Black Legion: A Supplemental Review
This weekend not only saw me visiting my home town of Laguna Beach, but it also was the release of the much anticipated (by me) BLACK LEGION SUPPLEMENT! Seriously, I haven't been this excited about a book release in a long time, the big question though is, did the book live up to my expectations?
Legion of Traitors
The first part of the book, and probably the most substantial is the background. If you're a fan of the Black Legion, then this section is amazing, it offers new background on the legion, it's relationship to other legions, as well as Abaddon and Horus. While some of the artwork is recycled from older publications, there is still a lot of new and inspiring work to look at, as well as a more comprehensive map of the paths of the first 12 Black Crusades... Speaking of Black Crusades, there is also now finally background for ALL of them. While many before were mentioned briefly, they never really mentioned their goals and conclusions, now we have at least a couple paragraphs on each one, which really helps illustrate how devastating each one was. The 12th Black Crusade is especially detailed, talking about the Gothic Wars (that some of us may remember from BFG). After reading the 13th Black Crusade bit, as well as a short story about Abaddon and Zaraphiston, you really get the feeling that the Imperium has it's days numbered.
After the main bit of fluff that serves to catch players up to the current time line, they talk a bit about some of the warbands found within the Black Legion. One of the biggest things that drew me to the Black Legion was their all inclusive nature, I'm a fan of big collections, so if I can make an army that allows me to play multiple ways, I'll usually be interested in it (I was very close to doing Dark Angels just for this reason). This section also helps to demonstrate that the Black Legion aren't just hordes of undivided marines, but instead are so massive, they can really build a force of any theme you could imagine, using the CSM book. Since I've still got a few Chaos Marines to build, I'm really looking forward to making my own squad of Oath-Broken, the marines who the Dark Gods do not speak to.
Legion of the Dark Gods
The Obligatory painting section. Not a bad show case overall, though trying to pretty up the Abaddon model is quite a task, even for professional photographers. The interactive spinny bits are interesting, but nothing mind blowing, and they've also put in clickable links to take you directly to the GW store, which kind of cheapens it for me. A painting guide would have been perfect here, but oh well.
The Black Crusades
Lets be honest, this the section that 90% of the people who are reading this are probably looking for, the rules. Why did I make you wait so long? Well because the fluff is really awesome and it shouldn't be missed, but now that we're beyond that, lets talk about the nitty gritty.
First off, they start about talking about strategies that the Black Legion might pursue, using the Black Legion rules. While most of us are probably beyond the strategies here, it is interesting to see what the writer was thinking, and it is also useful for new players. I remember when I started they did this kind of things all the time, but put them in little tiny pamphlets that they'd give away (gasp!) along side the miniatures on the display racks of blister packs. Nostalgia aside, it was this kind of literature that got me started thinking about strategy and whatnot, so I can appreciate it's presence, even if it's not something that I (think) I need.
The Black Legion at War
Okay, here we go... First of all, the Black Legion supplement unfortunately requires that all units be purchased with Veterans of the Long War. While that's not a huge tax to pay, it does add up, and fairly quickly with units like Terminators that pay more than just +1 point per model. You do get extra leadership out of it, but being forced to buy anything always feels like a penalty, if it was only +1 point across the board though (like Bonding Knives) I could see complaining about it less. The Black Legion gets Chosen as troops without paying that hefty Abaddon tax, so at least this is offering more potential builds for an army, though I'm still trying to figure out how I could use Chosen competitively. The other part that I'll only lightly go over is the Warlord table... If you could guarantee a result of a 6 every time, I'd be in love, since it gives everything around it Stubborn, but since that's not a possibility, it just kind of feels like a weaker version of the normal Chaos Marine powers.
So what's good about these rules?
Chaos Artefacts of the Black Legion
I feel like each of these will require discussing, and aside from one of them, I feel like they really hit the nail on the head and gave the Black Legion some devastating options.
The Spineshiver Blade is pretty straight forward, for not many points you get a +1 Init AP3 Daemon Weapon, perfect for those people using the Dark Vengeance box lords, or anyone who just wants a Chaos Lord with a little extra punch. It is also not a Specialist Weapon, so you can combine it and get more attacks if that suits your fancy.
The Crucible of Lies is the one I was talking about not quite being all that awesome. It reduces your toughness, but lets you re-roll 1's for invulnerable saves (only). I could only see this being used for one of two builds, either a Nurgle Lord on bike with 4++, or a Tzeentch Lord on Disc with 3++. Anything other than that and I feel like you're begging to get instagibbed.
Last Memory of the Yuranthos is probably my favorite item here, and for good reason. It grants the bearer +1 psychic mastery level (so you can get a level 4!), but you don't get to roll the 4th spell, instead you get a 6"/12"/18" nova that blinds and causes 2D6 S4 hits. Seriously though, a 37" across bubble of blindness is not something to be ignored, and can really put a wrench into the enemy's plans.
The Eye of Night is the most expensive gift by a good margin, and at first glance is easy to think that it's totally not worth the cost. What you get though is an infinite range, large blast that will case D3 penetrating hits to every vehicle touched by it. This could very easily kill off a land raider, which is usually about 3x the cost you paid for it, but unfortunately if you're playing against Tyranids, or armies without much mech, you're going to be very sad about the investment. If mech picks back up, I could see this being a great threat to have up your sleeve.
The Skull of Ker'ngar was made just for all those players complaining about the lack of Eternal Warrior. Now for a healthy investment, you can make your Daemon Prince, or other character, into an Eternal Warrior, plus Adamantium Will to boot. Not my favorite item, but at least it shows that someone is paying attention to the extremely vocal baby that is the Chaos Marine community.
The Hand of Darkness is a close contender to be my favorite item. It's fairly expensive, and reduces you to a single attack, but that 1 attack is at double your Strength, AP1, Armorbane, Fleshbane and causes Instant Death. Basically every rule written for kicking ass lumped up into one fist of doom, and another item that I could see being taken in many armies. Riptides causing you a problem? Take a Tzeentch Lord on Disk with 3++ and this, you'll fly up and obliterate it, and just in case you miss, your 3++ should keep you around long enough to try it again.
While this section only had a couple sentences in the book, I feel like it deserves some special attention. Black Legion can ally with Chaos Space Marines as Battle Brothers. This effectively means that pure Chaos Marine armies can have a 4th Fast Attack or Heavy Support slot... say hello to my new 4 Maulerfiend List, or better yet, my 4 Heldrake list! Before with the Heldrake basically being a 2+ per army choice, you were only left with 0-1 Fast Attack choices, which is a shame because it's probably the strongest section of the Chaos Marine book, but worry not, 2 Heldrakes and 2x5 Spawn are now on the menu!
Cities of Death & Planet Strike Strategems
We don't get to play these expansions very much, but I am very appreciative that they haven't been totally forgotten by GW. Some of the Strategems feel very characterful, especially the Chaos Terminator Strike in Cities of Death, or the Planet Killer attack or Daemon Fortresses in Planet Strike.
Altar of War: Black Legion
I have been a big fan of the new Altar of War series for the iPad since they first came out, and the Black Legion missions are a fantastic continuation of the series. Though only containing 3 Scenarios, they really do a good job of emphasizing Abaddon's preference for tearing the throat out of the enemy advance. The first one grants an additional 5 victory points for the "Slay the Warlord" minor objective, while the second one allows the Chaos player to advance from all around the enemy and recycle destroyed units, though only securing a victory if the opponent is entirely wiped out. The final mission has only a single objective, but it is placed in the enemy deployment zone, so intent the Black Legion are on victory (and more importantly, not pissing off Abaddon), that the entire army gains the Zealot rule (Fearless and Hatred).
Echoes of War
The Last section of the book is like the other two supplements, it contains a few missions with predetermined armies (one player must play Black Legion, while the other must play X). Overall they all seem pretty fun and none of them sound like they give any huge advantage to one player or the other. I'm very much looking forward to playing "Spilling the Blood of Angels" with my friend and his Blood Angels army, it's always fun to remind him of how Horus throttled Sanguinius with his fancy hand.
A Bloody Conclusion
Overall, I was very pleased with the book. While the special rules for the Black Legion were underwhelming, I think they do open up enough possibilities that it becomes something to consider, but definitely not an automatic choice (*cough* Farsight *cough*). More options is always good, especially for armies that struggle competitively. Personally, I'm still really excited, I think the ability to fit in a 4th Maulefiend, a 2nd unit of Spawn, or even 4 Heldrakes is fantastic for Chaos Marine players.