Having already taken a look at the opening stages of the Vigilus campaign in last week’s blog, I thought I’d come back to you all today with some of my garbled thoughts on the first campaign book in what promises to be an exceptional series: Vigilus Defiant.
This is book one in a two-part series, Vigilus Defiant feels a whole lot like the classic sort of RPG sourcebook to use in a campaign, rather than some of the campaign books of yore. First of all, let’s have a look at how the book breaks down: 115 pages of background and fluff for the Vigilus campaign, bringing things up to date from the two battle-box releases to the point where the Space Marine coalition is poised to go up against the Black Legion, Genestealer Cults and Ork Speedwaaagh; 50 pages of narrative play rules, featuring twelve new missions to play and the rules for linking them to form a campaign (six Crucible of War and six Echoes of War missions) and rules for battlegrounds, including specific battlezones that replicate locations on the planet; and finally, 35 pages of new rules, including the rules for the new models released alongside the new book, as well as 22 “specialist detachments”, which is where I want to go first.
These specialist detachments have been likened to the various detachments we had during 7th edition, such as the infamous Necron Decurion detachment. In case you’re unfamiliar, 7th edition Codexes featured a number of detachments alongside the datasheets, which kinda functioned as suggested armies. There were usually a couple of smaller scale detachments, then there would also be one army-scale one that was quite often made up of the entire range (or as much of it as was sensible, in the case of armies like Space Marines). You gained wonderful bonuses to your army if you included every single unit specified – but that detachment literally was your army. For example, a fully kitted-out Dark Eldar list that followed the Kabalite Raiding Party detachment cost 2055 points, giving you no room to manoeuvre if you wanted to include anything else. Furthermore, it would force you to take units you might not want to take, but the worst part of such detachments was that you invariably saw the same army being played by all. Especially, the Necron Decurion!
Specialist Detachments are nothing like this. You start off with your army as you’ve been building it for a game regardless. You then look at how that army has been structured, in terms of the variety of detachments you may have included in it (battalions, outriders, etc). You can then pick one of those detachments to become the Specialist Detachment, paying 1 command point for the privilege. This action actually does nothing by itself, it just adds a further keyword to each datasheet for the models in that detachment.
I’ve been working on a Space Marines list for the past few days, so I think it might be easiest if I use that to show you what I mean!
I’ve built a 1000-point list, basically to showcase the new Marneus Calgar model among an all-Primaris force from among the models I have currently. It isn’t incredibly points-efficient, mainly because I’m forcing in some models simply because I have them, and I haven’t got enough troops (at least, I don’t think so) to create a battalion yet. Anyway! The list is as follows:
This is one Patrol detachment, and one Vanguard detachment. So I get 4 command points, which isn’t particularly fabulous, but I’m working within the limits of what I have. I can use one of those command points to give all of the units within one detachment the Indomitus Crusaders keyword, which is fine, but doesn’t do anything else. However, I’ve unlocked a new warlord trait for the army, Grey Shield, which can give a unit from the same detachment as my warlord an additional Chapter Tactic until the start of my next turn. That feels a bit wrong to me, so I don’t want to go along with that one. But I also gain access to two new Relics: Reliquary of Gathalamor (which affects enemy Psykers within range of the bearer) and Standard of the Ultima Founding, which I can use on the Primaris Ancient to give a once-per-battle effect of allowing infantry within 6″ to re-roll hit and wound rolls of 1. That’s a useful one, as my plan for the army is a sort of gunline thing that makes use of as many aura abilities as I can generate. The Ancient’s new ability is in effect until the bearer next makes a move, so I assume it will stay in effect so long as I don’t move him.
There are, additionally, five unique stratagems that I can use on these chaps now that they have the Indomitus Crusaders keyword. Three of them are dependent on a fourth having been used – for 1 command point, I can upgrade one Intercessor squad from the detachment to be Veteran Intercessors. If I don’t use this one at all in the battle, then I actually only get one unique stratagem.
Hopefully, then, you’re seeing the point that these Specialist Detachments are not likely to be particularly game-breaking for the time being. They are really quite command point heavy, and most armies that are built to maximise command points are, I imagine, built with a number of stratagems already in mind. If you’re now faced with yet more choice for your points, are you likely to forego spending on those pre-determined stratagems to sink a few of them into one of these detachments? You’re pretty much committing to at least 2-3 command points for this – you have to pay 1 to unlock the keyword, which you would only do if you wanted to use at least one other stratagem that the detachment would give you access to.
I feel like these things are primarily going to be used by players who like a more fluffy or wide-ranging kind of game. The more competitive players will most likely stick to their codex, with perhaps one or two who are keen to exploit the warlord traits or relics that also come with the detachment. Importantly, you also have the option (for another command point) to give a non-warlord the warlord trait from the detachment, once you’ve made the initial investment. Interesting.
At any rate, the much more exciting part of this new book, for me, is the wealth of narrative content it contains. I’ve already rhapsodised quite a lot about similar content we have just seen in Chapter Approved, and to get more of it so soon is quite magnificent, I have to say! It’s enough to keep games really fresh for a long time to come, I’m sure.
I’m deeply impressed with the lore contained within these pages – not only do we get the whole story of Vigilus and the factions thereon, but we get a really in-depth look, which is what gives it the feel of an RPG sourcebook. There are pages of details on each of the hive-sprawls across the world, as well as rules for you to create games that take place in each one. It’s an incredibly detailed book, the like of which I don’t think we’ve seen before for 40k (or at least, not for a long time). While I’m hesitant to say I want more of this, as I don’t want any future campaign books to feel like they’re carbon copies of this, I do like what they’ve done here, so I would like to see a similar approach in the future!!
We’re due to get a second book at some point, as stated in the introduction to this volume, and my guess would be that it will come around March to tie-in with the whole 80-day countdown we’re on for Vigilus to fall to Chaos. The new Black Legion character Haarken Worldclaimer has already planted his spear in the world, and decreed that Vigilus will be in the hands of the Warmaster within 80 days and nights. If that isn’t a huge telegraphing of the fact Abaddon is going to feature very soon, then I don’t know what is! Of course, it’s unclear as to whether we’ll be getting a new model for the Warmaster: he definitely needs it, for sure, and I think it would be a nice parallel with Calgar here for us to have Abaddon come out alongside book two, perhaps with a new Space Marines model, either a new hero or a re-imagined hero of yore.
Haarken Worldclaimer is a very nice model, for sure, but I don’t think we can have a situation where we’ve got the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines leading the forces of “good”, but just the Herald of the Apocalypse on the opposing side of the field. I believe March will be seeing the release of those Chaos models from Blackstone Fortress as a separate range, but I’d also hate it if the new Chaos bad guy were to be Obsidius Mallex. We need Abaddon, for the Emperor’s Sake!
I think the only thing that’s putting me off thinking we’re guaranteed the new model next is that he really should have showed up during the Fall of Cadia storyline, but we didn’t get anything. If we’re having a new Black Legion release in March, then I think the time would be even more perfect to bring out a re-imagined Abaddon. It’s got to happen!
But that’s all just for Vigilus #2. What about the future of the 40k line once we’ve got the final codex out there? I keep reading that Genestealer Cults will be coming at the end of January, at which point we’ll have seen all of the existing 7th edition Codexes be updated for 8th edition. There are still model lines such as the Inquisition that don’t have a book, though they are in a peculiar place and I don’t think they’ll have anything specifically for them without a new model release. I feel reasonably sure that we’ll get an Inquisitor expansion for Kill Team, after which we can presumably see the models released for regular 40k with a new book. But that could be months if not years away.
The way forward, though, is going to be through Campaign books like this, rather than Codexes. Sure, if there’s an army out there who needs rules, then they’ll get a book. If the Primaris Marines ever get an expansion to the range – and I don’t see why they wouldn’t – then I can see there being a specific Codex for them, separating out the old marines line for ease of reference. As an aside, the idea of old-style marines being phased out of use is actually addressed in-universe in Vigilus Defiant, where the procedure to transform Marneus Calgar into a Primaris Marine is described. I’m still in two minds about whether they will actually completely do-away with the older line of models, but part of me can definitely see it happening in a few years more…
GW have already stated that there are only rules for armies in this book if it makes sense for the army to be there. So we have no Necrons, no Tau, and no Tyranids, and also no Chaos Daemons or Dark Eldar (even though the latter are mentioned as being on-world, conducting raids). While there are Space Marines present, there are no Blood Angels, Grey Knights or Deathwatch rules. However, future campaigns that do feature these armies will feature rules specific for them, so I think that’s a very sensible way to go about things. It also confirms future campaigns are in the works, of course!
I really enjoyed reading through the campaign books of 7th edition such as Shield of Baal and the Tau stuff. Important to note, of course, the War on Fenris campaign gave us the rules for Magnus and the new Thousand Sons range in the last months of 7th edition, so it isn’t entirely unprecedented for a new army to get their rules in this manner – maybe that’s how we’ll get the smaller stuff like Inquisition rules.
At any rate, I think the future of the game being in Campaign books could well be magnificent, and I am really looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for Warhammer 40k!