Horus Heresy is a brand new board game that takes place in the grim darkness of the far future of Warhammer 40,000, one of the preeminent science fiction settings ever created. It is also without a doubt one of the most iconic environments of all time, having remained in active development for more than two decades, across a wide variety of media from tabletop miniatures games, board games, novels and more. The sprawling mythos, baroque aesthetic sensibilities, and dark gothic outlook are unmistakeable, and are enjoyed by legions of fans all around the world.
We at Fantasy Flight Games were honored to have an opportunity to contribute to this richly textured history. We chose to highlight the most pivotal and climactic moment from the Warhammer 40,000 canon, a seminal event that occurred in the Imperium of the 31st millennium. It is a tale that has also fiercely captured the imaginations of writers and fans alike, as it rings with grand, mythic significance!
I speak of the fall from grace of the great Warmaster Horus, once the greatest scion of the Holy Emperor of Terra, now turned heinous betrayer and intent upon the total destruction of the Imperium. The story is the stuff of legend, and for those who are interested in exploring further, we heartily recommend the phenomenal Horus Heresy series of novels published by the Black Library.
The game takes place during the apocalyptic final battle on the planet Terra, the birthplace of mankind and the heart of the Imperium. This is the last stand, for both sides.
As some of you may know, Games Workshop published an earlier board game by the same name, many years ago. This classic GW release served as inspiration as we considered how to approach these momentous events of the Horus Heresy, and specifically, the Battle of Terra. If perhaps you've ever seen the original board, you will recognize that the game map is very similar. We're proud to pay homage to the richness of this source material, while expanding the play experience in ways never imagined back when it was first in print.
As we move closer to the release of Horus Heresy, we'll continue to explore the game in more detail including a review of the forces available to each player, the order and initiative systems, and combat resolution. For today's article I'm going to set the stage for this monumental conflict, and describe the start of play of Brother Against Brother, the scenario recommended for first timers which roughly covers the events as described in the original stories.
Horus Heresy is not a game where players safely inch forward towards an eventual clash of forces. In this game, the battle is about to reach its peak. Horus' flagship, the Vengeful Spirit, has just moved into orbit around Terra. The Emperor has committed to this final stand against the traitorous forces of his once celebrated son. There is no compromise, nor time to consider alternate plans. The campaign against Terra will end soon, and only one side will be left standing.
After both players have finished placing their units on the board, it may appear at first glance that the ensuing conflict will be quite one-sided. A naive Imperial player might surmise their vast defenses are impenetrable, as most of the board will be filled with legions of forces loyal to the Emperor. However, Traitor players take heart for two events are going rattle the foundations of the Imperial player, and both take place before the first turn even begins!
The first action in the game is called corruption, when both players will begin to understand exactly how extensive the insidious spread of Chaos truly is. The Traitor player selects twelve individual Imperial Army units or Imperial Tank Divisions, and tests each one in turn. The heroic and steadfast Space Marines cannot be targeted as their loyalty cannot be questioned! They will fight without fear and to the death against Chaos and the dark powers of the warp.
The Traitor player will draw a bombardment card for each target unit, and refer to the symbol at the bottom of the card to discover to whom that unit is loyal. Each unit's loyalty may only be jeopardized once during this opening phase, and the number of corruption tests allowed will vary for each scenario.
If upon revealing the bombardment card you find an Imperial Eagle, that unit will continue to fight in the name of the Holy Emperor. If the card displays the Chaos star, the unit has actually switched its allegiance, and will immediately have its grey Imperial base swapped for a black Chaos base for easy identification. That unit is now under the full control of the Traitor player!
At this point, the board will probably look quite different. Some regions that previously represented Imperial strongholds will now contain a mix of loyal and Traitor units, which will quickly escalate into combat at the start of turn one. Other areas will be completely under the control of Chaos, likely forcing the Imperial player to reconsider their plans.
Once the corruption step is complete, there is but one final action the Traitor must take before the first turn begins in earnest, that is to order a barrage of orbital bombardments in an attempt to decimate Imperial units or blow through the protective plasteel walls of their fortifications.
You will draw upon the same deck as before, except now you will refer to the top of the card to resolve the attack. Each bombardment must be declared as either a precise or reckless strike, which will impact both the accuracy and effect of the attack. A precise bombardment will hit more often than a reckless one, but the reckless bombardment will occasionally cause tremendous amounts of damage. As with corruption, each scenario will divulge how many bombardments are available to the Traitor player at the start of play. If you're playing Brother Against Brother, the Traitor player makes four attacks.
The corruption and the bombardment mechanics do a remarkable job of setting the stage for a mind-blowing finale to a cataclysmic confrontation. Every time I play, I marvel at how much I feel like I'm part of this final, epic showdown. We are thrilled to be producing this game, and cannot wait until you have had a chance to join in the fun!
I'd like to close with a personal letter from Alan Merrett, the IP Manager for Games Workshop and one of their longest serving employees. Thank you Alan for your dedication and support, for granting us the opportunity to create this game, and for the years of hard work you've put towards the development of this fantastic setting.
In 2004 I wrote a preface to 'The Horus Heresy Volume 1: Visions of War' an art book by the Black Library (Games Workshop's fiction publishing imprint) in which I gave a brief outline of the publishing history of the Horus Heresy and made reference to the amazing fan support and enthusiasm it has enjoyed over the years. The art book featured pictures taken from the Sabertooth Games collectible card game the 'Horus Heresy CCG' – the background story of which was a real labour of love for me and for FFG's own Steve Horvath who was the project lead at Sabertooth at that time and my main collaborator on the project. Sadly that game is no longer being published but it was the catalyst for GW to continue working on the Heresy in some other ways.
'Visions of War' was merely the first of what ended up being a series of four art books covering the Heresy and they have been subsequently reprinted as a single work entitled 'Horus Heresy - The Collected Visions'. In addition to this the Black Library has been producing a best-selling line of novels detailing the Heresy in hitherto untold depth. Since the release of the first novel these books have enjoyed unprecedented popularity amongst the fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and continue to feature strongly in the sales charts.
My 2004 preface singularly failed to mention one small piece of Horus Heresy history. This was the release in 1993 of 'Horus Heresy' – a board and counters wargame by Jervis Johnson. This was the second in a short series of Games Workshop games launched under the rather unimaginative 'Wargame Series' label. Despite critical and commercial success the series ended with game number three as Games Workshop increasingly focussed its efforts on the miniatures and tabletop wargames that it is most known for. The game 'Horus Heresy' seemed destined for oblivion. That is until FFG stepped forward!
This new game from FFG pays obvious homage to the original 'Wargame Series' effort but has been dusted with all-new FFG magic. The game board has clear similarities to the old game but a new set of rules and a raft of new components, including some really terrific playing pieces, mark this new game out as something a little special.
Horus Heresy is a board game that pits two players against each other to recreate the most famous battle of Warhammer 40,000's rich history, in which the Warmaster Horus's betrayal of the Emperor comes to its climax. Taking the side of either traitor or loyalist, players control a fearsome array of units, including the Emperor and Horus themselves. Brother fights brother, and the universe hangs in the balance!