Ten thousand years before Warhammer 40,000, mankind was on the brink of greatness. The Emperor had left Horus, the first of his sons, in charge of continuing the campaign to unite humanity while he retired back to Terra to continue other endeavors. The forces of Chaos saw an opportunity and turned Horus against his father, who in turn brought half of the Emperor's sons and their legions of Space Marines to their cause, and undid the Emperor's dream as they rampaged across the galaxy to bring the war to their father on Terra itself. This is the age of Warhammer: The Horus Heresy.
What is Warhammer: The Horus Heresy?
The Horus Heresy was originally a piece of lore and art detailed in the pages of the early editions of Warhammer 40,000. Set 10,000 years before, the Emperor of mankind had united humankind's homeworld through force under his banner and had created twenty sons, the Primarchs, to lead legions of superhuman soldiers, the Space Marines. These sons were mysteriously spread around the galaxy as infants, initially lost to the Emperor and brought up on different worlds, far from their intended guiding hand. The Emperor found his sons one by one as he set about reuniting the galaxy and the human race that had spread to the stars. Each son, now brought up in different environments had entirely different ways of thinking and waging war and they all set about reuniting the galaxy together until the Emperor decided to name Horus, the first found son as Warmaster, to lead the campaign in his stead while he returned to earth to continue other ventures for the betterment of humankind.
Horus was wounded during a campaign and the Chaos gods saw an opportunity. The Emperor had always kept the Chaos gods a secret, their power came from knowing, and he hoped humankind would never know their like. Two of the Emperor's sons were already lost, and other than rumors and speculation, their history has never been explained. Horus turned half of the remaining Primarchs and their legions away from the Emperor and raged a war across the galaxy to bring battle to the Emperor on their homeworld of Terra.
Warhammer: The Horus Heresy is a wargame set in this time.
When Is Warhammer: The Horus Heresy Set?
Warhammer: The Horus Heresy is set 10,000 years before Warhammer 40,000, so in essence, it's Warhammer 30,000. In 40K, there are many different factions, and while the Space Marines are the poster boys for the setting, there are other options. In The Horus Heresy, the focus is very much on the Space Marines, and their differences are less obvious. Methods of waging war, army composition, and some abilities are different, but they are on a more equal footing than the huge differences between the factions in 40K.
In 40K, some Primarchs have returned, mainly from the Traitor Legions as they became the avatars of different Chaos gods. Recently, the Loyalist Primarch of the Ultramarines, Roboute Guilliman, returned, bringing a new generation of Space Marines, the Primaris, larger and better equipped than their firstborn brethren. This has created a difference in playing Space Marines between the two systems, with the focus of 40K now on the Primaris, and The Horus Heresy on the original firstborn marines.
Where Do I Start With Warhammer: The Horus Heresy?
Warhammer: The Horus Heresy is a brand new edition of the game, gathering together all the previous books and supplements into this new edition. Second edition launches with a new starter set, Warhammer: The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness which includes the full hardback Rulebook, dice, templates, and fifty-four miniatures, including a dreadnought and a tank. We cover this boxed set in detail in our review.
For new players to Warhammer: The Horus Heresy, the Age of Darkness boxed set is the perfect place to start, as it contains everything, including a sizeable force to get you going. Veteran players can pick up the new Age of Darkness Rulebook and use their existing miniatures with the new army books which we discuss below.
What Do I Need To Play Warhammer: The Horus Heresy?
To play Warhammer: The Horus Heresy, you will need:
- Warhammer: The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Rulebook
- Several six-sided dice (D6)
- Measuring tool (Either a measuring stick or tape measure)
- Templates and a scatter dice
- Miniatures for your force
- The supplement with the rules for your chosen force
All of the above is included in the Warhammer: The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness boxed set, including the rules for the miniatures that come in the box, which are at the back of the assembly instructions. This is enough to get you going, and when you decide which faction you want to play, then all you will need to do is pick up the rules supplement that includes that force and you can continue to expand your army. We discuss below in the Products section which supplements are available and which factions they contain.
What Other Products Are Available For Warhammer: The Horus Heresy?
Warhammer: The Horus Heresy has a whole range of products that were released alongside the new Age of Darkness boxed set and the miniatures from the previous edition are entirely compatible with this edition.
Released alongside the new Age of Darkness boxed set, the Liber Astartes: Loyalist Legiones Astartes Army Book and the Liber Hereticus: Traitor Legiones Astartes Army Book contain all the special rules, units, and equipment for the eighteen legions that are the center of the Horus Heresy narrative. Other factions will have their rules published eventually, not the wealth of alien races from Warhammer 40K, but other prominent Horus Heresy factions like the Mechanicus and Talons of the Emperor are set to appear.
Liber Astartes: Loyalist Legiones Astartes Army Book
The Liber Astartes contains the rules for the following Loyalist Space Marine legions:
- Blood Angel
- Dark Angels
- Imperial Fists
- Iron Hands
- Raven Guard
- Space Wolves
- White Scars
As well as the rules, specialist units, and equipment for each of the nine loyalist legions, it also contains all of the standard Space Marine units and force construction rules which are available to all legions.
Liber Hereticus: Traitor Legiones Astartes Army Book
The Liber Hereticus contains the rules for the following Traitor Space Marine legions:
- Alpha Legion
- Death Guard
- Emperor's Children
- Iron Warriors
- Night Lords
- Sons of Horus
- Thousand Sons
- Word Bearers
- World Eaters
As well as the rules, specialist units, and equipment for each of the nine loyalist legions, it also contains all of the standard Traitor Marine units and force construction rules which are available to all legions.
Plastic Miniature Boxed Sets
With the release of the new edition, lots of units that were previously only available in the more expensive resin from Forge World are getting released in plastic. Alongside the units in the Age of Darkness boxed set several plastic sets were released. Players can pick up sets of different marks of marines in Power Armor. The Space Marines in the Age of Darkness boxed set come in Mark VI Power Armor, and players can also pick up boxes of twenty Space Marines in Mark III and Mark IV Power Armor.
Also available are two vehicles, the new Deimos Pattern Rhino, which is based on the original Rhino kit, and the brand new and highly customizable Kratos Heavy Assault Tank, which is also getting a datasheet for use in games of Warhammer 40,000.
The marines in the Age of Darkness boxed set and standalone boxed sets all come armed with bolters to build Tactical Squads, but with the Heavy Weapon Upgrade Set, which contains ten of each heavy bolters and missile launchers, and the Special Weapon Upgrade Set, which contains ten of each flamers, plasma guns, meltaguns, rotor cannons, volkite chargers, and volkite calivers, you can also build Heavy Support Squads and Tactical Support Squads.
Forge World has been producing a line of resin Horus Heresy miniatures for use in the previous edition of the game, and these are completely compatible with the new edition. These range from the large Primarch miniatures, the eighteen of which lead the Space Marine legions, to specialist squads like the Dark Talons of the Raven Guard, and upgrade sprues to add Legion details to your troops and vehicles.
Where Can I Read About The Horus Heresy Lore
If you want to know more about the full Horus Heresy story, then you can catch up in full in two types of publications. The first edition of the game had nine books that followed the story from the start of the Heresy, and even though the rules have been superseded by this edition, the background information still stands. The current Age of Darkness rulebook also does an incredible job of introducing the narrative and legions, all beautifully illustrated throughout.
The best way to learn about the full Horus Heresy narrative is through the fifty-four New York Time Best Selling series of Black Library fiction books which start before Horus rebels against the Emperor and takes you all the way to the new Siege of Terra series which is building towards the culmination of Horus fighting the Emperor. You can pick and choose the books you want to read, based on the Legions you're interested in, but I would recommend reading them all in order, especially the first three which do an incredible job of introducing the Horus Heresy.
What Armies Are Available For Warhammer: The Horus Heresy?
On release eighteen Legions of Space Marines are available to play, nine loyalists and nine traitors and these are all split between the two Liber books, Liber Astartes: Loyalist Legiones Astartes Army Book and the Liber Hereticus: Traitor Legiones Astartes Army Book. Other armies will be made available through a free PDF around launch and we'll update this guide with the details when we know.
You can discover which Legion suits your gameplay with the Games Workshop Chose Your Legion site.
The copies of the Warhammer: The Horus Heresy products used to produce this guide were provided by Games Workshop.