Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Betrayal: the Beginning of the Horus Heresy Series by Forge World

"I was there the day that Horus turned his face from the Emperor."                                                  Moderati Titus Cassar of the Dies Irae.                                                                                                                        From Galaxy in Flames by  Ben Counter

After weeks of sifting through Betrayal, Forge World's first chapter in the Horus Heresy series I have come to the realization that it is truly one of their finest works. Thanks to the Black Library we have been fortunate enough to gain insight into the events surrounding the Horus Heresy and Betrayal flawlessly translates this for on the table gameplay, but that is only one of the facets that make Betrayal an amazing Warhammer offering.

"Let the galaxy burn!"                                                                                                                   Horus the Warmaster before the firestorm on Isstvan III.                                                     From Galaxy In Flames by Ben Counter                                            
From the minute I first held Betrayal I knew I had to have it. To truly appreciate Betrayal you first have to look past the price tag, which can be a bit overwhelming. At $115 you would normally expect half an army to come along with it, this is not the case however. What you do get is one of the finest and most exquisitely crafted books you will ever hold in your hand. From the full color illustrations, to the leather cover Betrayal just exudes quality, not that you should judge a book by its cover you can do that once you glance through it.

As with any Warhammer resource be it 40k or Fantasy, Betrayal comes with not only the rules but also the backstory to tie everything together. Not since the days of Rogue Trader with it's Realms of Chaos and Waargh!! The Orks books have I seen a Games Workshop offering so well fleshed out.

Betrayal gives you not only the origins of the 4 original traitor legions the Sons of Horus, Death Guard, Emperor's Children, World Eaters, and the history of their respective Primarchs but also the details behind the unification of Terra before the start of the Great Crusade.

The great thing about Betrayal is that it is in no way different from standard 40k, all of the mechanics you are used to are applied to Heresy era battles. Forge World in a recently released FAQ has stated that preheresy legion army units while not specifically designed with standard 40k codices in mind are compatible with todays armies and will present a fair fight to those armies.

Forge World has announced that this series will follow the events of the Heresy step by step and as such, Betrayal from the game play aspect covers the culling of the loyalists from the traitor legions at Isstvan III. Forge World has gone into meticulous detail on how to run the Isstvan III campaign offering new mission types, deployment maps, and special rules for each phase of the campaign. As with any historical simulation, the outcome is undetermined although the loyalist forces have their work cut out for them. The campaign has been built to accommodate any number of players.

As if spelling out in detail the entire Isstvan III campaign wasn’t enough for you, in the following section Forge World has included an entire section on its new terrain boards the Zone Mortalis. While this terrain is not cheap, it is incredibly detailed and in this section we see how amazing they can be. Along with the special rules, we are also given new mission types and deployment layouts for use with Zone Mortalis. The Zone Mortalis isn’t specifically meant for the Heresy alone and can be used for any 40k game.

From there we move to what is in my opinion the most well developed Codex Games workshop has ever developed. Before the coming of the newest Chaos Space Marine codex, players were asking for a more developed feel for the traitor legions. They didn't get it, but what they did get was a codex bursting with options.

In the past a codex would be dissected and the power builds would be extracted, this isn't necessarily the case with either Codex: Chaos Space Marines or Codex: Dark Angels their newest marine reboot. Both Codices offer players enough options to field several variations that would be fun and competitive, Betrayal follows this trend.

The Space Marine Crusade army list section covers a staggering 37 different basic units types. 11 of which are HQ, 8 are elites, 5 troop choices, 6 fast attack, and 7 are heavy support. For higher point games you can move on to the Lords of War slot which are more common in Apocalypse style games. These include things like super heavy tanks like the Fellblade, Imperial Titans, super heavy flyers like the Thunderhawk Gunship, and of course the primarchs themselves. 

With the coming of 6th edition we were introduced to the allies matrix, and Betrayal also includes one. Along with the various space marine legions we also notice two very welcome additions, the Adeptus Mechanicum and also the Imperal Army which was the precursor to today’s Imperal Guard. The Imperial Army will hopefully be covered in future Horus Heresy books, but a small but potent army list for the Mechanicum will be covered later on in Betrayal. 

Noticeably absent from the allies matrix is Chaos Daemons. Maybe as the Heresy progresses Forge World will make additions to the various legion units to allow for the use of Daemons as we know they took part in the Heresy. All of  the units presented here will be covered in future articles.

The fun doesn't stop their however as we move on to the legion specific wargear which is in of itself a cornucopia of mayhem. Glancing through the new Dark Angel Codex I counted 8 pages in its wargear section which is quite impressive, Betrayal has a staggering 11 pages of wargear most of which is brand new wargear. One of the things I appreciate the most in this section is the connection it has to some of the wargear found in standard Warhammer 40k.

Weapons such as the Havoc Launcher, Reaper Autocannon, and Combi-bolter are standard legion wargear, in regular 40k you only see these items in Codex: Chaos Space Marines. If you think about it for a second it makes perfect sense, when the legions turned against the Emperor they took their wargear with them, which is why those weapons are commonly found in Chaos marine armies.

A common theme in 40k fluff is that in between the Horus Heresy and the current period technology has been lost. Most of the wargear you find in the legion armory has been lost over time, but there are some really cool parallels. Two that jump right out at me, are the use of rad grenades by the Grey Knights, and Samael’s jetbike Corvus.  Jetbikes were common during the time of the Heresy, and certain units within the legion have access to rad grenades.

From there we go on to the section of the book that many Heresy fans have been craving for years, the specific legions. As I mentioned earlier Forge World is planning to continue the project following the timeline of the Heresy, as this happens more and more legion specific rules will be released. Earlier we got the origins of the legions now we see how they fight. Special rules are outlined for each of the first 4, and also the introduction of special units such as Justaerin and Deathshroud terminators. The primarchs were to be expected, people have wanted them for years, but what comes after is equally impressive.

Before he was the Despoiler, he was simply Ezekyle Abbadon chief counselor to Horus and head of the Mournival, and while he is not quite the unstoppable force he is today he was a very capable commander.

If you have read the Black Libraries novels telling the early stories of the Heresy, specifically Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter you will also recognize Garviel Loken himself a member of the Mournival but had remained loyal while his legion turned against then Emperor. Each legion has similar named characters, but they are less notable.

The plan I believe is for Forge World to release these as individual kits, which is why some notable names are missing. Nathaniel Garro of the Death Guard and hero of Flight of the Eisensten is absent possibly because he did not take part in the battle of Isstvan III. Kharn of the World Eaters and Fabius Bile of the Emperor's Children both names that are familiar to players of standard 40k are not given specific entries.

Finishing up Betrayal we have the Adeptus Mechanicus army list. For Horus to have a real shot at toppling the Emperor he would need the help of Mars. The Fabricator General Khelbor-Hal sided with Horus creating a schism within the Mechanicum that spanned the entire Imperium. This section while small allows for a player to field Mechanicum forces including the Thallax, which are a truly awesome unit.  Also included in this section are several additions to the Lords of War FOC slot including the Avenger Strike Fighter which is a very good aerial fighter, its only weakness being weaker side armor. The Reaver and Warhound Titan are both found here as well.

After having had a chance to delve into Betrayal, I can honestly say it was worth the $115 I paid for it. Not only does it allow for the battles of the Heresy to be played out on players own battlefields, but it includes an amazing amount of detail into one of the core Warhammer 40k legends. Fans of the Horus Heresy novels from the Black Library will want to pick up a copy of Betrayal.

All images and video courtesy of Games Workshop


  1. An excellent write up!! Legion on Legion fratracide will allow some epic battles!

    One note:
    "Forge World in a recently released FAQ has stated that preheresy legion army units while not specifically designed with standard 40k codices in mind are compatible with todays armies and will present a fair fight to those armies"

    Hmmm... This conflicts with their initial statement that Legion armies were designed to fight just Legion armies and were not designed or playtested for use against Xenos armies.

    40 or 80 (24" or 12") bolter shots from a unit of 20 (less expensive) 3+ marines with FNP in one round of firing will be a rude surprise to most players.

    As will 2+/4+ Terminator armor; A direct hit from a Railgun or Lascannon has a 50% chance of dropping a single Terminator. On average 18- 20 Lascannon shots (with 10 hits) will be required to drop a unit of 5 Terminators.

    I believe Legion armies will get excluded from most tournaments against standard Codex armies.

  2. As well they should, nothing should upset the control Daemons and Necrons have in tournament play :).

    Both of your examples at face value do show an unfair advantage favoring the legion, but once you look at the specific units, which I will in detail in future articles you see that necessarily isn't the case. If a 20 man tactical squad can isolate a unit then yes they can put out an obscene amount of shots and put a serious hurt on that unit. In normal situations though, after firing those 40/80 shots they leave themselves defenseless as something charges in and can not fire in their next shooting phase. Fury of the Legion, which is the name of this ability did not help me against Dustin's Dark Eldar. I had to go all out to glance one of his ravagers to death and in the process let his jetbikes skim right by me to claim an objective, because I could not shoot at them. This cost me the game. In that same game, I also had a unit legion get swept, because legion marines don't have And They Shall No Know Fear. As a standard marine player you will often times overlook that special ability, but you notice it when it is not there.

    Cataphracti Terminators are 2+/4+ but they are slow and purposeful not relentless which means they can't run. Against you this hurt because I could not get them where I needed them. Cataphracti need a ride because they don't get any where quickly. Storm Shields are also not available so they had to do something to make terminators a little tougher.

  3. I don't really see the Legion rules being that bad when compared to GK, Necrons, SW, IG, etc.

    1. So far people have been very receptive to the idea, some have not appreciated the Master of Signal and his orbital barrage, but you have to get really lucky for his bombardment to be effective. Lets see how people feel when I roll the Spartan at them. 4 TL Lascannon and 3 Heavy Bolters shots with AV 14 all around, 5 hull points, and the ability to carry a full 10 man terminator squad along with special characters.

  4. 'Competitive' 40k is pretty silly anyway. Besides, realistically how often is he going to get to play another pre-heresy Marine army using these rules? Expecting people to only play other pre-heresy armies is unreasonable in my opinion.

    1. GW has shown that they care very little for competitive play. If they cared at all about competitive play they wouldn't let codices like Tau and Black Templars get so out of date, competitive play goes against their business model. They want you to buy as much as you can possibly buy. A power gamer will buy what they need to win every time and that will be that. There are ways to abuse the pre-heresy crusade army list, such as the Contemptor Dreadnought squadron. You can field up to 12 Contemptor Dreadnoughts in a standard legion army list, but the point cost for going that route would be astronomical. After playing low limit games I have noticed that the legion lists suffer a little bit because their units are so specialized. I am busting my ass to get everything together because I want to see how it goes at around 1850-2k because I believe it will be very competitive at that point range.