Sunday, 2 March 2014

Review: Legion of the Damned

As Games Workshop have been reiterating from time to time for the last few weeks, yesterday the Legion of the Damned digital codex hit and, I'm not going to lie, I went mad with excitement for this product. As I stated back in October, me and my dad fell in love with the damned legionnaires and my dad painted a small army of them back when they had rules in White Dwarf during second edition. The thought of being able to legitimately collect a small army of these guys just made me so excited at the conversion possibilities.

As it happens they don't work exactly as I thought. The codex is a lot more bare bones than I had hoped for and, although it makes the codex less useable it doesn't make it pointless. In fact for such a barebones digital codex it's actually a pretty cool purchase for any Imperial player. What it lacks for in vehicles, squad variations and HQ choices it makes up in interesting new ways to use Legion of the Damned, including Warlord Traits (that's right, they can now be taking as a full force in your primary detachment), a really nasty but must have artifact, an Apocalypse formation and 3 cool scenarios that allows you to reenact some of the most famous battles the Legion have appeared in. I will break all these down in parts so I can better explain what this means.

Background

The first thing you'll notice about the codex is that there's many, many pages of background that describe everything you could possibly imagine about the Legion - how they appear and fight, theories as to their true identity (some of which are mind blowing) and famous battles they have lent their aid to.

After reading some of the theories of their background, it's totally blown open what the Legion could actually be, genuine beliefs that I would never have thought of before have come to surface. My favourite idea is that the Legion are the Fire Hawks who found the Emperor in the immaterium, who himself had ascended to a warp god and that they were "twisted" into Imperial Daemons. I never even considered this possibility until yesterday but it makes so much sense now. Unlike some codexes, the history Black Library have crafted for this digital book is absolutely worth reading. Top marks from me on this matter, this alone makes the book worth downloading.

Detachments

Legion of the Damned work similarly to the Inquisition digital codex in how they work, namely that they can either be a primary detachment or an allied detachment that doesn't prevent you from taking another ally. Also like the Inquisition codex they have their own Force Organisation Chart that they use when part of either type of detachment, namely 1 compulsory elite choice and 3 optional elite choices. In addition, all Legion of the Damned units in your primary detachment are scoring units. Tempting.

As a potential ally the army also comes with it's own ally matrix. They are battle brothers with all Imperial armies (Space Marines, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, Space Wolves, Imperial Guard, Adeptus Sororitas, Grey Knights, Inquisition and even themselves), allies of convenience for Eldar, desperate allies for Tau and Dark Eldar and unable to ally with any other army.

It's all very nicely laid out, it allows more armies to make use of the Legion which makes sense, but it makes using them as they are in the Space Marine codex completely pointless as they have more options in the codex, cost exactly the same amount of points and don't chew up an Elite slot as they're a completely separate allied detachment.

Warlord Traits

A single Legionnaire Sargent in your primary detachment can also be designated as your Warlord with this codex. Although the idea of having a single wound non-independent character as your leader may sound like just giving your opponent "Slay the Warlord", the Warlord Traits unique to the Legion more than make up for this as they are, in my opinion the best traits list I've seen so far. All Warlord Traits affect the Sargent and his squad and are listed as follows:
  • Inferno of Vengeance: Squad has the Soul Blaze special rule.
  • Aura of Fear: When taking fear tests against the squad, enemy units in base to base contact with the Warlord's squad suffer -1 leadership for every friendly Legion of the Damned unit on the battlefield past the first.
  • Ethereal Bolts: All bolt weapons in the squad have the Armourbane special rule (hot damn!)
  • Spectral Bulwark: Squad has the Feel No Pain (5+) special rule.
  • Never Too Late, Never Too Early: Squad may choose when they arrive from deep strike, but must appear in turn 4 if they have not already.
  • Retribution Made Manifest: Squad has the Preferred Enemy special rule.

Animus Malorum

The Animus Malorum is one of the nastiest artifacts in the game and it really ties in nicely with the background of Attica Centurius (see picture on the right), which means you can legitimately bust out the old limited edition figure and use him as he should be used, or you can convert a model up just for the occasion. It even says no-one really knows for sure what it's true form is and just that it is or at least incorporates some kind of skull, so converters get ready. As such although I do have the limited edition miniature myself, I do have a plan to make a damned apothecary to represent the relic.

The rules for the Animus Malorum is that the Sargent that bears it and his entire squad gain Feel No Pain (5+). In addition, if any enemy unit within 12" of the bearer fails a Fear, Morale or Pinning Check they automatically lose a random, single model with no saves of any kind allowed. For every enemy slain this way, their Feel No Pain gains a +1 modifier up to a minimum required roll of 2+ for the rest of the turn. Wow.

Apocalypse Formation

The Legion Ascendant is a brand new formation in Apocalypse for the Legion of the Damned described in the codex and it's not overpowered but very nasty for big troop based armies. For the formation you need 2+ full sized squads of Legion of the Damned. They then gain Deep Strike (which I'm sure they have already) as well as the Fires of Judgement and Spectral Horrors special rules.

Fires of Judgement causes all units within 6" of any of the squads to suffer 2D6 S4 AP5 hits on arrival and grants the Ignore Cover (a bit pointless methinks) and Fleshbane (that's more like it!) special rules to the squad for that turn. Spectral Horrors causes all units within 12" of any model in the formation to be at -3 leadership which, when combined with the fact they cause Fear and may have the Animus Malorum makes the squads pretty terrifying.

Although the rules wouldn't make too much of a difference in Apocalypse when you look at it closely (too many Lords of War), it's a brilliant touch that just gives the formation that cinematic entrance of appearing wreathed in flames. I really like it, it's one of the most characterful formations I have yet seen.

Echoes of War

As well as all the cool rules I've mentioned so far, there are 3 scenarios to play that reenact some of the most famous battles the Legion have partaken in. I won't bore you all with too much detail, but they're very interestingly written scenarios that you may want to try out. Unfortunately as they are all reenactments you have to field specific armies - the first requires Ultramarines + Legion of the Damned vs Orks, the second requires Black Templars + Legion of the Damned vs Dark Eldar and the third requires Imperial Fists (can use Sentinels of Terra) + Legion of the Damned vs Chaos Space Marines with possible Daemon allies. They're a cool additions and the scenarios sound really fun to play, but due to the restrictions on armies I can't see many people playing them.

Overall

Although the Legion haven't changed much from their Codex: Space Marines incarnation, the subtle changes give the force some added punch and character and, all things considered they really are a nasty force to reckon with. Would I have liked to bust out my Legion of the Damned Dreadnought? Yeah of course, but I'm happy to settle with what we got, especially as this mini-dex is a good sign that the Legion may be built upon in the future.

The mini-dex is only £10, so if you're looking for something new to try or just love the skull and flame marines I definitely recommend you buy this. If you fall in neither category then you can safely pass on this without losing out on too much. But overall I think Black Library did a good job with this.

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