After months of speculation that was dangerously close to rolling into a meme in itself, Games Workshop announced The Horus Heresy becoming a mainstream game and entering version 2.0 on 24th March 2022. This in itself is exceptionally amazing news, but we also received a Cinematic Trailer:
Frankly, I find it a glorious thing to watch, proof that the animation department are capable of some great animation and capturing the essence of the lore in a hard-hitting package.
Now there are some new units in the trailer, but I’m not going to discuss those today, instead I’m going to discuss the leaked “Playtest Rules” for Horus Heresy, pertaining to one model – The Warmaster himself. Some will wonder why I’m only speaking about Horus, and the truth of it is – it’s an interesting “top end of the game” discussion point.
When it comes to the confidentiality, integrity, availability and non-repudiation of these rules – we must apply a pinch of salt; but as a “combat indicator” they can be quite useful.
Core rules comparison
The Warmaster has always been a monster in the lore and on the tabletop, with a very good stat line. Costing 500 points, you’d damn well expect him to however. He’s pretty dominant when it comes to melee and has some respectable shooting. Having 6 wounds at toughness 6 like the majority of the Primarchs, he can take some punishment too. Though concerted (read as a significant portion of your army) AP2 fire has always been a surefire way to murder him (without ablative wounds).
Now costing 600 points, we can see a hike mostly across the board in his values.
You’ll note that he now moves 8″ instead of 6″ when on the table due to the inclusion of movement characteristics into the new edition. Whilst there’s some salt flowing across the sands in Australia about movement characteristics (that I do understand) being added, for bringing in new players, this can only really be a bonus. There have been several occasions over the last few years that I’ve had to remind newer players of movement distances – so to have it written solidly on the datasheet will be helpful. The interaction argument of making the game faster and more frenetic by having distances, not in multiples of 6, is another question entirely. But I digress; 8″ it is for the Warmaster, which means he’s no slouch once out of a transport or after having arrived by Deep Strike.
His BS increase isn’t overly interesting, but it has now gone up to 6. What is interesting is the fact that his Toughness and Wounds now match his strength at 7. Now, this isn’t some pan-Primarch update; some process has clearly been applied behind the scenes to create more variable core stats. For instance, both Curze and Angron remain roughly in parity with their v1.0 stat line here. This means we can expect a much more resilient Horus on the table and one that’s likely to represent a much greater threat than before, not just because of that extra attack he has gained – here’s why:
Not only does Horus move faster, meaning that if he’s running about on the tabletop, over three turns, he will be a whole extra turn of movement closer to you than he would be under v1.0 rules; but now you’ve got an extra toughness value and an extra wound to skew the battle in his favour. Pouring your AP2 weapons into him might be worthwhile, but was never a “dead cert” with his 2+/3++, let alone if he is rocking a Justearin cohort as ablative wounds. I’d argue therefore, that at this point in time, and in isolation of the core rules updates, it’s almost pointless trying to do this now.
So in short, it seems Horus is even more of a monster than he was under v1.0 on first glance.
His wargear list has changed in only one area, removing Teleportation Matrix. This isn’t a massive deal however, as instead, it’s been tidied into a Universal Special Rule under his Special Rules – which we will get to later.
|V1.0 Wargear||V2.0 Wargear|
|The Serpent’s Scale||The Serpent’s Scales|
|The Warmaster’s Talon||The Warmaster’s Talon|
|World Breaker||World Breaker|
|Cognis Signum||Cognis Signum|
|Frag Grenades||Frag Grenades|
The Serpent’s Scale has had an “s” added to the end of it, and loses the ability to negate any psychic attack directed at the Warmaster, or any effect that would adversely modify his characteristic profile on a D6 roll of a 3+. This isn’t a huge departure as it might initially seem – as the new Primarch universal special rule seems to deal with this automatically.
The Warmaster’s Talon has equally received a touch up:
|v1.0 Warmaster’s Talon|
|Lightning Claw||Melee||User||2||Melee, Shred, Disabling Strike|
|Bolter||24″||5||3||Assault 3, Twin-Linked|
|v2.0 Warmaster’s Talon|
|(Melee)||Melee||User||2||Melee, Shred, Deflagrate|
|(Shooting)||24″||5||3||Assault 3, Twin-Linked|
Now the loss of Disabling Strike means that you’re not going to be electing to split attacks as often as before; hoping for the odd wound to trickle through and reduce the enemy Primarch by -1 WS and -1 Str until the end of the game, cumulatively. However, the addition of Deflagrate means it’s really useful for chewing through squads of infantry, and even Terminators. You’ll note too, the change in nomenclature, hinting at a standardization of attack types, instead of focusing on the weapon name to identify the differences. It is however odd that Melee remains in the Type box – potentially to dissuade rules-lawyering at the tabletop.
World Breaker has, in isolation, gotten better, with Sunder being added:
|V1.0 World Breaker|
|World Breaker||Melee||10||2||Melee, Master-crafted, Concussive, Unwieldy|
|V2.0 World Breaker|
|World Breaker||Melee||10||2||Melee, Master-crafted, Sunder, Concussive (3), Unwieldy|
That said, there’s a new addition to the Concussive rule that is of note. The (3) could indicate several things in premise (3+ to take effect, 3 turns duration, etc) and only with the full rules release will we come to understand it properly.
The rest of his core rules for Wargear don’t appear to have changed.
Horus has always had some very strong Special Rules, and V2.0 has refined his rules somewhat:
|V1.0 Special Rules||V2.0 Special Rules|
|Primarch||Legiones Astartes (Sons of Horus)|
|Weapon Mastery||Master of Weapons|
|Sire of the Sons of Horus||Warlord: Sire of the Sons of Horus|
|The Point of the Spear||Master of War|
|God Of Battle||Master of The Legion|
Let’s start with the big one Legiones Astartes (Sons of Horus). Now, one can only assume that this is an evolution of the current ruleset and not a complete rewrite of the rules; therefore this is fairly massive. This means that Horus now has access to the following:
Merciless Fighters: The Strength of all Melee attacks made against a non-vehicle model with this special rule suffers a modifier of -1. Vehicle models with this special rule instead inflict an additional 3 Hits (for a total of 1D6+3 Hits, or 2D6+3 if the Vehicle has the Super-heavy Sub-type) on non-vehicle units when conducting a Ramming attack. Frankly, this only serves to reinforce my comment about Horus being an absolute monster to shift on the table now. That extra Toughness combined with this rulemaking him exceptionally tanky in melee.
Death Dealers (Legiones Astartes (Sons of Horus) Advanced Reaction) – This Advanced Reaction may be made once per game during the Shooting phase when any enemy unit declares a Shooting Attack targeting a friendly unit under the Reactive player’s control with the Legiones Astartes (Sons of Horus) special rule that is within 12” of the attacking unit. Before the enemy unit resolves any To Hit rolls, the Attacking unit may make a Shooting Attack targeting the unit that triggered this Reaction, increasing its BS by +1 for the duration of the Reaction. A unit that makes a Shooting Attack as part of a Death Dealer Reaction may not make any attacks indirectly (without line of sight) including weapons with the Barrage special rule or other weapons or special rules that otherwise ignore line of sight, and Vehicles may only fire Defensive weapons. Template weapons may only be used as part of a Death Dealer Reaction if the target unit is within 8” and must use the Wall of Death rule instead of firing normally. Once this Shooting Attack is fully resolved, and all casualties caused by it removed from play, the enemy unit may resolve its own Shooting Attack – though models removed as casualties due to this Reaction may still attack. This is unlikely to have a major effect on Horus, with him already being BS6 under v2.0 – but certainly means that enemies won’t want to get too close and remain there.
Master of Weapons determines that any to-hit roll of 4+ is always successful and that he can never be hit on a roll better than of 4+, regardless of the WS of his opponent. Additionally, he can choose to split his attacks between World Breaker and The Warmaster’s Talon. This is a massive change from the original rule, which simply details the splitting of the attacks. This goes some way to reinforcing how resilient he will be, and single-handedly goes some way to outline why he has received that 100 point increase.
Warlord: Sire of the Sons of Horus adds +1Ld and the Stubborn special rule to any unit in the army – regardless of faction.
Master of War allows once per game, at the start of any turn where Horus’ controlling player is the Reactive player, this special rule to be activated. For the duration of the turn-on which this special rule is activated every friendly unit with the Legiones Astartes (Sons of Horus) special rule may make a single Reaction in every phase, regardless of the controlling player’s Reaction Allotment (this does not allow any unit to make more than one Reaction in any single-phase). This is a nice addition, especially when close in and needing to make one turn really count – but we won’t know the full impact until the full list of reactions is published so we can determine the interactions.
Master of the Legion is the same as the current rule from what we can determine from the leaked packs. Traitor seems to simply pick Horus out as only going on the Traitors side – which is no surprise to anyone really. Deep Strike replaces the Teleportation Matrix Wargear from v1.0 as a basic Universal Special Rule.
So, what have we lost? Well, most of the Sons of Horus “external to Rite of War” choice modifications are gone. There are no Veteran Squads as Troops rules for either Horus or Maloghurst, simply for being in the army. There’s also no Lance Bombardment that Horus had previously. Massively, you can no longer Seize the Initiative on a 4+ and can’t give outflank to any part of your army.
Pinch the salt and throw it over your shoulder. In isolation, there’s a lot that’s been “simplified” and a lot that’s been lost through that simplification. Although I haven’t covered it here, Rites of War such as The Long March don’t detail Veterans as Troops anymore (only Justaerin and Legion Terminators) and the loss of the ability to chuck in squads of Veterans is quite the narrative kick. It certainly boxes you into the Rites of War in a hardline manner. Additionally, the removal of several tactical options such as the Seize and the Bombardment rules (to a lesser degree) really seems a spiteful thing – after all, did Horus not dictate battle in the lore?
Right now, I think Horus generally seems incredibly tanky, but to have lost his reason to be on the battlefield. It’s almost like he’s been stripped of narrative background and is now just another top-level HQ. Not a defining figure in the whole story and why we ultimately are playing the game – but just a big beat stick in black Terminator plate.
Across the board, and speaking more about the leaks in general, for the Sons of Horus there are frankly notable points increases. Not only do we have +100 points on Horus, but +35 points on Abaddon, +5 points for Loken. Meanwhile, we see no increases on Maloghurst and Reavers. Overall, one might argue that the increases don’t immensely justify themselves when you consider the rules we’ve seen.
There’s clearly a logical process taking place here – and as some commenters have noticed, it might focus on making the “average” game of around 3,000 points (SE-SW UK, in my experience) have a far lower model count than before.
I’ll reserve final judgment on Horus and in the main, the Sons of Horus, until I have the new book in my hands. There are notably some fairly obvious mistakes in the rules sections of several units and omissions that simply don’t make sense – the Night Lords for instance seem to have been hit with a nerf bat. However, I believe the leaked rules are quite far removed from the final product we will see at the end of the year – despite being identified as “playtest”. This becomes more pressing when you compare the recent Dark Angels and Salamanders leaks. It seems that the fully fleshed out, artwork-backed leaks are better thought out, and overall more narrative gameplay-focused.
I’m still exceptionally excited about the release and will be championing my Sons of Horus over my Night Lords for the first game downrange using Heresy 2.0 rules*. Hopefully, that sense of trepidation disappears on release.
*This is mainly because of what I’ve seen of the Night Lords, I’m generally unimpressed. Stripping core Legion rules such as Night Vision and forcing it as a +15 points Preysight upgrade or a 450 point tax in Curze to provide Night Vision to the army is the perfect example of this. It doesn’t make sense from a lore perspective and especially from a gameplay and Rite of War point of view where Terror Assault then becomes even more punishing to run by forcing that tax upon each unit. Night Lords are matter of factly the Legion that fights in the dark, so removing this passive ability from Legiones Astartes (Night Lords) is frankly, ridiculous. A Talent For Murder is no longer to hit and to wound, instead applying to wound for melee and shooting. It’s a bit of a downgrade in general terms, with some niche applications to the shooting side in my opinion. More on the Night Lords when the books release.