Saturday 28 January 2023

There Will Be Blood

As I've spent a good amount of the last six months converting my Blood Angels 40k army into 30k, I probably should try to play a few more games of Horus Heresy with them. Therefore, when Pete suggested tangling with his Alpha Legion again, I jumped at the chance.

The last time we fought, I found myself somewhat outmatched in every department: he had bigger guns, longer range, more men, better elite troops and a force that was better suited to their special rules. On top of this I had a terrible day for failing charges and also made some really bad decision.

I hoped that my most recent work on the army might rectify some of these issues.

We were playing 1500 points as this roughly the level both of our forces have reached. My ad hoc Blood Angels strike force consisted of:
  • Cataphractii Centurion
  • Chaplain
  • 10 Tactical Marines 
  • 10 Tactical Marines & Rhino
  • 7 Indomitus Terminators
  • Casta Ferrum Dreadnought with Power Fist & Multi-Melta
  • Leviathan Dreadnought with Power Claw & Siege Drill
  • Predator with Assault Cannon & Heavy Bolters
  • 5 Heavy Support Squad with Missile Launchers

Pete's probably traitorous, but possibly sort of loyal, Alpha Legion were, as far as I remember, as follows:
  • Praetor
  • 5 Cataphractii Terminators
  • 10 Tactical Marines
  • 10 Tactical Marines
  • 10 Tactical Marines
  • 5 Tactical Support Squad with Rotor Cannons
  • 5 Tactical Support Squad with Melta Guns
  • 5 Headhunters
  • Leviathan Dreadnought with Storm Cannons
At first glance, it looked like Pete still had the advantage in numbers and firepower (marginally), but I was marginally better suited to close combat (marginally) and crucially had armoured targets that only his Leviathan and short ranged Melta Squad could really deal with.


We rolled randomly for the scenario and got 'War of Lies'. This meant our line troops (the Tactical Squads) capturing objectives and hoping that we rolled well for victory points at the end of the game. As ever, killing units was relevant, as was killing each other's warlord.

I won initiative and deployed as you can see earlier in the article, with my more aggressive troops bunched together in the centre of the battlefield, ready to push forward. On my right, I set up the tower of terror. A Tactical Squad holding an objective on the ground floor and the Missile Launcher Squad higher up to get a good vantage point.

There are no more pictures of these as the main battle didn't really involve them, so whatever else is going on, assume these guys are off to my left, plinking away at the enemy.

Pete deployed his forces more spread out, with a Tactical Squad holding an objective in the ruins opposite the tower of terror, his Terminators, Rotor Cannon Squad and another Tactical Squad holding an objective in the centre, and a strike force on the other flank of yet another Tactical Squad and his Melta Squad.

Ahead of them, making use of their infiltrate and scout rules, were the Headhunters, creeping through more ruins towards my Dreadnoughts.


My plan was fairly simple: run forward and hit them, whilst my ranged flank weakened the enemy line. Therefore I pushed forwards in the centre (a little bit of cheating here as I ran with my Leviathan), keeping ruins between my forces and the enemy Leviathan's storm cannons for a small amount of cover.

In a process that would be repeated uninterrupted throughout the battle, my Predator opened up on the Tactical Squad opposite, felling several of them. Meanwhile, the Missile Launcher Squad targeted the Rotor Cannons and began the process of neutralising them.

On my right I moved the Casta Ferrum Dreadnought to try to deal with the sneaky Headhunters. It's flamer was ineffective, but the multi-melta fried one of them.

However, it was now isolated and exposed. 

In Pete's turn, his firing towards my main force was somewhat ineffective, however, he targeted his Headhunters, Leviathan and some of the advancing Melta Squad as the Castra Ferrum Dreadnought, and despite using a move reaction to get cover, was destroyed.

First blood to the Alpha Legion.

Blood Angels 0 - Alpha Legion 1


Despite the loss, there was nothing for it but to stick with the plan. My Leviathan and Terminators continued their advance; the Leviathan (no longer cheat-running) dropped a phospex missile on some exposed troops, whilst the Predator killed more Tactical Marines and the Missile Launcher finished off the Rotor Cannons. On my exposed left, I sent the Tactical Squad in the Rhino to hold up Pete' flanking force.

The Alpha Legion moved up and found the Blood Angels Terminators using a move reaction to get closer. Realising what I had up my unsubtle sleeve, Pete put fire from his Deadnought and a Tactical Squad into my Terminators before his own Cataphractii fired. He did manage to kill about half the squad, but I still used my Wrath of Angels reaction to charge the Alpha Legion in their own turn...even if it did mean running through a newly created Phospex puddle.

I was outnumbered, but Blood Angles need to charge to access their special rules and I was helped by Pete's Praetor being out of position and having to challenge to get in the fight, limiting the impact he could have. Additionally, Pete helped out by rolling appallingly, killing two of my Terminators, whilst the my unwieldy fists ripped through three of his. Pete then obliged by failing his morale roll and running, but I couldn't cut them down due to my Centurion's Cataphractii armour. 

Had the tide turned?

Blood Angels 1 - Alpha Legion 1


Despite having won the fight in the centre, the battle was not over. I needed to press the attack to destroy Pete's scoring units, and I knew that unless I was incredibly lucky the Praetor would rally and be back for round two. The ABC doctrine of the Blood Angels (Always Be Charging) and so the Leviathan and remaining Terminators moved into strike range. 

The Predator continued with the extermination of the Alpha Legion Tactical Squad opposite my right, whilst the Missile Launchers turned their devastating fire on to the squad in the centre. As they had to shoot at units they intended to charge, the Leviathan and Terminators opened up on the enemy leader, arguably being too effective as their combined melta fire killed off the last two Cataphractii, leaving the Praetorian out of range of the Dreadnought.

The Centurion would have to do this (sort of) alone.

Meanwhile, on my left, the Chaplain ordered the Tactical Squad out of the Rhino and took up defensive positions against the advancing Alpha Legion forces. Unfortunately, their intention to inflict withering bolter fire onto the foe was somewhat neutralised by the Smoke and Mirrors of the Headhunters as the repositioned out of sight of most of the unit. However, somewhat hilariously, one of them was killed by a single bolter shot from the Rhino.

Battle raged between the warlords, but neither could inflict a telling blow (Pete continued to helpfully roll badly with this paragon blade) and the epic fight would roll into Pete's turn, where the Praetor would ultimately emerge triumphant.

With his Praetor exposed, Pete turned all his firepower onto my Leviathan, ripping several wounds away from it. However, deciding to let his Tactical Squad fire at it, bought them a face full of reaction fire that cut down almost all of the unit.

However, using my reaction in the centre meant that the Tactical Squad on my left were defenceless, save for a very flimsy wall. Bolters, melta-guns and wierd-ass Headhunter guns ripped into the squad, killing them all, leaving just the Chaplain standing next to a damaged Rhino.

Blood Angels 2 - Alpha Legion 4


Despite taking heavy losses and losing my warlord, all was not lost. The Missile Launchers and Predator continued with what had been a devastatingly effective game for them and finished off oneof Pete's Tactical Squads, leaving just a Sergeant for the Predator to hunt down the following turn, robbing him of the opportunity to score objective points with them.

The Leviathan also finally managed to charge and, after some frantic rules reading to find out if paragon blades instant kill Dreadnought (they don't) he squished the Alpha Legion Praetor.

At this point, it was all square at 5-5...

I then did something silly. I charged the Rhino and Chaplain into the enemy forces to certain death. I did this for a few reasons:
  1. This was a friendly game with nothing riding on the result. If winning was important, I'd have mounted up and run away, hoping to lure some of Pete's units into range of my Missile Launcher Squad.
  2. The Blood Angels special rules grant a bonus to vehicles ramming and I wanted to discover how this worked.
  3. There was a slime chance that my Chaplain could win a fight against the Tactical Squad and cut them down, not only scoring a point, but killing Pete's last unit able to capture objectives.
  4. Blood Angels ABC.
Unfortunately, things didn't go to terrible plan.

I did, however, learn about the ramming rules, so there's that.

Blood Angels 5 - Alpha Legion 7


I was getting late and so we decided to call the game there. We worked out that the Predator would track down and kill the last Sergeant on the right, whilst with two turns of the shooting, the storm cannons of Pete's Leviathan would finish off my damaged Dreadnought in the centre. With nothing to stop them, the remains of the last Alpha Legion Tactical Squad would capture an objective, and obviously, my Tactical Squad (which had fired once all game) would capture one for me.

This left the scores at 8-6 to the Alpha Legion with dice rolls to be made for each objective captured to see how many victory points each was worth. With a lisst bit of luck, I would score 3, Pete would score 0 and victory would be mine...

FINAL SCORE: Alpha Legion 9 - Blood Angels 6


This was actually a really enjoyable and close game where we both had the upper hand at different points and it could have gone either way. I've learned the following things:

  • The changes I made to my army were good ones: the charging Leviathan really concentrated Pete's attention; the Missile Launcher Squad kill Marines really effectively; and putting heavy bolters on the Predator makes it a much more focused unit.
  • My character selection was poor. My Chaplain once again failed to achieve anything and needs to be with something more aggressive than Tactical Marines. Had I dropped him, I could have had a Praetor in the centre, which would have been much more effective, although the Cataphractii armour undermined the one advantage my Terminators have over Pete's: being able to make a sweeping advance.
  • Pete's main advantage was having more bodies. I killed a lot of them, but he still outnumbered me at the end. I need more infantry, and I need units that will allow my Tactical Squads to do what they are supposed to: capture and sit on objectives trying not to die.
I think I enjoy Horus Heresy more than 40k, despite the fact that the organisation of the rulebook is a mess; nothing is where it feels like it should be and information is split up across chapters (and books) with some information repeated almost word for word in different sections. However, the nature of the Marine vs Marine conflict makes for a much more balanced experience; units stay alive longer so you get to actually play with your toys; and the fact that armies are so similar means that both players not only largely understand what they are up against (there are very few horrible surprises compared to 40k) and, most importantly, they can help each other with the rules.

Going forward, I am much more likely to play Horus Heresy that 40k, which is a game that these days seems to come with homework. What fun!

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