One of my favourite books from the Horus Heresy series to date is Dan Abnett’s Know No Know Fear, where the Word Bearers finally turn on the Ultramarines and scour Calth using a combination of cultist fanatics and daemonic allies.
From a gaming perspective this is covered in The Horus Heresy Book 5 – Tempest, which includes possibly the most interesting and flexibly Army List of the Heresy to date, namely the Imperial Militia & Cults. Conceptually the Heresy Militia & Cults army list is high reminiscent of the Imperial Guard/Astra Militarum from 40k and Forgeworld’s Renegades & Heretics list from Imperial Armour 13, but with the addition of ‘Provenances’. Essentially these are collection of flavourful background traits which offer a mixture of benefits and restrictions when building your army and in some cases modify the force organisation and allies matrix of your Army. This is a great way of allowing you the freedom to theme your force so that they could represent the myriad variety of the human forces that could be found across the Imperium with both a nod to the ‘modern’ WH30/40k Heresy mythology, but also to nostalgic fan favourites from the earlier ‘old school’ days of 40k. Up to two Provenances can be purchased as an upgrade to the Force Commander HQ choice.
I won’t go into detail of all of the different permutations and rules, but here are some fun options that immediately struck me as a hobbyist:
– Don’t pick any provenances at all, go vanilla and simply reuse your current 40k IG army in 30k. If you already have an existing IG army then this is a very cheap entry into dipping your toe in 30k without a Space Marine in sight.
– Pick Warrior Elite and Gene-crafted to represent an elite imperial regiment like the Geno 52 Chiliad depicted in Dan Abnett’s Legion.
– Pick Alchem-jackers and go with a Savlar Chemdog penal force.
– Pick Survivors of the Dark Age (along with the Advanced Weapons upgrade) and combine with Abhuman Helots to dust of your old Squats army.
– Pick Feral Warriors and Abhuman Helots to rediscover your inner goat and dust off your old 40k Beastmen army.
Those are just a couple of ideas that immediately sprang to mind, but there is a huge potential here for customising and lovely converting something unique which will lead to a highly individual looking force which I think the Forgeworld team should be commended on. If only GW prime would be so generous with the 40k Chaos Space Marine Codex, but I digress . . .
Since I am wanting to simulate the debased and tainted cultist fanatics brought by the Word Bearers to Calth, there was only one option for me which was to go with the double ‘Traitor Only’ combo: Cult Horde Combined with Tainted Flesh.
With Cult Horde your infantry gain the Zealot special rule which is a significant buff to their melee capability and actually makes the army quite resilient is it renders you immune to your force breaking and either running off the board or being swept up if they loose close combat. The price for this is that they cannot take Grenadiers (=Stormtrooper/Tempestus Miltarum type elites) can only fire snapshots and must attempt to charge any enemy forces if they are in range.
With Tainted Flesh your infantry gains Feel No Pain (6+), confers Fear and makes their close combat attacks Rending. The price this is that you must fill your compulsory Troops choices with Induct Levy Squads (the real dregs of the army list with a feeble WS and BS of 2) and that you cannot take more infantry selections than you have Levy Squads.
These two combine to make your cultist fanatic horde army that will attempt to run headlong into the enemy regardless of the casualties with the only way to stop them being to slaughter them to a man, if they do get into combat then the Rendering and weight of numbers can actually be a reasonable threat to much higher quality elite troops like Space Marines. Most Legion Astartes lists in 30k aren’t Fearless and don’t have the equivalent of the And They Shall Know No Fear rule from 40k so there is some possibility of people able to properly overwhelm and bog down units that aren’t melee specialists.
An army with such terrible shooting would not normally be considered to be that viable since the core 40k ruleset really favours shooting these days, but as armoured vehicles do not apply the Provenance rules, the force can be bulked out with tanks in order to give you a reasonable amount of flexibility.
I play 40k very rarely (only manage 2 games of 7th Ed in all of 2015) and haven’t yet played any 30k so I have no idea how well this will work in practice, but I am hoping this kind of force would be fun to play with and fun to against. In general the 40k games I have enjoyed most in the past have been ones where there is a numerical large asymmetry between the force on either side (i.e. small elite Marine force against a horde Ork or Tyranid force). These games normally set-up an immediate tension: will the firepower and manoeuvrability of the more elite force mean that the horde can be whittled down to a manageable size before it hits their line? Even in the games where I have been slaughtered to a man by a horde army they have normally taken significant casualties on the way in and so at least the game has felt like a fight. Too often I have heard the refrain from modern era 40k players that if you don’t discuss in advance with your opponent about the type of game you want to play then you can end-up with some incredibly one sided and un-fun match-ups because one side has units that are literally invulnerable the the majority of the arms of the opposing force. The militia core of this kind of cult force will never have this problem at least!
The other interesting option from a hobby perspective which makes a Cult & Milita list different from the standard human (T3/W1/5+ save) and Space Marine (T4/W1/3+ save) core is the addition of Ogryns (T5/W3/5+ save). The Tempest book even suggests that these ‘Ogyrns’ could be modelled as crude battle automata, vat grown gholems, trained xenos predators, mutant aberrations, etc. These are subject to the Provenances rule too and have quite a few more options to customise their load out than the typical builds you would find in 40k. This is the idea which appeals to my inner hobby muse at the moment and this has lead to my first few tester ‘Murder-gryn’ for my Cult Horde: