[30K] Burning of Prospero – Unboxing & Readthrough Review

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I cracked, didn’t I?

First impression, which will be obvious to 95% of more of you reading this – the Burning of Prospero game is an afterthought. A nice afterthought, it turns out, but let’s not kid ourselves: this is essentially a plastic core for a Horus Heresy army, and 95% of the people buying it will be using it to build one Legiones Astartes army for ‘proper’ wargaming with. I certainly will be. In fact I’ve already sold the Sisters of Silence because I knew I’d end up keeping some of them “in case I ever play Burning of Prospero”, which a) I won’t and b) wasn’t part of the deal by which I’d make these boxes pay for themselves. That said, I was tempted…

As you’ll see from the images above, this is not a starter set. None of that snap-together malarkey here. These are full-on multi-part plastic models, in more parts than the majority of the GW range since the legs aren’t one-piece squatty poses. The target market for this ain’t people who’ve read a couple of New York Times best-selling novels and decided they want to give the game a try – this is for people who are already in deep and not afraid to get polystyrene cement on their hands.

Despite including a board, this is nobody’s board game. It’s a wargame played without measuring sticks. Those tiles create a 2D terrain environment, similar to the sort of thing competitive Warmahordsers like and I grudgingly endorse because it’s flat-packable. The rules use ‘zones’ rather than mucking around with range rules, tape measures and laser lines: a ‘zone’ is delineated by a black border around an area of the tile, and either blocks line of sight or doesn’t. Models move two zones; zones may include up to four models, with big lads like Terminators counting as two; everyone in a zone shoots together or fights stuff in an adjacent zone together. It’s oddly elegant and does away with all that micro-measuring of squad consistency and arbitrary distances between squads and general spod-rod management to which the parent game is prone.

Mechanics are basically a dice pool: add up all the various d6s, d8s, d10s and d12s your models have available for their weapons, and beat the opponent’s roll on the various dice they have to save. The complexity isn’t in the mundane combat, but in the psychic powers. There are fifteen (three from each of the Proserpine cults), and each mission provides the Traitors with five (might be a full cult’s discipline plus a couple of randoms, or five randoms). Warp cards are flipped to cast them; Willpower cards are flipped to deny them; card flipping continues until both players have decided to let the result stand. This card fencing aspect takes place before the actual combat, and much like 40K’s psychic phase, seems likely to set the tone for the round to come.

There’s one way in which it’s decidedly unlike the parent game, though: in wargamerese, it uses Igo-Ugo for movement (players roll off, the winner gets to move all their dudes first, and the Imperials automatically win ties because they’re on the attack and dictating the flow of the engagement), but alternating activations for combat (so one zone’s worth of Imperials shoots/fights, then one zone’s worth of Traitors, and so on – if one side has more activations it gets to take them all in sequence at the end, cheerfully back-to-backing for the rest of the round). This mixed approach isn’t something I’ve seen before, and I’d have to play it to have any real idea how well it works… and as discussed, I’m unlikely to actually play this game because I’m selling off all the Imperial stuff to recoup some costs. I’m sure someone will pick up the Talons of the Emperor at some point and maybe agree to sit down and give Burning of Prospero a whirl as a side thing.

In the meantime, I have two sets of the card tiles, which should make for quite a fun 2D battlefield, easily enough to cover the 4′ x 3′ kitchen table and possibly enough for the 4′ x 4′ upstairs. As a bonus, it’ll be hella portable, which is kind of a watchword for me where terrain is concerned. I also have quite a lot of plastic Astartes to build. I don’t know if they’ll be pre-Prospero red or post-Prospero blue at this stage, but in either case they’ll be something I can batch out of an evening now that the sun’s staying out for longer.

[30K] Theory Thursday – VIII Legion on a Budget

Apparently the urge was not excised by my previous detour into these uncharted waters, so here we go again. This time, a list from the VIII Legion, to be constructed with only one Betrayal at Calth box, although I’m allowing myself the odd accessory kit and one extra thing, be it vehicle or squad, for each build.

Limitations

Two HQs – one in Cataphractii Terminator armour, one in power armour. 30 Tactical Marines in some combination or another, 5 Terminators, and a Contemptor Dreadnought. The characters will be acting as a kind of untainted echo of my other Night Lords army – and it’s worth noting that one of these builds is a Night Raptor squad away from being a perfectly cromulent Chaos Warband Formation for 40K, representing some time-locked Legion brothers who’ve finally been unleashed…

Legion Special Rules

These bear review, mostly because of A Talent for Murder, which suggests that the Night Lords like to deploy in big squads or gang up on their opponents. +1 to Wound is not to be sneezed at when taking a swing at one’s brother Marines. The Terminators have access to Deep Strike for a small extra fee, all the characters can take chainglaives (and, full disclosure, probably will: I like chainglaives). There’s some other stuff, but this is what stands out.

There’s also the Rite of War – the Terror Assault. This is a weird one: only one Consul or Heavy Support option, three Terror squads, the capacity to impose Night Fighting for up to three turns, and no allies or fortifications. I might start with one of those.

Build One: Terror Assault

HQ – Legion Praetor – 172
Cataphractii Terminator armour, chainfist, combi-melta, Teleportation Transponder, Trophies of Judgement

HQ – Legion Centurion – 120
Moritat; Nostraman chainglaive; artificer armour; refractor field; Trophies of Judgement

Elites – Legion Terminator Squad – 249
Cataphractii armour, Teleportation Transponder; 1 heavy flamer, 2 combi-meltas, 1 chainfist, 3 lightning claws; Sergeant has Nostraman chainglaive

Elites – Contemptor Dreadnought – 195
Multi-melta, heavy flamer, extra armour
Dedicated Transport – Legion Drop Pod – 35

Troops – Terror Squad – 243
5 additional Executioners; 9 boltguns; 1 flamer; Headsman has Nostraman chainglaive, melta bomb and artificer armour

Troops – Terror Squad – 243
5 additional Executioners; 9 boltguns; 1 flamer; Headsman has Nostraman chainglaive, melta bomb and artificer armour

Troops – Terror Squad – 243
5 additional Executioners; 9 boltguns; 1 flamer; Headsman has Nostraman chainglaive, melta bomb and artificer armour

1500 points

The idea here is that absolutely everything has Scout, Infiltrate or Deep Strike. That’s why I took the Moritat: I honestly couldn’t think of anything else to do with a lone footslogging HQ that wouldn’t hold one of the Terror Squads back, and the idea of a doomed lone killer who’s predestined to betray his commander (no please, let me tell you about my fanfiction!) is kind of appropriate for the VIII anyway.

Build Two: Pride of the Legion

HQ – Legion Praetor – 172
Cataphractii Terminator armour, chainfist, combi-melta, Teleportation Transponder, Trophies of Judgement

HQ – Legion Centurion – 95
Chaplain; Nostraman chainglaive; refractor field

Elites – Legion Terminator Squad – 248
Cataphractii armour, Teleportation Transponder, 1 Nostraman chainglaive, 4 lightning claws/power fists, 1 heavy flamer, 4 combi-meltas

Elites – Contemptor Dreadnought – 200
Kheres pattern assault cannon, extra armour

Troops – Legion Tactical Veteran Squad – 260
5 additional Marines; Nuncio-vox; 2 meltaguns; 2 Nostraman chainglaives; Weapon Masters
(Chaplain goes here)

Troops – Legion Tactical Veteran Squad – 250
5 additional Marines; Nuncio-vox; 2 heavy bolters; Resolve

Troops – Legion Tactical Veteran Squad – 250
5 additional Marines; Nuncio-vox; 2 heavy bolters; Resolve

Troops – Legion Tactical Support Squad – 170
Plasma guns; Sergeant with combi-plasma gun

Heavy Support – Legion Heavy Support Squad – 205
Missile launchers; flakk missiles; Sergeant with Nuncio-vox and chainsword

1850 points

My extra piece here is a fourth set of Mark IV Space Marines, because good grief do they make the weapon loadouts easier to think about. With four of everything the only real decision to make is whether to take two guns in a Tactical Veteran Squad or four in a Support Squad of some kind. I opted for three as-reliable-as-Night-Lords-get squads – one to get up close and personal, delivering several chainglaives and meltaguns to a position or relevance, and two to hold the line, laying down the traditional firepower. The smaller Support squads are there to deal with Terminators and flyers/middleweight vehicles respectively, and the Terminators are loaded for bear: teleport in, blast stuff with combi-meltas, and then wade into the fray on subsequent turns.

(This one rejigs nicely into a 40K Formation too: Chaos Lord, Chaos Sorcerer, Terminators, two small Chaos Space Marine squads with meltaguns, a Havoc squad with four missile launchers, a Havoc squad with four heavy bolters, a Chosen or Havoc squad with four-and-a-half plasma guns and ten bolter billies to scatter throughout. Even a Helbrute, with a bit of liberal Counts-As… all it needs is a squad of Night Raptors and it’s basically a Chaos Warband, ready to go.)

The bottom line

The VIII Legion doesn’t offer many Rites of War that are attractive to plain Jane infantry units, even if some of them are Terminators. I can see why people recommend that Horus Heresy newbies start out with two Betrayal at Calth sets, too; six of each special and heavy weapon create some fun opportunities and there are enough combi-weapons to build two specialised Terminator squads or go all-in with a big ‘un. All you really need on top of that is a third Contemptor (one of the fancy resin ones, no doubt) and you’re essentially ready to go.

[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.

However.

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.

Maybe.

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.