Monday, February 10, 2014

Codex: Black Legion

I like to be surprised.  Now I don't really like the fact that the Black Legion Codex was so expensive. But that's a whole other blog and what's the point of beating that dead horse?

For other Chaos blog entries, try these:

Abaddon of Codex: Chaos Space Marines
Chaos Undivided

I found myself actually enjoying the reading of the Black legion fluff.  To be honest, outside of Night Lords, I have rarely cared about Chaos fluff.  So MUCH of it made so little sense and sounded SO much like justifications rather than actual story that I kind of got used to skipping past that and getting to the meaty innards.

However the Black Legion, probably because of the infinitely awesome name and the portent that name kind of hangs in the air with, had my attention.  The picture on the front, like most books, sold me.  I had to own something that awesome looking.  

The book is endless stories.  By endless I mean the missions form a part of the story that can never truly end!  Storied of dread and terrible people doing dread and unspeakably horrifying things to their fellow man and xenos for power and favor.  Nothing exciting there.  But the story of Abaddon the Despoiler it spins is SO much more interesting than the "long walk" of Draigo.  While some of it is well known and pretty vanilla horror stories, like forcing a world to heel and then having the population immolate itself instead..of...fighting to a much more pleasant death?  Well maybe the horror of life under that rule was a distant second to immolation or something.  The depth it gave the character and also his forces was pretty entertaining though. I liked seeing the REASON behind having a fleet based army.  I liked that they explained it, liked the lead up, liked the logic.  I also liked the story of Horus's body and it being taken.  The enormous edifice to the great leader reminded me that these were, in the end, still the reverent Space Marines.  Though damned and fallen FAR from any graces reach, their basic instinct to serve a cause bigger than any one Marine is really illustrated well.  It's ingrained in every one of their Gene Seeds.  You think to yourself "Why the F would Chaos Space Marines ever unite, or be able to hold anything approximating a 'realm' with the name 'Chaos' attached?";  but  that underlying theme, never totally blatantly stated, is elegantly shown in their history, reminding you of the quintessential quality of a Space Marine.  That piece will ALWAYS belong to a Space Marine.  Noble in its willingness to sacrifice, even when it is an avaricious, power mad megalomaniac in Power Armour.  No one's perfect.

And then you actually get to the meat.  The Codex has a few features that are attractive.  It uses the Chaos Space marine Coddex as its basis, so you DO need that codex to play with this one.


First, it can ally with Codex:  Chaos Space Marines.  this elevates the threat profile substantially of a Chaos force.  Having access to four fast attack choices allows you to play exactly like the old Night Lords did or really any of the forces that could have 4 of a certain choice.  This hails back to the 3rd Edition codex people loved a lot.  Codex:  Black Legion eliminates the need for Dual Force Organization Charts (DFO) to form the armies you might wish to.  I hate DFO games, so this is a plus for me.

First Among Traitors

Chosen are Troops choices!  That is awesome.  An Abaddon the Despoiler led force with the punch and kick of these impressive special weapons monsters is a threat to tremble before.  As a reminder, Chosen are like Sternguard, allowing the unit to carry six special weapons of one sort or another in the unit.  Being able to transport your troops to objectives and actually mow enemies down with your scoring units is pretty awesome.  4 attacks on the charge makes them uber without a mark of Khorne, but with the mark, you're getting five attacks on the charge.  I know of no one who likes the sound of that.
A Warpsnith or Abaddon the Despoiler himself can lead a unit of Chosen, soak the incoming fire and absolutely rage in on them the next round.  Powerful in melee, powerful in shooting and a scoring unit?  Yes please.

Ten Millennia of Hate

There's a downside (that comes with an upside).  Units in this force that are allowed, must be a little over expensive as they are forced to take the Veterans of the Long War ability.  Now honestly, this is Not such a bad tax because your Leadership is the EASIEST way to attack most armies.  An army capable of running around with LD 10 Troops is a big advantage against not just morale tests and pinning, but against Psychic assaults and other means of manipulating this important stat.  The +1 LD you get from it might be enough but then you couple that with the Hatred (Space marines) which is a very large cross section of your enemies, you're doing pretty well as point expenditures go.

The Bringers of Despair

How many times have you said "I just wish Terminators were better", speaking generally of the lack of Storm Shields for Chaos Marines nor even Storm Bolters.  All the reasons you don't like taking Tactical Terminators exist here in the Chaos Codex except you have no choice:  there are no assault terminators unless you want to call Possessed of Tzeentch as a pseudo-Assault Terminators.

Through history Abaddon has had a nasty group of terminators he hangs out with and they rarely miss.  The group which is known  as the Bringers of Despair, his bodyguard and heralds of his cause, get a +1 BS and WS.  They can bring a fearsome lot of deadly weaponry into combat.  They are easily the equal of many units.  Imagine a Terminator squad that is decked out with bristling combi-weapons like a Sternguard squad does, plus Reaper Autocannons and all hitting on 2's.  When they crash against their foes, only the absolute greatest among their number can rival the WS 5.  Is it worth the +6 points per model?  I think you could spend 6 points on a whole lot worse.  Those Terminators are death, deadly accurate and bashing face against anyone who wants a piece of them.

Terminators aren't the whole story though.  The show stoppers are next.

The Black Legion Relics

So you want to live forever eh?  You will need a lot of help from these to go for it.  Abaddons got quite a collection of things from those who tried for immortality.  The Black Legion has quested for mellenia to find these things, and bring them to the Long War and it is these relics that likely will tilt the odds against the Imperium.  Every Black Crusade is a mere feint in the effort to divide the Imperium, sow doubt and most importantly, hide Abaddons never ending thirst for the ultimate advantages found in such reliquaries as the Eye of Terror may yield to his tender mercies.  Planets have burned and entire populations been sacrificed in the name of getting him what he wants from these mysterious vaults.

The first thing to know about the Relics is that to use them is to preclude using those in the normal Codex:  Chaos Space Marines.  The second thing is that using them may cost you your life.  Literally.

There are six of these monstrous artifacts:  The Spine Shiver Blade, the Crucible of Lies, Last Memory of Yuranthos, The Eye of Night, The Skull of Ker'Ngar and The Hand of Darkness.

Each one seems tailor made for a certain approach to the game, or to solve a certain weakness that the Chaos Space Marines may have.

The Spine Shiver Blade is 5 points less expensive than the Murder sword, and unlike the Murder Sword, is a Daemon Weapon (and therefore OH so many attacks).  It gives the bearer a +1 to initiative which is simply huge because INIT 5 which a Chaos Lord has is slower than even an Exarch with a Scorpion claw!  In fact a great many bad things in the universe might pop a Chaos Lord before he swings.  Further, it is cheaper than the Axe of Blind Fury(also a Daemon Weapon) by 5 points also, and though the Spine Shiver Blade doesn't doesn't get the axes +2 STR and is only AP 3, in the hands of a Daemon Prince, the Daemon Weapon feature makes the Daemon Prince a blender and makes it AP 2.  So if you're tight on points, a Daemon Prince is a decent place to put a Daemon Weapon.  Though the Initiative bonus means little to a Daemon Prince, an extra D6 attacks means a lot!  Not only that but it can make a BOATLOAD of smash attacks with the sword and so you can pay more for the Axe if you REALLY think you'll need it buuuut...

The Crucible of Lies is odd.  It took me some time to ponder when and then if you'd ever want to use it.  On one hand it allows re-rolls of 1 on the Invul save.  The Nurgle Daemon Prince would then be granted a 5+ cover save (and 3+ Jink save if flying) plus re-rolling 1's on invul saves.  If you do this, you will need to take a shot at Biomancy Powers to compensate for the loss of Toughness because a Tough 4 Daemon Prince could rapidly get a stinking Missile Launcher, Crimson Hunter or even a Hive Crone Vector Strike!  Nonetheless, if you DO go with Biomancy, you might well be rewarded for this relatively valuable item.  If you play a Sorcerer of Tzeentch, he can benefit as well in the same way, but a T3 Sorcerer had DEFINITELY better get a good Boon of Mutation or a Biomancy power.  The Skull of Ker'ngar is a very good companion item for this.

Last Memory of Yuranthos is incredible and odd.  It grants you a Mastery Level, though it doesn't come with a spell.  This is great if you are a mastery Level 3 and want to match Eldrads 4 when Denying the Witch rolls are going off!  So it has a nice defensive element to it.  You may find it easier to use 2 Warp Charge spells as well.
At its core what it is is the Sunburst Psyker NOVA blast, in all direction D6" for EACH Warp Charge you spend (maximum of 3)  You can literally hit everything within about a 36" line if you want to .  Each Target takes the 2D6 STR 4 AP 5 Blinding Ignores Cover hits!  Imagine this going off against an army that has 12 units deployed within 18 inches to either side of the Psyker!  All enemies have to take an initiative test or be blinded plus the damage.Pretty awe inspiring.  And if they don't kill its source...  He'll do it again. A Tau army hit with this could be in serious doo doo.

Naturally if you FAIL your Psyker test, you are simply removed from play.  D'oh.  The price of power is indeed great.  Careful who you put this on and include the Spell Familiar in your plans!  Needs to be at least a level 2 Psyker to maximize its ridiculum.

The Eye of Night is truly a tool of war and its simple.  It costs 10 more points than just the Chaos Lord who holds it.  It is 5 points more expensive than even the dreaded Dark Angel Banner of Devastation.  Unlike the banner, this is a one shot only weapon that fires a Haywire Maelstrom at the enemy.  Only STR 4, AP 5 Large Blast Ignores Cover.  That sounds okay but way too spendy for a one use item that can scatter.  But wait.  there's more to this Eye of Night, for it does D3 automatic Penetrating Hits on any armored target it touches.  It can kill tanks with a lucky roll and it cuts right through all the cover shenanigans, so Mechdar will be in no hurry to cluster their tanks.  This is the great equalizer against armored forces and the Black Legion have a long history of evening the odds at whatever cost.
It's highly recommended that a HIGH BS character fire it.  So a Daemon Prince or a Chaos Lord are best.  With this item, many weaknesses for a melee oriented army are resolved by being able to reliably threaten the shell within which lies the tasty morsels inside.

The Skull of Ker'Ngar is very cool.  It is a good companion to the Crucible of Lies.  The lowered toughness by 1 caused by the Crucible ceases to matter when this Skull is around to give you Eternal Warrior.  Not only that but because it is likely that a Tzeentch Daemon prince is where these artefacts would go together, he now would enjoy a whopping 3+ save against Psykler powers (5 for being a Sorcerer, +1 for the Skull and +1 for having more Mastery Levels).  Now this makes for a fairly tough to kill Daemon who can swoop in to take any foe out without the usual fears involved.
Chaos Lords would do equally well with the two but brings those gifts to bear a bit slowly compared to Winged Daemons.

The Hand of Darkness is awesome.  No Murder Sword ever thought about being this cool.  It takes all your attacks and makes them into one single AP 1 Powerfist strike.  Since its armourbane and fleshbane, as well as instant Death, well...  The enemy that gets hit with that has a very poor chance indeed. It goes at normal initiative order too.  Not awesome for its prey.  The Hand of Darkness is actually the perfect weapon for a lesser Lord to carry.  The Dark Apostle becomes an absolute terror, with his Zealot re-rolls with such a powerful weapon.  His two attacks, normally not something to write home about, cease to matter.  A WarpSmith might catch an enemy napping too.  Imagine the surprise when a Sorcerer takes the Hand of Darkness, and casts WarpSpeed, which can add D3 initiative.  The sorcerer could conceivably kill Mephiston with his last breathe!  A Chaos Daemon Prince with this weapon would end him with no delay.

The Relics are very good reasons to try out a Black Legion army as is the fact that Chosen are now your TROOPS and you can take a unit of beat stick Terminators who don't miss.

There is another issue.

The Missions.  The Codex:  Black Legion book forces a roll off when using it.  If the Black Legion player wins, he gets to use the Alter of War Missions in the Black Legion Book instead of the Eternal War missions!

The missions themselves are quite fun.  There are regular missions that any force can play against the Black Legion and then there are themed Echoes of War missions which are army specific ones recreating battles the Black legion has really fought in books and lore.  The rules do not force you to roll off for the Echoes of War missions, only the Alter of War ones.

Mission Breakdown:

Speartip Strike
This is a Dawn of War Deployment mission.  Kill Points are the Victory Condition, however Elites/HQ's are worth TWO victory points and the Slay the Warlord secondary Objective is worth 5 points.  The enemy of the Black Legion player makes the unit that his Warlord is in a Zealot unit.  The Black Legion units can Deep Strike on turn 1 or 2 without having to roll (though they must write this down secretly before the game)

In this mission it's as if your Deep Strikers are getting the Dark Angel Deathwing Assault rule more or less.  It is mildly helpful, albeit it doesn't help you scatter any better =).

We played this mission and it was fun.  The game was in doubt to the end because the Warlord alone was worth 7 points (2 as HQ, 5 for Slay the Warlord Secondaries), so if either one went down, it was game changing.  Fans of Warmachine will recognize the bloody game this becomes and it's really quite cool to see armies adapt to this.

Kill Them All
Enemies Deploy within 12" of the center.  In this mission, those enemies in the center are doomed.  Black Legion forces are allowed to start the game at least 24" from the board center, which really gives the enemy a lot of problems as the Black Legion can come from both sides!
To help emulate the enemies resolve all enemy forces are Stubborn in this mission.  Hooray!
Black Legion reserves come on from ANY table edge and flee towards the NEAREST one though so be careful!   Enemies fall back to the center of the board to hold the line.
Without Number: Black legion units that are destroyed can come back at the start of their next turn from ongoing reserve (though may not CHOOSE to remove units, as was/is the case in some missions and in the IG book for example).  The Black Legion must table the opponent or lose!  If even one model is alive, the Black legion has failed.

Now this mission seemed like fun after the mini-Campaign called Conquest of Kaiserslautern VI.  The idea of endless Chaos coming at you until you succumbed and the objective in that campaign was to see how LONG you could last, not IF you would last.  Chaos effectively had to end you in 4 turns to avoid a loss, though that is not a rule in this mission.  Still, tabling an army is no joke. Enemy Deep Striking and Outflanking will be interesting to watch on a mission like this one.

Capture the Artefact
Another Dawn of War deployment zone.
The enemy places an objective somewhere in his deployment zone, worth 3 points.
All non-vehicle units get the Zealot rule.
This is the only mission amongst the three that DOES use mysterious objectives, albeit there is only one Primary objective so mostly, the defender is advantaged!

Wrapping it all up

With the great missions to play, the awesome artifacts to play with, the signature units and the Chosen as troops, it all makes for a different feel to an old idea and I like it.  I foresee some success with the Black Legionnaires!


  1. Nice review.

    Thanks for pointing out that you must roll off and you can then force a roll on the black legion missions. I totally forgot about that.

    The Hand of Darkness on an apostle is actually pretty good advise it also wouldn't be bad on the normal last memory sorcerer who runs around in a spawn/bike unit or DS in with termies/oblits. He usually sees melee and having a single brutal attack could be huge if coupled with the right psychic powers.

    Last Memory of Yuranthos is almost custom made for a telepathy sorcerer. Telepathy has 2 good powers that are warp charge 2. With a Lv3 sorcerer you have a fair shot to end up with one of them. He becomes almost god like if you manage to get invisibility and puppet master in the same game. I highly recommend a spell familiar for this sorcerer though as popping yourself is not a good experience.

    Daemon Princes don't get marks they become daemons of Tzeentch (reroll 1's on armour save). Therefore no rerollable 3+ and the rerollable 4 is not really better than reroll 1's 3+ he normally gets. Where I find the The Crucible of Lies can become great is either on a chaos lord where the -1 T can be somewhat mitigated by a bike, juggernaught, etc. or in an allied Chaos Daemons and Chaos Space Marines force where the grimoire can be used to get 2++ and 3++ saves. A Tzeentch lord on a bike with a 3++ rerollable makes for a pretty good tanking character. The only real problem being that the chaos lords aren't usually as good in the black legion supplement due to Spine Shiver's AP3.

    Spine Shiver on a daemon prince is excellent advice. Cheaper than the other daemon weapons and you can still become a smashing machine.

    Eye of Night seems really cool but I do not have great luck with it. I could however see some major advantages to bust up parking lots. It could be a great addition to a close combat daemon prince who usually has little to do turn 1 when they swoop forward and try to hide. Now he can pop a vehicle or two and use that crazy BS for something. There is a problem with not getting your super expensive Daemon Prince killed turn 1 before it can swoop or shoot.

    How do you get chosen where they can use their plasma or melta to full effect? With 4 plasma chosen and a champ you are looking at 200 pts for 5 models. I have been tempted to run a landraider spam army with chosen, Be'Lakor, and a Lv3 sorcerer. With 2 invisible landraiders hopefully I could get where I need to go but I haven't gotten around to it as I have been having fun with 1 invisible landraider hiding Be'Lakor, 9 Zerkers, and Kharne.

    Interesting read and thanks for sharing.

  2. Well you're welcome. I had fun readingthe codex, more than Ithought I would. The missions are truly excellent in it and I had the Farsight book for a long time and not looked in it for missions. Thats a shame for they also have cool ones.

    As for your question on Chosen, the Abaddon article that's linked at the start of this article has some ideas on that. It's a very elite list and given the Black L;egion Codex now, it could be that Bringers of Despair could be a valuable addition to the mix. I think when you are SO close to people with Dirge Casters as Chosen prefer to be, they can definitely put the harm on a unit. I think Dirge Casters are the key. Special Weapons squads WERe all the rage in 5E. Min sized units with punch and as many as you could take right? Well now its like getting back to 5E where you can charge without overwatch and get 12" charges potentially instead of 6! yahoo! Dirge Casters for the win.

  3. I've gotten to test two of the Black Legion Missions and thoroughly enjoyed them. Easy to say when you're winning. Still, in the "Speartip Assault" Mission you got to play a more War Machine like mission of trying to gank the Warlords and Elites instead of the Fast attacks or the heavies as in other missions. "Kill Them All" let the endless onslaught of Chaos bqatter itself at the brave defenders in a desperate attempt to kill them all. Leave just one enemy model alive and the Bl;ack Legion loses! I won in both of those that I played. The last Alter of War Mission is one where you must free the relic that is defended by the enemy. The mission looks to be one where Secondary objectives could decide it, and i am looking forward to trying that one. Anyone tried these missions?

  4. Anyone else trying out Black Legion? My Chaos force has become actually competitive with the addition of those bad boys.

  5. I pmed you my test list but since have altered it just a bit. The best part of BL is being able to use four FA and four HS slots.

    You will notice that I now have a lot of options and a few tricks (Lasher to assault with maulerfiernds and spawn), the ability to pinpoint DS or outflank, the room to fit in 2 helturkeys and two spawn units. Being able to take three maulerfiends and still have two oblits. Joyous.


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