Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness

Review

Warhammer: The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness Review

June 4, 2022

By: Giaco Furino

 
 

Between the fall of the first Primarch Heretic Lorgar of the Word Bearers to the climactic battles waged on the Siege of Terra spans the Age of Darkness, a cruel and bitter time for humanity. This setting, also known as The Horus Heresy, takes place roughly 10,000 years before the events of Games Workshop's famed Warhammer 40K, pitting brother against brother and Space Marine legion against legion for the salvation (or damnation) of the species. Spread out across the galaxy, these thrilling tales are captured over more than fifty novels, and you can bring that action to the tabletop with Warhammer: The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness, the new second edition of the Horus Heresy ruleset. Games Workshop provided us with the new starter box and additional materials to check out, and we've put together our review here. Looking to get into Horus Heresy for yourself? Be sure to check out our brand new Horus Heresy Guide, detailing everything you need to jump in, as well. 

Rival legions battle in Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness. Image: Games Workshop
Rival legions battle in Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness. Image: Games Workshop

What's Included In The Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age Of Darkness Starter Set?

The Warhammer The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness Starter Set contains everything two players need to jump into the thrilling battles waged during The Horus Heresy, including the core rules, dice, measuring sticks, and 54 plastic miniatures.

 

To dive into specifics, included in the box is:

  • Warhammer The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness 336-page Hardback Rulebook
  • Two Rules Reference Sheets
  • Twenty Six-sided Dice and One Scatter Die
  • Templates, Measuring Sticks, and One Transfer Sheet
  • Two Legion Praetors (One with a sword and one with an axe)
  • Forty Tactical Marines in MkVI Power Armor
  • Ten Cataphractii Terminators
  • One Contemptor Dreadnought
  • One Spartan Assault Tank

How Do You Play Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age Of Darkness?

In many ways, games of Warhammer The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness plays very similarly to Warhammer 40,000. Each player assembles an army of plastic miniature troops, and the opposing armies wage war over important objectives on the battlefield laid out on your tabletop. You move your miniatures a number of inches equal to their move characteristic during a movement phase, fire ranged weapons during a shooting phase, and charge and attack during an assault phase. The statistics of each unit in an army is slightly different from modern Warhammer 40,000, in that models have an initiative characteristic (representing the swiftness of a model), and a model's weapon skills and toughness are static numbers, and a grid to hit and to wound are used to determine target numbers.

 
 
Tactical units and Praetors clash in Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness
These Tactical units aim their weapons to react with Return Fire as the Praetor with a Power Axe charges in Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness

One of the coolest additions to Warhammer The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness is the incorporation of Reactions into the game. During each round of the game, one player takes the turn as the Active player - they're the one moving in the movement phase and shooting in the shooting phase - and the other player is listed as the Reactive player. Unlike other titles in Games Workshop's line of games, in Horus Heresy the Reactive player can make at least one reaction in each phase (additional benefits and army rules can grant more reactions). While there are a lot of reactions a player can take, some of the most common core reactions include Advance (where a unit can move up to its Initiative Characteristic directly towards an advancing enemy army in the Movement Phase), Withdraw (where a unit can do the same move but away from the enemy army), Return Fire (where the reactive player can shoot in response to a shooting attack from the enemy), and Overwatch (a classic move where the reactive player can shoot at a charging opponent in the Assault Phase).

By implementing a limited number of reactions per phase into the game, Horus Heresy gains an extra layer of tactical decision making. Do you return fire at the shooting unit of Marines, or wait to use your reaction against the Dreadnought firing at you? Questions like these crop up in nearly every phase of the game, and it truly transforms the decision space regular Warhammer 40K players are used to.

 
 

What's Included In The Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Rulebook? 

The Hardcover Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Rulebook is a massive tome clocking in at 336 pages. The first 145 pages of this rulebook are dedicated to explaining the lore and world of The Horus Heresy, covering information about the Age of the Emperor, the Imperium of Mankind, The Legiones Astartes, and a deep dive into each of the Space Marine Legions. From there, we learn about the Talons of the Emperor, the Solar Auxilia, the Mechanicum, and a rundown of pivotal events during the Horus Heresy.

The rest of the Rulebook covers the rules of The Horus Heresy, talking about everything from general principals to the makeup of a turn of the game, describing in further detail reactions, each of the phases, how morale works in Horus Heresy, a description of different types of units, terrain, and even a batch of special missions you can play right out of the back of the rulebook.

How Do The Units Included In The Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Starter Set Play?

Let's go unit by unit, covering each one included in the Starter Set. First, let's talk about the powerful Praetors. These are the mightiest warriors and battle leaders, and are independent characters on the battlefield (meaning they can join up with other units and fold into their ranks, but leave to go fight where needed). Whether equipped with a Power Sword or a Power Axe, both models have an impressive Weapon Skill Characteristic of 6. Each model is also able to hang around in the fight a bit longer with three wounds each. You can upgrade them with all kinds of wargear, from a Bolt pistol to Artificer armour and Krak grenades. They're also Relentless, meaning they can shoot with heavier weapons but still count as stationary even if they moved, and they're allowed to charge in the same turn they fire certain heavier weapons.

The Praetors are tough leaders who can join the rank and file infantry in Warhammer The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness
The Praetors are tough leaders who can join the rank and file infantry in Warhammer The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness

Next up is the Cataphractii Terminator Squad. There are a total of ten terminators included in the box, and a unit is made up of 4 regular terminators and 1 terminator sergeant. With their heavy suits of armor and a 2+ save, they are a sturdy, hard hitting force on the battlefield. You can equip them with rapid-firing Combi-bolters, Power Fists, and lightning claws, among others. 

 
 
The sturdy Cataphractii Terminator Squad can shrug off hits with their powerful armor in Warhammer The Horus Heresy
The sturdy Cataphractii Terminator Squad can shrug off hits with their powerful armor

The Contemptor Dreadnought is a massive, hulking force, with a 2+ save and five wounds. It comes equipped with a Gravis bolt cannon and a Gravis power fist with inbuilt combi-bolter, but those can be swapped out for other Gravis weapons, heavy flamers, and more. The Gravis bolt cannon is a nasty piece of weaponry, as it fires Heavy 6 (six attacks) at strength 5, AP 4, with a 48" range. In other words, along with all the other tools at this massive piece of machinery's disposal, it can also truly blast from a distance.

To break up the gray, here we see a beautifully painted Contemptor Dreadnought readying its weapon systems in Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness. Image: Games Workshop
To break up the gray, here we see a beautifully painted Contemptor Dreadnought readying its weapon systems. Image: Games Workshop

The Tactical Squad, of which 40 models are included in the box, is the "meat and potatoes," so to speak, of the Starter Set. These Space Marines are armed with a Bolter, Power Armour, Grenades, and can be upgraded with bayonets, chain bayonets, and more. These units have a movement of 7", 1 wound each, Save on a 3+, and have a Weapon and Ballistic strength of 4. They're meant to get in, start fighting, and shoot their way to glory alongside stronger, sturdier units. Also, as noted in the photos, Games Workshop has released upgrade sets of weaponry for your Tactical Squads, allowing them to take on better weaponry like Meltaguns, Rotor Cannons, and more.

The Tactical Squad in Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness
Here we see just a small sampling of the Tactical Squad models included in the starter set (there are 40 of these models included). Some of these have been upgraded with special weapons from the Special Weapon Upgrade Kit (sold separately), including a Rotor Cannon and a Plasma Gun.

Finally, there's the massive Land Raider Spartan. This huge assault tank has a movement of 12", a Ballistics skill of 4, Front, Side, and Rear armor of 14 each (that's pretty damn sturdy), and has 6 Hull Points. And while it has mounted lascannon arrays and a twin-linked heavy bolter, it's main point of usefulness is the fact that it can transport up to 26 models in it (though it should be noted, the models do not all fit not physically inside, units are set aside on the battlefield and considered in the transport until they disembark).

The Land Raider Spartan from Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness
The Land Raider Spartan included in the Box Set readies its weapons.

With all of these models available to players as they crack into the Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Starter Set, you can easily divvy up enough forces between two players to have a solid battle. All told, there's a total of 1675 points worth of models without any upgrades taken. With upgrades, which you'll want to give to most of your units, it would not be out of the question to get two 800-1000 point armies out of this boxed set, and that's without digging into the special army books.

What Are The Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Liber Hereticus and Liber Astartes Army Books?

The Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Liber Hereticus and Liber Astartes Army Books are two additional rule books that also go on preorder this weekend, and both books offer much more in-depth rules for fielding an army in the Horus Heresy game based on a specific chapter of Space Marines. The Liber Astartes are the factions of Space Marines who stayed loyal to the Emperor of Mankind during this terrible war, while the Liber Hereticus are the factions who were "heretical" and rebelled against the Emperor and Imperium of Man.

The books now out for preorder for Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness
The rule and army books now out for preorder for Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness. Image: Games Workshop

The Liber Astartes contains the rules for the following Loyalist Space Marine legions:

  • Blood Angel
  • Dark Angels
  • Imperial Fists
  • Iron Hands
  • Raven Guard
  • Salamanders
  • Space Wolves
  • Ultramarines
  • White Scars

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

In each of these lengthy books (they both clock in at over 340 pages), there are general rules of all units within the designation of traitor and loyalist, respectively. But there are also dedicated sections detailing the data sheets and characteristic profiles of each legion, as well as special rules they benefit from, characteristic profiles for their leaders, and so much more. For instance, if you want to put together a legion of Heretic Word Bearers, there's a lot of information presented, including rules for their Tainted weapons, Psychic Disciplines, and a profile for Lorgar, that legion's Primarch. These massive books contain so much information it would be a fool's errand to try to detail it all here, but suffice it to say these books get right to business, with very little time spent on lore.

What Are Our Final Thoughts On Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness?

Games Workshop pulled out all the stops with this massive release of a new edition of Warhammer Horus Heresy, both with the box set and all the supplemental releases. The game plays incredibly smoothly, and while it is a bit "crunchier" than Warhammer 40,000 (which is, in and of itself, an in-depth miniature wargame), the rules allow for fun and fast-paced battles set during some of the most dramatic moments in the franchise history. I absolutely love the way Reactions work in this game, as it creates a heavily interactive play-state at almost every moment of a battle.

The dramatic battles captured in Warhammer The Horus Heresy match the epic nature of their source material. Image: Games Workshop
The dramatic battles captured in Warhammer The Horus Heresy match the epic nature of their source material. Image: Games Workshop

The models included look great, and are - for the most part - fairly easy to assemble. But the starter box is dense, and filled with tons of plastic sprues, so don't expect to be able to have everything built over a weekend. I especially love the look of the Tactical Squads in their MkVI Armor, and whether you paint them up to look like your favorite Loyalist or Traitor regime, they'll look fabulous on the battlefield.

One of the things I'm most impressed by in the Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Starter Boxed Set is a relatively little thing, and that's the inclusion of a full slate of data sheets for each unit included in the box, and detailed, easy-to-access rules for all of the gear you can equip them with, as well as the provided Reference Sheets. These simple additions add a lot to the overall approachability of the set, and prove that Games Workshop wants this to be a boxed set welcoming to newer players. All in all, I think this set is a complete triumph, and if you're at all interested in battles set during the Horus Heresy, the box set is a perfect place to start.

Should I Buy The Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Box Set?

If you're new to Horus Heresy and want to dive headfirst into this incredible world of tactical miniature combat, and can afford the price tag, the Warhammer The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Box Set is definitely the way to go. With 54 models included in the box and the full hardcover rules, it has everything you and a friend need to jump in. If you're already a Horus Heresy player, you may find some repetition in the units included in the box, and could instead opt for purchasing the relevant rulebooks to bring yourself current.

To learn more about The Horus Heresy and get started on your journey, don't forget to check out our new Horus Heresy guide.


The Warhammer: The Horus Heresy Age of Darkness Starter Set and additional materials used in the creation of this review were provided by Games Workshop.

Review Summary

Review Summary

We track the fall of mankind with our review of all the new units and rules in the new big box release of Warhammer The Horus Heresy - Age of Darkness.