It has no effect until Ophion is in melee, whereby it grants him a 3++ invulnerable save. In addition, any model targeting Ophion with one or more attacks in an assault that scores an unmodified 1 on at least one of those dice has its Weapon Skill halved when targeted by any of Ophion’s close combat attacks until the beginning of the next game turn.
The Weapon Skill debuff works well if you’ve gone first and charged first as you then have an entire enemy turn to benefit. If you go second and get charged, then you won’t benefit from its possible outcomes as the game turn will end without debuffing the enemies WS during their actual Fight Sub Phase. It’s a difficult concept to grasp until you play it out and then it becomes all too clear that the rule needs adjusting to read “until the end of the next game turn” instead of “until the beginning of the next game turn”.
With The Bloody Aegis, The Coward and his Power Armour factored in, unwounded you have a 3+/5++ at range and a 3+/3++ in combat.
When you lose a wound that goes to 3+/5++/4+++ ranged and 3+/3++/4+++ in combat.
On your last wound you have 3+/5++/3+++ ranged and 3+/3++/3+++ in combat. If you’re not saving at least one of those your luck is terrible.
Ophion has the genuine ability to become a dangerous thorn in your opponents side if they’re locked into combat with him. Something I have been considering is to run him with a Volkite Terror Squad in a Kharybdis/Anvillus Dreadclaw Drop Pod, with Mawdrym Llansahai. The latter merely adding to the resilience of him unwounded (making him 3+/5++/5+++ ranged and 3+/3++/5+++ in combat) and giving some legs to the Terror Squad too. Plop the Kharybdis down and bring the carnage with Assault 3/Pistol Volkite shooting most likely assuring A Talent For Murder before charging in.
With BS5, Ophion has a good chance of using the Volkite Serpenta that he comes equipped with to good effect.
|Volkite Serpenta||10″||5||5||Pistol, Deflagrate|
Being Volkite, it’s good but not overpowered, with the benefits of Deflagrate and Strength 5 being internally balanced by it only being AP 5. For those unaware, Deflagrate means that after all normal attacks have been resolved with the weapon, you count how many unsaved wounds the target took and get that number of additional automatic hits to resolve. This is to show the effects of Volkite, a weapon so devastating to organic matter that it ruptures it into ash and jets of fire. I personally love Volkite weapons. Alone, they’re a bit of a damp squib, but massed they’re very good. Therefore you probably want him in with either Terror Squads or Legion Tactical Support Squads. I’d recommend the former as the latter tends to be more of a static force and you don’t want Ophion stood about.
He has Frag & Krak Grenades for when the distance closes too. It should not be underestimated the well-timed effect a Frag or Krak grenade will have on an enemy Squad that you intend to charge. Especially when you are looking to get A Talent For Murder kicking in; and trust me, with Ophion, you want him in melee.
Whereas Jago Sevatarion and Mawdrym Llansahai were released in 2012 with Book 2: Massacre, Ophion was released in 2016 with Book 6: Retribution. Despite the four year difference, Ophion fits in perfectly with his Legion brethren – having some genuinely lovely, narrative driven rules. Though those used to more recent book release rules may find them all wanting at face value.
It’s also where the complication of the Artificer Armour argument occurs. There’s no special +5 Strength overpowered weapons here; Ophion is armed with a Power Axe and Melta Bombs, allowing him to pull double duty for melee, a useful trait in an HQ when the proverbial is hitting the fan.
|Power Axe||–||+1||2||Melee, Unwieldy|
With the Power Axe being Unwieldy, your Initiative of 5 doesn’t really matter until we come to Sweeping Advances, as you’re stepping in at Initiative step 1 unless fighting a Monstrous Creature or Walker. Whilst his abilities, especially when wounded do offer him some resilience, they don’t make him invulnerable to concerted attacks or AP 2. 3 wounds isn’t much to account for when you’re against Deathshroud or Firedrakes for instance.
Lets look at a typical round where you’ve charged in – with 4 Attacks base, +1 for the charge and +1 for the Volkite Serpenta and Power Axe, bringing you to a total of 6 attacks.
I’m going to deal with base stats, not bringing in The Bloody Aegis WS debuff effect as it isn’t permanent and to be honest, focuses more on hurting the enemies ability to hit you, instead of providing a solid buff to your hit rate – A Talent For Murder is what really helps us with that.
Weapon Skill 6 means that against humble Tactical Squads you’re hitting on 3+, but with Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) granting him A Talent For Murder that’s improved to 2+. If you’re facing a Praetor then you’re hitting on 4+, modified to 3+ with A Talent For Murder. Now, lets not forget that you need to wait till Initiative 1, so threat assessment and placement of Ophion is key.
So you’ve hit at Initiative 1 and at Strength 5 due to the +1 Strength modifier of the Power Axe. This means you’re wounding Tactical Squads and Praetors on 3+. However with A Talent For Murder granting the 1+ to Wound for outnumbering at the Initiative step, this brings us to 2+ to wound. All this with an AP 2 weapon.
Ophion fits in well with the Night Lords characters, having a solid, narrative based rule set. He is weak to Instant Death, but so is Sevatar and Llansahai, along with generic Legion Praetors too. As with every unit written to a narrative tone instead of making them an “auto-include”, some applied intelligence is needed to get the best from them, but this is a tactical game and this shouldn’t be news to anyone.
Used in a well considered army there is no reason to not take Ophion over a Praetor. There’s no reliance on psychic abilities here and no funky weapons. Ophion is, at his core, a capable and resilient character on the table – just like in the lore. Often, I find Praetors tend to be taken merely for Paragon Blades, Instant Death or, if you’re a particular fan of cheddar; Divining Blades. If those are your particular fancy then Ophion holds no attraction for you. However a Praetor cannot even come close to the survivability of Ophion, especially when all else around him is dead and you’ve taken a wound.
Under the argument of his weapons, an option for taking a Nostraman Chainglaive can easily be made here. They’re hardly overpowered and would help in making it so he isn’t waiting until last to step in. Seeing as he has a power weapon, a direct replacement option that’s free would be perfect.
With regards to his secondary part of The Bloody Aegis, i’d like to see the wording changed. Currently, if you go second and charge in your turn, then it has no effect due to the caveat of “until the beginning of the next game turn” making it exceptionally situational.
Effectively, you’re relying on either the enemy going first in the turn and charging you, or you going first in the turn and charging them to gain the effect through their turn. If it had the caveat “until the end of the next game turn” that’d make more sense and work better in the mechanics of the game.
That said, The Blood Aegis and The Coward are genuinely fun rules to play that add a huge amount of threat to Ophion, taking a character that at first, seems a little weak to a solid little performer. The current trend of power creeping and over-writing rules has a lot to learn from 2012 and 2016 – Heresy is, after all supposed to be narrative-driven.
AVE DOMINUS NOX!
*Yes, it’s rumoured he died at the hands of the Ashen Claws when the “Shroud of Eventide” crashed into the surface of Kalleth.