Why now’s a great time to play Warhammer 40K: The Horus Heresy – Age Of Darkness

GameCentral takes a look at the latest edition of Warhammer 40K: The Horus Hersey and its newly improved two-player battles.

The loyal Space Marines have always been the face of the Warhammer 40,000 franchise and are one of the main reasons that creator Games Workshop is so popular at the moment. Visit any gaming café or Warhammer shop and you’ll see elaborate terrain awash with Space Marines moving in tactical units, fighting alien hordes such as Tyranids or the elf-like Eldar with assault rifles equipped with chainsaw bayonets (yes, that’s where Gears Of War got the idea from).

You might be keen to start playing Warhammer 40,00 but what if you and your best friend both want to be Space Marines? Well, now there’s a new wonderfully rebalanced solution. The Horus Heresy is a game that’s been around, in one form or another, since 2012 and is designed as 1 vs. 1 slugfest between two players that know their Warhammer lore.

Together with the hight cost, that’s always made it hard to get into for more casual fans, with a huge complexity of rules that have long been in need of some tweaking. The background story details the rise and fall of the Warmaster Horus and his turn to the evil forces of Chaos, which he ultimately regrets. Set 10 thousand years before the events of Warhammer 40,000 (it used to be referred to as Warhammer 30K), The Horus Heresy details the first and most devastating civil war in the then newly forged Imperium and Empire of Man.

With the recent release of new boxset Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Age Of Darkness you too can fight your very own Space Marine civil war. The box includes 40 multi-part plastic Legion Tactical Squads, better known as Beakies, and 10 Cataphractii Terminators, who have a huge array of impressive sounding weapons, including power fists and lightning claws. What had most 40K players clicking the pre-order button, however, is the inclusion of an impressive land raider tank The Spartan and a dynamic Dreadnought mech The Contemptor.

Until now, playing The Horus Heresy had the reputation of a very exclusive club, for those who could afford sculpted resin miniatures from Forge World. Now fiddly push-kits and resin is replaced by plastic spruces, meaning these new models can be built quickly and easily even by complete Warhammer novices. These genetically engineered super soldiers are the best looking miniatures in the business and ready to become the backbone of your Heresy army.

If you’re unsure which of the 18 Space Marine legions to play as there’s more details in the two standalone Legiones Astartes army books, one for Loyalists and one for the Traitors. They contain the complete guide to your army of choice and include unit entry profiles, warlord traits, faction abilities, and unique reactions. To be honest though, when choosing an army, it’s usually best to just plump for the one you think looks the coolest and has the best colour scheme.

The big box includes two Praetor models, which have been designed so they can be used with any legion of your choice. These models of the fearsome battle-leaders have bags of character, with one wielding a power sword and the other a power axe – plus, there are multiple head options. The box also included enough dice, rulers and reference sheets to get you started, and a sheet of transfers covering the Sons of Horus and Imperial Fists Space Marine Legions, that often accidentally (on purpose?) get stuck on my fingernails.

The heaviest thing in the box is the new rule book, this 336-page hardback tome could be a weapon in itself, but it’s also a thing of beauty, with stunning full colour illustrations on almost every page and printed on some fittingly weighty paper. The book contains six missions designed around standard one-off pick-up games. While the core rules are very similar to the previous editions there are some important changes, so that turns are now streamlined to just three phases: movement, shooting, and assault.

Magic: The Gathering x Warhammer 40,000 collaboration delayed

The ultimate crossover (pic: Wizards of the Coast)

We can’t wait for a look at what’s bound to be some stunning visual interpretations of the Warhammer 40,000 universe in the new Magic: The Gathering crossover, but it’s unfortunately been pushed back until October. However, Wizards of the Coast has confirmed that the decks will each focus on a different Warhammer 40,000 army, such as the Necrons, Space Marines, Tyranids, and the forces of Chaos – there’s even a promise to introduce some new card mechanics.

New ‘Reactions’ stop you from snoozing during the other person’s go, as the non-active player has abilities they can trigger when it’s not their turn. This adds some tension to the game when it’s not even your turn, so watch out for traps and tactical ploys! There are six different reactions available, two in the movement phase, two in the shooting phase, and two in the assault phase, which work a bit like overwatch in XCOM and other turn-based video games.

While not priced for every pocket, at a whopping £180, Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Age Of Darkness could actually be considered good value for money, as it’s very easy to split the cost fairly between two players, with the only point of contention being who gets to keep the Dreadnought.

There’s a lot of players coming back into the Warhammer 40,000 universe who weren’t necessarily keen on the 8th and 9th edition changes to the rules, not to mention the expense involved, but this new box has got many nostalgic for the 7th edition and for it being a purse-pleasing gateway back into the game.

This box set is a brilliant excuse to create an entirely new army (even if you haven’t finished painting the last one) and with its less competitive play The Horus Heresy is essentially a non-tournament game that’s more narrative led, allowing anyone to get started with some immersive, epic scale moments worthy of the Black Library.

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