Hello friends! It’s the exciting day when the brand new boxed set of the Horus Heresy game goes up for pre-order, and Games Workshop were good enough to send me a copy of this incredible box for review. As many seasoned readers will know, I have been a fan of this game since its inception, and I have over 2000 points of IXth legion to show it. That being said, because of that pesky pandemic and all of my other commitments, I haven’t been able to play a game of it in quite some time. Therefore, if you want an in-depth review of this game from a seasoned and hardcore HH player, there will be better places for you to go. With that being said though, I am going to do an unboxing here, and I’ll take you through some highlights from the book, followed by 10 observations that I have made based on my first impressions of this release. So join me in this personal look through this summer’s must-have hobby box.
And what a box it is. It’s a chonky one which I dare say will come with a hefty price-tag (if you weren’t expecting to have to fork out for this one, you’re living in dreamland), but it certainly has plenty of allure to it. The artwork is thrilling, the cardboard glossy, and while this offers a shiny new toy to those venturing into “30k” for the first time, seasoned gamers will very much enjoy the “Army in a box” plus rules combo that this set provides. Now let’s get stuck in.
…huh-hmm. Straight to the plastic! I’ll stop making that comment in these reviews one day, but it’s worth reiterating here that I love this approach. No extra boxes or sheets of card to remove – you open the box, and get straight to the good stuff. There is a huge amount of plastic here, and all of it looks fantastic, including the whippy sticks, which are a real blast from the past that’s very much welcome here. But here’s how much plastic is in the box:
Now that’s a pretty good haul, and there’s a lot of cool things in there that I’ll cover in my observations later on, but that really is an army in a box – very easily over 1000 points. Very nice.
Below that we have a nice bit of card (that has an advert for some other plastic heresy kits on the other side of it. And beyond that…
We have the big book. This is really the biggest win for this release. Just having the core rules for this game has been a pain for a while now, and the fact that I can finally put my 7th Edition 40k rulebook away, is a great relief. It’s a mighty tome at around 330 pages, and it’s all sorts of pretty too. Again, we’ll look at this a little more later on.
Tucked away beneath the cardboard inserts that hold the book in place, we have a bunch of bases, some transfers, dice and construction guides – all the useful stuff that rarely gets any press.
Lastly, bound up with the book, are some very useful cheat sheets, and another advert to convince you to read the Horus Heresy books.
And I’m spent. It’s a glorious box full of gorgeous things that really get the hobby centre of the brain whirring away. 10/10 – well done, GW. Unboxing this one is glorious, and those whippy sticks really are the cherry on top. Now, let’s take a look through that massive book…
As much as you may be looking to pick this up for the toy soldiers, the book really makes it for me. As mentioned, my 7th Ed rulebook can now spend time gathering dust, as finally the Horus Heresy has its own rulebook. That really is a big deal. For all of those beautiful black books, and those useful red books of yesteryear, as lovely as they were, not having an actual basic rulebook really was a barrier for entry into the game. This solves that problem, and it solves it in style. As we might expect in this golden age of GW publications, this is one heck of a book.
Here’s the contents page and it’s a familiar running order of what we’ve got to look forward to. There’s a bucket load of lore, as one might expect for a setting that easily rivals the other big games in GW’s stable in terms of how much has been written about it. Then there’s a decently sized core rules section, some example armies, some campaigns, and the ever-handy appendixes. I always thought 6th edition 40k was one of the best rulebooks ever put together, but this book may take that crown because it’s concise (yes, it can be concise at 330 pages) and yet lavish (it is 330 pages after all). Here are some of my personal highlights…
Thanks to the ever-popular and extensive Horus Heresy books series from Black Library, there’s already plenty of artwork to draw on for this publication, and it has been used well, but there’s plenty of new art, cartography and model shots too. The look of this book is stunning and there are so many pretty pictures to enjoy within these pages. Every Primarch gets a portrait, the galaxy is comprehensively mapped, models are made to look marvellous, and even the incidental illustrations are illuminating. This book is very much a looker.
One particularly enjoyable illustration is the “Vitruvian Space Marine” which highlights all the augmentations of the Astartes, and yet is censored enough to leave us continuing to wonder if the average Space Marine hangs dong or not. Seriously though, this is a fun one, and I appreciate the nod to Leonardo’s many legged man. But this is of course indicative of something else that this book does wonderfully – tell you about Space Marines. This is a game of Space Marines of course (I know there are others, but come on, it’s about Space Marines) and if this is your favoured faction, then you will want to own this book. You’ve got well over a hundred pages telling you all you need to know of their origins and changes through the years.
Every legion gets a look in too, with several pages devoted to where they come from, their Primarch, how they wage war and what they look like. I of course have been very much enjoying the Blood Angels section, but whatever flavour of legion you favour, you’ll have something to enjoy.
The rules section is well rounded and sensible, and I’ve not the brain to over-analyse all of that, but I’ll touch on it later. The example armies (about 50% of which seem to have been painted by the machine that is Mark Bedford) are great fun to look at, and the campaign section is full of fun scenarios to play around with. Honestly, this is a cracker of a book, and even if you’ve not the budget or inclination to pick up the big box, the rulebook alone is well worth your time and money.
1 – Split Shoulder pads – why?
Given that this review has been overtly positive so far, let’s kick my observations off with a bit of an annoyance (and also because it’s one of the first things I noticed). The studded shoulder pads, so much a part of the mark of armour represented in this box, each one come in two pieces with a split running right down the middle. Why? I appreciate that this likely had something to do with how the sprue frame worked in the mould, but if this was the best fix the designer of this sprue could figure out, it’s lazy. We’ve had all manner of things on shoulder pads, so if it was the studs that caused this design quirk, I call laziness. Each one will require a touch up for the perfectionists out there.
2 – The Plastic Spartan
I own a Spartan (well, now I suppose I own 2), but that was one of the old resin ones, which effectively came in three hefty (and pricy) chunks. The new plastic one is almost unnerving in that it fits on a few sprues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan, but it’s just kind of odd seeing like this. Great work to the team who split that into its plastic components – this’ll save a lot of fans from a lot of resin mould lines and gap filling!
3 – The Contemptor – what a stunner
I’ve built more than a few Contemptors in my time, and it’s a model I’ve always adored, but the old plastic version was, well, static and dull. This new one though looks like it will be a delight to work with. The flexibility and possibility has been made part of the kit and lots of different weapon options being included is a real treat. I may well be picking up a few more of these in the future!
4 – Details mean fiddly bits?
The two new character minis are both delightful. They look splended, but the kits look overly fiddly to me. Both of them have tiny folds of cloth – part of their cloaks – that come separate from the rest of the cloaks. Again, this is almost certainly down to fitting the cloak on the sprue, but again, especially because they’re such small slithers of cloak, it just seems lazy. But like I said, both characters look amazing – excellent praetors the pair of them, but boy am I not looking forward to all those mould lines. Not to mention my fat fingers snapping or bending some of those tiny pieces. Surely there must be a way to get the details in there without the needlessly flimsy and fiddly bits?
5 – Incidental art, or actual clues?
As I was leafing through this lavish tome, one piece of incidental art caught my eye and I wonder if it hints at something coming in the future – a new Terminator kit? The classic 40k Terminators are really starting to show their age, especially next to the newer plastic Horus Heresy alternatives, and this little illustration made me think of much older Terminators and how this game may well be the best way to introduce a classical design in modern plastic. Only Tyberos sports a similarly studded aesthetic these days, and were I a betting man, I think this might be something we get soon. It would certainly be more welcome than bloody Saturnine armour.
6 – Example images
As I was reading through the rules section, it just struck me that something GW has always done really well, and that they never seem to get credit for, are the example images when illustrating how movement, line of sight, squad coherency and other things like this work. As I stared at the images of these new marines from a top down angle with various arrows and measurements illustrated beside them, it took me back to 2nd Ed 40k, all those years ago. These shots are as useful now as they were then, and I just think they’re neat. Well done to the team who included these.
7 – The sneaky Spartan
I just think this pair of images look really funny. It’s like the Spartan has coyly sidestepped over to hide a little more. Perhaps it’s feeling a little bashful.
8 – Universal Special Rules
Oh how I have missed these. I know they’ve always been part of HH, but I miss them in 40k, and to a lesser extent in AoS. I’d rather a model just had “5+ Invulnerable Save” than “Special Helmet of Shininess” that, when you read the description, tells you it confers a 5+ Invulnerable Save. It’s just also nice that my years learning about Blind, Move Through Cover, Slow And Purposeful, It Will Not Die and others, have not been wasted. It’s nice to see them printed again here and I understand and remember them all with fondness in an age of “Spiky cloak of redness”, “FT1084 Drone” and “Laser field” which all mean the same thing but they have different names (and invariably they’ll all confer a 5+ Invulnerable Save.
9 – Reactionary Opinion!
Reactions look really fun, and I’m looking forward to trying them out. Some of them seem familiar, but others look new to me, and I’m interested in seeing how the mechanic works out. It’s nice to see a game so grounded in tradition still find the scope to evolve and improve. Nice one, rules team.
10 – Whippy sticks still hurt
Yep, I had to test them out, and they do indeed still sting like they did when I was a lad. Many a friend or sibling will get the occasional thrashing with these and that’s exactly how it should be. Having these lethal weapons back in play makes the world seem right again.
So there you have it. A bit of a monster post from me, and I hope it has in some way helped to keep you informed, though I imagine there will likely be a thousand other reports and insightful write ups or videos that are probably better than mine. But if you still come here to Heresy and Heroes, you come, in part, for the expulsions from my brain, and this has certainly been one of those.
It’s a cracking box, full of wonderful things, and I think it’s a great entry point to Heresy for newbies, and for us fogeys, it’s a great excuse to start a new army or add to our existing forces. Top tier release with very little to gripe about, and it’s damn good to put the Heresy back into Heresy and Heroes again. Onwards!