[30K] Theory Thursday – XV Legion On A Budget

For what I am about to do, may the Powers have mercy on my wretched soul.

I understand, believe me. I grasp that the Horus Heresy is essentially an exercise in historical wargaming with made-up future history, i.e. that the mindset required is one to which build optimisation is alien.


Let us say, hypothetically, that I know for an absolute fact that the Thousand Sons will be joining my Night Lords as they tear up the forty-first millennium, because the models are too sweet for words. Let us say also that I am considering two Burning of Prospero sets as a possible investment of mad money, since I have a lead on a bargain. Let us say that these two concepts… encourage me to consider the XV Legion as an option, abetted by Corehammer types who are making noises about a game day up in the Scouse Dimension. Let us say, finally, that the leaked rules for the XV Legion have excited that part of my brain which likes to weigh and compare options.

Practical Limitations

We’re working with two Ahrimans, ten Terminators, and sixty Marines of various inclinations. Six heavy bolters, plasma guns and meltaguns are available via the Marine sprues, and the Terminators basically have a choice of two fist-type weapons or fist and a combi-bolter, with two reaper autocannons or plasma blasters.

Warlord Possibilities

Warlords are super-important for the XV Legion. For one, they dictate the Cult membership of compulsory Troops; for two, the Legion’s tendency to wibble out if their Independent Characters all die mean that two HQs are probably a good idea.

The first thing that springs to mind is that we don’t need two Ahrimans, and therefore the spare Ahriman can be converted into a second HQ. Taking Ahriman as our Warlord means that our compulsory Troops units have to be Corvidae (which encourages them to be fairly static shooty units) and probably take Divination powers to get the most out of that.

I don’t think one has to match the psychic discipline one takes to the Cult Arcana one’s squad belongs to, but I do think one has to have a good reason for not doing so, since one is passing up a 16% greater chance of actually using one’s psychic chicanery if one does.

This means the second Ahriman should probably be turned into an alternative Warlord – one who can be a member of any Cult except the Corvidae. Two options leap out:

  1. A Praetor of the Legion, who guarantees us access to a Rite of War and is also a third level psyker in his own right. This would be the most flexible option – any Cult Arcanum is open here. The same model would probably make a decent Centurion (level 3 Librarian or maybe level 1 Legion Champion rocking Biomancy powers) if Ahriman wanted to be in charge.
  2. Magistus Amon, who is rocking the bald/goatee combination that befits all dark wizards, and who allows us to join the Athanean Cult for better psychic management and access to Telepathy powers. There are some superb powers in there. Also, Amon has some neat unique wargear. I can’t quite put down the idea of fielding him and Ahriman together, before they’ve broken up the band.

From here, it’s time to think about which Rite of War we want, and which Warlord gets the most out of it.

The Court of the Crimson King, a.k.a. the rite not taken

I briefly considered the Guard of the Crimson King, but it seems built for actual Sekhmet Terminators (which I could do with my models provided I gave up the Force Weapons) and rules out Amon as the Warlord. I can use Ahriman, but I’m not sure I want to go ‘off-Cult’ – the two Terminator units required by the Rite have to be Corvidae like him, but Sekhmet Terminators can’t use Divination powers, so I’d give up the 3+ harnessing too. Seems a bit sub-par. User Pyretic87 from Reddit suggested loading up on some 40K plastics to build Sekhmets and to be honest I can see why that’d work if I weren’t locked in to the bargain that’s available.

Build One: Pride of the Legion

HQ – Azhek Ahriman – 225

HQ – Magistus Amon – 170

Troops – 10 Legion Tactical Veterans – 225
Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Troops – 10 Legion Tactical Veterans – 225
Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Troops – 10 Legion Tactical Veterans – 225
Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Troops – 10 Legion Tactical Veterans – 225
Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Troops – 10 Legion Tactical Veterans – 225
Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Troops – 10 Legion Tactical Veterans – 225
Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Elites – 5 Legion Terminators – 245
Lightning claws OR Power Fists, Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Elites – 5 Legion Terminators – 245
Lightning claws OR Power fists, Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

2235 points

Pride of the Legion is apparently the overplayed Rite, and I can certainly see its appeal for the XV. This option puts a lot of raw psychic potential on the board: eight level 1 psykers and two level 3/4s to use the dice they crank out.

Any of these units could be Troops or Elites, and at least two of the Troops have to share a Cult Arcana choice with the Warlord. I actually think Corvidae is a solid choice here, affording a reroll on those Asphyx shots to at least two of the Veteran units. Either Ahriman or Amon would work as Warlord: three units Scouting or one Outflanking both make for some cool deployment options. With Amon I might be tempted to dial back on the raw psychic potential and field one big unit of Terminators, deploying them via Outflank and cackling.

There’s a lot of flexibility here; each Tactical Veteran Squad gets to pick a Veteran skill, meaning a couple of USRs, and most of the squads aren’t tied to a particular Cult, so I could totally tailor this list without adding swarms of extra models. However, the Tactical Veterans seem like they’d really shine with special weapons committed to each squad, which eliminates the ease of using the same models for the next build in line.

I don’t really have the insights needed to pick good all-comers options here, but Biomancy (Pavoni Cult) seems like a good call for the Terminators in most cases, especially if they have the lightning claws and can make the most of those Initiative bonuses. I’m even tempted by twin lightning claws on one squad, obviously losing the Asphyx Shells to pay for them – it’s not as if Biomancy doesn’t have a ranged option as its Primaris Power if they need to ‘shoot’ things.

Ziyousans on Reddit made a couple of good suggestions here: Corvidae and Asphyx Shells interact beautifully with Sniper from the Marksman Veteran Skill, laying down a lot of hits and wounds on anything with a Toughness value. A couple of Veteran squads would pack this, three would have paired meltaguns and Tank Hunters, and the last set of models would be… open to other uses. Another suggestion involved tackling the anti-tank limitations of the list by putting chainfists on the Terminators, upgrading them to Sekhmet Terminators, and running them in the Raptora cult with Telekinesis. This user’s last suggestion involved a Moritat using Telepathy powers to get Invisibility, which is just… yes. I like the Moritat even though all my instincts are telling me I shouldn’t.

Build Two: Axis of Dissolution

HQ – Azhek Ahriman – 225

HQ – Magistus Amon – 170

Troops – 20 Legion Tactical Marines – 250

Troops – 20 Legion Tactical Marines – 250

Troops – 20 Legion Tactical Marines – 250

Elites – 5 Legion Terminators – 245
Lightning claws OR Power fists, Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Elites – 5 Legion Terminators – 245
Lightning claws OR Power fists, Asphyx Shells, Brotherhood of Psykers (Level 1)

Approximately 1665 points

This option trades out the raw psychic apocalypse potential inherent in Pride of the Legion for a) Fearlessness near objectives, b) Overwatching on BS2, c) better shooting at targets who are running away and c) the insulting amount of shots coming off those Tacticals. Without the swarm of ‘batteries’ from Veteran Squads, I think this is a more psychically conservative build that relies more on conventional firepower to get the job done.

Once again, I think Divination powers are vital here, to the point where I’d be tempted to double up and get two attempts at Prescience per turn on one of those big Tactical squads when it unleashes the Legion’s Fury. With Amon as Warlord I’d be less tempted to field one big squad of Outflanking Terminators here; better to have them separate and get some more Warp Charges laid down.

Thinking about special and heavy weapons: I could go for two Legion Tactical Squads and then take several Support Squads of various sorts waving heavy weapons about. Viable?

This one could also ally with elements of the VIII Legion (ably played by elements of the Betrayal at Calth boxed set, in case you’re wondering). The VIII’s ability to break enemy units (’cause they’re so spooky) should double-team well with the XV’s ability to shoot up those who flee from them, and if the XV are supplying the covering fire, there’s no reason for them to get so close to the VIII that the lack of trust between them starts being a factor.


The bottom line

These are both bedrock ‘cores’ to armies, unfinished, and I have no real idea how to go about evaluating things like volkite chargers or grenade harnesses, or what I should add to these lists beyond “guns that aren’t bolters”. I’m open to persuasion about those heavy and special weapons; hopefully you can see why I want flexibility, but I’m also open to taking paired heavy weapons in Legion Veteran Squads and giving up one of my Tactical Squad options. Maybe.

I welcome suggestions from more experienced Horus Heresy generals, as well as slaps over the face from Horus Heresy generals who resent taking this spamtastic approach to their beloved game.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

6 thoughts on “[30K] Theory Thursday – XV Legion On A Budget”

  1. More Thousand Sons around are good. Even if they are red and not blue as the Legion becomes. I look forward to seeing you jump into this. I prefer the Ahriman and Amon list for the pure fluff of it.

    If you don’t want the Fell Handed and a squad of custodes I might be able to do something

    1. They… both have Ahriman and Amon in. You may have to be a bit more specific.

      If I go ahead with this – and it’s pure theoryhammer at this stage, so don’t expect anything – I’ll be flogging off the Fell Handeds and two sets each of Custodes and Sisters.

  2. I wouldn’t be too concerned about spamming up the grim twilight of the far future-past. 30k is all about vast legions of identical super soldiers marching about. Remember in old discussions about spam, when someone would always say “yeah, but in real life armies do nothing but spam. It’s realistic.” Well that’s the Heresy mindset. And it’s true, it is realistic. At least it feels more realistic than these MSU 40k things with double meltaguns, one sarge, and only two standard weapons.

    Plus, if the games I’ve played are anything to go by, expect to see larger batteries of artillery and other big guns than you’d get in 40k, capable of obliterating a squad of astartes in one round of shooting. If anything I’d be inclined to combine some of your dudes into squads of twenty. Nineteen bolters firing twice each in rapid fire range is an awesome sight.

    In case you can’t tell, I really like what they’ve done with the Heresy. They somehow achieved a sort of grand, “go big or go home” feel that 40k lacks, despite all the giant robots and formations of gundams an stuff the latter has flying about these days.

    1. The main reason I’m into squads of ten is that XV Veterans are all psychic and stuff – it’s about getting as many Brotherhood of Psykers units on the board as I can manage. If I were playing another Legion (say, the VIII) I’d be looking at the proper Tactical Squads for partly that reason.

      1. Ah OK that makes sense. Nice King Crimson reference by the way.

        I just re-read this and either you went back and changed it a bit, or I completely failed to absorb it the first time I read it. I must have been distracted. You already have a more conventional list with blocks of twenty marines. So you had one guy who said “I like the one with Ahriman and Amon” and one who said “hey, why don’t you try squads of twenty?”

        Surprised you didn’t reach through the screen and slap us both. Is this your new professionalism coming through? :D

        1. The reference is GW’s – they’re really milking that one when they write about Magnus the Red.

          You missed it: there have always been two lists here. As for why I don’t reach out and give you one upside the noggin for your temerity… well, upon my oath, Jimmy, I am not a violent man. Also, that technology is still unavailable.

You may now commence belching

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